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Mistborn. Why Did I Wait So Long To Read You?

What a book. WHAT a book. I’m scared my review won’t do it justice.

At the time that Carl was hosting a Mistborn group-read, my book was still travelling all over the world, desperate to get to me. Oh, Universe, why? Why did this book take so long to arrive? And then, when it did, of course it was perfectly timed with my mid-terms. Of course.

So, I’ve been a good little girl, and I’m done with exams for a while, and I even put up a Never Let Me Go post before I put this one up, but I can’t take it anymore. There’s something you should know.

This book is bloody brilliant.

I mean it. Go out, pick up a copy, read it. Now. Now!

To start with, this book has got to have one of the best first lines ever.

Ash fell from the sky.

What did I tell you? One line, that one line, and my brain exploded. Ash? ASH?! From the freaking sky?! This man is mad.

The rest of the book is like that, too, mind you. There where times when (oh, and this is a super quick read, by the way. Don’t count on getting any sleep till you’re done) I doubled back and just stared at sentences like they had three heads. Ash falling from the sky, I tell you.

And the magical system! Probably one of the most creative that I’ve ever seen. And incredibly real. Well, as real as magical systems can be anyway. Pfft, no, I can’t tell you, that’s the best bit unfortunately.

Okay, I take that back. The characters were the best bit. Sanderson had me hooked from page one, and pretty much every character that came after just added to the fervent page-turning. There were a few secondary characters that weren’t as well fleshed out, but I think I’m going to let that drop. Who cares, eh? Who cares.

First, there’s Kelsier, who reminded me a LOT of Durzo Blint (if you haven’t read The Night Angel trilogy, that’s another one I highly recommend. One of my favourite fantasy trilogies, that.) Okay, no limelight stealing allowed. But, well Durzo Blint is the awesomest character in the world – ever. Except for maybe Morpheus. (ARGH! FOCUS, WOMAN!)

What was I saying? Ah, yes Kelsier. A character as mad as the author, he dashes about, wreaks havoc, waves charmingly and dashes away, somewhere else, wreaks havoc there.. Do I have to explain why I love him? Listen to this:

“How do you ‘accidentally’ kill a noble man in his own mansion?”
“With a knife in the chest. Or, rather, a pair of knives in the chest…”

See? SEE?!

Yikes. I don’t think I’ve ever used these many caps in a post before. Sorry?

Then there’s Vin. And finally! Another strong female protagonist that I can add to my pathetically tiny list of Alanna, Matilda, Maya and Sonea. Very, very few authors can create a realistic, yet strong, female character. This man does it beautifully. And while Vin is the main focus of the book, I like how balanced the narrative is. Vin’s story of a scared, distrusting orphan-Skaa (non-nobility) turning into this lethal, strong, determined individual who gives as good as she gets (sometimes better) and manages to resolve some, if not all trust issues (Yay! Disney? Learn! (I still love you (Sorry! (Don’t stop making movies!!)))) was completely engaging. But if Sanderson had focused on that, and just that, I’d have put the book down mid-way and picked another one up. No, this man realises that we don’t want a plain old Bildungsroman, no no, we can get that anywhere. We want you to talk about the rebellion, too. (What, you thought there wasn’t going to be a rebellion? Psh.) But too much about rebellions, and we get bored. Now, I don’t know how he put these two together so perfectly, but he’s sneaky like that. There were a few “fantasy-cliches” here and there, but you know what? I didn’t get mad. I lapped it up, asked for more, and now the next two books are sitting across the table from me waiting to be devoured.

But, before that. I need to see what Carl, Grace and Lynn have to say about the book. I’ve religiously avoided their posts, because I didn’t want their thoughts to influence this review, but now I’m going berserk.

I’ve made a lot of references to other books in this post. Just in case you’re interested, here are links that will tell you more about them. For Durzo Blint, go here. Morpheus, here (if you do plan to read Sandman, I’d avoid this one. Summaries!) and here. Alanna is from The Song of the Lioness quartet by Tamora Pierce. You also HAVE to read what Cheryl has to say about her. Matilda - Matilda by Roald Dahl. Maya from the Game World Trilogy by Samit Basu (book one here, book two, I can’t find book three), and Sonea from the Black Magician Trilogy by Trudi Canavan (the link takes you to her website. Her rec-reading list is amazing, by the way).  I would, um, recommend all of them. If in doubt, convince you I shall! 

