Thursday, September 30, 2010

Freak Show

Meet Billy Bloom, drag queen extraordinaire and new student at the ultra-white, ultra-rich, ultra-conservative Dwight D. Eisenhower Academy. Actually, "drag queen" does not begin to describe Billy and his fabulousness. Any way you slice it, Billy is not a typical seventeen-year-old, and the Bible Belles, Aberzombies, and Football Heroes at the academy have never seen anyone quite like him before. But thanks to the help and support of one good friend, Billy's able to take a stand for outcasts and underdogs everywhere in his own outrageous, over-the-top, sad, funny, brilliant, and unique way.

I'm not too sure what to think of this one.

I'm having difficulty buying it, honestly.

Life, for Billy, goes from getting his brains bashed in during biology class to running for homecoming queen.

Yes, you've guessed it: Billy is a drag queen, and an over-the-top fabulous one at that.

I (miraculously) found this at the library; I'd been wanting to read it for a few weeks. So I picked it up and started reading immediately (even though common sense told me to finish the other 20 books on my pile first). At first, it wasn't too bad. Billy seemed to be a great character, and if it wasn't for ALL THAT ANNOYING RANDOM CAPITALIZATION AND ITALICS AND BOLD TEXT, I thought, at the time, that this would be (another) great coming of age gay book.


I'll give it to you, it was a real shocker of an eye-opener. The bashing, at the beginning, especially had me moved. The life 17-year-old Billy leads is somewhat too realistic for me to bear, since I'm positive kids get beaten to a pulp for who they are in these crazy hell holes we call 'high-school'.

But then, Billy just didn't learn. He shows up in Drag garb again, and again, and again. He made me groan in exasperation. Sure, he's a great model of determination and resilience and knows exactly what he wants, and who he is, and has the courage to be who he is, but then... There seems to be nothing under the makeup. He seems to be just an empty husk at times. Fine, he has interests in everything stereotypically gay but... Does that make him a deep and meaningful character?

One thing I don't know, though, is whether the gay community would take this book as an insult or a touching cry of a teenage boy. Billy is OVER THE TOP. He's... Too much. Sure, there are Drag Queens in real life too. I acknowledge and accept it.

But, even whilst being incredibly true and powerful, Billy's CAPITALIZED speech and maneurisms and obsession with looking like a freak (his word, not mine) somehow doesn't ring true. Indeed, there just something... in the random capitalization... and how he never learns... and is practically a masochist... and then the cool kid who becomes his best friend... That makes me sceptical about the whole thing. He kind of loses points for credibility, to say the least.

Two things I have to give the author is that, first of all, he has exceptional vocabulary. Honestly, once or twice I needed a dictionary to figure out what he really meant in a said sentence. And the pop culture references were also varied and numerous. Secondly, there were one or two moments where I burst out laughing during class and got a few weird looks from my piers. There were also a lot of funny moments that made me smile, but I wouldn't say the whole book was laugh out loud funny. I got pretty dramatic at times.

In retrospect, I'd say it is a good read, and definitely a mind-opener. Recommended as the next book you'll order from the library, but not necessarily from the bookstore.

Aww, shoot. Now I'm writing with excessive italics and CAPITALS.

- Aithen

Freak Show by James St-James
Rating: 7,7/10

Friday, September 24, 2010


Back in grade school, Maxie and Rick were best friends. Rick would design crazy inventions, and Maxie, the artistic one, would draw them. Then something terrible happened to Rick, and he vanished from her school and her life. Years later, he shows up at Maxie's high school. In some ways he's the same person she once knew. But in other ways - frightening ones - he's very, very different . . .

Warning: This rant will contain spoilers.

I picked this really short novel up at the library because I was dumped there for 5 hours after school yesterday. Reading this book passed the time, but I can't say I liked it or felt more elevated after reading. In fact, there wasn't much good in this book.

It started out seeming promising, though rather cliché: a guy comes back to high school, meeting his best friend from grade school again, with whom he'd lost touch since a mysterious incident in middle school. It sounded promising; this, coupled with the fact that many minor characters were gay, drew me into the story at first.

Sadly, as I read on, I got more and more frustrated.

First of all, I was irked by the random describing at the most dramatic times. I know the main character is an artist, but I swear, when you're having a huge argument with your best friend, you will definitely not stop to look at a robin fly through the air, and how his feathers clash with the bright blue sky. I was really annoyed, because this occured so many times. It seems to me that the author's editor asked her to write more descriptions or something, and that she added them at random.

Also, there seemed to be no character development at all, and even less descriptions of the characters. They were anonymous to me, completely unreal and unbelievable. The main character, Maxie, was as flat as a piece of paper. I don't know what she likes, who she is, what she looks like, apart from the fact she loves to draw cartoons. That is the only thing mentioned about her personality! Other utterly flat character: Tay. Even though we were told she was a complete hockey fan, she just abandons her favourite sport early on because she dislikes the coach. Completely unrealistic. I personally have been playing baseball since I was 5, and have continued even when I had notorious jerks as coaches. I never stopped because of that, because I love the sport. When you love something, you don't just abandon it at the first difficulty you run into. There was also Rick, short for Roderick, constantly bullied in school, who was apparently completely psycho? If I wasn't told he was, I would've guessed he was a sad little angel.

