Author of The Coldest Heart, a YA paranormal romance about a girl who loves her boyfriend very much, but when the two of them get in trouble with the all-powerful Queen of New York, she wonders if he has her best interests at heart.
It was a great book. I bought it on the strength of its lovely cover and intriguing description, which in my paraphrase goes something like this: every morning A wakes up in a new body, and he is okay with this until he meets a girl and realizes that he wants to be with her every day.
The book has an unusual plot, and I enjoyed reading it apart from one problem, for which I didn’t take any stars off because...well, you’ll see. So, here’s the problem: A falls in love with a girl named Rhiannon because she looks sad. On the surface, this fact might sound innocent enough, but when you place it into the long-standing cultural tradition of idealizing frail and sick women, it looks much sadder. Here are a few pictures from the said tradition:
Carl Larsson, “The Invalid”
Leopoldo Romanach, “The Convalescent”
Louis Ridel, “Last Flowers”
In recent examples of YA lit, female characters are more often klutzy rather than fragile, as it happens for instance in Twilight. But sometimes they are also outright sick (The Fault in Our Stars, Me, Earl and the Dying Girl ). So I suppose Rhiannon is lucky to get away with just sadness rather than cancer. :) And also, that’s why I didn’t take any stars off.
I loved Manon Lescaut because it illustrated something I believe 100%: if you become a good girl in the way it is defined by patriarchal society, you will be killed off.
No, I don’t think Prévost meant for his book to prove my point, but it’s a short novel, and he couldn’t quite hide it. :)
So here is how it went down: a young nobleman (around 17 y.o.) falls for a very pretty sixteen-year-old girl who is in the process of being shipped to a convent by her family. The two teenagers elope together to Paris, where they live in sin, commit crimes (swindling people out of their money and cheating at card games), and get punished for that with jail time and banishment from France. When they arrive in America, they decide to marry and leave their sinful ways behind them, and what do you know, the girl is promptly killed off, because well, her past wasn’t exactly innocent and virginal, so she can’t be readmitted into polite society. The boy, on the other hand, gets back into the fold of French nobility just fine.
Recently, I saw that they are going to make yet another version of Beauty and the Beast, and I couldn’t understand why.
The way I see it, Beauty and the Beast has two possible interpretations. First, it’s about an arranged marriage. At its most basic, the plot of Beauty and the Beast revolves around one man making his daughter live with another dude indefinitely. The fairytale camouflages this transaction a bit: so supposedly, the father is in trouble and his daughter is saving him when she goes to live with a stranger, whom she, of course, sees as a beast because she’s scared and doesn’t know him. Good things are in store for the obedient daughter, though. When, eventually, she gets used to her captivity, she starts seeing the Beast as a human being, and they live happily ever after. In the times when all marriages were arranged by parents, this story was told to little girls so they would be excited about—or at least not rebelling against—the prospect of an arranged marriage.
The second interpretation is more timeless, but still solidly patriarchal. So, for one reason or another, a woman chooses (or sometimes is forced) to go and live with a male stranger whom she civilizes with her love, kindness, and tenderness. The civilized beast turns into a man, and a happily-ever-after ensues. BUT there is never an explanation as to why the woman had to waste her life on a beast rather than, I don't know, travel or start her own business. :)
I heard the latest massively successful book that uses the trope of a woman as a civilizing agent is The Fifty Shades of Grey where that young woman (I don’t remember her name) civilizes that young billionaire (I’m pretty sure his last name is Grey) out of his sadistic habits. So, it’s all sadness.
How do you interpret Beauty and the Beast?
Hysterical Realms is a collection of short stories parodying fantasy, fairy tales, and paranormal literature. I’m usually very careful around spoofs because they can be just too silly for my taste, but this anthology was very funny. I particularly liked “Parking for the Apocalypse” by Branden Linley. It’s about four horsemen of Apocalypse coming to Austin, Texas, to bring about the end of days. Only they can’t park their chariot, which is why they can’t start their Armageddon. And so they bicker and keep on driving around, and Famine is always hungry and always talking about stopping for some fast food, and Death quietly does not want the world to end because he has some side deal with Taxes. It’s hilarious.
Also, some stories in this collection had unusual twists. For example “Dungeoneering for Dummies” by Clay Sheldon describes a city where delving into dungeons is as widespread as hiking or mountaineering. There are professional dungeoneers. There is also a professional organization for them called The Heroes Guild, and its senior member is harassed into coming up with tips and tricks for beginning dungeoneers. His main tip is to not delve into dungeons because it’s dangerous. I loved it.
