The Return of Alcatraz

Alcatraz #5: The Dark Talent by Brandon Sanderson

As usual, I loved, loved, love this book. I just find the writing style, the commentary on writing, the delightful internal dialogue and just the straight wackiness of it. And so, so many librarian jokes.

I was really disappointed in the ending though because it didn’t really end. It was just over and the narrator insisted this was the end of the series and I believed it because I’d heard there was only supposed to be 5 books. It just totally failed to wrap up the story and it made me really sad.

But the more I thought about it, the more I thought it was okay. This abrupt, unhappy ending actually kind of worked with the genre bending, commentary on language and tropes. To have such a surprising, unpredictable ending like that, kind of genius and plays into the whole story really well, even if it didn’t make me happy.

Only then I found out there’s going to be a sixth book. So I guess I’ll have to wait and see how it all ends.

Anyway, I still love and recommend the series completely, even if they’re a little abstract for younger readers.

Last movie I watched:

The Santa Clause? I think. It’s a good one I feel.

Last TV show I watched:

Supernatural. This episode isn’t that great, but we’ll see how it goes.

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A dud. They have to happen sometimes

The Black Stallion and the Lost City by Steven Farley

I picked up this book years ago after the series was withdrawn from the library I was working in at the time. The library usually couldn’t keep serial horse fiction on the shelves they were so popular, so I was surprised this one was withdrawn. Until I read it, and then it made sense.

This book wasn’t really bad, it just wasn’t really anything. The story starts with the Black and Alex, his rider, in Greece filming a movie about Alexander the Great. Shooting is disrupted one day so the Black, Alex and a friend go out on a ride, come across a beautiful white mare and end up following her into a mythical city were people drink magical water that keeps them young and healthy for a very long time, and spoiler alert, at the end of their lives are fed to the sacred fleshing eating horses from Greek Mythology.

The story is fine I suppose but unoriginal. The writing style is flat and uninteresting. The characters are generally characterless and the mystery of the city is ruined by the flap on the cover, so as a reader it’s just a matter of time before the story unfolds. It’s not even bad enough to real blog critically about.

There is no chance of me recommending this book. I’m not sorry I read it, even though it took forever because there was no narrative drive, I’m just probably never going to think of it ever again.

Last movie I watched:

X-men Apocalypse I think? If so, it was way better than I thought it would be.

Last TV episode I watched:

The Fosters. It’s a great show. I love it. They might be getting a little extreme about creating enough drama for this to go on as long as it has, but I love it anyway.

 

 

It’s getting more magical!

Cainesville Book 2: Visions by Kelley Armstrong

Everyone is really lucky I couldn’t figure out  how to spell the excited noises I shouted when I finished this book. Otherwise this blog post would have just been a string of crazy excited noises spelled out.

Because I want to encourage people to read these books (because they are awesome) I’m going to try not to spoil anything. But I’m pretty sure there’s no way to do this without spoiling a little bit of Omens, the first book in the series. So, if you think there’s the slightest change you’d enjoy this series (and if you don’t think you would, I’m sorry) leave now.Just go.

Visions takes place soon after the events of Omens, when Olivia returns to parent’s home to get some of her stuff . When she returns to her car she finds a dead body sitting in it. After this terrifying incident Gabrielle and Olivia are on the case again, not only trying to clear her biological parents of the six murders they are still serving time for but also investigating the death of this young woman. And it turns out, investigating the murder of this young women will bring them closer and closer to the secret of Cainesville, reveal some new enemies and lead them to some new allies.

Where the first book was a weird but exciting blend of science fiction and magic, this book is definitely leaning more to the magical side, and I’m pretty excited about it. The story draws on a lot of mythological history but also very subtly. As more of the residents of Cainesville start to show their real identities the mix of first person and third person narration makes it practically impossible not to speculate about who’s who and shout agitatedly at Olivia and Gabrielle as they fumble around the truth. Or maybe other people don’t talk to fictional characters. It made it nearly impossible for me not to anyway.

While I don’t necessarily advocate monitoring what children and teens are reading based on content  this book has a lot more sex than the last one, so it probably belongs in the adult section of the library. But if you are okay with the sex, like a little romance, a little mystery, a little science fiction, a little fantasy or a mix of any of these, I really can’t emphasis enough how much you’ll like this book.

That’s all I can say about that without telling everyone about all the amazing things i’m going to accidentally spoil for them.

Last movie I watched: About Time. Still a favourite

Last TV episode I watched: Love it or List It maybe? DAMN IT HILARY.

My first experience with Kelley Armstrong

Omens by Kelley Armstrong

I met Kelley Armstrong once at the library I was working at. She came to do a book signing. She was really nice but I hadn’t read any of her books.

Now I have. And it was amazing.

Omens is a fantastic book about a wealthy young woman who has everything going for her. Olivia  is engaged to a man who will run for senator in a few years. She doesn’t have to work so she focuses her time on pursuing her interests in Victorian literature and volunteering. But despite it all, she doesn’t feel quite right. Then one day her whole world comes shattering down when she learns that she’s not who she thinks she is – she was adopted at age three and her birth parents are serial killers. Her mom doesn’t know how to deal with it. Her fiancee wants to postpone the wedding. The media is having a field day. Olivia bolts. Betrayed by the people she thinks she can count on she is determined to make it on her own. But it’s harder than it looks and she finds herself in a little town called Cainsville. The people are welcoming, the rent is affordable but something about the place is just a little creepy. There, with the help of a lawyer, Gabriel Walsh from Cainsville who also represented her birth mother, Olivia sets out to find out exactly who parents are and follows the leads to some unlikely places.

This book is really neat. It’s got just a slight hint of supernatural and science fiction in it and it’s pretty unlike any other series I’ve ever read because of it. Armstrong does a great job of mixing a creepy, superstitious tone in with an depressingly feasible science fiction plot and a mystery all in one. Olivia and Gabriel are realistic and cool characters. The supporting cast of Cainsville residents are charming. While most of the story is told in first person, there are some short chapters scattered through the story offer really interesting insights and hints about the story. While I normally don’t like inconsistency in narration, in this book it just teases a little and makes the story very compelling.

Because there are so many potential spoilers and I enjoyed it so much, I’m having a hard time talking about the story. I’m reading the second one now, so I suppose tune in later for a more comprehensive (and spoilers) discussion of this book.

Last movie I watched:

Still probably the Back Up Plan

Last TV episode I watched:

The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. I can even deal with how funny that show is. Fancy ceiling lamp. Hilarious.

 

 

 

The eagles are coming! No, it’s not Tolkien

Wildwood by Colin Meloy, illustrations by Carson Ellis

Prue is babysitting her brother in the park one day when a flock of crows fly down and pick him up, carrying him out of Portland and into the Impassible Wilderness. Determined not to loose him, Prue goes after him. Curtis, a classmate who’s never really fit in anywhere is determined to help her, and together they set out. But when they run into an army of coyotes they get separated. Oddly enough, a kidnapping flock of crows and an army of coyotes aren’t even the weirdest thing either of them will experience on their adventure, as they discover an evil villain who’s plan will destroy all of Wildwood and kill Mac, Prue’s little brother.

To me, there are two really unique things about this book, in addition to it’s charming, humourous writing style and fairy tale-esque feel: the coming of age stories and the wonderful cast of supporting characters. Really, when that’s what you’re working with, you come out with a great book.

Here there be spoilers.

Curtis and Prue both have really well developed coming of age stories. Curtis, newly captured by coyotes begins his journey by joining the Dowager Governess and her armies. But when Curtis realizes she isn’t who she appears he chooses to resist her, the first real choice he makes since his arrival in Wildwood, and it is made alone. He ends up thrown in prison for his defiance and there he meets his fellow prisoners. They are all adults, but it’s Curtis who facilitates their escape, with the help of Septimus the rat. After that, Curtis falls in with the Bandit King, but he’s just enlisted into the army and marches to war. In the end he  chooses to stay in Wildwood instead of returning to his family in Portland. He’s no Harry Potter, with Dumbledore, Siris Black or Remus Lupin looking out for him – every choice he makes is his own, guided only by his sense of what’s right and wrong and his own courage.

Prue’s experience is different. First she meets a friendly postman who helps her along, but he sends her to the Governor for help. However, the Governor has no intention of helping her. Luckily Owl Rex, the Crowned Prince of the Aviary District moves to help her but he only sets her on the path to North Woods to get help from the Mystics before he is arrested for treason. Prue flees to the Aviary District with the help of a few friends, meets the General, who again offers his help, only to be killed before he can get her to North Woods. Once again alone, she is rescued by the Bandit King, who agrees to help her but is captured by the Dowager Governess. The Governess even acts as a mentor to Prue, encouraging her to simply return home and promising that she will protect Mac. Prue, in desperate need of an adult to help her, agrees. But even when she returns home she finds out that her parents knew about this risk to Mac and that they cannot offer her any comfort, so she once again heads off into the forest, where she finally finds the Mystics. There at last she finds an adult who is willing and able to help her. Despite all the helping hands Prue gets along the way, she alone is responsible for the journey she takes and she takes it alone.

For a child, it’s a pretty empowering story because adults are either very temporary, forcing the children to work things out on their own or not to be trusted, in which case they are outsmarted and everybody enjoys that, don’t they?

It also saves you from sad mentor death, because there really isn’t one.

Wildwood also has a wonderful bunch of supporting characters, from the talking animals like Septimus the Rat, Dmitri the defector Coyote and Evner the Swallow to Brandon the Bandit King and Richard the Postman all the way to the Mystics, all of whom are all wise and powerful without loosing their character. The writing is careful, beautiful with a mix of serious subject matter, like human sacrifice and sweet innocent moments, like Curtis trying to teach the bandits Mustang Sally.

It’s a thick book, good for an older strong reader or a read aloud with parents who are looking for something a little more complex and I would recommend it highly!

Last movie I watched:

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dream Coat. Feel free to judge me starting now.

Last TV show I watched:

Second last episode of Buffy EVER!! Man, those script writers were ON FIRE.