Posts filed under ‘Non 1001 Books’

The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars is pretty hot right now. It’s been very popular, not to mention the fact that the movie adaptation is being released tomorrow. I read the book firstly because I’ve been wanting to for a while now but I was also rushed by the fact that I hate having books spoiled for me, even in small ways. With all the chatter surrounding the movie, I wanted to read it for myself before I saw or heard something that I would wish that I hadn’t. It was also helpful that my sister owns a copy that I was able to borrow.

I found that I enjoyed the book quite a bit, especially the beginning. The first few scenes after each of the major characters are introduced were particularly good and solidified my affection for them. As you may know if you’ve been following this blog, if I like the characters, it’s much easier for me to enjoy the book as a whole, and this book didn’t make that difficult for me in any other department either.

Although the subject matter was serious, the writing itself didn’t feel overly heavy or relentlessly depressing. In fact, there were several times when I found myself laughing, but the extraordinary thing was that the lighter moments didn’t overwhelm the story, either. They didn’t at all detract from the more serious events of the plot by lessening their gravity in any way. The balance this book managed to achieve was absolutely fantastic.

Speaking of the more serious subject matter, the way it was depicted seemed absolutely true to life. It’s obvious that the author did his research well when it comes to the medical aspects of cancer, but I’m talking about more than that. The characters’ emotional and mental states as they worked through the reality of their conditions and the events of their lives in general felt real in a way that not all books can manage. It didn’t oversimplify or fall back on common tropes or put a gloss over any harsh realities. It strove to tell the story as it really was (or would have been if it actually was real and not a work of fiction), and I think that it succeeded in that.

Personally, I could have done without a few of the explanations of that, though, like those times when the narrator Hazel actually talks about how stories about kids with cancer normally go and what she sees as being wrong with them. It just felt to me like the author stepping in to point out that he was telling his story “the right way”, which I think the reader could have concluded, or not concluded, for him/herself. I was also a little disappointed by the included explanation of the novel’s title, although, to be fair, it is a YA novel and not all young adults would have caught the Shakespeare reference in the same way that I did or would have analyzed it to the same extent.

These things, and a few other moments that felt just a bit “writerly” to me are probably just a result of me being the sort of person I am– an adult (as opposed to young adult) writer who has taken quite a few college-level literature courses. Of course, that did also mean that I was able to pick up on quite a few of the other literature references in the text. It’s not that they were really hidden, but I did smile a bit seeing familiar poems and other things like that. Perhaps in the end it balances out.

I would definitely recommend giving this book a try. Yes, even if you plan to see the movie. Do I plan on seeing it? To be honest, I’m not sure. It’s not high on my list of priorities, especially because I almost always enjoy the book much more than the adaptation to begin with, but we’ll see what happens. For now, I’m rating this book at four stars.

Four Stars

June 5, 2014 at 10:08 pm Leave a comment

Getting Out of Fuchsia

Description

A nameless main character forced to live in a city that she hates. Outside the city gates, a lonely dirt-covered path surrounded by wilderness. Before our main character can make her escape, she needs to be able to face both the difficulties of the long journey ahead and the danger that lies within those woods. She’s been waiting for two months now, trying to find the one missing piece she needs. Will today finally be the day she gets it?

Background

As some of you may recall (or not), since December I’ve been writing and posting chapters of a fan fiction story on Wattpad. Wattpad is a website where writers can post short stories and novels chapter by chapter and readers can find all kinds of wonderful stories for free.

I first became interested in the site because my sister was writing a fan fiction about her favorite obsession, One Direction, but when I started publishing my own story, I began having a lot of fun with it. It’s great to be able to publish your work someplace where people will read it and leave comments. Not to mention the fun I had writing this story!

Adding a new piece every week has made for slow progress, but now that I’ve finally finished all 35 chapters of it, I thought that I would share it with all of you. Clicking on the cover above (designed by my sister) will take you to the whole story. You can read the whole thing or just a chapter or two.

I’m taking a break from posting new material on Wattpad for a little while, but eventually, I do plan to write a sequel. So, if you like what you read, stay tuned for more!

September 14, 2013 at 11:11 pm 1 comment

Well. That’s Intense.

