Tag Archives: Wednesday’s with Lind-say!

L: Review of “A Darker Shade of Magic” by V. E. Schwab

Recently finished A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab and I’m not sure what to say about it. I liked it while I read it, then I finished it, and completely forgot about it. It wasn’t one of those books that lingers in your mind for days after finishing it; as a matter of fact, I finished it a week ago and just plum forgot to write a review. I finished it, shrugged, picked up the next book, and moved right along with my life. It was interesting, unique, well-written, and altogether unremarkable.

A Darker Shade of Magic

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Schwab’s main character, Kell, is one of very few advanced magicians who possess the ability to travel back and forth between parallel Londons. Red London, Kell’s home, is a peaceful and prosperous land where magic is widely used and revered; Grey London is impoverished and almost entirely ignorant of the existence of magic; White London is ruled by whichever murderous rogues can take the throne from the previous murderous rogues; Black London was destroyed by magic and is no longer mentioned. Kell’s official position under the throne of Red London is to carry messages from the monarchs of one London to the others, but he secretly, and illegally, smuggles minor artifacts from each realm to interested, paying parties in others. One day, Kell’s smuggling gets him into trouble and threatens the safety and prosperity of Red London and its inhabitants. With the help of an enthusiastic thief, Lila Bard, Kell must attempt the impossible and try to cross all the realms in order to save them all.

I liked the idea of parallel versions of the same city and the ability to travel between them; I thought that was unique and I appreciated reading something original. However, I think a few issues were glossed over in order to get down to business that should have been explained a bit further. We’re not sure why there are four versions of the same city and how they came to be this way; we don’t know if it’s four parallel worlds and thus every city has other versions, or if London is the only one; we know that Kell is part of a long tradition of randomly-selected specialized magicians, and we get the impression that there is one other like him in White London, but we know of no others in any city in any of the four worlds. I understand that the focus of the story is on the Londons, but it seems that too little focus was placed on the rest of the world(s) which creates holes in my perception of this plot line. If there are only two of Kell’s kind, why are they both in London(s)? Wouldn’t it be prudent to spread them out so the other cities/countries can also have magic men? And if London is the only city with parallel realities, why isn’t anybody freaking out about this? I understand that these issues may make no difference in terms of what’s happening during the book, but when an alternate reality is created, questions will understandably arise, and a quick sentence or two to answer those questions is preferable to just ignoring something as obvious as the world outside of London.

I have a lot of questions about this book, but overall I liked it. The main characters were relatable, the villains were hatable, and the plot was unique and much appreciated. It’s apparently the first in a series, so I’m sure one day I’ll pick up the others. Read it if you want, but if you don’t, it’s no skin off my back. As always, let me know what you think. Am I making a mountain out of a mole hill, or does it matter that the surroundings be as developed as the main plot lines? I’m plowing through Jurassic Park now (and loving it) and I’ll work on The Grace of Kings until my holds become available. For now, let’s campaign to get Hannah to come back!

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L: Review of “Bitter Seeds” by Ian Tregillis

​Now THAT is a darn good novel! Thank goodness I didn’t give up on Tregillis after not loving The Mechanical, because then I would’ve missed out on his captivating novel, Bitter Seeds, the first in the Milkweed Trilogy. I find myself drawn to anything pertaining to World War II, Nazis, the Holocaust, etc. so I wasted no time after reading the blurb in reserving a copy from the library.

Bitter Seeds

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Tregillis’s main protagonist, Raybould Marsh, is a secret agent for the British Navy who uncovers evidence of Nazi experimentation that potentially created a handful of superhuman soldiers who, if perfected and multiplied, could render the German army unbeatable. In an effort to fight these supernatural beings, and thereby protect the Allied Nations from an overwhelming and horrific defeat, Marsh and his friends in Milkweed (the small group founded to try to understand and destruct the power of the superhumans) call upon their own unnatural means of defense, which demands a steep blood price.

Bitter Seeds is a fast-paced novel full of compelling characters, tense action, thought-provoking moral dilemmas, and a fair share of vivid descriptions. One cannot read a WWII novel without anticipating at least some disturbing detail, and Bitter Seeds by no means overdoes it, but it certainly imparts the severity of war and the potential for engineered soldiers to multiply the destruction exponentially. Still, the hypersensitive might take issue with a few parts, but I think letting that overrule the bigger message of this book would be a huge mistake. Unlike in The Mechanical, Tregillis provides plenty of compelling characters, both “good guys” and “bad,” and makes it easier for the reader to connect and feel effected by the chain of events. AND, the best part is that the ending doesn’t grid my gears! He summed everything up nicely, leaving just enough dangling threads that I feel resolved but will still certainly be reserving the next volume, The Coldest War, STAT.

My only gripe is that Tregillis seems to give a bit too much credit to his readers in terms of other cultures or time periods, and especially terminology. Just as The Mechanical was peppered with Dutch and French terms from a long ago monarchy, Bitter Seeds was drowning in terms like “Gotterelektrongruppe” and “Sicherheitshauptamt” without enough context clues for readers, or at least me, to always fully understand the intent of the sentence. I feel like I missed out on a few important moments of intended suspense because I was trying to decipher the German words or military jargon. This could very easily be my problem as a non-German-speaking, non-military-affiliated reader, but then again, I’m not sure that my station in life should factor into my ability to understand and enjoy this novel. What do you think?

Again, the somewhat infrequent and altogether momentary confusion was my only issue. Otherwise, I truly enjoyed this novel and highly recommend it to any and all readers!

I’m still working on The Grace of Kings and have recently started A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab. As always, let me know what you all are thinking and stay tuned!

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Back in the Saddle Again

Well, folks, Hannah and I fell off the blogging bandwagon yet again. Hannah has, quite understandably, been very busy living the life of a jet-setter. I think we can all agree to turn a blind eye to her neglect of the book club. My own excuse is a little less… excusable. I got distracted. Right about the time of my last post, I met a very nice gentleman who had some genuinely interesting and original thoughts regarding literary works that have been adapted into TV or film versions. This book blog causes me to be eternally in search of interesting topics, so I asked this gentleman if I could use his ideas on my blog, which struck up one conversation which led to another and now here we are, many weeks later, in a tremendously happy relationship. I apologize to all the readers who found that last part to be a bit nauseating.

Anyway, I got distracted. So sue me. I’m here now to tell you that I’m still reading quite a bit, although I cannot account for HVA, and just recently started The Once and Future King by T. H. White. Yes, last you heard from me I was reading Anna Karenina and I have not given up, but I reached a point that made it seem a bit painful to keep picking that book back up; so, I’m taking a breather from Tolstoy and enjoying some light-hearted Arthurian tales.

In the meantime, I’ll prepare the blog post inspired by my wonderful Andrew and I will do my absolute best to post it next week and stay (relatively) consistent in my posts. This isn’t meant to be a one-woman job, though, people, so let’s all barrage Hannah with efforts to bring her back to the blog-o-sphere. She’s finally settled down in Charlotte, NC so maybe she can find a Barnes & Noble and get back in the game with me. I’m only 10 or so chapters into The Once and Future King, but so far I would highly recommend it to any and all readers, even my surprisingly picky mother!

The Once and Future King

As always, be patient with us, I beg of you. This was meant to be a fun way for us to connect while we’re apart so I hope you all have enjoyed reading our thoughts and maybe have read a few based on our recommendations?! Encouragement and input always excites us and inspires us to continue so please do let us know what you’re thinking.

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An Ode to HVA

Well folks, I have no problem deciding what I am going to write about this week. That’ll be Miss Hannah. Good ol’ Hannah V******* (I was forbidden to use her middle name a long time ago but don’t think I don’t keep it in my holster for when she’s in big trouble) Anderson. Hannah’s birthday is in just a couple of days and I think that 24 years of excellence deserves recognition.

I was only 6 months old when Hannah was born so I can’t really say “she was a lovely baby born in the middle of a hurricane, obviously foreshadowing that she would turn into a little spit-fire.” Hannah was born. That’s all I know. That’s all I need to know, really. Hurricane or no, a spit-fire she is, indeed, and I love her all the more for it.

Let me spin y’all some stories about HVA: Hannah had some of those “beauty shot” pictures when she was little (you know the ones, where the feather boa slinks ever so slightly off the naked adolescent shoulder; God bless the good ol’ 90’s!) and because of them I was eternally jealous. Every single time I came over to play, I had to be the boy in whatever scenario was playing out that day, and because of that I was eternally bitter. In high school, she was on the yearbook staff so my senior page was second in the line of succession (and we all know that the most popular people came first, duh!), and because of that I was eternally indebted!

Hannah has been my best friend through some really difficult times. High school was… rough. Girls can be brutal. She has always listened to me gripe about this and blab about that, after all that’s what best friends are for, right? I tell everyone, we’re simply meant for each other! She has been the greatest “bffl” that any girl could ask for, and because of that I am eternally grateful!

For more “Hannah & Lindsay’s days of yore” stories, check out one of my previous posts about our nerdy youths. https://untamedshrews.wordpress.com/2012/07/09/proof-of-our-life-long-nerdiness/

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A Twist to an Otherwise “Vanilla” Life

I know what you’re thinking: “That Lindsay is really slacking; she forgot to write something last Wednesday and it looks like she is going to fail us again this week. For shame.” I offer my sincerest apologies to anyone who genuinely had that thought process. I hardly expect anyone to follow with such faithfulness (except for my mom, Hey K$!!) but I must beg your forgiveness and understanding. It is quite difficult to come up with an entertaining and somewhat original thought process, much less every single week.

This is one of the main reasons I never thrived in the art of creative writing. Quite the opposite, . I took one creative writing course in my English-degree-obtaining college career and it was way too much pressure. First of all, the professor was a creeper (and he had that disgusting white spittle accumulation in the corners of his mouth when he spoke too enthusiastically) who seemed to think that only our innermost secrets were worthy of an A. Secondly, aside from being dumped at prom (yes, readers, that Lifetime special actually happened to someone), I have lived a relatively trauma-free life so I wasn’t exactly brimming with inspiration for the class assignments. I expressed my “vanilla lifestyle” hesitation to the teacher and he adamantly argued that there must be something, some story deep within, wanting to be told in my own special way.

Well folks, I thought and I thought, and then I thought some more. With the help of my creatively like-minded friend, Josh, I decided to write my poem about the train that passed by my house in Remerton. His name was Oscar. Oscar was ridiculously loud. I knew this not because of my house’s close proximity to the train tracks (because after about a week of living next to the train tracks, I didn’t even notice Oscar go by anymore), but because everyone who ever came to my house thought it necessary to exclaim how loud the train was, as if until that moment I’d been completely unaware. However, I decided that, in order to add a twist to the otherwise mundane, by omitting the fact that he was a train and just writing that “Oscar” comes by my window at night and wakes me with his constant screams, the ultimate result would be far more interesting than “that poem about the girl who lives near the train tracks.”

Ultimately, I was right. My teacher thought I had some intense peeping-Tom issue in my neighborhood and gave me an A. I was pretty darn proud of my poem and I still have a copy, which I go back and read sometimes when I need to remember how to embellish a story in order to add a little spice to an otherwise mediocre situation. I use that technique today still. I work 40 hours a week, pay nearly all my own bills, am building a 401k, and go to bed by 10 p.m. nearly every night, all at 24 years old. I live a relatively vanilla life. But boy howdy, do I know how to add spice to the moments that matter!

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Haters Gonna Hate

Did you know that on August 14, 1457 the first book ever printed was published by a German astrologer named Faust? According to my sources, he was thrown into jail after trying to sell copies of the book in Paris because people thought that having so many identical copies of one book could only mean that Faust was dealing with the devil…

Although this happened well over 500 years ago, can we really claim that our society has progressed past such closed-minded naivety? Take banned books, for instance. It’s a more modern example of the same obstinate ignorance. Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird has been on the banned book list for many moons now, the reason being “offensive language and racism.” This book was written in 1960, when racism and segregation were still quite prevalent, especially in Southern cultures. The best thing about this book, though, is the way it highlights racism; Atticus Finch becomes the local pariah after he elects to advocate for an African-American man accused of raping a white female citizen of the town. Lee showcases the racism in this book in a way that mocks the stupidity of narrow-minded racists. The reason for which this book has been banned is the exact reason it should be read by students of all races, ages, and cultures.

That’s the problem with our society. It’s easier for parents and teachers to “fight the good fight” and have a book banned than it is to actually teach each child to be an open-minded and thoughtful individual and let them make the decision for themselves. Hopefully, if you’ve raised your child well, they will be able to read a book containing the infamous “n-word” without it evoking some racist rage from within them. Dozens of meaningful and thought-provoking books have been shunned from schools and onto the Banned Book List; books like the Harry Potter series, The Hunger Games, 1984 by George Orwell, The Color Purple by Alice Walker, The Great Gatsby by Fitzgerald and innumerable others suffer the consequences of our society’s ignorance.

Banned Book Week is coming up and we have a few from their list on our own list so you can count on us reading one or two, and as always, suggestions are most welcome! In the meantime, we are finishing The Night Circus this Saturday and then enjoy one of Poe’s many short stories, “Murder in the Rue Mourge,” before starting Pride and Prejudice. The expertly made schedule for the remainder of the month, courtesy of HVA, can be found on the “Reading Lists” tab so feel free to follow along!

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