[Manga Monday] Yotsuba&! Vol. 2 ★★★★★


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, Librarything & Bookhype by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Yotsuba&! Vol. 2
Series: Yotsuba&! #2
Author: Kiyohiko Azuma
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Manga
Pages: 192
Words: 8K



Synopsis:

Chapter List:

Yotsuba & Drawing

Yotsuba & Revenge

Yotsuba & Cake

Yotsuba & Donmai

Yotsuba & the Pool

Yotsuba & the Frog

Yotsuba & Asagi’s Gifts

My Thoughts:

Ahhh, this was just what I needed. After the previous week having been such a mess, reading this Saturday morning was perfect. I laughed, I laughed and then I laughed some more. Not uproariously, not side-splittingly kind of laughing, but a continual amusement and fluffy kind of laugh.

The above picture is a chapter where Yotsuba is watching a gangster tv show with her dad and Jumbo and sees a gangster kill someone. She then proceeds to squirt gun her dad and Jumbo to death and then switches characters to hunt down the person who killed her beloved dad and friend. She goes next door and kills all of the girls next door, except for the eldest, Asagi, who ends up killing Yotsuba. The chapter ends with Yotsuba admitting to her dad and Jumbo that she failed to avenge them and died. Jumbo moralizes that nothing good ever comes from revenge.

I am finding that Azuma is able to do a ton of world building and character sketches in just a couple of panels. It is rather amazing. It gives the manga a bit of depth that makes it easier to digest. It also makes this re-read possible and future re-reads a real possibility, if not a sure thing.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Passion and Purity ★★★★★


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Passion and Purity
Series: ———-
Author: Elisabeth Elliot
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Counsel
Pages: 192
Words: 40K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

Published in 1984 and written by Elisabeth Elliot, is an evangelical Protestant book, part manifesto and part autobiography, on the subject of romantic relationships. The book recounts Elliot’s friendship and romance with missionary Jim Elliot, beginning in the 1940s and ending with his death in 1956. Elliot uses anecdotes from her relationship with Jim to expound on her views concerning “pure, Christian relationships” and the practice of “waiting on God” for romantic timing and direction.

The late Ruth Bell Graham, wife of popular evangelist Billy Graham, wrote the preface.

My Thoughts:

I read this for the first time back in 2000 when I was single and desperately trying to not be single. That was a very different time in my life from now and I read this now to see how things had changed more than because I thought I needed to read this book.

I will say, besides being saved by Jesus Christ, getting married was the best thing that ever happened to me. Books like this helped me stay the course during those tumultuous hormone years when all I wanted was to give way to my baser desires.

So this time around, it was like looking back down a mountain side. This book is written to single people who are dealing with keeping their purity and walk with God while navigating the world of courting/dating. It was a fantastic reminder that I have not always been where I currently am. That in turn gave me hope because it means that I am not always going to be where I currently am either. God has plans for each stage of our lives.

It has spurred me on to go look at some marriage counsel books by Dr. James Dobson to see what advice is given to married couples. While we’re doing just fine, heading off things before they happen is the best way to keep things going just fine.

★★★★★

[Manga Monday] Yotsuba&! Vol. 1 ★★★★★


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, Librarything & Bookhype by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Yotsuba&! Vol. 1
Series: Yotsuba&! #1
Author: Kiyohiko Azuma
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Manga
Pages: 227
Words: 8K



Synopsis:

Chapter List:

Yotsuba & Moving

Yotsuba & Manners

Yotsuba & Global Warming

Yotsuba & TV

Yotsuba & Shopping

Yotsuba & Cicadas

Yotsuba & Rain

My Thoughts:

This definitely deserves all the stars. I laughed so many times while re-reading this that it wasn’t funny (ha, get it?).

I think the following page from this volume perfectly encapsulate Yotsuba:

Read right to left

I’ll talk about specifics in later volumes but for now, I just had fun reading this. If you’ve ever wondered about picking up a manga to try, this is the one. Even an old battle hardened, warhammer40K reader like myself finds it irresistibly cute.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Wuthering Heights ★★★★★


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Wuthering Heights
Series: ———-
Author: Emily Bronte
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 339
Words: 119.5K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

In 1801, Lockwood, the new tenant at Thrushcross Grange in Yorkshire, pays a visit to his landlord, Heathcliff, at his remote moorland farmhouse, Wuthering Heights. There he meets a reserved young woman (later identified as Cathy Linton); Joseph, a cantankerous servant; and Hareton, an uneducated young man who speaks like a servant. Everyone is sullen and inhospitable. Snowed in for the night, he reads some diary entries of a former inhabitant of his room, Catherine Earnshaw, and has a nightmare in which a ghostly Catherine begs to enter through the window. Woken by Lockwood, Heathcliff is troubled.

Lockwood’s housekeeper Ellen (Nelly) Dean tells him the story of the strange family.

Thirty years earlier, the Earnshaws live at Wuthering Heights with their children, Hindley and Catherine, and a servant — Nelly herself. Returning from a trip to Liverpool, Earnshaw brings a young orphan whom he names Heathcliff and treats as his favourite. His own children he neglects, especially after his wife dies. Hindley beats Heathcliff, who gradually becomes close friends with Catherine.

Hindley departs for university, returning as the new master of Wuthering Heights on the death of his father three years later. He and his new wife Frances allow Heathcliff to stay, but only as a servant.

Heathcliff and Catherine spy on Edgar Linton and his sister Isabella, children who live nearby at Thrushcross Grange. Catherine is attacked by their dog, and the Lintons take her in, sending Heathcliff home. When the Lintons visit, Hindley and Edgar make fun of Heathcliff and a fight ensues. Heathcliff is locked in the attic and vows revenge.

Frances dies after giving birth to a son, Hareton. Two years later, Catherine becomes engaged to Edgar. She confesses to Nelly that she still loves Heathcliff, and will try to help but cannot marry him because of his low social status. Nelly warns her against the plan. Heathcliff overhears part of the conversation and, misunderstanding Catherine’s heart, flees the household. Catherine falls ill, distraught.

Edgar and Catherine marry, and three years later Heathcliff unexpectedly returns — now a wealthy gentleman. He encourages Isabella’s infatuation with him as a means of revenge on Catherine. Enraged by Heathcliff’s constant presence, Edgar cuts off contact. Catherine responds by locking herself in her room and refusing food; pregnant with Edgar’s child, she never fully recovers. At Wuthering Heights Heathcliff gambles with Hindley who mortgages the property to him to pay his debts. Heathcliff elopes with Isabella, but the relationship fails and they soon return.

When Heathcliff discovers that Catherine is dying, he visits her in secret. She dies shortly after giving birth to a daughter, Cathy, and Heathcliff rages, calling on her ghost to haunt him for as long as he lives. Isabella flees south where she gives birth to Heathcliff’s son, Linton. Hindley dies six months later, leaving Heathcliff as master of Wuthering Heights.

Twelve years later, Isabella is dying and the still-sickly Linton is brought back to live with his uncle Edgar at the Grange, but Heathcliff insists that his son must instead live with him. Cathy and Linton (respectively at the Grange and Wuthering Heights) gradually develop a relationship. Heathcliff schemes to ensure that they marry, and on Edgar’s death demands that the couple move in with him. He becomes increasingly wild, and reveals that on the night Catherine died he dug up her grave, and ever since has been plagued by her ghost. When Linton dies, Cathy has no option but to remain at Wuthering Heights.

Having reached the present day, Nelly’s tale concludes.

Lockwood grows tired of the moors and moves away. Eight months later he sees Nelly again and she reports that Cathy has been teaching the still-uneducated Hareton to read. Heathcliff was seeing visions of the dead Catherine; he avoided the young people, saying that he could not bear to see Catherine’s eyes, which they both shared, looking at him. He had stopped eating, and some days later was found dead in Catherine’s old room.

In the present, Lockwood learns that Cathy and Hareton plan to marry and move to the Grange. Joseph is left to take care of the declining Wuthering Heights. Nelly says that the locals have seen the ghosts of Catherine and Heathcliff wandering abroad together, and hopes they are at peace.

My Thoughts:

I enjoyed almost every page of this book even while I hated and despised almost every character in it. I think it takes some serious skill on Miss Bronte’s part to have done such a thing.

I did find the plethora of characters to be a tad bit confusing, especially when different people had the same name and might, or might not be, related. It also didn’t help that outside of Heathcliff and one or two others, everyone was cowardly, spiteful, selfish, venal and despicable. Remove cowardly and add brutal for Heathcliff.

I think a lot of why none of that got me down was that it was portrayed for what it was, ie, bad. Heathcliff and Catherine are not portrayed as lovers torn apart by fate yet destined for each other. Only someone who is insane, or a teenager filled with enough hormones to fill the sun, but I think the two are pretty close, could ever make that mistake. Everyone’s bad decisions has consequences, not just for themselves but for everybody else around them.

Heathcliff uses his brutish strength and behavior to get what he wants while people like Edgar Linton allow him his way through their cowardice. Edgar has guns, he has weapons, but he’s simply afraid to use them. Thus Heathcliff triumphs in terms of getting what he wants. Yet even he pays the price. His body gives out from such willful use. Yet through it all, I never even once was given the sense that the author thought this was the way it “should” be. Yes, it was the way it was, but it wasn’t the way it should have been. Too many authors portray vile acts and character defects as things to be praised, as good instead of the filthy evil that they are. I also enjoyed how Bronte shows that people can change and that out of even horrible circumstances love and growth can occur.

I guess that is all I have to say. This was not a long book, nor a complicated one. If you wanted to dip your toes into the Bronte sisters’ writings, I’d definitely recommend this one.

★★★★★

New Spring (The Wheel of Time #0) ★★★★★


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: New Spring
Series: The Wheel of Time #0
Author: Robert Jordan
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 336
Words: 122.5K

Synopsis:

From Tarvalon.net & authored by Kyria d’Oreyn

Lan’s point of view

The Aiel War is over and Lan rides north to the Blight with Bukama. In Canluum, Kandor, they meet Ryne, an old friend. He informs them that Edeyn Arrel, Lan’s carneira, intends to raise the banner of the Golden Crane of Malkier. Together they ride to Chachin, noticing someone following them. It turns out to be a woman, (Moiraine), who claims the right of a woman alone, and gives them the name of Lady Alys. Bukama pledges to escort her to Chachin. Lan doubts that this woman is who she claims she is. He believes that Edeyn sent her.

Once in Chachin, their ways part and the three men ride on to the Aesdaishar Palace, where Lan is received by Brys, Prince-Consort to Queen Ethenielle of Kandor. A few days later, Lady Alys appears again and wants Lan to spy on Merean Redhill, an Aes Sedai staying at the Palace. When he and Moiraine/Alys uncover a plot of Merean’s that involves killing Brys, his son Diryk and Edeyn’s daughter, Iselle, they rush to save the three innocent victims. Lan confronts and defeats Ryne in a duel. The next day, he rides out of the city. Moiraine rides up to him and asks him to be her Warder.

Moiraine’s point of view

In their time as Accepted, Moiraine and Siuan are present when Gitara Moroso speaks her Foretelling of the Dragon’s rebirth. Later, Tamra Ospenya, the Amyrlin Seat, decides to give out a bounty of one hundred gold marks to every woman who bore a child in the camps around Tar Valon during the last week of the Aiel War. This is actually a plan to find out who the Dragon Reborn might be. At first, Moiraine and Siuan ride out with the other Accepted to record names for the bounty, but the following day they are instead told to re-copy some of the less legible lists. This gives them the opportunity to create their own list, of babies that meet the description of the soon-to-be-Dragon. Moiraine is told by Tamra to take a letter to Kerene Nagashi, asking her to appear before the Amyrlin. Other sisters receive letters as well, which leads the young women to think that Tamra wants to send out searchers for the boychild. One after the other, those sisters leave Tar Valon, and one morning Tamra is announced dead.

After she and Siuan are raised to Aes Sedai, Moiraine leaves Tar Valon to search for the boychild herself. In Canluum, she meets Merean and Cadsuane. Siuan is also there, having left the Tower to tell Moiraine that Tamra’s searchers are all dead, possibly killed by the Black Ajah. Moiraine avoids Cadsuane, and after leaving Canluum, she follows three riders (Lan, Bukama and Ryne), who she believes may be Darkfriends. She claims the right of a woman alone to have an excuse to ride with them. On the way, she looks for the women from the list of possible mothers of the Dragon Reborn, but none of them is who she is searching for.

In Chachin, she meets Siuan again. Siuan has located Ines Demain, the next mother on their list, in the Aesdaishar Palace. When Moiraine hears that Lan is also there, she immediately wants to go back to her rooms to avoid running into him, but on her way there she meets Merean again. No longer sure who she can and cannot trust, and who is and is not Black Ajah, she decides to go to Lan and ask him and Bukama to spy on Merean. Later, after Lan accuses Moiraine of attempting to have him killed, not knowing that Merean was the one behind the attempt, Moiraine becomes certain that Merean is a Black sister. They run to confront her. Merean kills Brys and Diryk before Moiraine kills her. Moiraine tries to save Iselle, but fails. The following day, she rides out after Lan to ask him to become her Warder.

My Thoughts:

(This so-called Kyria d’Oreyn has written over 1000 articles at TarValon.net and the above summary is the best he can do? Torval would totally kick his sorry little summary butt! I’m only complaining because I don’t have to write any of it, hahahahaha!)

This was pretty close to a perfect book and I shall articulate why that is fact (and if you disagree, Lightning from Above Strike your degenerative head!).

* claps hands *

Now pay close attention, class.

First off, there are only two point of views here. One from Lan and one from Moiraine. None of this silly 57 eleventy pov’s like there are in some of the books. While the cast of characters is just as large as in some of the other WoT books, Jordan does an admirable job of simply telling 2 tales and how they intersect. At under 400 pages, this is tight and to the point. Jordan could have taken some lessons from himself and this book. But since he’s dead, my advice will never be followed. Oh, the tragedies I endure as I serenely hand out blessed wisdom left and right like water to parched souls.

Second. Moiraine isn’t a bitch. Oh my goodness, I couldn’t believe how Jordan portrayed her anger and impatience without making her a horrible, terrible, no-good person that I wanted to strangle (all those DO apply to Nynaeve by the way). Moiraine isn’t perfect, but I simply didn’t want to wrap my hands around her throat and throttle her to death. She was actually FUN to read about, you know, like a main character should be?

Third, the story has a definitive beginning and a definitive end. While it was speculated when this was released that it would be a trilogy (and I’m pretty sure Jordan himself lent credence to such rumors), nothing ever came of it and Sanderson expressed zero interest in doing such a project after finishing up the mammoth ending trilogy. Which makes the fact that this can stand on it’s own feet a VERY good thing.

On a side note, when I re-read this back in ’11 I noted that it shouldn’t be read before Book 8 (Path of Daggers I believe). I’m torn whether that was the right place or if where I read it this time (just after Book 5, the Fires of Heaven) was better. Honestly, I saw no reason not to read it at this point. Since I don’t ever plan on re-re-re-reading this series, I guess that particular issue will simply have to remain one of life’s ineffable mysteries 😉

★★★★★

Castle in the Air (World of Howl #2) ★★★★★

castleintheair (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Castle in the Air
Series: World of Howl #2
Author: Diana Jones
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Pages: 176
Words: 67K

Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

Castle in the Air follows the adventures of Abdullah, a handsome young carpet salesman from Zanzib, who daydreams constantly about being a stolen prince. One day a strange traveler comes to his stand to sell a magic carpet. During the night, Abdullah goes to sleep on the carpet but wakes up to find himself in a beautiful garden with a young woman. He tells the woman, Flower-in-the-Night, that he is the stolen prince of his daydreams, believing that he is in fact dreaming. Flower-in-the-Night, who has never seen a man other than her father, first believes that Abdullah is a woman, so Abdullah agrees to return the next night with portraits of many men so that she can make a proper comparison. He does so, and Abdullah and Flower-in-the-Night decide to get married.

Abdullah returns the next night, but he arrives just as Flower-in-the-Night is snatched away by a huge flying djinn. Soon after, the Sultan of Zanzib captures Abdullah who then discovers that Flower is actually the Sultan’s daughter. Enraged that his daughter is missing, the Sultan blames Abdullah and throws him in jail, threatening to impale him on a 40-foot pole if his daughter is not found. Fortunately, Abdullah is saved by his magic carpet and escapes from Zanzib.

Abdullah ends up in the desert and stumbles upon a group of bandits, who have in their possession a particularly cranky genie who grants only one wish a day. In the night, Abdullah steals the genie and flees. After a wish, Abdullah is transported to Ingary and ends up traveling with a bitter Strangian soldier whose country was recently taken in a war with Ingary. While traveling to Kingsbury in search of a wizard, the two stumble upon a cat and her kitten, whom the soldier names Midnight and Whippersnapper, respectively.

As they travel, Abdullah wishes for the return of his flying carpet, who brings with it the very Djinn that kidnapped Flower-in-the-Night. It is revealed that the Djinn, Hasruel, is being forced to kidnap princesses from all over the world by his brother, Dalzel. The two proceed on the carpet to Kingsbury, which is where they find Wizard Suliman, who, upon realizing that Midnight is actually a person in cat form, returns her to being a human. As the spell is lifted from the woman, who turns out to be Sophie Pendragon, her baby, Morgan is returned to his normal self as well. However, when they go to collect the baby, he is no longer in the inn, where he was left with the soldier.

Abdullah and Sophie then order the carpet to take them to Morgan. The carpet does so, taking them far into the sky, to the castle in the air, which is merely Wizard Howl’s castle, having been greatly enlarged. There they meet the abducted princesses and plot with them to escape the flying moving castle. Led by Abdullah, they overpower the two Djinn, freeing Hasruel who banishes his brother. Flower-of-the-Night had by then wished the Genie free, who turned out to be Sophie’s husband, the top-level sorcerer Howl.

My Thoughts:

My feelings about this book almost exactly what I felt when reading Howl’s Moving Castle. That always makes writing a review that much harder.

The light fairytale’ish feeling permeates the entire book and not at any time did I feel that things weren’t going to work out for Abullah, even if we come to realize that things might not work out exactly how he planned or wants. When I reviewed Castle in the Air in ’08, I ended it with the words “Light and Delightful”. Both still definitely apply in the best sense of the words.

This isn’t exactly a sequel to Howl though. More of another book set in the same world where some of the same characters from the previous book intrude. Just to make things complicated though, Howl’s Moving Castle was made into an anime movie by Hayao Miyazaki. Beautiful film that is more “inspired” by the book than a direct medium change. The complicated part comes because Miyazaki had previously made a movie called Castle in the Sky. It has nothing to do with this book however. What’s more, this book was written in 1990 while the anime movie Castle in the Sky was made in 1996. Howl the book was written in 1986 while Howl the movie was made in 2004. Confused yet? Good. You’re just a schmuck if that confuses you. But even if it does confuse you and makes you a schmuck, at least now you’re a better educated schmuck about something that nobody really cares about. And if that doesn’t stand for everything that the internet represents, well then, I guess I’M a schmuck.

(no schmucks were harmed (very much) in the writing of this review)

★★★★★

Howl’s Moving Castle (World of Howl #1) ★★★★★

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Howl’s Moving Castle
Series: World of Howl #1
Author: Diana Jones
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Pages: 206
Words: 76K

Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

18-year-old Sophie Hatter is the eldest of three sisters living in Market Chipping, a town in the magical kingdom of Ingary, where fairytale tropes are accepted ways of life, including that the eldest of three will never be successful. As the eldest, Sophie is resigned to a dull future running the family hat shop. Unknown to her, she is able to talk life into objects. Things change however when the powerful Witch of the Waste turns her into an old crone. Sophie leaves the shop and finds work as a cleaning lady for the notorious Wizard Howl. She strikes a bargain with Howl’s fire-demon, Calcifer: if she can break the contract between Howl and Calcifer, then Calcifer will return her to her original youthful form. Part of the contract, however, stipulates that neither Howl nor Calcifer can disclose the main clause, leaving Sophie to figure it out on her own.

Sophie learns that Howl, a rather self-absorbed and fickle but ultimately good-natured person, spreads malicious rumours about himself to avoid work and responsibility. The door to his castle is actually a portal that opens onto four places: Market Chipping, the seaside city of Porthaven, the royal capital of Kingsbury and Howl’s boyhood home in Wales, where he was named Howell Jenkins. Howl’s apprentice Michael Fisher runs most of the day-to-day affairs of Howl’s business, while Howl chases his ever-changing paramours.

When Prince Justin, the King’s younger brother, goes missing while searching for Wizard Suliman, the King orders Howl to find them both and kill the Witch of the Waste. Howl, however, has his own reasons to avoid the Witch; the Witch, a jilted former lover, has laid a dark curse on him. He successfully continues to avoid her until she lures Sophie into a trap. Believing the Witch has taken Howl’s current love interest, Miss Angorian, Sophie goes to save her and is captured by the Witch. Howl spends hours in the bathroom everyday primping himself to look handsome for girls; Michael had said that the day he does not do this is the day Michael will believe that Howl is truly in love. So when Howl comes to save Sophie, unshaven and a mess, it demonstrates his love for her. He kills the Witch and reveals that Miss Angorian was actually the Witch’s fire demon in disguise; the fire demon had taken control of the Witch and was attempting to create a “perfect human” by fusing Wizard Suliman and Prince Justin. It was to be completed by the addition of Howl’s head.

At the castle, Miss Angorian takes hold of Calcifer to capture Howl’s heart. Howl had given his heart to Calcifer. This was the contract between them; the heart kept Calcifer alive, and in return Calcifer put his magic at Howl’s disposal. Sophie uses her ability of bringing things to life to free Calcifer, thus breaking the contract between him and Howl. With his heart restored, Howl destroys the witch’s fire demon, freeing Suliman and Justin. Calcifer, as promised, breaks Sophie’s spell and she returns to her proper age. Howl had realized early on that Sophie was under a spell and secretly attempted to remove the curse; when he had met with failure, he’d figured Sophie simply enjoyed “being in disguise”.

Calcifer returns, preferring to stay with Howl. Sophie and Howl admit they love each other when Howl suggests they live happily ever after.

My Thoughts:

When I read Howl’s Moving Castle back in ’08, I only gave it 3 stars. I had enjoyed it, but wanted something a bit “more”. This time around, the light fluffiness hit the exact spot and this rocketed up to a favorable 5 stars. Which means that this is definitely a mood book and depending on how I’m feeling while reading it is going to affect how I rate it. So that might happen to others as well.

But my goodness, this was just delightful. As Mrs B might say on occasion “totes adorb”. This is definitely middle grade edging into ya territory but not once did I feel that Jones was dumbing things down or simplifying. I think is a story that a 5th grader could enjoy as much as a 40 year old (or older).

Part of it is that Sophie is a completely solid, dependable young woman but who has her blindspot. It was so interesting to see how she would be blind sided by something and I could relate exactly. The other part is that Jones introduces a lot of side characters but I was not confused about who was who or who was what at any point. Every single character was them and they slotted into the story perfectly and stuck in my head. That is how characters should be!

Delightfully light, thoroughly satisfying, wondrously fun; that about sums up my experience this time around while reading this book. I had so much fun that I’m going to be breaking my own rule and reading the next 2 books in the Howl’s World series much closer together (weeks instead of months). I hope I’m not making a mistake!

Ps, this is the first post where I’m experimenting with using google drive to host the cover pix. I have to use a stupid “iframe” and can’t get the info block of text to align around it. If you know how to do that or if anything comes up wonky or if there anything you think I should be aware of, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment. Thanks!

★★★★★

Little Dorrit ★★★★★

littledorrit (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Little Dorrit
Series: ———-
Author: Charles Dickens
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 839
Words: 340K

Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

The novel begins in Marseilles “thirty years ago” (c. 1826), with the notorious murderer Rigaud telling his cellmate John Baptist Cavalletto how he killed his wife. Arthur Clennam is detained in Marseilles with a group of travellers in quarantine. He meets new friends in the quarantine. He is returning to London to see his mother after 20 years in China with his father, handling that part of the family business. His father died there. On his deathbed, his father had given him a mysterious message, murmuring “Your mother,” which message and a watch Arthur mails to Mrs Clennam.

Inside the watch casing is an old silk paper with the initials DNF (do not forget) worked in beads. It is a message, but the implacable Mrs Clennam, who now uses a wheelchair, refuses to tell him what it means. The two become estranged.

In London, William Dorrit, imprisoned as a debtor, has been a resident of Marshalsea debtors’ prison for over twenty years. He has three children: Edward, Fanny and Amy. The youngest daughter, Amy, was born in the prison and is affectionately known as Little Dorrit. Their mother died when Amy was eight years old. Fanny lives outside the prison with William’s older brother, Frederick. The adult children are free to pass in and out of the prison as they please. Little Dorrit, devoted to her father, supports them both through her sewing. To the honour of her father, who is embarrassed to acknowledge his financial position, Little Dorrit avoids mentioning her work outside the prison or his inability to leave. Mr Dorrit assumes the role of Father of the Marshalsea, and is held in great respect by its inhabitants, as if he had chosen to live there.

After Arthur tells his mother that he will not continue in the family business, Mrs Clennam chooses her clerk Jeremiah Flintwinch as her partner. When Arthur learns that Mrs Clennam employs Little Dorrit as a seamstress, showing unusual kindness, he wonders whether the young girl might be connected with the mystery of the watch. Arthur follows the girl to the Marshalsea. He tries in vain to enquire about William Dorrit’s debt in the Circumlocution Office, assuming the role of benefactor towards Little Dorrit, her father, and her brother. While at the Circumlocution Office he meets the successful inventor Daniel Doyce. Doyce wants a partner and man of business at his factory and Clennam agrees to fill that role. Little Dorrit falls in love with Arthur, but Arthur fails to recognise Little Dorrit’s feelings.

Arthur is reacquainted with his former fiancée Flora Finching, the reason he was sent away to China, who is now an unattractive widow, and accompanied by the aunt of her late husband. Her father Mr Casby owns many rental properties, and his rent collector is Mr Pancks. The indefatigable Pancks discovers that William Dorrit is the lost heir to a large fortune, enabling him to pay his way out of prison, altering the status of the entire family.

The now wealthy Dorrits decide that they should tour Europe as a newly respectable rich family. They travel over the Alps and take up residence for a time in Venice, and finally in Rome, displaying pride over their new-found wealth and position, unwilling to tell their past to new friends. Little Dorrit finds it difficult to adjust to their wealth and new social position, and slowly comes to appreciate the new places and new sights. Fanny adjusts rapidly to the ways of society, and is sought by the same young man, Edmund Sparkler, who pursued her in her poverty in London, but with a new start that is acceptable to his mother. In Rome, at a party, Mr Dorrit falls ill, and dies at their lodgings. His distraught brother Frederick dies that same night. Little Dorrit, left alone, returns to London to stay with newly married Fanny and her husband, the dim-witted Edmund Sparkler.

The financial house of Merdle, Edmund Sparkler’s stepfather, ends with Merdle’s suicide; the collapse of his bank and investment businesses takes with it the savings of the Dorrits, the firm of Doyce and Clennam, Arthur Clennam, and Pancks. Clennam is now imprisoned in the Marshalsea, where he becomes ill. When Little Dorrit arrives in London, she slowly nurses him back to health.

Cavalletto finds the villain Rigaud hiding in London as Blandois, and brings him to Arthur Clennam. Held in the prison, he sends this undesirable man to his mother, who has advertised to find him. As Blandois he tries to blackmail Mrs Clennam with his full knowledge of her past. Mrs Clennam had insisted on bringing up little Arthur and denying his biological mother the right to see him. Mrs Clennam feels this is her right to punish others, because they hurt her. Arthur’s biological mother died about the same time as Arthur went off to China, but lived out of England with Flintwinch’s twin brother. Mr Clennam’s wealthy uncle, stung by remorse, had left a bequest to Arthur’s biological mother and to the youngest daughter of her patron, or if no daughter, the youngest child of his brother. The patron was Frederick Dorrit, the kind musician who had taught and befriended Arthur’s biological mother, and the beneficiary is his niece, Amy Dorrit. Blandois left a copy of the papers he obtained from Jeremiah’s brother at the Marshalsea for Little Dorrit.

Mrs Clennam knows of this inheritance and fails to tell Little Dorrit, or to tell Arthur about his biological mother. Unwilling to yield to blackmail and with some remorse, the rigid woman rises from her chair and totters out of her house to reveal the secret to Little Dorrit at the Marshalsea. Mrs Clennam begs her forgiveness, which the kind-hearted girl freely grants. Returning to home, Mrs Clennam falls in the street, never to recover the use of her speech or limbs, as the house of Clennam literally collapses before her eyes, killing Rigaud. Affery was outdoors seeking her mistress, and Jeremiah had escaped London before the collapse with as much money as he could find. Rather than hurt him, Little Dorrit chooses not to reveal any of this to Arthur; when he is well, she asks him to burn the papers.

Mr Meagles seeks the original papers, stopping to ask Miss Wade. She has them but denies it; Tattycoram slips back to London with the papers and presents them to Mr Meagles, who gives them to Little Dorrit. Mr Meagles then seeks out Arthur’s business partner Daniel Doyce from abroad. He returns a wealthy and successful man, who arranges to clear all debts for Arthur’s release. Arthur is released from the prison with his fortunes revived, his position secure with Doyce, and his health restored. Arthur and Little Dorrit marry.

Little Dorrit contains numerous sub-plots. One concerns Arthur Clennam’s friends, the kind-hearted Meagles family, who are upset when their daughter Pet marries the artist Henry Gowan, and when their servant and foster daughter Tattycoram is lured away from them to the sinister Miss Wade, an acquaintance of the criminal Rigaud. Miss Wade is ruled by her anger, and she was a jilted sweetheart of Gowan. Another subplot concerns the Italian man John Baptist Cavalletto who was the cellmate of Rigaud in Marseilles, though jailed for a minor crime. He makes his way to London, meets up by chance with Clennam, who stands security for him as he builds up his business in wood carving and gains acceptance among the residents of Bleeding Heart Yard. Cavalletto repays this aid by searching for Blandois/Rigaud when Arthur wants him found. This action brings about the revelation of the secrets kept by Mrs Clennam.

The other major subplot is the satire of British bureaucracy, named as the Circumlocution Office, where the expertise is how not to do it.

My Thoughts:

All I can say is thank goodness for wikipedia and the hardy souls who have already put up indepth synopses. I don’t know that I’d even try to do a synopsis on my own anymore for books by Dickens, as he has so many variegated plots and threads running at the same time. Daunting.

Back in ’08 when I had reviewed this for the first time, I called it the most enjoyable Dickens’ I had read to date. You know what? That statement still stands 12 years later. I’m also giving this the “Best Book of the Year” tag to remind me at years end.

There are some things that people need to know going into this. First and foremost, this is VERY florid. In fact, there is a character named Flora who Dickens writes as she speaks, ie, almost no punctuation and paragraph long sentences. It was HARD to read her stuff, as her mind went all over and Dickens gave full vent to that. I have to admit that I ended up skipping a lot of what she said. I don’t feel that I missed much by skimming. And Dickens is just wordy so it’s everywhere. Prepare yourself mentally to just drink in the words and you’ll be fine. If you go in expecting Dickens to get right to the point, you’ll be greatly disappointed.

Characters are Dickens strong point and Little Dorrit is filled to the brim with Character. This time around there aren’t any real villainous characters, it’s more about small minded things between characters. Clennam, the main character and what goes on between him and his estranged mother. Little Dorrit and how her family treats her before and after their succession to riches. Clennam and Little Dorrit, as Clennam slowly comes to realize that Little Dorrit loves him and that being 40 doesn’t mean he’s an old man ready to die. Plus lots and lots and lots and LOTS of other character interactions, all of it engrossing.

I read this while on vacation and that set the perfect pace for me. Read until I wanted to do something else, then toddle off and do that for 5-10 minutes, then come back for another hour or so. It was a low key read and and slotted perfectly into how our vacation was going. I suspect any Dickens I read during that time would have gotten the same treatment and the same praise. But still, this was a fantastic book.

★★★★★

The Great Divorce ★★★★☆


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Title: The Great Divorce
Series: ———-
Author: C.S. Lewis
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Allegory
Pages: 113
Words: 30K



Synopsis:

The narrator gets on a bus with a large group of people, many of whom end up never even making it onto the bus. The bus flies to another country which seems to be some sort of hinterlands of Heaven. The narrator overhears many conversations between the occupants of the bus and people come from the main land of Heaven to help them. Most of what he overhears are reasons why the bus occupants don’t want to really go to heaven and why it just makes more sense for them to get back on the bus and go back to the grey town, even though rumors of a final night time fast approaching keep cropping up.

The narrator awakes as C.S. Lewis and he makes it clear no one should use this story as a guide to the afterlife.

My Thoughts:

This is technically a re-read, as I read this in Bibleschool in the late 90’s. While I wasn’t writing reviews or even keeping track of what books I read back then (that didn’t start until April of 2000), this book stuck in my head, mainly because of the disagreement I had with Lewis about the subject matter. That was important because it was the first time I really had a disagreement with Lewis, before this I’d pretty much vacuumed up everything he said. So I knew going into this re-read that I was still going to have that disagreement. While that was the case, I was also able to better appreciate the many other points he made during this short little novel, hence the 4 stars.

So the disagreement mainly centers around 2 things. First, the immortality of the soul and soul sleep. While this wasn’t an issue back in the 90’s, my views have changed over the years and I’ve come into the 7th Day Adventist viewpoint, so that’s something Lewis (and Protestantism in general) and I disagree on. I don’t believe in the immortality of the soul and I believe that when you die you sleep, in some form or other, until the Final Judgement. Lewis believes differently, hence the very idea of the book. Secondly, Lewis seems to be proposing some sort of pseudo-purgatory with the Grey Town and the ability of the occupants of the bus to leave it and go to Heaven. He does directly address this issue and claims that isn’t what he’s doing, but it is really hard to accept any other interpretation. While God is outside of Time, humanity ONLY has its lifetime to make a choice of whether to accept Jesus Christ as Savior and go to heaven or to reject Jesus Christ and go to hell.

To put it plainly, once you die, that is it. You have run out of time to make a choice. While it sounds nice to talk about God being outside of time, blah, blah, blah, the Bible seems pretty clear on the issue of having to make your choice of whether to follow God or not in this life and having that choice in this life alone. Obviously, there are other interpretations and I’m not worried that someone who is a committed Christian is going to suddenly go off the rails and think they can somehow get right with God after they die. What I worry about with the purgatory style doctrine is that puts off the necessity of making a decision NOW. If they’re wrong, then it is too late and they’re going to hell. I’m playing super fast and loose here, but I don’t think this is the place to have a Scripture session about why I think so and backing everything up with specific chapter and verse from the Bible. That type of talk is for someone who is already interested in the issue and has questions, not for a bleeding book review, hahahahaa.

With those issues out of the way, which while I talked about them a bit, were much smaller in my mind this time around, I was really able to focus on the rest of the book. Lewis does a fantastic job of showing a wide variety of reasons why people CHOOSE to not go to Heaven. He makes a real push to show that people are not kept out of Heaven who are clamoring to get it, but that people voluntarily choose not to go in because of Reason A, B or C. God and sin cannot co-exist and hence Heaven must be a place where there is no sin. If people won’t give up their sin, they have in fact chosen their sin over heaven. While that sounds simplistic, it is that easy to spell out.

I didn’t take notes on the various conversations recorded, so I’m not going to go through and talk about each one, but Lewis does an admirable job of showing in layman’s terms, why people hold on to certain things even to their own detriment. He is also able to show the underlying narrative and self-deceptions that people twist themselves into to justify their rejection of God, Jesus and the inability of sin and God co-existing. It wasn’t new or “eye opening”, but it was a timely reminder to me.

I think I will end this by saying that God is Good, God is Great and in the end, every knee will bow to His Sovereignty and acknowledge His Very Rightness. That is really awkwardly phrased but it seems to properly convey the end of the matter.

★★★★☆

First Lord’s Fury (Codex Alera #7) ★★★★★

firstlordsfury (Custom)

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: First Lord’s Fury
Series: Codex Alera #7
Author: Jim Butcher
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 758
Words: 202K

Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

Returning from the ruined continent of Canea, Gaius Octavian, his girlfriend Kitai, the Canim warmaster Varg, and their legions find that most of the Aleran Empire has been destroyed or besieged by the insect-like Vord, a monstrous race led by a single sentient Queen that consumes everything they come across. Most of the Aleran resistance is based in the city of Riva, on the far eastern end of the continent. Octavian and his troops have landed on the northern edge and need to find a way to meet up with the other Aleran nobles in Riva. Meanwhile, Aquitainus Attis, who has been named First Lord in Octavian’s absence, has given the order to salt the earth between Riva and the Vord, slowing the insect’s approach.

After making landfall outside of the city of Antillus, Octavian begins preparations for his march to Riva. However, the Vord queen makes an appearance via watercraft projection, making essentially a hologram of herself out of every pool of water large enough to hold it, all across the continent. She states that her victory is inevitable and that she will accept any Aleran that wishes to surrender and allow them to live out the remainder of their life in peace provided they do not have any children. Octavian then uses the same watercrafting tactic to announce his arrival on the Aleran continent and give a morale boosting speech. Meanwhile, his aircrafting knights use their abilities to fly in and evacuate an occupied village from under the Queen’s nose. In retribution, the Queen kidnaps Octavian’s mother, Isana, as well as Araris Valerian, Isana’s lover and the most skilled swordsman in the realm.

To make the march across the continent, Octavian receives help from the great fury Alera and the northern icemen to coat the north in a thick layer of ice, as well as cause hurricane strength winds that constantly blow east. He has his engineers rig their ships with steel keels and support struts, so that they can sail across the ice like giant sleighs. While Octavian’s forces are on the march, Riva falls to the Queen’s onslaught. Her vast number of troops are bolstered by the feral furies of all the Alerans the Vord have slain, and Aquitainus is forced to retreat and evacuate civilians to the Calderon valley, where Bernard and Amara, Octavian’s uncle and his wife, have been fortifying the valley in preparation for the Vord. During the assault, Aquitainus makes a show of claiming new furies to bolster his power in an attempt to draw out his wife Invidia, who had betrayed Alera and joined the Vord Queen and become the Queen’s right hand. He succeeds but loses the ensuing fight, and is mortally wounded while Invidia escapes.

During Octavian’s march, one of his military advisers, Marcus, is revealed to be Fidelias, one of Octavian’s grandfather’s spies who had been a double agent for Invidia and caused a lot of deaths in previous books. Fidelias, who as Marcus had come to redeem himself somewhat, is condemned to death by Octavian. However, instead of immediate execution, Fidelias is allowed to die in Octavian’s service, as his skills are too great to waste with the Vord threat. Afterwards, Octavian’s force reaches Riva and decides to assault the Vord-occupied city. Octavian uses his strength in furycrafting to bring down the cities walls, and after the battle his firecrafters burn the Vord larders, cutting their supply lines to the Calderon valley. Octavian’s force then moves to the valley to pin the Vord force between his own legions and the valley’s defenders. While marching to the valley, the Queen herself makes an appearance and attacks Octavian’s camp. She kills many and wounds Octavian.

Meanwhile the Vord have begun to assault the valley. Invidia goes to Amara in an attempt to betray the Vord Queen, and gives Amara enemy troop compositions and the time of the next attack as proof of her intentions. Later, the remaining High Lords and Ladies gather to assault the Queen with their combined strength, using Invidia’s information. However, the Queen expected Invidia’s betrayal and prepared for it, and begins slaughtering the attackers. Invidia again turns to the Vord as the Queen forgives Invidia, but Amara manages to assassinate Invidia before she can turn on her fellow Alerans again. The Queen retreats, leading to Isana and Araris’ freedom.

Octavian’s forces have arrived at this point, and the Queen takes to the air off towards the mountains in an attempt to take control of the colossal great furies there. Octavian and Kitai pursue the Queen and duel her while she is simultaneously claiming the extraordinarily powerful furies there. Meanwhile, the defenders of the valley are fighting against the endless Vord, and slowly losing. After a protracted battle and managing to interrupt the Queen’s attempt to claim the furies, Octavian and Kitai manage to kill the Queen, causing the Vord to become feral without her guidance. The Vord break, and the survivors of the battle rejoice.

After the Vord’s defeat, Octavian becomes the First Lord of the realm and marries Kitai, while both of them as well as Octavian’s advisers begin rebuilding. The series ends with an opening for sequels, as on the continent of Canea there are several lesser Vord queens to be dealt with, as well as the consequences of some of the climate-changing furycrafting Octavian had to perform in order to defeat the primary Queen and save Alera.

My Thoughts:

Just as good as before. Which allayed my main worry that this whole series wouldn’t be as good and that I was remembering it through a lense of “good times” instead of it actually being a fantastic story. Have no fear, Bookstooge, this WAS a great story.

I also found it to be the story that made me the most emotional out of the 6 books. I do suspect that life conditions when reading this (super stress, physical stuff, etc, etc) played a very large part of that. I was needing some emotional outlet and choking up on obviously manipulative writing on Butcher’s part allowed me to get rid of some of the internal emotions without having to mentally acknowledge the basis for my even needing to vent like that. Just like opening the flood gates on a dam. Doesn’t matter if the extra water behind the dam came from a huge rainstorm, or 10,000 hoboes pissing in the lake all at once, all that mattered was opening the gate to bring the waterlevel back to normal levels. Now with that wonderful image in your minds….

I would say this was the weakest of the series. The action is hot and heavy but the lack of indepth characterization really shows. For this series, that didn’t bother me. In another series, maybe it would. Either way, it was something I noticed and it might bother others, so it is something to be aware of.

One thing that was really well done, in my opinion, was Butcher making his characters realize that their current actions would have lasting affects for the next several generations. From the death of the Fury of Alera (while she chose to give up herself to help Tavi against the vord, she still is dead as an entity), to possible alliances with the both the Canim and the Icemen (on top of the already cemented alliance with the Marat), to the future repercussions of creating storms and awakening Great Furies liked Galadros the Mountain, Butcher has enough of his characters cognizant that the world doesn’t begin and end with them. It was really a small part but it was nice to see it included.

When I read this for the first time back in ’10, I wanted more Alera, a lot more. Then when it became evident that Butcher wasn’t going to write more Alera, I was despondent. Now, at this point in life, I’m satisfied with where the series has ended and I don’t want Butcher to write any more in this world. After watching what Dresden fans are going through, I don’t want any part of that. No amount of Alera is worth that to me.

To wit, I enjoyed this book and this series, just as much as before but with this re-read am more than satisfied with how and where the series ended. Consider me a very happy customer.

★★★★★