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Halls of the Dark Muse

Summer Reading Review

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Never Cry Wolf by Farley Mowat

This is a novelization of Mowat's real life accounts of his time he spent in the Arctic studying a group of wolves. During the period when a lot of anti-wolf hate really started up wolves were being blamed for causing a sudden drop in the caribou population. There where claims that wolves would slaughter entire heards for the pure joy of killing. Mowat was sent to access just how much of a nuisance the wolves were. But when Mowat arrived he soon discovered a truth that was very different from what he had been led to believe. Soon the wolves earned his respect and admiration and he felt himself almost a part of their family while discovering their many very human traits.

Mowat is often criticized for being quite liberal with the facts and truth in his books. It is true the story may not portray a truly accurate account of his experiences, and he does give many embellishments and exaggerations but in doing so he creates a very charming story which I found engaging and entertaining to read. It is full of humor, eccentric characters, including a shaman how is believed to have the ability to speak to the language of the wolves, and a very endearing family of wolves of which Morley does humanize in many ways. It is a book of adventure, survival, and nature.

Pan by Knut Hamsun

Though this is a work of fiction there was an aspect about it, particularly in the beginning that really brought me to mind of Thoreau's Walden. It is the story of a man who lives nearly isolated in a small cabin in the wilderness surviving off of the land, while engaging in occasional sometimes awkward, sometimes bizarre and inexplicable encounters with people. The descriptions of nature I thought were quite poetic and I found the story rather compelling.

Glahn was living a quiet life living off the land with only his dog as his companion when he becomes entangled between two different women, neither of which he can truly have. The young charming, Eva who seems innocent, and genuine, falls in love with Glahn, who at first takes her for the blacksmiths daughter, to discover later, that she is in fact his wife. The enigmatic, and sometimes cruel Edvarda enchants Glahn and continues to toy with him, never willing to either commit herself to him nor cut him free. She sends him a series of mixed messages of rejection, and invitation casting him in a state of emotional turmoil.
His relationship with Eva is physical, primal, and very simple. He is drawn to her youth, beauty, and sexuality, and she remains always waiting for him, giving herself willingly to him while asking for nothing in return.
But Edvarda holds his heart, and torments him. His relationship with her is complex.

Pan is a psychologically charged novel which explores our primal natures and delves into the depths of human emotion, and how we connect, or disconnect with ourselves, nature, and each other, exploring a range of complexity of human interaction.

Jaws by Peter Benchley

Now I admit that Jaws is one of my favorite movie, I think it is an iconic classic. I was quite looking forward to reading the book, and I found the book to be somewhat disappointing. While the movie does stay pretty true to the book, I think this is a story that does translate better into the visual of a move than it reads as a book.

Needless to say the writing was mediocre, and in many ways it did feel very dated. I did not find any of the characters to be particularly likable or sympathetic. Brody at times was I would sympathize with, and there where moments when I liked him, but there where other times when I would be irritated by him. Though I think it was the authors intent of trying to make the characters very human, by showing all of them as having both their good points as well as being very flawed. But I didn't really relate to any of them. Quint was a bit Captain Ahab like, and that stereotypical caricature of the cliched fisherman.

One of the things I did like about the book is I thought Benchley did a good job with his portrayal of the shark. He was able to really make the shark a character, and at moments give the reader a glimpse into the shark's point of view, but he was able to do this without anthroporophizing the shark, and he stayed true to the shark's primal nature.

Wilderness Tips by Margaret Atwood

This is a short story collection by Atwood. The first few stories I did not really care for and fell a bit flat for me. The first story True Trash I felt was both rather uninteresting and pointless, the following stories Hairball and Isis in Darkness I felt did have certain interesting things about them, but still when I finished them left me wondering "Why did I have to read that?" I found the stories really did not accomplish anything.

But after that I found the stories did begin to get better. Death By Landscape was my favorite story in the collection, and the following stories I found to be interesting, engaging and had a good deal more substance to them than the first few stories did.

The one thing I really liked about the whole collection is that most the stories had something unsettling about them, there was a certain mystery in each of them, and most of them ended with a question mark. They did not truly have conclusions, they where not wrapped up neat and tidy. They left you wanting to know what would happen next. They did not give answers.

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

The second book in the Hunger Games trilogy. I felt that this book got off to a bit of a slow start, and while there where things about it which I found to be somewhat interesting at the beginning, it did take me a while to really start to get into it. But I have to say after the book progressed I came to feel that it was better than the first book, of which while I enjoyed, I also wasn't necessarily that impressed by. Originally I didn't even really plan to continue the series. It was watching the movie which made me want to read the book.

I liked the way in which the book did address the issues of PTSD in Katniss as well as other tributes, after her and their experiences within the arena. And I did like seeing how the rebellious feelings within the people started to steadily grow. Also I have to say one of the things in the Hunger Games that turned me off from wanting to keep reading was the introducing of the love triangle between Katniss, Gale, and Peeta. I don't really like love triangle story lines, and I don't like romance in YA novels (or really in most other novels but in YA it is usually particularly annoying) but I thought that it was handled very well in this book. It did not distract from the main story and it was done in a way that did feel believable and realistic. Though I prefer Gale over Peeta (frankly I find Peeta to be a bit annoying and kind of boring) I can understand with everything they have been through together how feelings between Katniss and Peeta might develop. I did like the scenes of Peeta having to comfort Katniss because he was there with her and went through it with her, so he is the only one that can really understand it.