That is all. Also, yes, this was important enough that I decided to make my first blog post in over a year. TAKE THAT, INTERNET. Also, if you're still reading this, wow... And might I suggest you peruse my other site, PopCultureNexus.com, which is updated much more often (read: ever) by myself and my cohort Mary? Sadly, there isn't much of Bryce Harper on it, but there's plenty of television, movies, Star Wars, and occasionally books. Maybe someday I'll return to Pop Sauce and continue to regale my adoring public (*cue crickets*) with tales of my very uninteresting life.
Okay, so I know it's been a while since I updated my blog, but that's only because I haven't really felt passionately about a book since Daughter of Smoke & Bone, but then this little beauty galloped into my life, and I just had to share my feelings about it with the world. I was up until 1:30 last night reading this book (which, if you know me, is pretty unheard of, unless there's a Harry Potter midnight premiere going on). Now that I've finished this book, I can't stop thinking about it. I can't get it out of my head! It's really quite distracting. You know how with some books, you finish it, and you think, "Well that was a jolly good read. Pip pip cheerio" (I don't know why, but you're British in this hypothetical scenario), and then you kind of forget about it within the next twenty-four hours? This book is the total opposite. The more I think about it, the better it is. And I've been thinking about it a lot. This book is like a beautiful stallion: stunning and graceful from afar, but you don't know how much power it's got until you're riding it. But The Scorpio Races isn't just for horse lovers! Nay! (Pun intended.) In fact, I generally don't read horse books at all, but this one changed my mind. It's got a little bit of a Hunger Games vibe to it, with the incredibly dangerous races at the center of things, which both protagonists (dual narrators Kate "Puck" Connolly and Sean Kendrick) participate in. The romance is secondary (or maybe even tertiary) to the action, and both Puck and Sean are likable lead characters. Have I mentioned lately how much I love female protagonists who are strong and independent and preferably a little sassy? Puck totally fits the bill. (For example, when a disgruntled fellow rider condescendingly asks if she needs any help, she responds, "What I need is for your mother to have thought a little harder nine months before your birthday.") On the male side of the narration, Sean is all you could ask for in a dark and mysterious Irishman. Awesome supporting characters include an adorable younger brother, an amusingly candid American businessman who befriends Sean, and, of course, the horses. Basically, this book has wooed me. I never thought I would use the word "woo" in reference to a book (who am I kidding, yes I did), but this one really did it for me. You too should be wooed, so do yourself a favor and read this outstanding book. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go research how much it would cost to buy a pony and a small farmhouse in Ireland.
Some stories are told from the heart, with more focus on feeling than form and mechanics. Some stories are told from the head, with an almost analytical precision. Daughter of Smoke & Bone is neither of these. While it has the emotional charge of a tale rooted in passion, as well as the finely-tuned construction of a cerebral story, Daughter of Smoke & Bone is a story told from the gut. It comes from somewhere deep-down, and seems to unfold with an instinctive certainty, carrying the reader with it. At times it almost feels like the story has a mind of its own, as if it came into the author's consciousness fully formed, just waiting to be born onto the page.
It is a testament to Laini Taylor's writing that the story seems to almost tell itself. And it's not an easy story to tell, by any means. Daughter of Smoke & Bone reveals a fantasy world unlike any other I've read of in the vast field of YA fantasy. The titular daughter, Karou, had a very unique upbringing. As a human girl raised by demons (they prefer to call themselves chimaera), smoke and bone could easily represent the two worlds that Karou belongs to: human and demon. When an unknown force threatens the demon half of her life, Karou must uncover more about the mysteries that her demon foster father kept from her, while at the same time trying to understand her connection to the warrior angel who brought on this danger.
Karou is a strong, clever, self-assured character with a wry wit that makes her point of view delightful to read. She's the driving force of the story, although there are a few passages told from a different perspective, which help to give the reader a fuller understanding of the complexities of the story. All the characters are richly drawn, particularly the paternal figure of Brimstone the Wishmonger. Even Karou's narcissistic ex-boyfriend is a multidimensional lowlife. None of the characters are purely good or evil, and the line between heroes and villains is practically indiscernible. The story shows two sides of a war, but deems neither side right or wrong.
Daughter of Smoke & Bone is a firework that ignites on the page. It's a vibrant, colorful, and wonderfully original story, featuring exotic settings, captivating and complex characters, and an intoxicating mix of myth, folklore, and fantasy. It's everything I want a book to be: dynamic, heartfelt, exhilarating, funny, well-crafted, and unique. Although it is a story about wishes, the theme of Daughter of Smoke & Bone is that hope is stronger than wishing, and hope is exactly what this book inspires. I was left hoping for more stories like this one, and wishing for the sequel to be published soon.
This evening, for the last time, I will put on my round-rimmed glasses, draw a lightning bolt on my forehead, and wait in line for five hours to see the final Harry Potter movie. My best friend, her sister, her mother and I have done this for every Harry Potter movie since the third one came out in 2004, when we were finally old enough to stay up until 3 AM and still get up for school the next day. This year, for the first time, we will not be together for the premiere of the new Harry Potter movie. This is one of the many indications at how much our lives have changed since those first few midnight movie premieres. We are no longer the carefree young girls we were then, just as Harry, Ron, and Hermione are no longer the wide-eyed young children they were when we first met them. Now, we are in our early twenties and living in different time zones, so while we'll both be seeing the movie at midnight, we won't even be watching it at the same time.
No one who isn't within about five years of our age can understand the experience of truly growing up with Harry Potter. I was part of a very lucky group of children who, as the books came out, were always around the same age as Harry, Ron, and Hermione. When I first read the books, I was a little bit younger than Harry, and my mother would read them aloud to my brother and me before bedtime. As the years went on, I caught up, and towards the end I was just a year or so older than Harry. The final book was released a month after I graduated from high school, marking the end of an era for fans all over the world, as well as for me personally as I struggled to adjust to life after high school. And now, just months after I graduated from college, the final chapter will be brought to the screen.
I am so grateful for this series and all that it has given me, most notably, three wonderful friends in the form of an orphaned boy wizard, his brave and loyal first mate, and one of the smartest, strongest girls in literary history. They have been an essential part of my childhood and young-adulthood, lighting the way for me and bearing with me through all the ups and downs, the gives and takes, the highs and lows of life. Sometimes I feel like I'm stuck at 17 years old, unable to mature past that perilous age without Harry and his friends to show me how. Instead, I am frozen in time, rereading over and over, reliving Harry's adventures, the triumph of good over evil, and the beautiful fantasy that all is well, as the final sentence of Deathly Hallows proclaims. After four years of denial and prolongation, the time has come for Harry Potter to finally come to an end. Although, it's not really the end, so much as the end of beginnings. There will be no more new books to pre-order (at least as far as J.K. Rowling has indicated), no more launch parties, no more midnight premieres of new movies to look forward to. But Hogwarts will always be just a page away, waiting for you to begin the journey once again.
Some people may scoff at my seemingly unhealthy attachment to these fictional characters. Some people may say that I'm too old to go out in public wearing a wizard hat and a wand made out of a chopstick. But I would remind those people that there is no age limit on magic, and that's exactly what stories are. To quote a young Severus Snape from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, "It's real for us."
And it always will be.
If I said that Alma Katsu's debut novel, The Taker, was a paranormal romance, that would technically be correct. But in an age where "paranormal romance" carries with it the connotations of sparkly vampires and teenage melodrama, I'm afraid this wouldn't be fair to the rich, complex, and thoroughly engrossing story of The Taker. Somehow Katsu manages to take tired literary subjects like mysterious supernatural beings and unrequited love, and make them into something completely unique. The Taker combines elements of Gothic literature, romance, supernatural folklore, horror, and more, creating a world of intrigue and introspection.
The Taker is epic in every sense of the word, spanning centuries and continents, with enough rich back-story to merit a few prequels. The central character, Lanny, is an immortal being of unspecified supernatural ilk who enlists the help of Luke, an everyman doctor, in escaping from the police. Lanny's story unfolds through intermittent flashbacks which cover her early life in Maine in the 1800s, the events that led to her transformation, and how she came to be wanted by the police. Although she is incredibly flawed and not always likable, Lanny is the heart of the story. For a character who's more mystic than mortal, her motivations and her actions are heartbreakingly human. Her unyielding passion, her piercing regret, and her fierce love for her beloved Jonathan make her the most human character in the book, and you can't help but feel for her, even when she's being cruel or selfish. Lanny's centuries of experience give her a unique voice through which the reader feels the full of the weight of her past mistakes and everything she has lost, the pain of which an immortal such as herself can never escape, nor forget.
Yes, The Taker is rooted in the paranormal, and, yes, it involves a good deal of romance, but The Taker is unlike any of the other supernatural romance stories that have flooded the media in the past few years. Katsu weaves a story that is both elegant and well-constructed, so that every chapter pulls you deeper into its dark, luscious web of mystery and mythology. The Taker is at once gruesome and opulent, disturbing and enthralling, bitter and poignant. But most of all, it is utterly unforgettable.
This is Sandy. She is a well-read Weimaraner with an affinity for historical fiction, Argentine poetry, and David Sedaris. She has become a champion for independent bookstores and is currently the resident canine literary consultant for One More Page Books in Arlington, Virginia. See her official page on the One More Page website.
It's been a few days since Lionsgate announced that Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth would be playing the two young male leads in the upcoming Hunger Games movie, and I think fans of the book have had time to digest the news appropriately. Some are put off by the differences in physical appearance between the actors and the characters' descriptions in the book, but I think most are just upset that fan favorites Hunter Parrish and Ben Barnes won't be playing Peeta and Gale (respectively). I, for one, was pleased to see Josh Hutcherson cast as Peeta because he's proven that he can actually act (as evidenced by his performance in The Kids Are All Right), but I was dubious as to whether he'd be able to really capture the Peeta-ness of Peeta (pardon my ridiculously vague fan-speak), whose character requires a sweetness and openness that not everyone can pull off. My doubts were assuaged, however, when I saw this clip of Hutcherson in Bridge to Terabithia when he was about thirteen or fourteen, proving that he, a) knows how to gaze longingly at a pretty girl, b) has experience starring in movies based on popular books, and c) knows how to swing dramatically from a rope (which does not come up in The Hunger Games, per se, but is still a useful skill to have).
All in all, I'm extremely happy with the casting choices for Peeta and Katniss (whom, it was announced a few weeks ago, will be played by Oscar nominee Jennifer Lawrence). I wish I could say the same about costar Liam Hemsworth being cast as Gale, Katniss' hardened hunting partner. Physically, he's right for the role (assuming he dyes his hair darker and wears gray contacts), and I haven't technically seen him act in anything (he was in The Last Song, based on the Nicholas Sparks novel, as well as Nic Cage's sci-fi thriller Knowing), so I don't want to judge him prematurely...but I am. And yes, I do realize that it's wrong to make assumptions about his level of acting ability based on the fact that his claim to fame is being Miley Cyrus' ex-boyfriend. I also know, deep down in the ever-diminishing-but-still-present rational part of my brain, that casting directors are more qualified than I am to choose who is right for these characters. But this is my second favorite book series of all time (Harry Potter will forever be number one), so I think I reserve the right to be at least mildly concerned about even the slightest connection between Miley Cyrus and my beloved Hunger Games. That being said, two out of three is not bad, and I'm still willing to be convinced that Hemsworth was also a good choice. And I think even the fans who are unhappy with the casting choices would agree that it could be much worse. *Cough* Eragon *cough*
The moment we've all been waiting for has finally arrived. The three central characters have been cast for the Hunger Games movie, which is scheduled to hit theaters in March 2012. The news came just over two weeks after the announcement that Oscar nominee Jennifer Lawrence would be dyeing her golden locks dark to play the lead role of Katniss in the film adaptation of Suzanne Collins' bestselling YA series. Josh Hutcherson, who played the teenage son in The Kids Are All Right (also an Oscar-nominated film, though Hutcherson himself did not get a nomination), will take on the role of Peeta Mellark, the lovestruck "tribute" from District 12 forced to fight to the death alongside teen heroine Katniss. The role of Gale, Katniss' hunting partner and her other love interest, will be played by Liam Hemsworth (The Last Song). Fans might be surprised by these casting choices considering that neither actor (nor Lawrence) fits the physical description of the characters in the book. The character of Peeta is supposed to be blonde, while Josh Hutcherson is a brunette. Gale is described as having olive skin and dark hair and eyes, though none of those apply to Liam Hemsworth. That being said, hair dye and contacts can solve most of those incongruencies. The real question is, can they act? Lawrence demonstrated her acting ability in last year's Winter's Bone (for which she earned her Oscar nomination), and Hutcherson gave a notably impressive performance in The Kids Are All Right. Hopefully these actors, along with director Gary Ross (Seabiscuit), will do justice to Collins' fantastic story and make the Hunger Games movie into the blockbuster it deserves to be.
The Internet is buzzing with rumors about who will and who should be cast in the upcoming movie adaptation of Suzanne Collins' best-selling YA novel The Hunger Games (the first in a trilogy). Hundreds of names have been thrown into the ring for various roles, including up-and-coming actors like Alexandra Daddario (Percy Jackson & the Olympians) and established actors like Robert Downey Jr. (whom many are championing for the role of Haymitch). Here are my top picks for the cast of The Hunger Games (my favorites are in all caps), alongside some of the more popular choices...
I am finally back where I belong, working in a bookstore with real live books, made of paper and ink and everything. (And don't give me that "a tree died so you could read Harry Potter" nonsense, because if I was a tree I would gladly sacrifice myself so that the wonder of Harry Potter could be shared with the world.) It's really quite awesome and strange how comforted I am by hugging a book and just physically being around them. They're basically like friends except they can't really hug back (at least not in the traditional sense). I highly recommend book-hugging as a therapeutic exercise. I've spent the last few days organizing and shelving books in the fabulous new independent bookstore I'm working at. (Check it out here. We open next week!) The only real problem is that I might actually spend my entire paycheck before I leave the store. Oh, and we have wine. Wine, chocolate, and books. Yes, I know, we should have named the store "Heaven." But honestly, can you picture anyone curled up by a fire reading aloud to their angelic children...from a Kindle? Or enjoying the beautiful artwork of Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar...on a six-inch screen? And when the apocalypse comes in 2012 and all the power goes out in the world so no one can charge their e-readers, we'll see who has the last laugh.