The review for the week is After Dark, by Haruki Murakami. This was an interesting book. It might take me a few more readings to really get deep into the book. In After Dark the reader is a part of a “we” that functions as an observer to a series of unusual events. The narrative bounces between several characters, and describes the interactions between the characters, or the solitary actions of the characters. The most interesting thing about this book for me is the difference in cultures, and in a way the observation of the characters provides a glimpse into a different world and culture than what is found in the Midwestern US. On the surface the book seems to be a straightforward narrative of a few days in the lives of different characters. That one is sucked into a television for a night, and that another is being hunted by a Chinese gang for assaulting one of their prostitues, is almost by the way, as if it is a normal occurrence.
It is a bit hard to say if one person would enjoy this book more than another-it is a well written and intriguing book. If you want something out of the box, this book should do the trick.
The review for this week is one of my all-time favorite books: Spindle’s End, by Robin McKinley. I picked this book up on a mission trip with a church group to South Carolina, and spent nearly all of my free time reading it. Spindle’s End is the first of McKinley’s books that I read, and remains one of my absolute favorites-and I have read a majority of her books.
Spindle’s End is a re-telling of Sleeping Beauty, which is one of ny least favorite fairy tales, because in all the original tales, the princess does absolutely nothing for herself. She waits to be rescued, without even being aware that she is waiting for rescue in most versions, because she is asleep. She is a passive princess, and I prefer main protagonists to have a bit more oomph. McKinley tells this story from the view point of the fairies who took the princess in and protected her, raising her as their own. The tale deviates, of course, in that the princess is not quite what anyone would expect a princess to be, and that is perhaps what protects her the most-that she does not act or look like a princess, and indeed, does not know she is the princess. The princess, Rosie (this isn’t a spoiler as the reader learns within the first few chapters who the princess becomes) is an amalgamation of all the gifts of the fairies that don’t quite turn out as intended and a rural upbringing at the back end of the country, and is most definitely NOT a passive princess.
I recommend this book for anyone who likes fairy tales, retold fairy tales, or general fantasies. It is appropriate for any reader who can handle longer chapter books-nothing terrifying or gory or R-rated, just lots of wonderful characters and a story that seems to have a little more depth each time it is read.
A Song For Ella Gray:
I am reviewing A Song For Ella Grey by David Almond this week. This book is essentially a re-telling of the tale of Orpheus and Eurydice, so if you know the original tale (they fall in love, wander the countryside for a while, she is bitten by a venomous snake and dies, he tries to bring her back from Hades and almost succeeds, but he looks back at the last moment, and Eurydice is dragged back into death), you know how Ella’s tale ends. This story is set in Northumberland, and is told from the perspective of Ella’s best friend, who grew up being best friends with Ella, and was the closest person to Ella until Ella heard Orpheus playing, and Orpheus heard Ella’s voice. The rest, as they say, is history, and the friends and family of Ella Gray are left putting their lives back together. It is an interesting way to re-tell an old tragedy. It is a fairly quick read. I recommend this book for anyone who loves retellings of fairy tales or myths.
The Infernal Devices:
This week I am going to review a trilogy-The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare. Full disclosure: I’m not a fan of her other books. I could do without The Mortal Instruments; more teenage angst than I can handle in one series. That said, I truly enjoyed The Infernal Devices, enough that I would read it again.
In The Infernal Devices, the reader follows Tessa as she travels from America to England during the Victorian period to meet her brother. Things don’t turn out as she was told they would, and she winds up living at the Institute, a training facility for the Nephilim-demon hunters with the blood of angels-for her protection. The trilogy flows from Clockwork Angel to Clockwork Prince to Clockwork Princess very smoothly. The characters are quite relatable for me, especially Tessa as she navigates a new culture, new people, strange and terrifying abilities, and the truth about her past.
The ending of the trilogy is a bittersweet ending, and does leave a few things open to imagination-which is the way I like it. I like having loose ends to play with, imagine about, and explore, without the author filling in every gap. A little mystery can be a wonderful thing, and it is used very well in this trilogy. Fair warning-if you are one of those who simply HAS to get the resolution, you’re going to have to read The Mortal Instruments series as well-the endings do tie in with each other. This six book series isn’t terrible, but there is a lot more teen drama (and drama in general) than in The Infernal Devices, and for me, it could have ended successfully after the third book.
I recommend The Infernal Devices to fans of Steampunk, fantasy, and Victorian fiction. It has a good balance of action, romance, and a touch of philosophy scattered here and there.