Thursday, January 31, 2013

Opinion Frenzy!

I read a lot of book blogs, being a blogger myself and a lover of books this probably does not come as any surprise. What has surprised me is the number of crazy comments I see on some of these sites.  I have noticed most of the time, when a reviewer does not like a book for any number of reasons, the comment section blows up with scathing comments directed toward the reviewer (I've been lucky and so far have had only civilized commenter's on this site).  I am not talking well thought out arguments or even this is why I liked this particular book, but out and out mean hurtful remarks like "how can you not love this book, you must be dumb"  or "I don't think you even read the book because if you had you would have loved it".  Yes these are actual responses to well written reviews.  I am not talking about any one instance, particular book, or particular blog/review, I have seen this many times and this gets to my issue with comments like these.

I find reading to be much like experiencing any other piece of art, everybody comes to it with from their own viewpoint.  Nobody is going to read a book and experience it the same way.  Maybe the characters really relate to you, maybe the plot brought up unpleasant memories, maybe the style is not something you can get into, maybe it was a perfect book for that particular time in your life, all of these are just a very few of what can influence your feelings toward a book.  Some people read almost all their books with a particular slant, some see things with a feminist view and pick up on elements that may disturb them, but may not bug a different reader, some people read with character development in mind and can't help but phsycoanalyze each and every character to grace the pages, while another person could not care less about the possibility of a third string character who only appears for three pages may have undiagnosed OCD. All this to say again, reading is a very personal experience.  Keeping this in mind, it only makes sense that if one reviews a book it will be with the same viewpoint and slant that the reviewer read the book with...and that is ok.  I do not think it is possible (certainly not for me in any case) to review a book with 100% objectivity, you will always approach a book with your own personal likes, dislikes, and experiences and these will probably come out in your review.  After all in my mind that is what a review is, a persons particular reaction to a book for any number of reason. This is one of the reasons I love reading other peoples book blogs and reviews is to see why other people may or may not have liked a book I have just read.  I do not go to these sites to necessarily have my opinion changed, but rather to hopefully join a discussion on various aspects of the book and to get other viewpoints that I may not have considered before, this is also why I personally write my ramblings, so I can talk and discuss books!

Now we get to commenter's (I include myself in this group as well, because I frequently comment on blogs and reviews).  I will say the majority of the time commenter's are awesome, we as a group usually gather at these blogs to have a lively, civilised, often hilarious discussion on books and all things related.  Sometimes it gets bad, really really bad and these are most often the times when an author does not like a particular book. Most of the blogs I frequent are well written, that is one of the reasons I enjoy them.  The reviews are well thought out and explained, most of the time they are balanced, with even books that are disliked having some element the reviewer can try and compliment, and the author is never attacked on a personal level.  When the verdict is negative, the reviewers usually set out what they did not like and why in a complete and mature way.  That is when sh*t hits the fan.  Commenter's start throwing out insults and all caps yelling about what an idiot the reviewer must be, and how his mother is a hamster and his father smelt of elderberries.  None of this is conducive to discussion any more than you can talk to a person while they are screaming and throwing things.  I have no problem with people disagreeing with reviews, in fact I rather like it when a person disagrees with me...provided they tell me why in a mostly adult manner, I like when people agree with me, but for different reasons, I like it when people agree with part of my thinking, but not all of it.  The goal of reviewers is not to make everybody see it from their viewpoint and nothing else, but rather show their own personal reaction to a book, and invite you to join a discussion. When a commenter feels the need to freak out because somebodies opinion does not match their own, it makes me think the commentator does not actually know what he/she is talking about, I feel they are not mature enough to be part of a conversation, and that they missed the point of a review, and don't even get me started on authors who can not stand to see bad reviews of their books, I understand that (hopefully) each book is a little piece of the author, and the criticism is hard to take, but if you allow honest and open feedback, you will probably get more readers than you will if you go off on a commenting diatribe on how the reviewer obviously did not "get" your work, and that they are just out to ruin you (hm this may actually be a topic for another post).

Ah that was a long diatribe of a post...oh well it's my blog so I'm gonna make it a little longer.  When you are commenting, whether you are a reader, blogger, author or just a passer-by please remember to keep it civil.  You will win more people to your side.  I read a comment from an author on a review site that had duel reviews of his book, one of the reviewers loved it, and the other one did not like it very much.  Both reviews were well written and thought had obviously been put into what was being said, the author in his comments said he enjoyed the fact that his book produced two different reactions, and that he was glad both reviews were up...even the negative review.  This made me completely fall in love with this author (here are the reviews).  Please remember not everybody is going to love the book you love, you are going to hate books others can't put down, and the reasons for these will always be different from person to person.  Happy reading and happy discussion everybody!
What do you think about "mean" commentators?  Do agree that is impossible to write a book review objectively?  What do you think the responsibility of the reviewer is?  What is the responsibility of the commentators?

