Fantastic Folklore-Inspired Stories from Around the World

orangutan list

Hello all! Since I’ve been speaking a lot about fairy tales and folklore in the last week, I thought it would be fun to just to a little list for this Sunday’s post. I decided (cos I’m a fussy reader that’s picky about retellings) to go with books that I think are great, which aren’t necessarily retellings, but rather are simply awesome stories, inspired by mythic tales. And these they are:

shadow of the fox

Shadow of the Fox– it’s not just that I really enjoyed this book- I also thought Kaguwa’s light touch was perfect when it came to representing the wonderfully complex creature that is the kitsune.

ForbiddenWish_BOM.indd

Forbidden Wish– I don’t think I talk about this book enough on this blog, even though I really enjoyed this unique Aladdin retelling.

bear and the nightingale

Bear and the nightingale– I think it’s fairly obvious how much I love this book. Bound up in Russian folklore, it’s become an instant favourite for me and is perfect reading for this time of the year.

anansi boys

Anansi Boys– this was the first Gaiman I really fell in love with- and for good reason. Not only does it absorb fascinating mythic elements, but Gaiman also puts his own unique humour and twist on the story, elevating it to the levels of genius.

circe

Circe– ah Greek mythology is so close to my heart- so I’m delighted to have read what I believe to be the *definitive* retelling of the Odyssey. It’s simply sublime.

Hobbit_cover

The Hobbit– I went back and forth about putting this on this list, because it doesn’t necessarily correlate with any one story. Instead it’s an amalgamation of so many stories and goes far beyond a traditional retelling in that it becomes the backbone for future British mythology- which meant I’d be remiss to leave it off. Besides, it’s one of my all-time favourite books and I’m biased 😉

through the woods

Through the Woods– this graphic novel is not only visually stunning, but an excellent example of unique retellings. It not only incorporated elements from the original Grimm’s tales, it also embodied something of the spirit from Angela Carter’s work. For that alone, it’s a worthy read.

 

What do you think of any of these? And do have any favourite retellings or novels inspired by folklore? Let me know in the comments!

Quote Challenges – Favourite First Lines: Day 11

Hello all! Yup, I’m still here with the quote challenge, talking about my favourite first lines. Here are the rules:

Rules

  • Thank the person who nominated you
  • Post a quote for 3 consecutive days (1 quote for each day)
  • Nominate three new bloggers each day

Thank you so much to the amazing Marina @Books of Magic for tagging me to do this! I absolutely adore her *magical* blog, because it truly is a fantastical place for all bookworms! Her reviews are always so thorough. Plus she has *the best* taste in books- if I do say so myself 😉 I couldn’t resist ending on this book in honour of that!

the hobbit opening line

I might need a minute to compose myself- because I can’t read this first line without feeling all warm and fuzzy inside. I’m also resisting the (impossibly strong) urge to pick this book up again and reread it for the millionth time. Naturally, this is on this list because it’s one of my favourites and reading this for the first time was the moment when I fell in love with fantasy (incidentally, the last line is just as good- but it took a while for me to find out cos as I’ve mentioned on this blog before *shock, horror* the last few pages were missing!! I’ve never been more desperate to get to a bookshop in my life!!)

I tag:

Susan, CJR Brit and Norrie

So have you read this book? And now that we’ve come to the end of this quote-journey, what are your favourite first lines? Share the love in the comments!

Books With The (Somewhat) Dreaded Book Travelling Syndrome

Book Travelling Syndrome Definition: the art of getting so lost in your own story that plot, character and everything else is forgotten in favour of random adventures

Yes, I made the term up, and no, it’s not taking off. I feel like the response to this post could be very Mean Girls…

it's not going to happen.gif

Whatever- it’s totally a thing. And I know it’s a thing, cos it’s something I’ve struggled with as a writer. So I’ve decided to compile a list breaking it down, into the good, the bad, and, well you get the idea- enjoy:

The Good

Hobbit_cover

The Hobbit– Yup, even my beloved Hobbit has it, that’s why I got it into my head that this was a good idea in the first place (as I explained here). I won’t say I have no regrets about this cos it’s not always a great storytelling strategy. At least, most of the time, as we’ll come to see…

NeverendingStory1997Edition

Neverending Story– again, this book tricked me your honour, cos sure it has “neverending” in the title, which would imply boredom, but this is *far* from boring. In fact, it’s one of the most entertaining books I’ve ever read. I owe it so much as a story- but also *shakes fist* curse you for filling my head with so many bad structuring mechanisms.

The Bad

Eragon_book_cover

Eragon– really not the worst book on this list- but it does meander about a lot pointlessly.

phantastes

Phantastes– it’s alright, but it has plenty of pointless meandering about and is quite forgettable.

And the Ugly…

The_Eye_of_the_World_UK

Eye of the World– I’m sorry to disappoint fans of this book, but oh-my-gawd I was so bored with this! I think this was like a sledgehammer over the head that book travelling *doesn’t always work*- so I guess some thanks is in order, in a way.

The_Wise_Man's_Fear_UK_cover

Wise Man’s Fear– one of the most disappointing sequels I have ever read. And one of the worst things about it was all the unnecessary different places (inevitably where Kvothe would pick up another skill, then be on his merry, ambling way).

Hope you enjoyed that very random post- my cold-smothered brain thought was a good idea… What books do you think suffer from book travelling syndrome? Let me know in the comments!

Perfectly Imperfect Books

Books are like people. They’re temperamental, diverse and it’s the little things that make them special. Sometimes we love them inexplicably, warts and all. So today I decided to dedicate a list to the books that I love ALL THE MORE *because* of their imperfections. Here are my top ten perfectly imperfect books:

idiot1. The Idiot– so years ago when I reviewed this book I talked a little about how this book is technically a failed book about failure. I mean, it doesn’t have a satisfactory conclusion, it swerves off topic on multiple occasions and the plot is a little all over the place. BUT if you asked me which books have had the most impact on me, this would be on that list. Sure, this book may have some pretty random tangents- but man, the philosophy espoused here is endlessly deep. So yes, this book may not be as polished as some of Dostoevsky’s other work, but it’s perfect in its own way.

Emma_Jane_Austen_book_cover2. Emma– okay this one’s cheating a little- cos I think this one’s practically perfect in every way. In fact, I recall a professor of mine describing it as such. And it’s true, because the moral of self-improvement, the biting humour, the character development and the structure of the novel are all perfectly balanced (I could literally go on forever- but if you want more details my review’s here). However, interestingly enough, what makes this so successful as a novel is how imperfect Emma is as a character- and for me that’s what makes it so great.

Hobbit_cover3. The Hobbit– as you all know I *adore* this book. It was my gateway to fantasy and *arghh* it’s just so complex and amazing! BUT it does rightly get some criticism for being episodic. My response to that is this only adds to the story, since every episode moves the plot along, whilst containing its own unique message. The other criticism it gets is “it’s just a children’s book”- to which I say “eff off” or in more adult terms “if you haven’t learnt by now that there’s more to children’s books than meet the eye then you still have a lot of growing up to do” (see I can be mature 😉 ) Incidentally I should have known the movie franchise was doomed when Jackson said that.

