Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Playing favorites

I have decided to do a "Best of" list for this year, except I'm breaking the rules because these are not all from this year. I'm doing my top 5 favorite books that I've read this year (and also breaking the rules because a series counts as one book). So here goes:

1. The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. Honestly, if you didn't see this coming, I don't know what you're doing reading my blog. I realize that the last book came out in 2010, but I just read them for the first time in March (and the second time 3 months after that) and I don't think it's ever been safer to call myself obsessed with something. I cannot choose a favorite. All three of them are tied for my favorite book ever. No explanation necessary, as I have explained my love for this series countless times.

2. Looking for Alaska by John Green. Yes, this book came out in 2005. No, I didn't read it until this year (honestly, I didn't read much of anything until this year-- let's not talk about that). I love this book. I love that it made me cry. I love that it made me laugh. I love Alaska Young, and "I will always love Alaska Young, my crooked neighbor, with all my crooked heart." She is one of the most complex and unknowable characters I've ever encountered, and I love that. I love that she's sad and mean for no apparent reason, because I feel like a lot of times in books it seems like every character has to have a specific reason why they act the way they do. And it's not like that in real life. Sometimes people are just sad. It doesn't make you a bad person.

3. Divergent by Veronica Roth. This is the only dystopian book I've read that even comes close to The Hunger Games. And by "close," I don't mean that it's similar; I mean that it's dark and has good characters and serves a purpose. The main character is not a whiney teenaged girl who's incomplete without a boy. She's smart and she fights for what she believes in, but at the same time she isn't a robot. She's vulnerable and she misses her family and she questions her choices and she has fears (seven of them, to be exact). The thing about Tris, though, is that she isn't fearless; she acts in spite of her fears.

4. Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins. I know, I know, these are not a series, but they are companion novels so I'm counting them as one book because I can't pick a favorite. Allow me to tell you the story of my relationships with these books. I read Anna in September and it took me two days (50 pages the first day, 300-something the second day). It brings the funny. When I was finished, I immediately went looking for more Stephanie Perkins books because I was not aware that this was the only one thus far. I did, however, find that another one came out in exactly two weeks: Lola. I had the same exact experience reading this one as I did with Anna (50 pages the first day, 300-something the second day). It brings the adorable. Both books bring the awesome. See next year's list for Isla and the Happily Ever After, because I guarantee it will be there.
(*update: Isla will NOT be on the list for next year on account of its released was pushed back to 2013. I'm a little bitter.)

5. The Infernal Devices trilogy by Cassandra Clare. There seem to be mixed feelings out there about Cassandra Clare and her books, but I am pretty sure the haters have not read these books. Granted the plots I actually care about appear to be secondary to the automatons and the Magister and those types of things, which I don't care about, but the characters make up for this. Every single one of them is complex and flawed and occasionally infuriating, but that's what I love about them. Do I always agree with Tessa? No. Do I sometimes want to scream at her and rip her head off? Yes. But that doesn't mean I don't like her. And Jem is unhatable, even if you love Will as much as I do. Which brings me to my next point: William Herondale. That is all.

Some Honorable Mentions:
A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
Wild Roses by Deb Caletti
The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
Delirium by Lauren Oliver
If I Stay/Where She Went by Gayle Forman
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Friday, December 23, 2011

Everything's on fire

So, it's just about 2:00 in the morning and there is no possible way I am going to sleep anytime soon. Because I must write about this song.
At approximately 1:00, Taylor Swift tweeted the announcement that she wrote and recorded a song with The Civil Wars for The Hunger Games soundtrack.
Yes, Taylor Swift. Lyrical and musical perfection. Plus The Hunger Games. Literary perfection. Plus the movie, which I'm sure will be pretty close to theatrical perfection. Needless to say, I have been listening to this song on repeat for the past 50 minutes or so. It's currently on its 9th play, totally screwing up my most-played songs, but I don't care. Because this just became my favorite song.
That's right. I picked a favorite of something. This song is gosh-dang gorgeous. Like, the acoustic part is so District 12. But the drums are so Arena. And her voice in the song sounds so innocent, but also like she's facing something so dark and horrible and people are counting on her. And the lyrics... they're my favorite part.

I remember tears streaming down your face when I said I'll never let you go
When all those shadows almost killed your light
I remember you said don't leave me here alone
But all that's dead and gone and past tonight

Just close your eyes
The sun is going down
You'll be alright
No one can hurt you now
Come morning light
You and I'll be safe and sound

Don't you dare look out your window, darlin' everything's on fire
The war outside our door keeps raging on
Hold on to this lullaby
Even when the music's gone, gone

Just close your eyes
The sun is going down
You'll be alright
No one can hurt you now
Come morning light
You and I'll be safe and sound

Just close your eyes
You'll be alright
Come morning light
You and I'll be safe and sound

If you've read the book, I'm sure you have an EXACT scene in your head for this song to be played in the background. Actually, I have two, but I think it applies most to one in particular (Hint about this scene: it particularly relates to the "Hold on to this lullaby" part).
Every single lyric has a significance though. I knew Taylor Swift could do things like this, but that doesn't stop me from being wide-eyed in fascination over this song. I just... I'm still having trouble coming up with words, even as the song starts playing for the 11th time. It's got the perfect mixture of creepy, scared, innocent, dark and haunting. The guitar. Her voice. The lyrics. "Everything's on fire" --YEAH? LIKE WHAT? Oh, you know, some characters, some trees, some logos. "I remember you said don't leave me here alone" --This relates not only to The Hunger Games, but to Catching fire too ("Stay with me?").

It conveys perfectly how hopeless the situation is. It sounds hopeful, because that's what the person in this scene is trying to do for the other person, but in reality it's not. "Just close your eyes, you'll be alright, come morning light, you and I'll be safe and sound" ...using this for the scene I have in mind, it's heartbreaking. Because the person she's talking to won't be alright. She's just trying to comfort him/her. "When all those shadows almost killed your light" --she won't let the "shadows" (aka the Capitol) kill the light (innocence) inside of this person. She doesn't leave; she stays and does something about it. She saves the light by not leaving.

It makes me wonder how they are going to top this for the movies that follow the first one. Lionsgate has done every single thing right so far. They gave us the moving poster. Then the teaser trailer. Then they made us wait in frustrated anticipation for the trailer, but not for too long. The trailer is perfect. I was just saying I will probably even buy the soundtrack the other day, and now I find out they've put Taylor Swift on it. So now I HAVE to buy it. I honestly don't think Suzanne Collins could have picked a better production company to give the movie rights to.

I think I have calmed down sufficiently to attempt going to sleep. After the song is done playing for the 14th time. (P.S. Please note, on my blog I have the tags "My obsession with The Hunger Games" and "Taylor Swift is not human." I never thought I would be able to use both at once. AHHHH)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I had no idea where this was going, but...

The book I'm reading (A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly, paperback) smells really good. I got it used and the pages are slightly yellowed, but for some reason it smells better than most books I've read. Is that weird? I mean, brand new hardcover books always smell good, but this one is neither new nor hardcover. What is it that makes books smell so good?
You know how different people have different scents that are just them? I want the scent of me to smell a little like books. Not completely, because that would mean I would be neutral to the scent of books (because nobody ever realizes what their own scent smells like), and I like smelling a certain smell and going back to a memory that's associated with it. Every book (/series) smells different to me, though. Like when I was reading Crossed by Ally Condie, I kept having flashbacks to when I was reading Matched. Not because they have the same characters and there are references to the first book and everything, but because they smell the same. I feel like the scent of a book kind of impacts its mood... at least in my head. If Matched smelled more like The Hunger Games, I probably would have taken it more seriously. But it smells... sweeter. And Clockwork Prince smells the same as Clockwork Angel, which is like rain, kind of. I don't know, to me it smells like rain-- not worms, but that scent that people have always associated with "rain" even though in reality rainy days don't actually smell good at all.
It's funny how, to people who read avidly, reading isn't just looking at words on paper and allowing them to construct a story in your head. It's an experience; it uses at least three different senses to help your imagination make the story your own. I know that it doesn't really matter how you read, as long as you're doing it, but this is partly why I prefer real books to e-readers. An e-reader can't give you the feeling you get when you close the book after finishing it, and it can't mimic the scent of a brand new hardcover book or a really old paperback one, or even a semi-used, slightly-yellowed one that smells oddly wonderful. You just don't get the whole experience that way. [And side note: Tonight my cousin was at my house and she said that lately her Nook has been randomly dying on her while she's reading, and I wanted to say, "Huh. My books never do that."]

