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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Library Book: iZombie: Six Feet Under and Rising

So here it is, the final iZombie graphic novel that the library currently has. Things are getting messy for Gwen and company. Scott fell into a sink hole and discovered that an underground catacomb is completely infested with zombies (and not the sentient kind like Gwen). And now the zombie infestation has brought both the Monster Hunters and a group called the Undead Presidents (they're pretty much exactly what you would expect) into Eugene, Oregon, making the place a whole lot more dangerous for human and monster alike. And in the middle of everything, Gwen is starting to remember her past with increasing clarity. Too bad those memories are making things a whole lot more complicated.

iZombie: Six Feet Under and Rising is another great read. Unfortunately I now have to wait until the library gets volume 4. I really don't want to though; this series is great!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Library Book: iZombie: uVampire

After enjoying the first iZombie title, I went and got the next two from the library (volume 4 is on order, so I'll get that after the library does!). Gwen's story continues in iZombie: uVampire. The first bit gave Scott/Spot's back story, about his upbringing with his grandfather. He's telling the story to a chimp, who then proceeds to speak; apparently his late grandfather's soul has been trying speak to him, and has inhabited the body of the chimp. He's now stuck though, so Scott asks Ellie for some help getting his grandfather out.

Meanwhile, Gwen goes on a date with Horatio mini putting. Unfortunately she just ate, so the memories from the last brain are messing with her head. Things aren't too bad until she realizes this woman knew her when she was younger; putting the woman's concerns to rest will involve Gwen confronting someone who knew her before she died.

iZombie: uVampire was an excellent read. I'm really looking forward to volume three!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Library Book: i Zombie: Dead to the World

I found iZombie while I was at work.  I read the back of the book and it sounded interesting so I took it out.  Now, having read it, I'm really happy that I did! 

iZombie is the story of Gwen.  She's a gravedigger by day; at night she digs those bodies back up so she can snack on their brains.  Her best friend's a ghost, and another friend is a were-terrier. 

When Gwen snacks on brains, she gets the people's memories, too.  So she takes it upon herself to finish up their business so their voices quiet and leave her in peace. 

I found this first volume to be charming and I can't wait to read more.  Luckily the library has the other three volumes so I won't have to wait long!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Library Book: The Walking Dead Volume 6: This Sorrowful Life

The Walking Dead Volume 6: This Sorrowful Life was a bit of a let down.  Rick, Glenn and Michonne were all taken prisoner by the governor of Woodbury.  Rick lost his hand, Michonne was tortured, and Glenn was largely left alone.  In Woodbury, they stage fights to the death in an arena filled with zombies, and the governor said he'd be sending Rick into the arena once his arm healed up.  But when the opportunity arose, it wasn't Rick who went into the arena but Michonne. 

Anyway, This Sorrowful Life is all about escape.  The three of them need to escape Woodbury and the governor.  In some ways it was relatively predictable, which lessened my enjoyment.  And where Volume 5 had some nasty stuff in it, Volume 6 actually showed some rather nasty stuff (not everything, mind you, but way too much for my liking).  So overall this one wasn't my favourite by any stretch of the imagination. 

But it did end on a real cliffhanger, so I'm going to get the next volumes from the library as soon as I can.

Library Book: The Walking Dead Volume 5: The Best Defense

Alright.  The Walking Dead Volume 5: The Best Defense was a lot better than Volume 4 in my opinion.  It's got some nasty stuff in it, but overall the story was just plain better.

Things start out alright.  In an attempt to get the generator discovered in Volume 4 working, Rick and the survivors decide to syphon some gas from cars parked outside of the prison.  The plan seems to be working, but Rick and Glenn see a helocopter in the sky.  The helicopter crashes, and they decide to try to find it (with some help from Michonne).  They arrive at the helicopter's crash site just before dark.  There are no people present, but they see a lot of footsteps.  Having come this far, they decide to continue on in an attempt to find wherever the footsteps came from, reasoning that there must be more survivors around.  They find them and are welcomed into the community by the governor.  Unfortunately that welcoming isn't exactly warm.

As I said above, this volume has some nasty, nasty things in it.  The governor is not someone you want to cross.  And he knows they must have come from close by, having reasoned that they arrived on foot without supplies.  He wants to know where they've come from and he has every intention of finding out, no matter what the cost.

Despite the nastiness, I did enjoy reading this volume (a lot more than Volume 4).  I'm actually quite excited to see what happens in Volume 5 (which I luckily also have and can read right now!)

Library Book: The Walking Dead Volume 4: The Heart's Desire

Volume 4 kind of surprised me a little bit at the beginning.  Rather than continuing immediately with what Rick and company were up to, it introduced a new character along (Michonne) with a character from Volume 2 (Otis).  But it did jump right back to the story after that.

At the end of volume 3, Rick and company were being kicked out of the prison they had found by one of the inmates.  But when he got his weapons, he accidentally released a hoard of zombies.  Everyone helps to clear the zombies out, wasting a lot of bullets in the process; the inmate is shot in the confusion and everyone can stay. 

On the outside, the two characters who were introduced at the beginning of this volume made it to the prison.  Dealing with some zombies on the outside, those on the inside go to see what happened once their zombies are disposed of. 

Michonne is a mysterious but deadly lady.  She's survived for who knows how long on the outside by herself, bringing along two armless zombies who generally keep the other zombies away from her. Even though they were important to her in the past, she doesn't hesitate to dispose of them in order to get into the prison. 

Everyone is still reeling from the events of the previous book, but for the most part they seem to be recovering from things nicely.  Allen even volunteers to join a small group who are cleaning out the zombies from one of the other buildings.  But things start to spiral out of control when Allen is bitten...

The Walking Dead: The Heart's Desire was in many ways darker than the other volumes (well, volume 3 was pretty dark, too).  Friends are turning on friends now, and no one is sure whether Rick can take the pressure of leading everyone anymore.  A friend of mine warned me that the story gets depressing and I'm really starting to see that here.  I've got two more volumes out from the library right now though, so I'll give those a read then see if I want to continue from there.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Bone: Tall Tales

I bought Bone: Tall Tales just after I finished reading Bone.  I enjoyed that story so much that I wanted more from Jeff Smith's Bone universe.  I bought a couple of other books at the same time (Rose and the Bone Handbook).  But for a variety of reasons, I didn't end up reading them right when I bought them.  So today, I decided to remedy that.  I was originally planning on reading Rose, but instead read Tall Tales; I wanted something a bit lighter to read than I imagine Rose will be.

And Tall Tales is a relatively light read.  It's got four tall tales, which are all told during Smiley Bone's camping trip with Bartleby and the three bone scouts Ringo, Bingo and Todd. The first one concerns Smiley's cousins, Fone and Phoney Bone, back in the valley (during the events of the Bone story).  They're supposed to be doing the laundry, but Phoney Bone finds a treasure map and insists on following it.  Hilarious hijinx follows.

The other three tales concern Big Johnson Bone, the founder of Boneville.  First is the tale of his birth, and how he stood up to Old Man Winter.  Next is the tale of his eating contest against the Cobbler Gobbler.  Finally is the story of his lost years, when Big Johnson was wandering the land, exploring.  The first two stories are both short and lighter reads.  But that last one started to feel a whole lot like the epicness of the original Bone.  Sure, it's shorter, being only one story in the book rather than 9 volumes.  But some of the ideas were the same, and that's not at all a bad thing when it comes to Bone. 

So overall, I really enjoyed reading Bone: Tall Tales.  If you're a fan of the original story, you should definitely give this a read, too.

Monday, December 3, 2012

"Paladins of Shannara: Allanon's Quest" and "Imaginary Friends"

I keep forgetting to update this blog; about half a week ago I read two short stories by Terry Brooks on my Kindle.  The first one was "Paladins of Shannara: Allanon's Quest;" the second was "Imaginary Friends."  I was flying home when I read the two, and even though I was in the middle of another book, I just really, really wanted to read something by Terry Brooks.  So I started with "Allanon's Quest" because I've never read it before.  I just looked online and it is apparently the first of several Shannara short stories Brooks is publishing, with the next one due out this January.

"Allanon's Quest" was a really quick read.  It's been years since I read The Sword of Shannara, but I always did like Allanon as a character.  So being able to read something new about him was exciting for me. 

"Allanon's Quest" is a sort of prequel to The Sword of Shannara.  Allanon is desperately trying to find one of the Shannara heirs to weild the Sword against the Witch King, who has arisen once again in the Four Lands.  But the Witch King will not be so easily defeated; he is hunting down those heirs faster than Allanon can; all Allanon has found is death.  Almost all hope is lost, but Allanon has heard a rumour of a possible lost heir, and so he is desperately trying to track that heir down before the Witch King can.

I enjoyed the story, but it seemed kind of unnecessary to me, having read Sword.  I knew Allanon would find someone because that's the whole point of Sword.  But despite that, like I said, I enjoyed reading it.  I've always been a fan of Brooks' writing style and this story did not fail to disappoint.
So once I finished "Allanon's Quest," I wanted more Terry Brooks.  I thought about starting The Tangle Box, which is still my favourite book of his to date (and the only one I have on Kindle).  But then I remembered that I also had "Imaginary Friends."  I read "Imaginary Friends" years ago, but bought it on my Kindle in support of Brooks' Web Druid/friend who was battling cancer; Brooks sold the short story, with all the proceeds going to the cancer battle.  I thought it was a worthy cause, so I purchased it about a year ago.  "Imaginary Friends" was the story that really started Brooks' Word and Void series (many of the themes and ideas are similar to Running with the Demon, which was published several years after "Imaginary Friends").  Having read it so long ago, I didn't really remember what happened (although it was very familiar all the way through).

"Imaginary Friends" is the story of Jack.  The boy is dying of cancer.  He lives next to Sinnissippi Park, a place of magic where he has befriended an elf named Pick.  I don't want to say much more than that to avoid spoilers, but even though I haven't read it or Running with the Demon in a long time, I could still see how the two books are related (mostly through the magic of the park). 

Both "Allanon's Quest" and "Imaginary Friends" were good reads.  So if you're in need of something quick, consider giving either of these a try, particularly if you are a fan of his two series.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Halo: Uprising

I really haven't had a lot of luck with the Halo graphic novels so far.  This is the third one that I've read so far.  And out of the three, I only really liked one of them; that one wasn't this one. 

Halo: Uprising is supposed to fill in the gap of what happens to the Master Chief in between Halo 2 and 3.  So going into this I was already a bit skeptical; I didn't think anything of note happened in that time.  As far as I was concerned, he jumped onto the Forerunner vessel at the end of 2, then jumped off it when he got to Earth.  But I like Brian Michael Bendis, so I was willing to give this a shot.

Unfortunately, I found it really hard to follow the story.  A lot of that was due to layout and art; sometimes it was a full page spread, but I had no warning of when that would happen so I'd get confused as I read down the page.  The art was also really busy and I often had a hard time following it, particularly when the Chief was killing Covenant, which happened in almost every picture with the Chief in it.

So the Master Chief was doing his thing on the Forerunner ship: killing Covenant, almost getting killed by Covenant, you know, the usual.  And then the story started following some guy on Earth.  A UNSC special forces soldier was captured by the Covenant and tells them about the Key of Osanalan, which is supposed to be located in Cleveland.  So the Covenant attack there, tearing the city apart for this mysterious Key.  In the middle of all that, the story starts to follow a hotel concierge named Ruwan, who is the only one who knows anything about the Key.

The story of Ruwan seemed interesting, but it was hard to follow what was going on (see my above comments about the art and layout).  I also didn't understand what the Master Chief was actually doing through most of the story, other than killing Covenant.  At the beginning he was fighting to stay alive; that much made sense.  It was the later stuff that kind of lost me. 

One thing that I really enjoyed in this graphic novel were the interviews at the end.  There were three: one with writer Brian Michael Bendis, one with the artist Alex Maleev, and one with Brian Jarrard (Bungie Studios) and Frank O'Connor (Microsoft).  All three were really interesting reads and definitely worth checking out if you are either a comic or Halo fan (or both!)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Library Book: Amulet: Prince of the Elves

So it's been about a year since I read the first four volumes in the Amulet series.  And unfortunately that worked against me.  I only vaguely remembered what was going on, so I really didn't enjoy this one the way I enjoyed the other ones. 

Once again we are following Emily and her brother.  Her brother is now a pilot and Emily is one of the last two remaining members of the Stonekeeper Guardian Council.  Max is working with the Elf King; together they free a Mountain Giant, then begin attacking some of the cities.  The Council goes to stop him even though they know they are not ready; they go to give their allies some help (or hope at the very least).

This volume also dealt a bit with the Void.  One of the Stonekeepers had a theory that you could change the past using the Void, so the Elf prince Trellis goes to attempt to change his people's past mistakes.  But the Void is not at all what it seems and he risks being trapped there.

Overall Prince of the Elves was an interesting read.  But like I said, I don't remember a lot of what was going on, so in some parts the story was hard to follow.  I guess I'll have to reread all five volumes right before the sixth one comes out.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Cleaning Out Some Books

So last night I decided that it's really time to start clearing out some of the books that I'm probably not going to read.  I went through and looked for things that I've lost interest in over the years but kept around.  Right now I've taken fifteen books off the List (I'll update Goodreads when I have a chance).  I'm also reading a couple of Library graphic novels then I'm sending the rest of my library books back; I figure I can read them at a later date if I still want to.  I'll probably take another look over the List in a few days and get rid of anything I may have missed on this pass.

During the next few weeks, I'm going to try to read some of the YA books I've had on the List for awhile to clear those off, too.  I was planning on doing that over the summer but just never got to it.  So hopefully I'll be able to get the List down to a more manageable number of books!

Library Book: The Walking Dead Volume 3: Safety Behind Bars

Volume 3 of the Walking Dead continues Rick and company's struggle to survive in a zombie apocalypse.  At the end of volume 2, they found a prison that they wanted to use as a new home.  So this volume is their struggle to clean the place up.  But they are not alone; they find a couple of prison inmates who have been stuck there for months.  Everyone tries to work together to clean the place up.  Rick even extends an invitation to Hershel's family, asking if they wanted to come and live in the prison, too. 

All seems well for the survivors until they find two of the girls dead with their heads chopped off, clearly murdered by someone in the prison.  Now everyone starts turning on one another with no clear idea of who the murderer is...

The Walking Dead: Safety Behind Bars was, like the first two volumes, a great read that I didn't want to put down.  I'm looking forward to the next volume, which I have on hold.  I'm also thinking I really need to watch the tv series because I am liking this story!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Library Book: The Walking Dead Volume 2: Miles Behind Us

So yes, after writing that last blog post, I immediately started reading The Walking Dead Volume 2: Miles Behind Us.  It picks up pretty much exactly where Volume 1 left off.  Rick and company are finally breaking camp in search of a safer place to live.  They pack up the RV and begin their search. 

They first find a gated neighbourhood which seems perfect.  There's lots of canned goods and the houses are big; every family will have a good life.  Well, that plan is interrupted when they realize the whole place is infested with the undead!  The group escapes, but not without casualties.

They spend a week foraging, desperately looking for things to eat when Carl, Rick's boy gets shot.  The perpetrator, a scared individual named Otis, thought they were zombies; he brings them to his friend's place.  His friend Hershel is a veterinarian and is able to save Carl's life.  He invites everyone to stay until Carl is better.  But relations between the Rick's group and Hershel's family start to deterioriate when Rick discovers the undead Hershel is keeping in his barn....

The Walking Dead: Miles Behind Us was another excellent read by Robert Kirkman.  I'm looking forward to whenever I'm able to read the next volume!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Library Book: The Walking Dead Volume 1: Days Gone Bye


I've been wanting to read The Walking Dead for the last week but haven't had the time before now.  Luckily I found some time today and read the first volume, Days Gone Bye.  This is the story of Rick, a cop who was shot on the job.  He wakes up from a coma to find the world a changed place.  The hospital is abandoned, except for monsters that attack him.  His house is a wreck and there are squatters in the neighbour's house.  And he can't find his wife and son.  So he sets off to Atlanta, where his wife has family, in the hopes that she went there when the zombies first appeared on the news.

I'm going to give my spoiler warning now.  I get the impression that The Walking Dead is the continuing story of Rick, so much like Everworld, if I keep posting about the series I won't be able to avoid giving spoilers.

Rick arrives in Atlanta, but instead of the safe haven it was supposed to be, the city is overrun with zombies.  He is saved from certain death by Glenn, one of the survivors.  Glenn leads him to their camp, which is just outside of town, where Rick is miraculously reunited with his family.  The little camp then tries to survive until the army comes, but the weather is getting colder and the zombies keep finding them in greater and greater numbers...

Days Gone Bye was an excellent introduction to the series.  I can't wait to read more (and luckily don't have to - I'm going to start volume 2 right now!)

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Library Book: A Reliable Wife

I've had A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick out for a few weeks now, but finally started reading it over the weekend.  I was looking over the library books I had out and decided I really wanted to read it before sending it back.  And I'm really glad I made that decision.

A Reliable Wife is the story of Catherine Land and Ralph Truitt.  Ralph Truitt, sick of being alone, advertises in the paper that he wants a reliable wife.  And the woman who answers the ad is Catherine Land.  She claims to be a missionary's daughter, but in truth she is far from that.  Her plan is to marry Truitt, a wealthy man, and slowly poison him; once he is dead she will leave a wealthy widow. 

Of course, things don't go as planned.  I won't say more because I don't want to give away any spoilers.  But wow, this was an excellent story.  A Reliable Wife is well worth the read.  :)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Library Book: Terminator/Robocop: Kill Human

I don't really have a lot to say about this.  I saw it at work and decided I needed to read it.  That was several weeks ago, and I finally got around to it today.  I don't know anything about Robocop, but I have seen the Terminator movies and thought this would be an interesting mashup.  And that's exactly what it was.  Interesting. 

Robocop wakes up in a Skynet museum, and goes back in time to stop Skynet.  He meets Sarah and John Connor, has to fight off the T-1000.  I thought it was ok.  I'm sure I would have liked it more if I'd ever seen the Robocop movies (and I suppose I should go out and watch them now), but overall this wasn't really amazing. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Library Book: Anna Dressed in Blood

It's been awhile since I've finished reading anything.  I went away a few weeks ago and read some magazines, but I haven't made it through any books lately.  But I got an email from Chapters which included Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake, which caught my interest.  I realized it was book two in a series, and the library had book one.  So I put Anna Dressed in Blood on hold and started reading it as soon as I got it (even though I'm in the middle of another book). 

Anna Dressed in Blood caught my attention immediately.  I was interested in the world of Cas, the ghost killer.  Especially since  Anna, the ghost he is hunting, lives in my hometown of Thunder Bay.

Of course I had fun reading all the references to places in Thunder Bay.  I laughed when Cas stole a newspaper article from an old library newspaper (that was really funny because I work at the library; we only have microfilm copies of old newspapers, so he wouldn't have been able to do that.  He would have just printed a copy out and that would be that).  If you've travelled from Duluth to Thunder Bay, you'd also know that the terrain doesn't suddenly become rolling hills and boreal forest at the US/Canada border (although there is quite a bit of farmland between the border and Thunder Bay).  I'm also not sure why, but when Cas got to town he didn't mention the Sleeping Giant, one of our most distinct geological features.  And I highly doubt the kids from Churchill highschool would go across town to the Sushi Bowl all the time when Wasabi is waaay closer.  Silly things like that really drove home how this was a fictional account of Thunder Bay, and not the real place.  They also kind of knocked me out of the narrative a bit, but I think that's just because I'm from Thunder Bay and know those details weren't quite right.

But other than the setting issues, the story is really good.  Cas, like his father before him, kills ghosts, stopping them from killing people by sending them onto the afterlife or wherever it is they go.  A friend of his has found a ghost in Thunder Bay known as Anna Dressed in Blood, and Cas is intrigued by her.  So he goes to Thunder Bay intending to learn her story and kill her.  But the Anna he meets is not the usual ghost.  Rather than a pale reflection of who she was, Anna is very much real and aware of herself.  Not only that, she is strong, much stronger than Cas anticipates.  And so he finds himself in Thunder Bay longer than expected as he tried to unravel exactly what Anna is.

When I took Anna Dressed in Blood out, I wasn't really planning on reading any more of the series.  But now that I've read it, I really am excited to continue reading.  I've got a hold on the next one, Girl of Nightmares, which the library currently has on order.  I hope it's as good as this first book was!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Kindle Book: Animal Attraction

My mom is the one who bought "Animal Attraction" by Anna David.  She told me it was a great read and that I'd enjoy it because I'd be able to relate to some of the stories Anna tells about her cats.  I finally sat down and read it this afternoon and wow was my mom right: Anna's Toby is very much like my cat, Sasha!  Like Toby, Sasha doesn't trust easily and doesn't like people who aren't HER people.  But unlike Toby, Sasha had a more stable time when she grew up, and I think she's just a little more trusting and friendly than Toby is.

"Animal Attraction" is Anna David's story of how and when she discovered she was a cat person.  She details her life, and what led her to the decision to adopt not one but two cats.  The first one was the aforementioned Toby, a female cat she mistakenly thought was male.  The second was Lilly, a super friendly cat that can get along with anyone anywhere.  She talks about her struggle to get over her drug addiction, and how she was interacting with her two girls all the while.  It's a quick, enjoyable read, and you should definitely give it a try if you like cats.  In fact, you should probably give it a read even if you don't like cats, just so you can gain an understanding of cat people!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Library Book: The Traveler


I don't really have a lot to say about The Traveler.  I saw it at work and was intrigued by the concept.  A mysterious masked man with weird time powers is fighting against weird time-powered assassins.  Why not give it a try?  So today I gave it a read.  And the premise is exactly what I got: some mysterious masked man fighting against weird time-powered assassins.  I kind of figured out who the masked man (the Traveler) was near the beginning.  I never really understood how his powers worked (or what exactly he was able to do - this was in stark contrast to the Split-Second Men, those assassin guys.  The Traveler was more than happy to explain about them). 

I do have to give a shout-out to the artist, Chad Hardin.  The art was very good throughout the story.

But other than the art, I was left feeling rather "meh" about the whole thing.  I realize this was his origin story, and it's possible the series might get awesome after this point.  But overall I didn't really care.  So if the library eventually gets the next volume (whenever that appears), I might pick it up.  But I'm not going to go actively looking for it.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Library Book: Shadow's Master

After a bit of a wait, I finally got to read the final book in Jon Sprunk's Shadow Saga: Shadow's Master.  This time around, Caim is in search of his mother, who he knows for certain is alive in the frozen north.  Armed with this knowledge, he sets out with a couple of friends he made in the previous book (as well as Kit) searching for Erebus, the citadel in which his mother is held.  There he will confront his grandfather: the Shadow Lord.

Meanwhile, Josephine has taken an army north.  She received word of an invasion from that direction and hopes to halt it in its tracks.  Of course, she also secretly hopes to find Caim while she's at it.  Unfortunately her army is tiny compared to the opposing force she finds.  And at the head of the horde from the north is Talus, the Thunder Lord, a sorcery who has destroyed all who oppose him using his magic.

While helping Caim out here and there, Kit is also left with a big decision to make.  At the end of Shadow's Lure, Caim declared he loved her.  But being Fae, they cannot touch one another.  And so she struggles with a difficult choice: does she love him enough to give up her immortality?

As with the previous two books, I really enjoyed Shadow's Master.  I liked that less time was spent with Josephine (in the previous book, I found that her chapters tended to drag on a bit).  But I also liked her chapters a bit better; they were shorter and filled with more action.  As I said before, in Shadow's Lure her chapters are full of political intrigue, which is fine but not what I personally wanted out of the Shadow Saga.  In Shadow's Master Josey has gone to war, and so her chapters have more action and less intrigue.  I also have to add that unlike the previous two books, Caim doesn't spend most of his time grievously injured.  Sure, he gets cut up in fights and whatnot, but no bear this time (I know, I'm a big fan of Caim's rotten luck from the previous two books). 

So overall, having read the entire trilogy, I really enjoyed it.  I look forward to whatever Sprunk works on next!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Short Story: Jack of Blades

I found "Jack of Blades" at the same time as "Reaver" (as well as "Theresa," which I have not yet read).  I honestly don't know anything about Jack of Blades; I'm guessing he's from the first game which I haven't played yet (but I'm going to first chance I get!)  Like "Reaver," "Jack of Blades" was a lot of fun.

I apologize, but I'm going to be giving some spoilers for this one. If you haven't read the story, go read it right now.  It's awesome!

"Jack of Blades" is about a guy named Xiro who wanders into a town taken over by Jack of Blades.  Xiro is told he cannot leave because Jack doesn't want his whereabouts being revealed to the outside world.  He then proceeds to accidentally kill two if Xiro's ten men (although the accident part is debatable.  There was a line to the effect of "his hand no longer shook" which led me to believe Xiro may have just been pretending to be unskilled).  In the wake of this, the villagers believe Xiro is a hero but he fervently denies it, claiming to be a no one.

Regardless of who Xiro is, his killings inevitably attract the attention of Jack.  Xiro kills two more of Jack's men in an "accidental" fire (I wasn't really buying the accident part) and is then brought to Jack's mansion where he is supposed to provide sport by fighting (or as they believe, dying to) a balverine.  After some incredibly bizarre stuff, Xiro manages to kill all of Jack's remaining men and reveals that "Jack" is an imposter   He listens to "Jack's" reasoning and then kills him as well.  The story never says exactly who Xiro is, but I thought it heavily implied that Xiro was the real Jack of Blades.

As I said, I don't know much about Jack of Blades, so I'm going to go play Fable 1 before looking into his character (having played 2 and 3, I'm pretty sure he must be from the first game).  But regardless, I really enjoyed reading this story!

As a side note, I'm not going to read "Theresa" until I've played through the first game.  I know she's originally from the first game so I want to play that before reading her tale.

Short Story: Reaver

I'm not going to lie.  I love Reaver.  So when I found a short story dedicated to him, I had to read it.

"Reaver" was a lot of fun (which I expected because it is about Reaver the character).  This is the story of how Reaver defeated Captain Dread, the self-styled pirate king.  In his witty and overconfident way, Reaver manages to undermine Dread's credibility before single-handedly taking on Dread and his crew!  The story can be a bit gruesome at times (there are some rather gory details) but it's a lot of fun!  Definitely worth the read, especially if you're a Fable fan.

Library Book: A Flight of Angels

I saw A Flight of Angels a couple of weeks ago while at work.  I've seen some of Rebecca Guay\s artwork on Magic: the Gathering cards and was immediately interested in reading this specifically to enjoy the art.  And now that I've finished it, I have to say it is an incredibly pretty book.

A Flight of Angels starts when some faerie creatures see something fall from the sky.  They go to investigate and find an angel has fallen from heaven.  After discovering the angel lives, they decide to hold a tribunal to decide the unconscious angel's fate.  And so those assembled tell stories about angels in order to decide this one's fate.

Besides that framing narrative, there are five tales told by the faerie creatures.  Of all of them, I liked the first one best; it was a retelling of Adam and Eve (and the art from the cover is from this tale).  The next two tales were about death.  One had an angel who was bad at everything, and so found himself as an angel of Death.  The next was about a woman who made a deal with an Angel of Death so he could not take her unless she invited him in.  Both were okay.  The fourth story was about a clumsy girl who caught the eye of an angel.  And the final story was about the war of the angels, in which some were cast out of heaven.

As I said, most of the stories were alright.  But the artwork was fantastic.  So if your main interest is the art in a graphic novel, this one's for you.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Last Hunt

I waited a long, long time to finish reading Cara Diana Hunter's story.  As I've mentioned in previous posts, I started reading the Unicorn Chronicles when the first book came out in 1994.  Now, almost twenty years later, I finally know what happened when Beloved invaded Luster with her army of Hunters.

Egged on by the Whisperer, Beloved has torn a new hole into Luster.  This hole is through the Axis Mundi, the world tree that holds Luster togethe. In damagin it, the world is very quickly falling apart.

With the arrival of the Hunters, Cara is sent to one of the seven dragons for help.  The Unicorn Council, led by the new queen Amalia Flickerfoot, has decided that Graumag is the best choice.  Graumag is an unusual dragon (she is actually the same dragon from "After the Third Kiss;" it was rather fun being able to make that connection), one who owes her very life to Luster and so she agrees to help. 

But after enlisting the dragon's aid, Cara and Graumag are attacked by Hunters who were tasked by Beloved to capture Cara.  Graumag holds them off while Cara escapes, thus seperating Cara from all of her friends (except the Squijum).  Cara is left to find her way to the Axis Mundi where the largest battle to ever be fought on Luster's soil is about to begin.

I enjoyed reading The Last Hunt quite a bit (well I did manage to get through all 600 pages yesterday).  But I did miss some of the characters.  As always Cara is the main character, so we got to follow her through most of the story.  But many of the other characters did not play as big a role in this book as they have in previous ones and that made me sad.  For one thing I often found myself wondering what Lightfoot was up to.  And near the end of the book I found that the focus shifted away from Cara's father Ian which was a real shame; Coville set some great character things up for him in the third book (especially concerning what he had to go through in the Rainbow Prison to find his wife) which seemed forgotten about in the Last Hunt.  And I think the very end, wrapping up what had happened, needed a little more (I don't want to give this away in any more detail  as that is a spoiler).  But besides these issues, it was an interesting (and enjoyable!) book and I'm glad to finally know how Cara's story ended.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Dark Whispers

After all this time, I was finally able to read Dark Whispers, the third book in Bruce Coville's Unicorn Chronicles.  As I mentioned in my post about Into the Land of the Unicorns, that first book was published in 1994, while the second book came out in 1999.  Dark Whispers was originally published in 2008, nearly ten years later.  That's a long time to wait.  It was an even longer time because this final volume was split into two, making the entire series four books long (and about fifteen years in the making).  Dark Whispers is also the first book in the Unicorn Chronicles that I have not read before; I elected to wait until I had a copy of The Last Hunt before re-reading the entire series.  I apologize as there will be some spoilers here.  I'll try to keep them to a minimum, but the books are all related.

Dark Whispers begins where Song of the Wanderer leaves off.  Amalia Flickerfoot has been crowned the new Queen of the Unicorns.  And while learning how to be Queen, the Unicorns must face their greatest threat ever: Beloved and the Hunters have one of the Queen's Five Lockets, gateways into Luster.  It is only a matter of time before they cross over into Luster for the Last Hunt.  And thanks to the Geomancer, they know exactly when Beloved will cross: the Blood Moon. 

Grimwold, the Keeper of the Unicorn Chronicles, comes across an oddity within the Chronicles.  There are a few pages missing, as well as a crossed out passage.  He thinks he can make out a reference to "the Whisperer."  An old human who is also at the council, Alma Leonetti, is the only one who has heard of the Whisperer, and though she cannot remember from where she heard the reference, she suggests that the Queen send someone to the Centaur King in order to ask if he has the tale.  And so Cara, along with a small group, finds herself once again travelling through Luster in search of this elusive story.

Meanwhile on Earth, Ian Hunter, Cara's father, goes in search of his wife and Cara's mother.  He knows she is a prisoner of the Rainbow Prison, which is made of different shafts of light between Earth and Luster.  The problem is that once he is in the Rainbow Prison, it will be much harder to leave.

I honestly liked Dark Whispers better than Song of the WandererDark Whispers had a better pace than the previous book.  I also don't think Cara's group ever got to be as big as it did in the previous book.  And by shifting the narrative from Cara to other characters, the reader is able to get to know these other characters a lot better.  Although it took me almost twenty years from when Into the Land of the Unicorns was first published to get this far into the story, I think it was well worth the wait.

But now onto The Last Hunt, the final book in the Unicorn Chronicles.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Reread: Song of the Wanderer

Today I finished rereading book 2 of the Unicorn Chronicles, Song of the Wanderer (I started it late last night but decided to sleep rather than force my way though it last night).  I've read this book once before, when I first got it.  I honestly didn't remember anything about it (except for the very basic quest).

Song of the Wanderer continues the story of Cara.  This time Cara is tasked by the unicorn queen to go find her grandmother and bring her back to Luster.  So Cara sets off with a small glory of unicorns made up of Belle, a female fighting unicorn, Finder, a large unicorn who is himself a wanderer, and Moonheart, the uncle of Lightfoot, as well as the Squijum and Thomas the Tinker.  Cara must first find the geomancer, a sorceress who is adept with earth magic, who will find Cara a path back to her grandmother.  Unfortunately the path is a dangerous one.  Along the way Cara meets up with friends new and old.

Song of the Wanderer is a good book, but it isn't as good as Into the Land of the Unicorns. For one thing, Song is longer and at times it feels like it takes a lot longer to get to its point.  For another thing, there are a lot of characters (there's something like ten + characters in Cara's party by the end of the book), which also made it harder to give them all enough time at the forefront of the story (I remember writing a story like this years ago where I had such a large party it was unwieldy to write!); Into the Land is a lot better because the party of characters is smaller and so you get to know all of them much better.

As I said though, it is still a good story.  Some crazy things happen which lead staight into book three, Dark Whispers, which I am really looking forward to reading for the first time ever!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Reread: Into the Land of the Unicorns

I first read Into the Land of the Unicorns when it first came out in 1994.  I bought it at a book fair at the time.  I read it and loved it, recommended it to people, and waited patiently for the second book (which finally came out in 1999). I reread it a few times, the last of which was probably when I read the second book whenever I got it (I don't know if I got Song of the Wanderer right when it came out or if I found it sometime later).  I knew there was a third book, but I decided not to bother getting it until the fourth (and I believe final) book was released and in soft cover.  Having waited for quite sometime and the final book is still in hard cover, a few years after being released, I finally picked up the final two and am going to read the entire series.  My original plan was to read them during the week of my birthday but that didn't happen. So here we are, the beginning of July, and I'm going on a unicorn reading spree.

Into the Land of the Unicorns is the story of Cara.  Heading home from the library one day with her grandmother, they are chased into a church.  Desperate to save her granddaughter, Grandmother Morris gives Cara her "special," an amulet she always wears and sends her granddaughter to the magical land of Luster.  Cara meets many strange and wondrous creatures, chief of which is the unicorn Lightfoot.  Together, Cara and her friends must keep the amulet out of the grasp of the man who followed her from Earth.

Into the Land of the Unicorns was one of my favourite books when I was younger.  And having reread it today, it still stands up as one of my favourites.  The writing is fantastic, the story is excellent, I love the characters, and I just really like the land of Luster (especially the history of how the unicorns came to be there instead of on Earth).  I'm glad I reread it and I'm looking forward to reading the remaining three books (especially 3 and 4 which I've never read!)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Library Books: Owly pt. 2

About a week ago I got the remaining three Owly graphic novels from the library.  I read them and forgot to post about them here (sorry!)  Like the first two, the remaining ones are super cute and I loved them (especially the final volume, Tiny Tales). 

Volume 3 is Flying Lessons.  Owly and Wormy discover a flying squirrel and try to befriend it.  Of course owls are the squirrel's natural enemy so the squirrel is terrified of Owly.  Can Wormy convince the squirrel that Owly isn't a mean owl?

A Time to Be Brave is all about Wormy's fears.  After Owly reads him a story with dragons, Wormy sees the shadow of one!  Can Owly and Wormy figure out just what has the scary shadow?

The final graphic novel in the Owly series (thus far!) is Tiny Tales.  I loved this volume.  As the name suggests, it's a whole bunch of super short (generally a couple of pages each) tales of Owly and friends.  This was a great edition that really fleshed out the world of Owly, and also had some really early stories (one even had Owly talking!)  This was a great volume to see the evolution of Owly from early drafts and doodles into the lovable character he is today.

So as I already said above, I loved these graphic novels.and can't wait for volume 6!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Library Book: Superman Brainiac

I don't normally read Superman books (with a couple of exceptions like the Superman Batman series) but I saw Superman Brainiac while at work last night.  I was intrigued by the premise so I took it out.

Brainiac is an alien who is collecting knowledge.  He shows up to a planet with sentient life, steals a city then destroys the planet.  He did this to Krypton and when one of his probes encounters Superman, he's on his way to Earth to do the same.

But Superman knows he's coming, and rather than wait Superman decides to take the fight to Brainiac.

There isn't a whole lot else going on in this story (well, there's some stuff with Supergirl facing her fears and believing in herself, and some character building stuff that probably goes with the larger overarching story) but it was a really good read.  The art was excellent as well.  So if you're looking for a quick read, particularly something that you can read without knowing a whole lot about Superman, this is definitely for you!

Short Story: After the Third Kiss: A Dragon Story

I found Bruce Coville's "After the Third Kiss: A Dragon Story" in an anthology in Chapters.  I wasn't really interested in the anthology as a whole so rather than buy it I went home and looked to see if it was available by itself on my Kindle.  It was.  So yesterday at the doctor's office I started it, then finished it when I got home.  As a short story it wasn't very long, which made it a perfect fit for my day!

"After the Third Kiss" is the story of May Margaret, a young maiden cursed by her stepmother into the form of a dragon.  Only her brother can break the curse, and only by giving her three kisses on the day he returns home.  Despite his extreme reluctance to kiss her hideous form (and being scarred by her hot breath) he does so.  Together they vanquish their stepmother, turning her into a giant toad.

Normally that's where the story would end, with the brother and sister living happily ever after.  But that's not the case in "After the Third Kiss."  The brother becomes king, but he is convinced that no one would desire him now that he is scarred (although that is not the case).  But more troubling is the fact that he is unable to conceive an heir.  And so he starts looking for a husband for May Margaret.

May Margaret has problems of her own.  Although she is beautiful, she has no suitors because of the whole dragon incident.  But that is the least of her worries, because May Margaret was not left unscarred by the dragon.  There is a fire that remains in her blood, making her yearn to be a dragon once more.

"After the Third Kiss" was an incredible story by Bruce Coville.  If you get the chance, I definitely recommend giving it a read!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Library Books: Owly

When I was at work I discovered Owly.  Owly is a series of graphic novels the library has purchased for children.  They're incredibly simple books with very few words but they are the cutest things I've seen in a long time!  I snagged both volumes 1 and 2 and have read volume 1 twice already!

Owly is an owl who just wants to make friends with the various birds of the forest. Unfortunately he's an owl, and so the little birds are terrified of him.  The Way Home tells the story of how he saved and befriended Wormy; now the two are inseperable.

The Bittersweet Summer, which is also included in volume 1, is the story of Owly and Wormy meeting Tiny and Angel, two hummingbirds who hang out in Owly's garden.  They have a great time until autumn comes and the two hummingbirds must migrate; Owly is devestated to lose his friends!

The second volume, Just a Little Blue was a really touching story.  Owly and Wormy try to befriend a blue bird, but he keeps chasing them off.  They even destroy their cart in an effort to make the bluebird and his family a new home.  This was a kind of sad story (with a happy ending though!) that I really, really liked.

The Owly series is adorable and I absolutely love it (I may even pick it up myself one day, I loved it that much!)  As I said before, there are very few words in these graphic novels, so people of all ages can enjoy them.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Nonfiction: I'm an English Major - Now What?

I've been reading I'm an English Major - Now What? off and on for the last week or two.  I started when I decided it was time to start looking for a job.  I've been out of school for the last year, which has been great.  I've got a good part time job and work with great people, but I think it's time to start looking for what I'd like to do for the next little while.  And the place to start is by looking at the kinds of things I can do with my degree.

I'm an English Major - Now What? is exactly what it sounds like.  It goes through the obvious career choices for people with (undergraduate) English degrees (such as teaching, journalism, pursuing postgraduate education, etc).  It lists the pros and cons of each option, and tells you what kind of person is best suited for that type of work.  What I really liked was the latter half of each chapter where Tim Lemire interviewed English majors who have those jobs.  It was great reading about their experiences.

At the end of the book were a couple of appendices as well.  These had information on the job search itself, such as what to consider including on your resume, and a list of other resources for further reading.  All in all, I'm an English Major - Now What? was an excellent read for someone like me who is trying to figure out my next step now that school is over.

As an aside, I bought I'm an English Major - Now What, along with Great Jobs for English Majors by Julie DeGalan and Stephen Lambert, a few years ago when I first went into English.  I don't know why, but I put them away and only recently pulled them back out.  I'm not really sure if I'm going to read Great Jobs for English Majors; I flipped through it and it didn't really appeal to me as much.

Jane on Her Own

Jane on Her Own is the final book in Ursula K. Le Guin's Catwings series.  Jane decides that the farm is boring; she wants adventures!  So she decides to leave her family and friends at Overhill Farm and strikes out on her own, eventually heading back to the city where she was born.

She has a lot of trouble finding new friends though.  Birds are either afraid of her or are dangerous (like the Owl from Catwings).  Cats don't realize she's a cat, and are likewise afraid of her.  People want to catch her.  And dogs want to chase her.  So one day Jane flies into a window.  The man there doesn't try to catch her, but instead offers her something to eat.  He takes care of her, but closes the window on her, trapping Jane from leaving.  He gives her the finest foods and toys, but brings in men with cameras who make her perform for them.  It is only after Jane tries to get him to open the window for her and he refuses that she finally understands that sometimes cages are a bit bigger than you would expect.

Jane on Her Own was probably my least favourite of the Catwings books, but it was still a really good read.  I'm sad that it is the last of the series; I would love to read more!  But since I can't, I'm happy to have all four books now; I can read them whenever I want to!

Wonderful Alexander and the Catwings

Wonderful Alexander and the Catwings is the third Catwings book by Ursula K. Le Guin.  As I mentioned in my last post, it was one of the two Catwings books I have never read.  I'm really glad I finally got a hold of it!

Alexander Furby lives in a big house with his family.  The oldest of three kittens, he decides to go exploring the world outside his garden.  Alexander nearly gets run over by some trucks on the road, then finds himself up a tree after being chased by some dogs.  He miserably spends the night, too terrified to climb down.

The next morning, a strange black cat with wings finds him.  Unable to speak, she manages to coax him down the tree and leads him to her home where he meets the other four catwings.  He learns that Jane, the black catwing, has never spoken and refuses to sleep in the dovecote with the others.

Susan and Hank, the children who care for the catwings, see Alexander and take him in.  That's where his original owner finds him.  Alexander remains with Susan and Hank, but now gets to see his parents when they come for a visit.

Alexander has a good life, but he always thought he would do something wonderful.  One day when he is reflecting on things, he realizes that Jane is the one who has done wonderful things - namely helping him down from that tree.  He decides he wants to do something wonderful for her, but what can he do for a cat with wings?

To avoid spoilers, I won't tell you; you'll have to read the story yourself!  That being said, I really enjoyed this book.  I wasn't sure what I would think of it, especially when it started off following Alexander (it isn't until chapter 2 that Jane shows up), but it more than made up for it in the end.  It was also great seeing more of Jane (and I'm sure I'll get even more Jane in the final book, Jane on her Own).

This is a beautiful story about the friendship between two cats.  If you're a fan of the first two books, you'll enjoy this one.

Reread: Catwings and Catwings Return

When I was younger, I used to read Catwings and Catwings Return all the time.  The library had both books, and I think they spent more time at my house than on the library's shelf.  Eventually, I found a copy of both of them for myself.  There are two other books in the series, but the library doesn't have those two; I finally got myself a copy of both of them, so I decided to first reread Catwings and Catwings Return before reading the new two.

Catwings is the story of Mrs. Jane Tabby's four remarkable kittens.  Thelma, Roger, Harriet and James were all born with wings.  Living under a dumpster in an alley, their mother knows the city is no place for flying cats; she urges them to use their wings to leave the city. The four cats make their way into the forest, where they learn to survive the new dangers there.

Catwings Return continues the story of the four flying tabbies.  Living happily in their new home, James and Harriet decide they want to visit their mother.  And so they fly back to the city, looking for their alley home.  They find it, but the dumpster and their mother is gone.  All that's left is a starving black kitten with wings!  The kitten is in an old building that is soon to be demolished.  It's up to James and Harriet to save her and help her find her mother.

Both books are really cute.  I've always loved them, and rereading them was a real trip down memory lane.  Now I'm really excited to read the two new books!

As a side note, it looks like I'm not the only one who loves the Catwings!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Library Book: The Last Unicorn

I don't really want to say a whole lot about The Last Unicorn. I've never read the actual novel by Peter S. Beagle, but I was a big fan of the movie when I was younger. I found the graphic novel in Chapters a few weeks ago and immediately fell in love with the art. The library has it, so I took it out a little while ago and finally got around to reading it. The graphic novel is relatively similar to the movie (which makes sense - Peter S. Beagle wrote the screenplay, and was involved with the graphic novel so they should be similar). But I just can't get over that artwork!!! (If you're curious, I found a sample of the art here).

If you're unfamiliar with the tale, it is the story of a unicorn who believes she is the last of her kind. So she sets out on an adventure to find out what happened to the others. The Last Unicorn is full of wonderful characters like Schmendrick the magician, who has power but isn't very good at casting spells, Molly Grue, the first woman to actually see the unicorn for who she is, and King Haggard, the cruel man who commands the Red Bull. The Last Unicorn is a wonderful tale that has captivated people around the world.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Goodreads

I've had a few people ask me over the last year or so to join Goodreads. I could never be bothered with it though. I have this blog, which works for me just fine, as well as my actual physical list of books to read. But today at work, someone showed me exactly how the site works and I decided to give it a shot. So I've spent way more time than I should have adding books to my Goodreads shelves. And somewhere along the way, I decided to put all the books on my physical list on Goodreads. So for the first time ever, if you want to know what's on my List, you can check it out here!

I have to warn you though, I don't know how often I'm going to be updating Goodreads. And I have no intention of reviewing books there; all my reviews will be done here. I should also put out the disclaimer that many of the books I rated were books I read prior to starting this blog. So I don't know how accurate my ratings of them are (this includes most of the Mercedes Lackey and Terry Brooks that are rated. I remember liking them, but the ratings may not be completely accurate on all of them).

I've gone through The List and updated Goodreads to have pretty much everything I've talked about on here. I've also got shelves set up for the school books I read, the books I originally got from the library, YA and Kids books I've read over the years, anthologies, short story collections (a book of short stories all by one author), plays and Kindle books. I won't list all the individual shelves here; you can find them all on my Goodreads page!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Kindle Book: Mockingjay


So I did it again. I finished
Mockingjay in one day. I told myself I wasn't going to, but as I was reading, I just didn't want to put it down. At this point I just wanted to know how the story ended.

I'd like to take this moment to give another spoiler warning. Now that I've read all three books, I will be saying things that give away earlier plot points. I'd also like to discuss Mockingjay in more detail than I've done for the other two books. So if you haven't read the trilogy yet, you might want to stop reading.

Mockingjay was a really strange entry in the Hunger Games trilogy. As I was reading it, I was struck a few times by how it felt like I was reading a completely different story. Sure, the characters were all there (or mostly there anyway - although even the characters who died tended to come up quite often). I find myself comparing Mockingjay to Worldwired, the final book of the Jenny Casey trilogy by Elizabeth Bear. No, Mockingjay doesn't start following other characters. But the scope of the story changes.

The one word that comes to mind when I think of Mockingjay is "revolution" (or "rebellion" works too). At the end of Catching Fire, Katniss was rescued from the arena along with a couple of the other tributes only to discover that District 12, her home, no longer exists. It was firebombed, much the same as District 13 was in the Dark Days which preceded the Capitol's complete control of the country and the beginning of the Hunger Games. Her rescuers are bringing her to District 13 which was actually not destroyed as everyone was led to believe. Unfortunately Peeta was left at the arena and is now in the hands of President Snow.

Katniss has been the spark that began the rebellions in several of the Districts. Those in charge of the rebellion (mainly headed by the President of District 13) want Katniss to continue rallying and inspiring the revolution by becoming the Mockingjay, the symbol of her pin (and the dress her stylist made for her to wear during Catching Fire). After a lot of time resisting, Katniss eventually agrees, but only if the tributes who were left behind in the arena (Peeta and a few others) will be given immunity.

And so begins Katniss's adventures in propaganda. After an initial attempt to produce a video in-studio fails (Katniss is a terrible actress), she is sent into the field. The shoot is supposed to be safe, with Katniss walking around a hospital talking to the wounded, but the hospital is attacked, giving Katniss the opportunity to shoot down some hovercraft. This gets her camera crew some amazing footage.

Meanwhile, President Snow hasn't been idly sitting by. He keeps staging interviews of Peeta on TV, showing Katniss how much Peeta is deteriorating. Finally, Katniss breaks down, prompting a rescue mission. Unfortunately Peeta has been more badly damaged than anyone can anticipate; he has been tortured in such a way that his memories of Katniss have been confused and he believes she is the enemy. He tries to kill her when he first sees her.

And this becomes the first real big setback to her possible relationship with Gale (who I had been rooting for since book 1). Other setbacks happen, making a relationship with him less and less possible (the most noticeable one being his plan to cave in the last place of resistance within the Districts - it is painful for Katniss because her father died in a mining accident).

Finally, Katniss and company makes her way into the Capitol. Her squad is supposed to be just the face of the rebellion, celebrity tributes and beautiful people being used for propaganda only. But Katniss has other plans, wanting to kill President Snow herself. Her squad experiences a setback when Peeta is sent to them; this is clearly a signal that the District 13's president wants her dead because Peeta isn't really better. But the squad helps him as best they can.

Then on a mission deemed safe, all hell breaks loose. A hidden trap takes out their commanding officer, and other traps kill a few other members of the squad. The remainder escapes just in time before the Capitol's forces blow up the building they were last seen in. Both Capitol and Rebel forces believe the Mockingjay is dead. So Katniss and her squad attempt to continue on and kill the President themselves. Unfortunately he realizes they are still alive and starts hunting them within his city. Slowly she loses more and more of her squad until there's only her, Gale, Peeta and two others left. They make it to the President's Mansion just as the rest of the rebels do. A group of children is kept in front of the mansion, and the children get bombed by a Capitol hovercar. Rebel medics rush into help, including Katniss's sister Prim. In a trap much like one discussed earlier by Gale, a secondary explosion goes off, killing the medics.

Katniss is in a daze for a long time after the death of her sister. She finds herself walking into the room where Snow was being held before his execution. She has a brief conversation with him, which is when she starts to wonder just who bombed the children and her sister.

Finally, Snow's execution is at hand. Katniss is supposed to be the one to kill him with an arrow. But at the last minute she turns and kills the Mayor of District 13 instead. The Mayor had assumed control once the war was over. Katniss is brought into custody where she contemplates killing herself, but in the end she is released to go back home to District 12 (where her house and a few others have miraculously survived). Gale has gone elsewhere because he knows Katniss will always think in the back of her mind that he was responsible for her sister's death. She spends a long while in a fog, doing nothing, until one day she finds Peeta has also come home. And so she slowly mends mentally, living out the rest of her days with him and the children they eventually have.

I know I've gone into a lot of detail about the plot, but I felt it was necessary because this book was so full of twists and turns. The original book was all about the actual Hunger Games, so that was all that happened. The second book was first about Katniss's trip with Peeta, the beginnings of rebellion, and then the Quarter Quell, which was an excuse to get Katniss and Peeta back into the Games. Mockingjay does not feature the Games at all (although the fight through the Capitol is rather like another Hunger Game in many ways). While Katniss is still very much controlled by others, she also seems to lose her spirit in this book. That has a lot to do with the stress of being the Mockingjay, and Snow's attempts to break her using Peeta. But she also spends large amounts of the book aimless, uninterested in her surroundings and rather boring. The beginning and end really drove that home. At the beginning she was recovering from her last Hunger Games (the Quarter Quell) which involved a head injury. She was disoriented, having a tough time adjusting to the rigidity of District 13 and hated being stuck underground. At the end she was tried for killing the District 13 Mayor, but spent the entire trial in solitary confinement. Why didn't we get to see the trial?

I realize that part of this is very realistic. I mean, she was a 16-year-old girl at the beginning of The Hunger Games who liked hunting with her friend Gale. By Mockingjay she has survived two Hunger Games, incited revolution, been the face of that revolution and killed an awful lot of people. She isn't coping very well with all of that, but still has to pull through because everyone expects her to.

But by the end it was hard to like Katniss. Peeta kept saying, all the way through the series, that she had no idea what effect she had on others. And it's true that Katniss didn't. But I as the reader also didn't get it. She had two boys who loved her (although I really don't know why Peeta continued to. No matter what she did, he just seemed to love her unconditionally without really knowing her). She kept doing things that made people notice her. But she was selfish (and admitted that to herself). She knew that good people didn't win the Hunger Games, and that Peeta was special because he was a good person (I keep thinking back to when she realized that before the Quarter Quell began. The only reason Peeta won was because of her. He's too good to have done it on his own. I do not fault him for that - it's part of who he is, what makes him so special). And she seemed to give up too much, particularly in the last book. In previous books she was always determined to fight for something; the fight just seemed to be gone this time around.

I was also really disappointed by her lack of a relationship with Gale. Right from The Hunger Games I thought he was the one for her. Gale was the one who knew her, who watched out for both her and her family. But first Catching Fire disappointed me by not starting with their reunion (to be fair, Katniss tells us about it before long. But I would have preferred to jump right back into the story at that point, not months after it happened). And then their relationship deteriorates more and more as Mockingjay progresses.

I really don't want to say much more about Mockingjay or the whole Hunger Games trilogy in general. I did enjoy reading them (I did read them in three days afterall). I found I didn't want to put the books down. But I was struck, over and over again, that if this had been my story, it would have been a lot different. But this isn't my story, so I cannot fault Suzanne Collins for telling her story her way. As I said, it's a good read, so definitely consider The Hunger Games trilogy if you're looking for a good post-apocalyptic tale.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Kindle Book: Catching Fire

Well, I somehow did it. I managed to read Catching Fire in a day, just like The Hunger Games. And hopefully this time I'll be able to get a good night sleep now that I'm done.

At this point, I am going to issue a spoiler warning. It's impossible to talk about Catching Fire without giving away some of the stuff from The Hunger Games. I may also be ruining some cool stuff about Catching Fire, so if you don't want to know, please stop reading now.

I'm going to say that I was disappointed with Catching Fire right from the start. The way The Hunger Games ended led me to believe Catching Fire would take place immediately after The Hunger Games. It didn't. Catching Fire took place months after The Hunger Games, leaving out a lot of the things I wanted to read about (most importantly Katniss's homecoming and reunion with her family and Gale). But no, it skips ahead to her tour with Peeta halfway between their Hunger Games and the next one.

Once I got over that though, I was pulled in by the story. The Capitol's President appears in person at the beginning of the tour to issue Katniss a dangerous ultimatum: she must convince the entire country that her feelings for Peeta are genuine or else those she is closest to will die. After the events of the previous book, several of the Districts are beginning to rebel, and they are using her act of defiance (and the unprecedented two champions of the 74th Hunger Games) as their symbol of rebellion.

So Katniss tries her best, but it isn't enough. The Districts start rebelling, leading to harsher conditions back in her home District (even though the people have not rebelled there). Gale is severely punished, after which they lose access to the woods. And then the unthinkable happens: for the 75th Hunger Games, the candidates will come from the living winners of previous Hunger Games. And in Katniss's District, there are only three. And only one of them is female.

Catching Fire was a pretty good story, even after my initial disappointment. There's a lot going on, and you can really tell that it's an important turning point for not only Katniss but her entire world. But that being said, I don't think Catching Fire was as good as The Hunger Games.

So now I'm onto Mockingjay, the final book in the series, tomorrow. I'm really hoping it will be a great ending to the trilogy. And I'm hoping that this time, Mockingjay will take place immediately after Catching Fire's story ended.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Kindle Book: The Hunger Games

At work, The Hunger Games has been extremely popular for the last while. I've seen it and the other two books in the trilogy go by countless times. And I've always kind of wondered why exactly everyone was in love with it. A couple of friends also recommended it to me. I heard rumours of a movie being made (which wasn't surprising; the book's been so popular at work and everywhere that why wouldn't Hollywood jump on it now?) Then my mom bought it on her Kindle and read it in an extremely short period of time while I was reading The Help. So as soon as I finished The Help, I borrowed my mom's Kindle and started reading.

Needless to say, I finished it in one day. I wasn't honestly planning on doing so, but I wasn't able to sleep and the book was so good that I didn't want to put it down!

The Hunger Games follows Katniss Everdean. She lives in what used to be North America. In the recent past (less than a century ago), the outlying districts of her nation rose up against the Capitol and lost. As part of the result, every year each district has to send a boy and a girl as tribute to fight each other to the death in the Hunger Games as sport for the Capitol's people. The winner is showered in riches for the year until the next Hunger Games.

Katniss is an illegal hunter, working with her partner Gale to keep their families alive. Coupled with a yearly "tesserae" (I guess it means portion or allowance) of grain and oil, they trade their kills and finds (they get wild plants as well) for other necessities to survive. But that yearly tesserae isn't free; for each person-worth of oil and grain you need, you have to enter your name an extra time in for the Hunger Games. And those entries stay with you until you're ineligible as an adult.

In an effort to protect her sister Prim, Katniss refuses to let the girl take the tesserae, preferring to put her own name in however multiple times are necessary. But despite Prim only having a single entry, the unthinkable happens: Prim's name is chosen! Katniss doesn't hesitate a moment but jumps forward and volunteers in Prim's stead. And so begins her adventures having to fight for her life in the Hunger Games!

Prim finds herself heading to the Games with Peeta, a baker's boy who helped her once when she was younger. The two of them are being helped by the last man who won the Games from their district and a team of stylists. After a week of ceremonies, interviews and training, they are brought to the arena and pitted against one another; there can be only one winner.

After reading it, I finally get why everyone's loving The Hunger Games. It is an extremely well-written book, fast paced and entertaining. The end wasn't exactly the greatest, but it leads right into the second book, Catching Fire. But I'm willing to forgive that because I'm going to start the second book right away!