In the near future, scientists have discovered how to genetically engineer babies not to require sleep, resulting in highly intelligent, rational chil...moreIn the near future, scientists have discovered how to genetically engineer babies not to require sleep, resulting in highly intelligent, rational children called “Sleepless.” Leisha is one of the Sleepless. Although she has a happy childhood, as she begins to mature she realizes that her place in the world is much more complex than she expects. “Sleepers” unable to compete, treat Leisha and her kind with jealousy, and disgust. Is there a way for the Sleepers and Sleepless to find peace? How can you create a society based on equality when all people are not, technically, created equal?
Beggars in Spain is the September selection for calico_reaction's bookclub on livejournal. I was a little skeptical about it first, but I'm glad that I picked it up, because I ended up falling in love with Leisha's story. Beggars in Spain is an intelligent novel about a woman struggling to find equality in a world of genetically engineered inequality. It's about judging people on their individual productivity, while still paying attention to the “beggars in Spain” or people that cannot be productive. Throughout the book as Leisha shapes and reshapes her personal philosophies, the reader is right there with her, trying to find answers in an increasingly complex world.
Beggars in Spain is divided into four sections that take place over eighty years of time. During this time you encounter a large variety of characters, watch them grow from birth to old age, and are able to see their impact on the world. This allows us to cover a lot of territory in one book. Under a lesser writer, covering so many characters and concepts could result in the entire cast feeling undeveloped, playing second fiddle to the author's big ideas. I did not find that this was the case here in Beggars in Spain, as I really enjoyed getting to know the characters. Outside of Leisha, the character that fascinated me the most was actually the main villain. As the book continues, she ends up doing some pretty awful things, but she is so rational about it in her thought process, that you can almost see where she's coming from. I also enjoyed the character Alice, who is Leisha's Sleeper twin sister, and watching the different paths their lives took as a result of their differing statues.
Beggars in Spain is a fascinating sci-fi book that will really get you thinking. It is also the first book in a trilogy. I am very curious as to where the series will go next, as the author has already covered so much ground in book one. I will pick up the second book, Beggars and Choosers, soon. (less)
One thing should be obvious to fans of the Dresden Files by the time they get to Small Favor: Harry does not get any time to relax. In this book, the...moreOne thing should be obvious to fans of the Dresden Files by the time they get to Small Favor: Harry does not get any time to relax. In this book, the tenth in the series, Harry doesn’t even get five pages of calm before he’s attacked by strange creatures from faerie. Harry does a little digging and discovers that he’s been targeted by the summer court, and the Summer Queen has sent out none other than the Billy Goats Gruff to take him down (note: they’re a lot tougher than that sounds). Harry’s life is further complicated when the Winter Queen, Mab, calls in the second favor he owes her. His new task is to find and rescue kidnapped gangster Johnnie Marcone. As Harry digs deeper into this new case, he finds that things are more difficult than he suspects when he learns that he’s not only up against the Gruff but Fallen Angels as well.
The best way to describe Small Favor would be fast paced. We get thrown into the action right in the beginning and the story does not let up much for its 400+ page length. The thing I enjoyed the most about this particular volume was the fact that so many of my favorite characters return. We get to see Sanya, the Russian Knight of the Cross, Kincaid the Mercenary, and Ivy the Archive among many others. We also get satisfying development on certain underlying plotlines (one, as you can probably tell from above, Harry paying off the second favor he owes Mab). One thing I did not expect was a small romantic subplot involving Harry and a particular female character. This added a nice spice to the novel. Still, Small Favor is not all fun and games. With Harry up against some of the biggest bads of the series, a few characters that have seemed untouchable up until now get hit very hard. I’ll be interested to see how these developments impact future books in the series.
Small Favor is probably one of my favorite of the Dresden Files, with only Summer Knight and Blood Rites ranking above it. I eagerly look forward to Turn Coat, the eleventh book in the series, which is set to be released this April.(less)
At the age of sixteen, Grace Marks, a maid, was convicted of murdering her employer and his mistress. She was sentenced to live the rest of her life b...moreAt the age of sixteen, Grace Marks, a maid, was convicted of murdering her employer and his mistress. She was sentenced to live the rest of her life behind bars, but retains no memory of the actual event. Years later, Dr. Simon Jordan enters her life, and is determined to discover if Grace is sane or insane, and if there is any way that he can help her break through her wall of amnesia to recover her lost memories. At his bidding, Grace begins to tell the story of her life, from her childhood in Ireland, to her immigration to Canada, to her eventual employment and the murders that came after.
