Friday, 27 July 2012

The Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Book:  The Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #1) by Laini Taylor, 2011 by Little, Brown & Company, 417 pages.

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth grows dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she's prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages—not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out.

When one of the strangers—beautiful, haunted Akiva—fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

My Thoughts:
This book is so beautifully written that I often found myself stopping to savour a passage.  Taylor has a way with words that is poetic at times.

And then, there's the story.  I was drawn in right from the start with the story of Karou, an unusual, and in many ways, mysterious girl living and going to art school in Prague.  However, she has a hidden life, her family of chimaera, who live a world apart.  This is the story of finding out who she is, for both the readers and Karou herself.

I loved the sense of adventure in this book, and the descriptions of the chimaera and their world were wonderful.  There is also a romance with Akiva that is pulled off really well.  Taylor weaves the story between them, their present and their pasts so well that it is seamless.

I highly recommend this book, especially to those who like young adult fantasy.  I raced right through this one and can't wait for the second one to come out.

Here is the book trailer from YouTube:

Thursday, 26 July 2012

The Slow Fix by Ivan E. Coyote

Book:  The Slow Fix by Ivan E. Coyote, 2009 by Arsenal Pulp Press, 152 pages.

Synopsis from Goodreads:
”Coyote is an important literary voice, blending a keen sense of gay identity and community with a refreshing appreciation for the goodness at the heart of some straight people.”—Out
The first three story collections by Ivan E. Coyote featured insightful, deeply personal tales about gender, identity, and community, based on her own experiences growing up lesbian in Canada’s North. Ivan’s most recent book, Bow Grip, was her first novel; it was shortlisted for the Ferro-Grumley Prize for Women’s Fiction, was named a Stonewall Honor Book by the American Library Association, and won Canada’s ReLit Award for Best Novel of the Year.

With The Slow Fix, Ivan returns to her short story roots in a collection that is disarming, warm, and funny, while it at the same time subverts our preconceived notions of gender roles. Ivan excels at finding the small yet significant truths in our everyday gestures and interactions. By doing so, she helps us to embrace not what makes us women or men, but human beings.

Ivan E. Coyote is the author of five books, all published by Arsenal Pulp Press. Born in Canada’s Yukon Territory, she lives in Vancouver, BC.

My Thougths:
I absolutely love Ivan Coyote's storytelling.  Her stories just draw me in and make me want to keep reading more. 

This collection is a short story, memoir collection.  She touches on a wide range of topics, though many of them involve how we view gender roles, but there are also other topics, such as family and growing up in the north.  In the space of one story Coyote has the ability to make the reader laugh, cry, be entertained, be challenged, and think - quite a feat. 

Coyote is clearly a master of her craft and I would love to get some of her audio recordings to hear her tell her stories.  This is the second one of her books that I have read now, and the second one that I have raced though, telling myself that I'll read "just one more story" before I put it down.

Monday, 23 July 2012

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

I've just discovered this amazing short movie called The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.  I don't know where I was or how I missed it when it came out last year, but at least I've found it now.  There is also a children's picture book by the same name by William Joyce, which I will now have to seek out.

So, if you have 15 minutes, sit back and savour this touching, beautiful film.  Book lovers will especially enjoy this.  The imagination and simplicity are stunning.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Too Much Happiness by Alice Munroe

Book: Too Much Happiness by Alice Monroe, 2009 by Knopf, 304 pages.

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Ten superb new stories by one of our most beloved and admired writers—the winner of the 2009 Man Booker International Prize.

In the first story a young wife and mother receives release from the unbearable pain of losing her three children from a most surprising source. In another, a young woman, in the aftermath of an unusual and humiliating seduction, reacts in a clever if less-than-admirable fashion. Other stories uncover the “deep-holes” in a marriage, the unsuspected cruelty of children, and how a boy’s disfigured face provides both the good things in his life and the bad. And in the long title story, we accompany Sophia Kovalevsky—a late-nineteenth-century Russian émigré and mathematician—on a winter journey that takes her from the Riviera, where she visits her lover, to Paris, Germany, and, Denmark, where she has a fateful meeting with a local doctor, and finally to Sweden, where she teaches at the only university in Europe willing to employ a female mathematician.

With clarity and ease, Alice Munro once again renders complex, difficult events and emotions into stories that shed light on the unpredictable ways in which men and women accommodate and often transcend what happens in their lives.

Too Much Happiness is a compelling, provocative—even daring—collection.

My Thoughts:
This is quite a collection of stories and Alice Monroe is clearly a master of her craft.  Her writing is beautiful and provocative, concise and surprising - I found my emotions mirroring those in the story.

However, these are not happy stories.  In fact, some of them are incredibly depressing, to the point where they are hard to relate to.   This made the collection difficult for me to read at times.

Monroe cleverly takes slices of life, pulls out themes and adds some twists.  There are threads running through the stories, even though they are all quite different.  Being too happy is definitely one, but also relationships and their (dis)function.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Extraordinary* by Adam Selzer

Book:  Extraordinary*: The True Story of My Fairygodparent, Who Almost Killed Me, and Certainly Never Made Me a Princess by Adam Selzer, 2011 by Delacorte Books for Young Reader, 324 pages.

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Jennifer Van Der Berg would like you to know that the book ostensibly written about her—Born to Be Extraordinary by Eileen Codlin—is a bunch of bunk. Yes, she had a fairy godparent mess with her life, but no, she was not made into a princess or given the gift of self-confidence, and she sure as hell didn't get a hot boyfriend out of it.
Here's the REAL scoop . . .

My Thoughts:
This was a fun, lighthearted, entertaining book to read, perfect for summer.  I love twists on established stories and fairy tales and this one is great - it takes so many of the expectations that we have for princess stories and living happily ever after and turns them on their head in clever ways.

The book is held together with Jennifer, an ordinary teen with a passion for purple, setting the record straight after a book was written about her, a book that was far from the truth of what really happened.  This is a nice way to frame the story and set up the contradictions between fairy tales and what reality - and also to explore the theme of how a normal person can make choices and take actions to become extraordinary, and not to have a fairy godmother solve all of their problems for them and magically make them extraordinary.

The tone of the book was easy to read, with Jennifer facing many of the same kinds of issues that many teens face - bullies, boys she likes, how to fit in...  The book is conversational and a bit brash.

There are also some great plot twists and funny turns of events, especially around unicorns.  There is lots of action and even zombies and vampires.  I think this will appeal to teens, especially younger and middle teens who like quirky, fast paced books and fantasy not too far removed from real life.

Here is the YouTube book trailer:

Sunday, 15 July 2012

How to Ditch Your Fairy by Justine Larbalestier

Book:  How to Ditch Your Fairy by Justine Larbalestier, 2008 by Bloomsbury USA, 307 pages. 

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Welcome to New Avalon, where everyone has a personal fairy. Though invisible to the naked eye, a personal fairy, like a specialized good luck charm, is vital to success. And in the case of the students at New Avalon Sports High, it might just determine whether you make the team, pass a class, or find that perfect outfit. But for 14-year-old Charlie, having a Parking Fairy is worse than having nothing at all—especially when the school bully carts her around like his own personal parking pass. Enter: The Plan. At first, teaming up with arch-enemy Fiorenza (who has an All-The-Boys-Like-You Fairy) seems like a great idea. But when Charlie unexpectedly gets her heart’s desire, it isn’t at all what she thought it would be like, and she’ll have resort to extraordinary measures to ditch her fairy. The question is: will Charlie herself survive the fairy ditching experiment? From the author of the acclaimed Magic or Madness trilogy, this is a delightful story of fairies, friendships, and figuring out how to make your own magic. 

My Thoughts:
I raced right through this one.  It was cute and a funny, light read - great for summer.

Fourteen year old Charlie lives in a world very much like our own, maybe in the future a bit at a time when they've discovered that everyone has their own personal fairy.  Charlie has a parking fairy, something she hates as she has everyone wanting her to drive with them so they can get the best spots.  So, she tries to find a way to get rid of her fairy so she can hopefully get a better one.

There is some fun stuff in this book.  It is upbeat and full of humour.  I think it will appeal to early teen readers.  I also like the twist on the fairy stories.  Then there is the "moral" about setting priorities, being true to yourself, and friendship.  I also like how the author made up some new vocabulary for popular expressions.  They weren't hard to figure out, but there is a glossary in the back.

The writing is fast paced and engaging, though I did find it a little repetitive sometimes. Overall, though, I enjoyed the book.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Book:  The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, 2011 by Doubleday, 387 pages.

Synopsis from Goodreads:
The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart. 

My Thoughts: 
This is such a different book, it is almost hard to review.  To begin with, Morgenstern's writing is magical, beautiful, and wonderful to read.  I found myself savoring this book and not wanting to race through it.  The images are rich and luxurious.  The circus is intriguing and compelling.

Cecila and Marco are part of a strange and mysterious competition.  They have each been trained in magic from childhood and are bound together, in a game that neither knows the rules to.  The venue is Le Cirque des Reves, an amazing black and white circus that is only open at night, that arrives mysteriously in various locations, has amazing tents and spectacles, and is a place where magic prevails.

The story is woven together, going back and forth in time (you definitely need to read those chapter headings to see where and when the chapter is taking place), which I think adds to the mystery, illusion and anticipation of the book.

I enjoyed the range of characters in the book, especially Celia, Marco, Poppet and Widget.  There is a romance between Celia and Marco, but it is just one aspect to the book, not the focus.  The focus is definitely the circus itself.  It might even be safe to say that the circus is the main character and everyone else is the supporting cast.  This may be why the book is meandery and evolves the way it does.

I would definitely recommend this book to others, but, be warned, it is not action packed.  It is full of intrigue, relationships, nuances, mystery and magic.

Here is the YouTube book trailer:
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