I’m back with another guest review from my middle-schooler. I’ve been waiting for him to read The Three Musketeers, which is one of my favorite books. I’ve shared his review here as he wrote it, with permission.
The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas is, in my opinion, a great book. It is an intense book with scenes that will amuse you, anger you, and maybe even make you sad. It is a story of intrigue, dueling (with swords, not pistols or cards. I’m looking at you, Yu-Gi-Oh) and some romance and war on the side. Overall, I enjoyed it and I recommend it for anyone who likes the things I just mentioned.
And now, here are some more things. Things about The Three Musketeers, specifically.
First things first, I just want to say that D’Artagnan is my favorite. Funny story: I originally thought his name was D’Orangutan. D’Artagnan is brash, brave, intelligent, and also hilariously thickheaded at times. This combination of shrewd intelligence and idiotic behavior, in my opinion, combine to make a really great character in general.
But there’s more than just D’Artagnan! There’s also the vain Porthos, the pious Aramis, and the brooding Athos to aid D’Artagnan in his adventure, as well as the so-called villains Cardinal Richelieu, and Lady de Winter. Every single character in this book feels larger-than-life thanks to Dumas’ excellent portrayal of their personalities.
But don’t forget, there’s more to a book than people (unless, of course, you are reading a phone book)! There’s also scenes and events! Events such as the dangerous journey to England and back, and my personal favorite the time the heroes had breakfast in a captured enemy bastion while the other side’s troops tried desperately to recapture their fortress. I found that scene really fun and adorable and I hope you do too.
Now, I don’t want to spoil the story any more than I already have for anyone who hasn’t read it yet, but I can safely assure you that there is never a dull moment with this book. Good show, Al Dumas!
Once again, I bring you (with permission) a book review from my oldest child. He just finished reading The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and had a great time writing his thoughts. I’ve shared them here as they were written. Enjoy!
My Dear Watson, I do believe that this book is quite good, albeit complex at times. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is an extremely famous collection of stories, and a very intriguing read at that.
Sherlock Holmes needs no introduction, though I do believe that I do. My name is Simon, and I recently read through The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. And, having done so for the sole purpose of school, I am thus writing a report about the tales within this collection.
I must say, I quite enjoyed this book, especially the shorter, less criminally involved cases such as that of The Blue Carbuncle and The Five Orange Pips. Very Nice indeed!
Of course, I cannot even mention Sherlock without mentioning Watson, and I actually very much appreciated his narrative of Holmes’ adventures and exploits, as it essentially acted as a translation of Holmes’ thought process for the average person. I give my thanks to Doyle for having the thoughts which led to Watson’s creation.
However, I believe it is now time to address the elephant- or rather, the hound– in the room. The Hound of the Baskervilles is arguably the most famous Holmes story of them all, and while hard to follow at times, it always maintained a sense of foreboding mystery up until the final, dreaded confrontation. I won’t say much, in case some of you reading this have yet to read the story itself, but I will say that it was a very interesting and exciting story which always kept me on the edge of my seat.
Funnily enough, I actually preferred the other stories in the book over The Hound, simply because of the earlier stories’ lighthearted nature. Not to say I didn’t enjoy The Hound of theBaskervilles, I merely found it to be more serious than I was used to.
Overall, the evidence all points to one conclusion: I enjoyed this book, and I think you might too. Elementary, my dear readers!
I recently had my oldest write a book review for The Call of the Wild by Jack London. It made me laugh so hard that I am sharing it here with all of you (with his permission). All the spelling and language have been kept the way he wrote it. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
The Call of the Wild by Jack London is a book. It has interesting bits, slightly violent bits, and some bits that I skimmed over.
All jokes aside, The Call of the Wild is one of those books, you know the type, the so-called “classics” that everyone is required to read at least once, and therefore very few people actually read for fun. But to be honest, I actually enjoyed this one! Although, I think the version I was reading was the easy mode version.
Anyways, C.O.T.W., as I apparently like to call it seeing as I just typed it that way, is a book with a theme of, well, the WILD (dun dun dunnn)! Basically, the entire book is about a dog named Buck who, at the start of the story, is your average owned-by-a-wealthy-and-dignified-judge type of a dog. But he is kidnapped (or is it dognapped?) and shipped off to new owners in the far, far north.
He is quickly put to work as a sled dog, but it isn’t all running around pulling things, no. Not only does he develop a deep hatred for Spitz, a rival sled-dog and all-around jerk, but he also has to deal with fights, changing owners, and food shortages.
Eventually he ends up under the ownership of a man named John Thornton, who he develops a great deal of affection for. But while under his care, Buck meets and befriends a timber wolf, who leads him to wonder about his ancestors’ wild nature, and his own wild side.
The last straw comes when John Thornton is killed by the Yeehats, a local tribe of Native Americans. This event causes Buck to fly into a rage, kill several Yeehats, and then abandon humanity altogether to join the wolves as the leader of the pack.
So, there you go! I really enjoyed reading it (especially since I got the easy version). If I had to pick a favorite character, well, there was a dog in the book named Dave, and he pretty much just sat around and didn’t participate in anything when he wasn’t pulling the sled, and I thought that was funny. He also seemed really calm compared to the other dogs, and while Buck and Spitz were fighting like mad, he was just sitting there like, “Yeah, whatever”. So that’s why he was my favorite character.
As for my favorite part, I liked the part where John was betting that Buck could pull a 1,000-pound sled, and everyone else thought he couldn’t, but Buck managed to do it anyway. I liked that part because it was really exciting not knowing if Buck could do it or not and then all of a sudden- BAM! He’s totally doing it! It was kind of like watching a really, really close race and not knowing who wins. I enjoyed it.
I suppose October is when all the ghosts and ghoulies come out to play. I’ll be honest: I’ve never been big on Halloween. More power to people who are, but it’s just not my jam. I am a fan of a good spooky book, though, and my youngest went through a phase when he loved all things Halloween related (it was an odd choice for a three year old, but…okay?)
Here’s a roundup of some spooky and not-so-spooky books for fiends of all ages. Enjoy!
For little monsters:
Most parents are familiar with the Sandra Boynton books. There are about a million of them, all with cute little critters and fun storylines. The number of times I sang the Pajama Time song with the kids is truly astonishing! Spooky Pookie is another sweet little story, this time about a pig who can’t figure out what costume to wear. It’s great for three years old and under.
The Ghost-Eye Tree
This book scared the snot out of me when I was young! This is a perfect cuddle-up-and-read-aloud kind of book, and the illustrations are amazing.
The Monster at the End of this Book
This has all the trappings of a good horror book: monsters, tension, a twist at the end! All it’s missing is the spookiness. Instead, it has something better: a great sense of humor. This one is so much fun! It’s one I think all parents should read with their littles.
For older elementary ghoulies/ middle grade ghosts:
I love this book so, so much! The Bunnicula books are a blast! They are clever and creative, full of some of the most memorable pets in print. I have fond memories of this book and I loved reading it with my oldest for the first time a few years ago.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
Ah, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark! I think every adult of a certain age read these when they were young. This is the sort of book that begs to be read while eating s’mores.
The Beast and the Bethany
This book is such fun! It reminds me of nothing so much as a lighthearted, kid-friendly take on The Picture of DorianGray. The characters are delightfully nasty, the Beast is brutally entertaining, and the illustrations are a perfect addition. Plus, there’s a sequel coming before too long! Review
For Young-adult vampires:
House of Hollow
If you’re looking for eerie, this dark fairy tale/ horror is for you. It actually creeped me out a little, which is not an easy feat. I didn’t love the wrap-up at the end, but the rest of the book was great. Review
Tales from the Hinterland
Tales from the Hinterland is a creepy and clever book of shorts stories that take place in the world of author Melissa Albert’s The Hazel Wood. While I didn’t like the final book in the Hazel Wood duology (at all), this collection of fairy tales that take place in that world are fantastic. You don’t need to read the original series to understand or enjoy this book at all, which makes it even better. Review
The Devouring Gray
Uncanny happenings, monsters, and townsfolk who are not who they seem make The Devouring Gray a fun-filled, creepy book. It’s a quick read too, which makes it a great palette-cleanser after a heavy book. Review
For adult zombies:
Meddling Kids is a love letter to the Scooby Gang, the Goonies, or the Hardy Boys. It’s a mystery-meets-supernatural book that answers the question: what happens when those meddling kids grow up and return home to solve one last case?
In the Garden of Spite
I think books about serial killers fall into the “spooktastic” category. I was enthralled by this book from page one. I knew nothing about the Widow of La Porte before reading this and I was shocked to learn that it was based on a real person. Yikes! Review
Nothing but Blackened Teeth
While this never managed to flat-out scare me, Nothing but Blackened Teeth was nonetheless an interesting read. It had a bit of a Shirley Jackson vibe (though with gore). Review
I read this for the first time not all that long ago and holy crap! I still find myself uneasily examining it. It is engrossing and thought-provoking. It’s also believable, which makes it even more unsettling.
Of course I had to have Frankenstein on this list! There’s nothing quite so scary as watching a human play God.
The Picture of Dorian Gray
I generally prefer thought-provoking gothic horrors to gore-fests, and The Picture of Dorian Gray is one of the best examples of a smart gothic horror that I’ve read. If you haven’t picked this one up yet, I highly suggest you do.
There are many other great spooky reads that didn’t make this list, mainly because it would be way too long if I added everything. What are some of your favorite spooktastic reads?
I don’t do tags all that often and I’ve only ever created two, this being one of them. I had so much fun with this one a couple of years ago that I decided to do it again this year. So, without further ado: bring on the monsters!
Dracula- a book with a charismatic villain:
Oh, how I love Lestat! He’s spoiled and changeable, charming and utterly ruthless. I may not be a fan of Anne Rice’s most recent vampire books (way to kick that dead horse!), but early Lestat is viciously fantastic.
The Invisible Man- a book that has more going on than meets the eye:
What starts out as a seemingly lighthearted town gathering becomes something much darker, in true Jackson style. I read The Lottery for the first time this year and was disturbed and enthralled in equal measure. This short story made me think and is definitely more than it seems on the surface. Review
Wolfman- a complicated character:
Every single character in If We Were Villains was incredibly complex. One of the many things I loved about the book was seeing how the characters unraveled and seeing hidden aspects of their personalities revealed. Review
Frankenstein- a book with a misunderstood character:
Umhra is a half-orc and is looked down on and distrusted because of it. It adds another layer to an already extremely well-developed character. Paladin Unbound is one of my favorite books of the year and I have started recommending it to people a lot. Review
The Bride of Frankenstein- a sequel you enjoyedmorethan the first book:
Full disclosure: I am not quite finished with this book yet. However, as of right now I am loving it. It seems like the few niggles I had with The Bone Shard Daughter are absent. Plus, Mephi is there from the beginning, which is wonderful!
Creature from the Black Lagoon- an incredibly unique book:
Oh, how I loved Campaigns and Companions! There are many comedic roleplaying-related books. There is nothing like this one though. I laughed out loud and found myself showing my favorite bits to everyone in the house (translation: I chased family members down and shoved the book into their retinas). I hear there’s a sequel in the works and I am so stinking excited! Review
The Mummy- a book that wraps up nicely (see what I did there?):
Everything about The House in the CeruleanSea was perfect, including the ending. It didn’t feel like an ending, more like a beginning, which was absolutely wonderful. Review
I’m not tagging anyone, but please feel free to take part if this tickles your fancy. Please link me and credit me as the creator. I hope to see some great lists (although I’m sure they will add way too many books to my already overwhelming tbr).
Tomorrow marks the beginning of a week of interviews with authors who enjoy table top role playing games, or TTRPGs. In many ways, TTRPGs and books go hand-in-hand. While the most well known TTRPG is Dungeons and Dragons, you can find books as TTRPGs as well. So, after you’ve read and enjoyed the book, maybe play in its world yourself. Here are just a few:
The Lord of the Rings
Who wouldn’t want to adventure in Middle Earth? Tolkien created a rich setting that is perfect to explore in. There are several different editions of LotR roleplaying books, ranging from affordable to “well, let me sell my kidney so I can buy this book”. I’d suggest grabbing the affordable ones and keeping your eyes peeled the next time you’re used book buying.
Who says classics can’t be played? This is a pre-order right now: the game should be available in October. This has some definite potential and it’s an indie game! If you decide to give it a go, let me know what you think!
This particular TTRPG seems to be very loosely based on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. I think this could be a really interesting game setting, but I don’t expect it to be much like the original book. Either way, it’s intriguing.
These are only a few of the books that have been reinterpreted as roleplaying games. There are so many others: Watership Down, The Song of Ice and Fire, and others also have TTRPGs. And of course, there are gaming systems for series such as Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms, and Ravenloft. These books were originally written to tie in with gaming systems, although they have their own self-contained storylines and don’t really fall into the RPGlit category.
What books would you love to see get the roleplaying game treatment? Have you played any of these?
Admission: I saw The Secret Life of Walter Mitty before reading the story the movie is based on. Shame on me! That being said, I liked the movie just fine, it’s just very different from James Thurber’s work. I thought the movie was a bit more hopeful than the story seems to be. The story itself made me feel a little sad.
The titular character of the tale is Walter Mitty, a little man who kind of feels swallowed by life. He mentally retreats into fantastical situations in which he is the hero. Every part of his life feeds into these fantasies until it seems like his real life is actually his fiction. It really does affect every part of his life: he doesn’t seem able to really connect with reality. His relationship with his wife is one where she’s sort of his caregiver, which he resents. It’s obviously put a strain on their marriage. She nags him an awful lot and speaks down to him, but in my mind it’s because she is worried. She’s been thrust into a role that she probably didn’t expect, going from wife to almost-parent. I could be reading way more into that, but that’s the impression I got. I think she misses her husband because he’s become almost inaccessible.
The writing is simplistic, which I think helped show the almost child-like avoidance that Walter uses when life seems overwhelming, or just unsatisfactory. Which of us hasn’t escaped into our own imaginations before? That’s what reading is, to an extent. The difference is the underlying melancholy that pervades Walter’s life. I really enjoyed The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, but wow, did it make me sad!
I have no idea why I waited so long to read it, but I’m glad I did. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is a pensive little tale, one that is definitely worth reading.
I just want to warn everyone that there will be major spoilers below. I’m sorry about that, but I need to discuss this disturbing little story somewhere. I am really hoping for comments on this one because I would love to hear other ideas on “The Lottery”. I need to be able to unpack this thing! This is my first read-through and, knowing Shirley Jackson, I really should have expected it to be disquieting. It completely sucked me in and I can’t stop thinking about it.
——HUGE SPOILERS BELOW——
“The Lottery” takes place in a small town, the sort of place where everyone knows each other. It follows the story of a lottery which the reader finds out is drawn annually, the winner ultimately being the loser, as they are stoned to death. I found it to be unsettling and engrossing, easily the best Shirley Jackson work I’ve read, and one that’s kept me thinking. There are themes of casual acceptance of violence and apathy toward change or improvement, which are chillingly still applicable today.
In the beginning of “The Lottery” the tone is almost lighthearted. The reader is given no clue that the story will end in such an upsetting way. The men talk about their crops; the children talk about school and eventually even start playing. The story says that “Bobby Martin had already stuffed his pockets full of stones, and the other boys soon followed his example, selecting the smoothest and roundest stones” . With the picture the author has painted of a lighthearted ceremony, I wondered at first if the boys are grabbing stones to skip across a lake, or to use as a fort. Only at the end is it revealed that those very stones gathered by the children were to be used to stone someone to death- possibly even one of the very children who gathered the stones. The lottery has taken on a familiar feel to the participants, and almost seems to signal the beginning of a season. Certainly, no one seems to be upset or even reluctant to participate.
Despite the chilling violence that has taken place for years and years, no one questions or objects to the sacrificing of a life. In fact, when one woman points out that some places have stopped having lotteries, a man claims that there’s “nothing but trouble in that”. This is where I started to see a little beyond the surface, and felt rising tension. This “turn”, so to speak, is one that has served Jackson well in her other works, and it worked wonderfully here. The villagers accept the violence without argument, even encouraging their children to participate. There is almost a duality shown in the neighbors. They can talk about doing dishes one moment, and plan on stoning someone to death in the next. However, the ultimate protest of the person who has “won” the lottery, coupled with the relief of those who have not, shows that no one is quite comfortable with the situation. Not one of them steps in, says anything against it, or even foregoes the chance to throw a stone, though. This shows an apathy and unwillingness to take steps to change or improve. The keeping of tradition is the most important thing, no matter that the tradition is violent and wrong. Even the disheveled state of the lottery box, which has not been fixed, shows a stoic acceptance and indifference- perhaps even an active resistance- to changing or stopping the violence.
“The Lottery” isn’t just a creepy little tale: it’s a commentary on the acceptance of violence, and an unwillingness to question the status quo. This unwillingness to change anything, or even examine whether change needs to happen is still echoed today. Seen through that lens, “The Lottery” becomes at once both fascinating and disturbing. Can you see why I can’t stop thinking about it?
Have you read “The Lottery”? (I kind of hope so, if you’ve read this post, seeing as I posted spoiler after spoiler). What did you think? Did you get the same things out of it that I did?
My oldest is a book fiend. He has always loved words, and once he learned to read, he was off and running. He reads anything that catches his eye, happily ignoring those pesky “reading level” suggestions. I like to chat with him about what he’s been reading and enjoying and I realized it’s been a while since I’ve written those opinions down. You can find my last bookish chat with him here.
Without further ado, here are some of his more recent takes, in his own words:
Wings of Fire by Tui T. Sutherland
“The Wings of Fire series is fantastic. I’ve only finished the third one, but I’m already a fan of the series and plan on reading all of it. I like dragons and I like action and I like well-written stories and this series has all of that. It also has a bit of politics, so if you like politics you might like it.
I think my favorite character is Starflight, a nightwing dragon. He’s bookish and shy and I think that is entertaining. I highly recommend it for kids who like fantasy stuff. “
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
“The eloquent speech didn’t make a lot of sense at first. Once I got used to it, I liked it. It was interesting and it had surprises.”
Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke
“It was a really good story. The characters were well written and it was interesting how it took place all over the world. Plus, as you can already tell by my earlier pick on this list, I like dragons. There’s a dragon good guy and a sort-of dragon bad guy. I think the idea of the villain was pretty cool. It’s kinda weird to root for a villain, though. The main dragon was pretty cool too. It had a lot of characters to memorize, but that was a good thing. It kept it interesting throughout the book.”
The Ventifact Colossus by Dorian Hart
“We had very similar opinions about the books. My favorite character was Ernie too. It is a very good series with a lot of good action and humor. It’s definitely a long read, but you get invested in it and it’s worth it by the end. I’m very excited to see how the latest installment of the series goes down. I think it’s cool that you [Mom] were quoted on it. It makes me excited to see how my mom is going up in the world.”
Incidentally, this series has been my oldest son’s gateway to adult fiction.
Sword Quest by Nancy Yi Fan
“It was a really good beginning to the series and I hope the next one is as cool. I think it’s cool that the book was written by someone that young. It’s about mostly avian species. It’s an action adventure with a lot of myth and legend in it. It’s like the birds’ local legends. My favorite character was a woodpecker named Winger who was kind of a side character. He was fun. He was talkative and he liked to write. He had a journal which actually made up a few of the chapters.”
Ash Ridley and the Phoenix by Lisa Foiles
“I loved this book! It had a lot of cool fantasy creatures. I definitely think my favorite character was Hammond Crump, a kid with an ice dragon who makes it constantly cold. I like Hammond because he’s a really sweet character and I think it’s ironic that he has the same last name as me. Plus, having an ice dragon is pretty sweet, even if it makes it so it’s always cold. I think you should read it if you are looking for a new, exciting fantasy author. There’s double crossing, and battles and stuff. The kids have to save the day.”
There you have it. My oldest definitely has a fantasy bent and his newfound appreciation for dragons is something I can relate to. Do you have any suggestions for him based on what he likes?