Saturday, May 29, 2010

Top Ten Picks: Best Villains

Top Ten Picks is hosted by Jillian at Random Ramblings. This week, the topic is "Best Villains". (Yeah, I know I should've done this last Tuesday. I'm late. My bad.)

So, without further ado, here are my Top Ten Picks for Best Villains:

10. Dolores Umbridge from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling

This character made me grind my teeth and want to throw the book across the room. I don't know if I've every read about a character that was so infuriating. She's definitely not the most evil character out there, but she elicited so much frustration from me that the author must've done something right.

9. Lysistratus from Yarrow by Charles de Lint

It's been a while since I read this book, so I can't remember exactly what this character did that was so bad. I do remember that he was a deliciously nasty villain, though, so I'm including him on the list.

8. The Huntress from The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly

It could probably be argued that the Crooked Man was the real villain of this book, but the events that happened in the huntress's cottage stayed with me (and haunted me) far more. She was the stuff of nightmares, and I'll probably never be able to look at centaurs again without being reminded of that passage. *shudder*

7. Laurel from Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones

There's nothing worse than a villain who does their best to keep two people who love each other apart. From a literary standpoint, though, there's probably nothing better, either. I love complications.

6. The Frenchman from The Dust of 100 Dogs by A. S. King

This guy was just foul. Cruel, heartless, and (evidently) unable to learn from his past mistakes. What a dickhead. It's so delicious when characters like this get what's coming to them.

5. El Patron from The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer

Although it could be argued that El Patron was simply acting out of self-preservation, he had a disregard for the value of the lives of others that was indeed chilling.

4. Electronic Metals from The Silver Metal Lover by Tanith Lee

This is a corporation, rather than a person. But who says corporations can't be evil? I can't say much more without giving away the ending... but suffice it to say that, if this company were real, I would be boycotting it.

3. Baba Yaga from Enchantment by Orson Scott Card

When we first meet her, she's extracting the eyeballs of a still-living victim simply because she liked their colour. You can't get much more evil than that.

2. The Nothing from The Neverending Story by Michael Ende

This is probably a more abstract villain, but it's still a formidable one... especially to anyone who values stories and dreams.

1. The Other Mother from Coraline by Neil Gaiman

When I heard they were making a movie of this book, I knew they'd need to get this character right for it to work. To my surprise, she was done pretty well. The book version still seems way more creepy to me... but I guess giving little kids nightmares would not be a good way to increase movie ticket sales.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Review - The Girl with Glass Feet

The Girl with Glass Feet
by Ali Shaw

Before I completely tear this book to shreds, I'd like to just mention that I love the cover. Unfortunately, that's about all I liked.

Midas meets a girl named Ida, who is turning into glass.

Honestly, I can't come up with a better synopsis than that. This book just made me feel stupid. I didn't "get it". But, to be quite honest, I'm not entirely sure there was anything to "get".

The premise is intriguing and promises a sort of contemporary fantasy story. Unfortunately, it reads more like literary fiction. Bad literary fiction. There are endless descriptions that border on purple prose. Stop describing rocks and snow and get on with it, already. All the description felt like unnecessary padding... and I say unnecessary because the story was meaty enough to stand on its own, had the author done it right. He didn't, though. Instead, we're introduced to a number of mysteries that seem to have nothing to do with each other and which, in the end, are never explained. I don't think I've been this pissed off at a book's ending since I read Breaking Dawn (and that really pissed me off). As far as I'm concerned, it's lazy writing to introduce a bunch of mysteries and then not bother to explain any of them.

As for the characters, I wasn't impressed. They all read alike, and the author's habit of not using speech attributions made for some confusion in numerous places. Midas was not especially likable. Heck, nobody was especially likable. Everyone seemed emotionally stunted and odd, with the exception of Denver, a seven-year-old girl with the demeanour of a 37-year-old psychologist. (Don't even get me started on how her hair changed colour between pages 81 and 82. Editors, wake up!) I have a feeling that Midas was little more than a (rather blatant) self-insert... but even that didn't help make him anything more than a one-dimensional twit. Since the characters all acted alike, down to their mannerisms (it seems that the only way one can show distress is to put one's face in one's hands), when one of them went and did something a little different, it was jarring and seemed inconsistent. And, ultimately, when the conclusion came, I'd formed so little attachment to any of the characters that I didn't care.

The premise was a good one, and had it been done well, it could have worked. It's like this book wanted to be The Time Traveler's Wife. But without the chemistry between the characters, some basic answers about the mysterious affliction, and a decent ending that actually resolves something, The Girl with Glass Feet will only ever be a second-class wannabe.

Plot: 2/5
Characters: 0/5
Pace: 2/5
Writing: 2/5
Originality: 3/5

Overall: 1.8 out of 5

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Oh My Blog!

Thanks to Chris and Jess at Park Benches & Bookends for the Oh My Blog! Award. Here's what I, as recipient of this "incredibly prestigious" award, now have to do:

1. Get really excited that you got the coolest award EVER!
2. Choose ONE of the following options of accepting the OMB award:
(a) Get really drunk and blog for 15 minutes straight, or for as long as you can focus.
(b) Write about your most embarrassing moment.
(c) Write a "Soundtrack of your childhood" post.
(d) Make your next blog a 'vlog'/video blog. Basically, you're talking to the camera about whatever.
(e) Take a picture of yourself first thing in the morning, before you do anything else (hair, make up, etc) and post it.
3. Pass the award on to at least three, but preferably more, awesome bloggers. Don't forget to tell them.

Okay. #1... check. As for #2... Well, I don't drink, so option (a) is out. Most of my embarrassing moments are either boring or NSFW, so I won't inflict that option upon you. I don't have a video camera, so I can't vlog. And hell will freeze over before I post a picture of myself (bedheaded or otherwise) on my blog. So I guess that leaves the "soundtrack of my childhood".

So let me take you back twenty-five years to... the '80s. I grew up listening to music on records. Tapes came later. CDs didn't arrive in any large number until I was in my teens. So I have the obsolete skill of knowing how to load and start a record player.

My parents weren't huge audiophiles. The only stuff I can really remember in the record cabinet was an ABBA record (I think it was 1979's Voulez-Vous), In Search of the Lost Chord by The Moody Blues (the sleeve of which I found utterly creepy), and Hooked on Classics (not to be confused with Hooked on Phonics... which was probably more interesting, anyway). My sister and I never owned very many records. Well, not music records. We did have a number of the LP equivalent of audiobooks, though, including one of Bambi where you actually get to hear the gunshots. Lovely.

Much of my childhood soundtrack came from the TV. I can remember religiously watching Saturday morning cartoons (including Jim Henson's Muppet Babies, which featured a lot of music). There was also a music video countdown on Saturday or Sunday nights that we liked to watch... even though my sister and I were just little kids who really couldn't appreciate the music for what it was. Standouts from those years include "You Might Think" by The Cars, David Lee Roth's cover of "California Girls", anything by Glass Tiger and Tears for Fears, and the most memorable of all (and still one of my all-time favourite music videos), "Take on Me" by a-ha.

I also listened to the radio in those days, and developed a fancy for ABBA's "Super Trouper" (although I can't imagine why). And then there were the Minipops. Those high-pitched chipmunk voices provided an acoustic backdrop to many afternoons of playing with my friends. We had a couple of their albums on tape, and they got played a lot. A lot.

So basically, the soundtrack to my childhood was the unique acoustic tapestry of the 1980s. With all of that exposure to music from that particular era, is it any wonder that I love The Wedding Singer?

Hey... what do you know? I kind of did option 2(a) anyway (just without the booze). Heh. I'm going to pass this award on to:

Ryan G at Wordsmithonia
Juju at Tales of Whimsy...
Charlotte at The Book on the Hill

(I know this award is kind of requirement-heavy, so no pressure, guys. Just do it if you feel like it.)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

In My Mailbox (14)

My mailbox has been kind of empty as of late. At least as far as books go. I need to read what I've got here!

Anyway, this past week I did get one book:

The Girl with Glass Feet
by Ali Shaw

Strange things are happening on the remote and snowbound archipelago of St. Hauda’s Land. Unusual winged creatures flit around the icy bogland, albino animals hide themselves in the snow-glazed woods, and Ida Maclaird is slowly turning into glass. Ida is an outsider in these parts, a mainlander who has visited the islands only once before. Yet during that one fateful visit the glass transformation began to take hold, and now she has returned in search of a cure.

Midas Crook is a young loner who has lived on the islands his entire life. When he meets Ida, something about her sad, defiant spirit pierces his emotional defenses. As Midas helps Ida come to terms with her affliction, she gradually unpicks the knots of his heart. Love must be paid in precious hours and, as the glass encroaches, time is slipping away fast. Will they find a way to stave off the spread of the glass?

The Girl with Glass Feet is a dazzlingly imaginative and magical first novel, a love story to treasure.

What was in your "mailbox" this week?

In My Mailbox was started by Kristi of The Story Siren.