Monthly Archives: September 2009

Book Geek Wednesday: Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

Melissa Marr has been blessed by the cover fairies. Not just once, but multiple times. It was the cover to Wicked Lovely that first made me stop short. I mean look at it. It’s absolutely stunning. And I’m glad it did, because I opened the hard cover, peeked at the first page, and found myself enchanted by the opening scene. In fact, thinking back, it is that scene that has stayed with me the longest.

The trial depicted is meant to test if Keenan, the Summer King’s current love, is the one who will help him bring his world out of the cold that his mother, the Winter Queen has trapped them in. If she is not meant to be the Summer Queen, the poor girl is cursed to an endless life of cold and given a wolf as her companion/consolation prize.

The thing about Keenan is that he has seduced many girls in his quest to find ‘the special one’ until he comes across Aislinn. And as it turns out, she is different from others. She has the faerie sight and has been trained to conceal her gift to avoid being caught. Keenan proceeds to try and woo Aislinn, with the help of Donia, the forsaken lover.

I’ll admit, Donia’s appearance throughout the book broke my heart. It was no secret that she still pined away for Keenan while he happily pursued Aislinn. And it was refreshing that Aislinn didn’t just fall all over the beautiful Summer King… rather she sought refuge with her best friend and major crush Seth. And yes, I liked Seth and all his bad boy ways. He was sexy in the way those naughty boys at school were sexy. I liked him for Aislinn. And I was cheering for him above Keenan for Aislinn’s choice.

I loved the mythology involved and really think Marr did a fantastic job creating this world. I’m looking forward to reading the next story in the series, Fragile Eternity. I might even take a glance at the ‘off-shoot’ book, Ink Exchange, out of curiosity. All in all though, I think this YA book really got the faery trend into the public eye and it’s great buzz is well deserved.

Grade: A-


Lisa’s Tuesday Perspective: Melting Stones by Tamora Pierce

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Melting Stones is the most recent addition to Tamora Pierce’s Circle of Magic world, which started with the Circle of Magic and The Circle Opens quartets, and was continued later on with The Will of the Empress.  I have to admit first and foremost that I’m not wildly crazy over any of those nine books.

The series is about four young friends who learn they each have a certain kind of power (one has it in weaving, one in plants, one in metalwork and one in weather) and follows them as they grow up and face challenges with their powers.  While the concepts are pretty awesome, I really don’t like the way the characters are handled for the most part.  I don’t know what it is specifically, something about the writing style and the way the characters are handled just doesn’t jive with me.  The books get a really formulaic feeling to them if you read them all in a row as I did, and each book is through the perspective of one of the four kids—so if you don’t like one’s narrative over another, as I didn’t, then some of the books are really difficult to get through.

Why then, did I go on to read Melting Stones?  Well, it interested me for a few reasons.  Firstly—and I know, I know, but this really was a factor—the cover is simply gorgeous.  Pretty Asian girls are going to draw me in, I admit it.  And secondly this book is the first that’s not centered around the four original characters, it’s centered around Evvy, a student of one of the four, and she was a character I remember from the earlier novels and really enjoyed.  Her magic is, in case you didn’t get it from the title, in stones.  And that’s another reason I was interested—I’ve always thought rocks were pretty cool.

In reality, this follows a very similar formula as the original books—visits a new place in trouble, happens to figure out what the problem is, has to prove self to the local color and authority figures, ends up saving the day.  But maybe because it’s been a while since I read the others, this wasn’t as tiresome to me here as it was earlier… or maybe I just liked Evvy more.  It’s still a little stiff in the handling of the character—we see maybe a seventeen/eighteen year old girl on the cover, but the Evvy in the narrative is definitely and stubbornly a kid, with a kid’s views, short-sightedness, and prejudices, which makes for a bit of a bore because it’s stuff we’ve seen in the Circle books before over and over again.  And it continues a theme that I personally find disturbing of the main characters finding it fitting and almost enjoyable for their enemies to suffer violently if they were given the chance to repent of their ways and refused.

I have to admit, though, that this book was definitely my favorite of the series so far.  I especially liked Luvo, Evvy’s friend who’s a small living rock, the heart of a mountain (you can see him riding tucked into her back there, that purple-green rock thing).  Luvo was a fantastic character, with the wisdom of ages—and yet some really endearing shortcomings.  Seriously, this book is worth reading for the talking rock alone.

And Evvy isn’t quite as hard-boiled as she makes herself out to be, which is something Pierce executes better in this book than in any of the previous Circle books, in my personal opinion.  It ends with some really encouraging signs that she’s learning and growing.

So all in all, I give this about a B+.  A high B+.


Movie Magic Monday: Stardust

I knew I wanted to watch this film the moment I heard Claire Danes was in it. I’ve been a fan of hers for a long time, since she played broody and conflicted teen Angela Chase on My So Called Life and through my obsession with Leonardo DiCaprio as he played opposite her in Baz Luhrman’s Romeo + Juliet. I’ve always enjoyed the very earthy, natural way about her, as though she could be my next door neighbor, or a friend from school. So approachable and human.

