It’s the Alaskan version of magical realism

I spent most of my last two weeks on vacation in Alaska. It was lovely: cold and wet and we spent lots of time outside and saw snow and wildlife and learned about native plants and animals.

In Ketchikan, I visited the local bookstore and bought a copy of To The Bright Edge of the World – what better thing to read than a book about the place you are?

We follow two stories in To The Bright Edge of the World: Colonel Allen Forrester and his initial explorations of Alaska for the United States government in the 1880s, and his new wife, Sophie Forrester, who was supposed to go with him until she found out she was pregnant. The book starts out with magical realism: Raven is the trickster god of Alaskan Native culture and features as a character, but the book is also very much grounded in reality.

I like how it captures both the struggle and romanticism of life in cold, barren Alaska. I also like how Sophie, stuck in Vancouver, Washington, changes as a person while her husband is gone.

Definitely recommended.

Let’s go to the circus

Adventures, full of mystery and romance… Isn’t that the ur-story, the platonic ideal of a tale well-told? Maybe it’s just me.

That’s what Caraval wants to be, but it falls short. It’s a fine YA book full of adventure and mystery and romance, along with victims of abuse who learn that they don’t have to be victims. Why did it fall short? There were bits that weren’t clear, plot-wise. There were bits that wanted to be grand that just came off as showy. There were bits that just weren’t explained (but this is apparently the first of a trilogy, so perhaps that was intentional).

It definitely was entertaining on a hot summer day, and for that, it fit the bill perfectly. So it is recommended, but don’t expect great amazing things from it.

Let’s go on a quest

six of crows

Six of Crows was surprisingly fun. It’s not particularly original – six mismatched almost-adults are thrown together to break into an un-break-in-able prison. Will they make it? How will they do it? Who will pair up?

But it’s a good world – there’s a previous trilogy I’m going to go hunt down to learn more about the various lands and their people and exactly who has magical powers and how they got them.

Also: Two strong female characters. Adventure! Excitement! Cunning and derring-do! Escaping an impossible situation or two!

This has summer read written all over it.

Surviving Mars

What’s it about?
Watch the trailer. It’ll do a better job describing it than I ever could.

Why should you read it?
Because The Martian is a damn good adventure story. Take a normal, albeit gifted, person and strand him on Mars. What are the challenges? What will go wrong? How will he deal with it? It moves at a good clip, though there are parts where it bogs down a bit. Switching between his viewpoint and NASA’s is an effective way to take care of the parts where it gets slow.

I should tell you: this book is *heavy* on the engineering, and it’s very Macgyver-y. It was initially self-published and I suspect that if it had gone through the normal publishing process most of the math & science would have been edited out. But it’s in there, and it helps the story because so much of the action is centered around using science to make sure he lives.

Real-world adventure

just one day

 

What’s it about?
Just One Day is a young adult novel about – what else – figuring out who you are. Plot-wise, it’s about a sheltered 18-year-old girl who travels to Europe with a tour group, meets a boy, runs off to Paris, and then he disappears on her. But it’s love, true love, and so she pines for him for awhile before getting off her butt and looking for him. It’s about how she grows as a person, figuring out who she wants to be, not just who her parents think she is.

Why should you read it?
It’s cute. I picked it up because I saw a recommendation online talking about what a brave person the main character is. And to a degree that’s true. She’s not running around in a war situation (the go-to male bravery experience), but she is getting out into the world, making decisions for herself, and that can be terrifying at 18/19. Just One Day provides a good template for how to do it responsibly.