The Serpent's Shadow is the third and final book in Rick Riordan's Egyptian mythology-focused Kane Chronicles. Sibling magicians Carter and Sadie Kane and their troupe of friends and apprentices from Brooklyn House are facing the more dire apocalypse of their young lives. The ancient magicians' guild to which they belong, the House of Life, is divided; at least half the nomes have turned against the Kanes, and the other half are suffering deadly attacks from a god bent on destroying the world. Carter and Sadie have just three days to find an ancient scroll that will teach them how to stop the apocalypse. As if that weren't enough, they also have to contend with a diabolical ghost, a senile ruler, and a gravely ill friend. The Kanes' life is certainly never dull.

The Serpent's Shadow was just as entertaining and enjoyable as the first two books in the series. The narration and dialogue are excellent, particularly Sadie's, and the action keeps on coming. I also like that Riordan worked in some scenes of the Brooklyn House crew trying to balance their calling with a more "normal" childhood; the school dance was especially fun. The not-so-subtle hints about a new Kane series made me smile. I'll keep reading Riordan's books as long as he keeps writing.

Speaking of which, The Mark of Athena comes out in less than three weeks! I pre-ordered it for my Nook months ago, and I can't wait!
The longer I wait to write a book review, the more daunting it seems. And that's silly, because it's not like this is a school assignment; it's just something I do for fun and to keep track of my reading. But it's been about a month since I finished Moloka'i and I find myself almost intimidated at the prospect of writing about it, especially since I've long since returned the novel to the library and therefore can't verify spelling for the Hawaiian names and words...but here goes:

Rachel Kalama was only six and living with her family in 1890s Honolulu when she contracted leprosy, now known as Hansen's disease. At that time, the disease was gaining in prevalence, especially among native Hawaiians, and little was known about how it was spread. Rachel's beloved uncle had already been taken from his family and sent to the colony at Kalaupapa, where authorities were trying to isolate the disease and everyone in Hawaii who'd contracted it. Rachel's mother tried to hide her daughter's symptoms, but when the truth was discovered, she was taken away from her family, first to spend months at a hospital and then sent to Kalaupapa, where the ill were expected to remain for the rest of their lives. And while it seemed to then-seven-year-old Rachel like a death sentence, it was in fact the beginning of a new life.

While this story of life on Kalaupapa was often very sad, it was also beautiful and fascinating. The author balanced the experience of daily life for Rachel and her friends and family with the broader context of changes in the outside world. Modern conveniences came only slowly to the island, and it was fascinating to see them through Rachel's eyes. After reading a description of the first time she encountered a phonograph, I said to my husband, "You know, when you explain how a record works, it really does sound pretty unlikely." It was also interesting to see historical events from her perspective.

All in all, I loved reading Moloka'i, no matter how many times it made me cry. I'll admit I thought at first that the descriptions of disease and its symptoms would squick me, but that really wasn't the case. Yes, it had very painful and unpleasant effects, but it wasn't at all like the stereotypical and oversimplified descriptions you hear of limbs falling off (I did know beforehand that wasn't accurate, but I didn't know much about what was). And while the disease was obviously an important element of the book, it was really about the people and how they made new lives and families on Moloka'i.
bluewillowtree: (Sam/Jack - control room)
( Jul. 19th, 2012 11:31 am)
We watched the final episode of Eureka last night. I'm so, so sad that it's over, but if it had to end (*glares at stupid corporate bastard tv execs*), I think they did a great job with the ending, working in so many of the things I've loved about the show over the past several (not nearly enough) years. Here are my ramblings - with spoilers, of course.

Just Another Day... )
The Distant Hours is Kate Morton's most recent book and the only one I hadn't yet read. When Edie Burchill's mother receives a letter that was lost in the mail for 50 years, Edie learns that her mother was evacuated from London during World War II and spent 18 months living at Milderhurst Castle in the country. When a business trip accidentally brings her to the village of Milderhurst, Edie can't resist a visit to the castle, particularly after learning it was the home of Raymond Blythe, who wrote her favorite childhood book, The True History of the Mudman. There she meets the three elderly Blythe sisters who cared for her teenage mother: the ninety-something twins Persephone and Seraphina, and their younger half-sister Juniper, who has never recovered from the disappearance of her fiancé 50 years earlier.

Read more... )
I saw The Hunger Games movie with some friends this weekend, and I really liked it. No movie adaptation of an adored book ever truly lives up to my hopes, and this one wasn't perfect either, but overall, I think they did a very good job.

some thoughts, with spoilers for the book and the movie )
When I started reading Mink River, my first thought was Oh, God, Brian Doyle is one of those writers who thinks he's too artistic for punctuation. I'm the first to admit that I'm a grammar snob, but I generally can't stand that style of writing, particularly the lack of quotation marks for dialogue. I don't find it edgy or unique, just frustrating and difficult to read.

But I kept reading and found a beautiful story about the small town of Neawanaka, Oregon, along the Mink River. Neawanaka is filled with unique, fascinating characters, who feel real and believable despite elements of what I think might be magical realism. (I've never actually read any, not even Gabriel Garcia Marquez, though I keep meaning to remedy this obvious deficiency in my reading experience.) I don't know how to describe the story, though, because the many subplots weren't nearly as important as the way the characters all fit together to create the life of the town. I guess the best thing I can do is to describe some of the characters.

Worried Man and Cedar run the Department of Public Works and consider their mission to be anything and everything that can benefit the town and its residents, including an oral history project, rescuing abused children, and community picnics. Worried Man's wife, Maple Head, teaches sixth grade and and is writing a comprehensive history of the town. Their daughter, No Horses, is a wood sculptor battling depression. Her husband, Owen, repairs anything and everything, working alongside a talking - and thinking - crow named Moses. Their 12-year-old son Daniel dreams of being a professional bicyclist. The teenage and early 20s O Donnell children struggle with their angry father in the wake of their mother's abandonment. Michael the cop patrols the streets of Neawanaka obsessively listening to Puccini's Tosca. And the doctor, whose name we never learn, treats patients in his house overlooking the sea and studies the Acts of the Apostles, smoking one cigarette per apostle each day. And there are many more.

About halfway through, I realized that I liked Mink River not just because of its characters, but because it made me think in a stream of consciousness, in a stream of small details. And I can see how normal punctuation might have changed that. So as much as I generally dislike this writing style (and I maintain that quotation marks would have been nice), I think the book works just the way it is. I'm happy that I stuck with it.
I'm not sure how to write this without massive spoilers, so I'm just going to go ahead and assume that no one who hasn't read the full trilogy is likely to read this anyway. And if you haven't read the series, I highly recommend it!

Mockingjay )

shippy thoughts )

on the trilogy overall )

So yeah, I'm super happy to have read the Hunger Games trilogy, and many thanks to everyone who recommended it!
It's been a week and a half since I finished Catching Fire, so it's past time to post. It's hard to write much about the plot without serious spoilers for The Hunger Games. But without going into too much detail, I'll say that in the second book of the trilogy, readers learn much more about the other 11 districts in Panem, the history of the Hunger Games, and the terrible lengths to which the Capitol will go to maintain its power. It's riveting, and I devoured it almost as quickly as the first book. I'm about two-thirds of the way through the final book, and I have all sorts of thoughts about it and the overall messages of the trilogy, but I'll save those for that review. Right now, I'm going to get back to reading.
bluewillowtree: (Buffy-Willow adorable)
( Jan. 2nd, 2012 03:42 pm)
I read 27 books in 2011, the most I've read in one year since I started chronicling my reading on LJ. And even more surprising is that I liked all of them and loved many.

The full list )

So, I'm very happy with my 2011 reading list. I hope I'll do as well in 2012. Thanks again to everyone who recommended books to me over the last year. Whether or not I've read them yet, I always appreciate your recommendations and look forward to reading them whenever I can :)
This is actually my last book review for 2011, but I'm a little late in writing it up.

Anyway, I'd been hearing good things about the Hunger Games trilogy for a while, but finally remembered to sign up on the library's waiting list after a recent post from [personal profile] dreamingofthestars. And the book was just as awesome as she said it would be - thanks for the great recommendation!

The story is set in sort of a post-post-apocalyptic society. Twelve districts in the country of Panem are ruled by the iron hand of the Capitol city. Conditions in the districts are harsh, poverty is rampant, and pretty much every day is a struggle for food - outside the Capitol, anyway. To remind the districts of the Capitol's power and to punish them for an uprising 74 years earlier, each year, a boy and girl between the ages of 12 and 18 are chosen as tributes to fight in the Hunger Games. The Games are a televised fight to the death, required viewing for everyone in Panem.

Katniss Everdeen is sixteen and has been the sole provider for her family since the age of 11, when her father was killed and her mother withdrew into a nearly catatonic state. Each day, Katniss leaves District 12 to hunt and gather in the woods, a crime punishable by death. One of her few joys in life is her sister, Prim, whom she loves more than anything. So when 12-year-old Prim is selected as a tribute for the Hunger Games, Katniss immediately volunteers to take her place, though she knows it will almost certainly lead to her death. But her years in the woods have taught her invaluable survival skills, which, along with her intense force of will - and promise to Prim that she'd really try to win - may just be enough to help her survive the Games.

I just loved The Hunger Games. I could barely put it down, and in fact stayed up till 4:30 one night/morning to finish it (fortunately, I had the next day off). There are a number of elements in the story common to sci-fi and fantasy plots, but Collins has used them to create a unique and incredibly compelling story with fascinating, flawed and engaging characters. I'm already more than halfway through the sequel, and it'll be a struggle to put it down for a few days to read my next book club selection.
bluewillowtree: (Default)
( Jul. 21st, 2011 02:52 pm)
A Yellow Raft in Blue Water is one of those books that I'd been vaguely aware of for years without having any idea what it was about. There are a lot of those, but I never seem to remember them when I'm actually in a library. I had the same problem back when there used to be CD stores. But anyway, I'm glad I finally got around to reading this.

The book tells the stories of three generations of Native American women: Rayona, Christine, and Ida. I've read plenty of multi-generational stories before, but what's unique about this one is that it's told backwards. The first section is narrated by 15-year-old Rayona, the middle by her mother, Christine, and the third by her grandmother, Ida. Each story goes further back in time and reveals an earlier set of circumstances that led to the future where the story begins. The farther I read, the more sense the story made, and I kept flipping back and thinking things like "Oh, that's what was happening there." I didn't always like the characters, but it was fascinating to go backward and see what made them the way they are. It was particularly intriguing to read about events told from two different points of view, though there's nothing that's told by all three narrators. In the end, I found myself with compassion for all three of them and definitely liked them more than not.

It wasn't a happy or uplifting story, but I think I liked it better because it wasn't. I didn't find it depressing either. I think it's just a story about the ways in which life doesn't generally turn out the way one might expect. And that's not necessarily a good or bad thing; it's just life. So yeah, A Yellow Raft in Blue Water was definitely worth the read.
bluewillowtree: (Default)
( Jul. 19th, 2011 05:04 pm)
On Friday night/Saturday morning, we went to the half-past midnight showing of the final Harry Potter movie. These are my thoughts and reactions, chock full o' spoilers and gratuitous italics...

Read more... )

Overall, I loved it. Yes, I can and do nitpick about certain aspects, but honestly, that's part of the fun for a geek like me, and it would be impossible to make a perfect movie out of any of these books (though Prisoner of Azkaban is pretty damn close). As you've probably gathered by now, I'm extremely picky about movie adaptations of books I love. I mostly don't even watch them. But all in all (with the exception of GoF), I think they've done a fabulous job with the Harry Potter movies. They captured the feel of the characters and Hogwarts and the wizarding world, and that's far more important than the details. I know I'll enjoy re-watching the movies over the years nearly as much as I'll enjoy re-reading the books.
I spent Sunday afternoon at Borders, soaking up the free air-conditioning and finishing The Throne of Fire, the second book in Rick Riordan's Kane Chronicles. The background music was dreadful, but I drowned it out with one of the Harry Potter soundtracks on my iPod. I even got a free iced raspberry-white chocolate mocha sample while reading! I clearly need to spend more summer afternoons hanging out at Borders.

Anyway, on to the book. It's the sequel to The Red Pyramid, which I read this time last year, and it was just as much fun. In the months since their first adventure, Carter and Sadie Kane have learned more magic and begun to teach other kids with magical heritage who've turned up at Brooklyn House in response to their call (the first book). I don't want to say too much about their mission in this book because it would largely spoil the end of the first one. But danger and apocalypse are fast approaching once again, and the Kanes have only four days to collect magic scrolls from far-flung locales, fight off an evil ice cream man, celebrate Sadie's birthday and, of course, save the world. Riordan really doesn't like to give his characters much time to complete their quests, but the looming deadlines do keep the action coming; there's truly never a dull moment.

Just as in The Red Pyramid, I immensely enjoyed the shifting narration between Carter and Sadie, complete with parenthetical bickering. Both siblings are growing up fast in the face of intense responsibility, but they're still young teenagers, and there are plenty of funny, awkward and/or endearing moments where that's completely apparent. My one complaint about this book is that Bast isn't in enough of it, though she'd probably have to be on every page for me to find it enough. Yeah, she really is that awesome. But she does send another god friend to look after Sadie and Carter on this adventure, and he's great too, though in a totally different way.

As I've said before, thank goodness Riordan is so prolific! I'm looking forward to the conclusion of the Kane Chronicles next summer, and in the meantime, I only have to wait a few more months for the next book in his Heroes of Olympus series :) I'll be haunting the library's website until I can place a hold on The Son of Neptune, as well as Heat Rises and The Gray Wolf Throne (the third book in Cinda Williams Chima's Seven Realms series). There certainly are a lot of books to look forward to this fall!
After not-so-patiently waiting for several weeks, I finally got Julia Spencer-Fleming's new book, One Was a Soldier, from the library. Despite my goal to savor it, especially since it may be a year or two before the next one is published, I couldn't help myself and just devoured it.

The story is centered around a therapy group for veterans who've recently returned from Iraq. largely free of spoilers beyond what one would infer from the title )
I've been a fan of Rick Riordan's YA books ever since [profile] miyyu recommended The Lightning Thief several years back. I've meant since that time to check out his mystery novels for adults as well, but just recently got around to reading the first one, Big Red Tequila.

The main character, Tres Navarre, has just returned to his hometown of San Antonio, TX, for the first time in 10 years. He left after his father's still-unsolved murder, but has come back hoping to reunite with his former girlfriend, Lillian, and hopefully find some answers about his dad's death. Lillian, his mom, and one old friend seem to be the only people in the entire city who are happy to see Tres back, as he clearly inherited his father's talent for stirring up trouble. Action, mystery, tai chi, tequila drinking and several near-death experiences ensue.

Tres is an engaging and likeably flawed character, and his cat, Robert Johnson, is even more awesome. The mystery was fun and intriguing, and I didn't anticipate the ending, which is always a plus. I can't say that the book drew me in the way that the Percy Jackson books did, but I think that's a combination of this being Riordan's first book and the fact that the setting isn't one into which I'd want to be drawn. Intense heat and tequila are two things I find extremely unpleasant, and Riordan wrote about both in vivid enough detail that I could sometimes feel the headache that I'd get from either, yellow and red and burning behind my eyes. Also, the scenes with Tres' half-brother Garrett, whom I very much enjoyed in general, had the unfortunate side effect of getting Jimmy Buffet songs stuck in my head and, well, let's just say I'm not a fan.

Still, I enjoyed Tres and the story overall, and I definitely want to read the next one in the series, the book for which Riordan won the Edgar Award. It won't be immediately (in fact, I just got Riordan's newest YA novel, the second of the Kane Chronicles, from the library), but I'll check it out at some point when I've made more progress on the rest of my to-read list.
I'm completely enamored with Haven, a new show on the network formerly known as SciFi. It's set in a small Maine town where Very Strange Things have started happening, again. From about the first five minutes, I started shipping the two (very pretty) main characters, Audrey and Nathan, and that always gets me into a show quickly, but really, I love everything about it. Especially the amazingly gorgeous scenery; it's filmed in Nova Scotia, which I now want to revisit even more than I did before (which was really a lot).

The show's website says it's based on Stephen King's novella The Colorado Kid, though the stories mostly aren't that similar; the show is more inspired by the book than based on it. And when I found out that the book wouldn't have spoilers, I decided to read it.

The Colorado Kid )
I really am going to try to post here more often. With that in mind, here are a couple of book reviews:

two in my very long list of favorite books... )
bluewillowtree: (Gonzo & Camilla)
( Sep. 6th, 2010 11:52 am)
I was recently struck with the urge to re-read Cynthia Voigt's Homecoming. I've read it a number of times, mostly as a kid and maybe once as an adult, but it had been many years, and I missed it.

In case you haven't read it (and if not, go find it!), Homecoming is the story of the four Tillerman children's journey to find a new home after their mother has a breakdown and abandons them in a mall parking lot. Thirteen-year-old Dicey, the oldest, must lead her brothers and sister - who are ten, six, and nine, respectively - hundred of miles on foot to an unknown family member whom they hope will take them in. With very little money, food is a concern every day, as is staying away from adults who might call the police, which could lead to foster homes and possible separation. It's an amazing story; I could really almost feel the children's hunger and exhaustion as I read, as well as their disappointments, accomplishments, and love for each other.

My love for Homecoming is more than just nostalgia for a childhood favorite. Re-reading this as an adult, the Tillermans' journey is both more impressive, because I have a much greater understanding of the odds they faced, and much more frightening, because I now realize all of what could have happened to them. There's one scene in particular that's terrifying now, though when I first read it at 10 or 11, I couldn't have imagined the dangers they were actually facing. Still, it's an absolutely amazing and beautifully written story about family and determination. After finishing it, I couldn't wait to start reading the sequel, Dicey's Song, which I'm now about halfway through. In fact, I'm really tempted to re-read the entire Tillerman series...
I seem lately to revisit the same author again and again during the course of a year. It was George R.R. Martin in 2007, Bill Bryson in 2008, and 2009 is the year of Neil Gaiman - a very good year to have. American Gods is the fourth of his books I've read so far this year (and overall), and just as amazing as the others, though in a different way.

Shadow, the main character, has lost nearly everything. After losing three years of his life in prison, he loses his wife, the job he'd had waiting on the outside, and pretty much any hope for the future in a single day. Just released, he meets an enigmatic man called Wednesday who offers Shadow a job and won't take no for an answer. Shadow eventually agrees and begins traveling the country with Wednesday, meeting a series of increasingly strange characters, both in life and in dreams.

The word that kept running through my head as I read this was "convergence." Every detail was significant in ways I mostly never imagined. This book is astonishing, and fantastic in more than one sense of the word. I absolutely loved it and can't wait to continue the Year of Gaiman.