 

Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro (A Book Like This Merits A Sober Title)

What do you say about a book that makes you want to jump in and take care of the characters? To give them a hug and tell them you’re there for them and it aches not to be able to?

Ishiguro has been on my to-read list for quite a while now, but I was very particular about this book being my first – a sort of gateway into the world of Ishiguro-loving-awesomeness, if you will. Why was I so particular? I saw the movie earlier this year as part of my 50-50 Challenge. I’ll come to that in a bit.

The Book.

I’ve heard a lot of people praise this book to the stars, always along the lines of,  “Ishiguro is amazing. You have to read his work!” But WHY is this man amazing? What is it about him ? I’ve never heard a single bad review of this book, and I never thought it strange until I started reading. I’ve always just nodded eagerly and made a mental note to get my hands on the book.

So, let’s look at this man, shall we? For the first fifty pages or so, I felt nothing. Sure, it was interesting, but his writing wasn’t particularly scintillating – certainly nothing I’d be impressed by having just read Angela Carter (review coming soon, this woman is mad. In a good way, of course).

Was it the characters? No, not really.

Was it what he was writing about? (I’m not telling you, this book has been falsely advertised as a lot of things and it makes me very angry. I’ll direct you to the Goodreads summary, though. But please don’t look through the reader reviews. Do you trust me? Yes? Good. )

“Get on with it!”, you’re thinking. “Tell us!”

Honestly? I don’t know.

Never Let Me Go is the most beautiful, depressing piece of art I have ever come across. It isn’t one whose magnificence you’d shout from the rooftops, but one you’d carry around with you, stare at lovingly from time to time, flip through pages long after you’ve finished – just to remember the journey it took you on.

It’s the kind of book you’d recommend with sparkly eyes and a secretive little whisper. The kind that you’ll think about long after you’ve finished reading and occasionally shake your head in wonder. The kind that’ll make you want to review this before Mistborn even though you read that one first and it was fantastic.

Is there anything extraordinary about this book? If I have to be honest, no. But it’s a special book. A very special book. A very, very, very, very…you get it. I expected to weep buckets, because that’s what happened when I watched the movie for the first time. But I was dry-eyed for the most part. There were just two sentences that set me off. Two sentences, two choked sobs. That’s it. But in those few moments, I felt such a deep connection to Kathy (Goodreads link, clickety-click), that it felt like..I can’t tell you what it felt like. I don’t have the words.

Read More…

When A Book Makes You Really, REALLY MAD

Let me start by saying I did like Love Story. So you really can’t hold this against me.

I hated this book. HATED it. And I very rarely hate a book. Sure, some books fail to live up to my expectations, some are just disappointing after being hyped up and receiving rave reviews, and some just aren’t my kind of books. With Oliver’s Story, the problem was this : it was plain terrible.

I’m reviewing this book a week after reading it in the hope that some of the anger would have subsided. I can’t say that it’s worked, but at least I’m not employing every swear word I know.

The Negatives:

  • Oh, where to start? If there was a list of things so cheesy you could make ten cheese burgers with it, this book would make it on that list. At the very top. Actually, make that thirty burgers.
  • Take Oliver himself. He’s whiny, annoying, and he stalks the first female he decides to let in after Jenny died. Because he thinks she’s keeping secrets from him. The hell? They’ve gone out ONCE. And he thinks he’s entitled to know everything about her? Please.
  • Listen to this:

“For some unfathomable reason, Oliver, I like you. But you are impossibly impulsive

“You’re not too possible yourself,” I answered.

I’m sorry, what? What does that even mean?! “You’re not too possible yourself”?! Erich Segal, have you completely lost it?!

  • I can’t handle so many stuck-up snobs. I just can’t. I don’t care if that’s how all corporate heiresses and people born into truckloads of money act (and somehow I doubt they’re thaaaat pretentious), but all the conversations about money in this book made me nauseous.
  • There’s this bit towards the end of the book where they visit Tokyo. And I swear, it feels like he’s looked up the place and Ctrl+C, Ctrl+V-ed everything he could find. Or he actually visited Tokyo and somebody gave him a dreadful brochure. Which he copied out of. Either way, there was copying. Violation of the first rule of calling yourself a writer, I think?
  • I liked Jenny. I did. If this was actually a book about him coping with Jenny’s death, it might have been better. I’ve never cared about Oliver much, and I doubt I’d ever be able to read Love Story again because of this.

The Positives

  • None. Oh, wait. At least I’m one book closer to my year’s goal. I suppose that counts.

Final verdict: I can’t stress how bad this book is. Do yourself a favour and stay away.

Amulet (Or) A Case For Why You Shouldn’t Take Children’s Literature Lightly

Fact of life : when a Literary Tiger tells you to get on with your book reviews, you listen. You don’t want to end up being tiger-chow.

Battling book withdrawals when you’ve got very little time is never easy, but I’ve found an elegant solution that, more often than not, keeps me happy for a whole week. Reading a graphic novel. They don’t take long because they’re broken up into issues, they’re highly addictive, and the verbal and visual assault is usually enough to keep your senses happy for a while. Usually.

Amulet has been on my to-read list for a very, very long time. After getting nowhere with The Umbrella Academy and I Kill Giants (I always find that I can’t finish a book every time I put it on my Goodreads currently reading shelf), I was desperate. So I picked it up, with high hopes and a nice comfy cushion, trusting in all the outstanding reviews I had come across on Goodreads.

Boy, was I disappointed. A lot of reviews compared this to Bone, and while I can see similarities here and there, the fact of the matter is: Bone is an all-ages book — everybody who reads it should will like it. That isn’t the case with Amulet. True, it’s got breathtaking illustrations, but that isn’t all a graphic novel is. You need something to back the art.

If I was ten/eleven, I’d love it. It would be my favourite-est book of all time (granted, “all time” is very short when you’re that age), but I struggled through this. What made this series unbearable for me was knowing that there was a time I would have enjoyed and  raved about it for the next few years. I get the feeling that I’m being a little harsh, but I’m upset with the fact that I had to try so hard to love it – to think like a twelve-year old – and it still didn’t do anything for me. You shouldn’t have to try. See, with Bone, it’s effortless. Jeff Smith takes a story we’re sort-of familiar with, and he still manages to make it work. Kazu Kibuishi falls short, just a tiny bit.

And you know how I feel about spoilers? Well, for the first time ever, it won’t matter if I tell you what the book is about, because it doesn’t matter what age you are, you can see where this is going.

Family moves to Grandpa’s (haunted) estate/mansion/tower-y house thing. Goes on a cleaning spree. Girl finds library and mysterious book. Magical things happen, and she ends up with a stone. Monsters kidnap mother; Girl and Brother try to save her. On the way, a lot of self-discovery and various other clichéd fantasy plot points are highlighted – cruel king disappointed in son, son trying to do good, The Resistance, Super-Awesome-Ninja-Fox, ancient city situated in the clouds, all that stuff.

I constantly felt like he was insulting a child’s intelligence. I’ve grown up on a healthy diet of Roald Dahl’s work, and when I re-read them now (yes, I’m sentimental about these things), I can still connect to every word. Every single one. I’m twenty, and Dahl makes me feel like a twenty-year old reading a fun book. Twenty, not twelve. (Kibuishi, are you getting this?)

I’ve read the first three volumes, and I’m not sure I want to continue. A part of me is curious to see if he turns the whole story around, and a part of me is past caring. As beautiful as the illustrations are, I’d rather find something that can give me pretty pictures with a backbone.

Final verdict? Anyone below the age of thirteen will love this. Apart from that, the artwork is the only selling point. Otherwise, I wouldn’t bother.

 

Just to help you decide, visit boltcity.com

The Graveyard Book – And My Last Gaiman Review For A While. Promise.

“Suppose we pick a name for him, eh?”
Caius Pompeius stepped over and eyed the child. “He looks a little like my proconsul, Marcus. We could call him Marcus.”
Josiah Worthington said, “He looks more like my head gardener, Stebbins. Not that I’m suggesting Stebbins as a name. The man drank like a fish.”
“He looks like my nephew Harry,” said Mother Slaughter…
“He looks like nobody but himself,” said Mrs.Owens, firmly. “He looks like nobody.”
“Then Nobody it is,” said Silas. “Nobody Owens.”

