Sunday, July 24, 2016

Sunday Salon: The Little Prince

Musing for this week's Sunday Salon.

This week I started reading the Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

I'm about to make a lot of people upset, but. . . 

I didn't really like it.  

I went into the experience with high expectations, due to the devotion this book engenders.  I kept waiting to be charmed and awed, but I never was.  I made it about a quarter of the way through, and dreaded having to go back to it, so I gave up.  

I don't know what exactly about it I didn't like, only that I didn't like it.  

One smallish thing that colored my view of the book was this:  I think he got sheep and goats mixed up.  Sheep don't eat everything, like he said.  The eat grass and clovers and the like.  Goats eat EVERYTHING and would have had no trouble eating the baobab shoots.  I found this most distracting!

Then there was the shifting of point of view.  Sometimes the pilot is talking to the reader, and sometimes to the Little Prince.  This kept the narrative from running smoothly and drove me batty.

On the positive side, I loved the artwork.  It was enchanting and appealing--like I expected the prose to be.

Have you read it?  Did you love it?  What am I missing?  Why is this a classic of children's literature?

Anyone got answers for me?

Saturday, July 23, 2016

This Savage Song by Victoria E. Schwab

This Savage Song
Victoria E. Schwab
5/5 stars

I'm struggling with how to describe This Savage Song.  It was so good, just so darn good--how can I convey just how good it was?

This dark, urban fantasy takes place sometime in the future, in a world where monsters now exist.  The location, Verity City, is split between two factions: one ruled by Harker and his tame monsters, and the other governed by Flynn and his task force.  The children of these two men, August Flynn and Kate Harker, become schoolmates, enemies and then allies as they try to prevent another war between the two factions.

Don't think this is some sort of Romeo and Juliet love story.  It's not.  There is no romance: just a lot of action, violence, strong emotion and darn fine story telling.

Schwab had me hooked from the beginning, and I became more and more involved as the story went along.  She drops the reader straight into this world, and the reader spends several pages picking up clues and arranging them to discover just what sort of world this is, where the monsters come from, and how our two protagonists fit.  It was fantastically well done, actively involving the reader right from the start.

The prose is as good as the plot, with some nicely turned phrases such as "The thoughts fell like dominoes inside his head, one knocking into the next into the next into the--"  I also found the character development to be impressive; the characters grew into complex personalities as the book progressed.

I know that this is a book I'll be raving about all year; I high recommend it.

Red Books

Friday, July 22, 2016

100 Dresses: If the Magic Fits by Susan Maupin Schmid

100 Dresses: If the Magic Fits
Susan Maupin Schmid
  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • 5/5 stars

100 Dresses: If the Magic Fits is a delightful novel with a spunky 11-year old heroine, Darling.  Darling works in the castle kitchen and dreams of having just one adventure.  She discovers a room full of enchanted dresses and her dream of adventure comes true.

In this part-fantasy, part-mystery, Darling overhears a plot to release the stone dragons of the castle and take over the kingdom.  Using the magic of the dresses, she seeks a way of thwarting the villains.

This book is charming, funny and well written.  Despite being well over the intended audience age, I was captured from the first page and enjoyed reading all the way through.  Darling is well-rounded and believable--the kind of girl one would want for a friend and a heroine that any child could safely emulate.  

Schmid is an excellent writer, and used several fun descriptive passages, such as "The fabric slipped on like butter over toast. . . " and "(the word) hung in the air of the dressing room like a damp petticoat on a laundry line."

The only potential problem with this book is it's length.  At nearly 300 pages, it is, perhaps, too long of a novel for readers of the younger end of the suggested age-range.  Older pre-teens, though, would be a perfect audience.

This book was such a joy to read--enough so that I, as an adult, plan to watch out for the next installment of Darling's story.

(I was given this book to read by the Amazon Vine program in return for an honest review.)

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Water Room by Christopher Fowler

The Water Room  
Christopher Fowler
4/5 stars

The Water Room is the second in the Bryant and May series.  I found the first, Full Dark House, to only be worthy of 3 stars, but liked the characters enough to try the second novel.  It was much more polished and with a better plot, and I did enjoy it.

Bryant and May are senior citizen detectives that work in the Peculiar Crimes Unit--the department that is given any bizarre cases that the Met doesn't wish to tackle.  They've been partners in the PCU for 50 years and have the rapport of a golden anniversary married couple.

The plot begins when an elderly woman is found dead, sitting in a chair, fully clothed and dry, yet she appears to have died by drowning.  Her brother asks Bryant to help out, and he willingly involves the PCU.  As they investigate her death, other strange things seem to be happening on the same street, culminating in another murder.  Bryant and May scramble to solve the case before an impossible deadline set by their supervisor.

The characters of Bryant and May are both well developed with distinctive, and engaging  personalities.  The mystery was interesting, and the solution believable.  Bryant's tangents into more eccentric possible solutions is a great addition to the main story line.

The Water Room is a solid, entertaining read, and I look forward to reading more in the series.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: International Books

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme by The Broke and the Bookish.

The topic for this week is actually "top ten books set outside the US", because the meme creators stated that they mostly read books taking place inside the US.  Because I mostly read books taking place in the UK, I decided that I couldn't include any of these books as well, and have made the topic "non-US/UK books", or "international books" for a smoother topic.

These are not necessarily my TOP ten, but rather ten that I have given a 5 star review.

1. Baking Cakes in Kigali by Gaile Parkin (my review here)
This book was a joy and delight to read.  It takes place in Kigali, Rwanda and is serious and funny all at the same time.  I highly recommend it.

(my review here)
This beautiful book is Di Robilant's memoir of his search for a nearly extinct rose.  The story takes him through several countries, as well as into the history of roses.  It's an excellent read.

(my review here)
I just recently read and reviewed this book about the lives of five ladies in Madrid, and the boss's son who comes to fire them.  It was thoroughly enjoyable.

4. Britt-Marie Was Here by Frederik Backman  (my review here)
This is another recent read, taking place in Sweden.  It's a feel good novel that kept me guessing till the end.

5. Geisha: a Life by Mineko Iwasaki (my review here)
This is the autobiography of the most successful geiko of her time.  I found it fascinating, and felt it was like talking to a good friend.

6.Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi (my review here)
A truly passionate book about books.  All bibliophiles should read it.

7.  In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson (my review here)
This is a nonfiction book about the US Ambassador to Hitler's Germany.  Larson is a stellar writer and this reads like a novel.

8.  King Solomon's Mines by H. Rider Haggard (my review here)
This is my favorite adventure story.  It takes place in Africa, real and imagined.  While it is dated, it is still a great yarn.

9. Sky Burial by Xinran (my review here)
There has been some discussion over the years as to whether this is really based on a true story.  That doesn't matter as far as I'm concerned--it is a gorgeous story that made me long to visit Tibet.

10. The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy (my review here)
This is a hilarious story of an American in Paris.  It had me laughing out loud often.

Monday, July 18, 2016

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

A Court of Thorns and Roses
Sarah J. Maas
4/5 stars

A Court of Thorns and Roses, the first of a series, is an engrossing YA fantasy with an exciting plot and lots of action.  It is very loosely based on the Beauty and the Beast story, which gives it a familiar feel, but it also contains some lovely twists and turns.

I would give a synopsis, but it is a difficult plot to explain--especially if one doesn't wish to give spoilers.  Suffice it to say that there is a strong-willed heroine who fights fairy creatures, falls in love, and makes difficult choices.  There is also a handsome fairy Lord, a curse that needs lifting, and a sadistic Queen.

Yes, these are all standard fantasy cliches, but Maas writes well enough to give life to the story.  Her characters had backstories that explained their actions in a credible way, and the plot progressed in a believably.  Despite it being over 400 pages, I read it quickly and was completely immersed in that world while doing so.  I cared for the characters and was interested in what would happen next.  I look forward to the next book in the series.