Life in a Glasshouse: 2012

The Immortal Obsessions

My photo
I'm immortally interested in cultural/literary deconstructions, feminism, anti-racism, South Korea, Supernatural, Sherlock Holmes, Hayao Miyazaki, Diana Wynne Jones, food (including but not limited to maple butter, tomatoes, and toast), fairy tales, parentheses, paper airplanes, films and books.


Monday, May 28, 2012

Beauty Queens

The fifty contestants in the Miss Teen Dream pageant thought this was going to be a fun trip to the beach, where they could parade in their state-appropriate costumes and compete in front of the cameras. But sadly, their airplane had another idea, crashing on a desert island and leaving the survivors stranded with little food, little water, and practically no eyeliner.

What's a beauty queen to do? Continue to practice for the talent portion of the program - or wrestle snakes to the ground? Get a perfect tan - or learn to run wild? And what should happen when the sexy pirates show up?*

Libba Bray. You have officially shot up as one of my favorite authors. With A Great and Terrible Beauty, I saw so much promise, and now that I've read Beauty Queens, your status has been cemented. All hail feminist authors. We need more of you in the world. We also need to infect the water of every other author with your greatness.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (5)

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine. Every Wednesday, hosts spotlight one soon-to-be published, eagerly anticipated book.

The Falconer by Elizabeth May

Publication: 2013

Humans will be the hunted. Love will be tested. Vengeance will be had.

Edinburgh, Scotland, 1844

18-year-old Lady Aileana Kameron was destined to a life carefully planned around Edinburgh’s society events — until a faery killed her mother. 

Now, between the seeming endless parties and boring dances, Aileana has a new hobby: she secretly slaughters the fae who prey on humans in the city’s dark alleyways. 

Determined to find the faery who murdered her mother, vengeance has become Aileana's life. . . so she never anticipated her growing attraction to the magnetic Kiaran MacKay, the faery who trained her to kill his own kind. Or that there was a world beyond hers, filled with secrets that affect her past and have the potential to destroy her present.

But when her own world is about revenge, and when she holds Kiaran’s fate in her hands, how far is Aileana prepared to go for retribution?

Sadly, there is no specific publication date, which only makes me think that it will be released in the fall. (Please, oh, please, don't make it that far away!) The cover you're seeing is only a placeholder, unfortunately, as it is magnificent on its own.

I read a review by a critique partner who claims that there are no faerie courts or politics in this book only monsters called faeries. That alone had me click to-read faster than I could blink. But revenge stories for girls! A girl who doesn't just kill - she slaughters! The rest of the fangirling will have to wait until the book is released. Sadly.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Teaser Tuesday #4

Another spoiler free excerpt from Chiaroscuro. This one is for the setting:

Ari was positive she heard wrong, yet Lee was the one looking disturbed by the eye contact. Maybe she hadn’t said it loud enough. It had been a while since someone had commentated on the level of her voice.The bottle of water crinkled between Lee’s fingers. “What?”Ari cleared her throat. “Should I say it a little louder?”“Do I look like I need a hearing aid?”“Um, then, why aren’t you freaking out?”Lee lowered the bottle and smiled. The expression made Ari want to jump a little, but the presence behind her was too acute for her to even step back. “Well, if you wanted me to freak out about this, then maybe I should freak out about the fact that your boyfriend can somehow tear the heart out of a human body. Or maybe I should freak out about the fact that there are zombies running around my countryside, powered by high levels of energy coursing under my feet. Or - or - maybe I should freak out about the fact that the world’s ended, Britain’s infrastructure shot, and I’ve had to decapitate people in ways Henry the eighth would be proud of to survive.” Her grin glittered against her dark skin. “Where do you want me to start?”Clearing her throat a second time, Ari said, “Considering that you’ve had much more time to adjust to all that, Aza aside, I don’t see how you can correlate learning about the existence of magic with—”Enough disgust soaked Lee’s expression to shut Ari up without her speaking. “Never mind. Just get cleaned so we can get out of here. And preferably to find some more alcohol.”

Happy Tuesday!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Waiting On Wednesday (4)

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine. Every Wednesday, hosts spotlight one soon-to-be published, eagerly anticipated book.

