**spoiler alert** I'm trying to take this for what it is, in the knowledge that, without seeing the play, I'm not getting the whole picture, but reall**spoiler alert** I'm trying to take this for what it is, in the knowledge that, without seeing the play, I'm not getting the whole picture, but really ... I dunno. There was a lot here that didn't sit right with me alongside previously published canon. I'm not sure how much of this I can or am expected to accept as being canon.
None of the adults we grew to know and love from the original Harry Potter series felt like themselves. I cannot imagine Hermione growing up to be Minister for Magic, or Harry having a bad relationship with any of his children, or Ron and Ginny being so ... useless and colourless. Or Draco referring to any of them by their first names.
To be honest, the whole idea of Voldemort having a secret daughter, possibly involving time travel, felt like something straight out of bad fanfic from the mid-2000s. I could not take it seriously. Every time it was mentioned that Voldemort might have had a child, I started laughing, and when it turned out to be true ... well, all I could do was shake my head.
I loved the affectionate relationship between Albus and Scorpius. It was everything I wanted it to be. Well, almost everything. Because you can't have a story where two male characters repeatedly affirm their affection for one another without shoehorning in an unconvincing hetero crush for one or both of them, just so it doesn't look too gay. It's 2016, and in a story that went some really dark places, queerness is still apparently one step too far....more
I opted to listen to the audiobook, even though I do also have a paper copy of the novel. Having the story in Cecil's voice -- although, unlike the poI opted to listen to the audiobook, even though I do also have a paper copy of the novel. Having the story in Cecil's voice -- although, unlike the podcast, not in his point of view -- felt right. Unfortunately, Cecil's soothing voice meant that I fell asleep more than a few times, and had to skip back to find my place.
I liked that the story focused on two previously minor female characters, struggling with real and surreal life problems. While Cecil and Carlos and several other major characters are present in the narrative, they are not directly involved in the plot in any major way.
I imagine it must have been a challenge to write a coherent and sustained story of 400 pages (rather than short, interrelated, episodic stories) set in a world where the laws of reality are flexible and don't always apply, and where linear time doesn't affect all the characters in the same way. I think Fink and Cranor did a good job of putting together a story that made sense in the context of the Night Vale world, and was engaging. I'm not sure how much appeal it will have for people who are not regular listeners of the podcast, but for those who are already fans, there is a lot of world-expanding, and in-depth character development of a kind that the podcast doesn't usually have time for....more
Bedknobs and Broomsticks was one of my favourite Disney movies as a child, but somehow I never got around to reading the books it was based on (two boBedknobs and Broomsticks was one of my favourite Disney movies as a child, but somehow I never got around to reading the books it was based on (two books, here combined in a single volume) until now.
The books are, of course, very different. The movie is set during WWII, with the children being sent into the countryside to avoid the London Blitz, and are housed with Miss Price, which I think makes for a stronger setting than merely having her be a neighbour of their great aunt, as she is in the books.
The character of Emilius Jones (or Brown, in the movie) is substantially different, being a resident of 17th century London in the books, whom the children meet on one of their adventures on the magical bed. He is not quite as much of a charlatan and con man as he is in the movie, though he is a professional necromancer who doesn't really believe in magic.
All of the children's adventures, and Miss Price's attitude towards magic are very different in the books than in the movie. In some ways I am glad they were changed. The adventure on the "cannibal" island, complete with stereotypical natives, is uncomfortable reading for a modern reader, and was best left out.
Intrasubstantiary Locomotion (Substitutiary Locomotion in the movie) plays a much smaller but still key role in the climax of the story, but no one ever turns into a rabbit. Miss Price and Carey are, over all, the strongest characters in the story. The books have a different but still bittersweet ending.
What a strange feeling to read a book and feel like it was written with me in mind. I picked this one up on a whim. I love stories with mediaeval settWhat a strange feeling to read a book and feel like it was written with me in mind. I picked this one up on a whim. I love stories with mediaeval settings, have a soft spot for tales of Robin Hood, and the title character shares my name -- my chosen name. To be honest, I wasn't expecting much. I had never heard of the book or its author, and thought it might be nothing more than mildly diverting children's lit.
In the first chapter, the book surprised me, and I revised my estimates, both of my expectations, and of the target audience. This is not a book for ages 9-12, but more like 12-15. I was a little worried when there was magic so quickly in the story. I like fantasy, but I'm wary of seeing it mixed with historical settings and non-magical legends. But in the end, I felt like this book had just the right amount of magic and flavour of paganism about it.
And then -- then 13-year-old Rosemary rejects her femininity, declaring outright that she does not want to be a girl or anything that comes with it, dresses herself in boy's clothes, adopts the name Rowan -- and I was lost. I know some people would consider Rowan a Marysue, with her magic half-elfin mother, Robin Hood as her secret father, elf-gifted bow and arrows, and special half-wolf dog, but I don't care; she is everything I want from a young protagonist: tough, brave, kind, competent -- and nonbinary. Yes, I know that the author is probably just making comment, via the character, that being young and female in the mediaeval period sucked, but I choose to read the character as nonbinary, and there is nothing in the text to contradict this reading. Sometimes Rowan wishes to be more feminine, and sometimes more masculine, and neither choice is framed as a bad thing.
Rowan is befriended by three other characters who don't fit into the world they inhabit: a half-wolf pup she names Tykell, a large, sensitive, somewhat feminine minstrel boy named Lionell, and a runaway princess named Ettarde, who scorns her father's plans to marry her off, as well as the idea that a woman's only value is in her appearance and her chastity. Together, they rescue Robin Hood from the Sherriff of Nottingham, and Rowan must decide whether or not to tell him he's her father, and that she's not the outlaw boy he thinks she is.
The story was engaging, and in places, surprising. The characters were likeable and realistic (the villains were a little flat, but oh well). The ending was satisfying and unexpected. I read the whole thing in one sitting. I want to believe that Rowan grew up gender non-conforming, into a great healer and fighter, and that she and Etty fell in love, and lived happily ever after. ... And I just checked and apparently there are 5 books in this series, as well as many other books by this author. I may need do some more reading!...more
I didn't enjoy this one as much as I did Rowan Hood. I'm less interested in Lionel and his problems than I am in all things Rowan. However, I do thinkI didn't enjoy this one as much as I did Rowan Hood. I'm less interested in Lionel and his problems than I am in all things Rowan. However, I do think this could be a really good book for a young person with low self esteem and negative body image. It was nice to see Lionel get some character development.
Lionel is filled with self-loathing because he doesn't want to be the one thing everyone seems to think he should be: a warrior. He is large and strong, but at the same time, meek and sensitive, caring only for his music, and for his friends, and convinced of his own cowardice. But when his friends are in danger, Lionel discovers he's capable of more than he thought....more
This book was surprising, refreshing, challenging, and occasionally delightful. It was also confusing in places, and in others, deeply frustrating.
DemThis book was surprising, refreshing, challenging, and occasionally delightful. It was also confusing in places, and in others, deeply frustrating.
Demane is a healer and sorcerer, working for a band of mercenaries who guard merchant caravans on the perilous road between market cities. Now, he must face the challenge of passing through the Wildeeps -- an enchanted jungle filled with deadly creatures virtually unknown in his own time and place -- where it will be up to him and his magics to keep his brother mercenaries, the caravan, and his lover safe.
I'll start up front by saying that I am white, and most of the fantasy I have read in my life has been focused on white characters, in an American, European, or pseudo-European setting. It felt good, to me, to read something different, that breaks out of that mold. A setting in pseudo-historical Africa, with a cast of all-black characters, and none of the expected conventions of pseudo-Mediaeval fantasy, felt refreshing.
I liked Demane a lot. In a world that was often graphically violent and explicitly gory, he is a gentle, nurturing soul who patches people up afterwards, and soothes their hurts and fears, but he can also hold his own in a fight. He holds his brother mercenaries in deep affection, respects women, and is unreservedly loving and and demonstrably affectionate with his lover Isa, who is the captain of the mercenary band.
I was also delighted to be reading about an explicitly queer protagonist, in a loving, mutual relationship. Such things are still unfortunately rare in popular fantasy, and I know it is rarer still to see such a relationship portrayed between two black men. A few of their fellows seem aware of the relationship, and don't seem to mind or find it strange (one, Cumalo, even seems to ship it). Other characters are explicitly homophobic, so it was sort of difficult to get a bead on how homosexuality is regarded in this world.
