Monthly Archives: September 2013

Reckless

Reckless

Reckless was one of those books that I bought ages ago and for some reason didn’t pick up until now.  To be honest, I was intrigued enough to buy it, but didn’t have high expectations.  I read the Inkheart series by Cornelia Funke, which I liked but didn’t love, so I had lukewarm feelings about trying another of her books.

I’m happy to report that this book was much better than I expected it to be!  I think Funke has lots of good ideas, but I’m not always a fan of her writing style.  I’m big on developing emotional connections with characters – I need to feel some empathy and connection.  I haven’t found that connection yet in any of the books by Funke I’ve read, and this is no exception.  I do think that the Reckless story suits the sort of emotionally detached (or maybe just in denial) Jacob, and it didn’t bother me as much in this book.  Maybe this detachment is a result of the book being translated from the original German?

Jacob Reckless discovers the Mirrorworld as a boy – and finds that this place where fairy tales are true (and more sinister) is a refuge from the real world.  Jacob escapes into the mirror whenever possible – escaping his ill mother and younger brother, Will, and forgetting that they were deserted by their father.  Jacob manages to keep the mirror a secret for years, until one day Will finds and follows him into the mirrorworld.  Unfortunately the mirrorworld is a dangerous place and Will falls under a sinister curse.  With his skin changing quickly to stone, Will is becoming a Goyl.  Aided by Will’s girlfriend Clara, and his loyal friend, Fox, Jacob races against time, trying to save his brother.  This desperate mission throws them against the dark and dangerous aspects of the mirrorworld and it’s inhabitants.  Jacob is determined to save his little brother, even when the task seems impossible.

I liked:

  • the action-packed story
  • the various fairy-tale type characters you meet (e.g. unicorns, fairies, goyl, dwarves)
  • the various objects that recall other fairy-tales (e.g. the golden ball, rapunzel hair, seven-league boots)
  • the dark / sinister view of fairy tales (which I feel is pretty true to the gory original stories)
  • the loyalty Jacob feels for his brother
  • that despite it ending on a little bit of unfinished business, it did have a conclusion.
  • that there is a sequel: Fearless.

I did not enjoy:

  • that it was hard to relate to the characters – they were emotionally distant for me (which was a bit surprising because they are clearly going through some very trying times).
  • that Jacob seems to treat the important people in his life … less than spectacularly.  He seems like a decent guy at heart, but he often seemed cold and brusque.
  • the twisty threads of the love stories.  I like a good love story, and there were some lines that were kind of blurred / crossed.  None of the relationships between characters felt deep, even though they were supposed to be.

All told, it was definitely well worth reading and I did quite enjoy the book.   4 / 5

I look forward to the next Reckless book (Fearless).

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Museum of Thieves

Museum of Thieves by Lian Tanner was a book that I randomly picked up on Chapters only because it was on sale / on the Bargain table and had an interesting cover and promising title. I like museums.

Museum of Thieves

Happily, I really enjoyed this book.

In the city of Jewel, children are precious – so precious that they are chained at all times – to keep them “safe”.  Chained to their parents, or to the Blessed Guardians, they remain so until Separation Day.  Reckless, impatient, unruly, or both behaviour is punished, and Goldie has borne the Punishment Chains many times.  So, when her Separation Day is cancelled, Goldie runs away.  She finds herself eventually at the Museum of Dunt, and there she meets a cast of interesting characters and a Museum that is not all that it seems.  Goldie must grow up fast, as danger is rising and the Museum is getting restless.

This is a fun, quick read about a sheltered but bold girl who must ultimately take her own fate by the horns.  Goldie is a great heroine, and I’m glad that she has a male counterpart (Toadspit) who balances her (and eggs her on). The Museum is a fascinating place and almost a character of its own. I feel like this books speaks to sheltered children, acknowledging that the world is sometimes a scary place, but sometimes a little bit of wildness is a good thing.

4 / 5.  This one might be more suitable to a tween audience.

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Fairy Tale Tuesdays – The Story of the Youth Who Went Forth to Learn What Fear Was

Fairy Tale Tuesdays

Haunted castle

Today’s tale is The Story of The Youth Who Went Forth To Learn What Fear Was (from Grimm’s Complete Fairy Tales – The Brothers Grimm).  [Yes, I skipped Our Lady’s Child. It was too religious for me – though I agree with part of the moral: be honest].

My summary of today’s tale:

A father had two sons.  The elder son was clever and learned well, but the younger son was stupid and could not learn nor understand.  So all tasks fell on the elder son, so did them well except when asked to fetch things at night, as he was afraid and would exclaim “It makes me shudder!”  The younger son could not understand this “shuddering” business.

One day, the father tells his younger son that it is time to try to make his way in the world, and the youth replies that he is very willing to learn, but would most like to learn how to shudder.

When the sexton (graveyard keeper) comes for a visit, he agrees to take the youth on, and train him up a bit, figuring that the boy will learn to shudder soon enough.  The boy is sent up into the tower to ring the church bell at midnight, and the sexton pretends to be a ghost.  The youth is not at all afraid, and gets angry that the “ghost” is not replying, so throws him down the stairs.  The poor sexton ends up with a broken leg.

Ashamed of his bad behaviour, his father gives the boy some money and tells him to make his own way in the world.  The youth sets off, repeating constantly to himself “If only I could shudder!”

On the way, he is approached by a man and makes a deal.  The youth is told to spend a night below a hangman’s tree, where seven men are strung, and if he learns to shudder he will give the man his money.  The youth settles down for the night, building a fire as it was cold and windy.  The wind knocks the hanged men about in their tree, and the youth (who is not so smart) thinks that these men will be cold.  So he gets them down and puts them near the fire, only to have the rags of what is left of their clothing catch on fire.  So he gets angry and strings them back up again.  In the morning, the man comes, expecting that the youth will have learned to shudder.  No dice.

The youth goes on his way, and meets a wagon driver, who gives him a ride.  They end up at an inn, and the innkeeper tells them of a haunted castle near by.  The King has promised that anyone who can last three nights in this haunted castle can have his (incidentally quite beautiful) daughter as a wife.  All who have attempted to stay in the castle thus far have not come out again.

So, the youth goes to the King and asks to spend the night in the castle, if only to learn to shudder.  He asks for and is granted a fire, a turning lathe, and a cutting board with the knife.  With these things, he goes to the castle to spend his first night.

Around midnight, as he is sitting by the fire, two great big black cats come out of the shadows, complaining of cold.  The youth invites them to warm themselves.  Once warm, the cats invite him to a game of cards.  The youth asks to see their paws first, and upon seeing their large claws he seizes them and fastens them to the cutting board, to cut their nails. Unfortunately for the cats, he changes his mind about the cards, kills them, and throws them into the pond.  A swarm of cats and dogs pours forth, and scatters his fire, and eventually the youth gets mad again and kills a bunch (and the others run away).  He gets tired and goes to bed, only to have a dream about the bed moving rapidly about. He wakes up, throws off the blankets, and lays to sleep by the fire.  In the morning, the King is astonished to find the youth alive and well.  The youth laments again that he has not yet learnt to shudder.

The second night, around midnight, a clatter comes, and half a man falls down the chimney, and then another half. The youth builds up the fire a bit more, so that the halves might be more comfortable.  a bunch more men fall down, and then some legs and skulls and the lot of them decide to play bowling.  The youth joins them, after turning the skulls round on his lathe so they will roll better.  He plays, and loses some of his money in betting, but has a good time all round.  Everything vanishes when the clock strikes, and the youth sleeps the rest of the night with no incident. Again, the King is astonished, and the youth laments that he is not yet able to shudder.

