The Hiatus Ends Soon!
Wow, it’s been quite a while, hasn’t it? Sorry for the long absence. I’m working on a few ideas for changing my review format to make it easier to update* while also adding some new aspects like quotations of the week to keep things lively. Stay tuned!
*Graduate school is not super friendly when it comes to free time.
True, the splendid jewels and brocades of the kings and princes and barons were quite out of place on her homely little person, but the fairy gifts had been very useful, for though she was ordinary, she possessed health, wit, courage, charm, and cheerfulness. But because she was not beautiful, no one ever seemed to notice these other qualities, which is so often the way of the world.
The Ordinary Princess by M.M. Kaye
Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King Review
I’ve been doing this blog for over a year now! Holy crap! Let’s celebrate with a book review of something with a rather long title!
Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King by William Joyce & Laura Geringer
Obligatory Summary: In which William Joyce creates a magnificent all ages series detailing a mythology behind the iconic characters of childhood in a manner that is beautiful, timeless, humorous, dark, joyful, and illustrated all at once. Also, Santa Claus is a young dual-wielding Siberian thief-king. I’m going to go cry man-tears* now.
Opinionated Ramblings: I will start off this review by admitting that I did not know of this series’ existence until just before I went to see the new Rise of the Guardians movie. I’m not ashamed to admit my crushing ignorance in this matter**. And after being deeply impressed by both the visual shiny-ness of said movie and the overtones of folklore it gave the characters, I proceeded to get a hold of the books. My reaction to reading them can basically be summed-up in one sentence: Holy mother of all that is mythological! These books are great in a way I haven’t seen in quite a while now. And this first novel does really well in setting-up a fantastic series arc, as well as making these characters exceptionally fun to read about. Of course, it’s not all light and fluffy. There’s actually a rather large amount of delectably dark and eerily emotional subject matter here***. My inner child just will not shut the hell up about how awesome it is, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned in life, it’s that my inner child is a damn astute judge of what is awesome. Plus there are a ton of sweet illustrations by Joyce so you should really get in on that.
*A tremendous feat when you realize that I am, in fact, a woman.
**Whether I’m ashamed to admit to being a grown-up who watches children’s movies is a completely different topic.
***I can neither confirm nor deny the rumor that Katherine and Nightlight are my OTP. Although the fact that I just made that rumor up right now probably answers the question.
oh god did I try
also the reading order should be followed mostly for the first three or four books, I believe
I just. I can’t. This is so beautiful T_T
Reflections on the Magic of Writing Review
Reflections on the Magic of Writing by Diana Wynne Jones
Obligatory Summary: A collection of essays and other non-fiction pieces written by Jones throughout the span of her career, and chosen by the author herself upon discovering she would soon die of cancer*.
Opinionated Ramblings: Diana Wynne Jones released an impressive number of books during her many years of writing, and it seems rather fitting that her final published book should be a sort of retrospective collection celebrating her career as a professional author. And it also seems fitting that this book should deal very heavily with two topics that Jones was concerned with: the value of fantasy, and quality in children’s books. One of my long-time favorite essays** of hers is included in this book, and it’s almost ridiculous how relevant it still is since it was written over 20 YEARS ago. This woman called out bullshit LIKE A BOSS, and made you laugh while she did it. Kind of like how she did in her novels, as a matter of fact. Modern fantasy, for all ages, would not be the way it is today without her work, and most things that people think of as newer trends were done by Jones decades ago. She wrote about ancient gods in modern society before the Percy Jackson books and about a miserable boy living with his terrible relatives before the Harry Potter series. If you’re at all interested in the study of speculative fiction, children’s literature, teen literature, or really just writing at all, I highly recommend this book. You don’t always get the chance to peek into the inner workings of a great author’s mind, even if only a tiny bit, so I wouldn’t pass this book by if I were you.
*There’s really no way to make that sound any less depressing. This blog has just lost 10 humor points.
**”Two Kinds of Writing?" Click the link. Come on… you know you want to…
This week’s review has been sabotaged by the evil machinations of the common cold. While I battle these germs, please enjoy this re-blogged screen-cap of Nightwing. Because everybody loves Dick Grayson. It is a fact not open for debate.
Locke & Key Review
Locke & Key by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez
Obligatory Summary: After their father is violently murdered, the three Locke kids and their mother move east to live at the old family estate in their father’s hometown of Lovecraft, Massachusetts. But there’s something supernatural about Keyhouse. And there’s definitely something downright sinister in the old well out back…
Opinionated Ramblings: I want to punch Joe Hill in the face. In the best way possible, of course*. Locke & Key is so simultaneously good, funny, and depressing, it shouldn’t be able to exist. In fact, I’m pretty sure Hill and Rodriguez sold their souls to dark forces to make this bit of pure awesomeness. Joe Hill’s writing is top notch, with a plot that keeps dragging me back** while it rips out all of my emotions and keeps my brain wondering just what the hell is going to happen next. And Gabriel Rodriguez’ artwork is just prettiness everywhere, even when it’s full of blood, violence, and people crying in the ugliest fashion possible***. Before I geek-out too much, I should probably mention that Locke & Key falls into the horror, thriller, and dark fantasy genres. Stories that cross multiple genres are usually high on my favorites list. Plus, I love a story with an ending. Be it a movie, comic, novel, or TV series; anything without an end in mind will eventually outlive its welcome, no matter how awesome it was to start with****. And while Locke & Key is not over quite yet, the story is in its final arc, and I look forward to seeing these boys pull-off something absolutely wonderful. Because when you don’t have to plan for a continuing plot, the sky’s the limit. Oh, and characters tend to die in beautifully tragic ways, but still, let’s focus on the creative freedom aspect, shall we?
On a completely unrelated note: Locke & Key had a pilot episode made for a possible TV series, but it was never picked up. Luckily for some of the fans, the pilot was shown at Comic Con, and luckily for all of the fans, a trailer for it was released to the public. Muwahahaha!!!!!
*A punch to the face is the highest honor I award to writers.
**Kicking and screaming in horror, I might add.
***F%#@ pretty tears! Rodriguez will draw people sobbing their snot out when it counts. Just as it should be. (Although there are lots of pretty tears, too.)
I just posted something I’ve been wanting to write for a long time: an essay on how NOT to write comics criticism. It’s my personal hit-list of the top ten intellectual misconceptions, dumb shortcuts, and silly cliches that I encounter in otherwise intelligent book reviews, articles, and interviews.
You can read it over at my blog!
Dylan will save us all!
THIS! This essay right here is spot on. And what’s extra hilarious is many of these misconceptions and criticisms of comics as a medium were regularly applied to novels back in the 18th and 19th centuries. Irony is a bitch, man. [insert evil laugh here]
Also, why do I feel like this picture pretty much sums up my entire blog?
Thirteenth Child Review
Thirteenth Child by Patricia C. Wrede
Obligatory Summary: Francine “Eff” Rothmer’s twin brother, Lan, is a rare seventh son of a seventh son, a natural-born magician. Unfortunately, Eff herself is a thirteenth child, considered by many to be destined to bring misfortune to all around her. When Eff’s father moves the family out west to take a teaching job at a brand new university, Eff and Lan get the chance to grow-up like normal children in a place where nobody knows about them. And Eff learns more about her own hidden strengths than she ever thought possible.
Opinionated Ramblings: Oh, Patricia C. Wrede. You just can’t stay away from those alternate history fantasies, can you. And I’m quite thankful for it, because THIS BOOK IS AWESOME. Just like how Shadow and Bone managed to get my attention by being placed in a quasi-Eastern European setting, Thirteenth Child drew me in by taking place on the North American frontier*. With magic. The only thing better than a good frontier story is a good frontier story with dragon attacks. And Eff is a great heroine, practical and curious about the world around her, although I expected no less from Wrede’s work. What had really pleasantly surprised me was Lan and William, the twins’ friend. Lan was very well developed, managing to come off as both slightly spoiled by other people’s attentions and also aware of how much he’d done nothing to deserve his special treatment. William starts off like that one annoying kid who thinks he knows everything**, but as he interacts with Eff and Lan, that attitude quickly transforms to reveal a stubborn, independent kid fighting to make his own decisions under the shadow of a controlling father. And that brings us back to what really makes this book*** so readable: the characters. Most of this novel is not about epic quests or fantastic feats of magic. It’s about Eff developing as a person because of the influence of, and changes in, the people and environment around her. So if you favor epic character studies over epic battles (or even if you don’t), I totally recommend this book. You’ve probably never read anything quite like it.
*Of course, this is alternate history, so the American continents are known as North and South Columbia, the presidents are different, the Civil War happened at a different time, the presence of magical and exceptionally dangerous animals worldwide prevented the spread of humanity anywhere further from Africa than Eurasia until a few centuries before the story takes place so no Native Americans exist (you can imagine the kind of shit Wrede got for THAT premise), etc.
**You know who I mean. Everyone knows that kid. Complete ass-hat.
***And its two sequels. Yes, it’s a trilogy. Picking up this book for the first time three years ago was yet another agony I put myself through, as the series has only just now finished. Much to my satisfaction, I might add.
Bad History Jokes
Visited the Adagio Teas store in Chicago for the very first time with a friend today. It was lovely, but my first thought upon walking in was, “Oh no! The english breakfast and irish breakfast teas are right next to each other! I hope somebody here’s keeping an eye on them so they don’t start a fight.”
Yes, my thoughts are apparently written by someone who enjoys bad history jokes.