Friday, March 16, 2018

Science Fiction: Home by Nnedi Okorafor

Today I will be continuing the Binti series by Nnedi Okorafor with Home, its second installment. The first book introduced us to Binti, a determined young Himba girl who ran away from home to attend Oomza University. Now she must come to terms with the full ramifications of her decision and how it has affected her family. And just like with any series, I must issue a major spoiler alert for anyone who has not read the first book.

The Situation: It was a year ago that Binti left her desert home on Earth to attend Oomza University. But it has also been a year since she witnessed the death and massacre of her friends aboard a ship; a year since she was declared a hero after negotiating peace between the Khoush and Meduse; and a year since one of the Meduse, Okwu, was allowed to enroll in the university with her. Binti still has nightmares of that stressful event, and it seems that not all of the Khoush have accepted Okwu as a friend to their people. Despite this, and any anxiety Binti may feel about seeing her family again, she has decided it is time to return home and complete her pilgrimage. She is convinced this is what will bring her peace and allow her to continue with her life, and that it is important Okwu comes with her as an ambassador for the Meduse.

The Problem: While Binti's family is certainly pleased to see her, they have not made peace with her decisions and what she did a year ago. Plus, the presence of a Meduse on Earth is immediately unsettling to most of the people who see it. It seems Binti's family is insistent on making her feel bad for deciding to choose her own path, instead of following in the path they chose for her as a master harmonizer. On the night before she is to leave on her pilgrimage, Binti sees something only male Himbas are supposed to see, causing a group of the primitive and much derided Desert people to show up. They came to see Okwu, but also to take Binti for the night. With nothing going as she felt it would, Binti realizes there are more changes to come, even though everything is already much different than she thought it would be.

Genre, Themes, History: This is a science fiction novella that I assume takes place in the distant future, though just like the first book, no specific year or time is named. Home takes place one year after the end of Binti, with the heroine now settled into her studies at Oomza University, though she is still mentally suffering from the events that happened on the ship that brought her there. Now we see Binti return home, allowing the reader to meet her family for the first time, while also seeing how the people on Earth react to the presence of a Meduse. Binti is once again forced to closely examine who she is, as her belief's about her own identity are challenged in ways she never imagined possible. Non-Himba people expect her to be one way, while her family expects something else, she has her own ideas, and the appearance of the Desert people complicates things even further.

My Verdict: While this second installment certainly expands on the world that was introduced in Binti, I found myself annoyed and a little mystified at how naive Binti herself proved to be. Having spent a year away from home after running away, Binti is completely taken aback that her family would have anything other than kind and welcoming words for her upon her return. Also, she is continually surprised when anyone has a negative reaction to the appearance of her Meduse friend, when throughout history the Meduse have been at war with the Khoush, and therefore in their minds, the entire human race. Furthermore, I find it hard to believe that she can so easily befriend a creature that once was resolved to kill her, and is still quick to resort to violence and war. Her shortsightedness is a cause for much of her grief, and she never seems to quite grasp that she cannot choose her own path and make everyone happy.  That being said, the world-building in this novella is incredibly well done as each setting is vivid and well thought-out, as is each new species or race of people. The story itself can be a little all over the place, with the introduction of new things coming on suddenly, making them seem like more of a plot device. Overall, this is a good follow-up to the first story.

Favorite Moment: When Binti realizes she has plenty of prejudices of her own.

Favorite Character: Binti's mother seems to be the most gracious of all of her family. She may not approve or understand what her daughter is doing, but she at least manages to not make her feel worse about everything that is happening. 

Recommended Reading: The Sea of Ink and Gold series by Traci Chee currently only has two books out (The Reader and The Speaker), but it follows the adventures of Sefia as she looks into her past and her family, ultimately trying to find out who she is and what she was meant to be.     

Friday, March 9, 2018

Science Fiction: Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

Welcome to the first of three blogs dedicated to Nnedi Okorafor's Binti series. As the second installment was nominated for a 2017 Goodreads Choice Award, and the third and final installment was published earlier this year, I figured now was as good a time as any to explore it in its entirety. Also, I am excited to potentially discover a new favorite science fiction author.

The Situation: Binti has left her home on Earth to attend the prestigious Oomza University. It is truly the opportunity of a lifetime, but Binti must risk everything to take it. The Himba people do not travel much, if at all, and they certainly never leave Earth and their families, even if it is to attend the best school. So Binti must leave quickly, and in secret, knowing her parents and siblings will think her selfish and reckless. Not only that, if she ever does return, she will have brought shame upon her family and ruined her chances for marriage. But Binti is the first and only Himba to ever be accepted into Oomza University, making her the envy of many Khoush people. So she endures the hard stares of those not used to seeing anyone like her, as well as potential disappointment from her family, and follows her dream.

The Problem: It is apparent that many are not pleased to have Binti on the ship. To them, her skin is too dark, her hair is too coarse and thick, and she is covered in a strange red clay substance that she calls otjize. However, just as Binti gets used to life on the ship, and even manages to make friends, tragedy strikes and everyone on board is killed, except for her. It seems when the Meduse boarded the ship, intent on killing every human they find, specifically every Khoush they find, it is Binti's mysterious abilities that save her, and her dark skin that shows she is different. Now caught in the middle of a war her people have no part of, Binti must use everything she has learned not only to survive, but also to negotiate peace.

Genre, Themes, History: This is a science fiction novella set in an undetermined time, but it is certainly not the time we live in now, on the Earth we know and love. Binti is Himba, and is originally from Earth where she lives with her family in the desert. As the only Himba to ever be offered a place at Oomza University, Binti soon finds herself surrounded by Khoush people, who, by her description, have skin so pale it is as if they are afraid of the sun. She must suffer the rude stares, whispers, eye rolls, even have someone touch her air without asking, like many minorities throughout history. Feeling both unwelcome and lost, Binti remains resolved to attend the university. The Meduse, a non-human people with tentacles and stingers, are at war with the Khoush people, and therefore in their minds, they are at war with all humans. Binti is certainly an epic space adventure squeezed into 90 pages, but it also looks at race, class, war, tradition, math, science, and identity.

My Verdict: While there are some elements of this story that are above my head, especially as I am not a regular science fiction reader, the adventure is still engaging, and the characters are complex and interesting. I found myself wanting to know more with every page, curious to see what turn the story was going to take next, but hoping Binti would be successful in the end. It is a fantastic twist on the girl going off to college story, as well as the girl leaving her family behind to follow her dream story, potentially altering her destiny. And of course, it is also nice to have a person of color as the hero in a science fiction story, something we are slowly, but surely, seeing more of in literature. I look forward to reading more about Binti's adventures in the next two installments.

Favorite Moment: When the otjize Binti wears on her skin and hair works to heal one of the Meduse.

Favorite Character: Binti is afraid and unsure of what she is doing, but she does it anyway. 

Recommended Reading: I recommend Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee. It is not science fiction, but it is about two girls, one Chinese-American and one African-American, setting off together on the Oregon Trail and learning to survive against incredible odds.  

Friday, March 2, 2018

Classic Fiction: Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

This upcoming Thursday, March 8th, Margaret Atwood will conduct a free public reading at Trinity University's Laurie Auditorium. Although she is the author of more than 50 books of fiction, poetry, and critical essays, I unfortunately can say that I have only read four, including today's selection, Alias Grace, which is now also a series on Netflix. It is the fictionalized story of the real Grace Marks, who was convicted of murder in the mid-1800s in Canada.

The Situation: Grace Marks is serving a lifetime sentence in The Kingston Penitentiary in Kingston, Ontario. At the time that Dr. Simon Jordan, a physician attempting to make a career in mental health, comes to question her, the year is 1959, and Grace has been incarcerated for 15 years. When she was originally tried and convicted for the murder of Thomas Kinnear (and also his housekeeper, Nancy Montgomery), she was sentenced to death, as was the man she was accused with, James McDermott. While McDermott would be hanged, Grace's sentence would be reduced to life in prison. Dr. Jordan has been summoned by a committee of the Methodist church as they plan to have her pardoned, since they believe she is innocent. They are hoping he can question her and find out the truth of what happened, as Grace has long maintained that she does not remember the most crucial hours of the night of the murders. McDermott's testimony would have everyone believe she was his willing accomplice, almost the leader. And Grace herself has already told three different versions of the story.

The Problem: Grace herself makes the point many times that once people believe something about you, and rumors get started, there is not much that will sway their opinion. Many willingly believe she is a murderess and should have hanged for what she did, while others, namely the committee from the Methodist church, believe her to be innocent. They are hoping that Dr. Jordan's findings will show that she is either insane, or at the very least, was forced to go along with McDermott's plan out of fear for her own life. Unfortunately, it seems Dr. Jordan is having as hard a time as anyone getting straight answers out of Grace as to the night in question, and he is not sure what to believe. With patience beginning to run low on the side of the committee, and strong opposition from those who believe Grace is guilty, Dr. Jordan has little choice but to move forward as best he can. He is hoping such a case will jump start his career, but if he makes a false move, it could tarnish his reputation before his career can even begin. 

