Meh

Star Wars: Jedi Apprentice Defenders of the Dead by Jude Watson

This novel takes place before the Phantom Menace and was really written to be a quick, popular read based around Obi Wan Kenobi’s Jedi training. Unfortunately, no one really bothered to work that hard on the writing or narrative because they had a captive audience (Star Wars fans looking to transition from picture books and easy readers to novels) and as a result the book was very much… meh.

The premise of the book is that Obi Wan and Qui-Gon Jinn travel to a planet that has been at war for so many generations no one really remembers who started it on a rescue mission. While they are there, they encounter a group of people called the Young who have decided that they will defy their families and force their people to talk peace, by any means necessary.

Honestly, it’s not a great book. The premise is pretty interesting, but of course because it’s a Star Wards book, they had to sideline the original elements of the story in favour of the Star Wars characters. The writing is bland, although its a good transitional book I guess, to move young readers along and while I wouldn’t recommend it to an adult, I would hand it to a young reader who loved Star Wars and was ready to move to novels.

Last movie I watched: Deadpool 2

Pretty funny

Last TV episode I watched:

The Crown. Still so good. SO GOOD.

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Magical Science Fiction

The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong

I adore Kelley Armstrong. I think this was the first of her YA fiction that I’ve read and while I would say it was good, really good even, I guess there’s something about YA’s tropiness that makes it hard for even great writers to really shine. Having said that, I would very much recommend it and read the rest of the trilogy.

The story is about Maya, a pretty typical teenager who lives with her adopted parents in a community on an isolated park on Vancouver Island, founded entirely by a large medical company. The sudden death of her best friend, and a year later increasingly strange things happening to her sends her on a quest to understand who she really is and what this doctors who founded her town are really researching.

Like many YA titles it falls victim to a few standards – first loves, relationship drama, one ultimate mean girl, orphan with mysterious and unknown past, best friends confused with dating partners and a tension between the teens and the authority figures. Most of these are okay on their own, but as they stack up, it starts to feel a little stale.

But it’s also got some great points too. Maya is an indigenous character. Not being indigenous myself I can’t say if her close ties to the forest and the animals could be seen as reinforcing a stereotype or as a really cool, accessible magic power  or as a bit of a mix of both. It certainly adds a something to the story. Kelley Armstrong’s fast paced, narrative driven style makes it almost impossible to put down. It also deals with attempted date rape, which is also something I think we all benefit from talking about with teens. And it’s both written by a Canadian and set in Canada, so that’s just a great bonus.

I would recommend this  book for it’s intended audience – teens and do so happily! I will continue to love Kelley Armstrong.

Last movie I watched:

Infinity Wars! So good although kind of a kick in the teeth

Last TV show I watched:

The Crown. So good guys, so good!

The collision of past and future

The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline

I just finished this book to write Battle of the Books questions for it. It’s also on the OLA’s White Pine list this year and I really recommend it, although it’s not exactly light, escapism if that’s what you’re into.

It takes place in a future when civilization has collapsed through a complicated series of negative events starting with extreme environmental devastation and climate change that triggered massive wars and the collapse of society. In this world, people have lost their ability to dream and it makes them violent and depressed. The solution was found in the bone marrow of Indigenous people. The book opens with Frenchie, a young Metis boy and his brother fleeing after their parents’ disappearances. The book follows Frenchie and his new found family’s journey through northern Ontario and eventually their decision to fight back.

There’s a lot to like about this book (but I’m not going to get into too much of it because spoilers!) but I’ll focus particularly on two things – Indigenous people in north America and the portrayal of LGBTQ people in the book.

This book, while maybe a little didactic, does a great job of drawing on the history of violence and colonialism in the collective Indigenous identity, as well as the generations of trauma that has effected both the individual people and the collective group of people. The dystopian future really draws on historical event and, while it’s extreme and alarming, also feels very real in the context of colonial oppression. No one wants to think about their government rounding up a minority in their own country and trapping them in schools. But it happened in history, and in this book it happens in our future as well. The idea of paying bounties on innocent civilians is distressing, but again, happened in our past and could happen again. Although the current political struggles are not touched on, it contextualizes them.

There is also a fantastic LGTBQ character in this book, and what I loved most about this character is that his sexual orientation was just one part of his overall character. His entire existence is informed by the lose of his husband, but this is treated exactly the same as any other lose in the book, and there are many. The fact that he’s a gay man isn’t even mentioned, its just understood. Also, there’s some serious trope inversion here (Spoiler: Kill All Your Gays) is thwarted in the last few pages in a way that truly warmed my heart.

