Book Review: The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

The OutsidersI was passing my friend in the hall at church about a month ago and she stopped me to ask a literature type question, you know, because I read stuff.

And the question was along the lines of: if I were to see a shirt that said “Stay gold, Ponyboy” on the front, would I know what that meant?

Though the name Ponyboy sounded vaguely familiar, alas, I had no clue.

I certainly read stuff, but freely admit that I have not read many of the classics. Now, I vaguely knew the plot of this book before reading it because I had been to the CliffsNotes of this generation, Wikipedia, to look at the plot at some time in the past. Who knows why. I don’t remember. I guess I was too lazy to actually read the book even though I was curious about it. ‘Cause it’s not really my kind of book and I typically don’t go out of my way to read books that aren’t my kind of books. I’m a book xenophobe.

But I did promise to read and review a classic once a quarter this year so here it is, my first quarter venture into realms heretofore unknown: The Outsiders.

The setting is Tulsa Oklahoma in 1965. The  main character is Ponyboy… That’s his name. For reals. He lives with his brothers Darry and…Sodapop…Parents can be cruel in any century. The brothers are orphans but the eldest is twenty and takes care of the other two. They’re Greasers and they’re from the ‘wrong’ part of town and they have a few friends from their neighborhood who comprise their little gang. Their rivals, the Socs (pronounced SOSHes), are the rich kids from the other side of town and the two gangs tend to come to blows on a regular basis, which is where we get our main plot conflict (which I won’t ruin for you if you haven’t read it).

Published in 1967, the author was a mere fifteen years old when she started writing The Outsiders. She was eighteen at publication(!). Hinton was inspired by her friends at the time who were dealing with the kinds of issues presented in this novel. This is one of those books that has been considered controversial in the years since it’s publication because of the portrayal of gang violence or…something. Guys. Guys. Most of the the gang violence happens off screen and the stuff that you do ‘see’ is SO mild. Do we see the consequences of violence? Absolutely, but the only real on-screen stuff is one, fists only “rumble” between the rival gangs at the end of the book…But then again I read epic fantasy where people are impaled by swords and stuff so a fist fight is no big deal. Or perhaps I’m subconsciously comparing the violence here to actual, real world violence, which everyone knows is so much worse…Whatever the reason, I see nothing controversial here.

There is just one, tiny thing that made me cringe – but only because it’s a major modern writing no-no and it happened in the first paragraph. Since this book is from the 60s, it’s partially forgiven, but if you’re writing a novel right now, remember that it’s very bad form to have the main character describing himself or herself like their lookin’ in a mirror.  Just don’t do it, kids. Especially in the first paragraph. There’s always a better way to get those details in.

Overall I liked this book – in Goodreads terms that’s 3 stars! And at 192 pages, it’s novella length and a fairly quick read.

Stay tuned for more reviews!

Happy reading!

 

~ ebook checked out from the local library.

*This post contains links to Amazon Affiliates.

2015 Best Reads

At last, the wait is over!

I give you: my 2015 Best Reads!

Fiction Bests (in no particular order):

Perfect State

Sixth of the DuskPerfect State & Sixth of the Dusk by Brandon Sanderson – These are two novellas, the second of which was first published as part of an anthology (Shadows Beneath) – but you can now get it on it’s own! It’s hard to categorize Perfect State – I think, technically, it’s science fiction. It doesn’t matter. Get  it. It’s brilliant and hilarious and perfect. Sixth of the Dusk is fantasy and  is part of the Cosmere – which is Brandon Sanderson’s fantasy universe. Also brilliant.

 

FirefightFirefight by Brandon Sanderson – Yes, another one by that Sanderson fellow. If he would stop being so amazing, then I’d stop recommending his stuff on these things. I’m just sayin’.

Firefight is the follow-up to Steelheart, which I think I mentioned fifty times on my blog after I read it (okay, actually it was three times – one of which was on my Best of 2013 list). This book was just so unpredictable. A delightful ‘middle-of-a-triligy’ book.

 

Furies of CalderonAcadem's FuryCursor's FuryCaptain's FuryPrinceps' FuryFirst Lord's FuryThe Codex Alera by Jim Butcher – This is a series of six epic fantasy books by the author of the Dresden Files, which (full disclosure) I’ve never read, but are apparently very popular. These books are great so I’m inclined to give Jim’s other books a read.

 

 

The Book of DeaconThe Book of Deacon by Joseph Lallo – I actually got the first book in this series free via Amazon (and it’s STILL available for free HERE if you’re interested in checking it out) and had to go and get the anthology because it was just so good! This was also self-published but it does not show. I love to see indie authors killin’ it.

 

 

CressCress by Marissa Meyer – This is the third book in the Lunar Chronicles, which has taken an interesting spin on familiar fairy tales. I mean, the main protagonist is a cyborg, so it can’t not be awesome, right? The first book is Cinder (Cinderella), the second Scarlet (Little Red Riding Hood), and Cress is about a Rapunzel type character named Crescent. Also note that the fourth book has come out – titled Winter. I haven’t had the chance to read it yet. I’m pretty sure it’s a Snow White type deal. Anyway, they’re wonderful.

