Laughter and books make life a little easier

Posts tagged “literature

The Dark Side of Literary Criticism

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What are you reading?

So you can apparently tell a lot about a person from the kind of books they like to read. According to studies, people who like biographies are different – personality-wise – from people who like fantasy and people who like historical fiction are different from people who enjoy romance. I wouldn’t know if that is actually true, but I do know you can tell my mood and state of mind from what I like to read at a specific moment in time.

So…

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Reading surprises

Sometimes, reviewing your old reading habits can surprise you. Sometimes you’ve forgotten about books you used to love, or sometimes you come across a book again and you can’t believe that you used to love it.

Or then, sometimes, just your actual reading statistics can surprise you.

In the beginning of the year, I was looking at my “year in books” on Goodreads. It was pretty normal stuff… number of books read: close on 60… I knew I hadn’t entered every single book I read during the year (especially not those I reread for the fifth time), but it’s a fairly accurate statistic. I take my Goodreads very seriously.

Then I clicked on “number of pages read” and things changed… (more…)


Let’s talk about (writing) strong female characters

Female characters is something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently, as I have a whole bunch of female characters in the novel I’m writing for class and also because I saw several articles about it online.

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Sometimes I get very annoyed with amateur literary critics

I feel obliged to warn you that this post is very wordy and not very funny at all.

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A long note and a short essay

Hi. I have been absent from the blog again. I had so been hoping to post regularly again, but the mundane had other plans. Simply put, my internet died. This time it was not me hitting the data cap, or some inexplicable internet silence that lasts some hours. It died, well and properly. It did not go down like a hero, fighting until the last, but I can only hope that it will have some characteristics of the archetypal, ever-renewed hero who will rise again when need is greatest. Now I can only wonder how long still before my need is greatest… It’s been a whole week. I am growing more and more bored and frustrated. Yes, I know I am addicted to the internet to a certain degree. I also know that I can live without it, but that I don’t want to. I am alone most of the time and though I am happy to be that way, the internet has taught me what community is and to have that torn away from you… (more…)


Book review: The Hunger Games, Pawn of Prophecy, and more.

Hey! 😀 (I never know how to start these things.)

 

So after my poll about starting to post book reviews (three posts ago, I think), I only got one negative answer, so I’ve decided to go ahead with this feature. Therefore, welcome to what I hope will be the first of many book reviews!

 

Some questions I’m anticipating you may have (because I’m cool like that): 😉

– Why are you now posting book reviews? This blog is called Cartoons & Creative Writing!
Do you want the long answer or the short answer? The short answer is that I want to be a more diverse blogger and so reach a wider audience. I don’t want to be boxed into one small topic. Besides, some of my favourite blogs are book-blogs and one of my favourite topics to talk about is also books, so that works. 😛

The long answer is that my stats have fallen through the floor. Of course, blogging is not all about the stats, but what is the point of writing if all of ten people are reading it? (Okay, not just 10 people. I’m exaggerating just a little bit.) If you must know, today this blog has got 8 views. A whole 8, and that in almost 24 hours. A few months ago, it was averaging in the eighties every day, and 100 was nothing strange. After Freshly Pressed happened in January, I thought that now was finally my chance to build up a readership, a community, whatever you want to call it, but I failed. I’m not blaming anyone but myself. Everyone keeps on telling you that the only way to build a successful blog is to post quality content regularly and I know I did not do that. For months, I posted filler. People move on and that’s fine. But now I’m left feeling like I have to build this blog up from the ground again. Basically, I’m back where I was this time last year. So I’m branching out, regular content, on a wider variety of topics, to appeal to a wider audience.
If you’re saying, “but I’m only here for the cartoons!”, don’t worry. These book review posts will not happen more than once a month. There will still be plenty of cartoons for you to look at.

– Will you do book reviews on request? Will you do a book review of a certain book if I ask you?
Yes. And no. I will probably agree to write you a small review if I have already read the book that you want to request. I don’t have the time or the money at this stage to search out and read books on request. You can check out my Goodreads. I would probably be happy to review any of the books of my “read” shelf, if you ask nicely. 🙂

– What do your ratings mean?
I place my stars next to each book and the maximum is 5 stars. I rate here much like I got used to on Goodreads. Three stars mean I enjoyed the book, though not necessarily enough to make me want to read it again. Four stars mean I really liked it. It’s probably an above average book and I’ll probably consider reading it again. Most of my ratings seem to be four stars these days. Five stars mean “Ah I love this book to pieces and its little white cotton socks!!! It was wonderful and I can’t find anything to complain about!” Yep. Let’s hope I won’t ever have to deal with one and two stars on here, but two stars mean that I didn’t actually like this book, but I probably managed to finish it. Usually it would have a redeeming factor to save it from one star’s “Urgh, I hate this book, sorry.” If a book has a half star attached to its rating, it probably just means that I’m being indecisive. 😛

 

So, after this overly long introduction, let’s get to the book reviews, shall we?

Today, I am reviewing some of that stack of books that I had along on holiday. I knew that it was probably too many books, but my problem is that I read according to mood and if I only have five books to choose from, I’m going to be in a very bad mood. 😉 Well, I read most of them, anyway. And acquired one or four more, “no new books”-vow or no vow…

 

The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins

This part of this post has spoilers. I can’t talk about The Hunger Games without mentioning spoilers.

1. The Hunger Games 

While I am not usually someone to get involved in the newest hype on the internet, I did decide to read The Hunger Games shortly before the movie came out. Which I did watch and enjoy, before someone asks. 😉
I think the appeal of The Hunger Games lies in the narrative. It’s a page-turner, plain and simple. It’s written in present tense and in a sort of stream of consciousness style which really builds the tension once our main character Katniss Everdeen is in danger. Also, I’ve seen lots of people complain that the book is full of grammatical mistakes. In the first place, this is completely correct: there are grammatical mistakes. In the second place, this is irrelevant and probably intentional. You always stop to consider your use of concord inside your head, especially when something is chasing you, right? This is what stream of consciousness is all about.
While Katniss is not my favourite character ever, I do think she is a good role model for teen girls and much better than many of the characters you get these days. I would have liked to learn more about the other characters, but I guess that is the disadvantage of a first person narrator. Katniss is also a bit self-centred and angsty. Not that I can honestly say I blame her. This is one of the attractions of this book: the characters are flawed and realistic.
I’d recommend The Hunger Games if you like dystopian fiction and can also recognise it as something hypothetical (with the added scare factor that it could be true), rather than freak about the moral consequences of teenagers getting forced to kill each other.

2. Catching Fire 

This was probably my favourite book out of the trilogy. It may be because it was the only one that I did not accidentally read spoilers for on the internet and so the only one where the tension could fully grip me.
I found the concept of the Quarter Quell arena extremely interesting. The piece in the Capitol with the party and things was the first scene to bring home to me that this trilogy is not just about entertainment. It’s goal is also to criticise and to warn. The whole idea of people drinking stuff so they could throw up and eat some more… yeah… It kind of hit me between the eyes, because during that time I read that I was visiting my aunt and my aunt is the kind of person who feeds you far too much. My father tends to just grin and bear it though afterwards he would constantly complain about eating too much. I refuse to let her dish me up seconds, while I know it hurts her because she sees it as rejection, I don’t want to eat too much. Reading a scene so reminiscent of that in Catching Fire just reminded me of one of the hugest flaws in today’s society: how too much food is a status symbol for some while so many others don’t have anything to eat.
Let it suffice to say that this book is just such a page-turner as the first one, which had me racing to the end. I was also really glad at the end that I had the third book to hand, because the cliffhanger at the end would have killed me otherwise. 😉 Can I also just say that I saw through Plutarch Heavensbee in an instant… The man really could have been more subtle. 😛

3. Mockingjay 

I had extremely mixed feelings about this final book in the trilogy once I finished it. All the time while reading it, I was expecting Katniss to step up and be a hero and stop the freakin’ wallowing. I couldn’t understand what this book wanted from me, because it was so unexpected. When I finally realised that I was expecting the wrong things from this book, I started to like it much more. Mockingjay is not about the glory of war and revolution, it is about the price thereof. We have been raised with the idea of the glory of standing up to cruel authority and dying for your country firmly in our minds, therefore we have been so conditioned to expect it that we do not know the other side of this. Katniss is not a hero, as I finally realised. She is not hero-material: she is too moral for that. To be a hero you need to be able to do “bad guy things” and say it is okay, because you are a good guy. Katniss cannot do this – she knows that if you do that, then there is no difference between you and the authority that you are trying to beat. It is exactly the same situation that Frantz Fanon warned against in The Wretched of the Earth. When Katniss turned her arrow away from President Snow… it was a glorious moment – she struck a blow for morality, though it probably wasn’t the blow any of us expected. This is a really great review (not mine, though I agree with everything).
It wasn’t what I expected, it wasn’t the epic firebomb that I’ve been conditioned to expect, but it still struck a blow. Once I could get through my preconceptions, Mockingjay was a great book, with a really powerful message. I recommend sticking to it. 🙂

