Review: You Are Here: Around the World in 92 Minutes by Chris Hadfield

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Hardcover, 208 pages
Published October 14th 2014 by Random House Canada
Source: Publisher

It must be strange and sort of terrifying to look down or at the world wholly, to be able to see the planet in all its glory and understand your own mortality, your own miniscule presence. Hadfield’s book presents a collection of pictures he took while at a space station from 2006 to 2008, I believe. The book archives a wonderful selection of pictures that show how beautiful and at the same time, how terrifying, our planet is. Hadfield’s accompanying commentary is humourous and insightful giving a glimpse of the brilliant mind behind the book. Recommended.

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The Reading Forecast

Another week, another forecast. I really like doing these. I veer off the course all the time but having these posts up help me to direct my reading somewhat. Anyway, on to the reading I have done.

Read last week:

  1. Twitter: The Comic – Mike Rosenthal (reviewed)
  2. Anna Dressed in Blood – Kendare Blake.
    Did not live up to the expectations, unfortunately. I liked it but was not blown away as I thought I would be.
  3. Magic Breaks – Illona Andrews
    A billion stars. I loved it.
  4. The Chapel Wars – Lindsey Leavitt
    It was okay.
  5. Heaven’s Queen – Rachel Bach
    I really liked this.
  6. Kill My Mother – Jules Feiffer
    This was weird but okay.
  7. Even More Bad Parenting Advice – Guy Delisle
    Loved it. Review coming soon.
  8. Tippy and the Night Parade – Lilli Carre
    Cute.
  9. Briony Hatch – Penelope and Ginny Skinner
    Liked it quite a bit.
  10. The Adventures of Superhero Girl – Faith Erin Hicks
    This was amazing. Enjoyed it immensely.
  11. Amulet 3 – Kazu Kabuishi
    Really liked it. Twist in the story!

Currently Reading:

  1. House of Many Ways – Diana Wynne Jones
    A little over halfway through and my dad and I are both loving this.
  2. Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage – Haruki Murakami
    The translation isn’t the best but the story (and the mystery) is compelling. I’m reading this slowly so I don’t know how long it’s going to take but I’m enjoying it so far.
  3. Around the World in 92 minutes – Chris Hadfield
    Certainly humbling and very awe-inspiring.

What I Plan to Read:

  1. Egg and Spoon by Gregory Maguire
    I plan to start it anyway. I want to read it before next week Wednesday so I can review it at The Book Wars.
  2. The Magician’s Guild by Trudi Caravan
    Should read this before I have to return it to the library.
  3. Crown of Midnight – Sarah J. Maas
    I’ll give it a whirl. I’m not sure I’ll like it or finish it but I’ll give it a whirl.
  4. Amulet 4 and 5 by Kazu Kibuishi
    I may get to Amulet 6 as well but I don’t know.

A Fantastic Journey: The Fall of Ile-Rien by Martha Wells

Today, I’m here to talk about one of the most amazing trilogies I’ve read for a very long time. As the title reveals, I am talking about The Fall of Il-Rien by Martha Wells.

The synopsis of the first book states:

Ile-Rien faces the grim specter of its own imminent demise. Once a fertile and prosperous land, it is now under attack by the Gardier, a mysterious army whose storm-black airships appear from nowhere to strike without warning. Every weapon in the arsenal of Ile-Rien’s revered wizards has proven useless — their magic quickly identified by the enemy and rendered instantly impotent, their conventional arms spontaneously and inexplicably exploded. And the last hope of a magical realm under siege rests within a child’s plaything.

The tiny sphere was created for Tremaine Valiarde’s amusement when she was a child of twelve, presented to her by her uncle Arisilde, the greatest of all sorcerers. But the mage — among the first to identify the impending Gardier threat, along with Tremaine’s notorious father, Nicholas, and one of the first to die because of it — secreted a power within the orb capable of defeating the invaders. And now, years later, it falls to a young woman lacking any magical knowledge and abil-ity to release it.

Tremaine’s initial attempts have disastrous consequences, transporting her to a strange world far removed from anything she has ever experienced or imagined. In this terrible and wondrous place — where primitive magic cultures lag far behind Ile-Rien’s sophisticated sorcery, where noble warriors clash with dark wizards, where starving demons prowl for prey and the Gardier prepare their assaults — Tremaine must somehow unlock the sphere’s powerful secrets . . . before the slow and monstrous awakening of a hideous evil is complete.

This is intriguing enough but the synopsis is unable to express what a wonderfully wry character Tremaine is. I was initially afraid to read the novel because I didn’t think I would be able to connect with Tremaine which I have to if I am going to accompany her on her adventures but then I started reading and I was delighted by her contemporary voice. Tremaine reads very much like a modern character: fun, sassy with a just a bit of macabre.

The synopsis is also unable to express how wonderfully immersive the relationships in the novel are–not just romantic relationships (which are squee-worthy without being mushy) but also relationships between friends, between parents, between mentors. Wells is able to build up a community within the large cast of characters present–you know, the kind fandoms are made of? Yeah.

The plot has a lot of twists and is always surprising. The worldbuilding is superlative and not as dense as one would expect considering the genre of the books. Fantasy with a large dose of Scifi to keep things spicy. I could go into detail about how much fun I had reading about the matriarchal society present in one of the worlds or how the bickering between Tremaine and her dad made me giggle loudly but the truth is, I think you all should go and read this book. If you like high fantasy, you will love this one. This is not YA by the way but it is very readable, fast-paced, substantially intellectual without being pretentious and just an all around fun read.

Read it!

 

Twitter: The Comic (The Book): Comics Based on the Greatest Tweets of Our Generation by Mike Rosenthal: A Review

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Paperback, 144 pages
Published August 19th 2014 by Chronicle Books
Source: Publisher

I have been in the mood for some light, humourous reads and this book definitely falls under that categoary. Mike Rosenthal archives (presumably) and then draws comics based on the tweets that he calls the greatest tweets of our generation – however, since Twitter has only been in existence for just one generation, take that with a grain of salt. The collection is sometimes funny but I think what would have served the collection better is if the tweets that inspired the comics were included. Because these tweets are what inspired the comics, I feel like without them the book is lacking.

Also, the humour. I like to think I have a sense of humour and that I understand what funniness is about but honestly, a lot of the comics left me bewildered. I’m not sure if it’s an American thing or a culture difference but I just didn’t find a lot of the comics funny. I didn’t even get what they were referring or whether they were alluding to something.

Therefore I cannot really be a judge of whether they were truly funny. I mean, if you were to ask me, I’d say some of them were, most of them weren’t.

Funny:

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What?

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The Grumpy Guide to Life by Grumpy Cat: A Review

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Hardcover, 112 pages
Published August 5th 2014 by Chronicle Books
Source: Publisher

I like cats. I like how sassy they are and how they just don’t care. I like the Grumpy Cat too because seeing his grumpy face makes me feel much better about the world. Just like Oscar the Grouch’s grouchiness made me feel better about being grouchy. The short book is full of humour; the kind of humour that makes you snort out loud or laugh like a hyena. As one does. It’s not meant to be taken seriously, at least I hope people don’t take it seriously. Because really, how can you take it seriously?

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I enjoyed it quite a bit. If you need a chuckle or know a pal who needs to laugh it off, give them this book and they’ll appreciate it.

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The Reading Forecast

Please bear with me a bit longer. I am not posting as much as I used to and I think that’s because I dedicate most of my blogging energies to The Book Wars but I am damned if I’m going to let BM die a slow death. I refuse! In fact, look forward to more posts from this week on. Not many mind you, but quality trumps over quantity, yea? I think so anyway. Anyway!

Books I Read Last Week:

  1. Revenge by Yoko Ogawa. 5 stars.
  2. Spera #2 by Josh Tierney et al. 4 stars
  3. Long Lankin by Lindsey Barraclough. 3.5 stars
  4. Akata Witch by Nnedi Orafor. 5 stars.
  5. Runaways by Brian K. Vaughan et al. 4 stars.
  6. 11 volumes of Noragami by Adachi Toka. Solid 4 stars for all of them.
  7. The Young Elites by Marie Lu. 4 stars.
  8. Ariol #5 by Emmanual Guibert. 3.5 stars
  9. The Grumpy Guide to Life by Grumpy Cat. 3 stars

So 19 books in total: 4 novels, 1 self-help book (ha), 3 graphic novels and 11 volumes of Manga. Not bad if I do say so myself.

