September 2012 – Monthly Wrap Up

Yes yes, I know, we’re already halfway through October and I’m late with the monthly wrap up post. I just think we have to agree that my schedule is … well, a couple of weeks after everybody else’s and just go with it. I’ve been postponing and postponing posting this post – and maybe procrastinating a little bit – because I wanted to include links to reviews of all the books I read in October. I’ve finally realized that that’s not going to happen so here, 2,5 weeks late, is the monthly wrap up post for September…!

I picked up the pace a bit more in September. 4 books read. This is actually strange, since I started work this month. Luckily, only 30 hours a week and – even better – I commute by train so each day I have one hour to read on the train. I love traveling and commuting by train! Even one Friday, when the train was late because four cows were talking a walk on the tracks and I was sitting close to some guys going to the October Festival in Munich – and they were preparing by drinking beer and shouting ‘prost!’ a lot, making it rather hard to concentrate on Clarissa… Still, the train ride gives me time to read, I get to say hallo to my brother-in-law almost every morning when he gets on the train as I get off and it’s just a nice way to start and end the working day.

So 4 books this month. That’s okay. 2240 pages. That’s fine too. But I’m still 2 books behind on my goal to read 52 books. Still, I think I’ll make it … (ignoring the fact that I still have to read some really big novels this year like The Kindly Ones and Les Misérables). 

  1. Christine Feldthaus: Feldthaus skruer ned. A Danish television celebrity takes on a challenge to become more environmentally friendly, use less electricity and hot water. An okay book that gives some nice perspectives on the environmental debate. 3 stars.
  2. Marion Zimmer Bradley: The Mists of Avalon. Great novel about the women of Arthur’s court and the intrigues surrounding them and it. And of course Avalon and the Lady of the Lake. And Lancelot. 4 stars.
  3. Stephen King: The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower #1)
  4. Jean M. Auel: Folket i Klippehulerne (The Shelters of Stone) (Jordens Børn #5). After taking a long break from these books, I returned. Jondalar and Ayla has returned to Jondalar’s people and this book details how they get used to living in one place again, Ayla’s pregnancy and their mating ceremony. Very repetitive. 3 stars.

I also listened to one audio book this month:

  1. Lisa Shearin: Con & Conjure (Raine Benares #5). Fast-paced light fantasy read. Entertaining, nothing more. 3 stars.

So I have three months left to finish my challenges this year. I need to read some Neil Gaiman – and I’m looking forward to that. I need to finish Clarissa – I’m really looking forward to having finished that! And I need to read 8 books for my private challenge (including American Gods by Gaiman, Les Misérables by Victor Hugo, Don Delillo Underworld and the last book in the Earth’s Children series by Jean M. Auel). Last month I signed up for The Epic Dark Tower read-a-long and therefore, I need to read Dark Tower #2: The Drawing of the Three. I need to read 16 books more this year, having read 36 out of 52 so far. I think September again will focus on finishing challenges. Halloween is not a big thing in Denmark so I don’t plan on reading anything particularly scary this month – well, maybe Underworld, that one really scares me!

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Jean M. Auel: Folket i Klippehulerne (Jordens Børn #5) (The Shelters of Stone – Earth’s Children #5) (review)

So there’s no chance of me spoiling this for anyone since really, nothing much happens. Folket i Klippehulerne aka The Shelters of Stone is of course the fifth book in the Earth’s Children series by Jean M. Auel. Since The Clan of the Cave Bear we’ve been following Ayla on her journey from part of a Neanderthal clan to finding people of her own kind, the Cro-Magnons. We’ve followed her living on her own, befriending various animals as well as meeting and healing Jondalar, the first Cro-Magnon man she’s ever seen. She and Jondalar then set off on their journey, first living and experiencing serious relationship trouble in the camp of the Mammoth Hunters. And then, they set off for Jondalar’s home.

After the boring journey across the plains in book 4, I was kind of apprehensive about the fifth book. I was hoping that the 12 years break was used by Jean M. Auel to get back to the quality of the first books in the series. Unfortunately, this was not the case.

This novel takes off when Ayla and Jondalar has arrived at the Ninth Cave of the Zelandonii, Jondalar’s home. Arriving on horseback, together with a wolf, they of course cause quite a stir. After Ayla is introduced to the family and the rest of the people in the cave, she starts trying to fit in. Most people are very impressed with this beautiful and amazingly talented woman, Jondalar brought back. However, not all are quite so happy. One of these is the girl, Jondalar was supposed to marry who is not exactly happy that he brought Ayla back and therefore, she decides to humiliate her. The plan doesn’t go quite as expected, instead it rather backfires and makes Ayla more popular with most of the people of the cave – although even more unpopular with a few.

Besides Ayla’s attempts to fit in, this novel focuses on Ayla’s pregnancy and her and Jondalar’s mage ceremony. Throw in a couple of hunts, some sex scenes, explanations about how things worked, everyone presented having extremely (ridiculously) long titles and Ayla being amazing at whatever she does – and you have yourself a book.

Unfortunately, not a very good one. It seems that Auel has more focus on the research she has done for the book than on the actual story the research should be the background to and this makes the book rather slow-moving and unbalanced. On top of this, Auel repeats herself over and over and over – I’m convinced that in at least one place, she simply copy-pasted from the first of the books – and even presents the same things as new information several times as well as recap all major events from the first 4 novels, and you can see some of the issues with the book.

But unfortunately that’s not all that bothered me about the book. So far, Auel has seemed rather progressive when it comes to sex and relationships between the sexes but in this novel, not so much. For this tribe, if a young woman has sex before her first ritual, it’s a great shame and people look down on her – but not on the man who did it with her, even if he’s an older man who persuaded her. Also, it’s the woman’s responsibility to keep the man happy by having sex with him – if not, he’ll probably leave her… This is some of the things Ayla are told before the mate ceremony – and it doesn’t seem that Jondalar is told anything similar to this. And I don’t like that.

Auel also has a tendency sometimes to step back and talk about how some invention or new thought, will evolve through the coming centuries and what it will come to mean and why Jondalar and Ayla thought of it. This way of stepping back breaks the rhythm of the story and ruins the pace.

I read a translation of this novel so I don’t know if the clunkiness of the writing and the sometimes very old-fashioned language is the author’s or the translator’s fault. I do know that the spelling and translation mistakes are the Danish editor’s and the translator’s fault!

The greatest issue with this book however, is how accomplished and amazing Ayla is. She is simply the best at everything. She’s the perfect woman, she’s beautiful and is able to create amazing clothes. She can tame animals. She is a fantastic healer – who on top of that, always is on hand when someone gets injured. No one gets injured in this book without Ayla being right there, ready to treat. She can solve social issues in minutes: issues, that have bothered everyone else for years. No wonder she annoys some of the people in the cave! I know she has had opportunities no one else has had and all that, but it just feels too much now. She is simply too accomplished for it to feel real in any way.

I went back and forth between giving this 2 or 3 stars. I actually think this doesn’t deserve more than 2 stars and if I had read the series closer together, I would probably have been so annoyed with the constant repetition of both the earlier books in the series and even of this very book, that it would have been difficult even to give it two stars. But since it has been 15 years or so since I read the first 4 in the series and so the repetition bothers me but not as much as it could have – maybe should have.

I really, really liked this series when I was younger. The first three books were really good – or at least, that’s how I remember them. But after the disappointment with both the fourth and fifth book in this series, I’m not sure if these books were any good or if it’s because I read them maybe 20 years ago when I was in my teens  – and wasn’t as sophisticated a reader as now. It’s sad to start to question books you used to love, because the later in the series simply don’t live up to your expectations. So far, I’m convinced that book 4 and 5 should have been one book – and I’m not having very high hopes about book 6…

  • Title: Folket i Klippehulerne (Jordens Børn #5) (The Shelters of Stone – Earth’s Children #5)
  • Author: Jean M. Auel
  • Publisher: Samleren
  • Year: 2002
  • Pages: 739 pages
  • Source: Own Collection
  • Stars:  3 stars out of 5

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Earth’s Children series – or the Stone Age Super Hero

Earth’s Children is a series of six speculative alternative historical fiction novels. The first was published in 1980 and the series was finished in 2011 (maybe). I’ve recently started reading the fifth installment in the Earth’s Children series and I wanted to talk a bit about the series as a whole and my impressions of the first four books. It’s been many years since I read these first four – in part because it took the author, Jean M. Auel, 12 years to finish the fifth book. She says it’s due to life getting in the way – I’ve always felt that it was because the books got progressively worse and that the fourth one was so bad it’s hardly worth reading. But I get ahead of myself… Below, you find my thoughts on the first 4 books in the series (beware – spoilers!).

    

These were the covers of the my first editions of this series.
My parents then gave me hardcovers but I’ve always loved these the best.

  1. The Clan of the Cave Bear. I loved this book! I don’t know how many times I’ve read it but it’s an amazing, amazing book. This book tells the story of a young Cro Magnon girl Ayla who is adopted by a Neanderthal Clan and taught their ways, especially when it comes to healing. However, the leader to be hates her and always makes sure to put her in her place.
  2. The Valley of Horses. Forced to leave the Clan, Ayla has to make it on her own. She finds a sheltered valley and decides to stay there for the winter. In the valley, she learns herself many different skills – as well as tame a horse and a cave lion. She is lonely, though, but when she hears a man screaming, she is in time to save Jondalar and heal him – while he teaches her the ways of his people. This book is almost as good as The Clan of the Cave Bear.
  3. The Mammoth Hunters. Together with Jondalar, her horse Whinney and the horse’s colt, Ayla leaves the safety of her valley to go out and meet others of her kind. She meets the Mammoth Hunters and is adopted. In this new setting, her and Jondalar’s relationship is seriously tested. This one is not quite as good as the first two but still worth reading.
  4. The Plains of Passage. Yawn! Are we there yet??? This book heavily details Ayla and Jondalar’s journey across the plains to Jondalar’s home. It details every plant they see on the way – or at least that’s what it feels like. They have sex, eat, travel a bit, see some plants, have some more sex and meet a few people. The first 3 I’ve read several times – I’ve only managed to get through this one once.

I’m currently reading The Shelters of Stone and then I will finish the series with The Land of Painted Caves. Sex, descriptions of how things were made in the Upper Paleolithic era, about 30.000 years ago, plants and such like, have been huge parts of this entire series and so far, The Shelters of the Stone is the same. However, I feel that the writing isn’t that good but I’m not sure to blame the author or the translator. See, I read these books in translation since that’s how I started them many years ago, before I had the skill to read books in English. But some of the writing, especially some of the romance parts, feels almost juvenile and the dialogue so far hasn’t impressed me. It has gotten a little better as I have been slowly dragged into the story but I’m not that impressed yet.

Also, it’s starting to ring a bit false that Ayla is so accomplished. She can speak both the sign language of the Neanderthals and the language of the Cro Magnons. She is an extremely skilled healer and knows everything about plants. She has an incredible memory. She has tamed a horse, a cave lion and a wolf – which nobody has done before. And on top of that, she’s drop dead gorgeous and doesn’t know it… She is almost a Stone Age Super Hero! I know, it can be explained by her upbringing, her living on her own and more – but still, it does get a bit much sometimes.

I’m hoping that these two last books will remind me why I loved this series so much all those years ago. I’ve been dreading reading them since I was afraid they would be as bad as The Plains of Passage. I’ll let you know how it goes!

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