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!