27 January 2010
21 January 2010
I fell in love with Terry Pratchett's Discworld series late last year when I read Going Postal. Since then, I have read eight of the series novels (with more to come) and have enjoyed every single one. That's saying something, because it's easy for me to get burnt out with a series. Not with Discworld. Pratchett's uproarious sense of humor and irreverent take on high fantasy is a treat to read. I can only describe it as Monty Python meets Tolkien...with lots and lots of zaniness, puns, satires, and allusions to classic literature and current events.
Guards! Guards! is no exception. This comic crime fantasy had me laughing out loud all the way through. I like Pratchett's work because it is funny in so many different ways. I especially enjoy his witty third person narration, which is frequently as hilarious as the characters and plot. His characters are also unique, realistic, and endearing. This is the first time I had read about Vimes and Carrot, though I had come to know and love Colon and Nobby (especially the scrappy, roguish Nobby) in previous books. I look forward to meeting all of these characters down the road in future Discworld novels. I also enjoyed seeing how Pratchett takes crime fiction cliches that have been beaten to death and makes them fresh by transferring them to a fantasy setting. I adore crime fiction, but his satire of the genre was excellent. There are some hilarious allusions to Casablanca, Dirty Harry, and Dragnet if you pay attention.
Even if you're not a Discworld fan, this novel is fun to read. The pacing is breakneck, with twists and turns throughout. The mystery is a pretty good one, too. Rather than keeping the villains in the dark until the end, Pratchett traces the Watch and the Brotherhood throughout (only keeping the latter's identity secret) until the climactic point when their interests collide and everything falls to pieces. Fortunately, Discworld novels are accessible, even if you're not a fan. The series is broken into smaller series focusing on individual characters; I have read those smaller series in order, but have not read the series in general in order. So far, I have found that Pratchett does a magnificent job of not overwhelming a newbie with old references or boring a veteran reader by rehashing old stories.
Guards! Guards! is a delightful mix of high fantasy, sharp satire, and crime fiction. If you're an old Discworld fan, I am preaching to the choir, but if you're unfamiliar with the series, this fun, fast paced book is a great start.
Official Apology: I had this blog ready on time, but tech trouble threw me off schedule! ARGGGGGH! I am so sorry. I was only late two times last semester. Two weeks into this semester I have been late every week. I pride myself on punctuality, so this angers me, especially when it's not due to my own laziness. I will try my best to have next week's up on time. *glares at computer*
Next Week: I will review either Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 or George Orwell’s Animal Farm. Depends on if I feel like book burnings or anthropomorphic dictators…
14 January 2010
10 January 2010
07 January 2010
04 January 2010
As my first post of the new year, I would like to unveil the new and improved zellakate! (No, not me! I am quite impervious to change. Hehe My family has learned this the hard way. I am referring to my blog, also known as zellakate.) I have tidied up my humble little online abode and added all sorts of nifty sites for your reading pleasure. And, in the name of politeness, I decided to dedicate a post to introducing you to my new sidebar additions. You can consider this the VIP tour. I'll stroll you around, point out the highlights, and even let you bring a soda. Just don't step on the grass. Well, you can stop on that grass, but not the other patch, okay? Without further adieu, let us start the tour.
The first new sidebar I have added are my favorite book sites, period.
1. Edward Hamilton: I cannot say enough about this website. Edward Hamilton is a discount book dealer based in Connecticut. Hamilton's mail order company sells thousands of titles at excellent discount prices. His selection includes publisher closeouts and overstocks, in addition to current titles at discount prices. I have been ordering books from here for several years and have always had good experiences with this company. I highly recommend the nonfiction selection. I have found high quality nonfiction titles that were originally priced at over $50 for less than $15. Just be quick if you see something you want. Hamilton's selection sells out fast!
2. Book Page: I pick up a print edition of this monthly book review magazine at the local library where I work and read it faithfully every month. This has been my source for many newer books that I review, including Sashenka. The website takes a while to get used to, but it offers countless reviews of contemporary books, breaking book news, and author interviews.
3. AuthorTracker: With this handy website, you can sign up to receive e-mail updates about your favorite author's latest books. I "track" several authors and am relieved to say that this website does not bombard you pointless spam. (Yay!) The catch is it only keeps you informed about Harper Collins authors, but many notable writers are signed with HC, so many bestselling writers can be tracked. (If your favorite writer isn't on here, google their name for a website to see if they have an online newsletter you can sign up for. That works, too!)
4. NoveList Plus: This is an excellent book site that is run by Ebsco. You will need to ask your librarian to set up an account for you (Your library may offer automatic accounts like mine does.) But it is worth asking for! NoveList Plus caters to readers of all ages with recommendation lists, book discussion guides (perfect for book clubs!), and articles. I really love their recommended read feature. When you click on it, you will be offered a choice of over 25 different genres (from nonfiction to genre to manga) that are further subdivided into more specific genre specifications. (For instance, historical fiction is divided between everything from The American Civil War to The Victorian Era.) Therefore, you can find look for something more specific.
5. BookSpot: This website is cool because it is essentially a whole website devoted to what I am doing right now - links to online book sites. You can find links to recommendation lists, bestseller lists, and award winning titles. Not all of the links work, but there are so many, you can lose yourself for hours trying out all of the links on this website. *cough*
My next new addition is a compendium of online recommendation lists, everything from genre fiction to classics to children's. Here they are in alphabetic order:
children's: This National Education Association list names great kids' books by age range, from infants up to preteens.
classics: This book list, from an online tutorial site, provides a list of solid classics. If you're looking for more of a challenge, try this website's AP reading list. (Both lists will be on the sidebar.)
fantasy: I had trouble finding a good fantasy list. I still have my share of qualms about some of the picks on here, but this one was the best I could find. It has a nice mix of classic fantasy and newer work, so I cannot complain too much.
horror: The Horror Writers' Organization released this list, and I was impressed with it. It has a list of solid horror titles, both new and old.
mysteries: I give you two lists in one with this. The British Crime Writers Association compiled a list of best crime novels, and, naturally, the American Mystery Writers Association followed suit with their own list. Both lists are superb.
sci fi: This list had a good mix of soft and hard sci fi (in addition to classics and newer titles).
thriller: If you love thrillers, you will love this list of classics.
YA: This comprehensive list (over 300 titles, with more being added regularly) is the best recommendation list I saw on the web. This one lists classics, traditional YA, and excellent contemporary fiction. Even if you don't consider yourself a fan of YA, this list is well worth checking out.
(P.S. I never could find a decent nonfiction list that didn't include a bunch of dry titles that even I wouldn't pick up. If any of you have suggestions, I would appreciate it.)
There is also my new genre-specific website bar, with links to websites devoted to the genre in question:
children: This website, Read Kiddo Read, was founded by author James Patterson. I viewed it with suspicion at first, but it's an excellent resource. There are reviews and recommendation lists that cater to kids of all ages.
fantasy: This British-based website (Fantasybookreviews.com) has reviews, author interviews, recommendation lists, and the latest news on fantasy releases.
horror: I couldn't find a horror website I was completely thrilled with. This one isn't devoted to horror books, but it does have reviews of new releases. I will keep my eye out for a website devoted to horror reads. (If you know of one, let me know.)
mystery: The Mystery Reader offers reviews and news about the latest in mysteries, crime novels, and thrillers.
sci fi: The Sci Fi Reader (no relation the The Mystery Reader, that I am aware of) is devoted to spec fic in general (including fantasy and horror) but sci fi gets prominent billing. You will find reviews, news, discussion forums, and interviews.
YA: This website (Teen Reads) is the same site where I got the superb YA recommendation list. In addition to that great list, you can also find reviews and news about the latest in YA.
I also have a new sidebar up devoted to the premier annual book awards:
Man Booker Prize: The Man Booker Prize is awarded to the best work of fiction by an author from Britain or the Commonwealth. Previous winners have included The Life of Pi, which I reviewed back in October.
National Book Award: The National Book Foundation acknowledges the best fiction, nonfiction, YA fiction, and poetry with this prestigious award.
PEN/Faulkner: The PEN Faulkner award is named for one of my all-time favorite authors (William Faulkner) and is used to recognize excellent American fiction each year.
Pulitzer Prize: This prestigious award is annually given to top-notch fiction, drama, poetry, history, nonfiction, and biographies.
Finally, I also have links up to the two major bestseller lists, if you're interested in what everyone else is reading right now.
NY Times: I wanted to have a live feed on my blog that linked to this, but I feared that my blog would never be able to handle it, so I offer you this link instead.
Publishers Weekly: For the sake of comparison, I also give you this link to the Publishers' Weekly's list of bestsellers.
*slumps into corner* There you go. That's the grand tour. Nothing to see here now. Please disperse and try the new links and tell me what you think. I hope you enjoy the links and I would love to hear if you guys have any suggestions for other online sites. (Please, please, please tell me if they do not work or do not load properly. I will fix it!)
Next Time: I will be reviewing David Wroblewski's amazing debut novel from a couple of years ago - The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. This novel is a retelling of Hamlet, set in rural 1970s Wisconsin. I cannot wait to review it!