I've had my copy of The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle since 2007 and when I noticed that the edges are starting to turn yelloOriginally posted here.
I've had my copy of The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle since 2007 and when I noticed that the edges are starting to turn yellow, I decided that it's high time I read it. This is a fantasy classic that's a popular favorite. I can't even remember where I got the original recommendation for it. And no, I haven't watched the movie. I didn't even know there was a movie until I started reading the book.
The unicorn doesn't usually care for humans but one day, she overhears two men talking and realizes that she might be the last unicorn in the world. She decides to leave her lilac wood to find out what happened with the rest of her kind. She's aided in her quest by friends she meets along the way - Schmendrick the Magician and Molly Grue. This book made me realize that I should read more novels with unicorns in them. I don't think I've read any other novel that has a unicorn as a main character? I'm kind of sad that I didn't read this book sooner because I feel like this is the kind of book that I would have fallen in love with when I was in my early teens. The story started out a bit slow for me but quickly picked up once the unicorn faced the Red Bull, sorry for being vague, I don't want to give away spoilers. I was also able to appreciate Peter S. Beagle's writing, it's lyrical without being too heavy. Does that makes sense? I feel like his writing is perfect for this kind of story - one that has elements of magic and a fairy tale-feel to it. And it's not the usual kind of fairy tale either. Here's a sample of the writing:
"The true secret in being a hero lies in knowing the order of things. The swineherd cannot already be wed to the princess when he embarks on his adventures, nor can the boy knock on the witch's door when she is already away on vacation. The wicked uncle cannot be found out and foiled before he does something wicked. Things must happen when it is time for them to happen. Quests may not simply be abandoned; prophecies may not be left to rot like unpicked fruit; unicorns may go unrescued for a very long time, but not forever. The happy ending cannot come in the middle of the story."
Doesn't that make you curious about this book? I can see why The Last Unicorn is a favorite of so many readers. I'm surprised by how much I liked it considering that I normally go for epic fantasy with strong female protagonists although the unicorn IS female and she can be considered a strong character in her own quiet way. I also liked the secondary characters in this book - Schmendrick, Molly and Prince Lir. Each had his or her own quest and I was rooting for them to find the things that they're searching for. If you haven't heard of this book and you enjoy reading fantasy, you should definitely grab a copy as soon as you can. It's a story filled with magic, warmth and truths about what it means to be an immortal magical being as opposed to being human. For a book that's been out for a while, it doesn't have that many reviews in the blogosphere. I should read Peter S. Beagle's other books. I've noticed that I mostly read novels by female authors and while I don't think that's a bad thing, it would be a good idea to add more males into the mix. So let me know what are your favorites out of Peter S. Beagle's backlist and I'll try to check them out. ...more
I've had my copy of The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope since 2007 and I only got to read it recently. I don't know why IOriginally posted here.
I've had my copy of The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope since 2007 and I only got to read it recently. I don't know why I kept putting it off but I'm glad I finally picked it up. I've heard such good things about it and I believe I got the original recommendation for this from Sounis. I've been meaning to put up a Retro Friday post for a while and since this is an oldie but goodie, it seemed perfect for the meme.
Kate is a lady's maid to Lady Elizabeth, sister to the Queen Mary. She is exiled to a remote castle called Perilous Gard when her beautiful but clueless sister, Alicia, writes a letter that doesn't sit well with the Queen. Poor Kate, it's not even her fault why she ends up in Perilous Gard. But I guess that it's a good thing because instead of being bored like she expected, she becomes tangled in the doings of the Fairy Folk in the area. I've read a couple of fairy novels this year but The Perilous Gard is different from anything else that I've read. For one thing, it's more historical fiction than fantasy unlike other novels that have fairies in them. In that sense, I felt that the portrayal of the Fairy Folk in the novel was realistic. This is also a Tam Lin retelling and that made things more interesting. It's funny because the ballad of Tam Lin is actually mentioned in the book. The Perilous Gard is a lovely story and is a classic for fans of fairy stories. I think this was the book that I was reading around Halloween and it was perfect because it's a bit dark and eerie. Be sure to pick this up if you're into fairy reads because it's a welcome break from the more modern fairies in urban fantasy novels nowadays.
Kate Sutton is a heroine that I really liked - she's not as pretty as her sister Alicia but she's a lot more intelligent. She's sarcastic, witty and I enjoyed reading the banter between her and Christopher Heron, the younger brother of the owner of the castle. I know a couple of my bookish friends are fans of the romance between these two but for some reason, I didn't feel that Christopher Heron was swoon-worthy. I thought that there was more friendship than romance between these two. So that probably says something about the development of the love story - it's a slow burn kind that forms after countless conversations and the characters have gotten to know each other really well. I didn't understand why I wasn't more into it. Maybe I would have loved it more if I read the book when I was younger. My lukewarm reaction to the romance didn't prevent me from enjoying the book as a whole. Like I said, I recommend this for fans of fairy stories or retellings of Tam Lin.
I was pleasantly surprised by the illustrations included in the novel. As always, I love including pictures of illustrations in my reviews so here are some of them:
I'm so glad I got to publish a Retro Friday post this week! I've been trying to write this for the past couple of weeks but I haven't gotten around to it. Anyway, hope you all have a great weekend and let me know if you've read this book and what you thought of it. And if you have any other recommendations for Tam Lin retellings that I should know about....more
I remember buying my beautiful copy of The Invention of Hugo Cabret when I was in the States for a vacation back in 2009. I gotOriginally posted here.
I remember buying my beautiful copy of The Invention of Hugo Cabret when I was in the States for a vacation back in 2009. I got the gift edition for just $11 (yay bargain!) and I haven't gotten around to reading it until this year because of the huge TBR pile. I finally got to pick it up for a read along with my friend Capillya of the fabulous That Cover Girl and fellow Filipino book blogger Aldrin of Fully Booked .Me.
If you've seen an actual copy of this book then you know that it's quite a doorstopper. But don't be daunted by the book's size because it's actually a quick and fun read with all of the illustrations and black and white pictures interwoven into the story. I only read the book at home, I couldn't carry it around with me because it was so heavy and I was surprised at how quickly I went through it (didn't beat Capillya's record though, she read it in one sitting). I wanted to take pictures of all my favorite scenes in the book but I restrained myself since I couldn't post all of them anyway. Hugo is a twelve-year-old orphan living in an apartment inside the walls of a train station in Paris. Isn't it cool that there are apartments IN the walls of the train station? Pretty nifty. His uncle has disappeared and he has no choice but to take over his uncle's duties as the station's clock keeper. Hugo does this in secret though because he's afraid that he'll be sent to prison or to an orphanage when authorities discover that he's living on his own. He can't let that happen because he's working on a little project. Want to know what that sekrit project is? Then go read the book! Sorry, I don't want to reveal any spoilers but you find out early on what Hugo's secret is.
I sympathized with Hugo because he's obviously smart and has awesome skills when it comes to fixing mechanical devices and yet he was so alone. Poor Hugo. He felt like he couldn't depend on anyone else so he relied on his own skills (as a sneaky thief) to keep him fed. I think I've already established my fondness for thieves in fiction here on the blog. His thieving ways lead him to and old man who owns a toy booth at the station and the old man's god-daughter. When I think about it, nothing spectacular or unexpected happens in the book but I had so much fun following the story through both pictures and words that I didn't really mind. Brian Selznick has a unique storytelling method, his artwork tells as much of the story as the text. While I'm not a huge movie buff, I did enjoy learning about the details of the first few films and how they were developed. Now all I have to do is look for these old films so I can watch them. The Invention of Hugo Cabret is one of those books that I can recommend regardless of a person's preferred genres. It's a middle grade novel but told in such an unusual format that is really worth checking out. This is the kind of book that you can read even when you're in the middle of a reading slump because it's so easy to fall into. I'm looking forward to watching the movie, directed by Martin Scorsese, when it comes out later this year and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it will be just as enjoyable as the book.
Laini Taylor is one of my favorite discoveries this year. I fell in love with both Lips Touch and Daughter of Smoke and Bone when I got to read them. Since the latter is getting a lot of attention from bloggers and readers alike, I thought it would be a good idea to feature her lesser-known Dreamdark novel during Retro Friday.
Blackbringer is the first book in the Dreamdark series. Laini Taylor mentions in her website that she initially wanted to write five Dreamdark books but the publisher has decided not to continue with the series. When I found out about that, I rushed to the bookstore to get my own copies of both Blackbringer and Silksinger because I was afraid I would have a hard time looking for copies later on. I had a difficult time getting into Blackbringer at first because it's different from the other Laini Taylor books that I've read but after a couple of chapters, I was hooked and enjoyed reading the whole thing until the end. It's written for younger audiences, middle grade instead of young adult, and is epic fantasy rather than urban fantasy.
Other faeries are content to live in their own world, enclosed by protective spells that keep away both humans and devils. But Magpie is different, she gets her restless energy from her parents and her grandfather, the West Wind. She travels with her band of crows to fight against devils, just like the champions in the golden days of Dreamdark. Devils are evil creatures who devour and destroy everything they can get their hands on. Magpie is one feisty character and I didn't have trouble liking her. She's young for her race, about a hundred years old, but she's determined to do something for their dying world. Even though I didn't think the writing in Blackbringer is as beautiful and lyrical as her YA novels, I still think she created an enchanting world in her first Dreamdark novel and I look forward to seeing how she builds upon that. Some things that I liked about her faeries: they belong in different clans and have their own special skills (e.g. one clan tends to plants and trees while another warrior clan is in charge of protecting Dreamdark) and their wings vary too. Some faeries have butterfly or moth wings while Magpie has dragonfly wings. Another thing that I liked is how significant dreams are in this story - dreams play important roles in the events that unfold in this novel. Illustrations by the author's husband, Jim di Bartolo, also appear in various sections of the book. Here are samples:
I love books with illustrations in them and I think these are beautiful. While the book didn't end on a cliffhanger, it's set up in such a way that the reader knows that there's more to this world. I'm excited for the sequel, Silksinger, especially since I've heard that it's even better than this one. Recommended for those who enjoyed reading R.J. Anderson's Knife or for fans of faerie books. I'm hoping that because Daughter of Smoke and Bone is getting a lot of attention, more readers will pick up Laini Taylor's backlist....more
Lips Touch contains three short stories - Goblin Fruit, Spicy Little Curses Such as These and Hatchling - set in different worlOriginally posted here.
Lips Touch contains three short stories - Goblin Fruit, Spicy Little Curses Such as These and Hatchling - set in different worlds. The common theme in these stories is that they're all about kisses. Each story has its own set of lovely artwork done by Jim di Bartolo. I've been wanting to read this for a while now so I sneaked in some reading time in the bookstore and by the time I finished reading the first two stories, I decided that I'd love to own a copy. I was planning to wait for the paperback to be released because it would be cheaper but was worried that it wouldn't include the artwork so I went ahead and got the hardcover instead. I'm not regretting the decision because I ended up loving it. Laini Taylor's writing is lush and lyrical, exactly what I look for in my fantasy reads and her husband's illustrations are the perfect enhancement to these stories.
To keep this review concise, I'm not going to comment on each story but instead share what I think about the book as a whole. I'm a bit surprised at how much I enjoyed reading these stories because the writing is a bit darker and grittier than my usual favorites. The more disturbing aspects of the stories were balanced out by the positive things like love and hope so I never had a problem with them. Also, I'm usually not a fan of YA urban fantasy but these stories had a fairy tale feel to them than I don't even know if I can classify them as such. It was easy to fall into the atmospheric writing. I'm amazed at how much the author was able to accomplish in terms of worldbuilding considering that these are short stories with limited word count and not full-length novels. I felt like they were just the right length and didn't feel that they were rushed. My favorite out of the three is Hatchling and I certainly wouldn't mind reading more about that world. I hear that she's planning to come out with a book with the same setting, can't wait to read that. In the meantime, I'm going to do my best to track down the rest of Laini Taylor's books because Lips Touch left me hungry for more of her writing. Lips Touch is a lovely book that I highly recommend to all fantasy fans out there. It certainly deserves to get more attention.
Since I included a sample of the illustrations found inside the book, I thought it would be fitting to quote the author as well. This is a non-spoilery tidbit from Goblin Fruit:
Kizzy wanted to be a woman who would dive off the prow of a sailboat into the sea, who would fall back in a tangle of sheets, laughing, and who could dance a tango, lazily stroke a leopard with her bare foot, freeze an enemy's blood with her eyes, make promises she couldn't possibly keep, and then shift the world to keep them. She wanted to write memoirs and autograph them at a tiny bookshop in Rome, with a line of admirers snaking down a pink-lit alley. She wanted to make love on a balcony, ruin someone, trade in esoteric knowledge, watch strangers as coolly as a cat. She wanted to be inscrutable, have a drink named after her, a love song written for her, and a handsome adventurer's small airplane, champagne-christened Kizzy, which would vanish one day in a windstorm in Arabia so that she would have to mount a rescue operation involving camels, and wear an indigo veil against the stinging sand, just like the nomads.
Even though I didn't fall in love with Patrick Ness' The Knife of Never Letting Go, I enjoyed it enough to read his other books. I've seen rave reviews of A Monster Calls so I decided to request a copy from NetGalley when it became available there. I finished reading this book weeks ago and I've let a draft of my review rest in my dashboard, hoping that I'll be able to write something substantial while the dust settles. I admit defeat, nothing that I can write will do this book justice.
This book should come with a warning: "Avoid reading this in public places because it will make you cry." I should have known better than to read A Monster Calls in Starbucks while waiting for friends. I figured I was immune to Patrick Ness' emotional punches since I remained tear-free while reading The Knife of Never Letting Go. I was wrong. I don't think I've ever mentioned it here on the blog but back in January 2007, my dad was diagnosed with stage three lung cancer. Five months later, he passed away. I don't talk about it here on the blog because I used to think it's too personal but I want to share why this particular book resonated with me. To say that I could relate to Connor is an understatement. I wanted to go inside the book and hug him to let him know that he isn't alone in his pain. And I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who felt that way. In a world where cancer is becoming more common, I feel like it has touched the lives of almost everyone - be it through a family member or a friend. I've lost count of the number of wakes and funerals that I've attended because someone lost his or her battle to cancer. I'm thankful that Patrick Ness decided to write this novel because it articulates what so many of us can never put into words - all the anger, the hopelessness, the fear and yes, the denial because accepting the truth is never an easy thing. And that's what the monster wants from Connor: for him to reveal the truth because he can never move on if he can't even admit it to himself.
This a contemporary middle grade or younger YA novel and only the presence of the monster adds a touch of whimsy to the story. You don't have to be a Patrick Ness fan or a middle grade/young adult reader to appreciate this book. What Connor experiences is something that every human being will understand. You know that feeling when a book does a better job of describing how you feel? A Monster Calls is that kind of book. Just thinking about it while writing my review brings to the surface all the emotions that I felt while reading Connor's story. Ever since I started the blog, I've become drawn to well-written, emotional reads that deal with grief and maybe it's because of my own experience, maybe I'm trying to find the words to illustrate how I felt in the books that I read. I'm fond of quoting C.S. Lewis, "We read to know we're not alone" because it's true. A Monster Calls makes me feel that I'm not alone. So thank you, Patrick Ness, I know you already have numerous fans but I just want to say that you've gained another one and I will read everything that you've written and everything else that you will write. I need to buy an actual copy of this book so I can read it over and over again....more
Silksinger is the second book in the Dreamdark series by Laini Taylor and is the sequel to Blackbringer. Laini Taylor has becomOriginally posted here.
Silksinger is the second book in the Dreamdark series by Laini Taylor and is the sequel to Blackbringer. Laini Taylor has become an auto-buy author for me because I fell in love with her YA books: Daughter of Smoke and Bone and Lips Touch. I found Blackbringer a little harder to get into that her other books but ended up enjoying it quite a bit once I got used to the writing and the worldbuilding. I picked up Silksinger right after reading the first book because I wanted to see how the story would progress. Okay, I just realized that I posted my Blackbringer review a month ago - I can't believe it's taken me this long to write about the sequel. Sorry about that!
I've heard from other bloggers that Silksinger is a lot better than its predecessor, Blackbringer, and I have to agree. The second installment in Laini Taylor's series about faeries is a lot easier to get into that the first book. Or maybe it's also because I'm more familiar with the details so it wasn't as difficult as experiencing Dreamdark for the first time. I found the action-packed adventure story engaging right from the start. Here's a glimpse of how the first chapter begins:
"Whisper Silksinger knew two kinds of death. There was the peaceful kind, quiet as eyelids fluttering shut, and there was the kind with teeth, sudden as a spurt of blood, a devil pounce, a scream. She had seen both. Of her whole clan only three faeries remained, and now death had come for them too.
And it had come with teeth."
Doesn't that make you want to know what happens next? The characters in the first book - Magpie, her crow companions and Talon - are back in this novel but new characters are also present. What I liked about Silksinger is that Laini Taylor continued to breathe life to the world that she created in Blackbringer by introducing new characters like Whisper and Hirik, moving the setting to different locations in the same world and adding new kinds of magic. I feel like there are more layers to the story as it moves forward, giving it more depth. I like that each Dreamdark novel focuses on one of the djinn and the fairies that have special connections to them. So even if Magpie, Talon and crows are in this novel, it really is more of Whisper and Hirik's story. At the start, Whisper might seem like such a timid person but she has a backbone of steel when it comes to doing her duty as a guardian of Azazel. She's not as feisty as Magpie but she has her own strengths. And Hirik is the same - he's determined to bring back honor to his clan by serving the Azazel in spite of all the dangers involved.
I've only read a handful of middle grade novels this year but I've really liked all of them, which shouldn't be surprising because I base my reading choices on recommendations from blogging buddies or Goodreads friends. After reading Silksinger, I really felt bad that the publisher has decided not to continue the series. I don't understand why because it's well-written and I would really like to read more of Laini Taylor's writing. Her Dreamdark books are different from her YA novels, which I think is a good thing because it shows her capabilities as a writer. She switches from middle grade epic fantasy to YA urban fantasy and does it successfully. Isn't that amazing? I believe she's working on Daughter of Smoke and Bone's sequel and then she'll probably work on the third novel in the trilogy after that. Which means she won't be able to come back to Dreamdark until after a few years have passed. SAD. There's closure in both Dreamdark books and they don't end in cliffhangers so they can be read on their own but come on, I want to know what happens to the other djinn! I really hope the series finds a new publisher and that we'll eventually see the rest of the books. So if you're a Laini Taylor fan and you love epic fantasy, support her Dreamdark books by reading (and if you can, reviewing) them.
Here's another reason to read the books, they include beautiful illustrations by Jim di Bartolo: