Thursday, December 30, 2010
I just realized that I've been spelling "fahrenheit" wrong all my life. I've been leaving out that first "h." Woops! Anyway, this was the last book I read for my American Lit class. I like Sci Fi on occasion, especially when it's well done. Ray Bradbury does Sci Fi well. Now, when I say "Sci Fi" I don't necessarily mean aliens. Everyone assumes that's what Science Fiction means. It's not. Sci Fi contains several sub-genres, and Fahrenheit 451 is the type of Sci Fi book that looks at our current world and projects what it could be like in the future if some of the worst aspects of our society go unchanged. Think "Ghost of Christmas Future" in A Christmas Carol. The creepy thing about this book is how much Bradbury got right. This book was published in 1953, and issues like censorship, society's obsession with being "plugged in," detachment from nature and people, all are things that we can see in the modern world. We may not be burning books, but I can see how my life is eerily similar to the lives of people in this world. I think this is a great book. Bradbury was very prophetic, even. I'd definitely recommend reading Fahrenheit 451, although it's not a "for fun" read, or, as I've said before, not a "comfort food" book. This isn't a book that will make you comfortable with your own world and life, that's for sure. Which is probably a good thing.
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Not only is it touching, but it's shockingly real. It read like I was right in the story, and it made me wonder where I'd fall into that world if I actually did live in that time and place. This book made me examine myself, but it's also entertaining and sweet. I laughed out loud and cried out loud and all the other things I do when I really, thoroughly, enjoy a book. This book also very nearly caused me to skip eating chocolate pie this Thanksgiving. Read the book and you'll understand.
I recommend The Help without reservation.
Monday, November 8, 2010
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Paranormalcy just came out (I think last week). I was first in line for it at the library so I got it pretty quickly. Kiersten White has a very vivid and entertaining writing voice. It was such a fun read. This is not a vampire or werewolf book, and in fact rather gleefully makes fun of some of the stereotypical aspects of those overdone characters. Paranormalcy is completely original and I was engrossed by it. It's about a regular human girl named Evie who works for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, keeping paranormals under control (using her special ability to see through their glamours). Of course, everything turns to havoc as a mysterious power is killing all paranormals, and Evie herself discovers that she's not as normal as she once thought. There were lots of surprises in this book, and I really love it when I can't predict a plot. Definitely high marks for Paranormalcy and Kiersten White. I'll be waiting for her next book.
Spells is the sequel to Wings, which I really liked. It's very fun YA lit and there's a lot of mythology, magic, and faeries involved. I think Spells is more mature than Wings, but I still think the series is not as intense or interesting as I'd like it to be. It seems to rely too heavily on its romance to drive the plot, and I always get irritated when love triangles get dragged on too long. This book definitely suffers from that. Just my opinion. I really wanted to see Laurel develop her faerie powers, but that subplot wasn't given much attention. Overall, I was disappointed, but I still plan on reading the final book in the series whenever it comes out.
The Dark Divine has nothing to do with bare legs wrapped in purple tulle! Just saying. From reading author blogs I've learned that a lot of authors are very irritated by the fact that they have no control over what goes on their covers. That's completely up to publishing companies and how they want to advertise your book. It's quite obvious what kind of audience The Dark Divine is being marketed towards. I can guarantee you that this is a very clean book, though. Unfortunately, this is also a werewolf book. I didn't realize that fact until I was too far in to want to put it down. I'm just sick to death of werewolves and vampires. There were some original touches, and I liked the story and setting well enough. The book is about a girl named Grace Divine, whose father is a pastor. I thought bringing in some Christian touches made the book extra interesting. The story is a little dark in places, but nothing that bothered me. I probably enjoyed reading it more than Spells, even if it was a werewolf book.
I really enjoyed Maria V. Snyder's Poison Study, but Inside Out is a dystopian novel (think Hunger Games), not a fantasy, so I wasn't sure if I would like it. I did. This is a very interesting book with a bit of a mind-blowing ending. I totally did not predict it and wasn't expecting it. That's always a pleasant surprise. :D The pacing was good, the plot was interesting, the romance was clean... overall definitely a book I'd recommend.
I was a little disappointed with The Reluctant Heiress, if you recall, but I couldn't help going out and finding another Eva Ibbotson novel. I love her writing and her settings are always spectacular. This novel didn't disappoint in those area. The plot was more original, too, so that was an improvement over The Reluctant Heiress. The only reason I was a bit frustrated with this book is that it wasn't quite as squeaky clean in the romance department as her others. There's a plot twist toward the end that I thought was incredibly irritating and frustrating and almost ruined the whole book for me. All in all, it was good, but with reservations.
It was a fun journey, and it was a nice change to have 10 books come out in such a short amount of time. The author switches were well done, so in some books a style difference wasn't even detectable. I wish they'd all been written by Rick Riordan, but he's a busy guy. His new book The Lost Hero is coming out next week (new Camp Half-Blood series! Hooray for Greek Mythology!!!) and I'm looking forward to that.
Monday, September 13, 2010
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
*Spoiler free, so read on!*
You all know how long I've been anticipating this book. So... where to even start! Overall, my feelings are positive. I feel closure on the series. I feel acceptance. I feel like this book has changed the way that I think about war. Which, when it comes right down to it, is what this whole series is really about. The first couple of books may have made us think that this is a love story, but by the time we've all read Mockingjay we can see what it all comes down to: the horrors and emotional impact of war. This is not a fairy tale or a happily ever after type of story. Because of that, I have to say that I didn't love this like I wanted to.
I love the first two books and I really wanted Mockingjay to be a glorious ending, Harry Potter style, where all the bad guys get their trash kicked and hope and good reign in the end, despite the losses and pains of war. Instead, Suzanne Collins paints a non-fiction picture of the realities of war in a fictional world. I described some of the things that happen in this book to Jon (who has extensively studied politics and war), and he assured me that with a few technological differences, there's nothing in this book that hasn't occurred somewhere on this planet in the last 200 years. Real war, unlike fictional war, is extremely ugly. I've read some interviews with Suzanne Collins about Mockingjay, and she's said that her purpose in writing this is to teach kids and teens about the realities of war that adults won't tell them about. And maybe she has a good point. But here's controversial question: does educating people about war (horrendous as it may be) really help prevent war? Probably. But it's not fun.
I'll be honest, this book is emotional and brutal. People you love with die. People who you thought were good with do terrible, awful things. Emotional scars will never heal. After I finished reading it, Jon found me sobbing on the couch. I'm an easy crier, but still.
Despite all that, I do feel like this is a book worth reading. I've had to take a couple of days to mourn to come to this conclusion, but I have made it here. I've been going through the book and reading a few parts again, and that helped me see hope and love in the last few pages where I missed it the first time (blame it on shock from some of the horrific events of the climax). Suzanne Collins has created a detailed and multi-layered story here. This entire series is a journey that is not for the faint-hearted, but if you read it you will come out changed.
That about sums it up. I just had a hard time believing that this was a story about true love when the characters seemed so young and so... politely friendly to each other. Anyway, just my opinion. I still think it's a fabulous young teen book.
‘And what are you reading, Miss — ?’ ‘Oh! It is only a novel!’ replies the young lady, while she lays down her book with affected indifference, or momentary shame. ‘It is only Cecilia, or Camilla, or Belinda’; or, in short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour, are conveyed to the world in the best–chosen language.
So, now that I've read Cecilia, do I agree with Ms. Austen? I don't know...
It's not a bad book... for the first 500 pages or so. I really loved Evelina, but Evelina is also much shorter than Cecilia (about 500 pages shorter). Cecilia is 940 pages. Even Fanny Burney thought it was too long, but she was under pressure to release it and didn't have time to edit it as much as she wanted. Also, during the Regency era melodramatic literature was considered the best. While Evelina has some crying and fainting, it's minimal. Cecilia takes it to the extreme. I enjoyed the beginning of the story, but eventually it became too much for me. Cecilia is about a young and beautiful heiress who can only retain her fortune if her husband takes her maiden name as his own. The premise is interesting, but I quickly grew irritated with all the overly dramatic plot points. Fainting, screaming, crying, suicide, dueling, death, loss of fortune, and it goes on and on and on.
I can see now why Fanny Burney no longer resonates with modern audiences like Austen does. Austen pares down her stories to universally understandable situations and people. Burney, on the other hand, loads down her books with details and situations that are specific to her time period. That doesn't bother me too much because I've studied the period, but I don't really relate to these novels like I relate to something by Austen.
At the same time, I have serious respect for Fanny Burney. She had a knack for capturing each of her characters' individual voices and a knack for writing dialogue like she was writing a screenplay. She also had a serious gift with language and was good friends with Samuel Johnson (author of the first English dictionary), and my dear friend, the Oxford English Dictionary, cites Fanny Burney's novels often as the first use of many words and phrases we use today. And, there's no denying that, as Cecilia and Camilla are often cited as some of Austen's favorite novels, Cecilia influenced Austen. There are obvious parallels between Mortimer Delvile (proud, rich young man from arrogant family) and Mr. Darcy. And then there's the fact that most scholars agree the title Pride and Prejudice comes from a line at the end of Cecilia:
"Remember: if to PRIDE and PREJUDICE you owe your miseries, so wonderfully is good and evil balanced, that to PRIDE and PREJUDICE you will also owe their termination." (It really reads like that in the book too, with the bolded capital letters.)
So, to conclude this rather long book post, I'll just say that as an Austen/Burney nerd I found Cecilia worth reading, if not thoroughly enjoyable like Evelina.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
If you're looking for adventure, magic, coming-of-age, an awesome female protagonist, romance (although I'm warning you now that there are some unexpected twists and turns in this department - some of which had me tearing up and/or slamming the book shut in frustration), lyrical writing, and overall brilliant fantasy, The Hero and the Crown is a must-read.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
I've always loved Robin McKinley's Beauty, and in the last couple of years I've read other books by her that I enjoyed (Spindle's End and Chalice), so why is it that I've never read her Newbery winning The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown??? I don't know, but now that I've read The Blue Sword, I am a serious fan. This book has so much going for it! Awesome story, amazing detail, beautiful descriptions, well-realized fantasy, great romance, and one very cool heroine. I always love a strong female protagonist who doesn't always rely on everyone else to do things for her, but instead goes out and makes her own destiny. Harry (yes, her name really is Harry) is everything I love in a main character.
There are two questions I have about this book. One, why is it labeled as science fiction? I'm not seeing it. I'd say it's clearly fantasy. The other question I have is, why is this considered a children's book?? I thoroughly enjoyed it as an adult, and none of the main (or even minor) characters are children. If there's one thing that's made clear in this book, it is this one fact: Harry is a woman. :D That was a fun sentence to write. Anyway, Harry never acts juvenile, although her tale is sort of a coming of age story, except I see it more as a finding-yourself-and-your-place-in-the-world plot.
Whatever this book is, it's wonderful. It is now high on my list of books I intend to buy and recommend to others. I just started The Hero and the Crown this morning (it's a prequel to The Blue Sword) and I'll let you know how it goes!
There is a Middlemarch movie, made in 1994, which is waiting for me at the library. I'll let you know what I think. Even better, though, they are making a brand new Middlemarch which should make an appearance on Masterpiece in a year or two. Andrew Davies is doing the screenplay (1995 Pride & Prejudice, 1996 Emma, 1999 Wives & Daughters, 2005 Bleak House, 2008 Sense and Sensibility, 2008 Little Dorrit), so you can imagine that I'm very excited to see the results of that!
My first two experiences with an Eva Ibbotson novel were very positive; I liked A Company of Swans and I really liked A Countess Below Stairs. After reading The Reluctant Heiress I have to say that I enjoyed it, but that I'm a little bored with the plot. It seems to be a pretty close duplicate of A Countess Below Stairs's plot, with the unfortunate problem of not being quite as good. That said, the setting was fabulous! I loved the descriptions of Vienna and the countryside in Austria. The protagonist of this book is a penniless princess who works in an opera company. I happen to love opera, and really enjoyed the descriptions of the various operas that played key moments in the plot, as well as the fun backstage look into opera productions. There were so many things going for this book... if only it had been a little more original!!! All the same, this book is a good clean romance and was a nice way to spend a couple of afternoons.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Ah, Frankenstein. I can't tell you how much I enjoyed reading this. Truly. I'm not much for horror, but this book is so great. I'm not saying that everyone will enjoy it, simply that I did. This book was the final thing I read for my British Lit class last semester and in a way it was a great accumulation of everything I'd studied over the semester. There were so many references to Mary Shelley's contemporary authors and their works in this book, that I'm sure if I'd read it before taking my Lit class I would have been thoroughly confused. Instead, I understood exactly what Mary Shelley meant in the plot when she referenced Percy Shelley's poems, Wordsworth's poems, Byron's life, Coleridge's "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," and Goethe's The Sorrows of Young Werther.
