Wednesday, August 31, 2016

My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

"You may think you know the story. It goes like this: once upon a time, there was a sixteen-year-old girl named Jane Grey, who was forced to marry a complete stranger (Lord Guildford or Gilford or Gifford-something-or-other), and shortly thereafter found herself ruler of a country, She was queen for nine days. Then she quite literally lost her head....
We have a different story to tell...."
My Lady Jane is a VERY loose account of Lady Jane Grey's nine day reign as Queen of England. In real life, Henry VIII had been King, he married Catherine of Aragon, she gave birth to a daughter, Mary. Henry was not pleased with the lack of a male heir, so he decided to put a ring on his mistress, Anne Boleyn. Unfortunately, England was a Catholic nation and divorce wasn't allowed. Ever the resourceful once, Henry decided to start his own church and have all the divorces he wanted. Poor Anne only gave him one daughter, Elizabeth, before losing her head. His third wife finally gave him a son, Edward. After a few more wives, Henry dies and leaves Edward in charge.

Edward grew ill, and it was soon discovered that he would die. To keep England from falling under Catholic control, Edward changed the line of succession. Instead of going to Mary, the crown would go to his cousin Jane. Mary doesn't take it well, raises an army, and takes the throne back. Jane and her husband Guilford end up losing their heads.

My Lady Jane is, somewhat surprisingly, a comedy. Less surprisingly, it accomplishes this by taking a lot of liberties with the actual history. The main players are all the same. The religious war has been replaced with a battle over shapeshifters. E∂ians are humans who can change into animals. There is a party that opposes them, that believes they should all be killed. King Henry VIII surprised his country by turning into a lion to maul an unfortunate messenger. Unfortunately, he has passed away and left the country to his only son Edward. Edward has recently found out that he is ill with the Affliction, and it's getting worse. His chief advisor urges him to name a successor.

The country would normally go to Edward's oldest sister Mary, but she is strongly against E∂ians. His advisor Lord Dudley's solution is to leave the throne to Edward's sensible cousin Jane. Jane would marry the advisor's son Gifford, and the throne would pass to any male heirs that they produce.

Lady Jane Grey is not well known at court. She has a profound love of reading, and a dislike for parties. She's a girl after my own heart. Jane has been engaged several times, and her fiance always fell into some misfortune. She doesn't think that the new engagement will be any different, but the wedding is scheduled to take place in only a couple of days.

Her fiance, Gifford (He prefers G, but I don't), is also not well known at court. He has a pretty good reason, though: he is an E∂ian and spends his days, from sunrise to sundown, as a horse. Unlike other shapeshifters, he can't control his changes. Gifford is in love with Jane from the moment he sets eyes on her, but she thinks that he finds her ugly. Jane is offended by Gifford's "hobbies." He has worked hard to maintain a reputation as a lady's man in court, but it's a front to cover up his terrible secret: Gifford writes poetry which he reads in taverns.

In spite of being prepared for the "special hug" that comes after marriage, Jane and Gifford do not consummate their marriage. Instead, they live together rather tensely. He makes fun of her books, she makes fun of the fact that he is a horse. They bond on their Honeymoon by taking food and supplies to a village that was attacked by rogue E∂ians. When they finally start to like like each other, they find out that Edward has died. Jane is now the Queen of England.

As it turns out, Edward isn't actually dead. His favorite dog, Pet (Short for Petunia) turns out to actually be the daughter of one of the stablehands. Pet informs Edward that Dudley has been poisoning him in order to make him appear ill. Edward manages to escape the turning into a falcon and flying away.

Jane is advised to pass the throne to Gifford, but she refuses. This makes Gifford's father angry and hurts G's feelings a bit. Unfortunately, as Jane is being crowned Queen, Mary is gathering an army to fight her. Soon enough, Jane and Gifford are thrown in the Tower of London waiting to get their heads cut off, and Dudley is at Mary's side. This is basically where the real story ends. Fortunately, this one has a happier ending. 

I really loved My Lady Jane. It's really very funny, and I loved the anachronistic humor (There were constant jokes about things not being invented yet). Jane and Gifford were super cute together, even when they were being kind of infuriating. I may have spent the majority of the book wanting them to just kiss already. At least they fared better than their real counterparts. There was a part where they were locked in the Tower, and Gifford carves Jane's name in the wall of his cell, and I was Googling the real story, and...
I'm not going to lie, this made me sob a little. Aww, poor Gifford/Guildford! Poor Jane. Thankfully, as I said, we get a much happier ending here. My History degree is crying a little bit, but the rest of me is satisfied.

Patsy Walker A.K.A. Hellcat, Volume 1: Hooked on a Feline by Kate Leth and Brittney Williams

I knew Patsy Walker best in the form of Trish on Jessica Jones. Trish is actually really awesome, but I was a little skeptical about the comic. I don't know why I was, because it was absolutely delightful.

The plot involves Patsy putting her life back together after spending some time in Hell. While she was otherwise occupied, Patsy's frenemy Hedy has republished the old comics based on Patsy and her friends. Patsy's mother gave her the rights to the series, and Patsy hasn't gotten any money from the deal.

She could really use the money as She-Hulk had to let her go from her detective agency, and she also has to stop living in the supply closet. Patsy manages to bounce back, befriending a telekinetic almost-villain named Ian and moving in as his roommate. As Hellcat, she manages to fight and then befriend people with powers. This gives her the idea to open a job agency to pair people with powers with employers. It's a good solution, as lots of people with powers don't want to fight or commit crime, they just want to make a living.

It turns out that the people that Hellcat has been fighting are being recruited. A mysterious person has been seeking out people with powers on the internet. They have to prove that they are bad by committing a crime, then they can join the group. This person promises them anything that they need: a car, money for student loans, etc. It's up to Hellcat to stop this villain's evil plot!

Patsy/Hellcat is such a spunky and enthusiastic character, so I loved her. My immediate thought was that I wanted her to hang out with Squirrel Girl. Lo and behold:

I want to hang out with that squad. Hellcat was just as good as my beloved Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, and made me laugh just as much. I love the lightness they bring, and I'm definitely excited to have another series to read. I'm also very excited to read the next issues because:
Jessica Jones!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Spontaneous by Aaron Starmer

"I know it can be empowering to some, but I hate that word in all its forms. Survive. Survival. Survivor. Blah! So temporary and meaningless. 'Congratulations! You didn't die! At least not yet! But you will! Oh, trust us, you most certainly will!"

Spontaneous is a book that starts with a bang...literally. A member of the senior class explodes during pre-calc, just bursts into blood and little pieces. A second senior explodes soon after, then a third. The FBI gets involved, and theories of terrorist activity are thrown around. It's all a dead end because the kids have nothing in common. Boys or girls, all different races and body types, the only common denominator is that they were members of the senior class.

Our main character, Mara, is present for several of the explosions. She gets a mysterious text early in the crisis that reads:
You were there for both of them. That must have been invigorating.

So weird, right? The text turns out to have been from Dylan, a fellow senior with a serious reputation. There are two rumors about him: 1. He burned down the local convenience store and 2. He impregnated his ex-girlfriend with triplets. Mara and Dylan start to date; he clears up the rumors and takes her around in his dead father's ice cream truck. They are fairly cute together, though weirdly so.

After so many explosions, no one is any closer to figuring out why the seniors are exploding or how to stop it. The government gathers them all in a tent to do experiments, even hunting down any seniors who skipped town, as well as kids who would have been in their class who moved away. The school had shut down permanently, with intentions to destroy the building. Classes were to resume in a vacant mall nearby, but the seniors weren't invited. Mara decides to take some initiative and set up a school so that her class can graduate. Her parents always phrased it like once they get their diplomas, the explosions will just stop. They manage to get some funding, hire a couple teachers, a lunch lady, and a janitor, and school is back in session.

Even the laziest seniors start to realize that attending school is better than staying home all day. The classes are fun and interesting, the food is gourmet, and the class has become internet sensations. Explosions even stop...until they don't.

This book was pretty funny, pretty weird, and pretty darn difficult for me to write about! Mara was funny and weird, but I thought she was sort of ridiculous when she decided that she caused the explosions. Her best friend was a cool, level-headed girl and I really liked her. I'm probably a terrible person, but the explosions were both really gross to read about and also kind of funny. The ending is more open than I would have preferred, and there were some lulls in the book that lost my attention, but it was still a stellar read.

I received my copy of Spontaneous from Edelweiss, courtesy of Dutton Books for Young Readers. It's available for purchase now.