Year of the Tiger, Book II in the Changeling Sisters Series, is now available through Smashwords.com, which offers PDF/Sony/EPUB/Online Reading Formats! Happy Halloween, everyone!
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
Friday, October 4, 2013
THE DAY AFTER the government shutdown in October, I went to my work. We commenced to have a lively discussion lamenting the following things:
- John Boehner
- The gerrymandering of districts by both parties so no Congressional seats can ever be truly contested
- The inexplicable phenomena of the Tea Party having so much power in the Republican Party
- John Boehner and other politicians’ “me-first” leadership (influenced no doubt by the media and its constant quips on how if Boehner calls for a vote, then "he's surrendering!")
- How the US government shutdown may be part of our larger decline in the eyes of the world
- What this gradual accumulation of wealth in a smaller and smaller percentage of people at the top without being re-distributed means for capitalism (and for our daily lives)
- The Legislature’s non-actions being like if the Executive said, “I’m not going to do anything until you pass gun control"
- And John Boehner. Seriously, Boehner, just call a vote in the House already.
It got dark and depressing as usual. Yay for gridlocked democracy.
After work, I took my forty-minute bus ride back home. I sat next to a talker: an older man of Japanese descent who’d been born and raised here on Oahu. He started asking if I was going to school here, what I was studying, and he gradually coaxed me into conversation. Naturally, the topic swayed toward politics and everything that was going wrong, and I was surprised when he kept up with me. Contemporary issue for contemporary issue. And I had to recognize my own egalitarian bias, that an everyday guy on the street would know as much as me if not more about the pitfalls of our current system. But I’m young and think I know everything.
We talked about a lot of things. The grandfather pointed out that Hawai’i reflects the shift of cultural values that the rest of the mainland is *now* experiencing with the influx of South American and Asian immigrants. While the mainland (Tea Party) is struggling to comprehend that the “norm” isn’t Puritanical white values infused with the old “pioneer spirit/manifest destiny” anymore (hasn’t been for some time)—the landscape has shifted—Hawai’i has known this for a long time. Things here obviously aren’t perfect. There’s racism as people of different cultural values negotiate living together and there’s the real danger of the Hawaiian language disappearing forever. But people have had more time to see that these different narratives can intertwine together while not losing what makes them different.
In Washington, when I’d watch the news, a good chunk of it would be spent on violence and who’d been murdered in yet another shooting spree. On Oahu, the local news will struggle to find some crime to report—but eventually they’ll just end up talking about a cute cat that ended up stuck in a tree. When there is a murder, it is shocking and sad to the entire community, and you can hear the loss in the reporter’s voice.
“I think everyone should be required to go live somewhere else for a while. Go abroad. People here are so spoiled. In America, it’s all about the convenience. Nowhere else in the world do you find the convenience we have,” the grandfather said, listing off all the places he’d been to—Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, a number of countries in Europe.
Smart guy. If there were a way to make that possible, then that would be the most awesome thing ever.
“But I love America. Greatest country in the world!” he exclaimed, as his bus stop came up. “Other nationalities may criticize America. But you give them a ticket to come here, and they’d be on the first plane over.”
I think there's some truth to that. There is something about the promise of America that is still being realized even by the people who’ve lived here our whole lives. I’d been beginning to lose my faith in the democracy we have, but this random stranger knew that even with all of its ugliness, we can’t give up on it yet.
Disclaimer: The above is depicted as fiction, not fact.
Thursday, October 3, 2013
DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE
Warning! Spoiler Alert!
LYRICAL, HAUNTINGLY ROMANTIC, with enough beautiful turns of phrase to make me squeal with glee.
Yes, I had a fun time reading this book.
Meet Karou, a blue-haired bundle of awesomeness who is an art student in Prague by day and a teeth-collector for the mysterious Brimstone by night. Come, now. You know you’re intrigued, if not a little bit creeped-out by, that “teeth-collector” bit. But it’s just one of the many ways Laini Taylor subverts typical tropes of YA fantasy. While she’s not off exploring an atmospheric Prague with her snarky ballerina friend Zuzanna, Karou goes on “errands” for her mentors, a trio of eccentric devils with a secret agenda that is attracting otherworldly attention.
Karou’s “family” are original, well-defined characters who never fail to enchant in every scene they’re featured in. Since the family is introduced as “demons,” the reader immediately questions whether we can trust their motivations or not—especially since they’re asking Karou to steal teeth of all things from a variety of species, humans not excluded, for God knows what purpose. I loved imagining the chimera-like appearance of the demon leader, the wise old Brimstone, and the scaly serpent Issa. Vaguely sinister or not, I was rapt with attention to figure out what this demonic family was up to.
Of course, when the angels showed up—the vengeful fiery kind that leaves smoldering black handprints on the homes of the demons as a warning of ill tidings to come—Karou’s family gets cast in a more sympathetic light. And Karou is left more in doubt than ever of who she “was” and what horrific secret her family is hiding from her.
Okay, so I really enjoyed the first half of the book. I was truly content watching this intricate world-building take place. The little things—like the hole-in-the-wall Bohemian restaurant Karou and Zuzanna gossip in, the timeless feel of the colorful streets of Prague, the revenge on Karou’s supremely entertaining ex-lover, Kazimir, whisked me away to a trance-like state of bliss. Karou was organic, independent and smart, an instant favorite fantasy heroine like my others—Katniss, Hermoine Granger, Rose Hathaway—and I absolutely loved the ugliness of Razgut, a fallen angel who’s so self-righteously selfish and grotesque to read about, you can’t help but want more.
The romantic lead, Akiva the angel, is okay. He’s blindly following the angelic cause, but questions all the right things, and seems like a decent guy. He failed to entrance me the way he does Karou, but then again, so did the entire second half of the book. It launches an entirely different plot from the first part, exploring Karou’s past life. I really didn’t see that coming. And while the doomed love story between Akiva and Karou, aka, “Madrigal” is conventionally dramatic and wrestles with some dark, depressing themes—genocide and exploitation—the entire time I was thinking, “When are we gonna get back to Prague?” I suppose I feel that less time could have been spent on the flashback. Taylor got me so invested in the present-day characters and their present-day troubles that I was impatient having to wade through a long, drawn-out back story. By the time I was finally returned to the present, the urgency was gone. I couldn’t remember the dire circumstances we’d left our main character off in. Cue cliffhanger.
Ah, well. Kudos to Taylor for making her magical version of Prague feel more fantastical than the actual fantasy flashback world. And from what my preview of Book II: Days of Blood and Starlight suggests, at least Zuzanna, Kazimir, and the rest of the gang back in Prague won’t be forgotten. Definitely recommend investing in this beautiful series—it reads like a modern-day fairytale.
Recommended for Fans of: Ursula K. LeGuin, Patricia A. McKillip, Robin Hobb, Guy Gavriel KayNovember Book Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo