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review 2015-02-19 00:55
Book 12/100: The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame,Gillian Avery

So, this book is one of those self-publishing "success stories" folks love to yammer on about.

When Grahame first wrote "The Wind in the Willows," no one wanted to publish it. He self-published it, it gained great popularity, now it's a classic, etc.

But all I could think as I read it was that I could see why no one wanted to publish it.

Talking animal stories are not really my cup of tea, but I've read plenty of them that were done well ([book:Watership Down|76620], [book:Bambi|739840], [book:Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH|20333080]). This one was more the type of story that reminds me why I don't generally go for talking animal stories. The world-building here was horrible -- we have anthropomorphic forest critters who wear clothes, ride horses, and drive cars, and yet we also have humans who interact with them and seem to be comparable in size? Not to mention one scene where a rabbit is described as an auxillary character, and another in which Mr. Toad EATS a rabbit stew. Isn't that basically like eating your neighbor? All said, I couldn't figure out WHY this story had to be told using animals at all. Or why it even needed to be told, come to that.

Because it had absolutely no plot. I guess you could say that the plot had something to do with Mr. Toad's "reformation" from a cad to a humble gentleman, but there is no real evidence that a true transformation has taken place at the end of the book, since Toad had put on airs of repentance in the past that never stuck. And then there are all sorts of scenes that have nothing to do with this plot or with any discernible subplot, such as one where Mole and Rat go looking for a missing otter -- this is the story that, apparently, is behind the novel's name, even though it seems pretty inconsequential to the greater story.

It's written well enough and can be charming in places, but it was one of those books that leaves me wondering what in the world all the fuss is about, and why it came to be so popular in the first place. I guess I'll go read some positive reviews now to see what the heck people see in this book.

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text 2015-02-16 01:27
January Challenge Recap
Fantasy: The Best of the Year, 2006 Edition - George Saunders,Gregory Feeley,Paul Di Filippo,Theodora Goss,Holly Phillips,Gene Wolfe,Richard Parks,Pat Cadigan,Steve Rasnic Tem,Marc Laidlaw,Elizabeth Bear,Joe Murphy,Peter S. Beagle,Rich Horton,Matthew Hughes,Michael Canfield,Sonya Taaffe,Samantha Hend
Bambi - Felix Salten
Watership Down - Richard Adams
Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn
Panic - Sharon M. Draper
The Baby Tree - Sophie Blackall
Brown Girl Dreaming - Jacqueline Woodson
Eleanor and Park - Rainbow Rowell
Plover Landing - Marie Zhuikov
The Adventures of Pinocchio - Carlo Collodi

Here is my January progress for the four(ish) reading challenges I'm doing this year. You can see three of them here, and the fourth is my plan to read as many of the source materials for Disney movies as possible -- I have already read about half of them over a lifetime of Disney fandom.


From my personal reading challenge, in January I was supposed to read books I had received as gifts. Unfortunately, I only read one book from this category:


Fantasy: The Best of the Year 2006 - I received this book as a Christmas present from Pocketmermaid several years ago -- I think it was 2009. The gift note, written on festive Christmas stationery, was still tucked inside. She bought it for me because it had the "sequel" to one of my favorite books, "The Last Unicorn," in it, and also because I was making a bit of an informal study of the short story form at the time, hoping to untangle how to write some of my own. This book took me much longer to read than I thought -- the pages are trade-paperback sized and the text fairly cramped with small margins. I also had to stop for about a week to read a book club book. Glad to finally have it read, but sad that I didn't get more books under my belt for this part of the challenge!


From my Into the Forest Reading Challenge, I read

1. A book from the Endicott YA list Ella Enchanted and

2. A book that was made into a favorite movie - Bambi


And for this 2015 Reading Challenge I read ...

  1. A Book That Became a Movie - Bambi by Felix Salten
  2. A Book With Nonhuman Characters - Watership Down by Richard Adams
  3. A Mystery or Thriller - Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  4. A Book with a One-Word Title - Panic by Sharon Draper
  5. A Book of Short Stories - Fantasy: The Best of the Year 2006 by Rich Norton
  6. A Book Based Entirely on Its Cover - The Baby Tree by Sophie Blackall
  7. A Memoir - Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
  8. A Book Set in High School - Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
  9. A Book Set in Your Home Town - Plover Landing by Marie Zhuikov (Duluth is my "adopted" hometown -- I don't think any books are set in my actual hometown.)


For Disney Source Materials, I read

  1. Bambi by Felix Salten (heh, this one is showing up on every list!)
  2. The Sorceror's Apprentice by Goethe and

Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi


For February I am reading Love & Marriage books. One of my favorite themes!

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review 2015-01-09 05:26
A Year in Disney Movies Week 2: Companion Books (Pinocchio) / Book 1/100: Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi
The Adventures of Pinocchio - Carlo Collodi
The Real Boy - Erin Mcguire,Anne Ursu
Wild Children - Richard Roberts
Noah Barleywater Runs Away - John Boyne

The first book I reviewed this year was Pinocchio, which I read in conjunction with viewing the Disney film for week 2 of my Year in Disney Movies.


I wasn't really thrilled with the original story, but there are a couple other takes on it that I liked more.


The original:



PinocchioPinocchio by Carlo Collodi
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I find that I don't have a lot of patience for books that are told in an "episodic" fashion -- I know serialized stories used to be much more common, but it's a storytelling style that has fallen out of fashion and it always feels disjointed to me. It made Pinocchio seem like such a long story, with just one thing after another happening to Pinocchio, without a clear sense of narrative unity. Pinocchio also was not a very likable character, and I know that the point is his character transformation, but it got to the point where it went on so long that it made it hard to believe he ever would change. Why would this resolution or episode be any different than the last twelve? I kinda wanted to roll my eyes every time he berated himself and insisted that he would be a "good boy" going forward.

Although the tone is a bit too didactic for my tastes, I CAN see how a child might get something different out of the book. The lack of narrative unity wouldn't have bothered me, and there is an element of wish fulfillment in all the naughty ways that Pinocchio acts out, culminating in his escape to "The Land of Boobies", thankfully renamed Pleasure Island in the Disney film. And I did find myself touched at the end, both by Pinocchio's discovery of his friend Candlewick as a dying donkey, and by his final transformation. Still, I was mostly just glad to be done.

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text 2015-01-02 22:50
A Year in Disney Movies Week 1: Companion Books (Snow White Retellings)
Snow in Summer - Jane Yolen
Fairest - Gail Carson Levine
Fairest of All: A Tale of the Wicked Queen - Serena Valentino
Ever After High: The Storybook of Legends - Shannon Hale
Mirror Mirror - Gregory Maguire

This year over at Wordpress, I'm blogging about my year-long project to watch 1 Disney animated classic per week, in order. I got started yesterday with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.


Although I largely credit Disney for awakening my love of fairy tales, it does make me sad that many people think of the Disney films as the "original" stories, when Disney sometimes takes such drastic liberties that the original story is hardly recognizable. Disney classics are just one of many in a long line of retellings, and I appreciate them as such.


I'm going to post "companion reads" to the weekly movie here whenever applicable. Aside from Disney's version, the other Snow White retellings I've explored are:


Snow in Summer by Jane Yolen, an Appalachian retelling of Snow White. (4/5 stars)


Fairest by Gail Carson Levine, interesting because the Snow White character in it is not beautiful. (4/5 stars)


Fairest of All, a Tale of the Wicked Queen by Serena Valentino, which is officially part of the Disney line. Although I was somewhat disappointed, I do hope Disney continues the trend of releasing books to add depth to the characters from their movies, especially since we see so little of their backstories or inner workings. (3/5 stars)


Ever After High: The Storybook of Legends by Shannon Hale, which follows the daughters of Snow White and the Wicked Queen as they possibly forge a friendship (haven't read far enough in the series to know for sure). (3/5 stars)


Mirror, Mirror by Gregory Maguire which, despite being somewhat of a disappointment, still has the best cover of any of the Snow White retellings listed here. And I really love that it uses Lucrezia Borgia as the evil stepmother, which piqued my interest in learning more about the historical Borgias. (3/5 stars)


Snow White is a fairy tale that seems to remain ripe with possibility despite the many "takes" on it already out there. None of the retellings I've read of it yet have totally blown me away, but I feel certain there is one out there -- perhaps even already on my shelf. And someday, I also hope to write my own.


[I would also like to give Disney's Snow White a copy of The Feminine Mystique. She might be ready for it in a few years.]

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