Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Ocean at the End of the Lane: A Review

The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Written by: Neil Gaiman
Paperback: 181 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Books
Language: English
June 2013
Genre: Fiction

Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn't thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she'd claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.

A groundbreaking work from a master, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out. It is a stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly's wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark.


+++++++++++++

“Monsters come in all shapes and sizes, Some of them are things people are scared of. Some of them are things that look like things people used to be scared of a long time ago. Sometimes monsters are things people should be scared of, but they aren't.”

I fell in love with Neil Gaiman at a young age after a friend gave me the first few Sandman comics all while I was currently fangirling over Tori Amos. I was hooked and Tori’s nods to Neil began to make a lot more sense. I loved the stories and Dave McKean’s artwork. And then I began to read his books: Neverwhere, Stardust, Smoke and Mirrors, The Graveyard Book, Anansi Boys, Coraline, his Marvel 1602 and absolutely adore the film Mirrormask as it was another collaboration between McKean and Gaiman again. Finally, “The Doctor’s Wife” episode of Doctor Who is one of the best Who episodes ever. So in saying all of that I may be a bit biased when it comes to Gaiman’s work. Like any author there are some of his works that I am not overly fond of, American Gods to name one, but considering his entire bibliography one or four is not bad considering. Plus have you read Neil’s blog? He is one of the coolest cats around and I love catching up with him via his blog. But I digress…heavily.

Why I didn’t pick up Ocean at the End of the Lane up right away I still don’t know. The Geek Girl Adventure Club decided this would be our inaugural book for the club last month. Reviews were mixed. Mine was probably to be expected considering a few of us are making a trek to go “Spend an Evening with Neil” a couple of hours away from here. However, I am going to do my best to be a good little reviewer. Who knows I might surprise you by my answers.

It began as a short story but Amanda, Neil’s wife, wanted to know the rest of the story. I am glad she asked. The story begins as a middle aged man returns home for a funeral. Headed back to his childhood playing ground, he finds himself drawn to places he had almost forgotten. Without really knowing where he is headed he finds himself at the home of Lettie Hempstock, his childhood friend and as he sits down by the pond he begins to remember…everything.

‘Are you here to see Lettie?’ Mrs Hempstock asked.

‘Is she here?’ The idea surprised me. She had gone somewhere, hadn’t she? America?

The old woman shook her head. ‘I was just about to put the kettle on. Do you fancy a spot of tea?’

I hesitated. Then I said that, if she didn’t mind, I’d like it if she could point me towards the duckpond first.

‘Duckpond?’

I knew Lettie had had a funny name for it. I remembered that. ‘She called it the sea. Something like that.’

The old woman put the cloth down on the dresser. ‘Can’t drink the water from the sea, can you? Too salty. Like drinking life’s blood. Do you remember the way? You can get to it around the side of the house. Just follow the path.’

If you’d asked me an hour before, I would have said no, I did not remember the way. I do not even think I would have remembered Lettie Hempstock’s name. But standing in that hallway, it was all coming back to me. Memories were waiting at the edges of things, beckoning to me. Had you told me that I was seven again, I might have half believed you, for a moment.

‘Thank you.’

I walked into the farmyard. I went past the chicken coop, past the old barn and along the edge of the field, remembering where I was, and what was coming next, and exulting in the knowledge. Hazels lined the side of the meadow. I picked a handful of the green nuts, put them in my pocket.

The pond is next, I thought. I just have to go around this shed, and I’ll see it.

I saw it and felt oddly proud of myself, as if that one act of memory had blown away some of the cobwebs of the day.

The pond was smaller than I remembered. There was a little wooden shed on the far side, and, by the path, an ancient, heavy wood-and-metal bench. The peeling wooden slats had been painted green a few years ago. I sat on the bench, and stared at the reflection of the sky in the water, at the scum of duckweed at the edges, and the half-dozen lily pads. Every now and again I tossed a hazelnut into the middle of the pond, the pond that Lettie Hempstock had called …

It wasn’t the sea, was it?

She would be older than I am now, Lettie Hempstock. She was only a handful of years older than I was back then, for all her funny talk. She was eleven. I was … what was I? It was after the bad birthday party. I knew that. So I would have been seven.

I wondered if we had ever fallen in the water. Had I pushed her into the duckpond, that strange girl who lived in the farm at the very bottom of the lane? I remembered her being in the water. Perhaps she had pushed me in too.

Where did she go? America? No, Australia. That was it. Somewhere a long way away.

And it wasn’t the sea. It was the ocean.

Lettie Hempstock’s ocean.


This begins the tale of the Ocean at the End of the Lane.

Things I loved: This novel is very distinctly Gaiman. I love the opening. I too would want a book on my birthday cake. I remember being a bookish, shy, young woman always moving from base to base scared to make friends because I knew we may not stay long. So I understand our narrator. “I lay on the bed and lost myself in the stories. I liked that. Books were safer than other people anyway.” Granted I came out of my shell as I grew up but it took a while and my imagination and books were always my best of friends.

It’s a throwback to your childhood where everything was magic, but then maybe that was just me. Where an empty refrigerator box was a castle for my brother and I and when I truly thought that my rabbit Peter followed me around because I too had powers like Sheena of the Jungle. Of course with Gaiman this childhood coming of age fable is dark, surreal, and full of the impossible. Lettie is the neighborhood girl whom our narrator befriends, the one who may have been eleven for a very long time and show you a world where a duck pond is an ocean and where you can pluck kittens out of the ground like carrots using their tails. But this world Lettie shows him is also full of danger.

