Monday, July 30, 2012

Book Report Monday: Name of the Wind

Title: Name of the Wind, The Kingkiller Chronicles Day One

Author: Patrick Rothfuss

Genre: Adult Fantasy

Synopsis: Told in Kvothe's own voice, this is the tale of the magically gifted young man who grows to be the most notorious wizard his world has ever seen.The intimate narrative of his childhood in a troupe of traveling players, his years spent as a near-feral orphan in a crime-ridden city, his daringly brazen yet successful bid to enter a legendary school of magic, and his life as a fugitive after the murder of a king form a gripping coming-of-age story unrivaled in recent literature. A high-action story written with a poet's hand, The Name of the Wind is a masterpiece that will transport readers into the body and mind of a wizard.

(from Goodreads)

Why did I pick it up?: Suggested to me on several occasions by a fellow fantasy buff. Many thanks to the glorious Free Library of Philadelphia.

Favorite Lines: "You have the sweetest face," she said looking up at me dreamily. "It's like the perfect kitchen"

"You do not know the first note of the music that moves me"

My Review: When someone tells me a book is the best fantasy they've read since Lord of the Rings, it raises my expectations considerably. The high fantasy world Rothfuss builds, sticks to classic fantasy rules in some ways and brings enough original ideas that you are comfortable and surprised to be there.

Magicians, called Arcanists, are feared and mistrusted by many. Magic itself is thought to be a myth among most of the population. The Arcanists handle magic as though it were a branch of science. Similar to The Magicians and A Song of Ice and Fire, where the magicians and maesters, respectively, are the most intelligent and educated.

The book is set up with Kvothe narrating his story to his assistant, Bast, and The Chronicler. The Name of the Wind is day one, of what Kvothe promises will be a three day tale. There will be, I assume, a progression of the current story framing the telling at the end of book three as the present plot moves along through a series of interruptions.

Kvothe has a tendency to ramble and there were times (particularly in the beginning) when I wondered, where his point had gone to, but he came back to it eventually. I trust the lengthy back story will be important in the next two books which I will read. The second one is out now.

Recommendation: If you loved Lord of the Rings and/or are currently waiting impatiently for The Winds of Winter then you should check this out. Besides Martin takes forever, so you've got the time.

Next Week: Expeditions to the Mountains of the Moon by Mark Hodder

Monday, July 23, 2012

Book Report Monday: The Bell Jar

Title: The Bell Jar

Author: Sylvia Plath

Synopsis: "The Bell Jar" chronicles the crack-up of Esther Greenwood: brilliant, beautiful, enormously talented, and successful, but slowly going under--maybe for the last time.

Sylvia Plath masterfully draws the reader into Esther's breakdown with such intensity that Esther's insanity becomes completely real and even rational, as probable and accessible an experience as going to the movies.

Such deep penetration into the dark and harrowing corners of the psyche is an extraordinary accomplishment and has made "The Bell Jar" a haunting American classic.

(from Goodreads)

Favorite Lines: "I wanted to crawl in between those black lines of print the way you crawl through a fence."

"The day I went into physics class it was death."

"I waited, as if the sea could make my decision for me."

My Review: I always struggle with what to say about popular and classic novels. The majority of my blog readers are fellow writers and there's a good chance at least half of you have read them. So, can I say anything that you haven't already heard or figured out yourself? Probably not.

I enjoyed The Bell Jar despite the obvious depressing theme. The novel's tone seemed to me to be darkly comic at least at times. I laughed, maybe I shouldn't have. I wanted to quote half the book as my favorite lines. Even cutting down to three was difficult. When Esther explains how she overcame her fear of eating with the wrong utensils, she describes a meal shared with a poet who disregarded the silverware with confident certainty. "The poet made eating salad with your fingers seem to be the only natural and sensible thing to do." After which she decided she'd eat with whichever fork she wanted and as long as she did so intentionally it wouldn't matter if it was wrong by the rules of etiquette.

Esther's mental deterioration came off as refreshing at least in its honesty and lack of melodrama. Knowing the novel is semi-autobiographical, that makes sense. Plath isn't guessing about Esther's plight, since it is her own. Also unsurprising is how The Bell Jar reminded me of Girl, Interrupted. I never read the memoir but I saw the movie, which is based on a woman's time in a psychiatric hospital in the 1960's. There are a lot of parallels. The reaction to electric shock therapy, the final resignation to accept help and try to get well, and both stories show the main character visiting a "cured" former patient.

Next Week: Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Keeping The Readers Happy

Recently, I had some welcomed guests, my newlywed Harry Potter friend, Ashley and her husband, Ryan. We reminisced while we wined and dined. A naturally loquacious person, wine has the troubling tendency to increase the topics I'll ramble on about. My point is, I'm usually tight lipped about my writing, but after half a bottle. . .I'll talk about it without an end in sight.