All that aside, this book has some good universally enjoyable qualities. It's really quite surprising. The plot is not what Hollywood would want you to believe. There's no gory horror. I found that the same thing is true with this book as it was with Robert Louis Stevenson's Jekyll and Hyde: the plot is simple, symbolic, gripping, and open to interpretation. Thus, the many different variations on it by popular media.
This book carries some interesting and unexpected themes, such as how what you read affects you (the monster - who is unnamed, by the way... Frankenstein is the doctor protagonist - reads three books after being shunned by his creator and they each have a profoud effect on what he later becomes), the responsibilities of parenthood, the possibility that society creates its own criminals, the inner workings of outcasts, promethean science (do men go too far into that realm that belongs only to God?), and the fact that the monster is what any human could be if he or she let his or her emotions run wild.
After reading this book I couldn't stop thinking about it. There was so much to learn and digest from it that I still occasionally come back to it in my thoughts during those rare still moments. I characterize books like this as uplifting, a word I would never have thought I'd use to describe Frankenstein before reading it.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
When Masterpiece Theater aired a new film version of Emma this last January it made me want to read the book again after watching it. Unfortunately, my Austen books were in storage (it was sooo depressing to have all my books in storage!). Now of course, my books are all out and after buying my Emma DVD (I love the new movie; definitely recommend it to all Austen fans) I was finally able to read it. Emma is not my favorite Austen book, but that's not too much of an insult because I love all of Austen's novels. I think there's something about an Austen film adaptation that completes the enjoyment for me, though. Jane Austen is notorious for her sparse romantic details (proposals summed up in short third-person sentences, important conversations/looks etc... glossed over, NO kissing or other physical contact described), and so I love watching the movies because they fill in those gaps.
I think one of the reason Austen's novels are so popular is because so much is left to the imagination. The plots are fabulous, but the details are sparse, leaving readers to create their own perfect love story in their minds. I am an Austen enthusiast, though, so maybe I'm a bit biased, but I think she's a genius.
Monday, June 7, 2010
I read this for one of my classes this semester and several people prepared me for it, telling me it was the most boring book they'd ever read. I don't know, but I think a couple of semesters of studying literature have prepared me to actually like this book. I'm pretty sure if I'd read it before I started school, I would have found it more boring. As it was, I thought it was beautifully descriptive and full of all sorts of cool symbolisms and ironies. I read with the intent to write a 4 page paper on it from a feminist point of view, so I spent most of my time looking for where this book portrays female stereotypes. While it does have some strong female stereotypes, I'm not really a feminist myself so I actually really agreed with the portrayal of women in this book. Anyway, this book has some great features, if you're in the mood for 20th century immigrant literature taking place on the Nebraska plain (a place I happen to feel a connection to).
Friday, May 14, 2010
Talk about action-packed! Holy cow! This book picks up fast and kept me engrossed until the end. It was a spectacular ending to the series, and I think it did a great job of wrapping up all the plot lines. It had everything I love in a book. Really, it was brilliant. I won't say much more, but if you're a fan of the series, you will love this.
In fact, the same day I read this (it was actually Earth Day) I watched some special Earth Day movie on PBS and one of the people in the documentary reminded me very much of the business man in The Little Prince. Basically, there was this guy who has spent his entire life trying to calculate how long it will be before the earth is destroyed because of lack of food/clean air/fuel etc.. for all the people on earth. Remind anyone else of the business man in The Little Prince who wastes his whole life counting? It was definitely a reminder to me to not waste my life worrying about inconsequential things and to instead go out an DO SOMETHING!
1. I love Egyptian culture.
This book has a good mix of real-life childhood emotions, comedy, mystery, and fun. It's superb.
I read this book for my theory of language class, and I wasn't sure what to expect; I was surprised! This book is entertaining and educating at the same time. It details many of the twists and turns English took before becoming more established. The origins of thousands of words are detailed, and as I've always been a bit of a hobby etymologist, I loved it. This book also happens to be hilarious at times. Seriously. And if you ever have the chance of watching the History Channel's documentary based on the book, you should. It's hosted by Melvyn Bragg himself, and features all of the wit and funny facts found in the book. This is a fun read, especially if you're at all interested in history or the origins of our language.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Fantastic! This book is intense and so interesting. It is very psychological and reminds me a lot of Ender's Game. I can't tell you why, because I worry that I'd be spoiling things for you. Let's just say, you will be engrossed through the entire book. It also ends on the mother of all cliffhangers. I plan on recommending this book to anyone who asks me for a recommendation. I can't wait for the sequel.