The imagery is wonderful in this book from the magic in everyday objects to literal cat tails in the ground. I loved the mother, maiden, crone aspect between the Hempstock women and the importance that they have in the story. I loved that the monsters were not only the rag lady of myth, but the dark bits that everyone has. Sure there were very distinct monsters here, like the worm, but the real ones were very human. Of course Ursula would be the bad guy…her name is Ursula after all. She just wants to give everyone what they want…money, sex, etc. And if you are against her, by the gods you better run. She wants what she wants and do not get in her way. Though I hate it when the adult is evil and no one seems to notice except for the kiddo trope, it was well played here. I think one of the scariest bits was when his father is upset with him, dragging him upstairs to the bathtub. Aware of what he is about to do the father takes off his jacket and neatly places it away from the water. That was terrifying. Good job Neil.

Things I didn’t love so much: Surprisingly this is not one of my favorite Gaiman books. It is not that I didn’t enjoy it, but it feels like a vanity project. You know the ones I am talking about (like Neil Jordan making a Hollywood film so that he can then do great things like Butcher Boy). Its short and I never really found myself fully immersed into the story the way I usually am with his work. Our narrator’s voice is kind of flat to be honest and the character depth I am used to wasn’t fully realized. I think he had the potential to be extremely memorable, but didn’t quite make it. I struggled with really liking him as an adult and sometimes as a child. We never get to know his name and we know that his life is kind of crap (divorce, lackluster job even though he is an artist). Would this be different had he remembered his time with Lettie? While I like that there is a theme of memories throughout and how those memories can easily be changed or how much we forget as we grow into adults. I even like how the world loses that certain magic we believe in as children, but I hate that he had his memory wiped every time. Again I ask would he be different had he been able to remember it all? Would he still be an artist? Would he still be divorced? And by the way, I would love to see his art. I wonder if subconsciously his art might reflect the things he either doesn’t want to remember or he is forced to forget once he leaves the Hempstock Ranch?

One of the things that bugged me as I said earlier is when a character (usually an adult) is beyond evil, out to destroy our protagonist, but not one believes him or her. For me this is especially difficult when the protagonist is a child and no one believes them because of their young age. Ursula is bad news. Not only does she appear young and beautiful and enticing, but she taunts and torments our poor narrator and no one will believe him when he tries to tell them all who and what she really is. Like I said this was done well, but I hate it all the same.

This was still a good book and my quibbles are minor.

“And did I pass?"

The face of the old woman on my right was unreadable in the gathering dusk. On my left the younger woman said, "You don't pass or fail at a being a person, dear.”


Buy or Borrow: Buy. While not my favorite or Gaiman’s best, it is still a great little story.

Part of: Stand Alone

Also Recommended: Read more Gaiman: Good Omens, Stardust, The Graveyard Book, Coraline. And please watch Mirrormask if you have not done so already.

3.25 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

TUESDAY TRAILERS: DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES

I was never really a fan of the original Planet of the Apes series. And then the reboot came along and I really really liked it. I wanted more and thankfully I will be getting more this July. Whoo hoo. Seriously I cannot wait for this film. Are you as excited as I am?


Summary: A growing nation of genetically evolved apes led by Caesar is threatened by a band of human survivors of the devastating virus unleashed a decade earlier. They reach a fragile peace, but it proves short-lived, as both sides are brought to the brink of a war that will determine who will emerge as Earth's dominant species.... Opens July 11th, 2014.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

My Horizontal Life: A Review

My Horizontal Life
Written by: Chelsea Handler
Paperback: 213 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Language: English
June 2005
Genre: Humor/Essays

Meet Chelsea Handler. Gorgeous, sharp, and anything but shy, Chelsea loves men... lots of them. In this raucous collection of true-life stories, she chronicles her romp through the bedrooms of a variety of suitors. My Horizontal Life is a fearless account of what can happen between a man and a sometimes very intoxicated, outgoing woman during one night of passion.

+++++++++++++

“At some point during almost every romantic comedy, the female lead suddenly trips and falls, stumbling helplessly over something ridiculous like a leaf, and then some Matthew McConaughey type either whips around the corner just in the nick of time to save her or is clumsily pulled down along with her. That event predictably leads to the magical moment of their first kiss. Please. I fall ALL the time. You know who comes and gets me? The bouncer.”

Everyone loves Chelsea or so I hear. Admittedly in the acting roles I have seen her in she has been quite funny, but I have not watched her show at all. But I have had this book and Its Me Vodka in my To Be Read Pile for some time. With my 2014 Reading Challenge to not buy a new book until I read 10 from the TBR pile, I decided it was high time that I actually see why everyone loves Chelsea. Conclusion…I am not sure I get it.

The Good and The Bad: Someone suggested that the book itself is very much like the one night stands she describes: brief, meaningless, but kid of fun. I would completely agree. It is the result of one too many cocktails, bad judgment and a self-deprecating attitude. It is a cotton candy book for sure, fluffy and fun. And yet I am not sure it is ultimately my thing. I couldn’t relate to the stories as much as I thought I might. Though I have had a couple of one night stands myself on the whole one night stands are not my thing nor are drunken stupors and complete lack of judgments.

This is not to say that I didn’t laugh. I did. Though I may not be a walk of shame sort of girl, I certainly could relate to a few of her escapades (I just dated them for 2 months rather than a few hours). Told in a series of short little stories, Chelsea chronicles her search for…well, a good time. She is snarky, self-deprecating, and candid. She gets shiny gold stars for being all three. Each chapter involves one of her sexual misadventures and for the most part each is funny for a very different reason. The stories range from fetishes, a string of men she hopes her father won’t approve of, and her personality shines through whether it is her true personality or the Chelsea persona she sells as a living. Often she is quite good at delivering punchlines, though other times they are a bit forced and by the end many of the stories are similar.

I think my biggest problem though as it felt less like an empowered woman who is comfortable with her sexuality and her adventures and more of a this is why you should do drugs or drink heavily. I seriously cannot fathom half of the situations happening and when I have that disconnect, it gets hard for me to continue reading since I don’t really like the person telling the stories. She gets points for being witty and awesome in a few can’t believe that happened moments, but overall it’s not a book that will remain on the shelves, but I had fun for the few hours while it lasted. Sorry Chelsea, I guess you were my one night stand as well.

