Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A List Update

Today I decided that enough was enough: I'm cleaning up the List! At the last count I had over 170 novels to read, which realistically would take me over a year. Plus I want to read all of the newer ones I've bought, not the random books I bought on a whim (mostly from the Library).

So I went through my room (mostly my closet), getting rid of both the books I no longer want to read and the books that I read awhile ago and hung onto (but now don't want to reread). I don't know how many books I am getting rid of in total, but I am reducing the List by 46 books.

In case you're curious, here are the titles I am getting rid of:

The Jester
Preludes Volume 1 Darkness and Light
Preludes Volume 2 Kendermore
Preludes Volume 3 Brothers Majere
Heroes Volume 1 The Legend of Huma
Heroes Volume 2 Stormblade
Heroes Volume 3 Weasel's Luck
Demon Lord of Karanda
Queen of Sorcery
Magician's Gambit
Castle of Wizardry
Enchanter's Endgame
Changing Planes
The Cursed
One Hundred and One Ways
The Tower of Beowulf
The Spiral Dance
The SFWA European Hall of Fame
The Dark Beyond the Stars
Alien Chronicles: The Golden Ones
Emperor the Death of Kings
A Plague of Angels
The Death Gate Cycle Volume 1: Dragon Wing
The Shattered Chain
The Genesis Quest
The Tragedy of the Moon
The Left Hand of Darkness
Witch Hill
Sleep With Evil
London Fields
The Mists of Avalon
Lady of Avalon
The Way the Crow Flies
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell
The Doomsday Conspiracy
Mr. Murder
The Deep End
Jurassic Park
Are You Afraid of the Dark
Ford County
Year's Best Fantasy 5
Year's Best Fantasy 6
30th Anniversary DAW
Best New Fantasy

By getting rid of these books, the List is now down to 132 books. While this is still a lot, the number is now a lot more manageable. And now it's full of books I actually want to read.

Between you and me, there are still some books I could probably let go of. If push comes to shove then I will. But for now, I'll hang onto them in the hopes that I read them. I feel better already in getting rid of just this much clutter!

I'm planning on donating these books to the Canadian Diabetes Association Clothesline Program. Normally I would trade them at a used book store for more books. But I think I need to actually get through some of the stuff I have right now.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Tales from Wonderland Volumes 1, 2 and 3

I bought all three Tales from Wonderland graphic novels when I was reading the Wonderland trilogy. I was originally planning a separate entry for each volume, but the stories are all interconnected in ways that don't make much sense until you have read the entirety of the Grimm Fairy Tales Wonderland series. So rather than trying to separate everything, here they are altogether.

Volume 1 has four stories, with one ("The Experiment") rather longer than the other three. The three shorter stories give the origins of the Queen of Hearts, the origins of Mad Hatter, and the story of how Alice "escaped" from Wonderl
and. The final story ("The Experiment") actually ties into the Queen story, and shows how the King of Hearts came to be.

Volume 2 tells the story of what happened to the Cheshire Cat between Beyond Wonderland and Escape from Wonderland. During that time he was trapped as a house cat and taken in by a Japanese college student. This was a great story because it gives the origins of Lina, the girl with him who was never explained in Escape from Wonderland.

The story about Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum didn't make a lot of sense in the scheme of things until the end. It actually explained who exactly the Carpenter is. The story about the Red Queen was another really cool tale, but it didn't make sense to me until after I read "The Arrangement," which is the story of how Dodgson bargained with Wonderland to live through his illness. Finally, there was another Mad Hatter story. This one showed the Hatter at peace, and set the stage for his war against the Queen of Hearts.

So that brings us to Volume 3. Volume 3 had a few more origin stories, starting with the White Knight, who becomes corrupted and finally serves the Queen of Spades. There is also the story of the Red Rose, who voluntarily went to Wonderland long before Dodgson made his bargain. Then we get the war between the Hatter and the Queen. And finally we see how Dodgson tried to break his pact with Wonderland all in the name of love.

As I said above, only after you've read all six volumes (the Wonderland trilogy and the Tales) do you really get the full story of Wonderland. So if you have any interest in the trilogy, be sure to give these a read as well!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Stepsister Scheme

While wandering around Minneapolis I inevitably ended up in a Barnes and Noble. Browsing the new paperbacks, I found a book by Jim C. Hines, an author I had never heard of before. I wandered into the Fantasy section and found the first book in the series (The Stepsister Scheme), so I decided to buy that instead.

The Stepsister Scheme tells the story of Danielle Whiteshore (aka Cinderella). After her honeymoon with her prince charming (Armand), she is attacked by one of her stepsisters. The assassination attempt is ultimately unsuccessful, but the stepsister reveals that Armand has been kidnapped. And so Danielle, aided by Talia (Sleeping Beauty) and Snow (White) set off to rescue Armand. The Stepsister Scheme takes the girls all the way to Fairy Town as they track down Danielle’s stepsisters.

I really liked the three princesses. Danielle is a friendly girl trying to adjust from being a servant to now being royalty. Talia is a blunt fighter who distrusts almost everyone (most especially the fairies, with good reason). And Snow is a sorceress and a flirt , someone who takes innocent joy in almost everything along the way. It’s great fun to see the three of them interact, and to witness how their friendships grow throughout the book.

Hines does a great job of twisting the fairy tales we all know in a rather believable direction. This book is proof that the stories we all know may well differ from the “truth.”

Saturday, July 16, 2011


I've put off reading Wolfsbane for quite awhile now. I really enjoyed the first story of Aralorn and Wolf and was rather excited to start the second. But I've been busy working on other things (getting ready for a conference plus working on a video game) that I didn't really have time for it. And the few times I did, I decided to either read something else (like library books and graphic novels) or whatever else. But now, on my way to my conference, I decided to bring Wolfsbane with me. On the first part of my journey, a seven hour car ride, I started reading it. And I found I couldn't stop! Now in the hotel, I finished the final 40 pages last night (meaning I read the book all in one day!)

I love Aralorn and Wolf, and was really glad to return to their world and story. This time around, Aralorn has received word of her father's death. So after 10 long years, she finally makes her way home to pay her respects. Her family welcomes her back with open arms. Except for Nevyn, her sister's husband who hates magic (even though he himself is a magic user). He discovered that Aralorn was a shapechanger and has hated her ever since (which is why she has been uncomfortable returning home).

When Aralorn goes to pay her final respects to her father, she makes a shocking discovery: her father is still alive! He was ensorcelled as a means of luring Aralorn and Wolf back to her home.

As Aralorn and Wolf evade the traps set for them while trying to free her father, they are left with the mystery of who has done this to her father. And all of the clues lead toward Wolf's father the ae'Magi whom they thought they'd killed...

Wolfsbane is a fantastic story. It is yet another example of why I love the work of Patricia Briggs!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Library Book: Loki

After seeing the movie Thor about a month ago, I realized that I know very little about Marvel's version of the god. Sure, I am relatively familiar with the Norse mythology thanks to my studies of The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun. And in my travels I've seen a few Thor graphic novels that have caught my eye. Finally I decided to read one from the library.

The one I chose was Loki. This graphic novel gives Loki's point of view of events. The trickster god has defeated his step-brother and step-father and is now Lord of Asgard. After parading Thor's humiliated form through the streets, Hela, the Goddess of Death shows up asking for Thor's soul. Loki then debates with himself over whether he is going to have Thor executed. He speaks with those he has conquered, Sif, Baldur and Odin in particular, who paradoxically convince Loki (in his own mind) that he should kill his brother. But he gains other doubts along the way. And the whole time, Thor is locked in prison, slowly regaining the strength to free himself.

This was a really interesting look at Asgard from Loki's perspective. I enjoyed reading it and can't wait to get a hold of more Thor stories!

Escape From Wonderland

Well here it is: the final part to Calie's story. At the very end of Beyond Wonderland, Calie's newborn daughter was taken from her by her brother Johnny. Johnny has become the Mad Hatter and is serving the evil of Wonderland. They need Calie's daughter so that the evil can break free of Wonderland and invade the real world.

But this time, Calie is through with running and hiding. So she heads back to her home and storms Wonderland with the intention of saving her daughter.

Escape from Wonderland was an epic conclusion to the Wonderland story. As a quote on the back of the book from says: "This is very much a thrill ride from start to stop." The artwork through the whole series was fantastic and I am extremely happy to have read this story. Yes it is a darker version of Alice, much darker than pretty much everything I have encountered thus far. But it is a brilliant reimagining of the tale and well worth reading for yourself!

Beyond Wonderland

Beyond Wonderland takes place a few months after Return to Wonderland. Calie and Brandon have started a new life together in New York City. But Calie is suffering from nightmares of Wonderland. She tries to tell Brandon about what happened but he doesn't believe her - he thinks she's suffering from mental illness like her mother was.

So Calie attempts to go about her life but starts to question her own sanity. On top of that, Brandon goes missing (she believes he leaves her), then her best friend is brutally mauled to death in her apartment. And when her friends throw her a baby shower, a mysterious package shows up - with the dress she found in Wonderland in it.

While a little slow at the beginning, Beyond Wonderland really continued to draw me into the continuing saga of Calie Lidel. I can't wait to finish this trilogy off!

Return to Wonderland

For my birthday, a friend of mine got me the Grimm Fairy Tales Wonderland trilogy. Before reading it, I decided to reread Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and to read Through the Looking Glass for the first time. Now that I have read both of those (and watched both Disney versions of Alice), I was finally ready to start reading the Wonderland trilogy.

Return to Wonderland is mainly the story of Calie Liddle, Alice's daughter. Alice herself is mentally ill and attempted suicide as the story begins. To help Alice recover, the doctor recommends that her family get her a pet: a white rabbit.

Calie comes home to find the place a wreck. Her mother is in tears, hiding in a closet, with her rabbit missing. Calie follows it into the basement where she falls into a hole and ends up in Wonderland.

But this Wonderland is a gruesome place. She finds the Carpenter and the Walrus (or what's left of him). The Carpenter then tries to kill her too. Escaping, she continues on the path, following rather closely to the path of Alice in Alice in Wonderland but everything has a gruesome twist (and is trying to kill her). Luckily Calie manages to escape with the help of her mother, but she returns to a rather darker home life. The madness of Wonderland is starting to bleed through to the real world, and nothing short of a human sacrifice will stop it.

Yes, it is dark and rather gruesome. But Return to Wonderland had an excellent story and I can't wait to read about what happens to Calie next!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Nonfiction: The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World

I've had The Introvert Advantage for several years now but never bothered to read it. I think that at the time I read the first little bit and decided that I am an Introvert, and that was good enough for me. But after reading Networking for People Who Hate Networking, I decided that I wanted to give The Introvert Advantage a read before I head to my upcoming conference. I was hoping that I could gain some more valuable networking tips for someone who isn't extroverted.

I took this book's introversion quiz and came to the same conclusion as when I took the one in Zack's book: I am someone in the middle of the introversion/extroversion continuum, but I have tendencies towards introversion. That means that I recharge my energy as introverts do (through alone time, which I was well aware of), but I didn't identify with some of the other common characteristics of introverts. I'm kind of thinking that this may be due to upbringing and other circumstances. And even if I didn't label some of my behaviours as "introverted," I've known for a long time that I like (and need) alone time or I do sometimes feel overwhelmed.

So while I didn't identify with everything in this book, it was good to go over. It didn't have a whole lot on networking as The Introvert Advantage focuses on your entire life rather than just networking. But I got some helpful hints that will hopefully help me retain energy while I'm at my conference. And hopefully they'll translate into my everyday life, too. I'm really glad that I got this book (and finally read it) because I can always go back and reread things as I need to. Which is a good thing, as I didn't quite read the entire book. I skipped over a few chapters that I felt didn't pertain to me (like the one on parenting).

Overall, The Introvert Advantage is a great book to read (or at least skim), for both introverts and extroverts. Introverts can learn some great tricks that can help them survive in this extroverted world (as Laney says, 75% of people are extroverts). And extroverts can learn about the introverts in their life, how they're different and how to deal with that difference. It's a win-win for everyone! :)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There

I'm really not sure what to make of this one. I finished rereading Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and started reading the sequel almost immediately afterwards. But right away I found it more confusing than the first book (although that may be because I have read the first story a few times, while this is only my first time reading Through the Looking Glass).

Where Alice's Adventures in Wonderland uses a deck of cards, Through the Looking Glass revolves around chess. Alice herself is a pawn who must travel across the entire board to be crowned Queen. Along her travels, she meets both the Red and White Queens, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, a White and Red Knight (who fight over her), and many other characters. While it isn't explicitly stated, she also encounters the March Hare and the Mad Hatter from the first book (but she does not recognize them).

Through the Looking Glass is a crazy adventure. It's worth reading, especially if you are interested in all of the newly envisioned Alice stories (like those I mentioned in my last post), particularly if you are interested in seeing how some of the well known characters like Tweedledee and Tweedledum fit into her story. But overall I enjoyed the first book better.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Reread: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

A number of years ago, I wanted to read Alice in Wonderland. So my brother bought me a copy as a present. But before I read that copy, I ended up reading Alice's Adventures in Wonderland in a treasury I bought for a Children's Literature class. With the wealth of Alice related stories that are now out there, such as the made-for-TV movie I really enjoyed, the video game, and even the new Disney movie, I decided that it was high time I reread the original Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. And it was high time that I read the version that my brother bought for me!

Alice is a ridiculous but fun romp through Wonderland. After witnessing a rabbit check his pocket coat watch and run off, Alice follows him through a rabbit hole. While attempting to follow him, she meets many strange creatures and has many strange adventures. From growing and shrinking in size, finding a never-ending tea party and playing crochet with live flamingos and hedgehogs, Alice never has a dull moment in Wonderland.

As I said, I originally read Alice for a Children's Lit course. I'm actually really glad that I did so, because I wouldn't have gotten the allusions had I simply read it on my own. Alice likes to try showing off her learning, and every here and there she attempts to recite what were well-known poems at the time the story was written. But Wonderland is a backwards place, and all of the poems turn out wrong. Luckily I was familiar with some of the original poems because I had read some of them earlier in the class, and the others were referenced within that edition of the book.

Alice is a quick read and it was fun to go back to it. But now I am excited because I am going to read Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There for the first time ever!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Library Book: Firelight

I read Firelight in one night. I was at camp and couldn't sleep. And when I was finally tired enough to sleep, I was so close to the end that I decided to finish it.

Firelight tells the story of Jacinda. She is a draki, descended from the dragons. But she is rare even amongst her kind because she is a fire breather.

Jacinda and one of her draki friends break their pride's rule about flying only during the night. Hunters come after them and Jacinda is almost killed, but she is saved by a beautiful boy named Will. Her pride is going to make an example out of her (and heavily punish her at the same time) but her mother takes her and her twin sister out in the middle of the night. Her sister never manifested and her mother's draki is dormant (dead). Her mother takes them to the middle of the desert with the intention of killing Jacinda's draki so the three of them can live safely among the humans. But Jacinda tries to fight back, refusing to let her draki die.

On top of that, she once again finds Will. And in the middle of the scorching desert heat, the beautiful hunter is the only thing keeping her draki alive.

I thought that Firelight was a Romeo and Juliet type of story about forbidden love between two people. Unfortunately, once I got to the end, I stopped enjoying it so much. The book was very obvious that it was setting itself up for a sequel by leaving things in a very unsatisfactory manner. According to Sophie Jordan's website, the second book in the series is due out this fall.

Two of the reviews on really nailed this book. The one written by Tiger Holland brought up how whiny Jacinda is. And that's really true. She whines no matter what happens. As you get to know her, you really start to lose respect for her. She's a rebellious teenager who doesn't put anyone before herself. And that gets really boring to read about.

The second review I read (by GreenBeanTeenQueen) also made some good points: the interesting part of Firelight is the draki pride. But we don't get to see them, because Firelight quickly becomes all about Jacinda "trying" to fit in at school. GreenBeanTeenQueen also mentions how the other characters seem rather flat, which was very true as well. (Her example is Xander, Will's cousin. We're told he's dangerous, but never shown why that is. We have to take Will's word for it).

So overall, Firelight was entertaining to read, as long as you overlook its flaws. And as long as you don't mind waiting for a sequel (or possibly more) before the story gets resolved.