Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Top 10 Characters I'd Want on a Deserted Island with Me, or, Fantasy Island: Fictional Edition

A feature of The Broke and the Bookish
I have to admit, my first thought was that I should just surround myself with attractive men.  Reason won over (for the most part) and I've assembled the following motley crew to join me on a deserted island.  First order of business: name the island.  Second order of business: make sure they don't kick me off, because I'm not sure what I'd be contributing to this group.

Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Obviously. This girl is a survivor. And as long as she's on my side and we can coax her into caring about the survival of all rather than just herself, we are good to go.

Peeta Mellark from The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Because even though it would be hurtful to see him in love with Katniss rather than me, we need him there to keep the peace among our island inhabitants, keep Katniss compassionate, and I imagine he's good to look at.

Lynn from Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis
For the same reason as Katniss. Lynn isn't the most sociable, but she knows how to survive.

Day from Legend by Marie Lu
I picked Day over June because he's scrappy.  I think they'll be less order on this island than there is in the Republic, and Day deals better with chaos.

Will Herondale from The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare
Witty, cynical, adventurous.  He can entertain us with his banter and read us morbid poetry.  And it doesn't hurt that he can do magic.

Jem Carstairs from The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare
There is no Will without Jem. Sensitive, thoughtful, meditative, Jem will provide some much needed grounding to this bunch.

Dumbledore from Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling
A father figure who can provide guidance and wisdom.  And he's a pretty bad-ass wizard if things get tough.  But mostly I bet he can magic salt water into fresh drinking water.  Let's be practical.

Jane from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Every girl needs a best friend and I can imagine sitting on the beach with Jane discussing life.

Gabriel Oak from Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
Because he's hard-working and never tires.  He is always striving toward good.  He's definitely someone I could count on, even when I don't deserve it.

Finn from All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill
Solid, steady, best friend and crush material.  Mostly just because I love him.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Review of Ash by Malinda Lo

In a Nutshell: A re-invention of the Cinderella story, Ash by Malinda Lo is a bleak tale of loneliness, detachment, and unexpected friendship.

While I have heard Malinda Lo's prose praised as "lush" and "lyrical," it fell flat for me. The whole novel read as if it was meant to be spoken word; like it was a fairytale I was being told as I was tucked in bed; straightforward with factual details. I was keenly aware I was reading a book and had trouble being absorbed into the story. 

This was perhaps a style choice, since Ash's attitude frequently shared this detachment. Detachment made sense for the first half of the novel, when Ash is suicidal, spending half of her time wandering in the woods hoping to be spirited away by the fairies. Ash has no pretenses about what the fairies would do to her- she has read the last parting gift from her father enough times to know that meeting with a fairy usually results in (at best) living a half life or (at worst) dying a torturous death. 

She continued to wander forbidden, enchanted paths despite multiple warnings.  I didn't want bad things to happen to Ash, but after her fairy protector told her for the third time, "Stay off this path" and she disobeyed, I expected there to be some consequence, and it was a little anti-climactic when there wasn't.

The faeries are not this friendly
Ash fluctuated inconsistently between rebellion (nighttime strolls and an occasional insubordinate comment) to docile acquiescence to her lot in life. After her stepmother has burned her books- the last remembrances she had of her parents- we get a quiet sorrow from Ash, when I would have expected emotional devastation or a fire of fury. When she is physically attacked by her step mother and sister and her hair is shorn off, I was not expecting her (what I'm assuming was meant to be defiant) "Thank you. I think it suits me." No, no, no!  This non-consensual haircut comes right after Ash has seen her lover for the last time. Anticipating the loss of freedom and identity, I expected this abuse to be the last straw for Ash. I wanted to see her snap. I wanted all that pent up aggression, sorrow, defiance, and loss to break forth. But Ash is one solid dam, keeping it all repressed. How disappointing.

