Monthly Archives: January 2012

3) How to Ditch Your Fairy

By: Justine Larbalestier

Date Finished: 01.26.12

By Justine Larbalestier

Some people have all the luck.  Or, in this world, a really great fairy such as the clothes-shopping fairy or the never-get-into-trouble fairy.  (I’m most jealous of the jukebox fairy — never hear a bad song again?  Sign me up!)  But when you’re fourteen, can’t drive, and all your fairy can do is find the perfect parking spot, it’s easy to feel cheated.  Especially when adults and school bullies carry you around (sometimes literally) as a personal parking pass.

I wanted to read something by Scott Westerfeld’s wife because through his website I read a lot of her advise.  I take a lot of her advise.  I thought it was time to see it in action.  This one had a funny title, so it became my starting point.

The story is light and fun, but not fluff.  Charlie is a rather typical high school freshman who manages to be an atypical protagonist.  The fairies contribute to the high school drama, but they are a more permanent, more personal sort of irritation.  And while Charlie is a teenage girl with many complaints, she is absolutely determined to make things better for herself.  So the parking fairy is the root of all her problems?  Get rid of it.  So no one knows how to get a new fairy?  Charlie will find a way, with or without assistance.

Larbalestier has the same knack for inventing slang as her husband, strengthened by the book’s only character from a different city, Stefan.  He uses his strange West Coast slang — words like “excellent” and “bummer.”  Making his voice match ours is a stroke of brilliance and hilarity.  Unfortunately, the new slang is undermined by a glossary in the back.  Bummer.

My favorite little trick Larbalestier uses is the list of tallies at the beginning of each chapter.  The first chapter starts with this —

Days walking: 60
Demerits: 4
Conversations with Steffi: 5

Each chapter, the list expands or changes to fit the action.  Also, it’s a nifty, sneaky way to keep track of the timeline.  Small things like that keep the book from being just-another-high-school-drama and make it something fresh.

At the end of the day: For my younger self.

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2) The Westing Game

By: Ellen Raskin

Date Finished: 01.23.12

By Ellen Raskin

“The poor are crazy, the rich just eccentric.”

“All quotations were either from the Bible or Shakespeare.”

An unpredictable millionaire and his non-traditional will.  A seemingly random group of heirs gathered together and led through a game.  The goal: win the inheritance.  All the characters are closer to caricature than reality, but their quirks make the game effective.  Raskin switches the point of view every few sentences which allows for an almost real-time stream of their thoughts.  Although the characters’ actions are larger than life, the reader understands their motivations — usually.

To me, this book is about connections.  Sure, I was curious to know what connected them in the first place, but I found myself more interested in the relationships forming as a result of the game.  And without fully grasping what had happened, every one of them benefited more from the experience than the inheritance.  (Isn’t that always the case?)  The premise is simple: Take sixteen lost and disconnected people, rattle them up a bit, then allow them to discover what makes them shine.

The style is a bit unusual (point-of-view jumping, for one), but flows easily and works well for the story.  It’s nice to take a break from straight narrative sometimes.  And I have a deep admiration for any author who dares to put sixteen plus people in the same room. Overall, it’s a little off the wall, sweet, and not overly complicated.  This is a great book to cleanse the pallet between heavier reads.

At the end of the day: For me

1) City of Bones

Book One of The Mortal Instruments

By: Cassandra Clare

Date Finished: 01.22.12

By Cassandra Clare

A secret society of demon hunters.  Demons are always bad.  Always.  Werewolves, vampires, fairies, warlocks, etc. are usually bad, but sometimes not-so-bad, but mostly it depends on whatever propaganda you’ve been listening to.  And there’s a lot of he-said/she-said going around.  A whiny teenager is thrown into a world that only she can save (presumably — we haven’t actually gotten to that yet).  I am fascinated with the way Clary interacts with her drawings and uses her artistic skills to see the world (possibly because I cannot draw to save my life), but mostly she’s just whiny.

Things I appreciated:
*The avoidance of vagueness for the sake of being mysterious.  If something truly needed to be explained, it was, albeit with a lot of deception included.
*She kept to the traditional lore involving the “monsters.”  Vampires can’t handle crucifixes, holy water, or sunlight.  Werewolves can’t handle silver (although they can gain a degree of control over their transformations — a necessary deviation, I think).  With so much new mythology to sort through, I’m glad any established “rules” stayed intact.
*Luke.  He’s a really cool dude.  I want to read his book.
*To be fair, it picked up significantly at the end.  Actually, it picked up for me when Luke reappeared.  Coincidence?  You decide.

At the end of the day: Not for me, really.

0) Leviathan Trilogy

Leviathan, Behemoth, & Goliath

By: Scott Westerfeld

Date Finished: Sometime in December 2011

By Scott Westerfeld

This is not part of my 2012 adventure (See: About), but I read them recently and for the first time, so I thought I’d start here while I finish my first book of the year.

A girl disguised as a boy in the military.  A prince on the run from his own people.  An alternate history of World War I and my very first Steampunk novel.  It’s Britain’s fabricated animals versus Germany’s fighting machines as war spreads rapidly across the globe in a masterful blend of historical and imagined events.  Sometimes Westerfeld’s changes produce the same result as the historical account and sometimes they do alter the direction of the war.  Either way, the changes are specific and effective.  Seriously, Scott Westefeld is a genius.

Deryn knows the risk she’s taking, posing as a boy, but this doesn’t prevent her from being impetuous.  She speaks out of turn, knows things she shouldn’t, fears nothing except discovery, and is fiercely loyal to her country and her friends.  Hearing about the world in Deryn’s voice is hilarious.

Prince Alek feels largely responsible for the war — never mind the fact the world was waiting for an excuse to explode — his family’s problems produced the spark.  As such, he believes it is his destiny to stop the fighting and will do anything, however brash, for that cause.  Jolted out of a sheltered existence, Alek can seem a bit direction-less and almost naive.   But he holds nothing back and acts on the behalf of others rather than play politics.  It is beautiful to watch his story unfold.

A wonderful supporting cast, also a blend of real and imagined people, play their roles perfectly.  The world we’re introduced to is expansive, expertly wrought, and thrilling.  Simply flawless.

At the end of the day: Really, really, really for me.  All three of them.  Really.