Saturday, February 24, 2018

The Broken Lands

I can't even begin to find a way to explain Kate Milford's The Broken Lands to you. It's a prequel to Boneshaker and has a minor character from that book in a medium-sized role. It happens in late-19th century New York City and has card sharps, Chinese fireworks experts, devils, demons, and magic. It's such an amazing and perilous world and I absolutely loved it. There are also real cultural issues and complex war musings. It's another one of those books that has no target age group. It has elements of the fantasy, horror, adventure, and coming-of-age genres and is simply another amazing Milford story.

The coolest news this week was that Bluecrowne, an early Kickstarted story by Milford, has been updated and is being rereleased this October. It's a bridge between the Greenglass House world and the Boneshaker one and I cannot wait for it. I will be more than happy to reread everything this summer before this new adventure comes out.

All about this world,

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The Fire Next Time

For the first time this year, I decided to purposefully read for Black History Month. I recently watched the I Am Not Your Negro documentary on PBS and loved the words and thoughts of James Baldwin so The Fire Next Time was an obvious next step. And though this small collection is just over 100 pages long, it took me a while to get through because I reread almost every passage.

Now, I could sit here and copy out a host of meaningful quotes or you all could just go and pick this one up. I think each reader will get something different out of it. You may connect with some of the same parts that I did, ones that speak as much to the institutionalized racism of today as they did to that in the early 1960s. You may nod your head as Baldwin speaks about the failings of religions in America. Your heart may also ache as you think about the past 50 years when we could have made so much more progress.

Today, I'll pick up Jesmyn Ward's The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race from the library and keep learning.

Lost in thought,

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Announcing 2018's #DWJMarch and #MarchMagics Theme

Hey there, my Diana Wynne Jones- and Terry Pratchett-loving friends! Guess what? I almost forgot to share what my plan is for this year's DWJ March/March Magics event, our grand celebration of two beloved authors that left us far, far too soon. I've had my chosen books sitting in a stack since sometime in December but it would probably help if I revealed the plan to you as well, right?
So, without further ado ...

Short stories!! Because I had three books of Terry Pratchett shorts on my TBR and because I can never reread Diana Wynne Jones's stories enough times, I decided that this is how I want to spend the month of March this year. It should work well with my current short attention span and around all of the worldly distractions and I hope it will help some of you participate more easily too.

If you need guidance on which books to request from your local library, here's a list of short story anthologies to look for:

Terry Pratchett's short stories will be easiest to find as these books have all been released only in the past few years.
A Blink of the Screen is a collection of his short adult fiction, 21 non-Discworld tales and 11 Discworld ones.
Then there are three collections for youth: Dragons at Crumbling Castle and The Witch's Vacuum Cleaner are the two that have been released in the US so far. If you're in the UK, you'll also be able to find Father Christmas's Fake Beard.

Diana Wynne Jones' anthologies are a bit messier. The main three where you will be able to find almost all of her stories are Unexpected Magic (16 stories), Mixed Magics (4 Chrestomanci stories), and Stopping for a Spell (3 stories). Then there are a few more anthologies that carry a mix of these stories -- Warlock at the Wheel and Other Stories, Everard's Ride, Minor Arcana, and Believing is Seeing. These will all be harder to find and there is only one story between them that isn't in the first three I mentioned ("The True State of Affairs"). Still, who knows what everyone's random libraries or used bookstores will have around, right?!

As for the event itself, I'll just be reading throughout the month and writing random posts to highlight the stories that I love. Feel free to write up your own posts and give me links to share or just stop by and comment on any of the posts here during the month with your thoughts. I want to keep it rather informal this year. You can read one story or 83 like I'm planning to do.

Leave a comment if you're planning on participating!

Tidying my pile of shorts,

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Next in the Series

I just finished books from two of my favorite series as the newest and latest in each series is out soon (or recently).

The Inheritance is the 10th Charles Lenox Mystery by Charles Finch. This one stood out by having a glance back into Lenox's Harrow days and also a surprising villain.

And the 8th Flavia de Luce Novel by Alan Bradley is Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd. Though Flavia is still twelve, she's slowly starting to react in a more mature and tactical way to some of the things around her and it's a pleasure to see.

Obviously I'm not going into the plots of these since they are so far along in their respective series, but I will tell you that they both have major changes and shocking happenings. I'm actually feeling a bit betrayed by both authors at the moment and hope they redeem themselves in the next books. It's less likely to happen with Finch because The Woman in the Water is actually a prequel, a return to Charles Lenox's first case, so I won't find out what happens next in the current timeline until book 12. But Bradley's choice of the title The Grave's a Fine and Private Place, as a riff on Peter S. Beagle's classic, is worrying me too because that was an incredibly depressing read and, in a way, I don't want to wade through what will inevitably come next in Flavia's life. I guess I have to give credit to these authors for not letting their series get stale and for making me care so much. I guess. ::broken heart emoji::

Are either of these series that you follow? Are you caught up?

Extremely invested,

Thursday, February 1, 2018

The Natural World, Past and Present

Last weekend I participated in about half of the 24 in 48 Readathon. (The second day I just couldn't get interested in reading for some reason so I only got 11 hours done.) The first two books I read were ones sitting on my non-fiction TBR that I wanted to be able to mark as read.

The first is one I just got this past Christmas -- Amazing Rare Things: The Art of Natural History in the Age of Discovery by David Attenborough, Susan Owens, Martin Clayton, and Rea Alexandratos. It focuses on five natural history artists--Leonardo da Vinci, Cassiano dal Pozzo, Alexander Marshal, Maria Sybilla Merian, and Mark Catesby--and their works that are now held in the Royal Collection. They each represent a period in time, from about 1470-1730.

I am intrigued by natural history artists and actually have five prints hanging over my tv (that are rotated in from a collection I have -- right now they are a squid, a crab, a pineapple, an octopus, and molluscs). It was interesting to read about the diverse backgrounds of each of these artists and about what inspired them to draw. This isn't a super comprehensive natural history art book but more a snapshot of the works of a few prolific pioneers.

Then I read Jane Goodall's 50 Years at Gombe, which has been on my shelves for a few years now (the 50 years was in 2010). If you are a Goodall fan, most of the information and history in the book will be a review but it's a nice collection of some of the National Geographic photographs that brought Jane to the world's attention and some more recent photos of the land and the current chimps. (I happen to own the original August 1963 Nat Geo that first featured the chimpanzees.) This book is great for a basic overview and a call to action. It lists many of the organizations that are supported by the Jane Goodall Institute and the ways for people all around the world to make a difference in the lives of the chimpanzees and the humans around them. I was extremely happy to hear that my best friend donated to the Institute this year instead of sending me Christmas presents. (I donated to the Reteti Elephant Sanctuary instead of shopping for her.)

Have you read any great nature/natural history books lately?

Returning to the roots,

Monday, January 29, 2018

Classics Challenge 2: Treasure Island

Thanks to a mention in my last read as a book that corrupted young readers, I have just finished my second Back to the Classics Challenge read -- Treasure Island (1883) by Robert Louis Stevenson, my pick for "A Children's Classic". Though I had seen film versions over the years (Muppet Treasure Island is one of Z's favorites), I realized that I had never actually read the book. The story was originally released serially under the pseudonym of Captain George North in a publication for boys. It chronicles the adventures of young Jim Hawkins, from his tame life as the son of modest innkeepers to the perilous search for buried treasure.

I was just reading that Stevenson wrote this book quickly because, as it was for children, he felt he didn't have to be so careful about quality. Luckily, his inherent talent as a writer shone through and this became a well-told tale. I was surprised by the violence but more-so by the moral ambiguity of Long John Silver. His ability to quickly see which way the winds were blowing, so to speak, and change sides in a conflict to his benefit seems like a far more dangerous lesson than discovering the many different ways in which men can kill one another. I still don't think this book contributed to the delinquency of Victorian minors though. If anything, the lesson I came away with is that islands with buried treasure on them and the ships that get you there are all full of perils that make the gold barely worth it.

Not feeling adventurous,

Friday, January 26, 2018

The Wicked Boy

Kate Summerscale's non-fiction is something unique. She completely reconstructs a crime but within the context of history. In The Wicked Boy: The Mystery of a Victorian Child Murderer, the story of Robert Coombes, a young teen who stabbed his mother, is only half the tale. The book also delves into such diverse topics as living conditions in late nineteenth-century London, the workings of the justice system, the conditions at asylums, the contributions of the Aussies to WWI, and how the past connects to the present. I found almost everything in this book fascinating -- and I think I might have finally retained how the pound/shilling/pence system works! This isn't a quick read but it was satisfying to explore so many topics at once.

One of the topics explored was the blaming of sensational literature and penny dreadfuls (cheap paperback adventure and suspense stories, mostly sold to boys) for the bad behavior, crimes, and even suicides of children and teens. This led me to pick up my next Classics Challenge read, Treasure Island, which I will write about soon. I love when one book leads to another!

Filling in the gaps,

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Pretty, Pretty Alice

I try not to hoard different editions of books but there have been so many different, beautiful editions of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland in the past couple of years that I've ended up with more copies than I intended. I hadn't yet had a chance to really explore this Anna Bond-illustrated edition from Puffin so I spent the last couple of days enjoying it from cover to cover.

First of all, I took a peek under the already-lovely dust jacket and found this SPLENDID cover. Even the headband is a sparkly gold that is awesome.

Then I opened the front cover and found these lovely monochromatic endpapers, full of all of the highlights of the story.

Finally, I enjoyed the lovely insides of the book, with lots of bright and beautiful illustrations. They definitely were inspired by the Disney film but, as it is one of my favorite things in the world, I loved it.

All of these images and more are at the Rifle Paper Co. website where Anna Bond is creative director. If you scroll to the bottom, you'll also see her Puffin in Bloom series, including such titles as Little Women and Anne of Green Gables. But I don't need more editions of these books, right? I don't need more ...

With failing resolve,