Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Sleeper and the Spindle

Reading reviews in journals and on blogs alike, I have this exceedingly uncomfortable feeling that it is now de rigueur for Edgy Reviewers to declare Neil Gaiman passé.

Neil Gaiman is never, was never, and never shall be irrelevant.

I admit it: I'm a total fangirl.  He hooked me with The Sandman and scared the buttons out of me with Coraline and charmed me to the moon and back with Stardust.  The Ocean at the End of the Lane was one of my favorite reads of last year.  I've yet to read his wonderfully dark-looking Hansel and Gretel, but I finished The Sleeper and the Spindle today and have again fallen under his spell.  It's not just his, really: it's the spell of words.  Certain authors weave magic with their words, and Gaiman is one of these wizards.

Many people seem to be equally interested in this because of Chris Riddell's illustrations, and now comes the time for me to make a bold statement: I do not love Chris Riddell's art.  I like it.  I appreciate it.  But I do not love it--it's not my aesthetic.  So, I wasn't exceedingly excited about the art here: I wanted the story.  But I will say that Riddell's illustrations played with our conceptions of what fairy-tale people look like as much as Gaiman messed with how fairy tales are told.

Some might say that the story isn't very KAPOW!  That's true, but it's not really about the story.  It's about the telling and the why and the what if.

This is a really wonderful book to give to a tween or teen girl, because it's feminist as all get out.  It's not about OMG PRINCES MAWWAGE TWWUUUE WUUUUV and thank goodness for that.  I don't think Gaiman would have written that book anyway, and had he tried, I'd like to think that Amanda F***ing Palmer would have had something to say about that.

Read this at your local library, and then buy it for your home library.  It's a lovely, hopeful book to have.  I want to grow up and be like the Queen in this book ... someday.  But I'd also need some dwarves, a horse, a suit of armor, and a sword.  Anyone willing or able to procure those for me?

Monday, September 28, 2015

Eclipse (no, not the Super Blood Moon of Doom)

I know I've posted at least once before about how my depression affects my reading.  I know things are going to get bad when I don't feel like reading anything at all.  The fact that I'm pretty competitive about my reading--i.e. I go on every chance I get and feel horrid about all the books I haven't yet read--certainly doesn't help matters.

So here I am again, stuck.  I've got all these books strewn around my bed and on my Kindle and on my laptop, sort-of read but not really.  Nothing sounds good.  It's like when you're sick and you know you should eat something just so that you can keep functioning but nothing sounds good.

You know what I might do?  I might return everything I have checked out and start fresh.

Or not.  Who knows?  I don't.

A lot of people think that depression is invisible.  I look at myself now and I can see it in my face.  I look less alive.  Less me.  Like I'm not entirely inside my body right now.  When I get really depressed, it's easier just to retreat into a quiet, sleeping place.  Unfortunately, I'm not fully present in my life then.  But that's what happens.  And until someone finds a magic wand to wave and rid the world of all illnesses, that's what I'm going to have to keep doing in order to keep going.  Because if I don't lull that part of myself to sleep, it takes me to a very dark and dangerous place.

So if I'm quiet these next few days, you know why.

Catch you on the flip side.

Fun Home ... not really

Hey, Banned Books Week!  What a fortuitous time to find Alison Bechdel's recently challenged memoir Fun Home on the shelves at work and take it home!  Or not...

Friday, September 25, 2015


This book is magnetic.  Not in the metal-to-metal attraction sense, but in that elusive, personal way.  We try to describe why a person who is not particularly attractive in the conventional sense, nor particularly brilliant, nor particularly talented, can still arrest us and hold us captive to their every move, every word.  We call it magnetism.  It's an invisible force, but it's still very strong.

I felt that way about Courtney Alameda's Shutter.  I picked it up on work break one day and couldn't stop reading.  It was a compulsion, almost.  I didn't read it straight through; but fearing that I'd reach the end and have nothing else good to read, I hit the brakes about one-third of the way through.  The next time I picked up the book, it was like it had kidnapped me and taken me for an inescapable ride.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Survive the Night

Being in the minority in book ratings always makes me feel a bit strange.  I stand by my positive review of this book, but it's always a little awkward.  However, I think that a lot of readers were expecting horror à la King or freakiness à la Hill, but what Danielle Vega gave us was an homage to the 90s teen slasher flick.

While The Merciless by Danielle Vega (reviewed here!) was a quick read, it was also silly and completely over-the-top.  Perhaps I wasn't in the proper mood for reading that kind of book when I read it.  I wondered if Vega was intending to write a straight, for lack of a better word, horror story.  The Merciless was an example of Trying Too Hard to Be Edgy and falling into C-list horror movie material.

Thankfully, with Survive the Night, Vega seems to have embraced the camp inherent in teen slasher films and books and just completely run with it.  And this totally worked for me.  I know, I know.  I'm kind of alone over here in the "this was ridiculously fun!" camp, but what's so wrong with having fun with teen slasher books?

The correct answer is: nothing!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

What I'm Reading Wednesday

I'm in a bit of a reading slump--all the awesome books I've read lately are making it hard for other books to measure up!  These are the ones that have held my interest this week:

Dead Wake by Erik Larson.  I will read anything Larson writes.  ANYTHING.  He is the standard to which I hold all other narrative non-fiction.  Because he's freaking amazing.

A Pocket Full of Murder by R.J. Anderson.  I needed a good MG fantasy, and this looked like it would fit the bill perfectly.  So far, we have magic baked inside cookies.  I'm sold.  Om nom nom.

The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes.  It's no secret (at least not intentionally) that I love Barnes' The Naturals series.  I'm too lazy and cheap to keep up with TV shows (or, for that matter, own a TV), so these bookish crime titles are perfect for me!  I used to love watching Criminal Minds (love Mandy Patinkin!) and Bones (before it got all The Feelz).  The Fixer has been compared to Scandal, which I haven't seen, but Kerry Washington is a goddess, so I'm all in with this one.

What are you reading this week?  Should I start watching Scandal???

We Are All Completely Fine

Short review: If Fox Mulder became a psychotherapist for characters in H.P. Lovecraft stories, you'd have this book.

Actual review: Wait, can I just use the one above?  I like it.  Oh, fine.  I'll have to actually do some verbal flailing because it's SO GOOD.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Mini-Review: Rocket Raccoon Vol. 2: Storytailer

Rocket and Groot are the Han Solo and Chewbacca of the Marvel universe, and Skottie Young knows it.  There are so many winky nods to Star Wars in this that I ended up giggling uncontrollably.  I love a good Star Wars homage ... wait, can someone commission Skottie Young to do a Star Wars EU comic?  Pretty please???

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Name of the Wind

This book has large britches, which it mostly fills out.  In the end, though, I found myself underwhelmed.  Perhaps I just expected too much of it?

A warning, as well: I feel like this is one of the least coherent, most rambling reviews I've written.  Something about this book makes it impossible to review well.  Maybe it's because I loved and disliked it in almost equal measure, but when rating it, gave it five stars because greatness must be recognized.  So let's get down to business (sort of).

Saturday, September 19, 2015

The Door That Led to Where

This needed to be at least twice as long as it was, and then it would have been a fantastic book.  As it is, it reads more like an outline or a rough draft of a stage play than anything, and coming off of Gardner's magnificent Maggot Moon, I felt profoundly disappointed.

The Door That Led to Where is a book about time travel.  I love books about time travel, whether plausible or implausible!  It's just a fun concept, period.  However, time travel inherently creates massive complications, which need to be sorted out in the narrative.  Instead of any sorting or explanation, these issues are just quietly swept under the rug in Where and we move on.

In fact, that's how I felt about most of the major plot developments.  They happened mid-paragraph and showed up without so much as a "How-dee-do?"  For example, at one point, the main character, AJ, thinks that he's lost the key that allows him to travel back in time.  Suddenly, I found myself in the next chapter and they were time traveling again.  I went back, and there was a very short exchange between him and a friend where the friend is all, "Hey, dude, found your key."  That's it?

Back to the beginning, though, for that's where we all should start.

AJ's life sucks.  He's failed all but one of his GCSEs (like SATs but British and scarier) and has pretty much zero hope at ever getting into uni, much less a decent job.  And it's not like his home life helps: after his dad disappeared, AJ's mum degenerated into a screaming, violent, loveless person.  Currently shacked up with her boyfriend, Frank, "a huge, blancmange slug-of-a-man," and mother of AJ's half-sister, the joyful family lives in a squalid flat in London.  AJ's mates are okay, but none of them really have prospects either.  These are the teens that society forgets and then vilifies.

Surprisingly, AJ receives an invitation to interview at a prestigious law firm in the City.  It turns out that his Mum knows one of the solicitors, so he goes.  Despite not having the proper clothing, he's given a job as an intern.  He's also given a name--his name--Aiden Jobey, which has, for some reason, been suppressed by his family.  He's only ever gone by AJ  Somehow ... this was not an issue in school because his mum was a harpy ... or something.

I mean, fine, this is a book with time travel in it!  I am suspending my disbelief!  But a really good speculative fiction is plausible where need be.

Anyway, while cleaning out a closet, AJ finds a curious key with his newly-discovered last name, Jobey, on the tag.  A mysterious old man, Professor Edinger, tells him where and how to use the key.  Being the not-at-all-suspicious kid that he is, AJ toddles off to a car park and concentrates really hard and whammo!  A magical door appears!  And it whisks him off to a townhouse in 1830s London!  Boo!

Wait, I'm supposed to say "Yay"?  Because in this presentation of Industrial Age London, things aren't so bad.  Sure, people never wash and smell like poo and starve in the streets, but isn't it simply marvelous that Charles Freaking Dickens is alive and writing Sketches by Boz?  Coincidentally (ha ha ha), Aiden's one passing GCSE was in English because of his love of reading, and Dickens in particular.  There's a point during his interview where his employer quizzes him on the opening lines of Dickens novels (easy ones, mind!  Like "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times" easy) and then acts like AJ is the second coming of Einstein when he gets them all correct.  So how wonderful that Aiden is now in the same time period as Dickens!  Never mind that he has a sort of butler-keeper with a weird magpie and whose mum smells like cat pee!  Never mind that his dad was murdered here after finding this key that let him go back in time ... and stuff!

Even though AJ thinks that the 1830s are a cracking good time, he's commissioned by his butler to lock the time-door and get rid of the key.  On the other hand, one of his bosses, Mr. Baldwin tells him to keep the key and go through the time-door as much as he wants!  Wait, why does his boss know about this?  AJ doesn't really care!  He's actually figured out how to help out his friends, Dumb and Dumber.  Actually, their names are Liam and Slim.

Liam crosses a gangster and ends up with a price on his head, so A.J. hustles him through the time door, into a London inn, whereupon Liam promptly falls for the buxom widow running the place.  He expresses no desire to return to his own time, and starts completely messing with the time-space continuum by teaching the Londoners how to filter their water with charcoal so as to avoid next year's cholera epidemic.  When A.J. returns after this trip, he thinks, "Hey!  I could also stash my friend Slim in 1830s London!"

See, Slim did a stupid thing: he went out with a gangster's girlfriend, who then turned on him.  Duh.  So Aiden hauls his butt to 1830s London, too, but not before getting mauled by the bad dude's dog.  This means that Aiden is on crutches, which also seems to serve no narrative purpose other than he has to walk more slowly.

While on the other side, Aiden learns about how his grandfather and a business partner messed up time by taking snuffboxes back to real-time London and this is a Very Bad Thing and Aiden must shut the door to the other side Once and For All.  Thankfully, he manages to get out with his soon-to-be girlfriend, who adjusts to living in 2014 London ridiculously well.  The book just ... stopped at the end.  I think it was supposed to be shocking or thought-provoking, like The Giver, but I found it merely irritating.

There is so much about this book that puzzles me, to put it mildly.  Let me enumerate:

  1. Aiden's father was killed in 19th Century London after having fathered Aiden.  This creates a bit of a grandfather paradox: how does Aiden exist if his father dies in the past?  Dying in the past is dying in the past, no matter what you did or would do in the future.  So, are we talking about parallel universes here and not time travel?  Because slipping through a brane in the multiverse would allow for both Aiden Jobeys to exist or not exist simultaneously (I think).  
  2. How does Liam's water filter not break the rules of time travel?  If the whole household diligently filtered their water, they wouldn't be touched by the cholera epidemic that was to break out a year hence.  And wouldn't authorities be suspicious of an entire house left untouched?  What if there were people who would have died (pre-Liam's appearance) who then did not, and they had children?  How would that affect the future?
  3. How did Aiden's family come to possess this key in the first place?  How did Old Jobey (Aiden's grandfather) "first [go] through the door"?  
  4. Why in heaven's name would you run a black market cross-temporal trade in snuffboxes, of all things?

I suppose the point of this book was about finding your place in life, even if that place is almost two hundred years in the past.  But this had none of the quiet power of Maggot Moon, nor any of its creeping dread.  If I hadn't known that the same person had authored both books, I would never have guessed it.  Obviously, writers need not write the same type of book all the time, but the discrepancies in logic, plot development, and character development make me feel as though The Door That Led to Where was a short story that was stretched on the rack and tortured into becoming a novel.  

Skip this one and read Maggot Moon instead.

I received an ARC of this title from Netgalley.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Books I DNFd, deuxième partie

I have been ruthless lately.  I'd like to imagine my book-self as a katana-wielding warrior who cuts down any book that fails to meet her standards.

If I actually had a katana, I'd probably cut myself.  Clumsy librarian is clumsy.

However, I don't often actually, literally facepalm.  You know, smoosh my hand into my face and groan in agony.  For one thing, this messes up my makeup.  Secondly, it's an awkward thing to see someone do in public.  In the past week, however, I have actually facepalmed multiple times for different books.  What is going on?

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Throwback Thursday: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century: 1910

This volume of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen spelled the end of the series for me (although I did slog onward into the Nemo books and thoroughly regretted it).  Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

What I'm Reading Wednesday

I started this post all peppy and happy and caffeinated, strewing exclamation points across sentence endings with gleeful abandon.

And now.  Here I am.  It is dark before 8 PM.  Soon, the leaves will die and crash to the ground.  Autumn is all about death.  I'm not a pumpkin spice latte kind of girl.  My inner cave creature is returning, and I don't like it.  Humph.

Anyway.  Please read this post in Eeyore's voice, for that is my mood right about now.

Since I managed to finish The Name of the Wind last week, I only have one straggling book, which is Courtney Alameda's Shutter.  I honestly don't know why I haven't finished it yet.  It's excellent and gripping and truly creepy.  But I've been distracted by other things, of course.

The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes.  I completely adore her Naturals series (even the romance-y bits, which is whoa-strange for me!), and this is shaping up to be just as adrenaline-filled.

Rocket Raccoon Vol. 2: Storytailer by Skottie Young.  Love Rocket, love Skottie Young.  This is furry, armament-filled goodness.

The Gulag Archipelago, Vol. 1 by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.  Sure, why not pick up a giant part one of a trilogy by a Russian author that's an exposé of Stalinism?

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Vengeance Road

Some people enjoy Westerns.  Some people don't.  Some people just don't care.  I'm usually in the latter category.  The only "Western" I've watched over and over is North to Alaska which is really more of an ... Alaskan (???) comedy than anyone actually riding horses to save the day and shoot bandits et cetera.  In my (extremely poorly-taught) Native American History course that I took in college, we watched The Searchers as an example of racist portrayals of Native Americans.  I really hate that movie--not because it's a Western, but because of the message it sends.  After that, I figured most Westerns weren't really for me.

Westerns as books aren't as popular as they used to be,either.  Really, the only ones I know of that are big names are the ones by Zane Gray and the hilariously explicit Trailsman series (bow-chicka-wow-wow!).  And YA Westerns?  I can count the ones I know of on one hand.  And by that I mean straight-up Westerns, not alternate-reality Westerns or dystopian future Westerns or anything like that.

So when I saw that Vengeance Road was going to be a good ol' horse-riding, desert-crossin' Western, I was intrigued. Plus, that cover art is amazing.  I wanted so badly for this to be amazing, and yet ... it wasn't.

Monday, September 14, 2015

The Valiant

When I grabbed this off of our new comics shelf at work, I had no idea that it was part of this whole comic universe.  Thankfully, the authors provide a quick bio of the main players in the beginning.

Alas, that was the only thing I was thankful for.

Friday, September 11, 2015

This Is (Not) A Book Review

A shout-out to the reference in my title: yes, the second book was just as charming as the first.  Check out You Are (Not) Small and the equally funny That's (Not) Mine by Anna Kang.

I've been gone for just two days but it feels like two weeks.  I suppose that's what lack of sleep does to my brain: temporal distortion.

While I was traveling, I finally finished The Name of the Wind and ... I was underwhelmed.  Writing that review might be awkward simply because I'm unsure of why it's seen as being so fantastic.  Rothfuss' prose is gorgeous, but the characterization was extremely inconsistent and plot points seemed to pop up out of nowhere.

I also finished The Door that Led to Where by Sally Gardner and ... oof.  If you're looking for something on par with her quietly brilliant Maggot Moon, this is not the book.  In fact, I'm unsure as to why this was even published as-is.  It's a fun idea--time-travel--but there's not nearly enough time taken to describe anything.

Although I actually put books aside now (unlike when I was little and felt compelled to finish everything I started), I still have a bit of a complex about finishing a series.  My relatitvely local Half-Price Books had a nice trade paperback of Black Mountain, book 4 in the Arcadian/Alex Hunter series, which I've generally enjoyed.  This one is a bit ... ehhhhh, but I'll definitely finish it.  Mostly because I want to read the next book, Gorgon!

Naturally, this now means that I have even more reviews to write, so I'd better get cracking!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Books for Travel

I'm shaking a bit as I type this.  Normally, I'm really fine with traveling.  I get nervous that I'm going to miss my flight (a totally normal symptom of my ability to conjure up disastrous scenarios out of nowhere), but I usually fly out of a smaller airport.

This time, it's a frantic drive to O'Hare, AKA the Armpit Airport of the Universe.  I would rather fly out of anywhere than O'Hare.  I have a good story about O'Hare (by which I mean it reflects exceedingly poorly on the airport) but I have yet to find the best place to insert it into this blog.  Everything is late.  The people are cranky.  They have these weird toilet seat covers that rotate after you sit on them so that your buttocks don't touch the same plastic as the person after you.

ANYWAY.  I'm trying to calm down by picking out my books.  Here's what I'm bringing to read:

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss.  I am bound and determined to finish this, although I really can't see myself continuing the series.  More on that in the full book review.

Black Mountain by Greig Beck.  I have some Arcadian books sitting around, begging to be read, but they come after Black Mountain in the series, and I am dead serious about reading series in order.

On my Kindle, I have:

Hunter by Mercedes Lackey.  Ooooooooo Mercedes Lackey!  That's all I have to say right now!

The Door that Led to Where by Sally Gardner.  I love Sally Gardner's writing, and how it's a new iteration with each new book.

And I'll be back Thursday or Friday-ish with more reviews!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Princess Ugg, Vol. 2 (in pieces)

Because I am still relatively new to Comiclandia, the concept of buying single issues is still a bit odd to me.  I don't want to have to wait for a story ARC to conclude over a period of weeks or months; I'd rather wait for the trade and drink it all down in one go.  I don't even own those little plastic protectors that you put the single issues in.  Besides, I work at a library, where I can get the trades for free.

That changed when I went to C2E2 this year (in April!  O, how I've procrastinated reading my loot!).  Wandering Artist Alley (always a dangerous thing--that's where I spent most of my money this year), I saw a table with Princess Ugg on it.  I believe I've raved about this fair Scottish-Viking-esque princess before, so I did two very conspicuous passes in front of the table, trying to figure out if the Edwardian-chic man sitting there was, in fact, Ted Naifeh.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Mini-Review: Lumberjanes, Vol. 1: Beware the Kitten Holy

When I find a comic artist/writer/colorist/inker/what-have-you that I really, really admire, I often feel like it's unnecessary for me to write detailed reviews of everything they produce.  Usually I just do the Kermit flail and go "AHHHHH!" and call it a day.

Friday, September 4, 2015

I Crawl Through It

Everyone has an opinion about young adult literature.  More accurately, everyone has an opinion on adults reading young adult literature.  Critics say that it's indicative of a "generation" (spat out with a sneer and a drag on a cigarette) and their inability to accept adulthood.  They think it's "creepy" and juvenile that adults would want to read books about teenagers.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

These Shallow Graves of the Age of Innocence

When I was a junior in high school, I read The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton for my AP English class.  I didn't have a choice, because you had to reference that book on the AP test and I really, really wanted those free college credits.  So, as one does when forced to read something, I rebelled.  I decided I would hate the book.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

What I'm Reading Wednesday

I feel like this should be the week of the DNF.  I just finished an amazing, mind-blowing, should-win-all-the-things book, and now I feel like nothing can live up to it.  That's a silly thought, of course.  Each book is its own entity.

But I Crawl Through It really blows things out of the water.  I'm working on a review right now and it's mostly me flailing.

So, right now I'm reading:

The Door That Led to Where by Sally Gardner.  I adored Maggot Moon, and while this promises a very different sort of story, I have the highest regard for Gardner's writing.

Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman.  This is wickedly fun so far, but I forgot to update my Kindle library this weekend, so I didn't have a chance to read it at all.  Sadness ensued.

Phoenix Island by John Dixon.  I'm seriously considering abandoning this one.  I love a good boot camp novel but this is getting ... repetitive.

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss.  Oh lord.  When will I get myself into gear and finish this?

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Books I DNFd

“Some books should be tasted, some devoured, but only a few should be chewed and digested thoroughly.” -- Sir Frances Bacon

I find it exceedingly amusing that it's a food metaphor, and his last name was Bacon.  Yes, I have a juvenile sense of humor, and I find it suits me wonderfully.  

I recently culled my to-read list to under 1,000 books.  Goodreads has this irritating habit of duplicating titles when I enter to win them in giveaways, so I tried to clean that up.  But still, wow.  I have so many books I want to read, or at least begin.  I want to give them a chance.  These are some books that I recently attempted to read but which, for some reason or another, didn't click with me, and I had to make the decision to move on.