Friday, August 16, 2013

Keeping You a Secret

Title: Keeping You a Secret
Author: Julie Anne Peters
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Pages: 181
Genre: Young Adult

With a steady boyfriend, the position of Student Council President, and a chance to go to an Ivy League college, high school life is just fine for Holland Jaegar. At least it seems to be. But when Cece Goddard comes to school, everything changes. Cece and Holland have undeniable feelings for each other, but how will others react to their developing relationship?

Spoiler Alert!

Keeping You a Secret is a coming out tale, and I had some really intense reactions to what was going on in this book. Holland’s story is my worst nightmare; to have everyone you love turn his or her back on you because of who you are intrinsically.

Holland is a high school senior who’s not really sure about who she is or who she wants to be. I remember senior year of high school. It was a whirlwind. I was cramming for school and ACTs and SATs. I was trying to spend as much time with my friends as possible because I knew everything would be different after graduation. I was trying to finish college applications and scholarship applications, then trying to pick which school I wanted to go to and what I was going to do once I got there. I couldn’t imagine trying to deal with figuring out and accepting my identity as a lesbian during that time. But that’s what Holland did. During this hugely transitional year of her life, she figured out and admitted to herself that she was a lesbian. Wow.

So she admits and accepts she is a lesbian, and now Holland’s ready to tell everyone. Her girlfriend, Cece, doesn’t feel quite the same way. She asks Holland to keep it a secret. Cece frames it with pretty words like she’s trying to protect Holland from the backlash and hate, but we later find out it was for much more selfish reasons. Duh. People are selfish. I really disagree with anyone trying to say when a person has to tell people about their identity as homosexual. It is a personal experience, and only you can know when the right time is. It is no one else’s right to say you have to do it before (or even after) you are ready. And because Holland agreed to wait, someone did the honors for her.  Again, I can’t stress enough how wrong it is for someone to take this decision away from her. I know that it happens all the time, but it is an incredible invasion of privacy.

Holland is “outed” by someone she cares about, which is bad enough. But her mother’s reaction is my ultimate worst fear come to life. Her mother says some truly hateful things and then kicks Holland out of the house. The words she uses are exactly what I was most afraid of hearing when I was coming out. It was raw, and unfortunately extremely realistic for a lot of people when they’re coming out. Too many people get told by the ones they love the most that who they are is wrong, perverted, disgusting, etc. And too many kids end up on the streets because of who they are. It is a sad, sad fact of where we are as a culture.

But even through all of the hate that Holland endures, in the end she is in a much better place than the beginning. Sure she lives in a run-down shelter for kids who’ve been kicked out because they’re gay. She lost a mother who resented her from birth. She lost some bitchy “friends” who never really cared about her. But she is happy, she knows who she is, and she has a much better picture of who she wants to be. And that isn’t necessarily who society and her parents want her to be, but who she was born to be. It is a very empowering ending.

Ultimately, this book just made me so grateful for my friends and family. I can’t say enough how much it means to me that so many of the people I care most about are still in my life. This book showed me how bad coming out can be. And it made me realize how amazing my support system is, and I am really feeling the love that they have shown me over the years. So thanks, y’all!! I love you, too.

Covers: 4/5
Characters: 4/5
Plots: 4/5
Writing: 4/5
Individuality: 4/5

The Whole Shebang: 4/5

Monday, August 12, 2013

Top Ten YA Series

10. House of Night PC and Kristin Cast

This series is about Zoey Redbird. In the first book she gets "marked" and is sent to the House of Night, a school for fledgling vampires. There she learns all about being a vampire; vampire history; and the normal reading, 'riting, 'rithmetic. I picked up the first book, Marked, when I was at Barnes and Noble with 4 of my very dear friends waiting around for the midnight release of Breaking Dawn. It had a relatively gloomy cover, which always peaks my interest. Also Barnes and Noble told me I would like it, so I bought it. Good job, Barnes and Noble, I Did like it! I can't decide if it's the part of me that wants to be a rebel (and loves the idea of lace filigree tattoos) or if it's because I'm just a nerdy, vampire-book lover. But I love this series. I like the mix of Cherokee beliefs and the vampires' beliefs. Zoey’s grandmother and the Cherokee values guide Zoey in her quest as this chosen, badass, fledgling vampire. Basically the goddess, Nyx, decided Zoey needed to whip the House of Night into shape. And she does just that throughout the series. At times it can be trite, and with so many books in the series I feel like it's almost overdone. But I will still read them to find out how Zoey's story finally ends because all in all they're very entertaining!

9. The Wake Trilogy Lisa McMann

Wow. These 3 books are so awesome. They tell the story of Janie who has a very unfortunate gift. Whenever she falls asleep, if there is a person sleeping nearby she will wake up in their dream. This sounds kind of cool, but the drawbacks are the pits. She never gets any rest because she's always awake, whether in her consciousness or someone else's unconsciousness. I was sucked into these books because it's not often that something I would consider a super-power is discussed negatively. But I think it's definitely cool to look at the other side of the coin. This girl was born with this ability, she doesn't want it, doesn't like it, and ultimately it could lead to her early demise. I had never once thought about super-powers this way. Not that dream-waking usually comes to mind when I think about awesome super-powers, but roll with it. I had never thought about them being a burden, or something to consider a curse. These books changed that. I also really like Janie's struggle to accept her ability, learn to master it, and eventually use it to save the day. That part was pretty typical of a super-hero story, but it's a great theme nonetheless. 

8. Night World LJ Smith

I really like LJ Smith’s stuff; she is a hard-core romantic, and it definitely shows itself in this series. The bond that LJ Smith creates between soul mates is my favorite part of Night World. In Night World (and The Secret Circle series, f.y.i.) every soul mate pair is connected by this shimmery, silver string of energy. It’s not like they walk around all day with these lightning bolts sticking out of their chests; it’s symbolic. But when 2 soul mates kiss they are overwhelmed with this energy, and they can hear each other’s thoughts. It sounds just like a Disney movie, and it is; which is probably why I love it. But Night World is about just that, the world that LJ Smith created. It’s not a series based on one specific character or couple. Sure the characters in each book are all linked in some way; whether they are distant cousins or happen to meet at some point in the book. But it’s more about how all of these loosely linked characters end up working together toward the same goal. I really like series like this. You read just enough about a character to really like them, but they don’t really have time to get annoying.  Also one of my favorite characters, Ash, has eyes that change color. And not the kind of color-change where you wear a blue shirt so your eyes look extra blue. No, legitimately change colors in the middle of a conversation. I just think that’s cool.

7. Twilight Stephenie Meyer

I couldn’t leave Twilight off the list. My friend at Blockbuster recommended this book one night at work, and I never looked back. I am sure we all know the story of the moody, non-descript teenage girl who managed to seduce the 80-year-old man-child into stalking her and nearly killing himself before they were married and lived happily ever after with the most perfect of happy endings in almost any book. I mean, seriously, Bella got everything she could have ever asked for. It’s pretty frustrating. But you know I love that mess. I’m a sucker for unrealistic expectations and vampires. And if you’re reading this, it means you’re most likely my FaceBook friend. That means you have probably seen evidence of my Twilight obsession before, and it would be pointless to lie to one another and pretend that it doesn’t exist.

6. Wicked Lovely Melissa Marr

So this is the series that changed my definition of fairy. Before reading Wicked Lovely, fairies were tiny girls with wings and pixy dust. (Obviously these are pixies, so my generalization is rather atrocious.) And now I know the error of my ways thanks to these books. The best part about the Wicked Lovely books is the villains. Bananoc and Irial are my favorite characters to hate. Bananoc is pure chaos; she thrives on conflict and discord. And Irial is the villain to whom this most aptly applies: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Irial is King of the Dark Court, but when Bananoc challenges his court (along with the other 3) he looks to the protagonists for help. There’s also the Hunt, who are some badass biker fairies that do Irial’s bidding.

5. Morganville Vampires Rachel Caine

Rachel Caine, you are a genius. And so is her main character, Claire Danvers. Claire is 16 when she moves to Morganville, Texas to go to college. She arrives and has the snot kicked out of her within one week of living in the dorms. This is all Michael, Eve, and Shane need to see before they agree to her moving into the Glass House with them. And from then on out it is one crazy vampire attack after another. Claire is one of my favorite leading ladies. Had I read this series when I ranked the Top Ten BA Females, Claire would definitely have made the list. She is such a nerd. She loves school, and will not miss a class even if her life depends on it. I like that her brain gets her out of the tough situations just as often as her fancy anti-vampire weapons and her friends. I really like the dynamic between Eve, Michael, Shane, and Claire in the first half of the series. I just read book 13 and things are changing, as is natural for early adulthood, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

4. Uglies Scott Westerfeld

I stand by what I have said in the past, Tally Youngblood is such a badass. In Uglies we are taken to a place where any kind of self-modification/enhancement is possible, painless, and free on your 16th birthday. Before that, you are completely normal. No more or less beautiful than anyone else is when they’re born and live to be 15. And I believe that if I could ask 50 15-year-old girls right now if they would want to change something about themselves on their 16th birthday, most would say yes. That’s why Tally is such a badass. She said no. She knew that the surgeries did not just make physical changes, and she was not going to have them take away her Tally-ness. The series is based around a dystopian society, about which I love reading! But I think for me, the best part of this series is the vocabulary. Scott Westerfeld created a whole new dialect for these books, and I love the creativity that went into it.