The Great Pearl Heist: London's Greatest Thief and Scotland Yard's Hunt for the World's Most Valuable Necklace by Molly Caldwell Crosby

Publication date: September 18

In the London summer of 1913, two brilliant minds from opposite sides of the law are pitted against each other in the hunt for the most precious necklace in the world—more valuable than the Hope diamond—and the psychological cat and mouse game between celebrated jewel thief Joseph Grizard and Scotland Yard's Chief Inspector Alfred Ward, a real-life Sherlock Holmes. Thoroughly researched, compellingly colorful, The Great Pearl Heist is a gripping narrative account of an untold story.*

Winning the award for longest title, this book seems like so much fun. A mix of the Edwardian era, a lawful Sherlock Holmes and a good gentleman thief is right up my alley.

*Summary provided by Edelweiss

Friday, May 11, 2012

Follow Me Friday #4

Feature & Follow is a weekly meme hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read for book blogs looking for followers and to be followed.

Q: This Sunday in the U.S. is Mother's Day. In celebration, what are some of your favorite books with strong mother/child relationships?

I'd have to say that Molly/Weasleys are my favorite. She was naggy and embarrassing and cooked a little bit too much, but I'm sure none of her children could say that she didn't love them. And that line of hers to Beatrix? It's famous for a reason.

Unfortunately, I can't think of any others, and find that sadly troubling. It's not just mother/child relationships that are lacking in YA, but strong parent/child dynamics as well.

What do you think?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (3)

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine. Every Wednesday, hosts spotlight one soon-to-be published, eagerly anticipated book.

What's Left of Me by Kat Zhang

Publication date: September 18

Eva and Addie started out the same way as everyone else—two souls woven together in one body, taking turns controlling their movements as they learned how to walk, how to sing, how to dance. But as they grew, so did the worried whispers. Why aren’t they settling? Why isn’t one of them fading? The doctors ran tests, the neighbors shied away, and their parents begged for more time. Finally Addie was pronounced healthy and Eva was declared gone. Except, she wasn’t…                            
For the past three years, Eva has clung to the remnants of her life. Only Addie knows she’s still there, trapped inside their body. Then one day, they discover there may be a way for Eva to move again. The risks are unimaginable–hybrids are considered a threat to society, so if they are caught, Addie and Eva will be locked away with the others. And yet…for a chance to smile, to twirl, to speak, Eva will do anything.

It's no secret that I'd like to see more female relationships explored in YA. And with this book highlighting the dynamics between two souls (identifying themselves as female) trapped in one body and fighting for each other rather than fighting each other, I'm crossing every finger and toe in hoping that this book will be a smash hit and show the popularity of sisterhood in dystopia as opposed to girl hate.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she's prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages—not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out.

When one of the strangers—beautiful, haunted Akiva—fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?*

Laini Taylor has been one of my favorite authors ever since I picked up Blackbringer back in 2008 along with The Hunger Games. I'm not sure what exactly goes on in her head that produces all the amazingly creative worlds and creatures it does, but whatever it is, it must run on cactus juice. Daughter of Smoke and Bone is just as imaginative as Taylor's previous efforts. It's filled with jackal teeth, ultramarine hair and barred cities. It's received so many rave reviews that I honestly felt no doubt that it would spectacular. This is, after all, Laini Taylor.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Teaser Tuesday #3

Taking a break from my usual excerpts of Dance Macabre, here's one from the first draft of Chiaroscuro. Ari and Lee, my co-protagonists, have just stopped fighting - or sparring, as Lee would call it - because Ari suddenly started coughing like someone dying:

“So that’s your cost, then?” 
Even with Lee’s face cast partly in shadows, Ari could still see the little cut her one and only strike had made at the corner of Lee’s mouth. What she couldn’t make out was her expression, and Lee did have a track recording of saying one thing and feeling another thing.
“The cost of my magic?” Ari said carefully. 
“No, the cost of the car we’re driving in. Stop staring.” 
She switched hands on the bottle, keeping from the urge to clear her throat. “Sorry. No. The cost isn’t torture.” 
“Oh.” The disappointment in Lee’s voice had the plastic under Ari’s fingers crinkling. “Then what the hell was that just now?” 
“Part of it.” 
“There’s more?” 
Ari licked her lips. The water hadn’t washed away the sharpness of blood at all. “I don’t really feel comfortable talking about it.” 
“That’s nice. Wish I could feel comfortable about the fact that I'm traveling with a demon and a witch across post-apocalypse England.”

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Scorpio Races

It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.

At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.

Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.

The Scorpio Races is yet another victim of bad hype. The blurb and the hype itself market it as a fast-paced, action-packed thriller, when in fact, The Scorpio Races is all about relationships, the island and its sea, and tradition. I'm quite sure that I wouldn't have liked it half as much as I did had I not read incensed reviews blaming the marketing for their skewed expectations. This is a book you come into knowing you're not in for a wild ride, but a long and cozy one. I enjoyed it far more than I expected as well, and because this would otherwise turn into me gushing about its awesomeness, I'll start for the reason why I took off a star.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Legend of Korra Recap

In addition to book reviews, I'll be recapping Legend of Korra starting on the fifth episode released tomorrow.

Follow Me Friday #3

F&F is a weekly meme hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read for book blogs looking for followers and to be followed.

Q: What is one thing you wish you could tell your favorite author?

I'm sure this is one many of said before, but I wish I could have told Diana Wynne Jones how much I had adored her books and how they'd got me into writing. I wish I had sent her fan letter or email before cancer had taken her away. She will always be my favorite author, even J.K. Rowling has yet to topple her from that pedestal (sacrilege, I know!). 

Have you ever wished you had sent letters before your favorite authors passed away?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (2)

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine. Every Wednesday, hosts spotlight one soon-to-be published, eagerly anticipated book.

Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan
Publication date: September 11

Kami Glass loves someone she’s never met . . . a boy she’s talked to in her head ever since she was born. She wasn’t silent about her imaginary friend during her childhood, and is thus a bit of an outsider in her sleepy English town of Sorry-in-the-Vale. Still, Kami hasn’t suffered too much from not fitting in. She has a best friend, runs the school newspaper, and is only occasionally caught talking to herself. Her life is in order, just the way she likes it, despite the voice in her head.

But all that changes when the Lynburns return.

The Lynburn family has owned the spectacular and sinister manor that overlooks Sorry-in-the-Vale for centuries. The mysterious twin sisters who abandoned their ancestral home a generation ago are back, along with their teenage sons, Jared and Ash, one of whom is eerily familiar to Kami. Kami is not one to shy away from the unknown—in fact, she’s determined to find answers for all the questions Sorry-in-the-Vale is suddenly posing. Who is responsible for the bloody deeds in the depths of the woods? What is her own mother hiding? And now that her imaginary friend has become a real boy, does she still love him? Does she hate him? Can she trust him?

The moment they announced this Gothic series, I was excited. Sarah Rees Brennan is one of my favorite authors. And when you add all the raving reviews and a POC protagonist to the mix? I clicked the pre-order button yesterday. I just don't know how I'm going to make it through the summer.

Jellicoe Road

This absorbing, award-winning novel is part love story, part family drama, and part coming-of-age story in one compelling tale. If Taylor Markham can put together the pieces of her past and present, she might just be able to change her future.*
Wow. What can I say about this that hasn't already been said?

I did not read this book all in one sitting. One would think that would affect my enjoyment, but the strangest thing is, it didn't. This book is one that you can put down and pick a week later without feeling lost. In fact, with good books, I usually feel the urge to just take it all in with one go, but Jellicoe Road is so chockful with incredible moments and phrases that whenever I put it down, I had enough to think about, to go over to last me a lifetime. Because of this, I can honestly say it was one of the best books I have ever read. The last time I felt this way about a book was with Looking for Alaska over a year ago.

Here's a little tidbit, I'm aromantic. I also have zero tolerance for anything romantic in books, but that doesn't have much to do with my orientation, it's personal taste. Because of this, it's hard to find books where I don't skim or skip pages involving the romantic plot. Many times, they feel isolated from the plot and overall theme of the book - this is especially true for me in YA. Looking for Alaska is - was - the best example of a plot involving love in recent YA that could enjoy without being frustrated or bored by it. It might have been because the kind of love we`re used to seeing nowadays isn't that rife throughout it. So when Marchetta comes along and plops an entire book revolving around love between teenagers and adults and teenagers and adults and leaves me desperate for more, it's somewhat disorienting. My personal opinion on it is, she doesn't have romantic love be the be-all end-all of all kinds of love.

Take for example, Taylor when she snaps at Griggs for not being "romantic" and later on lists off all the things he's done for her and because of that, they are romantic. To be honest, it's the kind of thing I would do for my best friend or my sister or brother. The only difference being, I don't feel the urge to sleep with them.

The kids from sixteen years ago relate to each other in pretty much the same ways, except only a few feel attraction for the other. if you took that attraction, would they react the same way for each other? I believe so. It isn't about the sex or the looks or spending time with only your true love. When they comment on Narnie's smile being like a revelation and it is that way for everyone, doesn't that mean they look at each other the same? Even Taylor sees it years later because she feels the same for her as well.

This is why the book resonated so deeply with me. I may be aromantic, have a strong aversion for romantic plots of any genre, but I do believe that love is the same for everyone. Some people have it with the attraction, others don't, and I think Marchetta has done a beautiful, exquisite job showing this.

My hats off to you, Marchetta. As soon as I am not broke, I am ordering every single one of your books, whether they are out yet in Canada or not.

Rating: 5/5

*Summary and photo from Goodreads.

Saturday, April 28, 2012


There's something very wrong with me. I can't remember who I am or how old I am, or even how I got here. All I know is that when I wake up, I could be any one. It is always this way. There's nothing I can keep with me that will stay. It's made me adaptable. I must always re-establish ties. I must tread carefully or give myself away. I must survive.* 

Angels and YA have a tumultous relationship. Certain books holding them are blacklisted and others are seen with indifference. I can count only three so far that have been heralded for their content specifically because of angels: Unearthly, Angelfall and Mercy.

Angels and I have an excellent relationship outside YA, my favorite originating from Supernatural. With the YA boom, I've been waiting for an angel of the young and female variety to sweep me off my feet. Most of the angels I see nowadays are male, like an overwhelming amount of supernatural creatures. I'd been spoiled some time ago about the twist and decided to delve in without knowing anything else. (Note: the U.S. summary gives away far too much. I'm glad I decided to skip it.)

My expectations weren't sky high, but I remembered some of the praise about Mercy herself and was beside myself with excitement over a complex being identifying as female to knock Castiel off his pedestal. (He's been there for a while.)

I came out fairly disappointed.

My main problem was with Mercy herself. The first chapter frustrated me, as I was sure the information given would be repeated several times before the end of the novel. I was unfortunately right. Mercy narrated with the same degree of vocabulary and feeling of a teenager who viewed herself as mature - and a narrative that agreed with her. Mercy is an angel. I can't see how an angel would share the same thought process and feelings and senses with a human being, especially one that can exist non-corporeally. I found it doubly odd that she couldn't catch any hint as to what she was when it was incredibly blatant. The diction used by the people who knew and by Mercy herself slapped Bible all over them, and yet Mercy ignored all the signs. She frustrated me as much as the first chapter had, and it wasn't just with overlooking clues.

There were too many moments to count where Mercy would deride Carmen and everything she held dear. Any other book I could get behind this as fantastic characterization, but not only did Carmen confirm that what Mercy said was right at every turn, when Mercy was leaving her, there were no words of acknowledgement to her host. I would say that all this analysis might have been in depth because I find it incapable of reading otherwise, but the treatment of other female characters was just as bad. Outside of the dead, there were no girls of Mercy's "age" that were seen without some form of disdain. She even manged to deride one of the girls she had been kidnapped with! How does that happen? The other female characters ranged from the beautiful but needy ex of her love interest and the competitor for Carmen/Mercy's spot as soloist. I had to take a star away for this, because seeing that kind of female characterization everywhere in media is just becoming tiring and repetitive.

While all of these problems affected my reading, there were many things that elevated it as well. The setting was a definite pleaser. YA books have a reputation for getting setting right on the mark, and Mercy was no different. The description was minimal but effective, and lent great things for the chorus part of it. I don`t believe the school itself was ever described outside a sentence and yet the entire campus seemed laid out in front of me. I especially enjoyed the workings of being a chorus girl, and the amount of musical terminology I was able to learn. Lim was genius using this as an introduction to angels because with all the Latin and religious references in church hymns, it set the stage without ever even revealing it.

I would have thought Mercy's dreams irritating, but Lim knew how to use them to her advantage. She didn't plop us in every chapter or use them all in the first half and forget about them later. They enhanced the suspense and the sense of inevitablity.

Outside of guessing the villain and what was about to happen, I did enjoy the plot. It kept me reading when I've been on a bad streak with books lately, and that's what counts.

Rating: 2/5

*Summary and photo from Goodreads.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Waiting On Wednesday

Waiting on Wedbesday is hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine. Every Wednesday, hosts spotlight one soon-to-be published, eagerly anticipated book.

The Culling by Steven dos Santos

From Goodreads:

Sixteen year-old Lucian Spark is the sole caretaker of his young brother, Cole, in a bleak and dangerous world that has arisen from the ashes of a devastating global apocalypse. Betrayed and drafted into the ruthless Establishment’s sadistic military boot camp, Lucian is plunged into the ultimate horror known as The Culling. Now, torn away from Cole, perhaps forever, Lucian must compete in a series of deadly challenges designed to purge the recruits of their humanity and transform them into amoral, cold-blooded killers by forcing them to make the most agonizing, emotionally devastating choices imaginable. 

During this terrifying ordeal, Lucian finds himself growing closer to Digory Tycho, a mysterious and rebellious young man who challenges him in ways he couldn’t have dreamed of, and awakens in him the courageous fires of rebellion. 

But in a world where loving someone can be used as the ultimate weapon, how can anyone stand a chance?

A gay dystopian romance? I'm pre-ordering as soon as available.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Teaser Tuesday #2

Continuing from my teaser (two weeks ago, I think?), here's another tidbit from Danse Macabre. Just like the other, it's spoiler free:

Cerek minimized the lacrosse picture and brought up an article. Before he could start, Rose giggled. Because it was creepier than the sound of the devil’s laughter, Cerek waited until she was finished to look at her.
Her legs were drawn up to her chest. The half-finished loaf balanced across her knees. “Do you suffer from obsessive compartmentalization?” 
Cerek felt the back of his neck heat up. “What? Why?” 
“You’re giving me a debriefing.” Rose gestured to the screen. “Enlargements, comparisons and now a newspaper article? Are you aiming for Quantico standards?” 
“You said to explain what I thought!” 
The creepy giggling returned. “Since when do explanations require side-by-side photographs?”  
If her objective was to entertain herself with Cerek’s embarrassment, then it had been achieved. He slammed the laptop lid down, and Rose all but jumped out of her seat, amusement gone. “Don’t take out your insecurities on my baby.”

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Five YA Pet Peeves Part 5.2

The Mary Winchester Trope
In which I discuss the Hunger Games trilogy and Supernatural
(Spoilers for HG won't be whited out)

Friday, March 30, 2012

Sad Songs Blogfest

This blogfest is hosted over at Spunk on A Stick. (Is that a creative name or what?) Each blog features a list of our favorite moving or touching songs. Music is right up my alley so I'm going to get to it. In no particular order:

1. Cras numquam scire by Yucca. This is the theme song for The Mystic Archives of Dantalian. The booklover-oriented show is a mixture of slice of life and the supernatural, with a dash of Lovecraft. It's a personal inspiration, and I cannot describe the feelings I have of this song.

2. Exit Music for a Film (Radiohead Cover) by The Scala & Kolacny Brothers. I promise this isn't going to be solely choir music. Radiohead's original song was moving enough, but the eerieness of this cover cannot be matched. I always feel like I'm about to view something holy whenever this comes to play.

3. Bad Moon Rising by Creedance Clearwater. (See? This is different.) To be honest, Supernatural has me jump whenever I hear this song. Mainly because of the muscle memory from the scenes of the show when it played. Every time it plays, you know something bad is about to happen. It's excellent for writing those cheerful-wham!bam!-whatjusthappened scenes.

4. Safe & Sound by Taylor Swift feat. The Civil Wars. I'm no Taylor Swift fan, but this song hits all those right buttons. It might be because it evokes that dreadful moment when (spoilers for the end of the Hunger Games no. 1!) Peeta and Katniss are on the train and they realize nothing's going to be the same. /tears.

5. Drumming Song by Florence + The Machine. This song. This song. I dare to listen to this and try not to feel yourself getting pumped up. Listening to this makes you feel like anything's possible.

6. Cry Cry Ballad Ver. by T-ara. K-Pop has been (awesomely!) getting traction in the Western world, and T-ara is one of those girl groups that lets out hit after ridiculously catchy hit. Cry Cry was released in November along with a fifteen minute dramatic music video that puts Lady Gaga and the majority of action blockbusters to shame. (It's also a cliffhanger, continued in their second release of - wait for it - Lovey Dovey.) As T-ara is filled with magnetic voices, the MV is accompanied by the ballad version. The version ripped straight from the MV starts with the haunting voice of a child crying out for her father and ends with the grown girl sobbing for her surrogate father. Listen to it. Weep. Watch the MV, and weep again.

7. Fan by Epik High . This is an example of Korean hip hop, and this song was composed and written exclusively by the group's three members, which include a poet turned rapper, an underground disc jockey and a Stanford graduate turned hip hopper. The song itself is catchy, but combined with thought-provoking lyrics and an equally controversial music video (an obsessive fan kidnapping her favorite celebrity), it raises itself above its genre propensity for dance and ballad hits. You may find yourself uncomfortable with the lyrics, but Epik High immerses itself often in the perspective of its subject (they even went so far as to embody a corpse in one song). They don't share feelings with their content.

8. This spot is tied with two songs from the Black Butler soundtrack. I myself haven't watched the show, but I stumbled upon Si Deus Me Relinquit on Youtube and have been hooked to all its dark melodies. It's haunting enough without the translation of the title and the Latin lyrics being If God has forsaken me. /cue sobfest. Then there's the eerie The Slightly Chipped Moon. If that title doesn't get your hairs all up in a row, the singer's wavering, operatic voice definitely will.

9. Girls Girls by Wonder Girls. Yes! Another K-Pop song! The Wonder Girls have made yet another US single (didn't knock Nobody from its top), but I'm still stuck listening to their other album. This song in particular holds a special place. It's basically a song about empowering girls. I dare you not to listen to the opening (This song is for the girls all around the world) and not end up singing along by the second chorus.

10. Main Theme by Senju Akira. If anyone was to ask what my favorite book in the world was I'd have to go with Fullmetal Alchemist. Yes, I understand it is a graphic novel. Yes, I am apologizing to my childhood for not going with Harry Potter or [Insert novel by Diana Wynne Jones or Tamora Pierce]. But FMA has to be the most intelligent, thought-provoking medium I've ever had the pleasure of experiencing. It spawned two adaptions, and when you can hold the more inferior and divergent of the two above most things on TV, you know it's good. Even more, when you can listen to a song and feel every moment of shock and amazement and grand scale epicness, you know what you're listening to is good.

(Warning: do not read the comments. They are spoilers, sadly. Every one of them.)

Follow Me Friday #2

This meme is hosted over at Parajunkee and Alison Can Read. Each Friday, one blog is featured. This week it's Justin's Book Blog.

Q: Do you read one book at a time or do you switch back and forth between two or more?

I tend to juggle several at a time, as well as reviews. My schedule is a bit lopsided so I usually read whatever's handiest at the time, either in ebook format or paperback.

What about you?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

A forbidden romance. A deadly plague. Earth’s fate hinges on one girl... 

Cinder, a gifted mechanic in New Beijing, is also a cyborg. She’s reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s sudden illness. But when her life becomes entwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she finds herself at the centre of a violent struggle between the desires of an evil queen—and a dangerous temptation. 

Cinder is caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal. Now she must uncover secrets about her mysterious past in order to protect Earth’s future.*

Cinder is yet again another title I had no doubt I'd enjoy. With a disabled main character and a Chinese-influenced setting, it had the makings of a rather groundbreaking YA (in my books). Unfortunately, the book felt so uninspired I reached about midway before I began skimming. Personally, it seemed like Meyer, who had claimed inspiration from Sailor Moon, drew more than inspiration from the famed anime and manga. By the introduction of the Lunar planet, I already had every plot line predicted. Spoilers: With the exception of Peony's death. That packed a magnificent punch. Looking back, though, I'd say that the result of my rating is more me than the book itself.

Cinder was a flawed character who wasn't aware of her flaws. Many times, she'd lament her situation and tell us of her complexes and shortcomings, but in reality, she was largely outspoken. Because of this, I couldn't help but find her modesty false. Although Cinder was brought to New Beijing at the age of eleven, she was raised for five years in a culture that both holds extreme prejudice for cyborgs and respect for their elders. I found it odd that someone who had been raised in this would be so marginally affected. The 38% non-human tidbit was such an obvious hook. In regards to her disability, for someone who had lived eleven of her sixteen years with limbs, she rarely spoke about missing them or the ramifications of having them. Things like her social situation and her stepmother felt deemed far more worthy to complain about than going further into the psychological effects of having your limbs replaced.

I found a lack in exploration of the subject odd too. What about people who lose their limbs without choice as well? If they had the money, did they replace them in this culture or did they just say no? Was it seen as honorable to die instead of receive metal parts? What about prosthetic parts? What led everything to be changed from today where prosthetic limbs are mostly seen as a godsend?

It was also irritating that the whole 38% is only in relation to if someone finds out. The fear is not even that pervasive. It's not a habit for Cinder to secure her clothing. She didn't have any hooks that keep her clothes from sliding it up or boots to tuck her pants in. As a mechanic, wouldn't she have thought of this? Or invented something that could have helped her? One of my main complaints is that she had zero fear or insecurity. It wasn't even fake bravado. It's just attitude. Cinder felt like a 21st century Western teenager transplanted into this new future.

This brings me to the largest reason for my disappointment in Cinder: the setting. When Cinder had been announced as a book set in a futuristic Beijing, several book bloggers and reviewers felt excited at the fresh change in a genre dominated by American influence. But the most authentic thing about this book is the mention of honey buns. Here is a list of all the things Cinder does wrong in that respect:

1. The name New Beijing is wrong. If this city had been colonized by an anglophone country, it would make sense but as it's not, why would there be 'New'? If this book is meant to be read as though it was entirely in Chinese and merely translated (as its citizens' names denote), why wouldn't Beijing be New North Capital? Or a Hunger-Games-esque New Capitol? Why couldn't it be Xin Beijing**?

2. The names in the book are incredibly diverse. We have Cinder, Adri, Peony, Pearl, Kai, Iko, etc. Neither signify a particular homogeneous culture (Iko and Kai are predominantly Japanese, although Kai's does show up in Hawaiian lineage - I've no idea where Adri comes from). I could excuse Kai if it was a tradition or nickname we saw implented the same as his father, but that wasn't shown at all, so there's that.

3. The politics were extremely weak in this book. Kai, whose every word bled green and immature, was somehow able to do whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted. There was a moment in which he met the Lunar diplomat going to see the emperor and was basically like "I don't like you kthxbye". I don't have much experience with Chinese imperial traditions, but the fact that their politics was reduced to the machinations of some eighteen-year-old made me cringe. There were no political parties, no counsellors or advisors, no one attempting to lead our brand new emperor astride. It was so very Western.

4. None of the clothing held any Chinese distinction. All the gowns Peony and Pearl wore were ballgowns similar to ones you could see in Downton Abbey.

5. I read a survey a while back that a good more than half of China's population had no religious affiliation. Confucism has a huge impact on the culture, but outright identification with Buddhism and Christianity isn't high prioritization. This is why the thought of a Buddha in the emperor's garden strikes me as just plain ridiculous. The fact that it was so dismissively described enraged me. There was no explanation as to why it was there - if the dying emperor was Buddhist, if the Buddha had always been there, if it was misguided Feng Shui. It felt like it was there simply because Buddhism and China are stereotyped together in Western media, which as I've proved is factually wrong.

6.. The reactions to Kai had me doubt his position. While Cinder called him Your Majesty, her dialog continued as informal as beforehand and she showed none of the social norms of avoiding eye contact or bowing at a certain degree. It was even more frustrating as her third encounter with the prince had her bowing deeply - because they were somewhere public. I understood that the publicized culture of New Beijing was to mirror our own, but I could honestly not picture anything distinctly Chinese about Kai or his position.

The fact is, Meyer's New Beijing is simple cultural appropriation. When one can transplant every person, every plot point and the setting to England, it's clear that this "Chinese influence" was an afterthought.

The futuristic aspect also seems suspiciously like an afterthought. The world could be easily our own with the addition of hover cars and the commercialization and distribution of androids. There are already robotic prosthetics, and the tablets that Peony carries around is frighteningly similar to the iPad. They even speak of apps. To be honest, China and Japan are already today close to this. It makes no sense that there are no other technological advances outside these few frameworks.

Continuing character-wise, Kai did not have one flaw. To be honest, he felt more android-like than Iko, my favorite character. He commented within his viewpoint chapter that he felt an imposter and I felt like exclaiming 'Yes!' Cinder needed to eliminate him and set out to find the real prince! But I did find this exchange amusing.

"But, maybe you would change your mind? Because I am, you know."
"The prince."
"Not bragging," he said quickly. "Just a fact."

The text enforced Cinder's entitlement issues as Right. This could have be interesting, if these issues were dealt with as it's apparently in "their" bloodline to be constantly in their Terrible Twos. Spoilers: By bloodline, I mean, Lunar-wise. However, it was glossed over in favor of describing all women as inferior to Cinder. Adri's always described as old. Peony as frivolous. Iko as a bit dim. Pearl as bitchy. Levana as sacchrine and manipulative.

It became tiring to read Cinder's viewpoint when this was constantly being screamed. That said, the extra viewpoints felt entirely superfluous, Dr. Eland's could have been exchanged for more suspense and mystery. Kai's only seemed to demonstrate how ridiculous and unfit this imperial system was. The writing in general felt extremely juvenile. Early in the book, there was an info dump the size of a page that facilitated my plot predictions. This only furthered my disappointment. I could imagine how much more enjoyable this book could have been - cultural appropriation aside - had that info dump simply been edited out.

The plague plot was the most fascinating aspect (as was its name, which I can't quite remember right now), in its debut stages, and while most of the writing was more suited for MG audiences, the descriptions were just eerie. That being said, I will check out the sequel because I have a feeling there won't be as much inspiration from anything other than your run-of-the-mill fairytales and that leaves room for much more potential.

Rating: 2/5

(Those who have watched/remember Sailor Moon tread carefully.)

*Taken from Goodreads.
** Someone who's fluent Mandarin please correct me.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Teaser Tuesday

New meme! I'm going to be teasing excerpts from my male-POV WIP every Tuesday after Top Ten. A quick pitch of my WIP would be a YA Sherlock Holmes meets American Gods. No spoilers, of course.

If Cerek ever saw a tube of lipstick, it would be a hundred years too soon.
“Oh, stop with the sulking. You got your prize in the end, didn’t you?”
He stared at Rose. “It took me half an hour to convince her that thing wasn’t for me.”
She straightened up from under the hood of the car and wiped at her nose with the crook of her elbow. “And now we both have confirmation that you won’t run away screaming whenever I ask you to do something questionable. It’s win-win. Get me a beer from the back.”
Cerek threw his hands up and climbed out of the passenger seat. Of course she had stolen beer. When he popped open the trunk, he wasn’t the least bit surprised to see his dad’s favorite cooler sitting beside his duffal bag and Rose’s backpack.
He still hesitated before opening the cooler. “We’re on the side of the road.”
“A road off the highway in mid-state Kansas. You think anyone’s going to care if two eighteen year olds knock a few?”
Cerek took out two bottles and shut the trunk with his elbow. Rose popped open them with a twist of his dad’s wrench. He had yet to say anything about the tools too, but at least she had taken the spare box. On top of stealing the Skylark, the cooler, the beer, maxing out the emergency credit card twice and kidnapping him, the spare toolbox should be considered the cherry on top.
“Even better, you didn’t phone your dad when you had the chance. You're starting to trust me.”
He ignored her amused tone and thought carefully. Cerek had checked the motel’s phone when Rose had gone to the bathroom. How she managed to talk her way into getting the phone blocked was well beyond anything he wanted to know. Then Cerek remembered the saleswoman eyeing the phone at her side and resisted the urge to slap his palm against his forehead. 
Despite his excellent self-control, Rose laughed. “Man, I bet you get itchy at the thought of lying to a falling star.”

Possess by Gretchen McNeil

Possess was a title I'd sure I would like. I mean Catholic exorcism, a biracial protagonist and San Francisco as a backdrop? What could go possibly wrong?

We're first introduced to said biracial protagonist, Bridget Liu, with her group of friends in Latin class. Her friends are solely male. This is a bit of a rare occurrence in YA since most heroines only have one True Friend. So I was pretty upbeat. Until I learned that out of the two, one was hopelessly in love with Bridget and the other was gay (and just as aware of previous guy's crush as Bridget). This brought the first alarm.

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesdays is a book meme hosted over at The Broke and The Bookish. This (first) week's Top Ten is the Top Ten Spring TBR list. And go!

Five YA Pet Peeves Part 4

I'd actually like to see more love triangles like this in mainstream YA.

Enough said.


ETA: There's also this. And this.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Follow Me Friday

New(ish) blogger here. I lurk, but generally don't participate (a lot). (I promise to stop with the parentheses.)

Q: What is the best book you've read in the last month? What is the worst book you've read in the last month?.

The best would have to be (I'm cheating here) The Hound of Baskervilles. It was in preparation for my late, late marathon of Sherlock, and I'm sure I didn't have to ... but I've reread Holmes for less.

Taking a page out of Alison Can Read, I'd have to say the biggest disappointment for me was Double Cross. I think I went in with expectations way too high, but I can't stop remembering the awesomeness that was Mind Games. It might just be that I'm not that much of a romantic, since the relationship seemed to take over the plot. Oh, well. I know I won't be able to resist picking up the next in the series. Expectations be darned!

A Christening

I'd like to christen this new blog with a great big gush about a old show I recently discovered. But first!

With blogging so extensive these days, I think I'll be posting up my reviews as well. Reviews will come in every Tuesday and Thursday with random blogging fun on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

I look forward to this adventure already!

Meet Dark Angel:

The Awesomest Awesome Medium Ever Made