Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Great and The Not-So-Good

The Great

Let's start with a great book, shall we? Wintersong, by S. Jae-Jones, had me at "Goblin King," and I knew I was going to read it. It even says, on the back cover, that fans of Jim Henson's "The Labyrinth," with David Bowie, will love the book. Now, that is about where the comparison ends, to be honest. Yes, I can definitely see Bowie as this Goblin King. Yes, there are labyrinth-like tunnels in the novel, but everything else is completely different,...and have bits of other things in them.

Wintersong is a beautifully written old tale about Liesl, the eldest daughter in a family, who has a love for music and magic in her heart, but there's no place for all that among all her family duties. When she is little, she runs to the forest to play with a strange boy who understands her, who often asks if she'll marry him someday when they grow up. She never really gives him an answer, she thinks it's just a game they play. Then one day, Liesl does grow up...and forgets all about the strange boy she used to play with.

When Liesl is grown, she no longer pays attention to the dark tales of her youth, even when her grandmother warns her not to forget the old ways. She is lost in the responsibilities of being the oldest daughter and watching over her younger sister and brother. Until, one day, just as her grandmother warned her in old stories, the Goblin King rides through the forest looking for a bride, a sacrifice, to ensure winter doesn't last forever. When the Goblin King takes Liesl's sister, she must get her back.

This story is dark and haunting. It is filled with superstitions and magic and music. It is everything you could want in the truest sense of old faerie tales, the Brothers Grimm versions - not Disney's. While I realize this book is labeled as a YA, I don't feel that it is. The Goblin King is seductive. He teases and lures and tempts every chance he gets, which causes delicious tension in the book, but I think it's more for older high school students. It's definitely not for middle school students.

As I read this story, I was reminded of pieces of other stories. After I read it, I saw someone else's review that felt the same way and listed all the ones that came to their mind as they read (including a couple of Greek myths). I agreed with every one, so it wasn't just me who picked up on it. It isn't that Jae-Jones' tale is an imitation of others. I just think she took the best parts of what makes an excellent faerie tale and wove them together with her own beautiful prose. And it is beautiful prose. And beautiful music. And a beautiful Goblin King.


Okay, moving on...

The Not-So-Good

In case you haven't guessed from previous posts, I have little respect for Stephenie Meyers as a writer. Yes, I read the Twilight Saga because my daughters (when they were teenagers) asked me to read them. This was before the movies ever came out. I thought Meyers writing was pretty bad, and I felt the only messages young girls would ever get from those books were the wrong ones: A man defines you, you're nothing without a man, your only goals should be to get a man, and girls are supposed to whine A LOT.

So, you can imagine my reluctance to read The Host for a book club book. My friend, who chose the book, knows how I feel about Meyers, but asked me to read it anyway and give her an honest opinion. I read the entire book, all 620 pages, and here is my honest opinion:

The story, at its core, is a good science fiction tale. It even makes you ponder life questions. The problem is Meyers can't get out of her own way. If a good editor took out about 300 pages, like less whining and misplaced sarcasm and banter between characters where it doesn't belong, it would be a decent story. Heck, maybe even a good one. And I say that as someone who was raised on "Star Trek" and "The Twilight Zone" (and I love both), but sci-fi is far from being my favorite reading genre. However, I appreciate a good story of any kind. Meyers had a good base, she just lost it in too many meaningless words.

So, as my husband always asks me, when I'm trying to decide if something was worth my time,...

"Was the juice worth the squeeze?"


It was not worth 620 pages to try to find a decent, base storyline. However, was it worth it to read 620 pages because a friend ask me to and wanted me to give an honest opinion and trusted me to do that? Yes. Yes, it was. And I do believe, whole-heartedly, that if you choose to belong to a book club YOU SHOULD READ THE BOOK.

And now? On to another book...

Happy reading!!

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