Newest Obsession

His Mortal Instruments: City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

This audio book set off a bit of a trend for me actually, a Cassandra Clare trend. After one really bad movie and one better, although not perfect, TV series, plus having read the book before there isn’t much to say other than, this book is great! I love it and I was happy to listen to it again.

Last movie I watched:

Pirates of the Caribbean. You know what? The first one was really fun. I really liked it.  Obviously they went down hill a little later, but they started off strong.

Last TV show I watched:

Friends.

Beauty after Tragedy

Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston

Hermione Winter heads off to cheer leading camp before her grade twelve year sure that this will be her year. She and her best friend Polly are co-captains of their team, in a school that loves cheer leading. Her teams is the best it’s ever been. Her boyfriend’s on the team. Surely this will be her year. Until she’s drugged and raped by an unknown assailant at camp. Over the next year she looses friends and gains friends as she struggles to get through her own life but also to live free of the identity of a victim.

This book is powerful. Really, truly. The writing has a beautiful rawness to it, particularly painful to read when it relates to physical pain and sensation and flashback. I found it hard not to have a very real reaction myself (okay, so I cried at work through a few parts) just because of the stunning honesty of everything – the words, the sentences, the characters, the places.

The other things that brought me to tears was the wonderful people in Hermione’s life. From her best friend Polly, to her partners bewildered about how to help their child, the other adults in her life – her therapist, coach, guidance councilor, doctor, police – and her friends, people she’d always known and cared about but she’d never realized how they’d step up to protect her, they are all amazing. And of course, this is the most unrealistic element of the story because in real life, survivors of sexual violence often end up feeling isolated alone and betrayed by the people in their life. But here’s the thing about this book – at least for me it was impossible not to want to be that person who steps up for anyone who needs. Characters that good inspire goodness.

Just for the record, this is not a book about looking for the rapist. Of course some of the story is devoted to finding out who he was, to the police investigation and DNA and that kind of CSI stuff. But that’s not what it’s about, not at all.

There’s very little about this book that I didn’t love. Obviously there’s some pretty serious content, so I’d recommend chatting with any teens in your life who happen to be reading it if you’re uncomfortable with themes of sexual assault, abortion or trauma. But I would also recommend everyone reading it.

Last movie I watched:

I still think it’s the Karate Kid.

Last TV episode I watched:

The Musketeers! Apparently the king just kinda died. Weird.

Meta Fan Fiction

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Sometimes ago I read and loved (like really, really, really loved) Fangirl. So I decided to read Carry On which is not the sequel to Fangirl. In Fangirl, Cath is writing a piece of fanfiction for a series called Simon Snow. Carry On is not that piece of fanfiction. Nor is it the original Simon Snow story. It’s an original fanfiction for a fictional story. Even better, it’s a slash fiction.

So Simon (who starts out approximately as Harry Potter) is the prophesied savoir of a magical world that exists as part of ours. It’s his last year at Watford and the inevitable showdown between Simon, his friends and the Mage and the Insidious Humdrum. But what’s on his mind most of the time? How his relationship with his girlfriend Agatha doesn’t feel right and where on earth his archenemy/roommate Baz? But everything’s more complicated then anyone realizes.

This book is really hard to talk about without spoiling but here’s what I can say. You think at the start because the story is a little Harry Potter-esk that it will continue to be Harry Potter-esk and end with an epic showdown that is entertaining and a little cliched but you are wrong. I’m telling you the plot twists are pretty out of left field, which is awesome. The other great thing is the Baz and Simon relationship.  It’s so nice it is to see a same sex couple that aren’t there for tokenism but are actually well developed and interesting both as individuals in a relationship and the relationship itself.

I recommend it. Strongly.

And, yes, I checked, there is fanfiction for the fictional story made up for another fictional story’s fanfiction. It’s great.

Last movie I watched:

Still Karate Kid. I really liked it. Somehow I failed at being a child of the 80s. I’d never seen it.

Last TV episode I watched:

The Musketeers still. So fun.

Erased History and a Warning for Humanity

Between Shades of Grey by Ruta Sepetys

Did you realize that Stalin committed genocide to the scale of millions of innocent people while the Second World War was happening? I didn’t. I mean, I knew he was generally considered to be a pretty bad dude, but he helped the Allies win the war so all’s forgiven right?

This is a piece of historical fiction based on the experiences of survivors of the mass deportations that occurred in Russia before, during and long after WWII. It’s the story of a Lina, a fifteen year old girl who is taken from her home one night, along with her mother and brother and deported to Siberia. What follows is a nightmare that lasted a decade for her. The book, which is a good 300 pages, only documents the first two years of her time in prison, although the epilogue confirms that she did survive another 10  more years in the camp before being freed.

It’s a devastating story. The human suffering described is heartbreaking. The human kindness and compassion from the prisoners, strangers and occasionally guards is just as heartbreaking. My library files it in the young adult section, certainly the subject matter is hard and there is some sexual violence in it, but I really think adults should read it as well, particularly if there are young people in your life who are reading it.

Given the current political climate, I think it’s really important for us to remember what happens that the “them versus us” mentality stripes us all of our humanity. When we fail to recognize the basic humanity in other people, we’ve lost sight of what it means to be human. And history will remember that, no matter who tries to suppress it.

Last movie I watched: Karate Kid.

That’s some serious bullying there guys. Serious.

Last TV show I watched:

The Musketeers. It’s just so much fun.

A brief adventure in adult historical fiction

Three Sisters, Three Queens by Phillipa Gregory

Despite Gregory being a rather prolific writer, and my generally enjoyment of historical fiction, it’s maybe a bit surprising that I haven’t read anything else by Phillipa Gregory, not even the Other Boleyn Girl. But I was in an airport and it was on sale, so there you have it.

I actually really enjoyed it. Many people I talked to said her more recent stuff isn’t as good as the older ones, and who can blame her? She must be running out of Tudor women to give a twist to and write about. But without anything to compare it to, I really liked Three Sisters, Three Queens.

It’s the story of Henry VIII’s older sister Margret, who was married to the King of Scotland as a young teen and acted as regent for her son by him when her husband was killed. The center of the story is the dynamic of Catherine of Aragon, Margret and her younger sister Mary, three Tudor princesses who all marry kings but ultimately lead tragic lives.

What I liked most about the story was Margret’s rather annoying, petty, bratty personality. She saw her whole life as a competition against her sisters. When she is succeeding and they are not, she is smug and filled with false generosity and when they are outdoing her she resents the same behaviour. It sounds like a weird thing to really enjoy about a main character but I really liked the fact that she was filled with personality, even if it was an often dis-likable personality, and not a Mary Sue kind of princess. Also, I was ablw to read her as a very sympathetic character despite this because it seemed to me that someone so young, naive and out of touch with reality should be pitied. She was raised without any real understanding of the world – she was a symbol of Tudor power, but never a person so it’s not surprising that she mishandles every challenge she ever faces. How would she know better?

The most interesting thing about historical fiction of course is never about the history but what interests us know and what that says about who we are. I’m glad I had a bit of a reminder of that.

Last movie I watched:

Valentine’s Day. Not as good as Love Actually.

Last TV episode I watched:

The Musketeers. Such a wonderful, swashbuckling show

My first ever Korman

On the Run: Chasing the Falconers by Gordon Korman

The On the Run series is the stories of two children who’s parents were arrested for treason and they were sent to a detention farm but they know they have to escape to find a way to prove their parents are innocent. So they’re forced to become fugitives and head out on a quest, without an adult.

It’s a really short, easy read, clearly a step into chapter books kind of story. But it’s fast paced, fun and almost certainly a good choice for kids who like adventure and are looking for the chapter books that will help them move to reading at a higher level.

Lucky for them there are like 800 million Korman books, so if this makes a good impression, your kid is set for reading material until high school.

Last movie I watched:

Might have been Die Hard 2. Also might not have been.

Last TV show I watched:

A bit of the Crown. It’s really slow, but somehow completely captivating.

How to start a family

Double Pregnant: Two Lesbians Make a Family by Natalie D. Meisner

This thin little novel is a rare piece of nonfiction for me. It’s the true story of a lesbian couple in Canada who decide they want to have a baby, and then a baby each and then because their doctors advise them that they’re too old to wait a baby each at the same time. Thus begins their quest to find a sperm donor, successfully inseminate, get through two pregnancies and survive two labours.  It is a love story and a relationship story and an LGBTQ story and parenting story and overall a great read.

Being a true story, Meisner doesn’t hide the dirtier truths about relationships, hurt feelings, miscarriages, grief, broken promises, uncomfortable situations and generally being directionless in your adult life and that makes the book striking and interesting. I also like how comforting it is to read stories about people who are like you – struggling with where they want to be but determined to fulfill their goals, in love but vulnerable and afraid sometimes and facing the unique challenges of being a lesbian couple.

The language is beautiful, particularly Meisner’s description of her wife and their children, both born and unborn.

All around loved it.

Last movie I watched:

The end of Star Trek Beyond. It didn’t get better. I’m disappointed.

Last TV episode I watched:

One of the final ones in Supernatural season 11. So they killed God I guess?