Material Girls: the Fiendish Pitfalls of Fashion

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(ARC copy given by NetGalley)
Author: Elaine Dimopoulos
Publication:  5th May 2015
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Review by Lady Entropy

“In Marla Klein and Ivy Wilde’s world, teens are the gatekeepers of culture. A top fashion label employs sixteen-year-old Marla to dictate hot new clothing trends, while Ivy, a teen pop star, popularizes the garments that Marla approves. Both girls are pawns in a calculated but seductive system of corporate control, and both begin to question their world’s aggressive levels of consumption. Will their new “eco-chic” trend subversively resist and overturn the industry that controls every part of their lives?         Smart, provocative, and entertaining, this thrilling page-turner for teens questions the cult like mentality of fame and fashion.
         
Are you in or are you out?

I really enjoyed this book. As someone who has a secret guilty pleasure reading fashion YA books (I request all I can find in NG), I was surprised to find this one to be a lot more than just designer name-dropping or reality shows stories.

There is actually a message behind it. And more importantly, there is actually consequences for the heroine’s actions.

Also, and something I can’t stress enough is important while writing outside our own era and reality, there is actual world-building.

It’s half past the near future, and creative jobs (like singing, acting, choosing fashion) are now handed only to “the elite”, teenagers who are selected upon joining high school for their skills. Teenagers go to work like adults, and earn the highest income of the house — assuming they are part of the elite. If not, they are limited to going back to school, and looking forward to becoming “baselines” and making a modest living at best.

Marla Klein might be past her prime (16 year old! ew!) but she knows fashion when she sees it — she refuses to compromise her taste and ideals, even when it means risking the wrath of her superiors. And that gets in demoted quickly to a mere fashion sketcher.

On the other side of the spectrum, we have Ivy Wilde, a singing sensation, the Wilde Child of the music world. She is tired of the falseness, the idiocy, the synthetic life people like her are expected to live just because the rest of the world is too stupid to know better.

This book, then, follows two girls who are very disenchanted with the world society is set up today — eventually they cross paths and work together, even if Marla’s fall made her be at the lowest strata in the creative industry.

It unfolds in a very elegant, very organic plot, even if the final conflict does miss a certain… bang. I do like the ending, a twisted, sad and bizarre reflection (can’t clarify without spoiling). I also quite enjoyed the suggested list of reading and research the target audience could search to inform themselves — I love books that teach me new things. This helped add an extra layer of love for the book — Hunger Games, Battle Royal and Divergent (okay, maybe _not_ Divergent) are fun to read but they feel like “something that would never happen”. They lack the punch to the gut of feeling “this could be our reality one day”. “Material Girls is much closer to our world, it already is, to a point. It makes the book much more poignant, much more “kick in the feels” because, in a way, it is already happening. And it is damn scary.

As for the low points, I wish, really, that Marla mother didn’t suffer from the “plot convenient volte-face”. She became a completely different person, at a drop of a hat because it was “convenient” to up the ante, when until then she had been a loving, understanding mother, and it wasn’t Marla’s fault AT ALL what was done. I wish she had been handled better as she went from fully supportive to screaming harpy for no reason. At least I’d wish I’d get some subtle warnings about her true personality before.

All in all, a damn fine read for any YAs (and some adults) out there who are not only interested in fashion for fashion, but would actually like to know more about the behind-the-scenes of how big fashion houses work, and maybe think of finding a career in that world.

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Hacker: Getting Inside My Mind

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(ARC copy given by NetGalley)
Author: Ted Dekker
Publishing House: Worthy Publishing
280 pages
Publication:  10th June 2014
Book 3 of the Outlaw Chronicles
Review by Lady Entropy

 

Nyah Parks is a hacker extraordinaire with an interesting way of building her client base. Obviously, corporations don’t like it when you can hack into their systems. They pay hackers lots of money to try to exploit any flaws in their security. Nyah likes doing things backward. Compromise the system, then offer to show them where the flaws are. Except this time she’s gotten in over her head.

