Recountings

books that were not my cup of tea

As every bookworm knows … there comes a time when one must consciously uncouple from a book and promptly yeet it out of the window. Metaphorically speaking.

A CURSE SO DARK AND LONELY

YA books and I don’t have the best relationship. It’s not them, it’s me. I experienced a lot of dissonance with the characters, the plots, and the writing. (The binding, the front cover designs, the blurbs and the fonts are usually on point though.)

I DNF-d A Curse So Dark And Lonely because frankly I was bored. (I usually am loathe to admit boredom. ‘Only boring people get bored’ I used to tell myself smugly. Oh how the turntables have …) I didn’t care about the characters. The plot felt like porridge with no honey. Bread with no butter! English breakfast tea with no milk! I didn’t connect with the novel, and so therefore, reading it was a struggle.

It seems to have been a well-received book, but unfortunately, I couldn’t quite get it. And that’s okay! Different readers have different tastes, and perhaps if I tried again, I might like it.

MERCY & EAGLEFLIGHT

Christian fiction … ah, yes. Christian fiction. When done well, it is wonderful and brilliant (hello there! C.S Lewis!) when it is done badly … I refuse to accept that Christian fiction should be given a pass just because someone has slapped a label on it and marked it as ‘Christian’.

(If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and swims like a duck IT WILL NOT SUDDENLY TURN INTO A CAMEL OF BRILLIANCE IF YOU JUST PLONK A ‘CHRISTIAN’ LABEL ON IT.)

(That was a metaphor. The duck was bad fiction. The camel of brilliance was a good fiction. Just so you know. Like the book, I am subtle.)

  1. So much telling – we were told everything. There was no subtlety. No nuance. No trusting of the readers to actually grasp the emotional journey that the characters were going through. We must be led through it, holding the author’s hand.
  2. I approach fiction wanting a story not a sermon so perhaps … the fault lies with me, not managing my expectations. BUT STILL !!! I protest. I PROTEST STRONGLY.
  3. The main characters felt very clean and cookie-cutter. Too clean and cookie-cutter. Too 2D..
  4. There were entire chapters of dialogue. This isn’t always a bad thing. But … but I would propose that perhaps the message of the book could have been gotten across with perhaps, say, an article in a magazine, not in a work of fiction.
  5. There is an absolutely foul section where we are given horribly racist character just to show us how bad he is and then we never see him again. It was degrading and it had no place in the book. It felt like a cheap way of making us hate a character. It was an ugly line of dialogue that did not need to be included for us to get the idea that this guy? = bad. There are no excuses.
  6. There’s a point where a female character is sharing the gospel with another male character … and she sends him to go speak to another man because ‘men think differently.’
  7. I’m sorry. I didn’t know that there was a female and male way of talking about faith? Clearly, I must have missed a Bible verse or two.
  8. Ah yes, the inevitable assault on the female character by a villain. A villain who only exists to Be Evil, by the way. Some people are destined to have nuance and character, some others … are not.

… I should stop here, shouldn’t I? I got through it. Sometimes, whilst I read this, my arms flailed, and my entire body cringed and shrivelled up like a raisin.

Is this the book, I cried, that repelled a thousand ships?!

This book was published in 1996 – perhaps Christian fiction has improved since then? I certainly hope so.

JUST ONE DAMNED THING AFTER ANOTHER

The best thing about this book was that it had dinosaurs (!!!!) and the Library of Alexandra. Also: time-travel.

Unfortunately, the story was … MC joins time-traveling organization. Shenanigans and hi-jinks ensue. One thing happens after another, and the plot feels very squint-and-you’ll-miss-it. A character – who has hitherto displayed no rage – lashes out in anger. I felt startled because I’d imagined that he was calm and sedate and then BLAM! INSTANT GREMLIN!

Also – I thought that this was a YA book. And then there was a particular scene that made me place the book down on the bed and stare into the abyss of air. It was not a YA book. A surprising twist.

This is a first book in a series, and of course, sometimes a series takes a book to hit its stride. This may well be the case. Perhaps I’m being too harsh? However, though I felt the concept was TRULY interesting (DID YOU HEAR THE BIT ABOUT HOW THIS HAS DINOSAURS?!!!!) the characters weren’t on the dinosaurs’ level.

But then, I must ask … what is?

Books, Life, Recountings

the christian version of the bachelor (and other books)

I have been reading books. Here are my thoughts on three of them …

25891581

The Beautiful Pretender by Melanie Dickerson

It’s a crying shame, because I feel as though if I was in my early teens I would have loved every single one of Dickerson’s works. However, I don’t. I enjoyed her Rapunzel retelling, but haven’t been able to really connect to any other books of hers.

It’s awful, but her books just don’t click with me. I can’t get past my outrage that nettles do NOT have needles you can pull out (I’m looking at you, The Merchant’s Daughter) and I couldn’t stop comparing The Beautiful Pretender to The Bachelor.

Image result for ashley i bachelor gif

Only here, the women aren’t judged for their beauty of their face, but the beauty of their soul. I just … no. It feels icky. The idea of young women lining up for one lucky gent to wave a soul scanner over them and be like ‘yup, you is good and kind and all *wiggles eyebrows* wanna be the Bathsheba to my David?’ is just …Image result for say what gifIt just doesn’t feel right, man.

Conclusion: alas, it wasn’t for me

17910048

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

It’s high fantasy and oh my goodness gracious there were so. many. names to remember. It took me till about the half way point before I had worked out who was who. And even then there was a PLOT TWIST! and I was all: wait, who?!

But I loved it. Because forget the names (literally. haha.) Maia is a genuinely good person. And how often do you find that in fiction? He’s been horribly beaten up by his uncle for the greater portion of his life, and look what he has to say, when he’s the Emperor and could have the man desiccated like a cocoanut if he wanted to:

‘In our inmost and secret heart, which you ask us to bare to you, we wish to banish them as we were banished, to a cold and lonely house, in the charge of a man who hated us. And we wish them trapped there as we were trapped.’

‘You consider that unjust, Serenity?’

‘We consider it cruel,’ Maia said. ‘And we do not think that cruelty is ever just.’

It’s a book you don’t want to end. (But then you realise it’s 3:37 in the morning and you probably should get some sleep.)

Conclusion: will re-read. And cry. Again

238460

Shadow Spinner by Susan Fletcher

I’ve read three retellings of A Thousand and One Nights and I rather think that this is my favourite. I like the fact that no magic is used and yet it feels magical.

The thing about life is, no matter what happens to you, it goes on. What seems like an ending is really a beginning in disguise.

I still don’t like the King/Sultan/Dude Man on the throne. Why? Because how can you excuse killing a load of innocent women? Saying ‘oh, it’s because I had a broken heart’ IS NOT AN EXCUSE.

Image result for glasses down shaking head gif

One Thousand Nights probably had the best reason (if you can have a ‘best’ reason for slaughtering your wives) and The Wrath and the Dawn is still:

Image result for cringe gif

(If you’re going to kill someone because you have ACTUAL PROOF he’s a homicidal maniac – do it. Don’t stop because ‘ohmergosh, his bootiful faciness is sad’ Dude’s probably constipated.)

Conclusion: will remember. And pick up to re-read certain passages.

What books have you read recently? Spill the beans! What did you think to them?


You may or may not be wondering ‘what happened to the podcast, Ness?’ Well, I’ll tell you – life. Life happened. If it’s a choice between writing or making an episode, I’m going to go with writing. I’ve got projects to finish, unicorn cats to describe. Until I feel organised again, alas, the podcast is on hold.
Books, I think I just rambled, Recountings

Bookish Influences: The One That Cost Me an Arm and a Leg

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/e5/64/1a/e5641ab097533eafcf88934da77a9dfb.jpg
via Pinterest

Alright, I’ll admit it – a book made me purchase a violin. Which, of course, probably says more about me than I’m comfortable with admitting.

[cough *gullible* cough *easily influenced* cough]

In my defense, read this and see if you don’t want an instrument that understands you and …

… instead of playing any of my classical pieces I drifted into improvising as I went along, and then, as my thoughts took me far away, I gave myself up to them entirely. ‘Dwell deep’ was ringing softly but clearly in my ears. Storms could come and storms could go, but in all and through all were those two little words of peace and quiet. And my violin was with me, and understood my mood. I don’t know how long I played, but when I came to myself and surroundings, soothed and comforted in spirit, I found them all staring at me in astonishment.

The violin understands her. Her moods are translated into sound. Is it any wonder that I purchased a violin? Is it any wonder that I wished to do the same?

But alas, I found to my surprise that … well, to be perfectly honest, Fiction doesn’t always meld well with Real Life. The eardrums of my poor family will attest to this. I can only say that if Heinrich – my violin – truly did translate my moods, than I am in dire need of therapy. Dire need.

What book was this that prompted such expense, such existential crises brought on by Heinrich?

7292537

Dwell Deep

by Amy Le Feuvre

I suppose that I ought to delve into the basic plot. It is thus: a newly converted Christian [Hilda Thorn] goes to live with her non-Christian guardian and his family in the country. Morals and Principles clash and through many trials, Hilda Thorn learns to ‘dwell deep’ as it says in Isaiah.

Now look, here is the link to Dwell Deep – go ahead and read it if you do not want mild spoilers, but otherwise, let us commence this recounting/bookish influence post.

I must admit that I’m not going to talk about the trials that Hilda endures because of her new-found faith. But I’d better note that they are good, encouraging and some of the things she doesn’t do – like dancing – are a matter of conscience. But on the whole, her journey is one that I found to be inspiring.

I’ve already told you of how¬†Dwell Deep influenced me, or rather, influenced me into emptying my bank account with the purchase of Heinrich, who was either the wrong violin for me, or I the wrong musician for him. (Or rather, the wrong untalented musician for him).

Now let’s move onto the Recounting side of things. Or, as I like to call it: my Pet Rant.

My Pet Rant

Kenneth is the son of Hilda’s guardian. This book would not be one that I enjoyed without Kenneth. He teases Hilda, calls her ‘Goody-Two-Shoes’, and watches her narrowly for any chance of slipping up and becoming a hypocrite. He’s just … Kenneth.

‘I don’t think she possesses a temper,’ put in Kenneth. ‘I know for a fact that I often lose mine in trying to make her lose hers!’

It’s a typical case of a boy provoking a girl because he likes her. The proverbial ‘Pigtail Pulling’ and I can’t deny that a delighted part of me whispers: dawww, he wuvs her.

‘Why do you love to make people uncomfortable if you can?’ I said in desperation to him, after he had been chaffing me unmercifully on the same subject before a lot of people in the drawing-room one afternoon.

‘Because it is my nature to, I suppose,’ he retorted. ‘I don’t think anything would make you uncomfortable, Goody! You go serenely on your way, wrapped in a cloak of supreme self-content and satisfaction. Except for bringing a little extra pink colour into your cheeks, which I like to see, no words of mine can ever stir you.’

See?

But alas. A new player appears on the stage. His name is Philip Stanton and he is Perfect For Hilda. Naturally, he and Hilda fall in love.

Now, I would like to make it clear that it is not that I dislike him, he is after all, a good gentleman, a Christian and seems to be a decent sort of chap. And yet – and I’ve just noticed this – he calls Hilda ‘his darling child’. Child. That’s worse than ‘babe’.

Ahem. Anyway, they fall in love and drama ensues when he disappears and will they ever see each other again?

(Hopefully not.)

I am a firm believer that Hilda and Kenneth were the perfect match and nothing can tell me otherwise. Philip, you say? Philip who?

‘There are moments, Goody Two-Shoes, when you and your fiddle are before my eyes, that I think I should like to marry you and take you away with me somewhere where you should charm me with those strains continually. Don’t look so frightened. We understand each other. I know you wouldn’t dream of having me, so I am never going to ask you.’

Hilda, you should have waited for him. People change and he could have. Why?!!! You belonged together. Or rather, he needed someone and that someone was you. (I have decreed it, so it must be so.)

And yes, I am passionate about books which are old and no one else seems to have heard of. Join me next week for my recounting of The Rose-Garden Husband, and the week after that: He Fell In Love With His Wife (Don’t worry, I won’t spoil the ah-may-zing plot twist. But here’s a clue: he falls in love with someone who he is possibly wed to. It’s like, totally unexpected).heinrichmylove

In the mean time, Heinrich sits, neglected, tucked between my bookshelf and my black leather chair that only ever seems to hold my childhood soft toys, or if I’m in an untidy mood, an array of clothing and books and papers which I fondly call ‘My Doom’.

I’m so, so sorry Heinrich. But do not be frightened – I’ll wring a mood out of you yet, even if it takes me a thousand tries of ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’.