one fantasy and a couple of ok books

 The Lost Conspiracy  by Francis Hardinge (this books is also published at Gullstruck Island for the kindle, which is darned confusing if you ask me)
This is the best of the three books I'm blogging today, although it's longer and slower paced than it needs to be.  Hathin is a Lace girl, one of the tribe of people who once lived on the entire island of Gullstruck prior to colonization.  The cultural differences between Hathin's culture and the colonizers are related to how they deal with their dead.  The Lace scatter their ashes and let their names fade, with the idea that death is a kind of unnaming, while the colonizers collect theirs and let them take over the land in graveyards full of urns.  Hathin is unusual mostly because of her sister Arilou, who is the only Lost among all the Lace tribes.  The Lost are able to send their senses out without their bodies, having five or more minds in different places at once.  Arilou, however, may or may not really be Lost.  Hathin cannot understand her speech, but instead has been pretending to translate for Arilou for many years now.  When all the other Lost in all the other parts of Gullstruck suddenly die, Arilou is the last Lost left alive, and she may not really be lost.  Hathin is a solid and practical character, and the writing details a world of clashing cultures, beliefs, and power systems well.  But the power struggles and political systems are not deeply emotionally engaging, and yet they seem to comprise the main emotional thrust of the novel, and the details build the world but don't always connect fully to the plot.  However, if you know a young reader who really likes to memorize details and likes the kind of fantasy world predicated on strategy, this would be a fantastic book to recommend.  Some Harry Potter fans are tailor made for this book and for Hardinge's other acclaimed fantasy novels.

favorite quotes:
--...we're broken.  Broken so badly that we can't ever be fixed... and.... and all that's left to us is breaking something else. (loc 6825)
--I know you feel like you're carrying around this big heavy rock until you can talk to me about it... only if you do then you'll be giving me the rock.  And it'll squash me flat.  I have too much to carry in my head already, Therrot.  So please, don't. (loc 5530)
--I'll be scarred.  It doesn't matter.  The important thing is, when I look in a mirror now at least I can recognize myself. (loc. 6766)
--Well, this is the way the world is.  Let us make the best of things and set about surviving here, shall we? (loc 6766)


Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby
I like Hornby, generally, and this book was perfectly likeable while being a little flat.  The main characters are either the couple Duncan and Annie who have been together 15 years and are on the verge of splitting up or the has-been rocker Tucker Crowe with whom Duncan has been obsessed with for more than the previous 15 years. When Annie listens to the new Crowe album without Duncan, it betrays their unspoken trust and truce.  Duncan finds someone else, but he doesn't really like her.  Annie realizes that she really wants a child, and she can't do anything about it.  Annie surprisingly connects with Tucker Crowe online, and they have all kinds of sparks except that, Annie realizes, Tucker is really not such a great guy.  The former rock-and-roll lifestyle left him with children from about four different women (he's not entirely sure) and the only one he cares for is 6 year old Jackson.  Though I generally like Hornby, there's a soap opera quality about this one.  The narrative follows the spirit of one of Tucker's musings:  "The truth about life was that nothing ever ended until you died and even then you just left a whole bunch of unresolved narratives behind you." (loc. 4715)  In the end, you're left back in the Tucker Crowe online fandom, feeling the emptiness of online connections as well as the fragility of real connections but without enough depth to make it poignant.  Still.  It really was an ok book and I enjoyed the read. 

Everyone is Beautiful by Katherine Center
Lanie, Peter and their 3 kids (the third a recent surprise) have moved across the country to Cambridge so that Peter can go to grad school in music.  Lanie hits a crisis point, realizing she's been doing everything for everyone else and desperately needs to do something for herself.  So she goes to the gym and takes a photography class, squeezing this all in between extreme child care with three near-toddlers.  The instructor of the photography class makes it clear that he's into her, and though he's a drunk and recently divorced and she's really not into him like that, she doesn't exactly stop it either.  So that the night he decides to kiss her, Lanie's husband Peter sees it and assumes they've been having an affair all along.  Which they haven't.  But how would Peter know, having beeng swamped with grad school and three kids?  Peter is not all likeable, but he's trying, and Lanie is sincere in her hope that he'll believe her instead of his own worst fears.  Overall, the Lanie character was a little surfacey for my taste, and her trip to empowerment is a little unconvincing, somehow.  But it was an ok book, and I enjoyed it while I was in it.   A couple of quotes:
-I suddenly understood what it was, exactly, people longed for when they longed for their youth.  And the bittersweet-ness of that longing.  Sometimes it's worse to remember a thing than to forget it entirely. (loc. 3797)
--Everybody had marks on their bodies from years of living--a trail of life left on them, evidence of all the adventures and sleepless nights and practical jokes and heartbreaks that had made them who they were.


*****

another quote I saw recently:
Nobody sees a flower really; it is so small. We haven't time, and to see takes time - like to have a friend takes time.  Georgia O'Keefe