Alias Grace is the third novel that I have read by Margaret Atwood (the first two being The Handmaid's Tale, and The Blind Assassin). It is the first that I have read not to feature any science fiction elements. The result is a stunning work of historical fiction, a creepy Gothic novel based on the life of a real person (Grace Marks) convicted of murder in 1843. Although it's a very different story than The Handmaid's Tale or The Blind Assassin, Alias Grace touches on many similar themes. For one, it is very focused on the lives of women and the challenges they face due to their specific time frame. Reading Alias Grace made me feel very fortunate that I didn't happen to be born anytime close to 1843, given the limited opportunities for women like Grace, the harsh punishments delivered for honest mistakes, and the poor treatment from most of the men. Grace Marks is a great protagonist that you cannot help but feel for during her journey, as are many of the others characters you meet along the way.
Like the previous works I have read by Atwood, Alias Grace is written with an impressive amount of skill. I had to pause several times and just linger over the beauty of her words. Another aspect that I ended up enjoying about the novel is that Atwood wasn't afraid to keep things vague when they needed to be. Not everything is spelled out for us. At the beginning of the book there's a satisfying amount of mystery. Is Grace a murderer? Is she insane? Can we trust what she tells Simon? Over the book, Atwood does an impressive job of slowly building a fascinating story, filled with a twist or two that had me gasping aloud (much to the amusement of my fiance). I enjoyed the fact that by the end of the book, that Atwood wasn't afraid to still keep a few things vague. Instead of feeling unfinished, it was surprisingly satisfying, as if she left it up to the readers to make up their own minds.
Alias Grace is a beautifully written work of historical fiction by a talented author. Although it doesn't have any of the science fiction aspects of The Handmaid's Tale or The Blind Assassin, that doesn't make it any less insightful or entertaining. I happy that I decided to pick up this novel, and am planning on reading more works by her in the future.(less)
On her first day of becoming Lady Saren’s maid, Dashti learns that her new mistress has refused to marry a powerful man. For punishment, both Saran an...moreOn her first day of becoming Lady Saren’s maid, Dashti learns that her new mistress has refused to marry a powerful man. For punishment, both Saran and Dashti are to be locked in a tower for seven years. Saren immediately falls into depression, and later, madness, but Dashti, who grew up in poverty cannot help but rejoice in the fact that she will be able to eat three whole meals a day for seven years. But as time passes, their food storage is depleted well before it’s time due to a rat infestation and Saren’s hungry stomach. Even the ever positive Dashti cannot keep her spirits up. She knows that if they don’t find a way out soon, both of them will die.
I’ve always enjoyed Shannon Hale’s book. She has a wonderful, beautiful way of writing that is simple yet elegant, much like the fairy tales which her books are often based on. Book of a Thousand Days is roughly based on Maid Maleen, a little known brother’s Grimm tale about a noble woman and her maid who are locked in a tower for seven years. Shannon Hale diverges a lot from the original tale, first by choosing to tell the story from the maid’s point of view. This is a very good decision. Dashti is an amazingly likable character. One can’t help but admire her for her courage and ability to see the best in every situation. It’s a joy to watch her develop from a very innocent peasant girl, to, by the books end, a hero. The diary format in which she tells her tale is quite intimate, and draws the reader in right away. I typically don’t cry during books, but I got quite teary eyed when Dashti reflected on how she felt when she lost her mother.
Another thing I enjoyed about this book was its unique setting. The Eight Realms is based on Mongolia. I have never seen a fantasy book based here before. The author gives us plenty of details about its history, food, folklore, and other aspects of its culture, and she does so without bogging down the narrative with details. One thing I liked was the mucker healer songs, which are simple, almost nonsensical songs that have the ability to help heal physical or mental pain. Shannon Hale has used songs in her past book, the Princess Academy, as well. One has to wonder if she has an interest in music, or the power of songs.
I highly recommend Book of a Thousand Days to those who are looking for a well written fantasy tale, set in a unique setting, with a satisfying ending. (less)
When Katie's parents receive new jobs, their family is forced to move from their home in Iowa to Georgia. One of the few Japanese-Americans in town du...moreWhen Katie's parents receive new jobs, their family is forced to move from their home in Iowa to Georgia. One of the few Japanese-Americans in town during the 1950s, they struggle at first to fit in. The largest challenge of all comes when Lynn, Katie's older sister and idol, becomes gravely ill. Kira-Kira is a sometimes bright, sometimes sad book about sisterhood and family. The reader will quickly warm up to the likable Takeshima family, especially Kaite and Lynn's humorous uncle. Katie herself is a complex heroine, who admits that she has a habit for being “bad” but still deeply cares about her family. Kira-Kira touches on many issues of the time, such as racism and labor disputes at the factories where Katie's parents work, but the crux of the story is Katie's relationship with Lynn. When the book opens, young Katie views her older sister with a kind of hero worship, and even as things come between them, whether that be boys or disease, nothing can break Katie's devotion to her sister. When it comes to Lynn's disease, the book is not afraid to descend to some darker territory that parents may not feel that their children are ready to encounter. For all of the sad moments of story, the novel does end of a note of hope. Kira-kira is a beautifully written story about family, poverty and loss that will make the reader laugh and cry.
For the longest time, Flycatcher (aka The Frog Prince) was simply the janitor for the Woodland Building. But before that, he lived in the Homelands as...moreFor the longest time, Flycatcher (aka The Frog Prince) was simply the janitor for the Woodland Building. But before that, he lived in the Homelands as Prince Ambrose, a man who lost both his wife and children to the Adversary. Flycatcher has lived for years with these memories erased from his mind, but now he has been given them back, and finds himself overwhelmed with grief. That is until a gallant knight emerges and shows Flycatcher how he can strike back at the Adversary.
The Good Prince is the tenth volume in the Fables trade paperbacks, and I found it to be the most satisfying volume in the series since March of the Wooden Soldiers. The Good Prince marks Fables as it's most epic, most heroic, and dare I say optimistic, as it follows Ambrose on his quest to cripple the Adversary without shedding any blood. There are definitely shades of classic Arthurian Legends in this tale, so it makes sense that one of the new characters to be featured in this arc would be a classic Arthurian figure. To be honest, I don't want to spoil too much about the direction of this volume, because I really enjoyed getting surprised at some of the places it went. What I can tell you is we visit someplace completely new, and revisit old characters that we'd thought we'd never see again.
I've always enjoyed Mark Buckingham's art style but where it really shines is when it needs to show something on a grand scale. Fortunately for Buckingham, this volume features several epic battle sequences where he can show off these talents. There were a handful of large, double pages spreads where Buckingham really did a good job of showing the grad scope of Ambrose's surroundings, or the the terrifying spectacle that is the Adversary's armies. The Good Prince has a bit of an intermission, a single issue story called The Birthday Secret that focuses on the cubs back on the Farm. This art style (drawn by Aaron Alexovich) is much more cutesy and does a good job of setting the tone for this more lighthearted tale.
Final Thoughts: The Good Prince is Fables at it's best. We're neck deep into the Adversary storyline now and the developments here will certainly change the world of Fables in major ways. I really enjoyed at how Bill Willingham took Flycatcher, whom most people would just see as a throwaway character, and really developed him into someone worth caring about, giving him one of the best arcs of the series. The fantastic story combined with the fantastic art certainly makes The Good Price a worthwhile read for Fables fans.(less)
The Graveyard Book tells the story of Nobody “Bod” Owens. After his family is murdered by the man Jack, Bod, still a toddler, innocently wanders from...moreThe Graveyard Book tells the story of Nobody “Bod” Owens. After his family is murdered by the man Jack, Bod, still a toddler, innocently wanders from his home and into a graveyard. Here he is taken in by a pair of ghost, and raised by all of the dead. The story then follows him as he grows from a baby to a young man. The biggest charm of The Graveyard Book comes in the many characters that Bod encounters in The Graveyard, which include ghosts, witches, werewolves and ghouls. The way that Gaiman creates a feeling of normalcy and friendship in such an unusual place as a graveyard is quite impressive. Bod is also an interesting protagonist, and children and adults alike should enjoy watching him grow form an innocent child to a more complicated young man. The book itself is divided into eight chapters that tell stories about the adventures Bod encounters over the years. Most of the chapters have the added bonus as being able to stand alone as short stories. The stories are relatively lighthearted but become darker as Bod grows older and learns about the man who killed his parents.
With elements of The Jungle Book, Rhoad Dahl, and Tim Burton, The Graveyard Book is a satisfying, and surprisingly friendly tale about life and death and everything in between. It deserves all of the attention and awards it has been getting over the past year or so. Recommended Grade Level- 3-5 (This review was written for a class)(less)
I don't read a lot of tie-in fiction, regardless of how much I enjoy the original TV show or movie it draws from. What's the point in reading the exac...moreI don't read a lot of tie-in fiction, regardless of how much I enjoy the original TV show or movie it draws from. What's the point in reading the exact same thing you just watched? At least with movie adaptations of books, it still feels like a new experience, given what the actors bring to the sreen and the parts of the book the director and screenwriter choose to emphasize. But as The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet was getting a lot of good press, I decided to try it out. I am so glad that I did!
Rather than be a strict interpretation than The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (a webseries that retells Pride and Prejudice in the style of a video blog), The Secret Diary, as you might be able to tell from the title, is Lizzie's actual diary. As a result, we see very little of the videos themselves (with a couple notable exceptions) and more on the events that inspired those videos, including the Gibson Wedding. Since we are witnessing Lizzie's most private thoughts, we also get to see some of the stuff that was just too personal to put on the internet, such as Darcy's letter, Lizzie's thoughts on the financial struggles of the Bennets, and even a pregnancy scare that happens to a side character during the course of the webseries that the viewers had no idea about. We also get a deeper glimpse into a very important relationship of Lizzie's that is barely touched upon during the video, that with her mentor Dr. Gardner.
The Secret Dairy of Lizzie Bennet is a treat for fans of the Lizzie Bennet Diaries. Not only does it capture what made this 21st century adaption of Pride and Prejudice so special, but it at times can feel like a behind the scenes version of the web series, providing a deeper glimpse into the story. At the same time, I must admit that while I fell in love with The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet, I'm not sure someone that was unfamiliar with the web series would feel the same. Don't get me wrong, I think they'd find it to be a good read, but just like the book has material that the web series either skims over or skips all together, there are aspects of the webseries that are skimmed over here. For fans of the web series, it's better this way, as it keeps the story moving quickly, but new fans might feel a little cheated. As a result, I would recommend watching the web series (The source material) before reading this adaptation.
I know that Bernie and co. are planning on releasing a sequel book, which focuses on Lydia, in the summer of 2015. I can't wait to read it!(less)
With The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling, Ted Chiang has hit one of my thematic sweet spots by writing a story about memory. The novelette is divi...moreWith The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling, Ted Chiang has hit one of my thematic sweet spots by writing a story about memory. The novelette is divided into two storylines. One tells about a reporter encountering, with much trepidation, a new type of technology that will basically replace out natural human memory. The second tells a historical account of a young man living in Tivland, encountering the written word for the first time. These two elements may sound different, but they're actually telling the same story: how more precise methods of keeping track of memories impact out overall concepts of truth, and the benefits and drawbacks to these technologies.
The story is strongly written with an engaging voice, and a few moments that genuinely surprised me. I love how the author tackled the subject of memory and truth in a thought provoking way. This is the second short piece of I've read by Chiang, the first being Exhalation, and it's safe to say that it's my favorite by him so far. (Hugo Reading) (less)
The second Red String Omnibus collects several hundred pages of the webcomic Red String. A new year has started. Miharu has transferred to a prestigio...moreThe second Red String Omnibus collects several hundred pages of the webcomic Red String. A new year has started. Miharu has transferred to a prestigious new high school, giving her a glimpse at Kazuo's privileged life. Reika and Eiji have remained at Fuyuzono high, Miharu's absence giving them a chance to grow closer. And Fuuko has moved to Tokyo, where she must begin anew once more. Unfortunately, the trails they face this time around will be much more challenging, and heartbreaking, then before.
The chapters collected in the vol 2 of the Red String Omnibus are some of the strongest in the entire series. Creator, Biggs is not afraid to make some risky moves. This is first seen in the decision to transfer Miharu to another school, and in a later twists that had me gasping when I was originally reading the comic. I remember staying up until after midnight, just so I could catch the latest page. I needed to see what was going to happen next! Some of these twists may not be appreciated by all, but I really think they make the comic stronger.
On top of really strong writing, volume two also has some of the strongest artwork of the series as well. We get to meet a lot of new characters in these chapters and Biggs does a great job of giving them all unique looks and styles. The omnibus also contains additional bonus material. My favorite would have to be the Actor's Dressing Room scenes, which re-imagines the comic as a TV show, and asks what would happen to the actors once the cameras stopped rolling.
If you're a fan of the webcomic Red String, I would highly recommend picking up this Omnibus. There is to be a third and final Omnibus of the series, but no release date has been set yet. I believe Gina will be setting up a kickstarter for it near the end of 2013 for all interested.(less)
One Leaf Rides the Wind is a short collection of haikus written by Celeste Davidson Mannis, and accompanied by illustrations by Susan Kathleen Hartung...moreOne Leaf Rides the Wind is a short collection of haikus written by Celeste Davidson Mannis, and accompanied by illustrations by Susan Kathleen Hartung. The story takes place in a Japanese garden. It tells the story of a little girl learning how to count, by counting the plants, animals, statues, and other objects around her. As a result, this book is not only a way to teach children about haikus, but also counting as well. Telling the story in Haiku's is a very appropriate choice. Not only is it appropriately Japanese, but the short and memorable form will be easier for young children to catch on to. At the bottom of each page are facts about Japanese culture, and the back of the book has more information on haikus and Japanese gardens. It's not a requirement to read these, especially the first time around, but they are very informative. The illustrations, which feature a young Japanese girl, accurately depict koi ponds, pagodas, an temple dogs, among other things. The illustrations can be quite calm at times, and then very lively the next. The young girl has a friendly demeanor about her, making her accessible to young children.
Peony is a fifteen-year-old girl living in seventeenth century China. Like many young women of the time, she becomes interested in the romantic opera...morePeony is a fifteen-year-old girl living in seventeenth century China. Like many young women of the time, she becomes interested in the romantic opera The Peony Pavilion. She’s is thrilled when her father decides to stage a performance of the opera for her birthday. During a particularly emotional scene, Peony has to step away from the production. It’s here that she happens to run into a young poet. In a society where women are scene as commodities and a burden, Peony is touched and surprised when he values her for both her beauty and her mind. The two fall in love at first sight. The only problem is Peony is already arranged to marry someone else. As her mother prepares her for her wedding day, drilling female duties such as embroidery and foot binding into her head, Peony finds solace in The Peony Pavilion, her interest during into a dangerous obsession. Turning away food and water, her body grows thin and frail and she eventually passes away.
At that point, the book gets really interesting.
Peony in Love is a deceptive book. When you begin to read the story and immerse yourself into its beautiful writing, you expect to read a love story. In truth, the love story aspect as only one small piece of this at times rather dark novel. Much like Lisa See’s previous novel Snow Flower in the Secret Fan, Peony in Love is a book about what it means to be a woman living in China, the importance of writing (especially women’s writing), and relationships between woman. Unlike Snow Flower in the Secret Fan, Peony in Love also has a supernatural twist, as Peony narrates the majority of it as a ghost. This gives the reader a unique look into what the Chinese believed about death and the afterlife. All of these threads, combined with the setting of China during a difficult regime change, make the novel rather complex at time. This complexity has gained it quite a few mediocre reviews, but I could not disagree more. Peony in Love is a fascinating book and I loved it just as much as I love Snow Flower and Secret Fan. I recently discovered that Lisa See has another historical fiction novel set in China, called Shanghai Girls, which takes place in the 1930s. This will be coming up next month. I hope to be able to read it.(less)
Previous to reading, Batman, Vol 3: Death of the Family, I had read a bunch of the new 52 titles (multiple volumes of Batwoman, Wonder Woman, Justice...morePrevious to reading, Batman, Vol 3: Death of the Family, I had read a bunch of the new 52 titles (multiple volumes of Batwoman, Wonder Woman, Justice League Dark, and the previous volumes in Batman) and while I've enjoyed most of what I've read so far, I must admit that Death of the Family stands head and shoulders above them all. It is a wonderfully terrifying dark piece of horror, and a love letter to the complex relationship between Batman and the Joker, all while playing off the bonds with Bruce's makeshift family. This volume is filled with plenty of twists, including some that had me picking my jaw up off of the floor, and and ending that feels more satisfying than Snyder's previous storyarc, focusing on the Court of the Owls. I also continue to enjoy the artwork, mostly done by Greg Capullo, which really suits the gritty storylines.
Death of the Family is a story that can be read as part of the new 52, but I also feel that's it's pretty accessible to new readers as well. After Heath Ledger's performance in the Dark Knight, creating a version of the character that's memorable, never mind truly effective, is quite a challenge, and one that Snyder fulfills with flying colors. (less)