Life in a Glasshouse: March 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.


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