Monthly Archives: April 2012

Do you like the dark?

People have been asking “Why do you like horror movies?” My mother asks me all the time “How can you watch (CSI, Criminal Minds, Walking Dead, etc.)?” as she’s shaking her head wondering how she raised a woman who likes to watch this kind of stuff.  “I just do” is my only answer.  It’s also a question that has been bandied about concerning young adult books.  Sometimes, I think kids like to read about people whose lives are worse than their own; who have problems bigger than theirs.  I don’t know if it’s because they want to see how the characters handle the situations so that they can be inspired to tackle their own issues or if my answer to my mother is also theirs.  I do believe that reading about someone close to their own age who solves a problem or survives the catastrophic event helps kids deal with their own insecurities and issues.  I read a great blog post by a young woman taking a course on Horror Literature and she had some interesting insight.

I just finished reading Blood Wounds by Susan Beth Pfeffer.  It is not horror in the traditional monster, blood & guts, slasher story.  It is based on a story you might see featured on the evening news.

Willa and her mother escaped a horrible situation back in Texas.  Her father was a heavy drinker and violently abusive.  One night, Terry packs as much as she can, grabs Willa and flees into the night.  Willa barely remembers Budge until the day she was forced to.  It was all over the news…the bloody murder of a mother and two little girls, and a third one is missing…Budge is the prime suspect.  Worse, the police say that he is headed east where Willa and Terry now live the perfect life with the perfect man and perfect teenaged girls.  How can it be that quiet, calm Willa is the child of a murderer?  As she tries to balance the good things she does remember of her father and the man who killed his wife and children, Willa must uncover the secrets her mother kept and figure out who she is now.

Pfeffer’s dark tale is about a monster of a different sort…the human kind which is actually more frightening than the made-up ones you find in traditional horror because he is a real person you might have passed on the sidewalk or riding along the highway.  Young adult authors are accused, unfairly, of writing sensational stories that are “ripped from the headlines” merely to sell books.  I’m not sure I understand why it’s a bad thing to write about what we see everyday when adult writers do it all the time and don’t catch any flack.  Even the so-called “classics” were popular fiction at one time.  You can’t tell me that Frankenstein wasn’t sensational fiction back when Mary Shelley wrote it and I’d be willing to bet that critics blasted it as such.

Young people in modern times need a way to explore darkness from the relative safety of their own homes.  We don’t send our children on quests to find themselves like our ancient ancestors did.  If a book can help show a teenager that, despite how horrible a situation might be, A. it could always be worse, and B. there is a way out then I’m all for dark and frightening tales of horror.

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Steampunk Revisited

I don’t think I’ve mentioned, recently, how very much I love steampunk.  I love everything about it…the clothing, the jewelry, the gadgets and, of course, the books.

    

I have just finished a really great and truly steampunk novel called The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross.  I checked it out from my library in ebook format and really enjoyed reading it on my iPad and thought it quite apropos to be reading it on a gadget.

Finley Jayne is an unusual girl.  You can’t see it but, when she feels threatened, you will know it.  She is currently working for the August-Raynes family as a lady’s maid but runs afoul of Felix, the eldest son and a scoundrel. One night, she is on her way home from working very late and Felix approaches her with evil intentions.  When he makes his move, Finley’s darker side takes over…literally, and she slams him into a wall!  Unfortunately, he doesn’t get the message and comes at her again, cursing.  The thing inside of her gives her the strength of 10 men and she defends herself with force, leaving Felix in a puddle of blood.  He was lucky to still be alive but now, Finley is on the run.  Her feet take her directly into the path a speeding contraption driven by one Lord Griffin Greythorn.  On impact, Griffin is certain he has killed the young girl but he and his giant friend Sam pick her up and take her home for Emily, resident genius and gifted healer, to look after.  This action changes the course of all of their lives, for better and for worse. Whether she realizes it or not, she is like these new friends, each of whom has a secret.  They band together to fight a terrifying threat.  The Machinist is a reprobate who has developed a new kind of automaton.  He sends them out to commit crimes for him.  At first, the thefts seem random but, soon a truly sinister plot is uncovered and Griffin and his friends must work together to defeat him before it’s too late.

In fine steampunk form, Kady Cross embraces all things mechanically Victorian.  Her characters are intriguing, each with a secret buried just beneath the surface; some innocuous like unrequited love, others more deadly.  Finley, herself, has an interesting past of which even she is unaware.  The only problem I had as I read was that I felt like I had stepped into the middle of a series and, as it turns out, I did.  I went in search of what I was missing and found The Strange Case of Finley Jayne, the first book in the series but, by then I was too far into the story to stop so that will be my next read.  The ending clearly leaves room for a sequel but I’m also hoping for a prequel!  While the idea of any kind of corset is uncomfortably confining, an armored one with weapons built in sounds like a must-have for a Victorian lady who wants to take care of herself!  If you are as big a fan of steampunk then this is a series you cannot miss!

Other steampunk novels include the following titles.  The ones in bold are in the VWL.

Steampunk! an anthology
Steampunk Poe
Clockwork Angel & Clockwork Prince/Clare
Airborn/Oppel
The Dark Deeps/Slade
Pastworld/Beck
Fever Crumb/Reeve
Iron Thorn/Kitteridge
Lady of Devices/Adina
Steampunk Detective
Viridis/Taylor

Pictures from Flickr, Creative Commons area

If you are interested in buying some really fantastic steampunk stuff (clothing, jewelry, etc.) you absolutely must check out Etsy.  Everything there is handmade and beautiful.  They have some steampunk owl jewelry that I drool over all the time and will buy, one of these days.

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