Seanan McGuire: Every Heart A Doorway

•September 23, 2016 • Leave a Comment

heart-big.jpgEvery Heart a Doorway (Wayward Children)
by Seanan McGuire
(fantasy, paranormal, YA?)

This is an interesting book for several reasons, but (for me) largely because of the premise. Essentially, this book attempts to answer the question, “what happens to Alice when she returns home from Wonderland?” In this story, there is more than one Wonderland, and each Wonderland is different. (They’re not called Wonderland in the story, that’s all me.) Some are Nonsense worlds, and some are Logic worlds. Some are classified as Virtue and others as Wicked. Others have Rhyme or Reason. (And there is a blend of each in the worlds, too. Your Nonsense world can also be Wicked, for instance.)

I really enjoyed reading this book. If it was lacking anything (which I’m not sure it was), it would have been more time spent in the various worlds. Instead, we spend all of the present time on Earth in some unspecified modern time. We do get to see a little of the other worlds in memories or stories the kids tell, but we don’t really get to see into the other worlds. Ms. McGuire has done such a fascinating job describing them through the eyes of their children that it would be fun to see some scenes actually set in these other worlds. (Well, perhaps in a sequel, since I see that Goodreads believes this to be a series.)

Contrary to my expectations prior to starting to read, however, I did not find this book to be scary. Based on the blurb, I thought it would freak me out. It didn’t. Maybe I was too fascinated by the world? Or maybe given the possibilities of a Wicked world I was expecting more than what was written? There are a couple of kinda gruesome scenes. There are murders which happen in this book, after all. But they didn’t strike me as out of place in the world being created in the book, and were only mildly creepy instead of downright scary. (For the record, this did not alter my enjoyment of the book. It fit exactly what the tone of the rest of the story had set up.)

One thing that must be said about this book is that it is short. I don’t know if it is officially a novella, but it feels like either a novella or a short novel. It’s a very intense story, whatever its official length. It is packed with detail and character development and action. (Not action-movie-action, but action all the same.) I look forward to seeing where this world goes, if it is indeed the beginning of a new series.

Felicia Day: You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)

•September 16, 2016 • Leave a Comment

51XfbTo2iOL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgYou’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)
written and narrated by Felicia Day
(memoir, non-fiction)

I didn’t expect that this book would make me cry. But… it did. Towards the end, Felicia gets very personal (okay, so all of the book is personal; I guess I mean she gets more personal with her feelings) and you can tell that some of her stories mean a lot to her. Others are silly stories, and while those are important to have and to share as well, they’re not what made me cry. Perhaps it was the juxtaposition of the two which got to me. Or maybe it was hearing her tell her own story that made me cry. In either case, it was a good cry, the kind that happens when you hear a super-inspirational story or click through one of those Facebook links about the fireman and the rescued kitten.

The book itself is what you’d expect from a memoir. It tells the story of Felicia Day’s life up to this point. I didn’t know anything about her early life, or even her early career before listening to this audiobook. I haven’t watched Buffy or Supernatural or her episodes of Eureka. I know about Felicia Day exclusively from The Guild and Dr. Horrible. However, there were times when I felt like I knew her from my own past.

I think some things in her book are only truly relatable if you grew up at the same approximate time. She talks about her Pegasus page in her sticker book, and about logging on to CompuServe, and having to learn to transition from a card catalog to Internet searches. I don’t know if kids today still have sticker books (though I’m going to remedy that with my niece and nephew) but the other things I just mentioned would get me blank stares instead of any kind of comprehension. And yet I knew exactly what she was talking about, and it brought back memories of my own.

There are other things, however, which anyone can relate to. Stories about fitting in. About doing things that YOU want to do, and not things that you think you are supposed to want to do. About learning what makes you who you are. And those parts I think everyone can enjoy, whether they connect with the gamer or geeky aspects of the book.

An additional note: if you like audiobooks, I highly recommend listening to this one instead of reading it. It was great hearing Felicia do the narrating herself. And I didn’t miss out on the illustrations in the book, either – Audible, at least, had a PDF to download after you bought the book which has the illustrations included. Very nice to have that.

Holly Black: Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale

•September 9, 2016 • 1 Comment

tithe-original-coverTithe: A Modern Faerie Tale
by Holly Black
(fantasy, YA)

I picked this book up because it sounded neat. A modern faerie tale? Yes please! Plus, I had read Holly’s Spiderwick Chronicles and enjoyed them, so I figured this one was a good choice. And I was right! I enjoyed reading it, and found myself caught up in the character development and plotlines. There were a few twists, too. Some of them I saw coming, others I did not.

To be honest, when I first started reading the book I wasn’t sure what I was going to think of it. It starts (after the opening scenes, anyway) with our school-aged heroine out past the time when her grandmother thinks she should be in bed, climbing into abandoned buildings, smoking, and getting accosted by the boyfriend of her best friend. (Nothing too bad, but he makes unwanted advances.) While I will grant you that I was a prude in high school (and like it or not some of that sticks around later in life) I wasn’t sure that this kind of heroine was someone I wanted to read a whole book about. However, I’m glad I kept going. While Kaye does continue to behave consistently with the way she started the book, her actions are tempered a bit by what happens in the land of faerie and what she finds out.

Without going into spoiler territory, I will say that Kaye does some dumb things. A few of them are REALLY dumb things. Not unexpected for a teenager, but there were some things I rolled my eyes at. (Again, not unexpected for a teenager.) It was completely believable behavior, mind. I can’t say I wouldn’t have behaved similarly at her age. I also have to say that her faerie friends acted how I would expect faeries to act. (Her faerie enemies did, as well.) It was interesting to see how her human friends and family acted and reacted to the faeries, and the character interactions are what makes me curious about the rest of the series.

Is this one worth reading? Yes. It won’t be for everyone, because some people won’t be able to get past Kaye’s or her mother’s initial actions, or be able to accept faeries as something other than cute, happy, friendly beings. However, if it sounds like an interesting book and you’re okay with the more traditional take on faeries you should certainly give it a try.

Jane Austen: Sense and Sensibility

•September 2, 2016 • Leave a Comment

lg_imageSense and Sensibility
by Jane Austen
narrated by Wanda McCaddon
(classic romance, historical fiction)

So, this was my first Jane Austen novel. I had seen the movie adaptation of the book (the 1995 film with Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson and Hugh Grant and Kate Winslet) but had never read the source material.Emma Thompson (also the screenwriter) did an amazing job of capturing the book in her screenplay; I felt that the few changes I noticed (though there are undoubtedly many more that I did not notice, since it has been a while since I watched the movie) were all wise choices to make the story more approachable and the characters more believable for modern audiences.

For this audiobook, the narrator was perfect. She sounded like she had come straight out of the movie, and so I found no trouble at all picturing the right kind of clothing and situations as she described.

And as to the story itself, I can see why this is a classic. It has an easy to follow plot and likable main characters (for in the book even more than the movie, there is no doubt that Elinor and Marianne are the main characters while their friends and other family members are the secondary characters). There are quite reasonable obstacles to our heroines’ happiness (given the era, especially), plot twists, believable secondary characters, and a happy ending. It has all the things I would want in good fiction. And this book has confirmed to me that while I usually prefer fantasy, historical fiction is also quite enjoyable.

I guess the biggest test of a new author is this: would I read another of Austen’s work? The answer is yes, but with a caveat. I think I would prefer to listen to another audiobook of Austen’s instead of read a paper copy for myself. It just feels appropriate to hear it with the proper accent (or at least a better accent than I can manage). I think I have a copy of Emma (a hand-me-down from my grandparents’ library) so I might start reading it myself first, but I will be a lot more likely to buy new ones from Audible than a traditional bookstore. Still; I can certainly see why this book is still so popular all these years later.

Kelley Armstrong: City of the Lost

•August 19, 2016 • Leave a Comment

26114566._UY200_City of the Lost: Casey Duncan #1
by Kelley Armstrong
(contemporary fiction, mystery/thriller)

About the book: it’s fun. It’s a lot of fun. And there are twists, some of which you see coming and others which you don’t. It’s really hard to write this part of the review because I don’t want to give away any spoilers. The “mystery” part was accurate, I feel. It kept me guessing all the way to the end. It wasn’t as much of a thriller as I expected it to be, though. Maybe that’s because I’m used to Kelley’s writing style, but I’m not sure. (For the record, I feel that her Otherworld book HAUNTED definitely fits the bill for the thriller category.)

I enjoyed getting to know these characters, and I look forward to book 2 when I will get to read more about them. There were some predictable moments with the character development, but I still enjoyed reading them even though I knew they were coming. I will admit that the main characters did a couple of stupid but convenient-for-the-plot things, but at least they weren’t unbelievable stupid given that they were done in anger. We all do some pretty dumb things when we’re mad. Their stupid things just happened to serve to further the plot.

The setting was also interesting, and it was a neat look at how someone could theoretically hide a town in the forest somewhere. I’ll be interested to see if we get more of the town’s background in the next book(s) or not – it could happen, but isn’t necessary.

What about the plot? Well, talking about it would be getting into spoilers. Let’s just say that, given a fiction novel, it was believable and easy to follow. It was well-paced, as I have come to expect from Kelley. My only problem with it was that the pacing definitely picked up toward the end (as you would want, of course) and I found the book nearly impossible to put down. And I guess that’s not really a “problem” problem. It’s the kind of not-really-a-complaint that you make while grinning ear to ear.

Anthony Burgess: A Clockwork Orange

•August 12, 2016 • 1 Comment

orangeA Clockwork Orange
by Anthony Burgess
(dystopian, classic fiction)

I finished this book, but it felt like an obligation to do so. I did not enjoy it. It feels like the kind of book you’re not supposed to enjoy, though. It felt like a morality tale. Yes, I suppose at this point it is a classic. And yes, there is enough action in the book that it’s readable for the modern reader, unlike some very slow paced older classics. However, the slang-talk which the narrator uses just grated on my nerves. (Yes, it’s more-or-less understandable and very consistent, once you get used to it. I just didn’t like it.) I also didn’t sympathize with the main character at all, and for me that’s a deal breaker when it comes to enjoying a book. If this one had been a longer book, or had taken me longer to finish, I probably would have returned it to the library unfinished.

So, the plot… there are three acts to this book. In the first one, we follow our narrator around as he (a then-fifteen-year-old boy) gets into trouble by causing all sorts of violence. He beats people up, rapes women (and girls closer to his age), and steals stuff, and gets away with almost all of it. Real likable kid, yeah? Then he gets caught, and Act Two is two years later, in prison. And he doesn’t get any more likable after that. Even the tortuous rehabilitation he undergoes (which felt to me like the reason the author was writing the story) didn’t endear him to me at all. Act Three was noteworthy in that it included the final chapter which was left out of the original American publication (and therefore also left out of the movie). It was interesting to read that and try to figure out why it was left out and why the author wanted it back in.

Is it worth reading? Well, that all depends. If you want to read it (as I did) because “it is a classic” and you want to experience it, then go for it. If you have watched the movie and want to see more of the world or see how the author wanted it to end, then yes, read the book. If you are looking for a fun read or a likable (even sympathetic) main character, however, skip this one.

Anne Canadeo: While My Pretty One Knits

•August 7, 2016 • Leave a Comment

knitsWhile My Pretty One Knits: Black Sheep Knitting Mystery #1
by Anne Canadeo
(cozy mystery)

I will admit it: ever since I read my first of Maggie Sefton’s Knitting Mysteries, I have been a sucker for the style. I’ve been trying to find another series that captured my interest the way those early Knitting Mysteries did. (I will admit that Sefton’s series went on long enough that I got bored with them. But the first several – I think the first 7 or 8 – were books I enjoyed reading.) I had hoped that this series would be another like that. It might yet be, we’ll have to see. I may read the next one in the series too, and see what I think of it. This first one, however, I’m not sure about.

So, the basic, spoiler-free plot: a group of friends who met during a knitting class all meet at the yarn store owned by Maggie, one member of the group for a book signing and demonstration by a local girl who’s made it big and moved into the city. (Boston, I think, but it really could have been set anywhere. There was not a big sense of place in this book.) The start of the demo, however, is interrupted by news that the other local yarn shop owner – who considered Maggie her arch rival – has been killed. Police investigate, Maggie is among the suspects, and Lucy (another member of the knitting group and our main/POV character) is determined to help Maggie out because she knows Maggie is innocent.

One of the things that I liked best about this book was that Lucy managed to solve the mystery without too much illegal snooping about. Many cozy mysteries get a bit loose with what the average citizen would be able to do in order to solve the mystery. Lucy managed to solve this one with a bit of luck and some nosy gossip, but without any actual illegal activities, and that was refreshing. However, it was on the predictable side, even for a cozy mystery. I had my suspicions about who dunnit pretty early on, and the only thing that was lacking was the motive. Once a hidden piece of evidence was found, however, the rest clicked into place.

I mostly enjoyed the book, and found it a quick read. The proofing errors, though, were a bit jarring when I came across them. Things like verbs being in the wrong tense grate on my nerves. I know, I know, errors happen. I still don’t like them. I mentioned that the setting was nondescript – fortunately the characters were a bit more fleshed out. I am glad, though, that this was a library rental.

Oh, and about the yarn content of this book: unlike the LAST WOOL AND TESTAMENT which I reviewed earlier, there is plenty of knitting content in this book. Some of it feels real, too. They even mention intarsia. However, I’m glad that the bulk of the knitters in the group are relatively new knitters. None of them (even the teacher) felt experienced. And I must agree with some of the reviews I’ve read: the description of the yarn store and its contents felt like someone had done research about it, but not really talked to passionate knitters. The biggest mention about yarn was how “organic yarn is more expensive”. Wha? You want expensive, where’s the cashmere? Qiviut? Angora blends? Hand-dyed art yarns? So, yeah. This was a fun book, but when I want a knitting mystery, I will still (so far) stick to Maggie Sefton.

(If you have other recommendations for me, please pass them along!)