Thursday, April 28, 2011

Internet Awesomeness 5: 8in8

This edition only has one awesome thing because I find it to be exceptional and in need of recognition.

Amanda Palmer, Neil Gaiman, Ben Folds, and Damian Kulash have all joined forces to do an experiement for the Rethink Music conference. They are collaborating to write 8 songs in 8 hours together. I'm amazed and delighted by the final product, an album called Nighty Night by 8in8 (the name for their impromptu band). There are only 6 tracks on this album and it took 12 hours to do, but each and every song is exceptional. I can definitley hear that different people influenced each track more, making each song different. This project is just amazing. I can't believe that people actually criticized this group of people for this. It's an amazing project that produced a good album, mixing each persons style and voice.

I never would have thought something so cohesive and awesome could come out of something like this. Not only did they draw on each other for inspiration, but also their twitter followers, engaging in conversation and ideas for songs. If you are interested in the process at all, Amanda Palmer wrote a blog post about some of the process. The whole thing was streamed online and will be available soon to watch in an edited version. I am curious about how they got to these 6 songs and what went on in those 12 hours. You can purchase this album for only $1, cheaper than one track on iTunes, at Amanda Palmer's website. You are of course welcome to donate more if you'd like. The inital proceeds from the first 2 weeks will go to the Berkely City Music Network that helps young people reach their full musical potential. If you don't know if you want to buy it, you can listen to it streaming on the website.

You can also see 8in8's first performance band music and also some solo work on this concert the day after recording their album here. The 1 hour mark is where Amanda Palmer is introduced. The best part is 8in8 performing a mashup of Neil Gaiman's essay about Amanda Palmer's death and Ben Fold's song You Don't Know Me at All. It was so unexpected, yet fit together eerily well. The album is wonderfully performed despite their sleep deprivation. I wish I could have been there.

My favorite quote about this project comes from Amanda Palmer: "we accomplished what we actually set out to do, which was to spend time together, create something beautiful that never existed before, and see what we could do by giving ourselves a deadline, some parameters, sushi, and the ingredients for some relatively decent gin and tonics."

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Modern Fairy Tale Films: Part 2

I have more awesome films to add to the list, so of course I had to do another post! This time, I features surreal fantasy mixed with science fiction.

1) Mirrormask
Mirrormask is the story of Helen Campbell, a girl who hates being in the circus with her family. She fights with her mother, as teenage girls do, but is later consumed with guilt after her mother becomes sick and needs an operation. Afterwards, she enters a fantasy world where the Queen of Light is eternally asleep and the Queen of Shadows is taking over the land in an effort to find her daughter, a doppelganger of Helen. When I first saw this film, I walked into a friends apartment and was completely spellbound by the last 20 minutes. I dropped everything I was carrying and just forgot everything else because it was so different than anything I had ever seen. The film follows a basic fairy tales hero journey where the protagonist has problems at home, goes to a fantastical world, and then returns having learned a lesson and changed for the better. This basic story line can be seen in Alice in Wonderland and the Wizard of Oz. What makes this film different is the very different visuals, color scheme, soundtrack, and cast of characters. The world in the film isn't entirely benevolent, with man-eating sphinxes, the Queen of Shadows, and her creepy minions. I would say that this film is both for adults and for children. It walks a fine line and succeeds in being relevant to both audiences. It's to be expected from the likes of Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean. I would recommend this film to just about anyone.

