Month in Books: November 2014

It’s December! Where has the year gone?

Anyway, I’m putting my excitement for Christmas on hold just long enough to write up my November wrap-up – here it is!

The Body – Stephen King – 4 stars This is a really interesting autobiography; it centres around one main event in King’s childhood, and builds up everything around it. With emphasis on writing techniques and routes, this book makes for a really interesting read.

Harry Potter y la Piedra Filosofal – J.K. Rowling – 5 stars I thought it was time to read a whole novel in Spanish, and Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone seemed like a good place to start! I’d forgotten how much fun this book was.

Northern Lights – Philip Pullman – 4 stars My second re-read of the month! I love this story and setting so much, and the protagonist, Lyra, is just fantastic. I’m glad I read this one, but I don’t plan to go back to the other two; I felt like the shift into a second world and the concentrated antitheism let the series down for me.

The Bloody Chamber – Angela Carter – 4 stars This is actually one of my set texts for later on in my course, so I’ll probably have to go back to it again next year. It’s a collection of Ms. Carter’s takes on popular fairy tales and folklore, all beautifully written and most pretty dark. It’s really interesting to see the famous stories re-interpreted, and to understand what someone else views as the important components of the classic tales.

How to Train Your Dragon – Cressida Cowell – 4 stars I reviewed this here! I really enjoyed this little children’s book: set in the dark ages, vikings and dragons wrestle for superiority in a series of comedic and touching events. Not to be compared with the movie.

The Red Necklace – Sally Gardner – 4 stars I must have been feeling nostalgic this month, because this is my third re-read of a book I loved when I was younger. This is set in Revolution-era France, and is just fantastic. Scary, romantic and a little bit weird, I absolutely recommend this. Also the audiobook is read by Tom Hiddleston, so…

The Pursuit of God – A.W. Tozer – 5 stars This was my first time reading a proper theological book, and I really loved this one! It was both practical and inspiring, and really well written. I’ll be picking this one up again!

The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness – Timothy Keller – 5 stars This is a tiny little book, but it’s full of really solid advice. Insecurity is loud and confidence is knowing you’re loved as-is. Highly recommended read!

The Problem of Pain – C.S. Lewis – 5 stars  I read more Christian non-fiction this month than I have in my LIFE, but I really enjoyed it! This one is more in the realms of apologetics: why does suffering happen, and how can an all-loving God condone it? Eloquently presented and thoroughly explored, this book taught me that C.S. Lewis is well-respected and over-quoted for a reason.

The DUFF: Designated Ugly Fat Friend – Kody Keplinger – 4 stars I heard a movie adaptation was on its way, so I decided to jump on the bandwagon and pick up the e-book. I read it in one sitting. I think I’d call it a YA romance, but it did feel like it was considering some much more profound issues. I didn’t agree with everything implied, or particularly appreciate the emotional sparsity, but on the whole the book kept me hooked and I managed to get really invested in the characters. A fun, quick read.

Divine Healing: A Scriptural Approach to Sickness, Faith and Healing – Andrew Murray – 4 stars I was a bit unsure about this book at first: the first few chapters felt a bit repetitive and I wondered whether the great points Mr. Murray was putting across actually needed to be a whole book. About halfway through I felt a shift, and there was suddenly a lot more fresh and diverse material to get my teeth into. Because the subject of this book is something I haven’t read a lot about, I really appreciated the frequent Bible references, so I could go and look up evidence for myself. It’s important not to accept everything you read, even if it is a ‘Christian’ book! I did walk away feeling inspired and empowered, so I’d recommend this!

Eleven books! I’m quite pleased with that, considering I’ve been flooded with passages to read for my course. Have you read any of the books on the list? What was your favourite read of November?

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!

~Dani

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Review: How To Train Your Dragon – Cressida Cowell

How to Train your Dragon – Cressida Cowell – 4 stars

How To Train Your Dragon

If you’re going into this book thinking it’s going to be like the movie (which is fantastic and wonderful and you should go and watch it), stop. It’s set in the same world, and there are similar characters, but it’s a different story with a different tone. Different, I hasten to add, is not necessarily a bad thing.

Set in a fictional corner of the Viking world, the story follows a misfit called Hiccup, whose only aim in life is to be accepted into his tribe of ‘hooligans’. The only problem is, to do that, he’s going to have to work out how to train his dragon.

Ms. Cowell has a funny and chatty writing style that makes this book both accessible to younger readers and entertaining for older ones. I found the tone not unlike that of Andy Stanton’s books, which, as you’ll know if you’ve read any of my tags ever, I LOVE.

The world building was compact and a total blast to read about; the caricature-like society shone with that special magic of a writer having fun. Although blatantly moralistic, the story had a twist of timelessness that the DreamWorks animators must have picked up on. It’s a little bit silly and horribly anachronistic, but it has heart. It’s the sort of book I’d love to read aloud to a group of children.

Fast-paced and reasonably short, there’s no time to get bored. I really enjoyed seeing a different side to Hiccup and Stoic’s relationship; in the book, Stoic is supportive of his son from the start, and struggles to grasp the concept that his son might actually be a rather unconventional viking.

It’s impossible not to compare the book with the movie, so to finish up the review I wanted to say a few words on that. The film is better. That said, the book is the spark, and the world created by Cressida is really fantastic. The plot changes in the movie were absolutely necessary to make it screen-appropriate, and the character changes, especially in the dragons, made the film the magical experience it is. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read the book; it does mean that you should view them as separate entities and expect to be entertained in different ways.

What are your thoughts? Have you seen the movie and/or read the book?

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!

~Dani

My Favourite Film Adaptations of Children’s Books

  1. How to Train Your Dragon (Cressida Cowell) Possibly the best animated movie ever made. It’s funny and cute and touching and beautiful and just everything you could ever want. The John Powell score is gorgeous, and the actors are fantastic. Just…it’s all so perfect. 
  2. Horton Hears a Who (Dr Seuss) This animated movie is one of my all-time favourites! It’s touching and funny and imaginative, which I think is pretty true to the book. Lovable elephant (Jim Carrey) discovers a town of little people living on a speck, and has to find a way to save them all. It ends in a musical number, which is always good.
  3. The Lorax (Dr Seuss) More Dr Seuss! In a way, I like this one more than Horton Hears a Who just because it’s a musical. Everything is better as a musical, am I wrong? In a Dystopian world where nothing natural grows, Ted (Zac Efron) discovers the last tree and endeavours to ‘re-grow’ the world. SUCH a good film.
  4. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe [The Chronicles of Narnia #1] (C.S. Lewis) The reason this movie is so low down on the list is that the sequels were disappointing. This first one was great, though; I thought they did a great job of imagining the world and adapting the story onto the big screen.

What have I missed? Do you agree with the films on my list?

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!

~Dani