Thursday, December 17, 2009
I don't know why I've put it off. Part of me feels that there's been so much buzz about this book, that at this point it's a little redundant to encourage you to go read it. Because clearly, if you haven't read it yet, you've either been living under a rock or you simply have no interest in bad-ass heroines in dystopian YA novels. So really? What's the point? I can rant and rave about how action-packed and horrifying it is, but I'm just preaching to the choir.
Katniss lives with her mom and her younger sister, Prim, in District 12, the poorest district in Panem, the post-apocalyptic nation controlled by the Capitol. Katniss is a survivor. Despite the death of her father and dire poverty, Katniss takes care of her mother and sister. Katniss uses a bow her father made to poach wildlife with her bestfriend, Gale. Together, Gale and Katniss sneak behind the District 12 fences to hunt and speak freely about their disdain for the Capitol.
Each year the Capitol holds the Hunger Games. Two Tributes, a boy and girl between 12-18 years-old, are randomly selected from a lottery to represent their district in the Hunger Games. Basically, it's like Survivor, only to the death. Whoever stays alive the longest wins! The winner earns amazing riches and food for his/her district.
Prim is selected as the girl from District 12, but Katniss immediately volunteers to go in her sister's place. Peeta, a baker's son Katniss's age, is selected as the male tribute. Katniss accepts her entrance into the Hunger Games as certain death, she only hopes she won't have to kill Peeta.
Katniss and Peeta are pampered and prepared for the Hunger Games in the Capitol. Haymitch, District 12's only former winner of the games, serves as Peeta and Katniss's coach. Unfortunately Haymitch is an alcoholic.
The action starts once they enter the arena and the fight to the death begins. Some of the traps in the arena, and the way these teengagers willingly kill each other is quite horrifying. Once Katniss starts wielding a bow and arrow, her bad-assness erupts. She's a survivor and she'll do whatever it takes to save herself.
Yes, this book is full of gruesome action. But what I love about it are the other, more subtle parts. I love the kind-of-love-story and the emerging love-triangle. I love the dystopian political/social commentary. And I LOVE the question that is barely alluded to: What does killing a person, even in self-defense, do to one's psyche?
Ok, so get out from under your rock, catch up with the rest of us and read The Hunger Games.
Ok, so in a previous post, I challenged anyone to find a tougher heroine than Katsa from Graceling.
What do y'all think? Who's tougher? Katniss or Katsa?
Monday, December 7, 2009
It turns out, Clary was born a Shadow-hunter, but her mom has been hiding her from the Shadow-hunter world. She's been lying to Clary and taking her to Magnus Bane, a deliciously flamboyant warlock, to have her memory altered.
These books are fun and action packed. There are some great characters, like Magnus Bane the flamboyant warlock, and Raphael the cross-wearing vampire. I love how in the middle of a demon war, the most difficult situation a 19-year-old boy can face is telling his parents that he's gay. I enjoyed the love triangle and appreciated the realistic portrayal of teen sex. There are some steamy moments in this series!
I also LOVED the Star-Wars-esque family dynamic (Luke...I am your father. I love you Princess Leia...as a sister). You want forbidden love? These books have some hot forbidden love.
Sunday, December 6, 2009
Saturday, December 5, 2009
Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone - J.K. Rowling
City of Bones - Cassandra Clare
Twilight - Stephenie Meyer
The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins
Graceling - Kristin Cashore
Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkien
The Book Thief - Markus Zusak
A Wrinkle in Time - Madeleine L'Engle
Catching Fire - Suzanne Collins
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - J.K. Rowling
Little Women - Louisa May Alcott
Eclipse - Stephenie Meyer
City of Ashes - Cassandra Clare
Dead Until Dark - Charlaine Harris
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - J.K. Rowling
Queen of the Damned - Anne Rice
The Giver - Lois Lowry
The Giving Tree - Shel Silverstein
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - J.K. Rowling
A Great and Terrible Beauty - Libby Bray
Artemis Fowl - Eoin Colfer
Black Beauty - Anna Sewell
City of Glass - Cassandra Clare
Invisible Monsters - Chuck Palahniuk
Dress Your Kids in Corduroy and Denim - David Sedaris
Fight Club - Chuck Palahniuk
Happiness Sold Separately - Libby Street
A Ring of Endless Light - Madeleine L'Engle
Lamb - Christopher Moore
Marley and Me - John Grogan
The Yiddish Policeman's Union - Michael Chabon
Dracula - Bram Stoker
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Monday, November 23, 2009
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Sunday, October 25, 2009
I cracked open the book and at about page 2, I stopped and thought, “Wait! Fairies? This book is about faeries?”
See, normally, I don’t do fairies.
The fey are similar to werewolves, vampires, and zombies in that they are well known mythical creatures. But the similarities end there, because unlike vampires who have a set of simple well known rules (except when a certain writer earns millions by making them sparkle, don’t even get me started), faeries are freakin’ complicated.
I didn’t read fairy stories as a little girl, so the difference between a brownie, a pixie, a sprite, and a nymph were not part of my prior knowledge. I didn’t grow up knowing that iron can kill faeries and that one should never, ever, ever, ever, ever eat or drink fairy food. If you haven’t noticed, I’m still having trouble spelling the word (I can’t decide if I’m British or not).
But luckily, I didn’t let this deter me from reading Wicked Lovely, because then I would have missed out on a fabulous book. Marr beautifully weaves fairy folklore with her modern, edgy story. I love that the teenagers in this story act like real teens, they’re into piercings and tattoos, they drink and smoke, they talk about sex, they have sex, and they are all imperfect.
Oh Junkies, don’t worry, this is all artfully alluded to, it’s not like Wicked Lovely is pages of debauchery, it’s just refreshingly realistic.
By my estimation there are 2.73 heroines in Marr’s first three books, Wicked Lovely, Ink Exchange, and Fragile Eternity.
In Wicked Lovely, we are introduced to Aislinn, a mortal teenage girl who has The Sight, she can see faeries. Growing up witnessing the horrible things they do to each other and to humans, Aislinn is terrified of the fey. She freaks out when Keenan, the fairy Summer King, and Donia, his Winter Girl, start following her.
Now this is where I started to love faeries. You see, they can’t lie, which makes every fairy essentially a lawyer. They’re thousands of years old and their world is split into these kingdoms with ever-changing alliances. The fey are constantly watching what they say and twisting each other’s words.
What’s great about Wicked Lovely is that Marr elaborately sets up a very tough situation for her heroine. Aislinn is left with two bad choices, and must choose the lesser evil. Lots of books do this, we spend a hundred pages watching the protagonist choose between a rock and a hard place.
Wicked Lovely breaks the mold when Aislinn chooses neither. She becomes a kick-ass heroine when she sets her own terms, and makes her own rules.
Now, Ink Exchange ranks lower on the bad-ass-heroine scale for me. Leslie, the protagonist, is a broken girl who spends the book learning her self-worth and gaining her strength to become a heroine. This book did, however, make me fall in love with Niall, the so-bad-he’s-good fairy. And I hope Leslie returns (stronger and ready to bust some heads) in Marr’s fourth or fifth book.
Fragile Eternity is a sequel to Wicked Lovely (but read Ink Exchange first. Pay attention, Junkies).
SPOILER ALERT: the ending of Wicked Lovely is implied by my comments about its sequel. Go read Wicked Lovely!
Aislinn loses some bad-ass points in Fragile Eternity. Yes, she is actually way more powerful than she was in the first book, but she doesn’t seem to realize this. She’s pushed around throughout the whole book. I get it, there will be 5 books in the series, and she’s just getting her footing in her new world, but it was disappointing to see her torn apart by the two men in her life.
Ok Melissa Marr (if by some miracle you’re reading this) I’m warning you. By book five, Aislinn better open-up-a-can-of-whoop-ass on the kingling and set all those boys straight as to who has the power, or else…I’ll be disappointed.
Don’t get me wrong, Junkies, Fragile Eternity has no shortage of heroines. Donia comes into her own and leaves behind her sulky self from the first book and asserts her dominance. She is a tough chick not to be messed with. The third book also gives us more of brooding Niall, very sexy. And we’re introduced to another fairy queen. I haven’t decided if she’s a heroine or a villain yet. (Note to self: someday write a blog about bad-ass female villains. These books have at least 2 great ones).
Ok this post is looong, so let’s sum up:
Read Wicked Lovely, Ink Exchange, and Fragile Eternity (in that order)
Melissa Marr, here are my requests:
1) Leslie should come back, bigger and badder
2) Aislinn needs to open-up-a-can-of-whoop-ass
3) I love Donia (don’t kill her off, please!)
4) Introduce me to Niall.
I can't wait for Radiant Shadows!
OK Junkies, what do you think? Should I do separate posts for books in a series? Or can you suffer through these mega-posts about 3 books at a time?
Saturday, October 17, 2009
Nya is an orphan in a war-torn land. She steals and works odd jobs to feed herself, while her younger sister, Tali is an apprentice in The League, learning to be a healer. Now, I love YA urban-fantasy, but I'm usually wary of any book that begins with a map of a non-existent place and has fantastical names for races of fantastical creatures.Hardy, however, introduces her imagined world with a finesse that never makes me turn back to look at the damn map. In the beginning, Nya is chased by a cute soldier for stealing eggs. The first chapter grabbed my attention and left me hankering for more. Without an info-dump, the reader figures out that Nya is Geveg in a land conquered and now ruled by Baseeri.
Nya's parents were wealthy and powerful, but were killed in the war that left Gevegs as second-class citizens and Nya all-but homeless. Nya's grandmother and mother were healers. They drew pain out of the sick and injured and transferred it into this magical metal known as pynvium. Tali, Nya's younger sister, also has the ability to heal and is learning the subtleties of her ability in an institution known as The League.
Nya also has strong powers. Nya can draw pain out of those suffering, but cannot transfer it into pynvium. Instead, she can do something no other healer can, she shifts the pain into others.
Before she died, Nya's mother made Nya promise to never use her ability, and Nya kept her promise, until now. Nya's frightened of her own power and terrified of hurting people, but when her sister's life is in danger, she must make terrible choices.
Now, my dear junkies, I do not intend, nor will I attempt, for this blog to serve as an analytic review of any book. It's more of a place to rant about the novels that make me bliss out. With that said, there are a few things about The Shifter that I have to get off my chest.
I think, but I'm not sure, that this book is marketed as middle-grade, instead of young adult. If not, I advise you think of it as such, anyway. To me, there's a fundamental problem with middle-grade novels written in first-person that have an adolescent protagonist.
(Well ok, let's back up a second. Actually, the problem is that I'm an intelligent adult reading a book meant for ten-year-olds, but just hear me out.)
The problem is this: If the book is written in a sophisticated way that makes my brain happy, then part of me is always kind of thinking "Wait! Thirteen-year-olds don't think like this. This narrator is too insightful, empathetic, and logical to be thirteen!"
Or, if the author does a great job of capturing the mindset of an adolescent, then I'm stuck inside the head of a damn thirteen-year-old for 200 pages!
Hardy suffers a little bit from the latter problem. Nya is a very realistic adolescent. But sometimes her thought process and the way she draws conclusions is pretty illogical and hard to follow (again, realistic).
The premise/theme of The Shifter is that Nya is essentially a weapon. She must choose who to hurt and who to save, and she battles herself to decide whether or not to hurt one innocent person in order to save a group. I get that, hard choices, heavy stuff. But I think Nya struggles with this a little too much, and there's a whole lot of justification going on from other characters. There was a little too much, yes she made this tough decision and she hurt someone who didn't deserve it, but she's still a really good person, let's take a minute and explain why.
I like my heroines to be imperfect. And come on Janice, didn't you get a three book deal? Let Nya be racked with guilt for the next two books. Everything got tied up into too neat of a package for me at the end.
But then again, I'm 20 years older than the target audience. Maybe fifth-graders need the explanation of why it's OK that their heroine hurts strangers.
With all that said, I'm still totally excited for the next installment of The Healing Wars. Justified, or not, Nya is a total bad-ass. By the end of The Shifter, Nya and the reader discover what she's capable of, and she's a force to be reckoned with.
