WoGF review: The Girl Who Got Around To Reading The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland And Loved It…

girl fairyland
The Alice in Wonderland of this generation? I hope so

Title: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making
Author: Catherynne M. Valente
Illustration: Ana Juan
Publisher: Square Fish
Type: Paperback, 247 p
Keywords: alice in wonderland, kids going to magical worlds and coming back awesome, whimsical words!, yummy food
Why? I’ve been meaning to read this book, or any of Valente’s works for a while now.  I also challenged myself to the Worlds Without End Women of Genre Fiction challenge and she just happens to be on the author list! Plus Neil Gaiman has a blurb on the cover. Neil. Gaiman.

In their words:

Twelve-year-old September lives in Omaha, and used to have an ordinary life, until her father went to war and her mother went to work. One day, September is met at her kitchen window by a Green Wind (taking the form of a gentleman in a green jacket), who invites her on an adventure, implying that her help is needed in Fairyland. The new Marquess is unpredictable and fickle, and also not much older than September. Only September can retrieve a talisman the Marquess wants from the enchanted woods, and if she doesn’t . . . then the Marquess will make life impossible for the inhabitants of Fairyland. September is already making new friends, including a book-loving Wyvern and a mysterious boy named Saturday.

Are all fairy tales like this? Full of characters that are created so well that you feel that they’re real, regardless if they’re a wyverary or a golem made of soap? Are these so-called children/YA books full of deeper meanings and hiding behind a simple fairy tale storyline? If so, adults are missing out on a whole lot of books and I need to re-read all the books I read as a kid because GUYS this book is so gooood. Haven’t felt this kind of bittersweetness since reading John Connolly’s The Book of Lost Things and Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book. The writing really gave Fairyland that whimsical feel to it and gave me the impression that Fairyland is both a wonderful and kind of terrifying place to be. My favorite description has to be about the Autumn Provinces:

The trees go all red and blazing orange and gold, and wood fires burn at night so that everything smells of crisp branches. The world rolls about delightedly in a heap of cider and candy and apples and pumpkinds, and cold stars rush by through wispy, ragged clouds, past a mon like a bony knee…Autumn in Fairyland is all that, of course. You would never feel cheated by the colors of a Fairyland forest or the morbidity of the Fairyland moon.

Squeeze your eyes closed, as tight as you can, and think of all your favorite autumns, crisp and perfect, all bound up together like a stack of cards. That is what it is like, the awful, wonderful brightness of Fairy colors. Try to smell the hard, pale wood sending up sharp, green smoke into the afternoon. To feel the mellow, golden sun on your skin, more gentle and cozier and more golden than even the light of your favorite reading nook at the close of the day.

I also loved how Valente wasn’t afraid to be brutal to the protagonist September: from breaking bones, fighting an all-out brawl with a magical marid, and sailing around Fairyland naked. 0_o

And the characters! The snarky narrator! Death who can’t sleep because it dreams of people’s regrets. I want my own Wyverary! I want to hug Saturday and give him some tasty sea stones to eat! And the story of Queen Mallow is heartbreaking. Just another reason that this book rocks: not everything is black and white, good or bad. I love my books in shades of gray~

This book can be for everyone I think. For the lovers of quirky humor, stories that are deeper than first glance, and Alice in Wonderland, down the rabbit hole type of stories. Curses now I need to buy the sequel STAT. And what a good start for the WWEnd challenge! I think the next author I will try is Rae Carson, another author I’ve been meaning to read.

Here’s a sample of some of my favorite passages:

“I said ‘Hello!'”
“Yes, that’s me.”
“What?” said September, confused.
“Are you very dull or very deaf?” said the other woman, flinging an alarmed lizard into the cauldron.
“Oh!” cried the young man. “A little deaf child! How sweet! We should adopt her and teach her to write symphonies.  She’ll be all the rage in town. I’ll buy her a powdered wig and a tricorne!”

“Green! Stop it! I just want to know—”
“One! Because you were born in—”
“If I am special,” finished September, halfway between a whisper and a squeak. “In stories, when someone appears in a poof of green clouds and asks a girl to go away on an adventure, it’s because she’s special…”
…”But what I mean to say is: Maybe you meant to go to another girl’s house and let her ride on the Leopard. Maybe you didn’t mean to choose me at all, because I’m not like storybook girls. I’m short and my father ran away with the army and I wouldn’t even be able to keep a dog from eating a bird.”
The Leopard turned her prodigious spotted head and looked at September with large, solemn yellow eyes.
“We came for you,” she growled. “Just you.”

Another twist on Wonderland…again: Reading Splintered

splintered

 

Title: Splintered
Author: A. G. Howard
Will This Take Long? 377 pages, so not really
Publisher: Amulet Books
Series? Nope, stand alone
Why? I’m a sucker for Alice retellings/tributes/spin-offs,whatever. I love Frank Beddor’s Looking Glass Wars series (and I haven’t read the last book yet ARGH) and the concept of McGee’s Alice games (sadly I’ve never played them, but the freaky art and game concept looks awesome!) so when I saw this laying around in the break room I just snatched it.
Keywords: Alice in Wonderland tributes, McGee’s Alice, (icky) love triangles, creepy cute things,

Excerpt from the first chapter: 

I’ve been collecting bugs since I was ten; it’s the only way I can stop their whispers. Sticking through the gut of an insect shuts it up pretty quick.

Some of my victims line the walls in shadow boxes, while others get sorted into mason jars and placed on a bookshelf for later use. Crickets, beetles, spiders…bees and butterflies. I’m not picky. Once they get chatty, they’re fair game.

The females in Alyssa’s family had this curse since the famous Alice Lidell and her so-called adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa’s mom couldn’t deal with it and is now in a mental institution. Alyssa deals with her family’s curse by killing the bugs she hears and using it in her art and so far it’s been working out for her. Then Alyssa discovers that her mom *isn’t* crazy; the talking bugs and Wonderland are all true, and the only way to break the curse is to go to Wonderland and right the wrongs her relative did over there. Luckily her hottie childhood friend Jeb and her mysterious friend Morpheus, a moth denizen from Wonderland who used to visit Alyssa when she was a child comes along to “help” her out. By the way the moth’s a hottie too.

I really liked Howard’s concept of Wonderland; her descriptions of the characters (like the “White Rabbit” and “Mad Hatter” or Herman Hattington for example) and events like Hatter’s tea party reminded me of McGee’s version of Wonderland and it creeped me out. In a good way! The insanity curse was a pretty neat plot too. Although these points were cool, it really wasn’t enough to wow me. Maybe it’s because I’ve read these other Alice stories?

Another aspect that kind of brought the book down for me were the characters. Once again, a good story is thwarted by an icky love triangle with none of the points in this triangle being really interesting. Jeb’s overprotectiveness seemed a bit overdone and really annoying since he was dating another girl when it was obvious he had feelings for Alyssa. Morpheus seemed like the standard, mysterious guy with a hidden agenda character, but honestly a *tad* more interesting than Jeb. And in that aspect neither didn’t really give me the hottie vibe. Take away the “love” and Alyssa would have been a cool character to flesh out. I feel for her when she believes she’s turning crazy like her mom and admire her when she still tries to take care of her despite what happened in the past and goes to Wonderland to save her.

 

It seems like a lot of people enjoyed this book on Goodreads, so for those who, like me, enjoy any version of Alice in Wonderland I do recommend reading this to add to your collection. Just don’t really expect anything new. I for one would like to read about the ‘real’ Wonderland and what really happened during Alice’s time in Wonderland.

Where No Teen Has Gone Before: The Galahad series

Summary:

When the tail of the comet Bhaktul flicks through the Earth’s atmosphere, deadly particles are left in its wake. Suddenly, mankind is confronted with a virus that devastates the adult population. Only those under the age of eighteen seem to be immune. Desperate to save humanity, a renowned scientist proposes a bold plan: to create a ship that will carry a crew of 251 teenagers to a home in a distant solar system. Two years later, the “Galahad” and its crew–none over the age of sixteen–is launched.

Why? I won the series at one of The Book Smugglers’ giveaways.I loooove that site.  I was so excited, I *never* win these kind of things! Thanks to them my book wishlist just keeps growing…plus after reading NK Jemisin’s Dreamblood duology and The Hobbit I wanted to read something sci-fi.

.02 on Story

The series follows the 251 teenagers throughout their journey to the closest planet capable of sustaining human life. Since leaving Earth they have to deal with alien life forms, wormholes, a stowaway, and of course, each other. As if being a teenager didn’t have enough baggage, these kids have to worry about representing the human race to other possible species in the universe. No pressure guys! The teenagers are awesome and almost sound too good to be true; they’re intelligent and responsible. I don’t remember any character whining or griping about their fate. They were saddened by losing their families and homesick, but they understood their responsibility and carried on. That’s not to say they didn’t have the usual adolescent baggage like crushes and the like, but they were mature enough to see the problem and work through it with the help of each other.  I think the story did a good job showing what the teenagers are going through, enough that in the crazy event that this *would* happen in real life, I could imagine the actions in The Galahad series being played out. The book also asks some pretty interesting questions like how *would* we react to another species? Where does our faith fit in the grand scheme of the universe? As for the sci-fi, the technology isn’t really explained and is taken as-is, but it didn’t feel like the story was lacking in any way.

.02 on Characters

The story mostly centers around the Council though the side characters that do show up are strong and just as memorable.  Triana, the leader of this voyage was my favorite character. I’m sure Roc the super computer would be a favorite for many teens who would read this, but for me most of his jokes didn’t work for me. It could be my age talking ^^;;

.02 on Romance

Funny how I always gripe about too much romance in my YA, and just when I read a book without much I start wanting more of it…By the end of the series it almost became a ‘there’s just something about Bon’ that all the girls swooned over despite his sourpuss attitude. Honestly, what a confused dude. Does he really like Triana? And the whole sudden thing with Lita, the doctor? I had to admit, I was intrigued with the relationship between him and Triana. None of the romance in this series had a concrete ending. I wish there was some resolve there.

.02 on Anything Else?

I LOVE how diverse the cast is, which makes sense if you’re going to rebuild humanity. Um, for some reason, I don’t really like the covers for this series. *shrugs* Also, I think this would make a pretty cool anime series.

Give it a try? Sure, if you like snarky AI computers, diverse, kick ass teens, space, spaceships, Stargate, and aliens. Don’t let the covers deter you.

Quotes:

“Roc,” she called out. “What do you do when you have a gigantic jigsaw puzzle, all of the pieces are blank, and you have no picture to go by?”

“I don’t know about you,” the computer answered, “but I would throw it in the trash and practice my dance moves.”

…granted a gift that no other  human had ever received: the chance to experience −and appreciate−the crossing of a barrier between worlds, between alternate realities, and to know transitions of this nature could never end at the doorway itself. There would always be another side.

Title: The Galahad series (The Comet’s Curse, The Web of Titan, The Cassini Code, The Dark Zone, Cosmic Storm, The Galahad Legacy)
Author: Dom Testa
Pages: each book is nearly 300 pages
Publisher: Tor Teen
Publication: 2004 to 2012
Series: 6 books, complete

Wait Just Got Here: Reading The Hobbit

nice journal-esque version

 

Why?

To be honest I never had the intention of reading The Hobbit. I’m probably going to be be smited for this, but I read The Lord of the Rings first, then watched the movies, and in either form I never really had an interest in the character Bilbo and his journey with the dwarves. Dwarves aren’t really my favorite race *shrugs* Then of course the inevitable news came around that The Hobbit was being made into a movie and I heard about who would be cast as Bilbo Baggins. Martin. F*ckin. Freeman. Watson. Watson. Awesome Watson is going to be Bilbo. And Cumberpatch as Smaug the dragon?! YES. So I guess to sum it up the main reason why I finally read The Hobbit is because I’m shallow. >_>

Reaction?

OMG Bilbo where have you been all my life?! How awesome is Bilbo Baggins?! This poor hobbit, minding his own business and not wanting any adventures and would just like to smoke, have a pint and eat somewhere in between thankyouverymuch gets thrown into helping out some dwarves get their kingdom and treasure back (THANKS Gandalf you troll! Though the intro scene of the dwarves and eating everything is *hilarious*) Of course an adventure is never that simple and he ends up encountering trolls, goblins and getting smack dab in the middle of duking it out with dragons and pretty much all races of Middle Earth. Oh and happens to find a shiny ring.

Compared to LotR, the book is definitely aimed at a younger audience, but I think that’s what I *really* enjoyed about it. LotR and other books pertaining to ME such as The Silmarillion are pretty….dense to say the least, sometimes reading like history textbooks. I really have to be in a certain reading mood to read Tolkien’s works, but The Hobbit is the opposite and doesn’t have much info dumping, although the long songs/poetry are still there which I still skipped/skimmed *ahem*. Like Star Wars, it’s also kind of nice reading the prequel after the main series since in The Hobbit, you see the beginnings of significant things in LotR. Not only the ring, but also on the Necromancer/Sauron and further elaboration on Moria.

What, or rather who makes the book worth it is Bilbo himself. I loved how you can see his change from reluctant traveler to unexpected leader and hero and still keep his hobbit roots. Even after his realization that yes, he *can* fight and actually do this adventure stuff he still complains about not eating enough and just wanting to be back at Bag End. I think I really enjoyed the fact how   unassuming Bilbo’s change into a hero was and how he didn’t have a complete change in personality. In the end Bilbo is still a hobbit. Who just happens to kick a little ass and steal stuff if need be.

And how awesome is it that it’s hobbits that save the day in the LotR series? These unassuming, overlooked people save everyone else’s butts because they’re too busy bickering. Maybe its because there’s too much bad history between humans, elves, and dwarves. Hobbits are kind of the neutral ground and just end up shouldering the responsibility because well, somebody’s gotta do it. I guess that’s what makes them amazing.

I am so glad I read this book. As I have my LotR:EE marathon for The Hobbit, I can only imagine how Peter Jackson can once again amaze us with his adaptation (and 48 fps!). I can’t wait!


Fav quotes

We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner! -Bilbo Baggins

If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world. -Thorin Oakenshield

What I want this to mean

Little Poucet vowed that when he eventually used words, as he knew he would someday, they would be practical words. They would mean something

-Little Poucet