I picked this up at a library $5-a-bag book sale because, from the title, I assumed it would be either a fantasy novel or about Venice. It was neitherI picked this up at a library $5-a-bag book sale because, from the title, I assumed it would be either a fantasy novel or about Venice. It was neither, obviously, but an... interesting read nonetheless.
I've never been to Hawaii, but one of my good friends in college was from there. (Not 'Hawaiian', she taught me - the only people you call 'Hawaiian' are native Hawaiians, and her family was Okinawan.) From what she told me, the perception most people have of Hawaii is vastly at odds with the reality - it's a tourist destination, yes, but it's also where other states send their homeless populations, because at least there they can't die from the winter cold. There is a long history of the contiguous U.S. treating Hawaii differently because of its distance and its almost-foreign nature.
This book is about the beginning of that relationship, from the point of view of a Norwegian immigrant who is buffeted about by the outermost edges of conflict. That distance makes for the book's key flaw, I think: things happen around Eva but rarely to her, and she certainly doesn't really cause anything to happen. She is more... driftwood caught on a tide than active protagonist, and her interactions with the conflict at the core of this time period (between Hawaiian Queen Lili'uokalani and the Americans who covet the islands) are limited and brief. The book does pay them some attention, in brief descriptions of broader events between each chapter, but not much. This left me with an odd feeling, as if the more compelling story here had been deliberately avoided. Eva's story might have been interesting had its backdrop not been so much more dramatic, and had there been a stronger sense of stakes.
It's a short book - the kind that feels more like a novella than anything - so it didn't take up much of my time, but it also didn't feel like much of substance actually happened so...three stars. Dead average....more
One and a half stars, for being a product of its time and probably better in that context than now.
I'm not actually sure why I bothered finishing thisOne and a half stars, for being a product of its time and probably better in that context than now.
I'm not actually sure why I bothered finishing this. I borrowed it from my grandmother years ago, when I was in high school and had the ambitious (and ultimately fruitless) plan to read a book over the summer for each class I was taking in the fall. This was supposed to prepare me for AP Biology - I'm probably better off having not read it then!
By the time I finally did pick it up, I'd already earned a biology degree of my own, so this was even more of a waste of time. Blame compulsive completionism for me making it through the whole damn thing.
The title is a bit of a misnomer, from my perspective; this is less of an 'introduction to ecology' as it is an argument for the significance of the field. Which I agree with, don't get me wrong, but had I picked this up in high school expecting to learn something that might be on a modern exam, I would have been deeply disappointed. Ecology as Sears describes it was barely a nascent field, and he could not have imagined the dramatic changes to the world and to the science that would come to pass and shape how it's taught today.
There are far better things I could have spent my time on - but at least I can return this to my grandmother now....more
Much as I love Sanderson and the Cosmere, this novella didn't really seize me. I think that's largely because it felt more like an introduction to theMuch as I love Sanderson and the Cosmere, this novella didn't really seize me. I think that's largely because it felt more like an introduction to the world than a complete story within it; one of the things I love most about Sanderson's writing is the intricacy and scope of his worldbuilding, so I guess I feel a bit let down when he tells a close-focused story like this with very little (comparatively) world info.
Character-wise, I find myself conflicted. There's nothing wrong with Dusk and Vathi on their own, but they also never really felt developed to me. As I look back, I think that had this story been set in a time of greater threat to Patji - perhaps when exploration of the island was thoroughly underway, and scientific discoveries already benefiting the rest of the population while threatening the natural systems - they would have stood out more strongly. As it is, Vathi's arguments never felt ideologically strong in the way of, say, Jasnah Kholin - for all that she was an advocate for progress, nominally, I never felt like I saw her actually advocating. And in contrast, Dusk didn't really get to articulate his feelings except for a nebulous 'this isn't right'. Had there been a greater level of conflict, I think both of them would have engaged me more.
By far the most intriguing aspect of this from a Cosmere-wide perspective is the idea of the Ones Above. Sanderson's said that they're a population we've seen before, and the obvious conclusion is that they're Scadrian - not a conclusion I particularly want to see proven true, as it'd say unpleasant things about how Scadrial's culture will change, but I suppose such change is realistic if it comes about. We'll see. They could be Rosharan too, from recent comments....more
I've had some hits and misses with Maggie Stiefvater - loved Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception from when it started circulating my library's teen gI've had some hits and misses with Maggie Stiefvater - loved Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception from when it started circulating my library's teen group, but never finished the series; skipped Shiver entirely; and was less than satisfied with The Scorpio Races. So when my roommate, who has excellent and very selective taste, started going on about The Raven Boys, I confess to being a bit skeptical. My last experience with this author had been something of a let-down - would I just be walking into that again?
I borrowed my roomie's copy of the first book in the last two weeks before our college graduation and, when I had time free from packing, powered through it. And it... well, it reminded me why I had so much faith in Stiefvater in the beginning. More than that, it made corrected some of the weaknesses of Scorpio Races! I'm definitely back on board this train. (Though since everyone I know who's caught up to the series is desperate for the fourth book, and it doesn't come out till next year, I'm gonna go through this one slowly and save myself some frustrated waiting.)
The standout aspect of this book, for me, was atmosphere. Stiefvater balances the magical air of dark fairy tales with the modern world of a bunch of teenagers, and the way she moves between the two is incredibly smooth and graceful. The intensity of all the characters helps with that, and the combination of the two is what makes this book so compelling to read. The world, and the people in it, feel both real and otherworldly. It makes you believe, sort of: because if they're so real-feeling, the world they inhabit starts to be the same.
The characters are excellent, and I say this as someone who was spoiled for two major reveals before starting, so it's not just shock talking here. (By the way, knowing that, it was neat to see how Stiefvater foreshadowed and hinted at them. I imagine that, had I been reading without warning, they would have fit neatly into the 'surprising but inevitable' that is the goal for plot twists.) The one downside is that because there are so many main characters and POVs I rarely felt like I really understood or knew a lot about any one person in particular. I certainly didn't develop a particularly strong attachment to one over the others (though I have friends who did), but as a group - yeah. I love them all together.
The book's major fault, and the reason I couldn't give it five stars, is the ending, because while a lot of dramatic stuff happens, very little is actually resolved and, in fact, the last line throws up an entirely new thing for the protagonists to deal with. This is part of why I don't want to catch up on the series quickly: because if Blue Lily, Lily Blue ends like that and I have to wait months for a real resolution, I'm gonna be annoyed. My feeling at this point is that this is probably a story that would have done better as a single stand-alone novel, four times the size. You don't really see that in the YA market, though, so I'll take what I can get - it's plenty fun already....more