Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Not your typical library. Would you want a card?

I hope everyone had a fantastic weekend. We are back on new book Tuesday with an oldie, but a goodie. After plunging through a waist-high stack of Netgalley need to reads, I finally found the bottom. Miracle! I even managed to situate my reading schedule from Netgalley to allow a small window for personal reading. The below novel has been practically burning a hole through my shelf since Christmas, so it is new to me on this release day. It craved being read. I complied.

Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs

I love this series! And now, Tim Burton is making a movie from the first novel? What! He is absolutely the best director and creative mind to bring Miss Peregrine to the screen. If you have not yet begun this series, I highly recommend you look into now. There is a wonderful box set on Amazon that is worth every penny.

Freak shows have become increasingly popular in television, movies and literature. They blend the natural world with fantasy in a laid back fashion. Your imagination doesn't have to be as big to enjoy tales of the peculiar. The stories aren't as exhausting to read as those wonderful epic fantasies. They are like escape-lite.

This collection of peculiar children have made some of the most fun adventure reads for me. They have a touch of grim but keep everything from plunging into total darkness. There is whimsy and heartache. A balance of light and dark that would make any tightrope walker proud. I really cannot express how greatly this book has balance and symmetry in its writing. 

We pick up exactly where we left off in Hollow City. There is not a moment to catch our breath as the peculiars charge ahead into new and fascinating (in that creepy kind of way notable to this series) loops. Jacob struggles with the old and new better than most coming-of-age novels: making decisions in life is never easy and never comes with the solution we imagined. The ending isn't unpredictable, but it concludes the trilogy sweetly and succinctly. 

Friday, April 22, 2016

A way better version of Mulan

Need an epic get away for the weekend to wild, exotic places with strange and unusual guests? Check out the book below. It will immerse you in a whole other world. The story is a more in-depth and gruesome reality-driven version of Mulan. Though I do miss my Mushu. The whole thing actually took me several weeks to read, which is a truly rare occurrence in my bookworm zone.

The Pirate Empress by Deborah Cannon

This is a compilation of stories that were released in serial format on Kindle where I found it in my recommendations section of Kindle Lender Library. I am really pleased I rented a copy. My blog is strong proof of my love for folktales and lore, when I read the Mulanesque plot I was hooked instantly. European stories are obviously the most known to me, so I really love diving into the tales from "exotic" countries.  

The Asian beliefs have been founded around mysticism and superstition; it is a natural fit for my fantasy mind. I love reading tales from China especially. This collection of works was truly exceptional at capturing the fantastic otherworldly stories of the bygone days. A highlight for me, these tales are not happy. Now don't misunderstand. They are not sad in the sappy way you have to keep the tissue box near by; they are real. The heroes receive hardship and struggle to overcome in exchange for the assistance of the gods. They actually have to work for their gain. As it should be!

I love Chinese myths. They are so ghoulish and dynamic. Hopping corpses and fox faeries and all other manner of disturbing demons constantly trying to interfere with the mortal plane juxtaposed with gods who are rather aloof in their human interactions. Their stories are a fresh change of pace from the Greek and Roman gods of my humanities classes. Then the mortal heroes themselves are humans--real-blooded humans, flaws and indecisiveness included.

Another aspect of the Chinese folktale is the passage of time. These stories aren't heroic epics of months to possibly a year; they span decades. The characters evolve and journey. There are places for the story to take you into the epic and get lost in the imagining. That is exactly what happened with The Pirate Empress.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Release Day Review

It has been awhile since I have reviewed graphic novels on this blog. Growing up with a huge passion for fantasy books and Japanese cartoons, it seemed a likely path for me to get into comics; yet I never did. Then a decade later my husband and I branched into Magic: The Gathering, which is commonly sold in comic stores. I tried again to complete my nerd status by getting into comics. Now, graphic novels are more popular, and their subscription rate became better balanced between content and cost. I was willing to give them a try.

The Looking Glass Wars: Crossfire by Frank Beddor, et. al.

I love the "Looking Glass Wars" series in regular print format. They are an amazing series that twists the tale of Alice in Wonderland. Beddor sees it as how Alyss influenced Lewis Carroll to write his story from her life, not as a retelling of the tale itself.

