It’s Monday, What Are You Reading?

I am on holiday and what with visiting here and there, I didn’t manage to write a post about what I was reading last week. I also haven’t read that much. Anyway, here are my current reads.

I am currently reading

Ender's Game
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
From:
A friend

Ender Wiggin has shown great promise, and is recruited to Battle School. He could be humanity’s greatest hope in the battle against the aliens, but first he must survive Battle School’s training programme.

I really enjoy this book and I’m almost finished. Everything is stacked against Ender, yet he continues to prevail. I’m reading this as part of my 2012 Sci-Fi Challenge. Although this was not originally written for the young adult audience, this reads a lot like a YA book.


Salem’s Lot by Stephen King
From: The library

A writer moves to a town where he spent a few years in childhood. He tries to rent the resident “murder house” but finds out it has just recently been sold…

Yes, I’m still reading this. I haven’t progressed much, I’m still at the beginning. I think that once it really gets going I will read it faster.

During the past two weeks I read

13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
– contemporary YA / an American girl’s tad boring travels in Europe
Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol
– YA graphic novel / a young girl falls down a well and befriends a ghost in this gorgeously drawn GN

During the past two weeks I wrote

Graphic Reads #1 (short reviews of graphic novels)
Thoughts on City of Ashes (a review)

“It’s Monday, what are you reading?” is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

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Thoughts on City of Ashes

City of Ashes
City of Ashes
Book Two of The Mortal Instruments
by Cassandra Clare
First published in 2008

Haunted by her past, Clary is dragged deeper into New York City’s terrifying underworld of demons and Shadowhunters – but can she control her feelings for a boy who can never be hers?

 

Ehrm, yeah. Let’s say that I liked the first book of The Mortal Instruments series, City of Bones, well enough. This second book fell short for me. I think one reason for that is exactly the fact that this is the second book – all the world-building has been done in book one, and the epic showdown is left for book three. The plot of this book is simple and not that much actually happens.

So what does this book focus the most on? Character relationships. Now, normally I would be all for that. I’m one of those people who put characters before a plot – if a plot is interesting, but I don’t like a single character, I most often don’t like the book. I am also willing to forgive a shaky plot if there’s a character I love. But, in the case of this book, the character relationship that we dwell on happens to be a love triangle.

Let me stress this – I hate love triangles. They usually mean that the two competing characters in the triangle act like complete brats. They make me hate the characters involved because of how they are acting, while the one they are fighting for seems indesicive, wishy-washy, or cruel. For example, I liked Simon in the first book, but in this second one I grew tired of him really quickly. Jace and Clary have never really been my favourites, and this book didn’t help. Also, not into that whole “we are brother and sister and thus our love is forbidden”. Eugh, no. How can the reader go “but their love is truuueee!” in a situation like that? Being siblings is a pretty good reason to stay apart, guys! Although I have a hunch that it will be revealed that the two aren’t actually related in the books to come. Who knows?

And then there’s this disturbing passage. I mean, is it just me, or does the main character find the idea of her love interest hitting her hot? Just read this:
“She wondered for a moment if he might actually spring at her, what it would be like if he struck her, knocked her down, grabbed her wrists even. Fighting to him was like sex to other people. The thought of him touching her like that brought the blood to her cheeks in a hot flood. She spoke around the breathless catch in her voice.”

I know, right?

There were also a few inconsistencies that threw me off the narrative for a while. Like this one:
“Taking the arm of the silver-haired woman, he led the Shadowhunters toward the entrance to the Bone City. As one after another descended the stairs, taking their witchlight with them, the glow in the courtyard began to fade. The last one in line was the woman with the silver hair.”

So the silver-haired woman goes in first and then last?

Then there’s the new character, Maia. When she is introduced, she is said to have light brown skin. Her brother is said to have “her mother’s honey-coloured skin”. This tells me that Maia is biracial with a darker skinned father and a lighter skinned mother. Towards the end of the book, though, there’s a passage about how “her cheek was printed with white dents where it had lain against the bumpy pipe. As he watched, the white faded into pink as the blood returned to her face.”

Faded into pink? This left me wondering if the image in my head of Maia was completely wrong and if the author had meant that she was tanned (which would’ve been weird). But no, I found confirmation from the author’s website that Maia is meant to be biracial. So I guess she just forgot about her light brown skin when she was writing…. On the same page spread, Maia is also described of watching someone “white-faced”. I’m willing to let that go as a metaphor, although when combined with the mention of pink just a little earlier, I managed to get confused.

So I wasn’t really feeling the City of Ashes. I am still going to read the last Mortal Instruments book, City of Glass, and reserve judgement until I’ve finished it. I just want to get to the Infernal Devices, because I’m interested in the setting (and yes, because of cover appeal).

