The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Lewis, C.S. The Chronicles of Narnia: Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

Reason read: July is Kids Month. Read in honor of being a kid at heart. I still love this series.

The beginning of the adventure in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe begins innocently enough. To avoid the bombings of World War II in London, four siblings are taken to Professor Digory Kirke’s expansive mansion in the countryside for safekeeping. On their first rainy day they decide to explore the many rooms of their new home in a rousing game of hide-and-go-seek. Lucy, the youngest, stumbles upon a room where the only piece of furniture in it is an old wardrobe. She decides it would make a marvelous hiding spot until she discovers, just beyond the fur coats, a whole new world. From here, the tale turns fantastical with a land under an evil spell of constant winter that never reaches Christmas, fauns and centaurs and giants, talking animals, and good and evil magic all around. Now that I have sufficiently reminded you of the story, you know the rest.
As a child, I can remember the scene with Aslan and the Queen scaring the beejeezus out of me. My eyes would skim that scene as if reading it faster would make it easier.

Author fact: Clive Staple Lewis has a website here. I especially appreciate the timeline of his life.

Book trivia: Everyone knows The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe as the first book of the Chronicles of Narnia. However, it is Lewis’s preference readers start with The Magician’s Nephew as the true beginning of the tale.

Nancy said: Pearl aid she could remember reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe as a child.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the Introduction (p x).


McKinley, Robin. Beauty: the Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast. New York: HarperCollins, 1978.

Reason read: August is Fairy Tale month.

Here’s a question for you. Do you enjoy an adaptation or a retelling more or less if you don’t remember the details of the original? For me, I don’t remember the details of Beauty and the Beast except to say the Disney version was centered around Belle, her sickly woodsman father, the Beast, and the talking tea kettle. I remember it also had singing furniture and, of course, a droopy rose was at the center of the story. McKinley’s version has three daughters, Gracie, Hope and Honour. Honour, nicknamed Beauty, is the protagonist of the story and ironically, is not at all beautiful like her sisters. Instead she is homely, unromantic, and scholarly; the bravest and strongest of the bunch. Honour’s father has fallen on hard times as a shipping merchant and the family must move to the country. Enter the proximity of an enchanted/haunted forest. We first learn about these mysterious woods when Ger becomes angry with Beauty about being in the woods of Blue Hill.
To speed up the telling up the story you know so well: father runs into trouble in the enchanted forest, has a dust up with the Beast, and promises to send a daughter to the Beast to save his own hide. Beauty, being the bravest and most admirable, is the logical choice. Beauty falls in love with Beast despite his appearance and by turns becomes a looker herself. When she promises to marry Beast, the spell is broken. The end.

Author fact: McKinley and I went to the same high school. I can remember teachers mentioning her in English class.

Book trivia: Beauty is McKinley’s first novel.

Nancy said: Pearl included Beauty in a list of books that are sure to be “teen pleasers…great choices for teenage girls as well as their mothers” said this about McKinley, “McKinley is another major contributor…” (More Book Lust). The inside flap promises Beauty is appropriate for ages ten and up.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in two different chapters. First, in “Best for Teens” (p 23) and again in “Fractured Fairy Tales” (p 93).

Half Magic

Eager, Edward. Half Magic. Performed by The Worlds Take Wing Repertory Company. New York: Listening Library, 1999.

I read a whole bunch of reviews of Half Magic that began with the sentence, “I loved this book as a child…” and it got me thinking, do the reviewers love it now, as adults? And, if they do, do they love it for purely nostalgic reasons? I know there are songs I could never like or listen to if they weren’t intrinsically entangled with my memories of past great times (like the song “Rain Maker”).

Anyway – Half Magic is about four siblings, three sisters and a brother, who stumble upon a magic talisman. This talisman, much like a nickel in size and shape, grants wishes…sort of. Every wish is exactly halved. “Desert isle” becomes just “desert” which is how the children end up in the Sahara rather than on a deserted island like they had originally wished. A talking cat becomes a mumbling cat, a barely understood cat. The more the children learn about the talisman’s capabilities, the more trouble they get into even though they vow their wishes are to be used for good intentions. If you want to listen to the audio version it would be in your best interest to get the “Worlds Take Wing Repertory Company” version. Instead of having one actor read the story, an entire cast of characters each take a part. The children are adorable.

Phrase I like, “terrible good intentions.”

Reason read: Eager died in October and it’s Halloween time – another reason to read about magic.

Author fact: Eager died young – in his 50s.

Book trivia: Half Magic was originally written in 1954 and remains Eager’s most popular book.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Fantasy for Young and Old” (p 83).

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

Clarke, Susanna. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. Read By Simon Prebble. Audio Renaissance/Bloomsbury Publishing.

This is such an ambitious read! I actually listened to it on audio (26 cds; 32 hours) and it was well done. Simon Prebble’s reading is great; probably the reason why I was able to finish all 700+ pages. The extensive footnotes were inserted at the right times (but are separate tracks so you can skip them if you like. I did.). Clarke does a great job making the characters and their magic seem otherworldly and mysterious. I particularly enjoyed when characters sensed something was amiss but couldn’t quite figure out why they felt that way. “Like a fifth point on a compass” was how one character described it. There is a subtle eeriness to the landscape when magic is afoot. Clarke’s vivid descriptions are imaginatively delicious. But, back to the plot. Many reviewers felt the story was too long and drawn out. I agree it lagged in places but Clarke’s gift of storytelling made up for the lengthy plot. Each volume is the introduction and delving into of a significant character. Volume I focuses on the entrance of Mr. Gilbert Norrell. Elderly and stodgy Mr. Norrell is discovered to be a practicing magician long after it was thought magic was dead. After The Learned Society of York Magicians convinces him to move to York to revive the practice, Norrell is called upon to revive the dead fiancee of a Cabinet minister and aid in the war against Napoleon (the ships made of water was one of my favorite scenes). In Volume II Jonathan Strange is further introduced as burgeoning magician from Shropshire. When he learns of Mr. Norrell is he prompted to meet this other practitioner. While they dispute the significance of the legendary Raven King, Strange becomes Norrell’s pupil and ultimately overshadows Norrell’s capabilities as a magician. After some time with Norrell, Strange is sent to Portugal and Spain to further aid the British against the French. As Strange’s magic grows stronger the competition grows until the Raven King kidnaps Strange’s wife.

Quote I agree with, “House, like people, are apt to become rather eccentric if left to too much on their own…” (p 488).

Reason read: Clarke was born in the month of November.

Book trivia: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell was considered for many different awards: shortlisted for the Hugo Award and the Guardian First Book Award, long listed for the Booker Award…to name a few.

Author fact: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is Susanna Clarke’s first book.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Plots for Plotzing” (p 186).

Midnight’s Children

Rushdie, Salman. Midnight’s Children. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995.

There are a few things you need to do when reading Midnight’s Children. First, you need to lose your logical mind. Nothing happens in chronological order so don’t even try to keep even a chaotic timeline in your head. Second, don’t try to get to know every single characters. There are so many different people, a nation of characters coming and going in the story you would need to draw up a family tree and a community profile to keep them all straight. Third, look past all the repetition. In the first 50 pages Rushdie is obsessed with a nose and a perforated bed sheet. So much so you will feel as if you have read the same sentences more than a few times. Finally, say goodbye to the real world. If you are a fan of magical realism, Midnight’s Children is the book for you. For those of us grounded in sensible reality,  my best advice is to read it as “loosely” as possible.
Despite all the seemingly negative comments above this is a book you should be reading. The language is spectacular.The journey is sublime. You won’t regret giving it a chance. So, here’s the story in a nutshell: 1,001 children are born in India at the very moment India gained its independence from British rule. All 1,001 children are born with magical powers yet those born closest to the midnight hour have the strongest powers. Two such children are Saleem Sinai and Shiva. Swapped at birth they are destined to be enemies. Saleem, born of poor Hindu parents, is raised by a wealthy Muslim family while Shiva ends up with the impoverished Hindu clan. The struggle between these children mirrors the larger issues of India: religion, culture, and of course, politics.

Favorite line, “She waxed anaemic in the summer and bronchial in the winter” (p 28). I have no idea what that means, bit I liked it.

Author Fact: Rushdie won  Booker Prize in 1981 for Midnight’s Children, his second book.

Book Trivia: Midnight’s Children is destined to become a movie one of these days.

BookLust Twist: Talk about redundancy! Midnight’s Children was mentioned a whopping five times in Nancy Pearl’s Book Lust. Yes, it fit into all five categories, but I think it was unnecessary to include it so many times. It is listed in the following chapters, in pagination order, the introduction (p xi), “Magical Realism” (p 149), “My Own Private Dui” (p 166), “100 Good Reads, Decade by Decade (1980)” (p 179), and “Passage to India” (p 181).

Rock Me Baby

I ask a lot of my friends. I really, really do. Support this unsigned artist. Donate to my run walk. Come to this new restaurant with me. Hear this crazy-azz dream I had. Calm me down. Pick me up. Givegivegive. It’s amazing the amount of love I asked for from my friends. It’s amazing how amazing my friends really are.
Why all this gushing? Not only did the great ones donate to my 60 mile, three day walk for Just ‘Cause, they rallied together to support Sean Rowe’s cd release of ‘Magic.’
We piled in the magic truck and bombed our way to Cohoes, NY. Laughing all the way, we weaved in and out of traffic and got there in record time. Just in time to miss just one song. We got there in time to catch ‘Jonathan’ and get caught up in the electric vibe. Sean sounded great and I couldn’t wait for every word. After waiting for brownies and a monkey-something-er-rather we got settled by the stairs. I think B had bathroom duty without realizing it. Crammed in I couldn’t see Sean but, I don’t need to see the man to hear the words and feel the sound.
After the first set my friend I have dubbed God (don’t ask) snagged spots at the top of the stairs for all of us. Great spot! The view looking out over the crowd was great. The sound was phenomenal. The fresh air from the back door was heavenly. The company was cool.
Wait. Let me talk about that for a minute. I always stress about bringing someone new to see unknown music. It’s always a gamble. I took someone to see sirsy a few years back. Virgin territory. She walked out halfway through the first set and never came back. So I worry. I convince someone to make the trek and maybe they’ll hate it. Hate me. Not so Sean night. B doesn’t know me all that well. Knows the music all that less. Maybe even knows Cohoes not at all. Not only did he subject himself to all that, he survived it all. He had good things to say about the venue, better things to say about the beer, and the best things to say about Sean. It rocked. He rocked.
But, back to Sean. He also rocked in all the right ways. I love the new version of ‘Jonathan.’ I say new because I’m used to the pared down, sparse and folky version of the song. This version builds in intensity that matches the lyrics and the passion. It’s perfect. In some ways it’s even better than the version I’m used to. ‘Trademark of Fools’ almost didn’t make it out of Sean’s mouth. Luckily, the motto is “the crowd is always right” and we got him to get it out. As usual ‘Wet’ wrecked me. Happens everytime. Having the fortress of friends around me really, really helped. Manda, your tissue delivery was well timed. I would have snotted Ruby if you hadn’t magically appeared!

I had to ask Sean for a setlist and here’s the laid back, way-cool answer:

hmmmm. i don’t know if i quite remember
1st set:
duct tape man
you’re so real
blue grass baby
draw the line
vincent black lightning
trademark of fools
why i sing the blues

set 2:
old shoes
there is a man
my father’s name
the long haul
true colors

i may be leaving something out and some of the tunes i may have the order slightly wrong but i think this is pretty accurate. hope that helps. xo

Sorry this isn’t much of a review. Now that the album is out I want to sit silent and listen to it from start to finish. I’ll write something more Magic-centric then. For now, trust me when I say it is AMAZING!

Magic is Coming

Sean Magic
I have been known to get lazy, to get uninspired, to get quiet, withdraw and quietly disappear. When that happens nothing wakes me, nothing moves me, nothing touches me, nothing makes me anything. Period. Such was my complacent situation recently. People would text. I would untext right back. People would call. I wouldn’t hang up because I didn’t pick up. Invitations would come in. My silence would go right back out. It’s not that I wanted to ignore you. It’s just that I couldn’t help myself. You didn’t need me. And I knew it.

Today is a whole new day. the sun is shining. The clouds have blown away. I not only accepted an invitation I made one of my own. And Magic is coming. For those of you who don’t know, Magic is the name of Sean Rowe’s newest album. Long, long, long anticipated album, I should say. I have been looking forward to this since forever. Forever and a day. Now, it has a drop date. It has an estimated time of arrival. Soon it will be here. Here’s the tracklist (and to think I almost said setlist – don’t I wish):

  1. Surprise
  2. Time to Think
  3. Night
  4. Jonathan
  5. Old Black Dodge
  6. Wet
  7. The Walker
  8. American
  9. Wrong Side of the Bed
  10. The Long Haul

I have to tell you, Jonathan and Wet are my two favorites. Not that I don’t appreciate everything else on the album. I do, I do. (Wrong Side of the Bed and Surprise are my very-close-to-favorite-but-still-second fav songs). It’s just that Wet leaves me breathless and now, having heard the studio version of Jonathan I have chills. Chills and goosebumps to be specific. That song alone is magic. Pure magic. Never mind what happens when it’s more than just the song alone. I don’t want to focus on the singer when the songwriting is more than brilliant, more than amazing. As always, it’s the words that get me, the words that keep me.

I know for a fact I am clearing my schedule for 5/15/09 and 5/23/09 – two Sean gigs “locally.” I have had an awakening. Thanks, Sean.

Artemis Fowl

Colfer, Eion. Artemis Fowl. New York: Talk Miramax Books, 2001.

Another book that I finished in a day. I suppose it helped that it’s a book for young adults so it was a breeze to read. The real reason was it was a fun read.

Meet Artemis Fowl. Only 12 years old but already a millionaire – a criminally brilliant millionaire. When we first meet Artemis we learn he is out to kidnap a fairy. Let the games begin! From the very beginning Artemis Fowl is full of folklore. Besides fairies there are goblins, dwarfs, gnomes, a centaur, trolls and the ever tantalizing hoard of gold. Artemis, though only 12, has devised a plan to rid the fairies of their riches by using their own powers against them. For being a childrens’ book it is pretty fast paced and violent.

Favorite lines: “…A ragged apron does not a waiter make” (p 4), and “Holly unhooked a set of wings from their bracket. They were double ovals, with a clunky motor. She moaned. Dragonflies. She hated that model….now the Hummingbird Z&, that was transport” (p50). Can you just see it? Fairies don’t have wings! They have strap-ons! The idea that Holly was “stuck” with Dragonflies rather than her preferred Hummingbirds cracked me up.

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter, ”

ps~ From what I understand Artemis Fowl was made into a movie. This is one to put on the NetFlix list!

Special thank youuuuu to Kisa Too Cool for posting…