Book Personality Challenge | Blog Tag

Last week I saw Sara @ The Bibliophagist complete this tag, and it looked like a lot of fun. Since I wanted to take the quiz anyway, I decided why not go ahead and make it a blog post. Looking down the tag chain, I see that neither of the previous bloggers were tagged themselves, so I see myself taking part in a proud line of blog tag lifters. ❤

Want to do it?! Go on! Take it! I’m tagging no one on purpose today.

Guidelines

  1. Take the personality test at 16 Personalities (~12 minutes long)
  2. Take the questions listed below and answer them with your test results

Easy peasy.


#1 What is your MBTI personality type?

I am an idealistic Mediator (INFP, -A/-T).

According to my personality type, I act as a diplomat in social situations and am constantly on a path for improvement. This is so true, it’s not even funny. I’m always trying to keep myself from spiraling out of bounds on my quest for self-improvement and personal enlightenment. I feel like one of my greatest fears in life is having no goals and nothing to strive for.

#2 If you were a character in a book, what would be some of your character strengths and flaws?

I find these lists embarrassingly accurate, as I’ve found myself needing to work on my weaknesses. On a side note, I think I know why I love and identified with Vicky Austin so much as a kid!

Strengths:

  • Idealistic
  • Seeks & values harmony
  • Open-minded & flexible
  • Very creative
  • Passionate & energetic
  • Dedicated & hard-working

Weaknesses:

  • Too idealistic
  • Too altruistic (Note: Don’t really see myself as this to be honest!)
  • Impractical
  • Dislike dealing with data
  • Takes things personally
  • Difficult to get to know

#3 Do any authors share your personality type?

Yes, not surprisingly at all! William Shakespeare and J.R.R. Tolkien…To be honest, not some of my favs. I’ve not ever been able to get into their works. Nevertheless, I’m impressed by their accomplishments and am honored to be amongst them.

#4 Which fictional characters share your personality type?

Not terribly familiar with many of these works or these characters, unfortunately! From what little I do know about a handful them, I don’t see a very strong likeness.

#5 If you were a character in a book, what job would you have?

I feel like a lot of these jobs are for people far more selfless than I am, but I would still like to see myself work in academia. I’m still crossing my fingers that the whole writing thing works out, though!

One thing I will admit is that I’ve always found pleasure in helping others succeed, which is why I thought I might like to teach for a time. But I don’t think that I’d be happy or even all that great working in health care. I think I’d get in trouble. I’m not great with rude people…

#6 What personality type would complete your OTP?

According to this personality compatibility website, INFPs go well with ENFJ (“Protagonist”) and ENTJ (“Commander”) types. The rationale is that more extroverted people balance out the introverts’ shortcomings. I can see how this works, since most of my best friends in my life have been more extraverted, because they were willing to make the first move and open up. I’ve always noticed I struggled with introverted people similar to me in real life!

#7 Who are some fictional characters that would complete your OTP?

Honestly, I’m not super impressed with the sample characters provided in this quiz. I’m not very familiar with any of these movies/shows, nor do I have the interest in exploring them at the time. Elizabeth Bennet is interesting!

Protagonists:

Commanders:

THE FICTIONAL CHARACTERS (THAT I RECOGNIZED) ARE TOO TERRIFYING TO LIST. Instead, let it be known I would be compatible with the likes of Harrison Ford, Jim Carrey, & Franklin D. Roosevelt.

End Note

This was a really fun challenge and I encourage anyone who wants to try it to give it a go. I feel like I’m not too surprised by my results. If anything, it reminds me to embrace my strengths to find what jobs and opportunities that would make me happy in life. Also, it reminds me that I need to try to open up more and keep my eyes open to the world around me so that I don’t end up isolated and alone forever and ever.

Normally I try to forecast what my next posts will be at the end of each post, but I’ve fallen a bit behind of my plans. I’m going to try to get my book review of City of the Beasts finished and up on the blog today so that’ll be next, but otherwise…It’s the end of the month! So expect a wrap up soon! I’ve been wanting to break out of my regular format, so we’ll see how that goes.

Thank you for reading!
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Dragons in the Waters by Madeleine L’Engle

dragonsReleased: April 1, 1976
Pages: 326 pages (paperback)
Theme(s): Fate and destiny, family history, shared human consciousness, value of ancestors, overcoming one’s past, finding one’s place
Genre(s): YA / Contemporary / Fiction
Age Group: 12+

★★1/2

A stolen heirloom painting…a shipboard murder…Can Simon and the O’Keefe clan unravel the mystery?

Thirteen-year-old Simon Renier has no idea when he boards the M.S. Orion with his cousin Forsyth Phair that the journey will take him not only to Venezuela, but into his past as well. His original plan to return a family heirloom, portrait of Simon Bolivar, to its rightful place is sidetracked when cousin Forsyth is found murdered. Then, when the portrait is stolen, all passengers and crew become suspect.

Simon’s newfound friends, Poly and Charles O’Keefe, and their scientist father help Simon to confront the danger that threaten him. But Simon alone must face up to his fears. What has happened to the treasured portrait? And who among them is responsible for the theft and the murder?

Forward

I decided to read Dragons in the Waters after Troubling a Star this month 1) because I had already owned it, 2) because it was another novel set at sea, and 3) I wondered if I’d get The Arm of the Starfish vibes, considering it’s another book that features another male protagonist who comes into contact with the young and precocious Poly O’Keefe (Meg Murray’s daughter).

