There is always an amount of fear when picking up something that is so popular, has mob mentality caused everyone to overlook some flaws? Am I going to be disappointed because how can anything live up to the hype? With thoughts like this swirling around my mind, I picked up Throne of Glass. The first book in one of the most popular YA series out at the moment.
I'm delighted to say those fears were vanquished by some excellent story telling and compelling characters.
It’s always difficult to judge a book when it doesn’t live up to your own expectations, just because the book wasn’t what you thought it was does that make it a failure or is it your own failure to see the signs.
The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl, has a cover, and title that stands out amongst a lot of YA. This combined with the blurb, mentioning an upcoming apocalypse, let me think this was a fantasy story of regular people with the occasional super power. In actuality it is a coming of age romance, something that is not typically my cup of tea. As such, personally I didn’t enjoy this book to much, however I did stick it through and finished it and there is a lot to recommend it.
Today the first in The Old Kingdom series, Sabriel, turns 20 years old. There are a few books I can point back to as being so very influential on my life.
The first was Howl's Moving Castle; I wasn't an adventures reader during my younger years. I didn't have a great grasp of spelling or grammar, a trait I'm happy to say I still am unable to escape... wait... happy's not the right word. However it was How'ls Moving Castle that was the first ever chapter book I read, and I couldn't put it down. I don't know if it was the magical world, characters or just how endlessly creative it was but I couldn't put it down. It was the first book that was ever threatened to be confiscated from me, but certainly not the last.
From then on I was a very avid reader, a huge fan of Tamora Pierce, Diana Wynn Jones and Margret Clark''s Web Watchers... which is so incredibly dated in hind site that I have to laugh, although lovingly.
One of the book made a very lasting impression on me without ever having a chance to read it, this was Lireal. I borrowed the book but didn't have a chance to read it before I had to return it, although my father did. When the Librarian asked what I was planning to read next I said Lireal, and was then promptly told that I couldn't. Lireal was apparently too adult for me, and I should never have been able to borrow it in the first place. I'd never been told that I wasn't able to read something before and that set something off inside me.
It was in the high school library that I finally was able to get my hands on Lireal, to this day it is still my favorite book. It's the only book I've ever re-read and re-read and re-read.
There was only one other book that opened up another word for me as well, the first ever tome fantasy that I read. Sword of Shannara, was the first time I'd challenged myself when it came to length.
However this isn't really a great birthday for Sabriel, as I've spent so long talking about how I like it's younger sibling more. While it's considered a trilogy, I see it a bit more like The Hobbit and then LOTR. Sabriel is set around twenty or so year before Lireal and Abhorsen.
So Sabriel, a happy twentieth birthday to you, one of the few books I'll re-read, part of my favorite series of all time and a truly great book.
So this year I've decided to try the AWWC (Australian Women's Writers Challenge) in which I will be reading and reviewing five books by Australian Women; conveniently I have had one sitting on my too read list since September.
When We Wake is a, say it with me everyone, young adult dystopia. Actually that isn't really fair, its the future, it's not perfect as it's dealing with the consequences their past but it's real and it's very human. There is no secret experiment where young able bodied teenagers are forced to run mazes... for reasons.
Let's start with a bit of a spoiler free talk over the plot; Tegan is our main character; living in Melbourne's near future. Her life is awesome until it is suddenly cut short and she wakes up in the future from an experimental cyro system. Propelled into the life of a celebrity by the fact she is the first person to be successfully revived Tegan has to deal with having suddenly lost everything in her in edition to the disillusionment that the future may not be as perfect as her and her friends had protested for.
What the authors wants to look at is laid out right into the first few pages as Tegan is off to a climate change protest rally. Karen Healy keeps the focus nice and tight by having the 'future' only be 100 years forward, allowing some major changes to have taken place but for a lot of society to be recognisable. The book does feature a number of some distopic ideas with warring countries, limited resources, human rights abuse but there is no evil villain. There are a few antagonists but they are all humanized to a degree and none of them sit in a total seat of power.
There is a lot that could be dissected in this book, the author clearly had a lot she wanted to explore. The effects of climate change, Australia's treatment of immigrants, autonomy and how our technology or the future could impact that autonomy. Although she doesn't really go into the last one as much; it's more a plot device to ensure Tegan is controlled by the state.
I really enjoyed how Healy clearly takes her audience seriously enough to understand a lot of the issues themselves, although sometimes the exposition hammer is wielded and the big secret of the government is fairly easy to guess. I'd say it's on the young end of YA with the writing style and the dialogue is probably one of my least favorite parts as it feels forced. The characters however are all a lot of fun and have their own motivations, yes the main characters are all a little too good. I was getting a bit of a Power Rangers vibe of 'these can't be real teenagers cause no teenage is that good'. Tegan is the only one who is perhaps a bit more selfish then that, Healy makes a point of us knowing that while she does care about the social issues she is protesting but is more happy to be spending the time with her friends. Which makes sense, Tegan is our audience stand in and is the one who needs to learn about caring for the issues over her own personal drama.
I suspect if young me had of picked up this book it could easily have been one of the ones that blew my mind; there is a lot in this book and it means sometimes they only get the opportunity to scratch the surface of the issues. I'm interested enough to read the next in the series and see where Tegan's adventure continues.
If YA is your bag then this is a really good quick read, and if your in the target audience this could really be something that speaks to you.
So far, a really strong start to the AWWC; although it has been pointed out to me that this may be a cheat since Karen Healy is in fact a citizen of New Zealand, however she spent a lot of time in Australia and the story is set there so I'm going to count it.
Oh it is also fantastic, and yet somehow hilarious, to be reading a book where the future relationship between Australia and New Zealand is in anyway important.
I have returned! I am sure the 5 friends I force to read this are thrilled.
Having finally finished University I feel it is time to really commit to keeping this blog going, as well as getting under way with my novel writing; you will be hearing more about that early next year. And as such, we are introducing the Quick Bits! This is a quick update on the media I have been consuming, what I am looking forward to and what I've had to spit back up. So let's get started!
Trading in Danger by Elizabeth Moon -
I really loved this book, I found it a quick enjoyable read that was very welcoming as an introduction to Space Opera. I hesitate to call it a great book, with the exception of the main character all the characters are very one note and there is a lot of unnecessary detail and events that while I enjoyed, I can see other people having problems with it.
The Other Boylen Girl by Phillipa Gregory -
Inspired by the video podcast book club, Vaginal Fantasy with Felicia day (and 3 other lovely ladies) I've been dipping my tow into the waters of the highly criticised romance genre. Unfortunately I started with this book. I did not like it, I did not finish it, I didn't even get halfway. I don't like leaving a book without giving it a fair go but honestly this book reveled in all the tropes that have so far turned me off romance books.
Thor: The Dark World - Thor 2
Eeeehhhh... While I did enjoy this movie, especially the performance by Tom Hiddleston it was just really cold compared to the first one. It lost the whimsy and characters of the first movie and felt the most formulaic of all the marvel movies to come out of late. I am planning a full review so more details later but I think I can chock this one up to the change in Directors from Kenneth Branagh and Josh Whedon to James Gunn and Alan Taylor.
Catching Fire - Hunger Games 2
Yes, yes... all of the yes. This movie tackled the difficult task of holding the audiences interest between first and third movies. The aesthetic still felt consistent, the actors played their part well although one of my friend felt that Jennifer Lawrence 's facial movements were over the top for emotions. If you enjoyed the first one, you will like the second one and it will get you pumped for the third. A larger evaluation of consequence in YA inspired work will be coming soon.
Superman VS Batman - (still in production)
To say I am mixed on this movie is an understatement. I hate that the next movie DC is making does not star ANY of the other superhero's and instead is just rehashing the only two characters they seem comfortable in showing. However they have suggested that this movie will also cameo Wonder Woman as a lead in to her own movie, FINALLY!!!!!! On top of that the 4 possible laddies they have released for the role are all strong looking woman who I feel would fit the part well. However, apparently they have asked Frank Miller as a consultant... and I do not want him consulting anywhere near the character of Wonder Woman... it has also been said they have gotten Scott Snyder to consult and I am loving his work with the Batman comics at the moment.
I am terra-cited for this film.
More quick bits will come later as well as a few full on reviews.
Whilst formally resigned to it's own section at the back of the book store I have been noticing an unyielding prevalence of romance novels in the best seller sections of late. The most inescapable being 50 Shades of Grey. This has been confusing me and the more I thought about it the more it has been making sense as well as infuriating me; I decided I needed to sort out why.
Firstly I believe the reason for the sudden influx of romance novels of late can be traced down to one source. Twilight... Why do I keep finding reasons for getting annoyed at this book. Twilight had revitalized and revamped romance and, whilst not creating, popularizing the 'paranormal romance' genre. Walking in Dymocks the last few days I saw; to my despair, that the paranormal romance section had ballooned to the size of the now joined Fantasy/Sci-fi genre. I don't believe this will be a permanent change; just like all trends it shall ebb and flow into a new one but the fact that paranormal romance is even separate from romance whilst fantasy is now lumped together with Sci-fi is somewhat baffling to me. This is for a very simple; and yet very complex, reason. The internal conflict is dramatically limited in paranormal romance, and yet comes from an almost universal source. And this is 'temptation'.
Before I dive into an analysis of temptation in literature I should first mention my utter distaste for using the word 'universal'. I'm saving my analysis of motivations and internal conflicts in works for a later date as it is truly to large to cover here.
Temptation is something that can be understood simply; a short term benefit for a long term risk. In romance this comes down simply to the more attractive but unstable partner vs the stable yet dull partner/life. Novels using temptation are a way for us to experience the riskier option without the consequences affecting us in real life. So far so good. I don't personally have a problem with romance novels although due to the ease of writing a 'temptation' plot I find a lot of the genre to be... simple at best and laughable at worst. However it still does allow some more conflicts and is not completely limiting.
Paranormal romance however takes this to the furthest level. Not only does it have to rely on temptation we are always aware of what we will be getting and what we will be giving up as a consequence. I cannot, at all, take the paranormal romance genre seriously. I don't mean to offend anyone who does; nor am I saying that any book writing in the genre is automatically worthless. My personal distaste for it comes from a very strong belief that the inherent promise of paranormal romance's temptation is a lie. You will be transformed into an ageless, unchanging frozen moment in time. Just because you biologically do not change does not mean that you are not changing. I'm willing to accept that it is perhaps more difficult for the world to inflict change upon you as you are no longer human but you are not in complete control of events. Things will still happen around you and they will have an affect on you. The point is you are not always going to be the same person as you are when you are 'changed/transformed/having given into the temptation' nor is your partner.
People changing is the inherent risk in romance, both in novels and in life. The chance that this person will not be the same person, five, ten fifty years down the road of being together is not even really a chance... it's a given. Real romances and the best love stories are the ones that cause you to believe that even when the couple change they will love the new partner as much as they loved the one they used to be and not just because of what they used to be. To me; this fact makes the temptation element in paranormal romances simply not worth it. Should the you drift apart in a romance novel you can find something new and meaningful in your world or with other connections such as friends or family. In paranormal romance you are completely isolated; not just from your previous life but from the world. Interview with a Vampire did a fantastic job of displaying and showing this isolation. This forces you to be completely dependent upon the other person for companionship and turns your secluded lovers nest into a personal prison you cannot escape as there is a world outside that you have no bearing on, no real understanding of and no way to enter.
Essentially I find paranormal romance as a genre to be incredibly limited as the core driving force appears to be so cemented in the idea of temptation in a form we have seen hundreds if not thousands of times before in basically every media there is. Why then, can I understand how Twilight has caused such a insurgence of the genre and appears to have given it more of a legitimacy to readers (except of course those who hate Twilight).
It's because the more I thought about it, the more I realized how incredibly innovative Twilight is for the genre... and yes, I do mean that sincerely. I was thinking over how I have defined temptation and how the paranormal romance genre uses it and I came to the startling revelation of Twilight's reversal of it. It is still very much focused around temptation; but it's not really the main character Bella who is being tempted; I don't think she is even being motivated by romance. Should Edward not have been in the story and Bella simply come across the other Cullens I think she still would have made the decision to become a vampire. The transformation simply does not hold the weight it does in other books; it is clearly established that you can be a vampire without completely loosing your humanity as you do not have to take human life to survive. You are not isolated as the vampires often form clans or in the case of the Cullens a 'family', as well as there being a structure to the vampire world that creates it's own sense of being an existence despite whatever the humans may be up to. It is even shown how the vampires are able to live, partially mind you, in the human world before moving on to another area.
If Bella is not being tempted than who is? Well, Edward is. And we; through projection onto Bella, are turned into the tempters ourselves. Other works have of course included the supernatural being falling for the mortal being, an example very close to the form of Twilight is the Nic Cage movie City of Angels. Yet then, we have the supernatural changing for the mortal. In Twilight the mortal is still the one who changes but the temptation is the supernatural; who has to chose if they corrupt the mortal to gain them for 'eternity' but force the one they love to give up their life for it. Now, disclaimer time. I am simply looking at the plot elements of Twilight, and based on what I'm saying you would think I recommend Twilight as it truly does bring an interesting new dynamic to a genre deeply routed in the traditional and cliched till it has become mundane. I am not. I do think there are some interesting ideas in Twilight that can be discussed and used to shape other ideas but any novelty with the plot is completely undermined by the terrible characterization. By having Edward being so controlling; no doubt a consequence of Stephen Myer being under the misconception that Heathcliff is a 'romantic' character. And Bella being so needy and co-dependent, we are left with a temptation that holds no weight. Edward's claims of not wanting to ruin her life come off as hallow when he controls her so much and she so willing lets him.
Paranormal Romance appears to be fading more into the background. With the last Twilight movie coming out soon I believe there may be a last small resurgence of it copy cat books however even fans are starting to become sick of it. No matter how much you enjoy a style, flooding the market with copy-cats works shall always make it become tiresome. Now being replaced by Twilight fanfiction... sigh. For better or worse it appears as though Romance shall now have it's time hogging the best-seller list; whilst I personally feel it's for worst it shall pass. All genres will time and time again return to the spot light after a sudden popular title inspires it's army of clones and I shall personally sit by and bide my time till Fantasy comes round again.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.