Saturday, November 30, 2013

A decently minute break.

I am going on a brief blogging break. It's really not that long at all, and actually it isn't quite from... just blogging.
Two months. Totally detached from online.
No computer for me*.

This is very important to me and I decided mid-october that I would do this, and I'm incredibly excited for it. I will see you all when I get back sometime in February, with lots more book reviews and, no doubt, stories to tell.

As a final post for 2013, here is a short summary of my planned reads during my offline time. I have some catching up to do, shall we say?

The Hobbit, Eating Animals, Wonder, Great House, The Puppet Boy of Warsaw, Jane Eyre
Stardust, The Bell Jar, The Unwanteds, The school for good and evil, Swallowdale, Miss Marple stories
The Fields, Le Petit Prince, Code Name Verity, Zac and Mia, The Etymologicon, John Green Boxed set.
(These are "personal reads"- books I own and have been wanting to read all year.)

Uncommon Criminals, Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone, I(,) Coriander, Annie on my Mind, Land of Stories.
(Not Pictured: various+ Everything is Illuminated, A Tale of Two Castles, Middlesex and Charmed Life.)
(These are my "library reads".)

Crown of Midnight, Briar Rose, Untold, All Our Yesterdays, Severed Heads(,) Broken Hearts
Girls(,) Goddesses and Giants, The House of the Cats, When did you see her last(?), Unbreakable, These Broken Stars.
(Review books, of which I have a lot to catch up on.)

Needless to say I cannot wait- look at all these stories just waiting to come to life! Hold me to this- I shall return soon!

*Apart from two days late december when I'll be watching the P4A livestream, which is also important to me.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Mini Reviews (6)

Mini Reviews

Rapunzel's Revenge - (written by) Shannon and Dean Hale, (art by) Nathan Hale.
I absolutely fell head-over-heels with this stunning and original retelling of the classic Rapunzel.
In this adaptation, Rapunzel as a character is really intriguing, and almost instantly I felt really involved with her, with the way her character spoke to the reader and described the happenings- it felt very much as if I was meeting a good friend for the very first time and forming a bond so strong we would never gforget it, even if/when we moved on. It is emotional stuff, future readers.
It was, basically, a really, really good story. Rapunzel fights for her freedom and rights in a way the one we know well doesn't, and I loved her attitude towards saving herself and the way in which she sought her goal, and the courage she found within herself. Also, a good (well, not quite sure if revenge is necessarily a good ol' thing, but...) amount of revenge here.
Big Explosion, MIND BLOWN: Truly excellent and with a shining heroine- I look forward to owning it one day for my very own.

Calamity Jack - Shannon and Dean Hale, Nathan Hale.
In Calamity Jack, the story is focusing on a dual-protagonist from Rapunzel's Revenge, doing a switch so his story is told but we still have Rapunzel along for the ride.
I definitely still enjoyed it a lot, and I love the way Rapunzel and Jack interact (*highlight for spoiler* when they're not lovesick) but I didn't have the same level of personal conection with Jack as I do with Rapunzel, and so it was a step down.

Jack is interesting in his own right (he hails from Jack and the Beanstalk), and I appreciated how he was, too, told in a very different light; his history is full of mistakes and unlawful doings, and I enjoyed reading of how he felt, looking back, about all he'd done previously.

Together these make an excellent pair, and I plan on adding them both to my library soon.

Rating: Ooh, very good/Excellent: Didn't enjoy the storyline or the protagonist narration as much as I anticipated, but this is still an excellent sequel to what has become one of my favourite graphic novels.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray.

Title- Beauty Queens (audio)
Author- Libba Bray
Publish date- 2011
Publisher- Scholastic.


What I thought:
I tried to read Beauty Queens about eight months before deciding to just go audio, and I definitely didn't find an appeal in it at that time. After reading some reviews, however, it came back to mind, and when I saw tha my library had a copy on audio I went for it.

The story seemed ridiculous- beauty queens from around America stranded on a desert island, one with a plane table stuck into her head- it got more ridiculous as it went along, as well as hilarious and completely ludicrous. And I loved it.
The characters are diverse and virtually all of them took my preconceived notions and shoved them out to sea, telling their own stories in a way that was unexpected and moving.

The reasons for their entering the Miss Teen Dream pagent in the first place are explored, as are their history and how the pressure (from family, society, themselves) changed these growing women. They become more than just beauty queens, and I formed attachments to these characters, none of whom are perfect (by their standards, which are the only ones that matter) but the point is that they try, and they fight, and they become... they become so very human.

Whislt Adine felt, at least in the beginning, like the protagonist, I liked Petra and Mary-Lou more than her, and was surprised (again, be cone preconceived notion) by my love for Tiara; the diversity was huge and there was no lack of tense moments, of painful discoveries and tragedy, but it was often de-tense-itised by ads from "The Corperation!" which were terrible and hilarious and fairly believable.

Rating: Big Explosion MIND BLOWN.
Like pirates, surprises, advertisements, disaster-stories, teen dreams, reality television, pagents, explorations of sexuality, open discussions about sec, inequality, periods, expectations and surviving in a jungle? Well, you'll love this- or like it. Or maybe you will find you don't, even if you love all those things. I'd recommend it with a hearty pie and jammie-dodger, but it's up to you.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer...

Title- The Wishing Spell (Land of Stories #1)
Author- Chris Colfer.
Publish date- 2012
Publisher- Little Brown.


What I thought:
Oh, I very much enjoyed this fairytale adventure! I had been wanting to read it for months, but I never made time and now that I've finally read it... I'm so glad.

In The Wishing Spell, the two protagonists are sent into the "Land of Stories", a world where tales from the Brothers Grimm and Anderson alike come to life.
I enjoyed reading the new take that Colfer gave on characters like Sleeping Beauty, Goldilocks, and Red Riding Hood- taking the original work, not the picture-esq adaptions (which Alex, a dual protagonist, is riled by) and following them after the story we know has ended, focusing on the nature of the characters themselves and showing emotions, giving ideas that I, for one, hasn't ever really considered.

It gave me a new perspective on multiple characters, Goldilocks being the main (I also appreciated how there was a new depth given to Sleeping Beauty, possibly my favourite character in any fairytale world, talking about what changes she has to deal with, how she manages to do that). I really enjoyed how original the ideas for these well known characters were, especially because of their fame and how well read their stories already are.

The plot did feel a little predictable, though I was glad when we were nearing the end and a few things were revealed that I hadn't anticipated. It was told in a fairly "chapter by chapter, acomplish one of a set number of tasks in that time" way, which reminded me of a recent read, but this time it worked well for me.

Rating: Ooh, very good.
I never felt as if this was a phenomonal book, and while I liked the new ideas I wasn't all that surprised by the twists and turns taken, yet I really did enjoy this, and I found myself getting really excited for the end, as things became high-tense. It failed to change my opinion of Snow White, who is my least favourite fairytale character, but I think that might be too much to ask.
I would definitely recommend, will be re-reading, and look forward to the sequel.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Books for when you're... (13)

Each fortnight (ha!) I will showcase 1-2 books that I think would be fantastic reading if you're going through a  certian emotion/stage in your life.

Wanting to experience unusual magic.
There are lots of books that have magic in them, but quite a lot of those books have a similar kind of magic, and so, this week, I'm focusing on a different style.

Otto and the Flying Twins - Charlotte Haptie.
Why I chose this book:
I has the first two books in this series read to me, in my childhood, and they were a series my family loved! I bought the final book when I was away, but never got very far into it until last year, when I re-read the whole series. The books are, aside from everything else, spectacular. The people in this world are all supposed to be normal, and you're seen as dirty and scum and made a spectacle of if you're anything other than that- there's a police force to make sure no one acts odd, and yet... there is such magic and beauty and flying twins, magic carpets, magical folk who are in hiding. There is mystery and a race against time, and it is one of the best series' I've ever read.

Throne of Glass - Sarah J. Maas
Why I chose this book:
Magic is an underlying theme in Throne of Glass (and, I hope, the sequel), and it's of the kind where you summon spirits (good or bad) to help or hinder, where otherworldly creatures come, where people do sinister things to gain power. Then there's the kind of magic that keeps you safe, spirits who know when you are in true need of help, and give it. I liked this kind of magic a lot. Also, this is a very good book, besides.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Spy Society by Robin Benway.

Title- Spy Society (AKA #1)
Author- Robin Benway
Publish date- August 2013
Publisher- Simon and Schuster.


What I thought:
This was a book that was easy and enjoyable to read- during my reading of it I described Spy Society (Also Known As in America) as being a "light" read, but I since changed my mind about that; for me, a "light" read must have no other appealing factors than the fact that it is light, and, while I know that this isn't the case for many people, going by that definition I wouldn't read a book that's only merit is it's easy-going-ness. This book is not light.

There is espionage- something I did not realise I would love so much; three seasons of Veronica Mars and two started series' later, I crave it.
There is the search for normality, when you've never had it (again, normal is not a word I particularly love, because what, please tell, is "normal"? Still, it's in the book.)
There are brave, flawed characters, who fight for truth and do what they must to try and keep their families safe, even if it means doing something that said family would dislike.
There is drama, both in the intensity of spy scenes and the romance/high-school veriaty.
There is a character called Angelo who I really, truly adore. Angelo is not appreciated enough by far, and let me tell you- he's appreciated.
There's a witty dialouge, snark, fights and romance that brews kinda quickly and is, in my mind, taken a little too  seriously by the characters involved. There are excellent moments throughout the novel where I was able to go "Yes! Me too!", because Maggie, the protagonist, has a habit of saying very relatable things.

There weren't many things that I outright disliked about this book, but nor was it revolutionary- I enjoyed reading it and will continue with the series, yet it didn't ever feel like it took the step from "enjoyable" to "excellent" or "explosion worthy" (which is a rating I give to books, yes)- does that make it merely a light read, despite all I've just written about it?

Rating: Slightly down from Ooh, very good, but certainly not Hmm...
I do not like the covers for this book very much- I understand them, the "different person everytime you look" but I didn't like it.
The book, however, proved me wrong on many a count, and I very much enjoyed my time with Maggie (though her dad calls her "babe" at one point, which was hard for me to take seriously and not have a mini-break after.

Thank you to Simon and Schuster for this review copy!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Cathrynne M. Valente.

Title- The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making.
Author- Cathrynne M. Valente.
Publish date- 2011.
Publisher- Square Fish.


What I thought:
I listened to this book on audio. Before I was three discs in, I chose the book itself when I won a "book of your choice" from TBD.
Within two weeks of finishing this, I bought the audiobook, too.

Because to talk about this book in full sentences would ruin me, here is an odd list of things I love about it, and an even list of things I didn't.

I loved:
1. The absolutely incredible, mind-blowingly beautiful storyline featuring September, my bookish best friend and perhaps favourite character of all time.

2. There are characters who were sad and lost and hurt, but still fought and lived and waited; the fact that September knows she is in no way perfect, that she makes mistakes, is really important to me. She is drawn in by beautiful things and can be unthinking, but-

3. her kindnes, love and loyalty for her friends and the ones she loves so very dearly is of a calibre I only wish I could show, myself. 

4. She is delightfully eloquent and pragmatic, and I wish she and I could be alike at all times in that way.

5. Cathrynne M. Valente has the most exquisite and perfect voice for reading this story. She is the voice of September for me.

6. The character's all have absolutely lovely names.

7. When I listened to this book, I felt like I had entered a world that was so special and one of a kind- maybe one that was just for me- that I never wanted to leave it.

I didn't like:

1. Cathrynne M. Valente doesn't read the second audiobook.

2. I took to long to get to it.

(0.5 neither here nor there notes)

0.5 I don't have a rating that I can use for this.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Fortunately... the milk by Neil Gaiman.

Title- Fortunately... the milk.
Author- Neil Gaiman.
Publish date- September 2013.
Publisher- Bloomsbury.


What I thought:
This is such an unbelieveably strange book, full of the incredible creativity that comes from Chris Riddell's wonderous illustration and Neil Gaiman's ever expanding creative genius, but whislt I felt enlivened by my reading experience, I also felt like it was just a little too much.
There were Wumpires, talking-inventor-dinosaurs, time travel, aliens who wanted to re-decorate earth (in a way that felt like a nod to The Hitchhikers Guide) and Pirates, and that would only be the beginning; so much crammed into such a short space, it felt like so much was trying to be squeezed in, and it made the story not so brilliant as it could have been, for me, at least.

There were a lot of things I did really like about this book, though, including:

Chris Riddell being the incredible illustrator that he is, taking the book to a whole new level with his art.

Neil Gaiman being called a Ridiculously Bestselling Author on the cover.

The Formatting of the words, art, ect.- there were two pages, when the characters were in pitch darkness, that were black with white text. That I loved.

The jungle gods and how time travel was incorperated into that storyline most amusingly.

The wumpire who had a quiff.

The brightly coloured ponies.

Rating: The dangerous territory between Hmm... and Ooh, Very Good.
I decree that, while I didn't have an incredible time reading it by myself, I will very much enjoy reading it, with voices and inflections, to my niece- I think it's the perfect book for such a time.

Thank you to Bloomsbury for this review copy!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Plotting a Takeover: Character Buys 4.

A not so regular feature in which I pick a book and then pick out things I think the character/s themselves would own/use or just really like. All links go to etsy/the store's website. This week the featured book is...

Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling.
Focusing on Luna, Hermione and Hagrid.

Luna would forego wands and draw up beautiful designs by hand, magicing them on her friends skin for a couple of days.

I think both Luna and Hermione might sport something like this, a token from the muggle or wizarding world, a reminder when they're away. Also, coin necklaces are the most wonderful thing ever, so there's that.

Only Luna's own Raddish earrings look more resolutely Luna than these- I can actually visualise her wearing these. They're perfect.

Well if Hermione didn't have something like this, I don't think I know her at all.

Going back to my previous comment on Luna and her art, she would no doubt become a bestselling childrens author, who releases her own line of colouring books of magical creatures, somewhat like this. Original editions for her friends children.

When they go to visit Luna, this would be there, on her wall.

A reminder and a way to... innocently keep the polyjuice potion recipe close at hand, for Hermione.

I'm very fond of the budding career as an artist I see Luna taking on.

A beautiful gift from Hagrid!

Magical hairpieces for Luna, who will wear them with all the fearlessness she doesn't even realise she has.

This is one of the most perfect things I can see Hagrid giving to one of Ginny and Harry's children- they would become terrified, because of course they'd assume it was a real dragon, the children would be estatic either way.

And the thing everyone remembers.