Ramblings and Ruminations

BEST READS OF 2019 – 2ND QUARTER

*tries to make a grand entrance and sort of muffs it*

 

*picks self up floor and flips cape over shoulder like a champ*

 

How goes it, my loyal and most cool Stormtroopers?

Life has been crazy for Dear Old Darth, lately –  what with building the 3rd Death Star and everything (YOU DIDN’T THINK WE’D STOP MAKING THOSE, NOW DID YOU?).  Because of the pressures of the job, I’ve been having trouble keeping up my personal log (aka – blog).

So, obviously, this blog post is ridiculously late and I should be posting the 3rd quarter wrap up, not the second but, eh, what can I say?  This year has gotten away from me.  *awkward laugh*

But, you know what?  Since the blogging police haven’t caught me yet, I ain’t even gonna apologize for it.

 

So, with that Non-Explanation out of the way . . . *coughs* . . . Onto the book reviews!

 

 

 

Find It On Goodreads

A powerful allegory about how light cannot commune with darkness.  Heaven might not be as crowded as we might have previously supposed, and what we truly desire may not be as clear to us as we thought.

I find the idea of trying to review Lewis’s non-fiction utterly boggling (it is difficult enough to do justice to his fiction) and so, I shall simply have to exhort you to read it for yourself and offer up a few quotes to give you just a glimpse of the beauty and power within its pages.

 

“There is but one good; that is God. Everything else is good when it looks to Him and bad when it turns from Him.” 

 

“And yet all loneliness, angers, hatreds, envies, and itchings that (Hell) contains, if rolled into one single experience and put into the scale against the least moment of the joy that is felt by the least in Heaven, would have no weight that could be registered at all. Bad cannot succeed even in being bad as truly as good is good.” 

 

“Everyone who wishes it does. Never fear. There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. To those who knock it is opened.” 

 

 

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“Unearthly” is the only world that properly describes Out of the Silent Planet. This is exactly the sort of science fiction I like – a “quiet” sort of adventure, a magnificent world, but ultimately, all of it mere trappings to discuss deeper ideas. Lewis uses the fantastical setting of space to pose fundamental questions—less than questions, but rather suggestions. He truly sticks to his speculative genre and does exactly that – he speculates. The beginning of the novel is fascinatingly creepy and this Gothic feeling lingers as Ransom is rocketed (literally) into adventure and lands on an alien world. The suspense grows as Ransom is filled with both terror and entrancement. But then the fear gives away when he finally makes “first contact” with the peoples of this unknown world – and we are plunged into something that is not a nightmare – but more like a dream, for there is a slow dreamy quality to this novel that never lets up. The tone shifts gears into something fantastical and mythological in feel. Most authors, while portraying something bizarre, cannot do so without making it grotesque – but not C.S. Lewis. He makes the truly weird irresistible – unsettling  without ever being revolting. Lewis does what few other writers can do – He makes PEACE exciting. In a world where writers are enamored with sensationalism and rely on violence and chaos to create conflict and excitement, Lewis does what feels like the impossible. Ransom is an explorer in a new world, the hero of a science fiction novel, in conflict with evil men, and yet it is all as peaceful as a reverie.

Read my FULL REVIEW ON GOODREADS.

 

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Reading Daddy Long Legs was a tad like drinking a glass of lemonade – it’s sweet, zesty, a little tart.  Utterly devoid of nutrition and yet, somehow, quite refreshing and satisfying.

I don’t know why, but I really like novels written in a letter format (a string of letters with a first person POV).  It produces a conversational style that is both frivolous and deep, confiding and witty. It’s as if everything is being viewed through a magnifying glass, the people and things and thoughts in our lives feel more intimate, more tender, more worth looking at.  Daddy Long Legs is a straightforward, school girl story vaguely reminiscent of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s own narrative style.  Although, confession, I think I like Jean Webster a little better – her heroine seems a little less like a Mary Sue.  It’s an old-fashioned romance but, more importantly and most interesting of all, it’s a coming of age story that held my interest until the final page.

Find It On Goodreads

 

This book’s style reminded me just a bit of one of my favorite authors, Sid Fleischman.  It has the same hometown boy feel full of zesty adventures, hilariously backwoodsy dialogue, and peculiar but heartfelt characters that are sure to win your heart!

One of blurbs on the back cover of this book dub novel a mix between C.S. Lewis and Mark Twain – and they’re not wrong.  It has the conversational folksiness of Mark Twain, combined with the simple and light-hearted world building style of C.S. Lewis.

I will say, I WAS pretty disappointed by the ending.  Things wrapped up way too quickly and in the wrong direction (in my opinion).  I was willing to have an open mind about the ending, since there was an advertisement in the back for a sequel in which I expected things to be tied up more satisfactory but, upon doing a little research, THERE IS NOT A SEQUEL TO BE FOUND.

WHAT IS THIS MADNESS????

 

 

 

Find It On Goodreads

 

I love pretty much anything set in Asia – I don’t know why, but I’ve always been fascinated by that region and their cultures.  I have read several novels set in Korea or China, but not many set in Japan, making this novel a treat and a relatively new experience.  The authoress of this wonderful book was born in China and did missionary work in Japan, and her background is clearly felt in the writing.  The book’s accuracy and atmosphere feels palpable.

Storytelling in all its forms is, obviously, of great interest to me, so the focus on Bunraku (Japanese puppet theater) was fascinating.  I’m a fan of puppetry, but I only knew the most vague details about this particular type of puppet theater and I was eager to know more.  This novel’s portrayal of theater life has plenty of drama on and off the stage! The political upheaval of this time period paired with a young boy’s coming of age story kept me wrapped up in the story.  The cherry on top was a Robin Hood / Zorro vibe and a few twists at the end that genuinely surprised me as the book drew to a satisfactory close.

Note:  Be warned:  If you have any affinity at all for Asian food – this book will make you HUNGRY.

 

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Of all the books I’ve read, P.G. Wodehouse is one that truly makes me think of my own style of writing (at least, in regards to my Tales of Ambia series).  He’s witty, bubbly, irreverent, and has an odd mixture of taking everything serious and nothing seriously all at the same time.  The zany slapstick has a veneer of sophisticated wit that gives it a certain panache and the stories are often a comedy of errors that expounds (with great enjoyment) on the simple absurdity of the ordinary human.  CLEARLY, HOW COULD ALLISON NOT LOVE THIS?

Quirky absurdity is on glorious display in this series of stories that had me laughing till I cried.  To paraphrase another review, it’s almost like a English sitcom, full of British-isms, butlers, and balderdash.

 

 

Note:  I listened to these novels on audio book, which I highly recommend, as the English narrator’s laborious tones simply add to the amusement.

 

Find It On Goodreads

 

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.  Mary Stewart’s novels are adventure stories about women, for women, and by a woman – written in a way that is always grounded in the reality.  You won’t find these heroines reverting too the cartoony kung-fu moves of Captain Marvel – but you will find them thinking, reacting, and acting with guts and intelligence.  Of all the Stewart heroine’s, Christy is perhaps the most openly brazen and bold of them all.  Privileged and wealthy since her youth, Christy is accustomed to having her own way.  She reacts with the exact same superiority towards the villains, rather flummoxing them as she challenges them with her casual certainty that she will invariably get what she wants.

Mary Stewart is one of my top five favorite authors and if you read even a single paragraph of her work – you’ll see why.  She weaves words together effortlessly, spinning sentences out in one long, shining strand of pictorial and rhythmic perfection.  What else can I say?  She’s staggeringly good, Jeeves – the absolute most.  From chapter one, I was immediately immersed in the dust, the heat, and the mystery of the exotic Damascus.  Add to that Stewart’s talent for creating a spine-tingling plot (she is the QUEEN of suspense) I was riveted until the last page.  There were some twists at the end that LITERALLY made my jaw drop as I gasped aloud.

Find It On Goodreads

There is a crazy freedom to this plot that reminds me of the sweet weirdness of a Pixar film.  It has everything from rats flying miniature biplanes to Scottish Brownies riding dragons, making this a madcap adventure.  But it is also the sensitive coming-of-age story of a boy trying to find a family.

Normally, I don’t like Cornelia Funke’s style of writing – it feels clumpy and awkward – but this book was so much smoother and had a more definite style, leading me to believe that this translator was infinitely superior to Funke’s previous translators.

This book took “quest” and fulfilled that word to its full capacity.  It was one long, side-splitting adventure that kept spiraling into wilder and wilder territory.  It’s heartfelt, magical, and utterly hilarious.

One thing I MUST insist upon.  I beg you, on my hands and knees, if you want to properly experience this story, LISTEN TO THE AUDIO BOOK.  Brendan Fraser’s narration is PERFECTION.  He even does the SOUND EFFECTS (his munching is particularly amusing) and it was like a wholehearted one-man radio show.  There is a cozy, unstudied intimacy to his style – you’ll feel like you’re on a sofa in PJ’s in front of a crackling fire listening to your uncle read you a story.  At least, that’s how I felt.