This has, without a doubt, got to be my favourite Gaiman after Sandman.

From the very first sentence, you’re hooked. Being Gaiman, he’s managed to get a wonderful illustrator to complement his writing. (Dave McKean? You’re awesome.) But now you’re thinking – because that’s all there is on the page, and you need to take a minute to mind-yell about how this is the most amazing first page ever – Why on earth does a “children’s book” start this way? And you realise you don’t care, because it’s Neil Gaiman, and you trust this strange man with stranger ideas – and if my mum had read this to me when I was a kid, I’d think she was the definition of cool.

C.S. Lewis said, “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.”   I agree. And this guy seems to be able to find the perfect balance. While I still read some of my Famous Five books from time to time, the only reason I enjoy them is because they bring back memories. Half the time, I skip entire chapters. With The Graveyard Book, I read it twice, back to back, and I might read it again once I complete my reading challenges – it’s that good. It’s engaging, and beautifully written, plus I don’t feel like he’s “talking down to me” – and that is my definition of a good children’s book.

Sidenote: The reason I’m spending so much time on this is because I think every kid should try reading this – and I know parents will be wary because it’s about Nobody (Bod, for short) being raised in a graveyard. But if your child reads Lemony Snicket, or Philip Pullman, or Harry Potter, even, I’d give them this (and read over their shoulder).

So. What is this book about, I hear you ask. Well, what does any book that has to do with a child in a graveyard have? It’s got an endearing mother-figure, a dead poet that took his revenge on the world by not letting anybody read his work, ghouls that name themselves after their first meal, and the man Jack. Several men Jack, actually. (Or is that man Jacks? This is going to keep me up at night.)

I’ve got to say, Gaiman has a real talent for creating characters that stay with you long after you’ve finished reading. I have a weakness for mysterious, intelligent men and strong female characters, and his books have got plenty of those. There was Morpheus in Sandman, The Marquis in Neverwhere, and Crowley (An Angel who did not so much Fall as Saunter Vaguely Downwards) in Good Omens. Also, Door, Hunter, and Coraline. In this book – there’s Liza Hempstock, Miss Lupescu and Silas.

“There were people you could hug, and then there was Silas.”

******************************************************

“Repeat after me, there are the living and the dead, there are day-folk and night-folk, there are ghouls and mist-walkers, there are high hunters and the Hounds of God. Also, there are solitary types.”

“What are you?” asked Bod.

“I,” she said sternly, “am Miss Lupescu.”

“And what is Silas?”

She hesitated. Then she said, “He is a solitary type.”

I absolutely adore Silas. You’re never told what he is, though. Someone on Goodreads called him a vampire, and while he does have some vampire-y traits, I needed to be sure. So I tried looking it up on Gaiman’s FAQ section, and this is what I found:

Q: What is Silas in The Graveyard Book?
A: Silas is a Very Important Character in The Graveyard Book. Also, he is Bod’s Guardian.

Well played, Mr.Gaiman. Well played.

Coraline!

Maybe I should turn this blog into a Neil Gaiman fan-site. Just saying.

I stumbled across the movie (long before I’d ever known about Gaiman) after a friend told me I just had to watch it. Why did I have to watch it, you ask? Because while I love Disney and Pixar movies (when they work together and individually), they’re always too..clean. You know? I watch them because they’re fun and there’s something slightly addictive about them (I’ve seen The Jungle Book and Aladdin more than twenty times, I think. And Monsters Inc. And ..well, you get the message), but the tiny voice in my head complains about how shiny and perfect everything is. With Coraline, however, even if you aren’t familiar with Gaiman’s work, you are aware of just how different it is from the very first minute.

Just look at that. Isn’t it beautiful?

The animation is absolutely incredible. It’s quirky and odd in a brilliant way and even though the story is responsible for sucking you into Coraline’s world, a part of you is constantly marvelling about how visually stunning everything is. Why aren’t more movies like this?

Imagine my disappointment when I found out it was based on a book. After I had finished watching it.

When I did pick up the book sometime in the last week, I was pleasantly surprised. While not as detailed and complex (verbally) as his other works, this man sure can pull off a good children’s novel. I don’t know why I was surprised, really, I guess I just didn’t expect someone who could do a Sandman could do a Coraline. Even if I had already watched the movie.

I’ve got an issue with a few changes that the film made (for those of you who’ve seen and read this, you know what I’m taking about), but in the interest of remaining spoiler-free, I’m going to have to stay quiet about it. On the whole, though, this is a book that is somehow enhanced if you read it and watch the movie. Gaiman’s written it in a way that makes the book thoroughly enjoyable on its own, but also translates well onto film. And normally I wouldn’t admit this, but I’ll have to make an exception here — I sort-of-maybe-kinda like the movie a little more than I like the book. Please watch it before you decide to blast my door off its hinges and attack me for saying that?

Final verdict: I love a strong female protagonist – and Coraline makes a pretty great one. If you’ve got a daughter or a niece, I’d strongly suggest reading it to her. Although you might have to deal with the fact that she’s going to be staring at your eyes for quite a while, checking for signs that it’s been replaced by a button. Oh, and please don’t stop mid-way and ask her to go to sleep — there is no way she is going to be able to. A few hugs and I-love-you-s might also be necessary. Don’t worry, though. Gaiman has dialled down the creepy (for the most part), but I don’t recommend reading this to anyone below the age of eight. And please, please, please watch the movie.

Neverwhere (Or) Why I’m Not Apologising

You see that man?

He’s crazy. I love him.

I’ve been “reading” Neverwhere for a while now, and by “reading”, I actually mean blogging. I realised that I was spending more time blogging about things than actually doing them, and after giving myself a swift mental-kick-in-the-butt, I fixed it. I started Neverwhere again (I’d finished about 100 pages before) and pretty soon, I was completely hooked.

I usually read late into the night and sleep when the sun comes up, but this guy changed it for me. For the first time ever, I was scared to read a book. All alone. In the dark.

Mind you, it isn’t actually scary. (Yes it is.)  I wasn’t trying to prevent myself from having nightmares or anything. (Yes I was.)

I loved it. But. I’ve given the book three stars on Goodreads. Let me explain why.

I had the same issue with Good Omens. I don’t like predictable endings. And even though I’ll forgive an ending if everything that leads up to it is excellent, Neverwhere just wasn’t a Good Omens. Yes, I was hooked. Yes, I forgot to eat. Twice. Yes, I got angry phone calls from people I’d promised to meet – and completely neglected my 30 Day Music Challenge. This book is brilliant, it really is. But with the last forty pages or so, I wanted the escalation to be worth it. I wanted to know that all those hours I spent reading it would result in an explosion that would leave me staring at the wall blankly for the next half-hour. What I didn’t want was to be able to tell exactly what was coming.

However. A good ending isn’t the be-all and end-all (heh heh) of a book, and there’s something about Neil Gaiman you should know, if you don’t already. This guy can paint pictures in your head. Really.

With most fantasy novels, it’s fairies and pixies and elves (not all, don’t hurt me) and while I enjoy novels like that, I don’t really see them in my head. There are images (from movies, photographs, Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter related fan art) I can link to the author’s description, but that’s about it. With Gaiman, he actually inserts pictures in your head – and I know this sounds absurd – but he manages to do it. Only, he chooses gritty, everyday landscapes to weave his stories into, instead of glimmering, airy-fairy ones. Don’t get me wrong, I love the latter – it’s just that, even when you have light and dark in those novels, the darkness is still above your everyday existence somehow. It’s something you wish you were a part of, and know you can never be. Neverwhere wasn’t like that. It was the most real fantasy novel I’ve ever read. That’s what made it creepy. That’s what gave me chills. I know I’m never going to be a Warrior Princess/get a letter inviting me to Hogwarts/plunge into a book by reading it beautifully. But I know there is, in fact, a city that exists “below” mine. A city full of dubious characters, more than dubious transactions. A city that is dark and scary without even having to be in a book. Add a little imagination to that picture and you have Neverwhere. Easily accessible. You and I could just as easily slip through the cracks and find ourselves in a world that scares the living daylights out of us.

Final verdict? Incredible. I’d love it if you read it. (We can get excited about how amazing this man is, together!)  And I’m not apologising for abandoning my challenge.