2010 YALRC, Book 1: Fire, by Kristin Cashore

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve entered a YA Lit Reading Challenge for 2010. My goal is to read 25 YA Lit books over the course of the year. I’m hoping I surpass that goal, but we’ll see.

In any case, my first selection this year was Fire, by Kristin Cashore. It’s a companion book to her earlier book, Graceling. Since I loved Graceling, I thought this would be a good choice.

The events in Fire take place (by my best guess) approximately 25-30 years prior to the events in Graceling. It is set in a place called the Dells, which is an area that is shrouded in mystery to the people living in the Seven Kingdoms (where Graceling took place). There is one common character in the two books (the nefarious Graceling Leck), but otherwise, we get a whole new slate of characters.

Fire, the main character, is considered a “monster” by the people of the Dells. Known by their ostentatious coloring (Fire’s name came from how her hair is colored – I kept imagining Hayley Williams’ hair when reading), monsters are variants of normal humans and animals that have a taste for human flesh and telepathic abilities that help them lure in their prey. Naturally, most of the people she encounters are terrified of her. However, Fire is somewhat repulsed by what she is and is determined not to give in to her more natural (and slightly evil) inclinations.

Eventually, Fire is summoned to the court of King Nash in order to use her abilities to help thwart a coming war between those loyal to him and those loyal to two opposing lords in the Dells. This leads to an internal struggle on her part, since she has vowed never to use her abilities, because the only other human monster she knew (her father) never used his abilities for good. I won’t give away what happens, but let’s just say lots of action, lots of intrigue, and lots of romance follow.

In the end, it was a very enjoyable read. I like Cashore’s writing style, because although these books are written for those from the 14-16 year old range, it never seems like she’s “writing down” to that reading level. I do think I liked Graceling more, but that’s because I think I liked the characters better in that book. Katsa was such a strong female lead character that I think she’s a hard act to follow. Fire is strong in her own right, but she just seemed to need rescuing a bit too often for my taste (I call it the Bella Swan Syndrome).

I would recommend Fire for those who are looking for a good modern fantasy novel in the 15-17 year old range.

Hello, 2010

I don’t know why, but it seems like everyone had a fairly crappy 2009. Mine wasn’t what I would call an epic fail, but it wasn’t the easiest year I’ve ever had, either. Lots of stress, lots of worry, and lots of time spent obsessing over things that were beyond my control.

I’m not really one for resolutions, but I do like the idea of the clean slate each new year gives us. It almost feels like a chance for a do-over. So, I’m excited to see what 2010 brings.

I’ve got a few things I’d like to do this year. The first is that I’ve joined a YA Lit Reading Challenge for 2010. There were three levels to choose from, so I chose to go for reading 25 YA lit books this year. I think it’s do-able. I’ve already got two under my belt so far, so I need to get cracking on posting my reviews in the next couple of days.

Secondly, I’d like to just take better care of myself. I’m not making any hard and fast weight loss, nutrition, or fitness resolutions, but the recent spate of sickness I’ve gone through has pretty much kicked my butt and let me know that my bad habits are catching up to me.

The final thing I’d like to do this year is to actually learn to let go and stop obsessing over inconsequential things. I blame my inner control freak for my inability to do this with any measured success in the past. However, it’s time I learned to focus on what is important, and let God handle the rest. And He will.

So, welcome, 2010. I hope I like you better than I liked your older brother, 2009.

Oh, and where’s my jet pack?

My Musical 2009

(The first one of you nimrods who points out that it is now technically 2010 will be the proud recipient of… something. I don’t know what, but it’ll be unpleasant. So there.)

I know everyone and their dog has done one of these lists where they blather on about how awesome 2009 was, music-wise, and then they proceed to display their superior musical taste by picking 10 CDs that a grand total of four people have listened to (I’m looking at you, Paste Magazine. I love you and all, but seriously). So, since I am an unoriginal sheep (baa!), I’ve got yet another list to toss your way. The one caveat I would add is that, as usual with me (since I am pretty much always behind the times), this is just a list of the top 10 CDs I bought in 2009. A couple of them came out prior to that, but they still count in my world.

Ready? Here goes!

10. The Twilight Saga: New Moon Soundtrack

Okay, before you write this one off because of the fact that I am one of those “Twilight People,” bear in mind that my Twilight-skeptical husband also thinks this is a darn good CD. Thom Yorke, Grizzly Bear, Bon Iver, and Band of Skulls lend a decidedly more “indie” feel to this soundtrack than was present on the Twilight soundtrack, but it definitely fits the mood of New Moon better. Favorite tracks: “Hearing Damage” – Thom Yorke, “Monsters” – Hurricane Bells, and “Roslyn” – Bon Iver and St. Vincent.

9. U2 – No Line on the Horizon

I’ve decided that my musical relationship with U2 is something akin to a marriage entering its eleventh year. You have the initial excitement and butterflies at the beginning, a few scary moments where you weren’t sure you were going to be able to stick it out, but are now in a comfortable place where, although you don’t get that swept-off-your-feet feeling very often, you are content and feel relatively stable. Such is the case with this CD. I’ll be honest, it didn’t knock my socks off when I first listened to it. There were a couple of songs I actually pretty much disliked. However, as I listened to it over and over again, I found that I wasn’t disappointed, really. Sure, not every song is a home run, but there are some great, solid songs on this CD. Still, I would buy a recording of Bono reading the phone book, so there’s that. Favorite Tracks: “Breathe,” “Moment of Surrender,” “No Line on the Horizon.”

8. Barcelona – Absolutes

I found this band kind of by accident. Around the beginning of October, one of the folks I follow on Twitter tweeted about seeing them open for someone and how much she enjoyed their show. A couple of other friends mentioned them in passing as well, so I thought I’d give them a listen. You guys, this CD is SO GOOD. They sound kind of like what would happen if Keane, Copeland, and Coldplay had a baby together. An awesome, awesome baby. Favorite tracks: “First Floor People,” “Come Back When You Can,” and “Response.”

7. Muse – The Resistance

Yes, it’s pretentious. Yes, it’s overblown. Yes, they have a three-part movement in the middle of the CD. And yes, I love it. It sounds like Muse doing what Muse does best – highly produced, electronica/prog-rock influenced ear candy (or, as Jeff says, “a less-complex Rush that is more pleasing to the ears”). And I’m going to get to see the whole spectacle live in February. Favorite Tracks: “Uprising,” “Undisclosed Desires,” “Guiding Light.”

6. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz!

I have a love-hate relationship with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I absolutely loved “Maps,” but pretty much everything after that I was kind of “meh” about. So, I was pleasantly surprised the first time I heard “Zero” on the radio. I’m not usually one for dance floor art rock (I think I’m making up musical genres at this point), but I found this one reappearing in my shuffle quite a bit this year. Favorite Tracks: “Zero,” “Skeletons,” and “Heads Will Roll.”

5. Mute Math – Armistice

This one was a very pleasant surprise. I was blown away by their self-titled CD back in 2006, and I felt like I was just going to be disappointed with the follow-up. Plus, I’d heard some not-so-good rumblings regarding re-recording, personality clashes with producers, etc. So, it was with a bit of trepidation that I popped Armistice into my car’s CD player this past fall. Thankfully, most of my worries were unfounded. Is it as mind-blowing as their self-titled? No. But it’s solid. A little darker, perhaps a little more pop-friendly, but solid. Favorite Tracks: “The Nerve,” “Clipping,” “No Response.”

4. Silversun Pickups – Swoon

SSP was a band I first heard of a couple years back when “Lazy Eye” was getting some airplay around Atlanta, but I never got around to buying any of their music. Fast forward to earlier this year when “Panic Switch” entered the rotation of a couple of local stations, and I remembered that I really liked them and should probably look into the new CD. It’s definitely one I keep going back to in my shuffle – a nice mix of quiet melodies and flat-out rock. I approve. A side note: Jeff swears this sounds like something he would’ve listened to back in 1995 at the height of his shoegaze phase (see: Fold Zandura, The Prayer Chain, etc.). Which is probably why he’s on board with it. Ha. Favorite Tracks: “Panic Switch”, “Draining,” “Catch and Release.”

3. Paramore – Brand New Eyes

If you’ve been around me any time over the course of the past two years, you’ll probably be aware of my burgeoning girl crush on Hayley Williams (we’re BFFs. She just doesn’t know her BFF is a 30 year old married mother of twins yet. YET. [Hayley, call me. Let’s do lunch. Or go get a tattoo together. Or something.]). So, you probably aren’t surprised to see this CD make an appearance on my top 10 list. Why do I like it? It’s straight up rock without all of the weird or gimmicky trappings that seems to come with a lot of popular music these days. Is it the most intellectual album of the year? Probably not. But it’s fun, and it rocks. So go buy the CD. Because it rocks. Did I mention it rocks? Favorite Tracks: “All I Wanted,” “Ignorance,” “Brick by Boring Brick.”

2. Metric – Fantasies

This was probably the most random purchase of the year for me, but it turned out well. I’d heard “Help I’m Alive” on the radio a few times, and had some iTunes bucks to spend, so I downloaded the whole CD on a whim. Best impulse buy ever! I absolutely fell in love with it. It’s got a kind of Achtung Baby-esque vibe to it (the whole “walkie talkies in washing machines” sound), which probably explains why I latched onto it so quickly. Favorite Tracks: “Help I’m Alive,” “Gold Guns Girls,” and “Sick Muse.”

…..and drumroll, please!

1. Paper Route – Absence

Maybe I should, on occasion, listen to my husband when he comes back from Cornerstone absolutely RAVING about a band. Jeff returned from C-stone 2007 just going on and on about this new band he’d seen there called Paper Route. I must admit that most of his gushing went in one ear and out the other (I am personally blaming it on the fact that I went into early labor a week and a half after he came home, so my thoughts were otherwise occupied). The raving returned earlier this year when Absence was released. Once again, I didn’t pay him much attention. Fast forward to late summer when we found out that Paper Route was going to be supporting Paramore on their fall tour. I decided that I should probably, FINALLY, listen to Absence so I’d know a song or two when we went to the concert. I uploaded it to my iPod and plugged it in while I was doing some housework one Saturday afternoon. You guys, I had to sit down when “Wish” came on. And again with “Good Intentions.” Repeat with “Last Time,” “Gutter,” and pretty much the rest of the CD. This was probably the first time in about five years that I had that kind of reaction to a CD. Beautiful lyrics rolled inside an indie rock/1980’s-esque synth-pop sound. Love it, haven’t taken it out of my car’s CD player since September. Favorite Tracks: I really want to put the whole CD on here, but I’ll narrow it down to three for consistency’s sake: “Wish”, “Good Intentions,” and “Gutter.”

So, there you have it folks. Rip it to shreds.


New theme… whatcha think?

Under major overhaul..

Okay, so all two of you who read this here blog may have noticed that all my posts have disappeared. Never fear! I am just in the process of a rather major overhaul and will be working on debuting a new blog in the coming weeks. Til then, go outside and play or something.