April 2016 Books

A Wizard of Earthsea (Earthsea Cycle, #1)A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Enchanting language. Simple phrasing, yet so direct. You'd think it were telling instead of showing, and yet somehow Le Guin's blunt descriptions build strong pictures.

It is a complex and faceted world, yet with hundreds of islands in Earthsea I found myself skimming quite a few details. Just too much to keep track of. Hence only 4 stars.

Yet I was invested in Ged's journey. I liked that he was mastered by his pride, and bitterly regretted it. I like a story in which there are heavy consequences for thoughtless actions. Such is life. I am interested to read the next book of his journey.

A Natural History of Dragons (The Memoirs of Lady Trent #1)A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I really wanted to like this book. I'd waited weeks for a library copy. Just as Patrick Rothfuss builds a world in which magic is explained by science, so too Marie Brennan's world of dragons just as another animal species beckoned as an exciting new storyscape. But, alas.

The narrative style was interesting—a senior lady scientist reflecting on her life. But the unemotional intentionality distanced my engagement. I wanted to root for Isabella to break society's expectations; I wanted to grieve with her when someone important died. But I didn't. Rather than a detailed, unveiling adventure of the discovery and science behind dragons, I felt like I was reading a self-justifying 1st person historical account, which lacked colour, vulnerability, and personal stakes. Isabella admits she was a snob and then wants us to feel sorry for her punishment from cultural ignorance? Sorry, I won't feel sorry for a character unless they actually express remorse.

The author does a good job of hinting and teasing with names and details of far-off places and potential adventures, which does tempt me to read Book 2. But not enough to do it. Why? Because I don't really care about Isabella. And as a writer, that seems to be the principle lesson I've learned from the last 3 books. I had better darn well write characters that people actually care about.

Westmark (Westmark #1)Westmark by Lloyd Alexander
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This one was hard to get into. Somehow the spare storytelling felt removed, and I didn't have any character sympathy or concern. There were some pleasing details, and a few "aha!" moments, which are always nice. But I wouldn't recommend the book, nor did I feel motivated to continue the series. So it was good, I'm glad I read it, it gave me some good pointers, but that's about it.

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