Part 3: The World of Gail Carriger

Of course, Victorian England being one of my favourite time periods, how could I not fall in love with Carriger’s stories. In making her world a Steampunk universe, Carriger is able to include more progressive ideas that better suit Alexia and Sophronia’s characters and their tendencies toward academia (gasp!) and tendency to create or be involved in mayhem.

Victorian England – Queen Victoria makes several appearances in the Parasol Protectorate books being  magisterially approving of Alexia’s participation in the dominantly male world of her domain. She employs Alexia as mujah with the efficiency of a monarch accustomed to  running a global empire and expecting results from those under her command. The strict societal structure of Victorian England lends itself well to the inclusion of the fantastical werewolves and vampires of Carriger’s imagination. The best thing about Carriger’s inclusion of these supernatural creatures is that they’re written without the usual cliches but are not so unique that they seem completely foreign. With all creatures of excess and negative soul interacting diplomatically, Carriger’s England is a believable, layered world that encourages the plotting and investigation necessary to the intricate plots of Alexia’s world.

Steampunk – Navigating the world of fighting werewolves and vampires requires some imagination and what better way to combat supernatural elements than to include eccentric scientific inventions. Madame Lafoux brings a rationally scientific element to the campaign to balance the powers of the English upper class and their supernatural counterparts. The Order of the Octopus satisfies the element of scientific invention one expects in a Steampunk world while the adaptation of the Templars’ role in this world brings in a religious element one would expect in such a morally superior society. Even if the superiority is only in the minds of those who wield those morals like weapons.  My favorite inclusions are the dirigibles, the idea of ghosts used as political informants, and, of course, Alexia’s parasol. Blending fashion, invention, and practicality is a hallmark of the Steampunk world that Carriger navigates beautifully. Her description of these clever steamwork/clockwork contraptions never bogs the reader down in boring mechanics. There is the right amount of whimsy in each explanation without being overly scientific.

15 September 2014

Mon Reading Button PB to YAIt’s Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journeys. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It’s also a great chance to see what others are reading right now…who knows, you might discover that next “must read” book!
The lovelies at teachmentortexts.com thought this would be a fun meme to start up with a kidlit focus: anyone reading and reviewing books in children’s literature. It can be picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels – you name it in the world of kidlit and it’s in! I love being a part of this meme and hope you do, too! I encourage everyone participating to go and visit the other kidlit book bloggers that link up and to comment on as many posts as you can. We love talking books and believe in sharing and discussing what we’re reading. We hope you join us! Read more here: http://www.teachmentortexts.com/#ixzz2R9UNmFll

Completed in the last week: I finished reading The Magicians by Lev Grossman and Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly.

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Up Next: I have started Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige. When I finish listening to The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness, I’ll begin the second book in Grossman’s series

THUMBS UP to Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly

IMG_1126.JPGPUBLISHER: Disney Press

LENGTH: 340 pages

SOURCE: purchased

SUMMARY: The first in a series of four epic tales set in the depths of the ocean, where six mermaids seek to protect and save their hidden world.

Deep in the ocean, in a world not so different from our own, live the merpeople. Their communities are spread throughout the oceans, seas, and freshwaters all over the globe.

When Serafina, a mermaid of the Mediterranean Sea, awakens on the morning of her betrothal, her biggest worry should be winning the love of handsome Prince Mahdi. And yet Sera finds herself haunted by strange dreams that foretell the return of an ancient evil. Her dark premonitions are confirmed when an assassin’s arrow poisons Sera’s mother. Now, Serafina must embark on a quest to find the assassin’s master and prevent a war between the Mer nations. Led only by her shadowy dreams, Sera searches for five other mermaid heroines who are scattered across the six seas. Together, they will form an unbreakable bond of sisterhood and uncover a conspiracy that threatens their world’s very existence.

REVIEW: Someone told me a while back that mermaids would be the new vampires in YA publishing. I didn’t really believe them at the time but now books about mermaids seem to be making a splash?… popping to the surface?… surging ahead?… emerging on the shelves. (Sorry, I couldn’t help it.) So when I saw a new title with a delightfully blue-green cover adorned with a shimmery but mysterious looking mermaid that was also written by Jennifer Donnelly, I couldn’t resist.

Deep Blue is the first book in the Waterfire Saga and the world building is most impressive. Donnelly has created an underwater world reminiscent of Greek and Roman cultures. This world’s seas have their own mythology complete with gods, goddesses, and a set of witches similar to The Fates. The premise of the book is intriguing – subscribing the creation of the Mer world to the destruction of the lost city of Atlantis.

The characters and plot are somewhat predictable, but that doesn’t necessarily take away from the charm of the book. Serafina, the main character on whom the plot revolves, is a typical princess who suffers from the royal afflictions of privilege, pressure of position, and poutiness. Sera’s love interest Mahdi is appropriately princely with a tendency toward obliviousness. (Aren’t they all?) And halfway through the book she becomes enamored of the Mysterious and Dedicated Rebel. She goes through all the stereotypical stages of metamorphosis in becoming the steel-willed heroine at the end of the book who will lead readers on her quest through the rest of the saga. Sera conveniently finds her companions along the way (including the required surly/disbelieving member of the group), and they vow to save the Mer world or die trying.

The real treat of the book, though, is the consistent adaptation of land-going plot and description to fit the sea-going setting. Some of the modified cliches are a bit punny, but it is entertaining. They speak of money as “currensea” and talk of “beaching” as a possible parental consequence for misbehavior. While the teen characters have typical teen fears and worries, one is never allowed to forget that they are underwater creatures – a real feat. Hair floats, cuts sift instead of drip blood, and sea grass is a typical side dish at meals. It is these minor details that make the world seem tangible and save the story from being trite. I look forward to visiting Miromara again and seeing where Serafina’s quest will take her.

Overall an exciting, funny, and not-too-dark read for middle grades. It reminds me of Disney’s Kingdom Keepers series. Just enough action to keep you reading but not so scary as to make you keep the lights on at bedtime.

28 July 2014

Mon Reading Button PB to YAIt’s Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journeys. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It’s also a great chance to see what others are reading right now…who knows, you might discover that next “must read” book!
The lovelies at teachmentortexts.com thought this would be a fun meme to start up with a kidlit focus: anyone reading and reviewing books in children’s literature. It can be picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels – you name it in the world of kidlit and it’s in! I love being a part of this meme and hope you do, too! I encourage everyone participating to go and visit the other kidlit book bloggers that link up and to comment on as many posts as you can. We love talking books and believe in sharing and discussing what we’re reading. We hope you join us! Read more: http://www.teachmentortexts.com/#ixzz2R9UNmFll

Completed in the last month: I finished reading City of Heavenly Fire on audio completing the Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare. Also on audio I finished The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling). In hard copy I’ve read When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, Chains and Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson which leaves me anxiously awaiting the final book in the series, Ashes. I also completed E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars and Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith. I finally got around to reading Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell and am a little perturbed at myself for waiting so long.

Up Next: I have started The Eternity Cure on audio to continue the Blood of Eden series by Julie Kagawa. Once I’m finished with that, I will begin listening to Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo to complete the Grisha series.  My next hard copy book will be Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige. Cheers for summer reading!

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

AUTHOR: Patrick Ness

LENGTH: 224 pages

PUBLISHER: Candlewick

SOURCE: library

SUMMARY:  At seven minutes past midnight, thirteen-year-old Conor wakes to find a monster outside his bedroom window. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting– he’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments. The monster in his backyard is different. It’s ancient. And wild. And it wants something from Conor. Something terrible and dangerous. It wants the truth. From the final idea of award-winning author Siobhan Dowd– whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself– Patrick Ness has spun a haunting and darkly funny novel of mischief, loss, and monsters both real and imagined.

REVIEW: I have never read any of Siobhan Dowd’s books so I didn’t really know what to expect from this novel. I have read Ness’s Chaos Walking series though so I was pleasantly expectant. After reading A Monster Calls I intend to head to the library and collect all of Dowd’s book. Ness has crafted a singularly haunting tale of tragedy and acceptance that is at once engrossing and poignant.

This book is an achingly transparent look at how terminal illness affects family. Conor and his mother are treading water through life as Conor battles adolescence and his mother battles a terribly debilitating disease. With his father an ocean away, Conor has had to become parent and nursemaid while trying to navigate school and his fear of losing his mother. His grandmother begins to insert herself into their lives making Conor feel distrusted and useless.

When the monster begins to visit Conor, he is unsure of the monster’s intentions and wants to do whatever he can to dismiss the monster quickly. He had been expecting the monster from his nightmares but this monster is natural and wild and demanding. The monster being an organic and ancient being is fitting given the context of the book. Ness has given the monster a persona that is a good balance between menacing and mentoring, urging Conor to tell his own story. In the way of so many nightmarish creatures, the monster provides a focus for Conor’s rage and fear while bringing him closer and closer to the kernel of truth behind the monster’s visits.

The monster wants the thing from Conor that is hardest for most people to give: truth. Truth about himself and his nightmare and his love for his mother. Only when Conor is willing to be painfully honest about his own story, can the story itself be resolved. The subsequent climax is expected, inevitable, and heart breaking.

The illustrations in the novel add a Gothic feel to the tale making Conor seem equal parts victim and hero.  As the monster’s visits become more insistent and Conor’s reactions become more frantic, the illustrations become darker and more stark. The overall effect is one of stripping Conor down to his core to help him realize, as many do during adolescence, that sometimes our own worst enemy is our own emotion.

Ness has created an unforgettable tale of love and loss. It will resonate with anyone who has faced mortality head on and not been afraid to acknowledge their fear and helplessness in the face of pain. Ultimately it is a tale of hope and resilience sprung from fear. Prose for the soul.

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