Review: The Island of Excess Love by Francesca Lia Block

The Island of Excess Love
Francesca Lia Block

Henry Holt & Co.
I received an ARC of this book from the publisher.
Released August 26, 2014
224 pages
YA / Fantasy / Post-Apocalyptic

Find it on Goodreads

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Indie Bound

Pen has lost her parents. She’s lost her eye. But she has fought Kronen; she has won back her fragile friends and her beloved brother. Now Pen, Hex, Ash, Ez, and Venice are living in the pink house by the sea, getting by on hard work, companionship, and dreams. Until the day a foreboding ship appears in the harbor across from their home. As soon as the ship arrives, they all start having strange visions of destruction and violence. Trance-like, they head for the ship and their new battles begin.

This companion to Love in the Time of Global Warming follows Pen as she searches for love among the ruins, this time using Virgil’s epic Aeneid as her guide. A powerful and stunning book filled with Francesca Lia Block’s beautiful language and inspiring characters.

A few weeks ago I gushed about Love in the Time of Global Warming, the first book in this classic-inspired series of post-apocalyptic romance novels. It was a bit of a home coming of sorts a decade after Francesca Lia Block’s fiction had acted as a life preserver in my teenage years. I was eager to get to the second volume of the series, but I also didn’t want the experience of Block’s magical realism-filled poetic prose to be finished for the foreseeable future. So I read some other books in between, but none of them left the same dazed feeling of being truly transplanted completely to another place as Love in the Time of Global Warming did.

So when I finally picked up the sequel last week, I may have had my expectations set a little higher than I had when I read the first in the series a few weeks ago. While I wasn’t as captivated by The Island of Excess Love, I still had a difficult time pulling myself out of Block’s post-apocalyptic world of giants and illusion. This volume is based very loosely on The Aeneid and Pen as the narrator points out that, while Time of Global Warming paralleled The Odyssey near perfectly, this part of the story can at most be said to be “inspired” by the events of Aeneas and his followers.

---Slight spoilers for Love in the Time of Global Warming ahead---

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Random Tuesday: My Very First Loot Crate - The Unboxing

A coworker finally gave me that last little nudge to convince me to join Loot Crate a few weeks ago. After resisting for months, knowing that we have too much geek stuff around the house, I learned that October's Loot Crate theme was space. I like space. Space has aliens. And Firefly. I gave in and today I got a present in the mail. While some might do their unboxings as videos, you don't want to hear my voice, so have pictures instead.

This was in my mailbox and I got really excited. Presents!

But what's inside? Give me the presents!

Wait, did someone accidentally pack their toupee in my Loot Crate? What is this nonsense?

It's a Tribble! I've decided to name him Phil. He looks like a Phil, right? What else is in this box of space magic?

Hey, it's a Funko box! It's not a Pop, but I still like me some Funko. Who could be inside?

It's my favorite Captain!! Isn't he cute? He will soon be my desk mate too. Mal will protect me from crazy at work, I think. What else could be in this magic box?

Mal brought me space money!! If only it could be used to buy more Funkos. Oooh, he also brought a villian to fight.

It's the alien from Alien! He's kind of creepy. I don't think he'll be hanging out at my desk. And finally the last bits of space goodness in this box...

It looks like Loot Crate realized I've been hungry all the time, so they sent me a snack. I didn't even know they made Watermelon flavored Pop Rocks. I think I might have to use them to make cookies. That's also a Star Wars-meets-Asteroids magnet, codes to download Halo comics and a little Loot Crate magazine.

So did Loot Crate live up to its hype? If they send me a little cute Captain Mal every month, they will definitely keep up their end of the bargain. I'm not a huge Alien fan, but that action figure is still pretty neat and my life has been missing a tribble. I look forward to seeing what shows up on my doorstep next month.

Did anyone else get a Loot Crate this month? What did you think of the Space box?


Mini Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Neil Gaiman

William Morrow Books
Released June 18, 2013
181 pages
Fantasy / Faerie Tale-esque / Kid Friendly Sort Of

Find it on Goodreads

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Indie Bound

Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn't thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she'd claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.

A groundbreaking work from a master, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out. It is a stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly's wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark.

I am a Neil Gaiman fan girl. I won’t ever try to deny that. Gaiman single-handedly destroyed my preconceived notions of modern fantasy literate as an adolescent. Neverwhere is the first book that comes to mind when asked what my favorite book is. Sandman was my gateway into mature comics. Neil Gaiman may be my hero.

So I’m not entirely sure why it took me so long to read The Ocean at the End of the Lane. Perhaps I knew that, once finished, I might not be getting new Gaiman words in my hands anytime soon. Maybe I was a little scared that the magic might have disappeared. Whatever it was, this book sat on my shelf for a little too long until it became the monthly book for my book club. I eagerly dived in and wasn’t disappointment.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a children’s tale with an adult wrapper. If you removed the first and last chapters, this could easily be a scary tale to read to children, all about witches and mysterious girls and creepy monsters from alternate realms. For most of the book, the narrator is a small boy, looking at a very strange time in his life in retrospect now that he’s a middle aged man. Whatever perspective you’d expect from a story told by a grown man is non-existent. This book is told as though it’s happening out right to the point that I forgot about the framework around the story being from the point of view of an adult.

Our main character is never named. He’s just a regular boy growing up in a house with his parents and his sister when one day, the family wakes up to find their boarder missing. This starts a bizarre adventure into a twilight world that only the boy seems to see. He meets Lettie, her mother and her grandmother, three slightly strange women that live at the end of the lane. Together they help him ward off evil and turn his life back to normal though not without some serious consequences.

This is a modern faerie tale, a quick read with a bit of a moral underneath the surface. It’s imaginative and written in that classic Neil Gaiman way that’s full of metaphors that seem to live off the page. It’s an incredibly quick read at 181 pages and it’s nothing complicated. This was a great palate cleanser after the number of YA books I’ve read that started blurring together without having to dive into an dense or serious literature. While it might not be a book that sticks with me like Neverwhere, Sandman or Stardust, it’s definitely a book I look forward to revisiting once my nephew is a little bit older and not quite so scared of his own shadow.


Trailer Park Friday: Mockingjay, Doctor Who, Panic! at the Disco Covers Queen & More

Happy Friday! We've been getting tons of rain here in Texas due to Hurrican Whatsitsname, so it looks like it's going to be a weekend of staying in and catching up on television. Perhaps I'll find some new videos for next week's Trailer Park, but for now, this is the batch I have for you.

I couldn't call myself a book blogger if I didn't include the trailer for Hungergames: Mockingjay Part 1 that came out earlier this week. The full movie comes out to theatres on November 21.

Peter Capaldi as The Doctor is starting to grow on me though the episodes are still pretty silly and often not very well plotted. Even so, I'm curious to know where all this stuff about Paradise and the crazy lady is going. The next episode is called "Time Heist" and airs tomorrow.

This next one for Dracula Untold could be campy bad entertaining or just horribly bad. I have a growing fondness for Dominic Cooper though, so I might test it out once it's on Netflix. It hits theatres on October 10.

I rarely read biographies, but Neil Patrick Harris is one of my favorite people in the world that I've never met. His memoir Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography comes out on October 14 from Crown Publishing Group. Here's the book trailer.

And this last one is a little unusual for Trailer Park Friday, but I love Panic! at the Disco. We recently saw them on their This is Gospel tour and they performed a cover of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody". Earlier this week they posted a video of them covering the same song at a different show. It makes me happy.

What videos have caught your eye around the internet over the last week? Any cool new book trailers? Post links in the comments!


Comic Review: Hawkeye: My Life as a Weapon by Matt Fraction & David Aja

Hawkeye: My Life as a Weapon
Matt Fraction & David Aja
Marvel Comics
Released March 19, 2013
136 pages
Comics / Superheroes without Superpowers

Find it on Goodreads

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Indie Bound

The breakout star of this summer's blockbuster Avengers film, Clint Barton - aka the self-made hero Hawkeye - fights for justice! With ex-Young Avenger Kate Bishop by his side, he's out to prove himself as one of Earth's Mightiest Heroes! SHIELD recruits Clint to intercept a packet of incriminating evidence - before he becomes the most wanted man in the world. You won't believe what is on The Tape! What is the Vagabond Code? Matt Fraction pens a Hawkeye thriller that spans the globe...and the darkest parts of Hawkeye's mind. Barton and Bishop mean double the Hawkeye and double the trouble...and stealing from the rich never looked so good.

Because boomerang!

I would leave that as my review, but then it would only make sense to someone who has read this first volume in the latest Hawkeye series. If you’ve been hanging around Working for the Mandroid, you probably realize I’m a DC kind of girl. Most of my superhero comic reading has been various lines in the Batfamily, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Teen Titans and other assorted heroes from DC Comics. My exposure to Marvel has really been limited to the movies that have come out over the last few years, but everywhere I looked, people were saying that Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye series was pretty awesome. So I took a chance.

And I giggled like a fool while reading it on an airplane. This book is so much fun. It doesn’t have all the doom and gloom that seeps out of the pores of DC or the vapidness of the current Green Arrow series (comic, not television show). Clint Barton is great, but Kate Bishop, who I had no exposure to before, stole the book for me. That she is just as much Hawkeye as Clint makes me a very happy not-usually-represented-well-in-comics girl. The final issue in this collection is a bit of an origin story of how Kate took over the name Hawkeye from Young Avengers. Now I have to pick up Young Avengers.

Each issue opens up with a scene of Clint in trouble with the captions “Okay --- this looks bad…” before turning back time to tell exactly how Clint found himself getting shot at or falling from a building. It’s so much fun to read about a character without superpowers, who is fearless and reckless in the name of doing what’s right. There is danger and stakes are high with assorted big bads and twist upon twist, but it’s all so much fun and full of exciting adventure.

The art by David Aja is extremely distinctive and the roughness is a fitting match to the difficult situations that Clint often finds himself in. Many of the sequences are saturated in purple. Clint’s apartment is purple, his clothes are purple, his car is purple, and Kate’s get-up is purple. Everything is purple and it’s very striking, unlike anything I’ve ever seen in other comics.

My Life as a Weapon was a great introduction into the current Marvel universe. Even though it has the tie-in to Young Avengers, I didn’t feel like there was a black hole of history that I was missing to truly understand the weight of the story. I’d easily recommend this to people looking to get into comics, but might be wary of superhero continuity. I know little about Hawkeye, but now I want to read everything he’s ever been in. Or at least everything Matt Fraction has written.

Also… boomerang!