I think the best way to sum up Shirley Marr's Preloved is to say, whatever you are expecting? It isn't that. Not exactly, anyway. I read tons of revieI think the best way to sum up Shirley Marr's Preloved is to say, whatever you are expecting? It isn't that. Not exactly, anyway. I read tons of reviews that try to explain. Marr says it herself when she describes it as "more a bad romance, less of a love story. And it's more abnormal than paranormal," but still, I went in thinking I knew what it would be. I was wrong, and I was blown away. I tore open my manila mailer, seated myself on the couch, and started reading. I sort of grunted incoherently at my husband as he thrust a glass of tea and a sandwich in my hand somewhere around dinner time, only to finally surface hours later to a quietly sleeping house.
I went in expecting a book that would extol the awesomeness of the 80s -- The Cure, Labyrinth, Princess Bride, Rainbows on everything. And they were all there; but so was the Challenger, Chernobyl and the fall of the Berlin Wall. I expected a little gratuitous nostalgia or the 80s used as an "exotic" backdrop (Hah! Now I know why my mom would get twitchy when we talked about how long ago the 60s were!) Marr was able to display the 80s in all their fab-glam glory while still showing that everyday people were living out their lives -- just as they are today.
I went in expecting a love story. And, boy does it deliver! Only, it's not of the teen romance variety (yep, there's a bit of bad romance there). Instead, it is about familial love. Amy and her mother have hands down one of the best mother/daughter relationships I have ever read. Marr helps you feel everything between them: the push and pull, the frustration, the suffocating clingyness, and the all-encompassing, ever-abiding love.
It was interesting as an American to explore the evolution of slang and trends not only between the 1980s and now, but also America and Australia. I think most Americans would, unlike Amy, still recognize and use the word "spaz" (my little brother calls me this on a regular basis), but I had no clue what was going on with this Mr. Matey thing until I YouTubed it. (We had Mr. Bubble; just as creepy but at least no talking of taking off clothes!) I also completely love the way Marr incorporated Chinese culture. I was fascinated by all the different superstitions, traditions and rituals. It made my day when I found out that ALL of them are true, told straight to Marr from her mother.
I also think it is incredible that in amongst all the 80s camp and ghostly shenanigans, Marr was able to write a wonderfully compelling and relatable story about a young girl coming of age and coming to terms with who those around her really are, and what they mean to her. It will be worth the extra work to get my own copy.
Opression is a relatively quick read, a mostly fast-paced, plot-driven novel with lots of action. It was fun while reading; and Therrien comes up withOpression is a relatively quick read, a mostly fast-paced, plot-driven novel with lots of action. It was fun while reading; and Therrien comes up with some interesting new ideas about Greek Gods and their Mythos. It is a pretty strong debut, and infinitely better than most of the other YA books taking on the Gods right now. (Yes, The Goddess Test and Starcrossed, I'm looking at you.)
unfortunately, Therrien's characters seriously lack consistency; and this inconsistency can be found in all of her characters, to varying degrees, but especially Elyse, Will and Kara. Of these three, Kara's conflicting actions and character traits are the most easily reconciled because we are allowed to see her motivations toward the end of the novel. Elyse and Will, however, remain an odd mixture of excellent traits and terrible ones. Elyse at times appears very strong, smart and independent. Sometimes she gets really angry when she sees bad things happen, and gets ready to take on injustices. At other times she just meekly allows other people to tell her what to do or what she can or cannot know. Similarly, she can completely dismissed REALLY TERRIBLE THINGS from her mind right after they happen so that they will not ruin her or her friends' fun. Will, likewise, can go from a really sweet, romantic guy to bit of a jerk without much warning. He keeps things from her 'for her own good.' And, naturally, there is Instalove with a lot of MeantToBe thrown in.
There are also some pretty serious (possibly spoilery!) holes in the world building. It doesn't really make sense that everyone within the world of the Descendants knows about the prophecy, but no one really does anything about it for most of the novel. Nor does it make sense that - knowing Elyse is supposed to lead their upcoming war - the "adults" within their community take a hands-off you'll-figure-it-out approach to her education. Also, what is with these "kids" going to school for 80+ years? (Presumably it is a result of the complete lack of required attendance policy they seemed to have?) Along the same lines, what is with allowing all these student to be taught by the previous leader of a rebellion and the husband of the woman who predicted the next one? It seems to me that the Council would exercise a bit more control over who was teaching the next generation.
I didn't really like how extreme the cliff hanger was - the last chapter almost seemed like it would do better as the first chapter of the next book - , nor did I think the novel was flawless, but I do think that Oppression was a pretty nice series start, and I will give the sequel at least the Library try.
I still vividly remember the very first time I read Buck's translation of the Mahabharata. It was my first semester back to school after taking time oI still vividly remember the very first time I read Buck's translation of the Mahabharata. It was my first semester back to school after taking time off to have my son. We lived in a large room that was a sort of add-on to the side of my parent's church and doubled as the nursery on Sundays. My husband was working nights while going to school full time. I was trying to juggle a 21 hour semester at school while simultaneously only having my toddler in daycare for half days. Needless to say, I had little enough time for school work, and even less for reading for pleasure. It was assigned reading for our Honors Humanities Project - basically a four semester course that combined World Literature, World History, Composition, Religions (and a bunch of other things I am sure I have now forgotten).
So, late one night as my son lie sleeping on a mattress in one corner of the room, I curled up with a lamp and Mahabharata in another - ready to get my assigned reading done for the week. As I began reading, though, something magical happened. I could no longer hear the soft snoring of my son, the whisk of cars along the highway outside the window, or the steady crunch of gravel as people pulled in and out of the liquor store across the street. (There is always a liquor store across from the church, isn't there?) Nor could I feel the weight of all the things I needed to do but hadn't yet done pressing down on me. For the first time in a long time I was transported somewhere else. Buck's words washed over me, through me, surrounded me, engulfed me. I did not stop at whatever arbitrary page had been chosen on the syllabus, but continued on until I had devoured it in full.
For a long time after that, I carried it with me to revisit. I loved the stories within stories within stories. I could reread the whole book, or the 30 page story within the book, or the 11 page story within the 30 page story, or the 2 page story within the 11 page story. I cannot read the Mahabharata in its original language, but I like to think that Buck did something very right in the way he chose to translate it. His language is lyrical. Reading it is like listening to the ocean, humming a lullaby, or listening to crickets and tree frogs in spring - but not quite. The cadence is comfortable, but also slightly unfamiliar. I understand all the words, but he puts them together in new ways that completely change the way I think about the words.
Five years and innumerable readings later I still love it as much as the first time I picked it up. The edges are a little worn, the pages a little smudged, the cover has some deep seams where it has been folded and can't be smoothed. Now, I read those small stories within the stories to my son at bedtime. Slowly working my way out to the larger stories, the bigger picture, even so far as to tell the story of Buck himself - a young man entranced by the spirit and flavor of the sweeping epics of India, intent on sharing them in his own language. I love becoming part of this tradition of stories of storytellers telling stories of storytellers, spiraling forward through the generations....more