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Crabby Pants

Blech! Not in a good mood today, I think it may have something with not having a chance to read a single page of any of my books yesterday, or maybe it was that every media source in the world spoiled Downton Abbey for me the second after it aired!  Potentially the lack of sleep and stupid drivers may also be contributing to my lack of cheerfulness, or the fact I haven't eaten in close to 24 hours...hmmm
Crabby Pants (Little Boost Series)
Crabby Pants
Ok I'm gonna go get some coffee, some food and curl up with a good book before I forget how to read, hopefully tomorrows post will be a tad less...crabby :-)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Mismatched Eyes

Just finished rereading Graceling by Kristin Cashore in preparation for reading Bitterblue.  This was and interesting reread because my feelings for the book actually changed with a second reread, but I'll get to that in a second.  First a quick synopsis (Warning Spoilers as Usual)

Katsa is a Graceling, which is a person who possess a very specific skill and is set apart physically by mismatched eyes (in Katsa's case she has one brilliant blue eye and one green eye).  The skill vary by person, some are amazing cooks, some are brilliant gardeners, some read minds, Katsa kills.  Ever since she was little she has been able to defend herself in the most definitive of ways.  In her kingdom the Middluns any person that is Graced belongs to the King.  Katsa is King Randa's niece and also his enforcer, he sends her to hurt or kill anyone whom he deems in
need of punishment.  To counterbalance these heinous acts she is forced to do Katsa along with her cousin the Prince Raffin,  Lord Giddon and Oll captain of the Kings spies form the Counsel, which tries to right the wrongs and protect the people, all in secret of course.  One of these Counsel missions leads Katsa to rescue Grandfather Tealiff the father of the current king of Lienid of of the seven kingdoms that makes up our little world.  All of this leads to Katsa meeting the youngest son of the king of Lienid, Prince Po who is Graced with fighting (his eyes are gold and silver).  The two start to regularly spar, Katsa enjoying the ability to use her full force without killing her opponent.  Po tells the Council that he is trying to figure out who ordered the kidnapping of his grandfather and why.  Katsa gets sent to force a lords daughter to marry for the benefit of the King and finds she can no longer make her self do the King's dirty work.  Katsa runs away with Po to Monsea, a little kingdom separated from the rest by high mountains.  They finally figure out that the King Leck of Monsea, who has a reputation of being extremely kind is actually a monster who can control peoples minds with a suggestion.  They continue on their journey, falling in love in the process and Po reveals that his true Grace is his ability to sense everything and everybody around him.  He has kept it a secret to keep himself from becoming a pawn to any king.  They also discover Katsa does not have a killing Grace, but a survival Grace and that killing and hurting people is just one manifestation of it, she can also heal quickly, go on very little sleep, always catch or find food, and always get a fire lit. This makes Katsa feel more like a person and less like a monster.  They eventually run into King Leck and his army and watch him murder his own wife in front of them (who just happens to be Po's aunt).  King Leck uses his Grace to convince people that it was an accident, including
Katsa, Po's Grace however keeps him safe from Lecks mind numbery (that is really a word...I swear) and grabs Katsa and gets her out of there.  They find the child Bitterblue (King Leck's daughter) who King Leck is hunting and promise to gt her to safety.  Po is injured pretty severely when he goes after Leck on his own and Katsa and Bitterblue must leave him in a cabin hidden in the woods.  Katsa takes Bitterblue (who is one of the best characters in this book) and heads over the impassable mountain pass.  This is one of the most effectively described scenes I have ever read, I actually get cold and tired whenever I read it.  They finally make it over the pass and onto a Lienid ship.  They are taken to Po's castle to try and get help from his family, but it is to late Leck has already beaten them there.  King Leck bends everybodies mind to his will, but when he threatens to expose Po, Katsa's mind clears enough for her to kill him.  Bitterblue is now the queen of Monsea and they take her back to claim her throne and to find Po.  Po however has another secret, the injuries he sustained while fighting Leck have left him blind.  This causes him to be depressed for a while, but then he learns to use his Grace to "see" things with his senses.  The story ends with Katsa setting up training camps for girls to learn self-defense, Bitterblue starting to help her kingdom recover, and Po off to settle things in Lienid with a promise to meet up with Katsa later.
The first time I read this book a couple of years ago, I remember loving everything about it, a kick-ass heroine, a crazy King, a journey across the continent all my favorites.  Reading it a second time I still really like it, but for some reason not as much as the first time.  I'm not sure if I have lost all patience with teenage angst, or if rereading it I picked up on things I did not the first time, not really sure.
Things I loved.  I love the concept of the Graces, I love stories that have a special something that comes in a variety (does that make sense?). The Tamora Pierce series Circle of Magic does this really well too.  I love all the different ways a person could be Graced and the different ways people choose to utilize that Grace.  I like the idea of the seven Kingdoms, each with it's own people and customs, but still all close enough to have an effect on each other.  I like that the main character goes on a personal journey, starting as a pawn of her king with seemingly few options, to putting together the Council, to leaving the king's service all together.  I love, love, love the character of Bitterblue.  She starts as an understandably terrified small 10 year old child, who has witnessed horrible things including the murder of her mother at the hand of her father.  Eventually as she begins to trust people she turns into this snarky, smart, intelligent young lady.  She is nowhere near as physically dominating as Katsa and Po, which is great.  I think the character of Bitterblue shows that there is more than one way to be a kick-ass girl.
Things I did not love quit so much.  The execution of the Graces was a little spotty to me, the few people we meet with Graces seem to have no parameters placed on their skills, it seemed that especially for Po and Katsa a new aspect of their Grace would appear anytime the story needed it to overcome some obstacle.  I'm not 100% sure how hurting other people on the orders of the king is part of survival.  Po seemed a little to perfect at times, always open when Katsa was closed off, skilled, sensitive, even able to overcome his blindness fairly quickly (seriously he went from struggling and depressed over his blindness to the simple "oh I just accept my Grace and now I can sense and make sense of everything" all in one sentence).  The love story was pretty run of the mill, the author tried to make it different by throwing the whole "I will love you, but I won't marry you and I can leave at any time" stuff in there, but as soon as Katsa acknowledged her feelings, it seemed that she fell right into the "oh Po you are the love of my life and all I can think about is you and if you are unhappy so am I and since you are not here your all I can think about sad face" (holy run on sentence batman).  This is all personal dislikes and really most people dig this kind of story so it is not a deal breaker.  I am still not 100% sure the reasoning Leck had for kidnapping Grandfather Tealiff, other than to make his wife miserable.

