Friday, March 28, 2008

A list

Things that are awesome:

Feeling pretty healthy on your birthday. (I woke up this morning with a sore throat, but still, I wasn't sick yesterday.)

Making a perfect batch of popcorn on the stove. (Mhh, popcorn.)

Realizing from a photo on an author's website that her book has been released five days earlier than it was supposed to be. (Or, maybe they always release books early, but don't "release" them for a week? I don't know.)

Yes, yesterday I saw a post on Ilona Andrew's webpage which included a picture that showed her latest book, Magic Burns, out a week ahead of schedule. I had to wait until after I'd left work for the day, but I pretty much ran to the nearest B&N where I frantically searched the floor for the book. Couldn't find it in the new releases, couldn't find it at the front, couldn't find it in the SF&F section! Disappointed, I made one last turn around the store...and there it was. Two stacks of that beautiful, beautiful book.

I'm going to save my review of it until next week, since if it wasn't supposed to be released, I don't want to spoil anything for anyone. (So hard not to say anything, because Magic Burns was packed full of great things, interesting things, intriguing things, funny things, hot things...) The only thing I can say is that this will totally qualify for the mythological book for Carl's challenge.

One down, four to go!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Recent reads

A War of Gifts is a short story by Orson Scott Card, sent in Ender's world during the time that he's at Battle School. It features several of the characters from Ender's Game, namely Ender and Dink, but it introduces Zeke, a young boy who believes in Christ, peace, and whatever his father says. Taken against his will to Battle School, Zeke vows to participate in nothing, setting himself against everyone else there. Dink, meanwhile, is wagging his own little battle against TPTB (refusing a promotion, refusing to play the games). As something of a joke, Dink gives another Dutch boy a Sinterklass gift, which Zeke seizes as a violation of the no-religion rule at Battle School. His attempts to get Dink in trouble backfire at first; in fact, Dink manages to get most of the other boys to continue the gift giving, but eventually this plan backfires when Zeke manages to get the Muslim students involved. Ender isn't featured much in this novella, although he does play the peacemaker in the end.

Despite the fact that I found the story interesting, I don't really feel like this story belongs in Ender's world; more like Card was writing this to prove some sort of point. Religion never really featured in Ender's world (a few small mentions in the beginning of the book, but that was it). From what I remember, religion becomes important in the Peter and Bean sequels .

Night Life by Caitlin Kittredge was another recent read (last night, actually) and another disappointment. Det. Luna Wilder is a reluctant were in hiding as weres and witches aren't welcome. (It was only a few years back that they could be shot on sight.) Hiding her nature, Luna lives with her witch cousin Sunny and gets by. A homicide detective, Luna gets called in when a young woman turns up dead, her throat torn out and her index finger removed. Starting to search for the killer, Luna ends up with another case (missing person), as well as crossing paths with one of the local were packs. Despite reading through the whole novel, I couldn't seem to connect to Luna or any of the other characters. Also, things weren't explained so much as just stated; you had to take things for fact. I don't mind a bit of that in a "new" world, but the fact that everything had to be taken for fact bugged me. And the weres seemed to be mostly violent people (OK), but they were also usually prostitutes, pimps, or dealers; not really sympathetic characters. Despite how much I crave books in urban fantasy, I don't think I'll be reading any of the following books.

Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday to me, Happy Birthday to me, Happy Birthday meeeeeee, Happy Birthday to me!

I haven't had much of a chance to do any reading recently as I had a friend in town. It was great having the chance to spend some time with her; I hadn't seen her in two (maybe three) years. Still, having a guest and taking her out and around Seattle means very little time left over to read. Hopefully I can "catch up" this weekend.

I signed up for Carl's Once Upon A Time ll challenge last week and have been trying to decide what books I want to read. From March 21 to June 20, I need to read four books: one fantasy, one folklore, one fairy tale, and one mythology...and then, read Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. (I'm doing Quest Three, the "harder" one.)

The problem is, I don't know which books to read!

  • I've got Kim Harrison's The Outlaw Demon Wails, Ilona Andrew's Magic Burns, Karen Chance's Embrace the Night, C.E. Murphy's Heart of Stone, In the Serpent's Coils, by Tiffany Trent, and Tangled Webs by Anne Bishop on the list...these six all seem to be urban fantasy (excluding Anne Bishop), although Heart of Stone and In the Serpent's Coils might have a mythological or fairy tale base.
  • Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss sounds like it will do for the folklore one (the summary says that the novel follows the story of Kvothe, the magically gifted young man who grows to be the most notorious wizard his world has ever seen). Wizard = King Arthur = folklore, right?
  • I could reread books (War for the Oaks, anything by Steven Brust [and I'm already planning on rereading all of the Vlad series, which has magic, dragons, and telepathic jhregs], anything by Charles de Lint) but I don't particularly want to. Oh! Joanne Harris would count; both Runemarks (ah ha! fairy tales!) and the sequel to Chocolat (I'm blanking on the title, but I know it's about magic) could work for this challenge.

Hmm, maybe I should check out what other people are reading. Not only would I get a better understanding of what others are reading, but I could see how they're classifying their choices!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Catching up

(I wonder, if I counted, how many of my post titles would be "catching up.")

So, I finally have some free time and what happens? I catch one of the nasty infections that seem to be floating around and it knocks me down. One full weekend and a few odd days spent on the couch and do wonders to eat up your time. While I didn't get most of the things done that I wanted too, I did end up with a lot of free time on my hands, meaning that I was reading.

Oh, how I was reading. It's been just over a book a day, about 1.75 books/day, based on my notes. (Really, all that free reading time almost makes up for being sick.)

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn was a reread for me, although it had been long enough that I had forgotten most of the story. My RL book club picked it (our first YA!) and from what I heard, everyone loved it. (I was home, coughing, on my couch.)

The Seduction of the Crimson Rose, by Lauren Willig, was an entertaining read, although I think her first two novels in this series are my favorite. This series goes back and forth between now (featuring Eloise, the American grad student who is in London researching the Pink Carnation, Colin, the Pink Carnation's great-?? grandson, and a few other people) and England’s Napoleonic era, where the Pink Carnation and assorted others run around trying to stop the French spy known as the Black Tulip. In the Crimson Rose, we have Mary, elder sister to Letty (previous book), who finds herself at her wit's end after her sister marries the man Mary intended to. Faced with depending on her sister and new brother-in-law for financial support, Mary decides to take Lord Vaugh up on his offer: if she will spy for England, he'll pay for her next season.

The whole series is entertaining, but I recommend reading them relatively close together (if possible). It took me a while to remember who everyone was in the Crimson Rose; I even forgot who the Pink Carnation was!

Into the Dark Lands and Children of the Blood are two books in a series by Michelle Sagara West (she writes the Cast in Series I started reading earlier this year). Set in an alternate world, there are two sides: Bright Heart (the Light) and Dark Heart (the Dark). After an eternity of war, both the gods have left the mortal realm, leaving their war in the hands' of their followers, both blood and nonblood (human). The first book, after setting the backstory, introduces us to Erin, a healer by birth and warrior by choice, granddaughter to the Lady, Bright Heart's first servant. Captured after battle, she's taken prisoner/guest by Stefanos, first servant to the Dark Heart, who, though at first he intends to feed on her, keeps her alive as part amusement, part confusion, and part something else that he's not quite willing to admit.

Children of the Blood is set three hundred years later, opening with Stefanos and his army crushing the last of Bright Heart's followers. Everyone of the blood there is killed, except for Darin, a young boy who managed to survive by being where he shouldn't have been. Keeping the boy alive as a gift for Erin, Stefanos seeks to wake her from the sleep he cast her into three hundred years before. However, despite being the first servant, there is an entire church against him, seeing Erin as an abomination, and Stefanos is forced into fighting a battle for her that he can't win.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Weekend reading

Actually, I didn't read all that much over the weekend. Friday night I ended up going out, and Saturday my father was over so that took up most of my reading time. I did watch both Persuasion and Gosford Park; does that count for literary content?

Yesterday though, I read Bloom, by Elizabeth Scott and I have to say that I love it. It's about Lauren Smith, a seventeen-year-old high school student who has something of a perfect life. Sure, her mom left when Lauren was six and her dad is never around, but she's got decent grades, a semi-popular best friend, and she's dating the most popular (not to mention smart, kind, handsome, and decent) guy at her high school.

So why isn't she happier?

It takes running into Evan again, a boy she met as a child when her father started dating his mother, to make Lauren realize that what she has isn't making her happy. The only question is, does Lauren have the strength to go after what does?

This book felt very different from most of the other YA books that I've read; it doesn't have the always-shy-but-secretly-beautiful girl as the main character, just a normal girl, living a (mostly) normal life.

Over at Chasing Ray, Colleen posted about The Red Leather Diary and I have to say that it sounds like it will be what I wanted The Luxe to be. (Did that make sense? I was so disappointed by The Luxe.) Author Lily Koppel found a diary that was written in 1929 by a young girl named Florence. Koppel tracked down Florence (who was still alive, living in Westport, CT) and together they pieced together Florence's story, using what she had written down in her diary as a starting point. Full of details about Florence's life as a young girl (shopping trips, her family, her school, her relationships with both boys and girls), it sounds like it's going to be a fascinating story.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Twenty-one books read in twenty-nine days

...and I wonder why I don't get more accomplished!

All jokes aside, I really think this is a new record for me (although I have read six books so far in March, and today is only the 5th). Now, if only I could do a better job of posting!

To update my challenges, I've read several books that would qualify for the YA challenge, but I'm only going to write about three now: Code Talker, The Ruby in the Smoke, and Court Duel (Crown Duel). Of those three books (my version of Sherwood Smith's novel is one book, titled Court Duel), I have to say that Court Duel was my favorite, while The Ruby in the Smoke was the novel I was looking forward to the most.

Court Duel, by Sherwood Smith:

Mel and her older brother Bran have promised their dying father that they would start a revolution and dethrone the current king. Easier said then done. It seems that no one wants to help Mel and her brother, except the villagers, wage war against the king. It's only after Mel is taken prisoner by the other side that she begins to see that everything isn't as clear-cut as she believed it to be.

And this is only the first book! I first read Court Duel about two years ago and just recently decided that it was due for a reread. And once again, after reading it, I fell completely head over heels in love with Mel. She's adventurous and foolish, big-hearted and pig-headed, completely sure of what she's doing, but figuring out along the way that really, she doesn't know as much as she thought she did. If I had to sum it up in a sentence, it's: Pride & Prejudice - ten years (YA, remember?) + a world where magic exists. (Really, Mel is Elizabeth Bennett, minus those ten years, and the Marques is a very nice version of Darcy.)

Code Talker, by Joseph Bruchac, is a fictionalized version of how the Navajo language was used during WWII to create codes that the other side couldn't break. It starts by telling how as a young man, Ned Begay is sent to an Indian School where the first thing he and the other children are taught is that their language is worthless, their ways are worthless, and that English is the only language that will be spoken. You can imagine the irony when ten or so years later, Ned and other young men from his village are approached by recruiters from the United States Marine Corps (USMC). Signing up, Ned and the other men become code talkers; it's their job to send and receive messages during the war that are sent coded in the Navajo language. Bruchac does a good job of taking us to the places where the battles were fought in WWII, describing Guadalcanal, Bougainville, and Iwo Jima as the hells they were and what the soldiers there had to face each day while they attempted to stay alive.

I had originally picked this book up a few years ago, but had never gotten around to reading it until last month. It surprised me to learn about the Navajo code talkers; I honestly can't remember even a chapter about them from any of my high school history books.

The Ruby in the Smoke by Philip Pullman is a book I picked up to read only because I saw the BBC version of it on Masterpiece Theatre. And because it was written by Philip Pullman. It features sixteen-year-old Sally Lockhart, recently orphaned after the death of her beloved father. She's not given much time to grieve though, not when mysterious notes start arriving, or when an innocently asked questions leads to a man dying at her feet. And when you combine that with a long-lost ruby and the opium trade, well Sally has a lot to figure out if she wants to live to see the next day.

Despite how much I wanted to like this novel, I was somewhat disappointed with The Ruby in the Smoke, but I think that's more because I saw the movie version before I had read the novel. There are two more books in the Sally Lockhart series and I'm hoping that I enjoy them more.

OK, more book reviews to come tomorrow.