Friday, June 19, 2015

Discussion Post: Why We Love the Bad Boys

A good villain is hard to find. 

Sometimes we want them so terrifically bad that we want their defeat to be over the top and glorious. We want them to go down in a spectacular way with dramatic ending lines and walking away from the explosion. Then there are the villains that you know, that you can relate to. They are the horrible bosses that make you work overtime on the holidays. They are the ones that torment you at school and love the fact that they have some sort of power over you and you can't do a damn thing about it. Those are the ones that you hope live a long miserable life just so they can remember that they could have been nice and this never would have happened.

And finally, there are the ones that we are attracted to. The bad boys with the sad past. The ones that act so cold and distant but are really just extraordinarily warped or broken. Their pain and anger isn't natural but developed. Their hatred is learned and we can all connect to it.

This is not going to be a Harry Potter post, I promise.

But I have always personally felt that the villains are often more compelling than the heroes. Heroes have one job and that's usually to save the world. Their "goodness" is based off of them being compassionate or brave, not based off of their past. Their history can either be rosy or horrible but they have hope and they want something better than the world that they are existing in. And while we have to have the good guy in the end, there has to be the bad guy to balance them out.

But characters are rarely evil for the sake of being evil. It's hard to hate that much without reason and I am obsessed with characters that play the villain role that slowly transform into something else. I think we all have a favorite bad boy. It started young for me, with Beauty and the Beast where the character that is supposed to be evil and terrifying turns out to be gentle and compassionate. Obviously, my favorite bad gone good character of all time is Draco Malfoy (and Dramione is my eternal OTP) because we get to see what he goes through.

That's the important thing about creating a bad character. You have to understand his pain because otherwise you just have a sociopath. There has to be a cause, whether it be physical or mental. And they have to be able to redeem themselves which doesn't necessarily mean that they will. This character must be capable of it when he/she is given the choice and they have to make that decision and it has to be believable. There's no redeeming quality to someone who has killed hundreds or thousands and won't repent but there is hope for those who carry the guilt around like a blanket draped over them. Compassion must be developed at some point.

As I stated earlier, I love me some Malfoy but I also really love Morpheus from Shattered and Warner from the Shatter Me series. I love it when characters can redeem themselves.

So, the entire point of this post, is who is your favorite bad boy/girl? Do you have one and why do you like them as a character?

In other news, I have finally made it into graduate school so my posts may drop for a few weeks while I get used to my new schedule. I promise, I'll keep reading and I will catch up soon!

Everybody have a happy weekend!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Book Review: Phantom (Dark Musicals #1) by Laura DeLuca

I went through a stage of my life, right before college, where I was absolutely obsessed with Phantom of the Opera. It started with the movie that had Gerard Butler as the Phantom which led to reading the original novel, then Phantom by Susan Kay, and eventually having the pleasure of watching the musical on Broadway a couple of times.

I wanted a new interpretation of the novels with a high school twist, a character just as distorted and flawed as Erik but with more modern problems. I wanted the beauty of the prose of Susan Kay's Phantom with the wonderful storytelling of Gaston Leroux's Phantom of the Opera but in the end, I was more disappointed than a child opening a Cracker Jack box and there not being a toy inside. 

First: the blurb from Goodreads since I'm not going to bother writing one
The “Phantom” was a musical phenomenon that Rebecca had always found enchanting. She had no idea that her life was about to mirror the play that was her obsession. When her high school drama club chooses “Phantom” as their annual production, Rebecca finds herself in the middle of an unlikely love triangle and the target of a sadistic stalker who uses the lines from the play as their calling card. 
Rebecca lands the lead role of Christine, the opera diva, and like her character, she is torn between her two co-stars—Tom the surfer and basketball star who plays the lovable hero, and Justyn, the strangely appealing Goth who is more than realistic in the role of the tortured artist. 
Almost immediately after casting, strange things start to happen both on and off the stage. Curtains fall. Mirrors are shattered. People are hurt in true phantom style. They all seem like accidents until Rebecca receives notes and phone calls that hint at something more sinister. Is Justyn bringing to life the twisted character of the phantom? Or in real life are the roles of the hero and the villain reversed? Rebecca doesn’t know who to trust, but she knows she’s running out of time as she gets closer and closer to opening night. Only when the mask is stripped away, will the twenty first century phantom finally be revealed.
 Alright...I should have known better from the blurb.

I am pretty much over most high school drama, mostly because my experience was incredibly different from a lot of these characters' that you read these days. I went to a small school with a graduating class of 55. Most of us were in the same classes for 8 years together so you sort of learn to live in harmony. Are other high schools this horrible where kids are attacking each other in the hallway and there are catfights and challenges being thrown about like confetti?

Anyways, Rebecca is one of those girls who has never done anything special in her life and then suddenly decides to try out for the main role of her favorite musical. She (of course) lands the role of a lifetime with Christine and she thinks that she connects to the character in a special way. After all, she has spent her life in the high school equivalent of the chorus dancers, staying out of the way and trying not to do anything to gather attention but she can't pass up this opportunity.

So she gets the role, pisses off the popular girl, gets the popular boy Tom to finallyOMG notice her and then the creepy goth guy shows up and steals all of attention. Justyn has a beautiful voice but a tendency towards lurking in the corners and singing lines from the musical to her. Carmen and Debbie, her best friends, think that he's strange and urge Rebecca to stay away from him but she can't resist him and finds herself drawn to him.

Tom, who is supposed to be the basketball player who surfs with an awesome voice is the most over done character I've seen in my life. He's supposed to be perfect and blonde and pretty and oh wait...

I've seen this character before somewhere! I wonder where...

Moving onto Justyn. The goth boy with inconsistent character descriptions. He was originally described with facial piercings, eyeliner and black lipstick. He wears fishnet shirts and chains on his boots. Now, with my obsession over KPOP, I've gotten over most reservations about guyliner but the black lipstick is too much. There was some hazing at my college where the girls in sororities made the pledges wear black lipstick so if they made out with a guy at a party, everybody would know. Sorry, but black lipstick + making out + creepy character role = taking it too far. 

And he loves his cape and takes every opportunity to hide in the corner and lurk. He takes himself too seriously and fucking calls himself LORD JUSTYN I SHIT YOU NOT

Not only that, but randomly the author decides to insert that he is Wiccan into the plot. It does nothing to further the plot but seems to be there just to make him a little bit more different and make it so that his mother won't take him to the hospital when he breaks his ribs. I'm all for natural healing but I'm speaking from personal experience that when you break your ribs, it fucking hurts. It is difficult to sleep, especially if you break them on your side and a little bit of willow bark tea is not going to help much as far as pain scale goes. Take him to the hospital and get him some decent medication and treatment so the boy can sleep!


Want some quotes? Well, you're getting them anyways. Prepare yourself...

"Why are you so nervous, Becca?" Carmen Webber asked. "You've got to be the only person in the school who's had the entire script memorized since kindergarten. Besides, you have an amazing voice. You're going to be fine. Really!"
 I hate teenybopper pep talks, especially as an introduction. Off to a bad start.

"He's the stagehand the Phantom kills right before the intermission. He gets hung."
 Being hung is something completely different than being hanged. I get that they're in high school but the editor should have caught that.
"I'm not the one who's been upstaged by some usurping loser from the geek squad."
 Ahahahaha...I miss insults like these. It's like all the old teen movies are coming back to laugh at the modern world.

"The phantom always used a noose to kill his victims."
 No...he used a Punjab lasso that was utilized like a garrote. Educate yourself.
"I can't believe you two would actually read that dribble on purpose."
 This is dribbling. The word you are looking for is drivel.
"I've put up with your crap for long enough, Wendy. The jibes. The looks. The nasty comments. Well, I've had it. It stops now. I got the role of Christine. I have the better voice. And you have been upstaged. Get over it and get on with your life. Being a bitch isn't going to change things."
 Ugh, sassy standing up for yourself is soooooooo two thousand and late.
"His one cataract eye was oblique and almost glowing"
 Did you even try to edit this thing? Your eye can't be oblique. Cataracts can make your eyes opaque though.
"Willow bark is just a plant."
No, it is the bark off of a willow tree which is where aspirin is derived from. As stated earlier, if you have fallen and broken your ribs, you are going to want a little bit more than some diluted aspirin tea.
"I heard he hung himself in the bathroom stall."
 HANGED. He hanged himself. You can't "hung" yourself. It is grammatically incorrect and therefore impossible.

All of this is before even considering the plot, which felt like it was *insert yourself here* fanfiction. Rebecca has no obvious flaws besides being so stupid that you wonder who ties her shoelaces every morning. Her friends are bitchy and have an opinion about everybody and everything. Debbie is described as the scary Amazon (which I personally take offense to) and doesn't stand up for herself through the entire book. Tom and Justyn fighting over her is the most played out plot line ever and the bitchy horrible Wendy is the most stereotypical mean girl I've ever seen.

I honestly cannot fathom how this thing is rated so high on Goodreads. A 4.05? Are you fucking kidding me? The author can't even call the musical by its proper name, doesn't credit the quotes that she used correctly and spells Andrew Lloyd Webber's name incorrectly at the start of the book. For a fan of Phantom of the Opera, it sucked at being a good tribute to the work.

There are two redeeming qualities from this book. The plot twist was unexpected (but not well written). I can honestly say it surprised me. The other is that it has made me want to find some good Phantom of the Opera literature and reread Phantom and the original novel.

So skip this one. Don't come near it. I've more than warned you. If you are an avid fan of Phantom of the Opera you will be excessively disappointed.

Friday, June 5, 2015

The Friday 56 (6)

Friday never seems to come quickly enough for me. Or anybody else in the world really. It's been a long week and I'm looking forward to the weekend since I'm going to go pick strawberries tomorrow morning and have some fun! Anyways...

This is a weekly bookish meme hosted by Freda at Freda's Voice.  This is a fun and simple meme, just follow the rules! It's a great way to connect with bloggers and share new or favorite books with them.
*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader
(If you have to improvise, that's ok.)
*Find any sentence, (or few, just don't spoil it)
*Add your name to the link up at Freda's Voice

Ok, this week, I'm going with Unravel Me, which is the second book in the Shatter Me series by Tahereh Mafi. This series is beyond excellent and if you haven't started it already, you're missing out. Look at that cover. I could stare at it for ages and still be blown away by it.

I'm going to tell you a secret.
I don't regret what I did. I'm not sorry at all.In fact, if I had a chance to do it again I know this time I'd do it right. I'd shoot Anderson right through the heart.
And I would enjoy it.

You can't tell me that you aren't intrigued by that. I mean, come on. With the strike throughs and everything.  Seriously, just go read this series.

Much love! Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Book Review: The Fire Sermon by Francesca Haig

I saw this cover in a book store a few months ago and simply stared at it for a few moments. Any book that doesn't have a title, author, or anything on the cover is either really flipping good or an attempt at being surreal and thoughtful without really accomplishing either. Either way, the publisher and author would have to be confident in both the cover art and the content to be able to put out a book like this.

And their gamble worked. It got my attention.

The Fire Sermon by Francesca Haig is a post-apocalyptic novel where everything has basically reset. Whole nations and societies were destroyed from a nuclear blast and due to fallout exposure, the world has changed in dramatic ways. Most species have died out, leaving the most plain or common to adapt and survive. Pigeons are the only birds. Cows and horses the only real large fauna out there. And children are only born as twins, an Alpha and an Omega, boy and girl. An Alpha is strong and whole and is given all of the best opportunities in life. They are fertile and run the government and everything left in the world. Omegas are deformed and infertile. They may be missing legs or an eye or be mute and are left ostracized on the outskirts of society to be forgotten by their Alpha twin. But here's the catch. Twins are connected in a way other than birth and blood. If one twin experiences extreme pain, illness, or death, the other does as well. There's no choice in that. If one dies, the other does as well.

Cass and Zach are twins but neither one has an obvious deformity. Unlike many other twins that are separated young, they grow up together, waiting for the other to expose their Omega trait. Cass is keeping a secret though and has become very clever at hiding it. She is a Seer, a rare brand of Omega and once Zach discovers it, everything goes to hell.

Cass has to scramble to survive alone and then imprisoned. She is strong and will not be conquered by the twisted brother she grew up loving and now has reasons to fear. 

This book is definitely a rollercoaster ride. There is a lot going on and the characters are in constant movement. Time passes quickly in the first bit of the book, showing Cass and Zach growing up, and it allows for some excellent world building. The entire world is scared of machinery and electricity because it was seen as the downfall of the "Before" civilization. Everything from Before is considered taboo and people refuse to go near it. Life has been reduced to pre-industrial standards and civilizations are once again based on agriculture and trade instead of technology.

Cass was an interesting character to read. She is strong where she needed to be strong but also has her vulnerabilities. She loves her brother dearly and in many ways, cannot accept what he is doing to her. She struggles with reconciling her childhood sibling with the man that he has become and it holds her back throughout the book. It's easy to rely on impressions made as children for the rest of your life and never change them and I think that she does this too much. It's her major flaw. She cannot escape the memories of playing with her brother as a kid and those memories make her make stupid decisions.

Cass's companion, Kip, fills the role of helpless sidekick for me. He's missing his arm but plays the clever supporting character that doesn't do much on their own but helps the main character throughout the book. From the beginning, it was obvious that he was going to play the love interest but that part of the book was remarkably muted. There's very little passion which gives more time to the plot and action but it was a little disappointing to read. 

But there are some extreme noticeable flaws that are big drawbacks to this book.

One. If I had a twin and had to rely on them for survival, I would be a little bit nicer to them. I would not send them into the slums to scrape a living where they could get sick, get infections, fall off a cliff, or whatever. I would put them in a house with myself and take care of them. Because there are always those people that would resent being abandoned and take revenge on a sibling by waiting until they were successful and then finding a way to torture them, or even more extreme, kill them. It's a big plot hole. If I was ostracized by my family, you can bet that I would take it out on my perfect sibling. That's human nature and I'm surprised that wasn't considered in the book.

Two. The role of electricity isn't really fully explained. If they are trying to keep it under wraps, then having guards around swinging light bulbs seems rather short sighted. And where are the generators? How are they making the electricity?

Three. I'm convinced that if Kip hadn't been in the plot, it wouldn't have changed much at all. In fact, Cass might have been able to do more things in a more significant way by relying on herself. She leans on him a bit too much for my taste and it holds back her character growth. Throughout her life, she relied on others to support her and doesn't take full control over any of her actions. She is a passive person and it practically takes a cattle prod in order for her to make a decision on her own.

The world building is awesome but the large plot holes make it a less enjoyable read.

It's really a unique concept and I wish that it had been developed more. It's different than all other YA dystopian/post-apocalyptic novels out there and it was held back by characters that were a little bit too cliche and plot devices that didn't really work in the end. I wish that the romance had been more developed. I wish that more had been explained throughout the novel. I wish that Kip was made into a stronger person in general.

But I will read the next one when it comes out. I think it has potential and I'm looking forward to it.