Thursday, February 25, 2010

Book Clubbing *Lament* by Maggie Stiefvater with Kiirstin!

I might be in the minority when I say that I enjoyed Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater more than I did Lament. Lament is the first book in duology (yeah, I went there. Or go with Two-logy if you like), I believe, as there are two books in the series and I don't see mention of a third. But that doesn't mean Maggie isn't writing it right now. I'd keep up via her website rather than through me.

Lament opens with a really great prologue. I wish I could just type it all out here for you, but I think that might step on some copyright toes. It really engaged me, it was very powerful. There is a boy in a well and you have no idea what he's doing there and why he's so scared. Then you find out that he's being Hunted by a very powerful lady. It's quite a strange way to open because I wasn't exactly sure what was going on. But reading it again after finishing the book, makes it that more powerful.

Then we're introduced to Deirdre Monaghan. She's a gifted Harp player. And I don't understand what a crazy person her mother is, but Dee pukes every time she's about to play in public. And her mother came across as this pushy child-model-mom type. Even more so, Dee's aunt. Actually her mom really bugged me in the book; she refused to let Dee kind of break out of herself. She gave Dee no credit about the guys she hung around with. As if she would only have the personality bestowed on her by them, and her mother needs to weed out the baddies for her daughter's sake. Dee IS quiet, and sometimes I thought of her as a blank slate, personality-wise. But she starts to come into her own after meeting bad-boy-with-a-heart-of-gold Luke Dillon (And I totally imagined him as a young Dylan from Bev Hills. It has to be the name: Luke Perry/Dylan Whateverhislastnamewas).

I liked Luke more than I liked Dee. I won't reveal his background in the story but he has a mystery to him that is unique in teen fiction. There are faeries in Dee's world, but Luke isn't exactly like them or one of them. He has his own secrets and most of the excitement in the book for me, was finding out the dirt on him. There's a part in the middle of the book where you're wondering why this amazing guy would out of the blue be infatuated with Dee. He just walks up to her, introduces himself and then says some pretty intimate things to her about her "potential" as a person. After he finishes holding back her hair while she throws up, that is. Anyway there's this scene in the middle fo the book where you suddenly see that Luke's motives may not be all that great and I really started paying attention.

I think the world in Lament is the strongest part of the book, for sure. There are faeries but they fall more into the category of magic realism. Their evidence in Dee's world was very subtle at first. I like this passage in particular:

"Didn't you ever wonder at the coincidence, that you and the Faerie Queen should be in such proximity? That a host of faeries should suddenly be on your doorstep?"
I felt foolish. "I--uh--guess I just thought there were a lot of faeries."
"They're here because of you. Faeries aren't like humans; Their realm and Their bodies don't really have fixed locations, like humans."
I seized the chance to look like I wasn't clueless. "You mean how some of Them use the energy of a storm, or a person, to appear."
Thomas nodded his approval; it made his curls bounce. I fought the urge to reach out and sproing one of them. "Exactly. Faeries are drawn to a certain sort of energy, and They move like satellites around that energy. The realm of Faerie centers around one person, the monarch--usually a human--who radiates that energy."

Dee's new psychic abilities come as a side effect of this phenomenon and I thought this was worked very well into the story. I really like this explanation for faeries in the world of Lament. It's quite unique.

I also want to mention how cool it is when the world of a novel extends beyond the story. Maggie Stiefvater has actually written and recorded music as a companion to the book. Hop over via the link to hear it. The Kiss, in particular is gorgeous. It really evokes the tone of the book; It is haunting and playful at the same time.


Kiirstin from A Book A Week read Lament alongside me and we had a great discussion about the book:

Mandy: Have you read any other teen books about fairies? Do you like fairies in fiction? I've only read Wicked Lovely. I can't say I'm a fairy person.

kiirstin: I'm... hmm. That's a really good question. I have, actually. O. R. Melling's books -- The Hunter's Moon being my favourite -- actually stack up quite favourably against Lament. Plus there's CanCon.

Mandy: Oh yeah. I haven't read any Melling. It's good stuff?

kiirstin: Quite. Some better than others, but largely really good. Um, the Spiderwick books too, on a junior fic level, are pretty awesome about fairies. I haven't read Wicked Lovely though. Is it comparable?

Mandy: Yeah, I think I've only read the first Spiderwick book. But it WAS good. Apparently based loosely on a true story. Or at least, Holly knew a family who claimed to see Fairies. Wicked Lovely is pretty comparable.

kiirstin: I did not know there was a kernel of truth in the Spiderwick Chronicles. I love that. I've read other fairy/Sidhe stuff too. Some of Mercedes Lackey's urban fantasies. Oh, and Charles de Lint has to count. Apparently I have read a fair bit!

Mandy: Way more than me! :) You are the fairy expert between us.

kiirstin: What was it about the fairy aspects that turned you off, do you think?

Mandy: Well Fairies in fiction don't turn me off. I just don't look out for fairies. Although I do have that assumption that fairies are going to have sparkles on them.

kiirstin: I think there is a difference between "fairy" and "faerie"

Mandy: Oh, tell me about the difference in spelling.

kiirstin: Okay. Let's see. I think the difference is maybe in my head, but I have perceived that "fairy" is usually used to mean sprites in tutus with wings and wands. And faerie, or fae, tends to be a little more on the human-sized immortal side -- what I would actually tend to call "elves" -- I am really not up on the actual mythology. Although the Wikipedia article uses the "fairy" spelling:

Mandy: Maybe it's like Vampyre? :)

kiirstin: Ha! Yes, almost certainly.

Mandy: I thought Dee's mom was kind of a jerk. And cardboard-y. She really wanted to stunt her daughter into the perfect model of daughter-dom. Kind of freaky.

kiirstin: Yes, actually, I disliked her a lot. I thought there could have been a lot more development around Dee's family situation. I think I could have found her mother an interesting character, but there wasn't enough there.

Mandy: Totally. Even with her aunt and her aunt's fate.

kiirstin: Oh my god. That whole thing, yes. I have to admit, her aunt was pretty fascinating, but how much did I want to punch her. I did like that she went from just being an overbearing, sour, terrible relative to much more sinister.

Mandy: And I like how Dee's grandmother like, knew that her aunt had something wrong with her.

Mandy: One of the scariest scenes in Lament was when Dee is in bed and kind of wakes up to realize that there's a very present dark shape in the corner of her room. So scary! I thought this scene was well done.

kiirstin: Ugh, yes! I agree. And the sort of thing that keeps people up at night. Just saying. Overall, I was pretty impressed with the scenery and descriptions. Even something as simple as the reception tent, I could identify that space. It grounded the story very well.

kiirstin: Can we talk about the beginning a bit? What worked well, what didn't?

Mandy: Yeah of course! Like the prologue, which was stellar?

kiirstin: One of the best opening scenes of a book I've read, I think.

Mandy: Absolutely. Chilling and kind of perfect.

kiirstin: It opened itself up to so many questions. Who is the boy? What are the nails for? What's the deal with the bird?

Mandy: The ambiguity was perfect. I wanted to dive into the book right away. And I love that, after having read the book, I went back to re-read the prologue and it was even cooler. All of the images made sense in a whole new way.

kiirstin: I couldn't help myself -- I had to keep reading.

kiirstin: I should try that, actually. I do think, too, it prepared me a little for feeling somewhat baffled for the first little bit of the book. Which I was.

Mandy: I love reading the beginning of books right after finishing them. I can't explain why it's such a neat experience.

kiirstin: That's pretty cool. I am absolutely going to start trying that. Was it a conscious thing that she did, do you think?

Mandy: I don't know. There's a lot of images at the beginning that are beautifully written without giving anything away. I think this was masterfully done. What was the strongest aspect of the beginning for you? After the prologue?

kiirstin: That's a hard question, because I actually got a bit frustrated with the beginning post-prologue. I think the description of place was very solid. And I did like Dee pretty much off the bat. What about you?

Mandy: I didn't love Dee. And I was like "Why is this guy being so perfect with her? So sensitive and interested in her?"

kiirstin: "And why is she okay with that?"... was my big question.

Mandy: Yeah. Luke kept telling her about herself. I mean, when is this a turn-on?

kiirstin: That's such a good point. It's actually just stalker creepy. And yet, you liked Luke, no?

Mandy: Well, he was okay. He was no Patch from Hush Hush in terms of bad boys with a heart of gold. I would liked to have seen a bit of his worse side, considering his background. There's a great scene halfway into the book where the reader starts to immediatey wonder what Luke really wants with Dee. And I felt that that could have been worked in a little better.

kiirstin: Yeah. I was never really convinced that Dee was ever in any danger from Luke, even though I think I was supposed to be.

Mandy: Yes, that's it exactly. He was too nice. And how could he be?

kiirstin: It's this whole problem of having "teenage" characters who are incredibly old, and yet don't seem to carry the weight of their history at all.

Mandy: Exactly.

kiirstin: He acts quite mature, but undamaged. One would expect someone with his life experience to be permanently scarred by it. If he really was a nice, decent guy, I would think that his experiences would have made him crazy.

Mandy: Like Spike, season 7.

kiirstin: Yes! Yes. Ah, Spike.

Mandy: Incapable of a relationship, really. Or at least really messed up about them. Not the perfect guy that any girl would swoon over.

kiirstin: Yeah. A pretty scary creature, all-in-all. Who probably needs at least 500 years of talk therapy to work his way through his problems.

Mandy: "talk therapy" -- too funny

kiirstin: I did enjoy Lament -- I'm glad I read it. I really think Maggie Stiefvater's writing has a lot of potential, and I'm looking forward to trying Shiver. It wasn't quite what I was expecting, but I think I had pretty high expectations. Overall, though, the world-building and setting seems to be something we both appreciated.

Mandy: I also liked the "explanation" for how faeries use their powers, based on consuming and manipulating energy. Very smart and unique.

kiirstin: And the way it wasn't Faerie that granted Dee her powers, but rather that her powers made her a target. Like Faerie was a side-effect.

Mandy: Very cool.


Unknown said...

*does a little jig in the comments section*

*gets feet tangled*

Literature Crazy said...

Your book club "angle" to reviews is interesting. At the beginning of your review I was thinking, "Nah, this book isn't for me." But then you got into reviewing Luke and I thought, "I love bad boys/heart of gold/sinister motives (a la, Marcus Flutie in Sloppy Firsts)." But then I read the book review/chat portion at the end and agreed with both of you guys' sentiments that immortal characters trapped in the bodies of teenagers (with all that baggage) shouldn't come across as well-adjusted, it just doesn't sit right. (Think: Edward Cullen. Too idealistic, too poor of a character.)

All in all, I don't think I'll read this one. (However, I've had Shiver on my TBR, so this author isn't a loss for me.)

By the way, you totally need to read the Sloppy Firsts series (five books in all) by Megan McCafferty if you're looking for bad boy/perceived heart of gold/sinister motives that works. (Because he's not immortal. He really is 17-19 years old. With all of those flaws.)

Tales of Whimsy said...

I love Lament but haven't tried Shiver yet :)

The Library Lurker said...

I liked Shiver more than Lament too, and I liked Ballad more than Lament, though not as much as Shiver. I thought that Lament was confusing in places and I never really connected with Dee, but the writing is beautiful, and I loved the prologue too. Great review! And convo ;)

Shannon O'Donnell said...

As always, another fabulous and convincing review!

I'll have an award for you on my Saturday post. :-)

Katie said...

Maggie's music is amazing -- a perfect companion to her books. I wound up listening to her song for "Ballad" while writing the review.

Love when you and Kiirstin get together to have book club!

Phyl said...

I love when you guys do this! It's always fascinating, reading your different perspectives, and then your conversations about the book. Talk about giving the book a thorough review!

Thanks so much for this; I can't wait for the next one!


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