Sunday, July 31, 2011

Summer Blog Hop Giveaway!

Welcome to Stop #283 in the Summer Giveaway Hop!  The Hop is hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and Mary @ Bookhounds.  This is my first time participating in a major blog hop, but hopefully I've set everything up correctly.  

Our calendars keep telling us that summer vacation's drawing to a grand finale at last, but those of us who will be returning to school or work refuse to accept it!  For my giveaway prize, I scoured the shelves for a book which just screamed 'beach read', since many of us are or will soon be heading out for one last summer getaway.  So, I ended up deciding on... 

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray (links to my review)

It just doesn't get more 'beachy' than that.  To enter to win, become a follower of A Myriad of Books and fill out the form below.  Don't worry, it's a simple one.  Giveaway ends, like all hop giveaways, at midnight on August 8th and the winner will be announced shortly afterwards.  Best of luck, and I hope you all have a fantastic summer!  ('Cause it's certainly not over yet.)  And make sure to visit all the other blogs in the Summer Blog Hop-- hundreds of fantastic books being given away!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

In My Mailbox #23

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at the Story Siren and inspired by Alea of Pop Culture Junkie.  The idea behind IMM is not only to put new books on our radars but to encourage blogger interaction.  IMM explores the weekly contents of our mailboxes: books bought, received, won, and borrowed, along with other goodies and swag.

Since my last IMM, I've become addicted to a new manga series, discovered the Japanese Hunger Games (sort of), and gone kind of steampunk crazy.  Needless to say, my wallet has suffered as a result.  And the tbr shelf's white spaces just keep on shrinking.  But it's not like any of that's a bad thing.  ;)

Here's what I got:


For Review:

-- Haunting Violet by Alyxandra Harvey
--The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch 
-- Battle Royale by Koushun Takami
Afterschool Charisma Volumes # 1-3 by Kumiko Suekane
--The Wind-up Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
-- Out of Breath by Blair Richmond

Thanks to: 
-- Ashland Creek Press
-- Bloomsbury & My Bookish Ways

Recent Reviews: 

So, what's in your mailbox this weekend?

Friday, July 29, 2011

Manga Review: Afterschool Charisma Volume 2

Genre: shounen science fiction
Artist/Manga-ka: Kumiko Suekana
Rating: T+ for older Teen according to Viz Media
Pages: 200

My Take: 

The second installment of Afterschool Charisma opens only days after the first volume left off... Shiro Kamiya, the only 'human' student at St Kleio Academy-- a futuristic school designed to enlighten and prepare the clones of historical figures such as Joan of Arc and Albert Einstein for their destinies-- is still reeling from the attempted suicide of one of his classmates.  The circumstances surrounding the murder of President Kennedy's clone are somewhat revealed, and a shadowy group of assassins emerge with plans to kill every last one of St Kleio's teenage clones at the upcoming talent Expo (think academy open house).

On a lighter and considerably more ridiculous note: Rockwell, the Academy's director misses the school helipad but drops in for an extended visit at St Kleio's anyway.  The lucky guy assigned to be Rockwell's guide and entertainment... Shiro, as he's the only student not busy preparing the clones' Expo.  Rockwell comes across as a pretty much hopeless idiot.  His antics with Shiro and his mysterious adopted 'daughter', Pandora, really lightened up the ominous mood.  Not so his obvious contempt for clones... or the bizarre cult-like club meetings which are swiftly taking hold of the entire student body.

Okay, remember Dolly the Sheep-- the first animal clone ever created?  The clone students of the Academy keep miniature Dolly key chains as charms, hoping some of the sheep's good luck will rub off on them.  In this volume, that tradition evolved from something kinda cute and cool to something vaguely creepy.  There are fewer story developments overall in this second volume, but overall I remain impressed and enthralled with this series.  The twist ending is a great and terrible cliffhanger!  My jaw literally dropped open; I probably looked like an astonished cartoon character.