Buy or Borrow: Borrow

Part of: Stand Alone
Also Recommended: For more anthologies I recommend any of Laurie Notaro’s books or I was Told There’d Be Cake by Sloane Crosley. Mary Roach’s Bonk is also hilarious

2 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

THURSDAY CRUSH: WILLOW

Name: Willow Rosenberg
Born: 1982
Played By: Alyson Hannigan
You Know Her From: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Geek Cred: Awesome witch, member of the Scooby Gang

"In every generation one Slayer is born because a bunch of men who died thousands of years ago made up that rule. They were powerful men. This woman is more powerful than all of them combined." – Buffy Summers about Willow


I will always be a Buffy fan, this is true. But there is one character that I really related to...Willow Rosenberg. She was the shy, geeky nerd girl with an affinity for computers who befriended the new girl, Buffy who may have been just a little odd to everyone else. I wanted Willow to be my friend. She’s Buffy’s best gal pal and part of the uberforce that is the Scooby Gang.Later she became a hella powerful witch, grew into a fantastic woman and well I just love her to pieces.

Willow was also one of the characters who has really grown in the Buffyverse. She found her own path, kicked just as much ass and save for that whole Dark Willow bit was always the happy and hopeful shining light.

I think I first started crushing on Miss Rosenberg after the Halloween episode. She wanted to go as a ghost, sheet and all, because she was too afraid to go as anything else. But she finds her footing in this episode. And dear god Aly, your abs. If you have seen the episode, you all know what I am talking about. Plus maybe I have always had a soft spot for gingers.

Buffy was always powerful, but Willow came into her own. In fact she is now the most powerful witch in this dimension. She wasn’t the shy, I see you have seen the softer side of Sears, awkward young woman. Oh she is still adorable and lovable and I want to hug her to pieces, but also like River she might be able to kill me with her brain.

She is the Kitty Pryde for the Scooby Gang and I will probably keep crushing on her long into my years. Red you re amazing.

"Once you fall for Willow, you stay fallen." -- Buffy


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

TUESDAY TRAILERS: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

Brotherhood of the Wolf is one of my favorite movies. Not only do I find it just to be fun storywise and I love Vincent Cassel to little pieces, but Christophe Gans does a great job of making it a visually stunning feast for the eyes. Seriously the use of color, framing, etc in that movie makes me smile just thinking about it. So when I saw the trailer for his new movie , I was a little giddy. I love the Beauty and the Beast story (Beauty by Robin McKinley is one of my favorite books) and though this looks like a live action version of the Disney telling, I still really want to see it. Which is why it will never come anywhere close to where I live. Curses.


Summary: 1720. After the wreck of his ships, a financially-ruined merchant exiles himself in the countryside with his six children. Among them is Beauty, his youngest daughter, a joyful girl full of grace. One day, during an arduous journey, the merchant stumbles across the magical domain of the Beast, who sentences him to death for stealing a rose.

Feeling responsible for the terrible fate which has befallen her family, Beauty decides to sacrifice herself and take her father’s place. At the Beast’s castle, it is not death that awaits Beauty, but a strange life in which fantastical moments mingle with gaiety and melancholy. Every night, at dinner, Beauty and the Beast sit down together.

They learn about each other, taming one another like two strangers who are total opposites. When she has to repulse his amorous advances, Beauty tries to pierce the mysteries of the Beast and his domain. And when night falls, the Beast’s past is revealed to her bit by bit in her dreams. It is a tragic story, which tells her that this solitary and fearsome being was once a majestic prince. Armed with her courage, ignoring every danger, and opening her heart, Beauty manages to release the Beast from his curse. And in doing so, she discovers true love... Opens Sometime in 2014.

Monday, January 20, 2014

MONDAY MEME: POPUPS

Originally found on I waste So Much Time

Chimes at Midnight: A Review

Chimes at Midnight
Written by: Seanan McGuire
Paperback: 346 pages
Publisher: DAW
Language: English
September 2013
Genre: Urban Fantasy/Series/October Daye Series

Things are starting to look up for October "Toby" Daye. She's training her squire, doing her job, and has finally allowed herself to grow closer to the local King of Cats. It seems like her life may finally be settling down...at least until dead changelings start appearing in the alleys of San Francisco, killed by an overdose of goblin fruit.

Toby's efforts to take the problem to the Queen of the Mists are met with harsh reprisals, leaving her under sentence of exile from her home and everyone she loves. Now Toby must find a way to reverse the Queens decree, get the goblin fruit off the streets--and, oh, yes, save her own life, since more than a few of her problems have once again followed her home. And then there's the question of the Queen herself, who seems increasingly unlikely to have a valid claim to the throne....

To find the answers, October and her friends will have to travel from the legendary Library of Stars into the hidden depths of the Kingdom of the Mists--and they'll have to do it fast, because time is running out. In faerie, some fates are worse than death.
+++++++++++++

Lately I have not had the best luck with urban fantasy that is outside my favorite couple of series. Or books in general. Not sure why as I am trying really hard to read outside out of my favorite niche. Maybe it’s my mood. Here in MT, it has been cold, snowy and blah…perfect reading weather right? Except that I go stir crazy and have to play several rounds of Call of Duty before the lag makes me rage quit. And then I am back in the same boat. You would think that after living in beautiful Bozeman for 6 years that I would become a Ski Bum. But that would require money and also courage to travel up the canyon or really any of the roads when it is icy and snowy. I have neither of those things.

I look to old friends when I get in a funk. And Toby is one of those old friends. In this outing Toby is trying to desperately get Goblin Fruit off of the streets. Its bad news not only to humans, but to Changelings so it hits really close to home. And this isn’t just your ordinary narcotic. It will kill you and once you are hooked, that’s it. No fancy treatment centers. You’re just done. Like most people Toby goes to her Queen for help, but why would she care – Changelings aren’t pureblood and thus beneath her concern. She also really dislikes Toby so because of October’s outburst she is now banished from the kingdom. She has three days. Now that hurts.