Which is why I was startled to learn she plays a star. Like, an actual star that falls from the sky. That explains the blonde hair, I thought. I wasn’t expected to be sold so completely, not just on her acting, but on the story as a whole.

Stardust is magical in that it’s a perfectly whole, well envisioned world. There is the small rural English town, appropriately called Wall, where people live a rather ordinary life, except for one thing: they are not allowed past the wall. This stone wall seperates their world from a world full of magic.

Tristan, played by Charlie Cox, is endearing and adorable as the leading man, looking to retrieve a fallen star for the most beautiful woman in town. But he finds so much more than he bargains for because this star, is now a human woman, Yvaine, who is looking for a way back home.

Of course, any good story must be complicated by several outside factors. Michelle Pfeiffer is a witch who is hysterically obsessed about aging and desperate to capture Yvaine, who can provide youth and eternity. And the seven sons of the dying king, all trying to kill each other first, so that one can take the throne. It really is one hearty laugh after another, and all well placed. None of it seems gratuitious. I mean, Robert DeNiro as the air pirate? So brilliantly cast.

The love story progresses at a beautiful and enchanting pace, and when we start to understand what makes Yvaine glow, it kind of brings a glow to our own hearts.

Overall, I loved the world Stardust was set in and it’s a movie I have wanted to watch again, since I last saw it. It also sparked my interest in the book it was based on by Neil Gaiman, which is a great testament to the movie’s charm. After looking it up on Amazon and reading the first few pages, I’ve already put it at the top of my ‘to be read’ pile. I love his use of old language and the very authentic fairytale feel. I cannot wait to get my hands on it.

I give this movie a loving: A+


Fun Friday: The Vampire Diaries

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So.  Are you watching?

I have to admit, I didn’t think I’d like this show.  Despite being the type of girl who’s read through the Twilight Saga twice (well, except for Breaking Dawn) I’m really not a vampire kinda gal.  I’m just not.  But I am, and always have been an Ian Somerhalder kinda gal, and so I decided that despite my currently-limited internet access and the complete and utter lack of The CW in my new area, I’d take a chance on this show.  I still haven’t seen last night’s ep (so don’t spoil me! :-P) but I’ve got to admit, what I’ve seen, I’ve liked.

The basic set-up is this:  Two vampire brothers, one good, one not so good (okay, he’s flat-out bad!) have returned to their hometown after a long time, and wind up in a battle of wills, of sorts, over the soul of a recently-orphaned high school girl named Elena, who happens to look remarkably like a long-lost love of Stefan’s—the good brother.  There’s a lot of mystery being trudged up over how Stefan’s relationship with Katherine, Elena’s look-alike ended, but however it did, we know that Stefan and Elena certainly have a connection in the here and now.  The problem is that Stefan’s brother Damon is basically set out to make Stefan’s life a living hell—that or get him to feed on humans again, and “remember who he is.”

So, I admit I haven’t read the book series this is based off of, but I’m really enjoying the show so far.  The characters have a lot more depth to them than I expect from your average CW show, and while my dear Ian looks a bit old to be in a high school show—I’m old enough to remember him in Young Americans, dears—he still looks pretty smokin’ hot, if I do say so myself.  Stefan’s not half-bad himself, of course, and I’ve kinda got a crush on Elena’s little brother, too… minus his “extra-curricular activities,” I suppose.  Elena’s ex Matt is pretty cute, too.  Basically the town is rolling in the hotties.  Elena strikes me as being intelligent, too, which is always refreshing to see on screen (or off).

I’m having a blast watching it.  What about you?  How does it hold up to the books, for those of you who’ve read them?  And if you haven’t seen it yet, what are you waiting for?  Check it out online!

Oh, and one more thing.  Slight spoiler here, if you haven’t seen episode two…

Did they really kiss at the end of the second episode?  Where’s the build-up, where’s the suspense?  Am I the only one who was expecting to have to wait a bit longer than that?

~Lisa, who had to wait until episode nine for Max and Liz to kiss on Roswell, thank you very much.


Thursday Myths & Legends 101: Coyote the Trickster

The Trickster_Coyote Paints the Night Sky-PCP

Coyote is possibly the most common character in Native American folklore.  There are really countless different versions of the character, but they’re all more or less variations on a theme.

Firstly, the character of Coyote isn’t actually, you know, a coyote.  He’s actually a person, one of the First People, who lived before people now.  He’s anthropomorphic, though, so in many stories he has characteristics of a coyote, or can change into the creature at will.  Coyote is a Trickster god, which covers a little more canvass than you might expect.  Tricksters aren’t simply mischeivous baddies looking to mess up mortal’s lives (though sometimes they certainly will do that), they’re more defined by the fact that they rely mainly on their intellect to survive—and that’s what Coyote is known for, survival.

