Friday, March 29, 2013

Peter Rabbit

Whenever I think of Easter I think of rabbits and whenever I think of rabbits I think of Peter Rabbit from The Tales of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter.  I love the perfect mix of whimsical art, and child friendly stories and of course animals that where clothes.
The Complete Adventures of Peter Rabbit
I still feel a bit of anxiety whenever Peter gets his coat stuck on the fence and Farmer McGregor is chasing him down with his big scary farming tools!  I remember once when I was younger the Pacific Science Center reproduced scenes from Beatrix Potter books at a scale that would show you what it would look like from a scale of a small rabbit.  It was amazing running around in these 3D, solid drawings come to life, climbing over fence posts that were 7 feet high, being able to hide in watering cans, made my 9 year old self feel like I wsa actually in the book!  I hope everybody has a Happy Easter, and remember to eat lots of chocolate eggs.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Peeps Booking It

Every time I see a Peep I think of my Mamma, she is obsessed with Peeps, in fact for her birthday one year we took her to the Peeps Store at the National Harbor and let her buy what ever she wanted, good times.  Unfortunately my poor Mamma can no longer eat Peeps without breaking out into a nasty rash, so instead I will combine it with her love of books and show her some Peeps performing some scenes from our favorite stories.
Lord of the Peeps
Aw it Frodo and his pals from Lord of the Rings
Harry Peeps
Epic Harry Potter Battle from a contest held by The Washington Post
Hunger Peeps
I love the blood in this Hunger Games diorama from the same contest
Alice in Peepland
Love the Alice's Adventures in Wonderland Peep Tea Party
And for a twist, a book that is a Peeps :-) (actually a really good vampire book, I liked it)

Who knew that Peeps could so amazingly versatile?  What is your favorite Peep?  What scene would you like to see Peeps do next?  Does anybody besides my Mamma think it is worth an unsightly rash to eat these things?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Warrior Chocolatier Eggs

Mmmm I love me some chocolate eggs, and Easter is the perfect time to gorge.  Apparently I am not the only one who like them either, all powerful pooka's are also partial to the stuff, who knew?  How do I know this fascinating little tidbit you ask?  I learned it by reading E.Aster Bunnymund and the Warrior Egg's at the Earth's Core, the second in the Guardians series.  What other amazing things did I learn while reading this enchanting little book?  Never fear for I shall tell you.

We start out with a quick recap of the previous book, in which we meet the Atlantian wizard Ombric, his young ward Katherine, and the Cossack bandit Nicholas St. North.  These three had just won their battle with Pitch the Nightmare King (who has escaped with the mechanical djinn body and his Fearlings) and were now at the home of the Lunar Lamas trying to figure out where the next piece of the magical ship Moon Clipper was. North has been given a magical sword by the Man in the Moon (Mim) himself and is working on mastering its many mysteries.  Katherine is busy raising her new companion, a giant Snow Goose and Ombric has been allowed the use of a giant clock to travel back in time.  He tries to stop Pitch from ever becoming the Nightmare King, but is stopped by a force stronger and older than himself, telling him that he cannot change history.  Meanwhile back at Santoff Claussen, the village our heroic trio is from, the children are surprised by a present from Katherine, a book that magically tells the stories she writes in them.
Nightlight, the silent friend of Katherine who had kept Pitch held captive for so long, has gone to check on the village children.  He senses something is not right and this is confirmed when Pitch appears and kidnaps all the children.  He says he will return the children in exchange for Ombrics magic library which has mysteriously disappeared.  The Lunar Lamas give our hero's the use of their tower/rocket to go back to there village after they find out something has gone wrong.  When they arrive, they find all of the adults, animals and guards have been turned into ceramic toys.  The moonbeam that lives in Nightlights diamond dagger is found by the shattered pieces and tells them what happened.  Ombric stays at the village to return everyone back to their living state and sends North and Katherine to find the mysterious last pooka, who is the only one who knows how to get to the Earth's core, which is where Pitch is hiding and gaining strength.  Pitch has discovered that the lead from the Earth's core absorbs light, making it the perfect armor for himself and his Fearlings who are defeated by light. Ombric gives Kathrine a locket containing a picture of Pitch's daughter that he discovered while time traveling.  Katherine and North find the Pooka on Easter Island (of course) and discover that he appears to be a seven foot tall rabbit by the name of E. Aster Bunnymund.  He tells them that his kind have been around long before humans or even Earth (which used to be egg-shaped) were alive.  He tells them that he is the last of his kind, his brothers being wiped out in the last Golden Age battle with Pitch. His obsession with eggs extends to everything, including his decor, clothes and even his warriors
who are egg shaped metal contraptions that double as the universes best chocolatiers.  Bunnymund and
North tend to squabble, having two different views on how things should be done, North wants to barge in and fight, while Bunnymund wants to take his time.  Fed up with both of them Katherine goes to rescue the children and Nightlight on her own.  Pitch catches Katherine and North and Bunnymund come to her aid. There is a battle in which Pitch is defeated (but not destroyed) when Katherine shows him the locket with his daughters image in it.  North is gravely wounded, but is restored by some magic chocolate (though I would argue all chocolate is magic) and the children are returned to the village, safe and sound.  Bunnymund is in possession of the second relic the trio were hunting for and they are now ready for the next step in their journey.

