051. Review of GAME OF THRONES by George R.R. Martin. SPOILERS ABOUND.

I’m not really into writing reviews for each book in a series, but since this is the first novel, I will definitely do so — my comments for the other ones will be much more abbreviated (hopefully). Also, warning — SERIOUS, SERIOUS SPOILERS. I am not kidding.

Game of Thrones was something I wanted to read for some time, but it was so damn long that I never really got around to it. Finally, I obviously did. And I don’t regret it one little bit.

Of course, the book has its problems. The names, for starters, are unwieldy, and even Martin himself, I’ve heard, has trouble keeping them safe. I do understand completely that he’s trying to create a world, and in many high-born families, names are repeated over and over again due to tradition. This works in real life, but is very hard to pull off well in a book, because with such a huge volume of characters to begin with, there are too many repeated Jons, Roberts, Eddards, and Brandons. There are also too many names that are similar in sound: Jory, Joffrey, and Jorah come to mind, as do Varys, Viserys, and Aerys. I understand he was trying to build a world in which lineage and honoring via name is important, but in a book, it’s more important to distinguish characters from one another than it is to build a namesake chain.

Another problem is POV. I actually love the way the book is structured — a chapter given to each POV character in third person, jumping around from setting to setting. But the POV distribution is terribly uneven. The POVs in Game of Thrones are as such: Ned, Catelyn, Bran, Jon, Arya, Sansa, Tyrion, and Dany. Now, the problem I find with this is that the POV is heavily weighed towards Starks, and in fact, the only non-Starks are Tyrion and Dany (and technically Jon, but I consider him part of the family even if he IS a bastard, because he has the same viewpoint and up until a point, lived with them. Dany and Tyrion are the only two people who share a different “viewpoint.” What I mean by that is this: The Starks are loyal to the Starks. The Starks all fear and dislike the Lannisters and are loyal to the king. In the beginning of the book, every POV character except Dany & Tyrion are in Winterfell. By the middle of the book, Catelyn, Bran, and Jon are in the North and Arya, Sansa, and Ned are in the South. Only Dany is in a different location, and Tyrion may be in the North or South, but his perspective at least differs, in terms of philosophy and in terms of familial ties, to the Starks and Jon.

This is a problem for me for two reasons: 1) The book is too heavily weighted on the Stark side, and makes it feel like Dany and Tyrion are the odd ones out and 2) it takes literally FOREVER to get back to anything that Dany is doing. The same thing is true for any character, because it’s not like Ned narrates every chapter, but the problem is that Dany is the ONLY window into what’s happening in her area of the world, whereas when Ned is not speaking, Sansa is, and when Bran is not speaking, Catelyn is. I felt that the POV distribution was too uneven in that sense, and either Martin needed to up Dany’s parts a little more, or he should have included a second POV from her area of the world. I fear that in the next few installments, this problem will extend to Jon as well, because he’s now embarking on a very different sort of quest, and his setting and storyline will be like Dany’s: different than all the others. One POV character has already died, so he’ll have to be replaced, and I hope dearly it’s by Robb, but the problem is that will still leave for a highly uneven distribution. Alas.

Okay, problems aside: this book was highly addictive. Those are literally my only two issues with this entire book. The prose was good (I guess? I have no idea, I wasn’t even paying attention — and that should tell you a hell of a lot), and the characters (except Sansa. Dear god she needs to not narrate and also die) are engaging and interesting. Of course, I have my favourites (see: Robb, Tyrion, and Dany), but I don’t dislike many characters — at least from a writing perspective. What I mean by that is yes, Joffrey is a horrible human being, but I think he’s a good character. I do hate some characters and want them to die, but the only one I find really unengaging is Sansa, and unfortunately she gets a whole freaking POV. Sigh. The story is really well written, and the concept and world is totally immersive. Martin has a way of pulling you in, and then you get to an end of a chapter in the South, and you want to know what happens next — but then he takes you back to The Wall, and something else interesting is happening there. Sure, you itch to find out what’s going to happen in each storyline, but I didn’t feel that I was being cheated and kept from knowing things — no storyline was vastly more interesting than another. Of course, I’m particularly partial to Dany’s storyline, and I’m dying to know about the Others, but I also wanted to know what was happening in Catelyn’s journey, and how Ned and his daughters were faring in Lannister central.

