Stories, thoughts, observations, rants and dribble. Just another of my attempts to keep the interested people informed ...

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Review of Fire by Kristin Cashore

Because I haven't really blogged much lately (like, at all), here is my overly-long review of Kristin Cashore's Fire. Clearly, I wasn't impressed. FireFire by Kristin Cashore
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I started reading this book on the heels of Graceling, which I quite enjoyed (although it definitely had its drawbacks). I was utterly disappointed, and at several points in the book I wondered if I would actually be able to make it through the whole thing. Last night I managed to power through about half of the novel, mostly so I could put it behind me and start on something enjoyable (I know, I know, I just should have let it go).

I didn't mind the general story arc, even though it does drag on a bit. I liked finding out where Leck had come from and that this other land existed across the mountains from the Seven Kingdoms. I didn't mind the characters - even the unlikeable ones are fairly well-written and believable. Some people have said that Fire's relationship with Brigan happened too quickly, but it happened over months, during pre-wartime, so that's fine with me too. What really got to me was the less-than-obvious feminist 'undertones' (or obvious themes) that weren't really discussed but just taken for granted. This is a medieval setting so I'm not shocked and appalled that girls are having sex at 15 (though since this is YA, I don't know that this is appropriate), but the way that no-strings relationships, abortion, and illegitimate children are just assumed, and not addressed, bugs me. Spoilers about abortion and self-sterilisation follow. Mila, when she is already too-far-pregnant, says that she would definitely have taken the abortion drugs if she knew they existed (and she doesn't take this back or address it once her child is born). Fire, with only a short lead up and barely addressing it, decides to make herself sterile, thus ending her race completely. The introduction and the reveal were so sudden and indirect that I had a "Wait, what?!" moment and had to go back and read it again. It was covered in a few short sentences:
"In the middle of December planning, Fire made a choice. She hoped she chose right."
"‘No,’ she said. ‘Don’t fret, it was a small thing. I’m recovered.’ Which was a lie, for her body was sore still and her heart raw as Hanna’s knees. But it was what she hoped would be the truth, eventually."
"And then, because he was holding her hands, she told him all of it, quite simply: how desperately she wanted children, and why she’d decided she mustn’t have them, and how out of fear of changing her mind, she’d arranged quietly, with Clara and Musa’s help, to take the medicines that would make it forever impossible. And she hadn’t recovered, not nearly, for her heart was small and shivering, and it seemed that she couldn’t stop crying."

And then they just go on to say that she must be around babies in the future because she loves them so much! Nothing about how there will never be another monster human, and she decided, alone and as a teenager, that all future monster humans' natures would be too awful to be permitted to live, even though she seems to be turning out different from her father. Nothing's really mentioned about this again. There's also that I really didn't need to hear about Fire's 'monthly bleedings', especially because the blood attracts other monsters so she has to hide inside! I don't think this was really that necessary to the story, and I can't imagine how much more work it would have been for Cashore to work the travel, action, and sex around times when Fire wasn't bleeding.

The other major thing that bothered me was some of the writing and naming of things. I know this is supposed to be for YA readers (although that's questionable), and the protagonist is a teenager, but when Fire starts thinking about a bookshelf's bookshelfness, I nearly put the book down forever. I also really didn't like the term monster for the mind-addling versions of regular animals. I didn't mind the concept, but the word bugged me from the very beginning. She had such a great word in Graceling, why couldn't she have come up with something better than monster lady. I also didn't like Fire's name, which didn't seem to fit with the world. Nobody else was given a noun as a name, except for Archer, and his was a nickname. Then there's Lord Mydogg. I couldn't read this without thinking, "What's up, my dog?" every single time. It was quite distracting. Another small aside was that I found it weird that she named the months of the year the same names we do. Why would they have July and August, etc?

All in all, this book did not make me want to read the next one in the series, which is a pity. I think that the world she created was generally well fleshed out (although I can't imagine how there were raptor monsters, rats, lions, etc in Fire's world and not in Katsa's). I won't be rushing to read the next Cashore book.

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Monday, April 25, 2011

Lest we forget

For the first time since I've been here, there was an early morning Anzac Day service in Shanghai. The last couple of years have been on weekends, so lucky lazy expats have been able to sleep in a little. This beautiful Monday morning had Kiwis and Aussies gathering at the Australian Consul General's house from around 5:30 (I know, I was there). The service was lovely, with the stand out speech being from Turkish Consul General Deniz Eke. There was a dramatic moment right at the end of the Last Post, when a boy just in front of me fainted on the lawn. His parents took care of him while the rest of us stood mutely for the minute of silence. He seemed to recover pretty well, though. The only incongruous part for me was a jazzed-up recording of the NZ national anthem with the overly-dramatic singer from last year. Admittedly, we Kiwis need a bit of help from a lead singer, but hopefully next year they'll get a vocalist to go along with the instrumentals for both anthems. The follow-up breakfast care of Wagas, Baker and Spice, and Nick's Meats was exactly what was needed. After a chat with friends and a promise to be at the barbecue at Kakadu tonight, I took an extra coffee and a mini lamington for the road.