 

Non-Fiction Bests:

Writing Fight ScenesWriting Fight Scenes by Marie Brennan – I got this one as part of the 2015 NaNoWriMo bundle at StoryBundle.com. I love writing fight scenes and there was a lot of advice in here that I found very helpful. I’ll definitely be re-reading it.

 

 

 

First20HoursThe First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything…Fast by Josh Kaufman – That old myth that you need to spend 10,000 hours on something to be good at it – BUNK. The author spends a chapter or two explaining how his method works and then the rest of the book is about how he tested his methods, learning five new things on his “to learn” bucket list. It’s very interesting stuff.

 

So, that’s my list for 2015. Give these books a chance!

Stay tuned for my review of One Summer by David Balducci…sigh. It’s only 300 pages. It’s only 300 pages.

Thanks for reading!

 

* This post contains Amazon Affliate links.

Book Review: The Atopia Chronicles by Matthew Mather

Atopia ChroniclesMy sister recommended this book to me because I’m currently working on a novel of my own that has a thing or two to do with virtual reality, although this book takes the topic in an entirely different direction than I have in my novel.

The Atopia Chronicles is a novel in six parts about an advanced technology society living on an island, called Atopia, in the Pacific. The virtual reality comes in the form of nano technology that resides in your body, so you can carry it around with you. It can filter out unwanted visuals and people, and you can virtually ‘go’ anywhere and do anything.

One of the major themes in this book is the implications of life altering technology. If there’s one thing that mankind does to a fault, it’s take great technological advances and use them in the worst possible way. Here is book that explores all the ways in which this technology could be used and abused. The end result is that it basically destroys everyone’s lives. I also thought the author did a good job of exploring how the world would be affected and not just the people at the center of the narrative.

This book asks some pretty deep questions like: Will this kind of technology really solve all the world’s problems? What would happen if the technology fell into the wrong person’s hands? What happens when you can give people everything they could ever want? What really makes people happy?

The thing I didn’t like about this book were the characters. For me, there was a lot of explanation about the technology and not enough character development. Also, I read half of this before we left for vacation last month and found it really hard to remember who the characters were when I finally picked it back up last week. It was only a couple of weeks but apparently the characters weren’t strong enough to stay in my brain for that relatively short amount of time. So, firstly, I don’t know enough about these characters to really care about them. Secondly, I felt like the characters were selfish and self absorbed and they kind of deserved the bad things that were happening to them…

But…I liked this book enough to finish it, so I’d probably give it a B- overall.

Stay tuned for my ‘Best of 2015’ post, where I share with you the best things I read in 2015 and also, my next review will be my book club’s selection for the month: One Summer by David Balducci – which is contemporary fiction…dun, Dun, DUN… Oh my gosh, there’s feelings and exactly zero robots, so we’ll see if I can get through it…

Thanks for reading!

 

* This post contains Amazon Affiliate links.

Book Review: The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

TheRestofUsJustLiveHereI was really excited when I got the message from my local library that it was already my turn to check out the ebook version of The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness. And also annoyed.  The problem with putting ebooks on hold is that you never know when you’re going to get them and then you only have seven days to read the thing before it gets sent back regardless of how busy you are that week! I love that I don’t have to go to the library, but I hate that there is so much pressure to read something right this very second… #firstworldproblems

Anyway, I loved the Chaos Walking trilogy, and I’ve been waiting for Mr. Ness to come out with something that was equally engaging. So, when I read the author’s brief one or two line synopsis somewhere, I thought, “Killer concept, awesome title. Can’t wait to see what he does with this.”

The main character in this book is Mikey – he and his friends are ‘normal’ kids that live in a world where crazy supernatural stuff is always happening and threatening to destroy the world – like vampires, ghosts, etc. – but the people at the center of all the crazy are these “indie kids” – Chosen Ones – who all have kitschy names like Satchel. They run around causing and solving these supernatural disasters while everyone else just, well, lives there.  We get just a little snippet at the beginning of each chapter letting us know what the indie kids are up to before cutting back into the lives of the normal kids – though they have their own weird things going on, too – and then occasionally we get to see the two narratives cross, very briefly.

It was brilliant how the author conveyed how desensitized the main characters were to the supernatural events happening around them. They would see it or sometimes be RIGHT THERE when it happened – like a pillar of blue light, for example – acknowledge it in a ‘huh, that’s weird’ kind of way and then turn around a go home without another thought about it. Like “This stuff happens everyday and whatever. The indie kids will figure it out.”

I really like how Ness is poking fun at these contemporary YA books that have over-the-top unusual character names. Satchel is the main indie kid, but Mikey lists all the names of the indie kids he can think of and they’re all horrible, terrible names for real people – but are typical YA novel protagonist names (another Satchel – a boy, Nash, a couple o’ Dylans, like, five Finns).  This is one of my pet peeves about YA books – it just seems like every author thinks that their main protag needs a really unique name. I get it – you think your character is the next Katniss. She’s not, sorry. I’ve put down books for good because every single character, young and old, had a weird name. It just isn’t realistic; it throws you out of the story; especially if the setting is contemporary Earth – even if it is a fantasy. Please, rethink that character you named Sunrise or Biffington. Please, for the love. If you want to make up character names, write a fantasy/sci-fi thing set on another world or in the future of this one. /endrant

Another great thing about this book is that the characters sound like teenagers. One thing in particular stuck out to me: Mikey and his friends named an older character “Call Me Steve” and Mikey keeps referring to him as Call Me Steve for a good portion of the book, which made me smile every time I read it. My friends used to do that sort of thing when I was that age (my freshman friends in college called my brother “Robot Stacy”….true story).

So, there were definitely things that I enjoyed about this book- and then there are things that I didn’t.

My main issue with the book is that it reminded me a lot of Red Shirts (by John Scalzi) at the start (which is an excellent read). You have these characters who exist outside the exciting ‘narrative’ and they’re just trying to stay clear lest they get sucked in and (inevitably) get killed. Where the two books differ is that the characters in Red Shirts are active and the characters in The Rest of Us are not. Mikey is the only character who wonders what is going on with those indie kids and is concerned that maybe they won’t figure out how to solve the current crisis before the world is destroyed – but he doesn’t do anything about it. His friend Jared tells him to stay out of it, so he does. End of story. Frankly, I was more interested in what Sachel and Finn #2 were doing than the main characters. But then again, I have a hard time with contemporary YA in general because it tends to be boring and depressing.  So perhaps this is simply a matter of personal preference.

There was also a fairly obvious Chekhov’s gun that if it hadn’t finally happened, I may have just thrown my iPad across the room. But then again, it was also very heavy handed – “Well, of course this thing is happening – the characters have mentioned it six times already!” There are running jokes (which can be clever!) and there are jokes that just run on…

In addition, Ness’ characters are usually pretty broken, and this novel is no exception. Realistically, not everyone has a terrible life; not everyone is depressed and miserable – just sayin’.

I don’t know what’s happened with this author recently, but the last two books I’ve read of his were just underwhelming. His titles are perfect, brilliant even. They make you want to pick up his books, but I just wish there were fewer mentally unstable teenagers, less misery and more protag-ing. He had a great concept, but I think he fumbled it.

The first of Patrick Ness’ novels that I read was The Knife of Never Letting Go – which was weird sci-fi brilliance- loved it. The follow ups: The Ask and The Answer and Monsters of Men were just as good. I would highly recommend all three of them.

This one, I would skip.

Give me a reason to pick up your books again, Mr. Ness. Please.

 

~ ebook checked out from the local library.

* This Post contains links for Amazon Affiliates.

2016 Goals

Word Cloud 2e

My husband was telling me this morning that our three year old was the only one of us who managed to reach all of his 2015 goals – which included finally getting off the bottle – the milk bottle, that is – and not pooping his pants. Being three is hard work.

Just a small sampling of the failures on my list:

  • a new recipe every week.
  • getting out the DSLR once a week to take pictures.
  • creating a cleaning schedule.
  • looking people in the eye more when I’m speaking to them…
  • organizing the basement – ha!
  • and editing the book I finished, oh, two years ago.

Guys, I failed at Every. Single. Goal.

I also failed my reading goal over at Goodreads. I ended up with a paltry 39 books of my 45 book goal – 8 of which were novella length.

Not this year!

My goal is 50!

And a figure since there are 52 weeks in the year that just means I have to read one a week – which isn’t onerous. On top of that, though, I plan to review them here, since I think I could use some practice analyzing books. It’s one thing to feel like you did or didn’t like something you’ve read, but to know why and be able to explain it…well, that’s another story.

Some of the things I’d like read and review this year are:

  • a ‘classic’ book perhaps once a quarter or so, since I haven’t read many of them. Those that I have read I read as a child(!) for school and I don’t remember them…like, at all.
  • classic titles from both science fiction and fantasy. Most of my experience with these genres are from ‘modern’ writers:  books written in the last twenty years or so, with a few exceptions (e.g. Lord of the Rings). I’d like to branch out.
  • I just got a bunch of free titles via Amazon for Kindle. I’ve found that these are usually self published. Some of them are fantastic(!) and some of them are…not. But they’re free so huzzah!

In other goal news, I have a NaNoWriMo novel to finish now that Christmas is over. I’m setting  a goal to put aside some writing time at least five days a week – which is…lofty.

How did you do on your 2015 goals? And what do you hope to accomplish this year?

Stayed tuned for my Week 1 Book Review: The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness.

Thanks for reading.