Monthly Wrap-Up: November 2013

Happy first of December everyone! This year’s Christmas frenzy marks the spot where I finally got back to normal reading speed. I finally found the time to read more again and discovered some great books on the way. In other geekiness, my boyfriend and I have been watching Doctor Who non-stop for the last week (“our” first doctor was Matt Smith and we wanted to see what the others were like) and we are loving it.
Starting today, I am participating in Carl’s 2014 Sci-Fi Experience, a two-month celebration of all things science fiction. My first book for the Experience is almost read (I’ll spoil: It’s Wesley Chu’s The Lives of Tao) and because it is so much fun, I can’t wait to read more science fiction during December and January.
But now, on to the books I’ve read in November and how I liked them. As always, click on the title will lead you to my full review.

Books read: 7
Pages read: 2398
Series started: Tao, Paradox, Patternist
Series continued: Discworld
Series finished:

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THE BEST

Octavia E. Butler – Wild Seed  8,5/10

wild seedAs a science fiction and fantasy lover, I’m surprised it took me this long to discover Octavia Butler. But the internet didn’t lie – she truly is amazing. This is the story of two immortals, Anyanwu and Doro. Doro is a tyrant who uses humans for his own breeding program, Anyanwu is the only other immortal he has ever met and has powers of her own.
Apart from the gripping story, I was deeply impressed and taken with how these two characters balance out and how they wage an emotional war against each other.  I can’t wait to continue reading the Patternist series and find out what becomes of Anyanwu.

Rachel Bach – Fortune’s Pawn  8/10

fortunes pawnThis was so much fun! Devi is a mercenary who is hired as security on a space ship cursed with bad luck. Not only does she have to deal with the sexy cook, she tumbles into a mystery much bigger than she ever expected. Space ships, aliens, fantastic action scenes and a bit of romance – you will find all of this here. Fortune’s Pawn is a light, fun, action-packed read with an endearing heroine who knows what she wants, who is clever but kind. I almost regret reading it so soon. The publication of the next volume (February 2014) seems very far away at this moment.

Terry Pratchett – Men at Arms  8/10

men at arms1I know, I know. My blog is beeing flooded by Terry Pratchett love but I can’t help it. I dare you to find your way into Discworld and stop reading after a book or two. Being a fan of the witches, I kept one last novel in their sub-series to look forward to and started reading the City Watch books instead. Commander Vimes is gruff but good-hearted, Carrot is too good to be true (but you just have to love him. All of Ankh-Morpork does, too!) and I particularly liked the new recruits, first and foremost Angua, the werewolf. I loved her right from the start and I think she makes a great addition to the Night Watch, not just because she is a woman, but because she adds a layer of complications to the entire sub-series.

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THE WORST

Yay! No bad books this month.

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THE REST

Terry Pratchett – Guards! Guards!  7/10

guards guardsThis was a re-read for me (or rather: re-listen) because I first read the book 10 years ago and didn’t remember much about it. Because the Night Watch books are next on my Discworld reading schedule, I thought I’d remind myself of who is who. Captain Vimes was never supposed to be the hero of these stories (Carrot was) but he steals the show wherever he goes. This drunk, depressed Captain of the Night Watch has low self-esteem and doesn’t really know why he’s doing his job anymore. But when a dragon shows up and devastates Ankh-Morpork, somebody has to step in. And believe me, it’s wonderful when Vimes and his guards do.
Not my favorite Discworld novel and, because it is one of the earlier ones, not as subtly clever as the later books, but still great fun and silliness. And it has Errol, the swamp dragon, which gives it a couple of brownie points.

