Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Smut-tember Fest 2010

Smut's that you say? Why, yes, it is.

Wipe off your monitors, everyone! Jackie over at The Crafty Reader is steaming up the place with Smut-tember, which is sure to have us all fanning ourselves and wishing for cool October breezes by the end of the month!

Smut-tember is Jackie's first feature, and it's sure to be a fun one! I volunteered for it before she even had it fully planned out because 1) I gotsta support my friend's blog! and 2) I never read any steamy romance before... and what better excuse to give some a whirl??

Because this is my first detour into Swoonsville, Jackie is sending me the 5 books I'll be reading for this month. I don't know what they will be... Could be cheesy, raunchy, funny, dirty, silly, yummy, or blahsome, but one thing I can say is that this will be an entirely new experience for my *ahem* innocent eyes. ...And they are excited! :)

I'll post again when I receive the 5 books she's sending me. I've already factored these 5 into the final "ban count" for September's Book Ban.So don't worry... no cheating there!

If you're looking for an excuse to read some yum-tastic eye-candy, please join! You can read any kind of romance/erotica/smut/PNR etc you want... Just leave your keys in the bowl by the door and pop on over to Jackie's blog and sign up on her Mr. Linky!

Be there or be square! :P

Sunday, August 22, 2010

September Book Ban - An Extension of my "Read What I Own" Challenge

As you may be aware, I have 211 books on my shelves that I have not yet read. And I have #212, a review copy of The Reapers Are The Angels on its way to me. Hopefully it will arrive before September 1st, as I am joining A Girl Reads a Book's Bella and The Crafty Reader's Jackie (and more, I'm sure), in a ban on new book acquisitions for the month of September.

Now... It's true that I haven't purchased a book in a while. But I have been receiving books for review, which is not helping to chisel away at Mt. To-Be-Read. Not that I'm complaining, of course. Receiving ARCs for review is like the highlight of my life. (Ok, that seems pretty sad, but still.)

ANYWHO... My point is that I need to read what I have. I've set up my own independent reading challenge here to help, and now I'm joining forces with others to spur myself to victory!

So here are my rules:
  1. No purchasing of any new or used books for any reason. 
  2. No using the free credit I have on GR Swap. Not even for wishlist books.
  3. No visiting the library. 
  4. No signing up for new review copy books or ARC tours.
  5. No loaner books, trades, swaps, BookMooch, PaperbackSwap, SwapTree, BookCrossing or other free books, including abandoned and/or homeless books that I may feel sorry for and want to give a loving home to.

But this will be hard for me. Why? Because my birthday is in September. My birthday, where without fail, everyone who a) knows me, and b) cares it's my birthday, and c) spends money to honor this day for me will inevitably give me a B&N gift card. And probably cake. Yum.

I love my friends and family. I do. They are awesome. But this will be a hard temptation to overcome. My goal is to make it through September without using any of the giftcards, which is probably doable because my birthday is on the 24th, so it's only a week.

Then, perhaps I will splurge on a nook with them. :D


Saturday, August 21, 2010

Review: Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly ★★★★★

RevolutionI received this book via Star Book Tours.
This is the second of Donnelly's books that I've read, the first being A Northern Light (or if you're in the UK, "A Gathering Light") which I loved. I loved the wordplay and the characters and the story... it was just beautiful to me, with a bit of innocence almost.

This story is nothing like that, but if anything, I like it more for it. There are some similarities between the two stories, though. Each features a girl who stumbles upon a link to the past that is surrounded by mystery. Each features a girl struggling to find herself and happiness against all odds. And each features a girl who shares an intense love of something with a boy who understands that love completely. In "A Northern Light" it was words and language and writing, and in "Revolution" it is music.

It seems to me that lately there have been a lot of new books, particularly YA books, which feature music in such a way that it is almost an extension of the character as well as a character itself. Music featured as not only something to enjoy, but as a necessary component to life, like water or air or food.

If I Stay by Gayle Forman is one of these books, as is Harmonic Feedback by Tara Kelly (although I've only discussed this book with a friend so far, I haven't read it myself), and Horns by Joe Hill, which is not YA, but features music in the way I'm talking about. These books show beautifully how important music is as a method of communication, as art, as life.

"Revolution" is no different in that aspect. The main character, Andi, is in pain due to the death of her brother, and nothing helps except for music. It's her lifeline, her one passion, her air. Without it she has nothing and no reason to go on from day to day. But it's more than just a life-preserver, it's who she is. I'm a reader. I can't pass a word without reading it. Andi is a musician. She finds music in everything, and feels and understands music in a way that most people probably never will.

