Book Review: “The Horse and His Boy”

Book thirteen of my 2019 Reading Challenge.

C.S. Lewis’s The Horse and His Boy

The third book in the Chronicles of Narnia was one written after the original, more well known books with the Pevensie children as was the first, The Magician’s Nephew.

The Horse and His Boy follows new characters Shasta and Avaris and Narnian horses Bree and Hwin. Shasta is given an opportunity to escape the live of a slave in Calormen when Bree reveals himself a talking horse, which was unheard of in Calormen but well known in the land of Narnia. Shasta’s journey takes him across great lands to Narnia and along the way, under stressful circumstances, he meets Avaris and her talking horse Hwin.

The group of four continue the journey to Narnia together only to face the largest challenge in the capital of Calormen when they are separated. Here we meet two of the Pevensie children, Queen Susan and King Edmund who are facing a challenge themselves. With this cross of both new and older, more familiar characters, it makes the story more interesting for a reader that has read the books earlier in the series or seen the movies.

The plot takes another turn and Shasta must become something he never thought imaginable in his old life, a hero. His heroism saves not only his own life, but the life of many, both Narnian and not. The story ends with happiness as all usually do and we gain a bit more knowledge about the history of Narnia.

Overall I liked this book because of the crossover and continuation of the characters that are familiar to me and the introduction of new characters. The new characters had great development which I always enjoy in a book. Characters that grow while you’re reading make them more relatable and it makes you want to continue the journey with them.

As I’ve said, I recommend the Chronicles of Narnia series to anyone that enjoys getting lost in another world.

Stay tuned for my next review: Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis, book four in the Chronicles of Narnia.

Book Recommendations from the Boyfriend

If you haven’t figured it out, I love to read. I might be a bit behind on my reading challenge, but I’m always down for a good book recommendation. My boyfriend is the same. He loves to read and usually gets through a book fairly quickly. I can’t read that fast or I feel like I’ve missed key elements to the story.

This past weekend while he was visiting I asked him about some of his favorite books and what he’d recommend to avid readers such as ourselves. He had to think about it a bit, most likely because he’s read so many books and doesn’t necessarily remember them all, but in the end he gave me five book recommendations and talked about one of his all time favorites.

Book 1: Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell

George Orwell writes about the years he spent in Spain during the 30s participating in the Spanish Civil War. The Nazi backed Franco Regime had an oppressive hold on the country and what we saw in Spain during the mid to late 30s was basically a small scale preview of WWII. Tyler read Homage to Catalonia while in Barcelona, and seeing the landmarks that George experienced while he was there really made the book come to life for him. Among Tyler’s other suggestions that are mostly fantasy and science fiction, this is a stand out read for anyone interested in history and nonfiction.

Book 2: Old Man’s War by John Scalzi

Tyler describes this book as the epitome of the science fiction genre. In a future where human consciousness can be transferred into new, weaponized bodies and humanity has been exploring the farthest reaches of the galaxy, how does a regular guy fit in? The best part of this book is that it is the first in a series which Tyler enjoys reading and it even spawned a prequel series and a tangentially related series from one of the secondary characters, so you will never be left wishing there was another book. Series are convenient for the avid reader as it keeps the story, the fantasy or the foreign world alive for more than one book. Tyler enjoys series, as do I, because it’s even more books to read.

Book 3: A Game of Thrones by George RR Martin

“This is a pretty cliche response I’m sure, but noteworthy all the same,” started Tyler. For many of you who may be a fan of the TV series you’re in for treat according to Tyler if you dare to pick up one of George R.R. Martin’s books. As Tyler says if you’ve only watched the show and never read any of the books, you’re really only getting a small fraction of the story. “You are not a real GOT fan if you have only watched the tv show.” Now this I have to slightly disagree with as I as well, have not yet read the large series. “The story in the book is bigger, has waaaaaaaay more plot lines, characters, and many of the items they do share actually pan out totally differently,” says Tyler. One of the best fantasy series he’s ever read, and he claims it’s worth the time it takes to get through the roughly 1000 pages in each book. I hope to one day get through the books as the TV series has come to an end.

Book 4: Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil Degrasse Tyson

Neil starts his book in the earliest measurable moments in the universe and explains how a tiny pinpoint of matter could become the complex universe we live in now. Tyler says the book is incredibly accessible, even for people with no math or science background and he loves the book because all of the material is presented in an interesting way that really makes learning, what in reality is some of the most advanced and challenging material from one of the newest, cutting edge fields of science, an enjoyable experience. “Neil has been bringing science to the masses through a variety of different mediums for years now, and this is yet another triumph for him.”

Book 5: Ranger’s Apprentice Series by John Flanagan

Ranger’s Apprentice is set in a fictional medieval kingdom where there is a ranger, an elite warrior, charged by the king to live in and protect his fief (basically a state). The books follow a young orphan named Will as he is assigned to be the new apprentice ranger in his fief. Tyler especially likes these books because of the different perspective they give to the often-overused medieval setting. He explains that Rangers are not knights in shining armor protecting the honor of their citizens in all the traditional ways a medieval knight would, but rather smaller men, experts with bows and knives, who favor stealth to open combat. “It is a fresh and exciting look at the world, and the main character Will is someone who I connected with easily, and I suspect that many young men would feel the same way.” Despite the fantastical setting, many of Flanagan’s characters are incredibly detailed and real, which makes the story that much more enjoyable.

Bonus: An all-time favorite of Tylers: Origin by Dan Brown

Dan Brown’s latest novel takes the basic outline of many of his other most popular stories. We see the return of Robert Langdon from Angels and Demons, the DaVinci Code, and Inferno. Tyler describes Origin as, “by far, is his most ambition Langdon plot to date”, and he mixes the tantalizing technological future that we are on the precipice of reaching today with one of the most ancient questions that humanity has faced: how did life begin? You will see a pattern emerge in Tyler’s reading here, as one of the main setting of the book is, you guessed it, Barcelona. This was another book tha he read while visiting Barcelona a few summers ago, and again, reading it while he was there really enhanced the story. Tyler says the book is a good balance between nonfictional and fictional elements and a good read for people who may not be into the fantasy and science fiction genres.

Tyler’s taste in books is similar to my own and I’ve read a few that he’s recommended to me before. I hopefully will be able to take these recommendations as well and add them to my “To Read” list.

What book recommendations do you have for this summer?

Book Review: “The Sun and Her Flowers”

Book twelve of my 2019 Reading Challenge.

Rupi Kaur’s The Sun and Her Flowers

I read Rupi Kaur‘s first poetry collection Milk and Honey several weeks ago and I fell in love with her writing. In my review I gave you a simple task, to read the book. The same will be strongly suggested for her second book, The Sun and Her Flowers.

I was deeply moved by her words in so many ways and the majority of the time it’s only a handful of syllables thrown together in a manner that just speaks to the reader.

I’ve always been fascinated with poetry and how it can pack so much meaning in a few short stanzas. Kaur does this so perfectly it’s hard to believe there are two full books of them. Each poem carefully thought out and comprised together to set a mood.

rupikaur

Just 15 words put together to make a statement that every individual feels at least once in their lifetime. This section of the book talked a lot about loss and how the heart fonds over connections and the love of another being. I think of this poem not as a note about the lover that’s been heartbroken but as the person that experiences the constant pain of simply being a human. Of giving and not getting. Of loving and not being loved. Of smiling through the pain and saying you’re okay. It’s something that we all have experienced but I personally never had the right words to say that even though it hurts now, it’s not the end. I will go on. This poem gave me the words.

All the poems obviously spoke to me quite a bit and I really couldn’t put the book down. I wanted to soak in all the words all at once. I’m sure other people feel the same way but I know it feels better reading pieces of art that express exactly how you feel or how you felt once. There’s comfort in knowing that other people are in the same boat as you and that you aren’t alone. The collection of poems does just that in several different ways.

One difference between Milk and Honey and The Sun and Her Flowers that I liked was that in her second book Kaur included a few longer poems that dove even deeper into meaning. I enjoyed reading these pieces in particular because there was so much more to absorb and so much more to understand. Reading them more than once just intensified the meaning and revealed more and more about the feelings behind the words.

I highly highly highly recommend reading both of Kaur’s books. They are moving and so perfect. I know I’ll be saving them a spot on my shelf for years to come.

 

Book Review: “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe”

Book eleven of my 2019 Reading Challenge.

C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe

As I said in my last review, The Magician’s Nephew, I’ve never read the Chronicles of Narnia so I’m continuing the series and the next is what I would argue is the most well-known book in the series because of the film adaptation from Disney.

What most people don’t know is that BBC actually made the books into films in the 80s. These were the movies that I first saw and loved which prompted me to buy the books, which I never read, so I’m playing catchup now.

Anyway, for the first written book, second in the series, it’s pretty much exactly like the movies.

Since the books are very short and to the point, the movie follows it very accurately. In fact, if I remember correctly, there was more added to the movie to make it more action-packed. There were some parts of the book that were more simple than the movie was.

Something that I found quite humorous as a reader was the obvious disdain and utter dislike that the narrator had for Edmund. If you know the series then you know that Edmund is not the ideal sibling and he can be extremely irritating. Since he almost caused the downfall to all of Narnia it makes sense that the narrator disliked him (I certainly did), but even after Edmund’s triumph as an ally in the final battle, the narrator seemed to not fully trust him still.

Another aspect that I’ve found in the last book as well as this book is the lack of strong detail. Now I do understand that these are children’s books, but more detail for a young reader allows for the imagination to process more, so I’m not sure why characters are barely described and the scenery is a brief sentence rather than a robust paragraph. It is one aspect of children’s books that I crave more of while reading them.

Other than that, just as the last book, I enjoyed reading it and will continue with the series.

I know that’s not much for a book review, but if you’ve seen the movie then you know most of the story anyway.

Stay tuned for one of these two books for my next review: the third book in the Chronicles of Narnia: The Horse and His Boy or Rupi Kaur’s The Sun and Her Flowers.

Book Review: “The Magician’s Nephew”

Book ten of my 2019 Reading Challenge.

C.S. Lewis’s The Magician’s Nephew

So I never read the Chronicles of Narnia in elementary school but I bought the Scholastic Book set from those awesome book fairs. You know which ones I’m talking about. Since then they have been collecting dust on my bookshelf.

Now I did watch the movies; originally the BBC versions when I was in the second grade and then the newer versions when they came out. I loved the BBC versions when I was younger and I couldn’t tell you why I never read the books.

If you have read the series you’ll know that the books are very short and a super easy read. I really liked this aspect because sometimes it’s nice to just speed through a book without having to think about it so much. It only took a couple before bed reading times for me to get through the prequel to the stories that were made into movies.

Because they never made a movie for The Magician’s Nephew I didn’t know what the story was about, other than the fact that it was before The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. It was a great read to really set up the entire series which I enjoyed a lot.

The story begins with children (as all of them do) but not the main cast of characters we know from the other books. The children basically discover Narnia, with magic of course, and watch Aslan create the land and creatures within it. There isn’t really much else to the book except some extra bits here and there to make it a real story.

Overall I think I’m going to like reading the series even though I did the cardinal sin of watching the movies first.

Stay tuned for book number two: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

 

Book Review: “Not Quite What I Was Planning”

Book nine of my 2019 Reading Challenge.

Not Quite What I Was Planning

This little book is a collection of six-word memoirs published by Smith Magazine.

Ernest Hemingway famously wrote, “For Sale: baby shoes, never worn,” and proved that an entire story can be told using half a dozen words.

When I was in school we were challenged to write a story in six short words and it’s not easy but it tells so much more than what’s written on the page. The subtext and hidden meanings are what make them so interesting.

Since it’s a small culmination of very short stories it was an easy read so there’s not much to this review other than a recommendation to check it out. The book itself came to publication after a Twitter campaign from Smith Magazine so if you’d like to check that out first click here.

Since this is such a short review I’ll drop in some of my favorites from the book. Some are funny, some are serious and some just hit home.

“Now I blog and drink wine.”

“Followed rules, not dreams. Never again.”

“I was born. Some assembly required.”

“Blogging is easy. Writing is harder.”

“Lived in moment until moment sucked.”

“Life goal: maximum results, minimal effort.:

“Slightly psychotic, in a good way.”

“Can’t tonight, watching Law & Order.”

“My life’s a bunch of almosts.”

