Wednesday, July 25, 2012

In A Witch's Wardrobe by Juliet Blackwell

Before I launch into my short review of In A Witch's Wardrobe, I just wanted to mention the recent interview that WIRED magazine did with Ursula K. Le Guin. It was a really nice interview and it was interesting to read since I just finished my first book of Le Guin's, A Wizard of Earthsea.

Ok, on to In A Witch's Wardrobe by Juliet Blackwell.This is the fourth book in the Witchcraft Mystery series. Lily gets a nice night out on the town, at a 1920s and 30s themed gala. At least it starts out nice, until a young single mother winds up in a coma, and Lily thinks she spies a curse mixed in with the woman's corsage.

Lily is running around the Bay Area meeting other practitioners and trying to save the young mother, Miriam. The usual suspects are around to help, or hinder Lily's progress.

I love reading about the vintage clothing and the San Francisco bay area. This book finished with a nice set up for the next book, and I can't wait!

I'm going to give In A Witch's Wardrobe by Juliet Blackwell, 4 Stars.

Don't forget to check out the Ursula K. Le Guin interview.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Ursula K. Le Guin's A Wizard of Earthsea

I just finished the next book from my list of Female Sci-fi/Fantasy authors. Ursula K. Le Guin's A Wizard of Earthsea is the first book from her Earthsea series. It tells the story of Ged, a young man learning to become a wizard. The plot may sound familiar, but this isn't much like Harry Potter. Earthsea is an archipelago, there are many islands and many people never leave the island they were born on.

Ged is discovered to have magic, and apprentices with a wizard on his home island of Gont, before going to the island of Roke to attend wizard school. Ged is fourteen when he goes away to school, and is in the middle of the teenage pride and sullenness. This means that Ged has to learn his lesson the hard way.

The book was well written and the world was well-developed. I am not normally a fan of Fantasy that takes place in an author-built world. I have a hard time connecting with those stories usually. I didn't have trouble with this one though. Ged was a well-developed character and his adventure was fascinating.

I definitely plan to read more of the Earthsea series and other writing by Ursula K. Le Guin.

I'm going to give A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin, 5 Stars.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Chasing Magic by Stacia Kane

Chasing Magic is the fifth book in Stacia Kane's Downside series, featuring Chess Putnam. I had heard a lot of good things about this series before I started reading it. I wasn't sure how much I would like the books because the main character is a drug addict, albeit a high-functioning one.

The world that Kane has created draws you in and Chess's faults make her human and relatable, even if a drug addict isn't normally someone you'd relate to. The latest book really tests Chess's relationships, and she really has to evaluate which relationships are really important to her and worth fighting for.

As usual, she ends up involved in things in Downside that aren't really in her official job description as a Churchwitch. Chess also works unofficially for her dealer, to help him keep a handle on magical trouble in his part of Downside, and that is what this book mostly revolves around. There is some big magical trouble in Downside. People are getting some bad speed and it seems to be turning them homicidal, with some help from some dark and ghost magic.

The mystery of this book was good, it had a lot of twists and turns and some heart-pounding action as well. It was hard to put it down!

The only thing that really jumped out at me in this book was Chess's negative self-talk was a little overwhelming. I understand where it comes from, and I think all of us have dealt with it ourselves. It just seemed like an excessive amount in Chasing Magic. I think Chess is on the verge of some big breakthroughs in her life, so I hope that is why there was so much inner dialog about how worthless Chess feels that she is. I would hope that we may start to see some of the breakthroughs in the next book and that Chess will start to see the value in herself. But, it's also possible that these are never going to be those kind of stories, she may never be a character that feels like she's redeemed herself.

All I know, is that I won't be missing the next installment in the Downside series!

I'm going to give Chasing Magic by Stacia Kane, 5 Stars.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Kelly Link's Stranger Things Happen

Stranger Things Happen  is a short story collection by Kelly Link, one of the author's off of my list.
The stories in this book are all over the place. Many involve loss of a loved one. Some are sad, some are scary, and some are funny.

I hesitate to even describe what any of these stories are about. They all feel like a dream. There isn't necessarily a linear narrative to any of them. But, they all make sense. I feel like I really need to read them all again, and pick up all the pieces I missed on my initial reading.

My favorite stories were "Flying Lessons", "Travels with the Snow Queen", and "The Girl Detective." But there isn't one story in the volume that I wouldn't' read again.

"The Specialists Hat" was the creepiest story in the book, although "Survivors Ball , or, The Donner Party" was a close second.

I would recommend this book and look forward to reading more of Kelly Link's work.

I'm going to give Stranger Things Happen by Kelly Link, 4 Stars.

