Monday Shorts

Books and coffee: the Pacific Northwest #2

After we went to Victoria, BC, we hopped the Washington State Ferry to travel to the San Juan Islands, specifically, Friday Harbor. We didn’t have a car, so the biggest town made the most sense. We spent another three relaxing days, one of which was even sunny!

This was not the sunny day, but probably was my favorite picture of the trip. It makes you understand why coffee and books are so popular in the Pacific Northwest.

Look, coffee and books are two of the things I really associate with Seattle. It has the most coffeeshops per capita in the US, and there are lots of bookstores and local authors. But we really didn’t do a lot of coffee and books.

This is the bookstore I wasn’t allowed to go inside because I basically already had a book per day for the trip. And look! They sold coffee!

I did read a lot on the trip though. In Friday Harbor, we went bike riding around the island on the beautiful day and to the Whale Museum on the day that was gross and rainy.

One of the beaches we visited on the lovely day.

I got A LOT of reading done on the trip and we ate VERY well. Overall, it was lovely and relaxing.

We need more female superheroes

girl who would be king

What’s it about?
There are two teenaged girls.

Bonnie is the good one. Her parents died young, leaving her to grow up in group homes. One night, she discovers she has extraordinary strength. She uses it to rescue a necklace that a bully has stolen and thrown away from another girl; later, she takes care of the bully. She wants to and practices using her strength to help people.

Lola is the bad one, killing her mother, feeling like the world owes her something all the time. She takes whatever she wants – jewelry, clothes, people – not caring about anyone else.

They both have super-powers and are basically unkillable. You know how the story goes from here.

Why should you read it?
Well, that’s a hard question to answer. The story of The Girl who Would be King is good. It has lots of action and moves along at a decent clip. The settings are ok – there are a few that are rich, but many are just kind of there. The characters are the same way: a handful of them feel like people, the rest are one-dimensional.

The big problem is the writing – the actual words on the page. The sentences are clunky. It’s distracting. (Not that I have much to talk about here – my own writing’s not that great. I’m working on it.)

So, should you read it? Eh? Maybe? I can’t really recommend it, but I never did want to put it down.

A sci-fi classic (in my world, anyway)

the diamond age

What’s it about?
The Diamond Age is a classic from 1996 (that feels so wrong to type – I was in college, for chrissakes). It’s a story about the future and a special kind of book – an electronic book before there were kindles or nooks or iPads. This is a book that helps a child learn. It’s personalized to the child – figuring out what they know about both academics and the world around them. It teaches these children how to function in the world, and the goal is not just to make them book smart, but also to give them the drive and the ability to succeed as things change. And not just react to that change, but create the change. Three bespoke versions of the book are made: one for a wealthy man’s granddaughter, one for the inventor’s daughter, and one that gets lost and ends up in the hands of a street urchin named Nell. They change the world.

Why should you read it? 
Disclaimer: The Diamond Age has been my favorite Neal Stephenson book since I first read it. I may have read Snow Crash first, but I like this one more.

Why? There’s the obvious: I’m female and I love reading. I’m generally tech-optimistic, even if I have doubts about our current technology. A sci-fi book about education and reading with women in primary roles? Sign me up.

But I also love it because of the world it creates. The characterization of China was off – Stephenson missed China’s meteoric rise over the last 20 years – but the Vickys (the neo-Victorians) and the other various sects play well together. And I can see a neo-Victorian strain in Silicon Valley, with its insistence on perfectibility – if we could only do x or figure out y, then we could make everything perfect!

It is a classic. Read it if you haven’t.