Saturday, January 31, 2009

Night Watch by Terry Pratchett

First published in 2002.

One moment, Sir Sam Vimes is in his old patrolman form, chasing a sweet-talking psychopath across the rooftops of Ankh-Morpork. The next, he's lying naked in the street, having been sent back thirty years courtesy of a group of time-manipulating monks who won't leave well enough alone. This Discworld is a darker place hat Vimes rememb
ers too well, three decades before his title, fortune, beloved wife, and impending first child. Worse still, the murderer he's pursuing has been transported back also. Worst of all, it's the eve of a fabled street rebellion that needlessly destroyed more than a few good (and no so good) men. Sam Vimes knows his duty, and by changing history he might just save some worthwhile necks - though it could cost him his own personal future. Plus there's a chance to steer a novice watchman straight and teach him a valuable thing or three about policing, an impressionable younger copper named Sam Vimes. (book back blurb)

While it had its moments, I have to say I struggled to get through this one. I just didn’t find it all that interesting. I did, however, pull some excellent lines from the text–

“Old Tom, the University’s venerable clock, tolled not sounds but silences. Not simple ordinary silences, but intervals of noise-absorbing nonsound, which filled the world with loud soundlessness.”–Footnote

“The Watchmen turned and stared. A large blob of foam, which up until that point had been performing sterling service in the cause of the essential decencies, slipped slowly to the floor.”–Ridcully exposing himself

“Because of pressures of space, bones in the crypt were stored by size, not by owner. There were rooms of ribs. There were avenues of femurs. And shelf after shelf of skulls up near the entrance, of course, because a crypt without a lot of skulls wasn’t a proper crypt at all. If some of the religious were right and there really was bodily resurrection one day, Fred mused, there was going to be an awful lot of confusion and general milling about.”–Fred Colon

“He just wished she was a bit more sensible about cats. He felt instinctively that if you were going to fondle a cat while discussing matters of intrigue, then it should be a long-haired white one. It shouldn’t be an elderly street tom with irregular bouts of flatulence.”–Havelock

“”You can take our lives but you’ll never take our freedom!” he [Reg Shoe] screamed.

Carcer’s men looked at one another, puzzled by what sounded like the most badly thought-out war cry in the history of the universe. Vimes could see their lips moving as they tried to work it out.”–Vimes

As you can see, some quite funny lines. I’m fondest of the last one with the Mel Gibson taunt. That was great! But other than that, I found the book rather, well, pointless.

Vimes went back in time to relive this lilac battle of theirs where he encounters himself. There’s one suspension of disbelief that came crashing down. I know Vimes was wearing an eye patch but really, did no one, including Young Sam, not make the connection that the two looked remarkably alike? I know 25 years can make a decent difference in a man’s looks but the way I’ve pictured Vimes, he isn’t someone that let himself go to hell over the years. While he might not be as virile as he was then, I don’t think it’s too far out there to say that there would have been a resemblance.

He went back in time because of some monks wanting to correct something. That something passed straight over my head, especially since we hardly see the monks at all in this book. Then again I glossed over some of the parts when I was reading so I could have rightly missed it. But from what I saw, the battle was played out exactly as it was before, the only difference was Vimes as Keel and future Carcer on the opposing side. Everything else the monks “took care of.”

Which leads me into the whole time warp thing. Time’s a tricky thing to play with but I guess if your younger self doesn’t even recognize his older self when he’s right smack in front of him, anything can happen. Nothing is identical. Nothing. So when Vimes goes back in time, things are played out, especially before he takes Keel’s position, that didn’t happen the last time which would cause a ripple effect into the future. Things would change, however slightly, but they could rightly be detrimental to Vimes’s own future, which they weren’t. He went back in the end and everything was the same. That irked me that nothing was different even though nothing could have been exactly the same the second time around, even when you factor in the whole “it repeats in history” notion. He found out that Vetinari knew about the weirdness but that didn’t change anything. He always knew.

The biggest thing that I had issues with was the monks “taking care of everything” off the page. Any rift that could have appeared due to inconsistencies like I said above was “handled.” Everything ended up la-dee-da because I said so and just believe it. This could rightly be called taking the easy way out but I guess your characters don't have to deal with the consequences of time travel if you don't want them to.

In that same vein, there was quite a lot of head-hopping going on, even outside of the section breaks, not to mention POV shifts mid-sentence, at the least. And then the one lone chapter that spanned the entire book. I'm still kind of baffled by what actually constitutes he-hopping because it seems to vary by author. What I may see as head-hopping someone else might see as an easy and elegant transition from one character to another on the same page. I guess it's like lilac. My mom loves the smell of it. To me is smells like dog shit. Literally. To each their own, I guess, and even better if it smells nice to the right people.

I wasn’t fond of this book, mainly for the reasons I listed above. The whole “we’ll take care of it” off the page thing really put me in a damper about it. It just seemed too easy. In the end, though, what was the point of Vimes going back in time? So he could relive the same battle again? So he could play a different roll in it? I didn’t see any drastic changes in him so, really, why?

Friday, January 30, 2009

And the Award Goes to . . .

January is the month of awards, at least for the American Library Association's Youth Media Awards which includes he Newbery Award. If you haven't heard already, Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book won that coveted slot in the canonization of young adult fiction. We should all be so lucky, right? Critics of the Newbery have been wagging their jaws about how the award is out of touch with the youth of America and how it turns kids off to reading more than it turns them on to it. Well, with this awarding, I think they hit the nail on the head, don't you?

But that's not the only award handed out this month. has a rather thorough list of award winners and these are books that shouldn't be ignored! Among the list is The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume II: The Kingdom on the Waves by MT Anderson for the Michael L. Printz Honors along with The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E Lockhart. Stephen King's Just After Sunset: Stories received an Alex Award and Laurie Halse Anderson won the Margaret A. Edwards Award for her works Catalyst, Fever 1793 and Speak. Click the link to see the entire list.

Also at are the Top 10 Books for Young Adult Readers including The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Top 10 Great Graphic Novels for Teens and the Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers. Be sure to check them all out!

Proof that I'm Really 10 on the Inside

Ok, so I'm obviously missing out on some good graphic novels for kids young enough (biologically speaking) to be my children. Look at this rabbit. Look at him! OMG cute! Although I doubt that's what the creators were going for since it's a series aimed at boys from ages 5 to 10. As you can see, I'm not what you'd really call part of the target audience. Nevertheless, I'm sure I'd still be entertained by such a graphic novel. You're talking to the chick that flips cows for Shaun the Sheep. How could you not? What evil bastard doesn't like those sheep? Bring him to me and I shall smite him.

Anyway, back to the bunny. According to Publisher's Weekly, Random House is the lucky publisher to get its talons into this wacky looking piece of reading that's sure to be a huge hit not only in their intended age bracket but beyond. I mean, look at he cover of the next one. It has pirates on it. Bunny pirates! OMFG! How could this not be love? Again, probably not the emotions RH is going for since young boys probably don't emote like that but oh well.

The more self-important people have a tendency of looking down upon graphic novels as if they're somehow lesser forms of art (like genre and YA, while we're at it). As if it's somehow so much easier to just doodle off something and call it a book than it is to write real lit-ra-ture. Personally I'm more concerned with getting the kids to actually read the books than really worrying about what others think of the quality. If it tells a good story and gets the kid entranced in a book, I don't really see the problem (theoretically speaking).

Of course we see it more now than ever that kids need to be reminded of the very firm line between fantasy and reality (remember those kids imitating Beavis and Butthead back when and one getting killed? or how about the Twihards that scratch at their necks when meeting Robert Pattinson saying 'I did this for you!' if you're looking for something a little more recent) and while most have their heads firmly planted on their shoulders, some don't. Yes, it's just a book but the more impressionable the child is, the more they're going to see it as. They're not called rabid fans for nothing. Let them have their head in the clouds so long as they have at least one foot planted on the floor, is what I say.

What I'm saying is reading is reading and at this point, beggars can't be choosers. Parents, at any age, should make an effort to know what their children are reading, or want to read, and read it with them. It won't hurt and I can guarantee it won't be a waste of anyone's time. You might not get it, whatever it is they're reading, be it pirate bunnies or rock hard vampires, but it'll give you a better understanding of your child and it'll open more doors for discussion. That's never a bad thing.

And now I leave you with some Shaun the Sheep--

Thursday, January 29, 2009

How To Live with a Neurotic Dog by Stephen Baker

First published in 1994.

You think
your life is crazy. Try looking at the world through your dog's big melting brown eyes. If your dog is neurotic (and what dog isn't these days?), consider these helpful pointers:

*Don't interrupt your dog's naps - remember, he needs your bed far more than you do.

*Don't force your dog to play fetch just because you feel like it - keep in mind his busy schedule too.

*Never bark orders at your dog. "Please" and "thank you" work wonders with the neurotic dog.

*Give your dog a canine personality quiz - it's the first step before starting him in a full-fledged psychoanalysis.

*If all else fails, feed him
! (book back blurb)

Read this book and you’ll get an idea of what’s it’s like every day of my life. My cousin gave it to me for my birthday (in May), part as a gag but really because everyone knows just how cracked out my dog actually is. He’s not a bad dog, he’s just hiding a little doggy bag of cocaine in his crate. Even if your dog isn’t as insane as mine, you’ll still get a kick out of this book.

Some of the drawings, by Fred Hillard, are just absolutely hilarious and eerily relatable. All they were missing was a picture of a twelve pound MinPin stepping on a person’s throat in the morning in lieu of an alarm clock. That’d be the start of my day.

Although one bit certainly hit the nail on the head–

The early riser wakes with the sun and welcomes the day with a burst of enthusiasm. He likes to share his feelings with others. Having done so, he promptly goes back to sleep.

I can’t tell you how many times my little bastard’s done that, not only during the week but on the weekends as well. He gets up, all excited, can’t stay still, wants to get out, wants to get out, wants to get out. I let him out, feed him and start doing my thing because I’m wide freakin’ awake. Where does he go? Back upstairs, under my blankets and goes back to sleep for an undetermined amount of time.

Unfortunately the book was blissfully lacking in chapters on extreme chewing (not just on the wussy chewing they broached, my dog destroys Kongs, just so you know what I'm dealing with here, and just to remind you, he's a Miniature Pinscher) and peeing on my bed out of spite. I would have liked to have known the author’s take on such a dilemma. Trainers said it was his "teen" years. Yeah, well, I didn't pop a squat on my mom's bed when she wouldn't let me have the car, now did I?

Overall, a cute read, definitely worth the half hour it took for me to get through it. It’s also rather therapeutic; making me laugh at my dwindling stockpile of shoes and blankets that more closely resemble Swiss cheese. It’s more of an insane laugh, but a laugh nonetheless.

And now I leave you with some images of my very own neurotic dog. You can call him Malfoy . . .

No I didn't destuff my own comforter and yes, that is a bobble head Jesus my dog is chewing on. Do you have a neurotic dog?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Beth Fantaskey Book Signings

If you happen to be in the Willamsport, Pennsylvania area and are as eager to get your hands on a copy of Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side as I am, author Beth Fantaskey has started posting book signing dates on her website. Come to Connecticut, Beth!

So far the dates are as follows--

February 7th from 6pm at Otto's Bookstore in Williamsport
February 13th from 6pm at Barnes and Noble in Camp Hill
February 14th from 1pm at Page After Page in Lewisburg

In all honestly I have no idea if those last two are near Williamsport or not but I know Williamsport. That's where the Little League World Series is held. Now that you've had your random tidbit for the day, I'd just like to add that I like how Beth leaves the end time open. When it's over, it's over, right?

Know A Reluctant Reader?

More often than not (unfortunately), kids will be reluctant to read. This is usually a result of them having to read something that they don't necessarily want to. Sure, Of Mice and Men is a classic but lets face it--it's not really all that interesting to a 13 year-old in a classroom. Nor a textbook is to a seven year old in a reading circle.

The problem with a lot of the reading courses in school, especially in the younger grades where they may not have the luxury to choose what they (the kids) read in the classroom, books are assigned based on what the boards of education feel the students should be reading. That's how some of those door stoppers and naval gazers end up in those piles. Of course the classics should be read in order to have a well-rounded literary background but for the love of god mix it up a bit! Kids can't get excited about reading if they're bored to narcolepsy by it.

Publisher's Weekly has a great article on a movement that author James Patterson started called With next to no marketing and publicizing, the site's become a pretty big hit in a rather short amount of time. Its purpose is to list, recommend and review books that they (the puppet masters of the site) feel kids would actually want to stop what they're doing and read, or have read to them. The people behind the reviews all work in the publishing industry and have their fingers on the pulse of what works and what doesn't with words on the shelves.

The site is really for parents, teachers and librarians to help them get a feel for what kids will want to read instead of what they think kids should read. Big difference. The site caters to books in age ranges starting at newborn through young adult and features a set number of books at any given time. Keep checking back and you'll be able to see even more book recommendations on a rotating cycle.

So next time you come across someone that might be a little reluctant to read and you're tapped out of ideas, had on over to and see what they might like. I find this would work especially well for the younger kids as I know I'm completely lost as to what they might enjoy.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Images of America - Santa Cruz, California by Sheila O'Hare and Irene Barry

First published in 2002.

Located on Monterey Bay, Santa Cruz's mild climate and natural resources have drawn entrepreneurs and visionaries, as well as tourists, since its earliest days. Over time, Santa Cruz city and county became home to a classic seaside amusement park, luxury hotels and beachside mansions, cottage cities and revival camps. Captains of industry, inventors, movie stars, and mountain men all made their homes here. Cap
tured in over 200 photographs is a visiual history of this notable California city.

Santa Cruz County was created in 1850 as one of the new State of California's original counties. Santa Cruz received its city charter in 1876 and developed quickly. The photographic history presented here highlights the shift from pioneer Santa Cruz to its numerous pre-tourism industries, up to the tourist trade of the 20th century. It features many rarely seen images of the boardwalk and beach, early silent-movie making, the therapeutic baths and sanitariums, earthquakes and floods, and the early era of tourism.
(book back blurb)

Have I ever said how much I love these books? I’m sure you’ve seen them before at your local bookstore. They’re local interest books highlighting the town you’re standing in and the surrounding areas, visually recounting the local history, how the town came to be, hot points of the past, major events and so on. If you’re a history buff like me, snagging one of these for your own personal collection just to have the pictures is a definite plus, not to mention they're wonderful pictorial history books for any research you might need about real cities.

Yes, I am from Connecticut and yes, I am currently living here but why a beach town in California? First off, this was no easy book for me to get without having to order it. Thankfully I was able to pick it up while I was in San Francisco for a reading I did. It was just local enough to the city that Barnes and Noble had this doozy on their shelf. I quickly grabbed it and had to pound on my chest a couple of times to restart the heart when I realized how much it cost. For a paperback book 128 pages long that has at most 10,000 words which are all captioning pictures, it cost $20. From the looks of it, you’d probably never think that much. I certainly didn’t but I guess it could be considered a research text or the price can be set that much because of the amount of research that went into it. Either way, it was 20 bucks. Ordering it online wouldn’t have cost me much less, especially when shipping was factored in.

I was first introduced to Santa Cruz thanks to my all time favorite movie, The Lost Boys. It’s been a relative obsession ever since. I visited it for the first time in 2007 and fell in love with it. It’s such a nice beach town, I love the area and holy lord the weather is fantastic. I can’t tell you how nice it was to escape the New England 98 degree summer heat with 100% humidity for the lovely 76 degree summers of California’s Central Coast. My hair appreciated it. So did my writing. Currently I have two YA series (or will have) set in and around Santa Cruz (well, a California town based on Santa Cruz, at least).

Do I love the area because of the movie? No, not really. I love it because of its feel, because of its sense of nostalgia and because it’s just a really nice place to be. I won't lie. I went there initially because of the movie but that's about it. I actually went back out there in October of 2008 for another vacation. Travel in the fall = cheaper rates = happy bank account. Plus I also get the benefits of nice weather, even in October (try fantabulously amazing weather!). I’ve always been enamored with the state of California, probably because it’s not Connecticut and they don’t have winters but now that I’ve actually been there, it just justifies my want to move there even more. And it's something I'm working on.

This book is a lovely pictorial history of Santa Cruz and the outlying towns of Watsonville, Aptos (pronounced app-toss) and Soquel (so-kel). I love looking at the history of the town through those lenses and the researchers certainly put a lot of work into it. It makes the feeling I have for the area run that much deeper and, perhaps, even heightens the fantasy of it for me just a little more. If you’re interested in the history of any city, I would certainly start with one of these books if I were you.

Now if I could get my hands on one for Coney Island and Gravesend, I’d be really happy (I'm working on another series set there). Jaw crunching as it was, the Barnes and Noble I went to in New York had one for every other piece of New York City except Coney Island. Figures, right? Looks like I’ll be scouring Amazon and for it, won’t I?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Coraline, Catching Fire and New Moon

Just a few tidbits for you today. First I have a first look at Suzanne Collins's cover art for the second book in her Hunger Games trilogy. It's not exclusive or anything but I saw it and I knew just how popular that first book is. I haven't read it yet but it is on my paper TBR (as opposed to my actual TBR of doom) and if Stephen King says good things about it then I will gladly take a look! He is one of my gods, after all. The image is courtesy of Publisher's Weekly and you can read a short article about the secrecy surrounding this book here.

Next on the list is a short snippet from the upcoming Henry Selick/Neil Gaiman movie Coraline. Another book I've heard wonderful things about. I'm a burgeoning Neil Gaiman fan and I think his writing is wonderful so of course I plan on reading this one as well. And Nightmare Before Christmas was awesome! I have the underwear! Uh, maybe that was TMI . . . But how could this go wrong? Enjoy the clip! Let me know if you have problems viewing it. It's a MySpace snippet thing.

Last but not least, some New Moon movie news. Now, I'll say this right now, Twilight, for me, is nothing more than a very guilty pleasure. I couldn't stand Edward, Bella or Jacob but I did enjoy the snippets of life from the secondary characters, so long as they remained secondary characters. And I won't even start on the writing.

But the movie wasn't half bad. I actually found it rather enjoyable, mainly because I didn't have to listen to that insufferable twit for the entire two hours. I much prefer just being behind her eyes than I did actually being in her head. While it was roomy, what was in there wasn't really worth the gray matter it was printed on.

Anyway, New Moon news. Dakota Fanning is in the works to play Jane, among other unnamed actresses. I think it's very obvious the movie people really want her in this part. The girl has amazing range as an actress and has done so much and she's only 14 but in all honesty, I never thought of Jane as being a teenager. I always figured she was an adult. It's been a while since I read the book but I can't remember if it's said how old she is. The article has a snippet of her description from the book and I think Dakota fits it pretty nicely, but it doesn't say anything about age. It she's cast in the role, I'll definitely be looking forward to seeing her in the part. That's some real acting talent right there.

And before I go, click my eggs, dammit! They'll die if you don't! Do you want dragon egg deaths on your conscience?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

2009 YA Challenge

Thanks to Sharon, one of my glorious new biters, I was led to the 2009 YA Challenge on J. Kaye's blog. It seems simple enough. All I have to do is read 12 YA books between January and December of 2009. Like I said, simple. Well, I think I'll do more than that. Here's the list of YA books I plan on reading this year (I'm gonna cheat a little and start from the beginning of the year but it's ok because I'm reading way more than 12 books, and because I said so)--

  1. Cirque du Freak - The Vampire's Assistant by Darren Shan (first book read this year)
  2. Cirque du Freak - Tunnels of Blood by Darren Shan (already read)
  3. City of Bones by Cassandra Clare (already read)
  4. The Seventh Tower - The Fall by Garth Nix (done)
  5. The Seventh Tower - Castle by Garth Nix (done)
  6. The Seventh Tower - Aenir by Garth Nix (done)
  7. Dead is the New Black by Marlene Perez (done)
  8. Must Love Black by Kelly McClymer (done)
  9. Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohen and David Levithan (done)
  10. I'd Tell You I Love You But Then I'd Have to Kill You by Ally Carter (done)
  11. Cathy's Book by Sean Stewart and Jordan Weisman (done)
  12. Generation Dead by Daniel Waters (done)
  13. Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer (done)
  14. The Vampire's Promise - Deadly Offer by Caroline B. Cooney (done)
  15. The Vampire's Promise - Evil Returns by Caroline B. Cooney (done)
  16. The Vampire's Promise - Fatal Bargain by Caroline B. Cooney (done)
  17. Vampire Beach by Alex Duval (done)
  18. The Parliament of Blood by Justin Richards (done)
  19. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne (done)
  20. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (done)
  21. The Chronicles of Narnia - The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis (done)
  22. The Chronicles of Narnia - The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis (done)
  23. The Chronicles of Narnia - Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis (done)
  24. The Chronicles of Narnia - The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis (done)
  25. The Chornicles of Narnia - The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis (done)
  26. The Chronicles of Narnia - The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis (done)
  27. Boys That Bite by Mari Mancusi (done)
  28. Girls That Growl by Mari Mancusi (done)
  29. Stake That! by Mari Mancusi (done)
  30. ghostgirl by Tonya Hurley (done)
  31. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (done)
That's my list for now, not in any particular order and they certainly won't be read in that order. None of these are repeat reads and all of them are from my TBR of doom (and there's still more, just not YA). If I don't get through these, I might cry because I already have a back-up TBR building (on paper, at least, the books are starting to take over my room). Now I just have to work on transfering the reviews I already have up at my writing blog over here. That alone is a mighty task.

If you're interested in joining the challenge, then visit J. Kaye's blog to sign up (link at the top).

Thud! by Terry Pratchett

First published in 2005.

Once, in a gods-forsaken hellhole called Koom Valley, trolls and dwarfs met in bloody combat. Centuries later, each species still views the other with simmering animosity. Lately, the influential dwarf, Grag Hamcrusher, has been fomenting unrest among Ankh-Morpork's more diminutive citizens--a volatile situation made far worse when the pint-sized provocateur is discovered bashed to death . . . with a troll club lying conveniently nearby.

Commander Sam Vimes of the City Watch is aware of the importance of solving the Hamcrusher homicide without delay. (Vimes's second most-pressing responsibility, in fact, next to always being home at six p.m. sharp to read Where's My Cow? to Sam, Jr.) But more than one corpse is waiting for Vimes in the eerie, summoning darkness of a labyrinthine mine network being secretly excavated beneath Ankh-Morpork's streets. And the deadly puzzle is pulling him deep into the muck and mire of superstition, hatred and fear--and perhaps all the way to Koom Valley itself. (book back blurb)

Terry Pratchett's right up there with Neil Gaiman in the fantasy worship department. His is another name that I heard most often when starting all of my fantasy research so it was only natural that I picked up one of his books. At random. I knew of Discworld and I knew he'd written a bunch of books for that particular series. Thankfully it's not an ordered series, not really. I have no idea where Thud! falls in the Discworld order but I know it's not at the beginning nor the end and I didn't have any problems understanding what was going on. I'm almost positive, from what I've heard, that that was Pratchett's intent with this series. If you read them in order, then yes, they'd make a little more sense and you'd get a few more jokes but if you read them all mashed up, you wouldn't get lost in the mire. Those are my kind of series!

The only notion I had going into reading his book was that he’s [Pratchett's] funny. He’s certainly not the snort your soda type of funny but it’s a dry, British wit that if you don’t get the satire, you’re just not going to get it. I got it and thought some of his lines were absolutely hilarious. Tawneee’s nose going blort when she blew it tickled me in just the right way (but not that way, if you catch my drift, pervert).

It’s a sardonic, bored-with-life-but-never-coming-up-short-with-things-to-mock type of funny that really makes you appreciate the humor. Anyone can slip on a banana peel or miss-sit on a toilet seat and have it be funny but the poignant words and the near intricacy of Pratchett’s funny bone is remarkable. This is the type of humor that takes true talent. It’s all in the order of the words, how he chose them, what he chose and then just how they spring up on you, as if from out of nowhere. There’s little to no build-up and the hilarity is often told in something of an aside, an off-handed comment that’s there and gone before you know it. Poosticks, for example. Poosticks!

On the fantasy side, it’s pretty high fantasy but without all of the floofy, tweedle dee, prance around in a tutu throwing glitter with pixe farts type of high that tends to come with such a sub genre (to be obnoxiously stereotypical). It’s a work that’s very grounded in a world that isn’t our own but could be, surrounded by magical creatures of all kinds that had acclimated to society as if it were part of their normal evolutionary track. It could have rightly been a parallel world that could have existed in place of our own and we really wouldn’t have noticed save for a few trolls (I could roll with that, but I’ll leave it for now).

Perhaps it’s the satire itself that makes it seem so real. The discord between the trolls and the dwarfs could easily mimic any kind of racial or political divide that exists now. Or perhaps it’s the parody, Pratchett taking the stereotypes of a token butler and putting them all into Willikins gives him an astounding air of Ben Stein calm mixed with Jason Statham ass-kicking. Be it the satire, the parody or the drive for Vimes to be a good dad to his son regardless of the obstacles in his way, or all of these elements and then some combined into one, it all probably plays a part into this fantastical reality of Pratchett’s.

I don’t know if I’ll read this one again for a while, though, because I feel this kind of humor in book form is good the first time through and each subsequent time it’s read its impact lessens if read too consecutively. The voice is amazing, I love the way it’s written but I’ll probably only put one more read into it before putting it down and not coming back to it for a while. A book like this needs its time to sink in order to really appreciate everything it has to offer before getting picked up again. It needs its space but deserves to be read more than once throughout its lifetime.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

First published in 1999.

Young Tristan Thorn will do anything to win the cold heart of beautiful Victoria--even fetch her the star they watch fall from the night sky. But to do so, he must enter the unexplored lands on the other side of the ancient wall that gives their tiny village its name. But beyond that old stone barrier, Tristan learns, lies Faerie--where strange things can happen to a determined lad chasing his heart's desire . . . and where nothing, not even a fallen star, is what he imagined. (book back blurb)

This book was my first foray into fantasy outside of my slight Harry Potter obsession and it was pretty awkward. Like dancing with a guy with broccoli in your teeth awkward. At that point I'd heard of Neil Gaiman but along with this book popping my fantasy cherry, it also popped my Gaiman cherry (sorry, sir). At that moment, I wasn't all that impressed, at least not to the extent with which everyone who likes fantasy held him to. I just didn't see it. It was interesting, sure, but it read as if it were trying too hard to be something other than what it was. I took issue with that, especially since it was pretty different in tone from the movie. Now before you grab the pitchforks, I saw the movie before I even knew it was based on a book. Like I said, I was new to the genre. And I love the movie. Only natural to read the book to compare. Eh.

Overall, it was an interesting read. I don’t know if it’s something I could read over and over and over again but it was good nonetheless although I felt the book was a bit rushed in too many pivotal places and some greater depth was rendered.

The relationship between Yvaine and Tristian, for example, I would have liked to see something a bit more gradual blossom between them because it read like turning on a light switch. Throughout nearly the entire thing Tristian talked only of Victoria but, at the 11th hour and 59th minute, he says no, I love Yvaine and she him. It just seems that it wasn’t there and then, miraculously, it was. At least with the movie we’re able to see the animosity between the two slowly drift away and their like for each other grow. In the book, Tristian was enthralled with Victoria for 95% of the time and we see a gradual decline from Yvaine’s bitterness to something more closely resembling begrudging submission with the jump to love something akin to jumping over the Grand Canyon. There seemed to be no segue.

Another major point that very much irked me were the voices in the story. They all seemed to blend except for Yvaine when she was cranky. I felt the language, the tone of voice, was shared by all characters most of the time. I found it difficult to differentiate between any of them and even discern emotions. They just read very flat to me, as if Gaiman were trying to portray a particular attitude of the time but instead of inflection we’re given a British Ben Stein wearing the clothes of the pauper, the witch, the Wall-folk and the noblemen simultaneously. Initially I thought it was some kind of British wit that I just wasn't getting.

Outside of those, I would have liked to see a bit more worldbuilding. At times it felt like I was traveling by candlelight through the book itself and that I wasn’t privy to such wonders that the world had to offer. Too much time was spent leading up to, and getting Tristan over, the wall and not enough within Stormhold itself. He spent months over there and yet, for most of it, we’re just given glimpses of what he’s done, what he’s seen, what Stormhold could possibly offer. I didn’t care so much about what was going on in Wall as I did with what was going on in Faerie.

If elements from the movie could be combined with elements from the book, I think the book itself would be more well-rounded, I would have a better grasp on the world itself and a greater element of magic and fantasy would emerge. If given the choice, I would rather watch the movie than read the book again simply because I felt the movie offered more. I’m probably stomping on something that’s the epitome of fantasy in many people’s eyes but its just how I feel. It didn’t leave me wanting more story to carry on from the end; it left me wanting to know more about what I was teased with in between the covers.

Lucky for me, my internet friends love me and are thoroughly forgiving of my indiscretions. It was the lovely Stormy that enlightened me to the fact that Stardust isn't written in Gaimen's usual style and was something more of an experiment in the old timey ways of story telling. Well that certainly explains it! It doesn't explain away what I found lacking in the book but it explains the voice and tone, without a doubt.

Actually, I'm happy I started my Gaimen adventure with this book. I think I would have been more disappointed had I read his other work (which I've started doing, yeah, now I can understand the canonization) first because I don't think this one holds muster to the rest. I got this one out of the way and now I can peaceably move on to the better works.

Prepare To Get Bitten

Hi and welcome to Bites, my book review blog.

Right now you might be wondering why Bites is the title of a book review blog, not to mention its theme (if you're not, well, TS, either suffer through the explanation or skip ahead). Well, I have a tendency of being . . . honest in my reviews. I don't like holding things back because I find it detrimental to the work and the author. That being said, that kind of brutal honesty doesn't always make for a nice, fluffy review. But this is how I do it. No-holds-barred, Doberman Pinscher style. And yes, I'd want the same done to my work. It's one of the only ways to improve.

Now that you know my style, you might be wondering what makes me qualified to tear into a work like a rabid dog on meth. I could list all of my numerous qualifications or you could just read my reviews and decide on your own if they hold any merit. If you don't think my opinions hold water, my resume isn't going to convince you otherwise.

With that being said, here's the deal. Right now I'm reading mostly YA with a couple MG and contemporary adult fiction thrown in. I have a HUGE backlog of a TBR pile (I bet you thought I was exaggerating) that I plan on getting to sometime this century but if you're willing to get an honest review of your book, I'd be willing to push it to the head of the pile, especially if it's an ARC. But please, DO NOT ask me to review a book unless you're sure you're prepared for the review. Like I said, I don't hold back. Don't get me wrong, you'll walk away with your original orifices intact but I'm not necessarily going to sugar-coat anything either. For safety's sake, read a sampling of the reviews I have here already so you know what you're getting into. And just so you know, I read with more of a writer's and editor's eye than a reader's eye (unfortunately, sometimes). Once a review is published on this site, it won't be removed (unless the reasons are legitimately legal). You can't say I didn't warn you.

Another word of warning--my time is limited. As you can see from my TBR pile, I'm a little backed up. I'm not a slow reader but reading is not all that I'm doing in my life. Because of that I have to be selective of the books I take on to review. I don't have a choice. I'd drown in dead trees otherwise.

So, do you still want a thorough, honest review of your book? Then go ahead and send me a request at If you're a publisher or an author, please let me know if it's an ARC and needs to be reviewed by a specific date. Deadlines are my friends and they will be met, usually by the curb at the main mall entrance. If you're a reader and would like to recommend a book for me to review, by all means be my guest but please note that it'll be added to the pile and I'll get to it when I can. But I will get to it.

Please be sure to include a short blurb of the book you'd like to be reviewed. I won't consider a request without one. And please don't take it personally if I choose not to review a book. Chances are it just didn't interest me. It's been known to happen.

The review itself will consist of the book blurb (from the back of the book,, or wherever else), my in depth review and a bite rating, the highest being five bites (see the sidebar). In this case, the more bites you get, the better.

Right now I'd prefer only YA review queries but if you have something else that you think I should look at, don't hesitate to send it.

Ok, I'll shut up . . . for now.
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