I guess there is only one thing that Toby can do…find a new Queen of the Mists. It is about damn time. Of course other throwing a monarch isn’t that easy is it?

Things I loved: I could go on forever about how much I dig the characters and the world building of this series. Tybalt is adorable, though don’t tell him so. And every book I get to know some new people, Mags….yep she better make more appearances. However, after the last book I was expecting to see and hear some of the fallout of that book and I didn’t even get a mention of Etienne, Bridget or even Chelsea and that was a bit disappointing. But seriously, I love Toby, Tybalt, the Luidaeg, and everyone else. The gang makes me happy. And the world continues to be exciting for me. I loved pies as absurd as that was. Though I am not surprised about Quentin, it was still nice to finally put that out there in the open and I am curious if it will change anything in the future.

While I am not a fan of Toby and Co always being in mortal peril, it was very interesting to have Toby see the world of the Fae from a mortal perspective. It also shows that Toby is a lot more Sidhe than she ever wanted to admit. I dug the change in perspective though. For Toby, being human was like losing your sense of sight. Everything changed. Everything was different. She remembered her old life, when the sense of magic was strong and fragrant, when she could see through the glamour that kept so much of Faerie hidden and then it was all gone. It had to have been quite devastating.

Finally, for those who love the Luidaeg as much as I do, there is a small short story at the end of the book that is told from her point of view and drops some hints about what is to come and how our dear Toby may be involved. Loved it. It’s the same foreshadowing that has been brewing over the past few books and that makes me giddy and will keep me reading on. We know October plays a part whether she understands it or not and her mother and her aunt have been keeping some very big things from her. We also know there is a prophecy and that the First Born are involved. I have to say anything that makes the Luidaeg nervous and a bit of a worrywart makes me nervous too. Because nothing scares the Sea Witch.

Things I didn’t love so much: Three days is a pretty short time to overthrow a crappy monarch and it makes the whole Kingdom of Mists seem pretty weak. Why hasn’t anyone else tried this before? How are the High King and Queen allowing such things to go on for so long without deposing her? I know that Toby is just now really starting to understand how powerful her Dochas Sidhe powers are instead of feeling like she has the worst changeling powers ever, but for all of the mortal peril she and the gang go through with every book it seems, that was pretty easy. I suppose everyone has a breaking point and that is why Miss Bitca was allowed to rule, but…3 days? Less epic than I was imagining.

And speaking of that whole mortal peril thing, I would love for Toby and the gang not to be in grave mortal danger in at least one book. Not every who dunnit mystery has to involve Toby bleeding all over the place no matter what is coming and how important she may be to the story. Seanan is not going to kill off her main character so when you are constantly putting her in mortal peril and she fantastically manages to get out of the whole dying thing, it gives it less weight. I become less invested and it no longer holds the punch it was supposed to. There are far more interesting things you could do to Toby that could be game changers that would hold that weight and that emotional investment.

Buy or Borrow: Buy. This series continues to be great

Part of: Series

Also Recommended: Seanan also has a new series called the InCryptid series and she is also Mira Grant who wrote Feed and Deadline. For other great series I would grab the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews. For more fey, go for Melissa Marr’s fey series starting with Wicked Lovely.

3.25 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

WEDNESDAY WHAT IF: COSPLAY

As I look at all of the fantastic cosplay that showed up this past year and realize how jealous I am of my friend Lada being able to go to so many cons in 2014 (as I live vicariously through her pics of her various costumes), I again started thinking about wardrobes. If I was an amazingly talented seamstress and had the time and money to really recreate a characters look, whose would I choose to recreate? Of course, as always, everything would magically be tailored for you and you would look wicked amazing. Here are my top five choices for what I would cosplay. What are yours?

Tank Girl (Tank Girl) Tank is awesome. She is snarky, bad ass and her wardrobe is a jumble of things, but that is why I like it. She has had many looks and each would be fun. I think the great thing about this costume is as long as you have a few iconic pieces you can kind of do your own thing with this costume.


Valkyrie (Marvel) Have you seen the new Fearless Defenders comics? I love the way that Valkyrie looks right now. Really really love the way she looks. Still sexy, hella powerful and you have to admit it would be a fun costume to make.

The Strangers Anyone who has seen this movie knows how utterly creepy a simple mask can be. I would love to get two of my friends together and we each take a character and scare the bejeezus out of people for Halloween. Granted this means they have to have seen the film, and yet I think even without seeing it the creep factor would be fairly high.

River Tam (Firefly) She can kill you with her brain and she is awesome. I love River. She is bad ass, girly, quirky and I love her to pieces. When I think of dressing up as someone I would like to be (short of that whole experimentation thing) she is in my top five. Would be a fairly simple costume to make as well.

Courtesan (Dangerous Beauty) For those who know me Courtesans fascinate me and one of the films I really dig is called Dangerous Beauty. The costumes in that film are to die for and I kind of want reproductions of them all. If I had the time and the patience I would try and redo one of them.

Runners Up Include: Duchess Dalek, Female Gambit, Steampunk Tinkerbell, and Scarlet Witch (Mad Men Style)

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

TUESDAY TRAILERS: JOURNEY TO THE WEST

Stephen Chow’s movies are insane. They are like live action Looney Toons and I love every moment of them. For those who are unfamiliar, he is also the one that made Kung Fu Hustle and Shaolin Soccer. Journey to the West looks fun, quirky and did I mention fun? What do you think? Are you excited?


Summary: This is a world plagued by demons, who cause its human inhabitants unspeakable suffering. Young demon hunter Xuan Zang, fearlessly guided by his belief in "giving himself for the greater cause," risks his all and conquers a water demon, a pig demon and the demon of all demons, Sun Wukong. He embraces them as his disciples, and melts them with love. Meanwhile, Xuan Zang discovers the true meaning of Greater Love himself. In order to atone for their own sins and save the common people, the four of them embark on a journey to the West that's full of challenges… Opens March 7th, 2014.

Monday, January 13, 2014

The 5th Wave: A Review

The 5th Wave
Written by: Rick Yancey
Narrators: Brandon Espinoza, Phoebe Strole
Audiobook: 457 pages
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Language: English
May 2013
Genre: YA Fiction/Series/Aliens

The Passage meets Ender’s Game in an epic new series from award-winning author Rick Yancey.

After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.

Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie’s only hope for rescuing her brother—or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get upGabry lives a quiet life. As safe a life as is possible in a town trapped between a forest and the ocean, in a world teeming with the dead, who constantly hunger for those still living. She’s content on her side of the Barrier, happy to let her friends dream of the Dark City up the coast while she watches from the top of her lighthouse. But there are threats the Barrier cannot hold back. Threats like the secrets Gabry’s mother thought she left behind when she escaped from the Sisterhood and the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Like the cult of religious zealots who worship the dead. Like the stranger from the forest who seems to know Gabry. And suddenly, everything is changing. One reckless moment, and half of Gabry’s generation is dead, the other half imprisoned. Now Gabry only knows one thing: she must face the forest of her mother’s past in order to save herself and the one she loves.
+++++++++++++

I have always been one of those people that thrives on the multitasking. When I am reading I am probably also listening to music while I do it. I will have the TV on while I craft (which is why I can probably tell you the plotlines of many shows though I have never really given many my full attention), and on occasion I fall asleep much better when I can hear the sounds of E playing on the Xbox from the front room. So, what is a girl to do when her new job is…quiet?

Back when I worked in a cubicle, Audiobooks were my friends. I remember cast recordings of some of my favorite books, hell I even fell in love with Harry Dresden because James Marsters (Spike from Buffy) read them. I will say that the reader can make or break the book for me though. And even make a mediocre book just a little bit better.

Right before Ender’s Game arrived in theatres, Audible had the full cast recording of the book available on Soundcloud for free. Score. I fell in love with the Enders Game one because of the full cast recording and decided to give Audiobooks a go again. While I love my Spotify playlists or listening to my nerdist podcasts, audiobooks are a nice change of pace. Whoo hoo variety.

The Fifth Wave had a snippet available on Soundcloud and I was hooked. Alien invasion. Okay, that works for me. Might be a nice change from all the supernatural creatures or creature free dystopias I have been reading lately. I have always kind of enjoyed the alien invasion shtick when done right anyway.

Told via multiple characters, the book begins with Cassie as she recounts the horrors of the first Three Waves of an Alien invasion even as she recounts her horrific present. Cassie has one mantra, fight until you can’t. And find Sammy, her little brother. Alone in the world that is left with a teddy bear and an M-16, Cassie does what is necessary and trusts no one. Not exactly the life she had imagined year ago. She was supposed to be trying to talk to her crush Ben Parrish and living a normal teenage life. But not anymore. Now everything is different. She wonders if there is anyone left out there.

When she is shot and rescued by Evan, she thinks she can trust again. Can he help her find Sammy? Is there hope after all? During her story we also meet Zombie, a young man who thought he knew who the enemy was. Recruited to become part of the war he has been healed, broken down again, only to become a killing machine. But for who? And what does humanity really mean? Can you lose it? Can you gain it?

Things I loved: The Waves. Not a bad strategy really. Yancey did a great job of creating a thoroughly ominous mood. The destruction and devastation is done and while I would love a good sci-fi action movie sort of play by play telling instead of the info dump sessions between chapters, this isn’t about the first four waves. This is about who is left. And in particular Cassie, Zombie and Sam. But back to the Waves.

The First Wave: Destroy the technology that we can’t seem to live without. We rely heavily on technology. We are glued to our cellphones, portable devices and not just for entertainment. I think about our banking structures, our cars, even our medical technology. You want to create panic and chaos. Yep this would be my first wave as well.

The Second Wave: We tend to build our biggest cities where the shipping lines are. This is logical. However, this also means if natural or in this case unnatural disasters occur in the forms of massive tsunamis along our coasts, the Others succeed in wiping out a good deal of the already panicked population. And this would work in not just the United States but around the world. (I keep thinking of Deep Impact which E and I watched and giggled over this past weekend).

The Third Wave: Plague. We have had Bird Flu, severe influenzas and Swine Flu outbreaks. Would we at all be surprised if the Others gave us our own hidden smallpox blanket to try and wipe out even more of humanity? Super flu, biological and genetic warfare, yeah not hard to imagine is it? This is far easier, all you need is time. Just wait and until the majority of the population dies off. Then you have the survivors left. They could still be a problem though.

The Fourth Wave: The Silencers. Pick off the survivors one by one. Death by drones, snipers and more. Don’t let the survivors band together. Keep them running. Give them no hope. Their time is done.

The Fifth Wave: Use your enemy, manipulate them, train them and teach them to finish your job. But do it all without them ever knowing you pull the strings.

Sure the book is full of the alien invasion tropes, but I still liked it. I like that Cassie hates birds. Not only did they have a role in destroying the only world she has ever known, but birds have got to be frustrating for her too. They feed on the dead. They glide silently above you not unlike the Silencer drones always setting you on edge, always having you run for your life. For those who know some alien, many people who say they have been abducted comment on owls a lot as if they are the representation of something alien. Yancey brings this up in the prologue as well, silent owls watching over those who sleep unaware of what really happened. And something did. I thought it was a nice touch.

Who can you trust when the enemy looks just like you do? Is the only way to stay alive to stay alone and destroy any threat you see? Can you trust the soldier with the gunshot wound who begs for your help? Is it a trap? Can you afford to take that chance? How does humanity survive, how does it band together to overcome when you cannot trust anyone? Perhaps even yourself? This is a great tactic/tool for the enemy and these are just great questions, great themes to explore and that is why I like the book. Its dark, incredibly depressing and isolating. And that is why I kept reading.

Back to the waves, there are some that don’t think using children in a war would be effective. Really? These are real world tactics and being employed by not so amazing people right now and in eras since passed. It is hard enough to shoot another adult, but a child? Even if you hesitate a fraction of a second and that child hesitates not at all, who wins? The experience can dehumanize anyone and maybe that’s the truly terrifying part. Children are supposed to be hope. But what if you take even that away?

Cassie is both accessible and frustrating. I can relate to her. She is a fighter, loyal and above all a survivor. Phoebe Strole does a great job with her “voice” making her flawed but likable. Maybe it’s the snark. I am always a sucker for the snark. But she also makes me want to hit her. But I will get to that.

Things I didn’t love so much: Like most reviewers I will agree that the biggest weakness of the book was the romance. I tried to suspend my disbelief. Why would Cassie fall for the hot stalker type? Was it because he reminded her of her life before the waves, when a teenage girl could care about boys, where hot chocolate and a warm blanket was extreme comfort on a Winter’s day? Or was it simply her need to have contact with another person, that you are so damn tired of being strong and being alone and lonely and that absolute rock that a simple chance to forget all of it was too hard not to jump at it? And yet Evan puts out so many neon signs of get the hell out that I am angry at Cassie for staying so long. How can she not feel like a pet? How can that not just feel wrong for her? But she still falls for him and suddenly I lose respect for Cassie. The romance doesn’t ring true. I cannot believe it no matter how much I try to reconcile the whole thing and I really did try, but ultimately that makes me love the book just a little less.

Another reader pointed out that because from the beginning you are told to trust no one, when the twists come it really doesn’t come as any real big surprise. I mean we all saw that coming right? From a mile away and with neon signs. It’s kind of like watching an M. Night movie and not anticipating the twist. You know it is coming. It always does. (Though to be honest back when M. Night made decent films…yep I even dug the Village, that the films were so much more than their theme…ghosts, aliens, fairytales, god, etc).

Buy or Borrow: Buy. It was worth the money I gave to Audible and I am really curious to see how the next book turns out.

Part of: Series

Also Recommended: Other great alien fiction includes The Lorien Legacies (I am Number Four) by Pittacus Lore. For lone girl against the world I would recommend The Reapers are the Angels by Alden Bell and for more Rick Yancey try The Monstrumologist series.

3.25 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Dead Tossed Waves: A Review

The Dead Tossed Waves
Written by: Carrie Ryan
Hardcover: 160 pages
Publisher: Delacorte Books
Language: English
March 2010
Genre: YA Fiction/Series/Zombies

Gabry lives a quiet life. As safe a life as is possible in a town trapped between a forest and the ocean, in a world teeming with the dead, who constantly hunger for those still living. She’s content on her side of the Barrier, happy to let her friends dream of the Dark City up the coast while she watches from the top of her lighthouse. But there are threats the Barrier cannot hold back. Threats like the secrets Gabry’s mother thought she left behind when she escaped from the Sisterhood and the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Like the cult of religious zealots who worship the dead. Like the stranger from the forest who seems to know Gabry. And suddenly, everything is changing. One reckless moment, and half of Gabry’s generation is dead, the other half imprisoned. Now Gabry only knows one thing: she must face the forest of her mother’s past in order to save herself and the one she loves. +++++++++++++

Do you like your characters perfect? Perhaps with as few flaws as possible? Do they need to be completely relatable? Can you like flawed characters? Maybe you prefer them. I know I do. But why? Why do I like the beautifully damaged characters, the ones that make poor decisions and act selfishly when they should be acting selflessly? It just makes for a better storytelling experience I guess.

I think there is always one character you love to hate. They may not be relatable in all ways (early Cordelia from BtVS), but you love to hate them. In fact it would kind of suck if they weren’t part of the story. But what happens when that character is your lead? Is there a fine line between love to hate and hate so much that you want to put the book down? Yes. Where is that line for you?

This is why I like Carrie Ryan’s characters…they’re flawed. Just as all teenage girls are. Just as I was. Just as we all were. We were selfish, we were insecure, we were cruel, we were lost, we were fickle, we loved completely, we questioned everything especially our place in the world and we made a lot of bad decisions (Oh boy did we ever, but hey that’s why it is called growing up and learning). I am a pretty normal well-adjusted woman, but I still made mistakes when I was a kid. And sometimes I wouldn’t have wanted to be my friend and I am a nice girl. Maybe having a flawed character makes me like them because I can say, ‘hey, been there, done that’. For me Gabry, just as Mary was in The Forest of Hands and Teeth, seems real. Of course I want to slap her or shake her sometimes, but I get it. More importantly, I watched her grow as a character.

The Dead Tossed Waves continues years after the events from The Forest of Hands and Teeth. Mary made it to the ocean she dreamed about for so long, finding refuge in the lighthouse of the small seaside town of Vista. But this is not Mary’s story. It is her daughter Gabry’s (Gabrielle) story and her journey. And Gabry is quite different from her mother. Where Mary had been brave and wanted nothing more than to see what was beyond the walls of her Village in the Forest, Gabry has no desire to venture outside where the Mudo (Unconsecrated) exist. When her best friend Cira invites her to go to the abandoned amusement park with her older brother Catcher, whom Gabry has liked for a long time, she reluctantly goes along. The park is beyond the protection of the town. It is only Catcher’s persistence and promise to protect her that finally gets Gabry to do what she fears most: leave the safety of the walls of Vista.

This wouldn’t be a book if something didn’t go wrong and does it ever. A first kiss with Catcher becomes a nightmare when a Breaker (similar to the one who gave Gabry her namesake in The Forest of Hands and Teeth) attacks the group. Catcher gets bit, friends return as Mudo and Gabry flees. This is a decision that will haunt her throughout the book and force her to leave what she knows and into a place that she fears.

Forced to find Catcher, to either save him or say goodbye, Gabry leaves the lighthouse behind and meets a young man named Elias. From here everything will change: her view of the world, of her own life, of her mother’s, and even what she thought was her ‘safe’ home.

Things I loved: I really enjoyed some of the broader world building such as why Breakers are the way they are, how other parts of the world dealt with the ‘Return’. Of course I also enjoyed seeing where Mary ended up. One of the things I really enjoyed was the Recruiters and how important Catcher was to them. If he can walk amongst the Mudo, control them to some extent or be a one man killing machine without being harmed, why wouldn’t they want him. Curious how they would fully control him though. Maybe that is what we will get in the next book.

I also enjoyed the Soulers. When the zombie apocalypse happens everyone is going to act differently. Everyone is going to see the zombies as something different and how to deal with them differently. I think one of the great things that Ryan did was explain why the Soulers did some of the things that they did. They weren’t just a one dimensional cult.

The prose is eloquent. The pacing a bit slow at the beginning, but then it builds. If it helps as soon as I was done reading this one, I went and bought the last one for my Kindle and began reading it. Alas work calls. It always does.

Things I didn’t love so much: the love triangle. Once again we have the trope of the love triangle and I expect more from Ryan. She did the love triangle bit in The Forest of Hands and Teeth and here it is again. Yawn. Even if it does provide growth for a character. This takes me out of the story which is sad because the flawed characters immerse me in it. But where the hell was my love triangle when I was 16. Oh yeah I didn’t have one. I also didn’t grow up in a world of zombies.

I just think it is something that too many authors rely on when it comes to romance. Sure given the choice between David Tennant’s 10th Doctor or Nathan Fillion’s Mal I would have difficulties. The triangle is getting as tired as the snarky heroine…oh wait who has to choose between the vampire or the werewolf…see…bored now. Plus I always choose the one that the author doesn’t simply because we have different tastes in men.

And yet, I dug the tension between Catcher and Gabry as well as the tension between Gabry and Elias. As much as I like Catcher, I also understand what he represented in the story or at least what he represented for me. He was the HEA and when you live in a world of zombies you don’t get Happily Ever After. But he also represented a past and a safety that was no longer there. He was Gabry’s childhood and by the end of Waves she is leaving that childhood behind. She is no longer the woman she used to be and for many different reasons.

It bugged me a bit how back and forth she was between Catcher and Elias. I understand parts of it though, wanting to go back to HEA where none of this had happened, where life just continued in the blind safety of Vista. I feel for Catcher, I really do. Some may hate the almost kisses, but they worked for me. Ryan had the tension and the restraint and the hunger down pat. Catcher wants HEA too, but he knows he can’t have that idealistic daydream anymore. He’s worried that he will infect and he has enough guilt already weighing him down.

Buy or Borrow: Buy. If you liked The Forest of Hands and Teeth, this is a good addition

Part of: Series
Book One: The Forest of Hands and Teeth
Book Two: The Dead Tossed Waves
Book Three: The Dark and Hollow Places

Also Recommended: Other great zombie fiction includes Rot and Ruin by Jonathan Mayberry, The Walking Dead comic series by Robert Kirkman, Patient Zero also by Maberry. The Passage by Justin Cronin, Feed by Mira Grant, and World War Z by Max Brooks

3 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Magic Rises (Kate Daniels #6): A Review

Magic Rises (Kate Daniels #6)
Written by: Ilona Andrews
Softcover: 355 pages
Publisher: Ace
Language: English
July 2013
Genre: Fiction/Urban Fantasy/Series

Atlanta is a city plagued by magical problems. Kate Daniels will fight to solve them—no matter the cost.

Mercenary Kate Daniels and her mate, Curran, the Beast Lord, are struggling to solve a heartbreaking crisis. Unable to control their beasts, many of the Pack’s shapeshifting children fail to survive to adulthood. While there is a medicine that can help, the secret to its making is closely guarded by the European packs, and there’s little available in Atlanta.

Kate can’t bear to watch innocents suffer, but the solution she and Curran have found threatens to be even more painful. The European shapeshifters who once outmaneuvered the Beast Lord have asked him to arbitrate a dispute—and they’ll pay him in medicine. With the young people’s survival and the Pack’s future at stake, Kate and Curran know they must accept the offer—but they have little doubt that they’re heading straight into a trap…


+++++++++++++

It’s been a while, what can I say. Life happens, but I never stop reading…just apparently the blogging part. But it is a new year now and I am ready to begin again. During all of the past six months I have had some great comfort books. You know the ones I am talking about, the ones that you cannot wait for the authors to write the next one because you know you can curl up under a blanket and read to your heart’s content. And you will love every moment of it.

You love the characters and you love the world. In fact they are kind of like old friends that you haven’t seen for a year or so, but the moment you are reunited it is as if no time has passed. Some series are like that…old friends. Once I get my hands on the next book I devour it in one sitting and feel sad when they have to go away again. Kate and Company are like that for me. There is something about the Kate Daniels series that just works for me. I completely love the magic/tech times. I love the leads and I love the characters you only get little glimpses of.

So of course amidst all of my new challenges and adventures of the past year I met up with my old friends Kate and Curran and disappeared into Atlanta for a few hours. It was a good time, even though Curran and I may not be speaking to each other (me more than him) until July of 2014.

In Magic Rises we meet a young woman who is not only married to two men who seem to not want her, but she is pregnant with both of their children. Don’t ya just love magic? Factor in her father, who is an asshat and a half and really wants her dead now that she has stopped being his plaything to trade around to whomever he wants and a host who is not at all who anyone expects and voila Kate is in over her head again. Simple job though right, keep the woman and her unborn babies safe until it’s time for them to be born. Babysitting. Peachy. Even though it completely screams ‘TRAP’. But how did she get mixed in with the packs across the Ocean even though all the signs are pointing that this is a really bad idea? Because Julie’s best friend is going loup. It’s something all the kids must face and so many do not survive it. It’s devastating to the Pack and if they do this job, they have enough Panacea to help a lot of kids. The risk…well it’s worth it.

And risks my beloved authors did take. There were times I hated Curran, times I hated Kate and also my authors when they killed off one of my favorite characters. I laughed, I cried and I seethed. I also devoured it in one sitting and rarely do books pull me in that much anymore. I don’t know how they do it, but this series never gets old or flat for me. The world building in this series is top notch. There is always something new to learn, one more factoid that makes the world all the more real for me.

Things I loved: “Outside the windows the day was bright: golden sunshine, blue sky, pleasant wind ... I wanted to punch the happy day in the face, grab it by the hair, and beat it until it told me what the hell it was so happy about.” Um, yeah….that quote right there. I feel that on occasion and I love that the authors could relay that to the rest of the world.

First off, I heartily recommend doing what your authors suggest and that is read An Ill-Advised Rescue (if you haven't already read it on their website) which is a short story that relates to the beginning of Magic Rises and trust me it all makes way more sense. Plus more Kate and Saiman. How can this be a bad thing?

The plot this time around has its flaws but there are some great WTF moments that had me making weird faces and noises at some of the reveals. As per usual, the fight scenes are top notch. In fact probably some of the best in the genre. The book was snarky, it was emotional (oh boy did I run the gambit), and every bit worth the read. They always are.

I loved some of our new additions such as Astamur and Christopher and how they may factor in to the story overall. I liked our baddies. My heart broke over a lullaby. I cheered and I jeered. And to be honest I really loved getting out of Atlanta. I am curious how other parts of the world fare with the tech and the magic.

So here is where we get to the spoilers: You have been warned so you should probably stop reading now. About Aunt B’s death. In a way it reminded me of some other deaths in fiction that just ripped me to shreds not because of the emotional impact (though there is that), but the suddenness of it. The we-can’t-mourn-her-because-we-are-running-for-our-lives sort of thing. And yet I was angry about Aunt B. Angry the way I was when Anya died in Buffy. How could you just kill her and not have any characters really mourn her. Because its war. In war those you care about die and sometimes you don’t have time to give them a proper sendoff. You cannot claim the body. You cannot have the proper closure and goodbye that you hoped to have. You don’t get to say all of those deathbed bedside niceties. It just happens. There is no rewind. The fallout happens later, when no one expects it. It hits you at the most inopportune times. Then you finally have to deal with yeah, we may have made it but at what cost? Was it worth it? And no this wasn’t just a bad dream. I have faith in my duo that they will write a proper repercussion and mourning for all of our characters because of that death.

Things I didn’t love so much: So things that bugged me. Curran. Yep, he’s got that alpha male thing down. The you are only a woman must protect you and thus keep you in the dark about everything shtick. Ugh. Do you know who her father is Curran? Do you know the power words she has under her control? If you loved Kate you wouldn’t have put her through the wringer. You know you have done a bad thing when I start seeing sociopath Hugh as a good replacement for you. That little plot twisty bit was contrived. It was not something that Curran would do to Kate, then again maybe it is and I should loathe him to pieces. And hell yes Kate can lie. She has been lying about who she is since she can remember and up until now she has been safe because of those lies. So yep, calling bullshit on your reasoning there Mr. Kitty. You just had fun playing the arrogant jackass and enjoying how much control you have. It just seemed so out of character and made no sense. I know those that have read this probably agree with me.

The same little plot arc could have worked with trying to find out what little Miss Princess’s real plan was. You knew something was up when she just magically decided to visit at the same time. They still could have played her without keeping things from Kate. But no, Curran thought it would be a better idea to humiliate her, hurt her, lie to her, make her look insignificant to his own Pack and oh you know other ruling members of Packs in Europe (good to make your relationship seem completely invaluable to the world…yep great move). Cause you know everyone has to follow rules EXCEPT him. Also good to know that all of the importance that you put on those Pack rules involving your mate really didn’t mean anything. All because you want to be Mr. Knight in Shining Armor and still possibly get your loved one killed. Don’t you think if Kate knew about it all that it would have saved a lot of things, possibly even Aunt B? Curran consistently makes decisions for those around him, including Kate without consulting anyone. This is kind of scary as we lead up to the final confrontation. I cannot trust that Curran will have her back completely or be the one to go running into battle without telling anyone and thus ruining the big plan and getting them all killed.

Speaking of the little romance plot arc, Curran and Kate not being married? Oh so now you need a piece of paper. Please, they are married in every sense that matters. Kate is Curran’s mate. Yep, that one. And Kate has earned her title, not only through her love for Curran, but the fact that she fought and killed all challengers to her position. Kate rules alongside Curran. She lives with him. I could keep going.

Ugh and back to Curran being an asshat. Kate says that they are ‘not okay’. And they shouldn’t be after what he did. But then she forgives him so easily. Hello relationship suspension of disbelief not happening there. I know what it is like to be hurt like that and it is not something that a few kisses and a ring can fix. Trust me. In a way, that broke my heart because the Kate I fell in love with would not have accepted that so easily. Kate, who didn’t need anyone to save her, who had strength and moxie, and wouldn’t let “love” break her. They can be the couple I love and root for (Adam and Mercy, Toby and Tybalt) and Kate can still be true to her character.

Quibbles perhaps, but big quibbles. I guess in any friendship you are bound to have a fight now and again. This is my first one with Kate, Curran and company. I am sure I will get over it. We just need some time apart until I cool down. I am going to go hang with Andrea until July.

Buy or Borrow: Buy. Because I love this series to pieces and so should you

Part of: Series.  The Magic _______ series or the Kate Daniels series.

Also Recommended: Other great Urban Fantasy that isnt just vampires and werewolves are the Toby Daye series by Seanan McGuire and the creatures that exist in the cities of Matthew Swift (Madness of Angels by Kate Griffin), Felix Castor (The Devil You Know by Mike Carey) and Harry Dresden by Jim Butcher.

3.25 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks