Monday, January 31, 2011

Little (Grrl) Lost.

Title/Author: Little (Grrl) Lost by Charles de Lint.

Genre: YA/Urban Fantasy.

Publisher: Viking, 2007.

Source: Library.

Favorite character: Elizabeth.

Favorite quote: “Remember, just because you haven’t experienced something that doesn’t mean it’s not real.” T.J.

All in all: The story is about gaining confidence in yourself and personal “growth,” no pun intended.

Synopsis: Imagine Mary Norton's quirky Borrowers as twenty-first-century Goth teens bent on discovering their true genealogy. De Lint has crafted a delightfully edgy fantasy that will lead teens to his popular adult series of Newford books, where magic and fantasy thrive in a seemingly ordinary community. Fourteen-year-old T. J.'s family has been forced to move to a suburb, leaving behind their family farm and T. J.'s beloved horse. Shy and awkward, T. J. has trouble finding a niche in her new school, and she misses her old friends desperately. Enter Elizabeth Wood, a 16-year-old "Little" who is six inches tall and all punky attitude (four-letter words abound). T. J. and Elizabeth are both fascinated and sometimes disgusted by each other, and they form a tight, complicated friendship that sees them through a slew of adventures in both the quotidian and magical worlds.

Thoughts:  In de Lint’s world of Newford, help and friendship come unbidden, when you most need it and when you least expect it.

I really enjoyed this book and especially the relationship between T.J. and Elizabeth. They have a sibling-esque dynamic and they play well off each other. Even though Elizabeth is only six inches tall, she is fierce, independent, sassy and wants more than being a Little has to offer. She encourages (almost berates) T.J. to take chances and to take advantage of being a “Big”, because after all, T.J. can wear cool clothes and do what she wants. Although T.J. admires Elizabeth for her bravado, she is timid and feels awkward and is not quite ready to do everything that her friend encourages her to do. But a series of events separate them and they each have to go through their own personal growth, so to speak, where they have to rely on their wits to see them through.

T.J. is trying to find Elizabeth and at the same time discover more information about Littles. Elizabeth is trying to discover if an old wives tale about her kind is true. There were a few parts that seemed a bit convoluted and one or two scenes that didn’t work for me but in the end it all tied together. As in all Charles de Lint books the mundane and magical mix and here it blended in a clever and enchanting way. I think that since T.J. is 14 and Elizabeth is 17 it could appeal to a variety of ages as well as so called “adults” like me.

To separate the two viewpoints of Elizabeth and T.J., de Lint used a first person viewpoint for Elizabeth and a third person point of view for T.J. I felt much more connected to Elizabeth and honestly at times, T.J.’s behavior bothered me. However, the very actions that I thought were immature led to more events that helped her own self discovery.

I had to ask myself when I finished this book if I would have liked it as much if it wasn’t written by Charles de Lint, because I am a little biased. Although I do admit that it is not my favorite Charles de Lint book, I do feel that he built tension and the plot had enough surprises to keep my interest.  This is a book I would give a young reader to introduce them to one of my favorite authors.

4 out of 5 Stars.


Saturday, January 29, 2011

Dusty Volumes Challenge (January Posts)

Brush the cobwebs aside,
Pull the book from the shelf.
Blow the dust off the cover,
Then immerse yourself.


Has anyone read any Dusty Volumes yet?  

I was really hoping to be finished with Dracula by now, but I've been cheating on it with a few other books and unfortunately was sick for about a week (alas, at times too sick to even read).  But according to my Kindle I'm 67% done with it, so here's hoping I'll get my first Dusty Volumes Challenge review up soon.

Link your Dusty Volumes Reading Challenge reviews!  Click Here.

For more information about the Challenge, click the button above.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Childhood Thrills (January 2011)

Childhood Thrills is a feature that recalls books I read in my childhood or adolescence that were special to me or "haunt" me in some way. I don't intend to re-read & review them, just simply share my memories and the feelings they evoke.


The Ghost Next Door by Wylly Folk St. John.

Here is another spooky book that I managed to find when I was young.  I think I just automatically read any title with the word "ghost" in it.  And that cover is awesome! 

The story is about two friends, Lindsay and Tammy who meet a girl named Sherry who is visiting her Aunt Judith one summer.  Sherry soon makes a friend that no one ever meets.  Perhaps she is really an imaginery playmate or perhaps they just keep missing her. 

Lindsay and Tammy find out that Judith's half sister, Miranda, drowned in a pond behind the house when they were children.  Judith has been searching for an owl that I believe her sister had made for her.  Sherry then claims to find the owl, but her Aunt knows it is not the same one because it didn't have "love in it's eyes."  By the end of the story, the correct owl is found and the aunt finds peace over the loss of Miranda.  It turns out the owl's eyes had "LO" carved in one eye and "VE" carved in the other.

I remember this book because first of all it is a ghost story and secondly there was a mystery.  I remember wondering about the elusive owl (by the way, I love owls!) with love in it's eyes and was very satisfied by the conclusion of the mystery.  I also liked how the ghostly element wasn't obvious (at least to me back then).  From what I remember, I'm pretty sure that Sherry somehow discovered the tragedy of Miranda and was playing on it for attention.  However, I do think that there is parts of the story that cannot be explained that left me with a sense of wonder.  Perhaps how the owl was ultimately found.  I may have to buy this from Amazon and re-read it after all!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Top 5 Sundays - Books You Wish Were Part Of A Series, But Aren't.

Top 5 Sundays is a weekly meme hosted by Larissa at Larrisa's Bookish Life.  Check out her blog, it has great content, excellent reviews, unique name it.  This week's Top 5 is Books You Wish Were Part of a Series, but Aren't.  I'm also very flattered that she used my suggestion for this week's Top 5.  Visit her blog if you want to participate!

I have to admit, sometimes books that are part of a series bug me.  Maybe it's because I grew up reading mostly stand alone books and that's what I'm used to.  Maybe it's because I somehow feel that I'm being forced to keep reading (or buying) the next installment to find out what happens to the characters.  Maybe it's because it's almost like a soap opera that just keeps going and some books in the series are great and some are not so great.  When the last story was not so great, it's hard for me to want to continue with the character and story.

However, sometimes, there are books that I love so much, I'm sad at the end because my journey with that character is over.  I've seen them to the conclusion of their mission or goal and they don't need me to read their story anymore.  But it's too late, I've become so attached I can almost imagine what is going to happen next and I want to be there.  I guess this is one reason why Fanfiction originated.

5.  The Wood Wife by Teri Windling.   I'm familiar with Teri Windling as primarily an editor of some of the big names in Urban Fantasy (Charles de Lint, Jane Yolen, Emma Bull).  She is also an artist and an author.  The Wood Wife  is an Urban Fantasy book that combines Celtic and Native American folklore.  It has mystery and romance and I really regretted leaving this world.

4. Swan Song by Robert McCammon.  Apocolyptic.  Horror.  Two words that I love in fiction.  I've read most of McCammon's books and have really enjoyed them.  This is my favorite book of his and I not only loved the story, but I got very attached to the characters, especially Swan.

3. The Stand by Stephen King.  Again, apocoplyptic horror.  The story had the most basic of plot lines, good vs. evil.  However, The Stand is so much more and possesses punch and complexity.  It is tragic and bittersweet as the characters grapple with a new and dangerous world and have to show courage and a lot of heart. (Pssst, I totally fell in love with Nick Andros.)

2 & 1.  The Little Country  and Memory and Dream by Charles de Lint.  I'm doing these two together, although I have to admit Memory and Dream is my favorite CDL book.  Both books are haunting, lyrical and gentle in their approach that suggests there is more to this world than meets the eye.  The characters however, are why I want to continue the journey into these two worlds.  The people who populate these books would not only be steadfast friends, but they would show you magic and change your life.

ps-Luckily, many of Charles de Lint's books that take place in the city of Newford feature a lot of the same characters and places. 

Friday, January 21, 2011

Can't Wait!

Halloween is a bad time to return to the woods…
Madeline MacFadden (“Mad Mac” to fans of her bestselling magical stories) spent blissful childhood summers in Ticonderoga Falls. And this is where she wants to be now that her adult life is falling apart. The dense surrounding forest holds many memories, some joyous, some tantalizingly only half-remembered. And she’s always believed there was something living in these wooded hills.

But Maddie doesn’t remember the dark parts—and knows nothing of the mountain legend that holds the area’s terrified residents captive. She has no recollection of Ash, the strange and magnificent creature who once saved her life as a child, even though it is the destiny of his kind to prey upon humanity. And soon it will be the Harvest…the time to feast.

Once again Maddie’s dreams—and her soul—are in grave danger. But magic runs deep during Harvest. Even a spinner of enchanted tales has wondrous powers of her own…

The back copy synopsis had me at "Halloween."  The rest sounds pretty intriguing too.  Secrets and legends and magic, oh my!

Destefano's first book, Afterlife, was one of my favorites of 2010 and I actually gave it an extra star I loved it so much.  So, I'm really looking forward to seeing what Merrie does in her next book.

I love the cover of Feast.  Both book covers have a similar feel.  The  female main character is depicted, both have that eerie blue night time background and the same font gives a nice consistency that will differentiate Destefano's books on the shelves.

Feast comes out 6/28/11.

Read my review of Afterlife here.
Check out Merrie Destefano's site here.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Immanuel's Veins.

Title/Author: Immanuel’s Veins by Ted Dekker.

Genre: Horror/Supernatural Romance.

Publisher: Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Source: Library.

Favorite character: Sofia.

Favorite quote: “Both good and evil vie for the passions of the heart.” –Toma.

All in all:  It wasn't for me, but I think other people would like it.

Synopsis: Toma, a Russian soldier and his friend Alek, are chosen by Catherine the Great to protect the Cantemir family and their estate from harm. As soon as they arrive, they fall for the unmarried daughters Lucine and Natasha Cantemir. However, there is a seductive force in the neighboring castle that threatens the souls of the Cantemirs and Toma has to risk everything to save his true love Lucine.

Please note: This review has many spoilers.

My Thoughts: I really wanted to like this book more than I did. I think a lot of it had to do with my expectations. I’ve seen Ted Dekker’s books everywhere and looked at a few in the bookstore but have never bought any. When I saw this one at the library I was very excited. Look at that cover! It lured me in and conjured up images of gothic intrigue. Dekker is a New York Times bestselling author and in the beginning of this book, there is blurb after blurb from readers praising Immanuel’s Veins. So, I was really expecting a lot.

The descriptions were lovely; lots of red, black, crystal and candlelight. It was easy for me to imagine the castles, the grounds, the clothes, and the people. It was also a fast read and the writing flowed for the most part even if the story didn’t for me.

There is a lot of mystery attached to Immanuel’s Veins. The book jacket reads like a riddle and it is lovely and lyrical and speaks of evil and love. I think that the author wanted to write a vampire book (there I spoiled it!) and set it in a time before they were known in popular culture. The vampires are among mankind to “…win the love of mortals away from God.” They do this by claiming to use love instead of power.  Blood is not only a physical necessity in their world, but very symbolic as well. They compare their own blood sacrifices and rites with biblical sacrifices. They feel their own way of life, bringing people over with love is akin to Jesus dying on the cross because he sacrificed himself for love not religion. The mythos of the vampire that the author created was interesting even though it was a legend I had heard hints of before. What I found more interesting was the religious overtones that the mythology brought about, the theories and their views.

A lot of it was a bit over the top for me, but perhaps the author wanted to create a sense of impropriety, unease and just plain inappropriateness of the vampires and their behaviors and beliefs. I had thought they would have wanted to fit in with the public, but hey, maybe I’ve read too many books. It was difficult for me to believe that this coven or "Kiss" would make spectacles of themselves outside the safety of their own lair, but it was even harder to believe that only Toma was bothered by it. Another thing that stuck out to me was the use of contemporary terms and phrases in the setting of the 1770s. It wasn’t done a lot and it wasn’t a huge deal, but it was enough to make me scratch my head. Perhaps it had to do with a reference to one of the characters coming from a “different dimension.”

