Monday, October 31, 2011

Book 30 of '11 Morning Rising by Samantha Boyette

Dust Jacket Description:

"In the ever present dusk of Inbetween, Kara Hart wakes up dirty and alone with the memory of a girl named Dylan. She remembers meeting Dylan and how her heart beat when Dylan touched her face, but nothing else. When Kara is sent to Demitar, the evil ruler of Inbetween, the truth is revealed. She is Dylan’s Guardian and neither of them are who they thought they were.

Set in a darker version our own world, Morning Rising follows Kara as she tries to save Dylan from Demitar’s clutches. She is given three days to find Dylan and get her out of Inbetween before she belongs to Demitar forever. Memories must be regained and powers restored if they have a chance of escaping. Each memory and sighting of Dylan helps Kara remember the love they once shared. If only she can help Dylan remember before it’s too late.

I received this book for review.

Characters: It took me a little while, but ultimately I ended up loving not only Dylan and Kara's relationship, but who they are as separate individuals. Kara is not only incredibly loyal and trustworthy, but she's brave and intelligent. Her love for Dylan is all encompassing and the lengths she goes to ensure Dylan is safe makes her interesting and admirable. Dylan is the epitome of a "bad girl". She's wild, free, charismatic and hard to ignore. At first I was a bit concerned that Dylan was going to appear a victim and damsel in distress for the entire novel, but towards the end she became just as strong and capable as I had hoped. The romance between these two is so sweet, true and full of chemistry that is makes a great read just to see how everything evolves.

The side characters didn't get a lot of page time. But I did enjoy them, especially Baron, and I hope I get to see more of them in future novels. And boy do I hope there are future novels. It's really worth reading. 4 and a half flowers.

This book really does make you feel like you're suddenly surrounded by a whole new world. The story starts fast but still gives you time to stop being confused. Boyette does really well with tone, and it was one of my favourite aspects of this book. It makes it feel very fantasy and also provides needed immediacy and high stakes to the story. 5 flowers.

The world seems to be a bit simplified, but I hope to learn more in future books and the structure is great. Pacing was well done and I'm excited to read more. 4 and a half flowers.

I was very freaked out with how Boyette faked me out! But I felt much better at the end once everything happened wonderfully. 5 flowers.

Dust Jacket Description:
I think it serves its purpose very well, and piques my interest with the lesbian romance! 5 flowers.

Not really my favourite, as it doesn't visualize anything from the story. However, it does look professional and very YA. 3 flowers.

This is a great book for anyone interested in seeing a great fantasy world, awesome characters with strong personalities and a wonderful lesbian romance that is a big part, but not the entirety, of the novel, pick this up! It's 99 cents on the Kindle and Nook! 4 and a half flowers.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Book 28 of '11 Beauty by Robin McKinley

Dust Jacket Description:

"Beauty has never liked her nickname. She is thin and awkward; it is her two sisters who are beautiful. But what she lacks in looks she can perhaps make up for in courage.

When her father comes home with the tale of an enchanted castle in the forest and the terrible promise he had to make to the Beast who lives there, Beauty declares she must go to the castle, a prisoner of her own free will."

Characters: It's been a day since I've completed this novel, and I still can't decide how I feel about Beauty as a character. Surely she's intelligent, resourceful and has a strong narrative voice, but it's hard to see Beauty hold true, vibrant emotions until her imprisonment with the Beast. How she takes a back seat in a large part of the book is most likely the reason I didn't adore her character.

Beauty's family is, oddly enough, a strong, healthy unit. As opposed to original versions of this fairy tale, Beauty's sisters are just as, if not more according to Beauty, lovely and kind. Beauty's father does treat Beauty in a slighter higher regard than his other children, but he is not mean, cruel, or obvious about it. There's nothing cruel or ugly about these relationships, and while this is unusual for a retelling, I found it a little boring. The beginning of the story was like reading a schedule template they have in organizational books. You're cozily immersed in another person's daily life, but there's no compelling reason to care about what's happening. The characters are pleasant and there's no depth beyond that, and you are obliged to wait till the plot thickens. It was a blank way to begin the story and lasted too long for me to thoroughly enjoy.

As for the Beast, his personality is almost non existent. He's very gentlemanly, which was such a bizarre trait to experience as someone who grew up with the easily angered but lovable Disney movie Beast. Despite Beauty being imprisoned, the Beast is very respectful in all other choices - which I know isn't saying a lot, but hey, it shows his personality. When the Beast asks Beauty every night if she'll marry him and she refuses, he seems to take it easily enough. The only time we see him in a rage in behind a door, getting angry at Beauty's servants for trying to force her to wear clothing she didn't want. There's nothing truly beastly about the Beast besides his appearance. This was a disappointment. He's a pleasant character, but there was not the complexity I was hoping for in his character. The Disney movie did a better job of showing the Beast's character development.