I wasn’t expecting to do a post about Neuromancer until I’d actually started reading it. But then, as I was opening up the book to find the first page, the writing inside the cover caught my eye.

“In the recent history of science fiction, there has been no book like Neuromancer, no writing career like that of William Gibson.” It “won all the major science fiction awards of its year”.  “It engendered ‘cyberpunk’… If it was inevitable that the late twentieth century would eventually produce a literary form that linked high technology to the punk esthetic, artificial intelligence with the Sex Pistols, it’s equally true that until Neuromancer it hadn’t been done before– and despite many attempted imitations, nobody has done it since. Here it is. If you haven’t read it, you’ve missed a piece of your lifetime. It will fry your brain and break your heart.”

Wow. Does anyone else feel like that’s a lot of pressure to put on your reader? I feel like the book is shouting at me, “You’d better love this book because if you don’t it means that you’re a total idiot!” And I haven’t read a single word.

I was really just planning on, you know, reading it and deciding for myself whether or not it’s any good. And… that’s what I’m still going to do, no matter what the cover has to say.

August 8, 2013 at 7:17 pm Leave a comment

Emerson and Hawthorne in Conversation

As I read The House of the Seven Gables, a particular passage caught my attention. “That,” I said, “sounds exactly like something I read by Emerson last semester!”

It shouldn’t be surprising that these two writers influenced each other. Both lived in Massachusetts in the early 1800’s when, thanks to Emerson and his colleagues, the Transcendentalist movement was going strong. While Thoreau was practicing living deliberately at Walden Pond, Hawthorne was writing The Scarlet Letter less than 30 miles away. When Hawthorne and his wife were living in Concord, Emerson actually invited him to join his social circle. Clearly, Hawthorne was no stranger to Emerson or his Transcendentalism, and comparing passages from their work reveals two narrators who seem to be operating on the same wavelength.

An Imaginary Conversation

Just for fun, I’ve assembled the following out of quotes from Hawthorne’s The House of the Seven Gables and Emerson’s essay Nature to create a dialogue of sorts. We begin by asking each for their opinion on society’s relation to the past:

Hawthorne responds by saying: “‘Shall we never, never get rid of this Past?’ … ‘It lies upon the Present like a giant’s dead body! In fact, the case is just as if a young giant were compelled to waste all his strength in carrying about the corpse of the old giant, his grandfather, who died a long while ago, and only needs to be decently buried.'”

And Emerson’s answer comes in perfect agreement: “Our age is retrospective. It builds the sepulchres of the fathers. It writes biographies, histories, and criticism. The foregoing generations beheld God and nature face to face; we, through their eyes.”

Hawthorne provides more examples: “‘A dead man, if he happen to have made a will, disposes of wealth no longer his own; or, if he die intestate, it is distributed in accordance with the notions of men much longer dead than he. A dead man sits on all our judgment seats; and living judges do but search out and repeat his decisions. We read in dead men’s books! We laugh at dead men’s jokes, and cry at dead men’s pathos! We are sick of dead men’s diseases, physical and moral, and die of the same remedies with which dead doctors killed their patients! We worship the living Deity according to dead men’s forms and creeds. Whatever we seek to do, of our own free motion, a dead man’s icy hand obstructs us!'”

Emerson nods in agreement and asks: “Why should not we also enjoy an original relation to the universe? Why should not we have a poetry and philosophy of insight and not of tradition, and a religion by revelation to us, and not the history of theirs?”

Hawthorne: “‘I ought to have said, too, that we live in dead men’s houses… But we shall live to see the day, I trust… when no man shall build his house for posterity… If each generation were allowed and expected to build its own house, that simple change, comparatively unimportant in itself, would imply almost every reform which society is now suffering for. I doubt whether even our public edifices– our capitols, state houses, courthouses, city halls, and churches– ought to be built of such permanent materials as stone or brick. It were better that they should crumble to ruin once in twenty years, or thereabouts, as a hint to the people to examine into and reform the institutions which they symbolize.”

And Emerson concludes: “Why should we grope among the dry bones of the past…? The sun shines today also. There is more wool and flax in the fields. There are new lands, new men, new thoughts. Let us demand our own works and laws and worship.”

A Bit of Bubble Bursting

Yeah, that’s right, I’m going to burst my own bubble here. It’s unfortunately necessary because, while Emerson is writing out his own ideas in his own voice, we must remember that The House of the Seven Gables is a novel. If you noticed the constant use of triple quotes, it’s because they were all taken from the dialogue of a character named Holgrave, which means that they can’t actually be connected in any way to Hawthorne’s real opinions on Transcendental thought. In fact, Holgrave himself appears to change his mind near the end of the story, saying of a certain house that it should have been built of stone rather than wood so that it could last longer.

To take things a step farther, I found out while doing a bit of research for this post that Hawthorne apparently had no love for Transcendentalism, having lived in a failed Utopian community based on those ideas. His novel The Blithedale Romance (which I unfortunately have yet to read) is said to satirize the Transcendental movement by drawing upon his experiences there.

So if Emerson and Hawthorne really sat down to have a discussion on Transcendentalism, it probably would have looked much less like this “great minds think alike” sort of exchange I made up and a lot more like a great big, cleverly worded argument. Now that is something I would really like to see!

July 25, 2013 at 4:45 pm Leave a comment

Thoughts on The Casual Vacancy

I’ve wanted to read The Casual Vacancy since it came out a while ago, but I also wanted to wait until I could borrow it from the library and not be hold #37. Mission accomplished. I walked into my local library, and there it was, just sitting on the shelf among all the rest.

The description of the book interested me, but, yes, I will admit that I probably wouldn’t have read it if it hadn’t been written by J. K. Rowling. I did not, however, go into it thinking that it would be comparable to the Harry Potter books in any way. The only thing I expected was that it would have some characteristics of Rowling’s writing style. For the rest, I was curious to see what else she could do.

The first chapter quickly robbed me of any impression that the book might be light hearted or have a touch of humor. That was good because it helped me to adjust very quickly. This was a serious book. Alright.

Halfway through, my mom was curious to know what I thought of it. I may have mentioned that she works at the library, and she had heard that it wasn’t very good. Well, I had expected that the book might be getting some negative publicity simply because it was not what people were expecting. It wasn’t Harry Potter. It wasn’t close to Harry Potter. And, when I reached the end, I would probably decide that it wasn’t as good as Harry Potter for the simple reason that the bar had been set so incredibly high. It’s a book charged with the crime of not meeting people’s expectations.

At the time, I gave my mom a noncommital response, something like, “I don’t know, it’s ok.” As I said, I was halfway through, unwilling to commit to an opinion until I reached the end. All that could really be said was that I was still reading it, and fairly quickly. I was going to finish it.

A nice long book and a comfy chair on the back patio. What more could you want?

A nice long book and a comfy chair on the back patio. What more could you want?

I might have mentioned that, structurally, it reminded me of a modern day Middlemarch, but my mom has no idea what Middlemarch is. At that point, the only other thing I’d noticed was that Rowling skillfully handles a very large cast of characters in this book (from an omniscient viewpoint, no less), and this is something that has always impressed me about her writing. Just think about it, in Harry Potter, we had the main three, their classmates, all the teachers, and ghosts and paintings and magical creatures… The list goes on and on, and so many of the characters just popped right off the page. As a writer, I can tell you that it is very difficult to keep track of so many characters at once and make them all interesting and believable and unique.

So at halfway through, I knew I didn’t want to give up on it, and I finished in three days. Not bad for 500 pages. At that time, I had the day off of work and nothing else I had to do. It was just after 2:30 when I closed the book and went back inside. And then, for a few minutes, I just stood in the living room doorway, completely still. The ending had made an impact on me. And then, I found myself considering the book as a whole. Although I did move on to doing other things, the book was on my mind off and on for the rest of the day.

