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Archive for the ‘Fiction–Fantasy’ Category

“It was too long,” my friend Jo protested of Inkheart.  “I am just so discouraged by the state of juvenile fiction these days!”  I was only halfway through the book myself, and thought this rather a strong statement.  Although Jo is the Ph.D. I’m not always ready to defer to her literary assessment.  When Dd1 finished and announced she really didn’t like the book, I was beginning to wonder if the book’s content didn’t quite match it’s hype.  I had to admit, I was a little disappointed; but it wasn’t until a discussion with fellow bibliophile, Leah, that I understood why.  

“It was a good idea,” I admitted, “but wasn’t executed very well.”  

“It could be that it was translated from German,” said Leah.

“Oh, yes.  I wondered about that. I mean, why was it written in German.”

“Well, Cornelia Funke is German.”

“Ahhh!” I said.

“You know, I always wondered, if the characters were leaving the books, I mean, when you read from another copy, wouldn’t they still be in the book.”

“Yes!” she exclaimed, pointing.  “This is exactly the kind of problems that I had with it.  And then like, why in the world would the aunt try to go back to her house when she knew that the villains knew where she lived.”

“I know.  That made no sense,” I agreed.

On the other hand, there have been some very good children’s books written lately.  Take Michael Buckley’s The Sisters Grimm series.  They are excellent.  The  storyline is well thought out and executed, full of suspense and a lot of humor.  There are blogs upon blogs of kids talking about them, and wondering, like my daughter, when try-outs will be held for the first movie. Speaking of movies, Inkheart was a bit of a disappointment there as well.  It really had the potential to be a great movie, but flopped from the getgo.  Movies based on books are either done really well, as in the case of The Lord of the Rings series or the first Narnia movie; and I must admit the one based on The City of Ember was excellent.  The directors were probably fans of the novels and did their homework.  Others such as Inkheart or Prince Caspian seemed to be rushed onto the screen therefore the storyline had to be manipulated a bit.

In short, I don’t think that juvenile fiction is in a sorry state at the moment.  I forgot to ask Jo how much of that genre she has read lately.  My daughter recently blogged on 21 Balloons by William Pène du Bois herself (See http://talesfromduncanrd.wordpress.com/2009/03/26/the-twenty-one-balloons/). This interesting work of fiction had the added effect of spurring some of the children in her class to watch a documentary on a volcanic eruption on the island of Krakatoa.  The City of Ember (the first in a series of books by Jeanne DuPrau) is a post-apocalyptic book that is not only a non-threatening social commentary that gets kids to think about actions and their impending consequences; but is also full of mystery and edge of your seat action.

In short, I think I’ll spend a little more time in the J section of the stacks.  I’ve got my eyes on Eragon and Pendragon next, so it should be an exciting summer.

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People’s tastes in literature differ about as much as tastes in music.  Take one DF (dear friend) for instance.  When, I recommended Ted Dekker’s Circle Trilogy, Black, Red, and White, she just replied that she had tried to read it, but didn’t like it at all.  “I think it was too fast paced for me…or maybe it’s just I’ve spent so much time reading 19th Century English literature.”  Jane Eyre is her favorite.  She has read it countless times, and I’ve heard her remark more than once that she just wants to “be Jane”.  I used to chuckle about this, until I really thought about it.  What does that say about her that she wants to insert herself into this really dark tale?  Is she looking for a mystery man, full of dark secrets, not the least of which is (I don’t want to spoil it) something he keeps locked away in his lonely old house, or does she want to be persecuted by a wicked Aunt, but through hard work and study be able to make something of herself?    Granted, I like the book, despite it’s darkness; but do I obsess about it?  Absolutely not.  I will not write any more about this Bronte work because I’m hoping my friend will defend herself with some choice comments as to its merit and beauty.  Someone who really loves a book, should write about it.  So, come out with it, and be convincing, please!

Another friend of mine borrowed the first book in the Circle Trilogy last week.  She asked for the next two books today, as she had already finished the first one.  I asked her if she liked it, but strangely she said, “Yes.”  In sort of a questioning way, and then after much thought said, “Yeah, I liked it.”  In my head I’m thinking, “Okay, you read the first 300+ pages in less than a week and you’re asking for the next two, and you’re not quite sure if you like it?”  I told her about my first friend and her comments about 19th Century English Lit., and this friend said, “She should read Jane Eyre.  I’m reading it now and ugh.”  Now don’t assume this friend (#2) is not well read.  Her mother was my college English professor, and is also something of an Anglophyle (her mother that is), so friend #2 has cut her gums on Dorothy L. Sayers and T.S. Elliott.  As to her actual tastes, I’m not quite sure.  I know that we spent a winter together fighting over Brock and Bodie Thoene’s Zion Chronicles, which is a Christian Historical fiction series set in Israel during the 1940’s, during the time it became a nation. 

I think my tastes in books could be defined as various shades of passion.  There are some genres, of course, I just don’t read at all (horror, romance, etc.); but of the books I read, I really just love them all.  If you had asked me two weeks ago what my favorite genre was, I would have said “mysteries”; however, the same question several months ago would have been answered with “historical fiction”.  This week, however, I think I have indeed discovered what one genre it is that affects me like a drug.  When I’m not reading it, I think about it.  I want to talk about it to everyone I meet (well, that’s almost any good book I’ve read), I stay up much too late reading it, and when I have to turn out the lights, I’m sad because I can’t be reading.  I walk around the house almost in a daze, wondering if there is anyway I can just enter that world I’m reading about.  I don’t do the things that need to be done, because I just have to finish this chapter in the book.  I carry the book with me and attempt to read it everywhere:  in the school car line, at traffic lights (this can be dangerous), in the waiting room at the chiropractic office, between dance classes.  I take baths instead of showers, because you can’t read in the shower.  My DH sees the effects and wonders if I’m reading something that is going to “edify me spiritually”.  “Who cares?” I reply.  “I need this.  I need an escape every once in awhile.  I need to read about a place that is so unlike my own little world and that can transport me there every time I pick up the book.” Now, I admit I have discovered that what I’m really longing for is Heaven and God, but I don’t take the time to remind myself of this when I’m in the midst of a good read.  Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier is one such book.  It is pure fantasy, and I realized the first fantasy I had read since reading The Lord of the Rings.  I have always loved folklore, especially Irish, and Marillier brings to life the old tale of the Wild Swans and weaves a story of love and sacrifice that leaves you heart sick until the very end.  Many may remember this fairy tale of a young girl who must free her six brothers from an evil spell that has changed them into swans.  She is called to a difficult and painful task by “the Fair Folk” and in addition is required to complete her task without utterring a sound.  This story will leave you breathlessly wanting more.  In fact, I am having to force myself to stick to my self-imposed rule:  Alternate Fiction with Non-fictionObviously, this rule is a good one, else nothing would get done around my house.  So, if you want fantasy, choose Daughter of the Forest, if you want a good, unique, “fast-paced” thriller, read Ted Dekker’s Circle Trilogy, if you want an exciting historical novel try the Thoene’s Zion Chronicles,  and if you’re a hopeless romantic and really want to be bummed out, read Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre.   (Oooooh, I’m going to be getting some comments now, I know.)

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