I also found reading these stories relaxing. Since I knew the characters would be okay at the end of each story, I didn’t stress. I would recommend this anthology to anyone who wants some light-hearted reading.
I was given an Advanced Reader Copy in exchange for an honest review.
We're working out the fine details for a writing contest that will result in a published anthology and should have all the kinks ironed out in a couple of days. In the meantime, who wants to have a mini-contest?
500 words for a short. Anything Horror related. Post here on the page and vote on the stories others post by Liking them. Also include a link to your book if you have one and I will personally buy the winner's book! If the winner hasn't published a book, I'll think of something else.
Deadline: 30 April 2015. Start writing and posting!"
So, Horror writers out there, one more chance to spread your name around the Internet. Please reblog!
I totally bought this book because of the description:
“As a child, Kathy—now thirty-one years old—lived at Hailsham, a private school in the scenic English countryside where the children were sheltered from the outside world, brought up to believe that they were special and that their well-being was crucial not only for themselves but for the society they would eventually enter. Kathy had long ago put this idyllic past behind her, but when two of her Hailsham friends come back into her life, she stops resisting the pull of memory.
And so, as her friendship with Ruth is rekindled, and as the feelings that long ago fueled her adolescent crush on Tommy begin to deepen into love, Kathy recalls their years at Hailsham. She describes happy scenes of boys and girls growing up together, unperturbed—even comforted—by their isolation. But she describes other scenes as well: of discord and misunderstanding that hint at a dark secret behind Hailsham’s nurturing facade. With the dawning clarity of hindsight, the three friends are compelled to face the truth about their childhood—and about their lives now.”
And just as totally I bought the book in spite of its rather atrocious cover. Here it is:
This woman seems to be wearing a wig. Why? And why does she sit in all this greenery? I mean, technically, yes, the author mentions shrubs and trees and whatnot around Hailsham, the house where the protagonist Kathy grows up, but they are not very important. And besides, am I imagining things or does this spot look like a Japanese garden? And could that be because the author has a Japanese name?
Anyway, the book itself is great. It’s satisfyingly complex, and Kathy is a very meticulous, logical narrator. She describes one event, and during this description she would mention another event, and then she would repeat this process, and the book goes on like knitting, one loop after another. I loved it.
I also loved how "Hailsham" is a play on "hail" and "sham" because that's what that school did: it was hailing sham.
But I did have a few problems with the book, the biggest one being that the author, in my opinion, is hiding from a huge question. So, Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy are clones, and they are made for one purpose only: organ harvesting. They are raised in an orphanage by a bunch of guardians who teach them everything a non-clone child would be taught. More than that, the guardians don’t hide from the kids what will become of them, but they apparently soften the specifics. Or maybe they soften some other things. I don’t know. The author only tells us that while the clones know about their organ-donating future, they are somehow also lied about it. So that they wouldn’t despair.
And all of this is good, but I wish I knew exactly what these kids were told because when later neither Kathy nor Ruth nor Tommy tries to escape from England or fight these enforced donations, I don’t believe it. Why don’t they try to escape? I know I am sort of spoiled by that movie The Island that has the same premise as Never Let Me Go: clones are made to be later cut up for organs. Well, in The Island, the protagonist, who is obviously a clone, escapes AND fights back.
However, I also understand the important difference between The Island and Never Let Me Go. In The Island, the clones spring into existence while already being adults, and in Ishiguro’s book, they start out as babies. And mind, I do believe you can brainwash kids into anything, but since Ishiguro does not tell us exactly what lies or softened truths those guardians fed to the kids, I have trouble buying that Kathy would never try to escape. She looks perfectly human; she does not seem branded on the face or anything. Ishiguro does withhold from us any info on how Kathy and her friends look, but in more than one episode, they go to a town populated by humans, and nobody points fingers at them, so they must look human enough. And while not all clones learn how to drive, Kathy does. She also has a car and knows the roads (this is specifically mentioned). Finally, as a caretaker for other clones, Kathy is required to drive long distances alone. So why doesn’t she run?
Recently, The Bees was on sale, of which I learned through Bookbub. So I went to Amazon to check it out and read the following review from Margaret Atwood no less: “[A] gripping Cinderella/Arthurian tale with lush Keatsian adjectives.” But is it a praise or shade, sort of like, "Heh, she couldn't even come up with an original plot"?