From LJ write-up. I am really running out of steam. Not reading steam, but sitting at the computer and saying anything about the reading steam. Though...moreFrom LJ write-up. I am really running out of steam. Not reading steam, but sitting at the computer and saying anything about the reading steam. Though this wasn't an easy read, either. Somehow or other I'd got the impression that this was historical fantasy, and once I got over that, I still had the idea it was more -- lighthearted. Not fluff, but not quite the tragic, bloody, slice of history I should have known it would be. Caernarfon, Wales, 1293, that setting.
The book is told in alternating POVs, with the vast majority of the narrative going to Cecily, especially at the beginning of the book. There's a quote on the front cover from Karen Cushman, and in the beginning Cecily's voice sounded *very* like Birdy, which is always a good thing, although that set it up for being a less tragic story. (Also, Coats doesn't have the sure touch with maintaining "period language" that Cushman has. It's not usually too bad, but there are definite missteps.) But it soon becomes clear just how different from Birdy Cecily is. She's presented as a spoiled brat, and in fact the other POV character, Gwenhwyfar, calls her "the Brat", but in ways she's worse than that, and so willing to cause others to suffer that it makes for chilling reading. Of course she's not going to have been taught that injustice matters even when it's not just to you or yours, because her father doesn't think that way. And in all honesty, it's probably a very small number of English people at the time who would have been likely to think outside the "the King conquered Wales - it's ours now" mindset when told Welsh holdings were theirs for the asking. (Pretty much.) I didn't get just why the father thought he SHOULD have had the estate he ran for his crusading brother - he was the younger, and would there even have been the ability to bring a suit to try to get it for himself? I'd have thought it extremely unlikely, but then my 13th century English legal knowledge isn't that solid.
Gwenhwyfar's narrative is also difficult, as her reasons for burning resentment and hatred against the English has so much to feed it. Her father was killed in an earlier uprising, leaving her and her younger brother to take care of their mother and themselves, in a town that the English are running in a deeply corrupt manner. She has reason to hate Cecily from the start, as Cecily tries to have her thrown out of her position on the first day, but just as she starts to believe Cecily might be learning a bit (which she is), Cecily behaves even more unforgivably. (It's bad, too, for all Cecily isn't quite aware just how horrifically it could end. I mean, she *should* have been aware of it, even though she chose not to see.)
Those of you whose history is less pathetic than mine will have known that there was an uprising coming, and it's then that the book takes a turn I didn't expect. It's not as simplistic as showing the Welsh to be capable of brutality in the killing of people in the town when they rebel - though it shows this, also. But it's how Gwenhwyfar and her brother react when Cecily is utterly at their mercy that is surprising, and works towards an unexpected and satisfying ending, though one that leaves nothing sure. There was a fine author's note at the end that told about what happened after the uprising - and it was what she'd put into some of the characters' mouths. I do like a good author's note after a good historical novel! (less)
Picture the Dead's (very brief) Goodreads synopsis:
Jennie Lovell's life is the very picture of love and loss. First she is orphaned and forced to live
...morePicture the Dead's (very brief) Goodreads synopsis:
Jennie Lovell's life is the very picture of love and loss. First she is orphaned and forced to live at the mercy of her stingy, indifferent relatives. Then her fiancé falls on the battlefield, leaving her heartbroken and alone. Jennie struggles to pick up the pieces of her shattered life, but is haunted by a mysterious figure that refuses to let her bury the past.
All right, but it neglects to mention that her twin brother has also died (it's the Civil War), and that her fiancé was one of those 'indifferent relatives', and her first cousin. My feelings about this book are mostly that it's very stylishly done - I love the way it's presented, with pages of letters and photographs as if from Jennie's scrapbook - but there isn't terribly much depth. Honestly though, I might have had more time for the story if I hadn't been so annoyed by the stupid, utterly pointless fat-bashing. Jennie's mean and hypocritical aunt is described on page 2 as "a spoiled child, blown up into a monster", and that "blown up" is quickly clarified as meaning fat: same page, her chin "wobbles like aspic". First picture of her, she's fat (shocker) and ugly (ditto). Next but one scene, we have "Her eyes were baleful, her pudgy finger crooked". They get a photograph taken and Jennie says her aunt's "jellied bulk affords her a dignity that eludes her in real life". There are plenty more "fat fingers", "squeezing" of her girth -- all the usual.
But, there's an odd one later on, about two girls who had been Jennie's "friends", when she was engaged to the older son of the family. Their calling cards are pasted onto a page in Jennie's scrapbook, with her writing beside it: "If everyone knew how much Flora gossips and Rosemary eats, they mightn't be so quick to accept a calling card from either sister." Really? These snobs who drop Jennie as soon as she's lost social standing are a huge cliché, and part of that cliché is really the gossiping involved in social calls. But this toss-off, illogical remark is still pretty vicious - Flora's gossiping is a real fault, for all it wouldn't have stopped her visiting with her social set, but eating a lot?