2) The City of Lost Children

The City of Lost Children is a dark and surreal French film that has traits of both fantastical fairy tales and gritty dystopias. This odd pairing makes this film unique and unforgettable. It's the story of a little boy who is kidnapped by a mad scientist in an effort to slow down the aging process. This scientist is supported by his family that consists of a very small woman, 6 clones, and a sentient brain in a jar. The boy that was kidnapped was a the little brother of One, an incredibly strong, yet child-like man. He works tirelessly to save his little brother with the help of Miette, a street savvy and tough as nails orphan. My favorite part of the movie is the touching and endearing friendship between One and Miette. Both actors, Ron Perlman and Judith Vittet, are delightful and believable as an odd pair of friends: the wise beyond her years orphan and the strong yet childish man. Although there are many children present as orphans, this is not a film for children. They are used and abused by all of the adults in the film, save for One, who is largely considered an oversized child. In a way, it stays true to the classic fairy tales by virtue of the darkness it presents and how perhaps adults can fully understand them more than children. Fairy tales were not originally just for children as they are frequently thought of today. I love this film and its weird mix of steampunk, science fiction, fantasy, surrealism, and humor. This modern, urban fairy tale is not one that is easy to forget. Here is the trailer:

3) Howl's Moving Castle

Howl's Moving Castle is a whimsical fairy tale loosely based on the novel by Diane Wynne Jones. Sophie is a hatter who doesn't feel special in any way until a mysterious gentleman saves her from the unwanted advances of some soldiers and irrevocably involves her in his problems. She is cursed by the Witch of the Waste to be an old woman and she seeks out the mysterious man to fix her. This is only the beginning of her adventure with Howl, the demon Calcifer, and the magical castle they travel in. I don't think I'll ever be tired of this film. Magic is a huge part of the film and physical transformations almost become commonplace. The influences of classic fairy tales are visible, like the Beauty and the Beast-like relationship between Howl and Sophie or the Cinderella-esque treatment of Sophie. It all starts with Sophie wanting to be returned to herself, but it turns out to be more about saving Howl, finding power within herself, and saving their world from war than about her appearance. A big part of this story is portraying the devastating effects of war on the innocent people that are caught in the middle and how wars can turn men into monsters. This film isn't purely based in fantasy, but has touches of steampunk with the design of the castle, the many flying machines, and the Victorian style costumes. Howl's Moving Castle is visually beautiful in addition to such great story telling and characterization. It also has one of the best soundtracks I've ever heard. This is a performance of the theme that is present throughout the movie. Although the violinist does make some mistakes, he plays with such an exuberance and joy that it doesn't really matter.


Go check out Fairy Tale Fortnight at The Book Rat and Books from Bleh to Basically Amazing if you love fairy tales, retellings, and adaptations.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Modern Fairy Tale Films

There are plenty of films that are retellings of fairy tales, but there are also those that create their own mythos and are widely seen as fairy tales today. Here are 3 of my favorites:

1) Edward Scissorhands

Edward Scissorhands is a beautiful and dark modern fairy tale. The story is kind of a mix of Frankenstein, Peter Pan, and even Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. Edward is an unfinished creation by an elderly scientist that died in the midst of his creation. Since he hasn't been exposed to the world at all, he has the mentality of a child, innocent and naive. He is taken from his dark, gothic castle on the hill and brought to suburbia, full of cookie cutter homes and pastel colors. At first, Edward is well liked and praised for his ability to cut hair and topiary, but after Edward is manipulated and he accidentally hurts someone, the town is quick to turn on him. They follow him back to his castle with figurative torches and pitchforks, demanding that he be destroyed. This beautiful and melancholy fairy tale shows how people who are different are treated in society and how if this outsider lashes out at those who abuse him, he is the monstrous one. This fairy tale is even framed by an old woman telling her granddaughter the story at bedtime, much like I'm sure many of us were read classic fairy tales. Edward Scissorhands is one of my favorite films and features the most beautiful soundtrack and style to enhance the whimsical, yet dark fairy tale atmosphere. This is my favorite scene from the film.

2) Pan's Labyrinth

Pan's Labyrinth is the story of young Ofélia who goes to live with her new stepfather, a ruthless and unfeeling captain, in 1944 fascist Spain. In the midst of her move and getting used to living with her father, a faun lures her outside and tells her she is the reincarnation of Princess Moanna and she must complete three tasks before the full moon to be able to enter in her father's realm. This film does an amazing job of juxtaposing a dark, beautiful fairy tale world with the gritty realism of living in a war zone. The fairy tale world has its own sets of danger with creatures that eat children and even the faun seems to be less than benevolent at times. However, this world's color palate is bright and dynamic. It's the realm where anything is possible. The real world is even more dangerous. There are scenes of overwhelming brutality in the film that are stark and committed by regular humans. The color palate for this world is muted in grays and blues, but with splashes of red blood. This is obviously a fairy tale for adults despite the main character only being 10 years old. Guillermo del Toro's influences for the film ranged from Alice in Wonderland and the Wizard of Oz to the fantastical works of Jorge Luis Borges and Francisco Goya. I absolutely love this film and can't recommend it enough.

3) The Princess Bride

The Princess Bride has been one of my favorite films since childhood. It has everything: true love, sword fights, giants, miracles, revenge, treachery, torture, rodents of unusual size, and royalty. Plus just about every line is incredibly quotable. It's the story of Buttercup, a girl who is set to marry a prince she doesn't love because she believes her true love to be dead. She is kidnapped by a Sicilian and his posse who intend to murder her and frame the opposing kingdom. A mysterious man in black comes to save her and she discovers he is her true love Westley, but they are again separated by the evil prince she is betrothed to. Doesn't this sound exciting? Please, just watch it if you haven't already. This film is also framed by a bedside story as a very young Fred Savage is sick and is read this story by his kind grandfather. Throughout the film, they return to his reactions. At first he is bored and doesn't want to hear about kissing, but is eventually sucked into the story and really cares about what happens to the characters just like we are. This film has been a family tradition in my household because there is something for everyone. I think this is a truly timeless film and I can't recommend it more.


If you like fairy tales and retellings and the like, you would love Misty and Ashley's Fairy Tale Fortnight. Every day is full of guest posts, author interviews, and book reviews. I've done 2 guest posts for the event about dark literary retellings and movie adaptations. Check it out here!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Brightly Woven

Sydelle is a young girl who lives in a mountain village that has had a drought for seven years straight. Life isn't the best there, but it's all she's ever known. When the king of Palmarta dies, suspicion is cast on a nearby kingdom and war is ignited. As enemy soldiers invade her village, a wizard named Wayland North passes through and ends their 7 year drought. Her father, the village elder, offers him a gift in gratitude. He unexpectedly chooses Sydelle and they are forced to comply. Now, she has to guide him to the new ruler of Palmarta because he has information that the king was assassinated by a third party, a dangerous and evil wizard, trying to incite war on purpose. As much as Sydelle hates her situation, she knows she must help to save the many lives that the war would claim. However, Wayland is hiding a dark and devastating secret of his own. Can Sydelle work through her anger for the greater good? Will they avoid this dark wizard and the opposing army to deliver the lifesaving information?

The first couple of chapters of Brightly Woven are a little slow and I expected to be very bored by the middle. I wasn't prepared for the wonderful and fast paced adventure that followed. The twist and turns of this story sometimes came out of nowhere and always kept me guessing. There is something for everyone in this book: adventure, curses, evil magicians, political intrigue, mystery, and a dash of romance. The real strength lies in the characters. Sydelle is no shrinking violet. She is smart, capable, and very confidant. Although she was travelling very reluctantly, much of the time she took charge because Wayland had no idea where he was going. I respected her so much more than a lot of YA heroines. She also has a vulnerable, naive side that made her truly believable and I think many readers can relate to her despite the book's setting and time period being so remote from our own. Wayland is also an interesting character. I didn't expect to like him at all because he entered the story while demanding ownership of Sydelle. I think it takes a great writer to make me like a character that has done something unforgivable like that. As much as I didn't want to, I did end up liking him. He has his own dark secret that he tries to wash away with alcohol or simply ignore despite it's definite permanence. Deep inside, he is a good person who really cares about Sydelle.

My only complaint about this novel is that the pacing of the ending was a little off and there was one particular aspect that seemed a little too convenient to be true. Other than that, Brightly Woven proved to be a very good young adult fantasy with a breathtakingly beautiful book cover. I would recommend this to people looking for a great fantastical adventure.

