Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Bone Season

I read this review on NPR that gave The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon some high praise - "There's a distinct Margaret Atwood-style wash to Shannon's dystopian universe" they said.  "The new J. K. Rowling," they said.  Let's not get carried away.  The author is 21 and has gotten a 7-book deal and a film in the works, but I don't think we're looking at the next Harry Potter.  

It takes place in an alternative/futuristic London where some people, like the main character, Paige, have magical powers, but they are outlawed.  Paige is arrested and taken to a secret land where some other alien-types keep the magical people as slaves and suck up all their energy and whatnot.  Paige's "master" is some brooding old dude that glares at her all the time like Heathcliff and... can you guess what is going to happen???? 

Shannon invents a fairly large vocabulary as well as world (there's a glossary I was rather annoyed to find at the end - but, I never skip ahead...) so if you like that sort of thing you may find The Bone Season right up your alley.  It's really quite complex, I wonder what her notes looked like.  

Ultimately I found it wearisome - there were no surprises in the romance area and once the introductions were made to all the ins and outs of this universe, I just didn't find the story that compelling. 

Who knows, maybe this series is going to blow up - maybe as the books and the author age, it will grow into itself.  Anyone else have a different experience than me with this book?  

Monday, December 16, 2013

Flight Behavior

We read Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver for book club.  Everyone agreed it was a perfectly fine book but we didn't have a great discussion.  Often a book everyone merely enjoys has a kind of bland reaction.  No one's offended, but no one's world has been rocked.  That's a bit unusual for Kingsolver, who has rocked my world before.

Flight Behavior is about a young mother who lives on her in-law's property with her husband and babies.  Monarch butterflies have altered their flight path to migrate in their Appalachian home.  So, it has a lot to do with the environment and global warming, and a bit with globalism.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

The Goldfinch

Donna Tartt inspires some real adoration in her fans.  I was 100% willing to jump on the bandwagon after reading some amazing reviews of The Secret History. Tana French cites Tartt as an inspiration and I'm crazy about her.  So, I read The Secret History this summer and to tell the truth, wasn't quite sure what all the fuss was about.   I have relatively fond memories of The Little Friend, which I read back in 2007 and wrote a really worthless review about.

So, anyway, still eager to fall head-over-heels, I read The Goldfinch.  Here's my review in Newcity Lit.  I thought parts were outstanding and over-all it was too long, to greatly simplify a not-so-simple book.  I love that she uses this actual painting as a jumping off point - creating a narrative around a (fictional) history of that work.  I suspect, although I honestly have no idea, that there was some really higher-level Marxism shit going on in the theory of this book but, ha! ha! I am not a Marxist expert!  Particularly near the end, she becomes extremely theoretical about spending time with art work and the capacity of an experience like that to change a person, but more than that, it seemed quite related to the ownership or possession or consumption of things of beauty that led certain people (wealthy ones!) to afford that experience.  Anyway, I would be much obliged if anyone with expertise in that area would like to weigh in.  Or I suppose I could break down and go read the wikipedia page on Marxism.  Ugh.

Also of note was epigraph she included that I had never read before:
We have art in order not to die from the truth.-Nietzsche
Whoa.   I need to think about that for about the next ten years 'til Tartt's next book comes out.
The Goldfinch (Het Putterje), 1654
Mauritshuis, The Hague

Anyway, the whole thing reminds me of this lovely article I read in Harvard Magazine about patience, and art, and looking.  By coincidence, it also features a small animal on a chain.
John Singleton Copley’s A Boy with a Flying Squirrel, 1765

The Lowland

Here's my review of The Lowland on Newcity Lit.  Jhumpa Lahiri is a beautiful writer but I didn't love this book.

Claire of the Sea Light

Here's my review on Newcity for Claire of the Sea Light.  I'm a huge Danticat fan - this is a fine addition to her ouvre.