Posts Categorized: Books

The Rithmatist
by Brandon Sanderson

August 31, 2013 Book Reviews, Books 0

Sanderson_Rithmatist

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 

The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson | Macmillan – Tor Teen | May 2013 | Hardcover $17.99

More than anything, Joel wants to be a Rithmatist. Rithmatists have the power to infuse life into two-dimensional figures known as Chalklings. Rithmatists are humanity’s only defense against the Wild Chalklings. Having nearly overrun the territory of Nebrask, the Wild Chalklings now threaten all of the American Isles.

As the son of a lowly chalkmaker at Armedius Academy, Joel can only watch as Rithmatist students learn the magical art that he would do anything to practice. Then students start disappearing — kidnapped from their rooms at night, leaving trails of blood. Assigned to help the professor who is investigating the crimes, Joel and his friend Melody find themselves on the trail of an unexpected discovery — one that will change Rithmatics — and their world — forever.

Brandon Sanderson is well known amongst sci-fi/fantasy fans as a prolific source of imaginative epics packed with never-a-dull-moment storylines on top of complex settings and backstories. Sanderson, who is only in his late 30’s, is already the author of 82 distinct works. He is perhaps best known for his Mistborn series and for completing the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan, who passed away before he could complete his 14-book behemoth.

Most recently, Sanderson was nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Novella for The Emperor’s Soul. He is currently working on 3 different projects and has several more on the backburner; fans will be happy to hear that his next novel, Steelheart, is due out in September. Though his works generally appeal to SF/F genre enthusiasts of all ages, The Rithmatist is his first work to be specifically targeted to middle-to-high-school readers.

The Rithmatist follows the story of a young man who goes to school with people who possess a magical power – but he himself does not possess that same ability. The idea for this story came to Sanderson as he contemplated the possibility of non-magical students attending a magic-focused school, such as the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry from the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling. Sanderson, of course, puts his own spin on the rules of magic. The book is illustrated by Ben McSweeney with examples of typical chalk drawings. Sanderson has clearly put quite a bit of thought into the mechanics of this world’s distinct magical system. The power to animate simple lines of chalk is extended to only a select few students during a one-time initiation ceremony. These young rithmatists are trained to draw chalk circles and lines that can attack enemies, defend positions, and act as small helpful creatures called chalklings.

Joel, our “muggle” in this case, missed out on his initiation ceremony and wishes for nothing more than to be allowed the chance to train as a rithmatist. He jumps at the rare chance to study with a rithmancy professional alongside a particularly apathetic rithmancy student named Melody; they are soon pulled into an investigation of mysterious kidnappings committed by improbable chalk creatures. What he and his new companion discover could change the way rithmancy is used forever.

Though distinctly Sandersonian, The Rithmatist is not an intimidating brick of a book. Younger readers who are just beginning to test the waters of the fantasy genre should definitely get their toes wet with this story. Fans of the aforementioned Harry Potter may recognize and enjoy some familiar elements, but this is in no way a “copycat” series (and yes, Sanderson has indicated his intentions to continue Joel’s story – the 2nd installment is expected sometime in 2015). This book is recommended for teen readers who enjoy detailed magical systems and fantastic plotlines tempered with doses of realistic coming-of-age character development.


Links:

This is a partial draft version of a full review that was submitted for publication to the Galveston Daily News in August of 2013. My opinions do not reflect those of my employer.

Publication information: Sanderson, Brandon. The Rithmatist. New York: Tor, 2013. Print.
Source: Blue Willow Bookshop
Disclaimer: I am not compensated, monetarily or otherwise, for reviews of books or other products.


Book Review Fangirling – A Memory of Light

February 8, 2013 Books 0

First can I just say:

FINALLY

WoT14_MemoryofLight

Book 14: A Memory of Light
[That link takes you to the Goodreads page for this book.]

Edited 1/1/2015 to add: This is not really a book review, so the regular star ratings and stuff don’t apply. I wrote this post long before I started really blogging about books on a regular basis. I may do a re-read of this series in the future though.



Thoughts

Even though it’s been nearly a month since the book was released — a month since I dashed down to the bookstore and purchased the first hardback I’ve bought in over a year — I still find it difficult to fully express all the feels I have about this book.

I don’t know if the ending really could have been any better. No, no, I don’t mean the book was perfect — after all, after 14 books and 23 years and the death of the original author, how could it be? But I think that it was exactly the end that we needed.

I don’t want to write too much about it here, because I know several people who are still reading, or who are waiting for the ebook release in April, and some of them occasionally read my blog, and I don’t want to spoil this book for them. Besides, other folks have done a much better job of really hashing out the details than I ever could:

Brandon Sanderson’s blog on release day: It’s finally out.

Non-spoiler review of AMoL from The Thirteenth Depository.

“Dear Robert Jordan”: a letter from fan/friend Jason Denzel.

Book review at HuffPo.

Brandon Sanderson’s post-AMoL #TorChat on Twitter.

The book printing process at Quad Graphics in Pennsylvania.

Leigh Butler’s spoiler-free review at Tor.

Leigh Butler’s spoilerific and rather stream of consciousness-y review at Tor.

Part 1 of Tor’s WoT: AMoL “re-read” series.

I have to say that I’m not sure about the open-endedness of the ending. Not that I expected some sort of Happily Ever After with a White Picket Fence and 2.5 Children (Per Wife) kind of ending, just… I still have so many questions and there are still so many loose ends and probably none of that will ever be addressed outside the realm of fanfic. In fact, that’s probably exactly what the authors intended.

– – – – – –

Where is a reader to go from here?

There are plenty of other epic fantasies out there, I guess. And, even better, plenty of speculative fiction in general.

I’m moving on the A Song of Ice and Fire series now. A coworker was kind enough to lend me the first season of Game of Thrones and now I feel more compelled than ever to tackle those brick-like books. But now that my commute is taking up a bit more time, I think I’ll be listening to the audio versions instead.

I’ve become more and more interested in YA over the past few years, too, to the point that several items on my to-read list have been pushed back a dozen times or more in favor of some shiney YA thing that I just can’t resist because oh, it’ll only take a couple of days to read. The great thing about YA is that the “genre” stuff is just as (if not more) common and respected as the “literary” stuff.

I have all kinds of reading plans for the coming year, though, plans that don’t necessarily involve SF/F (or at least not only SF/F). More about that in the year-in-review post(s) next month (maybe).


The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
by Deb Perelman

December 7, 2012 Book Reviews, Books 0

Perelman_SmittenKitchen

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman | Knopf | January 2012 | Hardcover $35.00

Deb Perelman loves to cook. It’s as simple as that. She isn’t a chef or a restaurant owner—she’s never even waitressed. Cooking in her tiny Manhattan kitchen was, at least at first, for special occasions — and, too often, an unnecessarily daunting venture. Deb found herself overwhelmed by the number of recipes available to her. So, she founded her award-winning blog, smittenkitchen.com, on the premise that cooking should be a pleasure, and that the results of your labor can — and should be — delicious… every time.

Deb is a firm believer that there are no bad cooks, just bad recipes. And now, with the same warmth, candor, and can-do spirit her blog is known for, Deb presents her first cookbook — more than 100 new recipes, plus a few favorites from her site, all gorgeously illustrated with hundreds of Deb’s beautiful color photographs.

I recently acquired a copy of Deb Perelman’s The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. The author has been writing about food/cooking over at “The Smitten Kitchen” blog for years now, and her expertise is evident in this long-awaited book.

First, and most obviously, the book is beautiful. Ms. Perelman did all of the photos herself in her tiny little kitchen. And every single recipe has at least one photo — the more involved/complicated ones have more. Plus, I love that the cover looks great with or without the dust jacket. Oh, yeah, and it opens flat on your kitchen counter. Details like this make me so happy.

I do want to make it clear that this is not a cookbook for beginners. The instructions are all clear and the author has included plenty of little asides and tips, but if you can barely boil an egg this book is not for you! And it isn’t for folks who only like simple, meat-n-taters type meals, either. Ms. Perelman was once a vegetarian, and that comes across in her creative use of produce (and relative dearth of heavy meats) in these dishes.

But if you think cooking is a fun hobby, if you like trying new ingredients and combinations, if you want to try something different but not unrealistically complicated, if you appreciate recipes that have been tested and perfected by a foodie who knows what she’s doing — this is the cookbook for you.

I’ve already tried a couple of recipes from the book: a fancy sort of grilled cheese (which involved caramelized onions, and which made me seriously ecstatic) and a cucumber dill ‘slaw. Planning on trying the latkes this weekend (it is Hanukkah, after all).

This is one of the few cookbooks I have that I know will get lots of repeated use. And that’s probably the best recommendation a cookbook can get.


Links:

Publication information: Perelman, Deb. The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. New York: Knopf, 2012. Print.
Source: Blue Willow Bookshop
Disclaimer: I am not compensated, monetarily or otherwise, for reviews of books or other products.


We Are What We Pretend to Be
by Kurt Vonnegut

November 16, 2012 Book Reviews, Books 0

Vonnegut_WAWWPTB

★ ★ ★

We Are What We Pretend to Be: The First and Last Works by Kurt Vonnegut | Vanguard Press | October 2012 | Hardcover $19.99

Called “our finest black-humorist” by The Atlantic Monthly, Kurt Vonnegut was one of the most influential writers of the 20th century. Now his first and last works come together for the first time in print, in a collection aptly titled after his famous phrase, We Are What We Pretend To Be. In this fiction collection, published in print for the first time, exist Vonnegut’s grand themes: trust no one, trust nothing; and the only constants are absurdity and resignation, which themselves cannot protect us from the void but might divert.

I was lucky enough to win a copy of We Are What We Pretend to Be by Kurt Vonnegut from a giveaway at Book Riot. It is actually 2 books in 1: his first novella Basic Training + his final novel If God Were Alive Today + an intro by the author’s daughter, Nanette Vonnegut. Basic Training was never actually published, and Vonnegut didn’t get a chance to finish If God Were Alive Today before he passed away in 2007.

I think I enjoyed Nanette’s introduction more than either of the actual stories, which is unfortunate because I count Vonnegut as one of my favorite authors. Neither of the stories were actually bad, but neither of them were anywhere near the quality of his other works — and that isn’t surprising. These stories were never published in the first place because they weren’t really ready for publication. I guess the novelty/nostalgia factor is supposed to make up for that now, for Vonnegut fans who are obviously never otherwise going to get new works out of him because, y’know, he’s dead.

I caught glimpses of the author’s budding genius in Basic Training, but it is definitely in need of some editing (which I suspect the publisher was reluctant to do, and I can’t really lay blame for that). And If God Were Alive Today has the makings of something truly profound, but I found it very, very obvious that it was unfinished (and, again, in need of more refined editing, but then it would be, being unfinished and all).

Overall, I’m glad I got a chance to read it and I wouldn’t be embarrassed to lend it out, but I wouldn’t recommend this to Vonnegut virgins as an introduction to his works.


Links:


Publication information: Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. Literary Trust. We Are What We Pretend to Be: The First and Last Works. New York: Vanguard Press, 2012. Print.
Source: Giveaway from Book Riot
Disclaimer: I am not compensated, monetarily or otherwise, for reviews of books or other products.