Monthly Archives: February 2013

Buy It or Borrow It # 2: Red Dress

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Buy it or Borrow it? is inspired by HGTV’s Buy it or List it. The point of this meme is to showcase two books that I am interested but I’m having trouble deciding if I should get them. Hopefully, my readers can help me make an inform decision and help me pick one.

This week’s theme is the red dress.

First up is Breathless by Cole Gibson

breathlessObituary-reading emo girl Edith Small is broken – the end result of forcing herself inside a mold that doesn’t fit. All she wants is to conform to her strict sergeant stepfather’s rules long enough to make it to graduation day. But a boat accident threatens to unravel the life Edith has worked so hard to keep. After waking up in a hospital with a lacerated shoulder, Edith fakes amnesia. Because admitting she received her injuries from a blue-haired girl who breathes underwater is all the reason Sir needs to send Edith on the first bus to military school. Safe at home, Edith struggles to put the nightmare behind her. But the mysterious creatures that live in the ocean aren’t about to let her forget. After meeting Bastin – a strange boy with silver hair and black eyes – on a secluded dock, Edith learns about the war raging undersea to end human existence. A war that Edith, unwittingly, has become the key to winning. In a world where death is an ever-present shadow and motives are as dark as the bottom of the ocean, Edith must decide if her life is worth risking for a love that can’t survive past the shore.

I love underwater imagery so this is captivating. The red dress is nice, it’s not as glamorous as other dresses but it is a nice dress. I’m curious about the main character, Gibson describes as “emo” so I really want to see her scene and how well it is portrayed.

Second book is Dance of Shadows by Yelena Black

danceofshadowsVanessa Adler isn’t so sure she really belongs at the School of American Ballet. But dance runs in her family. It’s been a part of her life for as long as she can remember. Her grandmother and mother were prima ballerinas, and her older sister Margaret was, too. That is, until Margaret mysteriously disappeared from school three years ago. Vanessa is heir to the family’s gift and the only person who can fulfill her sister’s destiny. She has no choice. But she never could have guessed how dangerous the school is. The infamous choreographer, Josef, isn’t just ruthless with his pupils, he guards a sinister secret, one in which the school’s dancers-prized for their beauty, grace, and discipline-become pawns in a world of dark, deadly demons.

I love the red dress, it’s disintegrating into flower petals. Stunning. The story line is interesting because it is ballet. I haven’t read anything about ballet; seen plenty of movies though. It feels a little more contemporary than paranormal so it is a little outside my range.

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My preliminary decision is that I should buy Breathless and borrow Dance of Shadows. Right choice or wrong choice?

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Review: Ubik by Philip K. Dick

ubikTitle: Ubik
Author: Philip K. Dick
Series: Standalone
Genre: Science Fiction
Format: Paperback
Source:  Personal library
Pub. Year: 2012 (1969)
Purchase: Amz/ B&N/ TBD

Blurb from Amazon:
Glen Runciter runs a lucrative business—deploying his teams of anti-psychics to corporate clients who want privacy and security from psychic spies. But when he and his top team are ambushed by a rival, he is gravely injured and placed in “half-life,” a dreamlike state of suspended animation. Soon, though, the surviving members of the team begin experiencing some strange phenomena, such as Runciter’s face appearing on coins and the world seeming to move backward in time. As consumables deteriorate and technology gets ever more primitive, the group needs to find out what is causing the shifts and what a mysterious product called Ubik has to do with it all.

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Random: So  much to talk about, so much that I didn’t talk about but I think I got the most important parts down. By the way, my love for Philip K. Dick’s books is like my love for Batman so I’m a strong supporter of his work.

Philip K. Dick is a trippy author that I immensely adore but his books tend to make doubt what I actually read. Ubik is no different. As readers, we think we understand what is going on until the final chapter just spins it on its head.

Glen Runciter is an important character but I feel the lead character is Joe Chip who does not know how to live in a capitalist world. He is always out of cash, he doesn’t know how to use consumer products properly; he doesn’t have his life in order. The world of Ubik  is a world where capitalism has been taken to an extreme. In order to use a home coffee machine, the characters have to pay it 5 cents. To open the door to an apartment requires money. To leave said apartment, it requires money to open the door. It’s a harsh world and Joe Chip has no concept of money so he is constantly struggling to survive in this world.

Joe Chip and the surviving crew members of the expedition return to Earth and find that their money is “funny.” Sometimes it is worthless but other times, the “funny” money can buy items. The technology is going backwards and becoming less sophisticated and the crew makes a half-hearted attempt to understand why but they just go on with their life. Joe, Al, and Denny are the only ones who make an attempt to understand what is going on.

People who have recently died or in the final moments of death can be placed in “half-life” which means they are reanimated if they are death or in suspended animation if they are almost death. As long as their some brain activity, half-life is possible. Think of a zombie virus that doesn’t turn people into flesh-eating zombies but just keeps them sane  a little longer. That’s half-life but the key is it’s half-life so the world inside half-life tends to collapse on its self and return to a simpler technological society because the mind begins to deteriorate so the people are losing their memories. They tend to remember their earlier memories more than their recent memories. With that in mind and the fact that Joe Chip’s world is regressing, it’s safe to say that it’s Joe and crew who are in half-life because it makes sense.

The product called Ubik comes into play because Runciter wants Joe Chip to find it and use it in order to protect himself against a malevolent force that is killing them in half-life. The book shifts into a quest of finding this mystical product that Joe keeps finding but in primitive forms. He needs to find Ubik in a spray can form because it is toxic in tonic form. Even when he does find it in a spray can, he cannot buy it because he has no money. Capitalism is working against him when he is desperately trying to find his salvation but he cannot purchase his salvation when he finds it. When he obtains money, the world has further regressed and the shop is no longer there so it’s a constant battle just trying to keep his world stable enough for him to just move forward with his life.

Of course, what I just said about Joe Chip being in half-life can be thrown out the window because it’s Philip K. Dick and he loves to mess with his readers. Everything about half-life is true and Joe Chip is not a good consumer in a world dominated by consumer products. Is he in half-life though? That depends on how the last chapter is interpreted. In the last chapter, it is Runciter who sees “funny” money. It is a “WTF” moment because everything the reader knows is displaced and the novel doesn’t have a solid, full circle end which can be annoying. The novel already has a deep meaning through its use capitalism and its implication for society. The ending just adds to it because it’s blurring the lines between what is real and what is not. It asks us, the readers, to decide that and that decision is based on our beliefs of our interpretation of what happened in the novel.

The novel ends up bringing faith into the novel. Joe needs to have faith in order to survive in a capitalism-driven world. Every chapter begins with ad about Ubik as a bra, a bank, pain pills, toothpaste and so on. The final ad ends with Ubik being God; “I am Ubik and I have always been there before humanity existed” or something like that. Consumer products have become their own of religion because they are so vital to our lives like God is. It sounds like blasphemy but how many of us could live without consuming and buying computers or an IPhone? I know my IPhone is vital to me, I panic whenever I misplaced. It’s a product that holds my identity and the sad thing is that’s true for many of us. We can deny it and say “It’s just a phone and you can always buy another one.” Only one part of the sentence is true, I can consume another IPhone but it’s just not an IPhone alone. It has a deeper meaning. It has my contact list which is vital because I don’t know anyone phone number from memory. Not even my Mom’s number. It has my pictures. It’s my connection to the world ( I wrote half of this review on my IPhone, irony). Our lives are define by consuming products and our worth is define by the products we consume instead of our humanity. It sounds cold but it is reality. Or at least, it is one version of humanity because reality is dependent on what we know and accept.

This is why I love Philip K. Dick. He makes his readers question everything about their world and that is what a great author does. They challenge our perspective and really make us wonder about how we are living our lives. Don’t get me wrong, I probably won’t make a change and depend less on technology but I’m definitely going to re-examine my relationship to products and technology.

5 BB- Total Keeper

5 BB- Total Keeper

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Qualifies for: Dystopian Challenge

Review: Venus City by Tabitha Vale

venuscity-v1Title: Venus City
Author: Tabitha Vale
Series: Legacy of the Sares # 1
Genre: YA Science Fiction
Format: E-book
Source:  Author
Pub. Year: 2012
Purchase: Amazon

I requested a copy from the author and it was provided free of charge in exchange for an honest review. 

