Friday, May 27, 2011

My idea of a good book: One that make you cry and hate people

I read Unearthly by Cynthia Hand the other night (a long time ago because I left this entry unfinished). Actually that's a lie, I got to the second chapter then gave up. Below are my thoughts of the book written in real time while I read it:

Let this be a reminder to me to never judge a book by a cover.

Main character has been established (to me at least) to be a Mary Sue. Key note: being suppressed in school (Pg. 6: Called a “dorkina”) while secretly being capable of doing great things (Pg. 7: Ran too fast because she “wasn’t holding back”) and being of angel blood. The angel blood I don’t mind, picked the book up for it, but the entire mention that she was a fast runner was completely unnecessary. It was as though Hand was looking for an alternative to just having Clara tell us she was awesome, which she does anyways (pg. 12: Ohh, she heals faster and can randomly speak in other languages; awesome but there MUST be some other more creative way to tell us that).

The fact that she is suppose to look good (Pg. 13-14) is also unnecessary, I suppose it’s just a personal pet peeve when the author goes into a deep discussion over how wonderful their character looks (Comparison: Twilight). Note that what Clara believes are her short comings are actually traits that  considered impressive: being skinny “in a storklike, all-arms-and-legs sort of way” doesn’t change the fact that she’s skinny; a figure that today’s society considers attractive. And after going to such detail describing the magnificence of her eyes and their variety of colour changing abilities, she says they’re too big for her face. The hell; note that today big eyes are also considered attractive (Google “Circle Lens”). And after saying her hair is her best feature, she goes on to complain about it. Bella Swan (wait, that was the name of that girl from Twilight right? I can't remember...) anyone?
Oho! Her parents are split up as well… MORE Bella Swan anyone? And she seems to have a bad relationship with her father… my gosh I don’t know how many more clichés I can take here!
However I’m liking the idea of people with angel blood having a purpose in life. Good idea, done before I’m sure but the visions and general concept seem to be well set in place in the first little bit. Generally easy to understand the plot as it’s going along; character development… needs some work.

Finding it strange that all the information I get about Clara’s mother is that she looks angelic and acts angelic and while I understand she’s got angel blood, where’s the human side? Is there some dark sin she committed that is not being told yet? There had better be otherwise the lack of character in this book will infuriate me.
Also noted that Clara is the narrator… just realized I’m reading the inside of a teenaged mind… like she keeps like using the like word ‘like’ the way like a teen would like use it. INFURIATING!! However it does go along with the fact that she’s 17 and in that stage of life; more difficult for people who aren’t generally fond of YA fiction (like me) to cope with though.

Oh she just met him! Ahhh!! Cliched first love scene alert! Also she’s in a school with "pretty people" apparently… so unrealistic. And she’s good at math too but she also has to hide that...Why bother?
So she categorizes people as either pretty or not pretty… this is very effective as a YA fiction except putting an angel in with the “invisibles” is almost going against some rule here… By definition angels are suppose to be beautiful, in fact there was a section dedicated to Clara explaining her physical appearance which I have previously explained makes her an attractive person. Why is she not considered a “pretty” one? I have deeply confounded.

Wait wait... they named their clique? AHAHAHAHA!!! Ok, so I also named little friend groups before, but not anything like the "invisibles", are they somehow proud of it? I don't understand the logic of that name other than to make poor little Mary Sue seem like she's such a pitiable thing. And besides, group names should be a more intimate matter, not something to go around telling random newbies. This books seems like an adult take on what they believe high school now days is like.

Oh he's talking to her... Why is he talking to her randomly? Why could he not find sometime after school in private to talk to her? Why is this so cliché? NOOO!! SHE’S DESCRIBING HIS PHYSICAL APPEARANCE AS HOT!! Twilight Alert Triggered! Ok book officially dropped. Will Wiki rest of plot which actually might have been good if there was less clichéd teen fantasy romance. 

---End of real time reading frustrations---

I seem to highly dislike books that are meant to be read for fun. I actually often feel that my deep hatred of the Twilight series stemmed from the fact that it was such a happy book with a girl leading such an (dare I say it?) ideal life. Honestly I'm sure lots of hormone raged teenaged girls got their giddies reading the book; I skipped a good half of the book (probably more...). And now on GoodReads this Unearthly crap is getting only good reviews. Probably because most of the people who read it enjoy YA fiction in general. I only enjoy YA fiction it if it's got another genre thrown into the mix somewhere.

