Monthly Archives: March 2010

Book Geek Wednesday: Lament by Maggie Stiefvater

I realize that Lisa has already posted a review of this book-a glowing review whose enthusiasm was so contagious, it forced me to a bookstore and had me buying both Lament AND Ballad without having read anything by Ms. Stiefvater first. I trust Lisa’s judgment THAT much. And as usual, she didn’t disappoint.

Why am I reviewing this story, rather than its sequel? Well that might be part of a super secret we have in store for you readers, but which I’m sure you’ll really enjoy.

In the meantime, like Lisa, I did not immediately get drawn into the book. In fact, I read the first few pages over the course of a few months, and was just not impressed enough to keep reading. I had no IDEA what was happening within the first 2-3 pages, only that there was a white bird involved and it was trapped in a cage, and somehow, there was something cruel and torturous about keeping it there, as it seemed awfully human and its captured seemed awfully INhuman. But this did little to explain what the heck was going on and by the time we got to Deidre Monaghan, our heroine and average teenage girl, I was confused. Wasn’t this book supposed to be about fairies?

Well, I finally buckled down this past weekend and read through. Several things immediately struck me about Deidre. She is the every girl, the high school geek who never feels like she quite fits in, since most of the world just finds her so amazingly ordinary. And I loved that. I was a theatre girl in high school, I did musicals, I sang, I acted, and I was a geek, let’s face it. I loved performing, took it way seriously, though it made me wicked sick the entire day before. Not throw up in the bathroom sick, like Deidre, but, you know, can’t eat, can’t sleep, insane ball of energy kind of sick.

Anyway, I related to her on a lot of levels, loved how she carried a kind of confidence that came with her musical talent but it never made her haughty. In fact, she never felt special in anyway. But she was wrong. Her ability to play the harp so beautifully, to sing with a voice so lovely, has a very distinct correlation to her special, newfound ability, being a cloverhand, one who sees fairies.

And I love that it went WAY further than that. I was expecting, uh oh, she can see fairies, they’re going to totally harass her. Well yea, they do, because let’s face it, they’re mischievous little buggers, but Deidre’s power starts to manifest in other interesting ways that I won’t reveal, as I feel they’re really great spoilers.

Amidst all of these changes, Deidre has to deal with several things. One, her best friend and rock, James who is undoubtedly falling in love with her and will ruin everything between them if he ever voice it. And the mysterious Luke, who she’s seen in her dreams and suddenly makes a real life appearance. The story definitely took a stunning turn with Luke, who’s entire budding relationship with Deidre left me breathless on more than one occasion. I particularly enjoyed how they did average every day things together, like eat ice cream and go for walks, though they both knew that the other suspected something far more supernatural happening. I see the reality of not mentioning how unlikely Luke’s presence was, for fear that it might, POOF, disappear, like her dreams. It made the discovery of his true identity fascinating and scary. Is he good? Is he bad? What does he really want with Deidre?

Overall, Ms. Stiefvater does an amazing job telling this story in a way that made me smile and ache and cry and snicker. Her writing is fluid and beautiful and effortless. Having already bought Ballad, I devoured it the very next day. Maybe Lisa and I will discuss it together. 🙂 Because James kind of won me over. As I have a feeling he did to her as well. 😉

Lament receives an enthusiastic A+.

Lisa’s Tuesday Perspective: Forest Born by Shannon Hale

Ah, the Books of Bayern.  I have always been a sucker for a good series, and this is one of my faves.  The series starts with The Goose Girl, an adaptation of the Grimm’s Fairy Tale, about a young princess who, on her way to marry a prince from a foreign land, is betrayed by her handmaid, and is forced to flee and eventually become a goose girl in the palace of the kingdom where she was meant to become queen—where her handmaid is standing in her place.  Throughout the story, she learns the languages of birds, her horse, and even the wind itself.

Shannon Hale then takes the idea of learning the languages of animals and nature and spins it into a whole world, expanding from the characters she first introduced in Goose Girl.  My favorite of the series is Enna Burning, the second novel, which deals primarily with the language of fire, which I find utterly fascinating.  The third book, River Secrets, is not my favorite, but does definitely introduce some great characters, along with letting us see a whole new land.

Forest Born is the fourth novel, and the farthest character-wise that we get from the other books—the main character is Rin, the younger sister of Razo, who was the focus of River Secrets.  Rin is, as the title suggests, a Forest Born, never been to the city before, having lived her whole life in the small community of her family, deep in the forest.  She’s loved the trees and the solace of the forest for as long as she can remember—but now things have changed.  She feels that something is wrong inside her—she doesn’t feel at ease in the forest anymore, and the very trees that she used to turn to for comfort seem to be turning her away.

I have to admit, it took me a while to like Rin.  I’d had high hopes for her, because she’d made a little appearance in River Secrets, and she was such a striking character in that, that when I was looking through her eyes, I found myself a little disappointed.  She’s a character that holds back—everything.  Words, demands, even requests.  She’s not the easiest character to like, but I know Shannon Hale’s books well enough to know that even if I didn’t start out liking the girl, she’d turn into something fantastic—which is exactly what she did, and what the story is about, after all.

I was cheering for Rin by the end of the novel, excited for her as she learned to embrace parts of herself she was afraid of, things she was capable of that scared her.  I think that’s something  that’s not only relatable, but also empowering.  It reminds me of the quote from Marianne Williamson.  “Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate, but that we are powerful beyond measure. It is out light, not our darkness that frightens us.”  Rin is the embodiment of this quote, and she learns that being powerful is not always a bad thing—it depends on what you do with that power.  I ended up really enjoying this book, and there was a lot of interaction with characters from the previous books.  It was nice to see Rin absorbed into this sisterhood of “fire sisters” who we already knew and loved, and yet become a strong personality in her own right.

All in all, I’m going to give Forest Born a very strong B+.  Slow to start, but I loved it by the end.

Movie Magic Monday: Books to Movies Updates

I’ve spent most of the weekend reading. Like hard core, walking with a book in my hand and crashing against doors kind of reading. Reading for pleasure and to refuel the muse. I haven’t done that for FAR too long. It felt SO good.

When I was done with my mental vacation (two books in two days!), I played online a bit and found some really awesome news, which you all might already know, but which I’m just finding out, so here it is.

On September 30th, Maggie Stiefvater announced that Shiver has been optioned for a movie. Can I beg for Lament and Ballad to join those ranks?! PLZ?!

That’s not all. Libba Bray’s A Great and Terrible Beauty, is also coming to theaters.

Let’s get you even more excited, shall we? One of my very favorite characters of all time, Ramona Quimby, has a movie in the works! Ramona and Beezus comes out sometime in August of this year, and it stars Disney teen queen Selena Gomez, and itty bitty Joey King as Ramona.

And of course, no one can forget Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows, (pt 1? seriously?), coming in September.


Is anyone else as psyched about this YA book to movie revolution?! It’s everywhere! Percy Jackson, Wimpy Kid, Eclipse, etc. I feel like I’m in movie heaven. Granted, they wont’ all be great. But the fact that they’re getting done and drawing attention to the amazing variety of YA books out there- priceless.

Fun Friday: Accio Books – a cool cause.

Alas, I did not make it to Brandon Mull’s Fablehaven launch party, so I have nothing to report on that account.  I do have something great to share with you, though.  I read about this on Maureen Johnson’s blog, and thought I’d pass it along, just because it’s an awesome cause centered around something I (and everyone in or aspiring to be in the book business would) care a lot about—literacy.

The Harry Potter Alliance is coming to the end of their second annual Accio Books drive—this year books the focus of their drive is the Mississippi Delta, one of the poorest regions in the country, where literacy raters are appallingly low.  Johnson (author of 13 Little Blue Envelopes, the Scarlett books, and lots of other stuff) is the Head of Ravenclaw—yes, this drive is done in true Potter style, complete with house competition.  She’s offering cool prizes for Ravenclaw donation points (you can register points for books you’ve donated here and choose which house to be sorted into!) including going so far as to name a character after you in her new paranormal series, if you donate over 1000 books in Ravenclaw’s name.

You can read a lot more about this awesome cause on Johnson’s blog here, or of course on the HPA’s FAQ page, here.  Books don’t have to be sent to the Mississippi Delta (though they’re worth more points if they are!) but can also be donated to local organizations.  The deadline is March 31st, though, so if you want to participate, get to it!

Thursday Myths & Legends 101: Issun-bōshi, The Little Inch Boy

The Little Inch Boy is one of my favorite Japanese fairy tales that my dad would tell me when I was a little girl.

Once upon a time, a little old couple wanted a child, and so they prayed for one, no matter how small.  Eventually they did have a son, but he was indeed small.  They called him Issun-bōshi, which basically translates into Inch Boy.

As the boy grew older, but not bigger, he realized that how different he was, and decided that he needed to go out and find his own place in the world.

Issun-bōshi wanted to be like the great samurai in the stories his parents had told him, and so he traveled in a bowl as a ship, and used a needle from his mother as a sword.

He traveled down the river into the city, where he entreated the government for a position—and eventually he was assigned as a companion for the princess.  The palace servants snubbed Issun-bōshi for his size, but one day as he was traveling with the princess, they were attacked by an Oni, or an ogre, who swallowed Issun-bōshi.  Issun-bōshi then defeated the Oni by poking him from the inside with his needle sword.

After the Oni was dead and  Issun-bōshi escaped, the princess picked up the mallet that the Oni had been carrying, and with its magical properties was able to turn Issun-bōshi into the size of a normal human.  Eventually he and the princess wed and lived happily ever after.

Book Geek Wednesday: Brilliant Advertising

So in the e-reader wars, I have no preference as of yet (husband, if you’re reading, I’d like an e-reader for our anniversary), though I’m likely to lean toward the Nook, as a loyal B&N customer and past employee.

That said, I continue to be impressed by Amazon’s advertisements for the Kindle, despite how I feel about Amazon as a whole. They capture in a fun, whimsical way what I love about e-readers, which is the convenience and portability of many kinds of books. As I’ve mentioned before, I tend to read at least 3 books at a time, depending on my mood and such, so being able to flip back and forth thru files is so much easier, especially while reading in bed. Plus, these commercials ave some awesome catchy tunes.

Although from the looks of things, iPad is trying to join this commercial revolution. I’d be excited, except the book portion of the commercial is kind of overshadowed by the other MILLION things the device does. I’m more excited about watching movies on that kind of technology than reading books. It’s like the size of my old high school history textbooks… but you know, thinner.

Which makes you more likely to purchase a product? As a consumer, what are YOU looking for in a dedicated reader?

Lisa’s Tuesday Perspective: Last Fablehaven out today!

Oh man.  I need to get reviews up of the Fablehaven books, but Brandon Mull’s series about a brother and sister who discover that their grandparents are the keepers of a secret reserve for magical creatures is one of my favorite book series ever—especially under the fantasy heading.  I’m hoping to be able to go to the release party for Keys to the Demon Prison—it’s tonight at Cottonwood High in Salt Lake City, and since I happen to be in the vicinity of there around now… we’ll see.  If I do get to go, maybe I’ll do a write-up on it for Friday.

Honestly, I’m almost depressed that the last book in the series is here.  It’s not Deathly Hallows doldrums, but with Harry Potter and Fablehaven now finished, I’m looking for something else to draw my fancy—then again, I still have this whole book to read, and it’s the longest in the series yet!  So I’m excited.  Mull is promising ties to as many loose ends as he could find, and I’m looking forward to a satisfying read.

Movie Magic Monday: Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events

I didn’t know what to expect from this movie. I remember seeing the commercials when it was first in theaters, and the hype about Jim Carrey’s makeup and characters. I think I may have vaguely mentioned wanting to see it, you know, in passing. But I forgot about it until ages later, when the Twilight phenom was being cast and everyone’s Dream Team choice for Bella was Emily Browning. I finally put it on my Netflix queue a few weeks ago and I’m really glad I did.

This movie has all of the staples of a fairy tale, in the narration, the over-dramatized characters, the unlikely events that leave our heroes in need of saving, the heroes discovering they have the talent to save themselves all along… etc. But it veers from that fairytale cliche by turning everything on its head and making it dark, dreary, hysterical and unexpected.

For starter’s though I don’t think Jude Law’s narration was necessary, I rather enjoyed it. It was witty, charming, and gave it that storybook feel. The  children were perfectly cast. Smart, attractive, and sympathetic, which was obviously very important as you went on. I didn’t think they would be at first- I mean, ok, so you have these rich kids who are smart and talented and gorgeous and I’m supposed to feel bad, why? But as the movie went on, well things were just pretty much disastrous, and I did find myself cheering for them. The baby was possibly my favorite character of all. The subtitles used to translate her baby talk had me laughing out loud, meanwhile, her introductory vignette was just too hysterical.

Though the movie wasn’t fantasy in itself, it did have an air of the fantastical. The children’s talents seemed surreal at times, the world felt cartoonish, especially the leeches, and I think it was lit and costumed to feel just a tad unreal… bookish, really. I didn’t mind any of those things. They were really part of the story’s overall charm. I just feel in the end, I didn’t really get a full answer to the mystery of the parents’ death and the whole telescope thing confused me. But overall, I really enjoyed it. Rating: B+

Fun Friday: Gnome Gardens!

So, I’m a habitual stalker of Etsy,  “Your place to buy and sell all things handmade.”  In fact, I have a shop there myself, called CinderLisaDesign, where I sell handbound journals and notebooks.  Between shopping, selling and browsing, I spend a lot of time in this virtual marketplace, and one of the things I really love are the curious little things you can find, if you look for them.

A growing trend on Etsy (and outside of Etsy, too!) is little Gnome (or Faerie, or Wee-Folk, or whatever!) Gardens.  They are little miniature accents you can add onto a tree in your garden, or by a wall, or whatever you like, that look like you have some magical tenants—or you can try to lure some close to you—just make sure they’re friendly.

The picture above is of a set in ozarkkountrycrafts‘ store, but you can look at more Gnome Garden ideas by using the search function (it won’t let me link the results page!).

This really isn’t an endorsement of Etsy (though I do love it!) just a little highlight of something fun, on a Friday. 🙂

Thursday Myths & Legends 101: Naiads

Naiads are water nymphs, usually connected to a certain spring, well, brook, or stream.  It was believed that if a naiad’s spring or well dried up, that the Naiad would die.

Like most Naiads are playful, but can be deadly to humans.  They enjoy beauty, but are also quite jealous, so if they lure a human underwater, they’re likely to keep it there—and drown it.  The Naiads are either descended from Poseidon, or from Oceanids (the 3000 daughters of the Titans Oceanus and Tethys).  Oceanids are similar creatures, but associated with salt water, as Naiads are associated with fresh.

Naiads were often the focus of cults or rituals in archaic times, with belief that they were tied to fertility or cleansing.  Children coming-of-age would throw locks of their hair into a spring dedicated to a Naiad, and in some cases Oracles or ritualistic animal drownings were tied to a certain spring as well.

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