Saturday Morning Opinions: 2013 in Review

2013 has been a pretty big year, for both me and the blog. Not only I have I graduated college, completed a publishing program, gotten my first job, and moved across the country, but I’ve also tinkered with my writing style, format, and various features here at the Literary Omnivore to build a leaner, meaner bookish machine. So, for the first time in the Literary Omnivore’s history as my live reading journal, I present to you this year in review on the last Saturday of the year.

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Review: Bitterblue

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

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As a little kid in the late nineties, my main exposure to fantasy was through watching my brother play video games. Thusly, Warcraft II and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time were enormous parts of my childhood. While the former is something I’m fond of revisiting in a fog of nostalgia, it’s the latter that utterly captured my imagination. There’s a lot of reasons for that, from being left-handed to a surprisingly diverse array of female characters for a mainstream video game from the nineties, but the biggest is Princess Zelda herself. Forced into hiding as a child after the murder of her father, she pins her hopes on a wild gambit. She spends seven years becoming a warrior before that gambit can pay off, watching her kingdom crumble around her. When that gambit miraculously works, she bends time to her will to try and give both the hero and herself the childhoods they were denied. And then, without ever knowing if that worked or not (if she killed him or not), she has to rebuild a kingdom from scratch.

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Booking Through Thursday: Stormy Weather

While my town dries out of record-setting, epic flooding from Hurricane Irene, let me ask you:

What’s your book with weather events? Hurricanes? Tornadoes? Blizzards? Real? Fiction? Doesn’t matter … weather comes up a lot in books, so there’s got to be a favorite somewhere, huh?

Well, it’s not as dramatic as those, but freezing weather. Specifically, characters forced to survive in freezing weather, especially if they have to flee across a frozen tundra. I first encountered this in The Left Hand of Darkness, which still captivates me to this day, and I’ve seen it in Graceling (as hardy Katsa tries to get little Bitterblue across just such a landscape for very important reasons) and, to a certain extent, in The Secret History, as Richard, too proud to go home or beg off his rich friends (who all think he’s on their socioeconomic level), spends a New England winter in a warehouse with a hole in the roof.

I don’t know why this is, other than that I like warm and hot weather (I am from the South, come on) and haven’t really experienced truly freezing weather. But as a fictional landscape, it forces the characters to strip themselves down to their very core; you can’t bring much and you’re driven to the edge of your stamina and strength.

Review: Fire

Fire by Kristin Cashore

I absolutely loved Graceling, which I reviewed early in my book blogging career. Katsa was everything I wanted in a prickly heroine, Cashore’s matter-of-fact attitude towards female realities in a traditionally male-dominated genre was refreshing, and the action was thrilling. It even came with a doomed princess on top! So I’d always meant to pick up Fire, a companion for Graceling that has the origin story of that book’s Big Bad as a minor plot. I settled in, expecting Graceling round two, but I got something different. Not unwelcome, but different.

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Booking Through Thursday: Ground Floor

There’s something wonderful about getting in on the ground floor of an author’s career–about being one of the first people to read and admire them, before they became famous best-sellers.

Which authors have you been lucky enough to discover at the very beginning of their careers?

And, if you’ve never had that chance, which author do you WISH you’d been able to discover at the very beginning?

I feel like I haven’t discovered anyone at the beginning of their career, in that I read their book before it exploded in popularity. Technically, I read and enjoyed Jaclyn Dolamore’s and Kristin Cashore’s first books early in their careers, but they were pretty well-known regardless.

I wish I’d discovered Michael Chabon or Jeffrey Eugenides at the very beginning—they have such a beautiful way with language that I would have enjoyed watching them grow. (Also, I would actually have copies of Eugenides’s short stories. Collect them already!)

But ultimately, it doesn’t matter to me if I discovered an author before they went supernova. I pay a lot more attention to personal recommendations than to best-seller lists. While there are some series I drag my feet about because they’re popular—the Millenium trilogy, anyone?—I think I still read them with the same attitude as I would if I’d stumbled across in a bookshop five years ago. (Only, you know, not, because five years ago, I was fourteen and had barely stopped being annoying.)

The Sunday Salon: Book Trailers

After I finished Magic Under Glass, I went to visit the author’s website. There, I discovered that Magic Under Glass, like many young adult books, possessed an official book trailer (as opposed to those Harry Potter music videos using other films to represent uncast characters). Curious, I watched it. And then called my roommate over to watch it, because I had to share the badness. A book trailer can be an exciting opportunity to expose an audience, especially a young audience, to your book; so why, then, do so many book trailers suck? And why do we have so many of them?

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Booking Through Thursday: Beach Buddies

Which fictional character (or group of characters) would you like to spend a day at the beach with? Why would he/she/they make good beach buddies?

I have to admit, I don’t enjoy going to the beach. I mean, I would enjoy going to the beach with my friends, but I’d prefer bowling or something else to the beach. I burn so easily the sun must think it’s a joke; I’m paranoid about sunscreen even when it’s cloudy.

In any case, I would take Katsa and perhaps Po from Graceling; poor girl deserves a day at the beach.

The Sunday Salon: Fantasy 101

As I tend to mention a great deal, I was reared on The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings. If asked to choose one genre to read for the rest of my life, I’d happily answer fantasy. My reading resolutions were drawn up mostly to keep me from just gorging myself on fantasy and the occasional piece of science fiction and historical fiction. But I’m so happy swimming in the deep end that I rarely notice people at the edge tentatively dipping their toes in the pool. (It is, of course, a mana pool.) I know for people who haven’t read much fantasy that the genre can look intimidating, so today I’m going to recommend fantasy novels based on what other genres you enjoy. So take a deep breath and relax. This won’t hurt a bit.

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Booking Through Thursday: The Favorites Game

Who’s your favorite author that other people are NOT reading? The one you want to evangelize for, the one you would run popularity campaigns for? The author that, so far as you’re concerned, everyone should be reading–but that nobody seems to have heard of. You know, not JK Rowling, not Jane Austen, not Hemingway–everybody’s heard of them. The author that you think should be that famous and can’t understand why they’re not…

For all my literary omnivorousness, I do tend to read and really enjoy popular authors. I love Neil Gaiman and Gregory Maguire (when he isn’t being a horrible tease about the plot I actually care about in the Wicked cycle), for instance. I am woefully mainstream in this regard.

I do have a few authors that I love that I’m astounded aren’t more popular or well-known, but they have their own concentrated fan bases or, at least, are popular to some degree. (Again: woefully mainstream! This is part of the reason I’m trying to be more widely read.)

For Kristin Cashore and Diana Peterfreund, I’m sure it’s just a matter of time. I feel like it’s fairly early on in their literary careers. Cashore’s Graceling really blew me away, and I’m always recommending it to people who have never heard of it. (It helps that Little Shop of Stories has her books. I have to keep myself back from buying the hardback of Fire, since I have a paperback of Graceling.) Diana Peterfreund’s earlier work, I think, probably distracts from Rampant, which was amazing. I don’t have an opinion on her earlier work (haven’t read it), but it appears to be a far cry from killer unicorns. The fact that both writers write young adult fiction might turn off a few snobs, but I think it’s only a matter of time before they’re more well-known and celebrated.

Booking Through Thursday: Gifts

What books did you get for Christmas (or whichever holiday you may have celebrated last month)?

Do you usually ask for books on gift-giving occasions or do you prefer to buy them yourself?

For Christmas, I received a dairy free cookbook (I recently found out I’m lactose intolerant), Julia Child’s Kitchen Wisdom, a pair of old school fantasy novels, and a very lovely paperback of Graceling. While I love getting cookbooks, my dormitory’s kitchen consists of a fridge and a microwave, so I’m not going to get a lot of cooking done until I come home in May.

I do prefer to buy books myself. As a college student, I tend to keep an eye on my spending. Since I’ve got such a wonderful library at school, there’s really no reason for me not to rent a book before I buy a book. I will, however, buy books that aren’t available at a library and are hard to find–I’ve been wanting to read Marjorie Garber’s Vested Interests for ages, so I swapped for it on SwapTree, and I did buy Little Shop of Stories’ lone copy of Boneshaker. I will occasionally ask for books I know I’ll like or use, like Eat This Not That. (I was reading the latest edition in the supermarket yesterday–my God, there are children’s meals that exceed my daily caloric intake!) But overall, I enjoy adding to my library myself.