Thursday, December 23, 2010

Hardy har hars

Hey guys,

This made me laugh, thought I would share!

Also, get ready cuz there will be:

(1) Review of Night of the Living Trekkies
(2) Review of Christina Dodd's Lonely Texas Hearts Series
(3) Review of Last Sacrifice (OMG, much!?)

And plenty more, as I assess how I did this year at reading ;)

Cheers!
Ammy

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

On Lawyering and Reading.

Early November I recieved an email from author Brian Cohen, who asked me to read his debut novel and review it. I recoeved it halfway through November and told him that it would be until after exams before I got to it. Now that I have read it, and wasted a month on exams, I wish I had read it earlier.

Synopsis:

On the outside, Nick O’Reilly has it all: a high-flying legal career, as a partner of an elite Wall Street law firm, and financial security, with an apartment overlooking Central Park. Having grown up in a working-class family, as far back as Nick can remember this was his dream. But at the age of thirty-six, after several years of sacrificing his personal life for professional gain, Nick has started to ponder his future and consider the mark he wants to leave on society both professionally and personally—his legacy.

After being chastised in the press for turning a cold shoulder to the community, the firm calls upon Nick to help rehabilitate its image by handling its first pro bono case. Nick is asked to represent Dawn Nelson, a domestic violence victim who is fighting for custody of her young son, Jordan. A far cry from Nick’s specialty of defending the misdeeds of Corporate America, it is up to Nick to set Dawn and Jordan on a path to a better life. But Nick gets much more than he signed on for, as Dawn forces him to reassess his life choices and, ultimately, be true to himself. Only when Nick finally realizes what is truly important in life does he face his toughest—and possibly final—challenge: a battle for his own survival.

Exploring the flaws of being human and the importance of controlling one’s own destiny, The Life O’Reilly reminds us of how precious life is and how quickly and tragically it can change. Written with great empathy, The Life O’Reilly is an emotional and unforgettable tale that will challenge one’s expectations of the modern love story.


In short, it is a book that starts at the precipice of a young lawyer's patience with the modern day practice of law - and this is, in fact, one of the tenants of the book, I think.

Law, these days, is like a death grip of life, that sucks out all the marrow from yours bones, leaving you listless and bitter inside. Or at least, that's what my dealings in anyone who underwent law school and the legal profession after the mid-90s thinks.

This book opens the same way:

"As usual, I was bogged down with briefs and had to simultaneously juggle a couple of other bullshit tasks that, although unexpected, were very much routine and kept me in the office until eleven-thirty every night."

The life of a lawyer, right? *grumble, why me?, grumble*

Anyways, this all seems to change when Nick, our main character, gets a pro bono (i.e. free, for those among us who are not legalese inclined) case involving a domestic matter for a woman named Dawn and her son. Nick's life then goes from monotony to chaos in a few short months, culminating in the long anticipated, and made me stay up until 4 to get to it, kiss that really begins the chaos of Nick's life.

Since I don't want to spoil this for anyone, I think I will focus on the message this book encompasses: Live life. It takes the main character thirty odd years to discover this, but the whole point of life is to live, not to make money or achieve status. And I think this book really brings home that point with a long discussion of "legacy". Mainly: what do you want your legacy to be?
"His headstone - what does it say on his headstone?"
"How dare you!"
"Oh, shut up already, Phil," I said unflinchingly, staring straight ahead at Will.
"Quite frankly, I don't remember. I haven't been there in a while. And who do you think you are, asking me a question like that?" he said, sternly.
"Why haven't you been there in a while, Will? He was your father, wasn't he?"

This conversation takes place after Nick begins to realize that firm life isn't a life at all, and I must say, the second that line was out of his mouth I cheered. Literally, grinned and went, "Finally!" and the BF was like, "Finally what?" and I told him all about this. (He then gave me a pitying look, and I am not sure if that is because I am a law student and doomed, or because I talk to my books).

It is the moments like that - and the last 3/4 of the book are full of them, that really make this such a great, and heartbreaking story. It was well written and though it dragged at the beginning, and contained a lot of legalese, it was a great read, that made me laugh and tear up.

I highly recommend this for those of you who need a little perspective, and I honestly think that - though usually I hate open endings - the ending for this book reinforces the message of the story, and I think you readers out there would really enjoy it.

Thanks! :)

Links for stuff:
Brian's Website: http://briancohenbooks.com/index.htm
Reading Guide (warning: Contains spoilers!) http://briancohenbooks.com/pdf/cohen-guide.pdf

Cheers!
Ammy



And now we turn to Devils ...

And by Devils, I mean the evil inside of us, according to Paulo Coelho in The Devil and Miss Prym.

Synopsis:

A community devoured by greed, cowardice, and fear. A man persecuted by the ghosts of his painful past. A young woman searching for happiness. In one eventful week, each will face questions of life, death, and power, and each will choose a path. Will they choose good or evil?

In the remote village of Viscos -- a village too small to be on any map, a place where time seems to stand still -- a stranger arrives, carrying with him a backpack containing a notebook and eleven gold bars. He comes searching for the answer to a question that torments him: Are human beings, in essence, good or evil? In welcoming the mysterious foreigner, the whole village becomes an accomplice to his sophisticated plot, which will forever mark their lives.

Paulo Coelho's stunning novel explores the timeless struggle between good and evil, and brings to our everyday dilemmas fresh perspective: incentive to master the fear that prevents us from following our dreams, from being different, from truly living.

The Devil and Miss Prym is a story charged with emotion, in which the integrity of being human meets a terrifying test.


I am a huge fan of Paulo Coelho. I am not sure if it's because he writes in Portuguese (translated in a bazillion languages of course!) Or because I know I can count on ending that will leave me hopeful (Yeah, that actually might be it), but I get super excited when I see his name on the bookshelves at the local store.

This one is not a disappointment.

This book is basically a study of the good and evil that presumably reside in all of us, when there exists a seemingly overwhelming temptation.

You know the phrase, "The Road to Hell is paved with Good Intentions"? Well, this books takes that and unmasks it for what it is: an excuse.

You know you're doing wrong when you're doing wrong, and rarely is there a time when the little voice in your head fails you. So the real question is: How far will we go when we know we'll get away with it?

This is the question put to the Villagers who are offered a large amount of money, in exchange for the murder of a member among them. There are really four parallel stories that converge in this book: there is that of the Stranger and his moral question - do the events of his past, so terrible that they were, give him the right to exercise this type of power?; there is Miss Prym, the one looking for love and happiness, whose moral dilemma is whether to follow her own dreams or save the village that neither nurtured or prepared her for the world; The Villagers themselves - whether they can, as a group, kill one among them in order to "save" the village?; and Berta, the aged widow who watches the world pass from her porch, who has to come to terms with her fragile place in society.

The way these stories come together and entwine is what makes Paulo Coelho one of those masters of literature - he infuses such meaning into every action, that you cannot miss the undertones of the whole book. Which is good, since it makes you think upon what the answer would be - are people good or evil? The question isn't answered in the book - the play of angels and devils is the stand-in for the fight between a person's own moral compass, and the play between the two - the justifications and acknowledgments for and against evil are what make this book so rich.

In the end you are left with more questions then answers, but you are also left with a peculiar set of stories and experiences that may bear some mentioning in your next discussion about the basic nature of humanity.

My particular favourite, and it is a running theme in Coelho's books, is his own version of Christianity - it seems almost a blend of a few distinct religions that come together to make something much more wonderful then what any of them were on their own. He uses stories we could be familiar with - of saints and sinners, lone wolves and people with blurred faces, and uses them in such a way that they stick in our heads. He is a master of his trade.

I highly recommend this book - it is a complex study and a generally heavy read, but it goes by quickly - you'll want to get to the end, you'll want to see if the villagers have justified their own greed and killed Berta. You'll want to finish it and read it again.


Cheers!

Ammy


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Before all the Angels ...

Hey guys - guess what? No more exams! Yes! Done at of 3:04 pm today!
Xmas Hols - here I come!

But first, some blogging!

_________________________________________________


I last left you with my thoughts of Becca Fitzpatrick's Fallen Angels series, and why the fallen angels in her series worked for me - and why I think they're successful.

Now I turn to the Angels of Angelology and The Angel's Game.

First, The Angel's Game.
Why? Because the Angel in this one, is THE fallen angel. Yep, you know him - the bug guy. And he is wickedly awesome.



'The whole of Barcelona stretched out at my feet and I wanted to believe that, when I opened those windows, its streets would whisper stories to me, secrets I could capture on paper and narrate to whoever cared to listen.'

In an abandoned mansion at the heart of Barcelona, a young man, David MartÌn, makes his living by writing sensationalist novels under a pseudonym. The survivor of a troubled childhood, he has taken refuge in the world of books, and spends his nights spinning baroque tales about the city's underworld. But perhaps his dark imaginings are not as strange as they seem, for in a locked room deep within the house lie photographs and letters hinting at the mysterious death of the previous owner.

Like a slow poison, the history of the place seeps into his bones as he struggles with an impossible love. Close to despair, David receives a letter from a reclusive French editor, Andreas Corelli, who makes him the offer of a lifetime. He is to write a book unlike anything that has existed - a book with the power to change hearts and minds. In return, he will receive a fortune, perhaps more. But as David begins the work, he realises that there is a connection between this haunting book and the shadows that surround his home.

Set in the turbulent 1920s, THE ANGEL'S GAME takes us back to the gothic universe of the Cemetery of the Forgotten Books, the Sempere & Son bookshop, and the winding streets of Barcelona's old quarter, in a masterful tale about the magic of books and the darkest corners of the human soul.

Be warned: this is a prequel book. As such, it is often slow, it is a throwback to the original book (Shadow of the Wind) and it tends to be very dependant on cultural information. Case in point, the Russian Princess read this before me, and she loved it, but when we were talking about it, she missed the subtle Catholic overtones that I, as a raised southern European Catholic, picked up - like the Angel pin and the imagery. That being said, she still enjoyed the book, though she admits it was slow going.

But my focus right now, is the way the angel is portrayed. He is devious, and smart, with an agenda, and he never ages. He is basically a Vampire with superpowers. And I think, moreso then with any of the other angel books - fallen, faltering, nephilim or otherwise, this is why the Angel in this book rocks: he's scary.

There is something to be said about how our culture takes concepts and reduces them to bite sized things that we can quickly consume and run with. There is also something to be said about the way our culture likes heroes to have it all - marble good looks, sparkly or otherwise, long life and a sympathetic past. And there is also something to be said when an author knows this, takes it in stride and runs the opposite direction.

These days, Angels are sympathetic. They're generally male, with egos and dangerous personas - they're vampires with wings. And they represent the idea of redemption.

But then there is The Angel's Game, and I realize that there is a darker side to Angels that has nothing to do with grand plots or other bad guys - but the very nature of fallen angels is suspect. Think about it: it's a fall from grace, from light and perfection and happiness - it is temptation they represent, temptation and the grass is always greener idea.

And Andreas Corelli is the embodiment of that type of Angel - he is scary precisely because he represents this idea of truly falling. There is no saving grace for him, no character qurick that will endear him to us - he is that which tempts our real hero, the near broken David MartÌn, into eternal damnation - he offers the world with a hidden price tag, and the price is deathly steep.

In short, he represents a generally overlooked angel in modern literature - the evil angel, the truly scary one.
(the comparison with Vamp lit is overwhelming - I mean, you have Vampires (see David Wellington) and then you have sparkly, sexy, charistmatic old souls who happen to subsist on a diet of blood; see the similarities?)

And I have to say, I am loving the scary angel thing.

Which brings me to Angelology.

Sister Evangeline was just a girl when her father entrusted her to the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in upstate New York. Now, at twenty-three, her discovery of a 1943 letter from the famous philanthropist Abigail Rockefeller to the late mother superior of Saint Rose Convent plunges Evangeline into a secret history that stretches back a thousand years: an ancient conflict between the Society of Angelologists and the monstrously beautiful descendants of angels and humans, the Nephilim.

For the secrets these letters guard are desperately coveted by the once-powerful Nephilim, who aim to perpetuate war, subvert the good in humanity, and dominate mankind. Generations of angelologists have devoted their lives to stopping them, and their shared mission, which Evangeline has long been destined to join, reaches from her bucolic abbey on the Hudson to the apex of insular wealth in New York, to the Montparnasse cemetery in Paris and the mountains of Bulgaria.

Rich in history, full of mesmerizing characters, and wondrously conceived, Angelology blends biblical lore, the myth of Orpheus and the Miltonic visions of Paradise Lost into a riveting tale of ordinary people engaged in a battle that will determine the fate of the world.



This books deals with Nephilim. And boy, does it. It is slow, I will give it that - in the same way that The Ange's Game is slow - it builds up to a climax that is slightly confusing and yet you should totally see it coming. Again, a lot of this is steeped in cultural ideas of angels and demons and what it means for these two entities to exist, and again I fall back to the stories of my sourthern European Catholic childhood to fill in the cultural gaps, but this book is great - and it's the Nephilim that are the scary angels.

And why, I wonder?

Well, mostly, because they are humans - with all the terrible character flaws we have - on crack. Super crack. Super crack that makes them stronger, faster, more ruthless and you know, have wings. And yet the very reason they are scary is also a reason to pity them - like us, they hate themselves. They are critical of one another and would willingly sell each other out in order to get ahead - and for them, it comes with dire consequences.

The difference between nephilim in this book and the devil in the previous, is that in this one - there is still hope. Honestly, it only shows up for a flicker of a moment near the end - our protagonist lady is realizing what is going on, and we're taken into her head to realize that she is confused and almost sad, but then she turns away and leaves.

Honestly, like The Angel's Game, I think that this is a great, gritty interpretation of angels - and I cannot get enough of it!

Angels, as I have said beforem represent the ideal of humanity and the downfall of humanity in one - they are the highest of the high and the lowest of the low, and that is why they are perfect for literature based interpretations of human nature!

Thanks for joining me in my Angel posts!

Now, completely for me to oggle: Cas!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

On Flying, Winged, Non-Monkey Potentital Villains ... and their Offspring.

Part I.
The Angels were all singing out of tune,
And hoarse with having little else to do,
Excepting to wind up the sun and moon
Or curb a runaway young star or two.
~Lord Byron

Right, so I felt all scholarly (due to this essay I can never seem to be rid of) and used a Byron quote - trust me on this: when in doubt, Byron and Tennyson. Not sure why (I have an inkling it may have to do with the "y" where none should be, but meh) but they always seem to have the right words. Or, at least smart enough sounding words that no one can tell if they're right or not.

Right.

Anyways, avid reader that I am, even though I am in this blizzard of harsh exams, I have finished the second book of what I call the Make-Me-Want-To-Scream Angel series by Becca Fitzpatrick - now, I want to scream for a few reasons: One, the woman has managed to write the most annoying teenaged girl possible - it's like listening to my highschool girlfriends back in highschool - full of that, "I like him so I will treat him badly then when he ignores me I will cry and then punch him" magic that always made me grind my teeth (I have very little patience, though BF is constantly telling me I have a sadistic streak that makes me beat him - ha! He doesn't know what beating is!) - Like, honestly, Nora? Grow a pair (meant completely non sexist like). Second, The woman writes an annoying main character but f*cking awesome steam scenes.

What? I am a sucker for steam. Especially when it involves pictures in my head where the love interest hooks fingers into main character's jeans and tugs. Not sure why, but the word "tug" makes me all mushy inside. Must be a past life thing.

Anyways, now that I got that all off my chest, let's go into something more substantive: Reviewing ....
Hush, Hush and Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick, Angeleology by Danielle Trussoni and The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruis Zafon.

Oh, and for fun, a look at Angels.
And some Castiel ... love me some Cas.... * insert crazy heart palpitations and girly smile here*

(1) Hush, Hush and Crescendo
(Synopses from the official website - click on images)

For Nora Grey, romance was not part of the plan. She's never been particularly attracted to the boys at her school, no matter how much her best friend, Vee, pushes them at her. Not until Patch came along. With his easy smile and eyes that seem to see inside her, Nora is drawn to him against her better judgment.

But after a series of terrifying encounters, Nora's not sure who to trust. Patch seems to be everywhere she is, and to know more about her than her closest friends. She can't decide whether she should fall into his arms or run and hide. And when she tries to seek some answers, she finds herself near a truth that is way more unsettling than anything Patch makes her feel.

For Nora is right in the middle of an ancient battle between the immortal and those that have fallen - and, when it comes to choosing sides, the wrong choice will cost her life.

Nora should have known her life was far from perfect. Despite starting a relationship with her guardian angel, Patch (who, title aside, can be described as anything but angelic), and surviving an attempt on her life, things are not looking up. Patch is starting to pull away and Nora can't figure out if it's for her best interest or if his interest has shifted to her arch-enemy, Marcie Millar. Not to mention that Nora is haunted by images of her father and she becomes obsessed with finding out what really happened to him that night he left for Portland and never came home.

The further Nora delves into the mystery of her father's death, the more she comes to question if her Nephilim bloodline has something to do with it as well as why she seems to be in danger more than the average girl. Since Patch isn't answering her questions and seems to be standing in her way, she has to start finding the answers on her own. Relying too heavily on the fact that she has a guardian angel puts Nora at risk again and again. But can she really count on Patch or is he hiding secrets darker than she can even imagine?

So basically, these books chronicle the story of Nora (aforementioned irritating damsel) and Patch (kick *ss Fallen Angel) and their weird, often times super hot, always kind of edgy romance, with a backdrop of angel intrigue, secret societies, Maury-like paternity tests, and a whole lot of great convos with my personal favourite character, Vee (token bestie. Totally awesome. Would read a story just for her)

Now, say what you want about the mix - tall, dark mysterious stranger walks into young girl's chaste life and mixes it up with tonnes of danger, some dashing and then words of some type of commitment punctuated with a kiss - but I have always found in my reading life, that it's not so much the predictability of a plot (and all plots are somewhat predictive) but the way its written that ought to matter.

So yes, this is predictable. But again, the steam is hot, the images in my head were definitely not PG (take that you sparkly tease!) and the characters (asides from my issues with Nora) were pretty good.

If you flash back to my review of The Glass House by Rachel Caine, I think the thing that drew me into that book works for this review too: the rawness of it. For The Glass House, it was the beat down scene where our awesome main character, Claire gets her hiney slunged (yes, I make up words) by the nastiest biotch in existence. For this, it's the complete animosity that exists between Nora and Patch as we start out, and the teenage-ness to it. It really took me back, honestly.
Remember those awkward group dates where your bestest friend in the whole world would totally skip off on you for "alone time" - or worse (usually better) so you could have alone time? Yeah, that was there. With the added touch of psychos. Oh, and angels.

And here's the thing of it: I like these books because they recall that in me - that spirit of being in highschool, that awkwardness that still kind of sort of secretly (not so secretly) makes me laugh and reminisce. Against a backdrop of Angels. Like Buffy with her vamps - never losing the sight that the characters are human teenagers.

That, and sex. Like come on, people. No seriously, huge pet peeve: why is it that young adult novelists feel they need to cut out sex? It just ain't realistic anymore, and shame on you, novelists, for thinking that the girls who read your books are all shy, quiet virginial types who want characters like them - I read a lot, and I am definitely not Bella Swan - and when I read a romance, there best actually be romance - and that means action: maybe not sex, maybe not other things, but I imagine the chemistry must be crackling - it's highschool, everything was life or death, everything was so raw and exciting and seemed too real. Stop sugar coating things! So thanks, Fitzpatrick, for giving me a bit of what I want ;)

Now onto this Angel thing: it's huge, have you noticed? Everywhere I turn these days, the wings are flying. Nevermind with Angels & Demons (which had no Angels, sigh), but we have Legion (I think I am (a) the only person who saw that movie, and (b) the only person who LOVED it), Supernatural has a huge Angel and demon vibe to it (yay! Cas!) and now, more and more, authors are cashing in on it: Asides from the above, we have Halo, Angelology, The Angel's Game, The Fallen, etc.

And here is why I think it works, and why I find it so bizarre: Angels are God's messengers (I grew up in a Catholic school, so ... yeah, just bear with - my atheist soul is cringing with each word). I remember at the age of, about 12, I asked my choir teacher, Mr. Richard, whether or not my dead relatives could be my guardian angel. Mr. Richard, a devout Acadian Catholic told me quite firmly that it was a ridiculous and sentimental notion, and that Angels were androgynous messengers of God, created to be tools through which God can control things on earth. Suffice to say, my 12 year old atheist mind had problems with that, esp. the fact that they were all "male" and allegedly had no free will. I mean - they fell, right? That seems to indicate a choice, right?

