Monday, May 20, 2013

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

I  will be brave, thought Coraline. No, I am brave.

Neil Gaiman will soon be going on his "Last US Book Tour" and one of his stops will be at the Dallas Museum of Art. (Which means I get to see him in person!) I was really excited when I found out about this and immediately set out to read as many of his books as I could manage. After all, I have a tendency to wait until the week before to read books by the authors I'm going to see at a convention, so I figured I would head that bad habit off by starting now.

As you may or may not know, I've already read Stardust and am happily exposed to Neil Gaiman via his involvement with my favorite sci-fi, Doctor Who. I adore him and deeply admire his creativity. I was more than eager to read this work and I wasn't disappointed. (A little creeped out, though? Definitely.)

When Coraline and her parents move into their new home, Coraline finds a new place to explore and discover. She loves to explore. It eases the boredom of being an only child in a new and unfamiliar place. In her explorations in and around the house, Coraline meets some strange women next door, an odd old man, a black cat, and discovers a door in her home that leads to nowhere.

This last fact is only slightly true. It isn't long before Coraline is left alone in the house and finds that the door does, in fact, lead somewhere; somewhere that is also nowhere. And through that door, she discovers a world that is very much like her own, at first glance, though slightly twisted. Her mother and father are there, only they have button eyes. The man upstairs owns singing rats instead of musical mice, and the women next door perform in productions for the many dogs they still own.

When Coraline realizes this place is very dark and unhappy, she tries to escape back to her own home, but her Other Mother has captured her real parents. Now it's up to Coraline to face her and win them back.

Coraline is a beautifully constructed novel about a girl learning that she can conquer any obstacle she faces. Coraline is a strong character who is restless and adventurous, like many young girls, and though she is scared of the challenge ahead of her, is willing to face it if it will save the parents she loves so dearly. It takes all of her willpower and ingenuity to conquer her foe, but Coraline is willing to take the risk.

I really enjoyed this book. It was just as creative as I was expecting (something I greatly admire, as stated before) and inspirational. It's definitely creepy and will make you want to keep a night light on for the next few nights, but a novel that's absolutely worth reading.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Coraline sighed. "You really don't understand, do you?" she said. "I don't want whatever I want. Nobody does. Not really. What kind of fun would it be if I just got everything I ever wanted? Just like that, and it didn't mean anything. What then?"

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Princess Bride by William Goldman

"I am your Prince and you will marry me," Humperdinck said.
Buttercup whispered, "I am your servant and I refuse."
"I am your Prince and you cannot refuse."
"I am your loyal servant and I just did."
"Refusal means death."
"Kill me then."

I know very few people who aren't deeply familiar with the movie adaptation of the Princess Bride. I know it was my sister's favorite when we were growing up (I'm pretty certain it still is) and we watched it often. I was the little girl curled up next to her dad doing her very best to burrow into his side as the R.O.U.S (Rodents of Unusual Size) made their appearance. It was just too much for my little eyes, even as it enchanted my older sister's.

When Prince Humperdinck decides he will have Buttercup marry him, she refuses. After all, Westley, the love of her life, is in America making his fortune and will return to marry him herself. But when she gets news of his death at the hands of pirates, she finds herself at a loss. Heartbroken and distraught, she finally gives into Humperdinck's demands. After all, she would never love again.

That was before she was kidnapped. It isn't long after their courtship begins that Buttercup is whisked away by three men plotting to kill her. They take her to Guilder, a neighboring country, hoping to pin it on them and start a war between that country and her own Florin. However, it isn't long into this journey that her kidnappers realize they are being pursued by a man in black. Picking them off one by one, he slowly makes his way toward saving her. Could this be her new groom, Prince Humperdinck, or could it be someone far more welcome to her?

The way this story is presented by its author is part of the reason it is so wonderful. It's not just a straightforward fairytale. No, Goldman presents it as if he's simply writing an adaptation: a "good parts" adaptation of a story that was much longer. Of course, the "original Florinese manuscript" doesn't exist, but it was a genius move on his part. He fills bits of the story with bits of another fictitious tale about how he got his hands on the book, so that it's practically two stories in one. The second story weaving through the first and adding little bits to it so that it feels both natural and intentionally scripted.

I've never read another novel written this way and I would be deeply surprised if there is anyone who could do it nearly as well as Goldman has.

This was a fabulous book and one I am beyond happy to have had the chance to read. I look forward to reading it many times in the years to come.

Postscript: There is one thing I would like to note. The Princess Bride is near impossible to find in its original edition. You're most likely to find it in its 50th Anniversary edition or (more unlikely) its 25th.  Because of this, it should be noted that you DO NOT want to read the 50th Anniversary Introduction first, unless you have already read the book and its extension, "Buttercup's Baby." Here is the way best order in which to read it (according to myself, as well as other readers):

-Introduction to the 25th Anniversary Edition
-The Princess Bride
-Buttercup's Baby: An Explanation
-Buttercup's Baby, Chapter One: Fezzik Dies
-Introduction to the 30th Anniversary Edition

This may sound a bit strange, but trust me. This is the order in which you want to read it.

Rating: ~★★★★★~

But I also have to say, for the umpty-umpth time, that life isn't fair. It's just fairer than death, that's all.

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Wizard Heir by Cinda Williams Chima (The Heir Chronicles, #2)

"Why do you think it was your fault?" Nick asked gently.
"They were trying to help me. If it hadn't been for me, they would still be alive."
"Perhaps that was their choice, not yours."

[Click here to see my review of book 1: The Warrior Heir]

I've done it again. I've managed read another sequel before reading the first book. If any amount of *headdesk*-ing could fix this, I would be all over that. I hate reading sequels before the original! I didn't even realize it until after I finished it and was trying to figure out if there were more. Well, now I'm on the waiting list for the first book at the library. Here's to hoping I get it soon!

Seph has always known that he was a wizard. Raised by a sorcerer, he was taught all about the Weir guilds. He learned about sorcerers, enchanters, warriors, and seers. However, he never learned nearly as much as he wanted about his own class. His foster mother, Genevieve, didn't trust them. The same went for nearly all of those in one of the "lesser" guilds. Wizards are known for their treachery and their want of power.

This lack of knowledge about his heritage has also left Seph with another sever disadvantage: lack of control. He is shuffled around from school to school after each "incident" that seems to follow him. This is what finally lands Seph in the Havens, a boy's school for troubled cases. At first, Seph is almost excited when he learns that his headmaster is also a wizard and many of the other students are Weir as well, but it isn't long before Seph gets on the headmaster's bad side.

Secluded from all other society, Seph has to wage a battle against a force that's much more skilled than himself and darker than he could have anticipated. The headmaster becomes a powerful enemy that Seph is deeply unequipped to battle. And worse- his evil isn't contained to the Havens. No, the headmaster and his accomplices have much bigger plans than that.

Even though my enthusiasm for this book was dampened upon the realization that it wasn't the first book in the series, it didn't change how deeply I enjoyed it. Who doesn't love a good story combined with powerful magic? It has everything you could want in a good, magical fantasy. The darkness is deep and the stakes are high. I was on the edge of my seat throughout and could hardly put it down.

I absolutely can't wait to read The Wizard Heir's prequel, as well as any and all sequels Cinda Williams Chima has in store afterward.

Rating: ★★★★★

He paused, as if expecting a reaction, but Seph said nothing. He'd always found that he learned more if he kept quiet.

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Lost Code by Kevin Emerson (The Atlanteans, #1)

The morning after I arrived in Eden, I drowned for the first time.

I got my hands on The Lost Code via a contest on Authors are ROCKSTARS!, which is a podcast that interviews YA authors. I absolutely love listening to their podcasts and following their blog, so I was quite excited when they had a contest for a signed ARC of this book. I'm sure I don't have to tell you I won. Otherwise, I wouldn't have started out this post with that story.

When Owen ends up at a summer camp that he would really rather not have come to, he assumes he's just going to have to deal with his misfortune and tough it out. That was before he drowned. Owen spent ten minutes at the bottom of the lake floor, surrounded by plastic plants meant to reflect the plant life of old, looking up at the dome that kept the toxic ozone from burning them all as badly as those nomads that had the misfortune of being outside one of the seven domes placed around the world.

Owen's drowning ought to have killed him. Instead, he wakes only to discover new gifts that he could never have imagined and new friends that have found similar gifts of their own. Overnight, Owen grows in confidence and begins to relish in his newfound friendship. He had never known a companionship like the one he shares with others like him, but it doesn't last long.

Things aren't at all what they seem in Camp Eden. The more Owen learns, the more suspicious he becomes- and for good reason. Someone is on to their secret and if he doesn't figure out a way to save each of them, they'll all go down together.

I'm usually not a big fan of the post apocalyptic themes that lean heavily on "We ruined the world!" It feels overdone and starts to great on the nerves after a bit. However, I really enjoyed the way Emerson handled this one. It wasn't nearly as straightforward are I had first believed it: he made it complex without becoming incoherent. I really liked the protagonist and his somewhat awkward relationship with Lilly, as well as the other campers. He starts out not really knowing his place and we get to watch as he slowly morphs into the hero everyone's looking for. He still has a lot of growing to do, but that's why it's a series!

This book definitely caught my attention and I look forward to seeing where the author goes with it. It could easily go both ways, but Emerson sees to have a handle on the mythos he's created and I'm definitely eager to see more.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

My mouth was open, my tongue pushing around against a stream of liquid pouring in, but not reaching my lungs. My cheeks were expanding and contracting, creating the flow. I could feel the water passing into my throat, then pouring out of me in currents, causing movement on the sides of my neck. Fluttering, like the light waving of fingers. I felt there, felt the wounds . . .
That they weren't wounds at all. They were--
Gills.