all the books

December 29, 2013 - 2 Responses

I became disenchanted with reviewing the books I read. But in case anyone is curious, these are the books I read after Westmark (my last review):

  • The Masque of the Black Tulip by Lauren Willig
  • Bloodfever by Karen Marie Moning
  • He: An Understanding of Masculine Psychology by Robert A. Johnson
  • Changeless by Gail Carriger
  • The Deception of the Emerald Ring by Lauren Willig
  • Faefever by Karen Marie Moning
  • Blameless by Gail Carriger
  • Beyond the Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
  • The Seduction of the Crimson Rose by Lauren Willig
  • Dreamfever by Karen Marie Moning
  • Heartless by Gail Carriger
  • The Anthropology of Turquoise by Ellen Meloy
  • Strange Dreams by Brian Andreas
  • The Temptation of the Night Jasmine by Lauren Willig
  • The Storybook of Legends by Shannon Hale
  • Shadowfever by Karen Marie Moning
  • Timeless by Gail Carriger
  • The Betrayal of the Blood Lily by Lauren Willig
  • A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. LeGuin
  • The Gunslinger by Stephen King
  • Beyond the Highland Mist by Karen Marie Moning
  • The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. LeGuin
  • The Kestrel by Lloyd Alexander
  • White Fire by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
  • Utopia by Lincoln Child
  • The Fairest of Them All by Carolyn Turgeon
  • Curtsies & Conspiracies  by Gail Carriger
  • The Next Full Moon by Carolyn Turgeon
  • Dorsai! by Gordon R. Dickson
  • Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction by J. D. Salinger
  • The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
  • Cinder by Marissa Meyer
  • The Mischief of the Mistletoe by Lauren Willig
  • The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King
  • Quiet by Susan Cain
  • The Farthest Shore by Ursula K. LeGuin
  • The Hourglass Door by Lisa Magnum
  • Another Faust by Daniel and Dina Nayeri
  • Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosch
  • Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Other Tales of the Supernatural by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • To Tame a Highland Warrior by Karen Marie Moning

I clearly enjoyed Gail Carriger, Karen Marie Moning, and Lauren Willig quite a bit this year. I still have a few Willigs left and am currently reading the second Highlander book from Moning (whether or not I read more depends on how much I like this one–the first one didn’t win me over, but then again, neither did Darkfever and I ended up loving the Fever Series). I’d read more Carriger, but she hasn’t written anything else yet.

I finally listened to Jamie and read Ursula K. LeGuin (though I chose her fantasy over her scifi, which is Jamie’s favorite). I really like her so far. And I randomly decided to give Stephen King’s Dark Tower Series a chance and also really like him. I plan to finish Gordon R. Dickson’s Dorsai books, even though he died before writing the last one, which would normally deter me from even starting the series.

Of all the books I read this year, Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed is probably my favorite. White Fire by Preston & Child is a close second, but that’s probably not a fair assessment because it’s a Pendergast book and I’m in love with him.

Who invited her?

August 20, 2013 - 4 Responses

maleficentgown

Nobody did.

Westmark

August 13, 2013 - Leave a Response

westmarkTitle: Westmark
Author: Lloyd Alexander

I’ve read The Prydain Chronicles twice and loved them both times. Lloyed Alexander has written a ton of books. I don’t know why I never thought to try any of his other ones. I only read this one because Jamie got it for free and gave it to me. And it’s short.

It’s a good book, though. It’s a very quick read and obviously meant for a younger audience than myself, but just like he was able to do in The Prydain Chronicles, I care about the characters quite a bit by the end of the book.

I guessed the main twist in the story as soon as Alexander dropped the first hint, but that may be due to the fact that I’m 30 years old. I wasn’t annoyed that I’d guessed it, though, because it was a good idea and made the story compelling. Maybe I’m supposed to guess it right off, I don’t know. I don’t think the story was ruined in any way by it.

This is the first in The Westmark Trilogy. I’ll be picking up The Kestrel and The Beggar Queen next time I head to the bookstore. I just hope they are popular enough to be on the shelves. I don’t want to have to order anything. I much prefer the immediate satisfaction of purchasing a book at the actual book store and leaving with it. If there wasn’t value in that, I’d buy all my books online. Hell, I might even go nuts and get a Kindle.

Out of the Silent Planet

August 12, 2013 - 3 Responses

OutOfTheSilentPlanetTitle: Out of the Silent Planet
Author: C. S. Lewis

Everything written by C.S. Lewis tends to have a Christian slant. This is no different. There isn’t an active esus character, like Aslan in The Chronicles of Narnia, but Lewis certainly doesn’t shy away from a philosophical discussion on what is morally right while also speculating on the metaphysics of heaven and heavenly beings at the same time.

The overall effect of this was that this small book (less than 200 pages) was a heavy read. It was engrossing and fast, but it wasn’t a light-heated jaunt through outer space. It deals with our perception of reality, the heavens, God, racism, colonization, etc. Heavy stuff.

I love Lewis’s imagination. The way he described the water on Malacandra (the planet they are on–known by us as Mars) was fascinating. I had to actively try imagining it based on his description, which is more difficult than it sounds. I am used to breezing through descriptions, forming pictures in my mind of how things look almost instantaneously. Lewis’s main character, Ransom, has to adjust to how things look on Malacandra. It takes him a while to see things correctly. I felt like Lewis was able to actually pass that slow realization of how things look onto the reader simply through the way he described things. It was really fun to read.

I like how Lewis renamed the planets. Venus is Perelandra (which is the title of the second book in the trilogy, so that’s exciting). Earth is Thulcundra. Mars is Malacandra. Jupiter is Glundandra. I believe those are the only planets Lewis mentions in this book.

Earth is the Silent Planet referred to in the title. It references the fact that Earth is the only planet in the solar system that doesn’t have a heavenly being reigning over it, keeping everyone happy and moral. All of the other heavenly beings ruling other planets talk to each other, which is why Earth is known as the silent planet. There’s some seriously messed up history surrounding Earth which resulted in someone referred to as “The Evil One” being trapped within our atmosphere, which has caused our planet to basically turn nutso when it comes to morality. Hooray.

There are a lot of interesting discussion-worthy things in this book. It would be a very interesting and short read for a book club. So if you’re in charge of one, I’d recommend it for sure. As long as you are prepared for the obvious parallels to Jesus.

The Turn of the Screw

August 8, 2013 - Leave a Response

The-Turn-of-the-Screw-Dover-Thrift-JamesTitle: The Turn of the Screw
Author: Henry James

Even though the story itself was a bit confusing (wikipedia says this is on purpose), I enjoyed this novella. I read it in one sitting, which isn’t saying too much considering its length, but I still find it worth mentioning.

The text at times flows nicely, but often gets a bit jumbled as the governess runs through her own thoughts in a sort of free-write way.  Because of the style of writing, I’d sometimes read a long, run-on sentence and not know what the hell she’d just said. Because I was reading it quickly, I didn’t bother re-reading these sentences. It didn’t seem to matter, but still bothered me a bit.

Despite these segments, the story remained exciting. I rushed through her sometimes long, rambling thoughts to get to the more exciting parts. James had successfully set up enough tension and suspense that I couldn’t slow down. Every time one of the ghosts appeared, I got very tense, which I loved. For those that have read it, I think the stare down the governess gave Quint on the stairs was my favorite part.

During one of the scenes, some cat outside my window reared loudly at something, scaring me enough to jump right off the couch and stare out the window. This book deserves props for freaking me out in the middle of the day.

There were a lot of Jane Eyre qualities to it. The governess falls for the master of the house. The master of the house acts like a jerk. The isolation and lonliness, the oversized house, the battlements–these all give it a very Thornfieldesque environment. I feel like the governess herself possibly embodied both Jane and Bertha. A lot of people do speculate that the governess was mad. I like the notion that she sort of was and sort of wasn’t, like Jane and Bertha combined.

Janertha. Or Bane. Except that’s a Batman villain, which doesn’t make any sense. Unless of course having a Batman villain thrown into the story is just another turn of the screw.

Rain Village

August 7, 2013 - Leave a Response

rain village book coverTitle: Rain Village
Author: Carolyn Turgeon

This is the third book I’ve read by Turgeon, though it was the first she published. While I liked Godmother and Mermaid better (probably because they are recognizable fairy tales), Rain Village is still worth reading.

Turgeon is very good at living inside someone’s head, making the reader feel and think the same way the character does. I was actually nervous the first time Tessa, the main character, was about to perform her circus act. I really didn’t want her to mess up.

Sometimes all the books I am reading will relate to each other in some way. I just finished The Emerald Atlas and am in the middle of The Anthropology of Turquoise and there are parts of both books that relate to Rain Village.

In The Anthropology of Turquoise, Ellen Meloy talks about the irrefutable power of the river. As she’s desperately swimming after the raft that’s gotten away from her, she says

“What happens when I surrender to this aloof, silken creature that hurls me down its spine? What happens when I exhaust my strength and can swim no more, no matter how hard I try or how desperate I am? What happens if I let go?”

This could be straight from Tessa’s head. Mary, Tessa’s mentor and first real friend, lets go. This haunts Tessa, leaving her to wonder what would happen if she did too.

In The Emerald Atlas, there is a monster kept locked away on a ship. Michael, one of the main children in the story, says it’s likely the creature is aerial. He explains that the monster is likely kept within the bowels of a ship because a creature of the skies would inherently harbor a fear of the water.

Tessa’s escape from Mary’s fate is the circus, where flying through the air as as an aerial performer is the only place she feels safe. As you experience Tessa’s journey, you can distinctly see the two forces–water and air–pulling her in opposite directions. (I’d love to point out all the symbolism I see with this idea, but then I’d have to give away plot points.)

I have one complaint that I’m still grouchy over when I think about it. It’s not about the book itself, but the jacket. The jacket text is supposed to get you to want to read the book. What it shouldn’t do is tell the whole damn story. The jacket text brought me right up to the end of part two. Part three starts on page 259 of 328! What the hell, book jacket? Who asked you?

I’d recommend this book, but if you are only going to read one by Carolyn Turgeon ever, so far I’d say pick Godmother. If you do pick this one, though, don’t read the jacket cover. Just dive right into the book.

As a side note, I wondered if Rain Village was based of off a fairy tale like Turgeon’s other novels. I discovered that one of the inspirations was the story of the three rings as told in The Decameron, a collection of stories told by people trying to distract themselves from the horrors of The Plague (which, oddly enough, relates to another book I recently finished, World Without End–must be a conspiracy.)

The Emerald Atlas

August 5, 2013 - Leave a Response

the emerald atlas book coverTitle: The Emerald Atlas
Author: John Stephens

I only knew about this book because of an event taking place at The King’s English, which I sadly wasn’t even able to attend. I ended up enjoying the book enough to want to read the other two in the series (I assume there will be two more considering this is the Books of Beginning series and there are three such books as explaining in the text).  The second in the trilogy, The Fire Chronicle, just came out and is sadly only in hardback. I’ll be debating whether or not I want to purchase it on many future trips to the bookstore, I’m sure.

If I didn’t have 100 other books already on my to-read shelf, it wouldn’t be much of a debate. The Emerald Atlas was a page turner. There isn’t a boring part in the entire story. As I’m trying to cough up something resembling a story, I am constantly faced with the challenge of having stuff actually happen. I envy Stephen’s ability to set up back story, build mythology, describe new locations, and even explain complicated magic without having the characters sit around and do nothing for pages while they all talk it out.

The reviews compare the book to series like The Chronicles of Narnia and His Dark Materials. One review said it was Tolkienesque. I have to respectfully disagree. These are all fantasy series, sure, but having dwarves doesn’t make the story Tolkienesque. Falling into different worlds doesn’t make it like Narnia or Materials (and technically they don’t even fall into different worlds, they fall into different times and places).  This book doesn’t have the darkness infused in LOTR and Materials. It isn’t religious like Narnia or Materials. It’s a fantasy trilogy for 10-year-olds. It uses very commonly used fantasy elements, but so far it’s a light, fun, nonreligious fantasy.

I was surprised to see that a lot of parents had complained that the book was too cruel for children. Again, I hardly find that to be the case. Yes, children are locked up. And one is held over a dam by a dementor escaped from Azkaban, but that child doesn’t even die. I feel bad for the kids of the parents who find The Emerald Atlas too cruel or scary for them. They won’t ever be allowed to read Lord of the Rings, let alone touch His Dark Materials until they leave for college.

While this book didn’t make it on to any of my favorites lists, it was entertaining and fun. I’ll eventually read all three. How soon depends on how cheap I feel.

World Without End

August 4, 2013 - 8 Responses

world without end book coverTitle: World Without End
Author: Ken Follett

This is the sequel to Pillars of the Earth. He wrote that one quite a while ago. I can’t remember when exactly I read it, nor what actually happened in most of it, but I remember  liking it. It was the same with this one.

Both Pillars of the Earth and World Without End are over 1,000 pages long, but neither of them felt like it. I read this book very quickly, which I often use as an indication that a book is good, even if after I finish it I don’t quite like it. I did like this one, even though I wouldn’t put it on a favorites list. It was a quick, entertaining read, but there’s nothing profound about it. I wouldn’t be surprised if I forgot most of what happened in it eventually, just like I have with the first one.

My favorite parts were about the plague. Caris, the female lead of the book, is a nurse when the plague hits. It’s interesting to see how she struggles with ideas like contagion and germs during a time where these notions didn’t exist. The male physician monks were known to have the right ideas, simply because they’d gone to a university and studied ancient philosopher’s guesses about medicine. And back in a time where to question a monk was almost considered blasphemy against the church, it made it very hard for Caris to try and control or overcome the plague using her own observations and ideas, which were often the opposite of the monks’. It was a fascinating conflict to follow.

I really only have one minor complaint about the book. Follett organized it into parts, each with a date range on it. The trouble was, I would read the date and think ‘okay, some time in the 1300s’ and then come to a new part with a new date range that was also in the 1300s. I’d have to flip back through the book and find the dates of the part I’d just read simply to figure out how many years later the next part began. I wish he’d put something like 7 years later beneath the dates. It’s a small detail, sure, but in a 1,000+ page book with newsprint pages and something like 6 or 7 parts, it got annoying.

I’d recommend the book to anyone who wants an entertaining, fast read. Be warned, there’s a lot of sex and not all of it is consensual. It’s the 1300s and there’s war, so there are some pretty brutally-described scenes of violence as well. Follett certainly isn’t shy.

Hokey Pokey

July 7, 2013 - Leave a Response

holkey pokey book coverTitle: Hokey Pokey
Author: Jerry Spinelli

This is the fifth book I’ve read by Spinelli. He has yet to disappoint.

I was first drawn to this one over the others I still haven’t read of his (Crash, Maniac Magee, etc.) because the cover was pretty and the size of the hardback fit so nicely in my hands. I’m a sucker for those sorts of things.

I had read the jacket synopsis on more than one occasion and decided against it. Phrases like “razzing, dazzing, run-amuking, and chuckleducking” didn’t appeal to me at all. It almost felt like he was trying too hard to be sentimental. I was afraid the book would be more of a wish to go back in time than an actual experience seen through the eyes of a kid.

I was right. Except this wasn’t a bad thing. It’s about that moment when you realize you have to let go of your childhood and start to grow up. To me, that makes it a book that adults would feel a stronger connection to than children.

Peter Pan is one of my favorite stories. I finally decided to give Hokey Pokey a shot simply because it sounded like it could be a Peter Panesque type story. It is and it isn’t. Neverland and Hokey Pokey are both great representations of a child’s mind, of a world that will exist forever as long as there are kids to live in it. Peter and Jack also have a lot of similarities. But when faced with the ultimate decision of whether to stay or go, they part ways. J. M. Barrie captured the beauty of Peter’s decision to remain in Neverland. Spinelli captured the beauty of Jack’s decision to grow up.

I loved both stories.

P.S. For the record, I did cry at one part. That’s 5/5 for Spinelli’s books.

Etiquette & Espionage

June 29, 2013 - Leave a Response

etiquette & espionage book coverTitle: Etiquette & Espionage [Finishing School | Book the First]
Author: Gail Carriger

This book was fun to read. I’ve read one book by Carriger before–Soulless. That one was written for adults. This one is for a Young Adult audience.

Sophronia, a 14-year-old troublemaker, is sent to finishing school by her mother, with the hopes that they’ll turn her into a lady. While Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality taught the girls how to finish themselves (posture, poise, eyelash fluttering, etc.), it also had a variety of classes on how to finish others (knives, defense against the dark arts vampires, deceit, whot whot).

I love that the story was set in the same universe as Soulless. At the same time, I’m glad I read Soulless before reading this one. I’m not sure how confusing certain aspects of the universe would have been for someone who wasn’t familiar with it already, specifically in regards to vampires and terms like hives, drones, etc. Because that structure had already been explained to me, it made sense immediately. I don’t remember reading any real explanation of any of it, though, in this book.

That, really, is the only small critique I have for the story. It was funny and exciting. I love how things turn out for each of the characters. It didn’t make me cry or get me worked up emotionally in any regard. That can be a plus or a minus, depending on your mood. I wanted light and fun and that’s exactly what I got.

Carriger’s characters are so unique. She’s able to give them believable personalities the moment you’re introduced to them.  Her names sometimes throw me off at first, but seem to fit the character perfectly after a few lines of dialog or the way they lean against the door and the expressions they have on their faces. I’m jealous of her talents in that regard.

She’s also amazingly good at explaining how things are built, what they look like, and how they work without losing the reader. I could visualize things really quickly without having to work too hard (I’m reading World Without End by Ken Follett right now and am not having quite as much luck with his detailed explanations of how cathedrals and bridges are put together). She doesn’t spend too much time explaining every detail, but still gives you plenty to visualize.

I’m excited for the second one, Curtsies & Conspiracies, which comes out in November.

courtsies-and-conspiracies

Also, pretty covers. :D

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