When she's in danger of flunking out of school and of not graduating, her absentee father makes her go with him to Paris, thinking that the change of scenery would give her a new outlook and help her to focus. While there, she begins work on her thesis, which is about the composer Amade Malherbeau and how his work has influenced music to this day, and during the course of that research, she stumbles on a mystery that goes all the way back to Revolutionary France.

I don't want you to think that this book is only about music, because it is not. It's about so much more. It's about understanding who we are, and where we came from. It's about heeding our past to prevent it from recurring. It's about making mistakes and surviving them. It's about being willing to give everything for what you believe in, even if it we don't succeed. It's about learning to live again. It's about the parallels between the past and the present. It's about the value of someone who takes the time to care and be there for someone who needs it. It's about all of these things and more.

This is a beautiful, layered, and intricate story that I could not stop thinking about. When I wasn't reading it, I wanted to be. It seemed to suck me in almost from the very first page. I wanted to know more about Andi, and why she is hurting as badly as she is, what makes her so jaded and bitter and angry. I hoped for her to find that something in life that makes it worth holding on to.

There's a running theme in the story of being haunted by our pasts, both in the present day story line and the Revolutionary story line. It reminds me of a song by Paramore, off of their "Brand New Eyes" album. It's a beautiful song, and I think it fits the story as well, especially considering the music theme.

Misguided Ghosts by Paramore:

I am going away for a while
But I'll be back, don't try and follow me
'Cause I'll return as soon as possible
See I'm trying to find my place
But it might not be here where I feel safe
We all learn to make mistakes

And run
From them, from them
With no direction
We'll run from them, from them
With no conviction

'Cause I'm just one of those ghosts
Traveling endlessly
Don't need no roads
In fact they follow me

And we just go in circles

Well now I'm told that this is life
And pain is just a simple compromise
So we can get what we want out of it
Would someone care to classify,
Of broken hearts and twisted minds
So I can find someone to rely on

And run
To them, to them
Full speed ahead
Oh you are not useless
We are just

Misguided ghosts
Traveling endlessly
The ones we trusted the most
Pushed us far away
And there's no one road
We should not be the same
But I'm just a ghost
And still they echo me

They echo me in circles

Overall, I loved the story. I loved the dual storylines, and the parallels and the small details that Donnelly included that made the story that much more tangible. I highly recommend this one.

View all my reviews

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Character Connection (2): Dominic Birdsey

Character Connection is a weekly meme hosted by Jen at The Introverted Reader every Thursday. It's where we get to discuss our favorite book characters and what we love about them!

This week's post is about a character that I love from one of my favorite books... Dominic Birdsey.

If you are not familiar with him, let me introduce you. Dominic is the main character in Wally Lamb's book I Know This Much Is True. He is 40 years old, and paints houses for a living... and he has issues. Serious ones. First, and definitely not the least of which is his twin brother, Thomas, who is a paranoid schizophrenic who has been in and out of institutions and half-way houses for all of his adult life, leaving Dominic responsible for his care.

The book opens with the line, "On the afternoon of October 12, 1990, my twin brother Thomas entered the Three Rivers, Connecticut Public Library, retreated to one of the rear study carrels, and prayed to God the sacrifice he was about to commit would be deemed acceptable."

With a knock on his door, Dominic is then sucked into a kind of downward-spiral where all of his problems come to a head at once. Poor guy. He doesn't have it easy and things definitely get worse before they get better. When Thomas mutilates himself, Dominic tries to prevent his brother from being sent to a state-run and very unsympathetic maximum security mental facility.

Dominic isn't a nice man and it is easy not to like him. He tends to blame everyone else for everything that goes wrong in his life. His relationships with everyone are complicated and messy and ugly, but his brother most of all. They share a bond that is both sacred and horrifying to Dominic, because he fears that he might end up just like Thomas and not be able to tell reality from delusion. His mother is meek and quiet and essentially something of a doormat for her overbearing and abusive husband, the boys' step-father, who has always considered Thomas to be a "sissy boy" who just needs toughening up. Dominic blames her for not being strong enough to protect the boys from him. And to cap it all, he has also recently separated from his beloved wife after losing their child to SIDS when the grief proved to be too much to work through, and he insensitively blames her for not being strong enough to make it work between them.

