Friday, February 27, 2015

Flash Fiction Friday: Cinderella

            One golden pump flew into the corner. Hair tumbled down, bobby pins scattering over the floor. Opening the fridge, Eleanor nabbed a can of beer and popped it open.
            Bob stormed in the front door, glittering in his blue suit. “What are you doing?”
            “Don’t yell at me; it’s been a long night. I lost my shoe.”
            “How’s he going to fall in love with you if you keep leaving early?”
            A knock came at the open door. The two conspirators whirled to see the millionaire standing outside the cheap apartment, holding a golden pump.
            “I think you dropped this.”


Today's Novel Idea Prompted by: "She'd had enough of parties."

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Book Challenge: A Memoir

Book: Ride the Butterflies: Back to School with Donald Davis
Pages: 94
Date Read: 2/24 - 2/26/2015
Rating: ☆ ☆ 

Other Categories this book could have fit into:
A funny book
A book of short stories
A nonfiction book - as much as memoirs are ever nonfiction
A book that made you cry

This book probably would have received more than three stars if I'd never heard Donald Davis tell his stories -- but because I have, I know that he's a much better teller than he is writer.

Actually, I probably still would have given it only three stars, because several of the stories had a gross sense of humor that I just find annoying. But some of them were really sweet, and some were really funny. I loved the one about the typing teacher. My favorite is the story that the title comes from, about riding the butterflies, but I've heard him tell that one and it was just so much better in person.

The kindergarten teacher and the teacher who took them on a tour around the world were my favorites; the type of people who really inspire me and make me think, not only about how we should educate our children, but how I should educate myself. How we should find context and fun in our learning rather than just memorizing facts.

This book is definitely worth a read. There are some really thought-provoking elements to it. I recommend it; but I more highly recommend finding some recordings of Donald Davis' storytelling, because the way he tells a story is simply enchanting.


Monday, February 23, 2015

Book Challenge: A Book Your Mom Loves

Book: The Ivy Tree by Mary Stewart
Pages: 270
Date Read: 2/17 - 2/23/2015
Rating: ☆ ☆ 

Other Categories this book could 
have fit into:
A classic romance - does Mary Stewart count as "classic"? I feel like she does
A mystery or thriller - I mean, not technically, but it has elements of both
A book set in a different country - England
A book set somewhere you've always wanted to visit - and the descriptions made it sound especially beautiful
A book by an author you've never read before - unless you count reading the first few pages of The Crystal Cave when I was twelve

This book was a high 3-star for me. I did really like it. Especially the beginning.

The first-person narrator is super interesting. She's dry and snarky, and certainly unreliable. Some of the sections are so beautifully cryptic.

All of the characters are interesting and it's hard to tell who to like. I adore Julie and Donald. Con was ridiculously fascinating, and Lisa as well. And I have mixed feelings about Adam, but he was certainly well-crafted.

I definitely got caught up in the intrigue and some of the moments are pretty intense. However, the drama was a little high for my tastes. The real reason this book only received three stars is that Gothic Romance just isn't my genre. I didn't care about a lot of the things going on, and did not get even marginally invested in the love story. Still, there were enough other things going on that my interest held.

I was sort of let down by the ending, and I lost my desire to seek out more of Mary Stewart's books -- or at least any of her others in this genre. Still, this story was beautifully told and plenty intriguing. It wasn't too heavy on the drama. If you like clean Gothic Romances, then this book is definitely worth a read.



Friday, February 20, 2015

Flash Fiction Friday: The Masks in the Window

            The masks clattered against the window, chattering as a woman passed the house.
            “Here comes another one.”
            “I say she gets a week.”
            “Make it three days.”
            “I like the long ones better. Two months of steady decline!”
            “If we don’t make a decision soon, she’ll be gone.”
            “One week!”
            “Three days!”
            “Two months!”
            The cat hissed. “Witch! Come shut up your masks.”
            “Don’t worry, Cat. They never actually kill anyone. They’re too indecisive.”
            “She’s almost gone!”
            “How about one month?”
            “Ten days.”
            “I don’t care about that.” The cat swatted at one of the masks. “They interrupted my nap.”


