A choice

I am almost 10 books behind on my blog and I was considering giving up. But I’m going to try not to. So here we go:

Summer Tree by Gavriel Kay

This book took me so long to get through, but it was absolutely amazing. It reminded me of Dune in some ways. Like Dune it suffers somewhat from having a million characters and several dozen story lines that can be hard to keep track of. Like Dune, it is a really serious commentary on humanity.

It’s the story of a small group of people who cross from the University of Toronto (which is cool, since I went there) into another world, a fantasy world, right as it needs them the most. Each of them struggle, suffer and make a massive sacrifice in their roles in it’s salvation.

While I read it took long ago to have anything really thoughtful about it now, I definitely recommend it. It’s an adult book for sure, and the writing is slow and careful, but so, so worth it.

Last movie I watched:

Part of Brave. Fun movie. Very Scottish

Last TV show I watched:

Part of Shadowhunters. I’m not sure it’s a great show, but I love it

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A brief adventure in adult historical fiction

Three Sisters, Three Queens by Phillipa Gregory

Despite Gregory being a rather prolific writer, and my generally enjoyment of historical fiction, it’s maybe a bit surprising that I haven’t read anything else by Phillipa Gregory, not even the Other Boleyn Girl. But I was in an airport and it was on sale, so there you have it.

I actually really enjoyed it. Many people I talked to said her more recent stuff isn’t as good as the older ones, and who can blame her? She must be running out of Tudor women to give a twist to and write about. But without anything to compare it to, I really liked Three Sisters, Three Queens.

It’s the story of Henry VIII’s older sister Margret, who was married to the King of Scotland as a young teen and acted as regent for her son by him when her husband was killed. The center of the story is the dynamic of Catherine of Aragon, Margret and her younger sister Mary, three Tudor princesses who all marry kings but ultimately lead tragic lives.

What I liked most about the story was Margret’s rather annoying, petty, bratty personality. She saw her whole life as a competition against her sisters. When she is succeeding and they are not, she is smug and filled with false generosity and when they are outdoing her she resents the same behaviour. It sounds like a weird thing to really enjoy about a main character but I really liked the fact that she was filled with personality, even if it was an often dis-likable personality, and not a Mary Sue kind of princess. Also, I was ablw to read her as a very sympathetic character despite this because it seemed to me that someone so young, naive and out of touch with reality should be pitied. She was raised without any real understanding of the world – she was a symbol of Tudor power, but never a person so it’s not surprising that she mishandles every challenge she ever faces. How would she know better?

The most interesting thing about historical fiction of course is never about the history but what interests us know and what that says about who we are. I’m glad I had a bit of a reminder of that.

Last movie I watched:

Valentine’s Day. Not as good as Love Actually.

Last TV episode I watched:

The Musketeers. Such a wonderful, swashbuckling show

The other side of the Second World War

A Night Divided by Jennifer Nielson

This is an amazing older children or young adult book about Berlin after the end of the Second World War. Now, previously my history on that subject is a little dicey. As I recall it went something like “And then the Allies won the war and divided up Berlin with a wall, which was eventually torn down but we’ll cover that later in the semester”. We didn’t.

Gerta’s Papa and brother cross the into West Berlin one night to see if there’s a job for Papa there, away from the censorship and depression of East Berlin. That night, the Soviets  put up a fence, cutting Gerta off from half her family. Slowly over the next few years it turns from a fence to a wall to a manned wall and an overbearing state presence that controls every part of her life. One day she sees her father watching from the other side of the wall and he’s trying to tell her something, a way to bring them all back together. But it will mean becoming an enemy of the state and risking not just her life, but her family and friends as well.

This story is an incredibly moving depiction of a young person dreaming in a world that crushes dreams. Obviously the subject matter is a little complicated and if you’re not reading it with your child or your class you should still be prepared to have a talk with your young person about the historical context and the effects of war more broadly. This is a serious story, with only the lightest touch of humour in it  but a really moving and genuine, particularly focusing on the strength of relationships between people in hard times and that keeps it from being totally depressing. Also, the writing is very on point – if you’re not feeling nervous for the whole last half, I’m not sure you’re a human.

I strongly recommend this book (seriously) and I would recommend it even if it didn’t seem quite timely, given the current political climate. In today’s context, I think it’s even more important as a study in empathy, sympathy and for its unwavering conviction that people who do bad things are not always bad people but desperate ones and that people will defend their families no matter what the risk. This power shouldn’t be underestimated.

Last movie I watched: I have no idea. It might have been Home. It might not have been.

Last TV episode I watched: Smallville. I missed the season finale for this season (8 I think). I have to say, it’s very edge of your seat excitementy.

 

 

Cainsville book number 3 (keep it together, don’t squee, you don’t have to squee)

Deception by Kelley Armstrong

This is another short blog post. I’m way behind. There was this vacation and then that got me behind and suddenly it was Christmas and that got me even more behind and now I’ve only got a few thoughts about anything because it was months ago that I read it and the list of books I’ve finished is as long as my arm.

I know, I know, why don’t I just skip a few?

Because they were wonderful books and I don’t want to forget them.

I loved this book. There. That’s my thought.

Last movie I watched: The start of Star Trek Beyond. I’m a little disappointed but maybe it’ll pick up shortly.

Last TV episode I watched: Supernatural. One of the tail end of season 11. God’s back, so that’s neat.

The other book with vampires Edward and Alice

Greywalker by Kat Richardson

In a rare moment of adult book reading, I started this series about a young PI named Harper. In the first chapter she’s brutally beaten to death by a disgruntled client. She’s resuscitated at the hospital but when she wakes up in the hospital the world is different for her. She sees a grey mist everywhere, something only she can see, and cross into. Harper is now a Greywalker, a human who can step  into the Grey, an in-between place where the living, the dead and the monsters can all exist. Side effect: suddenly the living, the dead and the monsters want her help solving their cases.

I really enjoyed this book. Harper is a fun heroine, and has a pet ferret, with a balance of realist traits like denial, a ton of courage but also compassion. She does a great job of being the strong female lead, but also having character traits that aren’t being a strong female lead. The supporting cast is delightful too, from the eccentric computer genius who helps with alarm systems, the mentoring witch who’s husband studies magic academically and their baby son to  politically driven vampire group she gets involved in.

This book is classed adult, probably for the amount of sex in it, or possible for violence, so I’d probably think twice about recommending it to teens, mostly because their parents can get really bent out of shape, but for any readers who enjoy paranormal mystery, a dash or romance and a bit of horror, I strongly recommend. That’s all I got for now.

The last movie I watched:

Victor Frankenstien. I love James McAvoy, and certainly he was amazing in the movie, but it really wasn’t an amazing movie.

Daniel Radcliffe was great too.

Last TV episode I watched:

I have no idea but I’m guessing it was How To Get Away with Murder. Great show. Seriously great.

 

It’s getting more magical!

Cainesville Book 2: Visions by Kelley Armstrong

Everyone is really lucky I couldn’t figure out  how to spell the excited noises I shouted when I finished this book. Otherwise this blog post would have just been a string of crazy excited noises spelled out.

Because I want to encourage people to read these books (because they are awesome) I’m going to try not to spoil anything. But I’m pretty sure there’s no way to do this without spoiling a little bit of Omens, the first book in the series. So, if you think there’s the slightest change you’d enjoy this series (and if you don’t think you would, I’m sorry) leave now.Just go.

Visions takes place soon after the events of Omens, when Olivia returns to parent’s home to get some of her stuff . When she returns to her car she finds a dead body sitting in it. After this terrifying incident Gabrielle and Olivia are on the case again, not only trying to clear her biological parents of the six murders they are still serving time for but also investigating the death of this young woman. And it turns out, investigating the murder of this young women will bring them closer and closer to the secret of Cainesville, reveal some new enemies and lead them to some new allies.

Where the first book was a weird but exciting blend of science fiction and magic, this book is definitely leaning more to the magical side, and I’m pretty excited about it. The story draws on a lot of mythological history but also very subtly. As more of the residents of Cainesville start to show their real identities the mix of first person and third person narration makes it practically impossible not to speculate about who’s who and shout agitatedly at Olivia and Gabrielle as they fumble around the truth. Or maybe other people don’t talk to fictional characters. It made it nearly impossible for me not to anyway.

While I don’t necessarily advocate monitoring what children and teens are reading based on content  this book has a lot more sex than the last one, so it probably belongs in the adult section of the library. But if you are okay with the sex, like a little romance, a little mystery, a little science fiction, a little fantasy or a mix of any of these, I really can’t emphasis enough how much you’ll like this book.

That’s all I can say about that without telling everyone about all the amazing things i’m going to accidentally spoil for them.

Last movie I watched: About Time. Still a favourite

Last TV episode I watched: Love it or List It maybe? DAMN IT HILARY.

My first experience with Kelley Armstrong

Omens by Kelley Armstrong

I met Kelley Armstrong once at the library I was working at. She came to do a book signing. She was really nice but I hadn’t read any of her books.

Now I have. And it was amazing.

Omens is a fantastic book about a wealthy young woman who has everything going for her. Olivia  is engaged to a man who will run for senator in a few years. She doesn’t have to work so she focuses her time on pursuing her interests in Victorian literature and volunteering. But despite it all, she doesn’t feel quite right. Then one day her whole world comes shattering down when she learns that she’s not who she thinks she is – she was adopted at age three and her birth parents are serial killers. Her mom doesn’t know how to deal with it. Her fiancee wants to postpone the wedding. The media is having a field day. Olivia bolts. Betrayed by the people she thinks she can count on she is determined to make it on her own. But it’s harder than it looks and she finds herself in a little town called Cainsville. The people are welcoming, the rent is affordable but something about the place is just a little creepy. There, with the help of a lawyer, Gabriel Walsh from Cainsville who also represented her birth mother, Olivia sets out to find out exactly who parents are and follows the leads to some unlikely places.

This book is really neat. It’s got just a slight hint of supernatural and science fiction in it and it’s pretty unlike any other series I’ve ever read because of it. Armstrong does a great job of mixing a creepy, superstitious tone in with an depressingly feasible science fiction plot and a mystery all in one. Olivia and Gabriel are realistic and cool characters. The supporting cast of Cainsville residents are charming. While most of the story is told in first person, there are some short chapters scattered through the story offer really interesting insights and hints about the story. While I normally don’t like inconsistency in narration, in this book it just teases a little and makes the story very compelling.

Because there are so many potential spoilers and I enjoyed it so much, I’m having a hard time talking about the story. I’m reading the second one now, so I suppose tune in later for a more comprehensive (and spoilers) discussion of this book.

Last movie I watched:

Still probably the Back Up Plan

Last TV episode I watched:

The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. I can even deal with how funny that show is. Fancy ceiling lamp. Hilarious.