2013readinggoal

Coraline

Author: Neil Gaiman

Title: Coraline

Publisher/Year: HarperFestival/2008

Pages: 162 (Paperback)

Genre: Children’s Fiction/Horror/Children’s Fantasy

Coraline’s often wondered what’s behind the locked door in the drawing room. It reveals only a brick wall when she finally opens it, but when she tries again later, a passageway mysteriously appears. Coraline is surprised to find a flat decorated exactly like her own, but strangely different. And when she finds her “other” parents in this alternate world, they are much more interesting despite their creepy black button eyes. When they make it clear, however, that they want to make her theirs forever, Coraline begins a nightmarish game to rescue her real parents and three children imprisoned in a mirror. With only a bored-through stone and an aloof cat to help, Coraline confronts this harrowing task of escaping these monstrous creatures.

Gaiman has delivered a wonderfully chilling novel, subtle yet intense on many levels. The line between pleasant and horrible is often blurred until what’s what becomes suddenly clear, and like Coraline, we resist leaving this strange world until we’re hooked. Unnerving drawings also cast a dark shadow over the book’s eerie atmosphere, which is only heightened by simple, hair-raising text. Coraline is otherworldly storytelling at its best. (Summary taken my goodreads.com)

SPOILERS ALERT! SPOILERS ALERT!

It’s Coraline, not Caroline…

Lets take a moment to appreciate how creepy this story is in its entirety - little family moves into a big scary house that has a little door that leads to alternate reality with Coraline’s “other” family… That is creepy. But I totally understand the appeal, because her real parents ignore her, and the other parents spoil and treat her like a princess. 

Wybie or no Wybie?

In the movie, there’s a character named Wybie, whose grandmother owns the big creepy house that’s been sectioned into apartments for rent. He’s a strange boy who knows little about the house’s superstitions, but is the one who gives Coraline the little doll that is what spies on her in her real life, leading her to the other reality; in the book, however, Wyborne is non-existent, and Coraline has to do and figure everything out alone. The rats, or “jumping mice”, serve as the other mother’s spies. Do I like having Wybie as a part of Coraline’s story? Yes, the movie is done well having him in there, connecting her to the outside world; it’s a creative way to explain and set up the story without having to stretch for it. The book is done well in the aspect of showing Coraline’s bravery, independence and strength on her own.

So the characters are pretty spot on - I find both version creepy and a little unsettling. It’s a very interesting concept and Neil Gaiman’s done a beautiful job at keeping it innocent for children but having enough charm that makes it not scary. I guess it can be debated the moral of the story is to “appreciate what you have” because what might replace what you lose you may not like.

The cat, in both versions, is great. I really love claymation, and how they made all of the characters in the movie. It really brought Gaiman’s creepy little world to life in a way that live action or cartoons couldn’t.

(Sorry I don’t have much to say about this one, it’s a really short book, but I do have a quote from a reader on goodreads.com below about Coraline.)

Overall, this story is a good one. It’s simple, but creepy, fun for children. I think it would’ve scared me as a child so reading it to really young children might need discretion, but definitely share it with them. I loved the imagination of it all; it’s a beautiful world to live it. I recommend this to anyone who likes weird and creepy. Also, see the movie. It’s awesome!

Quote from Catie, a reader from goodreads.com, who rated Coraline 4 out of 5 stars:

“This would be a perfect choice for a road trip with small children (maybe age seven and up or so). It’s an incredibly imaginative, quirky adventure that’s simple yet not excruciatingly so. I felt entertained throughout, and some of the dialogue had me laughing out loud. There’s no question that this book is creeeeeepy but I’m one of those people that believes kids can handle a lot more than watered down fluff books. Coraline is such a wonderful heroine: she’s a clever, matter of fact, singular girl with an awesome fashion sense (Day-glo green gloves and yellow wellington boots that look like frogs? YES.) and a quiet determination to succeed even though no one takes her seriously. The stakes are high, the villain is completely unsettling and evil, and Coraline is alone, but she triumphs! It is very satisfying.”

Rating: 

Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast

Author: Robin McKinley

Title: Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast

Publisher/Year: HarperCollins/1978

Pages: 247 (Hardcover)

Genre: Fantasy/Romance

A young woman, well educated and honourable, accepts responsibility for her father’s act and leaves her family to enter the enchanted world of castle and Beast. The Beast she finds is not the one she imagined, but can she stay with him?

A gifted storyteller embellishes the classic tale, developing a new and very real world of her own in a love story that has all the wonder and magic of the fairy tale. (Summary taken my goodreads.com)

SPOILERS ALERT! SPOILERS ALERT!

This is probably one of my favorite books. For one, I love the story of Beauty and the Beast (most familiar with the Disney version, because well, my childhood was awesome) and the fantastical elements in this story are phenomenal.

Let’s start with the characters.

There’s three sisters: Grace, Hope and Honour. They, for the beginning of their lives, are wealthy daughters of the well liked and respected Roderick Huston. When misfortune ruins Huston’s business, the family is left penniless. While Grace’s true love/fiancé is away at sea, they all move with Hope and her fiancé Gervain to a little cottage in the country. Grace and Hope are your typical housewives - housework, sewing, children-loving, domesticated, damsels who are timid and loving. Honour, who was nicknamed Beauty at a young age, is your typical tomboy, who loves the outdoors and horses, gardening, nothing relating to homely things; she reads and lives in her own world. The sisters all love each other dearly and they’re very close.

Gervain, Hope’s husband, is awesome. He’s smart and sophisticated and selfless. He loves his family very much, which is great. Despite Roderick Huston’s disposition after his business tanking, he becomes loving too. Beauty’s horse is a nice addition to the family, as well, having more personality that a typical horse would.

The Beast - His exact features aren’t described, but he is unsettling to look at. He apparently had a lion’s mane for hair, which had greyed. I absolutely LOVE that - he’s not this young “hot” prince dude who’s magically frozen in time. It’s been 200 years and actually ages! Fantastic! Of course, he didn’t age overly so, so it’s not gross.

The Castle and magic are cool. It’s an enchanted wood/land where the castle is. If you get lost in the woods, you end up at the castle. Magical gardens and gates and candles that light themselves, all seemingly possessed by invisible servants.

The Curse/Spell - This is, after all, what Beauty and the Beast is about. In the Disney version, it was along the lines of having to find someone who falls in love with him while he’s a beast by his 21st birthday or he’ll stay a beast forever. Here, we have this curse that’s been handed down for generations thanks to a grudge held by a magician. Of course, our beast only finds this love when Beauty comes to his castle in exchange for her father’s freedom. He’s a polite creature, though he’s lost some of his humanity. In other versions, Beauty has had to leave because her father’s fallen ill; in this one Robert, Grace’s love, has returned from sea, not knowing where they moved to. Beauty feels the need to tell her beloved sister this and leaves the castle with the promise of return; Beast warns her that if she doesn’t come back within a week, he’ll die.

He dies.

I’m totally kidding! She goes back JUST in time, confesses his love and promises to marry him - BAM! The spell is broken and everything goes back to normal. Beauty’s sisters and their significant others come to the castle for their wedding, happily ever after… Beautiful wrap up.

Let me warn you, this isn’t an easy read - and what I mean by that is it’s written in a way that’s not flowing. It was written before even the 80s, so the writing is older styled. When I started reading, it was heavy, hard to get used to, but after the first few chapters I was hooked. Once you get past how it’s organized on the pages (everything’s in long paragraph form, all from Beauty’s point of view) it’s easier.

Overall, this story is fantastic! It’s magical and whimsical. It’s beautiful and heart wrenching. If you love fairy tales, Beauty and the Beast and/or good stories, you’ll love this one! I totally recommend it to everyone.

Rating: 

Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Author: Laini Taylor

Title: Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Publisher/Year: Little, Brown & Company/2011

Pages: 417

Genre: Fantasy/Romance/YA


Around the world, black hand prints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky. 

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grows dangerously low. 

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war. 

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”; she speaks many languages—not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

When one of the strangers—beautiful, haunted Akiva—fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself? (Summary taken my goodreads.com)

SPOILERS ALERT! SPOILERS ALERT!

I found this book a year or so ago but only just read it. It was nothing of what I expected, which isn’t bad, by any means. It’s about angels and demons and the feud between them, and Karou, a girl who is seemingly misplaced in world and connected to a handsome seraph boy she can’t remember. Typical Romeo-Juliet scar-crossed lovers story, add in some memory loss and boom! Daughter of Smoke and Bone. (It is more complicated than that, but that’s the essential feel.)

This book is magic. I mean that this story is written well, has strong characters, nice pacing, is mature and dark but not overly so, interesting plot. It’s cool. I really is.

I’m not as excited about this book as I am others, not because it’s not good - Laini did a fantastic job telling Karou/Madrigal’s past - it just wasn’t my typical “Oh, wow, that was a great book and I’ll read it again!” I might read it again, but it’s not one I’m so crazy about to “must read again”.

Anyway, the characters - Oh, the characters. If you’ve read some of my other reviews, you’ll know that Vee, the best friend character from Becca Fitzpatrick’s Hush, Hush saga, is my favorite best friend. Ever. Well, Zuzana, Karou’s best friend in this story, runs a pretty close race. She’s hilarious! Absolutely charming. And while she had the same spitfire attitude as Vee, she’s tiny and arty and adorable. Here are some of my favorite quotes by her:

“The hell?”

“Oh, hell. Must. Mate. Immediately.”

“As him if he’s in love with you,” said Zuzana at once.

“Mating! Seed!”

She’s love! Back to the other characters - Immediately I had a problem with Akiva’s widow peak. It could just be me, but when I think widow’s peak (doesn’t help he has black hair) I imagine Dracula, which isn’t exactly attractive concerning angels. Don’t get me wrong - Drac is a very iconic badass, but it was a little hard getting past it trying to envision a young dude with one. But that could be me, that I’m partial to long hair and/or redheads. Also, I love that Karou had blue hair.

Karou’s family, I guess, the Chimaeras, are what I consider “weird” in this story. The Chimaera in general. Part human, part animal some. It helped when I got to the part where Madrigal/Karou remembers, but the beginning when we meet Brimstone, Issa and them, it’s a little…strange. But as I read on, the weirdness grew on me and I liked it.

So glad Kaz wasn’t a major part in it. He irked me, which I think was the point of his role. How dare he use Karou like that. Jerk.

Izîl and Razgut creeped me out. I listened to this on audiobook while following along on my ebook and the way Khristine Hvam read both parts were equally genius and disturbing. They give me chills, so well done Laini for making them creepy!

The places in this world - this book - are fascinating. Poison Kitchen, Elsewhere, the human realm (earth), the other door that leads to the Chimaera world… so cool, so different, so beautiful.

Funny places that I laughed at - when Akiva takes flight to avoid Karou’s attack and she jumps into the air too, because she can also fly (thanks to wishing for it). I think it’s funny that Karou can’t raise one brow at a time; like Clary from City of Bones. I love when she jumps off the balcony - because she can freaking fly. So jealous. Magic has a price. Pain. Magic systems need costs and this one is pain. Cool!

So I totally guessed from the beginning Karou was actually Madrigall,and when it was more so affirmed in the tea shop…. I live for those moments. It’s crazy intense.

And finally, on my ebook page 408, Karou mentions “Smoke and bone.” The moment the title makes sense! So good.

AND AKIVA KILLED BRIMSTONE! Who cares about the others - BRIMSTONE. He became my favorite by the end and Akiva killed him! I actually cried. I was just as devastated as Karou when she found out. So freaking sad.

Overall, I enjoyed the book. Would I read it again? Eh, maybe. I’ll definitely read the second book, to figure out what happened to our star-crossed lovers. It was funny, nice paced, good storyline, enjoyable characters. I’d recommend it to those who don’t shy away from weird, like angels and demons, and a cute - but heart wrenching - love story.

Rating: 

Graceling

Author: Kristin Cashore

Title: Graceling

Publisher/Year: Harcourt/2008

Pages: 471

Genre: Fantasy/YA/Romance


In a world where people born with an extreme skill - called a Grace - are feared and exploited, Katsa carries the burden of the skill even shedespises: the Grace of killing. She lives under the command of her uncle Randa, King of the Middluns, and is expected to execute his dirty work, punishing and torturing anyone who displeases him.

When she first meets Prince Po, who is Graced with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change.

She never expects to become Po’s friend.

She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace - or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away…a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone. (Summary taken from goodreads.com)

SPOILERS ALERT! SPOILERS ALERT!

By far the most underrated series. Granted, I’ve only read this one, but still. I’ve heard it was iffy, so I put off reading it. Decided to pick it up on a whim and wow. Changed my life.

Katsa is crazy. Her defiance is fantastic, her attitude lovable, despite her spitefulness at times. She definitely fits the “wildcat” nickname. Po is lovable, cocky, beautiful. I just melt thinking about him - and I love the ring thing, his people wearing rings for important people in their lives, family and whatnot. Bitterblue is awesome and I love that she helped soften Katsa. She’s a cute this queen.

Talk about twists…

SO King’s Leck - MOST EPIC DEATH I’ve read in a long time. Katsa just throws a knife at him and it goes through his mouth and pins him to his chair! I was gaping I didn’t see that coming. I figured it’d miss, or he’d jump out of the way just in time, or it’d go in his chest or something less dramatic, but no. In his MOUTH. It was so crazy and I’m so pleased with that death!

And as Katsa gets back to injured Po, we discover not only is his grace and balance still off, but HE’S BLIND! He’s freaking blind! I didn’t see that one coming, either. I realized it exactly the same moment Katsa did, when Po’s brother mentioned something that triggered her thoughts about the possibility and BAM! It hit her. She confronted him and he admitted it. Woah. Talk about character development going on there. Poor Po. And it’s not just a “sight will come back” blind; he’s for real, permentantly blind becaues he hit his head and damaged himself. Holy freak show! That’s so intense. I cried.

When Katsa pointed out that his Grace and sight were two different things, and that was he lost was beauty, and then at the end he was talking about how beautiful the cave was because his Grace allowed him to see in a way his sight could never. SO TOUCHING. Again, I cried.

I listened to the audiobook as I followed along in the book - full cast audio, which was a fantastic experience. It was read very well and kept my interest.

Overall, this book is seriously good, and very underrated. It’s fantastical and believable, with enough “magic” in it (the Graces) to make it original and interesting, with characters that are relatable and fun - except Leck, he’s a psycho - beautiful scenery that’s captivating, and romance that makes you blush without having to read through too many private details. It’s a beautiful story set in a beautiful world. I recommend it to those who love adventure stories, appreciate good characters and love good twists. Kristin Cashore did a fabulous job, as did the readers.

Rating: