Friday, January 27, 2012

Persy -- Marco's Millions by William Sleator

We've all been in that sticky situation where you find something creepy in your basement. We've all experienced that terror and uncertainty, but Lilly's got something we don't. Her brave older brother, Marco.

Lilly's always been a bit strange. She...knows things. Oh, you're missing a sock? You dropped it behind your bed. Where's Marco? He went for a walk in the park. What's the secret you've been hiding from everyone? Lily knows. But Lilly's very timid and shy, so when she finds the strange glowing lights on the wall in the basement, she fetches her brother Marco.

Marco can't see the lights, but when he reaches out (under Lilly's instruction), his hands go right through the wall! It is in fact a portal to another world, a strange and frightening one full of strange and frightening creatures...who want Lilly.

As things unfold, it turns out that the other world is in terrible danger, danger that could also affect Earth. So Lilly and Marco set out to solve the problem, but with a vast time difference between the two worlds (five minutes in the alien world is an entire afternoon on Earth), will they be able to save the universe in time?

William Sleator is, without a doubt, one of the greatest authors of all time. He's the man who brought us Interstellar Pig and the horrifying House of Stairs. And despite a slow beginning, Marco's Millions is another amazing piece of literature.

While it seems like something for a younger audience, it gets so intense at the end that I really couldn't put it down all afternoon. The characters may be a bit two-dimensional, but there's so much action going on that anything more about the characters would just clutter up the book. Mr. Sleator knows when to focus on the plot.

And don't get me started on time travel. It's a dangerous and tragic thing, and absolutely awesome when in the right hands. And let me tell you, Mr. Sleator definitely owns a good pair. While it is a bit awkward when he suddenly starts throwing in heavier scientific terms (singularity, complex time difference equations), it's very easy to get past. Only for a moment do you stop and go, "Wait, what?"

This is actually a prequel to Mr. Sleator's earlier novel, The Boxes, which is quite good, but not nearly as good as "Marco". Nevertheless, "Marco" holds a certain hint of awesome that only comes into effect if you've already read The Boxes, so I'd recommend reading that first if you can get your hands on both books.

I'm also very sad to report that William Sleator died last year on August 3rd in Thailand (apparently he had a house there). He will be sorely missed.


You might like this if you: like time travel; like other William Sleator novels; like books like Last Stop; are a fan of scifi, but not the hard stuff; or if you have a dark and scary basement.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Arty -- The Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo

You see that little silver medal on the cover of the book? That should have warned me. But I love The Tale of Despereaux, so I gave Kate DiCamillo a chance. Bad choice.

Rob's mother is dead, and his father might as well be, as closed up as he is toward Rob. One might say they live together at the ratty Kentucky Star motel in Florida, but what they do can't really be considered 'living.'

Then Rob meets two new friends. The first can't really be considered a friend - a beautiful tiger, caged somewhere in the middle of the thick Florida forests. The second is Sistine, a troubled girl who can't wait to get out of the south.

Against all odds (ha ha), these three are going to get out of their respective cages with each others' help.

...Maybe. Then again, maybe not.

The main problem lies with this book's length. At 128 pages, with big font and wide spacing, it's a tiny, tiny story without enough space to really develop anyone. And it shows. I despised all the characters - even the tiger. How can I dislike a tiger? I don't know. But I did. Its symbol of the caged spirit was so ham-fisted I just wanted it to go away.

However, the most annoying thing I picked out of The Tiger Rising was Sistine, the prerequisite 'inspirational' girl. I find they're irritating on a general basis, but Sistine... holy guacamole, she's despicable. Angry and pushy and bossy and disrespectful and AUGH. Someone tell Rob that not all girls are like that and that he shouldn't take a cue from beautiful Miss Sistine. The first time Sistine said 'I hate the South,' I despised her, but I thought she'd get better. Not at all. She pretty much stays the same. All the way through.

It's a good thing I was reading a library book. Otherwise I might have taken a knife to it.

Besides Sistine, the whole plot was just too underdeveloped. A tiger in the forest? Okay. I won't say why it's there, but the reason is incredibly unlikely. I'm always willing to suspend my disbelief - to a point. This stretched that point.

