This is thoroughly enjoyable, of course, and I really like watching Discworld expand and hurtle toward modernity. Raising Steam is maybe the most mild...moreThis is thoroughly enjoyable, of course, and I really like watching Discworld expand and hurtle toward modernity. Raising Steam is maybe the most mild-mannered of the Discworld novels that I've read (the most recent was Snuff, which had a deep core of anger and so maybe the contrast is just sharper in that context) although it's still pretty sharp-eyed.(less)
I liked The Invention of Wings, more than I thought I would even, although I do think that after about 2/3 of the way it loses some steam and Monk Kid...moreI liked The Invention of Wings, more than I thought I would even, although I do think that after about 2/3 of the way it loses some steam and Monk Kidd's commitment to artful language kind of dissipates - by this time, too, the relationship between Handful and Sarah has become less central. I don't mean this is the kind of book that falls apart by the end, only that it loses some of the vitality that brimmed over in the earlier chapters.
I suspect there's a somewhat rosier portrait of the Grimké sisters' feminism and abolitionism than was actually the case; but that said there is a fair amount of nuance on issues of class, race, and gender. I think the characterization and treatment of Sarah and Angelina's mother is the best example of this - because it's also the best handling of the issue.
And there are some interesting insights:
She laid the book down and came where I was standing by the chimney place and put her arms round me. It was hard to know where things stood. People say love gets fouled by a difference big as ours. I didn't know for sure whether Miss Sarah's feelings came from love of guilt. I didn't know whether mine came from love or a need to be sage. She loved me and pitied me. And I loved her and used her. It never was a simple thing. That day, our hearts were as pure as they ever would get.
Seraphina is a great book, YA with the emphasis on the A.
I hope that's intelligible, because I'm not really sure I can explain it. Certainly, "adult t...moreSeraphina is a great book, YA with the emphasis on the A.
I hope that's intelligible, because I'm not really sure I can explain it. Certainly, "adult themes" are present in this book, but they're present in, i.e. The Hunger Games and that's a book for a less ambiguous audience. Rather, there's something nicely messy about Seraphina, and it's not so streamlined as some YA lit can be. (This is a descriptive, not normative, account I'm offering!) (I mean, YA is often demonstratively/didactically messy - "here is what it's like to grow up it's awwwwful so many feelings and hormonnnnes children.") Actually, Seraphina reminds me a bit of The Miseducation of Cameron Post but, you know . . . with dragons . . .
The more striking resemblance, though, is with my favorite Patricia McKillip novel, Song for the Basilisk. And there's a similar understated funniness - both Hartman and McKillip have a way of putting colorful people on the sidelines of their stories, or of treating them gently but with open eyes.
And, by the way, Ellen Kushner didn't blurb this for nothing.
I'm having a hard time pinning down the other things I liked about Seraphina. That was part of the reason I held off so long on writing down my thoughts - I hoped something would swim up to me and I'd go "AHAH! Exactly that." But that didn't happen. I just want the next book already.(less)
I am so over the "special brothel" trope. I've heard good things about Kage Baker, and so I assume this isn't anywhere near her best work. It's a nove...moreI am so over the "special brothel" trope. I've heard good things about Kage Baker, and so I assume this isn't anywhere near her best work. It's a novel(la) about a fallen woman (raped by Afghanis, and subsequently cast off by her family, and this whole bit of backstory definitely made my face turn down, yes) who resigns herself to prostitution. A friend of her father's spots her at a party and recommends her to the madame of the special brothel. It's is pretty much everything you'd expect - brothel + spies + steampunk. The characters are so thin you can only see them from the front. There is a playfulness to the project that serves the book well, though, and I imagine I'll pick up something else by Baker eventually.
But you should read Point of Honour instead of The Women of Nell Gwynne's. Oh, boy, should you ever.(less)
On paper, anyway, Shades of Milk and Honey is exactly the kind of book I would be crazy about. Riffing on Austen, fantasy of manners, sister relations...moreOn paper, anyway, Shades of Milk and Honey is exactly the kind of book I would be crazy about. Riffing on Austen, fantasy of manners, sister relationships, light and dry touches of humor, long conversations about art . . . these are all things I love. Unfortunately, although all those elements are present, they don't quite come together to form a cohesive, or even particularly nuanced, whole. The characters lack depth - as can sometimes happen with pastiche, because after all there's the context of the original work for readers to refer back to while they read this new one. But that's not enough, not really, and that kind of book always makes me wish I were reading the original work instead. I think something like The Cookbook Collector is a good example of how to do a lot of the things Shades of Milk and Honey wants to accomplish, but can't. (Minus the magic, unfortunately. The magic is easily the coolest part of this book.) It's particularly unfortunate that every single character in Shades of Milk and Honey is nails-on-a-chalkboard annoying. Even the "level-headed" heroine! She is twenty-eight, she should know better than to do like 85% of what she does.
Maybe the second in the series is better? I don't want to be really mean and be like "it would have to be," but I do wonder if having to dig deeper might not produce a richer, more rewarding novel. Shades of Milk and Honey is kind of flimsy. On the one hand, that makes it easy to read, but on the other it makes it profoundly unsatisfying. Maybe the second book fixes that problem?(less)
Even though this takes a lot of themes and techniques used in other McKillip novels* it feels most, to me, like one I don't think it has that much in...moreEven though this takes a lot of themes and techniques used in other McKillip novels* it feels most, to me, like one I don't think it has that much in common with, The Bell at Seeley Head. They feel sort of like two novels from the same universe, which I don't often think about McKillip's books. I really liked it - the characters felt new, even if the ideas didn't - and found it very engaging.
Also sort of unusual was that, although I typically have a firm grasp on the "why" and a slightly more tentative grasp on the "what" when it comes to the events of her books, here I felt very clear on what had happened and less clear on why.
So, the same in some ways. Different in others. Oh man, did I just blow your mind? Anyway, the parts that were the same didn't feel like retreads, but like echoes.
*For example: The Book of Atrix Wolfe, Alphabet of Thorn, Song for the Basilisk, Od Magic.(less)
Patricia McKillip has written better books than this one. More complex, more thought-provoking. However, The Bell at Sealey Head is charming, and I ve...morePatricia McKillip has written better books than this one. More complex, more thought-provoking. However, The Bell at Sealey Head is charming, and I very much enjoyed reading it. The romance is more central than in her other novels, and it is very sweet and convincing. I also enjoyed finding pieces of her other books in this one, which makes sense because in a lot of ways The Bell at Sealey Head is a book about the love of books. I can definitely sympathize with that.
If nothing else, it's worth reading for the way McKillip writes. But if you know anything about her, you must know that.(less)