I think this reads like a first novel (it is) and I’m sure everything Dimaline writes from will improve on what she learned from this great book. It feels a bit like Cormac McCarthey’s The Road  mixed with a curriculum accompaniment (for high school students – there’s violence, including sexual violence and some pg-13 sexuality) but I really enjoyed it and believe it’s a great piece for high school students across Canada to be reading this year.

Last movie I watched:

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. When I first read it, I didn’t mind Harry’s … lack of emotional regulation. Then it started to bug me, I think as I stopped being a teenager. But now I don’t mind it so much again because I think he’s got PTSD for most of this book and with that reading, his anger makes a lot of sense.

Last TV episode:

Death Comes to Pemberly although I am literally 5 minutes into the first episode and therefore have no opinion at this time.

The Return of Alcatraz

Alcatraz #5: The Dark Talent by Brandon Sanderson

As usual, I loved, loved, love this book. I just find the writing style, the commentary on writing, the delightful internal dialogue and just the straight wackiness of it. And so, so many librarian jokes.

I was really disappointed in the ending though because it didn’t really end. It was just over and the narrator insisted this was the end of the series and I believed it because I’d heard there was only supposed to be 5 books. It just totally failed to wrap up the story and it made me really sad.

But the more I thought about it, the more I thought it was okay. This abrupt, unhappy ending actually kind of worked with the genre bending, commentary on language and tropes. To have such a surprising, unpredictable ending like that, kind of genius and plays into the whole story really well, even if it didn’t make me happy.

Only then I found out there’s going to be a sixth book. So I guess I’ll have to wait and see how it all ends.

Anyway, I still love and recommend the series completely, even if they’re a little abstract for younger readers.

Last movie I watched:

The Santa Clause? I think. It’s a good one I feel.

Last TV show I watched:

Supernatural. This episode isn’t that great, but we’ll see how it goes.

How not to end a love triangle

Infernal Devices: Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare

Here there be spoilers.

This is the last in the series, and resolves both the story and the love triangle. There were a few really, really big twists that were all pretty good and definitely squee worthy.

I would like to address the love triangle though, because that was a pretty good  and big part of the story that was kind of a cop out. The love triangle has to end of course because the book is over. And it was  a really good love triangle because Tessa loved both Will and Jem for real reasons that make sense for her. Both bring something into her life that makes her feel special and beautiful and brings love to her heart.

So how does the author get out of these two excellent character being equally deserving of the love of the heroine?

Well she kills one of them. But it’s a trick kill – they aren’t really dead. And then as it turns out, two of them are immortal. So naturally, Tessa stays with one of them until he dies of old age and then eventually catches up with the immortal one when chance allow.s

This was a very satisfying ending because I liked both potential lovers but it was also not, I don’t know – emotional I guess? It felt like 2.75 novels building up to Tessa having to make a terrible choice but then she lucks out, circumstance just takes her decision away from her and she just gets to have both. And something about that just made her seem like a victim of circumstance, not her own heart. That was a little disappointing, that’s all.

Last Movie I watched:

Nope. No clue.

Last TV show I watched:

Supernatural. I’m getting through it.

The triangle continues to grow. As does my love for Magnus Bane

Infernal Devices: Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare

This book continues the love triangle/Shadowhunter history started in Clockwork Angel. I’m not sure why, if it’s because I read it a while ago or if its a reflection on the book itself, but I don’t remember it as clearly as I remember the first and third book. I’m sure some details are revealed, at least one character dies, and there are a few good “gasp! No!” moments but overall it was really just a great bridge between a good setup in the first book and a great payoff in the third.

I did really enjoy this series though. Strongly recommend.

Last movie I watched:

Who knows?

Last TV show I watched:

Supernatural.

Genre Mixing

Hunter (Hunter #1) by Mercedes Lackey

We’re getting pretty close to books that I’ve read in recent enough memory that I might be able to manage some thoughtful discussion of this book. Probably not much, but a bit.

Hunter takes place in a dystopian future after an unknown apocalypse when the humans of the world are terrorized by magical beings that can crossover from another mythical realm to hunt humans. Humans have responded by living in major cities, protected by Hunters – people with magical abilities and a connection to mythical beasts called Hounds who are public figures, as well as protectors. Into this complicated world, Joy is asked to leave her quiet mountain home for Apex, the biggest city in North America with nothing but her training, her hounds and the occasional communication from her high ranking uncle to keep her alive. It is the first book in a trilogy. I think. There’s at least a second.

One thing that was really interesting about this book was the blending of science fiction and fantasy. On the one hand, Joy is tracked all the time by mechanical bracelets, cameras and trending but on the other she has a telepathic connection with mythical, shape shifting animals.

Overall, I found the pacing a little off with some stretches dragging and then a lot of action for a long time, but I will definitely be reading the next one.

Last movie I watched:

No idea.

Last TV show I watched:

Supernatural still. I’m going to get through this season without thinking about it too much.