Tuesday, May 28, 2019

#CBR11 Review #21: Maurice by E.M. Forster

I’ll admit I have not read any of E.M. Forster’s novels before, though I have seen the film adaptation of A Room with a View. As is often the case for me, reading these older British novels makes me hit a bit of a wall in terms of the language that I don’t when watching adaptations: for some reason the manner of speech is hard for me to get into! But do I keep reading such books anyways? Obviously! And truly sometimes I forget my struggles. But that is not to say that this book is not good, just a little difficult for me, personally, to follow at times.

Maurice is about the eponymous young man, Maurice, in early 20th century England, making his way through college and into adulthood, but with the distinct feeling that the goal of a wife and children is not what he ultimately wants. Eventually he comes to grow attached to a fellow student, named Clive, and the two realize that their affections for one another are not simply platonic. The story then continues on over the years as the two fall in and out of favor of one another, and Maurice struggles to accept his homosexuality given the societal and religious views at the time. Clive’s on-and-off affections for him also create an inner turmoil that inevitably creates cracks in Maurice’s sense of identity, and he struggles with relationships outside of this longstanding one that had so much love at one point in time.

The story itself is straightforward, and the emotions real: nothing is as simple as it could be, and complications in situation always come into play. There is a lightness to this novel, and the hopeful resolution made this certainly a much more positive reading experience for me that it would have been had the ending led to nothing but tragedy, as is so often the case in older stories of homosexuality.

Ultimately, Maurice is just as long as it needs to be, at times distressing and at times a little fun. But again, my difficulties with the writing style left me feeling a little hollow as I made my way through and lost the point a few times. For those who enjoy this genre and timeframe of writing though, I don’t think it would be an issue at all!

[Be sure to visit the Cannonball Read main site!]

Sunday, May 12, 2019

#CBR11 Review #20: Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick

I can’t remember where I heard about this book, but it was on my to-read list on my account with the library, and since it was there I figured why not! And this was an interesting experience of a book for sure. I was referring to it as back-half-Cloud-Altas but that’s not quite right…

Midwinterblood is essentially a series of seven little vignettes or short stories that are all connected in some way, and all take place on the same small island with its many mysteries and magic. We begin with a journalist, Eric, coming to the island in search of the truth behind a rumor that the inhabitants of the island do not age. While here, however, Eric can’t help but feel something familiar about the place and its history; in particular, a young woman named Merle sparks something in him. However, we are soon thrust to a stage of the past that inevitably led to this future, if in a seemingly disconnected and mysterious way.

As the novel goes on, you see more and more threads tying the stories together. Individually, each of the sections is an engaging story, though they do seem a bit rushed through at times in order to get through them all. As a whole, it works well, and the conclusion is a satisfying one, yet at the end felt like it was maybe working a little bit too hard to explain itself when some of the mystery could be left for the readers to figure out. There are enough symbols, imagery, and thematic ties to get into and weave the truth of what has happened over time.

All in all, Midwinterblood was a very quick book to get through, as each piece of the story seems to zip by on its own, and then on to the next and the next, etc. It was certainly founded on a core idea that I like, and while maybe not perfect, definitely worth the read.

[Be sure to visit the Cannonball Read main site!]

#CBR11 Review #18-19: Fence, volumes 1-2 by CS Pacat and Johnanna the Mad

As per narfna’s suggestion in a glowing review of the first volume of Fence, I waited until there was at least a second volume out: and it still seemed to go by far too quickly! At least the next one is scheduled to be released in August which isn’t too far away, I guess… In any case, this comic series is a super cute and fun one, about a sport I haven’t seen featured much in sports movies/books, etc. There are definitely some familiar features to this as a “sports story”, and do I feel like I know a lot of the beats to this narrative and how it’s going to come together? Yes. Do I really care? NOPE! (And for that matter, I may be wrong in the end!) But I’m hoping for my favourite trope of enemies-to-teammates-to-friends-to-lovers to come through in the end. Time will tell!

But more about this series: Fence follows a group of students at a boarding school, and the main conflict at the moment are the tryouts for the fencing team. Our protagonist, Nicholas, is the son of an Olympic fencer (though nobody knows this) who just wants to fence and prove himself in the same sport as his father. His place at this school also rides on him maintaining a scholarship contingent on him making the fencing team, so there really is a lot to lose for him here. Nicholas’ main foe, however, is a fencer named Seiji, who has been trained from a young age and is effectively a prodigy of the sport. Seiji and Nicholas had a bout during a regional contest which left Nicholas in the dust, and now he wants to also prove himself against Seiji as a legitimate competitor. Rounding out the cast there are plenty of other boys at this school, with histories, drama, and motivations all their own. The characters are punchy, memorably, and fun, and so is the storyline for that matter (if a little quick to zip by, like I mentioned). While the first volume establishes the characters and gets Nicholas to the school, the second volume really pumps up the volume in terms of mainly focusing on the team tryouts and the internal struggles of some of the students that this brings up for them. Though both seemed to end on decent cliff-hangers to keep me wanting more!

Honestly, this series is basically just throwing all of my favourite little tropes and tricks into one place (*and they were roommates!*), and I can’t help but feel like I’ve been specifically targeted by it. I will definitely continue with this series as it goes along.

[Be sure to visit the Cannonball Read main site!]