The legend of King Arthur and the Round Table has been told many times. Over the years, it has been rewritten as the story of an injured American trying to modernize medieval England, turned into a comedy starring shrubberies and flesh wounds, and adapted into fantastical role-playing games. This year has seen a reboot, The Kid Who Would Be King, which features a twelve-year-old schoolboy who awakens the evil sorceress Morgana Le Fay in a game of make-believe. Still, not much has been told about the women of King Arthur—the wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters who watched the story unfold. In her high-school series The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley explores the famous legend from a new point of view.Continue reading “A Fresh Perspective: A Review of The Mists of Avalon“
“See you later!”
I moved away from the group, re-playing our conversation in my head. Had it gone well? I wondered idly. Did they like talking to me, or were they only being polite? I hoped not. Maybe I was too strange, though. Or maybe I was just overthinking things. I shook my head, trying to clear it, but how I wished I could peek into their minds, if only for a moment. How I wished I could know what they were thinking. What if I could?
We’ve been all over this month, visiting New York, Paris, and more–including libraries and bookshops. Here are this month’s best finds:
The House of Windjammer, by V. A. Richardson
The heart of the house of Windjammer is in their ships. When their magnificent Star Fleet is lost on a long and fruitless journey to the Americas, fifteen-year-old Adam Windjammer recognizes the beginning of the end. Soon the Windjammers find themselves the target of a brutal plot to ruin them–and as the heir of the Windjammer fortune, Adam knows he is the only one who can save his family. This fascinating novel paints a warm and vibrant picture of seventeenth-century Amsterdam that readers of historical fiction will love.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Marie Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is truly one of the best books I have ever read. Juliet Ashton, writer behind the humorous column Izzy Bickerstaff, is facing a severe case of writer’s block. When she receives a letter from a Daswey Adams of Guernsey, she realizes that Guernsey is a hidden treasure trove of stories, both grim and silly. Readers looking for a heart-melting, feel-good novel will be enchanted.
The Road to Little Dribbling, by Bill Bryson
Twenty years after publishing his famous Notes on a Small Island, Bill Bryson, author of over twenty books, published The Road to Little Dribbling, yet another hilarious and loving examination of Britain. From Bognor Regis all the way down to Cape Wrath, Bryson very loosely follows his invented “Bryson Line” in a wry, sincere, and laugh-out-loud volume that will enchant both new Bryson readers and those who have been following his career since the beginning.
With a groan, I forced myself to look at the electric clock on my night table. I groaned again. It read 22:46. I should have turned off the light more than an hour ago, I thought guiltily. I nestled back into my blankets, glancing back at the book in my hands. More than anything, I wanted to keep on reading. I wanted to re-immerse myself in Rand al’Thor’s world and stay there all night. But something stopped me. Rand’s struggle was with his control of power—was I going to urge him on, and then fail to control myself?
When I finished reading The Return of the King, the third book of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, I gazed at it sadly and turned wistfully to the appendix at the back of the book. I quickly forgot my melancholy mood, however, when the appendix turned out to be a treasure trove of Middle-earth-related information. Before long, I grew obsessed with the languages of Middle-earth, particularly the elvish language Sindarin. When I couldn’t find a free Sindarin course, I resorted to sending emails to myself in said language and muttering elvish phrases under my breath. Soon, I was searching for other Tolkien books in a desperate effort to find out more about the elves. Little did I know that I had begun a journey that would take me across ancient Middle-earth.
I looked at the target and frowned. I had always imagined myself shooting effortlessly, looking cool and controlled as I let loose perfectly aimed arrows in rapid succession. At least, I had certainly never envisioned this. I was straining to pull the bowstring, my face red with exertion. My arrows flew high above the target, into the woods beyond me. Stories always made shooting arrows sound so easy! How could anyone ever survive using a bow and arrow alone?
I dropped to a crawl and struggled through the door leading to the crawlspace. It smelled of earth and bricks and mortar. The floor was covered with a large sheet of black plastic, and above me fluffy bits of pink insulation hung from the ceiling. Chunks of fallen insulation lay scattered on the black plastic. I peered into the gloom at the other end of the crawlspace; it was dark enough that I couldn’t see the other wall. I scrambled outside, satisfied that nothing worse than insulation lay underneath our house.
I shifted in my seat and stared out the car window. Outside, tall pine trees rushed by, a dreamy green blur on the edge of the monotonous asphalt highway. My eyes half-closed, I pictured the highway as a thin grey line running through an endless sea of trees. What if there were no lonely malls, no housing complexes, no power plants, only dense green forest? I opened my eyes once again. Beyond the blurry pines I could see a cellphone tower silhouetted against the sky. The pieces of my shattered fantasy fell about me. No, this was still America; only much farther north could my fantastical forests be found.
Into the Wild is a nonfiction book written by the journalist Jon Krakauer. An expansion of a 9,000-word article that Krakauer wrote for Outside magazine, it tells the story of Christopher McCandless, a young man born in California in 1968. McCandless traveled all over the country, but his true goal was to live in the Alaskan wilderness, living off the land. Through dramatic imagery and extensive research, Krakauer manages to patch together a vivid picture of McCandless’s adventures—a difficult feat, considering that once Christopher McCandless entered the woods of Alaska, he never came back to tell his tale.
Chris McCandless was a complex young man with an intensely idealistic way of thinking. A devoted follower of the writings of Henry David Thoreau, Leo Tolstoy, and Jack London, McCandless believed the only way to find the true self was to return to the wild. Many people remark that McCandless was a foolish, arrogant young man who underestimated nature. However, McCandless was experienced and knew that the wilderness would not be kind. But did he really?
Jon Krakauer brings the story of Chris McCandless’s adventures to life. He evokes a sense of yearning for the forest; he captures that feeling of restlessness that occasionally stirs and stretches within the self. Perhaps this is because Krakauer experienced it so acutely—he scaled a mountain in a fit of such yearning. Why is it that some feel this need to get away from society? Are they melodramatic romantics? Are they searching for some form of truth? Are they looking for a dream?
Into the Wild is a tragic and compelling book. A haunting, revelatory volume, it captures the delicate story of Chris McCandless, the young man who rebuilt his shattered fantasy—just to have his life shattered.
Ages: 13 and up
You can buy this book here.
I found myself staring at the words INSERT COIN. I clicked the button. I was playing Google’s Pac Man doodle, and as the game started, I maneuvered the little pizza around hesitantly. I lost. I played again. I lost. I played again. Seized by a mad determination to win the game, I played for over half an hour until I won. What if the world was like a video game? I wondered, grimacing as the words GAME OVER appeared again on the screen. What if the world was a video game?