Thursday, June 28, 2012

Persy -- Wednesday Scrolls -- RAMFAP Is Closing In!

This'll be a short and sweet post, because I'm still in Ireland and I kind of need to get some sleep and journal and read some and do my Bible study and... yeah. But this is important too.

RAMFAP is right around the corner! Are you ready? I'm ready! I have Evil Genius and Graceling in my suitcase just waiting for July 1st. What books are you going to start RAMFAP off with? How many books do you hope to read?

I'm not exactly sure what I'll be doing on Sunday (I'll be in Dublin), but I hope a good part of it will be spent curled up somewhere with a favorite book. And then Monday I'll have the whole 8 hour flight to read as well!

So what about YOU?


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Arty -- Thor's Wedding Day by Bruce Coville

Oh, gosh.  Did I just do a Coville review earlier?  Well, it was an anthology... just bear with me.  It's been a looong week or so (hence my lateness).

I'm a newborne Norse nerd. (Say that three times fast.)  The new Marvel movies have NOTHING to do with that.  No, seriously, they - yes, I'm lying my mouth off.  They may have had something to do with it.  But I promise, the Norse mythology is even better than Marvel.  Especially since you don't have to deal with Black Widow on the side...


Thor's Wedding Day is based off of the Norse legend where Thor, well, has to get married.  Sort of.  See, his great hammer, Mjollnir, has been stolen by a Jotun (frost giant).  This Jotun, Thrym, wants to marry Freya, goddess of beauty and love, in exchange for the hammer.

The trouble is, Freya doesn't want to marry Thrym.  Even to get Mjollnir back. (Aside from beauty and love and whatnot, Freya may as well be the goddess of hot tempers and stubbornness.)  No matter... why not dress Thor up as Freya in order to get into Jotunheim and retrieve the hammer?

Why not, indeed.

This is one of my favorite Norse myths for many reasons - not the least of which being the image of Thor and Loki (who accompanies Thor) dressed up as bride and lady-in-waiting, respectively.  So I was expecting a lot, even though here Coville adds a new character to the tale - Thialfi, the goat boy, by whom the story is told.  Thialfi isn't Coville's creation - Thialfi became Thor's servant in another Norse story - but he wasn't in this tale's original.  So adding him felt a little like cheating.

Still, it was an amusing little book (at under 200 pages with big type, it only took an hour or so to read).  It's a fairly straightforward retelling, with passable style and pretty good characters.  I mean, it would take a giant-sized idiot (no pun intended) to mess up the characters of Thor and Loki, especially when they're put together.

Thialfi wasn't a bad narrator, just typical.  Young, a trifle naive, yet somehow intrepid enough to save the day... yep, typical.  To be honest, I was more interested in the actions and reactions of Thor and Loki, but that's just because I'm addicted to those two.

The side characters were standard, though I liked how Coville brought in the goat that Thialfi, in his tale, crippled by eating his bone marrow. (Just... don't ask.  Read the story.)  Interesting reaction, there.  Talking goats pwn, anyway.  Talking goats with a grudge pwn even more.

And then the ending was cute.  Basically, that sums up the whole book.  Cute.  Nothing really new (aside from the fact that it's a kid's Norse myth retelling, which you don't see a lot of).  If you're a Norse fiend like myself, then you should read it just because it exists.  But... well, you won't miss out on a lot if you don't.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Arty -- As Easy As Falling Off the Face Of the Earth by Lynne Rae Perkins

(Hey, guys!  Sorry about the lack of review last week - busyness... and Persy's jaunted off to Ireland again, so you have to put up with me for two more Saturdays after this.  Or, y'know, Sundays.  Mondays.  Whenever my brain tells me to remember.

Anyway.  Onto the review.)

It's not that hard to fall off the face of the earth.  That's what fourteen-year-old Ry finds out when he misses his train to camp, his phone dies, and he finds himself stuck out in the middle of nowhere.  In the middle of nowhere, with nowhere to go, and no way to get in contact with his parents (who are on their own vacation around the world).

You can get anywhere with the help of some good friends, though.  Or, in Ry's case, one really, really good friend.

Del, a strange but compassionate man who finds Ry wandering around town with a single shoe, is one such friend.

And thus begins a convoluted tale of finding home and finding yourself.

Like my attempt at being dramatic and poetic and stuff?  Yeah, neither did I.  Onto the actual review.

The thing about Falling is that I don't usually like stuff like this - realistic fiction.  No elves or spaceships or special powers or anything, just regular people doing some regular stuff.  Except that Falling isn't realistic fiction.  It's not regular people doing regular stuff.  It's like... I don't even know how to explain it.  No magic?  No.  No magic?  I dunno, because this is such an unlikely, utterly fun story that sometimes I think there might be magic involved.

If there is, Del is the main purveyor.  Del is such a fun character.  Kind of old, kind of young; kind of insane, kind of overly sane; kind of selfless, kind of selfish.  Kind of a study in contrasts.  By the time the book ended, I was totally in love with him.  He goes to ridiculous lengths to help Ry, a kid he barely knows, and it doesn't feel... fake.  It feels like what he would do.  Del is just the best mentor/ally/combination of both ever.  Well, not ever, but in a book like this.

And Ry!  Ry is adorable!  He's always just kind of along for the ride, but then his voice is so... cute.  He's whatever but not apathetic.  It's like he doesn't really mind... it doesn't really get to him.  He's a very calm guy without being annoyingly zen and mature.  I want to hug him.  And then there's Lloyd, Ry's grandfather, who is almost as adorable as Ry.  And then the dog cartoons, which were pretty much squeal-worthy.  Adorable dogs.

The style, too, is adorable.  It's quirky - take Lemony Snicket's hilarious and playful word art, Wendelin Van Draanen's wry observational tone, and a sprinkling of Jonathan Stroud for the awesome author's interjections and footnotes.  Van Draanen and Stroud, two of my favorite authors - of course it'll be awesome!

There are some plot holes to be found.  Some characters that were introduced, made likable, and then discarded for the rest of the book.  And the end was pretty abrupt.  I was expecting that - most books like this have tough endings, and this, I can imagine, was tougher than usual.  Maybe it didn't take away too much because I was expecting it, but either way, it wasn't too grating - not as grating as it could be.

So, if you need a break from your typical YA stuff about intense love and the world's possible end, or if you just need a nice relaxing beach read for the summer, take a break for As Easy As Falling Off The Face Of The Earth.  It's just so much fun.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Wednesday Scrolls -- May Review!

Hey guys! This is Persy talking. Ready for our review of May?

I read a total of 17 books (7 of which were manga/graphic novels) and 4704 pages! My best count this year! Which is good, 'cause I know I'm going to do awful in June due to my being out of the country for half of the month.

Best May Book: It's a tie between World War Z by Max Brooks and The One And Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. World War Z is a work of genius, intense and terrifying and wonderfully written. 'Ivan' is adorable, charming, and wonderfully written. I love them both in completely different ways.

Honorable Mention: Also a tie. Volume 1 of I Am Here! by Ema Toyama is amazing, as is A Benjamin Franklin Reader compiled and annotated by Walter Isaacson.

Worst May Book: Rogue by Rachel Vincent. Stupid, stupid chars. Unfortunately, the plot is very good, so I can't label this book as a complete failure.

Dishonorable Mention: I suppose it would be the first volume of Battle Royale by Koushun Takami and Masayuki Tayuchi (it's very meh).

Like I said, I'll be gone for half the month of June, so my book and page count will be considerably lower than this month. But after that, it's RAMFAP!!


Hola, chaps.  Arty here.  I actually got a lot of reading done in May - 32 books, and I'm rather proud of myself.  Though three of those were manga and two were comic books/graphic novels.  Still, that's pretty good.

Guess what, guys!  I got a Very Favorites Bookshelf!  It's awesome and prettyful.  I painted it green and black and silvery-gold.  So technically it's a Loki As A Slytherin-Style Very Favorites Bookshelf.  But for brevity's sake I'll just call it Jon.  It's got room for aaaall my Very Favorites, as well as my collections of Shakespeare, Diana Wynne Jones, and Robin Hood. (Completely random?  Yes.  Completely awesome?  HECK YES.)

Best May Book: Genius Wars by Catherine Jinks has to take this, just for breaking my heart and stomping on the pieces.  Not a lot of books make me feel so dang much, and they always end up on my Very Favorites Bookshelf.

Honorable Mention: Tie between Swear To Howdy by Wendelin Van Draanen and D'Aulaire's Book of Norse Myths by Ingri and Edgar d'Aulaire.  Swear To Howdy is sweet and funny and a little bit agonizing.  Norse Myths is just FUN.  I mean, stop stampeding towards Greek and Roman tales for entertainment and read about Asgard.  You will not go back.

Worst May Book:  Probably The Endless Steppe by Esther Hautzig.  It wasn't bad - none of my May books were really bad at all - but it just wasn't overly interesting.  Which makes me feel bad, because it's technically a biography.  But still.  I can't wait till I finish up all my history books...

Dishonorable Mention: ...Probably Escape From Warsaw by Ian Serraillier, which is... another school book.  Gosh.  Maybe I should stop counting these.

Here's to another great month of June reading!


Sunday, June 3, 2012

Persy -- Cast In Shadow by Michelle Sagara

Kaylin Neya has a past (don't we all?). But she's trying to forget it. Now, she tells herself, she is a Hawk, serving the land of Elantra. Hawks are the eyes and ears of Elantra, serving to maintain the peace along with the Swords and Wolves (it's complicated, I think... that or just badly explained in the book). But it's hard to escape your past when you've got strange powers that don't go along with anything the Mages understand, and when your arms are covered in strange markings.

It's also hard when the nightmare from your past appears, and you're supposed to work alongside him. And a Dragon. Yeah.

Okay, so it's hard to sum up this book with a dramatic, realistic tone, so let's try it this way: Kaylin grew up in the Fiefs, a basically lawless group of lands each ruled by a Fieflord. There, mysterious and terrifying killings began, and all the victims had the same markings as Kaylin. But when she was thirteen, she managed to escape into Elantra, where she began serving the empire by becoming a Hawk.

But then one day, she is assigned a new mission by the Hawklord to go back to the Nightshade, the fief where she grew up, to investigate the reappearance of the murders of marked children. And her two partners are Severn, the boy she grew up with in the Nightshade (who did something REALLY BAD, but we don't get to know what that was until halfway through the book, so I won't say anything), and Lord Tiamaris, a member of the Dragon Caste (they aren't fully explained until later in the book either, so... no spoilers). Supposedly, both Severn and Tiamaris have become Hawks, but Severn might as well be a criminal, and Dragons never become Hawks.

Hijinks ensue. Yeehaw.

Okay, I sound sarcastic, but I actually did enjoy Cast In Shadow. Well, mostly. I would've enjoyed it if the writing was...better. It felt very much like a rough draft, like it could've been amazing if Michelle Sagara had just gone over it a few times. There were random sentences in there that were probably put in for poeticness, but they just made things confusing and cluttered. On the other hand, most of the writing was un-cluttered. There wasn't nearly enough description, and I had to fill in most of the gaps with my imagination and hope I was close to the truth.

For instance... how the heck do they get from Elantra to the Fiefs? Everytime they'd go it seemed like they just walked over and it took about five minutes. If the Fiefs are lawless and so hard for the Dragon Emperor (who I think rules Elantra? It was hard to tell) to control, then shouldn't they be a little farther away than NEXT DOOR?

There's also a lot of chitchat, which seems to be how most of the explaining is done. Oftentimes, I couldn't tell who was speaking, either.

The characters are pretty cool though, for the most part. Lord Tiamaris is freakin' awesome. FREAKIN' AWESOME, I SAID!! *glomps him*

Ahem, anyway.

Severn is just okay. Bit of a cliché, but he pulls it off passably. Lord Nightshade (ruler of Nightshade) is pretty cool. And then we get to Kaylin Neya. Heh.

Basically, she's pretty darn stupid, but that makes her kind of endearing. I mean, everyone knows she's stupid, and I love how she's not one of the big shots at Hawk HQ. She's lowest of the low, always late, never proper, and never really knows what's going on. She failed pretty much every class in Hawk school, which gives everyone else the excuse to explain things to the reader.

Though sometimes, they don't explain. She'll say something stupid, and the other people will look at each other and go "You didn't tell her?" "Of course not." "Okay, let's leave it that way." and they'll just carry on with their lives. It gives the impression that Michelle Sagara hasn't really figured out the details yet.

Like I said, rough draft.

There are like, five more books in the Elantra series, so maybe she'll get around to explaining a few things. I'm hoping her writing gets better too. The second book is called Cast In Courtlight, which sounds absolutely stupid, but by "Court" they mean the Barrani High Court, so maybe it'll cool after all (the Barrani are one of the high races, along with the humans and Dragons and... other people I can't remember). Although with her stupidity, I don't see how Kaylin would last two seconds in a Court, much less a Barrani one.


You might like this if you: like fantasy worlds like Poison Study (Maria V. Snyder) or Graceling (Kristin Cashore); are looking for a fantasy book that's not very typical; have a fondness for unattractive covers (I really don't like this cover, I'm sorry); if you like awesome Dragon people (WE LOVE YOU, TIAMARIS); or if you have a fondness for vampires, dragons, or zombies and want to read every single book that so much as mentions them.