What made this book interesting wasn't primarily the book itself, but how it relates to other reading I've done lately. Specifically, a few features pointed out in another work about Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass have a bit of resonance here — specifically, Snicket's storytelling technique providing definitions of words used every so often reminds me of Alice's encounters with the griffon and false turtle, and Humpty Dumpty, and the way they introduce new words to her. It's a cute little read, even if I felt it was kind of flat in some parts.
22. Secret Gardens by Humphrey Carpenter (nonfiction) - 15 May 2010
An excellent nonfiction work about the time period known as the Golden Age of Children's Literature, which started somewhere around the late 19th century and ended around the time of World War I. The book includes both some general information about the time and some more in-depth information about the more influential writers Carpenter counts as part of the tradition, both about their lives and about the works themselves. It was an interesting read and an excellent source for my degree essay, so I must say I'm very satisfied with it. It also proved to have some valuable information for the Modern Children's Fiction course I took this semester alongside my degree course, leading to me getting a lot more out of it. I definitely recommend this if you're interested in children's fiction, as it (in my opinion at least) makes a great background read. I want my own copy, now.
23. Dood in de Doos - Livlös i lådan by Dahlqvist - May 2010
This is a bilingual book published in Dutch and Swedish in the same volume; I read the Swedish section and intend to offer to loan it to a Dutch-speaking friend of the family. The story follows a boy who reminisces about his childhood, before he lost his mother and his family was uprooted, moving to Belgium where he keeps plotting how he might be able to run away and return to Sweden. The storytelling is powerful, reminding me of Vi kallar honom Anna by Peter Pohl in the force of the emotion showing through, and the ending was gripping and surprising. Editing-wise, there is the occassional language slip, but not enough to be terribly jarring.
24. Drakens Bok (original title: The coming of dragons by A.J. Lake (young adult, fantasy) - 26 May 2010
Edmund, who really is a prince with more than his fair share of pride and Elspeth, a sea captain's daughter who wants everything but to be the knight who will defeat the great darkness on the horizon become unlikely traveling companions as their ship is broken up by a storm, a great dragon watching the boat sink from overhead with glee. It soon turns out that the evil that's brewing can only be thwarted by (who else?) the two of them, after Elspeth is chosen by a magical gauntlet-and-sword and Edmund comes into mind-reading powers which he wants about as much as she wants the blade.
Unfortunately, I have to say this book suffered from everything just falling into place too neatly; the plot is all too pat for my taste. I realize it's aimed at a younger audience, but it can be done better than how Lake pulled it off. Pretty standard fantasy adventure fare, with two unwilling heroes who are forced into Doing The Right Thing by circumstance, but every single thing they do seems to fit perfectly into the plot, taking them a little closer to the final conflict, which I found somewhat distracting. Why can't a single side-plot be, well... just a side-plot? It gave me the sense that the main characters were stuck in a situation where regardless of what they did, they'd be in trouble. (Also, premonition is a pretty dumb power if all it's being used for is angst.)
I'll probably try to get the next book, but I'm not sure this isn't because I'm a sucker for punishment.
25. Uppvaknandet (original title: First half of Mystic Warrior) by Tracy & Laura Hickman (fantasy) - 9 Jun 2010
People with strange dreams are called mad and are taken away at the harvest festival, considered dead to the church and world, never to return. Gaelen is a blacksmith who has been able to fly under the radar despite his dreams and his unusual ability to hold conversations with inanimate objects, but his good luck can't last forever. When he's taken away, it seems to be setting things into motion in more worlds than just his own.
Pretty alright read; a bit duller than I'd have liked in parts, and the mindset ascribed to the faeries grates on me. I can't tell if that's just the translation or if there's more to it. I do like the portrayal of the dragon Vasska, and I think I'd like to at least read the "next" book in the series (ie the second half of Mystic Warrior). It does seem to suffer from bad publisher decisions in that the ending is very abrupt and the appendices don't entirely make sense as I believe they refer to events taking place later in the original work, but it's hard to tell without having read the source material. Minus points for not being the light read I was hoping for after all the hard work I've put into my degree essay the last month or two.