Bottom line : the way the characters act in the book and the way we are told they are are radically different.

I could probably rant on about the characters for hours, but I'll keep it at that.

I was also very surprised by all the developpments that took place. But I don't mean surprised in a good way. In fact, the developments made no sense. Since the main object of the book (at least, until page 150) seemed to be the relationship between Rick and Maxie, it was an unpleasant surprise when it turned out Rick actually wanted to blow up the school, got kicked out by his dad, turned out to NOT be gay, and was taken in by Maxie's gay uncles, all within about 40 pages. Honestly, I was lost. This development didn't make any sense at all to me.

Which bring on the next reason why I was disappointed : everything was so poorly explained! I didn't understand how Rick turned out to be the psycho. I don't understand how Tay and Maxie would ever be friends in the first place, I don't understand why Maxie pushed her best friend away in sixth grade, and what was the big secret, and in what grade are the characters, and who, what, where, when, why? Whaaaaaaaaat is going on!?

I found it excessively odd, though, that although Rick is called a faggot at every possible occasion, and picked on, and singled out, and attacked, Sean, Maxie's gay cousin raised by her gay uncles, was relatively unscathed. Come on. If a straight kid is being picked on for looking gay, how can a real gay kid, raised by two gay men, be pretty much left alone? Logically, this would not happen.

There was one little thing I really did like: the relationship between Rick and Maxie when they were still little kids, and the whole mousetrap company they invented. I thought it was an adorable concept, and it made the ending even more dramatic when you saw the relation between the childish games and all the traps Rick set up to ensure the school would blow up. But then he took everything down because... Actually, I don't know why.

All these things led to me greatly disliking this book, and it left me kind of mad. I did not like it. But it did entertain me for a few hours, just the time I needed to get my brain off school. It could have been good, if it was better explained. The concept wasn't really innovative, but there were a few elements that could've been exploited to make this much better, and many, many things that could've easily been corrected in order to keep my attention longer.

Overall, not so good a read. You can find something better to read, I'm sure you can.

Mousetraps by Pat Schmatz
Rating: 5,3/10

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Micah freely admits that she's a compulsive liar. And that may be the one honest thing she'll ever tell you. Over the years she's duped her classmates, her teachers, and even her parents. But when her boyfriend, Zach, dies under brutal circumstances, the shock might be enough to set her straight. Or maybe not. Especially when lying comes as naturally to her as breathing. Was Micah dating Zach? Or was Sarah his real girlfriend? And are the stories Micah tells about inheriting a "family gene" real or are they something that only exists in her mind?

This review contains spoilers

Started out interestingly, then went a bit down, and then picked up for the last half of the book. Liar was a good read. It wasn't a fantastic book, nothing breath-taking, but good enough to satisfy a majority of teenagers.

So Micah is a liar with a big secret that actually gets revealed in the middle of the book. I was honestly awaiting some sort of deep murder psycho book that would really make me go woah but instead I got a werewolf hiding in the city. I can't say I was displeased, or that the book was bad because of it, but I just went 'oh, another werewolf'. Albeit cliche and overated, the werewolves in this book actually had a pretty cool concept. The change happens because of hormones, during women's menstruation, and its actually a painful shifting because of the bone and body remolding. Nothing to do with taking off your shirt and taking a leap. The werewolves' nature had a lot to do with science, DNA, genes, one thing Micah promises herself to study later, and so I was interested to learn more about them. We do get a lot of information of how they live and all, but we aren't given any final, clear scientific explanation of how the change happens (At least there isn't some kind of crap like imprinting or whatever). But anyway, it's the goal Micah sets herself up with at the end of the book, so we'll just pretend one day she finds the answers to her questions.

Character-wise, Micah was interesting, understandable, relatable to. I can't say the other characters such as Sarah or Tayshawn (I don't know if I spelled his name right) were as developed as her, and I can't say Zack was either. I personally never got to understand why he fell in love with Micah and what were the extents of his love, and so I was a bit annoyed since the story was actually everyone fuzzing over his death.

There wasn't that much action, it didn't really deliver any ultra deepness of doom, it didn't stir too much emotions, but it was agreeable to read. It could have been laid out better, with more mystery and a bit more of plot. There were a lot of twists at the end, a lot of lying and confessions and so I always braced myself for the next big revelation. The ending was good. Sad but good. You truly feel sad for Micah, but then happy that she finally found herself.

Overall, good to pick up in a library, but perhaps not enough to read twice.
Liar by Justine Larbaleister
Rating: 7,4/10

Thursday, September 9, 2010


Katniss Everdeen, girl on fire, has survived, even though her home has been destroyed. Gale has escaped. Katniss's family is safe. Peeta has been captured by the Capitol. District 13 really does exist. There are rebels. There are new leaders. A revolution is unfolding.

