March Minireviews – Part 2

More reviews from the depths of time!!

Sometimes I don’t feel like writing a full review for whatever reason, either because life is busy and I don’t have time, or because a book didn’t stir me enough.  Sometimes, it’s because a book was so good that I just don’t have anything to say beyond that I loved it!  Frequently, I’m just wayyy behind on reviews and am trying to catch up.  For whatever reason, these are books that only have a few paragraphs of thoughts from me.

Penne Dreadful by Catherine Bruns – 3.5*

//published 2019//

This was a pretty average cozy mystery.  The MC, Tessa, just wasn’t super bright and tended to get on my nerves.  Her husband has died recently in a car wreck, but now there is suspicion of foul play.  Despite the fact that Tessa goes on and on about how happy their marriage was and how much she loved her husband, she immediately believes literally every bad thing anyone says about him.  Like if my husband died in a car wreck, it would take more than someone telling me they saw him in a coffee shop to convince me that he was up to something nefarious, but Tessa just rolls right over with “ohno he was obviously hiding so much from me!”  Sounds like a great marriage! *eye roll* Anyway, this was a perfectly fine cozy, but nothing about it inspired me to read the next book in the series.

The Breakthrough by Daphne du Maurier – 3.5*

//published 1966//

This is a short story that someone gave me as a gift a while back.  While it was a perfectly interesting tale, it’s billed as “creepy” and it definitely fell short of the mark.  There was no point in the story where I felt anything particularly eerie or creepy was going on.  Ah well.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis – 5*

//published 1950//

I’m always wanting to reread old favorites and never seem to have time, so when various groups on Litsy decide to do chapter-a-day buddy reads, it really suits me quite well.  In March, a group started reading through the Chronicles of Narnia in published order and I’ve been really enjoying revisiting these classics.  LWW was just as fantastic as I remember it.  Yes, it can be a little heavy-handed on the metaphor aspect, but it’s still an excellent story, with Edmund’s story arc being one of the best examples of a character redemption that I can think of.  Plus, these stories are very much mixed with nostalgia for me, so I’m not remotely objective about them!

Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling – 4*

//published 1998//

Speaking of revisiting old favorites, I’ve still been participating in the Litsy buddy read of Harry Potter as well.  The slower pace has definitely allowed me to notice more details than I have before.  These aren’t perfect books, and the fandom definitely has some crazies, but I still really enjoy this series.

Blue Smoke by Dorothy Lyons – 3.5*

//published 1953//

We all know I have a weakness for horse stories, and this is pretty typical 1950s fare with a spunky heroine and a perfect horse.  The drama in this one got a little out of control at the end, but it was still a perfectly enjoyable way to while away a few hours – even if the binding didn’t hold up super well!!

Don’t Look Now by Daphne du Maurier 

This is a collection of short stories that included a few, like “The Birds” that I’ve been meaning to read.  Unfortunately, on the whole I wasn’t really a fan of these.  While I love Rebecca and My Cousin Rachel by this author, literally none of these short stories particularly engaged me.  Almost all of them had strange, abrupt endings without any real conclusion, leaving the stories feeling a bit pointless.  Even The Birds, which is objectively a fantastic story with a great concept, super atmospheric, completely engrossing – and then it literally just stops.  No resolution, no explanation, no nothing.  It felt like I was missing a few pages, it was that abrupt.  Several of the stories, like Don’t Look Now and Indiscretion just felt bizarre instead of creepy.  As I’m looking at my notes, I did mark Blue Lenses as “creepy and ominous” but now I don’t really remember what it was about.

All in all, I’ll still keep picking up du Maurier’s work from time to time, but I’m not convinced that short stories are really her forte.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

006

by C.S. Lewis

Published 1950

Gaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh where do I even begin?!?!  The Chronicles of Narnia are very, very high on my list of all-time favorite books.  (It’s a mental list, by the way.  That way I can make it be whatever I want whenever I want.)  I first read these books when I was pretty young, probably 8 or 9 I started reading at a tender age, not to bore you with personal history, but the point is that I was reading legit chapter books by about the age of 5, and while overall I think this was positive, I think that it also sometimes meant that I read books that I wasn’t really mentally ready for even though I was capable of reading them, if that makes sense.  That definitely happened with the final book in the Chronicles, The Last Battle.  As a young child, I hated that book, so much so that even though I would read the other books frequently, I didn’t read that last book again until probably ten years later – and now I think it may be my favorite.  But that’s a different story for a different time.

Point is, the Chronicles are fantastic.  They are humorous, exciting, fun, and, somehow, plausible.  I know for a fact that I’m not the only person who’s wondered about the existence of Narnia.  :-D  The traditional, original drawings by Pauline Baynes are fantastic overall (although every now in again I get exasperated because it’s not how imagined it!), as well.

Okay, I think we’ll start by getting my rant out of the way.  My rant has to do with the fact that the  book pictured above has a “2” on the spine.  UNACCEPTABLE.  I am SO ANGRY at the fact that these books are now published in the wrong order.  Narnia should NEVER be read chronologically (at least, not the first time that you read them!).  You miss SO MUCH reading them chronologically instead of in published order, especially when people read the chronologically-first book, The Magician’s Nephew, before reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.  I don’t even understand how The Magician’s Nephew makes SENSE when you read it first.  I am EXTREMELY PASSIONATE about this.  Some people drag up a supposed quote from Lewis in response to a letter written by a young reader of his, but it’s pretty apparent that the reader is asking if the books can be read chronologically and he says yes, that makes sense, but not in a AND OH HEY PLEASE REPUBLISH ALL MY BOOKS IN THIS ORDER FOREVER.  My gosh.  Ridiculous.

Okay, so, anyway, if you’ve never read the Chronicles, or if it’s been a long time, please read them in their published order:

  1. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
  2. Prince Caspian (Which, by the way, is subtitled Return to Narnia, which doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense if the book isn’t, you know, the return to Narnia, instead of the third time around.)
  3. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
  4. The Silver Chair (These four books, by the way, are chronological to each other, and have many of the same characters.)
  5. The Horse and His Boy (Which takes place during the reign of Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy, so somewhere towards the end of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe)
  6. The Magician’s Nephew (Which is about the creation of Narnia, and truly would be super confusing if you didn’t already know about Narnia.)
  7. The Last Battle

Alrighty, so The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe…  there has been loads of stuff written about this book.  It’s been made into movies.  I’m not going to tell you anything about it that you don’t already know, other than my own opinions.  The Chronicles aren’t books of incredible depth and description like The Lord of the Rings.  These stories are for younger readers, and are somewhat simple in scope.  However, there are many layers, and even if you aren’t a Christian and don’t like the allegorical aspect to the tales, I think that that overarching story, of a god willing to sacrifice himself for someone completely undeserving, is still an excellent tale.

I’m not sure that I can explain what has drawn me back to Narnia time and again, but I know that these are books that have withstood the test of time for me – I have easily read them twenty or more times, and they never disappoint me.  I never fail to find something new, to underline some different sentence that hadn’t struck me before.  The redemption of Edmund is so beautiful (Edmund is one of my favorite fictional characters of all time), the resurrection of Aslan, the battle with the Witch – I love it all, down to the best advice for running a country that I’ve found yet:

And they made good laws and kept the peace and saved good trees from being unnecessarily cut down, and liberated young dwarfs and young satyrs from being sent to school, and generally stopped busybodies and interferers and encouraged ordinary people who wanted to live and let live.

If only all rulers were so wise!

In conclusion: if you’ve never read these books, you absolutely must do so.  If you haven’t read them since childhood, pick them up again, because they will not disappoint.  They are just as magical for me at the age of 31 as they were when I first read them as a very young child.  Return to Narnia – just make sure you do it in the correct order.  ;-)