Geek Out: In Depth Analysis of The Mortal Instruments

Megan and Justine dive into The Mortal Instruments Book Series by Cassandra Clare, the movie adaptation City of Bones, and the television show Shadowhunters. If you want to see us get a little crazy, give it watch!

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Bibliobattling

A/N: This post was taken from Justine Manzano’s blog which can be found here

According to Bibliobattle’s official website, “Bibliobattle is a social book review game which was developed in the Graduate School of Informatics at Kyoto University in Japan.” The first and second American Bibliobattles took place at Kinokuniya NYC and I happened to be part of both of them. Because I would like for you to someday be a part of them as well, I’d like to describe my experience to you and see if I can maybe get you to sign up for a future Bibliobattle.

Me and Megan, putting up our dukes
No, it’s not engaging in fisticuffs, but little sis (Megan Manzano) and I thought it would be a great pic.

How it Works:

The organizer assigns a topic in advance to determine what kind of books will be used to battle. This can take place up to a month before the actual battle. When a date is assigned, the organizer asks what book each battler will use. Those books will actually be available on the table for reference or purchase during the battle.

On the day of the battle, the contestants pick a number and that selects the order. Then each battler goes up one by one. They get five minutes to discuss why they love their chosen book, and three more minutes of Q&A time with the audience. Once all battlers go up, a vote is taken in the audience. Which book do you want to read the most?

The winner gets a prize, but everyone gets a little something for participating. I usually walk out with a handful of books that I’ve now grown interested in after watching the other battlers at work.

Technique:

How you Bibliobattle is up to you, but this is what I’ve learned after two Bibliobattles (admittedly, not that many, but everything is a learning experience). The first time I participated, the theme was YA novels, and I chose a whopper. If anyone has ever read the Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness, they can tell you the sheer breadth of material it covers: war/peace, misogyny, racism, fear of “the other”, the power of being unique, religion and how it can be corrupted, what makes a man a man. It’s an amazing novel, but it is a very deep read.

So, when I sat down to prepare my Bibliobattle speech, I wrote a book report. I loved my chosen book because of all of the deep topics it delved into, and the way it presented them. I wrote a five page paper on these things, how the voice, the structure, and the formatting of the book informed the way these issues were brought across and why they hit so hard.

I had a lot of good points, but when I sat down to actually battle, I ended up jumping through my original pitch and being cut off in the final lines of my report by the ringing bell. Oops. (If you check out the link to the first battle at the bottom of the page, you can watch me run out of steam. It’s a tad embarrassing. Luckily, I like to make fun of myself).

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Me during my first Bibliobattle

When I was asked to do a second Bibliobattle, this time for the Supernatural genre, I signed up without having a clue about which book I would choose. I loved Supernatural books, and I could probably talk about them for DAYS, no problem. So I agreed to tackle it again, this time from a different angle.

Using Kelley Armstrong’s Omens, the first book of my absolute favorite book series, made my new approach easier. I love Ness’ series for many cerebral reasons, and they are just as worthwhile as the reasons I love Armstrong’s series. But while there is middle ground regarding both books, the main reasons I love Armstrong’s is all heart.

I fell in love with the characters. I loved the mythology. The mystery of it all intrigued me. Yes, the story covers interesting history and contains important character studies that subvert the tropes of strong female characters and leading men. Yes, the mystery was twisty and surprising. There were intellectual reasons to love it, but there was also plenty of heart reasons to love it.

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Me at Bibliobattle 2 with moderator CJ Malarsky

So, I sat down and wrote out all of the reasons I enjoyed the book. I read it a few times so it stuck in my head. And when the day of the battle came, I spoke from memory and from heart. Though I didn’t win that time either, I did finish it without running out of steam, and I felt better about the way I’d spoken, because I’d been able to speak to the people reading, rather than read to them. I think I found my technique!

Videos/Images:

Want to see the Bibliobattles I discussed? Well, here’s the first:

And here’s the second one, in which YA writer Zoraida Cordova participated:

To stay in the know regarding upcoming Bibliobattles in the US, follow Kinokuniya on Twitter andFacebook. See you at the next battle!

Gilded Cage: A Review

**A/N: This review was taken from Megan’s writing blog. A link to the original post can be found here.**  

Hello Reader & Writers,

I was lucky to win an ARC of Gilded Cage by Vic James from VDBookVogi. Feel free to check out their site here. This YA book is due for release on February 14th, 2017. I will keep this review mostly spoiler free, so you don’t need to close the tab.

