The Girls Who Lived

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When it comes to female fictional characters, I know my type: the stoic, strong, emotionally-detached loner with a burden (maybe a chip?) on her shoulder. NAKAJIMA, Youko (12 Kingdoms), KISSHU Arashi (X), Balsa (Seirei no Moribito), Katniss Everdeen (Hunger Games series),and Katsa (Graceling series) are basically different incarnations of the same archetype. I like that they’re tough, but not unyielding. They’re more than able to take care of themselves, but they are all capable of love and would rather take care of other people. I like that they’re capable in many things, but still accepting of their own weaknesses and would ask for help, even though it would kill their pride and independent spirit in the process.

The boyfriend and I are currently both obsessed about Meg Rosoff’s How I Live Now. We both read the novel last month, and got the chance to watch the movie this past weekend. This novel was published in 2004 and won the Printz Award for excellence in young adult literature. This short work follows Daisy, a sixteen-year old from New York, who is sent to England to live her with maternal relatives. Her father has remarried and is expecting a child, so instead of having to deal with Daisy’s rebellious attitude, he decided that sending her to live in the idyllic English countryside with her cousins would do her a world of good. Little did she know that her life as she knew it would change and she would have to use her smarts and her spirit in order to face the horrors to come. Continue reading

When Fandom Invades Your Fiction

Cinder by Marisa Meyer is marketed as a “sci-fi retelling of Cinderella,” complete with its cover of a cyborg foot dressed in a bright red pump. As a big sucker for a good fairy tale retelling, I was really excited to get my face all into those glorious pages, seeing how the author would retell this classic story in a futuristic age. Little did I know that this story isn’t as much about Cinderella as it is about Sailor Moon.

This novel is the first of a four-book young adult series entitled “The Lunar Chronicles.” Generally, when I start a new book series, I try not to look up too much information on it. I thought the series title was sorta weird and not really “fairy-tale appropriate,” but sure, I’m willing to run with it. So anyway, Cinder, our heroine, is a cyborg mechanic living in a city named New Beijing. She was adopted into a family after her parents were killed in an accident, the same accident that destroyed one of her hands and her feet and which condemned her to a cyborg existence. She has only a couple of friends: her foster sister Peony and the house android Iko. This novel actually makes a lot of cute parallels to keep the spirit of the original fairy tale: instead of a pumpkin that turns into a coach, Cinder goes to the ball in a pumpkin-colored car, etc. I’m okay with those parts — it’s really the Sailor Moon fanfic part that I didn’t care for.

Obviously, spoilers from here on. Continue reading

Building the (B)romance: Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

I finished and reviewed The Raven Boys in September, and thanks to Netgalley, I was able to read its sequel, The Dream Thieves, earlier this month. Not that much has changed in my impressions of this series — I still enjoy it, if not more so.

If this series is your first experience with Maggie Stiefvater’s works, you’ll notice that not too much happens in the 400+ pages. The author herself has admitted that most people don’t read her books for the action, but for the feels. Which, from my experience, is accurate. Maybe it’s a result of her artist background, but she starts from a basic framework and then slowly builds on it, layer by layer, one small detail at a time. As the spectator/reader, you can see that she’s making something beautiful, but it’s tricky to tell what the end result will be. But that doesn’t matter to you so much since even the process itself is art; the build-up and the anticipation are worth experiencing just as much as the final product.

After his unexpected revelation at the conclusion of The Raven Boys, it’s not surprising that focus of the narrative shifts to Ronan. While the rest of the Aglionby Four have their respective charms and quirks, Ronan is best known for his darkness. He hides in his anger, deflecting concern with jokes and snark. But for his friends, most especially Gansey, the real Ronan is a hurt, young man who only wants to go home. How Stiefvater tells Ronan’s story is exquisite — there’s no big infodump of why he’s so angry with his older brother, of how his father died and how this affects him not being to return to his family, of how exactly he can take objects back from his dreams. The details are revealed when they’re needed. I like that the reader is given the same time as the rest of the characters to digest and to reflect on the situations.

While it seems that the entire Raven Cycle is as much about the relationships as it is about the magic, the romantic entanglements don’t take center stage. In other Young Adult novels, friendships are second-tier to the love affair(s). Not so with this one; what happens between Blue and Ronan is just as interesting and entertaining as what happens between Blue x Gansey, or Blue x Adam. If you’re of the shipping mentality, all the combinations and pairings have the feels built right in…I mean, you’ve also got Blue x Noah, Grey Man x Maura, Gansey x Adam, Gansey x Ronan, Ronan x Kazinsky, etc. While I don’t think all of these relationships should/could be romantic, I appreciate that the connections between the characters are filled in. The author doesn’t introduce characters unnecessarily, if they’re in the book, they’re characters, not stage dressing. They’re given color (not a pun for Blue, I swear), nuance, and depth.

The Dream Thieves is a strong follow-up to what’s shaping up to be a intense ride of a series.

Hazel and Quentin’s Favorite Books

Recently finished two books that received a lot of hype in their respective circles: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (Dutton Books, 2012) and The Magicians by Lev Grossman (Viking, 2009). I feel foolish admitting this, but only upon finishing the books did I realize they’re both metafiction, which means that they’re books which are about books (or a book series in the case of The Magicians). Despite the wide difference in tone, I thought it would be a cool mental exercise to pick apart the way in which the authors used the concept of meta to shape their characters and their world.

Usual disclaimer: Presume everything after this point is a spoiler. Continue reading

Themed Book Trio: Birdwatching

Subconsciously, the last two books I read both had a name of a bird as part of their title. This amused me so much that I decided the third book should follow the trend, and that’s why I’m now writing a post about it.

Usual disclaimer: I’m terrible about avoiding spoilers for stories, so just presume that you’re going to read something that’ll spoil you for the book. As with my anime & manga posts, I also don’t like summarizing the story — if you would like to read synopses of the titles mentioned, please head over to Goodreads or Librarything or Amazon, et al.

Continue reading