Thursday, June 18, 2015

Persy -- Cut by Patricia McCormick

Callie is in a residential treatment facility for young women called Sea Pines. Except they all just call it Sick Minds. Most of her fellow patients are there for eating disorders or drug addictions. But none of them know why Callie is there. Callie doesn't speak. Not to the other patients, not to the doctors, not to the nurses. These days, even when she tries to speak, she can't make anything come out.

But then one day there's a new patient: Amanda. Amanda cuts herself and is unashamed. She doesn't hide the scars -- she flaunts them. Not like Callie, who hides in her long sleeves and her silence.

In the outside world, Callie's little brother has terrible asthma and her mother worries about everything. Her dad's job doesn't go so well anymore. A lot of responsibility fell on Callie every day -- but not anymore. Now she's just at Sick Minds. To get better, to get treated. So much led up to her entry into Sick Minds -- but will she ever be able to speak?

Some reviewers have said that the characters are stereotypical and flat. This is true. But that doesn't mean they're not realistic as well. Take it from someone who knows.

You also have to keep in mind that this book is only 150 pages long. It's not going on an indepth psychological journey of each and every character. It's more of a statement. A statement about an issue that doesn't really get spoken about a lot. The book itself mentions that people with problems such as eating disorders or substance abuse are relatively "normal", but cutters and self abusers... those are just freaks. For an issue so big, it's remarkably ignored.

Anyway, back to the book. I finished it in one sitting, and not just because it's so short. I really got pulled in right off the bat. For starters, it's written a little like a letter. It's all addressed to Callie's psychiatrist, which is a really cool and effective way to do it.

Also, it's incredibly realistic for only 150 pages. Admittedly, I'm a bit biased. Serious talk here, please forgive me, but I have literally been in Callie's shoes. I've spent time in residential treatment for the exact same reason, and reading Callie's story was practically a walk down memory lane. I don't know how it reads to someone without my experience, but perhaps the guarantee that it IS realistic will change the way you read it.

It's honestly not as horrifying as I was expecting. There is a deep dark secret, but it wasn't as deep and dark as I thought it would be. But that doesn't really take away from what's there.

All in all it's a short little book about a big issue, and you certainly won't waste any time giving it a read. I would DEFINITELY love to know what people who haven't spent time in a loony bin think of this little book, because it has to change your perspective. Y'know, just a little.


You might like this if you: like short little books; like books about mental disorders; like books that address big issues; want to know more about cutting and cutters; or if you are or know someone who cuts

PS. DON'T FORGET ABOUT RYFBM!! Only a few more weeks!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Arty -- Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson

You know the Moonlit Library is back when our reviews are three days late! It's good to renew old traditions. Anyway, on to the review.

I'm here to tell you, not about a book, but about a story. Alif the Unseen typifies what a good story should be - it's the kind of story that you can imagine being told around a fire. Granted, that's a vague piece of criteria for a "good story," but I'd like to convince you with more evidence.

Amazon's summary goes something like this: "In an unnamed Middle Eastern security state, a young Arab-Indian hacker shields his clients - dissidents, outlaws, Islamists, and other watched groups - from surveillance and tries to stay out of trouble. He goes by Alif - the first letter of the Arabic alphabet, and a convenient handle to hide behind. The aristocratic woman Alif loves has jilted him for a prince chosen by her parents, and his computer has just been breached by the state's electronic security force, putting his clients and his own neck on the line. Then it turns out his lover's new fiancé is the 'Hand of God,' as they call the head of state security, and his henchman come after Alif, driving him underground. When Alif discovers The Thousand and One Days, the secret book of the jinn, which both he and the Hand suspect may unleash a new level of information technology, the stakes are raised and Alif must struggle for life or death, aided by forces seen and unseen."

Sounds pretty simple, right? WRONG. Alif is filled with twists and turns, characters good and bad and in between. It's filled with beautiful musings on technology and religion and myth and story and the interplay of them all. It contains awe-inspiring descriptions of the Middle Eastern setting and of the supernatural elements that drag you right into the story. It's also very often pretty hilarious. But don't get me wrong - Wilson is never didactic with any of these topics. The characters are the perfect vehicles for the themes and topics that come up in this story.

Alif is a fantastic non-hero. He's a pretty typical basement-dwelling computer geek, except that he's really, really good at what he does. He's something of a technological prodigy, and yet he's also a really normal dude. His problems start because he goes gung-ho with a blocking program after he's dumped by his girlfriend. He's fifty shades of pathetic, and that makes him flawed, understandable, and endearing, all at the same time. Both his strengths and his flaws are a huge influence on how he reacts to the story going on around him. Wilson handles the humanity of her main character flawlessly.

The supporting characters are so good, too! Wow! Alif's childhood friend, Dina, shines as a sort of "primary side char," who never acts or speaks as if her only purpose in the novel is to be Alif's moral center (though she does sometimes fill that role). She's a well-rounded character with her own life and motivations, strengths and weaknesses. Likewise, Vikram, the first jinn that Alif meets, is a wonderful example of how to write an inhuman character. He's snarky, insensitive to humans' needs, and not always exactly moral as Alif would prefer. But he's real, as real as any of the other characters. The other, lesser side chars - the American convert, Alif's hacker friend, the Sheikh, the other jinn - not to mention the villainous characters, are just as well-drawn, just as real. In short, the characters never felt like characters who existed only as soon as they came on the page; they felt like they had always existed, and the story was just a part of their very real lives.

Like I mentioned, there's a lot of musings on religion and faith, and on art and technology. They're organically drawn into the plot of the story, which is, after all, based on computer technology and Arabic literature (mainly The Thousand and One Nights and the Quran). Not only are they not shoehorned in like sermons or platitudes, they're required by the story. It's a story that needs an intelligent, sensitive handling of faith and art, and Wilson delivers. Does she deliver.

All that rambling about pros (and nothing about cons) to say, read this book. Wilson writes beautifully about beautiful topics and beautiful characters. It's a must-read for anyone who likes good books. Period.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Wednesday Scrolls -- May Review!

When I, Persy, said we were back, I MEANT IT. Here we are to give you a summary of our May reading!

In May, I read 12 books, 6 of them being manga and 1 a collection of comic books I considered to equal a graphic novel. All of this added up to 2788, which really is quite good for me these days.

Best May Book: This ends up going to Volume 6 of Skip Beat! by Yoshiki Nakamura. I just love this series so much. Even if you don't like Manga, you should read it or watch the anime, 'cause it just makes me happy.

Honorable Mention(s): Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, Breakfast at Tiffany's and Other Stories by Truman Capote, The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart, and Volume 14 of Ouran High School Host Club by Bisco Hatori (of course).

Worst May Book: Volume 6 of Corpse Party: Blood Covered by Makoto Kudouin. Really it's not that bad, but it's hardly art, y'know? Mostly pantie shots and gore. It just ends winning this award because I didn't read anything truly bad this month.

Dishonorable Mention(s): There isn't one!

So far my June has been pretty good, and don't forget that July is RYFBM! Reread Your Favorite Book Month!


Welcome back, guys! Or maybe I should be saying that to Persy and myself. Oh, well.

In the month of May, I read 13 books. One of them was a two-shot manga and one was a comic collection. As usual, I'm lazy, and don't keep track of page count - I just count 13 to be pretty good for being out of the country for a week!

Best May Book: It's really a tie between the fairly new Alif the Unseen, by G. Willow Wilson, and the ever-classic Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand. It should probably go to Alif, though, since everyone knows that Cyrano is amazing. And Alif was fantastic! Go read it!

Honorable Mention(s): Peaches by Jodi Lynn Anderson and How To Read Literature Like A Professor by Thomas C. Foster.

Worst May Book: Liars, Inc. by Paula Stokes. Sigh. Incredibly generic for a pretty well-promoted YA serving, and the ending was an inch shy of preposterous.

Dishonorable Mention(s): Mordred by Vivian Vande Velde was a shocking departure for the generally super-quality Ms. Velde. Boring, and barely even about Mordred, really - more about OCs and a disappointingly-drawn Nimue than the angst-ridden titular character. Sigh again.

Get ready for RYFB Month - July will be here before you realize it!


Friday, June 5, 2015

Persy -- The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart

King Arthur and Merlin and all those chaps have been a part of legend ever since they actually existed, and it's practically a genre unto itself. Sometimes it focuses on Merlin, sometimes Arthur, sometimes Lancelot, sometimes Guinevere, sometimes someone completely random. But the Arthurian legends are still going strong today.

Sorry, we're studying Anglo-Norman literature in my English class right now, so I'm trying not to slip into essay mode. Focus.

Myrddin Emrys is the bastard son of Lady Niniane, daughter of the king of Britain in Maridunum. No one knows who his father is, for Niniane refuses to tell a single soul, even her father the king. It is widely believed that little Merlin (affectionately called so by his mother and others) is the son of the demon or the devil himself, for sometimes he knows things he shouldn't and has a tendency to overhear a great many things.

One day Merlin finds himself in a cave and encounters a wise old man named Galapas, who teaches Merlin many things. Not long after this, Merlin is forced to flee the castle and ends up crossing the sea to Cornwall and in the service of Ambrosius, outcast prince. With Merlin's often supernatural assistance, Ambrosius and his brother Uther just might be able to retake all of Britain and drive the hated Saxons out.

Okay, so that summary is a bit crap, but I'm not super good at all of the Saxons war Britain king stuff. I followed along fine while I was reading, but it's not exactly what stuck with me.

What did stick was all of Merlin's adventures and powers. I really like how Mary Stewart writes him, starting with his toddler years and gradually following him as he grows up. He's not an amazing sorcerer, but no one will believe him when he tells them. He actually is just very very intelligent and likes to learn about everything. True, he's prone to a few destinies and visions every now and again... but really, he's not a magician.

Normally I don't read a lot of epic fantasy or even Arthurian tales in general -- it's just never been my fortĂ©. Arty's usually the one who reads that stuff. So I entered The Crystal Cave without much excitement. But I actually really enjoyed the whole adventure. It's definitely an epic in the sense that it moves along slowly at its own pace, unhurried and in no rush to get to the action. There's a lot of description of the war and the tactics of Ambrosius, which makes sense because it concerns Merlin quite a lot. Mary Stewart has some very nice writing suited to the genre she's chosen, though if you like fast-paced fantasy adventure then this isn't the book for you.

What really kept me reading was Merlin himself. His personality is just great. He's very no-nonsense, a bit brash, but also extremely level-headed as he matures into a young man. He knows how to use his brains and his luck, and is extremely good at coming up with something in the moment. No one else likes him much, but in the age he lived in, he wasn't exactly the popular type. Personally, I'd love to hang out with him.

If you like historical epic fantasy and/or Arthurian legends, this is definitely the book for you. There are few more books in Mary Stewart's Arthurian Saga, and I look forward to reading those at some point. They just take a long time to get through because they're each over 500 pages. Not exactly light reading.

It feels great to be reviewing books again. Let's hope it lasts!


You might like this if you: like historical epic fantasy; like Arthurian legends; like Arthurian retellings; like Merlin; like magic that's not actually magic but everyone insists is magic; like historical battle fantasy stuff; or if you sometimes have weird visions that cause all your friends to make the sign against evil and make everyone think your absent father is the devil.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Wednesday Scrolls -- RYFBM!!

It has literally been a year since the last post on this blog. Please forgive us, we are both poor busy college students.

Even though it's summer, we're both still rather busy, but I got the urge to review a book (look forward to it this weekend), plus it's almost July! No matter how busy I am, you know I'll never miss...


Yes, in the past it went by another name. RAMFAP. But... okay, so I'm in college and... y'know. That could be taken another way. I'm sorry.

So it is now Reread Your Favorite Books Month! Not quite as catchy, but it still gets the point across. Plus it's actually easier to say.

Anyway, it's my favorite month of the year. I get so stoked for this. I've got my list all planned out, and it took a lot of self control not to go ahead and get all my books out in a neat orderly stack.

I hope you take this opportunity to reread a few of your favorite books, and I hope you forgive us for being so MIA all the time!