Monday, 15 July 2013

Review: "Project Unicorn, volume 1" by Sarah & Jessica Diemer

Project Unicorn, volume 1: 30 Young Adult Short Stories Featuring Lesbian Heroines is (as the title clearly states) a collection of thirty young adult short stories featuring lesbian heroines. As ghosts and witches, aliens and vampires, the characters in this extensive and varied collection battle monsters and inner demons, stand up to bullies, wield magic, fall in love, and take action to claim their lives - and their stories - as their own.
Project Unicorn is a project (duh) by the wife-and-wife duo Sarah and Jessica Diemer where each month has its own theme, and they publish two new short stories per week. Each month they put all those eight short stories (plus two longer ones) together and publish them on various online stores. In December 2012 the first print volume came out (volume 1, the book I'm currently reviewing, if you didn't get that). It contains all short stories from the first three months - The Dark Woods, The Monstrous Sea, and Uncharted Sky.
This book is a young adult anthology with 30 short stories crammed into only 270 pages. This means that many of these stories very short, which I found really refreshing. I haven't read that many anthologies, but those that I have read contain much longer short stories and thus not as many. I love reading short stories after a few 400 page books, it's nice to read something that only takes a moment to finish, even though the whole collection could take longer.
The reason I really wanted to buy and read this book from the start was that all the main characters were queer women. The lack of homosexual representation in media is enraging to me, and I'd been looking for books with LGBT characters for a while (thanks to Laura for posting about the Diemer's on tumblr). Out of all the 170 books I've read, there's only three that I can think of that has gay main characters. That's not a big number.
Now, let's talk about something that doesn't make me angry. Almost all of these short stories are fantasy or science fiction, and only a few of them doesn't end happily. I had a few favourites out of all the thirty - Devil May Care by Sarah, and  Natural and Breaking the Ice by Jessica. Devil May Care is about Corrine, who summons a demon - Selimead - to help her find her dog who ran away. I loved how Corrine and Selimead interacted with each other, and I loved the ending (and also that they found the dog, but that's just because I love dogs). Natural is about Terra, who is bullied in school because she's gay, and so she spends a lot of time talking to an old tree. She wishes that the tree was a living girl, so they could have more than just very one sided conversations. What she doesn't know is that the tree has a consciousness and can hear and understand her, but also wishes to be more than a tree - and one day their mutual with comes true. This was my absolute favourite short story, I'm not quite sure why. It was just incredibly sweet. I think it might be because Ash (that's the name the tree gives herself when she becomes a girl) kind of already knew Terra, and Terra has always trusted Ash completely, even though they were just a girl and a tree before. Ash was so uncertain and cute when she turned into a girl, and I can really see in front of myself how Terra is going to take her in and teach her how to live and how they spent the rest of their lives together. There was one short story, though, that some people might not appreciate. It was called In the Garden I Did Not Sin and it was about a daughter of Eve who found her way back to the garden of Eden and met a daughter of Lilith. I really liked it, I think it'd make a great novel, but I know that everyone might not feel that way.
Over all I really liked the first volume of Project Unicorn, and I really hope that Sarah and Jessica put together more of the short stories from this project and make more printed volumes. This was probably my favourite anthology that I've read so far. The Diemer's are very talented writers, and I can't wait to read more from them.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Review: "Looking for Alaska" by John Green

Before. Miles "Pudge" Halter's whole existence has been one big nonevent, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave the "Great Perhaps" (François Rabelais, poet) even more. Then he heads off to the sometimes crazy, possibly unstable, and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed-up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young, who is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart.After. Nothing is ever the same. (summary from goodreads)
I'd like to start of this review by saying that John Green is an amazing author, but sometimes I just wish he wasn't. Sometimes, John Green being an amazing author is so incredibly painful that I wish that he just worked in a grocery store or something. After a while, though, I realize that the pain is worth it.
I had only read one John Green book before, The Fault In Our Stars, and so when I realized that the chapters in Looking for Alaska were titled eighty-three days before, nineteen days before, ect, until it got to the last day and then started counting one day after, fifty-six days after, one hundred and twenty-two days after I got really scared. Obviously something big was going to happen, and having read TFIOS, I had an idea of what it might be and I did not like it. But let's get on with the review, shall we?
I love how John Green writes his characters, of course all good characters have flaws, or they wouldn't be very interesting, but I feel like John Green's characters are so much more raw than other's. I constantly felt torn between loving and hating "Pudge", Alaska, and "The Colonel" (Miles' best friend at Culver Creek). They had such high up's such low down's, and I think I'll have to work hard to find characters written by different authors to live up to them.
Green's take on boarding school was different from what I'm used to. Usually the dorm rooms are all in the same building with several floors, and you have long corridors between them. At Culver Creek the dorm rooms were more like a motel, all with doors leading outside instead of to a corridor.
I like how, when you get to the incident that the chapters counted down to, the book continues on for about a hundred pages. You get to see how the characters slowly start to move on. Even though everything has changed and it'll never really be the same, they do their best and you know that it'll be okay again.

Looking for Alaska is a very emotional book, do not read it if you can't handle pain, because unless you're made of stone you will hurt. It'll be worth it, though, because you'll laugh with and at the characters, you'll be embarrassed and excited, and you'll have a great time.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Book review: The Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan

Be careful what you summon!
In ancient times, the magicians of Egypt were recognized as the best in the world. Each god’s temple had a branch called the House of Life, where magicians were trained to battle monsters, duel enemy sorcerers, and when necessary, even do combat with the gods themselves.
What if the House of Life still existed? 
When a magical accident unleashes the Egyptian gods into the modern world, Carter and Sadie Kane discover that they are descended from the most powerful Egyptian magicians, and only they have the power to set things right! 
Join their adventures against the mythical forces of Ancient Egypt in The Kane Chronicles.(Summary from Rick Riordan's website)

I just finished The Serpent's Shadow - the third and last instalment in The Kane Chronicles - and decided that instead of reviewing only that one book, I'd review that  whole trilogy.
Now, I love Rick Riordan, he's an amazing writer - probably one of my favourites. He did not disappoint with The Kane Chronicles. It was a great trilogy, and I'm quite sad that it's over. It's focused a lot on Egyptian mythology, just like Percy Jackson and the Olympians in on Greek mythology. But the two series are still totally different. That is something I was afraid of when I picked up The Red Pyramid, I'd been afraid it'd be just like PJO. It isn't. If you ask me, this trilogy is so much more complicated, and that's not because Rick has intentionally made it that way. Egyptian mythology just is more complicated that Greek. And I have learned so much from this series, all I know about Egyptian gods and believes I have learned from The Kane Chronicles, nothing is from school.
It isn't just my interest in mythology that makes me love The Kane Chronicles, but it's also the characters and the plot. Sadie and Carter Kane grow so much during the three books. In the beginning of The Red Pyramid they barely know each other, and they are both just two kids. Now, when I've finished to trilogy, I find it hard to think of them as a 13 and a 15 year old, because they seem so grown up. Rick also portrays that gods perfectly (not that I know much about their personalities from elsewhere). He even managed to make me fall in love with a short, loud, and ugly dwarf god in speedos. How many people can do that? There is also a love triangle in The Kane Chronicles, but don't let that prevent you from reading it, because Rick Riordan knows how to write love triangles. He doesn't let them take over to book, and he solves them in a way that makes all three parties happy. The triangle in The Kane Chronicles is between the god of death and funerals, Anubis, Sadie Kane, and the trainee Walt Stone. I - with the help of my bad luck - managed to get spoiled on how the triangle ended before I read it. I won't say what happened, but I will say that it was a brilliant way to solve the problem.
The Kane Chronicles in narrated be both Carter and Sadie, when they take turns retelling their story to a recorder, which they then mail to Rick and he writes it down. This is a great way of writing, because not only does it let us look into the minds of both siblings instead of only one, but I could use this fact to reassure myself that they were both going to be fine every time I was sure one of them was about to die. This happened a lot. Rick Riordan is such a great writer, though, that many times I was positive that the world would end and Carter and Sadie would die, even though I knew that they wouldn't.
I think that the only downside the The Kane Chronicles id the terrible character art (sorry, whoever designed them, but they're not pretty). That doesn't affect the actual books, though, so it's fine.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Wishlist Wednesday #3

(Hosted by Pen to Paper)

Eight years after Graceling, Bitterblue is now queen of Monsea. But the influence of her father, a violent psychopath with mind-altering abilities, lives on. Her advisors, who have run things since Leck died, believe in a forward-thinking plan: Pardon all who committed terrible acts under Leck's reign, and forget anything bad ever happened. But when Bitterblue begins sneaking outside the castle--disguised and alone--to walk the streets of her own city, she starts realizing that the kingdom has been under the thirty-five-year spell of a madman, and the only way to move forward is to revisit the past.

Two thieves, who only steal what has already been stolen, change her life forever. They hold a key to the truth of Leck's reign. And one of them, with an extreme skill called a Grace that he hasn't yet identified, holds a key to her heart.
(Summary from Goodreads)

I've read Graceling and Fire, and I really liked them. I think it's almost safe to say that Graceling Realm is one of my favourite book series. I know that Bitterblue has been available to read since May last year, but the reason I haven't read it yet is that it so far hasn't been published in Swedish. Usually this wouldn't be a problem for me - I'd just read it in English - but I bought and read Graceling and Fire in Swedish, and so I have to do the same with Bitterblue. It's an annoying kind of OCD, but not really (I don't have OCD, at least not that I know of) thing, that you probably know of if you're subscribed to me on YouTube. Luckily Bitterble is going to be published here in Sweden on Friday next week so the wait is almost over.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Book review: Of Poseidon by Anna Banks

Galen is the prince of the Syrena, sent to land to find a girl he's heard can communicate with fish. Emma is on vacation at the beach. When she runs into Galen — literally, ouch! — both teens sense a connection. But it will take several encounters, including a deadly one with a shark, for Galen to be convinced of Emma's gifts. Now, if he can only convince Emma that she holds the key to his kingdom...
I'll start by saying: I did enjoy this book, but not as much as I'd thought I would. Now that I've gotten that out of the way, I will continue. I think a big part of the reason I was a little disappointed in this book was because it was mainly set on land, and when I say mainly I mean that Emma - the female lead - only really "visited" the ocean two or three times, and never to the Syrena kingdom. I had expected for the book to take place in the water, that was what I had wanted to read. So it kind of ruined it a little for me when the characters always walked around on solid ground. Another big part that was negative to me was that no one even thought about the fact that Emma could be what she is until at least two thirds into the book. Personally, as soon as they started talking about how Emma was like Syrena in some aspects, but not in others, I kind of went "well, she's obviously half, then". Maybe I've just read to much YA fantasy involving different kinds of hybrids, but to me it was obvious.
I started reading this book on the bus on my way to school one morning. Big mistake. I obviously knew that there was going to be a shark attack, but I hadn't though about it enough to realise when in the book it was. I had just kind of though it'd be a bit into the book, and that it'd be one of those where a shark comes to a beach and everyone's freaking out but nothing really happens. Oh, was I wrong. You see, I hate sharks, they scare me to death, and I did not expect it to show up almost instantly. The shark attack wasn't necessarily a very scary scene, but when Emma and Chloe were out on that surfboard away from everyone else, and Chloe accuse Emma of kicking her, I got so scared. I almost had to put the book away, and all of a sudden I was sure there was a shark under my seat. It was terrifying. So, if you're afraid of sharks, I advice you to read the first three and a half chapters in the middle of your bed - with no arms or legs over the edge.
A thing that annoyed me was "ohmysweetgodness", which Emma said/though at least a dozen times in the first half of the book. I don't even get what it means, to me it sounds like she is excited, but most of the times she thought it she was angry. Luckily it got better and in the second half of the book it was only mentioned once or twice. Everyone - well, Emma, Galen, and Rayna - were unnecessarily aggressive. Somewhere it was mentioned that it was a Syrena trait, but it was still a little unsettling, considering Emma threatened to/though about murdering different people a bunch of times.
Even though all these not-so-positive-things were in the book, I still liked it. Emma and Galen were really cute together (even though they were both oblivious to each others feelings), Rayna was really entertaining (even though she was a bitch at the beginning), and Toraf was just amazing (even though he wanted to mate with Rayna without her consent). And that's not mentioning the huge cliffhanger. It was almost like a slap in the face, even though I'd though there was something fishy (hey, look how funny I am) about her for a while. I don't know if I'd go as far as to say this cliffhanger was in style with a Riordan Cliffhanger, but almost.
Out of five stars, I gave it three on goodreads, because even though I didn't really feel like that much was happening I still thought it was good. And I need to read Of Triton soon, because I need to know what happens.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Cover Love #1

I know this might be a cliché cover - a girl in a big dress, with a dramatic background - but I simply adore it simply because I think it's such a beautiful photo. I'd probably love it even if it didn't have a thing to do with the book itself, which I suppose it doesn't, really. Unless you are really deep and over analyse everything...

There’s something achingly familiar about Daniel Grigori.
Mysterious and aloof, he captures Luce Price’s attention from the moment she sees him on her first day at the Sword & Cross boarding school in sultry Savannah. He’s the one bright spot in a place where cell phones are forbidden, the other students are all screw-ups, and security cameras watch every move.
Even Daniel wants nothing to do with Luce – he goes out of his way to make that very clear. But she can’t let it go. Drawn to him like a moth to a flame, Luce has to find out what Daniel is so desperate to keep secret...even if it kills her.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Wishlist Wednesday #2

(Hosted by Pen to Paper)

In the aftermath of a forbidden moment that rocked Sydney to her core, she finds herself struggling to draw the line between her Alchemist teachings and what her heart is urging her to do. Then she meets alluring, rebellious Marcus Finch--a former Alchemist who escaped against all odds, and is now on the run. Marcus wants to teach Sydney the secrets he claims the Alchemists are hiding from her. But as he pushes her to rebel against the people who raised her, Sydney finds that breaking free is harder than she thought. There is an old and mysterious magic rooted deeply within her. And as she searches for an evil magic user targeting powerful young witches, she realizes that her only hope is to embrace her magical blood--or else she might be next.

I just finished The Golden Lily yesterday, and let me just say that the ending was horribly painful. I really loved Vampire Academy, and so far Bloodlines is amazing too. It's too bad my obsessive crazy-ness won't let me get it before it's published in a 19 cm paperback, but I can't wait.