Thursday, 26 September 2013

*given up on thinking of a title*

Hey everyone! I send this to you amidst birthday card making and plans for Great British Bake Off catch-up. It's book reviews - one all right book and one ABSOLUTELY AMAZING ONE - and, uh, yeah. Read The Age of Miracles. That's all I'm saying.

(Well it's not all I'm saying, I've got a whole review here, but let's not be pedants!)

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

We didn't notice it right away. We couldn't feel it.
      We did not sense at first the extra time, bulging from the smooth edge of each day like a tumor blooming beneath skin.
      We were distracted back then by weather and war. We had no interest in the turning of the earth. Bombs continued to explode on the streets of different countries. Hurricanes came and went. Summer ended. A new school year began. The clocks ticked as usual. Seconds beaded into minutes. Minutes grew into hours. And there was nothing to suggest that those hours, too, weren't still pooling into days, each the same fixed length known to every human being. 
      But there were those who would later claim to have recognized the disaster before the rest of us did. These were the night workers, the graveyard shifters, the stockers of shelves, and the loaders of ships, the drivers of big-rig trucks, or else they were the bearers of different burdens: the sleepless and the troubled and the sick. These people were accustomed to waiting out the night. Through bloodshot eyes, a few did detect a certain persistence of darkness on the mornings leading up to the news report, but each mistook it for the private misperception of a lonely, rattled mind.
        On the sixth of October, the experts went public. This, of course, is the day we all remember. There'd been a change, they said, a slowing, and that's what we called it from then on: the slowing

Julia lives a normal life as a pre-teen girl in a Californian suburb - she goes to school, takes piano lessons, and spends lots of time with her best friend Hanna. But then one morning her life - and that of everyone else in the world - changes forever; they wake up to hear on the news that a 'slowing' has been detected. The world's spinning on its axis no longer takes a precise twenty-four hours - imperceptibly at first, the days and nights are becoming longer as the world turns more and more slowly. America, and the whole world, is thrown into panic as the seasons skew, animal behaviour changes and watches, clocks and the 'time of day' become meaningless.  Scientific theories abound as the effects on people of this warping of time are studied, and controversial government measures divide communities, families and friends. But all the while Julia is having to continue with her life as a middle school student, navigating the rocky terrain of friendships, popularity and boys. It is truly the 'age of miracles' now, in the natural phenomenons that have become commonplace and in the more normal, but extraordinary, changes that people go through as they leave their childhoods behind. I realise that that last bit could be taken as me meaning puberty ... that isn't what I mean. Honest.

What can I say about The Age of Miracles? Not only does it have a gorgeous cover - but it was also an utterly engrossing, faultless and all-in-all stunning novel. The premise was, I think you'll agree, fantastic - I mean, have you ever read a book with a vaguely similar idea to that? Didn't think so! - and Julia's voice was relatable, believable ... all the 'able's! The plot was also brilliant - super-interesting and thought-provoking in its speculative-ness, but more than that, flawless in its subtler parts. Sometimes you read novels where the author's like "OOH SHINY EXCITING PREMISE, LET'S IGNORE MY CHARACTER'S DAY-TO-DAY LIFE AND RELATIONSHIPS AND HAVE ALL PLOT POINTS RELATING TO SAID PREMISE"  - but not Karen Thompson Walker. The slowing made for a brilliant, engrossing (and yes I've used both those adjectives already but in a Highly Gushing Review like this one you run out pretty quickly) plot, but lots of the twists were focussed on Julia herself and her friends and family - things that went on outside of the slowing. This, I think, ties into the title, which has a brilliant double meaning ... it was so clever. My titles are always really obvious and/or stupid. I WANNA TITLE LIKE THIS ONE. Finally, and perhaps most hard-hitting, was the beautiful prose. At some points it made me ache ... even reading that short extract I've posted you can see how gorgeous it is, no? Here are some quotes for you. Warning: they may make you FLAIL.

After breakfast, I tried Hanna's cell phone, but it just rang and rang. I knew it was different for her: Hanna's life was noisy with sisters, her house a maze of bunk beds and shared sinks where the washing machine ran perpetually just to keep up with the dresses that piled each night in the laundry basket. It would take two station wagons to carry her family away.
       In my house, I could hear the floors creak.

But doesn't every previous era feel like fiction once it's gone? After a while, certain vestigial sayings are all that remain. Decades after the invention of the automobile, for instance, we continue to warn each other not to put the cart before the horse. So, too, do we still have daydreams and nightmares, and the early-morning clock hours are still known colloquially (if increasingly mysteriously) as the crack of dawn. Similarly, even as they grew apart, my parents never stopped calling each other sweetheart.

It was that time of life. Talents were rising to the surface, weaknesses were beginning to show through, we were finding out what kind of people we would be. Some would turn out beautiful, some funny, some shy. Some would be smart, others smarter. The chubby ones would likely always be chubby. The beloved, I sensed, would be beloved for life. And I worried that loneliness might work that way, too. Maybe loneliness was imprinted in my genes, lying dormant for years but now coming into full bloom.

It's hard to believe that there was a time in this country - not so long ago - when thick almanacs were printed every year and listed, among other facts, the precise clock time of every single sunset a year in advance. I think we lost something else when we lost that crisp rhythm, that general shared belief that we could count on certain things.

One thing that strikes me when I recall that period of time is just how rapidly we adjusted. What had been familiar once became less and less so. How extraordinary it would seem to us eventually that our sun once set as predictably as clockwork. And how miraculous it would soon seem that I was once a happier girl, less lonely and less shy.
       But I guess every bygone era takes on a shade of myth.

Still the slowing went on and on. The days stretched. One by one, the minutes poured in - and even a trickle, as we have come to understand, can eventually add up to a flood.

...

~exhale~

Just ... do yourself a favour, and read this book. That's all I can say.

OK. Next review.

Ultraviolet by RJ Anderson

Once upon a time there was a girl who was special. Her hair flowed like honey and her eyes were blue as music. She grew up bright and beautiful with deft fingers, a quick mind, and a charm that impressed everyone she met. Her parents adored her, her teachers praised her, and her schoolmates admired her many talents. Even the oddly shaped birthmark on her upper arm seemed like a sign of some great destiny.
      This is not her story.
    Unless you count the part where I killed her. 

Alison is confused and disorientated when she comes to in St Luke's hospital, hooked up to a drip in a room where there are no sharp objects. The last she remembers was being carried away as her senses overloaded, screaming and shouting that she killed Tori, the prettiest and most popular girl in her school. No one believes her, of course, and she's not sure she believes herself - because she didn't murder Tori in the conventional sense. One moment they were fighting tooth and nail, and the next she had disintegrated, or at least that's what Alison remembers. Maybe she is crazy, like her mother has always feared, and so she's not surprised when she is moved to a mental institute for teens. But there she meets some extraordinary people, and learns that there is more to what happens than she thought ...

So. Ultraviolet. Hmm. My expectations for this book were mixed. I have read and LOVED RJ Anderson's faery series - that is Knife, Rebel, Arrow and Swift (and seriously, they are SO worth a read) - so I was hoping she would do as well again, BUT a friend who had read this book said it wasn't that great. And what's more I'd just finished The Age of Miracles. Which is a tough act to follow. But anyway, I began Ultraviolet, and I started to really enjoy it. The plot was interesting, making me want to keep reading - but the ending took the paranormal genre to a new, crazy level. I was just sitting there like "what? No." I'm all for upping the tempo as we reach a thrilling climax etc. etc., but it was just ridiculous. And the book had other flaws too. You know how in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time Mark Haddon really pulls off Christopher's Aspergers? Alison has a rare condition (not similar to autism, but similarly difficult for an outsider to imagine) and I didn't think that Anderson really knew what she was doing as she tried to get inside Alison's head. And her mother's reaction to it, and her behaviour around her daughter ... not believable. A mother wouldn't be like that. So, on the whole, Ultraviolet was pretty good - but when there are books like The Age of Miracles, books like How Green Was My Valley and The House on the Strand - books like RJ Anderson's Knife series! - you don't have the time, my friends. That is a bookworm's problem. Too many books, and not enough time. ~bows head sadly~

Rating: 6.5/10

Love you, READ THE AGE OF MIRACLES,

5 comments:

  1. I'm obsessed with the Great Irish bake off at the moment! ;)
    Your reviews are really good and I'll definitely have to read The Age of Miracles.
    Marian ^_^ x
    the-flying-key.blogspot.com

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    1. MARRIIIIIAAAAANNNNNNNN!!!!!!!! I thought you had fallen down a hobbit hole never to be seen again! So glad you're back! And is that a new blog I spy?! A blog with an HP reference in the url?! Exciting!

      Yes. You should read The Age of Miracles. In case the post didn't make that clear ...

      Thanks for the comment! Great to see you again! :D

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    2. AAGHHHH! Someone actually gets the name! Almost everyone I told were like "keys don't fly" and then of course I was usually horrified they did not remember the flying keys in Harry Potter!!!
      I'm so happy someone recognises it! ^_^ x

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    3. Well of course! How could I forget?! Hehe ^_^

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  2. Wow, that review for The Age of Miracles was excellent, and I completely agree that we have lost something when we lost that crisp rhythm, that general shared belief that we could count on certain things. That is a really great way to put it. We get so caught up in the high-paced, by the clock, artificial rhythm of modern life, that we l forget about the authentic rhythm of Nature. I have added this book to my rather lengthy list of Must Reads.

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Thanks for commenting! :)