Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Sup

Just a quick stop, because I have to get back to brainstorming! I saw The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and it was so awesome! I can't wait to see it again. Maybe Thursday, because I have off work and don't leave for the New Year's Trip until that night. I think I like the Swedish version better, but it's hard to compare because they each did the story in their own way. Noomi Rapace and Mara Rooney each do a great job, but they each play the character differently. The American version didn't have enough about Lisbeth, but was truer to the book. The Swedish version hinted at the next two books and really hooked you in, but didn't have Daniel Craig. ;) Swedish Lisbeth was more cutthroat and unforgiving, and we saw her do more hacking, more behind-the-scenes with Blomkvist's computer. But I liked the relationship between Lisbeth and Blomkvist better in the American version. Either way, see them both, then see them again. This movie is head and shoulders my Number 1.

I also saw Sherlock Holmes 2. To be honest, the movie was just meh. It was the first one all over again, with nothing really new. It didn't grab me like the BBC's Sherlock does. But the ending was such a smack in the face! It redeemed the movie quite a bit. And another strike against it, the movie was so freaking loud. It was horrible. I saw it Christmas Eve and there were six people in one of the tiny theaters, and they had the sound cranked up loud enough for the big auditoriums. If you're not a big movie person, I'd say wait until this one comes out on video.

Winter 2011-2012 Movie Rankings:
  1. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  2. Hugo
  3. Sherlock Holmes 2: Game of Shadows

Currently Reading: Dawnthief (Chronicles of the Raven I) by James Barclay

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is the 2011 Hugo-nominated novel by N. K. Jemisin, and the first part of the Inheritance Series. I have mixed feelings about this book. However, the author is really awesome and you should check out her blog and twitter. She has lots of good writing advice (and she has a full-time job, which I completely respect) and you can read sample chapters of all her books.

A synopsis, from BN:
Yeine Darr is an outcast from the barbarian north. But when her mother dies under mysterious circumstances, she is summoned to the majestic city of Sky. There, to her shock, Yeine is named an heiress to the king. But the throne of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is not easily won, and Yeine is thrust into a vicious power struggle.

On one hand, I completely understand. This book is original in premise, setting, and plot. It's exactly what the Hugo committee is looking for. On the other hand, I don't think the quality of writing was as high as the other Hugo-nominated books I've read from this year: Feed and Blackout. That being said, I still think this was a good book, especially for a debut novel. I think most of the problems I had with it will fix themselves with subsequent books. It was mostly the way the plot unfolded. Yeine would have a thought and understand everything, but the conversation around her would continue and she wouldn't tell the reader what she just realized, and you'd have to put it together yourself while trying to follow the continuing action. I got tired of always thinking "But what is it????" It was all very disconnected. And then there were paragraphs pushed in with backstory or a mystery POV that you don't know who it is until the end, and all the jumps got tiring. Especially when the narrator would stop and say "Oh wait, let me tell you this first" practically midsentence. I don't normally like books where the narrator addresses the reader, just as my personal preference. At least it was a signal that we would be getting some backstory now. So yeah, the nomination... wouldn't have been my choice. Glad to have read the book though, and will likely finish the series.

Enough griping. Yeine Darr is an interesting character. She is pulled from her home and thrown into this insane royal game, and she handles herself very well. She was very beleivable in her part of being completely overwhelmed, even if that meant lots of sleeping and emo-spells. She saw through fa├žades where she should and tentatively became friends with the one good person in the palace. I actually really liked the relationship she had with T'vril (the aformentioned good guy) and was appropriately happy/sad with the bittersweet ending of their relationship.

One thing I didn't expect from this book: the romance! And not just a love story, I'm talking BAMpenis! Not expected at all. It's not even a bad thing, I just had no warning going into it. I would have normally recommended this my best friend, but won't now because she doesn't like any kind of sex at all in her books. Weirdo. Also, it was sex with a god, so it was very... explicit

I thought the gods could have used more characterisation. Seih was good, Nahadoth was glossed over even though he was the one Yeine was falling in love with, and the other gods were barely mentioned at all. The royal family each had their role, embodying one trait and two-dimensional but serving their purpose. The book was about the gods, and I would have liked to see more there. Also the setting. The book is a political plot for control over the realm and the gods (because the humans have "domesticated" them, we'll say) and yet we see very little of the world. The book is very contained to the game and the palace. On one hand, this is just the first book and it hints at a much larger world, on the other hand, you go through an entire book without getting to see any of it. The book felt very incomplete because of this, as if it was only a half a book.

BUT. THE ENDING. It rocked. I expected part of it, but not in the way I thought. The rest of it totally blindsided me and totally rocked. It made me happy, and it made vengeful-me happy, and it made romance-me happy. Also, the game. Screw you, evil grandfather, but you stood up to it like a champ and made yourself three dimensional. And fuck you, and fuck you, and You get a big hug and YOU get a sloppy kiss. It was just awesome. It didn't have the part happy/part sad, it was all happy. But it worked, and it was refreshing.

Overall, I would recommend this book. But I may also mention to a big SF/F reader that I didn't think it was on the same par as the other Hugo books. The series continues with The Broken Kingdoms and The Kingdom of Gods. I should also mention that they all follow different characters. I'm definitely going to pick up the second one. I may have done so already, but my BN is cleaned out for Christmas and didn't have it yesterday. Jemisin has another series coming out, The Dreamblood, with The Killing Moon out May 2012 and The Shadowed Sun out June 2012.

Reading now: The Black Lung Captain by Chris Wooding

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Irrepressible Library

It's time again for me to gush about all the books I want to read all while not really making coherent sentences on the blog. It's ok, just look at the pictures. I'm currently reading The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin. It was nominated for the 2011 Hugo, and while it is very good I don't see it as Hugo material. Not like Feed or Blackout. It's a surprisingly quick read, and I'm almost done! Review will be coming soon, I have a lot to say about this book. Read blurbs and sample chapters about it here.


Firstly, Archon: The Books of Raziel by Sabrina Benulis. HOLY CRAP I can't wait for this book. It comes out December 27, but I will be stalking my BN before Christmas to see if they have it in early. A bit of insider advice: If the book isn't labeled as "Strict on Sale" (which usually only the popular/bestseller authors are) you are allowed to buy it. Some books are in two weeks before the release date and are held in the back (just so they aren't ridiculously early), other books come in a few days before release and go onto the floor right away. I will be stalking/harrassing/buying chocolate for any bookseller that crosses my path. I want to read this book and yes, I am stomping my feet like a spoiled child. There's a great article on it over at Tor (I was happy to see it's a BN Bookseller's pick), and this is also where I discovered it. This is the book that makes you drop everything when it comes out. Angels, demons, love, harsh reality, thick like a textbook with history (a la Angelology), and not fruity like a YA novel. The angels are described as creepy, sexy, and totally awesome. What more can you ask for? Only in hardcover, not that it matters because I will be buying it anyway, and it will be passed around between my Mom and best friend as well. Did I mention how much I CAN'T WAIT??? It's just as bad as Harry Potter. It feels good to be so excited for a book like that again.


Dawnthief by James Barclay. I first discovered it on Elitist Book Reviews, and my interest kept growing as they reviewed book after book of Barclay's all with glowing reviews. He is actually the most reviewed author on that site... (Read everything here.) In any case, elves, awesomness, and badassness, all wrapped up in a series and tied with a pretty bow of another series. What more can you ask for? (I need to stop saying that.) All I can say is, read the reviews.Nothing comes more highly recommended than Barclay. He's awesome in the interview as well.

The books:
Chronicles of the Raven: Dawnthief, Noonshade, Nightchild.
Legends of the Raven: Elfsorrow, Shadowheart, Demonstorm, Ravensoul.
The Ascendants of Estorea: Cry of the Newborn, Shout for the Dead. (non-Raven)



I recently rewatched Firefly, and that's left me wanting some more Darian Frey, as well. The second book in the Tales of the Ketty Jay is The Black Lung Captain, wonderfully already released in the US. It depends on my mood and my wallet if I'll be picking it up soon, but it's definitely on my list.

I haven't talked about George Mann's Newbury and Hobbes series yet. I started the Ghost of Manhattan and couldn't really get into it, and that put me off the other series even though it's been getting great reviews. It one of those "investigator with plucky sidekick" books, always good. The first in the series is The Affinity Bridge.

Has anyone else noticed the plethora of books I WANT to read compared to the small pile of books I actually DO read? Yeah, I wish I could speed-read. But on the other hand, is a book still as relaxing/enjoyable if you fly through it?

Friday, December 16, 2011

End of the Year articles

Roger Ebert hates lists, but I love them. I love that lists will vary from person to person, and I love comparing them. I love the inherent problems in lists from forcing one to be a 4 and another to be a 5, when the differences between are significantly more or less than the distance between the two rankings. (Although you notice I avoid this anyway on my bookshelf page.) The end of the year brings about all kinds of "Best of" lists. Here are a few good articles about 2011.

The Best Films of 2011 - Roger Ebert
I was happy to see Hugo on the list because I also thought it rocked, but I was especially happy to see Take Shelter here. I've been dying to see that movie since I heard about it in summer, and still haven't been able to. There are a bunch of movies I want to hunt down before the Oscars (and I'll be hunting down those nominations as well).

These are the winter movies I'm dying to see, because I know you were wondering:
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (ZOMG)
TinTin
Sherlock Holmes 2
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Martha Marcy May Marlene
Take Shelter
Shame
Young Adult
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
The Darkest Hour
J. Edgar
Haywire
The Woman in Black
The Lorax
Snow White and the Huntsman (summer, but already psyched)
Also, a Daughter of Smoke and Bone movie? Yes, please!

Lev Grossman on Fantasy
Not a "Best of" list, but a very good discussion of how fantasy has changed over the last century, and especially in the last decade.

Also, hilarity. Most of them, anyway.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Check it Out: The John Cleaver Series

It;s a sad thing that I read so many books before I started this blog. I review them as I go, and that seems like so many missed chances. The books I've read recently, however good, haven't taken the test of time. Some books I loved just don't resonate with me anymore once I'm finished reading them. Other books I may have liked, but not loved, and then I'm finding myself thinking about over and over again and I slowly realize how awesome they were. I'm going to start this mini post series so everyone can hear about them! Life is too short to miss out on good books just because no one told you about them.

US covers

Dan Wells is one of the creators of the Writing Excuses podcast, and if you don't listen to that you definitely have to start. I would have never heard of him if not for that podcast, I admit it. (Then again, who knows?) But hey, the important thing is that I have heard of him, yes?

UK covers

John Cleaver is a serial killer. Except not, because he has yet to kill anyone. He works at his family's mortuary, which is probably not the best place for a budding Ted Bundy. But he has rules, and those rules keep him in check and keep everyone around him safe. But then bodies start turning up near his hometown, all similar, and he uses his obsession with killers and bodies and uses it to find and catch the murderer.

This isn't your typical YA novel, and as a matter of fact these books were marketed as adult books in the US. John Cleaver is a sociopath, so he can't relate to the other people around him. He doesn't understand love or friendship, and the urges he has to hurt things doesn't make it any better. But he is highly logical, and it is fascinating to watch him work through the mystery. I thought he was very believable as a teen, even though he is very troubled. Everyone around him treats him like a teen, and he can only used methods that would be at a teen's disposal.

The first half of the first book was slow. It was enjoyable while I was reading it, but then I would put it down and not pick it up for another month. I stuck with it because I liked the podcast, and a little before the halfway point everything zips together and you're hooked till the end. The second and third books don't suffer from this at all, and I flew through each of those in a couple of nights.

By the time I had finished the first one the second was already out, and the last came out about two months later, so I read them all in quick succession. (I also have the UK version of IANASK that I preordered from Book Depository, but the US versions of the other two.) And let me tell you, they get freaky. And fast. I mean, the story is narrated from a sixteen year old that has absolutely no problem with taking another human's life. Add in demons who are using the entire town to toy with John, and you have no idea who is bad or good or lost or just an evil person, sans brimstone. (Oh yeah, these books have demons in them. You should know that going in. But they are freakier because of that.)

I was scared shitless by the second book. I bawled my eyes out in the third book. I should say, bawled my eyes out for three chapters straight. I even wrote him an e-mail that basically confessed my love to him and said anyone who could throw me into emotional swings like that has me as a fan for life, which I had never done before and still have yet to do again. (He didn't write back.) The trilogy ends with a delightfully murky ending that keeps you scared and also makes you hope Mr. Wells will be writing a spin-off series. And did I mention they're funny?

This is a great series for the reader who's starting to grow out of teen novels, or the reader who's starting to get into sci-fi and fantasy but is a bit overwhelmed where to start. Also, a great series for teen boys, which are so hard to find these days. Even though these books are about a wannabe serial killer, they don't glorify death in any way, as a matter of fact they do just the opposite. John has a surprisingly mature view on morals and he knows every step of the way that what he is doing is wrong, but he can't stop it and that upsets him. So all you parents out there can rest easy giving these to your kids. As a matter of fact, I'd be more upset if they read The Hunger Games than these books. John is fighting for Life, whereas HG are playing with it.

Dan Wells has more books, including a post-apocalyptic/dystopian YA called Partials (out Feb 28, 2012) and also The Hollow City, a schizophrenia novel, out July 3, 2012. I can't forget A Night of Blacker Darkness, available now in e-book, which I will forever know as The Vampire Bunny Book.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Hugo

GUYS. It's time for winter movies! *squee!* We go to the movies a lot, especially in the summer and winter breaks when all the good ones are out. I don't want to start reviewing all the movies, but I thought a little blurb/ranking could be fun.

I haven't read the book (The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick) but the movie was awesome. Possibly Best Picture nomination awesome (it fits the type). It is a Martin Scorsese film, which originally I was surprised that he would do a kid's flick, but he did a great job making sure it would be good for all the non-kids as well. He had a great story to start with, and he nabbed a bunch of famous people to make it fun. You should definitely go see it.

My rankings so far:
1. Hugo

Haha, the list should get better once I've added more than one movie to it.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Deadline

I finally finished Deadline by Mira Grant (aka Seanan McGuire). There's really only one valid thing to say about this book:

Holy. Fuck.

Seriously, this one takes you for some loops. The gang (minus one-half) is in hiding, on the run from the very people who should be protecting them. People die. Shit gets fanned. The conspiracy grows in such a way that it's absolutely despicable people like that can exist in the real world. And boy, do you feel for Shaun.

I'm going to try to keep this as spoiler free as I can. If you've read Feed, you have to read Deadline. It's not as contained a story as Feed was, and thus won't stand alone as well (not that it could anyway, the reader would be so confused) and is the typical middle-book of a trilogy. I don't say this as a bad thing, as a matter of fact nothing could have clinched me more as a lifetime reader of Seanan McGuire. The first book usually stands on it's own and has a satisfying, if unhappy, ending. The second book takes those few untied ends and turns them into a million untied ends, and the third book is where it all ends. The way I see trilogies, the second and third books could stand together as a full story arc.

I have no idea what is going on in the world. And by world, I mean the zombie-infested world of Shaun and Georgia Mason.

When I first started this series, I thought it was going to be a zombie apocalypse story. I was wrong. They're political thrillers, for lack of a better term. The zombies are only part of the setting. Let me tell you, this is fascinating. People are living their lives in this horrible new world, and the backstory is most of what keeps you hooked for the majority of the first book. How many times have you been able to say that? I never thought security systems and highways could be so interesting. But the computers and the virology, I already knew that was awesome.

Mira Grant (Seanan? Oh this is so confusing...) has no compunctions killing a character, and she makes them mean so much more than George R. R. Martin. We feel every emotion and every pain of Shaun and Georgia, and it rips you apart at some places.

Speaking of Shaun and Georgia, there's a very odd dynamic between the two of them. I know they're not actually related (and for those of you who haven't read it, don't worry there's nothing gross), but until the second book I would have thought they were both asexual. They both mean the world to each other, and on the other hand then, it's nice to see characters caring for each for reasons other than jumping each others' bones. The characters come from all different walks of life and have lives that they left behind, so they all feel real.

Ok, back to the setting. After the characters (who are all very fleshed out and different people), the setting is what really makes this book feel real. You learn about the mistakes everyone made post-rising, and how things have changed for the better or for the worse. The zombie apocalypse is the setting for the novel, not the plot. And it is so refreshing. You read it and wonder why no one has thought of this before. And seriously, why hasn't anyone thought of this before? It's so logical...

Well, to sum up my ramblings, you should read Feed, and then you should read Deadline. I listened to them as audiobook, and the narrators did a really great job. Especially the second one, when Shaun narrates, and I don't usually like male narrators because they're voice gets muddled. (Females, while there can be a bit of an annoyance factor, have much clearer voices.) But Shaun did a great job. (In the second; the first-book Shaun is muddly.)

Wow, this review jumped all over the place. Anyway, Blackout is the last book in the trilogy, and is set to come out June 1, 2012.

Slap you IN THE FACE

I TOLD YOU IT WAS FUCKING HARD. Did I not tell you? Don't worry, I need to tell myself, too. It's hard for everyone. The people who succeed are the people who pull their pants up again and tighten their belts and smash the fuck out of their keyboards. Not literally. Writer-ally. The abundance of cursing is because I am like everyone else and need to buckle down and do it. I slap you in the face, you slap me. Don't worry, some people are into that.

"I am sometimes loud. I am often gaudy. I am sentimental, and I embarrass you in public. I apologize for none of it." - A love letter from Genre to Literature, by Daniel Abraham

Friday, December 9, 2011

Two Things

First of all, you should head over to Patrick Rothfuss' blog and check out his post for this year's Worldbuilders 2011 Charity. Donate to Heifer International, get cool swag. Seriously, it's really cool swag. He's been doing this for several years now and has raised a shit-ton on money, AND it's a charity that I already liked and knew about from several college classes.

Second (also from Pat Rothfuss' blog), this:

He cracks me up.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Stressed as all get-out

Here's a not-so-secret-secret about me. I am stressed as fuck right now. Home is stressful, work is stressful, bills are stressful... I'm trying really hard not to be a dipshit about it, and I actually think I'm doing ok. Although I did think the crazy levels of stress would end once I got out of college, and they did for a while, but then LIFE started, ha.

I'm not telling you this because I want everyone to know that, but because you need to understand why I think this blog is awesome: http://confessionsofaworrywart.com/. I can't remember how I found it, maybe Twitter.

I feel really bad laughing at this poor woman's horrors, but honestly it's just so entertaining! And even though I don't worry about the same things she does, it's good to know that I'm not the only one with crazy stupid tendencies. Everyone is a little bit insane, I think, otherwise no one would be interesting.

P.S. Obsessive quilting helps with the stress. (And you thought it was because I wanted to give everyone GIFTS. Psh.)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell

I know this book is supposed to be amazing. I KNOW. But I just can't do it. There's a reason I don't read classics. That's because they suck. I can't get into the language, I don't give two shits about social class politics, and things happen too slow and too little. I'm not saying I need a big flash-and-bang to keep me interested. The Name of the Wind is my favorite book, and look how slow and relaxed that book is. But it's all about the language, people. And the olden-day spellings? Really? Because I didn't have enough trouble keeping my editor-mind interested in the book, you have to throw in weird time-period spellings to toss me out of the story?

I'm not saying this is a bad book. It's extremely well written and I know the story is there, I'm so close to seeing it, but it's not for me. I want to know what happens. I'm extremely jealous of the reviews I've read where the reader completely fell in love with this book, and I wish I could fall in love with it too. But it's a mission for Wikipedia, not Gina's-precious-reading-time. Maybe in the future I'll pick it up again. But for now, Delirium.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

-INSERT SNARK HERE-

It's one of those rare nights where I'm just sitting around with a computer on my lap and all the writing time in the world, and yet here I am stalking Twitter and writing a blog post. Although I haven't written a blog in a while, and I actually got some writing done today already! It's amazing. I'm slowly breaking down the wall of unfamiliarity that formed while I was sick and didn't write for a week an a half.

I don't write chronologically. I usually start out that way, and write three scenes, but then I'll think of another scene to add, and that will add to adding more scenes, and so on. Overall I work from beginning to end, but I continuously plump as I go. I don't edit though. Even if I decide early on that I am going to cut a section, I add -CUT- to the heading and just leave it there. It makes my word counts feel good. =]

My main character needs a bit of beefing. She's just... typical. Not that I want her to be able to read minds or fly or anything, I want her strength to be an inner strength. I guess everything is too early to worry about that. I can always work it in once I have the overall story and actually know where I'm going with things. Cause I don't right now, you know.

My goal for December is 24k, which works out to be 774 words per day. I'm shooting for 1000 a day though, because I know shit ain't gonna happen on the weekends. But I'm still not satisfied. I'm at the point where I know I can write more in a day, but I can't block off enough time to get much more than that. Of course, it's my fault. I get tired of lugging my laptop to and from work, even if I do spend three hours on the train each day. Sometimes (a lot of the time) I just want to sleep or read. But then that's three hours of writing I lose out on. And then there's the quilting, completely unnecessary but surprisingly stress relieving. And when the hell am I supposed to get any reading done?!?

Goodness. And it's 10:48 already. I try to be in bed by 11. And I wonder why I can't get out of bed at 5:30 to get to the train station on goddamn time. And, poor Phil comes home from work around 12:30, wide awake and I'm snoring. Hey, I got 6 hours of sleep during the week during the college, and I functioned then. Sure, I slept in till one in the afternoon on the weekends, but I can live with that. Everything is just so dark in the morning now.

This is what we call the "I have nothing constructive to say" post.

I was reading Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clark, but I can't really get into it. I'm around chapter 11. I know it's supposed to be amazing, but when? I'm waiting for my mind to be blown. And it's a really big book to carry around, but you can't read the footnotes on the nook, and they're like half the book. I grabbed Delirium by Lauren Oliver today, which I have been excited to read and I made a special trip to get it. Excited to start that in the morning. I loved Before I Fall.

And there's a Philly Lit Night this weekend, which I have been really excited for since I heard about them but now that one is coming up I'm turning all wallflower. "You mean I have to talk to people? Coherently? While drinking???" And there are going to be people there who have FINISHED THINGS and it will be intimidating. Balls to the wall, Gina. BALLS TO THE WALL.