Weekly, I receive a digest on graphic novels from Netgalley. I was hyper excited when last week included the "Looking Glass Wars" continuation. Thank you to the publisher for granting my wish. With The Looking Glass Wars: Crossfire, we go beyond Alyss's adventures and into her life as queen of Wonderland.

For the obvious points: 

  • It is a graphic novel, so the meat of the story is not as fully fleshed out as a print format would be able to cover.
  • Art is aesthetically pleasing in vastly different ways to every individual.

Now that those points are out there, I can honestly review this book. I would recommend it to all while my actual enjoyment was mediocre. I was pleased with the characters and their plot development. There was plenty of background information with thrilling new adventures. We get a continuation of the story diluted down to a fraction of the pages, but none of it feels cramped. All the magic of Wonderland is still present. Their are thought-provoking conversations and a range of emotions for such limited space. The pages just fly by without realizing time has passed. 

What made the experience lackluster for me was the graphic embodiment of Wonderland. The art style is not my favorite as I prefer much cleaner lines and brighter colors. This is a completely personal observation for the book and no way detracts from the quality of the writing or story. Many may find the art appealing and heighten their experience. I want to make sure those who flip through it and dismiss it for the washed out feel DO NOT pass up the chance at a great story.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

How do you tax embezzlement? She didn't know.

As everyone crunches down to meet the tax deadline, I have a novel that might be of interest. Why not read about some accidental embezzlement to ease the sting?

The Assistants by Camille Perri

All right, let’s be honest. I picked this book because the synopsis was like reading a mini pic of my life. A thirty year old assistant wondering where she has gone with life. Hmm. Familiar. I had to request it. Now that I have read it, I’ll say it is 3 stars worthy. I could certainly see glimpses of my own life and decisions which gave me a level of empathy I always enjoy in my reading, but you don’t have to have lived this exact life to be drawn into the story.

The writing is witty and snappy. Even though it is a very serious story, it never takes itself too seriously. The whole thing remained a fun read. The references border along the millennial line that the middle of my generation experiences from having had computers most of our lives but not cell phones attached to our palms. The dialogue comes from someone who was a teen in the mid-90s with dazzling flashes of struggling life in the Big City. The plot never bogs down in too many details about how exactly she fell into the rabbit hole. We feel her dilemma of embezzling and definitely sympathize with her gastrointestinal stress from said embezzling. We are left wanting to turn the page wondering just what moment was it that got her caught instead of having to slog through her every nerve inducing anxiety. It all felt very Catch Me, If You Can.

My only complaint comes from the overall message. If you are the underdog and do illegal things, but have a really, really good excuse of being overworked and underpaid and was just trying to stand up for equality, then you get to move forward with your social justice. Nope. Doesn’t fly with me. I was also never a fan of Robin Hood. I’m more a Ritchie fandom—teach a man to fish. Handouts for the sake of equality distribution just makes really dumb people who don’t know how to put their hand down.

You can check it out for yourself on May 3rd.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Come fly with me...

...let's take off in the blue. Hope everyone had a lovely weekend. I spent mine on video games and reading because I had snow outside. In April? Indeed! I have plants in bloom and snow. It is spring, right? The plus side to such temperatures is lack of guilt for cuddling under some poodles indoors reading the day away. Gardening certainly can't be accomplished with frozen ground. This week will be a busy week and make up for all the sloth, but I'll still find some reading (and review posting) time because I'm a bookworm first and foremost.

Fields of Air by Shelley Adina

28802356I continue to love this series. I am hoping inspiration just keeps on churning. I am incredibly attached to the characters at this point. They have morphed before my very eyes. I have loved, laughed, and lost with them. And at an incredibly alarming rate! There is a new book every year—actually just a little less than a year. And they are all wonderful. They never seem to suffer from being so close together.

Sure, I have some that are ranked higher than others, but they have never suffered a bad review from me. I buy, and then subsequently read, each one when they are released. I should probably pace my reading to extend my time with these characters, but I just cannot put the novels down once they are in my hand.

Gloria is proving to be a wonderfully endearing character. She is the American version of Lady Claire. We are following along as she grows and finds her voice as the sudden owner of a major corporation. Very American of her. Her transformation from the beginning of the series has certainly been the most pronounced. She went from being a background character of Claire’s escapades to the leading lady of her own trilogy.

We continue to get adventure, subterfuge and romance in healthy balance. Plenty of things explode and plenty of people have awkward interactions with each other. We also seem to get a fair share of floods. These women really need a weather alert chicken to keep them drier. But then again, we wouldn’t get to meet such fascinating people. Hill people? Really? Love it! I’m really looking forward to where Gloria is going to go from here.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Happy Thor's Day

Another day and another post! I am making some serious headway on my reviews while continuing to read two books at once. I certainly am an overly ambitious bookworm. Netgalley keeps my e-reader filled, and I now have a new library card burning a hole in my pocket. Hard copies and digital reading fun for all hours, all locations, all situations! Again, I am an unapologetic bookworm.

Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan

With a stop to my new library, Sword of Summer was sitting right there on the end cap as I entered. I had just put down Ancient & Epic Tales from Around the World. Why not some more history and mythology? Plus, I really enjoyed the Percy Jackson series. What I love about Riordan is light-hearted fun with a lesson.  I, also, really enjoy the History channel’s Vikings. So naturally, a book about Vikings from Riordan is a must. I was not disappointed.

The humor is snappy as always. The sarcasm level lifts right up to the gates of Valhalla. The characters are able to interact with each other seamlessly. Teenage arguments are just hilarious. I could not help but crack a smile about every five minutes. My husband probably sat next to me thinking I was deranged. The adventure is paced to just keep flipping the pages. I tore through chapter after chapter and had to really force myself to achieve other things with my day. I really didn’t think I would get a book of dwarves and elves from the land of the Vikings. Didn’t I pick this up for a dose away from epic fantasy?

Now, I will admit my Norse mythology knowledge is rough. I know the very basic set of gods and what they contribute to our theology. Not to mention that the knowledge has been derived from the History channel more than research at this point. I do feel that some of the representations were a little off this time. I am completely aware that Riordan puts his own spin on the gods, but I feel he stays pretty close to the established mythologies. This deviation did not in any way hinder my enjoyment of the book, however. It increased my need to read up on some Norse history, which is exactly what I want my books to do. Yes, I know. Very nerdy of me. I want my books to teach me something; even if they are fiction. I now have the spark of curiosity to not only read the second Magnus Chase book, but to also brush up on my Norse gods. A victory of a 5 star book.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Around the world in 80 hours

Got totally sidetracked yet again with reading. This is why I never had diaries as a kid; I'm terrible about writing down where I have already been. Maybe I just need that much time to process what is happening around me. Yes. Let's call it that. Makes it sound less lazy of me. Plus, all the books I have picked up lately have been pretty engrossing. I just want to get to the next book. I now have an inexcusable backlog of reviews to get posted. The silver lining is readers of this blog will get to enjoy many reviews for the days to come. Let's start with some myth and wonder; my favorite type of reading.

Ancient & Epic Tales From Around the World by Heather Forest

If you have stopped by my blog before, you may have noticed that I am a sucker for folktales and fables--plus that cover. That cover will suck you in picking it up. I am extremely fascinated with the stories of other cultures. It is amazing how many of the mythological explanations for the universe around us are similar. Almost every single culture I have come across has a flood story. While I initially fell in love with folktales learning about my English roots, I found an increasing similarity of stories around the world. Then, I started researching biblical stories and tying them together with oral stories of isolated cultures. I began to have a strong feeling that what I had always dismissed as a child must have some foundation in truth.

Heather Forest also has an interest in folktales and fables of the world. She has spent years researching these tales. Many have begun as oral histories passed from teacher to disciple for generations before ever being recorded on hard medium. As any person who has played telephone as a child, you will realize how distorted this has made many of the tales. What Ms. Forest is attempting to accomplish with this collection is a middle ground for the stories. She has taken all the renditions she has uncovered over the years and seen where the picture overlaps and trimmed away the strands that have diverged.

She also included a little narrative to flesh out the protagonists like any disciple of folktales would to make the rendition her own. This doesn’t bother me in the way alternative history gives narrative to Einstein or others because, while I have begun to believe these ancient historical figures may have indeed been a factual part of our history, many stories were created by the people to explain life and the gods to children. Their narrative started out as fiction; so it can remain fiction.

These collected stories are a quick read and well worth it. All the cultures are represented and would make an excellent beginning collection for children. They will be able to get a sense for the vastness of the world in just one book. Hopefully collections like this can keep the integrity of folktales alive for many generations to come.