Books Books

The Lunar Chronicles

I mentioned in my latest blog how I was originally sceptical regarding the quality of a finished NaNo product. After all, writing fifty thousand words within a single month is a lot, and given one of the core tenets of NaNo is not editing what you write until the month’s finished, I found it hard to believe that the finished product would be as good as something someone took their time to write.

Hardly the first or last time I’ve been wrong. Today’s review, in honour of National Novel Writing Month, is the Lunar Chronicles, by Marissa Meyer. Not only did Meyer win NaNo, and go on to later publish a book from what she’d written, but during November 2008 she wrote three novels in a single month, which she later edited, and finally published, as the first three novels in the Lunar Chronicles. Knowing that made me eat my thoughts in regards to quality of a NaNo novel.

Of course, I know that much of the work that goes into a novel is done in the editing stages, though as a perfectionist who likes to get things write the first time, it can sometimes be hard for me to accept that. Yet I want to be an editor, involved mainly in that process. Yeah, I know I’m weird and illogical.

I have yet to read Fairest, but last year I bought Cinder on a whim. Once I’d finished it, I immediately had to go out and buy Scarlett, Cress, and Winter. I may have a bit of a problem when it comes to buying books. What can I say, I like to support fellow authors. While enjoying their wonderful words.

When I reviewed The Selection series, by Kiera Cass, I mentioned how I regretted judging the books by the covers, which is what lead to me taking so long to get around to reading them. The same thing happened with this series. Except, instead of expecting some sappy romance, I was expecting… Well, Twilight. The focus of red on the black cover for a Young Adult novel series gave me flash backs. Eventually, however, I bit the bullet, and I’m very glad I did.

On the scale of genres, I usually sit very far on the fantasy side, though now and then it’s nice to dip my toe into science fiction. I found that Meyer managed to blend both genres together perfectly. While there was a lovely science fiction setting, there was some classic fantasy tropes which worked together quite well. Then again, when you’re retelling fairy tales, the tropes are easy enough to fit in there.

I found the characters all amazing. As with Richelle Mead’s Glittering Court series, she manages to create four unique and strong heroines. Each heroine is strong in their own way. They all have their own goals and motivations, which are entirely different from each other. There’s Cinder, a genius mechanic cyborg, who also happens to be the lost Lunar princess. What starts for her as a pull towards a handsome prince, becomes a fight for the freedom of the people on the moon, whom she barely knew to begin with.

Scarlett lost her grandmother, and fell for the Big Bad Wolf. She stands up for the side of right, and for those who can’t stand up for themselves. While not the mechanical genius that Cinder is, she’s pretty handy with a gun.

Cress is a genius computer whiz, who grew up isolated on a satellite. She becomes attached to Cinder and her Prince, and dreams of her own handsome rogue saving her.

Finally, there’s Winter, the loving Princess, who’s equally loved by her people, although hated by her step mother (what is it with fairy tales and step mothers?). She has a strong attachment to a childhood friend, and an aversion to the glamour that is popular among Lunars.

The series is wonderfully written, with a cast of captivating characters, a compelling plot, and a fantastic setting.

I highly recommend it, and will almost certainly read it again at some point.

Not bad for something where three whole novels were written in the space of a single month.

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We Can’t Be Friends

Today I saw Bohemian Rhapsody, and oh boy was it amazing. I had goosebumps. The casting was absolutely spot on—couldn’t possibly be more perfect. There were moments I had to laugh—when Mike Myers’ character was saying how no one would crank up the movie’s namesake song and sing along with it. Especially given the first time I remember hearing the song was when I watched the movie Wayne’s World. As amazing as the movie was, it’s not what I particularly want to talk about in this blog. Instead, let me talk about one of the advertisements that came on before the movie.

A family were sitting in a car. Two boys, their father, and a little girl. The oldest boy had just received detention, for flicking a girl’s skirt up. The father said that was such a small thing to get detention for. His brother said that it’s silly, cos boys will be boys. The young girl explained how she was already well aware of how she was basically an object, and how she was expecting to be harassed like that for the rest of her life. Needless to say, I fell in love with this ad. For such a simple thing, it captured one of the most problematic things about our society’s view of men and women so perfectly.

While I’d love to continue about the “boys will be boys” problem, it has been done to death on the internet—and for good reason. Today, instead, I’d like to share my views with you about another issue our society faces. One which I don’t see as much discourse about online. What I’d like to discuss today, is the myth that adult men and women can’t just be friends.

This is the big myth, of which so many others stem. The myth of the friend zone, for example, comes from this. Well, I say myth of the friend zone. It’s not entirely a myth. It does exist. Though for the most part it’s for good reason. Personally, I would like to blame a hetero-normative society for the beginning and continued propagation of this myth.

It annoys me, for example, when it becomes obvious when reading a book who the love interest will be, simply because they’re the person the main character is closest to of the opposite gender. Or, worse than that, those books (movies, TV shows, media of any sort) where there’s a schism between friends, or a relationship, because of a girl or a boy. For example, Twilight. Yeah, I’m not a fan, I’m just using it as an example because it’s popular and was for some reason the first thing that jumped into my head.

Bella was friends with Jacob, but he was in love with her, even though she was in love with Edward. Obviously the whole thing gets awkward, and gross, but… let’s ignore that. Instead, I’ll look at Vampire Academy (a far better teenage vampire series, in my opinion). In the first two novels, Rose is friends with Mason, who was in love with her. It’s one of the reasons why I love books that break this tradition. And books where you can honestly find yourself uncertain as to who the main character is going to end up with at the end.

There are book series which I love, and still have the same or similar problems. For example, The Darkness Rising trilogy by Kelley Armstrong, Maya’s best friend, who seems to be firmly her best friend throughout the series, ends up being the love interest. Not that I’m complaining, I loved the series, and Dan was a beautiful person, but it still has that sense of “boys and girls can’t just be good friends” to me.

Even in Harry Potter, I remember everyone shipping Harry and Hermione, before the last book. Everyone was certain they were going to end up together. Then there’s Ron being the one to end up with Hermione (not to mention his moment destroying Slytherin’s locket where he’s worried Hermione and Harry might have ended up together).

It’s so annoying to me when people are jealous of anyone talking to their partner. A girl wouldn’t be worried that her partner was going to leave her for another boy. Even if the boy is bi (I imagine I’ll discuss bi-erasure on another blog one day. Perhaps. Not today’s topic, at least) she won’t be nearly as jealous of a boy talking to him than she would of a girl.

This is just a big pet peeve of mine. In any case, I shall leave you to contemplate the subject, and maybe reevaluate any friendships you may have. Blogs and reviews will likely be rather short from me for the moment, as unfortunately I am almost entirely drained. Certainly, uni is finished for now. I just wish my anxiety might listen to that fact, and calm down.

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The Glittering Court

It hasn’t taken me long at all to fall slack with my attempt at posting a blog a week. I have been aiming to post on Tuesdays, as well as a book review on Fridays. This week, however, I have been feeling overwhelmed and stressed from uni, and otherwise absolutely horrible. I will try to discuss this in a blog next week. Until then, however, I will continue with my book review, and hope that I can at least keep this part up.

When I find an author I like, I stick with them. I try to get my hands on everything I can. It’s part of why it took me so long to start getting around to reading Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. Now, I am a fan of a lot of authors. I try not to keep up to date on every single one. If I did so, I would simply never have any money. Instead, I’ll usually keep my eye out for them whenever I’m in a book store.

It is in this way which I first came across The Glittering Court. I’d been introduced to Richelle Mead years earlier, when my friend let me borrow her copy of Vampire Academy. I was hooked. It didn’t take me long to find Succubus Blues at my local library. I bought every book in the Bloodlines series as it came out. There are still some books of hers that I haven’t started yet, but I am certain I will get there one day. Those books aren’t important at the moment however.

The Glittering Court series is wonderful. When colonising a new world, the rich and elite try to train young women into perfect wife material, to more or less auction as commodities to the rich and powerful of the new world. The girls all get the opportunity to better themselves, to start a new life, and to help out their family. The first novel introduces us to three very strong independent women who clearly signed up for the glittering court for different reasons, although we only had proper insight into Adelaide and her reasoning.

Adelaide joined to escape an arranged marriage, so that she could make her own choices, and live her own life. A noble playing the part of a peasant trying to learn to play the part of a noble, Adelaide is charming and irreverent.

Mira, whose story is told in Midnight Jewel, the second novel, is a strong woman who is determined to find her own independence, to help out her brother, and to stay true to herself.

Tamlin, whose story is told in The Emerald Sea is introduced as perhaps one of the most stubborn, strong willed people who have ever lived. She is determined to make a life for herself, and for her family, and she will stop at nothing until she gets the comfortable life that she and her family deserve.

All three women are beautiful and strong, with their own clear voices, something that I know can be hard to achieve at times. The three stories happen simultaneously, while each girl is in her own world. While Tamlin’s ship went far off course, Mira is busy sneaking out to help freedom fighters at night, while Adelaide spends much of her time simply trying to keep her love’s outlawed faith a secret. While the same story happens over the top of all three, each story is very much its own, another very skilful thing. While there are recognisable parts in each book, you don’t find yourself bored and wanting to skip over because “you know what happens”. Instead, you find yourself intrigued to see what the other character sees, what they feel, how it affects them and their secrets.

Each book has its own level of romance, adventure, and intrigue. Even when we know the secrets that the girls are desperately hiding from each other, there are further layers of mystery to be unwrapped which each character shares their side of.

I love being surprised and taken to an entirely new world by a familiar author. Even within the same world and overarching plot, there were such wonderfully different intricacies of each story that I would definitely find these books worthy of rereading.

Books Books

Kingmaker Chronicles

I mentioned in my latest blog/Books Books how I recently read the first book in The Kingmaker Chronicles by Amanda Bouchet, and had to go out and buy the next two in the series. I don’t know if I can do this series justice in my review, but I can try.

I couldn’t tell yo how long I had A Promise of Fire before I started reading it. I may not have mentioned in the blog that accompanied the last Books Books that I have a bit of a problem when it comes to buying books. I’m certain I mentioned that I tend to buy books a lot, but that’s only part of the problem.

The other part is that while I do read a lot, I don’t always read every book I buy. At least, not right away. I fully intend to read all of the books I’ve bought. Eventually. When I was still buying four Discworld books a month, I would wander through the bookstore, and buy a book that caught my fancy, while placing the next four books on order. Then when they were in, I’d buy them, along with another book that caught my fancy. Sometimes, I would read the book that caught my fancy right away, other times they went to… the shelf.

The shelf doesn’t exist because I don’t want to read the books. Instead, it’s where books that I’m interested in reading will sit until I’ve read the books that caught my attention more recently. The books on the shelf are never bad, I’m simply more taken by something else at the time. Often, as is the case here, when a book finally makes it off the shelf and into my hands, I find myself so enamoured that I simply must consume it as quickly as I can, and continue on to consume anything else that there is to do with it.

When I went down to Melbourne recently, I brought four books with me. There was the one I had just started reading (The Witch’s Blood, by Katharine and Elizabeth Corr), Mirage, by Somaiya Daud, which I discussed last week, Bitten, by Kelley Armstrong (which I still haven’t gotten around to reading. I have much of the series, and will eventually get there) and finally, A Promise of Fire.

I finished the first book shortly into my stay, and began Mirage. I didn’t end up starting A Promise of Fire until just before my flight back home. I was happily surprised that I spent more time being social down in Melbourne than reading books. At least that means I didn’t end up finishing all of my books and not having anything to read for my flight home.

I was enamoured very quickly. Catalia was simply a wonderful character and Bouchet a brilliant story teller. I was soon drawn into Thalyria, alongside Cat as she was kidnapped by Beta Sinta, and his team.

Sometimes when a book introduced a number of characters who are often seen together, I find it can be difficult to distinguish between them. As great as the book might otherwise be, it can be disappointing to find two characters who could easily merge into one and not be missed. I initially found myself worrying, when Flynn, Carver, and Kato were all introduced along with Griffin. Griffin clearly stood out as the love interest, so I worried that the other three might blend together.
This was definitely not the case though, which I was very pleased to discover. Each member of Beta team was incredibly distinct, all the way throughout the series. (SPOILER ALERT: Oh Gods, I’m crying at the loss of Kato. Such a pure soul.)

Amanda Bouchet promised fire with the first novel, and Gods did she deliver! Clearly she must be a Magoi herself, for when she used that name, she must surely have been compelled by magic to deliver.

The story was engaging, with wonderfully unique characters. Thalyria was a fantastically built world with a recognisable pantheon of Gods (who may just happen to be my favourite pantheon already). All public domain characters were written brilliantly, without betraying their true characteristics, which is always good to see.

The love story was beautiful, and didn’t make me roll my eyes, which is always a plus. I often find myself bored with love stories, because often fantasy books feel that they need one when it’s not absolutely necessary for the story to make sense. In this case, the love story was integral to the story, but it also wasn’t the only thing that the story rested upon, making it that much better in my mind.

Another thing I love about a good book is that it leaves you with a strong message. There are quite a few strong messages from this series which I took away, and would like to share with you reading this now.

One that is strong in a lot of fantasy media is the concept that family doesn’t end in blood. This concept is in Harry Potter, with Harry and Hermione being all bar adopted into the Weasley family even before they became official members. It’s also particularly strong in Supernatural, with Bobby at one point saying “Family don’t end in blood, but it doesn’t start there either.” Family isn’t what you are born into. Harry’s blood family may be the Dursleys, but the family of his heart is the Weasleys. Sam and Dean may be blood brothers, but their father wasn’t the best, and the rest of their family is those who they gather around them. It’s Bobby. Jo and Ellen. It’s Charlie, Claire, Jody and Alex.

It’s prominent in another fantasy series that I’m in love with at the moment lately, The Medoran Chronicles by Lynette Noni. It’s there in Vampire Academy, Bloodlines, Succubus Blues, and The Glittering Court by Richelle Mead. I’m finding it in the Vimes or other Watch books by Terry Pratchett. This is a message which I love and find incredibly true.

I have a good family, but my friends are also my family. I care about them and love them, and will always be there for them. Family doesn’t end with blood, and it’s always nice to see a book pull this message off well and without trying to sound preachy about it.

Similarly, and another message that’s prominent in a lot of fantasy novels, including the ones that I’ve mentioned, is that caring for people, and having people care about you, makes you stronger, not weaker. Again, Bouchet manages to get this message across without sounding preachy about it, which is always amazing.

Another message that is important that I took away from this series was that people can be contradictions, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Cat is a wonderful contradiction. She doesn’t want to care for anyone, but when she does she cares hard. She doesn’t want to have responsibility, but when she does she carries it on her shoulders with pride.

I know that I feel like a contradiction myself so often, and it’s just lovely to see that being reaffirmed in a novel, particularly one that I found as lovely and beautiful as this series. Amanda Bouchet is an absolute master craftswoman, and I look forward to reading more from her.

As I mentioned in my previous review, I will rate books more by whether or not I would read them again. I would, and one day I certainly will, absolutely read this series again.