Thursday, December 30, 2010

Fahrenheit 451

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

The Help

This is me jumping on the bandwagon, I guess. I sometimes avoid a book if it becomes too popular (I just like being contrary like that :D), but a good friend encouraged me to read this and I gave in. The conclusion? This is a seriously good book.

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.

Travels with Charley in Search of America

I loved this book! Surprise, no? I didn't expect to find any literature that I really loved in my American realism class, but here it is. Finally, a realist author that doesn't feel the need to write only about depressing things! Granted, this is Steinbeck's lighter novel. Compared to Grapes of Wrath or Of Mice and Men it's positively a comedy. And it really was funny. I didn't laugh out loud much, but it made me smile many times. This is Steinbeck's own travelogue as he crosses America with his poodle Charley, searching for the American people he's been writing about for years. His discoveries are funny and moving. His writing is gorgeous. I especially appreciated what he wrote as he went through Lousiana, since this novel is contemporary with The Help's time period. He saw first hand some of those race issues and his account is shocking. Steinbeck really has a way of viewing the world and writing about it honestly. I thought the whole novel was candid and entertaining. Definitely a keeper and certainly one of the novels I read this semester that won't spend the rest of its life gathering dust on a book shelf. I intend to read it again and share with my kids someday.

A Farewell to Arms

This book was easier to read than Faulkner, at least, but I can't say that I loved it. The ending is depressing. All the same, I feel like I'm pushing my personal limits by reading stuff like this. I may not love it, but I'm learning to appreciate it as great literature. I was impressed by Hemingway's writing, but I'm glad to put it behind me... No more depressing WWI stories for me for a while.


Linger is the sequel to Shiver which I read last year and really disliked. For some reason, I decided to get the sequel from the library and give it a go. I actually really liked it. Probably because I read it sandwiched between Faulkner and Hemingway. It was a pleasantly light break. Another reason this is better than the first book is because the teens-falling-in-obsessive-love plot isn't present. The plot focused on more interesting things and I got sucked in. This book is fast-paced and intense at times. Really, not bad. For a teen werewolf book.

As I Lay Dying

Talk about de-press-ing. I won't lie to you; I hated reading this book. It's the story of a family that crosses Mississippi to bury their mother/wife in the town where she was born. This is not a happy book. Definitely not, as my American lit professor puts it, "comfort food lit." I'm not likely to curl up with this on a snowy day with a cup of cocoa. Frankly, I'm not likely to ever read it again ever. After studying it in class I can grudgingly admit that it has some good qualities. I won't knock Faulkner's writing abilities; I perfectly accept that he was a genius. On the other hand, why did he have to write about such horrible subjects? By the end of the book, one character is less a leg, one is in a mental institution, one is convinced that his dead mother is a fish, and one (who tries unsuccessfuly to get an abortion) ends up being taken advantage of by a pharmacist. Lovely. Not to mention, the dead wife's husband gets remarried to the woman he borrows a shovel from to bury his wife's corpse with. Not much else to say about As I Lay Dying.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Harry Potter Wrap-Up

It's actually been a couple weeks since I finished up the Harry Potter books, and I've been meaning to blog about them since then. In fact, I meant to blog about them one-by-one as I read each one, pointing out all the new insights and cool things I noticed. It's been exciting to reread the whole series now that I actually know how it ends. I hadn't opened a Harry Potter book since I finished book 7 on the day it came out in July of 2007.

3 years since I've read a Harry Potter book!

Maybe I was a little Harry Potter-ed out. Maybe the last Harry Potter book was so deep and emotionally heavy that I had to take a break and recover. Seriously, the way Harry Potter's world sucks me in, it really felt like I had to grieve for some of those characters who died.

Anyway, whatever the reason, it's been a very long time. When I saw the new trailer for Harry Potter 7 and didn't recognize half the scenes, I realized I needed to read that book again if I wanted to fully appreciate the movie. And if I was going to read book 7, I may as well read them all...

Reading Harry Potter is like taking a vacation. I can forget my troubles and become fully immersed in a world that is wonderful, magical, fun, moving, and uplifting. I love the layers upon layers of plot detail and the way the stories weave together. I wish I had taken the time to document all the little things I noticed. There really are probably too many to mention, though. Everyone should experience these books for themselves. I've yet to find a series that compares, that replicates the glorious reading experience I enjoy every time I read a Harry Potter book.

The Harry Potter books, in my mind, are truly the best works of children's literature available. They take kids on a ride through childhood and adolescence, showing them how to deal with issues every individual experiences. Adults can fully appreciate and enjoy this ride as well, because it really is the human journey. J.K. Rowling has appealed to every archetypal situation existing on this planet. Every emotion that a human can feel is in these books. I laughed and cried and everything in between.

It just slays me that anyone could believe these books should be banned, that they're evil. Anyone who has read Harry Potter can vouch for the series. It is about love and friendship and overcoming evil, not about teaching kids witchcraft. Could there really be anything bad about a series that managed to get an entire generation of kids hooked on reading?

I can't wait to share these books with my own children! Sarah's already asked me to read her the first book, and I may start it with her, but I won't be reading books 4 - 7 to her until she's a bit older (even 2 and 3 have pretty scary and intense moments); they are definitely too much for a five year-old!

P.S. Anyone else excited to go see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1? I'm so glad they're splitting book 7 into two movies. Nothing should be cut out of Deathly Hallows. It's going to be epic!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

YA books by LDS authors

I'm always interested in YA books by LDS authors. First off, they're usually very clean and I always appreciate finding books like that. Most of these books are piggybacking on Stephenie Meyer's success with Twilight, but I have to admit that that fact doesn't bother me much. If Twilight is going to make publishing companies give books written by LDS people more attention that's fine with me. :D If you liked Twilight these are books I'd recommend.

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.

YA books by my favorite YA authors

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.

Death Comes For the Archbishop

And, as I'd say every time I flopped on the couch to try and finish this book, "It's not nearly coming fast enough!!"

This is a slow book. A strange book. It doesn't have a plot or a story arc. It's the tale of a man's life as a Bishop for the Catholic church in New Mexico, right after it becomes a part of America. Now, I didn't hate this book, I just thought it was a bit boring at times. Cather's writing is beautiful. Her descriptions are truly breathtaking at times. I appreciated the book much more after finishing it and studying it in class. There's some fabulous symbology and some very interesting themes to explore in this book. But, I can't say that I will be eager to return to it soon.

39 Clues Wrap-Up

Finished the series! Wohoo! And I really love the way they ended. Yeah, maybe I was able to predict some of the ending (like 6 books ago) but there were a few good surprises. And naturally it sets up a whole other series at the end. I think this is a fun series and I love that the ending brought it to England and had a lot to do with Shakespeare. I think these books are so educational and my kids will definitely be reading them, although not for a few years. They can get pretty intense, so I'd say upper elementary school/middle school ages would like it best, but of course, always depending on the individual child.

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

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court

It's a new semester! I'm in an American Realism class this fall, which is good for me because it's not really my go-to genre and I'll be reading all sorts of books I haven't read before. I'm excited to expand my horizons a bit! Starting off with a familiar friend, though, is Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. It's been years since I've read this book. It's amazing the way a book can change from childhood to adulthood. When I read this as a teen I remember thinking it was funny. And it is funny. It made me laugh out loud and frequently share portions with Jon. What I never realized before is what seriously clever satire this is! As an adult I can see the commentary that Twain is making on his own society and the way romanticism is being attacked. It made me think twice (or thrice or more) about a few aspects of our own society. I really enjoyed this on every level, from intellectually to emotionally. I'm so glad that taking this class made me buy this book, because I think it's a must have for any library.

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.

Princess of Glass

This is another sweet story from Jessica Day George. It takes the tired out Cinderella plot and reinvents it in a beautiful way. I can't say, though, that I loved it as much as Princess of the Midnight Ball. And maybe it's just because I read it after Mockingjay. Unlike, Mockingjay, Princess of Glass IS a fairy tale. No one you love dies a horrible gruesome death and everyone who deserves it lives happily ever after. After reading Mockingjay, this book was actually very soothing on my scoured raw emotions. But, I can't help it if I found Princess of Glass just a little bit dull in comparison. The romance also left a little bit to be desired. In fact, a quote from the 1995 Sense and Sensibility movie comes to mind...

Can the soul truly be satisfied with such... polite affections?

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.


