Sunday, November 19, 2017

Spinning - Tillie Walden

Title: Spinning
Author: Tillie Walden
Publisher: First Second Books, 2017 (Paperback)
Length: 395 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Nonfiction, Graphic Novel
Started: November 18, 2017
Finished: November 19, 2017

From the inside cover:

For ten years, figure skating was Tillie Walden's life. Sh woke before dawn for morning lessons, went straight to group practice after school, and spent weekends competing in glitter and tights. It was a central piece of her identity, her safe haven from the stress of school, bullies, and family.

But over time, as she switched schools, got into art, and fell in love with her first girlfriend, she began to question how the closed-minded world of figure skating fit in with the rest of her life.

Poignant and captivating, Ignatz Award-winner Tillie Walden's powerful graphic memoir captures what its like to come of age, come out, and come to terms with leaving behind everything you used to know.

I'm still on my Yuri on Ice kick, hence the figure skating book. This isn't really a graphic novel about figure skating though, it's a coming of age memoir about a girl coming out of the closet and how her lifelong hobby, figure skating, affected that.

This memoir, in graphic novel format, is quite poignant and heartfelt; I'm amazed that the author is only 21 and managed to craft something like this. My only beef with the work is that I feel that some aspects were introduced and then abandoned too soon for my liking, like her relationship with her mother, and the sexual assault for example. I did appreciate how the author mentions that the only reason she even kept up with figure skating at the beginning was for the affection shown to her by her first coach, it really highlights the importance of other adult figures in a kids life besides parents.

The art style isn't as detailed as what I'm used to seeing, but I liked it; and the purple and grey colour palette is really appealing.

A nice quick read, and worth it for the subject matter (our kids need more LGBTQ representation in their media).

Thoughts on the cover:
A nice image that showcases the author's drawing style, plus it's nicely symbolic how Tillie is the only girl looking off in the opposite direction.

Monday, November 13, 2017

An Enchantment of Ravens - Margaret Rogerson

Title: An Enchantment of Ravens
Author: Margaret Rogerson
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (Simon & Schuster), 2017 (Hardcover)
Length: 300 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Fantasy
Started: November 7, 2017
Finished: November 13, 2017

From the inside cover:

With a flock of her paintbrush, Isobel creates stunning portraits for a dangerous set of clients: the fair folk. These immortal creatures cannot bake bread or put a pen to paper without crumbling to dust. They crave human Craft with a terrible thirst, and they trade valuable enchantments for Isobel's paintings. But when she receives her first royal patron - Rook, the autumn prince - Isobel makes a deadly mistake. She paints mortal sorrow in his eyes, a weakness that could cost him his throne, and even his life.

Furious, Rook spirits Isobel away to his kingdom to stand trial for her crime. But something is seriously amiss in his world, and they are attacked from every side. With Isobel and Rook depending on each other for survival, their alliance blossoms into trust, perhaps even love...a forbidden emotion that would violate the fair folk's ruthless laws, rendering both their lives forfeit. What force could Isobel's paintings conjure that is powerful enough to defy the ancient malice of the fairy courts?

Isobel and Rook journey along a knife-edge in a lush world where beauty masks corruption and the cost of survival might be more frightening than death itself.

Fae, fantasy, and that stunning cover. I love me some fairy lore, so I was so along for this ride. The ride was enjoyable, no doubt, but I wasn't as impressed as I was hoping I'd be.

The premise has such potential: the Fae, who are cunning, vain and cannot lie, are sorted into their seasonal courts like in many other fantasy settings. They crave the products of human imagining (writing, painting, cooking, crafting, etc.) and routinely leave their realm to visit Whimsy, a place shrouded in eternal summer where humans live to produce Craft and hope to live long enough without being subject to the callous whims of the Fae around them. There's the World Beyond that people can escape to, or humans can drink from the Green Well to become Fae themselves.

