Wednesday, August 31, 2011

SDCC 2011 Winners!

The winners of the 3 Comic-Con prize packs are:

1) LoriStrongin
2) Louis
3) tetewa

Congrats! I will be emailing you in the order above to choose your prize packs. More giveaways coming up in September Zombies!!!

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Demon's Covenant

** spoilers for those who haven't read The Demon's Lexicon**

Mae Crawford is still trying to come to terms with the last couple of months. Her brother Jamie discovered he had magical powers. Nick discovered he was a demon trapped in a human body. Mae wants everything to go back to normal, but Jamie is suddenly getting close to Gerald, the new leader of the Obsidian Circle. Normally she wouldn't really care who her brother hangs out with, but when he suddenly befriends the leader of the group of magicians that tried to sacrifice them just a few weeks ago. This is bad and even worse is the fact that he tried to keep it from her. She turns to magician-hunter brothers Nick and Alan. In exchange for Nick's help and protection, she agrees to try to teach him to act more human. The Obsidian Circle wants to harness Nick's powers and use him against them, so the hodge podge outcast group must band together and fight. What can Mae do to help when she's not a fighter? Can she manage to save her brother?

Honestly, I was disappointed when I heard that The Demon's Covenant wasn't told through Nick's perspective. The first book was amazing and Nick was a big part of that for me. Also, second books in a trilogy tend to not really have plots of their own and only serve to set up the final book. I reluctantly started the book, but it didn't take me long to finish it and I enjoyed it as much as the first. Mae was an unlikely protagonist because she's only a human with no real fighting skills or any kind of magical powers. She wasn't all that memorable to me in the first book except for her ability to dance at the Goblin Market and her pink hair. However, she proved to be powerful and strong in her own way and definitely memorable. She was snarky, sarcastic, and exceptionally brave. This book expanded the readers' view of Mae, Jamie, and their home life. It was simply hilrious how their mother is completely prim and proper, the complete opposite of her children. As the book goes on, you can see where her children get their bravery, confidence, and fire from.

Of course, it wouldn't be a teen novel without a love triangle. Mae had feelings for both of the Ryves brothers and there were many a steamy moment between her and both of them (not at the same time). For me, Alan didn't hold a candle to Nick in any way. Alan just seemed like a huge liar with very little redeeming qualities. At least Nick couldn't lie even if he wanted to. Nick was just a more compelling character because he isn't fully human and to see the world through his eyes is truly unique. The diary passages of Nick's father were especially interesting because it shed light on what Nick was like as a child, how his family treated him, and how he treated them.

Although much of the novel was dark and gloomy, humor and wit was present in just about every single page. The dialog between the characters felt authentic and was also infused with wit and snarky humor. All of the characters, no matter how minor they were to the story, had dimension, flaws, and their own distinct voice. This was Sarah Rees Brennan's greatest strength and I can't wait to read more from her.

The Demon's Covenant was every bit as good as The Demon's Lexicon and featured an unlikely, but awesome character, Mae. Like the first book, through all the demons and magicians, this book was about family and what it is to be human. I can't wait to read The Demon's Surrender!

My rating: 4.5/5 fishmuffins

Friday, August 26, 2011

Carrier of the Mark

Megan Rosenberg has always moved around a lot. After her mother's death, her father just can't stay in one place for too long. This time, they are moving to Ireland because of her father's new job at a marina. When she goes to her new school for the first time, she immediately notices Adam DeRis and feels a magnetic connection to him. Unfortunately, he seems to avoid her at all costs. Other than this anomaly, Megan makes many friends like Caitlin, who tell her about the rumors that Adam and his family are druids and cast black magic. This doesn't deter Megan from her crush. As she spends more time with him, she notices strange things happening around him and his family. Is Adam some sort of druid? Is he dangerous? Why does she feel such a strong connection with him?

When I first heard about this book, I was really excited about it. I enjoy Ireland and paranormal books, plus the cover is gorgeous. I was also impressed that it was picked up by HarperCollins after being put up on InkPop, a creative writing community. However, Carrier of the Mark fell short of my expectations. I enjoyed the writing, the characters, and the dialog between Megan and her friends. The writing was really what kept me interested. It flowed really well and had energy behind it that kept me reading even when parts of the plot didn't interest me. The characters were well rounded and detailed. The dialog between them felt authentic and I wanted to know more about them. No one was a stock character and I wish the book was more focused on character development. The other aspect I really liked was the paranormal and mythological aspects. I had never heard of anything like it before. It seemed to be loosely based in Irish mythology with Leigh Fallon's own ideas thrown in. I loved it and again wished there was more of it.

The main problem I had was with the romance and some of the plot points. The romance was love at first sight and Adam and Megan became quickly obsessed with each other. I get that young love is intense, but they seemed too in love too quickly. I felt that their declarations of love and how they would die without each other got old really fast. There were a lot of similarities to Twilight including the forbidden love, girl moving to a new school and falling in love with the hot outcast, Adam's family, and even some structural problems. The main conflict was introduced very late and then resolved very quickly as well because their meeting and subsequent relationship took up about the first two thirds of the book. The beautiful Irish landscape and culture was also underplayed for the most part.