My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins

Friday, April 15, 2011

WTF New York Times?

On March 8th, an article was posted on the New York Times website about an 11 year old being gang raped. Not only was it disgustingly skewed to blame the victim for dressing and acting older than she was, but it sympathized with the 18 rapists. The writer, JamesMcKinley, bemoans the tearing apart of their community and families and asks "how could their young men be drawn to such an act?" Seriously? You are saying that the boys were forced to rape a young girl? By what logic? And a hospital worker said, "It just destroyed our community" and "These boys have to live with this for the rest of their lives." I am beyond disgusted. What about the girl who has to live with the experience of being violently and sexually assaulted by 18 men? I was extremely angry with the obvious misogyny and sympathy towards rapists. I don't care what a girl or woman is wearing. She doesn't deserve to be raped nor is the rape the fault of her fashion choices. Here is a much more awesome and researched article on the New York Times article and how rape is generally treated in our culture.

Yesterday, the New York Times is again guilty of belittling women, but this time it's in a review for the upcoming miniseries Game of Thrones. It starts off saying that there is a large cast of characters and should come with a warning like "If you can't count cards, please return to reruns of 'Sex and the City.'" Wow. I didn't even want to read what came after that. It's as if the author Gina Bellafante (obviously a woman herself) doubts that women have the mental capacity for keeping track of more than 5 characters. Maybe she assumes other women can't because of her own inability, but this is just a theory.

Anyway, she goes on to say that the sex in the show was obviously used to "[toss] in a little something for the ladies, out of a justifiable fear, that no woman alive would watch otherwise." I was almost speechless when I read this and the following comment that no woman stands up in her book club and demands to read The Hobbit over whatever the author thinks women stereotypically read in book clubs. This is a bold and completely untrue claim. If you go to any nerdy convention or event, there are more and more women attending. For example, with Magic the Gathering tournaments, I am usually one of the few women there. This last time I went to a prerelease, there were tons more than I had ever seen before. When I go to San Diego Comic-Con, there are a huge amount of women. To say that this show is obviously for men and women would have no interest is a huge insult to nerd girls everywhere. Even MSNBC realizes that female viewership is something that is sought after and very present for science fiction and fantasy. Many women aren't interested in the stereotypical vapid romantic comedies or tearjerker movies, but in films and shows with thought behind them and autonomous female characters. I am insulted that Ms. Bellafante only thinks women would tune in to see the sex and hot men. Maybe she hasn't met any geek girls, but that doesn't mean they don't exist.

Ms. Bellafante also seems to abhor science fiction and fantasy shows in general with her assertion that shows that deviate from "real world sociology" like Game of Thrones and True Blood "start to feel cheap, and we feel as though we have been placed in the hands of cheaters." I don't understand this at all. I wish she would have had some examples to back up this claim instead of just vaguely generalizing. I don't really know why she's even reviewing this show if she doesn't like the genre.

I don't know what's going on at The New York Times. This makes 2 offensive articles in 2 months. If they continue on this misogynistic vein, I think they will lose a lot of readers.

Personally, I had never heard of Game of Thrones before, but I was intrigued by the trailers and posters. It seems like a really awesome epic story, similar to Lord of the Rings. I'm definitely going to record it and watch it with my boyfriend. Usually I prefer urban fantasy to high fantasy like this because high fantasy tends to come off as a LotR ripoff to me. I haven't read a huge amount of it, so if you guys like any of this type of fantasy, I would love your recommendations.

* To give credit where credit is due, I wrote this in response to Amy Ratcliffe's rant about the Game of Thrones article from her website Geeks with Curves.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Netflix Horror Movie Mini-Reviews

I just got Netflix a couple of weeks ago and I am so addicted to cheesy horror movies on there! I just wanted to post a few of my thoughts on the films I've watched so far. If I feel really passionate about something, I might write a full review, but for now, these will do.

