Book Review: Strands of Bronze and Gold by Jane Nickerson
This book is so far off my usual beaten reading path that I can’t even. But it caught my eye both for the cover (yeah, yeah, I know) and for the blurb. The book bills itself as a retelling of the Bluebeard fairy tale.
Now, I couldn’t recall what the Bluebeard story was about (Was it the Grimm story in which the hero has to whittle a key out of a finger or – ?) but if there’s anything I love more than pretty covers, it’s retellings of classic stories. So I got myself the book.
Turns out, Bluebeard is a French folktale by Charles Perrault: Girl forced to marry rich nobleman. Discovers rich nobleman keeps the corpses of his wives in the basement. Nobleman tries to kill girl. Girl’s family kills nobleman. Girl inherits big.
You know, the stuff Disney movies are made of. Or Lifetime movies.
The story takes this framework, shakes it out, and modernizes it for the pre-Civil War U.S. South. It also ramps up the creepy factor.
In this version, spirited red-head Sophie has left her humble home and siblings to live with her insanely-rich and super-generous plantation-owning godfather, Monsieur Bernard de Cressac. Once Sophie arrives at his Mississippi estate, the 17-year-old is lavished with everything she could wish and wants for nothing. But since this is a book, we know that’s not what’s going to happen. Because who gets their happily ever after on page 2? Continue reading
I remember towing my kid brother around the library in a doomed attempt to inspire a love of reading.
“This one sounds cool,” I said, handing a book to my brother. It was an adventure story with a shiny gold spine. “It’s about a kid genius who tries to kidnap a fairy and ends up with high tech fairy operatives chasing him.”
My brother wasn’t impressed. He inspected the cover with a kind of resigned patience usually reserved for trips to the shoe store. With a furtive glance at me, he slid the book back into its slot on the shelf.
“What’s wrong with that one?”
“Dunno,” he mumbled. “It sounded boring.”
“Okay then, how about this one? It has a quest and dragons.” I said, pulling another book down. He was shaking his head before it cleared the shelf.
“No,” he said, looking relieved to finally have a good reason to veto my pick. “It has a girl on the cover.” Continue reading
Last month, I dove into The Handmaid’s Tale and talked genre drift and the flavors of oppression across the books different international covers. (Check out Tash’s great insights here.)
This month, we decided to go in the Teen Alien Invasion Romance direction and tackle Rick Yancey’s The 5th Wave. After all, the movie version just came out, it’s streaming on Amazon, AND the trailer promises an alien invasion with aliens taking over human brains. Who’s infested? Who’s still human? NO ONE KNOWS.
And also because, clearly, I learned nothing from watching The Host. Continue reading
I’m about halfway through reading Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale with Tash from The Bookie Monster, and it has dawned with me that over the last few years, I’ve slowly lost sight of what the dystopian genre is all about.
The Handmaid’s Tale takes North Korean oppression, mixes in the gender-driven segregation of fundamental Islam, and frames it all in the language of Christianity. In no place in the text can you take a step back and scoff, this can never happen. It might. The story makes you believe it might.
This is the chilling power of the genre – it says, This could be the world. Our world. Tomorrow. The dystopian genre is a cautionary tale. It’s a warning. It’s the uneasiness of premonition. It is the Greek seer Cassandra, blessed by the gods to see the future and cursed to never be believed.
Reading The Handmaid’s Tale, it occurred to me that the mushrooming teen dystopian genre has been selling oppression lite. To win itself a shiny “dystopian” label, the ubiquitous YA book checks the box marked “oppressive society” and perform a token wave to its character’s rejection of the status quo. These worlds don’t need to be realistic or thoughtful or threatening (and perhaps that’s why Divergent’s world pissed me off. Several times.) They just need to involve oppression. The weirder the better. Continue reading
Hey, an angsty teen romance I didn’t hate. What? Whaaat?
I keep swinging between two emotional extremes when it comes to this book. On the one hand, Shiver is so cute! It is sweet, and cute, and full of purple prose and sad lyrics and little poems. And cute.
On the other hand, it’s so stupid. Oh the inexplicable plot holes. Oh the silly beginning. Oh how you want to grab the characters and shake them till they do something™ about the obvious story devices being put into play. Oh how you want Sam to stop making up little sad song lyrics. Oh the crazy annoying ending. Continue reading
Note from the desk of CanaryTheFirst: I was browsing ancient drafts in the depths of our reading coal mines when I came across this review from theothercanary. It’s about time for it to see the light of day!
