Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Books 52 & 55 of 2015: Her Majesty's Wizard by Christopher Stasheff & The Awakening and Selected Short Stories by Kate Chopin

Wow, it's been a while since I wrote a book review. Not counting Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, of course.

Both of today's books were Reading Challenge books; the first, Her Majesty's Wizard by Christopher Stasheff was picked for Week 29, a book published the year you were born.

In this story, an average guy stumbles across a mysterious text which, upon reading it, transports him to a strange new world. He then discovers that his ability to quote verse, and make it up on the spot, endows him with certain magical powers. It's not long before he finds himself the wizard to a young royal and swept up in an epic quest.

I picked this book for two reasons, firstly, it was published the year I was born, and secondly, it was cheaper than Howl's Moving Castle (which was my initial choice for a book published in 1986). The premise appealed to me and there was something about the cover which reminded me of the Robert Asprin Myth books.

On the whole, I liked the premise. I enjoy books where someone finds themselves out of time or out of their world. And I enjoy poetry, so I liked the idea of it being a way to create spells in this world that Matt gets transported to.

The beginning was good as it established the character of Matt and then threw him into a strange new place. It was fun seeing him discover his powers, meet a dragon and adopt his new role.

But then it sort of got long and drawn out.

It was essentially parodying the epic fantasy format, but I couldn't help but lose interest as they went from one situation to another until Matt figured out the right way to word things to get them out again.

I also didn't really appreciate the way that women were described. I'm guessing that part of it was to highlight Matt's character, but the focus was always on women's busts whereas I didn't know what the other characters looked like.

It was a pretty good book to start with, but towards the end my interest was dwindling and I'm not planning on reading the others in the series any time soon.

The book I read for Week 31, a book with bad reviews, was Kate Chopin's The Awakening and Selected Short Stories. Chosen because it was available as a free ebook and which seemed the most appealing when I ran through a list of books which had bad reviews on publication.

'The Awakening' has a strong feminist message, with a housewife becoming a liberated woman; hence the bad reviews in the late 1890s. The other stories address themes such as racial prejudice.

Initially I found 'The Awakening' slow to start. I'd not really read much about it aside from the fact that the story got bad reviews, so I didn't really know what to expect. After a while I got into it and I did quite enjoy it.

It's the sort of story that I could imagine studying in English class at school so it didn't come as a huge surprise to see that it cropped up on some syllabuses. As I was reading it, I felt like I should be taking notes for an essay on feminism.

As I said above, I didn't read too much about it before I started, so I didn't know when it was published. Once I'd started reading it I had it pegged at around the 1910s or 1920s. It was quite the surprise to learn it was from 1899. Definitely ahead of its time!

My favourite story in the collection was 'Desiree's Baby' which was set in Louisiana. A woman, Desiree, who was abandoned as a baby marries a man named Armand and together they have a baby. And the baby turns out to be mixed race, which Armand is not happy about and throws Desiree out, only for there to be a twist at the end of the tale.

After I finished this, my Kindle recommended that I might like to read The Yellow Wallpaper, which was a convenient suggestion because I had picked it up as one of the Penguin Little Black Classics, so read it shortly afterwards.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Let me know what you think. :-)