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Search tags: catherynne-m.-valente
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review 2017-09-17 23:30
Review: In the Night Garden (The Orphan's Tales Book 1 of 2)
In the Night Garden (The Orphan's Tales, #1) - Catherynne M. Valente

I thought this was a very clever and unique book.  At least, I’ve never read anything like it.  It tells a lot of stories, I couldn’t say how many, but definitely more than a dozen.  However, this is not an anthology.  It’s layer upon layer upon layer of related stories nested inside each other. 

 

The framing story is about a lonely girl who people shun because they believe she’s a demon.  A curious boy approaches her and, over the course of a few days, she tells him two stories.  Each of the two stories takes up about half of the book.  Within each story, some of the characters tell other stories.  Within those stories, somebody tells another story.  These stories often tell the backstory of a particular character, so you’re sort of gaining more and more history, going backwards in time as you go forward in the book.  Periodically, the book returns to the higher layers to continue those stories, and then it possibly goes back into the same lower layers to finish incomplete stories there, or else it starts a new inner story with a new set of layers.  Some of the different branches were only moderately related, but there were lots of little connections here and there which were fun to watch for.

 

Sound confusing?  It really wasn’t.  The first main story never went more than 5 layers deep.  The second main story went up to 7 layers deep a couple times.  When I first realized the structure of the book, I was a little worried that I would get confused, so I started checking myself each time the story went into a deeper layer, recounting to myself the steps that had led there.  I was always able to do so quickly and without confusion, and I think that process helped me keep it all straight in my head.  I could see where some people might find this book disorienting, though.  For me, it may have helped that this type of thought process is part of my day job as a programmer; I kept making comparisons to it while I was reading.  Reading this was kind of like keeping track of the call stack while reading or debugging a program as it progresses forward and backward through layers of subroutines. 

 

The stories all borrow heavily from fairy tales.  This was especially noticeable to me since I had read through The Complete Grimm’s Fairy Tales earlier this year.  It really isn’t a retelling of any of those stories, but there were lots of little nods, sometimes with similarities and sometimes with twists, and with the tiniest hint of satire.  Unlike many of the Grimm’s tales, however, this book was internally consistent, the characters’ actions made sense, and it never felt silly. 

 

I do still have a little bit of Fairy Tale Fatigue from the Grimm’s book though, so that might have impacted my enjoyment of some of the stories.  Some layers were more interesting than others, so the book didn’t always hold my interest, which is the main reason I’m not rating it higher.

 

Next Book

In the Cities of Coin and Spice by Catherynne M. Valente, the sequel to this book.

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review 2017-05-13 00:00
The Glass Town Game
The Glass Town Game - Catherynne M. Valente,Rebecca Green A juvenile fantasy about the young Brontes and their imaginary kingdoms? I've never read the surviving Glasstown Confederacy, Gondal and Angria poems, but the idea of them have fascinated me ever since I first heard of them.

The Glasstown Confederacy was the setting for the Bronte's games of make-believe from early childhood until, very likely, their deaths. Charlotte, Emily, Anne and Branwell all contributed to the game and while only fragments survive - lists of characters, places, etc. and poetry - it was a wellspring of creativity.

Valente has the Brontes playing together shortly before Charlotte and Emily are to be sent off to school again. This is a dreadful thing not only because of the separation, but because the family hasn't gotten over the terrible losses they suffered when, on sending the elder girls to school, they lost their two eldest sisters to a sickness that broke out at the school. When the day arrives, the children encounter a bizarre man at the train station and board an altogether different kind of train then one that would take anyone to school.

I had some trouble with the characterization of Branwell and Anne at first, but by halfway through the novel I was thoroughly enjoying the adventure Valente was taking them on. No characters are as simple as they appear and there is real affection in their treatment. The one quibble I have is how Jane Austen was treated - but Charlotte herself didn't understand her, so I suppose its fair.

With the historical and literary background of this title there may be some trouble getting it into the young hands its intended for, but this is a swell adventure story and fantasy and no context is necessary for a young reader to enjoy it.
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review 2017-05-11 18:50
Deathless / Catherynne Valente
Deathless - Catherynne M. Valente

Koschei the Deathless is to Russian folklore what devils or wicked witches are to European culture: a menacing, evil figure; the villain of countless stories which have been passed on through story and text for generations. But Koschei has never before been seen through the eyes of Catherynne Valente, whose modernized and transformed take on the legend brings the action to modern times, spanning many of the great developments of Russian history in the twentieth century.

 

I chose to read this book because it was one of the oldest on my TBR list and it was available at the library. Not maybe the most compelling reasons to make a selection, and it seems that I haven’t been in the correct mood to appreciate it.

Catherynne Valente is an excellent writer. I can’t complain about the writing style, or the vocabulary, or anything like that. The fault is mine—I don’t know enough about Russian folk tales to properly appreciate this retelling.

What did I like? The Stalinist house elves. They were awesome!

I spent the whole book feeling like there was something just out of my reach, something that just wasn’t clicking. It also didn’t help that life has been especially busy of late and I haven’t had the usual amount of time to devote to Deathless. Your mileage may vary.

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text 2017-05-09 18:12
Books I Need to Finish, Already!
A Beautiful Truth - Colin McAdam
Deathless - Catherynne M. Valente
No Bed for Bacon - S.J. Simon,Caryl Brahms
Shadow Games - Glen Cook

I'm house and cat sitting for my cousin this week and next.  I thought I'd have lots of time to read.  Then when I got to the house last night, I found her brother there, doing some handyman work for the neighbour & planning to stay until Wednesday.  I think he was disappointed last night that I didn't spend more time visiting with him, so tonight I plan to ask him out to dinner.  At least we can talk while we eat.

 

I need to finish A Beautiful Truth for my real-life book club on Friday night.  (I also need to schedule time to make some rice krispie squares for that event).

 

Deathless is the next book due at the library, but I'm stalled right now--it's just not engaging me, despite the fact that it's well written.

 

No Bed for Bacon is good, I just need to have time to circle back to it.  It's an interlibrary loan, so it can't be renewed & I want to get it finished.

 

Shadow Games is actually the most fun of the four, and I'm holding onto the remainder of it as a special treat for finishing the three above.

 

Meanwhile, I'm covered in cat hair--every time I cleaned off this morning, Mr Cat walked by to deposit some more fluff on my pants!  Did I mention that he's diabetic, so I'm giving him insulin shots night & morning?  When he heard my alarm go off this morning, he was immediately outside the bedroom door, yodelling.  It's going to be a long two weeks, folks.

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url 2017-04-13 00:22
Free Download from TOR.com
Deathless - Catherynne M. Valente

"Valente brings Russian folklore into the present day. Prepare for Stalinist house elves, a clever peasant girl named Marya, and a collision of magical history with actual history!

 

Download DEATHLESS here, available from April 10 to April 16, 2017

 

Please download your free copy of DEATHLESS by Catherynne M. Valente before 11:59 PM ET, April 16, 201


Keep track of all Tor.com eBook Club offerings and discussions on the Tor.com eBook Club tag page.


If you're experiencing technical difficulties, email "ebookclub@tor.com"."

Source: forms.em.penguinrandomhouse.com/ats/msg.aspx?sg1=34a162909d7589a64dc9cb13208692a7&aid=randohouseinc42151-20&ref=PRH6A17DC959AC5&linkid=PRH6A17DC959AC5&cdi=4C1CA876A4730665E0534FD66B0A3090&template_id=5895
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