Puffin in Bloom

Until a few years ago I’d never heard of Rifle Paper Co, much less their creative director Anna Bond whose the leading force behind these beautifully illustrated books. Since then a good friend of mine and way talented artist turned me towards their beautiful stationary, calendars, books, and other things that will slowly steal your paycheck. Oh Rifle Paper Co, thank you for all the beautiful things you’ve created – I appreciate it greatly!

In a partnership with Puffin several children’s classics have been redesigned in typical Rifle Paper Co fashion. They’re cheerful hardcovers which double as artwork and are some of the best book-cover collaborations I’ve seen.

The illustrations feel light hearted as if they belong in a book originally intended for children without being pedantic. It’s a cross over between books for children and books for adults which works perfectly!

I’ll be honest, this checks all the boxes for me! If you ever feel like sending me a gift, this is it (just, please not Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland… I already have that one).

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Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

harry_potter_and_the_sorcerers_stoneRecently, I decided to re-read the Harry Potter series, it has been a few years since I read them all the way through and thought it was as good a time as any to re-fresh my memory of them.  I’m not sure how long it’ll take me to finish all 7 books especially if any additional books distract me along the way.  Since many of you are familiar with JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series I’ve decided to forgo my usual format of reviewing and instead share some of my thoughts at re-visiting this series for a third time.

I’ve already finished Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone and I must say I forgot how funny JK Rowling is.  Very clever and dry in some parts that must have flown over my head when I was younger and reading it for the first time.  It’s been long enough that I don’t remember all the little details and reading about them again is a lot of fun.  Also, there were a few very profound quotes that I recognize but seeing them in the context the book places them in adds a certain additional level of meaning.

This time reading Sorcerers Stone I was stuck at how innocent Harry is as a character.  While he’s suffered for 11 years with the Dursley family he’s still a naive and innocent little boy off on an adventure.  It’s hard to fall in love with Harry again knowing that for this boy, who is excited and has pure happiness right now, the future gets so dramatically dark.  Looking forward from where I am in the series right now and thinking about the heartbreak, pain, and suffering that is to come later for many of the characters, I don’t want them to grow up and to loose this innocence.

I remember my mom reading Sorcerers Stone to my brothers and I before we went to bed, and I remember reading it again when I was in 7th grade, and now I have the opportunity to read it at this stage in my life.  It’s nice to have books that you can grow with like friends.

I Went to Goodwill!

I went to Goodwill over the weekend and picked up (among a few other things) some new/old books!  I love getting books at Goodwill because you really never know what you’ll end up getting and they’re really cheap; these books I paid a total of $2.50 for!  3 books for less than $3 – crazy!  I have no idea when I’ll end up getting to these books but that’s ok, they’ll sit on my shelf for a little bit.

The titles are as follows:

  • The Magicians, by Lev Grossman
  • Memoirs of a Geisha, by Arthur Golden
  • Cold Mountain, by Charles Frazier

Any ideas which one I should read first?

The Song of Achilles

downloadLately, I’ve been too busy to finish a book in a few days but this past weekend I took a little skiing vacation and decided to read one of the books I’ve been meaning to tackle.  I choose The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller that I picked up a while ago at my favorite bookstore mainly because I love reading what authors create around ancient myths.  I really loved it!  Miller re-created the ancient Greek myth of Achilles and his companion Patroclus so wonderfully beginning when both boys are young and following them as they grow up and become the distinct men the myth remembers.

I loved how Miller describes these boys’ early childhood and the peace that followed them in the early years before pain and suffering of the world enters their happy lives.  It provides a stark contrast to what eventually becomes of them making it even more heartbreaking even though everyone knows how the story ends.  Something I also really liked was how the other characters are developed – Odysseys is nauseatingly in love with wife Penelope, Briseis is more than a simple slave, and Paris is a typical vain-pretty boy.

Miller has created a great book and I was very grateful to be able to sit down and carve out time to specifically read.

Wonderstruck

wonder struckBrian Selznick has perfected his unique storytelling technique in Wonderstruck.  He uses different mediums – words and images – to tell two seemingly independent stories that weave back and forth with mind-blow precision.  In one story we meet Ben in 1970s Michigan; born deaf in one ear, morning the recent loss of his mother, living with his aunt and uncle, and he’s begun to unlock the mystery of who his father.  The second story follows Rose in 1920s who feels suffocated at home in New Jersey and wants to meet silent film actress Lillian Mayhew in New York City.

The stories run parallel though they exist decades apart: both main characters are around the same age, both are looking for the place where they feel they belong, and are facing the same physical obstacle.

I really loved the illustrations and thought they reflected aspects of silent films – the story progresses through characters expressions and actions instead of words.  Another aspect I really enjoyed was the way Selznick meandered between the illustrations and words: in Rose’s story a silent film shows a flash of lightning and the next pages begins by describing bone shaking thunder in Ben’s world.  Taking cues from one story and connecting them to the other bound the two storylines together making them feel less like two individual stories and more like one story told with two voices and Selznick furthered this idea by eventually connecting Rose and Ben.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and thought it was beautifully done – don’t be intimidated by the thickness, it’s a book that can easily be read in 3 hours – and the illustrations alone are worth it!

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Red Seas Under Red Skies pt1

887877A while back I posted this review of Scott Lynch’s fantasy adventure book The Lies of Locke Lamora.  Well I bought the sequel – Red Seas Under Red Skies – about two months back expecting to blaze through it l did with Lies of… but sadly I’m still working on it and its taken me a while to get into the story.  Now, please don’t get me wrong, I really am liking this book: Lynch has a talent for creating such an interesting fantasy world that makes sense and has its own set of rules, social hierarchy, history, deities, mechanics, and maps (I love maps) – really it’s a great world that I love learning about through these books.  There’s just something that’s preventing me from loving it (or finishing it for that matter).  Regardless, this is really just a half-hearted review that I will have to complete once I finish the book – and I will finish the book, it’ll just take longer than I thought.

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The Queen’s Thief

Queens Thief

You know that moment when you realize the series you just finished is scheduled to release another book, but there isn’t a title, or a release date?  Yah, that’s not fun, when I found out there would be another book in the Queen’s Thief series I was excited then quickly became impatient knowing it would take years for this book to be published.  Still, it inspired me to go back and re-read the first four books in Megan Whalen Turner’s fantasy middle reader series. 

The Thief is set in a time period similar to ancient Greece but with some medieval era inventions (ie glass, rifles, books) and is an adventure quest story revolving around three main countries – Sounis, Eddis, and Attolia.  It all starts in a prison cell in the kingdom of Sounis where Gen, self-proclaimed master thief, is locked away until the king’s Magus (the most trusted advisor) approached him with an offer of freedom in return for stealing something.  This sends the characters – Gen, Magus, his apprentices Ambiades and Sophos, and the soldier Pol – on an adventure to find a mythical stone.  While a really great book – well written, clever plot – it’s not my favorite in the series.  That honor belongs to the second book in this series – The Queen of Attolia.

The second book, begins with Eugenides (Gen from the first book) captured by the Queen of Attolia and as penalty for steeling in Attolia his hand is cut off.  This all happens in the first three chapters so I’m not spoiling any of the book but I’m also trying hard not to spoil any of the first book as well.  Eugenides is returned to Eddis, his home country, while a war breaks out between Eddis and Attolia.  I can’t tell you much more without giving too much of the first book away but I promise you – this book is really good!

King of Attolia is the third book in the series and if I even began to describe the story I’d spoil the first two books so I’ll leave the third and fourth book – Conspiracy of Kings – un-reviewed.

Mrs. Turner writes clever, plot driven books, populated with interesting characters.  As much as I wish she’d just hurry it up some and publish the fifth book in the series I know that good books take time and can’t be rushed – and these are really good books so they take an extra long time.