Prince Caspian, C.S. Lewis
If this book is a blatant Christian allegory, I don’t know enough to notice — well, okay, there are some bits which are, but that’s always the case when Aslan is involved. Not surprisingly, perhaps, this is one of my favourites. I love Caspian and his rapid rise to maturity and understanding, and his determination to do right by his people. Even if those people happen to be talking badgers. The supporting cast, like Trumpkin and Trufflehunter, are fun, and of course, it also features the Pevensies. What’s not to love?
This one probably gave Tolkien the most heart palpitations as regards mixing-and-matching of mythologies (suddenly the Maenads appear following Jesus!), but in a way, I like that too because it’s quite a universalist spirit. Take what’s good and uplifting and illuminating from all kinds of mythologies, and live by that — that’s not my motto, but it could be.
It doesn’t feel quite as warm as The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe does — to me, anyway — but it’s fun.
Armada, Ernest Cline
Received to review via Netgalley; publication date was 16th July 2015
I thought this was going to be amazing. As you can see from the fact that I didn’t get round to finishing and reviewing it until now, it definitely fell short of my expectations. It felt like it tried to take the plot of Ender’s Game and tie in the nostalgia of Ready Player One, but it just… didn’t read as authentically geeky in quite the same way. Where I found Ready Player One charming, I ended up rolling my eyes. And I didn’t find any of the characters particularly interesting.
And while I may not be a big fan of Orson Scott Card as a person for his stated opinions about various topics, I think Ender’s Game was better structured and had more to say.
But now I want to reread Ready Player One and see if I still enjoy that as much.
Every time I firmly promise myself I won’t miss this again, something comes up and I miss it for weeks. Sorryyy.
What have you recently finished reading?
I finished up a reread of Naomi Novik’s His Majesty’s Dragon — and have raided the library here in Leuven for the next few books. It’s better than I remembered, actually; the alternate history is careful and clever, and Laurence’s relationship with Temeraire is sweet. Things which are meant to be emotionally affecting really, really are. And corners are not cut just to give you a nice ending to a story arc.
What are you currently reading?
The Burning Page, by Genevieve Cogman. I’ve nearly finished it now, which is both exciting and a little daunting. There are going to be more books, right? Right??
What are you planning to read next?
I’m not sure. I might try and finish Dark Sky, by Mike Brooks, as I am enjoying it and I’m not sure why I put it down. I’ve also been meaning to reread The Summer Tree, by Guy Gavriel Kay, or possibly his Sailing to Sarantium. Hmmmm, so many choices…
The Toll-Gate, Georgette Heyer
I don’t normally get along with cases of instantaneous love, but some authors can make me go along with it. Heyer is one of them, and this mystery/romance works well. Both the male and female lead are capable and likeable, and they treat each other with respect (unlike in, say, Faro’s Daughter). All in all, it’s an appealing combination, and Heyer shows off her research in her use of thieves’ cant and dialect. If your favourite Heyer novels tend to be the ones with mysterious highwaymen, capricious noblemen who don’t mind pretending to be commoners, etc, then it’s definitely one for you — more like The Talisman Ring than The Grand Sophy.
The only problem for me was that I’m not very knowledgeable about period-appropriate dialects and thieves’ cant. Some of it I didn’t follow very well, and at times it does hinder you in understanding exactly how a certain character gave themselves away, etc. But for the most part, it becomes obvious if you keep reading.
Heyer writes with humour and flair, as ever, and the afternoon I spent devouring this was well worth it.
A Little Princess, Frances Hodgson Burnett
As a kid, The Secret Garden was the most magical thing I could think of. For some reason, I never read A Little Princess back then. Perhaps I would have liked it more then; as it is, I found it preachy and tedious. It’s very… Victorian: a child is in good circumstances, has a fall from grace, but her own merits of character finally result in a restoration. Unlike Mary from The Secret Garden, Sara Crewe is tediously saccharine and goody-goody.
I don’t really see why other people love this so much — especially if there’s no element of nostalgia. At least The Secret Garden’s Mary has character — Sara Crewe feels like, well, a Mary Sue. I am a little scared to ever reread The Secret Garden, now…
Today we have a guest post from my favourite person…
Hulk, the bunny
Over to her! Her spelling mistakes and typos have been corrected in the interests of readability.
Hi! I am a bunny. I like to nibble books, and here are the books I want to nibble.
- The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien. In French. Because Mummy forgot to read me the end and I want to know how it ends.
- The dictionary. Lots of quality nibbles in there.
- The Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis. It was used to keep me from rattling my cage before I lived in a pen. Vengeance will be mine.
- Among Others, by Jo Walton. Mummy and Mommy both like it.
- The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison. Because Mummy and Mommy read it a lot and I am jealous of it.
- The Buried Giant, by Kazuo Ishiguro. I have nibbled this a tiny bit in the past and I got a taste for it.
- There’s A Hippopotamus on my Roof Eating Cake, by Hazel Edwards. Because I want cake!
- Mary Berry’s Baking Bible. The things Mommy makes from it SMELL nice, but I’m never allowed any.
- The Lies of Locke Lamora, by Scott Lynch. Because Mommy says Locke is her “tiny thieving boyfriend” and she is not allowed anyone except Mummy so BYEBYE TINY THIEF.
- Anything else I can reach! Wait, Mummy says that’s cheating. It’s not. It’s not! I am not a cheating bunny.
Now comment and tell Mummy to give me ALL THE KERRIT [ed. she means carrot].
Slade House, David Mitchell
I want to enjoy Mitchell’s books, but it annoys me that they’re all connected. I don’t know if that makes sense, but it’s how I feel all the same; it seems so consciously literary and over clever, in many of the cases. Granted, I’ve only read this and Cloud Atlas, but I’ve seen a chart. A chart, for goodness’ sake. So I was a bit annoyed when reading this, because I came to the phrase ‘the bone clocks’, a reference to the title of another of Mitchell’s books. I don’t want to have to read all your supposedly stand-alone books to understand all your characters!
Pet peeves aside, the different voices were interesting, though not always as distinct as I’d like. I figured out the “mystery” of it pretty fast, and thus wasn’t surprised by things which rather surprised the characters themselves — the trouble of having seen it happen to another character before them, I guess. There’s a creepy atmosphere about the book, though that works best in the earlier sections: later, I’ve got too good an idea of where things are going.
It was fairly absorbing, but if it had been much longer I might have got bored. There’s only so many cycles you can go through before it all becomes rather obvious, and repetitive to boot.
The Horse and His Boy, C.S. Lewis
This was one of my favourites of the Narnia books as a child, and reading it now, I’m not sure why. The story is okay, though it’s mostly set outside of Narnia. I suppose it’s the setting that really lets it down: the Calormenes are blatant stereotypes, and Calormen itself is an obvious exoticisation of a Muslim country. I do give it some credit for having a female lead in Aravis — a female lead who can ride and hunt better than the male lead, who is brave and clever, though not perfect. (She’s self-centered and selfish, as well, without giving thought to the consequences of her actions.) It’s even better that she is a Calormene, even though she’s presented as rather an exception.
(For example, Lasaraleen is Aravis’ friend, but Lewis doesn’t have nearly as much time for her. It’s just the same as the way he later dismisses Susan: Lasaraleen is feminine, interested in clothes and makeup and men, and so he dismisses her. I’m not sure it was narratively necessary to make her seem so silly. Wouldn’t it have been more interesting if Aravis was tempted to stay with her because she’s sensible and smart and reminds Aravis of the enjoyable aspects of her life in Calormen?)
Anyway, it’s still fairly fun, and one of the least openly allegorical books. So, a rather lukewarm three stars.
The Litany of Earth, Ruthanna Emrys
You can read this novella online here, and it’s good background to have if you’re interested in reading Emrys’ novel, Winter Tide. It helps orientate you and figure out the characters, how they’re related, what they care about, where they’ve been. I paused in reading Winter Tide to read this, and it definitely clarified things. In fact, I liked it more than Winter Tide: it felt better paced, perhaps because it does have to have a beginning, middle and end in a fairly short stretch of words.
It’s beautifully written, as well; both this and Winter Tide are excellent reworkings of Lovecraft’s ideas concerning the Deep Ones, taking away a lot of the horror he held and expressed about anything Other. It stands alone well, even though it serves as a good introduction for Winter Tide. It’s definitely a good way to dip into Emrys’ work to see if you like her style and ideas.
The Book, Keith Houston
This is a really beautiful object. If you read the colophon, it has all sorts of details about the book’s binding and printing processes. The pages feel lovely, and though I’m not a fan of the cover — it’s just so… cardboardy, and gets easily scuffed — it looks good. The page design is really fun: when a new element like a title, bullet or indent shows up, there’s a label on it. Also for gutters, margins, etc. The photos and images included are in colour, too. All in all, it’s a great gift item, something to give to someone who loves books. It’s less readable for being such an object in its own right; I sort of want to keep it pristine rather than read it. Particularly given that it’s not cheap (though there is an ebook).
But, read it I did, and it’s a fascinating book. It’s split into a couple of different parts, following the development of the book: paper, writing, ink, the invention of the codex as the physical format. It’s clear and, as far as I can tell, accurate. I enjoyed reading it: the prose is clear and to the point, without being dry.
If you’re fascinated by books, not just for stories but for their scent and feel as well, this is probably well worth picking up. It’d definitely make a good-looking gift for someone so inclined. I found it both enjoyable and informative.