As with Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King this was a quick, beautiful, fun read.  It continues the story of characters we already know, while adding some new friends.  I love alternative explanations for where some of these holiday icon's come from, and having them work together is awesome. I love that believing in something is what creates the most potent magic, what a great lesson for our jaded youth.  These books have such a whimsical, innocent flair, while still having a pretty scary story line.  These are the type of stories I loved growing up, and it is nice to see books that allow children to be innocent and loving, and mischievous, and playful, and imaginative without talking down to them.  As always the use of books makes me happy, I LOVE BOOKS and anytime they are integral to a story it makes me spastically exuberant.  The illustrations are gorgeous and the descriptions of the different chocolates that Bunnymund makes, has me searching for some exotic ones to try hear on boring old Earth.  I suggest this to read to your kids, and have many discussions on all the different aspects of it.  I give it 8 out of 10 chocolate eggs.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Bookworm Easter Basket

Easter approaches and that means the renewal of promises, starting over, and baskets full of the most yummiest candy!  Here are some ideas for an Easter themed gift basket for the book lover in your life.
Paper storage basket woven from vintage book
Book Basket
First you need a basket, this handy one is made of pages from an old book
Penguin Spines Wrapping Paper
Book Wrapping Paper
This wrapping paper is perfect for shredding in place of the traditional Easter Grass

E. Aster Bunnymund and the Warrior Eggs at the Earth's Core! (The Guardians Series #2)
E. Aster Bunnymund
Of course an Easter themed book is essential to any book lovers basket
Peeps: Recipes and Crafts to Make with Your Favorite Marshmallow Treat
My Mamma LOVES Peep's so this is a must in her book basket
Back to School Bookworm Favor Bag Topper, DIY Digital PRINTABLE, for School, I Love to Read Month, Lunch Boxes and More
Gummy Bookwoms
Of course every basket needs candy, so these gummy bookworms should do the trick
Cadbury Creme Egg
I don't care what your theme is, no Easter basket is complete without a Cadbury Creme Egg!

What do you put in your Easter baskets?  What is your favorite Easter candy?  Do you think it is mean to put hard boiled eggs in a persons basket?

Monday, March 25, 2013

Happy Path

Here is my path to the ultimate happy
The Reader's Path
I bet it takes you to some amazing places!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Starry Blue Apocolypse

Spoiler Alert Spoiler Alert Spoiler Alert Spoiler Alert Spoiler Alert
Just had to put that out there 'cause I'm pretty sure the spoilers will be coming fast and fierce with this rambling of And All the Stars by Andrea Host.  I actually decided to do something different and try and write down all my reactions to the book, so here they are in the order that they were written.
Starry blue apocalypse (what a great post title), Apple green cavalry teeheehee, Noi, not the main girl character yet by far the strongest and yet most caring girl in the book, Fisher-Science Boy YAY!, Pan is a theatre guy and not gay, Nash is the hot athletic one and is gay, yay for stereo-type reversals, Tyler?, AHHHHH Alien boyfriend, ....ew?!?, Theodin :-)  Shakespeare and Peter Pan I may die happy, Oh...gees, Never knew the boy, The Host, Why are Aussie teens more mature?  No crushing Angst, eh happy/pat ending.

That my friends was pretty much word for word in order the thoughts I had time to jot down while reading this book...but what is it about you ask, well I will tell you. Be prepared for an epically long post!
Madeline wakes up in the rubble of St. James station, confused and hurt.  It takes a couple chapters but we learn that huge Spires of something have risen out of the earth at Earth's most populated cities spewing a cloud of glittering dust that may turn everybody into Edward Cullen...wait I mean we don't know what is going to happen with the dust.  Sydney Australia is one of those cities and this is just the beginning.  Madeline makes her way to her cousins (the androgynous cross-dressing, movie star Tyler) apartment and starts putting together what happened.  People are warned to stay indoors and try not to be exposed to the dust as they are not sure what it does yet.  Madeline gets a hold of her family and lets them know that she is safe.  Meanwhile her body starts to to weird things, like ache all over, giver a hunger like she has never
experienced, allows her to project and "shape" energy, and oh yeah it covers most of her body in a deep blue starry like substance.  After eating all the food in the apt.  Madeline goes in search of food and meets Noi, a baker who survived the initial dust dispersion.  She informs Madeline that the dust does one of three things, kills you, makes you Green, or makes you Blue, Noi is Blue like Madeline.  The girls run into a boy who appears to have fallen down the stairs and meet his friends, the beautiful Nash, the impish Pan, and Gav who drives and apple green Bug.  All of the boys are Blues and come from a boarding school where they are trying to help their fellow school mates recover.  After some practical other things being done, the boys and girls decide to band together, along with a young girl named Emily that they pick up along the way.  They start doing experiments, trying to figure out how to use their new found powers and keep enough food in the house to feed their new ravousness appetites.  Madeline, who is an introvert by nature, finds the best way to stay calm is to sketch and paint her new friends.  She is also attracted to the driven, calm and intelligent Fisher, who is doing everything he can to find out about the dust and the Spires.  Madeline and Noi become inseparable as friends, depending on each other far more then anyone else.  One day while experimenting with a large group of Blues at a local beach, huge white "kites" of energy start swooping in and possessing the Blues.  The group try and get away, but Gav is taken.
They acquire a new companion in the form of Min, a sarcastic, yet practical boy. They get away and move into an apartment with a secret office and rig up early warning devices.  Madeline finally acts on her feelings for Fish in an awkward but very sweet way, but they are interrupted by the Spire "singing".  By watching the news they find out that the possessed Blues are aliens called the En-Mott and that they are here for two years to settle primacy...whatever that means.  The humans are to turn over anybody who is Blue, and if they are not sufficient more dust will be released until they have enough.  The Green's it turns out are susceptible to the Spires and are essentially mind controlled by it.  This triggers a cycle of trying to figure out what to do, hiding and practicing.  It is discovered that some of the Blues (like Nash) instead of expelling energy actually need to absorb it from other Blues, these are called leech-Blues. Turns out that settling primacy means having several types of challenges, destroying buildings and humans in the process.  When one of the challengers turns out to be hunting Madeline down for being the strongest Blue, the group decides to head out.  They end up in a newly build hotel, and Madeline and Fish do the deed...several times (yay for teenage sex).  Madeline tells Noi that she has fallen in love with Fish.  The next day they are all captured and separated.  Madeline wakes up to an empty building and minimal food.  The En-Mott are trying to weaken her so that they can possess her.
 She runs into Fisher who informs her that he has actually been possessed the whole time and that she has never actually met the human half.  Understandably this devastates Madeline, but she keeps her head as the alien who now calls himself Theodin (yep after the king in Lord of the Rings) tells her that he has a plan to help her rid her world of aliens as he has come to love their group and want to protect them.  He makes her angry enough to "soul punch" the alien out of the body, killing the alien in the process.  She learns how to transfer energy into the human host so that he survives the transition and discovers that the host knows and remembers everything that happened while possessed (as my brother would say Awkward).  Putting aside her teen angst for later, Madeline and the newly released Fisher go and free the others, finding out the alien plans in the process.  I'm still not 100% sure what everything meant, but I did get that the aliens would come back every eight years, so just trying to wait out the promised two years wasn't going to help anything.  Using there new found fighting techniques the group (who have been calling themselves The Blue Musketeers) teaches the world how to fight of the aliens.  At the end Fisher tells Madeline that he does have feelings for her, and point blank tells her the difference between himself and the alien.  He gives Madeline the choice to come with him, or go with the other group.  Madeline chooses to see what happens with him.  The epilogue shows the group five years later, all with happy endings and a free if slightly torn up planet.

Whew, that was honestly just a bare bones plot synopsis, this book is so so so much more.  I loved this book, I couldn't put this book down, much work was not completed because of this book.  I think I liked this book so much because it was so gosh darn practical, especially for a young adult scifi book.  Let's start with the writing.  The first chapter of two totally confused me, it dumps you right into this confused, painful, wait did I just miss something moment.  At first I thought I had missed something because it was just like..what the hell?  This ended up working really well because that is exactly what our main character was feeling and right of the bat you had some insight into her new life.  I loved that other than glimpses here and there this story was mostly about the here and now, and a possible future.  The pacing of this book was really great, a mix between action, dialogue, humor, introspection and a lot of food. The author makes use of Shakespeare, Tolkien, Dumas, and Barrie in a way that fits beautifully into the story (I'm a sucker for an author who loves and respects other authors), and turning the group into The Blue Musketeers gave the reader a sense that the group found a way to be
cohesive. The words of course were vastly important, and this author does not shy away from words, but on the whole she is not overly flowery either, a very good balance.  On to the characters.  The characters were my favorite part of this book, the author did an amazing job making them seem authentic, everything they did or said seemed to make sense and have a real life motive.  Nobody was given words or actions just to further the plot.  The underlying feel of the group was that they were all friends, there was no unnecessary drama, no pointless misunderstandings, just a group of people who were trying to survive and along the way formed unbreakable bonds.  Even the romances were low key and plausible.  The main romance between Madeline and Fisher was even discussed as being the result of the situation, more than a long term development.  Madeline was a great main character (though I use that term loosely as almost all the characters were very well developed).  She was never the leader, never the most beautiful, her talent, while amazing, was not one that necessarily saved lives, she had a hard time not withdrawing and her tightest relationship was not with the boy she fell in love with, but the discovery of a best friend in Noi.  Noi was awesome, that is all I can say.  She is my favorite type of character, capable but willing to ask for help, strong and caring, bossy and able to bake.  She is the type that reminds you that you can be more then the strong, sexy shooter girl, or the quiet shy, yet oh-so-good girl.  Noi is as human as they come and I love her for it. Emily the young girl, full of young anger, this character really showed the difference a few years and some maturity can make. She was portrayed as 12/13 year old girl, not in the sense that she was whiny, but that her emotions would swing from clingy and scared, to unreasonably angry over the slightest thing.  I liked this contrast to the older more mature members of the team.  Fisher was a good character, possessed or not I loved the idea of the main romantic interest being a smarty mcsmarty pants.  Again he never belittled people for not knowing as much as him, and his joy came from learning, not so much knowing.  Nash was the perfect mix of strong and sweet, somebody who should
be around in any crisis.  Min...well we all know a Min, a guy who covers everything up with a sarcastic joke, but will be the first one to defend you when it comes down to it.  Gav was about as boy next-door as you can get, probably the most laid back character, willing to do what needed to be done. Then there is Pan, he is my other favorite character in the book.  He is constantly "performing" always quoting lines from plays and keeping the groups spirit up.  Tyler is the other character that is used in this book, though we don't get to know him very well as he is off-stage most of the time, but he is the epitome of staying true to oneself in the most extreme of ways, I'm not sure how effective this was in this type of story, but I'm glad he was in there anyways.  Overall the author figured out how to put in a ton of diversity, ethnic,
sexual orientation/identification, personality, gender, location in a manner that did not seemed forced.  The concept of the aliens was pretty cool, for some reason though, they kept reminding me of the book The Host (but that may be because of all the trailers that are out) I like that most of them had a complete disregard for human life, it made the killing of them easier to stomach.  I wish the history and current events of there race was a little clearer, but I don't think it mattered in the end.  I do however want my own dandelion dragon. The ending was a bit to pat and happy, but not implausible and after everything that had happened to these poor kids I guess they deserved a happy ending.  In case you couldn't tell, I loved this book and would recommend it to almost anyone.  I give it 9 out of 10 dandelion dragons.
What makes a book unputdownable for you?  How would you survive an alien invasion?  Why are Aussie teens so much more mature then American teens?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Rambles About Ramblings

Somebody asked me the other day why I always put in such a long synopsis of the book in my ramblings.  My first thought was well 'cause it's my blog and I can do whatever I want but that sounded kinda snotty, so here is the reasons I write my ramblings the way I do.  The whole purpose of this blog is a very very selfish one, I like to talk about books.  I like to pontificate, speculate, analyze and discuss books I've read, want to read and other cool things related to books.  When I started this blog it was to fill a void I found, sometimes I wanted to know the whole plot of the book. The vast majority of the time I try not to read reviews of a book until I have already read it.  I have found that reviews leave me with the reviewers point of view and sometimes skews my reading of the book.  So after I have read the book I want to read what other people thought of it.  A lot of reviews give you one super detailed beginning paragraph and then a bunch of vaugery as to rightfully not spoil the book, and then try and review it.  Do you know how hard it is to review a book and not spoil it?  The few ramblings I have done where I have tried to keep pieces of the plot a secret are not my best work.  I look at it as less of a review and more of a discussion among people who have already read the book, or may want more information than a back cover blurb. I think most reviews (as they should be) are a way for people to find a new book to read, but the lack of spoilers can really stilt the discussion.  Now I know my ramblings are not
for everybody, they are called ramblings, not reviews for a reason.  They are long and wandery and sometime really choppy, there is a reason I'm a reader not a writer!  I guess in the end it is more about my need to discuss a book at length that leads to these overly written musings of mine.  A lot of the people I know who read the same books as me don't live anywhere near me and my poor Hubbin gets stuck with me going on and on about a given book.  This space gives me somewhere to just spew everything I am thinking, feeling, loveing and hating when I have finished a book.  I will continue my rambling as long as there are books to read and thoughts to be had and I hope you will all join me in discussing some of these amazing books!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Dirty Duck

Every once in a while one of my family members will stumble upon a random book at a library sale, garage sale, used book store, etc. and give it to me to read to see if it is any good.  Some of these books are amazing, some are weird, some are confusing, but all are awesome if for no other reason then they are usually at least 20 years old :-)  It is fun to see how people viewed the world before Internet and cell phones.  20 years does not seem like that much time, but it is amazing the advances that have happened and the things we now accept as fact.  My last visit to my baby sis resulted in a paperback mystery called The Dirty Duck. It is set in England and has a Shakespearean twist to it so I thought I would give it a try.