The plot centers around two kinds of people in the world: Equals and commoners. The Equals are humans who possess magical gifts called Skill. The families that have Skill are aristocrats, who also have money, power, and seats of government. The political and social strata of the world are set up like an alternative Victorian England.

 

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From Megan’s Instagram, Written – Infinities

In this society, the Equals are free, but commoners have to do slave years, where they work for ten years and only then are they given full benefits of society. Commoners are deemed citizens before this time, but completing slave years opens up further doors for them. My main problem with this set up was it didn’t make sense for Equals to have slaves or this set up in society when they have powers that can complete all these tasks not only quickly, but without having to exert much effort on their own behalf. In a way, it has made them lazy, some choosing to not use their Skill often at all. The Equals claim it is so they can govern, but it’s clear they can do both with how powerful the majority of them are. If anything, it makes more sense that they want to keep this divide because they feel they are better than commoners.

My other issue with the book was a lot of history  was thrown into the early chapters, making it a bit difficult to muddle through and pin down when it happened. I did complete the book, and wound up enjoying it, but that was because a lot of the history gets teased out more efficiently in the later chapters.

I was hesitant at first when I saw this book had multiple POVs. These can either work really well or wind up giving away too much or complicating the book. Vic James did a great job of balancing what she was giving away and what you as the reader were going to find out. You are able to get a glance into not only the life of commoners, but the aristocrats as well, each holding notable and different personalities. It is through these POVs that the history of the world comes together, each character having their bits of the puzzle to share.

The view points that hold most of the story are Luke’s and Abi’s, a commoner brother and sister who undergo two very separate experiences. I loved Luke for he grappled with the complications of morality versus following his family. He finds it in himself to question how things are. Abi, on the other hand, tries to use the system in order to benefit her and her family. She is the leader who tries to keep things in order, but she realizes how the picture is not always black and white. The other POVs shift between members, or those involved with, the noble Jardine family. I found myself intrigued in all of these tales too for the Jardine siblings clash with their own agendas and you have a family navigating a politically charged climate. They’re not all good people, but it is worth diving into their heads and experiences.

Once I got past the early chapters, I was hooked into the book. I wanted to learn more about the politics, what secrets the aristocratic society had, how Abi and Luke were going to make it in a world that was geared against them. By the end, I was freaking out because Vic James throws some dark stuff in there that made my jaw drop. The book makes up for the majority of its complications in the beginning through its characters and in depth glances at this unfair world. It is heavily political and deals without a lot of questions involving human worth, class divide, and corruption.

Overall, this gets 4/5 stars from me and I’m looking forward to the next book in the trilogy.

Xx

Megan

History Is All You Left Me: A Review

**A/N: This review was taken from Megan’s writing blog. A link to the original post can be found here.**  

Hello Reader & Writers,

Before I start, I want to say that this book deals with a lot of heavy themes, death being the major one. Aside from that, there are questions revolving around self-identity, guilt, love, and healing. Like the last review I did, this one will be spoiler free.

The book follows a boy named Griffin who is dealing with the loss of his ex-boyfriend, but 16110820_1379092425448606_7296860998785302528_n1first love, Theo. It alternates between history (the past), and today (the present). In the history snapshots, the reader learns about how Theo and Griffin got together, their relationship, and the bumps they encounter along the way. The present focuses on Griffin trying to deal with death and not always in the best way. The only person Griffin finds who truly understands what he is going through is Theo’s boyfriend at the time of his death, Jackson.

I read More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera at the end of last year and it was an emotional trip. Having heard about Adam’s new book, I expected the same, but was surprised to find out this book was much worse. I will admit I needed to take breaks while reading, because emotions were displayed so vividly that I required time to gather myself. I’ve seen a lot of reviews and responses to Adam’s book, most of them mentioning the undesirable need to cry. I didn’t cry, but I felt every emotion as if it were my own. I felt numbness and desperation and an ache in my chest.

Despite all of these emotions swirling around inside of me, I finished the book in one day. I haven’t done that in quite some time. I wasn’t able to pull away from the strength of Adam’s prose, how every sentence felt as if it belonged there, how every sentence made me feel for Griffin and the other characters involved. Adam treated the theme of death with respect; he didn’t sugarcoat it or romanticize it. Death hurts and it’s not the same journey for everyone, especially for those who are young. It is not always about “getting over it” or “moving on.”

I’m also going to award praise to the portrayal of Griffin’s OCD and compulsions. The reader learns early on that Griffin has these characteristics about him, things that even Griffin questions, especially as the book progresses. He prefers even numbers and has to stand on someone’s left whenever he is walking or sitting beside them. The uniqueness of the tale is Adam doesn’t portray OCD the way it is commonly seen – a need to be clean at all times or hyper-organization. Adam shows that OCD can manifest in other ways.

Another component of the book I enjoyed was Adam’s portrayal of sexuality. Theo defines his sexuality as liking “good people, period.” This pleased me as a reader because it opened up the conversation that sexuality doesn’t always follow a strict guideline. It isn’t always about liking just men or just women. It could come down to whoever makes you feel good, whoever you can relate to, whoever has your best interest at heart. Love is simply love and everyone experiences it differently.

This book has easily found its way onto my favorites list. It was brutally gut-wrenching, but it does not warrant an apology. Youth tends to be idolized – they cannot die or when they do it is a great tragedy. Theo’s death is a tragedy and History Is All You Left Me challenges this stereotype. It also brings up the question of how would you live your life if you knew you didn’t have much time? I found myself thinking about these questions as I read. I found myself thinking about those I loved. I found myself missing Theo, despite him being a fictional character.

Adam Silvera, I want to thank you for writing this book, for making me laugh and grieve and find hope in your story. I can only imagine what this drew out of you as a writer, being one myself. But trust me when I say, this book is everything it needs to be and more.

5/5 Puzzle Pieces for me.
(You’ll understand this reference once you read this book).

Xx

Megan

When The Moon Was Ours: A Review

**A/N: This review was taken from Megan’s writing blog. A link to the original post can be found here.**  

Hello Readers & Writers,

I decided quite recently that I would start doing book reviews on my blog. The first will be dedicated to When The Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore. This review will be spoiler free so if you haven’t read it yet, there is no need to click away.

I chose this book because it was the first book I read in 2017 that really hooked me. I nearly forgot to get off the train.

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My biggest disclaimer about the book is it may not be for everyone. Anna-Marie McLemore has a unique style of prose, one that feels like poetry and fairytale wrapped into one. There is a lot of description dedicated to nature, colors, and spices. Instead of prose that is
straight to the point, she guides the reader through beautiful images. I found myself unable to put the book down. I was in a trance, seeing picture after picture in mind. It brought me to life, almost like a story ripped from a painting. She connects a lot of emotions to nature and different shades of color. You will feel everything, not just in your heart, but through your senses.

The story follows best friends Miel and Sam. A water tower collapses in a small town and Miel comes out of it. At first the town is horrified; they see Miel as a feral creature that has breached the safety of their town. Sam, who is a child equally as young as Miel, approaches her and tells her that it will be okay. From there, the two grow into teenagers and that is when the majority of the story takes place.

This book is rather odd, keep that in mind. It is rooted in fantasy. Miel has the ability to grow roses from her wrists. She has secrets that she has yet to tell and face herself. Sam creates and draws moon in order to comfort Miel. He too is hiding something, that Miel and his mother know, but it takes a personal journey to truly come to terms with it. Aracely, who is Miel’s guardian, is able to cast lovesickness away from broken hearts. The Bonner sisters, a well known family in this town, are able to make boys fall in love with them as they please. They don’t know what the word ‘no’ means. There is also the antagonism that comes from small town setting. Everyone knows everyone so gossip runs wild as to prejudices.

Anna-Marie McLemore takes you far away from reality, which I loved, but also keeps bits and pieces of reality too. She captures intimate feelings of love, self-identity, family, revenge, friendship, and bravery. From the Author’s Note she leaves in the book, you learn she has a close relationship with one of the main plots in the book. I will not say what, but read the Author’s Note, and learn her closeness to some of the characters she created. Me, as a reader, I felt the sincerity. I felt the rawness. I felt what it’s like to not be what you want to be or struggle with who you are. Anna-Marie McLemore does not shy away from diving into the depths of her characters – a brutal honesty that I admire and I believe other readers will as well.

If you want to try something different, leave normalcy behind, read this book. It entrances you. The characters are beautifully diverse and strong. You will root for Miel and Sam through every page.

Let me know, if you have read this book, your thoughts below. I would love to discuss this book further. If not, consider picking it up.

It gets 5/5 roses from me. 7279c94b53437c1ecb78f56d7fe4bf2b

Xx

Megan