Friday, March 30, 2012

The Horse and His Boy

The Horse and His Boy is the fifth/third book in C.S. Lewis's, The Chronicles of Narnia.  It was a lot of fun, giving us a glimpse into the rule of King Peter, Queen Susan, King Edmund and Queen Lucy, though they aren't the central characters of this tale.  We also get to see what life is like in a couple of the countries around Narnia.  There was a lot of action in the book, which made it easy to read. I really like the scene where the girls were hiding behind the couch.  I thought the four main characters were fantastic.  Shasta/Cor, Aravis, Bree and Hwin were all well developed, going through personal changes and growing in this short children's novel.  This book was a lot of fun and I look forward to reading the last two books in the series.

That being said, I have two problems with The Horse and His Boy.  I'm going to attribute both these issues with the fact that Lewis was writing in a different era.

Why are the Calormen described as "dark-skinned"?  From the description of the country and the dress of the people, it seems based on the Arabian or Persian regions.  Lewis isn't the only British author of the period to make the villains a dark-skinned people.  I'm sure it's just a product of the times, but it still bothers me.  

The other issue I have is one I've mentioned before after reading other Narnia books.  It has to do with the inequality of the male and female Pevensie siblings.  Prince Corin says that Susan never rides to war, essentially because she’s a “lady”.  Then it is also stated that she is an excellent archer.  Is that to somehow make the previous statement okay?  Then Corin says that Queen Lucy is riding to war with King Edmund because she’s “as good as a man, or at least a boy.”  What does that even mean?  Is it just differentiating the characters of Lucy and Susan or is this saying that finding a woman who is as good as a man is a rare thing?  It’s one of the changes I liked about the movies of the other Narnia books.  They made the girls equal to the boys; they fight in battles and have equal say in what happens.

I understand why Lewis writes these things.  I don’t know that everyone even notices them when they read the Narnia books.  They are so minor compared to the overall story, that I would never discourage anyone from reading these books.  I’ll even let my children read the books one day, but I might either skip a few sentences, if I’m reading it to them, or explain to them that C.S. Lewis was writing in a different time.

I hate to end my comments on The Horse and His Boy on such a negative note.  It was a good book, filled with good stuff; it just also had a few troublesome sentences.  I thought it could be a stand-alone book; you don’t need to have read the other Narnia books to enjoy this one.  I liked Shasta running to Archenland.  I loved how Hwin grew to be stronger and more confident.  I liked how Bree and Aravis both learned more about themselves.  I liked the first time the boys meet.  I thought the end was lovely.  I loved Aslan.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Moral Disorder

I wasn't sure how I wanted to review this book.  Margaret Atwood's Moral Disorder is a collection of intertwined short stories.  How connected are these stories?  Did I want to comment on each story individually (as I like to do with short stories) or do I want to talk about the book as a whole?  I decided that I'd do a combination.  I have a few sentences for each story, then I'll comment on the book as a whole, which I have to say, I really enjoyed.  So here goes:

The Bad News

The Bad News is the first short story in Moral Disorder.  It is told from the perspective of an older woman.  She seems to be preoccupied with her end and the end of her husband. She repeats the phrase 'not yet'; the things that are coming for her are not yet there.  She is more concerned with her life than the deaths in the news. Aren’t we all? Is that the disorder of our morals?

The Art of Cooking and Serving

It is a story about being stuck and escaping.  The main character imagines a different future.  There is always a sadness when a child is force to grow up too early.

The Headless Horseman

The Headless Horseman examines siblings/sisterhood over the years. I found it very connected to second story.

My Last Duchess

Move on.  Do not be a dumb bunny.

The Other Place (vague spoiler)

I know who the girl is.  For some reason, I thought she might be the daughter of the old woman, but I'm coming to recognize her voice.  Her past isn't just in the lady; it's leaving clues to the future too.


Monopoly is the first story to feel unresolved and like a middle or explanatory chapter rather than a stand-alone story.  It was good though, because we learn more about Nell and how she came to be with Tig.  So, I appreciated the explanation, not that it felt like an “explanation,” just a chapter in a novel.

Moral Disorder

This was another story that also had a "middle chapter" feeling.  Maybe that's just what happens when you put together intertwined short stories.  If I read Moral Disorder or Monopoly alone, out of this context, perhaps my feelings would be different.

White Horse

White Horse gives you the feeling of a separate story again, which is nice.  We get a good look at Nell and Lizzie as people, their past, present and future.  It gives them more dimension.


Very quick, fast-paced read.  I liked that Lillie was the focus.  It gave Entities that short story feeling that some of the other stories were missing.

The Labrador Fiasco

The father is Nell’s right? No names are used, so you're left to assume. It gives you the feeling of the book coming to the end, which is appropriate since it's the second last story of the book. It’s very sad, but well crafted and home to some fantastic characters.

Boys at the Lab

On page 205 a comment was made that reminds me of Doctor Who, "bigger on the inside than it was on the outside.”  I kind of loved that line.  Was that done on purpose?  Does Margaret Atwood watch Doctor Who?  I hope someone reading this knows what I'm talking about.

Definitely had the feeling of conclusion. I assume that the daughter is Nell, but the main characters are not named. Boys at the Lab is possibly the best story in the entire collection. 
The Whole Book

Moral Disorder is a fantastic collection of Atwood tales. I did come away thinking that Moral Disorder is part novel, part short story collection. The stories are more than “intertwined” and exist as individual entities to varying degrees. Some definitely have just the feeling of being able to exist on their own. Other stories feel like chapters, though I think part of that feeling comes from the stories being put together in one volume.  Moral Disorder contains some interesting, unique characters. I can't believe I waited so long to read it.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Hunger Games - Reread

I know I talk about this book often after reading it last year.  I decided to re-read The Hunger Games since the movie is about to be released and I knew it would only take me a couple days to get through the book.  It would have only taken me one if I didn't have the kiddies to look after.

Re-reading this book, I found that my emotions still ran high throughout.  In some cases more than before.  I dreaded having to read the scene with Katniss, Rue and the flowers.  I teared up a bit, but held it in.  (I think it’s the song.  It adds to the emotion of the scene.)  I knew what the final scene with Katniss and Peeta was going to be, but I still felt sorry for Katniss and Peeta. Also, a few things came to my attention that I didn’t really take in the first time around.

I read a review recently of The Hunger Games, though I’m sorry, I don’t remember whose blog it was.  In the review, the blogger complained that it wasn’t believable that Katniss and Gale would be the only ones in District 12 who would venture beyond the fence to hunt and forage in the woods.  After reading that in the review, I thought that was a good point.  However, upon reading the book again, right at the beginning on page 5, Katniss mentions “the few of us who hunt.”  Katniss and Gale do not make a few, so presumably, there are others, (Tiny Spoiler) we just don’t meet them in the first novel.  Then just a few lines later, on page 6, Katniss talks about apple picking in the orchard, making it seem like a larger amount of District 12 residents participate.  Though Katniss knows about other hunters, it is only Gale who she partners with.

(Bigger Spoilers)I’ve also read several reviews that have criticized the romance/love-triangle in the book.  I think the romance between Peeta and Katniss is a necessary part of the plot.  Without it, we wouldn’t get the star-crossed lovers double-suicide at the end.  It is the act that defies the Capitol and the most dangerous thing Katniss does in the entire Hunger Games.  Their “love” changes the Games and the Capitol can’t have that.I think that’s it for spoilers

Do I think the “romance” between Gale and Katniss is necessary?  No.  Not in the first book.  Katniss could just say at some point that she thinks of Gale as a brother or something and that could be it.  But this is still a Young Adult book and apparently has to have some kind of love triangle.  At least it’s not the boys fighting over the girl.  It’s about the girl understanding her own emotions and the person she’s become before she can resolve her feelings about the boys.

I loved reading The Hunger Games again.  Suzanne Collins managed to suck me back into Panem.  I’m resisting the urge to re-read the rest of the series.  I’m going to save Catching Fire and Mockingjay for when the other movies come out.  I’m looking forward to them already.  Unfortunately, I won’t be able to see The Hunger Games movie this weekend.  But my husband is taking me next weekend, when we can have a nice little date without the kids.  I’m not dragging him to see it either.  He’s actually looking forward to it too.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Horseradish: Bitter Truths You Can’t Avoid

Horseradish was just what I needed after some of the books I've read lately.  Lemony Snicket put together a collection of quotes from his Series of Unfortunate Events along with a few other thoughts.  It was great and some of the quotes brought me back to those books.  I've been feeling in a Snicket sort of mood and Horseradish hit the spot.

The "Introduction" at the beginning of the book might be my favourite part of the whole thing.  It's a great, quirky story completely in that Snicket tone with an odd ending.  It was curious and funny and a little sad.  I've had this book for ages, I don't know what took me so long to read it.  If you're a Snicket fan, you should read it too.

Thirteen Judy Blume Novels to be Released as Ebooks

I know this is old news, but for those who don't know, you will now be able to get thirteen Judy Blume books as ebooks.  Enjoy!

Thirteen Judy Blume Novels to be Released as Ebooks

Saturday, March 10, 2012

If you liked my Avengers' picture...

You'll appreciate this:
(c) Cynthia “Thea” Rodgers

I found this on the Feminist Philosophers website.  The site links to a great article and more great pictures.

If you didn't read my Avengers' Butts post, see here.

Monday, March 05, 2012

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War

I'll get straight to the point, I loved it.  If you're a zombie fan, you have to read World War Z.  If you're not a zombie fan, I'd still recommend this book.  Max Brooks creates compelling characters who speak about how they suffered and survived the Zombie War.  Their stories are our future.  Many of the characters reference World War II, Castro and allude to President Obama and Nelson Mandela.

In the Blame section of the novel, there is a lot of talking about the recent American administration and recent wars.  The characters don't name anything specifically, but it seems that Brooks is referencing the Gulf/Afghanistan/Iraq and possibly also the previous Bush administration.  I think there are some serious comments made about big business's preconceptions of the American people (its consumers) and capitalism. 

You shouldn't think of World War Z as just another zombie book.  Brooks' writing is amazing.  The characters each have their own voice and there are a lot of characters.  Their stories are similar, yet different, changing with their age, status in life and cultural background.  I think some serious research went into finding out about the different cultures of the world.  The quality of the writing was just brilliant.  I don't know if I can say enough good things about this book.

The social commentary is brilliant.  Universal healthcare.  Cuba having the most desired economy.  The Chinese civil war in the midst of the Zombie War.  The fake drug.  I could keep going on and on, but this is a blog not a book report or essay.

I also have to mention that I loved the surprise at the end of the Redekker section.
No more Spoilers

Apparently there is a movie coming out this December.  I wonder how the book is going to translate onto screen. In flashbacks?  There are so many characters and locations, how did they pick what to keep and what to leave out?  I'm excited and nervous about the movie.

In the end, I just want to say, read it.  Read it!