in which i read some books

Hello, world.

It’s been a couple weeks since my last post, so I thought I’d update you on some of my latest reads. And, boy, have there been some good ones.

NATALIE’S READS OF AUGUST 2K16 (THUS FAR)

HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD by J.K. Rowling

Goodreads summary:

Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, a new play by Jack Thorne, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series and the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage. The play will receive its world premiere in London’s West End on July 30, 2016.

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

Rating: 2.5/5

*spoiler-free review*

To be honest, I wasn’t at all excited to read the play, which, if you knew me, would be a shock because I am such a devoted lover of Harry Potter. (Like, riddikulusly so.) But I’d heard some of the spoilers beforehand, and they really, really disappointed me. I thought J.K. Rowling (forgive my blaspheme) was off her rocker and that the whole story seemed like a joke. (I still kind of think that.)

I still read it, though, and I will admit–it was better than I thought it would be. I really loved Scorpius (what a little nerd), and I enjoyed the moments between my old favorites, like Ron and Hermione. However, the things that had bothered me before I read it bother me still; even more so, really. I have a lot of issues with the character portrayals, the plot holes, and the overall feeling of the story–it didn’t feel like Harry Potter to me, which was so, so disheartening.

I won’t say too much, for those of you who haven’t read or have read it and enjoyed it. To me, though, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was nothing more than a disappointment. I try not to think about it too much.

*

AS YOU WISH: INCONCEIVABLE TALES FROM THE MAKING OF THE PRINCESS BRIDE by Cary Elwes

Goodreads summary:

From actor Cary Elwes, who played the iconic role of Westley in The Princess Bride, comes a first-person account and behind-the-scenes look at the making of the cult classic film filled with never-before-told stories, exclusive photographs, and interviews with costars Robin Wright, Wallace Shawn, Billy Crystal, Christopher Guest, and Mandy Patinkin, as well as author and screenwriter William Goldman, producer Norman Lear, and director Rob Reiner.

Rating: 5/5

I adore the Princess Bride. Who doesn’t, really? It’s one of those films that literally anyone can enjoy, and is beloved by all who’ve seen it. It’s 100% quotable, delightful, hilarious, and charming–probably one of the most perfect movies out there.

Here is a thing to know about me: I love trivia, especially movie trivia. There’s an unspoken competition, I think, among my family members to see who can know the most things about movies, pop culture, and pretty much everything else. (I do not win this competition, but I do know a lot of interesting, useless things.)

The point is this: Cary Elwes’s memoir was a joyous, hilarious book filled with funny stories and intriguing facts about the making of the Princess Bride. In other words, it was the perfect book for my family and me. We listened to the audio book as we drove through eastern Canada on vacation, and it was so very delightful. Cary narrated most of it, but pretty much all the other actors and crew members (save those who have passed on) read their quotes and interviews. We all loved it dearly. When the book was over, I almost wanted to cry, as I felt I myself had been a part of the movie, and that a wonderful dream had ended.

I highly encourage those who a) love the Princess Bride, b) enjoy movie trivia, and c) like being happy to read this book–but more specifically to listen to the audio book. It adds that much more joy to the experience.

*

NEVER LET ME GO by Kazuo Ishiguro

Goodreads summary:

As children, Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy were students at Hailsham, an exclusive boarding school secluded in the English countryside. It was a place of mercurial cliques and mysterious rules where teachers were constantly reminding their charges of how special they were. Now, years later, Kathy is a young woman. Ruth and Tommy have reentered her life, and for the first time she is beginning to look back at their shared past and understand just what it is that makes them special—and how that gift will shape the rest of their time together.

Rating: 5/5

I have wanted to read this book for a long time. I heard about it, really, because I love Carey Mulligan. (She is the ultimate #goals.) When I was perusing her IMDB page one time, I noticed she starred in the movie based on this book. It looked lovely and heartbreaking and important–everything I love in a book.

Still, it took me a long to finally get around to reading this book. But I finally just buckled down and checked it out from the library.

It was everything I’d hoped it would be.

Never Let Me Go is often classified as science fiction, as it is, essentially, about clones. However, it’s not really science fiction–not in the traditional sense. Really, it’s about people and what makes people people. Ishiguro has a lovely, minimalistic, and personal voice, which lent itself well to the narration. By the end of the book, I felt really close to Kathy H., and realized that I related a lot to her.

Mostly, I loved its discussion about humanity and time and unfairness and love and heartbreak. (I loved that it takes place in the English countryside.) It’s a melancholy book and left me with a melancholy heart, which I adore.

(Excuse me while I finally go watch the movie and cry over how beautiful it is.)

*

So there are my recent reads! Have you read any of them? I’d love to discuss!

Also, if any of you have ideas about what sort of content you’d like to see from me in the future, I’d love to hear! (aka I need ideas haha)

yours, Natalie

 

in which things get a little strange

Hello, world.

I can’t believe it’s day thirty of the reading challenge!

I honestly didn’t know if I would be able to stick with it. I may have missed a few days, and this post is a day late (oops), but I always caught up and that’s what counts, right??

And let me tell you, I’m really excited about today’s post as, naturally, I saved the best for last.

DAY 30: MY FAVORITE BOOK

Goodreads summary:

At the dawn of the nineteenth century, two very different magicians emerge to change England’s history. In the year 1806, with the Napoleonic Wars raging on land and sea, most people believe magic to be long dead in England–until the reclusive Mr Norrell reveals his powers, and becomes a celebrity overnight.

Soon, another practicing magician comes forth: the young, handsome, and daring Jonathan Strange. He becomes Norrell’s student, and they join forces in the war against France. But Strange is increasingly drawn to the wildest, most perilous forms of magic, straining his partnership with Norrell, and putting at risk everything else he holds dear.

I LOVE THIS BOOK. I LOVE THIS BOOK. I LOVE THIS BOOK.

(Most of you reading this are probably thinking, I’ve never even heard of this book.)

That’s okay. I forgive you.

Like with the Night Circus, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is a descriptive, slow-building novel centered around magic and odd characters and setting. It’s careful and precise and so very, very lovely that I can’t even stand it.

I first read this book in high school. I checked it out from the library because I heard Maggie Stiefvater raving about it and I trust her entirely (of course). From the moment I read the first page, I knew this book would always hold a dear place in my heart. Unlike most books I love, I’ve only read this novel once, that one first time. This is entirely because the book is so long–it literally took me a month to read, and not for lack of interest. It’s just a dense book, one that deserves to be savored. Aside from one thousand and six pages, the book is filled with footnotes detailing the history of magic in this alternative reality. To me, though, these anecdotes and asides add such a character and atmosphere to the novel and allow me to further delve into the world.

I read a blurb about the book that described it as a the lovechild of Austen and Tolkien (two of my favorite authors), which is actually really accurate. The myth and magic feel as ancient and mysterious as Tolkien’s, but the style and voice are so reminiscent of Austen’s clever narration–a proper fantasy.

But in the end, I don’t really know how to articulate why I love this book. It’s more than its literary devices and style and prose (even though I love all these things). It’s the myth of magic, it’s the love of England, it’s the strange and delightful characters. All the elements of the book come together so wonderfully, turning it into an odd treasure of a book.

bbcamerica:“Too right, Mr Norrell. ”
me when i read this book
I love it so very much. I hope to read it again soon.

(Also, the miniseries is super super good and is done so well.)

yours, Natalie

My thirty day reading challenge is now complete! If you missed any days, or want to start over, here is day one.

 

 

in which things get problematic

Hello, world.

I struggled deciding what to discuss today, partly because I think it’s kind of a stupid prompt. I don’t like it because

  1. I have rather snobby book tastes, sometimes, as I am a pretentious English Major,
  2. all readers have different opinions, and
  3. I hardcore struggled to think of an answer.

But, here I am, answering the stupid prompt anyway.

DAY 29: A BOOK EVERYONE HATED BUT YOU LIKED

Goodreads summary:

Eleanor… Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough…Eleanor.

Park… He knows she’ll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There’s a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises…Park.

Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.

This answer may not quite make sense at first. Eleanor & Park is actually a rather well-received book, overall. I mean, any book John Green loved is obvious a good one.

When I first read it, I adored it. (I fell in love with Rainbow’s writing after I read Fangirl, which remains my favorite of her novels.) How could I not adore the precious cinnamon rolls that are Eleanor and Park?

Since reading it though, I’ve heard a lot of negative reviews about the book, specifically its treatment of the Asian and Asian-American characters. And there is a lot of truth and legitimacy in those reviews that I, as a white reader, did not see when I first read it. But I can’t lie–I still kind of love the book.

It’s my problematic fave.

What books do you love that are hated or problematic?

yours, Natalie

Tune in tomorrow at noon for the next post!

in which i am utterly charmed

Hello, world.

Okay, I’m a sucker for a good title. When I’m perusing a new book to read, I judge it based on three things

  1. its cover,
  2. its title, and
  3. its first line

Titles are very important to me.

DAY 28: MY FAVORITE TITLE

Goodreads summary:

London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb….

As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island—boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.

Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever.

Written with warmth and humor as a series of letters, this novel is a celebration of the written word in all its guises, and of finding connection in the most surprising ways.

Once I read the title of this book, I was sold. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society–does it get any better than that??? No, it doesn’t. (Unless it’s Angus, Thongs, and Full-frontal Snogging, but that’s another book for another post.)

The book completely lives up to its title, as well. It’s an epistolary novel, which I felt enhanced the sense of time and setting. The letters and utterly charming, and I loved getting to know Juliet and all the denizens of Guernsey. It’s exactly the sort of story that I love: one that explores people, what makes them tick, how they interact with others. GIVE ME ALL THE CHARACTER STUDIES. The discussions of literature and the history of WWII just make it all the better.

Also, the romance is so, so, so adorable and had me squealing for joy. (Yeah, it’s that cute.)

If you want a delightfully charming read, the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is the book for you.

yours, Natalie.

in which my eyes are fully open

Hello, world.

I believe that books have power. In my small life, I have learned so much from books, so much about people and kindness, about joy and sorrow, about life and death. Books can change our lives, and rightly so.

DAY 26: A BOOK THAT CHANGED MY OPINION ABOUT SOMETHING

Goodreads summary:

Fairy tale and history, wilderness and civilisation collide in this brilliant and magical new novel from the author of Little Exiles.

In the depths of winter in the land of Belarus, where ancient forests straddle modern country borders, an orphaned boy and his grandfather go to scatter his mother’s ashes in the woodlands. Her last request to rest where she grew up will be fulfilled.

Frightening though it is to leave the city, the boy knows he must keep his promise to mama: to stay by and protect his grandfather, whatever happens. Her last potent gifts – a little wooden horse, and hunks of her homemade gingerbread – give him vigour. And grandfather’s magical stories help push the harsh world away.

But the driving snow, which masks the tracks of forest life, also hides a frozen history of long-buried secrets. And as man and boy travel deeper among the trees, grandfather’s tales begin to interweave with the shocking reality of his own past, until soon the boy’s unbreakable promise to mama is tested in unimaginable ways.

I read this book last Christmas because I thought I would love it–and I was right.

It was definitely an odd little book: the relationship between the boy and his grandfather is unusual and wild. But what I loved most was its exploration of myth and history.

Since I was a wee thing, I have been obsessed with all folklore–mythology, fairy tales, and folk stories of all kinds. I loved the fantastic elements and the way the stories took me away from my own life.

me @ folklore

As I’ve grown older, though, I have realized that myth and history are not such different things. They inseparable things, really, always informing and building the other. It’s a lovely, rich, and complex relationship.

One that is not always positive.

This book explores the more negative aspects of the relationship between myth and history, in a way that I had never really thought of before. I tend to idolize stories, but sometimes that is not always a healthy thing.

I think of myth so differently now because of that book, and I am glad for that.

yours, Natalie

*and yes, my title is a reference to gilbert and sullivan.

Tune in tomorrow at noon for the next post!

 

in which nothing gold can stay

Hello, world.

I don’t know about you guys, but for me, when I was a child, there was a distinct line between books I read for pleasure and books I read for school. I assumed that assigned readings were, by nature, a little more dull than the books I normally read. The classics might have been important, but they weren’t quite as entertaining as, say, the City of Ember.

As all readers do, I soon realized that my assumption was incorrect.

DAY 25: MY FAVORITE BOOK I READ IN SCHOOL

Goodreads summary:

According to Ponyboy, there are two kinds of people in the world: greasers and socs. A soc (short for “social”) has money, can get away with just about anything, and has an attitude longer than a limousine. A greaser, on the other hand, always lives on the outside and needs to watch his back. Ponyboy is a greaser, and he’s always been proud of it, even willing to rumble against a gang of socs for the sake of his fellow greasers–until one terrible night when his friend Johnny kills a soc. The murder gets under Ponyboy’s skin, causing his bifurcated world to crumble and teaching him that pain feels the same whether a soc or a greaser.

Although the Outsiders might not be the most sophisticated book in all the world, it had a profound effect on me. I read this in seventh grade, just when reading started to become less of a pastime and more like breathing. As we began studying it as a class, I was surprised to find that this assigned reading was rather, well, enjoyable. I was surprised to find that the book touched my heart. I was surprised to find myself relating to the characters, despite how their lives were vastly different from mine.

My English teacher made a smart choice in assigning the Outsiders, I think. Because the main characters are teenagers, it made it so much easier for our class to enjoy and sympathize with the story. It was a smart way to introduce us to “important” books that had before seemed so distant from us. In that class, I realized, for the first time, that those important books were not just important to some grand literary society, but that they could be important to me.

And this book really was so important to me. It was one of the first books to teach me about sorrow and heartache, about how much life can hurt, about how we can make it better.

Plus, Ponyboy is just the sweetest boy. A small part of my heart will always love him.

ponyboy curtis gif - Google Search

Stay gold, Ponyboy.

yours, Natalie

in which the circus arrives without warning

Hello, world.

The topic for today really could have applied to so many books, but the one I choose for it, I think, aptly deserves the title.

DAY 24: A BOOK I WISH MORE PEOPLE WOULD READ

Goodreads summary:

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it, no paper notices plastered on lampposts and billboards. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.

Within these nocturnal black-and-white striped tents awaits an utterly unique, a feast for the senses, where one can get lost in a maze of clouds, meander through a lush garden made of ice, stare in wonderment as the tattooed contortionist folds herself into a small glass box, and become deliciously tipsy from the scents of caramel and cinnamon that waft through the air.

Welcome to Le Cirque des Rêves.

Beyond the smoke and mirrors, however, a fierce competition is under way–a contest between two young illusionists, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood to compete in a “game” to which they have been irrevocably bound by their mercurial masters. Unbeknownst to the players, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will.

This book is another one of my soul books.

After I read it for the first time, I remember thinking that this was the sort of book I wanted to write. The language and style spoke to my soul in the simplest of ways. It felt like a dream I had had long before, but almost forgotten.

The Night Circus is a lovely dream.

The book has a lot of different elements and subplots, but at the heart it is a book about the circus and its people. It is about how the circus operates and changes those who visit it. It is about love and time and magic–such wonderful magic.

I will say, if you are not a fan of lengthy descriptions and slow plots, this is not the book for you. The action in the Night Circus takes place over ten years, so it definitely takes its time. If, however, you are a fan of such books like Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell or the Time Traveler’s Wife, you will like this book quite a lot, I believe.

For me, the descriptions are my favorite part of the book. I adore the little vignettes that Morgenstern uses throughout the novel, the second person point of view that places me in the circus itself. It’s a lovely experience, and I wish it could last forever.

Just read the Night Circus, okay?

yours, Natalie

Tune in tomorrow at noon for the next post!

in which i’m rather a romantic

Hello, world.

I’ve mentioned before on this blog that I am rather fond of Jane Austen’s stories. I think they’re so lovely and clever and important.

Sometimes, though, her six novels just aren’t quite enough.

DAY 23: MY GUILTY PLEASURE

Goodreads Summary:

The only place Darcy could share his innermost feelings was in the private pages of his diary…

Torn between his sense of duty to his family name and his growing passion for Elizabeth Bennet, all he can do is struggle not to fall in love.

Mr. Darcy’s Diary presents the story of the unlikely courtship of Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy from Darcy’s point of view. This graceful imagining and sequel to Pride and Prejudice explains Darcy’s moodiness and the difficulties of his reluctant relationship as he struggles to avoid falling in love with Miss Bennet. Though seemingly stiff and stubborn at times, Darcy’s words prove him also to be quite devoted and endearing – qualities that eventually win over Miss Bennet’s heart. This continuation of a classic romantic novel is charming and elegant, much like Darcy himself.

I really really really like these books.

happy smiling aww jeremy renner aw

Amanda Grange has written each of Austen’s novels from the lovers’ perspectives, which is basically exactly what you would expect them to be–aka glorified fanfiction–and it’s so good.

I may be a pretentious English major, but I can also take a lot of pleasure from cheesy, romantic stories, so long as they have decent grammar and involve characters that I love. These novels check at least one of those boxes (jk they check both).

yours, Natalie

Tune in tomorrow at noon for the next post!

in which the dark is rising

Hello, world.

DAY 22: THE BOOK I’M CURRENTLY READING

Goodreads Summary:

“When the Dark comes rising, six shall turn it back, Three from the circle, three from the track; Wood, bronze, iron; water, fire, stone; Five will return, and one go alone.” Will Stanton turns 11 and learns from Merriman Lyon, the Lady, and Circle of Old Ones, that he must find six Sign symbols and battle the Black Rider, blizzard and flood.

I don’t know why I’ve never read the Dark is Rising sequence. They are classic fantasy and well deserve all the acclaim it’s received over the years. Also,  it’s exactly my type of book: fantastic and lovely and mythology-ridden. So I really can’t answer why I have not read them before.

I read Over Sea, Under Stone a few months ago, which I adored (like I said before, I’m all about the Arthurian legends). I’m now almost done with the Dark is Rising now and I’m much excited to finish the rest of them.

If you’re like me and have never read these books, I highly encourage you to do so now.

yours, Natalie

Tune in tomorrow at noon for the next post!

 

in which marigolds appear

Hello, world.

Today’s post is another installment in the series of books Natalie loved as a child, which really is just the series of books Natalie still loves because I am a nostalgic being and have largely the same taste in books. Little Natalie made great book choices.

DAY 21: MY FAVORITE BOOK FROM MY CHILDHOOD

Goodreads summary:

Christian is gaga for Princess Marigold. But he’s just a commoner, and no match for royalty. Heck, he lives in a cave with a troll! And now he’s discovered another reason to put his love-soggy heart on ice: Queen Olympia is scheming to take over the kingdom–and she’ll bump off her own daughter to do it. Can Christian foil her diabolical plans?

To be honest, the City of Ember probably would also be my favorite childhood read (but I’ve already talked about it and I’d obviously never talk about the same thing twice.) As I thought about other books I loved, I remembered this little gem.

I specifically remember the first time I read this book. It was a Friday afternoon, and I had brought the book home from my school’s library as a weekend read. My mother was repainting our living room walls, but that didn’t stop me from sitting in the room in one of our big leather chairs to start reading the book. In fact, I finished it that same afternoon. And read it a couple more times before Monday.

it me

Obviously, I adored this book.

A few weeks ago, I reread Once Upon a Marigold for the first time in years, and it was still as delightful as the first time. It’s such a lovely children’s book–clever without being condescending, charming without being cheesy (well, at least not overly cheesy). The main characters, Christian and Marigold, are kind and lonely and so relateable, really. (As I, too, have no friends and make terrible jokes.) All the side characters, like Ed and King Swiftbert, are just hecka funny and make the book a hilarious time. The love story is sweet, the message heartwarming. What is not to love about this book? Nothing, I tell you. It’s got everything, except, according to the cover, the kitchen sink, which I am able to overlook.

yours, Natalie

Tune in tomorrow at noon for the next post!