Archive for January, 2011

Book Review: Fragile Eternity

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Fragile Eternity Fragile Eternity by
Series: Wicked Lovely #3
Published by in 2009
Genres: , ,
Pages: 389

Aislinn, who became a faerie in the first book, now has to deal with the awkward--verging on impossible--position of still being in love with her mortal boyfriend Seth, whom she can't even touch without burning. To complicate things further, as the new Summer Queen, Aislinn is eternally bonded to Keenan, the Summer King, and the attraction between them is palpable and constant. In the doomed loves that permeate these books, Marr deftly explores the essence of longing as she questions notions of fated love. Her characters are strong, with even the nastiest of the faerie troublemakers coming through as absolutely compelling and sympathetic. And their situations are rife with conflict, from the impossible mortal-faerie relationships to the ancient familial and courtly spats within the faerie realm.

My Review:

I was really excited to pick this book up after the first two. I was especially excited to return to the story of Aislinn and Keenan, because the first book left me wanting more. Unfortunately (and funnily enough) this book felt much like the fifth Harry Potter – the Pillar of Angst of the series. The whole book was one huge angsty problem of Aislinn’s immortality and Seth’s lack of it. Not that it wouldn’t be something I would worry about, but a whole book that’s mostly made up of thoughts and worries isn’t my favourite thing. I wanted a little more action.

Honestly the whole point of the book was to

View Spoilers »
make Seth into a Faerie
. That was the only plot point that I could see affecting the rest of the series, and I would have preferred it in a short story format so that I could get on with the rest of the story.

Still, I love Marr’s writing style, and I do love the characters. I am glad I read this one, as it will probably be integral to the series and I’ll be able to see how later. I’m so excited to get started on Radiant Shadows!

More reviews coming soon – having the flu gives me an excuse to just sit around all day and read, no matter how much it sucks in other ways.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by
Series: Harry Potter #5
Published by in 2003
Genres: ,
Pages: 870

The fifth hefty installment to J.K. Rowling's renowned Harry Potter series takes a uniquely psychological and intensely dark turn, bringing the boy wizard at odds with his own identity and friendships as he continues to fight He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Now fifteen years old with four Voldemort battles under his belt, Harry feels frustrated about the growing public skepticism about the Dark Lord's return. Unfortunately, the Ministry of Magic is also voicing its doubt, and all of Hogwarts comes under the watchful eye of an oppressive Ministry representative. Despite the additional problems of looming O.W.L. exams and Hagrid's inexplicable absence, Harry's main preoccupation is his vivid dreams that take him to places -- and make him witness events -- that horrify and intrigue him. These dreams provide a shocking clue to his very existence, and when eventually they lead Harry to confrontation, the wizard must cope with a tragic death and a telling prophecy about his future.

My thoughts:

Well I certainly didn’t expect to finish this one before the end of the month. Then again, I didn’t expect to come down with a cold either. Gotta look at the bright side though, right?

Oh my. What to say? This book has been lovingly dubbed Harry Potter and the Pillar of Angst by my friends. I can’t say I blame them. There’s a lot of psychological stuff in there with very little action. On the other hand, some of my absolute favourite quotes in the whole series are from this book. For example: In response to Harry’s accusation that his friends won’t look at him not the other way around, Hermione says “Maybe you’re taking it in turns to look and keep missing each other?” I don’t know why but that line always makes me giggle!

I also love the development of Peeves in this novel. In the first four he was merely an annoyance (and I loved him for it – I have often said Peeves was my favourite character). But now he takes on some character with a real enemy in Umbridge. And what’s more, I love the fact that he bows to the Weasley twins when they tell him “Give her Hell from us!” and the way McGonagall is so frustrated at Umbridge that she tells him the chandelier unscrews the other way.

