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review 2018-06-16 21:42
All the old feels, and why this is in my personal canon
King Of The Wind - The Story Of Godolphin Arabian - Marguerite Henry

When my copy arrived from Thrift Books yesterday and it was EXACTLY what I had been looking for, I burst into tears.  I haven't completely stopped crying yet.  It's so beautiful!

 

As I went through it later last night, I did find a few small pencil marks which I think I can safely remove.  And as I went through it later last night, I also went through several more tissues.  Yeah, it's that kind of story.

 

How much of the Godolphin Arabian's story as told by Marguerite Henry is true and how much is story, I don't know.  At least part is true, of course, because he was a real horse and the history of his descendants is well known and documented.  But all the stuff before that, from his birth in Morocco through his trials in Paris and London, who knows?

 

Like most little girls, I was fascinated by horses.  When my grandparents moved from Edison Park, IL, to Roselle, where they had a couple of acres of land "out in the country," all I could think of was having a horse out there.

 

 

Of course, that never happened.  Once in a while when we visited I'd see a horse that someone else in the neighborhood owned, but I never got one.  The drive from our house to theirs, however, wound through the stable area of Arlington Park Racetrack, and when we went there during the summer I would literally hang my head out the window of our '53 Chevy to smell the horses.  If by some chance I actually happened to see one, well, that was even more terrific.

 

Oddly, even though we lived barely a mile from the track, I don't think I went there more than a dozen times in fifteen years.

 

I never became a huge racing aficionado, filling my head with pedigrees and times of various horses who became famous in those growing-up years of the 1950s and '60s.  A few stuck in my imagination, though, and none more than Round Table, the "little brown horse" who was so famous he warranted a visit from Queen Elizabeth. 

 

Not long after I moved to Arizona, I struck up a friendship with a woman whose husband was very much a horse racing fan.  I was at their home one day in the summer of 1987 when I happened to flip through one of his racing magazines and learned that Round Table had recently died, and I burst into tears.  Yeah, the feels, for a horse I never knew.

 

Round Table was a turf horse, claimed to be the greatest ever, and for 40 years or so even had a race at Arlington named after him.

 

King of the Wind begins with Man O' War, who was descended from the Godolphin Arabian, as are most Thoroughbreds.  I learned from Marguerite Henry's Album of Horses that there were three foundational sires of the breed: the Byerley Turk, the Darley Arabian, and the Godolphin Arabian.  From other reading - I devoured books about horses, too - I knew that Man O' War's dam (mother) was Mahubah, described as "a Rock Sand mare." 

 

Man O' War, like Secretariat, was a big red horse, not at all like Round Table.  But the little brown horse was also descended from Rock Sand, and through him the line goes back to the Godolphin Arabian.

 

All. The. Feels.

 

And all this was in my mind even before the book arrived yesterday.  As I read it last night, yes, there were details that I had forgotten, because after all it's been close to half a century since I last saw it.  But one thing struck me more than anything else, and it had nothing to do with all the feels about Sham the horse and Agba the stableboy and Grimalkin the cat and Lady Roxana the mare and the other things I did remember. In fact, it wasn't even really a detail about the story itself.

 

Agba is a stableboy in the vast complex of the Sultan of Morocco (even though the horse is believed to have actually come from Yemen). Unable to speak, Agba nonetheless is devoted to the horses in his charge, especially a pregnant broodmare.  It is the holy month of Ramadan, and the Sultan has decreed that the horses shall abstain from food from sunrise to sunset along with their human caretakers.  Agba is able to ignore the temptations of food all around him, but he is very conscious of the strain this puts on the pregnant mare. 

 

I don't know if Agba ever existed or not.  Maybe there are notes in the life of the Earl of Godolphin, who acquired the stallion, that tell of the boy who could not speak.  I don't know.  But what I do know is that I learned two things from the fictional character: that Ramadan was a holy month of a respected religion and that a person with what most people think of as a handicap can still be a hero.

 

My maternal grandmother's family is Jewish, so even though I grew up in a nice, white, christian suburb, I knew about prejudice, and I knew about the Holocaust when few of my schoolmates did. I didn't know, at the age I got my copy of King of the Wind, about anti-Islam bigotry, though it wouldn't be much longer. But what Marguerite Henry did, even if she did it unintentionally, was to give this one reader a portrait of someone very different from myself yet who I could see as a kind of role model.

 

That's a pretty powerful thing. To this day, I tend to judge people on the basis of what they do, not on the basis of what they are.

 

When I worked at the public library and when I was a grocery store cashier, we had two customers no one wanted to wait on.  At the library she was a quiet woman who almost never spoke, but came in frequently and checked out lots of books.  One of my fellow librarians called her "creepy" because she was always staring at people.  It didn't take me long to figure out this patron was severely hearing impaired.  She stared because she was trying to read our lips.  Most of the librarians turned away from her, making the experience even worse for her.  I spoke directly to her, and we got along fine.  I never did learn ASL, and she still spoke very little, but she smiled.

 

The same with the man at the grocery store.  He tried to teach me to sign, but it's hard when there's a whole line of impatient people behind you.  He learned to look for me when he came into the store so he would have a better experience checking out.

 

Had I learned that from Agba?  From Marguerite Henry?  Maybe.  Maybe from Sham, the Sultan's horse who endured so much and never gave up. 

 

King of the Wind is a beautiful book.  I'm glad I posted here about my frustration with the first order that ended up being a flimsy paperback, and I'm doubly, triply glad that Chris found this copy at Thrift Books.  It seems like $7 shouldn't be a strain on a budget, but at the moment it really is for me, but I'll do without something else along the way because this was definitely a book I needed.

 

The paperback will be donated somewhere, and I still have another copy on order from Better World.  I'll probably donate that one, too.  But this one, with its slightly tattered corner, is a keeper.

 

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review 2018-04-29 23:29
Many Waters (Time Quintet, #4) by Madeleine L'Engle
Many Waters - Madeleine L'Engle

Oh dear... these books are not going to get any better, are they? I continue to read this series because I liked the first book. I thought the ideas were intriguing enough that I wanted to see more and more of this world. But it would seem the more I read, the more disappointed I become. Many Waters is no exception. 

 

This installment follows the twins, Sandy and Dennys, two of my least favorite characters in the entire series. They have been in the previous books, as well, but more like side characters. I always thought they were bland and Many Waters confirm that they are. They don't even have personalities. In fact, they act as if they are one person. Nothing they do distinguishes them as individual people. They also have a snotty attitude and can be rude for no apparent reason. Especially to the people around them. Saying things like the "small, brown people don't bathe." I don't even have to point out how that's a very harmful stereotype.

 

Let me back track a bit so you can understand what I'm talking about. The twins, after having messed around with their father's experiment, travel back in time to Noah's (from the bible) time where he must build the ark to escape from the flood. So the twins are in this time period, stuck in the desert, where everyone is small (because evolution hasn't kicked in yet, I guess) and brown and only wear loincloths (in the desert...). And the twins make it a point to say these small, brown people don't bathe. I have had a problem with racism in these books in the past and it seems that it's a theme that's just going to continue throughout. And, just like in the previous book, sexism is prevalent throughout as well.

 

But, and here's the confusing part, there's also talk about how a lot of things said within the bible is chauvinistic and unfair towards women since Noah is only to build the ark for all the animals and himself, his wife, his sons, and all their wives, but not for his daughters. Now, I don't really mind all the religious aspects these books contain. We all have our own beliefs and religions we follow (or don't follow). What bothers me are the contradictions contain within them. The women in these books are either cooking or taking care of the men or having babies (there's a scene where a birth and it is described in graphic detail) and that's all they amount to. The main female character in this book, Yalith, is there to created conflict between the two twins because they both develop feelings for her. So, you see, the women are mere plot devices to further the story for the men. But then the book goes on to say how women are not treated fairly in the bible and that Noah and the seraphim (the good angels) should go against what was written in the bible. Really? It's like L'Engle wanted to point out certain flaws within the bible without realizing she was perpetuating those exact same flaws.

 

Back to the sexism. There is also another female character in the book named Tiglah. Her sole purpose: to seduce the twins so the nephilim (the bad angels) can find out why the twins have traveled back in time. That's it. She is someone who is depicted as being "terrible" because she is with the nephilim, does what her father and brother says, and is comfortable with her sexuality. Throughout the entire story, she is mistreated by the twins, saying she is an "easy lay" and even going as far as calling her a "slut." It's been a while since I've read a book that slut-shamed a character so hard that, even though you're not supposed to sympathize with her as the reader, I couldn't help doing so. I know that she stood by the sidelines whilst her father and brother kidnapped Sandy, but she said so herself: if she interfered, they would have killed her. And I'm incline to believe her, considering how common it is to mistreat women in this world. Tiglah did not deserve to be treated so harshly by the twins and I hate that it is treated as natural to slut-shame her within the narrative. 

 

Speaking of sex, there sure is a lot of it for a book that's aimed for kids. As I said before, this is a society living in the desert and in this desert, the people only wear loincloths (I know, makes no sense but we're suppose to roll with in). Meaning that people's top-halves are uncovered which means that women's breasts are very prominently featured within the text. Nudity in books do not bother me, I just thought it was misplaced since this is supposed to be a book for kids. Not to mention there are quite a few sex scenes as well. It doesn't go into too much graphic detail, but it's still there. It just seemed odd to have it in the story since the previous three books did not contain such topics. But because the main characters were "normal teenage boys" I guess sex was inevitable. (I'm being sarcastic, by the way.)

 

Anyway, I've rambled long enough. This book is just not for me. I keep reading hoping these books will get better but no. I only have one more book in this series left to read so I am going to finish it. Hopefully, the last one contains all the good things that the first book had and none of the things these last two books had. If you've read the previous three books and want to read this one, go ahead. Just keep in mind that this one is not as kid-friendly as the previous three. And, hopefully, you end up liking it more than I did.

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review 2018-04-22 20:45
A Swiftly Tilting Planet (Time Quintet, #3) by Madeleine L'Engle
A Swiftly Tilting Planet - Madeleine L'Engle

The further I progress into this series, the further downhill it goes. I had so many issues with this book. Not a single thing I read made it redeemable in the least. I know this is a beloved series for many people and if you really like this book, that's great. I'm authentically happy you enjoy this book. However, I found so many problems with it that I just can't overlook them.

 

Let's start off with Meg. Her only purpose in this book was to be "Calvin's wife" and "pregnant." That's it. Whilst her parents were off being cool scientists, her father being the president's new best friend, her brothers off to medical school and law school, all she was doing was... well, she kythe with Charles Wallace whilst he was off trying to save the planet from nuclear devastation... and that's pretty much it. Meg did absolutely nothing throughout the whole book except complain that she missed her husband and ask her brothers for help because she can't be bothered to open a book.

 

In fact, that was one of the biggest problems I had with this book. The women were only there to be plot devices for the men. The women were only there to be beautiful, to be desired after, to "take care" of the men, to fall for abusive men, to marry abusive men, to get pregnant by the abusive men. Even when it was shown that these men were clearly abusive, one of these abusive men even killed a puppy, these women found them "alluring." Are you bloody kidding me? Who sees a puppy killer and then go "mmm, yeah, I want that in my bed"? No one in their right mind, that's who! Oh, and don't get me started on Mortmain! He was truly the lowest of the low! He beat on his partner, then sexually harassed his partner's daughter, then went to strike that young girl's grandmother only to hit her brother instead to where he fell down the stairs and ended up with brain damage... only for the mother of these kids to marry and get pregnant from this man because it made their lives easier to have a man in the house!!! What!? After all that, you're going to still stay with this man!? He should be in jail!

 

Also, let's add that once this boy is out of the hospital, they call him stupid and put him in an insane asylum because "no one" wants him to hurt this brand new baby. This other guy, named Paddy, wanted to lock him up because he just didn't like dealing with someone with brain damage. I know... these people are horrible. The issue of mental health is handle so poorly. This boy, Chuck, had a sister, Beezie, and she kept telling him to stop acting and pretending about his condition... Hello!!! He fell down a flight of stairs! He fractured his skull! He is suffering from brain damage! He can't control that! How are you going to tell him to stop pretending!? Moron. Oh, and that guy, Paddy? Yeah, after he helps put her brother away in the insane asylum, she goes and marries the guy, have a bunch of kids with him... but it's okay because she doesn't fall in love with him or the kids she gives birth to... WHERE'S THE LOGIC IN THAT!? 

 

The women in this book only serve to further the plot for the men. And it's so infuriating.

 

And you think the bullshit ends there. Oh no. As if the sexism and ableism isn't enough, let's add racism, too! The depiction of Native Americans is troubling. They are called the People of the Wind and it is said within the text that they are peace-loving people. But the moment two white guys enter the picture, these "peace-loving people" want to fight "like savages." (And, yes, the white guys call the Native Americans "savages." I cringed, too.) It was the white guy with blond hair and blue eyes (because anyone with blue eyes is a pure, loving soul) who brought peace among the "peace-loving" nation. Not only are there moments that play into the "white savior" trope, there's "white worshiping" too. How their "legend" talks of someone with white skin and blue eyes will come to save the Native Americans in their time of need. I just... I can't. 

 

And the last thing I want to mention was how dull everything in this book is. We follow Charles Wallace and his role is to go Within the many white dudes in this story to try and influence them to change the threat of nuclear war in the present. Aside from the first guy we go into, everything else just kinda happens... without Charles Wallace doing anything. In fact, he does pretty much nothing throughout the story besides travelling with the unicorn, Gaudior (which is still more than what Meg is doing but I digress). Charles Wallace was mostly there to let things happen to him. Not to mention he never put a stop to the abusive talk that went on (Charles, how are you going to hear someone say "he kept him from dying, and that may not have been a kindness" only because he now has to live with brain damage, and not question it in the slightest?) but did question it when it came to his own intelligence. Because, remember, all the men are intelligent in this book. Only the women are stupid.

 

Ugh, I hate this book. There's nothing that happened in this book that I find the least enjoyable. Where the other two books had some interesting concepts when it comes to the sci-fi elements, this one reuses the one good thing that was made in book two. Kything. Everything else? Boring. We were travelling through time on a unicorn, and I was bored and infuriated throughout the entire journey. It's such a shame.

 

I only have two more books in the series left to read. I really hope they improve with its storytelling and themes. Otherwise, I'm going to find this quite a struggle to get through.

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review 2018-03-28 18:05
A Wind in the Door (Time Quintet, #2) by Madeleine L'Engle
A Wind in the Door - Madeleine L'Engle

After reading A Wrinkle in Time and discovering the interesting concepts of that world, I've decided to continue reading Madeleine L'Engle's Time Quintet series. I picked up A Wind in the Door shortly after finishing the first book and basically got more of the same. Great story concepts; poorly written characters and bad morals. But the morals in this book were a bit too horrible to ignore this time. 

 

A Wind in the Door continues to follow Meg and Charles Wallace in this world with time and space bending and obscuring our current world. I love L'Engle's ideas of how there are many things in this universe that doesn't make sense and it doesn't have to when you have to focus on the bigger picture. In this case, helping cure Charles Wallace of an unknown disease. I really love that this book explored the mitochondria we have within us. I have a fascination with learning about it since I've read and played Parasite Eve a few years back now. So reading this book brought me a lot of nostalgia. Reading these books are fun for me because, as I've said before, I love L'Engle's ideas when it comes to sci-fi and fantasy. What I don't love about her writing is how basic it is and her characters just rub me the wrong way.

 

Meg is still so bloody insufferable. She's a high schooler but she acts like a toddler in many situations. For example, at the beginning of the book, when they are all discovering Charles Wallace was ill, she kept asking her mother what was his condition. The mother would answer she didn't know... only to have Meg ask the same question immediately having been told her mother didn't know only to ask the same question AGAIN only to be told AGAIN her mother didn't know. And that would continue constantly throughout the whole book. It's like, Meg, please, grow up. Just because you ask the same question a billion times doesn't mean the answer is going to change at any point. I really don't like Meg as a character. She has not shown growth at all throughout these two books. In fact, a lot of L'Engle's characters are just one note. They each have a gimmick and they stick to that without growing or changing a bit. Meg is the annoying worry wort. Charles Wallace is the calm, all-knowing "Jesus" character. Mr. Jenkins is the mean, old teacher. And Calvin is the stud/jock. Reading about these characters can get boring after a while.

 

Another thing I do not like about this book was the overall "message." L'Engle seems to be teaching children that it's okay to be themselves... as long as you can fit into society. Throughout the entire book, she kept making her characters say to Charles Wallace that he needs to "conform" so that way he won't have a hard time in school. Let me back track a little, Charles Wallace is being bullied at school for being "different." He's beaten everyday and comes home from school with blackeyes and a bloody nose everyday. And everyone (except Meg) just tells him it's basically his fault for being so different. He needs to learn to "conform" and "be normal" like everyone else. That way, he won't be picked on. Well, I'm sorry, but I think that's a bunch of bullshit. How is it okay to know that a small, six-year-old boy is being beaten at school, and your response is "Well, if you weren't so different, you wouldn't get punched in the face"? Even his parents didn't do anything to help their child! Are you kidding me? Then by the end of the book, L'Engle drives it home even harder that children need to learn to "adapt" so they can succeed in the world. Yeah, no, how about being better adults, teaching kids to get along with others who are "different" so that way crap like bullying doesn't happen every bloody time? It makes me angry when adults see this kind of behavior happening and they do nothing about it. NOTHING! Ugh. I'm frustrated.

 

And don't even get me started on the contradictions when it comes to Mr. Jenkins. How everyone needed to protect his ego when he felt he wasn't unique anymore. You can do that for a grown man but not Charles Wallace? You tell him that there's no one else like him in the world, but you tell a six-year-old he needs to be like everyone else if he wants to be happy and not picked on? Really? No. I just. I can't. I just can't support the hypocrisy. There is nothing in this world that makes it okay for you to tell another person they can't be themselves. Or rather, they could, as long as they fit in with everyone else. That's messed up on so many levels.

 

Anyway, I'm going to end it here. Once again, I'm left with the feeling that Madeleine L'Engle has some great concepts when it comes to sci-fi and fantasy. I just wish she would focus on them more than trying to teach "life lessons" to children. I feel like these books would be a lot more enjoyable if that were the case.

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review 2018-03-18 21:20
A Wrinkle in Time (Time Quintet, #1) by Madeleine L'Engle
A Wrinkle in Time (The Time Quintet #1) - Anna Quindlen,Madeleine L'Engle

Last weekend, the movie adaptation for A Wrinkle in Time was released in theaters here in America. And after hearing about the great representation it contained, I wanted to go see it and support the film on opening weekend. However, I am a person who loves to read the book first before watching the film. So I woke up early on the morning of Friday March 9, 2018 and read the first book in Madeleine L'Engle's Time Quintet before I left to watch the movie later that day. It was quite the experience, let me tell you that.

 

The book follows the main character, Meg, who clearly has a lot of self-esteem issues. She sees herself as plain and boring and stupid. She also tends to have a real bad attitude problem. As the story progresses, she learns that her missing father is lost through various dimensions and it's up to her, her younger brother Charles Wallace, and a school friend named Calvin to go along with three "heavenly" beings to rescue him. 

 

The story itself is interesting enough. I really like the imagination L'Engle created throughout her books. She made it scientific, whimsical, and bizarre. I was fascinated with the explanations about how the "wrinkles" work and what it means when it does. The plot was exciting and the true identity of "IT" was horrifying to say the least. I really enjoyed reading about how the science works in this world.

 

What I didn't enjoy as much was her characters. Let's start with Meg. I understand she is going through her adolescent years and having her father missing really messed with her self-esteem issues, but she was infuriating! She complained left and right, she was mean for no real reason other than because she had a short temper, and she was so immature when she finally found her father that she blamed HIM for all the "bad" things that happened to her and her brother. I know she's young but that's no excuse to be a complete jerk to the people who are trying to help you. That care about you. I'm so glad "movie" Meg is a lot more tolerable. (More on this later.)

 

Calvin is another character that I couldn't stand in the book. He shows up out of no where, insults Meg, and can be a snob at times. And we're supposed to believe that Meg finds him attractive so it's okay he treats her like crap? Really? Oh, not to mention it was because a boy paid attention to her so she started to feel better about herself. Give me a break. He was a jerk and I didn't like him one bit. Once again, so glad "movie" Calvin is not like that. (More on this later.)

 

Last character I want to talk about is Charles Wallace. He's basically one of the few characters from the book I actually liked. He has this "other worldly" presence about him. He knows more than is being told and I found him so fascinating. I love the intelligence he contained. I wanted to learn more about him! I guess I have to keep reading the series in order to get that information. X3 His movie version was good, but he came off more as a child than some "other being." It's not a bad rendition of the character. Just a different one.

 

Basically, this is one of those cases where the movie, in my opinion, is better than the book. I know! Blasphemy! But that's just how I feel. The book leaves a lot to be desired. I just wasn't attached to any of them by the end of it. Whereas the movie, I love how the characters were portrayed in the movie. Meg is so complex. She has self-doubt and doesn't think highly of herself, but she's not mean for no reason, she's not a hateful person like she is in the book. She is compassionate and understanding and she learns and grows throughout her adventures. I loved her relationship with her brother and how far she was willing to go for him. I love that she is a mix child in the movie (in the book, she's white) and how normal it is to have a family like this. I love that.

 

I also much more prefer Calvin in the movie than the book. In the movie, he's kind and charming. He treats Meg with respect. He never talks down to her and he never insults her. He's there to support her and be her friend. AND he's not the "cure-all" for all of Meg's problems. She still needs to deal with her own demons. It's just nice that she has a friend to support her whilst she does so.

 

Oh! And the "heavenly" beings of Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which were so much more enjoyable in the movie than the book. Especially Mrs. Which. Mrs. Which in the book kinda shows up, tells the kids what to do, then leaves again. In the movie, she's a sort of support to Meg. She helps her, or tries to, see the beauty of who she is and I thought that was a great message to show to kids. 

 

I am in love with the beauty of this film on multiple levels.

 

The one thing I did not really like about the film was the lack of plot. My favorite thing about the book was how eerie Camazotz was and what went on there. Not to mention how horrifying IT was. But the movie didn't focus on it. It focus on the message of having confidence in yourself, about the love of a family, and doing the right thing no matter what. All those are great messages and I don't dislike the movie for that, I just wanted to see a little more of what made the book interesting for me.

 

All-in-all, I think you should read the book. It's pretty interesting when it comes to the science portion and when they get to Camazotz. However, the book can get a bit... preachy so keep that in mind when reading it. But once you do read it, definitely go see the movie. It's a beautifully stunning, well-told story about family and love. Kids NEED to see this movie. It's absolutely wonderful.

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