The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In A Ship Of Her Own Making
Author: Catherynne M. Valente
Publication Date: 5/10/2011
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Blurb(GR): Twelve-year-old September lives in Omaha, and used to have an ordinary life, until her father went to war and her mother went to work. One day, September is met at her kitchen window by a Green Wind (taking the form of a gentleman in a green jacket), who invites her on an adventure, implying that her help is needed in Fairyland. The new Marquess is unpredictable and fickle, and also not much older than September. Only September can retrieve a talisman the Marquess wants from the enchanted woods, and if she doesn’t . . . then the Marquess will make life impossible for the inhabitants of Fairyland. September is already making new friends, including a book-loving Wyvern and a mysterious boy named Saturday. With exquisite illustrations by acclaimed artist Ana Juan, Fairyland lives up to the sensation it created when the author first posted it online. For readers of all ages who love the charm of Alice in Wonderland and the soul of The Golden Compass, here is a reading experience unto itself: unforgettable, and so very beautiful.Review:
I am generally one for simple, blunt truth. My brain doesn’t like to decipher complex and ornate metaphors and I hate reading through layer upon layer of language. I’m usually just waiting
for the author to get to the point.
But then, something like this comes along and just makes me question everything that I thought I knew about myself. The writing here is highly imaginative and odd and funny and a bit absurd. It’s descriptive and clever and maybe occasionally just a bit fussy. But, all this shine and glimmer and show has some real substance underneath it. (And honestly…I liked the shine and glimmer most of the time. There isn’t one page of this book that I couldn’t pull a gorgeous quote from.) Ms. Valente certainly does
“get to the point” and the point is real, honest, emotion and a gorgeous coming of age story.
September is a twelve year old girl who finds her life dull and tedious, and so, when the Green Wind flows in one day with a flying Leopard to take her off to Fairyland, she goes without a thought. She doesn’t even spare a goodbye for her parents, who are both rather missing in her life anyway. In Fairyland she initially gets swept up in novelty and adventure, as she meets glorious new friends and takes on a random quest. But she soon realizes that all is not well: the Marquesse reigns, imposing strict taxes, restrictions, and bureaucracy on every citizen.
The similarities to Alice in Wonderland are evident, but this book also makes little nods to many other notable fantasy series. (And I seriously doubt Alice would ever fashion her own boat out of fairy drift-scepters and then sail it bald and in the nude.) The writing reminds me of Neil Gaiman, or I think that if China Mieville had a sweet, optimistic little sister she might write a book like this. However, even with all of these nods, this book feels inventive and original.
I do love fantasy that’s character-driven and relatable, but sometimes Ireally
crave fantasy like this: where everything is brand new. I want to think about what it might be like to be born half a person, or created out of soap. I want to imagine that I can have my courage cleaned and find a jacket that loves me and cares for me. I want to know what kind of adventures my shadow would get up to if we were ever separated.
But even with all of these oddities and inventions, this book has a strong undercurrent of the real. September’s growth and loss of innocence is so painful and so wonderful. I felt so much sympathy for Lye, left all alone without instruction, or Saturday, who must always be forced to submit. And I laughed with A through L, the stalwart wyvern-library hybrid. But the most affecting of all turned out to be someone I least expected.Perfect Musical Pairing
Joanna Newsom – Bridges and Balloons
“ We sailed away on a winter's day
With fate as malleable as clay”
That about says it. This song is so quirky and oddly beautiful. I think that it's about risking a horrible fate to go out and live and see glorious sights. And I think that “funny little thing” might be the perfect description for this book.
The False Prince (Ascendance Trilogy #1)
Author: Jennifer A. Neilsen
Publication Date: 4/1/2012
THE FALSE PRINCE is the thrilling first book in a brand-new trilogy filled with danger and deceit and hidden identities that will have readers rushing breathlessly to the end.
In a discontent kingdom, civil war is brewing. To unify the divided people, Conner, a nobleman of the court, devises a cunning plan to find an impersonator of the king's long-lost son and install him as a puppet prince. Four orphans are recruited to compete for the role, including a defiant boy named Sage. Sage knows that Conner's motives are more than questionable, yet his life balances on a sword's point -- he must be chosen to play the prince or he will certainly be killed. But Sage's rivals have their own agendas as well.
As Sage moves from a rundown orphanage to Conner's sumptuous palace, layer upon layer of treachery and deceit unfold, until finally, a truth is revealed that, in the end, may very well prove more dangerous than all of the lies taken together.
An extraordinary adventure filled with danger and action, lies and deadly truths that will have readers clinging to the edge of their seats.Review:
This book makes me want to put on my blandest Mr. Darcy voice and declare it “tolerable…but not handsome enough to tempt me
.” This book is fine. I think many of you will notice its exercise-brightened eyes and charming irreverence and fall for it. But for me, it was just okay.
If you’ve read any amount of young adult fantasy, you probably know where this book is heading just from reading the synopsis – or hell, even the title! I had a lot of hope that this book would go in an unexpected direction or bring something new to the table, but it didn’t. Of course I had to stick around for the ending just to make sure but hopefully I can now save someone else the time. If you think you know where this book is going, you probably do.
I have read other books (like Finnikin of the Rock
) that had predictable outcomes as well, but that one at least had gorgeous writing, three dimensional characters, and impeccable world-building to keep me satisfied. This book had none of the above. My friend Tatiana recently used the term “fantasy lite”
in one of her reviews and I think this book fits that label perfectly. The world-building is very simplistic and barely deserves the title “fantasy”: a vaguely historical setting with almost no real culture, religion, or background. There is some small mention of a conflict with a few neighboring nations that is never developed. The main character is an argumentative, willful, scrappy boy who’s discovered in an orphanage by a man looking to train and install a look-alike as king (a puppet king, of course). He talks back, he pretends to be foolish, and of course he’s so much more than he appears to be. In summary: he’s Eugenides-lite.
None of the other characters left more than surface impressions on me and I found it difficult to care about any of them. There is an attempt here at an unreliable first-person narrator that doesn’t quite succeed. Yes, Sage lies and pretends to be something he’s not, but the “little hints” about his true identity that are frequently dropped are so obvious that it’s hard not to get frustrated. And even his deception starts to feel illogical by the end. Why is he hiding who he is again? Why doesn’t he tell Mott? Or Imogen? Or Tobias? I can think of no reason except to possibly heighten the drama of his eventual reveal, which is so long in coming that I felt no excitement - only relief - when it finally came.
Additionally, any intimacy that I felt with Sage’s point of view is effectively ruined by two sections of the book that are written in the third person. Why? I can think of nothing that is gained by showing us those two scenes in the third person. Yes, there is important action going on while the narrator is not present and yes, his entrance is supposed to be a big, climactic scene so in theory it might be nice to be able to see it as a member of the audience. But when you’ve committed the entire book to Sage’s point of view, it feels glaring and alienating to suddenly be thrust into a third person perspective. There are also a few scenes where Sage “checks out” for hours at a time. His narration is allowed convenient lapses so that he may go off and do secret-secret things without the reader knowing about it. It all feels as if the author didn’t quite know how to negotiate between an intimate first person narrator and the number of secrets that she wanted to keep from the reader. The end result is a very obvious, distanced, boring narrative.
Wow. I thought that I was so-so about this book but apparently I disliked it more than I realized. I was originally thinking that even though I didn’t quite like it, it might still be a good recommendation for younger readers. But don’t young readers deserve to have great characters, world-building, and writing too? Why not read Finnikin of the Rock, The Thief, Book of a Thousand Days, Graceling, Crown Duel
, or the many other well-written young adult fantasy novels instead?2/5 Stars
Un Lun Dun
Author: China Miéville
Publication Date: 2/13/07
Publisher: Del Rey
Blurb(GR): What is Un Lun Dun? It is London through the looking glass, an urban Wonderland of strange delights where all the lost and broken things of London end up . . . and some of its lost and broken people, too–including Brokkenbroll, boss of the broken umbrellas; Obaday Fing, a tailor whose head is an enormous pin cushion, and an empty milk carton called Curdle. Un Lun Dun is a place where words are alive, a jungle lurks behind the door of an ordinary house, carnivorous giraffes stalk the streets, and a dark cloud dreams of burning the world. It is a city awaiting its hero, whose coming was prophesied long ago, set down for all time in the pages of a talking book.
When twelve-year-old Zanna and her friend Deeba find a secret entrance leading out of London and into this strange city, it seems that the ancient prophecy is coming true at last. But then things begin to go shockingly wrong.
Wow. How do I describe this book? It’s on the one hand a bit of an ode to all of the quest based, parallel world containing fantasies that have come before: The Wizard of Oz, Narnia, Mary Poppins, Alice in Wonderland, most of Neil Gaiman’s catalogue, hell even Harry Potter. On the other hand, it undermines the typical tenets of these books in a way that’s a bit of a fuck you to the whole genre. It also manages to transcend both of these things and become a decent quest based, parallel world containing fantasy itself. It’s fun, playful, and sometimes just downright silly. I wish that I could morph into Will Ferrell as James Lipton right now and declare it delightful. There are a few things that I could have done without, but for the most part I really enjoyed this book.