As a final note, it has been a long time since I have read so many short stories. I find I really am enjoying them and I am fascinated how the authors are able to create such a complete picture in such a small package. If you haven't read a short story in awhile, pick up Stranger Things Happen, The Bloody Chamber, or Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman (which I haven't read, but it's on my list and everything else I have read of his is brilliant).

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Tempest's Fury by Nicole Peeler

So this is book five of the Jane True series. Jane True is a half-selkie, she learned that and a lot more about herself over the books of this series so far.
This book was fun because Jane takes her show on the road. She travels to London with Anyan and Blondie. Unfortunately, it isn't a vacation. Jane learns more about how the supernatural world exists with the human world. She also learns there is big trouble on the horizon, and it's coming up quickly.

I love this series, and I enjoyed this book. It was fun to see how supes are different in Europe. However, I was not happy with the crazy cliffhanger ending!

Nicole Peeler kindly explains the reason for the cliffhanger on her website, without really giving away any details of the ending, but you still might want to wait to read it until you've finished Tempest's Fury.

I can't wait until book six, Tempest Reborn comes out!

I'm going to give Tempest's Fury by Nicole Peeler  4 Stars.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Two Titles by Angela Carter

Angela Carter is the first of the female Sci-fi/ Fantasy writers from the list in my previous post. I read two of her works, The Bloody Chamber and Shadow Dance.

The Bloody Chamber is a book of short stories, a retelling of fairytales, written by Angela Carter. The first story, the titular "The Bloody Chamber", is a retelling of "Bluebeard." " Bluebeard " is a story I was very little familiar with, and I didn’t make the connection with "The Bloody Chamber" until after I had read Carter’s version. 
Carter’s sentences are complex and very descriptive. I was marveling over the sentences themselves as much as the story. Carter is from a different generation of writers than those I normally read. She was born in 1940 and The Bloody Chamber was written in 1979.
“The train slowed, shuddered to a halt. Lights; clank of metal; a voice declaring the name of an unknown, never-to-be-visited station; silence of the night; the rhythm of his breathing, that I should sleep with, now, for the rest of my life.” (p. 11)
There are two "Beauty and the Beast" stories, “The Courtship of Mr. Lyon” and “The Tiger’s Bride.” Although the two stories take two different approaches to the story and what the appropriate ending is. 
“Puss-in Boots” was an interesting telling of the story. “The Erl-King” read almost like a poem. I had to read it twice to fully absorb the imagery and the story. 
“The Snow Child” was a short and disturbing version of Snow White. “The Lady of the House of Love” seemed a little like Sleeping Beauty meets a vampire story. 
“The Werewolf” was a twisted version of Red Riding Hood, as was “The Company of Wolves.” Then there was “Alice-Wolf.” Which I assumed would be Alice in Wonderland, but I didn’t see many of the similarities. There was a little talk of being through the looking glass, but there were few parallels that I could find.
I think my favorites in The Bloody Chamber were the title story and “The Lady of the House of Love.”
Shadow Dance is a novel by Angela Carter. It was her first novel. I think both the novel length and the fact that it was an earlier work made it a much different reading experience than The Bloody Chamber
Shadow Dance is the story of Morris, an average guy just getting by in life. He has a wife that he doesn’t necessarily love, and a business partner named Honeybuzzard that Morris is drawn to like a magnet. 
It seems the only time Morris is happy is when he and Honey are out going through abandoned houses to find items to sell in their secondhand store. Honey is able to just do all the things that Morris wishes he could do. Pick up and leave town at the drop of a hat, sleep with any woman that catches his eye. 
Honey also has a dark side that Morris doesn’t share. Morris suspects that Honey is responsible for slicing the face of a woman that Morris had slept with once. Morris feels guilty over the woman’s disfiguring injury, and Honeybuzzard has no patience for emotions like guilt.
I am not going to analyze the story too much, I don’t think I could do it justice. I feel like this story maybe needs another read and some more thought to really analyze. 
I will give The Bloody Chamber 4 Stars and Shadow Dance 3 Stars.
I would recommend reading The Bloody Chamber one or two stories at a time over time, I think that helps to really enjoy each one. 

Friday, July 06, 2012

The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear

I just finished The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear by Walter Moers. The story was entertaining, the characters and creatures that populate Zamonia are interesting and quirky. But, the book felt like every one of its 703 pages.

It's possible that the book is long-winded because the narrator of the fictional autobiography is long-winded. I will have to read another book in the series to see if that is the case. It may also be long because it is the first book in a world-building series.

Bluebear was a very likable character and had many unbelievable adventures in the course of his 13 1/2 lives. I enjoyed the drawings of the characters and scenes from the story and the encyclopedia entries that sprinkle the narrative.

I  am going to give The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear, 3 Stars. Although it did take longer than a week to finish!