The Life of the World to Come, by Kage Baker

Erg. Excuse the funky cover–in fact, excuse the funky covers that the current printing of all the books in the Company series seem to have. They make me think of Reboot, but not in a fun, nostalgic way.

They look so generic and goofy–the covers, not the Reboot characters–and don’t match the fun, exciting, clever books inside them, more’s the pity, because more people (way more people) should be reading and loving Kage Baker.

I’m departing from the new format I’ve adopted from Jessica, mostly because this is the fifth book in a series and I want to avoid spoilers that come with all the published summaries. Normally I’m not the spoilers-avoiding type, but I want so badly to get someone, at least one person into this series so that we can talk about it! And if that means avoiding spoilers, then, by gum, I’ll do it.

Most of The Life of the World to Come follows a new character, Alec Checkerfield, Seventh Earl of Finsbury, who lives in the 24th Century and who is destined to meet Botanist Mendoza, our sometimes-narrator and heroine previously in the series, for reasons that become clear later on in the novel. There’s pirating, time travel, genetic engineering, and the impending Silence, when Dr. Zeus–the titular Company with the power to convey immortality upon certain mortals and send them back to the past–no longer knows what is to come. As Alec grows up, an idealistic young man with a love of old-fashioned pirates and the sea, he realizes that there’s something strange about himself, and when he comes to find out the truth of his origins, he decides that he’s going to do anything it takes to bring the Company down.

I have to hand it to the late, amazing Kage Baker: she knows how to hook you in. Woof. The Life of the World to Come answers a few questions from the previous novels, but creates a few more, and it’s only the fact that the library is closed that I’m not immediately bolting out the door to go check out The Children of the Company and marathon-read it to find out WHAT HAPPENS. It’s not just the story, although I will give the story its due; Kage Baker planted the seeds for some of the crazy stuff happening now early on, and as everything is starting to untangle and become clear, I’m left about as eloquent as Keanu Reeves. Yeah, whoa.

After five novels and one short story collection, I’m seriously devoted to the characters, even Alec, our new man on the scene. I did want to punch him occasionally, especially for underestimating Mendoza, but that’s fine! (Side note: I cannot help but envision Alec–at least, grown-up Alec–as played by one Benedict Cumberbatch:

Benedict Cumberbatch with his natural lighter hair, anyway. He’s got the eyes and the cheekbones and everything!) The point is, the characters are funny and complex and imperfect and real and human–even the non-human ones. Some old characters come back on the scene towards the end (although I’m still left wondering if we’ll see Lewis again, my lovely bookish Lewis). Kage Baker writes such thoughtful, interesting science-fiction, and I’m glad I still have four or five novels and a short story collection to go, because I’ll be sad to see the series off, as much as I want to rip through it at the expense of sleep and work.

Plus, there are little unexpected bits where it’s just so funny:

Christmas was a very popular month, in the year 2350. (p. 181)

Come on. Tell me that’s not funny. Tell me that Christmas as a month isn’t funny. (Funny slash scary slash practically true anyway.) The books are witty and clever and also sometimes rip your heart out of your chest, but in a way that doesn’t give you total whiplash from the humor of things.

Most of this may sound like gibberish to those of you who haven’t read the series, but that’s what I’m saying! Go! Go get them! Start with In the Garden of Iden! Right now, people! I’ll wait. Then come back here and we’ll have a little chat. And you can back me up on the Cumberbatch thing.

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Traveling on Tuesday – St. Vincent & the Grenadines

St. Vincent and the Grenadines
Population: 120,000
Biggest City: Kingstown (appr. 25,000)

This is a small country, so there isn’t a wide and varied literature to choose from. Here’s what I could find:

Shake Keane (1927-1997) was a poet and musician from Kingstown. He published five poetry collections from 1950 to 1994 and there is one posthumous collection of his previously unpublished work, published in 2005.

Richard Morris Dey was (is?) another poet. It looks like there are no collections of his still in print, but some of his poems can be found online.

G.C.H. Thomas seems to have published only one book, Ruler in Hiroona, which is out of print, but looks awesome and political. I’ll be keeping my eye out for it!

H. Nigel Thomas is a current (finally!) Vincentian author, though he moved to and still lives in Canada. He has books in print! (Good lord. You don’t know how much time I’ve spent on this dang post.) Okay! Thomas writes about immigrants, mostly, and coming of age. His Return to Arcadia looks most exciting to me, but his other available books are Behind the Face of Winter, Spirits in the Dark (this one is a close second for me, though dang it being out of print!), and a short story collection, Lives: Whole or Otherwise.

Last and least (b/c I’m prioritizing homegrown authors), Canadian author Margaret Atwood’s book, Bodily Harm, takes place on a fictional Caribbean island supposedly based on (and where Atwood spent a few years/months?) Bequia, one of the northern islands of the Grenadines.

And that’s all she wrote. Anybody have stronger Google foo than me? I would love to hear that I missed something!

The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

I’ve been busy, ya’ll. Busy reading, that is! Here’s my list for the year:

1. Sailing to Saratium by Guy Gavriel Kay
2. Farm 54 by Galit and Gilad Seliktar
3. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
4. The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
5. The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
6.  Taylor’s Temptation by Suzanne Brockmann

So on track to pass the 50 book challenge! Now, Mary promised me she would write a review for TFiOS with me, so I’m not going to talk about that right now, but here are three short reviews for the others:

The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner: This is 2nd world YA fantasy and a really fun adventure. I had some… misplaced expectations that weirded out my reading of the book. For instance, I spent about half of the book thinking that Gen, the main character, was a girl in disguise. This is not the case. Regardless of my own silliness, I can’t wait to read the rest of the series. Especially since I’ve heard that the romance in the later books (there’s none in this one) is fantastic.

The only bothersome thing was there there are no female main characters, but you know what? Not every book has to. There’s space in this world for books with no women – especially when it makes sense in the setting and plot, especially when there are only five characters who have more than a few lines. Plus, I know that in the later books there are plenty of women. A lack of racial or gender or sexuality diversity is most damning as a pattern over a large oeuvre of work. Looking over all of Terry Pratchett’s work, for instance (which I bring up because I just read Tia’s review of Going Postal over at Reading in Skirts), you see a serious minority of female characters, both main and supporting, that is a problem.

The other thing that I thought about while reading this book was, How many other awesome YA books have I missed from the 80s and 90s?! This is like… not discovering Tamora Pierce or Mercedes Lackey or Gail Carson Levine (bad example for me as I only read Ella Enchanted in high school) or Garth Nix or… Augh! It’s terrifying to think. Guys, what am I missing?!

Huh, that got longer than I thought it would. Guess I’ll talk about Name of the Star (so good, you guys) and Taylor’s Temptation another day! Ta!

Questions of Book Lust

Gosh, do I love a good book meme. This one is from the Barefoot Medical Student. Somehow this post became full of hot men – I honestly don’t know how it happened, but enjoy!

Imagine you sit in front of a fireplace. You read and beside you there is a cup with something hot in it. What would that be in your case: tea, coffee or hot chocolate?

Depending on the night, either tea or hot chocolate. More likely tea, because I have waaaaay more of it!

If an author gave you the chance to rewrite or to change the fate of a book character, who would you chose?

Huh. I’m not sure that I would want to change canon, ever. I thought it would be interesting for (probably not surprising SPOILER for Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson) Rory to die at the end and then fight crime or whatever as a ghost in the next books. I’m happy to have her be alive, though, of course! (END SPOILER)  Maybe I would change the end of Northanger Abbey so that Catherine grows up a couple more years before she and Mr. Tilney get together. I love Mr. Tilney, but I really don’t get what he sees in Catherine (aka he should be with me).

Oh, Mr. Tilney, you saucy minx! Smile at me like any time.

Did your parents read stories to you when you were little? If yes are there any special ones you remember the most?

My dad would make up stories for my little brother and me. We would each name a character and an object (a bard and a green umbrella!) and my dad would make up a short story incorporating them. I know that they both read stories to me when I was little, but I remember more reading anything I could get my hands on to myself.

What do you like more the smell of old antiquarian books or the smell of new fresh ones you just bought?

Doesn’t matter! Some old books and some new books smell boring. Really, though, I love the smell of most books. Old books and new ones just have different smells, not better or worse.

You get the opportunity to choose between two secret talents: either to be able to make things come to life through reading them or the gift to read yourself into a book. Which one would you like to have?

Mr. Thornton, who has nothing to do with anything except for his being a Sex God.

Is it terrible that the first thing I’m imagining is my favorite (sexy, sexy) heroes like the aforementioned Mr. Tilney coming to life? I guess I would rather be able to go into books, as long I could make my way out of them at will.

Do you have a favorite children’s book or a favorite fairy tale?

I loved Matilda and Pippi and the Little Mermaid (anything by Hans Christian Andersen) and and…

Someone would talk to your friends and ask them to compare you to a book character. With whom do you think would they compare you?

No idea! Friends, any opinions? :P

Tell me the name of a writer whom you would like to have as a friend.

JKR, Markus Zusak (this is shallow – he is hot), China Mieville (same reason), Peter Beagle (not the same reason), idk really. A lot of YA authors seem awesome.

Aww, yeeeeeeah, Markus Zusak.

 

You can hide in a written down world for only one night – into which world do you escape?

Hogwarts augh Hogwarts is the immediate thing that comes to mind. I suppose that also depends slightly on what I’m escaping from, right? I need more details for a definitive answer!

Something terrible happens: you have to flee to an unknown place and all you can take with you are three books of all the ones you own. Which three ones do you put into your bag?

I assume that taking my nook would be considered cheating. Well, tough cookies, because that’s like the whole point of having an e-reader. So:

1) My nook
2) The Last Unicorn, I guess? It’s the kind of book that I am happy to pick up, turn to a random page, and revel in its beauty.
3) For similar reasons, Invisible Cities.

Storms, Cats, Reading, and Rituals

It’s been storming out here in California, which I love (just for the record). The cats, though, aren’t convinced that it even is raining. They keep wanting to go outside, so I open the door, they run gleefully out, are flabbergasted by what is beneath their paws and increasingly on their fur and, for the most part, slink back inside.

This is Nousha. She’s our youngest, by a good ten years, and has not yet decided which she can’t stand more: the rain or being stuck inside all day. So instead of slinking back inside, Nousha will often make a different choice and run out further into the rain. When she comes back in, soaking wet, we engage in a sacred and time-honored ritual.

Here’s how it goes: I turn up the thermostat a degree or two and go to the bathroom, with her trotting behind me. Then I settle in front of the heater, throw a towel on my lap, and she jumps up. She needs some pets after being out in that horrid, icky, awful rain FOR FOREVER because she really wanted to come in ten minutes ago but I wasn’t at the door(!) and if I really loved her I would make it not rain at all. But she’ll settle for some pets. If she’s really wet, I give her a quick rubdown, otherwise I just let her clean herself. Then I try to read, but end up mostly watching her, for however long the heater runs. When it turns off (always too soon), I toss her off my lap, open the door and she runs out, ready to cause some havoc. She’s dry, I’ve read a little and warmed up a little, and we’ve had some good human-owner (haha) bonding time.

Life is good. :)

Book Beginnings on Friday: January 20, 2012

Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme hosted at A Few More Pages.

How to participate: Share the first line (or two) of the book you are currently reading on your blog or in the comments. Include the title and the author so we know what you’re reading. Then, if you would like, let us know what your first impressions were based on that first line, and let us know if you liked or did not like the sentence. The link-up will be at A Few More Pages every Friday and will be open for the entire week.

I am reading a few books, but let me share a couple of lines from my newest book, The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson.

The eyes of London were watching Claire Jenkins.
She didn’t notice them, of course.

Those are from the prologue, and I can’t help but share my favorite quote from the book so far from the protagonist, Rory:

I know you’re not supposed to judge people when you first meet them–but sometimes they give you lots of material to work with.

Hahahahahahahahaha, I love Maureen Johnson and I can tell I’m going to love Rory.