It all starts when Susanna “Zanna” and her BFF Deeba notice a few strange things around their estate: A fox looks at them gravely, Zanna’s face appears in a cloud, a flattering graffito proclaims “Zanna For Ever!,” and odd people start recognizing Zanna around the town and calling her “Shwazzy.” One night Zanna and Deeba follow a spying broken umbrella unbrella and discover a way into London’s “abcity” – Unlondon. Soon Zanna is discovering that she’s a hero of great prophecy, destined to save Unlondon from a powerful enemy. But everything gets turned on its ear when Zanna falls to the enemy and loses her memory. Now it’s up to the Unheroes to save the day.
The city of Unlondon is wonderfully described in all its breathtaking, peculiar detail. It’s a feast for the imagination...the kind of feast where there are about twelve different utensils that you’ve never seen before, and every course is comprised of something that you didn’t even know could be classified as a food. There are so many parts of the city that I fell in love with: the donut sun, the book of prophecies (who was written by idiots), the killer giraffes, the binjas, the extreme librarians, the utterlings, CURDLE! Some of the inanimate objects in this book have more personality than human characters I’ve spent time with. But there were a few times that I felt like it was just a bit…ham-fisted. Like the character that is essentially a bunch of fish trapped in a diving suit named…Skool. Get it? Skool!
When I recently read The City & The C, it struck me as dense and hard to get into, but it really grew on me and I love the big ideas it contains. This book is like a much younger, more accessible, but also more shallow version of that book (if you subtract a noir mystery and add in a fantasy funhouse mirror). Radiohead’s Ok Computer is also much more accessible and popular than some of their later albums. This song is about feeling bored and restless with your surroundings – so much so that you want anything to happen, even something drastic.
Froi of the Exiles (Chronicles of Lumatere #2)
Author: Melina Marchetta
Publication Date: 3/13/12
Publisher: Candlewick Press
From master storyteller Melina Marchetta comes an exhilarating new fantasy springing from her celebrated epic, Finnikin of the Rock.
Three years after the curse on Lumatere was lifted, Froi has found his home . . . or so he believes. Fiercely loyal to the Queen and Finnikin, Froi has been taken roughly and lovingly in hand by the Guard sworn to protect the royal family, and has learned to control his quick temper with a warrior's discipline. But when he is sent on a secretive mission to the kingdom of Charyn, nothing could have prepared him for what he finds in its surreal royal court. Soon he must unravel both the dark bonds of kinship and the mysteries of a half-mad princess in this barren and mysterious place. It is in Charyn that he will discover there is a song sleeping in his blood . . . and though Froi would rather not, the time has come to listen.
I always have a hard time reviewing these books: the ones that aren’t read so much as frantically consumed in a whirlwind of gluttonous book hedonism. Afterward I feel like, “What just happened to me? Yesterday is such a blur…a happy, sad, angry, intense blur.”
So, I’ll just apologize now, because this review probably won’t be very coherent.
This book begins like a lot of Melina Marchetta books. (In fact, I might say that all
of her best books begin this way.) There’s a mad jumble of names, events, and relationships spilled out in the first few chapters; it feels like not only a map (which is helpfully provided) but a family tree and a flow chart of some kind might be necessary to keep track of it all. It’s confusing. But, I am not some greenie; I am a Melina Marchetta veteran! I know by now to just keep reading. Sure enough, everything becomes clear (not to mention, extremely engrossing) in no time at all.
This book claims on the outside to be about Froi: the young thief and exile who becomes a dedicated Lumateran in Finnikin of the Rock.
And there’s no doubt that it is. But of course, we can count on Melina Marchetta for so much more than that. Every one of her books has a complete cast of consuming, vibrant characters and this book is no exception. This book is written in third person but shifts between the perspectives of four different relationships. So, as Froi takes up a dangerous errand and heads into Charyn, the notorious kingdom that once invaded Lumatere and incited a horrible curse, we also get to keep up with all his surrogate family left behind. For all of the Finnikin of the Rock
fans out there: rejoice! You’ll get plenty of time with Finnikin, Isaboe, Lucian, Lady Beatriss, Trevanion, Tesadora, and…Jasmina. I’m not going to tell you who that last one is; you’ll have to read this to find out!
I don’t even know where to start on the major themes of this book. In a way, this book is about the many facets of romance: infatuation, lust, companionship, love, betrayal, understanding, redemption. It’s also about identity, family, war, hatred, curses, misunderstandings, history, and perspectives. This is one hefty book and I’m not just referring to its massive size.
There were so many times where I thought, “No…she wouldn’t….
” But OF COURSE she would. There were also times that I assumed dark and dreadful things and she surprised me with lightness and grace. Everything that she writes just feels so true to life. Life isn’t tragic and dark and it’s not easy and wonderful either, but it is both of these at once. People aren’t just greedy or just good or just anything. A whore can be a mother, a severely damaged girl can be a born ruler, an outcast can be a diplomat, a once violent boy can be a healer of women, and an “evil” kingdom is much more than the sum of its parts. Perfect Musical Pairing
TV on the Radio – Family Tree
This song is about dark history, both inherited and remembered. I think that it’s also about how hatred can be fed and perpetuated across generations, but I think that it has a hopeful note too.