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Bromances make the world better.

So, I have been inspired to write a list of my top 5 favorite (fictional) bromances. I am going to enjoy this immensely.

5. House and Wilson
This is by far the best relationship that has ever existed on House. Without this, I probably wouldn't watch it half as much as I watch it now. I just love it.

4. Will Herondale and Jem Carstairs
Is it just me, or do bromances not happen as often in books as I'd like them to? I'm sure I am forgetting some examples, but this is the most prominent one I've found. Even my beloved Hunger Games is unfortunately lacking in the bromance department (no, I don't count that one Finnick/Peeta thing), but I forgive it. Anyway, Will and Jem's relationship is what makes the love triangle a "triangle" instead of a V. I like it; it makes the whole situation agonizingly, beautifully unfair. I like that Jem protects Will and the world from each other, and I like that Will buys Jem's drug for him because Jem hates doing it. I like that Jem can make fun of Will and Will can whack Jem on the head for not telling him about his knowledge of demon pox evidence.

3. JD and Turk
Honestly, you can't have a list of bromances without Vanilla Bear and Chocolate Bear. The picture above= enough said.

2. Landry Clark and Matt Saracen
Best friends since they were five, and Landry giving Matt horrible advice the entire time. I love their friendship so much, it kills me that I don't know exactly what's up with them after the show is over. But either way, the scene above is from when Matt went to Chicago and didn't call Landry, and Landry stands in the doorway all aloof and hurt and after a solid effort at staying mad, he just lets Matt in and they act like nothing happened. Then Landry ends up taking Julie's ticket back to Chicago with him. Oh, and how Matt's grandma tells Landry not to throw a football because he throws like a girl. And then there's the time when Matt went to Landry for advice on (spoiler alert) asking for Coach's blessing to marry Julie, and Landry gave him the required horrible advice and then FINALLY (this is the series finale) said something useful-- which was that a football coach probably wouldn't be too thrilled to let his daughter marry someone who works at an art gallery.

1. Cory Matthews and Shawn Hunter
The original bromance. I ship the bromance Cory and Shawn even more than I ship the romances Cory & Topanga or Angela & Shawn. I love that they make things better for each other when nobody else can. I love that Topanga has to tell them, "Stop it! You're boys!" I love that half of Cory's wedding was spent making up with Shawn, who only started a fight because he was upset that things were changing. I love that Shawn is the only person who ever truly understands Cory. I love that they help each other deal with both the heavy things and the light things perfectly. I love that everybody knows how important they are to each other, but nobody really gets it-- because Cory and Shawn are the only ones who need to get it. I love that "for better or for worse, 'til death do us part" applies more to them than anyone on the show.

Friday, December 16, 2011

I can't seem to stop writing this week.

So, this blogging artist, Semini Blocker, has drawn three characters from two of my favorite books, and I am very excited about them. 
Ladies (because let's face it, there are no guys reading my blog. Especially not this one), meet Cricket Bell. The boy next door of Lola and the Boy Next Door, he's the Stephanie Perkins character I love the most. And this is exactly what he should look like (though, of course, I pictured him less cartoony). The pants with the stripe that are too short on him. Fashionable, though not obnoxiously so. Rubber bands on his wrists. Those blue eyes-- "There's something about blue eyes. The kind of blue that startles you every time they're lifted in your direction. The kind of blue that makes you ache for them to look at you again. Not the blue green or blue gray, the blue that's just blue. Cricket has those eyes." And even the star drawn on his hand, except you can't see it with the picture this small. I won't give it away, but the star on his hand is for Lola. And that HAIR, oh my god the hair. I mean, his hair isn't really that prominent in the book, but most definitely ^^ that is what it should look like. Brava, Semini.

