Tag Archives: books

Cellarboy Presents: Fantasy Favorites Read-a-thon Introduction

done

Hey blog readers and wanderers of the internet – been a long time since I’ve acknowledged the existence of my blog, hasn’t it? I really apologise for the long hiatus. However, here I am now coming back in style – I thought I’d participate in this read-a-thon thing because I was invited and what the hell. I read books, I like books. After this at some point I’ll probably throw the usual kind of post at you – you know, the kind where I soliloquize for a long time about my various problems and occasionally make fun of myself. I’m just itching to make fun of myself for being in a fantasy favourites read-a-thon, but I don’t want to offend the people who invited me, because they seem pretty cool.

Okay, so they gave me prompts. Sit still while I throw them in your general direction.

1. Introducing myself

Dressed in polar bear fur and wearing snowshoes I wander the icy wastes of Canada waiting for spring to appear, even as we creep ever closer to April and the weather remains frigid and horrible. I have miraculously made it through seventeen years in this cold and merciless land – with the help of novels I cling to the notion that there are warmer places than here. I’m a boy but not the manliest you’ll ever meet, though my thin, barely-existent sideburns help me prove it to the non-believers; I speak French with hesitant fluency and write a lot of stories.

2. Why did you choose to join the read-a-thon?

I figured it would be fun; a light-hearted sort of thing to get my head out of the gloom of winter and into the hopeful brightness of the spring.

3. What books do you intend to read? What’s your reading goal and how many pages do you actually think you can manage?

I read exactly one book for the read-a-thon – “Un Lun Dun” by China Mieville.

4. What is your current favourite fantasy read?

“The Belgariad” and “The Mallorean” by David Eddings are still probably my favorite high fantasy series. They’re ten books, split into five for each series and following the same set of characters; the dry humor and endlessly sarcastic characters, as well as the clear intelligence of the author, are what sets it apart from other series that I’ve read. No it’s not exactly literature, but I’ve rarely enjoyed anything quite so much. On top of that, “Pawn of Prophecy” was the first novel I ever read, when I was eight, and so it really stuck with me.

5. What is your LEAST favorite fantasy read of all time?

“Eragon” by Christopher Paolini was the only bad fantasy story I actually managed to finish. His age when he wrote it isn’t an excuse – it’s truly a pile of unoriginal, uninspired rubbish.

6. Which fantasy books are you dying to read?

I want to give Jean M. Auel’s “Earth Children” series a try. It looks nice and long, something I could potentially get into for a while. I haven’t read a real time-consuming series since “The Dark Tower”, and I’m missing the feeling of adventuring with characters for a really long time. I don’t know if she’s any good or not, but I like the idea of prehistory and all. Sounds like an interesting take on fantasy to me.

7. What fantasy book would you like to star in?

There are too many to name, but I think anything by Jonathan Stroud would be in the lead. Why wouldn’t I want to live in a world where everyone talks in hilarious, sarcastic one-liners?

8. Suggest three books for other read-a-thon participants.

“Airborn” by Kenneth Oppel, which is a steampunkish adventure with excellent dialogue and characters, as well as beautiful action; “The Gunslinger” by Stephen King, the first of the “Dark Tower” series, which is an interesting and surreal fantasy sci-fi western; and “Wildwood” by The Decemberists’ Colin Meloy, which is a great book to read to your kids and isn’t bad for adults, either.

9. If you could choose any fantasy book character to be chained to during the read-a-thon, whom would you pick and why?

Go ahead and chain Todd from “Chaos Walking” to me – I think we’d get along pretty well. He’s a cool guy.

10. I would tag someone, but I don’t know any other bloggers. Sorry about that.

Well, that’s that, my introductory post. More to come, I hope, and thanks for stopping by.

~ Brynn

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Reasons to Despise Society, Pt. 1

It feels like last time I did a post we were still in the paleolithic age, smacking rocks with other rocks and chasing buffalo off high ledges. A whole lot of stuff has happened since last I took up the metaphorical pen to gift you with the machinations of my often idle mind, but rather than attempt to compact it all into a readable wad of text, I think I’m going to leave it all up to your imagination. You can imagine I was bundled away in the night by a mysterious band of rebels out to protest some awful new law and then became their leader, went on to conduct a completely underground (and successful) rebellion; or you can imagine I was stuck on the top of some distant mountain, barely surviving on bits of trail mix and granola while I waited for the authorities to come find me (while at the same time writing my masterpiece novel); or you can imagine that life has been kind of as it always has. Better, these days, but still not all that much different. I realize I’m hurtling, reluctantly, towards adulthood, and that at the end of this year my friends will be off to the bizarre guessed-at lands of life; and it is a bit daunting, to think that soon we’re all going to get tossed to the winds like so many discarded leaflets – but that’s life, it evolves and the people around you evolve, too. To remain static is impossible, and stupid if you try. You’ve got to kind of ride the waves, man.

I am imbued with some obscurity today, sorry. I think the happier I get, the sillier I get – and when I’m down or depressed I turn into a bad realistic fiction novel. I really do, I’ve read over my previous writings. I think I prefer my writing when it’s somewhere in the middle – not too obscure as to be difficult to enjoy, but not too raw that it starts to suggest the world sucks horribly and everything will be bad forever.

So with that out of the way, let’s look at reasons to despise society. I was inspired by one thing in particular, but I’ve realized since then that there are reasons all over the place, simply growing on the trees ready to pick off, and that I should maybe discuss them. Because as anyone who knows me knows, there are some aspects of society that I just can’t get past, that I feel it is my duty NOT to get past, so that you may understand them, too, and wield your new-found knowledge for the betterment of humanity. Or something; I’ll go with that for now.

What’s the thing, then? The thing is this:

asylum cover

Does it look fairly innocuous? A little creepy, but pretty much innocuous? Hold on to your hats. This is the cover for a book that I happened to see at the store, and when I saw it I felt a narrow look of uncertainty grow on my face, wondering if it was the new sequel to Ransom Riggs’ popular series about weird kids who live in Wales (it isn’t that good in my esteemed and glorious opinion.) But aha, the author is someone new – Madeleine Roux, to be exact – and, because my deductive skills rival that of the well-known fictional detective Sherlock Holmes, I was able to deduce that this Roux person is not in fact Ransom Riggs, and is in fact someone entirely different who just so happened to write a book that is eerily familiar to a certain other book which I didn’t find all that good. Am I overreacting? I’m not overreacting. Just look at the cover to Riggs’ Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children:

peculiar children cover

WHAT HO! Still not convinced? Take it upon my word then that both books use the quirk of including photographs en lieu of illustrations, for I guess a more realistic and avant garde feel. Yes, both novels feature photographs as a way to enhance their texts. There is no coincidence here. Why is there no coincidence here? Because, in the Goodreads summary of this “Asylum” book, it is written: “Asylum is a thrilling and creepy photo-novel perfect for fans of the New York Times bestseller Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.”

THOUGHT YOU WERE CLEVER, DID YOU, SOCIETY? Well, you can’t get that past ME, deductive cynical intellectual that I am! Point goes to the Cellar Boy. Smirk.

This isn’t the first time this kind of thing has happened, naturally. I remember when Twilight was huge (remember those strange, dangerous times? I got through them by hiding in a closet with a pot on my head), a whole bunch of knock offs suddenly mysteriously appeared, with names like “Blue Moon” and I wish I had another example but I don’t. I didn’t really care about them because my opinion of Twilight and vampires in general was so low. But I have, in comparison only, a much higher esteem for Ransom Riggs’ kind-of-neat books, and it actually sincerely bothers me that other authors can publish books that are just obvious rip offs, and then make money off of them. The same thing happened with a book called “Gods of Manhattan”, which was clearly written straight off the fame of Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians. And in film, too, we can observe this annoying practice recurring – (look up Asylum Films. That is beautiful irony right there, that it should have the same name as the Ransom Riggs ripoff novel.) Why do people feel they can do this? More than that, why do they feel they can do it and then get away with it scot-free? Sometimes leeching off of other people’s ideas and success isn’t the most terrible thing (for instance look at the humorous goodness of Pigfarts), and I suppose it’s stupidly subjective of me to forgive in some cases and not in others – but I think, just in principle, that it’s a pretty slimy thing to do. There are fan fiction websites out there for a reason. Put your rip offs on there so random internet-goers can have fun reading them. But for money? Really, for money? O, the green-eyed monster, she who pulls the strings of our desperate hearts.

