3.5 stars. "The Crane Wife" is a contemporary retelling of a Japanese folk tale. In the original story a poor sailmaker helps an injured crane by pull3.5 stars. "The Crane Wife" is a contemporary retelling of a Japanese folk tale. In the original story a poor sailmaker helps an injured crane by pulling an arrow from her wing. The next day a beautiful woman arrives at his home, and soon becomes his wife. She offers to weave sails for him which brings in needed income, but with the condition that he cannot watch her work. The sailmaker becomes greedy and takes in more and more orders for sails. Eventually he went into her private room as she was working and saw a crane weakly plucking the last feathers from her body. His greed ruined the relationship and he was left alone. (There are other variations of this tale.)
Patrick Ness has written a modern version of this folk tale set in London involving George and Kumiko. Kumiko brings George the love he needs, but always keeps her past very private. She makes exquisite artworks by combining her cuttings of feathers with George's paper cuttings made from old books. Kumiko's artistic tiles tell a secondary story about a volcano who destroys the earth (but also creates mountains), and a bird called "the lady" who forgives out of love. These two stories have elements of fantasy, myth, and magical realism.
George has a daughter Amanda, a young divorced mother of a toddler, who has problems with anger, self-acceptance, and despair. Her story is more realistic and sometimes funny, and would probably give this adult novel crossover appeal to a YA audience. The humorous Mehmet, a twenty-something assistant at George's store, is also a young character that would appeal to a YA reader.
I read a children's book, "A Monster Calls", by Patrick Ness a few years ago and was very impressed. Although I enjoyed "The Crane Wife", I felt that there was a bit too much going on at once with a fantasy (the volcano and the lady) within another fantasy (George and the crane/Kumiko), plus Amanda's emotional journey. The author writes beautifully, has a sense of humor, and understands human nature. I just prefer his simpler stories to a more convoluted one.
Zoe and Jake were the first ones on the slopes at a ski resort in the French Pyrenees when they heard a deep rumble. As they headed toward the trees,Zoe and Jake were the first ones on the slopes at a ski resort in the French Pyrenees when they heard a deep rumble. As they headed toward the trees, an avalanche buried them in the snow. Fortunately they were able to dig themselves out and get down the mountain to their hotel, but found a strange silent world awaited them. They were unable to communicate to the outside world, and they only had each other. Time was playing mysterious tricks on them.
This is a fantasy novel that has frightening moments of horror, musings on memory, death, and existence, and emotional times of deep love. The book has wonderful atmospheric descriptions of the snow, the mist, and the cold. I read The Silent Land in one evening because the book was impossible to put down....more
Writer Sarah Crowe came north to Rhode Island to try to forget an upsetting relationship that had a tragic end. Hoping that a change of location willWriter Sarah Crowe came north to Rhode Island to try to forget an upsetting relationship that had a tragic end. Hoping that a change of location will cure her writer's block, she rents an old house with a huge red oak tree several hundred years old sitting at the edge of the property. In the dank basement Sarah finds an unfinished manuscript written by a professor who had been investigating the horrific local legends about the great tree. He added to the historical lore when he hung himself from its branches.
"The Red Tree" has been written by Sarah as a journal. The huge oak tree is an evil presence with evidence of sacrifice on the stone altar at its base. There is a disturbing atmosphere in the book which has elements of psychological terror and dark fantasy. Sarah's mind seems to become more and more unhinged, partly because she is haunted by memories of her suicidal lover Amanda. One wonders if the artist renting the attic of the house is real or a figment of her imagination. Sarah also has lapses in time due to seizures. The journal records her version of reality woven together with mysterious dreams. References to other literary works are blended into the story with quotes from Thoreau, Lovecraft, Poe, and other authors. As Sarah spirals further into darkness she feels like Alice going through the rabbit hole. Her psychological pain and delusions are taking over her mind. What is truth and what is insanity?
You'll never want to go into a dark basement again after reading this! Recommended to fans of horror and dark fantasy....more
Abel narrates a story about his mysterious past in the "green mansions" of the Venezuelan rainforest. When he was a young revolutionary, he had to goAbel narrates a story about his mysterious past in the "green mansions" of the Venezuelan rainforest. When he was a young revolutionary, he had to go into hiding in an Indian village in the Parahuari Mountains. He went exploring in a nearby forest where the Indians refused to walk, fearing the presence of an evil spirit, the Daughter of the Didi. She was a half-wild girl named Rima who lived close to nature, hiding while singing with soft warbling sounds. "Again and again as I stood there listening it sounded, now so faint and apparently far off as to be scarcely audible; then all at once it would ring out bright and clear within a few yards of me, as if the shy little thing had suddenly grown bold; but, far or near, the vocalist remained invisible, and at length the tantalising melody ceased altogether."
This romantic fantasy show the author's love of the natural world of South America. It portrayed an allegorical ideal world where man lives in harmony with nature. Although Hudson's writing is very descriptive and flowery, the book kept my interest because of its imaginative quality. Published in 1904, some parts of the book would be considered offensive by today's standards concerning native people. It mentioned the superiority of the white man even though the native Indians provided help to Abel, and kept him from starving to death many times during the course of his adventures.
"Grendel" is a retelling of the epic poem "Beowulf" from the point of view of the monster, Grendel. The poem was written in Old English sometime betwe"Grendel" is a retelling of the epic poem "Beowulf" from the point of view of the monster, Grendel. The poem was written in Old English sometime between the 8th and 11th Century. The monster had been attacking the Scyldings in the mead hall of Hrothgar, the king of the Danes. The hero Beowulf, a Geat, destroyed Grendel. Although the poem "Beowulf" also tells of further adventures of the hero, the retelling ends with the death of Grendel.
In "Grandel" the narrator-monster has been living in a cave with his mother. He ventures out to observe the savage humans populate the area, and finally form a complex civilization. He hears the Shaper, a blind harpist-poet, tell beautiful mythical tales about ancient warriors, which inspire Hrothgar, although the stories have little factual basis.
When he reaches adulthood, Grendel asks philosophical questions of the Dragon, who has a fatalistic view of life. This confuses Grendel who has been hearing the Shapers' imaginative heroic view. The Dragon gives Grendel a magical gift--weapons could no longer penetrate Grendel's skin.
The Shaper tells the tale of the two sons of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel. Cain is the ancestor of Grendel, while humans are the descendants of Abel. Although they look different, Grendel and the humans had a common language, common ways of thinking, and a shared heritage. Grendel felt isolated and lonely, and found life tedious because he had no companions to talk with.
Grendel would spy on the Scyldings in the night, and attacked them for twelve years. Boewulf and a group of Geats eventually arrive by boat to help the Scyldings destroy the monster.
The story was written in beautiful poetic prose. Even though Grendel committed terrible deeds, he also had a sympathetic lonely side to him and an appreciation of beauty. One could see life through the monster's eyes. The book was also nicely illustrated by Emil Antonucci with wonderful woodcut prints of Grendel's head....more
The novella, The Little Prince, tells of the encounter between an adult and his inner child, the little prince. It can be appreciated by both childrenThe novella, The Little Prince, tells of the encounter between an adult and his inner child, the little prince. It can be appreciated by both children and adults on different levels. The pilot narrator crashes in the Sahara, and sees a tiny golden-haired boy, the little prince, who had come from a far asteroid where he had lived with a single rose. Their conversations are part fantasy and part philosophical--thoughts about the superficial world of adults who lack the imagination and open-mindedness of children. The prince, who is confused about his feelings for the rose, meets a fox who tells him his secret about love: "One sees clearly only with the heart. What is essential is invisible to the eye."
The fable was written during World War II when the author had escaped from German-occupied France to the United States. Like the little prince, the author was in exile. The little prince came from an asteroid where baobab trees were threatening to take over the area, suggesting how the Nazis were attempting to get a hold on our planet. The author also drew from his real experience of crashing in the Sahara in 1939 when he and his co-pilot were in an air race, and where he experienced hallucinations due to extreme dehydration. The story is illustrated with charming watercolors depicting the little prince. This is still a popular book, translated from the original French into many languages, and enjoyed by readers of all ages. ...more
I read this book at the New Britain Museum of American Art where they are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the publication of Where the Wild ThingsI read this book at the New Britain Museum of American Art where they are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the publication of Where the Wild Things Are. It was great being surrounded by giant copies of Sendak's wonderful illustrations on the walls. Sendak said that the "wild things" were inspired by his "snaggle-toothed" immigrant relatives that loved him. I don't know who likes Sendak's books more--the kids or their parents....more
"The Enchanted" is a gorgeously written, lyrical novel about a subject we would not associate with beauty--Death Row in a crumbling prison. The book i"The Enchanted" is a gorgeously written, lyrical novel about a subject we would not associate with beauty--Death Row in a crumbling prison. The book is narrated by a mute prisoner with psychiatric problems who has committed a horrific crime. As a coping mechanism, he has retreated into the enchanted world of his mind. He turns the drips of the water seeping through the walls, the sounds of the prison, and the tremors of earthquakes into the magical activity of miniature men with tiny hammers in the walls and golden horses running. "Their hooves are drumming, the molten gold flowing off their backs, their wild eyes rolled clear back so only the blue whites are visible, so joyous are they in the mindless heat of their run that they do not need to see. The small men with their hammers scamper down the walls to hide, chattering noisily in their excitement." Almost illiterate when he comes to prison, he has turned to children's literature as another means of escape into another world.
The lady is a death penalty investigator hired by lawyers to unearth the prisoners' backgrounds, and find reasons for appeals. She has been investigating the childhood of a murderer named York, but he does not want her to use the information since he prefers to die. The lady's own background, which is similar to York's, haunts her. She tries to find peace in nature. She also becomes friends with the fallen priest, the chaplain who has his own guilty secrets and searches for forgiveness.
The prison is run by a kind warden, but a corrupt guard cooperates with a group of powerful prisoners in allowing drug shipments, special food, violence, and rape in exchange for payment. The book follows several prisoners in the general population as well as several on Death Row.
The men on Death Row are dangerous, but the author has given them a sense of humanity. They victimized others, but they often were also victimized in their childhood. Some want to die and others fight to live.
Rene Denfeld is a death penalty investigator as well as an author. She writes of guilt and redemption. There is a sense of hope for some of the characters. Her poetic language brings light to a dark subject....more
"All Animals Are Equal But Some Animals Are More Equal Than Others."
This is a chilling look at the creation of a totalitarian state, and the role of p"All Animals Are Equal But Some Animals Are More Equal Than Others."
This is a chilling look at the creation of a totalitarian state, and the role of propaganda in establishing a state. Parallels can be seen between the major players in the Russian Revolution and the characters in the story. (Farmer Jones=Tsar Nicholas, Old Major=Marx, Napoleon=Stalin, Snowball=Trotsky, Squealer=Government Propaganda, Dogs=KGB)...more
A funeral has brought a middle-aged man back to Sussex, England, his childhood home. He drove down the lane to the Hempstock's home, which brought bacA funeral has brought a middle-aged man back to Sussex, England, his childhood home. He drove down the lane to the Hempstock's home, which brought back memories of the year when he was seven years old. He was a bookish child without many friends, lacking family support. The suicide of a boarder brought on a chain of terrifying events. The trio of Hempstock women, who had supernatural powers and a warm, nurturing presence, helped him navigate a dark, scary time.
I loved the way Neil Gaimon mixed the real world with the supernatural world in this magical story. The powerless, innocent child needed warmth and friendship--as well as magic-- to fight off the evil demons. I recommend this charming, imaginative walk into a fantasy world....more
The Golem and the Jinni is a sparkling, magical story set in 1899. Yehudah Schaalman, who turned away from traditionaRecommended by Will & Michael
The Golem and the Jinni is a sparkling, magical story set in 1899. Yehudah Schaalman, who turned away from traditional rabbinical studies and embraced the dark Kabbalistic magic, was asked to create a Golem to be a man's wife. Schaalman fashioned a creature made of clay that could pass for a woman who was curious, intelligent, obedient, proper, and strong. The husband recited the spell to bring the Golem to life during a voyage from Danzig to New York, shortly before dying on the ship. The Golem arrived in New York in a confused state, hearing everyone's inner thoughts and desires since she no longer had one master. A kindly rabbi took her under his care, finding her lodging and a job at a bakery.
Boutrous Arbeely, a Syrian Christian, was repairing a copper flask when a Jinni appeared. He had been trapped in the flask for hundreds of years. The Jinni is a fiery creature from the Syrian desert, now in a human form. Before he was captured, he was a shapeshifter who could fly over the desert, spying on the humans who roamed in caravans, and entering human dreams. The Jinni, who can melt metal with his hands, became an assistant in Arbeely's metal shop.
When they saw each other for the first time, the Golem and the Jinni recognized that they were not of the human world. Neither needed to sleep so they became companions exploring New York City in the nighttime. They have wonderful times heading across the rooftops to Central Park at night, seeing the turn-of-the-century city with fresh eyes. They are part of the immigrant experience, learning about a new land and adapting to new customs and a different society. Although they are not human, they have true emotional feelings and worries. Neither feels that they fit in well with human society, but they do have a sense of conscience and responsibility. They discuss the advantages of having a master make decisions vs. free will. It's interesting to see humans portrayed from the point of view of the Golem and the Jinni.
Through flashbacks and interactions with other characters, we find out the history of these two magical creatures and what the future holds for each of them. The story was a wonderful weave of magical fantasy, Jewish and Arab folklore, philosophy, historical fiction, and good storytelling....more
Ursula Todd died repeatly, and each time she starts life over again in February 1910 as the third child in the Todd family in Buckinghamshire. DuringUrsula Todd died repeatly, and each time she starts life over again in February 1910 as the third child in the Todd family in Buckinghamshire. During each new life she has a sixth sense about the future, with the sense of "deja vu" getting stronger as she goes through more lives. She compares it to a palimpsest, an overwritten manuscript. Small changes in her actions change the course of both her personal history and the lives of close family and friends.
The book was a combination of fantasy and historical fiction, starting slowly and then hooking me into the story. Ursula's days during World War II were especially fascinating as she worked helping people bombed in the London Blitz, and grieved over the deaths of loved ones. The story had a wonderful sense of place both in London and in the village where her family resided. There was also some humor in the book, often coming from the servants in the Todd home or from her irreverant Aunt Izzie. I enjoyed following Ursula through her lives in this imaginative book, but wondered at the end whether her daring sacrifice had let her finally reach a real death. 4 1/2 stars....more