Posts Tagged ‘books’

The Circle Reforged Book 1: The Will of the Empress

Edit: Here’s another review I wrote more than a year ago, and just never posted for some reason.

You guys, I can’t believe it! I unironically enjoyed this Circleteers book! Even some of the parts with Sandry! I know, I never thought this could happen! Maybe it’s the combination of the Circleteers being back together AND them also being 18. Every book about the Circleteers (btws this is a name for them I made up since they remind me of Captain Planet) follows the same basic structure:

1) Various people think it’s impossible for the Circleteers to do things
2) They prove them wrong
3) Tris is the greatest

This book didn’t deviate from that basic structure, but now that the main characters are older, their adventures are more intricate AND often involve some form of romance, which is always a welcome distraction from the sameness of the plot. Back from their myriad travels, the Circleteers find that they have grown up and grown apart. They don’t trust each other like they used to, and they fight more. Plus, they’re kicked out of the Temple where they grew up and have to Make It On Their Own. Apparently Sandry is also a rich noblewoman, not just in their country, but also in the Russian Namorn empire to the north! Her cousin, the empress, is throwing political temper tantrums to get her to come back there, so finally Sandry agrees. The other Circleteers go too, to protect her from the empress’ tricks.

As you can probably tell from the title and the empress’ all-seeing eyes on the cover, she is the main bad guy, always scheming to get Sandry and her money to stay in Namorn through various intrigues, kidnappings, and suave economic maneuvering. Plus, she starts tempting the other Circleteers with what they want most, which turns out to be plants, money, and lesbian love.

That’s right, this book features the first gay main character in Tamora Pierce! Daja, the smith Circleteer, has a vaguely described moment of truth and falls for a hot Namorn lady. Luckily, this is not an issues novel, so no one agonizes over it constantly or freaks out. Apparently Rosethorn and Lark, the two temple ladies running the cottage they lived in, were a couple this whole time? I thought clergy were celibate in this universe? Whatever.

Awards

Best New Character: Cousin Ambros
Guy is so long-suffering and apparently way good at math.

Returning Character Honorable Mention: Zhergeobova
I don’t really understand this guy’s name, but he was the slightly-less-insane resident of the psych ward in Cold Fire that helped Daja lead all the mental patients to safety.

What I Learned: A major point in the book is the Namornese custom of kidnapping women until they agree to marry you, which is apparently totally legal and okay in all social classes in Namorn. The Empress doesn’t care since she was kidnapped twice and managed to escape, so claims that women who don’t manage to get away “deserve what they get”. Way to stick up for the sisters, Empress B. Bride kidnapping is actually a real thing, even today! Because there is such a stigma against pregnancy out of wedlock in many cultures, the woman feels obligated to marry her abductor/rapist from shame and coercion. It happens in many different places (including the U.S.–where in 1985 a guy claimed it was a custom of his ethnic group, and so was only charged with false imprisonment instead of kidnapping and rape). Kyrgyzstan of the Impossible Spelling seems to come up a lot when discussing it, where it’s estimated that half of all marriages begin in bride kidnapping!

Thing I Most Wish Was real: Badass names like “Ladyhammer”.

The Play-By-Play

Chapter one
Sandry is pouty that the other Circleteers have been away so long, and annoyed that she has to read another list of numbers from her cousin, who runs her estates in Namorn. Daja is glad to be coming home, but doesn’t want to mind-speak with Sandry because Sandry talks too much. Daja is pissed that no one told her she’s 18 so can’t live at the Temple anymore. But she doesn’t want any of Sandry’s pity charity so she buys a house of her own in the city. Sandry is pissed that Daja won’t “open her mind” which I guess means open their mystical hive mind connection. I guess I’m supposed to think Daja is being really mean, but I’m totes with her on this. Tris is even more grumpy than usual because, now that she can see things on the wind, it’s hard to STOP so she wears bitchin sunglasses all the time to block it. Tris doesn’t want chump charity either, and insists on being Daja’s housekeeper. Briar keeps vaguely alluding to some horribleness that befell him and Rosethorn sometime after the events in Street Magic. It’s so vague and weird that I check multiple times to make sure I haven’t skipped a book. No one wants to resume their mystical connection, because they all have SECRETS. Except Sandry, who continues being pouty.