The last thing I want to touch upon here is character death. I was shocked to find out who died. From a reader’s perspective, I was weepy and horribly mad, but from a writer’s perspective, I was totally appreciative. Here is a man that is not afraid to kill his babies. And he’s not doing it to piss off the reader, nor is he doing it for fun. He’s killing off characters that need to be killed for one reason or another, and isn’t shying away from the hard, cold truth of reality; that no matter how great or evil a person is, they will die eventually, and sometimes the people you love won’t live, and the people you think deserve death will still be sitting around long after the good ones are gone. So am I upset that Ned, Drogo and Lady die? Yup — you bet. Am I pleased Viserys kicked the bucket? Sure. But I think Martin knows what he’s doing and he’s doing it beautifully.

I’m terrified about the death toll in the upcoming books, but I have to read. I just do. And you should, too.

049. Why I Have a Problem with Cassandra Clare & Why You Should Too.

I have a bone to pick with Cassandra Clare.

Actually, I have a whole skeleton to pick with Cassandra Clare, but that sounds a little more excessive than is needed.

Originally, when Clare, originally known as Cassandra Claire in the Harry Potter fandom, announced she was getting a trilogy published, I was ecstatic. As a huge, longtime fan of her hilarious and in-depth Draco Trilogy, I knew I absolutely had to read the first book of her trilogy when it came out. Of course, back then, I was woefully uneducated about a lot of things. I wasn’t terribly familiar with classic television shows, and because of this (and probably because I was never fully entrenched in the Harry Potter fandom and simply flitted around the outskirts), I completely neglected to realise that everything I loved about Clare’s wonderfully written trilogy had been stolen.

Okay, technically, everything had been stolen because it was fanfiction. But even though it’s fanfiction, the same rules of literature still apply. You may be borrowing someone else’s settings, premise, and characters, but the writing and concept within your own fic is supposed to be wholly original. Cassie Clare’s was not.

True, if anyone remembers reading The Draco Trilogy online way back in the day, you’ll also remember that Clare posted disclaimers about quotes she’d taken from sources like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Blackadder. But if you Google Clare’s name, you’ll find countless sites, blogs, forums, and even wikis devoted to explaining how she plagiarized most of her work — and then got herself published on the basis of this plagiarized work. And they’re not wrong. Although as far as I am aware, the plots of her fanfiction were still her own (or at least mostly), the writing, which was snappy, witty, and often laugh out loud hilarious, was often not hers. The hysterical quotes my friends and I would giggle about were most often taken (and changed very slightly) from other books, films, or television shows, and often whole chunks of dialogue and description were taken from these sources, with only a line or two attributed. In one chapter, Clare would use countless references and claim them as her own — or at least not specifically explain that they weren’t hers.

Fast forward a few years: Clare befriends Holly Black, who reads her work and refers her to an agent. Clare gets a book deal for her trilogy, The Mortal Instruments. I probably still would have read at least the first one had I been more aware of the plagiarism problem, but not due to excitement. But back then, I only had an inkling that Clare had done something wrong, and at that time, I was inclined to believe fandom was wrong, lashing out at someone who had done great things since her time in Harry Potter land because they were jealous.  But when I read the first book of her “original” trilogy, I was positively floored by how similar it was to The Draco Trilogy.

Granted, the plot’s pretty different. But as we all know, a good book relies on much more than plot and premise, and unfortunately, the characters were straight out of The Draco Trilogy. Of course, Cassandra Clare’s Draco, Ginny, Harry, Hermione, etc. were not exactly canon representations, and she did make these characters something of her own. But Hermione Granger still always retains a bit of Hermione Granger, no matter how garbled an interpretation of her is (and let me tell you, although Clare had a lot of faults, I thought that her interpretations of the Harry Potter characters were, though not totally accurate, both compelling and interesting). When I opened the book, I knew that Clary was Ginny. Alec was Harry. Isabelle was Clare’s version of Blaise (who back then was not officially male or female, and could therefore be interpreted by fandom either way). Valentine was a strange mixture of Lucius and Voldemort. And Jace, of course, was undeniably Draco.

Jace is so Draco, in fact, that it’s impossible to see him as his own character. The way Clare characterizes Jace is the exact same way she characterized her Draco. They share lines (the ones she didn’t steal from Buffy, of course), they share nervous tics, they share appearances, and they even share memories. The second I read the scene in which Jace tells Clary the story about the boy and the falcon, I felt an unpleasant jolt of recognition: that story is one Draco tells in one of the Draco Trilogy installments. I couldn’t remember which one. I couldn’t even remember who Draco told it to (Harry? Ginny? Hermione?). But I knew it was if not word for word taken from her fanfiction, it was very, very close.

The frightening thing about The Mortal Instruments series is that its plot is nowhere near as interesting as the plot of her original fanfiction trilogy, and it has nothing to do with the fact that the characters in The Draco Trilogy were familiar faces. The plot was better. The premise was better. And just to give you an idea of how much I mean this, I sometimes yearn to read the original Draco Trilogy, even with all of its horrible problems. I have still not read the third book of The Mortal Instruments, and I refuse to read anything past that.

But my problems with Cassandra Clare don’t stop there. My problems just begin with the fact that once she’s stripped of her witty references to other writers, she becomes a mediocre storyteller. My next problem stems from the fact that Cassie Clare is being paid to be a one trick pony, and is selling out because I’m almost entirely sure at this point that she has no moral compass.

Once The Mortal Instruments series was over (or, at least, I thought it was), I felt that perhaps Clare might be able to leave her old writing behind and embark on something brand new. I was willing to believe that she was hung up and in love with these characters she had created when she started writing The Draco Trilogy long ago. I get it — the Draco Trilogy was a beloved staple of fanfiction, and it took YEARS for the whole thing to be written. It was a long effort, and she made absolutely no money off it. I can understand the impulse to want to be rewarded for pleasing so many people for so long.

But Clare didn’t stop. She didn’t try something new. Instead, she left The Mortal Instruments and started writing a steampunk trilogy set in Victorian England. About — you guessed it — the world she created in The Mortal Instruments. Shadowhunters are still the main characters. It’s still the same formula: girl who is not a Shadowhunter meets Shadowhunter who is sexy and snarky (like Draco/Jace, only with dark hair and Victorian sensibilities), and becomes entangled in that world and, of course, a love triangle. And then in addition to all of this, Clare — horror of all horrors — decided to extend her original trilogy to six books instead of three.

I understand that there is money involved. I do. I also understand that she loves her characters. I am a writer. I get attached to my own creations pretty easily. But the thing is, as a writer, you also have to know when to let things go. Television shows have this problem. It’s called “jumping the shark.” Granted, I don’t think her original series was that great, but still, it was supposed to end in three books. She ended it. And then, all of the sudden, she starts it again. But the problem is that the trilogy is already self-contained: the love triangle has been settled. The plot has been resolved. There is nothing left to happen with these characters that has not already happened. And yet Cassie Clare still does it because she has such a huge fanbase (most of whom, strangely, never read her fanfictino) and she can’t quite seem to let anything she writes go.

So let’s talk now about the books Cassie Clare has out (and is currently writing) now. She has her “trilogy” (which has now become, supposedly, six books about Clary, Jace, and company). She has her steampunk trilogy, which is also about Shadowhunters, but does not relate to the characters in The Mortal Instruments series. And now, according to Publisher’s Weekly, she’s just gotten at least a seven figure advance for YET ANOTHER three-book deal. And it’s about Shadowhunters. Again. With new characters, and, hey, now it’s set in Los Angeles! Newsflash, Cassandra Clare, changing the setting and the names (but not personalities) of your characters does not make a book different from the last one you wrote.

So what’s really my problem? My problem is the fact that Cassandra Clare is a marginally talented writer who has one story and one cast of characters up her sleeve, and yet somehow she’s sold millions and millions of books based on this. My problem is the fact that Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series was partially copied from her fanfiction trilogy, which copied a plethora of other authors, not even including J.K. Rowling, who provided her with the characters, premise, and setting for her beloved trilogy. My problem is the fact that Cassandra Clare is in the authorly equivalent of a time loop, and has come full circle. My problem is the fact that Cassandra Clare is, in essence, writing fanfiction of her own work, and it is getting published and she is getting paid bank for it, when other far more original and talented authors are getting absolutely nothing for their hard work. I may despise Stephenie Meyer and the world she’s created, but at least Twilight and its accompanying works are her own original product; at least she deserves to reap the benefits of the crazy fandom she’s inspired.

So dear Cassandra Clare: write a new goddamn book — one that isn’t a copy of a copy of a copy.

048. Review of Stranger Things Happen by Kelly Link

I’m a big fan of Kelly Link. She’s beyond imaginative, a unique and very talented writer, and I feel, sometimes, as though the essence of my writing and hers isn’t that much different. I absolutely loved her second collection, Magic for Beginners, and although I liked some of the stories in Stranger Things Happen, as a whole it didn’t have the same sort of impact that other book had for me.

I particularly loved “Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose,” “Flying Lessons,” “Vanishing Act” and “Survivors’ Ball, or, The Donner Party.” But some of the others fell short to me. And even some of the stories I rather enjoyed had some of the same pitfalls I noticed in Link’s other stories when I first read Magic. One such pitfall is Link’s inability — or refusal — to wrap up most of her pieces. Not to say that everything should be neat and tidy with no loose ends, nor should everything work out perfectly and be completely comprehensible, because, as Link is clearly trying to show us, life isn’t that way. And if stories are meant to echo life, they can’t be that way either.

In some of Link’s stories — and in fact in a lot of them, particularly in this collection — it’s very hard to grasp the essence of the plot or of the story she is trying to tell. And although I don’t believe endings should be neat, I do think that the reader should be left with questions — not gaps in understanding. And sometimes, here, I felt that I simply wasn’t able to find the connective tissue or the point hidden underneath all those lovely words and brilliant ideas. I think sometimes, whether or not this is the truth or the way it’s conveyed to the reader, Link’s ideas are great but not quite complete. Half-baked. In the best way, possible, of course. I think some of her stories are novels and novellas yearning for expansion, and others are in need of pruning.

Some of her stories are delightfully odd, some of them are bafflingly bizarre. But I enjoy them. I get a feel for her characters, except when she deliberately makes things too confusing, like in “Louise’s Ghost” or “The Girl Detective.” I think if Magic for Beginners was fabulous, this book, her first book, was the work of an unpolished artist who hadn’t yet learned that there is a difference between keeping a mystery and an air of wonder about a story and deliberately withholding information that could help clarify the end result.

But more often than not, you get the point. There’s a feminist angle, a whole lot of fantastical elements that are meant to be enjoyed as much as they are to inform about some aspect of society or life.

I love Link. I really do. And I recommend her to anyone who thinks fantasy is stale. But I don’t know if I would recommend this particular collection in whole. Magic is my go-to, and it will remain that way.

047. Six Resolutions for the New Year

Now that we’ve hit the fourth day of the new year, it’s about time I wrote down my resolution and goals for all to see.

1. Finish my novel. This is a pretty big goal, but it’s a doable one. Originally, following on the heels of National Novel Writing Month, I’d thought I’d be able to get my first draft done by the end of December. That didn’t happen. But my goal of finishing my novel (not just the first draft, but the revisions as well) and beginning to send out to agents by the time I head to New Zealand in September still stands.  My goal is to really finish the first draft by February, edit until May or so, and then write a query and send out over the summer. It’s my main goal this year, and I think I can do it if I buckle down and follow some of my other resolutions.

2. Write every day. This is something that practically every writer resolves to do. I’ve resisted it so far, because I don’t believe that a writer must write every day in order to be successful. One of my favourite authors rejects this idea completely. But the fact of the matter is that over the past few months I’ve really failed to write as much or as diligently as I need to. And in order to ensure that I do better with this, I really need to try to write every day. I know that for me, writing the same novel every day will be a nearly impossible feat. If I force myself to do it when I really, really feel I can’t, it will come out muddled and awful, and that’s not my goal. My goal is to write well and often — I’m a firm believer in quality over quantity. So my goal instead is to write something every day: whether it’s a blog post, an entry for Brigits Flame, a random scene, backstory, or part of my novel. My goal now? To try and write my novel three or four times a week, with at least 1000 words done per day. It’s a doable goal, and as I grow more comfortable with the plan and the routine, I’ll increase the writing time and the word count.

