Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Top Eight Books With Girl Detectives, Spies, and Assassins

Top Ten Tuesdays is a weekly feature created at The Broke and The Bookish.

This ended up being thrown together at the last minute... I really ought to consistently schedule.

1. Nancy Drew Mysteries by Carolyn Keene

2. The Lynburn Legacy by Sarah Rees Brennan

3. The Agency by Y. S. Lee

4. Grave Mercy by Robin LeFevers

5. Fire by Kristen Cashore

6. Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund (well, she's more of a vigilante...)

7.  The Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski

8. Legend by Marie Lu

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Re-read Challenge: Across a Star-Swept Sea

WHEN I First Read
I  read and reviewed this March of 2014.

WHAT I Remember
I think I've read this again since reading it the first time. I remember most of the plot, including a lot of the finer details. One might say that I didn't need to reread it, but I wanted to back into the world. I remember hating the use of the word spy because it seemed weird in that context- what Persis does is really closer to vigilantism than spying, I think. It isn't primarily information she traffics in, after all. Otherwise I really like it.

WHY I Wanted to Re-Read
Remeber how I reread For Darkness Shows the Stars sort of on a whim? It made me really want to reread this one too.

HOW I Felt After Re-Reading
I wish more than ever for another retelling set in this world. I still really enjoyed reading this, despite the fact that the word spy still didn't feel quite right. (My mental word-replacer would probably have it switched to vigilante... while it isn't the perfect word, it is better). Anyway, my inner editor aside, I still quite enjoyed this.

Part of it is that this story plays on something pretty awful: people willing destroy other's minds as a form of punishment. This just gets to me a little, as does Persis's mother's condition (which is essentially an aggressive form of early-onset dementia) and Persis's own fears regarding her own mind. They're something that feel very real to me, on a personal level.

I think I was in an analysis-y sort of mood when I read this, because another thing that I noticed was the idea of limitations, and working within and against them. Persis uses her society's expectations of her limitations to her advantage: her people wouldn't expect a woman to be capable of what she does as The Wild Poppy, and those on the neighbouring island wouldn't expect an aristocrat to be capable of it. It also means that Persis is going to have to carve out at space for herself, as herself in her world, because she doesn't fit them, and nor do a lot of others. Justen spends a lot of time realising his own limitations, as well as thinking about the limitations of others (like thinking how Ro has grown within hers). 

Anyway, point being, I still really liked the book. There are things that I wished for more of, like more information about the technologies, but I found it clearer this time around than I did my first time reading it.

WOULD I Re-Read Again
Yep. I'll eventually get a copy of my own... I just haven't gotten to it quite yet.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Top Ten ALL TIME Favorite Authors

Top Ten Tuesdays is a weekly feature created at The Broke and The Bookish.

I've realised that a lot of my top authors are not authors who haven't put out books that I didn't like. Some of them have done that, and are still among my favourites. I think I'm the sort of reader who it would be unrealistic to expect that I love everything from any given author, even if they are a favourite generally. Anyway, have a selection of my many favourite authors, in no particular order.

1. Maggie Stiefvater: She's a strange case for me, in that I haven't actually read all of (or actually that much of) her work. I just haven't been able to get through the Shiver trilogy. I've loved everything else, though.

2. Holly Black: I've been on a bit of a Holly Black kick recently. There's something very sensory about her writing sometimes, and I really like the gothic edge.

3. Kenneth Oppel: I adore Airborn and the rest of that trilogy, and I vividly member reading the Silverwing trilogy on a couch in the summer a year or so before I started high school.

4. Marie Rutkoski: I'll admit that I've only read two of her novels, but I've really enjoyed them.

5. Rick Riordan: His writing has cooled for me in the past year or so, but I loved Percy Jackson and the Olympians and I also quite liked The Kane Chronicles.

6. Sarah Rees Brennan: The Lynburn Legacy was a lot of fun to read, and I loved her Gothic Tuesdays (if you haven't read those posts yet, have a look).

7. J. R. R. Tolkien: If you told me last year that he would be here, I would look at you in suspicion. I've always really liked Lord of the Rings, and The Hobbit was one of the books read aloud to me when I was little, but this year I read The Silmarillion, and I'm really coming to appreciate the world Tolkien created.

8. Eoin Colfer: My love of his Artemis Fowl series is eternal. The Supernaturalist was a delight as well.

9. Marissa Meyer: I'm finding The Lunar Chronicles really enjoyable so far.

10. J. K. Rowling: Harry Potter was a series I grew up with, and a major contributor to me being the voracious reader I now am. (Here's a few others.)

Thursday, April 16, 2015

This Assault-y Thing Isn't Romantic

Story time! 
So Kelly, science student and (of late, far too occasional, blame exams) YA book blogger is eating delightful customized pasta in one of her university's fine cafeteria establishments. She thinks to herself gee, I'm glad my third exam is done... I'll read for five minutes before resuming studying for the next
This was, as it turns out, a mistake. Because that book was just at the point of "Let's get this totally pointless love triangle-y thing rolling, time for the kiss scene." Now. Kelly had not been loving this book up until now, but was trying to push through. But as she read the kiss scene in question, she realised that she likely wouldn't be able to because it was causing feelings of deep anger. 
--end scene--
Why, you may ask, was Kelly so furious? We know by this point that, while I don't like love triangles, I'm fairly well conditioned to ignore them and continue on if they aren't a big part of the story. That wasn't my primary problem with this scene. My problem was the kiss. My problem was that. It. Read. Like. An. Assault. Scene.

He kisses her after yelling at her. After slamming his hands on a wall beside her head. She pushes him away and tries to run, and he drags her back with his hand over her mouth. Yes, there were some slight extenuating circumstances, but no, I still don't think it was okay to kiss her in the first place, and then afterwards prevent her from leaving.

This was the straw that broke the camel's back, where the camel was my ability to deal with creepiness being passed off as romance. Here's my deal. 

These books are targeted toward teenagers, often young women. The last thing you want to be teaching them is that having any sort of intimacy forced on them against their will is what's done. That is is normal. That it is romantic.

It isn't romantic. It isn't sexy. Its just disturbing.

It isn't just a book. Readers know best of all how books shape us. They shape our perception of the world, of what is and isn't right. When you write something like kissing a girl even though she's pushing away, or saying "no," or, really, in anyway suggesting that she isn't interested in being touched, and pass it off as romantic, you're saying a) that it is romantic to force yourself on someone and b) that it is romantic when someone forces themselves on you. That it is something you should be grateful for. And that is worrying.

It isn't that it happened once. It is that it keeps happening. Destroy this idea that having a person violating your personal space is romantic. That having someone physically prevent you from leaving, or calling out, is romantic.

I've come up with a few simple questions to ask yourself:
1. Am I, in fact, planning on writing an assault scene?
 If you answered yes to this question, this list isn't for you Go find some resources on writing assault scenes. If you answered "Of course not, I'm writing a romantic and/or sexy scene," proceed to question two.
2. Is one character in a position of power (physically or otherwise) over the other?
I you answered yes, you have to be really, really careful in how you write it. If either character can't, for any reason, give consent, you have a problem. If you answered no, head on to question 3.
3. Do both of my characters want to be intimate with each other?
If you answered no, consider again why you're writing this scene. If you answered yes, proceed to question 4.
4. Take your written scene out of context. Does it still sound as romantic as you think it sounds in context? Why? Explain. (2 marks.)
These obviously aren't catch-all, but what I'm saying is think long and hard about your scene. If it seems like an assault scene that should be because it is designed to be one, not because it is supposed to seem romantic.

Now, go forth and write good kissing scenes!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Reading Habits: Breaking the Spine

How do you prefer to treat your books? 

I have a friend who is really careful with her books. Like, really careful. Those books to not get exposed to bad situations. She WILL NOT ALLOW her books to be opened beyond about a thirty degree angle. I'm not kidding. She likes her books to look like they haven't been opened. Her shelves are a little incredible, because they look like they would be at home in a bookstore. Her books are in that condition. (thirty degree angle-reading takes some practice, but you do get the hang of it...)

I am not nearly so careful with my books. I will literally read the covers off of them. We had to replace Harry Potter and the Philosopher's  Stone because it had been read so many times.

This is possible best demonstrated by my copies of the  Inheritance series. I really should replace them I have the *shudders* movie cover of Eragon, and then the next two books are... mildly destroyed. Eldest probably took the worst damage. I had to tape the back cover back on, even after it was battered to complete illegibility. 

Brisingr featuring water damage.
Also mysterious stains. Yeah.
Not all of my books are in this condition, of course. This series just somehow took some of the worst of it. If it is a library book or a book I've been lent (especially then), I will be a heck of a lot more careful that I would be with my own copies. I lend books out myself, and I definitely know what its like to get one of your books back in pieces (seriously). 

So, clearly, I'm not opposed to my books getting a little (a little?) battered in the process of reading and rereading them again and again.

And now people are probably planning to persecute for crimes against paperbacks. Most of my books are in pretty good condition actually, but I'm definitely not afraid of them being a little well-loved. (Now I'm going to have to show you my shelves to prove that they're not actually in terrible condition... I should do a tour at some point anyway...)

Does anyone have any particular habits where it applies to treating your books?

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Top Ten Characters I'd Like To Check In With

Top Ten Tuesdays is a weekly feature created at The Broke and The Bookish.

1. Matt and Kate from Airborn. They're my top of the list for this one. I don't know, I just want to know what they're lives are like after Starclimber. I want to know what flying monster they're off looking for now. I want to see more of them in general.

2. The cast of Artemis Fowl. (Also, it would be lovely to see Minerva again. I'm just saying. She sort of disappeared off the map.)

3. Mary and James from The Mary Quinn Mysteries (after Rivals in the City). Someone probably got murdered while they were on their honeymoon. I'm 100% sure this happened.

4. The cast of The Supernaturalist. I feel like this was meant to have another book to it, and it just... never happened.

5. The Grace kids from Spiderwick. I gather that there is a spinoff series with cameos... so I'll have to check that out.

6. Kelley and Sonny from Wondrous Strange. Mostly because I want to see them try to juggle their relationship with running the faery police/ border guards.

7. Vicki from A Mad, Wicked Folly. I would love another peak into her life after the events of the book.

8. The cast of Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel. I would love to see Niten and Aiofe's wedding, actually. It is mentioned, but we don't actually get to see it.

9. Sam from Rites of Passage. This was another book that felt sort of incomplete, almost like it was set up for a sequel.

10. The cast of Eragon. I would love to see their lives (and world) after Inheritance. (I know he said he wouldn't visit... but still...)

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

March Wrap-Up

March was stop-and-go for books. I would read several in a week, then only one the next. This month in books:
The books I acquired this March. Featuring terrible lighting and my office floor, as usual.
  • The Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski: I was eagerly anticipating this release, I finished it at two in the morning.
  • Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo: Am collecting the trilogy in paperback, just waiting for Ruing and Rising to come out in paperback now...
  • The 100 by Kass Morgan: I read this two years ago (wow, it doesn't feel like that long), and I've been meaning to pick up a copy. It was on Book Outlet.
  • The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black: I snagged this after my reread, realising that I'll probably reread it again.
  • Lone Survivors by Chris Stringer: I'm a human evolution geek (evolution in general, really).
  • The Violinist's Thumb by Sam Kean: And also a genetics geek.
  • Improving Your Soil by Keith Red: One day I will start a blog about biology and gardening. It will probably be terrible.
I'm participating in a read-a-thon over on tumblr. next week, which is likely to seep over into this blog. We shall see.