Inktober 2017 Sketch – Zora

My next book-related sketch is Zora, my favorite character from the book I’m currently reading, Three Bags Full by Leonie Swann. Zora is a blackface sheep who loves high, rocky places, and is the only ewe in the flock with horns. 

inktober_zora

I’m almost finished with the book, so a review will be up soon. 🙂


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Book Review – The Eighth Day

The modern day merges with Arthurian legend in The Eighth Day by Dianne K Salerni!

8thday_cover

After a terrible accident that killed his family, 12 year old Jax is put in the care of his older cousin Riley. Jax wakes up the day after his thirteenth birthday to find the world gone crazy – silent, empty of people, with no electricity and a strange purple sky. He has discovered the Eighth Day, a magical extra day between Wednesday and Thursday that only a select few people can experience. But this new day is plunged into danger when Jax learns of a wizard who wants to destroy the magical spell keeping the Eighth day separate from the rest of time, and he (along with Riley, who is not what he seems) must fight to keep the timeline intact.

The plot of this book reminds me intensely of The Midnighters Trilogy by Scott Westerfeld. In that series, there’s an extra hour between 12:00 and 12:01 am that only certain people can access. The Eighth Day is similar, but with a whole day instead of an hour.

Salerni gives her story a bunch of unique twists, like attaching the magical day to a spell cast by none other than Merlin himself. Jax is your typical YA protagonist, but there are a variety of interesting characters filling out the cast, as well as tons of magic. To be honest, I generally find Arthurian legends to be boring, but this story modernized and spiced them up quite well!

I enjoyed this book, and I’ll be looking out for more by Dianne Salerni. I’d like to see this story turned into a movie!

Cover Report: The cover features a cityscape with THE EIGHTH DAY in giant letters, with a boy running into a doorway made by the “I”. Very unique and cool! I give this cover an A.

Typo Police: No real typos. Jax gets a message online from a girl who says “your new” instead of “you’re new”, but this is obviously meant to be a deliberate misspelling in a casual message.


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Inktober 2017 Sketch – Bookling

Day 1 of #inktober! I decided to draw a Bookling, one of the magical one-eyed creatures from The City of Dreaming Books.  I don’t recall the author saying anything about them having markings, but I decided to give my little fella some stripes anyway. 🙂 Each Bookling is named after a fictional author created by rearranging the name of a famous real life author, so this tiger-inspired cyclops is Gipriny Kladdard (Rudyard Kipling in Zamonian).

inktober_bookling


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Inktober 2017!

inktober_headingOctober is almost here, which means…time for Inktober! Inktober is a Twitter event where artists make an ink drawing for every day in the month of October. I’m going to try it, and I plan for a few of the drawings to be illustrations from books I’ve read.

Should be fun! 😀


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Book Review – The City of Dreaming Books

Another intriguing title led me to pick up The City of Dreaming Books, by Walter Moers.

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Optimus Yarnspinner is a Lindworm (that is, a dinosaur) living in the fantasy world of Zamonia. His godfather dies, leaving behind a manuscript so well written that it brings everyone who reads it to tears. The last known whereabouts of the manuscript’s mysterious author is Bookholm, known as “the city of dreaming books”, an immense metropolis where literature is loved above all else. An encounter with a villainous bookseller lands Optimus in the endless labyrinth of deadly libraries below the city, where he must find a way to survive and escape.

This is without a doubt one of the most unique books I’ve read! The description and illustrations inside make it appear to be aimed at children, but it’s written as an adult-level book. The world of Zamonia is fantastical, with dinosaurs and talking animals living alongside the occasional human, and magical monsters with bizarre shapes and even more bizarre abilities. It feels very much like Alice in Wonderland, or Roald Dahl, or maybe even a grown-up Dr Seuss.

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The illustrations are a unique touch. The book is filled with hundreds of black and white pen illustrations of characters and objects (mostly books, of course!), drawn by the author himself. Moers’ attention to detail is amazing!

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The original book was written in German, and the translator did an excellent job adapting it into English. Considering the length and academic-type content (there’s a whole course worth of material for Fantasy Literature Analysis 101), it must have been a monumental task. Kudos to translator John Brownjohn for a nice adaptation!

The book isn’t perfect, as there are occasional stretches that are slow and dull, but overall I enjoyed this story. It’s definitely an interesting experience that I won’t soon forget! By the way, in case you’re wondering about the title, it’s explained that a book sitting on a shelf is asleep and dreaming, waiting for the day when it will be picked up and read again.

Cover Report: The cover has a background of hundreds of shelved and stacked books of all sizes and shapes. Near the bottom is an opening, where a strange creature with an eyestalk reads from an open book. The cover gives a clear idea of the importance that books will have in the story, as well as giving a glimpse of the fantasy creatures within. I give this cover a solid A!

Typo Police: I was unsure about finding typos here, because the language is very old-timey British (which adds to the Alice in Wonderland vibe). I suspected that any supposed misspellings I found would actually be correct, just weird to my eyes. One such word was “swingeing”, which I thought was a typo of “swinging”, but it turns out that it’s actually a word. I also noticed that they used the plural words “cyclopses” and “syllabuses” instead of what I believe is more properly “cyclopes” and “syllabi”. But I suppose that could be one of those situations where both are considered correct.
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Book Review – Salt

The interesting one-word title made me pick up Salt, by Maurice Gee.

cover_salt

Hari is a young boy living in the Burrows, a rat-infested slum inhabited by the poorest of the poor. When his father is taken captive by the powerful Company and shipped off to “Deep Salt”, a mysterious mine that kills everyone who ventures inside, Hari sets out on a journey to save him. Meanwhile, Radiant Pearl of the Deep Blue Sea (yes, that’s the actual name her parents gave her) is fleeing her wealthy family, who plan to marry her off to a repulsive Lord in a bid to increase their family’s power. Along with Pearl’s maid Tealeaf, who is not who she seems, they team up to raid Deep Salt and fight back against the evil leaders of their world.

This is a blog first…this is the first book I’ve reviewed here that I actually disliked. Salt started out ok, but I just didn’t find it engaging, and by the end I was practically skimming just to be done. None of the characters were particularly likeable, not even the dog, and its reeeaalllly hard to make me not like a dog! It was also hard to figure out who to root for, because every social group (except the Dwellers) seemed like pretty shitty people. It’s hard to get invested in a war when you’d rather just see both sides kill each other off and be done with it.

I also didn’t like the editing choice to have thoughts rendered without any special formatting. Telepathy is an important part of the story, so there’s a lot of dialogue consisting of thoughts that aren’t spoken out loud. This dialogue is indicated by…nothing. No quotes, no italics, nothing to tell you that what you’re reading is dialogue until halfway through the sentence, when you figure it out through context. A weird choice when so much of the talking is done this way.

The mysterious secret of Deep Salt was easy to figure out as well. A substance deep in a mountain that glows sickly green, causes mutations in rats, and makes people get super sick and then die…not exactly a big challenge to the reader.

This is a trilogy, but I probably won’t be reading the rest. Just not my cup of tea, unfortunately!

Cover Report: The cover features a primitive looking knife, on a black background with green leaves at the top. The title is written in scratchy handwritten text. I like the way the title is written, but the cover overall is bland. I give it a B-.

Typo Police: Pg 53 features the phrase “she would be handed over to him to work as a slavey”, and I thought that was a misspelling of “slave”. But it turns out that “slavey” is an old slang term for a household servant. So I guess I learned a new (old) word!


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Printable Bookmark

In addition to reading, drawing is a big hobby of mine. I drew myself a bookmark to replace the candy wrapper I’m currently using (don’t judge me…it was the only thing on hand!), and I thought I would share it with you guys. 🙂

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On my computer it’s sized correctly for printing, so I’m hoping it will upload the correct size for you too! (If not, let me know and I’ll try to fix it.) Click on the pic above, right-click and save to your computer, then print. I like to laminate mine with packing tape for extra strength.


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Book Review – A Head Full of Ghosts

I take another dip into the supernatural genre with A Head Full of Ghosts, by Paul Tremblay.

ghosts_cover

Eight year old Meredith (known as Merry) lives with her parents and her beloved older sister Marjorie. Fourteen year old Marjorie begins to act out in disturbing ways, and complains of voices in her head. The family turns to a priest who believes the strange behavior is due to a demon possessing Marjorie’s body, and money troubles persuade them to allow reality TV cameras into their house to document the possession. Through it all, Merry tries to understand her sister and survive the turmoil tearing apart her family.

Here’s yet another book that uses the “story within a story” format! That seems super popular lately. The smaller outer story follows adult Merry, who is telling her story to a documentary maker as well as writing for a blog that discusses the reality show that filmed her family. The main inner plot is about the events that happened when she was a child.

One thing I liked about this book was that the author really got into the head of an eight year old. Many times, children are written as miniature adults, or written with a very bland, broad, generic “little kid” brush. Tremblay writes Merry as if she’s a real child, with the knowledge and psychology that a person of that age would realistically have. There are a lot of mature concepts that she doesn’t understand, and she has childlike reactions to some of the strange events that happen. Her almost unconditional worship of her older sister seems very true-to-life as well.

The book also feels like a cautionary tale about reality TV. The family agrees to be on the show only because their financial situation was so desperate that they couldn’t pass up the money. The scandalous TV show not only takes away their privacy and normal family life, it strains the girls’ relationships at school and brings ultra-religious protesters to the family’s door (they aren’t mentioned by name, but the despicable Westboro Baptist Church is very clearly referenced).

The way the author weaves Marjorie’s increasingly bizarre behavior through the story makes this book a definite page-turner! Just about the time you think maybe she’s ok and back to normal, here comes something creepy and WTF to shake everything up.

I really only have one small complaint about the book, and it’s a spoiler…so I guess I better keep quiet. :X

I enjoyed this novel, and I’m going to check out Disappearance at Devil’s Rock, which is by the same author. “Ghosts” has also been optioned for a movie version, which should be cool!

Cover Report: The cover features a photo of the inside an older-looking house, showing a staircase and hallway with a door at the end. This is exactly the setup of the upstairs of the home in the book, and you know I like it when the cover actually matches the inside content! The photo is also sideways, which adds to the strange and disorienting nature of the story. Nice cover. I give it an A!

Typo Police: At one point, a desk drawer is referred to as a “draw”. I thought maybe this was some kind of dialect (like the way people say “draws” for underwear), but I looked it up and it IS incorrect. It should be “drawer”.
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Book Review – The Martian

martian_cover

Millions of miles away on the surface of Mars, the Ares 3 crew encounters an unexpected disaster and has to abruptly abort the mission. In the chaos, botanist Mark Watney is injured and lost in a dust storm. Believing him dead, the rest of the crew escapes, leaving Mark stranded alone on Mars. With only enough supplies for a 10-day mission, Mark is in a dire predicament; the next Mars mission is 4 years away! Now he and the NASA crew on Earth have to figure out a way to help him survive the freezing temperatures, minimal water, dwindling food, and deteriorating equipment long enough to get him safely home.

I first became aware of The Martian by Andy Weir through the movie version, though I haven’t seen it (yet). So naturally I envisioned the main character looking like Matt Damon. 😉

This was an unusual survival story, because of the unique conditions found on an uninhabitable planet. Everyone lost in the wilderness on Earth has issues with finding food, water, and shelter, but this is exponentially worse. Food isn’t just hard to find, it’s literally non-existent; after the supplies are gone, that’s it. Same with water, and most importantly of all, oxygen. And lack of shelter is more than a matter of getting rained on or a bit of frostbite, since most of Mars registers at -55 C (-67 F) with almost no atmosphere. Simply put, the odds are waaaaaaayyyy against him making it more than a few weeks at best. The result is that the suspense was amped way up! Something that would be a tiny inconvenience on Earth, like a small frayed spot in a piece of cloth, could potentially be fatal on Mars. Big problems, like being 3200 kilometers from the only possible escape craft, seem almost insurmountable.

Luckily our hero has an IQ of approximately ten million, and a PhD in biology, chemistry, engineering, computer tech, and mathematics! Seriously, some of the solutions this guy comes up with are crazy complicated. If I had been in his place, I would have taken one look at the calculations necessary to rig the megabio-oxygenator to turn 863 gigajoulemeters of picophenolhydrazine into 103 liters of hydrogen that could be made into 79 liters of water, then just given up and walked out of an air lock. I know you have to be pretty smart to be an astronaut, but DAMN.

Watney’s part of the story is written in journal entries, which was a good choice. It allows us to live the experience through his own words, and allows his personality to shine through. Despite the desperate nature of the story, the book is actually pretty funny!

My only complaint about the book is that Watney seemed impervious to loneliness and other negative mental issues. Even a few months in solitary confinement can seriously disturb people, but he was alone (literally the only person on the PLANET) for a year and a half. Realistically that would be mentally devastating. Not that I want the book to be depressing or anything, but his 100% high spirits right through to the very end detracted from the reality for me.

Anyway, I enjoyed the book, and I’ll be watching the movie in the next couple of days. Should be fun! 🙂

Cover Report: Because of the movie tie-in, the cover was the same as the movie poster: a close up of Matt Damon in a spacesuit. Not a great cover, but it draws recognition. I give it a C.

Typo Police: No typos found.
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