Favorite character: Magnus. I love that tall, glittery warlock! The main characters tend to take him for granted and treat him like their personal healing kit. I love when he calls them out on it.

Graphic Reads #1

In Graphic Reads I share my thoughts on the graphic novels I’ve read most recently.

Chew Vol. 1 Umbrella Academy Vol. 1 Locke & Key Vol. 2
Chew, Vol. 1: Taster’s Choice
by John Layman and Rob Guillory
First published in 2009

Tony Chu is a detective with a secret. A weird secret. Tony Chu is Cibopathic, which means he gets psychic impressions from whatever he eats. It also means he’s a hell of a detective, as long as he doesn’t mind nibbling on the corpse of a murder victim to figure out whodunit, and why.

I really liked Chew. The story was as wonderfully weird as only a story with cannibalism and bird flu conspiracy theories can be. The art style was stylized and lovely – it looked like the character designs could easily be used in an animated series. I also loved the coloring: it had stylish tones of blue, green and yellow that really helped give the book its own atmosphere.

Favorite Character: Agent Mason Savoy. I just love the way he speaks (“My friends, do I detect the slightest degree of consternation amid our humble vocational paradise?”). It seems like he can never use one short word if two longer ones will do the job. And his character design, described in the album as being “the lovechild of Orson Welles and a grizzly bear”, is full of personality and very recognizable.


Umbrella Academy, Vol. 1: Apocalypse Suite
by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá
First published in 2008

In an inexplicable worldwide event, forty-seven extraordinary children were spontaneously born by women who’d previously shown no signs of pregnancy. Millionaire inventor Reginald Hargreeves adopted seven of the children; when asked why, his only explanation was: “To save the world.”

I’m not really sure how I feel about this book. The beginning sucked me in instantly: “It was the same year “Tusslin’ Tom” Gurney knocked out the space-squid from Rigel X-9… It happened at 9:38 p.m… It came from an atomic flying elbow.” Immediately it’s established that the setting is pretty much like our modern world, but not quite. There are, for instance, space-squids.

There are similar entertainingly quirky ideas throughout the book, but it all felt a bit rushed. Like there wasn’t enough time to dwell on most of the ideas for long enough to really take root in the reader’s mind. We learn too little about the characters and their world. I felt like I could really grow to like these characters if I was given something more to work with. So all in all, this left me with a very uncertain feeling. I think I’ll see how a second read-through feels.

Update after second read-through: The storytelling felt a lot less jarring and rushed this time. There was only one scene that still felt like it wasn’t told clearly enough. After this second read-through I can say with more certainty that I liked this comic.

Favorite character: Séance. I don’t even specifically know why. I like how he floats around, an off-kilter presence throwing comments from the back. He also often looks like he can’t be bothered.


Locke & Key, Vol. 2: Head Games
by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez
First published in 2010

The three Locke children – survivors of a horrific home invasion that claimed their father – have just begun to rebuild their lives when little Bode discovers a key with an incredible power. Q: What if overcoming your fears, mastering any skill, learning any art was as simple as turning a key in a lock? A: It could cost you your life – especially if Dodge, the malevolent creature who is the Locke family’s sworn enemy, gets his hands on it.

The Locke children continue to study the keys they find in Keyhouse. In the first book, the remaining Locke family moved to the house where the children found weird keys that unlock the strangest of things. Joe Hill comes up with some pretty interesting keys. These ideas manage to also give us the best introduction ever from Warren Ellis. Short and “sweet”.

Now, about the art style. The art is in no way bad, it is in fact pretty skillful. It’s just not my cup of tea. I have an aversion to the way Rodriguez draws small features in the middle of large heads. The coloring style is more realistic than for example in Chew, which worked with stylish, simple tones. This means that there are too many colors for my taste, and the end result for me feels a bit chaotic. But, I have to say, I prefer to read black and white comics, so bear that in mind.

Favorite character:
No one? Which could be why I find it hard to really get into this book. Even a book with really neat ideas can’t be a favorite of mine if I don’t like at least one character. I’ll still continue with the series, I think.

Have you read any graphic novels recently?

It’s Monday, what are you reading?

I am currently reading


Salem’s Lot by Stephen King
From: The library

A writer moves to a creepy town. Things happen.

I haven’t read too many Stephen King books. I’ve only read The Shining and On Writing, and I think I read Carrie in high school. I liked The Shining okay – those hedge animals were so scary – and I’ve wanted to read Salem’s Lot for a while now. I’ve been into vampire books ever since reading The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice in 8th grade. I’m interested in seeing how this book tackles the issue.


13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
From:
My sister

A 17 year old American girl travels in Europe following the instructions left by her aunt in 13 envelopes. My sister loaned this to me for some light summer reading. I’m halfway through and so far this is okay, nothing too special.

Last week I read


Chew, Vol. 1: Taster’s Choice by John Layman and Rob Guillory
– crime graphic novel / a cannibal agent investigates
The Umbrella Academy, Vol. 1: Apocalypse Suite by Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba
– superhero graphic novel / a group of quirky superheroes save the world
Locke and Key, Vol. 2: Head Games by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez
– horror graphic novel / the Locke children continue to investigate the keys of Keyhouse
City of Ashes (The Mortal Instruments, book 2) by Cassandra Clare
– YA modern fantasy / teenage hormones and a fantasy battle of good vs evil

“It’s Monday, what are you reading?” is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

2012 Sci-Fi Challenge 1 of 7 : Solaris

Solaris
Solaris
by Stanislaw Lem
First published in 1961

Kris Kelvin arrives aboard the scientific research station hovering near the oceanic surface of the planet Solaris. The scientists there have studied the planet and its ocean for many decades, a scientific discipline known as Solaristics, which over the years has degenerated to simply observe, record and categorize the complex phenomena that occur upon the surface of the ocean. Shortly before psychologist Kelvin’s arrival, the crew has exposed the ocean to a more aggressive and unauthorized experimentation with a high-energy X-ray bombardment. Their experimentation gives unexpected results and becomes psychologically traumatic for them as individually flawed humans.
Wikipedia

I started my seven science fiction books in 2012 challenge with the classic Solaris by Stanislaw Lem. I know I’m a bit behind, already halfway through the year and only one sci-fi book finished… Better step it up!

In Solaris, the newly arrived researcher Kelvin tries to make sense of the weird behaviour of the other researchers aboard the station, and the even weirder things that he himself later encounters. I actually found the behaviour and interactions of the characters intriguing, as well as the plot, at least to some extent. Too bad that the story was often interrupted by Kelvin retreating into the station library to read about the history of Solaris research… And this meant many pages filled with too long paragraphs of dry scientific text about the different schools of thought about Solaris, and explanations about a multitude of different natural phenomena the scientists have observed on the surface of the “living ocean”.

So, the first science fiction book featuring an alien planet was everything I had expected it to be: a bit dry story where the author seems more interested in telling us about the planet he has invented & the psychological theme of human intellect vs alien intellect, instead of focusing more on the characters and the plot. I wasn’t really drawn into the story. Perhaps I shouldn’t have started with a classic from the sixties?

I give Solaris 2 stars out of 5 -which with me usually means that the book was in no way badly written, but that I just couldn’t get into it.

Next up: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

It’s Monday, what are you reading?

“It’s Monday, what are you reading?” is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. It’s a great way to see what others are currently reading, and perhaps get new reading tips for yourself.

I am currently reading

City of Ashes
City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare
Book Two of the Mortal Instruments series

I was hesitant to pick up City of Bones, the first book in this series. I’ve found that many YA books focus on the romance at the expense of the plot, and was afraid that the same would happen here.  It wasn’t the case with the book, though. I found it to be a good modern fantasy, slightly in tone with e.g. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: a group of teenagers in a world filled with supernatural things. The characters and the plot were interesting, and the writer’s voice is good, and easy to read.

I just remembered the biggest factor in why I decided to pick the first one up: I had seen the Clockwork Angel in a book store, and it had a great cover and looked really interesting. I thought it would be better to read the Mortal Instruments series first to better understand the Infernal Devices novels, although I’m not sure if that is strictly necessary.

Last week I read


The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
– fantasy YA / society after a zombie apocalypse
The Lake by Banana Yoshimoto
– contemporary / of love and death
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
– mystery / Hercule Poirot & a murder on a train

Introduction

As you can tell from the title, my name is Maija and I read. I’m from Finland and I work as a graphic designer and illustrator. I think reading and drawing are the best ways to spend one’s time.

I’ve been reading mostly fantasy books ever since I discovered the Dragonlance Chronicles and the Belgariad series when I was in 6th grade (I was totally in love with Raistlin – or still am). Although I wasn’t a stranger to fantasy even before that, since my mother had read the Narnia books to me and my sister when we were little.

At first I read mostly epic fantasy, then focused more on modern fantasy (by that I mean that the setting is modern day, like Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere). Lately I’ve also been reading Young Adult books, since I noticed that there are lots of fantasy titles in YA nowadays. Check out the About page for some of my favorite books.

I discovered book blogs and vlogs only earlier this year, and was quickly sucked into following many of them. My favorites are linked in the sidebar. I’m planning to use my blog to show what books I’m currently reading, what books I’ve bought, as well as to keep track of my Sci-Fi Challenge for this year (7 science fiction books in the year 2012, check out the Challenges page).

Let’s get started!