Monday, May 30, 2016

46:120 Secrets by Margaret McGaffey Fisk

Samantha (Sam) is a Natural, one who can read the hearts of mechanical devices and use the aether to change them to become closer to their ideal.  Unfortunately, most people look at Naturals with distaste even to the point of violence and Sam's sister, Lily, is too sick to be able to keep her hidden even with her husband's help.  They have heard of a settlement on the main continent of other Naturals where Sam would be safe and able to be true to herself but when the morning for her departure arrives, she ends up heading to the ship on her own and her nature takes over which causes her motorized carriage to careen out of control and her to crawl out of the wreckage scared and alone with no idea how to find the right ship or her brother-in-law's man for help.  Instead, she sneaks aboard a ship with no idea where it's going.

Meanwhile, Nathaniel is from a rich family but his interest in life outside has him serving aboard a ship as a cabin boy although he wants desperately to get into the engine room.  Unfortunately for him, the engineer is not disposed kindly to him and when Sam steals his food, Nat ends up taking the heat for it.  Now Nat is determined to clear his name while Sam must try to stay hidden from Nat and ignore the siren call of the ship's engine.

I understand that this was written for YA and I wanted to like it more than I did.  Unfortunately I found the writing to be repetitive (a huge peeve of mine) while the characters were basically one dimensional which left me not really caring much about their plights and the pacing was slow.  I thought the world had promise but ultimately there just wasn't enough to make me want to continue in the series.

Page count: 195p/12,640p ytd/262,717p lifetime

Saturday, May 28, 2016

45:120 How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell

Hiccup is the son of the chief of the Hooligan tribe of Vikings but a more useless Viking child and future chief no one could imagine.  When he sets about his coming of age task to get and train a dragon, it's a dismal failure. He gets the most ordinary dragon ever except that it's also the smallest one anyone has ever seen and then can't get it to respond to the most basic of commands.  When it comes time to demonstrate his mastery over his small dragon, everything goes wrong and it ends up getting all of the young men going through the trial banished from the tribe. This is horrible but not nearly as horrible as the humongous sea dragon that has washed up on their shore, awake and starting to become hungry.  Maybe all of Hiccup's hard work studying his dragon will pay off in some spectacular way.

Having seen the movie and really enjoying it, I was looking forward to reading the book but I have to say I didn't really like it.  It was boring and plodding and it was hard to muster up any sympathy for any of the characters.  Since there is a long series of these books, other people obviously see something in them that I don't which is fine but neither I nor my 10yr old enjoyed reading this one so we won't be trying others to see if it gets better.

Page count: 214p/12,445p ytd/262,522 lifetime

Friday, May 27, 2016

44:120 Homeland by Cory Doctorow

The sequel to Little Brother.  Set in modern day but even more dystopian than the US currently is (but not by much unfortunately) and California's economy has collapsed. Marcus and his family are definitely feeling the effects of this with everyone out of work so when Marcus is offered a job as webmaster for a political campaign of someone who looks to be the real deal, he jumps at the opportunity.  Unfortunately, all this happens right after Burning Man where Marcus was given a bunch of encrypted files by Masha before she was taken away by someone he is convinced was Carrie Johnson, his own personal demon.  Now he must find a way to release these files while remaining anonymous or risk losing his job.  His friends come to the rescue but when they see that there are over 8000 documents and some is extremely serious, they also start realizing just how high the stakes are and once they start dribbling them out the consequences start coming home to roost.

A brilliant sequel that once again might be set in a dystopian reality but none-the-less hits home about the chipping away at our civil liberties and rights and how the courage of one person or even a small group can be the ripples that might eventually bring about change.  Yes, it's scary but when everyone does nothing the outcome is that much scarier.

Page count: 396p/12,231p ytd/262,308p lifetime

Thursday, May 26, 2016

43:120 Wings of Fire: Winglets #2 - Assassin by Tui T. Sutherland

We finally get some of the backstory of Deathbringer and how he came to be in the Ice Kingdom and why he would choose to follow Glory to end the war.  It also gives us more backstory on how the Nightwings were trying to manipulate everything to their own advantage with the prophecy, including interfering with the other tribes via assassination in order to prolong the war for their "prophecy" to come true.  I can see why this information didn't work itself easily into the books but it's nice to have these short stories to add to the world.

Page count: 51p/11,835p ytd/261,912p lifetime

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

42:120 Puck of Pook's Hill by Rudyard Kipling

Dan and Una are out exploring the land as they usually do once they are dismissed from their lessons when they come across a man who is definitely not a man. In fact, it turns out to be "the oldest living thing in England" and refers to himself as Puck and alludes to being the very same one told about in Midsummer Night's Dream.  Now when they go out, they frequently run into Puck and one of his friends from centuries ago and get to hear the most amazing stories from England's past. Fantastical and whimsical, the stories are lovely and were great fun to read together with my 10yr old.

Page count: 147p/11,784p ytd/261,861p lifetime

Sunday, May 15, 2016

41:120 Don Quixote by Miguel Cervantes

I'm pretty sure if you don't at least know of Don Quixote de la Mancha, you have spent your entire life pretty isolated from any type of culture.  I'd never read any of this before but I still knew that he was from Spain and was under the delusion that he was a knight errant and was therefore bound to rescue damsels in distress, right wrongs, vanquish giants and evil magicians, etc.  I knew about his eccentricity and seeing things not as they were but as bigger and mightier so as to be worthy adventures of a knight errant (tilting at windmills that he sees as giants being the most commonly referenced one).  I'd heard of his lady, Dulcinea, and his squire Sancho.  Most of what I'd heard about comes from the first half of the book and seems to be the main story people know.  There were other side stories in the first half that only tangentially involve him but for the most part, it was following his journey as he tried to be knight errant he thought the world needed, no matter how misguided he was.  It definitely had humor but was also sad watching this madman trying to deal with the world as he saw it.

The second half was awful.  Almost the entire thing consisted of Don Quixote and Sancho falling in with people who had read the first part of their adventures and using his malady to play pranks on him for their own amusement.  It lacked the whimsy of the first half and I found it mostly to just be meanspirited and not fun at all.

Page count: 992p/11,637p ytd/261,714p lifetime

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

40:120 The Borrowers by Mary Norton

A classic tale of the little people who live in your walls or under your floors and are the reason things are not where you put them.  Sweetly told by an older lady to a young girl in the house she lived in as a story she heard from her brother about what happened one year when he was staying with his aunt.  One of the biggest rules of the Borrowers, as they call themselves, is to not be seen but that year there were only a family of three that seemed to still be living in the house and the young daughter was bored and desperate for a friend.  Arrietty was finally allowed to go borrowing with her father and ended up being seen by the young boy.  Their friendship was something they both needed but when the boy started bringing them too many presents, their lives were forever turned upside down.

There is now a Miyazaki film based on this book that we have and I need to watch.  The story itself is cute, very simple and sweet.  My 10yr old says he enjoyed it but not enough to be interested in reading any of the others and I can see why.  Maybe more happens in those books but this was definitely a slower moving book than he tends to like.  I have to say that even if he did, I probably wouldn't continue with the series either as it is a bit slow.

Page count: 180p/10,645p ytd/260,722p lifetime

39:120 Beowulf: An Illustrated Edition by Seamus Heaney

One of the oldest epics known to man, this verse translation by Seamus Heaney is widely considering one of the best.  The story itself is a basic epic with our hero Beowulf coming to help the Danes by putting himself up to try and defeat Grendel, a monster who is coming into their meadhall every night and killing their warriors and leaving them no peace. Being a hero, he defeats Grendel and then has to go hunt down and defeat Grendel's mother as well when she starts taking revenge for her fallen son.  Beowulf's life is fairly quite after these exploits but in his later years, a slave steals some treasure from a dragon and Beowulf once again feels that he must save his people from the new danger though it will likely cost him his life.  In the end, only one of his men was brave enough to face the dragon with him and Beowulf on his deathbed after the battle makes that man his heir.

It is amazing to me how many of our stories fit into this narrative, even now which goes to show the lasting power of the old epics.  This translation is easily accessible and made more lovely by the pictures included that either help set the mood or show relics similar to what is being referred to in the story.  I've got Tolkien's translation as well and I'm looking forward to seeing how it compares (although it's unfortunately not illustrated in the same manner, bummer).

Page count: 260p/10,465p ytd/260,542p lifetime