And it's that ambiguity, that fall from grace that hooks us in, I think. There is something in being close to paradise, and choosing something else that makes us interested. In the same way that 108 year old vampires going to high school makes us interested: it's a way of looking at our own culture through something else. And with Angels - and the myriad of legends, cultural myths, stories and interpretations to go on - those characterizations can come about in tonnes of ways.

It doesn't work when we idealize them, though - when Angels become gods in themselves. The interpretation of angels as seen through my music teacher's eyes - the androgynous, benign messengers of God - like appendages that work mindlessly. I am reminded, kind of, of that show long ago, Touched by an Angel - every time I caught it on tv, I would watch, and at the end I was disappointed, and I never realized why, until I saw that great movie (shuddup about my movie choices) The Prophecy (1995). Angels need choice, they need moral compasses that can be blown off course - or they don't work. They need to get dirty.

And this is why, even though Nora frustrates me, I keep reading for Patch - because he's fallen, and miserable about it, but hell if he wouldn't do it all over again. There is something uniquely human about him, but also something so divinely stubborn, that you're pulled into his story, even if you're spending half of it urging him to forget Nora and her insanity (okay, okay, I know I'm harsh).

Angels, are both the ideal and the warning: they can be full of grace or completely fallen, and it really depends on their story to say whether its true or not. The reason they seem to appeal is the magnitude of the consequences of their falling or the sacrifices associated with their staying in grace.

Stay tuned for Part II, Angelology and the Contrast between humans and Angel Offspring ...


Cheers!

Ammy




Monday, December 6, 2010

Reviews oh, reviews!

So I am now thoroughly in the exam period - my first exam starts at noon today, the second and the third are on Wednesday and the final two are on Monday and Tuesday of next week. The light at the end of the tunnel: Last Sacrifice by Richelle Mead, Xmas at home and a box of chocolate turtles my landlord gave me.

That last one may actually be a coping mechanism, actually ...

Anyways, the point of this post is to discuss the book discussions (Oh, you saw what I did there?) for after the exam:

(1) A post of Angels --> I will discuss the Angel frenzy that's one right now. Up for review will be Angelology by Danielle Trussoni, Hush, Hush and Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick, The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon and in general, other media where Angels have been a dominant force.


(2) A post of morality. Or rather, good and evil. This will be the Paulo Coelho book review - I just finished The Devil and Miss Prym, and I have yet to review The Witch of Portobello or Brida, so I should get on that, I think. The whole point of it, I think, was when BF actually calls me and I start in on these long winded philosophical debates about the nature of good and evil and so on and so forth. BF is very patient (read. He plays video games while I quote Beauvoir and Heidegger).


(3) A Christina Dodd Special. I will review the Lonely Texas Hearts series and talk about Mrs. Dodd and how awesome she is.
(4) Lawyer Angst! Recently, I got a book from an author and though I said I wouldn't get to it until December, I picked it up in late November and paged through it, and though it is not done yet - I already have a good review forming in my mind for it. The book: The Life of O'Reilly by Brian Cohen.

(5) A Vampire Academy Post! Yes, I left this for last - and why? Well ... Richelle Mead will be in Novi on Dec 12 (yes, it's the day before my second last exam) and I intend to go! And then read everything! And then squeal.


Anyways, that's the plan.
See you on the flipside!


Ammy

Friday, November 26, 2010

NANOWRIMO Conqqueror!

Boo yeah, 2010 Nanowrimo! I have came-saw-conquered you! Muha ha ha ha!

50k+ words, yo! :D

Okay, now that the stressed out student with the spamsic yelling is out of my system .... here's the link to my post on Nanowrimo on The Crooked Shelf. Take your time, I can wait.

....

Now that you're back - a few orders of business!

(1) Exams and essays are still ... unfortunately ... my main priority these days ... *shakes fist in the air* 18 days to go ....

(2) I am still posting contests and other content... and trying to read as much as possible.

(3) My book review order will be posted soon!

Anyways, Happy Turkey day to my Americans! Happy Black Friday, also! (And to all those Canadians like me who got DVDs for $1.99 this morning ...)

Til later, cheerio! :D

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Those in Glass Houses ...

Yeah, I couldn't think of a clever title for this, but I am going to try and review "The Glass House" Morganville Vampires 01 by Rachel Caine.

Now, I have had this book in my possession for about a good year. And I just kept pushing it back, not really sure if I wanted to get into a Vampire series. I am picky about my Vampires, as my friend Smellie says, I'm a bit of a Vamp Snob. I prefer darker, tortured vampires ... like Lestat. Oh Lestat. I love Lestat. Siiiiigh.

*wait twenty minutes for daydreaming....*

Anyways, the point is this: I am picky about my undead. I may be the Zombie Queen, but my Vamps are close to my heart too.

I think I have posted before about Vampires - or at least the evolution of Vampire YA in my short lifespan - from things like Nightworld and The Vampire Diaries to Twilight, it's very interesting to chart the evolution (or devolution depending on your view) of Vampire fiction. Though the Vampire Chronicles are probably always going to be my number 1, I do find myself open (but critical) of new additions to the genre.

But I had the audio to the first Morganville, it was Halloween weekend and I was driving home with two girls (Princess and Smithy) who were both listening to audiobooks (Pride and Prejudice and Julia Quinn respectively, if I believe) and I thought, what the hell - I will give these vamps a try.

Boy, am I glad I did.

For one, there is no male heartthrob vampire (sort of), to steal the show. In fact, in Morganville the Vampires are real vampires - they're scary. They're also very powerful - and for me, that's enough to hook me in. Also, it opens with violence. Not half-squeamish, half-hearted party slaps, but real honestly scary stuff - where our main character gets thrown down a flight of stairs and passes out. (Was that technically a spoiler?)

Anyways, for some reason, that got me to pay attention. And like I said, I was hooked.


The story synopsis is below:


College freshman Claire Danvers has had enough of her nightmarish dorm situation. When Claire heads off-campus, the imposing old house where she finds a room may not be much better. Her new roommates don't show many signs of life, but they'll have Claire's back when the town's deepest secrets come crawling out, hungry for fresh blood. [
Source]


So, like I said: it opens up with Claire being thrown down the stairs of her dorm.

And the whole thing just explodes! It’s actually quite cool! Without giving too many spoilers, I will say this: I really like the way Claire is portrayed in her relationships with others – especially those in the house. There is something so fresh in the younger, awkward girl attempting to make it in the world, especially when she is the most mature of everyone, despite not having a clue as to what is going on. I like the fact that the heroine is both completely clueless, but smart – she may not know everything going into this, but she learns, she adapts, and hell – even when she’s terrified, she takes up the challenge, thinks of her options, makes it makes sense. I really like Claire!

That being said, it is a strange book – there are highs and lows. It seems to climax a few times, before the actual smash-down! (But hey, the smash down is totally worth the ups and downs!) And I loved the tension between Shane and Claire – it was pretty palatable and yummy. Like, amazing. Like, when they finally realized what was going on with their libidos I was yelling at the iPod and scaring my passengers.

As a young adult vampire fiction book I think it scores on all the things I love, with very little of the hate, so I would highly recommend this book. Next on my list for this is the second Book, The Dead Girls’ Dance – and given the twist/hanging ending of Book 1 – I am so looking forward to #2! (Especially since I already read the back cover and am now fully on board!)

Seriously ... like Wow.

In other news, this is my favourite cover: (boo yeah, it's in my native language, too!)

Totally Awesome Steampunk

I am a HUGE steampunk convert (See previous post) and there is a series that has come to my attention that has totally awesome covers, awesome synopsis and great reviews - I must have it.

The problem: I never find it here. No book shelf has it.

The solution: (Maybe) Here: http://madsteampunkery.blogspot.com/2010/11/giveaway-book-review-of-alexia-and.html

I really want to win this. But I am opening it up to all my followers, too - and if you win - (I willbe so jealous) you MUST tell me how awesome it is! :D

Thanks!

Ammy

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Shout out to Novel Novice and Smithy!

Okay guys - something way way way cool happened! SMITHY WON A CONTEST! Not just any contest - no! Our (yes, the royal `we`in honour of Billy and Kitty getting engaged) friend Smithy submitted a mermaid story a while back - and it was so awesomely good (because she`s talented!) that it go chosen!

Congratulations Smithy! :D
We here at la casa Book Fort are super proud of you! :D

Here for the link: http://novelnovice.com/2010/11/23/winner-mermaids-mirror-life-under-the-sea-contest/

That is all - back to exam studying I go ...

Friday, November 19, 2010

Savvy ...

Savvy Reader is a branch off of Harper Collins, and they have just launched a new website (which is tres nice!) Anyways, they do have a contest (of course they do!) here, and it's a pretty sweet deal, so go check it out.

The website itself is pretty epic, not gonna lie - has loads of goodies, and content, so I am happy with it. I have been getting emailed newsletters from them for a while now, so this was just the next step for me, I guess.

I just wanted to mention one particular article on their website, found here: How to write a book review ... I think I liked this because it is honest - what you should write. I think I would have liked to condense this into a checklist for myself, but I am way too tired, and too hopped on legalese (read: sick of essays, sick of exams - no longer care what a secured transaction is)to actually do it now. Maybe at Xmas time ...

Anyways, enjoy, kiddies! :)


Ammy.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

'Tis the Season ...

"So, what are you doing?"
"Oh, just going through my Amazon wish list."
"Oh, yeah? What's that?"
(sarcastically) "Where you can find me a present for the holidays?"
"Well, yes. That's why I am asking."

(Filed under, duh conversations with the BF)

Yay! Presents! On Amazon!

Anyways, one of the blogs I read, Debbie's World of Books had a few recent posts on giving the gift of reading this holiday season, and I read it and was like, "How did I get on this blog?" ...

But seriously, I agree with her and this mission.
Even if her list of books (so far, historicals) isn't for me, as much. (With a few exectpions - notably, Phillipa Gregory, the Book Thief, The Pillars of the Earth and The Heretic Queen and the bloody Jack series).

See, I love to read - have since I learned how to read in English (my first language, Portuguese, my second languages, Italian and Spanish, and my fifth language, French, all pale in comparison to my literacy in English ... it is sad, but true. I haven't finished a whole Italian/Spanish/French book since High school, and the Portuguese one on my nightstand right now is actually a translation from the Spanish ...) I have not really, well, stopped. And I keep building my library - my own little book fort - with my literary conquests.

And there is reason for this that goes beyond the fact that "I like it". I mean, books have been described as "homes for the soul" - and there is a reason. In books you encounter passages and characters and emotions that reflect your own self, and your own reactions and experiences - everyone is different, and that is why there are so many books out there. I think that reading allows people the luxury of being outside themselves and in someone else's head. And I think that's important to retain our own humanity.

For the most part, the days of old are gone: there is not much of the sitting around and meticulously passing down stories from generation to generation (though there still are these things - my father's father loves to tell us stories in old Portuguese, and my sister has had the foresight to tape these so we can have them in future), and in losing that, we have lost some of the closeness we've had through this activity.

Books don't replace that, but they do attempt to bridge the gap, and I think that is important.

For her birthday, Easter and Xmas, every year, I buy my Goddaughter books. So far in her library, she had the entire of A Series of Unfortunate Events, Ella Enchanted, The Hunger Games Trilogy, the L.J. Smith Nightworld Collection (the originals!), Caroline B Cooney books, etc. - all the things I loved as a child and more.

And how do they look?

Brand new.

Why? Because she hates reading. How we are related, I don't know. My sisters, Blondie and Button, they used to be like that. Then I introduced Blondie to Ella Enchanted in the eighth grade and Buttons the Lori Foster SBC Fighter series last year, and now they're book hoarders like me and my Mom (My father, sadly, sticks to his CNN programs and occasional self help book on tape). Over the years I have come to realize that reading is not the same for everyone, but I will still push reading on people.

BF is very good at avoiding it ... until I brought home a Jasper Fforde book. Now he waits, impatiently, for the next Thursday Next book, forgetting he bought he Shades of Grey to tide me over (he claims he bought it for me, but when I opened it last year, it was already bookmarked ... gr).

The point is this: Books are the gift that keep on giving. So give.

What's on your Xmas list?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Things I love in One Trailer!

Okay, I am a sucker for all these things:
1) Amanda Seyfried. (Partially because she has my name, but mostly because of Big Love, Mean Girls and Chloe.)
2) Fairy Tales
3) Awesome Kick Ass Music
4) Trailers that make me Salivate
and
5) Reworkings.

And this has them all:




Get excited people! Only ... er ... 4 something months away?

Smithy described the trailer as "it looks like it will a more dark and sensual version of what i wanted twilight to be" - which means I will like it! :D

Monday, November 15, 2010

Because I love Baking (and sometimes Cooking) and books, I decided - why not start a monthly or so post on a recipe book? There are plenty around, and hell - I wouldn't mind the excuse to try them out and review! (Also - recommend away, my Followers!)
__________________________________________________________________
So we begin with: Recipes Every Man Should Know by Susan Russo and Brett Cohen

Now, I got this from Quirk directly - and may I say, I love them. LOVE. Pride, Prejudice and Zombies? Hell Yeah. Sense, Senibility and Sea Monsters? F*ck yeah! Added to this now they have practical and awesome things like recipe books!? Yes yes yes!

With that intro ...

This will not be a full review of REMSK - I just have no time right now to actually do it, unfortunately. With essays, exam prep, a Regency Christmas dinner party to help plan, and NANOWRIMO ... well, this will have be part one of a two -part post.

Part One: The Book itself.
Part Two: Recipes in the Book - by a Man (BF Post!)

And here we go:

Part One: The Book.

Awesome.
Oh Hell Yeah.

It's a little black book - seriously, those who market at Quirk are awesome idea makers - can you believe they thought of this? Kudos to them - it is brilliant! A little black book ...

Anyways, let's open it and dive in:

It begins with - An Introduction

"So, why should men cook?
1. Women think men who cook are sexy.
2. It involves fire, sharp instruments, and meat.
3. Women who think men who cook are sexy, and it involves fire, sharp instruments and meat. "

Oh yes. I must keep reading now, right?

Next it has a comprehensive Kitchen Tool section - with pictures! This is amazing! I mean - never again will I yell at BF "How do you not know what a microplane grater is? The thing with the holes and the sharp bits you use to grate lemon, dammnit!" Oh! Happy Day! :D

And after that - Cooking Terms! Cooking Terms! :D I mean, it has broil, and parbroil! Saute and Sear! Mince, and fry and dice and panfry! This is the awesome! Cannot wait to get home and force BF to make use of these!

And then we get into the real meat (har har) of it.

Here are the Contents:
(1) Hearty Breakfast Classics
(2) Sandwiches, Burgers & Snacks
(3) Meat & Potato Dinners
(4) Beer, Bacon & Bar Food
(5) Chocolate, Cheesecake & More

(Can you guess which one I want BF to make use of first??)

Really, it has all the essentials starting with an awesome breakfast. Now - I said I don't have time for all the recipes, but I did try out the greatness that is page 18 - that is, A Great Cup of Joe!

Yes - starting the day off with some caffeine! :D

It's only one page and more a bunch of suggestions instead of a recipe itself - but I decided to follow it last friday - and yummy of yumminess - it was good! (it might have also helped that I finally went out and bought some soy milk - the real stuff was killing me).

Alrighty - so that is Part One - CANNOT WAIT to get home in December and get started on Part Two! :D

Anyways, there may or may not be another post later today (it's a slow, I hate myself for choosing law day).

Cheerio kiddies!


Ammy

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Awesome Book Signing ~ Lauren Willig in Ann Arbor!

So, last year I was over at Smithy's house and she pulled out a regency book I'd never heard of and demanded I read it. That book was "The Secret History of the Pink Carnation" by Lauren Willig and it was awesome! No, really, awesome. Now, I have mostly read it - I have yet to finish it because I was half listening to it, and half reading it, so there are parts I am missing, but I just loved the tone, and a lot of that, I found out, had to do with the author herself.

Lauren Willig.

There are no words... Okay, there are plenty. Last week I went to Ann Arbor and (after getting lost - what is with university cities?) Smithy and I ended up sitting in the back row of Lauren Willig's book signing - and I will never be the same again.

Firstly, her new book The Mischief of the Mistletoe is out - I won my copy from Passages from the Past - and it is currently on its way to me (Squeal!) so while I didn't get it signed, I still have it! I encourage everyone to go and buy it - Smithy got three copies while there (one for her, her mom and her cousin) and there are a few goodies latched onto it: (1) an awesome recipe for Christmas pudding - which Smithy and I are totally using our first week of exams when we have our regency Christmas party; and, (2) the rejected intro that can be found here (Willig tried to include it in the published book itself, but apparently no one has a sense of humour ...).

I am eagerly awaiting my copy and am living vicariously through Smithy's raised eyebrows and chuckles ...
Anyways, onto the book signing:

By the time we got there, we were a tad frazzled and the first thing we saw was this absolutely beautiful vibrant red dress. And I thought, Aw someone dressed up! Why didn't I dress up!? Then I realized the person in the dress was Lauren Willig. Oh, giddiness!
Smithy and I scrambled for a seat, and eagerly awaited the talk - all the while quoting from the books clutched in our hands. Then I tried my camera. Bloody hell, the batteries died (rechargeable my hiney). So I spent a good half hour trying to strategize how to get the batteries from the Rite Aid in order to take pictures (this kills me, so much... btw that is a spoiler alert). Anyways, the talk was great - Lauren Willig is probably one of the most approachable, funny, interesting authors I have ever encountered! She was friendly, laughing and rambling on, putting me at ease. I had a million questions - but I hadn't the guts yet to raise my hand.

She read the intro (go to the link, read it - trust, it is worth it! I printed it out and I am going to stick it in the book when it comes), had us all laughing, then explained how the book came to be - that is, how Turnip, her almost anti hero - the best friend, funny man guy - how he got a book of his own. And she went into this interesting discourse that basically boiled down to this: Turnip wanted his own story.

Now, all the non writers out there (fan girls excluded) might not understand this, but it is a very relevant thing: characters, when they truly get to the heart of you, have their own say. They are alive in a very real way - even if it's only in your head sometimes. And to have her vocalize it - talk about Turnip as if he were real, it was an amazing thing, and I felt instantly in awe of the way she uses words.

(I am making myself so jealous of the readers of Mistletoe right now ...)


That's another reason I can appreciate her work: what she chooses to write about - be it the "bitchy prom queen" or the "sardonic regency potential bad guy" - or the bumbling best friend, she brings her characters to life more then usual, because they're more realistic - they're not perfect specimens of humanity - they can be useless, curious, cautious, and have their stupid moments. They can be mean, rough and bitchy without reason - and there is something tantalizing in that.

And it makes me want to read more.

She then read some more (yay!) out of Mischief - the first part where Turnip is introduced, delivering his sister's Christmas basket to her at boarding school - amid hordes of flighty young females that scare him witless.
May I just say that I was red with laughter? I would prove it but ...

Now here is the sad part: my camera ate the photos. No, you have no idea. I nearly cried. I think I still might. And I thought Smithy would kill me - though she was actually way gracious and nice about it.

We waited in line, getting all sorts of excited, and when we reached her, she was so nice - she recognized my name from when I posted on her blog (very stalker-ish, I told her I would see her the next day in Ann Arbor - Why do I allow myself to post things without supervision?), and we told her that Smithy and I were Jaded 3Ls and writers - and she was so fantastic about encouraging us. She truly is one in a million! :)

So I have nothing to show you except the bottom pictures of my signed copy of The Secret History of the pink Carnation. I will follow with a review of Mischief (and the January release of The Orchid Affair) in December after my LAST (yes, last! muha ha haha) 3L exams (until the Bar)!


Again, one last word - seriously, do yourself a favour - pick these books up - it is an amazing series, and though the next one (after the Orchid Affair) only come pout in 2012 (I know, kill me right?) - it is worth the wait!

Also - another last word: The COVERS! ARE THEY NOT TO DIE FOR????


Banner from the Author Meet and Greet:

Meet Author Lauren Willig

Nov 9 2010 7:00 pm

'Tis the season to get Pink! Lauren Willig's beloved Pink Carnation series gets into the holiday spirit with this irresistible Regency Christmas caper.

Arabella Dempsey's dear friend Jane Austen warned her against teaching. But Miss Climpson's Select Seminary for Young Ladies seems the perfect place for Arabella to claim her independence while keeping an eye on her younger sisters nearby. Just before Christmas, she accepts a position at the quiet girls' school in Bath, expecting to face nothing more exciting than conducting the annual Christmas recital. She hardly imagines coming face to face with French aristocrats and international spies...

Reginald "Turnip"Fitzhugh-often mistaken for the elusive spy known as the Pink Carnation- has blundered into danger before. But when he blunders into Miss Arabella Dempsey, it never occurs to him that she might be trouble. When Turnip and Arabella stumble upon a beautifully wrapped Christmas pudding with a cryptic message written in French, "Meet me at Farley Castle," the unlikely vehicle for intrigue launches the pair on a Yuletide adventure that ranges from the Austens'modest drawing room to the awe-inspiring estate of the Dukes of Dovedale, where the Dowager Duchess is hosting the most anticipated event of the year: an elaborate twelve-day Christmas celebration. Will they find poinsettias or peril, dancing or danger? Is it possible that the fate of the British Empire rests in Arabella's and Turnip's hands, in the form of a festive Christmas pudding?

About the Author

Lauren Willig is the author of six previous Pink Carnation novels. She has a graduate degree in English history from Harvard and a J.D. from Harvard Law School, though she now writes full time. Willig lives in New York City.

Ammy Belle

Moar Contests!

Another contest up here

And then here, too!

And Romantic Crush Junkies has one here too!

And just discovered this one here!

And Bitten by Paranormal Romance has got this one! Go now! :P

Seriously good contest at Red House Books, too.

Win The Swan Thiefs here.

And Wrighty's.

And Addicted 2 Books is giving away some JamesPatterson duality here.

And o f course, Floor to Cieling Books is having an AMAZING contest for Xmas!

And Sparkling Reviews has an Amazon Contest!

HUGE Zest Books Contest here.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Cool Contest Alert!

See side bar for more info, but, click here for a chance to win an AMAZING prize pack!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Monday, September 27, 2010

Forever, Last Sacrifice and ... an awful baked good.

Yes, long time and all that.

Bad news: I have just tried to eat the world's worst cinnamon bun - no seriously, it was awful - so awful I would mount a campaign against the University of Windsor ... except I lack energy due to the fact that the cinnamon bun was so awful, I didn't finish it...

Anyways, onto the good news!
I am so super duper excited for a few books that are coming out soon!

The first on this list is "Forever" by Maggie Stiefvater - the LAST of the Shiver trilogy I fell in love with this summer!

Here is the cover (just released!) and information on how to pre order!

Brilliant cover, eh? Love the colour too!
The trilogy (Also known as the Mercy Falls Wolves Trilogy) is about a girl named Grace and a boy named Sam - or inititally that's what it seems like. Now, I am a rabid (ha ha ha) fan of werewolves - love the movies, love the books, love the mythos. And this is no different in that respect.
HOWEVER - Steifvater is brilliant in her execution of the genre - that is, she made it new again. All the underlying themes and such are there, but the treatement of the werewolf "curse" is very different, and this comes out especially in sexy and troubled character Cole. Seriously - do yourselves a favour and read it, it is an excellent foray into the genre.

Other ones I am looking forward to:

The Last Sacrifice!
Yes - And with that ominous title, I have to admit I am worried. Not only is it the last one in the series, but Mead has no problem killing off characters - and I like my characters! Now I hate the cover, but am hotly anticipating the book - like, hotly.
Here's the cover and pre order info:


That's it for now - two ends to two great series.
Sniff.
Dammnit, I can't wait but I do not want it to end ....

Thursday, September 9, 2010

GOAL REACHED!

Boo yeah!
53 books and counting!
I think, then, that I need to alter my goal a bit: I want to write a review on at least 1/4 of all the books I read this year.

What do you think?



Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Riding the Wonderland Wave

Yes, this will be a review on the trilogy of Wonderland-inspired novels by Frank Beddor, more commonly known as "The Looking Glass Wars"!

I just finished the final book in the trilogy, Archenemy, but the previous two books have been on my shelf for years, and I fell in love with the racier, darker Wonderland in the first few paragraphs. I have to admit my bias here - I fall for anything Wonderland - I am not sure why, but psychiatrist analysis aside, I think it's mostly due to the fact that anything written in rhyme, like the original Alice in Underland, can be subject to such a myriad of interpretations and such, that it just lends itself to wonderment (no pun intended).

Since I don't think this book can be reviewed separately from the previous two - and I recommend you read them together, too - I will be reviewing all three! (Work for me, but it really is delightful! and besides, I have been neglecting this blog for too long a while) and I will include stuff I think important to understand the development of the series or the author himself - since I find him a very fascinating person and artist and I relish the opportunity to delve into his creative process a little bit.

So without further ado, my review of "The Looking Glass Wars":

Now, I will preface this with the simple fact that the original Alice in Wonderland is actually a string of nursery rhymes and sing-song sayings in the guise of a story - that is, the rhymes and logic of the stories connect in such a way that it is reminiscent of a nursery rhyme, as opposed to a story of morals for children, quite popular at the time it was written. I took a class on this in my undergrad at the University of Toronto, but basically, my professor Deirdre Baker (excellent professor and great to talk to about Children's Lit; find her here), and the idea is basically that there are two main story types of children, Moral stories and Nursery rhymes. And the older of the two is the latter, and, this is my opinion now, it is more interesting to study, since the logic of nursery rhymes is completely out of whack with reality ... usually.

That is to say, nursery rhymes follow their own logic - and in the middle of a nursery rhyme world - the logic makes sense. It is perfectly reasonable to have a race with a Dodo bird, or to have a pig baby grow in your arms at an alarming rate. Nursery logic is supposed to tip the edges of our reality and give us a peak at what could have been, should the world had been ordered differently.

They're also dark - much darker then fairy tales (moral stories) and such. I mean, think of the nursery rhymes from your childhood - "Rock-a-by-baby, on the tree's top, as the wind blows, the cradle will rock, As the cradle rocks, the bough will break, and down comes baby, cradle and all" - riiiight, infanticide in a lullaby. Nice. But it's a strange dark, isn't it? A darkness put to music and colour - something that peeks out at you and winks, like a smiling death figure.

And essentially, that is what the original Alice is.


And, I would posit, that is why there is so much revision and remaking of the story - nursery rhymes are dark, fun literary tools that are riddled (again, pun, not intended) with deeper meanings and cultural significance - that of course, change, witht he changing cultures. And that is why Alice remakes get to me, I think.

Now, for a bit of the remake history.

I want to start with the political cartoons drawn by Francis Carruthers Gould, written by "Saki" (H.H.Munro) and compiled in The Westminster Alice (1902). Basically, it is a collection of political cartoons in the style of the original John Tenniel, and it satirizes the British Government at the time and it involves Alice basically muddling her way through British Parliament, much like she did in Wonderland, trying to make sense of such a strange atmosphere and cloaked dealings. The brilliance of this parody is exactly what I meant about the adaptability of nursery rhymes and their undying presence throughout time.

The Disney take on Alice was ... okay. I will admit, that when I first saw it, I was at the stage where Alice just annoyed me with her mild mannered English cuteness and no real substance. Anyways, looking back on it now, I am annoyed for different reasons, but ultimately, I like the Disney Alice for what it is - and it stays true to those nursery rhyme roots I keep harping on about - it kind of jumps from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, and takes some from one, and other parts from the other, etc - and it makes sense. And I like it for that. Keep in mind it was originally conceived in the 30s and finally made it to the screen in the 50s and you get an even better cultural appreciation.

Onto my generations!

Recently, there have been a tonne of Alice adaptations and so forth - including the Beddor trilogy. For example, the Tim Burton Alice, which takes off years after the second book, Alice is in her twenties and Wonderland is a much darker place. Though this is true, Alice herself retains a lot of her Disney persona. The blonde, wide eyed, sticky British-ness. American McGee's Alice video game (besides being a brilliant video game) takes the wonderland story on its head and basically takes Alice to be mentally disturbed and homicidal - an interesting point of view in this journey that Alice has taken. Added to this, with less dark venom, is the Syfy Alice - a continuation of their great adaptations began by the really awesome Tin Man (an adaptation of another favourite of mine, The Wizard of Oz). Alice adaptations have seemed to be either modeled on the Disney version, or of a darker, edgier quality.


I must say, I am quite a fan of the darker stuff.

And here we enter the literary world.

And it is a rich, multi-tiered place where Alice references are peppered everywhere. Terms like "Down the Rabbit Hole" and "Through the Looking Glass" are common now, and most Westerners know what they mean. And literature reflects this in many ways. But adaptations of Alice (and by this I mean, with Alice herself, not another girl, or a granddaughter or a cyborg) are what really gets me going. I like the idea of ebing able to take a story - a well known story, and make it your own, so that it reflects your world.

There are a few examples of this - mostly, for some reason, in the science fiction world, and of course, then there is my favourite - The Looking Glass Wars. (Yes, this is a long winded review ...)

The premise of the books I am reproducing here from the Frank Beddor Looking Glass Wars promotional website:

The Looking Glass Wars unabashedly challenges the world’s Carrollian Wonderland assumptions of tea parties, dormice and a curious little blonde girl to reveal an epic, cross dimensional saga of love, murder, betrayal, revenge and the endless war for Imagination. Meet the heroic, passionate, monstrous, vengeful denizens of this parallel world as they battle each other with AD-52’s and orb generators, navigate the Crystal Continuum, bet on jabberwock fights and slip each other the poisonous pink mushroom. Finally, someone got it right. This ain’t no fairytale.

Alyss Heart, heir to the Wonderland throne, was forced to flee through the Pool of Tears after a bloody palace coup staged by the murderous Redd shattered her world. Lost and alone in Victorian London, Alyss is befriended by an aspiring author to whom she tells the surreal, violent, heartbreaking story of her young life only to see it published as the nonsensical children’s sojourn Alice in Wonderland. Alyss had trusted Lewis Carroll to tell the truth so that someone, somewhere would find her and bring her home.

But Carroll had got it all wrong. He even misspelled her name! If not for the intrepid Hatter Madigan, a member of the Millinery (Wonderland’s security force) who after a 13 year search eventually tracked Alyss to London, she may have become just another society woman sipping tea in a too-tight bodice instead of returning to Wonderland to battle Redd for her rightful place as the Queen of Hearts.

This is the synopsis for the first book, but for our purposes,

Basically, Wonderland has transformed into the collective imagination - the Source, as Dodgson comments in the third book, of the real world. And those in Wonderland - Wonderlanders, are caught in the dual roles as people for themselves and imaginiationists who have the responsibility of providing innovation to the real world, and Wonderland itself. And into this world is thrust a Queendom in trouble and a princess in exile, in our world.

I was not overly excited about this book initially, but my friend K, lent it to me, and by the time I saw her the next week I was salivating for the next installment (which was still a bloody year away).

The second one, Seeing Red, I devoured much like the first, though it got increasingly more complex and I realized at some point that reading the Hatter M comic addendum was probably important - and so I embarked on my study of the website which can be found here. Beddor has been criticized for many things -mostly though, that he is an enterprising artist in that he makes things for money only, not pleasure. After reviewing the website over years, I would have to disagree. Yes, he has made an empire of this, and he wants to make a movie and there's a card game and such, but to me all this says about him is his excitement over this series - and it is a great series.

It is action packed and it is sentimental, it has twists and turns and it has great fight scenes. It is complex and at times, it takes a while to get to a point you knew was coming, but it is a great read.

And here comes the actual review part of this entry: Archenemy.

Here is the synopsis of this novel:

The Heart Crystal’s power has been depleted, and Imagination along with it. The people of Wonderland have all lost their creative drive, and most alarmingly, even Queen Alyss is without her powers. There is some comfort in the fact that the vicious Redd Heart seems to be similarly disabled. Amazingly, she is attempting to team up with her enemy, Alyss, in order to reclaim Wonderland from King Arch. Alyss might have no choice but to accept Redd’s overtures, especially when she begins to receive alarming advice from the caterpillar oracles.

So, basically - Wonderland is in a huge amount of trouble - both Redd and Alyss are left without powers, and the overly misogynist King Arch of the Borderlands, is instigating a war against Wonderland.

Uh oh.

Now the narrative, as with the other two, is fast. One second you are being appraised of the situation, and the next you are on the battlefields. And that is something I appreciate. This style of writing has got a lot of flack for being too "movie like" and less literary, but I think that this type of writing fits with the overall feel of the book - which is a fast paced thriller. With tonnes of twists and intrigue.

One thing I really appreciate about Beddor's LGW trilogy (hereafter LGWT) is the strong female characters. Like, strong. Some may be evil, some may be powerless, but they are strong. Like Alyss, Queen of Wonderland - military strategist but so in command of all the other facets of her life - including the life she left behind, in our world. When she jumps through the Pool of Tears to the real world to save the Liddels from certain doom, you are left thinking she is strong but stupid, for leaving Wonderland and all her responsibilities there. But then she faces her childhood tormentor, Dodgson, and this is an excellent example of how strong she really is. And it is a great counter balance to her relationship with Dodge, childhood sweetheart and all around amazing badass.

Homburg Molly would be another such strong female character - she is lost from what she has gone through, in the previous book, and is ridden with a guilt for the events she caused to happen. But in the end, she is able to push past her own guilt and inhibitions, and get the job done. She is able to get through to the end in one piece, better then before.

And this strong female empowerment is not at the expense of the male characters, who are in themselves wonderfully expressed. Excepting Arch, who is probably the least developed character, the male characters are both sweet and complex - they get on your nerves and they also inspire you.

The plot is quick, and this is generally a criticism, but I liked it - I thought it was what was needed for the story to further itself.

Anyways, in the world that is my Book Fort, I would give this a 9/10 of Alice adaptations and a 10/10 of YA Fantasy.

Cheers! :D



Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Stalemate

Busy lives ... busy lives.

Between interviews for jobs, getting ready for school and an insane amount of STUFF that's just piled onto me lately, my reading has been down from 2-3 a week to ... well 0. Pathetic, right?

sigh.

I am currently finishing Hush, Hush - not sure how I feel about it. I have a predilection against characters who know anything for certain - probably because I seldom do, but we will see that ending.

Anyways, happy reading!