The Book Sale Happened Again!

This is seriously one of my favorite times of the year. I can’t say it is my hands-down favorite, because my husband might get pouty that my absolute favorite isn’t our anniversary. So I will say I have multiple favorite times of the year, and this is one of them.

The used book sale!

I love this. It is a haven for people like me who have limited income and a love of reading. I was trying to keep an eye on money this year, so I did something I haven’t before. I set a budget. And I stuck to it. Yay me. Even with my budget, I managed to walk away with a whopping 32 books for me, and one for my mom. The love of reading runs in the family, you see.

My newest babies!

BookSaleFeb

Even with space at a premium in our apartment, I can’t resist the call of new books!
A full list of what I got under the jump!

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Review: Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones (Spoiler Free)

Howl's Moving CastleHowl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
Read: November 28 – December 3, 2012
Format: Paperback (owned book), 212 pages
ISBN: 0-7497-0903-0

Publisher: Mandarin Paperbacks, 1991

Personal read.

Book Blurb: Sophie lived in the town of Market Chipping, which was in Ingary, a land in which anything could happen, and often did – especially when the Witch of the Waste got her dander up. Which was often.

As her younger sisters set out to seek their fortunes, Sophie stayed in her father’s hat shop. Which proved most unadventurous, until the Witch of the Waste came in to buy a bonnet, but was not pleased. Which is why she turned Sophie into an old lady. Which was spiteful witchery.

Now Sophie must seek her own fortune. Which means striking a bargain with the lecherous Wizard Howl. Which means entering his ever-moving castle, taming a blue fire-demon, and meeting the Witch of the Waste head-on. Which was more than Sophie bargained for…

My Opinion:Unlike most people I have encountered, I did not see the movie before picking up the book of Howl’s Moving Castle. Though I had heard of it. So I had no preconceived notions of what the story would be. I like that better… I would rather go into a movie with the preconceived notions than a book, personally. But I digress.

This was a delightful book. If I didn’t have so much going on, I probably would have read it all in one sitting. The story flowed fairly well, though the writing style took some getting used to for me. Diana Wynne Jones has taken on a particular tone with her writing in this book that I have labeled as “detached third person”. While all third person is detached, I can just imagine this entire book being done as a voice-over, probably in a delightful British accent. It lacked warmth and familiarity with the characters. While I liked the characters and the setting, I never felt supremely attached to any of them.

The plot of Howl’s Moving Castle is really quite intriguing. I keep picking up these small books, expecting small stories. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Things kept happening, and yet, nothing really happened. Some of the twists I saw coming a mile away, and some I only got partially right. And some blind-sided me completely.

The characters in Howl’s Moving Castle were really interesting, and I wish the book had been longer so they could have been explored more. In a book of just over two hundred words, the author has to make a choice between characters and back story and the plot moving forward. Any author worth their salt (which Diana Wynne Jones clearly is) will make the choice to keep the plot moving and sacrifice a bit in the way of characters. I want to know more about The Witch of the Waste, and Howl, and Sophie. We get glimmers, but I want the whole damn light bulb!

I am interested to see how the rest of the series goes, because everything did tie up pretty nicely at the end. The big climactic moment was not all that climactic, thus earning it a lower star rating on Goodreads. But overall, enjoyable.

Bottom Line: Enjoyable fantasy book that will keep you engaged with its twisty plot. Be warned though, it is a short book, and the end will come all too soon.

Review: The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett (Spoiler Free)

The Colour Of MagicThe Colour Of Magic by Terry Pratchett (Discworld #1)
Read: November 21 – November 27, 2012
Format: Paperback (owned book), 253 pages
ISBN: 0-451-45112-0

Publisher: ROC (The Penguin Group), 1985

Personal read.

Book Blurb: Discworld – perched on the backs of four cosmically gargantuan elephants (who themselves are traveling through the intergalactic void atop a giant sea turtle) – is a place where anything can happen.

And it does when Twoflower, a naive insurance salesman turned tourist, makes the mistake of selling fire insurance to an arson-prone innkeeper. One burning town later, Twoflower and his amazing, sentient Luggage – which follows him everywhere on its hundreds of little feet – find themselves rescued by the inept wizard Rincewind, who is only too happy to turn tour guide as long as the gold flows free. And off this mismatched threesome go on an incredible adventure in the wildest realms of fantasy!

My Opinion: I have been meaning to read The Colour of Magic for so long. It always seemed like my kind of book. However, my library doesn’t have it, and I was trying to curb my new book buying. But, when the annual book sale rolled around, I couldn’t resist picking it up used for a fantastic price.

I am glad I did.

The Colour of Magic has been compared to The Hitchiker’s Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams, and I can see why. Both Pratchett and Adams share this way of writing that doesn’t take itself too seriously. The prose itself is extremely well written, if deceptively dense for such a little book. The humor is exceptional, light-hearted and fitting the setting perfectly. I found it to be almost an exact replica of the style found in The Hitchiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. That said, it is definitely the kind of writing I had to be in the right mood for.

The story is meandering, with bursts of action here and there. The Colour of Magic never felt like it was dragging, though there were periods where I wondered what the point was, and I can’t really say I ever got completely sucked into the story.

Rincewind and Twoflower are delightful characters. They have flaws, they are unconventional… just really enjoyable to read about.

It is a short book, so this is a short review.

Bottom Line: Quirky fantasy parody, not unlike The Hitchiker’s Guide To The Galaxy is to the science fiction genre. Delightfully written, but sometimes wanders a little too much.

Review: Cinder by Marissa Meyer (Spoiler Free)

Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Read: August 8 – August 21, 2012
Other Information: Owned book, hardcover, 387 pages, Book club selection

Book Blurb: Cinder wouldn’t fit in at a formal ball, anyway. Even if she did find dress gloves and slippers that could hide her metal monstrosities, her mousy hair would never hold a curl, and she didn’t know the first thing about makeup. She would end up sitting just off the dance floor and making fun of the girls who swooned to get Prince Kai’s attention, pretending she wasn’t jealous. Pretending it didn’t bother her.

Although she was curious about the food.

And the prince did know her now, sort of. He had been kind to her at the market. Perhaps he would ask her to dance. Out of politeness, Out of chivalry, when he saw her standing alone.

The precarious fantasy crashed down around her as quickly as it had begun. It was impossible. Not worth thinking about.

She was a cyborg, and she would never go to the ball.

My Opinion: Cinder is quite a romp through various different fandoms. It has influences of Sailor Moon, a dash of Twilight-esque teenage romance, and of course the weaving of the classic fairytale of Cinderella. Overlay it all with some spaceships and voila! Cinder by Marissa Meyer.

Overall, I enjoyed the book. Even at almost 400 pages, I think I would have devoured it in almost one sitting if I wasn’t held back by the book club stopping points. The story moves quickly and is engaging, even if it is entirely too predictable. I made several predictions in the discussions for book club, and every single one of them turned out to be right. It was nice to be right, but it was also somewhat disappointing. There was one page that kind of ruined the entire plot for me, because the foreshadowing was so heavy-handed.

The characters were fairly one-dimensional. Cinder is very average, she has no motivating factors other than to get away from New Beijing. Queen Levana is one of those villains who is just singularly evil. She has no motivation that is clearly defined, she has no redeeming factors, not even remotely. The surprise for me was in Prince Kai. He didn’t conform (not in this book, there is still time in the series) to the stereotype of leading male. He had some depth, and instead of just being a teenaged boy, he took on the mantle of responsibility as an adult and did what was best for his country, even though it didn’t agree with his personal wishes. Iko was hands down the best character ever. I loved her.

The prose was really light on descriptives. It made the story flow faster, since there wasn’t a lot of time spent on the minutiae of what people looked like, but I find myself craving more information about Cinder, Peony and Kai. In the city of New Beijing, are most of the inhabitants Asian, or are there a fair amount of Caucasians as well?

The story itself was interesting. I don’t really see how it gained anything from being interwoven with Cinderella, though. I think Marissa Meyer probably just really enjoyed Cinderella, and decided to weave it in. Cinder would have done just as well without it. Though it likely would have been called something else. It also felt like there were a lot of things that happened for no other reason than to bring Cinder and Prince Kai together. The things I wished had been expanded on like the history of the world, the Lunar colony and the lost Lunar princess were all kind of skipped over. Instead we had Cinder and Kai, and then some letumosis (read: modern plague) thrown in for good measure.

Bottom Line: A quick read that, in spite of its shortcomings, I thoroughly enjoyed. Very much a YA read lacking in depth, but that also works for it.

Mini Update – Camp NaNo and Other Things

Hello followers!

I apologize that I haven’t been blogging much lately.

In addition to being really focused on Camp NaNo (27k words tonight!) I have been dealing with some health things. I will probably be quasi-MIA for a while until I can get my health sorted out to my satisfaction.

I don’t want to bore you with the details, but many tests and things are being done. I am OK — just need to look into some things.

Also, it is kind of hard to write my NaNo words and then think of coherent things to say on the blog while under the influence of painkillers. Just sayin’.

The good news about having health issues? It gives me a lot of time to read. The bad news? My current book – Insurrection by Robyn Young – while very well written, is very slow in the story department. And I have issues reading multiple books. I get confused very easily, so I tend to keep it to 2 books max at a time.

Ah well, hopefully I can get through it soon and then move on to other more exciting books!

Keep reading, keep writing.
And just keep swimming!

Quick Thoughts, Aug 10

So, I didn’t want to do a full “Currently Reading” on these two books because I don’t feel like I am far enough into them yet. So I thought I would try something new… “Quick Thoughts”.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

  • The foreshadowing is fairly heavy-handed here. Is it a diversion tactic, or is the book really transparent? Only time will tell.
  • Very light on descriptive prose.
  • All in all, enjoying this one and want to read more, but am stuck at the Book Club stopping point.

Insurrection by Robyn Young

  • I thought this might have some Outlander type properties to it. So far, nothing. Not a single mention of a kilt. Which, if I had done my research or known my history, I would know that kilts weren’t the traditional dress of Scotland until the 16th century.
  • Very heavy prose. Political, historical… not much action yet.
  • Kind of forcing my way through this one for now. After all the light (prose wise) reading I have been doing lately, this one is bogging me down. It is exceptionally well written, but not what my brain wants right now.

Review: Redshirts by John Scalzi (Spoiler Free)

Redshirts by John Scalzi
Read: July 24 – August 6, 2012
Other Information: Owned book, e-book, 211 pages, Book Club selection

Book Blurb: Ensign Andrew Dahl has just been assigned to the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid, flagship of the Universal Union since the year 2456. It’s a prestige posting, and Andrew is thrilled all the more to be assigned to the ship’s Xenobiology laboratory.

Life couldn’t be better…until Andrew begins to pick up on the fact that (1) every Away Mission involves some kind of lethal confrontation with alien forces, (2) the ship’s captain, its chief science officer, and the handsome Lieutenant Kerensky always survive these confrontations, and (3) at least one low-ranked crew member is, sadly, always killed.

Not surprisingly, a great deal of energy below decks is expended on avoiding, at all costs, being assigned to an Away Mission. Then Andrew stumbles on information that completely transforms his and his colleagues’ understanding of what the starship Intrepid really is…and offers them a crazy, high-risk chance to save their own lives.

My Opinion: This was the first book of Scalzi’s that I have read. And even though I wasn’t really a huge fan of Star Trek when I was younger (nor am I now, for that matter) I still enjoyed the book. I think the key is to not take it too seriously. This might be easier said than done if you are a Scalzi fan, as I understand his work can be quite deep. But aside from some existential questions, this book is all fun and spoof.

Scalzi is light on the descriptive prose, which makes the book very lightweight and streamlined, but it also makes it hard to follow at times. I lost track of which person was which at times, and had to go back and remind myself. We don’t really get a sense of what any of the characters look like, nor what the environment looks like. It is a little unnerving, coming from a high fantasy background where everything is descriptions and backstory heavy to something so slick and streamlined.

The narrative has a great voice, and there are a lot of tongue-in-cheek moments. The humor is relatable and at no time did it feel like it was being pushed too hard.

Plot-wise, I know the very last chapter upset a lot of people, but honestly I thought it was great. The thing that made me the most upset was that Scalzi never seemed to take the time to get invested in his characters or his plot. Was this a product of the subject matter? Was it because the characters were supposed to be “expendable”? I don’t know. But it lessened the reading experience. And I hate that nothing was really explained in the end.

Scalzi is a good writer. This is illustrated exceptionally well in the second of the three codas, which are essentially epilogues. The second coda is written in second person. It is still an awkward way of writing, but it is the least awkward second-person prose I have ever read. Bravo, Mr. Scalzi.

Bottom Line: A fun and fast read that is not to be taken too seriously. Very meta, and highly recommended for the Trekkies out there.