seraphcelene: (books by gloriousbite)
"All children are heartless. They have not grown a heart yet, which is why they can climb tall trees and say shocking things and leap so very high that grown-up hearts flutter in terror. Hearts weigh quite a lot. That is why it takes so long to grow one."

Valente's charming and beautiful fairy tale tells the story of a little girl named September who takes off for an adventure in Fairyland only to discover that adventures are scarier than she imagined, lonely, exhausting, difficult, and not all they're cracked up to be. Whisked away from the boredom of washing dishes by the Green Wind, September is dropped into the middle of a fairy story and discovers that there are choices to be made, friends to meet, people to save, hearts to break, and many ways to her way. It's a great adventure evocative of all the best fairy stories written in the past 100 years (Narnia, Oz, Wonderland, Lemony Snicket). There are witches (and Marquesses, who are worse than witches), dragons, golems, talking leopards, and fairies (of course).

Beautifully written, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland would be perfect to share with a child; although I would not recommend that a child read it alone. This is a tale, like the best stories, designed for reading aloud. I loved that September, our plucky, semi-heartless, know-it-all-heroine, faced a lot of tough, deadly, scary and dangerous challenges. I loved that the rules of faerie, rules that September thinks she knows all too well, are turned on their ear and upside down. From changelings to the Ravished, the rules of river crossings and the ways of wyverns and death, Valente recasts our ideas of fairy tale elements. I loved September's compatriots and that September is the hero of her own story. Valente has a beautiful way with language and I found myself studying the language as much as anything else. A fun, whimsical, enchanting read.
seraphcelene: (books by gloriousbite)
I really love this series. Really. It's inventive, unique, filled with awesome characters and environs. Year of the Tiger wraps up the story begun in Year of the Wolf. The Alvarez sisters are fighting their way through major drama and angst as they seek to save each other and the Spirit World.

I love that the main characters are POC (people of color) and that the landscape is doubly othered. There's Seoul (South Korea) and Spirit!Seoul. We get closer to the characters (Khyber and Raina being the most interesting), and we get to watch the characters get closer to each other. One of the things that I loved most was Citlalli's continuing evolution. There wasn't a lot in this book. This is definitely an action centered story, but the idea of the fracturing souls and how Citlalli deals with the ways she is changing is thematically intrinsic. This is a novel about duality and it pops up all over the place: good versus evil, were versus vampire, real world versus spirit world, and then the gray areas between all of those things. (That might be the most interesting thing about those kinds of opposing extremes, and Heffner is obviously interested in exploring the middle grounds.) Unfortunately, there are some technical/structural issues that distract and detract from what is a super promising concept.
Read more... )
seraphcelene: (books by gloriousbite)
Let the Right One In was a little difficult to pin down. To be honest, I don't really like it and I won't be reading it again, but it doesn't deserve less than 3 stars. Yet, there are technical issues regarding the pacing of the story and the rushed, almost haphazard ending that don't allow me to give it 4 stars. I read Let the Right One In after seeing the original Swedish film, which I loved. I saw the film after hearing a review that recommended it as the cure to the disappointment that is Twilight. Something along the lines of, if you want to see a vampire romance done right ... And I agree. This is a vampire romance done really, really right. But it's also really, really off-putting. Everything about the narrative is off. It's creepy, psychologically unnerving, and at the end of it all I feel the need to bleach the inside of my brain and to give the space under my skin a really vigorous scrub.

Blackeberg. It makes you think of coconut-frosted cookies, maybe drugs. 'A respectable life.' You think subway station, suburb. Probably nothing else comes to mind. People must live there, just like they do in other places. That was why it was built, after all, so that people would have a place to live. )
seraphcelene: (books by gloriousbite)
It is not true that the dead cannot be folded. Square becomes kite becomes swan; history becomes rumor becomes song. Even the act of remembrance creases the truth.

So begins Ghostweight, the first story in Yoon Ha Lee's debut collection Conservation of Shadows.

What don't I love about this collection?

It's about art, love, war, math, the intricacies of politics, the devastation of war, and the tragedy of genocide, all wrapped up in a gorgeously poetic bow. Lee has a way with language that is fresh and evocative. Reading her work is almost like reading a poem or the notes in a song, each word plays a specific and devastating part in creating the overall experience. Lee is a master worldbuilder and each story feels like it could fit very neatly into larger narratives. These are not isolated events, they are excised from histories that we never imagined. Thankfully for us, Lee has.

