As I stated yesterday, July was full of reading! And I’m pretty proud to say (although, it really shines a light on the fact that I didn’t do much else) that the following books were all read last week. Whoo! I love it when I get on a reading roll! Of course, I think I put on a few pounds last week too…sitting around and reading isn’t exactly great for the figure. But, here’s what I read last week.
J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography by Humphrey Carpenter
This was an excellent authorized biography of the man who created hobbits! It questioned how Tolkien, such an Everyman, could write the greatest, most imaginative books of fantasy. The book related his early years (orphaned at a young age), school years, and professional years. It also included snippets of letters that shed some light on what it really was like for Tolkien to write those books while balancing a full life. No sordid detatils about Tolkien could be found in the book (if there really were any sordid details to his life story), but it was full of opportunities to make connections between his life experiences and the events and characters of his famous novels. A few of these included:
-Tolkien was bitten by a tarantula as a little child. Could perhaps relate to why spiders play such a menacing and terrifying role in his books.
-Tolkien was often caught stealing mushrooms from a local farmer who would then chase him off. This is particularly similar to Farmer Maggot’s role in Frodo’s young life.
-Tolkien had to make use of carrier pigeons during WWI, similar to the many birds used in his books for message-relaying.
These and many more interesting connections can be made through the reading of Carpenter’s book, which I highly recommend.
Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld
This is the follow-up novel to Westerfeld’s Leviathan, which I reviewed yesterday. I began by listening to the audiobook, which was read by the wonderful Alan Cumming, and finished with the hardcover version. This steampunk novel continues the story in Istanbul (not Constantinople), where Deren/Dylan (the female protagonist who is disguised as a boy) learns more about Clanker machines. It should be noted that in Leviathan, Alek learns about the Darwinist “beasties”. In Istanbul, Deren and Alek help a radical group in overthrowing the Sultan, while hiding from and sometimes battling the German occupiers.
This book was really fun because it felt like an Indiana Jones movie, full of intrigue, exotic locations, and spicy characters. I almost think that I liked this book better than the first in the series. I should also mention that the book is full of fabulous illustrations which really help the machines, beasts, and locations come to life. I definitely recommend this book and series.
Good Omens by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman
Laugh-out-loud-funny book! I love British humor, and this is full of it in a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy sort of way. It really makes me want to pick up some more Pratchett, as I know that his Discworld series combines humor and fantasy as well.
Certain parts of the book were really funny and enjoyable for me:
-all of the scenes revolving around “Them,” a group of kids who is led by the child Anti-Christ, were really great as they really captured the joys of childhood.
-The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are characters in the novel, and they all ride motorcycles. At one point, they meet up at a biker hangout where some human bikers decide to join up with them, the real Hell’s Angels. As they ride together, the tagalong bikers decide that they need new names to fit in with their new posse (Death, War, Pestilence/Pollution, and Famine). They came up with names like “Treading in Dogshit”, “Things Not Working Properly Even When You’ve Given Them a Good Thumping”, “Embarassing Personal Problems”, and “Grievous Bodily Harm”. Really silly stuff that I love!
I also came to realize why Supernatural is such an awesome show, and why I love it. It is directly inspired by this book and other Gaiman works! Supernatural even includes Crowley, the demon who is a main character in this novel. Gaga for Supernatural, it was easy for me to fall in love with this book.
Y: The Last Man–Vol. 1-3 by Brian K. Vaughan
This is a really good idea for a dystopian graphic novel. One day, all of the men simply die, for unknown reasons, except one. The very goofy Yorick, a 20-something guy, who has to hide his male identity throughout the series so that the women won’t tear him apart. He keeps with him a male monkey, which is also an anomaly, being the only male animal alive. During these first three volumes, a group of women, modeling themselves after the mythological Amazons, hunt him down to rid the world of the last man. So, Yorick sets out on a journey with two other women to find answers on why he is still alive when all of the other men are dead. It’s all very engaging and interesting.
However, I do have to point out that the behavior of women in this series is slightly troubling. While I am very good with suspension of disbelief and I enjoy irony, it bugs me how badly behaved the women are in this world. It’s hard to explain, but I don’t think that I’m the only one who was bothered by it. It’s a little over the top.
But, I did enjoy it, and I will keep reading the series. I recommend it for fans of dystopia and graphic novels.
Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
I read this for the first time when I was eight or nine, and I have to say that Hatchet is much better than I remembered. I couldn’t put it down after I started it, and I read it in a span of two hours. So good!
If you haven’t read it, you’ve just got to. I enjoyed how the marooned Brian had to learn how to use his senses to survive, and how he had to trouble-shoot fire-building, shelter-making, hunting with a bow and arrow, and trapping fish. He started out with only the clothes on his back, and a hatchet that his mom had given him as a gift (it strapped onto his belt). After almost two months on his own in the wild, Brian is completely self-sufficient. While in the woods, he has to deal with the dangers of bears, wolves, moose, mosquitos, and a skunk (which blinded him for a few hours). This was an amazing story, and I hope to share this book with my students this year. READ IT!
The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien
Much like Hatchet, this was a re-read that was much better than I remembered. Yet, while the first half of the book was much more enjoyable for me on this second go-round, I still prefer the second half, which chronicles the further journey of the Ring with Frodo, Sam, and Gollum. Such a creepy segment of the book! And so much character development!
However, Treebeard is my favorite character in this book, and second only to Tom Bombadil in the entire series.
In case you can’t tell, I highly recommend this book and series if you haven’t read it. A true classic!
So, this concludes my July reading. Now, I’m going to sign off here, pick up my copy of The Return of the King, and get ready for tonight’s drinkalong to Peter Jackson’s film version of The Two Towers. I’m ready to be snarky with the rest of the PtBiB crew. Happy Friday!