Now, wait, there are more reasons. Of course there are. I would never just leave you with one. The second one is perhaps even less of a big deal, but what it is is far more prominently displayed in the public light. In fact, it’s so prominently displayed that everyone and their poodle is doing it. It is so prominent that I currently cannot turn my head in any direction without seeing it. At school, it is everywhere, like some bizarre tribal brand signifying that soon the civilized world is going to be overthrown. Even the pompous Canadian politicians in their fifties on the news channel I watch religiously are doing it. It is starting to make me sincerely unhappy, simply because no one seems able to resist it. It is, of course, this.

bad hair

No, not the guy. Well, the guy too. But more specifically his hair. Good mother of all that is holy, everyone has this haircut now. Put down summer and fall of 2014 in the record books as the “Time of the Shaved-Sides Haircut”.  It’s like we’ve crashed hair-first into some Utopian  George Orwell concoction where Big Pop Star is Watching You.

big macklemore is watching you.

I think I’m about to have a nervous breakdown. Such conformism has not been seen since the Time of the Skinny Jeans, and thank Brian that one’s mostly over. It’s not the haircut itself that I dislike, you understand; back before everyone had it I thought it was kind of neat, but since then it’s gotten unnervingly prevalent. I’ve seen fads before, and fads are weird, granted – the one with the hamster teddies on wheels was basically impossible to grasp – but this one is different. It could be because I’m older, more aware, and far more cynical and angry – or it could be that it’s just seemed to hit all at once this time, and with force. I don’t understand it at all. If I see a popular figure that I really like get an interesting new haircut, then maybe I’d consider doing the same thing – if it looks good on him or her, then why not? I can understand that, sure. But you’d think – I mean you would, wouldn’t you? – that after a certain point, you would no longer want to get that haircut, after five out of the fifteen people in your class have that hair, after the goddamn Conservative fifty-year-old guy on Power and Politics has that hair. I mean, I don’t really care, but I do care. I care but I don’t care. If you have this hair, then I think no less of you; it could very well be you weren’t aware of the extent of this fad, or that maybe you just didn’t care. BUT – if you are actively aware of the popularity of this hairstyle, and then you go out and get one yourself – I must ask you why. Why? Do not be a pop star sheep. There are too many of them already, they’re clogging up the classrooms and I don’t have anywhere to sit. I’m a pretentious idiot, aren’t I. I’m just a sheep covered in rainbow paint with a little hat on its head trying to not be the same. Well, I stand by my ethics; I will not wash my wool.

New slogan for 2014.

i will not wash my wool!

Perhaps I should separate myself from Photoshop, forthwith. How silly, why would I do that? I think that’s it for this particular wad of text and bizarre pictures. I have perhaps or perhaps not officially returned from my hiatus. We will see. Do stick around; until next we meet, I am your champion of the obscure blog, he who sits among the sheep, – The Cellar Boy

 

– FIN –


A Review for a Disappointing Book About Dragons and Gender Identity and Shit

I posted this thing on Goodreads first. Goodreads where no one reads my good Goodreads reviews. Heh. Info about this book down here: it’s written by Alison Goodman, it’s about identity and gender nonconformity, and WAIT! Before you dive out through a windowpane, it isn’t as bad as you’re imagining. It has dragons and shit.

eon_harper_collins265

 

