We have books to discuss. No introduction is needed.
The Lost Kingdom of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine
In this prequel to The Two Princesses of Bamarre, Peregrine is taken (i.e. KIDNAPPED) from her Bamarre parents as a baby and raised by Latki parents with no knowledge of her true parentage. The Bamarre have been oppressed by the Latki for generations, but when Perry discovers her history she hopes to bring about a radical change…or maybe just make herself useful enough to be worthy of at least one set of parents’ love??
- Annet being bitter and mean but also heartbreaking because TRAUMA
- Perry not knowing how to socialize
- Retelling vibes
- All the allusions to The Two Princesses of Bamarre (tAbLeClOtH)
- Drualt (this kid)
- Willem being his sweet, kind self
- SIBLINGS (did I mention Annet??)
- Perry having Complicated Relationships with her parents (the Unhealth, though)
- Perry trying so hard to prove herself and make people want to love her
- Perry having Trauma
- Lord Tove’s character having zero nuance (seriously, it was rather painful how straight-up EVIL this guy was. There could have been subtlety and complexity and all good things in his relationship with Perry, but no, he just UTTERLY HATES ALL THE BAMARRE FOR NO REASON OTHER THAN BEING 100% RACIST JUST BECAUSE?? WHAT IS THIS GARBAGE)
- Lady Klausine being a good guy?? (sorry, but she straight-up KIDNAPPED ANNET AND PERRY. STOP TELLING ME HOW WISE AND GOOD SHE IS, SHE NEVER EVEN APOLOGIZES AARGH)
- I get that she’s supposed to be “complicated” but it just did NOT work for me. Hence the rageful screaming.
- Magic kind of fixing everything (I know it’s a fairy tale? But still?)
- Willem being kind of boring
- Perry actually being amazing enough to Earn Love and Approval instead of failing (and having people around her that LOVE HER ANYWAY)
- Perry not having enough trauma
- the “let’s talk about racism in a stilted, abrasive way without much in the way of nuance” thing going on
- the middle-grade vibes
- the climax/resolution (yeah, just…no)
- NOT ENOUGH ANNET
Verdict: Well…it had some good moments, but overall I found it decidedly underwhelming. It handled its themes clumsily and missed out on some very good character opportunities.
The Dynamiter by Robert Louis Stevenson(??)
(According to the internet most of this book wasn’t actually written by Robert Louis Stevenson? But whatever, that’s the name on my copy of the book)
There are these three young gentlemen who, after a brief discussion, sally forth (separately) into London’s streets seeking adventure, and they all encounter the Dynamiter (a man who likes to blow people up) in one way or another. They also encounter some extremely talkative women who tell elaborate stories that may or may not be true.
- the writing style (just that lovely mix of sophisticated, charming and humorous)
- the characters being utterly ridiculous (very entertaining)
- the intense Unreliable Narrator vibes
- the outlandishness of it all
- it was really a collection of loosely connected short stories rather than a novel (which isn’t actually a bad thing, but I prefer novels)
- the characters never really got beyond a superficial level (which again is more of a preference)
- some of the stories were…just kind of weird? (particularly the Cuban one. But also…Mormons.)
Verdict: I actually found this book to be quite fun and entertaining, if a little baffling at times.
Spindle by W.R. Gingell
Poly is awoken from a three-hundred-year-long nap and finds herself stuck with an infuriating wizard (or possibly enchanter) named Luck who doesn’t care to respect her personal space. Also she might be missing parts of her memory? It doesn’t help matters that the curse she’s been under only seems to be partially broken…
- Onepiece (this child is PRECIOUS and must be protected)
- the magic system (it was kind of confusing and all over the place, but I liked it?)
- the fairy tale retelling aspect and fun fantasy vibes
- “Scones are always relevant.” (Yes, this is Luck’s best line of dialogue)
- the mysterious mobility Luck’s village (we could’ve called this book Luck’s Moving Village, but maybe that would have been too obvious)
- Poly low-key adopting Onepiece
- Onepiece adopting Poly first (THIS CHILD NEEDS HIS MAMA)
- the times when the character interactions were actually funny
- the “I-want-very-badly-to-be-Howl’s Moving Castle-but-I’m-just-not” vibe
- the writing style (it wasn’t actually that bad, but it felt like it was trying REALLY HARD to be clever and whimsical instead of just being clever and whimsical, if that makes sense. It ended up forced and stilted a lot of the time, as well as overly wordy. It reminded me of my own writing at times, unfortunately.)
- the petty romantic drama (son…I don’t know what it is, but everything about the romance in this book was just IRKSOME to me).
- I was getting Twilight vibes (you know, the whole thing where every handsome guy Poly meets falls in love with her. Very much makes me think of Twilight. Why)
- Luck giving off low-key psychopath vibes (I don’t know why Luck bothered me?? He seemed like a type of character that I often like, I guess, but…for some reason he was creepy, particularly nearer to the beginning.)
- Not getting Onepiece’s backstory (how did this child end up as a puppy tied up in an alley?? THAT IS NOT NORMAL, SON)
- Not enough Onepiece in general (I just…liked Onepiece, I guess)
- the bad guy’s evil plan being convoluted and confusing
- Also, WHAT is going on with Poly’s parents, because I have Concerns
Verdict: I wanted to like it…but I didn’t. Not really. I was just so irritated by the petty romantic drama. It really just came across as a Howl’s Moving Castle wannabe, which is harsh, but…yup.
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien (reread)
Spring is in the air and Moving Day is fast approaching, but one of Mrs. Frisby’s children has fallen ill and might not be able to be safely moved from their snug garden home before the plows come out, which is a PROBLEM. Thankfully, Mrs. Frisby is a fierce, dedicated Mama who will figure out a way to protect her family…even if that way is a bit unconventional.
- Mrs. Frisby being a Mama Bear (but, like…the field mouse version)
- Timothy just being the sweetest
- All of Mrs. Frisby’s kids being adorable
- the FEEL of the thing (just the earthiness and the grass and the brambles and the burrows and the mysteries and I don’t even know it’s just kind of great)
- Jonathan (what a man…er…mouse)
- JUSTIN (So he’s a rat, but aside from that I would totally marry him??)
- HOW IS JUSTIN SO WONDERFUL? (*weeps*)
- Nicodemus and the NIMH story (BaCkStoRy)
- the evolution thing (okay, so the rats are super intelligent now, but tying it into evolution and how rats could have been the dominant species is…eh)
- Um…that’s my only complaint, I think?
Verdict: So, yeah, I adore this book. It’s a low-key fantasy with a lovely, mysterious atmosphere and it will baffle you by making you care entirely too deeply about characters who are in fact rodents.
The Mysterious Woods of Whistle Root by Christopher Pennell
Carly suffers from a peculiar condition: she cannot sleep at night. At all. This of course inhibits her social life quite a bit, as she must sleep during a large chunk of the time that ordinary people are awake. However, if it wasn’t for this unique trait she never would have met Lewis the rat musician or figured out that something strange is going on in the woods. The squash on her roof may or may not be relevant.
- the pure whimsy (it makes me so happy)
- the fairy tale vibe (NAILED IT)
- the squash (I should not have found the squash as funny as I did)
- Lewis being irritable and having a one-track mind (honestly same, though)
- the customs of the rat musicians
- the description of Carly’s aunt’s house (perfection)
- Carly being quietly logical
- Green being the purest grandson
- Granny Pitcher’s living situation
- the library and its secrets
- the Woop of the Wittery (just…so random, but…in the best way)
- that crab, though
- the thing that hatched in the woods being just the right amount of creepy
- the Whistle Root lore
- the whistle root trees in general
- Rebecca Bond’s charming illustrations
- Eh, the “clue” thing at the end was kind of derivative? It seemed unnecessary
- I’m not totally sure what I think of Crassifolia (also I’m not a big fan of the name?)
- the “school bully” also seemed kind of over-the-top and unnecessary
- Eh, I wouldn’t have said no to more peril
Verdict: I found this whimsical little book to be surprisingly enjoyable. It captures the magical nature of traditional fairy tales and celebrates the mystery and joy that is simply telling stories.
Dune by Frank Herbert
The spice is kind of a Big Deal, and it can only be found on the harsh, desert planet of Arrakis. Hence, Arrakis is kind of a Big Deal. Arrakis has been under Harkonnen rule, but the emperor recently decided to put House Atreides in charge of this planet instead. I’m sure he had no ulterior motives in doing this and just wants what’s best for the Duke and his family.
- the WORLD-BUILDING (holy moly, it gets intense but it’s so satisfying. It’s not Middle Earth, but it comes close. Well done, Frank.)
- the politics (which goes along with the world-building, but also GUYS, how was it not boring?? Why did I care so much??)
- Paul (this kid is both terrifying and lovable and he needs hELP)
- Jessica (she can be extremely frustrating but also she’s a complex, sympathetic character and she’s trying to be a good mom…which, she doesn’t really know how to do since she was raised in a cult but shh)
- Duke Leto (this man just grew on me until I realized I totally loved him??)
- Gurney Halleck (Gurney is an excellent soldier but he also plays the baliset and he’s kind of the best)
- Thufir Hawat (…the other best)
- Duncan Idaho (…is also pretty great)
- Okay, so there were a lot of characters I liked? Chani, Kynes, Alia, Stilgar…you get the idea
- the way Paul’s “powers” were handled (he could have gotten boring and gone cookie-cutter “Chosen One” but HE DID NOT)
- the writing (it was just…good?)
- the scene in the stilltent (GAAAAAAAAAAH)
- the Bene Gesserit being their creepy selves (it’s HORRIBLE but SO INTERESTING)
- All the parts where Paul accidentally shows us that he is still a child (*sniffles*)
- “stamp of strangeness” (I don’t know why I like this phrase so much)
- it ended too abruptly (I’m being picky, but also I NEEDED some falling action and time for emotional arcs to come together more than they did)
- Baron Vladimir Harkonnen being kind of the worst (this man is…disgusting)
- Count Fenring (…I just didn’t get what was going on with this guy?)
- the Fremen Reverend Mother ritual (just TOO CREEPY, okay, it was DISTURBING. Drugs are freaky and while I can live with the spice in the context of this world, the drug used in this ritual was too much for me)
- What Jessica did to Alia (NOPE)
- Not enough Duncan Idaho
- Not getting to meet LII
- Paul being more like his grandfather than his father
- Some of the commentary on religion is…hm
Verdict: Um…it was weird, certainly, but overall I really enjoyed it. It is such an immersive, thought-provoking book. I can’t decide if I want to read the sequels, though.
WELL. I feel kind of bad about how hard I bashed The Lost Kingdom of Bamarre and Spindle…but not bad enough that I’m not going to post it. My opinions are all over the place. I think no less of folk who love these books, so please don’t come after me with pitchforks…not that people usually do that. Eh. I’m tired and I don’t think I’m about to start making sense any time soon.
What have you been reading lately? Have you read any of these books? Do you ever find a book irksome for no apparent reason even when other people love it and you know you shouldn’t feel insecure about it but then you do? Do you geek out about charming rats? Does solid world-building thrill you? I would love to hear all of your opinions on these matters in the comments!