Jul. 2nd, 2009

juushika: Screen capture of the Farplane from Final Fantasy X: a surreal landscape of waterfalls and flowers. (Anime/Game)

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Author Catherynne M. Valente ([livejournal.com profile] yuki_onna) is in a distressing financial situation, and among her other projects is offering a weekly crowdfunded serial novel called The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. I could introduce it, but I find that the book does a fine job of that all on its own.

Once upon a time, a girl named September grew very tired indeed of her father’s house, where she washed the same pink and yellow teacups and matching gravy boats every day, slept on the same embroidered pillow, and played with the same small and amiable dog. Because she had been born in May, and because she had a mole on her left cheek, and because her feet were very large and ungainly, the Green Wind took pity on her, and flew to her window one evening just after her eleventh birthday. He was dressed in a green smoking jacket, and a green carriage-driver’s cloak, and green jodhpurs, and green snowshoes. It is very cold above the clouds, in the shanty-towns where the Six Winds live.

"You seem an ill-tempered and irascible enough child," said the Green Wind. "How would you like to come away with me and ride upon the Leopard of Little Breezes, and be delivered to the great sea which borders Fairyland? I am afraid I cannot go in, as Harsh Airs are not allowed, but I should be happy to deposit you upon the Perverse and Perilous Sea."

"Oh, yes!" breathed September, who disapproved deeply of pink and yellow teacups, and also of small and amiable dogs.

"Well, then, come and sit by me, and do not pull too harshly on my Leopard’s fur, as she bites."


So it begins. Fairyland appears in Valente's novel Palimpsest, teaching one of the characters to jump boldly into her new world, despite the difficulities and the cost. It is her inspiration: let it be yours. Fairyland is a must-read if you've read Palimpsest (oh, [livejournal.com profile] lupanotte!), but it also stands alone and is suitable for young audiences. September is ill-tempered and brave, fairyland is whimsical but not peaceful, and the narrator is as playful as wise—and thus is the story of one girl's journey to fairyland. I imagine folks like [livejournal.com profile] delicatetruth and [livejournal.com profile] sisterite would greatly enjoy it, but I encourage everyone to go take a look. The third chapter went up this week—in it September finally reaches Fairyland proper and we get our first impression of both this magical but disturbed place and the plot to come—and it has cemented my love for the book. I recommend it wholeheartedly: it has been a joy to read thus far, promises much to come, and Valente is a solid, seasoned, skillful writer who I trust to carry on strong to the end.

If you want to, read. If you can, donate. Visit Fairyland.
juushika: Photograph of a row of books on a library shelf. (Books Once More)
In preparation for a library run this evening I have been sorting my TBR list and pile, and somewhere in that came out with a couple of lists of books. Ironically, listing these and writing microreviews has proved easier than trying to review the three books waiting in that pile. I've been in odd headspace lately, deep in hermitage and reading constantly—not because I don't desire social contact but because I'm having a difficult forcing my thoughts and will into complete sentences—but when I can, producing lengthy, coherent paragraphs on a variety of topics. Strange, but for me not unusual. Anyhow! I swear I do other things than just read and talk of books, but sometimes lately it is hard to tell.

Books I stopped reading without completing, 1.1.09 to 7.1.09
Title, Author. Pages read.
Why never completed (generally I only stop reading a book when it becomes so inane or frustrating that Devon takes it away from me that I will stop complaining about it—but there are exceptions).

The Darkest Part of the Woods, Ramsey Campbell. Read: 78 pages.
Because I found it nigh unreadable: it was dull, repetitive, and transparent, which did nothing to build either atmosphere or horror.

Cyteen, C.J. Cherryh. Read: 208 pages.
Because while it became more accessible with time (due to my poor memory for names, I found the beginning nearly incomprehensible), the book simply never grabbed my attention. I set it down to read a new book and have no urge to return to it, so I won't.

The Fox Woman, Kij Johnson. Read: 47 pages.
Because while I loved the narrative voice, the fox sections never convinced me and the book didn't quite catch my attention. I may return to this at a later date.

The Game of Kings, Dorothy Dunnett. 150 pages?
Because I found it confusing (see: poor memory for names), overwrought, and it just didn't appeal to me at the time. I think I'd have better appreciated it in a different frame of mind, and may return to it at a later date.