Review

I did a review for this a long time ago, but it feels outdated now, and besides, my perspective has changed a lot since back then. I always was interested in this book, but now it relates more sharply to my own identity struggles, so I think I’ll be able to wring out a better review.
So, I got the book many a year ago, courtesy of one of my friends for a birthday present. He probably read the sleeve where it says how Eon, our conflicted main character, is a girl under the guise of a boy in order to compete in a thingy where you may or may not go home with a dragon. But not in the way you’re thinking. Goddamn it, I hate sexual innuendos. Anyway, he must’ve read that, and immediately hooked it up with me – fair enough. I like dragons, I dress like a boy. It’s cool. You know what? I AM a boy! And that’s where my great issue with this story comes into the light…
Immediately I sympathized with Eon for her difficult situation. Gotta be a boy, gotta get that training done, gotta win that dragon. (Gotta catch ’em – all? No, don’t put that reference in here, why would you do that?) She’s struggling with an identity that, sigh, has been forced upon her, and that she didn’t necessarily want to accept. Also she happens to have a crippled leg, and so that makes it extra hard for her to keep up with the boys in the training sessions she’s going through in order to… mm… right, be the Dragoneye. Gotta win that dragon.
However, she does it. Mustering her awesomeness, she gets through the training – and SPOILER! – happens to win not just the wussy Tiger Dragon’s favor, but the super cool MIRROR DRAGON’S favor, which is a dragon that’s been – like gone or something, for a long time. I can’t remember the specifics, but it’s a honking big deal. So now, with all the attention on her, all this business of passing herself off as a boy becomes of paramount importance. Because girls can’t have dragons, and they can’t be important, and they can’t do anything, really. We’re in ancient Japan-China here, I should mention; people aren’t totally nice or accepting.
So it would be horrible if anyone found out she was a girl. So she drinks fancy moon tea to deal with the period thingy that girls have, and pretends to be a eunuch so nobody finds it weird that she looks like a twelve year old boy, and will forever. She goes to this palace for some reason I sort of forget and that’s where the BORINGNESS hits.
It had me pulling out my hair. It’s so boring. Do you like – paving stones? BOY, I hope so! There’s certainly a lot of them! And drinking tea, and long pointless rituals, and a few totally uninteresting deaths, and soooo much nothing happening that I just don’t even know why it really happened in the first place. This book’s thick, you know, like five hundred pages. And it really doesn’t have to be.
But, if you struggle through the three hundred-odd pages of blank boredom, you’ll be rewarded with some small high points. For instance, Ryko the eunuch and the transgender woman (I forgot her name), and – no… that’s all. Okay, Ryko and her.
Honestly… Eon/Eona is not very wonderful. She’s a bit cold or something. Her personality doesn’t exactly shine and sparkle off the page – it just sort of sits there, bland and somewhat interesting. She has no sense of humor and that bothered me. Certainly she’s in a very bad spot, and her life hasn’t been easy – she’s an orphan, crippled, and unhappily struggling to just get through things while having to suppress her identity – but come on. One joke? One light observation? That’s all I really want here.
However, the book is well-written. No doubt it is. And there are enough action sequences to at least make up for maybe a quarter of all the boringness. What I didn’t like was the magic concept – it wasn’t well introduced, or well flushed-out, and frankly, it made no damn sense whatsoever. So some boys compete to be the favored apprentice or something of the magic dragons that correspond to the Chinese zodiac – … but why? As far as I understand it, after you get them you just sort of sit around drinking tea for the rest of your life.
That’s great.
If there wasn’t all this crap about magic, I think I would’ve liked it more. Which is odd, because usually I hate realistic fiction – but this story would’ve benefited from less dragons and auras and general badly-explained magicky weirdness. I think I get that it’s supposed to be a part of the world, subtly in the background, but it was too difficult to understand, and didn’t really fit in with what was going on.

The two best characters were Ryko and the transgender lady. Both defying the norms of gender, which I really enjoyed, and both honestly more likable than Eon herself. Also I think there’s a romance brewing, or previously brewed, between them, which was interesting – waaaay more interesting than Eon’s fleeting crush on the prince. Luckily by the end she elbowed him in the throat and that was that.

So, on to the biggest part. My major, all-consuming gripe with this book is that at the end (spoiler) Eon accepts the identity of herself as girl. I found it annoying, because I thought that it was really all one big drawn-out buildup into her accepting herself as a boy. And then, nope. She’s really a girl. Wonderful.
But not wonderful, because that’s where I lost her. Up until that final resolution where the Mirror Dragon accepts her once and for all (not so subtle message for accepting oneself!) I’d been completely relating to her, inside and out, on every level (even while not completely liking her personality). Here was the ancient China-Japan magic dragon-world equivalent of me. Finally I was represented truthfully and respectfully in a real book, and it made me happy. Then at the end she goes and wants to be a girl, after all the trouble she went to – and fine, shut up, most girls stay girls all their lives. But some don’t, like me.
So, Eon/Eona, I’m sorry to say I’m not happy with you. What’s this book about, if it’s not about defying gender norms? I mean there’s already a transgender character in here, why can’t you be that, too? I almost feel like Alison Goodman bailed out at the end, like she was really thinking about keeping Eon a boy but then something stopped her. Or maybe her plan was just to do what she ended up doing all along. Either way, it displeased me. Displeased is a good word. Sebastian, make me some tea.

At the end of the day, I guess Eon is a good book. The messages are all correct and good, and the truthfulness of everyone’s problems is actually astounding – Alison Goodman doesn’t shy away from going into detail about how people are feeling and suffering. The transgender woman is not treated respectfully. Eon is distrusted for being a cripple. This author, much to her credit, faces down issues that most authors would swerve right off a bridge to avoid. For that, Eon has my approval, even though I don’t like how it turned out. 3 stars, therefore.