Chapter two
Briar is apparently seducing everything female, except the other Circleteers. Tris says she wants to go to Lightsbride, Mage University, because she doesn’t want to use her weather powers for war. She’s going to go under a fake name so no one will know about her freaky secret powers!! I really hope this is what happens in the sequel! Secret identity Tris adventures sound great! Everyone grumbles about having to go on another field trip to Namorn! Tris sees on the wind that a dam upriver has broken just as they are crossing the river! She hurries everyone across, but they don’t listen to her and grumble, so she threatens to throw lightning at them, saving their lives. Instead of being grateful and apologizing for being jerks to her, they blame her. Tris, you need to get your own book ASAP! Read the rest of this entry »

The Circle Opens Book 4: Shatterglass

Edit: Do you remember like two years ago when I was rereading all the Tamora Pierce books that were, like, my life in middle school? Me neither, but apparently that was totally something that happened. I finished reviews for a bunch of books too, that for some reason I never posted. I found them in my drafts folder today, so here they are! In case you were waiting on the edge of your seat to see how this series ended. Sorry about that.

Woo!! Powered through The Circle Opens series! [Edit: LOL] Clearly I like the Circleteers way better when they are either separate or older. Probably both! Of course, I liked this book the best since it’s about Tris, my favorite Circleteer of them all. Here are some reasons why she is awesome: 1) Weather magic=clearly the best magic, 2) she likes books, 3) she is generally annoyed at others, which is a welcome relief from the other suspiciously cheerful Circleteers, and 4) fat kid solidarity. Luckily Tamora Pierce didn’t harp too much on how Tris is The Fat One in this book. The cover art at least doesn’t seem to think it’s that bad:

For the first time ever, I think I like the less melodramatic cover on the left

Tris and her teacher, the fabulous Niko, are traveling far to the South in a city that has a ton of glassblowers and also a rigid caste system. Tris witnesses an inept journeyman glassblower magically create a living glass dragon by accident! And then have a tantrum about how NO HE DOESN’T HAVE MAGIC GO AWAY. Keth is probably the most interesting Circleteer student-mage of the series, because he’s at least 20! Luckily, Tris is the bossiest person in all of Circleteer-land so this is not really a problem. The main conflict in this book is a lot like Magic Steps (Book 1) in that there is a crazy murderer loose in the city and only Tris and Keth can bring him/her to justice! Unlike in Book 1, we never get anything from the murderer’s point of view, meaning his identity remains a mystery until the very end! Good job, Tamora Pierce, you have successfully navigated the crime/mystery genre! Instead, we occasionally get passages from the point of view of Dema, police mage who, damn it, is going to CLEAN UP THIS CITY no matter what it takes! He reminded me a lot of a less dead Wulfric Snaptrap and less seedy Sam Vimes. Plus, Tris has TWO adorable animal companions, who somehow don’t even annoy me at all!

Awards

Best New Character: Dema, the police mage!
Dema is from the First Class, which apparently means he is super noble and takes it as his role to protect the lesser classes. Since the murderer is going after street dancing girls, no one else seems to think it’s a problem, but he will not rest until the killer is stopped! Even if it means pissing off all of the city’s priests, who hate justice. The only thing missing was for him to constantly mutter about how he was too old for this.

Returning Character Honorable Mention: Nikolaren Goldeye!
Tris’ teacher is ALL ABOUT wearing the fanciest clothes possible and pretty much owning everyone at magic, which sounds like my dream job. He’s basically Numair from the Immortals series, without all that troubling pedophilia. Thanks for not making a pass at Tris, Niko! Since you’re in a Tamora Pierce book, I know it’s a constant danger you must guard against.

Tris’ Improvement Score: +0%=100/100
Oh, Tris. Never change.

Thing I Most Wish Was Real: Pet Winds
So with Tris’ weather magic, she can basically control winds. She uses them for all kinds of awesome things, most noticeably as personal, portable air conditioning in the hot climates, and one time to fly her up a flight of stairs. My goals in life include flying and never having to sweat again, so I am psyched about both.

The Play-by-Play

Chapter one
Tris is exploring Tharios! She asks a garbage collector for directions, and the girl yells at her because she’s one of the Untouchables, a hated caste who handle gross things. You’re supposed to just ignore them! Tris thinks this is bullshit. She stumbles upon a glassblower who clears doesn’t know what he’s doing! He accidentally creates a magical glass dragon, and then tries to kill it! Tris saves the glass dragon and yells at the guy for not controlling his magic. The guy yells back that he has no magic and then breaks some things. Keth the glassblower backstory: he used to be a great glassblower whom everyone loved, but then he was struck by lightning and now he can’t do it anymore without screwing up! Boo hoo! His family kicked him out and now he lives with his glassblowing cousin trying desperately to regain his lost talent. Dema, police mage, is haunted by the ghosts of murdered dancing girls, demanding he find their killer!! Their bodies are always strangled and left dramatically in public places! Apparently Tharios is terrified of death and uncleanliness and the priests have to purify every place a body was found ASAP, which makes it impossible to dust for prints or whatever magical detectives do. He is super annoyed! Read the rest of this entry »

Challenged Books: Scary Stories Series

I was both happy and a little nervous to see the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark Series on the 2012 Banned and Challenged Book list, because it meant I would have to revisit my childhood fear. These books are probably the reason I didn’t get a full night’s sleep for most of 1994.

Damn you, Alvin Schwartz!

Damn you, Alvin Schwartz!

But let’s be real, most of the credit for this goes to Stephen Gammell, who filled these books with drawings like this:

This was the exact moment my innocence died

This was the exact moment my innocence died

Oh my god were these books terrifying. Which of course meant that no one I knew could stop reading them. To be fair, not all of them end in grizzly ghost-death.

Sometimes there are also spiders.

Sometimes there are also spiders.

Yeah, these are definitely not appropriate for every kid (or every adult). Luckily there are plenty less-soul-scarring books in the library for them to read. Eventually, though, everyone has to confront their fears, and I reread all three of these books, turning the pages with trepidation at what might be waiting for me.

BOO!

BOO!

I realize now that the stories aren’t really that bad. A lot of times the protagonists live after something vaguely spooky or unsettling happens to them. Really in a lot of cases the pants-wetting terror of the illustrations seems a little over-the-top compared to the words. It makes me wonder how these books would do if Stephen Gammell’s mad genius was taken out. Probably they would never be challenged… but also a lot fewer kids would want to read them.

Previously: Challenged Books: The Ones I’ve Already Read
Next: Captain Underpants!

Challenged Books: The Ones I’ve Read Already

So every year I try to read everything on the Banned and Challenged Books list when the ALA puts it out. My dream is that one year the list will come out and I’ll have read every book on there already. This year I’m at 60%, so it’s not impossible. I’m going to be reading the four I never have and doing a breakdown as usual, but first I thought I’d cover the ones I have read.

2) The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

This book is really funny, and also really sweet and meaningful at the same time. It’s full of cool drawings since the main character is a budding artist, but I’m not very familiar with those because I listened to the audiobook which was the best audiobook ever. It’s read by the author, and basically like he’s having a casual, semi-autobiographical conversation with you about what life on the reservation is like and how much people suck sometimes and how cool people are other times. I guess if I think hard about it I can remember some parts that had violence and sexuality which maybe someone might find objectionable, but it’s silly to judge a book based on small incidents taken out of context. This story is about so much more than that, and it’s real and beautiful and amazing. I’ve asked three separate librarians if they have any audiobook recommendations for me and all three, separately, immediately suggested this one. It made me kind of sad that I’ve already listened to it and that pleasure is behind me.

3) Thirteen Reasons Why

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Another amazing audiobook!! It’s weird that my two favorite audiobooks ever are both on this list right next to each other. This story isn’t for everyone: it’s sad and real, but also beautifully written (and performed) and a clever premise. It’s about a boy who gets a package in the mail of 13 cassette tapes, recorded by a classmate who has recently committed suicide. Over the tapes she explains how she came to that point, and each tape is devoted to a specific person or incident. The narration alternates between what she says on the tapes to what the boy listening to them is thinking and doing, and if you get the audiobook there are two different voice actors reading these parts, so it really seems like a conversation sometimes. It’s powerful, listening to it like that, and sad. Just like how people are driven to commit suicide in reality. Taking away the book won’t take away that.

4) Fifty Shades of Grey

You know I've got this one down

You know I’ve got this one down

Yeah, I feel you, book challengers. I would be happy if no one ever read this book again based on its terrible, terrible writing, plot, characters, gender roles, themes, and the way it has somehow made bad fanfiction less shameful. If only ELJames could slither back into the bowels of the Internet from whence she came! But, as long as she’s out here in the sunlight with the rest of us, we might as well have fun laughing at how terrible this is. Occasionally with Phineas and Ferb guest appearances because I can’t help myself.

5) And Tango Makes Three

And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson

And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson

A children’s book based on the true story of two male penguins raising an egg/chick together. Come on, guys, if we’re going to be offended by children’s penguins, I direct your attention to this terrible 90s monstrosity. I’m not offended by it because of it’s depressing girl-as-commodity gender roles, but because its anthropomorphic animated penguins are terrifying. Speaking of terrifying…

8) Scary Stories to Read in the Dark Series by Alvin Schwartz

We'll talk about this nightmare tomorrow

We’ll talk about this nightmare tomorrow

10) Beloved

Beloved by Toni Morrison

Beloved by Toni Morrison

Yeah, book challengers, you’re right. It’s too bad slavery has to be such violent and explicit subject matter. But then, I could just make that sentence “It’s too bad slavery has to be”. I read this book in 12th grade English and found it really, really creepy, mixed with the usual tinge of annoyance that comes with reading something and writing too many essays about it. I don’t know what would happen if I read it again just to read it. Probably reincarnated murdered babies is still unsettling, though. As it should be.

Previously: 2012 List
Next: Stephen Gammell still haunts my nightmares, but I forgive him

2013 Plans

I am not really a big fan of resolutions, I think because most of the time they are so vague. This is probably the fifth year I’ve thought “I should really eat more vegetables” but then after a week of roasted broccoli and fancy salads I forget to make a special effort. For resolutions to work, at least for me, they have to be more specific, explicitly stating the goal and how it’s going to be achieved. That’s why my only achieved new year’s resolution ever, the January Letter Writing Project, was successful at all: there was a clear goal and a clear to-do list to achieve it. Write a letter every day for a month. Also, the goal was achievable, at least for me, who doesn’t find writing letters to be particularly onerous. It’s too easy to burn out by setting yourself personally unreachable goals. I’d like to say that I’m going to write ten pages every day until my final draft is done, but you know that’s not going to happen, and certainly not well. Why set yourself up for failure? So this year I’m laying down some goals with actual numbers and time lines involved in the hopes that I won’t just forget about it in a week or give up because I have unrealistic expectations.

1. Make at least one recipe from each of our cookbooks

This is the one I’m most excited about! We have a whole shelf of cookbooks (about 38, by my count), and some of them we received as gifts and have maybe never even opened. This project will not only hopefully help me discover good recipes we already own, but maybe will also help me weed some of them that we don’t need. So basically I am hosting a reality show in my kitchen where each week I put a different book up to an arbitrary test. Will they survive? Or be sentenced to library donation? I’m sure I’ll update you dramatically as I go. I only have to do like three a month to get through them all, so I’m not really worried about this one, although some of the books will be easier to accomplish than others. Like Steven’s ancient Roman cookbooks? It’s possible I will have to substitute something for dormouse. Also one of them may be a joke cookbook by Sir Terry Pratchett, but whatever, go big or go home.

2. Read 200 Books

I struggled deciding what number to set myself. In my journal when I wrote these out a month ago I actually vowed 300, but this morning that seems a little far-fetched. According to my goodreads account, my most prolific reading year was 2011, when I read just short at 193 books. Okay, before that I wasn’t really keeping careful track, but still. In 2012 I only managed 108, so my 2013 goal is basically twice as much reading. 200 is still 3-4 books a week and 16-17 books a month. Granted, I can whip through children’s, non-fiction, or graphic novels pretty quick, but that’s still a lot of reading. I’m confident that this one can be done, but I’m not sure if it will.

3. Knock Off At Least 1 State from My Map

So far I have yet to visit the country's juicy center

Some day, Nebraska

As Brian pointed out, West Virginia would probably be the easiest to accomplish since it’s only 3 hours away, but who knows what the year will bring?? Maybe I will take an Alaskan cruise!! You never know.

4. Lift weights at least once a week

I’ve kind of been doing this anyway, so listing it as a resolution might be cheating. Originally I’d written, “Work my way up to lifting TWICE AS MUCH!!!!” but I’m not really sure if that’s even possible or how. I’m not very knowledgeable about weight lifting so I will probably just see how it goes rather than set potentially impossible and dangerous goals.

5. Knit a cardigan

Apparently my brother has a New Year’s Resolution to Look More Like Mr. Rogers while still being swathed only in obnoxious goldenrod. Finding the right color yarn might be tricky, but I’ve already found a free pattern on Ravelry, a knitting and crochet social networking site I discovered last year. I know, I joined to make fun of the concept too, but then it quickly seduced me with its free patterns and tutorials and being able to brag about my knitting accomplishments. Sigh.

Where ARE my stitches at?

You can laugh all you want. I still kind of do

6. Send out my entire stash of postcards

I can’t entirely abandon my annual show of solidarity with the USPS. Except this time I’m giving myself an entire year since I have more than a month’s worth of postcards.

7. SUPER SECRET SEVENTH RESOLUTION

Unfortunately, I can’t reveal my super secret seventh resolution yet, although I hope that before the end of the year (okay, probably 12/31/13 but still) I will be able to write a dramatic, picture-filled blog post about how I kicked its ass. I am already hard at work to achieving it, but I know it will take pretty much the whole year, if it’s achievable at all.

Wait, what am I saying, GO BIG OR GO HOME, PLADD. Anything is possible with a library card!

2012 Bonus Book List: The Pretty

I felt kind of bad looking through my Goodreads account just for bad covers when there were so many nice ones this year too, so I thought I would show you those too:

A Mind of Its Own: A Cultural History of the Penis by David M. Friedman

Is this not just the PERFECT cover design for this subject? From the fancy olde timey guy to the placement of the O. Awesome.

Snuff by Sir Terry Pratchett

His ship is sinking and he still has a cigar in his mouth. I love it.

Between Two Ends by David Ward

I read this book solely because the cover was so cool looking! I ended up giving it only two stars. It was alright, but didn’t live up to the hype of its cover.

The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy

The illustrations in this one in general were really detailed and good. The cover also continues around to the back, which I like.

The Invisible Gorilla by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons

Non-fiction books seemed to have impressed me more in general this year, especially in the cover department. Maybe I expect less.

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

Creeeeeepy

Kat, Incorrigible by Stephanie Burgis

This is another book like Jane Austen except everyone has magic, this time for middle grades. I think the cover fits the tone pretty perfectly.

Leftovers by Tom Perrotta

One day a bunch of people all over the world just disappear, and those that are left wonder what the heck happened. Thought it would be a Left Behind knockoff, but actually wasn’t religious at all.

Excited to start reading in 2013!

The Good
2012: The Bad
2012: The Ugly

2012 Book List: The Ugly

One of my favorite times of year!! The time when I look back at all the books I read and judge them shamelessly by their covers!! Some of these will be familiar from The Good and The Bad lists, because ugliness isn’t an indicator of quality.

Reluctantly Alice by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

I read this whole series this year, and a lot of them were published in the 80s and 90s, which were like the golden years for terrible children’s book covers like this where they went for illustrating a scene in the book. Just so we’re clear, that’s the middle school bully trying to beat her up, not a cross-country trucker.

Alice on the Outside by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

Even when Alice is in a sexy situation instead of a scary one, it’s just as awk and ugly.

Flamingo Rising by Larry Baker

This book was on my Good list, but I really think they could have designed a better cover. The book is full of really cool visuals! He lives at a drive-in movie theater with a neon sign the size of a building, come on.

Virgin Vegan Valentine by Carolyn Mackler

I feel awkward staring at this girls chest in her boring tank top.

Things I’ve Learned From Girls Who Dumped Me

This cover is okay, but the book was pretty funny, so I wish it was better.

Outrageously Alice by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

Alice is invited to a lingerie-themed bridal shower. I know, I was disappointed too

Never Sit Down In a Hoop Skirt and Other Things I Learned in Southern Belle Hell by Crickett Rumley

I’ve fallen down in a hoop skirt before, and that is not what it looks like.

Love*Com Volume 3 by Aya Nakahara

AH GOBLINS!

The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler

I actually really like this concept: two 90s kids get magical access to their future facebook profiles and then try to change their lives to “fix” what they see.

The Agony of Alice by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

That is bad-acting mopey, AT BEST. I was promised agony.

Heavenly Hijinks by Ashley Ladd

I almost didn’t put this on here, because it does get you perfectly prepared for what you are about to read. But, come on, he’s a sexy lion man.

The Good
2012: The Bad
2012 Bonus: The Pretty

2012 Book List: The Bad

Merry Christmas! I’m writing this from the past! Ooooh!

I don’t have as many books on my The Bad list as last year, maybe because James and I kind of fell behind at our book club.

Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James

If I try to succinctly tell you how much I hated this book, it will just be a scream of inarticulate rage, so you should probably just check out my tumblr on the subject. The writing? The plotting? The characters? The terrible gender dynamics? All will be mocked in time. But even updating two or three times a day, it’s still going to take a while to get out all my hate on this subject.

Fifty Shades Darker by E. L. James

Blah blah blah self-insert Twilight fanfic

Fifty Shades Freed by E. L. James

Reading this was hard because I knew that some people weren’t immediately repulsed by Christian Grey and the way his internal monologue is indistinguishable from a serial killer’s. That’s probably why my response was to hate-vomit all over tumblr.

We’ll Be Here for the Rest of Our Lives by Paul Shaffer

We talked about why this one sucked before–still don’t want to ban it, though.

Boyfriends with Girlfriends by Alex Sanchez

This book had good intentions, about showcasing different types of relationships and navigating the dating scene when you’re not sure about your sexuality. Too bad every page was just a conversation pulled straight from a handbook about How To Talk To Troubled Teens.

Heavenly Hijinks by Ashley Ladd

The constellation Leo takes human form to seduce a hot lady psychic. You can pretty much judge everything about this book by its cover.

I either read fewer terrible books this year, or just got less picky.

The Good
2012: The Ugly
2012 Bonus: The Pretty

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