The Swan Maiden, Heather Tomlinson. 100 pages?
Because the plot was so transparent and clichéd as to become infuriating, and I had to stop reading before I started ranting.


Books I read and never reviewed, 1.1.09 to 7.1.09
Title, Author. Rating.
Why never reviewed.

The Bloody Chamber, Angela Carter. 5 of 5 stars.
Because I love this book so much that I can't quite put my response into words. I've read it twice and both times tried to frame an intelligent response, but the best I can come up with is "lush irreverent intelligent haunting feminist gruesome powerful *wibble*" with a side dose of "love" and "best fairy tale retellings I've ever read." Absolutely read it—I just wish I could better state why one must do so without myself dissolving into a puddle of enthused goo.

The City of Ember, Jeanne DuPrau. 4 of 5 stars.
Because while readable and fairly entertaining, the book didn't interest me enough for me to form a strong positive or negative opinion; it was also the first book I picked up in this heavy reading cycle, and I hadn't yet resumed writing book reviews.

The Collector, John Fowles. 5 of 5 stars.
Because many others had already reviewed it, and because I procrastinated my review until the book was no longer fresh in my mind. I regret putting it off, because I much enjoyed the novel and knew what I wanted to say about it: it's deceptively complex and strikes the perfect entertaining/authentically frightening balance of psychological horror.

Eulalia, Brian Jacques. 4 of 5 stars.
Because it was the second book I read of the year, and it was a quick distracting indulgence which I never planned to review.

The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman. 4 of 5 stars.
Because I'd yet to start writing reviews, and had no strong opinions on the book.

Practical Magic, Alice Hoffman. 4 of 5 stars.
Because many others had already reviewed it, and because I felt like my opinion was too heavily tainted by discovering the film first and enjoying it more.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard, J.K. Rowling. 4 of 5 stars.
Because it was the first book I read of the year, because it was so short, and because I knew hundreds of other people would review it.

Wanted, Mark Millar. 5 of 5 stars.
Because I procrastinated the review long enough that I felt like I needed to reread the comic to review it properly. A pity, too, because it was exceptional. I shall reread and review sometime, but until then: read Wanted. It is Watchmen for supervillans, except shorter, smarter, and brutal as a kick in the gut. One of the best comics from any nation that I've ever read.

Watchmen, Alan Moore. 4 of 5 stars.
Because hundreds of people reviewed it before I'd even heard of it and, while I enjoyed and appreciated it, I didn't feel I had enough to say about it to warrant a review.


Books reread (and previously reviewed), 1.1.09 to 7.1.09
Maledicte, Lane Robins.
Sharp Teeth, Toby Barlow.
The Story of O, Pauline Réage.
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
Title: 'Salem's Lot: Illustrated Edition
Author: Stephen King
Photographs: Jerry N. Uelsmann
Published: New York: Doubleday, 2005 (1975)
Rating: 3 of 5
Page Count: 594
Total Page Count: 81,612
Text Number: 233
Read For: reading gothic novels, borrowed from the library
Short Review: Ben Mears returns to 'salems Lot believing that he's rediscovered the idyllic small town of his youth—but 'salem's Lot has two other newcomers who threaten the town with a vampiric plague. I'm not a fan of King's novels and my issues with his writing style carry over to 'Salem's Lot, which I found poorly paced and unbalanced; other readers who appreciate his style may have a different response. Regardless, the book's vampires never become the threatening, powerful, intelligent evil which would be necessary to make this a successful and frightening book. King has a strong grasp of setting and atmosphere, but the unconvincing vampires prevent 'Salem's Lot from achieving its full potential. Not recommended.

Long review. )

Review posted here on Amazon.com.

Come now, King. Every single person in the final vampire-hunting crew is male—the token would-be female vampire hunter is the very first to get killed off. Dracula came out in 1897 and it has more and stronger female characters. Shame on you.

I'll admit I didn't read the short story, deleted scenes, or afterword. I don't hate King outright so much as I find his writing overlong and frustrating—but there is still only so much that I'm willing to take. 'Salem's Lot may be one of the more streamlined of King's novels, but this particular edition is bloated. On the other hand, the photo illustrations are a bit photochopped but some of them aren't bad.

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