Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Cannonball Read III - Osaka Slide: #4 - A Shore Thing; by Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi

"There's 'The Truth', and 'The Truth!'" - Lionel Hutz, Esq.

As anyone who knows me knows, I'm into politics.  It's an obsession really, what with the election cycles, the media conflictinator, and the general fate of the American public in the balance.  But one of the things I love the BEST is the Double Talk.  Pushing one message whilst secretly advancing another, mostly by omissions, euphemisms, and good old fashioned lies.  As such I would ask that you, the audience, allow me to practice my Double Talk skills with this book review for A Shore Thing, written by New Jersey's latest literary powerhouse* Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi.  (*Powerhouse of subpar fiction)

The Truth!:
For a first time author, Snooki has a decent story on her hands, and she tells it as well as she can.  For what we were expecting out of her, this isn't all that bad.  It's just a tale of a couple of girls looking for fun, fashion, and fucking on the Jersey Shore, and there's nothing wrong with that.

The Truth:

Before I get into analysis of the text, I ask that you all refer to the picture on the top left; the one that depicts the cover art.  Do you know what that is?  It's the only way Snooki could get anyone to look her in the eyes, because let's face it...she's not playing on the same level as Kindergartners much less the rest of us.  If her public persona wasn't enough of an indicator of this fact, then the "book" she's "written" is more than ample proof.  (I seriously think Valerie Frankel, her "collaborator, who helped translate [her] ideas onto the page" should be credited as a co-author, because there's some "big" words in here I doubt Snooks would ever use.)

So the book.  Funny story actually.  No, I'm not saying the book is funny because it doesn't even perform on a "so bad, it's funny' level.  It's actually a "so bad, it's shitty" level of entertainment that puts the value of its entertaining factors in the negative.  If you want to skip reading the book, here's all you need to know:  Take "Spice World" and mix it with "Crossroads" (The Britney Spears picture); throw it into a Jersey Shore rerun and bake it with a Twilight covering.  That's "A Shore Thing", a book that's written as if Peter Griffin started telling one of his bullshit stories that rips off something he saw on TV, except it goes on for 289 pages.  (288 too many, if you ask me.)  Don't believe me?  Here's the main point of the book, as summarized by a paragraph of dialogue:

"But, then again, who knew what made love last?  It was a game of chance, luck, destiny, experience -but not too much hard work, as far as Gia could tell.  How hard could it be to show the person you loved that you cared?  All you had to do was smush every chance you got and treat them with kindness and respect.  Easy."

Is now a good time to mention she named her fictional surrogate after one of her pets?  Yeah, Gia is one of the pets that she thanks in her opening acknowledgments, and that just happens to be her fictional surrogate's name.  "Gia" and "Bella" (JWoww's fictional surrogate) are "down the shore" for Summer vacation in order to escape the dramas of Brooklyn.  In trying to avoid drama, they only create further drama and "comedy".  Throw in a couple of Trust Fund douchebags who want to bang JWo...I mean "Bella", a couple of mean girls who are out to get Snook...erm, "Gia", and a divorced couple thrown into the mix, and you've got exactly what this book is about. 

It's fitting that JWoww's fictional surrogate is named Bella, because Snooki's basically written Twilight for Guidettes whose attention spans are shorter than their poufs.  Her main characters stumble into everything they want with minimal effort, are popular even when they're awkward, and end up landing the "hawt juicehead gorillas" they've been wanting to bang...only to leave them and declare that they want to be single anyways!  They build towards what you think is going to be a cookie cutter ending (by using all the other cookie cutter parts) and ultimately puss out on the ending.  JUST...LIKE...TWILIGHT, except instead of one Bella (which is fucking bad enough), you get TWO!  This book is so frustrating, I found myself throwing it across the room after finishing it.  What's sadder is you KNOW MTV is going to want to cash in on the fame of this midget famewhore and should Jersey Shore ever end, you know this is going to be the "launching pad" Snooki will inevitably try to use in order to cross over into feature films.  (Basically, this'll be the next "Jackass" franchise if we're not careful.)

That being said, I think Snooki should write another three books in this series.  Why not?  She clearly has a wellspring of ideas, or has at least seen enough movies and been through enough on Jersey Shore that she could rip off some ideas.  She should embrace the Twilight connection and end the series with Gia and Bella giving birth in a vat of pickles, whilst doing shots of Hornitos and Patron and listening to shitty techno...all on the dance floor at Karma!  (Wardrobe by Ed Hardy.)  Do it, Snooki!  You won't!  I fucking dare you!  NO BALLS!  Sorry...I got a little wound up.  Needless to say, this review has exorcised my demons and this mind is indeed clear.  I'd like to close with another quote from one of the antagonists who basically sums up why people like myself hate Snooki and her Jersey Shore pals.

"I hate you because the world is at your friggin' feet."

At least with Snooki's height (much like the current state of Pop Culture), it's not that far of a fall.  Thank you for this book, Snooki.  If anything, it's inspired me to read the books of your other housemates and rip them apart much more viciously than I did yours.  Thank you for setting the bar so low.

Next Up: Across the Universe by Beth Revis

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Cannonball Read III - Osaka Slide: #3 - I am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I want to be your Class President; by Josh Lieb

This book has been on my reading list for a while, seeing as I fell in love with the concept merely with the title alone.  You see, I am a genius of unspeakable evil and I was class president (Class of 2002, Howell High School...I have the varsity jacket to prove it), so naturally it was a given that I read this book.  For varying reasons, I hadn't fit it into my reading schedule until recently.  My girlfriend's car broke down, so that meant I had to drive her to her shift at J.C. Penney's.  Not content to just drop her off at the mall (only to have to go and pick her up again), I wandered around Borders and found this book in the Bargain Bin for the third time.  The other two times I'd managed not to succumb to the pressure of purchase, but the third was too much to ask.  I opened the book and started reading it, just to make sure I could justify the shelf space.  Needless to say, we know how that story ends.

However, if I were as evil as Oliver Watson, I could have just taken the book.  You see, Oliver has everything he could ever dream of.  Water fountain that covertly dispenses Root Beer and Chocolate Milk?  He's got that.  A zeppelin?  Owns one and uses it to relax.  A Pit Bull trained in the Basque language to possibly maim or kill an enemy?  He calls her Lollipop.  All of these things are simple to acquire when you're the third richest person in the world.  But as Oliver finds out, there's one thing that's hard to buy while making it look like you didn' election.  You see while Oliver is a genius to himself and his audience, his parents and his peers think he's...well, rather dim.  It's the perfect cover to hide behind if you don't want anyone catching onto your extracurriculars, but it does make achieving goals rather difficult.  Still, Oliver is about to give it his all, and his all might not be good enough.  Which would mean it's time to rig things and take what he wants anyway.

The concept, if in a typical Childrens/Teens author's hands, could falter very easily and would probably be deemed too simplistic.  This isn't the case with Josh Lieb's writing, and I wouldn't doubt him for a second.  This may be his first novel, but he's been Executive Producer of a little cable news show you might have heard of called "The Daily Show", so one could assume his writing prowess would assumably be matched only by his wit.  I'm pleased to say that he not only meets those expectations, he exceeds them swimmingly.  Don't be fooled by the book's setting or marketing, because while this is a story of a young kid's drive for world domination it's written in a style that seems like it has Adults in mind as well.  Also, this book really is laugh out loud funny. 

Between smatterings of Pop Culture references (FYI: Your kids will ask you who Captain Beefheart is.  It's unavoidable with this book.), details of the various machinations young Watson uses to get what he wants, and some hysterical visual aides, it's hard not to like this book for what it is: a really good, family friendly comedy.  Six words I don't utter too much around these parts pretty much sum this book up.  In fact, as soon as I finished the book, I handed it to a friend.  Upon seeing the title, he laughed his head off just like I did.  Ultimately, that is the true sign of a good book:  it's good enough that you'd hand it off to someone else to read instead of just letting it gather dust on the shelf.  If I have anything to do about it, I am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to Be Your Class President will not be sitting on my shelf for long in the coming months, simply because it's too good to hide in a Bargain Bin.

Next Up: A Shore Thing by Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi

The Cannonball Read III - Osaka Slide: #2 - Oogy, The Dog Only A Family Could Love; by Larry Levin

Full Disclosure: My good friends at Hachette Book Group provided me with a review copy of this book, upon my request.  Special thanks go to Valerie Russo, for facilitating the procurement of this book.

Household pets are amazing.  They're resilient, they're cuddly, and they're capable of things that even you wouldn't understand.  (For the life of me, I don't know why my kittens nibble on the edges of books, outside of my theory that they are indeed trying to read them.)  The language barrier between an owner and their lovely companion is never a problem, as both understands the other through an evolving process of discourse.  Some pets pick up good behaviors, some pets pick up bad behaviors.  Put a pet with the wrong owner, and they would most likely pick up traits and commands that the right owner wouldn't exactly approve of.  Abuse a pet, and they may never trust a human again, thus leading to a long chain of shelters, aborted homes, and the growing probability of being euthanized, the ultimate sign of giving up on an animal.  However, not all animals who have suffered at the hands of cruelty are unfriendly "beasts" that will never have a home.  Oogy is living proof.

According to Larry Levin's chronology, Oogy was two months old when he was used as a "bait dog": easy competition to train up tougher dogs willing to fight.  The bigger dog presumably latched onto Oogy's face and shook him so hard he fractured his jaw severely and turned his face into a bloody mess.  After lackluster care at an emergency veterinary clinic that assumed he'd never have a home or survive to even have hope of doing so, Diana Klein rescued this dog and brought him to Ardmore Animal Hospital in Ardmore, Pa.  Once he was on his feet, the staff of AAH learned that Oogy, despite his rough and tumble beginnings, was still very much a love sponge.  He loved all, and all loved him, and even if he never found a home he'd always have Ardmore to fall back on.

Meanwhile, Larry Levin and his family were preparing to say goodbye to their family pet, a cat named Buzzy.  The day he and his two sons brought the cat to the vet's office, they met Oogy.  In customary fashion, he sniffed and licked and loved his way into their hearts.  They had found their new pet and they knew it was fated to be.  Oogy: The Dog Only a Family Could Love is a story of love and redemption, as Levin chronicles his family's adoption process (he and his wife adopted their twin boys, as well as Oogy), the daily routine around the house, and ultimately the process of getting Oogy adjusted to his new home.  Jumping back and forth between past and present, Larry ultimately weaves a tale of how where you come from doesn't always determine who you are.  It's the people you surround yourself with, the people you develop with, that truly make you who you are.

As a pet owner, and as a reader, I enjoyed this book immensely.  It's not a page turner, but that's not a knock against its natural pacing.  It'll take a little while to read it, but ultimately it's worth the trip.  Personally, I'd like to hear more about Oogy and would love another volume of Levin family stories to go along with all of the heartwarming antics of this extremely lovable dog.  For now though, I'd strongly suggest picking up Oogy: The Dog Only a Family Could Love.

Next Up: I am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I want to be your Class President by Josh Lieb

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Cannonball Read III - Osaka Slide: #1 - Let It Snow; by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle

It's time to start The Cannonball Read 3, lit freaks!  How do you know when it's time?  It's simple:  when you see Vin Diesel up on your screen, you know it's time for another CR3 review!  Whether it will be this static image of Vin or different images of different roles he's played, I do not know.  (But I do welcome input.)  Anyhow, let's get things started off nice and easy with some Holiday Romance!

Teen literature is a genre that I should have practically overgrown by about a good eleven years (eight years in the literal sense).  Yet somehow when I found An Abundance of Katherines by John Green, it connected to the younger me instantaneously.  His stories of teenage boys fixated on quirky girls for some reason or another, along with the 4-ish star reviews for each of his books made me more interested in reading his works, seeing as I was one of those boys and he must have been too.  I came into reading Let It Snow: Three Holiday Romances with expectations that I would love the Green story but not care for the Johnson and Myracle story.  What I left with was exceeded expectations, and only in the best way.

The basic premise of Let It Snow: Three Holiday Romances is a simple one: three stories of teens in love at Christmas in the same North Carolina town.  Three different authors use the same character set/setting, and as each story progresses, we're introduced/re-introduced to characters that will become part of each story.  Some characters are mentioned off hand, some interact with other protagonists, and others are just a constant part of the background moving the plot along. Basically, this plays like an American version of Love Actually that takes place during the course of one evening.  (Except in this case, it works beautifully.  Take THAT "Valentine's Day"!)

We start off with Maureen Johnson's "The Jubilee Express"; a story involving a girl whose parents are in jail (for rather ridiculous, non violent reasons), whose boyfriend is rather distant (and an overachiever), and whose trip to Florida turns into a trek through the snow with some guy she hardly knows.  Ms. Johnson has the unenviable task of building the blocks to the world we're about to spend a good portion of time in and she does it wonderfully by making us tag along with a girl from Virginia.  Just like her, we're new to town and we're learning the lay of the land through the people we meet.  Eventually, Jubilee (Johnson's pensive protagonist) is stranded in said North Carolina town and meets Stuart, a local with a broken heart.  Through their trek in the snow to his house, she begins to think things through with her current relationship as she figures out what to do next.  "The Jubilee Express" surprised me, because I thought I'd have a hard time identifying with a young teenage girl and her relationship woes, but I actually found myself somewhat invested in the outcome of her story and enjoyed it quite a bit.  Jubilee isn't too witty or hip, she's just a cut above the rest, and the only problem is that the ending seems a little too rushed.

Johnson's set up leads to what I feel is my favorite story of the collection (no, not due to personal bias), John Green's "A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle".  The train Jubilee came in on was also carrying fourteen Pennsylvania cheerleaders on their way to a competition.  Stranded with nothing to do, they decided to go into a Waffle House to warm up/keep limber.  This pleases young Keun, the acting manager at said Waffle House.  It pleases him enough to invite two separate groups of friends to join him in Cheertastic bliss: a group of rowdy college guys and our protagonistic trio (Angie 'The Duke', JP, and Tobin).  There's a catch though:  only one group of friends can stay, and whoever has the Twister board has the power.  As if that weren't enough, the roads are crap and our protagonists end up having to walk to the Waffle House, avoid a pair of evil twins, and ultimately confront some feelings budding within their group.  Much like in An Abundance of Katherines, Green displays that he knows how to write humorous characters with introspective bents that happen to be falling in love.  And when his characters fall in love, it almost always turns out to be extremely sweet.  The romance in this story is only matched by the humor, which basically sums up Green's contribution to literature at large.

The final story, "The Patron Saint of Pigs" by Lauren Myracle, ties everything (and everyone) together into a pretty adorable ending where every couple we've encountered ends up at the same Starbucks, but not before a mini-adventure of self discovery.  One of the baristas at this particular coffee shop, a girl by the name of Addison (aka Addie), had promised her friend that she'd pick up a Mini-Pig that she adopted through a local pet store.  This, of course, had to be the day after Christmas, whilst enduring the fallout of both the winter blizzard and a break-up between her and her boyfriend (now ex).  All the while, the Universe seems to be sending her messages that she's a little too self involved and needs to put it all on hold for others.  As she treks to get the pig and sort out her cosmic destiny, she learns quite a bit and ultimately changes for the better.  What's particularly unique about this story is it seemed to have a sort of Christmas Carol vibe to it, seeing as while Addie is running one uber important errand, she runs into people indirectly trying to help her change. Although the ending is a bit of a stretch to have everyone in one room, I'm not going to argue it because books of this ilk require the amount of suspension of disbelief.

This book was an honest surprise that comes of sweeter than a "Holiday Romance" novel has any business of doing.  As I'd mentioned before the ending is rather serendipitous, but if there were a time for serendipity it may as well be Christmas.  Each story clocks in at about 100 pages and change, and the prose is a breezy read for those who want a little holiday cheer.  I would go as far to say that these three writers have made me hope that for every Mormon Mom with a wet dream, there are at least three of these whip smart writers to take her down and show us that not every teenager is a clumsy idiot who's waiting for someone to dash them away.

 Next Up: Oogy: The Dog Only a Family Could Love by Larry Levin


Monday, January 10, 2011

The Cannonball Read III (aka The Cannonball Read: Osaka Slide)

As anyone who's followed me over from the early days of Mr. Controversy knows, I was once involved in a reading race known as "The Cannonball Read".  This race was conceived as a way to help a Pajiba commenter/light of life/warrior queen against Cancer pass her time by reading books to best a fellow Pajiban.  That woman, Ms. Amanda Amos, aka Alabama Pink, lost her battle with Cancer in 2009 and was mourned by her fellow posters.  The Cannonball Read is now held in her honor, scaling back its initial "100 books in one year" criteria to only 52 and making a donation to her child's college fund for every person who crosses the 52 book threshold.  That said, Ms. Pink wouldn't want me or any other Pajiban to make this into a sob story.  Her memory lives on in this healthy competition to promote literacy and remember a friend/acquaintance who has passed. 

Unfortunately, due to a mishap around the time contestants were entering (I didn't read the requirement that I had to email the person running the race, so I thought a simple "I'm in" comment would have done it) I was not entered in last year's Run.  However, due to whatever force in the Universe you want to attribute it to, I've been able to Vin Diesel my way into the new run.  (Which connect the header graphic and title to the latest run, seeing as it's the third and Diesel appears at the end of the Third Fast and Furious film, albeit for a cameo.)  Rest assured, this is no cameo.  It is officially on, and while I've volunteered for a "Half Cannonball" (half of the 52 books), I have designs to crush the 52 threshold.  It's going to be fun, and I might even get myself published on Pajiba yet again!  But most of all, it helps validate my literary addiction by making me read, as well as helps me write by keeping the story centers of my mind sharp.  So with that, I say let the reading begin!

With that, I am set to announce that the first review will be one that is rather atypical of my usual tastes.  With that, I give you the first book of The Cannonball Read: Osaka Slide...

Weird choice, considering my tastes and all; but you TBK readers should be able to pick up on why I chose this selection.  For the rest, all will be explained soon.  Until then, keep turning those pages!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

2011: The Year I Write/Sell/Pimp A Book

2011 is here, and with all of the celebration and the hoopla out of the way it's time to get back to business.  Serious business.  The business of literature, particularly reading and writing it.  You see, I have until February 28th to finish a publishable first draft of "The Collegiate", my National Novel Writing Month winning novel.  (Otherwise my free proof copy from CreateSpace expires and I'll have to pay for it myself.)  This leaves me with about 2 months to revise/fill in story gaps/nurture the individual story arc as well as world build for the overall story arc.

If it were up to me, I'd probably stop reading altogether for the next two months and just hardcore focus on the book.  But it's not up to me, because I almost always have that inner drive to read something new during the course of reading whatever book I'm currently on.  So you'll still be getting review fixes, but be warned that some writing posts will be thrown up as well.  (Also, I'll be writing about owning an E-Reader from time to time, seeing as I received a Nook from this past holiday season.)

In the meantime, expect a review soon on a book I normally probably wouldn't read (damn my newfound fandom for John Green), some E-Reader Chronicles, and posts on how NaNoWriMo consumes a soul long after that Nov. 30 deadline.  Happy New Year all!

(One last note, that graphic isn't mine.  That belongs to Ms. Debbie Ohi.  Her works can be found here, and throughout the Webs.)