May 31st, 2015

smirk by geekilicious

Book 61

Stealing the Wind (Mermen of Ea, #1)Stealing the Wind by Shira Anthony

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this one. Taran, a young slave boy, is kidnapped by a pirate, Rider and in many ways Taran doesn't mind. He's always wanted to be on the sea and he is well treated by Rider and his partner, Bastian. Taran is quickly brought into their bed with the promise of release after three years of service both to the ship and to them. He is content with his life until he has to go overboard to save a friend who fell over during a storm.

Taran miraculously doesn't die but he finds himself in the hands of another captain, Ian, who is rivals at best with Rider. As Ian's prisoner Taran's life goes a little sideways. Ian has a deep secrets but Taran does as well, ones he's not even aware of. Ian finds himself drawn to Taran almost instantly but bound to duty he does something that has dire consequences for Taran.

The action really kicks off as Ian tries to right that mistake and Taran learns more about who and what he truly is.

Ian and Taran are very enjoyable characters and I had a lot of fun with this.


Book 52: The Bees by Laline Paull

Book 52: The Bees.
Author: Laline Paull, 2014.
Genre: Fantasy. Animal Behaviour. Dystopia.
Other Details: Paperback. 352 pages.

Born into the lowest class of her society, Flora 717 is a sanitation bee, only fit to clean her orchard hive. Living to accept, obey and serve, she is prepared to sacrifice everything for her beloved holy mother, the Queen. Yet Flora has talents that are not typical of her kin. And while mutant bees are usually instantly destroyed, Flora is reassigned to feed the newborns, before becoming a forager, collecting pollen on the wing. Then she finds her way into the Queen’s inner sanctum, where she discovers secrets both sublime and ominous.

Enemies roam everywhere, from the fearsome fertility police to the high priestesses who jealously guard the Hive Mind. But Flora cannot help but break the most sacred law of all, and her instinct to serve is overshadowed by a desire, as overwhelming as it is forbidden…
- synopsis from UK publisher's website.

This was a novel that won me over. At first some of the anthropomorphic elements reminded me too much of an animation such as A Bug's Life with the bees using tools and doing things no actual bee could. I had been pre-warned about this by other members of the shadowing reading group.

However, the power of the narrative about Flora's own progression and the nature of the hive society with its rigid caste system had a great deal to convey about many themes. So that mild irritation faded quickly and I could appreciate it as a fantasy that in its own way dealt with aspects of our own society as well as shining a light on the environmental issues that are threatening our bees. I did find that reading the novel made me more interested in the natural history associated with bees and I was going on line to check various aspects.

There are themes that call to mind 'Brave New World' and in a number of reviews 'The Handmaid's Tale' is also cited and yet I felt this was a unique and highly memorable novel. Could it win the Baileys Prize? It would be a brave choice given the subject matter and there will be those that will not look beyond the surface to see themes relevant to our world. I know that the story of Flora 717 will remain with me.

Book #24: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Number of pages: 440

The second Hunger Games novel is somewhat darker from the previous one, and follows on directly from where the first book left off.

The angle of the story changes slightly by introducing politics, and the very slimy President Snow, who is loathable almost as soon as he shows up. The first part of the book involves the beginnings of an uprising and the heroine, Katniss Everdene, being forced into an unwanted marriage engagement.

The tone of the book in the first part felt almost satirical, with the recurring theme of characters having to look good for the sake of public relations; my favourite line was Haymitch complaining after someone lashes out at Katniss, that she's got a photoshoot to attend. There is also a subplot involving characters who are trying to find the supposedly fictional District 13 (we are told the world the characters live in has districts numbered 1 to 12).

The Hunger Games themselves do feature, but not to the extent that they did in the first book; this was probably a good idea, avoiding the risk of the trilogy completely cannibalising itself. In this book, Katniss ends up having to do the games again, but they don't start until about two thirds of the way in.

This time round, author Suzanne Collins spices things up. The original book, while futuristic and dystopian, did not exactly feel like something that I would classify as science fiction. This book introduces sci-fi elements by the appearance of, among other things, poison gas and feral monkeys into the hunger games.

Reading this, I found that the plot slowed down a little in the middle, as the characters prepared for the games again, but once the character were in the arena, the tension never let up, and it all led to quite a shocking conclusion regarding who can be trusted and the lengths the people in power would go to. The only real problem I had with the book was near the start when the narrative recapped on events from the first book presumably for anyone who forgot, or who decided to start with this one.

As for the book's final line, it left me stunned, and I am looking forward to reading the next book to see how it all ends.

Next book: The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)