Friday, September 28, 2012

Announcement: Myriad of Monsters in October

Kat of a Myriad of Books proudly hesitantly announces…

Every year since I first started my little blog (read: twice, we are fast approaching its two-year anniversary), I've had this idea in the back of my head to feature a bunch of horror and supernatural book reviews and hold a Halloween-themed event.  This year, I'm away at college and really missing the array of October traditions back home-- pumpkin pie, creepy corn mazes, SyFy movie marathons, and going trick-or-treating with my cousins--, just the whole Halloween shebang.  I'm not really into college parties, so I'd kinda resigned myself to having to basically "skip" the Halloween season this year.

Then it occurred to me a few days ago: how better to celebrate Halloween then by doing a tribute to its themes on my sometimes sadly-neglected blog?  The horror genre has long been one of my favorites, so I thought it would be awesome to post some reviews for my favorite books of the genre.  And ideas for posts just kept coming: I could feature some creepy covers, rate the best and worst of Stephen King, best literary-inspired Halloween costumes, even feature some horror movies.  So I made this button (hardly a work of art, I know) and decided to call it an event.  A very loosely-structured, informal, small event, but a blog event nevertheless.  Throughout the month of October, I hope to post reviews of tales of the horrific and paranormal, both classic and contemporary, and I'll be featuring a few special posts on the theme of Halloween as well.  As usual, the posting schedule will probably be sporadic depending on the intensity levels of my homework and mid-terms this month, but I'll be trying my best to frequent the blogosphere more and more frequently.  Can't wait for October 1st!


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Top Ten Series I Haven't Finished

It's been a busy week, but I'm so glad I have time to participate in one of my favorite weekly memes, Top Ten Tuesday, which is hosted by the awesome bloggers over at The Broke and the Bookish.  This week's theme: all those book series you started with good intentions, but ended up not finishing for whatever reason.  Picking ten was no problem for me-- I can be picky about rather or not to read the second book after the first in a series, but once I finish the second I typically will finish out the whole series.

What: The House of Night series by PC + Kristin Cast
& Why not: It's a safe bet that I probably won't read the next book in the House of Night series-- it's surprising to me that I made it as far as Burned.  While the series is so addictive, I really think they took a bad turn around book 5 as far as plot and characters.  Whenever the story started to have a lot of different POVs other than Zoey's, I started to lose interest.

What: The Horsemen of the Apocalypse series by Jackie Morse Kessler
& Why not: I still have good intentions about this series.  I really liked both Hunger and Rage-- darker fantasy-meets-reality stories are my favorites-- but still have yet to read Loss.  Must fix that soon!

What: The Hush, Hush series by Becca Fitzpatrick
& Why not: I may in the minority in the blogger community in having disliked Hush, Hush.  The heroine Nora annoyed the crap out of me and the love interest, Patch, is probably one of my least favorite paranormal romance-y heroes of all time 'cause, well, he's a total creep.  Will never read the next book.

What: The Theatre Illuminata series by Lisa Mantchev
& Why not: I really liked Eyes Like Stars-- it was cute and full of theatre and Shakespeare references; had a cool protagonist and (*gasp*, no way) a bad-boy love interest.  But he wasn't a creeper, like Patch.  I definitely want to read Perchance to Dream soon.


What: The Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead
& Why not: This list seems to be almost exclusively populated with paranormal romance-type series. I guess I was really into them for about two years, then fell off the bandwagon and started to read more adult fantasy and historical stuff, etc.  Vampire Academy is a really well-written series and I like the characters, but I just haven't so far been interested enough to read the fifth book.  Also... a couple kissing on the front cover tends to discourage me from buying/checking out a book, because I'm generally worried about what the "people at reception" will think about my reading tastes.  (Links to an Alex Day video-- it explains the "people at reception" syndrome we've probably all experienced... I think?)

What: The Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan
& Why not: I just couldn't get into this series the way I did Percy Jackson & the Olympians-- it's funny, but not as good and suspenseful overall. 

What: Fullmetal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa
& Why not: In a word (or a series of symbols), $$$.  It's the same old problem with me and graphic novels.  It's hard to convince myself I need to buy ten $9 manga volumes I can read in an hour or so-- but I do really want to finish reading FMA, and watching the Brotherhood anime, too!

What: The Maximum Ride series by James Patterson
& Why not: For me, The Final Warning was like the final straw.  I flipped through the latter books, and didn't find them much better.  (But, really, no book could top the amount of silliness and bizarre dead-end subplots that's found in The Final Warning.)  The first three Maximum Rides are great quick reads, though.

What: The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare
& Why not: Another series I have good intentions about.  The reviews of City of Lost Souls have put me off buying it, but other people say this latest book is good.  *Shrugs*.  I dunno, guess I will get to it eventually.

What: The Darkest Powers Trilogy by Kelley Armstrong
& Why not: This is a simple case of me not being interested enough to read the next book-- The Awakening was good, but a very meh kind of good.

....and there are many more which I don't feel as strongly about.  Hope you guys enjoyed, and be sure to leave the link to your Top 10 so I can check yours out in return.  :)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Wolf Gift by Anne Rice

Genre: paranormal
Pages: 404 (hardcover)
Published: February 2012 by Knopf

My Take:

Reuben Golding is a twenty-something reporter for a San Francisco newspaper-- he's a talented writer who has landed a great job, has a long-time girlfriend, and a family filled with success stories: his mother's a surgeon, his brother a priest, and his father a professor.  When researching for a story along the California coast, he falls in love with the beautiful Nideck manor-- an elegant house surrounded by redwood forest and furnished with antiquities, books, and treasures from all around the world.  He falls just as deeply in love with the woman who introduces him to the old house, the beautiful and lively Marchent.  She tells him the story of how her uncle Felix, a brilliant intellectual and wealthy eccentric, the previous owner of Nideck house, disappeared years ago while on an archeological dig.  

But Reuben's love affair with Marchent and with the Nideck house is doomed to end too quickly, when Marchent is attacked suddenly in the night and Reuben himself is bitten by an unknown beast during the struggle.  Days later, he wakes up in the hospital to discover that his friends and family, who surround him with their worries, are convinced that he is no longer himself, that he has changed in some elusive, yet vital way.  Their suspicions are confirmed, when Reuben discovers that through the mysterious bite he has inherited a condition which both empowers and disturbs him, an ability to transform into a wolf-like creature-- a power he calls the "Wolf Gift".  Summoned by the scents and sounds of terror, he begins a superhero-like spree of killing criminals and rescuing their would-be victims, causing the newspapers and the wide world to call him "The Man Wolf".

Compared to Anne Rice's earlier "supernatural transformation"-type books-- meaning, primarily her Vampire Chronicles-- The Wolf Gift was an enjoyable jaunt of a book.  Sure, there is some internal conflict within Reuben where he wonders if he could lose control of himself in his wolfen form or gradually become more of an animal than a man.  ("The Man Wolf", by the way, is not a very scary moniker for a werewolf.  And "the Boy Wolf" is even worse-- that's like calling the two characters Batman and Robin. There's a reason people tend to say "Wolfman", and not the inverse.)

Reading this newest book by Anne Rice, who I consider one of my all-time favorite horror and paranormal writers from childhood and pre-teenhood, I found myself missing the vampire Lestat de Lioncourt and his "savage garden" of a world.  I missed the extravagant evil plans of the Egyptian vampire queen Akasha, the emotional angst ("I wished for death...") of Louis from Interview as he poured out his soul to a hopeful mortal boy in a dinghy hotel room.  The things I enjoyed most seemed like elements of her earlier writing: the descriptions of the ornate elegance of the Nideck house, the mystery of the nature of Reuben's transformation, and the appearance of some decidedly sinister Russian scientists who seem far to eager to get their hands on Reuben for some "tests".

I enjoyed, for the most part, the prose and writing style-- even her ramblings, I love a good Anne Rice ramble-- but not so much some of the new plot elements she seems to have imported from the current paranormal romance genre.  Such as Insta-love, for example-- you know, the oft-seen paranormal romance phenomenon in which the protagonist falls instantly in love with a person they have barely laid eyes on, much less spoken to.  Reuben's love interest was like that and, though I mostly liked this Laura, I thought it happened wayy too quickly, especially with Reuben having a girlfriend and all.  And then there just doesn't seem to be enough conflict, and when there is, it is over far too quickly.  Parts of Reuben's background seemed irrelevant or even a little boring at times, and Reuben himself wasn't what I would call an enthralling protagonist.  He lacked the eccentricities or the intrigue, even the deep sadness and emotional depth, of the protagonists of Rice's earlier paranormal books.  *Cough, cough-- Lestat* 

There was the spark of a good subplot with Reuben's brother Jim, a priest and his closest confidante.  This could have been really interesting, I thought: how would such a religious man deal with his baby brother's suddenly confessing to him that he is an inhumane monster, a sin against nature and responsible for terrorizing the city and the world?  The potential there was not fulfilled, for reasons I won't go into because of spoilers.  The subplot of Felix Nideck and his disappearance and apparent death was never really fleshed out either, until nearly the very end of the book.  And the Wolf Gift's ending... a real disappointment, for me, at least.  Maybe I was hoping for too much "paranormal" and got too much "romance".  Overall, I enjoyed the story-- it kept me turning the pages pretty quickly-- and a lot of the different elements: Anne Rice's familiarly evocative writing style and the way she kinda put her own spin on werewolves (not my favorite spin on werewolves either, though).  But in the end, give me Interview or The Vampire Lestat (especially!-- that's still one of my favorite books) over this any day.  The Wolf Gift is new and exciting, but altogether it is probably not destined to become an Anne Rice classic.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Top 10 Bookish People I Want to Meet

Top Ten Tuesday is an awesome weekly meme hosted by the bloggers over at The Broke and the Bookish.  Every week we make a top ten list based on a bookish theme, and this week's is the Top Ten Bookish People, like authors or bloggers, etc, who you'd absolutely love to meet.  Wow, there are so many authors I would do *almost* anything for the chance to meet!  To keep things simple, I stuck to contemporary and living writers, since the whole back catalog of writers from earlier centuries would just be too difficult to pick from.

                                         Neil Gaiman

I chose this picture because he somewhat resembles Alan Rickman in it... haha, I never saw that at all before now!  Gaiman was a no-brainer for me.  I've been in awe of his storytelling (he's one of those rare authors who can be called a storyteller, a crafter of words and of characters and settings, not simply an author whose books sell well) since I was eleven or so and first read Coraline.  If you've never read one of his books, I HIGHLY recommend you do-- and start with Stardust, because I think it's a book almost anyone would love.  I love to listen to Neil's voice, like when he reads for The Blueberry Girl, or pretty much every time he speaks-- he has a good storyteller's voice.

JK Rowling
Another no-brainer-- let's go ahead and get these out of the way.  This one is a true no-brainer, though, because Rowling just happens to be perhaps the most well-known contemporary author of fiction in the wide world.  I would love to ask her why Ron/Hermione (wouldn't every Harry/Hermione fan, though?), and just more about the magical world she created.

Kaori Yuki
Jumping from the very well-known to the relatively obscure (at least in the English-speaking world), I would love to meet one of my favorite manga-kas, Kaori Yuki.  I'd ask her questions about her gothic historical series Godchild and Angel Sanctuary.  It would especially cool to meet her since Yuki is very rarely seen in public and lives a private life despite her manga's popularity.

Cornelia Funke
I might take the time to learn German if it meant getting to converse with Cornelia Funke, the author who wrote so many of my favorite books from childhood and tween-hood: Inkheart and the Ink World trilogy, Dragon Rider, and the Thief Lord, among others.

George RR Martin
At this point, I really do hope that my hypothetical meeting with George RR Martin, one of today's best epic and otherwise fantasy writers, would be peaceful.  Maybe some of you Game of Thrones/ A Song of Ice and Fire fans know what I'm talking about?  I'm afraid I would attempt to learn hypnosis prior to meeting him, and then try to hypnotize the fantasy great into telling me if and how Daenerys Targaryen wins back the Iron Throne in the next two books.  That disturbing revelation aside, I think he seems like a very interesting person-- he has written tons of fantasy and was into the genre ever since he was a kid.  A fun fact about GRRM I learned from watching Comic Con was that he started writing epic fantasy focused around medieval-esque courts like in A Game of Thrones when he constructed a castle for his pet turtles as a kid.  Some of the turtles would die, so Martin made up stories about how they'd been assassinated or poisoned or executed, etc.  Early sparks of ingenuity. :)

Michael Grant

My sister Pinky and I really love his Gone book series.  Michael would be another one to interrogate-- though I'd also like to hear more about his life (in the author bios it always says he traveled around the States and the world when he was a kid, being an army brat) and that truly incredible (one might say occasionally frightening) imagination.

