Jun 10, 2014

Brazen, by Katherine Longshore

Katherine Longshore is having an event at my bookstore, so we decided to base the first meeting of our teen book club around her three young adult novels about women living at court during the reign of Henry VIII. "Brazen," her third, comes out in a couple of days, so as soon as we got it in the store, I started reading it. And didn't stop. I read the entire thing in less than 24 hours, which I think might be some kind of record for me. It's a really fun book, with a charming, interesting heroine.

Mary Howard is married to the king's illegitimate son Henry FitzRoy when they are both just 14 years old. Forbidden to consummate their marriage until they have reached adulthood, Mary and Fitz spend the next three years playing an incredibly awkward game of romantic hide-and-seek. Told in the first person by Mary, we wonder along with her whether this marriage, which dramatically raises her social standing, will free her from the grasp of her horrific mother or instead become her new prison. Mary must often decide between duty and loyalty, self-interest and selflessness, and though the Tudor court is very different from our own culture, these decisions are faced by teens everywhere, all the time. I especially loved the way Longshore gives Mary a type of synesthesia: Mary loves poetry and words, and each word has a distinctive taste. These synesthetic remarks are sprinkled throughout the book, and they give the narrative a lovely richness. I can't wait to talk about this with the members of our teen book club, and to meet Longshore at her reading!

Jun 9, 2014

A Moveable Feast (Restored Edition), by Ernest Hemingway

I'm a little embarrassed to say that I, a bookseller, have never read Hemingway, and that it took someone else picking this for our bookstore's book club for me to read anything by him; but it's the sad truth. I had a bit of a problem with the first chapter, which I found myself reading in the voice of the actor who played Hemingway in Woody Allen's movie "Midnight in Paris," but that quickly disappeared. He certainly had a distinctive writing voice; few contractions, fewer commas, long sentences. I enjoyed it, it was very interesting to get a glimpse of one of history's most fruitful moments, and I especially enjoyed his description of Scott Fitzgerald. I really look forward to discussing this with our group.

Jun 4, 2014

Blue Mars, by Kim Stanley Robinson

I've finally finished this epic trilogy! Like the first two books, "Blue Mars" follows different members of the First Hundred, the first people to land and live on Mars, and who started (or fought against) the terraforming project. Earth is in shambles, since the melting of half of the Antarctican ice shelf caused the sea levels to rise significantly, and their desire to relocate refugees to Mars causes no end of problems for the new Martians. Meanwhile, the planet is quickly changing, there are gardens and farms and wild animals of all sizes, and vast seas. Another problem: they've invented a way to cure old age, so people are living well into their 200s, albeit with some problems with their memories, and now population pressures are very sudden. Robinson describes all these things with incredible attention to scientific detail, so much so that some parts are simply a blank for me, as I can't understand them as well as I would like. I also started to notice that Robinson writes very long sentences, and very long paragraphs, with lots of colons and semi-colons. Generally, I don't mind that kind of style, but in a 750-page book, it becomes a bit wearing. But the research he must have done is staggering; I'm so glad I read these books, and look forward to recommending them to other hard sci-fi readers.