Saturday, May 21, 2011

Gone With the Wind

There is so much to say about Gone With the Wind that I'm not sure where to start. This book has it all: history, romance, family, compelling plot... It may be a long book, but I was completely engrossed the whole way through. There's no slow pacing or long, dull passages. I really should have read this years ago, because it is one of the best books I've ever read. Certainly in my top 10.

I've always been interested in the civil war, but I'm used to viewing the south as the bad guys. I think this book opened up my mind a bit. It was fascinating to put myself in the south and view the war and the changes they went through from their eyes. Now, I'm not saying that the south was purely the victim, that they didn't do anything wrong. I'm just saying that now I have a little better perspective on how the Civil War affected the whole country. I'm getting the bigger picture, which, surprisingly, even included a little better understanding of the Klu Klux Klan (which I don't approve of!!! I just think I have a better appreciation for why it existed). Anyway, if you'll forgive me for being an English nerd for two seconds, it reminds me of a literary theory I studied called New Historicism, which believes that it's important to try and understand history from all sides. The more stories you read about one event or time period, the closer you'll get to actually discovering the truth of what really happened. I think I might go on a Civil War kick and see what else I can find to read in this genre. Also, I plan to watch Gettysburg with Jon and a documentary PBS did on General Lee.

Moving on, the writing was gorgeous. I loved Margaret Mitchell's style and her dialogue. Rhett and Scarlett could be so funny at times, and at others so completely heart-wrenching. Mitchell paints a beautiful portrait of the South in this book (which may have been maybe a teensy bit romanticized, I thought). There are a lot of racist issues in here, but I thought Mitchell did a good job of trying to be fair-minded and see things from all sides. Mostly, I just enjoyed being there and experiencing everything, the good and the bad. The realities of war, soldiers, giving birth back then (oh horror), dealing with carpetbaggers and Republicans, adjusting to free blacks, all of these were portrayed with the good and the bad.

Now, Scarlett is a bit of a difficult character; she's kind of hard to like. She's such a mercenary, selfish creature for most of the book, and she's a horrible mother, which made it hard for me to empathize with her. I don't think the point is to like her, though. And I did find myself empathizing more and more with her as the book went on. Scarlett completely changes as the South changes, and I don't know that I can blame her for all her ruthlessness. What would I have done in that situation? If my loved ones were starving, wouldn't I bend a few rules of decency? I think the more I tried to understand her, the more I found her fascinatingly complex. She's shallow on the surface, but there are some surprises lurking under that shell.

And as for Rhett, well, I liked him. Tons. He's very much the classic Byronic hero: dark, troubled, a bit of a bad boy, no respect for authority, self-serving... but at the same time, loveable and honest and sympathetic. There's something irresistible about an unrequited love character. My heart went out to him. And you know, I thought one of the interesting ironies of the book comes from Rhett. At the beginning of the war and during the war, whenever Rhett would make remarks about how the South was going to lose and how the war was pointless everybody in the South would hate him. He was ostracized for being a Yankee sympathizer. Well, every time he'd talk, I'd think, "Ummm.... you guys better listen to him... He's right!" I think Rhett is a fantastic character. Fully-drawn and fully-enjoyable to read.

There were lots of other great characters too: Mammy, Melanie, Gerald O'Hara, Ashley (even though I thought he was a bit insipid at times). Really, I just loved the whole book. The ending left me wishing for a sequel, which actually exists. It's called Scarlett, but I've read dozens of reviews saying it's one of the worst books ever written and doesn't live up to the original. It wasn't written by Margaret Mitchell, but was published after her death. So, I think I'll just imagine up my own ending, and let this classic live as it is.

I also had to get the movie from the library and may I just say, "Frankly, my friends, I don't give a ... well, you know." Ok, just kidding. I had to find some way to work the most famous movie quote of all time into this post. I actually really liked the movie. It's a testament to the quality of this film that even though Jon and I often snickered at the cinematography, we both enjoyed it. There were a few scenes that were supposed to be dramatic that made us laugh, but besides that, the acting was truly great. I was most impressed by the pacing. Sometimes old movies can be so slow, but not Gone With the Wind. It's really no wonder that this got 10 academy awards. It's an awesome movie. Now if only Clark Gable were just a bit more attractive. Oh well. He was funny and quotable and that made up for it. I thought Scarlett was much more likeable in the movie than in the book too. Anyway, I'd love to see a modern remake of this story. I can just imagine how awesome it would be with modern cinematography.

Have I said enough? Probably. You're probably thinking, "Sheesh. No need to write a novel about a novel, Emily." So I'll stop, but not before recommending that you read Gone With the Wind. It's completely worth your time.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Toads and Diamonds

Diribani has come to the village well to get water for her family's scant meal of curry and rice. She never expected to meet a goddess there. Yet she is granted a remarkable gift: Flowers and precious jewels drop from her lips whenever she speaks.

It seems only right to Tana that the goddess judged her kind, lovely stepsister worthy of such riches. And when she encounters the goddess, she is not surprised to find herself speaking snakes and toads as a reward.

Blessings and curses are never so clear as they might seem, however. Diribani’s newfound wealth brings her a prince—and an attempt on her life. Tana is chased out of the village because the province's governor fears snakes, yet thousands are dying of a plague spread by rats. As the sisters' fates hang in the balance, each struggles to understand her gift. Will it bring her wisdom, good fortune, love . . . or death?

So, I started this book, got about twenty pages in and put it down. I read several books in between before I got back to it. It's a bit of a slow start, and I hard a hard time getting into the setting (based on Indian culture). Once I was in, though, it flew - and I ended up really loving this book. I've always been a fan of fairy-tale retellings, and this one's a bit obscure and isn't done as often. There are two stories told in this book, one for each sister, and Heather Tomlinson did an awesome job of weaving them together. Truly well done with just the right touch of romance. 


What if you knew exactly when you would die?

Thanks to modern science, every human being has become a ticking genetic time bomb—males only live to age twenty-five, and females only live to age twenty. In this bleak landscape, young girls are kidnapped and forced into polygamous marriages to keep the population from dying out.

When sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery is taken by the Gatherers to become a bride, she enters a world of wealth and privilege. Despite her husband Linden's genuine love for her, and a tenuous trust among her sister wives, Rhine has one purpose: to escape—to find her twin brother and go home.

But Rhine has more to contend with than losing her freedom. Linden's eccentric father is bent on finding an antidote to the genetic virus that is getting closer to taking his son, even if it means collecting corpses in order to test his experiments. With the help of Gabriel, a servant Rhine is growing dangerously attracted to, Rhine attempts to break free, in the limited time she has left.

Wither is such a strange book. I wavered between giving it three or four stars on goodreads and ended up settling for three. It was an interesting concept, but I didn't get into it like I was hoping to. It was creepy dystopian, not compelling dystopian, if that makes any sense. The whole polygamy thing was just not in my comfort zone. Despite having a lot to do with teenagers being married off to make babies at ridiculously young ages, there were at least no horribly gratuitous scenes. The ending left me curious enough that I'll likely check out the sequel (even though I thought the ending was a bit silly for such a serious subject). Anyway, I think I'm getting tired and I hope that I haven't just typed a bunch of stuff that makes no sense... :D

If I Stay

This one has been circulating book blogs for a while and it immediately caught my eye. Here's what goodreads has to say:

In a single moment, everything changes. Seventeen-year-old Mia has no memory of the accident; she can only recall riding along the snow-wet Oregon road with her family. Then, in a blink, she finds herself watching as her own damaged body is taken from the wreck...

A sophisticated, layered, and heartachingly beautiful story about the power of family and friends, the choices we all make—and the ultimate choice Mia commands.

I personally love stories about life after death or about what happens between life and death. I loved the concept of this book and its execution was gorgeous. I was really impressed by Gayle Forman's writing. I read the whole book in one sitting because I was so into it (it's not very long also). The story is told mainly in flashbacks. Oh, another element I loved is that Mia is a very talented cellist and music played a big part in the story. This book had me crying in several places. It's very sad and very raw at times. I love that it had so much to do with family and wasn't just a romance. I like romances, but they need to be well-balanced with other plot elements before I really love them. I thought this book did it perfectly. I won't tell you how it ends, but it left me feeling very grateful for all that I have been blessed with.


Sixteen-year-old Jill has fought in dozens of fencing tournaments, but she has never held a sharpened blade. When she finds a corroded sword piece on a Caribbean beach, she is instantly intrigued and pockets it as her own personal treasure.

The broken tip holds secrets, though, and it transports Jill through time to the deck of a pirate ship. Stranded in the past and surrounded by strangers, she is forced to sign on as crew. But a pirate's life is bloody and brief, and as Jill learns about the dark magic that brought her there, she forms a desperate scheme to get home—one that risks everything in a duel to the death with a villainous pirate captain.

Time travel, swordplay, and romance combine in an original high-seas adventure from New York Times bestseller Carrie Vaughn

Can you see why I was interested? I love time travel. I love girl-on-a-boat stories (the best one ever is The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi). Also, Pierce is on vacation in the Bahamas when she finds the sword on the beach. I happen to be going to the Bahamas in a couple months on our cruise (!!! Yay !!!). I really should have just saved this book for my cruise. It's very much a vacation book, because it's pure fluff. 

There's nothing really substantial or captivating about this book; it relies on an interesting setting and has a pretty weak - and boring - plot. It sounded so much more exciting from the synopsis, but it turned out to be downright dull. Oh, and the romance? Pshaw. It shouldn't be called a romance. I guarantee you right now: THERE IS NONE. I kept waiting for it, thinking it might make the book more interesting, but it never happened. The "supposed" romance (I'm guessing) was a person who was like a brother to Pierce the whole time and who she had maybe one romantic thought about. I won't tell you how it ends, though I'm tempted, but trust me - it's very unfulfilling. The whole book is about as unmemorable as they come. I had a hard time writing this review because it took me a while to remember what even happened in the book; I forgot it as soon as I read it. In a nutshell, NO. Just skip it.

The Lost Saint

I've pretty much sworn off all vampire/werewolf/paranormal stories, except for series that I've already started. I'm so sick of them! The Lost Saint is a werewolf book, it's true. So, if that's not your thing I wouldn't recommend it. Now, I really liked the first book. I won't give you a summary of this one because I don't want to give any spoilers from the first. Oh, and just so you know, the cover really has nothing to do with the book. I wish I wasn't so... I don't know... bare-legged-y. This book is 100% clean and written by an LDS author.

My big complaint about this book is that it's been to long since I've read the first. Because of that, I didn't feel very connected to the original story. I couldn't really remember it until about half-way through the book. Also, this being a sequel, the romance is suffering from serious sequel-phase (fighting, things tearing them apart, that kind of rubbish). I hate that because they worked so hard to be together in the first book and then they threw it all away. Stupid. The focus of the book also seemed to be on the romance, and I wanted more of the mythology and the plot in general. Anyway, overall, I didn't enjoy reading this as much as the first book (The Dark Divine).


I know. The cover is a little scary. I'm always wary of covers like this, because they scream "Smutty romance!" to me. I couldn't help wanting to read this, though, after reading on book blogs everywhere about this great modern retelling of the Persephone myth. I love Greek mythology (I'm sure I've mentioned that before once or twice). And the book turned out to be perfectly clean, by the way. Here's the goodreads blurb:

New from #1 New York Times bestselling author Meg Cabot, a dark, fantastical story about this world . . . and the underworld.

Though she tries returning to the life she knew before the accident, Pierce can't help but feel at once a part of this world, and apart from it. Yet she's never alone . . . because someone is always watching her. Escape from the realm of the dead is impossible when someone there wants you back.

But now she's moved to a new town. Maybe at her new school, she can start fresh. Maybe she can stop feeling so afraid.

Only she can't. Because even here, he finds her. That's how desperately he wants her back. She knows he's no guardian angel, and his dark world isn't exactly heaven, yet she can't stay away . . . especially since he always appears when she least expects it, but exactly when she needs him most.

But if she lets herself fall any further, she may just find herself back in the one place she most fears: the Underworld.

I'm surprised it's taken me so long to read something by Meg Cabot. She's pretty much the queen of YA chick lit, which is a genre I read pretty frequently. She wrote the Princess Diaries books, in case you haven't heard of her. Anyway, I think I'll need to check out something else by her before too long, because I really enjoyed reading Abandon. The mythology was well-balanced with the modern world. A lot of other reviews I've read on this book have complained about the pacing, which is, admittedly, kind of slow. It takes a long time to get the whole story on events that are hinted at in the beginning. Personally, I didn't mind. I like slower, more psychological stories sometimes. Anyway, I'd consider it a winner and I'm looking forward to reading the sequel, Underworld.

Mere Christianity

I enjoyed this, but only up to a certain point. You see, I really love C.S. Lewis' writing style. He's so logical and enjoyable and he uses lots of analogies in this book. Every sentence is brushed over with C.S. Lewis' unique brand of humor. He really made what could have been a very dull and dry book something very interesting and enjoyable to read.

My problem was that I enjoyed this book where I agreed with his logic, (did I mention that this book essentially states his reason and logic behind why he believes in Christianity? Yeah, well that's what this book is about) but it bothered me when I didn't agree with him. A whole third of the book was about the trinity and I fundamentally disagree with him on that. His logic was good, but I've learned (being a logical, academic kind of person myself) that spiritual things can't be understood with just logic. Sometimes you need to have trust, faith, and heart. I don't have to have a reason behind every little thing that I believe and do. C.S. Lewis does. Because of that, I felt like this book just went on way. too. long.

Poison Study Series

There are so many covers for this series, so I thought I'd put up a sampling. There's even one more set that I didn't include images of, just because I couldn't find all three in the same graphic and I was too lazy to make it myself. :D I love this series! Here's a blurb from goodreads about the first book (I won't include summaries for the other two because I don't want to spoil any details):

About to be executed for murder, Yelena is offered an extraordinary reprieve. She'll eat the best meals, have rooms in the palace—and risk assassination by anyone trying to kill the Commander of Ixia.

And so Yelena chooses to become a food taster. But the chief of security, leaving nothing to chance, deliberately feeds her Butterfly's Dust—and only by appearing for her daily antidote will she delay an agonizing death from the poison.

As Yelena tries to escape her new dilemma, disasters keep mounting. Rebels plot to seize Ixia and Yelena develops magical powers she can't control. Her life is threatened again and choices must be made. But this time the outcomes aren't so clear…

This series is original and adventurous with lots of fun magic and mystery. I'll warn you that occasionally it gets violent and there are a couple pushing-it, eyebrow-raising scenes. I wasn't convinced I wanted to own them until I saw them for cheap at my recent library booksale. I bought them, reread them, and am now glad that I own them. I enjoyed them even more the second time around.