Thursday, 9 July 2015

Review!: Books I read in June- The Gracekeepers, The Slow Regard of Silent Things, Exodus, The Summer Book, Clariel

I read lots of nice books this month including a few that have been on my tbr pile for ages. The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan, The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss, Exodus by Julie Bertagna, The Summer Book by Tove Jansson and Clariel by Garth Nix. 

The Gracekeepers
This book caught my eye a little while a go in Waterstones with its beautiful cover. (I read it on kindle so no beautiful cover for me, but I loved it very much so I might just have to get a hardcover copy.) The book is set in a version of the world, which is now mostly underwater so some people live on islands, Landlockers, but most people, Damplings, live on boats. North lives and works on a circus boat, which travels around islands, where she performs with her bear as one of the acts. Callanish lives in a house in the middle of the ocean, where she conducts funerals for Damplings. Their paths cross and they are drawn back to each other because they share something special in common. I especially loved the book for its selkies/seal-people element, which may or may not be the special thing in common. I found the world to be well built and explored, although I felt like I could have stayed in it for much longer. There are some amazing characters, particularly in the circus. All round thumbs up from me. I think it'd make for a good film, but only if it had a weird director to bring out the surreal-ness of the story.

The Slow Regard of Silent Things
Patrick Rothfuss introduces the book apologising, and also ends the book apologising for its strangeness and non-plot-like plot. He writes, if you haven't enjoyed this book, then it was probably just not for you, but he found that early readers who enjoyed it, really enjoyed it. This is really apparent on its Goodreads page where half of the reviews are "I will never get that time back!??" and the other half are "Wow, I connected on a deep level with Auri." I happily fall into the latter category. I really enjoyed this book. Learning more about the vastness of the Underthing through Auri's eyes was fascinating. I actually felt like I understood her connection and relationship with the objects and spaces she communicated with and inhabited. That a lengthy soap making scene could have me unable to put the book down, I guess tells you something about Rothfuss's writing and character building. The hints and clues to the previous use of spaces, now disconnected from the university above, were so intriguing. And was that Auri's own old lab she went to work in? Everything in its place. A beautiful tale from the Underthing.

I started reading this a couple of years ago, still had my place saved, and finally got around to finishing it. I'm not sure why I stopped in the first place but I couldn't stop this time. Living in Glasgow whilst reading this definitely adds to the magic of it. The university's steeple does indeed look like a wizard's hat. Also set in a world now mostly underwater, cities have been built up on stilts to avoid the rising sea levels. Mara and her family live in a community on an island called Wing, which is very quickly disappearing into those rising seas. They make the decision to leave, and travel boat to a place called New Mungo, the existence of which Mara has discovered in the virtual internet cyberspace world called the Weave. New Mungo is a city high in the sky, built above the old city of Glasgow. There is plenty of adventure, peril, future technology, sinister dystopian plans, tree people, overnight romances, and a good old rescue mission. I didn't realise it is the first in a trilogy, so I may well get around to reading the following two at some point. 

The Summer Book
I read this in one sunny day, sitting in a particularly good spot in the park. I love Tove Jansson for both moomins and her novels, so I've been ticking off and rereading her adult fiction. I think I've read this one before, but possibly a while ago so I couldn't really remember it. It is beautiful, simple, witty (I was caught giggling a few times, the Study of Angleworms particularly tickled me), set on tiny holiday island in the gulf of Finland with the relationship between six-year-old Sophia and her grandmother the focus. It doesn't grip you with action and adventure, but instead enchants you with its humour and charm. The quote on the back from Esther Freud sums it up rather well: " Eccentric, funny, wise, full of joys and small adventures. This is a book for life." The paperback english translations of Jansson novels published by Sort Of Books are really beautiful too, with flaps and quality paper and photographs of Jansson and her island. I recommend reading this on a perfect summer day!

Last but certainly not least, is Clariel sent to me by Hot Key Books! This is a long awaited prequel to Garth Nix's Old Kingdom trilogy, which I actually haven't read (although I'm planning to now) so I went into Clariel completely fresh faced and new to its world. Set 600 years before Sabriel, the first in the series, the book follows Clariel, a seventeen year old girl, who has recently moved with her parents to the walled city of Belisaere far away from her beloved Great Forest in her former home of Estwael. Her mother, a talented goldsmith, has been invited to Belisaere to join the High Guild of Goldsmiths, which means Clariel has to come too and attend a finishing school in the city. I really warmed to Clariel as a character, she had strong, clear motivations (to get back to the Great Forest), a lack of skills for Charter magic (which is out of fashion at this time in Belisaere anyway), no romantic interest whatsoever though some are interested in her (an aromatic teen character provides a perfect opposition to the usual love-at-first-sight narrative), and the capability to rescue herself (even if she's saved sometimes too). I was highly aware that I was probably missing references to the other books (is the cat character still about in Sabriel?) but I do intend on reading the trilogy and I'll probably have some dawning Ohhhhh! moments then.

That's it for June! This month so far I've gone YA contemporary with How To Be Bad, Vivian Versus America, and The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, and also plan to read Lorali, so Sabriel might have to wait another month.

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