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Tag Archives: fiction review

Even in the Shadows, There’s Light (Daily Prompt)

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It’s been a while since I answered The Daily Prompt! But then again, writing my thesis took priority over anything else…

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones has been part of the latest fiction craze that is being adapted into a film debuting in August. After seeing the trailer with some of the intense fighting sequences and a humorous exchange between Lily Collins and Jamie Campbell Bower (“Oh no…You killed two cops!”/”They weren’t cops!”) I picked up a copy of the novel to read.

The first book follows 15 year old Clarissa “Clary” Fray who has lived an ordinary life with an overprotective mother. After she witnesses a trio of teens killing a human-like demon in night club, Clary attempts to have them arrested, only to discover that no one else can see them. Days later, she runs into the leader of the trio named Jace, who suggests that she may not be a regular human being but a Shadowhunter, possessing the blood of the angel Raziel which enables her to see demons. Clary is then forced to embrace her new lifestyle as a Shadowhunter when her mother is kidnapped from their home and few clues to her location are found.

The novel fits within the action, adventure, romance, and fantasy genres neatly. Yet one questions whether Clary can be classified as a heroine or borderline damsel-in-distress. (She is not the deft archer fighting the government like Katniss Everdeen nor is she trying to escape her present for the unknown challenges and adventures like Tris Prior.) When the readers are first introduced to Clary, she is presented as the typical teenage girl who likes exploring the nightlife, admiring attractive boys from a distance, and as the defiant daughter who blames her mother for ruining her summer. For me, it took some time to warm up to Clary as the story progressed, as she is struggling to assimilate into Shadowhunter culture. While this is the first book in the series, I felt more drawn toward the attitude and development of Isabelle Lightwood, a fellow Shadowhunter who keeps the boys in line while fighting the demons with her whip.

Clary’s relationship with Jace is explored in the middle of the novel as the two begin to warm up to each other. Because Jace starts off as brash and condescending toward Clary, his treatment of her seems evocative of Edward Cullen’s initial rejection of Bella Swan in Twilight. Yet Clary always matches his cold remarks with some smart ones of her own, proving that she can hold her own against him.

I like the descriptions of the setting and the battles that the characters fight in. Cassandra Claire is skilled at presenting readers with fantastic descriptions of facades created through magic, grimy buildings home to various factions, and the gritty image of battles between good and evil. She includes some funny, memorable quotes that brought a lightness to the fast-paced novel.

Currently I’m reading the second book in the series to see whether I’d like to continue reading or not. As for the City of Bones, I would rate this novel a 3.5/5. There are elements that are enjoyable and well done but the novel has some errors and some questionable behaviors that prevent me from giving this a higher rating.

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Here, Let Me Correct Your Taste

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Whether you know him from his other works or from the Oprah Book Club uproar in 2001, James Franzen is hailed as a master of writing stories with families that unravel the nitty gritty problems within them, beneath the perfect, smiling exterior. His book The Corrections is a prime example of how all families have varying degrees of being dysfunctional, real or fictitious.

As I’m reading the novel for a literary criticism class, its been interesting to see people take extreme sides about each of the characters, most of the class hating one of the sons, Chip, for being pretentious and negative about the 1990s society and its obsession with commodity. There are a few brave souls who argue that because he’s flawed and trying to learn from his mistakes, he is interesting and they desire to see him try to improve and learn from his errors.

I’ve come to the conclusion that Franzen’s characters are a mixed bag of emotions for me. I admire the fact that he is able to develop characters that feel real, in terms of emotions, reactions, habits, and tone, which in turn, reminds me of figures I know in real life. At the same time, I can find the quirks of some of the characters to be a bit of a headache after reading them over and over again in different passages.

The only character I really despise in the book is Gary’s wife since she seems like a throwaway character who uses the very tactics that I’ve seen some girls use in high school and college: “The Weak One” that everyone comes to the aid of. In turn, the weak one is able to make the sympathetic parties around her do her bidding. I knew a girl in high school who pulled this act all the time, even in Band. Finally, my conductor called her out on it, when she started to blame her weak sound on her reed. “It’s not your reed, its you.”

Despite its status as an infamous book, you should take a look at The Corrections and make your own judgement.

Still Hungry for Heroines and Dystopia

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What a weird title, I thought when The Hunger Games started becoming an ‘It’ series. I never paid much attention when it was first released since I was still recovering from reading nonsense and fluff in New Moon.

Eventually the movie trailer released for The Hunger Games and I took a peek for grins. Camera work and pacing seemed pretty good – not that I know a lot about film but it keeps things interesting. Intrigued, I bought book 1 of the trilogy and began reading it in early February 2012. Then the remaining 2 in the trilogy followed.

For those who have never read the series, it is narrated by Katniss Everdeen who lives in a dystopian version of North America now renamed Panem. Long ago Panem had 13 areas called districts which produced goods for the government called the Capitol, some given more preferential treatment than others. Eventually all 13 districts rebelled against the Capitol and were put down, with District 13 being obliterated as an example. As punishment, the Capitol created an event called The Hunger Games where each district would send 1 young man and 1 young woman aged between 12-18 to fight in a controlled arena until 1 emerged victorious. In book 1, Katniss volunteers in place of her younger sister Primrose and encounters trustworthy people like fellow tribute Rue and finds enemies who want her dead like President Snow, head of the Capitol, and vicious tributes from privileged districts.

Unlike Twilight, I found myself more interested in Suzanne Collin’s characters which seemed to have a familiar set of emotions, interests, and flaws like any human being. I liked Katniss for being the rare strong heroine who thinks things through, questions things suspiciously, and cared for others like Primrose because I’ve found moments in my life where I’ve been like her. Yet I loved Rue from book 1 the most since she was a surprise in the Games for being small and young, yet very capable of using her small form to hide easily and stay up high in the trees from the other tributes.

Like many other fans, I attended the midnight premiere of the film adaptation with some friends on a whim. The film, like any other, has its cheesy moments but for the most part was true to the book and I did enjoy some of the additions they put into the film. My favorite scene was when all the tributes were training in the Training Center and Cato, the male tribute from District 2, decided to accuse another male tribute of taking his knife. While the pair are pushing and arguing with one another, the camera pans up to the ceiling where Rue is tucked up in the fabric straps on the ceiling with Cato’s knife and an impish smile on her face.

For a film distributor company who was struggling, I’m sure Liongate’s whooping for joy with over $200 million brought in from a non-sequel film.  Can they keep up the act with an adaptation of Catching Fire in 2013? We’ll just have to wait and see.