Genre, Themes, History: This is a historical fiction novel set in the mid-1800s in Canada. Grace Marks was a real woman convicted of the 1843 murders of the man she worked for, Thomas Kinnear, and his housekeeper, Nancy Montgomery. Atwood's main addition to the story was the character of Dr. Jordan, who in the book is summoned to make his own assessment of Grace in the hope that he will believe her to be innocent. While he may have been hired by those who wish to set her free, he is determined to form his own conclusions and not be swayed by anyone else's opinion. But Grace proves to be as much a mystery to him as she does most everyone else, except for those who have formed their opinion and are sticking with it. Real opinion about Grace Marks remains divided. Some accounts of her story are not trusted because they have been sensationalized, while others are not trusted because the methods used to evaluate her were less than scientific. Also in the background of the story are the looming Civil War in the United States, as well as Canada's own issues with rebellion and the rise of the lower classes. Then there is the question of a woman's reputation and how easily it can be ruined, as well as prevailing views on mental health and the condition known as "hysteria" in women.

My Verdict: The idea of not being entirely certain if a convicted murderess is truly guilty or not is always intriguing. Add whether or not she can be declared mentally ill adds another dimension. Present the possibility that she knows exactly what she is doing and is simply putting on a show for all, and the story becomes something else entirely. I will say this, if you are all about the destination, then this book may not be for you. Alias Grace is a journey, with the truth of what happened the night of the murders being the ultimate goal, but it will take a lot to get there. Sometimes Grace is the narrator, and sometimes there is a third person telling the story. Still other times developments are made via letters that are exchanged between the characters. Every character has their own objective regarding Grace Marks, and everyone has their own reason for being interested in her story, which she proceeds to tell in incredible detail, all except the events you want to know about the most. Atwood presents a fictionalized account that is as fascinating and engrossing as the real story.

Favorite Moment: When Dr. Jordan realizes why Reverend Verrenger is so interested to see Grace released from prison.

Favorite Character: Jeremiah the Peddler is a character that will follow Grace from her early days  as a servant, well into her time in prison, though his look and identity may change. He is a character that proves to be as mysterious as Grace, though much more lucky.              

Recommended Reading: Stone Mattress is a short story collection by Atwood that I enjoyed more than I do most short story collections. Some of the stories are downright fascinating and showcase Atwood's incredible imagination.                                                                                  

Friday, February 23, 2018

Historical Fiction: Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

Lisa Wingate's Before We Were Yours was the 2017 winner of the Goodreads Choice Award for Best Historical Fiction, and I figured I should check it out if not for that reason alone. Also, the premise is incredibly interesting and hard to ignore. In the present day, there is an epidemic of children being taken and traded, and it turns out this is far from a new thing as this is the very subject the book tackles, but in the setting of the late 1930s.

The Situation: Avery Stafford was born into wealth and privilege. And although she already has a successful career as a lawyer, she is also being groomed to eventually take her father's place in the Senate, should his recent health scare cause him to no longer be able to serve. Her future is more or less laid out for her, and all she has to do is stay by her father's side, go to the right events, take the right pictures, and finally set a date for her wedding. It is at a photo opportunity at a local nursing home that Avery meets May Crandall. At first glance, May is simply a cantankerous old woman whose family thought it best she be placed in a nursing home. But it is obvious that May recognizes something in Avery, and when the youngest Stafford must go back to the nursing home to retrieve a lost bracelet, she learns just enough to make all of the public appearances and wedding planning take a back seat to an interesting new investigation.

The Problem: It was 1939 in Memphis, Tennessee when 12 year-old Rill Foss's life turned upside down. After her parents leave for the hospital when it is time for her mother to give birth to twins, strangers find their riverboat and take the five Foss children - Rill, her three sisters, and her baby brother - to the Tennessee Children's Home Society orphanage. The children are told they will be returned to their parents, but Rill soon realizes this is not going to be the case, and that the orphanage intends to adopt them out to people who can pay a substantial amount for them. What Avery is able to learn in present-day South Carolina will bring Rill's story more than 70 years into the future, and have her questioning everything she knew about her family, her life, and what she thought she wanted.

Genre, Themes, History: This is a historical fiction novel set in both 1939 Memphis and present-day South Carolina. Avery tells her story as the third daughter of a senator who knows too well that appearances are everything and any family secret is potential ammunition for the opponent. Rill tells her story as the oldest daughter of Briny and Queenie, two river gypsies in Tennessee who were raising their children aboard the Arcadia on the Mississippi River before they were taken. The Tennessee Children's Home Society was a real place, as was Georgia Tann, the woman who ran the place and was responsible for what happened there. Many today regard her as one of history's worst serial-killers, as it is estimated that hundreds of children died under her care. It is difficult to say for sure, as children's names were changed before they were adopted out, and all records and files were kept sealed, making it difficult for grieving birth parents to find the truth. Rill's story is full of abuse, despair, struggle, and loss. Avery may live a charmed life, but her concern for her ailing grandmother is what motivates her to look into the older woman's past, even if she is somewhat afraid of what she may find. If there is an old hidden family secret, she would rather find out about it before someone else does. 

My Verdict: I get why this book was ultimately named the winner for the historical fiction category in the Goodreads Choice Awards. Rill's story is masterfully brought together with Avery's, when on the surface, the two could not be more different from one another, but that is kind of the point. Two very different people, from two very different eras, turn out to be connected in a way they could not have been imagined. And perhaps what fascinated me most is the idea that if the terrible things of the past didn't happen, then we would not be the people we are today. Rill's story is heartbreaking in a way that keeps us reading, and Avery is privileged and driven in a way that the reader doesn't hate her. Both can be difficult things to pull off, but Wingate does it, while also telling a story that is at once fascinating and tragic, while still being hopeful. If there was one issue, it was that the ending felt rushed as the two stories came together.

Favorite Moment: When a woman from Rill's past turns out to be a key player in bringing the truth to Avery.

Favorite Character: Avery can be annoying in her naiveté, but ultimately she wants the truth for her grandmother and for her family, even if it would be best for the family image if that information stays hidden. 

Recommended Reading: I recommend The Radium Girls by Kate Moore. It is the true story of the women who worked with radium as dial painters and suffered the consequences of being in such close proximity to the dangerous element for prolonged periods of time.     

Friday, February 16, 2018

Young Adult Fiction: We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

I first became interested in Nina LaCour's writing when I read The Disenchantments back in 2013. I actually feel like I should have picked up her latest novel, We Are Okay, much sooner than I did. I mean, it did end up winning the 2018 Printz Award, which is no small thing. Either way, it's here now. And as always, I was excited to see what story LaCour would tell next, as well as what emotions and issues she would explore. Also, what made me even more excited about this book is that some of it takes place on a college campus, a setting I feel like I do not see enough of in YA literature.

The Situation: Marin just finished her first semester of college and is now prepared to hunker down in the dorms, alone, during the entire winter break, in New York. It would perhaps make more sense for her to go home for Christmas, like everyone else in her building, but even four months later, Marin is no mood to travel over 3,000 miles back to California to face what she ran away from. For as long as she can remember, it was always just her and her grandfather, whom she called Gramps. She occupied the front of the house, and Gramps took the two rooms in the back. They would always meet up in the middle for food, Gramps' lectures, and whatever else that constituted a normal family life. But since his sudden death just a few weeks before Marin was supposed to leave for college, she has left everything behind, as even her memories are often too painful to think about.

The Problem: Of course there have been people back home who have attempted to contact Marin. It may have just been her and Gramps in the house, but he had his poker friends, and she had school friends who cared for her. One of them, Mabel, has even taken it upon herself to travel across the country to see Marin, away from sunny California and into the snowy landscape that is New York in the winter. After months of ignoring Mabel's texts, Marin thinks about the visit with dread, even as she prepares for it by shopping for groceries and making her room presentable. Even before Mabel arrives, her fast approaching visit has Marin reflecting on the last moments of senior year, and her final summer at home as she knew it, and Gramps as she knew him. Mabel's visit may finally force her to face what happened, why she ran, and the life she thought she knew.

Genre, Themes, History: This is a young adult novel set in and around an unnamed college campus in New York, and around the San Francisco Bay area for the flashbacks. Marin tells the story of her current situation alone in the nearly abandoned dorm hall, and the months leading up to when she left for college. The transition from high school to college can be complicated enough, but Marin is also dealing with the added grief of her grandfather's death, and what she has learned since. Then there is the guilt she feels over what she could not do for him, and how she has completely abandoned her old life since. This grief and guilt are naturally central to the novel, but so is the idea of family and how it is not necessarily always made up of people that are related to you. Also essential are the friends that will stick by you no matter, even to the point of traveling across the country after many unanswered text messages. And the grief that Marin feels of course comes from the loss of a loved one, but also at the revelation of not knowing someone as well as she thought she did.

My Verdict: Honestly, this one took awhile to get going for me. It could be a testament to the grief Marin is wading through. It could be the way she is telling her story. It also could be the harsh setting of Christmas Break in cold and snow-covered New York, even with the flashbacks to sunny California in other chapters. Either way, it was not until well over halfway through that I began to be truly invested in this story. But once the book got there, there was no turning back. This is not to say that the grief in the first half does not feel real, or that Marin is not relatable,  or even that the story is not interesting. I suppose as Marin begins to open up, so did the book, at least for me. By the end, I was reminded as to why I first started reading LaCour's work five years ago.

Favorite Moment: When Marin stocks the refrigerator in the communal kitchen and proceeds to label all of her food, even though she will be the only one in the building for at least three weeks.

Favorite Character: There are actually quite a few options here, but I think I will go with Hannah, Marin's roommate in college, who is actually only in the very beginning of the book before leaving for Christmas Break, but her presence is always felt. After having met Marin for the first time on move-in day, Hannah has taken it upon herself to be the best friend and roommate she can be. Always encouraging, always willing to talk, and even willing to shield Marin when she is confronted with something she does not feel like handling, Hannah is the friend we all need when we are hurting, especially when we are also far from home. 

Recommended Reading: The Disenchantments remains my favorite LaCour book, but Hold Still is probably the one she is most known for. 

Friday, February 9, 2018

Graphic Novel: Gone Rogue by Marissa Meyer

Today I am excited to cover Gone Rogue: Wires and Nerve Volume 2 by Marissa Meyer. I decided to pick up the series last year with Volume 1, even though I never read the original books in the Lunar Chronicles series, and probably never will. Even with that considerable gap in knowledge, I was able to follow the first book just fine and enjoyed it immensely as it left me excited for where the series was headed. Naturally, I must issue a spoiler alert for anyone who has not read either Volume I or the original Lunar Chronicles.

The Situation: It has now been a year since the evil queen Levana was overthrown, allowing Cinder to take her place on the throne, and a few months since then events of the first book in the Wires and Nerve series. Iko and Kinney are still charged with hunting down rogue bioengineered wolf-soldiers, led by Alpha Lysander Steele, who still maintains that his mutation can be reversed, and that Cinder simply refuses to do it. With the annual Peace Festival coming up in New Beijing, an event that even the queen herself is scheduled to attend, everyone knows it is time to step up security and be on alert. If Steele was going to make a big move, this would be the time to do it. 

The Problem: Steele has managed to amass quite a number of wolf-soldiers in his army, and one of which includes one of the group's own, Wolf. After Steele shows up on Scarlet's farm, he does his best to convince Wolf to join him, and it works. Wolf would also love to have his mutation reversed, and he worries his true nature will someday hurt his relationship with Scarlet. Now his loyalties are being questioned by his closest friends, with only Scarlet remaining certain that he is only playing along to protect himself, and her. But Wolf is not the only one who may be dealing with identity issues, as Iko faces near constant scrutiny from Kinney, the person she must spend the most time with. She can make as many upgrades as she wants, but ultimately she is an android, and she must come to terms with how and why she was made. Meanwhile, Steele is getting ready to make his move, and it is obvious he will not stop until he has his revenge.

Genre, Themes, History: This is a science fiction/fantasy graphic novel for young adults. Much like the first book, there are plenty of action scenes, and all of the main characters from the original series make an appearance. Kai and Cinder look forward to reuniting after months of being apart; Scarlet and Wolf continue to attempt to maintain a simple life together in France; Cress and Thorne still travel together in Thorne's ship; and Winter and Jacin remain as close as ever as the former continues to serve as an ambassador to Earth. Central to the book is the theme of identity: who we are, what makes us who we are, and if any of that could be changed, would we go for it? And along with the theme of identity is the equally heavy theme of what it means to be human and deserving of friendship, loyalty, and love. Steele's stubbornness only serves to turn him into what he claims he no longer wants to be. Meanwhile, Iko, an android, is able to accomplish and feel things no mechanical being should, leading her to dig a little deeper into her unique programming.

My Verdict: The intense action and drama start up even quicker in this story than it did in the first one, and that one started off with a fight scene. Meyer immediately throws the reader into a situation that shows Steele's determination. Knowing how dangerous he is and what he is willing to do allows the reader to feel his threatening presence throughout the book. No one in the group is safe, and while the attempt to feature all eight original main characters, plus Iko and Kinney, can make some scenes crowded and confusing, the overall result shows how the issue effects everyone differently, though they all stand by Cinder. This is a great continuation of the Wires and Nerve series, and has once again left me wanting more. The art and illustrations are well done, the story is interesting and compelling, and the characters are fun, while also containing plenty of depth. 

Favorite Moment: *spoiler alert* When Cinder calls out Steele for being the only one who is actually referring to the wolf-soldiers as beasts and monsters.   

Favorite Character: Although they don't get much exposure in this series, I still pick Scarlet and Cress. Scarlet is quick to pick up a shotgun and do what she has to do, while Cress is quiet and shy, but also smart and loyal. 

Recommended Reading: I would like to recommend the Binti series by Nnedi Okorafor. It follows a teenage girl as she leaves Earth for the first time to attend University, but her ship is attacked by the fearsome Meduse who are bent on revenge.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Classic Fiction: The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

I decided it was time to read the 1989 Man Booker Prize winning The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, who was also awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2017. This is not my first exposure to Ishiguro as I have read both Never Let Me Go and The Buried Giant, but this is perhaps the book he is best known for, so I looked forward to exploring it.

The Situation: Stevens, an English butler who has loyally served at Darlington Hall for three decades, has decided to take a road trip of sorts to see an old friend and coworker, Miss Benton. Upon the death of Stevens' previous employer, Lord Darlington, Darlington Hall has been sold, and now bought, by an American gentleman named Mr. Farraday who has kept Stevens on, as well as any of the other staff who wished to stay. It is at Mr. Farraday's suggestion that Stevens has decided to take this trip, as he was hardly ever one to take a day off for any reason. It is during this trip that he will reflect not only on the sights, villages, and people he will come to meet on his journey, but also his life of service to Darlington Hall, and more specifically, Lord Darlington himself.

The Problem: Ultimately, Stevens is simply a man who works very hard, who decides to take advantage of a brief period of time when his employer will be away to take a drive to meet up with the former housekeeper of Darlington Hall, and perhaps even persuade her to rejoin the staff as the present staff has found themselves a bit overstretched as of late. However, such a drive seems to allow him time to reflect honestly on his previous employer and some of the events the occurred after World War I and before World War II. The more Stevens remembers, the more he finds himself defending his unwavering service and loyalty to a man whose reputation seems to have declined sharply since he was at the height of his influence. The more the butler remembers, the more he is forced to acknowledge that Lord Darlington may not have been a man so deserving of his life's attention.

Genre, Themes, History: The is a fiction novel set in post-WWII England, but often reflects back to Stevens' days of service before the second world war took place. One theme that Stevens finds himself exploring throughout the novel is that of dignity and the various definitions that can be given for the word, including his own. It seems that Stevens' brand of dignity means carrying out his tasks as a butler at all costs to himself and his own desires, even if that means family members in crisis are ignored when a guest of Lord Darlington's must be attended to. Stevens is also insistent on carrying out his duties to his employer even when he makes less than favorable alliances with certain political figures and organizations. For one, Stevens feels like Lord Darlington's political actions are none of his business, and two, despite how people talk about him after the war, Stevens is still insistent on defending his former employer's honor. What is interesting is as the novel unfolds, Steven remembers more details, or perhaps simply allows himself to, while also coming closer to meeting up again with a woman with whom he had peculiar, though strictly professional relationship.

My Verdict: Though I loved Never Let Me Go, Remains of the Day may be the best book for those looking for an easy introduction into Ishiguro's work. It's short (less than 300 pages), and easy to follow, even as Stevens moves back and forth through time, remembering stories about his time in Darlington Hall. Stevens himself may be a bit frustrating, but that is more than likely the point as the man is so dedicated and so unwavering in his duties that he lets nothing, and I mean nothing, get in the way of him being an excellent butler. Ishiguro masterfully handles how everything is revealed, as nothing feels rushed, or out of place, or left unsolved. 

Favorite Moment: Hard to say really. There are many nice small moments in the book, but so much of it is Stevens attempting to convince himself that he has spent his life well in the service of a noble man, when it slowly becomes evident that may not be the case. The revelations are small, but slow-coming, and Stevens is not one to get worked up about them.  

Favorite Character: Young Mr. Cardinal has a small presence in the book, but he proves to be someone who also cares for Lord Darlington much like Stevens does, but is not content to sit idly by while the man is taken advantage of.

Recommended Reading: Never Let Me Go is also a great example of Ishiguro's masterful storytelling.