The Great Tales Never End: Cassie-la Rates the Stories in “Stone Mattress” by Margaret Atwood

17 Sep

Stone MattressStone Mattress by Margaret Atwood (Galley)
Release Date: September 16, 2014
Genre: Fiction, short stories, horror, vampires, literary, fantasy, further proof that Margaret Atwood can do no wrong
Rating: 4.89 out of 5 stars

Summary: Margaret Atwood returns to the short story form (at least anthology-wise) for the first time since her 2006 collection Moral Disorder. With nine tales centered around long dead authors, soon to be dead authors, old age and death and ranging from tales about severed hands and vampires, to long-dead grooms, tiny imagined people and death by stromatolite, this is Atwood at her darkly comedic best.

Despite the seemingly impossible feat I may have set for myself, I decided to go a different route with this short story collection and rate these nine stories (or rather tales) written by the perpetually fabulous Margaret Atwood and order them from best tale to worst tale. Worst being a relative term since really, I loved them all. Honestly, if I were rating them according to US academia none would receive lower than an A.

While only three of the tales are interconnected, the same themes run through all the stories. Specifically themes of aging and in turn death (through either murder or old age), revenge, change (the old making way for the new and the juxtaposition that comes with it) and acceptance.

Most of these ideas Atwood explores through classical poetry, literature, and more specifically, long dead poets and authors, always keeping in mind (to borrow a quote) that storytellers never die. They just disappear into their own stories.

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Hot Off the Proverbial Presses: September 16, 2014

16 Sep

Stone MattressStone Mattress by Margaret Atwood

A collection of highly imaginative short pieces that speak to our times with deadly accuracy. Vintage Atwood creativity, intelligence, and humor: think Alias Grace.

Margaret Atwood turns to short fiction for the first time since her 2006 collection, Moral Disorder, with nine tales of acute psychological insight and turbulent relationships bringing to mind her award-winning 1996 novel, Alias Grace. A recently widowed fantasy writer is guided through a stormy winter evening by the voice of her late husband in “Alphinland,” the first of three loosely linked stories about the romantic geometries of a group of writers and artists. In “The Freeze-Dried Bridegroom,” a man who bids on an auctioned storage space has a surprise. In “Lusus Naturae,” a woman born with a genetic abnormality is mistaken for a vampire. In “Torching the Dusties,” an elderly lady with Charles Bonnet syndrome comes to terms with the little people she keeps seeing, while a newly formed populist group gathers to burn down her retirement residence. And in “Stone Mattress,” a long-ago crime is avenged in the Arctic via a 1.9 billion-year-old stromatolite. In these nine tales, Margaret Atwood is at the top of her darkly humorous and seriously playful game.

WHY WE’RE EXCITED: We’ve already read this short story collection (review to be posted tomorrow!) and we can confirm that it is Margaret Atwood at her darkly comedic best!

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Alastair Hunt is bad at following instructions! Cassie-wa is ALL ABOUT “The Iron Trial” by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

16 Sep

The Iron TrialThe Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
Genre: Fiction, middle grade, fantasy, magic school, forget what you know about middle grade fantasy magic school fiction
Rating: Heck, 5 out of 5 stars. I loved it!

Summary: Fire wants to burn
Water wants to flow
Air wants to rise
Earth wants to bind
Chaos wants to devour
Call wants to live…

His whole life, 12-year-old Callum Hunt has been taught one thing by his father: magic is bad. The Magisterium isn’t a fun and whimsical magic school, it’s a dark, terrible place deep underground where young mages are experimented upon by cruel Masters who only care about advancing their own goals. Even knowing nothing about the magical battle that left his mother dead and himself permanently disabled, Call knows his only chance to survive is to fail the test that will earn him a (mandatory) spot at the Magisterium.

You can guess how well that goes for him.

As an Iron Year mage at the Magisterium, Call finds that the place isn’t all that bad, he’s not actually terrible at magic, and he has friends for the first time in his life. So maybe it would be okay to stick around, except for the growing evidence that who, or what, Call is might be more dangerous than he ever imagined.

The first thing you should know about The Iron Trial is that it is not, in fact, Harry Potter.

It is about a young boy with a somewhat tragic back story who goes to magic school, and while there he makes two friends who become his best friends, and over everything hangs the threat of a bad guy who has started wars in the past but has been quiet for a while.

To get this out of the way – Yes, okay? All of these things, and a few other nods not listed above, are very much like Harry Potter. This serves a purpose. The story line to The Iron Trial is just enough like Harry Potter to subvert it in the most intriguing way possible.

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All Hail “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1″ Trailer

15 Sep

It’s here! It’s finally here! The first official trailer for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 is here!

Which also means we’re almost more than halfway to the end of the series. We know, we know, all the tears.

The trailer itself is definitely a darker look at Katniss and the other rebels, some of whom seem less than enthused to be part of the revolution.

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Rule of Thumb – Don’t Murder Women in Wells: Cassie-la Floats Through “The Girl From the Well” by Rin Chupeco

12 Sep

The Girl From the WellThe Girl From the Well by Rin Chupeco (Galley)
Release Date
: August 5, 2014
Genre: Fiction, horror, young adult, ghosts, paranormal, supernatural, has no one learned their lesson about murdering young Japanese girls by throwing them in wells?
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Summary: Okiku, read: the girl from the well, has spent her afterlife seeking revenge for all the children of the world who were wronged in life, gaining the vengeance for others that she could not gain for herself. Until a strange tattooed boy named Tarquin arrives and changes everything. A conduit for the horrifying monsters that Okiku sends to their death on a regular basis, Tarquin and Okiku must team up with help from an unlikely source to take on a new threat together: the devious woman in black.

While it may read like The Grudge (a terrifying ghost seeks revenge) meets The Ring (a terrifying ghost who died in a well seeks revenge)  The Girl From the Well is actually based on the Japanese ghost story “Banchō Sarayashiki” which is sort of The Grudge meets The Ring.

The folktale version follows the beautiful servant Okiku, who spurns the advances of her samurai employer Aoyama Tessan. Unable to handle being turned down, he does the next logical thing and convinces her she lost one of ten of his family’s very important plates. Fearful of her own death (because sexual harassment suits and unemployment were not yet a thing), Okiku counts the plates but only comes up with nine. Wanting to assuage her guilt, Okiku confesses to Aoyama that there are only nine plates. Aoyama says he will overlook her “transgression” if she becomes his lover, but when she again refuses he throws her down a well and she transforms into an Onryō, a vengeful spirit.

Leaving me to wonder, when will men learn that you cannot murder a woman by throwing her down a well if you want to ensure that she won’t come back to haunt you from beyond the grave?

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Hot Off the Proverbial Presses: September 9, 2014

9 Sep

The Iron TrialThe Iron Trial: Book One of Magisterium by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

From NEW YORK TIMES bestselling authors Holly Black and Cassandra Clare comes a riveting new series that defies what you think you know about the world of magic.

Most kids would do anything to pass the Iron Trial.

Not Callum Hunt. He wants to fail.

All his life, Call has been warned by his father to stay away from magic. If he succeeds at the Iron Trial and is admitted into the Magisterium, he is sure it can only mean bad things for him.

So he tries his best to do his worst – and fails at failing.

Now the Magisterium awaits him. It’s a place that’s both sensational and sinister, with dark ties to his past and a twisty path to his future.

The Iron Trial is just the beginning, for the biggest test is still to come . . .

From the remarkable imaginations of bestselling authors Holly Black and Cassandra Clare comes a heart-stopping, mind-blowing, pulse-pounding plunge into the magical unknown.

WHY WE’RE EXCITED: To sum things up: fantasy mavens Holly Black and Cassandra Clare have teamed up to write a book about children who go to magic school. We’re down!

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Margaret Atwood’s Newest Work Won’t Be Available Until 2114 (Gross Sobbing)

5 Sep

Margaret Atwood

In theory, time capsules are really cool. Unless said time capsules are full of brand new writing by an author you love and you will probably be dead by the time the public is allowed to read it.

Atwood is the first author contributing to the Future Library project, which sees one author a year for the next century joining the public art project.

The Future Library is the brainchild of Scottish artist Katie Paterson, who planted 1,000 trees in woods outside of Oslo. A century from now the trees will be cut down to print the 100 works of literature on.

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