Tag Archives: young adult

Thoughts on the ending of The Clockwork Princess (spoilers)

I’ve browsed around a little at some of the reviews of the end of  The Clockwork Princess and there seems to be a debate about whether Tessa is just wishy-washy and can’t decide between Will and Jem, that you can’t love two people at the same time, and that the ending is contrived (and maybe, in a post I didn’t read, ruined the whole series). Normally I might not write anything, but The Infernal Devices is my favorite of the series for a couple of reasons (well, more than a couple). It’s set in the Victorian period, and I like historical settings, it was interesting to see the Shadowhunters in an earlier setting, and there were automatons. But, enough of that.

Tessa is confused in The Clockwork Angel, for more than one reason. She has been overly trusting, seemingly her whole life, always looking for the good in people, but recognizing the bad. Will presents himself as an arrogant, uncaring jerk (insert preferred word). The institute is overwhelming, with its own internal struggles and battles and interesting characters. Jem is the one who makes her feel welcome, his music is what draws her to him, and eventually, the language in which they can communicate without words. He knows he’s dying and he’s an addict, not a very good prospect. Tessa is his out of reach ideal.

Tessa, of course, falls for Will first, who treats her horrifically. You can’t help who you fall in love with, but you can help how much you’ll put up with from them. Even though it’s his attempts to drive her away from him, the things he says to her are more than unkind, they are really unforgivable. Working out an “arrangement” when it’s decided she’ll stay at the institute? She doesn’t know he isn’t the bad boy he pretends to be, she seeds glimpses of it. She doesn’t know he’s afraid she’ll die if he loves her. Instead, what he does is continually hurt her with little stings and barbs throughout the books.

Tessa and Jem fall in love because they become friends first, then fall in love. People can say it’s a cliche, but it’s actually somewhat archetypical to have a woman fall in love with two men, or a woman in a situation where two men are involved. Arthur/Guinevere/Lancelot, and Tristan/Iseulte(Isolde)/Mark–although Mark sort of got left out of the deal on that one. Guinevere loved Lancelot and Arthur both, and she didn’t want to hurt either of them, yet she loved them at the same time. I’m sure there are more than that I could think of if it wasn’t 6:40 in the morning.

Tessa, however, and wisely, I think, chooses Jem over Will. Jem has been the one who is there for her in the aftermath of whatever situation Will has caused. By the time Will realizes there is no curse, it’s too late for a relationship between him and Tessa, although he presumptuously assumes otherwise. Tessa understands that for whatever time Jem has left, they are happy together, and sometimes that is the greatest thing you can do for someone–she isn’t doing it out of pity, she does it because she loves him. Yes, she still loves Will, but she loves Jem as well, and she isn’t going to renege on a promise she made him. She’s not wishy-washy, she’s true to her word, which is honorable. She doesn’t let Will push her around.

Neither Will nor Tessa knew Jem was going to become a Silent Brother, which leaves Tessa in an odd position, but Jem says Silent Brothers can’t marry, effectively telling her she can marry Will. So she does and they live a life together, but every year at the same place she meets Jem and they talk–she still loves Jem–after all, they do this for 173 years or so, long after Will has died and her children have died.

I think it’s appropriate they end up together in the end, because they were meant to be together in the beginning. He was always the one who treated her the best, the one who didn’t think she would love him because he was an addict, who thought a girl like her would never look at him when put side-by-side next to Will, because it’s always the guys like Will who get the girl.

She loved Will, there’s no question of that, but she loved Jem, albeit in a different way, a quieter, sweeter way. Jem wanted them to marry–he knew they’d both be suffering and they were the only two who could truly help each other, Will over the loss of his Parabatai and Tessa over the loss of her husband and love.

Widows and widowers remarry. Some people marry their high school sweetheart and live happily ever after. Most people fumble along thinking they are fated to meet their “One True Love.” Well, at 44 years old and after about five long term relationships, I don’t think there is “One True Love.” That’s why we read fantasy and books like these, so we can vicariously experience what something we want to feel is like. Start asking people around you, “Have you met your true love?” and see what people say. I can’t say if people are fated. They control the choices they make, and yes, they do fall in love with more than one person at a time. Relationships and love are messy, painful, confusing things, accompanied by wishy-washiness, tears, ice cream and chocolate (and whatever the male equivilant is, if it’s different. If so, you’re missing out on the ice cream and chocolate. Or fries, it tends to swing toward the sweet end or the salty end).

I hope I’ve made sort of a coherent point. I’m not saying anyone is wrong in their opinion, just offering mine, for whatever it’s worth. I should add that this goes for all relationships, m/f, m/m, f/f. Love bounces people around like silly putty on the comics page (did anyone ever do that? Press silly putty onto the comics and then be endlessly amused that it copied it? Ok. Nevermind). It’s a primal emotion. The only thing holding it back is propriety and manners. Otherwise, you’re crossing into criminal, mug shot territory and that is not a place to go. Love is all about respect. Listening. Really listening.

Like Jem does to Tessa. He respects her. She is his treasure, his dream come true. Will is like the Tasmanian Devil. Dressed nicely and not smelly, and pretty to look at. But he still leaves chaos in his wake.

I will say she and Will blew it in the cave, however. How convenient, invisible walls. Hm. I’ll have to remember that one. “Sorry, I couldn’t make it to work, all of a sudden my car couldn’t move and I just happened to have my Kindle and all the notes for the book and story I’m working on with me. Isn’t that funny?”

I hope there aren’t any egregious errors. I’m posting this before work. th

See, I even found a cute Tasmanian Devil. 🙂

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An Author’s Responsibility

I posted this review at Goodreads and Amazon after starting and getting about 140 pages into Forbidden, by Syrie James and Ryan M. James:

I didn’t actually finish this, I only reached page 137. It is your average paranormal high school angel romance, enough that I would have finished reading it, most likely, and probably given it a decent rating. So why did I stop?

I have noticed an increasing trend in young adult books using derogatory terms in reference to individuals with developmental disabilities, in this case, on page 137, “Holy crap,” Erica said. “We’ve been so short-bus about this.”

Teenagers probably think this is funny and just read it, laugh or not, and go on. As someone who writes and also works with children with disabilities in an elementary school, where we are trying to stamp out bullying and engender understanding, it truly dismays me when I see this happen in books that have recently been published. The children I work with are kind and loving, they are just different. They have autism or cerebral palsy or Down syndrome, in some cases other syndromes. There are some wonderful students at our school who come and volunteer as peer buddies to students in our class, and become their friends and understand their differences better.

Yes, sometimes people with disabilities act differently in public, make strange noises, or do strange things. They are honest, they don’t hide who they are. Just because some of them can’t speak doesn’t mean they don’t have things to say, they just need people willing to take the time to listen.

Authors have a responsibility, to an extent. If we put something in a book or story that’s derogatory, there needs to be a good reason for it, not simply put it there to make fun of people at their expense. There’s nothing wrong with people who are gay, lesbian, bi, transsexual, transgender, bi-racial, a difference race than our own, etc. etc., and if comments were made about anything like that, there would possibly be a stir about it, but often if it’s making fun of disabilities, it doesn’t get mentioned.

It is not open season on people with disabilities. Authors need to remember this, think about their audience, and remember that what they write sinks in. It encourages further devaluation of a population that doesn’t deserve it, and includes some of the best people I’ve known.

It’s truly a shame, because I think this book has promise. I just think that authors, editors, and publishers such as HarperTeen should think about these things a little more closely. Just because someone with a severe disability might not be reading your books, someone who loves someone who is might be.

My Favorite Books of 2012

I should probably add some notes here, various caveats, etc.—these are definitely based on my tastes, which I don’t expect others to necessarily like. Some are truly meant to be read as adult books, some as YA, but there is such a crossover between the two genres (sometimes it’s interesting to go into a bookstore with some specific titles in mind that you think are YA and see if they show up in the adult section as well). I’ve been an a bit of a Steampunk kick this year, but there aren’t as many on here as I would have thought. I think it’s partially because I’m not looking in the right places, and some of the ones I’ve been finding that are fairly decent are just Kindle books. I did read some series that I hadn’t heard about before until the latest one was released, so that was fun—more fun than reading the first one in a series and knowing you have to wait a year or more for the second one. I’ve starred the ones I really liked a lot. These are in alphabetical order, not in order of preference—it was easier than flipping through the sheets I printed out.

After further consideration and the realization that, as usual, things were getting longer than they should be, possibly without imparting any useful information, I’m going to post this in installments. That means, I suppose, if you are interested, you can read them, or if not, just look at the titles of the posts and skip the ones regarding my books of 2012 (I’ve never done anything like this, so I don’t really know what I’m doing and just going about it my own way). I started it as a table in a Word file, which is why it looks like a side bar from a science textbook.  The ones I’m including are the ones I really, truly liked (there are quite a few that I liked, but not enough to put down as something that would reveal to the world the inner workings of my soul and what books effect it. It’s a little confusing, but I decided to list all of the books in the series, either because I read all of them this year, or I read the last book in the series this year and wanted to list the previous books. They are all books I either gave four or five stars to on Goodreads. I don’t tend to give many books five stars, so I was surprised at the number of books I did–there are some very good books, I thought, that came out this year.

When I’m finished with the more in-depth ones, I’ll just list the rest I liked enough to mention, just so they don’t feel left out. 🙂

So, some of you may shudder, some may be slightly interested–here is the first installment of my best books for 2012, in all its World-tabled glory.

Title Author My (hopefully) Brief Comments
Series: Magnificent Devices

#1: Lady of Devices

#2: Her Own Devices

#3: Magnificent Devices

Adina, Shelley Steampunk, adventure, urchins (street, that is, not the purple spikey ones).
The third in the series is out, I just haven’t finished it yet. I liked this series because the protagonist is a strong female, there is a nice cast of characters, the plot moved fairly quickly, and there are little twists and turns that keep it interesting. The world is very believable. The inclusion of a group of former street urchins/pickpocketers/thieves that she is trying to reform so they can get real work—they’re all pretty bright kids—is interesting because she takes it upon herself and is willing to work at it until they trust her. There is even a flying chicken in a box. Truly.
Series: Ephemera

