Welcome to my first post of book reflections. I’ve been able to read a lot recently. Some of that is thanks to not wasting as much time (but still too much time) on social media, and some of that is thanks to staying up later than I should. Here are reflections on three books that I’ve read recently.
Last year my husband and I went through our books and got rid of some we no longer wanted. We had several copies of some books from the merging of our personal libraries. To make way for new books we picked out doubles (and some books that we didn’t want anymore) and gave them to the library.
One of the books we had a double of was Watership Down. At that time I hadn’t read it. We only needed one, right? If only I had known. Robbie likes to keep his books in perfect condition. I like to break them in, underlining, scribbling down notes, etc. When I picked up Watership Down for the first time this year the desire to underline the beautiful and powerful passages of the book hit me hard and fast. I will now have to find another copy of it, re-read it, and make my notations. It will be glorious.
As you may have gathered, I loved the book. The relationships between the rabbits was what struck me the most and the way that those relationships were forged through trouble. Midway or so through the book the narrator talks about how the rabbits had learned to appreciate each other’s strengths and differences and to rely on each other. The friendships that they develop with other kinds of animals gives the new rabbit warren spice and flare.
Reading about the destruction of the warren from the rabbit’s perspective gave me pause, challenging me to think about the way that we humans go about so causally and brutally destroying creatures homes. I don’t believe that humanity is a blight to the earth, but I sometimes wonder if we have become too arrogant in our stewardship of creation, little caring how we go about taking dominion.
There were only two small issues I had with the book: the epilogue and the narrator. The epilogue was a sentimental, not a literary, critique. It was very heartbreaking to read of Hazel’s departure and absence from his dear friends, but I suspect my reaction against it was influenced by still grieving the recent loss of a dear friend myself. The narrator is more of a question than a critique. Who was the narrator? Sometimes the narrator sounded like Hazel or one of the other rabbit and at other times it was definitely not a rabbit. I found the switching voices within the narration confusing and jarring at times. But don’t let that stop you. Read this book!
Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley
I did not intend to check this book out of the library, but as I passed it, displayed proudly on the top of a bookshelf in the Young Adult section, I knew I had to read it. This book speaks to the power of a good cover design and an endorsement by a recognized author. Whoever designed this cover has my thanks. This book is amazing. It’s a magical story intertwining myth with the harsh realities of discovering who you are. The voice is blunt, truthful, and very intelligent, but not in a way that makes the reader lost.
One slight thing that bothered me was a lack of clarity which characters were which mythical creatures and what combination of bird and human they all were. Other than that I would describe it as a perfect book. It’s not quite my cup of tea for style, but it is masterfully done and I hope there is a sequel because I am invested in these characters.
I don’t want to say too much about the book. I don’t want to spoil it. Just trust me and get the book. The only other thing I’m going to say is, Ms. Headley, please right a sequel.*
Inked by Eric Smith
Do you have a twitter account? Yes? Follow Eric Smith. (Also, follow Ms. Headley) He’s hilarious. Plus he has a storm trooper helmet in his cover photo. What more could you want? Maybe his tweets about the publishing world. He does double duty as an author and an agent. I discovered him in my search for agents to query Chrysalis, and that’s how I found out about Inked.
The premise of the book, magical ink that controls you, intrigued me. I didn’t buy it at first, spent several months thinking about it and looking at the exciting cover. Last month I decided I had thought about it enough and, by golly, I wanted to read it. I’m glad I did.
It was very fun and had some beautiful prose in it. The description of the tattoos, which shift and change color depending on the emotions of the bearer, are stunning. I have struggled to learn, and am still learning, how to craft varied and satisfying sentences, so it was great to read a book with a fluid and engaging voice. There were lots of very colorful sentences too, like:
As the sun set, torches began to rise, replacing one soft orange glow with another.
The main characters are very fun and I liked how at first the main character had more of a side-kick role without anything particularly special with him. I was a little disappointed when he took on more of a typical hero role, as it was very unique to have an ordinary narrator. From a structural standpoint the book moved and flowed well. It kept my interest, keeping me up late a few nights. And the voice of the book was great. Caenum was a great narrator.
Overall, it was a very enjoyable book. There were some things I had issues with: some cliched lines and situations, lack of development of a minor character that I was supposed to have an emotional investment in, and some inconsistency in the world-building. I honestly felt like that might be an editor problem. As an aspiring writer myself, I know how hard it can be to step back and objectively look at your work. When I read it there were several times when I thought “Ah! This sentence would be more powerful if he got rid of this phrase.” This is something Sorina Higgins has done for me when she has kindly volunteered editing services, and I think Inked would have benefited from someone who could have given it a loving and critical read.
Three things I really liked about the ending: the fact that there was a reversal of who needed to be proven worthy and they failed (sorry, I can’t be more specific. Read the book.), the fact that there was a return of a minor character introduced at the beginning of the book that I kept wanting to see, and the fact that there is room for a sequel. Mr. Smith, I request a sequel of you as well.
This is a very fun read. Read it. Read all three of these books. That’s all folks!
*Actually, I have an update. In the midst of writing this post, I tweeted Maria Dahvana Headly (oh the joys of twitter) and confirmed that, yes, there is a sequel coming.