With all this going on, he starts to learn more about who he is and where he came from, which is long overdue. I love his reluctant journey toward this understanding of himself, and I have to say that despite him, he is one of my favorite characters to read about.  I feel like I can understand why he is the way he is, and that is one of my favorite things about this book. I cannot identify with him because his experiences are so very unlike my own, but through the book, I feel like I know him.

Dominic's story is a fascinating look into the relationships between people, between brothers, twins, families coping with mental illness, love, loss, regret, and identity.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Why Do I Read and Some Stuff About Me

It might seem a bit silly to be posting about this now, but I'm gonna do it anyway because I want to. Plus, it's a great excuse to use this pretty Wordle image that I created after seeing one on The Book Coop blog and deciding that I needed one of my very own! And plus plus... I know you're all just dying to know. ;)

So here goes - my reasons for reading, as displayed in a Wordle image. :D

That was fun. :) Now onto "Becky's Reading Habits 101", via The Literary Lollipop's questionnaire.

1. Favourite childhood book? Little Women
2. What are you reading right now? Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

3. What books do you have on request at the library? None, actually!

4. Bad book habit: Placing books face-down to keep my page (but only for very short amounts of time!)

5. What do you currently have checked out at the library? Again, nothing. I'm trying to read what I have!

6. Do you have an e-reader? No. I want a nook though!

7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once? Only one at a time is my preference, but I can do more if they are different types: Short stories, audio, graphic novel, etc.

8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog? Not really... I've always read a wide range of books. :)

9.Least favourite book you read this year: Grave Sight by Charlaine Harris or Harry Potter and the Bible: The Menace Behind The Magic. What a load of crap. =\

10. Favourite book I’ve read this year: That's definitely harder! I'd have to say Horns by Joe Hill or The Gun Seller by Hugh Laurie.

11. How often do you read out of your comfort zone? Umm, probably like 5% or something.

12. What is your reading comfort zone? Fiction, generally. Historical fiction, horror, contemporary fiction a little less, sci-fi, fantasy, YA, classics.

13. Can you read on the bus? Yes.

14. Favourite place to read: A big comfy chair!

15. What’s your policy on book lending? I prefer to lend a book after I’ve had a chance to read it and generally like getting them back, but that last part often poses a problem. :(

16. Do you dogear your books? NO! I hate bent and crumpled pages.

17. Do you write notes in the margins of your books? Nope.

18. Do you break/crack the spine of your books? I have been known to do that... Yes. But I generally try not to.

19. What is your favourite language to read? English, but I wish I could read French

20. What makes you love a book? If I can identify with the characters, and if it is honest. These are absolute musts for me, regardless of the story.

21. What will inspire you to recommend a book? If the novel has touched me in some way, or changed my opinion on something or expanded my knowledge etc, I want to share it with others.

22. Favourite genre: Horror or Fantasy

23. Genre you rarely read (but wish you did): Plays

24. Favourite Biography: I don't read a lot of these, but I would say "An Ordinary Man" by Paul Rusesabagina

25. Have you ever read a self-help book? (And, was it actually helpful?) Yes, I have read one, but I don't think that it was helpful.

26. Favourite Cookbook: I don't really read them.

27. Most inspirational book you’ve read this year (fiction or non-fiction): Probably "Losing Julia" by Jonathan Hull

28. Favourite reading snack: Chocolate donuts

29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience: "The Beekeeper's Apprentice" by Laurie R. King

30. How often do you agree with the critics about about a book? I don't know... I don't pay attention to professional reviews.

31. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews? Not very. If I disliked a book, I will say so.

32. If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you choose? French

33. Most intimidating book I’ve read: "Shogun" by James Clavell

34. Most intimidating book I’m too nervous to begin: "The Brothers Karamazov" by Dostoyevsky

35. Favourite Poet: Umm... I don't read poetry. Not a fan.

36. How many books do you usually have checked out from the library at any given time? Probably no more than 3.

37. How often do you return books to the library unread? Usually none. I think 1 in the last year.

38. Favourite fictional character: That's hard!! I would have to say Ron Weasley or Roland Deschain or Eddie Dean.

39. Favourite fictional villain: The Crimson King or The Overlook Hotel

40. Books I’m most likely to bring on vacation: A Stephen King novel. I never leave home without one!

41. The longest I’ve gone without reading: A couple days... I don't like not reading. It BURNS! AAAH!

42. Name a book you could/would not finish: "Howards End"... Snoozefest. I wish that I hadn't finished "Beloved" by Toni Morrison though. It was awful.

43. What distracts you easily when you’re reading? Everything. I'm easily distractable. I need quiet, or white noise, traffic, or, best of all, a thunderstorm. Heaven.

44. Favourite film adaptation of a novel: The Lord of the Rings

45. Most disappointing film adaptation: The Harry Potter movies.

46. Most money I’ve ever spent in a bookstore at one time: $50 US

47. How often do you skim a book before reading it? Never - I like to know as little as possible before experiencing it for myself.

48. What would cause you to stop reading a book halfway through? If the book is boring. Offensive stuff doesn't usually offend me, but boring books do.

49. Do you like to keep your books organized? Not really... They go where they fit!

50. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once they’ve been read? Depends on the book. I will keep a book that I think I will want to read again.

51. Are there any books that you’ve been avoiding? Not really.

52. Name a book that made you angry: Harry Potter and The Bible - in case you missed it before... this is a load of crap.

53. A book I didn’t expect to like but did: "Outlander" by Diana Gabaldon

54. A book I expected to like but didn’t: "Beloved" by Toni Morrison

55. Favourite guilt-free guilty pleasure reading: Stephen King, Harry Potter, YA books. :)

Now we

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Random Book Quote

"Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open."
- Albus Dumbledore

Read-A-Thon Goal Stuff

Monica from The Bibliophile Book Blog is hosting a Read-A-Thon this weekend in which we are supposed to read books from our own shelves. I love this idea, because I really have way too many books to read that I haven't.

But I'm a little late coming to the game, since it's Sunday and the Read-A-Thon will be ending... so I'm nominally joining in spirit and continuing it on my own semi-unofficially. "Semi" because I did make my own little image/button/thingy for my sidebar goal, because I'm just super-creative like that. *snort*

So here's what I will be reading as part of Monica's  Read-A-Thon:

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - UK edition.

And the books that I will be reading in my own unofficial Read-A-Thon goal...

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - UK Edition
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - UK Edition
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - UK Edition

Perdido Street Station
Angels, Sinners & Madmen (eBook)
The King's Mistress
The Turtle Catcher
Hell House

Wish me luck! :)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Friend Review: Dune by Frank Herbert ★★★★★

As an added bonus (because who doesn't love a freebie?), I'm posting Kandice's review of Dune as well. Because her's is better than mine. And because she's just plain awesome. :)

For your reading enjoyment... Kandice's review:

Dune (Dune Chronicles, #1)
"This was a re-read for me. Actually, probably more of a re-re-re-re...read! I love this book. I've read the entire series (that Herbert wrote himself), and they are all terrific, but this one is, by far, the best. We meet the Atreides and their retainers. We are introduced to the Guild, Fremen, other great Houses, the Bene Gesserit, Mentats, many religions and so, so much more. I'm amazed at how detailed a picture Herbert is able to paint in relatively few pages for it's scope.

This, the first in the series, is basically the end of status quo in the Empire. Paul Atreides and the Fremen bring about a new age, and it's long overdue. Dune is divided into three "books". In the first book that status quo is sketched out, but the other two books are devoted to the coming of the new age. It leaves me hungry for more. Thank goodness Hebert wrote more!

I hate to give away any of the plot, but I would like to praise Herbert's skill. He gives us characters that are super intelligent, intuitive, strong, excellent strategists, possessing any number of seemingly super-human abilities. His genius is in the way he shows us these abilities are aquired. These people work to become what they are. They train and study and practice. All the time. From birth sometimes. There are no born superheroes in Herbert's world. There are hardworkers, and yes, a little genetic help, but always work. I can trust these characters actions as true and believable because Herbert has presented them in such a flattering light. Even the bad guys work very, very hard for what they have. They lie, cheat, steal and kill, but they work hard to do so. I find it refreshing that things do not come easily. They require a price. Just like in the real world.

The other praiseworthy thing I feel Herbert accomplishes is giving us characters to balance each other out. Paul, who is arguably the main character, becomes less and less like us, so almost unsympathetic, and yet Herbert balances him with Jessica, who, even as she rises, stays emotionally accessible to us. We can sympathize and care about her. We have Stilgar who is honor personified, and yet also unsympathetic in his perfection. The foil to him is Idaho, as honor bound as Stilgar, and yet infinitely more approachable. I love Idaho. I could foil characters from this book off each other for pages, but the idea is the same. He gives us someone we can admire, and someone else we can love. Brilliant!

Now I want to go back a re-read them all. I may even break down and read the pre-quels Herbert didn't write. Maybe..."

Friday Flashback Review (7): Dune by Frank Herbert ★★★★

"Friday Flashback" is a weekly feature created by JG, The Introverted Reader.
Disclaimer: Some of these reviews may not be the best I've ever written, so just be forewarned! ;)

Dune (Dune Chronicles, #1)
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is one of those books that I've always thought that I should read, but never actually wanted to read, simply because I thought that it would have to be tedious and dry and, I hate to say it, boring. Which goes to show what a poor book-cover judge I am, because this book was anything but tedious, dry or boring. In fact, one of the first things that struck me about this book was the readability and fast-paced action and intrigue. So much happened in such a short amount of time, that I'd have to go back and read sections over again to be sure that I understood everything that had happened. Good stuff.

I have to say that I loved Herbert's writing style. It's deceptively simple and to the point... until 10, or 30, or 100 pages later when you realize that what seemed so simple and unimportant was a set-up for a revelation later, and your brain (or mine, at least) has this little "AHA!!" moment, and you feel so smart for figuring out exactly what you were so expertly and subtly led to figure out. Just imagine the possibilities for multiple readings... This book is one which can be read a dozen times and still reveal hidden nuggets of goodness.

Herbert's world, or universe, was so intriguing to me. I loved the political structure of having major and minor power families, an emperor, a 3rd party Guild to manage trade, and the 3rd party Bene Gesserit women, who sort of control-prophesy-manipulate to reach an end. The skills of the people inhabiting Herbert's universe are incredible, and so much based on mind-control. Not necessarily power over another's mind, although there is that, but I mean control over your OWN mind, to the point where instinctive reactions and involuntary bodily functions can be subverted and held in check, simply by will.

I loved Dune, as in the planet Arrakis, and the people who inhabited it, except of course for the Harkonnen jerk-faces. The Fremen are interesting and resourceful and bad-ass and wise, and are able to accept their lot, while trying to make a better lot for future generations. We could take a page out of their books, I think. We should be improving our planet, ensuring its inhabitability for as long as we're able (at least until the sun implodes and kills us all), but instead, we're polluting with reckless abandon, as if the planet is able to just reset with each generation.

Herbert's characters are some of the most interesting that I've read about as well. I loved that he infused a clear-cut Good vs. Bad struggle with deviousness and subtlety, and then on top of that, threw in characters that had to make choices that left you wondering who was real and whether they acted of their own accord or if there was something more... I loved the Atreides. They were, to me, the pinnacle of honor-bound deviousness. That seems strange to say, but I mean it in the best way possible. They were devious only to try to detect and prevent deviousness against them, and to right wrongs that have gone on for generations of animosity between houses. I do wish that there was a reason given that the Atreides house was singled out for this treatment, but reading between the lines, it seems that greed and power-mongering was the cause, and the Atreides were honest enough to stand against it, and so became the enemy.

This book is one that has a great many moral and religious and life-lesson undertones, which is a fine line to walk in any book for me, as I really, really dislike being lectured to. But I think that Herbert handled this all very well, and I was able to read it without feeling as though there was a wagging finger in my face.

Overall, I really, really enjoyed this book. The only reason that I am not able to give this 5 stars is that I felt like the entire book was leading up to a spectacular ending... but the ending drug on for just a bit too long and wasn't as spectacular as I'd hoped that it would be. It was a good ending to a very good book, but I felt that it just could have been a little bit more.

I definitely recommend this book though. It's entertaining and informative and prescient and timely as well as timeless. Just go read it already. :)

Monday, August 9, 2010

Who's Got Your Back?

I'm currently reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and as this book is the first in which Harry and Ron's friendship is really tested, it made me start thinking about what the series would be like without Ron's brilliance in it. It was scary. I don't want to think about it ever again, because these books would lose 3/4 of their magic with just that one change. *shudder*

I'm almost always more of a fan of the sidekick than I am of the hero. I identify more with the person who supports and helps the hero to greatness but stays out of the limelight. They don't get the recognition, they don't get the glory, but they get the satisfaction of being there when they are needed the most, which makes everything else possible. So it made me start thinking, and I put together a list of my favorite sidekicks...These are the ones who enable their respective heroes to rise to the level of greatness they achieve. Without them... well the hero might not be nothing, but the book would suck anyway!

So here are the people who make the greatness happen! :D

The Ten Most Awesomest "Sidekicks"
(AKA: My favorites!)

10) Deck Shifflet. Yeah, I know, you're all like, "whuzzat?" or "whodat?" or whatever. Deck Shifflet is only the short, shifty, unscrupulous, ambulance-chasing, not-quite-a-legal-lawyer-yet-but-14th-time's-the-charm! hilarious assistant to hero Rudy Baylor in John Grisham's "The Rainmaker".

9)Grover Underwood. Not the one from Sesame Street, the one from "The Lightning Thief" by Rick Riordan.
What's not to love about Grover? He's a satyr, which is cool enough on its own, but he's also sweet and loyal and brave even when he's not. He has a little bit of an anxiety problem, tends to get into more trouble than he averts, and as a guide/protector to hero Percy Jackson, he pretty much flops, but he's a great friend, and that's more important to me any day! :)

8) Ramon, who just so happens to be the best friend of our hero Samhain Corvus LaCroix (AKA Sam) is packed full of awesome and funny that he MADE Lish McBride's "Hold Me Closer, Necromancer" for me. He is full of witty comebacks, snippity-snapish one-liners, cojones that make him need to buy a size up when he shops for pants, etc. This dude... ROCKS. If you don't bust a gut when you read about him... well I'll just have to assume you have no soul.  
When this book comes out, (October 2010), I fully expect you all to read it, love it, and then petition Lish for a series. This is one book that would be criminal as a stand-alone. Just sayin'. 

7) Ford Prefect. Let me introduce you to the space-traveling, towel-carrying sidekick to one accidental-hero-extraordinaire Arthur Dent, who, if you don't know, is from Douglas Adams' "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" series. 
Mr. Prefect journeyed to Earth from a distant planet and got stranded here, poor guy. Trying his very hardest to fit in, he attempted to communicate with what he thought was the intelligent species, a Ford Prefect car, and was nearly run down while trying to make its acquaintance. Much later on, right before Earth is about to be demolished in order to build an intergalactic expressway, he manages to rescue our not-so-much-a-hero, and many adventures ensue. Great stuff. 

6) Butler, only the most loyal, smart, ass-kickingest body-guard ever. He makes Artemis Fowl's diabolical schemes possible, and looks great in a suit. 
He's deadly, funny, pretty much down for anything, is rarely surprised and very hard to outsmart. If I had a bodyguard, I'd want a Butler. Yum. :)

5) Hermione Granger. No explanations needed really. She's smart, loyal, packs a mean punch. She's passionate about equality and stands up for what she believes in no matter what. She's an awesome strong female character! She is one of my favorite female characters ever, and the only female to make this list. I love her confidence and her willingness to go to any lengths to do what she feels is right, even when it makes breaking wizard law and putting herself in danger. 

4) Wolf. Once upon a time, in a book called "The Talisman" by Stephen King, there was a young boy named Jack Sawyer who could travel to a magical place called the Territories. He was on a journey to save his mother, and her Twinner in the Territories, the Queen. On his journey, he had many terrible adventures, but made a friend of Wolf, a large hairy werewolf shepherd. Crazy right? Wolf was unfortunately forced to leave his home, and was put through many trials in Jack's world, testing Jack's patience, but Jack couldn't ask for a more loyal and brave companion, when Wolf gave up everything for Jack.

3) Samwise Gamgee. Come on. You didn't expect me to leave out SAM, did you? This list would NOT be complete without him. A little bit simple, but kind, loyal, and brave and unflinchingly determined in his goal. He accompanies Frodo on his quest to destroy the ring, and does battle with more than just Ringwraiths and Orcs on the way - he does battle with the Ring itself through Frodo's will. He is willing to sacrifice and give up everything for Frodo to succeed, but the one thing that he never gives up is hope. Because he's The Man.

2) Eddie Dean. You might remember my Character Connection post on Roland Deschain. Or, I dunno, you might have heard me talk about Stephen King's Dark Tower series once or twice. If so, you might be familiar with Eddie Dean, the flunky heroin junkie that Roland pulls into Midworld, who becomes the first of Roland's Ka-tet. Eddie isn't exactly Roland's biggest fan, but he comes to love him and trust him, and more importantly believe in his mission, and gives his life over to the quest to save the Tower. Eddie is one bad-ass mofo, not only because he can fight (and win) in his birthday suit, but because underneath that sarcastic, take-no-crap exterior, he's got a heart of gold and will go to then ends of the earth for his friends. 

