January Wrap Up

The closer the deadline for my master thesis approaches, the less I get to read for pleasure. Too bad, but hey: first things first! The point is that after a long day of working behind my laptop and reading essays, papers and books on other books, I cannot relax with … a book. I just want to curl up on the couch and watch Elementary or The Crown. Still, January was a relatively good month: four books read!

A quick recap: last month’s wrap up included Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope (4/5 stars), The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis (5/5 stars), The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare (1/5 stars) and Macbeth again by Shakespeare (5/5 stars). The average rating of December’s books was a 3.75, rounded up to a 4/5 stars. Not bad! This month’s average rating came in a little lower at a 3.5, but still a good month. Click on the title to go to the full book review and on the rating to go to the goodreads page.

1-shakespeare-w-romeo-and-juliet

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
★★★

I don’t think I say too much when I summarise the story as: Juliet and Romeo fall in love, marry and eventually die, thereby solving their families’ feud. The story is so universal that an acquaintance of mine even mistook it for a story from the Bible. Yep – not a lie. Although the story of the forbidden love wouldn’t feel anywhere out of place next to the Song of Solomon, the tragedy isn’t that old. The 16th century play is one of Shakespeare’s very first and is one of the few that has a love story at the centre of it.

It might be exactly this reason that leaves me relatively unmoved by the story. Although I do not necessarily dislike books with romantic elements or romance stories, I do need a solid foundation to appreciate it. Romeo and Juliet fall in love instantly and marry the next day. I understand that it being a play requires a quick character and story development, but this is just too quickly for my taste. Needless to say that I wasn’t very much impressed with the story itself. I did enjoy reading it, but only because of Shakespeare’s language.

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight by Unknown Author

I’m not really at home in the myths and legends department, but I do enjoy the occasional tragedy (hello, Shakespeare!) and heroic poem. It would come as no surprise then that Sir Gawain was right up my street. Composed in the fourteenth century, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is as beloved as it is venerable, combining the hallmarks of medieval romance—pageantry, chivalry, and courtly love—with the charm of fairy tales and heroic sagas.

I had to read quite a few (fragments of) medieval poems and legends at high school, both in Dutch and English, and I always enjoyed the themes that were explored in these texts. The story was very readable, thanks to Bernard O’Donoghue’s translation, and an extensive introduction gives you some historical context. If you enjoy Tolkien’s work and are interested in medieval myths and legends (which are, by the way, not all Norse as the series implies), than this is something for you.

Saga Volume One by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

I was afraid that I wouldn’t enjoy a graphic novel as much as a ‘regular’ novel, because … gimme words! I love an author’s use of language, puns, jokes and I enjoy reading in between the lines, but it turns out that a graphic novel is not, in the least, inferior to other formats. I mean, I knew that of course, like you know that poetry isn’t necessarily difficult to read or impossible to understand, but in the end we’re all biased.

Anyhow, the first volume of the Saga series is a fun, comic and beautiful read. It is a relatively classic story (two characters from opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war fall in love and defy the odds), but the world building and the characters make it more than worth reading. The art work is beautiful (but I guess it’s not for everyone) and the story is from a fascinating point of view. The novel is sometimes very graphic (duh, but you know what I mean), but that didn’t bother me at all. As far as graphic novels go I would say it is still fairly on the comic side of the spectrum (as opposed to books like Persepolis and more artsy stuff), but that’s probably why so many love it so much. It is an easy way into a new format.

Saga Volume Two by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

The second volume starts where the first had ended: Alana and Hazel meet Marko’s parents who aren’t exactly supporting of their son’s relationship with Alana. Fortunately a mutual enemy brings the family quickly closer as they once again are going into hiding.

Looking back upon my rating, I’m not sure why I gave this volume only 3/5 stars as opposed to 4/5 stars like its prequel. I think it was because I was a little disappointed in the world building. The first volume takes its time to sketch the world in which Alana and Marko live, how they met and why they took off together. I expected the second volume would broaden our scope and to a certain degree it does, but maybe not enough to my taste.

I would still recommend this volume and the series as a whole. I would also really like to read the third volume, but I’m not as eager to pick that one up as I was with this one …

That’s it for January’s wrap up!

Amber Linde

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