Wizard and Glass

….And 6 months later, I’m finished! I really don’t know why it took me so long to get through this one. I just kept putting it aside. It’s a 700 page book with tiny font, so I just kept dreading it, even though it’s in the middle of a series that I’m invested in. And I should be kicking myself for not finishing it sooner.

The Dark Tower series is arguably some of Stephen King’s best writing. Taking decades between books must have been infuriating for fans, however, some of us are fortunate enough to start the series once it has been finished. This book is mostly a flashback of young Roland and his love, Susan. Susan has been noticeably mentioned, but absent from the first three books of the series, so you know they are separated somehow. And learning the backstory is fantastic. You get to see a side of Roland that you just never expected. And he even cracks a joke in this book. Yep, just one. But it’s progress.

Randall Flagg is back as the Man in Black. The plague from The Stand is mentioned, as well. The Stand is my favorite SK book, by far. And I plan on rereading it again this year. I will be heartbroken if it doesn’t hold up against my memories. But, I have a feeling that it will be just as great as I remember.

Save Queen of Sheba

In my online book club, we have been having some great book discussions. One was about books from our childhood that we remember, had an impact, reread, etc. Mine were Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume books, RL Stine, Christopher Pike, Sweet Valley High, and VC Andrews. There were a few standout books like Autumn Street (still in my top 10 of all time), Dead Birds Singing, and Save Queen of Sheba. I didn’t really hit more mature reading until college.

I had completely forgotten about this book until our discussion and another member brought it up. So, I went to my local library and somehow they had a copy, complete with an old style checkout card and everything. I took my time and read slowly, given it’s 116 pages, I could have read it in an hour. But even looking at the cover, I was completely taken back to middle school. I must have read this book half a dozen times. And all I remembered with scalping.

It’s not a very politically correct book, but I read it in the 80s in Oklahoma, so I think it wasn’t meant to be for the time period. Indians AKA Native Americans are the bad guys in this book, killing at will, scalping everyone, and the poor innocent white people suffer. The Native American involuntary relocation isn’t really an issue. This book is definitely on the fiction side of historical fiction. But, I enjoyed it nonetheless. King David is a great character, suffering tremendously, doing all he can to stay alive. Queen of Sheba, being a 6 year old, is completely insufferable, but her behavior makes you appreciate KD even more for putting up with her.

This might not be the most spectacular book ever written, but it kept my attention as a kid enough that I wanted to read it multiple times. I’m not even sure if it is still in print, or how hard it is to find, but it would be great for young readers to learn how the world worked long ago.

Cinder

For my book challenge, I have to read a book based on a fairy tale, and I’ve been meaning to read this series for awhile, so now that all the books are out, it’s a great time to read them. I also have to read a book and it’s prequel, so I’m using book 3.5 and book 4 for this category. So, I win all around!

Cinder is pretty obvious as a modern retelling of Cinderella. She is a mechanic and a cyborg with a hidden secret. Unfortunately, her secret was so obvious to me that once it was revealed, I wasn’t surprised in the least. And this is rare for me. I almost never predict what’s going to happen, mostly because I have no desire to. But this one (and it’s a two part secret, neither one a surprise) wasn’t well hidden at all.

I was also a bit disappointed to read the plot tactic of “I can’t be honest because people won’t understand me” in this book. I hate this in books. And it’s almost exclusive to YA books. This strategy never seems authentic to me. Mostly because the end result is always the same. Whoever the secret is being hidden from never actually cares what the secret is, and if the secret keeper had been honest from the beginning, big giant messes could have been avoided. It’s just sloppy storytelling.

I did appreciate the creativity of the story and strength Cinder had. Strong female main characters are becoming more popular, which is great. And I do look forward to the rest of the series and seeing what other fairy tales have been reimagined. I absolutely recommend this book. My pickiness over the plot shouldn’t deter anyone else from reading it.

 

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

I have owned this book for a few years and never got around to reading it. Which is sad, because it was wonderful! I knew nothing about it, other than the odd photo on the front, so I was surprised when it started out not at all peculiar with just a regular kid’s story. That didn’t last long, however.

It seems like most YA books are written for a younger crowd, understandably, but this book felt different. Definitely still YA, but there was an element of maturity to it. Maybe it was the darker subject matter, the time period, or the vocabulary, but I didn’t roll my eyes at the cheesiness at all. I think it helps that the main character is a boy, and one with a serious mind and an important task in front of him. He’s flawed and needs help, but isn’t afraid to admit it.

Jacob gets caught up in a world he doesn’t understand, nor do the readers, and we are all lead down the path of understanding together. Revelations come slowly and naturally rather than all at once and indecipherable. I’m not sure if Ransom Riggs (what a fantastic name, btw) has written any other books, but I definitely look forward to the next two installments in this series.

Troublemaker

I usually don’t read books written by celebrities. Most of them don’t really have interesting enough lives for me to want to read about them. Being an actor just doesn’t impress me. Nor does being famous. And these people aren’t really writers. And reading about their struggles in how to make it in Hollywood isn’t interesting. There are a few exceptions. I’ve read Tina Fey’s and Amy Poehler’s books because I do respect both of them as funny women who have changed the game in Hollywood. And Fey, especially, wrote a hilarious book. But I had to read a book written by a celebrity for my book challenge, and Scientology is just so fascinating, so choosing Troublemaker was a no brainer for me.

And I loved it. What a crazy story!! It is hard for me to take pleasure in reading about another’s pain, though. I feel so bad for Remini and all she went through. To feel so lost and let down by her church really is a terrible feeling, one many can relate to, albeit not in Scientology, since most members stay with the church, or go into hiding if they have left. This fact should tell you something, as well. This church isn’t one to be trifled with. They have tremendous power, but thankfully, most people think they are crazy, so their power only reaches so far.

I’m not a religious person and believe a lot of it is brainwashing (yep, I said it), but Scientology takes the cake. It’s absolute madness what these people will believe. I watched the Going Clear documentary and fully intend to read the book, as well. And there’s always the Southpark episode about it. One that was so controversial that Isaac Hayes (a dedicated Scientologist) quit the show over it.

Remini’s story is highly readable, given all the Scientology terminology, and can be read in a day, even. I was completely taken in by her story. I am glad she was able to escape with her family (mostly) intact. That’s a rare thing within the church. And I hope others are able to do the same as successfully.

The Night Circus

I’m a big fan of audiobooks. My only problem is that I can never finish them before the library needs it back. I try to get shorter books, but that doesn’t always work. I ended up getting through most of this one, then getting a ebook from the library to finish. Either way, it was a delightful book.

Several people have recommended this one to me, and I finally made it a priority, and I really enjoyed it. I can’t say it was one of the best books I’ve ever read, but it was unique, vivid, and has lovely characters. The ending was a bit odd, but not one that I would balk about. The narrator was fantastic and as I was reading the ebook, I could hear character’s voices in my head, especially Poppet and Widget.

I’m not a big fan of fantasy, but this book felt real to me. And to visit the Night Circus would be an absolute delight, if not for the food alone! Never before have I so wanted to eat a chocolate mouse! Celia and Marco’s story weaves in and out and finally together on a well balanced scale. For having so many characters and, seemingly, several plots, this story never drags or confuses. It’s spectacularly written. I look forward to more from Morgenstern.

Cat’s Cradle

I’m pretty new to Vonnegut. I have read “Harrison Bergeron” but, up until last year, that was it. In the 2015 book challenge, I had to read a book that was at the bottom of my to-read list. So, I went to Goodreads to look at my list, and there, at number 1 (meaning the first book I added way way ago) was Slaughterhouse-Five, his masterpiece. And I really enjoyed it, but I didn’t love it like many do.

So, when I had to find a satirical book for this year’s challenge, I was tempted to try Vonnegut again. I really wanted to like his novels. I wanted him to be as important of an author that many say he is. And, lo and behold, Cat’s Cradle entered my world. Easy to say, it’s spectacular.

I can see how this book isn’t read as much, especially in the Bible Belt. However, it should be, especially in today’s times. Remove Communism, replace it with Islam, and you have present day. The story of the ice-nine became much more important as the story progressed, but the overall theme of religion, denying any religion other than one’s own, banning a certain religion, etc rings more true today than ever before. I’m not sure if I had read this book 10 years ago, that I would have found it as brilliant. However, this book and I were meant to meet at this time and place. Call me a Bokononist.