And The Ocean Was Our Sky is a retelling of Moby Dick, though the hunters we see are both humans and whales. Whales hunt humans to protect themselves, and humans hunt whales for the same reason. Bathsheba is an apprentice of a ship of whales, whose captain is obsessed with hunting down the almost mythical whale and human-hunting man, Toby Wick. But when Bathsheba has the chance to speak with a human herself, she realizes that the hunts and destinies of whales and men always prophesied to her may not be as fixed in fate as she thought.
First I want to talk about the illustrations by Rovina Cai. They are simply beautiful. Cai uses a palette of greys, blacks, and reds to make the images of the hunts and depths of the sea starkly stand out and draw the eye to the brutality of the story. Her style reminds me very much of the art by Emily Carroll in her book Through The Woods, which I also love.
For those who loved The Deep by Rivers Solomon, this is a logical choice for your next read. Patrick Ness also writes about humanity through the perspective of an endangered sea, and writes about characters going against the destinies that have been thrust upon their unwilling selves. It is interesting that both of these authors chose the sea as the perspective of their respective books. Is it because things are darker in the sea and contrast with the brightness of the air and land in which humanity lives? Is it because the vast sea allows for more room to grow? There are so many possibilities that I cannot answer or choose – only the author can do that – but the setting of the deep see keeps drawing me in, and is why I loved And The Ocean Was Our Sky so much.
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This is the first book I read for the 2020 Reading Rush, happening this week!
The Changeling Sea by Patricia A. McKillip
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The Changeling Sea is about Peri, a girl who hates and fears the sea, and yet finds herself entwined in its movements and intentions. She meets a prince who longs for the sea, a sea-dragon that longs for the land, and a wizard that, along with Peri, knows more secrets than they care to tell.
McKillip was inspired by classic changeling stories to write this tale, and she does it magnificently. In this case we meet two changelings, one trapped on land that belongs in the sea, and one trapped in the sea that belongs on land. Peri acts as the liaison between the land and sea, herself almost a changeling, though enchantress is more like it, especially since she follows patterns of enchantresses that McKillip often engages, like Sybel from The Forgotten Beasts of Eld.
What I love as well as the changeling themes and the poetic descriptions of the sea, are the fairytale references. Images of Swan Lake and the Seven (sometimes Six) Swans come to mind when looking at the changeling princes, and Peri fits the well-known trope of hermit witch who guides heroes on their journeys. Peri does find love in the end though, through romance, friendship, and the love between a mother and a daughter.
McKillip once again did not disappoint, and I may like this book even better than the last one I read. I recommend to all who love and fear the sea with all its mystery, depth, and magic.
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The Waking Forest by Alyssa Wees
My rating: 1 of 5 stars
I will start this review by saying that I did not finish this book. I had many problems with the way it was written. First, Wees has written the characters in such a way that you cannot connect with them at all. We see everyone through the eyes of the main character Rhea, her mom and dad barely known to us, and her sisters either mean, insane, or just plain boring, and all for no reason.
Second, there was literally no point to the story, no premise. Wees introduces the story of a family who possibly deals with dreams, maybe magic, but also does not seem totally accepting of Rhea’s “visions” (which I think are, personally, just dreams, though I couldn’t say because Wees never actually describes them). Then there are the chapters involving a witch, whom I am assuming is supposed to be a past life of Rhea. However, I am halfway through the book and the plot seems to not be moving forward very much.
Suffice to say, I am quite disappointed. Wees had a good idea for this book but did not execute it well. She could have done so much more. And I understand that this is a first novel (and honestly it’s not bad for a first novel), but she can do much better.
There will be people who like this book, especially younger people. This book, however, is not at all for me.
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The End We Start From by Megan Hunter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I read The End We Start From by Megan Hunter for the Reading Rush challenge: read a book with 5 or more words in the title.
I picked up this book randomly at the bookstore with absolutely no expectations. The only thing I noticed about it was that the text was structured very poetically. The style is as if stream of consciousness and elegy merged together to create the floating and uncertain language appropriate for a dystopian novel centered around the flooding of the world (in a manner of speaking).
The story is narrated by a woman who is a new mother, separated from her husband for most of the book when a flood takes over London and forces most to flee. The language used in this mother’s narration compares birth and motherhood to the floodwaters, as well as using words associated with the sea for the development of her baby, one of them being the word “cruising”. The uncertainty of the floodwaters and the sea reflects the uncertainty of the mother and those she meets on her journey of survival. In between the mother’s narration, Hunter has inserted what seems to be quotes from the story of Noah’s Ark, almost completely parallel to the mother’s journey, the babies being brought up in the aftermath of the flood representing the renewal of the human race after Noah finds land.
I recommend this book to those who love poetic text, intertextuality, and the uncertain, free-floating images of water.
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The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by F. Scott Fitzgerald
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I read “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” for the first day of the 2019 Reading Rush, for the book to movie adaptation challenge. The short story is very different from the 2008 film, taking place from the late 19th century to the early 20th. The only thing that is the same is the fact that Benjamin Button ages backwards.
Because this book was written in 1922 and takes place first just before the American Civil War, there were some things I as a modern reader had to get used to, like the sort-of-subtle racism and antisemitism that were the norms at the time.
However, psychologically and socially this book was very interesting. First because the anti-aging of Benjamin Button was clearly inspired by the genetic disorder progeria, basically by which a person is born already aging, and these people generally do not live long. With Benjamin Button, though, his disorder or whatever it is also affects his personality, giving the reader a different perspective on the idea of growing up and coming of age.
One of the big social aspects in this story corresponds with how people even today treat mental illness, chronic illness, and simply illness in general. Most of those close to Benjamin Button blamed him for his disorder of aging backwards, claiming he was being stubborn in not stopping it, and having no consideration for anyone else in relation to it. Sound familiar? I wish I could say things have changed, but this is a very good representation of how people react to such things.
I thought this story gave an interesting social commentary on life in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and is worth a read even now. It’s no Great Gatsby, but “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” has a depth all its own.
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Here they are below! What are you all reading for your challenges?
Purple Cover Challenge: Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte
Same Spot Challenge: Dying for Beauty by Gail Wronsky
Last Year Book Challenge: The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams
Author’s Debut Challenge: The Waking Forest by Alyssa Wees
Non Human Character Challenge: The Castle of Llyr by Lloyd Alexander
Five Word Title Challenge: The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams (tentative)
Book to Movie Adaptation Challenge: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Myths and Fairy Tales in Contemporary Women’s Fiction, From Atwood to Morrison by Sharon Rose Wilson
Hilda and the Bird Parade by Luke Pearson
The Orchard by Brigit Pegeen Kelly
This is a challenge taking place from July 22-28 wherein the participants must try to read as much as they can during that week. There are also challenges that the participants can follow, for example: read a book with a purple cover.
This challenge will be really great for me personally as it will help me knock some books off my tbr in a time when, because of grad school, my time for fun reading tends to be limited. This also means more book reviews! Yay!!
Check out my Reading Rush profile for the books I will be reading during that week, and look out for reviews of all of them!
And all of you, even if you are not in the Reading Rush, let me know what you are reading! I am always looking for new reads, AND I love to know what you all enjoy!