What I’ve been Reading Lately

Clash of KingsClash of Kings by George RR Martin

It took all summer, but I knocked out the second book in a Song of Fire and Ice by George RR Martin. It’s cool how engrained in pop culture this world has become, thanks in large part to the HBO series that I am not watching because I wanted to read the books first. It’s cool that the more I read, the more apt I am to understand a gazillion memes and facebook references. And while the books are brutal and often hard to take, they are also (or have been so far) consistently compelling, which is a surprise when there are SO MANY characters and plot points to keep straight. The narrative jumps around all over the place, but I’m just as interested in (almost) every piece of it.

ShadowsShadows by Robin McKinley

We’re skipping a few books I read in the interim (and I re-read Dragonhaven, also by Robin McKinley, in the past few months as well), but Shadows is the NEW Robin McKinkey book. The new ROBIN MCKINLEY book. More people should be excited about this. I went to buy the book in hardcover on the day it came out (I’m actually a little ashamed of all the Robin McKinley books I’ve picked up used and at a discount, since she is a living writer that I adore and really want to support) and was sort of expecting that the bookstores would make as big a deal about the new release as I was making about it. You know, like there would be one of those window displays or something. But the local bookstore didn’t even HAVE the title. To their credit, it was ordered, and would be there on Monday, but that was WAY not soon enough. Luckily I was going to the mall anyway, and Books a Million did have the book on release date, but it was nonchalantly just back there on the teen Fiction shelf under M. You know, like it wasn’t even a big deal.

I’m not done with Shadows yet. This is not because it is not enthralling. It’s really good, and I’m making it last, because it will be a long time before the next NEW Robin McKinley book comes out. When I brought it home, I put it on display in the shelf in my living room and allowed the anticipation to build while I finished up A Clash of Kings, and a few other books I’d left hanging. Then when I finally started Shadows, I decided that, since it was a heavy hardcover book, I wouldn’t carry it with me all day. I would only read it at night, before going to bed. I purchased some fancy decaf vanilla tea specifically to drink at night while reading Shadows. And then I started reading another book, so that Shadows would take longer. I STILL HAVE OVER HALF OF SHADOWS LEFT. Winning. 🙂

BitterblueBitterblue by Kirsten Cashore

I’ve been wanting to read this since it came out over a year ago, but when I read Cashore’s other two [excellent] books they had already come out in paperback (or maybe I first borrowed Graceling from a library, and purchased it later when I started reading Fire?). I really like how the oversize paperback books look on my shelf, and I didn’t want to ruin it by buying Bitterblue in hardcover. I decided to just wait to read it until I could purchase the copy I wanted for my collection. It took a LONG TIME. Now I’m finally reading Bitterblue, and well over halfway through. It’s just as good and compelling as the books that came before it, and sometimes very funny. I’m going to have to reread Graceling and Fire again, because while these are all stand-alone, Bitterblue gives us a very different perspective on some of the main characters in the other books, and I want to go back and compare my initial impressions of these people with Bitterblue’s observations.

FinderFinder by Emma Bull

I bought this book in North Carolina a year ago (a fact I had forgotten until I found this old blog post) and I’m finally getting around to reading it. It’s been sitting around my room for the past month or so, and half-heartedly carried with me on expeditions where I thought I might be needing a book but wasn’t sure. I’ve finally dived into it this past week because the Bitterblue paperback was too nice (and heavy, it’s one of those big thick ones) to carry in my backpack to work and… because I wanted Bitterblue to take longer. Now Finder has ALSO gotten really good and exciting. And so, I am now reading three really excellent books (in addition to Game of Thrones 3 and some other oddments), and I don’t want any of them to end.

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Tolkien Week Post 4: The Collection

TolkienWeek

It’s stiiiiiiill Tolkien Week! And we’ve had our first contributor. 🙂

M.D. Sanchiz wrote a Tolkien Week post over at her very cool blog. Go check it out!

If you want to join the fun, here’s how: 1.) Take the Tolkien Week banner and place it at the beginning of a blog post. 2.) Link to gracemakley.com (because I made the banner and that’s good manners). 3.) Write a post about anything related to Tolkien (how did you first discover the books? What is your favorite movie interpretation? Any scenes or lines from the book that you find especially meaningful? Do you have a rad Tolkien collection you’d like to show off? Who’s your favorite Tolkien illustrator?). 4.) Let me know about your post by commenting here, and I will happily link to you as part of the Tolkien Week festivities.

My previous Tolkien Week Posts have been: The Hobbit (1977), The Return of the King (1980), and Unsung Illustrators.

The Collection

What better time than Tolkien week to celebrate all the Tolkien things I’ve managed to collect over the years? Here’s the collection. I mostly did a sweep of nearby shelves, without digging too deeply—I could have beefed it up significantly with all the movie posters, but most of them are rolled up in the closet. And yes, that is an official Glamdring replica sword, which usually hangs on a very pretty display plaque on the wall.

TheCollection01

 

Feel free to grab the Tolkien Week banner and share your own collection—or anything else you want to share about Tolkien. I’m running Tolkien week through Sunday, so you still have plenty of time.

Cheers!

Bookstore Treasures

Store: The Bookshop of Chapel Hill, North Carolina

http://www.bookshopofchapelhill.com/shop/chapelhill/index.html

Purchases:


Treason
by Orson Scott Card

Used, paperback, $2.99

A stand-alone Card book that I haven’t read yet. One of his earlier works. This is a version he went through and revised, post-Ender’s Game. I’m at about page 30, and so far it is a compelling read with some fascinating concepts, which is exactly what I look for in a Card novel.

Digression: I am aware that Orson Scott Card has been politically vocal in ways that myself and many of my colleagues find incompatible with our perception of the world. I still read his books, however, because I admired his writing long before I knew anything about his politics, and I have been both lifted and broken by his words too many times to cast them out of my life. Even when we disagree with people, isn’t it okay to still love them for the beautiful things that they are? Shouldn’t we try?

High Wizardry: The Young Wizards Series, Book 3 by Diane Duane

Used, Paperback, $3.25

I’m reading through this series very, very slowly—I began them in middle school, and read book 4 last spring. Book 2 (Deep Wizardry) is my favorite; the themes run powerful and deep. Book 4 (A Wizard Abroad) really lagged near the end. I’ve actually already read book 3, but I am collecting specifically this edition of the series, and it’s a little hard to find because they’ve recently been re-released with new cover illustrations. This purchase completes my collection through book 4.

Cover Talk: I feel like I really should prefer the new covers, as they are much more painterly and illustration-y, which is supposed to be my thing. With covers, though, it really comes down to what you read first. Also, something about the photographic quality of my favorite edition of covers really works to enhance the seriousness and real-world aspects of the series, whereas the new covers are just too cutesy and stylized to take themselves seriously (http://bowjamesbow.ca/images/young-wizards-1-3.jpg). Also, I just want all the books on my shelf to match.

The FinderFinder by Emma Bull

Used, Paperback, $2:50

Emma Bull does urban fantasy. I really enjoyed War for the Oaks. I couldn’t get into Territory, but maybe I didn’t give it enough of a chance. I’ve been meaning to read more of her stuff, and I’m hoping this will be a good one. Already, the first few pages were exciting.

Irish Myth and Legend: The Names Upon The Harp written by Marie Heaney and illustrated by P.J. Lynch

Large size paperback (8.5×11), used, $3.50

It’s about Ireland and it has the word “harp” in the title. Need I say more? Also, the illustrations are incredible, and Heaney re-tells several of the Irish tales that I am struggling to re-tell in Wanderlust. I didn’t bring any of the scholarly source materiel for these stories with me on my trip, and I’m hoping that reading someone else’s retelling will help me figure out how I want to do it, or at least give me some inspiration to get started again (I don’t have my marked-up manuscript with me either, but I recall that most of the story sections just had a big note next to them saying something along the lines of TELL THIS BETTER).

_________________________________

North Carolina is lovely, and in a few days I hope to tell you about the trip south and driving through mountains and getting to know family members I haven’t met in years and how much fun it is to say “y’all” un-ironically. Some other time, soon. Sometimes I get caught up in what this blog thing should be and forget that all it can be is what I have to give, at any given moment. Today, this is it.

-Grace out

P.S. Have you bought anything exciting at a bookstore lately? Feel free to share in the comments.

More Breadcrumbs: A Review

I found most of this review in my drafts, and thought it was too good not to post. It’s been almost two months since I actually read the book, though, which I first mentioned in this post.

Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu

When you read books as a writer, there are some books that are very encouraging because you think, hey, I could do that. And then there are books that just make you want to cry because how could I ever write a thing so bright? You know you have some grasp of prose and rhythm, a certain understanding of words that allowed you to get this far, but could you possibly write a thing where nearly every sentence is the kind that pierces and burns?

These are the thoughts I had while reading Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu. At least three sentences per page are absolute gems, or daggers. In Breadcrumbs Ursu references many favorite books for young people that the main character, Hazel, has read. Usually these sorts of references in a book make me cringe, because the book has not earned the right to talk about its betters. I feel that Breadcrumbs actually earned those references. While reading this book, I thought about reading it aloud. I thought about reading it to my children (after reading them Tolkien and Narnia and Wrinkle in Time and Potter and all those things it references).

The thing with Breadcrumbs is it’s exceptionally literary. It has all those connecty-bits, all those symbolism-things, all those deep-truthisms about childhood and growing up. It has… breadcrumbs of all the above, little pieces, interwoven thoughout everything.

In the interest of a fair review, I checked out some amazon.com reviews (if I ever get to be a famous writer, I am going to obsess over my reviews. I already read reviews of books I adore and get all angry at the bad ones). It has many many positive reviews… and a few really bad ones. The bad reviews’ main complaint seems to be that Hazel herself, and all the characters, aren’t very likable. Okay. Honestly? The words were so goddamn pretty all the time that I wasn’t thinking too much about Hazel and whether I liked her. The reviewers complain that she is self-centered, but isn’t everyone at that age? Isn’t everyone, ever? And I did like Hazel. I like Hazel in the narrative voice, loved it every time the narration switched to second person to portray her thoughts. I do think the most beautiful thing here  is the way Anne Ursu handles words, but for me that beauty extends generously, and is more than large enough to fill the main character and cover her thoughts and words.

Little Reviews

So I’ve schemed a scheme, and I’ve got a Big Thing coming up in a few days—big for me, anyway. I’ve been working hard to earn enough cash to enjoy the Big Thing, and I haven’t even had time to finish the post I’m writing about the wheres and the whys and what it means for Wanderlust. Right now, I just got home from eight hours of housepainting,  and I still have a list of things to do tonight: laundry, packing, cleaning, a little more painting, plus sorting out that real blog post, if I get a chance (I’d like to). I don’t have a lot else to give in the way of writing, so here’s what we’ll do: When I enter in a book at Goodreads, I like to write a quick review, a sort of off-the-cuff attempt to capture my impression of the book. Here’s what I thought of a few things I’ve read in the past few months, all books to which I gave five out of five stars.

The Mystery of Grace by Charles De Lint

This was really good. Shocking and heartbreaking, with just enough grit and grease to balance the themes of fantasy and faith. The Mystery of Grace is urban fantasy at its best.

 

 

 

Zombies vs Unicorns edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier

This book contained many fun and diverting stories. A very good read to pass the time, and some of the stories were surprisingly deep and challenging. Personally, I liked the unicorn stories best (and found the arrogant tone of the pro-zombie editor a little tiresome. Yeah, you like zombies. Do you have to be so insulting about it?).

 

 

Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

This is just as good as everyone says it is. Engaging and delightful and devastating, even if you thought you never wanted to start another one of those epic kingdom-building fantasy series again.

 

 

Pegasus by Robin McKinley

Robin McKinley has done it again. Those of us who played at pegasus-riding and My Little Pony in preschool may find it difficult to take a book titled ‘Pegasus’ seriously, but you can’t skip a book with the name Robin McKinley on it, and the sophisticated creatures in this book called pegasi may surprise you. Definitely give this book a read, but watch out for the cliffhanger ending. I can’t wait for the next book.