Tag Archive | Rambles

A Ramble on Ranger’s Apprentice

I recently read the The Ruins of Gorlan (Ranger’s Apprentice, #1) by John Flanagan.

In honor of February #FantasyMonth (hosted by Jenelle Schmidt) I want to share some thoughts about this book.

I’m foregoing my usual review format to just ramble a little about things it made me think about, and I hope you’ll enjoy. πŸ™‚

(Note: I haven’t read the rest of the series yet. I just want to talk about the first Ranger’s Apprentice book today.)

Ranger’s Apprentice: Book 1 (The Ruins of Gorlan)

On the surface, it’s just a fun, YA fantasy book about fifteen-year-old Will and a sort of coming-of-age tale with swords and bows and rangers in a medieval-esque world, and a much more straightforward, less-convoluted story.

And it is all of that.

But beneath the surface there are other things going on (at least to this reader) which I’ll get to later.

It’s very funny, in a dry, kind of sarcastic way, that sometimes you almost don’t catch — and then you do and it’s HILARIOUS and you’re not totally sure why. Will doesn’t always “get it” when Halt makes little jabs and jibes and wry comments but I love it. XD

I love Will! He’s such a fun little character and just… I don’t know… he’s classic, somehow. And I like how he’s very determined and doesn’t give up.

Halt is the absolute best!! One of my favorite mentor characters. He’s an amazing Ranger and I just… I can’t describe how cool he is, but he’s awesome. Hands-down the best thing about this book! (And the main reason I read it. ;))

And I love some of the other characters, like Gilan (he’s awesome!) and Tug the pony (SO ADORBZ!!) and Horace and so on. And the Rangers are fabulous.

Did I mention it’s funny? I love funny books!

And it’s just fun fantasy, and good old-fashioned Good vs. Evil. Speaking of which…

“There’s Some Good in This World, Mr. Frodo”

One thing I noticed that was refreshing was there are good people in this book and a lot of them are just… nice.

I mean, sure, there were villains. And a few bullies. And Horace and Will both had their moments of disagreement or resentment — it’s not like they weren’t human. And by nice I don’t mean everyone was always sunshine, but they were GOOD.

I remember as I was reading, I kept expecting that everyone would be nasty to everyone else. I expected the wards to have had a miserable time growing up; and the Baron to be mean; and Sir Roderick to be mean; and for the villagers to be mean. That’s how I feel like most books these days would do it. But you know what? Their lives weren’t actually terrible; the Baron was super nice and really did want the best for these kids; Sir Roderick may not have known about the bully problem but he did want the best for Horace; the villagers might have been wary of Rangers in general through ignorance, but they were goodnaturedly applauding certain exploits of the hero(es).

The thing is, I’ve grown used to the usual setup of many books these days, where the characters are so flawed and “realistic” that… they’re not actually realistic anymore. People say you can’t have “perfect” characters and that you have to give your characters flaws; that’s all well and good. But that doesn’t mean that every character (or person in real life) you run into is going to be a terrible person! That’s just… not true?? I mean, yes, there are bad people, both in life and in fiction, but that doesn’t mean every character has to be out to ruin our heroes’ lives… or be mean-spirited… or whatever. There can be the forces of good and they can be ordinary people like you and me, and they can be nice — and there will still be tension, I promise! (I first noticed this issue when I read the Bright Empires series by Stephen R. Lawhead and was so shocked — in a good way — by how there were actually *gasp* good people in the world, that it made me realize that most books are not this way.)

Anyway, minor rant over. I didn’t mean to go into all of that. My POINT is that it was SO, SO refreshing reading this book and every time I ran into one of the “good guys”, they were exactly that. The villains and bullies were the bad guys. But the good guys were GOOD. And they have their flaws and have to work on life just as you and I do, but the good was good and the evil was evil and I LOVE that. And I MISS that. And I was surprised how big of a difference this seemingly insignificant aspect of the book made in making me enjoy it. πŸ™‚ There was a clear divide between the good people and the bad, and it was refreshing, and something you can get away with in fantasy — or you used to, anyway.

Sometimes you want to focus on GOOD things instead of the things that are just stressful to read about. And I loved that I was able to just enjoy this book, for that reason and others. πŸ™‚

There’s a Place For You, Just Waiting…

Another thing I absolutely loved was something a little hard to explain but I’ll do my best.

