Inheritance: A Review of Zachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor, by Xiran Jay Zhao

            Aside from genre, fiction can be separated into categories based on the age group of the target audience. YA, or young adult, is one of the most well-known, as that classification encompasses some of the most popular books and series within the last few decades.  The Percy Jackson & the Olympians series, The Hunger Games, and more cemented themselves into the public consciousness, attracting readers well outside of their target.  Less well known is the classification of stories aimed at slightly younger readers, such as preteens, known as middle grade fiction.  Middle grade stories tend to have a different writing style than their YA cousins, although the plots may share commonalities.  However, while they definitely aim for a younger audience than YA fiction or books meant for adults, middle grade fiction does not underestimate its readers.  Rather, the best middle grade writers understand that children are far more intelligent and emotionally aware than adults would assume.

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The Heist: A Review of Enemy of All Mankind, by Steven Johnson

The nature of pirates and piracy in popular culture has enjoyed a romanticization beyond nearly any other historical group of individuals.  We know many of their names, from Blackbeard to Anne Bonny, and when they appear in movies, television shows, and novels, they are portrayed as free men and women of the sea.  Believing in democracy and freedom and fighting against the tyranny of England and the other empires of the time.  For the epitome of this effect, look no farther than Jack Sparrow from The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.  First seen as morally grey, he is quickly changed to have a heart of gold.  Even the villain of the first film quickly becomes one of its central heroes.  However, historical pirates enjoyed a well-earned notoriety upon the high seas, and Steven Johnson’s Enemy of Mankind: A True Story of Piracy, Power, and History’s First Global Manhunt goes through great pains to disassemble these myths and portray the most successful pirate of the Golden Age as he truly was.

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I Offer a New World: A Review of Empire of Blue Water, by Stephan Talty

It is a historical truth that pirates sailed in the waters of the Caribbean during the seventeenth century.  A historical truth which has spawned fantastical legends and a fascination with all things piratical.  These were the early buccaneers, the French corsairs, the English privateers.  Men and women who believed in freedom and taking what they wanted, when they wanted.  At the height of their power, the privateers of the Caribbean assembled armies, razed cities, and waged war on one of the most powerful empires known to man.  Documents and legends show they practiced direct democracy, the entire crew voting for their captain, and a form of socialism mostly free of corruption, where spoils were divided equally among the crew with bonuses granted in certain circumstances.  These are not the pirates of today, or even the pirates of fiction.  These were the scourge of the new world.

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Jungles of the Upper Air: a review of Frankenstein Dreams, by Michael Sims

Stories have always had a fascination with fantastical devices and achievements.  Trojan horses and flying carpets.  Castles floating in the clouds and undersea civilizations.  Men building wings for themselves and marionettes without strings.  Read enough, and go back far enough, and you begin to realize that the human imagination has always been able to concoct futuristic technologies.  However, it was not until relatively recently, the Victorian era, that story-tellers began looking for explanations outside of the gods and magic.  Sure, the flying carpet could take a rider just about anywhere, but there was no mechanism to explain, no system of gears to chart.  Contrast that with the creation of Frankenstein’s monster and the excruciating detail Mary Shelley wrote to give him life.  At a certain point, magic simply was not good enough.

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2017 Reading List, Part 3

Sunday is all about Part 3 of my 2017 reading list.  With today’s addition, that brings my total up to fifteen books and novels.  Yesterday I showcased The Obelisk Gate and The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin, the second and third books in her Broken Earth Trilogy; Silence Fallen, book ten in Patricia Briggs’ Mercedes Thompson series; as well as American Gods and Norse Mythology, by Neil Gaiman.  Today I’ll be switching between genres, beginning with three of the many science-fiction novels I’ve read this year, before showcasing the latest story by one of America’s most prominent novelists, and then ending with a dive into a history lesson.  The binding force behind today’s selection is not literary or intellectual.  It is sheer entertainment.

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