The Artsy Engineer, Seraphina, and a mini-review of Shadowscale

sscaleAre there any Seraphina fans out there? I just finished reading Shadowscale and was reminded of how much I love the concept behind this book. (Very mild spoilers for Seraphina follow).

Seraphina is half-dragon, half-human. So she has this wonderful, human artistic side that she pours into her music. But her half-dragon side is brainy, analytical, intellectual. It’s a perfect band-nerd dichotomy that she struggles with every day.

As an artsy engineer myself, I struggle with this dichotomy every day, so I identify intensely with Seraphina. It’s what made the eponymous first novel so compelling for me, and it got me through the somewhat rougher second novel, Shadowscale, too.

All-dragon types should avoid Shadowscale, as it has some plot inconsistencies and other technical issues. On the other hand, those of you who loved Seraphina’s garden in the first novel will love exploring it further. And my half-dragon, half-human, mixed up engineer friends out there will love it most of all.

Readers: Any half-dragon / half-human types out there? Or is it just me and Seraphina?

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Teaser Tuesday: Dreamer’s Pool

tteTeaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.

Conmael seemed to think I could slip right back into being a village healer. But I’m not sure I can. Part of me has turned wild, and another part’s turned dark as endless night, and I’m not going to change back just because someone says I must.

Blackthorn, from Dreamer’s Pool by Juliet Marillier

pool

Which do you prefer: Science fiction, or fantasy?

Which do you prefer: Science fiction, or fantasy?
What if you didn’t have to choose?
ench_stars

In Enchantress from the Stars, first published in 1970, Sylvia Engdahl gives us both: a fantasy story of three brothers who try to slay a dragon with the help of an enchantress and a sorcerer, and science fiction about three anthropologists from an advanced race of humans that travel to a less developed planet to help the locals resist colonization.

It’s clear from the beginning that these two stories are actually the same story, but told from such wildly different perspectives that they share very few recognizable details in common. Even the language and tone of the two stories is wildly different. Most beautiful is that as the lead characters of each storyline come to understand each other better – and as their storylines merge – the tone of the two stories begins to merge, too, almost imperceptibly, until at the end we are reading only one story.

Enchantress from the Stars is YA, it’s fantasy, it’s science fiction, it’s romance. It’s strong on character growth, and it has a classic quest plot.  But in her preface to the 2001 edition, Lois Lowry noticed something about this book that I missed:

…spirituality remains a topic largely unaddressed in fiction for young adults. But in essence, Enchantress from the Stars is a story about sacrifice and compassion, two of the main ingredients of religious faith, and about the power of believing in that which one cannot understand.

I think in the end, like most excellent books, Enchantress from the Stars is a book that can work on many levels for many different people. It even translates well to audio. It’s definitely my favorite read from the past couple of months, and I would recommend it to almost anyone.

Library Loot: Fixing Genre Fatigue

librarylootnew Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by The Captive Reader and Silly Little Mischief that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries!

 

This week’s library loot should fix my “too much fantasy” issue. Or at least balance it out.

djacob goblin hyperbole mistakes vicarage

First, I’ll try excitement. Here’s three new releases that I can’t wait to read. There’s the really obvious one: Midnight Crossroad, by Charlaine Harris. It’s her latest after closing the Sookie saga last fall. And then there’s the odd one, for me: a cozy mystery set in a gluten-free bakery, called Murder Gone A-Rye (everybody groan). I enjoyed the first installment in the series, and since I very rarely read cozies, it should be a nice departure. Finally, The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison, which got a great review by In Bed With Books. Oh, wait… 2 of the 3 books so far are fantasy. Is this really helping?

 

Another way to deal with fantasy fatigue: I’ll read a couple of picks from my book club list. Night by Elie Wiesel, and Defending Jacob by William Landay. Defending Jacob in particular is nothing I would ever read on my own. Nothing against it as a book – it’s just that legal drama has no appeal for me. I figure it will either be a refreshing read, or I’ll really appreciate the rest of my TBR pile when it’s done.

 

I also picked up a couple of nonfiction books. Hyperbole and a Half has been recommended all over the place and had a long waitlist at my usually generous library.  And Mistakes I Made at Work: 25 influential women reflect on what they got out of getting it wrong. 

 

 And finally, when all else fails, we geek out with kidlit:  A Vicarage Family, an autobiographical novel by Noel Streatfeild (the author of Ballet Shoes). Yay. I think I’ll go read that one now.
 

I’m wondering – what do you do when you get tired of your favorite genre?