On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness

Alright, before we get started, I’m gonna say what I say all the time: I don’t do middle grade.

But here I am, returning from the whimsical, adventurous shores. Having very much enjoyed my stay.

(and, if anyone’s wondering, it’s all Snifferblog‘s fault.)

51WE0-cjRHL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness

  • Author: Andrew Peterson
  • Publisher: WaterBrook Press
  • Year: 2008
  • Genre vibe: Christian Young Reader Fantasy and Adventure
  • At a Glance: Adventure! Peril! The dreaded Toothy Cows and malicious Fangs of Dang! A suspicious lack of actual things to do with a Dark Sea of Darkness? No matter! Boyish adventure saves the day.

I’ve got a few (okay, not a lot, but some) funny things to say about this book. It took me ages to finally decide to sit down and read it through. The writing was…not great. It took some imagination to get into.

Probably because, well. I’m a sixteen year old, very much into gritty teen urban fantasy girl. Not exactly the target audience for this particular book.

But somehow I ended up caring with my whole heart for these boys and their sister, and I don’t even know how it happened. I’m not very much into the “whimsy” movement, of sorts. The people that swear up and down that childlike whimsy is the absolute purpose for story. I love that those people exist, of course, but they aren’t me. Somehow, though, Andrew Peterson drew me into his whimsy for two hundred and seventy/nine pages.

I think it was the atmosphere. I think it was because even though I read nothing like this, ever, this one was memorable somehow. It was also probably a little because I got it from a good friend. But all in all, this book did what books aim to do: it made me care.

And I think that, in how simple that was–that theme, actually–that was what I loved about it. I didn’t know why I cared, and I didn’t care why I cared. I just cared. A lot. A heck of a lot. And that made me laugh, and made me cry, and helped me overlook (slightly) the oddness and things that made me stumble.

Simple themes are the best themes, and this book nailed it.

Something it did not quite hit the bull’s eye on, however, was the writing.

There was lots of text, everywhere, and lots more description, and while the footnotes were engaging and humorous, they weren’t always on point. The world seemed like a big part of the story, but the writing did little to pull me into it. The dialogue was…

It did this strange thing where it didn’t seem bad when I read it, but now I find myself having a hard time remembering if anyone ever really, truly used their voices. Which makes me think that what dialogue there was wasn’t really that great.

Food for thought.

Character-wise, everyone was really cool. But the head-hopping and lack of distinctive voices was something that threw me off from time to time.

Overall, though, I enjoyed myself. I’ll continue with the rest of the series and I’ll allow it the grains of salt it requires from me, and continue enjoying myself.

  • Rating: This is a really hard book to rate, so I’m not even gonna try.
  • Recommended to: Fans of humor and adventure and the like
  • Lasting impression: The quiet ring of truth in an empty space.
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The Poisoned House

I told twitter how excited I was about this ghost story I found on my shelf a week or so ago. I remember buying it: it was the great reading slump of 2012, and I was a slowly blooming bud who had just been transplanted into the teen section and was unsure of why these terrifying covers seemed to be drawing her closer.

I ended up with it somehow. I remember thinking it was just so beautiful, as books sometimes are. But I never made it past the first few chapters.

Now, at long last, I have conquered.

…Only to be somewhat disappointed, if entertained.

the+poisoned+house+2The Poisoned House

  • Author: Michael Ford
  • Publisher: AW Teen
  • Year: 2010
  • Genre vibe: Historical fiction/mystery/ghost story. Though I hesitate to actually give it that last one.
  • At a glance: Life is hard for young Abi, a scullery maid plagued by a hateful mistress and the loss of her mother and–soon–what appears to be her ghost, not to mention all this mystery of murder…and that really, really hateful mistress.

I’m not gonna lie–I devoured this book. Granted, it’s pretty short, about two hundred fifty pages, and small ones at that. But I ate it up and finished in about a day and a half. What’s funny to me is how engaging I found it. There’s nothing particularly interesting about Abi’s character, or her situation, or Ford’s writing. But it was…interesting. Plain and simple, I was interested in what was going on.

The writing was simple, it didn’t feel overly His-Fic-y, nobody was particularly annoying. The ghost was even pretty well done, if not as scary as I’d been hoping.

Then the mystery kicked in.

Now. I love a good mystery. And often, ghost stories and mysteries are one in the same. But what’s not okay is when I’m sold a ghost story, and then once the mystery starts to unravel…my ghost goes away.

Abi gets her closure at the end of this book–she lives to the ripe old age of ninety-three and founds a charity. But the ghost? The whole point–supposedly–of this book? Vanished.

Which, as one can understand, was vaguely upsetting for me. Since I really really wanted a good ghost.

So that kind of killed it, for me. Not ruined it, per se, because I very much did enjoy myself. But it disappointed me, and that made me sad.

So, overall:

  • Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5 stars or so
  • Recommended to: Anyone looking for a quick, entertaining, decent read and willing to let not-spectacular things slide.
  • Lasting impression: Cold, slimy stone steps, an upended velvet chair, the muted colors of looking out a second- or third-floor window in the five minutes before the sun goes down and thinking that something’s off.

Chopsticks

There are things that are my thing, and things that aren’t. Things that are my thing include romance, neat characters, spontaneous book decisions, and amazing aesthetics. Things that aren’t include…well, things that say “a novel” and then have almost no words in them.

But somehow this book surpassed that.

indexChopsticks

  • Author: Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral
  • Publisher: Razorbill
  • Year: 2012
  • Genre vibe: I’m gonna go with just pure aesthetic here, although it is a romance and a bit of a slice-of-life story.
  • At a glance: Glory is a piano prodigy, young and troubled after her mother’s death. Frank moves in next door and both of them are swept up into love like the poems tell it. But the pressure Glory’s father puts on her leads to her slow unraveling and neither her nor Frank–who just can’t seem to keep it together in school–know what to do.

What to say about this book…first of all, it’s told through pictures, which is normally not something I’m drawn to. It’s not that I don’t like it or think it’s not “a real book” or anything like that. But visuals can never quite impact me the way traditional words do, so I just don’t pick up many. But today I’m at the library, and on the staff picks stand was this book.

I remember flipping through it at a bookstore awhile back, not really internalizing it, and going on my way. Now I wish I’d bought it that day.

The first thing that struck me were how beautiful the pictures were. I’m not a photographer or a visual artist of any kind, but all of the pictures in this book were just amazing. They all give the story a specific feeling, kind of dreamy and unreal and a funny sort of intimate. The kind where you’re seeing someone’s cluttered kitchen and the things on their dresser before really knowing them.

The dialogue pieces and documents are what really drove the story in though. Glory had such a voice, for someone who was more face than name, and that’s what kind of amazed me. I just finished reading Persepolis for my English class, my first graphic novel, and even that was a little lacking in specific character voice in the way we usually mean it when we talk writing.But this was a story told as much through the simple fact of Glory’s existence as it was through her eyes and her mouth. All of it ended up blending together so beautifully that I got choked up a couple of times.

The librarian that recommended it apparently thought the ending was really ambiguous, but I thought it was pretty clear. I’d be interested to know what other people think.

All in all I seriously, seriously enjoyed this book. I’m so glad I picked it up and actually sat down to read it rather than letting the thought that I’d have to try too hard to get anything out of it get in my way.

  • Rating: 5/5 stars, even though it’s not quite a book that you…rate
  • Recommended to: Fans of artistic ways to get across story, fans of aesthetic and photography and romance.
  • Lasting impression: Glory’s voice. I want this book on my shelf so I can curl up with a knit blanket and a cup of hot chocolate on a frigid, rainy afternoon and escape for awhile.

Rags & Bones

I’m a sucker for my favorite authors. So when I saw a gorgeous cover featuring Holly Black’s name, I couldn’t help but investigate. Furthermore, I discovered that her story in particular was about vampires, and that many other people wrote about monsters, and I decided — what the heck? It’s as good a time as any to read my first short story anthology.

I wasn’t disappointed, but I was really conflicted.

17310066Rags & Bones

  • Author(s): Edited by Melissa Marr and Tim Pratt. Featuring Kelly Armstrong, Holly Black, Neil Gaiman, Garth Nix, Carrie Ryan, Margaret Stohl, and more.
  • Publisher: Little, Brown
  • Year: 2013
  • Shelved in: Teen fantasy and adventure
  • In general: the tagline reads “new twists on timeless tales”, and I suppose that sums it up.

So this is a hard thing to review. Short stories aren’t my favorite things on the planet, and a lot of these were…just plain weird. One thing that really caught me off guard was how the book was put together with the illustrations in the middle. I ended up ignoring them after the first one, because they confused me. I assumed that they were all relevant to the story that had come before them, but then I thought maybe they were a preface to the next story, and all in all I ended up having to look around a little before I could get my bearings and read like a normal human being.

Not a great start.

Once I got past that, however, I was decently impressed. I had a couple of favorite stories, a couple that let me down in the end, and a few that just plain disturbed me.

Holly Black’s Millcara was obviously and undoubtedly my favorite. Holly Black is a goddess forever and ever amen and every piece of her writing is just…fantastic. Admittedly this is the first of her short stories that I’ve read so far, but it was positively delicious. Holly Black never disappoints.

Another favorite was Saladin Ahmed’s Without Faith, Without Law, Without Joy. It was captivating in a distant way that I completely didn’t expect going into it, and it’s one that I’d like to read a few more times for how beautiful it was. The images of it were striking, and I was interested to find myself tearing up a little at the end. It was one of the few stories that actually managed to get any actual emotion out of me.

My third favorite was Margaret Stohl’s Sirocco. It wasn’t particularly atmospheric, or emotional, or striking, or anything like any of the others were. But it was…it was fun. I seriously enjoyed reading that story, and the setting was great as well, and juts overall it was a really great few pages.

I have mixed feelings on When First We Were Gods by Rick Yancy. It made an impression, and it wasn’t strictly disturbing like some were (*glances meaningfully at Uncaged), and it was well written and all. But I didn’t exactly enjoy it either.

One that let me down severely was The Soul Collector by Kami Garcia. It was AWESOME and INCREDIBLE and then…cut short. Cut very very short. Similar feelings on New Chicago by Kelly Armstrong. I’m not in general a fan of open-ended-endings, and these ones were way too open ended. Mostly because both of them had such a great atmosphere, and all I wanted to do was stay in it.

By far the weirdest were Uncaged by Gene Wolfe, which really just disturbed me for some reason. Losing Her Divinity by Garth Nix, which I just couldn’t get into. And then a strange did-you-scare-me-in-a-bad-way-or-did-I-like-you tie between When First We Were Gods and That the Machine may Progress Eternally. Both stories were really well put together, but just not…enjoyable.

So all in all, this book was definitely worth the money. I mean, come on, look at it, am I right? But it wasn’t amazing, and it didn’t make me love anthologies any more than I already didn’t.

Overall

  • Rating: 3/5 stars
  • Recommended to: I honestly don’t know quite who I’d recommend this too. The stories are so, so varied in genre and feel and message and intensity and everything. So I guess, if you like strange things and short stories and really nice covers, go ahead and pick it up.
  • Lasting impression: “WAKE UP. Wakeupwakeupwakeupwakeup. Even if you wake up and hate me.” –Millcara; Holly Black

Murder on the Orient Express

The things you read for book club aren’t always bad, okay guys? Okay.

That said, I don’t have much to say about this book because…well, that’s why the review.

u34+1F!EVWH7ngw7NLVXIcKIKW2pmYA+Gl!w8rbMsYH!BRIAG5OUet9tcq9F2XjffXkZsjELHH1dotzfe59Az1jyGM+mB65M9iSYJGxO3RSWsW1OYzkgsRAdZgmVYczuMurder on the Orient Express

  • Author: Agatha Christie
  • Publisher: Harper Mystery
  • Year: 1934
  • Shelved in: Mystery
  • At a glance: A murder has occurred on the Orient Express. M. Hercule Poirot is going to solve it through extensive investigation. The catch is that everyone is snowed into the train.

I’m a fan of Christie. I loved And Then There Were None like no other, although Endless Night remains one of my favorite books of all time and I think about Murder is Easy all the time.

But if you know anything about those particular books you’ll notice that all of them are standalones. Which brings me to my major point of this review: I’m not a fan of Poirot. Granted, this is the first of his books that I’ve really seriously read, but I couldn’t get into any of the others I’ve picked up over the past couple years either.

This book…it was good, it was interesting, the crime was great. But it was…dull. There was interrogation after interrogation and that was just about it. I skimmed, found the evidence that was given, and moved on. There were maybe one or two characters that interested me, and Poirot just wasn’t one of them.

(And also M. Bouc just really annoyed me for some reason. I don’t get annoyed by characters often but I just didn’t like that guy.)

All in all, I just ended up wanting an Ocean’s Eleven-esque story from the criminals’ perspectives. Because that would’ve been awesome and a little less boring.

(And all that being said, I still can’t wait to read another Christie novel. Because I really do love her.)

Overall

  • Rating: 3/5 stars or so
  • Recommended to: If you’re one of those people who really likes to figure out the mystery–this one’s for you
  • Lasting impression: A very, very stuffy dining car and the undying smile of a young blond American.