Posted in Miscelaneous Musings, The Writing Life

What I’m Reading – February 2016

I go to the library once or twice a month these days.  Here’s what I borrowed, and my thoughts on each title.

 

Inheritance Cycle – Christopher Paolini:  I’m on book 3 of this four-part saga, and I must say, I’m super impressed.  Each book is jam packed with so much awesomeness….

The series follows the adventures of a young boy named Eragon, whose encounter and subsequent bond with a rare dragon takes him out of his quiet, simple farming village and throws him right into a conflict of epic proportions.  He’s gone from innocent farm boy whose biggest worry is whether they’ll have meat for the winter to the last pure Dragon Rider and enemy of the despotic king Galbatorix.  Eragon grows and evolves with each passing chapter, and seeing the development of his character and those around him.

Critics have complained that he draws inspiration from every sci-fi and fantasy franchies a nineties kid could care to remember, but I think Paolini has made the elements his own.  It’s no Lord of the Rings fanfiction.  I see an incredibly thought out storyline in a setting that’s both comfortingly familiar and captivatingly unknown at the same time.  Paolini has developed rich cultures for each of the peoples residing in his world, from their religions and superstitions to politics.  (Where I’m at, Eragon has become caught up in a heated political debate among the Dwarvish nations.)  It’s world-building at its finest!

As the series has progressed, the content has gotten a little edgy (I don’t know why it’s considered a children’s series), but I feel these little quibbles are outweighed by its  redeeming qualities.  Paolini knows how to write a classy and gripping fantasy story that I think is best suited to older teens.

 

Time and Again – Jack Finney: It’s Nineteen Seventy Something, and graphics artist Simon Morley is selected by a covert government operation to travel back in time to 1880s Manhattan.  I enjoy a good time travel story, and this was apparently a favorite of one of my relatives, so I thought I’d give it a try.

time_and_againI’m only about 1/3 through the book, and while I don’t particularly love it, I don’t particularly hate it either.  I get the impression that the author cared more about the fact that Simon time traveled than how he actually went about doing it.  (Apparently, it’s done through self-hypnosis in a select environment that did not stylistically change between the present and the past destination?  Maybe Simon’s imagining the whole thing to begin with….  Suffice to say, I’m incredibly skeptical.)  Simon’s supposed a great candidate for the operation because he’s an artist who thinks outside the box.  You kind of have to be to go along with something like this. 😛

There’s supposed to be a mystery, and I’ve only just touched the tip of that iceberg.  Right now, I’m enjoying the vivid descriptions of 1880s New York, as Simon wanders through the period.  The book includes “sketches” done by Simon, depicting various scenes in the story, as well as some “antique” sepia photographs of the characters.  That was a nice touch!

There is some mild language and the occasional slightly suggestive comment mentioned in passing, but overall, the book’s pretty tame.  To be fair, it was written for adults, but the tone of these occasional no-no’s is different than what I’ve read in kids’ books, where the author seems to be throwing stuff in for shock value to “help” our young minds.  So far, the content in this book hasn’t exceeded my tolerance levels, and I’m hoping I’ll enjoy it before I have to return it!

 

Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte: It is apparent to me that Kate Bush didn’t really read this book when she wrote the beautiful song of the same name….  (It’s not a love story about Heathcliff and Cathy.  If you want something like that, go read Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen and tell me how well you survived Mr. Collins’ endless monologues.)  I really enjoyed this book.  It was a mess, a huge, tangled up mess – an editor’s nightmare, for sure – but it’s amazing just the same.  The book really picks up once the newcomer’s narration pauses and we switch to Nellie the housekeeper’s POV, something that I didn’t have the patience for the first time I tried this book, but as the story goes on, both perspectives become quite relevant.

The characters are so wonderfully and terribly complex.  They evolve and regress throughout the story, making me alternate between sympathizing with and despising everybody.  You don’t know who will ultimately be the “good guys” until the story ends – you just might be surprised.

Emily Bronte’s writing style is considered by some to be inferior to her sisters’, but my goodness, can she tell a story!  Charlotte’s writing is flowery and dramatic, but also very reserved.  (I have yet to read anything by Anne.)  Emily doesn’t seem to care about standards – she just writes, and does it well.  Even if her command of the English language was in some ways less polished than Charlotte’s, the extent to which she let her imagination run wild was so much broader.

Although with regards to explicit content, the book is very clean, its dark and morbid themes make me feel it’s best suited for brave readers 15+.

 

I tried to read Vilette by Charlotte Bronte, but got bored pretty quickly.  The back of the aged paperback I borrowed boasted that this work eclipses even Jane Eyre.  I don’t think so.  Maybe I’ll try that one again later, when I have more time and patience…. 😛

 

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