I feel I remember starting this book, but I don’t remember if I ever finished it. I own it in a fairly nice condition in an older cover print. I just don’t remember when I bought it. There are a few other Madeleine L’Engle books I own but haven’t read and have since decided to keep despite the fact I’d never read them. These include the books from the Time Quartet, Many Waters and A Swiftly Tilting Planet. I’ve given them both a shot in the past, but they’re much heavier science fiction and trippy in a way I don’t like.

Not knowing why I had yet to read (or didn’t remember) Dragons in the Waters, I hoped it would nicely compliment the other L’Engle works I knew I wanted to read and showcase this month on Betwined Reads. Unfortunately, I did not really enjoy this book and actually thought about not reviewing it. But I didn’t my time spent trudging through the book to go to waste, and turned my experience into a teachable by attempting to explain what went wrong for me. So here is the review for the book I rated 2.5 stars.

My Thoughts

That’s right; this is Madeleine L’Engle novel that I did not really like or enjoy very much. I found the plot overcomplicated and the novel cluttered with useless characters that seemed were only present to serve as red herrings to the murder mystery. It’s also a novel that I don’t think would really appeal to children, despite the young characters in the novel. They’re all so unusually bright, intuitive, and precocious.

The novel opens with 13-year-old Simon Renier who is boarding a ship for a trip to Venezuela accompanied by a long-lost relative who just bought a family heirloom from his legal guardian and great aunt Leonis. He has been raised by this elderly but wise woman since he lost his parents. Poly and Charles O’Keefe comment that Simon seems like he’s from another era because of his isolation from other children. He’s a kind, intelligent, and polite boy that was raised in near poverty but with a woman who is a relic of Southern aristocracy.

…Neither Mr. Theo nor Aunt Leonis would want him to moan and groan, and he didn’t intend to. But when a memory flickered at the corners of his mind he had learned that it was best to bring it out into the open; and rather than making him sorry for himself, it helped him get rid of self-pity…

This book explores many different character points-of-view, not just staying over Simon’s shoulder. We see what his Aunt Leonis gets up to while he’s away and also get to know the intimate side of other characters on the ships that their fellow passengers don’t get to see. At first, I thought all these older side characters were just there as red herrings, but upon further reflection I realize that each of them come to terms with something in their past that was haunting them while aboard the ship.

Many of the scenes with characters I was excited to see show up in this novel felt more like they were mere cameos. I loved Mr. Theo in The Young Unicorns (a review for which is now coming later this year!) and I love “Uncle Father”, a.k.a. Canon Tallis, but their parts were so minuscule in this book. Canon Tallis in particular swooped in like Hercule Poirot, seemingly just to tell everyone what he has deduced based on his interviews with a few central characters.

This book, like Troubling a Star, has some political, social, and environmental commentary, which I have since learned is typical of a L’Engle novel, but it’s done a lot better in other of her works. If I had to decide on what is the big take away from this novel, I couldn’t tell you. That’s just how jumbled everything was in my opinion. I just found this book over-long and lacking in a unified message. There’s still a lot of heart in this book, though, and if you have patience you might be able to see this one through.

Craft

I do not know anything about Madeleine L’Engle’s writing life or insight on the work that goes into creating her books, so much of what I will say here (about Dragons in the Waters specifically, not her others works) is speculation. Something about this book feels like it was a written with less regard for plot and more reliance upon formula of elements that make a murder mystery.

If I had more time or the inclination, I think it would be a fun experiment to try and rewrite this novel with a stronger plot outline. The heart of the story is about Simon discovering who his ancestor was and how past injustices have drawn Simon to Venezuela. I think that’s a strong hook for an intriguing story. I’m all for stories where ancestors’s past actions influence the destinies of current day characters (see L’Engle do it better in Troubling a Star!)

Unfortunately L’Engle complicates this story by having a lot of side characters with unique histories that help advance Simon’s destiny and provide red herrings to the murder mystery. These side characters take up a lot of page time, without interesting me much in the slightest.

One thing I really didn’t like is how L’Engle called hispanic people Latins. I’ve never heard that before, but it read to me similarly to the way it sounds when old white people call black people negroes. I don’t at all think it was intentional racism, and I’m aware that it was a different time, but this word gnawed at me in a peculiar way. Grouping people colloquially by a name that specifies race or color so explicitly is not really something we do anymore.

Also, there were subtle implications that race was related to temperament. Many of the characters in this book were of mixed heritage, but there were specific aspects of their character/personality that L’Engle explicitly links to their hispanic roots. None of these instances were derogatory in any way, but I don’t think anyone would appreciate someone placing so much emphasis on a racial or ethnic background to explain who a person is or how they act. Even if it’s meant as a compliment.

I appreciate that L’Engle loved writing novels were American came into contact with other parts of the world and people of different nationalities. Her books always praise people based on their goodness and not their education, race, or economics. Nevertheless, this book serves as a reminder that even the most well-meaning of writers need to be careful in writing people who are of different identities.

Outgoing Message

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little series if you’ve been keeping up with each review thus far. This marks the final review I’ll be doing of Madeleine L’Engle’s works until later this year when I get to The Young Unicorns (a cosy autumnal read).

