Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Book Review: The Girl of Fire and Thorns

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carlson is the first in the Fire and Thorns series. First, why does it seem like being a part of a series is a prerequisite for publishing these days? I love series books, but I'd love a really good stand-alone YA novel even more right now.

Elisa, Princess of Orovalle, is, in her own words, fat and unremarkable. Though she has been marked by for greatness, she doesn't have the confidence in herself to really believe she will make an impact on her world as is expected of the bearer of the Godstone. The mystical Godstone is bestowed upon one person a century; this person carries a bright jewel in their navel that becomes a part of them - thrumming when the bearer prays or warning them of danger with ice shooting through their veins. Many bearers of the Godstone never accomplished anything of note before they died, others have been praised in the history books as great heroes completing their "Act of Service".

At 16, Elisa is married off to the beautiful king of Joya D'Arena. She learns early on that her king, while handsome, is not the kind of ruler who could lead his country through the impending war with a neighboring, godless nation. Elisa relies on her faith and wit to see her safely through her first weeks in the unfamiliar court. As Elisa finds her footing, she begins to learn more about her Godstone, things that were kept from her by those she loved most, and discovers more about the role she may play in defeating her nation's enemies and saving its people.

When Elisa is kidnapped by rebel bandits, she's introduced to life on the front lines. Her notions of war in the not-too-distant future become her immediate reality. She also finds herself falling for one of her kidnappers, the charismatic and kind Humberto. Her new life in the remote desert teaches her self-reliance, strengthens her faith, and cements the idea that her life will serve a greater purpose.

Generally, I liked this book. The magic element was different from what I usually find in YA fantasy with its overt religious tones. More than once I found myself asking if this was a Christian fiction novel, but it never bothered me. I enjoyed the transformation of Elisa's character to a strong, independent woman worthy to be a queen to the people she'd grown to love. However, I never understood why she was the self-hating mess we met in the first chapter. I feel that Carlson could have focused more attention on how Elisa had come to be what she was.

When the plot moved to the kidnapping stage, I almost quit. I wasn't invested in Elisa and was irritated that she was moved so quickly from her new life before I had my fill of court intrigue. I'm glad I stuck it out because her story became more interesting with every chapter. The quasi-romance between Elisa and Humberto never felt central to the story. It's not clear whether Carlson did this on purpose to keep us focused on Elisa's journey of faith or because it wasn't well executed. When the dreaded L-word comes up, I better be clamoring for it or else it feels forced. This felt forced.

Despite a number of typical YA plot twists, there were a couple near the end that caught me off guard, which I appreciated. (Sometimes I like to be wrong about where I think a story will go. Keeps me on my toes!)

The second book in the series (sigh) is due out this month. I'll add it to my list, but I'm not in a rush to get my hands on the next installment. Take that for what it's worth.

Educate yourself on the topic in this post:

Friday, September 7, 2012

Fixation Friday: John Green Poster

This will be a short one.

John Green (aforementioned object of my most serious nerdcrush), just posted this poster to his tumblr account.

I love it for several reasons:
  • Word art is kind of my thing. I think this is a symptom of my marketing brain seeping into the rest of my consciousness. Cool things people do with words and interesting typography is fascinating to me. I mentally collect neat things like this and physically collect cool direct mail pieces. It's an odd fetish.
  • I love the message. John Green is a nerd and figurehead of the nerdfighteria community. Being a nerd is nothing to be ashamed of and I love this empowering message. Don't ever let anyone make you feel bad about something you love and how excited you are about it. People love to shit on other people's happiness and it isn't cool. Making others feel bad isn't cool. I'm a nerd and I own it.
Happy Friday! DFTBA!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Fall Fever

Some people have spring fever when the sun starts to shine longer, the temperature rises, and everything is blooming. Me? I have fall fever. I love budding trees and green grass as much as the next girl, but spring has nothing on the crisp air and autumn colors that roll in each September. So, in honor of my favorite season, here are my top fall faves.
  1. Pumpkin. Spice. Latte. Need I say more? Yes, probably so. PSL (that's the abbreviation the baristas at *bucks write on your cup) are God's gift to the world for surviving another miserably hot summer. It's like the coffee gurus distilled everything quintessentially fall - the warm, burnt orange colors, the spice that seems to scent the air, the lick of heat that touches your face when you cuddle up in front of the fire - and placed it in one (unbelievably good) cup. It's fall's famous decadence and I do a dance each year when it's released. (This means I danced on Monday of this week.)
  2. Pumpkin patches. Last year, my family took my son to his first-ever pumpkin patch. It melts my heart each time I think about it. He was so adorable nestled in a mound of pumpkins laughing away while I snapped a thousand photos. He's a bit older now and able to participate more in the fun activities for kids. I can't wait to take him out again this year.
  3. The colors. I live in Colorado where there are many, many aspen trees. They grow like weeds. Not even kidding. You plant one and you'll have three more the next year. While sometimes bothersome, the aspens are beautiful. One of my favorite fall pastimes is to drive up to the mountains (normally in mid-September) to see the colors. Every shade of gold imaginable adorns the mountainsides where aspens dominate the landscape. When the wind blows through them, it looks like a vast gold sea. It's incredible.
  4. Back to school. This may sound weird (and if you're reading this you probably have come to accept and expect my weirdness), but I love the back-to-school hype. This may be because I am no longer in school, though I don't think so. When I was a kid, shopping for school supplies was this oddly comforting ritual. I loved all the folders, notebooks, pens, and backpacks. I always watch the commercials touting back-to-school sales with interest. This time of the year was especially great when I was an undergrad. Football games and tailgate parties stand out in my memory as some of my favorite college moments along with the promise of a fresh school year each fall brought.
  5. Oktoberfest. Beer is good. Celebrations honoring beer and beer-loving cultures are even better. I'm a big beer fan and am fortunate to live in a place with excellent microbrews. There are like four consecutive weeks from September to October in CO that hold different Oktoberfest celebrations. They are a great four weeks.
Hope everyone is enjoying September so far. May you have PSL wishes and apple pie dreams!