When I described my first book which I wrote, considered editing but inevitably shoved under my dresser-don't ask why I put it there, I don't know-they were obviously impressed.

In fact, they wore his and her stunned expressions complete with open mouths. I love when couples are so perfectly matched as they are and it was a great sight to see them making the same face.

 There's not much in the world I find as impossible to resist as an attentive audience. It's like a warm chocolate chip cookie and I'm not one to just leave it on the counter to harden.

They urged me to finish the edits and please, please, if it's okay, to let them read it. I can't recall when I last felt so flattered. I've got a lot of writing projects in the works but I think it's smart to focus your energy on where the pull is strongest. Of course, it would be different if I had contracts and deadlines with publishers. Since I don't have any deadlines, I decided to do a quick edit. In addition to wanting, the intrigue still fresh in Ashley and Ryan's minds, two other beta readers are traveling to the British Virgin Isles in late July and I just know they are dying to read about magic on those white sandy beaches.

Even if the story remains unworthy of publication I'll have gained some more editing experience. Besides, it's never too soon to build your reputation as a writer who does it all for her fans.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Book Report Monday: American Gods

Title: American Gods

Author: Neil Gaiman

Genre: Fantasy

Synopsis: After three years in prison, Shadow has done his time. But as the days, then the hours, then the minutes, then the seconds until his release tick away, he can feel a storm building. Two days before he gets out, his wife Laura dies in a mysterious car crash, in apparently adulterous circumstances. Dazed, Shadow travels home, only to encounter the bizarre Mr. Wednesday claiming to be a refugee from a distant war, a former god and the king of America.

Together they embark on a very strange journey across the States, along the way solving the murders which have occurred every winter in one small American town. But they are being pursued by someone with whom Shadow must make his peace... Disturbing, gripping and profoundly strange, Neil Gaiman's epic novel sees him on the road to finding the soul of America.

(from Goodreads)

Why did I pick it up?: I read and loved Stardust and Neverwhere. I have every intention to read all of his books and I got this one from the library.

Favorite Line: "I believe that candy really did taste better when I was a kid, that it’s aerodynamically impossible for a bumblebee to fly, that light is a wave and a particle, that there’s a cat in a box somewhere who’s alive and dead at the same time (although if they don’t ever open the box to feed it it’ll eventually just be two different kinds of dead), and that there are stars in the universe billions of years older than the universe itself."

That's only one line from Sam's "I believe" speech. I was tempted to post the whole thing, but decided it was too long to include. Though apparently not too long to put on a shirt.

My Review: Though there are gods and mythological folks throughout the story, this is not a retelling of any kind. Gaiman doesn't cling to the commonly done Greek-Roman stories. Instead he reaches into the farthest corners and pulls out the gods who are forgotten. And you probably won't know who they are and Gaiman probably won't explain it because it isn't a history lesson in ancient beliefs.

It's a story about a man called Shadow, who is stuck in the middle of a war. On one side the old gods-no, not Jon Snow's, though you've probably never heard of these either. The old gods were brought to America by their followers and cast aside by subsequent generations. Following the common idea that gods need to be worshipped or they cease to exist, they are in danger of meeting the ultimate death.

Americans now worship the gods of television and Internet. Digital gods, credit card gods. They have the masses supporting them and they don't want to share America with the washed up old gods any longer.

Gaiman lets the story build around Shadow. It doesn't feel rushed or forced. I wanted to know more details about Shadow, his life before prison and what led him to his incarceration. That's not a criticism I think the back story was sufficient enough to intrigue and leave the reader wanting more. If there had been some huge information dump, I wouldn't have enjoyed the book as much as I did.

America is a character in her own right. The journey takes the reader through small economically depressed towns and popular road side attraction varying from the expected to the so bizarre I wanted to google to find out if they really existed. Trust me, they probably are real as my parents have stopped at half of them.

Note on Library-Amazingness: I read this as an eBook from the library. It was so convenient. If you have an eReader, you should check out your library's options. My favorite thing so far is the surprise of getting the email that a book is ready for download. Sometimes I know what is next on my to be read list, but I still get stuck not knowing what to read and the fabulous library helps by giving me deadlines and forcing me to read what I added to my list weeks ago. For instance, today I was emailed that The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan is available and I have three days to download it.

Sorry for gushing. It's been a while since I had a library card and with all those free books at my reach without leaving my apartment I'm as pumped as I am lazy.

Recommendation: Strongly suggest for adult fantasy fans, though non-fantasy fans could still enjoy it.

Next Week: The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath.