Love’s Labor’s Lost by William Shakespeare

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Title: Love’s Labor’s Lost by William Shakespeare

Premise:

The King and his companions have vowed to spend three years in serious study, avoiding the company of women, among other luxuries.  When the Princess and her entourage show up on a diplomatic errand, the King has to foreswear his vow to avoid female company.  Each man is smitten with one of the ladies and sends her a love letter and favor, trying to keep it secret from the others.  In the end all of their romantic maneuvering is made known and the men come clean about their intentions.  The ladies, however, are not so easily swayed.  They demand more serious proof before they are willing to entertain the men’s ideas of romance.

My thoughts:

I haven’t read Shakespeare for a long time!  Though this story is lighthearted and fluffy, it still manages to make some commentary on the foibles of love and romance.  The King and his men make complete fools of themselves as they pursue the Princess and her ladies in waiting.  The ladies are having none of it and keep their wits about them, even demanding proof of their suitor’s love at the end.  If the men are serious about their love and commitment to the maidens, they must each fulfill a mission given by their respective lady.  This is a refreshing departure from the typical man-wins-woman formula.

I enjoyed the overall tone of the play, which was very playful and upbeat.  The characters have fun with witty wordplay, although I didn’t particularly care for the parts that devolved into suggestive references.  The difficulty of the language and the sometimes suggestive comments make me think this play would be best for readers in high school and older.

It was really helpful to have an introduction to the book and the footnotes throughout.  A good amount of the vocabulary and sayings are completely obsolete in modern English.  Without a bit of help, a lot of the original meaning would be lost on today’s readers.

I recommend Love’s Labor’s Lost to readers who enjoy classic literature and a mental workout all in one!

Possible Objections:

  • Several jokes featuring sexual innuendo

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

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The Smurf King by Peyo

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Title: The Smurf King by Peyo

Notable: Book #3 in The Smurfs Graphic Novels series

Premise:

When Papa Smurf goes away on a trip, one of the Smurfs decides that they should vote to decide who is in charge while he’s gone.  This Smurf makes promises to the other Smurfs so they’ll vote for him.  When he gets elected, the power goes to the Smurf King’s head and his subjects start to regret their decision.  Includes “The Smurf King” and “The Smurfony.”

My thoughts:

This is quite a politically charged Smurf story!  Though the story is aimed at kids, any adult reading it will pick up on the subtle commentary made about any political system in which one person holds power over another.  The Smurf King ends up turning into a bit of tyrant and feels that he has the right to rule over the others.  He makes them build a grand palace and throws Jokey in prison.

Eventually the others become so frustrated with his high-and-mighty ways, that they defect to the woods to build a new village.  They no longer want a King to rule over them, and pretty soon Papa Smurf returns and puts everything to rights again.

I recommend The Smurf King to fans of the Smurfs.  If you enjoy political commentary, this is a fun way to get a dose of it!

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

City of Light, City of Poison: Murder, Magic, and the First Police Chief of Paris by Holly Tucker

City of Light

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Title: City of Light, City of Poison: Murder, Magic, and the First Police Chief of Paris by Holly Tucker

Premise:

During the reign of King Louis XIV of France, a man named La Reynie was appointed as the first police chief in Paris.  La Reynie worked tirelessly to bring the city’s crime under control, installing so many street lamps that Paris came to be known as the City of Light.  The police chief also uncovered a complicated web of crime which brought to light the poison, witchcraft, and murder taking place even in the upper echelons of society.

My thoughts:

This was such an ambitious book!  Not only was it a monumental task to write, but it’s a challenge to read, as well.  It’s like trying to take five loosely associated soap operas (with all their complicated drama), and trying to form them into one cohesive story.  Not easy.  I think the thing that saves the book from becoming totally unmanageable is that the subject matter is so juicy and interesting.  Even if you have to keep going back to check who the characters are and what they did, you do it because you want to understand the intricacies of this twisted tale.

While reading this book, you may doubt that it’s non-fiction because of how fantastical the events are, but rest assured that this is authentic French history at its finest!  I told my husband when I got done with the book that I was so glad that I wasn’t alive back then.  Those were some majorly messed up people!

So, the gist of the story is that La Reynie was appointed the first official police chief of Paris–a city positively drowning in crime.  The book talks about some of the general improvements and goals La Reynie had for the city, but the bulk of the story centers on a strange period of time called the Affair.  In a nutshell, it was La Reynie’s investigation into some very high profile poisonings and other crimes, and the extremely tangled web he tried to unravel.  You will be quite shocked by the lengths some of these nobles went to to get what they wanted.

I found the book highly interesting, but I’ll warn you that you need to be mentally on your toes to follow the story.  The author necessarily had to give a lot of back story and weave together many threads, and it can be difficult to follow.  There are also a few parts that might be rather uncomfortable to some readers.  Most of it is towards the end of the book when the interrogations take place.  Some of the things they described are just gross and offensive.

I recommend City of Lights, City of Poison to adults who enjoy history and are not afraid to hear all the ugly details.  Even if you’re not a history fan, this book reads like fiction, so you would probably enjoy it, too.

Possible Objections:

  • some grotesque descriptions
  • some semi-explicit sexual stuff
  • violence

Rating: 4 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley

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The Mists of Avalon is the last book from my Thrift Store Fantasy Reading Challenge.  Woohoo–I’m done!  I think that I had read one other King Arthur tale sometime in the dim past, but I didn’t remember too much about it.  So with this book, I felt like I was learning most of the tale for the first time.

Premise:

This book tells the King Arthur saga from the vantage point of the women who were involved in the story.  A very welcome and interesting perspective!  It starts with Viviane (The Lady), Merlin, Uther, and Igraine.  From there the story continues through the next two generations–to Gwydion, Galahad, etc.  It’s not only a story about King Arthur and his court, but about Druids and Christians vying for dominance in Britain.  There is so much that happens in this 800+ page book that I couldn’t comment on all of it even if I wanted to.  (And trust me, I do not want to.)

My thoughts:

I’m not going to lie to you, this is a tough book to read.  Between the somewhat slow start, the sometimes relaxed pace of the narrative, the formal language, and the sheer volume of pages, it is a challenge to get through.  I’d say that definitely once you’re about a third of the way in, you’re going to be so caught up in the drama, intrigue and soap opera-esqueness of the book that you’ll want to keep going.  You will feel like it’s never going to end, though.  There’s just no getting past that.

I loved the plot.  It was very complex and even though I new the gist of the story, I was still gobbling it up to see what would happen next.  The cast of characters was also superb.  There were so many–all with different personalities, loyalties, motivation.  You’re bound to find at least a couple of characters whom you can identify with.  Personally, I loved Morgaine (despite her many mistakes and imperfections), and despised Gwenhwyfar.  And there were no clear-cut lines between Druid and Christian.  Each side had its share of heroes, heretics, bigots and pigheadedness.

You should also know that the discussion of religion plays a very large part in this book.  It’s a book about people, yes, but it’s also just as much about religion.  The beliefs of Christians and Druids are compared, criticized, dissected, scoffed at.  If you’re easily offended by religious criticisms or don’t want to read about religion, then this is not the book for you.  In the end, I think the author arrives at a fair and equitable conclusion on the issue of religion as it relates to the King Arthur story.

The Mists of Avalon is a story full of the things of life–love, lust, hatred, tragedy, pride, ambition, heartbreak, sacrifice, birth and death, good and evil.  It’s a story that anybody can relate to because life’s most important concerns don’t change over time.

I would recommend this book to adults because of the pervasive sexual themes.

Possible Objections:

  • A lot of sexual scenes
  • Some violence
  • Talk & criticism of religion (Druid & Christian)

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

The Glass Dragon by Irene Radford

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Reading The Glass Dragon has brought me back to my Thrift Store Fantasy Reading Challenge.  It will be good to pick up with this challenge because I really enjoy fantasy books.  This book is part of a trilogy, though I only have the first book.  I’m not sure if I’ll purposely seek out the next two, or wait around until I spot them secondhand.

I enjoyed this book and finished it in a couple of days.  The action was able to keep me interested and flipping pages.  The gist of the story is that there is a kingdom whose power is tied to dragons.  The kingdom, however, is waning in power because people have come to view dragons with suspicion and hate them, even going so far as to kill them.  A man who wants to seize power for himself takes advantage of this situation and endeavors to set himself up to take over as ruler.

There are three main characters who help fight the forces of evil–a rogue magician, a man-wolf, and a witchwoman.  They embark on a quest to save the last female dragon in the realm, and along the way they discover the power they are capable of wielding.

There is some kind of strange, unexplained sexual link between the three characters.  I didn’t quite grasp what the author was getting at (for which I am thankful).  Once that little facet of the story emerged, things started to get a bit awkward.

I think the thing I like most about this book is the creativity used in making up this enchanted world.  The reader gets descriptions of its customs, animals, geography, and more.  Its complexity reminds me of The Lord of the Rings, but not nearly as detailed.

I would recommend this book for older teens and up because of the sexual themes.

Possible Objections:

  • Some sexual scenes
  • A bit of violence

Rating: 3 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori