This novella is a deep, fantastical read, full of myth and history, which I believe is based on Chinese history and myth. It is also about stories and storytelling; memory; female companionship in all senses of the term; the role women play. The last one is really what makes this novella. The women in this book define their own roles, from the Empress herself, to Rabbit, the Empress’ confidant and teller of her story. In the end it is Rabbit’s listener, Cleric Chih, who will go on to remember and retell the stories.
The book starts off slow, and a bit confusing. The history is the core of the story, though we as readers, as well as Chih, do not understand this until well into the story. That is okay though, as it gives the reader the sense that we are indeed listening to a complicated past unfold itself, and that we are now the storytellers. It reminds us that all is stories, and we must continue such a tradition.
I recommend The Empress of Salt and Fortune to those who love historical high fantasy, similar to books like The Black Tides of Heaven and The Encyclopedia of Early Earth.
If I had to pick a word to describe Through the Woods it would be gorgeous. I am always looking for new fairy tale and folklore retellings with horrific twists, and this gorgeous book did not at all disappoint. Through the Woods consists of seven tales, each one encapsulating some fear that we all see lurking in the heart of fairy tales.
The first tale simply illustrates the fear of what could be hiding under the bed. The second, a sort of retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, illustrates the harshness of winter and the fear of possibly losing one’s family.
The third could be a retelling of any number of tales, including Bluebeard, The Fall of the House of Usher and the Tell Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe, and vampire stories. The fear expressed here is the uncertainty of an arranged marriage – and of course the odd fear of the dead wife coming back for vengeance.
The fourth shows a man’s fear when a seemingly perfect copy of his brother comes back from the dead. Invasion of the body snatchers? Perhaps!
The fifth story is all about ghosts and spiritualism, both the reality and fears that come with it. A young woman who pretends to commune with ghosts. Her friend who can actually see ghosts. Who is more afraid?
The sixth story is similar to the fourth in body-snatching, albeit a bit more gruesome. The creatures featured in this story are what I would associate to the term “skin-walkers.” The fear here is, again, losing one’s family – and perhaps even oneself – and not being able to trust those around you.
he last story, which is not really a story, more of a moral, reiterates one of the big themes of all the stories in this book: getting lost in the woods, and either coming out different, or being eaten by the wolf.
I read this book so quickly, that’s how good the stories were – I didn’t want to put them down for a moment. And Carroll’s illustrations and art in this book had me absolutely entranced. I honestly may go back and just look at the art. It sets the moods of each story so well, readers will be mesmerized and enchanted, just as one would venturing into the strange woods that star in each story. I would love to see Carroll create more tales like this. It is the perfect bedtime story, and the perfect midwinter read. I recommend Through the Woods to those who love fairy tale and folklore, who want to explore fears a bit, and who want to get lost in a good and gorgeous book.
Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops by Jen Campbell
This is a book that talks about all the weird and wonderful experiences booksellers have had with their customers. It will make you laugh to no end, and perhaps you will find some cool reads along the way! Or maybe even find out what not to read!
The Encyclopedia of Early Earth by Isabel Greenberg
This graphic novel isn’t really about books, but it is about stories and the way stories shape us. A young man from the farthest reaches of the world travels far and wide from one adventure to another, telling stories of myth and folklore to those he meets. Each tale shows a bit of how each person and culture relates to the stories, and how the young man impacts those who he has met.
Tilly and the Book Wanderers by Anna James
This is a book about people who love to get lost in books. Literally. Tilly lives with her grandparents, who run the bookshop Pages & Co. Her whole life she has been surrounded by books. Then one day, she discovers that she and many others have the ability to travel within books. Tilly starts by traveling into her favorite stories like Anne of Green Gables, but soon finds that bookwandering can be tricky, and gets into some adventuresome trouble! Wouldn’t we all just love to have a short adventure inside a book?
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
This is a book about the importance of books. In a dystopian world where books are banned, and anyone caught with them is either arrested or killed, we remember the importance of the written word. Our main character, a fireman (someone who burns books for a living), realizes there is nothing in the ignorance they’ve all been brainwashed to love. He starts to read the books he’s meant to burn, and his attitude towards books, to life even, changes.
The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George
If you need a remedy for a malady of the soul, this book is for you. A man works on a book barge, prescribing specific books for specific maladies of the customers that come to peruse. When the man, depressed at the loss of his love, realizes that his love has not been lost, merely misunderstood, goes on an adventure to discover the truth. On the way he meets new friends, and new books!
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Everyone likes a good mystery, but a mystery about a book? Even better. In this book we read about the life of a young man in Spain who’s sole mission is to find out everything he can about a book he found in the “Cemetery of Forgotten Books”. The young man finds love and friendship on the way, but most importantly, he finds the truth.
These are my favorite books about books so far. I will update the list once I read more!
Pages & Co. is one of the coziest books I have ever read, and has been a perfect Autumn read. It is about a girl named Tilly, whose grandparents own a bookshop called Pages & Co. She is the most avid of readers, and soon finds out that she, along with her grandparents and others, has the ability to wander in and out of books. This ability sets Tilly off on an adventure in which she makes new friends and discovers new mysteries.
Pages & Co. brought me right back to my childhood, with Tilly meeting such characters as Alice and Anne Shirley. I think at some point we all have wished that our favorite characters would come to life – Anna James makes this a reality for Tilly and has us as readers share in that wonderful experience. Tilly’s story, as well, is very much like a retelling of Alice in Wonderland, with each book being another rabbit hole for Tilly. I now want to go read Alice and become even more immersed in Tilly’s adventures.
My only issue with this book is that some of the plot devices are gone through too quickly and I feel need more explanation. Perhaps this will be remedied in the next books.
I recommend this book to anyone who wants to sit down with a cup of tea and go on an adventure.