1) The Human Centipede

A mad scientist attaches three people together so they have a continuous digestive tract because he's crazy, weird, and sadistic. The disgusting and illogical premise aside, this movie was just bad: bad acting, bad writing, bad characters. For example, one of the girls escapes from the basement makeshift operating room before the surgery and tries to escape. Sort of. Her version of this was to run into the creepy doctor's room and cower behind the bed. Forget looking for any exits or making a call on the phone in PLAIN SIGHT right in front of the door she just locked. Cowering behind the bed and screaming is the way to go. Anther example is when 2 policemen come to the doctor's house and he tries to drug their water, flips out on them when the water is spilled, and is caught hiding a syringe. His weak excuse for the syringe is that it's insulin for his diabetes and they buy it. Really?? This plus his bizarre behavior isn't reason enough to search his house or take him in for questioning or anything.This is only one instance of the characters' stupid decisions and horrible reasoning that extends to every aspect of the movie.

My rating: 4/10 stars

2) The Descent 2

I absolutely loved The Descent, so I was looking forward to the sequel. The first film is about a group of women that go caving together, get trapped in an undiscovered cave, and encounter creepy cannibalistic humanoid underground dwellers. Sarah escapes the cave (which I completely disagree with based on the ending of the UK version of the film) and is forced to return shortly after to see what happened to her friends. Pretty much Aliens, but underground instead of in space. I was really disappointed. The first one was brilliant and had a balance of dealing with real, everyday problems and the crazy supernatural ones while this one focuses on cheap scares and gross out scenes. In the first one, it was debatable if the creatures were even real or just the characters psychologically breaking down. Also, the sequel really doesn't stay true to the characters at all. Plus I found the ending absolutely ridiculous. There wasn't enough information on a certain character for it to make any sort of sense.

My rating: 2/10

3) Roman

This movie is about an awkward, socially inept guy named Roman, who stalks a girl, becomes her boyfriend, and, when she finds out about the stalking, he accidentally kills her. Some time goes by and another beautiful girl shows interest in him. Can this relationship turn out better than the last? Will his dead girlfriend be jealous? The movie starts out really slowly and is obviously very low budget. It takes a while to warm up, but I actually really enjoyed it. It reminded me a little bit of May, which isn't surprising considering Lucky McKee, the director of May, played Roman and Angela Bettis, who played May, was the director. Anyway, much like May, even though he's a murderer, I really felt for Roman and his inability to connect with other people. The ending was kind of obvious, but I was still really sad for him. There's a slow, suspenseful build up to it and I was praying that my prediction wouldn't come true every step of the way. I was surprised that I had such an emotional reaction to it because I was expecting something like the other films on this list: cheesy and kind of bad. Roman is an odd and quirky little film that not everyone is going to like. If you're looking for something outside of the norm in horror, this would be on the top of the list.

My rating: 9/10 fishmuffins

Do any of you have Netflix? Any movies I should check out?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Internet Awesomeness 4

More videos for your viewing pleasure!!

1) I'm sure all of you have heard about the racist UCLA girl complaining about Asians talking on the phone in the library unless you've been living under a Youtubeless rock. There are probably countless responses to that very unfortunate and hopefully regretted video, but the best of them has to be Jimmy Wong's super catchy and awesome song, Ching Chong! Asians in the Library Song. Although there is a fair bit of mocking Alexandra, this song responds to something hateful with something funny and creative. I love it!

2) This is one of the cutest videos I've ever seen. Kitties that dream they ride a spaceship and destroy a paper world dressed as dinosaurs. Seriously, what's not to like? Plus it fulfills your daily dose of cute for about a year.

3) At the Shorty Awards, Amanda Palmer sang a song using the most amusing tweets as lyrics to the tune of Rebecca Black's Friday. My personal favorites are Lindsay Lohan, Kanye West, and Beaker. Thank you to Misty from The Book Rat for sending it to me and making me smile! :)

4) This final video is the collaboration of many students at Wesleyan University to save funding for Planned Parenthood. Unlike many conservatives would have you think, Planned Parenthood isn't an abortion machine. There are many services that are provided to people who couldn't normally afford it, such as contraception, general health care, cancer screenings, STD tests and treatment, pelvic exams, among many others. I'm proud to see others my age taking a stand for their reproductive health and an organization that is instrumental in doing so. The article in the description is really interesting and worth a read.

