Snark with a Side of Cheeky (silentrequiem) wrote in 50bookchallenge,
Snark with a Side of Cheeky

Books #65-74

65) A Fistful of Sky by Nina Kiriki Hoffman (Urban Fantasy, 368 pages)
After putting this down, I was really conflicted over whether I really liked the book or not. On the one hand, as I was reading it, I got swept up in the story, had trouble putting it down, and really wanted to keep reading. But, once I finished the book, I was left unsatisfied and a bit disappointed. It took a shower to help me realize just what made me so unwilling to like the book. (God bless showers. I get some of my best thinking done while standing under a steady stream of hot water.)

It wasn't the characterizations, which were very weak and vague. While the family antics amused me (Oh boy, talk about dysfunctional!), none of the characters, not even the narrator was fleshed out enough for me to feel an emotional attachment. Of the siblings, if Hoffman hadn't used their names I probably wouldn't have been able to tell them apart. Nor did we fully get to meet anyone outside the family. Claire and July were supposedly large and important parts of Gyp's life, but they were barely there and personality-less. We didn't even learn much about Ian other than he was a nice guy.

It wasn't the rushed ending either. Gyp figured out how to control her magic, and book ended. The end. What? Wait. It's only been a week, if that! Really needed more for me to feel real resolution.

Nor was it the casual acceptance by those outside the family. After Gyp outs herself with Ian, and later with Claire, neither of them freaked out, asked a billion questions, or did anything but accept that she can curse things. Completely unrealistic, even with both's experiences with the occult, given that neither of them were particularly gifted themselves or had knowingly seen real magic before.

No, what really bothered me throughout the book was the implication that if you had power, you could do whatever you wanted to anyone who had less power or no power -- with little or no consequence. The old adage that power corrupts is shown throughout the book. The LaZelles manipulated those around them, their surroundings, and even themselves however they saw fit, and did not question their right. As the normal sibling, Gyp was subjected to magical manipulation of her thoughts, feelings, wants, desires, actions, and even her own shape -- all without a second thought by the rest of her family. It was considered their right to spell her... because they could. Why else would her (horrible, horrible) mother never step in to police her children's use of power? Or try and protect Gyp from being made into a guinea pig. And her mother was the worst of the lot, creating compulsions for her children to never leave home, spelling her daughter so she would exercise and diet relentlessly, structuring their life to fit her idea of how it should be. She was abusive without ever having to lift a hand towards her children.

And when Gyp comes into her own power, she proves herself above this unthinkingly cruel way of being. She doesn't want to hurt people and tries desperately to harness her power benignly. So what does being this goodhearted persona get her? The role of walking doormat. She accommodates everyone automatically. She was so nice and sweet, she put up with everyone spelling her, manipulating her, and using her. And she STILL cheerfully cooks dinner half the week and spends an entire day making them cookies. But I have to wonder how much of that is her true personality and how much of that is having lived for two decades under the subtle control of her more powerful family members? She hated not being herself when she's cursed with Ultimate Fashion Sense - yet does she even know who she really is? She never stood up for herself; she let herself be talked into working on a day she had called in sick, she lets herself be pulled along by Altria, though she tries and controls the outcomes. THAT was the reason why I didn't connect with Gyp - I could never see myself acting so passively.

Though all the descriptions of food made me really want to make cookies and brownies. 2/5

66) Slow Death by Rubber Duck by Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie (Science/Environment, 336 pages)
Absolutely fascinating and horrifying book about what chemicals are doing to our bodies and how prevalent they are in our environment. I'd known a lot of what this book was about but it's always good to have everything in once place to reinforce the message. After reading, I went out and bought new shampoo and tossed my one non-stick pan in favor of a cast-iron. 5/5

67) My Double Life by Janette Rallison (Young Adult, 265 pages)
I really liked this book. It was fluffy, a quick read, and well-written. This is only the third Rallison I've read and I'm very impressed with her. 4/5

68) Waking Up in the Land of Glitter by Kathy Cano-Murillo (Chick-Lit, 320 pages)
I picked this up because I loved the title. This was a really fun read. I liked all the characters, and really liked how they all showed personal growth through the story by embracing their inner crafter. 3/5

69) Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli (Young Adult, 188 pages)
I think I've moved too far out of the target demographic to really appreciate this book. It was a good read but I wish the book had been around ten years earlier. A nice message about herd mentality, individuality, and doing what you think is right. 3/5

70) Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson (Young Adult, 353 pages)
A fun YA book. It suffers, though, from having all the characters be fleshed out -- except the narrator. Throughout the story, I had no clue about her motivations (other than she liked Eric), or her personality other than going along with everyone else's mad schemes. It was still enjoyable but I wished that after 380 pages, I knew Scarlett better. 3.5/5

71) Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (YA Dystopian SF/391 pages)
I am really glad I had the third book on hand after finishing this one. Fast-paced, interesting, and really hard to put down. 4/5

72) Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (YA Dystopian SF/398 pages)
I liked this better than the first two. For one, the violence and action actually had a larger purpose rather than just as part of a kill-or-be-killed reality TV show. Secondly, Collins shows that she doesn't pull punches. I really liked the ending and how Collins illustrated that the capital didn't have a monopoly on corruption and trivializing human life. A great end to the trilogy. 4/5

73) Insatiable by Meg Cabot (Urban Fantasy, 451 pages)
I suspect that Cabot wrote this book in part to ride the vampire-wave that Twilight started, and in part as a response to it. It gently pokes fun at the idea of vampires in general before getting down to the plot. Meena Harper is a soap opera writer who has just been passed over for a promotion and told that her show is selling out and doing a vampire story line. At the same time, women are turning up dead, drained of their blood. Oh, and Meena is physic and can tell how people are going to die, and ends up in the middle of a vampire war. Throw in one sexy vampire prince, a vampire hunter from the Vatican, and her hapless brother, and you have one very fun book. I really enjoyed this one. 4/5

74) Blood, Sweat & Tea: Real-Life Adventures in an Inner-City Ambulance by Tom Reynolds (Memoirs, 280 pages)
This is a book in the published blog genre - Tom Reynolds is the pseudonym of a London EMP who blogs about his job. It was an interesting read, but because of the nature of the blog, never really felt complete. Lots of griping about the idiots who abuse the ambulance system, medical professionals who don't do their job, and other hazards of the job, with a few really touching anecdotes thrown in. I'm glad I read it but also glad I didn't pay money for it. 3/5
Tags: dystopia, fantasy, health, memoir, science, urban fantasy, vampires, young adult

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