Category Archives: Book Reviews
David Hair is the author of The Moontide Series, a story that I absolutely ravished (three are out now, the fourth and final is coming out in October 2015). Consider these books the meat, and I the lioness.
Mage’s Blood, Scarlet Tides and, Unholy War is a story with many themes; politics and those hungry for power, war (and those hungry for power), magic (and those…you get the point). For fans of George R. Martin and Guy Gavriel Kay, this series should satisfy the palette.
A Leviathan Bridge connects two worlds, rising every so many years. This bridge was created by a Magi who hoped for peace and prosperity between West and East. But the West is corrupted by power and wages war on the East. The East, however, is taking a stand. Throughout these two worlds are those with magic – the Magi who use the Gnosis to cast their magic (a necklace of sorts that allows Magi to focus their power). Some are hungry for power and are poisoned by arrogance, others fight for peace and see all as equals.
Yeah, a pretty generic summary – that sounds like almost every fantasy book written. But what stood out for me is how well thought out the grab for power and political shuffling is throughout the story. It is a series that is dotted with excellent characters of all shades, diversity and values. It took me about 4 chapters to get sucked in. The beginning spends quite a bit of time introducing you to the main characters, but the wait was worth it. Once I knew the characters and saw the threads in the story that connected them all, I turned each page breathlessly. You would have to be blind to not see the parallels to our present day society and this constant bid for war. What this series has that we in the real world do not, is magic. And thank God. Great evil is done with magic throughout these books, I shudder to think what we would do to each other if that was true for us.
This series has something for everyone; memorable female AND male characters, love, humour, sexiness, epic scenes of battle, horrific atrocities and vivid fights with magic.
Two downsides: The sex scenes throughout are too similar to each other, the male and female playing fairly stereotypical roles. The author also shies away from using words like vagina – so instead you get words like ‘mound’. Oh so sexy.
CHARACTER OF NOTE
Elena Anborn – An assassin for one side turned protector for the other. Elena’s thoughts, values and conscience change as she journeys through the story. She is a strong, athletic woman in her early 40’s who is a warrior half-blood Mage. She is kind, mean, hot-tempered, suspicious, intelligent, brave, selfish and nurturing. She is all things and not stamped by one label. I appreciate the author writing such a multi-hued heroine who is often stronger, smarter and more adept than most of the men in the story.
The book was better – a statement that book lovers and avid readers the world over have been proclaiming since our beloved stories began to be adapted to the movie and television screen. It is a statement that we avid readers know can be spoken with complete and utter confidence. That no amount of special effects, amazing script writing or solid acting chops can compete with a reader’s imagination. We avid readers have been disappointed time and again with the promise of our favourite story heading to the big screen, hoping that perhaps this time, they will get it right. And sometimes they do get it right and we high-five each other with huge smiles on our faces and tears of joy streaming down our cheeks. And sometimes – most of the time – they get it wrong. So wrong. And when that happens, we book lovers get on our pedestal and cry out; “THE BOOK WAS BETTER!”
“The Book Was Better” is our war cry, our tag line, our chance to annoy the few or to enlighten the many. It is our constant, our altar of book supremacy – that books will ALWAYS be better!
Most of the time.
It is a rare, sad moment when a book lover reluctantly admits – the movie was better.
To admit that a movie is better than the book? Who would do such a thing?! Is it not the secret convenance of book lovers everywhere that no matter what, no matter how, the book is always better?
Nope, not in this case.
I watched How I Live Now last night. A movie based on the Young Adult novel written by Meg Rosoff.
Without getting too much into it, the story is about a troubled American teen who goes to live with her cousins in England for the summer. The world is on the verge of World War 3 when she goes and as she settles into her new life, war officially erupts. It is about how she survives with her cousins – a Red Dawn meets Lord of the Flies meets The Incredible Journey type of concept. Which sounds great hey?! Gotta love those depressing dystopian novels that seem to be ever prevalent in the YA section. And the movie was pretty great – kept me engaged, good tension and the child actors were all very charismatic, especially the one who played the youngest cousin Piper.
You know what wasn’t so great?
It pains me to even say that people. It hurts my tummy and gives me a frowney face and we all know that it takes way more muscles to frown than it does to smile so I am actually expending more energy frowning than smiling which leaves my body depleted and more vulnerable should there ever be a zombie apocalypse. So while I would prefer to smile – I can’t say the book was better in all my usual book-loving righteousness. I can’t. I won’t. The book was painful for me to read.
Do you want to know how long it took me to read the book? 30 minutes. I sped through it just to get through it. So what made it hard for me to read? It wasn’t that it was YA – I’ve read a few YA novels and been quite pleased; though there is a fine line for me. Too clichéd and I get turned right off. Too immature sounding and I get bored. Too focused on the worth of a girl being dependent on the love of a boy and I am ready to burn something. What made it hard to read was how immature the story felt (I could say the author did a great job of sounding like a young teen but I don’t know for sure – it’s all perspective). What I do know is the voice of Daisy (or Elizabeth) turned me off. It moved so fast and breathless (but not a good breathless), that it felt like the story was filled with run on sentences. Like the one I am about to launch into.
So the story seemed to move way too fast and you don’t get a strong sense of where Daisy is in the story and more than anything you get annoyed because it is just moving way to fast like I said and what about all the horror and pain of being separated from her family and there just was so much more that could have been savoured. It was like the character was talking without breathing and that she had a lot to say and that we are supposed to get that it is essentially like her diary but then when you get to the parts about the war and surviving it kinda moves at a really unbelievable speedy pace where suddenly she’s taken and then just as suddenly she’s on the move and then she’s back home just like that.
Did that above paragraph annoy you? It annoyed me writing it. That is what I got from the novel though. The story itself, the story of survival and love and family was glossed over. It didn’t have enough impact for me and I ended up not caring. I know this type of YA style of writing is not right for me and I am sure this novel brought joy to many others, but I can’t read this type of YA novel ever again. I got this book as a Christmas present which is how it ended up in my hands. If I had picked it up and read the first page myself in the book store, I would never have brought it home.
But the movie – the movie had impact. It brought the story to life, the tension and the pain to life. I felt in the movie what the book was trying to exude. So in this case? Movie for the win.
But don’t get used to me saying that.
So fellow “the book was better” warriors – any examples you can share with me where the movie was better than the book? I would love to know so I don’t feel so alone.
This blog post brought to you by the letter B and the A to Z Challenge.
Don’t read this book. It will scar you. It will disgust you. It will traumatize you.
Oh God, it is so good!
There were moments of squirming discomfort and disbelief at what I was reading. I wanted to shake my first and shout out curse words to the author for putting in words such vile, gross scenes of horror.
But I couldn’t put it down!
The good news? Eutopia: a Novel of Terrible Optimism by David Nickle is written very well. No sloppiness, no laziness. He has his own style of writing which I really enjoyed and caught on quickly to. It is this style in which he writes that adds to the macabre element of some of the characters in this book.
The bad news? It is really gross at times. But yet, the way he describes some of these cringe worthy scenes makes it okay because of his writing style and his way with language. He is quite a poetic writer I must say.
The story takes place in 1911 and centers around 2 characters; Dr. Andrew Waggoner, an African-American doctor living and working in un-friendly times and Jason Thistledown, a 17-year-old who, along with Dr. Waggoner, has to figure out what is going on in the creepy mountain town of Eliada. Eliada is a town started by a rich, industrialist, Garrison Harper. His intention with this town is to create a utopia, the perfect place to live with no crime or worries. He brings to this town certain men whose idea of perfection in humanity raises many an ethical question and eye-brow. This novel weaves in the questionable morality of eugenics. Familiar with that term? Gah, I wish it never existed. Eugenics concerns itself with improving the genetic composition of humans and has a very dark and ugly past. Here are some examples:
- The University of Michigan revealed recently that in 1930’s many women went through forced sterilization in California.
- The Sexual Sterilization Act of Alberta and BC in the 1920’s.
- Forced sterilization in the United States during the American Eugenics movement.
But eugenics wasn’t just practiced in North America, it was practiced everywhere. In fact, its movement continues today, however we now know it by a friendlier term – genetics. This modern movement focuses on spreading the positive message of eliminating disease through genetics and improving our food so its okay guys! But is it? What concerns me about genetics is that the door remains open for us to repeat the mistakes of the past. The problem with eugenics (genetics) is that it is based on human perception and we all know perception is coloured by the person doing the perceiving. Therefore racism can rear its ugly little head in the world of genetics as it relates to humans. This is the stuff made of nightmares which is why David Nickle’s novel is so terrifying.
The dreams of a perfect society by sacrificing a portion of humanity – terrible optimism indeed.
Eutopia is a warning. It’s a warning that we can’t mess with God cause if we do, a strange group of inbred, zealous and religious mountain people will fall upon us and fuck us up. In other words, we mess with the natural order of things and we better be willing to pay the consequences. And there will always be consequences. All we need to do is look at the mess genetically modified seeds and plants are making in our world. They are snuffing out natural and wild species of plants, they are screwing with our insides, they are creating massive and ridiculous lawsuits of which many poor farmers find themselves at the losing end and they now appear to be playing a part in the decimation of our poor bees. To me, this book by Mr. Nickle couldn’t be more timely.
Eutopia is a fast and furious read. Nickle wastes no time in getting to the story but oh man, does he ever tease you in the first few chapters. You know something sinister is afoot and how David Nickle manages to infuse his words right from the get go with an eerie, creepy feeling, I don’t know. But he does it with mastery. And it isn’t all depressing – Dr. Waggoner and Jason represent the best of us. The parts of us that accept others for who they are, despite any shortcomings. They represent innocence and a desire to always do the right thing, even if it means being the only one to stand up for what is right (and having to run like hell away from inbred mountain crazies).
Wool is a dystopian novel written by author Hugh Howey. It takes place in a silo, an underground community where the last remaining humans live and work. There are hundreds of levels in the silo that go down deep into the earth but there is only one level, the top, that allows the only glimpse into the outside world; a world that is toxic and uninhabitable.
As you read Wool you are introduced to a complacent society that follows many rules. Breaking these rules leads to a person being sent out to ‘clean’, another concept within the story that is interesting and intriguing for it seems so harmless but brings death. Of course, there will always be one or two individuals who manage to remove the ‘wool’ from their eyes, and in this case it is the female character of Jules.
Jules is brought up to the top-level where she begins to unravel all the well-built lies that propped the silo, and it’s ruling elite, up for so long. You journey with Jules through this discovery of truth, urging her along to find out all the answers to the questions; are they the only ones? Why is the earth toxic? Who is really running the show? And while I got answers….I was left wanting.
The silo that Wool takes place in was one of two things that kept me engaged and kept me reading – it is a fascinating concept that gave me clear, mental pictures. I felt suffocated at times reading the descriptions of the levels in the silo. I felt the ache and pains in my legs as each character travelled up the stairs, floor after floor. This concept became especially fascinating as some levels engaged in battle, chasing each other down stairs, stairs and more stairs. The other thing that kept me reading was the character of Jules. She’s likeable, she’s competent and strong. A solid female character that had guts. Aside from those two things there never seemed a moment that blew me away in its commentary about the world we live in or in any of the discoveries Jules makes along the way. We are told the earth is toxic. But why? Who did it? When those questions finally get answered, well to me, the answer wasn’t satisfying enough. And really, that’s what my base feeling about this book was – just not satisfying enough. I want to write an amazing review because it feels like this story has so much potential – but I have nothing amazing to talk about. It was a good story. It entertained me in moments, bored me in others. The characters are fine, though not spectacular. The relationships within are okay. I don’t even have anything particular I want to write about outside of Jules and the concept. It was just an okay story. Had this story taken place in any other type of environment or imagined world, I may not have finished it.
So what you are saying is that the concept alone is worth the read? Yes. That is what I am saying. It is this concept that will propel me forward and read the other two books in the trilogy. (On a side note, there is a pretty cool book trailer for Wool – see below).
The Passage by Justin Cronin has everything a good apocalyptic story should have:
- Compelling, unique apocalyptic concept
- Characters you fall in love with
- Grappling with issues of the humane and inhumane
- Great villains that you love to hate
- Philosophical, dramatic and emotional tone
The compelling, unique concept steps away from zombies in this character driven story and instead focuses on the devastating effects of military testing on humans. With the hopes of creating human weapons we instead are treated to a world where hell has been unleashed on the population through the creation of the Twelve. The Twelve are former humans who have been transformed into vampire-like beings and with every attack they transform other humans into an army of apocalyptic proportions – virals.
What I liked about this book is that it didn’t spend too much time on the creation of the virals – just enough to whet your appetite. We are also introduced to Amy (a mysterious little girl who seems to simultaneously hold potential answers to what the virals are and raises more questions) and Wolgast, the man who has sworn to protect her (let me take this moment to say the relationship between Amy and Wolgast is beautifully written).
Suddenly we are launched about a hundred years into the future where we are introduced to a colony of people who are living in a world that seems – empty. The virals have devastated the world and this group of people must survive the darkness, the fear and the violence that the virals can inflict.
And then Amy appears – still the little girl she was a hundred years previous.
I don’t want to reveal any more of the story because it is worth the read – a philosophical, spiritual and action-oriented story all in one. Justin Cronin does an excellent job of creating multidimensional, emotional characters that are magnetic – so much so that when you aren’t reading about them, you are thinking about them, wondering when they are going to appear again. As a reader you journey with a group of people from the colony who are forced to travel miles and miles to find answers, to find hope – led by Amy.
It is a beautiful story about relationships and what we will do for the people we love. It is about the connections of family and that when faced with destruction, family isn’t defined by the blood you share, but by who you will lay your life down for.
It also asks a question that we should all be asking ourselves on a daily basis: what are the consequences of messing with nature? Of playing God? In our quest for power – whether it is through science or technology – we are moving further and further away from what it is to be human. This is what is scary about this story. That there are people “in power” that are making decisions that could go horribly wrong and that it is the rest of the world that will pay. Science in itself is not bad, it becomes bad when the intentions behind the science are tainted by the hunger for power.
There is a fine balance with apocalyptic stories. On one hand you can’t have a story that is too depressing. As a reader, you need to feel there is hope (never mind as a reader, as a human!). Too much violence and gore and it is meaningless. The characters are a fine balance to strike as well. It is easy to fall into stereotypical caricatures in the apocalyptic landscape – the leader, the nerd, the hysterical woman, the asshole. There are no stereotypes in The Passage. All characters – even the virals – have more to them than meets the eye. They express fear, doubt, love, courage and despair all in different ways and at different times. There are men and women alike in this story who are heroes and warriors at different times throughout.
I wish that I could read this story for the first time again. As I read I was delighted to discover a refreshing, impactful and philosophical, apocalyptic horror story that isn’t so much about the horror as it is about the characters.
The Passage is one of three books and while I’m sad that I have to wait a year for the third (I’ve just finished the second book, The Twelve, which I will be reviewing shortly) this story is one that I wish could go on and on (a la The Walking Dead).
If you are a fan of apocalyptic stories you won’t find a better one than this.
I’ve made note on this blog before that I love post-apocalyptic novels – specifically zombie focused ones. It is the geek in me that has no problem imagining myself brandishing a katana sword and clearing a path through zombies for my group to run safely through. It is the spiritualist in me who views these stories as more than just a good read but a way for us to face our humanity, the good and the bad. Reading these stories allow us to ask ourselves, ‘what would I do?’ without having to actually face the choice between humane vs inhumane in a world gone mad. Who we relate to in these stories and how we react to them tells us a lot about ourselves.
World War Z, written by Max Brooks, is a great story to read from a purely human perspective. It is this reason that this story feels more like a history lesson (which was Brook’s intention) than a dramatic novel filled with non-stop and violent action. Max tells the story of humanity’s great battle with the zombie from a collection of individual stories, acting as an agent for the United Nations Postwar Commission. “He” travels around the world to meet with different individuals who all played different roles throughout various points in time. From the beginning stages of the outbreak to the ‘Great Panic’ to the all out war against the zombies worldwide we are introduced to heroes and heroines and even a bastard or two. They share with us their pain at losing loved ones, their fear at facing the zombies and their horror at some of the atrocities they witnessed. We learn about their willingness to defy orders when those orders would have them hurt their own people and we learn about their bravery in protecting those around them. It is these voices that give World War Z the haunting pulse that flows throughout the pages.
We meet Barati Palshigar, an interpreter who tells his story about working with Radio Free Earth. A program that worked hard at distributing accurate information around the globe to help people combat the zombies.
Colonel Christina Eliopolis tells us about the woman that guided her to safety through a zombie infested area – all through her radio – hinting at the spiritual.
And we meet Darnell Hackworth who speaks with emotion of the important and often overlooked role dogs played in the zombie war (be prepared to bawl your eyes out).
There are dozens of ‘voices’ that tell their story throughout this novel and it is these snapshots into these people’s lives that make this novel so life-like and so effective – you begin to feel as though you know these people, that you fought alongside with them. I sped through this book, page by page, flipping quickly, eager to read the next story, hear about the next person who fought like hell to survive another day through the zombie war.
Because this book is told from various perspectives there are not too many extreme details as it pertains to the battles so if you are looking for extreme violence filled with blood and gore, pass this one by. This story is about our humanity, good or bad, how we survived, how we fought, how we hoped and how we survived (though there are some pretty gross parts).
This story reminds us that we all have only one thing in common that matters – that we are human. We share this earth, this life and hopefully, it won’t take such an epic threat to our world to make us realize this.
I have mixed feelings about Among Others by Jo Walton. On one hand I did like it as the book lover in me adores it for what it set out to do – create a character that uses books to defeat a villain. On the other hand…I dunno, I wanted more.
The story follows Mori, a 15-year-old, book-loving, introvert with a crippled leg. She attends a private school where she has been sent by a father and two aunts she barely knows. She does her best to live as under the radar as she can, navigating school dynamics and other people but she is a child of magic and so her life is anything but normal (her ability to connect with magic also allows her to see fairies). Through memories we discover why Mori has become crippled in one leg and why she fears her mother so much. The story heads toward the final showdown between Mori and her mother and it is for this reason alone that I held on to the story for so long. Mori, a character so quiet and introverted, was going to battle her dark arts loving mother. I was really interested in seeing how Mori would act, react and what parts of herself would she have to dig down deep for.
Well…she didn’t have to dig too deep. Or if she did, I certainly didn’t get that reading it. The showdown was somewhat of a let down – quick and non-threatening. While there was tension building towards the confrontation – once the battle ensued it quickly dissipated.
There was one cool part of the battle that is worth mentioning though. Mori’s mother tries to use books as weapons against her but Mori knows that when you “love books, they love you back” and so Mori is able to turn the tide of battle through the books she loves so much. As a book lover I get this, I understand this and can profess my love to the author for describing that love of books so well.
So my confliction with this book is that I didn’t dislike it nor did I love it. It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t bad either. Is that a fair review?
This book is written in the first person in a very dream-like flow. We are privy to Mori’s inner thoughts throughout the entire book. She is a girl who has been influenced by the books she has read – her favourites being fantasy and sci-fi. The story is simple and very matter of fact. I appreciated the understatedness of Mori’s voice and personality. She isn’t particularly charismatic or even likeable at times which makes her very realistic.
The author is obviously a book lover herself due to the constant referencing of book after book in this story. While nice at first it quickly became exhausting. The risk of referencing as many books as Jo Walton has in a story, is that you unintentionally alienate the reader at times. I have not read most of the books the author mentions and I found myself looking up certain things she was writing about. In one particular scene Mori becomes excited when she realizes she has created a karass for herself. I immediately had to look this up – it was obvious it was from a story but which one? Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut is now on my list of things to read thanks to this story but this isn’t necessarily a good thing (Gasp! You haven’t read Cat’s Cradle?!?!?). I don’t think the author was making assumptions that the reader has read all the books she has as it’s just obvious she loves reading. However as another lover of reading, it got frustrating. What is Mori talking about? What book is she referencing now? Was the constant starting and stopping to look up a book that I haven’t read the author’s fault or is it mine?
(Most likely mine due to my obsession with books but I do think Mori’s love of books could have come across without the incessant referencing of stories.)
Mori views books as living, breathing, feeling things and once the book was finished I asked myself – what did this living, breathing book in my hands want to be? I think this story wanted to be more, to give more, to tell more but the story got stuck inside the head of the author and couldn’t quite get out. I say this because so much of this book managed to leak bits of beauty. Certain parts of the story would build with energy only to deflate with a turn of the page – it was over too soon. I could almost see the fairies and what they looked like. I could almost see and feel the heat of the battle. In fact, there is a lot of ‘could almost’ in this story. In the end there wasn’t enough descriptive power to satisfy my wants as a reader which is why this story, for me is good and not great. Is that selfish of me as a reader? To want more from the story? If, like Mori, I believe that books and stories are living things then do I have that right to demand more from them? Are you thinking what I’m thinking in that I need to take a shot of tequila and just relax?
When you live exclusively inside your head and in the world of books (like Mori) you miss out on the world and the experiences that help you define it. While the author has my respect and thanks for writing a story for the book lovers of the world, Mori doesn’t have enough experience outside of herself to describe what she sees clearly enough. That is the risk of living in the mind. You have a harder time relating what you see to others. The result is a story that moves too fast in the moments where Mori interacts with others and too slow when stuck in Mori’s thoughts. Is this intentional? Is the author so good that she does a spot on job of making the reader experience the inner, cool, detached life and emotions of Mori?
As you can see, I have a lot of questions and I need to take a break from messing with my own mind, but in the end the fact that the story is an obvious love letter to books makes it worth the read.
The Braided Path is a trilogy of novels written by Chris Wooding. These books were originally sold individually as The Weavers of Saramyr, The Skein of Lament and The Ascendancy Veil though I didn’t know this at the time I picked it up. All I saw was a big, fat, glorious red book with golden font on it that may or may not contain elusive, mysterious information unknown to the human race until now. (Side note: there appears to be a new cover and it seems like you may not be able to get the cover shown – which is too bad. To me this red cover just screams of secretive, intimate magic.)
This book is a huge, meaty, delicious read. It is filled with imagery, exciting characters and probably some of the coolest descriptions of magic that I have read in a long time. Before the geek in me gets loose, let me go over the synopsis.
The story follows Kaiku who starts off as an innocent young woman. Her family is attacked and as she sets out to seek justice and find answers she eventually uncovers a hideous secret that affects almost every part of the world she knows and lives in. The innocent, young and selfish Kaiku is forced to grow up and the growth of Kaiku is part of what makes this story so interesting to read.
Kaiku lives in a time of the Weavers; a group of men who practice magic by donning sacred masks. It is when these masks are on that these men can enter into the world that essentially makes up the reality in which everyone lives – a quantum world. We see only one physical ‘reality’ but the Weavers can see the connections underneath the physical (the quantum physics geek in me got really turned on with this story). Basically, they can manipulate time and space, I just was trying to sound more poetic.
The Weavers (in their own minds) are keepers of the righteous and are generally employed by the rich or by royalty. They use their magic to weed out the Aberrants; ‘impure’ individuals who are seen as monsters to the unknowing public and are told to be feared. But impure by whose standards and why? These are some of the questions this story asks. However, the Weavers have gotten cruel and egotistical in their time and they soon plot to gain control of the empire for themselves. It is in this mess that Kaiku finds herself.
For me, one of the most satisfying aspects of the book is the continued battle between the Weavers and a few select women. Being the domain of men for so long, women are not allowed to weave. We are told it is because they themselves are impure, however the reason women are not allowed to weave, we discover, is because they are too damned good at it. The Weavers fear women as they have a natural connection to nature and the world as a whole, therefore they have the potential to become for more powerful than them. This is a serious threat to the male Weavers and they will do anything they can to stop it from happening. (Let me take this moment to give a glorious high five to the author and his dedication to describing a moment in the story where the Weavers discover for the first time that a woman is weaving and they all freak out. I wanted to jump off the couch, scream at the top of my lungs and fist punch the air for days after that scene. A-maz-ing.)
Again, kick-ass female characters and some solid men that deserve to be partnered with them. Kaiku’s journey from petulant young woman to bad-ass warrior sorceress is well thought out and paced. The great thing is that even though she grows a lot throughout the book, she is still who she is and her petulance still comes out at times, especially as she grows more determined and more powerful. She did not start out as my favourite character but as the book went on, she worked hard to deserve my respect.
Okay, I could go on but I need to end this post or it will be so long that it will break the internet. There are thrilling scenes of battles, both physical and magical and great moments of dialogue. There is a solid story of politics and ethics and, the relationships that developed in this story are believable and felt genuine – not forced.
Bottom line is – I was just blown away by the imagination in this book. It was dazzling and epic and I guarantee it will feel as though the Weavers have a hold of your heart, ready to squeeze the life out of you when you read it.
Califia’s Daughters is one of my favourite books of all time. It has three things that always attract my attention in a book; dystopian future, a fresh new concept and the potential for some kick-ass female characters.
Califia’s Daughters by Leigh Richards was published in 2004 and certainly hasn’t gotten the attention I think it deserves. It rivals any solid dystopian story out there and considering that most dystopian stories seem to be in the young adult section (I remember being melancholy as a teenager but is it really that bad now?) it is nice that this one was written for adults.
The story takes place in a future where a virus has wiped out most of the male population of the world. It is up to the women to rule, survive, and protect their own. So you see what I am saying about the potential for kick-ass women characters? This story is rife with them.
Dian is the main character and she is fierce but vulnerable (I want to be her). She is the warrior in her group of women, trusted with protecting their homestead and their men from other groups of scavenging women. It is such a fascinating role reversal. The men can’t fight lest they be killed and considering there is one man to every 8 or 10 women in this story, every man alive counts towards their future survival in continuing their blood lines.
You will follow Dian as she makes the hard decision to go after and rescue Robin, a man – her friend – who is taken captive by a group of women known as the Black Angels. You remain by her side as she navigates the hostile city where Queen Bess rules, all in the hopes of bringing Robin home.
This story mixes combat, relationships, philosophy and emotions so well that you will be unable to set the book down once you dig in. No character (male or female) is wasted in this tense drama, in particular Dian’s right hand ally; Tomas, her dog. Already my bottom lip is quivering as I recall the beautifully written relationship between a woman warrior and her warrior dog. It is fierce, tragic, loving and spiritual.
The book also raises your typical dystopian, fight for survival type questions. Would you embrace others into your already established community? How trusting would you be of others in a world where almost everyone carries a weapon? This story also reminds us of the care we must take in our present moment. Many Native Americans believe that our actions today will affect seven generations into the future so when we live we must do so with respect and mindfulness to tomorrow. In Califia’s Daughters, strangers come to Dian’s community with the news that nuclear waste has been released into their rivers and is poisoning their village which is why they are on the move. It is from the past that this threat comes, the past that was filled with war, a war that allowed the virus to be released, a virus that killed most of the world’s men. Ripples in the pond.
Ultimately, what I took from this book was that it is our humanity and our love for one another that will enable us to keep hoping and move forward. That our chances of survival are greatly increased when we work together, not apart.
Also, I need to learn me some bow and arrow skills.
First off, let me say that I love Alice Hoffman. She is my favourite author of all time and I will never hesitate to grab one of her books. I own most of them, have read almost all of them (The Dovekeepers is next on my list) and she is one of the few authors that has written books that I can read over and over again (The River King, Practical Magic and Turtle Moon). Her books are magic, pure and simple. She uses language and imagery in such a way that you feel as though you are heading into a feverish swoon and only old potions and elixirs will cure you. The lull and rhythm of her words rock you into a world of feminine secrets, magical realism and old wives tales that should be paid attention to. Her main characters are always women and they are coloured with such strength, humour, beauty, rage, kindness and power that you will instantly recognize yourself in them. Alice Hoffman’s characters are the keepers of the sacred and the divine, as normal as they are and as human as they are, there is always something otherworldly about them. I could go on and on about her books and how every woman needs to read at least one of them. Be warned when you read an Alice Hoffman book though, your eyes will suddenly be opened and you will not be able to look at the world around you with normal eyes ever again. You will see magic everywhere, see connections with everyone and behold beauty in the most darkest places. You will want to sit with women and tear open the secrets of the universe while leaving yourself raw, open and vulnerable. She has a way of making you feel when you read her words. Those feelings crawl inside of you, nestle into your veins and before you know it you are living the story itself, every damn, raw emotion. She sucks you in. I don’t know how she does it, but she sucks you right in.
Whew….see? See what she does to you? Look at me, I start talking about her books and I get all mystic and sage like on you all.
The Story Sisters I feel is one of her strongest stories (next to The River King, but the River King will always be my favourite as it was the first book of hers that I read and I was breathless the entire time I read it, so swept away by the haunting beauty of it). This story is about 4 women and the paths they take that lead them to their fates; 3 sisters and their mother. There are many more characters that come in and out, all of them leaving lasting impressions, but it is the three sisters that deserve all of your strength, love and attention.
It is a story about addiction, abuse and fear. It is a story about family ties and how we will do anything to protect what is ours. It is about the experiences in our lives that shape us and, if we aren’t careful, shape our futures, leading us down paths that will test us, frighten us, strengthen us and ultimately, hopefully, release us. It is a story about love and forgiveness and that everyone, every single person on this earth, has a right to redemption. Whether or not we reach out for it will determine if we continue to live in hell or find peace in heaven.
Lastly, it is a story about the love of sisters and the bonds that women share. It is a story that will ask you to reach out to the women in your life and dare you to strengthen those bonds and share in your vulnerability, no matter how terrifying that may be. All three sisters in this story grow up in a fantasy world and as they grow older they are forced to face reality. Each of them enters into this reality through a different door and it is each of their entries through this door that is so absorbing as is the path they travel.
If you are a fan of magic realism, rhythmic reads and emotional stories, don’t hesitate to read this one. Just be warned, reading the words of Alice Hoffman will set you on fire.
Oh and once you are done reading, don’t be surprised to find yourself suddenly feverish and speaking in poetic verses. Alice Hoffman has tapped into the power we all have but have forgotten and she weaves it well throughout this story, casting a pleasant spell.