The Tombs of Atuan, by Ursula K. LeGuin: A Review

For ATY’s 2019 Reading Challenge prompt #40, a book you stumbled upon, I chose to read The Tombs of Atuan. I frequently browse the used book sections of thrift stores, and I ran across this book in one of those. I knew it was one I wanted to read, so I picked it up, despite not having the first book of the Earthsea series. I have since read that book – A Wizard of Earthsea – last year, making this a very natural choice for this prompt.

In this story, we meet Tenar, a young girl taken at the age of five to be trained as the next First Priestess to the Nameless Ones. In preparation for this new role, she is stripped of everything, including her name. She becomes Arha, The Eaten One. The bulk of the story is learning who Arha is and what her world is like. As she grows up in this Place where she serves as Priestess, she is trained by the Priestesses of the Twin Gods and of the Godking.

And then a stranger arrives and turns Arha’s world upside down. She is no longer sure of what is right or real. She is confronted with her own belief system, forced to face everything she has been taught.

I love LeGuin’s writing style. It is beautiful, and flows so smoothly, you don’t mind the time it takes to get anywhere. LeGuin tells Tenar’s story with such subtlety, you can’t help but get a sense of the deeper political story that underlies what’s immediately clear. Tenar herself is kept in ignorance, but through the action and the words left unsaid, the reader can’t help but feel the dangers that surround her.

A 1972 Newbery Honor book, The Tombs of Atuan has received much recognition. LeGuin’s Earthsea books might be her best known series. It is well worth reading, and I am looking forward to “stumbling upon” the rest of the series, a bit more deliberately, most likely.

Unlock the Muse – August 6, 2019

I’m on vacation this week. From the day job. Other things, like parenting and writing, don’t offer vacation time. As in all things, taking a break can be beneficial. Especially after reaching a milestone, or completing a large task – such as Camp NaNoWriMo. A short break can recharge and rejuvenate your creative energies. Just don’t forget to bring that renewed energy back to the writing project.

Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

Switch writing tools: Can’t come up with anything while sitting in front of the computer? Grab a pen and paper. Use a tape recorder (do they still make those?). Scribble random phrases on Post-it notes or napkins. Use anything that makes writing easier.

In other words, take a vacation from your writing routine. Break it up and try something fresh.

It’s a new month, and Unlock the Muse is going on vacation. So to speak. Vacation is a break. It means relaxation and fun. And so, for the month of August, we’re going to the beach, we’re going to play, relax, read a book.

Take some time out this month to play and daydream. Take a mini-vacation, if you will, from the writing project. For myself, this means I’m planning to do a lot of reading. I’m behind on my reading challenge, so I plan to read a lot of books. But it also means I’ll be reading through my growing collection of notes on the novel in progress and attempting to bring some semblance of order to all of it.

What will you do to change things up this month?

Happy writing!

The Black Stallion, by Walter Farley: A Review

The 2019 Popsugar Reading Challenge, prompt #2, is a book that makes me feel nostalgic. I pondered my choice for this one for a little bit, but soon settled on The Black Stallion, by Walter Farley. As a young girl I read many of Farley’s books, including this one. I remember loving it very much. This time, I got to read it aloud with my nine-year old son, which only added to the nostalgia factor.

In this story, a boy, Alec Ramsey, is on his way home to New York from India. I still can hardly believe the idea of a boy his age traveling along like this, but it was a different time. Along the way, a horse, black as midnight, is brought on board, and Alec is fascinated.

Before the ship can reach its destination, there is a massive storm and the ship goes down. In the chaos of evacuation, Alec remembers the horse which has been abandoned, still tied into his stall. Alec manages to cut the horse loose, but in the process is swept overboard. He latches on to the ropes still attached to the horse, and together they make it to a deserted island.

Much of the book details the time spent on the island, Alec’s efforts to survive and to save the horse – which he dubs the Black – as well. Eventually the two are rescued and the second half of the story tells of Alec and the Black’s adventures in New York.

Set in the early 1940s, it might feel dated to some, but Farley captures the excitement of the time very well, drawing no doubt from personal experience to create an intensely believable atmosphere. Also, having recently read the story of Seabiscuit, I enjoyed this aspect of the story even more.

I loved this book all over again. And loved even more my son’s response to it. It was a magical time we shared together, and definitely made me feel nostalgic!

Second Star, by J. M. Sullivan: A Review

For the 2019 Popsugar Reading Challenge prompt #15, a retelling of a classic, I chose to read Second Star, by J. M. Sullivan. I first encountered J. M. Sullivan on Twitter when she was getting ready to release her first book, Alice: The Wanderland Chronicles. The retelling prompt this year coincided nicely with the release of her second book – her sci-fi rendition of the classic Peter Pan story.

In this book, Wendy Darling is a new recruit in the Londonierre Brigade. The first part of the book focuses on Darling’s training and rapid rise through the ranks. An exceptional candidate, she has been recruited earlier than most. As a result, she isn’t well liked by her peers. Darling is soon befriended by two other recruits who, like her, are a little on the outside of the popular crowd. These three quickly become inseparable.

Meanwhile, a certain Captain James Hooke has been marooned on an alien planet along with his crew, which includes ship’s mechanic, Peter Pan. This planet has odd time flow issues, and it turns out a distress call from the planet is finally intercepted by the Brigade a hundred years later. Wendy Darling, now ready to graduate from the academy, is assigned a ship and a crew and given the assignment to locate and rescue Hooke and his crew.

What ensues is a wildly fun look at this classic story through a sci-fi lens. Sullivan has wonderfully re-imagined this story in unexpected ways, complete with a tiny AI version of Tinkerbell. I loved this book! I look forward to more by J. M. Sullivan.

Sweet Myth-tery of Life, by Robert Asprin: A Review

I wasn’t especially excited by prompt #22 on the 2019 Popsugar Reading Challenge, a book with a title that contains “sweet,” “bitter,” “salty,” or “spicy.” It felt like there were too many prompts that were too much like this one. However, I wanted to stick to the challenge as it is, so I chose to read Sweet Myth-tery of Life by Robert Asprin. It turned out to be the only book on my shelves that qualified for this category.

This book is #10 in the Myth Adventures series. I have not yet read the rest of the series, so once again, I took a chance jumping into the middle of a series. This is turning out to not be such a great experiment. Lesson learned, I’ll start from the beginning from now on!

In this book, master magician Skeeve is faced with a seemingly impossible decision – marry the queen, or she will resign and name him king. While deliberating on his choice, he has been tasked with reorganizing the finances of the nearly bankrupt kingdom, a thankless and uncomfortable position.

This is supposed to be a humorous romp across magical realms where trouble lurks for the unwary. And trouble comes in many forms – financial troubles, inter-dimensional troubles, romantic troubles, even dragon troubles.

I’ve heard a lot about this series, as well as Asprin’s other works. He is a favorite author among some other members of a book club I belong to. I wanted to check out his books, and I had randomly picked up a couple of them some time back. More than likely, my enjoyment of this story was hindered by having not read what came before. I didn’t know anything about these characters and their previous history. This book seemed to presume that prior knowledge existed.

I wanted to like this book more than I did. But to be honest, I was bored. And more than a little bit confused. I may one day return to this series (from the beginning!), but I’m not in any hurry to do so.