Thursday, October 22, 2009
So the past month or so I've been burying myself in "Percy Jackson and the Olympians" series by Rick Riordan. My advice? If you liked Harry Potter you will definitely like Percy Jackson. There are 5 books in the series, all of them an easy read. (I finished one in a day, reading two and three hours at a time between other responsibilities.) Percy is the son of the Greek god Poseidon and a mortal woman, and these are his adventures in saving the world. Riordan is very witty, and the books are definitely fun, so check them out!
Sunday, July 26, 2009
There’s a funny story to my desire to read this biography of Jane Austen. I warily watched the movie, already wondering a) about the disappointing ending and b) about how truthful it was. Still, I loved “Becoming Jane” (yes, Tonya, loved) and so I wanted a chance to see if the love story between Jane Austen and Tom Lefroy was even remotely true. From the other biographies I’d read, I’d been under the impression that it was a brief flirtation with nothing of the serious love affair portrayed in the movie. As I searched out the book the movie was based off of, Becoming Jane Austen by Jon Spence, I half-heartedly wished to myself that I could find a historical review to see what the validity of Spence’s research was (I was pining away from my UW library account…) and then I remembered that I was a historian. I even have a diploma to prove it and I realized that this was exactly what I had gone to school for, to form opinions on historical situations. I had a good laugh when I remembered that. So I bought the book from Amazon and got to work on it a couple weeks ago. Since it’s a biography, it took a bit more concentration than a novel despite being very engaging. (Can you tell by my language I’ve been immersed in Austin…?) So here are my conclusions:
The book is an interesting mix of historical research and literary review. There is a good reason for this. Almost the entire basis of Spence’s biography is to show the vast influence Austen’s life had on her work and to show the parallels between events that happened to her that she used for her fiction. By analyzing her work and comparing it to known events in her life Spence explores Austen in far greater emotional depth than I’ve ever seen a biographer do. Usually biographers record dates, guessing at emotions, etc. While Spence surely ‘guesses,’ they are very educated ones and usually can be substantially proved by the material he provides. So, Tom Lefroy. As I said before a lot of other Austen historians/writers glaze over him, but Spence spends an entire chapter on him and uses proof throughout her life of her continuing affection for him. He provides excellent proof that it was more than a brief flirtation—including but not limited to her letters and other’s views of her at the time. Spence doesn’t just read her letters for facts though. With a careful examination he is able to produce something of what her mood probably was and uses this excellently in pointing out her disappointment when her ‘flirtation’ with Lefroy came to an end. One thing that really intrigued me was the way he was able to point out how Austen left little ‘tributes’ to Lefroy in all of her novels through the naming of characters—usually in connected with Tom Jones one of Lefroy’s favorite novels. I thought that Spence did a good job of pointing out that Austen had already perfected the use of ‘tributes’ to certain people in her work using names by the time Lefroy appeared on the scene.So anyway, I liked it and would recommend it to anyone who wants to know more about Jane Austen’s life and her work, more especially. This biography is almost entirely dedicated to the time she started writing until she died and focuses intensely on her life as a writer above everything else. I found myself a little off balance, though. As I mentioned above, the book I s a mix of historical and literary analyzing. While I found Spence’s research in the historical sense completely sound (he has a lot of good references including letters, diaries, published works ranging from Austen’s intimate family circle to just about anyone who might have looked at her once…) I wasn’t sure how to take the literary voice of it. So I’m challenging Tonya to read it, who is much more of an expert in her field than I am in mine (strictly educational wise… ;)) and let me know what she thinks of that! :)
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Some books I've read in the past few months:
"Waiting" by Ha Jin. It was just okay. I didn't find the plot very compelling, and I felt very little sympathy for the main character. Basic plot is a man who wants to divorce his wife in the country so he can marry his girlfriend in the city. I wasn't impressed by the ending, and a few parts of the plot seemed to be thrown in there to add some excitement, which it failed to do. It's not a bad book, but don't read it unless you have to. :)
"The Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseini. I really enjoyed this book. It was compelling and I found myself thinking "what would I do in that situation?" It wasn't always 'fun' to read because parts of the plot were emotionally difficult or painful, but that's the way life is. I also like it when novels involve a little history, and this book includes a bit of Afghanistan's rocky history. Overall, I would recommend it.
"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" by Douglas Adams. YIKES! What was I thinking? I figured I would read this book because it's sort of a Sci-Fi classic, right? Boy was I disappointed! I chuckled a few times in the first couple of pages, but soon after that I was struggling to get the pages turned! I understand that it's a different style or genre than I'm used to, and now I know why to avoid that style in the future! It was an enormous waste of my time.
"My Sister's Keeper" by Jodi Picoult. I read this because it was recommended by a friend, and also in preparation for the movie coming out. It was a good book; a fine book. I didn't love it, I think because I didn't really find myself emotionally connected to the characters. I didn't' really sympathize with the mother at all because I thought she was a bad parent in many ways. I was surprised by the ending, but not particularly moved. The part of the book I was most interested in was a side story about a questionable past love between two characters. I don't think that part will even be in the movie. But I'm still very curious to see what they do with the movie, because the commercials don't look too much like the book. We'll see...
Well, those are my most recent reads. I am currently reading "The Eighth Day" by Thornton Wilder. So far it is just okay, but I'm not too far into it so I'm hoping for good things. :)
1. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
I suppose I must admit that I am a member of a generation that wants instant gratification. Artistic writing is lost on me I suppose. Dickens wrote in a time where people valued Realism, and I must admit to hating realism in any form of entertainment. I am a self-proclaimed fairy tale lover. Good endings are a must, and even if everyone doesn't come out happy they should at least be somewhat happy...please? Anyway, Dickens was hard and I feel a little proud that I did it. This book is about a young man who is given 'great expectations' about where he will go in life. These expectations greatly affect how he lives his life. My critique--real like. I couldn't quite get into the language, making it difficult for me to enjoy. Every time Uncle Joe talked, I didn't understand it and would get lost...I think I needed a better copy of it that had explanations. Still, I don't think I would have enjoyed it then. My friends tell me that Dickens has written better, and I will tackle them when I have forgotten Great Expectations! ;)
2. Tess of the d'Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy
I have little to say about this book. I can sum it up in one sentence. Her life was crappy; it got crappier; got slightly better for a chapter or so; and then got incredibly worse and ended terribly. Realism. Again.
3. Austenland, Shannon Hale
If you like Jane Austen you will LOVE this book. The dedication went like this: "To Colin Firth. You're a really great guy but I'm married, so let's just be friends." I laughed my head off! This book is about a girl shamefully (why?) obsessed with the BBC Pride and Prejudice miniseries. It had a happy ending, thank heavens. I loved it. Shannon Hale at her best. It was witty and very entertaining. It was one of those books I was reading so fast to find out what happened I'm sure I missed a lot of things.
4. Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
Do books that are TERRIBLY long (750 pgs.) always have to be so disappointing when you get to the end? I felt this way at the end of The Count of Monte Cristo (1200+ pgs.). There were some interesting parts but the end totally let me down!! If you'd like to read it, it gives a very sympathetic southern view of the civil war (not surprising considering Mitchell grew up in Atlanta in the early part of the twentieth century). It is hard to like a book when the heroine starts out unlikable and just gets worse and only realizes how ridiculous she's been until the last ten pages...and then the end!! Sigh. I loved Melanie, though.
Next on my list: something ridiculously unimportant and easy. With a happy ending.
Friday, May 8, 2009
1) Write quick posts about the books you are reading this summer so we can pop in and check out what you've read and decide if we want to read it ourselves.
2) Check out this blog http://wyomingfamily.blogspot.com/2009/04/wednesday.html. My friend Sarah has posted 100 books from the BBC that are considered classics I guess. Think about a few and decide if we want to read some next fall. I have only read 16, so I am open to almost all (I have started a few and had to put them down because of inappropirateness (Memoires of a Geisha and Love in the Time of Cholorea.) I'm going to be working on that list this summer (laboring through Great Expectations right now...). So basically, what I'm asking is that maybe we can get most of the fall reading from this list so we won't have to rack our brains for what to read!!
Good luck and have a great summer!
Saturday, March 21, 2009
First, let me apologize for last month. It’s amazing how a month short by only two or three days seems like it goes by so quickly!! I just never seemed to have time to go get the Alchemist at the library, so if anyone else read it, I hope they will share their thoughts about it!
So, I made it a point to go to the library first thing this month and I got “Ever” by Gail Carson Levine. Since it is written for young girls (or boys, I guess), it is a pretty quick read. I am a fast reader, and was able to read it in a couple days, just a couple hours at a time. I will be discussing it below and it will contain spoilers, but first I will post questions for others to think about as they read.
1. The story is written from the first person point of view of both the heroine and the hero (a lot like “Breaking Dawn” of Twilight, but each chapter instead of large sections at a time). How does the first person point of view help or hinder the story? How does seeing both sides of the story help or hinder?
2. Levine tackles some interesting issues in this novel. The one that jumped out to me was faith. How do you think this story portrays faith? Do you agree or disagree?
Also, if you could add some suggestions for the next couple months. I need to post that soon! Thanks.
Please also add any questions you’d like to pose to the rest of us.
My discussion, spoilers ahead!
So first off, I kind of liked how the story jumped back and forth between Kezi and Olus. Since both of them kind of fell for the other from the first moment they saw him/her, I didn’t feel like it gave away secrets or anything like that. The first person point of view is also interesting for me. I’m reading another book (“A Great and Terrible Beauty” by Libba Bray—and the jury is still out on it, so I can’t give you my opinion yet… ;)) that uses that tactic. It sort of makes you feel like you’re in on the action, I guess. I was halfway through “A Great and Terrible Beauty” before I realized that the author wasn’t writing in past tense. I think it makes descriptions easier and more alive. As you can see by my second discussion question, I was interested in the type of subject Levine chose for this novel. I’ve read quite a few of her books and I don’t recall any of them dealing with faith in a god or gods. On one hand I see her as just picking up a myth or story from some culture and turning it for her purposes (which is basically what she’s done in a lot of her other books, we are just more familiar with those myths or fairy tales), and so I see her just taking that Greek gods and goddesses thing, or whatever culture she’s taken it from and weaving a story from it. I know when I write, my heroine and/or hero doesn’t necessarily believe or act like I believe or act. On the other hand, she created this god, Admat who is all powerful and all seeing, and if we face it, pretty vengeful and not loving at all. The other Akkan gods and goddesses, besides Olus, while they are not mean, are not very concerned with the mortals either (which reminds me of the Greek myths I read in high school). So I don’t know what to think about it. Somebody tell me, please! :)
Thursday, February 12, 2009
I actually found this book difficult to get through for a number of reasons. The number one reason it took me so long to finish this book is because I refused to read it after six in the evening for fear that I would have dreams about vampires—and since the vampire in this book is a lot more evil than Edward Cullen, I couldn’t take that chance! :) And, basically I didn't really like it and when you don't like a book it makes it difficult to wade through it.
The funniest thing is that a long time ago I read one of the “Great American Bathroom Books” synopsis of “Dracula” and I could have sworn that someone besides Quincey died in the end. I also thought that Mina Harker turned into a vampire. That mistake is actually from “A League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.” I falsely assumed that they had gone by the books the characters were from. I’m wondering if I need to go back and read all those books now to see what else they did wrong in that movie! :) So, needless to say, I was surprised at the end.
As far as Stoker’s treatment of women—I honestly didn’t see a lot of difference from “The Scarlett Pimpernel.” The heroine was a cookie-cutter character: Smart, beautiful, extraordinary…etc. Stoker, I think, treated women even worse, because whereas Marguerite had flaws and failings, Mina didn’t really. She was saintly and very forgiving. She was smart and resourceful, beautiful and loved one man passionately and three others like brothers. She was so super-special that one man loved her passionately as well and three other men loved her purely as a sister. Lucy was the same way, except she was much weaker—mentally and physically—than Mina.
I think that Stoker’s characters were the major failing of the book. The men are too good. Each of them is brave and strong and willing to give their lives for Mina and the cause they’re fighting. Literally, none of the heroes had flaws at all. The villains had no likability, except perhaps the lady vampires, and everyone just felt bad killing them and also wanted to kiss them even though they knew how terrible that would be.
“Dracula” is VERY different from “Twilight” and since that’s the only other vampire fiction I’ve read, I’ll have to compare it to that. (I hope someone else has read something else because I would love to see some other points of views. Also if you have read other vampire fiction, could you suggest a few titles for me…I’m really curious now!) “Dracula” has a very religious bent to it. Count Dracula is fought off by almost entirely spiritual methods—crucifixs, holy water, the wafer…and it is made very plain that the vampires are damned. Clearly, “Twilight” has none of that, except for Edward’s concerns about his soul and Bella’s. Whereas in “Dracula” it is definitely a BAD thing to become a vampire, in “Twilight,” there’s a lot more gray area to it.
As for the format (diaries, letters, newspapers) sometimes I got confused, usually whenever Van Helsing was talking. Other than that, however, I kind of liked the way it was told because you got the entire story from a personal standpoint, not the usual omnipresent point of view.
Monday, February 2, 2009
I enjoyed getting this story from so many narrators. It made their individual experiences so vivid and more alarming. I did, however, think it rather hilarious how much detail each of those involved included. I know my journal has never been so descriptive. From a realistic perspective I'm not sure it holds, but it worked well for Stoker. While the newspaper clipping of the Count's ship arriving in England was very different from news today, it added a nice change. I especially liked the way Jonathan Harker's journal was composed in the beginning. I had a difficult time getting through it though - it was on such a personal level that I had to wait a few days before picking the book up again. I was relieved when the book took a less grisly turn for a while. My nerves needed a break.
Vampires. Other than the Twilight books, the only other vampire book I've read is Robin McKinley's "Sunshine." I'm not sure I'd recommend it, but after this it may not seem so bad. McKinley's characters follow more of Stoker's version, but with more natural cunning. Meyers' vampires are in a category all of their own. However, I read a comment by her once that said that she had actually never read vampire books and didn't intend to start in case they changed the way she viewed her own characters. I've always found that interesting.
I did enjoy this book. It is very well written, and I found the characters to be quite realistic, for the most part. I thoroughly enjoyed the Harkers and Van Helsing. Those three to me were the book. I'm not sure I'll pick this one up again any time soon and re-read it, but I'm glad I did read it. I'm looking forward to this month's book.
1. I found it refreshing how Mina was portrayed. She was intelligent, selfless, continually learning and improving her skills to better her life and her future husband/husbands life. She was also refined in her social skills. It was great to see a well rounded women who could think beyond the next social event and what people thought of her.
2. I found the use of journal entries, letters, and newspaper clippings to be interesting. I tired at times of yet another journal entry but I enjoyed the details and the different characters points of view. I think it was affective for this book because the details were vital to story. I kept my interest because I had never read a book written with just journal entries, letters, and newspaper clippings. I found the method interesting to me. I am glad that not all books are written this way but I enjoyed the method has a whole for this book.
3. I compared the Twilight vampires to the vampires in Dracula the whole book. I enjoyed seeing the difference and wonder how Stephanie Myers developed her vampires into something so much more human than underworld beast created by Stoker. I enjoyed reading about Dr. Van Helsing having seen a couple of movies depicting him. I enjoyed him a lot more in the book.
My own thoughts about the book: I found this book interesting and a bit enjoyable because it is so different from what I have read before. I really enjoyed that the group of Dracula hunters where not going to give up until the evil they knew existed was destroyed. The no tolerance for evil was refreshing considering the world we live in now accepts evil for good and the tolerance to allow evil in every day activities is so sad. I always love when good wins. I could keep going about good and evil but I have a little boy who needs me.
Has anyone else finished?????
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Saturday, January 24, 2009
1. Tonya has already brought up that "Dracula" treated women differently than other literature at the time. What do you say to this? How different are the women in "Dracula" portrayed as opposed to other women in literature during this period, specifically compared to how the Baroness wrote Marguerite in "The Scarlett Pimpernel?
2. The book is told using journal entries, letters, and newspaper clippings. How does this affect the story? Is it an effective way of telling it or ineffective? Why or why not?
3. Stoker established vampire folklore in fiction, so we have to compare it to other vampire fiction! What is different about Stoker's folklore compared to more recent books? (Twilight is all I'll have to go on, but if any of you have read any other vampire fiction books, please add in those too!)
If anyone else has any other questions they'd like to discuss, please post them!