Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I adored the movie Inkheart. It was funny and quirky, with lavish sets and costumes, even if it was a little weird that the main characters are named Mo and Meggie. Maybe it’s not so weird in German.
In any case, the movie is right up there with Ladyhawke, Labyrinth, and The Princess Bride when it comes to glorious fantasy cult classics that don’t take themselves too seriously. Inkheart was also set in beautiful Northern Italy, and made me awfully homesick. In particular, Balestrino, the town on the Italian Riviera where Capricorn has his headquarters is now on my list of must-sees next time I go to Italy. So of course I couldn’t resist the book. And I think the book is as good as the movie.
This is a book that revolves around books, so people without a borderline idolatrous relationship with books might be annoyed by it. Cornelia Funke has a delightful way with quotations, and the quotes at the beginning of each chapter really add, especially if you’ve read most of the books from which they come. I think I just might take up bookbinding too.
This is a worthy addition to the children’s fantasy genre, and I’m looking forward to reading the sequels.
Pocket Babies: And Other Amazing Marsupials by Sneed B. Collard III
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
My librarian found this for me in the children’s section when I asked for books about sugar gliders. It devotes a couple of pages to sugar gliders, but the subject of the book is marsupials in general. I didn’t know that much about them, so I found it fascinating. I am now even more delighted to have a pair of adorable marsupials living in my house. But I also appreciated learning more about some of their relatives. For example, did you know that wombat droppings, once dried, are the perfect size and shape to use as bricks? I am now planning a trip to Australia, with the object of seeing as many interesting marsupials as possible.
Sugar Gliders by Caroline MacPherson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
This was the only book at my library specifically addressing the care and nurture of sugar gliders. There is some good information (and some adorable photos), but some, like the dietary recommendations, is outdated. If you want information on taking care of sugar gliders, I recommend searching online instead. And I’d love to talk to you about them if you’re considering adding some to your family.
The Eustace Diamonds by Anthony Trollope
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This is a great book, probably a four star book, but I did get tired of reading about Lizzie Eustace by the end. She is such an annoying character. In fact, most of the main characters are fairly annoying in this book. There’s Lucy Morris, who’s so cloyingly sweet and good and subservient to her lover that I couldn’t stomach her. And Frank Greystock, who I think is a cad and shouldn’t be let off the hook by blaming Lizzie’s female wiles. Lord Fawn is ridiculous, and the rest of the supporting characters are just creepy. Still, it’s a fun story, and full of wry, witty narration and insights into human nature.
Phineas Redux by Anthony Trollope
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I loved this book, and I really love Phineas Finn. The weird thing about the Palliser novels is that the main characters in one book become minor supporting characters in the next. So I was happy Phineas got a second book all about him, even if I had to suffer through a whole book about Lizzie Eustace to get here. I’ve also always liked Madame Goesler, so it was great to see her get the limelight as well.
And I am slowly unbending in my opinion about Anthony Trollope. He’s no feminist, but he’s a good enough novelist to portray all his characters, including the women, as the complex individuals they are.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
If it is a mark of good dystopian fiction to make your heart pound and leave you plotting your escape from your society at the first glimpse of warning signs, then The Handmaid’s Tale was a success with me. This book seriously freaked me out. Not that I really need an extra excuse to plot an international escape, but still.
I like browsing the book section of thrift stores, because the books are usually under a dollar, and sometimes you can find some real treasures, even though most of the books aren’t really worth buying. I’ve noticed that there are books that consistently appear, so much so that you are almost guaranteed a copy (or multiple copies) at any thrift store you visit. In the United States, it’s usually The Da Vinci Code. In Ireland, it was The Handmaid’s Tale. I passed up at least half a dozen copies, and didn’t know what I was missing.
When I started hearing political commentary earlier this year linking The Handmaid’s Tale to the War on Women, I finally decided to read it. And the Irish connection suddenly made sense. It wasn’t till 1985 (the year the book was published) that condoms and spermicides were even available in Ireland without a prescription. And the Republic of Ireland still prohibits abortion with fewer exceptions than even my very pro-life church (although more than the current Republican platform).
Atwood’s book is devastatingly well-written, and strangely prescient. In the near future of the United States of America, elements of the radical right stage a secret terrorist attack that blows up most of the government, and then publicly blame it on Islamists. Then they set up a “Christian” theocracy that is repressive, racist, and extremely misogynist.
Caveat: The Handmaid’s Tale is deeply disturbing, and contains a fair amount of sex and other material readers may find offensive. Accordingly, it may not make it onto my homeschool booklist for high school. Depending on what the political landscape looks like in ten years.
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