Reading, Reviews, Young Adult

My Fall Fantasy Binge, and The Classics Recovery

I’ve been taking a little breather from blogging after 31 Days of posting every day, so things have been a little quiet around here lately. But I haven’t stopped reading!

As I mentioned in a previous post, something about the fall season coming on makes me gravitate toward adventure or fantasy stories. It’s so great to read about danger and courage while sitting cozily under a fuzzy blanket in your warm house. I read Alanna: The First Adventure  in October and thought it was okay, though I didn’t love it. I then read the second book in the series and strongly disliked it. Looks like I’m done with Alanna. I hate it when writers imply that female characters have to be sexually active at age 17 to be complete. Alanna is told by a goddess that to truly achieve her goals, she will have to do three things, one of which is “learn to love.” The definition of love certainly is cloudy. I’d definitely vote Harry Crewe from The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley over Alanna in the strong female character category. It seems to me Alanna does a lot of selfish thinking. But I realize that there are a ton of Alanna fans out there, so judge for yourself.

A fun fantasy story I did enjoy was Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin by Liesl Shurtliff. It started out a little trite: poor mountain people who supply the King’s city with gold in the medieval time period. I was reminded of Princess Academy or many recent fantasy books set in the medieval days. However, I was intrigued by the importance of names, the nature of magic in the story, and the totally different portrayal of the character of Rumpelstiltskin. I always considered him a sinister person, but this very imaginative re-telling will change your mind. Though I would have liked the plot to tie up some lose ends it left out, it was a mostly satisfying fairy tale novel. If you like Shannon Hale, Jessica Day George, or Gail Levine, I recommend Rump. Thanks to Mary for recommending and lending it to me! This is a good book to read with children about 8-12.

A Lost LadyNow that I’ve drenched myself in fantasy and fairy tale, I feel like one who has eaten cake for every meal for three days straight. I want classics! I read Willa Cather’s novella A Lost Lady in one sitting last Sunday afternoon when both of my children decided to take a nap at the same time. It always surprises me how enthralled I become in Cather’s works when they hardly ever have a very strong plot (O’ Pioneers being the exception). Cather’s work is driven by characters, settings, and overarching themes. A Lost Lady is about Marrian Forrester, a high society woman who marries a railroad man and lives in a pioneer railroad town in Colorado in the early 1900s. I loved it.  There was symbolism, beautiful descriptions, multi-faceted characters, and rich historical background. After all those “fun” books (which were really did enjoy!) I drank in A Lost Lady like I hadn’t had water in days. I’m so glad my dad found it in a thrift store, bought it, read it one Saturday afternoon, and then passed it on to me.

Next up for me is the Great English Classic, Brideshead Revisited. I’m only 40 pages into it, so it’s too early to judge if I actually like it. I can tell it’s a novel that I could read two or three times and still miss something. It’s complex. I love British lit, but I’ve started this book three times over the last five years, and this is the furthest I’ve gotten. I think it’s caught me this time, though, and I’ll finish it in the next couple of weeks.

What are you reading this month?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nonfiction, Reading, Reviews, Young Adult

October Reading

Apparently, I haven’t taken my own good advice lately, because what I’ve read in the past month has equaled not much. My blogging time has been taken up with the 31 Days of Picture Books and I’ve had a blast with it. I have managed to squeeze in a few adult reads, though.

The Silver StarAt the beginning of the month I  read The Silver Star by Jeanette Walls. This novel was an interesting combination of To Kill A Mockingbird and The Glass Castle, Walls’s first book, a bestselling memoir. Here’s the plot summary of The Silver Star from goodreads.com:

It is 1970 in a small town in California. “Bean” Holladay is twelve and her sister, Liz, is fifteen when their artistic mother, Charlotte, a woman who “found something wrong with every place she ever lived,” takes off to find herself, leaving her girls enough money to last a month or two. When Bean returns from school one day and sees a police car outside the house, she and Liz decide to take the bus to Virginia, where their Uncle Tinsley lives in the decaying mansion that’s been in Charlotte’s family for generations.

An impetuous optimist, Bean soon discovers who her father was, and hears many stories about why their mother left Virginia in the first place. Because money is tight, Liz and Bean start babysitting and doing office work for Jerry Maddox, foreman of the mill in town—a big man who bullies his workers, his tenants, his children, and his wife. Bean adores her whip-smart older sister—inventor of word games, reader of Edgar Allan Poe, nonconformist. But when school starts in the fall, it’s Bean who easily adjusts and makes friends, and Liz who becomes increasingly withdrawn. And then something happens to Liz.

Jeannette Walls, supremely alert to abuse of adult power, has written a deeply moving novel about triumph over adversity and about people who find a way to love each other and the world, despite its flaws and injustices.

The Silver Star reminded me of To Kill A Mockingbird because of two child characters, Bean and her cousin, and because of the unfairness of the small town’s judicial system. Though the issues brought up don’t have much to do with race, they have a lot to do with gender and social status equality. I enjoyed the characters, though I thought them a bit to reminiscent of the main characters in The Glass Castle. The book also had that run down mill town feel that is so poignantly portrayed in Richard Russo’s Empire Falls. It’s as if you get a peek into what Empire Falls looked like before everything shut down. Walls does a good job of drawing a reader into her writing by putting flesh on her characters. However, this book was my least favorite of hers because the plot was a tad too predictable. Still, I read it cover to cover in three days and I think most people who like Walls’s work will enjoy The Silver Star.

Kisses from Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and RedemptionI also read Kisses From Katie as part of my 7 Challenge to learn more about poverty stricken countries. Katie Davis writes about her experiences as a very young woman who goes to Uganda for a few months after graduating from high school and cannot see herself staying away ever again. The book is both heartbreaking and heart-swelling. It’s heartbreaking to not just suspect or vaguely hear about Ugandans’ hardships but to really know what life is like for them. It’s important to know, but it’s heartbreaking.  It is heart-swelling to see that one young woman can make so much of a difference if she will stop saying “someone else” and start saying “Me. I will love one person and one more person and bandage one person and one more person and do what I can. Even if it’s never enough, I will do what I can because that’s all I can do and that’s what I must do.” (paraphrase). You must read it, not as a fine piece of literature, but as a bolster for your belief in what one person (read: you) can change if you try. I am so challenged and changed by this book.

Alanna: The First Adventure (Song of the Lioness, #1)Finally, I just finished the Young Adult favorite, Alanna: The First AdventureThis book was written in 1983 by Tamora Pierce, but somehow it didn’t show up on my wide book radar until I started this blog and saw it on so many Top Ten Tuesday lists. I quickly learned that Alanna is a favorite heroine of many book loving girls. And since my real life name is only one letter away from Alanna, I had to read it for myself. (If your curious about why I go by Mia on this blog, check out the About Me page). I put it on my to-read list and then October came. October is historically a month when I crave a good fantasy adventure book. Last October, I discovered The Hero and The Crown and thoroughly enjoyed it. The year before that, it was Book of A Thousand Days by Shannon Hale. I think I can trace this feeling that Fall means fantasy adventure books back to when I read the Lord of The Rings trilogy in the fall lo those many years ago. But that would be way to nerdy to admit. Anyway, I’m sorry to say that I didn’t love Alanna. I liked it okay, but I’m afraid I missed the boat when I was twelve or thirteen that would have sailed me into Tamora Pierce fandom. But that doesn’t mean I won’t be reading the rest of the series! Because it’s October, and adventurous fantasy stories are akin to October (write that down).

Now I’m reading Rump: The True Story of RumpelstiltskinSo far, it’s much grimmer than I thought it would be. We all know how the fairy tale ends, so I’m hoping there’s some kind of twist that will make this poor boy Rump into a hero after all. Rumpelstiltskin as a character has always unnerved me. I think the writing style of Liesl Shurtlief is very similar to Shannon Hale’s–pointed and carries the story along at a good pace–but I wish it were a wee bit more descriptive. I’m interested to see how the author weaves the brief mentions of other fairy tales into Rumpelstiltskin’s story. Expect a full review soon.

How’s your October reading going?

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