19 January 2011

quick reads

gathering blue by lois lowry

the story and setting were intriguing and quickly pulled me through the pages. gathering blue is set in a very small scale futuristic society, which after war and upheaval, has developed very strict customs. there are some children with extraordinary talents that could change the (almost entirely) negative way of life. the story builds up anticipation for great changes but the conclusion is anticlimactic. the main character was not as quick on the uptake as i expected - she seems observant and intelligent, yet doesn't make some very obvious logical connections. instead her younger sidekick is the one who draws conclusions and acts. the closing scene showing the main character poised for action is not quite believable, as she didn't seem to have developed the brains and gumption for it. the book is perhaps too obviously written as a "teaching" book, focusing more on drawing the conflict between opposing ideas and leaving the discussion and resolution for the classroom. oh well. it was an ok read overall.

and, on a side note, are there any futuristic/rewritten history tales where the men are reduced to breeding and manly chores, and allowed no education or opinions? the stereotype of women being held back gets a bit old sometimes.

serenity: the shepherd's tale by zack and joss whedon

lots of anticipation was built into this graphic novel: at last the super secret background of shepherd book (from the firefly series) was to be revealed. the events go steadily back in time, illuminating the journey of book's life as if going through a dying man's memories. it was an interesting read, and an intriguing method of exposition, as the story jumped between scenes, often connected by a single word. the stream of memories revealed different sides of book's character and past. enough was revealed to answer the questions raised in the show, without too much explanation, and satisfied my curiosity. the simple telling fills out book's character as we already know him from the series. and hey, there was a jayne scene in there!

the particular sadness of lemon cake by aimee bender

this book came to my attention through a summer post on sur la lune, which i only read recently. luckily, there was no waiting list and i nabbed it from the library right away. i sat down to read for 15 minutes and ended up reading through the whole book in an afternoon. the prose is well-written and flows easily. the lack of punctuation in the conversations made them seem more like conversations, no commas or quotation marks for your eyes to hang up on.

overtly, the book's premise is the main character's ability to taste someone's emotions in the food they cook. what was truly fascinating was not the details of tasting someone else's unconscious emotions but examining flawed family relationships and different ways we keep people at a distance. the main character, rose, discovers her ability as she's turning 9 and the sudden knowledge of the hidden sides of others becomes a barrier for rose. rose's family is already emotionally distant and rose learns to hide from the negative and surprising emotions in food and rarely interacts with people directly. very slowly, events conspire to help rose realize there's more to people than the emotions she finds in their food.

rather like real life, there is no neat and tidy solution to everything, but rose begins to reach out to others and develop her own stunted emotions. food remains an intermediary, however, which is sort of disturbing. the lack of a clear conclusion was a bit annoying, too much like everyday life with its unfinished ends. leaving it open allows room for the imagination to continue where rose left off though, and consider possibilities for more open relationships with people without the need for any kind of intermediary. rose's talent/curse can be compared to experiences we all have growing up that can turn into walls between us and others, and her coming to terms with her experiences makes me wonder how far i've come in the same process. i will probably read this book again, which definitely counts as a thumbs up.

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