In my opinion, this is one of Diana Wynne Jones's best books. EVER.
Fantasy but not fantasy in the classical sense; romance but not again, not in the c...moreIn my opinion, this is one of Diana Wynne Jones's best books. EVER.
Fantasy but not fantasy in the classical sense; romance but not again, not in the classical sense, Fire and Hemlock is a modern retelling of Tam Lin; a Scottish ballad about a maiden (because where would any ballad be without the token fair maiden?) and a man who is the tithe of the faeries. They fall in love, but the Faerie Queen doesn't want to relinquish her hold on him. Unlike most fairy tales, it is up to the girl to keep the man from being sacrificed as a tithing. She features a strong heroine not uncommon in Tamora Pierce's books.
Reading this in middle school really made a strong impression on me. I remember being totally lost in the world--both in England and Polly's fictional (and yet all-too-real) Stow-on-the-Water. It was completely different from other novels I had read up to that point, because it didn't attempt to talk down to me or make me feel like a child, like Animoprhs did. The author never assumed that I wouldn't forget the characters' names and histories, and wove helpful but subtle reminders throughout the text just in case I did. Every time I read this book, I come across something new and it was only recently that I actually realized Fire and Hemlock had roots in Tam Lin.
In this rendition, Polly meets a cellist named Thomas (Tom Lynn) at a funeral being held on Halloween. The wrongness of this is foreshadowed by Polly's grandmother when she remarks about what a bad omen that is. Polly finds herself in a room full of stuffy rich people and realizes immediately that she does not belong but finds herself trapped. The game has become all too real. Luckily, Tom Lynn rescues her, escorting her out to a mysterious garden and, ultimately, letting her choose some photographs bequeathed to him in the will. Polly gets one of these photographs as a gift; it is called "Fire and Hemlock" (hence the title). It is interesting that she thinks of him as an old man for most of the book, because later one finds out that this is not the case; his glasses almost magically age him. Polly continues to visit Mr. Lynn partly to rebel against her grandmother and partly from boredom.
Gradually, over a period of years, Polly slowly finds herself falling in love with Thomas Lynn. What's fun is that she doesn't even realize it's happening, but she gets outrageously jealous when she thinks his landlady is is wife; and then again, when she finds out Mr. Lynn has gotten a girlfriend. But Laurel, Thomas's ex-wife, will not relinquish the hold on her former husband so easily. And then, when Polly's memories begin to fade away, and nobody else recalls her memories of Tom Lynn or her misadventures as a youth, she begins to wonder how likely it is to be the only sane one in a world full of crazies.
Ms. Jones writes excellent female characters who are strong and brave, and manage to live up to the foolishness of their ages without being overtly stupid. Lots of adventure stories and classics are mentioned in here (either directly, or indirectly--as Tom Lynn's fight with the giant could be seen as a nod to Miguel Cervantes' Don Quixote). Her writing style is wordy but never clunky, and very much the picture of traditional story-telling. I never get tired of reading Fire and Hemlock. So if you like books about books, strong heroines, and retellings of classic fables, too, this book would probably be a great choice!(less)
THE GARGOYLE is an incredibly difficult read—for starters, it has some very graphic descriptions of severe burns and the painful and lengthy recovery process. This makes up a significant portion of the book, and definitely turns the stomach. The writing makes up for it (in my opinion), but if you have triggers about very graphic descriptions of medical procedures, this book is probably not for you.
The main character, who is never named, was a pornographic actor of some renown. Beautiful, successful, corrupt—the world is his oyster, and instead of making the most of his life, he takes it for granted and abuses the body he has with drugs and debauchery. Then one night, he hallucinates a flight of arrows and ends up driving off a cliff. He breaks several bones and cannot escape from his car when it catches on fire, suffering severe burns all over his body, resulting in the loss of his penis.
His recovery is painful, leaving him a shell of a man in more ways than one. He is determined to heal only enough to get out of the hospital so he can kill himself, but one thing changes that
—a fellow inpatient named Marianne. She is convinced that they were lovers in a past life in medieval Germany, when he was a mercenary and she was a scribe in a convent. Obviously, the main character is skeptical, thinking her to be crazy as a loon, but her stories are historically sound, and she is such a good story-teller that he cannot help but listen, even though he knows he shouldn't...
Her stories become all encompassing as she weaves a tapestry of love stories that transcend the boundaries of the physical realm
—including a gay Viking, a star-crossed glassblower in feudal Japan, and two lovers in Renaissance Italy during the age of the black plague. Interspersed with these stories is the continuing saga of their past lives. These stories explain the reason why Marianne cannot stop carving stone gargoyles, and also why she believes that she is running out of time...
Obviously, I really liked this story. The summary sounds way more pretentious than it actually is, which is a shame, because I couldn't help but wonder how many people were put off by that awful summary. It makes it sound like this book is a mock-up of the DA VINCI CODE. It really isn't. It's more like THE TAKER by Alma Katsu, or what ANGELOLOGY tried to be, and failed. Maybe with a dash of Pan's Labyrinth, especially towards the end (loved the homage to DANTE'S INFERNO). I loved the broad scope of the story, and how Davidson managed to take two such damaged and broken characters and gradually have us fall in love with them. Their transformation and development is amazing, and by the last few pages of the story I was actually tearing up a little.
THE GARGOYLE is a great book. It's a long book, but the kind that's a pleasure to sink into. If you can get past the gore, I heartily recommend it!
agatha christie meets bollywood at its best in this electrifying thriller written by the same genius whose previous book, Q A inspired the hit movie S...moreagatha christie meets bollywood at its best in this electrifying thriller written by the same genius whose previous book, Q A inspired the hit movie Slumdog Millionaire!
vicky rai is not a nice man. in fact, he's had more brushes with the law than an attorney's hair stylist. but he's pretty much above the law since his dady's home minister as well as being one of the more powerful and well-connected mafia dons. however even vicky might have gone too far when he kills an attractive bar waitress for refusing to serve him a drink at closing time. when he is acquitted of the murder, rage burns in the hearts of those who wish him ill - and when he throws a 'yay me for being so rich and powerful' party to celebrate his 'innocence' it proves to be his undoing.
someone has decided to take justice into his or her own hands and kill vicky rai. six people are found at vicky's party with loaded guns, all with reasons to kill vicky.
1. larry page: an american who came to india to meet and greet his mail order bride only to discover he'd been fleeced for five grand by a con artist who has sent him a picture of gorgeous bollywood actress shabnam saxena. or so he thinks. because on taking his letters to a p.i. it turns out that the letters might really be from the actress herself. naturally, he's in love. but first he's got to steal her away from vicky rai who can't wait to get his greasy mitts on her.
2. shabnam saxena is india's "it girl" and toes the line between being a sex icon and a girl next door. fame has made her jaded and she's quickly finding it to be a gilded cage. but a chance to do right seems to present itself when she meets a girl who looks just like her - except she's a poor brahmin with no prospects. shabnam leaps at the opportunity to play princess and the pauper - except it gives those who are jealous of her the perfect opportunity for betrayal...
3. jagannath rai is vicky's daddy who seems to be on his side. not necessarily the case. jaggy's home minister, but he's got his eye on the position of chief minister. a position that is looking more and more unreachable as his son's depravity reaches new heights - and treachery.
4. munna mobile is a servant turned thief who struggles to support his mother and adopted muslim sister, champi. but one day he strikes it rich with an unexpected windfall that seems too good to be true. it is. but before he realizes the full cost of his "free lunch," he falls in love with a mysterious girl named ruti. she won't tell him about her family or her last name, but munna knows that it must be somebody powerful... and dangerous...
5. mohan kumar is an aged bureaucrat who misses the power of his old job. one day, on an outing with his mistress, he appears to become possessed by the spirit of - wait for it - mahatma gandhi. suddenly, kumar has his own little cult following of worshippers, and embarks on schemes of peaceful protest that eventually get him sent to jail. he is watching the vicky murder trial... and the result makes the mahatma side of him very very angry. angry enough to commit murder? well. sometimes the only way to get rid of evil is to destroy it.
6. eketi is a humble tribesman from an island near bengal; a very primitive tribe of hunter gatherers of which there are less than 100 left in the world. he's come to india to retrieve a priceless artifact stolen by a corrupt indian warden who visited their site: a precious stone that's shaped like a phallus. he is alternately horrified by the corruptness around him, and the "modern" achievements of technology. he also ends up falling in love with champi because of her good heart. but when he finds out that vicky is giving her family strife and might have his tribe's artifact ornamenting his father's home as a common bauble - well... things might get ugly.
i loved six suspects because it constantly kept me guessing as to who the culprit was. plus, all the characters were so dimensional and likable. i could easily picture this as a movie (and, in fact, was kind of hoping that there would be a bollywood song and dance number somewhere in there. silly, i know). i really liked how each pov is narrated in a different style to reveal more about that character. jagannath's pov is only in dialogue, to show how he's 'all talk' and superficial. shabnam's pov is written in diary entries to show how self-absorbed (and yet surprisingly intelligent and deep) she is. munna's pov is in the present tense to show how he lives in the moment. and larry's is riddled with hick sayings and two-bit talk.
actually, that last one kind of made me raise my eyebrows because out of all the characters, he seemed the most cardboard. i guess it's because mr. swarup doesn't personally know many americans (and texans, at that?). because americans don't usually say 'arse' or 'knickers' (both of which larry says - in abundance). also, there were at least two-three colorful analogies/metaphors/idioms per page, and this got a little annoying after a while. here are just some of my favorites:
“hornier than a two-peckered billy goat”
“hornier than four-balled tomcats”
“smooth as a baby's ass”
“subtle as a horse turd in the cream pitcher”
“slicker than owl shit”
"madder than a one-legged man at a butt-kicking contest"
overall, i'd give this about 4.5 stars, but i'm rounding up because of how much this book, considering the dark storyline, made me laugh. gotta love a ghandi ghost! ♥(less)
Sometimes the human capacity for cruelty amazes me, and not in a good way. The holocaust is one of those things that makes you wonder how the people b...moreSometimes the human capacity for cruelty amazes me, and not in a good way. The holocaust is one of those things that makes you wonder how the people behind it could possibly be human. I think Elie Wiesel is very brave. Even though, in the book, he thinks of himself as selfish, the extent to which he cared for his father in the camps was incredible. He saved him from being burned in one of the crematory, from being collected by the gravediggers, tried to give him extra rations, and stuck by him even when his father was weak and slow.
This is one of those books that will haunt you for days afterwards. Elie Wiesel's descriptions of life in the concentration camps and the cruel treatment the Jews received are graphic, even within the sparse prose that he uses. In a way, it's worse that's he's so vague; it allows your imagination to run away with you, because the unknown is always more frightening than the known.(less)
Dramarama is one of those amazing YA books that explores a facet of the vast wilderness of young adult life. You can total...moretl;dr review: So much drama.
Dramarama is one of those amazing YA books that explores a facet of the vast wilderness of young adult life. You can totally picture some Aussie guy in safari khakis saying, "Here we have the wild drama students in their natural habitat. Watch as we get a little bit closer to hear them sing "Take Back Your Mink" from Guys and Dolls. The main character Sadye, is easy to relate to as a protagonist because she is just superficial enough to be a normal teen (changing her name from Sarah to Sadye, for example, or obsessing over guys, or getting jealous over her friends' successes and her own mounting failures), but her character undergoes development that really does teach a valuable lesson.
The story takes place at a summer drama camp. Sadye goes with her best friend Douglas (Demi), a gay African-American boy who's been forced to live in a "half-closet" for most of his life because of unaccepting students and reluctantly tolerant parents. Wildewood is a place where he really feels like he can be himself; he has his first romance, and totally blossoms, landing lead roles in two plays. Sadye isn't as successful, and ends up being a Hot Box Girl, a man, and a tree, much to her horror. Theater isn't as glamorous as she expected, and she starts arguing with the directors about their methods and doing the typical "You just don't understand me!"-type spiels we all love to hate.
Throughout the book, recordings that Sadye is doing for "posterity" are interspersed between chapter breaks, where she interviews her friends and tape-records herself talking about her life and her experiences at Wildewood. The teen voices ring true, and you can picture the girls (and boys) in every single one of the situations, anxious and excited and mugging for the recorder to hide their own insecurities. Eventually, one of Sadye's friends listens to the recorder and realizes that some of the things they were saying about her wasn't that nice, which leads to DRAMA (which is kind of an overused ploy--it got old after the first time I saw it in Harriet the Spy and then again in Mean Girls. Hello! The idea of a Burn Book is so not new).
I really enjoyed learning about theater, though, and as far as drama goes, most of it was limited to the stage. It reminds me a lot of my theater-nerd friends, who are obsessed with musicals and singing and performing and dancing and costuming. I think anybody who's really into any of the aforementioned things will love Dramarama, even if it's just to vicariously live through their favorite performances once more. Encore?(less)
Like many people who grew up in the nineties, I experienced the so-called Disney Renaissance. The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and The Lion K...moreLike many people who grew up in the nineties, I experienced the so-called Disney Renaissance. The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and The Lion King were all part of my essential childhood video collection. I dragged my parents to the showings at the drive-in — yes, you read that right, DRIVE-IN — movie theater. One of the few that stays near and dear to my heart, and that I still watch even to this day (on VHS! On the original cassette tape I've had since childhood!), is The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Now, Disney has a habit of changing around the tales that it retells. Cinderella's step-sisters originally got their eyes pecked out by angry birds. The Little Mermaid finds out that her prince is a cheating SOB and ends up having to choose between killing the prince or killing herself. And Esmeralda, that beloved dancing gypsy, dies. So yeah, I can kind of see why there was some major editing. None of these things are exactly “G.”
Victor Hugo's classic, THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME, is quite dark. It is a Gothic work of fiction; moody, solemn, and with duplicitous characters with secrets and sinister intentions; it is highly evocative of Mary Shelley's FRANKENSTEIN and would probably be considered a psychological thriller nowadays instead of pure horror. This is also a social commentary, historical novel (it takes place in the Middle Ages, in the late fifteenth century), a romance, and an outlet for rambling descriptions that feature the author's extensive knowledge of architecture at the time. Unless you find history or architecture interesting, I suggest you skip these chapters lest they hinder you with their dryness. The plot IS amazing and to be perfectly honest, so are the passages on architecture. But I can see how it would be very confusing to be reading about Claude Frollo's back story and then suddenly find yourself being punched in the face with a flying buttress (figuratively, of course).
But oh! — the plot! The characterizations! The descriptions! Victor Hugo's writing was amazing. Even though the book was written almost two hundred years ago, and takes place six hundred years ago, the characters are still so easy to relate to. Esmeralda really does act like a 16-year-old girl (whereas in the movie, not so much). You can sympathize with Claude Frollo, even though you do not like him; he is still a villain, but has more vestiges of humanity in this version. His kindnesses to his younger brother, Jehan, for example, and Quasimodo, and the desperation with which he persues poor Esmeralda. Clopin is also much more fascinating here, than he was in the movie. The whole book was beautiful, and sad, and sometimes awful to behold, but still so marvelously written. It's been a while since a classic has consumed my attentions so wholly. The ending made me cry just because of the unbearable bittersweetness of it. Simply amazing.(less)
Oh my goodness. This was fantastic. I want to go all gushy and rave about how awesome this book is but that wouldn't be very helpful to people who act...moreOh my goodness. This was fantastic. I want to go all gushy and rave about how awesome this book is but that wouldn't be very helpful to people who actually want to know about the content of the book and not about the psychotic goofball reviewing it (although if you do, feel free to follow my reviews or add me - I'm a friendly psychotic goofball!). In terms of plot, the main character, Daniel Sempere, describes this book best:
"This is a story about books... about accursed books, about the man who wrote them, about a character who broke out of the pages of a novel so that he could burn it, about a betrayal and a lost friendship. It's a story of love, of hatred, and of the dreams that live in the shadow of the wind" (178).
I'm shocked that this quote wasn't on my book's cover - that is blurb material right there.
The Shadow of the Wind is, as Daniel so kindly explained, a book about books - the title refers to the focal point of the mystery: a disturbing novel by a man named Julian Carax, picked out by Daniel himself as a child, on a trip with his father to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. Isn't that a neat idea? Where books go to die. It's so poetic and gothic and oh-so-creepy. I knew from the get-go that I was going to love this novel because of this quote:
"Every book, every volume you see here, has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it. Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens" (6).
Mr. Zafon understands that deep-rooted instinctual love that true lovers of books have, unequivocally, for reading. A good book is more than just a story; it's an insight into the author's own mind. It's why we have such a strong feeling of simpatico with the books we love so dearly, as though the author wrote about us or the people we know. So that begs the question: how do you destroy a writer you hate? That's easy. Burn his books. All of them. Commit all of his ideas and memories to a funereal pyre so nobody will read or enjoy them ever again.
And that is exactly what somebody is doing to all existing copies of The Shadows of the Wind and the rest of Julian Carax's books. In fact, Daniel's copy may well be the last in existence. Since he has chosen the book from the Cemetery, he is its guardian - a task that becomes much more difficult than he ever imagined when protecting it leads him on a dangerous journey of family secrets, forbidden love, revenge... and murder.
They were wrong. It was not a will to live. It was hatred (422).
In this chilling, gothic novel, Zafon explores what makes people turn evil... and how thin the lines are between the "good" and the "bad." Sometimes bad things happen to good people - and sometimes good people do bad things.
"[People are] not evil...[they are m]oronic, which isn't quite the same thing. Evil presupposes a moral decision, intention, and some forethought. A moron or a lout, however, doesn't stop to think or reason. He acts on instinct, like a stable animal, convinced that he's doing good, that he's always right, and sanctimoniously proud to go around fucking up...anyone he perceives to be different from himself" (155).
These points are further illustrated by use of parallels between the author's own tragic and shadowy past, and those of the book's protector, Daniel. This is a device used by a fair amount of books-about-books thrillers, but few can do it so eloquently as this. Think Possession by A.S. Byatt, but in Spain in the 1950s, with even more scandal and impropriety.
In fact, in terms of tone and mood of this mystery novel reminded me a lot of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It's very dark and morbid, and shows how desperately and jealously people guard their own filthy secrets. The Shadow of the Wind is just as long, and just as intense. However, unlike TGwtDT, it doesn't take 100 pages for the action to kick in. This book drop-kicks you from the beginning and sends you flying until the end.
Read it. You know you want to. Because if you don't read it, you might just be condemning it to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. Do you really want that on your conscience? Do you? DO you, Buddy?
I got my first taste of taxidermy as art from another Netgalley publication, UNDER GLASS: A VICTORIAN OBSESSION by John Whitenight (who probably has one of the coolest last names ever #justsaying). Here, I learned about how Victorians channeled all their repressed sexual desires into an almost borderline psychotic urge to stuff and preserve anything that moved, and then stick it under a glass dome or in a glass cabinet so they could look upon it as they placidly drank their tea and talked about untroublesome topics. Because that is class.
Case in point: the stuffed kitten wedding. A crazy cat lady's wet dream.
Incidentally, the stuffed kitten wedding is also featured in WALTER POTTER'S CURIOUS WORLD OF TAXIDERMY, which I will get my hands on someday. (I have problems, I know.) I just find it so fascinating, because just look at the detail! That was not easy to do. (Those poor kittens, though!)
The difference between UNDER GLASS and WALTER POTTER and CRAP TAXIDERMY is...that CRAP TAXIDERMY is about, well, crap taxidermy. Sometimes taxidermists suck at their jobs, and this is a book full of examples. Some of them are almost--almost--cute (but creepy).
Some of them are hilarious.
And some of them are fucking scary.
The dog in this picture kind of reminds me of those creepy things in Mirrormask.
Some of the pictures are truly tasteless.
TAXIDERMY WHAT ARE YOU DOING
WHAT ARE YOU DOING TAXIDERMY
GO HOME, TAXIDERMY. YOU'RE DRUNK.
Here's the website where you can enjoy the crappy taxidermy in full. You can also follow them on Twitter.
I think this is one of the best blog-to-book books that I've ever read. It's one picture per page and the images on my e-reader were very high quality--but did not make my reader freeze. Also, they are not text heavy. Everything is very nice and spare, with a simple caption that understates the hilarious and horrific picture it is describing. I liked that. Too many art books come across as cluttered.
Also, for the curiously morbid (or morbidly curious) individual, there is a set of instructions in the back of the book about how to create your very own stuffed mouse! ISN'T THAT EXCITING!?
Cuando era niña, este libro era mi libro favorito en la biblioteca. Las pinturas coloridas eran tan hermosas, como si fueran de un lugar mágico y fant...moreCuando era niña, este libro era mi libro favorito en la biblioteca. Las pinturas coloridas eran tan hermosas, como si fueran de un lugar mágico y fantástico. Todos los libros de Ruth Heller son educativos, específicamente por inglés y ciencias (me gustaban mucho sus libros sobre animales y biología; estos son los mejores). Les recomendo por maestros con estudiantes jovenes a quien no le gustan leer porque ¿a quién no le gusta pinturas lindas?
When I was a little girl, this was my favorite book in the library. The colorful pictures were so beautiful, as if they were from some magical, fantastic place. All of Ruth Heller's books are educational, specifically for English and the sciences (I really liked her books about animals and biology; these are the best). I recommend these for teachers with young students who don't like to read, because who doesn't like pretty pictures? :)(less)