 

 

Find It On Goodreads

 

I read the first book in this series years ago and fell head-over-heels in love with it.  My infatuation was so intense, that I felt downright repelled by any of the other books in the series.  I have issues with sequels, and I was positive that no follow up novel could ever compare or measure up to the first novel. The first book was so marvelous, I just wanted it to keep going.  I felt as broken-hearted and suspicious as the Swallows to discover that we wouldn’t be camping on Wildcat Island this summer.  Like them, I was wounded and lost.  How could this new adventure compare to the old one?

But that was the genius – this isn’t more of the same – this is something new.  There is a slightly wilder, tangier feeling to this book than its predecessor.  This time around, our young heroes are more likely to reenact ancient explorers or an adventurous band of thieves than pirates and sailors.  And yet the spirit is still the same. It still has the same sturdy, British attitude and stiff upper lip spirit that make it as attractive as a warm fire.

Sometimes, a book that reminds me of my childhood ignites a wistfulness inside of me and makes me sad for the special time that can never be mine again.

But then there are some books that don’t just remind me of my childhood – I AM a child again when I am reading it.  Time falls away and I am in that happy place once more, and when I close the book, there is no sadness or wistfulness, only pleasure and complete satisfaction because, for a little while, I got to go back.

 

 

Find It On Goodreads

 

I really don’t know what exactly it is about this series that I love so much.  It’s not brilliant or mindboggling – but there is something completely and unabashedly FUN about it.  There’s a simple, straightforward HEART to this series that is simply irresistible.  Something about it moves me to pleasure, joy, and near-tears . . . especially the endings.  At the end of Mists of Paracosmia, I was very nearly crushed and spent the last chapter in the most horrid fear, but the author did not disappoint me, and left me with the same bitter-sweet surprise and contentment at the end of Mists of Paracosmia as she did with Escape to Vindor.

Vindor and its surrounding regions reminds me just a bit of J. M. Barrie’s Neverland in the fact that children’s imaginations directly affect the development of this mirror world – resulting in the most delightful hodge-podge of world building.  The world was expanded even more in this sequel and added samurai and a host of other interesting peoples to the centaurs, goblins and mermaids of the previous book.

Mists of Paracosmia also offers an added fun twist to portal travel by shoving fantasy creatures onto college campuses.  I was especially excited (and tickled) by the fact that Bat the Goblin (my favorite character from book one) is transported to Megan’s campus, resulting in one hilarious scenario after another as he struggles to blend in with the normal world.

Our heroine from the former novel, Megan, is now attending college and her younger brother is the one doing most of the world building.  At first, this gave me a start, but as the pages kept turning, I began to appreciate the theme that Golus was building.  This time, it’s really Arden who must take the otherworldly journey  to discover his courage and self-worth.  And, in a theme that struck closer to home for me, Megan is learning to embrace the wonder of what’s right in front of her and the magic of an ordinary life.

 

 

Find It On Goodreads

 

We’ve probably all wondered this or asked the question at least once in our lives.  Why does pain exist?  Why do bad things happen to good people?  Why would a loving God allow us to experience pain in any capacity?

By the end of this book, any who read it ought to be not only enlightenment but, more importantly, humbled.

If, by some chance, this book doesn’t answer the question sufficiently for you, it should encourage you to surrender our questions, release our puffed up assumptions, and hand over our questions and confusion to a Mighty God.

As always, it is difficult if not impossible for me to accurately relate the beneficial genius of Lewis’s non-fiction work.  You’ll have to read it for yourself as I leave you yet again with a few tantalizing quotes.

 

“We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

 

“Love may, indeed, love the beloved when her beauty is lost: but not because it is lost. Love may forgive all infirmities and love still in spite of them: but Love cannot cease to will their removal. Love is more sensitive than hatred itself to every blemish in the beloved… Of all powers he forgives most, but he condones least: he is pleased with little, but demands all.” 

 

“A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell.” 

 

And there you have it, compadres!  My favorite reads of 2019’s 2nd quarter!

 

 

Have you read any of these books, my fellow book lovers?  If not, are you going to?

As always, I’ve added very convenient links for you to add these titles to your already overwhelming TBR pile!

Notice the pattern as the criminal repeats the same crime over and over.  *EVIL SMILE*

 

Yeah, you’re welcome.

 

Now, pardon me, I have to go finish all of my reviews for the THIRD quarter of 2019.  *SCREAMS LIKE A DYING DONKEY*

 

 

 

 

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8 thoughts on “BEST READS OF 2019 – 2ND QUARTER

  1. have Lewis’s nonfiction on my TBR and Classics Club lists, but well, I’m stalling.

    I read Inkheart when I was much younger and enjoyed it, but my enjoyment petered out with the later books. I tried rereading Inkheart, and well, the writing doesn’t appeal to this adult. Maybe I will enjoy Dragon Rider as you say the writing is smoother, and I will definitely try the audiobook. I’m not a fan of audiobooks overall, but sometimes they work perfectly (the James Herriot novels narrated by Christopher Timothy are just about perfection, assuming one isn’t grossed out by farm facts, to me).

    I’ve exhausted Mary Stewart’s romantic suspense novels (except maybe one that my library doesn’t have), and I still have her magical ones left. I’m so glad I picked these up this year, my favorites are still the first two I read. The Moonspinners and This Rough Magic.

    1. HEY LIVIA! *waves*

      Yeah, I know what you mean about stalling on classics. *eye balls shelf of classics warily* I think I’ve seen some people suggest that for every fiction book they read, they force themselves to read a few chapters of a classic. That might work . . .

      Oh, I tried Inkheart once too and the clumpy writing style really turned me off. Dragon Rider is so much better! OH WOW, Christopher Timothy narrated All Creatures Great and Small? *FUZZY FEELINGS* That’s fabulous. I love that show to pieces: it feels like home. I’ll have to check those audio books out!

      Every time you mention Mary Stewart, I grin from ear to ear. It’s so rare to see other MS fans, and it gives me a burst of happiness when I see you commenting about her! <3

      Aww, it's always sad when we exhaust a favorite author. :/

      Moonspinners and This Rough Magic are some of my favorites too! *high fives* I really liked Airs Above the Ground, as well.

  2. You’re secretly Darth Vader. I KNEW IT. It all makes sense now! :O

    Ahem.

    These all sound like such fantastic reads! I have shamefully never read any nonfiction C.S. Lewis, but I’ve been meaning to foreverrrr. Man, everything he says–it’s so powerful! Those quotes you shared were spectacular. I also want to read Out of the Silent Planet, and even more so after reading your glowing review!

    My Man Jeeves is one I DEFINITELY have needed in my life for ages. I can sadly never find a copy though. *pouts* One day though!

    Thank you for sharing all this bookish goodness. I always love these posts!

    1. I’VE BEEN BUSTED!! *GRINS AND TWIRLS CLOAK*

      Ooo – well, no shame in that – all that means is that you still have the delight of reading them for the FIRST time ahead of you! *claps hands together* You are in for a treat, I gaurantee it! I know, even in one sentence, there is so much Truth packed into Lewis’s writing! Awww, thank you! *pleased grin* I’m so glad I could have encouraged you to give it a go!

      OH MY GOODNESS YES. I think you would LOVE Jeeves! I think you can get very cheap ebook copies of them from Amazon – and my libraries carry physical copies of them! But, I HAVE to yet again recommend the audio book versions – they are marvelous!

      AWW – THANK YOU. My pleasure! Every time I post a book review post I think “Should I be bothering with this?” – but your comments always perk me up and brighten my blog and my day! Thank you, Christine!! <3 <3

  3. And my TBR list grows again… thank you for that.
    The Master Puppeteer looks especially interesting. I think I have The Great Divorce somewhere, and I intend to read it sometime soon. I read– and very much enjoyed– My Man Jeeves last year.

    1. HI BLUE! Thanks for commenting.

      HAHA – *EVIL SMILE*

      via Gfycat

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      The Master Puppeteer was definitely interesting! And, OH YES, The Great Divorce is amazing! *pushes it gently towards you*

      AHH – you’ve read Jeeves??? *BEAMS* Those are such ludicrously delightful books!

  4. LOVE the Starwars gifs…honestly, how do you come up with such great wee phrases? 😉 Sadly I haven’t read any of these yet, but I’d love to – given the fact I’m literally STEEPED to the ears in my TBR books and a book pool on Goodreads besides, you wonder when I will ever get to read everything I want to.

    Probably not. *sniffs*

    But ‘Do or do not, there is no try’!! (I love Yoda’s quotes XD) I’ll just do my best an’ plough on through.

    Many thanks for another delightful dialogue to digest. :p

    1. HEY ABBIE!!

      Hehe, I’m glad you liked them! They just pop into mah head. *grins*

      ARGH – I know! EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. I log onto Goodreads I add MORE books to my TBR pile and I’m drowning.

      GIF

      I understand your feelings. *sad hug*

      HAHA – Yes, we must take courage from Master Yoda!!! 😛

      Aww, thank YOU, Abbie! Every one of your comments is such a delight!

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