Tuesday, November 18, 2014
This was my first Rainbow Rowell novel. I have friends for whom this is one of their favorite authors. I had seen several recommendations, from friends whom I've NEVER been disappointed when taking a recommendation from them. *sigh* Until now. I was NOT a big fan of this book.
There are several things I DID like. The characters were very real, likable, believable, and captivating. Cather (Cath)-our protagonist-has some quirks that are extremely endearing. And Levi is personifies someone everyone knows, the guy who is always smiling and friendly and optimistic. You are just as oblivious to certain things as Cath is, so you do get surprised by a few things just because you, as the reader, are ignorant of anything Cath is ignorant of (most of the time). There was a sweet story line. There is also a lot of baggage because Cath and her twin, Wren (Cather-Wren, their mom wasn't counting on twins and apparently didn't want to think of a second name for the second twin) were left by their mom when they were 8, the day after Sept. 11, 2001.
It was also interesting because Cath is a fanfiction writer. There are really 3 stories going on at once, which is clever and I give Rowell props for that. There's Cath's real life story, the Simon Snow and the Mage's Heir books in canon by "Gemma T. Leslie", and Cath's fanfaction version of Simon Snow. But this, for me was where I started to get a little annoyed. Simon Snow is so OBVIOUSLY a parallel of Harry Potter and that, for some reason REALLY bothered me. Simon Snow goes to a school to learn to be a magician. He has a super smart female friend. He has an enemy at the school (who happens to also be his roommate). He is an orphan. He is supposed to be the hero of the magic world. There are 8 books and the cultural following of Simon Snow with midnight release parties for the books as well as the movies could easily describe the cultural phenomenon of Harry Potter. To me, it seemed weak for this made up fictional series to parallell HP so much. I kept saying "Really?" when I'd read more of this fictional story within this book. You can't help but compare everything Simon Snow to HP and try to convert things. Like the Hare's Snow is supposed to find to the Horcrux's in HP. I also had a hard time telling apart the "real" Simon Snow excerpts from the "fanfiction" excerpts of Simon Snow. There wasn't enough writing difference between Cath and Gemma T Leslie for me to just tell. Unless you go by content.
The other thing I didn't like was Cath's obession with men being gay. In HER version of Simon Snow, Simon and his arch nemesis, Baz fall in love and have a relationship. There are some scenes that are almost love scenes. Now, even though I don't agree with some things about being gay, I *usually* don't have a problem with gay characters. But for me, this just felt like it was thrown in just to be thrown in. To prove some kind of point. It was NOTHING like Kate Morton's character in "The Distant Hours" or even like William in "Downton Abbey", where there is definitely a struggling point with the character and their orientation that taught a lesson or brought about sympathy for their situation. And it wasn't just Simon and Baz with Cath either. When she writes with a guy named Nick for a partner assignment, she turns one of their characters into a gay guy with a secret boyfriend. But why? What is her fascination? She herself, is straight. Maybe the whole point was that there shouldn't need to be a specific reason to write things of this nature. But it was just presented in a way that I thought was too blatant. It was meant to be nonchalant, but for me it didn't come off like that. It felt too forced-as if Rowell, via Cath, HAD to prove a point.
And then there was the language-which I HAD been given fair warning about from BOTH friends who recommended this author. You could tell from the acknowledgement section that the author is the kind of person who drops the "F-bomb" in normal conversation and in places that swear words are starting to become mainstream. For instance, in describing someone she says they are just "f-ing awesome". And if you were a normal run-of-the-mill-every-day-college-student, the language is probably true-to-life and wouldn't be alarming to anyone. For me, I tried to skim over any of it because frankly, after awhile, it got old.
Also, the story, while sweet, wasn't very captivating for me. It was enjoyable, but not if I had something better around. I checked it out and started reading it, but before finishing it, I read the last two books in the Ember series and the 4th Michael Vey book as they got to me through library holds.
So, I'm sorry to those who love Rowell, but this one just didn't do it for me. I might give her one more chance with a different novel, but not for awhile.
Monday, November 17, 2014
Book 4. Wow, just as fast paced as usual! However, I do have to warn that there were parts of this book that were MUCH more predictable than others and many more hunches of mine proved correct than in the previous books. I'm not sure if that's just because I'm more used to the writing style and the story line of this series, but that gave me mixed feelings. I don't want a book to be predictable, but at the same time, it's fun to be right. :-)
I can't write too much without spoiling things, and I don't want to spoil things. However, this one was the first one that really left quite a large cliff hanger at the end, which is really a bummer since I found out there are going to be EIGHT (or was it 7?) books in the series and the next one will hopefully be out in a year. Part of me wants to read them as they come out. Part of me wants to wait 4 years for the series to be finished.
Dr. Hatch is more evil than ever. He still makes me sick to my stomach. And what makes me even more sick is how the Electric Children or Glows who are with him are becoming more and more like him in their evil and how they view and treat other human beings. It is truly disgusting stuff and not for the faint of heart. His eventual downfall will be something akin to the downfall of Dolores Umbridge. I never EVER thought there would be a character quite as horrible as Umbridge, but Hatch is her times a million in how horrible and truly evil he is. Yes. He needs to go DOWN and it's almost traumatic to realize that there are several more books before I'm certain it will happen.
One thing that is REALLY cool is that the people of Sparks get a chance to go on a salvaging expedition back to Ember. I love that the people of Sparks get proof of the underground city and realize that it wasn't a cave or something more primitive than their own current state, but rather far more advanced than they could have imagined.
Of course, Lina and Doon find another book that has been damaged and only has 8 pages of information remaining. Luckily there are a LOT of books that have been kept in Sparks that can help people of an inventive and engineering mind set, like Doon, to help reclaim some of the technologies previously lost after the "Disaster". And of course, it's a clean source of energy and it spreads throughout the land and people learn how to harness solar power on a scale we don't even use today (perhaps if we were forced into it, we would). There are flashes to the future which is very satisfying as a reader to know that the world is going to be ok. That the world is going to be a better place. And perhaps even better is the fact that Lina and Doon are not necessarily going to be famous in world history, but nothing they did was ever for the intent of gaining popularity or fame. They are always motivated by what the "right" thing to do is. Even when the right thing is not easy, popular, or promises dividends right away. And I think that fact is one of the things that made me fall in love with these characters and these books.
I just thought of another thing I loved....there is a family who mistreats Doon-they had found the City of Ember and took it for their own, sort of. Since the generator still spat out power every now and again. At one point when Doon finds a way to get away from them, he makes it impossible for that family to stay here. Later on in the book, this family resurfaces. And instead of condemning them for what they did, Doon forgives them and they allow this family to live in Sparks. It was interesting, because in the book it said something to the effect of "There were many reasons not to let them say" and then it states those reasons, and then says "But there were also reasons why they should let them stay" and it listed those reasons. I feel this is an important lesson to learn because people are going to wrong us all the time and we have to choose whether we are going to move past those things or not. Whether we will forgive or not. Whether we can ever let the good that people have the potential to reach, or let their imperfections always outweigh any future good.