Laughter and books make life a little easier

30 Day Book Challenge

Day 30 – Your favourite book of all time

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This post is part of a month-long series of pre-dated posts running while I am on holiday. Feel free to comment, I’ll get back to you when I return!
Please note that any “reviews” I write here are simply my own opinion and that I am not doing any objective, informative reviews for this challenge. If there are any spoilers in a post, I will indicate it at the top.
I draw the book covers straight from Goodreads and you can click on the images to go to the book’s page on there.

* This post contains some spoilers! And I’m not whiting them out again, or I’ll have to do it to whole paragraphs.
You have been warned! 😉 *

This post is way too long – my apologies! Also, sorry it is so late. I left it without queuing it up so I could post it manually (and savour its writing longer) and then obviously I only got to it now. You’ll have to get used to this again! 😛

Did all you guess yet what I am going to write about today? Yes? No? Wasn’t it that obvious? Did I gush about too many different things? Or did you always know where all of this was leading up to? Here we go… the last day of the challenge.

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

I am certain that this is my favourite book of all time… most of the time. Sometimes, then I start to wonder of this is really the book that I love most of all. However, this is never for long. I always return to Tolkien. It doesn’t take much. A quote… a picture… I’ve shown you before some of the Lord of the Rings graphics that I make. It’s one of my favourite things to do and it always gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling inside. Sometimes I just decorate quotes, but more often I focus on a single subject, character or scene. I’m working on a collection of graphics – one for each one of the Fellowship. I usually take different scenes from the movies and then merge then together for a single graphic, add texture and a quote or two. It’s probably not the best graphics, but I love making them. Then, sometimes the unexpected happens…

Recently I was going through screencaps of The Return of the King movie. I was looking for the scene where Merry and Pippin are separated because I wanted to make a graphic detailing that scene. I couldn’t find it because I wasn’t sure how far into the movie it was. I was jumping around; looking for any scenes close to it that could give me a clue. Finally, I got closer and started going page for page. Eventually, I was a bit annoyed because the characters didn’t want to stop talking and just get on the horse and I didn’t dare skip a page of screenies in case I missed it. Suddenly, it hit me: it was as if the full pain of Merry and Pippin’s separation just hit me full in the face. Watching it happen frame by frame brought the truth home to me. It was not an aspect of the book or movies that I had ever paid much attention to (well, in the book it’s hardly there), but I finally understood how painful this was for both of them, but especially to Pippin, who’ve always had Merry to look out for him and now he was suddenly a child, alone in a strange country. Suddenly I couldn’t even imagine losing my best friend whom I’ve been friends with since we were little kids, much like Merry and Pippin, and especially not like this: not knowing if you’d ever see them again and not even if they are alive or dead. I started to tear up – and this is not a scene where I’ve ever been sad before. At the Grey Havens scene yes (I just can’t stand Sam’s face without tearing up) and sometimes at the scene when the Black Gate opens, I get such an icy thrill. But I’ve never cried with Merry and Pippin before.

And that is what I love about Lord of the Rings. There is always a new discovery, a new truth brought home to me, a new connection spotted. I know I analyse lots of LotR in terms of Christian allegory and no-one else has to see it that way if they don’t want to, but to me, The Lord of the Rings is a story of endurance when all hope seems gone (but it never truly is), which is especially precious to someone like me who sometimes still struggles with the darkness inside me, and the receiving of grace when you don’t deserve it at all. There was redemption even for Gollum in the end and so we learned that the pity of Bilbo indeed ruled the fate of many.

Also… oh Frodo… he never deserved any of the horrible things that happened to him. Seriously, he lost everything: his home, most of his friends, his dreams, his health and the Shire that he loved so much. Eventually, in Mordor he also lost hope, but he still found a way of going on. Mostly, this way was Sam, of course. Frodo certainly wouldn’t have got far without Sam and that is probably why some people say that Sam is the real hero of LotR, not Frodo. I think they are both heroes. Both did incredible deeds bigger than them. It wasn’t one or the other, but together they pushed on to hope’s ending and heart’s breaking.

Then Frodo failed. He failed the Quest, he failed his duty and broke under the influence of the Eye. Yet, he still received grace. He was not too far gone, because you never are. You cannot be. He may have lost everything in Middle-earth, but he gained Valinor and that is truly something to look up to.

I’ve heard many people say that there are so many books these days with plots similar to Lord of the Rings. I totally agree with that. What I do not agree with is when people say that LotR may have been the first, or one of the first fantasies of its type, but there are now so many others resembling it that LotR is not interesting anymore and has no distinguishing features to make it better than the others. There I disagree. It has distinguishing features: how many other fantasies of its type have you read where the author eventually has the hero fail in his epic quest? How many others have you seen where the saviour (unintentional maybe) is Gollum, not Frodo? Not many, if any, would be my guess. Beyond  that, it is the sheer scale of Lord of the Rings that makes it the best, to me. Beyond this one stories, we also have an entire legendarium and more, for the great tales never end. Also, Tolkien was a master of the English language and he has a way of putting things and describing things that is so wonderful and unique…

Because of the epic size of this story, I also have to admit that I have read LotR cover to cover only once. It’s simply too big for regular rereads. It has 1,030 pages plus the appendices in my edition (The one pictured up there. It’s the 50th anniversary edition!). There are some chapters that I have read several times. I regularly pick it up and just read some part. I often catch myself just reading and reading when I was really only scanning for a quote to use in a graphic. On top of LotR, I of course also love The Hobbit and I am super excited for the upcoming movie. I also own The Children of Húrin, but I never quite seem to get to reading it. Anyway, I think I should probably read The Silmarillion first, before attempting that one. I’ve read parts of The Silmarillion before, but not all. It’s not an easy read for me because I always get confused with the names of all the Elves, because they sound so similar to me and then I have to page backwards and forwards to remember who’s who. However, I’ve read the part about the forging of the Silmarils and I’ve read about the Valar and the creation of Middle-earth. I’ve also read about the first murder and the Curse of Galadriel, but there is still much to go. I think this would be my next step into the Tolkien legendarium.

 

And with a complete change of topic I would declare that I love hobbits. Hobbits never fail to make me smile. I think if you just saw my graphics folder you would be able to deduce that already from the amount of graphics featuring hobbits that I make, compared to graphics featuring any of the other characters or races. It used to the be the Elves that I loved that much… and while I still love them and all the descriptions of their homes, lately I have come to realise the attraction of the hobbits’ simple lives… and the great deeds done by small hands to save Middle-earth.

And my OTP (one true pairing) also comes from LotR. I don’t know why it matters, because I don’t even write fanfiction. Not really, anyway. *cough* Definitely not romantic fanfiction, though! 😉

 

And here at last, dear friends, we come to the end of our journey through the 30 Day Book Challenge! *

I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did!

  • 35 posts (counting the introductory one),
  • About 40 books,
  • Some 26,000 words (that’s over half a NaNoWriMo-novel, eep!)

And hereby, by the power vested in me (because I hold the password to the blog), I declare this challenge over! Normal “Cartoons & Creative Writing” posting will resume in a few days!

 

Sig3

*With apologies to Professor Tolkien for mangling his quote.


Day 29 – A book that everyone hated but you loved

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This post is part of a month-long series of pre-dated posts running while I am on holiday. Feel free to comment, I’ll get back to you when I return!
Please note that any “reviews” I write here are simply my own opinion and that I am not doing any objective, informative reviews for this challenge. If there are any spoilers in a post, I will indicate it at the top.
I draw the book covers straight from Goodreads and you can click on the images to go to the book’s page on there.

I will try to shape my thoughts about this, though I don’t have any well-ordered arguments or strong points. However, I will try to explain what I think. Everyone else is probably right and I’m being a fool. Well, here goes…

 

The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann Wyss

I see a lot of hate going for this book these days. (Just click on the image and read some reviews on Goodreads. You’ll see several opinions going that way.) People tell you how they threw it away after reading only part of it. People tell you how this book is the epitome of everything that they hate. People tell you that it is racist, Eurocentric and offensive.

And you know what? I know it is, but I still like it.

Let me explain… or try to, at least. I’m the last person to condone racism or Eurocentricism. In this case they are basically the same thing, so I will simply refer to racism. I hate it, it irritates me and I hate it. Though I was raised in an environment where racism was definitely not absent, I hate tried my utmost best to kill this method of thought in myself. I hope that I have succeeded. Anyway, how come I liked The Swiss Family Robinson?

It is the perfect example of colonial literature. It is absolutely a product of its times and a perfect example of the thought patterns of the colonial period. You can’t pin an accusation of racism on a book written during a period when racism was normal and common practice. Also, I don’t know how you can accuse the author of being a racist if you have not extensively done research about his work and life. You definitely can’t claim this after having read only a few of his pages. In the case of this book, I would find it difficult to venture any opinion about the author even after reading the entire book, because throughout it is written in first person – in diary form. Therefore it would be hard to tell if anything said in the book is simply the bias written into typical, colonial-stereotype characters, or if it is the author’s own opinion.

 

The Swiss Family Robinson is a book about a family surviving on a deserted island after having been shipwrecked. I’ve written before that I loved this kind of stories when I was younger. Perhaps this has clouded my perception of this book. I don’t know. However, I was taught to always read a book inside the context that it was written, and this book was written in a context where Europeans belittling other races was perfectly normal and happened every day. This was the colonial period. That was what happened. The book is innocent because it didn’t know of any better, right?

No? I told you that I’m trying to shape what I think, but I don’t think I’m doing very well so far. I’m not explaining well, am I? If you read classic books, you will find these kind of offensive overtones mentioned previously in many, many books. You will find them in the works of Dickens and the work of Conan Doyle. You will find them in the works of Jules Verne and Agatha Christie. These are all works that represent the thought of their time, and I cannot take offense at that, because I know that this is the way that people thought in the past. I know that this is not the way that people think now. Well, most people, anyway. Many at least.

 

Am I arguing about nothing here? Do you think this book is offensive? Is it simply oversensitive to say that The Swiss Family Robinson is racist? After all, there are many that say Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness is racist (an argument which I think is ridiculous) and some that say J.R.R. Tolkien’s works are racist, which I can honestly not see. I think it’s a bit unrealistic to pin racism on works that take place in a completely different world with completely different peoples. Anyway, I’m digressing.

To conclude, even though I can see a way of thought that will be considered offensive these days in The Swiss Family Robinson, I cannot take offense at it or dislike the book for it. It is colonialist literature of a bygone period, from which you cannot expect a different, modern kind of thought, and that is what it represents to me. It doesn’t mean I have to condone it.

 

Tomorrow brings the last post featuring my favourite book of all time!

Sig3


Day 28 – Favourite title

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This post is part of a month-long series of pre-dated posts running while I am on holiday. Feel free to comment, I’ll get back to you when I return!
Please note that any “reviews” I write here are simply my own opinion and that I am not doing any objective, informative reviews for this challenge. If there are any spoilers in a post, I will indicate it at the top.
I draw the book covers straight from Goodreads and you can click on the images to go to the book’s page on there.

 

I was wondering what is meant by “favourite title”. It can’t mean the same as “favourite book” because that post is still coming, so what then? I thought it could mean a title that sounds snappy. So I tried to think of some, but all that came to mind were band names, I’m afraid. I decided there probably weren’t any snappy titles that I could write about. So I thought maybe I could write about a title that I like the look or sound of. All that came to mind was The Horse and His Boy from The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. Just… because. I like the way it sounds. 🙂 And I like the book too.

But it still didn’t help me, because The Horse and His Boy just didn’t seem right for this honour of favourite title. Then I thought some more and finally decided that if a favourite title is not the same thing as favourite book, then a favourite title must be something that evokes good memories… something that I associate with the mention of a title. Finally, I was getting somewhere!

The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton. Yeah I know it’s a children’s book. So what? 😛

I was enchanted by this book as a kid. I read it to pieces. Not really, but it would have been in pieces had it been any less sturdy. I had the illustrated hardcover edition that is pictured up there and every single illustration simply added to the magic of this book. I once spilled water on it and I had hardly been as upset in my short life as that day. The good news is that the book survived through a lot of attention from my mother, though some of its pages remain crinkled to this day.

Actually this is the second book in The Faraway Tree-trilogy. Though I do tend to think of the trilogy as one glorious book, this second one is my favourite. It’s the first one of the three that I read and it’s the one that stuck with me, aided of course by the wonderful illustrations. As I said in Day 21’s post, Enid Blyton’s books are all sunshine and rainbows and that I believe that it is good for children to believe in this world before real life steps in. Her books were my companions in the years before everything started going wrong. They were my protectors during the time that everything had already gone wrong. Other people in the same situation had the world of Harry Potter to escape into to forget the pain, but I had Enid Blyton. Though I am not someone given to nostalgia, the way that I feel about her books, especially the wonderful Faraway Tree, comes close.

 

Would I read this book again, if I went and dug it out of the box where it lives these days? No, I wouldn’t. I don’t want to spoil the memories that I have of it. I want to remember it in the way that I still think of it now. I want to keep the story alive the way that I remember it – I don’t want to defile it with grown-up cynicisms.

This is why The Magic Faraway Tree is my favourite title. The mere mention of the title is enough for me to recall the happiness that I felt when reading these books. The title is enough – it is like a magic word, because at the mention of it, I can recall the story so well. Not everything maybe, but enough to have it relive. The Magic Faraway Tree may not be my favourite book anymore, but that doesn’t mean I’ll ever forget it and everything that it meant to me. At the mention of the title, the magic will relive. 😀

 

We’re in the home stretch now! Tomorrow’s post is about a book that everyone hated, but I loved.

Sig3


Day 27 – The most surprising plot twist or ending

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This post is part of a month-long series of pre-dated posts running while I am on holiday. Feel free to comment, I’ll get back to you when I return!
Please note that any “reviews” I write here are simply my own opinion and that I am not doing any objective, informative reviews for this challenge. If there are any spoilers in a post, I will indicate it at the top.
I draw the book covers straight from Goodreads and you can click on the images to go to the book’s page on there.

 

I was considering writing about one or more of Agatha Christie’s murder mysteries for today’s post, but then I decided that a plot twist at the end of one of those books is not surprising, it is expected. Basically, when you pick one of those up, you are saying “Go on. Surprise me,” because plot twists are, after all, Dame Christie’s speciality.

 

So then I decided to write about The Valley of Fear by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It is one of the four Sherlock Holmes novels written by him, and quite different in the sense that Holmes is only present for a small part of the story (similar to A Study in Scarlet). For the rest of the story, we are transported into the past and a continent away from Holmes and Watson’s quarters in Baker Street. We travel to America, to the fictional Vermissa Valley (a.k.a. the valley of fear) where coal and iron is mined, where we follow the story of young John McMurdo, who seems to be a nice guy. He is a newcomer to the valley and soon hears out that the entire valley is caught in the dictatorship of a group of men reminiscent of the Klu Klux Klan. They are the Scowrers and their word is law. At first McMurdo laughs off these dark rumours, but it is not long before he is swept up, drawn in and becomes as bad as the rest of these men who are red to the elbows with murder.

I’ll leave you to find out the fate of these men for yourself, but I can tell you that the plot twist at the end of their story had me gaping at the masterly subterfuge. Personally, I think it is the best of the four Holmes novels and it is also the one all the stories that stand out the most to me, even with the absence of Holmes and Watson. Although I am also fond of The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Adventure of the Devil’s Foot, The Greek Interpreter and The Five Orange Pips none of them have a plot twist like this at the end.

 

On a slightly related note, has anyone else experienced that they get too good at predicting the plot of a normal book? The more I read, the more I find plots that repeated. That is what I like about Agatha Christie’s oeuvre: just when I think I know who the murderer is, taking into account her method of flitting between the most likely and least likely person, then she turns the tables on me again so that I am wrong yet again. Actually, I have only once been “right” about the ending and then just as I was congratulating myself, Monsieur Poirot said “Wait a minute,” and pulled yet another rabbit from the hat. That book has two endings: it makes you think that it is ending and then it simply picks up the mystery again and goes on. It is her first book: The Mysterious Affair at Styles.

 

I could name other mysteries with plot twists, but what would be the point? You already know that I love murder mysteries (I’m gruesome like that) and why else do I read them except for the plot twists? I’ll stop now before I spoil the plot of one of these mysteries. I hate it when people do that to me, so I shouldn’t be a hypocrite. 😉

 

Tomorrow’s post is about my favourite title.

Sig3


Day 26 – A book that changed your opinion about something

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This post is part of a month-long series of pre-dated posts running while I am on holiday. Feel free to comment, I’ll get back to you when I return!
Please note that any “reviews” I write here are simply my own opinion and that I am not doing any objective, informative reviews for this challenge. If there are any spoilers in a post, I will indicate it at the top.
I draw the book covers straight from Goodreads and you can click on the images to go to the book’s page on there.

I do hope today’s post doesn’t shock anyone who knows me in real life too much! 😆

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald was prescribed to me in high school. I didn’t like it. Not only was it confusing and the class discussions pretty useless, it was a matter of principle. Isn’t it that way with most people who had English in high school? You hate the prescribed works simply because they are prescribed and you have to read them, rather than for a specific thing that bothers you. Anyway, looking back now, I think I only took one thing away from this book: a changed opinion. But first, I need to tell you a little anecdote.

Four years ago, almost to the day, I joined a website called wikiHow. As the name suggests, it is a wiki (a website that anyone can edit) of how-to articles. As I learned the policies of this site, I learned that its community employs a policy of “assuming good faith”. Someone made a bad-faith edit? Assume it was a mistake. Correct it and show them the correct way. Do not flame them. Do not get angry. If you want to read the whole policy, you can do so here. It was here that I learned not to judge people.
You do not know what another person is going through. You do not know the situation. You have absolutely no right to judge someone for their actions (especially not through the internet). Anyway, what is it that makes you so much better that you can go around judging everyone else?
That’s my opinion. 😛 What a coincidence that this lesson on wikiHow coincided with the time that I had to read The Great Gatsby.

The narrator of Gatsby is Nick Carraway, a man whom others tend to trust and tell things because he always reserves judgement. It makes them feel more secure, because they know that he will not express any judgement that will make them feel bad about themselves. Along with Nick, I learned how little we actually know about what motivates others. Along with him I learned how presumptuous it is to assume that you know about people. I learned to assume good faith – it is kind to yourself and others.

This seems to be the only thing that stuck with me from The Great Gatsby. I changed my opinion about people. Like most teenagers, I used to be very judgemental about others and their actions. My lessons from wikiHow and Gatsby taught me to change my ways. Since those days, I’ve tried very hard to reserve judgement and assume good faith everywhere I go.

For example, not long ago, as we drove into a petrol station, my mother and I saw a policeman sitting on a bench, eating an ice cream. Immediately, my mother was dealing out judgement, going off about how he was slacking and should be doing his job, yet here he’s sitting eating an ice cream. All I could say was “How do you know he is on duty at the moment? Maybe his shift’s over?” I didn’t say anything about judgement, because that would only lead to a fight. People don’t take that kindly and anyway, it’s more important for me to still assume good faith.

A last word about The Great Gatsby… however much I hated it in school, I think if I got it as a prescribed book now, after 2 and a half years of English at university, I would like it much more. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was my first foray into Modernism. I didn’t know what the characteristics of a Modernistic novel are, or that it is completely different from a storybook. If you want to read it as a storybook… it doesn’t work. If I knew about literature then what I know now, I think it would have made all the difference, but we weren’t taught that in high school. High school is just very good at equipping you to hate English, not understand it. 😉

Enough of this. Tomorrow’s post is about the book that has the most surprising plot twist or ending. 🙂

Sig3


Day 25 – A character whom you can relate to the most

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This post is part of a month-long series of pre-dated posts running while I am on holiday. Feel free to comment, I’ll get back to you when I return!
Please note that any “reviews” I write here are simply my own opinion and that I am not doing any objective, informative reviews for this challenge. If there are any spoilers in a post, I will indicate it at the top.
I draw the book covers straight from Goodreads and you can click on the images to go to the book’s page on there.

Tiffany Aching, the main character of one of the subseries inside Discworld.

Tiffany Aching is nine years old at the start of the first book about her and she has decided that she wants to be a witch when she grows up. Tiffany has the abilities First Sight and Second Thoughts. First Sight, unlike second sight, is quite rare and allows one to see what is really there, not what your mind tells you ought to be there. Second Thoughts are thoughts about your first thoughts. Later in the novel, Tiffany finds out that she also has Third Thoughts (thoughts that watches the way that she thinks about thinking) and possibly even more Thoughts.

 

Tiffany is the kind of person who reads a fairy-tale and then starts to question the motives of the characters. She wonders whether the handsome prince was really that handsome, or if the people simply described him that way because he was a prince. She wonders about the princess who was the described to be “as beautiful as the day”, because winter days aren’t very pretty and rather drab, compared to, say, a spring day when all the plants are renewed and blossoming.

“The stories never said why she was wicked. It was enough to be an old woman, enough to be all alone, enough to look strange because you have no teeth. It was enough to be called a witch. If it came to that, the book never gave you the evidence of anything. It talked about “a handsome prince”… was he really, or was it just because he was a prince that people called handsome? As for “a girl who was as beautiful as the day was long”… well, which day? In midwinter it hardly ever got light! The stories don’t want you to think, they just wanted you to believe what you were told…”

– The Wee Free Men, Terry Pratchett

Tiffany is the kind of person who goes and looks up words that she does not know in the dictionary.

Tiffany is described as (I’m paraphrasing here) “the person at the party who sits in the corner with a very small drink, unable to join in the party spirit, because she has a little piece inside of her that will not melt and flow with the rest”.

That last paragraph… that is basically how I spend my life. I can’t join in. There is a part of me that thinks too much and questions everything and that part will not let me abandon myself and join in whatever is going on.

 

It is the same part of me that struggles to really care about people and feel for people. In the last few years, I seem to have ended up at quite a few funerals. I don’t know why there are so many funerals in the family. Anyway, at all of the funerals, I have ended up simply standing there. I couldn’t join in. Everyone was crying and hugging each other and getting on with the normal business of a funeral, but something was stopping me from doing the same. I go completely numb inside and all that I can do is stand there, watching myself think. The same happens at parties, which is why I avoid the things. It’s anyway just a nuisance to me, so why should I go?

 

In The Wee Free Men, one of the things that Tiffany is accused of is that she didn’t cry when her grandmother died. It bothers her and she wonders why she couldn’t cry. I didn’t cry when my grandmother died either. I couldn’t: something was stopping me. My mother had dropped me off at extra lessons and when I came out of the school and walked to the car, the call had just come through. All I could do was awkwardly stand there… I didn’t know what to say or do. There was nothing that seemed natural to me to do in such a situation: not cry or say something sympathetic, which is not something that I am good at anyhow. I may have been a lot older than Tiffany when it happened to her (she was seven and I was only just seventeen), but I still identified with the way that she felt.

 

Like Tiffany, I tend to question everything. I’ve always wondered about the useless princesses in the fairy-tales. I’ve always wondered about the sweeping statements that they tend to make. I don’t like them and I don’t like stories that want to prevent people thinking for themselves, which is also something that Tiffany objects to. It may be unusual, but it is just the way that my mind works.

“Yes! I’m me! I am careful and logical and I look up things I don’t understand! When I hear people use the wrong words, I get edgy! I am good with cheese. I read books fast! I think! And I always have a piece of string! That’s the kind of person I am!”

– Tiffany, The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett.

Tiffany is actually the character that I mentioned when I was writing about my favourite female character (the one that I said I would write about later). I love how self-assertive she is. I love how much she thinks. I love how she is armed only with a frying pan and Diseases of the Sheep (a book that belonged to her grandmother). It came quite slowly, how I realised how much I identify with her, but once I realised it, the connection was clear and she promptly became my favourite female Discworld character.

 

“Another world is colliding with this one,” said the toad. “All the monsters are coming back.”

“Why?” said Tiffany.

“There’s no one to stop them.”

There was silence for a moment.

Then Tiffany said, “There’s me.”

 

Tomorrow’s post is about a book that changed my opinion about something.

Sig3


Day 24 – A book you wish more people would’ve read

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This post is part of a month-long series of pre-dated posts running while I am on holiday. Feel free to comment, I’ll get back to you when I return!
Please note that any “reviews” I write here are simply my own opinion and that I am not doing any objective, informative reviews for this challenge. If there are any spoilers in a post, I will indicate it at the top.
I draw the book covers straight from Goodreads and you can click on the images to go to the book’s page on there.

I read Anne of Green Gables years and years ago. It could be as much as ten years ago. To make a long story short, I loved it. But it seems to me as though people don’t read these kinds of book anymore. Everybody I ask invariably replies the same: they’ve heard of it, perhaps seen it on TV, but they haven’t read it and that makes me sad.

I loved the Anne-series and I tried to read as many of the books as I could find. I also really enjoyed Anne of Avonlea and some of the others, but when Anne started having her own home and family, she grew beyond a world that I knew and could identify with and I lost interest in the books.

I read Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea and Anne of the Island. The first two I enjoyed, but Anne of the Island was already passing beyond my frame of reference. Anne of Windy Poplars I never could find. Anne’s House of Dreams I read, but I didn’t like it all that much (I was a young teenager, remember? It’s not really a book that I could identify with. Perhaps I would feel differently if I read it now.) I made an attempt to read Anne of Ingleside, but it didn’t really work. I know my mother then borrowed it and read it and she loved it. But I can’t really say anything about it. Then I tried to read Rainbow Valley and Rilla of Ingleside, but I had missed too much out of the series by now and the books simply confused me. Anyway, I wanted to read about Anne, not about her children and her life as mother. I also read both Chronicles of Avonlea books and liked them, though not nearly as much as Anne of Green Gables.

 

That doesn’t really matter, you know. It is Anne of Green Gables that matters. I wish that more people would have read this book, because I want to talk about it, but I can’t find anyone who has read it. Though, come to think of it, I would probably have to do a reread as well if I want to talk about it. 😉

What is it that makes Anne Shirley such a beloved character? Is it her spunky (ah, how wonderful to be able to use that word again) nature and her simple determination to make the best of every situation? I don’t really know, because it is so hard to define. However, I do think that it is Anne’s courage to carry that made me love her character so much. Also, I never really realised how much a part of me she became until I recently saw a light flash through my window at night. I immediately thought of how Anne and Diana signalled to each other using pieces of cardboard and candles. Also, when I first used dye in my hair, I was thinking, “I just hope it doesn’t turn out green, like Anne’s hair did.” Remember that moment when Anne had to emerge with her green hair? I think that picture has been imprinted on my mind forever!

I just love suddenly remembering scenes from books like this. It can always remind me how much a character has become a part of me. I have a way of always remembering Anne’s disaster with the cordial at odd moments and it never fails to make me smile.

Therefore, it is moments like this that makes Anne of Green Gables my book that I wish more people would have read. I wish that more people could share in moments like this.

 

I see that several of the Anne-books are available as free eBooks. Do me a favour and make my wish come true by downloading and trying it for yourself. Why don’t you? It’s a lovely book. 🙂

Tomorrow I write about the character that I can identify with the most.

Sig3


Day 23 – A book you wanted to read for a long time but still haven’t

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This post is part of a month-long series of pre-dated posts running while I am on holiday. Feel free to comment, I’ll get back to you when I return!
Please note that any “reviews” I write here are simply my own opinion and that I am not doing any objective, informative reviews for this challenge. If there are any spoilers in a post, I will indicate it at the top.
I draw the book covers straight from Goodreads and you can click on the images to go to the book’s page on there.

* This post may have some hints of spoilers, but nothing that isn’t floating about in the Potterverse every day. *

Well, it’s time to confess. Imagine me, squaring up to finally proclaim this publicly.

I still haven’t read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

I know there are people who will hate me for this. There are those who think you can’t love Harry Potter if you haven’t read all the books. There are those who think you can’t be a “true” fan if you haven’t read all the books. I hate all these arguments. These are the reasons why, most of the time, I dislike the Harry Potter-fandom. However, I find myself drawn to it, time and again. It is fascinating and repelling at the same time.

I love Harry Potter. But I have reasons why I haven’t read it. Unlike many other people whom I’ve interacted with on the internet, I hold no fear that HP will “end” if I read the last book. Books don’t just “end”. My reasons are much simpler than that.You see, at the time it came out, I had been dealing with a lot of loss and death. I couldn’t stand, on top of all this, the death (or even just the possible death) of some of my favourite characters. My mother bought me the book when it came out, but it just sat on my shelf, gathering dust. It’s still there. I saw both the Deathly Hallows movies. People have told me about the plot so many times that I even know the differences between the book and the movies. But I haven’t actually read it.

I also have a second reason for this. After reading the sixth book when it came out – much too fast, because I didn’t actually have time for this and I was simply racing to be done – I kind of turned against Harry Potter. As I closed Half Blood Prince for the last time (I’ve only read it once) I ended up crying and being furious at Snape. From the first book, I thought he was Dumbledore’s man. Not necessarily a good man, but only in the Death Eater circle as a spy. As the sixth book ended, for the first time I was unsure. I didn’t like it, and I was starting to think this series was a mess. It was getting dragged on too long now. You see (here comes another revelation), I didn’t like the fifth book much either. Because *gasp* I never liked Sirius much. He grated across my nerves from the beginning, and between him and Harry, the fifth book was driving me against the walls. I wasn’t even sad when it happened. I was a bit sorry for Harry of course, but mostly I was just relieved.

I didn’t really want to read the seventh book anymore.

Then the Deathly Hallows Part 1 movie came out and I knew it was finally time to face this story. When I watched it, I found I could face it. I found that I have now grown stronger than the death that last time threatened to overwhelm me and keep me down. Then Part 2 came out and brought me right back home to being a Harry Potter fan. For the book, the timing was just wrong for me. For the movie, it was exactly right. I want to read the book now. But…

I don’t think I could get maximum enjoyment out of it now. I have read the first five books so many times I can recite them. I read the sixth book so fast I can only remember about four scenes from it and that’s all. I don’t think I’d understand everything and have it draw to a close if I read Deathly Hallows now. Which is what makes me want to reread the entire series. I want to start at the beginning again and read everything. Until I reach the seventh book, whereupon I will finally open it, read it, and finish it. But do you think I have time to do any of this? No, I don’t.

One day I will read this magnificent series and finally finish it. I will make one day happen. Until then, Harry, Ron, Hermione, Luna, Neville and Ginny will have to remain unfinished characters.

Someday…

Tomorrow’s post is about a book I wish more people would’ve read.

Sig3


Day 22 – Favourite book you own

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This post is part of a month-long series of pre-dated posts running while I am on holiday. Feel free to comment, I’ll get back to you when I return!
Please note that any “reviews” I write here are simply my own opinion and that I am not doing any objective, informative reviews for this challenge. If there are any spoilers in a post, I will indicate it at the top.
I draw the book covers straight from Goodreads and you can click on the images to go to the book’s page on there.

I’m not quite sure what I am supposed to write for this post.  I’ve written about this favourite and that favourite and I’m still busy with the build-up to the final post: my favourite book of all time. So what makes this post different from any of those I just mentioned? I own most of the books that I have written about in the past three weeks. That’s simply the way that I worked, not having access to a library for a long time, so I had to beg for, buy or borrow all the books that I read during that time. Now I don’t know what to write about that has not already been written about, or is still to be written about. All that I can think of to talk about is book in my collection that has a special significance for some reason or other. They may not all be favourites, but they do have something that makes them special…

The Sea of Trolls by Nancy Farmer is the only book that I own that is autographed. I have no idea why it is autographed – I have never gone to a book signing before. I bought it that way, actually. It was at school and there was a book sale in the school library (where I worked, of course). A book store came and set up shop in the library. When I picked up this book, I saw that it was autographed on the first page: clearly it said Nancy Farmer. Well, I don’t know if its fellows were also signed. Perhaps they were. Perhaps these were pre-signed books that were then sent to be sold because no other use could be found for them. Or perhaps my copy being in this heap was just a mistake and should never have been sold in an ordinary school library. I just don’t know, but it’s mine now and I like it. I really like it, actually. For many years, I’ve had an interest in mythology and this book deals rather heavily with Norse Mythology and the writing of the Epic of Beowulf. It’s very good.

The Prisoner of Zenda is the oldest book in my collection, to the best of my belief. I had seen the animated movie and liked it, so then I picked up the book second-hand because I thought I would like it as well. Unfortunately I am now also compelled to say that I haven’t read it. I tried. I really tried, but it was so dry, so boring that I simply could not read it. Perhaps I should try again, but when I bought it I couldn’t manage it. I should go check again sometime exactly how old this book is… it’s completely falling apart and smelling very strongly of dust and something else.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone… because this is where it all began. Actually I own three copies of this book (it’s a long story). If people ask me if I’d give any of those away to people who don’t have books, I say “Sure!” and then I can’t pick which one to give away. Should I give away that very first copy? Or should I give away one of the others, each of which also has a special significance? Until I can choose, I think all three books will remain in my possession. One day, maybe I will be able to let some of them go, but for now, I would like to remember my childhood, reading Harry Potter.

And then… The Coral Island by R.M. Ballantyne. I absolutely loved this book when I read it as a kid. When I wrote about Treasure Island, I said that I had a thing for “deserted-on-an-island” kind of stories. I got it from the library and it was one of those copies that the library redressed when the old cover got too worn. So it had a plain green, hardback cover with the title in tiny golden letters on the spine. It was therefore not very noticeable or memorable. Well, I gave the book back to the library after I read it. Not long afterwards, the entire library was demolished to make place for a shopping centre (it was then moved lower down the street). At the same time, the library took the opportunity to redecorate and move all the books about. When I came to the new library again, several years later, everything was moved and I had no idea where to find that book again. I could remember the plot pretty well, but I had no idea who the author was or what the title was. I’m in that situation for several more books from that library actually, but don’t worry, at least this one story has a happy ending. One day last year, when I was walking the 821-shelves in my university library, a book caught my eye. It was this Puffin Classics edition of The Coral Island and as you can see up there, it is quite bright blue. When I went closer, the name sounded familiar. When I picked it up and read on the back, I knew immediately that I had found my lost book of years ago. When I found and bought this book in a second-hand bookstore, I was so happy that I now finally owned a copy of this childhood favourite. Now I can only laugh at the roundabout way that I had to find it again – first the cover, then the title and author, before I could finally search for it again.

Tomorrow I reveal a book that I have wanted to read for a long time but still haven’t.

Sig3


Day 21 – Favourite book from your childhood

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This post is part of a month-long series of pre-dated posts running while I am on holiday. Feel free to comment, I’ll get back to you when I return!
Please note that any “reviews” I write here are simply my own opinion and that I am not doing any objective, informative reviews for this challenge. If there are any spoilers in a post, I will indicate it at the top.
I draw the book covers straight from Goodreads and you can click on the images to go to the book’s page on there.

I loved all Enid Blyton’s books as a child. I read them to pieces. Most of them I could recite by heart after only a glance at the page. Even if her plots were repetitive, even if I got lost somewhere in between the series sometimes, I still loved her stories. They were… just so full of sunshine and hope. They were so different from the world around us – more like utopian literature than anything else. As I said for yesterday’s post, that is definitely not what I want from books these days. I do not want them to present the ideal as the real. But as a child, that was exactly what I wanted and I still believe it is good for children to believe in sunshine and rainbows before the world messes them up.

 

I loved The Famous Five and I loved the Adventure-series. My other favourite Blyton book is The Land of Far-Beyond, her take on The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan. I consider it an extremely significant book and wish it got more recognition nowadays. Wow, now I sound so old, hehe! I own The Pilgrim’s Progress actually and I even started to read it, but then I forgot about it again, which is a bit odd, seeing that I devoured the “children’s version”. I really must read it someday. Actually, nevermind The Pilgrim’s Progress and all those other books that I’ve bought and not read yet. Somedays all I want to do more than anything else in the world is re-read my Enid Blyton collection. But I’m scared as well. I’m scared that I will now suddenly start seeing flaws and the dullness that some people attribute to her stories. I’m scared that I will lose my golden view of Enid Blyton’s books if I read them again now. I’m scared that more of my childhood would be spoiled and I would do anything to prevent that. So maybe I should just leave those books where they are, live in the nostalgic memories and stick to my cynical fantasy where I belong these days.

But that is not what I am here to talk about today. I’m here to talk about the Blyton book that I picked out of the heap of favourites: The Valley of Adventure.

 

I’m not sure why I love this one most from all the Adventure-books. I believe this one was the first I read out of the series, even though it is not even close to being the first of the books, so that may have something to do with it. This was the first book where I was introduced to Philip, Jack, Dinah, Lucy-Ann and, of course, Kiki the parrot. It features a wrong aeroplane, a secret valley in Western Europe and, as most Blyton-books, children able to survive on their own. High adventure to a 12-year old. This is also the only Blyton-series where the characters were my age when I read the book. Most of her books features kids who were younger than I was when I read them. Obviously that drew me in like a magnet, because these fantastical escapades were all centred around people my age. These characters were my fictional friends. Where other people my age had Harry Potter and friends, I had these guys. (I only joined the Harry Potter bandwagon later.) Enid Blyton’s books formed the basis of my own desire to become a writer and my travel bug. So many scenes are described in her books that  I got bitten by the travel bug early. I had to see places like this for myself. This Valley of Adventure specifically features Austria. So, when a few years ago I was privileged to visit Austria, I was eager to see if her scenes were just names, or if they were accurate descriptions of the real scenery. Well, I didn’t see much of Austria – it rained for about three days straight. But just having been there makes me feel closer to my favourite. Bring on the adventure!

 

Well, now I am at the end of this post and I noticed I’ve hardly said anything specific about The Valley of Adventure, but just waffled on in general about Enid Blyton’s books. Maybe that is appropriate. All Enid Blyton’s books are my favourite books from my childhood, not just one. I’ll never, ever forget those wonderful days, before growing up, with a Blyton-book in hand.

Tomorrow’s post is about my favourite book that I own.

Sig3


Day 20 – Favourite romance book

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This post is part of a month-long series of pre-dated posts running while I am on holiday. Feel free to comment, I’ll get back to you when I return!
Please note that any “reviews” I write here are simply my own opinion and that I am not doing any objective, informative reviews for this challenge. If there are any spoilers in a post, I will indicate it at the top.
I draw the book covers straight from Goodreads and you can click on the images to go to the book’s page on there.

** Yes! This post has some major spoilers! **

I’d like to make it clear right from the start that I do not read romance (I’ve said it before in this challenge). I hate it. Hate it. I avoid looking at that entire shelf in the bookshop or library. I roll my eyes and make a snide comment every time there’s a kissing scene on TV or if someone whispers a sweet-nothing into someone else’s ear. There is nothing sweet in my mind about a romance. Entire books have been spoiled because the foolish author stooped to folly and made the two main characters fall dramatically in love in the last couple of pages. Yes, I am indeed looking at you, The High Lord.

That said, from this very Princess Bride that I am now going to discuss comes the quote: “Cynics are simply thwarted romantics.” I’d call myself a cynic any day of the week. It’s not an insult if someone calls me this. I know I am cynical. Very. I am indeed a thwarted romantic, but not in the way you think. When I was little, I believed in fairy tales. I thought that one day every girl’s prince must come. Then I found out that guys would rather try to crush your spirit and break you and that chivalry was dead. (Okay, okay, only mostly dead. Yay, another Princess Bride reference!) And I started to hate these romantic books, because they’re not real. They still believe in the fairy tales. They still think the world is simple and that love will make everything okay. Actually, they believe that love is simple. I hate the view that represents of the world. That’s why I prefer dark fantasy over romance and I want to slap an author if they make two characters fall in love in the last couple of pages with no build up at all. So unrealistic. But enough about my cynicism and more about how The Princess Bride transcends all of this to become a book that I love, love, and also happens to be a romance. Really, I’m not that cynical – I’m just realistic.

What redeems The Princess Bride?

Well, it is funny. Very. The parentheses were basically killing me and when that silly Prince Humpty called Buttercup a “sweet pudding” I was rolling about on my bed laughing. It is so overdone. It is so obviously satire on that famous topic “courtly love” that it redeems all the fluff. It is so obviously written by someone as cynical as me about fairy tales that it was not long before I loved this book.

But what else do I love about this book?

Well, I love the back cover. The front cover is okay too, but I picked up my copy in a second-hand bookstore for— Well, it wouldn’t help to tell you the amount seeing that I have no idea what it is in dollars. But it was for something as pretty trivial. I actually bought it from the money that I should have bought a bus ticket from, but then the bus didn’t come and I had to wait for my father to fetch me from university. Thus, the next day when I went to the bookstore, I still had the bus ticket money in my pocket and it exactly covered the price of this book. It’s a bus-ticket book! Darn, I’m digressing again. What I actually meant to say is that this meant I did not get to pick my cover. I would have preferred that nice, popular cover with the dashing man in black dragging Buttercup by the hand, but instead I got the edition that was reprinted after the film came out. It’s got two actors on the front. I’m assuming that it’s Buttercup and Westley. Neither of them really look as described. Oh well. But the back cover: oh my! It’s plain red, with only the words:

“WHAT HAPPENS when the most beautiful girl in the world marries the handsomest prince in the world – and he turns out to be a son of a bitch?”

When I saw that, I was basically sold on the story already – I could smell a satire coming up.

And… what else?

Well, you’ve just got to admire William Goldman’s style. I was quite some way into the book before I began suspecting that *SPOILER ALERT* [this was not an abridged version like the inside cover said, but actually the original version. I believed that waffle in the front at first. I got some way before I started wondering, “But if the original version of this book is supposed to be so old that it has disappeared from the world, why is the language modern American?” When I finished reading, I confirmed this on Wikipedia. There is no “original” version. The whole “abridging” is just a literary device. In the days before Wikipedia, Goldman’s fabrication must have been even more believable. Unless you actually read the copyright’s page first, of course.]

Ah, it’s a wonderful story.

“What’s it about? Fencing. Fighting. True Love. Strong Hate. Harsh Revenge. A Few Giants. Lots of Bad Men. Lots of Good Men. Five or Six Beautiful Women. Beasties Monstrous and Gentle. Some Swell Escapes and Captures. Death, Lies, Truth, Miracles, and a Little Sex.

In short, it’s about everything.”

But it’s not just about everything. It’s about books. And it’s about how “Life isn’t fair, it’s just fairer than death, that’s all.” When **MAJOR SPOILER ALERT** [Westley died, I was in shock. How could he die? He is the hero and this is a story! How could the story go on if you kill off the hero?] I couldn’t understand. Then I realised that I had got too caught up in the fairy tale and I had forgotten about the satire. The Princess Bride is a fairy tale for grown-ups. Everyone is not going to live happily ever after. Not all the bad guys are going to get punished. The hero is not immune to death just because he is a protagonist. Life isn’t fair and he is just as mortal as anyone else. That is why I love this story. It is about true love, but it is also about realism. You are going to get hurt.

Oh, and it has an open ending, which makes it the first fairy tale that I have seen with this characteristic. I like it: if I am feeling cynical, I can imagine that they all died within the next few minutes. Or I can imagine that they lived and made do eventually. It’s all up to you.

If you haven’t read it, read it. You may just think that William Goldman is a genius.

“Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”

 

So then I made this.

 

Tomorrow’s post is about my favourite book from my childhood.

Sig3


Day 19 – Favourite book turned into a movie

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This post is part of a month-long series of pre-dated posts running while I am on holiday. Feel free to comment, I’ll get back to you when I return!
Please note that any “reviews” I write here are simply my own opinion and that I am not doing any objective, informative reviews for this challenge. If there are any spoilers in a post, I will indicate it at the top.
I draw the book covers straight from Goodreads and you can click on the images to go to the book’s page on there.

Ahaha! An easy one at last! I knew as soon as I saw the topic. My favourite book turned into a movie is Lord of the Rings. (x3!) I’d watch those movies constantly, only they are a bit long for that. 😛 I think that Peter Jackson and his team really did a great job on this story and they told it on-screen as close as it would have been possible to portray it. Obviously, they changed some things, but I really cannot say that any changes really detracts from the storyline. Like most fans, I’m disappointed that Tom Bombadil’s piece was cut, but really… when you start to think about it, his entire story would have been irrelevant and a waste of screen-time if you do not include the whole story of Valinor, the Eldar, the Maiar coming to Middle-earth… and so on and so on. Tom Bombadil is mostly interesting for speculation about who he really is, if he was the First and for the dream that Frodo had while in his house. He is a hugely entertaining character as well, of course, but without his backstory, he would simply have been reduced to a rather interesting and intelligent fool. I’m not angry that he was not included.

I did read the book before I saw the movies. I know I got the three DVDs for my 18th birthday, which was one of best presents ever. I read the book sometime before that. Actually, I don’t really know when I first read it, not only because I can’t remember, but because I read it across a period of months. So when I started and when I finished, that was quite far apart. I’m not one of those people who managed to stroll through it at age 12 and loved it ever since. I don’t think I’d have been able to read it at that young age. I was still reading Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl at that stage!

In my opinion, there are some of the pieces of the story that is better in the movies than in the book. The chief is example is, of course, the King of the Golden Hall piece. Théodred’s funeral and everything surrounding it was absolutely lovely in the film and it is of course missing in the book. Oh, it’s there, but not nearly in the emotional detail that the film gives to it. Always now, I feel as if the book is a bit lacking there, because of the piece that the movie added in there. I always feel that part was masterfully executed on the part of Bernard Hill.

Another improvement that the movies made was cutting Sam and Frodo’s hike through Mordor shorter. People tend to always comment that Tolkien’s style is too long-winded, but I have never minded that. The only time that I really felt that now he is getting too long-winded was after Cirith Ungol when the two hobbits were creeping across the plain and Tolkien started describing every rock and depression and blade of grass. Then I felt it was getting a bit much. The movie balanced that out much better, with lots of cuts to the other characters, so that the plains of Mordor don’t get so boring.

The three Lord of the Rings movies have made the story accessible to people who would never in their lives have read such a thick book. Both my parents never have and never will read the book. But they watch the movies with me. My mother loves Sam and she actually recognises him when I’m working on LotR graphics. I was quite surprised, because usually she doesn’t recognise these things. I’m not sure how much my father understands of the story, because he keeps asking me and switching the characters up, but he also know what a hobbit is and he refers to people he describes as hobbit-like. Anybody who looks vaguely hobbit-like gets referred to as a hobbit in our house, and everyone understands that, even though only one of us has read Lord of the Rings. That really is something that we have to thank the movies for.

The score to the movies is definitely another masterpiece. I think Howard Shore really outdid himself in that score. The full 10-hour version is something I play when I do assignments. It really helps and I can really imagine Middle-earth playing in my ears. It is very recognisable as well and I caught myself singing the main theme the other day. That is another thing that we have to thank the movies for.

All in all, I love The Lord of the Rings-film trilogy. It’s the whole combination of score, storyline and scenery rolled into one. It’s just wonderful. 😀

Tomorrow’s post is about my favourite romance book… oh dear… 😉

Sig3


Day 18 – A book that disappointed you: Part 2

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This post is part of a month-long series of pre-dated posts running while I am on holiday. Feel free to comment, I’ll get back to you when I return!
Please note that any “reviews” I write here are simply my own opinion and that I am not doing any objective, informative reviews for this challenge. If there are any spoilers in a post, I will indicate it at the top.
I draw the book covers straight from Goodreads and you can click on the images to go to the book’s page on there.

When I picked up The Earthsea Quartet by Ursula K. Le Guin in a second-hand bookshop, I was excited. I’ve hardly seen a Top/Favourite XX Fantasy-list that this book was not on, so I thought I was in for a treat. I was ready to be blown away by a story that so many people loved and recommended, but I’m afraid that I’m still waiting for my hair to ruffle.

Frankly, this book disappointed me. I felt that this world that Le Guin created had so much potential that she never realised. It is set in the Earthsea, an archipelago of hundreds of little islands, each with its own people. Magic rules this world in the form of the true names of things that serve as words of power in the hands of wizards. The books follow the life of Ged, a boy with magical potential, as he goes to the wizard school, has successes and failures, progresses through the ranks and has adventures.

When I finished the book, I realised that I still had no idea what Ged really looked like. I knew he was dark – skin and hair – and that his hair turned white towards the end of the story, but I didn’t know much further than that.

I also thought that the story fast-forwarded in odd places and then dragged in others. Just as I thought we were getting to an interesting bit of his life, then we went and jumped forward 17 years. Then soon after that, the story would linger over some insignificant bit for pages and pages.

The last book in the quartet, Tehanu was, quite honestly, weird. I found this story about the burnt girl and Ged very, very strange. I thought the potential of what this girl really was and how she was changed when she was burned was grossly under-explored and the same goes for the relationship between Ged and Tenar. The (almost overpowering) feminist element was not well-handled, in my opinion.  Then, just as I thought the story was finally getting somewhere and developing into something interesting, it was the last page and it ended, just like that. A very unsatisfactory ending to this quartet, I must say.

While I’m finding fault with all these things in the book, I must also say that I rather enjoyed the second book out of the four, The Tombs of Atuan. I found the lives of the priestesses interesting and Ged lost in the maze also made for good reading. That one really wasn’t too bad at all. Actually, I think it was the best one out of the four and the only one that I really enjoyed.

I thought the first one moved too fast  – every time that I got interested in a certain aspect, we were whisked away. I would also have liked more explanations and descriptions of this fantasy world, because there wasn’t nearly enough of that for much of the book.

The third one… was oddly choppy. It dragged and dragged without much information about where we were dragging to and then suddenly it was over. I still don’t know who that bad guy was. I’m still not very certain why he was doing what he was doing to the world. Or, for that matter, exactly what he was doing to the world, beyond a vague explanation from Ged. The part with the dragons was the only part that I thought was good in this book. That part was strangely haunting and very sad. But the rest… I felt so uninvolved in the story, because there wasn’t much for me to go on. I don’t really know how to explain it, but it felt as though I was watching the summary of a story from very far away. Yes… that sounds about right. I must add that the cover art for that part of the story is lovely, though.

The bottom left one.

And, that’s mostly how I feel about this book. I’m not sure why it is so highly recommended. I don’t see the appeal of it. Oh, it’s not that bad in itself. Some parts are good, but I honestly think it read more like a summary than a real book and the parts that dragged or skipped didn’t improve it.

 

Did I mention that it took me two whole months to read this thing? During summer holiday when I cannot blame my amount of work for how long I took? That is how little this book interested or engaged me, or I would have read faster. I just don’t think it’s that good. Or am I missing something?

At first I thought I’d like to read Le Guin’s other work, it being so highly recommended and all, but now I don’t think I want to.

 

This was, I think, the last post that I’ll split. Now it’s straight to the finish!

 

Tomorrow’s post is about my favourite book turned into a movie! 😀

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Day 18 – A book that disappointed you: Part 1

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This post is part of a month-long series of pre-dated posts running while I am on holiday. Feel free to comment, I’ll get back to you when I return!
Please note that any “reviews” I write here are simply my own opinion and that I am not doing any objective, informative reviews for this challenge. If there are any spoilers in a post, I will indicate it at the top.
I draw the book covers straight from Goodreads and you can click on the images to go to the book’s page on there.

 This book appears to be scarce in online libraries, because I had to hunt to find a picture and description. I finally found an English one on Shelfari.

The thing that disappointed me most about Dragonmaster (the omnibus edition) was that I actually paid full price for this thing. Had I bought it second-hand, or got it out from the library, I would most probably been “meh” about it and moved on. Maybe I would not even have finished it, but since I paid (it was quite a tome which obviously reflected in the price) I stuck with it all the way through. Now I am disappointed, because it feels like a waste of money: it is only gathering dust on my shelves, for I will not read it again. I don’t even know anyone that I can give it to.

 

There were several things that bothered me about Dragonmaster. The first and probably most upfront was the sex. This is quite a graphic book. I guess I had better just say it straight now: I do not like sex scenes in the books that I read. Actually I prefer my books without sex of any kind, which probably means that I am safest sticking to things like Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. However, I will accept sex in books as long as I don’t have to read all the little intricate details. Dragonmaster did exactly the opposite.

 

I really did not need to be inside the head of the [male] main character so that I could be part of his erotic fantasy concerning the woman in front of him. I really did not need to hear his thoughts on his wedding day – all about how chaste and innocent she was looking today, but boy did he know how she could get at night! I really don’t know what he was suddenly so excited about anyway, seeing that they had already been living together for ages and were only getting married, because… I forgot. I think someone disapproved of a high-up army commander like him hanging out with a courtesan.

 

The second issue that I had with the book links directly to the first. I wrote about this a couple of days ago and said that I will bring it up again. Well, here it is: I didn’t like how Hal Kailas (the guy with the erotic fantasies) turned the woman into simply a piece of flesh. She was only an object to him – something that he could undress (graphically described) and tie to the bed posts and do odd things to. And she was not the only woman or person that he thought about this way. I’m no feminist in the sense that I get upset with a book if there is not a strong female lead (Omigosh, LotR sux! There’s no girls in da Fellowship!!! Tolkien was da biggest sexist!!! Incidentally, I think Éowyn is one of the strongest feministic characters ever written, even though her role is not the biggest.), but I don’t like it if the women present are only channels for sex. I don’t like it if the women are not really persons. Actually, in Dragonmaster, it does not feel as if any of the characters are really persons, not even Hal Kailas. Everyone was so insignificant that I cannot remember any of the characters’ names. I even had to go look up “Hal Kailas”. Oh, and one of the dragons was called Storm, but that one had a very small role, really. And this brings me to my third issue with the book.

 

I did not like the characterisation. Like I said, no one seemed real, only objects. What is that name they use… is it Gary Stu? I think so. Well, that is what Hal Kailas was. Everything seemed to fall into his lap. He just became the best dragon rider. He just became the best at military tactics. He seemed to have all the luck, and whilst all this was happening to him, he still had no distinguishing personality. He was simply the perfect man, the empty channel… perhaps for the author’s own fantasy?

 

However, now that I have expressed all my criticism against Dragonmaster, I also have to admit that not everything about this book was bad. I notice that I gave it 3/5 stars on Goodreads, which means that I have read much worse books than this. The battle scenes were really well-written and I felt as if I really could experience the action, even though I could not experience any of the characters. Some of the descriptions were so epic that I came to the conclusion that Chris Bunch was a much better descriptive writer than a characterisator. Just a pity that it felt as if every battle scene was alternated with a sex scene, to spoil the effect.

 

So, all in all, Dragonmaster disappointed me, but I do not hate it. I’ve already dealt with the books that I hate and there is a big difference between them and this one. Meh.

 

Part 2 of this post will follow tomorrow.

Sig3


Day 17 – Favourite quote from your favourite book

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This post is part of a month-long series of pre-dated posts running while I am on holiday. Feel free to comment, I’ll get back to you when I return!
Please note that any “reviews” I write here are simply my own opinion and that I am not doing any objective, informative reviews for this challenge. If there are any spoilers in a post, I will indicate it at the top.
I draw the book covers straight from Goodreads and you can click on the images to go to the book’s page on there.

*** I suppose this post has some slight spoilers about the ending of Lord of the Rings. ***

If you ask me what my favourite book is, I say “Lord of the Rings” without hesitation. And then I hesitate. Is it really? Really? Out of all those hundreds do I really have a favourite? Often I am not sure and I would rather make a list of favourite books than name a single favourite. But then, when I get to work on the graphics that I love to make so much and I follow the familiar pattern… taking several stills from the movies, layer masking, blurring, sharpening, colourizing, adding textures and finally a quote, usually from the book but sometimes from the movies… then I know from the warmth that I feel that this is my favourite story in the whole world.

There are so many wonderful quotes and moments in the 1,000 pages of The Lord of the Rings. This was one of the hardest choices that I yet had to make in this challenge, but I finally decided on a favourite from all of them. I love these Gandalf-quotes below. (I have no idea where I found this graphic, so I can’t credit it, sorry.)

And I also love this song by Sam which he sung when his life looked at its darkest:

However, my favourite quote is neither of these. It is

“They cannot conquer for ever!”, Frodo Baggins – “Journey to the Cross-roads”, Book IV, The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien.

Frodo says this during a brief respite when hope blooms until the darkness of Sauron returns. You can read the relevant passage here. To me, this quote encapsulates one of the themes of Lord of the Rings: staying strong against adversity. As the narrator will later state:

“Frodo raised his head, and then stood up. Despair had not left him, but the weakness had passed. He even smiled grimly, feeling now as clearly as a moment before he had felt the opposite, that what he had to do, he had to do, if he could, and that whether Faramir or Aragorn or Elrond or Galadriel or Gandalf or anyone else ever knew about it was beside the purpose.”

Spoiler alert: {Gandalf knew Frodo was doomed from the moment he accepted the burden of the ring. One way or another, he knew it would be a death sentence. Frodo himself later comes to this conclusion, but he also accepts it.} The task is too great and the risks too high. His success was highly unlikely. {Because Frodo ultimately does fail in his quest}, it only emphasises the courage with which he walked into Mordor. The hope for Frodo was very small, but ultimately, hope is always there. It may be gone for the moment, but evil cannot conquer for ever because the world moves in circles. Hope will ultimately return.

{One of the names given to Frodo by Gandalf wasn’t “Endurance beyond Hope” for nothing.}

Lord of the Rings is not about honour or glory or heroism, but about doing your small part, because even the smallest hobbit can change the world. Because Frodo accepted his fate with courage, he shows that there is true nobility and heroism in this too. This is existentialist fatalism at its very best, but Tolkien also undercuts it again by bringing in the theme of hope. There was always hope in The Lord of the Rings, even when circumstances appeared at their darkest. The environment is, of course, psychotropic and, in this case, hope is symbolised by light. In the quote, in the darkness a ray of sunlight fell through the clouds and it was that which led Frodo to exclaim that the evil in the world cannot conquer for ever. In this, Tolkien brings in a combination of fatalism and hope and I love it. I’m not too fond of fatalism in literature and neither am I too fond of works that preach that you should never lose hope. What if hope gets taken away from you? What if you can find no hope to hold on to? Tolkien answers these questions by saying that you will still find the will to find your way, because you have a duty to do, even if you cannot find the hope that is always there behind it all. I don’t really want to bring religion into this, but I firmly believe that you will always find the strength to go, hopeless or not, because that is the way that God outfits us: strong enough to face the future he plans for us.

 

This one’s mine:

This favourite quote shortly precedes what has to be my favourite chapter of Lord of the Rings: “The Stairs of Cirith Ungol”. It’s a pity they cut this part out of the movie, but at least they included the message in other parts.

 

The great stories always go on.
History ever moves in cycles. Hope will always come again.
And never dismiss the Gollums of the world.

 

Tomorrow’s post is about a book that disappointed me.

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Day 16 – Favourite female character: Part 2

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This post is part of a month-long series of pre-dated posts running while I am on holiday. Feel free to comment, I’ll get back to you when I return!
Please note that any “reviews” I write here are simply my own opinion and that I am not doing any objective, informative reviews for this challenge. If there are any spoilers in a post, I will indicate it at the top.
I draw the book covers straight from Goodreads and you can click on the images to go to the book’s page on there.

 

This is probably an odd one, I know. I was trying to choose who else to write about, because, as with the men, I was tempted to write about far too many people. I was also tempted to write about Éowyn from Lord of the Rings and also about one other character. However, I’ll still get my chance to write too much about LotR in the later posts, so I can work Éowyn in there and that other character will also get her turn on Day 25, so that is settled. I’ll write about Damson Rhee from The Heritage of Shannara-quartet today.

Damson Rhee features prominently in The Heritage of Shannara as the guide, helper and growing love interest of one of the main characters. In a few days, I will publish a piece in which I write about how much I hate it when some fantasy novels transform women into nothing more than attractive pieces of flesh. This happens especially when the woman turns into the lover of the male main character. It seems that as soon as that happens, she is transformed into a piece of cardboard and has no (and needs no) characteristics except for sex appeal.

Anyway, what I like about Damson is how she breaks this stereotype. She really is an admirable character: she is resourceful, independent, strong-willed and brave. She is actually the one who has to look after her boyfriend, because he is the “going-to-pieces-sort”. He does that rather a lot, though to be fair to him, he also has a lot to deal with and I can hardly blame him for getting nightmares after everything that happened to him.

 

Damson Rhee is definitely not a cardboard character. She is prepared to brave guards, sewers, shadows, nightmares, fights, imprisonment and hard weather travels in her fight for what is right. As a profession she is a street magician and so she can do all kinds of tricks with sleight of hand and so on. I love all the moments when she takes out her magic. Even though it is not real and everyone knows it, there is still a kind of magic to it. And I have a thing for a magic-show. 😉

One of the things that I like so much about the Shannara-series is that all the female characters that play any kind of role are well-developed. Don’t you hate those fantasy novels that have a boy and a girl on the cover… with the girl showing more skin than she covers? How sensible is it to participate in a fantasy quest in high heels and lingerie? It won’t be long before something in that outfits slips… but maybe that is what she wants. Well, I think that’s stupid. I don’t read those books with that kind of cover. I much prefer characters like Damson Rhee… she is sensible, not an air-headed doll.

 

Actually, this is how I prefer characters in general. I prefer the sort with common sense that does not get soppy, but it is just a pity how hard they are to find. Half the characters I’ve read seem to turn into soppy romantics at the least blink. That is one thing I can’t stand: having to read two characters cooing at each other. Bah! That’s something I’ll post about in a couple of days as well.

Well basically, that’s it then. If you haven’t read about Damson yet, go try it. Go experience her in her awesomeness as Free-born girl, street magician and great example. 😛

 

Tomorrow’s post is about my favourite quote from my favourite book.

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Day 16 – Favourite female character: Part 1

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This post is part of a month-long series of pre-dated posts running while I am on holiday. Feel free to comment, I’ll get back to you when I return!
Please note that any “reviews” I write here are simply my own opinion and that I am not doing any objective, informative reviews for this challenge. If there are any spoilers in a post, I will indicate it at the top.
I draw the book covers straight from Goodreads and you can click on the images to go to the book’s page on there.

Would anyone believe me if I said that it’s really hard for me to find words to describe what I am feeling? Usually I don’t have trouble with this, but to describe how (and why) I feel about certain characters is just really difficult. So just to say that I am crazy about Luna Lovegood from Harry Potter… it doesn’t seem enough. Why? Since when? How? I don’t seem able to make sentences about this. Writing about Luna has the added disadvantage that I have to write about how I was bullied at school at the same time to explain, and that is not something that I write easily about. I get emotional and that doesn’t help my coherence.

Luckily, there is harrypotterconfessions.tumblr.com. That something that I cannot find in words, I can find in the graphics they post.

A couple of days ago I wrote about how identifying with a character plays a role in choosing a favourite. While I do identify with Luna’s character, I identify more with the way that people treated her. Everyone pushed her away, ridiculed her and called her loony. I was also badly bullied at school: for reading books; for having uncool, old clothes; for being “different”. Then, enter Luna into my life. And she showed me that it was okay to be all these things. She taught me not to let the bullies have any say over my life. It was my life and I was allowed not to conform to the norms of others. It was one of the most liberating experiences of my life to have the example of Luna. She has to be the single book character that I owe the most to and who worked the most change in me. Remember how she used to wear radish earrings? One day at school, on a non-uniform day, I tried emulating her and wore parrot earrings. People laughed at me and I took them off, but I was ashamed. I felt like I was letting Luna down. Today, I am wearing my parrot earrings and who cares who is laughing at me behind my back?

I refer to this footwear as my Luna-outfit, because I imagine this to be similar to what she would wear on off days.
(Please ignore my childish bedspread back there.)

It took years, but I know the entrance of Luna Lovegood into Harry Potter helped to shape me into the person that I am today. I stopped caring what people think. I stopped even trying to fit in, because I never have and never will fit into the niche that people tried to cut for me.

Not all of my family have accepted who I am and how I am, and whenever I feel ashamed for disappointing people for not being the way they would like me to be, I can just remember how wonderful Luna was when she refused to conform. It’s okay when people laugh at me. I may not get bullied anymore, but in a way it is still there when people laugh and point fingers. I can remember that Luna didn’t give a damn what anyone else thought of her and it was that which shaped her character.

At the risk of sounding as sentimental as everyone else posting Harry Potter Confessions, I say that I will always be grateful to Luna for being such a great example to a girl who was trying to be herself and failing. I can only hope to one day be half as strong as Luna was, because I know how much it hurts when people call you crazy, just because you happen to be different from them.

And remember…

You’re just as sane as I am. – Luna

Part 2 of this post will follow tomorrow! 🙂

Sig3


Day 15 – Favourite male character: Part 2

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This post is part of a month-long series of pre-dated posts running while I am on holiday. Feel free to comment, I’ll get back to you when I return!
Please note that any “reviews” I write here are simply my own opinion and that I am not doing any objective, informative reviews for this challenge. If there are any spoilers in a post, I will indicate it at the top.
I draw the book covers straight from Goodreads and you can click on the images to go to the book’s page on there.

 

I was actually tempted to split this post into more than two. I’m already splitting the favourite female character-post as well, so this is getting a bit much. So I’ll just make a list to say who else I would have liked to write about and then leave it at that.

 

If I had the chance, I would also have liked to write about Pippin from LotR; Lord Veternari, Moist von Lipwig from Discworld; Artemis Fowl and Christopher Chant.

But today I am going to write about His Grace, His Excellency, The Duke of Ankh; Commander Sir Samuel Vimes from the Discworld-series and then leave it at that.

Sam Vimes is the main character of the Watch-subseries of Discworld-books. He started off as the captain of the Night Watch in the first book that features him and eventually progressed to Commander of the Watch.

He is an extremely conflicted character, but, thank goodness, not one given to angsting. That is simply the way he is: he has the conflicting traits of cynicism and idealism. He expects the worse of people, but would like to believe the best. This is caused by him being born “knurd”, which is the opposite of being drunk. His body does not produce any “natural alcohol” and this means that he cannot have any illusions about life. In Guards! Guards! he kept trying to correct this mental state, that was sending him into a depression, by drinking, but he always got the dose wrong and ended up getting drunk. Later, after getting married, he gave up all alcohol and became a teetotaller, though he was always testing himself by keeping drink in his bottom drawer. He always passed the test.

Vimes fears the darkness inside himself. He knows that everyone is born with good and bad inside them and he fears that one day, his will gain advantage and take him over. This led to him creating a guard in his mind that contains the darkness. Vimes is an extremely moral person, someone who will never take a bribe and is always insistent that he has never killed anyone. Oh, there were victims of circumstance, but he never meant to. That is what counts, as he tells himself to keep his sanity.

His wife describes him as “not a gentleman, thank goodness, but a gentle man”. He is intensely, incredibly good, not because he’s written as a “good guy” and therefore everything he does must be right, but because he strives to be this way. Often, he ends up going into morally-uncertain waters, where the truth is basically the way you bend it, but he always strives to do the moral thing and to be fair.

Sam Vimes is a character you can learn a lot about as you follow his story, starting with Guards! Guards! and ending with Snuff. He changes somewhat as the story progresses, but mostly he is very stable and dependable. He can also teach you a lot about trying to be morally good in spite of everything that gets thrown at you and never losing sight of your good intentions.

Vimes has been a drunk and a hero, he turned into an ambassador and a preventer of wars. He started off hating nobility and social rank and with a touch of irony, became a noble himself through his marriage. That did not stop him from hating it and he became a reluctant class traitor.

Through all of it, the Vimes-character has remained mostly stable. He can be relied on to make a cynical remark at the least provocation and to never let go off his morals. He grows and is enriched by his marriage and the birth of his son, Young Sam, but he remains a character to be admired.

I love his character and I still think he is at his best in Thud! It is there where he refuses to give in to the darkness and commit murder that he stands the climax of his character development. There is something hard to describe about him at that moment, but I do know that it is this which makes him supreme as a character: it’s in the way he inspires others to also be supreme.

 

Tomorrow I will write about my favourite female character.

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Day 15 – Favourite male character: Part 1

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This post is part of a month-long series of pre-dated posts running while I am on holiday. Feel free to comment, I’ll get back to you when I return!
Please note that any “reviews” I write here are simply my own opinion and that I am not doing any objective, informative reviews for this challenge. If there are any spoilers in a post, I will indicate it at the top.
I draw the book covers straight from Goodreads and you can click on the images to go to the book’s page on there.

 

Again I am splitting this post into two. My favourite male character… do you really except me to have only one? 😉

 

My favourite Harry Potter character definitely has to be Neville Longbottom. Followed very, very closely by Luna Lovegood in second place and Hermione in third. I like Harry and Ron and Ginny too, of course, but they have nothing that I can identify with. Personally, I think identifying with a character has a lot to do with liking a character. But my favourite character has to be Neville Longbottom. And yes, I liked the character from the very first book, not just since Matthew Lewis got really attractive. Like with Luna, I could identify my own bullied self in him. But, unlike Luna who taught me that it was okay to be who I wanted to be and not who the world wanted me to be, Neville taught me bravery. Now, however, I must digress first to explain properly how I felt about this.

So, there were the four houses at Hogwarts. Right from the very first, I identified with Ravenclaw house. I never could identify with the values of Gryffindor. Bravery? I’m not brave. I’m scared to death of dogs. Dogs, of all things! I used to jump behind my dad whenever I saw a dog not on a lead or behind a fence. I still do. Then there was Slytherin. I did not identify with them either. Ambition was one thing, but cunning and manipulative? I could not be like that. I could not step on other people to further myself, because I know how much it hurts. I could not be prepared to do anything to achieve what I wanted. Then there was Hufflepuff, but I knew that compassion was not my thing. Loyalty is one thing, but I am not good at compassion. Lastly, Ravenclaw. And I knew I was an academic, just like I know it now. I knew that one was the house that I would have been in.

Then, when I joined Pottermore, I got sorted into Ravenclaw. Yes! 😀

Some time back, I took a house quiz – the one that is considered by the most people that I have spoken to. This is what it gave me: A tie between Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff, but I knew Ravenclaw would be the one for me. However, what surprised me the most was how close behind Gryffindor was, only one mark, and that got me thinking. What kind of traits am I supposed to have to land me there? Eventually, I started to think of Neville again: Neville who thought that he was in the wrong house because he was not brave. He was courage-less, witless, and skill-less. But that did not make him worthless. Neville had to learn that it takes more bravery to stand up to your friends that to your enemies and at that the same time I learned a very important lesson. I was in with the wrong gang at that stage. I did not want to do the things they wanted to, because it was wrong. Soon after, I got out. Well, they kicked me, but at the same time I managed to break the evil cycle and start new with the best friends I could ever have wished for and never dared hope for. I learned from Neville and that first brave-Neville moment remains my very favourite and the reason why he is my favourite character. When I doubt, I think of this again, and hope. I am not brave, but maybe I can be.

Harry Potter is full of lessons, which is what makes it such a powerful story. I think it taught every single reader something about themselves while they were reading it. Maybe J.K. Rowling is not the best at writing elegant prose, but she is a wonderful story-teller and she has a talent of creating realistic characters and drawing a thread of them through several books before it finally culminates.

 

PS. Why on earth does the fandom ship Neville and Luna together? I don’t understand at all: they don’t even suit each other. Also the ship name Lovebottom is absolutely riddikulus, yo. It is asking for an innuendo. Or maybe that was the point.

 

Part 2 of this post will follow tomorrow!

Sig3


Day 14 – Favourite book of your favourite writer

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This post is part of a month-long series of pre-dated posts running while I am on holiday. Feel free to comment, I’ll get back to you when I return!
Please note that any “reviews” I write here are simply my own opinion and that I am not doing any objective, informative reviews for this challenge. If there are any spoilers in a post, I will indicate it at the top.
I draw the book covers straight from Goodreads and you can click on the images to go to the book’s page on there.

 

Yesterday’s post was just a lot of rambling. Actually, it was a lot of rambling that didn’t achieve much, seeing that I couldn’t even come to a satisfactory conclusion after I’d written all of that. So, to prevent further nonsense, I’m just going to pick something for the sake of writing about it. After all, if I could not even pick a favourite author, how am I supposed to pick a book by a favourite author?

I’ve already written too much about Terry Prachett. I’ve written about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes only a few days ago. And I’m still going to write (too much) about J.R.R. Tolkien’s work in the later posts. So. I’m going to say for the sake of being fair, and having to write something today, that Agatha Christie is my favourite author and now write about my favourite book by her.

 

To my great disappointment, I have to admit that I have not yet read some of the books that are considered to be Christie’s greatest works. I have not yet read The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. I also haven’t read Death on the Nile or N or M? and this is kind of a regret. If I could find these books, I’d read them like a shot, but I am dependent on second-hand bookshops and the public library for Agatha Christie books. In second-hand bookshops I obviously have to take what I can get and in the library I have to compete with lots of little old ladies who apparently also love murder mysteries.

What the above paragraph was meant to say that I am really not qualified to speak about the entirety of Agatha Christie’s oeuvre. I can, however, let you into a secret: I’m a Miss Marple fan, really…

 

That is, of course, one of the biggest fights among Christie fans: which of her two great sleuths are the best? Each fan will of course defend their preference rabidly. I wouldn’t easily pick a fight with someone about this, but I much prefer Miss Marple’s quiet, village wisdom over Monsieur Poirot arrogance. He annoys me just a tiny little bit sometimes, with his superiority and all.

Obviously, preference of sleuth would influence a choice of a favourite book. But not always…

Appointment with Death (a Poirot novel) is really, really good. As is The Labours of Hercules, Peril at End House and The ABC Murders (all three with Poirot).

4.50 from Paddington (a Marple novel) remains one of my firm favourites and the same goes for Sleeping Murder (the last Miss Marple story). Nemesis is also really good.

 

However (always a word to look out for in a literary analysis), the first Agatha Christie story I read, to the best of my memory, was The Secret Adversary (which does not feature either M. Poirot or Miss Marple). In this story I experienced Agatha Christie’s ability to turn the tables on you at the last minute, just when you think you are sure who the criminal is. For the first time in a very long time, a story had me completely fooled at the end. For the first time in a very long time, I didn’t even mind when the characters fell in love and got jealous and possessive. Usually, this just irritates me and detracts from the storyline. It is certainly true that first impressions count, because The Secret Adversary has remained with me to this very day and I think I can say that it is definitely my favourite.

 

The fact that my favourite book does not feature my favourite sleuth possibly makes me a bit odd amongst Christie fans. Most fans would debate their preference and the advantages thereof with so much passion you may be taken by surprise.

Personally, I just always love to witness it when books can evoke this kind of passion in people. I love how everyone can get excited about how a certain book blindsided all of them, because this is, after all, Agatha Christie’s speciality. Usually after you have read a few of her novels, you will spot that she has a fondness of making the doctor who attended the poor sick patient, who then had a relapse and died, the real criminal. Then, just when you think you’ve got her and you meet a story like that again and you’re really convinced that this time you will be right at the end, it turns out that this time it was the husband who “done ‘er in”. It never gets old…

 

Tomorrow’s post will be about my favourite male character.

Sig3


Day 13 – Your favourite writer

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This post is part of a month-long series of pre-dated posts running while I am on holiday. Feel free to comment, I’ll get back to you when I return!
Please note that any “reviews” I write here are simply my own opinion and that I am not doing any objective, informative reviews for this challenge. If there are any spoilers in a post, I will indicate it at the top.
I draw the book covers straight from Goodreads and you can click on the images to go to the book’s page on there.

 

Oh dear, now I’m stuck again. So many choices I’m quite overwhelmed. I think Terry Pratchett (yes, I know, again) is probably my favourite living writer, but I read dead people too. So what should I add here as well? I absolutely love J.R.R. Tolkien’s style and all his works (as far as I’ve progressed so far). I adore Agatha Christie’s murder mysteries. And of course Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is not to be left out of this list either. So how can I weigh such a diverse bunch of authors up against each other, every one (perhaps excepting the last two) from a different genre and style? Personally, I think it would be very unfair to try to compare any of them, because they are just too different from each other to find any matching points for comparison.

 

Agatha Christie wasn’t called the Queen of Crime for nothing. There’s no one who can compete with her ability to twist a story on the last page and blindside every single reader. Who else would have thought of making the criminal pretend to be the victim and so attempt to escape suspicion? Who else could have created a character such as Hercule Poirot, who is just in a class of his own? (Actually, I’m a Miss Marple fan. :P)

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle… well, no else created Sherlock Holmes. It is not the mysteries that make Conan Doyle’s stories, it is Holmes and Watson. Conan Doyle is not able to or does not want to keep the reader in the dark up to the last page in the same way that Agatha Christie does. In many of his stories I could see through the mystery before the end, which has never happened to me when reading Christie. The wonder lies in the way that Holmes tackles each case: his eccentricities and methods that you get to know so well after a couple of dozen of stories.

J.R.R. Tolkien is not any less deserving to be called the father of modern fantasy than Agatha Christie is to be called the Queen of Crime. To me, there is nothing to compare to the scope of Lord of the Rings, including the languages, mythology, songs, poems and appendices. He was an author with the ability to paint a picture in words: you can see it, smell it and feel it all around you. His charm lies not in his characters (which are still great), but in his imagined world: the landscapes, creatures and races, and history.

Sir Terry Pratchett… well, I don’t even what genre it is that he is king of. But I do know that no one can beat his wit. There have been more energetic authors (though I believe they are few and far between), there have been authors better at characterisation, but I have never before read an author that can make you laugh on every page like he does. And when you’re done laughing, he’ll make you cry from guilt, because you can suddenly recognise your own faults in the “bad guy” and suddenly you realise how presumptuous you are for judging him: you’re as bad as he is!

And of course… I think I’ll always admire J.K. Rowling‘s attentiveness to fine detail and her ability to give reasoning and a backstory to the most minor of characters.

 

I’m honestly still stuck, even after writing this. I don’t know who my favourite author is. Well, now you at least know my options, because I can get no further than this. To try to choose would just be… wrong…

 

Tomorrow’s post is about my favourite book by my favourite writer and will probably not be any more sensible than today’s was.

Sig3


Day 12 – A book you used to love but don’t anymore

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This post is part of a month-long series of pre-dated posts running while I am on holiday. Feel free to comment, I’ll get back to you when I return!
Please note that any “reviews” I write here are simply my own opinion and that I am not doing any objective, informative reviews for this challenge. If there are any spoilers in a post, I will indicate it at the top.
I draw the book covers straight from Goodreads and you can click on the images to go to the book’s page on there.

 

I used to love Eragon. I was about 14 and I was going crazy about it. Later, I came to the conclusion that this was the only age when I could ever have loved this book. Now, I think it is one of those books that needed a really good editor before it ever got published. I think that the author needed a lot more maturing before finishing up this book. Sometimes I wonder at how complete my reversal of feelings has been for this book. I have gone from fangirl to one of the haters. And I did that pretty soon after actually reading Eragon.

I think my personal situation during the time I read it had a lot to do with how I started off liking it. I was going through a very rough patch and I was turning to writing to try to cope because that is less bad for you than self-harming. To then read a book that the author wrote and published when he was just a bit older than me – it was an embodiment of my dream. I had only just decided that I wanted to be a writer too. If he could do it, then why not me? When I was a bit older obviously. Not being home-schooled, I didn’t quite have Paolini’s writing opportunities. I didn’t know the right people either.

So that was it basically. I read Eragon several times and loved it. And then there was a lover’s quarrel. I started reading wider into the fantasy genre, which I was still pretty new to, and I realised how predictable Eragon is. I realised how many scenes are similar to scenes in other books. I read Eldest. I liked it, but only the scenes with the elves. That cousin or brother or whatever of Eragon (I can’t even remember his name anymore) irritated me so much that I read the scenes with him in only once – the time when I first read the book. On all subsequent rereads I skipped all those passages. Because I wanted to throw him with something and that love-sickness was making ME sick. Anyway, he’s an idiot.

The final seal on my break-up with Eragon came when I got drawn into Lord of the Rings a few years later. I wonder if there are people who are fans of both. Is it even possible? Is it possible to love Tolkien’s work and also love Paolini’s? I’d love to hear from any such people, if they exist. I’d love to hear how you can get your mind about both series, when Lord of the Rings is so much richer, so much better put together, so much better written? The Inheritance Quartet (or is still called a trilogy? Or a series?) is such a blatant copy of Lord of the Rings that it is disgusting. And then it is not even a good copy. It is a badly made copy. Even a good copy might have been acceptable. However, if you want to copy, you have to do it with precision, finesse and good judgement. And it might still be acceptable. There are books that like that out there. Many of them are accomplished and accepted. But style does count for something and in my opinion, Paolini fails in this.

Plagiarism? No. Plagiarism is the lifting of words and ideas just the way they are and reusing them as your own without credit. Paolini didn’t do that, because he changed most things up just enough to escape. But that still doesn’t make it nice. Follow this link for a nice little comparison between Eragon and other fantasy novels. (I should probably start spending my classes better.)

http://telpenori.blogspot.com/2007/02/paolini-and-plagiarism_28.html

In the end, ^this^ post highlights what bothers me the most about Eragon. It’s not the unoriginality – fantasy books tend to be a bit predictable anyway – and it’s not the actual style. It’s the soddin’ names. How hard is it to come up with your own names and not copy Tolkien’s and others’?! This isn’t fanfiction! But it reads like that, quite a lot of the time.

I’ll never like Eragon again. There was only one short period in my life when I could like this book and that is over.

By the way, when I opened up Goodreads just now to get the book cover and link, the first five reviews on that page were 1-star reviews. I thought that was quite funny. I remember the days when everything was just 5-star all the way. Anyway, I picked out a couple (1 and 2) that I found myself agreeing with. And I thought this one was funny.

 

Tomorrow’s post is about my favourite writer.

Sig3


Day 11 – A book you hated

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This post is part of a month-long series of pre-dated posts running while I am on holiday. Feel free to comment, I’ll get back to you when I return!
Please note that any “reviews” I write here are simply my own opinion and that I am not doing any objective, informative reviews for this challenge. If there are any spoilers in a post, I will indicate it at the top.
I draw the book covers straight from Goodreads and you can click on the images to go to the book’s page on there.

 

Well, that is easy enough, I suppose. Or is it really? Am I not going to start feeling unfair and unjust again towards any book that I may to choose to speak about? Am I really going to be able to rationally say why I hate a book or will it turn out to be something so nebulous that you could never believe it? Oh well, I’ll just have to give it a try. But first, I guess I have to find out what the difference is between disliking a book and hating it.

To dislike a book is something not nearly as fiery as hating it. Disliking is merely something that bothers you, that makes you want not to read any more of this book. Well, that is what it is like for me. But to hate a book is something so much stronger: you hate the book and all offspring it may possibly have and on top of that you hate the author and don’t want anything to do with him or her every again. Yes, I’ve met a few books like those over the years. However there have been few that I hated as much as Holy Fools by Joanne Harris.

I started off reading Harris’s Runemarks, which I thought was very good and then I decided to read some of her other books. It was a mistake. I should just have stuck to that one. I hated every bit of Holy Fools, though I did finish it. There are some things that I can accept in a book and there are some things that would bother me so much up to the point that I would not be able to stand it any longer. One of these things is a biased narrator. That is in a third-person narrator, of course. If it is a first-person narrator, then it is probably a given that he or she would be biased.

Now I have to take a little side road first before I can go any further, to explain what I felt towards this author. I do not have a problem if people have something against religion. I do not have a problem with the religion or lack thereof of an author. It does not bother me, though it can be interesting and it does not influence me choice of reading material. Anyway, this is usually something you only find out once you have at least bought the book and started it. Okay, now it is established that I don’t have an issue with the religions of others. However, as I was reading Holy Fools, I was getting the idea that this author had something against Christianity. Well, I could accept that. Or perhaps the issue was only against the Church. I don’t see any problems there either. It’s your opinion and your ideas and you are welcome to have them. I know that I’m not the only one that got this idea, because I often see if pop up in reviews. I experienced this same voice when I read Harris’s Gentlemen and Players, so I know it could not entirely be my imagination.

The problem that I had with this was the terribly biased voice that came through in the narrator. I didn’t like that. Have biased characters all you like and criticise all you like, but keep the narrator as the mediating voice. Once the opinions and subjectiveness starts entering the narration, you get unreliable narration. Well, that could be a good literary technique, but not in this case. Holy Fools read to me like a rant of the author than a story. I would have liked to see more diversification of characters, beyond a priest that seduces a bunch of nuns. I would have liked to see some breadth of opinion, instead of the author trying to force me into an opinion.

 

Seeing that I also read Gentlemen and Players and also disliked (but not hated) that, I think I’ve had enough of Harris. I don’t think I will be reading the apparently-wonderful Chocolat. I found Gentlemen and Players annoying, boring and with the same overpowering, biased narrator. This book is supposed to be suspenseful and with an amazing twist at the end, but I didn’t experience that. I could predict it all the way through and at the end I was right on all counts except one. That is not a satisfactory read. Perhaps I’ve read too many murder mysteries. 😉

 

That is all. 😛

Tomorrow’s post is about a book that I used to love but don’t anymore.

Sig3


Day 10 – Favourite classic book: Part 2

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This post is part of a month-long series of pre-dated posts running while I am on holiday. Feel free to comment, I’ll get back to you when I return!
Please note that any “reviews” I write here are simply my own opinion and that I am not doing any objective, informative reviews for this challenge. If there are any spoilers in a post, I will indicate it at the top.
I draw the book covers straight from Goodreads and you can click on the images to go to the book’s page on there.

 

And here is part two about my favourite classic book! It is also about a second book because I simply couldn’t choose between this and Sherlock Holmes.

 

I loooooove Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. You know how paperbacks start getting little white lines running down their spines after being bent too much? Well, my copy of Treasure Island has a spine that is basically all white by now: it’s getting kind of hard to make out the title! I’ve read it as e-book several times as well. Maybe that’ll spare my hard copy a little, because I have no intention of getting rid of it.

 

I’m not quite sure what it is that makes me love this book so much. Pirates? Check. Fantastic escapes? Check. Treasure maps? Check. Long John Silver? Check. Exotic locations? Check. Whatzisname? (Wow, Elana, that was descriptive.) What was his name? Ah yes, Dr Livesey. He’s wonderful and I can’t believe I had to look up his name. But I must add that I think Long John Silver makes this novel. He is, to me, one of the most memorable characters in literature, with all his double-crossing and double-crossing on top of that and crossing again on top of that. He may be disabled, but he is certainly not a lame character!

 

Pirate stories have always fascinated me and I loved treasure maps, chests and “X marks the spot” as a kid. Well, maybe I should confess that I still do. I still love a good treasure hunt and I can’t seem to stop from rereading Treasure Island just one more time. Yeah right. It is never just one more time and I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read it, as the spine of the book testifies.

 

Is this the archetypal pirate story? Is this where pop culture about “the pirate life” started? Is this were the image of the one-legged seaman with a parrot on his shoulder started? Wikipedia seems to think so. If so, then there would be no Captain Jack Sparrow without Long John Silver. There would be no Dread Pirate Roberts. As a kid and probably like most other kids, I thought these kinds of stories romantic. I thought that this looked like a grand life. I read many other of these kind of “shipwrecked” tales, two of the other ones I love being Swiss Family Robinson (which I will post about later) and The Coral Island. I dreamed about these exotic locations and it made my love books even more. (Heck, to me, even England is exotic.)

 

Then I grew old enough to see the moralisation in Treasure Island. I grew old enough to see that it is not only a romantic tale to feed to children. It also contains criticism of the pirate lifestyle and warnings that it is not all fun and games. Actually, it is mostly not fun and games. People die – brutally. People get sick. Life on ship is not fun and it is not heroic to be a swashbuckling pirate. Lots of people die – I said that already – and not all of them deserve it. Actually, it also asks the question whether anyone ever deserves to die. But what I mean to say, it is not only the bad people who die. There are also the unfair deaths, the deaths of beloved characters. In that you can see the harshness of life and it so undercuts the romanticism of the novel.

 

The scene with Jim Hawkins and Israel Hands on board ship remain one of my favourite scenes and I often seem to recognise it in other books. It seems to have had as great an impact on authors as it had on me.

Fifteen men on the dead man’s chest —
Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!
Drink and the devil had done for the rest —
Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!

So true and so sad. It truly was drink and the devil, and probably pure idiocy that killed so many pirates. It’s not a nice life and Jim Hawkins was wise to stay on the land at the end, I’ve always thought. I’m glad he found the treasure, but I’ve always kind of questioned their motives in sailing off to some only-imagined-before location after treasure. That’s stolen money. Doesn’t that make you an accomplice in the crime? Ah well, but even the protagonists are not perfect characters. They also display bad judgement and greed. Nobody is perfect and maybe laws were a bit different in the days of this book.

 

Don’t spoil your Bible, don’t drink too much, don’t try and camp in a swamp where the malaria can get you… The lessons of Treasure Island are many, but perhaps the most important of all are the morality lessons of Long John Silver and the undercutting of the romantic image of pirating.

It’s wonderful.

 

Tomorrow I’ll post about a book I hated.

Sig3