Here is a quick spoil filled recap.  A high end tour company that caters to the very rich is currently in Stratford-on-Avon enjoying the life and times of one William Shakespeare.  The mystery starts with the disappearance of the adopted son of a wealthy man and the murder of a loner woman who is also part of the tour. The murders scenes all have a stanza of a poem that is used to help solve the case.  Jury a detective with Scotland Yard is called upon to solve the case.  As the investigation starts, we meet the members of this exclusive tour.  The head of the company is Mr. Honeycutt and his main concern is quickly solving the case so no bad publicity gets out.  Lady Violet Dew and her uptight niece Cyclamen provide suspects and entertainment to the detective and his friend Plant.  Mr. Cholmondleley is the rare Brit who is touring his
home country.  Ms. Bracegridle the unfortunate first victim who was slashed from ear to ear in a public restroom. Our main characters form the tour however are Harvey Schoenberg, who excitedly expounds on his theories of the real reasons behind Christopher Marlowe's untimely death in the time of Shakespeare.  He carries around a prototype laptop on which he keeps all his research and yammers away to anybody who he can get to listen.  The Farraday family, which consists of  James, the head of the family, his adopted son (who is missing at the start of the book) James, his adopted daughter Penny, his new wife Amelia Blue, and her daughter Honey Belle (I love the names in this book!) turn out to be the main characters of interest in the book. Soon after Ms. Bracegridle is found dead, and James still appears to be missing all of the tour participants are questioned, this leads to a few red herrings but that is about it.  Jury does find out the James and Penny are actually the children of a former worker of Mr. Farraday's who had left the children with him when she became to ill to care for them, she subsequently died when Penny was young and James just a baby.  Honey Belle is the next murder victim and the investigation turns to someone who is targeting the tour.  Another round of questioning and more Marlowe death talk from our obnoxious friend Harvey lead nowhere.  Amelia Blue is murdered and the boy is still missing and the investigation turns to a possible motive of female killing.  Meanwhile Harvey's cold and successful brother Jonathan comes to visit him in London.  Harvey's body is soon discovered mutilated like all the other victims, blowing the all female MO out of the water.  After some back and forth Jury finally uses Harvey's research into the death of Marlowe to solve the case.  SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!  The killer is Harvey!  He murdered his brother and made the body look like his own, and he then assumed the identity of his dead brother.  The murders all had to do with James and Penny's mother, whom Harvey had been in love with, but had been seduced away by his brother.  Later Harvey felt that Mr. Farraday had left her to die, and kept the children (James is possibly Harvey's natural son).  His murder of Amelia Blue and Honey Belle was to try and inflict the same pain on him.  Ms. Bracegridle's murder was simply to shut her up after she discovered one to many of Harvey's secrets.  James if found safe and sound, kidnapped by Harvey to try and make him his own son.  All is well that ends well and the non-murdered people attempt to live out the rest of their lives.

This book was...odd.  It felt like it skipped around a bit and I had trouble following everything that led to the conclusion of the case. A few things in the book were obviously allusions to pieces of Jury's life from previous books and as this was the first book I read in this series.  The bit's about Marlowe and Shakespeare seemed to be used as if the reader already knew certain facts about them, which as much as I love that era, I did not.  The drawing of the line between Harvey's research and the conclusion of the case was a little abrupt, but again that may be because I could not get a handle on it.  The characters themselves were brilliant, and I felt a bit like I was reading a script from a BBC mystery show.  I laughed out loud several times and the idea of pre-internet yet semi-contemporary settings was pretty great. The Dirty Duck that the book is named for is a bar that many of the theatre patrons go to before and after the shows.  Overall it was an interesting read, I know that the author is still writing and is insanely popular, especially in Britain.  I would not say no if a few more of her books came my way.
Do you ever pick up random books?  Do your family members delight in finding the most obscure books possible for you?  How hard is it to pick up a book in the middle of a series.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Words And Worlds

I have been in the middle of several books for a while now and was just thinking what it is that makes me fall in love with a book.  I love books that immerse you into their world, when I get into a book and look up and it is hours later and I don't know where I am, that my friends is a good book.  Many things go into making a book unputdownable (I should make my own dictionary of my reading words).  Plot, characterization, sheer horror at  the unimaginable mess the author is making (seriously bad books can be perversely entertaining, but more on that in another post).  One thing to me that can sometimes trump almost everything else is world building.  No matter what genre you are writing in, building a world a reader can mentally inhabit is key.  Here are just a few of book/series that can make me believe I am somewhere else.
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In A Ship of Her Own Making-This book is just spectacular in it's world building.  Not only because the author is not afraid to use big words, but because of the sheer imagination behind it. The problem that many authors fall into when trying to make a imaginary world of this scale is that they get overly descriptive, but since words are an actual part of this stunning world, it works to its advantage.  I know for a fact that the author did a fantastic job on creating a world people can get into when my two young nephews, to whom I was reading parts of it too, started incorporating pieces of the fairy world into their games.  The world in this book, even just a few pages here and their made enough impression on these guys that they kept it in their heads.  This is a book I go back to whenever I want to go back to that place where I lived when I was a little kid, you know the one where anything is possible and you can think of an explanation for anything.
Dragonsong (Harper Hall Trilogy Series #1)
The Harper Hall Trilogy- Any book set in the Pern series...heck any book written by Anne McCaffrey in general has the most amazing ability to make your forget that these places are not real.  The Harper Hall trilogy in particular has always fully immersed me into this weirdly non-magical yet entirely fantastical, but also sci-fi world.  My favorite part about the world building in the Harper Hall books is that it gives you a glimpse of everyday life.  Instead of telling us every detail about this world, you learn about customs, rituals, food, jobs, family units, language and all that just through watching these people live a normal life.  By the time I was done with these books, I had a hard time looking around me in the "real" world and realizing that the one I had just finished reading about, did not actually exist.
The Night Circus
The Night Circus-This book was effective for almost the exact opposite reason that the Pern books are.  This book was as fantastical as they come.  The author used an unusual technique of blending pure descriptive passages of the various circus acts and places with little personal vignettes and the occasional crossing of the two.  The real power in these descriptive passages was two-fold.  One, it felt more like you were being shown these amazing acts and attractions instead of just a rote recitation. Two, more then just words seemed to be used, I could actually smell the slight burn of the carmel used in the carmel corn, I could see my breath in the Ice Garden,  I wanted to see how high I could climb in the Cloud attraction. I could feel the texture of the fabrics, feel the heat from the central bonfire, hear the birdsong more then just reading, it was experiencing the words.  The way this was written really engaged you to use all of your senses, making it a shock when you finally came up for air that you were not actually there.  All of this was so fantastical that I knew it could never really exist without magic, but still...
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Harry Potter #1)
Harry Potter Series-The strength of world building in this insanely popular series comes from the way J.K. Rowling uses three perspectives to show us this combo fantasy/contemporary world.  We get to see the wizarding world through Harry's eyes, and as he has never been a part of it, or even knew of it's existence it gives the reader a chance to learn along with him.  Our own dreary world that us readers think we know so well is shown through Ron's perspective, showing us as Muggles and even pointing out a type of "magic" that the wizarding world does not possess (think electricity and cars).  Then we have Hermione who is kind of the translator between both worlds, she was raised a mundane Muggle, but has known and studied the wizarding world.  She is our link between these two different worlds and helps Harry and Ron and subsequently the reader learn all about, well pretty much everything in a way that makes everything so very very very real.
Stardust-Here is another book that contrasts our world with a fantastical parallel one. Neil Gaiman to me has always had a way with filling his fantasy world with the most amazing details.  This book in particular has some great little gems.  To me the best part was the description of the Fair on the other side of The Wall.  I have not wanted to just wander around a place so bad in a long time.  This is a place you feel like you could explore forever and not once be bored.  Utilizing a wide variety of places, from a Victorian village, to a flying ship (I need me one of those so bad!) to an a palace on top of a mountain.  This world of Stormhold will constantly surprise and delight you.  I have read the book as both a plain paperback and as an illustrated book (by Charles Vess) both of them are wonderful and while the illustrations are amazing and awesome and I love them, they are not needed to complete the world the author has created.

I could go on and on, I can think of several other books and authors who do just as good a job with world building, but I want to go finish what I am reading now, so maybe I will do a follow-up post later with some of my other favorite worlds.

Which book/series/author do you think does the best job in creating a world?  How essential is a well-built world to your reading enjoyment?  Do you ever spend more time thinking about the world you just left in the book then you do your real life?  

Monday, March 18, 2013

Hard To Read When Your Fingers Are Frozen

Stupid weather, it keeps forgetting that it is supposed to be spring and my book should look like this

Spring Book
Instead my books look a lot more like this!
Mahogany Book
Ice Book
Arrrggghhh!  Somebody turn up the heat already (but not to much)

Friday, March 15, 2013

Green Beer And No Snakes

Wooohoooo, St. Patrick's Day is nearly upon us.  As I have much green beer drinking to do, I shall go ahead and do my holiday posting today.  St Patrick's Day was originally to celebrate when the Saint Patrick first brought Christianity to Ireland, of course now it is more of an excuse to drink and listen to awesome Irish music.  St. Patrick was given the distinction of being the man who drove all the snakes out of Ireland, this is one of the miracles that gave him his sainthood...and made Ireland a wonderful place for people who are afraid of snakes.  Here are some books to get you all ready for your own St. Patrick's Day celebration.
Partying On St. Patrick's Day
Partying On St. Patrick's Day
Everything you need to know about the day, from the Saint himself, to some great Irish drinking songs

Irish Food: Irish Desserts - Irish Recipes and St Patricks Day Recipes
Irish Food
Some authentic reciepies to take your celebration to the next level
St. Patrick’s Day Recipes – Drinks
St. Patrick's Day Drinks
Just in case you get sick of green beer, you can now make other green drinks!
Irish Language and Culture (Lonely Planet's English Language & Culture Series)
Irish Language and Culture
Astound everybody with your Irish tounge (wait that sounds dirtier then I intended...oh well)
50 Great Irish Drinking Songs
Irish Drinking Songs
Sing these songs in your local pub, best buddies party, staggering down the street...

Well there you have it, everything you need to have a great St. Patrick's Day.  I am on duty that night so please be safe and have fun! 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

A Feast Of Meh

First off I just want to say I LOVE DR. WHO SO MUCH!!!!!!!  This actually has nothing to do with today's post but I thought I would throw that out there any ways :-)  Mostly I am stalling because I just finished A Feast for Crows and should be doing a review on it, but it was kind of really boring.  So we should just talk about how cool Martha is and how I thought I would never get over Rose, but a kick-ass female doctor as a companion, what is there not to love...oh wait right the review...sorry.  Ok here we go, as always
Spoiler Alert
Spoiler Alert
Spoiler Alert
We start this book with a prologue in Oldtown, home of the Citadel where the maesters forge their chains.  We hear a bit about dragons and meet some novices and of course somebody dies.  Moving on. The iron islands are up next and here is what is going on there.  Balon Greyjoy has died leaving no male heirs.  His daughter Asha wants the crown, but she is female so has very little support.  According to law the iron crown should go to Balon's next brother, the man they call Euron Crow's Eye.  The priest of the Drowned God  Aeron Damphair thinks that it should be the next brother Victarion, who keeps to the old ways.  Aeron decrees that a kingsmoot is what will determine the next king of the iron islands, trusting that his Drowned God will crown Victarion.  Euron Crow's Eys ends up with the crown and promptly starts raiding and pillaging all the surrounding lands, amassing an enormous fleet and becoming extremely formidable on the sea.  Brienne, the lady knight of Tarth is off with the sword "Oathkeeper" which Jamie gave her to go find Sansa Stark and take her someplace safe.  This would fulfill both Brienne's and Jaime's vow to find her and keep her safe.  Along the way Brienne runs into Podrick Payne, the Imps faithful squire and he comes along on the quest.  She also acquires another companion in the form of a knight by the name of Ser Hyle Hunt, not that she is all that thrilled with his company.  They continue their search for Sansa.  By the end of the book all three of them are in the process of being hung by the zombie Catelyn Stark...oh did I forget to mention that? Yep we get a whole 3 pages where we finally figure out that Mamma Stark has been brought back by as a zombie, why?  I have no idea, this book isn't big on answers.  Speaking of our dear Sansa, she is now known as Alayne Stone, the bastard daughter of 
Peter Baylish, who will as you remember in the last book, pushed his wife the Lady Lysa off a mountain and assumed the protectorate of her lands.  Little sickly Lord Robert Arryn, has taken to Alayne and will only follow her directions.  When we leave them, Peter has made plans to marry Sansa off to the heir to the Vale and tells her they will reveal her true name at the wedding, uniting two great northern powers.  Sansa's sister Arya Stark has made her way to the city of Braavos, to join the temple of the god of many faces.  Here Arya becomes Cat, a girl who sells clams and mussels on the docks and continually tries to become "nobody".  She is set the task of learning to control her face, and her words. She only succeeds so far and when we leave her she has awoken blind.  Samwell Tarly is sent to Oldtown with maester Aemon, Gilly and her baby, and a singer who ends up dead at the hands of Arya Stark (which is probably why she ends up blind.)  Maester Aemon dies on the voyage, Sam finally gets it on with Gilly, who he discovers is not escaping with her own child, but rather the son of Mance Rayder.  Jon Snow sent the child away to try and protect him from Melisandre, who wanted to burn him for on of her rituals.  Sam ends up at the Citidel to become a maester himself.  Back in King's Landing, Cersei is desperatly trying to keep control of the kingdom.  Margaery Tyrell has married the young boy king Tommen and is trying to use her influence to become the head honcho queen.  Cersei is of course having none of it and does her best to plot and scheme the little queens downfall.  Cersei authorizes the rebanding of the Poor Fellows, essentially religious holy warriors, which puts her in the new High Septons good graces.  Cersei manipulates various cronies and eventually finds a way to get Margaery accused of treason, fornication and adultery, which is punishable by death.  Unfortunate her plans go awry and she finds herself thrown in a cell, accused of the same things.  Jaime is off trying to set the country back to rights, including taking Riverrun without shedding any Stark or Tulley blood as he had promised Catlyn Stark when she freed him in the last book.  He is fairly successful at his task.  He is also secretly learning to use his left hand as his sword hand, hoping to regain some of his former skill.  Across the sands we see the country of Dorne and witness the princess Arianne attempt to crown the Princes Myrcella queen of the Seven Kingdoms.  She is found out and captured by her own father the Prince Doran, who is a more cautious man.  He has also had to imprison the daughters of his brother Oberyn who are intent on starting a war and avenging their fathers death.   We get a few other little vignettes from people we have never heard of before, half of which are dead by the end of their chapters. All in all this is about all that happened.
A lot of people loved A Storm of Swords  and did not find this book up to par.  I must confess I have to agree with most reviewers, especially in comparison this book just did not hold up at all.  After so much happening in the last three books, this one felt incredibly slow.  In fact most of these stories could have been told in one or two chapters.  I thought Brienne's chapters were especially overly long, and that she had many more chapters then she needed to get to where she was going.  I appreciated that the author was trying to give us some different perspectives, but sprinkling them into the main characters would have worked better for me.  One of the things I missed the most in this book was a sense of caring where the characters were concerned.  As a reader, in the previous books I had a vested interest in most of the characters, even the evil characters usually had their sympathetic moments.  In this book, eh I really did not care what happened to anybody.  By completely cutting out ALL of my favorite characters I found myself wondering what they were up to instead of paying attention to the story at hand.  This book wasn't all bad, and if I didn't have the last three books to compare it to, I may have enjoyed it even more.  I liked most of Cersei's chapters, watching her get more and more desperate was fitting, again it was drawn out longer then I cared, but at least it was a continuation of the previous books.  What I did really enjoy was Arya's chapters and getting to visit Braavos.  I loved the idea of the Many Faced god, and her conflicting desires make Arya a great character. Also the Venice like qualities that Braavos has makes me happy.  I liked seeing Dorne as well, it was nice to finally have an idea of all seven kingdoms.  I also just finished watching Season 2 of the TV version of this show, which corresponds to the second book Clash of Kings (which was awesome!) and it makes me excited for the next season, but it makes me wonder how they will film this book with all of it's main characters missing.  Overall I feel this book could have easily been edited down to about 10 or less chapters that could have been incorporated with another book.  I give it eh 5 out of 10 ruby covered swords.