Holly Black                                              

I bet Holly Black could tell some scary fairy tales-- those are my favorite kind. :)  Love all her books as well.

                                        John Green                                                

I really enjoyed The Fault in Our Stars, though typically his books aren't my absolute favorites.  I'm more familiar with John Green through his vlogbrothers videos and the whole Nerdfighters... movement, thingey, whatever you want to call it.  In his and Hank's vlogs, John is really hilarious and sincere and makes very good points about so many things.  I love him for his honesty and enthusiasm and for, you know, just being his nerdy self.  

Anne Rice                                              

I chose this picture because I thought it suited her reputation as a Gothic/horror novelist-- isn't it kind of creepy?  The doll puts me in mind of Claudia from Interview with the Vampire.  I'm not really into some of Anne Rice's writing in other genres (like her religious books), but I'm still in love with her early characters and themes from the Vampire Chronicles, with Lestat de Lionheart and his "Savage Garden" of a world.  Anne Rice is the writer who made me a true fan of the vampire genre-- though I'm usually disappointed in vampire books, nowadays.

Libba Bray

Libba Bray makes School Library Journal look more like Spin.  I haven't loved her recent YA books so much as the Gemma Doyle trilogy, but Libba seems like the very living embodiment of the phrase "quite a character".  She's witty and clever, and a really great writer to boot.

Which bookish people would you love to meet?  I'd love to know, so leave your links in the comments so I can check out everyone's Top Ten!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Manga Review: A Bride's Story by Kaoru Mori

 (A Bride's Story #1)
Genre: historical fiction-- manga
Pages: 191
Published: 2011 by Yen Press

My Take:

 20-year old Amir has just crossed a Central Asian mountain chain for her wedding to her new husband, 12-year old Karluk.  A member of a tribe which is nomadic during the summers, Amir encounters some culture shock after moving in with her new family: her intricate clothes don't fit in, and neither does her penchant for hunting rabbits across the desert with her bow and arrows.  Nevertheless, Amir is welcomed by her new relatives and starts to befriend her husband, even though he is eight years her junior.  But when Amir's tribe decide they want her back in order to give her to another groom, her new family ends up having to stand their ground and fight in order to keep the vivacious and resourceful new bride.

A Bride's Story is the latest manga (Japanese comic) series by Kaoru Mori, the creator of Emma, which as I understand it is a series about a maid in Victorian England.  So, it is the beautifully-drawn and very well-realized work of a manga-ka who is known for really "fleshing out" her historical settings.  I think there have been four volumes released so far.  The graphic novel itself is fairly short--I think I read it in a little more than an hour, but overall found it enjoyable despite its lack of profound "depth".  It's not a manga which will require a lot of thinking as you read it, or even a lot of reading-- there are pages and pages of panels with only action and little dialogue.

I loved, loved, loved the art!  You can tell from just glancing at the cover, but Kaoru Mori never skimps on the panels of this book-- every character and setting are beautifully-realized and very appealing to the eyes.  Oriental carpets are everywhere in the tents and the clothing of the various characters-- especially Amir-- really serves to invoke the time period of 19th century Central East Asia.  I remain somewhat confusing on where exactly the story took place, since there were yurts (which made me think Mongolia) alongside carpets and architectural styles which looked more Turkish.  I guess that is the beauty of the Silk Road!  Overall, I got the feeling that Amir was from more east-- maybe towards Mongolia-- and Karluk's family lived roughly in eastern Turkey.

The character of Amir is my favorite: she is a strong-willed young woman, very adapt at things like bow-hunting-- which Karluk's family have mostly forgotten how to do-- and generally making herself a great addition to the little family, enlivening their lives with her cultural insights and what they see as the new bride's "weirdness".  The rest of the characters are so far less fleshed-out, with the possible exception of the grandmother-matriarch of the family-- an older woman who, like Amir, was once also a bride from far away.  Amir's brother was the only character close to a villain-- he wants to take Amir back and give her away as a bride to another groom to serve his own political ends-- but didn't appear too much.  I'll be interested to read the next volume if I can find it at the library ($16 is a lot for manga you can finish in an hour!)  Though it wasn't an overwhelming favorite, I do recommend this fantastically-realized historical "slice of life" manga, for the art alone if nothing else. 