You might be surprised to find out that Prometheus, the Greek titan who stole fire from the gods and gave it to humans, is also classified as a Trickster.  In fact, there’s a similar story where Coyote brings fire (and death) to humans.

Then again, sometimes Coyote appears mainly to tempt or take advantage of others.  But really there is WAY too much about Coyote to sum it all up in one little blog post, so I encourage you to go look him up for yourself!

Check out Native American Trickster Tales, and A Coyote Reader by William Bright

*Art by Yonaka-Yomako on Deviant Art.


Book Geek Wednesday: River Secrets by Shannon Hale

riversecrets

I have to admit, of the first three Books of Bayern, River Secrets is not my personal favorite.  But really, I think my opinion is tainted, thanks mainly to the fact that I really, really, and I mean really hate this cover.  On the one hand I was annoyed because it was impossible to buy this book in paperback in the cover that matched the style of the other two books I already owned in the series, but really, I just want to smack the cover model.  He looks like an uppity, obnoxious little brat.  And that’s unfortunate, because Razo, the character he’s supposed to portray and the main character in the novel, is a character I actually happen to like a lot.  But that kid on the cover… I really do want to slap him upside the head a bit, and I have to admit that that colored my reading of this book.  I don’t know why I let little things like that interfere with my reading experience, but I can’t deny that they do.  It’s like something in the series’ aura has been kinked because of the cover changes, I don’t know.  It’s not feng shui, people.

But shoving all new-age metaphors aside, I think it’s also a fact that I play favorites, and Enna Burning was such a delicious ride for me that it was hard to enjoy switching to a new character.

This review isn’t telling you that it really is a good book on its own, though… which it is.  So let’s ignore my weird associations and look at the facts:

1. Shannon Hale knows her world.  And she knows her characters.  Bayern and its surrounding areas are so real in her head they can’t help but be real in yours, which is awesome in and of itself.

2. We get an awesome new character here in the form of Lady Dasha (she’d be the red-head, above).  I adore her.  She’s sweet and spunky and a nice addition to an already beloved cast.

3. It’s not like we don’t see the awesome characters we love from the books beforehand, even if it is in a slightly smaller scale here.

4. Shannon Hale does something that I really wish Stephenie Meyer had done in Twilight—proved that you can be resourceful, influential and important even without special powers, even if you’re the “normal human being” surrounded by characters with cool abilities.

Besides, you’ve got to read this to get to the newly-released Forest Born.  And I have to admit, even from the one small mention we get of Rin in River Secrets I could already tell that there was something special about her, and that she was someone we’d want to get to know better, so I’m really looking forward to getting that chance!

I give River Secrets a hearty B+.  But really… it’s the aura thing getting to me again.  You’d probably rate it higher. 😉


Lisa’s Tuesday Perspective: Enna Burning by Shannon Hale

Enna BurningSomehow Enna Burning, the second in the Books of Bayern by Shannon Hale is much less popular than its predecessor, The Goose Girl.  Personally I don’t understand this at all.  Admittedly, I have a tendency to tastes somewhat contrary to the crowd, but when I read the two books next to each other… for me there’s no competition.

Enna makes The Goose Girl look tame… even (dare I say) boring in comparison.  Isi, the main character of the first novel is a princess in disguise who learns the language of the wind and defeats her foes, which is great and all, but Enna… Enna learns the language of fire.

I just loooove the way Shannon Hale deals with the different elements in these books.  Because while the wind is thoughtless and can only speak of the things it’s seen and is easily diverted from its natural way… fire is an altogether different thing, dangerous, hungry, and always, always seductive.

Enna is a fantastically strong character, which she has to be, because the language of fire will devour even the person who sets it free, as we see even from the very beginning of this novel.  Enna is all action and she goes through some serious trials in this book, where she’s struggling to control this enormous gift and not destroy her friends—or herself—in the process.  She’s not perfect, and she doesn’t get everything right at  the first try, but she does everything she can to help her friends and her country on the brink of war.

Personally I can’t recommend this book highly enough.  While The Goose Girl is a Grimm’s fairy tale expanded, Enna is all Hale’s own world, and she’s built up this idea of hidden languages in just a truly gorgeous way.  Enna Burning takes all the stakes in the first novel and kicks them up a notch, too, which I can’t help but love, and the little bit of romance that we get in this is… oh just right up my alley.  I won’t tell you about it, because even the who is a bit of a spoiler, but I’ve been in love with this guy since his brief appearance in The Goose Girl, and to get to see him really develop and grow up in this novel was just a thrill.  Really it’s one of my favorite love stories I’ve read in recent years, and though I’m looking forward to the upcoming Forest Born, I already doubt that it’ll knock Enna out of my top favorite for the series so far.

My rating: A+.  +.  If I can do that. 😉


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