Sunday, November 22, 2015

Book Thoughts - Doomsday Book by Connie Willis

Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
first published 1992
578 pages

Synopsis -

For Kivrin, preparing an on-site study of one of the deadliest eras in humanity's history was as simple as receiving inoculations against the diseases of the fourteenth century and inventing an alibi for a woman traveling alone. For her instructors in the twenty-first century, it meant painstaking calculations and careful monitoring of the rendezvous location where Kivrin would be received.

But a crisis strangely linking past and future strands Kivrin in a bygone age as her fellows try desperately to rescue her. In a time of superstition and fear, Kivrin--barely of age herself--finds she has become an unlikely angel of hope during one of history's darkest hours.

My thoughts -

Am I the only person around here who has a list of books somewhere - likely floating around in your head - called, "Books I AM Going To Read Someday Because I've Heard They Are Great", but that you almost never actually get around to reading? It's funny how each time I manage to read one of the books from that list, it winds up being, in fact, GREAT! Why don't I just read them all right now? One of the great mysteries of the universe.

Doomsday Book was on that list. I think it hit my radar when Raych talked about it, and then I saw someone else talking about it, and I filed it away on that Books I AM Going To Read....list, and here i am finally getting around to reading it. And WHOOOOO, boy it was good.

Doomsday Book wasn't the kind of good where each sentence is beautifully constructed, and the words flow together, and you just love the way the author has mastered her craft. Not really at all, in fact. Willis' writing is fine, but that's not why you read this book. You read this book because of the story that grabs you by your neck hairs and doesn't let go. I think what made Kivrin's story so gripping for me is that this stuff actually happened - clearly, not the time travel aspects. But once Kivrin was in the 14th century, all that horror was real. Real people lived through it. Real people were completely helpless in the face of it. It was terrifying, and it wasn't made up. I found this review on Goodreads, and I think it perfectly sums up my feelings (apologies for the language) -

"Connie Willis shows us that we do not need to look to the future for an apocalyptic setting suitable for exorcising whatever demons haunt us, testing whatever faith we may or may not have, revealing the height of humanity's capacity for compassion or the depth of its misery. We had the mid-14th Century for that.

These ain't Jesuits on a distant planet, or a man and a boy wandering down a road.

This shit really happened, people."

The juxtaposition of Kivrin's troubles in the Middle Ages and the Present-Day epidemic was also striking, because it showed a clear picture of the ways in which humanity has not, in fact, changed that much in a couple of thousand years. People were just as ignorant and cruel and apathetic in the present as we like to accuse those who lived in the Middle Ages of being, and frankly we know better and should be doing better. It was a stark, pointed reality check in the midst of an increasingly dark story.

I thought this book was great. I do agree that it dragged a bit toward the end, but I was so terrified for Kivrin that I couldn't stop reading. If sci-fi is your thing, I would definitely recommend this one. I cannot wait to read more by this author!

Finished - 11/15/15

MPAA rating - PG-13 for realistic portrayals of death and some pretty scary stuff
My rating - 4/5

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Look Who's Back....Back Again...

I suppose it was inevitable. How could I possibly stay away for long? I made it almost a year, and the itch is just back. I don't know how often I will post, how long my posts will be - it's going to be pretty loosey-goosey around here, but I am sure it will be fun.

I thought about trying to recap my entire reading year so far, but that seemed like a horrible idea, honestly, so I'll just talk about something that has been a revelation to me this year - the graphic novel. I KNOW I've been aware of them - I KNOW people have talked about them - but for some reason, I hadn't really checked them out until this year. And now? I'm hooked.

I spent a bunch of time on the wonderful website Panels and got a whole STACK of recommendations. I've been fairly quickly working my way through the first issues of each, and basically falling in love with every one. There were a couple that didn't work as well for me, but all in all the recommendation staff at Panels is top-notch, and I've found a new reading love affair. Here's a few highlights -

Princeless by Jeremy Whitley & M. Goodwin

Synopsis -

Princeless is the story of Princess Adrienne, one princess who's tired of waiting to be rescued. Join Adrienne, her guardian dragon, Sparky, and their plucky friend Bedelia as they begin their own quest in this one of a kind, action packed, all-ages adventure!

My thoughts -

This was just SO much fun. I like the bending of gender stereotypes, I like that Princess Adrienne does NOT look like a normal Disney princess, I love the cast of characters and the projected arc of this story. This is a series I will definitely be adding to my personal collection.

Fables by Bill Willingham, et. all

Synopsis -

When a savage creature known only as the Adversary conquered the fabled lands of legends and fairy tales, all of the infamous inhabitants of folklore were forced into exile. Disguised among the normal citizens of modern-day New York, these magical characters have created their own peaceful and secret society within an exclusive luxury apartment building called Fabletown. But when Snow White's party-girl sister, Rose Red, is apparently murdered, it is up to Fabletown's sheriff, a reformed and pardoned Big Bad Wolf (Bigby Wolf), to determine if the killer is Bluebeard, Rose's ex-lover and notorious wife killer, or Jack, her current live-in boyfriend and former beanstalk-climber.

My thoughts -

We all know I love a good fairytale retelling, and this series retells ALL of them. Characters interact fluidly in this giant fairy tale mashup, and they are definitely not the characters you grew up with. I've read the first three volumes of the series, and while each has it's own contained story, there are hints of a larger arc that will involve the mysterious Adversary that I cannot wait to dive into more deeply. This is definitely not for kids, but adults who loved these characters growing up will be fascinated to read the ways in which their stories continue. Definitely recommended.

Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona

Synopsis -

Kamala Khan is an ordinary girl from Jersey City — until she's suddenly empowered with extraordinary gifts. But who truly is the new Ms. Marvel? Teenager? Muslim? Inhuman? Find out as she takes the Marvel Universe by storm! When Kamala discovers the dangers of her newfound powers, she unlocks a secret behind them, as well. Is Kamala ready to wield these immense new gifts? Or will the weight of the legacy before her be too much to bear? Kamala has no idea, either. But she's comin' for you, Jersey! 

My thoughts -

This would be a great book to introduce your tween to the world of graphic novels. It's action-packed but never gratuitous, it deals frankly with issues of identity and place, and it's just a lot of good fun. It seems sometimes to be a bit "Issue-Heavy", but I think my feeling is colored by my years and years of reading experience - I suspect a young teen would miss that heavy-handedness completely. I have read the first 3 volumes, and think Wilson's characters are great and the situations actually quite realistic, as far as a superhero comic can be. I can't wait to continue with Kamala's adventures.

The Wicked + The Divine by Gillen McKelvie and Wilson Cowles

Synopsis -

Every ninety years, twelve gods incarnate as humans. They are loved. They are hated. In two years, they are dead. The team behind critical tongue-attractors like Young Avengers and PHONOGRAM reunite to create a world where gods are the ultimate pop stars and pop stars are the ultimate gods. But remember: just because you’re immortal, doesn’t mean you’re going to live forever. 

My thoughts -

This book is.....the hardest to pin down. It is by far the most adult, the most over-the-top, the hardest to follow and requires the highest levels of suspension of disbelief. Sometimes I honestly don't quite know what is going on. And yet I am completely enthralled. This idea is fascinating - it's execution sometimes a bit choppy. I've read through the first two volumes, and while I do intend to keep reading I would like to see a bit more world-building of some kind. This series does have killer cliffhangers, though, so I can't help but pick up the third volume to see what happens next! Recommended with some reservations - very adult in language and situations.

Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

Synopsis -

From bestselling writer Brian K. Vaughan, Saga is the sweeping tale of one young family fighting to find their place in the worlds. Fantasy and science fiction are wed like never before in this sexy, subversive drama for adults. 

My thoughts -

For anyone who thinks a graphic novel can't hold as much drama and emotion as a tradition book, I tell you to get a copy of Saga. Holy buckets, folks. I've only read the first volume, but I am seriously TENSION FILLED about what will happen next. This is more than just a good graphic novel - it's good storytelling on every level. No wonder it won the Hugo. This is another book that is definitely adult, so reader beware. But if sci-fi is your thing, I recommend this one highly.

And those are just a few! I've discovered so much great stuff in the graphic novel genre this year - I'm excited to say I am fully onboard! I've discovered fiction, nonfiction, crime drama, fantasy, and more speculative fiction than you can possibly imagine. What an amazing collection of writing. If you haven't yet, go check it out - if you don't know where to start, head over to Panels, where you will find a whole list of ideas in a very short amount of time.

And hey, kids - I'm back!!