The Lucky 7 Challenge

Dammit. I’ve been given a challenge. Yes, complete with my name and a link. Damn you, Jess! I don’t back down from a challenge, so I also have to overcome my fear of judgement and actually post a raw, unedited extract from something I’ve been working on – bit-by-bit – for a while now. Shut up, inner-perfectionist; you’re not welcome here!

Here’s what you do:

Find a current work-in-progress of yours. Go to the 7th or 77th page, then to the 7th line of that page, and from there, copy and paste approximately seven lines and share them!

The work-in-progress I am sharing here is from a 69 page document (yes, I giggled immaturely when I noticed that, too) so I’ve chosen seven lines from the seventh page.

He jerked the hand brake on and Jem looked out at a very unassuming house in what she recognised to be one of the outer suburbs, backing onto the fae reserve that surrounded the east of the city. That was the only reason the fae came out from hiding, for the reserves. They couldn’t handle it anymore, watching their homes get destroyed and being powerless to stop it. Watching the trees fall and the hills get levelled, they simply could not survive on the little patches that had been left, so they came forward. A few secrets, a few magical advancements in exchange for untouchable reservations and the chance to live out of the shadows.

So. Who’s next to take up the challenge?

Book Review: ‘The Game’ by Diana Wynne Jones

Book Title: The Game

Author: Diana Wynne Jones

Genre: Fantasy

Summary: Hayley has lived what feels like an eternity with her grandparents and, after upsetting her grandmother, is sent away to her Aunts and cousins in Ireland where she discovers she is not as alone as she thought she was. Traversing the mythosphere and contemporary England/Ireland, Hayley is drawn into The Game which, in turn, reveals the truth behind her parents’ disappearance and her isolated upbringing.

Favourite Scene: I loved the scene when Hayley first enters the mythosphere and witnesses the different myths taking place. Mythological stories have been well researched and recreated in this novel, and the first experience Hayley has in the mythosphere is a solid promise of things to come.

Favourite Character: Harmony.

Review: Diana Wynne Jones is considered a bit of a legend (mild understatement) in terms of writing magic and fantasy novels. I was first introduced to her work in the form of Howl’s Moving Castle a few years ago and fell in love with the detail she puts into every character and the beautiful descriptions she uses to create intricate settings. The Game, however, is my favourite of all her books – it is a testament to well-researched writing and a style of magic that is unique to the talent of Diana Wynn Jones. The appropriation of Greek (and a little Russian) mythology made for a unique story that may even be considered a tribute to the mythologies that influence fantasy writing today.

Diana Wynne Jones

Book Review: ‘The Knife of Never Letting Go’ by Patrick Ness

Book Title: The Knife of Never Letting Go

Author: Patrick Ness

Genre: Dystopia / Science Fiction

Summary: This is the first book in the Chaos Walking trilogy and is set in a futuristic world on another planet, called “New World”. The native Spackle are blamed for releasing a germ that killed all women and left the men with the Noise, which is a constant barrage of information as men can hear one another’s thoughts all the time. Todd is the only boy Prentisstown, and will not be a man until his thirteenth birthday. A month before Todd is to become a man he flees Prentisstown, only to discover the town does not want to let him go and he must outrun an army if he is to understand the many secrets that have been kept from him.

Favourite Scene: My favourite is actually a major spoiler … So my second favourite … Nope, that’s a pretty bad spoiler too. Hrm … OK … My favourite “thing” about this book was the representation of the Noise – the visual depiction of the Noise on the page was very effective and revealed a lot about the different male characters. I really appreciated the use of formatting to give the Noise “character”!

Favourite Character: Manchee!

Review: I opened this book and saw words like ‘thru’ and ‘stayshun’ and shuddered. Then I read the first page. And the second. And, typical of my reading habits, I closed the book in the early hours of the morning. Last week I gave a pretty brutal review of Eve … this week, I can gain some literary karma points with absolute OMGTHISISAWESOME raving about Patrick Ness’ first book in his amazing series. The narrative is nothing less than brilliant. Despite being told from Todd’s perspective and thus lending towards his point of view, the characters are believable and each have their own strong voices. The language – including the “ain’t” and the “thru” and the numerous variations on spelling – is honest in its representation of a young, uneducated boy trying to articulate his experiences. In The Knife of Never Letting Go the character of Todd becomes so real that you cannot help but trust him, cheer for him, cry for him, and feel a terrible sense of anxious anticipation as he tries to reach Haven. This sort of book is exactly why I think young adult fiction should be given a new name more appealing to “adults” – it’s not a book only for “young adults”. If you’re new to dystopian settings, read this book. If you appreciate unique characters and use of language, read this book. If you enjoy a good story, read this book. If you have air in your lungs, read this book. The only negative thing I could say about The Knife of Never Letting Go is this: if you don’t have the other two books in the Chaos Walking trilogy beside you while you read the first, you may find yourself wandering the streets at 3am searching for a 24 hour bookstore.

Book Review: ‘Eve’ by Anna Carey

Book Title: Eve

Author: Anna Carey

Genre: Dystopia / Speculative Fiction

Summary: Eve has lived most of her life in the confines of School, protected and safe from the wild beasts and the cruel men who live beyond the high walls. It has been sixteen years since a deadly virus has wiped out most of earth’s population and Eve is excited to be a part of the future of New America – until she discovers the School’s sinister intentions for her and her classmates. After escaping from School, everything Eve has been educated to believe is challenged as she seeks refuge from the soldiers who hunt her and the fate that awaits her.

Favourite Scene: When Eve’s time with Otis and Marjorie comes to an end – I can’t give too much information because I don’t want to spoil it, but the end of this time together is brutal enough to remind you that not all fiction has to sugarcoat the “reality” of survival in a post-apocalyptic environment, which could be forgotten in this otherwise “romantic” vision of a dystopian future.

Favourite Character: I adored the orphans, namely Benny and Silas, for their innocence and their complete devotion to Eve. The lack of emotional support the boys have received from their “rough” leader allows for Eve’s kindness to have a positive influence on the orphans and you can perceive their need for a “mother” figure. This leads me to a bit of a tirade against representations of women, however, as Eve is something of a feminine, “sweet as pie” female figure – helpless, constantly in need of guidance and support, and adopting the role of nurturing woman with the orphans far too quickly. While this can be explained by the upbringing she has had, there is much to be said for the domesticity of the novel’s female protagonist.

Review:  I’m having some issues with representations of women in young adult fiction. I’ve been churning through novels recently and, quite frankly, I’m sick of teenage girls having monogamous relationships with teenage boys who dote upon them and worship them as feminine creatures worthy of being firmly planted on a pedestal. These relationships also have a sense of permanence and the female and male find themselves committed to each other for the rest of their lives. I know this has been a major issue in young adult fiction for quite some time, but it’s really starting to bother me. I have to flag this now as it’s going to skew my review of the book. To be clear: I am not a fan of monogamous, long-term committed relationships in young adult fiction (maybe it’s my cynical side).

Now we have that out of the way, I’ll try to give an unbiased review of the book.

I didn’t like it. It’s yet another young adult novel that has yet another sequel (it is referred to as a “series” and as a “trilogy” so maybe we’ll only be cursed with three) and I’m sick of having to spend money on multiple slow-moving books only to arrive at a predictable end that was foreseeable from the blurb on the back of the first book.

Jaded? Yes. A tad cranky? No, a lot cranky. The cliché writing was almost depressing and I’m not sure how many descriptions of Caleb’s chest are necessary in a single chapter, but based on this book the author has decided that somewhere between 3 and 5 is acceptable.

I love young adult novels. I love post-apocalyptic and dystopian settings. I love speculative fiction. There are some excellent novels out there that nestle in these categories – Eve isn’t one of them. There is little that is thought-provoking and the pacing makes for little excitement. The plot is simple, slow-moving, and too easy to read for the characters or the plot to stay with you once you’ve turned the final page.

Yes, I’m being brutal today. Want a good dystopian young adult novel? Go for Philip Reeve or, for the romantics who don’t mind a bit of monogamy but still want something interesting to read, try Ally Condie.

Book Review: ‘Forever’ by Maggie Stiefvater

Book Title: Forever

Author: Maggie Stiefvater

Genre: Fantasy / Paranormal Romance

Summary: This is the third book in a trilogy that I’ve seen referenced as the Shiver Trilogy and The Wolves of Mercy Falls Trilogy (the former being most common). The story extends beyond the relationship between Sam and Grace, addressing the tensions between humans and wolves – and Isabel’s father’s plans to kill them all. As Cole tries to understand how and why the werewolves transform, Isabel tries to urge Sam and Grace into action as D-Day looms.

Favourite Scene: The opening scene – it’s wild and vicious and you can completely understand the rest of the plot events arising from it.

Favourite Character: I’d like to say Cole, because he becomes more than a self-centred jerk in this novel, but I must admit a certain affection for Officer Koenig.

Review:  I think it’s fair to say that, considering the length of the novel, not much happens in Forever plot-wise, but character-wise there is so much development and action that you couldn’t dismiss it as a waste of words. As a whole, there’s not a lot of action in the whole trilogy, but the characters develop into intricate, real people who leap from the pages by the time you get through Forever. They felt real – not in an obsessive “OMG TEAM SAM” way, but in a “I read your diary and I understand you now” kind of way. I maintain that the series is great entertainment, a quick and easy read – and the special part is that you take some amazing characters and imagery away with you.