For week twelve it was 'a collection of short stories'. I've got a few options for this one, but next up on my bookshelf was The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling.
If you're not familiar with this one, it's a tie-in book for the Harry Potter series. In the final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, we hear the story of 'The Three Brothers' as well as get a mention of a couple of other wizarding fairy tales; the sort of thing that magical children would listen to instead of Snow White or Rapunzel.
I chose this one partly because I knew it would be a quick read. I have a few other books which are a lot longer and I wanted to get through all my challenge reads alongside my non-challenge reads, so my decision was more than a little based on the number of pages in the book. I managed it in an hour before work which meant it was perfect.
I like the way that it's written. Each story includes an analysis of it by Dumbledore. To be honest, for some of the stories I think that Dumbledore's comments on them are more entertaining than the actual stories themselves.
The thing I love about The Tales of Beedle the Bard is probably the same thing I love about Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them and Quidditch Through The Ages; the fact that it makes the magical world feel just a little bit more real. It does feel like you are reading the sorts of fairy tales magical kids would read. As I'm fairly certain that my owl just got lost on the way to me and in 1997 there would have been a spare bed in the Ravenclaw dormitory waiting for me, so it's nice to get extra information into the world I wish I could inhabit.
Of all the stories in the book, my favourites were probably 'The Warlock's Hairy Heart' and 'The Three Brothers'; though when I'm reading the latter, I can't help but hear Hermione narrating it and picture the animation from the movie. If you've only seen the films and not read the books, I think this book might be a neat way to introduce yourself to the wider world of Harry Potter.
When I finished up with The Tales of Beedle the Bard I moved straight onto The Valley of the Horses by Jean M. Auel. This is the second book in the Earth's Children series and picks up where the first left off; Ayla has found a safe place to live and sets up a little cave to live in. She adopts a foal and later an injured baby cave lion but misses the interaction of other people.
Luckily for her she finds Jondalar; a fellow Cro Magnon, who is embarking on a great journey with his brother. Unfortunately for Jondalar the pair of them are attacked by a cave lion; his brother is killed and his is left near death, until Ayla finds him.
I have to admit, Ayla is a bit of a Mary Sue in this book. I mean, she was a bit of Mary Sue in the first book, but by this one her Mary Sue-ish habits have grown to new heights. This book sees her invent pretty much everything from domesticated horses to methods for transporting bulky items to new weapons.
I found this book a little slow at first. I'd forgotten about the way that it's basically two separate stories until the the final third. It felt like it sped up a lot once Ayla and Jondalar met. The way I remembered it, they met a lot earlier in the story so I was surprised that it came so late in the book. Even now I don't really remember what happened that took so long to get through before that point. My guess is that there was a lot of describing the scenery, the fauna and floral, the things that they cook, the weapons they make, and all the other stuff that Auel likes to dwell on in these books.
All the same, I did enjoy Ayla and Jondalar's interactions. It was nice to see how they expected one another to act and how their expectations changed as they got to know one another. I also liked the glimpses into the other 'Caves' during Jondalar's journey. It was interesting to see the contrast between them and the Neanderthal clan of the previous book.
I did read most of the Earth's Children books last year; you'll see the reviews for those later in the year. I've still not reached the end of the them all. The last one is so big and it just goes on forever. I will get to it, eventually, but it's taken me a month to read The Lord of the Rings and I suspect The Plains of Passage will take me at least that long, if not more!