Hitler is my favorite character.  Yeah, I never imagined I'd be saying that, but it's true.  He needed more screen (panel?)-time, but what we do see of his tween-age clone only intrigued me further... Joan of Arc was kind of the "featured character" in this volume, as she's on the cover, and I did feel like she was developed a lot better than in the previous volume.  Once again, though, the girls' main purpose in the story seems to be fan-service (that's strutting around looking sexy, if you're not familiar with the manga-lingo) and freaking out.  Grow a spine, Queen Elizabeth!  And don't even get me started on Florence Nightingale.  I miss Marie Curie, though Rasputin is an interesting addition to the student body.  (Teenage Rasputin= considerably creepy.)  Let's see... Mozart may or may not be stark raving mad.  There's some romance in this volume, though not much; this is shounen.  Overall, this series is quickly becoming one of my favorite manga.  I mentioned this in the last review, but I LOVE the art.

Art: 5/5
Premise: 5/5
Characters: 4/5
Story: 3/5
Overall Rating:

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Review: Perdido Street Station

Genre: fantasy-- steampunk
Pages: 623 (paperback)
Published: 2003 by DelRey
Recommended for: readers seeking a compelling if lengthy fantastical novel set in a world which is unique to say the least

Beneath the towering bleached ribs of a dead, ancient beast lies New Crobuzon, a squalid city where humans, Re-mades, and arcane races live in perpetual fear of Parliament and its brutal militia. The air and rivers are thick with factory pollutants and the strange effluents of alchemy, and the ghettos contain a vast mix of workers, artists, spies, junkies, and whores. In New Crobuzon, the unsavory deal is stranger to none—not even to Isaac, a brilliant scientist with a penchant for Crisis Theory.

Isaac has spent a lifetime quietly carrying out his unique research. But when a half-bird, half-human creature known as the Garuda comes to him from afar, Isaac is faced with challenges he has never before fathomed. Though the Garuda's request is scientifically daunting, Isaac is sparked by his own curiosity and an uncanny reverence for this curious stranger.  While Isaac's experiments for the Garuda turn into an obsession, one of his lab specimens demands attention: a brilliantly colored caterpillar that feeds on nothing but a hallucinatory drug and grows larger—and more consuming—by the day. What finally emerges from the silken cocoon will permeate every fiber of New Crobuzon—and not even the Ambassador of Hell will challenge the malignant terror it invokes . . . 

My Take: 

I didn't write my own synopsis for this book, which is very unusual in of itself.  To say that Perdido Street Station is an unusual book is like saying 'The Louvre Museum is big' or 'Man, that show LOST is a tad bit confusing, isn't it?'  I've read a lot of books, and I can safely say that Perdido Street Station stands out from the crowd to an enormous extent.  

The world which China Miéville has created in New Crobuzon is so vastly complex, riddled through with fantastical factions of creatures and humans alike.  It's like any other metropolis in that it has its militia and mobsters, university and bohemian community... only members of that bohemian community might be anything from Khepri-- a humanoid race similar to praying mantises in appearance if not intellect-- to Vodyanoi-- enormous beings which cannot survive out of water for extended periods of time and are skilled in magic involving water.  In Perdido Street Station, we have monstrous moths who fly amok over the city poisoning its population with horrendous dreams and draining them of hope and humanity.  We have a gigantic arachnid called the Weaver whom the militia attempts to employ as a weapon against the aforementioned moths... and who despite this generally takes whatever actions he thinks would eventually create the prettiest pattern in the web of fate.  And we have Yagharek, the Garuda, a noble yet rightfully ostracized outcast whose magnificent wings were stripped from his back by his own people.  Steampunk themes are everywhere, but I think the name Miéville and other authors have given this sub-genre of fantasy is a fitting one: the New Weird.  

The storyline is actually simple considering the complexity of the world in which it is set: Isaac, a Crisis Theory scientist, becomes inevitably involved in a crisis in motion when one of his most mysterious experiments abruptly breaks free of its cage and goes on a vicious killing spree along with others of his kind.  His girlfriend Lin-- who is Khepri and has abandoned her people's lifestyle in favor of becoming a rather unconventional type-- of artist  is held captive by a monstrous mobster suitably named Mr. Motley.  So, Isaac and a few of his friends in the New Crobuzon Underground set out to destroy the monsters.  Along the way they encounter every kind of creature and individual imaginable and many more which I doubt anyone but China Miéville could ever dream up independently of this book.  This book is an experience.  It took me a week to read, and I'm a voraciously fast reader.  But its chaotic beauty, messages of coexistence, and shocking yet satisfying ending make Perdido Street Station very much worth the read.  

My Rating: 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Series Review: The Demon's Covenant &The Demon's Surrender by Sarah Rees Brennan

I read the first book in the Demon's Lexicon Trilogy ages ago; only recently did I have the chance to read and review the last two books in the series.  If you want the full scoop on the premise, check out my review of the Demon's Lexicon.  I will try my best to keep these two mini-reviews somewhat spoiler-free, though as anyone who has read the first book knows, the plot involves one heck of a twist early on!

 Book #2 in the Demon's Lexicon Trilogy
Genre: YA urban fantasy
Pages: 440 (paperback)
Published: 2010 by Margaret K Elderry
Recommended for: fans of magic, magicians, and the paranormal

My Take:

The Demon's Covenant picks up shortly after The Demon's Lexicon left off.  Seventeen year old Mae-- our third-person narrator-- has returned to her ordinary upper-scale London life with her younger brother Jamie.  The only problem: Jamie, having found out that he's a powerful magician, doesn't seem at all willing to return to normalcy.  When Mae discovers him with the leader of the Obsidian Circle, a dangerous and deceivingly pleasant young man who Mae fears is determined to harness Jamie's powers to do his bidding, she feels she has no other choice but to call on the Ryves brothers, Nick and Alan, for help.  The brothers form a dysfunctional family at best, but they know their demons and magicians-- they've spent their entire lives running from the belligerent Obsidian Coven and the deadly secret of Nick's origins.  As if the situation needed more awkwardness, Mae has a history of impromptu snogging with both brothers-- one of which she now regrets falling for with all her heart, even though her heart seems to have other plans...

Mae has always been one of my favorite characters.  She's a tough girl, but also a bit of an outlaw with her pink hair, disregard for the rules, and general snarkyness.  Initially, I doubted that the story would be as fantastic when told from her POV.  Nick and Alan are the main attraction here, so to speak-- the sexy, tormented brothers who are complete opposites and continuously feud, yet loyally stick with one another in the mad, demon-ridden world that is their existence.  But it was actually really cool to get into Mae's head and understand her reactions to Nick and what not.  The biggest bonus for me was to see more of Jamie.  He's absolutely hilarious and lovable, and more so than ever in this second book.  The romantic triangles (er... pentagons?) are enthralling and kept me interested even throughout the slower half of the book.  Which was, incidentally, definitely the first half.  We get to return to the Goblin Market, where spells and encounters with demons are sold for a price and see more of Sin, the Market's best dancer who occasionally takes in a romantic interest in Nick. 

I love how unconventional Sarah Rees Brennan's characters are.  This continues to be my favorite thing about her writing.  For example, we have the evidently evil overlord magician... a nice, twenty-something guy with 'sandy hair' and a polite way about him.  Now enter the heroine in a paranormal romance torn between two (or three) guys... an entirely un-paranormal, '5'0' London schoolgirl with a penchant for rock music.  Their negligent mom... a champion fencer.  This kind of characterization keeps things interesting-- I wish we saw more of it in YA.

My Rating:

Book #3 in the Demon's Lexicon Trilogy
Pages: 400 (hardcover)
Published: June 2011

My Take: 

The conclusion to the trilogy is told from the POV of Sin, a teenage girl who is a dancer in the Goblin Market and the future leader of the Market.  That was until Mae Crawford, former prep-school studnet and the sister of one of the hated magicians came along.  The current leader of the Goblin Market is possessed and doesn't have long to live, and so she sets a series of challenging and ultimately life-threatening tasks for Sin and Mae, who remain friends despite their rivalry.  When Sin is unexpectedly cast out from the Goblin Market, she is forced to rely on the aid of brothers Nick and Alan.  Sin has always been as entranced by the unfeeling and attractive Nick as she is repulsed by his kinder, scholarly brother Alan, whose bad leg and noticeable limp brings to her mind the death of her mother-- a talented dancer who stumbled in a demon's circle and paid dearly for it.  But as she comes to know the brothers better, Sin begins to discover the real Alan beyond the facade of the golden boy she thought she knew... and she is forced to realize that it is only loss which throws into sharp relief her love for him.  Meanwhile the Obsidian Circle and their formidable leader have merged with the powerful Aventurine Circle.  The struggle for magical power comes to an explosive and entirely unprecedented crescendo when Nick's power is thrown into the mix.  

Again, I was worried by the fact that this book is from Sins' POV.  She had been a minor character who appeared only occasionally and I wondered how she could give us an eagle-eye view into the happenings with the Ryves brothers.  I did grow more attached because of her domineering personality and the way she cares for her younger siblings, but there are a few places in the story where Sin sort of just stood off, captured, to the side and watched as magical battles and power struggles unfolded around her. Other times she made good use of knives, though.  The Demon's Lexicon trilogy is big on deadly, pointy objects, uh-huh.  As always, I was impressed by the descriptive writing.

Two important transformations occurred which kind of blew me away: Sin's falling for Alan, when previously we had seen again and again that she could hardly stand to look at Alan because of his leg.  And then we have Jamie's transformation into a powerful and somewhat ruthless, wow.  I don't think he got as much of a storyline as he deserved, but somehow we are shown just enough for it to all make sense.  The dynamic-ness of all our lead characters in this final volume is just... dynamic!  I was especially excited to see more of the demons and get to understand their crazy psyche a little better.  Again with the love pentagons, but again the romances didn't seem even a little superficial.  The Demon's Surrender is absolutely the conclusion to the trilogy I longed and hoped for.         

My Rating:

Monday, July 25, 2011

Cover VS Cover: Beautiful Creatures & The Caster Chronicles

The English-language covers of Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl's Caster Chronicles books are beautiful in their simplicity.  For this week's edition of Cover VS Cover, I have gathered a cadre of international editions, many of which are equally stunning.  In many countries the first book, Beautiful Creatures, is actually known as 16 Moons, and Beautiful Darkness as 17 Moons.  As always, I hope you guys enjoy checking out the different covers and don't forget to weigh in about which are your favorites! 

This set of covers are used in all the English-speaking countries, as far as I know.  I love the Gothic feel of the title font and especially the shading of the swamp-like trees on the first cover, which is definitely my favorite of the lot.

  The French cover of Beautiful Chaos/18 Moons is the only one to have been released so far, other than the English edition.  I really like it the best of this set!  I love how perfectly these three covers match, though I'm not sure why the second book has the sunflower... maybe I've just forgotten something important.  Love the first cover.


One thing I've learned from seeking out covers for so many of these posts: Bulgarian YA covers=yummy.  Love both of these, especially the first one.  A lot of Bulgarian covers I've featured seem to have that imagery with a girl in a dress with long, dark hair.  


The German take on The Caster Chronicles... the covers would give me the impression the books are about shapeshifters, if I didn't know better.  But I love how the silhouetted crow (or raven) is now about to take flight on the second book.  I suppose it will be airborne on the third cover?  The model's eyes are really striking.


The Serbian cover for Beautiful Creatures *drools*.  I love the slants of light filtering down and, yes, just generally everything about it.  Love the leaning trees, which do have that swampy Southern Georgian or Floridan feel to them.  It's all very Gatlin.  

I couldn't find a very good image of the Dutch cover, not one good enough to read the tagline to the left or whatever the logo is at the top... sorry about that. This cover is exceptionally simple.  The font reminds me of the font on the English-language editions-- nice.

Here is-- in my humble opinion-- the best saved for last.  I LOVE this cover-- could not imagine seeing it sitting on a bookstore shelf and not wanting to page through it immediately.  The cobweb tendrils of the tree branches is darkly gorgeous.  

Thanks for reading!  If you have any suggestions for next week's Cover VS Cover theme, be sure to tell me in the comments.  

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Queen of Kings by Maria Dahvana Headley

Genre: historical fantasy
Pages: 401 (hardcover)
Published: 2011 by Dutton Adult
Recommended for: fans of both horror and historical fiction

My Take:

Queen Cleopatra VII of Egypt is poised to lose her country to Roman forces and their Emperor, Octavian, the man who will become Augustus Caesar.  Her lover Mark Antony is said to have died by his own blade and even the citizens of Egypt flock to prostrate themselves before the conquering Romans.  This is the part where Cleopatra locks herself in her palace, dresses to the nines in her most royal and fabulous gown, and commits dignified suicide via the bite of a poisonous asp alongside her handmaidens.  Only, that's not what happens.

In this supernatural alternate history, Cleopatra is devastated by Antony's death and determined to defeat the invading Romans once and for all.  She consults a scholar of the Egyptian religious texts and implements one of the oldest in order to summon up a goddess who is ancient even during ancient times: Sekhmet, the lioness goddess of destruction who long ago led a plague through the streets of Egypt.  Cleopatra means to resurrect Antony, but she is reckless in her invocations-- something goes awry, and Cleopatra unknowingly offers Sekhmet a terrible boon in return for her power... the mortal body of Queen Cleopatra herself.  Cleopatra, possessed by the ancient, blood-seeking evil that is Sekhmet, leaves her fabled tomb and embarks on a journey to Rome to hunt down Octavian and her captured royal children, a journey unbeknownst to those who recorded history.  A journey marked by a telling trail of blood and a terrible black power even Cleopatra of Egypt can hardly hope to expel from her body.

This book seemed like a dream come true when I first stumbled upon it.  A cleverly crafted combination of historical Egypt and Rome, layered with dark fantasy and little-known mythology, lingering horror and war all in the name of one of history's greatest and most tragic loves.  The first 100 pages are considerably slow and somewhat disorienting as far as the passage of time-- rapid one second, suspended in slow-motion the next.  Towards the middle of the book, the story picks up as Cleopatra arrives in Rome and starts searching for ways to exact her revenge and seek out her lost lover in the Underworld. The third-person narrative skips around through brief chapters which reel you in a little farther with each new development, and so the wade through the first part of the book is definitely worth it.

For me, it was one of those books where it's difficult to pick a side in the conflict.  This made reading it a bit more like watching a train wreck unfold, albeit a beautifully written, marvelously researched train wreck.  I just didn't feel compelled to like one character or another, even Cleopatra.  Her being possessed by Sekhmet took away a lot of the strength and swaying charisma which I associate with her.  Octavian alias Augustus Caesar wins the award for most entrancing character, simply because I actually got a feel for what he was about-- his cleverness, Roman arrogance, love for his people, and even that secret longing for Cleopatra which has been guessed at in other historical fiction featuring the two of them.  The subplots became wayy too many, though, and that was probably my main issue with the book.  Queen of Kings's best points are its incredible descriptive writing and the way the different histories of each character are tied together so beautifully and astonishingly accurately, especially for a fantasy whose premise is that Cleopatra escaped her own suicide and became possessed by the vampiric Egyptian goddess of destruction.  It is very much a page-turner once you wade through the first quarter of the book and overall a delightfully dark and surprising tale which I don't think readers will likely ever forget.  The ending... I have no words, for I will give nothing away.  But I liked it.  A lot.    

Cover: 5/5
Premise: 5/5
Plot: 3/5
Characters: 3/5

Friday, July 22, 2011

Mega Manga Review: Afterschool Charisma Volume 1

Genre: shounen science fiction
Artist/Manga-ka: Kumiko Suekana
Rating: T+ for older teen according to Viz
Pages: 208
My Take:

Shiro Kamiya is always the odd man out at St Kleio Academy, a futuristic private boarding school which is exclusive to say the least.  All of the other students are clones of history's most famous-- and infamous-- men and women.  Shiro, whose father is a professor at the Academy, manages to befriend the teenage Napoleon and develops a crush on outspoken Marie Curie.  Still he struggles to understand the tight-knit and clandestine society that has emerged around the St Kleio clones.  His classmates live secluded lives where their natural abilities for leadership and greatness are carefully honed and encouraged.  Failure to pursue the footsteps of their 'originals' is not an option.

When Marie Curie dares to question the school's authority and chooses to pursue a musical talent-- which, according to history, she should not possess-- she is suddenly spirited away to a mysterious 'musical school' which Shiro and the others begin to suspect is in fact something far more sinister.  Meanwhile, the first clone ever to graduate St Kleio-- the clone of President Kennedy-- announces he is running for president on live television... only to be shot in the head in the exact same manner of his progenitor, the first Kennedy.  As the campus erupts in panic, the same question is running through every clone's mind: Are they doomed to repeat history?  Can they possibly outlive their predecessors, or are they nothing more than regurgitated DNA, destined to achieve nothing more and nothing less than their originals?  And what of the shadowy group of assassins who have contacted the St Kleio institute, promising to annihilate every last one of the clones they have created?   

This manga has a fantastic premiseThe story seized my imagination and my attention and didn't release either of them until I turned the final page, only to read a volume finale which is shocking to say the least!  As for the characters, in manga the protagonist is often one of the weaker characters (go figure, right?), but Shiro is much more than a bobble-head going through the motions-- his gripping concern for Marie Curie and the others is immediately evident.  The vast variety of the historical people whose clones cavort through the halls of St Kleio is endlessly fascinating and amusing.  You really haven't met irritatingly all-knowing and uncanny until you've conversed with the teenage Sigmund Freud or fenced against Wolfgang MozartHitler is without a doubt my favorite of the clones.  Like Marie Curie, he seems to defy the expectations of who and what the scientists who created him expect him to be.  Instead of a monster capable of committing genocide, we are introduced to a big-eyed younger boy who is ostracized by the other clones for the crimes of his original, yet claims he would never hurt a fly.  Hitler seems friendly to Shiro, and yet there's something vaguely eerie about the kid as well... I can't wait to see how he is developed in future volumes.  Mozart is another great character: so arrogant and talented, yet it becomes clear that he is in fact tortured by some terrible secret.

If I were to name one complaint, it would have to be that most of the female characters seem rather shallow compared to their male counterparts.  An example is Queen Elizabeth's clone wailing about how she doesn't want to die an old maid like her original when there were clearly, come on, much more pressing matters at hand.  Marie Curie is the exception to the rule, and Joan of Arc has promise.  Overall, the translation is pretty much flawless and the art superb.  I liked the larger panels and appreciated also how close the manga-ka's artistic rendering of the clones was to how they might have actually appeared as teens.  I am now officially obsessed with this series and physically need to get my hands on the next volume!

The rating system for manga will be slightly different:

Art: 5/5
Premise: 5/5
Characters: 4/5
Story: 4/5

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Friday Following & Hopping #29

Happy Friday to all and to all a good weekend!  Hello to everyone stopping by my blog for Follow Friday (which is hosted by paranormal blogging queen Parajunkee).  I'd also like to welcome any old followers dropping in to say hi.  :)   Leave your blog's link when you comment and I'll be certain to visit and follow you back!

For those who don't know: I'm Kat, I blog and review fiction-- my typical reads being fantasy, sci-fi-esque, or historical.  My blog has recently been undergoing big renovations, so if you by chance sight a banner extending across the entire page or if text is suddenly obliterated behind a blog button after you refresh, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.  ;)

This week's FF featured bloggers are: We Fancy Books.
I've been following these guys' reviews for a while now-- good stuff, so go check it out!

The question posed to us this week is:

Name 3 authors that you would love to sit down and spend an hour or a meal with just talking about either their books or getting advice on writing from?

My answer:  Well, my first author idol is going to be a total duh, so let's just get that out of the way.  The author I would love to meet most is JK Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series.  She seems to be a very private person, considering the international fame and millions of adoring fans she has accumulated.  I have been a fan of Ms. Rowling's books since I was six years old, so I have more than a whole decade's worth of questions and... gushing about Harry Potter with which I would love to bombard her.  

My next choice would have to be Neil Gaiman.  Another popular favorite author, yeah-- I'm guessing my answers aren't going to be the most original this week!  I love Gaiman's books to death, and I also love to watch his appearances and announcements and everything in between on Youtube.  So, I sorta kinda stalk him, yes.  He has the cleverest, quickest wit, and as a side note I could listen to his voice all day.  

My final author idol is a toss-up between JRR Tolkien, author of the Lord of the Rings and all its sequel, prequel, and companion novel trappings, and Michael Grant, who writes the YA Gone series.  I fear I would probably end up going all Stephen King's Misery on Michael Grant, demanding to know what fate befalls my favorite characters in his last two books. ... I'm thinking that would actually be an issue for me when it comes to having a face-to-face chat with quite a few of my favorite authors. ;)   I'd love nothing more than to learn who you guys would love to meet, so comment away!

Wishing you Happy Hopping and a totally awesome weekend, 

Winner Announcement: Mythological Books Giveaway

And the winner of my mythological books giveaway is...
Entry #8 

Congratulations, and I will be emailing you shortly so you can pick which of the books you want.  Thanks to everyone who entered-- entries were low this time around but, in the words of a great literary character, 'Frankly, my dear, I don't give a darn.'  ;)   I'll be hosting another giveaway shortly.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Myriad of Big Changes For This Little Blog

So, I've tweaked my design a bit for starters.  Tweaked being a word which here means 'drastically altered the layout and created an entirely new banner'.  I felt the sidebars were making the whole blog too cluttered, so the new layout has only one sidebar and nothing else but wide open space for post content.  Personally, I'm loving the new simplified look, but I want to hear what you guys, my followers, think!

Some of you observant people may have noticed that page tabs have been deleted and added, as well.  Including my... Review Policy(!)-- the book blogger's public relations Bible.  The story behind this is that I was looking around at the unbroken spines on my book shelves and scanning the list of unread e-books on my Kindle, and I thought, 'I'll never be able to read all these.'  As an incoming senior trying to rack up AP classes and college application stuff, honestly the last thing I need is the stress that comes from reviewing books for authors and publishers.  That said, if you are an author or publisher reading this: if I have already promised you a review for your book, then I can assure you the review will be posted.  I won't go back on these commitments.

I'm excited to begin reviewing a broader range of books on this blog, including manga and a lot more adult fiction than I previously did.  Just because the blog is being 'un-commercialized' (though it's not as if it was ever commercial, exactly... I guess 'un-conventionalized' is a better term), doesn't mean I'm going to stop posting!  To the contrary, I'm working on a slew of reviews and new features which I really hope you guys will enjoy.  There will probably be fewer weekly memes and more books featured.  With a lot of the stress that comes from reviewing alleviated, I'm really looking forward to having more time to read and comment on my favorite blogs-- one of the main reasons I got involved in the blogging community in the first place.  I'd love to know what you guys think about all these changes.   

Sunday, July 17, 2011

My Favorite Mythological Creatures

  I've always been fascinated by mythology.  To this day, I muse that the convenient swirl of hair below a horse's forelock is where its unicorn's horn once was.  But I also can't see the Black Forest without wondering if the ErlKing goblin is lurking in the shadows of the lovely trees.  Myths have always inspired people as to the possibilities out there, as well as represented the shadows and light of the universal history of mankind.

The plural is pegasi, but in Greek mythology there was only one Pegasus.  He was a beautiful horse, white, winged, and magnificent, born from the union of Poseidon (who, some say, created horses from the surging sea foam of waves) and Medusa, back when she was still a beautiful woman before Athena turned her into a monster.  The Greek heroes often sought out Pegasus as a mount when they quested to slay deadly monsters.  Interestingly, Heracles and Pegasus never met in myth, though the Disney film will tell you otherwise. ;)  Theseus rode Pegasus in order to destroy Medusa.  Medusa was in fact Pegasus's mother, though it is sometimes said he sprang from her blood in the temple of Athena.  Later, Bellerophon rode Pegasus when he slew the terrifying Chimera. Bellerophon later fell to his death from Pegasus's back, and so the immortal horse flew to Olympus, where he became the steed of Eos, the goddess who brought the dawn.  Pegasus also brought Zeus thunder and lightning on his back, and was placed in the autumn sky as a constellation in honor of his service to the gods.  

I grew up around horses, so the animals have always been special to me.  Whilst Pegasus is renowned as a noble and beautiful horse, the treacherous Kelpie is an infamous monster which hails from Scotland.  The Kelpie is a beautiful water horse whom waits in the shallow water of lakes and streams and entrances humans to sit on its back.  Many humans have tried to bridle the Kelpie and employ it to plow fields, but almost invariably the water monster drags them down to the briny deep to devour them.  There's a rumor that it prefers livers above all else.  ;)

The idea of a firebird which explodes in flames when dying only to be reborn in its ashes is an ancient one.  The Egyptians first told stories of the creature, and much of Asia and Middle East followed suit over the centuries, calling it by the varied names of Feng-Huang, Ho-oo, Benu, and Firebird.  Today Dumbledore's phoenix Fawkes from the Harry Potter series is well-known as a symbol of wisdom and rebirth.

The Good People
It's what they would prefer you to call them.  :)  Modern faeries abound in urban fantasy and in art, but the original faeries were descendants of the Tuatha de Danann, a mythical race of gods and goddesses who once inhabited Ireland.  After the coming of Christianity to the Emerald Isle, the Tuatha (their name means, in Irish, the people of the goddess Danu) were reduced to nature spirits and the seldom-seen bogies and tricksters of faerie lore.  The sidhe, as they are sometimes called, are said to live under mounds and in cairns, as well as in their mythical homeland of Tir Na nOg.  They are the inspiration for many modern fantasy races, including the elves of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings series.

Kitsune is the Japanese word for 'fox'.  In Japan, foxes were revered as wise nature spirits who safeguarded forests and temples.  Many of the urban temples in Tokyo boast statues of foxes which are really quite uncanny!  As long as there have been stories of the mythical fox, there have been stories of humans-- particularly young women-- who turn out to be foxes.  Always, the Kitsune's true nature is that of the fox, and even in their human forms they are capricious and sly.  The typical legend is that a young man falls in love with a girl and marries her, only to later find that she is in fact a fox.  Sometimes, a fox will bless a village or a helpful human. The Kitsune is said to be different from typical foxes in that it may have several tails.  Two or three tails is common in art, but the wisest and eldest Kitsune are said to have snow-white nine tails.  This portrait of a Kitsune is actually quite eerie... it's kinda freaking me out!

Hope you guys enjoyed the myth snippets and the pics.  Feedback is what I live for, so tell me what you think! As far as the Midnight Summer Fest goes, don't forget to enter my giveaway to win one of two books featuring myth and folklore.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

In My Mailbox #22

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at the Story Siren and inspired by Alea of Pop Culture Junkie.  The idea behind IMM is not only to put new books on our radars but to encourage blogger interaction.  IMM explores the weekly contents of our mailboxes: books bought, received, won, and borrowed, along with other goodies and swag.

Lots of great books in my mailbox this week: a healthy, chaotic blend of steampunk, horror, and the more literary (some of which is for my upcoming lit class.)  I seem to be almost unconsciously moving away from YA these days, though I currently have a lot of YA reviews lined up.  Stay tuned.  :)

Here's what I got: 
From the Library:

For Review: 
Bought for Lit Class:

-- Queen of Kings: The Immortal Story of Cleopatra by Maria Dauvana Headley
-- Perdido Street Station by China Mieville
--Dracula, My Love: The Secret Journals of Mina Harker by Syrie James
-- Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
-- The Crowded Shadows (The Moorhawk Trilogy #2) by Celine Kiernan
-- Goliath (Leviathan #3) by Scott Westerfeld
-- The Isle of Blood (The Monstrumologist #3) by Rick Yancey
-- The Rapture of Canaan by Sheri Reynolds
-- The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

Thanks to: 
-- Simon & Schuster
-- the Gaston-Lincoln Library Branch

Recent Reviews: 

So, what's in your mailbox this weekend?
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