"I may not know how to fly but I know how to read and that's almost the same thing."-- Gregory Maguire, Out of Oz

"...while finding true love was one of the most splendid things that could happen to you in life, finding a friend was equally splendid." -- Felix J Palma, The Map of the Sky

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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Palimpsest by Catherynne M Valente

Palimpsest is an enchanted city, beyond our own waking world, ruled over by the impetuous Casimira, Queen of the Insects. It's a place where war veterans become chimeras, where the dead are buried in bamboo, and where trains pulse with life. Four people -- Oleg the Locksmith, November the Beekeeper, Ludovico the Bookbinder, and Sei the Train Enthusiast -- are about to earn their passports to Palimpsest, through the magic of a one night stand. Those who've been to Palimpsest return with a tattoo: a map of the place they've been. The only way to get in is by having sex with someone who has been there.

But Palimpsest isn't a fairy-world. It isn't a place for those who are happy and content. This is a place where the sad and the troubled, escape to. Oleg is mentally ill; he's in love with the ghost of his dead sister. November, is OCD and alone, caretaker to her beehives. Ludovico is madly in love with his wife, but she's been cheating on him and now she's leaving him behind. And Sei is the daughter of a madwoman; after her mother's death she falls in love with trains, riding them for hours around Japan.

Palimpsest is great at solving peoples problems, giving the lucky dreamers exactly what they want. Its a place where your strongest desires are revealed and appeased. The problem with traveling to another world through your dreams, is that eventually you have to wake up. There is a way to stay in Palimpsest forever, Casimira made sure of that. It's up to November, Ludovico, Oleg and Sei to be clever enough to find their way in, permanently. They have to find the way and be willing to pay the price.

The ideas that insects are built and not born, and that there is a track run by mechanical racehorses, lends a touch of steampunk to this sexually transmitted fantasy world. And while I appreciated CMV's imagination, the beautiful imagery that made this story worth reading, also threatened the progression of the plot-line. I appreciated the use of irony toward the end of the story; as characters tracked each other down, as they began to piece together the key to entering Palimpsest, they each begin to think "I suffered, so So-n-So, could get in without suffering." A laughable idea. No one gets in unless they first suffer.This story is a tragedy with a setting as beautiful as it is monstrous, and capped off with a surprisingly cheery ending.

I tagged this as "erotic" because sex is a major plot device, but I wouldn't go so far as to call it porn.

Rating: 4/5

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Top Ten Books If You Like "Once Upon A Time"

My picks for the Tuesday Top Ten, as invented by The Broke and Bookish. This week's theme is: Top Ten Books If You Like X (tv show/movie/comic/play etc.)

I chose to do a list for those who are enjoying ABC Network's Once Upon a Time. This is the list for the young-at-hearted who can never get enough magic in their life.

  1. Betwixt by Tara Bray Smith. A group of teenagers who never fit in, find out why they fit in with each other.
  2. What-the-Dickens by Gregory Maguire. A dark and stormy night begins the story of a lost tooth-fairy.
  3. The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly. A sad little boy gets lost in world colored by the darkest fairy-tales.
  4. Enchantment by Orson Scott Card. A retelling of Sleeping Beauty. A grad student rescues a princess; an event that takes him through time to a land of wars and witches.
  5. Neverwhere by Neil Gaimen. Robert Mayhew reaches out to a young woman in need, and finds himself falling through a crack to a world beneath his own.
  6. The Flying Dutchman by Brian Jacques. Two stowaways of the famous, ill-fated ship, are cursed with immortality.
  7. The Telling Pool by David Clement-Davies. Arthurian legend of Excalibur--Rhodri Falcon must find the sword if he is to save everything he holds dear.
  8. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine. Cinderella retold.
  9. Dreams Underfoot by Charles de Lint. Short story compilation; the beginnings of the Newford series.
  10. Among Others by Jo Walton. A bookworm sent to boarding school, whose footsteps are followed by fairies and witches.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

If You're Seeing This Post...

...I'm stuck in Jury Duty this week.
Everybody's got to do it, but nobody actually likes it.
Who developed this ridiculous, miserable concept?

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Top Ten Characters Who Make Me Laugh

My picks for the Tuesday Top Ten, as invented by The Broke and Bookish. This week's theme is: Top Ten Characters Who "X" (you fill in the blank)... I chose characters who make me laugh, and although the reasons vary, the result is the same.

1. Stanley Yelnats. He had the worst luck but the best heart.

2. What-the-Dickens. The first words an orphaned tooth fairy hears, is an exclamation of "What the Dickens?" and he becomes convinced that that must be his name.

3. Elphaba. She's green and a smart ass. She loves to read.She's eccentric and a rebel. And if I'd gone to school with her, she wouldn't have rebelled alone.

4.Neville Longbottom. Socially awkward, accident prone, driven to do the right thing...If I'd have gone to school with him, we'd have been socially awkward together.

5. Gilliam Murray. He's the villian....He's just not very good at it.

6. Lord of Misrule...He is coming to Indian Mound Downs and everyone is betting on him to win...Lord of Misrule is a joke of a racehorse; old, miserable and broken...But he's owned by a Mob Family, so don't ever bet against him.

7. Angela the Herbalist. She's nuts. She's scary. She knows the future!

8. Abraham Lincoln, from Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter...I suppose I find the concept funnier than the character but it makes me laugh. It's like writing Barack Obama: Ballerina.

My 9 and 10 are from the same book:

9. The Demon, Crowley.

10. The Angel, Aziraphale.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Quotable Thurday

Just a little one today, little but powerful.
"She was the book thief without the words.
Trust me, though, the words were on their way, and when they arrived, Liesel would hold the in her hands like the clouds, and she would wring them out like the rain."
Quotable Thursday originally brought to you by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

"I've seen so many young men over the years who think they're running at other young men.
They are not.
They are running at me."

Death has a story to tell about something that happened in 1939 Nazi Germany. A story about newly orphaned Liesel Meminger and her new foster parents Hans and Rosa Hubermann. A story about Rudy Steiner, the boy who wants to steal a kiss from her, and Max Vandenburg, the Jew who lives in her basement.

This is one of those books that exceeds expectations by such a degree, I'm left awestruck. This is not what I expected from a book labeled YA. The language in this book is simple yes, which I suppose is for the benefit of the Young Adult, and about a child growing up in Nazi Germany, but the story is complex enough for the Old Adult, with a pile of emotional triggers (code for I cried...a lot).

The story itself, is narrated by Death. That Death would take notice of anything besides ferrying souls between worlds, lends the haunting narrative a hopeful touch. Death takes notice of Liesel Meminger, a nine year old girl and a survivor, who's traveling with her younger brother to meet their new parents. But Liesel's brother never finishes the journey, and so Death begins to haunt Liesel Meminger's footsteps.

Illiterate little Liesel, placed in a class with students much younger than she, covets books above all other things. She takes them when no one's looking, she learns to read them in the basement with her foster father's help. There are moments of happiness for Liesel, learning to read, finding Rudy, her partner in crime, and  sneaking a snowman through the house. Moments of youthful indiscretions and laughter followed by the horror of air raid sirens and bullies and starving men forcibly marched down the street. And while Liesel's fleeting moments of happiness encourage hope, Death never let's you forget how many people are dying while she's learning to read...

And that's the best and the worst part about this book. The happiness. The sadness. Liesel's a child who has  already experienced too much loss, so seeing her happy is a relief followed by page-turning-anxiety in the knowledge that more pain is headed her way. And when bad things start to happen, you can't help but cry at the helplessness of it all. That at the end of the day, Liesel can only keep surviving, keep living, keep trying. That no matter what happens, Death has more to do when the humans go to war...And that He will inevitably come for everyone.

As sad as this book was, and predicted itself to be, the ending was surprising. Liesel was granted some happiness at the end and that made the pain worth suffering.

Any book that can make me feel so much is worthy of 5 stars.

