About Mulberry St.

The Mulberry St. Blog is a review and writing blog. I review mostly fiction/science fiction/fantasy sorts of books, with the exception of the occasional YA or nonfiction book. The blog is updated daily, excluding Mondays.

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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Quick Review: The Floating Islands, Bumped, Ted Chiang

Some books aren't meant to have full reviews. It may be that they weren't finished, or they're easily summarried in a few sentences. Maybe the time just isn't there or the book just isn't worth it. That's why quick reviews. A quick synopsis of recently read books that I just don't have the time or maybe the willpower to give a full review. Usually, it'll be more than one book. This week, I've chosen the books that I've read most recently: The Floating Islands, Bumped, and Stories of Your Life and Others

The Floating Islands Bumped (Bumped, #1) Stories of Your Life: and Others

The Floating Islands by Rachel Neumeier
The Floating Islands will forever remain a DNF book for me. It was, for me, all at once lovely and disappointing. You may have noticed from my previous posts that I think the writing is a big deal. It can make or break a book, and in this case, it broke it. I absolutely loved the world that the author created. I was reminded a bit of a scene in Avatar where they go to visit those mountains or whatever that was. (It's been a long time, sorry.) The world was excellently and expertly created, and I loved every detail of it. However, the story itself fell a little flat. There was nothing in it for me to feel for the characters. They were both brats, although that may be a little unfair considering Trei's parents and everyone he knew had just died. I think if I had finished this book, I could find myself very much enjoying it. I just couldn't get very far in it. Maybe I'm just in a book slump or something. Anyway, I would neither recommend nor not recommend the book. I say give it a try, just don't have great expectations for it. It might not disappoint, but it might not live up to them, either.

Bumped by Megan Cafferty
Bumped was an experimental read. I have never really enjoyed satire because I tend to take it too seriously. So when I started reading bumped, I went in with no expectations. The subject is a rocky one for me - teen pregnancy, especially where I firmly believe in no sex before marriage. Still, I found the book entertaining. The switching of perspectives between Harmony and Melody was interesting, especially when the two girls looked at the world is such different ways. I'm not sure that I appreciated the author's representation of Harmony and Goodside, mostly because it hit so close to home. It is a completely inaccurate representation of Christians, and I'm not sure how to respond to it. I know that the book is satire, and it therefore walks what I would call a very fine line. Now don't think I'm feeling offended or upset by it, I simply am not sure how much of it is truly satire when there ARE "christian" cults that behave that way and I sincerely feel for the people who are subject to it. In any case, back to the book itself. The entire story was about choices and identity and the two subjects are handled very well. Both girls go back to their lives with a different mindset and a different view of how they live. Not that they suddenly are against their society's methods or ways, but they simply have realized that they had a choice they did not have before. The lingo quickly gets tiring, but it's not enough to ruin the book. Definitely an interesting look at a future not so far from being possible. Still haven't decided if I'll read the sequel or not. The cliffhanger ending does not help.

Stories of Your Life And Others by Ted Chiang
This book is a masterpiece of science fiction, as far as I am concerned The writing is gorgeous. It's eight short science fiction stories that may have just reaffirmed my love of science fiction. I don't read sci fi very often, mostly because I don't spend a lot of time around those sections of the local library/bookstore and I don't know enough people who read it to know the right books to read. I stumbled across this one during my short story obsessive phase - a phase that I am still in, I might add - and I heard only great things about it. The book certainly does not disappoint. Ted Chiang is a fantastic author. He knows how to weave a story within a few short pages. The stories in this anthology are all about discovery of oneself and one's universe. From the inside flap: ". . .What if men bult a tower from Earth to Heaven - and broke through Heaven's other side? What if we discovered that the fundamentals of mathematics were arbitrary and inconsistent? What if there were a science of naming things that calls life into being from inanimate matter? What if exposure to an alien language forever changed our perception of time? . . ." Chiang calls us to our own realities within another reality. He poses real questions that are outside our ability to fathom and answers them with more questions, but he does so with the ease and comfort of having actually answered those questions. He's a science fiction genius, if I may be permitted to say so. This is not a book for science fiction fans to miss.
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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Life of a Book

I had another training meeting at my job today. Never mind the fact that I've been working there for a month, but I digress. During the training meeting, one of the managers offhandedly mentioned the life of a book. She described it as the process of a book travelling from featured table to the new fiction tables, to the hardcover features, to the paperback fiction shelves. She said a book's life is all about its chance to make it to the bestsellers list. It also only has about a month to make it to the bestsellers list. Some books are luckier than others. Most books leave the hardcover shelves and get close to a year before they are in paperback.

It got me thinking about books and the life of a book. I spend hours pouring over the stuff I write, making sure that my sentences are worded in a way that will convey the exact amount and type of emotion I want them to, keeping track of my "fall back words" like always, such, however, and so on. Writing is a process. I admit, I'm a bit of a perfectionist. Still, when it comes down to it, if we're offering our words to millions, we want them to be perfect. Or we risk being the subject of a joke. To think that those hours and weeks and months all amount to a month on a shelf; one month between publishing date and the time its deemed unfit to be on the shelves. It's a little bit depressing. Maybe the truth here is a little bit exaggerated, but it really isn't by much. Your life's work can be done with in a month just because it wasn't noticed by the right person at the right time.

That got me thinking again. How many really good books are out there that are underestimated, unknown, or forgotten? How many books didn't make it to the bestseller's list in the given month and were shelved away with the rest of them - good and bad - as a result? Everyone loves the underdog. Its why we cheer when the little team wins - even when we were rooting for the other side. The case with books is the same. Why do you think people are obsessed with bestsellers? They once were the underdog and they've found their place in the world. Most breakout successes - the ones that make it within it's original month lifetime - are books written by well-known authors or the second, third, fourth in a series. The really good ones are probably in paperback before they're noticed.

I want to commit to a book-a-week type of thing, where I post an underrated or unknown novel and leave it up to you to decide if it's truly underrated or if its unknown for a very good reason. Every week, a new book. It can't be well known, it cant be on the bestseller's list, and it certainly cannot be the subject of many a book reviewer's blogs. It can be old or new, fiction or nonfiction.I can't promise to have read it; I'm a busy person. I'll give a brief synopsis and my thoughts. If I have free time, I will read it and review it myself. No promises, though.

- - -

For this week, I'd like to mention The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor.

The Looking Glass Wars (The Looking Glass Wars, #1)

First published in September 2004, this book is still very largely unknown, although within the circles where its know, its a like it or hate it kind of book. The Looking Glass Wars is a re-imagining of Alice's Adventures In Wonderland/Through The Looking Glass where "Alice" is really "Alyss," a girl who had lost her way. In the story, the Alice's Adventures In Wonderland we know was Charles Dodgson's - Lewis Carroll's - interpretation of a wild and mad adventure of a young girl who was merely an orphan in a rough world. Alice purists tend to not be fans of this book, and it's not hard to see why. Everything about this book is a grand misinterpreted adventure of the original, except that within The Looking Glass Wars, the original book is a mad misinterpretation of the real story. I think its wonderfully clever. I love the original story, but I love this one, too. Here, imagination reigns. Here, there are yearly parades for inventors and if the inventors are lucky, their invention is sent through the looking glass to our world. Where did you think the idea of a hula hoop came from? Imagination is the most important thing a person owns, and the book is all about its dangers and gifts. As someone writing on a blog named after a book all about imagination, you know what my opinion is on that. I found it to be a fantastic book. Enjoy it on its own merit. Forget for a minute about the original story and all its merits and enjoy this one in its fantastic adventures with Queendoms and chessboard deserts. 

Now it's time for you to decide, underrated or better left unknown?
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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Confessions: "New" Books

I have decided to make "Confessions" a weekly post where I just rant or rave or discuss or something my thoughts about the literary world. Comments are encouraged. 

Yesterday, I mentioned that there is a difference between getting a "new" book from the library and getting a new book from the bookstore. There is a very real difference between these two for me, and I'd like to discuss it with you today.

Most of the books I read come from the library. I just don't have the money to spend on books like I wish I did, and the local library has a very large amount of the books I would like to read. Natural solution, get books from the library. As I continue to check books out of the library, I find that there is a very distinct feel that I get from a library book that I don't get from a store-bought book. Library books are old and worn, and they are certainly well-loved. I often find the cheetoh-print pages in my books, although I don't know what that says about the books I like to read. They're usually donated, which means you get a wide variety of books from "donated by Barnes & Noble Booksellers" to "property of the U.S. Air Force" to "to my darling antoinette...". With a library book, you never know what you're going to get.

Occasionally, I splurge and buy a few books from the bookstore (see: yesterday's post). This books are new and fresh. The pages are crisp, they've never been read. This book belongs to me. I made the very calculated decision to purchase it and I don't in the slightest regret my decision at this point. The covers are beautifully new and not covered by the annoying plastic that keeps me from using the book flaps on a hardcover as bookmarks. Chances are high that no one has ever read - or loved - this particular copy of this particular book, and I'm very ok with that.

There are great things about both options. Somehow, though, I find myself having a hard time reading the books I've checked out of the library. The only thing I've given up for those books is a bit of gas and some free time. I get them for three weeks; I read books in three hours on a good day. They're not mine, and I can just check them out again. I don't need to read them and they didn't cost me anything. I don't want to read them any less, I just don't have the motivation to read them. With a book I purchased, I feel like its a waste if I don't read it. I'd spend hours with them and then read them again just because I can.

This is where I wonder: What is wrong with me? Even if I bought a used book - and I have done it before, though there aren't many used bookstores where I live - the case would be different. I'd still see it as I see a new book. At this point in time I have a stack of about 8 books in my living room that I checked out from the library two and a half weeks ago. One of them was read and finished, a second one was left unfinished, a third has been set aside just for a little break, and a fourth was just begun. This doesn't happen with books I buy. Maybe it's just because I never really have stacks of books just laying around waiting for me to read them. Still, I find myself with this dilemma: I am exactly a week away from their due date and I have lost interest in them. Not in the books as theory and plot and characters, but in the physical books themselves. My only logical conclusion? I'm a book snob.

Tell me, does anybody else struggle with this? Or is it just me?
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Monday, June 27, 2011

New books!

There's no better feeling than getting a new book. There's also a difference between getting a "new" book from the library and getting a new book from the bookstore. This is the case of the second.

A week and a half ago I ordered four books online. The fourth wasn't due to come out 'til July 5th, so it was set to mail all four on the 5th. I couldn't wait that long, so I cancelled said fourth book. Today, I received the other two and let me tell you, I am stoked.

The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games, #1) The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking, #1) Napier's Bones

The books I received are: The Hunger GamesThe Knife of Never Letting Go, and Napier's Bones.

Now, I tend to avoid reading the popular books. It never goes over well for me. Case in point: Twilight, The Mortal Instruments series, etc. Alright, so those are the only two that I can think of, but I think you get my point. What is "popular" these days never really seems to be my kind of book. There's only ever two reasons something is popular. One, it's really good. Two, it's written to be popular.

Unfortunately, the second case is way more common. Books that are really good are often not popular at all. Example? The Book Thief, Last Dragon, the Books of Pellinor, the Looking Glass Wars. They have a very loyal following but not much further. It's unfortunate, but that's just how it is. That's why when a book series becomes popular, I immediately become wary. Therefore, I have avoided The Hunger Games like it was a disease, even though every one of my very good friends whose opinions I trust told me to read it time and again. After working at a bookstore for two weeks watching customer after customer purchase the books belonging to the series, I gave in. It's never too late to jump on the bandwagon, right?

The Knife of Never Letting Go was purchased as a result of a free short story - The New World - that I downloaded on my nook app. I guess it did its job, because I just had to get the first book of the Chaos Walking series. First of all, the name is striking, and I did not intend that to be a pun. There is something about the name that draws me in. Second, the cover is striking. Again, no pun intended. Unfortunately, I did not receive the edition with said "striking" cover. Third, the premise is interesting. I'm not sure how I feel about reading a book about kids on the very young side of the YA range, but I love the concept and I seriously believe in the potential of the book. Let's hope it doesn't disappoint!

The third book I received is Napier's Bones, a book I randomly found while browsing Amazon one day. The premise is that Math is magic, and that was really all I needed to know to want - no, need - this book. As a math lover and future engineer, it's right up my alley. Still, I'm interested to see how the author presents it. Is it a book for only math lovers? Or is enjoyable by everybody? The latter is the option I'd really like to see this book take, but I guess we'll find out.

Are the any books that have you excited recently?
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Sunday, June 26, 2011

This Week On Mulberry St...

First, a new name and a new layout! Head on over to the about pages to find out more.

This week I'll be reviewing Debris by Jo Anderton. I'm really excited for it, I think the book has great potential. Here's a little blurb from the publisher, courtesy of goodreads.com;

In a far future where technology is all but indistinguishable from magic, Tanyana is one of the elite.

She can control pions, the building blocks of matter, shaping them into new forms using ritual gestures and techniques. The rewards are great, and she is one of most highly regarded people in the city. But that was before the “accident”.

Stripped of her powers, bound inside a bizarre powersuit, she finds herself cast down to the very lowest level of society. Powerless, penniless and scarred, Tanyana must adjust to a new life collecting “debris”, the stuff left behind by pions. But as she tries to find who has done all of this to her, she also starts to realize that debris is more important than anyone could guess.

Debris is a stunning new piece of Science Fantasy, which draws in themes from Japanese manga, and classic Western SF and Fantasy to create this unique, engrossing debut from the very exciting young author Jo Anderton.

That will be posted next Saturday. Until then, I'll have something for you. I just need to figure out what that will be first. Have a great week, everybody!
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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Tiger's Curse

Tiger's Curse (Tiger Saga, #1)

Passion. Fate. Loyalty.

Would you risk it all to change your destiny?

The last thing 17-year old Kelsey Hayes thought she’d be doing this summer was trying to break a 300-year-old Indian curse. With a mysterious white tiger named Ren. Halfway around the world. But that’s exactly what happened. Face-to-face with dark forces, spellbinding magic, and mystical worlds where nothing is what it seems, Kelsey risks everything to piece together an ancient prophecy that could break the curse forever.

Tiger’s Curse is the exciting first volume in an epic fantasy-romance that will leave you breathless and yearning for more.

Oh goodness, where do I start? I'm not sure that this book as a single redeeming quality, and I don't mean that to say that I simply didn't like the book. No, it truly was that the writing, the characters, the storyline - all were done terribly and I seriously wonder what the author was trying to get at. The book initially drew my attention when the bookstore I work at began promoting its sequel, Tiger's Quest. The menacing black tiger on the front cover caught my interest, and upon researching it, I found it was the second in a series. Naturally, I decided to start from the beginning. I did read a few of the reviews on goodreads.com, so I definitely did not go into the book with high expectations. That being said, I was severely disappointed in the novel.

We begin with Kelsey, an 18 year old who has just graduated high school and is now looking for a summer job. She finds a job at a circus where she fills in doing a bunch of odd jobs, including feeding the white tiger the circus keeps. Naturally, as is custom in recent fiction works, Kelsey immediately becomes obsessed with the tiger. You don't even need to read the back-of-the-book blurb to know that something's up. The tiger is being taken to India by someone with a rich employer and this man asks Kelsey to help transport the tiger to the other side of the world. She agrees, and adventure ensues!

I don't think I need to tell you why this book got me interested in the first place. The captivating cover, the interesting blurb. This book had serious potential that I really believe it wasted. The plot feels contrived and loosely strung together. I feel like there were so many ways for the events in this book to happen, and everything seems to follow a over-used, unoriginal formula that barely keeps me entertained. There is no emotional pull to anything in the novel. I feel no connection to Kelsey or Ren. It's like reading a string of facts, one after another. There was no reason for me to want to connect to it. It lacked any sort of voice beyond what you might find in a history book.

I know I pick on writing a lot, but there are some things that just shouldn't be done. One of those things is writing a character's thoughts in past tense. It only makes sense to write a thought in past tense if they are thinking of something that has already happened. Just because the book is written in past tense, that doesn't mean you have to continue that through to thought processes. If I was in the middle of eating a piece of cake, I would not think, "That piece of cake tasted really good." It doesn't make sense. People don't think in past tense all the time. Also, overexplaining everything the character comes into contact with does not reassure me that you did your research. Every time I finished a paragraph the detailed the exact type of plane they were in or exactly what was in the food she was eating, I only found myself completely annoyed and I still wondered if she really did her research.

And does nobody else find it creepy that while in tiger form, he keeps licking her? I mean, first of all, I don't think it's normal tiger behavior. I know that he's not a "normal tiger" but I feel like the author is trying to push it across as if that just him behaving as a tiger. It doesn't feel like that way at all. I feel like Ren-as-tiger could find so many better ways of comforting Kelsey than licking her. It's creepy and weird. Also, even if she was supposed to be the one to break the curse, Ren's behavior is oddly uncharacteristic of the society he grew up in, and even still of the society he would belong to today. I don't see any of his princeliness or proud heritage or upbringing in his behavior. You could count it toward 300 years as a tiger, I guess. Still, it's strange to me.

One redeeming thing, though small, was that she certainly got the traffic situation down. While I don't know how Kelsey managed to drive around with a tiger in her car and have no one ask question, the way the roads in India were described were perfectly accurate. It made me remember my own time in India. It would be nice to go back one day.

In the end, not the greatest book I've ever read. However, I will call say that toward the end, it got a little bit more entertaining. Once I let go of any expectation whatsoever, I found myself enjoying the mindlessness of it. Though, I think I might have enjoyed it more when I was younger and more unwise to the ways of the world. Ha.

Rating: 5, Mediocre
Recommendation: Eh. Could go either way. Don't waste your money, get it from the library or borrow it from a friend. Don't expect anything of it, bad or good.
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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Post Title Here

So I'm renaming the blog. But I don't have a name yet. So until I have a name, it will remain Blog Name Here.

I'm in a reading slump. I spent the last month and a half researching books to read, things to write about, creating blogs for reviews, and so on and so forth. Now I think I've reached the stagnant point of all that, where I realize I still want to do all of that, but it's not all I've got it cracked up to be. It takes work and time and I already work and it takes most of my time. When I'm home, I'm lazy. I'd rather spend hours watching mindless Lifetime dramas (laugh, go ahead. it's ok. I laugh at myself) than reading a book that makes me think and wonder. However, it will be done. Eventually.

I got my first approved galley today. I'm super stoked, and I'll probably end up reading and reviewing that book before I finish Last Dragon. Also, I read Bumped. I even spent money for it, I thought it had potential as a satirical book. I hated it. I'll explain why in a soon-to-be review.

Lastly, I know the blog isn't even a month old and there's probably no one who cares, but it's getting a major revamp. Soon.

I just wanted to post an update before everyone thought I disappeared.

So, in short, reading is hard, galleys are awesome, and work sucks.
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Thursday, June 16, 2011


Leviathan (Leviathan, #1)Behemoth (Leviathan, #2)

It's the brink of World War I and in different parts of the European continent, two young people are making decisions and doing things that will change their lives. They are convinced to do so my circumstances that are beyond their control, and by the decisions and things, they are tossed right into the middle of what would become a global war. In this alternate history, Alek is heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary and Deryn is a girl who has disguised herself as a boy to join the fight. It is Darwinist versus Clanker, fabricated beasts versus advanced technology.

I'll give two thumbs up for an interesting premise. And if I had two more thumbs, I'd give it four thumbs up for the excellent illustrations. Leviathan and it's sequel, Behemoth, are definitely fun reads. The intricacy and detail are amazing to me, it's a world that I definitely would not mind living in. The writing is also done very well. I was a little worried at the beginning of Leviathan with the second-person POV switching between characters, but I like the way it was done. Both Alek and Deryn have their own voice, enough so that when we got to a point in the books where they were in the same place at the same time, the chapters would switch and I felt like I would know whose POV it was immediately, without having to look for clues as to who is currently "speaking." 

My only little quibble with the characters is that they were written much younger than we are told they are. When I read the book, I feel more inclined to think of thirteen- or fourteen-year-olds, not sixteen-almost seventeen-year-olds. I know this isn't an issue with Scott Westerfield's writing ability, because I read his Midnighters series and the Uglies series, and both of them contained characters written to the age they were intended to be. I suppose, in some way, we get to see a little bit more of their maturing throughout the books this way. Alek started as a spoiled young prince who had nothing to gain but also nothing to lose. Deryn began the story as a girl whose dreams of flying made her dress as a boy, though her ideas were of glory and adventure, and nothing could have prepared either of them for what would follow. So I guess, in some ways, they matured as a result of their young writing. Even so, they still seem a little young for the age they're intended to be. 

That's only a little thing though, and it definitely didn't detract from the story. I wouldn't say that the story is one that I took super seriously, or really took anything away from it when I was done. It's also not a story that I will probably remember forever, though I do want to read the third one when it comes on this year and I probably will buy the series for myself once the third one comes out. Over all, it was a good story, fun to read, and very well written. Definitely another good series for Scott Westerfield, who is quickly becoming one of my favorite YA authors.

Last thing, I can't believe I almost forgot to mention it, is the illustrations in both books. There are almost 50 illustrations in each book, both full-page and smaller drawings. They're beautifully illustrated by Keith Thompson and definitely make the book just that much better. I absolutely adore books with illustrations, and I wish authors used them more often than they do these days.

So overall, very good series. Not life-changing or anything, but certainly worth reading and enjoying for yourself.

Rating: 8, Excellently Done

Recommended For: I'd say it is a must read for steampunk and fantasy fans. It's a fun story,  nothing serious, I think, but it is beautifully written and takes place in a world where I would certainly like to visit, sans World War I. 
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Sunday, June 5, 2011

Confessions: Short Stories

I have recently become obsessed. Before last week, I hadn't though about short stories since I finished reading Edgar Allan Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart for my English 102 college class back when I was still in high school. As gruesome as the story was, I remember loving it. At the time, I was convinced that the essay I wrote based on that short work of fiction was the best thing I ever crafted. I was heartbroken when I got it back with a B. Looking back now, I'm lucky I got a B; It was the worst essay I ever read. But, I diverge. I simply fell in love with short fiction a long time ago, and I had forgotten about it. Until now.

A couple weeks ago I was browsing Goodreads when I came across a short story anthology. A week ago I decided that my incomplete stories would become a short fiction anthology of their own. Yesterday I spent three hours looking for books to read, and half of them were short story collections. So yeah, I'm obsessed.

There's something compelling about a short story. It draws you in for a small snapshot of a life neither significant nor insignificant; it just is. You rarely feel as deeply for short story protagonists as you might for one in a full-length novel, but that's hardly ever the point. For a brief period of time, you are subject to a world with undefined rules and ideas and it is there that you get to live and breathe and simply be until it's over, where you move on and maybe even forget the story. But no matter what, a certain bit of you is changed by a good short story. Within pages, you are challenged and forced to think and that is were a short story becomes compelling.

And again, here is where I fall short. I have an odd tendency to over romanticize things. I come up with big words to describe and fantastic flourishes to direct. This often leads to another tendency of mine; to be disappointed. My over romanticized vision of what a short story ought to be causes for much disappoint me when the story is simply not. I'm reminded of Jesus telling parables during his ministry, when everyone would gather around waiting for some words of greatness from the teacher that made miracles, and most of the time he would give them a parable. Parables (and fables, for that matter, but never mind that) for me are the very beginnings of great short stories, snapshots of a life that neither mattered nor didn't, but that were told to make a point. Yet when they came to fruition, I can imagine there was a certain sense of disappointment. Not everybody understood Jesus' message, and this was a disappointing thought. Even the disciples, on several occasions, had to ask Jesus for the meaning of his parables.

I'm not really sure where I was going with this. It's a terrible comparison, since my disappointment in short stories comes from a foolish hope, and disappointment in Jesus' parables came from a lack of understanding. Also, some short stories are just crap. Jesus' parables are all genius.
I guess all that's to say, some short stories are great, and I have an over romanticized view of most of them. Still, my original point remains. I'm obsessed with short stories.

Postscript: My List of Short Story Anthologies To Read
Leo Tolstoy's Collected Shorter Fiction Volume 1 [currently reading]

Stories of Your Life and Others - Ted Chiang
Leviathan Wept and Other Stories - Daniel Abraham
Grimm's Complete Fairy Tales
Leo Tolstoy's Collected Shorter Fiction Volume 2
Straw House, Wood House, Brick House, Blow: Four Novellas by Daniel Nayeri
The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe
My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me - Various
Steampunk - Various
»»  read more

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Delicate Edible Birds: And Other Stories

Delicate Edible Birds: And Other Stories

Delicate Edible Birds: And Other Stories is a short fiction anthology, and let me tell you, I was so excited for this book. I checked it out of the local library, and if it's any indication for how excited I was for it, I immediately went to find its section. Out of a list of 12 wanted books, it was this one that I made a beeline for. I was stoked. As I am currently writing a short fiction anthology, it was this book that I looked forward to reading, to get an insight on short fiction and anthologies. I craved this book in a weird sort of way, and this made it all the more disappointing when I actually read it.

Lauren Groff is a fantastic storyteller. She weaves stories of heartbreak and pain, making your own heart break for the characters within a matter of pages. She's a master at what she does, and it impressed me. However. This is where you learn a little more about me. I'm steadfast in my beliefs. Not even master storytelling can make me waver in what I believe, and that's exactly where this story falls short for me. I'm not one for reading of people's sexual endeavors. In my opinion, that is something that is private and should remain so. Real or fake, I don't feel the necessity to read this in detail, great or minor.

L. DeBard and Aliette is, in all honesty, what killed it for me. [Warning: Spoilers, though I don't believe that spoiling a short story is really a crime, but I digress.] I might have felt for the characters. I might have ached for their love and inability to be together. I might have been a little bit sad when they were broken apart or when Aliette never saw her son again. But the reality is, I didn't. Far too much time was spent being disturbed by the beginning. The story might have been a little bit more compelling had their been fewer - can I say, unecessary - details. Instead, it was, all-in-all, slightly perturbing, and left me with an unsettled feeling in the pit of my stomach.

Let me just say, as a disclaimer of sorts, that I am not judging the entire anthology based on one piece of it. It's like saying the sandwich tastes bad because I didn't like the crust. My statement is merely this: I can't bear to own a book or a bit of a book that so clearly goes against my beliefs. There are stories in Delicate Edible Birds that I very much enjoyed, but I could not forget L. DeBard and Aliette for fear of its unabashed storytelling popping up again. So, then again, maybe I am judging the book based on one of its stories, but it's hard to only like part of a book. To give another cheesy analogy, its like trying to use a bit of cream cheese after ridding it of the moldy bits. It may be fine, but you just can't forget those moldy bits.

Lauren Groff is, as I said before, an excellent storyteller. I admire her writing and her ability to weave a story. Also, the cover is beautiful. In all, I can't bring myself to give it a lower rating as a book than I have done already. So, I merely settle for being ambivalent about this bit of literature. I probably will not recommend it to friends, and I will content myself with admiring it from afar.

Rating: 4, Could've Been Better 
Recommended For: No-one. Beautiful piece of literature, but not the kind of thing you want lying around your house. It feels a bit more like a guilty sin that a pleasurable read. I still love you as a writer, Lauren Groff!
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Friday, June 3, 2011


Austenland by Shannon Hale

Jane is obsessed with Pride and Prejudice. It's unhealthy, and not normal at all. When her rich great aunt dies, instead of leaving Jane a fortune, Jane is bequeathed a three week vacation to Austenland. Austenland is the epitome of what every P&P-obsessed girl dreams of. Handsome men in Regency-era clothing, dancing, tea and games of whist. For three weeks, Jane Hayes doesn't have to be anyone. It's an escape like no other, and her chance to rid herself of her Darcy-obsession. Of course, nothing goes as we plan and Jane ends up with exactly what she wanted, just not in a way she expected.

Alright, it's an excellent premise. I am a self-proclaimed P&P obsessee. I love it. Especially the BBC version with Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy. Awesome. Naturally, this book caught my attention. I checked it out of the Library yesterday and stayed up until 1:30 am reading it. There's a certain charm about the novel, something that draws you in and doesn't let you put it down until it's over. That being said, I do not thing that this novel lived up to its true potential.

The prologue drew me in. It was witty and well-written and gave me insight into the character I was about to spend three and a half hours reading about. The next two chapters were... enlightening, to say the least. I say that because I don't know how else to describe it. Slowly, I felt like I was finding myself in a different world than the one of the prologue. It was less witty and more trying-too-hard-to-be-witty. I kept reading hoping the witty narrator would come back, but alas, they did not. 

I'm a big fan of Shannon Hale. I love every novel I've read by her, and it was mainly this reason that I felt so disappointed in Austenland. Besides the potential the subject had, the author gave more reason to expect this novel to be wonderful, and it just never quite measured up. Instead of fresh and new, it felt stale and overdone. The main character was annoying, and she behaved much more like 16-year-old than a thirty-something woman trying to do something different. Maybe that was the idea, but somehow it just didn't quite work.

I'll probably read the second one that's coming out in Jan 2012, because I've never been able to start a series and not finish it, and I still believe in the potential of the idea and the author. If you're ever bored on a rainy day or have nothing to do on a summer afternoon, I'd give this book a shot. It's got a great happy ending, although while Jane found she didn't need a Mr. Darcy after all, it only reinforced my desire for a Mr. Darcy of my own.


Rating: 6 - Good; A Rainy Day Sort Of Book
Recommend For:
Jane Austen lovers, or anyone who needs something to while away the warm summer afternoons or cold winter evenings.
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Not-a-Word of the Day: Electronology

The study, discourse, and thoughts of electronics and technology, including, but not limited to, computers, iPods, ovens, and eBook readers.

So let's discuss eBook readers. Now, I'm an avid reader of the common variety. I'll read anything I can get my hands on, especially the books with the pretty covers. I spend more money on books than I do anything else. It's unhealthy. It's extremely satisfying. There's no better feeling to me than to hold a book in my hands and to absolutely love it. And that's where my dilemma comes in.

In the last few years, eReaders of all kinds have been popping up all over the market. First you have Amazon's Kindle, the first successful eReader, and then you have Sony's models and Barnes and Noble's Nook and NookColor (and now they're coming out with a new all-touchscreen Nook), and then you have other companies like Borders jumping on the bandwagon with their [poorly designed] Kobo. We have a lot of options for eReaders, and that's a great thing, but I don't want to discuss the options. My question is simply: eReader or not?

Let's look at the pros and cons. First, the pros. It's an excellent idea. Now you can literally carry thousands of books with you at a time, all of them weighing no more than a pound (I think, no source to cite on that). It's convenient, easy, and while the ereader itself is expensive, eBooks are cheaper than their hardcopy cousins. You can store textbooks and word documents, play popular apps, even publish your own books and sell them. It's technology at its finest, replacing unnecessary clutter with sleek design.

All of sudden, your pathetic excuses for why you absolutely NEED that novel you just bought, down the drain. No longer do you have to spend money on beautiful covers. No more hardcover or paperback, no more driving to the store to buy that desperately desired novel! This is where I falter in getting an eReader. I love having books, and I plan to have a library in my house when I have a house. I want the convenience of the eReader, but I don't want to have to sacrifice my trade papers. I know for me, the ever-practical spender, once I have an eReader, purchasing a hardcopy isn't worth it.

So I waver. Buy a pretty eReader and enjoy convenience and ease, or spend hours browsing bookshelves and spending money I don't have. Perhaps I can form some conglomeration of the true, a nice balance between convenience and the smell of a book store. We'll see.

What you're opinion? eReader or not?
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Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Book Thief


I am not sure exactly how to give a proper review for this book. It is, without a doubt, my favorite book of all time, and I doubt there is a single book that can or ever will replace it. So to say that my review will be biased is an understatement. That said, I hope you'll now forgive me for any bias you might find within the following review.

Here we find a book on a subject that can never be happy or good or nice. Liesel Meminger is a good girl with a sad fortune. Her mother is leaving her in the hands of strangers and her brother has died, leaving her with nothing left in the world but the book she stole from her brother's graveside. With the help of her foster father, she learns to read and write, all the while stealing books from wherever she can find them, including book-burning piles and the library of the mayor's wife.

Narrated by Death, who is at once an omnipresent narrator and a vulnerable character, we find ourselves in the middle of a subject that, on another occasion, might leaving you feeling very unhappy. However, there is something immensely beautiful and inviting about this novel, and it is for this reason that I love it. Instead of feeling depressed at the end of the novel, I found that I felt exactly the opposite: I wanted to pick it up and read it again and again, savoring every word and memorizing every line.

The writing itself is strange and sometimes feels stilted and awkward. It is the awkwardness that makes it feel real, and it's stilted character that makes it feel almost beautiful at times. This is the kind of book that I feel is practically written for book lovers. In The Book Thief, we find ourselves discovering the power of words, not just the power of books. We see the power of words when Liesel's foster mother calls her Saumensch again and again, or with Frau Diller and her insistence of each of her customers saying, "heil Hitler" as they enter her shop. Words have an important bit to play in this novel, and the way Markus Zusak uses them is extraordinary.

I don't know how much I can say without spoiling the novel for you, except to say that it's amazing, and I think it should be a must-read for everyone. The genre-type of "young adult" can often be so misleading to those of us who might not consider ourselves "young adults" or not even "old adults" or whatever. The "young adult" label often makes me shy away from books that I might very much enjoy, but I am afraid of, because they might be too young or too silly. This book is neither too young nor too silly. I read somewhere once that the main difference between "middle grade" and "young adult" is that the characters in "middle grade" books are 11-14 while the characters in "young adult" are 14-16 or somewhere close to those ranges. All I can say is if the age of our main character is the only thing keeping you from reading this book, you're most certainly missing out on an amazing piece of literature and a beautiful story.


I just want to share with you some passages from the book so you can appreciate the writing as I do:

p.4: "People observe the colors of a day only at its beginnings and ends, but to me it's quite clear that a day merges through a multitude of shades and intonations, with each passing moment. A single hour can consist of thousands of different colors. Waxy yellows, cloud-spat blues. Murky darknesses, In my line of work, I make it a point to notice them."
p.129: "Certainly, something of great magnitude was coming toward 33 Himmel Street, to which Liesel was currently oblivious. To distort an overused human expression, the girl had more immediate fish to fry:
      She had stolen a book.
      Someone had seen her.
      The book thief reacted. Appropriately.

Every minute, every hour, there was worry, or more the point, paranoia. Criminal activity will do that to a person, especially a child. They envision a prolific assortment of caughtoutedness. Some examples: People jumping out of alleys. Schoolteachers suddenly being aware of every sin you've ever committed. Police showing up at the door each time a leaf turns or a distant gate slams shut."
p.391: "On Munich Street, they watched. 
      Others moved in around and in front of them. 
      They watched the Jews come down the road like a catalog of colors. That wasn't how the book thief described them, but I can tell you that that's exactly what they were, for many of them would die. They would each greet me like their last true friend, with bones like smoke and their souls trailing behind.
p.550: "A Last Note From Your Narrator:
I am haunted by humans."

Rating: 10 - Pitch-perfect
Recommend For: Everyone. It's the kind of book that not only challenges you and makes you think, but is also a literary achievement, as far as I'm concerned. I've never read another book written like it, and I doubt it can be rivaled in that respect. It's written off as "young adult", but as I said before, it's the kind of all-age-appropriate book that everyone can enjoy.
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Radio Silence, A Solar Ocean

I love to read. When I read, it's almost as if the world goes silent, and all that's left is me and my book. I read almost anything, from teen urban fantasy to contemporary realism to whatever folks are calling it now. Mostly, I just say if it's a book, I'll read it. I don't promise to enjoy it, and I don't promise to finish it. But I'll read it. There's some books I refuse to read, and that usually because it's on a topic I don't agree with, or I already know the ending and I don't want to bother with a book where I don't like the ending.

My favorite books are the strange ones. Books like The Book Thief, where Death is a character and the writing is beautifully sad, and most of the book is told through observations that challenge how you can write a book (or at least challenge how I write a book). I like books like The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland (...), books written for a child but equally as readable by an adult. The Girl (...) is a beautifully written fairytale that I feel like I can enjoy, childish or not. It is for these reasons that I like books like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, a book so strange that I'm almost tempted to not like it, except that it challenges, and builds, and causes me to ask questions of myself. Even more so, though, it is because of this that one of my favorite genres is steampunk. Steampunk takes history and edits it, melding bits of past and future and creating a world that exists within our own. Lastly, I adore dystopian fiction because it just plain challenges. It makes me think about my world, and about the rules and ideas that are instilled in us, and it makes me wonder.

Not surprisingly, that pretty much describes me as a person. I like to think that the types of books a person reads can show somewhat of an insight into their character, and I think that's very true of me.
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