Overall I am excited to read Bitterblue, I hope the author keeps a lot of the same sass the character had in this book.  I read Fire a companion book to this one and loved it even more than this book so this author has a pretty good track record with me so far.  Also these books have the best covers ever! (well except for Zombies vs Unicorns cause I don't think anything can top that cover).  I would recommend this book to almost any reader, especially people who like fantasy, fighting, kick-ass girls and an interesting fairly well executed premise.
Have you ever been disappointed in a reread?  How many ways are there to actually write a love story?  Do you love secondary characters as much as I do? 

Monday, January 28, 2013

Disguised As A Book

Sorry my posting has been a little spotty, life has been a wee bit hectic.  I should be maintaining a fairly regular schedule for the foreseeable future.  I think we all know that electronics have completely taken over many of our lives (mine included), but there is something sad about seeing all of these shiny top of the line toys taking over shelf space.  Here are some perfect solutions to help your toys blend in to your awesome book decor (if that sentence did not make any sense, I blame the lack of coffee).

Laptop Book Cover
I love the black and red options for this cover...I think I would get one of each and switch them out depending on my mood.
Old Book ipad Cover
I love the old style of this simple case for your ipad
E-reader Book Cover
These covers are for all of those die-hard "real" book fans who think an e-reader is selling out, maybe this cover will convince them otherwise.
Phone case/wallet
This nifty little book cover does double duty as a phone case AND a wallet...I need one!
Book Laptop Skin
I love these easy on/ easy off skins for laptops and tablets, it's a quick fun way to disguise your electronics, and if you get bored you can always switch it out!

Are you ashamed of all of your electronics that take up precious reading time?  Are electronics disguised as a book more acceptable?  Are a forward thinking technophiles who thinks it is awesome that you can now get books on demand on all of your electronic devices?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Winter Wonderland

Baby it's cold outside!  First real snow here in the DC area and I have to say, riding the ambulance in the middle of the night with just the lights on the new fallen snow and nothing else out there is kind of awesome!
Here are a few of my favorite snow/winter scenes form books that occupy my winter shelf.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - There are many winter scenes in this book considering part of the plot is a witch who has kept the land in eternal winter.  My favorite "wintery" scene is when Edmund meets the White Queen for the first time and he is cold.  Once she figures out who she is she wraps him in warm furs, gives him Turkish Delight and the best part is gives him a drink that I want to figure out so I can try it too!
A Song of Ice and Fire- Again plenty of coldness, when one of your main families sayings is "Winter is coming" you know that it ain't gonna be warm.  The coldest part for me was probably in A Clash of Kings when they are on the other side of the wall searching for Benjen Stark.  The descriptions of this scene always require and extra blanket to read.
The Cry of the Icemark-This book is set in the frozen north featuring a strong Viking like heroine.  It also has vampires, werewolves, and snow leopards.  I know, I know this sounds a little shady, but I love love love this book.  There is a scene where she travels over the frozen tundra to attempt to garner help for her country from former foes that will make you reach for your fuzzy socks.
Graceling-Most of this book is not about being cold, however there is one part of the book where our Graced heroine must get her and a 10 year old child over a treacherous mountain pass.  The way the author writes this scene is simply amazing and I am always shivering and swear my fingers are turning blue every time I read that passage.  Do not, I repeat DO NOT read this without a cup of hot cocoa in your hands.
The Fellowship of the Ring- How can one read about the passage of our intrepid nine over the mountains and not feel the sharp wind and the biting snow.  I am usually not a huge movie/book comparison person, but I will say the sweeping views of the mountain range in the movie really nailed that epic winter cold. Warm robe and possibly a pipe required for reading this part.

I hope these gave you all some idea's on how to make a little snow seem like not such a big deal :-)  Either that or a way to cool you down if you are in a hotter part of the world.

Have you seen snow yet? Do you prefer to read about cold winters during this season, or do you prefer to read something on the warmer side?  Does reading about certain environments make you feel them on occasion?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Female Holmes

First off, my apologies to my baby sis, I know we have already discussed this book, but you still love me right?!?  Ok on to the book, which is The Bee Keepers Apprentice the first book in the Mary Russell series. This book was a recommendation by baby sis and she loved it, as we usually have similar taste in books I was excited to finally read it.

Mary Russell is a young woman whom after losing her entire family in a automobile accident moves to her mothers old farm with a stern and bitter aunt as her guardian.  Ms. Russell is unique in the fact that she would rather have her nose in a book then just about anything else (which seems perfectly normal to me :-) ).  While escaping her aunt one day Mary wanders around the fields and meadows lost in her current book when she stumbles into a stranger.  The man turns out to be the famous Sherlock Holmes and Mary impresses him by deducing his activities (bee tracking) and the solution to his problem (he needs a new bee colony).  The two quickly become fast friends.  Holmes sees much of himself in this gangly, witty, intelligent girl and promptly
starts teaching her all the tricks of his trade. WWI has erupted in Europe during this time, making it possible for Mary to enjoy many opportunities that were previously denied to females.  Holmes and Mary solve a couple of minor cases together, testing out Ms. Russlle' new taught abilities and then she is off to school in London.  While in London, Holmes continues to test her and teach her when she comes home on her breaks.  The two of them start their first major case, tracking down the kidnapped daughter of an American Senator. During this case, Mary takes the lead on several occasions, showing her teacher that she has become a very capable young woman.  After the child is recovered, several incidents occur, putting the life of Holmes, Russell and everybody they love in danger.  They start to track this mysterious criminal who appears to want to play games with the pair.  Eventually it gets to dangerous and the two of them decide the best way to throw the criminal off her (yep the villain is a woman, kinda awesome) game is to quit playing it.  Holmes and Russell head to what was then called Palestine and come up with a plan to defeat their foe.  Sherlock and Mary decide to appear to be at odds
with one another, hoping to catch the villianess unbalanced as she can no longer use their partnership against them. Eventually the woman is revealed to be SPOILER ALERT!...Moriarty's daughter, she has been plotting her revenge against Holmes ever since he apparently caused his death many years ago.  As in all good stories the villain is defeated and they all live happily ever after until the next book.
I have mixed feelings about this book, I know that the reviews are mostly glowing, and that the character of Mary Russell speaks to a very great amount of people and that makes me happy.  The mark of a good book is its ability to grab something in a person and attach itself to them, that being said, I am one of those people it did not grab.  Now before the 98% of people who love this book get up in arms I would like to refer you to my previous post No Apologies and remind you that not everybody is going to love/hate everything you do.

