A Northern Light

I brought this book with me on a holiday and stayed up ’til 2 A.M. and woke up at 6:30 A.M. just to get back to the story. I finished the book in less than a day, a feat when you’re on a vacation. It was a compelling read and I enjoyed it a lot. The setting was vivid and the era so well-rendered and well-researched too that it felt like I was reading a real memoir from a real person living in the 1900’s. I felt like I was there, and in many ways, I was. Mattie lost her mother to the same disease I lost mine to (the emperor of maladies), I read a lot/too much when I was younger and was consistently harassed for it (my fault though, I read before doing chores), and I too, was and am, caught between familial responsibilities, societal pressures and wanting to be yourself and do the things you want to do, which is all too familiar for bull-headed females who take the road not taken.

It was an interesting book to escape a hard reality from because “they” too lived a hard life. It isn’t all roses and perfume and grand and beautiful things, but the book felt real. I liked it a lot.

A Northern Light

Sadly though, I don’t love it as much as Darden and all the other kids at Goodreads did. I’m not really sure why, but I have an inkling that it’s because I am too old for it, or I’ve read The Book Thief first, or that the word games are all too familiar to me so it didn’t really bring something new to the table. The word play and the word games felt somewhat juvenile, and a bit gimmicky. 😦

I also couldn’t help but compare it to The Book Thief, which is a sad exercise to do when you’re reading a book (compare it with something else, I mean). But I couldn’t help it. I was set up for it and it ultimately led to disappointment because the prose for A Northern Light just didn’t… sing. It’s good writing but it’s not seamless, nor was it staggeringly beautiful – very much unlike Markus Zusak’s prose, which literally gave me goosebumps and made me want to cry just for being so elegant and sublime.

I also didn’t like how it turned out in the end – Mattie’s choices did not parallel what would’ve been mine, though I really don’t want to judge the book, a work of fiction, by trying to turn it into a carbon copy of my life, so that’s another matter.

I’m not saying that A Northern Light isn’t a good book. It is. I’m pretty sure I would love this so much more if I had read it years ago. I may not be gaga over it, I’m still very much glad I read it. Thank you.

A Northern Light

Aren’t the photos beautiful? I hope you like it as much as I do. We took them at the majestic Lake Danao in Camotes Island, which is probably the most apt setting we could think of for a shoot of this book *wink wink nudge nudge*. The place is amazingly peaceful and beautiful. I have not seen anything quite like it.

Here’s a bonus photo of us kayaking in the water. Look how placid everything is. We were the only ones creating a ruckus in the area. A Northern Light

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The Book Thief

The Book Thief

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is a story of Liesel Meminger, a young German girl caught in the throes of Nazi Germany “liberation” during World War II. It is narrated by Death.

I’ve read a few books with Death as a character (e.g. Death in Discworld WHO TALKS LIKE THIS) and The Book Thief’s Death is sad, tired and over-worked in World War II. He talks fondly of Liesel, the book thief, and members of other impoverished German families on Himmel Street. There was Rudy, who painted himself black and wanted to be Jesse Owens; Hans and Rosa Hubberman, Liesel’s foster parents; and a Jewish fist fighter.

I will never forget these characters, and I will never forget that side of Nazi Germany I learned from this book – that bright side where Germans hid their Jewish friends in their basements, where people threw scraps of bread to poor Jews marching on to their deaths, and where “Heil Hitler” leave bitter tastes in people’s mouths.  Continue reading “The Book Thief”

The Wee Free Men: Is that a’? Crivens! Nae problemo!

Why are my recent reads unexpected surprises? I did not expect Terry Pratchett’s The Wee Free Men to be for kids 7-12 years old. Information on the web said it’s a YA novel set in Discworld but with YA, I automatically think Catcher in the Rye, Looking for Alaska, and even Harry Potter; not… Narnia. Target reading levels aren’t relevant though, just saying. Oh well, moving on:

In Terry Pratchett’s The Wee Free Men, nine-year old Tiffany Aching carries a frying pan for a weapon and is accompanied to fairyland by a toad. Reminds you of Disney’s Rapunzel in Tangled, ain’t it? And I quite imagine Tiffany being a younger version of the 2010 Rapunzel, but being a big fan of the movie, I really didn’t mind.

The book had themes I’ve seen of old like a Queen who enamors/kidnaps people into a land of nightmares and who leaves trails of snow everywhere (Narnia’s White Queen?), and standing up to the big boss on your own that is reminscent of Meg Murray’s audacity in A Wrinkle in Time. The similarities end there though, and even with recurrent themes, the book was refreshing and was a delight from start to finish.

The Wee Free Men is named after the Nac Mac Feegles. A bunch of rowdy and drunken theives (pictured above in blue) who aren’t scared of anything (except lawyers) and are always ready for a fight. This bunch of little nuggets are the funniest. They are so inappropriate and rude and just hilarious. I really like the surprise with the toad too. It made me laugh out loud at a really grave time irl, and my family gave me looks that were questioning my mental state.

Even if the prose for The Wee Free Men is catered more for the younger audience, this book can still very well be enjoyed by older readers. It’s wonderfully written and laugh-out-loud hilarious even for adults like myself (sadface). It is also surprisingly deep with its themes of death and despair and losing people you love. I was also pleasantly astonished (lol) with how Sir Terry used mindfullness like it was some sort of powerful weapon. It was a very inventive approach to magical powers.

The book also introduced me to this wonderful painting called, The Fairy Feller’s Master-Stroke:



It looks so captivating and… pregnant. It was painted by Richard Dadd who was diagnosed with a mental illness, murdered his father and went on to paint this, along with many other pieces, in a mental institution. Dadd took nine years to finish this beast. I want to personally see it someday.

Quotes after the cut:

The skylarks stopped singing, and while she hadn’t really noticed their song, their silence was a shock. Nothing’s louder than the end of a song that’s always been there.

I don’t want to think she’s just… gone. Someone like Granny Aching can’t just…not be there anymore.

The secret is not to dream. The secret is to wake up. Waking up is harder.

Amazon tells me that the reading level for The Wee Free Men is ages 13 and up. Pfft. Challenge your kids. I don’t mean to sound snarky*, but I read A Wrinkle in Time when I was 10, dagnabbit.