Wednesday, December 22, 2010

By Tiffany Young
I generally don't choose dark fantasies on my own, so if you're wondering why I continue to write about them, though I rarely give them decent reviews, it's because I'm a part of a supernatural book club. As such, each month, our group joins to discuss the book we've just read and choose a new one.

This month's book was "Darkfever" by Karen Marie Moning and, though the book was told in the eyes of its 22-year-old main character "Mac" it seemed a bit more from the view of a 17-year-old wannabe sorority girl. Even so, I somewhat found myself liking Mac—the fact that she wanted to avenge her sister's death, would go to Ireland to do so and liked pink, a lot, seemed to make me think perhaps we could get along. She also doesn't let people push her around, physically or emotionally, except when it might kill her to do otherwise.

The part of the book I wasn't as keen on was the fairies, known as the Fae, which only sidhe-seers, such as Mac could see. I guess I just don't like the idea of fairies being anything other than cute little troublemakers. Maybe if they had been called gremlins, I'd have been more keen.

I keep going back and forth on how much I like or dislike the book because it's the first of a series, which means at the end of the book, there's no resolution, meaning it could be going somewhere really good or really bad. With sequels, that's always the case, right?

But I'm digressing (which if you like, you should read the book, because the author does that A LOT).

The novel begins when Mac gets a phone call asking that she identify her dead sister, Alina's, body. Alina, who Mac believes she is very close to, has been living in Ireland for study abroad. Since Mac's family is grieving and she is having a hard time getting through to her parents she decides she must go to Ireland herself and figure out who killed her sister, since the investigator in Ireland has already closed the case.

Her first night there, Mac has a run-in with an elder lady who says puzzling things, including calling her by another family name. Mac assumes the woman is crazy and goes about her business. The next day she gets lost in a bad neighborhood, but then finds herself at a bookstore, where she can call a cab, but when she asks about a book her sister had told her about in a frantic phone call just before her death, the store owner begins questioning her. Mac is saved that night by a taxi cab driver who pokes his head into Barrons Baubles and Books. Though she doesn't know it, Mac has stumbled across a place she will soon look to again and again for safety from the dark fairies she will meet.

Mac begins having daydreams as she is looking at different people in which they are monsters. She thinks she's going crazy, but when she tells Barrons, the bookstore owner, he questions everything about what she sees and tells her she doesn't know what she is. But she soon finds out shes a sidhe-seer or human who can see the fairies that appear only as human to most humans or that cannot be seen at all by most humansl.

It turns out Mac is more than just a sidhe-seer, too. She's also a Null, meaning she can touch a Fae and freeze them, which gives her time to get away or attack. Now, with Barron's help she just needs to figure out how to use her gifts, since it seems not only have the Fae found out about her, but are after her to deliver the same fate as her sister.

If Mac did not have the skill to sense the dark book (through nausea) her sister said she needed to find, she would not be of use to Barron's, but this unique skill means he has a reason to keep her safe. Though they don't exactly get along, they do put up with one another enough to use one another.

Mac finds herself far from her world of relaxing at the pool painting her fingernails to one of killing fairies, stealing magical objects and taking off her clothes in public (this part, you'll have to read for yourself).

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Dancing and singing in "Bride and Prejudice" makes for an exciting remake

By Tiffany Young
Based on Jane Austen's novel "Pride and Prejudice," "Bride and Prejudice" is a movie in English that takes on Bollywood-type qualities with music and dance throughout.

A fun musical, the movie begins in a small town in India where Lalita lives with her three sisters. Her mother is trying to marry her daughters off to rich men, so she does not have to worry about them.

A wedding is taking place, bringing a wealthy man, Balraj—who is interested in Lalita's sister—back to India. He brings Darcy, a wealthy American and one of his best friends, and his sister along on the trip.

While Darcy would rather be working, Lalita catches his eye with her beauty and her dance moves, but Darcy seems to say all the wrong things whenever he attempts to speak to Lalita causing her to dislike him even though he caught her eye at once, too.

Throughout the movie, the two run into each other through Balraj, and later through a business acquaintance of Darcy, Kholi, a distant relative of Lalita's looking for a bride to take back to America. Lalita is meant to be set up with Kholi, but she refuses him, leaving her best friend next in line. When her best friend decides to marry Kholi, Lalita's family is on their way to California where her destined meeting with Darcy continues.

Meanwhile, however, another man has entered the picture, a man known by his last name, Wickham, who says all the right things to Lalita and all the wrong things about Darcy—confirming Lalita's opinions of him.

But when he gives up his first class seat to her mother on the trip to Los Angeles, Lalita gives him a chance and goes on a few dates with him. His mother is not keen on his dating an Indian girl and invites his girlfriend—someone he does not seem interested in and is dating only because his mother wants him to—to the wedding. Since Lalita did not realize he was dating someone, she is upset and after the wedding Darcy tracks her down to express his love for her. Darcy says the wrong things again, however, causing her to tell him he is the last person he would want to be with.

He follows her to India, which turns out to be a good thing, since Wickham has been seeing Lalita's little sister, Lucky, behind her back and is now planning on seducing her. When Lalita finds out Wickham had gotten Darcy's little sister pregnant attempting to get her family money, Lalita trusts Darcy to help her find Lucky and Wickham. They find him and he and Darcy get into a fight in which Lucky sees he was always interested in her older sister anyway and they both leave him for good.

Darcy still has to make a few things right, but when he explains himself, Lalita's heart is finally won.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Powerful story about the aftermath of Katrina for one family

By Tiffany Young
Dave Eggers, best known for his book "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius," blew me away with "Zeitoun." A book about one family living in New Orleans and their experience before, during and after Hurricane Katrina, you'll be amazed at the events they go through, especially the father of the family Abdulrahman, who goes simply by Zeitoun (pronounced Zaytoon) through most of the book.

The family owns a fairly well-known business in New Orleans, building it from a small operation to one that works on many projects per day and hires many contractors. The Muslim family has many friends in the area and has a very good reputation in their community. Eggers lays out their characters and their background in the beginning of the story and begins weaving events leading up to Katrina and through the storm with events of the family's past: where Zeitoun came from, how he met his wife Kathy, what his family was like growing up and his desire to do something great like his older brother, who died at a young age.

Zetioun decides to stay in New Orleans through the storm, because the city often has storms coming through at the end of the summer and beginning of the fall and he wants to be around to keep his various real estate well-kept as well as be available to his clients. His wife decides she and the children must leave, but is worried about leaving Zeitoun behind after hearing news reports continuously warning the public to leave New Orleans.

Zetioun is not worried and weathers the storm fine and afterward feels very peaceful as he begins rescuing others from their homes and taking care of his properties. For several days he meets with acquaintances, using his canoe to get from place to place, and does what he can to help others and the animals that had been left behind.

However, while at one of his rental properties to use the phone to call his family, as he had done each day before, a knock at the door challenges his freedom and rights as an American. What ensues is the part of the book that must be read for yourself to believe that such an atrocious mistake could be made to an upstanding citizen.

The Zeitoon's are tried in a number of ways and must seek justice to overcome the trials that follow.

This book is a must-read in my opinion. It is powerful and will make you think about what is right and wrong and how doing small acts without questioning can lead to large injustices in the world—perhaps even in your own back yard.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Anastacia Hopcus Book Tour

Author Anastacia Hopcus is going on a blog tour Dec. 5–18 for her first book "Shadow Hills." I really enjoyed the book and would encourage anyone who has an interest in "Twilight, or similar supernatural-type books, to check it out. There is the list of blogs she'll appear at on The Teen [Book] Scene.

Here's my quick synopsis:
This novel surpassed my expectations. In the beginning I worried it may just be a knockoff "Twilight," but as I continued reading it took it's own turn. Phe, the main character, moves from L.A. to an east coast private school because a brochure comes in the mail for her sister who has recently died. Her family has not been incredibly supportive since her sister's death and she feels led to the school.

As she moves to the new school and begins meeting people, the nightmares she's been having seem linked to real life and the mystery of why she was led to Shadow Hills private school leads her from one adventure to another to see how she fits into the odd events transpiring.

Hopefully there will be a sequel, as this fictional tale seems like just the beginning for this teen character.
Visit Hopcus Blog for more information or to purchase a copy.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Solving the mystery that can't be solved

By Tiffany Young
After repeatedly hearing how good "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" by Steig Larsson was I decided I must read it, so I put it on hold at the Austin Public Library. When I went home, my brother was reading it and that peaked my interest even further. I didn't know anything about the book, but when I got home from Thanksgiving I had an e-mail from the library saying it was in.

The first chapter or two seemed interesting, but it had so much information concerning financial journalism I wasn't so sure I even got the right book! But I continued on in the hopes that it would live up to my expectation.

And thankfully, it did. It took about a week to read—maybe less—and the plot thickened as I went along. All these people who seemed unrelated wound their way around around like a string on a bobbin.

The main character, Mikael Blomqvist, has been found guilty of libel from a major corporation in Sweden and will have to do time. He gets a bit frustrating when he almost refuses to take on a job, despite his having no other plan to speak of for a time. It's well-paying, intriguing and best of all, flexible and out of the limelight while his court case can blow over.

The man who hires Blomqvist is Henrik Vanger, an old man who wants to solve the mystery of his nieces murder before he dies. He's spent years trying to solve the mystery of how she died and her body was never found on the island, but he and the retired police chief just can't break the case.

Blomqvist is hired to solve the mystery, but is also given the task to write the Vanger family's story. This task allows him to pry into the crevices of the family, but the Vanger's know better and realize right away what Blomqvist's real job entails.

But looking for a murderer who may still be living on the island complicates matters for the journalist, which leads him to be shot at, threatened and even almost strangled to death.

Another character even more complicated than Blomqvist or Vanger is the woman the book is named for. The girl with the dragon tattoo is Lisbeth Salander, a troubled young woman with an even more troubling background. Salander has been abused and misused her whole life and has no faith in fellow mankind. That may be what makes her such a great private investigator—her ability to dissect a person's character without getting too involved or assuming the best of someone. She believes everyone has secrets and if they have them, you can bet she'll find them.

After Salander is hired to do a background check on Blomqvist for Vanger, Vanger's lawyer lets it slip who she is and Blomqvist decides she is thorough enough to assist him in his research of the mystery. Once she finishes her initial task, she is hooked on the story and forces Blomqvist to allow her to continue working on the case alongside him.

The two make an odd couple, but between her computer hacking skills and his journalistic methodology they may just find the murderer(s) before their time runs out.