Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Daughter of Hounds

Daughter of Hounds is the first novel I've read by Caitlin R. Kiernan (although I did read the graphic novel Alabaster: Wolves in the spring).  I've had Daughter of Hounds on The List for a long time (I bought it several years ago at Chapters).  And now that I'm trying to clear out books that are taking up space (by which I mean I just want to read them but don't really want to keep), it was high time to read Daughter of Hounds.

I'm going to give a spoiler warning here.  I know I wrote on the side bar that I won't bother doing that anymore, but I'm planning on being particularly spoilery with this book.  You have been warned.

I had a really, really hard time reading this book.  Daughter of Hounds is split between two characters, Emmie Silvey, a strange yellow-eyed girl, and Soldier.  Soldier was a human child, stolen from her parents to be raised by the ghouls (so she's a Changeling, aka one of the Children of the Cuckoo).  And Emmie was quite obviously a child left in place of a human child.  I knew from pretty early on that Emmie was switched for Soldier, even though their ages didn't seem right; I give the book props for what happened to Soldier (her childhood was stolen, so she looked older than she actually was).

I was really torn as I read the majority of the book.  I found Soldier's chapters interesting.  There was a lot going on with the ghouls and Soldier's Changeling existence that was really interesting.  But every second chapter followed Emmie, an 8-year old girl whom I had no real reason to care about.  Sure, stuff was happening around her.  But nothing really drew me in.  It wasn't until the Daughter of the Four of Pentacles (Pearl) actually made her leave the house before she got interesting (and even that wasn't me being interested in her so much as being interested in the story a bit more). 

I also didn't like how things would be mentioned, but never really shown in any detail.  Like Emmie's step mother had something wrong with her hand.  I'm really not sure what happened to her, but it was a detail the book mentioned and then didn't bother to explain.  Also, Deacon Silvey (Emmie's dad) was a drunkard who I thought drank because he lost his wife, but might have started because he wanted to dull his psychic powers.  That seemed odd, especially when he kept drinking rather than using his psychic powers to go find Emmie once she left the hose.  I didn't find this out until after I'd already read the book, but apparently Daughter of Hounds is the third book in a sort of series, so that's probably where some of this came from.  But there was a lot that I'd wished Kiernan had gone into more detail with.  Which made me laugh in a way, because this book was over 400 pages long.  There was room to go into more detail, but it just never really happened.  

I don't want to say much more.  But this book really wasn't for me.  As I've already said, I had a hard time reading this book.  Even when it got more interesting (which was around page 200), I still wasn't very invested in the story.  So I'm just going to say that this book really wasn't for me, and leave it at that.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

The Naked Face

Wow. Sidney Sheldon's The Named Face is the first book I've read in a long time that's actually on The List. Everything else I've been reading has been library or Kindle books. But hopefully that's going to change over the next while because I'm hoping to stick with mostly books that are in my room taking up space.

So anyway, The Naked Face. This is an older Sheldon book and it really shows: in some ways The Naked Face is quite dated (in language and the idea that homosexuality is something that needs to be/can be cured through psychology/psychiatry). But it's still a Sheldon book, and I have generally liked his books, so I wanted to give it a try.

The Naked Face is about Doctor Judd Stevens, a successful psychoanalyst. When one of Stevens' patients is killed, almost immediately followed by his receptionist, one of the detectives assigned to the case (a man whose partner was killed years ago in a case where Stevens' examination allowed the killer to live) believes that Stevens is the one responsible. Stevens has to figure out who the real killer is before the detective arrests him for murder.

The Naked Face was a really fast read (it's about 300 pages long and I finished it in a day AFTER reading Jonathan Livingston Seagull). It was also a lot of fun trying to figure out who the killer was, although that was tough - you don't actually get the full story until near the end, when Stevens himself figures it out. This is made even harder because you don't actually MEET the killer until near the end of the book. But I was happy that the plot wasn't predictable, and overall I really ended up enjoying The Naked Face.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull

A friend told me that a mutual friend had read Richard Bach's Jonathan Livingston Seagull and absolutely loved it.  It sounded interesting, so I was going to add it to my to-read list on Goodreads.  But apparently I just put a hold on it at work instead, and the book showed up for me a few days later.  I wasn't really planning on reading it immediately, but after flipping through the book, I decided why not?  It of course helped that the book was short (about 95 pages) and half of those pages were pictures of seagulls (taken by Russel Munson).  So I read it this afternoon, finishing it in maybe one hour (it's short!)

Jonathan Livingston Seagull is a story in three parts, following the main character (the seagull of the title).  Jonathan is a seagull quite unlike any other.  Rather than simply chasing after food like the rest of the Flock, Jonathan wants to be the perfect flier.  But after an almost disastrous landing, Jonathan is named Outcast and sent to live out the rest of his days outside of the Flock.  The story is split into three parts: part one is when Jonathan is Outcast, but spends the rest of his days trying to perfect his flying in his physical (and somewhat limited) body.  Part two is when Jonathan goes to the next level, a sort of Heaven-like place where seagulls like Jonathan who have transcended their desire for food go to learn the next level of flying.  Given a more aerodynamic body, Jonathan is finally at home with other seagulls who are like him (and willing to teach him more of flying!)  By the end of this part, Jonathan understands his nature, and is now ready to bring Enlightenment to the seagulls of his old Flock (and in particular, any fellow birds who may have been cast out like he was because they wanted to learn to fly better).  So part three is Jonathan doing just that - he becomes the teacher for seven other outcast birds, then talks them into bringing Enlightenment to the rest of the Flock, before going on to teach birds from other Flocks.

While I was reading, particularly in the last part, Jonathan Livingston Seagull really struck me as a Christ-allegory (although that wasn't really fitting - Jonathan repeatedly said he was nothing special. So I guess it was more of an enlightening/empowering every-man narrative?)  It is a very inspirational narrative, so if you like that sort of thing, you will like Jonathan Livingston Seagull.  Personally I didn't mind the story, but I didn't find it really life-changing (and so feel like it wasn't really meant for me).

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Unicorn Sonata

So apparently continuing my Peter S. Beagle kick, I read The Unicorn Sonata.  This is the story of Joey, a girl who follows some hauntingly beautiful music into another land (called Shei'rah).  While full of many dangers, like the swarms of ravenous perytons, it is also a land of satyrs, water nymphs (called jallas), and the Eldest - the Unicorns. Joey discovers that it is from the unicorns that the music comes.  But all is not well with them - for an unknown reason, the Eldest are going blind. 

The Eldest were very interesting in this book.  There were three "tribes" of them: one described as solid and earthy, one sea-like, and the other was like the sky.  They came in a myriad of colours, sizes and shapes, while all remaining unicorns.  Their blindness was also interesting, as they could still "see" physical objects in their minds, but they were lessened because they were not whole.

The Unicorn Sonata was an interesting story about a girl torn between two worlds: the magic that is Shei'rah, and the mundane world where her family (particularly her beloved grandmother, Abuelita) is.  It is also the story of a talented musician struggling to write Shei'rah's soul into musical notation.  While I didn't like The Unicorn Sonata as much as The Last Unicorn, it was still a very interesting and fun read.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

An Exchange of Gifts

I saw Anne McCaffrey's An Exchange of Gifts when I was at work.  I've read another one of McCaffrey's novellas a long time ago and liked it; this one sounded interesting, so I decided to give it a read.

Meanne (aka Princess Anastasia de Saumur et Navarre y Cordova) has a Gift entirely unsuitable to a princess: she can make plants grow and create healing potions and salves out of them.  So rather than being denied her birthright (and being forced into marrying someone she does not know), Meanne runs away, faking her death so no one will come looking for her.  She makes her way to an abandoned cottage she remembers visiting as a child.  Unfortunately she didn't realize just how much work living on her own would be.

Luckily, a young boy named Wisp comes to her rescue.  He has run away from who knows where, having the scars on his back as a memento.  Wisp befriends her, helping to teach her how to survive.  Together, the two build an idyllic life, caring for Meanne's plants and snaring small animals.

But after Wisp talks Meanne into going to the local village's monthly market, Meanne's past catches up with her.  She faked her death too well, and her father has sent his men throughout the kingdom to find her murderers.  But now Wisp knows who she is, too.  Things come to a head between them as he finally reveals who he is, what exactly happened to him, and what incredible Gift he has.

An Exchange of Gifts was an excellent read.  I loved it enough to buy my own copy from Amazon (along with another of her novellas, If Wishes Were Horses).  I can't wait to get them!