Blurb from Amazon:

“His magenta eyes flashed up to meet hers and for a moment she thought she saw something spark behind them—something fierce, something challenging.” In a city where boys’ eyes are magenta and their emotions of lust, anger, greed, and ambition are remarkably absent, spoiled Braya Vace finds herself in the biggest problem of her young life when she meets handsome, blue-eyed Asher Benedict. It wasn’t supposed to be possible. There wasn’t supposed to be anyone else living outside Venus City. As she tries to unravel the mystery of Asher and his group of foreigner boys, the rest of Braya’s life seems to crumble apart around her. A disapproving mother, a sick younger sister, a mysterious brother, and a humiliating career as a Bride are just a few of the things that Braya has to deal with. Those, and her conflicting feelings for Asher.

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Random: An annoying main character that later grows on you.

A dystopian society that reverses gender roles is always interesting because of the implications. Venus City is intriguing because it has women in power and the men are forced into submissive states. It is also an isolated city that has no contact with the outside world so when are outsiders break in, it changes the people within.

Character-wise, Braya is a character you love to hate because she is so annoying at the start of the book (and even two-thirds of the book in, honestly). She has a condescending attitude, essentially friendless (thanks to her bad attitude), and just treats people like they are worthless. It was hard to believe that she was going to be a romantic interest for someone but then Asher as the Romantic Interest was introduced; it was believable that he would fall for her and vice versa. Asher is a member of Locer Shark ( a possible terrorist group) but more importantly, an outsider to Venus City who didn’t grew up with the ideology that “men are stupid and women are superior in every form.” He challenges Braya and her understanding of men. Aspen is Braya’s brother who may not be like all the other men in Venus City and when Aspen and Braya are together, Braya looks hideous because she is vicious towards him. Bellamine is the younger sister of Braya and Aspen and she suffers from Tristant, a debilitating disease. It is only when Braya is next to Bellamine does she appear to be compassionate and so much nicer.

As for the villains, I didn’t particular care about them because it is not obvious who the villains are. They are absent throughout most of the book. The most obvious villain or antagonist is Charlotte, Braya’s mother, who treats her children like they are worthless. She is dominating and scary.

I realize I haven’t talked about the plot yet so let’s remedy that . Asher and the Locer Sharks are outsiders who are going to “de-haze” Venus City and forced the city to interact with the outside world that is being ravished by a war. Venus City doesn’t know a war is going on because it is isolated or at least, it’s citizens don’t know that. Asher and Braya get to know each other through the de-hazing process and fall for each other. As this is happening, Braya has to find the cure for Tristant for her dying sister.

Venus City is quite an interesting city. It is a negative-stereotype-of-a-feminist’s dream come true because it just constantly beats down on men. The women who are Crowns (the wealthy) are like “ Don’t be friendly with men, they are worthless” and treat them like crap. Braya doesn’t treat Aspen, her brother, with respect because she grew up believing that she should not like men. The book is a bad feminist’s dream on the surface but as we dig deeper, we realized that even though the women are in power, they are actually quite weak. They have no compassion for one another and there are no sisterly bonds that are genuine. Braya and her “friends” hang out together because they are forced to be together and they are constantly at each other’s throat. The idea of domesticity is viewed as repulsive, having children is repulsive and it is a twisted ideology coming from Braya who was indoctrinated by her mother, Charlotte.  At the same time, the domestic aspect of life is connected to being Brides who are essentially breeders and they have to reproduce beautiful children. It seems like young females can raise their status by being breeders so there are two trains of thoughts running. There is a Bride school where Brides are given husbands so the society has no concept of romance and love.  It’s a society of mistreatment and hatred.

One of the unique characteristic of this novel is the insults. “Mud” for the males and “Finches” for the females. It was quite creative on Vale’s part because it is like cussing yet not cussing. I do wish she had come up with something new instead of using “effing.” Using “effing” breaks the illusion that Venus City is a world apart (or a few hundred years apart from now). What the word “effing” does, it connects Venus City to our current world and I don’t think they should be connected because Venus City is following a different timeline. However, it is only the first book and it might be that the planet Venus City is located on is Earth so “effing” is possibly foreshadowing this relation. At this moment, “effing” is bothering me and it doesn’t jive with the book.

Overall, I like the book because as annoying Braya is with her attitude, she has enough human moments that make her tolerable. The ideology that half of the characters spout is interesting because it is twisted and both sides of the argument are represented. At the same time, the ideology doesn’t dramatically altered the normal status quo of the world because it still keeps heterosexuality at the core of society.

3 BB-Pretty to look at

3 BB-Pretty to look at

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Qualifies for: E-book Challenge

Late Start to the Year due to Identity Theft

I think it is quite apparent that this blog is on its last legs….at least that’s what I would think because there has been no activity on this blog for quite some time.

Fortunately, that is not the case. I’m still around alive and kicking so the blog will continue. However, I do owe my readers an explanation. It’s really simple. January hates me and I have been battling with it for a very long time. Bad things happen in January but this means war.

War? That is a serious accusation but it is justifiable.  My identity was stolen in early January. What a great start to the new year. It just so happens that I have no idea that my identity has been stolen until I start to receive phone calls from Target and Wal-mart. At first, I thought they were phishing calls so I didn’t pay much attention. My bank reassured me that nothing was wrong with my accounts so I go on living. Two weeks later, lo and behold, I have credit cards in my name to companies that I have never heard of. It was a horrible feeling just knowing that someone had stolen such vital information from me.

The emotional stress of knowing someone has taken my paper and credit life for their own was further increased when I attempted to make a police report only to find out that the police station closes at 5 PM and I was two hours too late. The isolation and helplessness that I felt is something I never wish that any of you go through because it is a rude awakening. I mean, at 5 PM, the police station is closed and it is also closed on the weekends. Crime is 24/7 occurrence and I have to wait to report a crime, what the hell! I felt helpless and angry with everybody. Seriously, Taco Bell closes at 10 PM and the police station closes at 5 PM, obviously food is much more important than helping citizens ( No offense to Taco Bell, I love Taco Bell) but it still pissed me off.

I have never had an experience with the police that was positive or negative. I have always been the casual observant who watches someone get arrested. I watch cops from afar so I guess I had neutral to positive views on them because they help keep the city safe. Now, I just think they hire cold people. Filing a police report reassured me that I did the right thing and it has return a false sense of security again but the feeling of helplessness and isolation are still  running through  me. However, it was such a cold process that I didn’t immediately feel better after filing the report.  I actively had to convince myself that I was going be fine  and I’m just starting again to believe that.

The feeling of helplessness is bad and dealing with the credit card companies doesn’t help. It  was a grueling process just trying to talk to a representative when the automated machine insists that it can help me and there is no option to “talk to a representative.” There were some companies where it was fast and easy to get a transfer to a human. Some companies had me in tears and ripping my hair out because I could not get a transfer to a real person. For one specific company that I don’t even shop at, I slammed my hand down on my desk after 15 minutes of arguing with a machine and then the machine was “ I will transfer you to a representative.” I was so agitated that I could not even speak to the person when she answered. I told her “ I need a few minutes to calm down” because my anger and frustration laced my voice and the last thing I wanted was to take it out on a person who was going to help me deal with the problem. She was extremely nice and probably the most helpful out of all the agents that I dealt with. After talking to her, I was much more calmer in dealing with the credit card companies and honestly, bored with dealing with them. It didn’t even phase me after a while; I had become numb.

I sincerely hope that none of you ever go through this because it leaves you with a sense of vulnerability that does alter your view of the world. I feel the need to be colder and be more on guard against the world where before I was like still living in a world that I had faith would treat me nice if I was nice to it. It was a naïve perspective, I admit that but I wanted to believe that. The world has put me through some bullshit before so I know it can be a cruel world but I have always been able to take a lesson from those moments that have benefited my life. I just don’t know what lesson to take from this. How does this help me? Because I have no idea.

January always means a bad time for me but it is usually small things. I have to replace this or that, my leg acts up because of the cold, small things that make life a little miserable. It’s never been this bad, this sense of helplessness and bleakness that January brought with it makes no sense to me.

Now that January is over, I can safely say that I feel that my life is slowly piecing itself back together and I feel more confident in interacting with the world. I’m making a full return to blogging and hopefully, you’ll make the return trip with me.