Laughter and books make life a little easier

30 Day Book Challenge

Day 10 – Favourite classic book: Part 1

Header2

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 decided to spilt my post on classic books into two, because it was getting impossibly unwieldy really a bit long. No-one has time to read that much at once, so it was easier to spilt it than decide which bit to cut. The second part will follow tomorrow! It’s a bit illogical to have two Day 10’s, but oh well. 😉

 

I love Sherlock Holmes. I’ve read every single story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – all 56 short stories and 4 novels. The Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection that I received for Christmas last year was one of the best presents that I’ve received in years. Remember this old picture?

From my Christmas post.

However, I should also clarify something here. I love the original Sherlock Holmes: the Holmes of those 60 stories. The modern-day adaptions… well, they just cannot capture him again, I feel. I have no problem with most of them. They do not bother me, but I usually would not watch them. I have seen very little of that oh-so-popular show currently airing on the BBC. I’m sure it’s good… but it is not Holmes. Benedict Cumberbatch is not Holmes. He’s good, but I’ll just stick with the original, thanks for the offer and your trouble.

I feel sorry that all those fangirls I see on Tumblr and other places every day will probably never know the “original” Sherlock Holmes, because they will likely never read the books. I know the kind of person I’m talking about: the sort that writes “OMG OMG!!!!!!!!! I ❤ Sherloccccccckkk!!!!” in their status. They will never know him as “Holmes”, only as “Sherlock”. Holmes would likely not have worn a scarf or bright colours. He’d have worn his deerstalker and mouse-coloured dressing gown (but not at the same time). He’d not have had curls. I’m sorry these “Sherlockians” will never know a Watson who had a moustache and would never have worn a red shirt. In fact, Sherlock never, ever called him “John”. He always called him “Watson” or “my dear fellow” and I’m sorry the modern fans do not know that. I’m sorry they do not know the Holmes who did not text, but sent telegrams (actually two are similar in many respects, I give the screenwriters that). I’m sorry they will never know the Holmes who used to race from one end of London to another using horse-drawn carts and trains.

Holmes was an extremely arrogant character: he did not want fame, but he loved praise. Actually, he sought it and this is also the reason why he loved his grand reveals. He smoked like a chimney and he used cocaine. Sometimes he refused to eat for days on end, sometimes he broke into houses and lied to the police. He is not an admirable man by today’s standards. So what is it about him that seems to attract fans generation after generation? Is it the brilliance? The eccentricity? I think it is all of these things combined. He truly is a classic character.

 

I find the “gay” hint in the BBC’s Sherlock quite odd. In my mind, the original Holmes was certainly not gay. And neither was Watson. It does not bother me: after all, the new adaption does not even pretend to be canonical. Or even “Conanical” if we going to be punny. Or phunny. Elana, stop it. … If it had pretended to be an accurate depiction of the stories, it would have annoyed me. Anyway, I know that this kind of hinting is the stuff of pop culture. It is what makes fans return to a show again and again. But what I find really strange is the shipping. I believe I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I do not get shipping. I really don’t understand why fans do this. Mostly I wouldn’t turn a hair at whatever a fan would wish to do to express their “fan-ness”, but I simply cannot understand this concept. To all those who now want to convince me that Holmes was gay all along, please consider the period when it was written. Conan Doyle was writing in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. During this time “being gay” was simply something not done. Of course, there were always homosexual people around, but Conan Doyle was not an activist. He was not setting out to shock people and shift literary boundaries when he started writing about Holmes, therefore all the hints that you are seeing in the original stories are there because you want to see them there. The close friendship between Holmes and Watson does not equal romance. Holmes’s bachelorship until he died does not equal homosexuality. His work was his life and I see him more as asexual, but I will not accept that there was a homosexual attraction between him and Watson.

I love the 2009 Sherlock Holmes movie. It was extremely well-made and Jude Law makes an excellent Dr Watson. I’ve watched it several times and it remains pretty brilliant. However, it still cannot top the ink and paper Holmes.

 

Wow, this just turned into a rant. How did I suddenly start writing about modern adaptations of Sherlock Holmesinstead of about the books I love? I really don’t know where that came from. 😛 Of course, everyone can stick to whatever adaptation of Holmes they like best. I don’t care. As for me, I’ll stick to the books. 😉 There is something about the Holmes and Watson combination, Holmes out on the hunt, Holmes talking incessantly about the most random topics, and the big reveals that makes Sherlock Holmes unforgettable. Conan Doyle may not have liked his creation much, but he has undeniably become classic – and part of a literary culture.

 

Check back tomorrow for the second Day 10 post!

Sig3


Day 09 – A book you thought you wouldn’t like, but ended up loving

Header2

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.

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad was one of the books that was prescribed to us in my first year of English. I was seriously doubting the book as I was just looking at it. It is only a little 80-pager, but it was already tiring me just by looking at it. I was right, I didn’t like the book as I read it before class. Conrad’s writing is hard. He has one of the oddest styles that I have yet met while studying English. Apparently, this is because English was his third language and he learned it late in life. Therefore he was unable to think directly in it. He translated in his head as he wrote his books in his head. I think that is extremely impressive, for someone who left a legacy like he did.

When I read the book, I was extremely confused. It’s a framed narration, so it jumps between past and present, which I would not normally consider a problem, but Conrad does this without any indication of what is happening. Not a little star in the middle of the page, not some whitespace, nothing. It simply jumps in the middle of nowhere. Therefore, you are never quite sure who is speaking and what the location is this time. It’s a hard book and I was confused and annoyed. I hardly understood anything that was going on in there. Then the classes started on Heart of Darkness. Bit by bit, everything that confused and puzzled me about this book was cleared up. Bit by bit, I came to love it. I know most people did not like it. I know most said it was too heavy going and that they did not get what this book was going on about. Sometimes, I felt so lonely in class, because I was always getting the idea that I was the only one to love this book. I couldn’t even gush about how wonderful it was to anyone else, because no one else was interested in listening. Oh well.

 

Heart of Darkness refers, amongst other things, to the darkness in the heart of every person. Therefore, this is a novel that believes that every person is born with an inherent darkness in them. All people are rotted at the heart. But not all act on it, of course. This is a novel about how power corrupts and how society degenerates far from the centre of culture. It is set in Africa, Dark Africa of the colonial age. It shows the corruption of colonial officials. It shows the cruelty, the pain, because this is all part of the “heart of darkness”. Like it keeps referring to the heart of darkness, this is a dark novel. I love it. I love the darkness and how it comments on society. I think though this book may be set in a different age of the world, it is still just as relevant to today’s society.

 

But I admit, it is a hard book to read. You need an explanation as you are reading. An annotated version would help, or even better, a reader’s companion. My copy did not have fancy stuff like that and it is a pity, because otherwise I might have understood it with the first read. Perhaps it would have been even more enjoyable then.

I would recommend Heart of Darkness to anyone who is interested in man’s inherently dark and corrupt nature and enjoys social commentary, criticism and cynicism.

 

Prepare yourselves for a bumper post tomorrow about my favourite classic book!

Sig3


Day 08 – Most overrated book

Header2

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, I am certainly going to talk about a Discworld book again. Everyone who doesn’t want to kill me yet still with me? Right, here we go and hold on to your hats and also your judgement, because you may just want to kill me after you start reading if you’re not there yet.

The book that I consider overrated that I have chosen to talk about is Small Gods by Terry Pratchett. First I gush about this series, and then I choose another of this number to criticise? Yes. There are many, many books that I think are overrated. The Twilight-series is one of them. So is The Earthsea Quartet. So is Eragon. But I have a very specific reason for choosing Small Gods.

 

I don’t think it is a bad book. There are certainly some laugh-out-loud funny moments in there. I just love the description on the back:

In the beginning was the word. And the word was “Hey, you!” For Brutha the novice is the Chosen One. He wants peace and justice and brotherly love. He also wants the Inquisition to stop torturing him now, please…

There are several scenes where the Pratchett wit is at its very best. Though I was confused and lagging sometimes as I read the book, I still don’t think it is bad. Someone on Goodreads once commented on one of the Discworld-novels and said that there are no bad Discworld books. I fully agree with this person, and I would appropriate George Orwell’s quote to say this: all Discworld books are equally good, except that some are better than others. Small Gods is one of those I think are less good than others. Yet…

It was one of only two Pratchett books to reach the NPR top 100 fantasy and sci-fi list. The other one was Going Postal, which happens to be one of my favourites. I think that there are better Pratchett books that should have got on that list, not Small Gods. That is why I think it is overrated and I am probably being completely unfair towards this book at the moment.

 

When the NPR list (which I and many others consider to be very authoritative) came out, someone commented on this exact same issue that I experienced. It may have been on Twitter. This person mentioned that “problem” that there are only 2 out of 39 Discworld-novels on there, whilst Sir Terry Pratchett is one of today’s most popular writers with hundreds upon thousands of fans. So why did all these fans not vote for his books to get them on the list? Why did two such different novels of his reach the Top 100? They were low down on the list as well. This commentator thought they had the answer. It is because out of 39 novels and counting, so many different people have their different favourites, no one can exactly decide which novel to stand behind as fans and vote for. Therefore, so many widely different votes are cast that the power is diluted and none of the books end up with any achievements.

 

Maybe I am just annoyed that none of my favourite City Watch-books reached the famous list. Maybe this is just sour grapes that Small Gods did reach the list, which is why I started to think it was overrated. I honestly did not like it nearly as much as some of the others. Going Postal, Thud!, Carpe Jugulum and others I absolutely devoured. But not this one. Perhaps it is that classic case of the underdog getting the bone, because everyone’s attention is devoted to the big and popular, however in the end the underdog gets the votes, not because everyone likes it so much, but because they are fighting too much over the others that they end up voting for something that they do not particularly like, but do not particularly dislike either. That is the way that I feel about Small Gods anyway. (That was a quote that I stole from Pratchett himself and then adapted, by the way.)

 

Perhaps it is because Small Gods is almost standalone that I did not like it much. Perhaps it is because I did not read all the books that go ahead of it and then I had a gap in my knowledge to confuse me. I do like the interlocking nature of the other Discworld-novels, even though you can read them apart and out of order. I did read most of them apart and out of chronology. It is quite possible. Small Gods also parodies religion, which I generally do not have a problem with, because we have to be able to laugh at ourselves and obviously, I did find it funny, but it wasn’t there. Search me why. 😛

 

Aaaaaand… tomorrow’s post is about a book that I thought I wouldn’t like but ended up loving.

Sig3


Day 07 – Most underrated book

Header2

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 was probably the most difficult topic for me. It had me stumped for the longest time, because I simply could not think what to write about. I went ahead and wrote the other posts, leaving this one blank. In the meantime, I’ve been racking my brains, trying to think of anything that I could write about. An overrated book? Ho yus, I can think of several. But underrated? I was not quite sure that I’ve met a book yet that stuck with me as underrated. Well, there were books that I thought were better than most people seemed to rate them, but still… usually I could accept their point of view as well and I did not think that a book was actually underrated, or under-appreciated, as such. Else, it was a book like… The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I wish that this book received more attention from fandoms and so on, but I can hardly call it underrated when it is often considered the fantasy book of the century, or whatever else these awards are called these days.

So… I was thinking and thinking what I could write about. Then I read Agatha Christie’s Passenger to Frankfurt. Before I started, I saw that it received rather low ratings on Goodreads and that most people severely criticise it, instead of praise it. When I began to read, I was wondering whether I had found my candidate for an underrated book. I have not yet read an Agatha Christie book that I did not enjoy, so I thought that there was a pretty good chance that I would. Then I read it, and… oh well, I found it rather “meh-ish”. I didn’t think it was quite as bad as some people make it out and there were bits that I rather enjoyed, but it ended on a sort of deus ex machina and I didn’t like that much. So when I was finished, I still hadn’t found an underrated book.

Then, when I was in the library the other day, I spotted an extremely worn copy of Magic Kingdom For Sale/Sold! by Terry Brooks. I may have written an entire post on his Shannara-series a few days ago, but I haven’t read any of his non-Shannara work. Because I haven’t been able to find any. Except for his Shannara-series and his Word and the Void-series (now part of Shannara), I haven’t been able to locate his other works. I knew of their existence only because of the lists in the front of each of his books. Well, I snatched that book up in the library and started to read it.

And… it was good. It has very realistically portrayed characters. It has good character development. As always, I loved the descriptions of Brooks’s invented world. Also, it was really great to read early descriptions of what would become the demons of the Forbidding as featured prominently in The Elfstones of Shannara and the High Druid of Shannara-trilogy. That is really what it felt like. In my opinion, anyway. Winking smile This was a whole different series and a whole different world, but it still felt familiar, in a way, as if I was reading the author’s early notes and could then compare it to what he would develop in his later books. Perhaps it was just because I was so interested in the Forbidding, Jarka Ruus and the Straken in the latest trilogy, but I really enjoyed it. So I finished Magic Kingdom For Sale/Sold! and I decided that I would want to read the others in the Landover-series. If I can find them that is. As I was thinking about how scarce they seem to be, I suddenly realised that I think this book is underrated. It is maybe not as good as Terry Brooks gets, but it has definitely been overshadowed by the larger series. It doesn’t get the attention it deserves in my opinion.

 

Finally, I found an underrated book. Ha! It was a hard mission, but I am glad I found it. I like it and I’ll read it again if I get a chance. Of course, it has to go back to the library, but that will hopefully not swallow it whole. It seems to be scarce enough as it is and that copy is foxed, beared and dragoned as Terry Pratchett calls it. Maybe I have not found a book that is actually underrated by one and all (except me, of course Smile with tongue out), but at least I managed to find a forgotten book. An overshadowed book. A nice book that I wish received more attention.

 

Tomorrow I’ll write about an overrated book. Prepare yourselves! Nerd smile

Sig3


Day 06- A book that makes you sad

… but in a nice way.

Header2

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.

 

 Airman, by Eoin Colfer.

 

I have cried over several books. The ending of Lord of the Rings leaves me in tears every time, even though I can basically quote it by now. I’m generally not someone who cries over stories, but I have cried over several books, especially at the painful deaths of beloved characters (Harry Potter, I’m looking at you). Also, I am a sucker for a character who sacrifices him or herself in favour of his or her friends.

 

However, I am only going to mention one book now: Airman, by Eoin Colfer. I consider this to be one of the saddest books that I own, sadder even that those set in the terrible conditions of war, or Dystopian novels. Maybe this is because Airman is not a fantasy or a Dystopian novel, but a historical one. Even though there is fantasy inside the historical facts, the dark setting and the absence of light or hope, both of which are so common as symbols in other fantasy novels, makes this one of the saddest books I have ever read. As for Dystopian novels, I do not really find them sad, exactly because they are hypothetical in nature.

 

Airman… right. This book was written by Eoin Colfer, who is more well-known for his Artemis Fowl series of books. It is set in Ireland, in the late days of Queen Victoria’s reign – at the end of the nineteenth century. The race for flight is on. From a modern perspective, we all of course know that the Wright-brothers won this race, but this does not prevent Colfer from inventing a pair of fictional characters to participate in this race… and maybe even win it. Who knows, when all parties concerned where so close to inventing the aeroplane, who was actually the first?

The story follows the life of Conor Broekhart, who had a connection to the sky from the moment he was born – literally. By the time he was nine, he proved his talent for invention and displayed his dream of the sky. By the time he was fourteen, he was cruelly betrayed and forsaken by friends, family and kingdom and thrown into the bleakest, dankest hole they could find. But Conor would fly. Not even the stones over his head would be able to hold this young man down.

 

For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return.

– Leonardo Da Vinci

 

Let us face it: it sounds inspiring and uplifting when summarised like above. But this book is bleak, shorn of the usual adornment, though it is extremely powerful. Colfer’s characteristic style is as visible in this book as in his more popular ones. My lecturers are always telling me that I am supposed to be able to recognise Dickens’s or Lawrence’s style at a mile away, but I’m still not seeing it. However, I can certainly recognise Eoin Colfer’s style at a mile away. Winking smile It is dense and fast: he does not waste words. It is not only the flying in this book that leaves me breathless – I’ve thought he was an amazing writer ever since I first read his work.

 

I love Airman, even though it makes me so sad. I experience the betrayal scene as so powerful and so painful that I often skip this chapter when I reread this book. I’ve reread it several times. However, I am still not quite sure what the redeeming quality of Airman is, for it is generally well-thought of, as can be seen by its exceptionally high average rating on Goodreads. I have not seen many books on there receive 4 out of 5 average rating: most settle for about 3 point something. Usually one would have thought that a book as depressing as this would receive bad ratings. Is it in the ultimately inspiring nature? Is it in the attraction that bleakness and hopelessness have to many readers (including myself)? Is it in the historical details about the race for flight? Or even the dream of flight?

 

I confess that I do not know. I love historical novels. I have an unhealthy attraction for depressing books. I love how Colfer includes and plays with the history of flight. I love Airman to bits, even though it makes me cry.

Other men look up and down, left and right; but men like us are different. We are visionaries.

– Linus Wynter
Airman

Conor Broekhart is Airman.

 

Tomorrow I’ll post about a book I think is underrated.

Sig3


Day 05 – A book that makes you happy

Header2

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 topic was more difficult for me to write about than it would look at first glance. I was looking at the topic, thinking “A book that makes me happy? What do you mean? BOOKS make me happy! I am happy with a good book. It does not have to be a certain book.” So I was wondering what to write about. What can I write about now that I have not already written about. I’ve already talked about rereading, I’ve already talked about favourite series and favourite books. What can I write about now?

And so I went on Tumblr like I always do when I’m procrastinating and I’m not sure what to do (which is usually why I’m procrastinating with writing in the first place) and read my dashboard. Then the answer came to me: not in a dream or revelation, but on a humble Tumblr dash. The Hobbit makes me happy. I am super excited for the first movie coming out and just reading about it on Tumblr makes me happy. The graphics, the quotes, the GIFs… I love this sense of excitement and all of it is rooted in the book for me.

I love hobbits, which is probably why I am so fond of this book. It lacks the shadow that hangs over Lord of the Rings. It’s a children’s book after all, and it shows in the happy innocence displayed by Bilbo Baggins. He is not interested in adventure, or so he thinks. But it sweeps him up and carries him to a faraway land in the company of thirteen dwarves (I just wrote “drawers”. That could’ve made a great story too! Smile with tongue out) and, of course, Gandalf the Grey. There, Bilbo must learn what he is really made of: he is not just a hobbit looking for his tea, but also brave and righteous. What he undergoes is a foreshadowing for what his nephew Frodo will have to undergo in Lord of the Rings.

Bilbo Baggins goes There and Back Again and so returns a changed hobbit. The quest has marked him (again, a foreshadowing for Lord of the Rings) and he will always stand slightly apart from the other inhabitants of Hobbiton and Bywater. He is the subject of many a story and song, but hobbits still stand a little in awe of him. It is hard to know how to handle someone who has so much more experiences of strange and wonderful things than you could ever imagine.

 

I’m very fond of Bilbo and I am fond of all the hobbits in Lord of the Rings, but especially of Sam and Pippin. There is something about this race that completely sets them apart from the other races in Middle Earth. They are not just Little Folk – they have completely different characteristics and approaches than Men or Dwarves or Elves. The descriptions of their simple way of life make me happy and inspired.

In a hole in the ground

* And then I make things like this. I want more Hobbit-graphics to work on! *

I’m excited about every developer’s blog released by the production team of the movie and I’ve watched each several times. It is just fascinating to watch this wonderful world of the book come to life on screen. I’m happy just to think about the upcoming movies and I am convinced that it will be as great as Lord of the Rings. It will be a chance for a new generation to discover Tolkien’s work and it will be chance for people like me, who were too young to see the first trilogy in theatres, to see Middle Earth on the big screen for the first time. I’m counting the days! Winking smile

With that said, I can happily come to the conclusion that The Hobbit is a book that makes me happy. Everything that it has grown into makes me happy. It started off as bedtime stories for the Tolkien-kids and became a book and a will be a movie and it is becoming a culture. I love how the anticipation for the movie can bring people from different countries and cultures together in their enthusiasm for everything Tolkien. It is so nice that it is giving the fandom a chance to revive, after the original trilogy of movies has died out a little.

 

Yet, it all begins with a book. All of this. A lovely book, a sweet book, but also an epic adventure. Oh, I just love everything about this book. I plan to reread it before the movie comes out and I am excited just to think of it. I don’t want to read it too early, in case I forget some, but… actually the anticipation is lovely. Winking smile

 

Tomorrow I will talk about the opposite: a book that makes me sad.

Sig3


Day 04 – Favourite book of your favourite series

Header2

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 think I’m going to cheat a bit on this topic, because I really should stop talking about Discworld around here or everyone is going to be so annoyed at me. Anyway, wasn’t this covered in yesterday’s post already? As I said then, Discworld is probably my favourite series, but I’m going to talk about the Shannara-series instead today. Anyway, I really can’t choose my favourite Discworld book. I love Going Postal and I love Thud! But there are also so many others to make the choice harder. I don’t think I have an absolute favourite overall. So I won’t waste time on trying to choose and boring everyone with my decisionlessness. So, here we go…

 

The Shannara-series by Terry Brooks

The Shannara-series is one of the very few fantasy series that I have followed that has maintained some quality throughout all the books. So many series start off well, but by the third book or so, they have lost momentum and start turning bland and unoriginal. Of course, Shannara is a long series – going on 20 books now by my count, and no, I haven’t read them all yet – so it is not that unexpected that the author does repeat himself here and there. However, I don’t find this very distracting within a larger series that has remained mostly fresh and original.

