Thursday, April 10, 2014

Sometimes Mere Scales Can Be Beautiful Music


Seraphina by Rachel Hartman. I LOVED this book. I loved this book so much that I want to tell you all to read it right now. You don't have to take my word alone for it either. Ask anyone else who has read it. They'll also sing its praises because it's just that good.

Now you probably want to know what it's about. Well, I'll be honest. It's a little different. It's about humans ... and dragons. But don't let that scare you if dragons aren't your thing. They happen to be dragons that have the ability to change their appearances to look like humans. So most of the time this story is just about people of different races because, really, that's all they are underneath. Some of those people want peace between the races and others can't accept anyone who is different and they actively cause trouble. And then there's Seraphina. She is a new musical apprentice in court and she has a secret that keeps her distant from everyone else, a secret that could change the relations between the two groups. So this is a story about music and identity and it's got a bit of romance and politics and it's just really, really smart. And yes, it has dragons.

I hope that I've convinced a few of you to give this book a try. There is a sequel coming out a year from now so the only complaint I (and others) have is that that date is too damn far away!

Waiting impatiently to hear the music again,
K

Note: This was my first read for the Once Upon a Time Challenge.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

You Said You Would Wait Until the End of the World


After the joy of strictly reading one of my favorite authors for an entire month, it was tough to choose my first non-DWJ read. I eventually decided to go for something entirely different and chose The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters (the co-author of Sense and Sensibility of Sea Monsters), first in a trilogy. I chose wisely because this was a wonderful book.

The titular last detective is Hank Palace, a newish recruit to the Concord, New Hampshire detective force. Sadly, his time on the force will likely be short because a massive asteroid is heading toward Earth and they're only six months away from impact. Suicides are on the rise and when Hank gets called to examine a body found in a fast-food restaurant restroom, he's pressured to give this death the same tidy verdict. But he feels that something is off and, even with the imminent end of the world, he is determined to do his job and solve what could be his last murder case.

There were so many layers to this story, from the basic murder investigation to a pre-apocalyptic romance to the more philosophical questions of what to do with the last six months of your (and possibly everyone else's) life. Everyone in the story is some shade of unpleasant for the obvious reasons but, because of the circumstances, they almost all become sympathetic. Hank's dedication to his job is especially admirable but also a bit compulsive which makes him a complex character that you want to learn more about. I read this entire story in one day and can't wait to get to book two, Countdown City, which I have sitting here, and book three, World of Trouble, which comes out in July.

With a glimmer of hope,
K

p.s. I received my copy of this book from Quirk Books in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Another Book List to Obsess Over: Best of the 19th Century Brits


Flavorwire posted this list of The 50 Greatest British Novels of the 19th Century last month and, since this is obviously a period and place from which I choose many of my reads, I wanted to know how I was doing on finding "the best". (Bold are the titles I've read.)

  1. Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
  2. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Brontë
  3. Middlemarch - George Eliot
  4. Wuthering Heights - Emily Brontë
  5. Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
  6. A Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
  7. Persuasion - Jane Austen
  8. The Picture of Dorian Gray - Oscar Wilde
  9. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
  10. Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
  11. Frankenstein - Mary Shelley
  12. Treasure Island - Robert Louis Stevenson
  13. The Mill on the Floss - George Eliot
  14. Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
  15. David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
  16. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
  17. The Time Machine - H.G. Wells
  18. Alice Through the Looking Glass - Lewis Carroll
  19. Daniel Deronda - George Eliot
  20. A Study in Scarlet - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  21. Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
  22. Vivian Grey - Benjamin Disraeli
  23. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall - Anne Brontë
  24. Lord Jim - Joseph Conrad
  25. The War of the Worlds - H.G. Wells
  26. Mansfield Park - Jane Austen
  27. Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
  28. Dracula - Bram Stoker
  29. Bleak House - Charles Dickens
  30. Wives and Daughters - Elizabeth Gaskell
  31. Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde - Robert Louis Stevenson
  32. The Light That Failed - Rudyard Kipling
  33. Rob Roy - Sir Walter Scott
  34. Cranford - Elizabeth Gaskell
  35. Agnes Grey - Anne Brontë
  36. New Grub Street - George Gissing
  37. Coningsby - Benjamin Disraeli
  38. The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
  39. Emma - Jane Austen
  40. Ivanhoe - Sir Walter Scott
  41. Kidnapped - Robert Louis Stevenson
  42. The Last Days of Pompeii - Edward Bulwer-Lytton
  43. Windsor Castle - William Harrison Ainsworth
  44. Mary Barton - Elizabeth Gaskell
  45. The Adventures of Mr. Verdant Green - Cuthbert M. Bede
  46. The Return of the Native - Thomas Hardy
  47. Sybil, or The Two Nations - Benjamin Disraeli
  48. Villette - Charlotte Brontë
  49. Nicholas Nickelby - Charles Dickens
  50. The Wanderer or, Female Difficulties - Fanny Burney
Okay, so I've read 22 of the 50 on this list--just under half--and have another three sitting on my TBR shelves. BUT, I am not totally loving this list. Why are there three books from Benjamin Disraeli on the list and only one from Wilkie Collins? Where is Lady Audley's Secret? Why is Wuthering Heights so much higher than Pride and Prejudice? Who is Cuthbert M. Bede?

