This is a RIDICULOUSLY good book. I've never sat giggling to myself as I've read a history book before. Mark Steel, man. Great general overview of theThis is a RIDICULOUSLY good book. I've never sat giggling to myself as I've read a history book before. Mark Steel, man. Great general overview of the French Revolution from a much less Burkian perspective than most anglophone histories take.
(Though he mocks the crap out of Scott Schama so if you enjoy Schama's works (though, seriously, examine your life & choices if that's the case.), you might want to give it a miss)...more
This is one you want to go into as unspoiled as possible. Even reading reviews gives you too much information. Seriously though, go read it. It's probThis is one you want to go into as unspoiled as possible. Even reading reviews gives you too much information. Seriously though, go read it. It's probably my favorite book of 2012....more
This is easily one of my favorite books of the summer. Without getting into a complete review, I think my favorite thing about the book is that it's cThis is easily one of my favorite books of the summer. Without getting into a complete review, I think my favorite thing about the book is that it's clear that a book could be written about any one of the characters. They're all obviously 3-dimensional people who could support a story of their own. And that strikes me as excellent writing.
(Also if I say that enough maybe a book will be written about Alexa who I LOVE)...more
I loved this book. Like “it needs to come live with me right now” love. But I’m not entirely convinced that all the readers of A Brief History of MontI loved this book. Like “it needs to come live with me right now” love. But I’m not entirely convinced that all the readers of A Brief History of Montmaray will feel the same way. While A Brief History... is a short book with spurts of adventure and action, FitzOsbornes in Exile feels much more like an ‘adult’ book set in late-1930s high English society. There are debutante balls, politics, references to the Mitford sisters and British Fascists and the League of Nations, and a great cameo by a young Jack Kennedy.
So I think you need to be at least a little interested in interwar Europe or high Society to really enjoy this book. Or possibly just too much in love with the wonderful FitzOsborne siblings. Otherwise it may seem overly long and boring in places.
With that out of the way, I’ll continue! We still get Sophie as our narrator though this time her journal entries are often from a much greater distance that in the first book. I kind of loved how much the book felt like a real journal with Sophie often opening the entries with “I meant to be writing in this more often, but...” Or maybe that’s just my journals that always end up that. She’s definitely grown up after the events of A Brief History..., and I loved seeing how she’d matured (and continued to mature). She’s no longer the sweet, slightly naive girl - well, she’s still sweet - but she understands politics much more deeply and comes to play an ever more important role in Montmaray politics (otherwise known as the disputes within her family). Sophie’s the girl that no one notices because she’s shy and quiet but who observes absolutely everything and then uses it to her (sometimes) slightly Machiavellian advantage.
It’s really interesting to see England as a whole and London Society through the lens of a girl who’s only ever lived on an island and barely known more than 15 people in her entire life. Sophie, her cousin Veronica (my second favourite character in the books), and her little sister Henry all have to adapt to the expectations of girls - and Princesses! - by the upper class. For all of them, the adaptation is difficult, but perhaps especially so for the incredibly intelligent and outspoken Veronica who can’t bear to play the sweet, silent debutante. Her arguments about politics during dinners and parties are some of my favourite parts of the book. As is Henry’s expedition to have tea with Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret at Buckingham Palace.
I didn’t mention it in my previous review, but I also liked the not-just-friends relationship between Toby (the new King of Montmaray and Sophie’s elder brother) and Simon (the ‘Lord Chancellor’ of their country). The reactions of the older girls to the discovery of this relationship is perhaps a little too blase for the times, but watching both Toby and Simon try to decide if their connection is worth maintaining in the face of a society that wholeheartedly disapproves of it - not to mention the fact that Toby needs to produce an heir - was both interesting and a little heartbreaking.
The climax of the book is just before World War II breaks out and occurs at a League of Nations meeting (seriously. My little international relations-loving heart was a-flutter) which was again, very different from the first book and perhaps exemplifies the completely different tack this book takes. The reader gets to watch Veronica come into her own, and it took everything I had not to stand up and cheer. Well, also I don’t want people to think I’m entirely insane.
I’m thrilled to find out there’ll be a third book featuring the FitzOsbornes, and I look forward to reading it as soon as it comes out. Like I said at the beginning, this book won’t be for everyone, but if you’re at all interested, I’d completely recommend it. ...more
So I’m going to address the biggest thing first. This book is not, strictly speaking, a dystopia. If we’re going to pull out deFrom Books and Threads.
So I’m going to address the biggest thing first. This book is not, strictly speaking, a dystopia. If we’re going to pull out definitions in a dystopian work, the government (or other controlling entity) has to be trying to create a perfect society (a utopia!) but the solution causes greater problems within the society. To me, that intent of creating a perfect society matters. All These Things I’ve Done has been marketed as a dystopia, I assume, because of all the hype surrounding them since The Hunger Games, and if you go into the book, expecting a dystopian society, you’ll come out thinking “what the hell? what’s up with that whole banning of chocolate? WHY?”
That’s the caveat I want to put out there. The society in All These Things I’ve Done is pretty much just like ours. There’s a government trying desperately to solve problems of decreasing resources and increasing crime without much inspiration on how to do it. Which is where we enter Anya’s 2083 where the museums of New York City are now nightclubs, pools are drained because of the lack of water, and, yes, there are gangs smuggling coffee and chocolate since they’ve been banned.
Anya’s the daughter of the Balanchine Family - one of the Five Families of the world that controls the smuggling of chocolate. After seeing her father murdered in front of her at age 9, she’s taken care of her siblings, trying to remove and shield them from the world that killed their parents. This particular task is made more difficult as members of the Family keep showing up to deliver chocolate or trying to hire her older but mentally disabled brother.
I have to wonder if one of the reasons chocolate and caffeine were picked as the banned substances was to allow a teenage girl to be so heavily involved without stoking the ire of moralists who might disapprove of a girl participating in weapons or drug smuggling. It's just chocolate after all, and the scenes where people are 'getting high' on the two substances can be pretty funny in a twisted sort of way. The several nice callbacks to the US Prohibition pleased me since the analogy had to be made at some point and letting the characters notice it makes much more sense than simple lampshading.
I really enjoyed Anya as narrator. She’s practical, over-analytical and as self-centered as she can be when she’s the sole caretaker of her family. She wants to live a normal life, date like a regular teenager, and maybe even go a night or two without worrying about her brother or comforting her little sister after waking up from a nightmare. I also loved her oddly transactional faith. She’s Catholic because her mother was, and she’s vowed to be the best Catholic possible if only her siblings stay safe. It’s so the reaction of a traumatized child, and it’s such a human one too.
As the story continues in Anya’s dry voice, we see just how impossible it is for the Balachine siblings to keep themselves out of their Family’s business. Leo gets a job as a cleaner at a Family (coffee) speakeasy, and when Anya’s ex-boyfriend is poisoned, suspicion falls instantly on her because of her family’s reputation. The scenes following were some of my favourite in the book though one was also the source of one of my biggest quibbles.
When her crush’s father, the assistant District Attorney for New York, comes to retrieve her from the juvenile detention facility (located ironically on the ruins of Liberty Island in New York harbour), he spends the ferry ride back to Manhattan having a conversation with Anya that amounts to “you’re a smart girl so don’t date my son or there’ll be trouble.” Which - he has a point as neither he nor Anya want the media spotlight that may result, but hasn’t he learned anything from Romeo and Juliet or any of the million star-crossed love stories? Don’t tell a teenager she can’t date someone. It just makes the dating inevitable.
Speaking of dating, I really enjoyed Win, Anya's crush-then-boyfriend. I kept wanting to dislike him a little because he seems just a bit too perfect. But he was charming and real, and I could absolutely see why a girl like Anya would neglect her family to fall for him.
My other minorish issue - which totally is probably because I sew - comes from the idea that clothes production has been halted due to water concerns. I can buy that in the world All These Things... is set in. But then Anya talks about things like not being able to raise her arm because there’s a hole in the arm seam. Or a bride wearing a dress that’s too big. What I want to know is - did people forget how to sew? Even if there isn’t fabric, there can be thread and people can alter clothes and mend them! Good grief, people.
I can’t wait for the next book in this series. I really enjoyed reading the development of the world and characterizations (Anya and her little sister Natty especially) and getting a slow introduction to organized crime in 2083. But in many ways, it was the setup for what promises to be an awesome series about a girl and organized crime, a possible (and scary) future, and yeah, chocolate....more
I know, I know, I’m late to the party for this book. I don't have any good excuse - I read Tithe years ago and enjoyed Black's work on The SpiderwickI know, I know, I’m late to the party for this book. I don't have any good excuse - I read Tithe years ago and enjoyed Black's work on The Spiderwick Chronicles, but for some reason I never picked up White Cat. Beyond my lateness, I don’t usually review books right after reading them, but last night, I stayed up way, way too late to finish White Cat because I couldn’t put it down.
White Cat hit so many of my story kinks: complicated sibling relationships, boarding schools, an alternate reality with a well-thought out magic system and interesting political atmosphere, and a boy-girl relationship that went beyond love at first sight (I know, it’s sad that becomes something to look for).
I really enjoyed Cassel as the narrator, and I say that as someone who generally does prefer female narrators in my reading. He was an interesting and well-fleshed out character who grew dramatically during the course of the book. The reader gets to watch as Cassel struggles with conflating the mantra that family is everything which had been literally cursed into him with the possibility that his brothers had treated him as just another mark. There are times when it feels like Cassel descends into too much self-pity, but as both a teenager and someone dealing with the betrayal of everything he thought true, it also feels excusable.
The politics of Black’s world are a lot of fun to read about (if probably not so much fun to live). While the debate about registration and testing of the ‘curse workers’ feels a little X-Men, the history revealed in the rise of the magic using crime families and the constitutional amendment against magic gave the paranormal aspect a thorough grounding in society. I especially liked the societal mandate to always wear gloves - and the fact that Black takes that to its obvious conclusion with the touch of bare flesh on skin becoming both slightly titillating and scary.
Finally, Lila struck me as a fantastic character. The daughter of a crime lord, she was both a lot more violent and less caring than most female YA characters - as the daughter of a crime lord should be. I’m not one for wanting to read versions of a book with another viewpoint character, but I think that a Lila-POV story would be a lot of fun to see.
I’m reading Red Glove now, and I’m pretty sure that the wait until April for the trilogy’s conclusion is going to be agonizing. ...more
I actually pre-ordered Entwined for my Kindle (and was completely startled when it magically downloaded at 4am on a Wednesday morning), but then for sI actually pre-ordered Entwined for my Kindle (and was completely startled when it magically downloaded at 4am on a Wednesday morning), but then for some odd reason, I read the first few pages, wasn’t impressed, and moved on to another book, regarding Entwined as a disappointment and reminder not to pre-order just because retold fairy tales are cool.
As it happens, retold fairy tales ARE cool, and not reading this one in March meant that while my Kindle was out at Glacier National Park with my mom a week ago, I was checking yet again through the library’s new YA arrivals and was seduced by the gorgeous cover of this book.
I started reading it this time while sitting on the porch, drinking coffee and hoping I wouldn’t have to move before I finished another few chapters.
This is a delightful retelling of Twelve Dancing Princesses from the point of view of the oldest princess and heir to the country, Azalea who’s trying to fulfill her promise to her dying mother to take care of her sisters even with the interference and apparent uncaring of their father the King. The sisters’ only happiness during their year of mourning is dancing, and when their father forbids it, Azalea finds a magical passage leading to a garden and its Keeper who invites the girls to dance every night. At nearly seventeen, she’s also struggling with growing up as the future Queen, knowing that Parliament will probably choose her husband instead of allowing her to fall in love, and managing the poverty of her family while still presenting the proper front as royalty.
Dixon’s writing throughout the book is lyrical and enchanting as befits the fairy tale atmosphere, but it never becomes too Disneyified. Her turns of phrase are both lovely and sometimes hilarious. I’m not someone who laughs aloud while reading very much, but Entwined had me giggling delightedly throughout.
Somehow each of the twelve sisters (all named alphabetically, each after a flower) has her own a personality and part to play in the story. In a lesser author’s hands, given the number of princesses, they easily could have turned into a sloppy conglomerate of names and character traits, but the relationship of the girls is one of the best parts of the book. They’re very close, especially while dealing with the shock of losing their beloved mother, but the closeness never becomes saccharine. All twelve are sisters who tease and mock, argue and throw potatoes at each other but above all are a (mostly) united force who want the best for their family and their country but especially want to be able to dance.
I found the action at the climax slightly confusing, but it wasn’t enough to make the conclusion difficult to follow or unenjoyable. On the contrary, the conclusion felt like the perfect end (as much as I’d like more about Azalea, Bramble, Clover, and the rest) to this book that I now consider one of my favourite of the past year....more
I'm a second generation Laura fan - my mom very nearly named me Laura Elizabeth then introduced me to the series by reading Little House in the Big WoI'm a second generation Laura fan - my mom very nearly named me Laura Elizabeth then introduced me to the series by reading Little House in the Big Woods to me when I was three years old. We read all the books together and then I took over the books, reading them again and again until my old yellow copies fell to pieces and I'd spent hundreds of hours pretending I was Laura as I ran through prairies, made maple syrup candy, and fell in love with historical fashion.
This book is exactly what I was hoping it would be. Absolutely charming, funny, sincere, and sometimes snarky all while examining the our love (and by 'our', I mean the generation of women who grew up reading Laura in the 70s and 80s - long after her passing) of Laura Ingalls Wilder, her world, and her fandom. Without sounding creepy, Ms. McClure writes like someone I wish I was friends with, and her observations are always interesting and usually pretty hilarious. This isn't historical writing. Ms. McClure doesn't make any claims to have new ground-breaking research on the Ingalls or Wilder families, but there are plenty of books already written on that. This is a memoir and examination of the ongoing influences of the Little House books on Ms. McClure's life and our culture as a whole.
After finishing this book, I immediately picked up the Little House books to re-read for the millionth time. I missed Laura and wanted to 'see' her again!...more
I've waited for Deadline breathlessly, but I've also been the tiniest bit wary. How could any book live up to Feed's excellence? Add that to the factI've waited for Deadline breathlessly, but I've also been the tiniest bit wary. How could any book live up to Feed's excellence? Add that to the fact that second installments in any trilogy are difficult, and there was definitely a bit to be wary of.
Deadline, however, managed to fulfill all my expectations and even hopes. Things have changed for the Masons and for After the End Times, but our heroes adapt, deal, and go more than a little bit crazy while doing so. Deadline is less of a political thriller - no following the campaign trail this time - and more of a conspiracy story, but the tension, the danger, and yes, the zombies remain the same.
I seriously loved Deadline. My major concern while reading it was after a blow-you-away opening sequence, the story seemed to stall out, but trust in Ms. Grant's writing, after a few chapters, it's less stalling out then slowly, slowly building to an insane climax.
Excellent book. I need Blackout RIGHT NOW...but I'll be reading Deadline again while I'm waiting....more