The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman

Unlike many others, I did not see the promotional picture of two girls kissing for the release of The Sleeper and the Spindle. Instead, being so out of the loop with blogging and new books, I saw this title appear in the top 20 sold books on Bookdepository one day, and decided to buy it. “New Neil Gaiman and a fairy tale at that,” I thought, “I will probably like this”. Not having seen the promo, I was probably saved a lot of disappointment. Instead, I got what I expected: a fairy tale Neil Gaiman-style, with twists that I did not expect, and lovely illustrations by Chris Riddell to boot.

The Sleeper and the Spindle - Neil Gaiman // Illustrated by Chris Riddell // Bloomsbury, 2014

The Sleeper and the Spindle – Neil Gaiman // Illustrated by Chris Riddell // Bloomsbury, 2014

But sometimes, getting what you expected may not feel like enough. And I realise this sounds spoiled. And let’s be honest: it is. But for the first half of the book, it was a thought that flashed through my mind. We’ve come to expect great tales from Gaiman. And upon seeing that cover (WOW!) the idea of wonderful images might be taken for granted.

And so it took a while to realise exactly what joys The Sleeper and the Spindle provides.

Take this quote at the beginning, which plays with gender expectations and “the happily ever after” right there (before playing with it some more throughout the book):

It seemed both unlikely and extremely final. She wondered how she would feel to be a married woman. It would be the end of her life, she decided, if life was a time of choices. In a week from now, she would have no choices. She would reign over her people. She would have children. Perhaps she would die in childbirth, perhaps she would die as an old woman, or in battle. But the path to her death, heartbeat by heartbeat, would be inevitable.

And then there’s the moment when realisation first hit (and yes, I am sloooow), that this were fairytales intertwined, with a lead that is Snow White an her dwarfs, mixed up in the tale of Sleeping Beauty. And I started to love the book a little more.

As we near the end I first realise that here’s a wonderful girl protagonist, who is allowed the possibility of a death in battle (see the quote above), and moreover, to make her own choices (there’s quite some gender role reversal when she tells the prince she will leave on a mission), and take such a large part in the action.

And then there is the very end. With a twist on traditional fairy tale expectations about beauty and age that I loooooved. And by then I cannot help but conclude that yes, I was spoiled to even think that getting what one expects of an author may not be enough.

I ended up really enjoying The Sleeper and the Spindle. But I do understand some of the disappointment out there. For this is not a LGTB take on a fairytale. The kiss itself is beautifully pictured but of very little importance in the story as a whole.

Reading Next: The Night Fairy by Laura Amy Schlitz (and still reading Vera by Elizabeth von Arnim).

Finding Violet Park by Jenny Valentine

I began my journey into the world of 1001 Children’s Books by selecting the very last title listed. Finding Violet Park had been lingering on my shelves for a few years, bought at a this-bookshop-is-bankrupt sale years before. I never quite knew whether I should read it or discard it, until I saw it listed here. Yay for persuading me to pick up a long-forgotten book from my TBR shelves.

Dutch version of Finding Violet Park by Jenny Valentine // Published in English by Harper Collins in 2007 (Also published as "Me, the Missing, and the Dead")

Dutch version of Finding Violet Park by Jenny Valentine // Published in English by Harper Collins in 2007 (Also published as “Me, the Missing, and the Dead”)

In Finding Violet Park Lucas Swain goes on a journey of self-discovery in which he comes to terms with his broken family and learns to face the imperfect nature of his missing father, after finding the abandoned urn of concert pianist Violet Park at a taxi stand.

I did not think Finding Violet Park was extraordinary. But it was a lovely read nonetheless. Lucas Swain is entirely realistic and easy to relate to. The style of the book is humorous. The short chapters ensured that I rushed through the book without feeling hurried or inattentive. There is a bit of suspension of disbelief required for the many coincidental relations between events and characters, but at the same time this might be explained by Lucas’ conviction that Violet Park wanted him to find her urn for a reason.

In short: I really enjoyed Finding Violet Park, and I am glad I did not toss the book out when I moved. At the same time, I find I have very little to say about it. (Hah, and here I thought I was going to get back to blogging full-swing).

Finding Violet Park counts towards the Children’s Books Project. It also counts as first book down (1/37) for my personal 2015 TBR challenge.

Currently reading: Vera by Elizabeth von Arnim.
Next up in the Children’s Books Challenge: The Wonderful Adventures of Nils by Selma Lagerlöf.

Introducing: The Children’s Books Project

Pim being born was the perfect excuse to finally purchase a copy of 1001 Children’s Books You Must Read Before You Grow Up:

1001 Children’s Books You Must Read Before You Grow Up // Universe Publishing, 2009

It’s a list. A list of children’s books. Arranged by ages 0-3, 3+, 5+, 8+ and 12+. Within these categories the books are listed by publication date. And so the list includes classics and recent titles. (That is, recent in 2009, because unlike the other 1001 books list, there have been no updates).

I could say I plan to read them all. In a way I am. But I know I am being unrealistic as I say it. However, I am more motivated to read through this list then the general fiction one that I have been staring at for years. I like books for children, though I have mostly focused on books for ages 8 and up before.

With Pim, there is an additional motivational factor. I want to be able to offer him a range of books to choose from, not just based on my own limited knowledge, or the books available in the local library.

So what I plan to do is the following: read books from the list provided in this book. Review them here. And revisit them once Pim is old enough to read them as well. Somewhere along the way, I plan to have posts devoted to Pim’s reading, probably titled “Pim’s corner”.

But of course, a list is limited. And I would also like to read more children’s books recommended by you. So please feel free to leave your suggestions.

New Year, New Beginnings?

2014 was an eventful year for me, but not so much on the bookblogging front. In between being pregnant, moving house, and being a new mom, I had trouble being online once a week, let alone update my blog regularly.

Bonus Pim picture, taken earlier this Christmas break.

I hope 2015 will be different. As I settle in with all these new circumstances in life, I hope to find the time to return to blogging.

To make a return easier on myself, I plan to look ahead instead of concentrating on what I did not do in these past 12 months. So there will be no 2014 in review for me, no enforced catching up on books I read and should have written about. A shame, certainly, and I will probably wish I had written about them sometime in the future, but it is just not realistic to ask that of myself right now. If I want to return to books I have read in the past few months, I will, but not because the blog needs content or because I feel obliged to myself to catch up.

Instead, I plan to write about books that I have read in 2015. Starting with the book I finished yesterday: Finding Violet Park. Hopefully, I will actually write about a book right upon finishing it, instead of letting it linger for weeks, and then months.

I also have other goals in mind:

  • Actually keeping track of my reading stats (Ana’s end of the year post is always a thing of beauty and example);
  • YAY for random reading!!!! (but of course, I secretly also plan to do the following:);
  • I am at 25 of 100 books for the A Century of Books challenge. I hope to get to at least 50 by the end of 2015. Or I could start over since I hardly reviewed any of the books? Perhaps that’s a better idea;
  • I want to reduce my TBR pile to 450 unread books by the end of 2015. Today, it is at 486. So that means 36 books to read, or more should I buy new ones (which will inevitably happen);
  • I have not looked at my Classics Club list in ages. Perhaps I should revisit it;
  • Read one non-fiction book a month;
  • And I shall be embarking on the project that has been lingering in my mind these past months: the Children’s Books project (more on which, later).

Happy 2015 everyone! Do you have any reading and blogging resolutions?

Announcing: Advent with Alcott

adventwithalcottReturning for the third time… Advent with [Enter author name with an A here].. We’ve done Austen and we’ve tackled Margaret Atwood, now we felt it was time to focus on Louisa May Alcott.

Perhaps you have always wanted to (re)read Little Women? Or to read the other books about Jo and her sisters? Or maybe you’d like to try a selection of Alcott’s other writings? You could also read about her life and times. Anything! (There is quite a list of titles to choose from according to Gutenberg).

Join us by reading and/or engaging with any media related to Louisa May Alcott during Advent (Nov 30 — Dec 24). Post your thoughts on your blog, or join the conversation on twitter (#AWAlcott)

I am particularly tempted by the pretty Penguin edition of her Christmas stories.

Oh, and we are planning to do another group watch. I cannot wait to revisit the 1994 Little Women movie. (The date of the watch-along will be announced shortly).

As was the case during previous years, I am co-hosting Advent with Alcott with Yvann, Ana, Alexandra, and Lyndsey.

Will you join us? Are you planning to read anything in particular?