creative [kree-ey-tiv]: adjective. Synonyms: clever, cool, innovative, inspired, prolific, stimulating.

criticism [krit-uh-siz-uhm]: noun. The act of passing judgment as to the merits of anything.

31 Dec 2010

The Ring of Solomon - Jonathan Stroud

This Bartimaeus Novel (as is clearly written on the top of the cover - come on people, open your eyes! And seeeeee!) has two main protagonists. One is Asmira, one of the best guards of the Queen of Sheba (and by the way, did you know that all of her personal guards are (1) born into the role and (2) women? But hey, that's slavery and a matrilineal society for you!); she has a two-week deadline to travel all across the Arabian peninsula to Jerusalem, where she must kill the king Solomon and take his ring of legendary magical power. All under the orders of her queen, and kicking ass and taking names all quest long.
I'll let you guess who our second protagonist is. Come on, don't be shy, I'll give you some hints: he's just the most conceited, cheekiest and wittiest djinn whose first-person narration I've had the pleasure of reading this past year.
In any case, this novel takes place far to the southeast and far before the events of Bartimaeus's Trilogy; in fact, it takes place before Bartimaeus even met Ptolemy. So that was a long time ago indeed.
As far as the prose goes, it's a bit more stately paced and not quite as crackling as the narration of the Trilogy went; but that actually really helps to remind the reader that the events took place a LONG time ago. Because old literature is always at a glacial pace and full of descriptions, you know? This novel at least doesn't take it to the same level as that, though, and it's a very fun read indeed.

Oh, and guys? I lifted the cover picture from this, which is a much better review of this book. It even uses a "something on/out of something else" rating system, which is slightly more straightforward than my system of "enjoyable, boring, annoying, okay, twist, unfinished and wtf", no?

30 Dec 2010

Annabel - Kathleen Winter

This novel is truly a thing of beauty.
It follows the birth and life of Wayne/Annabel, who was born a true hermaphrodite; he was however raised as a boy (because that's what his father wanted, mostly), thanks to surgeries and hormone treatments. Wayne was never entirely comfortable as a boy, though, and when he finally learned that he was born both a boy and a girl, character development and personal drama/evolution (dravolution?) ensues.
The prose to describe it all is downright beautiful, with its vivid depictions of the Labrador backdrop of Wayne/Annabel's youth; it also gives some crystalline insights into several characters' thoughts and motivations in frozen droplets of time. It also makes me write somewhat poetically, but my writing's far more mediocre.
Anyways, I enjoyed this novel very much.

23 Dec 2010

City of Ashes - Cassandra Clare

This second installment of the Mortal Instruments series (there's going to be six books, apparently? Yay!) picks up right where City of Bones left off.
(And now, spoilers for CoB:)
Clary (the red-headed girl on the cover) is still very much attracted to Jace, and Jace to her - but now that they've found out that they're siblings (and that their father's the evil antagonist Valentine), things get awkward. Personally, I like that the author's dealing with that can of worms, instead of making her characters magically not attracted to each other anymore once they learn that they're related (I'm looking at you, Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory.).
Also, Clary and Simon's relationship goes to the next level (Level 1 was "they're friends", level 2 was "they're the best friends" (see City of Bones), and Level 3 is "kissing time!"). Also, Simon gets an upgrade - I won't spoil it for you, but let's just say that there's plenty of foreshadowing.
Plus, Clary's mother is in the same condition as she was when City of Bones ended.
Oh, and the war that pits our antagonist Valentine against, well, everyone is going swimmingly. It looms ever closer, and to be honest I'm really looking forward to reading the third installment of this series - if the next book's climax/final battle/chaosfest is to top this one, it should be pretty epic.

13 Dec 2010

Kraken - China Miéville

This is a

  • horror
  • fantasy
  • mystery
  • science-fiction
  • dystopian
  • "let's mess with time!"
  • cult (about)
  • apocalyptic
  • London
  • quirky
  • very well written
  • weird
  • full of Lovecraftian allusions
  • and also of more mainstream references
Seriously, I liked it. 

12 Dec 2010

Legacies - Mercedes Lackey & Rosemary Edghill

Look, a new teen series by Mercedes Lackey! And Rosemary Edghill, too.
With a kind of weird cover that I'm not a fan of, but I didn't really contemplate the cover, I just read the book.
Essentially, this novel is what you get if you combine Lackey's Heralds of Valdemar series, minus the Companions, plus some Harry Potter-esque elements and make everything happen to Tragic Orphans.
I enjoyed it, honestly - it's a fun plunge into fantasy teen fiction, filled with angst and magic and mysteries that will presumably be solved in the next installments of this Shadow Grail series. So yeah, I'll keep an eye out for the next installments but I probably won't buy them all.

7 Dec 2010

The Battle of the Labyrinth - Rick Riordan

Book four of the Percy Jackson series!
In this novel, Percy and his friends must continue their quest against the evil Titan Kronos - whose army is ready for the war against Olympus, and whose earthly form is practically fully formed. Also, the Titan's forces are ready to march on Camp Half-Blood and destroy it, but all they're missing is one little thing, a way to navigate the Labyrinth. Yes, Daedalus's Labyrinth still exists (or rather, lives), and like everything else associated with Hellenic gods it has moved to the U.S., where it's become a handy (if confusing and often lethally dangerous) way of moving about quickly.
Daedalus, his son Icarus, the (somewhat evil) king Minos, and their story are all involved in this story; and as the next war between the gods and the Titans approaches, our main characters (Percy, Annabeth, Grover, Tyson, etc.) keep growing, gain allies, and lose friends. Plus, is that the lost god of the wild, Pan, that the satyrs (including Grover) have been searching for for two thousand years? (Warning: this particular quest will feature a famous Thus Spake Zarathustra line.)
As with all the other novels in this excellent series, the tone and pace of this story makes it a joy to read, and the way the author plays with themes and elements of Greek mythology makes my inner mythology geek very happy indeed. Seriously, I'll start gushing about the sheer awesomeness of this series if I don't end this post now.

5 Dec 2010

The World in Six Songs - Daniel J. Levitin

This book was written by Daniel J. Levitin, the author of This is Your Brain on Music and the dude who runs the Laboratory for Music Perception, Cognition, and Expertise at McGill University (that's in Canada!). Impressed yet?
Anyways, this book is all about the whys of songs. It explores the six major "types" of songs that exist (Friendship, joy, comfort, knowledge, religion and love songs), with plenty of examples and explanations of their significance.
There's a bit of a name-dropping feel at times - Sting's name pops up everywhere, and at one point the phrase "While I was dining with Joni Mitchell at an outdoor restaurant once," shows up, I shit you not (see page 132) (There's also a very handy index at the back, to track all the famous names peppered through the 289 pages of this book). Also, there's plenty of anecdotes about the author's life experiences that relate to the content of the book, which made for an even more interesting read. 
I also spotted quite a few references to Richard Dawkins' The Selfish Gene, most notably in the Religion Songs chapter, where Levitin writes "that religion is more than a meme [...] and may have an evolutionary basis."
All and all, a good book, a 781 on the Dewey system, which means that it's a book about Arts, more specifically Music's General Principles and musical forms. Um, I'm not sure it's been labeled quite right?