Thursday, November 4, 2010

V is for Villain

Image Source: The Great Geek Manual

So ladies, we have files for the boys we love (HBWS!) and the Chicks Who Can Kick Our Asses, but I think we're leaving out a very important filing section - Villains! When I think of YA Lit, my very favorite villain hands-down is Valentine. He's so pretty, but so eeevil and creepy. I love it. I know we have a file folder for him, right?

Ah...Villains starts with the letter V - so I'm all about Vader, Voldermort and Valentine. And apparently, I've been practicing my Letter Sounds with my Kindergartner, too.

Oooh - why do all the Great Villains start with the letter V? Unfortunately, Vader and Voldemort are not pretty. Rather ugly, actually. But they all do make for excellent Love to Hate 'Em characters.

Well, Voldy is not pretty but you know, Vader was Anakin, first. Just misguided. The poor little boo.

Okay, well, I was thinking of the Removal of the Mask scene with Vader. But yeah, I guess you could say Ani went through a pretty phase. But he didn't wear tailored suits like Valentine. And he hid his paternity from his children, while Valentine just pretended to be everyone's father.

You are right. Anakin slaughtered the young paduans in episode 3 while Valentine simply used his kids as genetic experiments. But hey, there was a Sister Kiss in both. Sorry, I'm off on my own Slave-Girl-Leia Style Sidebra.

Why is it that all villainous roads lead back to Darth Vader? He's epic, true, but hardly the first or even most villainous villain I've seen. He's a total Sauron rip-off, with the whole "corrupted by the pursuit of power" thing.

I agree with the observations you guys have made so far. But I think we're missing out on the folder system! I put mine into categories:

Villains Who Might Be Redeemable - Like Vader, some do come around in the end. Even some of our favorite bad boys fit in here. (Spike from Buffy, anyone?)

Villains Who Are Pure Evil - I'm pretty sure we can put Voldemort here. I mean, was the guy EVER good? I think he kicked puppies. And Leck, from Graceling and Fire. I actually really liked that in Fire there was no sob story about why he became evil or excuses for it. Sometimes evil just is. (And he really did kick puppies.)

Villains Who Are Really Cogs In A Villainous Machine: Like President Snow. He was great, and so so evil, but in a very politician-evil kinda way. He wasn't the reason for what was wrong with society. He was more of a product of it. Does it make him any less evil? Of course not. But it DOES make him a symptom of a more pervasive evil, one that doesn't have a face.

Villains Who Are So Hot We Don't Care Either Way - I'm totally not shallow enough to put anyone in this category. Nope. Valentine does NOT appear here. *whistles and walks away*

I love those categories...but hmmm, a Villain So Hot We Don't Care...*puts Thinking Cap on and realizes it's the Sorting Cap*...let me think about this one...

HELLO? ARCHER????? Oh, sorry, I got excited there. But Archer from Hex Hall! He's a POTENTIAL bad guy only - I know this, but he's obviously so hot we don't care!

And Eric Northman. He has his bad-guy moments and really? I care not. I would still take him in if he got hit on the head and had amnesia and needed a safe place to shower. I mean stay.

Ah, see, I think Archer's the Anti-Hero...and so launches that discussion. When is an anti-hero a villain?? LOL. Then you can throw in Oscar from CANDOR. Because, the boy wasn't all good, ya know??

What about a Can't Be Too Sure If They're a Villain category?? I'm thinking of my all time favorite whose cape would swirl at this very label...yes, that's right...Severus Snape!

Oh! You're getting all technical on me. Okay, so Archer might not be a Villain, but he is part of a secret society that aims to hunt prodigum, so he has potential. And Cabe was never going to hurt Jamie - even though he did have a bad boy side.

And yes, Snape! He's the perfect Villain, but is he really a Villain? (And if you don't know the answer to that question - get to reading book 7 please!)

I think Snape counts as a villain. I think sometimes even a villain can do the right thing at times. It doesn't negate all of the past villainy.

Maybe we should put Archer in a "We're Not Sure If He's Really A Villain But Signs Point To Yes And We Really Hope He's Not But Even If He Is He's So Hot We Won't Care" category. I think that works. Ladies?

Yes, that works for me. Absolutely perfect. Do you think that will fit on a file folder label?

If not we'll just have to make his file... bigger. *winks*

SO, did we miss any categories? Who are your favorite villains? Why?


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday: Demonglass by Rachel Hawkins

This week's Waiting on Wednesday is a mutual pick on our parts (and probably on yours, as well): Demonglass by Rachel Hawkins!

It was already way high on my list, but then the cover came out and made me all "OMGWTFBBQ WELLIES!"

*takes a break from entering Demonglass ARC contests* I LOVE THE NEW COVER!! And, I love even more that the cat made it on to the cover again. The elusive mystery cat!

Oh, the cat. I LOVE the cat. Rachel Hawkins apparently gets lots of emails about the cat. (I think she should do a middle-grade spin-off based on the cat's adventures.)

I was able to watch an interview with both Rachel and her agent, Holly Root last month. When asked about the cat, they both said that they LOVED it and that it was added to the first cover on purpose because they "wanted something that nodded at witchcraft without using a black pointy hat." So, if you're a cat-on-the-cover-hater, don't you feel bad now?

Wow. I'm glad I didn't say I hated the cat.

How can you hate the cat? He's mysterious and obviously magical, since Sophie is in London on the cover of Demonglass. He's a magic traveling cat.

I don't hate the cat! I love the cat!

Moving on from the magical, mysterious cat... Aside from the cover release, we also learned this week that THE RELEASE DATE HAS BEEN MOVED UP FOR DEMONGLASS! I can hardly wait until February 15, 2011!

Seriously. I really can't wait. *goes back to entering Demonglass ARC contests* *stops to remind you that you can win, too, by entering the contest here*

Pre-order Demonglass from Amazon, Powell's Books, or Indie Bound!

Are you waiting impatiently for Demonglass, too? What do you think of the cover? Let us know!

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine


Monday, November 1, 2010

Lazy Book Club: Graceling by Kristin Cashore

**Here goes the usual warning: SPOILERS ABOUND! We're DISCUSSING the book which includes plot points and characters. Don't read THIS if you haven't read Graceling!**

So, we took two, er three? months with Graceling. Our original thought was to give some readers a little extra time, and because you all submitted such great comments - we wanted more time to devote to this book. Also? At the end of August, Leigh and I discussed Katsa and Po's relationship FOR DAYS (literally). We had our first literary disagreement so we had to talk about nothing else until we made the other understand our side. And understand we do, but agree? Nope. We've agreed to disagree. More on that later...

But here we are and I am happy to report that all of you love Graceling as much as we do! You all loved Katsa, but mostly loved Po, and we're in agreement with you there!

I'll start with Katsa. I think she is an amazing character. Her physical strength and abilities are awesome, but I also loved seeing her grow emotionally throughout the book.In relation to her physical ability, Nicole from Words for Teens said, “I like kick ass characters. Katsa is one of those kick ass characters.”

I totally agree, but I think that Katsa is amazing because she has this Grace, but she does not want to use it for harm. I loved when she started to realize this about herself and finally got away from Randa. It was so simple, but she needed so much emotional strength to do it. I always love Chicks Who Can Kick Our Asses even more when they have (or begin to have) the mental fortitude to back up their ass-kicking ability.

Ah, Katsa... I LOVED Katsa - really - even though you and I disagreed about her growth, Stacie. I was so thrilled to see a strong female main character who was downright scary in the way that she was superior in physical strength to anyone else. I also appreciated that she was balanced enough to be fragile mentally in some ways. What I wanted to see so badly was for her to grow more emotionally. Whereas you could argue that she grew because she was able to get out from under Randa's grasp, she wasn't starting from a zero on the emotional scale. She already had made steps to be subversive, to take on side projects and try to help people. She had the seed planted in the very beginning of the book and that's why I was unsatisfied with where she and Po ended up. It felt anemic to me.

Ah yes, this is where our disagreement begins. I concede that she wasn't starting from a zero, but I do think that her entire self-image had been shaped by her supposed Grace. Until Po, she believed she was a killer , and therefore believed she was intrinsically bad. I think Po helped her to see that she was actually a good person, which in turn gave her the strength to get away from Randa.

And that brings me to Po. Who doesn’t love Po? Is he not the greatest boyfriend ever? And he's hot and carries a sword. Check and check. Everyone agreed that Po is a great character (most of you said he was your favorite), and a lot of you brought up the fact that he wasn’t threatened by Katsa’s superior strength in the way that most men would be. Hoping4More mentioned her favorite quote to illustrate this point, “It humbles me. But it doesn't humiliate me.”

Picksee also had a lot to say about Po:
"Is he not just perfection with rings and golden hoops? Here is this prince, who has an amazing gift of sensing other people and how they feel and think about him so he should be arrogant and bratty, but he's not. He's just lovely and everyone loves him-as they should. And, he loves Katsa and recognizes that she's his better--which is so not something you see often...or, well ever."
While I was reading, I really didn't take note of the fact that Po wasn't threatened by Katsa's strength (physical), so I'm happy that Hoping4More and Picksee pointed it out because it is definitely one more thing that I love about Po.

I loved Po, too! He was hot! He was talented! He was completely, as you said, not threatened by the fact that a chick could kick his ass and then some! And his talent was so unique and also kinda sad. Who would want to know everything that everyone thought about them? I very highly doubt I'd still be married if that was the case. Not to mention this huge burden he's lived with his whole life - at what age do you face the reality that the people you love would use you, no matter how hard they may want not to, because they're human? Excuse me, I need to mentally console Po. *takes a moment*

Okay, I'm back. Now, can we please discuss how Katsa and Po are these amazing and flawed people who are in a SERIOUSLY DYSFUNCTIONAL RELATIONSHIP? See, I'm afraid that everything I say is going to come across as "this sucks" when really I adored this book. I recommended this book to everyone. I want to snuggle Po and give Katsa a good hug, and then sit them down and explain why their relationship is doomed for failure if they don't admit that they have needs and that they should compromise. Po is so relieved to have found someone who loves him that he's all, "Whatever you need, babe, I'll just sit back and wait for you. No commitment needed. Really. In fact, you go off for months at a time and never even promise you'll ever come back. No worries. I'll be here." That, my friends, is not healthy. PO HAS NEEDS, DAMMIT!

I'm going to cheat and pull a comment from a friend of mine, who wishes to stay anonymous. She put what was bugging me into words:
I think what you're reacting to is that it feels like Katsa's emotional arc falls flat--that she doesn't grow emotionally to a point where she would do something out of her comfort zone because of an emotional response.

I'm assuming that this is a series and the author is planning the emotional arc to span the entire series, which is fine. But we still need the little victories, and sleeping together in a cave does not an emotional growth victory make.

Pearl-clutching aside, I like that she took a step away from the marriage thing here, especially in a traditionalist society that would expect that as a next step. But marriage isn't really an emotional issue here. The issue is COMMITMENT, and the fact that her self-focus and unwillingness to commit should have consequences for her, but those never materialize.

I actually think it might have been a stronger ending if she'd had to make a conscious choice and take the consequences of that.

*snorts* And here we go. In my opinion, Kristin Cashore ended it this way on purpose. Katsa didn't settle down and become a princess - she followed her dream to teach other girls how to fight! And Po needed time to himself. In my post-book imagination they return to each other after some separation and realize they can never, ever be apart again. So, THEN they marry and have little Po and Katsa babies. But before that, they each have to find their own way - especially Katsa. She had only recently freed herself from the idea of being a born killer, and she had finally found a use for her Grace that she believed in. She OWED it to herself to see that through. She owed it to Po too - if she didn't take this time, she would always wonder, and Po (amazing man that he is) knows this and willingly lets her go, knowing she'll come back to him. Because she does. In my world.

Of course she does, but the lack of a realistic give-and-take in their relationship is really, at the end of the day, what bugged me about it. I get that Katsa is dealing with some stuff, blah blah blah, but she loves him. I know it, you know it, she knows it. So why doesn't she ACT like it? *ponders throwing book* *hugs it close instead* The fact that I care THIS MUCH is just proof what a good book this is.

Picksee had this to say about how their relationship ended, and I agree: "The ending kind of broke my heart when she was going to leave-but then I totally got it. His Wildcat (love his nickname for her by the way) couldn't be caged-and he knew this was this was the way to have her. And, they have other things going on with their lives-not just each other. Such a good couple."

I also liked what Harmony from Harmony's Radiant Reads had to say about Katsa and Po's relationship in general, and I think you could apply this to the ending as well:
"I love that when they found out they were in love, they didn't start to ravage each other and throw their lives away and just not THINK. I like how they stepped out and thought about it for a while, giving each other space and time to make sure that it was something they truly wanted with their lives. Po never pressured Katsa to do anything and instead kept his distance until he knew she had made up her mind. I really admired that about their relationship."
Yes, and yes. Agreed.

Even people who didn't love the ending didn't feel quite so strongly as I did. Hoping4More said "The only thing that I wasn't thrilled about was the ending, because I'm a HEA type of girl, but it totally fit with the characters and the story so I'll embrace it as it is."

So, in the interest of moving forward, I'm agreeing to disagree about the "Po and Katsa as Best Couple EVAH!" point. *winks* What I think is interesting is that this book is not a romance. I didn't read it because it was going to have lots of hot heaving bosoms and kissing and whatnot. It's a mystery, and a coming-of-age story, and a high fantasy all rolled into one. What I think we can all agree on is that this mixture is what makes it so engaging. I think every commenter talked about how awesome they thought the idea of the Graces was. It's truly original.

Picksee said it well:
"I love the idea of a ""Grace"" and how it was regarded--to use for the king only and also to be feared-even if it's just something as mundane as cooking or strong swimmer-rather than revered. Someone asked what I was reading and was starting to explain the graces-and they said, so, like a superpower? I was like, nooo, well...yeah, kinda. But, I never thought of it that way. And superheroes are not feared-they're Superheroes! They get sponsorships (unless they're X-Men of course). So, I appreciated that she was able to give these characters special traits without it feeling like a rehash of other supernatural or comic books. And, that she realistically built in reactions to them-I have to think that this would really happen in the real world--we're not so good with those who are different-even if in a really good way."
So, at the end of the day, we all loved this book. It was fresh, original, and had a host of kick-ass characters.

Whew! Leigh and I made it through our first literary disagreement!

And, if you haven't read Fire by Kristin Cashore, be sure to add it to your list! Leigh actually liked it better than Graceling, so it comes highly recommended. And, keep your eye out for Bitterblue as well - I'm hoping we get a tiny bit of Katsa and Po in there. Just a little? Please?

Finally, there was so much in the LBC comments for Graceling, we really couldn't get to everything! We'd love to hear more of your thoughts in the comments. (And we're actually thinking of revising LBC because of this - more on that soon.) Thanks for reading Graceling with us!