ovid erotic poems4. Ovid’s Erotic Poems– OH GAWD I LOVE THESE- okay now I’ve got that out my system… These can be read in multiple ways- read it too literally and you might end up hating Ovid as a person- but if you get the subtext it’s one of the most hilarious books ever written. However, like most books that can be read in multiple directions, it’s easily either going to be one of the best things you ever read or the worst. Plus you may end up concentrating so hard on it that you develop a tension headache 😉

carry on5. Carry On– as a parody of Harry Potter, it obviously has to bear a lot of similarities with the original in order to work, but as is so often the case with satire, the humour is often missed by critics and I’ve seen this labelled “unoriginal” umpteen times. To that I would say, people need to do a better exploration of what satire is– but then getting undue criticism is also kinda a part of the genre too- so it’s a catch 22. Regardless, to me this is top notch stuff, plus it’s got Baz and Simon- nuff said 😉

poison chris wooding6. Poison– no one’s heard of this book, so I can say what I like about it- though *oh my goodness*, everyone’s missing out. This is one of the most impactful, clever books I’ve ever read and it will always be a favourite. But it’s weird- super weird- so I’m always reluctant to recommend it cos there’s a fifty percent chance people’ll love it, and a fifty percent chance they’ll say “what did I just read?”

aeneid7. The Aeneid– alright I’m stumped… I can’t actually think of any imperfections… Seriously… this is a tough cookie. The reason it’s on the list is that it was technically unfinished- but plebs like me will never be able to pick out its flaws, so I doubt it matters unless you’re a serious scholar. I guess I could say that my edition wasn’t perfect though (protip: never translation read of ancient poetry into English that’s been made to rhyme- unfortunately for me my lecturer insisted on it :/ ).

wuthering heights book8. Wuthering Heights– this one *had to* go on the list, because from a purely technical sense, this has some structural flaws, with an odd and maybe even out of place frame around the narrative and some pretty detestable characters BUT it also has some of the finest emotional moments in literature. No book has ever, or will ever, make you feel as wildly passionate as this. And it’s why, although I gave both books 5*, this one edges it out over Jane Eyre for me (which incidentally is a pretty flawless book). And speaking of emotions…

jude9. Jude the Obscure– ah Hardy- if you want to experience true pain, this is where you go. No one does tragedy like Hardy. So what’s its fatal flaw? Well, some people would say the way it deals with mental health… or doesn’t deal with it. You see, as I’ve mentioned before, there are two kinds of mental health in books- the would-be educational kind and the ones that present it as is. Personally my preference is for the latter, because if I want to be educated about mental health, which I frequently do, I go to psychology papers, not literature (not to mention that the “educational” kinds frequently fail). As for this being one of the darkest books in existence so be it. The world is frequently dark, twisted and bleak. Better that than preaching to me “suicide is bad” or “depression isn’t anyone’s fault”- yeah no shit Sherlock.

we were liars10. We Were Liars– first of all *no spoilers* but this book was perfection for me BECAUSE of the style, where ironically a lot of people don’t like this BECAUSE of said style. So I guess that’s the moral of the story here- what makes something perfect for one person may not work for someone else…

 

So what do you think about perfectly imperfect books? Do you have any books that you love in spite of their flaws? Let me know in the comments!

Some Love for the Hobbit

Well if you’ve been around here a while, you will probably know that the Hobbit is one of my favourite books (if not- welcome! I’m the Orangutan Librarian and I’m a fan of the Hobbit). Hold tight everyone, because I’m about to do some serious *gushing* over this book… But first, I have a little bit more background to share before I get into the nitty gritty of why this book is so awesome.

The-Hobbit

You see, I used to reread this book every spring, but spent a good few years apart from this here unassuming copy and was only reacquainted with it recently… so naturally I cracked it open the first chance I got. And man, it was just as good as I remembered.

Straight off the bat, I could see why it didn’t make a good film. It’s not just that it’s masterfully told (and hence the old adage “good books make bad movies”) but it’s also tonally lighter and funnier than most fantasies– including its successor Lord of the Rings. At times, it even seems to be sending itself up in a way I could only describe as being Pratchetesque (you can see the lineage right here, at the source of all modern fantasy). It’s composed in a way that’s meant to be read aloud and all the deep, dark themes are done in a light-hearted way. It is the Epicurean sweet pill that is easier to swallow than the bitter one of its interpretation.

The heart of this story is an adventure. Being part of Tolkein’s universe, it is stuffed with fantastical creatures and tropes– but every single one of them is authentic and done so well. Yes, there’s a reluctant hero, some world building woven into the plot, elves, orcs and a mothereffing dragon- yet unlike so many of the copycats that came after, there’s no chance you’ll be rolling your eyes at it.

For, while the spine of this story may be the “hero goes to face the dragon and is rewarded” narrative, it’s no simple feat to achieve this because of how complex the characters are. Even if one allows for Prof J B Peterson’s explanation that one has to grow teeth in order to defeat the monster, hence Bilbo becoming a thief, the ending of the story, where chaos breaks in despite the hero’s best efforts, left me with many unanswered questions. Who was right? Were any of them heroes in the end? One thing is for certain, even as we stumble around in this morally grey area, this book teaches that there is more than one way to be a hero and sometimes the right choices are not always clear.

There are so many other lessons wrapped up in this tale. Part of the story’s complexity comes from it being rooted in the mythological and fairy tale structure. In fact, reading it through again, I was struck by how often the individual adventures contain a multiplicity of messages. For instance, when the party fails to see the end of the forest, despite being so near the edge, one is delivered a message to keep faith– even when there is no sign of hope- for when they leave the path they therefore undergo unnecessary suffering. Consequently, needless suffering is the question being asked of the individual’s inner strength, while the eagles, as a symbol of divine intervention, is often the answer.

Still one message in particular comes up again and again: go out into the world and find yourself. This is a book about growing up, learning, becoming someone new. True enough, it is a tradition in many classic fairy tales or in folklore for there to be an element of going into nature to explore the psyche and Bilbo does this more than once- leaving his hobbit hole, entering Mirkwood and even riddling with Gollum.

This literal quest for answers taught me another fundamental truth. It struck me this time round how quickly Bilbo answered the riddle about darkness and how telling that was. It tells us that even a creature of light and comfort, like a hobbit, can know hardship. Outside our peripheral vision, beyond the safe havens we construct for ourselves, there’s always a bit of danger. Difficulties will come knocking whether you want them to or not– so it is far better to leave the comfort of your hobbit hole and confront them sooner rather than later.

So yes, there are endless and vital lessons to be learnt here. But the real moral of the story is that some books are just meant to be read over and over again.

(Incidentally this wasn’t the first copy I ever picked up- that one was a relic of an aunt and had the last two pages missing… needless to say part of my reading experience was a very frantic trip to the bookshop!)

As you might have guessed, my rating is easily…

5/5 bananas

 hand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-banana

So I’m not even gonna ask if you like or loathe this book- cos what I really want to know today is what book from your childhood has left a profound impression? Let me know in the comments!

TV TUESDAY

tuesday tv meme

So I saw this wonderful new meme over on Codie’s blog Reader’s Anonymous and I thought I’d give it a go!

Choose between these three:

  • Book-to-Movie/TV show adaptation  (have you seen it? If no, do you plan to?)
  • Book you think should be a movie/TV show  (Why?)
  • Movie that prompted you to read a book?

*Optional – put up the trailer

MOVIE THAT PROMPTED YOU TO READ A BOOK?

So my choice this week is very similar to Codie’s- except I thought I’d go with a twist- because while the first Lord of the Rings movie did prompt me to read a book, it was actually the Hobbit that it made me pick up first.

Hobbit_cover

And I’m so glad that I did- because it’s one of my all-time favourite books. There’s nothing like it in terms of adventure and heart-wrenching excitement. And since we’re comparing it to the movie, I by far prefer the book- in fact I wrote a whole post about my issues with the films (starting with the fact that there never should have been more than one film…) Personally, I love the Hobbit as a book and prefer the Lord of the Rings as films.

But I digress- go watch Lord of the Rings, go read the Hobbit- or completely ignore my advice and watch the Hobbit and read Lord of the Rings…

Agree? Disagree? Let me know which you prefer in the comments! Until next time!