3. Read a book a week. I want to try to read for at least one hour every day, but I think more importantly is reading at least one book per week. It’s less rigid than giving myself a length of time I must read per day, but it will certainly ensure that I’m reading (or rereading) at a good pace. Because as a writer — and as someone who wants to be an agent or editor — it’s absolutely essential that I continue to read with as much passion and interest as I write. I’d also like to vary my subject matter, alternating rereading books to choosing new books in a variety of genres — not just fiction, or even the genres of fiction I tend to gravitate towards. I will, of course, write reviews as well.

4. Go to the gym more. I want to go three times a week. Not twice. I really want to get into better shape, and going to the gym three times a week will really help with that — especially since it’s going to start getting too cold to simply walk everywhere instead of taking the bus or the T.

5. Cook more, cook differently, cook healthier. This seems like three resolutions, but for me, it’s only one. I love food. I am an enormous foodie, and I’ve been getting more interested in cooking because of this. This year, I want to make at least one new and interesting recipe a week, whether it’s a three hour roast, a simple but tasty soup, or a complicated and exotic Thai recipe. In the past, I’ve shied away from buying “strange,” expensive, or specialty ingredients for a variety of reasons. Some of them, like, say, squid, I have no idea how to cook properly. Some things, like duck, are too pricy to get on a regular basis. And lemongrass is only good for a couple of cuisines. But I think it’ll be worth it to, at least once a week, try something brand new, and at least once a month, get a more … expensive and “impractical” ingredient to work with, just to change things up. Because let’s be honest — pasta’s tasty, but it’s hardly the healthiest meal option. But if I can find ways to cook pasta with different sauces, different garnishes, etc. that may be a bit healthier, it’ll be great.

6. Save money. I’m not good at this. I’ve gotten much better about making coffee instead of buying it from Peet’s or Starbucks, and I don’t eat out too much. But I still eat out more than I should; I still spend more at bars than I ought to. I still buy things that I don’t really need, even if I’ve really done a good job at cutting down the frivolous spending. But I need to get much better at this — whether it’s getting cheaper items on menus, forgoing a latte and sticking with plain coffee or tea, or simply not purchasing things I don’t actually need. I think it’s doable — if a bit difficult.

So these are my resolutions for the new year — and hopefully, I’ll be able to stick with them.

046. The Requisite “Best of 2011” Post.

I, like probably ever blogger out there, feel a great need to usher in the new year with a list of my resolutions and my favourite things of the year. So this first blog post will be about my favourite music of the year — in a slightly different way than most people are doing it.

What follows will be a summary of my musical loves and obsessions over the past year. Instead of listing the best albums or singles that came out in 2011, I’m going to be writing down the songs I most listened to, the albums I was most obsessed with — whether they were from 1970, 2000, or this past year.

So, without further ado, here they are, listed in no particular order:

MY 10 MOST LISTENED TO ALBUMS THIS YEAR:
1. Immersion — Pendulum
2. We The Fallen — Psyclon Nine
3. The Dexter Soundtrack
4. Lungs — Florence & The Machine
5. The Social Network — Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
6. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy — Kanye West
7. Hail to the Thief — Radiohead
8. In Silico — Pendulum
9. El Monstruo — The Vincent Black Shadow
10. How to Destroy Angels — How to Destroy Angels

MY 20 MOST LOVED & LISTENED TO SONGS:
1. Until Then — Benoit Pioulard & Rafael Anton Irisarri
2. Ghosts ‘N Stuff — Deadmau5 ft. Rob Swire
3. Propane Nightmares — Pendulum
4. Crush — Pendulum (here is the original version, not the radio cut)
5. Cold War — Janelle Monae
6. Alright (Ratatat Remix) — Memphis Bleek
7. Kill Everybody — Skrillex
8. Revival — Beats Antique
9. Girl with One Eye — Florence & The Machine
10. Some Kind of Nature — Gorillaz ft. Lou Reed
11. Save the World (Knife Party Remix) — Swedish House Mafia (the original, which is also awesome and nominated for a Grammy, is here)
12. We The Fallen — Psyclon Nine
13. Stripper — Soho Dolls
14. Precious — Depeche Mode
15. The Prayer — Bloc Party
16. Gorgeous — Kanye West ft. Kid Cudi & Raekwon
17. Unison — Knife Party
18. The Weight — Thrice
19. MANIAC — Kid Cudi ft. Cage & St. Vincent
20. Voodoo People — Pendulum

Additionally, not including rereads, this is a list of the ten best books I read this year — an honourable mention goes out to China Miéville’s The Scar, which I reread quite enthusiastically this year for approximately the fourth time.

