Monthly Archives: August 2014

Blood Red

Today I’ll be reviewing the 10th entry in Mercedes Lackey’s Elemental Masters series, Blood Red.

In case you haven’t read any of these books, this series reimagines fairy and folk tales in an alternate, Edwardian-era world in which magic does, in fact, exist. It is practiced by mages and masters who specialize in air, fire, earth, and water magic, aided by elemental creatures like sylphs, salamanders, satyrs, and undines.

The fairy tale in this case is Little Red Riding Hood, the heroine of which just happens to be an earth master who is also a werewolf hunter. It’s also set in Germany, quite a switch for a series that’s almost always set in Great Britain.

Normally, I’m a huge fan of this series. I know it’s the literary equivalent of cotton candy, but I just don’t care, they’re too much fun. But (and we’re talking a Nicki Minaj-sized one here), this novel felt like the author totally phoned it in.

Granted, at 10 books in this series alone, a decline in quality is understandable, perhaps even to be expected. That being said, I still found it hard to get invested in the story. Honestly, I think there was too much time spent in setting up the story and not enough time spent on plot developments (the first big action only took place about ¾ of the way through the book).

Also worth noting is that this is the first time the author has wrote about vampires and werewolves. Interesting idea, but it doesn’t feel genuine to the rest of the Elemental Masters world. It almost seems like the author is including it to take advantage of the (now somewhat waning) supernatural trend.

The bottom line? If you’re already a fan of the series, like I am, it’s worth reading. Otherwise, as this is definitely one of the author’s weaker entries in the series, I’d say the casual reader could probably bypass it.

However, If you’re just looking to get into the series, start with The Fire Rose, a take on Beauty and the Beast. And although they aren’t technically Elemental Masters books, I’d also recommend reading The Black Swan and Firebird.

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Procrastination, Thy Name Is Me

It was super hard to write a blog post this week. To be honest, my head was totally not in a writing space. And as such, I pretty much used any excuse to put off writing for as long as possible.

This week, instead of writing a blog post, I:

-read partway through 5 library books, each of which I then discarded for various reasons (Lesson learned: I cannot read paranormal romance anymore.)

-went to a baseball game (My husband won tickets through work. It would be wasteful not to go, right?)

-groomed the cat to within an inch of her life (It’s basically an exercise in hairball prevention now.)

-wrote part of at least 3 blog posts, but didn’t publish, because they were shite

-drank a beer and fell asleep on the couch, twice (Substitute the beer for tea and some knitting, and I’m my grandma.)

-saw Guardians of the Galaxy (Seriously, how cute is the bromance between Rocket and Groot?!)

-read Mercedes Lackey’s latest Elemental Masters book (Review coming next week!)

Huh. Not quite as unproductive as I thought I was. Yay me!

So I guess what I’m saying is “Oops. Sorry guys, I promise to do better next week!”

In lieu of an actual blog post, please accept these recordings of Neil Gaiman reading his H.P. Lovecraft-inspired story “Shoggoth’s Old Peculiar”. 

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Book vs. Graphic Novel: A Wrinkle in Time

Originally, my first introduction to the sci-fi/fantasy works of Madeleine L’Engle was through my high-school-era discovery of A Ring of Endless Light. A shy girl who has three boys competing for her attention? Of course I would love it.

However, it wasn’t until last year when I picked up the recently-published graphic novel version of A Wrinkle in Time that I rediscovered her works. The graphic novel inspired me to pick up the text version about a year later, after some internal debate.

Granted, this is as far as I will probably get in L’Engle’s books. From what I gather, the author’s Kairos series gets progressively more religious from here on, and I have a strong personal dislike for sci-fi/fantasy works in which the author’s religion encroaches on the story.

(It’s kind of like the Chronicles of Narnia. Once you learn that the magic sky kitty is Jesus and the series as a whole is a thinly disguised religious tract, you can’t unlearn it. And I’m not even going to touch on the problem of Susan [well, not here, at least])

A Wrinkle in Time, though, is a surprisingly sophisticated melding of physics and YA literature. Interesting, then, that although rejected by at least 26 publishers because it was deemed too difficult for children, that it has continuously been in print since its first publication in 1962.

Generally speaking, when it comes to different versions of the same story, I prefer the one that came first. In this case, though I find myself gravitating towards the graphic novel for a couple of reasons.

Primarily, this is because the graphic novel seems to minimalize the religious content. As much as it can be, when you’re reading about guardian angels who are a melding of human and pegasi.

It also makes it accessible to a completely different audience. Hey, I probably wouldn’t have picked up the text version had I not read the graphic novel first.

But if I’m being completely honest, it was the illustrations themselves that really won me over. The elegant and expressive blue, black, and white illustrations are a perfect accompaniment to the story.

And while I ultimately prefer the graphic novel to the text version, I like to think that the two complement each other quite well.

So read them both!

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Odd Bookish Thought of the Day

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In the wizarding world of J.K. Rowling, the reporter Rita Skeeter is basically the analogue of trashy, tell-all tabloids like the Daily Mail.

That got me thinking.

What would be the equivalent of British anti-EU/anti-immigrant party UKIP? I was thinking the Death Eaters, but they’re too malevolent and, to be perfectly honest, too smart for that kind of foolishness.

Crabbe and Goyle would definitely be in on it regardless. They’re about the right mixture of ignorance and ill will.

Got any suggestions? Toss them in the comments section below.

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My Cup of Books Runneth Over

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Let’s take a look at my #TBR pile, shall we?

Technically, this is both my and my husband’s TBR pile. Please note that my pile is only the first shelf. The other three are the husband’s. I have a MUCH higher turnover rate.

A sizeable portion of these I got from work. One of the many benefits of working in a building that comes with a cheap-books section. When they’re only $2 each, there’s so little holding me back I’m only surprised I haven’t picked up more of them.

A few were also picked up on my honeymoon to Great Britain, during which we stopped at Hay, the famous book town in Wales. We brought an extra duffel bag just to carry the books we would pick up there. It was very heavy and full at the end of the trip.

I think the rest are mostly books I picked up at random places around town, as well as a few birthday presents.

So, on to an account of what I haven’t gotten around to reading yet.

-Prince of Stories: The Many Worlds of Neil Gaiman (Christopher Golden, Hank Wagner, and Stephen R. Bissette)

-Rogues (ed. George R. R. Martin)

-Dreamsongs Volume 1 (George R. R. Martin)

-Dreamsongs Volume 2 (George R. R. Martin)

-The Luminaries (Eleanor Catton)

-The Night Gwen Stacy Died (Sarah Bruni)

-The Gospel of Loki (Joanne M. Harris)

-The Wars of the Roses (J. G. Edgar)

-The Narrative of John Smith (Arthur Conan Doyle)

-The Children of the New Forest (Frederick Marryat)

-The Mammoth Book of Historical Crime Fiction (various)

-The Regeneration Trilogy (Pat Barker)

-The Rude Story of English (Tom Howell)

-To the Letter (Simon Garfield)

-A Fairy Tale (Jonas T. Bengtsson)

-Triumff (Dan Abnett)

-The Life of Charlotte Bronte (Elizabeth Gaskell)

-Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town (Stephen Leacock)

Wow.

I have a lot of work ahead of me.

 

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Olive’s Book Club

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Olive says to tell you that these are very funny books about cats.

Tom Cox’s Under the Paw, Talk to the Tail, and The Good, the Bad & the Furry were also the first books I bought in England on my honeymoon (I’m pretty sure I got them in Cambridge).

She’s a little offended that they’re not by cats, but really, there aren’t very many options in today’s pro-human, anti-cat publishing industry.

Read on, my furry little friend, read on.

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B.C. Day Book Binge

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This is why I’m not allowed in my local comic shop unsupervised anymore.

-Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere (adaptor Mike Carey and illustrator Glenn Fabry)

-The Hobbit (J.R.R. Tolkien, illustrator David Wenzel, adaptor Charles Dixon)

-Husbands (Brad Bell and Jane Espenson)

-Pride & Prejudice (Jane Austen, adaptor Nancy Butler and illustrator Hugo Petrus)

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Oh, Headmaster!

Given my raging case of Anglophilia (I’m seeing a doctor about that next week, I swear), it’s really no surprise that I should be so enamoured of the British-boarding-school genre.

Is it the complete contrast to my Canadian-public-school upbringing? Or is it the way the school-year format lends itself so well to plot development? Either way, I love immersing myself in them. The uniforms with plaid skirts and blazers probably don’t help either.

So, in no particular order, here are my top three British-boarding-school books.

The Gemma Doyle trilogy (Libba Bray)

-Set in a Victorian-era finishing school for girls, these books feature a female protagonist who constantly defies what is expected of her. She battles evil supernatural forces, tames societal dragons, and masters the full curtsy, all while wearing a corset. LOVE LOVE LOVE the ending.

The Harry Potter series (J.K. Rowling)

-Seriously, who DIDN’T want to attend Hogwarts?! While I might have my problems with the ending to this series, I really appreciate the world-building that the author has done. Also, part of me has always wanted a magic wand and my very own pet dragon.

Never Let Me Go (Kazuo Ishiguro)

-The only intended-for-adults book on my list, this book takes the boarding school and plants it firmly in dystopian sci-fi territory. An unsettling entry, this novel charts the lives of students well into adulthood. This is definitely one that will stay with you.

I know that none of these are typical examples of the genre, but keep in mind that I can only blog about what I’ve already read. Also, to be completely honest, it’s so much easier to find contemporary books than the classics.

In closing, it was SO HARD to do this without spoilers. YOU’RE WELCOME.

 

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