Ariel Silverman has lost a piece of herself- her best friend, Jeni, who disappeared on a college visit. She knows it's her fault- they went everywhere...moreAriel Silverman has lost a piece of herself- her best friend, Jeni, who disappeared on a college visit. She knows it's her fault- they went everywhere together, so if Ariel hadn't missed the trip, Jeni wouldn't have gone missing, would she? A year after the abduction, Ariel heads to Berkeley as a college freshman, intent on finding any trace Jeni may have left behind. What she finds instead is a trio of grad students steeped in mystery and mythology, serving soma at parties and debating the transcendence of the soul. But like all fairy tales, their midnight revels are only the window dressing for something darker.
(view spoiler)[ And honestly, that was the problem for me. Block builds a world that is lyrical and absolutely lush with atmosphere, and in the end breaks it down to little more than a drug-induced haze, fueled by grief and mental instability. Both the blurbs and the dust jacket description set "The Elementals" up as a Tam Lin reinterpretation, and while it was, of a sort, I wanted it to end that way. Instead I felt like the ending really invalidated Ariel's experiences. Of course (if you'll allow me to get my Religious Studies degree on), there are plenty of arguments to be made for mind-altering substances elevating one to a more spiritual, mystic state. Alternatively, though, Ariel was dosed without her knowledge, and was incredibly susceptible to outside influence, and therefore the quality and inherent truthfulness of whatever she saw is questionable.
If you're looking for modern fairy tales, I have to say, step away from this one. If what you're looking for is absolutely beautiful writing and merely an interesting enough story, then by all means, go for it. The mood is intense and captivating, and doesn't disappoint. (hide spoiler)]
Oh, David Levithan... Just when I think I couldn't possibly love your books any more than I already do, I fall head over heels for "The Lover's Dictio...moreOh, David Levithan... Just when I think I couldn't possibly love your books any more than I already do, I fall head over heels for "The Lover's Dictionary." It is both brief and brilliant- I wanted it to last forever, and yet it was a perfect little gem just as it was.
"The Lover's Dictionary" is just that- a dictionary of love. Two people's love- the tiny moments that, strung together, make up the story of a relationship. Hilarious moments snug up against truly tragic ones in the inescapable way that they do. The entry for buffoonery (about a drunken episode of subway pole dancing), is followed shortly by the entry for cocksure-- "We walk into a bar, and you're aware of all the eyes on you. We walk into a bar, and I'm aware of all the eyes on you, too. For you, this translates into confidence. But me? All I can feel is doubt."
Levithan's work offers at once an intimate, yet disassociated look at the life and story of his character. As readers, we're privy to some of the most important moments of their relationship, but the format ensures that we never fully grasp the big picture. We see the highlight reel- the same moments you might see in a film trailer. On the other hand, how many of us remember more than the highlight reel of our own relationships? We remember the moments that left an impact, the ones that stood out, whether from ordinary loveliness or from a sense of the extraordinary. Sometimes, even, from the extraordinarily terrible.
This is a book that captures the way that relationships are so often a series of dichotamies, balanced between ephemeral and permanent, awful and delightful. (less)
This was an absolute romp! "The History of the World According to Facebook is in the same vein as "The Complete History of the World, Part 1," which i...moreThis was an absolute romp! "The History of the World According to Facebook is in the same vein as "The Complete History of the World, Part 1," which is to say irreverent, frequently crass, and a pretty good way to waste an hour or two.
Like it says on the tin, Overstreet's parody presents the history of the world as if it appeared on Facebook. Since we're all familiar with it, it's a format that works. Not that it's particularly difficult to understand, of course- my parents aren't FB users at all, and they got a laugh out of it.
The book is split up roughly by era, from the Beginning of Time ("The Singularity is in a relationship with Time and Space, and it's complicated") to the Information Age ("Sir Mix-a-Lot added Big Butts and Not Lying to his interests"). The funniest bits come at the beginning, by and large- once it starts getting into the modern era, the jokes are a little old. We've all heard basically every George W. Bush crack around in the last ten years, after all. My personal favorite happens fairly early on: "God > Eve: Fail."
Don't get into it expecting any sort of actually informative experience, and leave it on the shelf if you're offended by jokes about plagues, death, or tragically stupid people. If that doesn't bother you, then read it somewhere you can share the funny bits with the people around you, 'cause trust me, you'll want to. (less)
I had a vague recollection that "Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore" was on my to-read list, so I picked it up at the library without expecting too much...moreI had a vague recollection that "Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore" was on my to-read list, so I picked it up at the library without expecting too much. I'm thankful that I did, as by the time I'd finished the first few chapters, I was completely in love with it.
"Penumbra" is a quest story for a modern generation. It explores the fascinating intersection between physical and digital knowledge in a way that is nothing less than joyful. In fact, one of the things that I adored most about it was that it is an emphatically cheerful text. This is not a book for people who fear the Singularity, or who bemoan the fact that e-books are ruining the industry and that nothing can possibly compare. This is a book for people who don't care what form their books come in as long as there are books. For twenty-somethings who devoured fantasy novels as a kid and have spent their ENTIRE LIVES waiting to step through a magic door and begin an adventure.
Clay is a graphic designer with an underdeveloped portfolio and no real world skills-- until the day he takes a job at Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. Like every bookstore of quality, it is full of mysteries, with a decidedly odd collection of customers. Like all of us who grew up on D&D and Tolkien, Harry Potter and Heinlein, Clay is determined to figure out what's Really Going On. To do so, he'll use all the resources at his disposal; after all, every quest needs a wizard, a warrior, and a rogue. He'll find the place where books meet e-books, where brilliance and innovation go hand in hand with tradition.
There's such an incredible sense of wonder, here- a joy that transcends arguments over physical vs. digital. I would offer this to people who love their Kindles, and to people who are afraid to love them. It's all going to be okay; we can meet in the middle. (less)
Oh, my. I completely fell in love with this book. It's as if everything I ever wanted from Harry Potter got married to Narnia and this book is their p...moreOh, my. I completely fell in love with this book. It's as if everything I ever wanted from Harry Potter got married to Narnia and this book is their perfect, perfect baby.
Quentin Coldwater is a brilliant teenager, on his way to a Yale interview, when he gets what he always wanted- he stumbles his way into the grounds of a magical university. After a rigorous, and often nonsensical, examination, he's accepted as a student there. Raise your hand if you've basically spent your entire life wishing this would happen to you. So has Quentin, which is one of the things that makes it so interesting. Quentin, unlike Harry or the Pevensies, knows that he's got it made. Has spent his entire life reading fantasy novels and holding on to the forlorn hope that one day it might be him. And then it is.
That same knowledge, though, comes to eat away at Quentin. After all, once you've had your magical adventure and gotten to Hogwarts, or to Narnia, that's the end, isn't it? You've found your magical kingdom and now you can live Happily Ever After. Quentin (like any other teenager off to college, really) expects that happiness and self-satisfaction is about to be handed to him on a plate... and that's not how it works. Unlike most of us, though, Quentin never learns to make his own happiness, which is, in large part, what drives the remainder of the novel. Never finding satisfaction with where he is, he's constantly driving towards the next, "better" thing.
It's an incredibly interesting treatise on the perils of getting what you've always wanted. Add to that a magic system that actually makes sense for once, that you have to work at, and work hard, and characters I identified with more than is probably healthy, and you've got a recipe for one of my favorite books of the year. I held off on reading this for ages because of all the hype surrounding it, and all I can say is that they were right.(less)
"Shadow Show" is a collection of stories inspired by the works of Ray Bradbury, written by some of today's greatest authors- Neil Gaiman, Margaret Atw...more"Shadow Show" is a collection of stories inspired by the works of Ray Bradbury, written by some of today's greatest authors- Neil Gaiman, Margaret Atwood, and Harlan Ellison, among others. As such, I should have absolutely adored it.
The problem, I think, is that the spirit of Bradbury's stories-what made them quintessentially his- is a lot like pornography; you know it when you see it. I didn't see it in a lot of these stories. An aspect here or there, maybe, but not the perfect blend that he captured time after time. Of course, the authors included in this anthology are not Ray Bradbury, and few could hope to achieve his mastery of story-telling, but I finished most of these stories unsatisfied. They didn't move me the way that Bradbury's stories, especially his short stories, always do.
There are two stories that caught me in the same place, though; stories that were poignant yet chilling, delightful and terrible.
"The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury," by Neil Gaiman- a man who, having treasured the works of Bradbury his entire life, suddenly finds himself forgetting them. What will happen if he forgets? Is it possible that he is the only one holding onto these memories, and that they're about to be lost forever? This was a beautiful story (not that I would have expected anything less from Mr. Gaiman).
"Children of the Bedtime Machine," by Robert McCammon- a hard, lonely woman, who finds her way back to wonder and joy through the stories of Bradbury, and who passes it on. Lovely. Also one of the only stories in the anthology to end on a happy note, which I thought was sort of terrible. It's not as if all of Bradbury's works ended tragically.
All in all, I'd suggest that you skip this and actually read some of Bradbury's books. My personal favorites include From the Dust Returned and The Martian Chronicles, which has my favorite short story, "There Will Come Soft Rains."