“Found great happiness in insignificant details.”

“Anything possible — but I was tired.”

“I live the perfect imperfect life.”

“Wandering imagination opens doors to paradise.”

“Perpetual work in progress, need editor.”

“So it goes, a tad askew.”

“Can my words have footnotes, please?”

“I colored outside the lines.”

“Even the quietest sounds make noise.”

“Always working on the next chapter.”

“Never could resist overachieving.”

“It’s like forever, only much shorter.”

“Put whole self in, shook about.”

“I’m the fine print; read closely.”

“I fell out of the nest.”

“Clumsy girl found adventure. Also, bruises.”

 

I challenge you to write your own six-word memoir. “Tell your story. That’s my story.”

Stay tuned for my next book review: The Magician’s Nephew book one in The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. Yes, I haven’t read them yet. I have an old Scholastic book set of the series from elementary school. Better late than never right?

 

Book Review: “More Than This”

Book eight of my 2019 Reading Challenge.

Patrick Ness’s More Than This

I know I’m a little (or a lot) bit behind. BUT, I’m still determined to finish the challenge.

So to start, another great book recommendation. More Than This has a wonderful story that focuses on love, loss and realizing what’s important in life.

Now the part of this book that I really enjoyed was the main character, Seth. Seth drowns and wakes up in an abandoned world that he believes is his own personal hell. It’s a sort of post-apocalyptic meets dreamland (hell-land?) where Seth finds himself alone, confused and upset with the world. His character development continues throughout the entire book which makes him relatable and keeps the story interesting.

The story unfolds as Seth learns how to survive in the desolate land and begins to remember his life before stepping into the ocean where he drowned. As Seth recalls more about his past he grows and without a clue of how to escape the place that’s all too familiar but also not the same as he remembers he begins to lose all hope. Seth learns about himself and his past up until the final chapters.

The plot thickened, became more complicated and kept me on my toes and wanting to read more and more after each chapter. I wanted to know what Seth was going to do next. His character was someone I sympathized with and wanted so much to help.

The novel continues on with surprises that I didn’t expect but also some that were almost too expected. I really enjoyed reading Patrick Ness’s novel until the ending. It was such a well put together plot with twists and turns and attention-grabbing structure that the lackluster ending left me wanting more.

I still highly recommend this novel to anyone that enjoys distopian-style stories. I really enjoyed it and will certainly look into some of Ness’s other novels.

Stay tuned for my next book review: The Magician’s Nephew book one in The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. Yes, I haven’t read them yet. I have an old Scholastic book set of the series from elementary school. Better late than never right?

Or it could be Not Quite What I Was Planning by Famous and Obscure Writers

Book Review: “The Adventure Zone: Here There be Gerblins”

Book seven of my 2019 Reading Challenge.

The Adventure Zone: Here There be Gerblins

So I decided to read a graphic novel to change things up and try something new. And let me tell you…this one was a great first pick. It was absolutely hilarious and a great read.

As Goodreads.com puts it, “with endearingly off-kilter storytelling from master goofballs Clint McElroy and the McElroy brothers, and vivid, adorable art by Carey Pietsch, The Adventure Zone: Here There be Gerblins is the comics equivalent of role-playing in your friend’s basement at 2am, eating Cheetos and laughing your ass off as she rolls critical failure after critical failure,” this graphic novel is the perfect story for someone looking to get into graphic novels or simply try something new.

Now I’m not a fantasy role-player or someone who plays any sort of video game (really I can’t play video games, I’m awful) but I know enough about the realm of comics to understand the satire and overall cleverness of having a narrator of sorts pop into the story line as a character themselves. This narrator interjects on the adventures of three individuals brought together for one sole purpose.

The characters themselves were individually hilarious in their own ways. The character development was more than what you get from a typical novel because the character is already draw out for you (literally). The caricature of the adventure crew shows body language and the reader gets to see a character’s mannerisms that are reflected in their dialogue. There isn’t a ton of room for self-drawn character ideas, but that’s okay cause your mind then has the ability to focus more on the story itself.

It’s definitely a different type of read than what I’m used to, but it was fun to dive into a new medium.

I highly recommend picking up a graphic novel just to get a different style of writing and storytelling in your repertoire. I recommend even more that your pick is The Adventure Zone. 

Stay tuned for my next book, a recommendation from a fellow bookworm: More Than This by Patrick Ness.

Book Review: “Citizen: An American Lyric”

Book five of my 2019 Reading Challenge.

Claudia Rankin’s Citizen: An American Lyric

This book was a great insight into the challenges and continuous mistreatment of the black population in America.

As it is Black History month, I feel the time to read this collection of poetry and short stories was appropriate. The writing is untraditional, but that’s what makes it enthralling. I didn’t read Rankin’s first book Don’t Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric, but the follow-up, this book, was worth the read. I feel like there isn’t much else I can say about this book and this author, I just enjoyed the writing and the message and the overall power that was conveyed through the pages.

I suggest for everyone looking for a different type of reading, apart from the traditional novel, to give this book a try.

Stay tuned for my next book review: Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur.

Yes it’s a poetry book, and thus far I’m thoroughly enjoying the short stanzas and concise messages. I know why so many people have suggested reading it.

Book Review: “The One Memory of Flora Banks”

Book four of my 2019 Reading Challenge.

Emily Barr’s The One Memory of Flora Banks

This book was a gift from a very good friend (a sister from another mister) that is more into books than I am. She’s in a master’s program to become a book editor and designer and works at Barnes and Noble (she’s reaaaalllly into books). Her book taste is more widespread than my own but her recommendations are always great. Every year for Christmas or for my birthday I can always expect a good book or two.

The One Memory of Flora Banks was one of those gifts.

Now this book had a lot of greats, but also a couple of “ehs”. The premise is that a teenage girl who suffers from amnesia suddenly remembers kissing her best friend’s boyfriend. The book follows Flora through a new self discovery of herself which includes an independent trip to the Arctic to follow the boy that made her remember.

Now if you don’t like books that repeat information this is not the book for you. Because Flora can’t remember what happened to her 3 hours ago there is a lot of repetition of  information as she learns it again herself. This didn’t bother me as much as I thought it might.

The plot allows Flora to grow as an adult and discover that she is indeed brave. The couple of “ehs” that I had were that some aspects of the story seemed a little “far-fetched”. A girl that can’t remember what happened this morning is able to get to a different country and track down a boy? It seems like a miracle and maybe it is, but it’s a little too much. I also found Flora’s best friend to be a bit of a selfish bitch and I disliked her from the very beginning but alas at the end she’s the savior. Flora’s parents also play a key role in Flora’s past and future development but their individual characters weren’t developed until the end and even then, very little. I like character development so this bothered me a bit.

A kudos to the author would be that the first-person perspective of Flora and her constant memory loss was very well written and truly reflected what I imagine would be how a person with anterograde amnesia feels on a daily basis. The writing displayed how Flora truly managed and fought against her disability and beat the odds. This certainly played into captivating the reader and encouraging them to keep reading.

Overall I liked the plot and did enjoy the story as it kept me wanting to read more and read the next chapter to see what Flora manages to do next. Every book has its goods and bads and can’t please everyone, but I don’t regret reading it. I really liked Flora as a character and I enjoyed her little quirks and her journey that had me occasionally rooting out loud for her to remember where she left her bag.

If you like books that have a strong female character that beats all odds then you might want to try The One Memory of Flora Banks. If you aren’t a fan of repetition this book isn’t for you.

Stay tuned for my next book review: Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine

I’m taking the advice of my friend mentioned above and trying something different by reading a couple of poetry books and possibly even a graphic novel.

Book Review:”Between the World and Me”

Book three of my 2019 Reading Challenge.

Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me

Ta-Nehisi Coates came to my university in 2017 and I couldn’t find time to attend his talk about his book Between the World and Me. I regret not attending.

The book was that year’s common reading for all incoming students at the University of Oregon and I was not an incoming student so I did not pay attention to the recommended book. I should have paid attention, I should have read the book then and attended his talk.

Nevertheless, I have finally read Between the World and Me, a letter to Coates’s young son. The letter reveals personal experiences of Coates growing up and living as a black man in America.  It’s a powerful, enlightening and must-read piece of art.

Find it, download it, borrow it, buy it, however you are able to read it.

Stay tuned for my next book review: The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr