“Stories are wild creatures, the monster said. When you let them loose, who knows what havoc they might wreak?”
Conor is a young lad with far too many “Stories are wild creatures, the monster said. When you let them loose, who knows what havoc they might wreak?”
Conor is a young lad with far too many problems on his plate. He wakes nearly every night from a recurring nightmare that is too horrible for him to think about. He’s picked on by a trio of bullies at school. His home life—living with a single mom whom he loves dearly—is fraught with A Big Problem. And to make matters even more complicated, a monster shows up outside his house one night at seven minutes after midnight, calling for him.
Patrick Ness’ A Monster Calls is definitely one of the most heart-wrenching books I’ve ever read. The book tackles a serious subject matter—cancer—in a way unlike anything I’ve ever encountered before. Conor’s monster, a wicked and spiny thing straight from the Wilds, is a vivid beast with an attitude that dares not be trifled with. A tentative deal is struck between Conor and the monster: the monster will tell Conor three stories and then Conor will tell the monster the truth about his nightmare.
This is the basic premise of A Monster Calls. The book is a short, gorgeous thing, filled with illustrations that pull the eyes in for long moments. The plot is simple, and yet it is not shallow. The stories from the monster are great to think on, for both the Reader and for Conor. They’re fantastic cautionary tales worth the read alone.
I confess that the artwork was enough to pull me into this read. The detail is wild, easily finding a home in the realm of dream. Jim Kay, the illustrator, has created several wonderful works of art for this book. They all fit the tone of the scenes for which they're drawn. The style reminds me of stuff from the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series, only more sketch like. And, perhaps because of the story, I'm also reminded of Where the Wild Things Are.
One cannot help but feel an overwhelming dread shortly after starting the book. With each page turned the dread grows thicker, the fate more and more certain. As I finished up the last several pages I read quickly, hoping to pass the deep punches to the gut unscathed. I did not. I closed the book and sighed heavily. I believe I told Keisha something like, “Oh my gosh I feel like bawling.” Why do you want to read something like that? she asked. “Because the emotions make me feel alive.” (Yes, I'm a dork.)
And they do. And that’s exactly why I recommend Patrick Ness’ A Monster Calls. That's the whole reason to read, is it not? To feel something? Ness's words, along with Kay's illustrations, pierced me.
This book is a great tool for anyone who is losing a loved one to cancer, but one's circumstances need not be so cursed to get something from the novel. I'm of the opinion that we all need to read something from time to time that makes us appreciate life a little more, that makes us pay attention to those that are hurting around us, that makes us thankful for what we have. A Monster Calls does just that. It's not an easy book to read, in terms of emotional impact, but it is a rewarding book. It is enjoyable. It is beautiful. It is tragic.
If you’ve got a few hours (probably around two-ish) to spare and are itching for some quasi-Realism, then look no further than A Monster Calls. Wow. That should do it....more
Ursula Le Guin is a name any fantasy reader would be familiar with. Her critically acclaimed Left Hand of Darkness was both a Hugo and a Nebula AwardUrsula Le Guin is a name any fantasy reader would be familiar with. Her critically acclaimed Left Hand of Darkness was both a Hugo and a Nebula Award winner, and is now considered one of the SFF Masterworks. Outside of the Hanish universe where LHoD is set, Le Guin's rather famous for her Earthsea novels, of which begins with A Wizard of Earthsea.
A Wizard of Earthsea was written in 1968 and is the first book of the Earthsea cycle. It is an early coming-of-age fantasy novel that follows the life and development of a powerful young wizard named Ged. When Ged's wild magic saves his small village from destruction, rumors of his power spread throughout the island of Gont. 'Ere long, Ogion the Silent, another famous wizard, appears and wants to take the boy under his tutelage. For Ged, who's always dreamed of being grand and famous, his life will never be the same.