Overall, I liked Carrier of the Mark for the original paranormal storyline and skilled writing. The romance was overplayed, tiresome, and seemed to similar to others in its genre. I would read the next book in the series to see if the mythology is explored in greater detail.

My rating: 3/5 fishmuffins

** Carrier of the Mark comes out 10/4. Check it out here. **

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

My Theme Song

Brenna Yovanoff is having an awesome contest for an ARC of her upcoming novel The Space Between. Her challenge is to post a personal theme song, so I have chosen Up Up Down Down by nerd band Kirby Krackle. It starts off as a love song between two nerdy people using video game and comic book allusions (which is always awesome). Then the song takes a weird turn. After their first date, the girl shoves him into her house, cooks him, and eats him. Bam, cannibalism. Then the end rambles off. This song reminds me of my relationship with my boyfriend (sans cannibalism) because we met in a comic book shop and we've been together for almost 12 years. It also shows my quirky, dark sense of humor and my nerdiness.

If you'd like to join in the fun (or you just really want The Space Between), post your theme song here.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

If I Stay Playlist

Since music is such a huge part of If I Stay, how could I not write up a playlist?

1) Cello Sonata No. 3, 1st movement by Beethoven

This piece plays during the devastating car crash at the beginning of the book. It's a heartbreaking scene when the speakers still work in the mangle car and she still hears the music while seeing her parents' bodies. It's a beautiful piece and this video features two great musicians, Glenn Gould and Leonard Rose.

2) Mozart's Requiem

After an uncharacteristic funeral for a friend, Mia's mother rants about how he would have hated it. Mia says she would want Mozart's Requiem played at her funeral. It's a powerful piece that is even more tragic because the composer did not live to see its completion. The beginning of the recording is the "Dies Irae" or Day of Wrath, describing the day of judgment, and my favorite part of the Requiem mass.

3) Cello Suite No. 1, Prelude by J.S. Bach

I had to include this piece because it's the first thing that comes to mind when I think of the cello.

4) Transylvanian Concubine by Rasputina

Mia seems to think that cellos have no place in rock music. I kind of wish I could have reached into the book and given her a Rasputina CD, a band that features cellos and does indeed rock. This is their most mainstream song that I first heard on an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

5) Escape Artist by Zoe Keating

Zoe Keating is an incredibly talented cellist that used to play in Rasputina, but now releases very successful self published avant-garde classical music. This piece, and the album it's from called Into the Trees, fuses classical music and technology in a mindblowing way. She uses a foot pedal to record a line she plays and then layers on top of it in real time. The results are amazing. I saw her play a different piece live at an Amanda Palmer show and she made a mistake, but it was still magnificent performance that I will never forget. She also collaborates with Amanda Palmer on her first solo album. It shows that a cellist can create classical music and rock music and be good at both.

Any more songs/pieces to add? Any awesome music you just want to share?

Monday, August 22, 2011

If I Stay

Mia is an accomplished cellist and part of a loving, supportive family. On a normal family car ride, tragedy struck and a large truck hit their car. Now, she is inexplicably standing outside of her body, among the corpses of her parents, watching paramedics tend to her brother and herself. Not knowing if she's alive or dead, she follows her body to the hospital, where it lies comatose. As her friends and family come to visit her and talk to her, she thinks on the past and ponders an important question: should she fight to live or simply die?

I love If I Stay. I read it for a read-a-thon and just devoured it in a couple of hours. I didn't expect to like it so much. I heard a lot of rave reviews before I read it, but it didn't seem like something I would like. It seemed like a lame Nicholas Sparks novel whose only purpose is to make me cry. I was totally wrong. I love pretty much everything about this book. The book is told through Mia's eyes. It starts with the day of the accident and then the present interweaves with the past. While she sees her friends and family talk to her and watch them deal with her parents' deaths and her coma, Mia has flashbacks to important events with all her loved ones. The events show a realistic life that's not perfect, but filled with well meaning, loving people. They aren't in any particular order and each one lets the read get to know her and her circle of loved ones better. I think it gives the novel a more natural stream of consciousness feel as opposed to putting them in chronological order.

The prose is really beautiful. It's simple and straight forward, but descriptive as well. The story is emotionally driven without being manipulative. I think the writing makes it accessible to readers beyond young adults, younger and older. I was sucked into the story quickly mostly because of the vivid characters. The characters are detailed, realistic, and flawed. Getting to know the characters is heartbreaking because some of them died in the first few pages and you feel more of the pain they are feeling in the present. Mia is someone I would be friends with in real life because her character is so richly imagined and we have a lot in common. Unlike a lot of YA novels, I thought the romance between Mia and Adam is realistic. They aren't fully consumed by their love or super overdramatic or creepily codependent, like so many relationships are in YA. They love each other, but argue, disagree, and fight like real couples do.

My absolute favorite part of the novel is the music. Music is what really ties the story and all the characters together. Mia is a classical musician born to a family of rockers and her boyfriend is in an emo rock band. Even though they all enjoy and play different genres, they all share a love and passion for music. The juxtaposition of different opinions and genres allows them to learn to break through their preconception and respect each other. The descriptions of music and the experience playing music is wonderful and really what makes me love this book. I like that Gayle Forman names specific pieces and songs so I can go and listen to them while I read the book.

I enjoyed If I Stay because it's not just a depressing story. It's really about life and its complexities. The ending was perfect and beautiful. I cried many times throughout the book, but I also laughed and got frustrated with the characters. I would recommend this to those looking for a complex, emotional book.

My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark Playlist

On the car ride to the theater, a song came on that unexpectedly dealt with fairy tales. By coincidence, the movie Don't Be Afraid of the Dark did as well, inspiring me to gather some nice dark fairy tale songs.

1) Mein Herz Brennt (My Heart Burns) by Rammstein

I had no idea what this song was about until that car ride to the advanced screening. On a whim, my boyfriend looked up the lyrics on my phone and we were surprised by what we discovered:

Now, dear children, pay attention
I am the voice from the pillow
I have brought you something
I ripped it from my chest

With this heart I have the power
to blackmail the eyelids
I sing until the day awakes
a bright light on the heavens
my heart burns

They come to you in the night
demons, ghosts, black fairies
they creep out of the cellar shaft
and will look under your bedding

Now, dear children, pay attention
I am the voice from the pillow
I have brought you something
a bright light on the heavens
my heart burns

They come to you in the night
and steal your small hot tears
they wait until the moon awakes
and put them in my cold veins

Now, dear children, pay attention
I am the voice from the pillow
I sing until the day awakes
a bright light on the heavens
my heart burns

My heart burns

Lyrics from

Some of the lyrics come from a story call The Little Sandmen (Das Sandmannchen), a German TV show that started in the mid-1950's. The Sandmen would tell bedtime stories and start each one with "Now, dear children, pay attention. I have brought something for you" ("Nun, liebe Kinder, gebt fein Acht. Ich habe euch etwas mitgebracht.")

2) Gingerbread Coffin by Rasputina

This isn't a traditional fairy tale, but the imagery is indicative of fairy tales. I love this song. It's so haunting and beautiful. It has just stayed with me for a while and does remind me of a dark fairy tale. I think someone could expand on the story and make a wonderful novel. The video I chose is a compilation of Dresden Dolls, Evanescence, and Bjork videos, which was put together really well. Love it!

3) Long Red Hair by Vermillion Lies

This song tells a narrative story that is very fairy tale-like. Twin sisters are attached by the ends of their long red hair. One is fair and one is rosy. The fair one falls in love, while the other is indifferent. I can see Rose Red and Snow White, Sisters Red, and Rapunzel in this story just off the top of my head. Vermillion Lies is an awesome band made up of twin sisters Zoe and Kim Boekbinder. This song has a quirky sense of humor and it's super catchy and cheerful despit being kind of depressing. I love the video that expresses the story wonderfully in a style that matches that of the song. I especially enjoyed that one sister loves Amanda Palmer while the other likes Barbra Streisand.

4) Kilmeny by Mediaeval Baebes

This song originates from a 19th century poem of the same name. The poem was in a larger work called The Queen's Wake by James Hogg. The book centers around the return of Mary, Queen of Scots to Scotland in 1561. Bards had contests with song and poetry and this is one of those poems. I think it's a wonderful poem and the Mediaevel Baebes have put gorgeous music to it and sing it beautifully. There are some lyrics that really capture my imagination, like "Kilmeny, Kilmeny, where have you been? To a land that no mortal has ever seen..." I would love to read a story about Kilmeny and there are definitely fairy tale elements in her song. She tells of the wonderful land she's seen, but had to have returned to the real world, where all is not as serene and sublime. I love the story and the song.

Do any of you have any favorite fairy tale songs? Comment with your own picks!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark

** Spoilers for those who don't want to know what the monsters are in the movie. **

Sally Hurst is unhappy. Her mother gives her to her father, Alex, like a baseball card and ships her far away from her home and friends. She has to live in a huge, gloomy house with Alex and his girlfriend, Kim. Introverted and quiet, Sally is miserable in the new house and just wants to go home. Her only solace is in the hidden basement she discovered while exploring. She hears voices call her name and opens a gateway that has held these creatures at bay for nearly a century. At first, they seem to just want to be her friend. After destroying Kim's things and brutally attacking a gardener, Sally realizes that they just want to manipulate and hurt her. Even after these strange incidences, Kim and her father don't believe her and think she's a disturbed little girl who needs a therapist. Can Sally convince them of the danger before it's too late?

I had the wonderful opportunity to see an advanced screening of Don't Be Afraid of the Dark thanks to Screamfest. I went in expecting a cheesy ghost movie that would be a rip-off of Paranormal Activity or the Amityville Horror that I would not enjoy. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I was completely wrong. The film is actually a modern fairy tale with a lot of suspense mixed in. It starts off like a typical fairy tale with the unhappy daughter, stepmother, and father living together. Instead of an evil stepmother, Kim is actually very loving and the first person to believe Sally when she warns them about the menace in their house. She is more willing than Alex to get Sally out of harm's way even if it means losing money and prestige by cancelling an important dinner party. I like this role reversal from the typical fairy tale story. The reversal theme continues with the menacing creatures. They are fairies, which are typically the helpers to our young heroine, that have an affinity for teeth. Like the Tooth Fairy of my childhood, they leave money for teeth left underneath pillows, but they don't do this out of generosity. Their source of food is teeth and they especially like children's teeth. (For 2 clips with the tooth fairies, click here.) If you have seen Hellboy II, it's as if Guillermo del Toro took those tooth fairies, made them look a bit creepier, and gave them their own movie. Considering they were my favorite creature from that film, I am totally on board with this concept.

Unlike many other horror films, Don't Be Afraid of the Dark relies heavily on suspense and dark ambiance over heavy gore and torture. A couple of scenes are squirm inducing, but mostly due to implication. The very first scene in the film features the man who originally built the house removing his own teeth and the teeth of a maid to appease the tooth fairies and get his son back. Even with this scene and one other that is particularly creepy, this film should not be rated R. There isn't much blood and there is no nudity, cursing, or anything else I can think of that would warrant such a rating. The house is beautiful and the perfect gothic setting for the story. The music by Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders enhances the creepy and haunting feel of the film. The architecture and the art of the original owner of the house are a perfect complement as well. The art was actually drawn by Keith Thompson, who also illustrated Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan series and he creates magic with just a black and white palette.

The film, however, isn't perfect. A Polaroid camera is used extensively throughout the film. This may be a nod to the original version from the 70's, but a digital camera would have worked just as well. Plus Polaroid cameras aren't even made anymore, so it seems irrelevant in a modern film. The creatures' strengths and weaknesses fluctuated a lot throughout, from their numbers to the degree of their light sensitivity to their speed, without any real sense why. It seemed like if they had the same strength they had at the end, they could have easily won very early on, but then there would be no movie. That's not a good rationale and comes off as inconsistent story telling.

Overall, Don't Be Afraid of the Dark is a dark and wonderful deconstructed fairy tale. Bailee Madison's performance as Sally is nuanced, mature, and frankly amazing. I would recommend this to fans of dark fantasy and Pan's Labyrinth.

My rating: 8/10

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Some Cool Stuff!

I have some cool stuff to share with you!

1) White Whisker Books, the publisher of E. Van Lowe's upcoming book Boyfriend from Hell, used a quote from my review on the Amazon and Barnes and Noble pages for the eBook. So awesome! I did a happy dance when E let me know about it. :) Some other blogs are quoted as well, such as Pretty Opinionated, Lalaine's Fiction Book Reviews, and My Neurotic Book Affair.

2) A magazine called The Yeti had an article in the April issue called What Directors Are Doing to Get Into Your Skull about the growing trend of modern horror films pushing the boundaries of violence. (Be warned that pictures in the article are NSFW.) My post about the film Deadgirl was referenced as proof of "scholars of cinema coming to the aid of gory titles like these" which "could mean that the definition of propriety is changing yet again in today's film world." I'm practically giddy that someone used me as a reference in favor of a movement I care about. Under the article is also a cool interview with Lucky McKee, director of May and Sick Girl, about his film The Woman and other horror titles, such as A Serbian Film.

3) My blog almost has 100 followers! Yay!

4) September Zombies is just around the corner! My favorite time of year! You can look forward to 30 days of awesome zombie post: book reviews, movie reviews, zombie music, and hopefully some author interviews.

Monday, August 15, 2011

A Clash of Kings

** Major spoilers for A Game of Thrones. **

King Robert Baratheon is dead and his distasteful heir Joffrey holds the throne with Cersei Lannister as the Queen Regent. They and the rest of the Lannisters fight to keep the throne, but having Joffrey as king who is both sadistic and wrathful doesn't ingratiate the family to their people. Robert's brothers Stannis and Renly both make known their claims to the throne and refuse to compromise with each other. Stannis is the eldest and unrelenting, but Renly is the most loved and charismatic. Robb Stark has been declared King in the North, splitting the land in half, and causing him to fill his father's not inconsiderable shoes and rescue his sisters from the clutches of the Lannisters. Daenerys nurses her three newborn dragons across the ocean and struggles to gather followers to take back to the Seven Kingdoms so she can claim her birthright, the Iron Throne. Outside of all these self proclaimed rulers, the Night's Watch grows smaller and discovers a great barbarian force beyond the Wall and creatures of legend that they never thought actually existed.

This series just gets better and better. Although close to a thousand pages, I devoured this book within a week. I was just compelled to read it at every spare moment. The characters and complex story just sucked me in. More characters are introduced in A Clash of Kings, such as Stannis Baratheon, Melisandre, Brienne of Tarth. In general, I either really love or really hate characters in these books and sometimes I'm just confused because their own narrative portrays them one way while through others' eyes they are portrayed in a different way. Stannis brings in a new concept that hadn't been explored before: religious fanaticism. He wants to take over the throne with the Lord of Light, but he also forsakes all the other gods that are typically worshiped in this world. He doesn't believe in the Lord of Light, but Melisandre does and this evil sorceress helps him enormously. Brienne of Tarth is another strong female character in this series. For a world that is highly misogynistic, there are a lot of strong women that hold more power than expected. This just shows that misogyny in a story doesn't necessarily mean the story itself or the author is misogynistic. Brienne is different than other women because she is a knight and feels awkward as a woman because she isn't good at things women are expected good at. She proves to be a kick-ass character and just seems born in the wrong time and the wrong world.

Other characters are developed from the previous novel, such as Tyrion Lannister and Sandor Clegane. He is one of my favorite characters in these books. His narrative is laced with wit and cleverness. His is probably the only one where I laugh out loud. He becomes the King's Hand at the end of A Game of Thrones to pick up Joffrey's messes and ingratiate the family with others. In addition to this, he seeks to punish those responsible for Eddard Stark's murderers and to thwart his sister Cersei's commands. He tries very hard to treat those who are weak with kindness and to seek what justice he can provide, but also wants his family to succeed who are largely cruel and horrible. Reading his story, I though his efforts were admirable and he accomplished a lot, but the commoners misinterpret his actions as tyranny and just see him as a horrible, power hungry dwarf. It broke my heart to read that because he's such a good character at heart. On the other hand, I started out hating Sandor Clegane. He was just a dog to carry out his masters commands. In this book, he still does that, but shows a more tender side that I never thought was there. He actually capable of protecting people. It shocked me to find that I had sympathy for him and that he wasn't such a bad guy. George R.R. Martin's writing is amazing and it really shows through his characters.

The story is even more complex than the last book (what with about 10 people declaring themselves King) and the cast of characters expands and contracts with shocking ease. The twists and turns come out of nowhere in A Clash of Kings and leave me with my mouth hanging open in shock. If you're looking for an involved story, intrigue, violence, war, mystery, fantastical creatures, and a very large fight for a throne, I would highly recommend this series.

My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins

** If you'd like to win the first book, A Game of Thrones, I'm giving away a copy in my Comic-Con Giveaway! **

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Fox Inheritance

Lock, Kara, and Jenna were all involved in horrible accident that destroyed their bodies. Their minds were imprisoned in electronic devices. Unbeknownst to the outside world, the three teens were both aware and suffering in the nothingness that contains them. They could communicate in the void and still had each other. Then Jenna disappeared, leaving Kara and Lock alone. They wake up 260 years later in a world they don't recognize, where everyone they once knew is dead except for Jenna Fox. A scientist wants to use the technology that trapped their minds and created their new bodies to market to very rich people and is using them as advertisements. Kara is very different from the person she used to be. She's violent, angry, and blames everything on Jenna. Kara disappears and Lock must get to Jenna before Kara does. He embarks on a journey and picks up unexpected friends along the way. Can he warn Jenna before Kara gets to her?

The Fox Inheritance is a great followup to The Adoration of Jenna Fox. Even though the beginning is similar to the first novel, Kara and Lock don't go through the same process of regaining their memories after waking up like Jenna did. Technology has become advanced enough that their memories are immediately accessible. The plot really takes off when the journey to California starts. Kara is nowhere to be found, which is creepy considering she's a sociopath. She could be doing or planning anything while Lock is running after her. On top of this already troubling situation, Lock has to avoid the scientist they ran away from and the government. The scientist wants to protect his investment and still use them for advertising, but can't call the police because of his own illegal activities. The government is after him because he has no identification and his existence is illegal because there wasn't any part of his original body used in the creation of his new, artificial body. The tension and suspense are what drives most of the story.

On the way to California, Lock meets an unexpected ally who is one of my favorite characters: Dot Jefferson. She's a cab driving bot that has no legs and a big heart. The world has changed a lot and bots like her are a common sight everywhere. They do menial jobs and are bullied or ignored. Dot and many others of her kind dream and want freedom, but the consequences for such behavior are harsh. Dot is taking a huge risk when she goes with Lock and she proves invaluable to him. She represents the hope that is still alive within the dystopian society that values security over freedom. This characters also challenges our definition of humanity. dot is one of the most human characters in the entire book, but she was manufactured in a factory.

My only criticism is the pacing is a little bit slow despite the tension through the first two thirds of the novel. Overall, The Fox Inheritance is an exciting sequel that outshines its predecessor. I would recommend this to younger readers and those looking for an introduction into the science fiction genre.

My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins

** This book comes out 8/30. Check it out here. **

Friday, August 12, 2011

Game of Thrones

In the Seven Kingdoms, winter is coming. Summer has lasted over 10 years and autumn is finally approaching, the harbinger of a long winter. North of the Seven Kingdoms, a supernatural force is gathering to battle against men. In the kingdom, the Hand of the King mysteriously dies, prompting King Robert Baratheon to ask his friend Eddard Stark to fill the position. Before he leaves, Eddard's son Bran has a tragic accident and he leaves not knowing whether his son will live or die. He enters King's Landing and a court where words and whispers are as sharp as knives. Treading carefully, he investigates the previous Hand's death and tries to run the kingdom despite empty coffers, a drunken, complacent king, and treacherous advisers. While he is away, Winterfell is in distress. An assassin tries to kill Bran, leading Catelynn, his mother, to suspect the Lannister family had something to do with his accident. She rides out to seek justice, leaving her 3 sons to rule. Can the Starks find out who their enemies are? Can Eddard save the King from the same fate as his Hand?

I started out watching the television series, which I enjoyed, but the book makes it pale in comparison. I'm honestly not typically a fan of high fantasy. The stories seem very similar and rip-offs of Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. I didn't expect to like Game of Thrones at all and I was pleasantly surprised. This series is completely different from most others in its genre. Magic is usually a large aspect of fantasy, but the instances of it in Game of Thrones are few and far between. I even forgot I was reading a fantasy at times. The plot is very detailed and complex with many story lines and subplots in each chapter. I love Martin's writing style and he manages to be detailed without being overwrought or slow. My summary of the plot doesn't do this book justice at all because there is so much more going on besides that one plot line. The story is also realistic and gritty. There is no romanticism nor is it an idealistic view of the Medieval era. Life is hard and it gets progressively harder as the book progresses. No character is safe, which George R. R. Martin demonstrates by the end of the novel.

These characters are incredibly detailed and unique in their own way. My favorite are Eddard Stark, Tyrion Lannister, and Arya Stark. Eddard is honorable, serious, and reserved which can be mistaken for coldness by those who don't know him well. Arya is supposed to become a lady that will marry and bear heirs, but she's more interested in sword fighting and getting into trouble. Tyrion is a deformed dwarf and the shame of his noble family. He makes up for his lack of looks and height with cunning, intelligence, and humor. They don't fit into typical archetypes popular in the genre and seem more like actual people. These characters are not always clearly good or evil, but rest in shades of grey. Sometimes there isn't a clear hero or villain to depend upon or blame in each situation. Each chapter is told from a different perspective and Martin clearly captures each voice. Some chapters may even cover the same event and each character involved has a different view of it and a different version of the truth. This view of each character challenges the reader's views and sometimes even makes immoral or seemingly evil characters likeable.

I haven't felt this sense of urgency when reading a book in a while. I felt compelled to read at every possible moment even though I knew what was going to happen. If you like realistic characters, mystery, intrigue, and aren't easily offended, I would highly recommend Game of Thrones.

My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins

** You can win a copy of Game of Thrones in my Comic-Con giveaway here. **

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Night Circus Playlist

Here are some songs that reminded me of The Night Circus or shared some themes with it.

1) Aqua is an awesome pop band from my childhood. I recently was given their album Aquarius and this is one of my favorite tracks from it: Goodbye to the Circus.

2) Mirrormask is one of my favorite movies. It's kind of like Labyrinth and The Wizard of Oz with Neil Gaiman thrown in the mix. The story is about Helena whose family owns a circus. She fights with her parents as teens are wont to do because she just wants a normal life, but her mother gets very sick and she blames it on herself. She goes into this other world where she must wake the White Queen and find her double to return to her mother the Dark Queen. Anyway, the film score by Iain Ballamy is wonderful. He puts together instruments I never thought would work well together like the soprano sax and the accordian. The melodies just seem to soar out and it sounds effortless. I just love it and it has a magical quality. Watch the film if you haven't yet.

3) The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is a film that has a similar feel to The Night Circus. The story is about an aging but immortal magician who bets against the Devil and madness ensues. I need to watch the movie again because it's very surreal, but I would recommend it. The score is beautiful and is composed by Mychael and Jeff Danna. I don't recall hearing other scores by them, but this one is wonderful.

4) Vermillion Lies was introduced to me because they opened for Amanda Palmer. They are comprised of twin sisters Kim and Zoe Boekbinder and they incorporate carabet and circus into their music. Their song is a little darker than The Night Circus, but is delightful nonetheless.

Any playlists for books you guys have read? Please share! :)

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Night Circus

Two magicians, one who calls himself Prospero and the other has no name that anyone remembers, are locked in a competition of sorts. These men aren't the competitors. Instead, they choose children to groom and teach for years until they are ready to battle. As they grow up, the children, Celia and Marco, are only given bits and pieces of the situation to work with and are largely kept in the dark. When the aging illusionists find their respective protegés ready, the duel begins, using Le Cirque des Rêves as a battleground. This enchanting traveling circus features a monochromatic color palette and the most unique performances from around the world. It arrives unannounced and only opens its doors at night. The circus touches the lives of people in each city it travels to. Celia and Marco unexpectedly fall in love there despite being pitted against each other. However, the competition must end at any cost. Can Celia and Marco end their mentors' duel and still be together or will it destroy them?

I was entranced by The Night Circus from the very first page. I literally read it in one sitting because I couldn't put it down. The story was infused with magic that was used in a way I had never seen before. In addition to being incredibly imaginative, the language used was lyrical and fluid without being overwrought. This is especially impressive because it would be very easy to over describe the marvels within the circus. Morgenstern's writing was so elegant and she balanced the darkness and light in her novel very well. The setting in both time and place made this book special. The novel took place in a span of time from the late nineteenth century to the early twentieth century. This industrialized time was an interesting choice for something so magical. Magic seemed to not have a place there outside of the circus, but it provided a contrast between the two worlds. The circus was just exquisite. The performers, the presentation, the illusions, and all the different attractions were my favorite part of the novel. I really couldn't get enough of it. I am definitely a rêveur at heart.

I absolutely loved the structure of the novel. Each chapter was only a few pages long, but it manipulated the tempo of the novel and made me feel as if it were passing quickly. The perspective jumps around between main characters whose numbers grow and shrink as they enter or exit the story. Each view reveals something about the circus or the competition that may no even make sense until reading others' stories much later. The written in the third person which I liked because it made the writing feel more uniform and like I was being plunged into a world. Changing voices every chapter would have been tiresome in this format. The narration also The other thing I really liked about the format was the second person voice that was would last for only a couple of pages interspersed between the other characters' chapters that made me feel as if I were seeing this circus for the first time. It was a small touch, but made me forget the rest of the world while I read it more easily than usual.

The Night Circus was an all around great read with mystery, suspense, romance, and magic. I was almost disappointed that I only took a day to read it because I wanted to stay immersed in that world a bit longer. The book was very visual in nature and I'm excited to hear that it's going to be made into a film. I would recommend this to any fans of Geek Love, Water for Elephants, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell or films like The Prestige.

My rating: 4.5/5 fishmuffins

**The Night Circus will be released on 9/13. Check it out here.**

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Lantern

Eve fell for mysterious and secretive Dom in a whirlwind romance in France. They buy an old, crumbling farm called Les Genévriers. At first all is well. Dom is happy playing and writing music and Eve is happy reading and writing. The idyllic summer passes and winter comes with strange happenings and dark mysteries. Dom’s previous wife vanished and Dom refuses to talk about her at all, leading Eve to assume the worst and try to uncover the truth. The strange happenings increase in frequency, creating even more tension between Dom and Eve. The past of Les Genévriers is also entwined in the mystery. Eve must figure out both Rachel’s fate and the fate of the previous inhabitants to before the same fate befalls her and Dom.

The Lantern is a beautifully written story. The lyrical descriptions and the historical setting really drew me in. I was engaged in the story very quickly. The setting in the French countryside is absolutely beautiful and creates a unique atmosphere for this modern gothic tale. The story is told in alternating points of view from Eve in modern times and Benedicte in the past. Both tales are interesting and have their own mysteries to sort out. Eve needs to find out about Dom’s secrets. Benedicte’s problems don’t become apparent until pretty late into the book. Her narrative jumps around in time and covers her childhood to old age. Her family goes through misfortune after misfortune from her father’s death to her abusive brother leeching off the family to her sister going blind. The stories subtly intersect with some objects and small events until the end when the two stories connect in a significant way. Benedicte and Eve are both compelling characters that I enjoyed following throughout the novel.

I did have a few problems with the book. The chapters aren’t labeled, so if I had put down the book and picked it up, I would be confused for a while until I figured out which chapter I was in. The story moves very slowly in some parts. Even though the language is beautiful, it gets a little tedious when nothing is really happening. Dom wasn’t really likeable or fleshed out. One of the big problems was just his refusal to tell Eve anything about his past. It seems kind of ridiculous in a modern setting for him to be so obstinate when his actions were obviously hurting his relationship. Even though Eve and Dom were supposed to be in love, I felt it wasn’t shown in a believable way before their relationship started to break down. The plot was predictable for the most part.

The Lantern is a unique book that brings the gothic novel to the present. The masterful writing flows easily and creates memorable images with florid descriptions. The novel definitely has some flaws, but through it all, I was interested throughout the novel and I would read more from Deborah Lawrenson.

My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins

This book will be released 8/9. Check it out here!

Friday, August 5, 2011

SDCC 2011: Giveaway!

As you can see from the In My Mailbox from Comic-Con, I got a lot of free books and a few doubles because of my boyfriend. I have decided to have a giveaway to share my books and swag with you guys! There are 3 different bundles up for grabs.

1) Urban Fantasy

* Nightshade ARC by Andrea Cremer
* Greywalker by Kat Richardson
* Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey

2) Science Fiction

* Crossed by Ally Condie
* The Strain by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan
* Star Carrier by Ian Douglas

3) High Fantasy and a random mystery/thriller book

* Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin
* Genesis of Shannara by Terry Brooks
* The Bride Collector by Ted Dekker

There will be 3 winners. The first person chosen gets first choice, the second person has second choice, etc.

To enter:

* must be a follower
* leave a comment with your email address
* for extra entries, comment on any of my posts labelled SDCC 2011 (+1 for each, previous comments count) and/or spread the word somewhere (+1 each limit 2, links in the comment please).
* This giveaway is only going to be for the US. I spent all my money at Comic Con, but my next giveaways will be international.
* ends August 27

Thursday, August 4, 2011

SDCC 2011: Panels

I finally feel human again! Yay! I've been fighting off my Comic-con cough and I feel so much better. I feel kinda bad that I haven't been posting that much, but there's a giveaway in the extremely near future to make up for it! On to the panels...

On Thursday, I unfortunately did not go to any panels at all. :( I didn't get into the Con until 10:30, so the Deadliest Warrior: Vampires vs. Zombies panel was almost over by then. I went an hour early to see the Game of Thrones panel. The line didn't seem to long until I realized it went outside and looped on itself about 5 times. The volunteer said if we weren't in line for 4 hours, we weren't getting in. So we were about 2 hours early for the Dr. Horrible screening which was nearby, but that line was also ridiculously long. *sigh* We still had a lot of fun that first day. I'm glad we didn't choose to spend hours and hours standing in line instead of finding free stuff, shopping, and playing Magic.

So the next day, we were resolved to see the Magic: the Gathering panel. So much so that my boyfriend DJ decided to sit in the room it was in for 5 hours and seeing 2 other panels.

The first panel was about Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine. I had seen it in the bookstores and magazine racks next to my preferred horror magazines Fangoria, Horrorhound, and Rue Morgue, but the covers always seemed to feature old horror films. I was interested in what was new and little known. I didn't know the magazine actually shows you how to get the effects and monsters that are in those films. They also cover interviews, reviews, and retrospectives. The magazine is more for the whole family whereas the other magazines would definitely not be for children. I left halfway through the panel to get a galley from PenguinTeen of Cornelia Funke, but I actually misread it and it was the Relic Hunter by Catherine Fisher. It still looks good anyway. I went back to the room and saw the second panel. On the way, I passed a huge crowd of people that were waiting for the Magic panel.

The second panel was about being a successful comic book retailer. My boyfriend really wanted to see this because one of his dreams is to have a comic book/hobby store with an adjacent cafe/restaurant. I walked in when someone asked how to get more female customers in the store. Being a female customer, I was instantly interested in how this question would be answered. One woman on the panel recommended a "for girlfriends" shelf and having a girls' night where women can come and meet other women and play games together. Another female comic book store owner advocated assuming that everyone who walks into the store is a client. So many times, I've been dismissed as this customer's girlfriend when I actually read more comic books than he does. Other people had questions that were very interesting. A store owner from Mexico wanted to know how to get product from the US. Another retailer wanted to know if he should keep back issues in his store or not. The discussion was surprisingly interesting and I learned a lot about what to do in order to have a successful comic book store.

Finally, it's time for the Magic Panel!!! First, the flood of people outside took a while to fill in every available seat. The ballroom was fairly small, only seating 200-300 people, so quite a few were turned away. (Hopefully it will be in a bigger venue next year.) Every seat had a t-shirt with a mana symbol on it, which was awesome except that they were all extra larges. (Yay, nightshirt for me!) Anyway, everyone settled down and they started to reveal things to come in the future of Magic. On the panel were the people behind the card game: Mark Rosewater (head Magic designer), Aaron Forsythe (research and development), Matt Cavotta (head creative Magic art director), and Mark Purvis (manager).

First, some cards for From the Vaults: Legends were revealed. These are small groups of cards put out in limited edition box set of 15 cards in premium foil (meaning they are pretty and shiny). This set goes with the Commander decks that were just released because you can use all of these legendary creatures as a general in that format. 7 of these cards are going to have alternate art and there will be one preview card from the next set Innistrad, which will come out in October. Here are some of the legends:

Kresh the Bloodbraided*

Doran, the Siege Tower

Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker

Sun Quan, Lord of Wu

Next, they revealed the art of the 2 planeswalkers from the new duel deck, Nicol Bolas vs. Ajani

Ajani Vengeant

Nicol Bolas

Next was what I was really excited about: Innistrad! This is the next set in Magic and the start of a new block. According to Mike Rosewater, the set is going to be based on classic horror films with creature types such as:

Unlike other sets, these creatures won't only be seen in black. Vampires will be black and red. Zombies will be black and blue. Werewolves will be green and red. I'm really looking forward to the new set!!

There are 2 other art from cards that are released, but no word on what they do. This art is just gorgeous. The panel said if you play zombies, you will use this card, so I can't wait!

I really hope this picture is for a new Sorin Markov planeswalker that is actually usable in standard, but we won't see until the set after Innistrad, Dark Ascension.

Next came the Q&A, which included such questions as "Why did you take so long to realize Jace, the Mind Sculptor was broken?" The really awesome part of the Q&A was the random prizes given out. One person got a box of Legends in Italian. Another got a pack of Arabian Nights and got a Library of Alexandria, which is a card worth about $300. One unlucky fellow got a pack of Beta, the second set of Magic ever, and got a basic land for a rare. :( A little boy received an original painting of a card called Creepy Dolls that will be in Innistrad.

Even though this is the only panel that I got to see that was planned, it was totally worth it.

* Sorry about the quality! The lights were on up until the vampire picture, so the projections look really crappy before then.