I didn’t imagine that these posts would bring in much traffic, as Madeleine L’Engle’s been gone for a while now and YA has changed so much. I used to idealize YA written in the past. I loved reading how teenagers lived before the technology and social media that emerging when I was still in middle school. I’ve realized I’m searching for something whenever I reach for a L’Engle book, although don’t ask me what that is. I’m still trying to figure that out.

Next up is my review of The City of Beasts by Isabel Allende, a fantastic hispanic author! If you want to catch up on the reviews that came before this one, here they are linked below:

A Ring of Endless Light

The Arm of the Starfish

Troubling a Star

Have you read Dragons in the Waters? If so, what’d you think?!

Thank you for reading!
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The Sunshine Blogger Award | Blog Tag

It was a lovely surprise and honor last weekend to be nominated by Sara @ The Bibliophagist for the Sunshine Blogger Award. I’d never thought I’d be nominated for such a positive award and it makes me want to live up to it!

Since I’ve been busy with my reading project and writing my novel, I was delighted to have something extra to share on the blog today that allow you all to get to know me a little bit better. It was fun thinking about my answers to the questions and hope you all enjoy!

sunshine1

☼ WHAT IS THE SUNSHINE BLOGGER AWARD? ☼

The Sunshine Blogger Award is given to those who are creative, positive, and inspiring while spreading sunshine to the blogging community.

☼ THE RULES ☼

  1. Thank the person/persons that nominated you and link back to their blog.
  2. Answer the 11 questions your nominator has given you.
  3. Nominate 11 other people and give them 11 new questions to answer.
  4. List the rules and display the award.

☼ 11 QUESTIONS FROM Sara @ THE BIBLIOPHAGIST ☼

#1 Chocolate or coffee?

Unpopular opinion alert! I’m not the world’s biggest fan of chocolate. I enjoy it now and then, but I can’t eat it all the time. I have a sensitive sweet tooth. So coffee all the way. I didn’t start drinking coffee until my junior year of college really, so I was a late convert. But now I don’t feel like my day has truly started unless I’ve had some.

Mochas are my favorite, though, and that’s basically chocolate coffee!

#2 What’s your perfect “me” time?

I love having a day to myself where I don’t need to go anywhere or have any commitments. I like to shower and be clean, after having worked out and/or cleaned my room, and slip into freshly washed bedsheets and just Netflix and chill. Or YouTube and chill (depends on the day).

#3 Who’s your most read author?

Right now I would probably say Leigh Bardugo, just because I can always find a reason to pick up one of her books. Her books are so enjoyable! I love the Grisha universe. And I’m a nerd who can marvel at writing craft and inventiveness, so there’s always something to gain from reading one of her YA fantasies.

#4 What book are you always thinking about even though you read it a long time ago?

I don’t think my answer would be the same all the time, but I do find myself thinking a lot about Franny & Zoeey by J.D. Salinger. I reread it earlier this year and remembered why I fell in love with it. Most recently I’ve been thinking about it because I’ve moved my furniture around again this week and have some spare wall paper that I’ve been wanting to do something with.

In Franny & Zooey, Zooey goes into his older brothers’ childhood room and finds the back door is covered in large sheet of paper filled to its limit with quotes from favorite authors, leaders, and thinkers. I like the idea of doing this.

#5 What was the happiest day of your life?

I don’t have any big life moments that I can say have made any specific day my happiest. I feel most elated on days where I’ve have great conversations with people I care about, where I’ve found out my hard work has paid off, and where I’ve been able to truly forget all my problems and enjoy small pleasures (like hanging out with friends). These days are too few and far between!

#6 If you could spend the day with any fictional character, who would it be and what would you do?

I think I’d like to walk around 1950s New York City with Holden Caulfield. I just rewatched season one of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel so I have somewhat rosy picture of NYC during that time period in my head right now. And in that book, Holden seems like he needs someone to talk to and most of the time I don’t mind hearing about other people’s problems; it takes my mind off of my own for a change. I like wandering around new places, so I think that would be lovely!

#7 If there’s one unfinished book/TV/any other medium series that you could have finished right now, which would it be?

I’d love get my hands of Leigh Bardugo’s newest Grishaverse book King of Scars!

#8 You’re given the option of knowing the exact date and time of your death or staying blissfully unaware. Which do you pick?

Well, I have a few questions about the scenario where I find out. Would I be able to change any of my actions leading up to it, not necessarily to prevent it but to make sure I left no loose ends in my life? Or would I find out and…what? Instantly forget about it so that I can’t change anything?

…I realize this is probably a weird answer, but I think I’d like to know!

#9 If you were told you could be an expert in any one thing instantly, what would you pick?

World languages! I’d love to be some sort of translator, be able to travel the world, and be involved in important diplomatic meetings and such.

#10 What’s the most recent book that you were unable to (or struggled to) finish?

Oh, this happens all the time in some sort of capacity. I’ll offer two answers, both non-fiction. Spreadable Media is one on a topic that I find really interesting and I’ve not really struggled to actually read it, but I just struggled to make time for it. Another is A Nervous Splendor: Vienna 1888/1889. I like historical fiction, but this one is just so detailed I’ve struggled to get very far into it. It hastened a reading slump last year.

#11 If you had six months with no obligations or financial constraints, what would you do with the time?

I would go travel Europe, practice the languages I’ve been trying to learn, write in places that inspire me, meet new people, and try to find a way to leave the U.S. permanently (and legally)!

 ☙ ❧ End Note ❧ ☙ 

I hope you enjoyed reading my answers! I think I’ll have fun revisiting them one day and see how my answers have changed. I don’t really know who to tag, eleven is a lot of people! Also, I don’t really have the time to think up some awesome questions, so I probably wouldn’t even have changed them up much! If you’d like to answer some of the questions in the comment section down below I’d love to read your answers ^_^

I have a busy week ahead of me and more fun stuff planned for the blog. This month is really just passing me by so quickly, it’s a little scary…

Thank you for reading!
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Troubling a Star by Madeleine L’Engle

troublingasReleased: September 30, 1994
Pages: 336 pages (paperback)
Theme(s): Conservation, environmental protection, patriotism, authoritarian governments vs. democracy, post-Cold War, world conflict
Genre(s): YA / Contemporary / Fiction
Age Group: 12+

★★★1/2

The Austins have settled back into their beloved home in the country after more than a year away. Though they had all missed the predictability and security of life in Thornhill, Vicky Austin is discovering that slipping back into her old life isn’t easy. She’s been changed by life in New York City and her travels around the country while her old friends seem to have stayed the same. So Vicky finds herself spending time with a new friend, Serena Eddington—the great-aunt of a boy Vicky met over the summer.

Aunt Serena gives Vicky an incredible birthday gift—a month-long trip to Antarctica. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime. But Vicky is nervous. She’s never been away from her family before. Once she sets off though, she finds that’s the least of her worries. She receives threatening letters. She’s surrounded by suspicious characters. Vicky no longer knows who to trust. And she may not make it home alive.

Forward

Unlike with The Arm of the Starfish, I could remember the first time I read Troubling a Star. I don’t know why, but I just remember I read in in a big hardcover format. Maybe because this book was published in the 1990s, the library still had a first-edition hardcover copy with the dust jacket. I’m pretty sure I read this one around 8th grade and still remember some of the stuff that really resonated with me.

Specifically, I remember really relating to Vicky about being ignorant of what was going on in the world internationally. Since about 6th grade, standardized reading assessments had always recommended I read more non-fiction, newspapers, etc. I had been really adverse to that kind of thing when I was younger. I was happy to keep my head in the clouds, much like Vicky! I never saw it as a bad thing, maybe because of these books (and similar ones)!

Anyway, this book is very different from many of L’Engle’s other works stylistically and tonally. I think it was because so much time had passed since she’d written about Vicky Austin. I feel like she may have known this was the last time she’d write about Vicky considering how this book finds the girl in such tremendous danger that is heightened by the naivety for which she is cherished in earlier books.

I rated this book 3.5 stars, primarily because I found the novel dragged for me at certain parts. I’ll be honest, the major appeal of rereading this book was to continue reading about Adam, but he is barely present in this book. Regardless, I think this novel has some important lessons and a message I find really important. (And after having read Dragons in the Waters, I look upon this book with more appreciation.)

My Thoughts

This book is set a little over a year after A Ring of Endless Light (reviewed last week) but was published about 14 years after. You might wonder why I make a note of the years between the books, and it is because I find it helpful when I’m considering character consistency in the books. For this book, I think it is integral because it’s the final that features the beloved Vicky Austin.

We get to see the Austin family settle back into their home in Thornhill after a year away in New York (see The Young Unicorns) and their final summer with their beloved grandfather (see A Ring of Endless Light). Vicky has found it hard to fit back into her school where the kids seem less cultured and less eager to branch outside of their hometown.

Luckily, Adam Eddington connects her with his (great) Aunt Serena. She fills a void left by the loss of her grandfather and helps keep Vicky connected with Adam who attends college in California. Vicky learns that her Adam is the third in his family, a proud line of men who worked in science. His immediate predecessor, Aunt Serena’s son, vanished in Antarctica after performing crucial work on the continent.

After receiving the generous gift of passage to Antarctica to visit Adam Eddington where he has an internship, Vicky finds herself naturally drawn into the mystery of what happened to Adam II and unwittingly into the politics behind his work on the continent. Before she leaves for Antarctica, she begins receiving mysterious messages in her locker at school. The threatening notes only increase the closer she gets to Antarctica, coming alongside Adam’s increasing cryptic letters that seem to signal his lack of interest in her.

Much of Troubling a Star is set in the Vespugia (a fictional South American country run by a power-hungry dictator) and aboard the Argosy, a scientific crew ship that hosts an eclectic bunch of people interested in Antarctica for variety of personal reasons. Vicky finds herself unexpectedly thrown into danger where people mistake her naivety as a disguise of something that threatens their plans to exploit the continent for their country’s own gain.

…The planet has been sending us multiple messages, and the powers that be have ignored them. So it’s up to us, and my guess is that when you’ve finished this trip you’ll feel as protective of this amazing land as I do…

I loved the insight into the politics surrounding this continent in the 20th century. It’s not something I knew much about and I’m interested in learning more. I don’t know when exactly the book is set, but I can only imagine the environment is even more threatened now, which is especially sad considering much of this book is concerned with educating readers, through the characters, about how important it is they take what they learn aboard the Argosy home to protect this land from the devastation that in 2018 seems inevitable given the current U.S. political climate.