So… for what I have read: I’ve read the main story arch within the larger series. That is, the story that starts with the First King of Shannara and ends with Straken. I heard that Brooks has also now written his Word and the Void trilogy into Shannara, with a connecting trilogy, apparently… I haven’t read either of those yet. I also heard that a new trilogy that apparently also fits in there before the original story is busy coming out at the moment. I haven’t seen that anywhere yet, though I guess it must have been published a year or more ago. Thus… I know the story of Shannara, though I haven’t got to all the pre-history yet. But what about my favourite book? To answer that question, I need to ramble yet some more.

 

I discovered the Shannara-series quite by accident, actually. My mother and I were in one of those bargain bookshops one day, those that take over all the rubbish that the bigger and better bookshops don’t want. I was looking at the teen books, when my mother called my over to the full-blown fantasy shelf, somewhere I hadn’t spent much time by that stage yet, handed me a book and said “This looks like your kind of book. All elves and dwarves and humans and gnomes, going on quests.” That book was The Wishsong of Shannara. I agreed that it looked really good. We hunted through the shelves, but that Wishsong was the earliest book we could find out of the series (it’s number 3 in the first trilogy, really). So my mother bought me it. She also bought me the entire Heritage of Shannara-quartet that day (the second instalment of the series). I must have been 14 or 15 then. Probably 15, and I haven’t stopped hunting for Shannara books ever since.

Now you know that The Wishsong of Shannara was the first of the series that I read. It wasn’t actually a problem, even though I missed some of the background and was a bit confused here and there. Then I read the Heritage of Shannara quartet, featuring Damson Rhee, who remains one of my favourite female characters to this day. Only then did I go back and read the first two books of that first series: The Sword of Shannara and The Elfstones of Shannara. And later I read the prequel First King of Shannara (which is most excellent) and the two later trilogies in the series, Voyage of the Jerle Shannara and High Druid of Shannara.

The Sword of Shannara isn’t as good as the others to me, strangely, though it was a bestseller back in its day (in the seventies). It’s good, but not very original (very much like Lord of the Rings, which Brooks admits inspired him) and I feel that the author is still finding his voice in this one. However, by the time he reached Elfstones, his voice was found. I was sad to hear the movie-project for Elfstones had fallen through. I would have liked to see that one – Elfstones was one of the best books.

But I still haven’t answered the question. After Wishsong, I read all the others… but… you know what, first impressions count. The Wishsong of Shannara is still my favourite. It is still the one most imprinted on my mind, even though I love the others. Ilse Witch is also really good, if a bit predictable. I love Straken, especially the ending, which was not all that predictable. First King of Shannara was one of the best of all of them and I really love Elf Queen of Shannara. But you cannot wipe first impressions and so Wishsong will remain my king.

 

Fun fact for other lovers of Shannara:
I really cannot stand Walker Boh. He annoys the heck out of me with all his angst, complaining, suspicion and emotional baggage.

Done!

 

Check back tomorrow for some talk about a book that makes me happy!

Sig3


Day 03 – Your favourite series

Header2

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.

IMG_3849

* A slightly outdated picture of my Discworld collection. *

My favourite series in the entire world is Discworld by Sir Terry Pratchett. I’m going here just on series, not trilogies or anything else that authors have invented by now. If I don’t we’ll be here till Tuesday. Another contender for this prestigious honour (hah!) was the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, but if I was ever forced to choose between the two, I would have to choose the Discworld. It’s longer and more all-encompassing for one thing and more interesting to talk about. Young Adult is not my favourite genre either, whereas satire is. My own writing is quite a lot of satire. In short, I love satire. But I still love Harry Potter, don’t worry. Smile with tongue out

At 39 books and counting, the Discworld is one of the longest series that I have ever encountered. I haven’t read all of the books, but I’ve read just over half (23, I think). And I’ve read most of the later ones. It’s of the earlier ones that my knowledge kind of lacks. I dream of one day owning and having read the entire series. Nerd smile

The series is all set on a flat world, a disc not unlike that believed in by the peoples of the Ancient World, that rests on the back of four giant elephants that in turn stands on the back of a giant turtle, Great A’Tuin, that swims through space. There used to be a fifth elephant, but it fell off. If you find yourself rolling your eyes and thinking that this is not possible, I suggest you stop reading right now. Discworld is all about moving borders, about asking “what if?” and “what is possible?”.

 

What do I love about Discworld? Well, it is funny, but it is more than that. On the back covers of the paperback editions, they always call it “very close to the knuckleduster” and I consider this a very good description of the character of the books. Which is probably why that quote is on most of the covers in the first place, silly. Pratchett does more than crack jokes and make characters do and say embarrassing things. That is simply comedy or farce. He does all this anyway, usually, but underneath all of that lies a piece of social commentary for all who cares to stop and notice it. Underneath a lot of the jokes lies a lot of pain. As I read the books, I often get the idea that Pratchett cares intensely about people. He cares about people in all of their shapes and forms. There does not seem to be not a character that he cannot redeem in some small way. Even if a character does intensely evil things, he has a way of providing a legitimate reason for that person’s behaviour. Even if you cannot possibly agree with that person’s viewpoint, the reasoning behind it redeems him or her in some small way. Pratchett does not approach a story simply from the viewpoint of the hero, but also from that of the villain. Why do people act in the way that they do? After all, all people think in their own minds that they are in the right.

The earlier Discworld books are mostly pure comedy. There are jokes that are actually funny, there are a lot of puns. But already he is starting to question things. Like, what happens when the hero of the fairy tale/fantasy ages? He cannot remain young and limber forever. He is also going to get arthritis and a bad back. He is also going to grow too weak to heft a sword and no one is going to believe him when he declares who he is/was, because they think he should be young forever. The normal fantasy staples never touch this kind of ground. You are not supposed to think beyond the happy ending. Pratchett always does.

 

In my opinion, the first hint we get of what Discworld is going to become is in the third book Equal Rites, which deals with discrimination on base of gender. However, the series is still in its baby shoes here. Quite a large part of the series will grow to deal with discrimination later. I think Pratchett has a thing for it, because he will touch sexual orientation, racism, classism and gender discrimination. He especially likes giving a voice to the marginalised and the voiceless.

 

As the series grows, we also get to see the growth of Pratchett’s invented world. At first, it is sketchy. The description that Pratchett uses of an unsolved crime in Thud! works really well here as well. He speaks of it as a jigsaw puzzle: there are some corners and pieces of the edge, but the rest is a whole lot of sky. We get live through the Discworld’s invention of newspapers, a telegram-like system, football, films, music, stamps, paper money… and so on. By the later books, the picture of the history (strongly resembling that of Earth), geography (also strangely resembling Earth) and social problems (also painfully familiar) is so intricate that Discworld feels real. I feel as though I know it, like I know my own world. I feel as if I can picture Ankh-Morpork, Pratchett’s famous city, street for street and that is not something that happens often.

 

However, my favourite part of Discworld remains the social commentary underneath all the jokes and satire of regular fantasy and fairy tales. Especially the way that Pratchett deals with racism lies very close to my heart. Actually, he calls it “speciesism”, because people on the Disc do not discriminate on the basis of skin colour, but on the basis of species. “Black and white lived in perfect harmony and ganged up on green.”* Humans, pixies (pictsies), gnomes, goblins, trolls, dwarves, vampires, werewolves and zombies all make an appearance and are dealt with an refreshingly different approach from most fantasy. However, nevermind what anyone is called or what shape they are, you can always recognise our own world and its situations underneath it.

 

And that is the greatest glory of the Discworld: because it is familiar, laughter becomes a weapon. If that is not the goal of satire, I don’t know what is. If books and stories cannot point out wrongs and criticise, I don’t know what is going to become of society.

 

Check back tomorrow for my fave book of my favourite series! Smile

Sig3

*From Witches Abroad.


Day 02 – A book that you’ve read more than three times

Header2

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’ve read so many books more than 3 times. I’m just going to have to pick something to talk about that is not Discworld or Harry Potter, because this is only the second question and I’m going to talk about those two so much in the other posts that you guys are going to want to kill me.

Right. So, I’m going to be talking about The Medici Seal by Theresa Breslin today. This book is probably my favourite historical novel. I’ve also read The Nostradamus Prophecy by Ms Breslin and after this I determined that she really does do her research well.

Personally, I love history. I had History as a subject my entire high school career and finished with it as my best subject. When I got to university, I continued this by taking European History as a minor for one semester. Therefore, as you can probably figure out already, I checked up facts. I could not find any of the usual temporal anomalies or discrepancies that I’ve met in historical novels before.

What I found instead was a world painted so vividly that I was swept away. Ms Breslin portrays Leonardo da Vinci as he does some of his greatest work, including the flying machine and the famous Mona Lisa. She does so through a young boy that Da Vinci and his friends/assistants rescue from a river. He is named Matteo and he is not telling Da Vinci the truth about his past.

Matteo becomes involved in the plots of the Italic city-states rife with religious and political tension. Before the end he is going to have to confront those that are following him and also the secrets that will be revealed about his past. How far would he go for his friends? How much is he going to have to sacrifice?

Throughout all of this, Da Vinci is there as a wise and calming influence. Matteo broke my heart by breaking Da Vinci’s and I was furious at him. However, Da Vinci never acts with anything less than the all-encompassing love that those so-called church leaders in the book are struggling to achieve. He loves Matteo and Matteo calls him “Maestro”.

 

This book is so good. All the scenes are so vividly described that I can see Italy of the sixteenth century. All the characters are so real that you feel truly sorry at every death and you truly feel for those in pain. Yes, there is rather a lot of death. I never said this was a cheerful book.

An added bonus to reading this book was that I grew extremely interested in the work of Da Vinci. I spent a lot of pleasant hours researching his work. Yes, I love doing research if I don’t have to and I hate having to do it for assignments. Winking smile I especially found the pieces about how he studied anatomy extremely interesting and along with this the religious views on death that were prevalent during the 16th century were also very interesting. Another interesting titbit that I picked up through reading The Medici Seal was the views on left-handed or ambidextrous people that people had during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Because I also (mostly) write left-handed, it interested me personally and made me glad that I did not live during that time.

 

All in all, I cannot stop rereading this book. Every time I read it again, I pick up some little detail that I missed before. Every time the feuds and wars and deceits interest me anew. This is a book that will remain on my “to-read-now-and-then-often-again”-shelves for a long time. Currently, it keeps its sibling The Nostradamus Prophecy company and stands close to my lovely Discworld books. Oh dear, just from writing this now, I want to read it again. But I’m not allowed to at the moment. Some other time, perhaps?

 

Bam! (Sorry, a Sparknote moment there.)
Check back tomorrow for some too much gushing about my favourite series!

Sig3


Day 01 – Best book you read last year

Header2This 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.

 

Welcome to the first day of the book challenge, me! And readers, of course! Smile with tongue out

My, oh my, why did I not Goodreads at this time last year? Then it would have been so easy to just check up my timeline to see what I read when. Now… I’m having to think so hard about what I read for the first time last year.

Last year was 2011, right? And 2011 was the year that I took extra subjects. Well, more extra subjects than normal, that is. This meant that I had no time for reading anything that was not a prescribed book. I am not going to talk about prescribed books today, because I did not choose them. Usually they are not too bad – though some have really rubbed me up the wrong way – but hardly any have blown me away. Anyway, what I meant to say was that I did not actually read anything much last year. Except for rereading Discworld-novels – they are my comfort read, as you’ll come to notice more and more during this challenge. (And one of my obsessions as well.) So what did I read last year that was the best? Two books (I cannot choose):

The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson,

Snuff by Terry Pratchett.

 

I think I’m cheating slightly on that first one. I started reading it at the end of 2010 and I do believe that it was the book that I read midnight on New Year. That’s part of a little tradition me, myself and I have. I always stay awake in bed reading, waiting for the new year to strike and then when it comes I switch off the light and go to sleep. I know, I am so boring. Therefore, I believe I finished The Final Empire in 2011. I hope so, or the very first post for this challenge is going to be dishonest already.

 

This book truly blew me away. I loved it and (I know it’s a horrible cliché) I really could not put it down. If I had to go to dinner, I put it down slowly and reluctantly, sulked through dinner, and hurried back as fast as I can to be absorbed back into the book. This book does not hang around – it moves. It’s vivid, not ripped off other fantasy writers and I love Brandon Sanderson’s writing style. (That he is also a NaNoWriMo writer may contribute to my fangirling over him.) I actually bought the other two books in this trilogy and they have been sitting on my shelves for a looooong time. (Darn in, university, will you never allow me time to read my own stuff?!) I’m too scared to begin them, because I suspect that they will grip me just like the first one and then I will again spend days on end reading and never get to doing my homework. I cannot afford to let this happen at the moment. Or any moment, really.

The Final Empire starts with a question that can turn the fantasy genre on its head: what if the Dark Lord won? Right, so that’s what happens in the prologue (and on the cover). Then we fast forward to see what happens in a world where the hero did not succeed in his million-to-one chance. It features a country where ash has fallen from the sky for a thousand years – the amount of time that the Lord Ruler has been in power. During his reign, the largest part of the population, the skaa, has been oppressed. But a revolution is rising and the ones in power had better watch out because they are not the only ones to possess magic, as they once thought. The Final Empire features a system of magic completely unique in my fantasy-reading experience: to do magic you need to “burn” certain metals in your stomach. Only certain people possess this power. But why is the Lord Ruler so much more powerful than anyone else?

 

Well, let’s talk about Snuff.

Obviously, I could not resist a new Terry Pratchett book when it came out. Even though it was exams, NaNoWriMo and my birthday all at once during the time it came out, I had to go look for it. I bought it (First edition hardcover of course. Discworld-books as some of the very few I’m prepared to splash out on – I reread them so much it that they need it!). It sat on my shelf like a shiny golden lure to get me through the month of November 2011. Ah, that glorious moment when I first got to open it! And now I’ll be honest: it did not blow me away the first time. Actually it confused me a bit and left me hanging. I think this was mostly due to the fact that I had not read Thud! before this time and Snuff is built heavily on it, so I missed some background. Another reason I think I was a bit disappointed is that I was so excited at reading a new Pratchett that I was going miles too fast through it and I missed details.

But then…

I reread it. And I fell in love. This time round it made sense. This time round the details clicked into place. This time round I read Thud! first. Now I can honestly give it 5 stars. It deals with a subject very close to my heart (like most of the sub-series of City Watch-books): discrimination and racism. Obviously the central character is Commander Vimes of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch. I was also very sad to learn later that this will be the last Watch-book that Pratchett will be writing. They’re my favourites *sniff* and there will never be a new one. *sniff* But I understand why he made this choice. With his illness, I can understand that he will want to end at a sensible point and not leave us hanging with Vimes’s story. And I’m happy he gave Vimes a happy ending. He deserves it.

And now I’m out of things to say about Snuff. I love it, but it being still relatively new, I’m afraid of giving away spoilers. But I can say that it contains a lot of poultry, the fresh air of the countryside and goblins. Also, it finally develops the character of Vimes’s little boy, Young Sam. A lovely character, with some strange interests. For long time Discworld fans, it also has the answers about Nobby Nobbs. All those questions that we’ve had about him since the first book are answered in Snuff.

Here are a couple of links to reviews from people better at it than me. Please note that they may contain spoilers:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/oct/21/snuff-terry-pratchett-review?intcmp=239

http://www.burnbright.com.au/jamie-reviews-terry-pratchetts-snuff/

 

Check back tomorrow for day two – a book I’ve read more than three times!

Sig3


Books, books, books, books.

Yes, we are starting this new series right now!

Introducing…

Header2

Yay!

So, what does this book challenge consist of? Here are the list of posts:

The 30 Day Book Challenge

Day 01 – Best book you read last year
Day 02 – A book that you’ve read more than 3 times
Day 03 – Your favourite series
Day 04 – Favourite book of your favourite series
Day 05 – A book that makes you happy
Day 06 – A book that makes you sad
Day 07 – Most underrated book
Day 08 – Most overrated book
Day 09 – A book you thought you wouldn’t like but ended up loving
Day 10 – Favourite classic book
Day 11 – A book you hated
Day 12 – A book you used to love but don’t anymore
Day 13 – Your favourite writer
Day 14 – Favourite book of your favourite writer
Day 15 – Favourite male character
Day 16 – Favourite female character
Day 17 – Favourite quote from your favourite book
Day 18 – A book that disappointed you
Day 19 – Favourite book turned into a movie
Day 20 – Favourite romance book
Day 21 – Favourite book from your childhood
Day 22 – Favourite book you own
Day 23 – A book you wanted to read for a long time but still haven’t
Day 24 – A book that you wish more people would’ve read
Day 25 – A character whom you can relate to the most
Day 26 – A book that changed your opinion about something
Day 27 – The most surprising plot twist or ending
Day 28 – Favourite title
Day 29 – A book everyone hated but you liked
Day 30 – Your favourite book of all time

Doesn’t it look exciting? Open-mouthed smile

 

You can expect the first post tomorrow. I know I said last week that I will stagger the posts a little further apart until I actually leave, but now I’ve noticed that I’ve so many posts that I can let them post every day, even now when I am not gone yet. Yes, I’ve written way too much for some of them. For some of them, I was not sure what on earth I should write. But it was great fun (I’ve been working on this for months).

 

Anyway, what can you expect from me in this challenge? Well, maybe the easiest thing would be to tell you the kind of things that I read. Then you can decide for yourself whether you would be interested in following along with me in this challenge.

These days the largest part of my reading consists of everything that I have to read for class. I am not too happy about this. I am not crazy about many of the books that I have read or still have to read, but so far I have been lucky. There were very few books that I hated and couldn’t get through. I have read colonial and postcolonial, modernism, classics, renaissance and am now facing a term of the Romantics. I’m not looking forward to many of the books staring at me from my university shelf right now. One of them is Wuthering Heights. I tried to read it once and I was nearly bored to death. Another one is A Portrait of a Lady. I watched the movie once and Nicole Kidman annoyed me so much I nearly threw a cushion at the screen. I can only hope the novel is better. But I haven’t got much hope. Winking smile

I’m digressing again! What I meant to say was that while I usually spend my time on these genres listed, what I prefer to read is fantasy. I’m hesitant to call myself a fantasy buff (because I haven’t read many of the titles that are considered the staples of fantasy reading these days), but it is still my favourite genre. I also love historical fiction (but not the romantic kind), I like science fiction and I read the occasional classics. I can’t stand romances and I’m none too fond of fluffy reads. People always tell you to switch off your mind whilst reading. If I have to do that to like a book, I’d rather not read it.

So, I like fantasy. But which fantasy? Lord of the Rings! I also love Harry Potter, though I haven’t read it in years – it is true that it does always stay with you. And then a series that you will meet far too often in this challenge… the Discworld-series by Terry Pratchett. It’s just so much fun: I love all of it!

 

Don’t worry, these are not the only books that I can talk about and will be writing about! I read wider than that!

 

The other thing is… about comments whilst I am gone. Of course comments are always welcome, but I will not be taking comment moderation off. This means that if you have commented two or three times here before, your comments will still be approved automatically. However, if you have not commented before, or if you are suddenly using a different account to comment, your comments will go into the moderation queue. All of them will be saved, they will simply not show up on the posts until I get back to approve them. (I might pop by when I am supposed to be on holiday, if the world starts to annoy me too much and do a little comment moderation. But don’t count on it. Smile with tongue out) I could have taken this moderation off, but this blog receives too much spam and I don’t want to chance it. I just wanted you to be aware of this.

 

Lastly, I thought all of you interested parties might be interested in a peek at the books that I will be taking away with me. All of them are books that I have not read before. Half of them are from second-hand bookstores.

IMG_3906 (2)

Oh, the choices about which ones to take and which ones to leave! The English title of that Dutch book is They Came to Baghdad, in case anyone was wondering. Yes, I have read the English one. Winking smile The two at the bottom are part of my reading list for next semester. I should probably get started on them, before I get as pressurised as I was this semester again! Also, my father is probably going to complain about the amount of books that I want to drag along. He always complains. And then he finds space for them anyway. Look:

IMG_3913

Like most rulers, that ruler is 30cm (a.k.a. 1 foot) long. Yep, that’s how high my stack of books are! Rolling on the floor laughing

 

And that’s it! I suppose this is goodbye for now! I’ll be back in a month or so. Except, you know, if I’m in an accident. Or my laptop gets stolen. Or I die. Or someone else dies… Except for all those “excepts”, I’ll be back. And I probably shouldn’t joke about death. Also, I promise faithfully to get my bum into gear again and to return with cartoons to place this blog back on its original path.

 

If anyone misses me (hah!) come visit me on my Tumblr. The queue is well-stocked with Discworld stuff! And the other places you can find me is, as always, listed in the sidebar.

 

Love,

Sig2

PS. I actually don’t wear glasses, but I wanted to do one of those stereotypical “reader” images for my header, so I played about with an old pair of my mother’s glasses. I was struggling to see the camera! Winking smile