Amongst all this, Isobel is a painter, specializing in portraits, and her work is prized among the fair folk. When Rook, the Autumn price, asks for his portrait, Isobel finds herself falling in love with him, and he with her, over the several weeks he sits for her. When her work depicting human sorrow in his eyes is unveiled to Rook's court, he absconds with her back to the autumnlands to have her stand trial for her crime of exposing his weakness, but they never make it that far, being diverted by Hemlock and the Wild Hunt pursuing them.

The pure imagination of the setting and the details surrounding it are just amazing. The author is a good writer as well, so I have to give her props for those two elements. The only thing that was a bit of a detriment was that there wasn't enough explained in terms of the world building, like how did Whimsy come to be? What is the World Beyond? Why do the Fae crave Craft? What is the deal with the Alder King and the Wild Hunt? There's so much introduced here and it isn't really built upon, at least to my satisfaction. Also, the romance wasn't really believable. Isobel and Rook essentially fall in love before they go on their crazy journey through fairy land, and it just isn't realistic considering they barely speak during the time the portrait is being commissioned. Other than those two things, the book is quite the enjoyable ride, but unfortunately prevent it from being an absolutely stellar book that I was really hoping for.

Definitely worth the read, but sadly not amazing. I'm interested enough though to see what the author writes in the future though, there's a lot of promise here.

Thoughts on the cover:
Freaking stunning illustration of Isobel and Rook (in raven form). The illustrator is Charlie Bowater, seriously go Google this guy and stand in awe of his work. He has some work in his gallery from Sarah J. Maas' Court of Thrones and Roses trilogy, so any fans of that work can go ogle those like I did.

Monday, November 6, 2017

The Language of Thorns - Leigh Bardugo

Title: The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Publisher: Imprint (Macmillan), 2017 (Hardcover)
Length: 280 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Fantasy
Started: November 1, 2017
Finished: November 5, 2017

From the inside cover:

Love speaks in flowers. Truth requires thorns.

Travel to a world of dark bargains struck by moonlight, of haunted towns and hungry woods, of talking beasts and gingerbread golems, where a young mermaid's voice can summon deadly storms and where a river might do a lovestruck boy's bidding but only for a terrible price.

Inspired by myth, folklore, and fairytale, #1 New York Times bestselling author Leigh Bardugo has crafted a deliciously atmospheric collection of short stories filled with betrayals, revenge, sacrifice, and love.

Perfect for new readers and dedicated fans, these tales will transport you to lands both familiar and strange - to a fully realized world of dangerous magic that millions have visited through the novels of the Grishaverse.

I read the Shadow and Bone trilogy (Shadow and BoneSiege and StormRuin and Rising) years ago and adored it, so once I heard the author was releasing a short story compilation from the same world, I knew it would be awesome, and it is indeed.

The Language of Thorns is comprised of six stories from various locations in the Grishaverse world, most from Ravkan, but also one each from Zemeni, Kerch, and Fjerdan. You don't need to be familiar with the author's previous books to enjoy these stories, they all stand on their own as enjoyable pieces of fiction with no background knowledge needed. The author's note at the back of the book states that the author's inspiration for these stories were feelings of unease she felt as a child while reading traditional fairy tales. Those feelings are reflected in these stories, since most are adaptations of traditional tales we all know well, with some major twists to them, especially in "The Witch of Duva" and "When Water Sang Fire". All the tales are beautiful, but my personal favourites are "Ayama and the Thorn Wood" and "When Water Sang Fire."

Another aspect I have to mention is the simply gorgeous illustrations done by artist Sara Kipin. Her drawings are on every page, and the progression is amazing. They begin very simply, and with every page more is added or in some cases even changed, until the end of the story reveals a drawing on a full-page spread. It's hard to describe properly, but hopefully the pictures below will help:

Simply stunning, both the writing and the visuals. If you enjoy folktales that aren't your usual fare, then you will surely enjoy this.

Thoughts on the cover:
The picture doesn't do justice to the cover, it has lovely copper tones with light blue for the thorns, plus everything is embossed, which is a bonus.