 

Now on the run, and under watch from the FBI, Nyah holes up with Austin, a fellow hacker whose been studying a computer unlike any other—the human brain. Austin opens Nyah up to a world of new possibilities, possibly even another plane of existence. Nyah is able to jump out of her mind like a modern-day prophet and see the future. And what she sees is personally devastating.


I made the serious mistake of reading this book and not reviewing it immediately (because a few days later I left the country) — as I consequence I can now barely remember my feelings about it other than a big resounding…”Meh”.

The book ends up being a lot more philosophical than cyberpunk (which, I admit, was what I was looking for) so maybe that is where most of my disappointment comes from. That and the frequent shifts between 3rd person narrator and 1st person narrator. Personal pet peeve of mine, and something I only allow to Charles Stross to do.

I also remember the dreadful disappointment at the cheap romance (put in, no doubt, so we’d get an emotional kick when bad things happened to the boy, but it never materialized since it was so obvious that it would happen that I just didn’t care). For some reason, another scene that stuck with me that was a near “Throw the damn book against a wall” was when the FBI found the corpse of a person who ODed on heroin — and immediately assumed he was a junky even though a friend swore he never did drugs, the whole thing was a set up from the villains. Here’s the thing — if the boy was a junky, he would have needle tracks on his arm. But since he obviously wouldn’t have any (as I said, villain’s doing) it should be obvious what had happened. But of course it takes the FBI forever to figure this out.

Finally, there were some cool scenes and concepts, and some heart-wrenching moments but all in all, I wound up finding the book way too forgettable for the potential it could have had.

Sidekick: Stylish (Almost)Super Heroines

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(ARC copy given by NetGalley)
Author: Auralee Wallace
Publishing House: Escape Publisher
173 pages
Publication:  1st June 2014
Review by Lady Entropy

Heroes meets Bridget Jones in this brilliant, hilarious debut novel about a girl who just wants to save the world…
Bremy St James, daughter of billionaire Atticus St James, has been cut off from the family fortune and is struggling to survive in a world that no longer holds its breath every time she buys a new outfit. To make matters worse, her twin sister is keeping secrets, loan sharks are circling, and the man of her dreams — a newspaper reporter — is on assignment to bring down everyone with the last name St James.

This is a fun, sweet, very funny book that can be considered “light reading”. And I say it as a compliment because it was just what I needed at the time. The book is lighthearted and it doesn’t try to be pretentious nor attempt to be more than what it is: the tale of a poor rich girl who found out her father was a monster and couldn’t bear to look at him any more, so she left her world of comfort.
Also, superheroes.That’s right, this very poignant and human drama is set in a city populated by superheroes and their supervillain counterparts. Our heroine has no powers (or money) to speak of, and yet, she is drawn to do the right thing, even if at a great personal cost. Her struggle is half desperate, half funny, and I think it’s what makes it all so endearing. She’s the proverbial woobie, everything goes wrong with her (her rent money gets stolen TWICE, she has the mafia breathing down her neck, and her boss wants her to strip) and she still keeps on, tenaciously.

The cast of characters is the strongest suit, from the villain to the heroes, although her twin sister was a disappointment — even if set up to be very interesting, the sisterly relationship tight and unique, suddenly gets thrown out just to add more plot convenience and make the scene more dramatic. That being said, she wasn’t as bad as the love interest who was the blandest, most boring and least fleshed out male interest to ever grace any book I’ve ever read. He was… nice. And muscular. AND stupid as a goddam brick — he hates Bremy’s dad but he’s absolutely ready to believe anything he says. Really?

Still, I enjoyed this immensely and I’ll definitely pick up the next volumes.

Night Terrors: Women Who Kick Ass and the Clowns Who Help Them

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(ARC copy given by NetGalley)
Author: Tim Waggoner
Publishing House: Angry Robot
350 pages
Publication:  27th May 2014
Book 1 of the Shadow Watch Series
Review by Lady Entropy

It’s Men In Black meets The Sandman.
Meet the fine men and women of the NightWatch: a supernatural agency dedicated to hunting down rogue nightmares that escape from other realms when people dream about them, while ensuring that other dream-folk are allowed to live among the regular, human population… as long as they play by the rules.

This book surprised me in so many ways: the setting was absolutely new, fresh and amazing (and finally someone came up with a setting for Urban Fantasy that isn’t yet another tired take on the typical Vampire\Werewolf Mafia rules over the city. I’ve been waiting for this since I discovered Charles Stross’s The Laundry Files, and now, finally, I have it!

Then, I discovered that the protagonist was female, even thought it was a man writing it. And honestly? He did it with respect and in no moment I felt she was a stereotype — she read as a normal (within limit), tired person with a hard job and suddenly dragged into a situation that was way above her paygrade.

It does take a page of the typical Urban Fantasy where the protagonist (and her co-star, the terrifying combat clown, who was a cross of the Dark Knight and the Animated Series Joker) are low-paid, hard-worked agents for the local supernatural law enforcement agency (in a twist of originality, they spend more time out of the human world, than in it, and humans and fully unaware of the strange things). But it’s spun in a creative, terrifying and original ways, as these agents have, quite literally, their “worst nightmare” as their trusty parters\weapons of mass destruction. I particularly enjoyed the many creative and different Nightmares that populated the dream world and the companion ones.

The plot was solid, frightening, and funny, and I definitely will check further instalments of this series. Recommended to anyone who likes Charles Stross, Urban Fantasy and is terrified of clowns.

Such Sweet Sorrow: Sadly Simply Insufficient

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Author: Jenny Trout
Publishing House:
Entangled Teen
304 pages
Publication: 4th February 2014
Review written by Lady Entropy

(ARC given by Netgalley)

Never was there a tale of more woe than this of Juliet and her Romeo…But true love never dies. Though they’re parted by the veil between the world of mortals and the land of the dead, Romeo believes he can restore Juliet to life, but he’ll have to travel to the underworld with a thoroughly infuriating guide.
Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, may not have inherited his father’s crown, but the murdered king left his son a much more important responsibility—a portal to the Afterjord, where the souls of the dead reside. When the determined Romeo asks for help traversing the treacherous Afterjord, Hamlet sees an opportunity for adventure, and the chance to avenge his father’s death.

Jenny Trout suffers from what I like to call “The Cassandra Claire Syndrome”: I loved everything that Cassandra wrote “for fun” like the Very Secret Diaries, but give me one of her books and I’m not running out of the room fast enough.
I like this author, a LOT. Unfortunately, not her books. I just think she’s a riot and a half in her 50 Shades reviews, and everything she writes in her blog. But all the books I read from her left me wanting.

And this one is pretty much the same.

The concept intrigued me enough to ask for the ARC (and I’ve become very careful of what ARCs I ask of, since I have way too many books and not enough time), and, on a positive note, it didn’t crash and burn as I feared it would. Shakespeare Crossover Stories seems the type of thing that could go either horribly bad or amazingly awesomely – I was expecting something in the lines of when Captain America and Thor go to hell to rescue Thor’s beloved and you have them fight hordes of zombies. No such luck. A lot of accident and coincidence push the plot forward, a little too much than I’m comfortable with, and way too much time is spent talking and arguing. I know that they’re trying to show how their friendship develops, slowly, but Hamlet and Romeo bitch and complain from the start and don’t even have the least bit of politeness to each other that two strangers normally should have.

Also, apparently, everyone’s fluent in latin. Look, I studied latin. It’s not a very good language to have complex talks in, especially if you’re not a priest who does nothing but study it, or a native Ancient Roman. Of course, these are just minor things, but some minor things are jarring. Like making Romeo 18 years of age. Now, I’ll give you, his age has been set at 16-ish, so with the year that went by, he could have turned 17\18, true. But then it only remained creepier the fact that Juliet was 13 — the author tries to smooth it by stating she was 15, but instead of making it less creepy, it makes her look uneducated because Juliet is the one with her age being openly stated in the play — 13 years of age. I wound up not knowing whether to be irritated or creeped out.

