Final batch for January!!
Twelve Percent Dread by Emily McGovern – 2*
This graphic novel started strong, with an fun story and likable characters, but the story went literally nowhere. There is a bunch of build-up and then it just… ends. No resolution. Every single character is left hanging. It was incredibly frustrating. I also struggled with this one because the writing is SO tiny and hard to read, and because many of panels are so small, it could sometime be difficult (especially at first) to tell characters apart. And also, I’m sorry but this is just the way it is, having someone’s pronouns be they/them can make it SO hard to follow a narrative when you can’t tell if the narrator is referring to one person or several. I really like McGovern’s artwork, and many of her short-form comics (especially the Background Slytherin comics), but this book just really fell short of the mark.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley – 3.5*
I had never read this classic before and was honestly quite intrigued to pick it up, considering that it is such a foundational piece of literature. However, it wasn’t really for me. The narrative structure can definitely be confusing (it’s someone writing a letter telling a story, and then he starts quoting someone else telling a story, who frequently quotes someone else telling a story… I mean, seriously), and while I understood why Shelley wrote it that way, it was sometimes difficult to remember who was telling who what. Frankenstein himself drove me a little crazy and frequently did and said things that made no sense to me. I was especially aggravated with (1) the fact that he creates the monster and then literally runs away immediately without a moment’s hesitation – seriously??? and (2) how long it takes him to actually take up arms against the monster, like literal months trailing this thing around and not actually figuring out a battle plan against it. I also found the monster to be a bit unbelievable – I could buy him teaching himself to speak and read, but to be able to eloquently quote from ancient classics, and to formulate the kinds of arguments he did? Well.
As a story warning about the dangers of dabbling in things we really don’t understand, and claiming that “science” justifies things like creating the atom bomb or seeing what kind of horrific diseases we can create in a lab, this reads great. As gothic horror, it reads okay. It was definitely worth the one-time read, and I think it deserves its status as a classic, but it isn’t one I see myself rereading.
Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach – 2*
My husband was given this book to read at an influential age, and would mention it from time to time as the first time he ever considered the concept of transcendence, so I got him his own copy for his birthday. It’s the story of a seagull who isn’t content to just hang out on the beach and eat stuff like the rest of the flock – he wants to pursue the true magic of flight, beyond just the necessities. Of course, this kind of attitude can’t be tolerated (for some unknown reason) so he is cast out from the rest of the flock. Over time, Jonathan Livingston Seagull uses his extreme flight speeds to achieve another level of existence, which he teaches to the other young, rebellious seagulls as well, as they all pursue their flying nirvana, much to the horror of those boring, traditional seagulls who just want to do regular seagull stuff.
My husband enjoyed the nostalgia trip, although he wasn’t quite as enamored with the story as he was when he was 13. That said, he did write, “Seagull is to flying as I am to _____” on our chalkboard as he contemplated what it is in his life that makes him fly haha However, I’m not as “heady” as my husband, so I honestly just found the entire parable to be quite aggravating. What’s the big problem with wanting to just hang out on the beach and eat breakfast? Why does everyone have to suffer and struggle to try and transcend to the next level? At the end of the day, it wasn’t a bad book, it just wasn’t a match for me. I like doughnuts and sitting in the sunshine too much to spend my days trying to transcend!
Ben and Me by Robert Lawson – 4*
Lawson wrote a few of these books, taking historical figures, putting some kind of animal in their life, and then telling the person’s story from the perspective of the animal. This is the most well-known of them, with the life of Ben Franklin told from the perspective of his friend and companion, Amos the mouse. Amos helps Ben make most of his discoveries and inventions, and helps him become a renown diplomat as well. Amos lives in Ben’s hat, where it’s convenient for him to take notes and give Ben advice on the fly. My favorite part was how many other famous people from the time had their own secret mouse-companions helping them along. This one is fun and silly with fabulous illustrations by the author. An all-around good time.
The Roundhill by Dick King-Smith – 3*
King-Smith was incredibly prolife, writing, I don’t know, probably close to a hundred children’s books over his lifetime. (I mean seriously, look at his list of published works on Wiki!) I pick up his books whenever I come across them on the cheap, and have quite a few of them sitting unread on my shelves, despite most of them only being around 75-100 pages long. With such a large body of work, some are definitely stronger than others (he’s best known for The Sheep-Pig, which is what the movie Babe the Gallant Pig is based from; I personally have a soft spot for the first of his books I ever read, The Fox Busters.) All that to say, while this story was okay, it wasn’t one of his best (in my opinion).
Evan is a rather lonely boy who has a love for his special, secret place, which he calls The Roundhill. One day, he finds a girl there, who tells him her name is Alice. At first annoyed that someone else has invaded his space, over the next few meetings Evan finds himself drawn to her. However, she is also rather mysterious – to the point that Evan begins to wonder if she is even real. This book is weirdly sad and doesn’t exactly go anywhere. I never could particularly like Evan, who is rather mean to his visiting cousin at one point, and whom I just never quite connected to. At the end of the book he is an elderly adult reflecting on his life, and I felt quite sad for him as he said he wished he could believe in God but just couldn’t. All in all, there is a sad undertone to the story that kept me from really enjoying it. At only 84 pages long it didn’t take me long to read, but I doubt I’ll pick this one up again.
Mr. Mulliner Speaking by P.G. Wodehouse – 4.5*
Like Meet Mr. Mulliner, this collection of short stories are all told by Mr. Mulliner from his usual spot in the Angler’s Rest. With so many relatives inclined to get entangled in all sorts of adventures, Mr. Mulliner has a tale for every occasion. These stories are fun and silly, and delightful Wodehouse fare.
Salute by C.W. Anderson – 4*
Anderson’s Billy and Blaze books were some of my first introductions into the joys of horse stories, and I still snatch up any book written and/or illustrated by him that I can find. He wrote several books for younger readers that are short chapter books (so a step up from the Billy and Blaze picture books, difficulty-wise), and Salute is one of those. At only 64 pages, many of which are illustrated, it’s not a very in-depth book, but is still a fun story about a boy who is given a retired racehorse. The odd part about this story is that Salute himself doesn’t show up until the very end of the story – it’s more about this first horse that the boy owns, helps restore to health, and then retrains to race. Still, a nice little story that definitely added to my conviction as a child that someone would just show up and give me a horse someday! LOL
Running Total: Books that I’ve read but haven’t reviewed yet: 59!!! High/Low: 97/59