50 Word Friday: Poison Princess

Poison Princess (The Arcana Chronicles)
Title: Poison Princess (The Arcana Chronicles, #1)
Author: Kresley Cole

Summary:

Sixteen-year-old Evangeline “Evie” Greene leads a charmed life, until she begins experiencing horrifying hallucinations. When an apocalyptic event decimates her Louisiana hometown, Evie realizes her hallucinations were actually visions of the future—and they’re still happening. Fighting for her life and desperate for answers, she must turn to her wrong-side-of-the-bayou classmate: Jack Deveaux. But she can’t do either alone. With his mile-long rap sheet, wicked grin, and bad attitude, Jack is like no boy Evie has ever known. Even though he once scorned her and everything she represented, he agrees to protect Evie on her quest. She knows she can’t totally depend on Jack. If he ever cast that wicked grin her way, could she possibly resist him? Who can Evie trust? As Jack and Evie race to find the source of her visions, they meet others who have gotten the same call. An ancient prophesy is being played out, and Evie is not the only one with special powers. A group of twenty-two teens has been chosen to reenact the ultimate battle between good and evil. But it’s not always clear who is on which side.[1]

Review:

Likes: Post apocalyptic and dystopian. The idea that people are the Major Arcana is interesting. The quest to find Evie’s Grandmother makes for compelling forward movement. Dislikes: Jackson is supposed to be roguishly charming but is an ass. She plays a bit loose with the tarot. YA Escapism = Yes!

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1. GoodReads.com

Wordy Wednesday: The Magician’s Land

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The Magician’s Land: A Novel (Magicians Trilogy)

Title: The Magician’s Land Author: Lev Grossman
Publisher: Viking Adult Rating: 5star
Publication Date: 2014 Genre: Fantasy

Why Picked: My complete adoration of the first two.
First Line:

“The letter had said to meet in a bookstore.”

Summary:

In The Magician’s Land, the stunning conclusion to the New York Times bestselling Magicians trilogy—on-sale from Viking on August 5—Quentin Coldwater has been cast out of Fillory, the secret magical land of his childhood dreams. With nothing left to lose he returns to where his story be­gan, the Brakebills Preparatory College of Magic. But he can’t hide from his past, and it’s not long before it comes looking for him. Along with Plum, a brilliant young under­graduate with a dark secret of her own, Quentin sets out on a crooked path through a magical demi­monde of gray magic and desperate characters. But all roads lead back to Fillory, and his new life takes him to old haunts, like Antarctica, and to buried secrets and old friends he thought were lost for­ever. He uncovers the key to a sorcery masterwork, a spell that could create magical utopia, a new Fillory—but casting it will set in motion a chain of events that will bring Earth and Fillory crashing together. To save them he will have to risk sacrific­ing everything. The Magician’s Land is an intricate thriller, a fantastical epic, and an epic of love and redemp­tion that brings the Magicians trilogy to a magnifi­cent conclusion, confirming it as one of the great achievements in modern fantasy. It’s the story of a boy becoming a man, an apprentice becoming a master, and a broken land finally becoming whole. [1]

 

Review:

I just moments ago put down The Magician’s Land. I was lucky enough to be contacted by Cat over Viking and get an ARC (no strings attached). But this was a read I did not and could not rush. I have been in love with this world since the very beginning and even knowing there is the possibility of a television show, getting to the end of this is book means the end of Quentin’s story (as well as so many others) as told by Mr. Grossman. And I was not ready to let go of this story yet. But Quentin’s story is over. And it was a wonderful ending.

Let me get my issues out of the way up front. If I had it to do over again, I would have gone back and reread the first two of the trilogy. I did read summaries to refresh my memory but Grossman’s worlds are so full and stories so well crafted I was caught a few times trying to remember exact details of what happened. Also I will mention, and again these are personal preferences, there are portions I would have thinned out and plot points I would have like to see more of. These are difficult to explicitly comment on without being spoiler-ly but more of the characters at the end and less of those in the middle would have made this redhead much happier.

So you know I loved the earlier books, what about this one? Well, Quentin having been tossed out of Fillory goes crawling back to Brakebills Preparatory College of Magic. For a while it seems like things might settle into a professorial routine for our petulant hero, but through the shenanigans of a young fourth year student, Plum, both she and Quentin find themselves tossed out of Brakebills and suddenly part of a magical Ocean’s Eleven-like heist. Oh, and by the way, Fillory’s Royalty, Elliot, Janet, Poppy and Josh, might have just found out that their realm is set for a mighty apocalyptic, you can’t stop it, end. How these two plots merge and resolve is plotting and story-telling by a master.

There are enough encounters with past characters and settings to keep devoted readers happy but not so much that it seems forced and unnatural. Like I mentioned I would have love to see more of my old favorites but as with things like this are a personal quibble. I will be honest about the character of Quentin, for most of the story up to now, he has been a twit. I am firmly in the Catherynne M. Valente school of magic:

I would have run wild through a magical kingdom and never looked back. Talking animals? Yes. Witches and monsters? Yes. Dark queens? Absolutely. Give it right here. I would have said yes to all of it. [2]

So Quentin getting every damn thing he has ever wanted and being all “meh” or “It is hard” bothered me to no end. Non-magical life is meh and hard and boring and “shut up Quentin!” But these books were a fine example of how you can dislike a main character and love a world. That said, something about Quentin in this book is different, or I am different now, because he feel much less that Quentin and much more a man ready to begin again and again and again, understand that life is just damn hard and having gotten to that point he receives what fictional characters get and us mundanes may never find which is the chance for a happy ending.

Wordy Wednesday: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

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Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell: A Novel

Title: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell Author: Susanna Clarke
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC Rating: 4star
Publication Date: 2004 Genre: Fantasy,

Why Picked: A Friend’s Favorite

First Line:

“Some years ago there was in the city of York a society of magicians.”

Summary:

At the dawn of the nineteenth century, two very different magicians emerge to change England’s history. In the year 1806, with the Napoleonic Wars raging on land and sea, most people believe magic to be long dead in England—until the reclusive Mr Norrell reveals his powers, and becomes a celebrity overnight. Soon, another practicing magician comes forth: the young, handsome, and daring Jonathan Strange. He becomes Norrell’s student, and they join forces in the war against France. But Strange is increasingly drawn to the wildest, most perilous forms of magic, straining his partnership with Norrell, and putting at risk everything else he holds dear. [1]

Review:

This has been on my TRB shelf for years. A favorite book of one of my dearest friends, recommended over and over again by so many people, yet every time I would try to read it I could not get anywhere. It was not for lack of trying, nor was it because I did not like it. What truly baffled me was I was easily able to read and adored Clarke’s book of short stories “The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories .” So why could I not tackle the story of Strange and Norrell.

After years, I finally figured out it out. I found that since children entered my life I rarely have long, leisurely reading time. My reading is like an affair committed in hallways and cars. I read 5 minutes here and 15 minutes there and often am, like so many other American adults, so sleep deprived that if you put me in a warm car with a book I am asleep before I am 5 pages in. So a book rich in story and elegant in language? It didn’t stand a chance. These are the books that need time and chucks of it to be read and savored. This book was a commitment not an affair.

Jump forward to my discovery that, while I could not easily listen to audio books in bit and pieces, because my mind would wander into the never ending list of 100 things I still have to do today, I could listen to them during long drives alone to visit friends. Coincidentally one of them the friend who loves JS&MN so hard he never gave up trying to get me to read it. Fast forward again to my taking on a barter situation where I clean for someone about 6 hours a week and suddenly I am whizzing through audio books. So I finally broke down and I got an Audible account. I listened to all of the available Dresden files. I listened to all of the available Fairyland books. So what was next? I suddenly remembered that when I could not get though a book I loved called Chime, which is another story of how I learned to love the audio format, I tried the audio of JS&MN.  And I discovered that while I could not read it I absolutely could listen to it.

There were some bumps which I was concerned about. The major one was footnotes! How do you listen to a story with something along the lines of 180 footnotes and not lose the narrative of the story? For me this was not an issue beyond wanting to write down the books mentioned in many of them for future reading and then remembering the majority of them are made up and do not exist. Simon Prebble, the narrator, was able to handle these footnotes with smoothness and grace which made them a non-issue for me.

The story itself is a beautifully told story of magic and longing, of miserliness and need, of the fae and the folk. It is a story of Napoleonic Europe and an England which is undone by a handful of people and their need to see magic restored. It is a story of how friendship can drive you to madness and how love can do the same. It is a story of Otherness, and by that I do not mean the fae, but persons of color and women and poverty. For me it was these people who were the most intriguing. The wives and the street people, the servants and soldiers, these were the stories I was interested in. Strange and Norrell and their story is that on which all other hung. But tell me more about John Uskglass and more about Vinculus. I want to know about Emma and Arabella, Segundus and Martin Pale.

Overall, I am extraordinarily glad I finally got to hear the story of how magic returned to 19th-century England. And while I know no author owes their fans anything Clarke has hinted at more of this story. That would be wonderful.

Never Gonna Give You Up: Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday

Each week The Broke and the Bookish will post a new Top Ten list that one or more of their bloggers will answer. Everyone is welcome to join.

Big Breasts and Wide Hips: A Novel (Arcade Classics)
Big Breasts and Wide Hips by Mo Yan

This was the first of my “Around the world in 80 Books” self challenge. It may have spoiled me. I really dislike almost everything about this book. I wanted to like it; I did. It took 4 months and everything I had to finish it. I since then I have barely touched this challenge.

(THE CELL ) BY King, Stephen (Author) Hardcover Published on (01 , 2006)
Cell by Stephen King

Gross and gory and not one likeable character. This was one King I could have passed on.

Chime
Chime by Franny Billingsley

I did put it down but than thankfully I picked up the audiobook. It is one of my favorites and gave me a newfound appreciation of audio. And that my friends led to Dresden.

Feed
Feed by M.T. Anderson

Meh. Dystopian science fiction is not my favorite. But everyone was raving about this book called Feed so I kept reading. Then I discovered it was this book: Feed (Newsflesh, Book 1) which is 100% better.

The Goldfinch: A Novel (Pulitzer Prize for Fiction)
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt 

Book club selection. We read this in January and February which I must say are not my finest months and this was a depressing read. I wonder if I would have been so tempted to put it down if it was June and a beach book.

Horns: A Novel
Horns by Joe Hill

Let me start with the fact that I loved Heart-Shaped Box and 20th Century Ghosts. But this one was a hard read. I know people are horrible but I really have no need to read about just how horrible they are on the inside.

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell : A Novel
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell: A Novel by Susanna Clarke

Another I put down at first. Actually this one I put down a lot. But it is the favorite book of a dear friend I could not give up on it. So I kept picking it up. But the language was such that my scattershot method of reading now never let me immerse myself in this story. This was another audio one for me. I usually only listen to audios when I am travelling or when I am cleaning so those are long chunks of time. I found a groove and fell in love.

The Road
The Road by Cormac McCarthy

I have talked about this book over and over again. it is on lists titled things like “Bleak Books – the Top 10 Most Depressing Books” and “10 Devastatingly Sad Books – Flavorwire.” So yeah, I almost put it down. I recently read this review of the movie which describes reading the book perfectly.

This entire movie hurts to watch. It builds dread the way bricklayers build walls, and it surrounds you with it. Reading Cormac McCarthy’s beautiful novel is hard enough – I first read it on a plane, in one sitting, and by the end I felt as if I’d been stuffed into a sack and beaten while listening to my family get killed and eaten somewhere nearby. I was drained for about two weeks. The movie takes that theme and runs with it. It’s based on my favorite book, and it’s one of my favorite movies. But I’ve only watched it once.

[]

And No I have not seen the movie either.

Twilight (The Twilight Saga, Book 1)
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer 

Read all of them. Wanted to gouge my eyes out. I know people love them. But I was weaned on real vamps and these are not real vamps. I kept going because the girl was such a reader and she was young when these were hot and I needed to know if they were OK to read. My answer – No because this models a horrible relationship and a worse reaction to breaking up.

Witch & Wizard (Witch & Wizard, #1)
Witch & Wizard (Witch & Wizard, #1) by James Patterson

Another I endured for the girl. I read this one out loud to her. I was pleased when she decided to read the rest to herself.

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5 Deeply Unsettling Movie Scenes You Can’t Un-See

 

The Ocean at the End of the Lane: Wordy Wednesday

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The Ocean at the End of the Lane: A Novel

Title: The Ocean at the End of the Lane Author: Neil Gaiman
Publisher: William Morrow Books

5star

Publication Date: 2013 Genre: Fantasy, Horror, Magical Realism, Magic, Memory

Why Picked: It’s a Gaiman and it was my book club pick.

First Line: “It was only a duckpond, out at the back of the farm. It wasn’t very big.”

Summary:

Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.
Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.
A groundbreaking work from a master, The Ocean at the End of the Laneis told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out. It is a stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly’s wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark. [1]

Review:

As you all know I was lucky enough to get to go and hear Neil Gaiman read from this book and hear him talk about how this novel came to be. He talked about how he wrote this book for his wife when she was in Australia making an album and in he was in Florida working and he missed her. He decided to write her a short story and since she was not a fan of fantasy and all the things which he is known for but instead of feelings and honest stuff which he feel he is not good at because “I’ve never been into doing a lot of feelings because — well, I’m English,” he decided to write her a short story based on a memory. And that turned into one of his shortest but best adult novels to date.

Ocean is at once the most real, most magical and most horrific story I have read so far from Neil Gaiman. Its realism comes from the voice of the 7 year old boy who narrates much of the story. As one of the woman in my book club mentioned he was so very good at getting that voice. Realizing that the entirety of the world is still new and different enough that magical events that take place here are, while not exactly hum-drum, nothing that one cannot incorporate easily into one’s understanding of the world is part of what 7 is and Gaiman nails it. That is the reality of Ocean, that voice. Additionally, one of the most magical scenes at the very end, I also think is one of the most real. The need to go home, the need to know if it is all OK, the search for confirmation that we are living our lives well and good. And while I do not want to give away the resolution of the last scenes, there is something comforting in thinking maybe we all have check-ins but none of us get to remember them.

Magic is Gaiman’s stock and trade and one of the reasons I love his work. His magical sense and use is amazing and makes me long for a world were these things are true and real. His vision of the aspects of a triune goddess, which are scattered all over his work, embodied in the Hempstocks is at it finest here. Lettie, Ginnie and Old Mrs. Hempstock are Grave’s trio as they should always be. And his description of “the language of shaping” was glorious. When the narrator talks about understanding the language of shaping in his dreams, I realized Gaiman understands people’s true desires, perhaps mine even more so, at a bone deep level.

“I have dreamed of that song, of the strange words to that simple rhyme-song, and on several occasions I have understood what she was saying, in my dreams. In those dreams I spoke that language too, the first language, and I had dominion over the nature of all that was real. In my dream, it was the tongue of what is, and anything spoken in it becomes real, because nothing said in that language can be a lie. It is the most basic building brick of everything. In my dreams I have used that language to heal the sick and to fly; once I dreamed I kept a perfect little bed and breakfast by the seaside, and to everyone who came to stay with me I would say, in that tongue, ‘Be whole,’ and they would become whole, not be broken people, not any longer, because I had spoken the language of shaping.”

And the horror, the horror of the monster who wears the human face. The horror of the parent who suddenly is no longer loving but a monster also. And the true horror of all the things that you do not understand at seven but you will understand when you are older. The horror that adults will not believe the things you need to tell them and show them. They do not see the things you see. And in many ways you are totally alone. And the horror that the magic of year seven, while we can glimpse at it through stories like these, we will lose it again, at the end.

Changes (The Dresden Files #12): 50 Word Friday

 

Changes (Dresden Files, Book 12)

Changes (The Dresden Files #12)
Author: Jim Butcher

Summary:

Long ago, Susan Rodriguez was Harry Dresden’s lover-until she was attacked by his enemies, leaving her torn between her own humanity and the bloodlust of the vampiric Red Court. Susan then disappeared to South America, where she could fight both her savage gift and those who cursed her with it. Now Arianna Ortega, Duchess of the Red Court, has discovered a secret Susan has long kept, and she plans to use it-against Harry. To prevail this time, he may have no choice but to embrace the raging fury of his own untapped dark power. Because Harry’s not fighting to save the world… He’s fighting to save his child.[1]

Review:

** spoiler alert **

That’s no ending! I’ve always loved Susan and Harry. This is a heart-breaker.  There’s no going back, no saving Susan or saving Harry. Butcher’s a bastard of the best kind. Now I’ll have to read a Dresden book because Ghost Story’s not narrated by Marsters. And there’s no other Harry.

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1.http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6585201-changes