In the book, Will has always dreamed of going to the battle school to become a knight, but he’s turned down because he’s too small. Then he unexpectedly becomes Halt’s apprentice. (Not a spoiler! It’s called Ranger’s Apprentice; it’s in the title.)

And the thing is, it’s obvious to Halt, and to the reader, that Will is MEANT to be a Ranger. He’s small and light and quick and agile, and he has this habit of sneaking around without being noticed, and climbing trees and walls and living his own kind of solitary life, even in a community setting like the castle where he’s one of the wards.

A Ranger is supposed to be good at all of those things, and it’s immediately clear to me, as I read it, that Will Is A Ranger and that’s where he really fits.

But the funny thing is — he has no idea. At all. He has these skills, but he doesn’t really realize he has them, or think of them as skills, or realize he can put them to use as a Ranger’s Apprentice.

And I think that’s true of a lot of us. How many of us have things we could do, callings we could follow, jobs we could fill, that we’d fit into just perfectly, and we just… don’t realize it? Don’t think there’s anything special about us? Think we’re misfits and don’t belong?

As we watch Will trying out this new, unexpected turn of his life, and see him find his place in the world — really find it — it was just deeply satisfying to me.

And it made me think — oh. Sometimes, as a writer and whatever else it is I’ll be one day, if I’m feeling like I don’t know what skills I have or what to do with my life, or like I don’t fit in and there’s no place for me… I’m wrong. Because you know what? There IS. I have to find my “Ranger skills” and my “Rangers” and then I’ll be home and have found my place.

Especially if I work hard on it…

Keep Trying and You’ll Get There

Because the third and final “deep” thing I pulled out of this, was the fact that when we watch Will learning his Ranger’s craft, it just… well… inspired me. I might be rubbish at learning the things he had to learn — how to shoot arrows and ride a horse and how to track and be stealthy and unseen and live in the wilderness — but watching him learn them, and seeing him just keep at it and become adept at these things… it inspired me.

Because he just kept trying and he was able to do it. I saw him go from an uncertain lad who was rather timid and didn’t know what his skills were, to a confident lad who has conquered these skills and is every inch a true Ranger’s Apprentice. I saw it happen, and it showed me that it’s not impossible to learn and become better at something, to master it. Especially if you have a good mentor and just don’t quit.

If I’d been in Will’s shoes (boots?), I would have stared at what needed to be learned/accomplished, and been crippled by doubts and “I-can’t-do-its”. But Will didn’t. And Halt wouldn’t stand for that anyway. (I’d be a terrible Ranger’s apprentice. XD)

BUT. If you just start something, and tackle it, and hang on and keep trying… then we too can learn and conquer the things we need to learn and do. Which is something I know in theory… but seeing it play out on the page, in this little story of characters I love, with fun and humor and an enjoyable fantasy story, I saw it, and I believed it, and so now I Know it, instead of just knowing it in theory.

Fin

That may sound odd. I mean, what do I mean by saying this “unrealistic” book, this Fantasy (oh, escapism; oh, horror. …’Scuse the Halt-ish sarcasm.) taught me things? I mean, who am I, finding things in a fantasy novel which teach me things about life? Shouldn’t I just find these things in some self-help blog?

But the thing is . . . it took a story — a real story, which I enjoyed and which was just for fun, not one that set out to do this (because I suspect then it would not have sunk in nearly as deeply, if at all) — to prod at my subconscious and bring out things that I kind of knew or suspected but hadn’t ever thought of in that way before. It inspired me and let me put it into words.

To know that you have skills and a place in the world, that you have YOUR Rangers to find that might be somewhere out there in the world, is a liberating thought. And so is seeing that keeping on and practicing can make a difference. I can know a thing in theory without really knowing it, and that’s what I’m trying to say.

What I’m trying to say is, even though this is just a fun little book, and I enjoyed it as simply a good STORY, it also made me happy to see Good people and was like a breath of fresh air, and it showed me there’s a place for everyone. Even if you feel like you don’t fit in — especially if you feel like you don’t fit in; it’s Will’s uniqueness that makes him the perfect fit for a job that only a handful of people can fulfill — there’s somewhere that you belong, even if you don’t know what it is yet. Something you can DO, that you’re meant to do. We just have to find it. And no matter how impossible a thing may seem, if you just keep at it, you can succeed.

I’m not saying it’s one of the the greatest books I’ve ever read, or one of the most profound; I’m not even saying that it will be this way for anyone else.

But the thing is . . . it doesn’t have to be.

It’s a fun and light read which I spent an enjoyable morning with and just… made me happy.

And that’s all it needs to be.

And, while it was at it, it showed me things about life where I’m at right now, without — I’m sure — really meaning to.

It made me smile and taught me things.

And isn’t that one of the things good Fantasy is best at?

Random Bookish Post Thing

Hello fellow page-dreamers! I feel like a random bookish post today, so that’s what this is. ^_^

Lately

I actually read 2 books this past week, which makes me feel on top of things. πŸ˜‰ For the last few months I’ve been reading 4 books a month… Not on purpose, it just worked out that way. So it felt really nice to actually read a couple shortish books in a few days. Don’t you just love that feeling when after awhile of a sort of reading slump, you just zip through a few books in a row? πŸ™‚ A feeling of happiness, I tell you!

Current Stack

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Aren’t they gorgeous? ❀

I actually don’t own these… The Last Dragonslayer I’m borrowing from the library, and I’m currently reading that. About half-done, I think, and it’s delightful. πŸ˜€ Trying to read it before it goes back. πŸ˜‰

The other two I’m borrowing from my friend Sarah Holman who was kind enough to lend these to me — I’ve been eyeing Ashburn and The Sound of Diamonds for awhile now, have heard good things about both, and couldn’t pass up the chance to borrow physical copies! I haven’t started them yet but I’m very excited to read them once I finish some review books. πŸ™‚

Blogging in the future

I was looking at my blog post drafts and thinking about future posts… I have a few books I’d like to review and a few bookish tags to do, so I may get to those at some point. Then again, I may be busy reading instead, which, obviously, I would not complain about. XD

Thoughts on reviewing & half-year of this blog etc.

We’re halfway through the year which always makes me look back and reflect… I’ve noticed that I’ve gotten better about reviewing books this year.

It may not look like it, considering I haven’t been posting reviews for everything, but with my Reading Roundup posts, I’ve realized that’s a chance to do mini-reviews of sorts, for… everything I read. Which, if I had planned to do, I would be totally daunted and end up not getting around to it at all. But since I just dash off a couple sentences to a paragraph of brief thoughts about each book, that ends up being mini reviews.

So even if I don’t do an actual review post, I’ve realized I’m kind of reviewing all the books I’m reading this year. Which… is kind of awesome. I am notoriously a longwinded reviewer, and I do still write long reviews for the books I read that require more discussion about them, but I think I’m getting better about not always being super long.

Also, even if I don’t write a long review, I’ve sometimes been posting my little paragraph mini-reviews from my Reading Roundup posts on Goodreads, which makes me feel like a good little bookdragon. πŸ˜‰ It’s nice.

I also used to always procrastinate over reviews and agonize over having to try to make them perfect and all that sort of thing… But this year I’ve been relaxing and just dashing off a few thoughts. I’m really happy about this. I think this blog has been good for me. πŸ˜›

Anyhow, I don’t always post here very often, I know, but I really enjoy having it and it makes me happy. So. Success? I’d say yes. I would totally like to post more reviews but the whole point of this place was to be relaxed and post as little or as much as I feel like… So I guess that’s okay.

So.Β Ta-da! There you have my random rambly bookish thoughts for the day. πŸ™‚

Dream away in those pages . . .

~ The Page Dreamer

Foreword

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Greetings, bloggish book world! …Or is that bookish blog world? Either/or.

Many books have Forewords, Prefaces, Introductions… Little notes before the book starts. That’s what this is. An introduction to this book blog.

Let’s get one thing out of the way first.

There is nothing more wonderful than a good book.

There. I hope we can agree on that…

I love reading. I at times enjoy sharing my thoughts in reviews, but I am not a critic.

I don’t analyze books, I enjoy them.

(If I can, of course.) Many people who are book reviewers are critics in some form or other. There is perhaps a place for that, but it is not mine. If you are looking for a critic, you had best look elsewhere.

Consider this favorite quote of mine from the animated film Ratatouille:

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“But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so.”

And not only that, but every book is precious to SOMEONE, somewhere, even if it’s only the author, and purposefully tearing it apart is not a goal that I have.

I’m not a book basher, if I can help it (occasionally I can’t but we’ll get into that later) and I try to read books that I feel I’ll enjoy. I try to enjoy the books when I read them. And if I review a book, I am normally quite focused on the good. I will point out problems I had with it, but in general, books are for enjoying. I hope that my thoughts, un-critic-like as they are, will be of some help or interest to somebody out there.

This is not my first foray into the world of blogs, as I have been blogging for over two years on my writing blog, The Road of a Writer.

I have there shared many bookish posts, and several reviews, and shall probably continue to from time to time, especially with books I receive for review. But The Road of a Writer is (or is supposed to be) primarily a blog for writing and my life. And while books are intimately connected to both (at least in my mind), that’s not the primary point of the Road of a Writer blog, although it at times may seem that way…

But I wanted a place where I could just post bookish things whenever I feel like it.

  • A place that is entirely dedicated to my love of books.
  • A place I can review books whenever I wish.
  • A place to talk about books, ramble about them…
  • A place I can post lists of books (because lists are the best thing ever — besides books).
  • A place where I can go to share the thoughts of my bookwormish heart with other bookworms.
  • A place to dream of ink, pages, and bookshelves together.

This is that place.

What should you expect from this little blog? I’m not sure, yet, exactly. Probably random-ish reviews, ranging from well-thought-out long ones to brief notes of a few sentences. Maybe some posts of bookish quotes. Or bookish lists. Or bookish… whatever! Basically, if it’s book-related, it may end up here.

Many of the reviews may be ones I’ve posted elsewhere, for awhile at least. I wanted a place to keep all of my reviews in one spot, so that’s another use for this space. Reviews from Goodreads, and perhaps even my reviews from The Road of a Writer, which I may repost here. To keep things tidy, you understand…

Oh yes. I should mention that…

I’m a perfectionist. Which is often why I don’t actually get around to writing reviews. I’m going to try to be less perfectionisty (that’s totally a word, hush) around here, but I’m unsure if that will be successful… But an anything-goes, just-review-the-books-and-talk-casually-about-books sort of thing is what I’m going to try to go for.

How often will I post?

My other blog is a bit structured, and I try to post there every week… This blog will I think be more casual, less planned out. I may post a few reviews in a day, or several days in a row, or go weeks without showing up at all. Only time will tell. But casual is the order of the day. I don’t want to stress myself out about it, because I really love and enjoy books and I don’t want that love to be smothered under expectations from myself!

What sort of books will I review?

Anything and everything that I happen to read, in all of my rather odd, eclectic bookish taste. We’ll have to wait and see…

If you do happen to glance at my list of books-I’ve-been-reading-lately (my 2015 page is here, and my 2016 page — currently empty — is here) and are particularly interested in hearing my thoughts for a particular book, feel free to ask, and I might get around to it! (No promises… This perfectionist is also a procrastinator. A lethal mix, I know. But if I know someone is interested in what I think about a book, I mayyy be more likely to actually post about it. May.)

I also sometimes read books I receive free for reviewing from publishers/authors. Those are normally of a fantasy-ish, young-adult, maybe Christian sort. I think I mostly like reading fantasy and younger sorts of books. I like my books teen-friendly, please.

Reviews will have the following distinctions, star-wise:

5starrating 4starrating 3starrating 2starrating 1starrating

(Hopefully none in that last category… *cough*)

I also may have to designate a special distinction for books that really deserve a SIXTH star… Something to show how special my favorite-favorite books are… Or possibly a page dedicated to favorites. But we shall see.

I think that’s it. There’s my ramble of an introduction to this book blog. Basically, I’ve no idea what this blog will become, and I’m very much looking forward to playing with it, enjoying it, and finding out! Thanks for dropping by and I hope you’ll come along with me on the journey. πŸ™‚

Meanwhile… dream away in those pages, readers!

And welcome to The Page Dreamer.

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