Thursday, December 31, 2009

Uglies, Pretties, Specials

My last three books of the year! I've read these before, but I got the whole series for Christmas, and I am, by nature, a rereader (probably because I read too fast sometimes). This is a great series and one of the best cautionary tales against obsession with beauty and appearance in our society. It's set in a future world and is disturbing, enthralling, engrossing, and insanely good. It's a perfect book for both teens and adults. Big fan.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

How I loved this book! It's been very popular lately and pretty much the book club book, so I decided, hesitantly, to try it. I don't always trust things that are popular, but this is a book that is of good report and praiseworthy that should be sought after. It is not a silly book, which you might think from its title. It's about the nazi occupation of a british island named Guernsey during World War Two. Correction, it's about the people who make the most of British occupation of their island during WWII (partly by forming a literary society) and the author who writes their story after the fact. The book is all told in letters, which may seem strange, but it works. And oh how it works well! It is funny and romantic and heartbreaking and beautiful. I loved every minute and when I finished it I immediately added it to my long "books to acquire" list.

Forest Born

I think I was too excited about this book, because it ended up being something of a disappointment. It's still better than many other of the books I've read this year, because it is Shannon Hale. Her writing is still beautiful, but I didn't think this book lives up to the other Books of Bayern. The plot seemed sort of dull. It lacked some of the sparkle of the other books, and I'll be honest, I know exactly what it is. There's no romance in this story. All of Shannon's other books have a touch of romance, and I think it adds so much. Don't get me wrong, I don't always need romance in a book, but this book felt like it needed it. It started out hinting that there would be, but then it never happened. And maybe that was the problem. Since it hinted at romance in the beginning but was never fulfilled, I waited the whole book for it to come back, but was left feeling empty and disappointed. Maybe I'd like it better if I read it a second time. Like I said earlier, it's still beautifully written and it dealt more with people-speaking (if you've read the other books you know what I mean), which I've always found disturbingly fascinating. In short, good, but not as good as I'd hoped.

Keturah and Lord Death

From this cover, you might assume that this is a kissy book. I almost didn't read it because of the cover, because I don't like hard-core romance, but it's billed as a clean, YA novel and recommended by Shannon Hale, so I thought I'd go for it. This is a beautifully written (and yes, very clean - only one small kissing section in it) and fascinating book. It's magical and fantastical and everyday real at the same time. I loved Keturah and her story is incredible. The story-telling is amazing! I honestly didn't know how it would end. Well, I kind of suspected, but I wasn't sure until the end. I had to read it twice, because the first time I wasn't totally satisfied with the ending. By the second reading I was completely sold. I recommend it without reservation.

Pride and Prejudice

After I had finally finished with all the books for my Children's Lit class I had an overwhelming desire to read something thick and meaty and grown-up. Not that I don't love Children's books, because I do. But I've read so many of them recently I needed a change. What better than Pride and Prejudice? It is my favorite book and this was my yearly pilgrimage (which has been going on since high school). There's just not much better in the world than sitting down to read this book. It's like spending time with a very, very good friend I haven't talked to in ages. Reading this book makes me happy. Hooray!

Dreamhunter and Dreamquake

This is a newer series that I've seen recommended, so I thought I'd tried it out. I'm not completely in love with it for several reasons. First off, it's a completely new concept. That in itself isn't a flaw, but so much of the first book was spent trying to explain this new world and set up this new fantasy system that I thought the plot suffered heavily. In a nutshell... well, you know what, I'm not even going to try to explain it because it's too complicated. These books have a lot to do with dreams. Boy, talk about stating the obvious. I thought the second book was better because I was more familiar with the setting and was more easily able to dive into the plot. There was much less explaining going on and the flow was better. There were some interesting elements and some that I didn't care for. I know I'm being vague, but I hate spoilers! It's a clean read, though, so if you want to try it out you won't have to worry about that. I very nearly decided I hated these books because they were about to end badly until they made a split second good ending. I hate that, though, because you don't have time for the happy ending to sink in and you're left feeling unsettled. Not fabulous, but not the worst books of the year either.

A Wrinkle in Time

This is the last book I read for my Children's Lit class *sniff*. Honestly, don't know how I would have reached my book goal without it! I love Children's books! This one took me back to my childhood. Love it, and everyone should read it once in their lives. It's sci-fi, but not weird. Thought-provoking, but not too heavy. Serious and hilarious. It's fabulous.

Jekyll and Hyde

I've been wanting to read this for a while, and its short length finally pushed me to pick it up to boost my numbers. LOVE IT. My husband Jon read it a while back and thought it was very interesting as well. Surprisingly, all the modern dramatic interpretations have taken some major liberties in making the story more exciting and shocking. The original book here is short and told from the point of view of Dr. Jekyll's lawyer (explains why Jon liked it so much), who uncovers the entire duplicitous plot with the help of a few wills. In fact, the entire split personality factor of this book leaves a lot to open interpretation (which is probably why adaptations of this are so varied). This book made me think of agency and the natural man. As human beings with bodies we are constantly at war between our spiritual sides and what our natural man desires. Jekyll and Hyde puts that battle into a fictional story. Dr. Jekyll desires to live his life in a way that's not acceptable or right, so he creates a drug that unleashes his evil side, Mr. Hyde. Mr. Hyde can now act as he pleases and when he goes away, normal and presentable Dr. Jekyll returns, until he wants to turn into Hyde again. Of course, eventually he loses control and Hyde takes over. Similarly, we can lose our agency, if we give in to our natural man's desire to sin. Very interesting read.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull

Picked this one off the shelf because of its length. Now that I've got that confession out of the way, I can honestly say that I didn't hate it like I thought it would. It had a very deep spiritual message for a book about a seagull. The day I read it I wasn't necessarily in the mood for contemplative pondering, but as I've thought about it here and there since, I've thought better of it.

Our Town

I picked this on good recommendation (and plus I needed more short books to reach my goal) and pretty much loved it. It's actually a play, and it took a few pages for my brain to handle reading things like stage notes along with dialogue, but once I'd gotten a handle on things it flew. This is a very poignant and sometimes funny look at life in a small town and ends with a very good message about living life to the fullest, even down to the smallest everyday moments (something I don't always do well). Very uplifting.