I've been interested in Fanny Burney as an author since last semester at school, mainly because she's cited as being such a big influence on Jane Austen. I did a couple of big projects on her and now I feel like I know her life and her works pretty well. I read Evelina and loved it! Her other big three novels are Cecilia, Camilla, and The Wanderer. I've particularly wanted to read Cecilia and Camilla for a while, because Jane Austen writes about them in Northanger Abbey, using Catherine Morland to give a little speech on how novels were received at the time:

‘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

The Hero and the Crown

What can I say? I loved it. After I finished it, I was completely unable to close it. I had to fight the urge to flip back to page one and start it all over again. Although I finished it several days ago, I keep sneaking it out of my library book basket to reread some of my favorite parts. It's also caused me to reread large chunks of The Blue Sword, searching for any mention of Aerin, Tor, and Luthe.

This is a brilliant book! Since it's a prequel to The Blue Sword and details Aerin's story (which is mentioned often in The Blue Sword), I thought I had some idea of what was going to happen and how it would end, but I was surprised over and over again. The execution is flawless and the plot is character-driven. I felt like I really knew Aerin and identified with her. I loved Harry of course, and I think that The Blue Sword is the best give-a-girl-a-sword book I've ever read, but Hero and the Crown held more emotional depth for me. Aerin is a little more vulnerable and uncertain of herself than Harry ever was, and as much as I'd like to be like Harry, I'm really more like Aerin. I can't believe I have never read this book before! I'm in mourning right now for all 28 of the past years I've lived without having read this book. It is, in my opinion, Robin McKinley's magnum opus.

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

The Blue Sword

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!


I always feel like giving myself a nice round of applause and a hearty pat on the back when I complete an 800+ page Victorian era British novel. I enjoy them, but they are a piece of work to read sometimes. Middlemarch is one of the more complex novels I've ever read. There are several plots going on at once, and it took a while to get into it and figure things out. There were also a few ultra long (and boring) descriptions on politics that I found myself slogging through, and I'll admit that I glanced ahead to see when things would get good again a few times and speed read through the worst parts.

But it was all worth it! This book is descriptive and emotional. By the time I got into it I was hooked. I was so personally invested in the characters' lives and stories that I had a hard time dragging myself away for such menial tasks as feeding children. I was so attached to one story in particular that I cried a couple of times (am I allowed to admit that on this blog?) and even *gasp* dogeared a couple of pages that I found particularly heartwrenching so I could go back and read them again later.

Like Dickens, George Eliot (who is a woman, by the way) captures the lives of people from a wide range of backgrounds. No one in the small town of Middlemarch is exempt from being affected by the main characters or affecting them in turn. The plot is woven together seamlessly. I have serious admiration for any author who can write like this.

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!

The Reluctant Heiress

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

Charlie Bone... Take 8

Finally! The last Charlie Bone book!!! It's been out for a while, but there were so many holds on it at the library that I had to wait until now (particularly because I don't intend to buy it; not the biggest Charlie fan). I have such mixed feelings about this whole series. I felt like it had such potential. The plot does have interesting twists and turns. I think all the references to Welsh and African culture/mythology are very cool. Each book has ended on enough of a cliffhanger that I've felt compelled to read the next. And that's about the end of the positives.

Jenny Nimmo's writing drives me crazy. She's constantly introducing new complications to the plot and half the time she leaves them unresolved. And when she does resolve things, it feels hurried and sudden. She never spends time on what I want to read more about. I've always felt like she was in a hurry to just produce another book. Another point I take issue with is her character development. After 8 books you'd think the main characters would mature or gain some sort of depth... but they don't. They remain the same as they were in the first book. Irritating.

At least there are no more books coming out in this series. :D I know she's planning on writing another based on the same world, but I think I'll skip them.


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.


This is the fourth and final book in The Luxe series. Thank heaven for that! I am now convinced that the only one of these books worth reading is the first. I really enjoyed the first, but my reactions to the other three have ranged from mediocre acceptance to sheer hatred. Splendor, unfortunately, falls into the latter category. I was really irritated by this book. After so much build-up and so many loose plot holes, THIS is how it chose to end???? Awful! It really has a horrible ending, but the funny thing is, the ending is consistent with the characters' true personalities, which is proof that some of the characters in these books are of the lowest quality of human being that exists. Ok, maybe that's a little over-strong. Maybe I'm just angry that I wasted any time reading this series. To sum up, if you read the first book, imagine a nice happy ending for everyone and don't be tempted to go on.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

North and South

I loved this book! It's probably second to Evelina for favorite book read this year. Aside from the really great romance story, this book explores differences in culture between the north and south of England, class differences, and differences between life in an industrial town and life in the country. Unlike Jane Austen, Elizabeth Gaskell goes into the lives of the servant and working classes, which I found very interesting. My only complaint is that the ending was very sudden. I really wanted more! I've heard that there's a good movie based on the book, so I plan on heading over to the library website to see if I can find it.


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.

39 clues catch-up

Since it doesn't take me long to read these books, I decided to wait until a few more came out and catch-up on them. I read 6, 7, and 8 and there are only two more left! The 9th is actually out and I have a hold on it at the library, but there's a long line, so I'll probably have to wait. These books continue to be what they started out as... fun, adventurous, mysterious... but not spectacular. The plot does continue to thicken, but I'm ready to know how it ends and move on. I think these books are great for kids, though (both boys and girls, which is nice), and I definitely recommend them to people who are looking for books for their kids (ages 8 or so on up, depending on the maturity of the kid - there are some scary/intense moments).

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner

Yes, I'm a twilight fan, but I wasn't really sure what to think when Stephenie announced the release of this novella. Is she just cashing in on her wild success? Will it actually add anything to the story? Will the writing be any good or will it be rubbish? Well, I read it this afternoon (didn't take too long, it's quite short) and if you're interested it's available online here for a short time. I read it online, because I wasn't sure I wanted to own it. Now that I've finished it, I'm pretty sure I will want to buy it, if for nothing but to put its pretty matching cover up on my bookshelf with Stephenie's other books. :D

So...I think it does add something to the story. But not much. My biggest problem with this book is that it's a vampire book. "But aren't all Twilight books vampire books?" you ask? Well, not really. The Twilight series doesn't much go into the gory aspects of non-vegetarian vampires, but Bree does. There were way too many descriptions of Bree gorging on human blood without feeling a bit of remorse. Yuck.

Other than that, the story is short and boring and the romance is practically non-existent. I never felt like I really got invested in Bree as a character (or Diego for that matter). There's one great character named Fred that's introduced, and there are some worthwhile moments at the end when the Cullens show up. There's a short mental communication between Bree and Edward that I particularly thought added to the story. Other than that, not much to say. We all know how it ends.

If you're a Twilight fan, I recommend reading it online, unless you're like me and have an obsession with owning completed sets. :D

The Red Pyramid

I was very excited to start a new series by Rick Riordan, as I'm a huge fan of his Percy Jackson books. This new series is based on Egyptian mythology (another favorite of mine) and this first book is a great start to a new adventure. I really enjoyed the whole ride. I have a feeling that this series is a little more serious and heavy and a little less fun that the Percy books, but Egyptian mythology is by nature more serious than Greek. It suits me just fine, so I'm not complaining, just saying. The book had all of Rick's signature traits, though, from clever chapter titles to great dialogue to fantastically described action sequences. He really makes this mythology come alive and makes it more accessible for kids, teens, and adults to understand. I'm really looking forward to the next book in the series!

My Antonia

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

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon

This little beauty was a Newbery honor book for 2009. I have to agree with a friend of mine who recently told me she thought it should have won the medal. When You Reach Me was interesting and had a cool plot, but Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is spectacular. It is moving and has an incredible message. In a way it reminded me of The Tale of Despereaux because of it's profound simplicity. I loved everything about it.


It's a new semester and that means neo-classic British literature for me! This book was recommended to me by my good friend Kristen as well, so when I saw it on our reading list I was excited. I loved it. LOVED it. I don't think I've enjoyed reading a book this much in ages (and I have read a lot of really great literature!). I don't know if it was the fact that I broke in my new couches by spending a day in them reading this with my fireplace on, but something about reading this book was extremely enjoyable. This is my kind of book. It's pre-Austen, but contains a lot of the Austen elements that I enjoy. It's a totally different writing style than Austen, of course. Fanny Burney is a fantastic writer, and I really loved the format of this book (it's told in letters). I'm going to start petitioning PBS to make a movie version of this for Masterpiece Theater. If you are an Austen fan, you will love Evelina.


More lit for my British lit class. Oroonoko is, to be frank, gruesome and horrible. There's no getting around that fact. All the same, it is an interesting piece of history. It's a good reminder that not all slaves were poor workers; some slaves were princes. This story has love, suspense, mystery, slavery, and a violent (really way too detailed in my opinion) ending.

Fablehaven 5

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.

A Countess Below Stairs

I read A Company of Swans by Eva Ibbotson last year and liked it, so I decided to try something else by her. I have to say, I enjoyed this book much more than A Company of Swans. It has a plot that's been done before, but it was done well and with beautiful writing. Also, one of the things I really liked about this is that it's a romance that's clean. It's so hard to find good, clean romance anymore. I definitely recommend this one.

The Little Prince

You'll probably be able to tell from my next few posts, but there was a period in-between semester when I had nothing to do, and no books from the library, so I randomly pulled children's books off my shelf to read. I have this goal of reading all the Newbery books (winners and honors), so I worked on that. Of course, The Little Prince is not a Newbery, but it's a classic, and I haven't read it in years. I think that, as an adult, it was even more interesting that it was when I first read it (not sure when that was, but a really long time ago). Kids miss all the philosophical/moral messages this book is trying to make and focus on the prince's fun adventures.

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!

The Egypt Game

I remember this book very fondly from my childhood, so it was fun to revisit it. I love it for two big reasons:

1. I love Egyptian culture.
2. I spent a great deal of my childhood playing imaginary games.

This book has a good mix of real-life childhood emotions, comedy, mystery, and fun. It's superb.

A Year Down Yonder

Oh Richard Peck is so funny! I was laughing out loud the whole way through. This book is delightful. I also highly recomment A Long Way From Chicago by Richard Peck. Don't read this around people who might think you're strange if you occasionally laugh, snicker, snort, or guffaw while reading (like my five-year old).

Island of the Blue Dolphins

I will admit to being frustrated with this book. I couldn't remember how it ended from my childhood, so I kept expecting something that didn't happen (which I won't explain here in case you haven't read it). It seems to be a much different book now that I'm an adult. Still, I think survival books are fascinating, and this book has vivid and detailed descriptions. I think it's a "you have to read once in your life" kind of book.

Maniac Magee

This is a great "boy" book, and I'm glad I read it so I can know to recommend it to my boys. Aside from just being fun and interesting, it covers some great history about black and white segregation in America. It's a feel-good book, and definitely deserves that shiny sticker.

The Adventure of English

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.

Grammar by Diagram

It's ok, you can say it. It won't hurt my feelings.

"You are an English nerd."

"You're putting textbooks on your book blog???"

To which I will respond:

"Yes, I am a nerd. I loved my grammar class and I now subconsciously diagram every sentence I read. I am obsessed with correct punctuation and grammar now more than I ever was before taking this class."

"I feel that I have every right to put this book in this blog, because I read it cover to cover. And studied it. And screamed over it. And tore my hair out until I understood it. This book has been painful, but I have learned so much from it."

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Peter and the Sword of Mercy

This book fully lives up to the high bar set by the three other Peter books written by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. It takes place years later, and Wendy Darling (Molly's daughter) is the main character - though it's not told exclusively from her point of view. Anyway, it's a great book, and it was fun to revisit characters from the previous books. The plot was strong and so was the writing. Good, good, good, good. I definitely plan on owning this, which is as strong a compliment as I can give a book. The whole series is one I highly recommend.

When You Reach Me

This book just won the Newbery, and for very good reason. It is amazing! I love the plot. It belongs next to other classic children's New York lit, like Harriet the Spy and From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Also, if you're a fan of A Wrinkle in Time you will LOVE this book. It's just so fantastic! Some of the other recent Newbery winners (like The Graveyard Book) have been censured for being too scary or inappropriate (personally, I love them as an adult, but I can see objecting to them for certain ages and types of children), but When You Reach Me is just good literature that no one can object to. Go read it!

Calamity Jack

I finally got my hands on the sequel to Rapunzel's Revenge! This is a great book, and told from Jack's POV. Jack is hilarious, so this is a very funny read. It has some great new characters and, of course, killer illustrations. I never thought I'd love a graphic novel (that's the new term for comic book), but this is so great. Of course, Shannon Hale is magic. She could write an instruction manual for putting together a bookcase and it'd be fascinating. Anyway, this is a great read. My daughter loves these books, and I think they're great for all ages.

The Maze Runner

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.