And finally... it should come as no surprise at all that Number One is... *drumroll*

1) Ron Weasley. Best friend of Harry Potter, youngest of 6 boys, constantly overlooked and undervalued and unappreciated, Ron is my absolute favorite character in the Harry Potter series. He is the reason that these books have made their mark on me. Ron is so human and so fallible that he brings these fantastic (in all senses of the word) books to life and makes them a joy to read over and over and over. His loyalty slips, but rather than being something to fault him with, it makes me love him all the more because he's so real. I just want to give him everything he never had. So for me, Ron is the real hero of the story. :D

There you have it. My Top 10. Who are yours??

Friday, August 6, 2010

Friday Flashback Review (6): The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray by Chris Wooding ★★★★★

"Friday Flashback" is a weekly feature created by JG, The Introverted Reader.
Disclaimer: Some of these reviews may not be the best I've ever written, so just be forewarned! ;)

The Haunting Of Alaizabel Cray
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I was browsing the YA section of my local library and I stumbled across this book. Or maybe I should say that it called out to me. The blurry cathedral on the cover just promised to be dark and mysterious. I'm a sucker for dark, broody, creepy, gothic (etc) type stories, and this delivered just that.

I haven't read anything by Chris Wooding before, in fact, I'd never even heard of him until I picked up this book. As soon as I'm done writing this review, I'm going to be adding his other books to my TBR. I only hope that they live up to the expectations I have from this book.

The story takes place in an alternate version of Victorian London, a bleak and foreboding place where night is treacherous and unpredictable, wych-kin roam and wreak havoc and serial killers pick their victims off with shocking ease.

We first meet Thaniel Fox, son of England's most reknown wych-hunter, on the hunt for a Cradle-Jack which has been plucking babies from their cribs for a tasty little midnight snack. Thaniel is independent, courageous, smart, resourceful and compassionate - all the things that an English gentleman should be. Add to that that he is simply bad-ass, and you have the making of one sexy hero. His fight with Curien Blake was... well, it was exciting to read and too short. I'll just put it that way. There's just something about a man with a big knife that knows how to use it that gets my blood flowing. :)

Anyway, so we meet Thaniel, and soon meet with a mysterious girl that is in obvious need of help. He brings her back to the house that he shares with Cathaline Bennett, another wych-hunter and Thaniel's tutor, if you will. The three of them discover that there is an ancient wych possessing Alaizabel, and embark on a journey to find out why, and how to get the wych out of her. From there, everything starts to go downhill, and the shocks just keep coming.

I loved all of the characters in the story. They all felt real, and acted according to how real people would act. The romance bits between Thaniel and Alaizabel were a little rushed, but I can overlook that when I consider that he saved her and therefore felt responsible for her, and she was saved and was grateful. Both of those things can easily run a bit deeper, especially among teens who have both been alone for a large amount of their lives. To suddenly meet someone that plays such a role in your life, I would imagine that's a kind of big change.

I also really loved the London that Wooding created here, complete with it's own Jack the Ripper-esque killer, Stitch-face. It was dark and creepy and definitely not the place one would want to take a casual midnight stroll. I loved all of the little mini-stories that he incorporated into the bigger London-story. It gave me an idea not only of what the city as a whole was facing, but who the people facing it actually were, and what kind of people a city this dark and menacing breeds. It's unforgiving, and that's represented in the characters depicted. I thought that it was a nice touch to add those little personalizations, even if they were only a page or two long.

Wooding's imagination is awesome when it comes to the creatures that he brings to life here. I've read a goodish amount of horror in my life, but there were things in this book that gave me goosebumps, and that's not an exaggeration. The thing on the ceiling of Alaizabel's bedroom is seared into my memory as if I saw it myself, which is pretty commendable, as it was only very roughly described. I think that's a testament to a good author, to be able to subtly show us each what we fear without describing it into the light of perfect knowledge. Once we know what the heck we're dealing with, it's not nearly as scary as when we have no idea what's chasing us.

I also loved the blending of mechanical inventions and superstition here. Airships on one hand, and cultish Rites and ceremonies and charms on the other. Wooding perfectly brought these two very disparate things together in this book, and made it believable and plausible. I really loved it, and look forward to more from him. :)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Where the Magic Happens... and an INTERVENTION!!

My boyfriend, enabler that he is, kindly put up these pretty new purple bookshelves for me over the weekend, so that I could get the book piles and stacks, the ones that were taking over all of the flat surfaces in my bedroom, onto some shelves. Of course, now that I have the extra room, some of the areas look a little sparse, and this is making me crave new books! It's a never-ending, vicious cycle.

So this weekend, I reorganized, I catalogued, I counted... and I decided that I need an intervention. I have 213 books sitting on various shelves in my home that I have not yet read. That's a freakin' lot! I'm not quite at the point some are with owned-unread books (*cough* Tweety "429" Bird... LOL!), but I will be if I don't pace myself.

So... I've decided that I will not be buying any new books for a while... I will still accept review copies because that's a service to the reading community *buffs halo* ;), but unless it's a book that I just HAVE TO HAVE NOW NOW NOW, I will restrain myself from buying new books or visiting the library.

*shudder* It hurts already!!

Anyway... Let's take a look at why I need an intervention. Brace yourselves for the beautiful horror. O_O

This photo was taken with my cameraphone last night, because silly me, I forgot to take a picture of these shelves with the good camera, which The Boy had with him. The angle isn't the best, but with only the overhead light, it created a wicked glare on the artwork behind the shelves (which I created myself using super-secret methods), and glare is annoying. So I went with a more obscure angle, which means I'm artistic and quirky. Or something. *sigh*

Oh well. Here we have both sets of my Harry Potter books, US and UK paperbacks, one of my Tolkien trilogies (the omnibus edition) along with The Hobbit and the Silmarillon, the Masters of Rome series by Colleen McCullough, the Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson, and a bunch of other random books. I won't list the books in every picture for you, that would take a reeeee-he-heallly long time! (Plus I have a different list which I'll talk about later...) Just this one because of the glare-reducing  artistic angle. :P

In the corner there on the right is the cat-tree where our little monsters like to watch The Outside. The plant you can see is some kind of sage, I think maybe? I don't know. It's pretty and soft and smells lovely, though, so I like it.

This is Bedroom Bookcase #1. My bookshelves are all in kind of awkward positions because my house is old and it leans and sags. So unless the bookcase is bracketed to the wall (and some are) it has to be strategically placed in a position where it's not likely to fall over. This is a strategically placed bookcase, which is to the left of my little workdesk (which is always a disaster area!)... I cropped out the desk. You don't want to see that. Your retinas will thank me. :)

This one has lots of random books on it. At one point I had tried to sort between what I'd read and was to be read, but now I have no sorting system except for my Stephen King books, which I'll get to a little bit later.

As you can see, I'm a fan of the double-stack. Which is why I feel like I have wasted space in the other book-strewn areas of my bedroom. This should not be confused with the double ROW, because that's just wrong. You can't even SEE the ones buried behind... I need to see my books, to admire them.

This is the view I have of my BookZone from the desk where I sit right now. Well, I'd have to turn around, or develop a really flexible neck, but you get the point. So we have 4 sections of books here, from left to right:
  1. On Top O' The Dresser
  2. Big Tall Bookcase
  3. Under The TV
  4. New Purple Shelves
On the dresser, sideways stacked, are the books that I need to mail out soonish, including Matched by Allie Condie and The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff, both of which are going to Star Book Tours to make their way into some readers' hands. If you're interested, stop by and join!

Big Tall Bookcase has ARCs that I need to read stacked up top. They are hard to see in the picture. =\ The rest is just random and series books.

Under the TV are the books that I don't really "read" or read books that I am willing to give away or swap. Reference books, duplicates, etc.

And finally, the Purple Shelves. My new favorites. (Is it fair that shelves would automatically become my favorite book-holding items simply because my favorite books are on them? I'll give it some thought.)

Sing it with me now... ♪♪ These are a few of my FAVORITE THINGS! ♪♪

Aren't they beautiful? I think so. :) The sketch in the first picture is of The Boy a few years ago, done by a NYC street artist in Central Park. Expensive, but I love it, so it was worth it. :)
These are organized with a few smaller hardcovers first, then on top the rest are books that relate to the Dark Tower series. The last book, facing front, is a book about King himself. 
The bottom shelf is in no particular order at all, except that the paperback Bachman books are together toward the end, and the non-fic books are together, then there are my graphic novels, and then another About King book.

Go ahead and admire... I'll wait.

So there you have it. About half of these books are ones that I haven't yet read, so I need to do that before I buy more. Remember all that cataloging and counting and stuff I mentioned? If you want to see the full list of the books I own but haven't read yet... Click here... :)