Thursday, July 30, 2015

Go Set a Watchman | by: Harper Lee

I always thought it was kind of weird that Harper Lee had only written one book, but, when the only book you've ever written happens to be To Kill a Mockingbird, I guess you don't really need to write another one to be content with your writing accomplishments. Or financially stable. And after all this time has passed since the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird, most wouldn't have expected a new Harper Lee book, let alone a sequel to her beloved classic.
But then it was announced that Go Set a Watchman was to be published - I can even tell you what I was doing the day I heard - and the literary world exploded with both happiness and confusion. There were a lot of questions being asked about whether or not Harper Lee truly wanted this book published, and I realize many are still too suspicious to go near the new book at this point, but there was an official investigation which ultimately seemed to demonstrate that Harper Lee wasn't being taken advantage of
That situation aside, expectations for this book were generally set quite high. Personally, the only expectation I had for Go Set a Watchman was that it'd simply be good - I didn't need it to necessarily match To Kill a Mockingbird's greatness. Based on reviews I'd read, it didn't seem like people were putting it in the same league as To Kill a Mockingbird, and that made me perhaps even more curious to see what it's like. And then of course, I heard about Atticus...
It's only natural that we'd be heartbroken to hear that Scout has come back to Maycomb County to find out that her father is racist. But for those who resent Harper Lee for destroying our vision of a perfect human being who defends human rights despite the odds... Well, what are you going to do when people surprise you like this in the real world? Just say "I'm not going to deal with it" and turn away? And that's really the point of this book - to show us that people will oftentimes never be perfect, that we shouldn't idolize, and that we should come to our own conclusions about who's right and what's right, even when we disagree with our friends. Furthermore, no matter who's right and who's wrong, we all have to live with one another as we fight for what we believe. How can we hold our own against Atticus if we can't bear the unfortunate truth about him? The themes of this book are just as relevant in today's world as those of To Kill a Mockingbird.
In short, I think Go Set a Watchman is brilliant. Atticus' future is everything we didn't want for him, but I don't think there could have been a better sequel to follow up a novel about doing what's right. Scout is just as interesting and relatable as she was as a tomboy in her childhood, and while it's so easy to be disappointed in Atticus, it's just as easy to be proud of her. Rather than feel the need to mimic Atticus' morals as it seems she's always done, she has opinions and feelings of her own.
I think every girl who's more liberal than her mother can see herself in Scout's quarrels with Aunt Alexandra, and she has to realize that Alexandra is a human too, much like her realization about Atticus. And even though these are all very serious concepts and undertones, Go Set a Watchman is written in the same funny way as To Kill a Mockingbird. Harper Lee's style will always feel sort of home-y to me with the perfect combination of feelings that can be extracted, and that's ultimately what allowed me to plow through this book so damn fast. And of course, it was quite intriguing to see what other characters from To Kill a Mockingbird ended up doing with their lives, like Dill and Jem, and we are treated to more childhood flashbacks. Unfortunately nothing is included about the Radleys, who were always of high interest to me... but I really cannot complain about this book.
I realize that there are quite a few people who won't agree with me about Go Set a Watchman, but I don't care. Harper Lee should be just as proud as this novel as she should be of To Kill a Mockingbird. I truly loved this book, and I dare to deem it the perfect sequel. I even shed a tear at the end.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Throne of Glass | by: Sarah J. Maas

Throne of Glass seems to be one of the most-loved fantasy series in YA right now and I had definitely been feeling the hype. The last book I read with a ton of hype was Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and it didn't sit well with me overall, and I was afraid of Throne of Glass being a similar disappointment. Fortunately, it wasn't.
The premise itself is pretty deep. An assassin by the name of Celaena Sardothien has been enslaved by the Kingdom of Adarlan after finally being caught, and she has been kept in absolutely wretched conditions. But now she has the chance to win freedom through a competition, the only problem being that she would have to work for the King of Adarlan if she won, the very person responsible for all her traumas. As if that situation wasn't emotionally-compromising enough, it's becoming apparent that someone in the glass castle is using magic for brutal murder. Oh, and there's a love triangle.
So, there's a lot of drama to absorb in this one, but it's all quite epic. The idea of an Otherworld and the people and creatures who roam between dimensions reminds me a bit of Prophecy of the Sisters by Michelle Zink, but I think the magic has a lot more potential in this series. To be honest, I thought the mystery of who could possibly be causing the murders and for what purpose was relatively easy to figure out, but the lack of a major twist in that department doesn't make this book less intriguing. I found the characters far too interesting to ever be bored.
Our leading lady Celaena is different than what I generally expect from badass female protagonists. While she is undoubtedly tough and lets everyone know it (and possesses the skills to prove herself), she still has a feminine side that shines through. She may be able to kill even the most-skilled of those around her within minutes, but she still wants to wear dresses and attend balls. She still has a puppy. Her inability to remain confined to one stereotype is what I like most about her.

Even the love triangle flows better than in most novels. Chaol and Dorian are actually both contenders, much like Gale and Peeta in much of the Hunger Games books. Far too often, a second love interest is only thrown into the mix for the sole purpose of shaking things - he/she scarcely ever seems to be a real contender. But both Chaol and Dorian get plenty of time with Celaena and both are so different that it's easy to appreciate them individually. I'm honestly not very sure how this will end up working, but I certainly look forward to finding out.

Plus, it's obvious that Celaena is going to be part of something even bigger than she ever imagined, and I think the series will be even more epic because of it. Throne of Glass was a great series-starter - Sarah J. Maas definitely has me hooked - and I'm very optimistic about what the rest of the series will be like.