Posts Tagged With: Holly Black

Book Review: Fragile Things and The Darkest Part of the Forest

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I realized, as I was writing this review, that I have reviewed Black and Gaiman together before now.  Their work is so different,  but it feels like 2 sides of the same coin in many ways.  Gaiman writes mostly for adults, Black for YA.  Gaiman deals in myth, Black in fairy tale.  The books are filled with the weird and the strange.  And those weird, strange things often take place in the modern age.  It was an accident that I’m putting them together this time.  They’re the only 2 non-fiction books that I haven’t reviewed yet.  It seemed right to do them together at the same time. So here we are,  with the books fulfilling the “a book that will be a complete mindfuck” and “a book you bought long ago but still haven’t read” categories for the reading challenge.

Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman:

I should probably couch this review by saying that I mostly don’t enjoy short stories.  Or, rather, that there is a celebrated type of short story that I loathe, full of beautiful words and terrible happenings that brings me more unsettled upset than entertainment.  It’s a staple of the genre. But I love Gaiman, and I have read all his novels already.  Some multiple times.  Also, his work is always a mindfuck.  It’s strange in ways that are completely right yet unexpected.

I enjoyed Fragile Things and I didn’t, in about equal measure.  A Study in Emerald is worth the price of the whole thing, I enjoyed it so much.  I think anyone with a penchant for Doyle would.  But there were others in there that just made me rather horrified.  They were all so hit and miss that it’s impossible to go through and say worth it/skip of each, which I would have to do.  And to be honest, if you can find Emerald not in this book, that’s the route I would go with.  For me, the joy wasn’t worth the pain.  The quality of the work is amazing, the subject matter was not often my cup of tea.

Looking for something Gaiman to read?  American Gods, The Graveyard Book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and Stardust are all good options.  Looking for something new of Gaiman’s to read?  He just came out with a non-fiction book of essays “The View From the Cheap Seats,” which I hear is good (although I haven’t gotten around to it yet).

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black: 

Every time I read Holly Black, I remind myself that I need to read more Holly Black.  I don’t know why she doesn’t come to mind as an immediate “yes” author to me.  Everything I have read of hers has been joyfully frightening, fascinatingly horrifying.  This one is about a modern town on the edge of faerie.  There is a horned prince in the forest, sleeping in a glass coffin, and then he goes missing. And then people start dying.

It’s all the things I loved about the Tithe world with a more epic heroine to balance out the story.  There are several things in the genre that are always a YES for me (almost irrespective of content).  Fae, love stories, and women with swords are a few of those, which this book has in spades.  I loved it.  It made me want to buy Valliant immediately, and then re-read Coldest Girl in Cold Town.

I bought this book almost a year ago.  I don’t know what made me linger in reading it.  I lingered with Gaiman’s Ocean, though, too.  I think perhaps it’s because I know I’m going to love it so much and I only get to read it for the first time once, that I feel the need to savor it as much as possible.  Or maybe it’s a fear of ultimately not liking something I’m looking forward to so much.  Both Black and Gaiman always deliver, though.  I should remember that more.

The final verdict on Darkest Part of the Forest is go buy it now.

Happy reading!

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A Very Gothic Vacation

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It is a scant 4 weeks away from the summer vacation I’m taking this year.  It’s just for 4 days, but that’s still a miracle considering I started this job less than 6 months ago and I really thought I wasn’t going to get to go anywhere this year.  Everything was approved this week at work, though.  I really CAN go!

Vacation means vacation reads, which I’m already thinking about.  I’ll be gone for about 5 days, which means 5 books with a couple to spare maybe, if things get interesting.  I like to have themes for vacation, because I find that it makes books inseparable from the landscape.  I’ll never forget reading Tolkien in Yosemite, or Always Coming Home while road-tripping up the California coast, Jonathan Livingston Seagull at my aunt’s beach house, or Jane Austen in my other aunt’s house on the river.

I’ve decided I’m going for gothic fantasy on this one.  There’s a lot of that genre I want to read, by authors I love, and I hate to read books that consume me when I’m not able to devote time to them.   Vacation is the perfect time for that.  I’m going to Massachusetts with a visit to Plimoth Plantation planned.  You might think I should go straight to Phillbrick’s stuff and get all the pilgrim I can out of the vacation.  But Massachusetts is also the home of Salem…  Gothic horror is totally legit, I think.

What am I planning to read?  Here goes:

  • Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray: 2nd of the Diviner books, in which Evie O’Neil is now a famous seer, but can she and her friends stop the crazy sleeping sickness that’s plaguing the slums of New York?
  • The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black: I have no idea what this is about save that there’s some sort of beast in the forest that the main character was told to stay away from. And it’s Holly Black.  That’s all I really need to know.
  • The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater: A girl named Blue hooks up with 3 boys from a local prep school who are looking for a dead Welch king. Tumblr can’t get enough of it, so I’m taking their advice.
  • The Cure for Dreaming by Cat Winters: Victorian mesmerist gives the main character supernatural powers.   I saw this at my local indie shop and have been wondering about it ever since.
  • Witches of Lychford by Paul Cornell: An old lady opposes the building of a big box store on the town border because it will literally unleash hell if the town’s borders are breached. It’s a novel, so…
  • A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness: Descendant of first witch to ever be murdered in Salem accidentally comes across a book in a library that makes her run to a vampire for help. Sounds like just the kind of smut I love.

The Back Ups:

  • The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
  • Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater
  • The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater
  • Valiant by Holly Black
  • Of Sorrow and Such by Angela Slatter

That will more than do me for the trip.  I sort of consider all of the Maggie Stiefvater books of the same thing since they’re all the same series.  Whether I move on to Holly and Angela or not depends on how infatuated I am with Maggie’s stuff.  Tumblr loves those Raven Boys, but Tumblr is sometimes wrong (I know, I said it).

I’ll report back in a few weeks on the stuff I ACTUALLY read.  Much thanks to TOR for their recommendations, and also to The Book Seer (and my sister, for sending the link to me).

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Halloween Reads

Halloween Books

Two blog posts in one week, you say?  I know.  I’m feeling like an overachiever.  Or maybe I’m just feeling like I don’t want to fix horrible rough drafts any longer.  I want to do some fun writing instead…

It’s almost October!  In fancy letters on my calendar for Saturday it says “Put up Halloween Decorations!!” So of course (always a slave to my calendar), I will be getting all the macabre things out of cabinets this weekend and putting them all over the house.  I’m very excited about it. Items are deeply tied to memories for me, so I will be thrilled to see the village go up, and the pumpkins collect on my bookshelves again as if they were old friends.

This has me thinking of Halloween reads, of course.  Even if it is 100 degrees here in California, I can still read creepy literature and eat cinnamon flavored things while lolling about in the air conditioning.  Here are some of my creepiest favorites so you can join me:

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black:

Tana wakes up from a party to realize that her entire high school has been murdered in the living room, and a vampire (who probably wasn’t responsible) is tied up in the back bedroom waiting certain death when the sun rises enough to come in the window.  Rescuing him brings her a world of trouble, especially when she agrees to enter a quarantined “Cold Town” where humans and monsters mingle in a nebulous line between predator and prey.  Getting in is easy, getting out impossible, and the whole thing will be broadcast as reality TV for the world – and Tana’s family – to watch.

Coraline by Neil Gaiman:

Neglected Coraline hates the new apartment her parents moved the family to, complete with creepy neighbors.  Until she discovers the door in the living room that leads to a utopian version of the life she hates, complete with mouse circus and perfect parents.  But then Coraline’s Other Mother asks her to stay.  All she has to do is let them sew buttons into her eyes…

The Diviners by Libba Bray:

Evie finds her small town too hot to handle when her ability to divine the past from touching personal objects means she knows a bit too much.  So her parents pack her off to her uncle in New York who runs the Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult.  Evie is thrilled to be among the speakeasies, the Ziegfeld girls, and the opulence of the 1920s.  Until something calling himself Naughty John awakes and begins a spree of murdering that maybe only Evie and her pals can stop.

Edgar Allan Poe: Complete Tales and Poems by Edgar Allen Poe:

Seriously, this guy has the creepy thing down.  And he’s been the most consistent October read of mine.  I always sit down to some of his short stories in October.  There are a million collections out there, so pick one that looks good and read away (I pulled the linked one because it’s all of them).  My favorites are The Cask of Amontillado, the Fall of the House of Usher, The Pit and the Pendulum, I could go on forever… In fact, here: http://poestories.com/stories.php

Sunshine by Robin McKinley:

It was probably dangerous for Sunshine, baker extraordinaire at her step-dad’s diner, to drive out to the lake in the world post-war where everyone now knows that vampires and were-beasts are real.  She didn’t expect to be kidnapped and chained in a room with an imprisoned vampire.  She didn’t expect to be able to save them both, linking them inexplicably together.  And now she’s been drawn into the middle of an ancient vampire war that cannot be won, and she has to pretend it’s all fine lest she frighten the humans or attract the attention of the Feds who would certainly kill her allies.

Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale by Holly Black:

A dark Faerie tale in which Kaye, drifter and groupie for her semi-talented mother’s band, discovers she’s actually a changeling Pixie when they move back to her family home in New Jersey.  Kaye falls in love with the most dangerous knight in the evil Unseelie court, and now she must play a game of identities, both human and pixie, as she tries to keep herself from becoming the traditional Samhain sacrifice.

All links are Amazon Affiliate links.  Happy reading!!

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Fall-ish Reading List 2014

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In the holiday shuffle, I missed posting my fall reading list.  So this one contains everything I’ve read up until January 1.  It’s shorter because I’ve been doing less reading of other people’s novels and more reading of my own.  Draft 6 is in full swing.

So, without further ado, here it is:

1.      A Wonderlandiful World, by Shannon Hale – Fun like the others, but I missed Apple and Raven.  Hale does some brilliant stuff that is Against the Rules and Shouldn’t Work with the character of the narrator. And yet it does, perfectly.

2.      Demons, and other magic by Meghan Ciana Doidge – She did not deliver on a (stupid) thing she’s been threatening for three books now, so that made me unhappy.  Otherwise it was what it should have been.  Nice epic finish that felt big enough.

3.      Manon Lescaut by Abbe Provost – I can’t say I liked it, although it got me thinking quite a bit.  It’s one of those novels where I disdain the characters and think they’re all idiots.  But it broadened my horizons.  So I’m not sorry I read it.

4.      The Princess Bride by S. Morgenstern – If it was possible that anything could be funnier than the movie, this book is funnier than the movie.  The Florin jokes, abridgements, and history are the best thing ever, like I’m part of a massive inside joke.

5.      Attachments by Rainbow Rowell – Man hired to read company e-mails secretly falls in love with girl who keeps violating the e-mail policy.  The two gals are beyond hilarious, the main character is such a great guy, and I love this book so much.

6.      The Lake by Analisa Grant – I just… 1st person present tense was difficult for me, and the story was cliché.  But it had profluence and an interesting main character.  I gave up 1/3 of the way through.  Maybe I’ll pick it up again, I don’t know.

7.      A Garden Folly by Candice Hern – The stupid sort of G rated Regency romance I love a lot.  Although it does make me uncomfortable when a girl says no and a guy doesn’t listen, no matter how much she’s really enjoying it.

8.      Paper Towns by John Green – Looking For Alaska was a better “finding someone” novel, and An Abundance of Katherines was a better “road trip” novel.  But it enjoyed it, and would have enjoyed it more had I not read the others first, I think.

9.      The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer – Now this is what I look for in a sappy regency romance.  Sophy is delightfully uncouth, quippy, and still the toast of the town.  It’s such a fun novel!  I’m pretty sure Heyer is my new obsession.

10.  The Masqueraders by Georgette Heyer – A confusing start but ultimately fun.  Minus (miniscule) points because the siblings don’t have a great reason for masquerading.  Most of the novel had me in conniptions worried for Prue in White’s club.

11.  A Convenient Marriage by Georgette Heyer – I feel  like I shouldn’t have liked this one because of the abduction but I did anyway.  I could have done without the swath at the end where silly brothers are silly.  Otherwise impeccable.

12.  The Corinthian by Georgette Heyer – Considered her best by folks on Goodreads. It was cute, but I wasn’t super impressed.  The way she treats gender relationships sometimes bothers me, but not enough to hate the book.  It was a different time.

13.  More Than Somewhat by Damon Runyon – Why is he so wonderful?  I forgot how hilarious he makes the Broadway underworld of the 1930s and 40s.  I wish more of his stuff was available.

14.  The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black – Oh CRAZY good, and perfect for the Halloween mood I was in.  Vampire novel meets quippy YA novel in the best way.  It was violent, but I found I could take it.  Seriously, this one is amazing.

15.  The Quiet Gentleman by Georgette Heyer – This one was sort of murder mystery-ish, although I knew who did it way too far in advance.  Once again, some unwanted advances are blamed on the flirtatious girl (sigh).  But I enjoyed it anyway.

16.  Dangerous by Shannon Hale – I love this novel, and the problems I saw in it the first time didn’t bother me at all the second time through.  The best part is still the funny names Maisy gives her false arm, and the bad puns.  They never get old.

17.  A Midwife’s Tale by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich – You don’t often get nonfiction books that focus on the daily lives of women.  And women in the late 1700’s? Sold! It was a fascinating read and taught me A LOT about colonial domestic life. Love.

18.  The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer – It’s weird.  This book feels utterly familiar and yet new at the same time.  I am in love with her, and this book is all the toppings on the sundae of how she’s changed my perspective and my life. So good.

19.  Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn – Beautifully written. It made me angsty and paranoid, though. The things she has to say about relationships are so heartbreakingly true that it feels like I could get there.  And the end?  No.  Just, no.  Ultimately did not like.

20.  Great Expectations by Charles Dickens – I have never read any Dickens as an adult, and I’m enjoying it a lot more than I did when I was younger.  His character descriptions are delightful, and the story is so much more full.  Poor Pip and his fortune.

21.  Balls and Synthetic Cheese by Amethyst Hethcoat – A classmate of mine.  Such a weird and sometimes funny collection of short stories.  I had forgotten her penchant for unlikely metaphors and similes that make me grin. I was glad for the reminder.

22.  Rose Daughter by Robin McKinley – SO good, with that mundane quality in which nothing and everything happens which McKinley does so well. It’s a different book than Beauty, the ending far more satisfying.  Happily ever after is happy too.

23.  Landline by Rainbow Rowell – CRAZY good.  It made me think of Brian and the way things used to be 15 years ago when we were first dating.  It was sweet, and at this point I’m ready to read everything Rowell has ever written ever.

24.  Sunshine by Robin McKinley – It killed me that I didn’t have 12 hours to just sit down and read this thing all the way through.  Dirtier than most McKinely novels, but I didn’t mind.  This book makes vampire tropes look Hot (capital H).

25.  Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell – I love the way Rowell makes me think of my own college days.  It makes me want to love Brian in detail like that again.  Cath is so wonderful in such a messy way.  There isn’t anything I don’t love about this book.

26.  Charmed Life by Diana Wynne Jones – A re-read.  I forgot how terrible Gwendolyn is, and how funny Chrestomanci’s dressing gowns are.  And Millie! And the adorable but bitey dragon! Some of the best of Diana Wynne Jones.

27.  The Lives of Christopher Chant by Diana Wynne Jones – A re-read.  Because after Cat, you HAVE to have Christopher and his Almost Anywheres.  I might love this book more than the first one, although I nearly always read them in this order.

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