Saturday, August 7, 2010

Lazy Book Club for August: Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Hello everyone! Summer if FINALLY winding down, which means that busy blogging moms (aka US) will soon get some of our precious free time back! It also explains why we're later than usual with the LBC pick, but you know us, we're whimsical. *winks*

This month's book is Graceling by Kristin Cashore. Stacie and I have both read this book and were intrigued by the very different reactions we had to it. We both loved it, but we felt very differently about some of the characters are really looking forward to finding out what y'all think!

You can find Stacie's original rec of the book here.
You can find the author's website here.

As usual, click the link on the sidebar to comment or click the box below.

Happy reading!!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Lazy Book Club: Shiver and Linger by Maggie Stiefvater

It's TIME! We're discussing The LBC Books for July: Shiver and Linger by Maggie Stiefvater! Here goes the usual warning: SPOILERS ABOUND! We're DISCUSSING the books which includes plot points and characters. Don't read THIS if you haven't read the books!


One of the first things that you notice about Shiver and Linger is Maggie’s writing. It’s lush and lyrical. I think if she lived ages ago she would’ve been a bard or poet. It makes something fantastic, like a story of werewolves, feel like a youthful romance instead of a gothic horror. I think it takes an incredible amount of talent to do that. If I read something supernatural, I’m usually reading it FOR the supernatural aspect, but in Shiver (and Linger), I’m reading FOR Grace and Sam. The fact that Sam is a werewolf is secondary.

I couldn’t agree more. Her writing scenes memorable because they are so lush and lyrical, as you say. For example, on Shiver, Ani said, “I liked that they had "grown up" together and the inexplicable bond they had, even though one was in wolf form for the majority of their time together." I think Maggie’s writing style made this work. Grace’s fascination with the wolves, Sam (as a wolf) always watching, and the scene where Grace and Sam first make contact in the woods behind Grace’s house. They were made all the stronger because of the way Maggie wrote these scenes. I said before that I could almost feel Grace’s hands buried in Sam’s fur (when he first allows her to touch him). That remains one of my favorite moments of the series.

Right. The way she interwove scenes and memories together to illustrate shared experiences was wonderful.

Which leads us to one of Maggie’s true talents - Character Voices. In Shiver, Sam’s voice and Grace’s voice are distinct but fit together perfectly. You feel them falling in love, but with the history behind it for them both. And then we get to Linger and I’m just blown away. We have Grace’s POV, Sam’s POV, and then we get Isabel and Cole’s point’s of view. What I love is that they’re so very different from one another, but it never once feels unnatural. It doesn’t feel like some woman in Virginia is trying to sound like a brooding rock star. It sounds like a wounded boy thrust into a rock lifestyle. I’m amazed. And Cole... Oh, Cole.

One of our readers summed it up: “In Linger, we meet Cole, who is seriously an amazing character from start to finish. His relationships with Isabel and Sam are really well drawn and amazing. We see more of Isabel, who is a fantastic character in her own right.”

Which is true. You want to hate Cole because Sam doesn’t trust him. But then you get to understand him and you realize you can’t hate him. And Isabel is so hard and focused, but we see why and so we understand her a little, too.

I feel the same way. At first I was a little hesitant about hearing the other voices, because I wasn’t ready for it and I wanted to get back to Sam and Grace. I remember thinking, “Who is this Cole? I don’t want to know him!” (Okay, yes, I was pouting a bit.) But, I got over it pretty quickly once I started to get into the other characters. And it was easy to “get into” the characters because, as you say, Maggie is so brilliant with switching voice.

Our reader Tiffany agreed with you: “I didn't think that I would like the new character insights, but I did. Cole was a fun addition. :) I was torn between liking him and hating him, but in the end....he was leaning towards the good guy ;) so what's not to like? :) I actually enjoyed Isabel's perspective too. She added some nice sass to the book.”

I think one of the neatest things about these alternating POVs was the ability to see how a character viewed themselves and then contrast it to how others saw them. Isabel and Cole’s perceptions of Grace and Sam’s relationship struck me in particular. Like this quote:

"Sam came over behind Grace's chair and slid a hand onto her neck. It was a simple gesture that didn't say possession so much as connection. Isabel's eyes were on that hand, the same way I guess mine were." - Cole, Linger, p. 332

I feel like the alternate POVs actually added quite a bit to our insight on Grace and Sam. The book would’ve been less without them.

Oh that's a good point! It does make their relationship seems so much stronger in light of how it is seen from the outside. Except as it is seen by Grace's parents in Linger. I'm surprised that none of our readers brought up their sudden interest in actually being parents.

I don’t know what to say about Grace’s parents. That I hate them? That they’re terrible people who probably never should’ve had a kid, but that I’m glad they did since I like Grace? Sadly, I don’t think they’re that far off the mark for a lot of parents of teens today. I’m sure there are lots of kids who can identify with feeling abandoned emotionally because their parents are too busy to participate in their lives.

I was surprised at how ANGRY I was at them. Honestly, it was like being a teen all over again. I was also proud (and maybe did a few fist-pumps) when Grace finally stood up to them. It never did sink it with them, which was unfortunate, but it made me somewhat happier that Grace finally expressed how she’s been feeling all these years. In Shiver you see her try to pretend their neglect doesn’t affect her, but in Linger we see that it does (especially in comparison with their sudden “interest” in her life) and she finally finds her voice to tell them so.

I think the biggest bombshell in Linger wasn’t much of a bombshell at all. We all saw it coming, and that’s not really a bad thing, but the way it took place made it feel clinical for me.

One of our readers agreed: “But the flip of Grace becoming a wolf was a little predictable. We see it coming from the first book, and I kept hoping she'd surprise me and not do it. I also felt a lot of the plot elements were convenient, like Cole being a super genius, or just unbelievable, like Grace not telling anyone she was sick or Sam not noticing the fever earlier when he was cuddling up with her nightly.

The focus on the science of the changes strips away some of the magic we felt, like when Sam took Grace to the golden clearing, or the idea that they could communicate through thoughts, even when Grace was human.”

Now, I don’t mind Grace’s transformation. Like I said, you could feel it coming from the start. But the science of it makes it seem less special, somehow. I’m torn because of course I want Grace and Sam to live happily ever after. But making werewolf-ism a disease is kind of like scientifically explaining why Santa isn’t real halfway through Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. It just feels out of place with the magic that permeated Mercy Falls in Shiver. I was left feeling sad and missing that mystical element.

In terms of Grace becoming a wolf, I felt sad, but only because of Sam being left behind. I was actually happy for Grace in a way.

But I differ with you and our reader on the point of magic vs. science. I kind of like how science/logic stand in contrast with the magical, as well as with the lyrical quality of Maggie’s writing in these books. Linger, especially, seemed just so rational at points. Whereas the whole feel of the book is decidedly not rational.

I understand that, and I didn’t dislike it as much as the reader did, but I still can’t help but feel that there are some things that I don’t want a rational explanation for.

Ah - interesting. But at the same time, you WANT the cure, right? You WANT Sam and Grace to be together - human together. So, it's a conflict.

But if becoming a werewolf is magic then there’d be a magical way out of it. Can’t I have both?

Not in these books. *grins* Or at least not yet. Maybe Maggie has magic in store for Forever?

What about you all? We'd love to hear your thoughts on Shiver, Linger, and what you think might happen in Forever. Do you think magic or science will prevail? Will Grace and Sam end up together somehow? (Please say yes.)