Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Sisters Red

Pearce, Jackson. Sisters Red. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2010. Print.
[Book cover credit:]

"Versteck euch!" Oma March whispered hoarsely, pointing urgently toward her bedroom in the back of the cottage. Hide. Hide now.
"Schatzi, my treasures, I won't let him have you!" Oma March murmured under her breath, like a prayer. She dashed for the telephone and began dialing.
"Charlie? Charlie, one is here. Outside," Oma March whispered frantically to Pa Reynolds, the woodsman who lived down the road. "Oh god, Charlie, hurry," she pleaded.
But Pa Reynolds didn't make it in time, changing the lives of Oma March's granddaughters, Rose and Scarlett, forever.

Everyone was raving about Sisters Red when it came out last year, and I, ever the cynic, figured no book could live up to that much hype. So I skipped it. Even though it's a fairytale retelling of sorts. Even though it's a fairytale retelling of Little Red Riding Hood.

Sometimes I'm dumb.

Luckily, I'm willing to admit my mistakes, so when I overheard someone in the bookstore telling her friend how much she loved this book, I snuck up and grabbed a copy for myself. By "myself" I mean "my library,"* but Sisters Red is a book I would gladly spend my own cash monies on. I loved it, and my gushing while reading has already prompted a holds list, which is pretty unusual for a YA novel in my academic library. Here are just a few of the things I was gushing about:
  • Scarlett is so tough. She's deadly with a hatchet and harshly truthful and fiercely loyal and secretly proud of while being secretly self-hating because of her many battle scars. She feels overwhelmingly obligated to do the work that she does, and she's good at it. She's generally kick-ass.
  • Rose is so conflicted. She wants Scarlett to trust her to hunt alone, but she also wants Scarlett to need and protect her. She wants to remain half of a pair, but she also wants to break away into a different life. She's got wicked aim with throwing knives, and she holds Scarlett together when no one else can. She's generally kick-ass.
  • Silas is quite literally the boy next door. As such, he's managed to win the crushes of both Scarlett and Rose over the years. But he is first and foremost Scarlett's partner; they are a team and they act like one. He also manages to be first and foremost Rose's support. He pushes Scarlett to trust Rose on the hunt, and he pushes Rose to break away from hunting and live her own life. And he does all of this without being two-faced or playing one sister against the other. He totally gets that no matter how much Rose might swoon over him or how much Scarlett depends on him, he will never be able to compete with the relationship Scarlett and Rose have with each other. So he doesn't try.
  • The twist that Pearce puts on werewolf mythology is great. They're still totally evil people-eaters (unlike some other werewolves you may be familiar with), but they're not the werewolves of B-rated horror films (or Harry Potter) either. How she weaves the girl in the red riding hood into this mythology made me giddy. She's created a werewolf that is, a lot of the time, victim to his own senses and sensations. In showing how Scarlett and Rose manipulate these monsters, she completely immerses the readers in a rich fantasy: the one that Scarlett and Rose (with help from Silas) nightly create. 
  • None of this compares to the twist Pearce has put on the ending of her own story. I thought I had it figured out about halfway through the book, then I lost it, then I figured it out again, but by then things were so complicated that I didn't know how Scarlett, Rose, and Silas were going to pull it off.

Seriously guys, I loved this book. The opening hook worked like a charm, and by the end, I was reading with my heart in my throat. I was so invested in these characters. Pearce's second book, Sweetly, came out last month. I will not be skipping it.

Book source: bought it for and then checked it out from work!

* And, of course, i couldn't just get one book... They'll never let me out with the library credit card again.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

National Coming Out Day!

Happy National Coming Out Day Everyone!

I love NCOD, partly because of the traditions that surrounded it at Bryn Mawr. Every year, the Rainbow Alliance would get together (along with a bunch of honorary members who would show up just for NCOD) and put bat triangles*, triangles of construction paper with writing on them, all around campus. These triangles would have all sorts of things on them from "Being a lesbian doubles your wardrobe" to "Did you ever have to come out as straight?" Walking around campus on the morning of October 11 was always an eye-opening experience as we read the thoughts and feelings of our fellow classmates. Hopefully, one day we won't need a special day when it's "okay" to come out, but I also hope that we never stop listening to each others thoughts and feelings about the coming out process.

*Lots of things at Bryn Mawr are prefaced by "bat," bat triangles and bat robes (otherwise known as graduation regalia) being the most common.

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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Darwen Arkwright

Tween Tuesday was started over at Green Bean Teen Queen as away to highlight awesome books for the 9-12 yr olds or Tweens. This week's book is:

Hartley, A.J. Darwen Arkwright and the Peregrine Pact. New York: Razorbill - Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 2011. Print.
[Book cover credit:]

     Darwen stood up and turned. Behind him the forest continued, but -- suspended in midair, exactly at the height he had hung it on the back of the door -- was the empty mirror frame, and through it he could see the shelves and coat hangers in his bedroom closet. For a moment, all the strangeness fell away and a single word came to mind.
     "Cool," he said into the night.
When Darwen gets to Atlanta he's far from home with no friends, a business-minded aunt, and the specter of a stuffy prestigious private school looming over his head. A magical world only he can see on the other side of his closet mirror is just what he needs. Until things start going wrong there too. Darwen just has to save that other world, even it it means he also has to make some friends in Atlanta he can trust with his secret.

Darwen immediately falls in love with the world through his mirror (as did I). It's lush and quiet and exciting, and he almost immediately makes a new friend. In short, it's nothing like Atlanta, where the weather's hot but the tea is only lukewarm, which is nothing like the small town near Manchester that Darwen used to call home. As things start to go badly in Silbrica (mirror world) and Darwen and his new friends become more involved in finding a solution, the more we find out about Darwen's past and how he ended up in Georgia. He is so very sad and doesn't want to let anyone in. I thought that his issues were just going to be left unresolved once the action in Silbrica got going, but I was happily surprised to see that Silbrica and the "real world" were much more connected than I could have imagined in that and other respects.

Darwen briefly mentions that he has one Black parent and one white, something that, in the past, made him feel like he never belonged in either group. This is not, however, an issue for him at his new school in Atlanta (his newness and lack of familiarity with American football provide more than enough fodder for the bullies). In this prestigious school for which tuition must be paid in advance, class is a much bigger divider than race. In this respect, Darwen should be good -- his aunt is a successful businesswoman, after all -- but his blue-collar Manchester accent (as opposed to a posh one from London) gets in his way. On the other hand, Darwen's friend Alexandra is avoided by everyone because she is just so annoying (so so annoying), and yet approved of by Darwen's aunt (who also finds her exhausting) because of Alexandra's mother's success and refinement. His friend Rich, who is super smart, kind, and polite, is looked down upon by classmates and Darwen's aunt alike because of his family's "white trash" farming background. All three of them feel their outsider status acutely, which is part of why they end up becoming friends even though they have little in common.

All of these real life concerns pale, both in Darwen's mind and in the reading, in comparison to Mr. Peregrine and his mirror shop of gateways to Silbrica. Though the beauty and the magic of the place does not last long for Darwen, he sees enough of it to know that the world on the other side of the mirror is special, that it is a place worth saving, and that he is a part of it. The more horrible the situation gets there and the more horrible the creatures Darwen et. al. encounter, the stronger his determination to save it (and the stronger the intensity of the story) becomes.

This is a really fun, adventurous read. Though it is a bit darker, I think it fits well with other secret-world-in-the-wardrobe-type books, and it will be a good book for readers ready to graduate from those books but not yet ready for the content in older YA fantasies.

I'll leave you with one last quote to seal the deal:
     "... Well, this is excellent."
     "Excellent?" Darwen repeated. "I almost got killed!"
     "Almost is such a wonderful word, don't you think?" said the shopkeeper with a wink. "So full of wiggle room and loopholes, so not-absolutely-anything. Almost killed means still very much alive, which, I'm sure you will agree, makes all the difference. So, the only remaining question is, when are you going back?"

Darwen Arkwright and the Peregrine Pact comes out next week!

Book source: ARC provided by the publisher through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.

*Quotes and page numbers are from an uncorrected proof and may not match the published copy.

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