Book Review: An Dantomine Eerly (Middleton)

March 24, 2010

*ARC alert*

An Dantomine Eerly is J.R. Middleton’s first novel. It will be released by Dark Coast Press on March 30th, 2010.

What initially attracted me to this book was curiosity about its derivation from the Irish aisling (“ASH-ling”), which was a word I had recently encountered as the protagonist’s name in Malinda Lo’s Ash, but had never heard before that. As it turns out, the aisling is a poetic form in which the isle of Ireland appears to the poet in a vision and gives prophecy about the future fortune of the Irish people.

I believe that in An Dantomine Eerly (which is apparently the name of the Irish psychopomp), the apparition-women, of which there are two or three, are not personifications of Ireland, but of the spirits and memories which guide the narrator in his quest to discover the fate of Dallin, another poet, and his wife Aisling.

This book is a surreal exploration of death and the secrets the lie at the end of the universe- because of this, and the author’s profound vocabulary, it becomes confusing at times. To be honest, for these parts of the book, I simply sat and read aloud, because whether or not you pick up on all of the vast meaning, it’s like reading a painting; you might not know precisely what the creator meant to say, but it’s still beautiful to look at, and you get the sense that there’s something profound just beyond your grasp. I postulate that Mr. Middleton did this deliberately, as it seems to match his message on the nature of death. The result is awesome in scope, and honestly, don’t be put off. Most of it is comprehensible to us mortals.

All in all, a delicious tragedy that isn’t for the faint of heart- or the low of reading level. Work past those moments of mystification and you’ll be well rewarded.

This book contains explicit sexual content.

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Celebration

March 23, 2010

I just got the pressure sensitivity on my tablet working with the GIMP! To celebrate, I have made a comic for your enjoyment.

Hurf.I am a comic genius.


Book Review: Rampant (Peterfreund)

March 9, 2010

This seems to be my week for reading (and liking) books to which my initial reaction was, “Ehh… that sounds pretty dumb.”

What “sounded pretty dumb” to me in this case was Diana Peterfreund telling a story in which unicorns are actually venemous fanged monsters that crave human flesh. It sounded completely incredible to me. The pure, white, virgin-associated unicorns, attacking and eating people? Nonsense!

As a mythology buff, I really should know better. Ten minutes of research into the matter will reveal that until Christian propaganda stepped in during the Dark Ages, unicorns came in all shapes and colors, many of them vicious. For a quick but accurate summary of the various unicorns depicted in Rampant, and their historical bases, go here. I especially love the story of Bucephalus. For lack of a good reason not to, I’m going to choose to believe that that’s true.

Having thusly established the credibility of the fantasy, let me just say that the book itself was well-written, well-paced, and generally lively and interesting. At times, I couldn’t quite understand why Astrid bowed to her mother’s wishes so easily, but that could just be me. I also had trouble keeping all of the girls straight in the very beginning, but they quickly established themselves as individuals in my mind. I loved Bonegrinder; best pet ever.

So if you want to read a story about unicorns that aren’t so sparkly and saccharine as to make you vomit, this is the book for you. Great protag who really kicks ass, wonderful mysteries surrounding the whole unicorn hunter mythos, and enough left hanging that the sequel looks promising.


Book Review: Shiver (Stiefvater)

March 8, 2010

Grace, 17, loves the peace and tranquility of the woods behind her home. It is here during the cold winter months that she gets to see her wolf—the one with the yellow eyes. Grace is sure that he saved her from an attack by other wolves when she was nine. Over the ensuing years he has returned each season, watching her with those haunting eyes as if longing for something to happen. When a teen is killed by wolves, a hunting party decides to retaliate. Grace races through the woods and discovers a wounded boy shivering on her back porch. One look at his yellow eyes and she knows that this is her wolf in human form. Fate has finally brought Sam and Grace together, and as their love grows and intensifies, so does the reality of what awaits them. It is only a matter of time before the winter cold changes him back into a wolf, and this time he might stay that way forever. (synopsis from School Library Journal)

As a huge fan of all things werewolf… I honestly avoided Shiver for a long time. The strong romantic rather than adventurous thread and highly unorthodox approach to how werewolves work (winter as a wolf, summer as a human) were offputting to me. When I did eventually pick it up, though, I was sucked in almost immediately.

I’m failing as a reviewer here, but I honestly couldn’t tell you what makes Shiver so good. A good part of it is that Maggie Stiefvater is such an amazingly lyrical writer, but there’s something beyond that, just a magic to the whole book that helps you fall in love with it. There are a couple of flaws- I never really got what happened with the one female werewolf, for example, but overall it’s compelling and deeply moving; not at all what I had expected, which was basically Romeo & Juliet but with werewolves and a faint aftertaste of Twilight. Don’t make the same mistake I did and try to steer clear of it.


Book Review: The Adoration of Jenna Fox (Pearson)

March 8, 2010

Seventeen-year-old Jenna Fox awakens after more than a year in a coma to find herself in a life—and a body—that she doesn’t quite recognize. Her parents tell her that she’s been in an accident, but much of her past identity and current situation remain a mystery to her: Why has her family abruptly moved from Boston to California, leaving all of her personal belongings behind? Why does her grandmother react to her with such antipathy? Why have her parents instructed her to make sure not to tell anyone about the circumstances of their move? And why can Jenna recite whole passages of Thoreau’s Walden, but remember next to nothing of her own past? As she watches family videos of her childhood, strange memories begin to surface, and she slowly realizes that a terrible secret is being kept from her. (synopsis from School Library Journal)

This is one of those books that makes me feel somewhat out of the loop. Apparently it was something of a Big Deal. Like Keturah and Lord Death, it’s not the next great American novel or anything, but well-received and sort of acclaimed. I had never heard of it and picked it up on a whim. But I am glad that I did.

Now, personally, I will gladly debate almost anyone on politics/religion/the big questions- American culture, Christianity’s merits and flaws, LGBT rights, whether the human race deserves to go extinct… just about the only thing I won’t touch is medical ethics. This is because medical ethics are very, very scary. Drawing a line between doing right and saving lives and playing God, meddling with what shouldn’t be meddled, that is something which I refuse to have an opinion on, because it seems like a question so convoluted as to be impossible. With the kind of technology we have today, and will have in the years to come, we can do some amazing things to help people. But atque in luce, sic semper in tenebra (“as it is in light, so always in darkness”), and so on. We as human beings always manage to hurt people with our miracles, and the capacity for harm in some of the things we’re developing is mind-boggling. I don’t want to get involved.

So when someone, in this case Mary E. Pearson, tackles the very questions I’m too wussy to examine with literary grace and aplomb, I tend to cheer them on. Not only is this book full of deep thoughts, but it presents them in a way that provokes further examination long after you’ve closed its covers. Ultimately, it even presents a funny kind of hope, though the limits Pearson defines are too far past my own personal lines for comfort. It’s only 265 pages, almost slim, but is weighs on you heavily enough that it feels much longer. Gripping and powerful are the two words that come to mind, overused though they may be.

The romance seemed a little thin to me, and never quite got the point of the character Dane- he could probably have been cut out and I wouldn’t have missed him- but otherwise I liked it. Jenna herself seems to be emotionally distant for much of the book, but it fits with her lack of/developing identity, so it works. Four stars.


Alice in Wonderland

March 7, 2010

Holy wow, guys.

It was glorious, absolutely glorious. I am, of course, a sucker for re-imaginings of Dodgson’s masterpiece (and women that put on armor and run around with swords) but still, glorious. If you haven’t seen it yet, you must intend to. If you don’t intend to, then I have only this to say:

Does that not look amazing? It is amazing, and it proves quite definitely that Avatar was no fluke. 3D is here to stay, my friends. It is here to stay and I am so glad to have it that I’m planning on going back to Alice once or twice more.

A note: as you can probably tell from the trailer, it’s nothing like the original book. This movie takes place thirteen years after Alice visited Wonderland (or, more accurately, Underland) as a child. She’s nineteen now and has since forgotten all about the place, dismissing it as a dream… but Underland hasn’t forgotten about her.

(EDIT: This isn’t finished yet, but it looks like it’s going to be a great music video, mixed by a dedicated amateur from clips from the movie and the song “Her Name is Alice” by Shinedown. Great song, great film, great maker- I would keep an eye on this.)


Top Five Picks

March 7, 2010

I figure this would be a good thing to do every so often, maybe once a year, maybe every six months, whatever. Basically I intend to list the five books which in my opinion need to be read. Because you can’t possibly expect me to limit a list of five books to just five books, I retain the right to list several volumes of one series as one.

So, here goes. (Of these, I have already reviewed Fire and will do the rest when I get around to it.)

1. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and its even better sequel, The Girl Who Played With Fire, both by the late Steig Larsson

2. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

3.  Graceling and its companion, Fire, both by Kristin Cashore

4. The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex (which is, quite seriously, the most consistently hilarious book I have ever read. His illustrations are great, too)

5. anything by Robin McKinley, but especially Sunshine, Deerskin, and Spindle’s End