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  • I read a lot, and I have a lot of opinions, so I can't believe I haven't made a list like this before. If you are even a little bit like me or you want to get a peek into my psyche (you probs don't), these are the books to read.
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Posts Tagged ‘reviews’

Some Girls Are

Posted on January 25th, 2010 by annakjarzab

I’m a pretty hard person to impress, literarily speaking. I’m intensely critical of everything I read, which I realize is often to my own detriment and no one else’s. I’m really good at destroying my own enjoyment of the act of reading by being insanely hard on most books, demanding perfection and shaking my head disapprovingly when it isn’t delivered. I spend about 90% of my reading hours being smugly judgmental towards whatever book it is that’s being forced to endure my jaded eye, and I go into most books expecting them to be bad. I know! This is a horrible thing to do. There’s a whole other blog post in here somewhere about how I need to read but don’t love to read most of the time, which is sad and a reason to pause and think about what exactly such a thing is accomplishing, but that post is not this post.

This post is about the few times a year I really get swept off my feet by a book. It happens! And actually, now that I’m looking over my Good Reads (Goodreads? GoodReads? I never know how to write that) list from last year, it happens relatively often. Last year it happened with many titles, including Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers. Courtney is a favorite of mine. She’s a new author like me, although she has one more book out than I do, she’s smart, she’s funny, she’s got a sense of humor about her own work and the business of being a writer, she loves Twilight while simultaneously laughing at it, which is how I feel about Twilight…sometimes I feel like Courtney and I were built to be best friends, if it weren’t for the pesky “growing up in different countries” thing (CS is a Canadian, but let’s not hold that against her–I KID I KID).

On January 11, I went up and down the Upper West Side looking for my book. I KNOW, the pub date was January 12. But sometimes bookstores put titles out early–Kim had found it at a store in Long Island on January 10–so I had to try. I struck out at all three of the stores I checked (all of whom put out their copies the next day), so at the last one, to boost my spirits, I bought Courtney’s new book, Some Girls Are, and gobbled it up in two days, then promptly loaned it to a friend so I will not be fact checking this review against the finished copy. Sorry in advance.

somegirlsareSome Girls Are is narrated by the very cool, very pissed off Regina Afton. Why is Regina so pissed off? Well, she’s been properly expelled from the coolest clique in school, and let me tell you that “mean girls” doesn’t even begin to describe this posse. They’re the world’s most awful humans, and Regina used to be one of them. Regina was terrible, too–there are no free passes in Courtney Summers books. You don’t get to be a martyr just because you’re a victim. That’s why I love Courtney’s books. She insists that even her narrators–especially her narrators, the people you’re supposed to relate to and love–own up to and suffer the consequences of their own actions. It’s some of the most honest work being done in the YA world. Courtney is brutal to her characters, something I really believe in. She forces them to look in the most revealing mirror and get a good look at their true selves before she lets them be redeemed.

Regina really gets it from all sides. She is the victim of an assault that is then twisted by a devious rival into an act of betrayal, which incurs the wrath of Regina’s ex-best friend, Anna (it’s okay Courtney I know it’s totally a coincidence that the evil girl’s name is Anna and I’m not even mad at you!), who unleashes a rain of terror (see what I did there?) upon Regina’s head. Rotting meat stuffed in the locker, physical violence, emotional tyranny…it’s all part of the torture Regina is expected to endure because she purportedly hurt her best friend. Not only is Regina going through that hell, but she’s also coming face-to-face with the horrible things she actually did do, including spreading rumors about a wonderfully sweet boy, turning him into a social outcast and exposing him to ridicule, and helping to drive a former friend to suicide (failed, thankfully). These people–Michael, whom Regina falls in love with, and Liz, whom she struggles to make things up to with little success–stand as monuments to Regina’s horrible legacy, which may or may not be part of the person she still is.

What’s beautiful about Regina and Michael’s love story is that its greatest obstacles are not counterfeited by authorial machination (for the most part), but are absolutely and believably intrinsic to the characters, which is where all actually relationship obstacles come from! Here’s the thing about paranormal romances (and I understand this is an aside, but please go with it): they often come with some sort of problem attached–Edward and Bella can’t be together because he’s a monster whose basest instinct is to rip out her throat and drink her blood like she’s a Big Gulp, etc.–that has nothing to do with the characters themselves, only their circumstances, which they’re not responsible for, so the characters can be unassailable, just victims in all of this. They love each other, purely and entirely, they just can’t be together because it’s forbidden. But, fun as paranormal romances are, that’s their most devious lie. The obstacles are all external, but actual romantic obstacles are mostly internal, but to bring them out into the open is to make the characters, who you’re supposed to like, culpable in their own suffering and each other’s, which is a brave thing to do. More realistic, but less cinematic.

So what makes a true romance great is the presentation of two people who want to be together but aren’t willing to give up some of their own prejudices, resentments, conflicting desires, ambitions, etc, to make it happen, or don’t know if they’re capable of doing so (HELLO Pride & Prejudice). That’s Regina and Michael in a nutshell. He likes her and is attracted to her, but every time he gets close to her he remembers what she did to him and it sends him reeling. She likes him and is attracted to him, but she thinks he’s never going to be able to forgive her, and as much as she wants to there’s a little bit of her former mean girl she might not be able to shake. And Regina’s not walking away from her former life because she wants to–she’s being forced away from it, and he knows that. How can he trust her? How can she trust herself? She certainly never has before. Now that is the stuff of great romance, if your characters decide that they want to be with the other person more than they want whatever it is that’s conflicting with it. If Michael can’t forgive Regina, that’s understandable, but he has to do that in order to be with her–if he can do it, then that’s the most romantic thing I can possibly imagine.

Anyway, this book is simply one of the best books I’ve ever read. I love it more than I love Cracked Up to Be, which I loved A LOT. It’s just right up my alley, Courtney’s stuff. She and I are concerned with the same things: the pain and suffering it takes to figure out who you are in the world and what kind of person you want to spend your life being, and how that’s reflected in how we treat others, and how we learn and grow from our mistakes, or don’t, and how grief be not proud and how people be not perfect, not even close, but how we can love them anyway, in their imperfection, profoundly more in fact because perfect people are dull and nonexistant.

I hate having to wrap up reviews because
I always want to leave on a high note, but I can never think of anything cool to say, so it’s mostly like, “Um, yeah, so buy this book and read it because it’s awesome.” Which is stupid, but a sort of Anna Jarzab stupid that I’ve decided to accept.

So, buy this book and read it because it’s awesome. I’m out like trout.

Like I need another addiction

Posted on October 21st, 2009 by annakjarzab

Guys: WE HAVE A PROBLEM. People have been yammering at me about how great this new show, FlashForward, is, and I’ve been like, how much TV can I watch? I mean, check it: Gossip Girl, House, How I Met Your Mother, Glee, 30 Rock, The Office, Dexter, Psych, Castle…THAT’S A LOT OF SHOWS. Considering I don’t even have any sort of TV hookup in my apartment (we have a TV, but we only use it to watch DVDs, which has nothing to do with conscientious objection, just so you don’t think I’m a hypocrite–my roommate and I were just too lazy to call Time Warner), that’s some pretty impressive boob tube consumption.

BUT, I was bored on Sunday. Saturday? I don’t remember. It doesn’t matter. What matters is, I asked my roommate what she was doing and she was like, “Catching up on FlashForward.” ALL RIGHT, I GET IT: I NEED TO WATCH THIS SHOW. So I did. And it was great. Super great. Super duper great. I loved it. I can’t wait for more episodes. And that, my friends, is the problem.

flashforward-logo

You see, my friends, there’s a reason I don’t watch Lost. Okay, I thought the pilot was boring, but ALSO, I cannot handle shows that drag you along, season after season, drawing out a mystery that will, in all likelihood, never be solved, but if it is solved, will most likely disappoint. Maybe I’ll watch Lost when the whole thing is over and I’ve already read the synopsis on Wikipedia so I know what to expect (I love spoilers, can’t get enough of ’em, my friends hate me).

FlashForward is so one of these shows. My hope is that they’ve learned a lesson from Lost and actually know where the whole thing is going, so we don’t have to watch for five seasons and then go, “REALLY? THAT’S IT?” Fingers crossed. I know I did a bad thing by watching and investing in this show. I’m going to end up constantly refreshing Hulu, foaming at the mouth, making crazy eyes at the computer and mouthing the words, “But what does it mean?” over and over again, I just know it. (Was that a terrifying mental picture? Excellent, mission accomplished.)

Also, Booklist review. That page is where all the reviews are going to go from now on (well, I mean, the good ones; the bad ones you can search out on your own, thank you very much), and I’m going to try not to make a big deal out of them–not because they’re not important to me, but because I know you guys don’t come here to hear me brag about how everyone loves my book. When you read a review, just imagine me, wide-eyed and grinning, incapable of believing my own luck at being so honored. Can you do that for me? It’s much better than imagining me doing that other thing, with the mouth foaming, etc.

First little bit of PR

Posted on December 9th, 2008 by Anna Jarzab

I don’t have a Google alert set up for myself, and I might never. I’m not the kind of person that relentlessly Googles herself, although I understand the urge. I love writing on the Internet, but I’m not too terribly keen on being reminded that people can actually read this stuff (although by saying this I do not mean to discourage comments on this blog, I love comments), or to hear what people are saying about me (although I can’t imagine too many people are saying too many things at the moment).

For example, I’m not quite sure that I’ll ever get the courage to read reviews unless I know that they are good. When That James McAvoy was asked what actors should never, ever do, he replied, “Read reviews. You just try and do your job and not worry about what people say, because ultimately it can only affect what you do in a negative way. It can only make you a worse actor.” I totally agree with that. Constructive criticism from your agent and editor and even your friends is a good thing, but from disinterested third parties it’s probably in your best interest to avoid it if you can. Basically, I’m a chicken.

I don’t know why I bring this up except to say that for this reason I don’t have a Google alert set up, but Amy Brecount White does and she let all the Tenners know that Kristi over at The Story Siren has listed most of us as New Reads for 2010. That was very sweet of her, considering the books don’t come out for a while. Speaking of the Tenners, you should head over there, we’ve had a grip of new members join since last I mentioned it.

Bad reviews and worse behavior

Posted on April 21st, 2008 by Anna Jarzab

Galleycat* just posted an interesting little piece on Wednesday about an author behaving badly, namely Deborah MacGillivray, a Highland Press co-publisher and Kensington romance author who “uses yahoogroups and author groups to encourage, browbeat, or by other means, individuals into taking down negative reviews by reporting that the review is a) not helpful and b) abuse” and even purports to have hired a private investigator to find out personal information about a certain Amazon reviewer gave one of her novels three stars (not the worst rating possible on Amazon by far). Which is, like, the craziest thing I’ve ever heard.

I know how hard it must be to hear negative, or even mediocre, reviews of your work. And I know how sketchy the Amazon reviews can be–I once knew an author who wanted help convincing Amazon to take down a couple one- and two-star reviews, but we ultimately cautioned her not to do so. It made sense to me that she should want them down–they had been posted by people who had never posted a review before, they were vague and not nearly as carefully considered as the several positive reviews on the site, and they hurt her feelings. Some Amazon reviewers are notoriously cruel, and I don’t know of any author who hasn’t felt the sting of an extremely nasty (undeservedly so–I think reviews should be calm and thoughtful, even if they are bad) review. But, in the end, if someone has an opinion about the book it isn’t really fair to deny them the right to express that on Amazon, even if you think that it is invalid.

Of course, this MacGillivray person has crossed the line between hurt feelings and vengeful insanity. To harass an Amazon reviewer (or any reviewer, for that matter) for not loving your book and being willing to say something about it is an obviously insane move, one that ought to carry severe repercussions for the author but ultimately ended up hurting the reviewer, who hadn’t done anything wrong. Romance review site Dear Author has a petition going to convince Amazon to turn a critical eye on their current reviewing process. Hopefully one day they can come up with a solution that is fair to both authors AND reviewers.

*Is it just me, or does Galleycat do weird things to your computer? It makes my mouse flicker on and off, and it always stops after I close Galleycat. Odd!