McKinley did do a good job of the evolution of the Beauty and the Beast's relationship. It was easy to see Beauty gradually falling in love with him. However, her immediate pity of him once she's in the castle seemed to add a new level to the Stockholm Syndrome aspect of her character.

I didn't hate these cast of characters and I didn't love them either. They were interesting enough to hold my attention, but not enough to adore the novel. 3 and a half flowers.

Writing: I felt myself falling into the tone of the writing style with little effort. There's a great historical, ethereal fantasy vibe to the book that I loved. It fit the original fairy tales well. Only thing I didn't enjoy about the writing was how often McKinley would interrupt herself and do it in the exact same way the next sentence. Four and a half flowers.

Plot: It takes an eternity for the book to get into the meat of the story, and once it gets there it goes too fast. However, my favourite aspect of reading this novel was how it made me think about how the original tale almost doesn't truly depict its moral. What is Beauty actually being challenged to see in the Beast's personality that isn't already evident in his wealth? I understand this tactic, which reminds me of how Elizabeth fell in love with Pemberley before Mr. Darcy. Beauty needs to have a comfortable amount of space from the Beast to make him seem reasonable, which only a lot of physical room can provide. However, it would be a totally different situation if Beauty was on equal economical footing as the Beast. She wouldn't even receive luxury in exchange for her life's opportunities. Seeing a retelling that attacks this angle would be interesting. I'll wait for it. 3 flowers.

Upsettingly quick. I needed more time to hear more about a lot of the aspects only mentioned in the last ten pages of the book. 2 flowers.

Dust Jacket Description:
Concise and clear. Doesn't make me want to read the book, but does its job well. 3 flowers.

This girl is not the Beauty in my head. Nor is the rose anything like the one in the book. 2 flowers.

While I seem very critical in this review, I actually enjoyed the mood this book put me in and the thoughts it made me entertain. If you have an opinionated girl around the ages of 8-12 in your life, she'll probably enjoy this book. 4 flowers.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Book 21 of '11 The Steampunk Bible by Jeff Vandermeer with SJ Chambers

Dust Jacket Description:

Steam­punk — a graft­ing of Vic­to­rian aes­thetic and punk rock atti­tude onto var­i­ous forms of science-fiction cul­ture — is a phe­nom­e­non that has come to influ­ence film, lit­er­a­ture, art, music, fash­ion, and more. The Steam­punk Bible is the first com­pendium about the move­ment, trac­ing its roots in the works of Jules Verne and H. G. Wells through its most recent expres­sion in movies such as Sher­lock Holmes. Its adher­ents cel­e­brate the inven­tor as an artist and hero, re-envisioning and craft­ing retro tech­nolo­gies includ­ing anti­quated air­ships and robots. A bur­geon­ing DIY com­mu­nity has brought a dis­tinc­tive Victorian-fantasy style to their crafts and art. Steam­punk evokes a sense of adven­ture and dis­cov­ery, and embraces extinct tech­nolo­gies as a way of talk­ing about the future. This ulti­mate man­ual will appeal to afi­ciona­dos and novices alike as author Jeff Van­der­Meer takes the reader on a wild ride through the clock­work cor­ri­dors of Steam­punk history.

The Steampunk Bible may be more than a little pretentious, but the community it illustrates is vast, intuitive and exciting. I think most modern writers and bloggers these days know about Steampunk and its infusion of futuristic science rooted in Victorian and Edwardian times. Most non-practitioners of the community seem to find the clothes gorgeous, but know very little beyond the basic concept and the fancy accessories. The Steampunk Bible gets to the heart of the community and branches out as the book goes on - with some gorgeous photographs for equal measure.

Its writing is clear, direct and precise and makes it easy to understand such a complicated world view and aesthetic. It also demonstrates the mission statement of "true" steampunkers: that DIY grass roots activism is even more important than the clothes of the Steampunk world. And all crazy ideas, aestheticism and theories must be heavily rooted in science, else Steampunk is just fantasy with a pretty package. The evolution of the Steampunk world is in these pages, and I'd recommend reading the book if you're amongst those of us who are confused as to what Steampunk means to the publishing world.

My one big qualm about this book is how often I rolled my eyes at how strict the author seemed to be about who fit into the community and who doesn't. I understand having rules and regulations around a movement, but man, do we have to be this pompous about it? I thought the world already had enough run of the mill hipsters. However, the pretension didn't diminish my love of the book. In fact, it sort of acted as a kind of unintentional humor that made it easier as a reader to step out of the Steampunk world and still view the community as fun and creative at its heart - as opposed to being hellbent on keeping its movement pure.

Overall, if you want to know more about Steampunk, or if you're simply in a writer's block and desperately want some new genre ideas to play with, please read this book. Or better yet, buy it, as its gorgeous artwork is worth it as a reference piece. The book will surely make you want to grab your laptop - or preferably a quill - and start writing about new and exotic narratives in history. 4 and a half flowers.