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WWW Wednesdays: A Bookish Meme! March 5 Edition

www_wednesdays4I'm trying something a bit new this evening. This one is a meme from the website shouldbereading.wordpress.com. To play, just answer these three "W" questions:

• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you'll read next?

You can answer them on your own blog, at the shouldbereading.wordpress.com site, or in a reply to this post. Go into as much detail as you want, or just answer with the book titles, if you prefer.

• What are you currently reading? Chains, by Laurie Halse Anderson.

Anderson - ChainsJust today I finished reading Chains; I haven't started another one yet. I chose this book because my son's 6th-grade English teacher assigned it and I wanted to be able to discuss it with my son. But I was immediately hooked.

It's a historical novel about Isabel, a 12-year-old slave who lives in Rhode Island at the start of the Revolutionary War. Isabel's mistress wrote a will that freed Isabel and her little sister Ruth. But after the owner's sudden death, an unscrupulous claims there is no will and sells the girls before anyone can investigate. The sisters are now brought to New York City, where their owners are a harsh, difficult couple who are loyal to the Crown. At first, Isabel is ambivalent about the war; the only battles she can spare energy for are her daily struggles to stay alive and protect her sister, a sweet and obedient 5-year-old who is "simple-minded" and epileptic. But Isabel's friendship with a slave boy named Curzon, her experiences spying on her owners for the Patriots, and her observations of the treatment of American prisoners by the British gradually change the way she thinks about the cause of independence, despite the fact that the Americans calling the most loudly for revolution seem the most blind about the contradiction in championing freedom while owning slaves.

Many YA novels explore slavery in the South during the 19th century, but I haven't seen many at all that deal with the topic of slavery in the North during the Revolutionary War. This one is thought-provoking, inspiring, and at times harrowing. As soon as I finished the last page, I ran to my computer and ordered the sequel, Forge.

• What did you recently finish reading? Hild, by Nicola Griffith

Griffith - HildHild is also historical fiction, set in 7th-century Britain. It's a time of rapid change and confusion. Small kingdoms war or merge; kings rise and fall. A new religion is sweeping out the old, and loyalties are ever-shifting. Hild, youngest niece of a king, is brilliant, insightful, and charismatic. Her mother trains her to be a close observer who understands what she sees and can put it into context. Her skills are so great that the people around her believe they are supernatural. As the king's seer, she gains power and a degree of independence unusual for a girl of her time. But she knows her gift for predicting the future isn't magic; it's just a matter of seeing, understanding, and drawing connections. She also knows that a single mistake might convince her ruthless, ambitious uncle to cast her aside, even order her death.

Hild was a real person in Medieval Britain; she was eventually canonized as Saint Hild of Whitby. Griffith imagines what her life might have been like with painstaking attention to detail. I appreciated the obvious research that went into this novel. The texture of the times rings through on every page. I did feel that it occasionally went on too long without a strong narrative thread to pull the reader through. And the endless procession of kings, thegns, and other important men would have been hard to keep track of even if their names hadn't all been remarkably similar. Despite those criticisms, I found this to be a fascinating read.

• What do you think you’ll read next? The Casual Vacancy, by J.K. Rowling

Rowling - The Casual VacancyMy book club is discussing The Casual Vacancy this month, so I'll be reading it sometime soon, though in all honesty I haven't decided if it will be the next book I read or the one after that. The Casual Vacancy was J.K. Rowling's first non-wizard-related book since her phenomenal success with the Harry Potter series. The story is about what happens when a vacancy opens up on the council of a picturesque English village. When Barry Fairbrother drops dead of an aneurysm, his death sets off a chain reaction. as people compete and maneuver for the position.

This book has received mixed reviews, though a lot of it detractors seem to hate it only because it is not another Harry Potter book. I look forward to deciding for myself and discussing it with the group.

So, what are YOU currently reading?