Naomi Shihab Nye is one of the kindest writers one could hope to meet, and the proof is all over her writing, which is full of open-hearted curiosity...moreNaomi Shihab Nye is one of the kindest writers one could hope to meet, and the proof is all over her writing, which is full of open-hearted curiosity and awareness. Her protagonist, Liyana, may be a half-American, half-Palestinian moving out of America to her father's homeland, but Nye's writing turns the uprooting experience universal. Exploring a new city, meeting new people and family, and struggling with all of the languages and customs of a new country feel like familiar growing pains via Nye's pen, including the ever-present conflict between Jews and Arabs.
Nye treats the topic of Israel/Palestine conflict with a gentle hand, but she's not so nice as to be naive. Families are searched at borders. A couple of acts of police violence bring the conflict home to Liyana's family in a way that can't be kumbaya'd away, but that doesn't mean Nye won't leave the door open for hope and friendship where potential exists. Her lyrical prose is like a pen pal letter to your heart.
It also doesn't hurt that the book references the works of William Saroyan and Diane Ackerman, two more authors who made the world a more welcoming place.(less)
As Crutcher himself has said, grief must be written in its native language or else it will ring false. This trio of stories speaks grief in tongues, b...moreAs Crutcher himself has said, grief must be written in its native language or else it will ring false. This trio of stories speaks grief in tongues, both audible and covert. The plots are a little too neatly constructed for my taste, but Crutcher's gifts for voice and establishing true-to-life dramas are a pleasure to manage.(less)
This book's 4 stars come from its sheer character.
Historical character: World War I and several historical renderings (Archduke Ferdinand, Winston Ch...moreThis book's 4 stars come from its sheer character.
Historical character: World War I and several historical renderings (Archduke Ferdinand, Winston Churchill, Charles Darwin, among others). Europe's past is mined for steampunk gold, and I liked how real-world events were tweaked into Westerfeld's universe.
Shifting Boy/Girl protagonists character: The story is told from two perspectives, that of Alek and Deryn, a boy and girl on opposing sides of the war, and Westerfeld uses their differences to give the reader insights from one character that the other doesn't know. Each has a distinctive voice, and the different gears kept the narrative fresh.
Artistic character: Beyond the writing, this book just inspires brilliant performances from other artists. Keith Thompson's illustrations render action and discussion with equal skill, and kept me with a clear impression of what Westerfeld envisioned. Thompson's art came in especially handy for figuring out the Darwinist creatures and Clanker machines. If you have the opportunity to listen to the audiobook version, please treat yourself to it, as Alan Cumming performs multiple European accents and narration in an exciting, engaging style. His reading style would probably bump up a lot of book reviews.(less)
A clear improvement over the first book - I would give this 3 1/2 stars if possible. The individual members of the cast grow and change in distinct wa...moreA clear improvement over the first book - I would give this 3 1/2 stars if possible. The individual members of the cast grow and change in distinct ways, as opposed to Mary's singlemindedness in the first book. The romance is as skin-burningly hot as before, but also makes more sense than book one's "This boy is my destiny! No wait, this one is!" The love triangle here shows contrast and, as it develops, maturity. I don't mean to compare this to book 1 so much, but I enjoyed reading a book 2 of a series that complemented the world-building of the first so well and improved on its story structure. I look forward to reading the grand finale!(less)