What did you think of this book?  Were you disappointed or did you find more in it than I did?  Have you been watching the TV show?  Why is the author so obsessed with clothes and flags?

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

I Think It's The Plauge

Blech blech blech, I've been pretty sick these last couple of days.  To sick to even read, which for me is like being at deaths door!  I am finally starting to feel a bit like a human being and am ready to get back to my reading and rambling.  All of this ickyness got me thinking about books I've read, were illness plays a major role.  I like books that feature a disease, mostly because I am in the medical field and find all of that stuff fascinating.  I like how a disease can be used in many ways, it can be a weapon, an equalizer, a catalyst.  Sometimes the goal of the story is to find a cure for the disease, other times it is trying to make a life after the disease has ravished the world.  Sometimes it is used to bring various people together in tragedy that would never even look at each other before and other times it is used to tear loved ones apart.  I like how different genre's deal with illness, depending on if you are reading fantasy, scifi, historical fiction, etc. there are a ton of different ways to approach it.  Here are a few of my favorite books were sickness, disease and illness play a main role. (I know most of these are part of a series, but they are still really good!)
Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern
Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern- This book is a stand alone novel in the Dragonriders of Pern series of books.  This book deals with an illness brought over from another part of the world that very few people had immunity to.  The book shows us the progression of the disease from it's first victims all the way to finding a cure in the blood of the few people who have a natural immunity to it.  This is the first major world wide illness to hit this planet in a very long time, and it is awesome to see all of the different and creative things they do to not only find a cure and vaccine, but to figure out how to get it out to the people as well.
Briar's Book (Circle of Magic Series #4)
Briar's Book- This is one of the books in the Circle of Magic series.  When a plague comes to Summersea, Briar and his friends must use their specific magic to assist the scientists in finding a cure before the whole country dies.  One of my favorite parts of this book is the mixing of magic and science and the feeling that both are just pieces of the same puzzle.  I always felt that magic and science were buddies in real life and this book does a great job showing that.
The Two Princesses of Bamarre
The Two Princesses of Bamarre-The Grey Death is a fatal disease that is ravaging this imaginary country.  The shy and quiet Princess Addie is content to stay safe in her castle, away from the disease and all it's nasty effects.  When her beloved sister falls ill with this fatal disease, she decides to be the one to try and fulfill an ancient prophecy to try and save her sister.  This book is less about the illness itself and more about the effects it has on the people who are not sick.  The fear they have for themselves vs the fear for their loved ones and the lengths one is willing to go to try and fix it.
Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles Series #1)
Cinder- This retelling of Cinderella has the unusual twist of a plague that is ravishing the home of our heroine. When Cinder's adored stepsister falls ill, she is sent to the futuristic scientists to "volunteer" as a test subject.  This is totally acceptable because Cinder is a cyborg and not seen as fully human.  The implications that a person can be classified as less then human because of certain mechanical body parts, and the ability for this government to condone the often fatal testing of cures on these beings makes a pretty hefty political statement that one is not used to seeing in a fairy tale.  This is a good one for thinking about cost vs benefit in finding a cure for a disease that could kill millions, is it worth it to lose a few lives in the search for a cure?
Star Trek The Next Generation #51: Double Helix #1: Infection
Star Trek: Double Helix Series-This series of six books set in the Star Trek universe span a whole timeline and touch every piece of the franchise.  It is essentially a series about a tailor made disease that pops up over different times and places.  Over the six books the disease evolves and is meant to do different things, but their are pieces that tie them all together.  These are some of my favorite Star Trek books, not only do they touch on every character in every time period, but they again focus on every aspect of the disease.  Everything from it's origin, to the cure, to the social and class repercussions, to the motive in making and using such a heinous disease, all kinds of cool fun stuff!  I loved all six books and now that I have been talking about them, think that this may be my summer reread series.

What do you think of books about diseases, illness and plague's?  What aspect do you find most intriguing, the scientific, the moral and ethical, the social, the emotional?  How weird am I that I find all this germy stuff to be so fascinating?