I reread this series over the course of five months in preparation for Snicket’s Who Could That Be at This Hour? I first discovered ASOUE when I was ten years old, around the time when the sixth book was being published – I purchased a boxed set of the first three volumes through the Scholastic book fair and continued to purchase each new book on the day of release for me to devour.
Very few series ‘from my childhood’ have I continued to read on a regular basis – in fact, I am fairly certain the only one is the Artemis Fowl series. With ASOUE, I occasionally picked them up and read parts earlier on but since the series concluded I haven’t really read them much. After reading The Mysterious Benedict Society, I found myself desperately wanting to read ASOUE. I was pleased to find that the books felt exactly the same as when I had read them at a younger age; it didn’t feel like an awkward step back into the past.
I only read The End once. After that first reading, I felt very strange and I thought the last book was odd and I wasn’t very comfortable with it. This time, reading it immediately after all the others, I thought it fit more naturally as part of the series and was an appropriate ending – it didn’t ‘stick out’ as much.
J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography by Humphrey Carpenter
Date read: 22 September to 6 October
Why I picked it up: Interest in Tolkien
Rating: 4 stars
A satisfying introductory volume to Tolkien’s life. Much can be expanded upon, I think, and I’ll find that in other books I plan to read, but this was a good starting point for someone like me who wishes to learn everything possible about Tolkien and his mythology. For me, this book helped to tie a lot of things together – I had read a lot of other books specifically on The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings and happenings in Tolkien’s life were, naturally, often referenced, as was this volume in particular. To just have a straightforward read-through in chronological order of Tolkien’s life helped put things in order for me.
I have found that other Tolkien scholars (most noticeably for me John D. Rateliff) take issue with certain interpreation’s of Carpenter’s, not without reason, so I wouldn’t say this is the definitive biography on Tolkien (as there very rarely are ‘definitive’ biographies) but it is a great starting point.
Afternoon of the Elves by Janet Taylor Lisle
Date read: 7 November
Genre: Children’s literature
Why I picked it up: Fan of another book by the author
Rating: 3 stars
One of my earliest favourite books (from when I was six or seven, probably) is The Lost Flower Children. I thought it a delightful little tale, but for some reason I never picked up the author’s other books. I decided it was about time, and I blazed through this one.
I’m glad I did not read it as a child. I would have been highly disappointed to find there were actually no fairies in it. I was still disappointed! But at my age I was able to see this wasn’t that sort of book and I was able to appreciate it more for what it actually is.
I did wonder what I would have thought of the book had I read it at its intended age level? Would I have believed that what Harriet saw was what she said she saw? It was easy to understand that there weren’t actually any elves, despite the story being told from Harriet’s perspective, but I wonder if I would have realized it as quickly at a younger age.
I thought Sara-Kate was very well-written, an intriguing character truly impossible to decipher.
Hemingway on Writing by Larry W. Phillips
Date read: 22 September to 24 September
Why I picked it up: Fan of Hemingway, book sounded interesting
Rating: 2 stars
A rather thin and unfascinating volume…Hemingway didn’t really give ‘writing advice’, but the author of this book has picked through quotes and things that can be or are more generally about writing. None of the quotes were very memorable; nothing stood out to me – not sure if this Hemingway’s fault or the compiler’s!
The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner’s Dilemma by Trenton Lee Stewart
Date read: 14 October to 16 October
Genre: Children’s fiction
Why I picked it up: Purchased and the first two, felt obliged to read the last
Rating: 1 star
I purchased these three books from the bargain section at my local indie bookstore…they have know all been happily desposed of at my favourite used children’s bookstore!
Ugh. I’m rather impressed with myself for finishing this book. If I don’t like a book, I have no qualms dropping it, but since I bought the trilogy for $10 and trudged through the first books, I decided to stick it out for the third. You can read what I did/didn’t like about the first two books here; all the things I didn’t like in the first books are intensified in this one and unfortunately the few things I did like about the first books are not present in this one.
About halfway through the book I got very frustrated and decided to make notes on just what was bothering me so much: Necessary but unnecessary awkward over-explanation (hard to describe but you know it when you see it – for example, ‘she pronounced rendezvous as if it rhymes with “Ben says mouse”‘ – this maybe isn’t the greatest example but others included explaining why a door wasn’t locked, or why something had to be done a certain way, etc.), awkward out of place torture (pg 264) and passages trying to ‘up the risk’ (pg 280), puzzles too contrived and too oddly/too logically/too easily solved (for example page 223). Okay, that last one sounds like I’m being picky. I’m having trouble describing what I didn’t like, but I think just found everything a little awkward or too contrived. The book has all the elements of an intense, daring, child adventure/thriller/mystery but they are poorly executed.
I think the overall impression I got from this book was that it reads like a first draft, as in you just had the idea for the story and you wrote it down as it came to you. The book needs a lot of work, but you have the basic frame. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like this book got the haul over it could have used.
Generation X by Doug Coupland
Date finished: 21 September
Genre: Satirical fiction
Why I picked it up: On my TBR list for ages
Rating: 2 stars
Dunno. I haven’t really got any thoughts on this book…it just didn’t do anything for me. It was mildly interesting when I was reading it? But now I can’t recall anything about the story. Meh.