So Gillian (Writer of Wrongs) and I decided that a reread of this series wasFor more reviews, gifs, Cover Snark and more, visit A Reader of Fictions.
So Gillian (Writer of Wrongs) and I decided that a reread of this series was totally necessary to life happiness. The Mediator series was my favorite of Meg Cabot’s stuff back in the day, and I love revisiting old favorites. Though I don’t have time to binge, they are fun, fast reads and will totally prevent slumping with their awesome. In some ways, Shadowland wasn’t as good as I remembered, but mostly it was still totally bitching and I loved it.
Meg Cabot brings the humor like few people can. She is at her best when she’s being totally silly and going for pure entertainment. The Mediator series actually blends in some dark paranormal stuff, but the overall tone remains hilarity. Suze is a Mediator, which means she can see dead people Haley Joel Osment style and talk them to the next life or whatever. Only her dead people don’t look like they did when they died with bullet holes or whatever; they look nice, because hello we’re trying to have fun here.
Susannah Simon is wonderful. The reason I loved these books so much is in large part due to her. She’s kind of a bitch, but in the best way. Nobody messes with Suze without getting punched in the face or told off, depending on her mood at any given time. Basically, Suze defends herself and also other people. She is not someone to stand by and watch bullying happen. Also, she comes up with hilarious names for people, like her new step-brothers, who she calls Sleepy, Dopey, and Doc.
So far, Doc is the most interesting of Suze’s family members. He’s the youngest son of her mom’s new husband, and he is a genius. Doc (David) is adorably awkward, constantly feeling the need to unload his knowledge on people. That could be annoying, but he also really cares and is so sweet to Suze. Sleepy (Jake) shows hints of becoming the awesome character I think I remember him being later, but mostly he lives up to his name. Dopey’s the worst. The parents are nice, but not all that much part of the story yet. I do like how the step-family is shown in a good light, with no real drama.
Also, Jesse de Silva. I’d forgotten how relatively minor his role was in this first book. He’s fabulous of course, but he’s not really shining yet. He’s this super hot ghost living in her room of the family’s old house. He is a bit overly interested in her too quickly, but I also feel like he was probably really bored and astounded to find someone who could see and touch him, so I get it.
Shadowland is hilariously dated. Like, Susannah discusses things like second phone lines and looking up phone numbers in her date book. The slang is all over the place and quite frequent. Some of it is in line with 2000 when the book came out, and some things like “hosed” are ones I’ve only heard people of my parent’s generation say. But, whatever, it’s hilarious. Also hilarious is when Suze asked Doc if their school had computers. We had a computer lab and computers in the library at my public elementary school back in the early 90s, so I’m pretty confident that in 2000 an expensive private school would definitely have them. Pretty much any school anywhere would.
If you need something light that will make you laugh, you cannot go wrong with an old school Meg Cabot novel. This is a universally acknowledged truth, y’all....more
Oh, childhood, Roald Dahl takes me right back. I will always love Roald Dahl's work, because of how much these books meant to me as a kid, not that thOh, childhood, Roald Dahl takes me right back. I will always love Roald Dahl's work, because of how much these books meant to me as a kid, not that they're not fun now, of course, but the experience really is not quite the same. Unlike with a lot of my childhood reads, dimmed to hazy memories, I have a strong recollection of my first time reading James and the Giant Peach. Much as I loved Roald Dahl (personal favorites being the BFG, The Witches, Boy, and Matilda), I dreaded reading this book, popular as it was. In my younger years, completely different from now, I was a picky reader, wandering shelves, unsure what to read. Thus when an author tickled my fancy, I embarked on all of their books that I could get my hands on. As such, eventually the time came when I had to cave and read James and the Giant Peach.
"But Christina," you might ask, "why did you not want to read this children's classic, much beloved by many you knew and by one of your favorite authors?" Well, my dear friends, the answer is simple. All my life, I have had a phobia of just about every kind of bug. My childhood self read that synopsis and looked at that cover and thought whatever the childhood equivalent of OH HELL TO THE NO was, which, I suppose, would be something in the vein of YOU CAN'T MAKE ME. Though precisely who would be trying to force me I have no idea, as my parents let me choose my own reading material.
