Monthly Archives: February 2014

New Page: Ratings

I’ve been noticing for a while that several qualifiers have crept into my “At the end of the day” conclusions.  I’ve mentioned that I don’t like to choose favorites, and apparently categorizing is troublesome as well.  I finally came up with a logical “ratings” system, for lack of a better term, and have added a separate page called… Ratings!  Here’s what works for my brain:

Hardcover = Loved, want to keep forever
Paperback = Enjoyed, want to keep around
E-book = Worth the read, but not life-changing
Library = Worth the read, but not the dollars
Walk On By = Not my flavor

Obviously, this is just as subjective as anything else that’s my opinion, but it seems more tangible than a handful of stars.  This isn’t based on what I actually own, rather on what level of cash I’d be willing to shell out.  Also, I’m doing this for the new reads on the blogs since it would be redundant to list the re-reads.

So check it out, especially if you are interested in reading any yourself and trust my taste 😉  If not, the library or a used bookstore is always a great option!

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5) The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two

Book Three of the Fairyland series

By: Catherynne M. Valente

Date Finished: 02.08.14

05. The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two

I finally got my hands on the third installment of the Fairyland series.  I must confess, I did not devour this one in the same way that I did the others.  For one thing, I was reading it while I was sick and struggling to concentrate on anything.  For another, it deals with a slightly stickier theme – the business of growing up and what’s lost in the process.  After spending two books with September, she has become very dear to me and I nearly wept on her behalf as she “takes a stab a stoicism.”  I found myself wanting to keep her young and carefree forever.  Even so, the book is as lovely and precious as the others and takes your new expectations and turns them upside down.  There is a lot of love for the Fairyland books on this blog, so I will complete this post with quotes from the book.

Everyone has their invisible cloak of all things past.  Some shimmer and some float.  Some cut all the way down to the bone and farther still.

“All money is imaginary,” answered the Calcatrix simply.  “Money is magic everyone agrees is not magic.  Observe!  You treat it like magic, wield it like magic, fear it like magic!  Why should a body with more small circles of copper or silver or gold than anyone else have an easy life full of treats every day and sleeping in and other people bowing down?  The little circles can’t get up and fight a battle or make a supper so splendid you get full just by looking at it or build a house of a thousand gables.  They can do those things because everyone agrees to give them power.”

You know what a fate looks like, don’t you?  It’s just a little toy version of yourself, made out of alabaster and emerald and a little bit of lapis lazuli and ambition and coincidence and regret and everyone else’s expectations and laziness and hope and where you’re born and who to and everything you’re afraid of plus everything that’s afraid of you.

You need a Pluto or you’re hardly a universe at all.

Some things are to be done in private, such as weeping, praying, embezzlement, and the writing of novels.

If one had to be in the kind of stories that had Princesses, it was much better not to be the Princess, for they were given very little to do other than weddings and distresses, neither of which offered much in the way of excitement or exercise.

Living is a paragraph, constantly rewritten.

At the end of the day: Really, really for me

4) Ella Enchanted

By: Gail Carson Levine

Re-read Finished: 02.02.14

by Gail Carson Levine

Ella is cursed.  The fairy meant well, but forced obedience is restricting at best and downright perilous at worst.  When her father remarries a horrible woman with two horrible daughters, Ella cannot save herself from becoming a slave in her own home.  And even if the prince should want to rescue her, accepting his help will only put the whole nation in danger.

I needed something simple and light after Code Name Verity.  It’s been a while since I’ve read this book, but it’s an old stand-by and definitely holds up over the years.  Looking back, I think this is the book that pulled me into the world of fairy tale adaptations and made this blog what it is today.  It is charming, sassy, quirky, and absolutely delightful (my summary above does not do it justice in the least).  Most pleasingly, it addresses that sticky love-at-first-sight issue with the Disney movie, allowing Ella and Prince Char to fall in love over the course of a year through a number of marvelous encounters and regular correspondence.  Well, done, madam author.  The book also gives Ella some serious spunk; she has a loving heart at the core, but refuses to be a puppet even with a curse that controls her will.

With a delightful heroine, a fantastic world, and a playful plot, Ella Enchanted is pure magic and, well, downright enchanting.

3) Code Name Verity

By: Elizabeth Wein

Date Finished: 1.30.2014

by Elizabeth Weinby Elizabeth Wein

It’s like being in love, discovering your best friend.

Two girls, best friends because of the war and cruelly separated by the same war.  They made an excellent team, but after their plane was damaged in Nazi-occupied France they were pulled apart to face the horrors alone.

Oh, my gracious, what a MASTERPIECE.  Truly, truly this book is a work of art.  There are many things that are inherently interesting about this plot: World War II, a female spy, a female pilot during war, a life story scratched out in a Nazi prison cell.  This book is intriguing without even trying.  What makes it COMPELLING is that the two girls are such GOOD FRIENDS.  They are sisters as truly as if they were flesh and blood.  Their devotion to each other makes the story so much more personal somehow and the danger that much more devastating.

Wein is a master artisan, mushing together anecdotes from the prison with the story of their friendship.  Suspense is effectively built, then interrupted, sometimes as abruptly as leaving a word incomplete.  It’s a cruel, cruel trick to play on the emotions, but it is exquisite from a literary standpoint.  She also has well-placed grammatical errors – mostly missing punctuation or capitals – and will use repetition to give a visceral sense of what’s happening.  There’s a lovely little quote from the New York Times on the cover which proclaims this book is “a fiendishly plotted mind game of a novel.”  That’s it in a nutshell.  It is wickedly mesmerizing and oh, so worth the read.

If THIS is what Historical Fiction is all about, I may be switching genres.

(Although, I’m not sure I can handle the almost-truth.  Fantasy allows one a bit more disbelief.)

My library stocked this book in the Teen Room, so I’m going to consider this a young adult book.  This is kind of a big deal because my library tends to shift YA books into other categories, leaving only the smallest selection in the Teen Room.  (I’m not sure I would’ve labeled it YA, but I’m thrilled that other people have.)  I mention this because this book alone can trump all arguments that Young Adult books/books about women/books written by women are fluff.  It is a powerful story and I am so grateful to Wein for bringing it into the world.

At the end of the day: Just exactly for me.  In every way.

2) Howl’s Moving Castle

By: Diana Wynne Jones

Re-read Finished: 01.20.14

by Diana Wynne Jones

That was Sophie’s trouble.  She was remorseless, but she lacked method.

Magic, mix-ups, and some of the greatest characters ever penned.

If you ask me what my favorite book is, I’ll hem and haw and say, “Well, um, I don’t really like to choose favorites,” then list off about 20 books (sometimes with arbitrary categories like my-favorite-book-by-my-favorite-female-American-living-in-Britain-author).  If I don’t have the time to go into all that, more often than not I’ll choose Howl’s Moving Castle.

Diana Wynne Jones is a master wordsmith and this book is more than a work of art – it’s fun.  There is not a single word out of place.  Jones also has the remarkable ability to keep build suspense into the final pages.  She’ll have you counting pages, wondering how she can possibly come to a conclusion with what’s left.  And then, suddenly, all those details you overlooked because they seemed insignificant are revealed to be major threads that tie the plot together.  It is absolutely thrilling to read one of her books for the first time.  While this book hasn’t been new to me in a while, returning to it is like revisiting Disney – I know the rides by heart, but the magic is still exhilarating.

Sophie is arguably one of the greatest heroines in literature and Howl is the most absurdly likable reluctant anti-hero.  Calcifer is a perfectly irascible rogue and the rest of the cast add to the story splendidly.  My next two pets will be named Sophie and Calcifer – names I chose about a decade ago and that have not been overruled by new characters I’ve encountered in that time.  If you’ve never read it, stop by a bookstore/library on your way home from work.  If you have read it, treat yourself and pull it out again.