On the third night, six men bring by a coffin and the youth decides to try to warm up the body inside – his dead cousin. Eventually he warms up the man, who tries to strangle him, but the youth overpowers him and puts him back in the coffin which is collected by the six men and taken away. The youth is quite depressed that he still has not learned to shudder. An old man with a long white beard enters, and proclaims that the boy shall learn to shudder, because he is going to die.   The youth declares that he should have a say in his own death, and that he is just as strong as the old man and probably stronger anyway. So the old man takes him down through dark passages, until they reach the smith’s forge.  With one blow, the old man strikes an anvil into the ground.  The youth thinks he can do better, and splits an anvil with an axe.  The old man, who had been leaning close to look, has his beard caught by the anvil, and the youth starts to beat the old man with an iron bar.  The old man groans and tells the youth to stop and he will give him great riches.  The youth stops and the old man leads him to three chests filled with gold.  The old man tells the youth that one chest is for the poor, one for the King, and one to keep for himself.  The clock strikes, and the spirit disappears.

The youth finds his way back to his room, has a good sleep by the fire, and still has not learned to shudder.

The King is much pleased, as the youth has broken the enchantment on the haunted castle.  The youth gets to marry the Princess, and all seems well.  The youth, now the young king, is happy but always wishes that he could shudder.

His wife, annoyed by this constant obsession with shuddering, gets mad, and one night with the help of her maid, goes to the stream and fills a big bucket.  While the king is sleeping, the queen takes off his clothes and dumps the whole bucket of cold water and little fish all over him.  The king wakes up, asking “What makes me shudder so?” and then – “I know that it is to shudder!!”

This is kind of a silly story – I would gather that the youth’s trials would be terrifying to the original audience of the Brother’s Grimm, and it does seem kind of creepy.  That said, the youth seems like a kind of violent and yes, stupid guy.

I do like it that it’s the girl who gets him to shudder in the end. Ha!

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Word on the Street

Forgive me for my absence this weekend!  I haven’t had time for reading as life has gotten in the way.  On the upside, I am now trained in Hanen’s More Than Words program – yay!  On the downside, no new books read.

Upside: I got to check out Toronto’s Word On the Street festival today!

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Happy Reading!

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Throne of Jade (Temeraire – Book 2)

Throne of Jade

Finally I got around to reading the second book in Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series, Throne of Jade.

Whereas the first book introduces you to Temeraire and his Captain, Laurence, this second book sails away from the shores of Britain (and their conflicts with Napoleon) to distant China.  The Chinese are intent on re-claiming Temeraire, a rare Celestial who (in egg) had been intended for Napoleon but the French transport was captured en route by Laurence  and his crew.   The Chinese certainly did not reckon on Temeraire’s fierce loyalty to Laurence – or vice versa.  After a long and at times dangerous journey, will the lures of a different way of life for Dragons in the Far East prove seductive to Temeraire? Or will China prove more perilous than the way there?

This was a very enjoyable sequel to the first, though I must admit it did not capture my imagination quite as thoroughly as His Majesty’s Dragon. It WAS an interesting view of life at sea (albeit within an alternate history) during the 1800s.  The first part of the book is the lead-up to them leaving, the second the ocean journey, and the third their arrival and reception in China.  I really like Temeraire, and respect that he is intelligent, interested, and willing to challenge and question the status quo.  Laurence, who is a bit of a stuffed shirt at times, acquits himself well in the end, though is no scholar or intellectual himself.  Temeraire is also a feisty and at times impulsive character, which balances out Laurence’s gentlemanly sensibilities.

There are very few females in this book (Roland being one of the few), which is guess is typical of the era, but I’m looking forward to potentially seeing more women in the next books (if only ones you meet previously).

4 / 5 – I’m excited for the next book !

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Fairy Tale Tuesdays – Cat and Mouse in Partnership

Fairy Tale Tuesdays

Cat and Mouse in Partnership

Cat and Mouse in Partnership
(I apologize that I couldn’t find the credit for this lovely image)

On to tale #2 of my Fairy Tale Tuesdays feature.  I’m sticking with the Brothers Grimm, with Cat and Mouse in Partnership.  This is a new tale to me, and seems more of a fable than fairy tale I guess the talking Cat and Mouse make it enough of a fairy tale.  Here is my summary:

Once upon a time, there was a Cat and a Mouse.  The Cat professed great love and friendship felt for the Mouse and convinced her that they should keep house together.  The Cat suggested they prepare for the winter, and so they buy a pot of fat.  The Cat then convinces the Mouse that it would be best to store this pot of fat at the church for safekeeping.

A little while later, the Cat comes to the Mouse and begs leave to go to the christening of her cousin’s new son.  Mouse agrees that Cat should attend, and off the latter goes.  It was all a ruse, and the Cat goes to the church and licks the top of the fat off then spends the day lounging around in the sun. When she returns, the Mouse asks what they named the new son.

“Top off,” the Cat replies.  The Mouse thinks this is very odd, but the Cat brushes it off. Soon, the Cat is once again seized by longing, and tells the Mouse that she must go to the church, as she has been named the godmother of another new relation.  Off the Cat goes, only to consume half of the fat. When she returns, the Mouse inquires again what they named this child.

“Half-done,” the Cat answers.  The mouse is surprised and thinks this a very odd and unusual name, a bit suspicious.  Not long passes before the Cat once again excuses herself to another christening.  While gone, the Cat devours the rest of the fat and comes home satisfied.

“All-gone” the Cat proclaims, as the name of the final child.  The mouse shakes her head over these strange and suspicious names.  Nothing more comes of it, and winter approaches.  Once there was nothing to be found outside, the Mouse suggests they collect their pot of fat.

The two hurry to the church, where the mouse discovers the empty pot of fat.  The mouse finally sees the deception, and in the middle of the rant the Cat proclaims that if Mouse says another word, she would eat her too. Poor mouse already has the words on her lips, and the Cat gobbles her up whole.

“And that is the way of the world.”

Thinking of the audience to the Grimm tales, I take from this tale:  Peasant, you will be misled, used, and abused.  Resistance is futile and life is bleak.  Either that, or Trust No One.

It’s kind of a depressing tale, actually, since the Cat gets no come-uppance and the mouse is dead as a doornail.

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For Darkness Shows the Stars

For Darkness Shows the Stars

Sometimes, words on a page do not seem to adequately express one’s feelings.  I write this post with tears still in my eyes  – good tears – because this book was AMAZING.

And now, because it was apparently based on Jane Austen’s Persuasion I am going to have to add Persuasion to my reading list. (Yes, Pride and Prejudice is one of my absolute favourite books. I liked Sense and Sensibility but hated Emma and that was as far as my reading of Austen got, to my eternal shame).  I have also just discovered (thanks goodreads) that this is not the only book by Diana Peterfreund set in this world, and I am thrilled. 

For Darkness Shows the Stars follows Elliot North, a young woman who is desperately trying to hold herself and her Estate together – despite the casual cruelty of her father (who – in title – runs the Estate) and her own heartbreak.   Elliot is a Luddite – one of the ruling class, who shunned technology in times past.  The Luddites hid as the world around them descended into chaos when genetic manipulation went wrong.  The Luddites emerged from hiding and took charge, saving the Reduced by employing and providing for them – protecting them. Now, generations later, children are being born to Reduced parents.  These children, Post-reductionists (or, as Luddites call them, Children of the Reduction) are not like their parents, and resent being treated like them.  Elliot North knows her duty as a Luddite only too well and she is doing her best to protect her people, even if it means going against the Protocols and perhaps risking everything.

Elliot rents land to the Cloud Fleet, in an attempt to ensure she will be able to feed her people.  This brings her face-to-face with her childhood sweetheart, Kai.  In the four years Kai’s been gone, much has changed.  Elliot is forced to choose between tradition and secrecy – to protect what she has been taught is the only way, or to protect her heart.

This book definitely swept me up, pretty immediately.  Elliot is such a powerful character – pretending strength while hiding her own heartbreak and sacrificing her own desires for her responsibilities.  I felt so much with her while reading this book.  You really understand why Dee and others have staunchly stood by Elliot, despite the difficulties and dangers of being a servant on the North estate.  You feel the raging internal conflict that Elliot is struggling with, as she works for her people, secretly and blasphemously.  You respect the balancing act that Elliot lives every day.  She makes the story.

I would definitely recommend this book, with the highest praise. LOVED it. So so much. What else is there to say? 5 / 5!!

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