Sunday, October 20, 2013

What I Read This Week

What I Read This Week . . .

Battle Magic by Tamora Pierce -- Young Adult Historical Fantasy

Briar, Rosethorn and Evvy have been traveling in the kingdom of Gyongxe, a kingdom high in the mountains were people come to built temples to be closer to the gods. While Evvy practices her magic and learns about ancient shaman magic, Rosethorn is suffering from the altitude and homesickness. Briar can't wait to get his teacher back home where she will be healthy and he can be with his plants. Before they begin their final journey home they receive an invitation from the Emperor of Yanjing to come view his gardens. Rosethorn and Evvy chafe at the restrictions placed on women but Rosethorn feels it will all be worth it once she sees the famous gardens. Behind the beautiful facade of court life, the travelers discover there is a darker side to the Emperor. Evvy befriends a slave, Parahan, a captive prince from a nearby kingdom. Just as the travelers leave Yanjing, Evvy reveals startling news: the Emperor plans to attack Gyongxe. Rosethorn is sworn to defend the First Temple of the Living Circle and she must warn her friends. Briar won't leave without his beloved teacher and Evvy feels the need to stay too. Rosethorn is given a difficult and dangerous task while Briar and Evvy must use their magic to defend their friends. This story is much darker and violent than I remember the previous Emelan novels being. It's more mature in tone and definitely for older readers. The violence is frightening and some really horrific things happen in the novel. I was a bit put off by all the violence and it took me a few nights to get through the book. I wanted to know what happened but it was a difficult read. I knew the outcome since I read Will of the Empress and Melting Stones. As usual, the characters' relationships with each other provide much needed humor. I love Evvy and her cats. This story also contains more overt sensuality and sexuality than previous novels. I was surprised by something that happened in the plot and it seemed to come out of nowhere. What Tamora Pierce really excels at is world building. I could easily imagine a world like ancient Asia, high in the Himalayas. The magic building is really strong but I don't care for Evvy's stone magic and a lot of what happens in this story is just too hard to believe. It's more fantasy than the previous novels (except Melting Stones). I also didn't like how the story jumped around from Briar to Rosethorn and Evvy. I feel like Evvy was the most developed of the three and I really felt for her. We already know Briar and Rosethorn so I guess it makes sense to develop Evvy the most but I felt like there needed to be something more there. The story stands on it's own somewhat but it's best if you know the characters and the world. I feel like the world of Emelan is just not a good fit for my interests. It started off nicely with the whole ambient magic thing but the magic has gotten crazy and way too out there for me. This isn't my favorite Tamora Pierce novel but it's not my least favorite. 

Roast Beef Medium: The Business Adventures of Emma McChesney by Edna Ferber -- Classic Fiction

 First written in 1911, this book is a series of adventures and misadventures in the life of Emma McChesney, a traveling petticoat saleswoman. Emma is a 35-year-old divorced mother of a 17 year old son. Though Emma sometimes wearies of life on the road, she loves her job and the thrill of making a sale and beating her competitors. She's well liked and respected by everyone, including her boss and her biggest rival. Emma is determined to give her boy every advantage which sometimes doesn't work out as she had planned. Emma takes no nonsense from anyone and she lacks any romantic illusions about life. She's a been there, done that, decided against it type of person. Roast beef, medium, is her philosophy in life. I liked Emma's toughness. She has moxie and can handle anything that comes her way. Sometimes she gets depressed and it doesn't seem to fit her character. She's usually very accepting of whatever is happening in her life. She's a bit too obsessed with her son, in my opinion. She lives for her boy and doesn't allow him to grow up. The chapters are episodic so you can pick the book up and put it down and read it again when you have time. The end of the story surprised me a lot. The illustrations really help the modern reader envision the fashions of the day. I liked the book well enough. Some parts were a bit too dated in attitude (there's some antisemitic language) to be relevant today but I think modern career women will identify with Emma. The writing style is quick and easy to read but didn't make me want to rush out and read more of Edna Ferber's writing. I recommend this book to those who love early 1900s fashions! I loved the descriptions of the changing fashions. 

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