Here is what I liked a lot about the book.  I like how the author did her best to make the character of Mary Russell and her situation plausible.  The era in which it is set (1910s-1920s) was a time that very much gave European females opportunities that they never had before (this would come later in America for much of the same reason in the 1940's)  Most of England's young men had been sent off to a horrific war, and the ones that did return were usually injured either in body or mind or both.  This void in jobs, schools, and even to some degree society was filled by young women who saw an opportunity to have a different life from their mother's and grandmothers, and Mary Russell took that opportunity with both hands.  The author quickly established parameters in which Ms. Russell was around Mr. Holmes as to be acceptable in the rumor happy, chaperon prone time period.  She even gave Ms. Russell a way to access her money through loans against her inheritance from Holmes.  Even the way she grew up with an American father and a Jewish/English mother who imparted their heritage, background, and an unusual freedom to learn, gave plausible reason for her superior intellect.  I liked watching Mary grow up, from an unsure 15 year old girl, to a head-strong young woman who has discovered who she is.  My favorite parts would be the cases they solved, especially the two earlier ones that are the reasons I love the original Sherlock Holmes in the first place.

Here is what made me just like the book instead of love it.  First of all the voice in which it was written (first person narrative) rarely works for me, I know that the original Sherlock Holmes stories were written this way with Watson as the narrator, but it did not work for me here.  The character of Mary was inside her head to much and came across as to angsty and repetitive for me, again this is a personal style thing, I know this is the reason a lot of people identified with her, it just got very old, very quickly for me.  I wanted more mystery and deduction, the author tried to put in a couple of cases in the idea of a short story type form like most of the original stories, but again, for me there was to much teenage girl rambling and not enough detective work.  The end of the book felt especially abrupt to me, like we did not have quit all of the clues needed to solve it on our own. The writing style was to descriptive for my taste, on more than one occasion the author took more than a paragraph to
describe Holmes lighting his pipe...seriously, at least three or four times...paragraphs.  My biggest beef if you will with this book is what she did to my favorite Holmes characters.  Mrs. Hudson and Mycroft Holmes were fine and fairly well written.  Holmes himself came across as much more emotional and soft then I have ever read him to be, the fatherlyness he displays toward Russell is a very tender sort, instead of the gruff approval I would have expected from a Holmes character.  The biggest character I had an issue with was the way the author portrayed Watson.  Watson in this book was said to be no better than a bumbling idiot, whom Holmes kept around for his child like naivete.  The stories Watson wrote are described by Mary Russell as trite and dumbed down as Watson supposed his readers were all slow like himself, that the stories were huge exaggerations of a man so in awe of his friend that he wrote him with an unrealistic hero's spin.  This just pissed me off, because one, this pretty much demeans the original source work from which the author is getting her ideas/starting point from, she is essentially saying she thinks the original Holmes stories are bad.  Two, Watson always seemed to be the more stable of the two friends, a smart, steady, reliable friend on whom Holmes could always rely on to be a solid sounding board for his more outlandish idea's and plans.  Watson on several occasions proved his bravery and his own brand of deductive reasoning, for goodness sakes the man was a war hero with his own (aside from Holmes) successful medical practice, hardly the bumbling man-child portrayed in this book.

Wow this post has gotten out of control long (this is why I call them ramblings) so I will end it here with this summation, you should read this book.  I know I have some issues with it, but a lot of people seem to love it and that right there is a reason to at least check it out.  Although I did not find it as fascinating as some people, I will most definitely be picking up the next book, just to see where they go from here.  I give this book 6 out of 10 dark chocolate covered salted carmel's.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Books and Sleep

Have not been sleeping so well least I'm finally getting some of my books finished :-)
Book Dreaming
What do you do when you can't sleep?  Is reading an acceptable substitution for sleep?  Does reading when you are so tired give you weird dreams?

Friday, January 18, 2013

Christmas Haul

I got a lot of great gifts this year (I am one spoiled bookworm), here is just a small sampling of the literary delights that appeared under my tree this year
Federation: The First 150 Years
I love Star Trek, I love books, I love my Hubbin who combines my love of Star Trek and books!
Book Bracelet
A bracelet full of bookey goodness, which is wearable (and worn) on a daily basis, thanks Mammasan.
Sherlock Holmes Computer Game
My baby sis and I have been on a Holmes kick lately, and what better way to continue the obsession than to play it on the computer!

Hope everybody got a little bit of literary cheer this season, and maybe gave a bit themselves.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Go Books Go

I have a soft spot for libraries in case anybody hasn't noticed.  There are several reasons aside from the obvious one of being a book lover.  Books are amazing, but not everybody has constant access to them and this is sad.  Sometimes people don't have money, or they live in a remote area, or have limited transportation.  Regardless of the reason, it is sad that such a diverse, simple, easy escape is denied to anyone for any reason.  Enter the mobile library or bookmobiles as they are more commonly referred to.  These wonderful vehicles and the people who staff them make it possible for just about anybody to have access to books.
Baltimore County Bookmobile
These bookmobiles go to places such as hospitals, nursing homes and to shut ins to ensure that even home bound people get a variety of books
Columbia Burro Books
Other countries have their own versions as well, using other vehicles and sometimes animals to adapt to the various terrain and needs of that particular region
Camel Book Library
How amazing is it that no matter where you are in the world there are people dedicated to make sure that everyone has a book to read!
Manly Wharf Bookmobile
So next time you get a chance, go check out these wonderful moving places of magic and do your part to keep them up and functioning.