It's a pity that there was this kind of rubbish going on, as the details about the early days of photography are a lot of fun, and seem to have been well researched. Other things were more dubious historically, though I can only say of one of them - "At 18? No." as it's a spoiler. [Goodreads review edit: (view spoiler)[Jennie gets her inheritance, held in trust by her uncle, at 18. Granted, her uncle hasn't told her about it, but that could have been very easily explained away - she's a girl and he's her legal guardian. It's convenient but no more likely than that Jennie found herself a nice, comfortable position as a seamstress for Madame. Hasn't anyone read Louisa May Alcott's An Old-Fashioned Girl? Or Work, for that matter!) (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
[Goodreads blurb] Jacki King is fifteen and adjusting to her new life in a small village. She's missing Dublin but she's making new f...moreFrom LJ write-up:
[Goodreads blurb] Jacki King is fifteen and adjusting to her new life in a small village. She's missing Dublin but she's making new friends: artistic Colin, feisty Emily - and Nick, gorgeous yet unavailable. But no sooner is Jacki settled than the torturous headaches and nightmares begin - followed by strange visions, voices and signs...Jacki refuses to believe that something paranormal is happening. But then she discovers the unsolved murder that occurred in the village years before...
Actually, I've just spotted something on pasting that in, though it's something that will only mean anything to a small number of readers (especially ones, like me, considerably older than the book's target readers): the tone of the book reminds me quite a bit of the stories in Jackie magazine and its like. It's very girly. Nick is gorgeous, and within one very brief and highly embarrassing meeting, Jacki is pulling petals off a flower and thinking about first love. After a second, where he's with his girlfriend (who's also gorgeous but fake, so it's okay!) , she's writing love songs about him, pretty much, and so it goes.
While this is very off-putting, there's quite a bit of good stuff in here along with the fluff. The author has a nice ear for dialogue, and the village (not a real one) is fun to read about - this isn't the kid of cod-Irish we get so fed up with seeing in books and on film/TV, and it's not played for the cheap laughs either.
The other thing I liked is that Cassidy bucks the usual trend of this type of story, in having the local GP recognise from the one office visit that something supernatural is actually going on, and send Jacki straight off to a local healer. Jacki does drag her heels a bit before giving in and going to see him, but it's rather a nice twist on the 'nobody will believe meeeee' theme. (Though that can be effective too, of course.) The characters' behaviour does occasionally seem more than a bit unlikely, and the murder is pretty obvious. But, despite the weaknesses, it kept me entertained enough, and I'm happy to try the next book, which is set up in the short framing sequences with Jacki being asked to participate in solving the murders of four girls. (less)
Well, I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed at the thought of writing anything coherent about this one,...moreI may add stars later - still trying to decide!
Well, I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed at the thought of writing anything coherent about this one, so have a Goodreads synopsis:
Sixteen-year-old Scotch struggles to fit in—at home she's the perfect daughter, at school she's provocatively sassy, and thanks to her mixed heritage, she doesn’t feel she belongs with the Caribbeans, whites, or blacks. And even more troubling, lately her skin is becoming covered in a sticky black substance that can't be removed. While trying to cope with this creepiness, she goes out with her brother—and he disappears. A mysterious bubble of light just swallows him up, and Scotch has no idea how to find him. Soon, the Chaos that has claimed her brother affects the city at large, until it seems like everyone is turning into crazy creatures. Scotch needs to get to the bottom of this supernatural situation ASAP before the Chaos consumes everything she's ever known—and she knows that the black shadowy entity that's begun trailing her every move is probably not going to help.
A blend of fantasy and Caribbean folklore, at its heart this tale is about identity and self acceptance—because only by acknowledging her imperfections can Scotch hope to save her brother.
Actually, that's kind of helpful because I don't think it's great as descriptions go, though it's easier to criticize than to write one myself. Starting from the top, Scotch (also known as Sojourner, which is such a wonderful name) is hardly the perfect daughter; she may hide things like the clothes she *really* wears at school, and she may have hidden the fact that she was going out with a white guy, but that's not quite 'perfect'. Provocatively sassy is an odd one, but I think the third is just a bit off: I'd read this description, and read Hopkinson discussing it, and expected Scotch to feel more obviously as if she didn't belong. In the book, she gets grief about not looking like her darker brother, but she's very able to deal with it. And she simply doesn't *take* the grief about her Jamaican accent not being right or the like (from some of the kids at school).
Anyway, the Chaos is the name given to all the weird stuff that happens, both in Toronto and around the world. And it's seriously weird, which in a way is all I feel like saying about it - it's Seriously. Weird. If you don't like random surreal things happening for no reason, this is probably not the book for you. I really liked it, but I'm not at all sure that I'd be able to justify it if I were writing a real review of the book. It's a bit too random and there's a bit of heavy metaphorical layer to the randomness that I'm not sure totally works. But this isn't a real review - hurrah!
Anyway, the Chaos is now dealt with! And there's a really interesting YA story there too, though it's not at all as simple as "Teen of Mixed Racial Identity Comes to Terms with her Identity". But the thing about that YA story is that Scotch is a real jerk at times, and her repeated "Oh no, she didn't!" moments got to be a bit annoying. The first one is quite neat though. She's just dealt with a guy in a bar (her brother snuck her in so she could hear him perform his poetry) who's being all flirty until he sees her brother. When Scotch tells the guy it's her brother rather than her boyfriend, he says ALL the awful things about how they can't be related, really, and then goes on to say the most hideously awful thing about how she could even 'pass as white'. She's duly disgusted, but tells him off with (alas, probably practiced) ease. And shortly after, she's talking to a girl, Punum, who's just performed, and assumes it's her first time performing (she's in a wheelchair). Punum calls her on it asking if it's because she hasn't seen "a chick doing spoken word, or a crip doing it?" When Punum says that Scotch can't use 'crip', Scotch says she gets it, because it's 'like me being black. There's names we can call ourselves that other people better not.' The way Scotch understands her own situation perfectly, and has very much missed that people with a disability should get the SAME RESPECT, is really well done. But next page she starts to realise that Punum is gay and thinks "Great. I had a big old dyke stepping to me. Or wheeling to me. As if." ::smacks Scotch::
And then she falls into the trap of thinking she's so awesome for defending Punum (verbally) when Punum has gone out to take on the police who have been beating up a guy in a wheelchair. But right after defending her, she acts in exactly the same way, if down a notch, by assuming that Punum can't possibly make her way across town without Scotch there to hold her hand, despite its being perfectly obvious that Punum is more than able. Furthermore, her thought is that Punum should be 'grateful' to her for the defending, instead of being 'so mean'.
Aaaand then, a short time later, she says the inexcusable thing: about how she'll be the only one (of her threesome of friends) who's 'normal' if another one of the three is gay as well. (Her relationship with Ben, who'd been dating guys for a while, had seemed so lovely, and HE is so lovely, that this comes as even more of a smack in the face.)
There's something slightly odd going on about sexuality and gender already though, and I'm finding it a bit hard to pinpoint. At the start of the book, the threesome has broken up (with Ben staying friends with Scotch) because, she says, Gloria is trying to 'steal' her boyfriend. Actually, her ex-boyfriend. Actually, the ex SHE dumped, quite coldly. (She had some reasons, which have to do with the weird, but still.) But even though Scotch only admits later that she actually dumped the bf, and oh, yes, realises that Glory wasn't interested in him anyway, and she and Ben have both stopped being friends with Glory over it, there's never quite the acknowledgment of how horribly unfair she's been, and how hurtful it must have been to Glory. I found that a bit off, even though Scotch does learn a lot of things, including about her own bad behaviour as she goes on. (I loved Ben's trying to get them to stop fighting, muttering "Two girls fighting over a guy. How original." Also Glory's calling her on the 'trying to steal' line - "Like a boy is a candy bar you carry around in your purse with no will of him own.") There's also a degree of oddness in the whole 'slut' thing. (The book's term, not mine!) There's a little bit of expositional dialogue between Ben and Scotch near the beginning, which is rather awkward in trying to explain the double standard about girls being 'sluts' and boys being 'studs', but Scotch still seems ready to call another girl a slut, given that she was bullied so horribly at her previous school about it (and just because she was bustier than the other girls).
So, I suppose the thing I'd really love to discuss with friends is whether Scotch's awful behaviour in the ableist, homophobic senses is used well enough by the text to justify its being there. Because, honestly, it's quite painful. And I'd also love to know what people make of the final outcome of her whole transformation into the 'Tar Baby' thing. Me, I'm not quite certain I see that as a great resolution to her pre-transformed self. [Adding a spoilerific explanation for this GR write-up, because spoilers are easy to do here: (view spoiler)[I mean her becoming a "rich dark brown" at the end. Not that she should feel any way other than thrilled with her new skin colour - it's just that she says "I love it, and I hope I stay this shade, because then no one will ever again tell me that I don't look black." It seems as if Scotch needs to be always seen as black in order to be okay with her own racial identity. Or maybe it's just that she can only cope with so much of the less overt kind of racism like that she experienced from the jerk in the bar, and would rather it all be immediately apparent? (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Last book of the 2012 48 Hour Book Challenge, and I'm wiped. Here are some random thoughts about the series.
1. This isn't exactly the kind of fantasy...moreLast book of the 2012 48 Hour Book Challenge, and I'm wiped. Here are some random thoughts about the series.
1. This isn't exactly the kind of fantasy that would appeal to the readers who like their fantasy with a good basis that borders on the realistic end of the fantastic. Even in the first book, there was a big old unanswerable question lurking: How did anybody KNOW about the Shift? (For everyone who hasn't read it, all children born after the Shift - some unknown event that happened 16 years before book 1 - can see ghosts, while those who were born before it, cannot. Even those who could see them before the Shift lost the ability.) How did the adults find out all they did about kids being able to see ghosts, and, even more so, how did they discover how to trap and control them?
