Saturday, August 20, 2011

Empty

Empty
Written by: Suzanne Weyn
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Language: English
October 2010, $7.99
Genre: Young Adult//Fiction

It's the near future - the very near future - and the fossil fuels are running out. No gas. No oil. Which means no driving. No heat. Supermarkets are empty. Malls have shut down. Life has just become more local than we ever knew it could be.

Nobody expected the end to come this fast. And in the small town of Spring Valley, decisions that once seemed easy are quickly becoming matters of life and death. There is hope - there has to be hope - just there are also sacrifices that need to be made, and a whole society that needs to be rethought.

Teens like Nicki, Tom, and Leila may find what they need to survive. But their lives are never going to be the same again.

+++++++++++++

I try to be green. I really do. As my Threadless shirt says, “Stop destroying the planet. Its where I keep all of my stuff.” I cannot imagine how my life would be different if gas suddenly skyrocketed to $10 a gallon or $20. I would use my bike a lot more than I do, even if it meant biking 18 miles into work or would I just have to find a new job? Would we use horses, carpool more? Find new jobs that are close? Grow my own vegetables because let’s face it those would skyrocket too as so much is driven in from elsewhere. We’d all become a bit more self-sufficient that is for sure.

We all know that eventually the fossil fuels will be no more. What do we do then? How will our lives change. I think mostly we all hope that it doesn’t happen in our lifetime. This is the premise to Weyn’s book Empty. Lovely concept or so I thought. How different would our world be 5 years after the fuel shortages especially when people begin to hoard gas?

Finn and I were quite excited to read about the concept, hoping for another wicked Apocalypse sort of story, just one that hits a bit closer to home. So she bought copies when our local Borders closed down for all the girls in our young adult book club. Sadly didn’t quite turn out as we expected.

Things I loved: I love the concept, but I wanted more. While I liked the perspectives of three characters, they were all one dimensional and let’s face it, pretty damn stupid. I liked the news articles dispersed throughout which sadly apparently was the one way to show passage of time. I liked showing the worst of humanity in black market stuff (who knew that nail polish would become black market in this near, near future), riots, hoarders and more.

Things I didn't love so much: Lessons learned: girls should wear glasses and less makeup, people should learn to ride bikes and build self-sufficient ‘green’ homes. Oh and yes, love your Mother Earth. I hate it when authors spend so much time trying to drill a message into their readers heads that they think we won’t notice that they have a very thin plot, bad dialogue and more holes in said plot than a piece of Swiss cheese. I get that we should be saving the Planet, that we should be doing more about alternative forms of energy and becoming more self-sufficient in our personal lives and in our communities. I understand that living in a ‘green’ house would be wicked awesome. Who wants to give me a couple million to do so? I didn’t think so.

I think some of my huge issues began in the second chapter because to be honest I was actually kind of interested as of the first chapter. And then it began to go downhill. Apparently teenagers are so vapid and stupid that they are willing to go to the next town over even though gas is $25 a gallon in a gas guzzling truck. Also apparently the world has turned into Jane Austen-land where people have tons of money lying around with no apparent jobs for said expensive gas. Apparently our near future also includes people who don’t know how to ride bikes, who refuse to give up luxuries even though they cannot afford it, where no one has done their part to try and be a bit more eco-friendly and the concept of self-sustainability is about as foreign of a concept as 30 being the new 20 to a teenager these days.

Like I said before there were some great things that I liked about the book. I would have loved a more thorough exploration of what people will do for gas (siphoning, hoarding, etc). And yes the rich will continue to do what they do simply because they can. I guess what I don’t believe is that people will wait until all of the fossil fuels to dry up to change. You would think that small self-sustaining communities would prop up, and yes that others who don’t want to do the work would try and come in and take it. We’d have more smart cars, more public transportation (which seems to exist in abundance in every other country in the world except for own). We’d have more fireplaces, more gardens, solar panels to charge our electronic equipment because I am also a realist in knowing that we really don’t want to give that stuff up. None of this is even explored. Because even though it is in the new future, the town that Tom and Gwen live in has apparently been completely cut off from the rest of the planet and the ‘Green’ movement that has been happening for some years now.

Oh and top of all of Gwen, Tom and Nikki’s problems (egads she must wear glasses and not wear contacts which are made from oil, what is a popular cheerleader type to do) with gas shortage, there is a massive hurricane. This is so Weyn can show you a post Katrina like world where people use canoes to get to the drugstore, where food and medicine riots occur, and Tom can mumble for two sentences that it will suck if his mom might die to the massive amounts of mold which have compromised her lungs. Because what is important is the Green message that Weyn has to shove down your throats.

Ms. Weyn, kids aren’t stupid. It’s true that even when I was a pre-pubescent young woman and then a pubescent young woman that I was fairly self-involved. It’s a bit of a rite of passage. You forget that there is something else out there than Christian Slater and Johnny Depp, your best friend (who apparently is going to live right next door to you and you will never ever, ever grow apart), and trying to avoid doing homework. Mostly teenagers are just trying to survive adolescence in general. We forget that a world is out there. Now, I do that the generations below me are even more consumerist, self-involved and have that over all feeling of self-entitlement, but I also feel this is due to me becoming like my parents and about two years away from shooing the kids of my lawn in a crotchety old voice. I also fear it’s because my generation taught them that it was okay to be that way. (Case in point: unemployment. There are jobs out there, but there are some who would rather just have the government send them a check every month than get that drive thru job which they think is beneath them….or get two jobs. *gasp* But I digress.) Point is, they aren’t that stupid. I know as a future, far future mind you, mom if gas is $20 a gallon, you bet your ass my kid is riding a bike a lot, and you bet that I won’t be handing out precious twenties so they can go gallivanting 30 miles away….just cause. Yep, harshness will be me. Unless of course I suddenly get paid $30 an hour at my job and can afford to give said future offspring $20 which is suddenly the new $5. And a massive hidden ‘green’ home no one has ever managed to find…ever with enough food and power to help these kids town. Umm, yeah. Sure.

As I said there are plot holes aplenty, bad dialogue, one dimensional characters and well the prose isn’t amazing while we are at it. Which is a shame because I really wanted to like this book. I loved the concept and she could have done so much and still get her point across, still give a wee lesson on ecology and being earth friendly. But I think somewhere she was so obsessed in wanting to get her point across that she forgot her audience and that she forgot she wasn’t trying to write a dissertation that 16 year olds would possibly want to read. A very big shame.

Still had me thinking though, so I guess that is something.

Buy or Borrow: Borrow, but only if you’re really bored and convinced I perhaps missed something in my review. I did finish it though, and that says something right?

Part of:Stand Alone

Also Recommended: For some happy apocalypse stories of course I will always recommend The Hunger Games, Divergence or even Water Wars (though admittedly I haven’t quite read that one yet, but the cover sure is pretty and it is in my TBR pile).

1.75 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks

Friday, August 19, 2011

Sisters Red

Sisters Red

Written by: Jackson Pearce
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Little Brown Books
Language: English
June 2010, $16.99
Genre: Urban Fantasy/Young Adult

“Scarlett March lives to hunt the Fenris—the werewolves that took her eye when she was defending her sister Rosie from a brutal attack. Armed with a razor-sharp hatchet and blood-red cloak, Scarlett is an expert at luring and slaying the wolves. She’s determined to protect other young girls from a grisly death, and her raging heart will not rest until every single wolf is dead.

Rosie March once felt her bond with her sister was unbreakable. Owing Scarlett her life, Rosie hunts fiercely alongside her. Now Rosie dreams of a life beyond the wolves and finds herself drawn to Silas, a young woodsman who is deadly with an ax—but loving him means betraying her sister and has the potential to destroy all they’ve worked for.


+++++++++++++

Sometimes the best heroines in a story are the ones you don’t like so much. For some reason I am drawn to the bruised and the broken, the beautifully damaged, and the tragic fighters who will fight, fight, fight until they just can’t anymore. They are the fighters, sometimes aloof, distant and cold. Yet other times they are quiet or maybe even just a teensy bit too happy. They refuse to give up. They wear their scars like merit badges, each cut both inner and outer making up their armor, their shields and their masks.

Why do I like them? Because they’re very similar to the male anti-hero in their own way. Or maybe because I have been there myself. I can relate and find kinship in them as much as I want to scream at them or hug them. I suppose there is a reason I adore Kara ‘Starbuck’ Thrace from BSG. She’s flawed, but she is beautiful in so many other ways no matter how many times she gets her ass handed to her, she gets right back up. She will fight every damn day until she cannot fight anymore. Well that and Katee Sackhoff is one of my girly crushes and BSG of course rocks.

Somehow Finn knew that I was going to like Sisters Red. It wasn’t because of the werewolf, Red Riding Hood re-imagining that she pushed for this to be the next YA book for our book club. I think she knew how much I would like Scarlett. I pity Scarlett. I want to fight beside her and there is a little piece of me that just gets her. I understand her. I am proud of her and I grieve for her. Scarlett March has always fought. She fought when the Fenris came to tear through her life, when they took her eyes and forced her and Rosie to always be wary of the dark.

Sisters Red focuses on Scarlett and Rosie March. Seven years ago, a werewolf attacked the sisters and their grandmother. It left Scarlett scarred and left both sisters never again trusting what lay in the dark. Ever since that day the two sisters have fought, fought to protect each other and everyone else who has no idea that the Fenris exist. But something is changing and nothing will ever be the same.

Things I loved: When you are young and have that other piece of your soul whether it is a sister, a brother or a best friend you cannot imagine anything breaking that bond. In grade school you make friendship bracelets and pinkie swears that you will always be together. You’ll always live next door to one another, boys will never come between you and the dynamic will never change. But children grow up. Lives and interests grow apart. The friendship bracelets fray or no longer hold the same meaning as they once did. This doesn’t mean that your friendship ends. The people who enter our lives do so for a reason and won’t leave us no matter what happens. People leave marks, invisible tattoos that stain our skins, our souls and our lives. However, things do change. You grow as people, as individuals and not necessarily in the same ways or in the same directions.

For Scarlett and Rosie it has always been the ‘me and you and you and me’ shtick. Even with Silas making it three, it was still always about the March sisters. But then it wasn’t anymore. Something changed and everything was different. Scarlett’s heart broke, but so did Rosie’s. In many ways Sisters Red is about growing up and growing apart and into the individuals we were always meant to be as much as it is a re-telling of Red Riding Hood. It’s about friendship, of love and loss and two very different young women.

The writing is so great in this book. I loved it. Rosie describes her sister perfectly when she says, “My sister thrives on goals. The martial arts belt system was perfect for her. She set her sights on the yellow belt, the green, brown, black. When she’d learned all she could there, she trained the same way. Ran two miles, then three, four. And now with the Fenris…” You don’t always like Lett and I think that is why I loved her all the more. She is selfish and she can be cruel, but she is only doing what she knows. Lett cannot stop fighting. If she stops, that is it. Game Over. The moment she knew that the monsters existed she could never go back to that blissful childhood innocence.

It’s a great character story. Rosie has always fought like her big sister, but she wants to know a normal life as well. She wants to know if there is something more than just the wolves. She wants to know what she is fighting for and why she is fighting for it. She wants to be surrounded by life instead of all of the death they face every day. Oma March told the girls a story of children living in a cave and crawling out of the shadows. The moment Rosie stops being Lett’s shadow is when everything changes. They are not twins or reflections. They will always be sisters, but it doesn’t mean they are the same person.

Things I didn't love so much: yeah, I got nothing. Sorry. Pretty much just loved it to bits.

Buy or Borrow: Buy. Seriously loved it. Though I can see why some may not. It is dark and yeah, Scarlett is like Mary from the Forest of Hands and Teeth, but I loved that one too.

Part of: Stand alone I believe for now. Though I could be wrong.

Also Recommended: I would recommend The Hunger Games for some great young adult fiction, The above mentioned Battlestar Galactica for awesome heroine action and Sweetly also by Pearce which is the Hansel and Gretel story, but well...different.

4 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Zombie Survival Guide: Recorded Attacks

Zombie Survival Guide: Recent Attacks
Written by: Max Brooks
Illustrated By: Ibraim Roberson
Paperback: 144 pages
Publisher: Three Rivers Press
Language: English
October 2009, $16.99
Genre: Comic/Graphic Novel

Those who don’t learn from history are condemned to repeat it.

From the Stone Age to the information age, the undead have threatened to engulf the human race. They’re coming. They’re hungry.

Don’t wait for them to come to you!

This is the graphic novel the fans demanded: major zombie attacks from the dawn of humanity. On the African savannas, against the legions of ancient Rome, on the high seas with Francis Drake . . . every civilization has faced them. Here are the grisly and heroic stories–complete with eye-popping artwork that pulsates with the hideous faces of the undead.

Organize before they rise!

Scripted by the world’s leading zombie authority, Max Brooks, Recorded Attacks reveals how other eras and cultures have dealt with–and survived–the ancient viral plague. By immersing ourselves in past horror we may yet prevail over the coming outbreak in our time.


+++++++++++++

I love zombies. As far as I am concerned they make everything better, kind of like baby animals, Neil Patrick Harris or anything Joss Whedon related. I own plenty of zombie films, was a pin up zombie a couple of weeks ago for the annual zombie walk, and got all fangirly when I saw the Season 2 trailer for the Walking Dead series on AMC. Oddly I listened to World War Z first (which by the way is frakking amazing and has the likes of Mark Hamil doing the different stories) and I immediately fell in love. Yeah zombies. Yeah realistic, entertaining and amazing what ifs. Its apocalypse writing at its best, but maybe that is just me. I hope its not just me. Well this is the comic book form of the best of the attacks. Now if you haven’t read World War Z, please do immediately. It’s amazing. Though admittedly you don’t have to have read it to enjoy these Recorded Attacks.

It begins 60,000 BC in Africa. Did you really think the living dead were a new thing? We continue through Egypt when the question is posed – was the removal of the dead’s brain ceremonial or was it more for practical purposes. From there we go to ancient Scotland, Siberia, and Feudal Japan. Each of these tales poses questions, describes attacks, the lessons learned, and the dangers faced when it comes to the living dead. After all, are we not doomed to repeat history if we forget the past.

Things I loved: As I said I love zombies and of course I love comics as well. Put them together and it’s like chocolate and peanut butter. So, between Robert Kirkman and Max Brooks I am a very happy zombie girly geek. While the stories are nothing new to those who have read World War Z, the new visual companion of sorts is awesome. This is largely due to the artwork of Ibrahim Roberson. It’s graphic. It’s detailed and well worth my money.

My favorite story took place in Feudal Japan where young warriors face a gruesome test. They are put in a temple where the walls are lined with the severed heads of the dead and forced to spend the night and either surrender to the fear or become its master. I think the pictures really do it, the row upon row of dead eyes and mangled jaws. Imagine sitting there in the dark…what was that? Was it a hiss? A moan? A slither? Did that head just move? That shadow just crawl? Even though detaching a zombie head from its body leaves one very dead head, would your fears remind you of that fun little tidbit? Its psychological warfare at its finest and I love it.

Things I didn't love so much: While yes Max Brooks and his fantastic tales are what nightmares are made of and have me well set in my options A, B, and C when it comes to the future zombie apocalypse, but this is a graphic novel. You can have a good story, but if your art sucks then it is a bit of a letdown. Ibraim Roberson’s art is amazing. So why is his name not featured on my copy of the novel as much as Max Brooks? Let’s face it the first 12 pages have about 9 prose bubbles, the rest is pure artwork. As a whole, there are only a few paragraphs of quick cliff note like copy bubbles. The stories are told visually. So it saddens me that Ibraim’s name in in 7 pt font on the back. One of those if you’re not looking, you will totally miss it sort of things. It’s not on the cover and not inside. Completely not fair as far as I am concerned. Maybe he didn’t want recognition, but somehow I doubt it.

I did want more. I would have liked to have seen more of WWZ in graphic form. While these are speculation s and reported attacks leading up to our big bad Z day, I would love to see actual WWZ stories. For example, the trek north where people hoped to freeze the undead, but they also neglected to be prepared for the harsh realities of taking that trip. Let’s face it the Spongebob Squarepants sleeping bag is not going to cut it in below zero weather and why did you bring that Xbox 360 with you? I suppose this isn’t a huge complaint. Just a wish. I want more.

Buy or Borrow: Buy if you love zombies, World War Z or great gruesome artwork. If not, just pick it up at the local library or borrow from a friend for a quick half hour.

Part of:Stand Alone

Also Recommended: For more zombies I would recommend World War Z by Max Brooks, The Walking Dead comic series by Robert Kirkman, and the Zombie Survival Guide also by Max Brooks. Feed by Mira Grant, Patient Zero by Jonathan Mayberry, Infected by Scott Sigler, and Rot And Ruin also by Jonathan Mayberry. Yeah zombies.

3.5 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks. It would get more but I am still feeling fairly sore about the Illustrator not getting props.