OK Junkies, what do you think? Should I be less picky as an adult reading kids' books? Should I just grow up and read books for people my own age?
But I'm addicted! I need my heroines!
Friday, October 9, 2009
FTC: (In case anyone besides my mom ever reads this) I get almost all the books that I discuss here for free. From my dad. Hope I don't get a fine.
Lyra is no girly girl. She fights with the neighborhood boys and skips along the roof of the college she lives in. Like any good YA protagonist, she has no parents. Lyra is raised by a handful academicians.
So what if she's a brat? She saves the multiverse and all of existence. She's pretty damn heroic.
You see, in The Subtle Knife, Lyra teams up with Will, a guy from our world. Together, they travel through parallel worlds, saving people, and falling in love. All sorts of creatures are trying to kill Lyra for various reasons and Will and Lyra discover that she's the key to this whole war.
SPOILER ALERT! I'm serious! I'm not pulling any punches.
The choice Lyra is presented with is that she can stay with the boy she fell in love with, Will, and watch the multiverse disintegrate. Or she can go back to her world, and Will to his, and preserve all of existence. She makes the right choice.
As always, I haven't come close to doing these books justice. So read them! There are some awesome battle scenes with polar bears, zeppelins, and witches. Mrs. Coulter is a female antagonist that will chill you to the bone. The Amber Spyglass also has some wickedly good stuff with Angels and the World of the Dead. Pullman also does a great job with non-humanoid creatures from parallel worlds. Again, beating my head against the wall because I'll never be creative enough to think up something like the Mulefa. And, I gotta say, Pullman's concept of Dust is pretty cool. So get reading!
Saturday, October 3, 2009
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Saturday, September 19, 2009
At work I get the shakes, counting the minutes til my next fix. Sometimes I slip up and talk to my co-workers about my drug of choice and they stare at me and back away slowly before whispering behind my back. Once at home, I lay back in my recliner, oblivious to the hours ticking by as I relish in my high. When I have a good stash, it’s the first thing I think about when I wake up, and I can’t sleep until I finish it. I’ve even started to make my own stuff and fantasize about selling it.
Ok, before this metaphor gets any more ridiculous and my mom calls for an intervention, let me be clear. I’m addicted to heroines.
I love the strong female leads in young adult novels, especially in urban fantasy. I know I’m not the only one. I’ve seen the high school girls shuffle through the hallways with the tell-tale books hidden beneath crooked arms. Some are even so brazen as to wear t-shirts displaying their addiction.
I hope to reach out to fellow addicts and together, we can form a support group. (But really I hope this ends up like any rehab program, and instead of quitting together, we’ll just trade stories of getting high and share secrets on where to get the good stuff. Because this is one habit I don’t want to kick.)
Well, let’s begin at the beginning. It all started watching Wonder Woman with my mom when I was a toddler (it’s always the mother’s fault). One look at that female kicking ass and I was hooked. Now I’m unclear of Wonder Woman’s origins, is she human or an alien? I also can’t recall, what exactly are her special powers? I just remember she had a magic whip. A woman who doesn’t need super-human strength to beat up bad guys is even better.
Then there was She-Ra, Princess of Power. SOOOO much better than He-Man, I don’t care what anyone says. And if I remember correctly, she had to save He-Man’s ass a few times. She had a magic sword, some type of magic horse, a pink castle made of clouds, and she didn’t need no man. Although I think she had a boyfriend, Beau, or something. But she was always saving his ass too. The best part was that her alter ego (can’t remember her name) had to PRETEND to be weak. I think there’s some kind of feminist lesson there…
I had the whole get up. See picture --------------->
I remember swinging that sword around in the backyard, I was unbeatable. I shouted at my dad to “Read the Words!” at the end of each episode where there was some sappy summary and moral to the story. My true addiction started when he said, “Read them yourself.”
Of course, growing up there continued to be non-literary heroines to feed my need. Rogue was my favorite X-Man in the cartoon and I am disappointed at how weak she is in the movies. Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Xena the Warrior Princess were my high school TV standbys.
But next week, we’ll talk about the book and its heroine that changed my life. Be strong until then.