Book review: The Crimson Crown by Cinda Williams Chima
I started reading this book, but abandoned it for meatier tales like Dresden. When I finally got back to it, I thought that’d I’d made it at least halfway through. Imagine my horror to reopen it on my Nook to discover that I was on the paltry page 68. Out of 448. I almost abandoned it again in favor of rereading Behemoth for the zillionth time.
EDIT: I wrote that much as an intro while I was still reading the book. Then on page 240, I did abandon the book to read Behemoth again. And Cold Days. And Beautiful Creatures. And Deadline. And a whole schlew of nonfiction goodies. And upon trying to return to this book, I simply couldn’t make myself do it.
Based on the stellar ratings on GoodReads, I’m among a small minority who did not utterly and completely love this book. I can see why so many love the Seven Realms stories. I did too. You can read my reviews of past books here:
But as far as the Crimson Crown goes, it’s time for me to declare this book a dead canary.
I suspect everyone has a few of these books. They’re the guilty secret – the great books you want to read, but over the course of weeks, months, and years, just can’t seem to get around to opening. Ugh.
The mental block.
Here is my short-list of books I want to read, but just can’t seem to.
1. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
There really is no excuse for me not to have read this book – or this entire series, really. For about three years now, I’ve put it off.
Thing is, I have it on good authority that the Hunger Games series is awesome. That Collins is awesome. That I will read this book and feel that happy zen zing of a great book devoured. I know I can munch my way through all three books over a weekend, then finish off with the movies.
And that brings me to the other reason I really ought to read The Hunger Games. I can’t watch the movies until I read the books. It’s a rule. But it just doesn’t seem enough yet.
2. Last Light of the Sun by Guy Gavriel Kay
This book sits on my shelf. It’s been sitting on my shelf since my birthday two years ago. And it judges me. Oh man, it judges me.
I even read the first page (and liked it!) but then the book went back to my shelf.
Where it sits to this day.
Judging me. Continue reading
The Host by Stephenie Meyer
The Host! A book I had absolutely no interest in reading but kinda liked anyway.
How did that happen? Well, see, a few days ago, Meg and me, we were looking through upcoming movie releases. And our conversation went something like this:
Me: We should read The Host
Meg: I have been working on the unicorn demon story
When does it come out?
Me: March, I think.
Meg: I call not dibs
While the real takeaway message of this conversation is “What unicorn demon story?”, I did fold to the inevitable and grabbed the 1,152 page paperback in preparation of the movie version of The Host coming out March 29. Whatzit about? Well, in the near, near future… Continue reading
A few mid-novel thoughts on Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor
“You are a Leopard Person only by the will of the Supreme Creator, and as we all know, She isn’t very concerned with Her own creations.” (Akata Witch, 96)
This post will contain only a few, mild (and out-of-context) spoilers for the book.
I am halfway through Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor, a YA novel I am co-reading with the lovely lady McLicious over at comp lit and mediaphilia. When I started reading it, I wasn’t sure what to expect – I know precious little about Nigerian folklore, and only a little bit more about the culture and political situation in the country. So far, the things that have really caught my eye (and imagination) are the small details woven into the narrative that are different from what I’ve come to expect from the YA adventure. Continue reading
Meg’s Review of Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl
Audiobook read by Kevin T. Collins (with special appearance by Eve Bianco)
I haven’t read any teen paranormal romance since I attempted Twilight, which all but killed my faith in the genre and scarred my brain for life. But I’m a sucker for any book being made into a movie, so I picked up Beautiful Creatures during a nifty sale at Audible. I figured that if it sucked, at least it would only be $5 of suck.
Much to my surprise, I really liked this first installment of the four-book series. Partially, I think my enjoyment was at the deft move by writers Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl to make the narrator a teenaged boy rather than a girl. It inherently dropped the angst factor by about 75%. They also split the love story, with the majority of it revolving around the star-crossed lovers of Ethan Wate and Lena Duchannes, but there was also the added love story of a boy mourning the loss of his mother that gave the book considerable, and quite unexpected, depth. Continue reading