Tagged: fiction

The View from Saturday

The View from Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg, 4/5

A nuanced and well-written story, told from the perspectives of four individual middle schoolers and their teacher, who discover the transformative power of love and friendship as they compete in an academic bowl. Even though it is written for younger readers, the author doesn’t talk down or preach. This, combined with the varying first person perspectives and nonlinear timeline make for a challenging and meaningful reading experience at any age.

Why I read it: a recommendation from one of my students.

Magical Swimming and Flying Adventures

Magical Swimming and Flying Adventures by Elsa Fujinaka, 5/5

This little book has as many fairies and mermaids as you could possibly wish for, but my favorite character is the merfairyunicorn with two problems (don’t worry, the delightful duo on the cover are very good at solving problems). I was especially impressed by the detailed artwork, which is impressively consistent for all 16 pages and complements the story perfectly. I hope the author writes more books in the future!

Why I read it: What proud aunt could resist?

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, collected by Alvin Schwartz, drawings by Stephen Gammell, 3/5

It is clear that children are the target audience for this book, but the simple layout and child-friendly writing style provide a disturbing contrast with the extremely dark and gross stories it contains. I wouldn’t have wanted to read such terrifying things as a kid and certainly wouldn’t want my own children to be exposed to these ideas at a young age. As an adult, I found the stories to be entertaining, if a bit simplistically retold, and the artwork in particular is outstanding.

Why I read it: a thrift store find. I’ve always been interested in fairy tales and myths, so paranormal stories are not that much of a stretch.

Ghost Stories of Canada

Ghost Stories of Canada by Val Clery, 4/5

This collection of short stories does not get off to a great start, opening with a stale tale that features a cliched haunted doll. Luckily, the rest of the book has a fun, Canadian flavour and shows off the author’s respectable story-telling skills and personal enthusiasm for the topic.

Why I read it: a thrift store find.

Dead of Winter

Dead of Winter by Christopher Hale, 2/5

A mediocre murder mystery with vintage charm. Its main assets are its worn, vintage hardcover, old book smell, and browned pages with uneven edges. The author has faded into deserved obscurity, but the one fact about him I did manage to find was interesting: Christopher Hale was actually a woman with the imposing name of Francis Moyer Ross Stevens!

Why I read it: probably a thrift store find. I know most people nowadays see little value beyond the purely decorative in this type of vintage hardback, but I think it deserves to serve its original, more noble function: to be read.

The Time of Contempt

The Time of Contempt by Andrzej Sapkowski, translated by David French, 4/5

In this installment of the Witcher Saga, Sapkowski really dives into the politics of his fantasy world, a focus that I did not find particularly interesting though I appreciated the worldbuilding. In addition, a satisfying amount of interesting characters (some new, some old), exciting scenarios, and a somewhat elevated tone, raised this book in my opinion closer to the level of the first in the series.

Why I read it: I’m gradually working my way through the series.

Great American Folklore

Great American Folklore: Legends, Tales, Ballads, and Superstitions from All Across America, compiled by Kemp P. Battle, 3/5

I understand the need to document and collect traditional stories to preserve them for posterity, but if there is a way to do so while also creating a good reading experience, the editor of this volume has not discovered it. Most of these tales clearly belong to an oral tradition, so it feels strange to encounter them stripped of their correct community context, not to mention the awkward (potentially racist) attempts to convey vernacular in prose.

Why I read it: Somehow it ended up in my to-read pile, though I can’t remember where or when I acquired it.

Blood of Elves

Blood of Elves by Andrzej Sapkowski, translated by Danusia Stok, 3/5

There are three books preceding this one in the Witcher Saga, chronologically, but Blood of Elves really does feel like the first to make a coherent contribution to an overarching story line. I feel that its literary quality isn’t quite up to par with The Last Wish, but it is definitely an enjoyable entry in an over-saturated genre.

Why I read it: gradually working my way through the series after enjoying the first season on Netflix.

Season of Storms

Season of Storms: A Legend is Born by Andrzej Sapkowski, translated by David French, 3/5

On a scale of literary quality, this is much closer to Jim Butcher than J.R.R. Tolkien, but it is still good fun. In my opinion, the author writes violence much better than romance, so this book was an improvement on the previous one in the series and leaves me looking forward to the next one.

Why I read it: Working my way through the Witcher series after enjoying the Netflix TV adaptation.

The Constant Rabbit

The Constant Rabbit by Jasper Fforde, 3/5

It quickly became obvious to me that this book’s bizarre premise–the struggle for coexistence between humanity and anthropomorphic rabbits–was mostly just a vehicle for the author’s commentary on UK politics (particularly his hatred of the UK Independence Party). “Satire,” with its implications of humor, irony and sarcasm, seems too nuanced a word to describe the tone of this book and brief glimpses of Fforde’s literary creativity and skill just made the incessant political preaching all the more disappointing.

Why I read it: I love many of Fforde’s earlier works and when I heard that he was publishing again, I was very excited to catch up on his latest two books. My enthusiasm has cooled somewhat, since, sadly.