Stephen King – The Shining  7/10

shiningI started reading this on Halloween because everybody needs a bit of creepiness around that time. As with so many Stephen King books, the monsters didn’t get to me that much. But the humans did! I will never understand how people dismiss King’s books. Few other authors do characterisation as well as he does. His characters come to life and, because they feel so real, the things they do seem all the more disturbing. I felt especially sorry for Danny, the child, and will try and read Doctor Sleep soon. Whatever happened to that kid after the events of The Shining, he must now be one messed-up man…

Jodi Lynn Anderson – Tiger Lily  7/10

tiger lilyI have an obsession with Peter Pan. Retellings, spin-offs, sequels and prequels are judged extremely harshly by me because how dare anyone ruin one of my favorite children’s stories ever? Anderson takes a look at one of the side characters who don’t get much attention. Tiger Lily had a life before Peter Pan and Wendy. It was the life of an outsider, in a village filled with prejudice and fear. Considering how quiet a book this was, there was a lot going on. We do get to see Peter (although he is nothing like the original) and the pirates, but we also get Englishmen trying to convert Tiger Lily’s tribe to Christianity and all that this ensues.
My favorite part was that Tinker Bell narrates the story. Her personality (again, very different from the original) is what kept me going, her emotions got to me and made me read on. This is not a riveting adventure story. It is a character study and a coming-of-age tale that, and while I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone, I enjoyed it.

Susan Cooper – Seaward  6/10

seawardHere’s a rare occasion. A book I read but didn’t review. At first I thought, I have nothing to say about this, how can I write a review that’s more than 20 words long? Now I feel that I do have some things to say about it. I didn’t love it. But I didn’t dislike it either. What bothered me the most was how fast things happened. There was no time for exploring the repercussions of the events, everything happened bam-bam-bam without room for emotional growth. But all things considered, it is a beautiful children’s story. Meh… maybe I’ll end up writing more about it during the holidays.
At this point, I think I should have read this as a child to fully appreciate it. As an adult, it didn’t quite convince me.

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WHAT I’M READING IN DECEMBER:

  • Wesley Chu – The Lives of Tao
  • Mark Helprin – Winter’s Tale
  • Terry Pratchett – Feet of Clay
  • Space Opera (one of these:)
    • Iain M. Banks – Consider Phlebas
    • Timothy Zahn – Heir to the Empire
    • David Weber – A Beautiful Friendship

Jodi Lynn Anderson – Tiger Lily

I feel like such an idiot. I’ve been reading this book for the past few days and now is the first time I notice that the flower on the cover is actually a girl in a dress… there you have it, internet. Sometimes, I’m just a bit dumb. But instead of covers, let’s talk stories – this one was far from what I expected. But it worked in its own way and even left me with a bit of a book hangover.

tiger lilyTIGER LILY
by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Published by: Harper Collins, 2012
ebook: 292 pages
Standalone
My rating: 7/10

First sentence: She stands on the cliff, near the old crumbling stone house.

Before Peter Pan belonged to Wendy, he belonged to the girl with the crow feather in her hair. . . .
Fifteen-year-old Tiger Lily doesn’t believe in love stories or happy endings. Then she meets the alluring teenage Peter Pan in the forbidden woods of Neverland and immediately falls under his spell.
Peter is unlike anyone she’s ever known. Impetuous and brave, he both scares and enthralls her. As the leader of the Lost Boys, the most fearsome of Neverland’s inhabitants, Peter is an unthinkable match for Tiger Lily. Soon, she is risking everything—her family, her future—to be with him. When she is faced with marriage to a terrible man in her own tribe, she must choose between the life she’s always known and running away to an uncertain future with Peter.
With enemies threatening to tear them apart, the lovers seem doomed. But it’s the arrival of Wendy Darling, an English girl who’s everything Tiger Lily is not, that leads Tiger Lily to discover that the most dangerous enemies can live inside even the most loyal and loving heart.

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Neverland is a wonderful place. Not just for visiting and revisiting the original Peter Pan, but also because it offers endless possibilities for new stories. Jodi Lynn Anderson chose a much-neglected character as her protagonist. Tiger Lily never did get much attention, neither in the Disney movie, nor any other adaptations I’ve seen (there was this one anime show I watched as a kid and I remember she did show up on a regular basis… can’t for the life of me remember what it was called, exactly.). Tiger Lily may be the focus of this story but its narrator is another familiar creature from Neverland – Tinkerbell, the fairy.

Here is where things should have started to put me off. Tinkerbell is a very simple character – as J.M. Barrie explains, fairies are so small that there is only room in them for one emotion at any given time. And Tink tends to fill up with jealousy, or adoration for Peter. Anderson’s Tink, on the other hand, is a complex person. She can hold several, even opposing, feelings within herself, and her love for Peter does not keep her from loving Tiger Lily as well – even as she watches them fall in love and has to reconcile herself with the fact that Peter will never look at her the way he does at Tiger Lily. In fact, although she is nothing like the original character I know and love, Tink was at least as interesting as Tiger Lily and quietly grew on me over the course of the novel.

But Tink isn’t the only one that seems like she has nothing to do with Barrie’s original creation. Both Peter and Hook get doused with a proper dose of reality. I won’t give anything away, let’s just say I was very surprised to find that the only things magical in this story are fairies and mermaids. There is nothing of Barrie’s playfulness in Anderson’s language or plot. Instead, the author focuses on the melancholy themes that come with the territory. Tiger Lily is supposed to marry Giant, a brutish man of her tribe, when she meets Peter Pan. It takes a while but they end up falling in love and Tiger Lily is torn between two worlds. Except that isn’t true – there are even more problems weighing on that one girl’s mind. The pirates are out to kill Peter, and one of the Englishmen that sometimes come to Neverland is trying to convert her entire village to Christianity.

Through these problems, several themes come up that could have been explored more. But then it would have been a very different book. For example, we get a proper psychopath in Reginal Smee, and I wouldn’t have minded reading an entire book about him. Or Phillip, the Englishman that Tiger Lily saves after his ship wrecked on Neverland’s shores, who is a symbol for colonialism and tries to lead the “savage” Sky Eater tribe on their path to Heaven. I’m not sure if I really would have enjoyed seeing all these sub-plots fleshed out more. The author did a pretty good job in making her readers think, but doesn’t stray from her focal point – a young girl’s coming-of-age.

tiger lily quote¹For a quiet little book like this, I have surprisingly much to say. There were so many things that I should have hated but didn’t: Tink being the way she is, Wendy being described as a silly, pampered idiot (although I guess, Tink does have a point there), and Hook being so very un-Hook-ish. But within the setting of this story, it all worked out. This isn’t an adventure story, it isn’t about children fighting pirates, and facing danger, and chasing after the Neverbird. This is a story about people, relationships, and how fragile they are.

Jodi Lynn Anderson manages one amazing feat that so few young adult books do. She creates characters that are vivid but feel like we never truly know them. We see them through Tink’s eyes and although she can pick up on people’s feelings and thoughts, we never get the whole picture. Tiger Lily always remains somewhat of a mystery – and this is where every reader’s imagination gets a chance to fill in the blanks. I’ve mentioned all the major players on this fantasy island, but I must talk about Anderson’s own inventions. Tiger Lily’s father, Tik Tok, was a wonderful addition to the cast. He is the tribe’s shaman who likes to wear women’s clothing and shows infinite patience for his daughter and tribe members. Pine Sap, teased for being unmanly and bad at hunting, is Tiger Lily’s only true friend and one of the few who just love her the way she is. Even Moon Eye, who could be cause for jealousy, is nothing but lovable and shows some amazing and unexpected depth.

There isn’t much dialogue in the book but even without saying much, these characters came to life through Tink’s descriptions, the things she notices and tells us, and the things she omits. Looking back now, I can’t help but feel all warm and fuzzy inside at the thought of Pine Sap and Moon Eye. I don’t have a lot to say about the prose. Sure, descriptions and introspection take center stage over dialogue and action, but again – and don’t ask me how – it just works. This is not what I would call a page turner and yet I finished the book in just a few sittings.

Apart from the characters, a lot of other things deviate from what you may know about Peter Pan. Tiger Lily tells the story of a young girl from the Sky Eater tribe, a story that started well before Wendy ever showed up. But Wendy does appear and we all know how that story goes… only in this case we don’t. For Tiger Lily and Tink, there is no fairy tale ending. But even though it was sad, verging on depressing, the ending was just as appropriate and fitting as was the rest of the story.

So yeah… I’ll never let go of my love for the original tale but, as retellings, spin-offs, prequels or sequels go, this is one of the better ones. If you want a quiet book that is nonetheless a quick read, and if you like explorign alternate versions of Peter Pan, pick this one up.

MY RATING: 7/10  –  Very good

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