Saturday, August 31, 2013

Russia, pseudo Russia, birthing, and hijacking

Belle EpoqueBelle Epoque by Elizabeth Ross

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Really interesting premise with a straightforward execution. A good portrait of 1880s Paris.

Shadow and Bone (The Grisha, #1)Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I felt like an 8-year-old devouring The Dark is Rising all over again while reading this book. My favorite element may have been the pseudo-Russia in which the story takes place. The geography and language were easy for me to pick up - I'm not altogether sure it wouldn't be a deterrent to someone else, though. It's a lot to absorb in a relatively short book.

If you think you'd like to see Graceling set in revolutionary Russia, give this one a try.

I can't resist pointing out another favorite part (spoiler alert, sorry): I really appreciated the "twist" (not the best word, but it was unexpected) with The Darkling and Alina's relationship. For once, the Mysterious Loner Dude who is 120+ years old and never smiles and is kind of brooding and perhaps mildly possessive and stalker-y...turns out to be a really bad guy. So all those icky feelings you had when she seemed to be falling in love with him are totally validated. I think that's a first for a YA book like this. Huzzah! END SPOILER

Nicholas and AlexandraNicholas and Alexandra by Robert K. Massie

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Massie makes everything readable. This was almost as smooth as Catherine the Great, but without the whitewashing of sources. In this telling, Rasputin is a clear villain and the imperial family are semi-blameless victims. I suspect that a different writer could take the same facts and spin them the other way, at least a little bit.

But the version of history given in this book rings true to me. A very fascinating read for anyone interested in the fall of the Romanovs, and it's amazing to think that at the time it was first published (1967), many of the peripheral characters were still alive.

Death Comes to PemberleyDeath Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


Raise your hand if your favorite characters from Pride and Prejudice were Colonel Fitzwilliam, Denny, and Wickham. Anyone? Anyone?? Didn't think so. Well, here is a whole book about them. Enjoy!

Seriously, what is up with this book? It is tedious in multiple ways - it rehashes way too much from P&P. I could understand a little brushing up on the main points, but we don't need paraphrases of entire key scenes from that book, including dialogue. Also, the central crime that is committed is, at its heart, completely uninteresting, but doggone it if we don't get to read about it from 30 different perspectives, many different times!

And the resolution? Almost impossible to follow, and absolutely impossible to figure out on your own. No fun at all.

Plus, this woman (James) does not use punctuation like I do. Here is a passage plucked at random to show you what I mean:

"He walked to the witness stand as normally as if taking a morning stroll, gave a short bow to the judge, took the oath and stood waiting for Cartwright to begin the examination with, Darcy thought, the slightly impatient air of a professional soldier with a war to be won, who was prepared to show proper respect for the court while distancing himself from its presumptions."


Great idea, poor execution. That is all.

The Skies Belong to Us: Love and Terror in the Golden Age of HijackingThe Skies Belong to Us: Love and Terror in the Golden Age of Hijacking by Brendan I. Koerner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.5 stars.

I read this using an ePub reader app on my computer, and I'm glad I did. While this book mentions pretty much every instance in the hijacking epidemic of the 60s-70s, it does not give much detail on any of them except the one that forms the central drama (Holder and Kerkow, pictured on the cover). Since I was reading on my computer, I was able to look up any other incidents that sounded interesting from the brief treatment given them in the book.

I think the most enlightening part of this book is its illustration of how the modern airport security process came to be. There was a time when an actual attitude that existed was, "people will never stand to have their luggage searched before boarding a plane! Imagine the cost and time commitments! Also, what are we going to do, restrict entry to the boarding area to only those people who actually hold tickets?? Absurd!" Indeed.

Found in Translation: How Language Shapes Our Lives and Transforms the WorldFound in Translation: How Language Shapes Our Lives and Transforms the World by Nataly Kelly

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The underlying, constant refrain of this book is, "have you ever noticed how the world runs on translation?" If your answer to that question is, "well, actually, yes," then this book will be of only mild interest to you. This was the case for me since I used to work at a translation company and I have a degree in linguistics and we've lived overseas for a while. Almost nothing this book had to say was new to me, down to the particulars of some of the central anecdotes. And that's ok, because:

If you really have never given the above question much thought, then this book will be a treat. It is a very anecdotal, non-technical, unintimidating look at the world of translation and interpretation, and will probably change the way you look at the next bilingual road sign or instruction manual that you see, and perhaps the world in general.

I recommend it, but only for those who are interested in learning more about the role of translation in the world but don't know much about it.

The Gift of Giving Life: Rediscovering the Divine Nature of Pregnancy and BirthThe Gift of Giving Life: Rediscovering the Divine Nature of Pregnancy and Birth by Felice Austin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The beauty of this book is that there is something here for everyone. You can find beautiful essays about natural home births, beautiful essays about scheduled c-sections, and everything in between. It's all here. All are welcome and I think all will come away from this book edified.

Thanks to my MIL for letting me steal her copy!


Crys said...

I loved shadow and bone, so much so that I bought storm and siege the next book in the series the day it came out. I hardly ever buy books :)

Suzanne Bubnash said...

A book that would pair well with The Skies Belong to Us (which I have not read), is Cockpit Confidential by pilot Patrick Smith (am almost finished with now). He answers common questions, describes a pilot's less-than-glamorous life, discusses airport security, etc.

I have learned plenty from this book. So far he has not addressed a petty issue that bugs me on a flight. When a movie is being shown we are asked to put down our window shades. Well, I purposely reserve a window seat so that I can enjoy the scenery, even if it is only fluffy clouds. I never watch the in-flight movie because I'm too cheap to pay for headphones, and I can rarely see the screen anyway (I do watch when the screen is in the seat in front of me). Why should I be obligated to give up my enjoyment for the movie watchers? So I don't shut my window and no one has complained, yet.


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