Thursday, February 28, 2013

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Mockingjay is the third book in the adrenaline-pumping trilogy, The Hunger Games.  If you read my review of Catching Fire, you know I was miffed at a heroine who didn’t seem to know her heart; so I began this final installment with only mild enthusiasm.

The Capitol is the ruthless government that has established the hunger games. In this book Katniss is appointed as (symbolic) leader of the people’s rebellion against President Snow and his “peacekeepers.” Katniss plans to kill Snow but because of a series of surprising twists, things don’t turn out quite as she imagined.   

A few cliches made me wince: “If looks could kill,” “He had my back,” and a reference to someone going “ballistic.”  And this book was more gruesome in places.  But let’s face it, Collins is a compelling story teller.  

One of the themes that interested me in all three books was Katniss’ self-loathing for having caused the deaths of so many people.  She was also unable to accept acts of love and grace because they caused her to feel unhappily beholden to those who gave sacrificially to her.  I was disappointed that these ideas were not dealt with more clearly in the resolution.  

I listened to the audiobook narrated by Carolyn McCormick who did an outstanding job.

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Linnet's Tale by Dale C. Willard

Judging from the lack of response to my rave reviews of Wind in the Willows, I know I’m in a small minority of those who love books in which animals act like people. My latest favorite was offered as a free download on Kindle, but now at $2.99, it’s still a bargain.

The Linnet's Tale is the story of a community of mice who live in Tottensea Burrows.   It is told from the point of view of a linnet (house finch) whose conspiratorial confidences are pure pleasure.  Not only are there villains and heroes, there are families and friends who stick together.  My favorite family was the Fieldpeas who own the bookstore.  The three Fieldpea daughters love books and there are several chapters about them that will delight bibliophiles and word lovers. 

I, who love tight, clean prose, was enamored with every flowery, meandering sentence in Willard’s short novel.  How could you not love a phrase like, “He was wallowing helplessly in a small tussock of fescue.”? Or not love words like, “pipit,” “recumbent,” “orts,” and “kerfuffle”? The subtitle of the book is “A Mouse Tale for Grownups,” but I think a child who has been brought up on books (who is not  daunted by big words) would rejoice in the adventures of the Tottensea mice.

I have to agree with Waterford Hopstep (the linnet) when he described them as quite a splendid little company of field mice – all of them honorable, generous, warm-hearted and as distinct from one another as snowflakes.  You’d like them, I think.  (p. 19)

In the tradition of Brambly Hedge, Redwall, and Wind in the Willows, this darling story is full of humor and heroism – and a touch of romance.  Definitely one of my favorite books of 2013.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Books I Read as A Child

Carrie at Reading to Know had a great post about the kinds of books she read growing up.

It made me start thinking about my own reading history - and it is not pretty.

Although my dad had wall to wall books in his office, I remember reading mostly comic books.  My brother loaned me his Mad Magazines and the nearby used bookstore had Classics Illustrated comic books (which probably ignited my passion for classic literature in later years.) In high school I read Grace Livingston Hill books every day.  I also remember my mother reading bedtime stories from East of the Sun and West of the Moon.

I have two very distinct memories of "ah-ha" moments with books.  Once (when I was about eight years old) I was lying on my parent's bed reading a huge, gorgeously illustrated version of The Wizard of Oz and thinking it was "the coolest book ever".  Later in 8th grade I accidentally discovered Jane Eyre on the library shelves.  As a shy, plain kid trying to live out my Christian principles in a seemingly hostile world, I thought Jane was my best friend.

I had a remarkable 4th grade teacher who read Shakespeare and poetry to us.  I credit her with the fact that I became an English major in college.  There, of course, I was exposed to fine literature for practically the first time.  I always felt guilty that while other students complained about their homework load, I was having a blast, getting to read whole novels every weekend.

That was thirty years ago and my reading tastes have evolved a lot.  When my children were young we read hundreds of books in the Sonlight Curriculum - a treasure trove of previously undiscovered titles.  Classic Literature is now the meat and potatoes of my reading diet, and I read more non-fiction and devotional literature than I did as a young wife and mom.  Somewhere along the way I lost my taste for fluffy romance novels, but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy a fine love story now and then.

One of the joys of blogging has been meeting other lovers of excellent books and comparing our reading journeys.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Downton Abbey and Jane Austen

I'm finishing up Moby Dick and Mockingjay. Also, The Linnet's Tale by Dale C. Willard, which has been a delight.

Since I don't have a book post this week I thought I'd link to this interesting article comparing the characters in Jane Austen to those in Downton Abbey.  What do you think?

(I can't watch Downton Abbey here, but I saw Season One and Two when I was in the U.S.)

Friday, February 8, 2013

Books for Valentines Day

The Redeemed Reader blog has an interesting list of "virtuous books" that go against the grain of modern-day romance novels.  Worth checking out.

Sherry has another nice list called "Real Romance for Grown Up Women."

Also, a little something I enjoyed seeing on facebook...

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Marriage of Elinor by Margaret Oliphant

Why, when Chesterton recommended Oliphant’s finest novel to be A Beleaguered City, did I pick the first free Kindle title that came up on the screen?  The Marriage of Elinor was one of over one hundred books written by Mrs. Margaret Oliphant (1828-1897) and, obviously, not her best work.

I tried very hard to like this book, but the main character, Elinor Compton, was so willful and headstrong that it was hard to root for her.  Everyone knows she is heading into a disastrous marriage, but she refuses the counsel of her best and dearest friends and marries badly.  George Eliot wrote two books about women with bad marriages (Middlemarch
and Daniel Deronda) but the heroines endure, they grow, and they come out better than when they went in.  But throughout Oliphant’s book, Elinor stubbornly denies the consequences of her bad choices and continues ignoring the loving advice of close friends. She goes her own way for the entire (very long) book. She suffers, but never shows signs of growth.  In the end, when it all comes crashing down upon her, you almost don’t care anymore.

In The Victorian Age in Literature
, G.K. Chesterton calls Oliphant a successful, but second tier author (George Eliot, Charlotte Brontë, etc. being first tier).  Interestingly, he labeled Oliphant “a much mellower and more Christian Eliot.” And he esteemed her for infusing her “timid Victorian tales with a true and intense faith in the Christian mystery.” (p. 116-117)

That said, I did not find Marriage of Elinor to be particularly preachy. (Thank goodness!)  Although I did not love this book, I cannot write this author off.  Because of Chesterton’s raves, I plan to give her another try, but probably not anytime soon.

This is the second title in my Personal Victorian Challenge.