Title: All the Birds in the Sky
Author: Charlie Jane Anders
Length: 319 pages
Genre: literary sci-fi
Where Bethany’s copy came from: IndyPL
Plot Basics: Patricia and Laurence are two outsiders — she, apparently, is a witch and can talk to birds and he is a geek of the first-degree, building time machines and AI interfaces in his bedroom. They become friends in middle school, trying to stick up for each other when the world seems against them. But, sinister forces tear their friendship apart. Until 10 year later when they reunite in San Francisco on opposite side of what might be a war for the planet, pitting magic against science.
Banter Points: Thank goodness for The Morning News Tournament of Books or I might never have encountered this quirky gem of a novel. When #ToB2017 announced the short list, I realized with some level of chagrin, that I hadn’t read any of this year’s choices. I read the descriptions and “All the Birds in the Sky” was the one to pick up immediately.
For all the kids who grew up on Harry Potter, this is the next book for them. Anders has crafted a serious and yet charming book with a plot line that hangs on the edge of apocalyptic/dystopian fiction. She edges up to that line — major world disasters are hinted at, but never fully explained — in such a way that creates a wonderful blend of tension but doesn’t take the reader away from the main story. It’s really a book about friendship and fate and big picture questions about science and magic, all while retaining a heart and a soul.
Bummer Points: This book isn’t any one thing which might aggravate some readers. It’s not just a story about friendship. And it’s not hardcore disaster sci-fi. It’s both. Additionally, Anders makes some jumps and then goes back to tell the reader what happened. I’m sure she had her reasons, but I had to wonder if a straight-line narrative would have worked just as well.
Word Nerd Recommendation: I’ve already gotten one co-worker to pick this up after a #FridayReads post and I highly suspect this is 2017’s first pusher book of the year.
ToB Thoughts: To read the Opening Round critique of “All the Birds in the Sky,” click here.
Tomorrow it’s up against Colson Whitehead’s “The Underground Railroad,” which just seems highly unfair. I haven’t read “Underground Railroad,” not for lack of interest, but more for lack of time, but I suspect it’s going to sail through the Quaterfinals. I’ve got my fingers crossed that tomorrow’s judge will go for the upset, not because Whitehead’s book about race is not timely and important, but because Anders’ book about science, magic and friendship speaks to a different zeitgeistic (can I make that an adjective?) element and one that we’re not talking about very much.
Title: Black Dawn (Morganville Vampires #12)
Author: Rachel Caine
Length: 370 pages
Genre: YA Fantasy/vampire
Plot Basics: Fearless foursome Claire, Shane, Eve and Michael have gone up against their share of bad guys in Morganville, Texas, secret vampire stronghold town. But that was before the draug — the thing vampires are scared of — shows up. Nothing is the same in town and it’s an all out war. The four friends will have to learn how to re-trust each other if they have any chance of keeping their town alive.
Banter Points: I have every intention of finishing this series and have for a few years. I also am making a new intention of writing well-put-together reviews of them. This is series where I got blurbed, and yes, on the back of this one, is my oh-so-poignant statement: “Fans of Twilight should really check this out.” Because it’s better. Because that was a review written in the hey-day of Twilight madness and I was doing my self-appointed duty to try to point out other, better books.
First, I think Caine must have studied at the Joss Whedon school of “how to hurt your characters” because she definitely stepped it up in this one. I’ve always liked her as a writer because of how well she raises the stakes at the end of each book. All her characters have to face real and imagined losses in this book.
Second, this series remains a great page-turner. Twelve books and it’s not getting rote or repetitive. Yes, the basics of the four friends keeping each other safe and going up against the bad guys is the same, but Caine continues to invent new and different circumstances.
Bummer Points: The big, and flawed, difference between Caine and Whedon is that the main characters aren’t ever really in danger. She does a good job of breaking the relationships between Eve and Michael and Shane and Claire, but she also put them back together. I think Whedon would have left one of them fractured and forced them to keep working together through it until it was really fixed or irreparable.
Word Nerd Recommendation: These books are great for readers in their late teens/20s. The action keeps the books going and the relationships presented are far healthier examples.
This second day is always like a kick in the pants. Especially tough after being awakened in the middle of the night by… wait for it… a snoring cat.
One Word Nerd is studying her brains out. The other of us is trying to stay on top of a mounting pile of deadlines.
Title: The Shadowed Sun (The Dreamblood #2)
Author: N. K. Jemisin
Length: 492 pages
Plot Basics: Ten years have passed since the end of “The Killing Moon,” and the once-powerful city of Gujaareh is still under the rule of the Kisuati. Wanahomen, the exiled Prince, is working to regain his city but it will take all the political manueverings with nobles, the army and the magical Hetawa to do so. But, for Hanani, a Sharer left with Wanahomen as a hostage, the conquest will also try her faith as a magical, dreaming plague presents a new danger.
Banter Points: As good at The Killing Moon was, for once, a sequel definitely surpassed the original. Wanahomen and Hanani — the two protagonists — were much more relate-able as characters. Also, the plot had a brisker pace than the first one.
Bummer Points: There are no more books in this series yet. Jemisin says she has more ideas, but nothing sounds like it’s on the horizon for this series.
Word Nerd Recommendation: Definitely worth reading both.
Yep, the Fate of the Part-Time Bachelor sounds like a winner to me.
I’ve been reading a ton of recipes lately, so much so that I wonder if I can add the America’s Test Kitchen Slow Cooker Revolution book to my book list.
I got a delayed start on it, but I did want for the new year to make more real food for our lunches and pack fewer frozen dinners.
So far, I’ve made it three weeks, though I’m finding that one crockpot of soup is only lasting for about three days for both of us.
Yesterday, I made three things: 1) Curried chickpea soup; 2) Chicken enchilada soup; and 3) ground turkey ragout.
Two out of three were winners, but I think the ragout recipe will end up in the recycle bin. It’s two primary ingredients were tomatoes and white wine, and that’s pretty much all I can taste.
I’ve got more new recipes on deck for the next weekend. Here’s hoping that reading is better!