Everything that happened was so hazy in that slice-of-life, everything-is-significant way that I don't really remember what happened. Except that I was bored to death. And that I wanted to kill Sistine, and sometimes Beauchamp (the villain), and sometimes Rob's dad. And sometimes Rob himself.

And the ending. Don't get me started on the ending. Just... why? After setting up the tiger as the symbol of freedom, and then DiCamillo did... that to it? I realize that some reality is needed, but honestly. The whole set-up was just so cheesy and so contrived.

I really expected better. But I guess that's why you don't judge an author by one book. Read The Tale of Despereaux instead.

Friday, January 13, 2012

2011 In Hindsight

I'd say welcome to 2012, but Persy already took care of that.  We didn't have fireworks.  And I was ill-ish for the first two days.  But I've read some awesome books since then, so everything is juuuust fiiiiine now.

But that's for the end of this month.  
In 2011, my goal was 250, and I read 256 books.  Go me!  Anyway.  Thirty-three of these were manga.  This is all adds up to about 66,223 pages. (I say 'about' because I used Goodreads to see how many pages I read, and some of my books are different editions and therefore have different page numbers.)

The first book I read was Mere Christianity, by the inimitable C.S. Lewis. (It was awesome.) On the complete opposite of the spectrum, the last book I read was Fruits Basket Volume 15, by Natsuki Takaya. (This was also awesome.)  The longest book I read was Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia.

Unlike Persy, I managed to narrow down my best books quite easily.  On the other hand, it took ages to narrow down my worst books.  2011 was a rather lousy year.  But the books that are on this list are definitely the kind that make you shout "YOU'VE JUST BEEN AWESOMED!" So take notice of these 11 books.

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card.  It's a long book, and sometimes it can feel really. really. slow.  But it's really. really. awesome.  Definitely a thought-wired book.  Ender is one of the best MCs ever.  READ IT.

Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen.  Boy meets girl, girl loves boy, boy terrified of girl.  Then chickens.  Lots of chickens.  READ IT.

Mira, Mirror by Mette Ivie Harrison.  A dark continuation of Snow White, from the Mirror's perspective, with a bit of Beauty and the Beast thrown in.  READ IT.

A Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare.  Two sets of twins who don't know each other exists in the same city - by Shakespeare.  The funniest guy who ever lived.  READ IT.

Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George.  A fantastic story about dragons, embroidery, and shoes.  READ IT.

Thirteenth Night by Alan Gordon.  Absolutely awesome continuation of Twelfth Night by Shakespeare.  All I have to say is: jesters.  READ IT.

The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer.  A "character-driven dystopian/sci-fi" novel that totally wins at everything (except maybe the ending, but it's not that bad).  Drugs and mind control.  So awesome.  READ IT.

Enchanted Glass by the amazing, awesome, uber-talented, and sadly late Diana Wynne Jones.  A young orphan escapes to an old house, in hopes of getting help from the old man there, while the new keeper of the said house struggles against the old servants still working there.  And then magic comes in.  Diana Wynne Jones is not an author to miss.  READ IT.

Heroes of the Valley by the also amazing Jonathan Stroud.  Something like a retelling, something like an expansion, and something like an improvement on old Norse mythology.  Jonathan Stroud is another author not to miss.  READ IT.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.  Oh my goodness.  It's long, but it's so, so, so worth it.  For once a book has earned the hype it gets - honestly, it doesn't have ENOUGH hype.  I can't sum it up, but there is one thing to mention: it's narrated by Death.   Yes.  It is awesome.  READ IT. 

The End of Time by P.W. Catanese.  I'm cheating because this is the third book of the oh-so-awesome Books of Umber trilogy.  But it's - yes - SO AWESOME.  I can't even begin to describe it, because you really need to read the first two books.  But that's okay, because they're all awesome.  As an incentive, you should know that I am not a crier.  I don't cry at anything.  But I sobbed thirty minutes straight after finishing this book.  READ. THE. TRILOGY.

And now for the worst-of.  Seriously, stay away from these.

Just Ella by Margaret Peterson Haddix.  A really boring, really annoying continuation of Cinderella.  Haddix is a good author, but every author has their bad days.