Toma and Lucine, the two main characters fell in love in the span of one week. There was some flirting and conversation, but no depth to their relationship. However, Toma’s feelings are the impetus for him choosing love over duty and realizing that he will sacrifice himself to save Lucine. For some reason, though, I did accept that they were in love, or at least thought they were in love. This part of the story didn’t bother me as much as others.

Toma wept an awful lot and there were several scenes of him with tears streaming down his cheeks.  Unfortunately this did the opposite to elicit sympathy from me. Also Lucine…at the beginning of the book there was a reference to how she took revenge on a man who had wronged her. This put me in mind of a very strong, fierce, independent woman. But the description of her throughout the rest of the book didn’t quite live up to this. She was very demure and wanted to do the right thing. Then when she fell into the “evil clutches” of Vlad van Valerik, the neighboring Russian who wants to marry her, he turns on her, physically abuses her and she feels she deserves it. Okay, so maybe she was under his thrall and everything, but I wondered where the strong woman was or why the mention of it was in there in the first place.

This story was simple enough to be strong, and the players had potential. However, I feel that it didn’t have a solid enough foundation to hold up to the richness of metaphors, secrets and religious undertones.

2 out of 5 stars.

This title applies to the 2011 Horror and Urban Reading Fantasy. Please click link or button on sidebar for more information.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


Title/Author: Autumn by David Moody.

Genre: Horror.

Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books.

Source: Purchased.

Favorite character: None.

Favorite quote: None.

All in all:  This book wasn't for me.

Synopsis: After 99 percent of the population of the planet is killed in less than twenty-four hours, for the very few who have managed to stay alive, things are about to get much worse.

Animated by “phase two” of some unknown contagion, the dead begin to rise. At first slow, blind, dumb and lumbering, quickly the bodies regain their most basic senses and abilities – sight, hearing, locomotion – as well as the instinct toward aggression and violence.

Held back only by the restraints of their rapidly decomposing flesh, the dead seem to have only one single goal-to lumber forth and destroy the sole remaining attraction in the silent, lifeless world: those who have survived the plague, who now find themselves outnumbered one million to one. ~Book jacket.

Please note: This post will have many spoilers.

Some stories are about people and some stories focus on a situation and what people do. Autumn seemed to be about the latter. I personally don’t really feel this is a horror novel.  It seemed to be more of a survival story. There was some gore and rotting zombies and corpses, but it didn’t really instill a sense of fear or dread in me. The only really scary chapter turned out to be a dream.

I would have liked to have seen more showing in this book, but unfortunately, it felt very narrative throughout most of the novel.  The events were basically the three main characters trying to get through the days. Because of the style, it took me several pages to figure out who was speaking and there were sentences that didn’t make sense and it was distracting to me.

I would have also liked to have seen traits that make the characters stand out or expose who they are. They are sad and upset and they understand that the world has changed and they reminisce from time to time but they don’t explore their feelings in depth. The only thing I got from their personalities was that Carl is rude and Michael is arrogant and bossy. These traits can be interesting, but I couldn’t find anything behind their words and actions. When Emma and Michael say that they are upset after Carl leaves the farmhouse, it surprised me because I really didn’t see anything to back up their feelings. They just argued with him and tried to bully him into staying. There was also a part where Michael states that he’d come to rely on having Emma around and even though they hardly knew each other they shared “…more pain, despair, and raw emotion with her than any other person.” However, this is not shown to my satisfaction. 
The characters also fight a lot.  I understand that emotions are high, but there is constant bickering, criticizing, hairsplitting and going over arguments again and again. The people reminded me of dysfunctional family members more than survivors who needed to work together.

In Autumn’s defense, I do have to say that the story itself was believable. I never once thought, “...that could never happen...” even though it was a zombie novel. There were also some moments that were touched upon that could have been very special and I wish they were explored a little further. Michael wants to rebuild but he thinks they have to clear out their old life first. While this may seem a little presumptious of him, I think he has a good point. However, he only expresses this opinion by arguing and not explaining. The trio also don't like doing anything normal in the “new world” because it reminds them of what they lost. This could have been very poignant and I would have liked to have seen it explored a little further.

Afterthoughts: After I wrote this review I went on Amazon to see if I was crazy. I was a little validated to see some of the reviews agreed with mine and even the synopsis from Booklist was spot on with my opinion. There are some people who did love this book however, so if you are thinking about it, please check Amazon for all opinions.

2 out of 5 stars.

1/16/10-I almost forgot that this title goes to the 2011 Horror and Urban Reading Fantasy.  Please click link or button on sidebar for more information.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

In My Mailbox (January 9, 2011)

In my mailbox is a meme hosted by The Story Siren.  Please click on the link for more information and guidelines.  IMM is a way to share books that you've received and bring them to other reader's attention.  For Christmas I received a few gift cards from Barnes & Nobles and this is what I purchased. I try to buy softcover books since they are less expensive and I usually get newer hardcover books from the library.

1. World Made By Hand by James Howard Kunsteler.  I love apocalyptic stories and find it fascinating to imagine what would happen if the world suddenly changed.  Whether by plague, natural disaster or manmade folly.  Whether I witness the world changing or enter the story in the distant future.  What we have once believed is important suddenly changes.  This story examines what happens "...when oil wells run dry, the world economy collapses and society as we know it ceases..."

2. Heart's Blood by Juliet Marillier.  Marillier wrote the Sevenwaters Trilogy (a re-telling of the Celtic legend about 6 brothers who were turned into swans).  Heart's Blood is quoted as a "Beauty and the Beast tale".  Another genre I love - fairy tale re-tellings!  The main character is an 18 year old female, but this was not in the YA section, so I'm not sure how appropriate (or interesting) this would be to the YA crowd.  

3. Muse and Reverie by Charles de Lint.  I'm really looking forward to booking my ticket to Newford again.  Although it's apparently fictional, it's one of my favorite places to visit. Unusual occurrences are more common than not, characters are old friends and once you get there you really believe in magic and that you are connected to it. 

I hope I'm able to get to the above books soon because here is just one of my TBR piles in our guest room.  

Friday, January 7, 2011

Book Blogger Hop (January 7 - December 10 - 13, 2010)

Book Blogger Hop

The first Book Blogger Hop of the New Year!  I hope everyone has an excellent 2011.

This meme is hosted by Crazy-For-Books. Please click the button above to check out the complete rules.

This week's question is:  "What book influenced or changed your life?  How did it influence/change you?"

Answer:  My favorite author is Charles de Lint.  When I first discovered him I was blown away and so thankful.  I had found an author and stories that I had been searching for my entire life.  He is, I feel, one of the pioneers of Urban Fantasy.  Most of his stories (especially the Newford Series) take place in the modern world with magic happening on the outskirts, if you just look...if you just believe.  de Lint seems to have peered into my soul and pulled these stories out and given them back to me.  He has given me characters and experiences that I had always wanted to read about and that I never wanted to end. Okay I confess, I more than just want to read about this place where his exceptional kind of magic happens, I want to live there, make friends with his characters and experience the magic.

How did they influence me?  They have given me hope.  I want to believe that magical things happen and maybe if we just open our eyes and our hearts we can see that the magic has been there all along.

Another book that really stayed with me is Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko.  I had taken an online class on Native American spirituality and this book was on the reading list.  There is a school of thought that all things are connected, but reading this book I had an epiphany.  Silko's words sunk into me and I not only believed it, I knew it.  I was very touched by the main character, Tayo, and his experiences from his tour in World War II to his return home to his reservation where he rediscovers who he is.  

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Catching Fire and Mockingjay.


Title/Author: Catching Fire and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins.

Genre: Fantasy/Dystopian/YA.

Publisher: Scholastic Press.

Source: Library.

Favorite character: Katniss.

Favorite quote: “Some walks you have to take alone. “ ~Katniss, Mockingjay.

All in all: The Hunger Games series is one of the most powerful and thought provoking stories I have ever read. Real or not real? Real.

Synopsis: Catching Fire-Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark won the annual competition described in Hunger Games, but the aftermath leaves these victors with no sense of triumph. Instead, they have become the poster boys for a rebellion that they never planned to lead. That new, unwanted status puts them in the bull's-eye for merciless revenge by The Capitol.

Mockingjay-Young Katniss Everdeen has survived the dreaded Hunger Games not once, but twice, but even now she can find no relief. In fact, the dangers seem to be escalating: President Snow has declared an all-out war on Katniss, her family, her friends, and all the oppressed people of District 12.

My Thoughts:
I wasn’t sure I was going to write about Catching Fire and Mockingjay. I read and reviewed The Hunger Games and everyone seems to have read the whole series, reviewed them and loved them. ‘Nuff said, right?

But this story is so moving and touching, bittersweet and exciting, that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to express a few of my thoughts.

I read Catching Fire so fast that I was at the end before I realized it. Surprise after surprise had me glued to the pages. ***SPOILER ALERT: At first I was disappointed because they were going back in the Games and that had been done. But the excitement and intrigue soon swept over me. The stakes were higher. The action captured me. It also truly worked well within the plot. :END SPOILER ALERT***

The strength of these stories is not only the author’s words, but where she places them. Every scene is intrical, every sentence revealing, every thought strong. I feel that Collins is a master of psychology, of plot and of people. I hesitate to call Katniss, Peeta, Galen, and the rest who populate the series “characters” because they seem more alive than that. They have life breathed into them and possess real emotions, accurate behaviors and astute observations.

Kat is probably one of the most memorable characters I have ever read. She is clever, cautious and so very, very honest. She has to be mistrustful and to a point, conniving. She admits she hates everything including herself and that she is not motivated by kindness. What’s good for the goose, Kat can’t quite make good for the gander. She knows this. She doesn’t necessarily like it about herself, but that is who she is.  Why do I love her? Because it is apparent to me that despite all these "flaws" she is vulnerable and frightened and her actions stem from trying to protect the people she cared about. 

If Mockingjay started out a bit slow for me, it might have been that I was used to the pace of Hunger Games and Catching Fire. I usually don’t like info dumps because I want to be shown what is going on, but I was still interested in learning about the elusive and mysterious District 13. I also liked the list of “simple truths” recited by Kat that was used as a plot device and to convey the most important elements that had occurred. Another plot device that is used more than a few times is that Kat is unconscious several times and wakes to events. Again, I would have liked to have been shown what happened, but this tool works as a quick way to move the action along and have events settled into place.

***SPOILER ALERT: And sure Kat is safe now in District 13. Isn’t she? She is the face of the Rebellion. The Mockingjay. The inspiration for the public. But District 13’s President Coin is pragmatic and ruthless. Perhaps not as evil as President Snow, Coin nonetheless also sees Kat as a threat and a liability to her plans as well. I was frustrated, not with the author, but with what happens to Kat.  Whether she is in The Hunger Games or the face of the rebellion, her role is the same. She is playing a part. I couldn’t help thinking of the lyrics from The Who song Won’t Get Fooled Again, “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.” :END SPOILER ALERT***

Questions were answered without being too simplistic. There were no loose ends. As a reader, this is one of the most important things to me about a book.  I don't mind wondering, but I don't like being left confused.  I feel that the trilogy answered what I needed to know without spelling it out in an obvious way.

Even the covers of all three books in this series capture the heart of the novels and symbolize the messages perfectly. They are part futuristic with a simple, yet strong design. They remind me of flags which are symbolic in themselves, representations of a group of people or an ideal. They fit the tone and feel of the writing. There is nothing elaborate about them, but they are powerful and original.

I have been recommending these books to people who are in turn becoming fans, which is a very satisfying feeling. I think the characters, the plot and the strategies in these books are some of the most superior storytelling I have come across. And this is something that appeals to people no matter what genre they enjoy.

5 out of 5 stars.

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