Sep 11, 2008

Mini-Reviews Part II and More Housekeeping Stuff

The Road to Wigan Pier by George Orwell

Ken asked: I'd like to know your take on The Firework Maker's Daughter (how does it compare to His dark Materials?) and the Road to Wigan Pier (I took a class that used this for the textbook - it stirred some spirited discussion!)

I can definitely see The Road to Wigan Pier stirring a lot of discussion! I enjoyed this book a lot more than I thought I would. I loved what I'd read of Orwell's fiction, but I didn't know his non-fiction would also be this good.

The book is divided into two parts: the first describes the consequences of the Depression of the 1930's in Great Britain - the poverty, the unemployment, the appalling living and working conditions. I particularly liked the fact that he went beyond physical consequences and also described what having no work for years and years, no hope, no prospects, did to people's minds.

On the second part, Orwell suggests socialism as a solution for the situation he described. I had my doubts about this section, but I also ended up enjoying it a lot more than I thought I would. I could hardly imagine Orwell arguing for totalitarianism of any kind, and indeed that's not what he does. Instead, he explains how he came to develop his political views, and raises all sorts of interesting questions about how society is organized, and particularly about class prejudice.

So yeah, I thought it was a great book. Very readably, splendidly written, and still relevant today in many ways. If you've ever wondered what it was like to live through the Great Depression, this book will give you the answer.

The Firework Maker's Daughter by Philip Pullman

I love Philip Pullman and I list him among my favourite authors, but I have to say that I didn't enjoy any of his other books half as much as His Dark Materials. But considering how much I love His Dark Materials, that doesn't actually say much. And so far, I also haven't come across a single book of his I haven't enjoyed.

The Firework Maker's Daughter is the story of Lila, a young firemarker apprentice, and of her quest to get an important firework making ingredient, Royal Sulphur, from Razvani the Fire-Fiend. It's a book that made me smile countless times - a very sweet story, and a funny one as well. Sometimes I forget how funny Philip Pullman can be. It's a story about courage and talent and friendship and family, and it has an Arabian Nights-esque mood that I really liked. Robin reviewed this book not too long ago, so you can visit her to find out more.

The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul by Douglas Adams

Terri B said: I loved The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul! I plan on reading it again in future. It has been so long since reading it that I'm not coming up with any questions for you right away.

Susan asked: Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul: What did you like about it? Anything you didnt? Do you like what he did with detective and science fiction here?

I loved The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, and I definitely like what Douglas Adams did with detectives and science fiction! And also the fact that mythology was added to the mix. This book features Thor, Odin and a visit to Valhalla. As with any Douglas Adams book, I loved the writing and the humour. Also, I was a bit surprised, because the book has a darker mood that some of his others. But not in a bad way. I can't think of anything I disliked about it, but I have to confess that I was expecting a bigger "a-ha!" when everything came together at the end. I really don't blame Adams' plotting, though. I think that the problem was that I got distracted along the way and didn't pick up all the clues. So I'll have to read it again one of these days to have the satisfaction of seeing everything fall into place.

How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez

Trish said: How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents!! I don't have any specific questions, but I have seen the title. So, I guess--did you like it? Would you recommend it?

Yes and yes! I enjoyed it a lot and I would definitely recommend it. It actually took me a bit to get into it, but once I did, I really did. At first I was surprised to find out that the story goes backwards in time. The book tells the story of four sisters, Sandy, Carla, Sofia and Yolanda, who immigrate to the United States with their parents to escape Trujillo's dictatorship in the Dominican Republic. I expected the book to be about them growing up and adjusting to a new country, and in a way it is, except it starts with them as grown women who have been in America for decades and them goes back in time.

I loved Alvarez' writing, I loved the characters, and I really liked the story. This book deals with a lot of themes: racism, cultural and personal identity, family, fear, and just growing up in general. And it handles them all very well.

300 by Frank Miller

Rhinoa said: Damnit I want more information on 300 and The League of Extraordinary Gentleman.

Kim L asked: 300: I know the movie was pretty violent, I avoided it for that reason. How was the book? Would you recommend it?

The book was pretty violent too. I think I'd recommend it, but not to everyone. This is the kind of book that some people will be very enthusiastic about, while others will be left indifferent. I think I fall in the second category, I'm afraid. Not that I disliked it. The art was fantastic, and it's worth looking at just for that. But as for the story, I somehow couldn't see beyond the surface of what was there, you know? I know it's more than a story about war and people killing each other, but at that moment I was unable to see further than that.

My state of mind when I read it was probably the reason why. I was at the library, I had just finished revising for a final that afternoon, I had some time to kill before lunch, and for some reason I'd left the book I was reading at home. Because it looked like a quick read, I picked up 300.

Anyway, I apologize for my less than helfpul answer, but I read this one back in January and can't remember all the details.

Now a few blog-related things: First, I decided to create a separate tab for my long-term reading projects. Some of you probably got a glimpse of it yesterday when I accidentally published it instead of saving the draft :P

I included the Pulitzer Project, and also a new one that I recently decided to embark on. I want to finish all the series I'm currently in the middle of before I begin any new ones.

There is of course no time limit for this. The reason why I decided to do it is the fact that it's always much more fun to read a series when you don't let too much time pass between books, and so you still remember the previous book's details well. So instead of starting new series that I'll probably only finish in five years, I want to focus on finishing the ones I'm reading now. Thus the Series Project. I even made a button for my own amusement.

I do plan on making an exception for the series that are already on my challenge lists for this year: Nightmares and Fairy Tales, Black Jewels, The Dark is Rising, The Lost Years of Merlin, and the Inkheart books. That's quite a few of them, I know. But other than that, no more!

Hopefully the Mythopoeic Project that Susan is planing will soon be added to Reading Projects page. Right Susan?

Secondly, I've been slowly but surely going through my old posts, fixing the formatting and adding links to other blog reviews. I'm up to July 2007, so there's still a long way to go. I've been noticing that Google Reader searches are less than effective, though, and I can't always find reviews that I remember seeing. So I have to go to the person's blog and search there. This means that the ones I didn't see or don't remember are probably being left out.

All this to say that if anyone wants to e-mail me the links to the reviews we have in common, it'd be very much appreciated. I know that most Weekly Geeks did this ages ago, but better late than never, right?


  1. I'm especially interested in your reviews of The Firework Maker's Daughter and How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents. I've added them both to my TBR list! I haven't read anything by Pullman except His Dark Materials. I really need to read them again because it's been awhile!

    I also think it's interesting that you read 300. I didn't even know it was a book! I watched the movie and it wasn't my favorite, but it was interesting, especially since I've been to Greece and saw where the Spartans fought.

    I'm going to backread through your blog and see if you've written about any books I've posted about. If so I'll give you the link!

  2. Orwell's book sounds like something I'd enjoy, and that gives me an incentive to read Homage to Catalonia, his experience fighting the Spanish civil War. I wasn't that pushed about it but now I'm rethinking the possibility of reading it by the end of the year:)

    Have you seen the movie 300? I don't know about the graphic novel, but the film made me so angry and disillusioned about all the people that actually loved it. Because I couldn't see anything else in it other than the celebration of war, violence, physical power and hate. Not things I can get excited about.

    good luck with your long term projects, you're getting very organised:D

  3. I use google reader for my review links as well and there have been several times when it won't give me a review I know I've seen. Frustrating but don't know what to do about it (I can obviously catch the ones I remember). You're a great blogger--sometimes I'm just too darn lazy to deal with it at all. Shame on me. Anyway--good luck with the new endeavor or project (or old projects...whatever!). :)

    Thanks for the answer on the book. Sounds fantastic. I've seen the title around, but I didn't know what it was about--not even that it was about Dominican Republic immigrants. I'll definitely have to keep an eye out for it.

  4. Great reviews, and I suspect I'd have a similar opinion to you on 300. Just not my thing at the moment.

    Google reader is not always a good friend for searches, but I do admire your dedication to find those other reviews. I do it when I remember, but it does end up where I thought for sure I'm missing someone's review.

  5. Great reviews, Nymeth!!
    Well, it's good to be organized... it makes things so much easier for our own reference and not to mention for other readers too. :) I wish I've some plans for my blog but then again, I'm being lazy, hehe.

  6. If you enjoy Phillip Pullman's work and suspense novels, may I suggest one to try? "Outcasts Of Skagaray" can be previewed by reading the sample chapters on There are comments on line, as well.

  7. I hope the Mythopoeic project does get started, if not I may start it myself. Thanks for the expanded reviews. I should read some more Orwell and Adams at some point. I may have to steal your idea of not starting any more series until I am up to date with the ones I am currently reading (once I finish the First in a Series challenge this year that is).

  8. Hy !
    I think you have a really interesting blog and I'm happy every time I read one of your post.
    I just have a question. How do you make those collages with book covers ? I would really enjoy to do some with my books.

  9. Okay Nymeth, like it's not bad enough that I have to add a book to my wish list on a nearly daily basis because of you...but now you're making me add several at a time! Whatever am I going to do with you?!!

    I can't wait to go look under your new tab! Deliciously fun, that will be.

  10. Andrea, I hope you enjoy those two books. And thanks for checking for the links!

    Valentina, I'm glad I'm not alone about 300. I haven't seen the movie, no, but that's the impression I was left with after reading the book. And I've talked to some people who see more in the story, which I totally respect, but personally I couldn't. I haven't read Homage to Catalonia, but I've heard great things about it. And after all, it's Orwell.

    Trish: Sometimes I don't want to deal with it either, which is why I've been putting it off for months :P But going back and fixing old posts is also strangely satisfying. I was so sloppy about formatting when I first started blogging. I know it will take me months and months to finish, but I don't mind. I hope you enjoy Julia Alvarez's book when you pick it up!

    Kim: I guess the best we can do is ask people to remind us if we accidentally leave theirs out. I do wish the searches were more effective, though. You'd think they'd be - it's google, after all.

    Melody, nothing wrong with being lazy, but I do look forward to seeing what you have planned :)

    Andrew Clarke: Thanks for the suggestions, I'll check it out.

    Rhinoa: Feel free to steal the idea and to use the button as well. I'm glad to hear you're interested in the Mythopoeic Project too!

    Fluffyreader, thanks! I made the college with Photoed, a really old image editing program that I still use for its simplicity. But anything like Photoshop, Picassa, Paint Shop Pro or even Paint will do it.

    Debi, sorry :P I guess I can promise no more mini-reviews :P

  11. Have you also read Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency? It's sort of the previous book in the Dirk Gently series...I have a hard time deciding which I like better, but I do think I like the Dirk Gentlys better than the Hitchhiker's series.

  12. Kate, I've read it, yes, and I think enjoyed it even more than The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul. Both are great, though. I think I prefer the Hitchhiker's series, but I really love them all. Douglas Adams was so brilliant.

  13. I've had some luck using the google search engine and switching to the blog search mode when I want to pull up a list of book reviews. I often see the ones I remember reading but failed to note or lost in my reader, etc. You might try it if you haven't already.

  14. I forgot to tell you, "nice tabs"! One of these days I'll create author and title indexes. I'm starting to get enough reviews that it will be easier for others to search that way. So far my simple "book reviews" link has worked, but that list keeps growing!

  15. Thanks for following up on all our questions - these Mini-Reviews were great!

    The Road to Wigan Pier -
    "I had my doubts about this section, but I also ended up enjoying it a lot more than I thought I would." that was my reaction, as well - I was prepared to be offended by Orwell contradicting his support of individual freedoms, and instead I gained a level of insight that I probably wouldn't have gotten otherwise...

    The Firework Maker's Daughter -
    It sounds like a good story - my fear was that he'd try and recycle HDM...

  16. Terri B: I had forgotten about the Google Blog Search! Thanks for reminding me of it, I'll keep it in mind in the future. And I'm glad you like the tabs! I thought of doing a titles index as well, but at the moment I'm just too lazy :P

    Ken: I wondered that about Pullman at first too, but he really doesn't.


Thank you so much for taking the time to comment - interaction is one of my favourite things about blogging and a huge part of what keeps me going.