These are Tris and Christina from Divergent, and I have to say this is not actually how I pictured them. It's better. For some reason I have never pictured Tris as such a bad*ss before. I knew her hair was blonde and her eyes were blue, but I never pictured them as being so dramatic. I love this version so much more than the one I had in my head-- except I think Tris is probably supposed to be more average-looking. I knew Christina had darker skin, but I never pictured it that dark either. But it doesn't really matter. I like these pictures, even if technically Tris is supposed to be shorter. I love the tattoos on her collarbone, and the fact that they're both (obviously) wearing black for Dauntless, and Christina's looking ready to fight someone, because she's from Candor and you know how scrappy honest people can be. Dear Semini, I want one of Four! And also St. Clair from Anna and the French Kiss. And also Will Herondale. And also Alaska Young. Okay, now I'm getting demanding. Sorry, but they are SO GOOD.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Another Team Will rant

This post is about what I chose to take from Cassandra Clare's recent essay-long response to a fan's question on Tumblr, which I will post in a read more cut later so as not to take up too much space here.
Basically, what I took from this is that Will and Tessa are endgame (I just can't get enough of this tumblrspeak). Why else would she have spent this much time defending Tessa's reaction to Will's "news"? She's obviously telling us that Tessa is DRAGGING OUT her declaration of love for Will. Not that it won't happen. And questions like the one this person asked are probably the reason she thinks we'll be surprised at the ending, because people seem to think that Will and Tessa are hopeless now. But, SURPRISE! They're not. And I believe this is why she purposely did not acknowledge the whole "99.9% chance that Will x Tessa is doomed and was from the beginning," because if she was planning on having Tessa end up with anyone but Will, she would have led us on and said "well, I wouldn't say they're doomed," or something along those lines. But she said nothing because she knew that would scare us. That would make us believe the asker is right and they really are doomed. It's all simple reverse psychology, really.
So, pretty much this whole post was her telling us that in Clockwork Princess, Tessa is going to have time to process her feelings for Will. "I wish he were the kind of person I could love... Oh look, he DOES have a heart! I CAN love him! Actually I'm pretty sure I have loved him all along!" And then something will be able to happen to get her out of marrying Jem without disrespecting him or damaging her honor. Because if these things don't happen, what is the point of the love triangle? What is even the point of the third book? I mean, I realize there is more plot to the books than the love triangle, but honestly that's hardly even 30% of what any of us cares about.
What I'm saying is, I see no reason why she would let the readers see so early on that Will is, like, the most selfless and decent person in the whole series (and also funny, so funny), if she wasn't going to have Tessa realize it too. She wouldn't make us root for Will and then not give him the happy ending he wants.

On the first day of the Hunger Games, Lionsgate gave to me

A new poster to look at for the next 98 days!
I just have to take a moment to talk about this. My first reaction to it was OHMYGODTHAT'SSOCOOL, probably just because it shows more than the mockingjay pin on fire and it's NEW and SHINY. But now that I'm looking at it longer, I'm not sure how I feel. I mean, I like the general idea of it, with Katniss and Peeta and how it looks like they're eyeballing the flaming mockingjay and whatever. But then there's the "The world will be watching." Um, wrong. That is more of a reference to the fact that this is a movie, than a reference to the movie itself. The world doesn't watch the Hunger Games; only Panem does. We don't know anything about the rest of the world. And then there's the fact that there is an audience on either side of what I'm guessing is supposed to be the Arena? What? Maybe it's not the Arena, but then why is Katniss wearing her Arena clothes? And if it is the Arena... there's not supposed to be an audience. There are supposed to be cameras.
And oh, now that I think about it more, why is the mockingjay symbol in the sky? I like that it kind of seems like it's replacing the Capitol seal, but then again the pictures of the dead tributes go in the sky right after the Capitol seal. Putting the mockingjay symbol where the dead tributes are supposed to be... it seems a little bit like saying that what it symbolizes is dead too. Which it's not.
But either way I still like that there's a new poster. Makes it seem CLOSER.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A small rant.

So, I was just trolling on Tumblr (you know, the usual), and I came across a blog in which the person who owns it talks incessantly about how they hate the Mortal Instruments series, and thus refuse to read the Infernal Devices series because they blame Cassandra Clare. They say that she plagiarizes her own fanfiction and that her writing is just "bad." And yet, they read the entire first THREE BOOKS of the Mortal Instruments series. What? I don't care how compulsively you read; if you hate something that much, you don't voluntarily read approximately 1300 pages of it. You just don't.
As for the plagiarism, maybe it's true. Although I highly doubt her editors/publishers would let her get away with that. But let's say it is true. SO WHAT?! It's not like she stole the writing from the fanfiction. She made her fans' ideas reality in her own way, and let me tell you, I haven't read the Mortal Instruments yet but I guarantee the writing is not bad. The writing in the Infernal Devices series is gorgeous. And "gorgeous" isn't usually a word I use to describe writing. I mean, the books themselves are no Hunger Games or Harry Potter, but it's not Twilight either.
Now, I have noticed a lot of comparisons/similiarities [via Tumblr] between the Mortal Instruments and the Infernal Devices, especially in the characters. I'm not saying I'll be able to totally ignore that, because it will surely seem like she has a set structure for her groups of characters that she uses and she can't come up with any other ones. That's not exactly original (it's like plagiarizing from herself). But what I'm saying is, it shouldn't affect how much you like or dislike the individual stories. Sometimes I think people spend so much time trying to decide how they're going to react to a book that they don't focus on the book itself. Read the book and then decide how you felt about it. I have no doubt that if you read it and then decide you don't like it, you will not be tempted to read the next one.
And, to the person who refuses to read the Infernal Devices based on their irrational hatred of Cassie Clare: it is not the same as the Mortal Instruments. You might be surprised. Personally I enjoy being able to read an entire series in an English accent [in my head].

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Ah, love triangles.

(Picture from here)
Hokay, let's be honest with ourselves here. Love triangles never end well for everyone in them, unless they end as love squares. That fourth side of the triangle is what will make it even for everyone, and if it's not introduced, then at least one person is never going to be as happy as they think they could be. So, when I read things in which Clockwork Prince readers say that it's not fair to choose between Will and Jem, I have to say they are wrong. You have to choose, because if you don't have an opinion then why are you reading it? You have to know which characters you think deserve to get what they want, and which ones will be okay if they don't. Not having an opinion tells me that you don't care enough about the characters to have an opinion. [It is okay to have a preference and not talk about it, as long as you have one.]
I have an opinion, but that does not mean I don't want the other person to be happy. If you've read my last post, you know that I am most decidedly Team Will (if that makes you angry, by all means cease reading), but I approve of Jem as well. But the thing is, to me Jem seems more like Tessa's friend who just hasn't been happy in so long that he has confused her friendship with something more. People have been saying he was selfish in the book, and maybe that's true. But doesn't he have the right to be selfish? He knows(/believes?) he doesn't have much time left and he wants this one happiness for himself, after spending the last five years being the barrier between Will and the world. Constantly protecting them from each other, as it's put in the book. Go ahead and be angry with Jem for not considering that Will and Tessa may be in love with each other, if you want. But I'm not.
That said, I am angry with Tessa for choosing Jem when she knows she's in love with Will. And then denying Will the minute satisfaction of telling him she loves him. I don't care if it wouldn't have been proper; the boy has dealt with enough, and going into that room thinking they would come out as a happy couple, then coming out without even the knowledge that she does return his feelings... that was just not necessary. I'm not saying it was Tessa's responsibility to pick Will just because he's been through a lot; I'm saying that it's fairly obvious that she loves Will more, so she should have picked him for that and that alone. Throughout the whole book she's constantly thinking about him when he's not there, and he's all she can think about when he is there. When she thinks she's dreaming, she doesn't think twice about the fact that she's dreaming about him. She compares people to him far more than she compares them to Jem, and everyone else can see that she cares about him enormously-- enough for Magnus to send her a letter knowing she will leave in the middle of the night to find him, and enough for Jessamine to acknowledge that her indecision between him and Jem is a bit melodramatic. Would her life be easier if she loved Jem more? Yes, probably. Does she? No. I believe she does love Jem, but she picked him because he makes her feel safe (I will point out that Will knows when to protect her and when to let her stand on her own two feet-- an admirable quality) and she's gotten used to his presence, and maybe a little out of guilt because he pulled the whole "loving you is keeping me alive" thing. And it's not fair to anyone.
Choosing to marry Jem when she has feelings for his best friend is not going to help herself or either of the boys (no matter how honorable her intentions), because Jem and Will are not ignorant of each other's states of mind. I dare say Jem will not take long to figure out that something has changed in Will, even considering how good Will has become at pushing people away. And once he figures it out, it's Jem who's going to get hurt. And then Will would never be with Tessa, for fear of further hurting Jem. And then nobody will be happy. It would be the same way if, and I am not hoping for this AT ALL, Jem were to die in Clockwork Princess. Do you think Will would ever want to marry his parabatai's former fiancee, unless for some reason it were Jem's dying wish? No. Nobody wins.

So yes, I'm Team Will. But that doesn't mean I'm Team Dump-Jem-and-Marry-Will. I'm Team Find-a-Way-to-be-With-Will-Without-Breaking-Jem's-Heart. And this is exactly why we leave things up to authors, not ourselves. When they break a character's heart, it's their job to either fix it or justify it. Just like when they break our hearts.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Need Clockwork Princess NOW.

^^Guy on cover= Jem. Will was on the Clockwork Angel cover.
What's that? You don't understand the language of SKJF;8A? Sorry. I just can't... seem... to find... English... words.

I just finished reading Clockwork Prince, the second of the Infernal Devices trilogy by Cassandra Clare. There was a lot of hype about this book before I read it, and having read Clockwork Angel over the summer, I was excited. I probably should have done less reading and more paper-writing since Tuesday, but I regret nothing. Because it totally lives up to the hype.

Now, it seems I am among the few people who read this book without bawling my eyes out. I laughed much more than I even thought about crying, but I felt the impact of the sad moments just the same. It's probably better to attribute my lack of tears to my own personality rather than the book itself. Because the book itself is... ODSIHFDKS;DFJHS;.

After reading the first of the Infernal Devices books, I wasn't exactly sure what I thought about it. I honestly wasn't sure about Tessa, not for the same reasons that other people claim not to like her (to those people: you're going to get mad at her for trying to get over someone who broke her heart? Really? Go read Twilight-- or better yet, New Moon). I couldn't really put my finger on it, but something about her just seemed undeserving of protagonist status. I knew that I loved Will despite everything he did to the people around him. I knew that I probably should love Jem more than Will, but I couldn't bring myself to do it. I knew that the writing did a sufficient job in making me want to travel in time to Victorian England. But that was about all... I wasn't sure how I felt about where things were going, how the next book could be all about Benedict Lightwood trying to wrest control of the Institute away from Charlotte, how there was going to be an inevitable love triangle between Will, Tessa and Jem.

But Clockwork Prince cast all my doubts aside. The plot is much more compelling and easy to follow-- being less focused on Tessa's escape from the Magister, and more about trust and betrayal and good vs. evil. Add on top of that the fact that the love triangle is actually well-done in that it doesn't come between Will and Jem, and I am a very happy reader. Plus, there's more Will! I knew I loved him (someone on Tumblr said it best: "WILLIAM HERONDALE. I knew I loved you for a reason, you sorry b*stard"). This is the part that I assume everyone bawled about, and I see why. [SPOILER ALERT! STOP RIGHT NOW if you wish to remain unspoiled. Here, I will add a jump-cut so you are not tempted to read on.]

Friday, December 2, 2011

Dear Veronica Roth,

I already (basically) said this (<--link). But it's awesome that you agree with my diagnosis of your "dystopia"!

See "People who confuse topias" after the jump: