Monday, September 12, 2011

Is Magical Healing Respectable?! (human interest)

Magical Healing: Should We?
Magical Healing. Don’t we all love it as fantasy/ paranormal writers? Everyone is hot in romance novels, aren’t they? Wholeness matters. Beauty matters. I hate novels where the girl is described with, I don’t know, a squint or a cross-eye or as being (in one book I won’t mention because I might lose all control to think about it) “plain” (as though plain is a disability) and then the guy comes along, or some other Dumbledore like character comes along, and magically transforms her into- hey, presto- beautiful girl worth the boy!  What is this madness about? What is wrong with the girl being plain, or cross-eyed, or even crippled, for God’s sake? Won’t the guy love her enough?
 I hated Twilight at one point of time because Bella kept going on about how she wanted to be a vampire because only then would she be worth Edward. (Twilight fans: maybe you have a different explanation for this, but I will never get over this weirdness)
I am plain. Is that a problem? Do I have to do something to my face so a guy will like me?
 This is there in so many paranormal novels. Girl, not much to look at, transforms into a gorgeous siren due to some weird magical intervention. Or they’re thrown into the imagination of the author as beautiful creatures. They have scars, which disappear magically. Spines, which right themselves magically even though every doctor said “sorry, impossible”. Deadly diseases that get better because they’re brave, because they’ve found the Magical Elixir of whatever. Every time I tell my stories to one of my friends, and I let it slip that okay, the girl is blind, or the girl is plain, or even the girl has a scar on her face, they say “But she’ll be pretty in the end, right? There’s a scene in the end where the guy stares at the gorgeous vision in front of him with open-mouthed surprise, isn’t there? You’re not going to ~gasp~ keep her BLIND?”
Then they suggest ways to make her not-blind. Ways to make the guy gawp at her vacuously. And I think, any guy who wouldn’t gape at me vacuously before I was pretty wouldn’t be worth my time. Because, for a second, THINK: what are you doing? What is the message you are sending out, as an author? That it’s not okay to be disabled? That the guy won’t love the girl enough if there isn’t at least one scene in the book where he isn’t hit by the sledgehammer of beauty that she is? Isn’t this the most vacuous, empty-headed trope?
 And hullo, no one’s forgetting the heaps of characters that are “terrible” just because they have a limp or a hunched back. How many books have we read where an annoying character is described as being “cross-eyed and squinty” or “having a limp” or “deaf and batty”? Almost to the point that we think children’s literature is cruel to these characters. (Don’t get me started on fat characters. I’ll write a post on that unfairness soon)
Why is it not okay to be disabled, or ugly, or plain? I find it heartbreaking when books make characters absolutely lovable and fun and, yes, disabled and then kill them off, relegate them to secondary roles, or magically heal them. Eona, by Alison Goodman, was such a great example of how a person can work around their disability and triumph. She was crippled, her hipbone malformed due to a deliberate “accident”. She, pretending to be a He, is genius enough to work around that one and come out triumphant. So why did Ms. Goodman have to go and heal her in the end of the book? Because a crippled heroine is not a heroine? Or is it some kind of attempt to say that if you’re brave and fabulous and ass kicking enough, you’ll finally be rewarded by wholeness? So how do the disabled people who read this feel? That they aren’t brave enough and worthy enough? I’m not going to hark about just this book; there are countless other characters... L. M Montgomery’s Dean Priest, Eragon in Eldest, all the plain girls (a.k.a Ugly Ducklings) who due to the magical influence of whatever turned into swans. This kind of writing is shallow.
By the trend, I see in books, it’s not possible to be happy if you’re disabled. It’s not possible to love or to be loved unless you’re healed magically at the end. It’s not possible for Mr. Gorgeous to fall for you if you’re anything less than Ms. Beautiful is and if he does, then Ms. Plain transitions to Ms. Beautiful with some otherworldly help.
I wish teen-lit will stop being about beauty and start being about heart. As I promised, I’m going to write a “fat-character-post” soon. Very soon. For now, chew on this.


So what do YOU think of magical healing? To do or not to?

NOTE: if you've liked this post, you should read the following posts, which inspired this:

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine where we feature the books we're waiting for!
 
This week, I'm featuring Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi. Obviously half the book reading world is waiting for this book, and the ones who've been lucky enough to get the ARC tells me that it's totally worth it. Read a few excerpts and quotes, and I loved it. Also, Mafi's blog is pretty awesome. You can read her at http://www.stiryourtea.blogspot.com/
 
SO, I give you, Shatter Me
 
Juliette hasn't touched anyone in exactly 264 days. The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette's touch is fatal. As long as she doesn't hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don't fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color.

The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war- and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she's exactly what they need right now.

Juliette has to make a choice: Be a weapon. Or be a warrior.

In this electrifying debut, Tahereh Mafi presents a world as riveting as The Hunger Games and a superhero story as thrilling as The X-Men. Full of pulse-pounding romance, intoxicating villainy, and high-stakes choices, Shatter Me is a fresh and original dystopian novel—with a paranormal twist—that will leave readers anxiously awaiting its sequel
.
 
Here's a quote from goodreads.
 
“I spent my life folded between the pages of books.
In the absence of human relationships I formed bonds with paper characters. I lived love and loss through stories threaded in history; I experienced adolescence by association. My world is one interwoven web of words, stringing limb to limb, bone to sinew, thoughts and images all together. I am a being comprised of letters, a character created by sentences, a figment of imagination formed through fiction. ~ pg. 71 (ARC)”

Monday, September 5, 2011

Q and A Review: Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

Soooo. This is THE book I've been waiting to read for so long. I'll give you the Q and A version of a review for this one.

Synopsis

Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead.  
So did his father before him, until he was gruesomely murdered by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father's mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. Together they follow legends and local lore, trying to keep up with the murderous dead—keeping pesky things like the future and friends at bay.
When they arrive in a new town in search of a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas doesn't expect anything outside of the ordinary: track, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he's never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, now stained red and dripping with blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home.
But she, for whatever reason, spares Cas's life.

Q. Why the hell did you want to read it so much in the first place?
A. Because:
1. The cover is REALLY gorgeous.
2. I'm tired of angsty, whiny female heroines. I want a smartass dude's POV. And Cas is full of smartassery.
3. I love that title. Love it. Anna Dressed in Blood. Now, why didn't I think of something like that?
4. He's called Theseus Cassio Lowood??? He he, you just know this kid's going to be amusing. Also, my new novel's protag is called Cassio. I'm an Othello fan, too, WTH.

Q. What did you think of Cas?
A. Theseus Cassio Lowood. Not only having to battle ghosts but also the ghosts of his own past. Never whining about it. (Thank GOD for that.) Professional ghost-killer, smartass, intelligent and all around great guy. Not that he keeps saying that. It's so nice to see such a dynamic young man from his own POV. I love how Cas is both sensitive and brilliant, I love his dynamic with Anna and with his mother, I love the way he's out to avenge his father. I love him. He's full of awesome.

Q. What did you think of Anna?
A. Ah, Anna. Anna, Anna, Anna. Why don't we have more female leads like Anna? Here's what Cas has to say about Anna, the dark ghost of Anna Dressed in Blood:
She was nothing like I expected, though now that I’ve seen
her I have a hard time remembering what I did expect. Maybe I thought she’d be a sad, frightened girl who killed out of fear and misery. I thought she’d trundle down the stairs in a white dress with a dark stain at the collar. I thought she would have two smiles, one on her face and one on her neck, wet and red. I thought she would ask me why I was in her house, and then come at me with razored little teeth.
Instead I find a ghost with the strength of a storm, black eyes, and pale hands, not a dead person at all but a dead goddess. Persephone back from Hades, or Hecate half-decayed.

 And, you know, this entirely believable, wonderful boy keeps doing the "goddess" reference. Which is just great. Because Anna reminded me instantly of a powerful, dark goddess too, the way she was described.

Q. Is there a plot? Or is it just usual YA blah-blah?
A. There's a kind-of plot. But there doesn't have to be a linear structure to the plot, because this book is more about the movement of the protagonist. Cas is a ghost-killer. But he's half in love with death itself. Anna is a killer ghost. But again, she's heartbreakingly in love with him too. Again, there is the whole angle of Cas's family that's been done very well. I loved his kitchen-witch Mom, she's a very strong character. I liked Carmel and Thomas. 

Q. Stand alone?
A. I hear there's a second book. There better be.

Q. Writing?
A. Great. I loved Cas's voice, his cursing, his wise-guy comments.
The hallways today look like something out of a movie. You know, the ones where the important characters walk in slow motion and the rest of the people just whip by as different flesh- and clothes-colored blurs.
This is how the entire book is, with his sometimes weird observations that's perfectly believable for a guy. (Or maybe, I don't know, I'm not a guy.)

Q. Verdict?
A. 4 on 5. I'm knocking off one point simply because I thought the book could be longer.



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