3. Mortal Instruments/Infernal Devices Cassandra Clare
So the Mortal Instruments and Infernal Devices are technically two separate series by Cassandra Clare. However, I make the rules, so I say they count for one for my purposes. Both series transport you to the world of the Shadowhunters and Downworlders. Shadowhunters are the warriors of the Nephilim, a race of humans that were blessed by an angel to protect regular humans from Downworlders. Downworlders being your typical baddies: warlocks, vampires, werewolves, demons and the lot. The Infernal Devices are set in turn of the century London, and you get to meet Tessa, Will, and Jem. In the trilogy you learn about the Infernal Devices themselves, 3 devices designed to be the demonic balance for the 3 angelic Mortal Instruments.  The Mortal Instruments are discussed in…wait for it….The Mortal Instruments series. Phew, it’s a doozy. But these books are set in present(ish) day New York City, and we meet Clary, Jace, and their rag tag group of friends. This really is a fascinating world that Clare created, and just so you know the movie premieres August 21, 2013 (The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones)!!!

2. The Hunger Games Suzanne Collins

Here is another dystopian series because I can’t seem to get enough. I’m pretty sure if I could find a dystopian vampire novel my head would explode. So my favorite thing about these is how Suzanne Collins describes the Capitol and its citizens. The books are written in Katniss Everdeen’s voice, and I love her dry, no-nonsense commentary. She has little patience for the Capitol’s citizens. Katniss was raised in District 12 where most everyone barely has enough food to survive, and in the Capitol she sees more decadence and waste in an hour than she has seen her whole life. And reading about the Hunger Games is very interesting as well. The barbaric nature of sending 24 teenagers into one place to kill one another is outrageous, and yet it is the Capitol’s favorite source of entertainment. This is an extremely well written, edge-of-your-seat story about the proletariat sticking it to the man. Of course it’s awesome!

1. Harry Potter. Duh. JK Rowling

Obviously, this is the greatest of the greats. It defines my generation. I remember standing in a book fair when I was in the 3rd grade and picking up my first copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I remember being devastated that I was already 11 and I hadn’t received my entrance letter to Hogwarts. I even remember why the last 100 pages of my copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows have tearstains on them (a mixture of the happenings in the book and the fact that it was actually going to be over). I waited for every book and every movie with barely restrained glee, and I still get disappointed when I realize that there won’t be any more. If you haven’t read them, shame on you! I implore you to get your butt to your nearest book store and buy them. (Not a library. Borrowing simply will not do.) Read them for yourself, read them to your children, I don’t care. Just read them! Now.

Top Ten BA Females

10. Zoey Redbird

Zoey is the lead female character in the House of Night series by P.C. and Kristin Cast. She was a normal teenage girl with home troubles and boy troubles when she was 'marked' as a fledgling vampire. Soon she is battling evil and being rewarded by her goddess for being awesome. I really like Zoey. She is young and fresh and has a hilarious vocabulary. Here lately she is becoming cynical, but overall she has a very positive attitude. Considering she is fighting the incarnation of evil at just about every turn. She is BA because her goddess, Nyx, is always blessing her with sweet tats to show her appreciation. Also, her boyfriends seem to be pretty hot, you know from what I can read.

9. Maximum Ride

What can I say, the chick's got wings! Max is the oldest of 6 'birdkids' in the Maximum Ride series by James Patterson. She burns a gazillion calories an hour so she gets to eat a whole lot of whatever she wants (or can get her hands on at the time). Max has great leadership qualities, while maintaining the voice of a child. She rarely knows what's going to be best for her and her family, but she has a lot of conviction. And I have to respect that.

8. Melanie Stryder

Melanie plays host to Wanderer in Stephenie Meyer's The Host. I love that Melanie never loses herself, even when her self is invaded by Wanderer's self. She manages to not only remain an active resident in her own mind, but she begins to show Wanderer that her people may be wrong. I like this because Melanie isn't just a BA physically, she has one of the strongest personalities I've ever read.

7. Isabelle Lightwood

Isabelle is a Shadowhunter in The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare. This girl is great! She has fantastic style mixed in with a huge can of whoop a**. Not many people can pull off using a whip as a bangle, but this girl has got it going on.

6. Ani

Melissa Marr highlights Ani in the 4th book of her Wicked Lovely series, Radiant Shadows. Ani is a halfling (half-fae, half-human). Her father is Gabe, the leader of The Hunt, and basically the devil's bodyguard. The Hunt are the enforcers for the Dark Court, which includes every single thing you used to have nightmares about. Ani is even badder than most of them. She is a halfling, so she doesn't really fit in with humans or with the fae. So what does she go and do, she goes and makes her own court. That's right, forget about 'if you can't beat 'em, join 'em'. Nope, Ani says 'if you can't join 'em, start your own team'.

5. Sin

I mean just her name is BA! Well, Sinead isn't very BA, but she goes by Sin and that's the part that matters. So Sin is a succubus (technically incubus) assassin in Larissa Ione's Demonica series. I think that pretty much sums it up, Sin is a succubus assassin. And not like she kills succubi. She is a succubus who works as an assassin. I don't think any other proof of BA-ness is necessary.

4. Tally Youngblood

Scott Westerfield did an exceptional job. Tally is the lead in his Uglies series. Her world is a place in which ugly only exists until you are 16. And then you can have a series of completely painless surgeries to fix all of what you think genetics got wrong. Any young woman who can turn that down is officially BA. And not only does Tally turn it down, she continues to be BA by outing the frauds and just being awesome.

3. Katsa

Katsa is a Graceling. In Kristin Chashore's Graceling, graceling's are feared as much as they are awed. To see someone who has two different colored eyes is to be in the prescence of a graceling, and it is only natural to be immediately terrified. Afterall, they may have Katsa's grace. Which includes being able to kill with her bare hands as early as the age of 8.

2. Katniss Everdeen

Katniss is a young girl in The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins. Katniss grew up in a post-apocalyptic dictatorial-type society. One in which "the man" is always watching and the proletariats far outnumber the leaders, but they haven't yet chosen to do anything about it. Katniss is also a wicked shot with a bow and hilarious in her absolute lack of a sense of humor. She tells the man 'up yours' and her man 'I love you' all in the same go. Out of all of these ladies I have mentioned, I would most like to be like Katniss. Maybe it's just to be able to say that I know Finnick, but I think it's more that Katniss is just that awesome.

1. Sita

Wow. Sita is the original BA, I think. She is a 5,000(ish) year old vampire in Christopher Pike's Thirst series. Sita is selfish and selfless and self-aware and oblivious all at once. She is wise, because how could she not be after 5,000-odd years. But she still makes some pretty terrible decisions. She also gave birth to the reincarnation of Kalika. The Hindu deity of death. That's pretty BA. I admire the faith in Krishna that she demonstrates. I like that she met him, wasn't certain whether he was the true god or not, but she still believed that he was protecting her. But even with all of that, the thing I like most with Sita is her voice. She is absolutely no-nonsense. Things are and things aren't. She is not wishy washy. Oh, and did I mention that she has lots and lots of superpowers and BA fighting skills.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Hollows

Series: The Hollows
Author: Kim Harrison
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Books: 11
Genre: Urban Fantasy

All the creatures of the night gather in “The Hollows” of Cincinnati, to hide, to prowl, to party … and to feed.

Vampires rule the darkness in a predator-eat-predator world rife with dangers beyond imagining – and it’s Rachel Morgan’s job to keep that world civilized.

A bounty hunter and witch with serious sex appeal and an attitude, she’ll bring ‘em back alive, dead … or undead.

I tell myself that I’m reading these books because I really want Rachel to be gay. And that’s definitely a part of it. But if I’m being completely honest, I’m reading them because once I start I can’t put them down. Kim Harrison tells a great story!

Rachel Morgan is a witch, and she lives in “The Hollows”. Most non-humans in Cincinnati live in the Hollows. And after “The Turn” (where a genetically engineered tomato killed 40% of the human population) in the 60s, all of the non-humans were forced out of the closet because they were able to survive the deadly ketchup. These non-humans that are running about are witches, weres, vamps, pixies, etc. I really like Harrison’s description of what each species is like. They each have their own very specific set of traits and behaviors that mark them as a species. You know, aside from the whole DNA-thing marking them as separate and other.

Well they said it, not me. But yes, these books have serious sex appeal. What I like about them is it’s not the brash, in-your-face romance novel. It’s sensual and sexy without ever actually having a sex scene. Because at it’s heart this is not a romance. It’s a little bit of crime drama mixed with some supernatural beings for funsies.

And I mentioned that I want Rachel to be gay. I definitely want her to be with Ivy. Ivy is a vampire who is stalking Rachel. But they live together, and she doesn’t want to take advantage of Rachel. It’s all very dramatic. The relationship between them is a constant game of cat and mouse where you can never quite tell who has the upper hand. You can also never quite tell who is seducing whom. So far Rachel just “isn’t wired that way,” and she’s had 2 boyfriends already; I’m obviously still holding out hope.

Overall, this is a super cool series. Rachel fights bad guys/demons/werewolves and does it in skimpy leather outfits. It’s a fast-paced, easy-to-read escape. And it has a neat spin on some classic supernatural staples. I think you have to really love fantasy to get as enthralled as I am, but I would definitely recommend these to someone who does! Also, Dead Witch Walking is book number 1... because you're interested!

Covers: 3/5
Characters: 5/5
Plots: 4/5
Writing: 4/5
Individuality: 5/5

The Whole Shebang: 4.2/5