The Golden Specific (SE Grove, 2015)

golden specific

Why did you choose this book? 

I was intrigued by the synopsis, which actually made me pick up the previous book in the series.  I love the concept of a world fractured not into countries but into different periods of time.

What’s it about?

As I mentioned in the previous post, the world in this book has been fractured into different Ages – different parts of the world set in different time periods.  Sophia’s parents were explorers who traveled east in search of a friend in danger.  Sophia has dedicated herself to finding them, whatever the consequences.

Categories

Juvenile fantasy, cartography, alternate reality

Other recommendations?

I stand by what I said in the last post about the similarities between this series and Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials.

Review

I found this entry in the series much more compelling than its predecessor.  The reader finds out how Ages set in the future deal with Ages set in the past, and we make our first journey to what the reader knows as Europe.  This volume seemed a bit darker and more mature than the first, which I appreciated, though I still struggle with whether or not this book is classified correctly.  The main character is young and it isn’t particularly gory or sexy, but the vocabulary is intense!  There were even words I didn’t know (inchoate…really, how often does that come up?).  It ended on a cliff-hanger and I can’t wait to find out what happens next.  Definitely an improvement over The Glass Sentence.

Up next?

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

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The Glass Sentence (SE Grove, 2014)

glass sentence

Why did you choose this book?

I love history and cartography, and something about the synopsis for the second book in this series caught my eye.  The second novel is The Golden Specific, and the third comes out this summer – The Crimson Skew.  The series as a whole is called The Mapmakers Trilogy.

What’s it about?

Sophia lives in New Occident in 1891 with her uncle, a famous mapmaker.  When he is abducted from their home, she sets out on a daring rescue with only one clue and a mysterious glass map to guide her.  The book is substantially more complicated – I’ll go into the world-building in my review.

Categories

Juvenile fiction, alternate reality

Other recommended reads?

The alternate yet similar world reminded me of Philip Pullman’s trilogy: The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass (the trilogy is His Dark Materials).  Though this series lacks the religious dimension found in the 3rd book of Pullman’s.

Review

I struggled with trying to decide if I loved this book or not.  I also struggled with its classification as a JFIC novel.  While it doesn’t contain the mature themes usually found in teen books, it uses an advanced vocabulary, extremely complicated world-building, and is very long (nearing 500 pages).

I LOVED the world created in this book.  In the 1790s, everything froze for one moment, and in that moment, every season passed before the eyes of the spectators.  When it unfroze, different regions of the world had been thrown into different eras.  Canada was in the Ice Age (Prehistoric Snows), America was in the same time (New Occident), Mexico was past, present, and future (the Baldlands), Europe was in the medieval era, and Egypt was in the era of the pharaohs.  I adore the exploration so central to this new world.

I also loved the conception of maps in this trilogy.  Paper maps are just as they are in our world.  Glass maps are activated with light and contain the memories of people.  Cloth maps are activated with wind and contain weather patterns.  Metal maps are activated with heat and contain memories of man-made structures.  Clay maps are activated with water and contain topography.  Stacked together, you experience a full memory of a time and place.

Overall, it’s a good read in a fascinating world, but not for the faint of heart.

Up next?

The Golden Specific by SE Grove

The Forgotten Room (Karen White, Beatriz Williams, and Lauren Willig, 2016)

the forgotten room

Why did you choose this book?

I thought the premise sounded intriguing, very similar to one of my favorite authors, Kate Morton.

What’s it about?

The chapters rotate between three characters.  First is Kate, a doctor in 1940s New York, working in a hospital that used to be a mansion.  Second is Olive, the daughter of an architect now working as a maid in 1890s New York.  Third is Lucy, working as a secretary in a law firm and boarding in an old mansion in 1920s New York.  The three are grandmother, mother, and daughter and are all connected to the same imposing edifice.

Categories

Historical fiction, mystery

Other recommended reads?

Kate Morton’s The Secret KeeperThe House at Riverton, or The Forgotten Garden.  But The Secret Keeper has the World War II tie-in.

Review

I loved the rotation between the characters and the level of mystery in this novel.  It took me quite a while to put all of the pieces together.  For example, which man each woman married, which man was the father of each daughter, the connections of each woman to the house, and how much of the backstory each of them knew.  It was quite the tale!  As much as I loved that, I didn’t care for any of the female protagonists that much.  My favorite character was one of their love interests, Harry, and while he played a supporting role, he stole the show!

Up next?

The Glass Sentence by SE Grove

The Martian (Andy Weir, 2014)

the martian

Why did you choose this book?

As I mentioned before, I’m leading all of the fiction book discussions at our library this year.  This book was the February pick.

What’s it about?

Astronaut Mark Watney was left for dead on Mars, but due to a freak coincidence, he survives his injuries and begins to make a life for himself.  But without communication with Earth, will he be rescued?  How long can one man survive on a solitary planet?

Categories

Science fiction-unquestionably

Other recommended reads?

I’m not a big science fiction fan, but I’ve been told that this book is similar to those written by Arthur C. Clarke and Michael Crichton.

Review

As I just said, I usually don’t like science fiction.  I think that comes from a childhood where my dad loved movies like 2001 and Silent Running, and I would sit there and fail to appreciate them.  It took me about 100 pages to really become invested in the story, but once those pages passed I loved it!  I became so invested in Mark’s survival and I loved that the book had just the right amount of scientific information.  It was a great read and has made my pile of books to reread in the future!

Up next?

The Forgotten Room by Beatriz Williams, Karen White, and Lauren Willig

When Breath Becomes Air (Paul Kalanithi, 2016)

when breath

Why did you choose this book?

I can’t remember if I’ve touched on this before or not, so bear with me.  One year ago my mother passed away from glioblastoma (stage IV brain cancer).  Since then, these sorts of books about dealing with life and death have intrigued me.  See my earlier post about Home is Burning by Dan Marshall.

What’s it about?

Paul Kalanithi spent his life training to be a neurosurgeon.  Just as he was about to finish his residency, he was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer.  He has since passed away.

Categories

Biography/memoir, medicine, terminal illness

Other recommended reads?

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast (2014 National Book Award finalist, graphic novel) and Home is Burning by Dan Marshall (2015).

Review

I read this entire book in 2 hours.  I finished The Dead Duke at 11:30 on a Saturday night and started this book.  I couldn’t sleep until I finished around 1:30 am.  First, it is full of insights into the struggles of a person entering one of the most challenging and strenuous medical specialties.  Second, it is the philosophy of someone whose sincere goal in becoming a doctor was to better understand the human mind and to make a difference.  He never stopped trying to become a better doctor and trying to understand more about people, the world, and the places where the two meet.  Third, Kalanithi had a gift for language.  The prose is some of the most beautiful I’ve read in quite a while.  Take, for example, the book’s final paragraph (best when read aloud, as stated in the book’s introduction).

“When you come to one of the many moments in life where you must give an account of yourself, provide a ledger of what you have been, and done, and meant to the world, do not, I pray, discount that you filled a dying man’s days with a sated joy, a joy unknown to me in all my prior years, a joy that does not hunger for more and more but rests, satisfied.  In this time, right now, that is an enormous thing.”

Up next?

The Martian by Andy Weir (yes, I’m finally reading it)