The rest of the book lost me because it wound up feeling like a video game: the protagonists stumble on the next bit of plot, find Juliet, rescue her, and then they start finding helpful NPCs who give them quests to end up leaving hell: they find bosses to fight, they have to find three bits of an artefact (the keys) that will allow them to leave hell (making us wonder then, if Odin didn’t want people leaving\controlling hell, why would he keep that artefact in hell to begin with? Why not, say, keep it with himself?) I think the main issue with this book is that it didn’t have a defined villain. Sure, maybe hell could count as the main baddie, but it was just too shifting and changing, and it lacked any ambiance or despair. Ultimately, this felt more like a D&D game, made of small multiple encounters with really no rhyme or reason or even purpose rather than spend time. The characters keep getting separated, which is understandably traumatic if you’re a living person in hell, but after the third time, it starts getting to be a really really worn way to increase the stakes, and loses all impact.

The motivations of the characters, especially the secondary ones, were very nebulous (why would the Crows of Odin be interested in helping Fenrir? Why would Fenrir want to commit suicide to avoid fighting Odin when he could just be brought back to life?)

Ultimately, there were some good moments in the book, like the explanation for Hamlet to see the ghost of his father, hence not having a lower rating, and a lot of fighting although the author can’t describe a fight to save her life. She tries putting some purple prose here and there, but it just doesn’t help at all. The ending was just confusing, so I wound up rereading it to make sure I didn’t miss something.

And then the book ends with sequel bait. I wanted to laugh.

This is one of those books I don’t know whether to recommend or tell people to stay well away from. I suspect some people will like it for the sheer novelty of it, but if you go in expecting romance, you’ll get very few moments (which, I admit, I was grateful for).

Nanozine nº 2

É com muito orgulho que justifico a minha ausência aqui do lugar com a publicação da Nanozine nº 2. Após ajudar a Leonor e a Alexandra na árdua tarefa de rever textos e dar ideias para o desenvolvimento deste projecto, fiquei um bocado perdida no tempo e gerir faculdade, leituras e revista tornou-se penoso. Ainda assim o resultado final está aqui e Abril espera-se um mês menos cansativo e produtivo.

Livros novos a ter em atenção (2)

O Revisor
Ricardo Menéndez Salmón
Páginas: 128
Editor: Porto Editora
14,50€

Citações e Pensamentos de Florbela Espanca
Florbela Espanca, Paulo Neves da Silva
200 citações, 40 textos, 100 poemas, 50 quadras de amor
Páginas: 212
Editor: Casa das Letras
12€

A Costureira sem Cabeça
de Fernando Madaíl
Páginas: 145
Editor: Oficina do Livro
11€90


Entwined
Heather Dixon
Páginas: 480
Editor:Greenwillow books
13€30 (Hardback)

So Shelly
Ty Roth
Páginas: 336
Editor:Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers
13€30 (Hardback)

Eona
Alison Goodman
Páginas: –
Editor: Viking Children’s Books
14€77 (Hradback)

Os melhores livros para serem lidos em 2011 – lançados em 2010

2010 foi um ano em grande, entre crises económicas, FMIs e Festivais para alegrar a malta das tristezas, não tão em alta esteve o ano a nível de literatura. Quando pesquisei livros lançados em Portugal em 2010 raros foram os que saltam à vista, a maior parte são traduções de livros e quando são de portugueses (de Portugal) os preços são de fugir. Contudo preços à parte elaborei uma lista dos melhores livros lançados cá dentro e lá fora, que valeram certamente a pena ler em 2011.
#10: Aphrodite’s Hat de Salley Vickers

Aphrodite’s Hat foi lançado em fins de Outubro e pela sinopse a coisa promete. Uma colectânea de várias histórias de amor para todos os gostos. Para quem prefere histórias com humor ou histórias de amor tristes, Aphrodite’s hat parece se a aposta ideal.
(Sem data de lançamento em Portugal)
#9 Rainhas Medievais de Portugal de Ana Rodrigues Oliveira

Este ano foi muito generoso para com os Historiadores. A editora Esfera do Caos publicou diversos livros de História e considero este o mais curioso. Embora o preço não seja em nada apelativo, para quem goste de descobrir mais sobre as nossas rainhas e do papel importante que a mulher muitas vezes desempenhou. Por vezes aprendemos mais nestes livros no que nas aulas de História.
PvP de 30€
#8 Kraken de China Miéville
Mieville já mostrou que sabe o que quer quando escreveu Perdido Street Station e The City and The City. Esperemos que o Kraken esteja à altura. Para quem gosta de fantasia e de algo diferente a mais recente obra de Mieville é um livro a devorar.
#7 Mataram o Sidónio! de Francisco Moita Flores
É mentira quando dizem que Portugal não tem policiais decentes, ou se calhar até é verdade… Que os portugueses gostam pouco de escrever mistérios é verdade, mas “Mataram o Sidónio” foi um dos lançamentos de 2010. Retomando uma temática da história de Portugal, Moita Flores consegue bem retratar a época com uma escrita simples e eficiente. Já podem largar os calhamaços do Larsson e divertirem-se com CSI’s portugueses.
#6 Room de Emma Donoghue
Room foi lançado em Agosto, mas só à um mês tive conhecimento desta obra. A sinopse é suficiente para sabermos que queremos ler este livro asap.
Sinopse em inglês:
It’s Jack’s birthday, and he’s excited about turning five. Jack lives with his Ma in Room, which has a locked door and a skylight, and measures 11 feet by 11 feet. He loves watching TV, and the cartoon characters he calls friends, but he knows that nothing he sees on screen is truly real – only him, Ma and the things in Room. Until the day Ma admits that there’s a world outside…




#5 O romance da Bíblia de Deana Barroqueiro

O novo livro de Deana Barroqueiro vem provar que as vozes feministas em Portugal ainda tem muito para se fazer ouvir. Com grandes elogios por parte de Teresa Horta só posso esperar o melhor deste livro.
PvP de 18€90
#4 A máquina de fazer espanhóis de valter hugo mãe
O livro que fez-me pensar como vai ser quando chegar à Terceira Idade e de como os idosos se devem sentir quando são abandonados pela família nos lares. Um livro tocante e magistral. Se o valter hugo mãe daqui a uns anos não ganhar o nobel – está mal.
#3 The Bards of Bone Plain de Patricia A.McKillip
Vencedora de um World Phantasy Award a capa emana Juliet Marillier por todos os poros e como devemos às vezes julgar um livro pela capa, a minha primeira acção maluca de 2011 será comprar The Bards pf Bone Plain (esperemos que tenha só acções ponderadas, pois a pilha de livros para ler não pára de crescer).
(sem data de lançamento em português)
#2 Angela Carter’s Book of Wayward Girls and wicked women de Angela Carter
O livro foi lançado em inícios de Dezembro e caiu como uma bomba, não só o título é “Godlike” como aparenta ser tudo o que eu gosto “wicked women” e adivinho uns comportamentos “naughty” para acompanhar. Para quem cansou de ser boa menina, Angela Carter’s Book f Wayward girls and wicked women parece ser um bom guia.
(sem data de lançamento em português)
#1 Novas cartas portuguesas de Maria Teresa Horta, Maria Isabel Barreto e Maria Velho da Costa
Esta nova edição das novas cartas portuguesas merece ser o melhor lançamento a nível mundial. Depois do escândalo da primeira edição ainda na ditadura, a nova edição prova que as mentalidades conseguem mudar apesar do grande espaço temporal necessário. Graças ao trabalho e esforço por parte de Ana Luísa Amaral, os portugueses e o mundo podem adquirir uma edição esquecida à muito , mas que prova que os portugueses conseguem ser vanguardistas.