The stories draw heavily on Lee's cultural background, her love of strategy gaming, and her passion for mathematics. From origami battle mecha to the physics of re-writing history, Lee writes arresting and resonant stories. Listing my favorites is like repeating the table of contents, but I am especially enamored of Effigy Nights, Flower, Mercy, Needle, Chain, The Unstrung Zither, The Battle of Candle Arc, and the books title story Conservation of Shadows.

There is much to love: from Bones of Giants, perhaps the most traditional narrative included, to Conservation of Shadows with its gorgeously rendered second person POV. Lee doesn't shy away from the realities and complexities of war. For better and worse, its effects on all participants are jarring and ugly. Lee stares the propaganda, the effects, and after-effects squarely in the face.

A gorgeous, lovely, consuming read.
seraphcelene: (books by gloriousbite)
I'm torn between a three and a four star rating (out of five) on this one. I went with the lower rating because the cliff hanger ending makes the novel feel very abruptly ended despite the 300+ pages. There's also some minor problems with the pacing (it drags in places), and a tension between the plot within the book and the overall plot arc of the series. Instead of the first book containing an independent and complete narrative that ties into the larger series arc, Year of the Wolf reads more like the first installment of a WIP. Despite that, Year of the Wolf is a pretty awesome read!

Citlalli Alvarez's family is being hunted by something inhuman, unnatural, and clocked in shadows. After her eldest sister, Marisol, mysteriously disappears, Citlalli's mother removes her remaining three daughters from their father's dubious custody and takes them back with her to Seoul. Only it seems that whatever took Marisol isn't done with the Alvarez family just yet.

Heffner writes a uniquely gorgeous take on vampires and werewolves, incorporating Korean mythology and transplanting a kick-ass Latina from the States to Seoul, South Korea. Heffner creates a lot of drama within the transplanted Alvarez family with Citlalli at her rebellious best. Some of the staging that sets-up the disconnect within the family slows the pace of the novel down, leaving it draggy in places, but overall Heffner creates a gorgeously imagined story with an alternate spirit world Korea rich with vibrant characters and landscapes.

There are shifts in POV that I should find jarring, but that seem to work within the novel. One of the shits occurs pretty late in the narrative and I question the choice, but, again, it works perhaps because it's used judiciously.

I love that the characters are complex and very different. I love that there are secrets and lies and that Mami, especially, loves her children as much as she resents them. Khyber, too, is beautifully dualistic, so much so, that at this point I'm not sure which way he's going to go (good guy or bad!). I definitely can't wait to dive into the second novel, Year of the Tiger.
seraphcelene: (books by gloriousbite)
I read Howl's Moving Castle because I love Miyazaki's film, and everyone I know who read the book first raved about how much better it was, and how different. I can agree that it is very different, but I won't say that it's better. The movie and the book are almost two different things, each with their strong points, and each with things that I am mad-daffy in love with. So, I can state, without hesitation, that I LOVE Howl's Moving Castle, the book (and the film). Pretty equally because, like the X-Men movie, they are two different things in my head.

This book is so gorgeously magical. It's a sweet, fierce, heroic fairy tale. Sophie is AMAZING and Howl is absolutely charming. I love how they fall in love around the edges of the story, and how in the end it makes perfect sense. I love how crotchety and matter of fact Sophie is (with her walking stick and her magical way of talking things to life) and how vain and outrageous is our Howl. And then there's the dog-man, and Calcifer! I LOVE Calcifer, who I think fell in love with Sophie even before Howl.

And did I mention how much I love Sophie? Cause dude, kick ass!! She's an awesome hero and I love how she becomes more of herself in her self-imposed old age, but how that particular mask starts to wear on her and how angry she gets. I LOVE that she is an adventuress and that this story is all about her. She isn't meek, she's not always nice, she does what needs doing. Sophie is totally the bee's knees!!

ALSO?! I have OFFICIALLY completed the 50 book challenge for the first time ever!!
seraphcelene: (books by gloriousbite)
I am way behind in reading this book. The furor has passed, at least until later this year when the buzz about the movie's 2013 release gets into full swing and we undoubtedly get a reprint with a still from the movie on the cover. I am not sad about that because I think that despite its slow start, World War Z is a damn good book. Like Alden Bell's The Angels are the Reapers, World War Z is a surprising and compelling read. I wasn't prepared to like the book as much as I did.

World War Z is the thinking man's zombie narrative. Brooks does a marvelous job of incorporating class, economic, cultural, and political considerations into the narrative, creating a richness of story that engages the heart and the mind. It is a global story and Brooks constructs the world and events around the recognizable. Existing national conflicts, PTSD, survivor guilt, fanaticism, capitalism, truth, lies, and the "let's blame it on Africa" game all get equal time. Human behavior is the highlight of the story, the zombies are almost negligible, a MacGuffin, if you will. To put it very simply, the true heart of this story is the people. The way that they respond in crises, how they respond to each other, how they survive. World War Z doesn't shy away from the evil things that men do, the greed and the selfishness. It also does not shy away from the goodness and the self-sacrifice. It does a really good job of avoiding caricatures, instead allowing the characters to be flawed, multifaceted, and deeply affected by the novel's events. The good and the bad collide and, like with any true community event, the perspectives and what they mean are ever changing.

I was initially put off by the first person POV, (the narrative is constructed as a UN report and written interview style)but again, it works. In fact, it works with astounding success. The voices are very individual. Another thing that I really loved about this book is the way that Brooks identifies and stresses the fact that the human story is a global story. For better or worse. A great read and I can't recommend it enough.
seraphcelene: (books by gloriousbite)
Only kind of, not really. I've actually only read the first two sample chapters on the brand, spanking new Kindle Touch that my BFF got me for my b-day. (She's sleek, she's awesome, and I call her Jane.) I love the sample chapter option available with the Kindle, but I will admit that it could be as detrimental as it is helpful. Sometimes the opening of a book is not the best part of the book. Fifty Shades of Grey, for example, could be a better book then those first two chapters let on.

Summary from Amazon: "When literature student Anastasia Steele is drafted to interview the successful young entrepreneur Christian Grey for her campus magazine, she finds him attractive, enigmatic and intimidating. Convinced their meeting went badly, she tries to put Grey out of her mind - until he happens to turn up at the out-of-town hardware store where she works part-time. Erotic, amusing, and deeply moving, the Fifty Shades Trilogy is a tale that will obsess you, possess you, and stay with you forever."

Fifty Shades of Grey is reportedly erotica of the BDSM variety. I have no problem with that. In fact, I enjoy those stories when they are written well. I don't get the feeling that Fifty Shades of Grey is written all that well. One of the Amazon reviews dubbed Fifty Shades of Grey as the erotica version of Twilight, and I have to say, all the signs are there. Clumsy, insipid, self-esteem challenged heroine, and a manly, enigmatic, perfect, beautiful, too-cool-for-school hero. He is attracted to her bumbling, messiness for gods know why and she is equally mesmerized. Hello, Twilight, so good to see you set-up for the super sexy times!

I do not especially love first-person narratives, let alone first-person narratives that are poorly written. The last really good first person narrative that I read was Alden Bell's The Reapers Are the Angels, an absolutely stunning tale set during the zombie apocalypse. (Who knew that the zombie apocalypse could be poetic? I surely didn't.) Fifty Shades of Grey has a shitload of rave reviews, but also a fair share of mediocre and bad reviews. To be honest, after the debacle that was me reading the Twilight series, I am not inclined to pursue this new series after reading those opening chapters.

The prose was also less than enchanting: too expository for a first-person, too plebeian, and too much of zero happening. After the first meeting between the main characters, we get what amounts to a rundown of Ana's day before Mr. Grey mysteriously (read randomly) shows up at the local DIY store where she works. I skimmed ALOT and that is never a good time. I like to be invested in what I'm reading. Fifty Shades of Grey was far from engaging. Although the prose picks up by that second meeting, I am not inspired to buy the book. The most I'm willing to do is wait for it to show up at my local library.

Give it whirl, if you like, and let me know if it gets better in the meantime. I will admit that only reading the first two chapters is hardly giving the novel a fair shake, but to be honest, I am never interested in wasting scare, valuable reading time on a mediocre book.
seraphcelene: (books by gloriousbite)
My best friend and I have been friends since we were nine-years-old. We met on the very first day of fifth grade. It was a warm, sunny September day and I wore black leather pants and a pink button down shirt with gold edged ruffles down the front. My bestfriend says that when she saw me, she knew that she would have to get to know me because what nine-year old comes to school in leather pants? We have been together for twenty-five years now. We are both Aquarians, born on the Dragon's tail almost a month apart in 1977. She is an inch and a half shorter than I am and we wear the same shoe size, although, I have inherited my father's narrow feet. She is more than a friend and more than a sister, she is my soul mate.

It is this type of relationship between women, built of love and friendship, that hooked me into Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. It tells the story of Lily and Snow Flower, two rural, nineteenth century Chinese girls who are contracted at the tender age of eight to be "laotong," old-sames. Laotong was a formal and rare relationship between women. It was a relationship that was "made by choice for the purpose of emotional companionship and eternal fidelity." Unlike sworn sisters, the relationship was exclusive and lasted through marriage, childbirth, and widowhood. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan follows Lily and Snow Flower through lives filled with love and hardship. It explores the nature of love, fate, friendship, women, and their place in a patriarchal society that values boy children above all else.

I tried to fulfill their expectations for me - to attain the smallest bound fee in the county - so I let my bones be broken and molded into a better shape )
seraphcelene: (books by gloriousbite)
1. Hogfather - Terry Pratchett

2. Vampire Academy - Richelle Mead

3. Frostbite - Richelle Mead

4. Shadow Kiss - Richelle Mead

5. Anansi Boys - Neil Gaiman

6. So Yesterday - Scott Westerfeld

7. Blood Promise - Richelle Mead

8. The Red Tree - Caitlin R. Kiernan

9. Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Caroll

10. Mort - Terry Pratchett

11. The History of Love - Nicole Krauss

12. Persuasion - Jane Austen

13. Dead Until Dark - Charlaine Harris

14. Living Dead in Dallas - Charlaine Harris

15. Love Poems - Pablo Neruda

16. Club Dead - Charlaine Harris

17. Dead to the World - Charlaine Harris

18. Dead as a Doornail - Charlaine Harris

19. Definitely Dead - Charlaine Harris

20. All Together Dead - Charlaine Harris

21. From Dead to Worse - Charlaine Harris

22. Dead and Gone - Charlaine Harris

23. Radiant Shadows - Melissa Marr

24. Dead in the Family - Charlaine Harris

25. A Better Pencil - Dennis Baron

26. Introduction to Education of Specialized Individuals

27. The Book of Lost Things - John Connolly
seraphcelene: (books by gloriousbite)
So, this is the last time that I will count this book for the 50 book Challenge. I read it every year at Christmas, and so it seems a little unfair that I keep including it on the list. (It feels kinda like cheating.) In bidding fond farewell to this book's official place on the list (although not in my personal list of things read), I'd like to take a closer look at Hogfather.

I first read Hogfather back in 1997. It was among my first Discworld books, which I started reading completely by fluke and pretty much out of order. I was living in Scotland, attending the University of Stirling for a year as part of UCSB's Education Abroad Program. I had brought a hand full of books with me and when I went through them all (within a couple of weeks), I ended up at the local bookstore and they had two very wee and very adorable copies of The Color of Magic and The Light Fantastic, the first two Discworld books. They were advertised as having been made by imps from the Counterweight Continent. Well, they were so small and so cute that I bought them. One evening while doing my laundry, I actually read them and fell in love. Fast forward a few months to Thanksgiving and I picked up a copy of Hogfather. It, too, was love at first sight.

The Discworld is a disc shaped planet that rides on the shoulders of four giant elephants who stand on the shell of Great A'Tuin, a giant space-faring sea turtle. Everything can and does happen on the Discworld. It's full of witches and wizards and dragons, warriors, thieves, cheats, monarchs, vampires, trolls, and The Watch (among other things). There are also gods and Death. An anthropomorphic personification of the concept, Death is possibly my favorite character in the entire Discworld. He's way too literal and far too fascinated with humans, some say he's "caught" if off them. He keeps cats and even, once, adopted a daughter.

Real children don't go hoppity-skip unless they are on drugs. )

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August 2016

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