 

Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings

Oh dear, this book doesn’t deserve that rating. I’m so, so sorry. It’s a good book. No, actually, it is great book. It’s just that… I’ve read the “innocent farm boy discovers that he has a Destiny (the capital D is important)” plot so many times by now that I couldn’t enjoy this book as much as I should have. I know that the other books with this plot was copying David Eddings and not the other way round, it is just a pity I read the more modern ones first. His version is actually better. He is a great writer. Argh, I’m running out of words here.
This is not to say I didn’t enjoy certain elements of this book. I really enjoyed the sign language they used, because I have never met anything quite like that before. I also enjoyed hearing about the different characters and their countries, though I have to admit the map at the beginning of the book just confused me. It’s not very reader-friendly. 😛
I can still recommend this book, especially if you’re not as tired of farm boys as I am. I’ll probably see if the library has the rest of this series, though I’m in no rush. And, I also saw through Aunt Pol in an instant, though that was probably the author’s intention.

 

Wintersmith by Terry Prachett

Oh, I love this book! Yes, I’m biased. I just love Tiffany Aching and if a single reader of my blog doesn’t know yet how much I love Terry Pratchett’s books, then I don’t know where you’ve been hiding. 😉
This book deals with Tiffany’s most dangerous adventure yet. The spirit of winter has fallen in love with her and if she doesn’t manage to put him off, summer will never come again. This is a lot to deal with for a thirteen-year-old. Actually, this would be a lot to deal with for anyone, but Tiffany has to cope. You see, the winter is killing the lambs and she is a shepherd’s daughter. If that happens, there is nothing that can hold back her fury. Tiffany is also a witch and this gives her the ability to deal with things.
I also loved the other characters in this book. Miss Treason was an absolute treat and so were the other witches. I liked that Roland was less of a pompous… err… donkey. I always like the Nac Mac Feegle. They’re just so irrepressible!
This would be a very appropriate Christmas read. Great plot, great characters, awesome writer – what more can you ask for? 😀
Now I have to read I Shall Wear Midnight, the next and final Tiffany Aching book, I suppose.

 

Emma by Jane Austen

I don’t actually have a review for this book. I just included it in this list because I believe someone said in that first post that they hoped to hear my opinion on it.
I’m afraid I haven’t finished it, but I haven’t forgotten about it. I should have finished it long ago, but I gave up. I just can’t be interested in people’s relationships and I only made it about a third through. However, I will finish it! I am determined and anyway, I need to read it for class. Also, I want know what happens and review it! 🙂

 

Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift

I don’t really know what to rate this book. While I liked it, I’m really on the fence here. It wasn’t an easy read.
I loved the children’s version as a kid and while I was expecting the unabridged version to be quite different, I wasn’t quite prepared. To say that this book is about sex and excrement wouldn’t be far wrong, I think. But that is what satire is all about, isn’t it?
While there are some very funny pieces, there are also some scenes that are shocking and horrifying. Swift mocks everyone and everything. You won’t escape his tongue. 😛
A cautionary note: this book would be even more difficult to read if you don’t know English history well. Though I’ve taken a lot of history classes in my time, I struggled. I know a lot more about France or Italy or Germany’s history than I do about England. Sure, I can tell you the Great Fire of London happened in 1666, but I seriously don’t know what Prime Minister was in charge at the beginning of the 18th century, nor do know what the underlying political and social issues of the day were. If you try this book, I recommend getting an annotated version. Swift’s satire is very specific to certain people and if you don’t know it, you’re missing a lot.

 

 

And that’s everything for today! When I do reviews again, they will be longer and more detailed. It’s just because I added so many today that I cut them so short. This post is already over 2000 words long!

 

Talk soon,


Too many things to fit in this title

Well yes, it’s true. There’s so much I want to post about! Sorry that it’s a bit discombobulated.

Earlier today, I posted this on Twitter, but I may as well ask here too:

So, what did you other Tolkien fans (I know you’re out there!) do for this special day? For those of you who don’t know Lord of the Rings / haven’t figured it out yet, the 25th of March is the day on which the happenings in Lord of the Rings culminate, making it a special day for the fandom. Apart from the Hobbits’ birthday (22 September) and Christmas Day (the day the Quest set out), of course.

Beth from Hear a Snippet Here wants me to say my ABCs. So, in the words of Monsieur Hercule Poirot, my ABCs, they shall be said.* Bethie is probably also the first person to ever call me cool. 😉

(*M. Poirot didn’t say exactly that. I improvised a bit. However, can’t you just here David’s Suchet’s voice in your head if you read that? 😛 )

First for passing it on:

Because I’m fed up of thinking of people to pass these things on to, I’m opening up the rules and saying: Go on, take it. This is a free for all. If you want this, grab the picture, post me a link and make your own list. All of my followers are awesome and I’d love to read your lists! Have fun! 😀

I decided to make my list on book characters, to fit in with Beth’s list of books. So here follows an alphabetical list of characters that I love. I just went on the first names and I included the books where you can find these ink-and-paper people. Sorry if there are any spoilers!

Artemis Fowl – This one was a tough choice between Allanon of the Shannara-series, and the main character of the Artemis Fowl-series by Eoin Colfer. But there are many wise-wizard characters in fantasy (even though Allanon is pretty awesome among them), while there is only one Artemis Fowl.

Bilbo Baggins – How could I not mention Bilbo here? He’s wonderful. Be prepared to meet many more Lord of the Rings characters in this list. Just look, how could you not love him?

Christopher Chant (Chrestomanci) – He’s arrogant, intimidating, cares way too much about his clothes, generally annoying and brave. I love him. Find him in the Chrestomanci-series by Diana Wynne Jones.

Damson Rhee – If there is one thing that I really admire about Terry Brooks’s writing, it is his strong female characters. Damson is strong, independent and resourceful. Find her in the Heritage of Shannara-quartet.

Eowyn – According to me, Eowyn of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings is one of the earliest, most feministic characters ever written. I love her strength.

I agree with you, my lady.

Frodo Baggins – How could I leave out Lord of the Rings’ main character!? I love hobbits, incase you haven’t noticed yet. Actually, I’d love to include Sam here with Frodo, because they go together in my mind. Frodo wouldn’t have got far without Sam…

Gandalf – This is so obvious. I’m not saying anything more.

Harry Potter – And this as well. I’m just glad that J.K. Rowling made him not only a hero, but also a very human character. He has his flaws and faults, just like everyone else.

Igor – Actually I didn’t know who to add here, because I couldn’t actually think of anything favourite characters with an I-name. So I’m just adding the Igor-characters from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld-series. Yes, there’s a whole family of them and they all have the same name, because it saves confusion. If they say so… They are pretty entertaining however!

Jane Marple – I love Miss Marple. I love her way more than Agatha Christie’s other sleuth, Hercule Poirot. She is just such a sweet old lady, but she has a mind of steel. It is impossible to put one over her. I love her for her sweetness and for her hidden fire…

Kelsier – This one was another tough choice. I wanted to put Katniss Everdeen of The Hunger Games here as well as Kelsier, but in the end, Kelsier won. He has wonderful charisma that makes him a great leader, but he is also a flawed, broken human being. He’s arrogant, but a great friend. He tends to walk over everyone else, but he cares intensely about people. He’s one of my all-time favourite characters and you can find him in The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson.

Luna Lovegood – Ah Luna. What can I say about her that has not already been said? I guess all I can say is that she is my second-favourite Harry Potter-character, and probably the single character that has had the greatest influence on me.

Moist von Lipwig – Ah, Moist! Conman who has to turn civil servant, or else he gets hanged – again. He’s hilarious, always moving fast unless what is chasing him catches up and the most insane ideas seem to sprout from him. He is also a very close contender for the honoured position of my favourite Discworld-character. Moist makes his first appearance in Going Postal by Terry Pratchett.

Neville Longbottom – Neville! Here it comes: Neville Longbottom is my favourite Harry Potter-character. Yes, I loved him from the very start in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. I can write a whole post just about Neville – and actually I already have. I’ll publish it sometime!

Oliver Twist – I read Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens some time ago. At times it was torturous going and at other times I loved it. Oliver is just such an endearing character that I had to include him in this list.

Pe Ell – I think Pe Ell is one of the most interesting characters in Terry Brooks’s Shannara, probably because his path is not set from the beginning, unlike many of the other characters. I love his conflict and his character development – always a surprise. Find him in The Heritage of Shannara-quartet.

Quentin Leah – Ah! Another one from Shannara. I can’t even promise it’s the last. Well, it is such a mammoth series after all… Mostly Quentin is just here because of the letter his name starts on. Let’s just say he is here as representative of the rest of his Leah-family. And make that the Ohmsford-family as well. I couldn’t think of any other character that has a Q-name, except for Quirrel from Harry Potter and he always annoyed me, so Quentin it is! I like him well enough, he’s just not that special.

Rincewind – The first Discworld character (close enough anyway), so he deserves a place on this list. Actually, Rincewind can annoy me a lot with his cowardice, but at the end of the day, he is just such an endearing character. I think there is a little Rincewind in all of us, to tell the truth. We all probably know that the “right” thing to do is to be brave and stand and fight, but when the guys with swords approach you, all you want to do is run away so that your flip-flops fly through the air. The eternal coward…

Sherlock Holmes – No, not the BBC’s version, but the original created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. And of course, Dr John Watson deserves an honourable mention too. What is it about these two characters that have made them so popular throughout the ages?

Tiffany Aching – I love young witch Tiffany. She is one of the few characters that I can really identify with, even though I’m double her age. She makes her first appearance in The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett.

Uhl Belk – Okay, he’s basically here because of his name and nothing else, because I seriously could not think of any other character with a U-name. However, I can’t deny that he is interesting and I love it if we get a bit of back-story for an evil Dark Lord so that we are not just forced to accept his evilness for a fact. Find him in The Heritage of Shannara-quartet.

Vimes (a.k.a. His Grace, the Duke of Ankh, Commander of the City Watch, Sir Samuel Vimes. There’s also a Blackboard Monitor in there somewhere, but I’ve forgotten where now.) Okay, I’m cheating by going on the surname, but who cares. Between Vimes and Lord Vetinari a great battle is going on for my fav Pratchett character. And I can only have one here, because  there’s only one V! 😦 However, I’m choosing to put Vimes here, because he is a way more accessible character, other than Vetinari, who is miles away on an icy throne, even though he is awesome. I don’t even know what to fit in about Vimes here, so I think I’ll have to write a whole post about him too! 😉 He makes his first appearance in Guards! Guards!, so go read it yourself and make up your mind!

William de Worde – Here comes another Discworld character! William is the world’s first journalist and I always find myself giggling at him, because he is always correcting everyone else’s spelling and grammar, just like I do. You can mainly find him in The Truth.

Xeno – Okay, last Pratchett character, promise! He’s mostly here just because of his name as well, but he is quite funny in the books. He is a parody on the Greek philosopher Zeno who was famous for thinking of paradoxes, and you can find him in Pyramids.

Yavanna – Another hard one. I didn’t really know who to put here, so I just picked her out of Tolkien’s Silmarillion, even though I have not read the whole of that yet. Another contender for this letter was rebel-leader Yeden from Brandon Sanderson’s The Final Empire, but he was not that kind of exceptional character. I’ll just stay with Tolkien, thanks. 😛

Zoroastro – Last one picked by name. Last one in general as well, obviously. Zoroastro is a character in Theresa Breslin’s The Medici Seal. He provides a nice contrast to the other characters who are most Catholic, whereas Zoroastro still keeps to traditional beliefs and rituals.

And there you have it! Sorry it got so long. I always talk too much when it comes to books and everything related to them. Now I have to read some more of King Lear. I gave up reading from my book, because it’s just too hard to follow and now I’m reading the “dual-language” version on Sparknotes. The bonus is that, with their new background, I get to look at Katniss Everdeen whilst I’m reading. And at Peeta and Gale too, of course.  😉

Have a great week!