The Chronicles of Narnia- C.S. Lewis

Narnia

“Things never happen the same way twice.”

Hello again, friends. After reading Fates and Furies I decided that I needed to get back to the list, at least for a couple books anyway. I decided that I finally needed to tackle The Chronicles, especially with The Magician’s still fresh in my mind. I’m sure we all remember my rants about the similarities between the two and by jove if it gets even worse!

Now, one might ask, “But Emily, how did you know about the similarities between them if you had never read them?” The answer is simple. Back in middle school when I was living in Texas I had the very esteemed opportunity to play young Lucy in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. So, I knew the bare bones of it. But now, after tackling all seven I have come to realize that there a similarities not only to Magician’s but to a great many books.

I will not dismiss this series out of hand. I understand the weight they have in the literary world and beyond, but I will say that they weren’t my favorite. I do wish I would’ve read them when I was younger; a phrase I’ve heard from many adults whom I’ve run into while reading the series. Another is how chock full of religion it is. I didn’t see it at first. Yes, in the first book it is hinted at, but it’s not until you get in to the last three that you hear chants of “Aslan forever” or how they blatantly call him a god.

Speaking of “the last three book” there is much debate about in which order you’re supposed to read the books. There is the “Publication order” camp and then there is the “The way he intended it to be read” camp. I went with publication order and I’m happy I did. I felt it had more of a flow and the end of The Last Battle put a nice stopper on the whole series. Even though I was not quite sure where A Horse and his Boy was going or even the real purpose of it.

I did actually enjoy going to Narnia every night. Most of the characters are endearing and you are on their side on every grand adventure. Since every book seems to have the same outline. Narnia is in trouble. Kids are summoned. Kids go on adventure to save Narnia. Narnia is saved. Kids leave. My favorite adventures have to be in Dawn Treader and Silver Chair mostly because I fell in love with Reepicheep (who doesn’t) and Puddleglum. Puddleglum reminded me so much of an Ent from The Lord of the Rings, albeit more fast paced than the slow moving trees.

Though the similarities run deep, they do say that “imitation is the highest form of flattery”, I was completely taken a back when two children pop up into the wood between worlds after putting on magic rings and emerging from a sort of pond. Not unlike, a few young adults who find a button and end up emerging from a fountain in the middle of an abandoned land.

I’m glad I finally read them, it’s been a long time coming. Will I read them again? Probably not. Maybe, just maybe, I will read a few of them to my children some day. I will tell you one thing…I will never look at lamposts the same way again.

Further up and further in.

 


Fates and Furies- Lauren Groff

12185576_10101351024338677_6429960017375743742_o.jpgParadox of marriage: you can never know someone entirely; you do know someone entirely.

I picked this book up from the Lucky Days collection from the library about a month back. Now, you’ll remember that you have seven days to finish a book in the collection; and since I was in a deep dark Breaking Bad hole, I knew I wouldn’t be able to do it. [What household needs five streaming applications, I ask you?] I gave it back, sadly, to the library. Then I was at a Target buying curtain rods when I happened upon it and realized that I hadn’t bought my “treat yo’ self” gift of the week. So enters Fates and Furies.

Fates and Furies tells the relationship and backstories of Lancelot [Lotto] and Mathilde. Two young lovers that have a whirlwind romance and marriage and end up spending the rest of their lives together, something you don’t see working out too often. In Fates you get the backstory of Lotto a poor little rich kid from Florida with an eccentric mother and doting Aunt. You also get the beginning of his acting career and the beginning of his marriage with Mathilde. While I liked Lotto’s side and it really does help put things in perspective, it was Furies that really grabbed me.

In Furies you come to understand the magnitude of the things that are unsaid between two people. The things that we keep hidden and keep just for ourselves alone, and that is what the novel is about. The bits and pieces of ourselves that we keep locked away, things that no one needs to see, because it makes things easier if they don’t know. Also, the things we do for the ones we love. How we keep them a float and ourselves be damned.

The part that really got me, though, was the end. Yeah, I cried. It was when she talks about the everyday of marriage.

All those ordinary afternoons, listening to footsteps in the beams of the house and knowing the feel behind them.

Because I know the sound of my fiance’s steps and the creaks that he makes in the floorboards, and it is those little things that I cherish as well.

This book will not leave you quickly, nor should it. It begs for a re-read the second you finish the last chapter. Wanting to go back and see if you can piece together the things you may have missed the first time through. There are two sides to every story. This one is no different.


Franny and Zooey – J.D. Salinger

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You’re lucky if you get time to sneeze in this goddam phenomenal world.

Years back I tried to read Catcher in the Rye. I didn’t finish it. I’m pretty sure I got thirty pages to the end and said “screw it.” Now, I’ve talked to many people about why I probably didn’t like it and the same word always comes up. Angst. I was an angsty teenager, isn’t that what being a teenager is all about? But maybe my brand of angst wasn’t the sort necessary to appreciate Rye.