My Rating:

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Shelf Candy Saturday #1: His Dark Materials Omnibus

This is my first time participating in Shelf Candy Saturday, a weekly meme hosted by the amazingly awesome Maria at her blog A Night's Dream of Books.  The purpose of this meme is to spotlight beautiful book covers, illustrations, etc and generally judge a book by its cover.  I knew immediately what book I wanted to feature as my first ever Shelf Candy pick. *drumroll*....

This is the latest (2011) omnibus edition of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy-- a wonderful and classic children's fantasy series and some of my all-time favorite books, for those of you who haven't already guessed from their constant appearances in my Top Ten Tuesday lists.  It was published by the Everyman's Library-- which tends to release gorgeous editions of popular books-- and the illustrator/artist is Kate Baylay.

I first laid eyes on this eye candy of an edition while wandering the narrow aisles of the university bookstore a block from my dorm.  I think I gasped aloud and cradled it in my hands for a long moment, being careful not to smudge the soft black cover with my fingerprints.  Since then I have revisited it many times, subtly gaping and marveling at how wonderfully **shiny** it is.  The price is a bit much for me-- broke college student, remember?-- and I do already own other editions of these books.  But I have made a promise to myself that if I do really well on all my exams in December, I will spend whatever funds I have left to buy this.

While checking out Kate Baylay's website, I was also delighted to discover this:
"Mrs. Coulter, loosening the cramped way some roses had been bunched into a vase, saw that Lyra wasn't moving and glanced pointedly at the door."  --(from The Golden Compass)

What an eerily intriguing illustration of Mrs. Marisa Coulter-- who is something of the villainess of the His Dark Materials series.  I love how her golden monkey dæmon looks here, as I always imagined in the books when I was younger, eerily omniscient yet somehow slightly cute and, well, hug-able.  Kate Baylay's artwork is so beautiful and unique; I really enjoyed looking through it and would recommend anyone else to drop by her site, as it is definitely worth visiting.

Well, I guess that's enough gushing about this cover!  I would love to see what shelf candy you're featuring this Saturday.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Review: Aurorarama by Jean-Christophe Valtat

Genre: steampunk/ historical fantasy
Pages: 409 (paperback)
Published: 2010 by Melville House-- originally published in French

The Synopsis:
1908: New Venice--"the pearl of the Arctic"--a place of ice palaces and pneumatic tubes, of beautifully ornate carriage-sleds and elegant victorian garb, of long nights and vistas of ice.

But as the city prepares for spring, it feels more like qaartsiluni, "the time when something is about to explode in the dark." Local "poletics" are wracked by tensions with the Eskimos circling the city, with suffragette riots led by an underground music star, with drug round-ups by the secret police force known as the Gentlemen of the Night. An ominous black airship hovers over the city, and the Gentlemen are hunting for the author of a radical pamphlet calling for revolt.  Their lead suspect is Brentford Orsini, one of the city's most prominent figures. But as the Gentlemen of the Night tighten the net around him, Orsini receives a mysterious message from a long-lost love that compels him to act.

What transpires is a literary adventure novel unlike anything you've ever read before. Brilliant in its conception, masterful in its prose, thrilling in its plot twists, and laced with humor, suspense, and intelligence, it marks the beginning of a great new series of books set in New Venice-and the launch of an astonishing new writer.

My Take: 

So as far as enticing book summaries go, that one was a tad bit confusing.  Overall, "confusing" is a very good adjective for Aurorarama.  This one had been on my radar for a long time, mainly because of: steampunk-esque Arctic setting, polar bears (!), the Gentlemen of the Night-- which sounds really cool--, and that beautiful cover.  After reading the summary, I thought "Well, of course the author will fill us in on all this alternative early 20th century stuff, the origins of this New Venice city in the northern Arctic, the mysterious airship, and all the other little details of his steampunk-esque world.  

But no.  The author of Aurorarama took the old writing cliche of "show, don't tell" a little too well, I think.  He almost expects that we know that one of his two protagonists is actually a duke and one is a quarter Scottish (and yes, that's actually relevant to the plot?)  The "long-lost love" mentioned in the synopsis is this woman, Helen, who at some point or another was in love with the protagonist Brentford and sacrificed herself for some reason, yet lived on in a goddess-like form for some reason.  There's this vast mythology, of which only the tip of the iceberg-- I went there-- is actually explained or explored.  There are mentions of popular New Venetian culture which-- while they help make this a more immersive read and the world-building realistic-- probably fall flat for most readers.  Like, there's this singer who appears out of nowhere and is apparently notorious for stirring up trouble-- oh, and she's also a suffragette for women's vote, but mostly she's an anarchist-- and yeah, a pop singer, and part of this conspiracy theory involving the "poletics" of the city.  

Which kinda brings me to the number one thing I disliked about AuroraramaThe characterization of the few female characters in the novel is really, really horrible and occasionally, just kind of degrading.  Neither of the protagonists are, but there are three female characters in the book (not including half of a set of conjoined twins-- no, I'm not kidding).  One is Brentford's future wife, a young woman named Sybil who is a pop singer and minor star.  We never really learn why Brentford loves Sybil, if he does, or why they're going to get married at all; the scene with their wedding was the most unromantic-- no, totally emotionless-- wedding scene I've ever read.  Brentford's always thinking about how Sybil only how cares about her band and superficial things, and he feels duty-bound to marry her for some reason, and this just repeatedly got on my nerves.  Sybil also becomes the damsel-in-distress later in the novel, when a magician makes her disappear for real.  Brentford seems to hardly notice that his fiance is missing (he's too busy thinking about that long-lost love), so I'm really not sure what the point of including this subplot was, since Sybil just randomly reappears a few days later. The other woman is considered to be something of a bad-ass and a little mysterious, and is overall not as bad as Sybil.  In one scene, she leads a group of suffragettes in a revolutionary mob riot and the police can't get around to taking action against them properly, because the girls just look so darn arresting in their short skirts and suffragette banners.  So, not because they're armed and dangerous or anything. 

And then we come to Stella, the lover of my least favorite of the protagonists, and a character who I really didn't like.  The protagonist Gabriel is just obsessed with Stella, because she's just so cute and has this astronomical tattoo on her back.  Stella's official occupation is a magician's assistant, so thus far we have a tally of two pop singers and one magician's assistant as far as women go.  She also turns out to be another revolutionary, who betrays Gabriel and seems to feel somewhat bad about it-- but not bad enough that the author actually made a later confrontation between them part of the plot.  This is an excerpt from page 359 about Stella, which I thought kinda emphasizes what the female characters in this novel are like:

"'Fine,' said Stella, who looked even smaller in her thick, black, fur-lined jacket.  She took off her crocheted hat and shook her corkscrew curls out in a moment of pure terrorist eroticism.  Gabriel closed his eyes."
"Pure terrorist eroticism" is probably the weirdest of many weird phrases used in this book.  What exactly does that mean?  Is that a phrase specifically coined to describe Natalie Portman in V for Vendetta?  My best guess is that it means: OK, so she may be a terrorist, but most importantly-- she's still erotic, since she is a woman and all and women can't be too much like terrorists, since terrorism is violent and therefore a man thing.  Another gem of an odd phrase:

"...His heart was banging in his chest like a madman begging to be released from his padded cell".  
My heart was a madman, of course, that's the natural simile one tends to think of.  I thought at first that the book was translated from French, since the author is French, but, no-- it was written in English.  Still, maybe English not being his native language is some justification for the mind-bogglingly strange phrases and similes. 

So, on the positive side... the world-building in Aurorarama is well-written and complex and the political system (if you're into that sort of thing) is interesting.  The chilling prologue is cool-- maybe it would be better to just read the prologue and call it a good short story with no conclusion? The Eskimos were interesting.  BUT, the superficial and objectified nature of the female characters, the detachment between reader and the protagonists and their world/problems, the appearance of a creepy set of conjoined twin children-- all of these are very good reasons not to read Aurorarama, if you think any of them might bother you in the least.  Worst of all: there were no polar bears, talking or otherwise.  Talking polar bears have been known to make the difference in ratings between two and three unicorns, but alas, I guess.  Overall, very much not my kind of book.

My Rating:

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

2012 YA/MG Fantasy Challenge

So, I unfortunately failed to jump on the train early with this one, but better late in the year than never!  I'm really excited to be participating in the 2012 YA/MG Fantasy reading Challenge, hosted by The Book Cellar.  Fantasy has always been my absolute favorite genre ever since I was little and though I've gotten a late start, I really want to complete the challenge by reading 12 young adult or middle grade fantasies before December 31st.  So here's a mish-mash collage of some awesome-looking fantasy books I'm hoping to read for this challenge.

The Books:
 -- Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
-- Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
--Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore 
--Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm (retold) by Philip Pullman
--The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
--The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Cathrynne M Valente
--Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas
--Magisterium by Jeff Hirsch
--City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare
--Faery Tales & Nightmares by Melissa Marr
--Pink Smog (A Weetzie Bat prequel) by Francesca Lia Block
--Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff

So, if any of you've read these books or are doing the challenge, let me know what you think about these picks.  Recommendations are always welcome as well-- what was your favorite YA/MG fantasy book from 2012 so far?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Top 10 Books That Make You Think

Top Ten Tuesday is an awesome weekly meme hosted by the bloggers over at The Broke and the Bookish.  It's a ton of fun and pretty much my absolute favorite meme, because it's all about making themed lists.  I love bookish lists-- they're short, sweet, and entertaining.  This week's theme is Books That Make You Think-- about the world, the meaning of life, about human relationships, about what really happened to the dinosaurs, etc.  It was hard to pick just ten, but here are some books that got me thinking:

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
I read this one fairly recently.  If you missed the hype, the premise is that Hazel, a girl afflicted with a deadly kind of lung cancer, meets and falls in love with a recovered cancer patient, the most wonderful Augustus Waters.  The two of them set off on a journey to Amsterdam to meet the author of Hazel's favorite novel and, in a way, to search for the truth in their own fates and existences as teenagers who never truly know if they will survive the week.  Lots of beautiful quotes and sweet and bitter sadness.

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Do I really need to explain this one?  Injustice, racism, love, and redemption are explored through the eyes of a young Southern girl.  One of the best American novels of all time, in my opinion.

The Golden Compass (or the Northern Lights) by Philip Pullman
The His Dark Materials trilogy are so much more than a story about girl, a boy, a villainess, and a talking polar bear.  Categorized as children's books, they are filled with important ideas about the nature of good and evil, the nature of the soul and the end of innocence, as well as a lot of religious and philosophical ideas.  A lot of people in the American South (where I live) bashed these books (though they only appeared on these people's radar when The Golden Compass was released as a movie) because of their ideas about religion, but honestly Pullman's books are much subtler than the blatant religion in, say, The Chronicles of Narnia.

Wild Seed by Octavia E Butler
A really good little-known fantasy novel by one of my favorite authors.  The storyline is too complex to go into here, but the book has a lot to say about what it might really be like to be immortal and the relationship between Anyanwu and Doro (while not necessarily an entirely romantic one) is one of my favorites in all of fiction.  Please read this book-- it deserves more hype!

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie
A YA book which is both fun and thought-provoking, hilarious and sad.  Loosely based on the author's real life, it tells the story of Junior: a teenage Native American boy (Spokane, I believe?) who leaves his rez home to attend a school where the only other Indian is the school mascot.  The novel features cartoons throughout.

The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
A feminist-type perspective on the Arthurian legends, with some fresh perspectives on Christianity and pagan religion from the time period when they clashed in Europe.  Very thick, but definitely worth the read-- this is a fantasy classic, a feminist classic, an Arthurian classic, just a classic altogether.  The main character is Morgana la Fay, who is here shown to be more misunderstood than truly malevolent.

Life of Pi by Yann Martel
This is going to be a movie soon-- I CAN'T WAIT!  Pi is a magnificent story, but also features many ideas about religion, brotherhood, and a really interesting take on human perception-- don't we often believe what we want to believe and see what we want to see?  I can't wait to see how this amazing book will be adapted into a film!

Moloka'i by Alan Brennert
Historical fiction about a young girl sent to live (and die) in the isolated Hawaiian leper colony of Moloka'i.  It sounds depressing, but this is actually a remarkably uplifting and well-written book, as well as a thought-provoking one.

Uglies (& the Uglies Trilogy) by Scott Westerfeld

The Bloody Chamber & Other Stories by Angela Carter
Are almost all fairy tales inherently sexist?  Well...yes, as much as I personally like fairy tales, they are.  Angela Carter's writing is gorgeous in this thin book of retold fairy tales, many of which women are the heroines of and some which are just entertaining retellings.  The title story, "The Bloody Chamber", deals with the Bluebeard tale and is my favorite of the collection.

I'd absolutely love to hear (er, read) what you guys think the books on my list, and be sure to link to a link to your Top Ten post so I can check yours out as well!

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