Tuesday, 26 February 2019

A Review of the Firebird Trilogy

The Firebird Trilogy is a series by Claudia Grey, containing A Thousand Pieces of You, Ten Thousand Skies Above You and A Million Worlds with You. Marguerite Caine is the daughter of two genius scientists who have come up with the most important invention of recent times. The Firebird, a device which allows people to jump into other dimensions, will revolutionise the world. But when Paul Markov, her parents' protegee, kills her father and runs off with the information, Marguerite gives chase with him into other universes, her parents' other student Theo Beck at her side. But she quickly learns that everything was not as it seems...

This trilogy had no right to be as enjoyable as it was. I loved that much of the plot revolves around Marguerite being the one to save her 6 foot 2, genius boyfriend. And I loved her parents being good parents (in most universes) and the fact that it was her father who gave up his career to support her genius mother. And her sister Josie is an thrill-seeking adrenaline junkie with a science brain, and I'm sad that we didn't see more of her, and I would have loved to spend more time with her Russian brothers and sister too.

Grey rather quickly sets her limits on what her technology can do - the need for reminders and the need to have a version of yourself in the universe where you are going too. It's body-swapping alternate dimensions, so worlds where Marguerite has never been born or has died young can't be visited by her.

So it's sci-fi, but seems to take place in a universe not far off our own - many of the brands are the same as ours, for instance. This does work, because I've never seen why our brands would be completely forgotten about in the future - with how the world is, I feel that some will survive. But this world is also not quite ours - instead of iPhones, they have tPhones. Marguerite's time line is pretty much an alternate version of our exact world, but our world is one of her alternate dimensions, too.

Another thing that I don't seem to find as much in sci-fi is characters having passions. Here, Marguerite, and most of her alternate universe selves, are artists. She's looking into going to college for art restoration, but would love to study fine art and make a living drawing portraits. And it's such as small detail to see characters in sci-fi having the same concerns we would, but of course they would. This may just be in comparison with the rest of the characters, but Marguerite's not the most book-smart character, (and say it with me - not everyone in books has to be) although she does read and uses books to quickly get her bearings in her new universes. She's intuitive, though, good at picking up on small clues from other characters about who they are to her alternative universe self and how to interact with them. This may come from her artist background, observing people in order to paint them. And apart from a few little places where her personality is described, this is mostly shown to us rather than told.

I found I read the first book super quick, but the second one dragged in the middle - there's more romance and love-triangle stuff in that one, and less of the Russiaverse, which I loved. But then the second book throws so many twists and turns at you in the ending. The third book, however, pulls out all the stops, with some real gems of a scene. The Conclave of the Marguerites will go down in my mind as one of the most amusing scenes in any work of fiction ever.

I will put in a love triangle warning, however I felt like there was never any question of Marguerite's feelings towards Paul, and Theo is an interesting way to show how you can love someone without them loving you. I do wish he'd dropped his friendzoned attitude, though. If you truly love someone, you never try and make them feel guilty about not loving someone else. I felt like maybe the series would still have worked if her partner had just been her best friend, platonic male or female.

And we've finally got an American author who did her research - Marguerite winds up in Cambridge, and everything from the Bridge of Sighs to Marguerite riding a bike was familiar. Grey even bought up British brand names, such as Boots. It's almost enough for me to forgive Marguerite laughing at the funny accent in the first book.

I would give up my soul for a book like this which doesn't just handwave the language issue, however. Language acquisition is subject to much debate about the innateness of it, and there's no reason surely why Marguerite should be able to speak Russian just because a version of her can when inhabiting that body. This also features in the third book, where a version of Marguerite is deaf, likely from a bout of meningitis as a child, and our Marguerite innately knows sign language while in that body.

Highly recommended for those after a fun, enjoyable, quick book in the combined sci-fi/romance genre.