To try to keep what has already morphed into a rather long story from becoming a tome of giant peach proportions, I caved and read it, and, as ever, Roald Dahl charmed me utterly, perhaps more than usual because he won me over in spite of my stubborn, childish desire NOT to like the book. Ever since then, I've remembered James and the Giant Peach as a favorite. Rereading a book that meant so much to you as a tiny tot is always a treacherous prospect, because, sometimes, you discover that the book that so impacted you has all of the wit and charm of Mr. Collins.
Of course, with Roald Dahl, you're pretty safe. In my case, I found that I could not enjoy this one nearly so much as an adult, but that I could still bask in the glow of Roald Dahl's boundless imagination. Seriously, that man was a freaking international treasure. How in the world did he come up with that? How did that brainstorming session go? "Mmm, this peach is delicious. Rather large. I wish I could live in a peach with my insect and arachnid friends..." The whole story runs with the absurd, making an art of it. This book would be a perfect transition to chapter books for kids who best love Dr. Seuss' wordplay and silliness.
As an adult, I just found myself unable to lose myself in the magic of the tale the way I did as a child. I kept trying to impose logic where there was never meant to be any. Admittedly, some of the absurdities, like James' parents having been eaten by an escaped rhinoceros from the zoo, are quite humorous. Others, such as how the giant peach came into existence or the fact that sea gulls carried that peach across the Atlantic Ocean without stopping, my grown up brain could not just accept.
The fact that Dahl wrote in an earlier time is very apparent in the peach's origin. James is just sitting around outside moping, when this weird man approaches him and offers him a bunch of squirmy little bright green things. He tells James to eat them so that something magical can happen to him. In the modern world, if a stranger gives you something weird like that, you better get to running and hollering your fool head off. Thankfully, James is a klutz and drops all of the green things, thus saving us from finding out what would have happened to him.
Making the main characters James and a bunch of bugs now capable of rational thought was a clever way of allowing the child to shine. James, while exceedingly young, gets to be the problem solver, because, little life experience as he possesses, he knows more about the world than the insects do, aside from some biology lessons.
Something that I entirely did not recall about this book was how much poetry Dahl wove into the story. Every few chapters, someone sings a song or uses a poem to express themselves. The songs made sense to me, but exposition as poetry did not, though I'm sure as a kid it's the best. At the end, James addresses all of the mucky mucks in America, all freaking out because the peach just landed King Kong style on the top of the Empire State Building, and calms them by introducing his friends in a poem. Sadly, this may be more efficient and logical than how governments actually function. Children will delight in these, I have no doubt, but I'm very picky about poetry.
In all, James and the Giant Peach certainly did not impress me as much now, and I suspect that, for me at least, it's not his best. Still, he has imagination and humor like no other, and I imagine I will revisit this one again someday....more
On the surface, Princess Academy seems a silly tale, a story of a Prince choosing a bride, an obviousReview originally posted on A Reader of Fictions.
On the surface, Princess Academy seems a silly tale, a story of a Prince choosing a bride, an obvious read-a-like for Kiera Cass' The Selection. Of course, that is the crux of the story: the prince of Danland is to choose his bride from among the twenty girls of the proper age in Mount Eskel, a small territory town full of quarriers. The girls are required to spend a year in training for the Prince's coming. However, Princess Academy is so much more than that, and you would be a fool to pass it by because of that expectation.
The covers given to Shannon Hale's books market to middle grade readers, which I think is a shame. While middle graders could certainly read this book and enjoy it, so too can teens and adults. There is nothing childish about Hale's writing or the stories she tells. They are, however, free of swearing and sex, which might age them in the eyes of publishers. These books are not just for young folks.
When I saw Shannon Hale in person, she spoke to her motivations in becoming a writer for young people. She talked about how much reading meant to her as a child, and how she loved the stories of journeys. She compared that to all of the literary classics she was made to read in college, beautifully composed, but lacking in plot and story. As an author, she aims to compose books that do both, that can be both quality literature and entirely fun to read, told in a classic story arc. To my mind, she succeeds beautifully.
One of the largest themes of Princess Academy is that of class. Those in Mount Eskel live far from the rest of Danland. They have their own customs and interests. Their sole source of income is from the mining of linder, the best building stone in the land. Only in Mount Eskel can linder be found, and those that live there build their lives around it. They even have their own form of speech for use within the quarry, which is so loud normal conversation cannot be used. Quarry-speech constitutes the only truly fantastical element of Princess Academy. This ability feels magical and wondrous, and I commend Shannon for devising it.
Despite their unique skills, those in Mount Eskel are looked down upon by the lowlanders, the traders that come through town. Seen as stupid blue collar workers, the mountain people get no respect. As such, they have just as little affection for the lowlanders, viewing them solely as hateful people out to mess with hardworking citizens. These tensions can be felt in any society, the gap between the wealthy and the poor.
In the Princess Academy, the possible princesses get an opportunity no Mount Eskel person has ever had before: the chance to obtain a traditional education. In Mount Eskel, the learning always ran to the mining of Linder, and other skills necessary to survive on the mountain. No one in the town knew how to read or much of anything about the history of their country. Princess Academy points to the value in book learning and of language, but also indicates the power and beauty of the work of the miners. Both are important, and learning can improve anyone and any profession.
Miri, our heroine, is a tiny girl, not strong enough to mine linder, who does not really fit in. Perhaps the most important theme of the book is about realizing one's own strengths. While Miri may have no physical strength, her extraordinary cleverness helps her and others through life. Even that, though, might not be her largest contribution. Miri has a wonderful attitude and the ability to make others laugh. She excels in finding common ground with others, in creating friendships. This makes her such a wonderful, touching heroine.
The other girls, too, have real personalities. Unlike The Selection, in which only a couple of girls receive much notice, Shannon manages in this short book, to make sure that we have a good sense for quite a few of the girls. She gives even the most annoying ones a real sense of self, and attributes them with motivations for acting the way they do. In fact, even the evil school marm, who reminds me quite a bit of Umbridge in her disdain for the students and draconian punishments, is not simply a figure of evil. Shannon develops fascinating, lovable, flawed characters.
The romance, which I just have to comment on, is so well done. Shannon does not go for the easiest and most obvious routes. Her books always make me feel and give me butterflies of happiness when the couples finally get together. She manages to make me swoon without even writing in a kissing scene. This, my friends, is true skill.
This was my second read through Princess Academy and I love it every bit as much as I did on my first time through. Shannon is one of my favorite authors for a reason....more
Shaun and Georgia Mason are adopted siblings and well-respected bloggers. Georgia's a newsie, meaning that she tells the truth without bias, only the facts. Shaun's an Irwin (as in Steve), which means he likes to poke zombies with sticks. Oh right, did I not mention the zombies? There are zombies. And they do want to eat your brains or any other part of you they can get a hold of. Anyway, back to Shaun and Georgia. They, along with their fictional/techno-genius friend Buffy get selected to follow along on Senator Ryman's presidential campaign, which is super amazing, because the government has never taken bloggers seriously before. They're thrilled, until mysterious and awful things start happening around them.
My description of Feed kind of sucks, but I can't really think of how to improve it. Suffice it to say that there are zombies, mayhem, politics and sarcasm. What more does one need? It really is harder sometimes to summarize a really good book, because they tend to be a little deeper, making it hard to put all of the awesomeness into a summary. Thankfully, I can mention all of that in my review.
Zombies are ridiculous. We all know this, even those of us who rather like to read about them. There's not really any scientific reason to believe zombies possible; personally, I would more readily believe in pretty much any paranormal creature before I would believe in zombies. Unicorns? Sure, my young self is delighted and says they exist! Vampires? Why not? People can be cannabalistic, besides Catholics already drink their saviors blood. Back to pseudo-seriousness, though, Feed has the best explanation of zombie-fication that I have seen thus far. Grant also does a good job of giving a description and then doing the authorial equivalent of shrugging her shoulders and telling the audience to suspend disbelief, but in a good way.
I absolutely loved Feed from the first page. Why? Georgia/George. She is fantastically snarky and grumpy and sarcastic. She's like me, only with worse eyes (mine suck, but at least I can go out on a sunny day). Not every other character feels fully dimensional, but they are all built out in a believable way, to the degree that George understands/cares about them. George is standoffish and only bothers to learn about certain people, so everyone wouldn't be distinct in her world.
The writing is pretty fantastic. I always know an author has talent when he/she can write distinct voices and you can tell who's who without necessarily needing to be told. Grant achieved this. The little snippets from the various characters' blogs so obviously correspond to one or the other, even before you reach the part telling the author's name.
The format was pretty great, too. The bulk of the story was told from George's perspective, with only well-integrated background. The quotes from blogs enabled Grant to put in some more back story, which might not have fit in the flow of a characters every day thoughts without making the novel feel forced.
One thing that really amazed me about Feed was that it wasn't a dystopia the way you would expect. You would generally think that the zombies were the problem, right? Not really. I mean, they are a concern, but society has figured out how to live with the problem. The United States really is much the same as it has ever been, which is why the fact that it's a dystopia is even more of a creepy reflection on our current lifestyle.
In some ways, the society in Feed is the one I would least be willing to live in of all of the dystopias I've read. Okay, only in one way. But still. What's my problem with this rather-better-than-most vision of the near future (2040)? Needles. These people get blood tests approximately 85,000 times every day, to ensure that they are not in the process of becoming zombies. As a person who refuses to get the flu shot every year because I'd rather take my chances, this is not a future I want to be a part of. Needles are the worst.
Oh, and, less seriously, you may have noticed in my less-than-inspired description that there's a character called Buffy. She's actually named Georgette, but she figured, hey, I'm short and blond and cute...what else would my name be? Loving the reference so hard. And I'm fairly certain that Joss Whedon would appreciate it and the book as well. (I could be wrong, but this is my guess.)
To conclude a final iteration of how much I enjoyed this book (which I totally need to add to my personal collection and NEED the sequel to) and a quote in honor of my friends Heather and Nori, both awesome bloggers: "No levels, no van. No van, no coffee. No coffee, no joy." Seriously, go read this one! ...more
ara Crewe is a child gifted with a remarkable imagination, intelligence and a doting father. When her father dies, her intelligence is useful certainlara Crewe is a child gifted with a remarkable imagination, intelligence and a doting father. When her father dies, her intelligence is useful certainly, but it is her imagination that really pulls her through the tough times. She wonders in the beginning of the book whether she is actually nice or not, because she has never experienced a hardship. I really loved that when hardship came, she struggled to maintain her princess demeanor. She got angry and wanted to respond spitefully to ill treatment, but made the conscious decision to rise above. This makes Sara feel like a real girl, not like some absurd Pollyanna.
I am always happy to find another book lover, and such is Sara Crewe. One of the most trying moments of the book for her in her battle to keep her temper is when her reading is interrupted: "Never did she find anything so difficult as to keep herself from losing her temper when she was suddenly disturbed while absorbed in a book. People who are fond of books know the feeling of irritation which sweeps over them at such a moment." Delightful.
There was one element of the story that is a bit...odd...from a modern perspective. That is that the Indian servant, Ram Dass, watches Sara while she is inside and even comes into the room while she is sleeping. His intentions are entirely noble and he is doing good. Still...it's hard not to be at least a wee bit creeped out by that these days.
Although a children's book, this classic loses nothing when read by an older audience. I highly recommend this to anyone who believes in magic! Also, if you haven't seen it, definitely check out the 1995 film version, because it manages to capture the magic of the book and even improve upon the story (in my opinion)!...more
I debated between 2 and 3 stars for this one, but rounded up for the sake of nostalgia. I used to LOVE this manga, so much so that I've actually readI debated between 2 and 3 stars for this one, but rounded up for the sake of nostalgia. I used to LOVE this manga, so much so that I've actually read the thing four times now. It was never my favorite, but I had all these feels from it and I would turn to it to deal with my frustration that Takanashi's other series wasn't finished yet.
I mean, I still think it's okay, but it's got a lot of the typical problems. The protective guy who always gets his way and the girl who cries a lot. Plus, the premise, from my point of view, is stupid. Much of the drama of the series centers around the taboo of sibling love, only they're step-siblings and they met before they knew their parents were dating. They're not related by blood and they weren't raised as siblings, so, honestly, who gives a fuck? The heroine goes on and on about how they're doing something wrong and it's all so dramatic but give me a fucking break.
The other issue is that Takeru and Kayano basically have a perfect relationship unto themselves. They fall for each other really fast, and never have any relationship problems due to personality clashes. All of their problems are external, various people falling for one or the other and trying to pull them apart. Or family drama that attempts to separate them. *rolls eyes*
Still, for all that, Mitsuba Takanashi does a good job of making the hackneyed plot really readable, so that you can't resist flipping those pages even though you know it's not really that good....more
Fruits Basket is probably my very favorite manga that I have read to date. Now, I wholeheartedly admit that the premise is weird and unlikely, but, heFruits Basket is probably my very favorite manga that I have read to date. Now, I wholeheartedly admit that the premise is weird and unlikely, but, hey, it's fantasy. Anyway, if you can get past the initial outlandishness, you discover a story full of heart and darkness. This is my fourth or fifth time through the series, and I just love it more every time.
Having read through a few reviews on Goodreads, I know that this series, and the character of Tohru especially, gets a lot of flak for being too cutesy. It seems that some people did not buy Tohru's consistently positive attitude or her naivete. For me, it worked. Tohru has her painful past, and she does occasionally struggle to put forward that happy face. In fact, I think that she's an incredibly strong character, because she tries so hard and does her best to be happy no matter what life throws her way.
Also criticized is the zodiac curse. Yes, it's crazy and not likely. Who cares? The least popular aspect seems to be the fact that one of the side effects of the curse is that hugging a member of the opposite sex will turn them into their animal. It sounds so arbitrary and like it was solely introduced for hijinks and humor. Actually, I think that there's more to it. This part of the curse is what really separates the Sohma's from other people. They are drawn more into the family and unable to mingle in society for fear of discovery. Their curse is being stuck together.
What really makes me love this story so much though is the way that it grows and changes. In most series, there isn't too much of a marking of time, but in Fruits Basket, the characters change a lot in both personality and appearance. I love that you can literally see the characters growing up from children to adults. Additionally, I really appreciate the level of depth in pretty much all of the rather extensive set of main characters. Each one gets at least one chapter focusing on their own issues.
If you don't believe me about the depth of the story, here's a quote, which pretty much perfectly sums up being young: "It's good to be young, without experience in how to live, struggling desperately as if you were going to drown, even though you could float if you just drew on your own strength." I just love that. Above and beyond the fantasy plot, this is really just a touching story of a lot of broken people coming together and trying to find the courage to believe in themselves and to really love.
Not only that, but the art is gorgeous. It takes a couple of volumes for Takaya to get into the swing of things, but after that I occasionally find myself pausing and just staring at a particular frame to admire the beauty therein. Of course, manga art gets criticized a lot for being ridiculous, so if you don't like it, then you won't like the art here either, since it's got the standards (like big eyes versus narrow ones to indicate degrees of masculinity/femininity).
Do not be fooled by the pretty shoujo artwork and cutesy opening chapters, though. Fruits Basket is very dark and tackled a lot of painful issues, such as parental abuse. However, it does so with heart and hope. This will always be one of my very favorite works of literature....more