Have you ever gotten a book from a bookmobile?  Do you wish you could turn your personal vehicle into a library?  Is it easier for people to access books now that so many are on an electronic format?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Approach With Caution

Approach with caution
I have been known to use violence when life intrudes on a really good book, approach with  caution!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Puddleglum and Marsh-Wiggle...What Great Words

Woohoo, I actually finished a book this week, given it was a reread, and I know how much I love it, but still a sense of accomplishment non the less.  The Silver Chair is the most quest like of stories in the Chronicles of Narnia and continues the adventures of Eustace Scrubb whom we met in the last book and is joined by Jill Pole in this adventure.

Eustace and Jill (or Scrubb and Pole as they call each other for most of the book) are being tormented by bullies at an experimental school both children are attending.  In desperation they try a gate in a wall that is always locked, of course that would be no fun in an adventure book, so of low and behold the door opens.  The children find themselves in a completely different land, high atop an impossibly tall mountain.  Jill shows of for Eustace by walking the edge of a cliff, but loses her balance.  Eustace grabs her but ends up falling
over the edge himself.  Jill is understandably distraught, between being stuck in this strange land and now her only companion plunging to his doom, and to top it all off a giant lion is between her and the only source of water.  The lion of course turns out to be Aslan, who gives Jill several signs to aid her on her quest to find the missing prince, for that is why Aslan called the children to Narnia.  Aslan sends Jill down the mountain on his breath (he did the same for Eustace, so no smashed children in this story).  They are immediately taken to the castle and told the tragic story of the missing prince.  The King (who is the now elderly Caspian of earlier stories) and his beloved Queen had a son Rilian who was the crown Prince of Narnia.  One day about 10 years prior, the Queen, Prince and a group of people went out for a picnic.  The Queen was tired so they moved away from a little fountain in a glade so she could rest.  The Queen while resting was bitten by a vile green snake and died from the poison.  Rilian vowed revenge and started to seek the snake.  After several weeks of going out on his own the Prince appeared to start acting strangely, claiming to have met a beautiful woman, and then he disappeared and no trace of him appeared in the 10 years hence.  King Caspian and many brave men searched high and low for the missing Prince, but none of them men who sent off to find him ever returned.  With no heir for the kingdom, the elderly King Caspian has set sail for the utter East to ask Aslan who should be King when he is gone.  The children are given to the care of a Marsh-Wiggle named Puddleglum (I just want to say these are
the best type of words ever!)  Puddleglum is a morose frog like man who lives in the cold northern marshes.  While he may be a wet blanket, he proves himself brave, smart and loyal on many occasions.  The group travels north, led by the signs that Aslan has given to Jill.  The farther north they travel, the colder and harder it gets.  They pass by crude giants having rock fights and eventually come to a massive bridge that spans the chasm.  On this bridge they meet a fair lady in a green dress and a knight in who is covered from head to toe in black armour.  The lady tells the group to go to the castle Harfang and present themselves for the Autumn Feast compliments of the Lady of the Green Kirtle.  The children are very excited about the prospect of a warm meal and a bed to sleep in, because no matter how great adventures sound in books, the reality of sleeping on the hard ground in the middle of winter with nothing but the food you hunt to eat is actually kind of miserable.  Puddleglum has his reservations but sticks with the children.  They arrive at the castle and are treated like pets (this is one of my favorite chapters for the descriptions of all the ways they use the giant things for little people).  Eventually they discover that they are actually meant to be made into pie for the be eaten.  They make their escape and end up very deep underground, captives of the Earthmen, various beings who live deep in the earth.  They are brought to an underground castle and greeted by a human man.  The young man seems odd to the children and he tells them that he is under an enchantment that turns him into a raving madman for one hour every day and that he must be bound to the silver chair to help ease the enchantment.  When the time comes the young man is bound to the chair, but
during his "madness" the group discovers that he is actually the lost Prince Rilian.  They loose the Prince, who promptly destroys the Silver Chair, freeing him from the witches enchantment.  The witch (who turns out to be the fair lady who sent them to the giants to be eaten) returns and is defeated by the group which now includes the Prince. The group quickly makes their way up through the earth, stopping to watch the Earthmen return to their even deeper under ground homes (in which jewels are living and can be squeezed into a juice...awesome!)  The group breaks through to Narnia and Rilian returns just in time to say good-bye to his dying father.  Aslan allows the children to scare the bullies just enough to keep them from hurting anybody else and then returns them to their own home.
Another great entry in the Chronicles of Narnia.  As I said earlier, this is the most traditional "quest" type story, with a very specific set of instructions to follow, and consequences when they are messed up.  I love how CS Lewis shows you the whole world, not just the part that is considered Narnia proper, but the everything surrounding it, this is even more apparent in the next book.  My favorite parts of this book were the idea of being floated down on the breath of Aslan, taking hours to safety reach the ground, it was a trick I used to get myself to sleep when I was younger, imagining I was floating down the mountain.  I love the scenes at the giants castle, mostly 'cause I love stories about giants and how little people adapt to that environment.  I also loved the idea of living jewels and viable metals, great visuals.  I hope you are all enjoying my walk down nostalgia lane, and thank you for bearing with my long-winded ramblings.  Happy Reading!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Slogging Through The Tomes

