Saturday, December 31, 2011

THE LIAR SOCIETY by Lisa and Laura Roecker

Kate Lowry didn't think dead best friends could send e-mails. But when she gets an e-mail from Grace, she’s not so sure.

Sent: Sun 9/14 11:59 PM
Subject: (no subject)

I'm here…
sort of.
Find Cameron.
He knows.
I shouldn't be writing.
Don't tell.
They'll hurt you.

Now Kate has no choice but to prove once and for all that Grace’s death was more than just a tragic accident. But secrets haunt the halls of her elite private school. Secrets people will do anything to protect. Even if it means getting rid of the girl trying to solve a murder...

So I really liked this book until the ending arrived, and then I wanted to hurl this into the cellar. The dank, dark musty cellar that's about to be set on fire.

That's a little harsh, though. This novel operated well as a suspenseful mystery/thriller with teenage protagonists. Their skills and investigations never seemed unrealistic or overpowered, but they still managed to figure out things without insulting my intelligence and accomplish a lot. I could barely put this book down once I started it, and there were plenty of surprises that kept me guessing. <--- Cliched sentence, right, but completely true.

I am fascinated by the protagonist of this story. She's snobby, superior, and has this negative attitude toward everything I like (for example, Latin, bike-riding, ponchos, reading in general), but she's still smart and interesting and I grew to like her by the end of the book. Congrats to the authors for that, I guess, because   I would get all rage-monster when she would flippantly dismiss someone else's interest (especially those of her nerdy next-door neighbor, Seth) but I still respected her. Yeah I don't even know.

The other characters in the novel partly made up for the protagonist's narrow-mindedness, as they were all really different from each other and represented different ways of thinking, looking at a situation, ways of life, etc, but again, when the protagonist is so quick to dismiss other people it becomes frustrating.

I gave this book 3/5 stars; it was a 4-star until that awful ending. Yes, I realize it's the first one in a series. But when I finish a book and don't feel like the main character has changed much, and nothing plot-wise has been accomplished, that doesn't give me great hopes for the next. I don't have the emotional energy for a literary tv show that never resolves anything.

2011 Reading Wrap-up

Overall Reading Stats:
Total Books = 112
Total Pages = 35748
Avg Books Per Day = 0.3
Avg Pages Per Day = 98

Best Book of 2011 – I’m going to limit this to books actually published in 2011, rather than all the books I read this year. I choose The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan. Runners-up are The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan and Deadline by Mira Grant.

Worst Book of 2011 – I’m going to have to say Wither by Lauren DeStefano, because that’s the only book that I finished that’s been published in 2011 that I really loathed.

Most Disappointing Book of 2011 – Easily The Iron Daughter by Julie Kagawa. I loved her first book, The Iron King, because it was a fairy story that really played with iron as a weapon for the good guys and bad guys. The second one, though, fell into the pitfalls of melodrama, love triangles, and lots of feelings rather than anything more interesting or deep, storywise.

Most Surprising Book of 2011Every You, Every Me by David Levithan. I was NOT expecting that ending—total blindside.

Best Series Discovered in 2011 - The Demon's Lexicon series by Sarah Rees Brennan. I had heard about it previously but managed to finally pick it up and it gave me ALL THE FEELS constantly. I haven’t yet read The Demon’s Surrender. I’m starting to think it’s because I don’t want to the series to be over.

Series That Went Off the Rails For You in 2011 – Again, The Iron Fey series by Julie Kagawa. I’ll still finish it but I’m not excited. Runner-up is Aaron Allston’s Star Wars Wraith Squadron novels. The first one was lovely but the second made me shrug my shoulders.

Favorite New Author You Discovered in 2011 – DAVID LEVITHAN EASY. I want to eat all of his books. I read most of his books this year and am already looking forward to his next, to be published in 2012. My favorites by him are probably The Realm of Possibility, The Lover’s Dictionary, and Naomi and Ely’s No-Kiss List.

Most Hilarious Read of 2011Kat, Incorrigible by Stephanie Burgis or In The Forests of the Night by Kersten Hamilton. I couldn’t stop laughing out loud and scaring other people.

Book That Made You Cry the Hardest in 2011Just Listen by Sarah Dessen (all-around great contemporary with heart and humor and musics) and Supernaturally by Kiersten White (fantastic follow-up to her debut, Paranormalcy). The books that make me cry usually aren’t the epics or the tragedies but the ones that most remind me of myself or someone I know.

Most Thrilling, Unputdownable Book in 2011Deadline by Mira Grant. I hate the zombie genre/sub-culture and yet somehow I love her Newsflesh trilogy (maybe it’s the bloggers-as-journalists? Idk). I am counting the minutes until Blackout.

Book You Most Anticipated in 2011 - Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare. Her books are like legal addictive stimulants; not very healthy, but you can’t stop consuming or wanting another one. This is probably her best book so far (although I enjoy her Infernal Devices trilogy much more than her Mortal Instruments so maybe I’m biased?).

Favorite Cover of a Book You Read in 2011Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan. I drooled over it as soon as it was revealed and I still do. Percy has never been hotter and Roman eagles have never been more gorgeous.

Most Memorable Character in 2011 – This is way too hard. I just finished In The Forests of the Night and I was struck again by Teagan, who is the kind of girl I want to be (as opposed to a lot of heroines I read), as well as Finn, who is hilarious and brave and loyal, both the person I want to be and the person I want to be with. So I’ll go with these two. A runner-up would be Bagoas in The Persian Boy by Mary Renault; his voice was so strong and stuck with me for days after I read that book.

Most Beautifully Written Book in 2011Deathless by Catherynne Valente. That book was so dark and yet so delicious with every word on the page. R.M. Liuzza’s translation of Beowulf was also a beautiful read this year.

Book That Had the Greatest Impact on You in 2011 – I’m going to list as a group all the Romany books that I read early on in the year, specifically The Aeneid by Virgil, The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan, and The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff. Rome was IN this year, and influenced me to mix history and modern-day both in my writing, in my brain, and at school.

Book You Can’t Believe You Waited until 2011 to Read - The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan. So good why did I not read this as soon as it came out. Although, I probably would have read this book very differently in 2009 than now.

Book of 2011 You Wish You Had Written The Realm of Possibility by David Levithan. I have a crush, okay. Don’t judge me. YOU’RE JUDGING ME AREN’T YOU.

KAT, UNCORRIGIBLE by Stephanie Burgis

Katherine Ann Stephenson has just discovered that she's inherited her mother's magical talents, and despite Stepmama's stern objections, she's determined to learn how to use them. But with her eldest sister Elissa's intended fiancé, the sinister Sir Neville, showing a dangerous interest in Kat's magical potential; her other sister, Angeline, wreaking romantic havoc with her own witchcraft; and a highwayman lurking in the forest, even Kat's reckless heroism will be tested to the upmost. If she can learn to control her new powers, will Kat be able to rescue her family and win her sisters their true love? 

I loved this book. Let me count the ways.

The humor. I laughed out loud many, many times while reading this book. The narrator is a twelve-year-old girl, I do not read very many narrators this young, but I loved Kat, her humor (used against others) and her unintended humor (when she gets in a pickle through her own clumsy earnestness).

The sisters. Kat is the youngest of three girls. The dynamic between the three is SPOT ON to how sisters work. They may fight and bicker, but you can tell they care about each other and when they team up they are a fearsome force to be reckoned with. I also recognized myself and my two older sisters occasionally. I especially loved Angeline, which leads me to…

The romance. Or rather, the fact that the romances in this book were NOT your typical fictional romance. One of them totally mocked the classic gothic romance (which, imo, is echoed in today’s paranormal romances), and two of the others subverted the love potion romance in different ways. There was a lot of mocking, in general, of staples in the romantic genre.

The plot. It was fairly straightforward, and Kat attempts to deal with it in a straightforward manner, but her goals get complicated quickly through various trip-ups that made it suspenseful and/or humorous at different times.

The magic. The magic, too, was a pretty simple system, except that each character used it in completely different ways and manners. For example, Kat’s magic is very focused on canceling other spells, another character’s magic appears to be used mostly for beauty spells, and another character’s magic always smells of flowers. I liked how the magic a character used showed us something about that character.

Kat, Incorrigible is a short and sweet read with humor, magic, and Regency England bonus points. It’s Middle Grade, which as I mentioned above I do not read very often, but I liked it anyway because it is JUST THAT AWESOME.

Thank you, good night. 5/5 stars.

Friday, December 30, 2011

WITHER by Lauren DeStefano

Fact: I love this cover.
By age sixteen, Rhine Ellery has four years left to live. A botched effort to create a perfect race has left all males born with a lifespan of 25 years, and females a lifespan of 20 years--leaving the world in a state of panic. Geneticists seek a miracle antidote to restore the human race, desperate orphans crowd the population, crime and poverty have skyrocketed, and young girls are being kidnapped and sold as polygamous brides to bear more children.

When Rhine is sold as a bride, she vows to do all she can to escape. Yet her husband, Linden, is hopelessly in love with her, and Rhine can’t bring herself to hate him as much as she’d like to. He opens her to a magical world of wealth and illusion she never thought existed, and it almost makes it possible to ignore the clock ticking away her short life. But Rhine quickly learns that not everything in her new husband’s strange world is what it seems. Her father-in-law, an eccentric doctor bent on finding the antidote, is hoarding corpses in the basement; her fellow sister wives are to be trusted one day and feared the next; and Rhine has no way to communicate to her twin brother that she is safe and alive.

Together with one of Linden's servants, Gabriel, Rhine attempts to escape just before her seventeenth birthday. But in a world that continues to spiral into anarchy, is there any hope for freedom?

I’m going to keep this short and sweet (or, short, anyway), because I didn’t enjoy or like this book at all and I want to politely explain why.

Wither is full of misery. It places the heroine and everyone she cares about in a horrible world and horrible circumstances. It shows her fighting against the misery, but never quite succeeding. My friend Snazel wrote a blog post explaining that she reads books that choose to fight against despair. Wither, in my opinion, was not one of those. I admired the heroine, Rhine, for keeping her eyes on her goal regardless of what happened. I admired the three sister-wives for sometimes making small victories through their unity and strength. But I did not enjoy the book, I did not like it, and I do not read books to feel this way. I kept thinking maybe the onslaught of tragedies would stop, or pause, but every scene was just saturated with some awful truth. I will not read the rest of this trilogy, although I hope Rhine and Gabriel turn out okay. I don’t feel like I should review the writing or pacing or anything structural about this novel because even if all of that was perfect (I have no major complaints, at least, about any of those things) I would still dislike Wither.

I know that this novel works for a lot of people, and that’s great. Just please don’t hate me for my opinion and book-values because they are just as valid.

2012 YA Debut Author Challenge

I love this challenge. I haven't actually completed it in 2010 or 2011, but it gets me reading more debuts than I otherwise would. And then I can fanatically follow brand-new authors and feel like a wannabe hipster. Wait what.

Basic rules: read and review 12 YA/MG debut novels published in 2012. More rules on Story Siren's sign-up post.

Ok so here's my tentative TBR list:

Above by Leah Bobet [I'm really into male POVs right now. Also, dude, superpowers]

Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood [This could either be really legitimate sister-power, or just "My sissies and I SO SASS."

The Catastrophic History of You and Me by Jess Rothenberg [I like My-Life-In-Review books like this. Maybe I'm just morbid and sentimental.]

Cinder by Marissa Meyer [Fairy tales and cyborgs? I think yes.]

Elemental by Emily White ["Just because Ella can burn someone to the ground with her mind doesn't mean she should." Exactly.]

Fracture by Megan Miranda ["Is her altered brain now predicting death, or causing it?" Inquiring minds want to know.]

The Gathering Storm by Robin Bridges [Russian history and intrigue plus magic. I think yes.]

Incarnate by Jodi Meadows [Everyone else is doing it. Also, the gorgeous cover.]

Love and Leftovers by Sarah Tregay [obligatory contemporary debut. Blurb has potential.]

Pretty Crooked by Elisa Ludwig [I am probably most interested by this one. A girl in the "in" crowd robs the rich and gives to the poor. Highschool Robin Hood.]

Queen of Glass by Sarah J. Maas [Don't know much about this one, but saw "assassins" and magic outlawed and wanted it.]

Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen [Will Scarlet is a girl and possibly in love with Robin Hood.]

Struck by Jennifer Bosworth [Girl is addicted to getting struck by lightning. This I gotta see.]

Tempest by Julie Cross [Time jumps, male POV. Let's do it.]

Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi [I've heard a lot about the author. I'm not that excited about the story, but we'll see.]

That's 15, so I reserve my right to drop or switch out some of these. Haaa. I'm trying to avoid dystopians/paranormals but I don't think I'm doing a great job of that so far. xD

WITCH EYES by Scott Tracey

Jacket blurb: Braden was born with witch eyes: the ability to see the world as it truly is: a blinding explosion of memories, darkness, and magic. The power enables Braden to see through spells and lies, but at the cost of horrible pain.

After a terrifying vision reveals imminent danger for the uncle who raised and instructed him, Braden retreats to Belle Dam, an old city divided by two feuding witch dynasties. As rival family heads Catherine Lansing and Jason Thorpe desperately try to use Braden's powers to unlock Belle Dam's secrets, Braden vows never to become their sacrificial pawn. But everything changes when Braden learns that Jason is his father--and Trey, the enigmatic guy he's falling for, is Catherine's son.

To stop an insidious dark magic from consuming the town, Braden must master his gift—and risk losing the one he loves.

This was one of those books I picked up knowing nothing about it beforehand (so, yes, direct contrast to Across the Universe). Witch Eyes is your average paranormal romance, or so it seems at first. It stands out, however, from the masses for two reasons: 1, it’s from a gay male POV; 2, the world-building and magic system is unique and really interesting (as opposed to many vampire/fairy/etc books out there that just do a new spin on things). Braden’s power, in particular, is fascinating and is so full of storytelling possibilities that I might explode. This first book only scratches the surface of those possibilities.

So I enjoyed that part of the book, and I also enjoyed Braden himself. He’s a very likeable, average guy who has to deal with a mind-blowing amount of power that is constantly painful to him. Seeing him deal with that, and the other consequences of his powers was inspiring (I need to not use that word but it’s accurate, okay).

On the flip-side, there are some very confusing elements in the story and the world-building. I repeatedly found myself asking, “But wait. If that’s what happened/how that works then why…” Sometimes the book answered my questions, sometimes not. The end of the book, of course, is a lead-in for a sequel but I wasn’t sure if the story was aware of how many gaps in my knowledge there were, rather than just the big questions facing Braden.

I also would have liked to see the female characters playing more of a role in this one. Braden has two incredibly awesome female friends who represent the schism in the town, but neither of them does much more than glare at each other and support Braden in minimal ways, plot-wise. More in the sequel, please?

Now I have a question, mostly just for the void but if anyone has an answer, please chime in. I was really surprised by the differences between the romance in this book, and your typical straight paranormal romance. I was especially surprised by my own feelings on what is “okay” in a fictional romance. Let me explain. Braden’s love interest in the story is physically bigger and stronger than him. The guy, Trey, comes across as a little bipolar, mostly I think because he’s dealing with all the crazy plot events and his own role in them, like Braden is. So at several points in the story he gets very angry with Braden, occasionally reacting physically and shaking Braden really hard. When he first did this I was like WHOA BOY SLOW DOWN and was getting my abusive-relationship hat on. But like, are there different rules between guys? Braden never seems bothered or threatened or scared by this behavior. Is this because guys can just be rough and it isn’t quite as threatening as, for example, a guy shaking a girl? Or do the same rules apply? Trey’s behavior bothered me but I’m not sure if that was because I was overlapping a straight relationship onto them (Braden=girl, Trey=boy). The book is written by a gay man so it’s not like this a yaoi fangirl author getting crazy.

I gave Witch Eyes 3/5 stars for a lot of potential and not quite enough execution, but I have strong hopes for the next one.


Jacket blurb: Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.

Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone - one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship - tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn't do something soon, her parents will be next.

Now, Amy must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there's only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.

I actually read this book back in January, when this book was still full of beyond-the-skies hype. Taking into account that hype, the excerpt I had read, and the general “LOVE THIS BOOK OR YOU SUCK” attitude pervading the blogosphere at the time, I was incredibly underwhelmed by Across the Universe. I’ve spent the rest of the year trying to wrestle myself into a more objective opinion of it.

But I have to face facts. I will never love this book, and I will probably never reread it (the ultimate test for any book I think I love).

For why though, you ask.

It’s a well-written book. It’s solidly-plotted and paced, Revis’ writing skills are perfectly adequate and in some places quite lovely. The world-building and premise were fairly original. Tension was used very well in this book, strung out like a chocolate trail leading you on. I loved the idea of being stuck on a ship for so long and exploring how that would change and affect the people living on it (I love Wall-E for much the same reason).

But I was never surprised during this book. I would call the genre a scifi mystery thriller dystopian, but the thriller part never really thrilled me. I guessed every twist and turn that came at me (save one at the end which I will of course not spoil, but it wasn’t the MAIN twist at the end). I spent most of the book pointing at things and insisting the main characters listen to me and PAY ATTENTION. They never did.

That brings me to another element that kept me from really enjoying this. The characters. Despite the fact that Amy has been thrown into this place and I hate it as much as her, I never really empathized with her. She just annoyed the heck out of me, probably, again, because I was yelling at her the whole time to notice things or do things that she just refused to proactively do. Elder was a mixed box for me; I empathized with his struggle to define himself and decide who his loyalties belonged to, but much of the time his narrow-mindedness and lack of observation killed me.

Orion and Harley were the two characters I cared about most, but they disappointed me in different ways. Orion didn’t turn out to be nearly as interesting as I had hoped, and Harley was underused drastically. I hope he has more of a role in future books cuz that boy is golden.

I also don’t know if the mixture of genres really works out in this book. There is so much going on and not enough space to work it all in, and again the characters seem stuck in a limited pool of actions. Maybe the sequel will expand the horizons more (in more ways than one).

So after all that ranting, I need to tell you that I gave this book 4/5 stars on Goodreads. It’s perfectly adequate and obviously enthralls a lot of people, so to some extent I’m assigning my dissatisfaction with my own reading wants/needs/feelings.

Monday, December 26, 2011

KIN and HARK! A VAGRANT: mini-reviews

If you've read Tithe by Holly Black, and liked it, there's really no reason you won't like Kin (Good Neighbors #1) by Holly Black and Ted Naifeh.

If you've read Kate Beaton's webcomic Hark! A Vagrant, there's DEFINITELY no reason you won't like Hark! A Vagrant.

Wait, you really want me to review them? REALLY? Ok whatever.

Kin is about a girl named Rue whose mother is missing. Also, she's been seeing crazy things like fairies and stuff. She has a bunch of friends who are very loyal but also a bit sketchy and get up to questionably legal acts.
This will sound very, very familiar to you if you have read Tithe. Rue's mother's family begin showing up, along with a strange boy named Tam (ugh I mean really how obvious are we going to get here) and the mystery darkens and the plot thickens and it's all very interesting, until the last few pages when Rue SOLVES EVERYTHING, despite having shown no glimmer of intelligence before that point, and it all leads nicely into a graphic novel series.
I don't know, guys. If you have NOT read Tithe, you might like it more than a Tithe-reader has. Then again, if you want more of the same, you will also like it. I was bored out of my mind. The art was nice and creepy (it was probably my favorite part. Awkward). I gave it 3/5 stars.

Hark! A Vagrant is Kate Beaton's printed collection of some of her webcomic. Many of the strips are based in history and/or literature, and there are many Canadian jokes or jokes about Canadian stereotypes (Beaton is Canadian). I love her sense of humor, so I would recommend checking out the webcomic to see if you also like it. I got a hardcover of the book and it is very nice quality with a good layout for the strips (not too much or too little white space). It also includes some of her notes at the bottom of the pages. I gave this 5/5 stars.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

More 2012 Reading Challenges

I am once again participating in the Graphic Novels challenge because it's awesome. However, this year I'm not going to forbid myself from reading manga, because I miss manga and this will be a good excuse to read some. The rules are basically to read 12 graphic novels in the year 2012.

My tentative list:

Hero Tales vol 2-4
Code Geass vol 6-7
Angelic Days vol 1-2
Scott Pilgrim 5-6
Star Wars Tales (reread for some volumes)
X-Men: First Class (series)

I am also participating in the Victorian Challenge over at Laura's Reviews. Here is my list of books that I MAY OR MAY NOT read, which I will add to or subtract or review as I see fit.

Written in the Victorian period:
Bleak House by Charles Dickens
Middlemarch by George Eliot
Kim by Rudyard Kipling
The Jungle Books by Rudyard Kipling
Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson
The Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson
The Master of Ballantrae by Robert Louis Stevenson
20,000 Leagues under the Sea by Jules Verne
Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Set in the Victorian period:
Tears of Pearl by Tasha Alexander
Dangerous To Know by Tasha Alexander
Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare

My other 2012 Reading Challenges:
Greek Classics

SCOTT PILGRIM 1&2 reviews

 I think Scott Pilgrim takes a certain off-key, off-kilter, or just plain hackneyed sense of humor to really enjoy. A good test is to watch ten minutes or so of the movie. I saw the movie when it came out and thought it was hilarious, and really strangely constructed (storywise) and when I discovered there was a comic series with awesome artwork, I put it on the list.

From the back: Scott Pilgrim's life is totally sweet. He's 23 years old, he's in a rock band, he's "between jobs," and he's dating a cute high school girl. Nothing could possibly go wrong, unless a seriously mind-blowing, dangerously fashionable, rollerblading delivery girl named Ramona Flowers starts cruising through his dreams and sailing by him at parties. Will Scott's awesome life get turned upside-down? Will he have to face Ramona's seven evil ex-boyfriends in battle?

The first volume was very close to the plot of the movie, but I was very happy to see that Knives Chau (Scott's girlfriend at the beginning of the story) was a little more developed and a little more interesting than just your classic cookie-cutter Asian girl caricature. The art is a perfect match to the simple (and yet highly ironic) dialogue and story. My favorite character in this volume (as well as the movie) was easily Wallace, Scott's "cool gay roommate." Scott has a tendency to legitimize anything stupid he is doing or has done by the fact that he now has a cool gay roommate, which is just one of his many facepalm-worthy justifications, but Wallace is pretty legitimate. He is more likely to just roll his eyes after giving Scott rejected advice than the film version of his character is.

The second volume's pace seemed to slow down a lot. There was less emphasis on the overall plot of winning Ramona and defeating her Evil Exes and more digressions, such as a flashback to Scott's highschool years (the significance of which is still alluding me, but maybe that's the point (wait, what?)). It was still hilarious, though, and have I mentioned the art recently? I love it. I like the thick clean lines and the expressions (which give a LOT of range to the two most common feelings: obliviousness and disbelief.).

I gave these two volumes 5 and 4 stars, respectively, and am looking forward to more!

My full list of Graphic Novels this year.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Greek Classics Challenge 2012

In 2012 I am participating in the Greek Classics Challenge. Hurrah!! I have a couple waiting to be read on my shelf so this will force me to eat them. :)

I'm aiming for the Sophocles level, which means I will read 1-4 Greek classics during 2012.

My choices:
The Histories by Herodotus
The Bacchae and Other Plays by Euripides
The Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle (I've read excerpts of this, but not the whole thing)

Chunkster Reading Challenge 2012

In 2012 I am participating in the Chunkster Reading Challenge. The rules are simple: the only books that count for the challenge are works of adult literature (fiction, non-fiction or poetry) with at least 450 pages. Additional rules/clarifications can be found at the link.

I am aiming for the "Chunkster" level, which means I will read 4 books with the above criteria. My choices are below.

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Complete Tales & Poems by Edgar Allen Poe
Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
Middlemarch by George Eliot

Alternate: The Odyssey by Homer (translated by Robert Fagle, because Fagle is boss.)

I already own all of these and they really need to be read. THEREFORE.


I read these for the Graphic Novel Challenge.

So I love X-Men, but I am a very amateur fan. I've only read a few of the comics, watched some of the kids shows, and of course the movies. My buddy Kemendraugh recommended House of M to me, and The Extremists was just sitting on the library shelf so I picked it up, prepared to be completely confused (and oh, I was).


The Extremists is part of the Uncanny X-Men storyline, so there was obviously a lot going on previous to the volume I read. The story focused on a group called the Morlocks, who are trying to, you know, get humans to accept mutants, but this is an EXTREMIST group of those so they, you know, wander around disfiguring humans. As one does. The X-Men are all HEY NOW and there's prophecies for the future and a group of prophecy-sycophants and it was all very fascinating. I was mostly concerned with Leech, who is in mortal peril the entire time, and his buddy Caliban. Storm was a key character, I think. But yeah I was really confused by the story so I'd really only recommend it if you know where you are and what you're doing and what your purpose in life is. I wasn't very impressed with the dialogue writing in this one, regardless, which encouraged me to skim because everyone talked the same (except for the main Morlock and Caliban) and it was all very boring. Rating 3/5 stars.

House of M was excellent (of course, because Kemendraugh recommended it!). It starts out with a super-powerful mutant chick going crazy and altering the entire universe (so there's that). The only one who remembers what life was like before is Wolverine (of course). So he has to figure out what's going on, tell other people, and they have to decide if they should change the world back, and how. I was very distracted by Spiderman in this volume (The Avengers are in it). I've recently realized that my Spiderman love has nothing to do with the movies because every time he pops up in a comic, I'm just HEY THERE SPIDERMAN LET'S FOLLOW YOUR TINY SUBPLOT AND IGNORE EVERYONE ELSE. I really liked his tiny subplot here. ^_^ The writing in this volume was awesome too, hilarious and interesting and driven. Yes, driven, as in you needed to read all of it rather than just look at the pictures. Rating 4/5 stars.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

STAR WARS: REBELLION (1&2) Mini Reviews

I read the first two volumes of this series for the Graphic Novel Challenge. The overall premise of the series is that it is set during the time of the original Star Wars trilogy, and features some well-known faces while introducing new characters who at least claim to be working for the Rebel Alliance. Treachery, however, is a big theme.

 The first volume, My Brother, My Enemy, was a bit iffy for me. There were various aspects of the story that I found confusing or inadequate. For example, the beginning of the volume sets up the friendship between Luke and Tank as if the reader is already completely invested in it. This either means that the prologue was a complete fail as far as I was concerned in getting me to immediately invest in the friendship, or that there's another storyline that leads into Rebellion that I don't know about. Either way, it seemed a sloppy way to start out an entire standalone series. I was also not huge on the Luke/Leia subplot, which was evocative of the incesty relationship they had back in the dawn of Star Wars in the 70s. However, I did become attached to Tank, the main protagonist of this volume, and I hope (I demand!) that he show up again. Rating 4/5 stars.

I enjoyed the second volume, The Ahakista Gambit, much more. The story was woven well between flashbacks of the protagonist, Wyl Tarson (who showed up in a small capacity in the first volume) and the present day, as opposed to the disjointed prologue of Volume 1 followed by the present-day chopped up with repetitions of said prologue. The weird Luke/Leia dynamic was nowhere to be seen and it focused on a handful of Rebellion-reject (I know, I thought they took ALL the misfits!) characters with backgrounds that are only hinted at. I look forward to learning more about all of them, and I thought Wyl especially was a much more fleshed out and interesting character than Tank. Rating 5/5 stars.

The art in the series is very well done so far, but nothing that stands out as unique; it's a similar grade to Legacy, Vector, and Knights of the Old Republic. The dialogue overall was well-written; often in graphic novels I find myself skimming dialogue and focusing on the images, but that wasn't the case here.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Magical Words: The Power of Speech in Old Irish Texts

I am a word nerd; I love words, their meanings, and the connections between them. Therefore I have a tendency to focus on specific words rather than on the overall effect or power or meaning the collective words have. This term I took a course called “The Age of Beowulf,” and it changed the way I think about words to include how words produce an action, and how heavily actions rely on words. The relationship between words and deeds, especially the question of which causes which (i.e. chicken or egg) was a prevalent theme in most of the texts we read, but I was particularly struck by it in the Celtic texts because of the concept of geis (or plural gessa). This is essentially a taboo or spell-like order on someone else, requiring them to operate under those gessa. But words in general are very powerful from the viewpoint of the Celtic texts we read, as we see time and time again.

In the Old Irish lyric, “To Mary and Her Son,” the speaker says, “I call upon you with true words” (Carney 19) “that we may have talk together with the compassion of unblemished heart” (21). Mary, a saint in heaven, is expected to come and speak with her caller because of mere words, almost like a summoning. The speaker expects Mary to listen to him because of his words. In “The World,” another lyric, the speaker says, “Take no oath, take no oath by the sod you stand upon” (41). The implication (taken with the rest of the lyric) is that since oaths are binding but the earth won’t last, the oath will remain but it will be impotent, because its witness is gone. Oaths, statements of words, are more permanent than the earth itself. In the wisdom poetry “The Sayings of Flann Fina,” this idea is complicated by the statement, “Vain speech is the beginning of evil” (Ireland 79). Speech is very powerful; once spoken, it spreads a certain power that enables speaker, listener, or both to act on the vain speech. This emphasizes the negative influence words can impart.

These are examples of how words influence actions, but there are also many instances in Celtic texts where words are blatantly magical, affecting the weather or other people in forceful ways. In “The Irish Life of Brigit,” Brigit communicates through speech with an infant, asking it who its father was. The infant, “thought it had not yet begun to speak” (Davies 153), answered, thereby saving an innocent man from a rape accusation. Birgit also calmed a storm, “stilled the rain and wind” (154), by chanting a verse to God. Brigit’s power is drawn from her spiritual connection with God, and channeled out through words.

This is evocative to the powers druids are shown to have throughout the earlier texts “The Book of Invasions” and “The Second Battle of Mag Tured.” When the Irish druids send a wind to keep the sons of Mil away, Amergin stands up and chants a counter-spell of some sort, beginning with “I invoke the land of Ireland” (Cross 19). This suggests names are very powerful as well. The result of Amergin’s chant is that “Immediately a tranquil calm came to them on the sea” (19). Amergin is a druid, but also one of the “men of learning” (19) Donn refers to, and also a “poet” (21), showing once again how closely connected magic is to words. Words, simple sounds that these druids make, are able to influence and control nature itself.

In The Tain, the gessa that Cuchulainn and the Morrigan place on each other further illustrates the power words have over deeds. When Cuchulainn refuses her proposition, she vows to hinder him in his fights (Kinsella 133). They trade promises of pain to each other until Cuchulainn finishes with, “I’ll hurl a stone at you…and shatter your leg, and you’ll carry that mark forever unless I lift it from you with a blessing” (133). All of these pronouncements eventually happen: “Cuchulainn did to the Morrigan the three things he had sworn” (136). In this episode, their previous meeting and words dictated the actual events in the future and the outcome of what happened.

Additionally, as we saw, words can have both positive and negative results. This is humbling and makes me want to be very careful and aware how I use my words, both in speech and on paper. As an English major, my entire academic life revolves around how well or how foolishly (as is more often the case) I use words to communicate and attempt to affect others. Before this term, I had considered this solely in terms of how I can persuade other people, but now words seem much more volatile and powerful in real life, not just the abstract world of ideas.

All of these examples drawn from the texts show words as having concrete, physical consequences. The power that words can have over people and situations, and their power to create, support, and destroy ideas is amazing and terrifying, and the Celts clearly knew all about this. When ideas move history, from the mundane day to day history of one person to the nation-changing wars and treaties of global history, it shows how absurdly powerful mere words are.

I have two large goals as I move out of this term resulting from this course specifically. The first one is to handle words as I would dynamite: very, very carefully and respectfully. I may not be able to use words to raise or calm storms (although that would be awesome), but how I speak to everyone around me on a daily basis, how I write, how I use Facebook to express myself, how I speak to employers, professors, and peers, are all very powerful forms of communication and directly influence both my own actions and those of others’.
My second new goal is to learn Old Irish.

Works Cited:

Carney, James. Medieval Irish Lyrics. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967. Print.

Cross, Tom Peete. Ancient Irish Tales. ed. Tom Peete Cross and Clark Harris Slover. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1936. Print.

Davies, Oliver. Celtic Spirituality. New York: Paulist Press, 1999. Print.

Ireland, Colin A. Old Irish Wisdom Attributed to Aldfrith of Northumbria. Tempe: Arizona
Center for Medieval Renaissance Studies, 1999. Print.

Kinsella, Thomas. The Táin: From the Irish Epic Táin Bó Cuailnge. Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 2002. Print.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Dewey: Wrap-up

Which hour was most daunting for you?
Probably Hour 13, because I realized that I really hadn't read that much and I only had that much time again to finish everything. Hour 24, of course, is always hard.
Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?
That I read this time? IDK. Book in general: And Only To Deceive by Tasha Alexander.
Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
Nope! It's always jolly.
What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?
The challenges. Last year, I didn't do very many of the challenges because they were really complicated and/or took a lot of time, time that I should be using to read.
How many books did you read?
I finished 4.
What were the names of the books you read?
A Farewell To Arms, The Prose Edda, Wuthering Heights, Luck in the Shadows.
Which book did you enjoy most?
Luck in the Shadows, I suppose, because it wasn't for school.
Which did you enjoy least?
Wuthering Heights. It was good but so depressing...I was crying at one point.
If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders?
The Cheerleaders are made of win. That is all.
How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?
A reader, maybe a cheerleader?

Dewey: Hour 22

TIRED NOW MMKAY. I finished a book....*waves pom poms weakly*

Btw, cheerleaders, THANK YOU SO MUCH :D Y'all are awesome and inspiring. I'm going to attack another book and see if I can keep reading until 5 w/o falling asleep....idk though.

*staggers off*

But I have finished 4 books! Yay! Now for some poetryyyy.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Dewey: Hour 19

Reading continues apace! I finished up Luck in the Shadows and am halfway through The Prose Edda....

Page count so far: 623
Books finished: 3

Just consumed an enormous mug of coffee, so that should help keep me awake for at least a couple more hours. ONWARD.

Dewey: Rereads Challenge!

The Blue Stocking Society challenged us to blog about books that we love to reread. This made me remember how much I used to reread books...I would much rather reread books until they fell apart than pick up something new. Now I am much more into reading unread books.

Anyway, books that I STILL pick up at any moment and reread include:
Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope
The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien

The first two are short reads, filled with humor and heart and a dash of ROH-MAHNCE, so I love them. ^_^ LotR is so rich and deep and full that I can't help going back to it again and again, finding something new each time.

Dewey: Halfway!

I took a break for the afternoon for the football game. >.> Hence the lack of progress. But I'm back on now!

Mid-Event Survey:
1. What are you reading right now?
The Temple by George Herbert and Luck in the Shadows by Lynn Flewelling.
2. How many books have you read so far?
I've finished 2 and I'm about halfway through another.
3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?
Goliath by Scott Westerfeld!
4. Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day?
I turned down a couple of invitations, and accepted another. I know, I'm like social butterfly! lol not really.
5. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?
I gave in and watched part of the football game. But only the second half. So. Yes.
6. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?
How SLOWLY I'm reading! I feel like I've been reading non-stop (which I basically have, except for challenges and the several-times-mentioned football), but I still haven't got much read. Whatever.
7. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
Nope. It's awesome.
8. What would you do differently, as a Reader or a Cheerleader, if you were to do this again next year?
Get up on time! :) I got up earlier than I did last year, though, so yay! 5 am is EARLY, YO.
9. Are you getting tired yet?
NEVAHHHHH. But it's only 5:30 here.
10. Do you have any tips for other Readers or Cheerleaders, something you think is working well for you that others may not have discovered?
VARIETY IS YOUR FRIEND. Whenever I get tired of something I read something else for a while.

Dewey: A Music Bath Challenge

What song does the book I’m reading right now remind me of?
I'm reading Wuthering Heights, and it reminds me of the song "White Flag" by Dido. All of the star-crossed lovers in the book are singularly determined and unable to give up regardless of what obstacles they face. The results of that are not as positive as you might imagine. :P

What song does my favorite book remind me of?
My favorite book is The Lord of the Rings. I am always reminded of pretty much anything by Enya, but especially "May It Be" and "Anywhere Is."

Can I find a connection between one of my favorite songs and a story I like?
Right now I love the song "Bust Your Kneecaps" by Pomplamoose. It reminds me of White Cat by Holly Black, although let's face it, Cassel's family would probably do a lot worse than bust his love interest's kneecaps.

Dewey: Hour 8

Pages read: 189
Books finished: 1 (A Farewell to Arms)
Challenges completed: 6 (I was completely hopeless on the author pseudonyms one ^_^)

A Farewell to Arms is a pretty good book, although I think Hemingway writes about war much better than he does about romance. I don't even get the romance in that book, which is too bad because....that's the main plot. And, wtf, what happened to Rinaldi? He was my favorite, haha.

In the sequel, Frederick goes and finds Paini and Rinaldi and the priest and they all go to the priest's home and drink a lot and have jolly times. Oh, and Fergy can go, too. Oh and Paini's wife, I suppose.

Right now I'm working on Wuthering Heights. I'm ready for something HAPPY to happen in that book.

Dewey: Top 5 Book-Wants

Books coming out in the next months/year that I REALLY want to read:

1. Prized by Caragh O'Brien

What about you?

Dewey-Hour 4

Okay, I have some challenges to catch up on! Reading is going well-ish, I've read about 100 pages (in Luck in the Shadows and A Farewell to Arms) in 2 hours. Hm. Yeah. Well-ish. ^_^ I had breakfast, though! Breakfast is key.

These represent Frederick Henry and Catherine Barkley in A Farewell to Arms....two lovebirds!

I've probably thoroughly given it away by this time, but there you are. :)

1. Restoring Harmony by Joelle Anthony (Portland, Oregon)
2. O Pioneers! by Willa Cather (Nebraska)
3. The Rise of Silas Lapham (Boston)

Willa Cather, especially, is amazing with settings and does a beautiful job with the Nebraska frontier.

Off to read more Hemingway! I hope you are all reading muchly and having fun!

Dewey-Post 1

Hey all,
I just got up to do this....I know, I tried! 6:36 and I'm ready to READ STUFF.

I posted once before this with general goals....but here is the questionnaire for Hour 1!

1)Where are you reading from today?

Right now I'm in bed, trying to be quiet because my family is still sleeping and they're really light sleepers and if I wake them up before 8 on a Saturday they will be GRUMPY.

2)Three random facts about me…

1-I have a crush on David Levithan 2-I am an English major 3-I drink a LOT of root beer.

3)How many books do you have in your TBR pile for the next 24 hours?

The Prose Edda by Snorri Sturluson (118)
Finish Wuthering Heights (54)
Finish A Farewell To Arms (88)
Finish The Temple by George Herbert (90)
Goliath by Scott Westerfeld
Dull Boy by Sarah Cross
Luck in the Shadows by Lynn Flewelling

4)Do you have any goals for the read-a-thon (i.e. number of books, number of pages, number of hours, or number of comments on blogs)?

I would like to stay up the whole 24 hours (or rather 22 1/2 hours, since I already slept in a bit).

5)If you’re a veteran read-a-thoner, any advice for people doing this for the first time?

Pace yourself, eat good foods, and use variety in your reading material!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Dewey's 24-hour Readathon (Oct 2011)

I am once again participating! The challenge starts at 5 am my time on Saturday. Details are here.

My goals
(listed in order of importance):

For school:
The Prose Edda by Snorri Sturluson (118)
Finish Wuthering Heights (54)
Finish A Farewell To Arms (88)
Finish The Temple by George Herbert (90)

Fun books:
Goliath by Scott Westerfeld
Dull Boy by Sarah Cross

Locations include but are not limited to: my house, the public library, Barnes&Noble

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Goal Updates

I am making an effort to get back into blogging again. Summer always kills me. So, if you're still following me, HI! You look lovely today. :) I have updated my reading challenges over on the right sidebar, so feel free to take a look at those. If there's a book you really want me to review, comment and I'll put it at/near the top of my priority list. I will do my best to review all of them. If there are other things you want posts from me about (I may have promised some stuff I've forgotten about) feel free to bug me about those. Thank you for following/reading/commenting/being lovely.

So, for now I'm going to review my summer goals!

I didn't complete any of my writing goals, unfortunately. :( I did get some work done on "Batty Batty Bats," did some editing, and I wrote a short or two, but writing was mostly a fail.

  • I DID read The Gathering Storm, but did not read Towers of Midnight. :( I will either start that soon or will save it for Christmas break, not sure. It's BIG. Luckily the pub. date for A Memory of Light got pushed back, anyway, so I have time.
  • I DID read many more books! I won't list them here, but I did read. So yay!
  • I DID finish the Tolkien bio and Idylls, and it's technically summer until the 21st, so there.
  • The only manga I read was Code Geass. So no rereading but I discovered a good new series, so I'm calling this a win.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

RYOB Readathon Recap

Pages read: 845
Books finished (they were all started already): 4
My goal was to finish at least 3, so yay! I am a slow reader.

JRR Tolkien: A Biography by Humphrey Carpenter
I don't normally read biographies, but I'm a huge Tolkien fan and this is his "authorized" bio, apparently. I liked the way it was organized, I learned a LOT of interesting tidbits, and gained even more respect for him, as well as a new-found respect for one of his children, Christopher (Christopher is a boss genius). 5/5.

The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
I've been reading this series since early high school or something, so it's kinda a huge part of my literary life. This book wrapped up or made a lot of progress on a LOT of plotlines, which was fantastic. It also delivered on some VERY LONG AWAITED scenes, some of which I cried over (I won't lie). And the culmination of Rand's issues near the end was beautiful. 4/5.

Idylls of the King and a Selection of Poems by Tennyson
He's Victorian, so yes there is some sexism (not as bad as I was expecting) and a lot of gender stereotyping. HOWEVER, his Arthurian reimaginings were very readable and gripping. The standalone poems varied in quality (I love "Ulysses;" I hate "Locksley Hall"). 4/5.

The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathon Stroud
This story was somehow darker than I was expecting, so I kept having to update my expectations. Bartimaeus is a fantastic character, though, and I love the world-building, and all of the different demons, and Lovelace was chilling. Nathaniel (one of the two protags) disappointed me. But still a fantastic read! 5/5.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Read Your Own Books Readathon

It's been a while since I've participated in a readathon, and I love this one cuz it forces me to ignore my library books and such.

My goals are to finish as many of my my "currently-reading" on Goodreads, which are:

JRR Tolkien: A Biography by Humphrey Carpenter (finished)-Excellent, suspenseful biography!
The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathon Stroud (finished)
The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan (finished)- I cried. Yeah whatever.
Idylls of the King and a Selection of Poems by Tennyson (finished) - So sexist, but good poetry!
The Complete Hans Christian Andersen Fairy Tales
First Among Sequels by Jasper Fforde
X-Wing: Iron Fist by Aaron Allston

I probably won't get to all of those, so the top three are my shortlist. :)


vats of A&W Root Beer
tortilla chips and salsa
apple slices
Chips Ahoy *Chunky*

Reading Area:

Pretty much anywhere, but most likely my bed or the living room couch. :) I don't notice my surroundings much when I'm in a book, so.....kinda irrelevant.

Update (Saturday):
I dunno why but I am completely uninterested in The Amulet of Samarkand. So I'm working on Tennyson instead.

Update (Sunday):
I figured out my page count so far: 576. Not much, really, but I'm pleased so far anyway. I'm going to do my best to finish "Amulet" today but I have some social things going on so we will see!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Summer Goals (Awkward Turtle Version)

I know, I haven't blogged in forever. I am ashamed. Truly, truly ashamed. I'm not even going to make any excuses or promises right now.

However, I HAVE made goals for the summer, and I would like to share them:

  • Finish the rough draft of "Batty Batty Bats," my current project which is awesome. I REALLY need to finish it this summer though, because it's eating my brain, and I don't want it eating my brain when Nanowrimo rolls around.
  • Write three more short stories for the Unholy Trinity short story challenge. I actually need to write these in the next....four days. No biggie.
  • Catch up on the Wheel of Time series. This means I need to read The Gathering Storm and Towers of Midnight. They're both like 800 pages long.
  • read many, many many more books. But I don't want to specify which ones, cuz I'll never stick to it. Let's say 20 total.
  • Finish Tolkien: A Biography and The Idylls of the King
  • I also really want to reread Fruits Basket, Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle, and Death Note. Does that make me a bad person? :/
I hope you are all doing well! I'm sorry I've been so inactive. Maybe I will be strong and do some reading challenge updates here soon?

If you would like to stalk me thoroughly, I spend a lot of time here: and here:!/bahnree I occasionally talk about books and writing. ^_^

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Borders Closing and Booksale

Note: I was going to do Dewey's readathon this weekend, but I realized this morning was the annual library booksale and then I have a large wedding-related event for my friend later? That's like 6 hours long? So idk.

I visited my sister in New Mexico last weekend. When we got there on Friday, she was still at work, so we were trying to decide what to do. I had this vague memory in my head that a Borders was closing in Albuquerque (where we were), so as a good book-lover does, I looked up all the info, got directions, and persuaded my parents to drive across town with me. Once we were on the highway, we realized it was 4 pm on a Friday, which was very unwise. trollololol traffic.
BUT we eventually made it there and it was LOVELY. So many books. So many tragically empty shelves. :( Cute clerks though. One of them liked my Transformers TV show shirt. Woot.

Then the next day, we all went to Santa Fe to be tourist-y and all, and I remembered (from my research the day before) that the OTHER NM closing Borders was in Santa Fe! TROLLOLOLOL I didn't even have intentions. It was just a "Hey let's go to Santa Fe and look at the Miraculous Staircase" and then once we were there I was like OH BTW there's a Borders RIGHT OVER THERE. So I went there and bought more books?

Then this morning was my public library's annual Friends of the Library fundraiser booksale. So as one does I went and bought a million books. I think this was the most amazing year I have gone (I have gone three years running now). I bought a box-full but it was all stuff I REALLY wanted for whatever reason.

Funny story: I was looking in the "Literature and Drama and Verse" section for any Old English anthologies or whatever. There was a volunteer right there sorting books.
My brain: "I should ask her if she's seen any Old English books. Nah, she's probably not paying that much attention, or even worse, she'll misunderstand what I mean by Old English. But...she's right there, all perky and helpful looking. It can't hurt, right?"
Me: "Excuse me, have you by any chance seen any Old English books around?"
Her: "Oh, yes! I saw a William Shakespeare anthology around here somewhere..."
Me: "Oh. No, thanks. Just thought I'd ask."
Volunteers are wonderful, but oh babies. I died a little inside.

So, here are PHOTOS! Because you all WANT them, right?

From the booksale:

And from the closing Borders:

Thursday, March 10, 2011

This contest makes me breathless ;)

Beth Revis is giving away the books of the authors that she was on a book tour with. Go here to enter. I really want to read The Replacement and Matched (already read the Revis XD).

Monday, February 28, 2011

Fellowship of the Ring Read-a-long: February

Chapters read: 6, "Fog on the Barrow-downs" through "Many Meetings." This time around, I'm just going to give you a few thoughts on each chapter, because I have a lot to say and there's not really a better way to organize it.

"Fog on the Barrow-downs" If I saw this chapter filmed, specifically the bit in the actual barrow, I'm pretty sure I would pee my pants. SO UNSETTLING. I love how it's terrifying and yet we don't actually see much. Also, Frodo is pretty cool in this chapter (except for the "Oh, Tom Bombadil didn't REALLY mean that we shouldn't sit on the east side of wight-y things, right?" I was also surprised by how much I enjoyed this entire chapter, cuz generally I skim the TB trilogy. Also-also, I think it's cool how Tom Bombadil often has a sort of loose rhyme to his speech. Example: "Few now remember them, yet still some go wandering, sons of forgotten kings walking in loneliness, guarding from evil things folk that are heedless."

"At the Sign of the Prancing Pony": I have an absurd love for Nob. No, really. I love every little bit that he is in. Frodo is back to failing epically in this chapter. Strider's entrance: omfjam win. Favorite quote, though, goes to Pippin and Merry: "Mind your Ps and Qs, don't forget that you are supposed to be escaping in secret, and are still on the high-road and not very far from the Shire!" "All right!" said Pippin. "Mind yourself! Don't get lost, and don't forget that it is safer indoors!"
Merry really is the responsible one, isn't he? I always thought of Frodo as the sensible one, but Merry gets things done.

"Strider" is traditionally my favorite chapter, just because Strider/Aragorn finally comes into the story, although I was surprised to notice that really not much else happens in this chapter. But I really like how Strider is desperate for trust, and Frodo really wants to trust him. THEY ARE DESTINED TO BE FRIENDS. Also, more Nob in this chapter.

"A Knife in the Dark": I strangely wasn't scared by this chapter like I usually am.

"Flight to the Ford": Glorfindel, my dear, let us retire to a quiet corner of the Hall of Fire and....discuss poetry.
Ahem. I also like the actual "fleeing" bit at the end of this chapter.

"Many Meetings": The Hall of Fire is one of my favorite locations in The Lord of the Rings. If I went to Middle-earth, I would hang out there the most (hopefully accompanied by an Elf-lord or two). I like Arwen and Elrond's entrances here, and also Bilbo and Aragorn's discussions about poetry. "As a matter of fact it was all mine. Except that Aragorn insisted on my putting in a green stone. He seemed to think it important. I don't know why. Otherwise he obviously thought the whole thing rather above my head, and he said that if I had the cheek to make verses about Earendil in the house of Elrond, that was my affair."

A Note On Dreams: Someday I'd like to read through this, write down everyone's dreams, and note where they come true, and how. Frodo has some really interesting foresight-y dreams early on, but I can't really remember that habit continuing.

A Note On Poetry: I love the barrow-wight's song ("Fog"), Strider's poem ("Strider"), Gil-galad song ("Knife"), and of course, Bilbo's "Earendil" chant ("Many Meetings").

Coming Up: I meant to get to "Council of Elrond" this month. I think I'll devote an entire post to that chapter this next week, and tear it apart (analytically, not angrily). That chapter is a beast.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Hello from the Writing Ogre!

Have a photo of a deeply unsettling ogre. You're welcome.

So those of you who are following me because I write, not because I read, have probably noticed I don't post much about my writing any more. The main reason for this is that I usually say everything I want to say about my writing on my Twitter. So if you're serious in your stalking of me, you might want to go over there.
That being said, I figured I should talk about some of the writing projects I'm working on right now. I am writing much more this year than I have since 2008 (ah, the good old days!??).

Beta version of "Mad As Gods"
This is my 2010 Nanowrimo. It's a sequel to my 2007 Nano, it's quite rough, and it doesn't really know what it's trying to be, who it's trying to star, or what it's trying to say. There's a lot of love and bad jokes (as in stupid) and innuendo (as in sketch) and gratuitous snakes. I'm sharing it slowly with my small core of awesome Nano-ites, and getting super fantastic feedback (as in helpful, not as in "omg this story is perfect in every way" XD). It's always great to know what people like, and more importantly what they do NOT like. Then I can get a sort of idea of what is working and what isn't.
I am also getting to read my friends' Nanos, and giving them feedback. That's also really helpful for me (besides them, of course, lol) because it forces me to look at how their story is working, how they've structured it, etc, and how various bits work and various bits don't work. The benefits of analysis, fellow writers, are legion.

Drafting "Batty, Batty, Bats"
This is one of those projects that is pure sugar and cream. There is nothing not fun about writing this story, but I'm certain that once I finish it, I will never touch it again. It's just not publishable for a lot of reasons, mostly structural. It's kinda like one big character development/psychological exploration. It revolves around one character who has a lot of trauma in his past, and I start with him as a teenager and then go through his 30s or so, just kind of visiting the significant turning points in his life. Almost like a coming of age story, but prolonged and, yeah, very psychological. This description almost makes it sound smart, LOL! But it's mostly hilarious banter and panic attacks and misunderstandings and BAD CHOICES. It's also set in a night-club, so, seriously, what is not fun about that.
This story was/is also a great outlet for all of the stuff I wanted to include in "Mad As Gods," but couldn't, either because of plot constrictions or world constrictions or because I was trying to keep tiny-minor characters from hijacking the story. "BBB" grew from "Mad As Gods" in a lot of weird, unexplainable ways.

Short stories
A couple of friends and I committed to sending each other a new short story every week, or at least an excerpt of something we're working on. There has been a bit of cheating going on, for all of us, I think, but we've all written a lot of stuff we otherwise never would have written. I'm actually struggling with this project right now, because all I want to write is "BBB," but hopefully soon I will get back in gear.

Editing Snazel's stories
I'm also helping a friend edit some short stories that she's going to submit to get into a writing workshop (or somesuch). It's a lot of pressure, lol! I want to be as helpful as I can, which means I'm wayyyy over-analyzing everything, and I have to figure out how to communicate my thoughts on various bits and word choices and such. It's a hard game, but it's also helping my writing-brain figure stuff out, which is fabulous.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Weir of Hermiston by Robert Louis Stevenson

This is the first book I read for the Victorian Reading Challenge. I didn't realize it was an unfinished novel until I, well, finished it, so I am pointing that out now for any potential readers.
But from what we get (9 chapters), it looks like it was supposed to be a sort of bildungsroman for a Scottish aristocrat trying to escape the shadow of the father. The novel focuses on Weir, Sr., and Weir, Jr., who are reasonably well-to-do noblemen. Sr. is a judge, infamous for harsh justice and no mercy. Jr. (named Archie) is a bit of a thinker, shy, but usually comes off as reserved and proud, so he has trouble making friends. He is eventually banished to the country house, Hermiston, by his father, for being an outspoken prat. There he tries not to rot away, and has to deal with two different Kirsties who both seem a bit obsessed with him.
There's also a villainous sort of guy, Frank, who is the worst of the best of Archie's peers, if that makes sense. He was the most intriguing, 3-dimensional character here, I think, because he doesn't exactly have malice at work in what he does, but he is hugely self-centered and moves himself through life by ruining or putting down other people. Sorta like the guy who trips his friend so the bear will eat the friend and he can escape. But he's charming and really doesn't think, "Hey, I should ruin lives today," he just sorta does it. It was fascinating for me to watch and I really would have liked to see what happened to him.
Archie is the sort of character that you really want to see grow and stand up to his father and get the girl, but in this novel we only see tiny foreshadowings of that transformation. Young-Kirstie starts out as a flat, typical-adolescent girl, but we also see some glimmerings of character and personality for her, notably in the final scene where she tells Archie she won't be used.
Robert Louis Stevenson is one of my favorite Victorian writers. His writing style is just really lush, if that makes sense. I love watching the man describe stuff. He is also very good with young male heroes who have good intentions but have to learn how to...execute their intentions properly, as it were. The pacing of this story is a bit slow, although depending on how the rest of it turned out, it might have been okay. There is also a lot more Scottish dialect than I was expecting, which can take a bit of time to "translate" as you read, unless you have much Scottish experience, which I don't.
Overall, Weir of Hermiston is a bit slow and never gets far enough to really flesh out its characters, but has a lot of potential and a few good moments. I gave it 3/5 stars.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Dragon and Soldier by Timothy Zahn

(I didn't realize until after I finished reading that I can totally use this as a Men In Uniform book, because he is totally in uniform, albeit a mercenary one, for most of the book. I am going to bend the rules for all of my challenges as much as possible, if that wasn't clear.)

I really enjoyed the first book, Dragon and Thief, in Timothy Zahn's YA sci-fi series, "Dragonback." An orphan teen, Jack, who has been raised as a petty criminal, teams up with Draycos, a symbiotic alien, and the two of them try to save Draycos' people from another alien race bent on genocide. The first book chronicles how they meet, learn to work together, face off with some villains, and clash ideologically.
In the second book, Jack and Draycos are trying to track down the people who are helping the villain-aliens, and to do this they decide to infiltrate a mercenary group. Draycos is increasingly uncomfortable with Jack's ambiguous moral center and selfish attitude. Draycos takes it on himself to train Jack as a warrior, both mentally and physically. His task is NOT helped by the mercenaries, who are kind of the worst example of a militarized body ever, and the fact that Jack really, REALLY does not like guns.
Reading this book directly after Starship Troopers was a little bit painful, because of how incompetent all of the military figures are in this book, except for Draycos (because Draycos is awesome). But Zahn generally has awesome military characters, so he makes sure that all his characters make fun/criticize the ineptitude exhibited by the mercs here.
I think a big strength of this series is how different Jack and Draycos really are. Draycos thinks about others first, he is very skilled in fighting, stealth, and such, he's a bit of an intellectual, and he has a very strong moral code. Jack is very clever, good at getting in and out of tricky situations, and of course knows all about stealing, breaking into places, hacking, and manipulating people. He usually ends up doing the right thing, but it's a struggle for him. This dichotomy between them, of course, is nicely echoed by the fact that Draycos literally can't live without Jack (or a similar biological pile of life-force, lol).
I think a weakness in this series is that Timothy Zahn is very careful about his content-level. He usually writes for adults (and his adult-novels are very clean, generally) so I think he's not quite in tune with just how much dark violence teenagers can take. At several points in these books I'm expecting something much darker than what it will actually happen, so then it's like, oh, okay, everything's fine, everything's chill. But maybe the stakes will heighten in future books?
Specifically in this one, I loved the rivalry between Uncle Virge (the AI computer on their ship) and Draycos, especially the warrior-poetry sub-sub-plot (is that a term? It SHOULD be!).
We are also introduced to a new character, Alison, who is a teen girl with Secrets and may or may not be a love interest for Jack. I think I would have cared more about her if she wasn't quite so soulless, and also if she had a little more common-sense. But I have hopes for her in future books. She's a bit like a young, learning-curve Mara Jade (for TZ fans).
Overall, not the best Timothy Zahn book I've read, but it's a good setup for the rest of the series, I think, and I am eager to have time to read the rest (which are sitting on my shelf, all pretty and clever). I gave this 4/5 stars for enjoyability.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

10 Signs of Book Addiction

I borrowed this from The Story Siren:

10 signs of Book Addiction

I have a problem.... do you? If you find yourself nodding your head to any of these statements, you might suffer from Book Addiction. Don't worry you are not alone.

You might be a book addict if:
  1. You buy your purses based on how many books you can fit inside. [ALWAYS. The smallest purse I own can fit a small paperback. The largest purse I own can fit five hardbacks.]
  2. The Fed Ex and UPS carriers, know you by name. [Well, no. They tend to drop and run.]
  3. Your family refuses to buy you books because they don't want to support your habit. [My family rarely buys me books. This last birthday was an exception.]
  4. You own multiple versions of the same book. [Yes. Mostly books I love like The Lord of The Rings, Henry James, Shakespeare, etc.]
  5. You dream about books. (Getting them... meeting the authors that write them.) [Yes. I've had dreams about being BFFs with authors.]
  6. You always have at least one book on you at all times. Even if it's just a quick trip to the dollar store. [Like I said, my purses are important. If I don't bring a book, it's like not bringing my cellphone: I fidget and worry.]
  7. You usually help shoppers at the bookstore, because you are more knowledgeable than the staff. [LOL no, sorry. But I do know my local Borders like the back of my hand.]
  8. You've been known to skip family functions or outings with friends because you can't stop reading. [Would I actually admit to that?]
  9. There are books in every room of your house. [Hm well no but I share my house with several other people who steal books.]
  10. If you are within five miles of a bookstore, you find yourself drawn to it like a homing device from the mothership. [YES YES YES YES TAKE ME MASTERS.]
Score: 6/10.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan

This review contains *SPOILERS* for the first half of the book.

I went into this book very cautiously. I liked the Percy Jackson series, but by the end of the series I was a little weary of all the characters and plotlines that settled out exactly as I expected them to. I wasn't sure if this would just be more of the same, or have even less interesting characters.

But, lucky, I was pleasantly surprised. I loved all three main characters, which rarely happens in any book, and I was definitely not expecting it from Riordan (I like Percy, but am pretty meh on the other leads). I found Jason, Leo, and Piper to all be lovely and interesting in different ways. Jason is a natural leader but he's also really sweet, and doesn't remember anything, which is his issue. Leo is an inventor-genius with a snappy wit, but is haunted by guilt (DUN DUN DUN). Piper is fierce and smart but has her weak spots. Did I mention I liked the darker backstories? Like Leo's mom's death and Piper's insecure movie star dad? Yeah, I did, quite a bit.
All of those things are well and good, but these characters were just extremely likeable for me, and since I read primarily for characters, I would have enjoyed this book even if the rest of it was meh.

But it wasn't! Riordan didn't just do the same old plots. I mean, it's a similar formula, with the three heroes on a quest, but the way he incorporated the Roman pantheon (and everything that that implies), the darker backstories to the three main characters, and villains that we weren't able to see before, because they're DEAD...all that was lovely. Plus, we're getting Hera/Juno in a big way, and Romanies like Khione and Aeoleus. Lots of possibilities here. I also liked that the Hephaestus/Vulcan cabin is more important, because of Leo and also because of all their cool inventions! Festus, too, was a great addition to the story and especially Leo's journey.

The overall plot with the sleeping soil-covered lady/the giants/the living dead is really cool, too. In some ways I think it's cooler than the whole Kronos thing. Most of the major Kronos plot points, especially the ones involving Luke, I spotted from book one (I'm not bragging, really! It was transparent!). In this book, I was never sure what was going to happen. Plus, Riordan has now enabled himself to bring characters like Minas and Medea in, which is ALWAYS a great idea. :D So many villain opportunities now!

The main things I didn't like were a couple of characters, specifically Coach Hedge and Chiron. Coach Hedge had all of the things I disliked about Grover and NONE of the things I liked about him. Pretty much any moment where Hedge was unconscious/frozen/gold were good times for me. And Chiron....don't get me started on Chiron. Gandalf or Dumbledore or Oreius, thou art NOT. I'm never sure if Riordan means for him to be a strong, wise, mentor type or not. Certainly the MCs in Percy Jackson and this book view him that way. But when has Chiron ever been helpful? He's always really depressing and just discourages and emotionally abuses the MCs, and then let's them go to fight and die. /rant

4/5 stars from me. I'm excited for the next book and am actually considering picking up The Red Pyramid now, which I was definitely on the fence about before.

PS-Reading this book while also reading The Aeneid is a bit of a mind trip.