This was the first book I really started to look at names for. Umbridge is the one who really got me thinking – there’s a word in English that sounds like Umbridge that pretty well describes what the other characters feel towards her (though I have no idea how it’s spelled so I’m not even going to try). That got me thinking about other significant names. For example: Lupin = Wolf in Latin and many romance languages, Malfoy = “Bad time” in French (spelled slightly differently), even Voldemort = “Fly from death” also in French. But what really got me thinking was the first time I read it in French, because while some of the names were based on French, others got changed. Snape became Rogue, probably because Snape is based on an English word (I haven’t been able to find one, but that’s my best guess). This was probably also the point where I began scrutinizing every word for clues to how it would end – it was fun coming across my little pencil underlining every once in a while and going “Yeah I was soooo off there!”

Anyways, that’s it for me on the Potter-thon, hope you all had fun!

Book Blogger Hop! Jan 28-31

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Book Blogger Hop 
Wow! Is it already almost February?! I can’t believe this month has gone so fast!
Anyways, today’s question is: What book are you most looking forward to being published in 2011 and why?
Wow, hard one. See I don’t always keep on top of who’s publishing what. It used to be I would go and pick random books off the shelves of the library and read them – if they were a series I’d keep reading the series, but usually it was all old stuff anyways. I’ve gotten more into new stuff now, but I still haven’t figured out the whole who’s publishing what when thing.
That said, I am most looking forward to a book from one of my old series’ called Unnatural Issue. It’s by Mercedes Lackey and supposedly is coming out this summer as part of her Elemental Masters Series. The series has always been one of my absolute favourite of hers and I’m so excited for a new one after several years of her updating other series’ instead. On the other hand, I’m a little bit worried as well – the most recent one Reserved for the Cat wasn’t quite as good as its prequels, and I’m really hoping that doesn’t happen again.
Anyway, what are you most looking forward to?
Recent happenings in the Corner:
I’ve asked Do you have Reading ADD? I do and I need help!
Reviews: Ender’s Game  by Orson Scott Card 
My very first music review of the Harry Potter soundtracks
Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly

Book Review: Ender’s Game

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Ender's Game Ender's Game by
Series: Ender's Saga #1
Published by , in 1994
Genres: ,
Pages: 324

Intense is the word for Ender's Game. Aliens have attacked Earth twice and almost destroyed the human species. To make sure humans win the next encounter, the world government has taken to breeding military geniuses -- and then training them in the arts of war... The early training, not surprisingly, takes the form of 'games'... Ender Wiggin is a genius among geniuses; he wins all the games... He is smart enough to know that time is running out. But is he smart enough to save the planet?

My Review:

I don’t know how I managed to get this far and not read this one. Everyone says it’s a classic. Everyone says you have to at least read something Orson Scott Card before you can call yourself a sci-fi geek. But somehow I missed it, so I’m reading it now.

I have to admit, I’m torn about what to say. People have such strong opinions about this book – you either love it or you hate it, going by the reviews I wandered through on GoodReads. The truth is, yes, it’s a great sci-fi and I can’t believe I haven’t read it, but it just didn’t stand up to my favourites (probably because it is sci-fi – I like it, but fantasy is more to my taste).

I do like how complex the storyline is. Ender is just a kid, but he is dealing with very adult emotions. If anyone ever set up a system like that while I was around I’d be the first to start (or join) a rebellion. Children shouldn’t have to live through what they made Ender do, no matter what the consequences are. We keep getting reminders that Ender is not an adult, and that he shouldn’t be in this situation, but at the same time it is easy to forget that he is as young as he is. He’s already way past his classmates by the time they take him at 6. By the time they’ve put him through all the training, he might as well be my age for all I know, and how he acts.

The sad part is, while they were in battle school playing the null gravity games, I kind of wanted to be there. I wanted to play the games, because the games sound fun. Yeah, if you think about what they were for it seems awful, but the games themselves present challenges and competition, which is what I always wanted from games as a kid. Then again, I’m very competitive and I love logicking out the solution to whatever problems are set for me, and that’s basically what they were having Ender do.

I guess there’s not much else to say that hasn’t already been said. Lots of people loved Ender’s Game when it came out, and I’m just the latest in a long line of reviewers. But hey, if you like sci-fi, then you should read this one. It’s like liking fantasy and not reading Harry Potter – difficult to do, and kind of sad for the rest of us.

Do you have reading ADD?

5 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: Discussion Day

Here I sit, about to finish Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, while guiltily stealing glances at my copy of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Potter is glaring at me as angrily as a book can from its place across the room on my bed, and I feel awful, because I told it I loved it, and that it was the very next book on my list. And yet, there it sits while I hungrily devour the last 20 pages or so of the 324 page upstart that took its place after only 50 pages together.

This whole scenario got me to thinking: am I the only one with reading ADD?

Let me explain. Say, for example, I have 5 books out from the library. They all looked really interesting when I checked them out, and I couldn’t wait to read them. Then life got in the way, and slowly I worked my way through the pile, until 3 weeks later I have to turn them in soon and there’s 1 left. So I pick it up and start reading, but before long, another book comes from the library, or I go to the bookstore, or the one left is so darn BIG and I end up starting something else. I’ll go through long stretches where I’m reading up to 4 books at once because I can’t concentrate on the one I started with and then I’ll finish them within days of each other. This makes reviewing even more difficult because I’ll go through a week or more without finishing anything and then finish three at once.

Does anyone else have this problem? How do you choose which book to read next, and how do you resist the temptation of others while you finish the one you chose? What do you do about reviewing?

I could really use some help on this, as I’m working up to read a book I’ve gotten out of the library 4 different times and had to turn it back in before finishing because ADD struck again!

Media Review: Harry Potter Soundtracks

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In honor of the Potter-Thon’s last week, I decided to do something special – my very first musical media review!

Title: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Media Type: Feature Film Soundtrack
Composer: John Williams (of Star Wars fame, for those of you who aren’t über-geeks like me)
Origins: Purchased

My Review: I’ve been wanting to do a Music review for some time now. After all, I started the blog on the principle that I would review books, film and music and in the 5 months I’ve been blogging, I’ve yet to do a musical post. So, what better to start with than the soundtrack that started it all, way back when I was in Junior High and still didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up? And what better excuse than this lovely celebration of all things Potter?

Yes, you read that right, I’ll only be doing one and three for this review. I have some very good reasons for this. Reason 1) I don’t own Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. It’s really hard to review something that you haven’t heard separately from the film, and I don’t have that possibility because I haven’t had access recently. Reason 2) After POA, they changed composers (with some very good results) and I don’t want to be comparing apples to oranges.

This soundtrack, when I first heard it way back when, was my introduction to John Williams (yes, I did make it all the way to High School before seeing Star Wars. Yes, that does make me a bad nerd/geek/dork). As such, I’ve always been a bit partial to this one, even though since then I’ve heard many of his other works and discovered that he is one of those composers that writes the same piece 50 million different ways. Even after hearing 25 of those 50 million, I think there’s something particularly special about this one. He really captured the spirit of Harry, and by doing so he captured my ears. This was the first time I walked out of a film and more than anything else that stuck with me, it was “I have to have that soundtrack!” (Actually the first might have been Lord of the Rings, they came out very close to each other and had a combined effect on me.) It also led to me deciding to be a flutist, which is another story entirely, but explains how much effect it had on me.

Another note-worthy thing about this soundtrack is that it co-founded (with Lord of the Rings) the modern trend for epic soundtracks on less than epic movies. Not that Harry Potter isn’t epic. But before Harry Potter the only films that really got huge soundtracks were the huge epics, like Star Wars and Superman (which were both composed by John Williams… hmmm, maybe there’s a reason lol). Now, go to any film, and it’s going to have some originally composed tracks on it, probably on a large scale. My personal favourite and focus of my current research is Shrek. It started as a stand alone (as did Pirates of the Carribean, which is my close second) and yet it has a mostly original soundtrack worthy of the giant epics. Filmmakers suddenly started paying more attention to what the music did to the audience instead of just slapping on something that fit like the Skater’s Waltz or Blue Danube *coughspaceodessy2001cough*.

A few more specific notes:
Hedwig’s theme is incredibly complex and yet highly memorable – I bet anyone who has seen the film enough times could whistle through the first few notes at least – and beyond that it’s a gorgeous representation of this little boy who is normal, and yet not. This theme will probably long outlast the series, and I’m so excited for that!
I have heard through the grapevine that the soundtrack for Chamber of Secrets is much like the soundtrack for Sorcerer’s Stone. This is highly disappointing, and much of why I haven’t bought it yet (though I suppose someday I will just to see for myself).
Prisoner of Azkaban, on the other hand, is a gorgeous reworking of the original material. It is so well reworked that it leaves me wondering if it was truly Williams writing it, or if he had some one of his students take the themes, rework them, and then he signed off on it. Not that I’m dissing Williams or anything, but it’s the most unusual score I’ve ever heard from him, and it has been known to happen that way, especially with the composers who are in high demand, like Williams or Hans Zimmer (who has done practically every film you’ve ever heard of, or it seems like it). I particularly like “Aunt Marge’s Waltz” and “Buckbeak’s Flight” from this one and there is a fabulous flute solo about halfway through “Secrets of the Castle” that I’ve been trying to transcribe and learn for years it’s so flippin’ HARD!

Anyway, overall thoughts: If you like soundtracks then definitely check this one out!

Since this is a new kind of review, I would love to know what you think! Would you be interested in more music reviews?

Book Review: Leviathan

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Leviathan Leviathan by
Series: Leviathan #1
Published by , in 2009
Genres: ,
Pages: 440

Prince Aleksander, would-be heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, is on the run. His own people have turned on him. His title is worthless. All he has is a battletorn war machine and a loyal crew of men.

Deryn Sharp is a commoner, disguised as a boy in the British Air Service. She's a brilliant airman. But her secret is in constant danger of being discovered.

With World War I brewing, Alek and Deryn's paths cross in the most unexpected way…taking them on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure that will change both their lives forever.

My Review:

One of the things I love about Scott Westerfeld’s writing is the way he gets into the heads of his characters. He gets everything right down to the slang. Though some might argue that it makes it harder to understand his stories, I feel that in the end it makes the characters more lovable. I will admit it took me a while to get into the story, but once I did, I couldn’t put it down. I carried the book with me everywhere and I’m pretty sure I made some people around me mad, because the slightest few minutes of nothing to do and I would pull out the book to read a few pages.

One thing I will say on the other side, the world was really complicated for a “real world” scenario. I personally was intrigued – I wanted to fly on Deryn’s Leviathan, and learn how to drive Alek’s Walker. But I think it would be really helpful to have a sort of guide book to the world. I want to know about all of the Darwinist’s beasts (I want a message lizard!) and I would like to read (or possibly even write) an encyclopaedia of all the beasts and machines involved. Then again, I’m fascinated by those kind of things, and some people may find that a bit off-putting.

I am so glad I decided to buy this instead of a book I’ve already read, and I am so excited to read the next one!

Book Review: The Book of Lost Things

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The Book of Lost Things The Book of Lost Things by
Published by in 2006
Genres: ,
Pages: 339

High in his attic bedroom, twelve-year-old David mourns the death of his mother, with only the books on his shelf for company. But those books have begun to whisper to him in the darkness. Angry and alone, he takes refuge in his imagination and soon finds that reality and fantasy have begun to meld. While his family falls apart around him, David is violently propelled into a world that is a strange reflection of his own -- populated by heroes and monsters and ruled by a faded king who keeps his secrets in a mysterious book, The Book of Lost Things.

My Review:

Wow. This one’s a thinker. I’m still having trouble putting my thoughts in order for it, because it gave me so much to think about.

One of the things I loved about it was how many stories were included. I was trying to think of what it reminded me of as I read and what started out as “OK, so kind of like Brave Story by Miyuki Miyabe” turned into “Brave Story meets Alice in Wonderland meets Narnia meets Inkworld meets fairytales meets…” etc. There’s so many elements of other stories that the story itself becomes something new. I suppose some people would say that detracts from the story for them, but I think it fits really well, because of who the main character is.

David is a young(ish) boy who has just lost his mother to an illness. His father remarries and has another son, whom David feels is replacing him. The thing about David though, is that his mother taught him to love books. She taught him that books are living things, and that they want to be read (I love that by the way! Totally makes me talking to my books as I reorganize them acceptable, right? lol) But soon, the books begin to actually whisper to him, and they lead him to another world where the characters of his beloved fairytales are real, even if they are twisted beyond recognition. That is another selling point for me – I love that these beloved fairytales are twisted, but they are twisted on purpose, and eventually, at the very end of the novel, it all makes sense. 

This book, to me, represents everything I believe about stories. Stories are alive, because they shape and change who we are, in the same way that people do. What’s more, we shape and change the stories we read and tell based on who we are. Anyone who has ever studied fairy and folk tales knows that all the ones that were originally told orally may be completely different from the way they started (kind of like in telephone – whatever the person started with comes out as gibberish by the end). The way the fairytales are told in this novel tells us more about the character that created them and enriches our experience of how fairytales might be or might have started. 

Anyway, I recommend this to anyone who loves fairytales and their retellings, and to anyone who is interested in the relationship between stories, their creators, and their readers. Just give yourself plenty of time to think about it while you’re reading.

To Tweet or Not To Tweet

3 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: Discussion Day

One of the things that has been regularly showing up in my feed this weekend is the Bloggiesta (if you don’t know what that is, check out the link). Curious, I went and checked it out and then decided I had too much to do this weekend to officially participate. (I then proceeded to ignore this decision and wander around doing several of the mini-challenges anyways, because let’s face it – fixing up my blog is so much more fun than doing homework!) I’ve learned a lot about formatting and publicizing and all that good stuff. But there is one thing that has been bugging me for a long time that wasn’t addressed (much). This thing is… TWITTER!

Up until now, I have strenuously objected to the idea of getting myself a Twitter – nobody is that interested in my life, and anyone who is can just stalk me on Facebook. But now, I have a book blog. I could, potentially, create a Twitter account that isn’t about me, but about my blog instead. The idea has been bouncing around my brain for a very long time, and I feel it is time to make a final decision for or against. But first, I want some first-hand information. So, I’m asking for your experience with Twitter.

Are you a book blogger who uses Twitter? Is your Twitter account only for your blog? What do you use it for, and how often do you use it? Do you think using Twitter to promote your blog has helped your blog? I would be grateful for this and any other responses!

Book Review: The Rumpelstiltskin Problem

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The Rumpelstiltskin Problem The Rumpelstiltskin Problem by
Published by in 2000
Pages: 128

Have you ever wondered just what was going on when that odd little man with the long name stepped up and volunteered to spin straw into gold for the miller’s daughter? If you stop and think about it, there are some very peculiar and rather hard-to-explain components to the story.
Vivian Vande Velde has wondered too, and she’s come up with these six alternative versions of the old legend. A bevy of miller’s daughters confront their perilous situation in very different ways — sometimes comic, sometimes scary. Most of the time, it’s the daughter who gets off safely, but sometimes, amazingly, Rumpelstiltskin himself wins the day. And in one tale, it is the king who cleverly escapes a quite unexpected fate.

My Review:

The Rumpelstiltskin Problem is the perfect novel for anyone who loves retellings of fairy tales. Split into 6 different retellings, it explores all the different ways in which the original Rumplestiltskin doesn’t make any sense (hint: there are a lot of ways). I really loved all the different stories. The characters in each, even though they were all based on the same originals, are so different, and the explanations for all the strange things actually make sense.

This is a really short novel – I read it in less than an hour last night before going to bed. It reads like one of those fairy tale books you read as a kid (I remember we had the Blue Fairy book) but it just makes so much more sense.

There’s not much else that can be said, other than go read it. I’d especially recommend it to anyone looking to retell a fairytale themselves.

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