Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Year of the Flood

My latest Book recommendation is The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood.

This was the second book of Ms. Atwood's that I read cover to cover. Previously, I read The Handmaid's Tale (a previous review covers this) and after speaking with one of my M.F.A professors I picked up this novel at one of my favorite Bay Area used bookstores.

Set after her novel Oryx and Crake the novel is set in a post-apocalyptic universe. Now, I typically do not recommend reading novels out of order but I will say that if you have not read the first novel in the series it is perfectly okay. Here we are introduced to two seemingly unrelated characters Ren and Toby. Ren is a young woman caught up in the world of a high end sex club. Toby is an older woman who lives on her own in an abandoned luxury spa where she survives on her wits and the mostly edible treatments that were devised in the spa.

You eventually learn that Toby is and still considers herself part of an organization known as God's Gardeners. An group that is devoted to the preservation of all plant and animal life and the melding of science and religion. And Ren was once one of the children that was cared for by God's Gardeners. After getting involved with a bad crowd Ren left the organization, led by the mysterious Adam One, and found herself caught up as a trapeze dancer in the club Scales and Tails. When disaster strikes Ren locks herself in one of the rooms that the clubs keeps for quarantine purposes.

While gene spliced animals, strange blue people, and dangerous men roam the world these two women struggle to survive. Eventually they will each realize that they cannot hide forever and eventually will have to brave the new world created by the flood.

This novel is an excellent example of a post apocalyptic setting. With devices both dark and uneasily humorous Ms. Atwood gives us a world that is simultaneously terrifying and fascinating. If you are a fan of On the Road or Blindness then this is a novel that you don't want to miss.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

A Court of Thorns and Roses

This weeks book recommendation is A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas.

I am sure you have gathered by now that I love a good fairy tale retelling and I love stories that have a little romance to them. I shy away from the full blown romance novel but I just don't think that a novel is very exciting if there isn't some sort of romantic relationship involved. This novel had both.

The story introduces us to a young woman named Feyre (pronounced Fay-ruh) whose family has fallen from financial grace. As the youngest of three daughters Feyre remembers very little of what it was like to not worry about where her next meal was coming from. But while her sisters spend every penny that they can get their hands on and their father spends most of his days sitting by the fire with his crippled leg, Feyre has taught herself to hunt. It is what keeps her family alive. It is also what leads her into a destiny that she never saw coming.

Feyre's family lives close to the wall that separates the Fae lands from the human world. Once the god like fae had ruled humans and kept them as their own personal slaves. But a war of rebellion forced the High Fae Lords to give up much of their territory and sign a treaty that prevents them from ever setting foot outside of their lands. At least that is what it is supposed to do.

One fateful day Feyre is out hunting and she comes upon a doe. The meat of the animal would feed her family for several weeks at least and she knows that she can sell the pelt in town for some extra coin. As she knocks the arrow she senses that she is not the only one that is hunting the doe. Looking into the surrounding forest she sees a large wolf. So large that there is only one possible thing that it can be. Fairie. Like most of her brethren Feyre has grown up hating the Fae. She barely hestitates before drawing the ash arrow, the only weapon against the fae that she possesses, and killing the large creature. Thus setting in motion the rest of the story.

Feyre is claimed by another Fairy. One who can transform into a beast. He comes because according the treaty any human who kills a Fae creature unprovoked must pay with their own life. But the strange fairy has no intention of killing Feyre. Instead he takes her back to his home at the Spring Court and there she will live out the rest of her days. Now Feyre is thrust into a world that she doesn't understand with a High Fae Lord who is both maddening and handsome. And all she can wonder is whether or not she has been taught wrong her whole life.

This novel is a wonderful retelling of the classic Beauty and the Beast tale. Specifically I believe it is the version often called East of the Sun and West of the Moon. Like her other novels, several of which have been reviewed on the blog, Maas gives us a female heroine who is both likable and often times annoying. Now I know that sounds less than appealing but I think it humanizes the character in a way that makes her particularly relatable and extremely real. This is not an easy task in writing and I think that Maas does it wonderfully.

While I will say there are few moments where Feyre and her longing for the High Lord border on annoying Maas eventually realizes that it is time to move on with the story. She thrusts the reader right back into the action of the story and presents us with a great representation of what will one do to save the one that they love?

I recommend this retelling to anyone who is a fairy tale fan and also to anyone who likes a good old fashioned fantasy adventure story. Plus, when you finally meet the villain of the story they are absolutely terrifying. Enjoy my bookworms!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Red Queen

This week's Book Recommendation is Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard.

In this post apocalyptic world it isn't the color of your skin that determines your place in the world. It is the color of your blood. If you are a Red, meaning your blood is red, you live in slums or worse and live only to serve the elite Silvers, those with silver blood and special powers. The powers range from super human strength, ability to control water and other elements, mind control, and many others.

Mare Barrow is a Red and a thief. She has stolen from the Silvers and the Reds alike to help support her family. But, Mare knows her time is running out. In two weeks she will be eighteen and since she has neither an apprenticeship or a job she faces one thing. Conscription. She will be sent to the front lines that has been waging between her country and the Lakelanders for decades. Her three older brothers are already there and the possibility of seeing them is the only bright spot in an otherwise bleak future.

Until a clandestine meeting with a stranger lands her a job in the Silver Palace. Now she finds herself at the center of everything she is against. Serving the very people that have dictated her life as worthless. It is while serving the Silvers that Mare discovers that she has a special power of her own. One that no one can explain and one that makes her a threat to the rule of the Silvers.

This was a novel that I had a very hard time putting down. Aveyard writes a heroine who despite being seventeen is very self aware and not at all naive about how the world works. The book itself is very cinematic which is not surprising as Aveyard is a USC Film School graduate and the pacing is excellent. There is not a moment of the novel spent on something that one might consider boring or uneccessary. While there are several characters that fit the typical YA Fantasy Novel archetype Aveyard makes up for that by throwing in small twists and creating a world that is simultaneously Hunger Games and X-men. On top of that she doesn't shy away from realism. With a revolution on her hands the author includes the tough choices and the collateral damage that no uprising can avoid.

If you are a fan of the Hunger Games, Partials, Michael Grant, or the post apocalyptic genre I highly recommend this novel. I personally will anxiously be awaiting the sequel and there is already an IMDB page created for a potential movie or television show. Sweet!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Mortal Instruments

First off Happy Mother's Day to Every Mother Out there!

This week's Sunday Series Recommendation is The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare.

I first picked up this series while I was working as a stage manager's assistant in Boston and at the Barnes & Noble in Hyannis. One of my coworkers at the bookstore recommended the series to me after we had a discussion about good young adult fiction. This book series easily falls into that category.

The first installment of the series, whose final book came out last spring, is the book City of Bone. The series follows heroine Clary Fray. A seemingly normal teen living in New York. One night she heads out to a club called Pandemonium with her friend Simon and while there she hardly expects to witness three teens covered in strange tattoos commit a murder. Nor does she expect to be unable to call the cops when the body disappears. Shaken Clary leaves the club unsure of what exactly she witnessed. It gets even stranger when she sees one of the teens again outside her staple coffee destination. His name is Jace, a boy who looks like Adonis and acts like Narcissus.

He wants to know how she was able to see him and his fellow Shadowhunters. Within twenty four hours of this meeting Clary returns home to find her mother has disappeared and a demonic creature waiting for her. She manages to fend of the creature until Jace, who had been following her, arrives to dispatch the creature. But Clary has been bitten and she can feel the demon's poison working its way through her body. Jace decides to try something. Taking his stele, a magic weapon named for an angel, he draws a mark on her skin. Clary's world fades to black and when she wakes she find that she has been dragged into the middle of war that she didn't know existed.

While I will say there are a few moments where this novel toes the line of the Twilight series which I will say I am not a fan of, the story is well written. Clary is a heroine who is strong of character for the most part and she certainly embraces the changes thrown at her. As the novels continue she does grow stronger, both physically and mentally, although she does have moments of teen angst that can sometimes be a little hard to swallow. But, for each of those moments Clare balances it with her other characters. There are several relationships that are more adult in nature and handle themselves as such. This is not to say that Clary isn't a mature character. Clare expertly handles the balance between adulthood and adolescence.

One of the major reasons to read this series is also for the world that Clare has built. Its intricacies are fascinating and you'll find yourself wondering about the lore of the Shadowhunters and its real world inspirations. Clare also presents the world in a believable manner by weaving it within the fabric of the real world. There are also lovely book epitaphs at the beginning of each chapter proving that Clare herself is very well read. It actually inspired me to pick up some of the classics that I had neglected in my own reading. Its definitely worth a read! Make sure to read it before the premiere of ABC Family's Shadowhunters t.v series. Oh, and honestly you can skip the movie that they made. There are parts that are fun but its not a very good adaptation. The series however looks promising.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Help for the Haunted

This Week's Book Recomendation is Help for the Haunted by John Searles.

The novel follows Sylvie Mason the youngest daughter of a Sylvester and Rose Mason. The Mason's have a very interesting profession. When they are not traveling giving lectures of the occult this husband and wife team help those who are haunted by malevolent spirits and demonic presences. The story begins on a snowy February evening when Sylvie hears her parents receive a phone call. At first nothing seems amiss as they often receive late night phone calls from prospective clients. But as she listens to the conversation Sylvie senses that there is something different about this call.

When her mother comes to wake her Sylvie climbs into the car with her parents without question. She is told to try and sleep in the back seat of the car while her father drives them to an old church where he was once a deacon. They are to meet Sylvie's older sister Rose, who shares their mother's name, because she wants to talk. Sylvie's father enters the church first leaving his wife and younger daughter in the car. After an hour or so has passed Sylvie's mother decides to venture into the church herself. Now Sylvie is left in the car alone while the snow continues to fall around her. Until her own curiousity gets the better of her and she too ventures into the church. As she enters she sees several indistinct figures near the altar but before she can make them out there is a loud noise and her world goes black. When Sylvie comes to she is in a hospital bed, a detective is waiting to speak with her, and she is now an orphan.

From this point on the novel moves between the present and the past as Sylvie tries to piece together the truth about what her parents did and the circumstances surrounding their deaths. Sylvie recalls details of events prior to her deaths as she moves through the days following their murders. Meeting new people and rekindling old relationships.

One of the things that I really loved about this novel was the writing. It had a cinematic feel to it and I could picture just about everything. From the creepy details of a doll that might be possessed, an item that I found particularly terrifying, and the other items that the parents removed from people's houses. You will find yourself drawn into the mysteries. Who killed the Masons? Did they really save people from demons? Who did Sylvie see in the Church that night?

If you are looking for a book that will keep you on the edge of your seat and have you guessing up until the very end, this is definitely a book that you should check out Bookworms!

Friday, May 1, 2015

Author of the Week: Tamora Pierce

This weeks Author you should know about is one of my personal writing heroines Tamora Pierce.

Pierce was born December 13th, 1954 in South Connellsville, PA. She grew up with two sisters one of who would inspire Pierce's character Alanna. She grew up poor, self admitted on her website, but she always found things to treasure in her life. One of those things were books. While she shared books like Horton Hears a Who and The Cat in the Hat with her sisters, she personally owned copies of the Winner the Pooh books by A.A. Milne and she read those until the book covers fell off. A sentiment that I can relate to.

In 1963 her family made a two week trek across the United States to settle in California where her father had been transfered for work. Here at the suggestion of her Father young Tamora began to write her own stories. She was an avid fan of Star Trek among other science fiction and she wrote stories based off those. She also, after being introduced to The Lord of the Rings wrote stories based off the characters she loved so much there. I guess today we would call that fan fiction but during her youth this was just exercising the writing muscle for your own fun. As she read these novels and others by authors like Ray Bradbury (also a personal favorite) she realized that there was one crucial aspect missing. There were no kick ass female teenage heroines. So she started writing them herself. This is something that Pierce would also come back to later in life.

Like all great writers, in my opinion, Pierce went through a phase where she lost her ability to write stories. During that time she decided to attend the University of Pennsylvania to study psychology. During her time there she received an education to be sure but she was all over the board when it came to classes that her degree simply said Bachelor of Arts. Don't ask her what her major actually was. She never finished the psych degree. However, she did spend a lot of her time and even her post college life working with young woman who were, as she said, "as messed up as my sisters and I were." She even read, an abridged version, of the Alanna stories to her girls at a home that she worked at.

Eventually she wrote her first novel which was apparently terrible but it was novel length and that was all that mattered. At another point someone suggested she write about her childhood but she found that very hard to do. She sold short stories, having beaten her years long writers block, and wrote and acted for a radio broadcasting company in New York. It was here that she met the man who she would one day marry.

All of this eventually led her to write a novel called The Song of the Lioness. Only after an editor read the manuscript and suggested she break it down into a quartet did we get the young adult series we know it as today. In 1983 Alanna: The First Adventure  was published by Antheneum and Pierce's literary career began its slow climb to what it is today.

I began my love affair with Pierce's novels not with her first book series but rather with her second The Immortals which is about a heroine named Daine who can talk to animals. It was no surprise that this was how I discovered her as I was and to this day am an avid animal lover. After Immortals I backtracked and read The Song of the Lioness series but my true love was Kel. There is a previous blog post on that particular series archived here.

One of the things I love about Pierce's novels is the heroines are strong, smart, and resourceful. Alanna challenges the restrictions bestowed on women by the patriarchal society she lives in. Daine proves that compassion and empathy should be extended to all creatures. Kel shows us that you have to put in the hard work to get where you want to go. And these are just a few of Pierce's heroines.

If you are a parent or teacher with young girls I definitely recommend giving this book to them. I will warn you that there is some adult subject matter, her heroines are no strangers to sex, it is handle gracefully and devoid of graphics. But it is there. However, I believe that these heroines are important characters to share with young women. Especially in today's society. They are excellent role models and one of the major reasons I became a bookworm and writer myself.

For more info on Ms. Pierce check out her websitre http://www.tamora-pierce.com/index.htm. And you can also find a complete list of her books there or on goodreads.com.



Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Changes

Good Morning Fellow Bookworms!

As you might've noticed there has been a decline in the number of posts that I have done recently. I will not bore you with explanations, especially since that is not what this blog is about, simply put I will say that life happens. Sometimes it gets in the way of things that you enjoy.

So in an effort to continue with the blog I have decided to make some changes to how this is done. I will still be doing Book Series Sunday and then regular book posts will happen every Wednesday beginning next week. Friday is going to be new type of post called Author Day where I will choose an author, either contemporary or classic, that I feel you should know about. In the post I will include a bit of biography, why I personally like them, and a list of some to all of their books.

Keep reading Bookworms!

-Ariel