Jim Butcher: Summer Knight (The Dresden Files #4)

DF04-SummerKnight-2002paperbackDisclaimer: I read this back in 2014 – apparently, I’m just bad at remembering to publish posts.

When I was a kid, I remember watching parts of Grease at a friend’s house. It was the scene where Frency realizes that she has absolutely no talent as a hair dresser and needs to go back to high school. I was instantly in love but it took a while before I got to watch the whole movie. I still love it. So when I saw the title Summer Knight, I immediately flashed to Travolta and Newton-John singing about their new love.
Love is really not the case for Harry Dresden. Quite the opposite. In Grave Peril, Dresden’s girlfriend Susan crashes a vampire party and pays a price for it. She is almost turned into a vampire and has to fight constant urges to feed on humans. So she has left the city and Dresden are struggling to find a cure. Struggling so much that he has given up on luxuries such as bathing, shaving, working and eating.
But when he is approached by the faerie Winter Queen and realizes that she has bought the debt he owed his fairy godmother – yeah, he has one of those and no, there’s no Sleeping Beauty or Cinderella vibe to her – he really has no choice but to do her bidding.
And getting involved in faerie politics is not a walk in the park. Or when it is, it involves toads falling on your head. Real toads – and lots of them. Especially when the faerie queen asks him to investigate a murder. And it get really interesting when it’s the Winter Queen asking him to find out who killed the Summer Knight. Especially when the elimination of one of the faerie court’s knights means a serious shift in power.
It turns out that there’s quite a lot at stake here. Letting one of the courts gain power means, that the other court is weakened – and well, these are the Summer and Winter courts so if Winter gains in power, there will be some serious consequences for the environment and stores selling woolen underwear will really take off. So there’s a lot of reasons for Harry to get involved – and not only because his loving (!) fairy godmother has sold his debt to her to a faerie queen.
This was another solid Harry Dresden book.

  • Title: Summer Knight (The Dresden Files #4)
  • Author: Jim Butcher
  • Publisher: Roc 
  • Year: 2002
  • Pages:  371 pages
  • Source: Own collection – Kindle
  • Stars:  3 stars out of 5

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Jim Butcher: Grave Peril (The Dresden Files #3)

Grave-PerilWhen I was a kid, I liked ghost stories. My father had some books about white ladies and he told me about castles which have their own private ghosts. He didn’t believe in them. I think he just wanted to make my world a bit richer, just like I tell my kids how their grandparents had to run from dinosaurs when going to school and how their father saved me from a dragon.
Now I don’t believe in ghosts as white sheaths moving softly through walls. But I do believe that extreme sadness, pain and anguish can leave behind some kind of remnants that we – or some of us at least – can feel.
Now, Jim Butcher is not this subtle. When he lets Harry Dresden go up against ghosts, he doesn’t just find some whimpy moaning white lady to pit him against. He of course creates the worst kind of ghost imaginable and lets this ghost have the most powerful helpers – and then he lets Harry, poor messed-up Harry, face off with these and takes us along for the ride.
Now it’s not like Harry hasn’t got any help. Taking a back seat in this story are Harry’s normal helpers such as Karrin Murphy, a police officer from Special Investigations and also to some extent Susan Rodriquez, Dresden’s girlfriend. But they are put on the back burner to make room for interesting new characters such as Michael, a Knight of the Cross, and his family. Now Michael comes with a special connection to God and a magnificent sword and while constantly lecturing Dresden on how to be a decent person and a better man, he knows how to handle himself when trouble comes around.
The intrigue in this book also allows us to delve into the Nevernever for the first time – an experience which is not altogether pleasant for our dear Harry. It also allows us to experience the Vampire courts more intimately than earlier – again not altogether pleasant for Harry. It also introduces faeries, especially Harry’s godmother Lea.
If you ask me to say exactly why I like these books, I’m not quite able to get you an answer. I can give you all the normal reasons – it’s a thrilling exciting read with an interesting main character and it’s just the right thing to loose yourself in. But so is a lot of books. I haven’t  yet pinpointed what it is that so far makes me enjoy these books. But I do enjoy them and I guess I’ll keep reading ’till I can find out what it is that attract me about Harry Dresden.
Other than he is a cool, but not too cool, wizard living in Chicago trying hard not to destroy any and every modern technology he gets remotely close to while attempting to help ordinary people exposed to supernatural situations and creatures while trying to have a somewhat normal relationship with his girlfriend.

  • Title: Grave Peril (The Dresden Files #3)
  • Author: Jim Butcher
  • Publisher: Roc 
  • Year: 2001
  • Pages:  388 pages
  • Source: Own collection – Kindle
  • Stars:  stars out of 5

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Sonali Deraniyagala: Wave (review)

the-wave

‘How can I sleep? If I sleep now I will forget. I will forget what happened. I will wake believing everything is fine. I will reach for Steve. I will wait for my boys. Then I will remember. And that will be too awful. That I must not risk.’
Is life always worth living? At any cost? I don’t think so. I think there are times when people should be allowed to choose to end life. So if you loose your husband, your two young sons and your parents in one day – is life worth living then?
For Sonali Deraniyagala, this is exactly what happened to her in 2004 when she was vacationing in Sri Lanka with her family and visiting her parents. On December 26th 2004, the whole world learned what a tsunami is. I for one had never heard of it before and I think my own reference for it was the movie The Abyss. But some got a much more cruel lesson than others. Whole families were wiped out. And that’s almost more kind than being left behind, the only survivor.
Sonali is with her family in a hotel room, talking to a friend. Just after the friend has commented on how Sonali is living the dream, she looks out the window and notices that there’s something wrong with the ocean. And then they run. They run so fast that they don’t even stop to warn Sonali’s parents in the hotel room next door. And still – it’s too late. The last thing Sonali remembers is sitting in a jeep and seeing her husband more afraid than ever before, frightened by something behind her, something she can’t see.
The next thing she knows, is a certainty that she’s going to die. But miraculously she survives and is found by a couple of men who drives her to a hospital. And then the waiting begins. Eventually she learns that she has lost her entire family.
And then the struggle begins. At first, it’s more of a struggle to be allowed to kill herself than anything else as well as a fight between memory and grief. How much can you allow yourself to grieve without drowning in it? For a long while, Sonali tries not to think too much about her family because it hurts too much but slowly, slowly, she is ready to start remembering them again. It takes almost two years before she goes back to their home in London for the first time…
This was a hard book to read. It feels like Sonali wrote these things down to help herself, like it was never meant to be published and because of this, it becomes a very raw honest book about how you survive the unthinkable. This also means that it’s not a book that leave you feeling uplifted or impressed by the human spirit’s ability to survive. Yes she does survive but even eight years later, she’s still grieving and still trying to figure out how to live on without her family. Without Steve who seems to be just a perfect fit for her and without the two boys.
Ah, those two boys. It’s heartbreaking to think about these boys. Vikram and Malli. Seven and five years old. The boys come to life again in this book when she share special family moments, details things the boys have said or done and what their special interests was. This book really feels like her way of keeping her family alive – and it is so hard to read.
Her unflinching honesty means that she also shows the darker sides of herself – and of grief. Like how she doesn’t grieve her parents for a long time because of what she calls a pecking order to her grief. There’s simply a limit to how many she can grieve over at one time. Or how she’s not sure if a boy in an ambulance is her son or not. Or how she starts drinking and taking pills to cope. Or how for months she harass the family who buys her parents’ home because she wants it back. But it’s all very understandable. When you loose someone, the places you lived and spent time with them suddenly becomes important. And this is also a memoir about these places. The house in Colombo, Sri Lanka where she grew up. The house in London where she and Steve made a home for their boys. The things they did there, the way they lived there.
I’ve been asking myself why I wanted to read this book, why anyone would read a book about another person’s suffering, why a mother would read about another mother loosing her children. And I’m not sure I can answer it. When I heard of this book, I was immediately drawn to it and knew I wanted to read it. But why? I think my best answer is that when people have suffered so much, the least you can do is read about it. I’m not sure this reason is quite valid and I know I don’t always live by it but this – and the more standard reason that literature allows you to experience things which you (hopefully in this case) never experience yourself – is the best reason I can give right now.
So is it worth living after loosing your entire family? I think the answer for Sonali Deraniyagala is probably yes. Not because she’s over her grief, far from it, but because she is keeping her family somewhat alive by living.
‘They are my world. How do I make them dead?’

First line: I thought nothing of it at first. The ocean looked a little closer to our hotel than usual. That was all.

