Monthly Archives: January 2014

1) Shadows

By: Robin McKinley

Date Finished: 01.13.14

by Robin McKinley

It was kind of funny in a not-ha-ha way that lock-picking gave me a worse headache than interdimensional travel.

Maggie lives in Newworld, where science dominates and magic is dangerous and has been (presumably) abolished.  Maggie’s new stepfather, Val, is from Oldworld and somehow entered Newworld with his independently moving shadows.  Maggie despises him for his magical presence.  Trouble is, she seems to be the only one who can consistently see the extra shadows.  But when the town is threatened by a natural disaster, Maggie learns that with the help of the shadows she is capable of magic that science could never comprehend.

I ended last year with a Robin McKinley, so why not start the new year with her as well?  Shadows is her newest book, published last fall, and is hugely different stylistically than the rest of her canon.  It’s first person rather than third person, a modern setting, and much more young adult than usual.  She’s taken detours before from the re-imagined fairy-tales/original-but-still-in-a-medieval-setting before, so it’s not a total shock, but it’s not exactly representative of her work.

The characters are great – a wide array of upbringings, of quirks, and of skills.  They fit together like puzzle pieces, only you don’t get the connectors until you’ve already roughed out the picture.  The plot is interesting, unique, and full of weirdness that somehow feels so natural.  I enjoyed the setting, the relationships, the struggles, the triumphs, and one particular gem of scene.  However, I did not enjoy the voice.

Maggie is wonderful and obviously the lead character, but her narration is choppy.  I found the first person distracting all the way to end and never could find a cadence to her storytelling.  McKinley also threw in a whole mess of made up slang that didn’t quite land and turned into stumbling blocks instead.  I’m accustomed to elegance in McKinley’s stories and soak up the decadence of her narration, so the staccato of this voice was a bit jarring.  Buried beneath that uneven surface is a beautiful story filled with the kind of magic only Robin McKinley can concoct.

At the end of the day: For me.

2013 Year in Review

Man, oh, man, 2013 was an excellent year for reading.  I had quite the run going, with one essentially flawless book leading into another and into another.  Even the not-flawless books were still respectfully good — my biggest strikes were the ones I read in connection with Book Club.

So, here are highlights from 2013:

*Karen Thompson-Walker’s The Age of Miracles which is stunningly beautiful and not one I would have stumbled across on my own.

*My first Stephen King novel, The Eyes of the Dragon, which was brilliant and not one I would have picked up on my own.

*Maureen Johnson’s The Name in the Star which provided a genuine moment of anything-could-happen-right-now-and-it-would-work-and-I-have-no-idea-which-direction-this-is-going-to-take-but-whatever-it-is-will-be-amazing (I suppose in shorthand, the term is “adrenaline”).

*Finally got around to reading Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief and fell in love with the little German bibliophile.

*Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians series which blends myth and the modern world (mostly) logically and completely sarcastically.

*Cat Valente’s The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making which is the most magical book I’ve ever read and the quintessence of literature.

*The opportunity to experience something new from my most enduring favorite author in Robin McKinley’s Pegasus.

This year, I was able to develop some consistent reading habits and tore through several of those books at a remarkable pace.  However, I found it difficult to keep the pace on the blogging side of things (as evidenced by the 7 day delay on this very post).  The trick for this upcoming year will be to sync the reading and writing better.

So what is in store for this upcoming year? you ask.  I’m going to stick with the goal of 25 (with fresh motivation — I was so close to the finish line in 2013!).  I have loved branching out and finding new things to read, but I miss my old favorites.  This year, I plan to mix in some re-reads with the new finds.  Also, there will probably be a number of sequels this year, since every series I started in 2013 was worth continuing.  And as always, I’m open to recommendations!

Thanks for two great years and happy reading!