It is by design that Katniss was rescued from the arena in the cruel and haunting Quarter Quell, and it is by design that she has long been part of the revolution without knowing it. District 13 has come out of the shadows and is plotting to overthrow the Capitol. Everyone, it seems, has had a hand in the carefully laid plans -- except Katniss.

The success of the rebellion hinges on Katniss's willingness to be a pawn, to accept responsibility for countless lives, and to change the course of the future of Panem. To do this, she must put aside her feelings of anger and distrust. She must become the rebels' Mockingjay -- no matter what the personal cost.

Beryl's Review

This review may (actually it will) contain spoilers. Avert your eyes if you don't want to cry.

It took me a day to cool down and get my thoughts straight so I could rewrite this review. I'll be honest and say that even if the two previous books were amazing, and even if this third book had everything to stir a roller coaster of emotions in the readers, I didn't enjoy this read.

The Hunger Games was generally an excellent serie, with lots of meaning and passing a clear message. It wasn't never a book, that, personally, 'inspired' me. It was just a jolly good sandwich of action and romance and drama.

The message portrayed throughout the entire series was the most clear in this last installment, 'Mockingjay'. It's true that Collins got what she wanted; show that in war no one wins, and that it breaks people to no repair. But it was sad. It was misery all over, it was painful and heavy and I disliked that. Hey, I've read so many books that end on a dramatic note, but none of them have made me so tired and depressed as much as Mockingjay did. You'd say 'that's great it made you sad, it means the book was good!' Well, it was good, on the part where we got the meaning and the cruelty of the world and people. But I didn't like reading Mockingjay. I was annoyed, irritated.

I disliked that Katniss was so weak. I disliked the fact she couldn't assume her role of the Mockingjay, that she couldn't inspire anyone, that she couldn't get over her morphine and collect the broken pieces of her heart to do something useful. I didn't mind she was distressed at first, but after she continued whining past the 200 page, I got tired. She also always ended up in the hospital instead of fighting, and that simply wasn't the Katniss I knew.

I didn't like the fact the love triangle wasn't solved, that Katniss kept switching from Gale to Peeta, that Gale had to end up badly and that at the end it feels like Katniss still doesn't know how to love.

I hated that Prim had to die, even if I both agree and disagree on her death. I disagree because it defies the point of saving her at first, but agree because it doesn't mean that you've once met a magical unicorn that you'll survive a war. For Finnick's case, though, I am totally against it. I think that what Collins missed to show is that even if a war is going in, even if everyone gets broken and hurt and bashed and stumped at, love still exists in times of chaos, and it can go on. Finnick should have lived and been an example.

That's why I didn't like Mockingjay. Too much useless deaths, too much drugs, too much giving up. In a war, people should never give up. Katniss never put her heart in her role. Yes, she was manipulated, yes, she's still just a girl and a child, but she could have rejected her role of Mockingjay and still taken things in hand in her own way, and it would have been alright, because she would be doing something.

In the end, people may say this book was epic, and I guess it was in some way, but I didn't like the way things went. It wasn't inspiring. It was, on the contrary, depressing. Things made sens, though. Just like Aithen kept telling me when I whined on and on: "It makes sens, so deal with it, wimp." But I didn't like reading it. I really didn't, and I want to forget this book as quickly as possible.

I won't even rate it, and let Aithen do it.

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Aithen's review

I let Beryl write the first part of the review, since she was the one to review so well the other two tomes in the trilogy. And though I have to admit I do agree with her on most issues she raised with this book, I actually enjoyed it.

My review also contains spoilers.
Even if I understand that Katniss was in a great mental pain after everything that happened to her in the two previous books, I have to agree with Beryl. At one point, she just should've picked herself up and done something with herself. Her being so down throughout the whole book, though understandable, really irked me at times, but I could get over it and see how good the rest was.

My first reaction to reading Mockingjay was fascination. Fascination with the whole world Collins built, but also with how she toyed with my emotions, pulled me into the story without letting me the chance to think of anything else. The absolutely unpredictable plot made it all the more interesting. Every detail was explained, and the characters grew throughout the book. Even the secondary characters, tertiary characters, rather unimportant characters.

Something I loved was the emotional roller coaster I was on all throughout the book. Every single event roused a strong emotional response on my part. Like Annie and Finnick's reunital, their wedding, their child. Finnick was probably my favourite character, and I really don't understand why he had to die too. As Beryl said, that was cruel and useless.

Unlike Beryl, I think the love triangle was actually resolved. I actually understood why Katniss chose Peeta over Gale. It was a good reason. It was also a good thing that they fell in love all over again. Before, Peeta was just too crazy about her to notice she wasn't the perfect princess of his dreams. After this book, it didn't feel like he didn't see her flaws anymore, because he did see them.

I have to say my appreciation of this book was enormous. People say it was too dramatic, too sad, too exhausting, but I liked it. It was a perfect conclusion to an amazing trilogy, filled with morals everyone can learn from.

If it were only up to me and my love for Mockingjay, I'd rate this book 10. But there are flaws in this book, which is why it received a lower rating. That doesn't prevent me from telling you to read this book. It was truly excellent.

Rating: 8,9/10