Read harder Challenge: Could be – A book about war
Star Review: ♥♥♥ /5
Why: A good read for fans of Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake series. This book has some really compelling characteristics. It starts as a sci-fi or dystopian fiction, and I love a story that starts right in the middle of the action. This book really challenges the reader to develop their schema as quickly as possible so they don’t miss what’s happening. I know some people don’t like this, but it really works for me. The first two thirds of the book follow the story line of two characters who have had their memories taken away, and who seem fated to find each other. The suspense of this part of the book was extremely well-handled and as a result I found myself continuing the story despite lingering confusion based on some incomplete world-building.
The last third of the book follows two different, but connected stories, and this part veers hard into the historical fiction genre. While the connection between the stories themselves continues to have an element of science fiction, I really didn’t like the drastic shift, and given Glenn Haybittle’s previously published work, it really felt as though the author didn’t have the stamina to continue the fresh, edgy story and switched to something with which they were more comfortable. That being said, the first two thirds of the story had already invested me in seeing it through until the end, so the timing on taking this risk paid off. The ending is super open-ended.
I would be willing to recommend The Memory Tree to someone, but only if they are admitted fans of science fiction and historical fiction in equal measure. While I thought there were some interesting liberties taken in the dystopian fiction genre, I thought the execution fell flat and so while I finished, I didn’t feel pushed to in the exhilarating way that really exceptional fiction does.
Title: Are We Screwed? How a New Generation is Fighting to Survive Climate Change
Author: Geoff Dembicki
Read harder Challenge: No
Star Review: ♥♥♥ /5
Why: This book provides important context and insight for the continuing fight against climate change. As a millennial, I was especially interested in the perspective of the author regarding the specific challenges millennials face when considering climate change as a long-term threat. I thought the book was a good balance of old information (why climate change is important, why climate change is real), and several premises about how millennials are specially affected and have specifically attacked the problem – the author posits that some of these solutions are millennial specific. I thought the tone was a little young – millennials are hitting their 30s now, and I don’t think the “chip on the shoulder, not allowed to sit and the big kids table” angle fit with me as a millennial, in addition to edging really near the edge of overgeneralizing about a whole bunch of people (namely, a global cohort of individuals within a certain age range – especially since most data was extremely US and Canada-centric). I become more interested in the individual stories and examples woven in became much more compelling as the book went on (I hated the first guy, a dude trying out self-sustainable farming in Canada), and found myself eager to read the second half of the book, which was solutions-oriented. At the end of the day, it contributes to the discussion and does a great job of researching and bringing together disparate voices into the context of a larger movement. I left with enough hope to feel empowered to take action.
Why: I read this book before Carrie Fisher’s unfortunate passing, but during a Renaissance of excitement for her as Star Wars regained some of its popularity in recent years. I am a Star Wars fan but not a fanatic, so I was interested in this book but with not a lot of real information about the period of time Fisher would be discussing.
Fisher describes the time she spent filming Star Wars, with lots of appearances and descriptions of people known well in the world – her mother, Harrison Ford, you know, just a few names we know. She gives a run-down of her acting career before Star Wars.
I sought out this book having hear Carrie Fisher speak on podcasts like The Nerdist, but haven’t read anything from her. I was glad to have listened to the audiobook, narrated by the author, and I thought the content was mildly interesting. I gave it fewer stars than perhaps would be expected for two (interconnected) reasons: first, I was just not that interested in this time in her life (being a fan and not a fanatic), and two, I found her self-deprecating tone too much by the end. Of course, I prefer self-deprecation over ego or over-confidence! But I find the tone for a well-to-do white person can be hard to balance, and it wasn’t working for me by the end.
I am glad for the experience of this book but will probably only find myself recommending this one to folks who show interest Carrie Fisher’s life in detail, rather than as a moment in a cultural landscape.
Why: This book is the third in the Outlander series. I began reading this series at the recommendation of a coworker. The recommendation coincided with the time that the series was regaining popularity (thanks, Starz television show!), and it came with the label of a “historical fiction” story, so I was in. When I read it, I was concerned that a professional colleague had suggested it for me – there are some sexy scenes in there! Essentially the series follows Claire, a WWII nurse-cum-wife who accidentally steps through some magic stones to a time two hundred years prior, where hijinks ensue and she falls in love with a headstrong Highland Scot. She has gone back and forth in time a few times thus far in the series, and in the third one, she has come back to the 20th century for what she thinks is the last time. However, in her research on her 18th century husband, she realizes he still lived in his continued timeline (she thought he had died after she left), and so she must return. This book chronicles her return and the all-new hijinks that they involve themselves with.
I am invested in the main characters, Claire and her love/18th century husband, Jaime. This love story is impactfully told by Gabaldon, and I shed tears over their commitment to one another. That said, the length of this particular installment was a challenge for me. I enjoyed meeting new characters, as I generally do. An example is Lord John Grey, who I suspect will make a reappearance in subsequent books. I do fear, giving the shifting focus of this book, that it will be only natural for Gabaldon to spend less time with Jaime and Claire and more with other partners and characters that are appearing as time goes on. The book itself had just enough historical relevance and barely plausible plot to remain entertaining despite is length. At the end of the book, they wash up on the shore of America in the 1770s, so I am sure it will be another historically interesting romp that scrapes the bottom of the plausibility barrel for the new setting. As an American, this one will be slightly more familiar to me, and whether that’s a good thing remains to be seen.
An interesting note: Claire (and Jaime’s) daughter Bree – who was raised in the 20th century – and her future husband could both “hear the stones” when they helped her mother back to Jaime’s time. I suspect they will be doing some time traveling of their own soon enough. I will read the next book, but may tire before the sequel ends, hence the noncommittal rating that leans just over the line of average.