August 28, 2015

When you read a book about a place you've just visited OR I love England

Before I get into what the title of this post suggests let me give a quick review of Cress which is the third installment in the Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer. For the uninitiated, head on over to my reviews of Cinder and Scarlet for some background info. I really like the way Meyer is able to balance out the primary focus of each book (in this case Cress) with the overarching theme of the series and all of the characters that have made appearances throughout. While this story is set in Earth's future and it deals with a race of people who dwell on the moon (Lunars) it is easy to slip into this reality. Yes, there are cyborgs. Yes, some people have the power to manipulate bio-electricity and therefore control people. However, the themes that are being discussed are easily translatable. Racial prejudice for one thing is very real in today's society and it's an important aspect in the Lunar Chronicles as a whole. Cress grew up in isolation with a tyrant as her one and only connection to the outside world. She was emotionally, verbally, and at times physically abused and this caused her to retreat into herself and create a fantasy world. This, in large part, is why she wants to help the Earthens and the ragtag band of misfits who are on the run from the authorities. War is now a certainty and the clock is ticking for Cinder before she must confront the Queen. Next in the series is Fairest: Levana's Story. I already have it on hold at the library. :-D

I recently went on a trip to the United Kingdom which of course meant visiting various and sundry bookstores. While I was in Carnforth I stopped into one that had a gargantuan used books collection and the very first book that I laid my hand on was called Mere and Moorland: The Northern Counties which was the 4th book in a series entitled A Breath of England by Norman Wymer. (I really do love series don't I?) The real coincidence about this particular book is that I was at that moment making a bit of a tour of the Northern counties of England. It was written in 1951 so it's a wee bit out of date and the pictures included (while glossy) were in black and white only. BUT I loved it. It was amazing to read about the places I had been to personally as well as those I hadn't. Learning about the various traditions, industries, and superstitions of each of the counties was very interesting. It made me want to go back and visit all of the places that I hadn't had a chance to see. I just love English history!! (Also, the countryside. I really, really love the English countryside and Wymer was all about the countryside.)

Quite recently I reviewed Susanna Clarke's debut novel (which blew my mind) and upon researching to see when/if she was writing anything else I discovered that she had written a book entitled The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories. From what I can tell, it's a collection of stories written in the same universe as Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (in fact J.S. makes an appearance as well as the Raven King). I have high hopes for this one especially as we are getting more of a glimpse into Faerie...let's get to it!!

** If you're interested in a book like Mere and Moorland, you can click here. This will re-direct you to AbeBooks. This is a website which I have used to purchase used books many times. Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following this link. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

August 21, 2015

Have you ever been to Salem?

Several years ago, I went on a trip to Salem, Massachusetts and right as we were getting on the airplane my best friend's mom gave me a copy of The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne. You might be completely confused about why this would be the best reading material for a quick airplane trip from Alabama to Massachusetts so allow me to shed some light on the situation for you. The story is all about the Pyncheon family and their gabled house in Salem (which is an actual home that you should all visit). The matriarch of the family, Hepzibah, has been forced to open a small shop in the house to supplement their income after her brother, Clifford, is released from prison for a crime which he has always maintained he did not commit. A distant cousin, Phoebe, joins their ranks just as they taken on a lodger by the name of Holgrave who mostly keeps to himself. An estranged cousin who is a Judge in town is a malevolent spirit on the fringes of their lives. There is a legend surrounding the family that they are cursed and that is why misfortune has seemed to follow them since the family home was acquired. It's a classic example of Gothic literature with a supernatural twist of the occult. If you're hesitant to give it a shot because of The Scarlet Letter (which I honestly wouldn't blame you for as I really didn't like that novel myself), I strongly encourage you to make an exception. It's a really fantastic book with a swiftly moving plot that is full of intrigue, romance, and familial drama.

August 14, 2015

Stephen King: Master of Horror

I don't remember if I've ever talked about my fondness for Stephen King before on the blog. I know that I've mentioned that horror is a genre that from time to time I thoroughly enjoy. There was one summer in particular that I found myself binge reading some of King's works. I read through Carrie, The Tommyknockers, The Shining, and Needful Things that summer but that wasn't where my love affair started. It actually started with It: King's novel about a group of kids who face an unspeakable horror while growing up that comes back to haunt them as adults. I've actually re-read this one a few times simply because I find something new each time that I read it. There are all of the elements of horror as well as a healthy dosage of psychological thriller which King is known for. It's all set in Derry, Maine which I for one would love to visit as it seems to be the epicenter of King's works. It is not for those who suffer from Coulrophobia or the fear of clowns. The nexus of evil in this novel is a shape-shifting entity that primarily takes the shape of a clown so that it can lure children to its lair. (Not sure what kid would willingly follow a clown but these kids seem to be into it.) The main group of children that this book focuses on were outcasts who formed the 'Losers Club' and because of their combined strength they were able to provide a united, threatening front. The book flips between the present day (1984-85) and the past (1957-58) and tells each of the main characters stories. You get to know them and root for them all to various degrees. If you've never read any of Stephen King's books and you want a good place to start then I definitely recommend It. (Warning: There are adult themes and coarse language so keep that in mind.) If you'd like to delve into horror but you're a little overwhelmed with all of the choices then I recommend this one to you as well. :-D (Warning: Likely to induce nightmares for the faint of heart.)

August 7, 2015

This is a debut novel?!

Congratulations, Susanna Clarke! You have cracked my Top 10 Favorite Authors! *confetti explosion* I couldn't believe that this epic masterpiece was a debut novel. However, it makes sense when you discover that Clarke has a history in the publishing world and most likely has had time to learn the ins and outs of the business and craft her work accordingly. The book had such a great reception that it was recently made into a 7 part BBC miniseries (I've started it and it's also amazing). The book focuses on two English magicians who are trying to bring practical magic back to England. The two men couldn't be more different. Where Strange is looking to test the boundaries of what magic can do, Norrell is trying to lay his hands on every magical book in existence (and keep himself cooped up in his library doing the same spells over and over). The book reads as a nonfiction historical piece with footnotes detailing the history of magic as if the reader should be aware of the general history but just in case here are the particulars. (I LOVE footnotes, guys.) The characters, the language, the settings, the magic. It's all SO GOOD. AND I've discovered she's written a collection of "fairy tales" from the land of Faerie itself titled The Ladies of Grace Adieu (and Jonathan Strange makes an appearance!). You know I'm adding that one to the TRL.

I'm back in the swing of The Lunar Chronicles with the next in the series: Cress. This one focuses on the story of Rapunzel who in this case is a Lunar shell trapped in a satellite orbiting earth. She's an expert computer hacker who is basically the puppet of the thaumaturge Sybil. (If you're completely confused about the terminology used here you might want to check out my review of Cinder and Scarlet.)

As always, I thank you for checking out my blog and if you're feeling so inclined please drop a comment and let me know what you thought. :-) If you're a longtime reader of the blog, thanks for making my blog a part of your life and I hope that you're getting as much out of it as I am. If you're new, I encourage you to take a look through my posts either randomly if that's your thing or by using the search bar to look through the tags.  HAPPY READING!!