The Toy Sorcerer
on May 02, 2012
The first and best word I can think of to describe this book: epic.
When authors attempt to self-identify as writers of "epic fantasy" I generally scoff - but this book succeeded. I enjoyed it quite a bit.
This read like a mixture of Alice in Wonderland and the Chronicles of Narnia, with some heavy archetypes, some wonderfully bizarre and original characters and a moving plot that, you know, mattered.
It was refreshing to read a book where the "love" was understated and tentative, but still obviously sincere. Also, where love did not equal triangle. It was nice to see that the epic-level of the plot was not made to bow to some cheesy, too-quickly fashioned obsession. It was cute without being THE THING THE BOOK WILL BE REMEMBERED FOR. Because we've had enough of that lately. This was a refreshing change.
The first 2/3 of the book went quite quickly. I could see from the numbers on my kindle that the book was "long" but it didn't "feel" long. The story was engaging, the characters interesting, the writing beautiful - and I am always into a good traditional pagan story with witchcraft that hasn't become all stupidly twisted by modern paranormal obsession.
Shammy. Loved Shammy. Just. Loved. Shammy.
And Merlin. Wasn't sure, but then it grew on me. It's always tough to bring in so many archetypal ideas - the representations of Goddesses, Magic, Dreams. These are hard things to mess with and still be successful. But Hart manages, with gusto.
The dreams. The dream realms were interesting, but the dream segments that occur later (when the Ancients are testing Magog and Alice and challenging them to confront their deepest selves) were just beautiful. I was really impressed with the way they remained relevant, thought-provoking and engaging. I loved that there wasn't a single answer curled into each scenario, but rather a multitude of threads that helped spell out Truth.
I was a big fan of this portion of the book. I felt very moved, and I was impressed with the way the trials were laid out and the ability of the author to juggle a multitude of plot threads and characters and bring them all together in an (almost) seamless ending. The fact that I knew, at any point in the book, where every character was and what he/she was up to was *damned impressive*. There was clearly a lot of care taken with crafting the story.
The slow reveal! I am always impressed when authors write stories that unfold. I get very tired of reading like I'm eating a feast - a table of plot and detail laid out before me on shiny silver plates - VOILA! no mystery here! So far from that was this book. Hart managed to write a story that would have resisted such methods anyway, mostly due to complexity, but in addition (YAY!) she took pains to shape and tease the story. And it shows. The craftsmanship is impressive.
THIS BOOK WAS AWESOME.
Fun, original, and with all the staples of a true EPIC.
Definitely worth the purchase price.
The Curse Girl
on May 10, 2012
I absolutely loved this book. It was an easy-read, and I read it in one sitting, with a quick break in the middle to tell my husband how much I was enjoying it. Then, once I finished it, I took a break, and later that night, read the whole thing again. Because it was fun, and cute, and because it has great re-readability.
This book was well-written, with a few errors but nothing major. It had great flow, and despite the fact that the reader knew the basic plot (yay, a Beauty and the Beast retelling - I love these so much!) it still managed to surprise several times. It didn't just unfold following all the steps of B&tB - there were subtle twists and new reasons for things. I don't want to give too much away, but the placement of the curse, the way to break the curse, and how the curse functioned were all significantly altered, so that the reader could feel appreciation for the B&tB plot without feeling like s/he was reading Beauty and the Beast.
And I really loved the naming process in the house, and the way it provided the title for the book. And the fey lands - I think that was a very interesting addition.
I wish the book had been longer. I wish certain things had been further explained. But the book was sufficiently long, and the things left to the imagination were perhaps more appreciated that way. And it was adorable to read. I was laughing out loud and my husband kept coming in to ask me "What's happening now?" because I was so amused.
The largest criticism I have is that some of the threads in the plotting got loose. But none of these things are terribly important. The book was very fun to read, and I would highly recommend it for a quick and satisfying adventure. I liked it so much that I immediately went and bought the other things for sale by the author, so I do think she's an author worth watching.
Tales from Brookgreen: Gardens, Folklore, Ghost Stories, and Gullah Folktales in the South Carolina Lowcountry
on Aug. 23, 2012
I really enjoyed this book! I have a strong "elective" sort of interest in anthropology but mostly as it pertains to folklore (such as the works of Zora Neale Hurston) so I had high hopes for this collection. It did not disappoint. The author of the book was careful to arrange aids for readers not as familiar with the subject area, which helped me to follow the scope of the stories. The real prize is the way Michelsohn "tells" the stories - the reader experiences the chapters as oral storytelling told in the voices of the women who passed the stories along to her. Michelsohn's commentary and parenthetical notes, as well as setup, helps the reader to understand context, and her control over diction and tone give the sense that the reader is experiencing the stories firsthand rather than reading them. Sometimes questions are anticipated, tangents are indulged, and 'asides' are made ("you remember her, right?") which adds an ambient sort of verisimilitude to the whole thing. The way Michelsohn weaves in the necessary background knowledge without making it into a data dump or history textbook is also quite impressive. None of the "lessons" ever felt tedious - and my understanding of the stories as well as the history of the place where the stories were set (and even history in general) was the better for it.
Anyone who enjoys reading folklore will find much to love here, but those who enjoy folklore probably already suspected that. The real gem here is the way the writing was accomplished - it is artful and immersive and takes pains to connect to the audience.