The ending was unclear and anti-climactic. I wasn't really sure what happened between Ash and her fairy-lover. Again we get an empty threat of "time does not move in the same way between our worlds" but she wakes up from her night with Sidhean and it's still just the next day in human world, too. So what was that warning for? And is the book-long buildup of Sidhean loving and owning Ash resulting in a simple confrontation where Ash tells him if he loves her, he'll set her free?  I really liked the fairy godmother who is actually a fairy lover who demands recompense for his magical services, but I didn't think Lo did enough with that unusual plot twist.

Faerie Godfather?
What saved this novel from being tossed aside halfway through was the fact that POSSIBLE SPOILER AHEAD Ash falls in love with the Huntress rather than the Prince.  It was a love-quadrangle: Ash in love with the Huntress, the Huntress in love with Ash, the Prince in love with Ash, the Fairy in love with Ash (wow, it's a little surprising that a character who felt so one-dimensional got so much action in the love department).   I wish it wasn't such a novelty that a character be interested in both male and female characters.  That sometimes at the end of a book a girl ends up with a boy, but sometimes the girl ends up with the girl or a boy ends up with a boy 

Maybe Sidhean should meet the Prince...

Happily Ever After!


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Friday, July 18, 2014

Friday Feels: Men Who Understand Women

It's my favorite day of the week!  And time for...

A dear friend of ours was having very intense feelings for a book (we've all been there) and was on a hunt for male authors who could accurately portray the female experience. 

No surprise, it turns out most men seem to write about men and most women seem to write about women. That fact only makes me especially appreciative as a reader when I find a male author who writes a female character that I can identify with (versus the unattainable manic pixie dream girl). 

Below are a few of my favorites. Kudos, gents!
  • Hazel Grace in The Fault In Our Stars by John Green
  • Tess Derbyville in Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
  • Liesel Meminger in The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  • Nora Helmer in A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen
  • Tandia in Tandia by Bryce Courtenay 
  • Briony Tallis in Atonement by Ian McEwan 
  • Lucy Honeychurch in A Room With A View by E. M. Forster

I haven't read all that many books by men with female protagonists.  Who am I missing?  Any recommendations?  Do you think it's possible for a man to tell a woman's story?  I want to hear your thoughts!


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Top NineTelevision Shows We Love and a Few Dishonorable Mentions

Meg, Sam and I worked together this week to bring you our top 9 television shows (10 doesn't go into 3 easily). We talk aplenty about books, now it's time to geek out about another way we spend our time.  Today we are a judgement-free zone.
A feature of the Broke and the Bookish
Sam's List:

Four Weddings. This combines my favorite activities of looking at weddings and judging other people. If you are wondering whether this means I spend a lot of time on Pinterest, the answer to that would be a resounding yes.

Criminal Minds. In addition to weddings, I also enjoy television shows about serial murderers. I actually am often horrified and freaked out and have to change the channel during this show, but I really do like the characters on the murder-solving 'team,' especially Dr. Spencer Reid, who has a photographic memory and is very cute. Also, Shemar Moore, all day, every day.

The Wire. Probably the only show of any quality on my list. It unfolds slowly, deeply, inexorably -- like a novel, it's been said -- and it's just devastating. It's all truth in there. So good. Except the fifth season, which is awful and I didn't finish it.

Meg's List:

Game of Thrones. The TV show consolidates all of the kickass aspects of George R.R. Martin's plot and characters while also removing his terrible writing. Win/win.

Parks & Rec. I ship Leslie and Ben so hard. This show made working at a Parks & Recreation department of a small town seem so cute and appealing, I actually checked the website of City Hall to see if they were hiring. It also offers up what I think are some of the most quotable and hilarious lines ever -- exhibit A: "The calzones... betrayed me?!"

LOST. Even though some of the seasons were meandering and confused (seriously, season 3, WTF happened?), and I have never felt satisfied by the last episode, overall, binge-watching the entirety of LOST on Netflix in three months remains one of my most favorite TV-watching experiences. Oh LOST... I wish I knew how to quit you.

Kate's List:

Pretty Little Liars. Don't let the name fool you, this is a seriously addicting and well-written show.  It combines some of my favorite things: creepy serial killers, revenge, and so many fancy dresses.

Sherlock. Shout out to my roommate Lucia on this one who insisted I watch it, and now I'm obsessed. My one complaint is that each season is only 3 episodes long, and there are years in between seasons!  Give the people what they want (Benedict Cumberbatch)!

Psych. I don't think of myself as a fan of slapstick comedy, but this fast-talking series has me in stitches.  I love the way Shawn and Gus interact with each other.  Highlights here.

Dishonorable Mentions:

The Vampire Diaries. Defended fervently until season 5. Then I turned my face away in shame.

Glee. X_X (dead)

How I Met Your Mother. A show I loved until the finale stabbed me in the back and the heart (weeps).

What do you think?  Did your favorite show make our list?  Do you wish to defend any of our dishonorable mentions?  Are we missing out on any must-watch series?  Let us know!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Review of Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira, OR, Kate Likes a Good Cry

There's always one book that I read at the beginning of the summer that leaves me a little weepy and meditative on the subject of loss, and this summer it was Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira. Summer can be a hard season for one who is experiencing grief. At least in winter the weather reflects one's mood; it's bleak, it's barren, it's grey. It's expected that one might snuggle into a sweater and some blankets and not leave the couch all day while the wind howls outside. But summer... everything is fresh and vibrant and alive and you feel totally disconnected from life.  I realize I sound like a real downer.

In Love Letters we find Laurel, just starting her freshman year of high school, struggling with the absence of her mother and splitting time between her father and aunt, and mourning the loss of her beloved older sister. Laurel is charged with an English assignment to write a love letter to someone who is dead, and this project becomes a year-long journey for Laurel as she explores her grief and begins to learn how to begins to learn who she is without May. 

Spoiler: This is not Laurel's high school experience
Love Letters was a pretty heavy read in terms of the cornucopia of issues tackled. Having experienced an idyllic (possibly sheltered) upbringing, I wonder if Laurel's burdens (and those of her friends) were disproportionately heavy to heighten the drama of fiction, or if this is the norm for young people today. 

Spoiler: Not this kind of cornucopia
Not this kind, either
Dellaira's style became a little repetitive and formulaic; Laurel would start writing to a dead musician, actor or writer, talking about facts from their lives and transition into how x, y, or z from this person's life reminded her of May or Laurel's own experiences. This rhythm didn't bother me as it might some readers. It makes sense that for someone grieving, everything could lead their thoughts back to the person they have lost. I loved Laurel's (Dellaira's) imagery, page, and tone. I loved the dreamy, spacey quality of her writing that balanced between prose and poetry. This is a writer who gets caught up in her feelings and manages to translate them into language. Not an easy feat. 

The one thing that did bother me was the ambiguity of Laurel's maturity. She's somewhere between the ages of 13 and 15, and it's acceptable to fluctuate a little, but there were times that she read as if she were 9 and other times she could be 18. What bothered me about this is that it wasn't an exploration of stunted development due to trauma or even that adolescents struggle to walk the line between childhood and adulthood; Dellaira seemed to write Laurel mature or immature based on convenience to the plot.

Have you read Love Letters to the Dead? What did you think?  Are you a book-crier like me?




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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Friday Feels and Finales

It's that time of the week!

One of my favorite webseries, The Autobiography of Jane Eyre ended recently with a pretty disappointing finale. If you have read Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, you know that after a few months in hiding from Thornfield, Jane and Rochester are reunited (and it feels so good).

Due to some "artistic differences" (according to the webseries' website) the actor formally playing Rochester bowed out of the show some time while Jane was hanging with the Rivers. So that means we never... saw him... again.

The creators ended the show at episode 95 and it was clear this was written to be a 100 episode series. The ending felt hurried and incomplete. I didn't feel like we got a resolution. At the ending of Jane Eyre (novel) it was so important to see the previous roles reversed, to see Jane in the position of connections and money and Rochester in the position of (relative) poverty and friendlessness. It was important to me to see the two interacting as equals (in the eyes of society) for the first time.

Sidenote, I enjoyed time Jane spent with the Rivers more than I ever had in the book! I want a celebrate-all-holidays-in-one-night sleepover with Dianimal and Marzipan- how much fun would that be? And I know that SJ and Jane aren't right for each other... but it *felt* so right!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Sam's Top Ten Blogging Confessions

It's that magic time again -- Tuesday, my favorite day of the week! Readers, let's dig right away into my gory, shocking, lengthy, MUST-READ blogging confessions! (Confession number one: HYPERBOLE!)

Confession #2: I still eat at McDonald's. I know! In 2014!

As always, thanks to the fine folks at THE BROKE AND BOOKISH for devising this delightful feature and allowing us to participate in it!

Brought to you by The Broke and Bookish!
10. Privilege.

Let's put it out there right away -- the Mad Ones are undeniably privileged. We do our best to showcase a variety of voices and perspectives in both the YA books we choose and the topics we cover, but we all know that in the YA fiction world, privilege is problematic.

Eleanor and Park
Kate mentioned one of the problems -- whitewashing -- in a #TTT about two weeks ago
Privilege has led us over the years to think that whitewashed covers are OK (they're not!) and stereotypes of minorities are standard (they shouldn't be!). We do our best to point these issues out where we see them, but we're coming from a place of privilege in doing that, and as allies, we want to do less talking and more listening.  Any ideas, readers? Oh, and that brings me to #9 and #8!

9. Inadequate social media presence

Although I am the self-proclaimed queen of social media addiction (recovering Facebook addict since 2013! Six months without a personal Facebook page -- MY BLOG PAGE DOESN'T COUNT, GUYS!) I freely admit that Mad But Magic could be doing a lot more to reach out to new readers and audiences on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus (well, maybe). 

Portrait of a Google Plus user.

We want to put ourselves out there more, and learn more too (see #1)! Any advice, readers? How do you usually find and follow your favorite blogs?

8. Lack of reader engagement
Do bloggers normally ask you this many questions, reader? No? Well, we'd like to start! We have a lot of fabulous, regular readers here at Mad But Magic -- we're at over 10,000 pageviews since we started last summer! -- but we'd like to hear more from you

Portrait of a Mad But Magic reader
What do you like? What do you want to see more of? Less of? We love your comments - and we want to encourage them! (And we want to listen more -- see #1!)

7. Ignoring new releases/#TBT

My Instagram addiction has seeped through to my blog posts -- I am addicted to the throwback reviews! I am always sorely tempted to review old YA books that I feel have been unfairly passed up by critics and popular audiences (C'mon guys! Cinderella 2000, I'm TELLING you!) But sometimes this means I don't give my readers timely reviews -- great example, I've had Seraphina sitting on my self for awhile now (do you remember last YEAR'S Summer #TBR top ten list?) Well, I finally read it -- and I'd love to review it -- but is it too late!? Sometimes I feel like it is. And sometimes I don't care, because dragons.


6. Engaging more with the characters than the author

Is this really a bad thing? No -- but not all confessions are bad! (Confession: I have watched LOTR: The Fellowship of the Ring more times than I have gone to the gym in my entire life! WAIT THAT WAS BAD TOO) But seriously -- often I ignore anything to do with the author -- his or her other works, social media presence, background, anything really -- because it's the characters who are real people to me. People keep telling me that J.K. Rowling started from the bottom, now she's here (maybe that's Drake?) 
Thanks, Internet!
. . . and all these amazing stories about her overcoming adversity, etc. etc., and I'm just like "But guys . . . Harry is an orphan. And he lived in a cupboard." And then people try to tell me Harry isn't real and I try not to run into those people at parties.

5. Blog jealousy

We've all felt it! Yes, that's me -- I'm the girl creeping on your awesome blog posts, feeling like "Man, how did they did they get a GIF in there? Should I capitalize 'GIF'?" But then I read an amazing #FridayFeels or Monday review by one of my fellow Mad Ones and I remember that we've got our own groovy thing going! 

Seriously, get yourself some #FridayFeels.
4. Not posting!

Whoops! Did you know that 2014 has been maybe the busiest year to date for all three of us? We know you've noticed - we haven't been posting as much! (Except for the ever-industrious Kate, who singlehandedly kept the blog alive -- bless you, Kate) But that will change in a few short weeks -- Sam will have taken the bar exam, Kate will keep being awesome, and Meg will be out on parole. Wait, what?

3. Copyright laws

Speaking of rulebreakers (just kidding, Meg!) all this bar studying is making me wonder whether I am violating any copyright laws when I post images

I usually wear a ski mask while I loot Google images for my blog
This is something I'm going to research a bit more and look into. Any fellow bloggers with thoughts on the matter?

2. Fear of giving a negative review

This is my secret shame! Kate gave a very honest review of a book the other day -- actually, Kate always gives very honest reviews of books -- and I realized that I have yet to give a book below three stars, except some in my Top Tens that I think were actually movies. It's so scary for me to say I don't like a book! As someone with a burning desire to write her own novel but lacking the time, energy, and gumption to do it, it is difficult -- really difficult -- for me to criticize anyone who has made that effort, put themselves out there, bared their soul, and . . . wrote something terrible

I know! That face!

Because it does happen, people. All the time! I read a free book available for download the other day and it was so bad. So, so bad. And I can't bring myself to give a negative review! The book literally ended with a "So it was all a dream!" sequence, and it was like a small child had come up to me and kicked me in the shins. Was the author for real? And yet . . . there was her book, out there for the masses. She got her novel written . . . now, why can't I?

1. Not enough collaboration with my co-bloggers

Do you know just how fantastic Kate and Meg are? I doubt you do, because you probably don't know them personally, and you can only see their silhouettes, but Kate and Meg are actually Kate Middleton and Megan Fox

In a twist, I'm actually Beyoncé.
No, no, I jest, I jest. But seriously, I've got two absolutely amazing co-bloggers here, and we have yet to write a post together! Well, guess what - we're going to fix that! I'm secretly planning for us all to read a book this summer and then, BOOM! We're going to a co-write a review, and they're never going to see it coming.

As long as they don't read this post.



Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Top 10 Classics and Some Notable Mentions

This is a feature of the Broke and the Bookish

Classics. I wish I read more of them. I know I've mentioned many of these in previous posts, and I'm excited to have them all together now in a top 10 list!

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
In my top 5 novels of all time. I love this book. I love Jane as a narrator, I love how modern and relevant this book feels today. I love exploring the feminist themes. I love the romance and the mystery and you better believe I had trouble sleeping at night after having read one of the creepiest scenes in all of literature! Bronte was an author ahead of her time.

Persuasion by Jane Austen
My favorite of Austen's novels. I love the quiet longing and strength and the hope of second chances.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
One of my first books. This will remind me forever of my mother.

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
This is not a book, this is an experience.

A Room with a View by E.M. Forster
A comedy of manners, a study of society, brilliantly written.

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
Jean Valjean is one of the most sympathetic characters in all of literature.

A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen
My favorite play of all time; Ibsen's progressive thinking is heartening.

Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas
The ultimate story of revenge- Edmond masterfully manipulates his enemies into orchestrating their own downfall.

Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
The most skillful plot construction I've ever read... and darn funny, too!

A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton-Porter
One of my favorite comfort books; it makes me want to return to nature.

Some notable mentions:
North and South- Think Pride and Prejudice meets industrial England
Great Expectations- Dickens is a literary mastermind and Miss Havisham is my favorite
Tess of the D'Urbervilles- I've already made my feelings on Hardy evident
The Yellow Wallpaper- Brilliant social and psychological examination
The Crucible- "IT IS MY NAME!" Heartbreaking.
Anne of the Island - My favorite of L.M. Montgomery's works!


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