September 20, 2007

laced with my doubt

Posted in books tagged , at 8:46 pm by placeinthestars

So while I was sick I did some reading. I read Gifts, Voices, and Powers by Ursula LeGuin. I don’t know if I’ve ever really talked about it, but though I haven’t read most of her books, I am a huge admirer of LeGuin’s writing. The Tombs of Atuan is one of my favorite books of all time, and I cannot even measure the influence it has had on me as a reader and writer (and person). So when I saw on goodreads that she had a new YA trilogy out (I think it was R [a different R] who mentioned it, and gave Voices a positive review), I picked it up last week.

spoilers for all three books

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September 16, 2007

they don’t erase this secret smile

Posted in books tagged , at 7:46 pm by placeinthestars

I finished The Lies of Locke Lamora this afternoon.

I enjoyed it a lot, though it’s much darker and bloodier than I expected from something billed as a cross between Robin Hood and Ocean’s 11. It starts slowly but the pace picks up and after the first third, it’s quite compelling. I didn’t see all the twists coming, and a couple of them are quite clever.

Locke and Jean are the most successfully drawn characters, though Locke is still sort of impenetrable for large portions of the book. The narrative style holds the reader at a distance most of the time, and there’s always some obfuscation involved, which makes sense, as they are highly skilled con men.

The world-building is interesting, if you’re into that, and all the little interludes do come back and play a part in the main story, so they’re not wastes of time or just the author wanting to share every last detail of the world he’s created.

I have the second book waiting for me in my desk at work (it’s a pretty hefty hardback, not something I really wanted to carry around when carrying a couple of other books around), and I’m looking forward to reading it.

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September 14, 2007

“Only through suffering will you have peace.”

Posted in books tagged , at 11:47 am by placeinthestars

Did I mention that I finished Snow Flower and the Secret Fan? I don’t think I did. I enjoyed it, and found it compelling; I also thought it was terribly sad and, at some points, downright horrifying (I was seriously queasy at the description of foot binding and how inflicting that pain on six and seven-year-old girls was considered a sign of love and favor. and also a way to advance the family fortunes.).

It’s about two girls – Lily and Snow Flower – in 19th c. China who become laotong, or old sames, sworn best friends for life, and it follows them through their lives. The prose is evocative, graceful and lyrical, and the book itself a quick and easy read. Lily, the narrator, is sympathetic even when her flaws drive her to nastiness. It’s a poignant life-long love story between these two girls through the ups and downs of foot binding, marriage, childbirth, famine, and other hard times. The thing that drew me to the story was the use of nu shu, or the “secret” women’s writing that allowed these girls (and others) to communicate when their lives were so circumscribed, and it’s well used in the story.

I thought it did a really good job illuminating the complexities of friendships between women, especially the stupid tiny jealousies and petty slights that fester underneath the veneer of courtesy, and how easy it is to misunderstand when everything depends on context (as it does in nu shu, apparently), and the pain those misunderstandings cause.

It’s a lovely book and I’d recommend it, especially if you like historical “women’s stories.”

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