So, when I picked up Franny and Zooey the other day because I had finished Bird Box and I hadn’t had time to get to the library to pick up a book that I desperately wanted to read; I was nervous. I thought, “Oh, I’ll just pick it up, read a few pages, probably hate it, put it down and then read something else.” That, obviously, didn’t happen. I actually liked it. No, I didn’t like it. I loved it! Shocked the hell out of me too. I wasn’t aware that it isn’t one but two stories that are linked together.

F and tells the story of sister and brother, Franny and Zooey respectively, and the relationship they have with each other and the rest of their family while one is going through a breakdown. Franny, as told in the first story, is at her wits end with college and is trying hard to be “a good girlfriend” to her boyfriend Lane during a weekend visit to his university; but she can’t hold it in any longer. She talks about how she’s quite theatre and wants to leave the English department because everyone is all about ego and seems so fake.

“I know this much, is all,” Franny said. “If you’re a poet, you do something beautiful. I mean you’re supposed to leave something beautiful after you get off the page and everything. The ones you’re talking about don’t leave a single, solitary thing beautiful.”

She goes on to tell Lane about a book she picked up at the library about a pilgrim in Russia who wants to learn to pray without ceasing and how, when he finally learns how he learn The Jesus Prayer and says it over and over until it is emblazoned upon his heart and it becomes one with his heart beat. That is the key to praying without ceasing.

In Zooey you see that Franny is in full-blown breakdown and is trying to hold on to anything that may give her sanity, even if that thing is The Jesus Prayer. You also see the relationship Zooey and Franny Glass have with their mother, Bessie. She is a riot of a woman and I could actually hear my grandmother’s voice while I was reading. Bessie doesn’t know what to do with Franny but knows that Zooey is the key. I also felt that the relationship between Franny and Zooey is exactly what she needs to be searching for while she’s in that state. It is a beautiful relationship that is just oozing with familial love.

Being a “retired” actor myself the bits at the ends where he is talking to her about why she got out of the theatre and how she’s got it all wrong really struck a cord with me.

Somewhere along the line—in one damn incarnation or another, if you like–you not only had a hankering to be an actor or an actress but to be a good one. You’re stuck with it now. You can’t just walk out on the results of your own hankerings.

To me, this book is for anyone who is looking for something bigger. Anyone who needs someone to tell them that they shouldn’t give up on their “hankerings”, and for anyone who just needs a hand to hold while they climb out of the well that they have dug for themselves.


Bird Box- Josh Malerman

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How can she expect her children to dream as big as the stars if they can’t lift their heads to gaze upon them?

This book was recommended to me quite a few months back by my friend Josh, no relation. I was struggling at the time to get through a book that I was hoping I would love, but I was crashing and burning every time I opened it. I did finally give up on it and Josh told me to read Bird Box. I ended up reading other things and nearly forgetting about it until I was at that magical place The Ferndale Public Library and happened by it in the library bookstore. I grabbed that and a few Jodi Picoult books and left the library to go have a glass of wine and bask in that warm fuzzy feeling that buying books gives me.

Bird Box is set in Detroit and, funny enough, the author actually lives in the area and is friends with one my managers at work. Set in a time, probably in the not too distant future, where there are things outside that drive you to insanity just by looking at them. The problem? No one knows what they look like. One look at these “creatures” and you are driven to the farthest reaches of madness and you kill anyone and anything near you. That includes yourself.

Finding herself alone and pregnant Malorie is living in an abandoned house with people who share the same ideals she does. Stay inside. Cover all the windows. When you go outside always, always, wear a blindfold. And for God’s sake listen. When your sight is taken away you have to use your other senses to “see” the world around you. Which begs the question. Would you survive? I’m pretty much blind without my contacts in, but I don’t think I would be able to live in a world where I couldn’t see the sky. But you do what you must to survive each day.

Bird Box is an easy read. Now, don’t scoff at me the way my fiancé did when I said that. Some times you want a book that you can devour in one sitting; and that is what I mean when I say that it’s an easy read. Malerman describes the ravaged and torn Detroit as only one who has seen it can. Also, in a world where no one is allowed to see what is outside their front door he gives you the feeling of utter desperation and vulnerability one must feel when they do step outside, blindfolded and ultimately alone.

In short, I loved it. If you’re looking for a book to get lost in during these last few days of summer this one is for you. Take the journey with Malorie as she navigates a new and maddening world with the strength and determination that only a single mother could.


Room – Emma Donoghue

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I’m working on believing.

I bought Room a few years back at a thrift store that I would frequent in Chicago where you could buy book for fifty cents. That was the last I had seen of Room until we moved to Michigan and my coworker, the ever amazing Jobeth, told me I had to read it! She has been the person I go to for book recommendations a lot recently. She hasn’t let me down and she didn’t with Room either.

The story starts with Jack, who is turning five, and his Ma who is desperately trying to give him a birthday that he deserves. You come to realize very quickly that the home that Ma and Jack occupy is a small shed in the back of a house. Padlocked from the outside, Ma sees no end to the monotony of the life that she has created for her and her son. They create their own games, they create their own exercises, they create their own world. Inside room everything is as Ma wants it to be for Jack and that is all he has ever known.

So, when Ma finally tells him that there is more to life than what he sees around him, his world changes and it’s hard for him to grasp the fact that the people on TV are actual people and not on a different planet. One where room doesn’t exist. Ma devises a plan and soon they are out in the world and Jack has to come to terms with the fact that everything he has ever known isn’t true.

Told from the point of view of a five-year old you would think that you would grow tired of Jack’s way of seeing or his way of speaking, but you don’t. I found it endearing to see the world through the eyes of a child again; and also heartbreaking to see the world from a child who hasn’t seen the world before. Heartbreaking and yet a story of sheer bravery, Room will remind us all what it’s like to be a child and remind us that there is such evil in the world. Evil that would keep a young girl away from her family and a young boy away from this big, bad, beautiful world that we all love and hate.


The Graveyard Book – Neil Gaiman

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Fear is contagious. You can catch it. Sometimes all it takes is for someone to say that they’re scared for the fear to become real.

I feel like these always start off with me apologizing for how long it took me to finish the book. We all know that life gets in the way of the small pleasures, so I shall do my best not to apologize any more. I am human, after all.

This book was given to my fiance by his dad quite a few months ago and then was recommended to me by his dad about a month ago. I had seen it kicking around the house and had wanted to pick it up, but there’s always something next in the queue. But isn’t there always going to be? I had read Stardust many years back having loved the movie and going to see it multiple times on my own and with Craig. I still reach for it after a long day and when I need a smile. The book was a different story. I won’t go in to detail, but I wasn’t a huge fan of the book. I thought the movie did a better job at fleshing out the characters and wrapping things up. The same goes for this book, although there isn’t a movie based on the book…yet.

Nodody Owens has lived in the graveyard his entire life, having stumbled upon it as a small child while his family was being murdered in the house he used to live in. He is given the freedom of the graveyard and there the ghosts that live there protect him. His “parents” Mr. and Mrs. Owens along with his guardian, Silas, are charged with the well being of Nobody. Silas is the character that I was most interested in and he doesn’t disappoint in his “fatherly” wisdom.

As any young child will do, Nodbody gets in to all kinds of shenanigans, albeit not the kind that a normal child would. Romping with ghouls and werewolfs. Underneath it all The Graveyard Book is a wonderful little book that makes you think about your life and the way you live it. It did leave quite a few things unanswered for me, but I still enjoyed it and will recommend it to anyone who is looking for an easy read. Me? I’m still trying to figure out if Mr.Gaiman is my cup of tea.

Next up, friends, is another Jobeth recommended book and she hasn’t let me down yet! Stay tuned. I’m sure I’ll finish this next one in a flash.


Dark Places- Gillian Flynn

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The truly frightening flaw in humanity is our capacity for cruelty – we all have it.

I had been waiting for this book to be returned to the library for months! I just couldn’t ever synch up my reading with when someone was returning it, in short, everyone wanted this book. After Gillian Flynn’s runaway hit Gone Girl went to the big screen the demand for her books has been high, and after reading this one I understand why.

Dark Places is written in a style that I love! Every chapter is told from a different character’s perspective and even jumps time periods to do so. I always feel like I’m getting more of the story this way. The three main narrators are Libby Day (present), Ben Day (past), and Patty Day (past). That would be her older brother and her mother, respectively. While Libby is in the present grappling with the after math of her families mass murder; Ben and Patty are in the past just days away from the fateful day and as tension mounts so does the desperation in the chapters.

Patty Day has been trying to keep her family of five running smoothly since her husband left and the farming hasn’t been great in Kansas. She’s stuck in a place where she can’t get out, and her son Ben isn’t making things better. He is a teenager trying to find his own in a rural neighborhood all the while living with four females. He’s just boy trying to find his own and you can feel that pull in his chapters. While the desperation in Patty’s comes through ten fold.

Libby is just trying to survive and while her money is running out she is desperate to do anything for some cash. Enter Lyle. He is a guy who is a part of a club they lovingly named The Kill Club. Where people of like minds get together and try to solve America’s cold case murders. The Day murders just happen to fit the bill and they track down Libby to try and convince her that her brother, Ben, is innocent.

We follow Libby and Lyle through the back streets of Kansas and beyond trying to find answers to a murder that happened so long ago and when Libby was a young impressionable girl. It’s hard to convince someone to change their thoughts when those thoughts have been the same since you were young, and when this is what everyone has been telling you for years.

The back and forth chapters and the pacing of the book make it for a fascinatingly quick read, I couldn’t put it down once it started rolling. The conclusion will leave you breathless as you take this journey with Libby and Lyle to uncover the truth that so many have kept hidden for decades.


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