Monday, October 6, 2014

Reading, or at least trying to.

Lately I've been seriously distracted by a new ship (damn you, ThunderShield!) and it has absorbed a lot of valuable reading time. But I think I've managed to prioritize and get my head together. I've finished two really REALLY good books in the last week, Michelle Paver's Dark Matter: A Ghost Story, and Midori Snyder's The Innamorati.

"Do you know the city Labirinto?
The blind know it, and the frustrated in love know it; the barren women, the silenced poets, the drunken priests, the stuttering actors -- all the unfortunates who suffer from cursed lives. They flock to the Maze at the heart of the city Labirinto to be relieved of their curses. It is said that when a pilgrim enters the Maze in good faith, any curse that hounds him will be lost within the twists and turns.
Four companions, the Innamorati, are journeying across a richly imagined Renaissance Italy alive with magic to meet at the front of the great labyrinth. Here, their adventures will grow ever more baroque, comical, and magical until they achieve the heart of the Maze -- and, perhaps, their hearts' desires.

2001 Mythopoeic Award winner, The Innamorati takes place in a fantasized Renaissance Italy, taking inspiration from the Commedia del' Arte, the popular Italian theater form of that time. It's a fantastic read with magical talking masks, sirens, scenes of a bawdy, sexual nature, centaurs, nymphs, romance, Italian street theater, and a giant maze that alters itself according to each pilgrim who dare enter.

"January 1937. Clouds of war are gathering over a fogbound London. Twenty-eight year old Jack is poor, lonely and desperate to change his life. So when he’s offered the chance to be the wireless operator on an Arctic expedition, he jumps at it. Spirits are high as the ship leaves Norway: five men and eight huskies, crossing the Barents Sea by the light of the midnight sun. At last they reach the remote, uninhabited bay where they will camp for the next year.Gruhuken.
But the Arctic summer is brief. As night returns to claim the land, Jack feels a creeping unease. One by one, his companions are forced to leave. He faces a stark choice. Stay or go. Soon he will see the last of the sun, as the polar night engulfs the camp in months of darkness. Soon he will reach the point of no return – when the sea will freeze, making escape impossible. And Gruhuken is not uninhabited. Jack is not alone. Something walks there in the dark
." -

After reading The Innamorati, I had originally moved onto Jennifer McMahon's Don't Breathe a Word, but after 100+ pages into it, I gave up and just flew to the ending. "Why do you do that?" The Hubs asked when I told him, sounding very irritated with me. It doesn't happen all the time, but when the feeling strikes me, I find it's because there's just something putting me off about the book. Maybe the cover's little girl with the creepy eyes, or the similarities (childhood friends, flashbacks, deep family secrets, etc) between this book and McMahon's other novel Island of Lost Girls. Anywhoo, into the box Don't Breathe a Word went, and I jumped straight into Dark Matter. Written in journal form, this book is a nice slow burn of a terror tale. I only wish it was a bit longer. I was able to read this at various times during the day, and then settle into it at night while The Hubs slept away. I really felt for Jack, especially when after his two companions leave because one of them falls seriously ill. He stays at Gruhuken to salvage the expedition with only the sled dogs for company, but his isolation is only made worse in the Arctic's endless polar night, and there is a nameless, creeping presence is lurking out in the silence.
While I was satisfied with the conclusion (totally didn't spoil it for myself!) I was sort of in tears and I couldn't sleep because all I could think about was Jack and his friendship with Gus, one of the other members of the expedition. Even though I finished it, I may have to bring book with me to work today so I could read it again during my hour break. It's that good.

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