Thursday, December 30, 2010

Werewolves

The theme for tonight is werewolves and the following are novels that I have either liked for some time or enjoyed recently.





Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause: Vivian Gandillon is a 16-year-old werewolf in a new school and a new town after her pack and her family are burned out of their old home. At her new school, Vivian meets Aiden, who is everything she wants: human, gentle and different. Eventually, Vivian must decide whether or not to tell Aiden the truth about herself. And if she does, can she deal with the consequences?

The thing I really love about Annette Curtis Klause is she doesn't write something you'll expect. Blood and Chocolate is not a black and white novel. The novel really makes use of that grey area and works with it really well. Another point is I really liked Vivian. She's strong, she thinks logically and she knows who she is and accepts it. I'm always happy when a female character is less of a weeping mess and more of a smart and collected individual. Really good novel.


And do yourself a favor, do not watch the film loosely based on this book. It is not a good film. I can understand why they did what they did but the movie became more of a joke than anything else.








Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce Sisters Rosie and Scarlett March are no stranger to the werewolves that walk upright amongst them. As children, they were attacked by one which left Scarlett with a physical reminder of the event. Together the sisters plan to take their revenge and destroy as many werewolves as they possibly can. Sisters Red is a retelling of the fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood.

First off, I love the cover. I adore how the separate images within the cover art fit together to create one image. The second thing that had me interested in this novel was that it's a retelling of a fairy tale. I admit that I am easily sold when there's a pretty cover and the story is fairy tale based.


What I really liked after reading the novel was how powerful Rosie and Scarlett were. The hunter image has always been a very male one so it was interesting to see these young girls step into those shoes. I also liked that this book wasn't solely about the monsters Rosie and Scarlett hunt but about the sisters themselves as individuals and their relationship. Rosie wants to be normal and stop hunting but Scarlett wants to do nothing but hunt. There were some things that irked me about the novel but they were small so overall, I really enjoyed it.






Shiver (Wolves of Mercy Falls Book One) by Maggie Stiefvater: Grace knows there are wolves in the woods behind her house. The same ones that dragged her off from her backyard during the winter when she was younger and almost killed her. She waits for the time when she can see the wolf with yellow eyes, the one that saved her from the others. At 17, Grace just might get her wish in the form of a wounded boy on her back porch. A boy with yellow eyes.


I love this series. I love the cover art, the alternating point of views and the poetic prose in which the story is told. It's a very atmospheric novel. I remember when I first read it, all I wanted to do was curl up in my room like it was the middle of winter instead of the beginning of fall.

I didn't expect to like the main character Grace. I really had this feeling that she would grate on my nerves the further I got into the novel (and eventually the series) but I still like her. She's very independent, brave and willing to fight until the end. I like that the novel while very time sensitive makes the effort to slow it down in particular moments. It's those moments that I think shine the most in the novels.

The final novel Forever comes out July 12, 2011 and I'm really looking forward to it. Bated breath, crossed fingers, edge of my seat, wishes upon stars and all that.




This is the Linger trailer and the music is done by Maggie herself. Such a multi-talented lady.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Zombies:The Walking Dead

As the title suggests, the theme for tonight is zombies. The earliest memory I have of zombies is this old movie from 1993 called My Boyfriend's Back. I didn't revisit the zombie sub-genre until later with Shaun of the Dead.





In terms of novels, it started with The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore: Put plainly, the series is about Rick Grimes waking up in the hospital alone from a coma to find that the world he left isn't the same one he's returned to. Something happened and now the Dead are walking. The series is about the events after Rick wakes up, the survivors he meets and his survival in a world where the Living is scarce.


What I really love about this series of graphic novels can be found in the introduction written by Robert Kirkman himself. While zombies are in the novel and part of the story, the main focus of the series is the human characters that we meet - the living and survivors. Who they are, their reactions, their decisions and what they become. The human condition is at its core and has been the subject of literature for so long (example: Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad) and I don't think it will ever be a boring subject because it continually reinvents itself.

Another point to be made about The Walking Dead series is the art. It's so well done and strong and it compliments the story perfectly. The high school art nerd in me just giggles giddily over it. Oh Rick Grimes, your chiseled jaw is appreciated.

The graphic novel series isn't finished but instead ongoing. Let's enjoy it while we can shall we?

The Walking Dead was also adapted for television recently by AMC (the guys/ladies who brought you Mad Men). I actually rushed home from work that Sunday night of October 31st just to watch it and I wasn't disappointed. I love it just as much as I love the graphic novels. The biggest complaint I've seen so far is that it's a slow moving show and that it needs more zombie action. I think in terms of adaptation, the tv series is trying to stay true to the graphic novels' spirit by focusing it more on the interactions and lives of the human survivors. People see zombies and they think it's going to be a gore fest and when they don't get what they want/expect, they're disappointed. There's more to The Walking Dead than that. I think people just need to shelve their expectations and be a lot more open minded about it.

The series just ended it's first season last weekend and will probably return next year around Halloween. That's, at least, what AMC seems to have promised its audience.






The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks: A survival guide for a zombie apocalypse that outlines almost all the possible human and zombie encounters. Words of wisdom that will keep you alive while the undead roam the streets of your neighborhood. "Use your head; cut off theirs."


World War Z by Max Brooks: A more serious turn this time around, this novel acts as a recorded future history of a zombie apocalypse. The facets of this new future is told through several different first-person accounts. People from all walks of life and from different countries sharing their stories and experiences. "Most people don't believe something can happen until it already has. That's not stupidity or weakness, that's just human nature."


So the first of Max Brooks' novels is a parody and a survival guide against zombies. A lot of fun to read and I couldn't stop laughing as I read it. Truly a good novel. The humor is spot on and it's something you'd love to read right after watching Shaun of the Dead for the thousandth time.

The second World War Z is a lot more serious. A fictional history of a zombie apocalypse told through the experiences of various characters. I really enjoyed it but I know not everyone will. It reads a bit like a literary history text and not everyone enjoys that. I still say take it out from the library and give it a try if you're not sure about it.









The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan: Mary's life is governed by simple rules. Listen to the Sisterhood and be careful around the fence at the edge of the village. Beyond that fence protecting the village, the Unconsecrated roam the Forest of Hands of Teeth. But the secrets Mary learns makes her question both rules. Soon chaos engulfs her village when the fence is breached and Mary must decide what to accept and what to fight for.


This novel is the first in a series which is followed by The Dead Tossed Waves (out now) and The Dark and Hollow Places(out spring 2011). This book reminds me greatly of M. Night Shamalan's 'The Village' film because it's about a closed community with an enemy on the outside of its walls. In this novel it's the living dead that roams the forest beyond the fences of the village. The relationships in this book are complicated and intense, which I enjoyed. And I also liked the religious aspect that got thrown into the mix with the Sisterhood and how the people in Mary's village allowed themselves to be controlled by it in order to survive. Overall, a superb book with good descriptions and interesting characters. Thought the novel as a whole flowed really well.



I watched a special on Halloween night all about zombies (in which various authors and filmmakers involved in the genre were featured including Max Brooks) and the one thing that stayed with me is the suggestion that the interest in zombies stems from the belief that everyone has a rotten and dark side. This malevolent nature finds a physical representation in the zombie.

Just some food for thought.




Halloween during the Christmas Holidays

So all assignments are handed in and all exams have been taken. I'm free from the stresses of school for approximately 2 weeks before I must sullenly trudge back. This is also in part, the reason why I haven't posted since October. Things got a little hectic.

And instead of just abandoning my planned Halloween blogs, I'm going to continue them.

My theme for this post is ghosts. That's right, those see through, white sheet wearing and metal chains clanking fiends of the night.



The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong: Chloe Saunders sees dead people. Yes, like in the films. The problem is, in real life saying you see ghosts gets you a one-way ticket to the psych ward. And at 15, all Chloe wants to do is fit in at school and maybe get a boy to notice her. But when a particularly violent ghost haunts her, she gets noticed for all the wrong reasons. Her seemingly crazed behaviour earns her a trip to Lyle House, a centre for disturbed teens.

At first Chloe is determined to keep her head down. But then her room mate disappears after confessing she has a poltergeist, and some of the other patients also seem to be manifesting paranormal behaviour. Could that be a coincidence? Or is Lyle House not quite what it seems…? Chloe realizes that if she doesn’t uncover the truth, she could be destined for a lifetime in a psychiatric hospital. Or could her fate be even worse…? Can she trust her fellow students, and does she dare reveal her dark secret?


This was the first novel by Kelley Armstrong that I actually attempted to read. She's a Canadian author and I vaguely remember seeing her books around every time I went into the bookstore but I never picked up any of novels before The Summoning. I genuinely love the series. In part that love stems from the creepy and supernatural element but a larger part of my love for this series belongs to the characters. All of them are different and not entirely likable. Yes, there are even times with where I couldn't stand Chloe but I don't thing it's a bad thing. Despite having powers or being affiliated with a type of supernatural creature, at the core they're all human individuals and they have their good days and their bad days.

The confusion of having powers and being different, at least I think, stands as a metaphor for puberty and represents the frustrating and scary elements of growing up. I think a lot of people can relate to that.

Also? The powers they have are pretty awesome and the story carries itself along the three books quite well. And if you have a chance and Kelley Armstrong is doing a signing near you, go to it. I went to the one in my city for the release of The Reckoning and it was a lot of fun. She's really nice and though I kind of wimped out (because I am painfully shy), it was a cool experience.

Important to note that The Summoning, The Awakening and The Reckoning has been released in one large volume. Try wal-mart or your local bookstore and it should be there if you want to buy it for yourself or for someone else as a Christmas present.







A Certain Slant of Light
by Laura Whitcomb: (From Publishers Weekly) Helen, a passionate lover of literature who's been "light" since her death 130 years ago, has spiritually attached herself, invisible, to human hosts for decades. But when she is one day seen by a kindred spirit literally in James, a ghost now inhabiting a teen junkie's form, everything changes. Helen takes over the body of Jenny, the "empty" daughter of strict fundamentalist Christians. As humans, the two ghosts experience new sensations; they navigate contemporary social and romantic mores and also remember more about their own past lives among the living. The intriguing premise and eerie execution of this tale will arrest romance and ghost story fans alike.

First of all, this is such a well written novel. I whimper a little when I think about it because it reminds me of the victorian novels that I've enjoyed in the past. The descriptions and language are so pretty and intense. I guarantee that you won't be able to put this book down and when you do, it'll be because you've finished it. A really good ghost story. Chilling but beautiful. But I must warn readers that this novel does deal with sexual situations. I wouldn't say it's heavily detailed like what most adult women are used to in their romance novels but it may make some individuals uncomfortable. Just a heads up.




The Mediator Series Book 1: Shadowland by Meg Cabot: (From Publishers Weekly)The Mediator series introduces high school sophomore Suze, who, in her words, has "this unfortunate ability to communicate with the dead." As a "mediator," the girl helps ghosts put unresolved issues to rest so they can move on to the next world. When her mother remarries, Suze moves from New York City to California, where she and her three stepbrothers attend a Catholic academy headed by a priest. Conveniently, the priest is also a mediator (the first of her kind that Suze has ever met). During the course of this rather repetitious and intermittently sluggish caper, Suze encounters two ghosts: a handsome young man from the 19th century who haunts her bedroom and a girl who was a student at the academy until she killed herself when Bryce, her boyfriend, broke up with her. As Suze attempts to protect Bryce from the angry apparition's wrath, the ghostly girl grows determined to get revenge on both her former beau and Suze. Suze finally resorts to an exorcism to get rid of her.

If there's one thing in my disorganized and spaztastic life that I can be relied on, it's my love for Meg Cabot. I don't think there's a novel that she's written where I haven't died (and come back) of laughter (her novels have magical laughing healing properties?). I think this was the first series of hers that I read and it's what got me hooked on her novels in the first place.

While Publisher's Weekly says that Suze isn't a realistic/credible character because she's cocky (which is a wrong wrong. I have known cocky people like this.), I think it's one of the things about the series that I really enjoy(besides the ghosts and that oh holy latin american sombrero, batman male character named Jesse). It's good to see a kick ass female character trying to make sense of the cards she's been dealt in life in stead of moping along through life about it. The stories are interesting and sometimes dark, which anyone can enjoy, and most of all funny. Meg Cabot has a gift for creating hilarious situations and I thank her every day for it.



Another story would be The Days of Little Texas by R.A Nelson which I did mention in a past post.



I know that 3 out of 4 of these novels can be viewed as old but I honestly feel like I've been put off from reading anything I don't stumble upon accidentally on my own. It's just there's this trend going about with YA fiction that's a bit unsettling for me. It's proven every time I walk into the bookstore and see a new vampire novel on the shelf in the YA section.

It appears to me that some authors are not writing with an actual original thought but are instead letting the trend guide their writing and their story. The end result is a novel that probably lacks plot and fully defined strong characters. But that's just my opinion and it is up to debate.

Well, that's the end of this post. Stay tuned for the next one which will be posted very soon. Sunday most likely. I already have a theme for it in mind.