Sons of Thunder by Susan May Warren.  A romance book that could have been interesting had not the main three characters been such BORING IDIOTS.  

Fallen by Lauren Kate.  Yet another YA Paranormal Fauxmance where the bad people are the good guys and the good people are the bad guys.  Not to mention it was boring as heck.

Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick.  Again, YA Paranormal Fauxmance where NOTHING. HAPPENED. except that the heroine angsted about her twu wuv.  Who, really, is as bad as he admits to being and she should just get rid of him once and for all.

The Princess And The Hound by Mette Ivie Harrison.  Interesting how one author can be on both lists, eh?  Anyway, there wasn't really much wrong with this except that... nothing happened.  I really don't remember what it was about.  Except a princess and a hound and a prince.  

My Soul To Take by Rachel Vincent.  Just another, yes, Paranormal Fauxmance with the Requisite Bad Boy somehow knowing 'she's the one.'  And a stupid villain.  

Reckless by Cornelia Funke.  Yes, Cornelia Funke is on the Worst Books list.  I'm sorry, Ms. Funke - maybe the problem was in translation - but this was a really unemotional book.  None of the characters were fleshed out.  So you really didn't care what happened.

I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore.  I know Persy said it wasn't bad, but... ugh.  SO BORING.  And insta-romance.  And predictability.  Sigh. 

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer.  Same old, same old.  Boring paranormal fauxmance.  To be honest, it's better than most of its descendants, but it's still not worth reading. 

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia.  OH MY GOSH WHEN IS THE INSTA-LOVE TREND GOING TO EEEEEEEEEEEEEND.  And over 550 pages for... what?  Ethan girly-angsting about Lena?  Good GRIEF.

Wings by Aprilynne Pike.  I don't have enough negative things to say about this.  Not enough.  Horrible heroine, horrible love interests, horrible plot, horrible messages, horrible villains.  Just... STAAAAY AWAAAAAY.

I'm going to cheat again.  Here are my top five series to read:

- Fruits Basket manga by Natsuki Takaya.  A family cursed by the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac, who turn into their respective animals whenever they're hugged by a member of the opposite sex.  So funny and so awesome.

- The Gideon Trilogy by Linda Buckley-Archer.  Great little time-travel series with awesome characters.

- Fullmetal Alchemist manga by Hiromu Arakawa.  Sort of an alternate-reality, sci-fi/fantasy, almost dystopian kind of manga with, yes, AMAZING CHARACTERS.  So awesome.

- How To Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell.  First two or three books are good, nothing special.  Then you get into it.  It's so good.  There are nine books now, though only eight are released in the US (Cowell is British).  Read all of them.

- The Westmark Trilogy by Lloyd Alexander.  Alexander is more well-known for the Chronicles of Prydain, but I prefer this trilogy head and shoulders over Prydain.  Even with his signature quirky characters, it's much more mature than the rest of his books, and he's very good at mature.  Read them all.

So that was my 2011 in books.  Love any of the nominees?  Hate them?  (Not that I care if you hate them - you just have bad taste, then - but anyway...) 

Monday, January 9, 2012

Persy -- Bitten by Kelley Armstrong

Let me just warn you. I'm about to start another senseless rant. I'll probably swear some. And shout. Possibly mention a few unrelated things.

"Elena Michaels seems like the typically strong and sexy modern woman." Have I ever mentioned how much I hate the back of books? They're usually ridiculous, which is why I don't apy attention to them most of the time. I briefly decided to go into book designing to make the covers less misleading, because it got so freakin' annoying.

Elena Michaels is the typical adult urban fantasy heroine. Whining about being a werewolf. Whine whine whine whine WHINE WHINE WHINE SHUT UP ALREADY!!

Ahem. Anyway. Elena, the only female werewolf in the world (in the WORLD!), leaves her pack and goes off to live a 'human' life, which apparently means getting a nice boyfriend and a job and being in general a very nice and boring woman.

I'm briefly going to take another detour and mention that Elena's image of 'normal' is the image I most hate. She seems to think that if she wears the right clothes and says the right things and acts the right way, she'll be normal and acceptable and good. I hate this. Looking a certain way does not make you a good person, and acting one way when you're really completely different doesn't make you that person either. If you want to actually be a good person, try and make yourself a better person.

Back to the book. Elena gives us some totally interesting flashbacks for about a two hundred pages or so, detailing her tragic history of abuse and foster parents (reeeal interesting stuff, let me tell you) and the entire histories of everyone else in her Pack before we finally get around to anything plot-related. Basically, some rogue werewolves are prowling around causing a ruckus, and it takes over 400 pages to do ANYTHING about it.

Instead of focusing on this problem, Kelley Armstrong decided to have Elena snuggling up and being all lovey-dovey with Clay, who is Elena's ex-fiancé and the one who turned her into a werewolf. So even though Elena's always declaring how much she hates his guts, she pretty much jumps into bed with him as soon as she returns to the pack to help deal with the rogue werewolves. And the whole time, she's barely remembering her boyfriend back in Toronto, where she lives her 'human' life. And then, whenever Clay tries to get serious about getting back together with her, she shouts her freakin' head off and won't listen to a word he says because he's "sooooo evil". I really hate her guts.

...Uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuugh I really reall REALLY hate her guts.

So near the end at the big climactic whatever, when Clay's been kidnapped and might die, Elena freaks out completely, but keeps telling everyone it's not because she loves him, she just knows how important Clay is to the Pack. But THEN, when she's frantically trying to free Clay before they're both murdered, she has this inspirational moment that goes like this...

"As I met his eyes, I knew how wrong I'd been. I didn't come back here for Jeremy or the Pack. I came to get him back for me. Because I loved him, loved him so much I'd risk everything for the faintest hope of saving him. Even now, as I realized he was right, that there wasn't time to get him out, I knew I wouldn't leave him there. I'd rather die."

Then die already, you stupid woman.

And there was obviously time to get him out, because you got him out pretty easily and lived happily ever after.

And another thing I can't stand about Kelley Armstrong's writing is that it takes her FOREVER to say anything! Her paragraphs are HUGE and pretty much say the same thing OVER and OVER and OVER and OVER again!

*bangs head against wall some more, moans* Whyyyyyy can't people write good urban fantasy heroines...

Okay, enough about that $&!%. On a completely unrelated note, I have yet another blog for you guys to check out. Persy's Map Of Anime isn't really a blog, more just a place where I'll be posting links for anime whenever I have the time, because it can get really difficult to find good places for anime.

On another unrelated, I GOT SOME AWESOME SHOES. Be jealous. I'll be putting pictures on my blog Practicing Procrastination at some point, because these shoes are just so awesome. Seriously.

Be very jealous.


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Persy -- 2011 Book Party!

Welcome to 2012! Do I really need to say that I felt like a time traveler last night, when all my friends in Ireland were celebrating the new year, and yet I was still back in 2011? How epic is that?

My reading goal for 2011 was 180 books. I was about twenty books short halfway through December, so I went on a major reading marathon reading tons of novellas and manga, and I REACHED MY GOAL! Of course, now I've practically read myself sick, so I'm not sure when I'll next finish a book, but oh well.

So in 2011, I read 180 books. 17 were comic books of some sort, and 29 were manga. The first book I finished in 2011 was Tales of H.P. Lovecraft, by...well, H.P. Lovecraft. And the last book I finished in 2011 was Fractured Fables, an anthology collected by Jim Valentino and Kristen K. Simon. Funny how I started and ended the year with anthologies (and I'm not even big on anthologies). Now let's talk about some of the highlights!

I thought it'd be cool to have 11 best books of 2011, buuut... I couldn't narrow it down that far. I had to get rid of several awesome books just to get to 13, so you'll just have to deal with it.


Dracula by Bram Stoker. Some people say Dracula is dull and tedious, but I love it. Sure, it takes a while, but it is so worth it. Especially if you read the Jae Lee illustrated version. Gorgeous. This is probably the best vampire novel of all time.

Going Bovine by Libba Bray. Mad cow disease. Punk angel. Dwarf. Road trip. Need I say more? If I do, then go read the review I wrote back in march.

The Ratastrophe Catastrophe by David Lee Stone. I reviewed this one in July, so feel free to read the longer version. Let's just say it's a hilarious, adventuresome retelling of the Pied Piper fairy tale.

Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George. There's nothing quite like a good fantasy novel with dragons, and Dragon Slippers is one of the best. An awesome main character (who sews) and some trully awesome dragons, and a SUPER awesome ending!

The Courtney Crumrin books by Ted Naifeh. These graphic novels get better and better. Courtney is an awesome character, and it's amazing watching how she grows through the stories. The art's very cool too.

Graceling by Kristin Cashore. Katsa is one of the few female main characters who can go all kick-ass on the reader and still be cool. And a main character makes the book.

Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare. Of course I love all of Shakespeare's work, but Twelfth Night is one of my favorites, and it's the one I picked to go on the list. I have a thing for jesters, and the jester in Twelfth Night is awesome.

Ouran High School Host Club manga series by Bisco Hatori. Everyone knows that I'm obsessed with Ouran High School Host Club, anime and manga both. It's my dream to have a rose backdrop in my room so I can pose and quote the series more dramatically. So far my favorite volume is Vol. 4, in which the members of the host club do Alice In Wonderland. It's a retelling to rival even Into The Looking Glass.

Companions Of The Night by Vivian Vande Velde. It's possible I've mentioned this one every year, but that's because it stays awesom every time I read it. It doesn't get old. Ever. It's awesome. I love it. Best YA vampire book. Go read it. NOW NOW NOW.

The League series by Sherrilyn Kenyon. Everyone knows I'm infatuated with Sherrilyn Kenyon's league series. In 2011 I reread the first three and read the newest one, Born of Shadows, for the first time. Epicness! I've reviewed the first two, so I'll try and get the last two in sometime.

Vurt by Jeff Noon. This is a very strange, surreal novel. It's a bit disgusting. It's rather intense. And it's very, very good.

The Time Machine by H.G. Wells. Everyone knows I love time travel (when done well, of course). And behold, the mother of time travel stories! It's intense, it's horrifying, and it's wonderful!

The Zombie Powder manga series by Tite Kubo. My new favorite manga series. The art is very nice and very clear, and I really, really love the main character, Gamma Akutabi. I hope the rest of the volumes are just as good as the first.

**Honorable Mentions** These are all the pour souls that wouldn't fit into my Best Of. Feel free to ask about any of them!

Thirteen Days To Midnight (Patrick Carman); Dragon's Bait (Vivian Vande Velde); The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald); Nightlight (Harvard Lampoon); Weird Henry Berg (Sarah Sargent); Fire (Kristin Cashore); Tegami Bachi series (Hiroyuki Asada); Interstellar Pig (William Sleator); You Smell Dead (Chris P. Flesh); The Three Musketeers (Alexandre Dumas); Flatland (Edwin A. Abbott); Eureka Seven series (Jinsei Kataoka and Kazuma Kondou); Jabberwocky & Other Poems (Lewis Carroll); Astérix comics (Rene Goscinny); Poison Study (Maria V. Snyder); Holes (Louis Sachar); Carry On, Mr. Bowditch (Jean Lee Latham); Being Dead (Vivian Vande Velde. Actually, just go read all of her stuff).


Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin. A female forensic scientist in the middle ages?

Fire Study by Maria V. Snyder. Poison Study is sooo good...and the third book is so awful. Ugh. Don't go anywhere near it.

The Stargazer by Michele Jaffe. I love Bad Kitty, but Michele Jaffe's earlier adult novels are just...not so great. Stubborn, idiotic characters and a rather weak plot that doesn't really have anything to do with anything.

Cowboys & Aliens by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg and Dennis Calero. I read it 'cause the movie was awesome, but the comic book has nothing to do with the movie and is actually really awful.

Death Island by Joan Conning Afman. Oh my gosh I could not finish it. It's awful. So, so awful. This guy gets banished to this island, and his first escape plan is to build an airplane.

So how did YOU do in 2011, and how do you hope to do in 2012? My goal is to read either 181 books or 45,000 pages. Good luck to you all!