Honestly I feel like the point of a book is to take me to a place I haven't been before, or into a situation I could not imagine for myself. Hence my love of Fantasy and Sci-fi. But I've also found that some of the best books I've read involves a very good catharsis; usually proceeded by extremely agonizing pain.

-Book spoilers begin here for: Mists of Avalon, A Little Princess, Oliver Twist, Jane Eyre-

I loved Mists of Avalon; in the middle section I utterly despised Arthur for listening to his pious wife and her little close-minded pleas. The injustice of their belief that Morgaine sneaked into court to do evil when it was she who they had beheld as the angel that had passed the Holy Grail around was so aggravating and made me want to stab them all. There's really no other way to explain my anger. I was in complete and utter distress knowing that I, as the reader, could do nothing to make these imbeciles see the errors of their thoughts. However at the end, it was Morgaine who forgives them and she acts truly as the better person; offering me consolation that though injustice was done, she has overcome her suffering and so all is well again. It was a saddening thought but at the same time offered a much needed relief from my mental anguish.

A Little Princess started off happily enough; a nice mindless kind of thinking involved. But soon I was again in extreme mental disarray as the poor girl got abused and used just because she suddenly had no money. Honestly, I wanted to attack Miss Minchin, except that would harm my delicate book. I actually had the mindset to just throw the book against a wall in my frustration with her. Of course in the end happiness ensues and justice is somewhat served. I seem to enjoy happy endings, but only after a plot full of evil.

Currently getting through Oliver Twist, not a lot of time so it's going slowly. Still, the beginning was terrible, not as in it was badly written, but I felt that same burning anger and hatred for the antagonist of the story. And it didn't help that Oliver was so naive and innocent, I was melting with agony and sympathy for the boy. Unsure about the ending so far; hope the people who wronged him die though.

Jane Eyre I just started; her childhood was miserable too. At where I am right now that misery is over and done with, but its results you can still see in Jane's actions. Hoping that she gets with this rich guy and goes back to show off her foster mother though... unlikely to happen it's not something she would do but every good thing that happens to Jane now feels like justice.

Actually looking now at all these books that I really liked I think I understand why I liked them so. They all presented me with either an innocent person, or one who wished to do good, and placed them into terrible situations where the world was against them. And to see a 'good' person abused for petty reasons seem to strike a chord with me.

Now people can say that this Clara from Unearthly is an innocent, good-hearted person who was being bullied by society. I disagree. She's being bullied by her own lack of sense and good judgement. She's an angel darned it! If she wants to lead an awesome life, she can do it! Don't give me any BS about her having to hide her powers so she doesn't get discovered, she can hide her powers while making use of them. Is it so terrible an idea for her to do well in math? Will people see that she does well in math and hence make the connection that she must be "unearthly"?

And all the 'abuse' she undergoes completely lacks deeper meaning. In all the books above I enjoyed the protagonist was being abused due to a conflict in morals or values, or spite. No matter what the reason is though, it is clear and feels valid (maybe that's not the best word because validation almost seems to justify the action... but you get my point). Clara being called a dorkrina out of no-where leads me wondering why this random girl (who's name I was not even given) decided to insult her. There's no background to explain why she isn't "popular", especially given that she's generally pretty (even though she doesn't have the sense to see that) and from her action seems like a nice girl. Hell she struck a random conversation in another language with a stranger, don't tell me she's shy.

Guess it's another pet peeve of mine when the main character has low self esteem or is otherwise very unsure of herself. I prefer my protagonists to have a strong will and set out to do something with their life. Think that gives the story line more moral, "look this person got a happy ending because they never gave up and worked for it" rather than "look this random girl who's doesn't really try and has no real dedication to a long term goal in life somehow ended up with a happy ending". I guess I value the idea that we have to work hard for our own happiness rather than sit around waiting for it to be handed to us.

So now that I have completed this long winded rant (which took me over a week to write out), I encourage everyone to read books that make you cry and want to hate people: because if it can make you feel that strongly, then clearly it's been written realistically.

Now this doesn't count if you end up crying because the book sucked and hating the author for wasting your time. 


  1. Was curious, so I found a torrent. Only 113 pages? Will get back to you on this.

  2. Never mind - finished page one, do not like. >_>