Saturday, July 26, 2014

YAck Attack: Graceling by Kristin Cashore


Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight - she's a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king's thug.

When she first meets Prince Po, Graced with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change.

She never expects to become Po's friend.

She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace - or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away...  (goodreads.com)

Just a note on the coming GRACELING YAcks, we deviated from our norm.  BITTERBLUE was the original YAck book for the month but it quickly morphed into a re-read of the series, which we will be YAcking in its entirety.  So GRACELING replaced BITTERBLUE as June's YAck book and then the coming FIRE and BITTERBLUE will be bonus YAcks.  Because love.

Nicole: BITTERBLUE it is! Let's do this thing.

Donna: Good thing I started reading Graceling.

Angie: Now, the question is: reread, or just try and remember what I thought of it....

Nicole: If I'm right, it's good enough to reread.

Donna: I want to start a drinking game wherein you drink every time Katsa's name is said in dialogue in Graceling. The first person to survive alcohol poisoning wins.

Laura: Funny, I wanted to do the same thing with the last book I read, Three Weeks with Lady X. But instead of a name it was anytime anything was said about the hero's COCK. It was horrible. I'd be so dead.

Laura: Also.....watch your step when saying anything that even hints of negativity when it comes to Graceling, Fire, Bitterblue, or indeed, even Cashore's grocery list. I WILL CUT YOU OUT OF THE WILL.

Laura: YOU WILL FUCKING LEARN TO LOVE THAT BOOK AND LIKE IT MISSY.

Nicole: I'm the most excited. We should all lie and say we hate it and watch Laura explode.

Laura: Curses. I curse anyone who dislikes the book with a wet, stinky, cat hair ball right smack dab in the middle of their pillow.

Laura: After a long day of work.....when your head is hurting....and it's dark and cool in the bedroom.....and all you want to do is climb into the bed...just for a few minutes.....and then...HAIRBALL. I curse you with that.

Sya: I cannot lie. I love them too much. I highly recommend the audio versions, also - brilliantly narrated, especially Fire.

Laura: Oooooh I want the audiobooks. Want.

Nicole: Let's just read the entire series yes good

Donna: I don't dislike it. But I'm not falling over myself about it at this point. It's okay. Nothing's really grabbing me yet. *shakes cat and aims*

Laura: WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU. HOW HOW HOW HOW HOW can you NOT LOVE THE MAGIC THAT COMES FROM CASHORE'S HEAD?!?!? WE ARE FINISHED. DONE. WE CAN'T BE FRIENDS ANYMORE. I NEVER LIKED YOU ANYWAY. I ALSO SLEPT WITH YOUR HIGH SCHOOL CRUSH AND THAT'S WHY HE DUMPED YOU RIGHT BEFORE PROM.

Laura: Some of that may or may not be true.

Angie: I'll talk to you once you've finished FIRE, Donna.

Donna: Laura will never leave me. I know her secrets. I keep them in a box out of her reach. So on the counter.

Laura: Well then I'm safe because the counter is out of your reach too, midget.

Donna: Steve lifts me up to get it.

Angie: It's moments like this when I realize just how much I love us.

Donna: Katsa is incredibly endearing.

Angie: Right?

Donna: Like as I'm reading it I'm like OMG YOU *pinches cheeks*. I LOLed at the whole DON'T LOOK AT HIS HOT WET BOD BLANK PAGES BLANK PAGES moment.

Angie: LOVE THAT MOMENT

Donna: Part 2 is really making me like the book more.

Sya: Are we reading all three? Jolly good. Also, we need to include this whole discussion in the published YAck.

Nicole: I will, because this is too beautiful to skip.

Donna: Good thing I just reserved the other two from the library.

Chachic: Damn, my copies of all three books are in Manila.

Sya: Having read the first two relatively recently, I am listening to Bitterblue right now this minute on my way to work. The narrator is SO GOOD. Sooooo Gooooood. Also, I am calling RA as Giddon RIGHT NOW.

Heidi: Maybe this is the fire under my ass I needed to read Fire which has been sitting on my shelf for too long.

I always avoided these audio because they're full cast.

Sya: The prologue to Fire is utterly chilling. I literally shivered while reading the final paragraph.

Laura: Read slowly people. You'll get all caught up in the Graceling realm and then all three books will be finished and there won't be another one FOREVER. We should probably do this YAck over the next 2-3 years.

Nicole: We could do a chapter readalongs style for each book? Or divide it by section? We'd get to talk about it longer...

Donna: SPREAD IT OUT. We could do our normal YAcks and then do these in the middle.

Nicole: I'd be happy to catalog them all.

Angie: OH that's a GREAT idea! I've got piles of reading, and really want to reread them all, but the idea of doing it in the next month was stressing me a bit...

Nicole: So we do GRACELING this month, FIRE next month and BITTERBLUE the month after for those who want to participate?

Angie: It can be a summer reading project!

Donna: Do it.

Heidi: I'm in. Perhaps this will pry me out of my complete nose dive into romance.

Angie: I call RA as Brigan in Fire. BRIGAN IN FIRE, I SAY.

Sya: You're right. More broody and suitable. But Giddon must be someone lovely.

Angie: Someone lovely indeed. Tom Hiddleston?

Nicole: Is Brigan / Giddon white? I haven't started my reread of GRACELING yet (and haven't read FIRE, shame on me) and since there are a lot of people of color as protags in her stories, I want to makes sure!

Sya: Pretty sure they both are. Certainly, I think Giddon is fair haired.

Donna: JUST TAKE MY HEART. TAKE IT. BITTERBLUE YOU HAVE STOLEN MY SOUL.

Nicole: I CAN'T TELL IF YOU'VE READ ALL THREE BOOKS THAT FAST OR IF YOU'RE JUST THAT ENTHUSIASTIC ABOUT THE SERIES.

Angie: Which is it, Donna?! Bitterblue in GRACELING or all 3 books?!

Maureen: Really? So you're leaving Po AND Brigan for me? K then

Angie: Ahem. For us, you mean. For us, Maureen

Donna: Graceling.

Sya: So Donna has finished Graceling and felt actual feelings. Does this mean we can start the YAck proper or is everyone wishing to re-read it first?

Nicole: I can't reread it until post-BEA madness, but we can start the proper YAck of Graceling now if you can start the thread, Sya.

Chachic: I want to reread it too but not sure when I'll be able to do so. But yeah, go ahead and start the conversation.

Donna: Am I the only one that just read it for the first time?

Sandy: no, I'll be reading it for the first time too.

Laura: I'm on page 90 of my reread where Po just mouthed "Forgive me" because of his exchange with Giddon. And I love him so. Already. All over again.

Laura: I just finished my reread of Graceling. Is this where we're talking about it, or is it in another post? I love Po. I love Po. I love Po. I think I love him most of all. I love brave, stubborn Katsa, running through the snow, carrying Bitterblue over the mountain pass. And I love Katsa who discovers she actually wants love but without the trappings of marriage and children. But I love Po who wants her any way he can have her and truly, truly means it. I love Po who hides who he is so that he doesn't hurt those that he loves. I love Po who sees a world no one else can. And I love Bitterblue who is remarkably practical for a ten year old orphan queen. BUT I LOVE PO. SO MUCH LOVE.

Po has dark hair. Motion for RA to play Po and further motion for RA to play any and all good parts in the remainder of these readings.

I love this book now even more than I did the first go round when I didn't think it was possible to love it more. THIS. THIS RIGHT HERE, is why we read.

Sya: Motion passed. Now he can play ALL THE GOOD PARTS.

Nicole: Mid Graceling reread and oh my god I forgot how beautifully Cashore handles everything. The gender norms and how Katsa sees them and the sex scenes (!!!! they're so beautifully handled) and just everything EVERYTHING IS GOOD excuse me while i go cry because HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO READ OTHER THINGS EVER AGAIN

Angie: My oldest had an astute observation when I commented that I'd forgotten how much I adore Katsa and Po. She said: "They're not in a relationship. They're on a team." So very true.

Nicole: YES EXACTLY and they're friends first and foremost which is SO IMPORTANT i should not be commenting until i can control my emotions

Angie: LOL! No Nicole, emotions are everything. I agree. Cashore depicts their relationship -- a HEALTHY, wonderful, amazing relationship -- so, so well. And when this came out in 2009, amid all the Twilight stuff, it was SO refreshing.

Donna: It's still refreshing, are you kidding me? When it really anchored its claws into my heard is when Katsa realizes what Po's been hiding toward the end of the book. OMG WEEP.

Laura: PO. Just, PO. I mean...PO. PO. REALLY. You understand? You get it, right? PO.

Laura: ALSO, THIS COVER

Nicole: I've been reading this and wondering how I forgot how much I loved Po. Seriously. How has he not made my list of favorite male characters?Nicole: LADIES WITH SWORDS MAKE ME HAPPY

Laura: AND THIS

Laura: AND THIS ONE

Nicole: We could rename the Yackers the Kristin Cashore Fanclub and it would still be accurate, I think.

Angie: I've been quietly pining over those UK editions for yeeeeeaaaarrrssss.

Maureen: PO. Yes. I will have your heterochromatic babies, Po, you charming rogue you. But not, 'cause I'm askeered of Katsa.

Maureen: Slightly seriously - wow, she can really come off as cold and humorless in the beginning. Not a slam on her (woot! I can kill people with my pinky I AM A BARREL OF LAUGHS), just an observation. I'm listening to it and I'm just at the point where Po attended his first Council meeting, and I don't remember if Giddon had a good reasonable reason for not wanting her face hurt, or was just being a jealous buttmunch.

Nicole: GRACELING AU where Giddon's official council title after Katsa leaves is Jealous Buttmunch. Though that could be canon.

Angie: Katsa is very angsty in the beginning of the book, but I think that's partially what makes the end work so very well. Also: LECK. I remember this from the first time around, the building creepy surrounding him, as Po whittles away the layers surrounding his story. There are very few characters in fiction that are as deeply disturbed and wholly evil as Leck. It's wonderful.

Laura: Yes. Leck is scary. He's even scary AFTER. Also, PO!

Angie: Laura, I'm trying to be intelligent here...

Laura: Po!

Laura: I'm just going to shout that randomly, throughout the conversation, because I have no words, ONLY FEELINGS.

Nicole: Just finished my reread and I want to run through my rain-filled streets screaming out all the reasons I love this book. But I think somebody would arrest me.

Angie: Leck still haunts me.

Sya: Who is it that's listening to the audio? I can't see it now in the thread - but doesn't the narrator just GET it? And, yes PO! But don't diss Giddon. I MEAN IT. Katsa is an amazingly written character. The point at which they flee over the mountain pass is totally breathtaking, largely because of both her belief in herself and her belief in Po's perception of her. And Donna, that bit where she realises what has happened to Po made me cry. More than once.

Maureen: I'm listening to the full cast and liking it. Anytime they mention Leck a chill goes down my spine because it's so clear how thoroughly he has everyone snowed.

Angie: What Maureen said. Seriously. Chills.

Donna: I wasn't thrilled with Katsa at the beginning, hence my original apprehension with the book. And then Po makes her become HUMAN with the FEELS and I'm like

Maureen: Just hit the part where Katsa discovers the real nature of Po's Grace. Cogitating on why Katsa is so angry. Thoughts?

Laura: Oh that's an easy one- aside from the intrusion and the fact that he was kinda taking her thoughts without permission and Katsa isn't one to have ANY part of her defenseless....I have NO doubt she was picturing him naked. And THAT'S the real reason.

Laura: She was embarrassed because there stood before her a perfectly naked Richard Armitage Po and her mind was on his naughty bits.

Nicole: That's literally it. She has FEELINGS for him that even she doesn't understand until that point and he KNOWS. Her crush KNOWS and not only that KNOWS EVERYTHING VERY SPECIFICALLY like how she likes his forearms and his eyes. Which is embarrassing for her, especially given that this is her first time with these sorts of emotions. (I think Po also has darker skin? Golden. And thus cannot be Richard. I'll have to go see if I can find a passage that confirms it or if I'm imagining things.)

Laura: Motion was already passed to have RA play all the good parts. Someone read back the minutes. It's on the books now. Richard can have whatever color skin he needs to, such is the power of our king.

Laura: Also, Po!

Maureen: I think that's a big part of it, but nearer to the beginning she encounters another mind reader and her reaction is almost vicious. I'm trying to work out why that Grace specifically is such a hot button for her. Nobody would be comfortable with it but she actively loathes mind readers of any stripe

Donna: Well she is rather guarded and plays her cards closely to her chest. For years she's been a killer and that's it. She hasn't admitted any other human emotions to herself for most of her life until Po comes into it. So I would imagine to have her secrets, secrets that she won't even admit to herself, laid bare for someone to see, would be the ultimate intrusion. Someone that could show Katsa what she truly is would be horrifying indeed. She's been in IT for so long, the king's THING, that to be exposed as human would be quite painful. This isn't someone she'd want others to see so knowing that there are people out there that could just take that information and use it against her would send someone like her, someone unable to process her own emotions, into a rage because that's all she knows.

Maureen: Oo, good points. I think there's also something about her thoughts being her own property. She can't do exactly as she likes but she can think whatever she wants in the privacy of her own head without fear of Randa's reprisal (and Randa has been the wall around her life and her actions for many years, so he's who she would think of first). It's the vulnerability of being laid bare, of course, but it's also the idea of someone else taking possession of her thoughts the way Randa has always has possession over her actions and how others see her.

Laura: And the naughty bits.

Nicole: She also mentions a lot about being in control of her own life - it's why she hates and fears Leck and hated Randa. She's lived her entire life at somebody else's beck and call, completely isolated - all she had were the thoughts in her head.

Chachic: Okay, I have started rereading Graceling. That's the June book, right?

Angie: Just finished. BITTERBLUE. Breaks. My. Heart. I love her.

Heidi: DAMN YOU ALL. DAMN YOU RIGHT TO HELL. I now have less than SIX WEEKS to get everything done for my wedding. A wedding for which I decided that DIY was FUN and YES I will sew the flower girl dress and the ring bearer vest and pillow and pocket squares and handkerchiefs and make my bridesmaids bags and do all the favor bags and tags and make banners and signs and design and make programs and knit myself a lace shawl and my parents and in-laws full-sized blankets to say thank you AND MORE AND YET WHAT DID I BUY TODAY?! Graceling and Bitterblue (already owned Fire).

I wasn't planning on rereading Graceling because INSANITY ABOVE but you all keep saying things like PO and MY HEART and I CAN'T TAKE IT. Even if I don't actually get to them till August THEY ARE NOW MINE.

PO!!

Maureen: Mua ha ha ha ha!!!!!

Nicole: ... so we broke Donna AND Heidi.

Heidi: Donna having FEELS helped break me.

Laura: Po!

Donna: I am the breaker.

Angie: Heidi, I can't even handle what you are saying. I feel like I need to send you some sort of life support. Or chocolate. Maybe chocolate?

Chachic: Heidi, I agree with Angie. I feel like I should help you out but I don't know how? I'm super lousy sewing and I don't even know how to knit.

Nicole: I'm just disappointed that a milk-and-cookie bar wasn't on the list. I'm useless to you. (Sendin good karma your way, though!)

Heidi: No milk and cookie bar. Am having wedding pie (also making ourselves). Books are helping! May get lost in Cashore... May see if library has audio even though I just bought hard copies so I can task and listen.

Nicole: Heidi, you're insane and I admire you.

Janice: Good gravy, I didn't realize just how DIY you were being Heidi. I can help with the pie tastings. I do not know how to use a sewing machine so I'm useless for anything else.

Chachic: Prince Greening Grandemalion! LOL. I had forgotten Po's full name.

Chachic: I'm about halfway through and really enjoying rereading this. Just as good as I remembered it to be. It's always comforting to read an old favorite.

I agree with Maureen that Katsa thinks of her thoughts as her own property and she loathes mind readers because she feels like they steal something from her that they shouldn't. And yes, she also feels that it's unfair for her to be that exposed to someone else.

Poor Po, so difficult to have a Grace like that and to have to hide it even from his family and friends.

Heidi: I just started the audio this morning. This may be the first Full Cast audio I ever really get into. They usually grate on me and I don't make it very far, but I've forced myself past that initial buck of revulsion and am getting used to it. It's easy when I remember how much I utterly love this book! Hazel's right, it's comforting, like spending time with an old friend. And I can't believe I still haven't read Fire or Bitterblue considering how much I love Graceling!

Also Graceling may be one of the few things that makes a trip to the NY DMV less painful. 'Cause that place is like the antithesis of Disneyland.

Sya: The audio I listened to was read by Emma somebody. She had a lovely voice and made Po sound Welsh. Which suited him surprisingly well.

Laura: I sampled the full cast audio and it sounded awful...the male voice was all computery. But I just listened to the Emma Powell one and she's AMAZING but apparently you can't buy it.

Laura: it's "not available" in my "region"

Heidi: Boo, yeah, must be separate US and UK editions.

Sya: I got the Emma Powell one via Audible UK. She reads all three beautifully. You might be able to download it, er, less legally.

Heidi: Okay so yeah the full cast isn't great. It's working for a reread but I'll be dammed if I read Fire this way the first time.

It is fun to reread this already knowing about Po's grace. It changes all those earlier scenes between them

Maureen: Just got to the part where Katsa's in the mountains, just before they make that awful run through the pass, and she gets attacked by a mountain lion. And her reaction is this hilarious annoyance. "FFS. That stupid lion cut me all up. THIS I need."

Chachic: Maureen, haha I remember that scene! Bitterblue was so shocked to see her after, and she was all "I'm fine, it's mostly the lion's blood all over me."

Maureen: Bitterblue's funny, too. Sometimes she's not childlike at all, but the full-cast audio person who's doing her voice has this delightful Hermione-ish tone whenever she's taking charge. Or being snotty.

Sya: That whole sequence with the cave and then the pass is my favourite. I think it is breath-takingly written and utterly beautiful.

Chachic: I just realized that I wasn't able to comment when I finished rereading this. I stayed up late to finish it even though I already knew what was going to happen. Such a good book. I need more books like this in my life. Looking forward to rereading fire!

Heidi: Wow, it's easy to forget what a creeper Leck is. Fire's gonna be a party of douche chills.

Heidi: I really love that Katsa and Bitterblue end up having to leave Po in the mountains. It's heartwrenching (especially considering later revelations), but also really refreshing. I love that Po and Katsa make one another stronger. It's really because of Po that Katsa's mentally able to do what she does to get Bitterblue to safety, but at the same time it's so nice to have this book where there's this amazing romance but the romance doesn't define it. By leaving Po, Graceling is really and truly Katsa's book.

Also I completely forgot about Po in the end. D:

Anyway, done! I have at least two or three other books I have to read before diving into Fire, but here's hoping it gets read sometime in July.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

YAck Attack: And All the Stars by Andrea K. Höst

From Goodreads:

Come for the apocalypse. Stay for cupcakes. Die for love. Madeleine Cost is working to become the youngest person ever to win the Archibald Prize for portraiture. Her elusive cousin Tyler is the perfect subject: androgynous, beautiful, and famous. All she needs to do is pin him down for the sittings. None of her plans factored in the Spires: featureless, impossible, spearing into the hearts of cities across the world - and spraying clouds of sparkling dust into the wind. Is it an alien invasion? Germ warfare? They are questions everyone on Earth would like answered, but Madeleine has a more immediate problem. At Ground Zero of the Sydney Spire, beneath the collapsed ruin of St James Station, she must make it to the surface before she can hope to find out if the world is ending.



Sya: Hmmmm. I have started All The Stars. And hmmmmm.

Angie: I'm halfway.

Sya: I'm finding it...under edited.

Sya: But will with hold judgement until the end.

Donna: Well that's not a promising start at all.

Sya: I edit for money - I am, perhaps, a bit of a pedant.

Donna: I'm a writer and have been editing for others since high school. I raise a glass to pedantry in that regard.

Sya: Yeah, I always thought it should be a pre-requisite.

Donna: Editing? Yeah, usually in published works, self or otherwise.

Sya: Pedantry. But yes, editing also.

Angie: So far my main issue is a lack of emotional connection to the characters. But some of that is likely due to Madeleine's emotional disconnect herself. I like the idea of the invasion and the dust, etc. Very cool. Will see how things develop.

Sya: Absolutely agree about the disconnect but I put it down to poor writing. However, I really like the premise and the setting and so am going to persevere.

Chachic: I will keep my fingers crossed that you guys will still enjoy the book even with these problems. Frankly, I didn't have any of those issues when I first read it. Will try to reread it soon! Haven't had much time to read while on vacation.

Angie: Okay. That scene was adorable.

Chachic: What scene?

Angie: I think you know.

Chachic: Oh yes. I totally understand. can't wait for the others to reach that section. I just finished the book that I was in the middle of. Will start rereading And All the Stars soon.

Angie: Finished last night. Many across the board feelings on this one.

Maureen: You know, I'm having a really hard time remembering the details on this one. Read it in December 2012, according to my notes. Also according to my notes, it started out crackerjack, got all tangled up and confused, and then the epilogue was like, "Oh! We won! Yay us!"

Sya: These characters have no chemistry and the dialogue is terrible. I have more thoughts, not all of them bad. But most of them. Half way through and still inclined to finish it. But only just.

Laura: So it is suck?

Sya: I don't know. I AM CONFLICTED. But generally, yes. Although possibly know. But I don't know why. It is a decent and original premise yet the writing is...off.

Sya: It's also like she is ticking a Checklist. Ethnic diversity, tick. Religious diversity, tick. Sexual diversity, tick. Awkward and realistic sex, tick. They are all so happy in their diverse melting pot. They can even burn incense while worried that the...See More

Donna: It is sounding more and more likely that I won't be purchasing this one.

Angie: I ended it conflicted as well, Sya. It is not suck. At least, I don't feel it is. There was a point at which things became very exciting indeed. Generally, I really enjoyed the setup and world. She had some good ideas. Really good ones. But yes, yes to Tyler's mystifying existence. Madeleine was supposed to be so very fond of him. Bordering on the only person she cared about. Yet I never felt it. He had no real presence and made little impression on me at all, which is unfortunate for a character who is supposed to be such an icon and cult sensation.

Sya: The writing is pretty clunky. There is a lot of telling instead of showing and when that's not happening she flails about some pretty hyperbolic metaphor and simile. Also, it annoys me that a lot of the major developments are introduced in an almost throw away expository manner, "like, remember when we saw on TV that they are segregating all blues and using them for visual interest in the homes of the rich etc?" Or whatever. Also, what are the greens? Are they actually green. Maybe I missed that particular bit. But I shouldn't have been able to. Also, the alien Olympic thing: REALLY???? I mean...what?

Sya: I finished it. The last few lines were ok. The rest was pretty bad for all the reasons I've mentioned as well as many others but it did have potential and a decent edit might have moved it from frustrating to enjoyable. I hated the acting stuff, the painting became tiresome and I couldn't connect to the protagonist. AND THERE WAS NO ROLE FOR RICHARD ARMITAGE. However, I agree with Angie that there are some decent ideas at play and it did keep me reading. So not entire suck.

Heidi: I'm sorry this one really didn't work for you, Sya! I honestly don't have time to reread, but I'll chime in with what I remember. I really liked this one when I read it. I think what struck me the most was that it was so out of the box of anything I would usually read, but she made it work for me. I like that she was able to surprise me, though I'll admit to aspects being cheesy and I remember being very confused during action scenes.

Laura: If there was no role for our king.....then you know what to do....

Sya: Motion to announce book as fail due to lack of role for King or, indeed, any if the round table of knights. Not even Felicia Day.

Sya: Or Betty White.

Sya: Or Mrs Weasley because the parents in this book are the WORST.

Sya: Apart from Noi's dad.

Laura: I can't be the one to pass that motion because I didn't read the book. But....it IS the law. So someone must.
 
Chachic: I'm with Heidi on this. I'm sorry to hear it didn't work out for the rest of you. I can see why it wouldn't work for everyone. It would have been nice if I was more invested in the characters but I still really enjoyed it because I felt that the setup was quite unique. And I really liked that it was set in Australia when so many other books are set in either the US or UK. It was an added bonus that Manila was mentioned in the story (yes, the Philippines hasn't been left out of the alien invasion!) I also second what Heidi said that it was great that the author was able to surprise me.

Angie: I wouldn't say it didn't work for me. I just had more conflicted feelings over it than I was hoping. But I was keen to finish it and she definitely surprised me. I had the huge OMG NOOOOOOOOO moment. And I loved that. It was a unique setup and I really enjoyed the Sydney setting and the whole invasion, skins changing, teens banding together to survive, love among the wasteland thing. My main issue was I felt like there was a wall between me and the characters emotionally. Usually when that happens, I put the book down because I don't care about any of them. That wasn't the case here because, in truth, I liked them all. But I never LOVED them or was able to feel as close to them as I wanted to. That extra layer of emotion and intimacy in the writing was missing for me. I will say that the awkward, realistic sex scene completely worked for me. It was the one scene in which I felt the barrier fall. (HAHAHA) Adorable. Because of it I stayed invested in Madeleine and Fisher. But it was still from further afar than I would have liked.

Chachic: I can understand the emotional distance, Angie, and why that was a problem. When that happens, I still try and finish the book but I usually hurry through it just to get things over with. Like you, I wasn't as emotionally attached to the characters as I would have liked and even wondered for a bit why several blogger friends have been raving about this book. But then I got to that surprising bit and had a WAIT WHAT moment and she had me - I couldn't let go of the book until I reached the end. I really enjoyed the slow burn romance between Madeleine and Fisher and yes, loved the awkward love scene as well.

Sya: I warmed to them more after the big reveal - that made them interesting. Before that I felt the relationship lacked any real depth.

Donna: I read the first two chapters in a free preview. I'm intrigued by the plot and the towers and the dust but the writing's a bit heavy-handed and superfluous. Setting the scene was a bit of a mire to get through and I found myself losing focus and getting lost in the words, just not in a good way. I found it difficult to get my bearings and get a good idea of what I was supposed to be seeing. I wasn't too bothered by the less than stellar editing although some oddly placed commas threw me a little. I could probably keep reading but if the writing is this bogged down for the rest of the book then I probably wouldn't like it too much. I don't like it enough now to buy the full book. So I'm not going to. If I had it I'd probably keep reading to see what happens but I'm not going to go out of my way for it. I'm not impressed enough at this point.
 

Saturday, May 31, 2014

YAck Attack: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

From Goodreads:


 Based on the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, Cruel Beauty is a dazzling love story about our deepest desires and their power to change our destiny.

Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom-all because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill him.

With no choice but to fulfill her duty, Nyx resents her family for never trying to save her and hates herself for wanting to escape her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday, Nyx abandons everything she's ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, destroy his enchanted castle, and break the nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people.

But Ignifex is not at all what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his castle-a shifting maze of magical rooms-enthralls her.

As Nyx searches for a way to free her homeland by uncovering Ignifex's secrets, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. Even if she could bring herself to love her sworn enemy, how can she refuse her duty to kill him? With time running out, Nyx must decide what is more important: the future of her kingdom, or the man she was never supposed to love.



Nicole: Okay, how was I the first one to finish? I'm NEVER the first one to finish. Somebody should finish because I have a lot of THOUGHTS but don't want to spoil anybody. 

Angie: I'm finished! Read it not long ago and just sort of enjoyed the hell out of it. Commence with the THOUGHTS, Nicole! 

Nicole: CUE THE (SPOILER-RIDDEN) THOUGHTS. I felt reading this similar to when I finished Catherynne Valente's DEATHLESS - I'm not sure if anybody here has read it, but it's an adult fantasy that pulls really heavily on Russian mythology and weaves it expertly through the story. The writing is beautiful, absolutely stunning. The couple are this disastrously cruel thing that would kill for each other and might end up killing each other. But for all I love the writing and all I love the couple, the plot fell apart for me near the end for almost the same reasons the plot fell apart for me in CRUEL BEAUTY - a huge time jump and time reversal where things were reversed and like they never happened. 

CRUEL BEAUTY doesn't have quite the same level of writing that Valente does, but it still has *words*, and I loved the style. I loved the world she built and I love, love, live, Ignyx (whose ship name is far easier to spell than the demon's individual name, which I still do not have memorized). But the plot lost me the moment they time jumped and skipped around, so even though I LOVED the couple and loved the world and the words and would read it again, I... didn't really love how it ended. Maybe I wish they had set up a potential time reversal earlier? The rest of it was all set-up well (not really well, but well enough) save for that. 

What did you think of it all, Angie? Ignyx is DEFINITELY high on my favorite YA ships list now. 

Angie: I haven't read DEATHLESS, but I love, I love, I love Nyx and Ignifex (IGNYX . . . hahaha) because they are not kidding with their anger and their hatred. She wants to freaking kill him. And he fully expects her to die trying. And they don't mean to love each other, but they just. can't. not. Because of the hatred and anger and awesomely fierce meeting of wills. I mean, the "Do you think you are safe with me?!" from both? I die. 

Angie: Stupid return key. I had heard going in that there was an element of forgetting that ruined it for some people. And honestly? I expected it to be a deal-breaker for me as well. But the two of them got their hooks into me before that element could come and tear it to shreds. There were parts where I could feel the underpinnings flirt with going all pear-shaped and the whole gorgeous Greek deck of cards collapsing on my head. It came *this* close coming on the end, but those last couple of pages worked for me. I wished the climax had been stronger, yes. But I smile every time I think of the very end.


Angie: Also, I kinda hated on Shade for most of the book. Perverse heart that I have. Just me?

Nicole: "Do you think you are safe with me" is a line that I never expected to make me swoon. And yet here we are. The ending definitely didn't kill the book, but characters FAR outdid plot here.

I was suspicious of Shade the entire time. His eyes were too perfectly blue and his smile too sincere for me to trust him.

Holly: Still waiting for a copy to come in at the library. Anyone have a copy to lend me (Angie)? I'm dying to get to it.
Angie: Holly, I do! Message me and I'll get it to you quick. Maureen, do you still need a copy as well? I could drop my ARC in the mail if it would be faster than the wait list . . .

Sya: I should probably start reading this.

Maureen: Angie yes I do. The wait lists look pretty grim. I'll message you my addresss

Sya: I love us and our collaborative emergency book sharing.

Donna: I will start reading it as soon as I pick it up from the library.

Donna: Yeah, I kind of read it... really quickly. Oops.

Chachic: I've read this too! I was thinking of rereading it for our discussion, I'll try and see if I can do that this weekend. Like Angie, the element of forgetting wasn't a deal-breaker for me. Would I have loved the story more if that element wasn't there at the ending? Yes. But it wasn't a big deal for me. I do agree with Nicole that the characters stood out more than the plot but again, that's something that I didn't mind. I'm more of a character reader anyway.

Wasn't a fan of Shade either.

Chachic: I'm going through the sections that I highlighted in my Kindle and I was reminded of how much I liked the library. Here's an excerpt:

"I remembered the hours I had spent in Father's library, drugging myself with books so I could forget my doom for an hour; how I had stared at the pictures and pressed my hand against the page, wishing I could vanish into the safe lines of a lithograph. Now I felt like I had done it, slipped into a picture or a dream: a place that was uncanny, but without any hidden horrors."

Drugging myself with books! Loved that bit.

Angie: Yes! And I loved his library so much. With the books she couldn't read at first. His whole creepy home, really (which totally reminded me of the Beast's home in Rose Daughter). But mystical, personified libraries FTW.

Nicole: I love strange magical homes that might kill you at any given moment - my goal in life is to make my future home look like it belongs to a witch - so I loved his home and the aerial garden and the wonderful wonderful library.

Laura: I'm reading this now (so I won't read your comments), but I'm also rereading Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas, which is a DIRTY BOOK WITH NAUGHTY BITS AND SEBASTIAN, LORD ST. VINCENT WHO I LOVE. And reading the two together, I can't help but think there ARE SO MANY MISSED OPPORTUNITIES in CB......er....if it wasn't, you know, YA....and essentially written for, you know.....kids. So in hindsight, this is NOT A GOOD COMBINATION. Very nice writing, no WORDS yet though, and the beginning WAS incredibly rushed but we're in the castle now, taking our clothes off and kissing demon ghosts and NONE OF THOSE THINGS ARE BAD.

Sya: I have finally started and Good God, the names. They sound like they should be patented by big pharma.

Nicole: Nyx's name is the only one I remember and the only one I can spell.

Angie: I love Nyx.

Donna: I need some Nyx Arstraia for my bought of Ignifex. It's horrible this time of year.

Donna: I'm about 2/3 of the way through the book and, CLUTCH YOUR PEARLS, LADIES, I'm not impressed. Super heavy on the exposition that made it a slog for the first half or so of the book and while I'm really trying to dig the more time-advanced Greco-Roman bag it's just not translating in my head, mainly because I think Nyx is dressing like something out of medieval scullery. Nyx falls heads over tits really quickly it seems like and while I thought the whole key scene in the library and the banter back and forth was humorous I'm just not digging the whole get-up. I keep thinking about Beauty and the Beast and how this could end and who Shade could end up being and OF COURSE Iggy Pop is going to be set free but I'm not the biggest fan of the whole antagonist relationship thing especially when, you know, Iggy Pop is a self-confessed murderer that acts the god and feels people deserve what they have coming for being, on some level, selfish and making brash assumptions about the people he dupes. Yeah, not digging it.

Nicole: I can understand that. I'm a sucker for reading about relationships where people spiral down this strange path of cruel love - hence the comparison to Valente's DEATHLESS - but I know it's not a relationship structure for everybody.

I do agree that she falls head over heels really fast - would have loved to see more of the push and pull rather than handing him his heart so early on in the story.

As for the exposition - I really, really didn't like that while I was reading it, but some of it was pretty enough that I could put aside my hatred of it. I think the reason I like the story so much wasn't the world but the twisted characters and their twisted relationship. It's definitely not everybody's cup of tea, though.

Laura: The come here come here come here, GET AWAY GET AWAY GET AWAY, I MIGHT WANT YOU, I CAN'T WANT YOU, I WON'T LET MYSELF WANT YOU thing is a bit played out....I'm on page like I don't know...it's the scene where she's running through the wide open, under the blue skies with the demon lord and it's all so very the hills are alive with the sound of music AND NO ONE HAS TAKEN ALL THEIR CLOTHES OFF YET OR ACCOMPLISHED ANYTHING. And IF YOU'RE NOT GOING TO BE PRODUCTIVE YOU SHOULD AT LEAST GET LAID.
Nicole: "If you're not going to be productive, you should at least get laid" should be on a t-shirt somewhere.

Angie: You're off gallivanting with Sebastian, Lord St. Vincent. What do you know, Laura?

Laura: Ok they finally did it so I suppose that's something. Sebastian did it better- that's what I know.

Sya: I am not trying very hard with this book. Just now I am visiting with my best friend and our priority is watching North and South again and drinking wine then on Monday I am off to Venice where my priority will be looking at things and drinking lots of wine. This book, which I find vaguely meh ANYWAY, doesn't really have much of a chance.

Nicole: I recently marathoned North and South with my friends and just swoon.

Maureen: Skipping over the other comments because I'm only on page 67 and spoilers, but I just wanna say: what's with our books and shitbag families lately? Astraia needs to be slapped once in the morning and once at night, and so do her father and aunt.

Laura: So I finished this silly little book. It was silly, but the ending was actually very redeeming. Lots of love and sacrifice and kindness and bargains and tricks and kisses. Very nicely done. I'm still sore about the insta-love/lust with THE DEMON LORD WHO HAD KILLED AND DESTROYED AND TORTURED FOR 900 YEARS. HE WAS THE BAD GUY RIGHT? Even though he wasn't to blame, she marries and goes to the house of the BAD GUY and wants to do him (and I'm not necessarily saying I'm against that, it's just a little out there). He wasn't very good at being a bad guy demon. She never feared him, she said she should a lot but she never did- probably because he was a sad sap from the start and you can't believe all that FEAR AND BADNESS when she instantly wants to DO HIM. But we've been over that. I think this book qualifies as good because it's a Beauty and the Beast story- not that it's necessarily a GOOD Beauty and the Beast story. The whole thing was rather meh, with far too much instalove and near instant change in a life long mind set AND NOT NEARLY ENOUGH SEX TO JUSTIFY ALL THAT FLIP FLOPPING.

Laura: Hereby motion to name King Richard Armitage the demon lord, not because it really fits (although, he'd look good in a cape, all in black with demon eyes), but because we have to place him in the story or the book gets A FULL FAIL, WITH NO OPPORTUNITY TO PASS GO OR COLLECT TWO HUNDRED DOLLARS.

Laura: OK, so we're all pretty much on the same page about Shade. I didn't really like him. I think Iggy was a better catch on his own without having to absorb the loser to become whole. So her real-time husband is half suck. Should have stayed in the castle, doing it with the demon- which could have been the title of the spin off. Copyright. Trademarked. Own it.

Donna: Well Shade was supposed to be Iggy's shitastic piece of himself so that's no surprise. And good god, Nyx's views on love change on a freakin' dime. She's so schizophrenic with her feelings I got whiplash reading it all. And she really doesn't do much on her own until the very end when she saves the Gentle Lord, or whatever he's going by. The Demon Formerly Known as Ignifex? She's really shoved along in the story, working based off of someone else's will and is easily swayed to one side or another based on who she's talking to at the moment. Just adds to the whole whiplash thing. I have to say, though, I did like the reserve time thing. I felt it fit but I still have a bit of a disconnect between the Greco-Roman mythology and English fairy tales getting smooched together. Do we know where in Europe they're supposed to be? I just figured some island in the Greek Isles but with all the wood spirit lore going on it could rightly be some English isle too. I have no idea.

Nicole: I think that's why I didn't like the time jump - I couldn't understand the worldbuilding.

Maureen: Wow, there's a lot going on in this one. Beauty and the Beast, Persophone/Hades, a wee smidge of Tam Lin near the end. And the names were almost too clever: Night? Star . . . something? Igniter/Flame-lighter? I was waiting for Astraia to be the other half of Nyx like Shade was the other half of Iggy Pop (THANKS A LOT DONNA) and then she wasn't and I was like pft. I also felt like a lot of stuff that we got ladled with at the beginning didn't really follow through to the end so what was the point I would like to know. All my whinging aside, I did a certain amount of swooning. I didn't have the Shade-hate that you guys did but he did get boring about the time that Iggy Pop started to show something more than sociopathic sexiness. Give me a little deadly flirting over soulful eyes any day. HAWT. And I got the impression that Iggy was actually the "bad" side, not Shade.

Melissa: I finally got this from the library yesterday, but reading through your comments, I'm thinking I'm going to give this one a pass. Too many books and not enough time to spend it on something less than awesome. Plus I'm dealing with Dreams of Gods & Monsters withdrawal.

Donna: I want Dreams of Gods and Monsters in my face immediately. But Laini's coming to Phoenix ComiCon so I'm going to wait and get it signed by her so I can just about the other two and maybe cry a little.

Sya: I have given up on this book. Nyx annoys me. I am now reading We Were Liars instead. It's much better.

Nicole: Oooooo, I need to get a copy of that. I've only heard wonderful things.

Sya: It's quite exceptional.

Melissa: Oh yes, that one is amazing. Lockhart does wonderful things.

Holly: So I have FAILED. This book was my choice and I'm only a handful of pages in. Should I attempt to finish it tonight (or get far enough in to know if it's for me or not) or give up completely? It is so hard with DoGaM's calling me as well. AND I just picked up Sorrow's Knot.

Nicole: I always say get far enough in to decide for yourself, but if you really want to read other things, ditch it. Enjoy what you read!
Holly: I should also add that I'm not a big fan of the original Beauty and the Beast story. Or McKinley's Beauty - don't hate me for that. Now why would I pick this book...

Nicole: I have no idea.

Holly: I don't even understand what you're saying, Holly.

Holly: You know it's because of Laura's obscene Angieville stamp, right Nicole and Angie? Ok, ok. I'll give it a go. I'm not far enough in to decide for myself.

Chachic: I'm sorry I haven't been able to keep track of this thread! I've been traveling the last few days and I don't have reliable internet access all the time. It's very interesting how varied our reactions to this one are. I didn't really mind all the problems that you guys have mentioned and the book worked for me as a whole.

Chachic: Now I want to watch North and South again. If it was available on the long haul flight I was in, I would have watched it.

Chachic: Holly, try a few chapters and see if it's something that you can get into!

Holly: So I'm just a wee bit late but I finished it. On the bright side the warning about the exposition was helpful - I skimmed much of it. I think the combination of the elemental magic and Greco-Roman mythology made the worldbuilding over-complicated and confusing, especially considering how little was necessary to the plot. I was suspect of Shade from the beginning and hated the instalove but in the end I wasn't really sure if he was the "bad" half of the Prince, since as Laura pointed out, Ignifex had basically been murdering people for hundreds of years. What really kept me reading though wasn't the romance or the plot but the characters, particularly Nyx and her inner conflict of revenge v. forgiveness. I connected with her complex feelings and felt there was something really authentic there. She was flawed and completely accepting and unapologetic about it. I loved that.

Angie: Oh, I'm glad you liked it in the end, Holly. I knew it would be polarizing as I was reading it. But Nyx managed to become one of the Angry Girls I Love. And the final pages. They saved the whole book for me. Loved Nyx. Loved that she found a home after so long in his crazy dreamy castle. Loved the spiraling downward relationship and the way I believed it in the end.

Monday, March 31, 2014

YAck Attack: Reality Boy by A.S. King


From Goodreads
 Gerald Faust knows exactly when he started feeling angry: the day his mother invited a reality television crew into his five-year-old life. Twelve years later, he’s still haunted by his rage-filled youth—which the entire world got to watch from every imaginable angle—and his anger issues have resulted in violent outbursts, zero friends, and clueless adults dumping him in the special education room at school.

Nothing is ever going to change. No one cares that he’s tried to learn to control himself, and the girl he likes has no idea who he really is. Everyone’s just waiting for him to snap…and he’s starting to feel dangerously close to doing just that.

In this fearless portrayal of a boy on the edge, highly acclaimed Printz Honor author A.S. King explores the desperate reality of a former child “star” who finally breaks free of his anger by creating possibilities he never knew he deserved.
Otherwise known as: the one where everyone besides the protagonist was a shitbag and we all ranted about it.

Heidi: Are we talking Reality Boy? 'Cause I got thoughts! '

Sya: Erm, I haven't started it yet. I will do so tonight.

Donna: It's one of those books that made me irrationally angry because his parents were such shit bags.

 Maureen: Share the thoughts! Yes! That's part of the reason I wanted to YACK this because I had oh so many thoughts and feels after finishing it.

Heidi: Yes! I don't know that I've ever been so angry at parents in a YA novel before. BOTH of them were just freaking terrible. At least usually it's only one. How is it possible that NO adult in these kid's lives ever stepped in though? How incredibly messed up is that? Not just the parents, the real or fake nanny (who both knew what was going on), but not even a single teacher or counselor from school. I realize they were sick of dealing with Gerald, but no one ever took him seriously enough to ask why? His other sister never said anything to anyone? I don't know, this book made me extremely disappointed in adults in general. I really liked the whole 'aftermath of a reality show' take, as it's something that is certainly starting to happen and is one of those interesting socially constructed issues. Adults who choose to do these shows are responsible for their own choices, but what about the kids? I guess there's a reason there aren't many shows that involve them--I mean, would John and Kate still be together if they hadn't decided to plaster their adorable horde on screen? I like to think I wouldn't have watched Gerald's show (any reality shows I watch are competition based like Top Chef), but I suppose if one was taking place in my own neighborhood I probably would out of interest, no matter what it was. I also failed to really connect with this one, which is kind of a reminder to me as to why I don't do much contemp. I rarely connect with them on a level that makes me love them, or I just appreciate them objectively. Though again maybe this is a more cultural/generational based one? Maybe I just don't GET it because I grew up slightly before the 'anyone and everyone can be famous' bit? Maybe it's just because it was a male narrator? I did really click with Ask the Passengers (the only other A.S. King book I've read to date).

Maureen: I've binged on A.S. King lately, after staying away for awhile. (Full disclosure; I met her at last year's Tucson Festival of Books.) Adults are rarely worth their weight in turds in her books, and usually the kids are left floundering around on their own. I think this was a case of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Gerald was set up as "the bad kid," so everything was filtered through that. What horrified me was how clearly messed up Tasha was and nobody was stepping in on that either.

Maureen: And somehow the whole, "Yep, she's just a sociopath" didn't satisfy me either. I was ready, nay, waiting for something to come out that she'd been abused, because that level of lashing out, that level of vitriol for no reason except what, power play? was a huge red flag for me. Of course, it's Gerald's story and not Tasha's, but. Still.

Donna: On one side I have a very hard time believing NO ONE sought to help him, not his dad who knew very well what was going on, not Lisi, who went off and saved herself when she KNEW Tasha was trying to actually kill them both, not any teachers or his anger management counselor, and see the forest for the trees. On the other than I believe it completely. School personnel are overwhelmed and unless Gerald went to school with visible bruises no one will probably know since he put out a lot of effort to appear normal in school. It seemed like his family fractured around his mom and Tasha in order to save themselves because no one was coming to help any of them. What I don't understand is Fake Nanny's abrupt 180. She saw exactly what was going on, knew EXACTLY what Tasha was doing to them and how dangerous she really was. And all of the sudden instead of seeing that punch as a manifestation of a serious problem that wasn't fixed she turns on a child. I don't understand why, not when she exhibited such empathy before. That one seemed contrived for the sake of the plot. But I think the whole 'every man for himself' thing rings pretty true. People watch reality TV to see how fucked up other people are and thank their stars that's not them. We have a society where people will turn to their video phones first when something's about to happen instead of stepping in to help. People go out of their way in order to not get involved. I don't think this situation's any different and it's evident that a lot of people lack compassion for their fellow man. And common sense to realize that what they see on TV isn't actually real. I watched maybe three episodes of some TV show where "problem" children were sent away to the world's toughest parents (was that the name?) because their biological parents didn't know what else to do. I think a lot of people are immediately drawn to the "fucked up kid" and OMG look how awful they are but I saw them being a product of their parents. The adults are the fucked up ones in that relationship. Toddlers and Tiaras? OMG look how spoiled those children are! What brats! No. Look how shitty the parenting is that enables that kind of behavior. It flabbergasts me that no one thought to reach around the pooping child and take a look at the parents and what they were doing to enable that behavior. Why was Gerald the only one with the shitty nickname, pun intended? I would have liked to have seen the deserved greater repercussions the parents should have received from that show, more than just their marriage crumbling because Tasha's a psychopath and Mommy's Mrs. Bates and Dad doesn't have the sack to do anything about it. Blech. I felt like I was reading a reality TV show. I was hooked but it was a disgusted distance that kept me at arm's length from it. I didn't connect with anyone and I thought Hannah was kind of all over the place (pretty par for the course with teenage girls, it sounded rather familiar) but there was so much drama I couldn't look away.

Melissa: Just finished this last night. And.... wow. I think y'all have expressed what I was feeling pretty nicely, though. This struck me, Maureen: "What horrified me was how clearly messed up Tasha was and nobody was stepping in on that either." I suppose that's realistic, but I wonder why no one realized that the problem child wasn't Gerald. Honestly. That girl needs some serious meds/therapy. And you're right about the parents. BOTH are just beyond horrible, but not for the normal reasons. I found it interesting that the horribleness came from inaction rather than some sort of horrible action. I also found it interesting that it was the child who was doing the abusing, rather than the dad/man/boyfriend. I don't know how common it is, to have a psychopath for a kid, but it made it hard to read. I don't watch reality TV (okay, I do watch Master Chef, but I don't consider it "reality"), but I though this was perfect, Donna: "I felt like I was reading a reality TV show. I was hooked but it was a disgusted distance that kept me at arm's length from it." I, too, read it more clinically than emotionally. I haven't read any other A. S. King. If they're all like this, though, I may not.

Heidi: So...I just spent like 10 minutes responding to everyone and then my computer decided to auto-restart on me so I lost it all. NOT AMUSED. /emoquit (for now)

Maureen: I think some people did realize Tasha was the problem, but those people were so invested in the narrative of Gerald as the root of all the evil in that family, instead of the symptom. Fake Nanny, for instance, always struck me as someone who would eat her own young, never mind someone else's. Even though she did have sympathy for him, if she'd gone to the producers and said, "Hey, Tasha's a demon from hell," they more than likely would have gone, "No, that's not the direction we're going, dear and oh by the way, we're the ones who sign your paycheck." Reality shows do have a script and they do have characters/types marked out and a particular narrative to tell. If Mom or Dad had ever admitted to themselves that their daughter was messed up beyond all redemption, they would have had to admit how epically they'd failed as parents.

Melissa: True, Maureen, except I wanted Mom to realize that the reason she's epically failed as a parent was because Tasha was abusing her -- both emotionally and physically -- and that she was ENABLING Tasha's abuse. Dad, on the other hand, had no excuse to not leave.Or at the very least get that girl on some meds.

Maureen: Or an exorcism.

Sya: I've just finished part one and have jumped down here without reading any comments as I don't want to know what happens. But I had to come and express how utterly terrifying Tasha is... I am assuming that she's an out and out sociopath and the combination of her behaviour and writing that so completely illustrates how trapped Gerard is in his parents denial makes for an intense reading experience.

Maureen: I actually hesitate to call her a straight-up sociopath because some of the crap she was pulling, especially early on, smacked of, "STOP ME. Pay attention to me like you're paying attention to Gerald. Set boundaries." She kept pushing in order to get the attention focused on her. Yes, she's still self-centered like a neutron star, but I feel like she might have been redeemable.

Holly: Yes - I am alive - and I actually tried reading this one although I wasn't feeling like it would be my thing. I read about fifty pages but I have no interest in reading more about Gerald's sucky life and the reality show flashbacks. Sorry guys. But now that my life is a little less crazy I am going to try and be more active on here. I've missed the ranting and the fangirling. And I hope my number comes up soon so I can force you to read one of my picks.

Nicole: I started reading and then spring crept up and I wasn't interested enough from where I ended to continue. Which I guess says something about how I liked the book, but I also might not have been in the mood. ... so I guess it says nothing at all. I'm useless to this conversation, aren't I?

Sya: Maureen, I see what you're saying but I disagree. While the family was focussed on Gerald's behaviour, he was only acting out because of Tasha. She had been trying to kill him for at least a year by the time he was five and had tried to drown Lisi prior to that, also. Perhaps her very first actions were attention seeking but they quickly escalated to the point of sociopathy - rather than a cry for help, her more audacious acts seemed to be designed to make people uncomfortable. I read the book almost in one sitting and found it fascinating. I liked the whole running away to the circus solution that Gerald has in his head throughout and how that tied into his past. It would be easy to wonder why he/Lisi never went for help but I kind of liked the idea that they had at one point had the whole world watching them and no one had helped then. This, to me, explained Gerald's utter belief that no-one would do anything and made his realisation that HE could do something really compelling to read. Saying that, I don't think the book is without flaws - Tasha is frightening but one dimensional and Hannah almost a cliche (which may be the entire point, I'm not sure). I've not read any AS King before but will certainly look up her other stuff. Although not if I want to be happy because this was, if nothing else, utterly depressing.

Melissa: Though this begs the question, I think: how does a 10-year-old (or younger) become a sociopath? Are some kids just inherently THAT cruel? And how did her mother get to be an enabler?

Sya: I watched an interesting documentary where they interviewed diagnosed sociopaths that had been that way since birth. It was fascinating. Most if them lived fairly normal lives but the way they talked about other people was the way we might talk about insects. I think her mother enabled her by the deep denial that there was anything wrong with her daughter at all, therefore allowing her behaviour to continue unchecked and go on to escalate.

Nicole: Sya, what's the name of that documentary? I wanna watch.

Sya: I will look it up. It was part of a whole evening on psychopathy that a British channel did.

Donna: What Sya said. Also see: Dexter. I've only watched the first episode but the conundrum posed between Dexter and his father is fascinating. There his father recognized that his son was a sociopath and he knew there was no cure so what does he do? Is the better path to have him committed and be confined to a cell for the rest of his natural life, possibly only escalating the issue? Or was it better to do what he did and nurture the illness but have him alter it in a way where Dexter is actually a contributing and beneficial member of society? Yes, Dexter is a murder. Of other murderers, pedophiles, rapists. What kind of dad does Dexter have? Tasha is what happens when neither of those two options are chosen and now that I think about it, I wonder if she truly was sociopathic. Her killing animals would have been telltale and would have added an additional element to the story. I think if she really wanted to kill Gerald she certainly could have done it AND gotten away with it with how her mom was. But she didn't. She preferred to terrorize. I'm more inclined to believe she's just a particularly nasty bully simply for the fact that she never followed through on any of her death threats despite ample opportunity to and she's in her early 20s with no blood on her hands that we know of. Surely an unchecked psychopath would have some bodies in her wake by then.

Melissa: So, when Sherlock says he's a "high functioning sociopath" does that mean he's got blood on his hands?

Melissa: Though I think, Donna, you raise some interesting points. The only other fictional sociopath I can think of, right now, is Peter from Ender's Game, and he (at least) tortured animals. Maybe Tasha would be better categorized as a terrorist than a sociopath.

Donna: I've never seen Sherlock so I have no idea. I mean it's highly possible. I'm assuming he had to have some positive influence in his life to be able to get it together enough to not turn into a Charles Manson or something.

Holly: Did I hear someone say Dexter, and someone else say Sherlock? Sigh. I guess I have a thing for sociopaths. Don't mind my tangent. Carry on.

Maureen: There's been some interesting books/articles published lately about functioning sociopaths/psychopaths, and the gist seems to be they aren't always murderous. They just see other people as things. Obstacles, toys, minions, whatever.

Maureen: Interesting how the whole conversation went right to Tasha. Wouldn't she love that.

Melissa: Well, she IS the real problem (to say the least) in the book. I feel bad though and will try and come up with something interesting to say about Gerald.

Melissa: As a side note, as friends of hockey fans, I loved the Hockey Mom. She was awesome.

Sya: Firstly, here is a link to that documentary on a site that I think you will be able to watch it on in the US.

Sya: Secondly, I wanted to mention the portrayal of the kids in Gerald's Spec Ed class, which I thought was brilliant. Particularly Jenny who really stood out as a real person rather than a token girl-in-wheelchair.

Heidi: Oh Sherlock Holmes is definitely the most famous fictional sociopath of all time. I've actually been meaning to read The Sociopath Next Door for a couple of years now, but it probably won't get read any faster than most of the other non-fic I intend to read. But yes, it's another that falls into that niche of pointing out that the majority of sociopaths aren't things like serial killers, but the majority of serial killers are sociopaths. Turns out, a lot of CEOs and the like are sociopaths. Easy to rise to power when you have no loved ones/don't care who you crush to get there. But yeah, I wonder what (if anything) could have been done to curb Tasha, a born sociopath, away from being freaking evil. I def agree that Lisi and Gerald never sought help because their whole lives were on TV and no one ever helped them--why would anyone? Also YES to loving the hockey mom.

Heidi: Also I think RA should be someone from the circus. Like Gerald's friend's dad. Because I like to think of him as boisterous and loud and with a big crazy hate/love family. Every other male adult kind of pissed me off in this book--even the special ed teacher. I like the mental image of RA in a Ringmaster outfit. Just sayin'.

Melissa: Heidi, that's brilliant.

Sya: Heidi, that almost makes up for your Jane Eyre comment.