Reading A Wizard of Earthsea, it's obvious that many of our modern fantasy writer's have borrowed ideas from Le Guin. (Though, to be fair, I'm unsure whether Le Guin created many of the following, or if she, too, borrowed from others.) For example, names are extremely important things in Earthsea. If a wizard learns the true name of something or someone, he will gain absolute control over it. Because of this, naming is an important aspect to the magic system. (I'm thinking of Eragon, Jim Butcher's Dresden Files, and even the glorious Pat Rothfuss' Name of the Wind.) Also, young Ged travels to a school for budding wizards, where he learns the rules and ways of wizardry. There he runs into a bully and the two have a less than friendly relationship. (Uh, Harry Potter and, gulp, The Name of the Wind.)
Now, these two things don't necessarily dampen my impressions of any of the examples mentioned above, but they do have me thinking. How crucial is Ursula Le Guin's Wizard of Earthsea to fantasy? Also, how many other older fantasy worlds have been borrowed from? (Tolkien will remain unmentioned.*)
The real question is does Le Guin's world hold up? Is her story worth the read? Was I entertained? The answers are yes, yes, and yes. The writing is simple and easy, perfect for any YA-curious readers or someone looking for something light. The plot is rather predictable for the most part, but it still was paced well enough that I wanted to know if my expectations were correct. There are some scenes that are spectacular, getting to see the actual magic work and witness its repercussions. Ged is a hero with flaws, but he's relatable, too. And I never really felt bored reading, even though the book is forty-two years old.
Yet, at the same time, the novel is dated. I can't say Ged has taken up a spot in my favorites as far as heroes go. I can't get past the cliches that jump out at me. Still, the geography and lands of Earthsea were actually pretty cool, and I enjoyed discovering the new world with Ged. Le Guin does a wonderful job with the sea and the islands.
Overall, A Wizard of Earthsea is an incredibly short read. Its story is fast-paced and exciting, full of excellent scenes and a semi-interesting protagonist. If you're interested in reading an older fantasy, one that may have greatly impacted some modern fantasy writer's minds, then check out Le Guin's classic. I'm not sure when I'll read the sequels, or if I even will, but this compulsive read was entertaining.
*Of course, by doing this I have mentioned him....more
The Graveyard Book begins with a set of murders, gruesome and dark. An infant baby boy happens to crawl from his cradle during the murders and winds uThe Graveyard Book begins with a set of murders, gruesome and dark. An infant baby boy happens to crawl from his cradle during the murders and winds up in a nearby graveyard, where the inhabitants--ghosts, ghouls, and other paranormal things--agree to raise the child.
Nobody Owens grows up under the tutelage of Silas, a mysterious figure that's not quite dead, yet not living either. Life in the graveyard is different for Bod, but the boy adapts quickly and loves the place as his home.
Neil Gaiman is a wonderful storyteller. He has a way with words, like he somehow is able to pierce deep into the soul and speak directly to you. The prose is fantastic, and I daresay the man strings together words with magic. Reading The Graveyard Book (or, in my case, listening to the audio version) was a delightful experience, as all Gaiman tends to be.
In addition to Gaiman's exceptional word choices, the plot itself is rich with real characters. Bod is a young child coming to learn not only about life, but also about growing up in a graveyard with ghosts and what-not for guardians. His teachers and friends are all on a different spiritual plane, and the rare site of another human is something Bod cherishes. The boy has a great personality, and I enjoyed watching him grow and mature through the novel.
As I mentioned, I read the audio version of this book. Narrated by Neil Gaiman himself, the audio book seemed to offer its own type of magic for listening. I found myself captivated by Gaiman's reading. Plus, being the author, I'm sure he's able to act the part (adding inflections, etc. in dialog for example) better than any other narrator. World-famous banjo player Béla Fleck created and played the music that opens and closes each cd, and this music always fit the action.
The Graveyard Book is a deeply imaginative book, honored with a Newberry Award, Carnegie Medal, Hugo Award, and Locus Award. This highly decorated book deserves all the praise it gets. The story is dark at times, but never too dark, and I enjoyed it very much. The Graveyard Book is a fun read that I recommend to anyone. It hearkens back fond memories of childhood, and the trip with Bod was one I feel anyone could relate to....more
WARNING: Do Not Read Unless You've Read The Hunger Games and Catching Fire. These two books will be used as source material and thus will contain spoiWARNING: Do Not Read Unless You've Read The Hunger Games and Catching Fire. These two books will be used as source material and thus will contain spoilers. Nothing will be spoiled for Mockingjay.
After somehow surviving the Hunger Games twice, Katniss Everdeen's life is in turmoil. Peeta is captured by the Capitol. District 12 is destroyed. War is all across Panem, following the bright, flickering wings of the Mockingjay. Can the rebels rise up and overthrow President Snow and his evil regime?
There was no doubt that I would be reading Mockingjay. Suzanne Collins' phenomenal YA series and its remarkable characters are strong and unforgettable and I had to find out how it all ended. And, lamely, I even cared about who Katniss would end up with: Peeta or Gale. Yes, I had my preference.
I went into Mockingjay expecting tragedy. I've read enough dystopic literature to know that people would likely die. Heck, I knew not to expect a happy ending. What I expected was for the rebels to overthrow the Capitol and society somehow manage to eke out its existence for another few years. I expected more brutality, more evil machinations, more social commentary, more tough choices, and more fast-paced action for Katniss.
Did the book live up to my expectations? Were my expectations even relevant? I'm not saying. I will say that after finishing the book I had a few minor issues, but I can't see any better way for it all to have ended. There were certain choices that seemed irrational and certain actions that left a bitter taste in my mouth, that's for sure.
The story is heavy and brutal. Not as graphic as the previous books (Remember the muttations from Catching Fire? Or the tracker jacker venom dream Katniss had?), Mockingjay still carries a massive weight to the story. It's not an easy read; there's too much dytopia for that, but it is a quick and entertaining read. Still, the mindset for reading is so heavy that reading a lot in one sitting is sometimes taxing.
I can't imagine anyone reading this without reading the previous two books, nor would I recommend it. Likewise, I can't imagine anyone not reading this after reading the first two books. If you've invested time in the life of Katniss Everdeen, then Mockingjay is a book you'll read to get closure. I was satisfied with the end, and I think Collins did an amazing job at portraying her world. There's plenty of things to think about on the series as a whole, like our current societies love for reality tv or our never-ending desire to be beautiful. But more than that, there's a teenage girl that goes through unimaginable difficulties and she is a character to remember.
Mockingjay is a suitable end to Collins' trilogy. It has its flaws and certainly doesn't live up to The Hunger Games, but it has enough excitement in it to easily make it worth the read....more
The powerhouse that was The Hunger Games slides directly into Catching Fire. Katniss and Peeta are Victors of the Games, and they're settling into theThe powerhouse that was The Hunger Games slides directly into Catching Fire. Katniss and Peeta are Victors of the Games, and they're settling into their new life of stardom. The country is enamored with the two young lovebirds, forcing Katniss to pretend like she reciprocates Peeta's true feelings. But there is unrest afoot in Panem, and all-out rebellion threatens the peace of the Capitol.
I felt this book was not as powerful and breathtaking as the first in the series, but it still told an exhilarating story that left me wanting more as the last page turned. The 75th Hunger Games was very exciting, and I particularly enjoyed the innovations Collins designed.
Like many second books in a trilogy, Catching Fire seemed like a transitional book, where characters get flushed out and pieces get positioned. That's not to say that the story isn't great, but it's just not as good as The Hunger Games.
Overall, Catching Fire is a must read if you're interested in the story. It offers rich prose, vivid imagination, and a story that begs to be read. I'm eagerly awaiting the conclusion of this wonderful trilogy....more