Holy wow, but did I love this book! My friend Kristin has been after me for years to read it, and for one reason or another, I've never gotten around...moreHoly wow, but did I love this book! My friend Kristin has been after me for years to read it, and for one reason or another, I've never gotten around to it, and for that I am sorry. The book is compelling, touching, riveting, exciting, thrilling... well, I could just go on.
Maybe I'm a little too excited as I just finished listening to the audiobook (which is exceptionally produced), but I couldn't get over how much the story pulled me in. I found that I was genuinely concerned for Ender's well-being and the outcome of his story.
The Earth has been at war with the Bugger's (an insectoid alien race who have attempted two previous invasions) and in preparation of a third invasion, the world's governments have been training the smartest children they have to become commanders in the army. Sent off at an early age to Battle School, these children live and breathe the battle games that they play to learn the techniques necessary for battle. Ender Wiggin is possibly the brightest student that Battle School has ever seen, and will be the final answer to the Bugger invasion. If he can't defeat the impending invasion, the Earth may not have a chance. It is Ender's growth, however, that truly makes this story so unforgettable.
I really don't want to give too much away about the story and ruin what Ender has to go through at Battle School, but needless to say, you may not be able to step away from this story once started.
I'm not entirely sure that I would be able to do justice in describing Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane. The book is equal parts nostalg...moreI'm not entirely sure that I would be able to do justice in describing Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane. The book is equal parts nostalgia, beauty, terror, and magic. Nostalgia for a simpler time when magic was all entirely too possible for a young child; the book is beautifully written, nothing forced, it just is; Gaiman's writing is capable of creating such terrifying imagery to what can scare a child, something that would not be possible in less deft hands; Gaiman has created a magic all his own for adults, by reminding us that once upon a time, our childhood selves did believe in magic, and somehow he reawakens that sense of wonder in this small volume he has crafted. It's a wonder that such a slim little book is capable of manifesting so many emotions in such a short time. This is Neil Gaiman we're speaking of, so of course it really comes as no surprise to me when I really think about it.
I think I may just leave this review, for what it's worth, at that. I mean, I could go on and on about the book, but I don't want to give anything away. The magic of the book is in letting it speak for itself, telling you its story, and letting you take it all in.
So, if I haven't made it obvious, this is a book worth reading. I know it will be topping my list of books for the year, and I know it's going to be one that I will be revisiting over and over again through the years. This book and I are going to become best friends.
Go and read it. Read it again. You won't be sorry.(less)
Being young doesn't protect you. Horrors come for kids, too.
Never heard of Victor Lavalle before? That's OK, neither had I until I r...more**spoiler alert**
Being young doesn't protect you. Horrors come for kids, too.
Never heard of Victor Lavalle before? That's OK, neither had I until I received a notice from NetGalley saying that this book was available for review. After reading Lucretia, I think this is something that I think I need to fix. Lucretia and the Kroons is a prequel of sorts to Victor Lavalle's The Devil in Silver and if The Devil in Silver is anywhere near as good as Lucretia, I think I'm in for a treat. A creepy treat, but a treat all the same. (Full disclosure here, I had no idea that Lucretia and the Kroons was anything more than a standalone story. I only discovered it was a prequel after I looked up Lavalle after reading the story.)
After Lucretia's (or Loochie's) mom tries to throw her a birthday party (to disastrous results), all she wants is for her friend Sunny to come home from hospital, where she is undergoing cancer treatment. On the big day of Sunny's return, Loochie's brother comes to their apartment and tells Loochie about the Kroons, a family of druggies who lived 2 floors above them in their apartment building. According to her brother, the landlord boarded the Kroons into their apartment to let them fend for themselves, as they had become far too dangerous to deal with, and nobody had seen them in quite some time. Loochie isn't sure if her brother is telling the truth or if he's just trying to scare her, but either way he tells her to be careful, as terrible things can still happen to her even though she is young. When Sunny is kidnapped by none other than the Kroons, Loochie takes it upon herself to rescue her best friend.
