30 August 2011

Fables: Rose Red

I finally got the newest Fables volume from the library.  It seemed i'd had it on my list for months!  

We get some backstory on Rose and Snow's childhood and why, exactly, Rose slept with Prince Charming so long ago.  Frau Totenkinder has a plan to defeat Mr. Dark and begins to put it into action.  There's a magical battle!  Beauty and the Beast's baby finally arrives! Other stuff happens!  

When's the next one out?  a 6 from me.

27 August 2011

The Final Aubrey-Maturin

Blue at the Mizzen is the final completed Aubrey-Maturin novel by Patrick O'Brian.  I was a bit apprehensive to start it as i did not enjoy some of the events in the previous book, The Hundred Days.  Knowing this was the last finished book but that the series was intended to continue set my mind at ease for our two main characters at least.  But what would O'Brian choose to do with some of our secondary character?

In this book, after many delays, Aubrey and Maturin set off for Chile, the voyage they were preparing for at the end of The Yellow Admiral, but was delayed by Napoleon's whole escape thing.  They stop in Sierra Leone and Steven gets to go naturalizing with Christine Wood, another character we initially met several novels ago.  Proceeding onward, with all the troubles of the doldrums and the cape, we follow the men to Chile, where Jack is supposed to help the infant Chilean Navy become a real fighting force and Steven does some espionaging. 

so yeah, i kinda got teary at the end. knowing that this book wasn't intended to be the final one, i expected more of a cliffhanger ending. While not every subplot was resolved, a huge one that's been hanging over the last few books was closed. It was an emotional, lovely scene that I replayed in my car 3 times.  It was really good.

so, i've now read them all.  This series is a 7.  I honestly can say i wish there were another dozen to read.  The characters are wonderful.  I wouldn't want to marry Jack or Stephen but i want to know them, be their friend.  if you are at all interested in the series, read the first 2 books.  if you hate them, don't continue.  If you like them, keep reading, as this series rewards you as you go along.   

20 August 2011

The Walking Dead

I believe I am going to stop reading The Walking Dead series. I finished No Way Out, volume 14, 2 days ago and there is a particular image, a shocking one, that I can't get out of my head. I am incredibly thankful that the series is in black and white, not color. Now, the comic was fine, and it does advance the story whereas i felt the last one didn't. We find out about Rick's motivations, see how he grows as a leader by the end, and learn more of the dynamics of this new group. But, damn, this one was disturbing. Without going into too spoilery of territory, I felt early on that Something Bad was going to happen and even thought I had figured out the form the Something Bad would take. I wasn't completely wrong, i guessed the right event but not the how of it, and the art showing it...it's stuck in my head. I had the hardest time going to sleep the night i finished it because the image just kept popping up.

now, i can't say i am definitely not going to read the next book. After all, this volume just came out in June, it will probably be another 4 months or so before the next is out, plus another month or two before I can get it from the library. Reading it will be a more deliberate act instead of a given and I will make certain i'm in a good mental place before I start it. I'm torn on a rating, for story i'd probably say 6, but i think i have to drop it to a 4 for unbalancing me so. :(

As for other things, this morning i finished my first week of classes as a graduate student. I've got 2 required classes this semester: Information Representation and Organization AND Information Access and Retrieval. I wanted to take the third required course but got stuck on the waitlist as I registered late. I'm going to learn a ton and I can tell already i'll be a bit busy.

Blog related, i've got a backlog of reviews! I've been reading plenty, just not posting. I've been doing overtime at work and last weekend was orientation so i had to actually go to Knoxville. Most of those posts I have started; as I finish them i will load them as of the day I finished the book. wish me luck!

18 August 2011

The Three Coffins OR The Hollow Man

I've never quite understood changing titles for different editions, especially when it is just British vs American. I get that a specific word might be difficult to translate between two different languages, or mean something very different, so that the title means something completely different than the author's intent, which is a good reason to go with the spirit rather than the specific title. But for a mystery novel, The Three Coffins or The Hollow Man both sound fine to me. I originally searched for The Hollow Man by John Dickson Carr and couldn't find a copy. Then, somewhere, i read that the book was also called The Three Coffins and i immediately found it in my library.

This book has one true locked room murder and a version of a locked room that takes place in the middle of a street, in front of witnesses.  There's a fun detective, a bevy of suspects, and an awesome chapter that is very very meta. 

RIP is coming up; i can't recommend this book more highly for that challenge. a 7 from me and this is my eighth book (by the fifth author) for the Vintage Mystery Challenge!

17 August 2011

China Mieville is Awesome

I finished Embassytown by China Mieville on audio today. 

wow wow wow!  I've become a China Mieville fan this year and loved this book!  Mieville starts with a normalish sci-fi concept: colonizers versus indigenous aliens and the conflicts mistaken understanding can create.  however, the aliens and the average humans literally cannot speak to each other.  The aliens have 2 mouths, both of which are required to speak their language.  To make things more complicated, the aliens can also somehow sense intent, so just having 2 humans speak half the words at the same time doesn't work.  The colonizers end up creating clones that are enough alike psychically that the aliens can understand them.  Also, the aliens can't lie, and don't have any sort of imaginative capability.  They can't say "I'm worn out", they would have to say something like "i am like the shoes have been walked in for 100 miles".   The narrator is a woman, Avice, who is a living simile for the aliens.  She is "the girl who was hurt in darkness and ate what was given to her" which meant she had to, at one point, be that person.  There's some space jaunts early on, lots of interesting bio-technology hybrid things, and gobs of politics.  I really loved it. 

A thought i had:  how is the alien's language read?   i mean, literally.  on audio, when the aliens or the ambassadors would speak, you'd hear two separate sounds at the same time, one on each speaker.  how do you read that?  I suppose i need to pick up a copy at the library and flip to that bit to see.

so, even if you aren't a fan of sci-fi, you may enjoy this book for the politics and philosophy of language.  a 7 from me!

15 August 2011

Gaston Leroux

wrote more than just The Phantom of the Opera! He was a journalist until he began writing novels and ended up with several dozen detective novels. I read The Mystery of the Yellow Room, one of the first locked room mysteries ever written, and today I finished The Perfume of the Lady in Black, a sequel with it's own locked room crime.  It is a bit hard to discuss this book as so much of the story stems from the previous novel. 

The heroine of the first novel, Mademoiselle Stangerson, is finally marrying her betrothed.  Rouletabille attends but doesn't stay to see the happy couple off onto their honeymoon.  We then have a few chapters where we learn of Rouletabille's early life.  When the villain from the first novel threatens Mme Stangerson again, Rouletabille meets up with them at a castle on the French Riviera.  The preparations to make the castle impenetrable are impressive.  

Like the previous novel, Leroux includes maps and layouts so that the reader can visualize everything and try to puzzle out the mystery.  Setting this mystery in a castle helps the atmosphere.  There is a real feeling of fear in this novel and you do expect the killer to jump out at any time.  He's as cunning and brilliant as our detective and desperate to succeed. 

Overall, i'd say a 5.  I certainly didn't understand some of the motivations of the characters, not being French or born in the 1880s.  It is a solid book but i will say the first was better. 

14 August 2011

The Hundred Days

As I read this book, i had to keep reminding myself that O'brian didn't know it was going to be the second to last volume.  He'd been writing about these characters for literally decades; no wonder he wanted to change things up.  Had he known that he would only finish one more book on these characters, perhaps he would have made different choices.  That is the part of me that understands creative people talking there.  The fan part of me just wanted to keep yelling "NO NO NO NO!!".  When a big character dies, it is important.  When a big character dies "offscreen", between books in this case, you kind of feel cheated.  

Aubrey and Maturin are still alive, of course.  The sea action is great; the story takes place during the time Napoleon has escaped from Elba so there are French allies, like Christy Palliere, who we met waaaaay back in book 2 or 3.  it is certainly not a bad book.  it just wasn't quite what i wanted to read.  a 4.   

13 August 2011

Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children

First thing to know: this book must be the first in a series. I did not know this and was expecting a proper ending, not a wrap-up of the original problem while another half dozen get introduced. It also has the common, it seems to me anyway, young adult novel problem of having too much happening over a too short period of time. Other than that, I really enjoyed this book.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ranson Riggs
is told by Jacob. He's a well off teen whose grandfather used to tell him amazing stories of the place he grew up in. There was a girl who flew, an invisible boy, a teacher who could turn into a bird. As Jacob gets older, he believes the stories to be lies, twisted from his grandfather's experiences as a Jewish teenager in World War 2. When the older man dies from strange injuries in Jacob's arms, Jacob thinks he sees something, which makes him begin to wonder about all the stories.

The characters are great and Jacob's whole personality felt very real. What modern teen wouldn't think he was going crazy in such a situation? The rebel best friend, the underachieving dad, the weird townsfolk, they all seemed like they had their own lives going on off the page. The Peculiar Children also seemed realistic, with several having some pretty random powers that you don't see over in X-men. I liked the originality.

The pictures work really well with the text and the fact that they are all real pictures, not created specifically for the book, was fascinating. When i read that at the end of the book, i immediately went back and pored over the images again. Miss Peregrine's Home is not a place i'd want to live but is certainly a place i want to visit again.
a 6 from me and this one counts for the 2011 challenge in the "Willpower? What Willpower?" category as I won it off Librarything's Early Reviewers group.

11 August 2011

BTT for 8/11/11

On my way out the door, headed to Knoxville for school orientation tomorrow.

It’s National Book Week. The rules: Grab the closest book to you. Go to page 56. Copy the 5th sentence as your status.

"I love to be frightened, don't you, Monsieur Rouletabille?" from The Perfume of the Lady in Black by Gaston LeRoux.

06 August 2011

Wyllard's Weird

I read Mary Elizabeth Braddon's Wyllard's Weird for the Vintage Mystery Challenge and for the 2011 challenge in the "Way Back When" category. Originally published in 1885, it is a murder mystery that turns into a triple-murder mystery.

The novel begins with a young woman jumping, or being thrown, from a train and dying. Julian Wyllard, a wealthy man, and Bothwell Grahame, Wyllard's wife, Dora's, cousin, are both traveling separately on the train. Edward Heathcote is the local squire who is also the coroner and an ex of Dora Wyllard. Wyllard hires a detective to help find the young woman's identity and the detective creates suspicion that Grahame may have done it. Dora then begs Heathcote to investigate and he travels to London and France to find the facts. There's a subplot with Grahame being involved with both a married woman and later Heathcote's sister.

I figured out who did it around the middle of the book but i enjoyed it anyway. The characters felt realistic, even with the English women being a little too self-sacrificing. Heathcote is definitely a model of a Victorian hero. There's a good bit of Victorian psycho-babble too. Overall, i'd say a 5.

Now i actually purchased this book, off Powell's I think, but if you have a Kindle I've recently learned Amazon has a good number of Braddon's works for free and several others for 99 cents. I would assume that they'd be available on other e-readers as well. I believe i will try to read more of her books that way, as these are books my local library does not have. Though, hehe, I just checked and UT does have a few of hers. Oh no!

04 August 2011

The Yellow Admiral

I think the morals of The Yellow Admiral by Patrick O'Brian are that blockade duty sucks, politics is everywhere, and don't get attached to new characters on the 18th book of a series as they may not make it out of the chapter alive.  

We get a nice look at the characters home life on land again.  Jack, as always, has money problems, but Steven does to for a change.  They are all living in Jack's childhood estate which he recently inherited.  Jack and Steven on land almost seem out of place there, with all the women, children, horses and peasants.  Jack endears himself to the peasants by fighting an enclosure, which is unfortunately championed by Jack's commanding officer, Admiral Stranrear, on the blockade.  He makes Jack's life pretty awful but Jack pulls through regardless.  

There are a lot of fun moments though, especially with Diana.  In another scene, when Bonden has a bare-knuckle boxing match with one of Stranrear's gamekeepers.  It is quite exciting, though funny, and Steven's care for Bonden after the match is touching. 

We don't learn much new in this book but that is not a bad thing.  Reading this book really was like visiting and catching up with friends.  a 5.  

02 August 2011

Dance With Dragons

Wow. Just wow. After waiting for A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin for, well, a while, i don't know what exactly to say. Semi-spoilerish things may follow.
  1. A certain character better not be dead. I'm just saying, I read that bit and gasped and flipped through the chapter headings to see if that particular person had another chapter, which they didn't.
  2. Poor Martell kid. ouch.
  3. Tyrion might, possibly, maybe, have a touch of a Tysha obsession. I want to smack him and say "let it go!".
  4. Also, too much travel, not enough being there!
  5. We totally did not need a new candidate for the throne.
  6. Stannis-still a disappointment.
  7. how can you make me feel even somewhat sorry for Theon? ugh.
  8. Cersei is totally not cowed.
  9. Rickon? maybe? please?
  10. everyone has to be as scattered as they are going to be...let's all start for King's Landing or the Wall, shall we?
  11. I still like Daenerys but i wish her big stuff had happened hundreds of pages earlier.

so i am going to go with a 5. this will count for the 2011 Challenge in the Willpower? What Willpower? category. And i still love the series. and i will be buying the new one, whenever it comes out.