Friday, February 22, 2013

Redemption (and a Recommendation)

Do you believe that people can truly change for the better?

For many people the idea of redemption is integral to religion or personal philosophy. In the context of novels, however, I'm becoming convinced that a book's flavor depends a lot on whether the author has an underlying belief in redemption.

Based on their books I would guess that some authors don't subscribe to that philosophy. I would say they are probably more of the mind that people do change, frequently, but not necessarily for good or ill. They simply become a different version of themselves through age and circumstance. And I understand the thought behind that idea. All of us face choices every day; sometimes we make good decisions and sometimes not. Nobody is always good or always bad.

But other authors, whether they realize it or not, very clearly do believe in redemption. Any story about "the power of love" or about a hero whose internal convictions overcome negative circumstance is, in my view, a story of positive change. Obviously any tale of a villain seeing the error of his ways and making a change is a redemption story. (And now all I can think of is Despicable Me.)

Personally I'm a sucker for redemption stories. I love to watch someone who is flawed become less flawed through the conflicts that arise in a story. I love to see that internal struggle as an anti-hero recognizes his shortcomings and determines to change.

This is one of the reasons I'm loving the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series by Laini Taylor. It is, in essence, about two people who desperately seek redemption, but whose circumstances constantly make that goal harder and harder to reach. It's a long, painful road to redemption, and they don't always make the right choices. Their ultimate success is not guaranteed (and with the series still in progress, it's impossible to know for certain what will happen). And yet they are trying, and there is hope.

It's difficult to say what exactly the books are about without giving away too much of the story. I can say this much: they're about a blue-haired girl living in Prague who is an art student on the surface, but who has a secret life collecting teeth on the side for the monsters who raised her. Intrigued? Just wait. There's so much more to the story.

It's a totally fascinating series, with a gripping plot and characters who feel very tangible. It's creative and stunning and beautiful. Best of all, it explores this in-depth struggle for redemption in ways which I've seen few other YA books do.

So what about you? Do you like redemption stories? What are your favorites?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

New Meme

Well, from all appearances it looks like these days all the blogging I'm doing is in response to memes I've been tagged in. Sorry about that! I have several book recommendations I'd like to write up, hopefully soon. In the meantime, here's the meme, thanks to Paul Shortt.

This particular meme is the Liebster Award, and it has its various rules and questions and... well, I'm not much good at following rules when it comes to memes, so I'll just make up my own.

The first rule was to share 11 facts about me. I think I'm just going to stick to one. I find that more interesting. And this is my one fact:

The thing that has surprised me most about writing is how much I enjoy doing the research. I never liked writing papers in school, and the research for them always annoyed me. I could see the point of doing it, but I could never apply the research to anything long term. When it comes to books, though, the research suddenly becomes fascinating. One of my most recent research subjects was British currency from the 1840s. I looked up what different coins were in circulation at that time (some of it was really quite confounding), and how much a typical family in London might spend on various necessities. I loved learning all the information. It truly fascinated me in ways that it never would have if I'd been doing the research for a term paper.

The next rule was to answer 11 questions from Paul. This I'm happy to do. My modification: I'd love to see Paul's answers to all of these.

  1. What movie do you secretly love? Oh dear, confession time, hm? There are a lot of movies I love, and few of them are secret. I'm a big action movie fan. But in general I don't like rewatching movies very much. There are very few I enjoy more than two or three times. But one of them—my shameful secret I suppose—is the movie Accepted. I really have no idea why, but it always amuses me.
  2. If you could travel to any place in the world, where would it be? You know how people say that if you throw a coin into Trevi Fountain in Rome you are destined to return there some day? Well I've been to Trevi Fountain, and while I loved it I don't feel a need to return. But there's another place that is my equivalent of Trevi. It's the beach of Rhyl in the north of Wales. I was there about 8 or 9 years ago, and I've always felt like I needed to go back. That and I want to continue on from there to Conwy Castle once again.
  3. When you were a child, what was your dream job? Astronomer. But then one day a real astronomer told me that in his career he didn't actually get to sit outside looking at the stars all night, and the dream pretty much died right there.
  4. What was your favourite childhood toy? I had lots of favorites over the years, but the one that comes to mind right now is this pair of tiny dolls. They had hard plastic heads and squishy bean bag bodies, and I liked to squeeze the bodies between my thumb and forefinger and make their heads nod back and forth.
  5. Do you have any hobbies that don't involve reading, writing, or that don't involve the internet? I crochet. My grandmother taught me how, but she's left-handed and I'm right-handed, so I'm half certain I'm doing most of the stitches a little incorrectly. I can never seem to follow a pattern printed on paper, though I can usually figure out how to make something if I see an example of it, and I love making up my own patterns.
  6. Do you have a lifelong dream? Time for another confession I suppose. I always wanted to have an idea that nobody ever had before. It's a very egotistical dream. But it's probably why I ended up writing.
  7. When did you come to realise it? Wow, really looking for all my embarrassing secrets, aren't you? I was in middle school, and I thought that I had come up with some brilliant new way of understanding dimensions past the 4th. I was lying on my bed imagining that I was on some talk show where they kept telling me how brilliant I was for coming up with this while only in middle school.
  8. What tv show could you watch over and over? As in rewatch or just keep watching if the series continued to air forever? Honestly I'm not sure I have an answer to either. As a kid I watched Lois and Clark and loved it so much. I watched the whole series again recently and still really enjoyed it, but I don't think I could just keep rewatching it. White Collar is one of my favorites now, but I don't know that it will always be. I'm getting more and more into Dr. Who, so maybe that. Hard to say though.
  9. What one part of modern living could you not live without? Plumbing and sanitation. I'm a germaphobe.
  10. What one part of modern living would you love to live without? Unhealthy food additives. There's so much in our food that we aren't even aware of. And I realize that going back to "pure" food would change our entire way of life, but if there was some way to have both...
  11. What book or movie are you most looking forward to in 2013? The books I was looking forward to are all out already! Days of Blood and Starlight, The Archived and Scarlet are all recent releases that I really looked forward to and thoroughly enjoyed. (I'm in the middle of Scarlet right now as it just came out yesterday.)
    As for movies, I'm very excited about the new Star Trek. Really really looking forward to that.

And that's it! I don't think I'll tag anyone, but if you'd like to do the meme, please go ahead! Paul had some really great questions, so go ahead and use those.

All the best to you all.