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How much do I love these (alas not really available) new covers for The Chronicles of Narnia?

So much that I want to reread – particularly The Horse and His Boy after looking at this picture, but they’re all pretty fabulous.  Although I’ve reread them many times, I vividly remember my mom reading the series aloud – and the day when I realized I was a strong enough reader to read ahead on my own, and I snuck The Horse and His Boy up onto my bunk bed.  Funny how it seems so illicit in my memory – I’m sure my mom knew all about it in reality.  I think The Last Battle was also the first book that made me cry, but let’s not talk about that.

The copies I own are the boxed set of paperbacks, the ones with the truly horrific 70s covers, all garish colors and blocky illustrations.  I admit to a fondness for these covers simply because they’re MINE – I think I received them for my 8th birthday.  If I’m right, that means they’re turning 20 this weekend, so this post is quite timely.

Yikes!  I can’t imagine getting a kid to pick these up after looking at this cover.  I am quite fond of the newer Chris Van Allsburg covers, and I’d probably go for that set if I were buying them to give away.

He makes Narnia look appropriately mysterious and evocative, and I like that the illustrations stretch to the edges of the cover, rather than being bordered – it makes me feel like I’m looking at that sea painting in the Scrubb’s spare room and any moment I might step right into Narnia.

Have I ever mentioned how, as a kid, I used to imagine that one day I’d run into the Pevensie children?  They’re not supposed to talk about Narnia to other people, but I’d of course recognize them, and go up to them and say, “It’s okay, you can talk about it with me – I know all about Narnia.”  Yeah.

Let’s not even talk about the blah-blah 2005 covers.  Ugh.

Crowns?  Bonus excerpts?  Huh?

Anyway, I first saw those reimagined covers at 100 Scope Notes, and you might also want to check out the other covers at M.S. Corley’s site, including Harry Potter and His Dark Materials.

Mistress of the Art of Death (Book 1) Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
If you want forensics and historical fiction all in one place, this is the book for you. While I was occasionally distracted by wondering how historically accurate Adelia really was, the story was fascinating enough that it didn’t bother me. Franklin did, however, seem to go to great lengths to show how and why Adelia was unusual for her time – she was not depicted as just some strong, educated, un-superstitious fluke but a product of an unusual upbringing. There were also frequent mentions of how if the locals knew what she was really getting up to, she’d be hung or tossed in the river with little debate. Apart from that issue, it was a fascinating depiction of life in medieval Cambridge. The plot does deal with some horrific violence against children, which to me was worse than the descriptions of examining corpses. Still, the characters were nuanced and flawed and compelling, and I’ve already got the next book (The Serpent’s Tale) waiting for me.

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Recommended by Leila.

The Forgotten Garden: A Novel The Forgotten Garden: A Novel by Kate Morton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A big, fat, delicious novel. Although I’m giving them both four stars, I think this was a stronger book than The House at Riverton, or perhaps I was just more attached to this set of characters and places. Three story lines, ranging from the present to the early 20th century, are tied together to create a suspenseful story of a family over several generations. While some of the twists aren’t too difficult to guess, if you like to do that sort of thing, half the fun is finding out if you’re right and the other half is seeing which unanticipated twists Morton will throw in. The characters were vivid, wounded and flawed in interesting ways that felt more Gothic than depressing – I suppose the story could be described as a combination of Daphne du Maurier and The Secret Garden (although it was strangely jarring to find Frances Hodgson Burnett put in an appearance in the story). The places are often as vivid as the characters, whether it’s the garden and cottage, Nell’s home in Australia, or a flat in London. I would definitely recommend this to anyone looking for a big, old-fashioned novel to sink into.

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Thanks for Babelbabe for turning me on to Kate Morton – I’ll definitely pick up anything else she writes!

The Wild Girls The Wild Girls by Pat Murphy

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A lovely, realistic story about friendship and growing up. While I wasn’t always convinced that the 1970s setting was necessary, perhaps it enabled the story to exist in a world where there’s a little more wild area for these wild girls to wander. They’re the kind of girls I don’t see enough of in realistic fiction (is it just me, or do they tend to live more in fantasy stories?) where they enjoy the outdoors and live vividly in their imaginations. The fact that they both love to write, and that this development as writers is key to the story, is an added bonus. I can see this appealing immensely to girls who want realistic stories with a bit more substance, but which are still fairly innocent at heart. There are some family issues, but the girls don’t obsess about boys or appearance or growing up too fast.

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August 2009

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