What did I think about it? I was asking myself that very question. All that time thinking about it, but no hard and fast opinions presented themselves. Instead, I was filled with questions, pondering the answers. Because these questions weren’t caused by confusion over what had happened in the book, they were questions about real life that the book had sparked me to ask. Questions like “is this what the book meant to say, and, if so, is that true?” and “what can be done to avoid this problem in the real world?” So many questions. Questions about what should have happened, questions about the characters, questions about human nature, questions about government and society…

So many questions, and I don’t have the answers yet. Not yet because I have a feeling that these questions are going to come to me again, one by one, and I’m going to keep thinking about them. It feels as though they’re working away somewhere at the back of my mind, like when you skip over a difficult problem on a math test and come back to find that it makes more sense because a little piece of your brain didn’t stop thinking about it.

What did I think of it? Before I fell asleep that night, I considered what I would say about it if I were to write a review of it here on my blog. What would I give it as a rating? And, to my surprise, I realized that I wanted to R. O. L. O. R. F. it. I felt that I had gotten something from this book that added value surpassing any discussion of ratings. How much I had enjoyed it seemed to be an irrelevant question in light of some personal relevations that all of these questions had sparked. And that is truly interesting.

“Now, come on, is it a good book or not?” you’re asking. (If anyone is in fact reading this, which I’m starting to doubt.) Well, you can go decide for yourself. Having been written by such a famous author, I’m sure there are tons of reviews out there written by people with a lot more professional credit than I have. I’ve even added links to a bunch of reviews by my fellow bloggers down at the end of this post. Or you could just read it. I got something out of it.

June 13, 2013 at 3:04 pm Leave a comment

Summer Days

Summer is here, and it has really opened up my reading time. I’ve been flying through books this past week, ever since I finished Castle Rackrent. Just for fun, I’ve read Insurgent and How to Say Goodbye in Robot, and now I’ve started on The Hobbit.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any of the Irish novels from the 1001 list that I was interested in at any of the libraries in my local system. Thus, The Hobbit. Like Lord of the Rings, it’s on the 1001 list, and since I saw the movie a few months back, I thought it was only fair that I should read the book. I usually have a rule about reading the book first, but some friends at school talked me into it. I was actually surprised that I enjoyed it, given that I rated the Lord of the Rings trilogy at 2 stars and I didn’t like the portion I saw of the first Lord of the Rings movie (although, granted, that was years ago).

I do remember, though, that one of my friends said that The Hobbit is much, much better than Lord of the Rings. He went into quite a bit of detail about how Tolkien hadn’t intended to write a sequel and how basically the whole first book was written while the author was trying to figure out what the plot should be. Well, I wouldn’t know, and I’m honestly a bit too lazy at the moment to bother with verifying that. Come on, it’s summer vacation! But I will see for myself how the books compare. Hopefully, The Hobbit is good, but, even if it’s not, it’ll be one more check mark.

Given that I’ve been reading so quickly lately, I anticipate being done with it quite soon. I have a part time job, but when I’m not working or writing my novel (and my Wattpad book) I have seemingly endless free time ahead of me. I would offer to put some more work into this blog for the next couple months, but I am starting to wonder if anybody really cares.

June 4, 2013 at 12:13 pm Leave a comment

A Star Called Henry

I mentioned before that I found this story very depressing at about 100 pages in. I also mentioned that it was very well written and provided a very realistic picture of Dublin in the early 1900’s, especially in the poor areas. These things continued to be true throughout the course of the novel.

It may have gotten slightly less depressing, but that’s really hard for me to say objectively. That’s because of the thing that I talked about in my last post. I just didn’t feel anything at all towards the end, unless you count interest in the writing-related aspects, like appreciation for Doyle’s style and techniques. It was, as I said, very well written, and I developed a kind of appreciation for it in that respect. My favorite scene is related to that aspect of it, but since, it comes near the end, I’ll share that in a separate post under my Spoilers section.

Beyond that, I honestly can’t say that I enjoyed it that much. I didn’t really like any of the characters, although I did feel sorry for Melody (Henry’s mother) and for Henry in the beginning because they had such hard lives.

This is another book where it would help to know a bit of Irish history, particularly Easter 1916 and the Irish Civil War. If you’re interested in reading historical fiction dealing with Ireland during this time, you may enjoy it more than I did. It’s not a bad book at all, it just wasn’t for me personally.

Star and a Half

May 6, 2013 at 1:58 pm Leave a comment

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