Today's Novel Idea Prompted by: The above picture.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Book Challenge: A Funny Book

Book: The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
Pages: 219
Date Read: 2/10 - 2/14/2015
Rating: ☆ 

Other Categories this book could 
have fit into:
A book by an author I've never read before
A book my mom loves
A book set in a different country

I put this book down as a funny book because its humor was its saving grace. It was painfully boring, but then it would make me laugh, and that kept me going.

I really wanted to love this book. My mother adored it and could not stop raving about it. But almost nothing happens. It's a quest story and they don't even get attacked until on the way back. When they got what they were questing for and turned around to back, I literally moaned aloud. And I almost wept from boredom during one of the history lessons (that's a literal description of the scene -- one of the characters sits down and gives his apprentices a history lesson on the political structure of the three kingdoms.)

This was honestly an interesting story with a complex political structure, a fascinating religion, and likable characters. And it was told in the slowest, dullest way possible. Frequently, I would flip forward to see how many pages I had left, and the answer was always, "Too many."

For all its merits, this book was ruined by its dullness. I wouldn't recommend it; though, of course, my mother adores it and thinks everyone should read it. So take that as you will.


Friday, February 13, 2015

Flash Fiction Friday - Unexpected Plant

            Without warning, she planted one on him.
            “Ow!” He rubbed the back of his neck where the small piece of metal had pierced his skin. “I don’t need a tracking device!”
            “After the stunt you pulled last week?” She placed her hand on her hip. “You’re lucky we’re sending you out at all. Besides, this is to keep you safe.”
            “You knowing exactly where I am at all times doesn’t exactly make me feel safe.”
            “Come back alive, and I will personally dig the chip out of your neck.”
            “I am never letting you near me with anything sharp again.”


Today's Novel Idea Prompted by: "Without warning, she planted one on him."

Monday, February 9, 2015

Opposites Book Tag

Book Challenge: A Book Set Somewhere You've Always Wanted to Visit

Book: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaimain
Pages: 307
Date Read: 1/8 - 1/9/2014 (except I haven't gone to sleep yet, so it's still totally 1/8.)
Rating: ☆ ☆ 

Other Categories this book could 
have fit into:
A book with nonhuman characters
A book set in a different country
A book from an author you love that you haven't read yet
A book you can finish in a day
A book with magic

First of all, in answer to the challenge, this book takes place in England -- in an old English cemetery, no less. Definitely someplace I would like to visit.

I wanted to like this book more than I did. I mean, I did like it, don't get me wrong, but I was expecting to love it, and I'm feeling kind of meh. It's an old problem with me -- whenever I read a story about Death, I'm always disappointed because of all the things I would have done differently.

For starters, if I'd written the book, Silas would be the main character. I don't know why the most interesting characters are always minor characters. I mean, not that Nobody wasn't wonderful, and he was definitely the appropriate main character for the target age group of the book, but I found myself getting bored with Bod's story as I wondered what Silas was up to. All the most interesting action sequences were summarized or skipped.

There were a lot of cool scenes in this. But the pacing felt off, and it was a struggle to keep up with the timeline. There were many times that it felt like the plot had been lost entirely.

But it is clever, and the world is beautiful. I love the Jack thing (that's all I'm saying, for fear of spoilers, but the Jack thing is super clever.) I really love the ghosts and the concept of a child being raised in a graveyard. I loved the uniqueness of Bod -- he was unnatural in exactly the way you would expect a child raised by ghosts to be.

I just loved the first half so much more than the second. This book had so much potential, and then I felt like it fell flat. I came out thinking of all the cool stories that could be told in this world, and definitely wanting to write some Silas fan fiction. Honestly, I would love it if Gaiman would write more in this world ... it's weird to want more from a book you didn't love. But I feel like there's still so much potential that could be tapped.

In the end, I was simply underwhelmed. I don't highly recommend this book, though it is an interesting world that has me thinking. I do appreciate it for the creativity it lent me alone. And Silas. Ok, it's totally worth reading this book just for Silas. Can Neil Gaiman write a book in which Silas is the main character? That's all I want.

(I really need to stop writing my book reviews at two o'clock in the morning.)


Sunday, February 8, 2015

Book Challenge: A Book with Antonyms in the Title

Book: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
Pages: 285
Date Read: 2/1-2/8/2015
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ 

Other Categories this book could 
have fit into:
A book with a love triangle - not your average love triangle, but I'd still say it counts
A book that made you cry - more on that in the review, but let's just say I could have filled buckets
A book by an author you've never read before

Nothing about this book is ok. "But, Kat!e!" you say, "You gave it five stars!" sigh Ok, this book is actually beautiful. One of the most beautiful books I have ever read. It's three o'clock in the morning, and I'm awake because I couldn't stop reading.

And now my heart is broken. Shattered into a million pieces. I have never sobbed so hard while reading a book. Thinking about it now, I'm tearing up again. I was terrified I was going to wake up my parents and they were going to come in to find me sobbing, and they'd be horrified, thinking something terrible had happened. And something terrible had happened. Just not to me. To some very dear friends of mine.

I feel like I know Henry and Keiko. Which I guess I could say about a lot of book characters, but I lived an entire lifetime with these two -- traveling back and forth between twelve and fifty, seeing the way their lives were shaped and changed. And they're so real. Everyone in this book is real. And there are so many wonderful people -- Henry and Keiko, Sheldon, Marty, Samantha, Mr. and Mrs. Okabe, Mrs. Beatty, and even Ethel. And then there are people like Henry's father, whom I'm honestly not sure I can forgive. I know I should, I know that's a lot of the point, but I just can't.

I really shouldn't be writing the review now, being sleep-deprived and emotionally broken, but I wanted to talk about these feelings while they were still raw and fresh.

This book is about such an ugly period of history. And it captures the ugliness. It's faithful to America, but it's honest about what happened, the horrible things done by Americans. War is ugly from both sides, there's no escaping it. And, I admit, I'd never really thought about the Germans and Japanese in America during the war. But now I have. And I feel like that's so important, but it also hurts really bad.

There's just so much in this little book; so much truth and pain. And then it's just about the people. About two little lives in the midst of everything that's happening.

I honestly feel like I want to own this book, to remind me of everything inside it, but I don't think I could handle ever reading it again. I was flipping through to find names, and I kept getting caught up in pieces, and I had to pull away because it hurts. And I had to give this book five stars, because any book capable of hurting me in this way is amazing.

This book is simply beautiful. And I do recommend it -- to those who are better at handling history than I am. To those who can read a sad book without it ruining their lives. Me, I'll probably spend the next week or so curled up in a ball, just sobbing. But that's ok. Sometimes it's important to hurt for someone else -- even if they are just two fictional little kids.


Friday, February 6, 2015

Flash Fiction Friday - Energy

            “Do you think there are supernatural forces out there?” I wonder, looking up from my books.
            Amelia smiles. “I think it’s pretty likely.”
            The air in the room changes and moves in an unnatural way. It seems to shimmer and swirl.
            “Ghosts!” I cry, hopping to my feet. “Mia, your house is haunted!”
            “No, those are just my sisters.”
            “We’ve decided your energy is delicious.” Amelia changes, too, shimmering and warping into something unnatural. Electricity simmers in the air. “You really are the perfect boyfriend,” says Amelia’s voice. The last sound I hear is a chorus of crackling laughs.


Today's Novel Idea Prompted by: "The air in the rom changed and moved in an unnatural way."

Saturday, January 31, 2015

January Wrap Up & February TBR

Book Challenge: A Book with More than 500 Pages

Book: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
Pages: 1,006
Date Read: 1/20-1/31/2015
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ 

Other Categories this book could 
have fit into:
A book with nonhuman characters - most are human, but there is a fairy or two
A funny book
A book set in a different country - mostly the UK
A book set somewhere you've always wanted to visit - the UK and Faerie both
A book that made you cry
A book with magic - beautiful, glorious magic
A book by an author you've never read before - but I will waste no time in tracking down everything of hers I can find!
A book turned into a TV show - which is scheduled to air this year; I'm not sure if I want to see it or not
I am rather of the opinion that in England a gentleman's dreams are his own private concern. I fancy there is a law to that effect and, if there is not, why, Parliament should certainly be made to pass one immediately! It ill becomes another man to invite himself into them. 
I knew nothing about this book going into it. I bought it only because, in a piece of "fan fiction" written by one of the creators of In Earnest (is it fan fiction if it's written by one of the original authors?) Algernon stated that this was his favorite book. Since I have agreed with Algernon on his other tastes, I decided to trust his judgment, but I was wary, having no idea what I would find.

This book is perfect. I enjoyed every moment of reading it. I urge anyone who may be interested in checking it out not to be discouraged by its length; it reads very quickly and never drags for a moment. Jane Austen said, "If a book is well written I always find it too short." Even with a thousand and six pages, this book was much too short to satisfy me. Susanna Clarke has written short stories that take place in the same world, and I need to own them all. This book took me eleven days to read, and that only because I kept slowing down, not wishing for it to end.

I don't mean to over-praise this book. I hate to do that and then have someone read it by my recommendation and be disappointed. But I myself adored every moment.

The story is an alternate-history of nineteenth century England, where an English gentleman magician is trying to return magic to England. Many true historical figures are shown -- magic is used to defeat Napoleon, and one of the magicians befriends Lord Byron (though highly disapproving of him, naturally.)

The magic is wonderful. It has much basis in old mythology, and reminded me of Irish fairytales of the darker kind. There are great illusions, travels through mirrors, and other strange and wonderful things. Every time magic was performed it was delightful and surprising. I could not wait to see what new spells would be cast.

The complexity of the characters is overwhelming. There is a large cast, but each character was so distinct that I never mistook one for another and had no trouble keeping track of them all. It was a constant struggle deciding whom I liked and whom I detested, but this only added to the realistic nature of the characters; after all, it can be rather hard to decide how one feels about real people. The exception was Mr Honeyfoot, who was perfect and the very embodiment of Hufflepuff values and I just adored everything about him (except that he wasn't a main character.) The two title characters were often at odds and I vacillated between being a Norrellite and a Strangite. I'm still not quite settled, and would have to agree with Childermass in being a little of both.

One of the greatest things about this book is that it is written in a very old fashion, like the nineteenth century gothic novels, and similar in style, though very different in content, to the works of Jane Austen. However, it is written with a modern audience in mind, and as such is easier to understand than older works. The language is somehow modern and archaic at once. The pacing is much faster than old books, and the description more in keeping with modern tastes. How Clarke combined the old-fashioned feel with modern preferences is more than I can understand, but I adored reading it. The narrator, though third-person and seemingly absent, manages to come in with some wickedly sarcastic comments and a truly snarky sense of humor that I for one found hilarious (bear in mind, this is a very dry humor, and very British.)

There is no way to do justice to this book by describing it. If you are fond of old-fashioned books, tales of magic, and good writing then this book is one that I highly recommend.


Friday, January 30, 2015

Flash Fiction Friday - Entrance to Faerie

            “It won’t work,” he said.
            “It’s too cold!” he said.
            “There’s no magic,” he said.
             “All you have to do,” said the instructor as patiently as he could, “Is step into the water.”
            “You don’t know what you’re doing,” he said.
            One little shove, thought the instructor. He pushed and the man fell into the water. But he didn’t disappear into Faerie. He thrashed as he went under again and again.
            A great, imposing figure rose from the water.
            “What makes you think we want him?”
            The instructor shrugged, watching the complainer struggle. “I guess the lake can have him.”


Today's Novel Idea Prompted by: "Fed up of hearing his constant whining, the training instructor walked behind him nonchalantly and shoved him in the water."