  • Title: Wave
  • Author: Sonali Deraniyagala
  • Publisher:
  • Year: 2013
  • Pages: 240 pages
  • Source: Own collection – Kindle
  • Stars: 4 stars out of 5

V.C. Andrews: Flowers in the Attic (Group Read #3)

‘For I think of us more as flowers in the attic. Paper flowers. Born so brightly colored, and fading duller through all those long, grim, dreary, nightmarish days when we were held prisoners of hope, and kept captives by greed.’ (location 33-38)

FITA

So for this third part of the group read of The Flowers in the Attic, we’re really getting into it. All of the setting up of the characters and the setting we have experienced in the first half of the book, are done now and we’re definitely getting down and dirty. So beware, there will be spoilers ahead as well as nakedness, so proceed at your own caution.
When we get into this part, we quickly find out that the children have been in the attic for two years. They have grown closer and closer and Chris and Cathy are more and more taking on all parenting responsibilities for the twins – as well as growing up and maturing themselves. And of course, what we have been waiting for to happen ever since the grandmother gave them her list of stupid rules, happens now.
When Cathy admires how she has grown and developed by looking at her naked body in a mirror, Chris comes and can’t stop looking at her too. And of course, the grandmother comes in, discovers them – and tells them that unless Cathy cuts of all her hair, they will not get any food for a week. Of course Cathy doesn’t want to cut off her hair but while she sleeps, the grandmother drugs her and puts tar in her hair. They manage to get the tar out but as the grandmother still doesn’t bring them any food, they have to cut off a part of her hair and conceal the rest under a scarf to pretend she cut it all off – but the grandmother still doesn’t show up with their food. Finally, when they are ready to eat mice after having starved for a week, she shows up with food. They even get sugar-powdered donuts after not having been allowed treats for fear of them ruining their teeth and needing to see a dentist.
By now, their mother isn’t showing up every day or even every week and both Cathy and Chris are starting to understand that they have to take care of themselves now and that they can’t really count on her. And they devise a way to get outside by hanging a rope and climbing down. So Cathy and Chris go night-swimming in the nearby lake and have a wonderful time but almost don’t make it bad up the rope again. So they realize they need another way to get out of the house.
Especially as their mother stays away for more than two months without any explanation. And during this time, Chris and Cathy finally crosses their grandmother enough for her to whip them. Severely.
And as if this isn’t bad enough, Cathy and Chris start to see that there’s something wrong with the twins. They are not growing, they’ve only grown about two inches while they’ve been there, from the ages of four to about seven.
This is also the time when the children get a new friend. Mickey the mouse. They catch a mouse in a trap one day and as it doesn’t die, Cory wants it as a pet. He manages to make it tame and he loves it. It is heartbreaking to read about how when their mother finally gets back, she ignores the twins and never praises Cory for his big accomplishment in making the mouse his pet.
When the mother finally do get back, even Chris, her favorite and the one who loves her the most, rebels against her. She behaves like a child and cries and makes them apologize and feel sorry for her – and realize that she has a point, namely that she’s the only one who loves them. She brings them gifts en masse but she leaves angrily.This visit almost makes Cathy commit suicide but she realizes that she is all her siblings have now.
We’re at the breaking point now. The mother has pushed them so far that the twins don’t know her at all anymore but see Cathy as more of a mother, even Chris is questioning her actions – and Cathy and Chris are considering taking things in their own hands.
When I began reading this book, I felt sorry for the mother. I saw her as one of those women from an earlier generation with no skills and no training whatsoever and who were forced to find someone to take care of her and I saw her as having no choice in returning to her parents. All that is probably true. But she did not have to lock her children away for two years and as if that isn’t bad enough, she didn’t have to neglect them and ignore her youngest. She is actually worse than the grandmother because the grandmother is true to herself and her beliefs while the mother should know better. After having lived in a loving relationship for fifteen years and having four children as a result of it, she should know better.
We’re nearing the end now – why do I have a feeling that this can’t end well?

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V.C. Andrews: Flowers in the Attic (Group Read #2)

‘For I think of us more as flowers in the attic. Paper flowers. Born so brightly colored, and fading duller through all those long, grim, dreary, nightmarish days when we were held prisoners of hope, and kept captives by greed.’ (location 33-38)

FITA

So this group read of Flowers in the Attic hosted by insatiable booksluts has finished the next part of  the novel and are now at the halfway point, more or less. So be warned – there will be spoilers below!
First of, I want to say that I get a weird feeling when reading this book. I’m not sure if it’s the mom part of me that really aches for these poor kids or if it’s because I feel a bit trapped in  life with every day being more or less the same: getting up, getting kids ready and taking them to kindergarden, going to work, picking the kids up, making dinner, eating, putting the kids to bed, going to bed myself and repeat – more or less. Whatever it is, the book makes me feel a bit besides myself. This is not necessarily a bad thing – right now, I don’t  quite know what it is…
When we finished last, we had just realized that the grandmother means business. In this section, we learn that at least she has a reason for being mad at her daughter and for not wanting her grandchildren – although not a reason strong enough to whip anybody or to treat the kids the way she does.
The children’s mother finally tell the kids the true story of their father and her. It turns out that the children’s father was the half-uncle of the children’s mother. They fell in love when he came to live at her home and then ran away, got married – and returned, expecting to be welcomed with open arms. When that didn’t happen, they left and lived in happiness until the father died. And now, the mother has to try to get on her parents’ good side again to be able to provide for the children. Or that’s what she says at least.
Where the first part introduced us to the four children and their parents and set up the story, this second part is all about life in the attic. The children now know they will have to stay in the room and the attic until the grandfather dies so Chris and Cathy try to make the twins have as good a time as possible. With the help of their mother, they create a beautiful fake garden in the attic for the twins to swing and play in and look at.
The mother visits regularly and tells them about her life and how she tries to learn a skill so she will be able to make it in the world. She’s trying to learn how to become a secretary. But when Chris and Cathy are allowed to sneak down and peek at the Christmas Party, they see their mother seemingly very close with a man. And for the first time they see their grandfather in his wheel chair.
When Chris afterwards goes off exploring the house and the mother returns to lock them in before he’s back, she for the first time reminds them of the grandmother – especially when she hits Chris when he returns to the room.
And every morning the grandmother with her silent disapproval and dressed as a grey ghost brings them their food, never with even a single kindly word.
The twins both get seriously ill during this time too and the mother is very worried about them. Luckily they both pull through, although they seem like shadows of themselves. Carrie for on doesn’t constantly chitchat anymore but is almost as silent as her brother. And this is probably a good place to show one of the novel’s issues. Cathy so misses her sister’s chitchatting – but then only a few pages passes and suddenly, Carrie is back to normal and Cathy is annoyed by it even though it was only a little while ago that she was so worried about her and was sure that she would never return to her own self. Another seemingly example of this lack of constancy is, when the twins just hate the attic and everything about it is scary to them – and then a few pages later exploring the attic is the best way to spend their time and Cory wants to spend all his day in the attic…
It’s like V.C. Andrews just changes the facts as it suits her and fits the story. To have the twins be so scared of the attic creates a good scene and some nice action – but she need them to get used to it later on and instead of showing how they gradually grow familiar with it and less scared of it, she just writes that now they’re fine with it. Of course, this is much easier – but it’s also cheating!
Despite this, I’m still interested in reading on but I’m also ready for something new to happen in the third part. I’m guessing that the oldest children’s sexuality will probably be in focus in this section which will give the grandmother a chance to some creative cruelty!

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V.C. Andrews: Flowers in the Attic (Group Read #1)

“For I think of us more as flowers in the attic. Paper flowers. Born so brightly colored, and fading duller through all those long, grim, dreary, nightmarish days when we were held prisoners of hope, and kept captives by greed.’ (location 33-38)
FITA

So apparently every teenager in the US has read Flowers in the Attic. I’ve never heard of it. But when Heather suggested a group read over at insatiable booksluts, I thought it sounded interesting and decided to join. I didn’t know much about what I was getting myself into except that it was something about a group of kids being locked in the attic and about some really nasty grandparents.
So after reading the first part of the book, I can easily see why this has been so popular among teenagers – I would definitely have loved it if I had read it some twenty years ago. This is the story of a beautiful and lovely family. Two loving parents, the teenagers Chris and Cathy and then the twins, Cory and Carrie.
But tragedy strikes and their father is killed in a tragic accident: ‘According to the accounts, which we’ve recorded, there was a motorist driving a blue Ford weaving in and out of the left and lane, apparently drunk, and he crashed head-on into your husband’s car. But it seems your husband must have seen the accident coming, for he swerved to avoid a head-on collision, but a piece of machinery had fallen from another car, or truck, and this kept him from copleting his correct defense driving maneuver, which would have saved his life. But as it was, your husband’s much heavier car turned over several times, and still he might have survived, but an oncoming truck, unable to stop, crashed into his car, and again the Cadillac spun over … and the … it caught on fire.’ (location 223-30) And then it caught on fire. Indeed it did.
This leaves the mother to care for the children on her own and since she has no skills, she decides to go back to the parents who disinherited her fifteen years earlier. She drags the kids along, forces them to leave most of their toys behind and doesn’t exactly tell them the reality of the house, they are going to.
Of course, no words could have prepared the children for the reality of their grandparent’s home. Or house rather, there’s not much home about it. The children are forced to stay in one room and are allowed to play in the attic. Their grandmother are a cold and cruel woman who reveals to the children that their parents were in fact related and because of that, in her opinion, the children should never have been born. And she gives the children a list of insane rules they are supposed to follow if they know what’s best for them. And she forces their mother to show them what happens if they don’t – she’s whipped their mother. Thirty-three lashes, one for each year she has lived, and then fifteen lashes, one for each year she lived with the children’s father.
So this is where we are. The children are stuck in a room in a house where they are not wanted. The mother is being whipped by the grandmother and the grandfather is lying in a bed, supposed to die soon.
This is definitely an engaging read. It’s not the best writing I’ve ever read, but it is very entertaining and creepy. I have a pretty good idea about what’s going to happen but I’m still looking very much forward to reading it.

Thomas Steinbeck: Dr. Greenlaw and the Zulu Princess (review)

DOCTOR GREENLAW AND THE ZULU PRINCESS, Steinbeck - Cover

After having read Cabbages and Kings by Thomas Steinbeck for this  Novellas in November challenge and really liked it, I was very excited about having received another one to read from the publisher.
In Dr. Greenlaw and the Zulu Princess, the main protagonist, Dr. Thaddeus Greenlaw, is a man who wants to be left to his own devices and who doesn’t leave behind the slightest impression of a personality. He is a professor of comparative philosophy but only chose this subject to spite his father – or rather all of his family since he regards them as his mortal enemies. His only real ambition in life was to be a highly skilled craftsman and make unique furniture but his father prevented that and completely destroyed his opportunity to do this. So he teach philosophy and dislikes it and just exists in his life without truly living it.
But then his luck changes. His parents die and Greenlaw inherits a fortune. Because of his new acquired wealth he immediately retires and moves. This newfound freedom gives him the opportunity to finally realize his dreams and so he ends up buying a boat to restore, he makes friends and generally just enjoys himself.
As I was really enjoying this novella. Even though I don’t care one bit about sail boats or restoring them to their former glory, I still enjoyed reading about Dr. Greenlaw’s project and how this un-impressive nobody suddenly found his passion and became somebody.
But towards the end, the last 10 pages, something changed. We stopped following Dr. Greenlaw and instead the book focus on one of the other characters and I must admit, that I didn’t get this part. I simply didn’t understand quite what was happening or why. I think this novella would have been better if it had been finished when it stopped following Dr. Greenlaw. After that I was just confused. I was expecting a wonderful twist towards the end just like in Cabbages and Kings because it felt like it was leading up to something. And something did happen that might be explained as a twist. But I didn’t understand where Steinbeck was going with it and I was left feeling disappointed after finishing it. Which is a shame because I liked reading about Dr. Greenlaw. I’m also left with a nagging feeling that I’ve overlooked something or missed a clue somewhere so I’ve tried finding other reviews or thoughts about this novella that could help me understand what was going on. Unfortunately, this one is so newly published that I couldn’t find any reviews that could help me.
Still, I liked the story of Dr. Greenlaw finally finding his passion and having the courage to change his life when given the opportunity so I still consider this a good end to my Novellas in November challenge.

First line: For those who claimed his acquaintance, and they were only a pitiful few, Dr. Greenlaw appeared a most unexceptional gentleman.

  • Title: Dr. Greenlaw and the Zulu Princess
  • Author: Thomas Steinbeck
  • Publisher: Post Hill Press
  • Year: 2013
  • Pages: 117 pages
  • Source: Own collection – Kindle
  • Stars: 3 stars out of 5

I read this for Rick’s Novellas in November challenge.

Related posts:

Doctor Who 50th Anniversary #7

doctor_who___50th_anniversary_poster_by_disneydoctorwhosly23-d5gxelrThis year we celebrate Doctor Who’s 50th Anniversary. One of the ways we do this, is by getting eleven short stories written about eleven authors. Each story is based on one of the eleven doctors, of course. A range of different authors of children’s fiction get to play with a doctor each and each month, on the 23rd, a new short story will be released.

Here’s the schedule – with links to my reviews (and yeah, I’m behind…):

The Ripple Effect - Malorie BlackmanSo can you ever trust a Dhalek? Would you ever dare to? Even if they have managed to create an equivalent to Plato’s Academy?
The Doctor and his companion Ace find themselves stuck in a kind of space Bermuda Triangle, The Temporal Plexus. Here they struggle to get the Tardis freed and when they succeed, they are thrown across the universe – to Skaro.
But definitely not the Skaro we know and fear. No, this Skaro is the centre of civilization, philosophy, democracy and art. Everyone is flocking here to learn – and the Dhaleks are the teachers. So when the Doctor attacks one of these Dhaleks to protect Ace, he is not exactly praised. Rather the students are very angry at him for attacking one of their friendly and peaceful teachers.
So what exactly has happened – is this another evil Dhalek master plan or is this something else – and something far far worse?
I really really liked this story. But oh, it was far too short. There was so much potential in a Dhalek build Platonic Academy – just imagine the always warmongering Dhaleks as philosopher kings? I can just imagine them walking around the grounds and saying ‘EDUCATE’ …! So it was a bit disappointing to me that it didn’t do more with this setting and elaborate on how a peaceful Dhalek sees the world and what kind of philosophy it (he?) believes in.
Of course the story had other flaws as well. In particular, there was a very sappy moment between Ace and one of the students that was just too much – at least for an adult reader, but I do think that young adults would probably love that … so I guess I can’t complain about that since this series is aimed at a younger audience than me.
So yet again I’m left with a feeling of wanting these to be just a tiny bit longer …

‘If you make a tiny change at just the right moment in time, then everything else follows naturally, like a ripple effect.’ (location 475-86)

First line: 

  • Title: The Ripple Effect
  • Author: Malorie Blackman
  • Publisher: Puffin Books
  • Year: 2013
  • Pages: 55 pages
  • Source: Own collection – Kindle
  • Stars: 3 stars out of 5

I read this as part of the year-long celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who.

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Colm Tóibín: The Testament of Mary (review)

colm-toibin-the-testament-of-mary‘The boy became a man and left home and became a dying figure hanging on a cross.’ (location 952-58)
So a book about the mother of Jesus and how she doesn’t believe him to be the son of God? How could I possibly pass on that?
This book tells this well-known story of Jesus’ life from a new perspective, the point of view of his mother, which makes it so fresh and new – and I just loved it.
When we meet Mary, she’s living on her own, having lost both her husband and her son. She is regularly visited by a couple of Jesus’ disciple and otherwise just keeps to herself, staying out of trouble, and mostly lives in her memories.
Through her memories, we are shown Jesus’ life from his childhood to his death, the lovely times they had at the Sabbath when he was still and child – and the not so lovely time they had at the wedding at Kanaa for instance. We see Lazarus returning from his grave to lead a life that’s not so much a miracle as a zombie existence. We see Mary’s relatives shun her because they are afraid to be associated with her son through her. And we see Mary desperately trying to save her son, failing at it and then hoping desperately that he will be saved some other way. And of course, that hope is crushed and she even has to flee his crucifixion to save herself, leaving her son to die on his own.
I’ve read several reviews saying that Mary felt like a modern woman. I don’t know about that – it’s easy to say that since we haven’t always had the same view on children, parents and the relationships between them as we do now, that Mary’s love for her son isn’t right for her time. I don’t know if that’s true or not. For me, this is a story about mothers through the ages, about how a mother and child sometimes grow apart. The child makes some life choices you don’t agree with – but you always love them. The mother may also do things she’s not proud of but it’s not for lack of love and as mothers, we never feel we are as good as we can be – or as good as we should be. And so it is with Mary. She loves that boy.
So while I’m not sure whether Mary is too modern, there’s still a lot of modern themes. While we are used to hearing about this charismatic man who influenced his peers and a lot of other people around him to a better way of life, it’s definitely not that story we see here. This feels more like a story of peer pressure and what happens when you’re running with the wrong crowd. It also deals with retelling – and remaking – history. Even though Tóibín doesn’t deal with how the Bible was collected through a selection and voting process, he shows the disciples as misfits who exploits Jesus and uses him to create an idea, a faith – and how Mary tries to preserve her memories of what actually happened the day her son was killed and not give in to the disciples who keeps coming back and tries to persuade her that her memories are flawed.
And that of course is true. Memories are always flawed. But I think a mother remembers how her son died. And remembers too what she did that day.
I really really liked this short novella and I was so impressed with the amount of raw emotion and thought-provoking content, Tóibín was able to put into just 114 pages. I’m pretty sure that this novella has a lot of potential to rub some people the wrong way but I strongly recommend this one to just about anyone since it’s just a wonderful novella about so many aspects of the human existence, showcased through the story of one mother and her love of her only child.

First line: They appear more often now, both of them, and on every visit they seem more impatient with me and with the world.

  • Title: The Testament of Mary
  • Author: Colm Tóibín
  • Publisher: Penguin Books
  • Year: 2012
  • Pages: 114 pages
  • Source: Own collection – Kindle
  • Stars: 4 stars out of 5

I read this for Rick’s Novellas in November challenge.

Related posts:

Doctor Who 50th Anniversary #6

doctor_who___50th_anniversary_poster_by_disneydoctorwhosly23-d5gxelrThis year we celebrate Doctor Who’s 50th Anniversary. One of the ways we do this, is by getting eleven short stories written about eleven authors. Each story is based on one of the eleven doctors, of course. A range of different authors of children’s fiction get to play with a doctor each and each month, on the 23rd, a new short story will be released.

Here’s the schedule – with links to my reviews (and yeah, I’m behind…):

Something-Borrowed-50th-short-richelle-meadSo when reading this, I found out that I’m full of prejudice. See, when I saw this book was written by Richelle Mead of The Vampire Academy fame, I was already a bit sceptic. And when I then saw it had a storyline with unrequited love, I was almost prepared to just stop then and there. But well, I rarely quit reading something so I kept on going – and I’m glad I did. Because this wasn’t just an unrequited love story, no, this was something more interesting.
The Sixth Doctor arrives together with Peri on Koturia, an civilization 200 years in our future but modeled on Las Vegas as we know it. They go there to attend a wedding of the son of one of the Doctor’s old friends, Lord Evris Makshi. But when they arrive, they arrive in the middle of a pterodactyl attack. Luckily the Doctor and Peri is able to scare the animals away without anyone being seriously hurt. They learn that these attacks have become more frequent lately – and that the pterodactyls are even carrying people away sometimes.
When they arrive at the home of the Doctor’s friend, they naturally want to meet the blushing bride but she is in the women’s part of the house where only Peri is allowed to go. So she goes – to check out the bride who is apparently alien.  And when she does finally meet the bride, she is instantly recognized … and not exactly made to feel welcome.
I ended up quite enjoying this installment in the short story series but it also made me even more aware that I’m lacking so much Doctor Who knowledge. I’ve slowly started to get into the old episodes and the old doctors – but in this one, I really felt my lack of knowledge of what has been going on. And I’m questioning whether what I liked was the novel – or the villain who is from the tv series. This sort of puts into focus what my overall view is on Doctor Who fiction – it’s not nearly as good as the real thing but helps take the edge of when you’re pining for more Doctor Who related stuff.
The Doctor didn’t really stand out for me in this novel but maybe that’s because it was told from the point of view of Peri, his companion – and she already knew him and didn’t have to explain much about him.
Still, all in all, this turned out to be a story I really enjoyed but also a story that showed me how much I still have to experience with Doctor Who as seen on TV (or iPad or whatever).

First line: It was typical. The Doctor promised me champagne and cake, and instead I got flying lizards.

  • Title: Something Borrowed
  • Author: Richelle Mead
  • Publisher: Puffin Books
  • Year: 2013
  • Pages: 40 pages
  • Source: Own collection – Kindle
  • Stars: 3 stars out of 5

I read this as part of the year-long celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who.

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