Archive for June, 2009

EverTitle: Ever
Author: Gail Carson Levine
Publisher: Harper Collins
Genre: Juvenile Fiction, Teen Fiction, Fantasy
Rating: 3 out of 5

From the back cover:

Falling in love is easy…

…even for Kezi, thouhg she knows her days are numbered.  And head-over-heels, come-what-may love is inevitable if her heart’s desire is Olus, the Akkan god of the winds.

But accepting death is hard, especially when romance is new.

Attempting to thwart her fat, Kezi and Olus embark on a series of dangerous and seemingly impossible quests.  If they succeed, they will be together, but if they fail, Olus will have to endure the ultimate loss, and Kezi will have to make the supreme sacrifice.

Newbery Honor author Gail Carson Levine has created a stunning new world of flawed gods, unbreakable vows, and ancient omens.  Her story is one about love, destiny, and belief is spellbinding.

I will admit upfront that Gail Carson Levine is one of my favorite authors.  I have reread Ella Enchanted countless times!  So when I saw this new book of hers, I grabbed it and starting reading it as soon as I got home.

Unfortunately, I didn’t feel like Ever was up to the normally high standards I have for Gail Carson Levine.  The writing felt far too simplistic, and the constant switching back and forth between Kezi and Olus’s points of views was irritating, particularly because the chapters are so short.

The story itself is a wonderful concept, with the god Olus falling in love with the mortal Kezi, who only believes in one, invisible god, Admat.  The plot is a lovely combined hero’s journey, complete with trips to the underworld.  But I feel like Gail Carson Levine gave everything short shrift.  The beginning was too long, and then when the action finally picks up, the book is practically over!

I understand that this is not necessarily aimed at people my age (though I’m only 20!), but I read young adult books all the time, and enjoy them.  So I don’t think that my criticisms of Ever are simply the result of a different set of expectations for a different age group.  I would simply love to see Gail Carson Levine give the story of Ever the attention and development that it deserves.

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Summary: “A little of your time” by Serpentina is a time-travel fic (unfinished for over 2 years) in which Hermione is sent back in time to when Harry’s parents, Remus, Sirius, Peter, and Snape are in their seventh year at Hogwarts.  Hermione tells Dumbledore what happened, and as they search for a way to send her back to her own time, she enrolls in Hogwarts under a new name.  And yes, this is a Severus/Hermione fic.

Review: This is the first time travel fic I have ever read, and I cannot recall how I found it, though I suppose another author had it listed under their favorites.  The premise behind the story is good, though certainly not original, and Serpentina makes reference to the first-ever time-travel fic that inspired her (which I have added to my to-read list).

I don’t want to say too much for fear of giving anything away, though there isn’t much in the plot that you probably couldn’t guess.  The writing was good, but not great.  I didn’t like how the story jumped around from place to place and time to time without any warning or even a line break to signify that the setting had changed, especially when you didn’t realize it for a few lines.  I did, however, like how the author showed what was happening in the two different times, and how the memories in the future were being updated.  Also, Serpentina spent a bit too much time on the angsty does-s/he-like-me? for my tastes.

Overall, I enjoyed reading this and wanted to see how it ended.  Much of it was contrived, but there were some areas that I saw real promise, so I think I may want to read some other fics written by this author later, with the hopes that her writing improved over time, though now that I look at her other stories, I see that nothing has been updated since 2007.  I’m happy I read this, though I’m not sure how it was as an introduction to the whole time-travel plot device, but it certainly wasn’t terrible enough to make me never want to read another time-travel story ever again.  It was simply cliche and not very well written.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

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Angel's GameTitle: The Angel’s Game
Author: Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Publisher: Doubleday
Genre: Literary Fiction, Fantasy, Gothic
Rating: 4 out of 5

From the inside flap:

From master storyteller Carlos Ruiz Zafón, author of the international phenomenon The Shadow of the Wind, comes The Angel’s Game–a dazzling new page-turner about the perilous nature of obsession, in literature and in love.

“The whole of Barcelona stretched out at my feet and I wanted to believe that, when I opened those windows, its streets would whisper stories to me, secrets I could capture on paper and narrate to whomever cared to listen…”

In an abandoned mansion at the heart of Barcelona, a young man, David Martín, makes his living by writing sensationalist novels under a pseudonym. The survivor of a troubled childhood, he has taken refuge in the world of books and spends his nights spinning baroque tales about the city’s underworld. But perhaps his dark imaginings are not as strange as they seem, for in a locked room deep within the house lie photographs and letters hinting at the mysterious death of the previous owner.

Like a slow poison, the history of the place seeps into his bones as he struggles with an impossible love. Close to despair, David receives a letter from a reclusive French editor, Andreas Corelli, who makes him the offer of a lifetime. He is to write a book unlike anything that has ever existed–a book with the power to change hearts and minds. In return, he will receive a fortune, and perhaps more. But as David begins the work, he realizes that there is a connection between his haunting book and the shadows that surround his home.

Once again, Zafón takes us into a dark, gothic universe first seen in The Shadow of the Wind and creates a breathtaking adventure of intrigue, romance, and tragedy. Through a dizzingly constructed labyrinth of secrets, the magic of books, passion, and friendship blend into a masterful story.

Three years ago, during the first weeks of my freshman year of college, my mother sent me The Shadow of the Wind after I lamented the lack of pleasure-reading material at the university library, as well as the ease of the classes that allowed me to have enough free time to want to read.  The Shadow of the Wind quickly became one of my favorite books, travelling back and forth from college to home and back again each semester.  So when Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s next book, set in the same world, was dropped into my lap at the library for processing, I grabbed it and started reading.

The Angel’s Game is not a sequel to The Shadow of the Wind, but nor is it a prequel.  They are both set in Barcelona, though in different decades.  There are overlapping characters and places, but it is certainly not necessary to read one without having read the other, though The Shadow of the Wind does a better job at explaining the Cemetery of Forgotten Books.  At the same time, however, I did find myself wanting to reread The Shadow of the Wind just to check how much overlap there really was since I kept getting glimpses that taunted and teased me – a quality I love about connected books!

Zafon’s writing is as captivating as ever in The Angel’s Game, but I didn’t find myself liking it quite as much as The Shadow of the Wind.  David Martin got a bit annoying after a while.  I also didn’t like how it crossed the line to fantasy more at the end.  I mean, I love fantasy books, and have no problem with urban fantasy (i.e. fantasy set in our modern world rather than an invented land), but Zafon simply didn’t sell it for me.  It wasn’t as plausible and I felt that he could have been much more subtle, and therefore more effective, with the fantastical elements.  But perhaps I was influenced by the fact that I was finishing it at 2:30 in the morning…

Enough about what I didn’t like, though.  I did give it a 4 out of 5.  Why?  Well, as I mentioned, the writing is absolutely fantastic!  It is lyrical and captivating and illustrative and utterly delightful all the while being dark and gothic.  What I particularly love about both The Angel’s Game and The Shadow of the Wind is the fact that they are both essentially love letters to books and the people who love books, a category I place myself squarely in the middle of.  As I was reading, I kept feeling the urge to just jump up and run to my computer and start writing a story myself!  My fingers have been itching to write ever since, which is fabulous! Also, the descriptions of Barcelona and David’s tower house made me start dreaming of moving to Europe just to live in such a fantastic, glorious place!

Has anyone else read this yet?  What do you think?  It’s so new, none of my friends has yet read it, so I’m dying for another person’s opinion, for someone else I can gush over it with!

(And I know I said that you don’t have to, but I would recommend reading The Shadow of the Wind first…)

Oh, and there’s a wonderful author’s note on the Amazon page for The Angel’s Game!

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PhysickTitle: The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane
Author: Katherine Howe
Publisher: Voice
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Historical Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5

From the inside flap:

A spellbinding, beautifully written novel that moves between contemporary times and one of the most fascinating and disturbing periods in American history-the Salem witch trials.

Harvard graduate student Connie Goodwin needs to spend her summer doing research for her doctoral dissertation. But when her mother asks her to handle the sale of Connie’s grandmother’s abandoned home near Salem, she can’t refuse. As she is drawn deeper into the mysteries of the family house, Connie discovers an ancient key within a seventeenth-century Bible. The key contains a yellowing fragment of parchment with a name written upon it: Deliverance Dane. This discovery launches Connie on a quest–to find out who this woman was and to unearth a rare artifact of singular power: a physick book, its pages a secret repository for lost knowledge.

As the pieces of Deliverance’s harrowing story begin to fall into place, Connie is haunted by visions of the long-ago witch trials, and she begins to fear that she is more tied to Salem’s dark past then she could have ever imagined.

Written with astonishing conviction and grace, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane travels seamlessly between the witch trials of the 1690s and a modern woman’s story of mystery, intrigue, and revelation.

My mother brought The Physick Book of Deliverence Dane home from the library for me, thinking I would like it, and I’ll admit, I was a bit trepidatious.  I love historical fiction, and anything to do with witches and other fantastical elements, but I’m not a big fan of American history, and I’ve read a good deal of bad historical fiction recently, so I was wary, especially since the title seemed to be trying to hard with the “Physick” part.  Fortunately, however, when I actually started reading it (out of desperation, as a ploy to get away from familial obligations!), I got hooked and couldn’t put it down until I finished!

As with many historical fiction novels these days (or at least the ones I have finished!), The Physick Book of Deliverence Dane switches back and forth between modern day and the historical time period being investigated.  While I like this in certain circumstances (like The Secret History of the Pink Carnation and the rest of that series), I didn’t feel like it particularly added anything that special to this particular book.  Also, the author kept switching between time periods, from one generation to the next, and then back to the first generation, so it was sometimes annoying and unclear as to what the purpose was.  [small spoiler alert!] I feel that since Connie was already having visions, perhaps the author could have worked in the pertinent information in that way rather than resorting to the “Interludes” (as she calls them). [/end tiny spoiler]

But, enough of that.  As a student, particularly as a student contemplating graduate school, this book really spoke to me and my love of scholarship.  Don’t worry, it’s not too heavy on that “boring” stuff, but I noticed it because I like that sort of thing.  Connie as a character was, for the most part, well drawn.  I didn’t feel any particular connection with her specifically, but rather with the story and the writing.  Take that as you will.

There are certainly fantasy elements of the story (it is about witches after all!), but I think that even if you don’t like fantasy, you would still be able to enjoy this book, since the magic simply works in the context of the story.  I really loved the author’s explanation of the witches power, while still working in a comparison to the more prevalent views on that period in history.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading The Physick Book of Deliverence Dane and wouldn’t mind picking it up again at a later date or recommending to a friend, as I am doing now with you.  Happy reading!

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As some of you dear readers may know, I’ve worked at my local library in Hometown since I was a sophomore in high school, first year round as a page (meaning I put books back on shelves after people returned them) and then, during college vacations, as a fill-in wherever I’ve been needed, whether it be at the circulation desk, or as a fill-in children’s librarian, or even in the basement, covering books in plastic and putting call number stickers on them.  Annually, I also get to work for approximately twelve hours in one day, as the library opens its doors to the high school population only, on the Sunday before exam week, which was today.

And I love it!  Granted, paging was kind of boring, but I was able to discover so many books that I never would have otherwise.  I love working with people, helping them find books, talking about favorite books, making recommendations, just as much as I love being in the basement, handling all the new books that come through the door, right before they enter the hands of the waiting public (and not only because it means first dibs!).

When I was briefly in France for a very abbreviated, uncomfortable stay (don’t get me wrong – I love France, but this visit just wasn’t the best), I had a half hour walk from where I was staying to the school where I was taking language classes.  In fact, it was a 20-30 minute walk to get to just about anywhere in the town.  So I plugged into my iPod and discovered the glory of podcasts, because despite having a few thousand songs on that same iPod, it does get repetitive after a while.  I developed very discriminating tastes for my podcasts as I walked through the streets of France, and I eventually discovered a few podcasts that were put on by librarians, discussing issues of the day,  problems facing libraries.  I listened, and I learned.

As a rising senior in college, with a brother who graduated from college a month ago, and as someone who reads the paper daily, my future is on my mind a lot.  And, just like when I was attempting to chose my major, I feel like I am being pulled in so many different directions that I simply can’t pick any.  Unlike my major, which I was able to design myself in a multi-disciplinary approach, life doesn’t seem to appreciate that approach.

Ok, so I want to go to grad school.  But first I need to pick an area to concentrate on.  Ok, so law school might be a good idea, but it means a 3-year commitment to something I’m not sure is right for me.  Ok, the workforce is out there waiting, but in this economy?  And with my indecision?  Ha!

So what does this have to do with librarianship?  Well, recently it’s become more and more of a consideration for me.  Before, it was more in the back of my mind than anything else.  But in the past few weeks, it has started edging out the competition.  In the past few weeks, I have enjoyed working at the library for a few hours a day, and only stop at a few hours because I have to.  In the past few weeks, there have been celebrations for the retiring library director, whose amazing accomplishments have been highlighted, making me think, “I want to do that!  I want to help people discover how amazing libraries are!  I want to bring a community together through a love of books!  I want to make a difference!”

My mother works at the same library full time, which is actually what originally led me to apply for a job there.  And I know that my father thinks it’s a nice job and all, but it’s not a real job.  It’s not a vocation.  It’s something old ladies and mothers do to keep busy when they no longer have to take care of their children full time.  It’s not worthy of the high potential of my mind.  I know I’m the smartest child in my family (a fact that’s just a fact, not for bragging purposes here).  And I know my father has high expectations of me.  Yes, he’ll support me in anything I want to do, because he loves me, but I know that if I choose this route, he’ll be disappointed and think that I sold myself short.

My professors at college also have high expectations of me.  I am continually told that I should go to grad school, that I am grad school material.  All compliments I love to hear and that reinforce my desire to go to grad school.  But if I told them that I was going to grad school to become a librarian?  I can see the raised eyebrows now, the questions about if this is something I really want to do.

And it is!  And it isn’t.  I don’t know.  It’s an area that I think I would love to pursue, but I’m not sure if I want to pursue it to the exclusion of anything else.  And I know that I’m young, but I don’t want to pursue something half-heartedly.  If I do something, I need to know that it’s the right thing for me to do.  And I know that life doesn’t always work that way, but grad school does.

And if you’ve made it here, to the end of this long foray into the morasses of my mind, dear readers, I thank you.  Any advice, life lessons, or any comment at all is greatly appreciated!

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This year, the first annual Bloggiesta was held over at Maw Books Blog, and I fully intended to participate!  That is, until my internet died on Friday.  And the sun came out for the first time in a month on Saturday.

So even though I was unable to make it to the actual party, as you can see, I now have my internet back, and intend to take full advantage of the kick-in-the-rear that the Bloggiesta has given me and hold a mini-Bloggiesta for myself over the next two days.

But!  All was not lost this weekend!  I was able to finish another book, write a review for it, and write a few other reviews that have been on my list for a while now!  And they are all queued up and ready to be posted in the coming weeks!  So, I suppose all was not lost.

Cheers to the other participants, and here’s hoping I’ll be able to join in the festivities next year!

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As a student, I use Google Books all the time (particularly in conjunction with Google Scholar), so I am ecstatic about the new changes to the interface!  For a quick overview and some nice screenshots, check out this post over at Google Operating System.

What I like about it is how clean it looks and how much easier it is to navigate a book!  You can see the pages one at a time, like before, or side-by-side, as you would if you had the actual book with you, or see the whole books in thumbnails and jump around quickly, which I think would be particularly useful for books with pictures.  I especially love the “Contents” drop-down menu, which essentially allows you to jump from one chapter to the next without constantly returning to the table of contents, which may or may not have links to the corresponding pages.

Also: the ability to switch between plain text and page images, or download the book as a PDF (granted, only available for certain books), is perfect since I’m constantly wishing I could copy-and-paste quotations into my notes!

Has anyone else played around with the new interface?  Any cons the shininess has blinded me to?

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DeweyTitle: Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World
Author: Vicki Myron with Bret Witter
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Genre: Non-fiction
Rating: 3 out of 5

From the inside flap:

How much of an impact can an animal have?  How many lives can one cat touch?  How is it possible for an abandoned kitten to transform a small library, save a classic American town, and eventually become famous around the world?  You can’t even begin to answer these questions until you hear the charming story of Dewey Readmore Books, the beloved library cat of Spencer, Iowa.

Dewey’s story starts in the worst possible way.  Only a few weeks old, on the coldest night of the year, he was stuffed into the returned book slot at the Spencer Public Library.  He was found the next morning by library director Vicki Myron, a single mother who had survived the loss of her family farm, a breast cancer scare, and an alcoholic husband.  Dewey won her heart, and the hearts of the staff, by pulling himself up and hobbling on frostbitten feet to nudge each of them in a gesture of thanks and love.  For the next nineteen years, he never stopped charming the people of Spencer with his enthusiasm, warmth, humility (for a cat), and, above all, his sixth sense about who needed him most.

As his fame grew from town to town, then state to state, and finally, amazingly, worldwide, Dewey became more than just a friend; he became a source of pride for an extraordinary Heartland farming town pulling it way slowly back from the greatest crisis in its long history.

I know I’m late to jump on the Dewey bandwagon, but I simply never had the chance to read it before now.  And I’m glad I did.

I loved reading about this amazing kitten who serendipitously landed at the Spencer Public Library for a long, full life, enriching the lives of those around him to such an amazing extent!  I absolutely adored all the descriptions of his displays of love and affection, as well as his idiosyncracies.  I most admit, I am more a dog person than a cat person, but I am most certainly not adverse to cats!  That being said, reading this book did help the cat cause in my heart.

On the other hand, however, you may have noticed that I only gave this book a middling rating.  That is because I thought the book spent far too much time talking about the town of Spencer and the biography of Vicki Myron, the library director who found Dewey and who wrote the book.  I can understand why they included these personal histories, with the intention of showing how much Dewey meant to the town and to Vicki, but I feel like they could have done a much better job of making the connection to Dewey clearer.  This is supposed to be a book about Dewey, and yet chapters would go by with nary a mention of him!  I think that if they had made the ties between the stories they told about Spencer and Vicki and Dewey, the book would have been much stronger.

I will admit, however, that by the end of Dewey, I was sobbing.  Though the fact that I finished it at 2 a.m. didn’t help that!

All in all, it is a wonderful read, but not one that I want to add to my personal collection or read again.

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