Friday, 22 February 2019

London 17/02/19 - God's Own Junkyard and the Florence Nightingale Museum

A friend of mine from the USA came to London for a visit, so we had to find time to meet up! Since the meet-up wasn't until dinnertime, I of course decided to go in early to London and make a day of it. I went to God's Own Junkyard, a neon sign art gallery, the Florence Nightingale Museum, which is very much about the history of nursing and ate at HipChips and Maxwell's!

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

A Review of On The Come Up

On the Come Up is the second novel by Angie Thomas, the author of The Hate U Give. Brianna Jackson is the daughter of a hip-hop artist killed before he made it big. She wants to make it on her own, but his shadow hangs over her every time she performs. With her Mom and brother in financial trouble, Bri sees rap as her way out.

Second novels are often full of pressure, particularly when coming after a book that was as hyped as The Hate U Give. I sometimes feel like books that get delayed, like this one did, aren't going well to being with, so an author just slaps an ending on the book to get it over with. But this book is the one which really defies both trends. You can really feel where Thomas has applied everything she's learnt over the past two years to this lovingly crafted book, and where they delay may well have lead a better story because of it.

In my eyes, this book is a masterpiece in showing, not telling. You can't rely on what you're told in this book - for example, Bri is often labelled as aggressive. But there's nowhere that I can point where I'd call her aggressive. She's impulsive, reckless and always speaks her mind. The fact of the matter is, that if a white boy called people out for the same things she does, he would be recommended for the debate team and receiving advice on a career in politics.

I also find it is hard to show a character with performing skills in books. You need to be told that someone is good at singing, for example. But rap is as much about the rhymes as the rhythms. It's poetry, and poetry can find a home on page. We see all of Bri's thought processes while she writes her lyrics, and I found myself saying her lyrics out loud under my breath to hear them with a beat and make me feel like I was there. Thomas shows us her skills.

Parents seem to be the glue which holds Thomas's books together. In this one, Bri's Mom Jay is a recovering heroin addict who would do anything for her children. She stands up for herself and for them and will make you cheer along with her. Bri's father Law, although we never meet him, is also influential on the plot. Bri is trying to get away from his shadow, but she can't deny that he's more present in her life than she'd like to admit.

My experience with rap is limited - it's mostly Hamilton, and what they play on the radio. But Thomas's books have inspired me to seek it out more!

Thomas's books should be required reading. Well, not required reading as I know the very concept can put people off, but people all over the world from all walks of life need to read these books. Americans should read them, of course, but it's also important for us from other countries to keep ourselves informed of life of people abroad. Especially in a country like America, which does in many ways influence the rest of the world.

Thursday, 24 January 2019

Roaming through Rome, Day 7&8 - 29/12/18&30/12/18 - A Quiet Day and the Flight Home

I'm combining two days into one again, since after the Vatican we both wanted a bit more relaxed. There were a few small places I still wanted to check out, so I spent one day using the rest of my underground pass to get around. There was also a last few souvenirs and of course, food to eat!

Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Roaming through Rome, Day 6 - 28/12/18 - Vatican City and Eataly

Today, we went to see the Vatican. It is one of those things in Rome that you can't miss, but I found it too crowded. It was hard to find space to take a picture of some things. After that, I went to Eataly, another place in Rome I had read about online and wanted to check out!

Thursday, 17 January 2019

Roaming Through Rome, Day 5 - 27/12/18 - Jewish Museum of Rome and the Cat Sanctuary of Rome

Today, we went around Rome's Jewish Museum. This was something I wanted to see, as I feel that it is vital to learn about Jewish historical events to stop them from being repeated. The Jewish Quarter is also one of the most architecturally interesting of Rome. I also stumbled on a cat sanctuary of Rome, and found myself looking for books.

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Roaming Through Rome, Day 3&4 - 25/12/18&26/12/18 - Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain

As today was Christmas Day and Dad and I weren't sure what places would be open, we decided to walk to some of the sights we could reach on foot. This meant we made it to the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain, saw the outside of the Pantheon, and ate much gelato.