THE 10 BEST BOOKS I READ THIS YEAR:
1. Embassytown — China Miéville
2. Cold Comfort Farm — Stella Gibbons
3. Magic For Beginners — Kelly Link
4. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell — Susanna Clarke
5.  The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (and the other books in the series) — Alan Bradley
6.  The Book Thief — Markus Zusak
7.  Senseless — Stona Fitch
8. The Butcher Boy — Patrick McCabe
9. Invasion of the Bodysnatchers — Jack Finney
10.  Welcome to the Monkey House — Kurt Vonnegut

Resolutions & writing updates will occur in the near future!

045. Review of Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD.

Beautiful Creatures follows a typical YA trajectory: teen from a small, dull town encounters a brand new teen who’s not entirely human. But the cliché — for it is one — is twisted slightly: the narrator is a boy. This change might not seem like a big one, but for a YA book like this, it made all the difference.

Ethan Wate is a mostly believable sixteen year old from a small southern town, and he’s been dreaming about this mysterious, beautiful girl for quite some time before she shows up in school as the town recluse’s niece. I was afraid Ethan and the girl, Lena, would have that insta-connection you so fear to read in books of this sort, but thankfully that wasn’t quite the case. Yes, Ethan was instantly drawn to her; yes, they began liking one another a tad quicker than perhaps was necessary — but Lena resisted his interest for long enough that I was okay with it.

Lena, it turns out, is a Caster — basically a hybrid of a “gifted” teen, a witch, and an X-man. Casters have all sorts of powers, and Lena is more powerful than most. I thought she was perhaps a little too powerful at times. After all, most of the other casters have specific “gifts”: Ridley can persuade people to do anything, Ryan can heal, and Lena’s aunt can see multiple timelines at once. They all have the ability to do little things, like telekinesis, but sometimes I felt that Lena (who is called a Natural) had powers that weren’t so strictly defined as some of the others. She can control weather, which is her main power, but  additionally, she can make people forget things, make her instruments play themselves, manipulate fire, write on her walls as she thinks the words without lifting a finger — and for me, I didn’t quite understand how her limits worked, and why she could do certain things that perhaps others like her could not.

The plot is, more or less, about a curse that has plagued Lena’s family for centuries: most casters can choose their own destinies. On their sixteenth birthdays, they choose to become Light or Dark, and can never switch once they’ve decided. But Lena’s family members have their fates randomly chosen for them by a magical and ancient book instead, which means that on their sixteenth birthdays, they become one or the other at random — whether they want to or not. Lena’s sixteenth birthday is approaching, and she fears she’ll go Dark.  She and Ethan spend much of the book trying to figure out how to break the curse so she doesn’t end up on the Dark side.

Sometimes Lena gets repetitively emo about this, as is bound to happen whenever YA books feature some sort of unavoidable and unwanted destiny. She often pulls away and says “you could never understand!” in that horribly melodramatic way that makes you want to smack her. It’s irritating at times, yes, but it’s not quite as intolerable  as if she’d been the narrator. Both characters were likeable, though I preferred Ethan immensely: Lena is a bit of a one note at times. I understand that people fear and dislike her at school because she’s so different, but she is victimized constantly throughout the book, and consequently becomes mopey and does the classic pseudo-noble shut-out too often for my tastes (“you should go be normal so you shouldn’t be with me, Ethan!” or “I don’t want to hurt you so I’ll stay far away from you for a while, Ethan.” For a full repertoire of this annoyance, please see the Twilight series).

Ethan, as I said, is mostly believable. He’s got strong convictions, he’s sensitive, he’s loyal, he’s compassionate, he’s even-tempered, and although he’s had great loss in his life (his mother died before the novel’s beginning) he deals with it in a believable manner. Sometimes, though, Ethan’s too “big” of a man. I understand he’s a good guy, but for someone who consistently comments on how beautiful Lena is, he never thinks of anything but kissing her or being in love with her — there are no other sexual thoughts or desires. I’m not of the mindset that teenaged boys  always think about sex, but in approximately 500 pages of mostly dating a beautiful girl he is obsessed with and trades his popularity to be with, he never has any of those desires or impulses at all. He’s also too good in other ways. While I completely understand that he is loyal, compassionate, and he sticks up for his beliefs, he is also a high school student. When everyone in his school turns against Lena (which is for the duration of the whole book), Ethan chooses to let himself be ostracized with her — even though these people are the people he grew up with, and even though it’s a lonely situation. I don’t believe that he’d just be completely and utterly okay with this. He never regrets it, never wishes he could hang out with his old friends, never feels torn between Lena and the people he’s spent his whole life with. I find that Ethan is completely and utterly above reproach, that he’s too good and too faultless, and that he never makes a single mistake when it comes to a question of character.

There are, of course, some clichés in the book: among others, the premise is typical of YA fiction, the book’s peopled with southern townsfolk who are completely and utterly prejudiced against anything new, and there’s a stereotypical black “mammy” character — Ethan’s wise, caring, and loving housekeeper, Amma. But as stated before, the authors made little changes that really made all the difference. Swapping the protagonists’ genders worked well for me. And although Ethan’s housekeeper, Amma, still held on to some clichés of the black “mammy” character, she had some really interesting character quirks, which made her all the more real. I love that Amma is obsessed with crossword puzzles, and that every time she reprimands Ethan, she uses a “crossword” word, spelling it out and giving him the definition. This is original, smart, and gives her the extra pizzazz she needed, the twist to make her character original.

The writing had a great tone, a voice that was all Ethan’s (although at times it was clear that the authors were women writing a boy — not too often, but it emerged every now and then), and the prose was smooth, fast-pasted, and well-done, minus one or two sections when it got clunky due to the amount of information the authors loaded into one scene.

I was intrigued by the end — so sad to see Macon die, but pleased to know that the book had real, honest-to-goodness stakes — but am still somewhat suspicious of Lena going neither Light nor Dark, as well as suspicious of what the next books in the series will entail. Ethan’s obviously still going to be around (and I do hope he continues to narrate and it doesn’t switch to Lena’s perspective), and I’m crossing my fingers that the relationship between them will evolve in a natural and believable way, and that it doesn’t dissolve into Twilight or The Mortal Instruments-esque forced relationship drama. But I’ll certainly be reading the next installment regardless!

041. An Update On Life in General.

Tuesday was my birthday. Twenty-two. I feel old and unaccomplished. It was an odd kind of birthday, my first “adult” birthday, where I had nobody around me, nobody singing, nobody handing me a cake. I had no one to talk to, and very few family members bothered to call. And, of course, I was in the throes of a sinus infection. Sadly, I still am

That’s not to say I didn’t get some lovely gifts and some lovely messages. It was just … different than expected. My party was so very fun — last night, even though I was feeling rather sick, I ended up having a fabulous time. Everyone I could have hoped to see was there, and I hope everyone had as much fun as I did.

This afternoon, before my voice completely upped and left, I had an interview for an internship at Literary Traveler, an online magazine. I think it went fairly well, and for next week, I have to write a 500-word blog post that would fit in with their current posts. Tomorrow, I plan on writing up a list of possibilities.

Currently, I’m gearing up for NaNoWriMo. I finally have a possible title, though that may change in the coming weeks if I find another one suits me better. I think I’ll be able to write a lot of this book next month, and I’m excited about it. I know vampires are “done” but I’ve always wanted to write my take on them, and while of course it has been a huge trend in the past few years, I think I can offer something fresh to the genre — if only because I despise most of the vampire lit that came out of the post-Twilight wave of YA. I think my characters are different than the norm, and that my concept is unique with aspects of familiarity. Hopefully I am not wrong about this. You can find me here:

I’ve also been reading quite a bit; I read the next two books in the Flavia de Luce series (though I didn’t post the reviews here, since they’re very similar to the review of the first book), and am excited for book four to come out. I am now working through Kelly Link’s first collection of short stories; review to come soon!

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