Review – Un Lun Dun

Un Lun Dun

By China Miéville

Del Rey Books

E-ISBN: 978-0-345-49723-9

4.5 stars

Cute — describing Un Lun Dun in one word.  Cute would fit but it probably wouldn’t suffice. While there were so many things in this book that I loved (Curdle the milk carton for instance) there was even so much more to sink into that I feel I’m almost at a loss to write this review because I want to share absolutely everything which would ruin it so I will try for some restraint but I won’t promise it completely.

Deeba is the best friend of Zanna and as it turns out Zanna is supposed to save UnLondon but she doesn’t know it yet.  You see, Zanna is the Schwazzy, the savior of UnLondon and when strange things begin to happen to her, she investigates and her curiosity leads her to, you guessed it, UnLondon with Deeba tagging along.  Deeba, well, all she wants to do is get home and when she and Zanna are finally returned to their London, all she can do is think of UnLondon and how she can get back there.  Determined to help now that Zanna “the Schwazzy” can’t, she finds a way to not only find UnLondon, but also to save it — or at least she hopes to.

Miéville has an acute refined ability to take something so simple, the world we live in for example, and turn it around so it becomes something almost unrecognizable.  I say almost because he lets us glimpse the unusual but then pulls it back just far enough so we start to wonder what he’s really after.  Is that another world I just saw, or I am dreaming, fallen into a mental state, or maybe, just maybe that world is out there, waiting…waiting for the right time and place to show itself.  In Un Lun Dun, he does that along with taking the everyday mundane (umbrellas and milk cartons) and making them the most spectacular of characters.  Yes, characters.  He takes a milk carton living in UnLondon and gives it the personality of a lap dog that only wants to be loved and trot around about your heels.  He elevates umbrellas from simple rain protection to ultimate smog repellant then transforms them into a rebrella that will help to defeat evil.  It’s this ability to take the everyday and take it to the unbelievable that keeps me reading and coming back for more.

The City and the City was my first Miéville book and I was hooked from page one.  Kraken was an absolute treat and I couldn’t wait to find out what treasure was hidden in Un Lun Dun.  I can say it was absolutely full of gems and I honestly can’t wait to get my hands on more of his writing.  For the curious, he has a new book out, Embassytown, which takes place on an alien planet.  Ask me if I’m buying that one.  Yes, the answer is yes.

If you haven’t read any Miéville, one, start, and two, start with Un Lun Dun.  It’s fun, cute if you’ll indulge me, but also a way to meet a writer that will take you places you never imagined possible within the confines of the page.  It may be considered young adult, and completely different than his other books but that’s something to love about his writing — incredible diversity.

 

 

Review – A Conspiracy of Kings

A Conspiracy of Kings

By Megan Whalen Turner

Greenwillow Books

ISBN: 9780061870934

4 stars

A Conspiracy of Kings in the fourth book in The Thief series.  I don’t know that I loved this one, which is supposedly the final book in the series, as much as the previous three, but I did enjoy it.

Sophos of Sounis is more concerned with complaining about his tutor than with the fact that he may one day be the King of Sounis.  When his father’s villa is attacked, he gets the chance to figure out whether or not he has what it takes to be King of Sounis.

I missed Sophos in the last two books.  He’s a likable character in The Thief but here, well, I wanted to slap him and yell at him to grow up.  He’s going to be King, let’s face it, you know he is, and his land is at war and all he can think to do is whine about the tutor he can’t stand because he thinks he’s smarter than him.  And while that might be true, it just shows you how childish he is.  When he finds himself a slave in one of his father’s Barons’ household, he thinks about staying there because it’s easier to let someone else make decisions which made me wonder why I liked him in the first place.  But then he finds out there’s more to him than even he thought and the rest flowed, although I did miss Gen, the King of Attolia and the former Thief of Eddis, in this book.  Gen was a whiner too but there was something still so likable about him because you knew he was doing it to hide something.  Sophos just whined.  This one is all about Sophos and while he’s good, he’s no Gen.

I’m slightly annoyed though.  It did end on a good wrap-up note but I feel there is still more and I don’t know if another book is planned — must Google!  Otherwise, it has been a satisfying series and I recommend it.

Re-Read Thoughts: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Since I read the final two books in my Harry Potter Re-Read back to back I thought it would be a good idea to put my thoughts together because the books sort of melded in my head.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

By JK Rowling

Scholastic Inc.

ISBN: 0-439-78454-9

The short re-cap: Harry returns to Hogwarts for his sixth year.  His hopes are high after learning he will be having private lessons with Dumbledore, finds he has feeling for Ginny he never imagined, and realizes his life is about to change forever.

Spoilers below; I’ve warned you so no complaints.

I love how book six begins with a visit to the Muggle Prime Minister.  I don’t know why but the scene where the Muggle Minister gets annoyed by having to wait for the Minister of Magic to appear just makes me laugh.  I love, love, love Fred and George and the new joke shop.  U No Poo!  How can you not chuckle at that?  Also, the Fleur and Mrs. Weasley testing of the waters of the in-law pool is a nice aside in a book that can otherwise be full of tension.  The pensive is probably one of my most favorite of Rowling’s magical inventions and the ways she uses it to tell Voldermort’s story makes it all the more interesting.  And then, there’s the romance.  I don’t care much for teen angst but here it’s not annoying.  Ron and Lavender are amusing but poor Hermione getting stuck with Cormac McLaggen is just mean.  And yes, I know she’s doing it to hurt Ron but she could have picked better.  Harry and Ginny — I love that these two get together but I hate that they break up.  Harry, can you be more stubborn?  Yes, he can but I won’t go there now.

I can’t escape it so I’ll mention it — Dumbledore’s death.  It’s sad and it makes the ending of this book seem so final.  Each time I want it to end differently and it doesn’t but I appreciate that Rowling has people die in this series.  It’s necessary for the story and adds much more weight to it.

The Half-Blood Prince is one of my favorites in the series.  This is probably my second favorite followed by the Prisoner of Azkaban.

 

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

By JK Rowling

Scholastic Inc.

ISBN: 0-545-01022-5

The short re-cap: Harry, Ron, and Hermione leave Hogwarts and their families behind to search for the horcruxes hidden by Voldermort.  Camping ensures, fighting begins, and life as Harry knows it will never be the same.

OK, folks, spoilers drill remains in place.

The Deathly Hallows is a sad book for many reasons but for me it’s sad because it’s the end.  There’s no more to look forward to.  Also, the first time I read this book I didn’t so much mind the epilogue.  This time it didn’t feel necessary for me to know that Ginny and Harry marry and have three children or that Ron and Hermione stay together.  But, that off my chest now, let’s move on.

The camping is slow and the first part of this book does feel like it drags a bit.  While the searching for the horcruxes bit is a necessary part of the plot, it’s slow and the in fighting with Harry, Ron, and Hermione gets tired.  Although, this is the book in which I fall in love with Neville and Luna.  They both shine brightly doing more to help Harry that he could or would have ever asked them to do.  They’re stand up people and I couldn’t be happier that it’s Neville that chops off Nagini’s head!  Luna is still loopy but she gets people so well, that in the end, when she sees Harry sitting on a bench in the Great Hall after the battle, she’s the one that provides him his means of escape.  Ginny is pure fire and the way Harry looks for her dot on the Maurader’s Map is sweet, if still a little creepy.

Snape.  I skipped mentioning him in my thoughts on the Half-Blood Prince even though he plays a large part there because I wanted to talk about him here.  No, I didn’t have a change of heart.  I still dislike him greatly.  He does redeem himself, in Harry’s eyes, but not mine.  My dislike of him has been cultivated for far too long for me to like him now even after knowing what he has done to help Harry.  Snape harbors too much hate for Harry’s father James to really care much about him the end.  Yes, I know he does care but for me it feels forced and I can’t go along.

Earlier I said I found this book sad.  There are a number of reasons but the one that stands out is Dobby’s death.  I got a little teary when reading it.  Dobby has been there for Harry and to have him die now is heartbreaking.  Harry finds resolve in his death but I don’t.  For me, it’s sadder than Dumbledore’s death.

There are some amazing moments:  Mrs. Weasley taking on Bellatrix.  How fabulous is Molly!  Ron finding he cares about house elves, at least for Hermione’s sake.  Hermione’s quick thinking that gets them out of several incidents.  Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s escape from Gringotts on a dragon.  Neville becoming the man!

My re-read may have started on a whim and took a lot longer than I thought it would to finish the seven books but I’m glad I made the time.  These aren’t books I pull off my shelf often, in fact, it’s been years since I’ve read any of them but it was fun to re-live this story.  Even knowing what happens and how it will all end, there were still a few surprises here.

Final thoughts on all the books:

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone — It must have been at least 10 years since I read this one and it was a lovely surprise.  The story is full of wonder at the beginning and I forgot how easily Rowling can pull a reader into her world.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets — I wanted to pace myself for the re-read because I didn’t want to burn out.  I did rush into this one and while I loved it, I was really looking forward to book three.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban — Undoubtedly, my favorite.  I loved it the first time I read it and fell in love all over again on page one.  The story takes a little bit darker turn but it also re-introduced me to characters like Lupin and Sirius that I heart.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire — I have to say that I enjoyed this one more on this reading.  Why, I can’t really say but I discovered many things this time around that I forgot.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix — While I didn’t find as much joy in book five as I did in the previous four, I still liked it.  Harry gets very moody in this one and my tolerance for teen angst is low so I was annoyed a bit but nowhere near enough to stop!  Besides, I get to intense moments of Snape dislike in this one and that’s totally worth it.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince — Again, more Snape disliking and that’s good.  Also, while the teen angst gets to me, the teen romance got me in this one.  I think it’s because I love when Harry and Ginny together.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — It’s sad because so many people die in this one but there’s something so wonderful about seeing it through to the end.  While I can do without the epilogue, the ending seems just right for me.

Well, after several months, my re-read is over and all I have to say is the end.

Today’s Book(s) and a Movie

I’ve still got two Harry Potter books — The Half-Blood Prince and The Deathly Hallows — to finish for my re-read this year.  Since we’re planning to head out of town today (traffic gods please be on our side, say 3PM, if that’s good for you), I decided there’s no better time to finish up the series than during the holidays so in the suitcase they went.  I’m not sure if I’ll actually be able to finish but I’m going to give it a good try.

I did get the chance to see part 1 of the Deathly Hallows the other night, so I thought I’d share a few thoughts on that too since I’m already talking about the boy wizard.  It’s not really a review, just a few thoughts.

First, I’m not a book purist.  I consider movies and books completely different mediums and I never believe that a book, especially a large book like Deathly Hallows, should follow exactly the same lines.  It’s just not feasible and I’m good with differences — even major differences don’t bother me.  That said, here’s what I thought.

I liked it.  Honestly, I thought about leaving it at that but it seemed like cheating.  I saw it on Imax so the special effects looked great, the acting was good, and you know right from the start that you’re no longer watching a cutesy movie about a kid learning spells.  People die, but there’s still some humor to put things in perspective. There are some very sad moments (When Hermione erases her parents memory is one.) and some very funny ones (Ron’s awkward way of telling Hermione that he’s in love with her and trying horribly to apologize for leaving both her and Harry in a rage.) that left me wanting more and very glad that I decided to re-read the series even if I hadn’t yet gotten to book seven.  I said the acting was good, and in particular, Emma Watson’s performance.  She’s matured dramatically and it shows.  And of course Alan Rickman and Ralph Fiennes are phenomenally bad in a good way.  I never imagined Voldemort as creepy as Fiennes makes him and there’s something to be said for that.

While I’m not a fan of two part movies like this, they did end it in a somewhat logical spot so I can’t complain about that other than I immediately wanted to see part two.  I’m trying not to give too many things away and realize this isn’t making much sense, so in my continuing attempts to remain spoiler free, I’ll just leave you with a trailer.

Have you seen the movie?  Any thoughts?

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

By JK Rowling

Scholastic

ISBN: 0-439-35806-X

4 stars

It’s taking me longer than I thought to finish my Harry Potter re-read this year but that’s all right, I’m in no hurry.  Let’s face it; it’s not as if I don’t know the story. 🙂  In all honesty, I was hoping to re-read the entire series before seeing the latest movie but that’s not going to happen so now I’m just enjoying the story.

The short re-cap: Harry is waiting patiently to return to Hogwarts when he’s attacked by dementors, almost gets expelled for performing underage magic in front of a muggle, gets off by a slim margin, heads back to Hogwarts to find out that the Ministry of Magic is slowing doing its best to take over the school.  And there’s that small little matter of Voldermort who would like to see him dead.

As always, spoilers below.  You’ve been forewarned.

The Order of the Phoenix, I hate to admit, is not my favorite book in the series.  Not to say it isn’t good but I forgot just how moody and cranky everyone is in this installment.  I can’t blame either Harry (who’s got a price on his head and feels everyone is lying to him, which in some ways they are) or Sirius (who’s still in hiding and unable to do anything to help the cause or Harry) for their dark moods but there is only so much male PMS I can take.  However, the Weasley twins stepped up and provided enough lightness to make me remember why I fell in love with the series — the magic these two manage is wonderfully silly, and so disgusting, that it makes me want to procure a flyer and order a few of their concoctions.  Umbridge is so mean, annoying, and sniveling that I somehow found myself enjoying her character this time around.  I won’t say like because that would go too far but her attitude brings out some wonderful qualities in others characters such as Professor McGonagall who goes to great means to control her temper.  Snape.  I didn’t plan on mentioning him but he does play a critical role in Harry’s fifth year and his actions only keep me securely on the hate Snape bandwagon.  I’m so very done with him, except I’m not really and I have two more books to fully loathe him, which I plan to do.

In some ways, I feel as though there is too much going on in this book.  It’s long, and that’s not a bad thing because we do get to know a few characters better — Luna and Ginny who are among my favorites — so I don’t want to point to that as the main reason for my lack of overflowing love.  So many sub-plots show up here and it’s a major turning point in the tome.  The danger is much more palpable in this one than the proceeding books and it carries on with the sadness that made its way into the series when Cedric was killed by Voldermort.  But Harry’s attitude is sometimes too much for me.  I do have to admit that I did enjoy the fight at the Ministry of Magic though.  The rooms in the Department of Mysteries are so fascinating.

Well, on to hunting horcruxes.

Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire

Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire

By J.K. Rowling

Scholastic, Inc.

ISBN: 043913959-7

5 stars

I’m moving along nicely with this series.  I was surprised, again, by how much more I remember from the movies than the books but that’s what’s making this re-read so much fun.

The short re-cap — Harry starts his fourth year at Hogwarts, gets to see the Quidditch World Cup, finds out that Hogwarts will host the Tri-Wizard Tournament, sees his name thrown out of the Goblet of Fire as a contestant, almost gets killed by a dragon, eats some gillyweed, and sees Voldermort re-born.

As you’ve been warned — spoilers below.

There was a lot about this book I didn’t remember, one being just how mean Snape is to Hermione!  I knew it was there but re-reading it again was awful; he is just so harsh to a young girl.  As you can see, I’m moving along with my Hate Snape Campaign nicely.  There is no redemption for him.  I will not forgive him later even when he tries to redeem himself in Harry’s eyes.  Nor will I forgive Harry for forgiving him but that comes later and I’m getting way ahead of myself.  Another thing about this book I forgot is how profoundly sad it is when Cedric dies.  It’s always been a sad moment but I found myself tearing up at those bits this time around.  There’s also a lot to laugh at in this book and I like the way Rowling balances the two.  Honestly, I can’t wait for the Divination classes to be over.  I’m just as fed up with Professor Trelawney as Harry is but I find both Ron and Harry’s homework full of deathly predications to be quite amusing.  The ending of this book, while very sad, also gives you that look ahead that makes you want to pull the next book off the shelf and keep going with the story.

I’ve been pacing myself with these books.  If I didn’t, I probably would have overdosed on Harry Potter already.  It’s been fun rediscovering this story slowly and letting it unfold as it does and I’m glad I decided to go this route instead of for the all at once indulgence.  I haven’t read these books in so long that I have forgotten a lot of the little details so each one has held small surprises for me.  Those surprises are well appreciated I can tell you.

I’m excited about book five for several reasons: more Sirius Black; more angry Dumbledore; more Mad-Eye Moody; and the Weasley twins!

 

Mockingjay

Mockingjay

By Suzanne Collins

Scholastic Press

ISBN: 978-0-439-02351-1

4 stars

I didn’t think I would be reviewing this book this soon.  When I put it on hold at the library, I was 48th in line and wasn’t expecting to even read this book before next year.  I was surprised when my hold came in much earlier than expected.  I also surprised myself by showing a tad bit of restraint by waiting until I finished my current read before starting this one.

When this book came out, I read all the reviews, even the ones with spoilers because I like spoilers.  I read the last few pages of this book before I was 20 pages in and knew how it ended which made reading the book much easier for me.  If I can’t figure out where something is going, I read ahead, but if I know even basically how it will end, I will stick to the process of turning each page in order.  I wanted to be able to read this book without being annoyed at not knowing so I took a few liberties at the beginning.  So what did I actually think of this book?

In the interest of not giving too much away and providing spoilers (I know not everyone loves them as much as I do.), I’m going to do a very brief overview and then move onto my thoughts.  With books in a series, I always find it hard not to give too much away since so much of the story depends on the endings of the previous books.

Katniss Everdeen, survivor of two Hunger Games, is now the symbol of the revolution against the Capitol.  She’s hurt physically and mentally and barely surviving day-to-day let alone a revolution.  Reluctantly, she agrees to become the Mockingjay for the revolution as long as she gets a few things: they rescue Peeta and the other Hunger Games participants that can be found, grant them immunity, and she gets to kill President Snow.

Great parts of this book left me annoyed and some of it left me underwhelmed.  The tension that built up in The Hunger Games and Catching Fire felt lost here much the same way Katniss was.  I wanted more than bombing raids and body counts and I wanted less of Katniss being in a daze hiding in closets afraid of the world beyond the walls she doesn’t even feel safe behind.  Once again, the story is told by Katniss but when she’s too busy twirling the bracelet that labels her mentally unstable to tell it to you, it suffers.  And, yes, the Team Gale/Team Peeta thing…I was so annoyed by this whole love triangle thing.  Kiss Gale one day, kiss Peeta the next day.  It was awkward and annoying and in the end she basically waited it out until one of them made the decision for her.  She became incapable of making any decisions or understanding her own feelings.

Now, that last paragraph doesn’t mean I didn’t like the book because I did.  The politics of the revolution are interesting, they have to be as the story pretty much runs on them, and seeing some of the old characters return was a nice touch.  It also moves fast, really fast.  It was an emotional ride and once it had you, kept you there wondering what would happen next.  I can’t in anyway say it was a bad read.  I was riveted to this book and thought about it for days after so obviously it had some affect on me.  Katniss is meant to infuriate and annoy and she played the role perfectly here.  Being the last book in the trilogy though, I think I was hoping for more, unfortunately I don’t really know what that more is.

If you’ve read the previous books in this series, The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, you’ll most likely not want to miss this one.