Against the Tide, by Tui T. Sutherland

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Summary: Against the Tide is the fifth book in Spirit Animals, a middle-grade fantasy series imagined by Brandon Mull. The first one is called Wild Born, by Brandon Mull. The story picks up where book four left off. The team is looking for the amulets from other Great Beasts while trying to figure out if they have a mole in their midst.

My Thoughts: Spirit Animals is such an adorable series appropriate for middle-school-age kids. I plan on giving the first in the series to my 8-year-old step-daughter. It may be slightly above her reading level, but it’s the right level to challenge a second or third grader.

I love that Spirit Animals is written by different authors for each book – it introduces new authors to me. Against the Tide did not disappoint. I had some good laughs and was engaged the entire time. The story-line is not predictable, despite being appropriate for younger children. I am excited to get the next in the series, and will certainly look at what other books Sutherland has written.

The Shadow Land, by Elizabeth Kostova

510cvzpkoll-_sl500_Synopsis: Alexandria leaves her home in America to travel Bulgaria and teach. But on her first day there, she runs into a mysterious family, whose bag she accidentally “steals.” When she discovers how valuable the contents are, she feels she has to find the family and return the bag personally. However, the family is difficult to find and she is led on a wild goose chase looking for them. All the while, strange people are following and threatening her.

 

My Thoughts: This is Kostova’s attempt to do for Bulgaria what she did for Istanbul in The Historian. I was hoping this book would turn out as good as The Historian, but it fell flat for me. What was the point of the plot again? It was a bit silly. And so wordy. I was hoping there’d be a fascinating big reveal at the end that would make this 18.5 hour audiobook worthwhile, but the ending was about as mediocre as the middle. Despite this total meh-ness, I give the book 3.5 snowflakes instead of only three because the book was interesting at times, and the writing flowed well.

3 and half snowflakes

 

 

Don Quixote Prologue – Chapter 7

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This is not a review, it is notes and an analysis of Don Quixote. Therefore, it will contain spoilers.

So far, there are two issues that make me cringe about Don Quixote. They are: the book burning *shudder, and the way the characters treat a mentally ill man. We’ll start with a discussion of the book burning.

The prologue makes fun of writers of the day – how they are pedantic and (Cervantes claims) list off references in their works of fiction in alphabetical order from Aristotle to Xenophon. It would also appear from the prologue that the purpose of Don Quixote was to make the readers laugh by satirizing chivalric works of the time.

After Don Quixote’s first sally forth, his friends (who in the past encouraged the old man’s interest in works of chivalry) decided to burn his books and wall off the library, so that even the room where his madness overtook him could no longer be accessed by the erstwhile knight errant. I was a little confused by this book burning at first. Surely Cervantes felt the pain of destroying something so valuable as that library? So what was his point? Then I realized that he was making fun of the completely arbitrary way Don Quixote’s friends chose which books would be burned and which saved. They would look at a book, rattle off some preposterous monologue about whether the story were worth saving, and then decide whether to burn it. Then, they got really lazy, and just burned the rest. This is not the act of a caring friend, but someone who wants to solve a problem quickly, despite what damage he may incur.

Then, they walled off the library, and told the madman that an evil wizard had whisked it away to spite Don Quixote. Really? They’re encouraging the madness? These are his friends. At this point it seems like they care more about appearances (keeping Don Quixote from indulging in his madness) than about the actual health of their friend/uncle. But this is not the only terrible way he had been treated in the story. It seems that everyone he runs into, except for Sancho, is cruel. They mock him and encourage the madness. At the moment, I wonder whether Cervantes was also making a social statement about having compassion for the mentally ill, but that may be a bit forward thinking in the early 1600s. I will make a more educated guess as I proceed with the book.