The writing style took some getting used to, swinging between slangy dialogue, formal poetic language, and unfamiliar polysyllabic words, sometimes in the space of a few sentences, and I think that may have affected my reading comprehension during the early scenes of the book. I don't necessarily think that is a bad thing. If readers never read anything that challenges them or takes them outside their comfort zone, they will not grow as readers, or learn to appreciate a wide variety of literature.
Much of the criticism for this book that I have seen seems to amount to "The characters used a lot of modern slang, and I didn't like it." I personally do not mind when characters in a historical or pseudo-historical setting use modern slang. Humans in general tend to speak in a slangy, informal way, especially among friends and family, so it makes sense to me that fictional characters would do the same. Unless an author wants to learn or invent a whole system of setting-appropriate slang, and teach that slang to the reader, using modern slang works fine. After all, these characters would not have been speaking English, so I see no reason not to translate their vernacular into ours. I thought the use of AAVE helped to highlight the fact that this was not the usually white/European fantasy setting or characters, and gave the text a different flavour.
I found the lack of female characters frustrating. The only female character to get a significant number of mentions and page time is Aunty, Demane's semi-divine ancestress, who trained him in the magical arts when he was a boy. Demane recalls and thinks about her often, though she does not take part in the action of the story. Almost all other women present in the text are nameless sex workers, and no mention of a woman takes up more than a paragraph or two of space. I don't see why the author could not have included women among his mercenaries in this fantastical setting.
The other thing that frustrated me, I cannot talk about without mentioning major spoilers for the end of the story. Suffice it to say that a very common trope involving queer characters came into play. But I guess I should have expected it, given the extreme amount of violence and gore in the text. I still could have wished for a better ending.
Overall, I found reading this book to be a positive experience. I would consider reading it again, or reading other books by this author....more
I picked up this book because it had a girl with a sword on the cover, and I have long been a fan of Tamora Pierce and her ilk. I was a bit disappointI picked up this book because it had a girl with a sword on the cover, and I have long been a fan of Tamora Pierce and her ilk. I was a bit disappointed by the story, though. If you're just looking for a classic Arthurian-style knight-adventurer story with a female protagonist, this may answer very well. If you want a story about a young girl kicking butt with more modern sensibilities, you may want to look elsewhere. The author also used a lot of archaic language and made some questionable grammatical choices in places, which I, as a fairly well-read adult, had occasional difficulty deciphering. Some of the vocabulary is well beyond the average 9 to 12-year-old reader, who would seem to be the book's intended audience. That said, I would probably have liked the story more if I had first read it at 12 than I do having first read it as an adult....more
I was in the 4th grade when I discovered this book in my elementary school library. It became an instant favourite. I checked it out countless times oI was in the 4th grade when I discovered this book in my elementary school library. It became an instant favourite. I checked it out countless times over the following two years, and after graduating to middle school, I bought my own copy, which I still have more than 20 years later.
This is a book designed to spark the reader's imagination, with each page containing a title, a picture, and one line of a story. The reader is left to imagine or create the rest.
The illustrations are as haunting as they are beautiful. I have always loved Van Allsburg's unique artistic style, and own several of his other books, but this one remains my favourite....more
There's no cohesive plot here, so I would hesitate to recommend this to someone who has not already read and enjoyed "Every Day". It's just some littlThere's no cohesive plot here, so I would hesitate to recommend this to someone who has not already read and enjoyed "Every Day". It's just some little vignettes from earlier points in A's unusual life, which provide a bit more insight into the formation of the character.
The only part that was a little jarring for me was that the wording of the thoughts of a much younger A were as vocabulariffic as teenage-A's. I would have expected things to be expressed more simply in a first-person present-tense narrative....more
Meet A. A has no race, no class, no gender, no name apart from the letter they have assigned themself. Also no family, friends, possessions, or plansMeet A. A has no race, no class, no gender, no name apart from the letter they have assigned themself. Also no family, friends, possessions, or plans for the future. They can't. Because every day A wakes up in a different body, in a different life. There are rules regarding how this works -- A is always someone of the same age as they would be if their life progressed normally, is constrained to a limited geographical area, and can access the memories of the body they are inhabiting, but not the person's feelings or consciousness -- and there are the rules A has made for themself: don't harm anyone, and don't disrupt the borrowed life more than can be helped.
All of this changes on the day that A inhabits a boy named Justin, and meets Justin's girlfriend Rhiannon. Then it all begins to fall apart, because A is falling in love. They start bending their rules -- just a little at first -- and things begin to spin out of control.
The genius of this novel lies more in the concept than in the execution. A giant "WHAT IF?" is asked of the reader which a novel of this length can barely begin to scratch the surface of answering. It raises questions about identity, and about how much agency one has a right to when one can only ever be a guest in the body of another, and has no independent existence to call one's own. In some ways, A's life is very free. They almost never have to face consequences for their actions, and they get to see first-hand a very broad range of human experiences. One day, A might be on the high school football team, the next day, an underage, undocumented housekeeper, or a drug addict desperate for the next fix.
There were some elements of the romance between A and Rhiannon that I found problematic. A is somewhat pushy, coming close to demanding that Rhiannon make room for them in her life, and all the uncertainty that comes along with that choice. It's a lot to ask of anyone. While I don't necessarily agree with the way A handles things all the time, I feel nothing but sympathy for the desperation A experiences. With no possibility of sustained relationships or anything else to call one's own, who wouldn't be hungry to forge a connection with another person?
The twist that came at the end was surprising. I thought I knew what was going to happen, but my expectations were turned upside down. The ending itself was rather abrupt. I was left wanting more. I hope Levithan intends to write a sequel. There is still so much to explore here and so many more questions to ask....more
I'm still trying to decide how I feel about this book. I read it slowly, and the plot had a slow build as all the pieces of the story and the characteI'm still trying to decide how I feel about this book. I read it slowly, and the plot had a slow build as all the pieces of the story and the characters were moved into place, and I admit I was a little bored through the first half of the book. It didn't help that two of the first important characters introduced have no redeeming qualities, and it took a while for me to feel more than lukewarm about a few of the other central characters. The story is told out of sequence in some places, and I wish I had paid more attention to the dates earlier on, so I could have a better sense of when everything was happening. If you are looking for a fast-paced, action-packed plot, this is probably not the book for you. About halfway through, it all starts to come together, with a fairly satisfying conclusion. I especially liked the description of how the Circus's fandom, the reveurs, came into being. A visually evocative book. I wouldn't be surprised if someone tried to make it into a movie sooner or later....more
After re-reading The Amber Spyglass, I was not quite ready to put Pullman's world back on the shelf. I've had this small book for some time, but had nAfter re-reading The Amber Spyglass, I was not quite ready to put Pullman's world back on the shelf. I've had this small book for some time, but had never gotten around to reading it before now. It was nice to see Lyra's story continuing, and to find out how she was doing two years after the events of the series. In some ways, she has reverted back to her old self, from before her adventures began, but she is more grown up, and has learned many things which inform her actions here. There is much discussion in this story of symbolism, and of how some things have broader meanings which are not readily apparent. And that's more or less how this story feels -- like one piece of a puzzle -- a keyhole into Lyra's life. I wonder if Pullman will ever get around to answering some of the questions raised here?...more
On all four of my previous readings of this series, this has been my favourite book. I'm not sure that's so any longer. It's still very good, with somOn all four of my previous readings of this series, this has been my favourite book. I'm not sure that's so any longer. It's still very good, with some great characters, fascinating storylines and breathtaking scenes, and Will is still possibly my favourite character in the series, but on this reading, I noticed for the first time how much of a middle book it is. While some new plot arcs begin here and some are concluded, it doesn't have the same sort of tight, self-contained plotting found in The Northern Lights/The Golden Compass. I am very much enjoying re-reading this series alongside the Mark Reads His Dark Materials blog. Mark's love and amazement for this series is infectious. I find I'm appreciating the themes and the Pullman's writing style a lot more as a result of the chapter-a-day format, taking the time to think about and discuss the ideas raised in each chapter. A great series, which teaches the importance of friendship, self-sufficiency, and critical thinking....more