”Were laying in the shadow of your family tree
Your haunted heart and me
Brought down by an old idea whose time has come
And in the shadow of the gallows of your family tree
There's a hundred hearts soar free
Pumping blood to the roots of evil to keep it young”
Author: Neil Gaiman
Publication Date: 2002
Publisher: Harper Children's Audio
When Coraline explores her new home, she steps through a door and into another house just like her own - except that
things aren't quite as they seem. There's another mother and another father in this house and they want Coraline to stay with them and be their little girl. Coraline must use all of her wits and every ounce of courage in order to save herself and return home... but will she escape and will life ever be the same again?Review:
This would be a perfect choice for a road trip with small children (maybe age seven and up or so). It’s an incredibly imaginative, quirky adventure that’s simple yet not excruciatingly so. I felt entertained throughout, and some of the dialogue had me laughing out loud. There’s no question that this book is creeeeeepy but I’m one of those people that believes kids can handle a lot more than watered down fluff books. Coraline is such a wonderful heroine: she’s a clever, matter of fact, singular girl with an awesome fashion sense (Day-glo green gloves and yellow wellington boots that look like frogs? YES.) and a quiet determination to succeed even though no one takes her seriously. The
stakes are high, the villain is completely unsettling and evil, and Coraline is alone, but she triumphs! It is very satisfying.
Coraline (who everyone mistakenly calls Caroline) lives in a big old house, once a large estate, but now divided up into flats. Her parents are constantly unavailable and absorbed with boring work on their computers, except for when her Dad wants to try out a crazy recipe or her Mum wants to go shopping for boring school clothes. There’s no one for her to play with except the eccentric Misses Spink and Forcible, former actresses, and the old man in the attic who claims to be the ring leader for a mouse circus. More than anything, Coraline wants something new, an
adventure, even if it might be dangerous.
“On the first day Coraline's family moved in, Miss Spink and Miss Forcible made a point of telling Coraline how dangerous the well was, and they warned her to be sure she kept away from it. So Coraline set off to explore for it, so that she knew where it was, to keep away from it properly.”
This book is exceedingly quotable; the paperback is only one hundred sixty two pages, but there are three pages of quotes currently listed on goodreads. I particularly loved Coraline’s conversations with the cat:
“What's your name,' Coraline asked the cat. 'Look, I'm Coraline. Okay?' Cats don't have names,' it said 'No?' said Coraline. 'No,' said the cat. 'Now you people have names. That's because you don't know who you are. We know who we are, so we don't need names.”
Definitely another cat for the “best talking cats” list. The writing is spare but still manages to be atmospheric and inventive. This quote is so simple, but it’s one of my favorites:
“The sky had never seemed so sky; the world had never seemed so world."
Finally, I have to mention that this audiobook is narrated by the author and he does an AMAZING job. If I could have one person narrate my life, it would be Neil Gaiman.Perfect Musical PairingThe Rat’s Song
This is the audiobook version of the Rat’s Song that Neil Gaiman wrote for the book. It appears in segments in the book, and in the audio version (as you’ll see) it is chanted in eerie, echoing verses. I listened to this while walking through heavy fog right before sunrise and it was CREEPY. Enjoy! Try not to have too many nightmares.4/5 Stars
The Lost Conspiracy
Author: Frances Hardinge
Publication Date: 9/1/09
Blurb(GR): Two young sisters who live on a beautiful island soon become caught in a deadly web of deceit. Neither girl is exactly what she pretends to be, and when they are drawn into a sinister conspiracy, one discovers that the only thing more dangerous than the secret she hides is the truth she must uncover.Review:
I don’t think I’ve ever read anything quite like The Lost Conspiracy
. Maybe that’s why this book isn’t very well known: it’s hard to describe, let alone label, package, and sell. This book is just amazing though; it’s like a triple whammy of great writing, fully realized and complex characters, and an amazing story. So seriously, just stop reading this review right now and go get it. Still here? Okay, okay, keep going. But just know that I will be harping on about this book in various and annoying ways until you all break down.
Hathin is the assigned caretaker for her sister, Arilou. This has been her sole, devoted purpose for her entire life. Arilou is thought to be one of the rare “Lost”: a group of people capable of sending their five senses away from their bodies to travel the island. Several hundred years ago, Gullstruck Island was colonized by outsiders, and over the centuries, the customs and traditions of the native people have been taken over or diluted by the pervading culture of the newcomers. The Lace, an extremely close-knit indigenous tribe, is the only remaining population that still remembers the old ways, and the dangerous consequences that will befall those that do not follow them. The rest of the island’s populations view the Lace with suspicion and fear. Their ways are foreign and illogical to the outsiders. There is a dark history that lies between the two groups that keeps the outsiders balanced on a dangerous edge between fear and rage. Arilou is the only Lost to ever be born into the Lace tribe. When a string of tragedies are blamed on the Lace, Hathin finds herself thrown onto the trail of a vast conspiracy. Hathin must escape with Arilou, and find the strength inside herself to lead, despite living in the shadows for her entire life.
The writing is spectacular – she infuses every sentence and paragraph with shadowy, sometimes threatening imagery. This book is darkly atmospheric; even the chapter titles are a bit haunting and they all have hidden meanings. My favorites are “No More Names” and “Death Dance.”
I am so completely impressed by the massive, sweeping scope of the world that she has built in this book. This is one hell of a world! Taking cues from tribal legends and practices from all over the globe (there’s a nice little acknowledgements section at the end), Hardinge creates a living, breathing, sinister place in Gullstruck Island. This is an island where the flora and fauna can unravel your soul, sing you to death, and loosen your senses away. The volcanoes have personalities, and they feud and love and prank. There are mysterious assassins who use cremation dust to give themselves magical powers, and ominous ancient legends that are all based in truth. The Lace are fully alive and meticulously drawn, and they have a hidden strength that no one sees.Our enemies think that Lace make good victims and scapegoats. They are wrong. They think that they can strike at us and we will do nothing but scatter and hide. They are wrong.
There were only a couple of times where I thought, “how will I keep track of it all?” because for the most part she so effortlessly weaves all this world-building into the story. And what a story! There’s a murder mystery, a revenge quest, and the genocide and enslavement of one group by another. Despite this incredibly foreign (to me) setting, the plight of the Lace is a tale as old as time (unfortunately).
Hathin develops and matures to a staggering degree in this book, and it’s very inspiring. I love the idea of her invisibility and seeming unimportance as strengths. I have to admit, the ending took me by surprise. I was expecting something much darker. I think that the fairy tale quality of this story sneaks up on you. It’s hard to see at first, through all the darkness and tragedy, but this is actually a powerful story of one girl coming into her own. Perfect Musical Pairing
Bjork – It’s In Our Hands
I think that Bjork, with her unique, bizarre, atmospheric, beautiful sound, is the perfect complement to this book. I had a hard time deciding which one of my many favorites would relate best . But I was eventually drawn to the lyrics (with me, it’s always the lyrics) of It’s In Our Hands. Look no further
Look no further
I look no
Always to ourselves
It mustn't get
Any better, off
It's in our hands
It always was
It's in our hands
In our hands
The Hollow Kingdom (The Hollow Kingdom Trilogy #1)
Author: Clare B. Dunkle
Publication Date: 9/19/06
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company
Blurb(GR): "She had never screamed before, not when she overturned the rowboat and almost drowned, not even when Lightfoot bucked her off and she felt her leg break underneath her with an agonizing crunch. But now she screamed long and loud, with all her breath."
Hallow Hill has a strange and tragic history. For thousands of years, young women have been vanishing from the estate, never to be seen again. Now Kate and Emily have come to live at Hallow Hill. Brought up in a civilized age, they have no idea of the land's dreadful heritage-until, that is, Marak decides to tell them himself.
Intelligent, pleasant, and completely pitiless, Marak is a powerful magician who claims to be a king-and he has very specific plans for the two new girls who have trespassed into his kingdom. The Hollow Kingdom is a 2004 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.
This book is exactly the type of fairy tale that I love the most. Now, I know that I have been outspoken in the past about my dislike of fantasies featuring caveman, bad-boy type hero characters. However, I think that I know and respect dozens of women who melt in the presence of these guys. Do I look down on my friends for their fantasy preferences? Absolutely not, because guess what? We all have a fantasy weakness. We all have that certain fairy tale that bypasses every logical part of our brains and just makes us feel giddy and excited. So, you can safely assume that mine is decidedly not the perfect specimen, territorial, alpha male. This book keys into the fairy tale that’s always turned me into a puddle of goo:
He’s ugly (but only on the outside, of course), a bit ruthless, desperate, smart, and he has one hell of a library. Except that in this book, he’s comfortable in his own skin, and he doesn’t turn into a foppish, effeminate prince in the end (which is what I always wished would happen).
This book is not going to go down in history as one of the greatest works of all time, but I can feasibly see myself re-reading it whenever I need a bit of comfort. It’s like the literary equivalent of a grilled cheese sandwich. I was completely drawn in by
the prologue, and by the time the intelligent, practical, and resourceful heroine Kate and her plucky little sister Emily run into the Goblin King Marak I knew that this would become a favorite of mine.
Marak is the ruler of a colorful, dangerous race of goblins, dwarves, and elves who live within Hollow Hill. It is a long and traditional practice for the Goblin King to steal a human or elf bride and imprison her underground until the next King is born and his people are secure. When Kate inherits Hollow Hill after her father’s death, she and her sister become the wards of two elderly great aunts and a shady, pretentious cousin. Kate and her sister soon catch the eye of the Goblin King, but Kate is revolted and determined to escape his grasp at all costs.
As Kate and Marak engage in a battle of wills and wits, this book actually began to remind me of Pride and Prejudice. These two characters have a lot of preconceived notions and ideas about each other, and their verbal sparring is charged and exhilarating. Here is one of my favorite scenes:”’Indeed it is, Kate,’ Marak agreed. ‘It’s time to plan your revenge. Goblins just adore revenge.’ He grinned. ‘Do you have anything in mind?’
Kate was taken aback. ‘Revenge is wrong,’ she told him solemnly. ‘Vengeance belongs to God.’
The goblin put his head to one side and watched her through narrowed eyes. ‘You won’t even give God a little help?’ he asked softly.”
Kate is independent and powerful, but not unrealistically so. She’s a proper Englishwoman who reacts in realistic ways to her surroundings and the hideous goblin court. And by the end of this book, she fits the specs for all of my favorite female heroines: she’s determined, powerful, a bit merciless and bloodthirsty, and she has a sword (plus the most entertaining magical charm around).
My only “thirty year old woman” type gripe is that this book, despite being what I would class as a romance novel, is
clean enough to give to a ten year old. Which is actually great for when my daughters get a bit older, but the lack of anything even mildly suggestive felt like a big gaping omission to me.Perfect Musical Pairing
Joshua Radin – The Fear You Won’t Fall
This sugary sweet song is not something that I like to listen to all the time, but it’s a definite comfort food song for me. This is a song about falling harder than you thought you could for someone, who may or may not love you back.4/5 Stars
Zombies vs. Unicorns
Edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier
Publication Date: 9/21/10
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
It’s a question as old as time itself: which is better, the zombie or the unicorn? In this anthology, edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier (unicorn and zombie, respectively), strong arguments are made for both sides in the form of short stories. Half of the stories portray the strengths–for good and evil–of unicorns and half show the good (and really, really bad-ass) side of zombies. Contributors include many bestselling teen authors, including Cassandra Clare, Libba Bray, Maureen Johnson, Meg Cabot, Scott Westerfeld, and Margo Lanagan. This anthology will have everyone asking: Team Zombie or Team Unicorn?Review:
Beatles vs. Rolling Stones. Cats vs. Dogs. Coke vs. Pepsi. Zombies vs….Unicorns?
Who knew? Apparently this is the
divisive question of our time. And now, thanks to this anthology of stories, there’s a handy rubric for determining just how you should answer.
I listened to the audiobook, which was excellent. Phil Gigante, who some of you may be more familiar with as the voice of Jericho Z. Barrons, delivers many an eargasm as master of ceremonies. Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier provide their own rather nice voices for introductory/ back and forth banter at the beginning of each story, and the cast is pretty decent, with the major high point of Nick Podehl (aka, Todd Hewitt), and the major low point of Ellen Grafton (aka, Janie from Wake/Fade/Gone). My Score Card:The MediocreThe Highest Justice
by Garth Nix
-Gruesome undead Queen with oozing pus and rotting limbs who just wants…a kiss: +2 stars
-Murderous Unicorns: +2 stars
-I forget if this is supposed to be a unicorn story or a zombie story: -1 star
-I think the author probably had his unpaid intern write this: -1 star
A very boring, soporific start to the anthology. 2 starsPurity Test
by Naomi Novik
-A nice play on the unicorn/virgin mythology: +2 stars
-A heroine who’s homeless, tough, and realistic: +2 stars
-Ellen Grafton makes her sound like she’s a scrappy twelve year old: -1 star
-Sounds like something I would write in a bout of silliness in one afternoon, and I’m a horrible writer: -1 star
Forgettable and not very funny. 2 starsPrincess Prettypants
by Meg Cabot
-A unicorn who farts rainbows but can also turn into a fiery-eyed vengeance demon when necessary: +2 stars
-A cute, enjoyable story that is also about as deep as a mud puddle: +0.5 stars
Sweet and funny, but barely scratches the surface of a premise that is actually pretty ripe with darker possibilities. 2.5 starsCold Hands
by Cassandra Clare
-Even Justine Larbelestier (the head of team zombie) can’t keep herself from using the phrase “emo zombies” when referring to this story: -1 star
-A weird mish-mash of Victorian England and present day America that makes no sense: -1 star
-Zombies that actually aren’t all that different from regular ol’ people: -1 star
A story about zombie civil rights…in the same way that Disney's The Little Mermaid is a movie about human civil rights. -3 starsThe MiddlingBougainvillea
by Carrie Ryan
-Everything up to the ending: -1 star
-The ending: +4 stars
Teen angst, over-descriptive prose, and lust/love in the midst of a zombie apocalypse…which is all mostly redeemed by that fantastic ending. 3 starsThe Children of the Revolution
by Maureen Johnson
-Angelina Jolie as a crunchy granola, immortality seeking weirdo +3 stars
-A narrator that’s likeable and amusingly clueless: +1 star
-Ellen Grafton makes her sound like she’s a scrappy twelve year old: -1 star
A genuinely hilarious mockery of globe-trotting celebrities, their crazy religions, and their scores of adopted children. 3 starsProm Night
by Libba Bray
-Teenagers running society! +4 stars
-And they’re actually succeeding…there’s bartering, a police force, the prom…all the important things: -0.5 stars
-Boy serenades girl and it’s supposed to be sexy romantic: -0.5 stars
This feels more like an introduction to a novel than a short story. It’s very classic Libba Bray, with a lot of sarcasm and bluster. I’m starting to realize that I’m not really a fan. 3 starsInoculata
by Scott Westerfeld
-Half zombie teenagers inherit the earth! +3 stars
-Lonely, snarky, independent main character who also happens to be a lesbian: +0.5 stars
This one also feels more like an introduction to a series than a short story. AND, it’s very classic Westerfeld, with a foursome of teenagers set apart by paranormal abilities and born into a frightening world. My love for Scott Westerfeld is pretty much cemented by now so I would definitely read a full-length novel featuring these characters. 3.5 starsThe MasterfulLove Will Tear Us Apart
by Alaya Dawn Johnson
-2nd person perspective used well: +1 star
-m/m zombie “romance”: +1 star
-The fact that I needed to use quotes in the above tally (because this isn’t the gushy, I will love you forever type
of romance): +1 star
-Nick Podehl has the most wonderful voice in the world: +1 star
A gritty, emotional tale that breathes new life into the old “I want you but I also want to kill you” story. 4 starsThe Third Virgin
by Kathleen Duey
-A sort of Interview With the Unicorn: +1 star
-Creative twist on the unicorn healing mythology: +1.5 stars
-Nick Podehl puts on a very mediocre but adorable Welsh accent: +0.5 stars
-Use of the phrase “in a trice:” +0.5 stars
A very unique idea that also manages to sound incredibly familiar. 3.5 starsThe Care and Feeding of Your Baby Killer Unicorn
by Diana Peterfreund
-Venomous, human-eating unicorns: +2 stars
-Thought-provoking religious and moral questioning: +1 star
-A boy named Eve: +0.5 stars
-Diana Peterfreund actually seems to know what a short story is: +1 star
This is one of my favorites of the anthology. The main character’s incredible growth throughout the story is very moving. The ending is a nice punch in the gut; I wouldn’t be surprised if Diana Peterfreund is an experienced short story author. 4.5 starsA Thousand Flowers
by Margo Lanagan
-Narration passed effortlessly between three points of view: +2 stars
-Nick Podehl puts on vaguely English accent: +0.5 star
-Beheadings, childbirth, suicide, and...unicorn love. +2 stars
-Why do unicorns like virgins so much? Oh. OOOOOOH. +1,000,000 stars
The most genuinely creepy and haunting story of the bunch. Margo Lanagan somehow wrote a unicorn story that trumps every single zombie story in terms of genuine horror. Zombies seem downright cuddly now. 1,000,004.5 starsPerfect Musical Pairing
So let’s see. My final score is…*drumroll*Zombies: 13.5 stars
Unicorns: 1,000,014.5 stars
So that means the winner is…ALL OF US, because we get to bask in the genius that is America.
America – The Last Unicorn
Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Author: Laini Taylor
Publication Date: 9/27/11
Publisher: Little Brown
Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.
In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth grown dangerously low. And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.
Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she's prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages—not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out.
When one of the strangers—beautiful, haunted Akiva—fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?Review:
Not just five stars…one million stars, two sister moons, and two pairs of wings in flight. That’s how beautiful this book is. I hope this is a huge hit, and all the kids read it. Listen up kids, this book has everything that you’re looking for: secrets, paranormal creatures, hot guys, best friends; passionate, enduring, forbidden, love…and angst! But unlike all the rest, this one is the real thing.
It’s times like these that I wish I was a real, honest to goodness book fairy, with little wings, a wand, a tutu, and magical powers of course. Kids can simply place whichever one of the mountains of published young adult paranormal romance novels that they’ve purchased in the past few years under their pillows, and I’ll replace them all with this book. Sort of like the tooth fairy. (And after reading this book, the question really begs to be asked: what are you doing with all of those teeth, tooth fairy? WHAT ARE THE TEETH FOR?!)
The beginning of this book is almost lulling in its routine and normalcy. Karou is a young art student in Prague, attending classes, dealing with her obnoxious ex-boyfriend, and going out with her petite best friend Zuzana. She’s a little eccentric, a little odd, but her classmates don’t ask too many questions, and Karou has perfected the art of the non-answer. Her popular journals contain vivid drawings of another world, populated by mythical creatures: part human, part animal, each with detailed traits and peculiarities. “Where do you get your ideas?” her classmates ask, and Karou responds with a trademark little smile and assures them that it’s not made up; it’s all true.
Disquieting little details about Karou’s life are revealed almost casually, and the apprehension grows. Soon the curiosity and apprehension build to outright anxiety and you just have to know. But you don’t want to know. Maybe you think that you’ve already figured out a few things, but "you can’t know until you know.”
Karou’s feelings: her indignation, her terrible curiosity, and her aching loneliness all come across so powerfully and vividly. I think that I felt every single thing that she feels through these pages. I felt immersed
in Karou. And just like Karou, so many details and hints became devastatingly clear to me only after it was too late.
The world that Laini Taylor creates is intricate, bright, original, and it will stretch your imagination. The characters are layered with concealed motivations, and they’re heartbreaking and real. The love story is tragic and intense (and takes advantage of perhaps the only justifiable excuse for instalove). And the writing! Beautiful, emotional, lyrical, shattering…all those words don’t even begin to describe it. This woman can write.
But perhaps the most astonishing thing to me is this book’s complete dearth of cynicism. This book is all about love, peace, and the magic of hope. ”Hope can be a powerful force. Maybe there’s no actual magic in it, but when you know what you hope for most and hold it like a light within you, you can make things happen, almost like magic.”
I can’t believe that it got through to me so much, but it really did. I think that it will be difficult for even the most committed of cynics not to be affected by this book.Perfect Musical Pairing
The Smashing Pumpkins – Muzzle
Okay, so I really like it when I can pair up a writer with a specific group. It gives me a nice little feeling of symmetry. The lyrics of this song apply so perfectly to this story, and when I listened to it I even got a bit emotional about the book so that’s always a good sign. “All things will surely have to end,
and great loves will one day have to part.”
Eona: The Last Dragoneye (Eon, #2)
Author: Alison Goodman
Publication Date: 3/29/12
Eon has been revealed as Eona, the first female Dragoneye in hundreds of years. Along with fellow rebels Ryko and Lady Dela, she is on the run from High Lord Sethon's army. The renegades are on a quest for the black folio, stolen by the drug-riddled Dillon; they must also find Kygo, the young Pearl Emperor, who needs Eona's power and the black folio if he is to wrest back his throne from the selfstyled "Emperor" Sethon. Through it all, Eona must come to terms with her new Dragoneye identity and power-and learn to bear the anguish of the ten dragons whose Dragoneyes were murdered. As they focus their power through her, she becomes a dangerous conduit for their plans. . . . Eona
, with its pulse-pounding drama and romance, its unforgettable fight scenes, and its surprises, is the conclusion to an epic only Alison Goodman could create.Review:
If you liked Eon: Dragoneye Reborn
and your eyes didn't glaze over every time you read about Eona uniting with her dragon, easing into her mind-sight, channeling her Hua and so forth, I don't see any reason for you to dislike this novel. I really don't.
I feel like every issue I had with the 1st book of this duology was successfully fixed or improved upon in this sequel. Eona
, unlike its predecessor, has no info-dumping. Instead, it is a quest-type adventure in which Eona attempts to save her home country and in the process learn to control her newly acquired immense power.
It is also a very personal story. The time is no longer spent on extensive world-building, but on Eona's exploration of her power as both a Dragoneye and a woman.
Of course, everything is messy. With great power comes great responsibility - how much violence is justified in war? what is the rightful cause to use one's power against another person's will? who can be trusted with limitless access to power? and what can power do to a person who possesses it?
The romance story line is no less complicated - romantic relationships are convoluted by mistrust, fear of deception, power imbalances, questions of morality, loyalty and honor.
Every decision Eona has to make is ambiguous and difficult and requiring serious sacrifices, just the way I like them.
But the best part of the book for me was the fact that when I started it, I was sure it would simply be about saving the Empire of Celestial Dragons
from Sethon, but it turned out to be much more than that, sort of like in Shadowfever
(Note: no other similarities! So don't hold this comparison against me later on, ok?)
I am thoroughly impressed by this intelligent, complex and thoughtful story. Highly recommend it, unless, of course, you can't stand fantasy, dragons and heavy world building. 5/5 stars