Monday, February 25, 2013

Something Wicked in YA

In need of some light reading recently, and unable to find anything decent in the scant selection I managed to sneak into my suitcases when going back to college from Winter Break, I descended once more into the pit of turmoil and self-hatred that is the result of actually using my Kindle.

Unable to utilize any of my personal ability to make decent life choices - recently exhausted in the crafting of the perfect Spring Quarter schedule, which I was completely successful in procuring just this morning - I decided to hop on the back of yet another YA trend wave, and rode it all the way to my virtual Amazon shopping cart, stocked with one book: Beautiful Creatures, by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. 

The novel, set in a modern-day South that has the same attitude towards outsiders and the unexplained as an older-day South, centers around young Ethan Wate, a high school kid whose only dreams have ever been to leave his small town of Gatlin, South Carolina, and the mysterious girl whose appearance in his life portends the advent of a series of odd events. Involving car accidents, exploding windows, and some incredibly inclement weather, Lena Duchannes' entrance into Gatlin society does nothing but cause more and more trouble, and for good reason: she's a Caster, some kind of offshoot of your typical witch. Her whole family is full of Casters, including her reclusive and minorly-imbalanced uncle Macon, who has lived in Gatlin his whole life, but never really come out of his house. When faced with something unknown and different, the town lynch mob starts forming immediately. Not to mention the impending doom that is Lena's sixteenth birthday... when her powers will be claimed for either the Light or the Dark. And the difference is, there's hell to pay if her phenomenal powers - those of a Natural - are claimed for the forces of evil. How is a young, blooming relationship to survive amidst all this chaos?

This book was not that bad. It wasn't too great either... I thought that the novel hinged on a suspenseful event for which there was no emotional payoff, that the entire plot was more than mildly sexist (seriously, Lena has some significant issues, I'm not doubting that, I'm just doubting as to whether the entire book should have come off as Ethan constantly having to take care of her and coach her through life's worries), and that the only characters in the book who even came off as mildly self confident were the baddies (hence, the only characters I liked were more than a little evil).

That all being said, this book was fine. It was better than fine, it was okay. And I am not typically "okay" with the majority of YA fiction, as I have voiced previously. It was a little dull and slow in places, the plot may start lagging as you approached the "big" finish, and the aftertaste was more than a little bit cottony and bitter, but for the most part, I enjoyed the unique mythology, the deep-friend Southern flavor, and the narrative voice, which, for having two authors, was surprisingly cohesive.

I can't wait to go back to reading grown-up books again, however. And by grown-up, I mean the wretched notes I have to decipher again for my midterms. And not even magic can help me there.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Lost in Austen (and my recent dealing with Austen as well)

Hello, everybody!

Just so you know, my newest College Fashion article was uploaded today, on the topic of Jane Austen's first published work, Sense and Sensibility. Take a look at it right here.
(And simply because I neglected to promote my past article as well, take a look at my looks inspired by Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre right here.)

While this sort of post would typically be accompanied by my personal review of the book, I must make a confession: I haven't actually finished it yet. What can I say, it's hard to get past the Austen rule quite so easily, especially when you're a Freshman in college with work to be done and an essay to turn in next Friday and two midterms before then as well.

That being said, I have been engrossed in some other forms of Austen fiction, just not the kind written by the legendary authoress herself. Additionally, they are not about Sense and Sensibility, but about her arguably most famous novel, Pride and Prejudice.

First up, is the masterful YouTube series - which I only just managed to catch on to, despite the fact that the multi-media web series has been running since April 9th, 2012 - The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

And fair warning: this will suck you in quickly. It is an expertly adapted modern variation on Austen's classic tale, and the characters are not only easy to relate to, but much easier to see reflected in those closest to you. And like those closest to you, you can follow all of them on quite a few social media platforms, including reacting YouTube channels and Twitter feeds. They are amazing in their ability to coordinate between them all, and it allows for a heightened sense of reality between you and the multi-faceted subjects of Austen's world.

However, I do have to comment that I didn't realize that this series was still ongoing. So, on the plus side, my adventures with Lizzie and the Gang are not yet over, but on the sad side, I am now slave-bound to my computer four days out of the week, waiting for the next upload. And wouldn't you know it, I managed to catch up just as the story reached it's most suspenseful moment. That's what I get for taking to YouTube when I KNOW I have a paper due.

As for the second mode of Austen magic enrapturing my mind recently, I have the BBC miniseries Lost in Austen to thank, for my adventures on the struggle bus, while my notes for midterms went untouched. That being said, it was a very enjoyable excursion, in the end.

The series, which ran in 2008, stars Jemima Roper as Amanda Price, a modern-day fan of the classic romance fiction, who, after a disastrous marriage proposal from her boyfriend, finds Elizabeth Bennet in her bathroom, having discovered a secret door between the real world, and Longbourn. The two unintentionally swap places, and soon Amanda must cope with all the characters of Austen's world that we know so well.

It is made up of four episodes, each about an hour long, and its fast-paced nature and snappy dialogue make each installment go by quickly. The additional interest of seeing a new side to each of your favorites - a charming, but framed Wickham; a terrifically awful Darcy; and a seriously unexpected turn of events for Caroline Bingley, for instance - should convince you to track down this show immediately.

So, that's enough Austen for me right now. I think it's about time to wash my brain out with something far less romantic and hopeful... especially since tomorrow is Valentine's Day.