I was looking through my recent reads to find a book I just loved. A lot of things lately have been solid, but not great. Except for this one. Purple and Black is brilliantly done. Tightly woven. Thought-provoking. And all of that in a slender 113 pages. This is a fantasy novel, but don't let that prevent you reading it. It's only a fantasy in that it has a made up country. Everything else about it reads like historical fiction.
The story is told through a series of letters between Nico, the reluctant emperor who only got the job because the rest of his male relatives killed each other off competing for the position, and Phormio, one of Nico's best friends from school who is now a reluctant general trying to quell a rebellion on the border. The title of the book refers to the ink used in the letters they write to each other. Purple is the official color used when communicating with the emperpor and black is the ink they use in their more informal (off the record) communications. While Nico struggles with the back-biting, competition and scheming at court, Phormio is struggling in a more direct way. A shadowy group is staging guerrilla attacks on border towns and it's Phormio's job to find and conquer this mysterious foe.
I'm not a huge fan of epistolary tales. I really only have one other that I can rave about and that's Helene Hanff's 84 Charing Cross Road. Even as I type that I'm struck by the realization that so much of what I love about Hanff's book is present in K. J. Parker's - even though one is a memoir and the other historical fantasy. Wit and dark humor and characters who jump off the page and the sort of stick-with-you kind of feeling only the best books evoke. That's all here. I finished this book in an evening, but thought about it for days afterward. Wonderfully done....more
Really loved this one. Smart, funny heroine who writes fanfiction while starting her freshman year of college. If I have a minor quibble it's that theReally loved this one. Smart, funny heroine who writes fanfiction while starting her freshman year of college. If I have a minor quibble it's that the ending was a bit abrupt. If I thought the author meant to return to these characters in a new book, it would have been fine. As it is though it just felt like the author decided to stop writing one day.
I do have a thought that the abrupt end is meant to encourage the reader to create their own endings for the characters (in a fanfiction kind of way), but not sure and as it is it was a minor, minor problem for a book that just sucked me in emotionally....more
It's been a while since I've read a rave-worthy young adult novel. But lately I've hit the bonanza with several titles hitting on all notes. Some of the hits aren't yet published so I'll leave those for a future post, but one of them is out and available and I'm thrilled that I can tell you about it.
Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger is set in the same world as her Parasol Protectorate series (first reviewed by Katie back in 2009). This YA entry takes place a number of years earlier and introduces Sophronia Angelina Temminnick. Sophronia is 14-years-old and the despair of her mother who doesn't know what to do with a young lady who has more interest in climbing and dismantling mechanicals then she does in learning a proper curtsey. Nothing will serve but to send Sophronia to a finishing school. But unbeknownst to Sophronia's mother, the school she's chosen teaches a lot more then etiquette.
Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality is not the dread experience that Sophronia fears. Instead she begins to thrive amidst lessons on poisons and flirting and self-defense against vampires and werewolves. Though she has difficulty with her eyelash-fluttering, Sophronia more then makes up for it in other ways. When she discovers there's a mystery involving a missing prototype, Sophronia throws herself into the investigation utilizing all that she's learning in the process.
This novel was just fun to read beginning to end. I've seen other reviewers compare Sophronia to Alan Bradley's Flavia de Luce, and I can see that. But she reminded me more of another plucky girl protagonist, Anne Shirley. Like Anne, Sophronia comes at every situation in a head-on, straightforward way. And her wry wit serves her well when she screws up. And like Anne, nothing daunts her. There's always a way.
Adding to the appeal of Sophronia is Carriger's well-imagined steampunk(ish) world. The imaginative inventions and gadgets meld seamlessly with the sensibilities of a late 19th century England. I'm already eager to see what she comes up with in the sequel, Curtsies & Conspiracies- though I'm going to have to wait for a year to read it....more
I really liked this one. Yes the story has been done; loner, outsider girl starting highschool convinced that nobody will like her. The difference herI really liked this one. Yes the story has been done; loner, outsider girl starting highschool convinced that nobody will like her. The difference here is that Finneyfrock (what a name, btw) really delivers what's described. Celia the Dark really doesn't have any friends and she is truly on her own in dealing with the mean girls. I believed the bullying and her reaction to it. And I also loved the fact that the cute boy who befriends her doesn't become her boyfriend. Since Celia is only 14 it would be hard to believe that she'd find 'the one' at this point in her life. The fact that Drake is important simply because he becomes her friend really sold this one for me. This isn't teen angst about does he or doesn't he love her. This is teen angst about bullying, and finding yourself, and dealing with parental mess-ups.
The reason this is a 4 (maybe 4 1/2) book is because the end felt a little rushed....more