I know I need to eventually read some Thomas Hardy but some of the others on this list are ones I probably won't ever pick up (The Last Days of Pompeii).

What do you think of this list? Can you think of any major omissions (author or novel)? Is there one of these that I haven't read that you think I should get to ASAP?

Always in the mood for a little list action,
K

Friday, April 4, 2014

New Release: What Makes This Book So Great


What Makes This Book So Great: Re-Reading the Classics of Science Fiction & Fantasy by Jo Walton is the last book I read before DWJ March and I'm actually writing this post on February 28th because I don't want to miss sharing any of what I've gained from reading this book. I have yet to get to any of the Jo Walton books that have made it onto my TBR but it doesn't matter (and I don't think she would mind so much either). She's an avid re-reader and so am I and so I'm sure that we could be friends.

While this book is subtitled "science fiction and fantasy", it's really mostly science fiction and, in addition, it's really mostly older science fiction so I haven't read many of the books that she is talking about. In fact, I counted and there were only maybe seven books that she mentions that I have read. But again, this didn't matter at all because she's not reviewing the books and she's not assuming that you've read them before either. Instead, she takes each of the 100+ books that she's just re-read and she briefly gives a synopsis of sorts and then talks about the experience of re-reading each one and tells which are the things that bring her back to these tales time and time again. There are also a few posts (these were all originally posts on Tor.com) just about reading and those will be easy to relate to by any of us readers.

In addition to making me consider immediate re-reads of some of the books she mentioned that are particular favorites of mine (Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, To Say Nothing of the Dog, Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency), she also made me really think about my (then) upcoming Diana Wynne Jones re-reads, about what I was hoping to get out of them and about why I wasn't only picking up those of DWJ's books that I hadn't read yet. Walton's reason for re-reading turns out to be exactly my own --
"A re-read is more leisurely than a first read. I know the plot, after all, I know what happens. I may still cry (embarassingly, on the train) when re-reading, but I won't be surprised. Because I know what's coming, because I'm familiar with the characters and the world of the story, I have more time to pay attention to them. I can immerse myself in details and connections I rushed past the first time and delight in how they are put together. I can relax into the book. I can trust it completely. I really like that."
Finally, the last entry of this book also got me thinking about this blog. Since her original writings were in blog form, I really feel like there is a similarity in purpose and style and the way that she unapologetically states that she is not a critic but rather a fan really resonated with me and gave me the confidence to keep pushing my blog in the direction I've chosen to take it. To dedicate a month to a favorite author is perfectly acceptable because I'm celebrating reading and re-reading and the books that I love.
"You may also have noticed a lack of critical detachment. I am talking about books because I love books. I'm not standing on a mountain peak holding them at arm's length and issuing Olympian pronouncements about them. I'm reading them in the bath and shouting with excitement because I have noticed something that is really really cool."
I highly recommend this book to anyone with even a passing interest in SciFi/Fantasy and especially those of you who are re-readers. Also, her posts are still going up on Tor.com so you can read them there (plus many, many more). I have a feeling that I will go down that rabbit hole soon and come out a better and more confident genre reader (and, of course, re-reader) in the end.

With kudos to a great book about great books,
K

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Joining Up: Once Upon A Time VIII

Now that DWJ March is over, I am moving on to my next highly-anticipated reading event ...



Though this event kicked off at the start of spring, March 20th, and I've just spent a month reading nothing but fantasy, I'm quite excited to join this well-loved event again this year. I will be choosing books that fall under any of four categories--Fairy Tale, Folklore, Fantasy and Mythology--to enjoy between now and June 21st.

As I usually do, I'll be mostly reading books from my own shelves. Here are some of my possibilities:


The Emerald Atlas (reread) and The Fire Chronicle by John Stephens
The City of Dreaming Books by Walter Moers
The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
The Apothecary by Maile Meloy
Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
Time Cat by Lloyd Alexander


and the ones I'll be reading for sure for the Top 100 Chapter Books project ...
The Black Cauldron, The Castle of Llyr, Taran Wanderer, and The High King by Lloyd Alexander
The Children of Green Knowe (reread) by L.M. Boston
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
Half Magic (reread) by Edward Eager

Have you signed up for this event? What is the first book you have chosen to read?

With magic and adventure,
K

Monday, March 31, 2014

#DWJMarch: Wrap-Up


Oh no. It's the end of March and therefore, the end of DWJ March. Boo! I thought that it was another fantastic month of celebration and I hope that some of you enjoyed it too. It was a lot of fun starting a tumblr this year. I'll keep putting up DWJ stuff there throughout the year as I come across it.

Here's what I read this month:

Deep Secret - First time reading this one. I wanted to start it again almost as soon as I finished. This is already one of my favorites!
Enchanted Glass (reread) - I had fun with this one again except being a bit more bothered by that one revelation at the end than I was the other times I read the book.
Stopping for a Spell - This is a collection of three short stories for younger readers -- Chair Person, The Four Grannies, and Who Got Rid of Angus Flint? These were some of my least favorite DWJ pieces I've ever read because the adults in all of them were so loathsome!
Charmed Life (reread) - Wonderful as always. Poor Cat Chant.
Believing is Seeing: Seven Stories - I got both of the short story collections as ebooks from the library and was underwhelmed by both. I think I'm a bigger fan of DWJ novels than short stories. I did like a couple of the stories in this one enough to probably read them again later though -- Enna Hittims, What the Cat Told Me and Dragon Reserve, Home Eight.
House of Many Ways (reread) - Charmain! I think she's just fantastic. I really missed her.
The Merlin Conspiracy - First time reading this one too. I can't believe I hadn't picked up the Magid books yet but I seriously want to blame the US covers. They are quite bad. Now I own the pretty UK re-release covers and I love these stories!
The Islands of Chaldea - Boohoo. I don't want this to be Diana's final released story.
The Homeward Bounders (reread) - I had forgotten just about everything about this one so it was a fun reread.

I spent the month celebrating a wide variety of Diana's stories and worlds and it was really, really fun. I wish I could just keep going on forever and ever reading and re-reading her books. Be sure and let me know in the comments which book(s) you read this month!

I also want to say congratulations to the winners of books from my giveaway! They've already been contacted and their books are on the way.

Tif in the US is getting Fire and Hemlock and The Dark Lord of Derkholm.
Lauren in the UK is getting Year of the Griffin.
Carolina in Mexico is getting Eight Days of Luke and Enchanted Glass.

I love that I was able to have books sent all over the world. I might still have one or two books to send out too. I can't stop spreading the DWJ love!

Well, that's it for Year Three of #DWJMarch. If you have any suggestions or requests for next year, send me an email. And thank you for joining me in this celebration of Diana's life and literary legacy. Each person that wrote a post or a tweet or left a comment made this event that much better. I truly appreciate all of you (especially Anastasia, Jean, Jenny, Lauren, Amy, Chris, Tif, Carolina, Kim, Kerry, Kelly, mockturtle8, Goldeen, Heather, Trish, Hannah, Andrew, Thomas, Care, Livia and Ela).

I can't wait until next year for the 4th Annual version of DWJ March!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

#DWJMarch: Series Highlight -- Magids


Deep Secret
1997

Magids are the strongest magic users in all of the worlds and Rupert Venables is the youngest, living on Earth and in charge of the Koryfonic Empire (the assignment always given to the youngest Magid). When things start going terribly wrong in the Empire, the timing couldn't be worse. Rupert's mentor has just died and he is also responsible for recruiting the new Magid. Between trying to sort through the list of Magid candidates left for him and solving the problems of the Empire, Rupert might just be making things worse rather than better.


The Merlin Conspiracy
2003

Roddy and her friend Grundo live a unique lifestyle on the Islands of Blest, following the King as members of his court as he constantly travels his lands, keeping the magic intact. But when some of his own advisors begin scheming, they have to step up and rescue their land and the magic that threads through all of the parallel worlds with the help of an unlikely companion -- Nick Mallory (of Deep Secret).

Reviews

Books and Other Thoughts, February 2009 (Conspiracy)
Ela's Book Blog, December 2013 (Secret)
Here There Be Books, November 2008 (Secret)
Necromancy Never Pays, August 2010 (Secret)
Reading the End, February 2010 (Secret)
Reading Matters (Conspiracy)
Shelf Love, August 2010 (Conspiracy)
Someone's Read It Already, January 2009 (Conspiracy)

Share your Magids love today!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

#DWJMarch: Book Highlight -- The Game


The Game
2007
Fantasy/Mythology

Hayley lives with her Grandma and Grandad because she is an orphan. Grandma is overly strict and controlling but, if she finds him alone, Grandad will usually teach her about "forbidden" things like the solar system and cartoons. One day, he tells her about the most forbidden topic of all -- the mythosphere. This is a network of strands that circle the Earth and contain the various myths from human culture. Strands grow thick when similar myths are combined by topic. Then one day, Hayley meets a man who takes her for a walk on one of these strands. This opens up a new world to her and she is happy. Unfortunately, her grandma doesn't see this as a good thing and banishes her to an aunt's home in Scotland. As a stopping point, Hayley visits another aunt in Ireland. Here she finds a troop of cousins and she joins them in a secret game played in the mythosphere. Apparently, this is the true home of her family and Hayley soon learns that there is much more to her history than she ever knew.


Reviews

Charlotte's Library, August 2010
Here There Be Books, March 2013
Iris On Books, January 2013
Tif Talks Books, April 2012
We Be Reading, August 2009

Share your The Game love today!