Do you ever just not want to finish a book?  I find myself in that situation lately, I'm not sure if I'm just not picking up great books, or I am distracted or what, but I have a huge stack of half finished books laughing at me.  I hate not finishing books, there are a few exceptions of course.  I have not finished books that are just so badly written that they don't make sense.  I have not finished books that I personally find in bad taste.  I have not finished books that are so boring that I find myself rereading the same page several times and still not registering the words on the paper.  These are all good reasons to not finish a book, and I have even forced myself to finish a few that fall into these categories, just for fair reviewing purposes.  The books that I have half read now do not fall into any of these reasons, they just are not getting finished. These books are decent books, maybe not earth-shattering, maybe not my new favorite of all time, but these are fairly well written, solid stories with good premises and decent plot lines.  It might be the post-holiday blues, where nothing seems as shiny and pretty as it was last month, it might be that I have so many books just begging to be read I can't keep my focus on what I am reading right now, maybe I just need more coffee. Whatever the reason I am giving myself a break and putting these books back in the TBR pile and hopefully their mocking laughter will not keep me up at night.  I will probably pick one up one of these days, remember why I got it in the first place, finish it and then kick myself for not sticking with it earlier.  Well back to the stack...hey what's that book with the pretty cover over there?!?

Do you always finish the books you start?  Are you one those disciplined people who can read one book at a time, never picking up the next one until the current one is finished or are you distracted by a pretty cover or interesting sounding premise?  What is the most amount of books you've had going at once (I'm up to 11 right now)?

Friday, January 11, 2013

Snowflakes In My Books

I love snowflakes, I love that each one is unique even though there are billions of them, I love how they look pretty and sparkly,  I love that they only last for a second, a bit of beautiful perfection for just a brief moment. I usually hate how empty the house looks after Christmas so I put up tons of snowflakes for the winter and then I have my own sparkly winter palace to curl up and read in.  Here are some snowflake bookmarks to help me maintain my icy fantasy.
Silver and Blue Snowflake Bookmark
So pretty, the blue tassel would look elegant in a leather bound book
Colorful Snowflake Bookmarks
I love the colors of these bookmarks...who is going to make me a set?
Silver Metal Snowflake Bookmark
Ooooh Aaaaah
Ribbon and Charms Snowflake Bookmark
This would cheer up even the dreariest winter day
Stamped Snowflake Bookmark
Sweet and simple, just how I like it.

Just for a little fun here is a fun little paper snowflake simulator just like when you were a little kid...or me last week :-)

Do you change your bookmarks to match your decor?  How many bookmarks do you have?  Do you actually use them or are they on display all over your house like mine?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

A Family That Makes Mine Look Normal

My family is weird...wonderful, loving and amazing, but weird.  For one of many examples one year for our church directory all the families had there pictures taken so we could all recognize each other.  My family decided to wear those little  disguise glasses all six of us, except my dad and he had the best expression of normalcy on his face making the rest of us even weirder and that is what was forever printed in our church directory.
The Family Fang is a book about a really weird family.  The parents Caleb and Camille Fang are performance artists who prize their art above all else.  Annie and Buster Fang, better known to the public as Child A and Child B are the tools the parents use to create their bizarre art.  The book switches back and forth between descriptions of events from the children's youth and their current situation.

The book introduces us in two separate chapters to Annie, the oldest Fang child who is a nominally successful actress and Buster the youngest Fang child who is a struggling author with one acclaimed novel and one bomb of a novel under his belt.  The Fang children are adults when our story starts and both have gotten themselves into some hot water.  Annie in preparation for a part where she is asked to perform topless has wandered around the set sans shirt and bra for all the paparazzi to see.  To make matters worse, her psycho co-star is spreading nusto rumors about her, with just enough evidence to make it plausible, and Annie then proceeds to sleep with a reporter doing a piece on her, giving him even more fodder for his 
article.  Meanwhile Buster has hit a slump with his writing and is now employed by a men's magazine, writing various interest articles.  Buster goes to the Midwest to interview some former soldiers who spend their nights making potato guns.  Buster gets shot in the face with a potato and ends up with some significant injuries.  These events force the Fang children back home to live with their parents.  Mr. and Mrs. Fang are still all about the art, all about the performance and try and get their children to participate again.  The Fang children agree to record the newest piece of Fang art and witness the failed attempts of Caleb and Camille to create chaos.  Throughout this story we get scenes from the past and see some of the art that the Fangs create.  Caleb and Camille are convinced that the only true art is living art, they create scenes and bizarre scenarios to make people horribly uncomfortable and then record the ensuing chaos.  One such piece involved Child A and Child B horribly playing instruments, screeching made up songs like "Kill All the Parents" to supposedly raise money to get there dog surgery.  Meanwhile in the audience, Mr. and Mrs. Fang start to heckle the children, causing some people to join in the derision of the children and others to defend the poor things.  Eventually things escalate into an all out brawl and the family makes it's escape.  This is just one of the numerous examples of how the Fang children are used as tools in their parents art.  Back in the present the Fang parents have disappeared.  The police contact Annie and Buster and inform them that they have found their parents van and discovered  copious amounts of blood at the scene.  Annie and Buster however do not believe their parents are dead, but rather they are working on yet another project.  Going to a flashback we see Annie getting ready to perform her last play, her senior year of high school, she is Juliet and she is very excited about it.  Unfortunately the boy who is supposed to play Romeo is unable to perform and the only other person who knows all the lines is Buster...her brother.  There is much back and forth on weather the school can permit a brother and sister to perform as Shakespearean lovers, but the director finally gets his way.  The principal warns them no kissing, just hand shakes and maybe a hug.  Buster gets carried away and at one point thoroughly kisses his sister.  The resulting chaos turns out to be a set up by the Fang parents.  This is the last straw for Annie who moves as far away as possible, shortly followed by Buster as soon as he graduates.  Back in the present Annie and Buster go back and forth between trying to find their parents, and just wanting to go back to their own lives.  
A clue to their parents whereabouts pops up when the kids here the song "Kill All the Parents" on a CD.  They eventually track down their parents who have faked their own death so that they can emerge after being declared dead as their biggest piece yet.  The only problem is that they won't be declared dead for at least seven years.  Annie and Buster are hurt that their parents would just abandon them and let them think they were dead.  They debate exposing their parents, but decide to give them a choice instead.  Tired of being pawns in their "art" they tell their parents they can either end the charade here and be a family, or the kids will walk away and not ruin things, but they will never see their parents again.  Caleb and Camille are so commited to their art that they agree never to see their kids again.  Annie and Buster though sad, also feel liberated and go on to attempt to live healthy lives.
This book was a hit and a miss for me.  I really liked the first half, it was quirky and weird and funny all at the same time.  It was fun to see all of the different scenario's the Fangs came up with and watching Buster and Annie try and cope with their family connections as adults was very interesting.  I liked the psychological way that both Fang kids were always finding themselves in the middle of chaos, mostly self-inflicted even as adults when their parents were not their to pull the strings, that long ingrained way of living almost impossible to stomp out.  It was also sad to see the effects that being tools for their parents left on their lives.  Through out the scenes you could catch glimpses of both sides of the family life.  The side where art was important above all else, and the part where the parents seemed to truly love their children.  I think the most heartbreaking part was at the end of the books when the parents decide that since the kids want no part in the art, then the parents are willing to essentially give up their kids, the implication that art was more important than them all along.  This is one of the problems I had with this book, I can believe that Caleb Fang would feel that way, throughout the book it is shown that he is willing to give up anything and everything for what he considers true art.  Camille on the other hand while into her art, showed many glimpses of trying to be a good mother and genuinely loving her children.  For her to just give up all contact with her kids, even as adults just did not ring true.  The other problem I personally had with the book is most of the last third seemed to drag on and on, alright we get it, you are screwed up and depressed, moving on.  I did however really love the very last scenes of the book, with Annie filming her movie.  Over all it was an interesting book with a good premise.  I would recommend it to anybody who likes a little bit twisted, a little bit dark, and a little bit weird.  It is not overwhelmingly any of these things, just enough to get the point across.  I would give this book 3 out of 5 cross eyed teddy bears.

What is the weirdest book you have ever read?  What is the weirdest thing your family has ever done?  How do you feel about performance art?  What do you think counts as art?