I'll finish with the words of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, which make me have to blink back tears every time I hear them. They remind me of Çanakkale, being in Turkey for their celebration of victory (and our defeat), and of how proud I am to be a New Zealander, wherever I am in the world.

"Heroes who shed their blood and lost their lives! You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours. You, the mothers, who sent their sons from far away countries wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well."

Lest we forget.

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Earthquake in Christchurch today #eqnz

Again, Facebook and Twitter are providing me with current news. Here's the situation so far. Earthquake just over an hour ago, 6.3 centred about 10km south of Christchurch. Multiple fatalities so far, including two buses crushed by falling buildings. Cathedral is damaged. If you're trying to contact people in Christchurch, text message is the best way (Aussies can call 1300 555 135 for info). Phone lines are pretty congested right now, 80% of the city has no power. 

Crossing my fingers and thinking about you, Christchurch.

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Thursday, January 06, 2011

Another new year, another set of things I won’t manage?

So, it’s that time of year again. Reflection, celebration, promises to self. The blog/s have fallen by the wayside again, and I don’t know exactly what to do with them at this point (combine, change focus, keep going the way I am?). I’m barely keeping up with my paid blogs, and with work, study, and the rest of my life, I’m struggling a bit.

This is not to say that I don’t have ‘free’ time. I have been spending a lot of time reading other blogs, reading books, watching TV, and crocheting. This is time that I should be redirecting towards writing and studying. The hard thing is that most of the former activities I can do while sitting on the sofa with my lovely boyfriend. It’s not that our relationship needs work; I just like to spend most of my non-work, non-sleep hours with him. It’s a bit hard to do that at the same time as something that takes a bit more concentration.

Anyway, here is a list of things that have kept me busy in 2010, and hopefully I will be able to elaborate a bit more on them in 2011.

  • Work - the office moved out towards the airport, so now my commute time is about 2 hours every day, rather than half an hour. Other than that, it’s going ok.
  • Home - said lovely boyfriend moved here from the UK, and we moved into the apartment of a departing friend (who we miss, but we also love the apartment). Now living in the French Concession in Shanghai, which is a bit quieter than my previous neighbourhood.
  • Travel - I went to Hong Kong twice (once for Chinese New Year and once on a visa run), as well as visiting Europe for the first time in a while (Czech Republic, Hungary, Austria, Italy). I miss Hungarian food!
  • Friends - as usual, people come and go, but I have a lovely group of friends that make it very easy to live here.
  • Study - I had a few months’ break from Chinese study because of the office move, but I have restarted twice weekly one-on-one lessons, which I need to put more follow-up/preparation work into. I can have basic conversations and get things done, and my reading is improving in leaps and bounds, but still. I need to do better.

Things that are taking up my time and therefore I recommend:

  • Books - because of recommendations from a friend, I have been reading a lot (a lot) of young adult fiction lately, interspersed with a few more adult books. Currently reading Love in the Time of Cholera, a YA dystopian trilogy by Lois Lowry, and re-reading Catching Fire (from the Hunger Games trilogy).
  • Online - blogs currently sucking up a lot of my time are: Nedroid, Hyperbole and a Half, Mark Reads (currently reading the Hunger Games trilogy, hence my going back to Catching Fire), Must Have Cute, Reasoning with Vampires (yes, I hated Twilight, and I don’t know why I am torturing myself with seeing exactly how bad the writing is, sentence by sentence), My Milk Toof, Not Always Right, and some Shanghai blogs (A Totally Impractical Guide to Living in Shanghai, I Love China, From Dumplings to Donuts). I’ve recently started reading MWF Seeking BFF, too, and I think it deserves its own post later. I have also actually been using Twitter, and I do quite enjoy following Luke Ryan, Neil Patrick Harris, Nathan Fillion, Oatmeal, Lynne Murphy (linguistic goodness), New Scientist, Dr Karl, and Simon Pegg. Other stuff is OK, too.
  • TV - last year I watched Outrageous Fortune, Battlestar Galactica, West Wing, Castle, Chuck, Glee, How I Met Your Mother, Hell’s Kitchen, The Amazing Race, Futurama, No Ordinary Family, Lie to Me, and probably a bunch of other stuff. I also embarrassingly got a bit addicted to Vampire Diaries. This year I plan to go a bit Joss and watch season 2 of Dollhouse (not sure how good it will be), and also watch season 2 of Buffy (and possibly the other seasons after that. I just need an Oz fix).
  • Craftiness - I started crocheting again when the cold began to set in, and I am enjoying it a lot as usual. I bought a few books, and one of my friends started up a weekly Stitch ‘n’ Bitch sort of group. It’s in a tiny little wool shop, and I’m really enjoying getting together with a few ladies (and gentleman) over some wool, wine, and snacks. Happily, boyfriend is enthusiastic about this skill, and even wears the stuff I have made him. I’ve made a blanket, a cowl, socks, gloves, and a bunch of unfinished little things. I also learned how to make tiny hats using wool and cardboard tubes. Sweet.

Wow, this was linky. I’m looking forward to doing posts about specific things, rather than splashing links and random comments everywhere when people probably won’t click them.

I also respond well to external motivation, so somebody please tell me it’s worth writing. Thanks. 

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