Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Reading...The 5th Wave

The 5th Wave (The Fifth Wave, #1)

Ya'll. This book is SO GOOD. Here's the short Goodreads blurb: "After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one."

This book is the literary equivelant of the best kind of action movie. It sucks you in from page one and stays plugged into your brain even when you're not reading it. It's super quotable, full of snappy dialog (spoken and inner), and some truly great action scenes. But it's got a lot of substance too:  it's smart, well-written, with fleshed-out characters and a tight plot. And, like many science-fiction/post-apocolyptic novels, it asks those philisophical and existential questions like why are we (humans) here? What does it really mean to be human? Why do we fight to survive? Should we even bother? And I really can't say enough about these characters: I want them all to come live with me.

Bottom line: if you're in the mood for some smart, heart-felt, alien-invasion-style action, check out The 5th Wave, by Rick Yancey (fair warning: it's the first in a series).

Friday, May 17, 2013

Reading...The Shoemaker's Wife

The Shoemaker's Wife
The Shoemaker's Wife, by Adriana Trigiani...a list:

1. Italy!!!!
2. Food!! (seriously, this book should come with a warning label: do not eat while hungry)
3. Ciro
4. Turn-of-the-20th-Century New York
5. Opera

Do you like historical fiction? Read this book. Do you like an epic-style romance? Read this book. Are you willing to overlook or perhaps enjoy unrealistic coincidences that bring lovers together? Read this book. Do you enjoy detailed and lush descriptions? Read this book. Do you like books about families and family history? Read this book.

What are you waiting for?

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Reading...Daughter of the Forest

Daughter of the Forest  (Sevenwaters, #1)It may be too soon to say this, but I think I may have found a new favorite author. I'd seen several people on other blogs mention Juliet Marillier as one of their favorite fantasy authors (most recently at The Book Smugglers) and I picked up Daughter of the Forest, first in the Sevenwaters series. And it was so, so good. It's historical fantasy, loosely based on an old fairy tale (The Six Swans) and set (very loosely) in ninth century Ireland and England. It's the story of a family torn apart by dark magic, about a cultural feud, about the whiles and whims of the fey, about brothers and sisters who will do anything for each other, and about a strong girl who sacrifices herslef in seemingly impossible ways.

So here's where I gush: the beautiful and lyrical writing was the perfect vehicle for this story and setting. It pulled me gently into the mystical forests of Ireland, and into a world that values storytelling and legends. The setting and story were magical and fairy tale-esque, but the rich characters kept the story grounded. Marillier also has a gift for writing relationships of all kinds -- friends, lovers, siblings, father-child, mentor-mentee, lord and cottager, human and nature, adversaries, and even the relationship between the earthly world and the fey. There's an interesting contrast in the book between the relationship of Sorcha and her brothers and the relationship between blood brothers Simon and Red (and, now that I think about it, the brotherly relationship between Red, Ben and John). I could picture the deep forests and lake surrounding Sevenwaters, and the gentle rolling hills and pastoral beauty of the Northern England estate. I was also impressed with the authentic conflict and tension in this book -- Marillier did not shy away from letting bad things happen on our characters' journey. There is genuine danger and grief in this story, as well as happiness and joy.

And last but not least -- the love story. Beautiful and quiet and epic and true. Here's a taste:

"...it matters not if you are here, or there, for I see you before me every moment. I see you in the light on the water, in the swaying of the young trees in thh spring wind. I see you in the shadows of the great oaks, I hear your voice in the cry of the owl at night. You are the blood in my veins, and the beating of my heart. You are my first waking thought, and my last sigh before sleeping. You are -- you are bone of my bone, and breath of my breath."

I mean. Come on. Are you swooning yet?

Bottom line: a beatiful, fairy tale fantasy.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Reading...Swimming at Night

Swimming at NightI mentioned Swimming at Night, by Lucy Clarke last week as my book-on-deck. It was passed along to me by a friend who was college housemates with the author's husband. (I guess friend of a friend would have been a bit shorter way of saying that, no?). It's the story about two sisters, about the way our relationships influence who we are, about choices and consequences.

The book opens with older sister Katie learning of her sister Mia's apparent suicide in Bali. Mia had been on a year-long traveling adventure with her best friend Finn. Katie, struggling to cope with her grief and understand why her sister would commit suicide, decides to read Mia's travel journal and follow in her footsteps to try and figure out what happned. The book is told from both viewpoints: alternating between Mia's experiences on her trip leading up to Bali and on Katie's journey to retracer her steps. As the story unfolds, we also learn more of Mia and Katie's history, more of their relationship, and some of the defining moments that have led up to where they are now.

I really enjoyed this book. Clarke did an excellent job at unfolding the story in a backwards-forwards kind of way -- the trip part of the story was the forward motion, the "what's happening now." But at the same time, Clarke begins to reveal more about the two characters as she tells us about their past as children, teenagers, and young women, even the events that led to Mia's trip to beging with. There's a lot of misplaced guilt in this book, and a lot of this-all-could-have-been-avoided-with-some-better-communication. But, that's kind of how life is, right? Hind sight is 20-20, and all you can do is move forward, hopefully learning from the past. That's another thing I liked about the book: there's a deep sadness for things lost, but at the same time, there's healing and hope for the future.

Another highlight of the book is the secondary character of the sea. You can sense the author's own connection with the water. Living in a beach town, I've met people who "like the beach" and people for whom being near the water is as essential as breathing. The people who have saltwater running through their veins and a permanent crust of sand on their feet and who feel claustrophobic if they spend too much time land-locked. Thinking about it now, I would say that the along with the well-drawn human characters, it's pervasive presence of the sea that keeps what could be an overly-dramatic plot from being overwraught.

Bottom line:  lovely writing, a tightly plotted dramatic story, well-drawn characters, sisters and the smell of salt water.