Ratty (blinger) wrote in 50bookchallenge,

Books 17 & 18 - 2012

Book 17: Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore – 559 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
The long-awaited companion to "New York Times" bestsellers "Graceling" and "Fire" Eight years after "Graceling," Bitterblue is now queen of Monsea. But the influence of her father, a violent psychopath with mind-altering abilities, lives on. Her advisors, who have run things since Leck died, believe in a forward-thinking plan: Pardon all who committed terrible acts under Leck's reign, and forget anything bad ever happened. But when Bitterblue begins sneaking outside the castle--disguised and alone--to walk the streets of her own city, she starts realizing that the kingdom has been under the thirty-five-year spell of a madman, and the only way to move forward is to revisit the past. Two thieves, who only steal what has already been stolen, change her life forever. They hold a key to the truth of Leck's reign. And one of them, with an extreme skill called a Grace that he hasn't yet identified, holds a key to her heart.

This is the final book in the Graceling series, and its set in the same part of this world as the first book, which puts it, timeline wise, some fifty or sixty years after the second book, Fire. I was really sad to not read more about Fire (the character) as I loved her, but I was excited to get back to reading about Katsa and Po and to see how Bitterblue had grown up (she was a child in the first book – this one is set eight years after the event of the first book). Obviously Bitterblue is the star of this story, Katsa and Po playing fun supporting characters this time around. And poor, poor Bitterblue. Her story, her reign as Queen, so marked by the actions of her evil father. It is this, his actions, his motivation, and his power, that makes up this monster of a book. For despite her best efforts, it slowly becomes apparent that Bitterblue can’t as easily escape her father’s power as his death might suggest.
Cashore continues to do in this book what she set up in the previous two: create a complex, clever, realistic world, alongside a cast of funny, quirky, flawed characters. She manages to imbue her characters with tolerance, humility and some very much appreciated sarcasm. I think the thing I love the most about this book is that there are at least three openly gay characters, but at no point does Cashore make a big deal about them. They are people, not stereotypes. This might seem like an odd thing to like, but one thing that genuinely frustrates me (and something I try to avoid when writing myself) is when a writer creates a character to fit a niche, to show to their audience that they are in with the minority group (the ‘token black guy’ mentality, if you will) and then proceeds to go on and on about that character’s minority aspect to such an extent that it reduces them to a stereotype, to that characteristic alone, rather than who they are as a whole person. We are all so much more than gay, or black, or female or Jewish, even if that characteristic is a large or important part of who we are. I love that Cashore manages to get across to the reader that these characters are gay, without having to turn it into the only thing important about them.
Either way, this conclusion to the Graceling series does exactly what I would have wanted: it ties up the loose ends, answer the important questions whilst leaving enough unsaid to wonder about, and even manages to bring back Fire for a little bit. A really good conclusion to a really good series. Definitely recommended!

17 / 50 books. 34% done!

6003 / 15000 pages. 40% done!

Book 18: Culture Smart! Britain: the essential guide to customs & culture by Paul Norbury – 164 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
Whether you are setting off to Britain to travel, learn, work or relocate, Culture Smart! Britain will provide a wealth of information on everything from cultural sensitivities to business and socialising. Culture Smart! offers an indepth insight to the customs and culture of Britain, an area where many other guidebooks only scratch the surface.

I worked in England for ten weeks in 2012. I was sent over by the auditing firm I worked for at the time, a reward given to hard working employees – ten weeks in London, accommodation, flights etc paid for, and the implied opportunity to travel Europe on weekends. As part of the experience, I was made to go to ‘culture’ training to adapt to working with the English (something I found hilariously funny seeing as I’m Australian, and I’ve worked with tons of Poms my whole working life). They gave me this book at the training, and it was actually quite interesting. It explains standard customs and cultural sensitivities about the whole of Great Britain, and it had some advice I definitely ended up bearing in mind while there (I knew I’d been there too long when I started getting annoyed when ‘bloody foreigners’ didn’t queue properly). One of these days, I’ll seek out the version of this book for Australia just to see what it recommends!

18 / 50 pages. 36% done!

6167 / 15000 pages. 41% done!

Currently reading:
-        The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown – 509 pages
-        I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes – 700 pages
-        Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn – 399 pages

And coming up:
-        The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: Volume 3: White Gold Wielder by Stephen Donaldson – 500 pages
-        The Odyssey by Homer – 324 pages
-        One for the Money by Janet Evanovich – 290 pages
Tags: british, cultural studies, family saga, fantasy, teen lit, travel writing, young adult

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