Craft

Before I get started, I feel I would be remiss if I didn’t admit I thought this book was rather clumsy on first impression. It’s very different from L’Engle’s other works, for the two reasons I’ll elaborate on below. First, she experimented in this book with a new style of storytelling that I found somewhat effective in keeping my interest piqued at the start of each chapter.

This is the first book of L’Engle’s that I’ve read that jumps back and forth between a current danger and the events leading up to that present day drama. Most of the story is told in flashbacks. From the beginning we see Vicky has been stranded on a glacier and is waiting for someone to realize she is missing and return for her before it’s too late. She doesn’t reveal what exactly led to her being stranded on the glacier, so we can only guess until the end of the book where her flashbacks catch up to the moment she is saved.

The second reason this book felt very different from her others is that I picked up on a sense of urgency to speak about environmental protection. This is not the first of L’Engle’s books to get political. I think she does it very cleverly by creating fictional countries that stand in for the ones she was truly critical of at the time, Vespugia representing unstable South American countries with dictators and Zlatovica representing the unfortunate countries Russia hid under its Iron Curtain during the Cold War.

This book is very critical, and rightly so, of people who act blindly for the advancement of their own country at the expense of the rest of the world. It’s clear that L’Engle was trying to teach readers of this book about Antarctica, to foster the same kind of love I can only imagine she felt for this formidable land and its creatures. I applaud the effort, but as someone who first and foremost looks at the story at the heart of a novel, I found the environmental message which took away from the story I would’ve loved more from.

My biggest takeaway from this book, from the writing perspective, is that I found myself thinking about how I’d go about writing YA contemporaries like L’Engle in 2018. The world is still a dangerous place, Antarctica is far worse off than it was in the 90s, there are even more problems facing young people today. I feel like L’Engle’s books are not just stories you’re meant to gobble but time capsules with insight into the period in which they were written that we can read not just for enjoyment but with a critical eye…

Outgoing Message

I hope you’re enjoying these reviews if you’ve been keeping up with them. In case you weren’t aware, I’ve been reviewing some of my favorite books by Madeleine L’Engle this month (see my reviews of A Ring of Endless Light and The Arm of the Starfish).

Next week I’ll be sharing one more Madeleine L’Engle book review for Dragons in the Waters. To be honest, I didn’t really like it and didn’t really want to promote it on my blog. So it’ll be a different kind of review for me. To foil that book, I slightly adjusted course this month to fit in The City of Beasts by Isabel Allende, the book review of which I will share next week as well!

Have you read Troubling a Star? If so, what’d you think?!

Thank you for reading!
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The Arm of the Starfish by Madeleine L’Engle

thearmReleased: January 1, 1965
Pages: 243 pages (paperback)
Theme(s): Trust, faith, picking sides, standing for something, friendship, dealing with grief
Genre(s): YA / Contemporary / Fiction
Age Group: 12+

★★★★

When Adam Eddington, a gifted marine biology student, makes the acquaintance of blond and beautiful Kali Cutter at Kennedy International Airport on his way to Portugal to spend the summer working for the renowned scientist Dr. O’Keefe, he has no idea that this seemingly chance meeting will set into motion a chain of events he will be unable to stop.

Caught between Kali’s seductive wiles and the trusting adoration of Dr. O’Keefe’s daughter, Polly, Adam finds himself enmeshed in a deadly power struggle between two groups of people, only one of which can have right on its side. As the danger escalates, Adam must make a decision that could affect the entire world–which side is he on?

Forward

I don’t remember exactly the last time I read The Arm of the Starfish. If I had to guess, I’d probably say 2012 or 2013. I feel like I might have read it before then, but I’m not sure. I know both (or just the one) time(s) I had borrowed it from the library (as a lesser known L’Engle work it is hard to find physically in stores). It’s not that it’s an unmemorable book, but it’s not one that I’ve ever had much cause to think about beyond a week or so of reading it.

There are more than a handful of books I love but don’t attempt to remember in depth so that each future time I read them it’s somewhat like the first time. This is one of them.

If you haven’t read either A Ring of Endless Light or The Arm of the Starfish, I recommend reading the former first, even though it came out after. These books are very different from one another, but I think it’s nicer to read The Arm of the Starfish with an idea of who the protagonist will become. I loved this book. I love the character of Adam and I like the journey his character takes to become the person he is in A Ring of Endless Light. I have rated this book 4 stars, primarily because I have taken my love for her other books into account.

My Thoughts

This book precedes A Ring of Endless Light (which I reviewed last week) by about 15 years in terms of publication, but takes place only a summer before the better known, more accoladed work. It features Adam Eddington as the protagonist of this summer-time escapade. It’s set in Europe, Portugal/Spain more specifically, and involves international intrigue and a top-secret scientific study. So it’s very different from the novel centered around Vicky Austin!

We get to see an Adam Eddington who is a year younger than he is A Ring of Endless Light, who is a lot less confident and sure of the world. Although he has lived a colorful life in 1960s (presumably) New York, he’s not yet been forced to make tough, life-altering decisions. In The Arm of the Starfish, he learns that scientists cannot be neutral when their work has economic and moral implications. He also learns how important is it to know who is worth trusting.

From the first chapter while Adam is innocently waiting for his plane to Europe to board, he is drawn into a dangerous plot that forces him to constantly question which people truly are on the right side of things. While he is struggling he meets the wonderful O’Keefes (a grown up Calvin and Meg from A Wrinkle in Time plus their children) and is given the space to come to his own conclusion, at which point he learns that he must play a role to keep his allegiance and a major scientific discovery a secret.

This book is short, fast-paced, and could be finished in one sitting if the reader is truly immersed in the story. If you enjoyed and were moved by A Ring of Endless Light, I think you will also be moved by this book. There’s a lot of moments of good humor and joy, but there are also some devastating ones that can have you sobbing your heart out and railing against injustice.

Craft

Since I just read La Belle Sauvage, I feel like I’m well and fully on an international-spy-thriller genre kick right now! I don’t know if I’m just easy to please or unexperienced in the genre, I feel like this book is also a good one to consult if you’re writing a book where there’s people who want to stop or exploit a new discovery and people who want to protect it.

This book gave me a major 1960s Audrey Heburn movie vibe, like Charade (1963) or How to Steal a Million (1966). I think it was the European setting, the rich and glamorous love interest, the shifty characters, and the suspense-filled plot.

Despite all the excitement, this book has the characteristic L’Engle heart to the story. There are several beautiful scenes of intense fraternal love and, on the opposite side of the scale, devastating anger. One scene that I feel has been etched into me is a scene where Adam is being taken to Gaea by Joshua, and they encounter turbulence. I’ve flown through turbulence before, and found it horrendous, so to read about them on this rickety plane and see Joshua embracing it while bellowing out classical music was elating and beautiful scene that shows the kind of person Joshua is.

Outgoing Message

Last week at the end of my review of A Ring of Endless Light, I forecasted how the next few reviews would go. I have a few updates: 1) They will not be dual reviews, because I’ve found I have so much to say, and 2) I will not longer be reading and reviewing The Young Unicorns. I’ve read this book before, so I definitely know I want to review it on this blog in the future, but from the first page I just knew that this wasn’t the best time for it. It’s a cosy autumnal read, so I’ll get to it later this year!

Instead, I’ve decided to add The City of the Beasts by Isabel Allende to the line-up this month. It one I read as a child and remember very it very fondly. I think it will nicely compliment Dragons in the Waters for a few reasons I’ll explain next week.

Have you read The Arm of the Starfish? If so, what’d you think?!

Thank you for reading!
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A Ring of Endless Light by Madeleine L’Engle

ringReleased: May 1, 1980
Pages: 332 pages (paperback)
Theme(s): Coming-of-age, dealing with grief, searching for meaning, friendship, family
Genre(s): YA / Contemporary / Fiction
Age Group: 12+

★★★★

After a tumultuous year in New York City, the Austins are spending the summer on the small island where their grandfather lives. He’s very sick, and watching his condition deteriorate as the summer passes is almost more than Vicky can bear. To complicate matters, she finds herself as the center of attention for three very different boys.

Zachary Grey, the troubled and reckless boy Vicky met last summer, wants her all to himself as he grieves the loss of his mother. Leo Rodney has been just a friend for years, but the tragic loss of his father causes him to turn to Vicky for comfort—and romance. And then there’s Adam Eddington. Adam is only asking Vicky to help with his research on dolphins. But Adam—and the dolphins—may just be what Vicky needs to get through this heartbreaking summer.

Forward

A Ring of Endless Light continues to be one of my all-time favorite books. I probably first read it around the age of 12. I’m pretty sure I read A Wrinkle in Time first, a required in-class reading in 5th grade Language Arts class, but I was aware of A Ring of Endless Light before Wrinkle because I had seen the 2002 Disney Channel Original Movie book-to-movie adaption. While I loved it then, I’m not really sure it holds up in my eyes. The movie was very different from the book and not really in a way that I can defend.

With summer approaching, I wanted to give this book a reread and shine a spot-light on this YA classic in the hope that it would find new readers. I don’t feel like there’s anything quite like it being published these days and feel like it still has a lot to offer new generations of young adults.

I feel like people may be more familiar with A Wrinkle in Time, the science fiction adventure. A Ring of Endless Light has some speculative science but all together is grounded in the real world with real-life challenges that people have to face, like losing loved ones and choosing how to live one’s life. Like Meg, Vicky is at an age where she questions everything that is happening around her and finds herself thrust into situations she isn’t fully ready for.

My Thoughts

“It’s hard to let go anything we love. We live in a world which teaches us to clutch. But when we clutch we’re left with a fistful of ashes.”

Taking place over the course of a summer, this novel is about Vicky Austin and her family trying to enjoy their remaining time with her grandfather who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Vicky is asked to be available at home to support her mother during the difficult time, but her father still fully supports each of his children taking on a summer project of some sort.

Vicky’s summer project becomes helping Adam Eddington, a summer intern at the local marine biology center, with his top-secret research involving dolphin communication. While he has the mind of a scientist, he recognizes the benefit of a poet’s perspective. They are both surprised to find just how well his dolphins take to her and how integral she becomes to his research.

While she grows closer to Adam, the boy who understands her but begins to keep her at an arm’s distance, she is also grappling with her evolving relationships to two others she’s known for longer. She finds herself no longer so revolted by Leo, the son of a recently deceased family friend, while at the same time having to navigate his clumsy romantic advances. She’s also juggling the rich, troubled Zachary Grey, who keeps showing up out of nowhere with a desire to disrupt her peaceful existence.

It might sound like a soap opera, but I promise it’s not!

Throughout the book, Vicky is learning how to be a good friend and a shoulder to learn on while dealing with grief herself. In this novel she is not just supporting Leo and Zachary, but also watching grandfather deteriorate and be there for her mother. At this crucial time, she’s also renegotiating her relationships to all her siblings: the brother who is beginning to see her as a equal, the brother who is not a baby anymore, and the sister who needs more help than she lets on.

I love this book so much, it’s one that I almost wish I could hide away from the rest of the world and never share, for fear that outsiders could change the way I see this book. I know that there are people out there who might accuse this book of being sentimental (I think it toes the line perfectly) or religious (I think it supports faith but also a critical and open mind).

Craft

I’ve long admired L’Engle’s work not just for her storytelling ability or the lovable characters she writes but also for the way that all her books are interconnected. In A Ring of Endless Light, you can get a sense that it is L’Engle speaking through her characters when Vicky says, “Grandfather says there is no such thing as coincidence” and he elaborates, “The pattern is closely woven.”

For someone very familiar with her work, it seems to be a nod at her tendency to keep her novels set into the families she has created, namely the Murray-O’Keefes and the Austins. Because of the drastically different adventures these two families face, one could naturally expect them to live in alternative universes. What was so remarkable to me as a child was seeing that so many characters from her novels bounce from book to book, bridging these different worlds.

I feel like L’Engle did what Marvel Studios have sought to do since the first Iron Man (2008) movie, create stories that can stand alone but which have characters flit between each one uniting into something magnificent. L’Engle never had an Avengers-like culminating piece, but I still love looking at the family tree above and marveling (pun intended) at the world she created in her body of work, particularly as her novels were contemporary YA.

Yes, there was often a smidgen of science fiction/the supernatural embedded into her stories, but for me her novels stand out as a celebration of a close-knit nurturing family in a crazy, sometimes mean world. I feel like it might have been radical when these books were first coming out, given Zachary Gray’s morbid fascination with these families. I think they are more radical now in a time where our ideas of what makes a happy family have expanded.

Something else I always admired of L’Engles’ work is her integration of words of wisdom from famous literary, scientific, and spiritual figures. Her books have always seemed like a synthesis of many different ideas and academic field, which I love. I can’t really think of any YA authors who do this kind of thing right now. (That being said, feel free to share any authors think are integrating ideas from different disciplines down below!)

Outgoing Message

When I read this book, over a month ago now, I decided I wanted to revisit more of my favorite Madeleine L’Engle works that involve mysteries, science, and conspiracies. For that reason, I held back from publishing this review right away, so I could introduce my intentions for the next few book reviews that you will see on this blog this month.

Next week on Betwined Reads I will have my book reviews for The Arm of the Starfish and Troubling a Star, the two other L’Engle works that feature the marine biology-themed adventures of Adam Eddington. And the following week I will publish my reviews of the two more middle grade novels about kids uncovering international conspiracies in Dragons in the Waters and  The Young Unicorns.

Have you read A Ring of Endless Light? If so, what’d you think?!

Thank you for reading!
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La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman

Screen Shot 2018-05-26 at 11.45.08 PMReleased: October 19, 2017
Pages: 464 pages (hardcover)
Theme(s): Bravery, loyalty, destiny, survival, the danger of theocratic rule, toxic Christianity, prejudice
Genre(s): Young Adult / Fantasy / Fiction
Age Group: 12+

★★★★

Malcolm Polstead is the kind of boy who notices everything but is not much noticed himself. And so perhaps it was inevitable that he would become a spy…

Malcolm’s father runs an inn called the Trout, on the banks of the river Thames, and all of Oxford passes through its doors. Malcolm and his dæmon, Asta, routinely overhear news and gossip, and the occasional scandal, but during a winter of unceasing rain, Malcolm catches wind of something new: intrigue.

He finds a secret message inquiring about a dangerous substance called Dust–and the spy it was intended for finds him.

When she asks Malcolm to keep his eyes open, Malcolm sees suspicious characters everywhere; Lord Asriel, clearly on the run; enforcement agents from the Magisterium; an Egyptian named Coram with warnings just for Malcolm; and a beautiful woman with an evil monkey for a dæmon. All are asking about the same thing: a girl–just a baby–named Lyra.

Lyra is the kind of person who draws people in like magnets. And Malcolm will brave any danger, and make shocking sacrifices, to bring her safely through the storm.

Preface

I first read The Golden Compass, the American title for the first book in the His Dark Materials trilogy, when I was in either 5th or 6th grade (2004/5ish). I’d loved it at the time, loving the fierce heroine presented in Lyra. I think she was one of the first strong female characters I’d ever read who was confident, brave, and not a bookworm or goodie-two-shoes (ahem *Hermione*).

I’m not sure if I ever finished the trilogy when I was a kid, but I recently gave the books a read in 2014 around the time I first got serious about writing. My earliest novel attempts were heavily influenced by these books with their complex themes and characters. I loved how these books that were marketed for young adults could also enthrall and resonate with meaning for adults. These are the kinds of books I hope to write.

Discovering La Belle Sauvage debuted last year was a happy coincidence. Of course, when I ordered it I was in the midst of a reading slump (a dangerous time to shop for books, I might add). So it’s taken me until now to finally give this book a go, hoping it’d motivate and inspire me as I wrote my first serious novel (serious as in not pantsing it during NaNoWriMo).

I had a great time reading La Belle Sauvage. I was extremely fast paced and held my attention and interest until about the 350-page mark. I’ll get into my 4-star rating down below!

My Thoughts

La Belle Sauvage, set about 10 years before the events of The Golden Compass/Northern Lights, follows the 11-year-old good-natured potboy Malcolm as he gets wrapped up in a secret conspiracy to protect a baby from forces that seem to want to do her harm after she is discovered to be the subject of a witch’s prophecy.

One critique I had of this book, although I don’t know how it could’ve been fixed, is that no one has the full-picture of what’s at stake in this novel. At lot is left up to chance, but from the original trilogy set in this world, we know that destiny has a guiding hand in the form of Dust.

Malcolm ends up becoming Lyra’s guardian once the flood hits and the nuns fail to listen to the gyptian warning about the weather. But he doesn’t know why she’s important at all, other than the man who’s after her, claiming to be her father, is super evil. So he’s driven by compassion and loyalty to return her to her true father when he can’t find her safe sanctuary anywhere else.

…This is a deep and uncomfortable paradox, which will not have escaped you; we can only defend democracy by being undemocratic. Every secret service knows this paradox…

Oakley Street is a secret organization that opposes the current conservative leadership in the government and actively works to undermine it. By chance, the leader of this organization was entrusted with the task of finding Lyra a suitable home when her mother wants nothing to do with her and her father is legally unable to step in. Once they find out the conservative baddies are trying to get custody of Lyra they become more interested in why she’s important and want to keep her out of their hands.

Malcolm becomes involved in Oakley Street once he accidentally intercepts a message from a soon-after deceased messenger. He’s tracked down by the woman who the message was meant for with the help of the alethiometer (the mysterious and rare symbolic truth-telling machine). Her role in the organization was to find answers to questions regarding Dust, which is in theory a terrible threat to Christian doctrine. She enlists Malcolm’s help as someone who can offer vital intel about the baby and anything else odd going on. (It’s actually kind of weird because we find she doesn’t even know exactly who she’s working for and her only job is consult the alethiometer with top-secret questions.)

This book would likely have been rated five stars up until the last 100 pages or so. It had all the makings of a favorite book of mine: interesting characters, political intrigue, and a mystery-driven plot. About midway through the novel there’s a history-making flood and then the book turns into an exciting action thriller with one of the scariest villains I’ve ever read.

The only problem is when the flood adventure begins to pay homage to the epic poem The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spencer. It’s trippy, at times disturbing, and fantastically boring, especially considering how it distracted from the story set up in the first 200 or so pages. I wanted to know more about Dr. Relf, who shared much page-time with Malcolm in the first half of the book. I also wanted to know what happened when Malcolm got home!

Craft

The book is written in the third-person perspective of an omniscient narrator who can see inside of Malcolm and Dr. Hannah Relf’s heads, also a couple of other Oakley Street operatives up to their own stuff. This point-of-view is really useful for mysteries, especially when no one character can know everything that is going on. It allows the reader to have a greater view of the story at hand.

However, at times, it could be difficult as a reader to remember when the character whom you are following reacts appropriately to story developments if you consider whether they knew a certain bit of information yet or not. For instance, Malcolm stumbles upon documents that discuss the Ruskov field and Dust and attempts to distract the villain by asking him about it, but this only seems significant after the chapter where the Oakley Street people have revealed the villain was a scientist who specialized in the Ruskov field.

This book provides a lot of great examples of how to write a spy thriller. There are secret messages, spies, espionage, also fun thrilling bits when characters are being watched or followed. I also liked seeing how people were inducted into the secret organization. Everyone who’s involved has a special skill set that makes them valuable.

If you’ve read the His Dark Materials trilogy, you’ll know already what a fantastic world-builder Philip Pullman is. His concept of dæmons is not explored in this book the way it is in his earlier works, but it’s still easy to see how integral they are to the characters in this world. Pullman’s style is to gradually reveal more and more details as they naturally arise in the course of the story that helps you understand how things work. I admire his sparing use of foreshadowing and slow build-ups to eventual plot points.

He also pulled off an extremely satisfying feat of character development the side character of Alice. I did not think she would end up being so important in the story at all, if anything I thought she might accidentally get Lyra killed. But she is the strong female character that this book needed to foil and support Malcolm on his quest. Absolutely love her and how Pullman brings her and Malcolm closer together.

Final Thoughts

I really enjoyed this book, and I’m glad to have finally gotten to it. I would 100% still recommend it to people, although probably not young children (rape and sexual themes frequent throughout the book, although, portrayed at times through the young protagonist’s perspective).

I don’t think fans of the His Dark Materials trilogy would necessarily like this book, as it doesn’t really change much about how you frame the drama of the trilogy. BUT I think it has a lot of value to offer as its own story.

I’m personally a little peeved that the next book in this The Book of Dust “series” will not follow Malcolm and Alice, who I adored in this book. However, I am excited, to know that it will follow a young adult Lyra!!! I just hope we find out what happened to these two kids who saved her life when she was too young to remember.

Have you read La Belle Sauvage? If so, what’d you think?!

Thank you for reading!
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