Hope you all liked these videos! <3

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Vespertine

In the summer of 1889, Amelia van den Broek is sent to Baltimore to live with her cousins and find a suitable match. Her brother also expects her to start anew and make acquaintances to elevate her social standing so she won't be his responsibility any longer. With the freedom and excitement of being in a new city, Amelia ignores her brother's orders and enjoys a bit of trouble and fun with her cousin Zora. Then she meets Nathaniel, an artist paid to go to parties to make the numbers even, and she falls in love. He's obviously not a proper match, being not even close to her in terms of social standing, but she is inexplicably drawn to him. In addition to this budding romance, Amelia discovers by accident that the setting sun, the time of the vespers, reveals visions to her of things to come. At first, Amelia is frightened, but once word spreads and she gains quite a following, it seems fun. That is until a gruesome visions comes true and suspicion is cast on her as perhaps the cause of the accident instead of just a seer.

I didn't really know what to expect when I started The Vespertine, but it was a quick enjoyable read that held my interest. The characters were all different and full of life, despite what everyone assumes about that era. Amelia had a real joie de vivre and isn't above doing some supposedly indecent things to enjoy her life. She and Zora put on a show to be proper ladies of society, but in private, they were just normal teenage girls with the same fears and anxieties of modern teenagers. Even though they wear different clothes and don't have as many opportunities as modern women do, I could see myself in them. I loved their relationship and how they interacted. They were more friends than just cousins. Amelia's relationship with Nathaniel was also realistic and palpable. Unlike some other YA novel heroes, I could see why she was drawn to him and, even though he was socially inferior, he wasn't a bad boy or a jerk. He treated Amelia with tenderness and made sure he was there for her when she needed him. I looked forward to his appearance throughout the book. Even Amelia and Zora's school friends, all pretty minor characters, had their own fully realized personalities that were conveyed in short passages.

My only complaint about the novel would be the pacing and how little paranormal events there were in comparison to everything else. Much of the book was just about Amelia and Zora's day to day lives: their friends, the parties they went to, the clothes they wore, the social expectations of the day, etc. While I still find this interesting, I felt that Amelia's visions and the other paranormal aspects figured in as fairly minor. When the accident happens, causing her friends and family to turn on her, there were not very many pages left and I felt it was a rushed ending. Based on the description, I figured the bulk of the conflict would be after that event, but this was not the case.

The Vespertine was a fluid and fun read that had relatable characters and featured excellent, descriptive writing from Saundra Mitchell. I hope there is another book in the works and I will be sorely disappointed if there isn't. I would recommend this to all lovers of young adult fantasy and historical fiction.

My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Eternal Ones

*** This review contains spoilers for the ending. You have been warned. ***

Haven Moore is an outcast in her town in Tennessee. Not only has she had strange visions since childhood, but her grandmother is a religious zealot who was convinced that those visions were the work of a demon. Haven's visions may have gone away, but the reputation for being strange has been cemented with the rest of the town, except for her best (and only) friend Beau. She only has to hold out ten more months before she is an adult and free from her grandmother, but her visions return to her, causing her to black out more and more frequently. She discovers that the visions are from a past life where she was a girl named Constance and loved Ethan. The townspeople go from isolating her to all out attacking her. She sees no other choice but to go to New York to try to find her Ethan. The only problem is she doesn't know the whole story of her past life and if her death in the fire was the result of a tragic accident or murder. Could Ethan be the murderer who accidentally died himself? Or is there someone out there bent on separating her from her true love forever?

The Eternal Ones was a mixed bag of a book for me. The writing style flowed very well and really drew the reader into the book. Haven was a strong character that didn't allow her crazy grandmother or bigoted neighbors to bring her down. When they turned against her and started leaving cruel things in her locker and telling her she was possessed, I felt for her and just grew frustrated that they couldn't see beyond their assumptions and misinformation. I absolutely loved Haven's friend Beau. He was quirky, fun, and gay. Although they have some minor conflicts in the novel, they really supported each other and proved to be fiercely loyal. As far as the plot goes, the mystery really interested me and wasn't predictable at all. I didn't see the ending coming at all and it kept me guessing.

I didn't like quite a few things about the novel. First, although I really liked Haven, she constantly changed her mind about Ethan. I just grew more and more frustrated with her inability to stick to one opinion. This part of the story reminded me a lot of Nora from Hush, Hush, an equally annoying story involving finding out if one's boyfriend is a killer. One minute he's the perfect boyfriend and the next, he's a plotting murderer. The biggest problem I had was with the ending. Ethan proved to be innocent and Haven lamented over doubting him after he lied to her and proved to be generally untrustworthy. Basically, it's ok for your boyfriend to lie right to your face, creep around behind your back, and act like a possessive jerk as long as he's not guilty of murder. Haven had every reason to be suspicious of Ethan because he came off as a creep. Just because they were together in a past life does not mean that he can treat her like crap. I was very frustrated that Ethan wasn't likeable and I don't think he really deserved Haven, which pretty much undermines the whole story.

The Eternal Ones featured some great writing and characters, but Ethan and Haven's indecisive nature really took away from my enjoyment. The book was like the unfortunate love child of My Name is Memory and Hush, Hush. I wouldn't read any more of this particular story if it turned into a series, but I would read more from Kirsten Miller. Her writing style shined through all of the things that annoyed me and I would love to read more from her.

My rating: 2/5 fishmuffins

Friday, April 8, 2011


Clarity Fern doesn't have the most normal family. Around her school and to the locals, they are known as freaks because of their special abilities. She can see situations through one person's perspective by touching objects they touched. It's not always the most pleasant thing to know the secrets of many of the people around her. Her mother is a telepath and her brother is a medium. Together, they conduct psychic readings for tourists in Eastport and are doing pretty well. That is, until a tourist girl is murdered in a local hotel. Clare's ex-boyfriend entreats her to use her ability to help in the murder investigation and she reluctantly agrees. Things get complicated when Clare finds out that her brother was the last person to see the girl alive. Convinced of her brother's innocence, she works hard to solve the crime, but she also puts herself in danger. Can she catch the killer before she becomes the next victim?

When I picked up Clarity, I was expecting a cliche, angsty teen novel that would bore me. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was more of a murder mystery than a paranormal romance with believable, realistic characters. Clare is a great narrator and I immediately liked her from the very first page. Unlike many female protagonists in YA fiction, she isn't weak or whiny or annoying, but strong and assertive. The scene where she dumps a soda on her rival's head is truly awesome. There are many YA heroines that don't have the guts to do something like that. Her narration is filled with humor, wit, and intelligence. There is just the right balance of levity and darkness. The strained relationship with her ex-boyfriend and the arrival of the new detective's hot son are the perfect recipe for an angst ridden love triangle, but Kim Harrington surprisingly steers clear of excessive teen angst. Clare and her ex are very civil with each other. She tries to move on with her life because she accepts her inability to get past his betrayal. I am so relieved that she didn't agonize over it for any length of time. I really respect her and I think she would actually be pretty cool to meet in real life. Clare proved to be one of the most interesting and realistic heroines in all of YA fiction.

In teen fiction, any sort of mysteries are usually thinly veiled and really easy to predict. This isn't the case with Clarity. In the course of the investigation, Clare doesn't always rely on her powers, but also on her own intelligence and powers of reasoning. I had no idea about who the killer was throughout the novel until it was finally revealed. I also liked that the paranormal powers aren't completely ridiculous and overpowered. Each of their powers has its limitations and variables.

Clarity is a fast paced and enjoyable read with a kick-ass heroine and a twisty mystery. I would highly recommend this book to just about everyone.

My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins