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.