Wednesday, May 28, 2014

What I read on the plane

Safely back from the south of France; still getting over jet lag, and haven't downloaded pictures yet, but I'll share a few as soon as I do. There's a reason why everyone always says, "Ah, Provence!"

So, did I get through that whole list of books I brought with me? Well, not quite. And I read a few I hadn't planned on. Here's what got me through all that waiting in airports and riding on trains and planes:

The Lego Movie. Have you seen this? Okay, it's not a book, but I watched it on the plane and it's hilarious! If you have ever played with Lego, or had kids who played with Lego, you must watch this movie!

Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis. Sometimes on a plane you don't have the mental energy to read something new. This one was on my iPod, and it happened to match the mood I was in, and Connie Willis is just brilliant. I had forgotten how funny this one is, even while it's also very sad. Time traveling historian gets stuck in the Middle Ages during the Black Plague; meanwhile a flu epidemic hits Oxford in the time she came from, so her colleagues can't retrieve her. Lovely parallelism, great building of suspense (you could teach a masterclass in pacing using this book), wonderful characters (including Dunworthy and Colin, whom you'll know if you've read her other time travel novels.) A classic. (If you've read it and want to share thoughts about it, I put a few ideas down in my Goodreads review.)

The Innocent Mage, by Karen Miller. This was a random pick from the library. (I have to bring a few paperbacks in case my iPod battery runs out!) It's a twist on the unknown-peasant-is-actually-the-prophesied-saviour-of-the-kindgom story, and you'll like it or not depending on how the main character rubs you. Asher is belligerent, uncouth, rude, obnoxious—and yet somehow he becomes best friends with the prince and is elevated to a high government position. I liked Asher, I believed in his friendship with Prince Gar, and I enjoyed his mostly unsuccessful struggle to fit in with the appalled courtiers. I still don't know how he's going to save the kingdom, because this book ends on a ridiculous cliffhanger, and I only brought the first book with me!

Ha'penny, by Jo Walton. One of the sequels I said I was going to read, and I did, and it's scary good. Also an excellent lesson in how to build suspense. Inspector Carmichael, who dealt with a murder in Farthing, is now investigating a bombing, which may or may not be part of a conspiracy to kill Hitler (this is an alternate-history in which Britain made peace with Hitler). Carmichael's point of view alternates with Viola Lark, who is playing Hamlet in a production that Hitler plans to visit. Each story has its own suspense, but the alternation between the two adds a whole different layer, as the reader watches their tragically ironic collision course play out in slow motion. It's terrifying how believable Walton makes Britain's slide into fascism.

These are all adult books that are perfectly appropriate for YA audiences (Doomsday Book has very realistic depictions of people dying of plague which might be disturbing, and in Ha'penny characters have sex behind closed doors.)

I'm saving the best for last: in fact, I'm going to save them for another post entirely! Yes, I read Laini Taylor's Dreams of Gods and Monsters, and yes, it was as wonderful as I was hoping, and I'll tell you all about it tomorrow!

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