Rating 5/5

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Top Ten Bookish Things That I'd Like To Own

My picks for the Tuesday Top Ten, as invented by The Broke and Bookish. This week's theme: Top Ten Bookish Things (That Aren't Books) That I'd Like To Own (new bookshelves, bookends, cool bookmark, a bookish shirt, etc. You can add things you DO own if you want).

    1. Reading Room/Home Library

    2. A Bookcase in every room (I do mean every room!)

    3.These Bookends: But they're super expensive, and I'm super cheap.

    4. A Prime Membership to Amazon, so I could access the lending library.

    5. I would like a decent book light; I have one that's LED, but the light is too white, and it hurts my eyes to look at the page. Something with a soft yellow glow wouldn't suck.

    6. A purse that could safely conceal my Kindle while carrying my other purse items.

    7. A Secret Lair. Seriously, sometimes I just want a place to read where no one can find me and bother me.

    8. I would like a portal to go back in time and into a fictional world so I can warn Cedric Diggory and alter the course of events.

    9. I want the iPod Marge used in China Mieville's Kraken.

    10. And a repeat offender: I want to see one of my stories published someday.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Quotable Thursday

This week I'm reading The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. The narrator is surprising; the story beautiful and sad and hopeful (so far). While I clearly can't be trusted to present Quotable Thursday to you in any sort of reliable manner, I've got something for you today:
"Still in disbelief, she started to dig. He couldn't be dead. He couldn't be dead. He couldn't--
Within seconds, snow was carved into her skin.
Frozen blood was cracked across her hands.
Somewhere in all the snow, she could see her broken heart, in two pieces."
Quotable Thursday originally brought to you by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Hope your having a good morning (or night if you're elsewhere).

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

“They were orphans of war, washed up on that little island in a tide of blood. What made them amazing wasn't that they had miraculous powers; that they had escaped the ghettos and gas chambers was miracle enough.” ― Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, Ransom Riggs
Jacob Portman grew up on his grandfather's stories. Stories of surviving World War 2 by escaping to a mysterious island off the coast of Wales where he met all sorts of peculiar children with special abilities. At sixteen, Jacob hasn't believed the stories in a long time, but that's about to change when his grandfather is murdered by a monster. Now everyone thinks Jacob is losing his mind and his only chance at proving them wrong is to go in search of the boarding school where the the students are most peculiar.

As far as concepts go, I thought Ransom Riggs executed his beautifully. Picking out a selection of haunting photographs, to accompany a brave selection of haunted "peculiar" characters. The tension in the plot was thick, each new unanswered question leaving the hints of paranoia and curiosity in the forefront of the mind. The story wraps up with an explosive war scene and a life changing decision by the hero of the story. This is not just "another young adult novel", it's an adventure I'd encourage anyone of any age to read. Embrace the peculiarity.

Rating 4/5
Review originally posted:
May 03, 12

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Top Ten Most Unique Books I've Read

My picks for the Tuesday Top Ten, as invented by The Broke and Bookish. Today's theme, Top Ten Most Unique Books I've Read (maybe the MC was really different, maybe it was the way it was written, a very unique spin on a genre or topic, etc.).

  1. Evan Burl and The Falling by Justin Blaney. The word I would use to describe it: psychedelic. It's like reading about what I imagine a bad high would be like.
  2. The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore by Benjamin Hale. An evaluation of humanity by an animal that wants to be human.
  3. What-the Dickens by Gregory Maguire. How often do you see books about tooth-fairies?
  4. Ursula, Under by Ingrid Hill. Get to know a family by reading the story of their ancestors.
  5. Songmaster by Orson Scott Card. A obsessed emperor and an intergalactic singer whose voice is magic. And enough tragedy and betrayal to make Shakespeare proud.
  6. Handling the Undead by John Ajvide Lindqvist. I appreciated how the topic of zombies was handled from the emotional perspective of the newly-deceased's' loved ones.
  7. Ape House by Sara Gruen. I loved getting a story by the POV of a scientist who works with apes, its nice to read something about apes that isn't Peta-propaganda...What's more I loved being appalled by the misconceptions and abuses portrayed in this book and how the bonobos wound up on reality tv because really; reality tv is kind of disgusting and I could totally see this happening in real life.
  8. Abraham Lincoln:Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith. So books like these aren't really unique anymore, the blending of biographical fact with extreme fiction, but since this is the first and only one of it's kind that I've ever read, I'm saying it counts.
  9. Animal Farm by George Orwell. Despite the fact that I hated the book, I am a big enough person to acknowledge there is a reason why this story of farm animals turned communists has earned its place among classic literature.
  10. Kraken by China Mieville. Sci-fi/fantasy/mystery, about a stolen Cephalopod and the craziest cults imaginable that want to get the end of the world under way.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Meaning of Night by Michael Cox

Booklover and scholar, Edward Glyver, starts his story with murder and delusions of grandeur. To his own mind, Edward Glyver should have been a great man, but that future was stolen from him by his arch-nemesis Phoebus Rainsford Daunt. Now nothing will deter him from seeking out vengeance against the man who ruined his life.

It was okay. It started great, don't get me wrong. The plot, the long winded descriptions, the well timed confrontations or lack there-of... If you like Victorian storytelling this started in brilliant style, like a firecracker set loose in a library.

But by the time I hit page 500 or so, I began flipping forward to see how much longer I had to actually read. I began having to psych myself up to make myself keep going. Instead of being pulled along, I started clawing at the pages, looking for a way out. And when I finally hit the last page, I thought "Thank you God! It’s over!"

The problem isn’t that the book was slow. Most of the Victorian-styled or era books I've read have been slow. There is supposed to be a bit of poetry and patience and understanding. It is not that the book was long. I love a good long read... A story that I can really climb inside of. It was the combination of long and slow. There came a point in time, when Edward Glyver stopped appealing to me and I just wanted it over. I hate to make corrections to anyone's hard work, but the reality is if this plot-line had taken place in the modern world, or a futuristic one, the story probably would have flowed more and ebbed less.

Rating 2/5
Review originally posted:
Apr 30, 12

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Top Ten "Gateway" Books/Authors

My picks for the Tuesday Top Ten, as invented by The Broke and Bookish.  Today's theme, Top Ten "Gateway" Books/Authors In My Reading Journey (so your list could be a mix of a books that got you into reading, an author that got you into reading a genre you never thought you'd read, a book that brought you BACK into read).

Today's list is really small; because there isn't much I don't read...Which makes the books' gateway status  so much more impressive.

The Map of Time by Felix J Palma --I picked this book up because the cover was beautiful and the summary sounded intriguing. Historical-fiction meets science fiction. I didn't know at the time, that the prose would be beautiful, the themes intense and well thought out, and I certainly didn't know this would be the book to introduce me too, and get me hooked on, Steampunk.

 Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist -- When I was a kid, I gave a Stephen King book a shot... Personally, I didn't like his writing style. When I was a teen, I read Bram Stoker and thought Dracula was shockingly beautiful for a horror. But for the most part, I stay'd away from horror novels. Until I found Let the Right One In and John Ajvide Lindqvist. I love the complexity of his characters, the emotional attachments that surround his villians. And now, I walk into the Horror section of bookstores with confidence, looking for scares that are more than the sum of their plot twists...But mostly looking for Lindqvist-New-Releases.

 The Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer -- I know what you're thinking... That book? But what you have to understand, is up until this book, I hated Romance and all its sub-genres with a passion that defied all logic. When this book was first rec'd to me, I said, No way in Hell! But then a year later, I was bored and got it on clearance anyway.

The trick to loving this book, is not overthinking it. You overthink and you start to notice things, like the writing isn't that good, the characters are kind of flat, Bella and Edward's relationship could be consider kind of unhealthy...Underthink it instead and what you have is a contemporary fairy-tale with vampires, complete with happily-forever-after, and that's just kind of refreshing in a world where bad things happen for no good reason, divorce is at an all time high, and sex sells faster than free puppies.

At least now, when people recommend me a book that turns out to be Romance, I give it a shot. Because you never know what a particular author's point of view, will or won't do for you. And if it turns out the book isn't good, and the author's clearly an imbecile, I can always close it and donate it.