What follows is hard to describe. It is equal parts horror, magical realism, and coming of age. Loochie finds herself in a world gone wrong, yet one that is strangely familiar. Loochie eventually finds Sunny and saves her, but at what cost to either girl, or the one Kroon sister that has come to their aid? Based on the description of The Devil in Silver, the events of Lucretia and the Kroons is the explanation as to how Loochie ends up in the situation she finds herself in.
I know this all sounds really vague, but it needs to be. The story is too easy to spoil and really too hard to explain it without sounding crazy. I felt like I was reading a lost Twilight Zone screenplay. I could imagine what the world Loochie finds herself in easily, and could easily picture what this would look like as a television program or even on the big screen. Everything about this story is just like our world, just a little off. I thoroughly enjoyed ever bit of it, even though it is fairly short, and will definitely be checking out The Devil in Silver in the near future.(less)
Sarton's second book of poetry seems to suggest her later need of solitude and the sanctuary that that can entail for some people. The poems are still...moreSarton's second book of poetry seems to suggest her later need of solitude and the sanctuary that that can entail for some people. The poems are still strong, though, but they speak to me of a need to center in on ones self and find the peace you are seeking in life there. (less)
**spoiler alert** I absolutely loved this book. I was trying to decide on a TIOLI challenge book for March (read a book by an LT Author) and I needed...more**spoiler alert** I absolutely loved this book. I was trying to decide on a TIOLI challenge book for March (read a book by an LT Author) and I needed something that was more brain candy than anything else, and after reading a couple of other reviews/recommendations of His Majesty's Dragon decided I'd pick up the first book if I found it at the bookstore. Much to my now pleasure, they had a copy and I went ahead and broke my no new book buying rule for about the 100th time this year and picked it up. Needless to say, the next four are on their way from Amazon now.
Novik takes another look at the Napoleonic Wars in this series, one where dragons are an important part of all armies and their fighting forces. The dragons are harnessed at birth (when they emerge from their egg) with a human rider who becomes their captain, and together they become a fighting force with an entire crew that works to keep the dragon healthy and safe. When Capt. Laurence captures a French ship carrying a dragon egg, at first he imagines only what his share of the prize money will be, but when it is discovered that the egg will hatch before they reach port, the decision is made to try to harness the dragon right on the ship, something that has never been done before, as the Aerial Corps has always handled all eggs and the subsequent harnessing. Much to his surprise, when the new dragonet hatches, it completely ignores the man whose name was pulled to try the harnessing, and instead speaks directly to Laurence and allows him to do the harnessing. Now Laurence must leave the navy and with the newly named Temeraire, must learn the ways of the Aerial Corps. And I couldn't put the book down from here on out.
I loved the growing relationship between Laurence and Temeraire. Instead of just being mindless beasts bent on destruction, Novik has created intelligent and engaging characters in her dragons, and from the moment that Temeraire speaks to Laurence, I was totally lost in their growing friendship and trust. I think this, above and beyond anything else in the book, was what had me hooked from the beginning. There was just something about the way that Novik had Laurence and Temeraire grow closer that I just found totally mesmerizing. The other side stories were just as equally well-written, but it was the experience of watching Laurence and Temeraire grow into their partnership that held the entire book together so unquestionably. Of course, there is so much more to the story than just their growing relationship; there is also their training and the interactions on both Laurence and Temeraire's parts with their new comrades and the battle at the end of the book where we learn the true nature of Temeraire's breeding. It's just all so well put together, I loved every moment of the book and read it in 2 days.
I always enjoy discovering a new author, but to be able to find a book that I can so easily get lost in as well is a complete treat for me, and I can't recommend His Majesty's Dragon enough. I'm anxiously looked forward to moving on to the second book in the series, Throne of Jade. This will easily be topping my list of favorite books of the year.(less)
**spoiler alert** Following in the current hot trend in YA (as a friend put it the other day, "Dystopian is the new angels is the new zombies is the n...more**spoiler alert** Following in the current hot trend in YA (as a friend put it the other day, "Dystopian is the new angels is the new zombies is the new werewolves is the new vampires..."), Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi is very much your typical dystopian YA. In an undisclosed time in the future, there is something drastically wrong with the world; the weather patterns seem to be shifting haphazardly; the government, now known as the Reestablishment, may or may not seem to have some knowledge into what's going on; there is civil unrest. Shatter Me is also your typical YA; Juliette, the protagonist, blames herself for something that may or may not have been her fault, and eventually falls for the extremely good looking Adam, who may or may not have her best interests at heart. However, there is plenty in this story that makes it NOT your typical YA.
Spoilery bits ahead!!
First off, and this is something that really can't be overlooked, is the purple prose. There's a LOT of it in this book, and at first I found it a little distracting, only because it seemed so conspicuous. However, the more I thought about the book afterward, I can't imagine how Mafi could have told this story any other way. Juliette is almost an unreliable narrator; at the beginning of the book, she has been locked up in an institution for 264 days with no contact with any other people, and there is some question right from the beginning as to her sanity. Since we're in this story from her POV, the purple prose does seem to become a little more stream of conscious, so it appears that what she's thinking may not always be the most sane thing you've ever read, which leaves the reader guessing throughout about her sanity, thereby creating the feeling of the unreliable narrator. It's a nice little circle that was either done by design or happenstance, but either way it ended up working for me in the big picture.
The other thing that seemed to stick out for me that made this seem a little more than your typical dystopian YA story is the superhero angle that is thrown in. Perhaps Juliette is really more than what she seems, and maybe there are more like her out there. It made for a nice little twist, taking what seemed like a typical dystopian tale and creating something a little more science fiction out of it.
The story opens with Juliette having been locked away for 264 days, with no contact with anyone, for a reason that we're not privy to at the start. Much to her surprise, a guy ends up being incarcerated with her, a guy that she seems to think is from her past, but she's not 100% sure. Eventually, we come to understand that she can kill with a touch, and that it doesn't seem to be something that she can control. Her ability comes to the attention of the Reestablishment, and they want to be able to use her as a weapon against the civil unrest that is broiling across the country. Adam, a member of the Reestablishment army who was planted in her cell to learn more about her, is actually there to try to protect her, and eventually the two escape, after Juliette learns that her abilities may be more than even she is aware of. From here, the game of cat and mouse is on, as Juliette and Adam try to keep one step ahead of the Reestablishment.
This isn't a perfect book. There are certain turns of phrase and words that are used just a little too frequently for my taste; how many different ways can you count when reading Shatter Me that describe Juliette's jaw dropping? I think I had lost count at something like five of them. And the word million is used too many times. The writing can sometimes almost seem a little over the top, but like I said before, by the time I finished the book, I couldn't really imagine the book written any other way. Even the inconsistencies in the writing and the flaws became part of Juliette's voice, still leaving me wondering just how a reliable narrator she is.
Then book doesn't end on a raging cliffhanger, which I'm thankful for. Not every book needs to end that way. (I'm looking at you, Suzanne Collins.) Sometimes the story can just come to a nice breaking point, waiting for the next book to pick. Mafi ends her book this way. Juliette and the other characters come to the natural ending point for this chapter in their story, and I honestly am looking forward to the next book in the series, Unravel Me. Juliette grew so much as a character throughout Shatter Me, I'm curious to see where Mafi takes her next. What I viewed as flaws in the book notwithstanding, Shatter Me is a really great story, and I think Mafi brings something fresh to the dystopian YA table.
I have been a huge fan of Gail Carriger since I first read Soulless several years ago, and have been following her Parasol Protectorate series. (Full...moreI have been a huge fan of Gail Carriger since I first read Soulless several years ago, and have been following her Parasol Protectorate series. (Full disclosure here: I haven't actually finished the final book, Timeless, as I really don't want the series to end.) When I heard that she was going to be writing a YA series set in the same universe, I was thrilled. When I was given an opportunity to read an ARC of the book, I was beyond thrilled. I'm happy to report that Ms. Carriger has not let me down with this new series.
Sophronia Angelina Temminnick is, by all accounts, a tomboy in an era when such shenanigans by a female is frowned upon, at the very least. She likes to see how things work, she likes to be active, and she could care less about the finer points of civilized, ladylike behaviour. All in all, she's the bane of her mother's existence. Enter Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality. Sophronia's mother is hoping that sending Sophronia off to finishing school will help curb some of her more unappealing attributes.
Unbeknownst to her mother, Mademoiselle Geraldine's is not your typical finishing school, for Mademoiselle Geraldine's teaches its girls not only the finer points of ladylike behaviour, but also the finer points of subterfuge, seduction, poisoning, and various other talents necessary to a successful life of espionage. At first, Sophronia does not want to go to finishing school, until she discovers the underlying nature of Mademoiselle Geraldine's and finds that her particular skills help her to fit right in at the school.
One of the things that I liked most about Etiquette & Espionage is how Ms. Carriger works it into her preexisting universe. Taking place roughly 25 years before the events of the Parasol Protectorate, we find ourselves meeting the younger versions of some of the characters we're already familiar with. (I won't tell you who, as that's part of the fun!) I was curious how/if Ms. Carriger was going to tie these two series together, and I think she did an admirable job. If you come to Etiquette & Espionage already familiar with the Parasol Protectorate series, you'll find yourself recognizing some of the characters. If Etiquette & Espionage is your first outing with Ms. Carriger's characters, these younger versions stand perfectly well on their own, and you can use this book as a gateway drug into the more sophisticated world built in the Parasol Protectorate.
This draws me to the only fault I have with the book. The Parasol Protectorate is so witty and clever and sophisticated in so many ways, and knowing how Ms. Carriger is able to able to write, to see her scaling back on her sophistication to make it more palatable for a YA audience took me aback a little. I'm not even quite sure that that's the best way to put it. I can see all the hallmarks of her usual cleverness, but somehow it just didn't seem to hit the mark every time, and the book did seem rushed sometimes, as if she were forcing it to be shorter. Now, don't get me wrong, I was giggling through almost the entire book, but it did seem to be lacking something. Perhaps, being Ms. Carriger's YA debut, she needs time to grow into her YA voice, to get the pacing down and learn how to write a shorter story. I don't know. Maybe I'm analyzing too much. You can be sure that this one little thing won't be keeping me from picking up the rest of the series as it is released.
So, in my opinion, Ms. Carriger has proven that she can hold her own as a YA writer as well as an SciFi/Fantasy writer, and while there is the argument that there might a little room for improvement, she hasn't disappointed this reader at all. If you are a fan of the Parasol Protectorate, or are curious about Ms. Carriger's writing, I wholeheartedly recommend Etiquette & Espionage!
Etiquette & Espionage will be available from Little, Brown & Company on February 5, 2013.(less)
Laura Kasischke continually impresses me with her writing. From my first experience with her writing, [The Life Before Her Eyes], to this latest volum...moreLaura Kasischke continually impresses me with her writing. From my first experience with her writing, [The Life Before Her Eyes], to this latest volume, her first collection of short fiction, she has continued to grow in her storytelling ability. Truthfully, I don't usually enjoy short fiction. For me, there is never enough time to become invested in the characters or what if happening to them before the story is over and I'm usually left wanting more. Kasischke, however, proves that she is just as capable of writing short fiction as she is novels, and also left me wanting more, but in a completely different fashion. While usually I fell there isn't enough in a short story to make it worth my while, Kasischke's story make me feel like there is almost too much, and that each of these stories could easily be fleshed out into a longer, more involved story, yet they work perfectly as they are.
I took down some brief notes on each story as I was reading them, so I will just copy those here:
Mona - "First story in and I'm reminded why Laura Kasischke is one of my favorite authors. Eerie." Memorial - "Haunting" Melody - "Obsessive love crazy" Our Father - "This has to be an idea for a longer story. There is so much potential here!" Somebody's Mistress, Somebody's Wife - "What the what?! I don't even understand and I love it. This is particularly what I'm enjoying most about these stories: sometimes they make no sense whatsoever, and I'm good with that." Joyride - "A love story. Of sorts." The Foreclosure - "Obsessive craving meets ghost story." Search Continues for Elderly Man - "Death can come visiting in many forms." The Barge - "Probably my least favorite of the collection. Not even sure how to explain anything about the story." You're Going to Die - "The relationship between a parent and child is not always loving." The Flowering Staff - "Family isn't always something that needs to be shared." The Prisoners - "Again, another story that has a lot of potential to become something more." I Hope This is Hell - "Sometimes you just need to get away from your life." The Skill - "Knowing you can take a life and knowing when not to." "If a Stranger Approaches You about Carrying a Foreign Object with You onto the Plane" - "Everyone has heard this phrase at the airport. But what if it really happens to you?"
Kasischke is a skilled artist at taking the mundane, everyday world and skewing it just enough to keep it recognizable but totally foreign. There is a disturbing familiarity to the world in her writing, yet parts are so strange that they almost seem like a dream, and these stories are no exception. There is a common thread of loneliness or despair throughout, but in some ways, I almost think these stories in some ways speak to our times. I don't know, maybe I'm reading too much into it, but even though these stories do seem a little skewed and not entirely grounded in reality, there is still an element of truth to them.
A "Where's Waldo" for Doctor Who fans, journey across some of the Doctor's various locales and try to find him, Amy, Rory, the TARDIS, and numerous ot...moreA "Where's Waldo" for Doctor Who fans, journey across some of the Doctor's various locales and try to find him, Amy, Rory, the TARDIS, and numerous other items in this book for both kids and adults alike. (less)
Truth be told, my reading this book and my reviewing are somewhat far removed, but as I'm trying to get caught up on my reading/reviewing for the year...moreTruth be told, my reading this book and my reviewing are somewhat far removed, but as I'm trying to get caught up on my reading/reviewing for the year, I'm going to talk about the impressions the book left me with, even after this amount of time. Ivan, a gorilla, has lived most of his life in a circus-themed shopping mall where he has been the star. There is also Stella, the elephant, and Bob, and stray dog who has befriended Ivan and Stella. When the owner of the mall decides that Ivan and Stella aren't pulling in the audience that they should, he purchases Ruby and tries to force her to perform for the shoppers, but she is young and scared and takes to Stella immediately. What stands Ivan apart from other gorillas is that he likes to draw, and the daughter of the custodian of the mall helps nurture this talent in him. As Stella grows older, Ivan promises to Ruby that he will watch over and find a way to get her out of the mall, even though he's really not sure how he's going to be able to keep that promise.
What follows from there is a story full of love, hope, and humanity. Ivan proves to be able to reach above his lot in life and keeps his promise for Ruby, but it's really how he goes about keeping that promise that is so amazing. This was a book that I'm glad that I read, and I know I'm not doing it any justice with this review, so just trust me when I say that this is a book full of magic and love, and if you have small children, this would be a perfect book to read aloud to them and to share and to talk about.
Truth be told, I always have a hard time reviewing poetry. Poetry can be so ethereal; each reading can gi...more**Originally posted on frommybookshelf.com**
Truth be told, I always have a hard time reviewing poetry. Poetry can be so ethereal; each reading can give me something different to think about, so I never know quite what to write.
With Encounter in April, both May Sarton's first book of poetry and her first published work, you can clearly see the beginnings of the life-long poet that she would become; the works are structured and clean, but don't quite have the polished emotion and raw confidence of her later poetry. These aren't poems to be taken lightly, however, as they are still powerful in their own right.(less)
Chris Ware's Building Stories is a graphic novel presented in a boxed set of 14 connected but not connected stories, told through various types of for...moreChris Ware's Building Stories is a graphic novel presented in a boxed set of 14 connected but not connected stories, told through various types of formats. In the box you will find pamphlets of various sizes, a book that resembles an over-sized Golden Book, a couple of softcover books, one clothbound hardcover book, a newspaper, a board that resembles the board from a board game, and a handful of other layouts. Not one of these needs to be read in order as you find them in the box (even though that's how I read it), but as you read them, they all find a way to interconnect to tell a story greater than their individual parts, hence you're building the story.
Building Stories is the story about a three-flat apartment building in Chicago and the people that live there: the elderly landlady, the married/possibly not married couple on the second floor who never seem to be happy with each other, and an amputee who lives on the third floor, and chose to live there as a means of getting exercise due to her lost leg. There is nothing fanciful in these people's stories; there is nothing idyllic about their lives. If anything, this is the only complaint that I have with the story as a whole: nobody ever really seems to be happy. I know that Ware is trying to show people and their real lives, but as I finished reading, I was filled more with a morose feeling than anything else. Don't get me wrong, the emotions that Ware is able to pull from his simplistic art and bare dialogue is astonishing, I guess I just wish there was something of a "happy ending" in the book, even though there is no true ending per se. We see certain parts of the character's lives, but like any life that we witness from the outside, I still think there is so much more to the characters than what we have been shown. We are presented with snippets of their past and present, but we don't really know what their future holds, much like any person that we may know. I think I would be interested to see Ware revisit these characters in a couple of years, and show us where their lives took them.
I'm torn on whether I want to read anything else by Ware. There was such a pervading sense of melancholy throughout the entire collection, I don't know that I would trust anything else of his to not have that same feeling throughout. Yet, he presents these emotions so well that I think it would be a shame not to read something else of his again sometime. Maybe I just need to give myself some time to absorb everything from Building Stories before I move on to anything else of his, as I think this story is going to stick with me for some time. (less)
A fantastic retrospective on arguably my favorite artist out there, Jim Lee, Icons is a beautifully presented volume covering Lee's time with Wildstor...moreA fantastic retrospective on arguably my favorite artist out there, Jim Lee, Icons is a beautifully presented volume covering Lee's time with Wildstorm and DC Comics. Including artwork that covers his entire career with both companies including sketches and art that I've never seen before, this really is the perfect book for any Jim Lee fan. The physical look of the book, too, from the shear size of the volume to the layout of the interior pages does nothing but add to the beauty of the book. I think that this is a volume that can truly show that comics are not just a form of entertainment but can also be viewed as a true work of art. Bill Baker's running comments on the art and background information on Lee and his studio makes for a nice finishing touch.
Naturally, the only thing that would make this volume perfect would be to also include his art and time with Marvel, but since he is now DC Comics' co-publisher, this may be the best book that we'll get for the foreseeable future.
Highly recommended to anyone who is a fan of Jim Lee's artwork or to anyone who enjoys a beautifully presented book of art.(less)
#15. The Fur Person is a book that I think any cat lover will cherish. I reread it every couple of years and can always see so much of my cats in Tom...more#15. The Fur Person is a book that I think any cat lover will cherish. I reread it every couple of years and can always see so much of my cats in Tom Jones (even though my cats are girls). We follow Tom Jones on his journey from a Cat About Town to his discovery of a loving family, and his evolution with his new family, Brusque Voice (May Sarton) and Gentle Voice (Judy Matlack), from Gentleman Cat into a Fur Person. I would imagine that May Sarton took some literary freedom in relating Tom's early years before he became part of her and Judy's family, but his time with them is based on his true adventures. It's a charming little story that I think any cat lover can relate to.(less)