2. But that said, the Shift caused a really interesting change in the power relationships between adults and teens, with the teens having to translate for the adults so they can communicate with ghosts, as for example, in trials. (Nice side-effect of the Shift is the ability of murder victims to testify!) In book 3 there's a lot of seriously bad stuff going on with the DNP (govt agency to control ghosts) and the big business interests that make fortunes over the control of ghosts, and it leads to the proposal of a draft for all post-Shifters. A draft as in the erstwhile military draft - all post-Shifters will be forced to register on their 18th birthday and serve in the DNP. We're not talking light-handed treatment of the baddies here, but still, the set-up is unusual and I like the 'what-if' exploration. (And I thought the scene in the high-school with the students standing up for the principal was pretty great.)
3. Ridiculous romance, we get it. And while there's the inevitable YA love-triangle, the fact that one of the guys is ghost Logan does offer interesting possibilities for looking at loss and letting go. I didn't even like Logan at all, but still found Aura's prolonged struggle to be loyal to him while finding a way to help them both move on quite touching. And in book 3, there's a ludicrous young lovers *fated* to be together and being connected in a way no other young lovers are deal - which isn't actually all that ludicrous because it's true in the reality of the book.
4. Bit of a downturn when Aura and Zach come to Ireland, to go to Newgrange where it all began, but it's mostly fairly little stuff, and the actual winter solstice at Newgrange is kind of awesome. It did grate that they kept talking about Irish people speaking 'Gaelic', and was very unlikely that Zachery would have been so easily able to understand said Irish speakers. But I was willing to let the daft Irish (view spoiler)[Children of the Sun? Children of the Something (brain is MELTED - the ones who caused the Shine to happen 19 years before - but had gone mental and murderous here (hide spoiler)] group go as this wasn't, as I said, very realist fantasy. Well, mostly willing to let it go.
5. Overall, despite the above-mentioned & other occasional annoyances (Aura makes some really bad choices in book 2 when grieving, and throws a hell of a bratty temper tantrum in book 3), the series was fun and I'm kind of sorry it's over now.
Never, never never NEVER, forget to save your review before switching the edition. I barely had the energy to write it the first time, let alone tryin...moreNever, never never NEVER, forget to save your review before switching the edition. I barely had the energy to write it the first time, let alone trying to do it after losing it all! So, bullet-points.
Audiobook - good narration, may not be the best format, as the jargon sounds a bit silly, while I suspect it would read fine.
Khemri, nicely done. Arrogant, entitled Prince, who slowly learns first a bit of realism about his super-specialness, and then, more slowly, humanity.
World is interesting, but didn't totally convince me, as it seemed to have a lot of profligacy about its expenditure of resources of all kinds. And there were definite fantasy elements at times, which, while very cool in themselves, did take away from the science aspect of this science fictional story.
Liked this a lot more than I thought I would at the beginning. Prose isn't always amazing, but the characters are very believable and engaging. From m...moreLiked this a lot more than I thought I would at the beginning. Prose isn't always amazing, but the characters are very believable and engaging. From my LJ write-up:
My goal of noting where I saw a review, recommendation or just passing mention of a book when adding it to my Goodreads to-read shelf is clearly not being met, and I've unfortunately no memory where I heard aboutInconvenient, Margie Gelbwasser's first novel. I can see why I'd be interested once I did hear about it, as I generally love YA about the experiences of immigrant communities in the US (or UK), and Inconvenient is about a girl whose Russian-Jewish parents moved to the States when she was very young. The community is a hard-drinking one, and Alyssa's mother has been slipping from drinking hard into drinking too hard - the inconvenience of the title for Alyssa's family.
I almost put this one down after a few chapters - the prose wasn't doing much for me, and it seemed like a lot of pages and hours since I'd read anything that had really grabbed me. But I'm glad that tiredness didn't stop me from reading on, as I was really pretty impressed by the end. Alyssa's only real friend, Lana, has been her friend since they were little, and both are pretty much outsiders because of their background. Alyssa really doesn't care to be accepted by the cool gang, happy enough with Lana and a friend on the track team, but Lana is increasingly turning herself into someone else in order to be accepted, especially by 'the king' of their class. All this was pretty well done, and Keith, the guy on the track team turned out to be neither the unequivocal boyfriend Alyssa wants nor the jerk he seems as if he might be at times.
The greatest impact, however, comes from the portrayal of Alyssa's mother and her drinking problem, which is quite powerful. I didn't love the mother the way I loved the mother in Sara Zarr's Once Was Lost, but it was easy to see how moving from one country in which you were discriminated against for being Jewish to another, in which you're discriminated against for being Russian, with a hard-working but emotionally distant husband, in a culture where heavy drinking is just what you do, could be a disastrous mix. Especially as every time she really starts to become successful in writing magazine articles, the magazine folds, or a new (horrible) editor takes over who cuts her down continually.
Of course, despite that understanding of the factors that lead Alyssa's mother to problem-drinking, our sympathy is completely with Alyssa. Her mother goes through the typical cycles of denial, remorse and promises to stop abusing alcohol, dragging Alyssa through the again, all-too typical pattern of the family of an alcoholic. Her father is big on telling them they have to be tough, Lana increasingly excludes her, and she's not quite sure where she stands with Keith. The loneliness Alyssa feels, and the need to cover up for her mother, despite her growing frustration and desperation, are very moving.
I was telling Younger Daughter about the book when I'd finished, and she said wisely, from the sink where she was washing dishes, "Ah, the old button strings, eh?" It took me a minute to notice that something was wrong, but I quite like the phrase, combining buttons and heart-strings, very appropriately. When thinking about it afterwards, I did the usual 'this isn't my button, really' sidestep; perfectly true in one way, as certainly my mother never had a drinking problem. Of her own. Neither did my father, but yet as a child, I lived with two parental figures who did. Not my button, I thought, but only because I didn't realise that their drinking problems were problems - or rather that they were the kind of problem anyone ever did anything about. One thing about that, of course, is that you don't have the torturous see-saw of hope and disappointment Alyssa experiences. That part of the book was all too convincing, all the same.
Lest this sounds too bleak to be bearable, I don't think there's much harm in saying that towards the end, Inconvenience suggests that the hope of being okay can be uncoupled from the need for the other person to be okay. I certainly couldn't have loved this book if Alyssa hadn't had that much, at least.(less)
From my LJ write-up, which was rather concerned with other matters as well. (In other words, short but still managing to be all over the place.)
I thin...moreFrom my LJ write-up, which was rather concerned with other matters as well. (In other words, short but still managing to be all over the place.)
I think the premise - that Lady M had a daughter, and was driven mad by grief of losing her, (all that nasty Macbeth's doing, obsessed as he was with having a son) long before she went mad from guilt - is an interesting one. Whether you go the old-fashioned way and consider Macbeth a story of pure evil unleashed or all-out Marxist criticism and read it as a story of a man destroyed by being at the changing-point from feudal to modern economic systems*, or somewhere between the two, there is still a fair amount of space left for a bit more motivation. The only problem I found with that in Lady Macbeth's Daughter is that Lady M isn't portrayed as woman made evil by grief consistently enough for it to work. Okay, I also thought Fleance was a bit of a jerk, Albia's love for him not too engaging, and the end a little hacked-off seeming. And I've got a completely irrational thing about girls getting their periods first time and its being explained to them in mystical terms. Here: "You're not dying, my friend. The goddess Banrigh has visited you" made me more than a bit queasy.
I did like the descriptions of the landscape and scenery, and there were a lot of interesting touches, including a good author's note at the end, discussing Shakespeare's use of Holinshed's history of Macbeth.
*This was the argument of the course material for a university module, not my own take on the matter.(less)
I really wanted to like this one a lot, but it didn't happen. My LJ write-up is here. (I'll probably copy-and-paste it later, but don't have HTML-repl...moreI really wanted to like this one a lot, but it didn't happen. My LJ write-up is here. (I'll probably copy-and-paste it later, but don't have HTML-replacing energy now.)(less)
Goodreads synopsis: Thirteen-year-old Aluna has lived her entire life under the ocean with the Coral Kampii in the City of Shifting T...moreFrom LJ write up.
Goodreads synopsis: Thirteen-year-old Aluna has lived her entire life under the ocean with the Coral Kampii in the City of Shifting Tides. But after centuries spent hidden from the Above World, her colony’s survival is in doubt. The Kampii’s breathing necklaces are failing, but the elders are unwilling to venture above water to seek answers. Only headstrong Aluna and her friend Hoku are stubborn and bold enough to face the terrors of land to search for way to save their people.
But can Aluna’s warrior spirit and Hoku’s tech-savvy keep them safe? Set in a world where overcrowding has led humans to adapt—growing tails to live under the ocean or wings to live on mountains—here is a ride through a future where greed and cruelty have gone unchecked, but the loyalty of friends remains true.
I had a bit of trepidation starting this one, partly because it sounded a bit more "Under the seaaaa" (you all know the tune, right?) than I thought I was in the mood for, fun as that song is, and partly because it's middle grade instead of my usual YA. But neither of those proved to be problems once I was just a short way in, and even if Aluna hadn't left her ocean home (the clue *was* in the title) very quickly, it would have been fine.
Or more accurately, if Aluna hadn't headed for land, followed quickly by Hoku. One of the nicest things about the book is the journey companions, and the way these two friends pick up new ones along the way. Hoku and Aluna are the classic polar opposite types of friends, with Aluna being the one who wants to be a warrior (but isn't allowed to be, though at least she can train because of her brothers' willingness to teach her), and Hoku utterly uninterested in fighting, but fascinated by technology. It's nice that there isn't just this fairly standard twist in the grrrl being feisty and keen on fighting though, as the next companion to be added is Calli, an Aviar (I'll get to the 'splinters' soon), who's just as mechanically minded and smart as Hoku. And with whom Hoku is immediately smitten, in a really sweet and funny portrayal of first love. Hoku's internal musings on kissing were delightful. Dash, who eventually joins the group, is - or should have been - an Equian word-weaver. And there's the utterly adoptable Zorro, a -- well, a very special raccoon, not to spoil anything.
The world is complicated and fascinating. As earth became over-populated and life there unsustainable, big corporations (including HydraTek) invented bio-engineering abilities to allow humans to exist under the sea, as with the Kampii and Deepfell; in the air high above earth; in the desert; and elsewhere. The Kampii refer to the Ancients, who gave them thick skin and strong bones to allow them to survive underwater, but also breathing shells, which attach to the necks and allow them to draw oxygen from the water. But the breathing shells need power to function, unlike their other adaptations, and the Kampii don't have the technological abilities to generate that power in sufficient quantities, when the breathing shells start to fail.
I thought this was all wonderful, and was quite happy to leave the details of the science aside for the most part - I'm happy to see the book as just as hybrid as the splinters, rather than being categorised as simply straight science fiction or fantasy. I did have some quibbles occasionally, however. One was about the group of Aviars Hoku and Aluna encounter and come to be allied with, Skyfeather's Landing. This group is all female, and though there are other groups which are all male, the separate communities appear to have little interaction - and there's nothing about men and women getting together for reproduction, let alone any kind of romantic interaction. And yet [mild spoiler alert] Calli's interest in Hoku is as immediate as his for her, and in fact she kisses him first.
This isn't a major point, and I suppose I only noticed it because of the evolutionary-science slant to the story. The other problem I have is harder to address, because it is absolutely nothing intentional, and I could well be misreading anyway. (It's entirely possible that things that seem quibblesome now will be explained in future books in the series too.) That problem is the depiction of the Upgraders. These are certain types of Humans, and in pasing, despite our human-centric expectations, Humans are the beings with the least degree of 'humanity' to them. The name Upgrader comes from the fact that they make up for their missing or deformed body parts with a combination of techno-bits (generally adapted for violent purposes) and parts stolen from other creatures. It's not clear by the end of the book whether or not these Upgraders actually have choice about the killing and theft of body parts for their own use, or whether it's all the fault of a few arch-villains. But lines such as these do seem disturbing: "One of the riders had no legs at all. Her torso seemed like part of the mechanical insect itself. Did these misshapen creatures really share the same ancestors as the unadorned Humans in the boat? The same ancestors as the Kampii?" and: "The Upgraders shuffled through the entrance corridor and into the room. [...] Another seemed to have bare feet, but they were made of dull-black metal. Even the toenails! If the Upgraders were Humans once, they'd left the legacy behind, as sure as the Kampii had left dry land." It comes close to reading as if the 'misshapen' bodies are indication of lack of humanity, though as I said, it's clear that nothing like that is intended, especially as one of the strengths of the book is the coming together of societies that have feared and even hated each other in the past.
I am very much looking forward to the next book. (By which I mean the next book in the Above World series, rather than the next book in my 48 Hour Book Challenge!) I do hope it won't be too long a wait.(less)
I'm actually writing up one book behind, but I needed to start something I liked before falling asleep last night, and didn't start blo...moreMy LJ write-up.
I'm actually writing up one book behind, but I needed to start something I liked before falling asleep last night, and didn't start blogging The Prince of Mist until after I'd finished this, and then didn't feel quite mentally flexible enough to switch immediately from cranky reader to charmed reader.
Now I'm not quite flexible - or energetic - enough to say why it charmed me, though I'll have a shot. Emma-Jean, who's in seventh grade (1st Year in Irish terms, if that's useful), has been perfectly happy sitting alone and observing her class-mates, until she finds Colleen, possibly the nicest girl in the seventh grade, crying in the bathroom. Colleen almost inadvertently asks Emma-Jean for help, worried because alpha chimp Laura has got herself an invitation to a ski-trip with Colleen's best friend. Emma-Jean thinks of Jules Henri Poincaré, her (dead) father's hero, who believed that every problem, no matter how complex, could be solved by creative thinking.
Emma-Jean sets about solving Colleen's problem, and then a few other problems, using what is certainly some creative thinking. And her degree of 'strange' is wonderfully balanced - her mother looks up the word when a classmate calls her strange, and finds 'extraordinary, remarkable, singular'. She is that, too - her intelligence combined with the way she sees things differently from other people - a bit more logical, a bit less emotionally, just missing some nuances of others' behaviour - is done with such a nice, often comic touch that it's just Emma-Jean. Not a character who's so loudly *not* being labelled that it seems more authorial cleverness than anything else.
It's not all Emma-Jean who makes the book though - her mother, dead father and Vikram, who took the third-floor apartment six months ago and now cooks them all dinner every night - are all lovely. But Colleen is especially so, and her desperate caring about everyone and what they think of her - and her longing to be Super Not-Care Girl, so easy to understand. I liked the fact that Colleen's mother was just a little too undemonstrative to help much when Colleen went to pieces, but clearly caring despite it. And the scene with the parish priest kind of knocked me sideways, because at about that age I was preparing for confirmation and we all had a private meeting with our rector. (A very good guy - seriously - he'd run a service similar to the Samaritans from his house for a while before he was contacted and helped establish the Irish Samaritans branch.) (Yes, of course I'm over-explaining in defensiveness.) Anyway, all I desperately wanted to say to him was what Colleen managed to say to her priest, and I'm sure ours would have been helpful too, but I just couldn't manage to put it into words. I loved that this book valued simple kindness so highly and let Colleen see she wasn't a failure because she'd sometimes not been as nice as she wanted to be. She doesn't become Super Not-Care Girl, but she does become strong enough to stand up to Laura and not go back to caring so much she lets Laura behave any way she wants.
Nice to know there's another Emma-Jean book already out, and hope it's as good as this one. (less)
Not entirely sure how I feel about this still - Brennan seems to make it so damn hard to love in her world, and it was all a bit traumatic, but I'm ho...moreNot entirely sure how I feel about this still - Brennan seems to make it so damn hard to love in her world, and it was all a bit traumatic, but I'm hooked.
Favourite bit of dialogue:
"Lots of people would like to have someone tall, dark, and handsome around to love them sullenly and passionately," Mae said. "I read it in a book."
Jamie looked ill.
"Not me. I would like someone to express their feelings by being very, very nice to me all the time. And making me laugh. And then I would make them laugh too. And - and nobody would kill anybody."
Oh dear again. This sounded as if it should be so wonderful, although as I said to Steepholm last night, the sheer volume of praise alm...moreMy LJ write-up.
Oh dear again. This sounded as if it should be so wonderful, although as I said to Steepholm last night, the sheer volume of praise almost guaranteed my cranktankerous self would have to be different. Seriously, there's almost two full pages of 'quotes from young Spanish readers', all saying either that the book is the best they've ever, ever read or that in fact they didn't like books at all until reading it and now... A life-enhancing experience, as Beccadelarosa calls it, when trying to get me to read a book I'm trying to avoid wimpily .
I was pretty sure it wasn't going to go well when I read "Years later, as he remembered the scene, his family wandering to and fro with their bags while he sat in a corner clutching the watch his father had given him, Max knew that this was the day he left his childhood behind." -- on page 4. On page 6, "Max had once read in one of his father's books that some childhood images become engraved in the mind like photographs, like scenes you can return to again and again and will always remember, no matter how much time goes by", and by the next page he'd understood the meaning of those words on seeing the sea for the first time and promised himself he'd never live somewhere he couldn't "wake every morning to see that same dazzling blue light that rose towards heaven like some magical essence". Then we have two foreshadowings through Max's mother, a blatantly evil cat (adopted by Max's bratty younger sister), a walled garden with stone figures grouped around a malevolently-smiling stone clown, and yeah, I should have been terrified. But it was so portentous I was just bored and irritated. Dr Cain is a nasty villain, but it was hard to care all that much about whether or not he did manage to sucker any more fools into making a bargain with him or get back in the life-stealing game, on the whole.
Another real problem I had with the book is that all this foreshadowing stuff seemed to filter any atmosphere the book might have into its spoooookiness, and if that didn't work for you, you kept wondering, as I did, where exactly the book was supposed to have been set. It's 1943, during the war (oh yeah, and the war is used for HEAVY foreshadowing too - doom approaches), and yet when the father insists the family leave 'the city' for this unnamed sea-side town, there isn't the least sign in the world of any effect of the war at all, aside from the Doom. No food shortages, no indication that there were any of those, or soldiers or bombing in the city they'd supposedly fled, and yet the town to which they move sounds more like a British seaside town than a Spanish one - maybe with better bakeries than the British ones might have had in '43 even without the war. Max even thinks of the war "that was being fought so close and yet so far from that beach", which-- well, I'm sorry, but I just think that's pretentious claptrap.
Have to admit I didn't totally finish it - though I read most of it and the ending. (If you're about to read it soon and don't want any spoilers, though I'll keep it vague, look away now.) One of the portentous moments was of a character's falling asleep "in the arms of a vision that would stay with him for the rest of his life". (Young lurve, so profound.) Only that life is all of a few more days, at that point, which surely would make it seem a bit better to have phrased it some other way. Not my favourite, in case that wasn't clear?(less)
I'd probably have given it three-and-a-half stars, but I just tend to like Karen Cushman. The language in this one is perhaps a bit intrusively Elizab...moreI'd probably have given it three-and-a-half stars, but I just tend to like Karen Cushman. The language in this one is perhaps a bit intrusively Elizabethan ('certes', for example, stuck out a bit for me), but for its wonderfully crusty protagonist alone, I liked it. And I very much liked the presentation of a disabled character at a time when responses to people with physical disabilities were apparently changing. Meggy dancing at the end was just a delight. (less)
My LJ write-up (a bit less than coherent as I was in the middle of the 48 Hour Reading Challenge and getting a bit tired):
Oh dear - this was one I rea...moreMy LJ write-up (a bit less than coherent as I was in the middle of the 48 Hour Reading Challenge and getting a bit tired):
Oh dear - this was one I really wanted - expected - to love, and just couldn't quite. It's a fantastic idea - sort of an inverted, very dark version of Little Red Riding Hood, with the wolves - the Fenris - terrifying, and the two sisters, Rosie and Scarlett, as kick-ass Little Reds, who wield their own hatchets. They have a Fenris-fighting partner in Silas, a woodsman, son of the woodsman neighbour who helped raise them after a Fenris attack killed their grandmother, and left Scarlett with one eye and terrible scarring.
Okay - I'm going to keep this short and odd: I thought this came close to being a Criminal Minds as YA (supernatural) monster-fighting book, in the highlighting of the toll it took on you to be the one who fought the monsters most of us barely know exist. The responsibility to fight them, along with the cost of living your life under that responsibility, was a strong theme in the book. I could have loved that, and as I said, the premise was great, but unfortunately I was bounced off it first by the uneasiness of the sisters' very close relationship, which kept coming back to Rosie's 'owing her life' to Scarlett's having nearly died in protecting her, and kept being phrased that way by Rosie. Just uncomfortable, though it seemed downright silly that after a huge fight Rosie felt that Scarlett would hate her enough that she might not bother trying to protect her again. But - why couldn't Scarlett, severely disfigured as she was by the Fenris attack, have been the romantic interest in the story instead of perfectly beautiful 16-year-old Rosie? There are a couple of mitigating factors to this dynamic (although the way one was 'proved' by Silas was just daft on several levels), but I'd still have liked the book so much more had it not broken down this way, even with the mitigating factors (which very clearly show that the author was actively trying NOT to make the book be all about the beautiful=lovable; disfigured=unlovable dynamic). Maybe it's just that I found the romance more than a bit dull, but I thought the question of what you owe to life because of your knowledge of and ability to fight monsters weakened somewhat by the removal of any possibility of Scarlett's being anything other than a hunter of monsters. It was 'okay' because it was her real passion, but on the other hand, how much of a chance of romance + hunting did she ever have?
I did like As You Wish a lot, and will definitely read Sweetly (a 'companion' book rather than a sequel, and Hansel and Gretel) when it's out. Just sorry I didn't love this one.(less)
Well, I continue the run of starting off my 48 Hour Challenge with a book that knocks me out - in a good way, happily. I saw The S...moreCopy of LJ write-up.
Well, I continue the run of starting off my 48 Hour Challenge with a book that knocks me out - in a good way, happily. I saw The Sky Is Everywhere recommended by Sara Zarr quite a while ago and it's been a long wait, but the anticipation didn't hurt a bit.
The book itself is just gorgeous - at least the UK paperback (-ish) is. It's done like a notebook, with a blue elastic cord holding it, just like a Moleskine, actually, and the print is a most beautiful blue. Except for the notes, poems, and letters interspersed with the story. I got a bit dubious when I picked it up, because "I'm supposed to be grieving, not falling in love..." just isn't that promising. Nor is the bit on the back cover, with its insistence on Lennie's sudden, obsessive desire to make out with guys including her sister's boyfriend, despite her sister's recent death. But it got me. More for the family than the central romance, actually. Lennie's family consisted of her older sister Bailey, her grandmother, her Uncle Big, and her absent mother, who left the girls when Lennie was one.
Although the story of Lennie's slow and incredibly painful adjustment to life without her sister is obviously both powerful and moving, her 'relationship' with her mother is also extremely well done. I loved it for Lennie's gradual realisation of how life is - to an extent - a story, which can be told in a variety of ways. She hasn't seen that she has any part in the telling of that story, and that's one thing she learns, but also that it's possible for a way of telling it to contain a truth, and yet trap you in the story to the exclusion of other truths. And not facing up to those other truths may make them seem truer than they actually are.
All of which might be less elliptical (not to say downright befuddled) if I had less of a headache and more mental energy. So suffice it to say that I loved this mostly for its humour in the huge amount of grief, in its light hand with the supernatural element(s), and the depiction of the various characters and their various responses to loss. (Yow - just thought of one of them and am on the verge of tears again.) The romance wasn't my favourite part of the story in a lot of ways, but not enough to decrease my pleasure in the book significantly.(less)