Posted in Books

Tea Book Tag

The weather keeps getting colder. I need multiple blankets and cups of tea to survive the night.

Eunice wrote a post at Nerdy Talks all about tea.

I’m guzzling a giant mug of coffee as I write.

Close enough.

Continue reading “Tea Book Tag”

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Posted in Books

11 things to expect from Marissa Meyer’s Winter

The Lunar Chronicles is over. I won’t be able to theorize about possible plot events anymore; they’ve already happened. There won’t be any more stories starring my favorite cyborg princess and Lunar special operative (unless Meyer pulls a J. K. Rowling and keeps milking the series). I can only imagine what Scarlet, Wolf, Cress, Thorne, Kai, Cinder, Jacin, and Winter are doing now.

It’s slowly hitting me that the journey is over.

I’m not handling it well.

I thought about reviewing Winter, but I’m not great at avoiding spoilers and to write about it would ruin the entire series for newcomers.

This was the only course of action: a survey of things to expect from a book that offers the unexpected. Continue reading “11 things to expect from Marissa Meyer’s Winter”

Posted in Books

BOOK REVIEW: Life and Death by Stephenie Meyer

I just finished Stephenie Meyer’s gender-swapped Twilight and I. Am. Frustrated.

Meyer wrote the newly-titled Life and Death to commemorate Twilight‘s 10th anniversaryLife and Death reimagines Bella Swan and Edward Cullen as Beau and Edythe. Meyer wanted to prove that Bella was not a “damsel in distress” but a “human in distress,” and claimed that switching the genders left the story unchanged.

Only it didn’t.

Meyer and I have history. Like many people, I jumped on the anti-Twilight bandwagon when I was in high school and all the cool kids were mocking it. I spouted a lot of opinions that weren’t my own in an effort to fit in. Because of that, I’ll avoid any outright meanspiritedness.

My real opinion of Twilight is this: it’s BORING. I’ve read the original two or three times now. My first read-through didn’t leave much of an impression, which is why I was baffled when I heard people exclaiming over the book like it was something special. Bella commits the literary sin of being dumb, the love story isn’t very compelling, and the first 3/4 of the book can be summed up as “Bella falls in love with a vampire.” NOTHING ELSE OF NOTE HAPPENS.

As a comparison, I’m reading Marissa Meyer’s Winter right now, the 800-page capper to The Lunar Chronicles series. In the first 250 pages, plans are made, things go wrong, blood is spilled, and stakes are raised.

Twilight has no stakes until about page 300, when the hasty arrival of some bad vampires causes everyone to freak out.

You could say the pacing is uneven.

All of these things carry over to Life and Death: Beau moons over Edythe, they fall suddenly in love, and the barely-foreshadowed climax drops 3/4 of the way in and lasts over 100 pages.

Strangely, I found myself liking Life and Death a little bit more. I wondered if changing the relationship dynamic made the story better. Beau, compared to Bella, was less dramatic, though still prone to moodiness. Edythe, meanwhile, came off as less controlling and, unlike Edward, was understandably beguiling. For part of the time, I actually enjoyed my reading experience.

Then I started thinking: how much of my enjoyment was due to the gender switch and nothing else, and why did I like it so much?

After that, Meyer’s claim that the switch changed nothing started to fall apart.

I don’t know whether Meyer believes biological sex has no bearing on personality or thinks it does, in fact, have an impact.

I’m of the latter view. Due to Meyer’s insistence in the foreword that the story was exactly the same after all the changes, I would guess she leans toward the former.

Oddly enough, Meyer writes her gender-swapped characters differently, which she admits in the foreword: Beau is less descriptive and, compared to dour killjoy Bella, is almost happy-go-lucky.

The biggest impact on the plot, however, is the light the characters’ genders cast on their actions.

I haven’t read Twilight in a while, so I wasn’t aware while reading Life and Death which details were kept the same and which were changed to fit the characters. I’m only aware that during the restaurant scene, Beau grabs and/or touches Edythe multiple times knowing she neither likes nor wants the physical contact. While his intention is not to hurt her, he does it without caring about her feelings.

Now, Edythe is physically stronger than Beau, as is pointed out multiple times in the narrative. Technically, she is more of a danger to him than he is to her.

Even knowing this, I’m still angry that he touched her. It doesn’t matter how strong the woman in question is–you do not force physical contact on anyone, and the fact that it was a man forcing contact on a woman made me extremely uncomfortable.

In later scenes, Meyer’s gender swap made for some unfortunate implications. I’m sensitive to portrayals of women as overly emotional while men are always rational. Such portrayals simplify gender differences and invalidate emotions.

I doubt Meyer intended to portray Edythe as hysterical and Beau as levelheaded solely based on gender. Unfortunately, during Beau’s escape from hunter Joss, Edythe can barely function while a calm Beau spits out great idea after great idea. It doesn’t help that fellow passenger Eleanor keeps goggling at Beau in awed surprise. Again, none of this is intentional (I hope), but it unfortunately proliferates gender stereotypes.

I kept checking my attitudes toward the characters as I read. In the original, I felt Bella was a pathetic, hopeless, lifeless cliché pining for a bad boy. Somehow, Beau made sense to me. After all, a self-deprecating teenage boy mooning over an older girl who’s out of his league isn’t pathetic, but normal.

The gender swap also necessitated a change in ending. Meyer takes the “what if?” idea too far; her characters have a different choice forced on them due to changes in the narrative. I have mixed feelings about it. On one hand, I feel agency was taken away from the main characters. On the other, I know I just want to hate the ending because it’s different.

The last 40 pages are the most egregious. Meyer makes the mistake of trying to push a sweeping moral with insufficient evidence. In this case, the moral was, “True love [defined, of course, as romantic love] is the most important thing.”

Some people will bend over backwards to argue that this sentiment is biblical. Unfortunately for Meyer, the message rings false. As a reader, I’m being asked to accept an uneven relationship and gloss over the pain and heartache any normal person would have felt because “true love” outweighs all negative consequences. Worse yet, Beau claims the ending was inevitable in any case. Logically, he might be right, but having that explained to me at the end of the novel is different than deciding that same thing–however resignedly–for myself. Beau’s argument sounds more like an attempt to ward off criticism than anything else.

In the book’s afterword, Meyer again asserts that the story hasn’t changed. The fact that it has isn’t in and of itself a bad thing; not acknowledging that it has is. Meyer missed an opportunity to start a conversation about perception, stereotypes, feminism, and responsibility. It does no one any favors to act like nothing is different when your protagonist thinks nothing of grabbing his female companion even knowing she doesn’t like it. More telling is the fact that Meyer’s dangerous, liberated, strong female vampire doesn’t think to speak up.

Posted in Books

The Women of Lunar Chronicles

I bought Cinder in 2011 when I ran out of books my freshman year of college. I no longer have my original copy due to my annoyance when what I thought was a standalone ended on a cliffhanger.

It took a good friend of mine to convince me to give the series another chance.

Looking back, I don’t know why I didn’t love this series right away. The Lunar Chronicles was made for me: it’s a female-led space drama with straightforward romance, bad boys, and princesses, which is what I secretly want out of every book I read.

The intense plot of Lunar Chronicles would have had me sold but Marissa Meyer makes it with her excellent characters. I want to marry all (well, most) of the men and be all (well, most) of the women; for Meyer, I’d call that success.

Strangers who have seen me reading Lunar Chronicles ask me about it when they see my crazy reactions.

Like with Chaim Potok’s The Chosen, I’ve had to stop reading Lunar Chronicles in public. It’s rare that one series can make me cry/blush/squeal/scream with rage. Never have I been so invested in four different ships at once.

If you want to understand why I love these books, I need to introduce you to the characters. Let’s start with ladies first.

WARNING: Lunar Chronicles spoilers ahead

Cinder

There’s a lot to admire in Linh Cinder.

I love the cyborg as a binary-challenging device. I also love that Cinder actually does something and kidnaps the emperor/love of her life to save the planet.

At times, I find dorky, sarcastic, relatable girl a bit too cool. There are things about her I can’t connect to, like the fact that she can remodel cars (no big) or that she carries the fate of Earth on her shoulders (whatever). There’s also the whole “burn victim with cybernetic enhancements” thing. And, as Cinder acknowledges, she’s nothing without her supporting cast; I didn’t get into the series until they were introduced.

Cinder’s character benefits from the others’ presences. Her interactions with them are what make the series interesting. Still, I like Meyer’s exploration into Cinder’s psyche as she deals with her (lack of) humanity, her new responsibilities, and the mystery of her past. I’m down for more heroines who save their male counterparts through abduction and spaceship hotwiring. Meyer has created a funny, smart protagonist that is easy to cheer on.

Winter

The little I know about Princess Winter hints that her mind isn’t a very fun place to be.

Canon states that if a Lunar doesn’t use his or her gift for an extended period of time, they will go insane. Winter’s intense hallucinations are proof of this.

“But you are crazy.”

“I know.” She lifted a small box from the basket. “Do you know how I know?”

Scarlet didn’t answer.

“Because the palace walls have been bleeding for years, and no one else sees it.”

Eesh.

How great a euphemism, though, does her psychosis provide? “That girl is not using her Lunar gift, if you know what I mean…”

So far, Winter terrifies me, but I’m interested to see the world from her perspective.

Also, she must be pretty cool if someone as awesome as Jacin Clay loves her.

Cress

Cress is my least favorite of the four mains. I don’t have a lot of positive things to say about her.

A lot of my dislike stems from Cress’ character type. I have a hard time not interpreting “naive and innocent” as “stupid.”

Finefinefine. Cress was trapped in a satellite by herself for 7 years. No doubt that would make for naiveté and poor social skills, but COME ON. I got tired of her wide-eyed newcomer act pretty quickly, especially since she’s a newcomer to MY PLANET. I don’t share her fascination with SAND. Cress tends to make choices that get her sold into slavery. Not surprisingly, she’s a bad judge of character. She manages to convince herself Carswell Thorne is a virtuous soul. Carswell Thorne. The Lunar Chronicles version of Han Solo and Mal Reynolds. Virtuous.

“You’re a hero!” “Sure thing, babe.”

Two other counts against Cress: she doesn’t like Iko and she doesn’t trust Wolf. As I love Wolf with every fiber of my being, this last part is offensive to me.

Lastly, Cress thinks she lives in a romance novel. She fantasizes constantly that she’s an opera singer, a beautiful actress, an adventurer… Reading Cress’ POV chapters was like watching “UHF,” only not as fun.

That is not something I thought I would ever say.

Thankfully, Wolf doesn’t like Cress much either, resulting in one of my favorite scenes:

Wolf was scowling at a mirror and trying to pat down his unkempt hair. He wore an impeccably fitted tuxedo with a classic white bow tie and pressed lapels.

He caught Cress’s eye in the reflection, and she couldn’t help but stand a little straighter, but though his gaze skimmed over her, he had no reaction whatsoever.

Deflated, Cress clasped her hands. “You look great, sweetheart.”

He did, in fact, look like a romance hero, all muscles and edges and chiseled bone structure. He also looked miserable.

Suddenly nervous, Cress gave a little twirl, displaying her full regalia.

Wolf only gave her a crisp nod. “The hover is waiting.”

She let her hands drop to her sides, resigned to the fact that Wolf would dress for his role, but he would not play it. “Right. You have the invitations?”

He patted his breast pocket. “Let’s get this over with.”

Scarlet

HARDCORE.

I lovelovelove Cinder, but Scarlet is my favorite heroine as sole representative of Team Normal.

Scarlet is 1/4 Lunar, but she doesn’t have–or hasn’t yet exhibited any signs of–the Lunar gift. Unlike Cinder and Michelle Benoit, Scarlet can be manipulated by Lunars. I appreciate Scarlet because I know how useless I would be in these intense situations. Scarlet has more weaknesses than the other characters and still manages to be SO COOL.

Shooting thaumaturges? Like a boss.
Flying ships? Of course.
Withstanding mental torture and chopping off her own finger to defy Lunar royalty? You bet.
Rescuing her grandma? …well, she tried.

I’m sad there wasn’t more of Scarlet in Cress, something I hope will be remedied in Winter. Less Cress! More Scarlet!

Each of these ladies gets me pumped to save the galaxy, and each one has a hot male counterpart to help them do so. I can’t wait to talk about the men…