I am currently reading:

  1. The House of Many Ways by Diana Wynne Jones
    I’m reading this to my parents, one chapter a night so it’s going to take me a fortnight or so to finish it. It’s okay. I’m enjoying it so far.
  2. Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake
    It’s the season for blood and horror and I felt like reading something scarier than my usual stuff. This definitely gives me Supernatural vibes but I’ve only read the first fifteen pages so far.
  3. Magic Breaks by Illona Andrews
    It’s Kate and Curran and shit is going down in Atlanta. I can’t wait to read more of it. I’m just scared that people are going to die and I”m going to be wrecked.
  4. Trial by Fire by Josephine Angelini
    I have a terrible feeling that I’m not going to like this one but I do have to review it so I’ll just read it.
  5. The Chapel Wars by Lindsey Leavitt
    I really liked Sean Griswold’s head and I’m on a search for that elusive thing the book had that Leavitt doesn’t seem to be able to replicate in her other books but hope dies slow and I’m still reading whatever she writes.

What I Plan to Read

If I finish the four I’m reading on my own, which I doubt since I’m marathoning a tv a show, I will pick up Heaven’s Queen by Rachel Bach. Maybe Unwrapped Sky by Rjurik Davidson. And probably many more graphic novels. I am due at the library to pick up holds.

Snow Like Ashes (Snow Like Ashes #1) by Sara Raasch

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Hardcover, 432 pages
Publication: October 14th, 2014 by Harpercollins
Source: Edelweiss

Snow Like Ashes did not start off very strongly for me; in fact, I did not like it at all and briefly flirted with the idea of not finishing it. However, I persisted because the idea of kingdoms separated by seasons fascinated me and I wanted to see how far the premise would be developed and whether it would be done so satisfactorily. Now, the first third aside, ultimately, I felt that the novel, though not perfect, is a strong one. There are some obvious gaps of logic that frustrated me, some questions that were not answered and I will elaborate on this momentarily.

Snow Like Ashes is about a group of survivors from the Kingdom of Winter which was conquered by the Kingdom of Spring. Now, the juxtaposition of destruction with spring is an interesting and one I am not sure works very well but let’s put that aside for now. Among this group of survivors is Meira who has grown up training to be a warrior and when we meet her is fighting her feelings for the crown prince of the Winter kingdom because she knows very well that a union between a prince and a peasant is out of the question.

In this world, a stone owned by the monarch is the focal point of the magic, that is to say, monarchs access the magic stored in this stone and then pass the magic on to the populace. When Winter was conquered by the king of Spring, their stone was split in two. The survivors have one goal: regain the two halves of the stone, join them and return the winter prince to his rightful place on the throne and remove the kingdom of Winter from the grasp of the Spring king.

Meira grew on me. Even though in the beginning, I questioned how the Winter soldiers are able to know and map the plans of a city and building they cannot move around openly in, I was able to move past it and get into the story. Meira’s inability to connect to the land of her birth makes for interesting reading and in one of the most poignant parts of the book, the reader is able to see Meira make a connection to her roots through the writings of the Winterians who died in the slave camps of the Spring kingdom. I liked that the melodrama is kept to a minimum and even though Meira does react explosively when she is told that the only way she can serve Winter is in a way she didn’t think she would have to, she does think things through calmly afterwards and looks beyond the capsule of her own self and her own life.

I also really appreciated the romance. It is a rare happening but I didn’t mind the love triangle in there because it is well done. Subtly, Raasch delineates the differences between the two guys and leaves the reader to connect the dots and choose who they want even though it is quite clear who Meira will choose by the end. The twist at the end was not something I expected and I have some qualms about the way it was executed but I was swept away by the story by the end.

I enjoyed this novel far more than I thought I would and if you are inclined to read this, I urge you to not give up and continue on and it will deliver. A fast ride with poignant moments, with themes of loss, love and identity. I look forward to reading the sequel.