Why Now?: The Booksmugglers have reviewed a lot of Connie Willis’ stuff lately, and who am I to resist the lure of time-traveling historians? Especial...moreWhy Now?: The Booksmugglers have reviewed a lot of Connie Willis’ stuff lately, and who am I to resist the lure of time-traveling historians? Especially historians whose mission is to accurately rebuild Coventry Cathedral, which I have visited, no biggie. Also, I just read Doomsday Book, and I wanted to know what happened to Kivrin and Mr. Dunworthy. I had no luck on Kivrin, but lots on Mr. Dunworthy.
Reaction: In short, wow.
Just like the Doomsday Book, it takes a while for things to actually happen. Normally I would get really impatient for the plot to move forward, and I admit that I did a bit, but my impatience was tempered by Willis’ awesome way with characters – she manages to bring everybody to life, even when they only appear in a page or two, even when they’re kind of stereotypical, and even when they’re animals. I would be remiss if I did not mention that this book is hilarious in a Victorian, time-lagged, understated way.
As a historian who has spent the last year debating the nature of history in class, I really appreciated the characters’ ruminations on it themselves. The icing on the cake was the last hundred pages, in which the mystery (yes, Willis juggles several genres – science fiction, history, mystery, romance and bildungsroman) is finally solved and OH MY GOODNESS, BUT IS IT REALLY? This is definitely a book that I’ll be reading again.(less)
As a rule I don't count books I read for school as having been read on Goodreads, but I'll make an exception for Provenance. It's well-written, fascin...moreAs a rule I don't count books I read for school as having been read on Goodreads, but I'll make an exception for Provenance. It's well-written, fascinating, and absolutely gripping - and it all actually happened. Who would have thought that the world of art forgery could be so much fun?(less)
We've been waiting a long time for this book, and you know what? The wait was entirely worth it. Good lord, but this book is awesome.
Bitterblue picks...moreWe've been waiting a long time for this book, and you know what? The wait was entirely worth it. Good lord, but this book is awesome.
Bitterblue picks up eight years after Katsa stuck a dagger through Leck's lying mouth and ended his reign of terror - but the memory of Leck's atrocities is still there simmering under the surface. Bitterblue, now queen, wants to make things right, but how can she make restitutions if her advisers can't tell her what happened, and she's too busy being queen to find out? Seeking answers, she starts sneaking out into the city at night. Here she meets a young printer and his friend, a Lienid thief with an unknown Grace, and finds that there are indeed people trying to fix things - and that they tend to turn up dead.
First, a few things that Bitterblue is not, so don't get your hopes up and hate it when it's not what you expect: - A direct sequel to Graceling. This is Bitterblue's story, not Katsa and Po's (though they, especially Po, do play a large part). - A romance. No matter what the synopsis at the back of the book says, this is not primarily a romance (though the book does deal with all sorts of love) - A novel that deals with problems solvable by ass-kicking. Holy toledo, but a country is not something you can ass-kick into submission. It requires smarts, and subtelty… and spies. Katsa's general MO does not really apply.
But seriously? This book is made of win. Bitterblue is a strong character, female if there ever was one - she knows how to use a sword, she knows her mind, and even when the going is tough, she knows that she is queen for better or for worse. At the same time, she is NOT a Mary Sue by any stretch of the imagination - she's mean to her advisers, she abuses her power (mostly without realizing it), and she's desperately alone. But her faults (please note that I do not include being desperately alone in her list of faults) are what make her human, and also lend a bit of humour to what otherwise could have been a grim book to read. And also I love that her being queen often limits what she can do - she might be the ruler, but sometimes she has to decide what needs to be done and let other people do the work. How often do you see that YA literature these days?
Anywho. I could go on, but I don't want to spoil y'all and sometimes, it's hard to talk a lot about a book that you loved. So. I command you to read it. You *will* enjoy it.
(And once you're all done reading it, I want you to discuss it with me because I still need to let off some steam.)(less)
This was one of the picks for the kids book club at my store the last time around, and I thought, "this book looks like an Alex book." Not only is it...moreThis was one of the picks for the kids book club at my store the last time around, and I thought, "this book looks like an Alex book." Not only is it by Karen Cushman, author of Catherine Called Birdy (which I loved), but it takes place in Elizabethan London and involves ballads. Readers, I was right. Alchemy and Meggy Swann is *fantastic*.
Her loving grandmother having passed away and her alehouse keeper mother having no use for a crippled daughter that drives away customers, Meggy Swann is sent to London to live with her father. Unfortunately her father, an alchemist obsessed with the "great work" of discovering the Philosopher's Stone, has no use for a crippled daughter either, and mostly leaves Meggy to fend for herself. At first Meggy is angry, sad, and lonely, afraid to explore the streets of her new home. It doesn't help that it's painful for her to walk. But Meggy is stronger than she looks, not to mention stubborn, and carves out her own place in London with human friends - not to mention foiling an assassination attempt.
First of all, I really appreciated that this is a book with a disabled character that is NOT about her disability; Meggy was born with her leg joints not fitting into her hips quite right, so she can only "wabble around" (her words) with the help of a walking stick per hand. It doesn't help that attitudes towards people with disabilities were much worse than they are now (not to say that we're perfect, because we're not). Despite all the odds stacked against her, Meggy is a strong character, female, who takes charge of her own life (even if it takes her a while). You know Cushman is a talented author if she can keep me invested in a character for what amounts to a solid 60 pages of self-pity.
I loved how all the characters are so well-drawn, and how many types of families are shown. I loved how you really feel like you're in Elizabethan London - I was there myself within a few pages. I loved how Cushman pulled off the language of the book - the characters all speak in an approximation of Elizabethan English. In the hands of a lesser author this could have gone terribly, but it only added to the charm of the book for me. After a few chapters I barely even noticed (though the language might make it a bit tough to understand for some kids).
There you have it: everyone should read Alchemy and Meggy Swann. It is wonderful.(less)