#1: Sebastian

#2: Belladonna

#3: Bridge of Dreams**

Bishop, Anne Fantasy, magic, evil forces trying to take over the world.
BoD was the one I read this year. I have to admit that the Black Jewels series is my favorite of Anne Bishop’s, and it took awhile for these to grow on me. A series where world-building is literally taking place in the author’s world-building—the realm has been split apart and can only be connected through magically constructed bridges that don’t always take you where you think they will, but sometimes to where you deserve to go. Only certain people have these powers. Sebastian, Belladonna, and, in the third book, Belladonna’s brother Lee. Wizards are trying to upset her power and her bridges are disappearing, so he sacrifices himself and ends up in an asylum. It sounds odd, I thought so at first as well. I liked this one enough that it made me reconsider the first two and want to read them again all in order.
The Dark Unwinding Cameron, Sharon Steampunk, historical, first in series.
I was really pleased with this one—it’s the first in a trilogy (of course). Catherine Tulman lives with her aunt and cousin in London, where she is basically her aunt’s accounting slave. Her cousin is set to inherit everything, and she is constantly reminded of that fact and she is only allowed there at his generosity (little brat). Her aunt becomes concerned that her uncle, on whom their financial legacy rests, is becoming unhinged and is spending all of his (their) money, so she sends Catherine to see just how crazy he is and wants him placed in an asylum. She discovers that he isn’t crazy, just eccentric, and a brilliant inventor of these interesting little steampunkish creations. And clocks, he loves clocks. Unlike the other estates in the area, he has moved all of his workers into the walled area of his estate and takes care of them. He and Catherine take to each other immediately, and she knows there is no possible way she can commit him to an asylum—it wouldn’t be fair to him or to the people he takes care of. In the meantime, as with all geniuses, there are those who would pray on his innocent eccentricities and steal his work. Catherine falls in love with one of the young men who live on the property—her uncle simply takes lost people in and provides for them. I liked Catherine as a character—she is young and not always sure what is best or what to do, but she’s not sure how else to do things. She has been so stifled living with her aunt, her aunt has managed to suck most of the curiosity and interest in life out of her, but it’s still there, and it reawakens at her uncle’s. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for the next one in this series
Dragonswood**

Dragon’s Keep

Carey, Janet Lee Fantasy, YA, witch trials, rival princes who are brothers, dragons, good plot twists.
Dragonswood fooled me completely with it’s cover. It’s a beautiful cover, but it looked so much like many of the other covers for YA romancy-type novels I thought that was what it was going to be. I was instead surprised by the plot, which was sometimes horrific (witch hunts), to the Dragonswood itself, where there lives, well, a real dragon. Dragonswood is guarded by a warden, who turns out to be the younger prince—his older brother is away fighting in some war. Their father has died, and everyone is waiting for the older prince to return home. Meanwhile, the truce between dragons, humans, and the fey is becoming strained as humans start to forget about the importance of the interrelationship between the three races. The treasure from the castle has been stolen and no one knows by whom or where it is. Tess is a good foil for the younger prince as they challenge each others’ beliefs (she was accused of witchcraft and threw herself in the nearby lake after finding out her two friends had been tortured and had said she was a witch). She was rescued from the lake by tortoises and a dragon. The royalty share kinship with the dragons, so far as to actually have, in some cases (as in the younger prince) actual spots where there are scales instead of skin. This is considered an abomination. The plot becomes more complicated when the older prince returns—it turns out the woman heading the inquisitions, burning of villages and witches—is the woman he was in love with. The characters were fairly well developed, especially Tess and Garth, and Garth proves to be a worthy adversary to his older brother in terms of getting what he wants to protect the woods where the dragons live. If I’d been reviewing these as I’d read them, I’d remember more details, but I liked this one and it’s prequel, Dragon’s Keep, quite a bit (in the latter, the princess is born with one whole finger as a dragon’s claw instead of a finger, and she’s forced to wear gloves to cover it, as well as go through all sorts of awful treatments her mother’s advisors think might get rid of it). I think she’s Garth’s grandmother—I don’t remember the exact connection. The strongest themes are tolerance for other being (including other humans) and to accept differences—there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with difference, it’s just…different.
Series: Fire and Thorns**

#1: The Girl of Fire and Thorns

#2: The Crown of Embers

Carson, Rae YA, coming-of-age, subterfuge and plots against the main character, family relationships
These are pretty amazing books. Elisa, the heroine of the books, makes an incredible transformation from the beginning of the first book, where she is a chunky, still growing, still learning and not very self-confident girl, to one who can deal with whatever gets tossed at her, mostly because she’s stubborn, doesn’t want to get teased, and wants to prove she can do what everyone else can. So, while she bewails her fate at having to leave her father’s home where there are no challenges and life is easy, leaving is the best thing that could have happened to her. She is very close to her nurse, Ximena, who is truly her best advisor. Elisa faces bloody violence, the subterfuges of court, a husband who doesn’t love her and who keeps a mistress openly, kidnapping, and a whole host of problems she doesn’t know how to deal with, surrounded by people she doesn’t know and unsure of who to trust. An interesting issue that I only remember being brought up in one other book that I am trying to remember is the fact that part of Elisa’s transformation is brought about by tramping through the desert after being kidnapped. As she comes more to terms with who she is and what she can do, she loses the weight, it serves almost as literal emotional baggage. Even though she’s “acceptably thin” at the end (a little annoying) it’s because she’s gone through a transformation. Princess Ben—that’s the other one, a sort of fairy tale, that deals with the princesses’ weight issue, especially when her parents die and she has to learn how to run the kingdom—for her, food serves much the same purpose as it does Elisa—comfort. Small deviation there, just remembered that. CoE concentrates more on what it’s like for Elisa to rule, and how she continues to grow and learn through her experience. I think I forgot to mention she has a godstone in her belly button, which makes some villainous type people want her for the sole reason she does. They want the godstone, not her necessarily attached to it. They are both very good reads, the middle book doesn’t suffer the “middle child” syndrome, and the third, I think, is coming out the end of this year (The Bitter Kingdom?).
Series: Graceling Realm**

#1: Graceling

#2: Fire

#3: Bitterblue

Cashore, Kristin YA, coming-of-age/coming to terms with one’s own Graces and how to use them, friendship, coming of age, attempting to rule when everyone around you seems to be insane.
I’ll start with the fact that I think these are some of my favorite books ever. I didn’t think I would like them as much as I did, with them switching characters and such, but I did. And Katsa and Po and their friends all show up in Bitterblue. Fire turns up at the end, much older than she was in Fire. Bitterblue is about waking up from a nightmare, both while awake and asleep, that has spread over the realm for the previous 35 years while Bitterblue’s father, Leck, was King. He is one of the most twisted, cruel, and inhumane characters, as is revealed through the course of the book, I think I’ve ever seen. He reminds me of a mad neo-nazi scientist. He had the power to control what everyone thinks, so for the entirety of his reign, used this power to convince everyone that things were fine, while in reality he was forcing his main advisors to do terrible things and then making them forget they did it. These are the same advisors Bitterblue has when she becomes queen, and she knows there is something wrong with the way they act, the way they hide her away in her tower and inundate her with paperwork. They don’t want her to find out any of the truth, and if she leaves the castle, she might. So, what would any frustrated, thwarted young queen do who believes everyone is lying to her do? She sneaks out of the castle at night and starts to learn the truth, which is dangerous. She starts to question her advisors, who either go blank, have an attack of the nerves, go get drunk, or simply leave. Bitterblue discovers just how deep the lies go, and how they are still being perpetuated by her own advisors. She’s a strong character by the end, and has her friends to help support her. Cashore’s writing is smooth and brilliant as it was for the first two, and the relationships between the characters are believable and at times heart-wrenching. While they are trying to topple other kingdoms with bad rulers, she is counting on them to help her save hers. The old starts to fall away and Bitterblue is able to replace and fill positions with younger people who will be better able to rule the realm she wants it to be—with an educated populated that isn’t mistreated by their lords. There are some really interesting characters—Death, the librarian (it’s pronounced Deeth, he insists) and his cat are unforgettable, and it’s endearing the way he helps Bitterblue when he realizes she isn’t like her father, ready to fling books into the fire, but values them as much as he does. I was sad to see this series end, but I’m curious as to what Cashore will come up with next.
Series: The Seven Realms**

#1: The Demon King

#2: The Exiled Queen

#3: The Grey Wolf Throne

#4: The Crimson Crown

Chima, Cinda Williams YA, different kinds of magic (earth magic and the kind learned at school), resolving differences between groups of people who have a common tie in Raisa, the realization that when you’re the one in charge with the power, sometimes you’re the loneliest one because of that.
Another ending series, the whole of which was altogether enjoyable. The Crimson Crown is the culmination of a lot of groundwork in the first three novels of the series. Raisa is now about to be crowned queen, both of the nobles and the clans. Neither side is sure of the other, as the nobles don’t trust the clans and the clans don’t trust magic, even the few of their own who have studied it and are accomplished wizards. All three sides compete to present a possible husband for Raisa, who only loves one man, who only loves her—Han Alister, a man taken in by her father, head of an important clan, who sends Han to learn to be a wizard. He doesn’t want Raisa to marry Han, he wants her to marry someone else he has chosen to take over the clan after him, Windwalker. And the wizards want her to marry Micah Bayer, another Wizard—the Bayers have been ruling over the Wizards for a very long time, and there are some that would be more than happy to see them overturned. The Wizards and the clan refuse to trust each other until they have no choice and are betrayed from within by their own commander, and then enemies to the East. Their leader also wants to, you guessed it, marry Raisa. She’s gotten to be awfully popular. She knows with fair certainty that the men, other than Han, want to marry her to use her as a pawn, and at times she’s not too certain of Han, either. When you end up under siege in your own castle, I’d be pretty suspicious of everyone as well. This is an excellent conclusion, where good pretty much triumphs and evil pretty much loses, but not without losses and a good deal of grey remaining. The air is so thick with lies at times it’s almost palpable, and while we’re reminded that Raisa is still queen with responsibilities to think of what’s best for everyone, she’s heartbroken at the same time, and it takes a lot of prodding from her friends to get her out of her sorrow and into a place where she can make decisions again. Raisa learns how truly difficult it is to keep peace, which is all she wants, when there are so many opposed to her who are ready to battle each other at a moment’s notice, even her own family. The writing is strong, characters are well developed (I actually did feel sorry for Micah Bayer in parts—I do think he wanted to break away from his father, he just didn’t have the strength), but changeable as they need to be in order to try to accomplish what they need to do, whether it be supporting Raisa or the enemy. Or an enemy that isn’t known to be an enemy who’s supporting Raisa—The Crimson Crown felt much more complicated than the ones before it in the series. It had to fill in a lot of gaps from the past, break long held beliefs on the clan’s part, and still end up with Raisa prevailing. Well, hopefully. One relationship that is definitely intriguing is the one between Han and Crow, which progresses significantly. Altogether, I feel satisfied with the conclusion, not left hanging anywhere, and will have to read them all back to back at some point so I get everything instead of having read them over the course of four years.
Series: Avian Shifters**

#1: Duck!

#2: Magpie

Dare, Kim Adult, m/m relationships, character growth and maturing, finding one’s place in the world, interesting system of hierarchy depending on avian shifted form.
In a serious shift (no pun intended) from the earlier books on this list, both of these are m/m romances with some BDSM in them. I thought they sounded a little odd, but I generally trust the opinions of the person who recommended them on Goodreads, and she was right about these. Granted, you have to be interested in m/m romances, which I am—I say because I have gay characters in my novels, but I’m actually starting to like the well-written ones because they’re just as good as anything else out there, they’re just a very marginalized niche genre. What initially fascinated me about these two books is the way the avian society is organized. They live mostly in human form, but they know, usually, what species of bird they are going to be from when they are young to when they shift officially to avian form for the first time in front of the council. In the case of Ori, the submissive character in Duck!, he doesn’t know what he is; he was raised among humans, only learned he was a shifter about six months earlier, and has been dubbed an ugly duckling, occupying the lowest rung in the nest. Each species has a specific task, and since no one knows what he is, he’s given menial tasks where he is tormented by his co-workers (crows, I think it was in this case). They are caught red-handed when they have thrown dishes at Ori, who is trying to clean them up, when a high ranking Hawk happens to be passing by, Raynaud. In an interesting part of their culture, all species have their species sign tattooed on their wrists that they use as a form of introduction, and everyone immediately knows where the others stand. Ori doesn’t have a tattoo, because no one knows what he is. Raynaud takes him to work at his home, and their master/slave relationship commences. Where Reynaud is very sure of himself and his place, Ori is in constant motion, always cleaning things and fixing things, expecting to be passed along to another “owner” at any time. They end up falling in love, and when the time comes for Ori to shift in front of the council, he shifts into a very rare Swan, the highest ranking of all the avian species. Immediately, he is whisked to the palace and given a huge living space which makes him extremely uncomfortable—in fact, the whole thing makes him uncomfortable. He just wants things to go back to the way they were with Raynaud. Raynaud, in the meantime, is going through a period of guilt that he was treating Ori as a possession when he was a Swan, a King. Ori doesn’t care. Finally the council agrees to let Reynaud work with Ori, basically to make sure he keeps himself out of danger, and their relationship continues under that guise. Magpie starts a little later than Duck!—I’m not entirely sure how long, because Ori is much more sure of himself in this one, but he isn’t a main character, more of a very influential side character. The two main characters are Everet (who is briefly seen as a character helping Ori once he becomes King in Duck!), a Raven who is part of the security team for the nest, and Kane, a drug-addicted young Magpie who will do literally anything for his next fix, and has been for the bulk of his teenage years. They meet when Everet is called to bring Kane in for thievery, at the request of the owner’s club he was “working” in. Kane has been beaten horribly, and looks on the brink of death. Everet tells the Elders he will take responsibility for rehabilitating Kane, which they think is impossible and a waste of time. Magpies will always steal. Kane takes more steps backward than he does forward, and is a huge challenge for Everet, who is unwilling to give up on him—early on because he thinks Kane has potential, and as the novel progresses, because he starts to fall in love with him. Kane continues to frustrate until Everet finds a solution, at least temporarily, of him spending time working on the cleaning crews, because Kane loves to clean things to make them sparkle. He does so well that eventually Everet has a huge surprise for him—he takes him down to a vault, where Ori is waiting, and in the vault is all the silver from the nest, silverware, teapots, everything. If Kane does well at his job, then he can come and polish silver with Ori, who has a hard time not being able to clean anything in his position as King of the Nest. Kane and Ori start to become friends, and Kane realizes he doesn’t have to steal, all of his treasure is right here. His family turns up and tries to ruin things for him, things don’t look so good for awhile, then he is saved by Renaud, Ori, and Everet. I like that the characters work hard (even when they don’t want to, which is probably why they end up having problems again) but even when they screw up, they have managed to make enough friends to help them. One of the other aspects of these books I really liked is that while there is some BDSM, there’s not much, and they feel like love stories—real love stories, not fake contrivances like some other books out there I could name that don’t involve avian shifters, which makes this one cool as well. In Duck! there is also the question of what happens when the dominant partner is suddenly inferior status-wise, and how that is resolved. There is a lot of very badly written material out there covering these themes, and it’s nice to know that Dare spent the time to make these both very loving stories. Yes, they do get explicit, but that’s part of their purpose. They aren’t raunchy. And I liked the covers as well, very tastefully done, and much sexier than the usual in your face, here I am covers. Highly recommended for those into m/m relationship stories.
Series: Nightrunner Series**

#1: Luck in the Shadows

#2: Stalking Darkness

#3: Traitor’s Moon

#4: Shadows Return

#5: The White Road

#6: Casket of Souls

Glimpses (short stories)

 

Flewelling, Lynn Adult/YA, mystery, intrigue, espionage, magic, definite character growth, even for Seregil, who has been around a long time and still manages to change in small ways as he learns he can trust other people, m/m relationships, interesting characters, political maneuvering, royal family infighting and bickering for power leading to betrayal.
Casket of Souls is the latest in Lynn Flewelling’s Nightrunner series. This series centers on two characters, Seregil and Alec, and their friends. They are very well developed characters, as are all the supporting characters. I’ll stick to Casket of Souls as it was the one published in 2012. Alec and Seregil have been working together as thieves and ‘information gatherers’ since the first book in the series, when Alec tried to steal Seregil’s coin pouch. Since then, he has taken Alec under his wing and trained him to be an expert thief and housebreaker, and where to look for important documents. When they are at home in Rhiminee, Seregil, who is very widely known for his eccentricities and outrageous behavior, also acts unbeknownst to the people who ask for help from the Rhiminee Cat. They inevitably fall into some sort of danger or plot and return to one of two places, Seregil’s former mentor’s tower where he apprenticed unsuccessfully to be a magician under Nysander’s tutelage. The other place is Seregil’s friend Micum Cavish’s house where he lives with his wife and growing number of children. This series does involve a relationship developing between Seregil and Alec, which they don’t even discuss until the end of the second book, so I was very disappointed to see in some of the reviews on Amazon that people still reading the first book were making comments such as, “Was reading this and enjoying it then realized it was one of those kind of books and threw it away in disgust.” Their relationship is mostly subtle, sometimes made fun of by relatives because they are so in love—they are essentially bound together. There is nothing explicit—Glimpses—a collection of fan art and short stories written by Flewelling elaborate on some of those experiences, Alec and Seregil’s first time together, for example, but those types of scenes don’t come up in the series itself (but if you’re into the series, Glimpses is a really nice companion volume). Anyway, I found it annoying that someone could be genuinely enjoying a story and then realize there’s a m/m relationship in it so out the window it goes. Casket of Souls finds Seregil and Alec running into a group of players (theatre) who are taking audiences by storm, and at the same time find out information that the Queen is plotting against the Princess, who is already engaged in a war. Then a plague starts to spread. I read this so long ago—I wish I remembered the details better. The main player has something to do with it, capturing souls in bottles and using them to keep eternally young. Nysander’s apprentice at the time of his death, Thero, who started out as an arrogant somewhat one sided character novels ago, is now a magician of some repute who Seregil and Alec know they can count on as much as they did Nysander. Thero is still arrogant at times, but he’s also developing a sense of humor and has fallen in love with the princess the Queen is plotting against, supplying her with ways to contact him if she needs help (this mostly happened in the previous installment in the series, when a diplomatic trip was taken to Seregil’s old homeland that he was exiled from thirty years earlier for being caught in a relationship with another man. He’s uncomfortable with the trip, but Alec meets his family, and they all like him. Thero is working with Princess Klia on her mission, spending most of his time with her, and they fall in love. I went backward instead of forward, didn’t I? I think it’s important to mention in here somewhere that Seregil is Aurënen, an almost Elven type race, and Alec is half-hâzadriëlfaie, another clan of elvish type people who are more secretive than Seregil’s clan. Everything is sorted at the end of Casket of Souls (sorry, that has to be one of the worst reviews ever—if I wrote the reviews right after I read the book it would be better—I originally read this in May). Sadly, there is going to be only one more book in this series. I have become quite attached to the characters, so even while I might not always get the plots straight, the writing and development of the characters are so good I do really feel unhappy there is only one more book. Oh well, I can always start them over.
Series: Havemercy**

#1: Havemercy

#2: Shadow Magic

#3: Dragon Soul

#4: Steelhands

Jones, Jaida, & Bennett, Danielle Mechanical, sentient, fighting dragons who can talk and interact with their riders, a widely varied corps of personalities. Do I need to say anything more than mechanical, sentient, fighting dragons?
I’m just going to come right out and confess I read these almost a year ago, but I really, really liked them at the time. The idea was very clever, I thought. Dragons that were built with a specific member of the flight corps in mind, in one case, the dragon had been built for one man’s brother, but his brother had died and he was genetically close enough that he could ride the same dragon. The dragons and the riders learn each others’ personalities—despite the fact they have been engineered, the dragons are sentient and learn. The series starts with the whole corps having been disciplined for their appalling behavior at an important event which involved women and large amounts of alcohol. It is decided, then, that they need “etiquette training,” and a young professor is sent in to teach them, supposedly, everything they are supposed to know. Naturally he meets with resistance and insolence, a naïve professor and a hardened flight corps—no problems here. There are characters that are lost through the course of the series, some of which I was surprised to feel sad about even though their characters were at times annoying—they all fit a purpose within the corps to make it a cohesive group, and their loss changed that. Steelhands centers on one young corpsman who has lost his hands in the battle in the previous book, and has new ones made from the same metal the dragons are constructed from, and how he learns to adapt as everything is different now. Two of the original Dragon Corps have decided to stay in the desert where the final battle occurred, but they begin to uncover mysterious and disturbing things about the dragons, which they report back to their old commander. Despite the fact that the Dragon Corps could generally be referred to at the beginning of the series as a very motley crew of men, they were a motley crew of men who depended and trusted each other to cover their backs, and they genuinely cared for each other. The idea of the importance of human interaction and relationships continues in Steelhands. Jones and Bennett have created a wonderful world populated by interesting people and creatures. I was lucky enough to have found out about the series when Steelhands was released, so was able to read all of them at once (one after the other, that is). I think sometimes that’s the most marvelous way to read books—to suddenly discover a new series that already has a few books out and just become inundated in their world, which was easy in this case. The characters are so different, yet fully realized, there is just enough description where is doesn’t become tedious, and the world-building is such that it makes perfect sense that these dragons exist. I’m hoping Steelhands isn’t the last one in the series, as I’m curious to learn more, but if it is, I’m very happy to have read the ones that are here.

Resurgences: Not Necessarily a Good Thing

I have been noticing this, unfortunately, in some of the current young adult literature that I’ve been reading, thankfully not too many of them, and in more conversations around the elementary school I work in. I’ve tried to catch the kids who use it, but they inevitably disappear into the crowd, and as I’m working with a kiddo in a wheelchair, I can’t very well just leave him there without anyone watching him. But then my SO mentioned that he’s been hearing it more lately as well, in conversations, probably mostly on the bus, since he works with older students with disabilities (18-21) and rides public transportation a lot. Not that I mean to insinuate anything about people riding buses, because there are students (although they use it fairly freely as well, from what I’ve heard), people who don’t use cars, etc. riding.

After a long time of people trying to stamp the word out, not just in the name of political correctness, it’s come back, and I’m worried it’s going to start to come up more and more unless people do something about it. I’ve been upset to see it in the young adult novels, especially. It’s a word that carries a lot more connotation than the people and kids using it so cavalierly realize.

Retard.

Language changes over time. Sometimes terms are dropped because their meaning is no longer useful in its original context, as it’s become so mixed into everyday language it’s now useless in medical terms, which is what mental retardation used to be–a medical term. In some places, that’s still what having a developmental disability is called. In the medical sense, it means simply that the growth of the brain and other related functions have been retarded, slowed, and aren’t where they are supposed to be. The “mental” was gradually dropped in the field, and simply “Retardation” was used. The public in general started to use it, not in the medical sense completely, but simply as a word, an insult–that’s the important thing here–to use on someone they thought had done something stupid, or, in many cases, threw the word back at someone who was developmentally disabled in this context. It had nothing to do with a medical term and everything to do with being cruel, misinformed, and uncaring.

People don’t even think about it. It’s just an everyday word they use, similar to “lame,” which also originally had a medical use. People who use it do so without realizing that they have no right to do so. I would hesitate to say that, in a way, that word belongs solely to people with developmental disabilities, if they deigned to use it as such, much the way the N word belongs to the people who use it among themselves, but it doesn’t belong to anyone but them. I don’t know if that’s a similar case or not. I don’t think I’m really qualified to say.

Mental Retardation has mostly been dropped in the medical field except maybe in some cases of diagnosis, but usually the term that’s used is Developmentally Disabled. Who knows how long it will take before the general public find some way to make that an insulting term and the people working in the field have to come up with something else.

The fact that the term “retard” is making a return in the 21st century is depressing. It makes me wonder if it will ever find its way out of the vernacular. It’s a hateful word, whether joking around with your friends, or when using it against someone with a developmental disability. People who are developmentally disabled can no more change the way they are any more than the people bandying the term around so carelessly can change the fact they have green eyes or brown hair. It’s just a fact.

It’s also a fact that just because someone has a developmental disability doesn’t make them any less loving, caring, or sensitive than the person using the word. Think about that for a minute. What if you, careless word-slinger, were sitting in a wheelchair, relied on others to care for you, and you couldn’t talk, but you understood every single thing that people around you said, and there wasn’t a damn thing you could do about it? How would that make you feel? Sure, people with developmental disabilities do things that look strange sometimes. They may shout, wave their arms around, make strange noises. You may see the people working with them making gestures with their hands at them. That’s American Sign Language, the only way some people can communicate, and the way many of us hope and pray that we’ll be understood by the person to try to figure out what they want or need, because, you know what? We have a hard time figuring it out sometimes as well. The inability to communicate is probably the main reason you see so many people with disabilities behaving in a way that you would call them a “retard” for. If there was one superhero power in the world that I could have, it would be to communicate with everyone, even you, to try to make you understand why what you’re doing when you call people “retard” is so hateful. Try not talking for a day and see how you feel. Try to get help from someone without talking and see how you’re treated. Some of the kids we work with can talk, but they’re hard to understand. Sometimes I think they get made the most fun of, because they want to play with you on the playground just like any other kid. And if I hear you call any of my kids in my classroom “retard,” I _will_ stop you if I am able and ask you why. You’ll probably just make fun of me and think I’m just some crazy (another medical term that’s escaped it’s medical background–it’s funny how many of those there are) lady working with “retards.”

I know I switched this to elementary level. That’s what I know best. And I know that if it isn’t stopped here, along with all the other bullying that takes place, chances become slimmer and slimmer that things will change as they progress through school and end up becoming uncaring, unthinking, unkind adults. Unless they happen to end up in an accident, say, a traumatic brain injury, which puts them exactly in the situation as the kids they taunted and the word they threw around so carelessly years before.

I am not saying this to sound overly dramatic, but sometimes it nearly brings me to tears of frustration that I can’t figure out what someone means when they are obviously upset to the point that they are biting their own hand or hitting their head against the table. Part of it could be their diagnosis, but if we could just understand… I just wish I could help people understand that yes, what they say or write is important, especially when the audience is an impressionable one, such as a young adult one.

I write–not for young adults but for adults, in a fantasy setting. Even then I think about what sort of moral position am I taking here. Why can’t I just write whatever I want and throw out that mental censor altogether? Many things get by the mental censor, and are pulled out later. But some stay in. I would hope that writing for adults, they would be responsible enough to know, OK, book does not equal reality. I think many young adults are completely competent to do that as well, but they’re still formulating who they are (not that that ever really stops, I just think it settles some and then gradually morphs as we age). I’ve read many of the articles from critics saying young adult books are garbage and shouldn’t even be read. I think that’s piffle. If I were a teenager now, I’d sure want to read something to escape the world we live in. I do as an adult–read to escape, that is, or write to try to create a world that I like better.

I do read YA novels, but I am pickier now. There are the formulas that some books fall into: YA goes to school for misfits who have strange unexplained powers, meets and falls in love with opposite gendered person (are there any YA books out there where there are same gendered relationships? I’m sure I could find some if I looked). Forces of evil need to be destroyed by them, will it destroy their relationship… Mistreated YA ends up with magical powers and a guide comes to help them that they inevitably fall in love with, lots of YAs falling in love with vampires, fallen angels, lycanthropes, etc., that they shouldn’t be, etc. Some of them are so similar I read some of it and don’t read it unless the writing as I’ve looked through it seems better than the rest–but there are so many cookie cutter YA books out there. Not that there aren’t some exceptional ones as well. I wish there had been such a selection when I was a YA. Not that the same cookie cutter phenomenon doesn’t happen in adult fiction as well–take what you know sells and beat it to death.

I diverged from my topic some. I meant to say that I do think YA authors do have a little more responsibility than adult authors, and that may sound a little unfair. I don’t know that I’d even say that except I have a much younger sister, 23 years younger than I am, and she and I have discussions (ah-hem, sometimes verging into somewhat heated discussions) about YA books. She’ll be 21 next month. She’s been home-schooled and not exposed to a lot of the pettiness that occurs in our public education system. But man, she is tenacious. She will grab an idea and hold on to it like a terrier. I guess what I’ve been trying to do is get her to be a little more open minded and not dismiss a book because of ONE description she thought was stupid. She writes fanfic, which I never did, so it’s a world I don’t really understand. She bears grudges toward certain authors I won’t name that now she won’t read at all because of things they did when writing fanfic before they became published authors (that may give it away there, I don’t know). But it seems like she’s still coalescing, thinking about things, and it’s hard sometimes to tell what are ideas she’s come up with on her own or whether they’re one’s she’s just read somewhere else. That’s what I mean by responsibility. Our dad taught Special Education, and now I work in the field. If she didn’t have that exposure, I’m not sure what she’d do re: the word “retard.” She’s a pretty kind person–I don’t think she’d use it. But there are a lot of YA in her place, still forming, and who knows what they would do.

Something would have to be earth-shattering to change an adult’s mind, I think. More than just a book. I have read blurbs on books that say “It changed my life,” and maybe it did. I have had books effect me profoundly, but they mostly emphasized things I already believed. I think I would have to visually see something, in person, for it to change my life.

But I don’t know what to do about this resurgence of the word “retard.” Try to stop anyone you hear and explain why they shouldn’t? I don’t know. It’s used out of ignorance, and the only way to fight ignorance is education. I think that should come from everywhere. Who knows, their parents might use it as well.

Incidentally, and completely off this particular abandoned medical term, since I use it so often in my posts, there’s another one that I think is a mix of a medical and a law enforcement, that was used, I think, in the early to mid 1900’s (I could be completely off with the dates). Significant other. This one sort of cracks me up, because it’s taken the complete opposite meaning as it’s original intention. Before it was abandoned as a medical/law enforcement term, in the case of a suicide, the person considered the most likely as the one who triggered the suicide was called the significant other.

That raises some interesting questions. Does this mean now, when we refer to our significant others, that we are really with the person most likely to drive us to kill ourselves? Possibly a question I shouldn’t ask. Maybe I should come up with a new title to call my SO. I don’t think he’s going to drive me to suicide, though. Nor will he ever, in any case or situation, lead me to calling him a “retard.” We are in complete agreement on the subject.