Books I read: April 2018

Next month, I will be off on another journey! My free time will be limited so I might not be able to update this blog as often or even have time to read many books. I will write about that experience here, as well. I read seven books this month. I wrote two book reviews on this blog:
Here are my other book reactions, we'll start off with the fiction first:

Bloodline: a Star Wars novel by Claudia Grey
I’m a new fan of Star Wars since The Force Awakens, and I’ve also been reading novels set in the Star Wars Universe. So far, I have read the Rogue One novelization, Guardians of the Whills (links to my reviews), and Knights of the Old Republic: Revan.

This book centers on Princess Leia Organa and her political career in an unstable Senate. The Senators are divided into two popular parties, the Populists, and the Centrists. Leia is with the Populists, who have a more democratic approach to politics, while the Centrists prefer authoritarian methods. The Centrists have many Empire sympathizers, and there are some who want the Empire back. I thought it would be a boring political thriller, unlike Luke Skywalker's adventures, but the book is quite enjoyable. Even if it's set in a fictional universe, the politics and conflicts were well-written and the characters were fleshed out.

One character I like is Ransolm Casterfo, a young Centrist Senator. He's quite vain and cares a bit too much about his clothes (the author pictured him played by Tom Hiddleston). They both work together to investigate a gang leader who may be funded by an anonymous organization. Their relationship doesn't start out well, and it gets worse when Leia finds out that Ransolm collects historical artifacts from the Empire. I thought that he would be a villain at first, but I love how his character and their friendship developed.

Leia has kept the secret that she is Darth Vader's daughter, but this fact was found out by an enemy and was used against her. The 'reveal' is one of the most dramatic scenes in the book. The book's timeline is before the movie The Force Awakens, and if you like the sequel trilogy this story will give you more understanding of the shaky galactic politics that led the First Order to rise. This made me want to check out more of Claudia Grey's books.

Labyrinth: a novel based on the Jim Henson Film by A.C.H. Smith
For those who are not aware of it, The Labyrinth was a 1986 movie starring David Bowie and Jennifer Connelly. It was not a box-office hit but it became a cult classic. The story is about Sarah, a young girl who hates babysitting her half-brother, Toby. She wishes that he will be taken away by the Goblin King. Be careful what you wish for because Jareth the Goblin King grants her wish. Her brother gets taken away, but she wants him back. But for her to get him back, she must solve the Goblin King's Labyrinth and take Toby from his castle in thirteen hours.

She is 'spirited away' to the goblin world and she meets various friends along the way. I just watched the film recently and its one of my current favorites. It reminds me of fairy tales and stories I enjoyed as a child, like The Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland. The movie is fun itself, and a masterpiece of puppetry (the goblins were mostly puppets). Beneath the adventure story, I think it is a coming-of-age story dressed in fairy tale imagery. Most would agree that the best part of the movie is David Bowie who was just perfect for the Goblin King role.

I watched the film three times and I still couldn't get enough of it, so I read the novelization.  If you really loved a movie and can’t get enough of it, a good novelization often immerses us into that world once again, with more additional content. What surprised me about this book is there is a more sexual something between Sarah and Jareth, things that are really shouldn’t be included in the kids’ movie. And in her dance with Jareth in the illusion, he almost kissed her but she ran from him and broke the spell.

I also like Jareth in the book, and it showed different sides of him that were not in the movie. Jareth is quite vain, obsessed with youthful looks, and is concerned with his aging. There’s a sentence on how ‘people used to sacrifice children to him’, which makes him some sort of ancient being/god.

This is My Letter to the World: the Omikuji Project cycle one by Catherynne M. Valente
Catherynne Valente was a huge inspiration to me when I first started writing. Her novel Deathless is still one of my favorites, and I love her striking language and beautiful imagery. She writes in a poetic language that just took my breath away. I even tried imitating her language and writing, and that is a natural part of a writer's life. We first try to be like the writers we love before evolving into our own style.

This book is composed of short stories that were originally monthly letters to her readers. Each piece is short, but not all got to me. The stories I liked best were: "Blue with Those Tears," about the people of Atlantis; "The Consultant," is about a 'fairy-tale consultant' who acts like a therapist for your fairy tale problems and needs; and "Reading Borges in Buenos Aires," which I liked because Jorge Luis Borges in one of my favorite writers.

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
This book has influenced me when I was just a new Christian. This is a collection of essays that were originally Lewis's words on radio in World War 2. The book is divided into four parts: Ethics, Christian belief, Christian behavior, and Christian theology. I read this first in college and I'm reading this again many years later. I find that Lewis here had quite an outdated view of women (it's just in his turns of phrase and examples) that I think most Christians would say "what." Though, the best thing about this book is the way it argues for Christianity. His argument starts slowly, in the most basic things about right and wrong, he doesn't even start with the concept of God and religion. An essay on the sin of pride, "The Great Sin" is the one that really made an impression on me when I first read it, and it still speaks to me now even years later.

"Each person’s pride is in competition with everyone else’s pride. It is because I wanted to be the big noise at the party that I am so annoyed at someone else being the big noise. Pride is essentially competitive – while the other vices are competitive only, so to speak, by accident. Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. We say that people are proud of being rich, or clever, or good-looking, but they are not. They are proud of being richer, or cleverer, or better looking than others. If everyone else became equally rich, or clever, or good-looking there would be nothing to be proud about. It is the comparison that makes you proud, the pleasure of being above the rest."

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