Archive for Tamora Pierce

A Natsu appreciation post

Posted in Manga, Science fiction, Young adult with tags , , on November 10, 2013 by Cara Marie

I’ve recently been reading 7 Seeds, which is Tamura Yumi’s other post-apocalyptic manga. The basic conceit is that five groups of seven people wake up in the future to find that most of humanity has been wiped out, and we follow each of the groups at various points, and watch as they come together.

Natsu, who is our first protagonist, is very shy.

Natsu is telling herself off for not being able to talk to another character – she tells herself, 'Stop it. He's a kind person.' Her narrative text then reads, 'I want to say something, but I can't respond properly. Always, always ... I'm ...' and the final text is over a white panel.

I’m not as shy as Natsu is, but a lot of her thought patterns are very familiar to me. And Natsu feels true to me in a way a lot of supposedly shy characters don’t. For example, in Tamora Pierce’s Provost’s Dog books, we are told repeatedly that Beka is shy – but Pierce does a poor job of showing it. The only time Beka’s social anxiety actually seems to affect her is when it comes to public speaking. And being scared of public speaking is not the same thing. It surprised me, actually, because Pierce wrote Kel’s fear of heights so well in the Protector of the Small books. But I guess she doesn’t ‘get’ shyness in the same way.

Tamura clearly gets it.

Natsu's back suddenly starts hurting, and she wonders whether or not to tell the group.

She can't bring herself to tell anyone, so she keeps on walking, hoping, willing someone to notice. Pretty sure I have had this exact conversation with myself.

Over the course of the series, Natsu learns to speak up, to do things she’s scared of, to relate to (and stand up to) her teammates. And this is just as important as is learning to survive in the future, in a hostile and unfamiliar environment.

Semimaru grabs Natsu, and she squeaks for him to let go. 'That's all I needed,' he said.

Semimaru there is a character I’m very fond of, even though he starts off as a complete asshole. He gets a lot better over the course of the series, to the extent that it’s a shock to look back and see just how nasty he was. Now his relationship with Natsu is one of my favourite things. Because, yup, social anxiety can make you very self-centred, and Semimaru will call Natsu on that.

Semimaru calls Natsu out on her habit of talking to herself, rather than making the effort to interact with her teammates.

It’s not easy for her, but she learns. She’s able to become far more of the person she wants to be.

7 Seeds is unusual amongst post-apocalyptic stories in that it’s actually optimistic. To the point that you think, despite the many life-threatening situations, some of the characters are better off than they were in the present day. And Natsu is one of those.

In the present day, Natsu would have gone on as she was, often miserable, never able to connect. In the future, she has to connect to survive, and she’s a lot happier for it. She’ll never be an outgoing, vivacious person, but she’s able to stick up for herself when she needs to, and apologise when she needs to, and be there for people when they need her.

Natsu climbing up something which isn't closely spaced enough to be a ladder, thinking that she'll take responsiblity for her choice, and reassuring herself that no-one is watching, so they can't laugh or get angry at her. 'I'm giving it a go,' she things. 'Please let this not be a mistake ...'

And then it turns out her two male companions do see her, and she has to rescue them as well. And one of them is judging her the whole time. (He has issues.) But she makes it anyway.

Natsu might not be the easiest character to like, but she’s certainly the one I appreciate the most. And I look forward to where Tamura takes her in the future.

End-of-year book meme

Posted in Books, Crime, Fantasy, Science fiction, Young adult with tags , , , , , , on January 3, 2013 by Cara Marie

How many books read in 2012?

76 books. This includes novellas, so they were not all very long books. It doesn’t include comic books.

Fiction/non-fiction ratio?

I read eight non-fiction books … that’s one for every 8.5 fiction books.

In other genre distinctions, 60% of the books I read were sci-fi/fantasy (not including JD Robb, as they’re primarily crime and the SF element is usually just the setting). I read four adult fiction books that weren’t SFF or crime stories! Which is … the same number I read every year.

Male/female authors?

I read 18 books by male authors (including half-marks for cowritten books or anthologies) and 58 by female authors.

I always find it weird when people challenge themselves to read more books by female authors, because my bias is so far the other way! Clearly it is my inner misandry showing through.

Favourite book read?

Michelle Sagara wins this year, because I would be hard-pressed to choose between her YA standalone novel, Silence, and the eighth book in ‘The Chronicles of Elantra’, Cast in Peril.

Silence is a book that, when described, sounds like your typical paranormal YA, complete with antagonistic love interest. But it’s not typical at all.

I really loved that the teenaged characters in it were so sensible and kind to one another. That no-one made stupid decisions to generate tension. There’s a lot of YA that goes the other way, and it always annoys me, because that’s not what my experience of being a teenager was like. I don’t mean to say that there’s no conflict between the characters – but it’s not showy, and it rings true.

This isn’t a complete summary of why I liked the book; just one of the things that made it for me.

Cast in Peril I wrote about at the time, in contrast to one of the books covered in the next question. I went through a period of avoiding series fiction; this book serves as an example of how well fantasy series can work. How you can really dig into the world-building, and discover new things. How a book can be the opposite of standalone and still be completely satisfying.

The part of me that still wants to avoid series fiction is freaking out a little – how on earth did I end up reading an 8+ book series? There weren’t that many when I started!

Cast in Peril was also the book that made me realise me and this e-books thing was going to work out, and that I didn’t need everything I loved in hardcopy.

Least favourite?

Not sure whether to go with Sarah Rees Brennan’s Unspoken (as discussed in ‘Where (not) to end a book‘) or Tanith Lee’s Piratica III: The Family Sea. The former I probably enjoyed more for the first two-thirds, so it was a greater disappointment when I turned out to hate it. But I might say Piratica III anyway – I think I’m quite glad I didn’t read it when it first came out, when I was more invested in the characters, because I would have been hugely disappointed. (skip) I think I can see what Tanith Lee was trying to do, having Art’s marriage fail, and her ending up alone and free. But I didn’t feel that freedom in the end – it just felt bleak to me.

Oldest book read?

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Also the first book I read last year. I was quite bewildered afterwards – not about the stories, but about the Sherlock interpretation of Holmes being kind of an asshole. (I’ve never actually watched Sherlock; this is just the impression I’ve received.) Book!Holmes is not an asshole at all! He might not be that interested in people, but he’s still considerate to them.

Also, I was proud of myself because there were a couple of mysteries I figured out before they were revealed. I like to pretend that’s an achievement.

Newest?

The Silvered, by Tanya Huff. Came out in November and I read it in December. I wrote a not-very-deep review at the time.

Longest book title?

After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall, by Nancy Kress. Long title, short book. This is such a pointless question I feel like I have to talk about the book, now. The three parts of the title refer to the three POVs the book switches between. ‘The fall’ refers to an apocalypse. I enjoyed this quite a bit at the start, but I think overall the pay-off wasn’t there. It had the sort of conclusion that could work for me in a short story, but doesn’t work for me in a longer work.

Shortest title?

Silence or Mastiff. I’ve talked about Silence already, so … Mastiff was the third and final book in Tamora Pierce’s Provost’s Dog series. It was also the least memorable of the three. Enough so that I don’t know if I really have anything to say about it. The first book was my favourite, because it was the one that was most a ‘school story’, with a supporting cast I really enjoyed. And that doesn’t really get carried through into the later books. Which make sense re: the ‘school story’ aspect, but I miss Rosto and Kora and Aniki. (You will note I remember their names, but not the names of the supporting cast in Mastiff.)

I guess Pierce was more interested in the crime novel aspect for this series, but that’s not what I read her for, and it was at the expense of the elements I really love.

How many re-reads?

Only three, which seems low. But then, I guess this is the first year I’ve had a full-time job the whole time, so I’m more inclined to read new things.

Most books read by one author this year?

I read ten JD Robb books – I guess I used these as my comfort fiction, rather than re-reading things. Her ‘In Death’ books are basically a procedural in book form. Except the main couple got together in the first couple of books so there’s no ridiculous ‘will they, won’t they?’ (This shouldn’t necessarily be a procedural trope, but it seems to be.) Also, they’re set in the future! My favourite mysteries are probably the ones that have the most to do with technology – although I think Witness in Death has been my favourite overall, and that one does not, so.

They’re standalone books, and I’ve read them completely out of order. They do benefit from being read chronologically, because of the way the characters and relationships develop over the long-term. On the other hand, there’s more than forty of them. So I think picking the ones with the most interesting-sounding mysteries is probably the best route to reading them.

Any in translation?

Banana Yoshimoto’s The Lake was the only translated book I read this year.

And how many of this year’s books were from the library?

About six. For which I accrued some ridiculous fines, so I’m avoiding the library at the moment.

iZombie and a romantic digression

Posted in Books, Comics, Fantasy, Horror, Young adult with tags , , , , , on February 20, 2012 by Cara Marie

In things-I-haven’t-been-following-issue-by-issue, iZombie has turned from just reasonably entertaining to zomg why can’t I have more now? I think it’s the sort of thing that will really pay off reading in full, and rereading it, there’s lots of moments that don’t come to pay off till later. Also, you want to reread previous volumes before starting a new one – the overarc is a multi-volume one, and it’s easy to forget things.

A thought: it is possible to portray rapid-fire romances that do work for me. (I read an interview with Clive Barker that was all, the people who are wtf about Gazza just don’t understand my art, and it annoyed me. I refuse to believe I just fail as a reader, thanks for that suggestion CB.)

So: iZombie doesn’t conflate insta-attraction with insta-love. The romance comes from the fact Gwen and Horatio spent this awesome evening really connecting. You know? I can buy the speed of the intensity because you can see the way they click.

Tamora Pierce’s Mastiff, which I read recently, does have a really rapid falling in love – but it still happens over the course of the book, we explicitly see how Beka becomes comfortable with Farmer, we see enough of his personality to understand the attraction and why she would come to love him. Plus intense circumstances and all.

Maybe Gazza would have worked better for me if we’d spent any time with him before he met Candy? I feel like it’s important to understand why both partners are attracted to one another – and we the reader already like Candy, but we know nothing about this Gazza fellow or whatever charming qualities he has. Candy doesn’t have any time to see them. And maybe you want to make a point about their trans-lifetime connection but if you want me to buy two characters being in love I have to know what there is to love.

Horatio takes down a bunch of men in black.

Even if it’s something really shallow like he’s a badass monster hunter.

In continuing series…

Posted in Action/adventure, Books, Fantasy, Middle fiction, Short stories with tags , , , on April 3, 2011 by Cara Marie

Now that I am off work for a few weeks, I have time to read more books! Some short thoughts on the latest reading:

Scorpia Rising – Anthony Horowitz

The latest (and last) Alex Rider book was a disappointment. Snakehead was emotionally and narratively gripping; Scorpia Rising needed to be way tighter, and I felt rather disconnected throughout it. I don’t think not having your protagonist show up for over 150 pages is a good start.

There were a few moments were I felt, yes, this is why I love these books! But they were rather far between.

Tortall and Other Lands – Tamora Pierce

Tamora Pierce’s short fiction is diverting, but not satisfying in the way that her novels are. I read Pierce mostly for the school story aspect, and you can’t really get that out a short story. I think my favourite in this collection was ‘Student of Ostriches’, which I’d actually read before, where a young girl teaches herself to fight by imitating the prairie animals, and uses those skills to defend her family’s honour. Generally, I liked the ones that didn’t deal with characters we already know – the ones featuring Nawat and Kitten felt unnecessary, skippable.

Succubus Heat – Richelle Mead

I raced through this. I’m enjoying this series so much; I have basically no critical thoughts about them. I am all, omigosh, about every new revelation, and my reactions are purely emotional.

This book shows that, even without her powers, Georgina is an awesome lady who spreads joy and brings out the best in people ♥ I mean that in a nice way. I really do hope for the best for her.

Except it turns out I am very disapproving of infidelity in books. Not that it’s being condoned, but! Stop being unfaithful, people! Here’s hoping the ending indicates a new, snark-filled direction in Georgina’s love-life. I’m not even in it for the love-life! I’m in it for the mythology and the mysteries, and for Georgina. I do think the mysteries are getting stronger as these books go along, and I love Georgina’s determination to get to the bottom of things. So stop being a distraction, men!

Four books in, my pleasure in this series has not dimmed. Looking forward to my copy of Succubus Shadows arriving soon.

On my completion of Melting Stones

Posted in Books with tags , , on January 3, 2008 by Cara Marie

So, I discovered on my trip down south that audio books are really quite useful when you’re sitting in the car for hours. Actually reading makes me feel sick, and as there are only so many times you can play Savage Garden… I don’t think I”d really listen to audio books for anything else though. Because there’s nothing like being able to flip through pages, or being able to reread a sentence because you’re don’t want to believe you heard her say quartz is the first mineral you get from a magma*.

Still, it saved me a great deal of boredom. And now I can gloat to people that I’ve read the new Tamora Pierce and they haven’t. (Oh, for someone to gloat to.) It’s a good story even if you’re not a rock geek, I promise!

The only thing is that I feel the moralism got heavy-handed, especially at the end. I think it stands out more, actually being said. Although, I suppose if she wanted to get across something kind of spoilery.

I am an even bigger geek when it comes to magmas

Posted in Books with tags , , on December 18, 2007 by Cara Marie

Nice work Evvy, going down into the magma chamber and meeting your friends who want to blow the whole thing open. I am a little concerned that it didn’t occur to her sooner but I guess her studies have been more focused on actually using crystals and things? And Luvo said they’ve never actually been by a volcano.

Whereas, I live on a subduction zone, and igneous petrology is my most favouritest. Lake Taupo, which I visit every summer, is the caldera left by a massive eruption that occured a few thousand years ago, and it was learning that that made me want to be a volcanologist in the first place. Poor Evvy, you are so deprived.

The magma spirits really made me very happy. In, you know, the ‘ha ha, they’re forcing you to help them try and escape and erupt all over you!’ kind of way. Yeah. I would be interested to know what kind of magma it is? I suppose we will find out when the whole thing blows!

I am a total geek

Posted in Books with tags , , on December 10, 2007 by Cara Marie

I’m listening to Melting Stones, which is Tamora Pierce’s latest book, released as an audiobook a year before the print edition. It is very exciting for me! It’s odd listening to a story, but I had been looking forward to this, because Evvy is the main character. She was the reason I loved Street Magic so, because she is a stone mage. That book is so bashed up…

Rosethorn can’t understand why Evvy is getting so excited, being on a volcanic island. POOR EVVY IS FROM CONTINENTAL BASIN. Of course she is over-excited. I wonder how people who aren’t rock geeks react to Evvy’s waxing lyrical? I suppose they don’t go wondering about whether or not you can use magic similarly to looking at a mineral’s optical properties… and how magical knowledge might relate to scientific knowledge… but mostly, oh Evumeimei, I want to take you on field trips with me.

I will stop now. But Tamora Pierce, you rock my world.