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The Hunger Games

by

4.37 rating

Comment 1: allow me to be relevant for a moment: oh my god, this book is outstanding!! it is all good things; battle royale, blood of heroes (one of the best movies ever made - dont argue with me), and all the best elements of this survivalist gary paulsen jag i am on. it kept me up way past my bedtime last night, because i could not stop reading, even though my eyes did not want to be awake. and now we veer, as ever, into the personal. this book is my comeuppance. i suppose it is factually my second comeu Comment 2: Why did I put reading this one off for so many years? I remember this being extremely popular but it seems like I was in a rut with my reading and figured I would pick them up eventually when I was back on track. Months turned into years and I finally saw the movies, which I suppose pushed them even further down my TBR and is a real shame because the movies didn't capture quite everything the book had to offer. (Not that I'm shaming the movies; I enjoyed them but you never can include everything Comment 3: To say this book is good is an understatement to the extreme. This book is abso-freaking-lutely phenomenal. It has been a long time since I've read it, and I don't remember being as engrossed by the story whenever it first came out (when I was in high school maybe?). But this time...man, it has been hard to put it down and walk away. The movies are most fresh in my mind and I can't believe I didn't realize how closely the movie followed the book--from what I could tell, there were only a handful

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

by

4.43 rating

Comment 1: Adolescence is not an easy stage of life. I remember when I was a teenager I would often find myself having fits of anger without any reason at all. I would be pissed with people that I did not even know, I would antagonize my parents and friends just for the sake of doing it. As Harry is now a fifteen year old, we find him going through all this hormonal problems. Throw in the mixture the fact that there is a psychopath trying to kill him while no one believes what he says and, to worsen the situation, his friends have ignored him during all summer, and you have a perfect recipe for explosive behavior.tThe atmosphere of this book is, since the beginning, much more mature than in the predecessors. As in Goblet of Fire, here Harry starts being attacked by his enemies already at the beginning of the book. Because of these attacks, he is summoned to a hearing at the Ministry of Magic. So, after having passed the whole summer without a word from friends and even from Dumbledore, he is “rescued” from the Dursleys’ by a bunch of people, some of which he has never seen before. He ends up being transported to the old mansion of Sirius’ family, which is serving as headquarters to the people that want to oppose Voldemort and his followers.tHere is where I started noticing the big difference in atmosphere on this book in comparison to the previous ones. There is no staring at everything that is magical in awe anymore, there are no more long descriptions giving background to every little magical thing that pops up in the story. It is clear that Rowling is expecting everyone to know their whereabouts while reading her story already, so she focuses more on character/relationships development than in any former book.tRegarding the Black mansion, while it was fun to explore a new place, I found it particularly hard to accept that such a nice sensible person as Sirius is related to someone as nasty as Bellatrix Lestrange. It’s just… not right. tAnyway, soon enough we are led to Harry’s hearing, which allow us to see for the first time some parts of the Ministry of Magic. I actually liked the Ministry, in general, but didn’t like most people working there. Especially at Harry’s hearing, everyone was treating him harshly, even those who were supposed to support him; really sad. Here we are also introduced to one of the character who would become hated by almost everyone: Dolores Umbridge, but I will talk more about her later.tWell, after this events everyone is soon enough on their way back to Hogwarts. This is when we are introduced to one of my favorite characters ever: Luna Lovegood. I like her so much! Yes, she is lunatic, but she is so essentially good and innocent, being at the same time extremely wise, that I can’t help the feeling that we would be really good friends if she was a real person. As the story goes on, she unknowingly acts like a wall of stability in Harry’s life, even when darkness seems to be winning, and that is really sweet.tAs for the normal school affairs, there is a new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, as usual, only this time it’s a woman: Dolores Umbridge. Yes, a former Ministry agent as a teacher. She soon makes it clear that she is going to teach following strict guidelines given by the Minister of Magic and no one else’s. That gradually leads some students to act rebelliously, trying to learn how to defend themselves properly on their own. When this fact comes to Umbridge’s attention, she manages to pull a few strings of her own, what makes the imperative influence that the Ministry had been imposing over Hogwarts to grow even more. Things soon get out of Dumbledore’s control, Hogwarts becomes almost like a military school. This is what makes me hate Umbridge so much; she manages to, for almost an entire book, destroy that welcoming atmosphere that made me think of Hogwarts as home, and this is unacceptable. Sooner than later the students get their little piece of revenge on her, though, and that is amusing to see.tAnyway, political conflict isn’t the biggest problem during Harry’s fifth year at Hogwarts. Comparing to when he starts having very vivid nightmares and those start coming true, that is nothing. Yes, the evil lurking outside is not only outside anymore, it’s tormenting him from inside his own head. This peculiar situation leads to a few very especial lessons and impressive discoveries about Harry’s father past in Hogwarts. It’s interesting to get to know a little bit more about his parents under a different, not so friendly, perspective.tDespite his lessons against mental rape, though, Harry is not strong enough. Evil uses the window of opportunity created by his young mind to lead him and his friends into the most epic adventure in the series so far, in my opinion. Unfortunately, not everyone gets out of it unharmed and the outcome of it changes not only Harry’s life forever, but also the whole world’s. We were used to the customary pattern on the former books: Harry is with the Dursleys during the summer; at the end of the summer he would go to the Weasleys' or some other place and then to school; something serious would happen during his stay there and he and his friends would try to solve the problem. Not anymore. Not after this book. There’s no safe place any longer, not even Hogwarts.tI like this book a lot. It’s my favorite after The Prisoner of Azkaban, actually. Despite the darker tone, which is present since the beginning, it still contains some very sweet parts and hilarious scenes that made me laugh hard. My only advice would be to people be prepared to lose some favorite character here and there, for in this book Rowling starts to display some symptoms of what I call the “George R. R. Martin syndrome”. Beware. Interesting quotes that I didn't include in the review: Wit beyond measure is a man's greatest treasure. Indifference and neglect often do much more damage than outright dislike. Things we lose have a way of coming back to us in the end, if not always in the way we expect. Youth can not know how age thinks and feels. But old men are guilty if they forget what it was to be young. The Last Passage(view spoiler)[ `Well…' said Moody, pushing back his bowler hat to reveal his sinisterly revolving magical eye. Uncle Vernon leapt backwards in horror and collided painfully with a luggage trolley. `Yes, I'd have to say you do, Dursley'He turned away from Uncle Vernon to survey Harry.`So, Potter… give us a shout if you need us. If we don't hear from you for three days in a row, we'll send someone along…'Aunt Petunia whimpered piteously. It could not have been plainer that she was thinking of what the neighbours would say if the't caught sight of these people marching up the garden path.`Bye, then, Potter,' said Moody, grasping Harry's shoulder for a moment with a gnarled hand.`Take care, Harry,' said Lupin quietly. `Keep in touch.'`Harry, we'll have you away from there as soon as we can,' Mrs. Weasley whispered, hugging him again.`We'll see you soon, mate,' said Ron anxiously, shaking Harry's hand.`Really soon, Harry' said Hermione earnestly. `We promise.'Harry nodded. He somehow could not find words to tell them what it meant to him, to see them all ranged there, on his side. Instead, he smiled, raised a hand in farewell, turned around and led the way out of the station towards the sunlit street, with Uncle Vernon, Aunt Petunia and Dudley hurrying along in his wake. (hide spoiler)]

To Kill a Mockingbird

by

4.24 rating

Comment 1: This is one more book which I read during a summer break. I actually had not read any classics by my own volition until I grabbed this one, so I will always cherish To Kill a Mockingbird as my first. At first, I didn’t even know what the book was about, really. I just remember choosing this one because I had heard its title a bunch of times, plus it had a really beautiful cover (yes, I am one of those guys…). I remember thinking that it was bound to be, at least, average, otherwise it wouldn’t have acquired such fame. And it was much more than that. To this day, few books have had the same general impact on me as a human being as this one. The powerful lessons expressed through every character, especially Atticus Finch, are unique and everlasting.I could say that this book is nothing more than a coming of age story about day-to-day life in a small Alabama town during the Great Depression, but it is. To Kill a Mockingbird, in its simplicity, emanates waves of warmth through totally believable and relatable characters. Enduring characters like the Finches, Calpurnia and Boo Radley are rare, but when they come up they tend to stay with the readers for generations. Atticus Finch, by being such a beacon of righteousness to the kids, has done the same for me as well. The most admirable thing about him is his ability to influence the kids, constantly leading them to the right direction regarding moral and general behavior, while letting them interact with society and find out the workings of the world on their own. Also, the way Atticus talks to the kids is something that everyone should learn: to interact with children as if they are adults; by doing so, Atticus makes sure the children know their opinions are being taken seriously and that they are respected. I wish every parent was like that! God knows how disgusted I get whenever I see parents interacting with their kids as if they are some kind of injured puppy or something… Well, to wrap this all up, I wish I could have read To Kill a Mockingbird sooner so that I would have been inspired by its awesomeness from a younger age.Regarding the narrative, I found it light and easy flowing; there is no excess of detail descriptions, no sudden unexplained events or anything poorly executed. Everything makes sense and fits the rhythm of the story perfectly. Still, it was only a third or so into the book that I began to understand why it is what it is. When I got there, the first part felt really less significant than I had thought. In fact, it only served to introduce all the characters – their relationships, personalities, motivations and moral standpoints. After that, though, the core of the story is slowly built until it comes to the famous courtroom scene – and I found it to be as remarkable as everyone had said it would. The events that come right after are equally shocking. Even though our society, unfortunately, still is not near being prejudice free, the lengths to which people of that time would go to ascertain that their prejudicial views were being hold by legal authorities left me astounded.To Kill a Mockingbird was truly beyond its time and I find its messages very much relevant. That is what characterizes quality literature: the property of transcending time and having the same impact on several generations as it had on the first reader. All things considered, this is an incredible book that reminded me, once more, of how important it is to at least try to treat everyone with equal respect. Also, this book is extremely powerful in its discussion of racism, tolerance and human behavior. Considering that I come from a town where most people will look at you as if you are trash if you don’t suit up to go to the mall to watch a movie, I can’t possibly read too much about such lessons. I really do not ever want to turn into one of those people. Interesting quotes that I didn't include in the review: You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it. People generally see what they look for, and hear what they listen for. The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience. People in their right minds never take pride in their talents. The Last Passage(view spoiler)[ He guided me to the bed and sat me down. He lifted my legs and put me under the cover."An' they chased him 'n' never could catch him 'cause they didn't know what he looked like, an' Atticus, when they finally saw him, why he hadn't done any of those things... Atticus, he was real nice..."His hands were under my chin, pulling up the cover, tucking it around me."Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them."He turned out the light and went into Jem's room. He would be there all night, and he would be there when Jem waked up in the morning. (hide spoiler)]

Twilight

by

3.56 rating

Comment 1: Twilight follows what I think has become one of the great traditional plotlines: star-crossed vampire/human truelove. So, move aside, Jack London. In acknowledging my friend Ms. Meyer’s role in developing this new tradition, I feel like the first important thing to say is that Stephenie Meyer is not The Man. While most criticisms of the Twilight series are empirically true, it is nevertheless also true that this series is ubiquitously influential in culture right now, and I don’t think it’s influential in the same way as the War on Terror, or even Sarah Palin. The War and Palin are both The Man in ways that I refuse to believe Ms. Meyer is. I do concede, however, that Stephenie Meyer is a polished and packaged product of culture, and that she is the same package, in almost every way, as me. I don’t care about age or cynicism, I am the audience for this book. If you want to see my reaction summed up much more quickly than I plan to, I refer you to Paul Bryant’s Georgia . To introduce you more thoroughly to the audience for whom this book was written, I’ll start with a little summary of the story.Bella arrives, at the opening of the story, in the small town of Forks, Washington, and she’s not thrilled. She’s like, A little town, oh, it's a quiet village - ev'ry day like the one before. Little town full of little people, waking up to say, bonjour!She checks in at school, which is awkward because everyone’s staring and whatnot. They’re all, Look there she goes that girl is strange, no question, dazed and distracted, can't you tell? Never part of any crowd, 'cause her head's up on some cloud. No denying she's a funny girl that Bella.Even her father doesn’t really get her and goes around thinking, Look there she goes that girl is so peculiar. I wonder if she's feeling well. With a dreamy far-off look and her nose stuck in a book, what a puzzle to the rest of us is Bella!Even when she makes friends, they still just don’t understand that she’s an old soul – too old for dances and shit like that. Everyone still wants to be her friend, though, and they go around whispering, Look there she goes a girl who's strange but special, a most peculiar mad'moiselle. It's a pity and a sin, she doesn't quite fit in, 'cause she really is a funny girl – a beauty but a funny girl. She really is a funny girl – that Bella!If, after that brief summary, you don’t have a very particular song (and maybe some dance moves that you made up to go with the song at one time or another in your life) stuck in your head, then you are not the designated audience for Twilight. I’m not even intending to be disrespectful or critical when I say that the resonance people feel with Twilight is the resonance of Disney. It is the dividing line between those who fall in love with this story, and those who can’t stand looking at the cover art. Interestingly, though, I think most of the people who cringe at the mention of The Twilight Saga would still go see a new Pixar movie or even Beauty and the Beast if it was re-released on the big screen. It’s got the candlestick and the teacup, right? Who doesn’t like to see inanimate objects sing and dance? It’s just awesome. Disney, however, is totally The Man. Disney is, like, whatever is above The Man telling The Man what to do. I would call it The Superman, but I don’t want it to get a big head.Disney is smoother than Twilight because it knows that you can’t just present the story of a young, beautiful girl falling in love with a potential abuser without including a catchy tune and some dancing flatware. In that way, I guess it’s a mixed blessing that the movie version of Twilight is so freaking boring and awkward. It gives you time to reflect on whether it’s not a little convenient that our girl thinks it’s so groovy to have a vampire stalk her in her own bedroom. It lets you stop and think that undying for love might not be all it’s cracked up to be. The book version has lots of sparkles, though, and cars flying in every direction, so you don’t have to dwell on the unfortunate implications of the central relationship unless you’re inclined to. But, let’s face it, most of us have contemplated that at one time or another. If you haven’t, now’s your chance. What do you think about a cartoon that encourages little girls to stay in abusive relationships because underneath the gruff exterior of the abuser lies the heart of a prince? What do you think about a book that has women across the country swooning at a cadaverous stalker watching a teenage girl sleep?I’ll tell you what I think: it totally doesn’t bother me. I mean, if those aren’t the implications that the storytellers were intending (and I don’t necessarily think they are), then oops!, but that’s the extent of my criticism. On the other hand, I think it’s equally possible that those are the implications that the storytellers intended, and, if so, they are both pretty effective in being persuasive and single-minded in their goals. The messages might be sugar-coated, but they’re still obvious. They’re not sneaky or underhanded. I don’t like it when I feel like an author is trying to sneak around with themes, but if I just disagree, it’s not so bad. I think they’re good stories, too, despite their unfortunate messages, and they are made all the better by their singing and sparkles. Whether we like it or not, stories that idealize stalking and teach girls to try reforming their abusers through patience and fancy dresses are deeply ingrained in (at least) Western culture. It seems possible that these stories are even products of a conflicted nature in humanity. Men want the virgin/whore; women want the beast/god. But, also, none of us really want those people because they’re freaky. We don’t know what we want.(Arguably, the moral of Beauty and the Beast is that looks aren’t everything, and the moral of Twilight is that true love waits. I think those are less interesting messages within the stories, so I’m not going to address them. They are obviously there, though, so disagree as you wish.)Maybe there is a little Harold Bloom in all of us, mentally applying for the role of literary gatekeeper every time we read a book we don’t like. I have read criticisms of Twilight that are both hilarious and poignant, and, like I say, this book has a very specific audience. When I hear criticisms, though, they usually just make me really sad. A girl I know is a mother of three young kids and lives out in the middle of nowhere. At the time she read Twilight she was mostly staying home (again, in the middle of nowhere) and being a mom. She hated the book and had two criticisms. First, she thought that the clothes were really dorky (and, it’s true, the clothes are distracting). Second, every time she looked at Stephenie Meyer’s picture on the back, it bugged her because she thought about how Meyer is “just a mom,” as though a mom shouldn’t have a valuable voice in literature. I hate that on a lot of levels. I hate the idea of limiting literature to what I agree with, and I hate the idea of taking the voice of moms out of any part of culture. It also seems like a creepy excuse for nonparticipation to say that an entire group of people, to which you belong, shouldn’t be respected in the literary world. I’m not trying to say that Stephenie Meyer represents all moms, but I do think that a lot of criticism I have read of her writing either dismisses her as The Man or as a mom. It reflects the idea that literature should be a table at which only the cool kids sit – or at which the cool kids can’t sit. I don’t know who’s supposed to sit there. There are a lot of totally valid reasons to dislike any book. I recognize this book’s faults, but I think that one of its greatest strengths is that it was written by a mom. I think it is a fun, hilarious, action-packed story. I think that Stephenie Meyer has story-telling skillz and that you can’t teach that. Henry James might have had a big vocabulary, but he couldn’t tell a story to save his life. Ms. Meyer could benefit from reading the dictionary once or twice, but she already has what you need if you find yourself sitting around a campfire. Possibly, she could use just a dash of self-awareness, but too much self-awareness can ruin any good story – just look at Dave Eggers. Honestly, I would rather be brave enough to write Twilight than smart enough to criticize it.It’s funny to say, but this book actually inspired a real crisis of faith in my life. I’ve had some occasions where I’ve had major fallings out with God and then other occasions where I’m a big fan – like ya do. A crisis of faith is not unusual for me. There’s this thing that goes down in mainstream Christianity that is really annoying (I’m sure it happens in other religions, too, but I’m talking totally pop culture Christianity here so that my point makes sense). It’s this thing where people will frame a story as though the hero’s dreams are sure to fail, but then, suddenly, through the power of prayer, God swoops down and fixes everything in a magical money donation. Don’t get me wrong; magical money donations are the bomb. But does that mean that for those whose magical money didn’t come through, God’s showing that he’s angry with them? Does God speak in a reward/punishment system? I don’t think so, but I don’t really know anything about it. I know that in that situation, you’re supposed to say that God has a better plan, but that lacks something to me, also. To be clear, this isn’t a criticism that I’m making of religion in general, or even of Christianity in general, but of this Disneyland Christianity that is everywhere in America. It’s a religion of total convenience where everything has a vague, cliché explanation and, if it doesn’t, we don’t look at it. And the way people tell these stories is like they’re telling the plot of the newest movie about a down-and-out kid’s sports team. The stories are all informed by the plot development of Disney movies.Like this Disney filter, Edward and Bella’s relationship is very convenient. Edward is immortal and can give immortality. He watches over Bella. His desire for Bella is consuming both physically and emotionally. Bella’s maturity alienates her from other humans. She is physically vulnerable. She is smart and values passion over care for her life. Edward is the Disney god and Bella his disciple. I really don’t mean to be disrespectful when I say I’ve heard God and His people described just this way many times. I don’t know why I hadn’t really thought about this before I read Twilight, but from thinking about the silly convenience of the Edward/Bella relationship, a lot of real things fall apart for me. Like, if we believe that God is really real (not just abstractly real) and we think that God is with us all the time like Edward is with Bella, why isn’t that creepy? I know I think it’s creepy with Edward, but why not with God? I think it’s because we believe God is there when we’re thinking about Him and not when we’re not. I think Jesus has become a sparkly, romantic immortal with super-strength who thinks you’re so awesome he can’t take his eyes off of you and gives you cars sometimes. This is obviously a problem, but I think any generation will interpret traditional writings through a contemporary cultural lens, so it’s not shocking. It’s just, perhaps, not the lens most of us would prefer. On the other hand, if we think we’re completely alone when we aren’t with humans, no possibility for anything supernatural or spiritual, that seems limited and conveniently clean, too. I don’t have an answer, and it seems like it’s not really possible to have an answer that’s not annoyingly convenient on some level. Also, I'm not saying this because I think Stephenie Meyer invented the Disney Jesus, but because I think it helps explain Twilight's resonance in society. I think Meyer expressed something very simple that both culture and religion have prepared people to receive.It is probably important to say, again, that I’d be surprised to find out that Stephenie Meyer is part of a vast conspiracy to subdue Western civilization by reducing our worldview to clichés. Plus, I think that when someone’s worldview is a cliché, patronizing them out of it isn’t really the way to go (yeah, you know who you are. No, not you – you in the back. That’s right). Also, what do I know? Maybe, Jesus really is sparkly and has a warehouse full of new cars. It is just as legitimate to say that I don’t believe that because I don’t want to as that someone else believes it because they do want to. *sigh*This may seem backwards, but I started reading Twilight in the mood for something fun and silly and not well written, and so I enjoyed (almost) every minute of the series. In a more anti-Disney mood, I probably I would have wanted to burn them for the weak and whiny heroine and glorification of stalking. I think of these books like the show Friends, though. Everything works out well for everyone by the end of the episode, and so despite appalling personal choices and caricatured personalities, the stories are comforting. I don't know whether I think it's worse to be comforted by stories that present unhealthy worldviews, or to expect books to represent literal reality. Both seem suspicious, but the first seems more fun. I appreciate and think it's hilarious that Meyer loves her characters so much that she'll sacrifice anything in the plot to make things turn out well for them. I never feel like she is trying to impress me, but only writing what she wants have happen.The main criticism I hear of these books is that the love story is completely unrealistic. This is absolutely true, but it is also a series about vegetarian vampire superheroes, so I think it's important to have a little perspective about realism. I hope that we are not so culturally bankrupt as to go to Friends for dating advice or vampire stories for authentic representations of love. Unfortunately, we actually might be that bankrupt, and I sadly acknowledge my own experience with teen girls and grown women taking these books VERY seriously. I am reluctant, however, to be angry with books I thought were so silly and fun only because of other people being silly in a not fun way.To conclude, I’m planning to petition Tim Burton to do a song-and-dance version of the Twilight movie. It will be awesome. For the vampires, we will cast all professional dancers, and for the normals we’ll cast normals. I mean, we gots a meadow scene, fast cars, and a baseball scene in here! Not to insult the My Dinner With Andre version, but my version is going to kick ass. We’ll throw in a little irony, music up the melodrama, and show the haters what a story looks like. You’ll love it.

The Chronicles of Narnia

by

4.22 rating

Comment 1: I was in college the first time I read all the Chronicles of Narnia. Eight years later, I was ecstatic to get the whole set for free through the Goodreads first reader program. (Thanks to Harper Collins.) This time around I enjoyed them quite a bit more and understood the symbolism a little better. Rating on story alone I probably would give them three or four stars. But because all the stories are so deep in meaning and strike a chord with Christians everywhere, I've bumped the series up to AMAZING.I've reviewed each book individually (in order.) Don't expect to find anything profound or insightful in any of my comments. I just recorded how the books made me feel and what I found particularly great (or not-so-great) about them.The Magician's Nephew, the first book in the Narnia series (which was actually the sixth published) receives 5 stars from me. (Here they are: * * * * *)Although I read this book only a couple years ago to my wife, I found it just as enjoyable the second time. The first half of the book (Polly and Diggory's discovery of magic travel and struggles with the witch) is basically the main story, while the second half (Founding of Narnia) is a very long denouement. Although the falling action is full of annoying animal conversation and endless description of landscape, the symbolism is quite poignant. If the book was split into two I would give the first 5 stars and the second 4. But together the first half easily makes up for the meandering finish. Why do I love the beginning so much? Very clever writing, a terribly gripping plot (I've said before that the Wood between Worlds is the most exciting concept I've ever encountered in any book), and of course the great one liners. For example, "That's absolute bosh from beginning to end."The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is the most well known of the seven books, and it's one of my favorites. Even so, I grew a little bored reading this one, and I attribute it to the many readings and countless film adaptations I've ingested over the years. Unlike the Magician's Nephew, this has a great cohesive plot from beginning to end. And even if Aslan does come in at the end and save the day a little easily, the Christian symbolism is nicely done. Five stars.A Horse and His Boy was an incredibly engaging story from beginning to end. (5 stars) The symbolism of God helping us through our tough times brought me close to tears, and it was so satisfying to see justice served in the end. It took me until now to comprehend the cleverness of the title. (My mind always just switched the horse and boy around.) I'll end with one of my favorite lines uttered by King Lune: "Have we no more gravity among us than to be so chafed by the taunt of a pajock?"Prince Caspian was a great book (four stars), although in general I enjoyed the movie more. The duel between Miraz and Peter, however, was actually better in the book. Lewis has an incredible knack for making you feel like you're there watching. One of my favorite lines: "That's the worst of girls," said Edmund to Peter and the Dwarf. "They never carry a map in their heads.""That's because our heads have something inside them," said Lucy.Something else that I found funny was the difference in language and meaning. This line for example would probably have to be cut from any of today's children's books: "Of course, if the children had attempted a journey like this a few days ago in England, they would have been knocked up."One thing I didn't understand was this: The Pevensies are called into Narnia by the horn and then it takes them a few days to get to where Prince Caspian is (I think they sleep at least twice.) But then when they get there they hear Caspian saying he blew it just that morning. (p.391) Did I just read it wrong? Can someone explain this to me? After re-reading The Voyage of the Dawn Treader my hat goes off to the three screenplay writers that adapted this for film. Lewis's original is rich with originality and symbolism, but destitute in storyline. The movie somehow brought together all the episodic "lessons" and turned it into a cohesive whole. Now I remember why this book wasn't one of my favorites. Not enough story to sink my teeth into. Still, it was an enjoyable read. I would probably get more out of the novels if I was astute enough to understand all the symbolism. With this book, I quite often said to myself, "I know that last story was supposed to mean something...oh well, let's see if anything cool happens on the next island."The best line of the book was also the first: "There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it."Three stars for Voyage of the Dawn Treader. * * * And three cheers for me for getting through these so quickly with three kids and a full time job.I enjoyed The Silver Chair much more the second time. (4 stars) I'd remembered the Marsh-Wiggle as being exceptionally annoying. This time I found Puddleglum's constant pessimism exceptionally funny. (I'm not sure what that says about me now.) The plot was very well formed with a beginning, middle, and end (this one should convert very nicely to film.) I really liked the symbolism of the Queen trying to convince them there was no overland (akin to unbelievers trying to convince us there is no God or heaven.) And I now know this is immature, but I just have to share a few more of the tidbits that sound funny in our modern culture. (Apologies to Clive Staples.) "Gay," said Puddleglum with a deep sigh. "Thats what weve got to be. Gay." ... "All right. Gay's the word," said Scrubb. "Now, if we could only get someone to open this door. While were fooling about and being gay, weve got to find out all we can about this castle."I'll finish with one more passage and just let you wonder what it's really about. (Hint: Lewis's intentions were rated G.) She made love to everyone - the grooms, the porters, the housemaids, the ladies-in-waiting, and the elderly giant lords whose hunting days were past. She submitted to being kissed and pawed about by any number of giantesses, many of whom seemed sorry for her...The Last Battle started out with a great story, but then kind of threw the plot away to make room for the powerful end of the world allegory. Although I did appreciate Lewis's amazing insights into what the end of the world will be like (and the profound symbolism of Christ as Alsan), I would've also like to have seen the characters find a way out of their predicament without being magicked away. I guess in this last book at least, I can't satisfy both my need for story and need for meaningful symbolism. Overall, C. S. Lewis does an amazing job crafting stories that ring true to Christians and Story Lovers alike. The writing is good enough that you can choose to ignore all the deeper meanings. Why anyone would do that, however, makes as much sense to me as a Liberal watching Fox News to get the weather.

The Book Thief

by

4.35 rating

Comment 1: Just to clarify: Yes, I did cry.I've read a lot of positive and negative reviews for this book. I can see why people wouldn't like it - I really can. Perhaps because I took a lot out of it personally, I found I enjoyed it a lot.Quick test to see if you'll like this book:1. Did you like Anne of Green Gables?2. Can you cope with an off-beat, melancholy, caustic, dead-pan, self-righteous narrator?3. Do you like words?(Questions 4-8 were all about what kind of underwear you're wearing so don't worry about them).So, let's all gather around for story time with Mistress Kat.Two incidents set me off lately.1.tMy neighbour came to me and complained about the Islanders (for those not Australian: the Tongan, Fiji, Papa New Guinea and New Zealand populations of Australia) causing trouble and otherwise defiling our great and beautiful nation.2.tI was tooling around on Facebook when I noticed one of my friends (one of those friends you’ve never met except in an internet community) hosting a link to a video of a speech from a man addressing the American people. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that he is reminiscent of a neo-Hitler but let’s just say that the comparison would not be wholly unearned. Her comments on the video were that: everything he’d said was right, it was time that people sat up and listened for the sake of their country and that it’s about time “somebody did something”. (Fuck me, I’ve heard this phrase so many times. What is it exactly that they’re referring to? Do they actually know? I’ve yet to hear them pronounce what this “something” is or what it looks like. Is there some plan that I’m not aware of that they’re referring to? Does it involve chipmunks, honey and tequila?)To my neighbour, I simply mumbled that I had to leave and got in my car. I was offended on behalf of my friends so I blew him off and I haven’t really spoken to him since. To my Facebook friend, I resisted the urge to make any comments. I debated about starting a fight that would, in all likelihood, spill over to our community. In the end I ignored her and I haven’t spoken to her since.The Book Thief is not your typical WWII story. It doesn’t even ask you to sympathize with the Jews. Their plight is background to the story and their struggles and pains are rarely shown except through the pitiful/beautiful character of Max. This story actually focuses on the bad guys. Zusak assumes that you know about the struggle and the plight of the Jews. He assumes that you feel for them, that you are horrified on their behalf and so he doesn’t spend much time eliciting an emotion that you are expected to have.Instead it focuses on the BAD guys. You get to know and live the lives of a small and poor town in Germany. The thing is, though, that these aren’t really the bad guys. Zusak, probably rightly, assumes that we’d never be able to really empathize and enjoy reading a book about characters truly bad. They’re not really bad. After all, they may be Germans and they may have escaped persecution and death, but they’re still poor. They’re the tiny fraction of the German population who sympathizes with the Jews. They harbour a Jewish man in their home and come to love him. The thing is though that for most of the novel, they’re not the good guys either. They don’t speak up for the Jewish people, they don’t try to change popular opinion, they don’t stand for what’s right. They quietly try to get by without causing waves and without risking much of themselves.So you can see how I would sympathize. How could I think that I’m one of the “good guys” when I don’t stand up for people either? Shouldn’t I have challenged my neighbour and asked how he knew that the Islanders were to blame for all the crime? Shouldn’t I have asked him how many Islanders he knew? How he could make such assumptions about people? Shouldn’t I have challenged my facebook friend? Shouldn’t I have asked her why she’s spreading propaganda? Couldn’t I have probed her to think critically about this man’s claims, about facts and ethics? No. I didn’t want to cause problems and I didn’t want to make waves.The narrator of The Book Thief makes a claim that Hitler’s took over a country and started a war – not with guns or weapons but with words. I’ve read others consider this claim to be stupid and ridiculous but I actually agree with him. When I was a child I asked my Great Aunt Nell why she insisted on engaging me in long and tedious hypothetical debates about morality, human nature, ethics and theology. Her response was always the same: if you don’t fill a child’s head with all the right stuff, someone will come along and fill it with all the wrong stuff. It’s kind of like those corny motivational quotes that the teachers post in their rooms: Those who stand for nothing fall for anything.Well, I agree. When you don’t educate people, when you don’t teach them to think critically, with full understanding and proper knowledge, then other people come along and whisper in their ear and fill their heads up with mindless rot. Hitler told the German people how to think. He told them who was Wrong. Why they were Wrong. How to fix the Wrong. What was Right. Then he did the most powerful thing a person could do: he told them a story. When you tell a whole nation a story about the future – a gloriously bright future with Plenty and Joy; a future in which they are redeemed and have conquered their enemies; a future in which they are happy and Everything Is As It Should Be – and if you tell that story well enough, then you can conquer a country and wage a war without ever firing a single bullet. Coincidently when you don’t speak up, when you don’t proclaim the truth, when you’re too afraid to replace ignorance with knowledge then you’re no better than an accomplice to a crime. I can’t imagine how my friends would feel if they’d known that I stood by and allowed them and their family and children to be slandered like that. Pretty appalled, I imagine – and rightfully so.And now we come to the big reason why I think a lot of people didn’t like this book – the narrator.The Hunger Games did a similar thing to The Book Thief. It sought to instil in its readers a sense of proper shame. However, as opposed to The Book Thief, you didn’t feel judged. After all, for the Sins that The Hunger Games was preaching of, we’re all guilty – and in our combined guilt there seems to be a lessening of accountability. Perhaps there’s a sense that we’re all going down together. When we’re damned, at least we’ll have good company, right? The Book Thief, however, singles you out as solely responsible. It strips you naked and looks down on you as it asks you to account of yourself. Not even the narrator can sympathize with you because he is the only one left blameless and innocent, looking upon us with a reserved kind of pity and bewilderment. Maybe I’m a glutton for punishment. I don’t mind being stripped down. I don’t mind being reprimanded and so I loved this book. I loved this book for inspiring me to be even more outlandishly outspoken and persistently and doggedly forthcoming on my opinions of these issues. I loved this book because I loved the narrator. I loved this book because I loved the story. I loved this book because I now have the PERFECT excuse to start a helluva lot more fights. For some reason, that thought makes me very happy.

Animal Farm

by

3.82 rating

Comment 1: مزرعة الحيوان ربما هو شعور طفولي مدفون، ذلك الذي يجعلنا نستمتع دائماً بالقصص الرمزية، ربما هي فرحة الطفل بلعبة توصيل الخطوط ما بين الأشياء، أو ربما هي شهوة النميمة التي تجعلنا نتحرق ونحن نقرأ قصة رمزية إلى معرفة المقصود بها. وهذه قصة رمزية كتبها أورويل بهدف يحدده بنفسه عندما يقول "ما من شيء ساهم في إفساد المعنى الأصلي لمذهب الاشتراكية أكثر من الاعتقاد بأن روسيا بلد اشتراكي، وأن كل فعل يصدر عن القادة السوفيات ينبغي تبريره بل محاكاته، لهذا السبب أصبحت مقتنعاً في السنوات العشر الماضية بأن تدمير الأسطورة السوفياتية من خلال كتابة قصة يسهل على الجميع فهمها كما يسهل ترجمتها إلى لغات عدة"، حتى نفهم هذا نحتاج إلى أن نتعرف على أورويل قليلاً. ولد أورويل في الهند حيث كان والده يعمل هناك سنة 1903 م، وأورويل ليس إلا اسمه الأدبي، أما اسمه الحقيقي فهو ايريك آرثر بلير، عاد إلى إنجلترا وهو في الرابعة من عمره، حيث تلقى تعليمه هناك حتى تعين في الشرطة الإمبراطورية الهندية في بورما، حيث عمل هناك لخمسة أعوام. نلاحظ أن أورويل في هذا كله كان يعيش حياة أي شاب بريطاني من طبقته في ذلك الوقت، الطبقة الوسطى، طبقة موظفي الإمبراطورية البريطانية، وكان يمكن لأورويل أن يستمر في هذه الحياة لولا أن هناك شيئين غيرا مسار حياته، الأول هو رغبته في أن يكون كاتباً، والأمر الآخر هو كرهه للإمبريالية التي كان يخدمها وهو في بورما، فلذا استقال من عمله سنة 1927 م وعاد إلى إنجلترا. سأترك الآن سيرة أورويل قليلاً لأعبر عن فكرة جانبية صغيرة، فيما مضى عندما كنت اقرأ أي سيرة ذاتية لشخص ما، سياسي، مفكر أو كاتب، كنت أمر على مثل هذه الأحداث التي عاشها بطلنا مروراً سريعاً، وأظن أننا جميعاً نفعل هذا، مسيرة حياة الرجل الذي نقرأ عنه تبدو لنا حالة دائمة من التقدم، تحقيق الذات، وهذا هو الوهم الذي يتسلل إلينا من قراءة السير الذاتية، أورويل الذي نعرفه الآن من خلال كتبه (مزرعة الحيوان) و(1984) و(متشرداً في باريس ولندن)، لم يكن أورويل الذي استقال من عمله، حياة الإنسان ليست خطاً يمكننا رسمه من لحظة الولادة إلى لحظة الممات، ومن ثم تعيين نقاط عليه لنقول هذه النقاط التي حقق فيها ذاته، حياة الإنسان خط متقطع، متعرج، ملتوٍ على ذاته أحياناً، بحيث أننا في حالات كثيرة نكاد ننفي وجود خط من أساسه، ربما نحن نفعل هذا لأننا نظن أن سيرة الإنسان هي ما حدث له، بينما جزء من حياة الإنسان هو ما لم يحدث، في حالة الكتاب مثلاً، لماذا نادراً ما تذكر أعمال الكاتب المجهضة، غير المكتملة؟ أعماله التي مات وتركها في أدراجه؟ لأننا بكل بساطة نحاول أن نقدم سيراً ذاتية تجعل صاحبها يبدو وكأنه كان يعرف ما يفعله في كل لحظة، ويتجه إليه بلا تردد، وهذه سير تخنق قارئها، لأنها تقدم له الشكل النهائي، تقدم له النموذج، بحيث أن قارئها الشاب الذي بالتأكيد لا يدري أين سيأخذه مساره في الحياة، يشعر بالنقص، يشعر بأن من يقرأ عنهم مختلفون عنه تماماً، مكتملون نوعاً ما، وهو أبداً لن يكون كذلك. من حسن الحظ أنني لا أكتب سيرة لأورويل، وإلا لكنت وضعت نفسي في موقف حرج بعد سطوري السابقة، لأنه كان عندها لازماً علي أن أتجاوز الهوة التي وصفتها، وأحاول نقل روح الكاتب وأفكاره بلا تدخل وملأ للفراغات الموجودة. نعود إلى أورويل الذي عاد إلى إنجلترا، وبما أنه كان قد انفصل عن طبقته عندما رفض الوظيفة الحكومية، التي سيخدم من خلالها الإمبريالية، فلذا عاش متشرداً ما بين لندن وباريس، وهي التجربة التي سجلها في كتابه (متشرداً ما بين باريس ولندن)، هذه التجربة، هذا الاقتراب من الطبقات الدنيا في المجتمع البريطاني، جعلته يعي الظلم الواقع عليها، وهو ما جعله يتبنى الاشتراكية، ويقوم بنفسه بزيارة عمال المناجم في ويغان، حيث يعيش معهم ويسجل تجربتهم في كتابه (الطريق إلى رصيف ويغان)، وعندما قامت الحرب الأهلية الأسبانية، انتقل إلى هناك وشارك في الحرب، وسجل تجربته في كتابه (الحنين إلى كاتالونيا). نأتي الآن إلى كتابه هذا الذي نشره في سنة 1945 م، قبل نهاية الحرب العالمية بأسابيع، في العبارة التي أوردناها في الأعلى، نفهم غرض أورويل من الكتاب، عندما نتذكر كل الأحلام والشعارات الاشتراكية، وكل الوعود بالعالم الذي سينتهي فيه صراع الطبقات، كل هذا ذرته الحقبة الستالينية في الهواء، إن أورويل من خلال هذه الرواية يحاول إنقاذ الاشتراكية من السوفيات الذين دمروا سمعتها تماماً، ومنحوا الرأسماليين بكل بساطة حجة لا تقهر على سوء الاشتراكية وفشلها. ليفعل هذا يحكي لنا قصة مزرعة تثور الحيوانات فيها على صاحبها السكير الذي كان يستغلها لمصالحه من دون أن يعطيها حتى كفايتها من الطعام، هذه الثورة تأتي لتحقق نبوءة حكيم الحيوانات وهو خنزير اسمه (ميجر)، والذي تنبأ بالثورة ومات قبل أن يشهدها – شخصيته هي مزيج من ماركس ولينين -، يقود الثورة بعد هذا خنزيران أحدهما يدعى سنوبول – شخصيته مزيج من لينين وتروتسكي - والآخر نابليون – ستالين -، ويتم وضع سبعة قوانين لمذهب الحيوانية الذي ستسير الحياة في (مزرعة الحيوانات) على أساسه، تبدأ الحيوانات في العمل الشاق، وخاصة بناء طاحونة تهدف الحيوانات من بنائها إلى توفير الطاقة الكهربائية للمزرعة، تبدأ الخنازير التي تولت القيادة في تمييز نفسها عن الحيوانات الأخرى، وكسر بعض القوانين السبعة، بل إعادة كتابتها لتتناسب مع الوضع الجديد، يطرد نابليون سنوبول ويسيطر على المزرعة بقوة، محيطاً نفسه بخنازير محدودة، وبكلاب شرسة لا تدين بالولاء إلا له، مع الوقت تصبح حياة الحيوانات أسوأ مما كانت في ظل صاحبها الإنسان السابق، ولكن لا أحد يتذكر، والدعاية الدائمة التي يقدمها الحكام الجدد، تمجد الإنجازات التي قاموا بها، وويل لمن يشكك في هذا، في النهاية تكسر الخنازير آخر القوانين السبعة، وهو قانون غريب كانت الحيوانات أقرته، يفرق بين الحيوانات والإنسان وهو باعتبار أن من يمشي على قدمين عدو، ومن يمشي على أربع صديق، ولنلاحظ أن الخنازير لم تكن محتاجة إلى كسر هذا القانون، ولكنها تفعل، وتعلم نفسها المشي على قدمين، لتميز نفسها عن بقية الحيوانات، وهكذا تمحى القوانين السبعة التي ولدت مع الثورة، وتختم الرواية على مشهد الخنازير وهي تتبادل المصالح مع أصحاب المزارع المجاورة من البشر، بحيث لم تعد الحيوانات تفرق ما بين البشر والخنازير، وبحيث لم تعد المزرعة للحيوانات، وإنما تحول اسمها إلى (ضيعة الخنازير). الرواية كما نرى هي القصة المؤلمة لتبدد الحلم الاشتراكي على يد السوفيات، أما المستقبل المرعب الذي كان أورويل يتوقعه لهذه التجربة فسنقرؤه في روايته التالية 1984.

The Giving Tree

by

4.38 rating

Comment 1: HEY, KIDS AND SHEL SILVERSTEIN FANS! COME OVER HERE AND READ THIS!Okay, this some motherfuckin' fucked-up shit right here. The Giving Tree is the straight-up wack story of how this selfish little ass-faced prick kicks it with this full-on saintly tree. Ever'thin' fine for a while, y'all, with the lil' prick all gettin' up in there an' sayin' to the tree, "Yeah, you know you mah bitch," but then all of a sudden, this jumped-up prick go through puberty, get his chia on or some such shit, and so he's off screwin' the skank-ass bitches on the block all damn day and can't spare one motherfuckin' minute for this poor old tree who waitin' for him and lookin' all motherfuckin' sad an' droopy an' shit. So this little punk-ass bitch come up on the tree -- this is a motherfuckin' tree, hear? -- and ask her ['cuz she a sexy-ass lady-tree] fo' some g's. Well, the tree is all, like, "I ain't got no cash, bitch. What part o' me say ATM on it? Mmm-hmmm. I thought so..." And she shoulda held up there, but -- no -- this tree gets all fuckin' benevolent and be, like, "Well, I got mad apples you can go hustle on the streets." So this ass-faced prick just, like, boosts all these goddamn apples an' leaves this tree with, like, its weave all out an' shit. So next, after workin' the streets wit his crew, little bitch boy come back, lookin' all older an' jacked-up, and ask the motherfuckin' tree for a goddamn crib. So the tree like, "Hol' up. Do you even fuckin' see Coldwell Banker all up an' down in here? I think not." But then, being all kindly an' shit, the tree is, like, "But I got mad branches..." And what? She motherfuckin' takes it up back again fo' this fool. Later, another goddamn time, punk-ass bitch come back, lookin' all old an' saggy and wack now, and he like, "Bitch, what you got fo' me now?" "Awww, hell naw," tree says, but then she start gettin' all soft an' shit again an' say, "Why don' you cut down my trunk or some such shit and go 'head and whittle a pimped-out yacht, full-on Hamptons-style?" He, like, "Yeah, I thought so, bitch." And then -- guess the fuck what? -- little shriveled-up, played-out mack come on back wit his ass all hemorrhoided-up an' shit. He look straight-up nasty and old. Tree is, like, "I know you ain't come t'ask me. All's I got is a motherfuckin' stump, you ass-faced motherfucker. How you gon' come back at me like that?" This punk-ass bitch is all drooling and jacked-up and just wanna sit the hell down. What do the motherfuckin' tree do? She say, "Hell no! You motherfuckin' fucked-up fucker, get yo' motherfuckin' ass face out o' here fo' I cut you up good: give you some stank-ass mad tree fungus, motherfucker!" The motherfuckin' end, motherfuckers. Okay, so that's not really the way The Giving Tree ends, but maybe it's the way it should. Some time ago, my ex-girlfriend and, afterward, long-time co-dependent friend gave me The Giving Tree as part of my birthday gift. I loved it, but I hated it, too, because I felt so bad for the tree who is endlessly shat upon by this worthless "Boy"--as he is always known, regardless of age; I longed to console the tree and, maybe a little, to condemn this book as yet another emotionally-scarring "children's" entertainment in the manner of Old Yeller. Don't give me any shit about learning valuable lessons. The only lesson I learned was that human beings are nothing but steaming piles of corn-freckled feces, and that I wanted to found a not-for-profit shelter for unloved trees and rabid dogs and any other nonhuman thing, living or not, which was either unwanted or despised. Having said all this -- and although I don't approve of the treatment of the giving tree -- this book is very moving and very delicate. The delicacy is somewhat counteracted when the reader turns over the book and sees the author photograph of a thoroughly evil-looking Shel Silverstein. He looks like the sort of person who would burn down whole forests of rare giving trees just for kicks. Picture Othello just before he strangles Desdemona. If you -- and, yes, I'm talking to you personally -- are not moved by the plight of the tree after reading this book, then perhaps it's time to go an' check yo'self: are you the givin' tree or are you the motherfuckin' takin' tree? Or are you the sneak-out-in-the-middle-of-the-night-an'-steal-all-my-shit tree?

The Fault in Our Stars

by

4.33 rating

Comment 1: I really want to simultaneously rate this book 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5 stars. ALL AT ONCE (in case you missed the simultaneously). Goodreads needs to make this option for books such as this. OH MY GOODNESS, THE FEELS! I haven't reread this book in so long, and I forgot how truly, awfully, completely, terribly, heart-breakingly wonderful it was. I hated it vehemently. I also loved it. I wish it wasn't so overhyped, because this is a book like An Imperial Affliction which are "so special and rare and Comment 2: Holy holy holy I waited so long for this novel, so long. I wish so bad I could give it more than 5 stars. John Green is absolutely amazing, amazing, amazing. The Fault in Our Stars had me laughing and crying, then laughing more and crying more. I will reread this over and over again, just like the rest of his novels. Oh wow, was it ever worth the wait. Thank you, John Green, for being so damn spectacular. Comment 3: I read The Fault in Our Stars before the “John Green Thing” was the “John Green Thing”. Would my views on the book been different if I had read it years after his popularity was established? Perhaps . . . but I like to think that I would have had an open mind to judge it on its merits alone and not the hype surrounding it.

J.R.R. Tolkien 4-Book Boxed Set: The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings

by

4.58 rating

Comment 1: Book ReviewName : “The Lord of The Rings”Author : J.R.R. TolkienPublished date : 1937Type of book : High fantasy, AdventurePublishing information : Publisher:tGeorge Allen & UnwinPublished : 21 July 1954 and October 1955Characters : Gandalf, Aragorn, Gimli, Boromir, Bilbo Baggins, Frodo Baggins, Legolas. Theme : Friendship, peace & unity.Background: The Lord of the Rings is an epic high fantasy novel written by English philologist and University of Oxford professor J. R. R. Tolkien. The story began as a sequel to Tolkien's 1937 children's fantasy novel The Hobbit, but eventually developed into a much larger work. It was written in stages between 1937 and 1949, much of it during World War 2 . It is the third best-selling novel ever written, with over 150 million copies sold.(Warning: Spoiler Alert!)"The Lord of the Rings" is the greatest trilogy, and it immortalized the name of its creator. It consists of three parts: " The Fellowship of the Ring", "The Two Towers" and "The Return of the King". The plot is based on the struggle for the Ring of Power, which was forged by Sauron, the Dark Lord, long long ago. Long before the events of the novel, the Dark Lord Sauron forges the One Ring to dominate the other Rings of Power and corrupt those who wear them: the leaders of Men, Elves and Dwarves. He is vanquished in battle by an alliance of Elves and Men. Isildur cuts the One Ring from Sauron's finger, claiming it as an heirloom for his line, and Sauron loses his physical form. Isildur is later ambushed and killed by Orcs, and the Ring is lost in the River Anduin. Over two thousand years later, the Ring is found by 2 hobbits one of them :Sméagol, immediately falls under the Ring's spell. Sméagol is banished and hides under the Misty Mountains, where the Ring extends his lifespan and transforms him over the course of hundreds of years into a twisted, corrupted creature called Gollum. He loses the Ring, his precious, and, as recounted in The Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins finds it.The 1st book “The Fellowship of the Ring", is one of the best books I’ve ever read. When you’re reading it you just falling in this time and you’re living with them every second. This book need time but it worth it! I totally agree with author because I really love the way he shows us how pretty , interesting & dangerous magic world is! I love in this book everything : from names of characters to their adventures! This book gives us a chance to imagine how peaceful world can be without evil things. It helps an adult become a child for a minute and believe in a fairy tail ! It helps a child to find out what is good and what is bad…This book helped me realize that we need to try to make our life’s more peaceful and to don’t be mean to each other! Also it helped me to understand that sometimes we can be under pressure of something but we need to stay ourselves !

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass

by

4.05 rating

Comment 1: Alice nel paese dell meraviglie 3/5Attraverso lo specchio e quello che Alice vi trovò 2/5 “Vorresti forse sostenere che la frase vedo quello che mangio ha lo stesso significato di mangio quello che vedo?»“O vorresti sostenere” proseguì la Lepre Marzolina “che la frasemi piace quello che prendo ha lo stesso significato di prendo quello che mi piace?”“E vorresti forse sostenere” concluse il Ghiro (il quale sembrava che parlasse dormendo) “che la frase respiro quando dormo ha lo stesso significato di dormo quando respiro?”Incontrai Alice per la prima volta a 8/9 anni: era nel mobile di ingresso della casa di mia cugina. Era lì, insieme all’elenco telefonico e alle pagine gialle (tempi preistorici in cui tutte le informazioni era tangibili e per trovarle dovevi, quantomeno, conoscere l’alfabeto nel giusto ordine.) Lo ricordo come se fosse accaduto ieri perché casa di mia cugina non era un luogo dove trovavi libri in giro; presi il libro e iniziai a leggerlo ma dopo poche pagine capii che io e Alice non potevamo essere amiche, il nostro modo di vedere la realtà era troppo diverso. Io sempre a chiedermi perché e percome, Alice scivolata in un mondo fantastico senza neanche domandarsi perché e senza cercare di attribuire un senso al mondo in cui era capitata. Quella ragazzina era troppo strana perché non si faceva domande, non cercava il significato nascosto, non svelava metafore (ok, lo ammetto: a otto anni non ero in grado di formulare questi giudizi, ma il succo era questo.)Con mio rammarico (abbandonare i libri non è mai stato facile per me) decisi di interrompere quella frequentazione. Rimisi a posto il libro nel posto in cui lo avevo trovato (e dove probabilmente sarebbe ancora se i miei zii non avessero traslocato.) Non ho più cercato Alice e non ho mai voluto guardare il cartone della Disney (va beh, non fa testo perché la Disney snatura tutti i classici: basta vedere cosa ha fatto a Pinocchio) e non ho mai voluto che lo guardasse mia figlia. Neanche il mio amato Tim Burton mi ha convinto a cedere ad Alice (e anche in questo caso ho fatto bene). Durante una promozione ho comprato per mia figlia il libro di Alice tratto dal cartone, ma non gli e l’ho mai letto: l’ho preso soltanto perché abbiamo quasi tutti i libri dei cartoni Disney. Eppure a volte basta poco per dare una sferzata a un rapporto e passare dall’insofferenza alla curiosità. Alice è rientrata nella mia vita un giorno mentre spulciavo la sezione dedicata ai libri per bambini di una grande libreria: nascosto in uno scaffale ho trovato un’Alice totalmente diversa nella raffigurazione: non una leggiadra bambina con pizzi e merletti (era stato questo a rendermela così antipatica?) ma una ragazzina con i capelli neri a caschetto e uno sguardo triste vestita con un semplice abitino azzurro a disegni geometrici neri (l’autrice delle illustrazioni è Emma Chichester Clark). Ho deciso che era arrivato il momento di riprendere un rapporto interrotto molto bruscamente. Purtroppo la lettura non ha dato grandi soddisfazioni e a questo punto faccio una domanda agli editori di libri per bambini: perché non stampate le edizioni originali illustrate? Ma illustrate sul serio non con qualche figura sparpagliata qua e là ogni dieci/quindici pagine. I bambini piccoli hanno bisogno delle illustrazioni per mantenere la concentrazione, ma non è un buon motivo per abbinare delle illustrazioni molto belle a delle versioni ridotte brutte e noiose da leggere (ribadisco: sono piccoli, non stupidi). Non si può ridurre Alice nel paese delle meraviglie e una mera elencazione di fatti saltando dei passaggi (quelli poi che rendono il libro interessante). Ormai, se volevo dare una speranza al mio rapporto con Alice, dovevo per forza leggere la versione originale. Ci sono voluti più di trentanni ma alla fine ho fatto la cosa giusta: ho letto il libro così come Carroll Lewis l’aveva scritto.Dopo tutta questa lunga (e forse poco interessante) confessione, vi starete chiedendo se il libro mi è piaciuto. Sì, mi è piaciuto ma non lo annovero tra le letture più entusiasmanti della mia vita. Il punto è che io devo per forza attribuire un metasenso a quello che leggo: cosa vuole dire l’autore? Cosa rappresenta questo libro per me? Per rispondere alla prima domanda, ho fatto scorpacciate di articoli su internet ma non sono giunta ad alcuna conclusione convincente. Né le interpretazioni psicoanalitiche (francamente le ritengo delle forzature, anche se non c’è dubbio che l’autore avrebbe fornito materiale ghiotto per un’analisi) né quelle psicologiche mi hanno convinto. Penso che la strada sia quella di approfondire la cultura vittoriana perché la vicenda di Alice è ricca di modi dire e di richiami alla cultura dell’epoca: per questa ragione ho deciso di rileggere nella versione annotata da Martin Gardner. Esiste la probabilità che semplicemente Alice sia una storia senza significati nascosti, anzi (come ho letto da più parti) sarebbe proprio questo il suo pregio: non voler veicolare nessun significato, nessuna morale in un’epoca (quella vittoriana) in cui ai bambini non veniva permesso di divertirsi senza un fine. Sul piano più soggettivo, invece, non riesco a rilassarmi e a godermi le avventure di Alice: devo confessarvi che un po’ mi annoiano, soprattutto le parti in rima. Ciò che invece mi affascina sono i singoli personaggi di Alice nel paese delle meraviglie: Carroll e riuscito a tratteggiare delle creature che rimarranno per sempre vive nella mia mente (badate bene, ho scritto nella mente e non nel cuore). Attraverso lo specchio e quel che Alice vi trovò, invece, non mi è piaciuto: sarà che non so giocare a scacchi e quindi mi sfuggono tutti i riferimenti a questo gioco. Sarà che la diversa nascita di questa opera (meno spontanea e chiaramente progettata nei minimi dettagli) fa sentire tutto il suo peso e la penna di Lewis Carroll non è riuscita a sopraffare del tutto la tristezza e la monotonia di Charles Lutwidge Dodgson.

Divergent

by

4.29 rating

Comment 1: Okay, so the movie came out on disk, and I was surfing one of my favorite channels on YouTube, when I found this video by CinemaSins. It's a fun and irreverent bit of criticism. Enjoy!Since I managed to get 100 likes before the movie came out, I will be reviewing Insurgent and Allegiant in the future. It may be a while though. Life is a bit in the way.Okay, time to get serious. I wish I could be funny like my Mortal Instrument reviews, but my intellectual has kicked in because this book manages to be defined as part of a genre that I have always adored, especially in short stories.Before I begin, my usual disclaimer that this review will contain logic, griping, complaining, spoilers, and the general deconstruction of everything that the fans hold dear. If you wish to berate me for this, don't waste your time. Nothing you say will convince me. This book is just that bad.So, my initial reaction was thus:Dramatic, I know. But not as dramatic as wanting to take a shot gun or lighter to a library book. I'm at least glad I didn't pay for it.To get into the mood, some foreplay.Beatrice - the main character - lives in a Chicago where everyone is divided up into six groups. The Abnegation (selfless people), Dauntless (brave people), Erudite (intelligent people), Amity (friendly people), Candor (honest people), and the Factionless. When a child reaches sixteen, they must take a test that will tell them what faction they belong into, but then they still get to pick the faction. Now, each faction has a specific lot in life.Let's break it down, shall we?Abnegation: (Noun) The act of instance of abnegating, or denying oneself some rights, conveniences, etc. This is Beatrice's faction. They are supposed to be entirely selfless. They wear all gray, eat insipid food, and everything is considered self-indulgent to them. You could say they are beyond Amish. Oh, and every member of the government is Abnegation. Every member. Yeah. They're referred to as "selfless leaders in government" at one point, but when is it ever smart to have one faction in control? Here is the kicker, they aren't the bad guys. They actually don't do anything wrong that an oppressive regime would do, like make the rest of the factions give up "indulgences" or go to mass every day. They are doormats.Dauntless: (Adjective) Not to be intimidated; fearless; intrepid; bold. This is the faction Beatrice joins. They are defined as "protection from threats both within and without." They are the security forces of Roth Chicago. The truth is that the Dauntless are reckless idiots. Their transportation is a train that never stops, so they must jump from it. They dye their hair, get piercings and tattoos, and wear tight clothes. They are more like rebellious high schoolers than a militant force. I'll write more about them later since the reader spends the most time with this faction. I'll at least add that they are proof of Roth's lazy writing.Erudite: (Adjective) Characterized by great knowledge; learned or scholarly. The faction Beatrice's brother, Caleb, joins. The book defines them as "intelligent teachers and researchers." If a society could have and R&D department, this would be it. I'm sad to say that smart people are not depicted well in this story. They are shown to be smug, mean, and power hungry. There are no scientists who understand that scientific break-throughs are a double edged blade; one side will do good and another evil. This faction is the bad guy because they believe the Abnegation are holding back prosperity and progress. That would make sense if their way of going about it wasn't so stupid. Slander and brainwashing never works in the end.Amity: (Noun) (1) Friendship; peaceful harmony. (2) Mutual understanding and a peaceful relationship, especially between nations; peace, accord. Book defines as "understanding counselors and caretakers." They do the farming and smile a lot. That's the extent of it.Candor: (Noun) (1) The state or quality of being frank, open, and sincere in speech or expression; candidness. (2) Freedom from bias; fairness; impartiality. Most of Beatrice's fellow Dauntless initiates are from Candor. The book defines them as "trustworthy and sound leaders in law." Yes. They are all lawyers that we know of. They're supposed to be honest people, but they're honest to the point of being rude and come across as being quite judgmental. They also dress like Mormon missionaries because they believe the truth is black and white. How has a faction full of completely honest people not killed each other already? It would be like living with a bunch of Sherlocks in a John Grisham novel.The Factionless: Those that did not pass the initiation for their chosen factions or dropped out. They are essentially homeless day laborers who are paid in food and clothes. They live in old subway tunnels. No body loves them or wants to be them. The only thing people fear more than being factionless is the prospect of war. No executions or murders or anything like that. Just being factionless and an abstract idea of war. I have a headache now.Okay, now that we have the basics, what is the economy like? Oh, Roth doesn't tell us. Then what world shattering event led to the formation of the factions? It says they were formed by different people who believed those were the most important traits, but not why? No bad weather. No nuclear war. No civil war. No raising tides. Nothing. Nada. Then why is Lake Michigan an effing marsh? Not only that, but do you know how many cities there are on the edges of Lake Michigan? How are they not fighting Chicago over water if it's scarce?Okay. Okay. Maybe I'm over-thinking her TOTAL LACK OF WORLD BUILDING. I mean, I've seen more world building in short stories, and the short story format isn't even set up for world building. Despite the little bit of information on the factions, the reader knows almost nothing about this society Roth has set up. None of it makes a lick of sense. If I sat down and mapped out how the different functions interacted and what held them together, there would be squat. It's more entirely dysfunctional than a dystopia. And what makes a dystopia exactly?I believe this paragraph from John Joseph Adam's Introduction from his anthology of dystopian short stories, Brave New Worlds, sums it up the best: The roots of the word dystopia, dys- and -topia, are from the Ancient Greek for "bad" and "place," and so we use the term to describe and unfavorable society in which we live. "Dystopia" is not a synonym of "post-apocalyptic"; it also is not a synonym for a bleak, or darkly imagined future. In a dystopian feature, society itself is typically the antagonist; it is society that is actively working against the protagonist's aims and desires. This oppression frequently is enacted by a totalitarian of authoritarian government, resulting in the loss of civil liberties and untenable living conditions, caused by any number of circumstances, such as world overpopulation, law's controlling a person's sexual or reproductive freedom, and living under constant surveillance.Now, I would love to put almost the entirety of Adam's tiny essay here, but there isn't enough room for it with this stinking word count limit. My point is, Divergence isn't a dystopia."But what about Tris being a Divergent, and not being able to see her brother, and being torn from her family? How is that not a dystopia? It's bad!"Not necessarily. You see, because the Abnegation run the government, technically they can control the other factions, but they don't. They're inept. They actually have no way to enforce the rules that everyone follows. They have no security force of their own, or punishments. This society could not exist because it could not function."But the Erudite were in charge! And the brainwashing!"The Erudite weren't in charge at first, and even then, not everyone would have been behind it. Also, the Abnegation's viewpoint on the world doesn't give them the back bone to push against at least three factions of obnoxious individuals. They should have toppled from power generations ago, but since Roth never gives us an idea about how long her Chicago has been around, the reader doesn't know. This society is not plausible. At. All.Watch. Get five friends together and each have them represent a faction. Then have Selfless tell Intelligence, Honesty, and Muscle what to do. Think about it. Even the US Armed Forces push back against Congress. "But she explains all your gripes in Insurgent."Then let me talk about Tris, the main character.She is the daughter of an Abnegation government official. She is small for her size and built like a boy. She wishes she was more selfless like her family, but instead lies and wishes vengeance on just about everyone that hurts her. She is a giant hypocrite.Take her fight with Molly after she's "pantsed" in the dorm. Tris keep's kicking her while she's down out of vengeance. That is just petty and mean. If she keeps wishing she's selfless, that would be a moment where she could demonstrate it. And Al after he apologizes for trying to hurt her, she doesn't forgive him. Tris is a horrible, horrible person. She isn't Divergent. She's Dauntless through and through. She is not selfless, honest, smart, or friendly. She's suspicious, spiteful, and dense. If she was the least bit pretty, I'd get why Four was into her. But she isn't, so I don't.And that brings me straight to our hunky hero who is oh, so dreamy. He's a virgin, hot, wounded, and mysterious. He only has four fears. That is why he has a nickname reserved for science experiments. Isn't he the best!Four has about as much life as a Ken doll. Probably the genitals of one too. His real importance is that he's also a Divergent.Now I will talk about Divergents and the nuances of Dauntless now that I've brought up Tris and bitched about how this is not a dystopia.I've already said that Dauntless were crazy people that do stupid stuff to seem brave. Roth tries to make the initiates go through a difficult training regimen, but they only beat on each other. There is no learning of throws, holds, or grabs. No learning of efficient ways to take down enemies without killing them or brutally beating them. Roth doesn't even know that most fights are won in the grapple. It's like she did no research about how to train security based forces what so ever.It's even more apparent when she brings in guns. Yes, guns. To Roth, they are never rifles or pistols. They are never semi-auto or bolt action. She doesn't even know what a magazine is. Need an example?"She pushes the bullet chamber open and peers inside. Seeing how many bullets she has left. Then takes a few out of her pocket and reloads."Unless the gun is a revolver, which is unspecified, the magazine would have to be removed to see how much ammo is left and to reload it. And if I'm running around with a semi-auto pistol, I would try to carry loaded magazines with me instead of individual bullets if possible. Seriously, just the technical knowledge alone was torture to get through. I don't need to know how to field strip a P-90, but at least the basics is needed when you are writing about a militant faction.And the Divergent thing. Basically, they can't be brainwashed. Roth tries to justify it wish an explanation given by Tris' mom:"But our minds move in a dozen different directions. We can't be confined to one way of thinking, and that terrifies our leaders. It means we can't be controlled. And it means that no matter what they do, we will always cause trouble for them."Do you see the problem with that one? Do you?First off, they are Abnegation. THEY ARE THE LEADERS.Second, I don't think Roth has ever read 1984, Brave New World, or Fahrenheit 451 where a bulk of the population's way of thinking was quite successfully controlled through fear or bliss. Sure, there were a few outliers, but in two of the three, they were dealt with through discreet means. And the sad thing, all three of those futures have come true in some sense or another. We will never come anywhere close to the world depicted in Divergence.So, to sum it all up because I don't have enough words to keep going into the massive problems this book has, don't bother. Read The Hunger Games if you haven't yet (even though I thought Collins kind of dropped the ball in Mockingjay). Or you could pick up the anthology I mentioned earlier since it has awesome dystopia shorts written by women like Shirley Jackson, Usula K. Le Guin, and Carrie Vaughn. Or read anything else really.And if anyone wants me to do Insurgent, I would have to get 100 likes on this review. Even if I do, I can't guarantee this wouldn't happen after I read it.So it's been fun. I'm going to go bleach my brain now.Edit 8/16/2013: There is this thing I've been thinking of for some time now. The Dauntless are always trying to have these kids get rid of fears. There is this saying that I think people should keep in mind, "Those without fear are missing a good friend."If you don't quite understand it, it means that those who are fearless don't have an important survival mechanism. Fear is what stimulates the "fight or flight" response that sends adrenaline coursing through our veins. Bravery is controlling your fear, utilizing it, not getting rid of it. It really bothered me that this book interpreted bravery as the absence of fear. Bravery, courage, is taking a step forward and facing the thing that makes you want to piss yourself and dive for cover.But fear should also be listened to. If someone says you have to jump off a building to prove yourself, and you know you could die, true bravery would be to look them in the eye and tell them it's stupid and pointless. It's to stand up for yourself.Take the fact that Four turns down the position that Shower Curtain (Eric) takes over. That was cowardly. It would have been braver for him to take the position so he could protect the students from the corruption. He could also try to dismantle the corrupt from the inside out. Yeah, it's more dangerous, but if this book is supposed to be about utilizing your fear for change, then that would have been a perfect little parallel sub-plot. It's a shame Roth isn't a more talented writer.

Lord of the Flies

by

3.61 rating

Comment 1: Over the years I must have read this book five or six times. Last night I was reading it on a train with a highlighter in my hand, because I decided to teach it this year again. Teachers wreck books, of course. We all know that. On the other hand, whatever you have to study-read, you tend to carry a bit of it with you. You don't forget that book, at least. Although I must add, that it's quite risky introducing to a Scottish classroom a book with the memorable words: "The English are best at everything...."I wasn't sure how much it would have dated. I must have read it for the first time 30 years ago. Published in 1954, the phrasing would have been pretty modern then. Even now, most of it has work well. The phrase that jumped at me -- and it only appeared once -- was when Piggy (I think) compared the boys detrimentally to 'niggers', instead of just 'savages'. Ouch. Mental note to make them look hard at this bit. After all this is such a horrible little group of boys. As complacently white as can be, one group of them from a choir school (or a public school with a choir), no less. And Ralph, the 'hero', son of a naval officer. Golding, as a teacher in an upmarket school, presumably knew those sort of boys all too well. The boys being prepared to carry the empire forward.Except the setting suggests the empire may not be going forward. Somebody somewhere is fighting a war that is evidently nuclear. It's never quite clear what is going on or how the officer turns up cool as cucumber on a naval cutter at the end.Most of the young people in my class this year have (sigh) seen the film, so they know what happens. The group of boys marooned on an idyllic Pacific Island first start off having a sort of cheery adventure. There are references to Coral Island, Swallows and Amazons and Treasure Island too. They want to have fun, and one of their number -- Jack -- talks a great deal about 'fun', though his idea of fun is killing pigs.They arrive a fairly civilised little group but they gradually degenerate. Golding's moral message is about the "darkness of man's heart" and it's a good moral companion to Heart of Darkness now I come to think about it. The boys natural fears escalate and the younger children create a mythical 'beast', which then seems to materialise as a fact when the body of a dead airman, killed a war fought in the skies overhead, floats down to the island in a parachute.But the real beast is their own desire for control and domination, as well as an interesting bloodlust -- the word 'lust' is used of this, and the killing of the first pig is certainly described with unmistakable sexual resonance. One of the boys pushes a sharpened stick "up her ass". There are no girls in the group -- what a different novel it would have to have been if there were! -- but the pig they kill is a sow, and they interrupt her in suckling a brood of piglets. What a strange, strange thing to put into your novel. Not just the killing, but the slaughtering of a mother pig and a kind of sexual frenzy. Yuk!But hey -- he's intending to shock. He's intending to show that this blood lust thing isn't far away from human kind, or male human kind at least, and that it doesn't take much to call it out. Even Ralph, the Aryan protagonist, feels himself getting caught up in it. Paint your face, start whooping and chanting and you can do, it seems, almost anything.The kind, poetic, imaginative Simon gets butchered (teeth and nails at this point -- not spears). PIggy is despatched by Roger, the executioner. The whole of their little society is clearly turning into a Stalinist regime, with each boy taking his place, as prescribed by Golding, which is what you get to do when you write an allegory.It's a powerful read, though more repetitive, in linguistic terms, than I remembered - almost as repetitive as D H Lawrence in places. At the highpoint, towards the end, when Ralph is completely isolated and being hunted down, the word 'ululation' is done to death. But at least you can't read this book without learning what it means!What I both like and don't like about it is the way it makes me want to argue. The whole thing is completely manipulated. Is this what would happen? Would the darkness of man's heart take over? I have not much doubt that man's heart is dark, I guess, but when I got off the train I left my very lovely reddy-orangy furry scarf, and the chap who was sitting opposite me (I didn't speak to him during the journey) ran after me with it. It brightened my day. Perhaps he was a 'Simon' and would quickly get trampled if our civilisation were to decline.But look Golding, my lad -- that bit where you allow the man in the parachute to get dumped, dead, on the island, scaring the boys out of their wits -- if that hadn't happened -- your choice plot element -- well, the three boys Jack, Roger and Ralph, would have established Absence of Beast. It might all have turned out very differently.If Piggy hadn't been wearing glasses, there would have been no fire....If it had started raining sooner....If Ralph had been a bit more intelligent....If the pigs had been a bit better at getting away....On an island, living on fruit and getting scratched and cut, one or two of them would have developed fatal infections and their main enemy would probably have been illness and death, which would have drawn them together a bit. Even the biting insects would probably have driven them potty. One or two of them, it's my bet, would have descended into depression and just dwindled away.It wouldn't have been like The Coral Island, but it wouldn't have been the inevitable collapse of civilisation either. Steven King likes this book. It fits beautifully with his love of dramatic thriller, increasing isolation of central brave character, and underlying opposition between good and evil. Here evil wins, though. Ralph is about to be exterminated when the officer arrives, so the deus ex machina is just there as an ironic way to end the book. That bastard is even 'embarrassed' when Ralph bursts into tears. That's British stiff upper lippery for you. I don't believe, in the boys' behaviour. I don't believe that Jack, the killer (I nearly said Jack the Giant-Killer), is there just below the surface, although I do believe that wars bring out the worst in us. I don't believe that Roger -- just a little boy -- is the natural henchman, with a desire to execute his peers running just below his veneer of civilisation. But then perhaps I do. I've seen it, haven't I? Seen nasty young people doing nasty young things nastily. Conditioned into that, in their turn, by not very delightful adults, damaged adults.Oh bloody Golding -- go away! I put my money on man's intelligence. You gotta use your head to survive, whichever allegory you seem to be inhabiting. And sometimes you do survive and sometimes you don't, but the 'darkness of man's heart' is offset by the light, which always returns.The trouble is, the dark heart goes for power - doesn't it? And the desire for power and control over others can be wielded quickly and wrongly by just a few people. It's what's happening all over the world at this minute.And yet -- the majority are good-hearted souls, who will pick up your scarf on a train and return it to you. There are more good guys than bad ones. Some of them are quietly and happily reading books at this minute. Otherwise, what would be the point?

Ender's Game

by

4.28 rating

Comment 1: 2.5 StarsI had no intention of picking up Ender’s Game for two reasons – One, I came to know about this book only recently when I happened to see a mini-trailer of the movie and saw a little kid saving Earth, which put me off despite being okay with Harry Potter, really. Two, OSC came into focus by his conservative views on marriage and sexual orientation followed by an outcry demanding to ban EG. But I grew heavily curious if his views explicitly shaped his most famous work, and had to read it.Honestly, I found the work immensely unbelievable if I kept in mind the fact that the protagonist Ender was between 6 and 10 years old throughout the work. It seemed too implausible for a young mind to attain adulthood so easily, even if he was gifted. Being sharp, intelligent, exceedingly adaptive and perceptive is one thing – and gaining a maturity that is accumulated by years of exposure to experience and an ever-widening world is quite another thing. By half the novel, I was so annoyed I couldn’t enjoy it. But once I stopped forcing myself to see him as a kid and let myself assign him an age I thought was believable to me (mid-late teens in the first half of the book and mid-late twenties in the latter half), I found myself curiously enjoying the story.Now, this is an interesting story, despite being so clichéd and possessing hardly any novelty. The writing is well-paced, the twists are not forced, and although I didn’t relate myself to any of the characters, it is obvious it would touch some nerve with some bright kids going through that alienation. Also, it is not a literary kind of story, though it had immense potential to be a really good bildungsroman. It is a plain story in plain words, easy on the mind, and possibly more popular than it is worth because it touches a certain group of people not before adequately represented in fiction.As a military SF work, it is curious and inadequate – it is fit neither for young children, nor for adults – it contains a bit of violence, nearly negligible sexual explicitness and young protagonists, but it is too complex as a piece of psychological work for little kids to understand. And kids’ psychology is the focal point of this novel. I’d rather 6 year olds watch Doraemon/Micky-Minnie-Donald-Scrooge-Tom&Jerry cartoons, even though I don’t find all of them beyond reproach from certain perspectives. For adults, it is too simplistic a piece of fiction to be enjoyable. Perhaps, kids in mid-late teens might appreciate it if they can relate to it and have nowhere else to turn to.I had hoped for some beautiful observations on growing up, some touching instances of friendship-formation, of emerging from childhood into adolescence in a world where an innocent kid had to grow up too fast – what it meant to be a child, what it would be to lose that innocence and to be flung in a world that afforded no love, no care, no warmth. But, well, OSC misses the mark completely. Can we know the dancer from the dance?I’ve been meaning to review this book as objectively as possible – and I wanted to read it precisely because I wanted to see if I could know the dancer from the dance, OSC from EG. I was pretty sure I would be able to pick out some insinuations about his conservative, inflammatory views on homosexuality. Surprisingly, I didn’t.I did see blatant, overt sexism that could have been easily rendered logical, given its genre of SF. Now, this very sentence in the beginning caught me off-guard, and alerted me to further potential signs of sexism. "A few girls. They often don't pass the tests to get in. Too many centuries of evolution are working against them. None of the will be like Valentine, anyway."Now, despite my sincere wishes to see more women, more non-Whites, non-Western, non-strictly-heterosexual settings in SF, I’m quite okay with Men, Whites and Western, Heterosexuals (MWWH now onward) settings as well. The beauty of SF is that with a pseudo-scientific explanation, it is very easy to incorporate strictly MWWH without being offensive to the non-MWWH categories. What bothered me here was that there were no logical explanations for the new world. Or whatever they are, they do not amount to much.Only two women of consequence are present here – Valentine (Ender’s sister, conceived in order to induct her into the army, but rejected because she was too soft, too conciliatory, and therefore, though it is not explicitly stated, too feminine. Peter, their eldest sibling with his unruly nature only acts as a foil to Valentine and a double assertion of this feminine/manly dichotomy. And another girl is the one with Ender who helps him save the world.About the quote I cited about ‘few girls passing the tests’, no further explanation is given. What kind of evolutionary process? OSC doesn’t bother to explain, while he spends endless pages of explanations on some things that really didn’t matter to the story at all.Possibly the only strong female character in the story is the co-fighter with Ender and the sole girl in the BattleSchool, and she plays second-fiddle to Ender (okay, I know she is a minor character), but she is also the only character to fail at the most critical juncture. Alai, the only non-White (presumably African) and non-Christian character too has no role beyond helping Ender, though he is definitely portrayed better than I expected.Now, I have issues with it because I saw in the HP movies how these obstacles were overcome and could have been done so here too – HP and other characters were kids, but were better specimens of bildungsroman. Hermoine and Ron were as well-rounded, individual characters as Harry himself, and no less important. Harry alone did not defeat Voldemort – the entire wizard world did it with him. Harry is not infallible. Nor are others. And HP, despite having few female characters actively taking part in the series, is far from sexist.So because it can be done, I found it immensely irritating it wasn’t done. I’m pretty convinced that OSC’s personal beliefs have a lot to do with this portrayal, which comes across to me as a typical White Male Fantasy. His Mormon neo-conservative views might have had a significant bearing on his characters that are dangerously impressionable on young minds. As for the recent furor over his anti-homosexuality views, I could detect no such instances of it in the book, nothing even faintly propaganda-type. Except for the complete erasure of sexuality in a school full of teens.I was dithering between 2 and 3 stars – it was lucid, well-paced, but ordinary. It is a teenage White Male fantasy with clear anti-Russian leanings. As an SF work, the part about the games is well-delineated, imaginative, but at some critical junctures, scientific explanations are missing. The world-building is haphazard, sloppy, and yet it is overall readable. Or maybe I found it so because I was just done with something nastily heavy as Spivak and needed a real no-brainer controversial lucid book. I fail to understand how this deeply flawed piece won the Nebula. Hugos, I don’t pay much attention to, because they are voted on by fans. But I’m increasingly being disappointed by some inclusions in Nebula, especially those in the post-1980s.But ‘nuff said, it was annoying enough not to make me reach for his other books. Solely based on the (de)merits of this one, rather than OSC’s personal whims. Because if the dancer cannot be separated from the dance, I cannot read/enjoy at least a quarter of the wonderful books I’ve read. Unless an author seeps noticeably into his works, there’s no point in doing otherwise. The author must remain in the back of the mind, and not completely obliterated. S/he must be brought to the fore whenever it is necessary and appropriate to do so. But when the author and the work are unrelated, it is best to keep them separate.

City of Bones

by

4.12 rating

Comment 1: Why, oh why did I waste such valuable reading time finishing this? Because, apparently, I'm a glutton for punishment.I will warn you ahead of time, this review may contain spoilers!!! I'm not sure yet because I don't really care enough to plan this out. This will mostly be whining, ranting, and general complaining. Remember, I warned you.Before I dive into this review, I will tell you that I've heard the Cassandra Clare plagiarized arguments, and that this book is basically a reworked fan fiction like the famed Fifty Shades of Grey books. I will not go into those details. I'm just going to look at what has been presented to me in a digital style format for Kindle. So be prepared for jokes and snarky comments that most will probably think are not funny.I decided to read this book because my fourteen year old cousin asked for the series for Christmas. I helped my family purchase it for her (because I'm their book guru) and I thought I would give at least the first one a shot. I've been trying to read more YA lately to familiarize myself with why it's so popular since I pretty much stopped reading YA when I was ten. I'd make the odd excursion into the wilds occasionally, but for the most part I didn't read much.This was my reaction to the book: WHAT DID I JUST READ! HOW IN HELL DID THIS GET PUBLISHED! DID SHE SELL HER SOUL TO THE DEVIL OR SOMETHING?Yes, I bolded that. I currently want to rub my head along the floor as I walk in the futile hope that I'll rub this book from my memory. If Sherlock Holmes' Attic Theory is to be believed, that this book is taking up valuable space I can use for my writing and better books.Let me start with the characters since they're probably the most appalling aspect.Clary: This little lovely is a fifteen/sixteen year old red-head who loves her sketchbook and doesn't think she's pretty. Sounds like me in high school. I should relate right? Wrong. Clary is one of the angriest, self-absorbed, whiniest little brats I've ever had the displeasure of getting to know.I've read my share of female protagonists who go down like cheap alcohol; they put up a fight and don't agree once you think you've stomached them. But I liked those gals anyway. Clary is not one of them. She bitches about everything. She gets angry at the stupidest stuff. She also can't keep a solid thought in her head. She wonders about the strangest things at the strangest times, like in the middle of a fight. And she slaps or scratches people with barely a reason.Let's move on, shall we? Before I throw my computer. She really pisses me off that much.Jace: I know he's supposed to basically be this popular ideal of fanfic Draco (Now with more leather!), but I honestly thought Draco was a waste of space to begin with. Not because Rowling was a terrible writer (because she's definitely not that), but because he was a terrible person! If I just look at this character without thinking about his developmental origin, I still don't like him. He's a conceited jackass. He's the kind of guy where you're friend looks at you and says, in the sassiest way possible, "Gurl, you can do better." Sure, he's got tattoos and blonde sex hair, but when are those boys good for you? Now, I'll be straight with you, reader. Think of it this way. Cassandra Clare refers to Jace's blonde curls so often I was beginning to wonder if he was rockin' a perm. And he's wearing leather pants in hot, humid New York weather. His dangly bits have got to be chaffing. Seriously, ladies. That is not hot. All he's missing is an Ed Hardy shirt before he's the douche in the corner of the club you roll your eyes at.Before any fans read this and freak out on me with: OH NO! JACE IS TOTES HAWT! YOU JUS HATIN BECAUSE YOU CAN'T HAVE HIM! YOU JEALOUS CAUSE YOU CAN'T WRITE LIKE CLARE CAN! (I can't even be a pre-teen girl right, and I was one once.) There are no pictures. You are living in your fantasy. All Clare describes most of the time are his eyes and hair. If you are a grown woman and your mad at what I've said, go drool over Supernatural. The Winchesters are hot, demon hunters, and have better personalities. Okay, marginally better personalities. Whatever. At least they aren't wearing leather pants. Or in puberty.Simon: The child hood friend suffering from unrequited love syndrome. Yawn. He was awesome until he got all heart broken. Solid friend till the end even though he could have pushed Clary off a cliff and I would have felt it totally justified. The only character that the dry wit Clare tries to use fits. At one point he does tell Clary off and calls Jace an asshole, earning him my Favorite Character Award.Isabelle: The bitchy hot chick Clary hates even though she isn't that bitchy. I actually kind of liked her despite being a totally undeveloped stereotype. The butt of cooking jokes.Alec: Isabelle's boring older brother. He's gay for Jace. Hates on Clary because she's also making eyes at his dream man. He's just there for plot conflict. Too underdeveloped to be interesting.Magnus Bane: I liked Magnus despite his unfortunate attire. He really seemed better than that. I would read the other two books for him, but I'm pretty sure I couldn't suffer through more Clary. Although, he could totally be that sassy gay friend Clary needs to tell her, "Gurl, you can do better." (I really wanted to say that again. I blame the lack of sleep.) Of course, nothing Clare writes is really that interesting, so I don't know why I expect it to happen.Luke: Clary's mother's friend suffering from unrequited love syndrome. Also liked him, but he should have yelled at Clary more for being a little brat.Jocelyn: a.k.a. Coma mom. That's how she spends the whole book. And ends the book. I felt cheated.Valentine: The big bad. More like Bad-Guy-From-a-Can. He's not really menacing at all, or even memorable. Even his name sucks. I'm gonna call him Daddy V from now on because for some strange reason I can take that more seriously than Valentine. Who names their child that anyway?That should handle all the characters, which I enjoyed writing about more than I thought. Now, onto the next biggest complain that I've read about and couldn't help noticing: the metaphors! Bum-bum-bum! I'll just list a few off:"The night sky rippled overhead..." How does the sky ripple when you aren't looking at it through anything?"The moon hung like a locket over the city..." So it just hanging there wasn't good enough?"She wondered how often he let glimpses of his real self peek through the facade that was as hard and shiny as the coat of lacquer on one of her mother's Japanese boxes." This one broke my brain."... was black as velvet." Oh, honey. Didn't you know velvet comes in many different colors?To describe a mausoleum: "... like an iceberg off the bow of the Titanic."To refer to a restaurant building: "... like a collapsed souffle.""... the lights of Manhattan burning like cold jewels." This would be a moment where Clare using glittering would make sense."The apple tasted green and cool." How do you taste green?"She felt a bright surge of shame that burst behind her eyelids like a small sun." If shame looks like the sun to you, Clary, why do you still have eyes?"... yowling like a foghorn." Does this woman think about what she says? This cat sounds possessed.Okay, I'll stop there before I start crying. I swear, Clare doesn't think about what she's actually putting down. Everything in her world "sparks," "gleams," "glints," or "glitters." It sounds painful to look at. When I read the descriptions and think about what it would look like visually, it sounds like Tinkerbell covered Clare's world in pixie dust. Instead of making vampires sparkle, Clare made friggin' everything sparkle! Eyes, bracelets, bracers, weapons, random objects in the corner. It stopped making sense. I don't even want to know how many times she uses those words. I kept getting deja vu with those words as often as I saw "like" or "as." This chick needs an editor.Plot wise it isn't much better. Three objects... blah, blah. Special snowflake girl... yadda, yadda. I actually got bored in the middle of the climax because Clare foreshadows with a brick. I guessed the ending at the beginning. Seriously, she lacks subtlety.But I want to mention one main plot twist that should have made me gasp and drop my Kindle to clutch at my heart. Yup, you guessed it, dear reader. The Daddy V reveal. When I was reading the scenes with pacified Jace, I couldn't buy it. It became apparent to me that Clare had manipulated her character so it could suit the moment. There was no natural character progression to fragile, doubting Jace from jackass Jace.This is how the scene should have went:DADDY V: Jace, I am your father.JACE: This isn't Star Wars. I want a DNA test. I know we use magic and all that, but science still exists. Hell, there's probably some magical DNA test. I mean, a couple of items and some convenient circumstances does not the truth make. Wow, I just sounded intelligent there.Okay, I was pretty liberal with that, but I think I made my point.That, of course, leads to the whole incest-love thing. I read Martin's Song of Fire and Ice before they were a cable show. Nothing will beat the creepiness that is that incest-romance. Well, nothing that I've come across.Then there are the inconsistencies: Mark scars are sometimes described as silver, sometimes as white.Luke's dagger, then sword, then dagger. The werewolves are strong enough to break through boarded up windows a couple stories up, but not a roof top door.Light from the open front door doesn't affect Abaddon. Only the light coming through the skylight. Which, when I read it, I had to assume was dirty or frosted. She never clarified.Yeah. Cassandra Clare, by royal decree, you need an editor.There are a thousand other things I could go into like how all the characters have the same wit that isn't funny. Or I could go into detail all of the inexplicable rages Clary flies into. Or mention that Clare actually has Daddy V monologue and throw his head back to laugh. But I'll stop before I find myself bald because I've torn out my hair from looking at my notes.Before I stop, let me put this in another perspective. As an unpublished writer who reads the work of other unpublished writers, I have come across much better. It's books like these that make me scratch my head. I understand if you want to blow an afternoon reading cotton candy fluff, you know, nothing really special, but there is stuff out there that has characters that are genuinely lovable. And the characters are what really matter because that is what the reader connects to. That is why Cassandra Clare's City of Bones got one star. In the end, I stopped caring.If you liked this review, I've got more: The Original Mortal Instruments TrilogyCity of AshesCity of Glass The Infernal DevicesClockwork AngelClockwork Prince

Charlotte's Web

by

4.12 rating

Comment 1: Lo and behold, my young student lent me – although I abhor to do so- this in tatters considering that I am now finicky about book covers. I prefer pristine books to crispy ones since I would love to build my own private library someday where in I would definitely hole up reading the books I would like to keep up with. (Stargazing) Yippie! I can’t wait for it.I rarely get a chance to meet a young student whose taste for books is paralleled with mine. It just so happened that my student came up with this book and offered to lend me first , for she knows that I have not bought my own copy yet. Out of idle curiosity I nodded in excitement since its paperback picture of a cute girl looking up to a spider in its web while holding a pig had drawn my attention many times at children books sections in a book store. Also, I had learned that it is considered as one of the best children books in the world literature. So I did not want to miss this opportunity as long as books could be at my disposal and gratis .As a matter of course, literally, I tend to judge a book cover rather than its content, the first ideas of the story that I deluded myself into were:( a) The pig was the main protagonist of the story.(b) The girl in the picture was Charlotte.(c) The pig was Charlotte’s pet .(d) The story centered around the pig’s heroism just the like in the movie Babe: Pig City by George Miller.Upon reading it, I have shattered all my illusions with this burning sensation of shame.( a) The pig was the main protagonist of the story.Yes, the pig is the main protagonist of the story. His name is Wilbur but there’s one thing I did not give a fiddle’s fart about- the spider. The spider also has a special role as the all rage to the story. She, not a man if you are unconsciously borne upon this male sexism, is Charlotte A. Cavatica.(b) The girl in the picture was Charlotte.Teng! Teng! Teng! ( X-double –minus ) The spider is Charlotte. The girl’s name is Fern Arable. She saved Wilbur from death when her father found out that he is a rant. She begged her father that she pet Wilbur herself.(c) The pig was Charlotte’s pet.Nope. When Wilbur was crestfallen because Fern missed visiting him, Charlotte, the spider, comforted him until they hit it off like best friends.(d.)The story centered around the pig’s heroism just the like in the movie Babe: Pig City by George Miller.Not at all! The highlights of the story are:First: Wilbur knew that he was expected to be killed for ham and bacon before Christmastime.Second: Charlotte would make some miracles to save Wilbur.Third: The natural life-and-death process of Charlotte. Tear-jerker! T_TI was close to giving it 4 stars because I enjoyed reading the first part in which I basked the philosophical discussion between Fern and his father about life.Fern Arable: [John Arable lifts runt from the newborn litter of piglets] Papa! Papa, stop! Don't kill it! It's unfair.Arable: Fern! You will have learn to control yourself!Fern Arable: [crying] Control myself? This is a matter of life and death, and you talk about controlling myself?Arable: Now Fern, I know a lot more about raising pigs than you do. A weakling makes trouble, now run along.Fern Arable: But it's unfair! If I had been very small, would you have killed me?Arable: No, certainly not! A little girl is one thing, a... runty pig is another.Fern Arable: [Sobbing] I don't see any difference! This is the most terrible case of injustice that I ever heard of!Then, I kept turning the next pages so eager and excited to know how Fern is able to bring up Wilbur. But I was disappointed when I found out that Charlotte turned out to be a spider beyond my great expectations. I guess I had this conception that how a spider , definitely whose intelligence is lower than the domestic animals in the barn , could have such a big role, especially in her ability to communicate with others. Probably I am more used to watching TV anime or reading fables which most of the characters involved are intellectually higher than insects such as spiders . Or You’ d rather I said social interaction among animals with different intellectual classification . For example, pigs could interact with another domestic animals like horses, sheep, goats, geese, chickens, cats, dogs, or even mice, but with insects such as spiders and other kind alike is off the center. I have never read nor seen such kind of interaction yet. If I have as the memory serves, I just know that they just take a cameo part.I had expected that the story would go like ,probably , Wilbur would be a Super-Pig doing something heroic granted that the perception of the town people about him was that he is an animal, merely a pig. Uh-oh! I may have gotten this idea from animation movies which the common scene is that an animal does something remarkable such as in Pig City, Beethoven, Dalmatian 101…I may be a little disappointed at the twists and turns of the story, but I can’t deny the fact that it is worth its salt. You can pick some lessons from the philosophical discourses among the characters about LIFE and FRIENDSHIP.No wonder it has received a panoply of different literary awards.On life , I liked : "Life is always a rich and steady time when you are waiting for something to happen." Who won’t skip Wilbur’s standing-ovation polemic on an arrogant lamb’s snide that He(Wilbur) is just nothing ?“What do you mean less than nothing? I don't think there is any such thing as less than nothing. Nothing is absolutely the limit of nothingness. It's the lowest you can go. It's the end of the line. How can something be less than nothing? If there were something that was less than nothing, then nothing would not be nothing, it would be something - even though it's just a very little bit of something. But if nothing is nothing, then nothing has nothing that is less than it is.”Howzat? Read it again ! ( laughs)On friendship, I want to remember Charlotte’s lines by heart : “You have been my friend. That in itself is a tremendous thing. I wove my webs for you because I liked you. After all, what's a life, anyway? We're born, we live a little while, we die. A spider's life can't help being something of a mess, with all this trapping and eating flies. By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone's life can stand a little of that.”

Anne of Green Gables

by

4.2 rating

Comment 1: On Saturday, I found out Jonathan Crombie (Gilbert Blythe) had passed away of a brain hemorrhage. While I never wanted to marry him, I loved everything he stood for in the Anne books--truth, love, faithfulness--one of those Jimmy Bean type heroes that never do anything stunning, but prove by their uprightness in family and community that providing for their hearth fire is the most worthy calling they could think of. I loved his grin, and his 'soorry' and his teasing. So today, in memory of his splendid job as Gilbert Blythe, I want to explain why I love, endorse, and appreciate, the Anne of Green Gables series. Master Study in Personality Types When Anne arrives at Green Gables, it's easy to peg her as an over-talkative scarily-imaginative eleven-year-old and leave it at that. Either you like her or you hate her, the end. But it's a lot richer than that. Anne is the story of how the life of one person ripples and ripples and ripples to touch everyone. Think of yourself as the center of a web, and trace all the people you've managed to impact in the last year. Most of us would be in the several hundreds. People brushing against one another change lives for better or for worse. Anne's coming to Avonlea changed a lot of lives, simply by her personality intersecting with theirs. She brought love to Marilla, and Marilla brought her self-control. She brought new life to Matthew, and Matthew brought her the words of blessing she had never heard before. Anne didn't just need them. They needed her. The girls at school needed her, just like she needed some normal childhood companionship. She needed Diana's goodness, and Diana needed her spunk. They fed off each other's strengths and weaknesses. That's real life. Our sins take people down, and our virtues build them up. That's the heartbeat of Anne of Green Gables. Marilla's shriveled heart, Anne's over-sensitiveness, and Mrs. Lynde's gossip all play their part. So does Anne's zeal (which this sleepy, cliquish community needed) Marilla's dependability, and Mrs. Lynde's handy wisdom with child-rearing. It's a master portrait of how everyone works together to build a varied and beautiful community. As Marilla says simply in the movie, "He knew we needed her." Master Study of Female MaturingThose who give up on Anne in book 1 miss the whole point of the series. Anne of Green Gables is not an end in itself, nor is Anne of Avonlea or Anne of the Island (three of the trickiest books theology-wise). Keep reading. Keep reading all eight books, and then you'll get the beauty of how Anne grows into a wise mother, a loving neighbor, and a mature woman. The little girl who puts liniment in the cake and doesn't care about praying grows up--just like you've grown up--or your little sister--or your daughter.For instance, in book 3, Anne hates 'normal' men and wants a dashing, romantic hero. She doesn't even want to get married--thinks Diana settled too soon for boring old Fred. But Anne doesn't always think that way. She grows up to love babies and love Gilbert, a very regular doctor who sometimes forgets their anniversary and doesn't spout poetry. And she finds fulfillment in these things. In a word, Anne struggles with a lot of things real girls struggle with. She's not a pattern, like Elsie Dinsmore was written to be--she's a portrait. It is so vital that in discerning reading we learn to separate the difference between patterns and portraits. Sometimes we condemn the latter and endorse the former, without realizing that we need both to have healthy minds and reading habits. In other words, I love Anne because I know she doesn't always think the way she does at sixteen. Neither do I. Nor at thirty will I think the way I do at twenty. But I love watching her grow into a gracious and well-rounded woman. Master Study of Realistic RomanceThis is where Gilbert comes in. Unfortunately a lot of girls have immaturely made Gilbert into a hot item. That's not what he is, and that's not what he's meant to be. Gilbert is a good picture of what a regular, everyday husband should be: a man who cherishes his wife without making her a goddess, and works with his hands without owning a huge estate, and knows how to love in a deeply romantic way without diminishing his regular male patterned way of thinking. He and Anne are knitted together to become one. He makes fun of company behind their backs and (heavy spoiler) holds her tight when she loses her first baby (end of spoiler) and heals patients around Glen St. Mary and watches his sons go off to war. He is steady and stalwart, using his strengths to compliment Anne's weaknesses. Gilbert and Anne have always been on the list of couples I love for their everyday grace.This series is jam-packed with things to learn about life and love and the way people interact with one another. Not always the way they should interact--simply the way they do interact. Sure, it's a jumbled up mix of heathens (Mr. Harrison and Davy come to mind) and mistaken theology (particularly in the death of Ruby Gillis) but it also teaches good things: that babies should be treasured, and friends are sweet gifts, and life needs a balance of self-control and imagination. It's a series of exploration: one young woman exploring life from age eleven all the way into her forties. It is sweet and truly written, with masterful description and syntax on Montgomery's part.I love Anne so much. She is a young woman beautifully flawed and full of resilient grace. She's not merely a talkative little girl in a quirky community of saints and sinners. She's a master portrait of living and loving, and one I hope to read about again and again.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

by

4.2 rating

Comment 1: (this review has been rewritten in july 2013. The ultimate opinion and meaning is the same, though the communication of it, has changed.) DISCLAIMER:I did not like this book. I am about to try to explain why that is so, here, in my own, personal review space. I am critiqing this book, based on my own opinions, personal taste, experiences and perspective, criteria and standards for literary work. It is entirely subjective, as I think all reviews, per definition, are.I mean no disrespect to the people who like this book, and who have found in it something of value. You are as entitled to your own opinion, subjective readingexperience, and standards, as I am, and yours is just as valid. And you have the same opportunity as me, to use your own review space, to clarify that. We don’t all have to agree. One opinion isn’t ‘wrong’ and the other ‘right’ – they are both right, because it is personal.If you are a big fan of this book, and have difficulty in understanding or respecting people, who disagree with you, especially on issues that are important to you, I advice you not to read any further. I will not be saying nice things about this book.A note regarding my own viewpoint:I have a background in psychology and work in this field. The knowledge that I have of some of the issues handled in this book, and the real people I’ve met working in this field, of course affects how I view the book, and is actually one of the reasons I think, that the way this book was written isnt a very good approach to or description of some of these very real issues. I want to underline that I look at Charlie as a written character, not a real person, and I value the book as a literary piece of work, not as a real life story. To me, there is a huge difference between the two.That doesnt make my opinion any more 'right' it is only to explain where i am coming from. ------------------------------Some of the things that matter most to me in books are prose/writing style, storytelling and message. It’s one of the things that can make or break a book for me.In this case, the writing style just didn't work for me.It was just too lacking .Maybe it's the whole premise of the book, a story narrated by someone who is emotionally inhibited as Charlie, that didn't work for me? Maybe, but it didn't have to be. That issue and Charlie’s character could have been explored and dealt with, literary, in other ways.The book could have had Charlie’s narration interact with someone else’s (like an answer to the letters for example), or it could have been written in the 3rd person, maintaining Charlie’s point of view, but also being able to draw in other views, and how they collide with Charlie’s.I find it a bit concerning, that Chbosky wrote a book with so many serious issues like suicide, death, rape, social exclusion/inclusion, relationship violence, abortion, drugs, homosexual adventures, childmolestation/incest, parties, fights, without really dealing with any one of them in depth. To have all of these issues crammed into one book, without giving it the time and place it deserves, I felt, was a huge fault. Each one of these issues needs to be taken seriously, not pointed out on one page, just to be forgotten on the next. If you are going to write about these things, write about it well, give it the space and the in-depth exploration it deserves. To make the reader care for these characters, for these issues, the author and the characters involved must care too. I had a hard time stomaching that both Chbosky and the characters seemed to care so little, for something that is so very very real and so very very difficult, for so many people. It was almost making a mockery of them, which was very off-putting to me.The staccato writing and Charlie’s detached narrating, made me feel detached as well.The story is written in a very plain, very dull, very simple language, with the same sentences reoccurring over and over (eg. "..I don't know why.." , "He/she looked sad.")The emotional description amounts to 'sad' or 'happy'.The portrayals of Charlie and everyone else in the story was so lacking that they felt like cardboard cutouts and simply came off as what they were; made up characters in a fictional story (and not a very good one at that if you ask me).The main character, Charlie, is 15, but comes off as much younger than that. He seems very immature, more like a 7 year old. How a boy can live to be 15 in this time and age (yes, I know it was written in the 1990’s but still, even then, masturbation was a wellknown phenomenon), without knowing of (not practicing) masturbation, is quite a wonder in itself.Charlie also cries a lot, which wouldn’t be a problem, if it was more nuancedly described. I don’t want to see /read about just the surface tears. I want to be taken behind the tears, into the pool they stem from, the pain they are a symptom of and maybe a release from? I want the author to show me what these tears mean, I want to understand them, to be touched by them, to be moved with the ebb and flow of them. In this case, that didn’t happen. The sentence "I/he/she started to cry" alone, just doesn’t stir much emotion in me. Especially not when thrown about on every other page. Then it just gets bothersome and tiring.It's not that I have an aversion to tears (my own or others'). Crying is normal, and can be very healthy and soothing. But when it comes to a literary work, I expect the author to give more nuanced descriptions of feelings than just bucketful of tears. Okay, so they are sad. Very, very sad. Very often. Now, show me what that sadness does to someone, besides producing tears, tears, tears. I am not interested in the tears alone. The sadness is the root, the tears are a symptom. Many people are filled with sadness, but don’t produce many tears. Sadness can overflow in many ways. So: the sadness is the key. Which is why I was so disappointed that Chbosky never digged deeper than this very very thin surface. All I got was tears. And I wonder if all the crying came down to Chbosky simply not knowing how else to describe emotions, or how explore them.Much thought and debate has been given to the question why Charlie is, the way he is. There is the fact that he suffered from childhood trauma, and then there is the question of whether or not Charlie might be autistic. The latter is hinted at and up for interpretation, but never explicitly stated/diagnosed.The autistic spectrum is a varied one, and it comes in many forms, very few fitting the standard, but classic ‘rainman’ syndrome of a very intelligent but socially closed off person. It’s admirable to want to write about autism, a difficult diagnosis to live with, sure. I just don’t think Chbosky is doing autistic people any favors or justice with his depiction of Charlie as someone who might or might not be autistic.Again I must say: if you are going to write about it, write about it with care. Don’t make it into a guessing game, but own it. Don’t glamorize or deride it, but show its many layers and nuances through the particulars and the concrete. The same goes for the psychological trauma. It wasn’t given the care and attention it deserved. It was left at the end as an easy way out, like 'hey, he suffered/suffers from this and so i'm excused for writing a terribly boring book'.No.Whatever made Charlie the way he is, it doesn’t compensate for how the story was written and pulled off.To me, it's really besides the point, since I don’t base my rating/review on pity for a character.SO whether Charlie has any form of autism or not, doesn't really matter, because I thought he and the story was very poorly written. and let me be clear about this: It's not the disorder I have a problem with, it's the writing of it.Note (November, 2013): I recently saw the movie, and thought it was better than the book.Maybe because it fixed some of the issues I had with the book, like it left some of the drama llama out and it wasn't as heavily centered on Charlie's narration and perspective, and emotions and reactions was expressed through expressions instead of just (bad) writing. Different type of media - different possibilities. For this story, i think movie worked better than writing.

The Princess Bride

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4.24 rating

Comment 1: I am currently writing this review, having stayed up all night with the beginnings of a cold, and being sick from something I ate yesterday.Unfortunately, I live on my own and both my male grandparents are no longer with us, so I didn't get to sit up in bed and listen to S. Morgenstern's classic tale of true love and high adventure – the 'good parts' version – being narrated by my grandfather, like the kid in the movie. Also, my dad is generally too busy, so that cuts William Goldman's own account out of the picture.No, my friends. I had to read this all by myself, whilst sat in bed nursing a nasty case of the rumbly tumbly and the drippy nose. But what the hey, I bet that's how most of us read it. Unless, of course, we happen to be of Florinese or Guilder lineage?Okay, enough about the movie, more about the book. This book is so damn happy. It clearly loves the fairytale tropes it pokes fun at, and there's never any sour feeling to the satire. As Mel Brooks once said, you've got to love the genre you're parodying. The Princess Bride has its tongue firmly placed in its cheek, and the humour it employs is absolutely delicious. I know the story basically inside out, because my brother used to make me watch the movie all the time when we were growing up. (We shared a room with bunk-beds for five years. Ain't that cute.) Of course, I do really like the movie, and reading the book is a nice little compliment. It follows the film pretty much exactly. Honestly, it's the most faithful book to movie adaptation you will ever see. ...Well, excepting Goldman's occasional commentary on the story, which was turned into the grandfather reading to his grandson in the movie.Goldman's commentary is hilarious. He satirises university professors who read way too much into what is a pretty simple story, how so many classics have a ridiculous amount of unnecessary information crammed into their pages (like the wardrobes and hat collections of the queen and the countess, if I remember correctly)... you get the idea. And it's true – we do skim to the 'best parts' of fairy tales, and perhaps sanitise them a little bit for the young audience. I have a pretty vivid memory of my mum reading me The Little Mermaid, and hastily adding 'and they lived happily ever after', which seemed a little suspect. I looked in the book some time later, and indeed, we had the edition in which the poor little mermaid dies by turning into sea foam.Speaking of this, though, both ways work wonderfully as a storytelling device. William Goldman's writing is a cross between a traditional fairy tale and a work of comedic genius. In fact, it mostly reminds me of the Discworld books, except with perhaps a little bit more knowing winks at the reader every now and again. That's a pretty good thing to be, in my book.The dialogue is also hilarious. I mean, come on. You have a master swordsman whose response to seeing his father murdered by a nobleman is to train around the continent for ten years and rehearse the famous line: 'My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.' And then when he does catch up to his father's murderer, the Count runs away squealing like a coward. In my head, the look on Inigo's face at that moment is absolutely priceless.Also, for a traditional fairy tale, it ends in a pretty silly way, but it fits the story absolutely perfectly. I also love how it's open to interpretation, enflaming the imaginations of children everywhere. Didn't anyone else ever imagine alternate endings to their favourite fairy tales? Clearly, seeing as there have been so many DAAARK fairy tale retellings in the cinemas recently. (Keep your greasy mitts off this one, though, Hollywood.)I adored this book and I'm really glad I read it after tracking down a copy on back-order. My cover is a little bit dorky – a sentiment felt by me and the lady at the book shop, but what the hey. I'm going to give this a 5/5. It's short, sweet, and an absolutely wonderful read.(Also, as I learned when I finished this book, William Goldman wrote Marathon Man, which has 'made him famous in dentists' offices all around the globe.' Pfft.)(This review is also available on my blog: http://book-wyrm.blogspot.co.uk/2013/...)

A Wrinkle in Time

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4.04 rating

Comment 1: For those looking for a TLDR version of my review, I can sum up this book in one word:Pulp.If allowed, I might also add:Meh.If A Wrinkle in Time were not lauded as a classic, and were instead given the far more accurate description of Christian pulp fantasy, I wouldn't have an issue with the book. After all, no one complains about flank steak until you try to pass it off as a prime cut. Everything about the book is pulp: the prose, the character, the plot, the dozens of contrivances only acceptable to an uninquisitive mind. It has a lot in common with those trashy vacation reads where the reader is silently prodded to just go with it so they can get the emotional pay off of a patently absurd climax and resolution. It might entertain - though I wasn't - but it cannot be called good.The prose is particularly inexcusable exactly because it won an award; the 60's really must have been a different time if lines like, 'something like a horse but at the same time completely unlike a horse,' could win you awards. Description like this is lazy, and endemic in the book. Either it's like a horse, or it's not; imagine your confusion if someone said, 'I saw this guy on the street, you looked just like you, except completely not like you.' And when she's not using the 'somehow' school of description to get around whatever deficiency prevents her from actually using words, L'Engle falls back on the tried and true school of tell not show:'There was something about the way he said "IT" that made a shiver run up and down Meg's spine.'Did he wave his hands around? Did you use a spooky high pitched voice? Was he communicating fear? Awe? An awkwardly sincere veneration? I teach fifth graders who have better descriptions than this. And while we're on the topic of lazy, there is exactly zero character development in the book. Characters are essentially the same people at every stage of the book, no matter where they go. After being whisked away by weird old ladies to an alien world, where they fly on the back of a cenaugusus into space the kids are ... exactly the same. I get that it's a kid's book, and it's not meant to have the deep psychological realism of mature writing, but that's the best we can do for character reaction? No panicking, no freaking out, no crying to go home, just characters going with it because that's how we advance the plot. What's particularly ironic is L'Engle's (mis)use of tesseracts when she can't even get her characters to have two dimensions. Take, for instance, Calvin. He meets Meg and Charles for the first time, having heard all manner of nasty rumors about them, and within twenty minutes is saying:'"Lead on, moron," Calvin cried gaily. "I've never even seen your house, and I have the funniest feeling that for the first time in my life I'm going home!"'Meg gets into fights at school on a regular basis, and clearly has no problem decking boys, so why is he letting some gangly, red haired punk call her little brother - who she will eventually risk her own life to save - a moron less than an hour after they met? No matter, though, because Calvin is instantly welcomed into the home and reads Charles a bedtime story. Because that's how we advance the plot.And speaking of the plot, I won't bother to review it, when the Noising Machine's blog did it better than I:The story revolves around a family of superior people. Each family member is quite intelligent, perhaps genius. At least one of the children is a telepath but his mother, supposedly a scientist, seems totally uninterested in understanding his ability. Not only is the family superior in intellect but in manners and wisdom. The rest of the town gossips, while these wunderkinds are content to let people think they are stupid or freakish. The youngest child, although only five, has the vocabulary of a college student even though he can’t read. His insights are incredibly mature, as well – in fact, there is practically nothing about him that is believable in any way. (http://thenoisingmachine.wordpress.co...)The ethnocentric bias of the book is palpable and embarrassing, and dates the book to an age when American authors wrote for an American made of WASP's and no one else. All characters are White; yes, ALL of them. On the other side of the galaxy we find ... White people. The least she could have done is throw in a babelfish, or translator microbes, or the f-ing Tardis translating languages for you. The kids are whipped around space by magical women, they could have just cast a spell to translate all languages and breathe all atmospheres. But instead, it just sits there, reinforcing the idea that everywhere you go is America(tm). And speaking of the magical women, why are they all married? They're not married, so shouldn't they be Ms? It seems trivial, but it sends another message loud and clear: all women are to marry. Even dead star angels are married. To Jesus, if necessary.This book was read to me by my father when I was a child, so it actually hurts a bit to give it such a bad review. Some kids might like it, certainly enough people have rated it highly, but I simply cannot get past how bad it is. People like Two and a Half Men too, but that doesn't make it good, and it doesn't make watching it a good use of your time. If you want to read a book with your kids, pick another. There are more than enough modern, well written books full of believable and relatable characters out there that you should never have to pick up this piece of pulp nonsense and try to pass it off as a classic.

The Secret Garden

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4.1 rating

Comment 1: Percaya, berpikir positif, dan terus bergerak. Segala hal yang awalnya tampak mustahil bisa menjadi nyata.Of course there must be lots of Magic in the world, but people don’t know what it is like or how to make it. Perhaps the beginning is just to say nice things are going to happen until you make them happen.Tentu saja di dunia ini pasti ada banyak Sihir, tapi orang tidak tahu seperti apa bentuknya dan bagaimana membuatnya. Mungkin awalnya cukup mengatakan hal-hal baik akan terjadi sampai kau mewujudkannya. (p.256)Mary Lennox kecil adalah anak yang keras kepala, manja, kejam dan egois. Lahir di India, dia tidak dibesarkan sebagaimana mestinya. Ayahnya merupakan pejabat Inggris di India, sedangkan ibunya sibuk dengan dirinya sendiri, sehingga pengasuhannya hanya diserahkan pada pelayan pribumi. Para pelayan itu hanya menuruti apa pun kemauan Mary, tidak ada yang mendidiknya cara bersikap yang benar. Sampai suatu ketika, wabah kolera membunuh semua anggota keluarganya di India, dan Mary pun dibawa kembali ke Inggris untuk tinggal bersama pamannya di Misselthwaite Manor, di Yorkshire.Paman Mary, Mr. Archibald Craven dikenal sebagai seorang berpunggung bungkuk yang pemarah dan penyendiri. Dia tinggal di rumah tua yang besar, dengan seratus kamar yang sebagian besar terkunci, dikelilingi pepohonan dan taman yang luas. Meski demikian, Mr. Craven lebih suka bepergian, dan ketika di rumah pun dia tidak ingin diganggu dan hanya mengunci diri di kamarnya.Keberadaan Mary di Misselthwaite Manor seakan tidak dianggap. Dia diberi sebuah kamar tidur dan sebuah kamar bermain, selain itu dia boleh bermain-main di taman jika mau. Tidak ada teman, tidak ada yang melayaninya seperti saat di India, dan tidak ada yang mengajarinya apa pun, selain seorang pelayan kamar seusianya yang bernama Martha Sowerby. Mary pun mencari kesenangan dengan mencari kegiatan sendiri. Apakah berlarian di taman, atau menjelajahi rumah saat hari hujan—yang sebenarnya tidak boleh dilakukannya. Perlahan sifatnya berubah, apalagi saat dia mendengar tentang taman yang ditutup selama sepuluh tahun.Konon, Mr. Craven dan istrinya dulu memiliki sebuah taman yang sangat indah. Mereka berdua sering menghabiskan waktu di taman itu, dan mereka sendiri pula yang merawatnya. Sampai sepuluh tahun yang lalu, Mrs. Craven mengalami kecelakaan di taman itu dan meninggal dunia, Mr. Craven memutuskan untuk mengunci taman itu dan mengubur kuncinya untuk selamanya. Mary begitu penasaran dengan taman yang disebutnya sebagai Taman Rahasia, dan dia mencurahkan waktunya untuk menyelidiki dan mencari tentang taman itu.Sifat Mary mulai melunak, dan perlahan dia belajar tata cara bersikap yang benar dari orang yang ditemuinya. Dia berteman dengan Dickon, kakak Martha yang sangat dekat dengan alam. Dickon mengetahui bahasa binatang, dan dia juga mengetahui cara menumbuhkan bunga dan pepohonan. Meski begitu, sifat serba ingin tahu Mary tidak bisa dibendung walau harus melanggar aturan. Berkali-kali dia mendengar tangisan di dalam rumah, tapi tak ada yang mau berterus terang mengenai suara tersebut. Pada suatu malam, dia terbangun dan mendengar suara tangisan lagi. Mary mengikuti asal suara tersebut dan menemukan bahwa ada seorang anak laki-laki bernama Colin, yang tidak lain adalah putra dari pamannya.“Do you think he wants to die?” whispered Mary.“No, but he wishes he’d never been born. Mother she says that’s th’ worst thing on earth for a child. Them as is not wanted scarce ever thrives. ….“Menurutmu dia ingin mati?” bisik Mary.“Tidak, tapi dia berharap dia tak pernah dilahirkan. Ibu bilang itu hal paling buruk di dunia untuk seorang anak. Mereka yang tidak diinginkan sulit untuk bertahan. ….(p.176)Colin, dengan sikap yang tidak lebih baik daripada Mary saat datang dari India, dan dengan sakit yang katanya akan membunuhnya suatu saat. Mengapa Colin disembunyikan? Apa yang sebenarnya dideritanya? Akankah Mary menemukan Taman Rahasia dan membuat semuanya lebih baik dari sebelumnya?Buku ini menunjukkan betapa senyuman, tawa dan kelembutan hati membuat orang bisa tampak jauh lebih sehat dan menarik ketimbang menjadi pemarah dan penggerutu. Bagaimana makhluk hidup saling berinteraksi, keseimbangan manusia dengan binatang dan tumbuhan, serta manusia dengan manusia yang lainnya. Bagaimana interaksi manusia dengan makhluk hidup lain membuat hatinya semakin lembut dan perangainya semakin baik. Bahwa setiap anak bisa berubah, bahwa yang dibutuhkan anak-anak adalah ‘udara segar’, bukannya rumah besar dengan fasilitas lengkap dan semua kemauannya dituruti.One of the new things people began to find out in the last century was that thoughts—just mere thoughts—are as powerful as electric batteries—as good for one as sunlight is, or as bad for one as poison.Salah satu hal baru yang mulai diketahui orang dalam abad terakhir ini adalah pikiran—hanya pikiran semata—sama kuatnya dengan baterai listrik, hasilnya bisa sebaik matahari atau seburuk racun. (p.302)Terjemahan buku ini juga sangat nikmat dibaca, mengalir dan tidak ada kejanggalan. Kesalahan ketik nyaris tidak saya temukan, kecuali sebuah kesalahan fatal di halaman 200, dimana kalimat yang seharusnya diucapkan oleh Dickon, malah tertulis Colin. Penerjemahan beberapa kalimat dengan logat Yorkshire pun dialihkan dalam bahasa Indonesia dengan cukup pas. Dan, saya juga suka dengan covernya.Nature could heal, I think that’s one of the morals from this book. Mary Lennox that was the most disagreeable-looking child ever seen, tyrannical and selfish could be much better as she knew different people, associated with animals and whatever inside the garden. There was fresh air that made her more good-looking. So that Colin that way much healthier and stronger with the touch of nature.This book showed how bad education may effect to a child, how bad treatment may spoil children. Burnett gave a very bad background to some characters, but then they became much better by all good things around them. That’s why good environment is so important, especially when parents couldn’t do their parts to educate their children.I love the writing and the idea. About magical things that happened due to our own thoughts. The importance of being positive and removing all negative thoughts.One of the strange things about living in the world is that it is only now and then one is quite sure one is going to live forever and ever and ever. One knows it sometimes when one gets up at the tender solemn dawn- (…). One knows it then for a moment or so. And one knows it sometimes when one stands by oneself in a wood at sunset and the mysterious deep gold stillness slanting through and under the branches seems to be saying slowly again and again something one cannot quite hear, however much one tries. Then sometimes the immense quiet of the dark blue at night with millions of stars waiting and watching makes one sure; and sometimes a sound of far-off music makes it true; and sometimes a look in some one’s eyes.Salah satu hal aneh tentang hidup di dunia adalah hanya sesekali saja kau sangat yakin kau akan hidup selamanya dan selama-lamanya. Kadang-kadang kau mengetahuinya saat terbangun pada fajar yang hening dan lembut, (…). Dan kadang-kadang kau tahu ketika berdiri di hutan saat matahari terbenam dan kesunyian misterius berwarna emas pekat (…). Kadang-kadang keheningan biru gelap di malam hari, (…), dan kadang-kadang suara musik di kejauhan menegaskan kenyataan itu, dan kadang-kadang tatapan di mata seseorang. (p. 231-232)

The Lovely Bones

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3.74 rating

Comment 1: This book has single handedly shown me that I spend too much time skimming and not enough time really reading and thinking about the books I have been reading. I have two kids and so I'm busy and I often find myself reading when I am stealing time or tired. But that is not even an excuse for this book. When i read the book I thought it was pretty good. Not great, but not bad. I liked the concept and the fact that the girl was the narrator. I like a murder mystery, so I liked the suspense of waiting to see if the guy would get caught, etc. So when all was said and done and I finished the book, I thought - yeah, okay. Not bad, but not great. Then I went online here and read the other reviews, particularly one by TheDane (http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/16...) and I went - HEY!! That's right! I mean, the writing alone is something I should have picked up one had I really been paying attention. Pupils pulsing like olives?? Buttering toast with tears?? Umm... I really must have been distracted or skimming like crazy because that is ridiculous. And the real meaning of the final scene went WAY over my head, which I am somewhat ashamed to admit. When I read it, I really was like, yeah yeah, oh that's sweet she got one night with her boyfriend which she had been cheated of and all. But when you slow down and really think of this, the enormity of that is overwhelming. A young girl who dies after being RAPED. A girl who's first sexual experience was RAPE by an older man. A girl who actually barely knew this boy in her life. This girl can only let go of life after having sex. With that boy. That she really didn't know that well. That alone is enough to send of some big alarms. But then you add that she was allowed to go back to earth - to have sex??? Not see her family, not comfort her father and brother and sister? Not point out the killer?? Nope, heaven lets her go back, then of all times, not earlier when she wanted it more, or could have done more both for justice and her family? So the admission to heaven is teen sex? Really? The way to overcome deep grief and gain acceptance and peace is.. again, teen sex? Wow. I missed out as a teen because that was NOT my experience. Okay, now louder warning bells should have been going off. But the final issue - she takes over the body of a "friend". Without the girl's knowledge or permission. The "friend" who is a lesbian. And uses her body to have sex with a boy. Just taking over her body is a violation. Taking over her body and using that time to have sex is another violation. And to have sex with a boy, knowing that is the antithesis of everything this "friend" would have wanted or agreed to is yet another violation. What the hell??? And none of that gets brought up or mentioned. No, it is a feel good ending. yeah! I mean, I have some pretty close friends - some I have known for at least triple the time these two girls have "known" each other - and if I somehow managed to just steal their bodies and have sex with a woman?? Well, it would be good for me that I was already dead. That is a betrayal in the worst sense on so many levels it is shocking. And what of the possible consequences? Pregnancy? STDs? Never mind the "lesser" consequences of emotional damage, damage to their friendship, the trust issues, etc etc etc????? After thinking about it more and more, I was truly embarrassed to have not seen these dark and disturbing connotations, made all the worse for the fact that the author serves this up as the feel good ending - not noticing the irony at all of having the main character who was raped and violated in turn rape and violate a friend, while denouncing the first act as a heinous crime and lauding the second act as happy ending? So in short, I have learned my lesson and I am now making more of an effort to truly read and then think about what I am reading!!!

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

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3.78 rating

Comment 1: Whether it's the gods smiling on me, blind coincidence, narcissism, or a combination of the three, world events sometimes have a way of coinciding with whatever I'm reading. For instance, the week after I finished reading All the President's Men, Mark Felt revealed himself to be Deep Throat, bringing an end to a guessing game that had gone on for over 30 years. You're welcome.Now, weeks after I finally read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn the literary world is aflame over a new edition which changes the 200 plus usages of the n word to the seemingly more non-offensive word slave. Since I read this book for the first time last week, I consider myself an expert on this controversy, and what follows is my unsolicited opinion.The Drive-By Trucker's album Souther Rock Operais organized around the concept of what Patterson Hood calls the duality of this southern thing. Like Hood, I was raised in Alabama, and have had a ambiguous relationship with my home state and the whole concept of "The South." Down here, things are particularly Janus faced. For instance, a in the classroom I'm sitting in, not paying attention to Products Liability, is the composite of Alabama Law School's most infamous alumnus, George Corley Wallace*. However, Wallace is a more complex individual than you might suspect on first glance. The day the ex-governor died, Patterson Hood wrote the song "Wallace," which is written from the point of view of the Devil welcoming George to hell. As Hood points out, Wallace started his career as a progressive, New Deal inspired, judge. In his first run for governor, he spoke out against the Ku Klux Klan and was endorsed by the NAACP. However, after losing in the primary to a candidate who didn't hesitate to play the race card Wallace vowed never to be "outniggered" again. The rest is history. However, another thing the general public doesn't know is that Wallace had a late-career conversion. In the late '70s he admitted the error of his ways and asked forgiveness from civil rights leaders. Under his latter terms as governor, Alabama was better than most minority states at minority hirings. Wallace won his last term as governor with over 80% of the black vote. I'm not by any means a Wallace apologist. His actions during the Civil Rights movement were inexcusable, and the fact that he may have been more progressive than many men of his time just makes him more unprincipled. As Hood points out, racism is a national problem, but because of Wallace, it's convenient to associate race issues with an Alabama drawl. Yet, however much Wallace's dark side overshadowed his better angels, it would be a mistake to ignore the latter completely. Wallace is just one example of the Janus face nature of Southern culture. After the same environment that produced Wallace, David Duke, and Lester Maddox produced William Faulkner, Robert Penn Warren and Mark Twain. History here is difficult, filled with subtle distinctions based on perspective. Therefore, the subject is particularly susceptible to the uses and abuses of demagogues. Which brings us to the present controversy. Like many, my initial reaction to the new edition of Huck Finn was disgust. But the more you think about this issue, the more nuanced the controversy becomes. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is arguably the most important American novel ever written. As Hemingway said in an oft-repeated quote, "All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn. This sentiment leads one to two conclusions: 1) the novel should be taught as a part of any course dealing with American literature and 2) it takes a lot of gall to edit the author of such a work. However, I also cannot reconcile the issues that these two conclusions lead to. No teacher in my southern high school assigned Mark Twain, so this wasn't an issue. However, this book presents great difficulties to anyone who wishes to teach it at a modern high school.This all boils down to Twain's over two hundred uses of a specific word, which happens to be the most enigmatic word in the American lexicon. We would probably be better off if the word could find its way to extinction, but any hopes of the word's imminent disappearance are delusional, it's most likely here to stay. I'm keep bringing this allusion up, but the n word is the epitome of Janus-faced. I can't think of another word where so much depends on pronunciation. Anybody who has heard the word in a certain way can tell you there's a huge gap between ending the word with a -guh and ending it with a -ger. I also don't buy any arguments where one group of people are "allowed" to use the word and others aren't. Language isn't exclusive. My generation is the first generations who grew up with hip-hop in the cultural mainstream. Yet there is still the paradoxical situation involved here. A white kid may be thinking he is reciting one of his favorite rap lyrics, but to someone else he is doing something that is horribly offensive. So the problem presented by Huck Finn is a uniquely American one. The n word is something every kid has heard by the age of high school. Depending on your circumstances, you have probably have heard uttered with racism behind it by a friend, or a friend's parent, or even a relative. So this isn't your usual school censorship issue. But at the same time, I can't think of any way of rationalizing certain aspects of Twain's book that isn't in some way condescending. However, I still think that the sanitizing of the book is pure whitewashing. I also don't like the idea that this book should only be taught in college. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is exactly the type of book that needs to be taught in American literature courses, and one of the reasons for this is specifically because the language Twain uses. In most cases involving school censorship, the censorship is motivated by ignorance, or naiveté, or wishing to foist religious values on the community as a whole. Here, censorship is motivated by something more akin to cowardice. The aspects of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn that cause problems are the same aspects that make the novel more than a children's story. I think there would be less of an issue if Twain made the story more melodramatic. The problem is that Twain ignores the melodramatic for the sake of a sense of realness.Huck Finn has been criticized for not exploring the nihilism of the plantation system. I'm sympathetic to a lot of arguments surrounding this book, but this criticism is patently ridiculous. Don't get me wrong, slavery and 19th century racism was undoubtedly both brutal and real, the stuff that justifies the melodramatic. However, Huck Finn was written twenty years after the Emancipation Proclamation, it's not an abolitionist polemic. Instead, it's more concerned with the fallacy of racism. Most encounters with racism don't involve the inherently evil backwoods hick who lives in the double wide. What makes racism so sinister is that it is far more sneaky than that. Far more frequently, you see racism in the sweet little old lady who, quite suddenly, utters something that leaves you thinking, "shit, that was really racist." Racism isn't a learned doctrine. You don't wake up one day and decide that you're going to start hating black people. Racism is a kind of indoctrination. There are no evil, sadistic slave owners in the novel. The shocking thing about the book is the people who own slaves and throw out the n word without a thought are otherwise completely decent, even friendly, people. The assumption that all racist people are somehow malevolent is a cousin of the assumption that all people of a different skin color or ethnicity are of a better value than an other for precisely those reasons. Both conclusions are assumptions made in the absence of nuance. The main narrative thread of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finnis Huck's rejection of a bias that had been he had been subconsciously indoctrinated in by the circumstances of his native culture. Although the slavery and racism Huck is exposed to is mostly benign, this should be treated as a denial by Twain of the inherent inhumanity of either. Having Huck's redemption caused by expose to cruelty would be the easy way out. What Twain does is far more complex and interesting. The action's of white people have nothing to do with Huck's conversion, instead it is achieved through his recognition of the humanity of his friend Jim. After all, it's not Mark Twain who uses the n word, it's Huck Finn. That Jim starts the novel as nothing more than "Nigger Jim" is a crucial aspect of the story. The n word signifies a prejudice beyond the status of "slave." By sanitizing any offensive racial terms, the redemptive power of the conclusion is weakened. There's a reason nobody reads Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin anymore. The evilness of slavery is a settled issue. What makes Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn still relevant is that it is one of the first works of American art to go beyond this to the next step towards racial equality. Changing the term "nigger" to "slave" might offend less people and it might make it easier for teachers to teach to high schoolers. But who said it was supposed to be easy? Problems associated with race have the most difficult problems America has faced since the first shipment of African slaves arrived in Jamestown. Confronting these issues should be uncomfortable. Great literature should be filled with nuance and subtlety. The place for good versus evil, black or white, you're either with us or against us is in fairy tales and children's stories. If The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has to conform itself to comfort modern readers, we might as well permanently assign it to the children's section.* Fun fact: Back in those days, they ordered pictures on the composite by class rank (Thank God they stopped doing this in the '60s). Wallace's picture is the last on the penultimate row. I'm not sure if George displayed a similar lack of effort and/or apathy, but this is a comfort to me.

The Catcher in the Rye

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3.77 rating

Comment 1: J.D. Salinger’s ‘Catcher in the Rye’ was published on July 16, 1951. It was his first novel. It became very popular among young adolescents yet not so popular with older generations. I personally thoroughly enjoyed every part of this book. I felt very close to Holden Caulfield, the main character in the story, as I read it. Holden Caulfield, a sixteen year old boy from New York, was quite unlike kids his age. He had no interest in being popular or social. From the very beginning he lets us into part of his personal life. His parents are very touchy and his mother is especially protective. It becomes clear very quickly where Holden’s interests lie and where they start to veer off. He tends to lean away from the fake in the world and is a teller of what is real. Holden is not a fan of the movies at all. He saw his brother, D.B., throw away his natural writing talent all for a large Hollywood check. Any other boy Holden’s age would have been absolutely ecstatic to have a sibling working amongst the stats in Hollywood, but not Holden. It was all far too “phony” for him; and phony is his worst enemy. Salinger’s use of sarcasm and irony is beautiful and hilarious. As I read through each chapter I found myself highlighting funny, sarcastic things Holden would say or think (and trust me, there are DOZENS of time where this occurs.) One specific time in Chapter 8 he is talking to a cab driver who is acting like a real fool. Holden says to the readers, “He certainly was good company. Terrific personality.” Salinger’s character Holden is actually a lot like Salinger in his real life. Like Holden, Salinger was known for his reclusive nature. Uninterested with the fakeness of the world, Holden keeps his distance from phony people. After Salinger’s success of ‘The Catcher in the Rye’, he slowed down his publishing and slowly but surely drifted out of the public eye. To this day Salinger refuses any offers to have ‘The Catcher’ put on the big Hollywood screen. Salinger’s ex lover, Joyce Maynard, even once said that, “The only person who might ever have played Holden Caulfield would have been J.D. Salinger.” It seems to me that it is no coincidence that Holden is no fan of Hollywood and that Salinger in real life and doesn’t want anything to do with turning his popular novel into a movie. Holden says, “If there’s one thing I hate, it’s the movies, Don’t even mention them to me.”Since I have learned more about Salinger’s personal life, I recognize a lot of Salinger’s personality in Holden. In the story, Holden has overbearing parents much like Salinger’s parents. Salinger said his mother was over protective. Salinger has one sibling, a sister, which is ironic because it is Holden’s sister Phoebe who has a profound influence on Holden. He often talks about her with very high regards.Holden is not a character who tried to sugarcoat the way he sees the fakeness around him. Holden, making fun of the people around him, often says things like “you would’ve puked” and “it was very phony”. I think that is another one of the reasons I like his character so much. For example, he is quite upset with the fact that his brother D.B. is selling his work to Hollywood instead of using his talents for his own pleasure. Holden even says that his brother is his favorite author. Salinger himself is a man who wrote for his own pleasure and likeness. I made a similar connection to a girl named Sally that Holden likes in the book, to a real life lover of Salinger’s named Oona. Oona O’Neil was self-absorbed and stuck up, according to Salinger, yet he still phoned and wrote her letters quite often. Holden’s “Oona” in the story was a girl named Sally Hayes. Though he found her extremely irritating he thought she was very attractive as well. After spending a day with her, he pointed out about a dozen instances where he thought she was being “phone as hell”. By the end of their only meeting in the book, Holden says to Sally, “You give me a royal pain in the ass if you want to know the truth.” The real life Oona O’Neil ended up breaking it off with Salinger and married the famous actor, Charlie Chaplin.Despite Holden being a sixteen year old teenage boy he acts much older than his age. One time in the story he has the chance to be with a prostitute but instead of acting like a pig, he starts to feel sorry for her and instead tried to have a conversation with her. He even offers to pay her for good conversation instead of for sex. He also stays alone in hotels randomly, drinks at bars and clubs often, and even tells people he’s older than he really is. But the reason I find his character mature and intellectual is for other reasons.Holden does not hold money or material things to be really important. He is more excited to hang out with his kid sister than he is any other time in the entire book. He is content with something that would probably be boring to other guys his age.Like many teenagers, Holden is often depressed. The way he deals with it most times actually breaks my heart in a way. He likes to talk to his deceased kid brother, Allie. He will take a real event that he can remember where he was talking with him and pretend he is talking to him again. He says, “I started talking out loud to Allie. I do that sometimes when I get very depressed.” It is really very heart wrenching to hear Holden talk about his brother. One of my favorite moments in the book is when Holden and Phoebe are talking in Phoebe’s room and she points out that Holden doesn’t like anything. Holden responds quickly by saying, “I like Allie. And I like doing what I’m doing right now. Sitting here with you and talking and thinking about stuff…” Phoebe says to Holden, “Allie’s dead-you always say that! If somebody’s dead and everything, and in heaven then it isn’t really--”. Holden interrupts her with his final comeback, “I know he’s dead! Don’t you think I know that? I can still like him, though, can’t I? just because somebody’s dead, you don’t just stop liking them, for God’s sake- especially if they were about a thousand times nicer than the people you know that’re alive and all.”One of the most beautiful things about ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ is the way Salinger uses symbolism. From Holden’s red hunting hat, to Jane Gallagher’s checker playing technique, Salinger wrapped up more than meets the eye into things you never would have dreamed. The main thing that drew me into this story is the realness of Holden’s character. He is a teenage boy with a teenage boy’s mind but seems to have far more common sense than anyone else around him. He is not a jock. He is not a math whiz or a science whiz. He is not really interested in sports. He sort of makes up his own category; a category that I call ‘the genuine’. He is on his own a lot and loves it at first, but happiness and love are meant to be shared with others. It has a much less meaning when by itself and he realizes it by the end of the novel. He is growing intellectually little by little throughout the whole book. He realizes what really makes him happy. I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone and everyone who would like to read a story that could possibly change the way they view the world. I have honestly laughed outloud to myself as I read this story. Yes, there is talk about drinking, sex, and lots of cussing, but if you are going to avoid reading this story because of that then your missing out on a beautiful masterpiece.

Where the Wild Things Are

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4.22 rating

Comment 1: What kind of mother will send his child to bed without dinner?Statistics say the many Filipinos go to bed with empty stomach. They just sleep so that they'll forget that they are hungry. Living in a Pacific island when I was a young boy, our family was poor too. However, my mother made sure that we ate something before going to bed. If my parents were hard up on cash because there were four of us young kids in the family and their only source of income were the coconut trees, there were times when we had to eat rice with a couple of fresh raw eggs with pinches of salt. But as small kids, we enjoyed it as we took turns eating from the same spoon and big plate while our mother was chasing each one of us while we ran around the house trying to have fun as we felt very happy with out mother chasing us. She ran after each of us with a spoonful of rice with egg and we keep on evading her until she got angry (you could tell this by the tone of her voice). Or its decibel depending on how long it took her to complete our feeding time which meants how long would it take for her to lose her patience. She called out our names according to our age: To!... Ningcoy!... Mon!... K.D.! (joke... I am only using this alias here in GR).Chasing us. Wanting to feed us. However, this Max's mother called him "WILD THING" and Max said "I'LL EAT YOU UP" and he was sent to his room without dinner. Poor Max got hungry and started having delusions seeing forest, ocean, boat inside his bedroom then later all those scary-looking monsters with who he had a rumpus with.And many of my friends are saying her in Goodreads that this is the best children's book ever. I came from another culture probably and I did not grow up with this book (no sweet memories attached to it). However, I do appreciate the uniqueness of the story. A mischievous child turns on his imagination similar to the boy in Dr. Seuss' 1937 children's book To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street which for me is a better book on how powerful children's imagination can be. I see and got amazed too at how imaginative Sendak's drawings that are becoming bigger and bigger as you turn the pages. Regarding the appearance of the characters, my problem is that I had seen the movie before reading the book and I found the moving pictures more interesting than the still pictures. However, of course the basic plot is the same. I just don't remember regarding the absence of food as punishment and the food showing up at the end of the movie. Which I think makes more sense being more rational.Overall, it is nice to have finally read this classic work. Mo Twister of Good Times told us his listeners one morning last year that this is his favorite children's book. Mine is still Saint-Exupery's The Little Prince. Thank you, Jzhun for lending me this book. 2 stars means "It's Okay!". Please please don't let your future children go to bed hungry. It is inhumane.

The Little Prince

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4.24 rating

Comment 1: "A narrow mind begets obstinacy; we do not easily believe what we cannot see." -- John DrydenAntoine de Saint-Exupéry’s 1943 mega-seller classic, The Little Prince, has inspired cultic devotion. It's been translated from the original French into some 250 languages and dialects and has been selling over 1.8 million copies a year. It has inspired films, sequels, a Japanese museum, and works of opera and ballet. The narrator begins the tale with an explanation of his disappointment with and dislike of adults. He believes they are very strange and way too practical. "I have spent lots of time with grown-ups. I have seen them at close range...which hasn't much improved my opinion of them." When the narrator was six, he wanted to be an artist. He saw a magnificent picture in a book about a boa constrictor swallowing a wild beast. The book said that constrictors swallow their prey whole, without chewing, and then sleep for the six months of their digestion. The narrator was so fascinated by this that he decided to draw the 'outside' of the boa constrictor during his digestion period, after it had swallowed an elephant. When he showed his picture with pride to adults, they rejected it and said it simply looked like a hat. So the narrator then drew the 'inside' of the boa constrictor so the adults could understand. Sadly the adults were just as disinterested and instructed him to put away his drawings and concentrate on more important things. "Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is exhausting for children to have to provide explanations over and over again."As the narrator grew from boy to man, his chosen profession was to pilot aeroplanes. He next tells of how his plane crashed in the Sahara desert, where he met the Little Prince, a mystical boy from another planet, asteroid B-612. The narrator tells why the Prince left his planet and where he visited before coming to Earth. His adventures on different planets are recounted, including encounters with a king, a very vain man, a drunkard, a businessman, a lamplighter, and a geographer. The narrator and the Prince share a rewarding relationship on the desert, and when the Little Prince departs, the narrator misses his company. He writes the novel in memory of the Little Prince. At the end of the book the reader is instructed to send word immediately should The Little Prince return.The Author's relationship with this bookAntoine de Saint-Exupéry, born in June 1900, was a French aristocrat, writer, poet, and pioneering aviator. He became a laureate of several of France's highest literary awards and also won the U.S. National Book Award.He was a successful commercial pilot before World War II, working airmail routes in Europe, Africa and South America. In December 1935, Saint-Exupéry, along with his mechanic-navigator André Prévot, crashed in the Sahara desert. They were attempting to break the speed record in a Paris-to-Saigon air race and win a prize of 150,000 francs.[Saint-Exupéry with one of his planes - 1933}Both Saint-Exupéry and Prévot miraculously survived the crash, only to face rapid dehydration in the intense desert heat. Their maps were primitive and ambiguous, leaving them with no idea of their location. Lost among the sand dunes, their sole supplies were grapes, two oranges, a thermos of sweet coffee, chocolate, a handful of crackers, and a small ration of wine. The pair had only one day's worth of liquid. They both began to see mirages and experience auditory hallucinations, which were quickly followed by more vivid hallucinations. By the second and third day, they were so dehydrated that they stopped sweating altogether. Finally, on the fourth day, a Bedouin on a camel discovered them and administered a native rehydration treatment that saved their lives. Saint-Exupéry's classic novella The Little Prince, which begins with a pilot being marooned in the desert, is, in part, a reference to this experience. All illustrations are his, based on those hallucinations.At the outbreak of war, he joined the French Air Force, flying reconnaissance missions until France's armistice with Germany in 1940. After being demobilised from the French Air Force, he travelled to the United States to persuade its government to enter the war against Nazi Germany. During this period The Little Prince was written. In April 1943, following a 27 month hiatus in North America, Saint-Exupéry departed with an American military convoy for Algiers, to fly with the Free French Air Force and fight with the Allies in a Mediterranean-based squadron. He disappeared over the Mediterranean on his last assigned reconnaissance mission in July 1944. Salvage teams located the remains of his aircraft in the Mediterranean sea off the coast of Marseille in 2004.The Little Prince was published posthumously. Saint-Exupéry never had the opportunity to enjoy the book's success.ReviewThe Little Prince is a beautifully illustrated novella for children, written for grown-ups. It can be read on many different levels to provide pleasure and food for thought for readers of all ages.The narrator — an aviator who crashes in the desert as Saint-Exupéry once did — aspires to the condition of childhood because grown-ups, in his view, can’t really see past the surface of things. The prince has that gift of seeing: with each of his encounters he recognizes the planet's types; he even teaches the narrator to see. Each planet the Little Prince visits can be seen as an allegory of human nature. "All grown-ups were once children...but only a few of them remember it."All his life, Saint-Exupéry thought that grown-ups cared mostly about inconsequential matters, such as golf and neckties. When they talked about important matters, they always became dull and boring. They seemed afraid to open up their hearts to the real issues of life; instead, they chose to function on a surface level.The Little Prince's lasting appeal has been guaranteed by its sometimes complex philosophical themes: about the nature of friendship, the search for knowledge, and the loss of innocence. "At heart we are all innocent. We recognise this innocence in children but, as we have grown up, many of us have struggled to hold on to this innocence and have hidden it under a hard and cynical attitude. Life can be tough and this can shatter our innocence in many ways but it is so important, for our own happiness and for peace in the world, that we do not forget this innocence." -- Lorna Byrne

Fahrenheit 451

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3.95 rating

Comment 1: The writing wasn’t great; it was sometimes very boring and hard to go through even with the small amount of pages in the book, although the dialogues were fairly better. The setting was rather weird and badly explained, I thought it would have been better for the readers to have some kind of backstory about this dystopian society. Being so short, I felt the book didn’t really focused a lot in certain themes that should have been explored. They were there, of course, but some more development wou Comment 2: Un libro que con sus personajes y mensajes nos recuerda la importancia de los libros y más aún, de lo que contienen. Tan maravillosos como peligrosos es esta distopia que me encanto. Toca tantos temas y los aborda de una manera tan adecuada que me atrapó sin darme cuenta. Un mundo donde son los bomberos quienes provocan incendios y destruyen libros, pues estos interfieren con la felicidad de las personas y eso al gobierno no le conviene. Montag lleva una existencia monótona, predecible, feliz y Comment 3: Some books are about great ideas, and some are about great characters, with a powerful, well-crafted plot. Some books manage to do both. Farenheit 451, the temperature at which paper will burn, is one of the former kinds of books, I think. Science fiction, it’s a kind of allegory of democratic ideas, a warning to mankind in the shadow of WWII and the Holocaust and Hiroshima, written in 1953, less than a decade after that horrific war ended, and in the midst of the McCarthy hearings, which had a

The Outsiders

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4.02 rating

Comment 1: Stay gold, Ponyboy. Stay gold.***********The Outsiders is a book about sensitive teenage boys who alternately get into gang fights, hug one another, and burst into tears. They also spend more time than you might expect ruminating on how the tightness of a t-shirt might enhance the rippling musculature of a steely-eyed fellow gang member (this is where Stephanie Meyer got the idea for how to characterize Edward). Even though they're always complimenting each other's hair and doing gymnastics, it's not gay at all because it takes place in 1965, shortly after James Dean had made crying and homoerotic tension cool.This is the kind of book that teachers like to assign to 7th graders (or dumb high schoolers) because it offers up a lot of THEMES about how EVERYONE IS DIFFERENT BUT STILL THE SAME, and teachers feel pretty safe giving a quiz on that because even the stupidest kid can figure it out, as every few paragraphs the narrator will just go ahead and state it outright, like this: "Even though we're Greasers and they're Socs, I guess in the end, we all look at the same sunset." (Sample essay question: What did Ponyboy mean when he said that everyone looked at the same sunset? And all you have to do to get it right is repeat the first half of the sentence.)As a narrator, Ponyboy kept reminding me of Holden Caulfied, if Holden was poor and actually managed to do anything interesting with his evenings. But maybe that just has to do with the time period and the fact that they both say stuff like "I was just about bawling my eyes out, to tell you the truth" every few pages, except Ponyboy is doing it because his best friend knifed someone and then died of a broken back and being on fire, and Holden is just sad because his roommate smells bad (oh and I guess his brother got cancer and died pffffft). I do think they would get along if they ever met, and maybe make out a little bit.I love the last few sentences of every chapter, where SE Hinton trots out her corniest stuff. Chapter 7: "Socs were just guys after all. Things were rough all over, but it was better that way. That way you could tell the other guy was human too." Chapter 8: "'Thanks, Ponyboy.' She smiled through her tears. 'You dig okay.' She had green eyes. I went on, walking home slowly." Oh and it doesn't come at the end of a chapter but: "Not even the rattling of the train could keep me awake, and I went to sleep in a hoodlum's jacket, with a gun lying next to my hand." There's also the best deathbed speech in all of teen literature (probably), which goes like this: "INTERPRETS THEMATICALLY RELEVANT POEM" (DIES).So somehow I never read this in middle school, and when I read it now, I just end up giggling at half of the overwrought emotion (which happened with Catcher in the Rye too, but there I'm going to assume Salinger was writing on multiple levels, because he was a competent adult, whereas The Outsiders was written by someone Holden's age). But it's still a pretty awesome book.EDITED to add that this Penguin edition makes the book seem really classy, which is nice, but Jodi Picoult's introduction is kind of a joke. She basically asked her 14-year-old son to write a book report and quoted excerpts.Facebook 30 Day Book Challenge Day 6: Favorite young adult book.

The Lightning Thief

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4.2 rating

Comment 1: Chiron looked surprised. “I thought that would be obvious enough. The entrance to the Underworld is in Los Angeles.”As someone who has worked in Los Angeles, I can tell you that this is completely accurate.While Harry Potter was spending his summers at the Dursleys, Percy Jackson attended Camp Half-Blood. This book has done the impossible: it has redeemed the name of Percy.Yes, that's right, that snot-faced, lily-livered waste of air of the very same name from the Harry Potter universe. That name is now relegated to the ranks of "acceptable," because of my love for this book.Perseus (Percy) Jackson is the kind of kid with whom you can't help sympathizing. He is the type that's born under a dark star, because inevitably, wherever he goes, whatever he does, however good his intentions, he can't help but fuck everything up. Everything that can, does and will go wrong. A simple field trip can turn into a disaster in seconds.Jay-Z's got 99 problems, Percy might have more. He nearly flunks all his classes, he's got dyslexia, he's got ADHD, and then there's Nancy Bobofit. Nancy Bobofit appeared in front of me with her ugly friends—I guess she’d gotten tired of stealing from the tourists—and dumped her half-eaten lunch in Grover’s lap.“Oops.” She grinned at me with her crooked teeth. Her freckles were orange, as if somebody had spray-painted her face with liquid Cheetos.Nancy Bobofit is not a major character in the book. I have to mention her because her character resounded with me. I had my own Nancy Bobofit back in grade school, only her name is Mimi. Nearly 2 decades later, the memory of her horrible face still makes me shudder. But I digress.As if the bullies aren't bad enough, his dad is a no-show, his stepfather is LITERALLY named Ugli, and there are crones foretelling Percy's death as well as a minotaur chasing his ass around. AND NOBODY'S TELLING HIM A SINGLE FUCKING THING. What's with all the secrecy, man?As it turned out, Percy is *whispers* special. He is a half-blood, meaning one of his parents is a Greek deity. He gets sent to Camp Half-Blood, with roughly 100 other kids like him.It's a freaky place for a kid who's known nothing but relative normalcy his entire life. All of a sudden, he's playing Pinochle with a Greek God (Dionysus---what a drunk), his best friend Grover turns out to be a satyr, and the gorgeous blond girl who rescues him thinks he's a doofus and she keeps calling him "seaweed brain."To be fair, Percy had it coming. He is kind of a seaweed brain. "Another time, Athena and Poseidon competed to be the patron god for the city of Athens. Your dad created some stupid saltwater spring for his gift. My mom created the olive tree. The people saw that her gift was better, so they named the city after her.”“They must really like olives.”“Oh, forget it.”“Now, if she’d invented pizza—that I could understand.”“I said, forget it!”Not your best moment, Percy.As it turned out, Percy IS special. His dad is one of the Big Three gods. Which kind of sucks, because that's not supposed to happen. “About sixty years ago, after World War II, the Big Three agreed they wouldn’t sire any more heroes. Their children were just too powerful."A lot of people would think it was pretty cool to have such a powerful dad...not really. Now that I was declared a son of one of the Big Three gods who weren’t supposed to have kids, I figured it was a crime for me just to be alive.Not only does Percy have to struggle to fit in at Camp Half-Blood, but there's some shit going on in Mount Olympus. The gods are fighting again (when are they not)... "During the winter solstice, at the last council of the gods, Zeus and Poseidon had an argument. The usual nonsense: ‘Mother Rhea always liked you best,’ ‘Air disasters are more spectacular than sea disasters,’ et cetera."...and consequently, like a brother playing a prank on his younger siblings, someone's stuff was stolen. And Zeus thinks that his bro, Poseidon, put Percy up to it.Of course, blame the poor kid. Now Percy is shit out of luck YET AGAIN, and he's got no choice but to go on this huge stupid quest into the underworld (Los Angeles, ha!) to clear his name.He's not alone, he's accompanied by the snarky, gorgeous, fiercely competent Annabeth (she of the seaweed brain name-calling), as well as the most incompetent satyr that ever lived. In his pocket was a set of reed pipes his daddy goat had carved for him, even though he only knew two songs: Mozart’s Piano Concerto no. 12 and Hilary Duff’s “So Yesterday,” both of which sounded pretty bad on reed pipes.It's going to be a loooooooong trip to the Underworld.The Setting: THIS. THIS IS HOW YOU DO GREEK MYTHOLOGY. I am a Greek mythology buff. I FUCKING LOVED THIS BOOK. This book is just absolutely fucking perfect in every way when it comes to rewriting and reinterpreting the Greek pantheon. It is so hilariously, awesomely irreverent, but completely fitting. The gods are reimagined, but they stay true to their true nature, and the myths are retold in a cheeky, flippant manner that had me giggling my ass off. This book is so fantastically snarky to the Greek gods. Everything is incredibly well-explained to a lay audience, like how the Greek gods can't seem to keep it in their pants. Annabeth nodded. “Your father isn’t dead, Percy. He’s one of the Olympians.”“That’s...crazy.”“Is it? What’s the most common thing gods did in the old stories? They ran around falling in love with humans and having kids with them. Do you think they’ve changed their habits in the last few millennia?”And apparently, the habit runs true for both male and female goddesses. “What? You assume it has to be a male god who finds a human female attractive? How sexist is that?”The existence of Greek gods and goddesses themselves are well explained, and believable. “Come now, Percy. What you call ‘Western civilization.’ Do you think it’s just an abstract concept? No, it’s a living force. A collective consciousness that has burned bright for thousands of years. The gods are part of it.""Did the West die? The gods simply moved, to Germany, to France, to Spain, for a while. Wherever the flame was brightest, the gods were there. They spent several centuries in England. All you need to do is look at the architecture. People do not forget the gods."I had my doubts about the execution of the premise of Greek mythology, and all my doubts have been destroyed. his book does great justice to the Greek gods, it is the most faithful rendition than I have ever read.The Characters: Yes, Percy is a special snowflake, but HELL, I LOVED THE LITTLE SHIT. He's got a special destiny. He is a special child. I DON'T CARE. Percy is such a sympathetic character, and although he won't be replacing Harry Potter in my heart any time soon, there is a special spot for him. He can give up pretty fast. He's kind of a wimp, but you know, finding out that you're a hald-blooded demigod is kind of a big deal, and I understand his attitude of "GET ME THE FUCK OUT OF HERE." I didn’t know what else to do. I waved back.“Don’t encourage them,” Annabeth warned. “Naiads are terrible flirts.”“Naiads,” I repeated, feeling completely overwhelmed. “That’s it. I want to go home now.”He doesn't really want to do anything big. He's pretty stupid sometimes (Auntie Em, geez), he's not exactly heroic. He only does the heroic shit when there are no other options. “All right,” I said. “It’s better than being turned into a dolphin.”I loved Annabeth, she is all I could want from a female supporting character. I can't say that I'm fond of Grover...but I can't help feeling that we'll be seeing more of him in the future. “But a quest to . . .” Grover swallowed. “I mean, couldn’t the master bolt be in some place like Maine? Maine’s very nice this time of year.”Overall: a fantastic book. A good middle grade book makes you feel like a child again, and this book did just the trick. I found myself giggling throughout the book, and an hour after reading it, there's still a smile on my face that can't be wiped off.

Frankenstein

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3.72 rating

Comment 1: Spoilers!Frankenstein is the first book written by Mary Shelley (daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin, wife of Percy Bysshe Shelley, friend of Lord Byron), and her most famous. First published in 1818, she later revised it for its second printing in 1823, adding a preface that cleared up conjecture as to what she was writing about, changing the relationship of Elizabeth to the family (in the original, she is Victor Frankenstein's cousin, in the second she has no blood relation but was adopted by the family) to remove any suggestion of incest, and she also removed any hint that Frankenstein created the creature out of vice.If you're not familiar with the story as Shelley wrote it, Frankenstein is about a young Swiss man, Dr Victor Frankenstein, who is a student of the natural sciences. He becomes absorbed by the idea of creating a living being and spends two years collecting body parts from the deceased and feverishly working in his laboratory. But when he instils it with life and it wakes and looks upon its creator, Victor is horrified and flees from his creation.He spends months in illness, nursed by his best friend Henry Clavel, before returning to his father's home in Geneva, Switzerland, where his two brothers, Earnest and William, and his adopted sister Elizabeth live (his mother has already passed away). Before leaving Ingolstadt in Germany, where he was living and studying at the university, he receives a letter from his father telling him that his little brother William has been murdered. On his arrival to his home town, he sees his creature in the dark wilderness, and becomes convinced it murdered William. A servant girl, Justine, is accused and hanged for the crime, and Victor goes traipsing off into the wilderness with his depression. He encounters the creature, who begs him to listen to his story, and we learn what has passed with the monster since Victor created and abandoned it. It is a heart-breaking story, and goes some way to explaining the monster's mind.The monster's main purpose in telling Victor his story is to beg him to create a companion for him, a woman of his own species. Victor at first agrees, going to Britain with Henry and collecting new body parts. But he destroys the being before bringing it to life, and in retribution the monster kills Henry. Victor is accused, and spends some months in an Irish gaol before being released. Upon returning home to Geneva with his father, he marries Elizabeth, who the creature strangles to death on their wedding night. His father dies from the shock of all these tragedies, and Victor chases after the monster, determined to end it once and for all. The chase takes them to the northern Alps, and continues across the ice in sleds, before Victor is rescued from an accident and taken on board a ship that has been trapped in the ice. He tells the Captain his story, who writes it all down to send to his sister back home, before he weakens and dies. The monster returns and pledges his own suicide by fire, since there is no more reason for him to live.I did enjoy this, though it's not an easy read in the sense that the writing style is, for want of a better word, awkward, often clumsy. When I think about it, it's accurate enough for a story retold by one man (Captain Waldon), as told from memory by another (Victor), who in turn retells other people's stories (namely, the monster's). In such a case, details are bound to get lost in the retelling, though of course the dialogue is accurately remembered. But it does make it hard going at times: I kept getting pulled up short by glaring omissions, or confusing jumps. As someone in my bookclub put it, the story is good, the book not so great.Frankenstein could easily be described as timeless, since there's little that anchors it firmly in the period in which it is set (1700s), and you can read all sorts of relevant themes into it. Shelley apparently wrote it as a warning to scientists and against the Industrial Revolution in general, reminding them that they are not God and of the dangers of over-reaching themselves. I would take it a step further, and say it is a warning against not taking responsibility for your actions, especially those of science in delving into new and strange areas (like nuclear weapons, cloning etc.). Right up to the end, Victor thinks he is blameless:During these last days, I have been occupied in examining my past conduct; nor do I find it blamable. In a fit of enthusiastic madness I created a rational creature, and was bound towards him, to assure, as far as was in my power, his happiness and well-being. This was my duty, but there was another paramount to that. My duties towards the beings of my own species had greater claims to my attention, because they included a greater proportion of happiness and misery. (p.235) So although he can acknowledge that he was responsible for the creature, he does not see any connection between his neglect of the monster and the way the monster turned out. In other words, if he had stayed by the creature's side, taught him ethics, morals etc., he would have preserved the lives of his own loved ones and the greater populace in general.The nameless creature was abandoned by Victor because it was ugly. That's it: he was f'ugly:I had desired it with an ardour that far exceeded moderation; but now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart. Unable to endure the aspect of the being I had created, I rushed out of the room. (p.51-2) Talk about shallow. The creature, left to his own devices, with no language and no knowledge but that Victor is his creator, yearns to be loved and wanted. Stumbling through the countryside, he discovers fire, discovers berries and things to eat, but is persecuted and beaten by any humans he comes across. He tries so hard, and while he does not make the best decisions, he has the mind of a child in a giant's body, and with his unusual circumstances should hardly be judged along the same lines as anyone else. Victor creates a monster by seeing only a monster, without taking the time to learn its true nature, as does everyone else. They could not look beyond appearances. Even today, we would probably react in the same way: that doesn't make it any less our fault for creating a being with so many faults. In this case, it is the lack of nurture - i.e. it's environment - that created the ture monster, not nature. It's not that I seek to justify the murders the creature committed. But the creature wasn't born evil, he was turned evil by humans. Grrr. I just didn't like Victor and wish he had been more accountable for being so irresponsible. Yes, he was young, enthusiastic, and thought he could take God's place:A new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me. No father could claim the gratitude of his child so completely as I should deserve theirs. (p.47)This is the meaning behind the subtitle: the Modern Prometheus. Prometheus was a Titan whom Zeus punished eternally for creating men out of clay, and bringing fire from the heavens and gifting it to humans. Zeus chained him to a rock and every day a bird would peck out his liver, only to have it grow back so the next day a bird could do it again. Nice. So is the loss of Victor's family, his best friend, and his bright future his punishment?Another reason why I don't like Victor Frankenstein is that he is so selfish, arrogant, self-centred, self-indulgent, melodramatic and egotistical. Aside from wanting to bring dead body parts to life so that he could be worshipped like a God, the fate of Justine, for example, brings out his true character:Despair! Who dared talk of that? The poor victim [Justine:], who on the morrow was to pass the awful boundary between life and death, felt not as I did, such deep and bitter agony. (p.87)Yes, not even poor innocent Justine, sent to the gallows for a crime wholly Victor's fault, suffered as much as he. He could have stepped in and confessed, but did not want people to think him mad. Add "proud" to the list of his sins if you please. Later, he marries Elizabeth, despite the monster's threat that he will come to him on his marriage-day. It's always about him, he doesn't notice the pattern of the monster murdering his family and friends in order to make him feel this misery, and so realise it's his bride the monster will target: no, it's all about him, Victor. He marries Elizabeth, making her just as miserable as he is, and took her to a secluded place where he intended to go head-to-head with the monster, only to find Elizabeth strangled to death in the bedroom. He puts people in danger, then whines about how miserable and wretched he feels when they die, yet doesn't seem to regret anything.This is just my take on the book, and like true art, it can be read in a number of ways. It's definitely a good idea to read the book to know the story, though, because the movies that have been made about Frankenstein since the 1920s are way off the mark. Though I would imagine studying the popular culture side of the story would be just as fascinating as studying the book itself. A note about this edition: This is a handsome book, with nice thickish yellowish old-style paper and print, it looks exactly like how it was originally published. But there are no notes or appendices or introduction, so if you're studying this book you might want to get a different edition. It's also the revised edition, not the original 1818 one, though the revised one is more common now.

Watership Down

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4.03 rating

Comment 1: "I announce with trembling pleasure the appearance of a great story."In 1972, an unknown British novelist named Richard Adams published his debut novel with a rather misleading title, Watership Down. After being rejected 13 times by various publisher it was finally accepted by Rex Collings, a one-man company which worked on a shoestring and couldn't pay Adams any advance, but had important connections in the London literary scene and made sure that it was read by everyone who mattered. Rex Collings believed in Watership Down; Adams credits him as the person who helped give the book its title (apparently he thought that Hazel & Fiver didn't do it justice). Everything seemed to suggest that the whole affair would be an abject failure. Watership Down was a debut work by an unknown novelist, published at a high price by a small fry who could afford only a plain dust jacket. Collings published his books in small print runs, which were then sold in specialist bookshops with little or no publicity, and the initial print run of Watership Down amounted to just 2000 copies. But this seemingly ugly duckling soon transformed into a beautiful swan; It sold quickly both to children and adults. Britain fell in love with Watership Down, and with time so did the whole world. Now tourists from as far as Japan journeying to Richard Adam's homeland to see the areas which inspired their favorite book. The quotation which opens this review comes from London's The Times, where the reviewer was barely able to contain his enthusiasm. Watership Down originally began as a serial bedtime story told by Richard Adams to his two little girls, Juliet and Rosamund. Adams later expanded it during long car journeys that he took with the girls to Stratford-upon-Avon, birthplace of the world's most famous bard. The story was improvised, but based on Adams's real life experience in the British Army. Adams served as a lieutenant in the 250 Company of the 1st Airborne Division, and named the Battle of Arnhem as inspiration, and the officers he served with as models for Hazel, Bigwig and other rabbits of Watership Down. When the story was finished, young Juliet said "you ought to write it down daddy, it's too good to waste!". Although Adams initially resisted, being busy with work in the Civil Service, she and her sister were very persistent in urging him to write it as a book until he finally surrendered, and then urged him to get it published. Watership Down is rightfully dedicated to these two girls, who were so generous as to make sure that their dad would share the story they loved with the whole world.Watership Down was initially rejected on the grounds that older children wouldn't like it, since it was about rabbits - which they thought was good for babies, and younger children wouldn't like it because it was written in too adult a style. Before Rex Collings decided to give it a try, Richard Adams experienced plenty of frustration with explaining that he didn't even had children in mind and that Watership Down was really about Hazel & Fiver and their rabbits, a book which anyone, young or old, could buy and enjoy, and that the age group of his audience could roughly be contained between 8 and 88. It is interesting to note that Watership Down is sold also as a children's book only in the UK - everywhere else in the world it's sold purely as a mainstream title for adults. "El-ahrairah, your people cannot rule the world, for I will not have it so. All the world will be your enemy, Prince With A Thousand Enemies, and whenever they catch you, they will kill you. But first, they must catch you, digger, listener, runner, prince with the swift warning. Be cunning and full of tricks and your people shall never be destroyed."Rabbits are prey animals, and in the wilderness almost everything will try to capture and eat them; predators include foxes, dogs, hawks, racoons, owls, snakes - and humans. Luckily for them, nature has provided the rabbit with several features allowing for survival against these odds. Rabbits have eyes on both sides of their heads which give them nearly panoramic vision, allowing for detecting predators from all directions - even from behind. They can hear and smell exceptionally well, and are able to turn their ears to better capture the sounds they're listening to. Since making noises is a dead giveaway of their position, rabbits communicate with each other quietly, with the position of their ears being an important part of the rabbit language.As useful as these may be, rabbits cannot survive on sight, smell and hearing alone. And this is why nature has endowed the rabbit with its best feature - ability to achieve amazing speed very quickly. Most of their mass consists of muscle, and their strength is focused in their long hind legs - they allow them to leap as high as one meter and as far as three. An average rabbit can run between 25 to 40 miles per hour, make quick turns and even turn directions while in the air, leaving other animals in the dust.However, even this magnificent speed is not enough to protect the rabbit. Due to their low skeletal mass rabbits are very delicate and prone to injury, and can easily break their own bones if they struggle. If they kick to hard, they can even break their own backs. Stress can have a long lasting effect on a rabbit, even after its source is removed - and fear can cause a heart attack, even if the threat is not real. Their physical and psychological fragility and proneness to being preyed upon made the rabbit need a safe place to live. Some species live above ground, but the best know one - the European rabbit - digs burrows underground, and connects them into a network which is called a warren. In these warrens rabbits find safe shelter from their predators and harsh weather, store food and have their young. When they're not feeding, European rabbits spend most of their time underground.The rabbits of Watership Down are very much like ordinary rabbits - Richard Adams has studied Ronald Lockley The Private Life of the Rabbit - but at the same time they're human like, with each having a distinct personality and different characteristics. While Adams clearly anthropomorphizes his bunnies, he doesn't go the easy way of making them humans in bunny suits. His rabbits' understanding of the world around them is carefully limited to make them lapine enough - men are identified by the "white sticks" they leave behind (almost every human character in the novel smokes - it were the 70's). human inventions are understood through the mind of a rabbit, and the challenges they experience on their way are also of the type which would trouble one. All of it works splendidly though, and the language that the rabbits developed to describe everything is a small joy to see.Among many things which I found lovable and admirable in the rabbit protagonists of Watership Down is their love of stories. Rabbits love gathering together and listening to the tales of the legendary rabbit hero, their beloved El-ahrairah. El-ahrairah was a rabbit trickster and the legendary Prince of the Forest, who lived long before Hazel, Fiver and the rest of all rabbits. Together with his fellow rascal, Rabscutle, El-ahrairah uses his ample wits to commit plenty of mischief: getting lettuce out of an impenetrable fortress, outsmarting bigger and stronger creatures to achieve his goals. El-ahrairah is fast, cunning and proud, but he's also honorable and loyal to his people. The stories of El-ahrairah and his adventures are sprinkled throughout the main narrative, and serve as inspiration and entertainment for the rabbits, and as a way to find courage in hard times.A reviewer in the New Statesman praised Richard Adams for writing a big, tense, picaresque story; these three adjectives probably best describe Watership Down. People have seen in it a riff on The Oddysey, an allegory for human struggle against totalitarian oppression, fascism, the Cold War...but at its heart it is a wonderful story about a group of rabbits searching for a new home, and their efforts at establishing a warren. They provide for interesting protagonists, and as they journey goes on so do their respective roles develop. These are to a degree archetypal, but Richard Adams is careful to make sure that each rabbit retains its individual characteristics and grow as the story progresses. Relations between the characters are not black and white, as in many books for children - even though the villain figure is portrayed with obvious negativity Adams makes an effort to show why it would be influential and admired by many other rabbits, all the way to the very end. Occasionally Adams will do some authorial intrusion and explain the rabbit habits of his protagonists, but he did write this book based on the stories he told their kids, and they probably asked many questions concerning these matters - as most kids would. It's not a big problem at all and can actually be seen a nice reminded about the roots of Watership Down.It feels as if I have been writing this review for a very long time and have barely said anything I wanted to say. This happens when I encounter something which moves me and inspires me, and which stays with me and makes me experience and think and feel my humanity by doing so. Curiously, these feelings have been aroused by a book about a group of talking rabbits. But it works! By God, people, it works. Since it's summer I started to enjoy reading in a park near my home, just sitting on a bench away from the main lane in the quiet and the shade. This was where I started and finished Watership Down, and after I cleaned my eyes I wanted to immediately begin it all over again. I can't remember the last time that happened, and it's a great feeling. I can't wait to run down this burrow again and see what else I'll find there.Praise be to Richard Adams for being a wonderful father to his two little girls and a great writer who shared his beautiful book with us. 5 stars.Be sure not to miss an interview with Richard Adams, which made me like and appreciate Watership Down even more and want to seek out all his other works. It was filmed in November 2012 at Whitchurch Arts Show in the UK, where he's rocking the house at the age of 92. What a wonderful and lovable man! May he live a thousand years.

My Sister's Keeper

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4.04 rating

Comment 1: If you haven't read the book it's about a girl (Kate) with leukemia whose parents had a second genetically matched child (Anna) to help with blood and bone marrow to save their first daughter. As the girls grow up, more and more is required of Anna until she's had enough of being nothing but an organ donor. There are a lot of interesting points in the book, like what do you do when you have to pick one child over another, how do you balance your time and love between children especially when one requires more from you, and at what age can you be responsible enough to make choices about your own body instead of letting your parents word go as law. Even at a young age, a child's sense of self and decision making should always be respected. Even a three-year-old should be asked, not even such catastrophic questions as do you want to donate blood, but would you like to give your teddy bear away. If a child even considers emancipation, then you have crossed the line. Use your persuasion skills with children, not force or games. When you read a second book by an author it's easier to pay attention to the writing style and not get so carried away with the story. Her techniques were a distraction from the story. Picoult is very good at doing research to get statistics on paper, but that's all her characters feel like it. None of these characters had a real breathing personality. They were just stereotypes of what she wanted to portray and therefore not very deep. Even the little memories of the girl's childhood felt like stock photographs set to these vague lives. Throw in a politically correct tendency to add variety to your characters with random stereotypes and I enjoyed the story more for the case study it could be then the story it was. The character I enjoyed the most in the book was Jesse, the older brother who had fallen off the deep end in an attempt to get his parent's attention and still went unnoticed. I liked the quiet things he set about doing to help his sisters. Although I did not find him very well developed, I liked the father, Brian, too. I think he truly did love both his daughters and wanted to set out to do good by both of them. Even though Sara kept saying she loved both her daughters, I failed to find the evidence. All I got was a brazen woman who bullied everyone, especially Anna, into saving the only daughter she did care about. I found her completely unsympathetic, even the chapters written in her perspective, especially then. When she told Anna she couldn't go to hockey camp because she had to be around in case Kate when into relapse, I was disgusted. Yes a sick child would take up more time and emotion, but not to the exclusion of other children. How hard is it to yank Anna out of camp if necessary? Picoult wanted to show a woman who loved both her daughters but had to make tough decisions in order to keep both of them alive, but it fell flat. She tried to credit her with too many contradictory emotions and never fully justified her behavior. I wasn't satisfied with the family dynamics. I found the emotional neglect completely at odds with the scenes of a loving huggy family Picoult threw in to convince us that it was a good family with good intentions. Sara and Anna constantly saying they loved each other just didn't jive with the way Sara treated Anna. I could not picture this child on the verge of growing up wrapped up in her mother's arms when she's being scolded and manipulated by that very woman. But if I found Sara a hard character to pin down, I found Anna even more elusive. Again, too many contradictory motives that just didn't make sense. I got why Anna and Kate loved each other, but I didn't get why the rest of the family did. I think the idea of the story was a good concept, but I think it was under developed. Spoiler:I found the twist at the end unnecessary. I keep asking myself it is the most tragically beautiful ending and I'm not sure it is. Even though I get the point of it, I think I would have rather had a resolution that required a decision, a choice. I liked what Kate said at the end that Anna took her place and how it showed how much of a shadow she was, but it felt a little like a cop out. I want to know what Anna would have done and how her parents would have reacted if she said no or how belittled she would have felt had she said yes.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

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4.28 rating

Comment 1: The stories were very interesting, and I enjoyed most of them. But, I don't know, I didn't find them very satisfying. Maybe I am not really a fan of short stories? Perhaps I'll enjoy the Sherlock Holmes novels more.There are twelve short stories in this collection. They are a selection of some of the interesting cases recorded by Dr. Watson which he and his friend Sherlock Holmes handled in the latter's career.A rough sketch of the stories (Spoiler alert!)A Scandal in BohemiaThe King of Bohemia is threatened with a scandal. He is about to be married to a royal personality, but the scandal may prevent that. The scandal is in the form of a... no, not a video recording, of course, but a picture. He is seen with a woman in the picture. The woman is Irene Adler, and she is very pretty and intelligent. The King apparently still has affections for her (He sometimes is heard saying, "What a woman! What a woman!"), but they cannot be married. Fortunately, Irene is in love with another man. They got married, and off they went to a secret place to escape from the King and get away from Sherlock Holmes. The photograph is a piece of insurance. No scandal will erupt as long as the King leaves her alone.The Red-Headed LeagueA bizarre case involving a fictitious company recruiting red-headed men. It is a ploy to draw one businessman from his shop, which is located near a bank. The villains are planning to rob it. Holmes discovers them just in time.A Case of IdentityA man disguises himself to trick his own stepdaughter into ensuring that she doesn't marry any other man. Holmes uncovers his real identity.The Boscombe Valley MysteryA man is murdered. Evidences point strongly to his son as the suspect. But upon closer inspection by Holmes, the real culprit happens to be the victim's neighbor and life-long enemy. It was discovered that the victim has actually been manipulating the culprit and exploiting them and their wealth. The culprit's last straw broke when the victim took an interest at the former's daughter.The Five Orange PipsTwo men are murdered. The crime has something to do with the K.K.K, but the perpetrators are not accosted. Holmes discovers their identity, but their ship, which was bound for America, mystery disappeared into the sea, never to be seen and heard from again.The Man With the Twisted LipA woman seeks Holmes's help in finding his missing husband. She last saw him in a very unlikely place -- in a building near an opium den. The only witness seems to be a beggar. Her husband is nowhere to be found. What remains is his clothes, and a blood stain inside the room where she last saw him. It turns out that the beggar and the husband are one. He has been pretending to be a mendicant because the earning was bigger than his regular job as a journalist.The Adventure of the Blue CarbuncleA man discovers a precious gem stone inside a geese. It turns out to be the blue carbuncle that was stolen from a royal personality. Holmes and Dr. Watson traces the events that led to the discovery of the geese in the hope of finding the person responsible for the theft.The Adventure of the Speckled BandA woman dies on the eve of her wedding. She saw something terrible inside her room in the middle of the night. Holmes's discovers the perpetrator as her stepfather. The Speckled Band is a large poisonous snake.The Adventure of the Engineer's ThumbAn engineer discovers a machine that reproduces fake coins. He is almost caught by the perpetrators and got nearly killed. He seeks Holmes's help in discovering the identity of the culprits. They were never caught, but their precious machinery got destroyed.The Adventure of the Noble BachelorA Duke asks Holmes's help after his new bride suddenly disappeared on the morning following their wedding. Holmes discovers that the woman actually took off with the man whom she swore her love to in the past.The Adventure of the Beryl CoronetThe Beryl Coronet is a National Treasure. It is stolen, and the man in charge of keeping and protecting it initially accused his son. But the real culprit is his neice. His son is actually the hero.The Adventure of the Copper BeechesThe Copper Beeches is the name of a large and unusual mansion. A lady is offered a job as a governess. The pay is too good to be true, but the terms are strange. The mansion has a secret in one of its wings. The owners' daughter is beeing kept there. She has a kind of fever, and the governess is being hired to unwittingly impersonate the daughter so that the latter's fiance may be driven away.Personal thoughtsSherlock Holmes is a very intelligent detective. His methods may be a bit unusual, but they are very effective. That is to say, they almost always work. He is very systematic in the way he investigates each of the cases that he encounters. He often starts by asking his clients to tell him their whole story. He observes them very carefully as they speak, taking mental notes about their appearance, clothing, and attitude. He gathers all the data from their narrative. Then, he forms hypotheses. Almost always, he gets it right, and the case is usually solved even before the client leaves Holmes's room! But he always tests his hypotheses physically, and the perpetrators are often caught and the mystery usually solved.But there's something funny about his reasoning sometimes. I sometimes think that he is making hasty generalizations. For example, in the Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle, how is it possible to know so much about a person by merely analyzing his hat? How can he deduce that the man's wife doesn't love him anymore just because the hat appears dirty or unwashed? There could be many reasons for that. It could be that his wife is usually tired when he gets home, or that the man doesn't want her to touch his hat, and so on. If Holmes is wrong about that, or if he's prone to commit similar errors in reasoning, could that have affected his other cases?I liked most of the stories, but I found a couple to be a bit boring. It has something to do with Arthur Conan Doyle spending too much time describing details in the stories. I liked A Scandal in Bohemia best.

The Giver

by

4.11 rating

Comment 1: Lowry's book is a piece of nationalist propaganda, using oversimplification, emotional appeals, and dualistic morality to shut down her readers' minds. More troubling is that it is aimed at children, who don't yet have the critical faculties to defend themselves from such underhanded methods.Unsurprisingly, Lowry adopts the structure of the monomyth, equating a spiritual journey with a moral one. Her Christ-figure uses literal magic powers to rebel against his society. This rebellion and the morality behind it are presented as 'natural', to contrast with the 'abnormal morality' around him.Lowry doesn't seem to understand that we get our morality from our culture, it isn't something in-born that we 'lose'. This is the first hint of Lowry's misunderstanding of the human mind. She assumes her own morality is correct, and then builds her story to fit it.She also makes the character act and think like we do, despite never adequately explaining how he came up with such unusual notions. It's the same trick many historical fiction authors use, leaving us scratching our heads as to why a Fourteenth Century French peasant speaks like a second-wave feminist. I'd suggest that Lowry falls to this fault for the same reason they do: she has no talent for imagining how others might think differently.Lowry's book ends with the standard nonspecific transgressive spiritual event that marks all monomyths. Since the book is not a progressive presentation of ideas, it does not suggest any conclusion. Instead, the climax is a symbolic faux-death event (symbolic of what, none can say). Confusingly, Lowry later redacts the ending in the sequels, undermining the pseudo-spiritual journey she created.Though some call this book 'Dystopian', it's closer to the truth to say Lowry borrows elements from the Dystopian authors, attempting to combine the spiritual uplift of the monomyth with the political and social deconstruction of the Dystopia. What she doesn't recognize is that the faith of the one conflicts with the cynicism of the other. She draws on ideas and images from many other authors: Bradbury, Huxley, Orwell, Burgess, but doesn't improve upon them.These authors created novels that reflected the world around them. They based them on the political events of the times, presented with realism and careful psychology. Though they presented the struggle between the individual and the society, they portrayed morality as grey, and suffering as the result of individual human faults, not political systems. Lowry doesn't realize that the best way to critique Fascism or Communism is not to present it as 'evil', but to simply present it as it was.But Lowry's world is not based in reality, it is symbolic and hyperbolic. Instead of writing about how poverty makes the world seem small and dull, she has the characters magically unable to experience life. Instead of an impersonal government, she presents a sort of evil hippy commune. The only political system it resembles is a school, which is a neat little trick to get the kids interested. The idea that 'school=unfeeling totalitarian hell' is not an uncommon one, but it's one I'm surprised teachers would support. The book also suggests a creche, but lacking similarity to any real-world system, it doesn't work as a political criticism.Lowry creates this artificial world to suit her purposes, but it is not a symbolic exercise like 'Animal Farm'. We understand that the pigs of animal farm are symbolic, because there are no talking pigs. Lowry's world is more insidious, since its oversimplification is hidden. She builds an artificial world to support the dualist morality that she's pushing. She presents the same knee-jerk fears about euthanasia and abortion that people use against Women's Rights or Health Care.Worse than these Straw Man arguments is the fact that she never deals with the economic causes of totalitarianism. Tyrants don't just rise up and take control by their own force of will, they come into power because of the socioeconomic situations that surround them. Lean times produce strong, fascist leaders while profitable times produce permissive, liberal societies.Strong, centralized leadership simply doesn't self-propagate in cultures where everyone is clothed, fed, and housed. The Holocaust was socially about some ideal of 'change' and 'purity', but it was economically about the transmission of wealth from Jews, Poles, and Catholics to Germans (and more specifically, to those Germans who had elected the new ruling party).The atrocities of war are, for the most, part committed by normal people to other normal people. By presenting the power structure as 'amoral' and 'inhuman', Lowry ignores the fact that people will willingly cause others to suffer. Painting the enemy as 'evil' and 'alien' is just an unsophisticated propagandist method.She contrasts her 'evil' with the idealized 'goodness' of emotion, beauty, and freedom. This is nothing more than the American dream of 'specialness' that Mr. Rogers was pushing for so many years. We are all special, we are all good, we all deserve love and happiness. Sure, it sounds good, but what does it mean?Where does this 'specialness' come from? If it is just the 'sanctity of human life', then it's not really special, because it's all-encompassing. If all of us are special, then none of us are. There's nothing wrong with valuing life, but when Lowry presents one mode of life as valuable and another as reprehensible, she ceases to actually value humanity as a whole. Instead, she values a small, idealized chunk of humanity. 'People are good, except the ones I don't like' is not a moral basis, nor is it a good message to send to kids.If the specialness is only based on fitting in with a certain moral and social guideline, then Lowry isn't praising individuality, she's praising herd behavior. The protagonist is only 'special' because he has magic powers. His specialness is not a part of his character, it is an emotional appeal.The idea of being a special individual is another piece of propaganda, and its one kids are especially prone to, because kids aren't special: they are carefully controlled and powerless. Giving a character special powers and abilities and then using that character to feed a party line to children is not merely disingenuous, it's disturbing.There is also a darker side to universal specialness: giving a child a sense of importance without anything to back it up creates egotism and instability. Adults noticed that children with skills and friends had high self-esteems, but instead of teaching their children social skills and knowledge, they misunderstood the causal relationship and tried to give them self-worth first.Unfortunately, the moment unsupported self-worth is challenged, the child finds they have nothing to fall back on. Their entitlement didn't come from their skills or experiences, and so they have nothing to bolster that sense of worth. Instead, any doubt sends them down a spiral of emotional instability.A single book like this wouldn't be the cause of such a state in a child, but it does act as part of the social structure built to give a sense of worth without a solid base for that worth. People like to believe they are special, kids especially so, but being a remarkable person is not a result of belief but of actions. If the book had informed them, then it would leave them better off, but giving them a conclusion based on emotional appeals does nothing to build confidence or character.Many people have told me this book is good because it appeals to children, but children often fall for propaganda. Children develop deep relationships with pop stars, breakfast cereals, and Japanese monsters. This does not make them good role models for children.Feeding 'specialness' to kids along with a political message is no better than the fascist youth programs Lowry intends to criticize. The obsession with individuality is just another form of elitism. It's ironic that people in America most often describe themselves as individuals when pointing out the things they do to align themselves with groups.But banding together in a community is not a bad thing. For Lowry and other 'Red Scare' children, any mention of 'communal' can turn into a witch hunt, but we all give up some personal rights and some individuality in order to live in relatively safe, structured societies. There are benefits to governmental social controls and there are drawbacks, and it's up to us to walk the line between the two. Anarchy and Totalitarianism never actually exist for long: we are social animals.It's not difficult to understand why Lowry is so popular, especially amongst educators. The message she gives aligns perfectly with what they were taught as kids, from Red Scare reactionism to the hippy-dippy 'unique snowflake' mantra. These ideas aren't entirely misguided, either. It's good to recognize the benefits of difference and the dangers of allowing other to control our lives.If a reader believes that fascism and socialism are inherently wrong and that their own individuality is their greatest asset, they will likely sympathize with Lowry's work. However, this doesn't make the book honest, nor beneficial. One of the hardest things we can do as readers is disagree with the methods of authors we agree with ideologically.It makes us feel good to find authors who agree with us, but this is when we should be at our most skeptical. Searching the world for self-justification is not a worthwhile goal, it simply turns you into another short-sighted, argumentative know-it-all. 'Yes men' never progress.Lowry is toeing the party line. She does not base her book around difficult questions, like the Dystopian authors, but around easy answers. She doesn't force the reader to decide for themselves what is best, she makes it clear what she wants us to think. Her book is didactic, which means that it instructs the reader what to believe.Even if her conclusions about Individuality vs. Community are correct, she doesn't present arguments, she only presents conclusions. Like rote memorization or indoctrination, she teaches nothing about the politics, social order, economics, or psychology of totalitarianism or individuality. The reader is not left with an understanding, just an opinion.The baseless 'individuality' of the book lets the reader imagine that they are rebels--that they are bucking the system even as they fall into lock-step. By letting the reader think they are already free-thinking, Lowry tricks them into forgetting their skepticism.She is happy to paint a simple world of black and white, and this is likely the world she sees. I doubt she is purposefully creating an insidious text, she just can't see past her own opinions. She writes this book with a point to make, and makes it using emotional appeals and symbolism. She doesn't back it up with arguments because she doesn't seem to have developed her opinions from cogent arguments.In the end, she doesn't show us that the structure of this society is wrong, she says nothing poignant about individuality vs. community; instead, she relies on threats to the life of an innocent infant. Yet nowhere does she provide an argument for why communal living or the sacrifice of freedoms for safety must necessarily lead to infanticide.In politics, making extreme claims about the opposing side is called mud-slinging, it is an underhanded and dishonest tactic. It works. Arguing intelligently is difficult, accusing is easy, so that's what Lowry does.She is another child of WWII and the Cold War who hasn't learned her lesson. She quickly condemns the flaws of others while failing to search out her own. Even after the Holocaust, there are many racist, nationalist, violent Jews; conflict rarely breeds a new understanding.America condemned the faceless communal life of the Second World, and yet America created The Projects. We critiqued strong governmental controls, but we still have the bank bailout, socialized medicine, socialized schooling, and socialized charity. America condemned the Gulags and Work Camps, and yet we imprison one out of every hundred citizens; far more than Stalin ever did. Some are killed, all are dehumanized.As a little sci fi adventure, the book isn't terrible. It's really the pretension that goes along with it. Lowry cobbles together religious symbolism and Dystopic tropes and then tries to present it as something as complex and thoughtful as the authors she copied. Copying isn't a crime, but copying poorly is.Like Dan Brown or Michael Crichton, she creates a political pamphlet of her own ideals, slaps a pretense of authority on it, and then waits for the money and awards to roll in--and they did. Many people I've discussed this book with have pointed to those awards as the surest sign of this book's eminent worth.Award committees are bureaucratic organizations. Their decisions are based on political machinations. This book is a little piece of Nationalism, and so it was lauded by the political machine that Lowry supports. The left hand helps the right. If awards are the surest sign of worth, then Titanic is a better movie than Citizen Kane.What surprises me is how many of those who brought up the award as their argument were teachers. If a politically-charged administrative committee is the best way to teach children, then why do you take umbrage when the principal tells you that bigger class sizes (and fewer benefits) are fine? Listen to him: doesn't he have award plaques?The other argument is usually that 'kids like it'. I usually respond that kids also like candy, so why not teach that? Some people also get angry at me for analyzing a book written for children:"Of course it's not a great book, it's for kids! If you want a good book, go read Ulysses!"I prefer to give children good books rather than pieces of political propaganda (even if they agreed with me). Children can be as skeptical, quick-witted, and thoughtful as adults if you give them the chance, so I see no excuse for feeding them anything less. Kids aren't stupid, they just lack knowledge, and that's a fine distinction. It's easy for adults to take advantage of their naivete, their emotionality, and their sense of worth. Just because it's easier for the teacher doesn't mean it's better for the child.When we show children something that is over-simplified, presenting an idealized, crudely moralizing world, we aren't preparing them for the actual world. If you give a child a meaningless answer to repeat, he will repeat it, but he won't understand why. Why not give the child a book that presents many complex ideas, but no rote answers, and let them make up their own minds? If they don't learn how to separate the wheat from the chaff and form their own opinions early, in a safe, nurturing environment, what chance will they have on their own as adults?In all the discussions and research regarding this book, I have come across very little analysis. It's especially surprising for a book with such a strong following, but there aren't many explanations of why the book is supposed to be useful or important.This lack of argument makes sense from a political standpoint, since there is no reason to analyze the worth of propaganda: its worth is that it agrees with society and indoctrinates readers. Analyzing it would defeat the purpose; political diatribes do not stand up to thoughtful attention.Perhaps someday someone will create a thoughtful, textual analysis of this book that will point out its merits, its structure and its complexity. I've gradually come to doubt it. I never expected when I wrote my original review of this book that it would garner this much attention.I still welcome comments and thoughts, but if your comment looks roughly like this: "You should read this book again, but this time, like it more. You think you're smart but you aren't. You're mean. Lowry is great. This book won awards and kids like it. It's meant for kids anyways, why would you analyze what its about? I bet you never even read the sequels. Go read 'Moby Dick' because you are full of yourself."I've heard that one before. If you do want to comment though, you might check out this article; I find it helps me with presenting my ideas.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

by

4.22 rating

Comment 1: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a quiet, gentle, understated and yet at the same time unexpectedly scathing at times book that offers a window (or a view from a fire escape, if you please) into a little corner of the world a century ago, and yet still has the power to resonate with readers of today. After all, the world has moved forward, yes, but the essential human soul remains the same, and the obstacles in human lives - poverty, inequality, cruelty, and blind self-righteousness - are in no danger of disappearing. "The one tree in Francie’s yard was neither a pine nor a hemlock. It had pointed leaves which grew along green switches which radiated from the bough and made a tree which looked like a lot of opened green umbrellas. Some people called it the Tree of Heaven. No matter where its seed fell, it made a tree which struggled to reach the sky. It grew in boarded-up lots and out of neglected rubbish heaps and it was the only tree that grew out of cement. It grew lushly, but only in the tenements districts."It's not easy to answer what this book is about, to answer it in a way that would manage to capture the heart and soul of this story. If you ask me, I think it's a story of people simply being people, the good-bad-and-ugly of humanity. There are so many things coexisting in the pages of this not-that-long book. On one hand, it's a classic coming-of-age and loss-of-innocence tale centered around the experiences of a young girl growing up in Brooklyn in the first couple of decades of the 20th century. On another hand, it is a social commentary taking on the uglier parts of human lives and human nature - the parts that Francie was cautioned against writing about as they are quite 'sordid': poverty, vice, exploitation, intolerance. On yet another hand (yes, I'm running out of hands here) it's a story of American dream - hopeful and determined. “I want to live for something. I don't want to live to get charity food to give me enough strength to go back to get more charity food.”On a different hand, it is also a story of how American dream can be used exactly against the same people that it's supposed to inspire. On yet another hand (apparently my 'hands' example may as well involve an octopus) it is a chronicle of a struggling Brooklyn family with the love and resentment and strong ties that only the members of the family can try to understand. On some other hand, it's a story of what it meant to be a girl and then a woman in the world of a century ago in America. And, on yet another hand, it is an ode to Brooklyn that through the prism of this book appears to be a universe of its own.It is also a story of opportunities lost and opportunities gained despite the odds. It's a story about the will to survive no matter what, about iron-clad will and determination, about hope despite the odds, despite being, for all intents and purposes, on the bottom of the barrel. It's a story about learning to love and respect and compromise and give up - and frequently all at the same time. It's a story about being able to open your eyes to the world around you as you grow up and learning to see this world for what it is, and accept some of it, and reject some, too. It has love and loss and pain and happiness and wonder and ugliness - all candidly and unapologetically presented to the readers allowing them to arrive at their own conclusions just as Francie Nolan has arrived at hers.Apparently when this book was published in mid-1940s, it caused a wave of disappointment and disagreement with the subject matters it raised, the subject matters that some of the public, like the well-meaning but clearly clueless teacher Miss Garnder in this book, probably found too 'sordid' for their taste: the poverty, the pro-union message, the lack of condemnation of female sexuality, the alcoholism, the treatment of immigrants unfamiliar with their rights, the exploitation of the poor and weak ones by those in power - you name it. It seems there was too much of the social message presented with not enough of polishing it and coating it with the feel-good message. "In a flash, she saw which way the wind blew; she saw it blew against children like Francie."The part that probably resonated the most with me out of everything I mentioned, however, was the way Betty Smith describes the poverty of Francie's family and Francie's neighborhood ("... in the Nolan neighborhood, if you could prove you had been born in America, it was equivalent to a Mayflower standing" and where "Kids grow up quick in this neighborhood.") - the area populated mostly by immigrants not quite aware of their rights, selling their votes for the chance to survive another day, and slaving at their jobs just to survive another day in which they can go on slaving for pennies to survive. And yet the system - as well as the still-not-understood undershades of human psyche - instead of uniting these people in their hardships ends up somehow pitting them against each other. "She had been in school but half a day when she knew that she would never be a teacher’s pet. That privilege was reserved for a small group of girls... girls with freshly curled hair, crisp clean pinafores and new silk hairbows. They were the children of the prosperous storekeepers of the neighborhood. Francie noticed how Miss Briggs, the teacher, beamed on them and seated them in the choicest places in the front row. These darlings were not made to share seats. Miss Briggs’s voice was gentle when she spoke to these fortune-favored few, and snarling when she spoke to the great crowd of unwashed."You see, the poverty presented in this book, the poverty in which the Nolan family lives, is far from the innocent, idealistic, noble and 'cleansing' way it's often presented. No, this book does not fall into the pitfall of somehow glorifying poverty. The Nolans are decent people DESPITE their poverty and not in any way thanks to it - the message that is presented subtly but clearly through Francie's understanding that there's little point to it, that there's really nothing to be gained from it no matter how you can later justify it to yourself through the idea that 'what doesn't kill you makes you stronger'¹.Allow me to quote Terry Pratchett here:-"Remember - that which does not kill us can only make us stronger.""And that which *does* kill us leaves us dead!"And, of course, denigration of poor people and worship of money, as well as the stark gap between the rich and the poor in the American society did not go away a century after the events of this novel. Neither did the fact that if you live in a poor neighborhood and get an education there, you are at a disadvantage as compared to your peers (Francie tried to combat that by finding a way to attend a better school in a better area - but using the ways that would surely condemn her in the eyes of the general public had she done it now, like quite a few people try to). And the fact that as we continue to proclaim the benefits of Democracy (as Johnny Nolan did his whole short life) while poverty continues to run rampant and the rich continue to be rich is perhaps one of the saddest things that you take from reading this book. "They think this is so good," she thought. "They think it’s good— the tree they got for nothing and their father playing up to them and the singing and the way the neighbors are happy. They think they’re mighty lucky that they’re living and that it’s Christmas again. They can’t see that we live on a dirty street in a dirty house among people who aren’t much good. Johnny and the children can’t see how pitiful it is that our neighbors have to make happiness out of this filth and dirt. My children must get out of this. They must come to more than Johnny or me or all these people around us."Another part is the deconstruction of American Dream - to a point. On one hand, Francie and her mother Katie and her grandmother Mary all support the idea of education eventually being able to help you get out of the cycle of poverty. On the other hand, through Francie's eyes we see the flipside of this believe in American Dream - the shrugging off the problems of the poor by those who are a bit more well-to-do under the mistaken beliefs that (a) they understand exactly what the poor are going through (like Francie's teacher Miss Garnder 'understood' poverty because - oh the horror! - at some point in her life she lived on tea and toast for three days and her family did not always have a maid) and (b) assume that the only reason the poor stay poor is because they have to be lazy (again, like Miss Garnder, the well-meaning soul who nevertheless was in position of power to pass on her flawed beliefs to the impressionable young children she educated). “But poverty, starvation and drunkenness are ugly subjects to choose. We all admit these things exist. But one doesn’t write about them.” “What does one write about?” Unconsciously, Francie picked up the teacher’s phraseology. “One delves into the imagination and finds beauty there. The writer, like the artist, must strive for beauty always.” “What is beauty?” asked the child. “I can think of no better definition than Keats’: ‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty.’” Francie took her courage into her two hands and said, “Those stories are the truth.”This book is simply written and slow-moving - but in an enchanting, engrossing way that allows the characters to shine through its pages. There's really little plot in the way we, modern readers, frequently think of such. Most of the book seems to be comprised of little vignettes connected to each other, placed to shed light on different aspects of the lives of the Nolans and the Rommelys, to present different edges of their personalities and to show the wider picture of the time and the neighborhood where they live. We get to experience Katie's determined strength, Johnny's unabashed hopefulness mixed with weakness, Sissy's love and disregard for arbitrary societal limitations, and Francie's curiosity and desire for life and learning. "Everything struggles to live. Look at that tree growing up there out of that grating. It gets no sun, and water only when it rains. It’s growing out of sour earth. And it’s strong because its hard struggle to live is making it strong. My children will be strong that way."And a word about Francie herself, of course. Yes, she is far from an ideal heroine. She is naive and impressionable, sometimes frustratingly so. She can be meek and allow others to take advantage of her and direct her life - to the point when we, readers from the time when women can vote and have achieved some resemblance of equality, start getting frustrated with her. But she has this insatiable curiosity for life and desire to rise above her low station in life, and inner backbone and character steel that she appears to have inherited from her mother Katie (Katie, who is a true cornerstone of this book, the source of its inner strength and resilience that allows the Nolans to have hope for the future) - all the traits that make the reader cheer for this quiet and yet determined young woman who will ultimately find out what's best for her in life while always remembering where she comes from. “Dear God," she prayed, "let me be something every minute of every hour of my life. Let me be gay; let me be sad. Let me be cold; let me be warm. Let me be hungry...have too much to eat. Let me be ragged or well dressed. Let me be sincere - be deceitful. Let me be truthful; let me be a liar. Let me be honorable and let me sin. Only let me be something every blessed minute. And when I sleep, let me dream all the time so that not one little piece of living is ever lost.” I'm glad I read this book now and not back when I was a kid. Back then I would have judged so many characters harshly, seeing the world from a quite privileged perspective of a person who had the luxury of education and only experienced a few years of significant poverty that was followed by a reasonably comfortable life afterwards. Now, with a bit more life experience on my shoulders, I cannot help but adore the quiet heart of this story and the different shades of life and people that it portrays. 4.5 stars without a bit of hesitation.

Vampire Academy

by

4.15 rating

Comment 1: I gave this book 3 stars on my first read. I raised my rating after reading and liking it more on my second read.Addition : Why I think you should read VA instead of Covenant The before : September 2010 I was a stubborn brat when it came to reading Vampire Academy. Part of me honestly thought that a vampire series couldn't impress me after experiencing how oversaturated the genre had become with depressing and lackluster characters and stories. Because of this, I went into my first read of VA begrudgingly and with a bad attitude. It didn't make any sense to me why so many people were rabid fans of this series. I think I pre-programmed myself to want to hate the books. So I read the first book and ended up liking it. But I still didn't see what the big deal was. My review reflected the attitude that it was an easy read and somewhat entertaining - but what was the big deal?Apparently, there must have been something sparked because I started book 2 shortly thereafter and then found myself blazing through the rest of the series, getting more and more addicted with each book. The After : September 2012 Two years later and this remains one of my favorite series of all time. Even though book 1 had a few glaring errors, each book got better by massive leaps and bounds. The end of book 3 had me crying, the second half of book 4 had me on pins and needles, and after I finished book 5 I joined the crew of people who were throwing out theories about what could possibly happen in the upcoming release of book 6. Since then, I've devoured the graphic novels and spinoff series Bloodlines (featuring a cast of extras from the original VA books). I had become obsessed. Dimitri is one of my all-time favorite heroes. Period. There is no one I've come across in my book reading history quite like Guardian Belikov. He is bad-ass and lethal. He is loyal and honorable. He is strong, vigilant, and protective. He is the man you want to take home to momma before dragging him off to bed (he is 24 and all man, so I do not feel guilty about admitting this!). He is every characteristic that I'd want to see in a hero, without being turned into an arrogant and controlling asshole like you see in so many books featuring a larger-than-life male lead.Rose is one of my all-time favorite female leads. What? Both the male and female in the same story are great? She is mouthy, stubborn, determined, loyal, brave, and can also kick major ass. If you ever wanted a friend who would go to bat for you, Rose is your girl. Rarely, does a couple balance one another in a story. Now, this isn't to say that these two are an actual couple (I will neither confirm nor deny that they end up together, since another potential love interest does enter the picture in book 2), but the chemistry between Roza and Dimka is off the charts because they are able to challenge each other. Oh, but wait. There's a complication. Rose is being trained to become a guardian by Dimitri. That's right - they are teacher and student. Now, this isn't in the disgustingly creepy pedo way. Rose is almost 18 and Dimitri is 24. Their values and ways of thinking often show them more as equals than mentor and student, so the lines become blurred. But yes...this has the potential to become a forbidden and dangerous love story...if they ever allowed it go there.I'm not telling, of course!Final analysis from then to now :My first read complaints were that I didn't understand why Rose was so down for the cause and had such unfailing devotion to the ruling class. Even after going through a complete series read, I still struggle with this, even though I liked some of the attitude shifts in the later books. Lissa didn't impress me back in 2010. She still doesn't impress me in 2012. I didn't recall book 1 having so much silly teen drama. Because books 3 through 6 are focused so much on fighting and real-life struggles outside of the school, those are the memories I carry with me. This is an extremely mature (and sexy) series for YA because of the older characters and content. So I was surprised to go back and realize that book 1 read younger and sillier than the rest of the books. It was still good. In fact, I appreciate it more now, knowing how much it set up the series, so I'm raising my rating a full star. Make no mistake though, this is the weakest book in the series. If you're unsure about book 1, keep reading because it gets INCREDIBLE from here on out. The world building in the first 30% of the original book was overwhelming imo. Initial info-dumping is one of Mead's only flaws as a writer because otherwise she is a master at getting me to care about her characters (regardless of series).The action and adventure balances the romance excellently. I should have mentioned this earlier, but this is not a paranormal romance series. It is a high-octane Urban Fantasy. Expect adventures in every book. The sexual chemistry is just a bonus, but it doesn't choke out the fun aspect of the series.I have no doubt now that this will stay in my top 3 series for a long time to come. Re-reading only cemented this for me.Oh my Dimka, my Dimka... Dimitri hovered over us, alert and ready for any threat, his body coiled to attack. I felt safe with him beside us.In that horrible moment, with him raging like a storm, I knew why Mason had called him a god.He regarded me with utter seriousness, like he always did. "I think you're beautiful.""Beautiful?""You are so beautiful, it hurts me sometimes."

Matilda

by

4.26 rating

Comment 1: This is my third book by Roald Dahi (1916-1990). I did not plan to read this because I’ve already read his more famous (earlier) Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964) and his boyhood memoir, Boy: Tales of Childhood (1984) which are both included in the 501 Must Read Books that I am trying to read completely. However, the Filipinos group here in Goodreads selected this book as its bestseller read for this month, September 2011 so I had to buy and read this one too.This book's main protagonist, Matilda is a precocious, smart and telekinetic 4-y/o book lover who puts super glue on the inside lining of his father’s hat so her mother has to cut the hat and the hair of the poor father so he can sleep properly. I am sure some women, for whatever strange reason, find this funny. However, for a father like me, it is definitely not. No one, fathers included, is perfect. Even if Matilda’s father is mean, obnoxious, shouts at Matilda or does not agree to buy her books and asks her to watch the television instead, he is the one putting food on the dining table. Matilda has to respect his parents. This also includes his mother who, even if she is insensitive, who leaves Matilda all by herself at home every afternoon to play bingo, at least, does not physically hurt or starve her to death. Hence, Matilda has no right to disrespect her parents including scaring them by hiding a parrot up in the chimney, even if the parrot is as lovable as the one in the book. I know that this book is intended for children and most of my GR friends say that they read and liked when they were young (this came out in 1988) so my griping or nitpicking is totally misplaced as I am now an old dog. But hey, I will not tell my teen daughter or my very young nieces to read this as I don't see Matilda as a good girl role model for them. Try Dorothy in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz or even maybe Pippi Longstocking but definitely not Matilda.The other reason why I find this book inferior Dahl's other works like Charlie and Boy is the one-dimensional character of the antagonist, headmistress Miss Trunchbull. Why did she become nasty? I understand that the headmistress is not the highest official of a British school, so what do the other school authorities are saying about Miss Trunchbull’s behavior towards the students? Granting that Miss Honey is afraid of her, considering that the other children are not afraid to talk, are they not saying anything to their parents who in turn can get in touch with the other school authorities or even the police?However, I cannot fully dislike this novel. Any booklover main character is hard for me not to love. Dahl’s children’s books are mostly based on actual people and experiences that he met or had when he was a young boy as his memoir Boy: Tales of Childhood stated. As examples, Miss Trunchbull’s character is said to be based on an actual nasty teacher he had in British school or the conteest entries to the chocolate factory in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory were based on real life chocolate recipe contests used to sponsored by Cadbury during his childhood years in England. Also, the relationship of Matilda and Miss Honey should have been inspired by the homesickness that Dahl experienced at British school while he was away from his mom. Aww, sweet boy.This book is not really bad. I only thought that Charlie and Boy better written, more truthful and more inspiring.

Little Women

by

4.01 rating

Comment 1: There will be spoilers.Now, if she had been the heroine of a moral story-book, she ought at this period of her life to have become quite saintly, renounced the world, and gone about doing good in a mortified bonnet, with tracts in her pocket. But, you see, Jo wasn't a heroine; she was only a struggling human girl, like hundreds of others, and she just acted out her nature, being sad, cross, listless, or energetic, as the mood suggested.I first read this book as a tween, and had a real love-hate reaction to it, love of the first half, and I pretty much hated the last half. Beth's death made me cry, and I loathed sad books passionately, but most of all I loathed Professor Bhaer, for two reasons. The minor one was that he was ugly and forty, which was utterly disgusting to me, as my grandparents then were in their forties. Euw! But the real reason I felt utterly betrayed by Alcott was because my own limited experience laid a palimpsest over the story, distorting Alcott's meaning. Well, but even if I hadn't been twitted by the well-meaning adults in my life to stop writing silly fairy tales and concentrate on Real Life if I must scribble stories, I could not have taken her meaning, as my lack of life experience was exactly what she was talking about in those scenes.I read the book again at another period of my life when I probably shouldn't have, as the sorrowful parts overshadowed the rest.Then I recently reread it, and hey, it was a completely different book from the one I'd read as a kid. Funny, that, how much a text changes over the decades. To me, that is the sign of a great book.The first thing I noticed was the humorous skill of the narrator, who sometimes, in true nineteenth century fashion, comes right out and talks to the reader, then vanishes again, and lets the characters talk and think for themselves. I saw this time how skillfully Alcott set up Amy's and Laurie's romance. How splendidly Alcott painted Laurie's and Jo's friendship, and her courage in maintaining that hey, a man and a woman really can be good buddies. Yeah, Laurie goes through some heart-pangs, but he gets over it, and finally gets some emotional growth while being thwarted for the first time in a life of getting pretty much what he wanted all the time. There were occasional falters that showed the author's hand. Like I found it hard to believe that Laurie, as a teenage boy, would moralize quite so much over Meg prinking at her first party. I could totally see him being uncomfortable, but that's a small thing.As a kid I'd been bored stiff by Amy's and Laurie's courtship, but this time, I loved the images of Europe, and appreciated how skillfully Alcott had brought the two through the years to their shared delights. I found their courtship one of the strengths of the book. And then there was Professor Bhaer. The scene where he rejoices in Jo's giving up her writing after her humiliation over his opinion of trashy stories that I took as such a betrayal as a teen read utterly differently to me now. What he resented was Jo pandering to the modern taste for sex, violence, and melodrama, especially when she knew so little about sex and violence. Jo was perpetrating cliches, empty calories, because it was easy money, and he thought she could do better. I had to laugh when I recollected that not so long ago I critiqued a teenage-written manuscript, suggesting that that writing about forty-year-old married people might wait until more was known about what marriage actually meant. What I had taken as a tween (because sex went right over my head) was that Professor Bhaer was anti-fantasy. Wrongo, but I didn't have the life experience to see where he was going about lack of life experience.As for his being forty, that seems to have been a nineteenth century tic. Hello Mr. Knightley! And not just in fiction--just a couple days ago I was reading Horatio Nelson's dispatches. In winter of 1800 he is smirking about Sir John Acton, well into his sixties, marrying his thirteen year old niece. Smirking, not exclaiming in horror and disgust, the way we would now.In short, Jo and the Professor's romance took on all the charm that had completely passed me by.Meanwhile there were all the old scenes I'd remembered so well, still funny, and poignant, and beautiful. Alcott does get preachy, but she's aware of it; at one point, after encouraging young people not to make fun of spinsters, she gets on with the story after wondering if her audience has fallen asleep during her little homily. These homilies all point toward love as well as acceptance, faith as well as resignation. Caring for one's fellow-being, whether it be a poor person, as the dying Beth made little gifts for poverty-stricken children and dropped them out of the window just to see smiling faces. There is so much beauty in this book, and so much appreciation of beauty, as well as illustration of many shades of love.It was also interesting to get visual overlays, for last autumn I'd visited Orchard House, where May (Amy) had drawn all over the walls in her room and a couple of other rooms, carefully preserved, where Jo's room was full of books, overlooking the garden; between two tall windows was the writing desk her father had made for her. Beth's piano. You could feel wisps of the love the family had for one another, which Alcott had put into the book, along with her personal struggles to be a better person; she gave her alter ego, Jo, a happier ending than she actually managed to get. (And though she didn't know it at the time, a happier ending for her artist sister May, as well.)I won't wait so long for my next reread.

The Fellowship of the Ring

by

4.31 rating

Comment 1: Authors who inspire a movement are usually misunderstood, especially by those they have inspired, and Tolkien is no exception, but one of the biggest misconceptions about Tolkien is the idea that he is somehow an 'innovator of fantasy'. He did add a number of techniques to the repertoire of epic fantasy writers, and these have been dutifully followed by his many imitators, but for the most part, these techniques are little more than bad habits.Many have called Tolkien by such epithets as 'The Father of Fantasy', but anyone who makes this claim simply does not know of the depth and history of the fantasy genre. For those who are familiar with the great and influential fantastical authors, from Ovid and Ariosto to Eddison and Dunsany to R.E. Howard and Fritz Leiber, it is clear that, long before Tolkien, fantasy was already a complex, well-established, and even a respected literary genre.Eddison's work contains an invented world, a carefully-constructed (and well-researched) archaic language, a powerful and unearthly queen, and a central character who is conflicted and lost between the forces of nobility and darkness. Poul Anderson's The Broken Sword, which came out the same year as The Fellowship of the Ring, has distant, haughty elves, deep-delving dwarves, a broken sword which must be reforged, an epic war between the armies of light and darkness, another central character trapped between those extremes, and an interweaving of Christian and Pagan worldviews.So, if these aspects are not unique to Tolkien, then what does set him apart? Though Dunsany, Eddison, and Anderson all present worlds where light and dark come into conflict, they present these conflicts with a subtle and often ironic touch, recognizing that morality is a dangerous thing to present in absolutes. Tolkien (or C.S. Lewis), on the other hand, has no problem in depicting evil as evil, good as good, and the only place they meet is in the temptation of an honest heart, as in Gollum's case--and even then, he is not like Eddison's Lord Gro or Anderson's Scafloc, characters who live under an alternative view of the world, but instead fluctuates between the highs and lows of Tolkien's dualistic morality.It is a dangerous message to make evil an external, irrational thing, to define it as 'the unknown that opposes us', because it invites the reader to overlay their own morality upon the world, which is precisely what most modern fantasy authors tend to do, following Tolkien's example. Whether it's Goodkind's Libertarianism or John Norman's sex slave fetish, its very easy to simply create a magical allegory to make one side 'right' and the other side 'wrong', and you never have to develop a dramatic narrative that actually explores the soundness of those ideas. Make the good guys dress in bright robes or silvery maile and the bad guys in black, spiky armor, and a lot of people will never notice that all the 'good guys' are White, upper class men, while all the 'bad guys' are 'brutish foreigners', and that both sides are killing each other and trying to rule their little corner of the world.In Tolkien's case, his moral view was a very specific evocation of the ideal of 'Merrie England', which is an attempt by certain stodgy old Tories (like Tolkien) to rewrite history so that the nobility were all good and righteous leaders, the farmers were all happy in their 'proper place' (working a simple patch of dirt), while both industrialized cultures and the 'primitives' who resided to the South and East were 'the enemy' bent on despoiling the 'natural beauty of England' (despite the fact that the isles had been flattened, deforested, and partitioned a thousand years before).Though Tom Bombadil remains as a strangely incoherent reminder of the moral and social complexity of the fantasy tradition upon which Tolkien draws, he did his best to scrub the rest clean, spending years of his life trying to fit Catholic philosophy more wholly into his Pagan adventure realm. But then, that's often how we think of Tolkien: bent over his desk, spending long hours researching, note-taking, compiling, and playing with language. Even those who admit that Tolkien demonstrates certain racist, sexist, and classicist leanings (as, indeed, do many great authors) still praise the complexity of his 'world building'.And any student of the great Epics, like the Norse Eddas, the Bible, or the Shahnameh can see what Tolkien is trying to achieve with his worldbuilding: those books presented grand stories, but were also about depicting a vast world of philosophy, history, myth, geography, morality and culture. They were encyclopedic texts, intended to instruct their people on everything important in life, and they are extraordinarily valuable to students of anthropology and history, because even the smallest detail can reveal something about the world which the book describes.So, Tolkien fills his books with troop movements, dull songs, lines of lineage, and references to his own made-up history, mythology, and language. He has numerous briefly-mentioned side characters and events because organic texts like the epics, which were formed slowly, over time and compiled from many sources often contained such digressions. He creates characters who have similar names--which is normally a stupid thing to do, as an author, because it is so confusing--but he’s trying to represent a hereditary tradition of prefixes and suffixes and shared names, which many great families of history had. So Tolkien certainly had a purpose in what he did, but was it a purpose that served the story he was trying to tell?Simply copying the form of reality is not what makes good art. Art is meaningful--it is directed. It is not just a list of details--everything within is carefully chosen by the author to make up a good story. The addition of detail is not the same as adding depth, especially since Tolkien’s world is not based on some outside system--it is whatever he says it is. It’s all arbitrary, which is why the only thing that grants a character, scene, or detail purpose is the meaning behind it. Without that meaning, then what Tolkien is doing is just a very elaborate thought exercise. Now, it’s certainly true that many people have been fascinated with studying it, but that’s equally true of many thought exercises, such as the rules and background of the Pokemon card game, or crossword puzzles.Ostensibly, Scrabble supposedly is a game for people who love words--and yet, top Scrabble players sit an memorize lists of words whose meaning they will never learn. Likewise, many literary fandom games become little more than word searches: find this reference, connect that name to this character--but which have no meaning or purpose outside of that. The point of literary criticism is always to lead us back to human thought and ideas, to looking at how we think and express ourselves. If a detail in a work cannot lead us back to ourselves, then it is no more than an arbitrary piece of chaff.The popularity of Tolkien’s work made it acceptable for other authors to do the same thing, to the point that whenever I hear a book lauded for the ‘depth of its world building’, I expect to find a mess of obsessive detailing, of piling on so many inconsequential facts and figures that the characters and stories get buried under the scree, as if the author secretly hopes that by spending most of the chapter describing the hero’s cuirass, we'll forget that he’s a bland archetype who only succeeds through happy coincidence and deus ex machina against an enemy with no internal structure or motivation.When Quiller-Couch said authors should ‘murder their darlings’, this is what he meant: just because you have hobbies and opinions does not mean you should fill your novel with them. Anything which does not materially contribute to the story, characters, and artistry of a work can safely be left out. Tolkien's embarrassment of detail also produced a huge inflation in the acceptable length of fantasy books, leading to the meandering, unending series that fill bookstore shelves today.Now, there are several notable critics who have lamented the unfortunate effect that Tolkien’s work has had on the genre, such as in Moorcock’s Epic Pooh and Mieville’s diatribe about every modern fantasy author being forced to come to terms with the old don's influence. I agree with their deconstructions, but for me, Tolkien isn’t some special author, some ‘fantasy granddad’ looming over all. He’s just a bump in the road, one author amongst many in a genre that stretches back thousands of years into our very ideas of myth and identity, and not one of the more interesting onesHis ideas weren’t unique, and while his approach may have been unusual, it was only because he spent a lifetime trying obsessively to make something artificial seem more natural, despite the fact that the point of fantasy (and fiction in general) is to explore the artificial, the human side of the equation, to look at the world through the biased lens of our eye and to represent some odd facet of the human condition. Unfortunately, Tolkien’s characters, structure, and morality are all too flat to suggest much, no matter how many faux-organic details he surrounds them with.My Fantasy Book Suggestions

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

by

4.4 rating

Comment 1: It's Always Great, Coming back Home...There is a reason us, the Fans, feel like we're connected, no matter where we from, different culture, ethics...ages..we're all like graduated from there....Hogwarts..we're even been like in the same class..We're classmates, no matter which edition we read....Cause Harry Potter is not just a story..it's a Life..One of the most important novels in the modern history, Sorry, it's The Most Important ONE.This Review also for those who hate the series !نفس المقالة بالعربيةWithout it,most of the Book stores and publishers may have the same fate of the Video stores Blockbuster LLC, which despite being super popular in the 90s, closed all the stores by 2013 ,shutting down forever.Yes, without this novel, and with the rapid change in technology, the ease of making e-books and reading it in PCs, Smartphones,Tablets ,etc, the publishing and trade of new paper books may decrease rapidly. It'd be limited for religious or some educating books, classic and small novels., even these kinds of books goes just electronic…. and the books be just like an old Video Tape.A Dystopia ,right? very gloomy idea to the world without This novel, The One.Well, in the case you think I'm exaggerate..Let's haveA Brief !!! History of Literature in the 90s-----------------------------------------------------Well, let’s back to the early 90s , where TV is in every house,even in every room ,Video sets are there too, rental video stores everywhere and satellite receivers and cable channels growing fast, with many channels for kids and teenagers making them attached more and more into screens, not to mention Video Games, Game boy and Nintendo… Those from this new generation who read are “weirdos" or "nerds” to the rest of their peers.And for those “few who read” book stores mostly got for them just comics and graphic novels, which most of them created early this century.The classic novels they read just for schools and education, otherwise they merely know the movies that based on.The new novels that make a best seller are the ones which made ,or will be made, into movies for Julia Roberts, Tom Cruse or any of the 90s Hollywood celebrity , or the ones by Stephen King because ,of course, will be made into movies too.Even these novels didn't live up the selling numbers of Tolkien, Charles Dickens, Agatha Christie -what’s with the British authors and selling numbers :)?- also in Russia no more Dostoevsky and Tolstoy , no more Hugo in France.Also in Egypt no more like Naguib Mahfouz and the great authors of the 50s to 70s...No new big hit for novels, most of the selling books are those of Speculation about strange and mysterious things in the world or in religion,Dreams explications , cocking books or just celebrities rumors.While in US and UK it selling books mostly the self help books, or those which teach how to make Computers programs or even web sites -this brand new huge technology leap back then.No new novels to attract the new generation of kids and teenagers, just some few successful highlights like R.L.Stine’s Goosepumbs in 1992 which make a very good success, and translated in many countries including Egypt.And in Egypt there’s also a very successful project made by The Modern Arabic Institution for Publishing & Distribution which made “Pocket Novels” for youth , by brilliant Egyptian writers,who presented excellent variety of novels of many genres, Sci-Fi, Action Thriller, comics, Romance .etc.There’s also “Reading for All”,project by the first lady “Susan Mubarak” which printed a huge verity of important books and novels from all over the world in very cheap prices.But all these effort didn't attract “more and more” of new youth readers ,it just made more and more books for those few who already reads.The vast numbers of those who don’t just read will increase if there isn't a big new attractive reading experience to get them into reading, specially with the more channels, more movies.But the BIGGEST Obstacle for them to read came out in 1994and became a real phenomenon by 1995...it’s the Playstation , the giant Japanese gaming leap..Football, Crash , Pepsi man, and the comics heroes also have their games , so why reading Superman , Batman’s comics when you can play them....**************************************************************************************************So by 1996,with this growing leap in Gaming, as also the Computer 3D games getting even much improves, Books get replaced bit by bit by a gaming controls.So do you think it’s wise for publishers to publish a book for new writer?Of course not, it may even cover it’s publishing cost.So it was very normal when in this year, 1996, when Joanne, a 31 years old lady from England , handed the manuscript for her first novel to 12 publishing houses, all of them rejected it...A manuscript of over 200 pages of a novel, that she had hard times in her personal and professional life while writing it, and for children??? Seriously is there still any who still read? it’s 1996, the era of Playstation and Video Games.But then, the Modest “Bloomsbury“ agreed to publish it ,with 2 advises for her, first that she’d get a day job, since it’s a little chance of making money in children's books. - later she received a grant from the Scottish Arts Council to help her continuing writing.-But the significant advice was to change her pen name cause young boys might not want to read a book written by a woman..so with her name and her grandmother’s "Kathleen" come the 2 initial of her pen name…J . k . Rowling And in 26th June 1997 ,with 1,000 copies, 500 of which were distributed to libraries..come out in UK, to our world The Greatest Harry Potter and the Philosopher's StoneAnd Baam , everything happened so fast..Before the end of this year the novel awarded many important litural awards in the UK, an American important publisher , Scholastic , won the rights to publish the novel in US, with a huge check Rowling would never dreams of.Just with small change, The title changes from Philosopher's Stone to the Sorcerer's Stone , as the American publisher saw that Philosopher's may not be that attractive to young readers..And Thanks to Harry Potter ,now Every young readers know much more about Philosopher's Stone from their other reads.In 1998 Book 2 released in UK ,1999 in US, winning more literary prizes. Becoming a Top Selling books in UK, US and many other countries which start to publish the translation for the first book. And on 8 July 1999, The First Breaking Record made when Book 3 sold 68.000 copies in just three days after its release in the United Kingdom..and more copies when it released late 1999 in US..With the fast growing popularity of Harry Potter among readers , more records had been broken both in UK and US.... The 3 books takeover the top spot in the charts of best selling books for weeks and months, and it was still the hardcover editions.This conquer made some literary magazines and newspapers separate the Harry Potter books selling records from the rest of the top selling books, splitting its lists into children Books and adult books sections under pressure from other publishers who were eager to see their books given higher ranking. And then it was year 2000 , where everything is about to change .... forever..The Playstation 2 is out there, and even higher leap in Computer Games..But even with this much of temptations, thousands of children, teens and parents gathered in the midnight of 8 July 2000 in UK and US at the same day in front of stores, not electronic stores or Apple stores -as theses days- , it was Bookstores, for may be the first time in the Book Stores History , to buy a copy of ... Harry Potter and the Goblet of FireAnd They didn't mind to find out that the book is over 700 page, it was even for their pleasure, more than double the size of any of the first 3 novels..double the thriller, double the fun..Over 3 million copies sold at that day only in the US , a new world record...a totally unexpected one.huge story, bigger plot , mysterious and very well written. more literate prizes for Rowling... more translated editions to more than 40 language. And huge budget for the upcoming first movie of the series, which beautifully visualize the magic of the novel by the faithful producers and the director...and it also made some records , but that's not our subject now. ************************************************************************************By the announcement of pushing the publishing date of book 5 to mid 2003 , and even by 2 movies out so far, the hunger for reading Harry Potter kept on.. Also , as more readers start to increase into this generation, Publishers and book stores start to promote for more books for those readers who are hungry for more..Older fantasy books , like Lord of the Rings -which was a super successful movie by then too- Narnia , Golden Compass and many other novels which finally getting more reprinted editions...and so Book stores to get more and more readers.More countries welcomed the Harry Potter phenomenon.. The English edition AND the local translated ones ,both been sold everywhere worldwide. Even in Egypt English edition sold at many books stores and,hopefully some new book stores specialized in English novels start to open in Cairo and Alexandria by 2002-2003..and finally in summer 2002, Nahdet Masr for publishing and distribution got the rights and published the Arabic edition, although it cut some of the lines for the length issues, fearing it may won't attract more readers , but the edition still hold the magic of it..making a very good sales.****************The good news is,the literary movement didn't stop there, more new books come out for the increasing demand from the readers..Life of Pi , the 2002 man Booker winner make very good sales numbers by.And in April 2003 Dan Brown (previously published 3 novels, making good sales) released a novel that made huge fuss around and making a new sales records , The Da Vinci Code.. The funny thing that there's a reference in this novel that Harry Potter is the second most selling book in history after the Bible..., a speculation that happens to be true in less than 5 years after that. A month later,May 2003, Khaled Hosseini released his first novel -do you think publishers would agree if there's no Harry Potter before? ,He'd may be rejected by 12 publishers like you know who :)- , The Kate Runner which also made a very good records too.And that's didn't affect the main reason for this new 'literal renaissance'.All that didn't affect the Records Breaker to break records one month later..On 20 June 2003 book 5 'Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix' comes out , ten thousands of all ages conquer the book stores in UK, US and other countries too to get the one they been waiting for at least 2 years... shipping agents like FedEx made the delivery to many countries to get the book at the same time.A New world Record ,5 millions copy at the first day only..For the first time in France a non french language book placed in no.1 of the bestselling book....Some kids got a headache called 'Harry Potter Headache' as they read the whole 850 pages of the book five, the biggest so far, at the same day without resting.And in Egypt, in September the same year, the Arabic edition of book three comes out with unexpected sales records, first edition run out of the stores by the first week only although it's nearly the beginning of the School year, and the movie of this 3rd book still filming. ِAnd the price of the book get higher 20% in 2 days and still with increasing demand..More English books and novels sold in Egypt too, along with the Arabic ones, publishing more books for new Egyptian writers along with more of the famous ones , Alaa El Aswany's first novel 'Yaqubean's Building' makes very good selling numbers.. 2004 the Arabic edition of Book Four makes a price war between book stores and magazines stands.January 2005 , an abridged translated edition of Book Five make many readers angry in Egypt , specially that many already read the English edition before, so the publisher release an unabridged one by May.And in the same year's summer, on 21 July, A higher record that breaks all the previously ones 6.9 million copy of book 6 sold in US in its first day... A huge book, may didn't fans' expectations of being full of action , but it get a twist that blow minds about one of the most interesting characters, Professor Snape.That made many fans and even big authors like Stephen King and Salman Rushdie talk about for months..****************The pre-final book followed by a massive variety of new novels, new authors....Twilight series, Percy Jackson series, and more new novels, more books sales not only in US, UK but worldwide...But still Potter is the Records Big Breaker... At the midnight before 21 June 2007, everywhere around the globe the scene of thousands of people lining in front of book stores was repeated...even bigger than any time before.. A huge record for pre-orders online reach to one million copies by Amazon, and total sales of 11 millions copies in UK and US in the first day only.The book sold at the same day almost in every country,even in Israel which made a big religious fuss about the book stores being open in their holy Saturday, But it's Harry Potter after all, the world's most unusual, unexpected phenomenon and sales records breaker.And that's not bad, it was the Miracle of bringing back readers to book stores, thousands of topics went online asking 'what to read next'....Indeed, although there's the ebooks, ereaders , etc , still there's thousands of new books and novels published and sold every year , in every where in the world.The gaming devices is increasing yes, not as expected though by the 90s and early 2000s "remember Nokia N-Gage"- but so do the reading devices which first come out by Sony in 2004,make big step by Amazon's Kindle in 2007...the ebook applications on every device.New books and series come after that , and still on, making super sales, attracting more readers... more writers come with more books and novels, some are just a rip off others and some are really original and brilliant. in UK, US , Egypt ..ever where all over the globe..No matter a Playstation 4 is out, or new xbox, the books still there...with its most beloved magic..The magic of books is back and , I believe, to stay..Don't you see with me that the magic of Harry Potter is one of the main factors of this magic? “This boy will be famous. There won’t be a child in our world who doesn’t know his name” That's what Rowling wrote at the very early pages of her first book..The one that rejected by 12 Publishing Houses in 1996...Well, what about now?God, Talked too much in the "Brief" introduction , didn't I?Well, that's it for this review... I guess some still think it's just the Propaganda that made that all....Well I'll try to prove them worng by the upcoming next 6 reviews at the other 6 Books of the series..Links will be here as soon as it'd done .. وللمقالات العربية ايضا Now I'll be back to go around Hogwarts.....For the Zillionth time I guess..Hope to see you there too, come on and try first year :)From HogwartsMohammed ArabeyRe-reading the new edition -Guess I'm addicted to new editions BUT this one really rocks.."Bloomsbury-2014"from 12 Sep. 2014till 23 Sep. 2014

Fahrenheit 451

by

3.95 rating

Comment 1: It was a pleasure to burn.It was a special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed. With the brass nozzle in his fists, with this great python spitting its venomous kerosene upon the world, the blood pounded in his head, and his hands were the hands of some amazing conductor playing all the symphonies of blazing and burning to bring down the tatters and charcoal ruins of historyThus begins Fahrenheit 451, through this act of destruction which guides the life of fireman Guy Montag, in a future where the firemen profession is not about containing fire anymore. Instead, they are responsible for retaining knowledge from being spread through society. We are shown a degenerate society on which the mere fact of owning a book might lead directly to jail, or to your grave. The drastic change may be understood once we accept the new society presented by Bradbury: an industrialized cacophony driven by technology obsession; everyday life has been simplified to such an astounding degree that the majority of the population has completely lost their ability to judge situations critically. In this new world, human beings are encouraged to act without thinking too much, to set aside any emotion or judgment which might prove to require too much emotion or rational effort; the new way of life encourages people to be happy, even if they have to be totally self-indulgent to achieve that. School is shortened, discipline relaxed, philosophies, histories, languages dropped, English and spelling gradually neglected, finally almost completely ignored. Life is immediate, the job counts, pleasure lies all about after work. Why learn anything save pressing buttons, pulling switches, fitting nuts and bolts?Moreover, against all hopes, such corruption of a healthy way of thinking didn’t come from some law imposed by social and political authorities; it comes from natural technological progress, as explained further on the book. The only thing the Estate did was give a little push to the masses of population who were already losing their moral values, soaked in so much entertainment options and technological knick-knackery. At this point, of course, I was already finding myself wondering about the infinite possibilities that might lead to this situation actually happen to our contemporary society, given that we reached the point where smartphones are closer our heart than friends and family. Oh well, that might as well be my dreamy mind talking too loud, though. Anyway, as the society gets more and more crammed into the same pattern of behavior and personality, books start to be considered a dangerous form of entertainment/information, given that they make people think differently from the rest of the herd. We must all be alike. Not everyone born free and equal, as the Constitution says, but everyone made equal. Each man the image of every other; then all are happy, for there are no mountains to make them cower, to judge themselves against. Fortunately, Montag finds one of the few who are different from the herd. His neighbor, a young and weird girl gets closer to him and starts, little by little, intriguing his mind by asking him questions he has never asked himself before. Consequently, he starts to wonder about the meaning of life and, eventually, he realizes how completely alienated he has been during all his life. Such revelation awakens dormant emotions, like fear and insecurity; at the same time, however, Montag lets reason triumph over his instincts, which gives him a sense of free intellectual reign over his own decisions as he has never possessed before.Over fifty years after the first edition, Fahrenheit 451 remains scarily relevant, presenting an intriguing question: is it necessary that we destroy ourselves to be able to change our path as a race? Do we possess the ability and intelligence necessary to atone for our mistakes? If not, do we have to perish so others can take control of our future? If on one hand the author allows a glimpse of hope in this dystopia, on the other, the price to pay for this fragile hypothesis has been quite high. Closer to the end the author compares human kind to the phoenix, being we able to reemerge after a downfall; according to Bradbury, we have an advantage over the phoenix, even: we can learn from our mistakes to not commit them again, so, hopefully, progress for the sake of progress won’t be further encouraged.In a few pages, with a fluid and simple prose, overdone, maybe, for the overuse of metaphors, the author has created a book which message will echo through generations, in an eternal and powerful warning about the dangers of being ignorant, thus encouraging the reader to roam the path of knowledge: - That's the wonderful thing about man; he never gets so discouraged or disgusted that he gives up doing it all over again, because he knows very well it is important and worth the doing. Needless to say, I loved this book, it kept me guessing, at the same time opening my mind to the possible future we may yet face. In addition, it made my theoretical driving lessons way more bearable. Interesting quotes that I didn't include in the review: Stuff your eyes with wonder, he said, live as if you'd drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It's more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories. Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you're there.It doesn't matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that's like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime. We need not to be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real? If you hide your ignorance, no one will hit you and you'll never learn. The Last Passage(view spoiler)[ Montag began walking and after a moment found that the others had fallen in behind him, going north. He was surprised, and moved aside to let Granger pass, but Granger looked at him and nodded him on. Montag went ahead. He looked at the river and the sky and the rusting track going back down to where the farms lay, where the barns stood full of hay, where a lot of people had walked by in the night on their way from the city. Later, in a month or six months, and certainly not more than a year, he would walk along here again, alone, and keep right on going until he caught up with the people.But now there was a long morning's walk until noon, and if the men were silent it was because there was everything to think about and much to remember. Perhaps later in the morning, when the sun was up and had warmed them, they would begin to talk, or just say the things they remembered, to be sure they were there, to be absolutely certain that things were safe in them.Montag felt the slow stir of words, the slow simmer. And when it came to his turn, what could he say, what could he offer on a day like this, to make the trip a little easier? To everything there is a season. Yes. A time to break down, and a time to build up. Yes. A time to keep silence and a time to speak. Yes, all that. But what else. What else? Something, something...And on either side of the river was there a tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month; And the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.Yes, thought Montag, that's the one I'll save for noon. For noon... When we reach the city. (hide spoiler)]

The Golden Compass

by

3.9 rating

Comment 1: This is a largely ironic novel. I say ironic due to the way in which in aiming to parody another work of fiction, it falls victim to the same problems it accuses the other work of. By parody I mean the claim, verified in some sources by Philip Pullman, that due to the author's dislike of The Chronicles of Narnia, he aimed to write a more atheistically leaning version of those children's books. Which in itself is an acknowledgement that The Chronicles of Narnia are true classics of children's fiction, merely that Pullman refused to accept the Christian aspects within them.It was this fact that kept me from reading this novel for several years. I had intended to get around to it regardless, for I hold the belief that no book can influence you beyond what you yourself choose to believe and take from that book. It may not be beneficial to you if you were to read a particularly sadistic genre all the time, but it would not turn you into a sadist by the pure process of osmosis. The basic plot can be summed up as such: it follows a girl by the name of Lyra, who at the beginning of the novel hides in a wardrobe. Hiding in the wardrobe leads to her discovering a new mystery of science and adventure. This mystery leads her on a journey towards the Northern Lights, where some dark craft is occurring in regards to children. Of course it helps that Lyra has the aid of bears and witches along her journey.So, Pullman's novel is an ironic one. Ironic in that, despite his dislike of C.S. Lewis' work, which he claimed was full of such ideas as: "Death is better than life; boys are better than girls; light-coloured people are better than dark-coloured people; and so on. There is no shortage of such nauseating drivel in Narnia, if you can face it."*You see, Pullman didn't just dislike the fictional land of Narnia. He hated it. But that is where the humorous irony comes in. He work, in trying to form a direct criticism and opponent of Narnia, takes on the same type of patronising and racist tone. Further, his work becomes the very kind of reactionary sneering he spies in Lewis' work. By which is meant that Pullman almost has to point out the ways in which his work is better at everything, than C.S. Lewis. Which is a shame, because aside from his dogmatic way of writing (I'll explain what I mean by that later) Pullman's novel has some half-decent fantasy ideas. Yet they are ideas coloured by the sense that he is trying to better a novel that remains a classic of previous generations. When I state that Pullman is patronising, I mean that he feels the need to spell everything out to his reader. One could argue that Lewis does the same, no doubt, yet Lewis has the tone of a gentle guiding storyteller, which helps pull the reader into the world and provides fascinating fatherly asides. Pullman does none of this, but rather directs his reader to what they should be looking at and for. As I've mentioned elsewhere, this is a failure of children's fiction authors in that they believe children incapable of concluding ideas and elements for themselves. Which is no wonder when authors feel the need to hide their ideologies in a way children cannot see them. Pullman has received plenty of criticism in regards to his representation of the church. It is clear that his one major representation of the church stems from Catholicism, which he represents as a giant company that quashes scientific progress and heresy without thought - censoring any unwanted ideas. This is an ignorant and dangerous view, ignoring centuries of theological history and change. Certainly Pullman is writing in a fictional world with different rules, but to represent the church globally in such a way is ignorant and self-serving. As for racism, well there are plenty of stereotypical references to the 'gyptians' - or Egyptians.The positives of the novel are found in the references to the idea of every individual in this world having a physical representation of their soul in animal form. This representation, called a daemon, is one of the more unique ideas I have seen in children's fiction. The inclusion of a moral compass as a physical idea in the alethiometer is likewise endearing. But aside from that there is less of the fantastic about this novel and more a sense of a set of copied ideas and beliefs. Hardly revolutionary fantasy.The novel is not only a response to The Chronicles of Narnia but also to Philip Pullman's favourite work of literature - Paradise Lost. In an introduction to this other work he affirmed that he believes that in the poem Satan is the hero. This has become a popular view, particularly for those who do not believe Christian theology in the slightest. My argument is that Satan is the central character, but not the hero, that Milton focuses on him in order to explore the tragedy of the rebellion against God and against his angelic nature. Yet, Pullman finds that it serves his interests to take elements of the poem and expand upon them for his own purposes (including the title of the series). And as any reader knows, taking any word or phrase out of context can prove deadly. Interestingly many of Pullman's character names are taken from mythology about angels and demons - or from Greek mythology - further symbolising how he attempts to write about Paradise Lost.If one still wants to argue that there is no criticism of religion within this novel, one only needs to note that the very end of the novel ends with a clear criticism. In many ways Pullman through his characters tries his own hand at heresy, aiming to question whether original sin or the results of original sin is in fact good. Yet, I would argue that this indeed shows the reader that Pullman merely wants to be able to stand and state that living as hedonistically or self-servingly as one wants should be seen as a good thing.There is the question whether this novel should even be labelled as children's fiction. No doubt the same objection is raised in regards to the Chronicles of Narnia which I admit a bias towards favouring. However, where Lewis is rather obvious and in the reader's face about what elements of religion and myth he includes (talk to most children aged seven to 12 who have read the books and they can generally pick out the references) Pullman is not. Pullman hides his agenda and makes it subtle, only apparent when you are looking for it. Should we allow children to read such hidden ideas without being able to choose whether they are truthful? This is why I say that Pullman is a dogmatic writer - because he doesn't draw out his ideology and present an argument as to why it might be correct. No, he presents it as a factual representation. Perhaps what is required is an adult on hand to explain, as with Narnia, that both books represent two sides of religious debate as it were. All in all, the story is interesting enough to keep one reading. But sadly, if we are to compare it as the antithesis of Narnia it fails as a fantasy work. It lacks the charm and magic of the other novel, replacing them with a sense of dull cynicism. Where it is clear that Lewis views the world with a greater sense of childish wonder, a view that is more appealing (though he held, regardless, racist sensibilities for our times, it is necessary to understand the time in which he was formed as an individual to understand that he was more liberal than some for his time). Take the authors and all intentions for these novels out of the way, however, and you still have two fine novels. Yet Northern Lights unfortunately feels like a re-writing of older and better texts and therefore falls flat in comparison. *The article with this is here

Winnie-the-Pooh

by

4.33 rating

Comment 1: Celebrity Death Match versus Heart of Darkness.Dear Christopher Robin,Your father and I miss you but we feel that it would be best if you spent the remainder of the summer at camp, as previously agreed. You quit the boy scouts, band and your newspaper route to spend more time with those... things. Really, my son, you are much too told to play with... stuffed animals. To think, all my friends in the bridge meetings have all-star athlete sons and honor roll daughters to brag about. I have Christopher Robin. You may be a hero in your bedroom, in the night, but I have to make up things about you to boast about. How you saved your friend, E., from getting lost in the woods. Or your friend W. who flew into the tree tops on too many hot air balloons. The tales are getting quite ridiculous. You should make regular old human boy friends (you aren't gay, are you? Your father thinks that maybe...). It is about time. I have put up your toys for sale in a garage sale and a nice man named Kurtz came to purchase them. He gave me a very nice ivory musical instrument set in exchange for them. I bragged for a month of bridge meetings about that coup! Well, we'll see you at the end of the summer. Please, at least try to get a tan. Your legs in those ridiculous little boy shorts are much too pale.Love,MumDear Christopher Robin,I have lost the passage of time at the bottom of this trunk. I don't know where we are going, only that I am scared. Lions and tigers and bears, oh my. Oh dear. Tigger is not himself. He is snarling at me. Winnie is off his pot and it's not honey! I... I don't know how to tell you this... By the time you read this I am not be a let of a pig myself... They ate roo and rabbit. Kurtz is his name. He eats. He smells. He ripped the heads off of monkeys and oh dear, we are not in the 100 acre wood any more. I fear so much that I shall become like Eeyore, who took his own life. Kanga had not a pep talk to pull out of her pouch for him. Wise Old Owl only advises that we must make do with our new great leader. I have not forsaken you. I tremble, and I shake... Oh dear, oh dear. Why must the fate of our world depend on my little shoulders?Help!PigletDear mom and dad,I hope that you have given up on finding me. I was never the golden boy you wanted me to be. Only with my stuffed animal menagerie could I come off as wiser and smarter that I needed me to be. A lot has happened since last year. I ditched the canoes and the wedgies and bug juice for real bugs and canoes and wedgies (you haven't had a wedgie until the humidity lodges the whole elastic band up tight in your ass crack) in the jungle and sweet, sweet revenge. You would have been in awe if you could have heard my summation in the end, the sweet justification for my brutal actions. It is the law of the jungle. Silly old bear, I will kill Kurtz and take his fiancee for myself (No, mom I am not gay). His followers I had killed and stuffed. Now they worship me too.Love,your son.Winner: Winnie the Pooh

The Secret Life of Bees

by

3.98 rating

Comment 1: This is a book that just about every woman (and quite a few men) has read. So it is my turn. As is often the case when I am coming late to a best seller, I really don’t know much about the book other than it is a must read. The first allusion is to bees swarming and death. We have the maternal black woman substituting for the dead white mother caring for the plain young girl with a much to be desired father. The young girl, Lily, has an imagination from the get go. I used to have daydreams in which she was white and married to T. Ray, and became my real mother. Other times I was a Negro orphan she found in a cornfield and adopted. Once in a while I had us living in a foreign country like New York, where she could adopt me and we could both stay our natural color. The Secret Life of Bees is not a complicated book. It just tells you straight out what you need to know to get the message. I hadn’t been out to the hives before, so to start off she gave me a lesson in what she called “bee yard etiquette.” She reminded me that the world was really one big bee yard, and the same rules worked fine in both places: Don’t be afraid, as no life-loving bee wants to sting you. Still, don’t be an idiot; wear long sleeves and long pants. Don’t swat. Don’t even think about swatting. If you feel angry, whistle. Anger agitates, while whistling melts a bee’s temper. Act like you know what you’re doing, even if you don’t. Above all, send the bees love. Every little thing wants to be loved. What is it that people say? This is not rocket science? I read so many books where the message is not clear to me. My reaction to this plain message is with some anxiety. Maybe it is not quite so simple? And, if it is so simple, what is the point of finding simple in a complex world? Must be a trick.The story is set in the South with the background of the civil rights movement in the early 1960s. History was being made and some of it is recorded in The Secret Life of Bees . “I’ll write this all down for you, [Lily] said. “I’ll put it in a story.”I don’t know if that’s what he wanted to ask me, but it’s something everybody wants – for someone to see the hurt done to them and set it down like it matters. Black history and women’s history are woven into the story. The story is enlarged by the inclusion of that history and lore. Lily learns who the Black Madonna is almost immediately upon arriving in Tiburon, but this knowledge only involves her in greater mysteries. The figure of Mary that August Boatwright and her sisters call Our Lady of Chains was originally a masthead, washed up, according to their legend, from an unknown ship near a plantation on the South Carolina coast in the days of slavery. It communicated in secret with the slaves of the plantation, exhorting them to furtive acts of flight and resistance. Amazingly, under its own power it repeatedly escaped the chains the plantation owner used to lock it in the barn. Shrouded in myth, Our Lady of Chains comes to represent, over the course of the novel, the mysteries Kidd portrays as the most powerful of all: those of the human heart. Source: http://www.enotes.com/topics/secret-l... People who regularly read my reviews know that I am not keen on religion most of the time. I’d normally just as soon leave it out of a story unless it’s legitimately the bad guy. Well, this story has some folk religion and I don’t mind it too much. Probably because it is folk rather than anything high church. There is May’s Wailing Wall. There is the black Madonna. There is everything to do with Mary Day and the Daughters of Mary, the traditions of the women. Black folk religion is so down to earth that I just mostly let it slip on by. It is just a feeling and I am not perfect in my spiritual anathema. To tell you the truth, I am probably marking this book down a half star due to the relatively large quantity of folksy religion. The story would be missing something important if you took it out. But don’t expect me to sit in church with a prayer fan too long!There is a fast current just below the gentle surface of this book. I think that this is strangely a book more about the Malcolm X’s than about the Uncle Tom’s. He stared at the water. “Sometimes, Lily, I’m so angry I wanna kill something.” Sometimes I think that if I would have been black, I would not have lived through the 1960s. I would have been too angry and would have been a black revolutionary rather than a white pacifist. This book reminds me of that.My rule is that if a book makes me cry, it gets five stars. And these are tears. (Not running down my cheeks but definitely dampness.) But you remember I am going to take off a half star due to the overdone religion. So, now what? Well, this is definitely a rounding up type of book so the five wins out in the end. My daughter is eleven. I should probably keep this book around so she can read about fourteen year old Lily in a few years.

Clockwork Angel

by

4.33 rating

Comment 1: How in the world could you rate this book lower than 5 stars?? How??? I am simply starstruck and very excited with this series which managed to blow my expectations away!! I am a huge fan of The Mortal Instruments and I considered Cassandra could not write better than that! Ahhh, why did I misjudged her, I have no idea, but frankly, I'm very happy I did, because the after shock was amazingly welcoming.   Comment 2: I wanted to start my year with a book I knew with 100% certainty would not disappoint. How could I be so sure? Simple: a) it's Cassie Clare; b) it has a Herondale male in it. Whatever my other faults, of wich there are many, I am unable to stay away from Herondale men. I don't know what it is about their DNA that makes them irresistible, all the while being insufferable, but there you have it. Comment 3: I may be three years late, but I FINALLY started The Infernal Devices series! I absolutely loved the first three books of The Mortal Instruments (I haven't gotten to the last ones yet…), so I was really excited to see how the Shadowhunter world was back in the 1800s. Comment 4: W tym roku postanowiłem w końcu pokonać serie (aż dwie) Cassandry Clare, które patrzą na mnie z półki każdego dnia i oto kolejna historia ze świata Nocnych Łowców, którą udało mi sie pożreć.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

by

3.87 rating

Comment 1: I truly feel that if Tom Sawyer were ever a real person, there is not one single method of torture that he could endure that would satisfy how much I want to see this person suffer. All I know is that death would be too kind. Tom Sawyer is a bully. He is insufferably mischievous for no good reason, and the only act(s) of heroism he manages to pull off are to fulfill his own selfish motivations. He has absolutely no value to humankind. He is a conviction character with no arc and no personal growth in the most irritating ways. If I met him in real life, I would not hesitate to break his kneecaps with a crowbar.Have I made it clear how much I hate Tom Sawyer?Now that doesn't mean you shouldn't read the book. The book itself is written well, and it's a significant window to our own past or some such shit, and Mark Twain is an American treasure, blah-dee-dee-blah-blah. Or you can just go read Twain's follow-up, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn instead, because it's all that without having to put up with the unbearable bullshit of Tom Sawyer.Just skip the last few chapters of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn when Tom Sawyer shows up again and cocks up everything for his own personal, evil amusement. And no I'm not hiding this for spoilers, because trust me, I just did you a huge favor.-----------------------------------------------------------------------EDIT 6/13/15: Wow, some of you folks are taking this waaay too personal. It's a book review based on a personal opinion. I'm not threatening your children, or stalking your families, or abusing actual people. So relax.Yes, it's maybe a little too scathing (I take back the bit about the crowbar). I honestly did not expect this many people would read this review, or I probably would have toned it down. But I still stand by the basic premise of what I say about the character: Tom's an ass.Now hear me out. I'm not ignoring the idyllic nature of the time period some of you have suggested, nor am I comparing it with any kind of present notions about child behavior. I'm strictly comparing the character of Tom Sawyer to another character whom I adore, one that grew and learned in-story, and touched me and became a big inspiration for me as a threshold for excellent character development. That character is Huck Finn. But, admittedly, not the Huck Finn of this book.So, to those whose cherished book I have unfairly criticized, I'm sorry. I realized my mistake: this review isn't a critique about the character Tom in the The Adventures of Tom Sawyer at all. It's a criticism of Tom at the end of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I have been unfair to the book The Adventures of Tom Sawyer as a standalone work, or the character in the context of this book. Instead I have allowed my anger and disgust of the character's behavior to retroactively bleed back from the end of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Tom's treatment of Jim at the end of the latter book is deplorable, and for me, it tarnished any "fun" the character may have led us through in this first installment. I wonder if those who agree with me aren't judging it from the same perspective as I am. I can't help but look at Tom's treatment of Jim at the end of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn through the lens of our modern world, when racial tension and abuse (yes, I went there) of blacks and minorities is anything but funny. To me, Tom represents every priviledged so-called Christian that has no moral issues with exploiting others for their own benefit. You can't read the end of Huckleberry Finn and honestly think Twain was just having some "wholesome innocent fun" vicariously through Tom. No, my guess is that Twain did that deliberately and consciously, to make us examine our own actions and treatment of individuals as little more than animals. He chose Tom as the vehicle to make that point. Why? Because Tom is a fundamental representation of privileged little shits who do just that! Meanwhile Huck, the everyman, the one we identify with and grow with, stands by and lets it happen. We hope we wouldn't do that, that we'd stand up to our peers, even those we trust and idolize, to defend what we know is morally right. But it's as if Twain is criticizing all of humanity and saying that, no, even the best of us, who do know better, won't. Because laziness, fear, ignorance, or what have you, we stand by and allow idiots like Tom to run over everyone's life. It's not the outcome or the ending we want for that story. But it's the one that's most realistic....either that or Twain was just looking to make a buck and threw in Tom as product placement. Regardless, the end result is less than flattering. So don't blame me for disliking the character; blame the guy who wrote him that way!

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

by

4.58 rating

Comment 1: This review contains spoilers.2011 REVIEW - 2ND READINGI made a promise to myself that I wouldn't read my review from 2007, when the book first came out, until after I'd published this one. I want to see how they compare - what thoughts/reactions etc. had changed, if any, and any additional insights - but it does make me nervous, because I reckon my first review will prove to be much better written - and what if I seem dumber this time around? I find I get a bit muddled from watching the films, too, in that after watching them I can't remember if bits were in the book or the film and vice versa. Oh well. Really must stop over-thinking things! [Scroll down for my first review, from 2007.]The final Harry Potter book always looks too short to me, like, how could everything possibly be wrapped up in a book that's not as long as The Order of the Phoenix, when there's still so much to do?! I felt that the first time, and I felt that again. But once again I admire Rowling's skill in crafting a tremendous story and a powerful ending for what is to me one of the best fantasy series out there. There's a lot going on in this novel, but it's nicely balanced with quieter, slower parts and you really get that last chance to really know Harry, Ron and Hermione. Rowling never lets plot overpower her characters or her story, and she won't be rushed: the pacing is steady and consistent throughout, which only adds to the tension-filled scenes where you start biting your nails.This is a book that makes me cry, and I'll tell you why - in a bit. I wondered how I could share all the things I love about this particular book, and figured listing them was probably the best option. Hedwig dying. I had completely forgotten, and it's so, so sad. I like how they did it for the movie, giving her a role and using her as a visual means of identifying Harry, since in the book it's more complicated. Hermione erasing her existence - removing knowledge and memory of herself from her parents' minds and sending them off to Australia under new identities so that they aren't a target. There is something incredibly tragic about this, though it doesn't get much attention. I can't imagine the kind of strength and resolve it would take to do that, though the realities of the world would probably help give you the resolve. Kreacher becoming an ally. And all for an act of genuine kindness (Harry gives him "Master Regulus'" locket after hearing his story). And what he was made to do for Voldemort. Nothing, not even Kreacher, is black and white, and that's an important lesson to learn. He betrayed Sirius at the end of The Order of the Phoenix, but when you learn more about him, you realise it's not a simple matter at all. Dobby's death. He was such a brave, selfless elf, and as characters, he and Kreacher really brought into sharp relief the whole issue of house elves and their mistreatment. The mortality of the Weasley's. Until this book, they always struck me as one of those solid features who come close to utter tragedy but always manage to avoid it, like with Arthur getting attacked by the snake. Here, though, George loses an ear and, at the end, Fred is killed. Fred's death is one of the saddest things for me. Likewise, Lupin and Tonks' deaths at the final battle - I remember reading that the first time and feeling that sense of utter disbelief. I felt it again here, like someone had surely made a mistake, especially when Harry sees their bodies next to Fred and their described as sleeping. But with a newborn left behind, and the fact that Lupin only recently found the first real happiness he's ever known - to have that cut short, it makes me want to cry just typing this. The deaths of these characters had a much bigger impact on me than the death of Dumbledore - as big a surprise as that was on first reading - at the end of The Half-Blood Prince. In a way, Dumbledore had to go so that Harry could come into his own. But these characters, their deaths are so needless, and they were too young and left too much behind. Snape's love for Lily. I knew there was a good reason why we forgave Snape at the end, but I was glad I couldn't remember exactly what it was. Snape is another complex character, who shows that it's not a simple matter of right or wrong, good or evil. He's not someone to be judged at face value or first impressions, though obviously that's what everyone has been doing all his life. It's not even pity that I felt for him, but empathy at losing the woman he loved and sacrificing everything in memory of her. He never stopped loving her. Timeless love. No wonder Dumbledore trusted him implicitly: he understood the power of such emotions and never dismissed them as insignificant. The truth about Dumbledore's past, and his sister Ariana. So sad. I haven't seen the second half of the movie version yet but I hope they include these details. Harry walking to his impending death, supported by the ghosts of his parents, Sirius and Lupin. I cried when James and Lily and Cedric appeared at the end of The Goblet of Fire, and they had no less power here, bolstering their son and being there so he wasn't alone as he went to Voldemort, knowing he was going to be killed - and not knowing that he would survive it. The dragon kept imprisoned in Gringott's Bank. I felt so bad for the poor tortured beast, and so happy when they freed it. Xenophilius Lovegood. The position he was in, having his daughter taken away and used as a threat against him, to betray his beliefs (i.e., in Harry as the Chosen One). Petunia Dursley, Harry's aunt, is a sad figure in her own right. It becomes clear in this book why she was so anti-magic: she was jealous of her sister Lily's ability. The scene where Lily mentions that Petunia wrote to Dumbledore, asking to be let into Hogwarts, and Petunia's feelings of embarrassment and shame and longing, of feeling excluded - you can't help but feel for the little girl who grew into a resentful woman in denial. There's lots of happy things here too, like Fleur and Bill Weasley's wedding and Ron and Hermione finally getting together, as well as great mini-adventures that all lead up to the final show-down. The plan to get into the Ministry of Magic, and later the Gringott's Bank break-in, for example, were really fun and exciting and scary. And one of my favourite scenes is the Neville Longbottom snake-killing scene - really, I just love all the Neville scenes but that one in particular really stuck in my head all the intervening years since first reading it.And underlying it all is this Hitler-like race and class war that Voldemort is enacting. Muggles and Mud-bloods become demonised and terrorised and everyone has to prove their "purity". The film captured this really well in the set design, especially inside the Ministry.I loved that there was so much I couldn't remember when I started this book - I couldn't remember what the Hallows were, or what was inside the Snitch, or how they found the other Horcruxes. I had forgotten Dobby died until I watched the film a few months ago. It was wonderful to read it almost like it was the first time.And then there's the epilogue - I'll mention it because I remember how much fans railed against it when the book first came out. I'm still not sure why, except maybe it wasn't up to the standards of the rest of the series. I read somewhere that Rowling wrote it at the beginning, which is kinda cool, and shows just how well she planned it all out. The line that I love is this one, where Harry tells his son: "Albus Severus, [...] you were named for two headmasters of Hogwarts. One of them was a Slytherin and he was probably the bravest man I ever knew." [p.607] It gets me every time.2007 REVIEW - 1ST READINGSo, there were huge expectations - and quite a few bets, debates and demands - for this last book, and personally I thought it was a great ending to the series. One of the things that I love about these books, that has always impressed me, is how tightly plotted they are, how detailed. Others have complained about the plotholes in Deathly Hallows, but I didn't see any. Granted, I wasn't looking for them, and I didn't succeed in my intention to re-read the previous books before this one (managed Philosopher's Stone but left it too late for the others) so I had forgotten some details. Deathly Hallows made me laugh, made me cry (seriously, I bawled - and there were no tissues at the cottage so had to mop my face with paper towel...), had me pressing my knuckles to my mouth (the closest I come to biting my nails), and kept me on the edge of my seat. What more could you ask for? Quite a few characters die in this book, but everyone knew there would be some deaths because Rowling said there would be. She's also said, apparently, that the books are about death, though, having read the last book, I understand now that she doesn't mean they're about death, but about death. The whole idea behind The Boy Who Lived was that his mother's sacrifice protected him from the killing curse, and when Harry in turn sacrifices himself, he protects everyone at Hogwarts (where all the characters assemble for the big show-down) from Lord Voldemort. I also liked how the death of Dumbledore (in the previous book) and Snape's betrayal are resolved; I liked that Snape did it all for love of Lily, Harry's mother. It worked, brought out the humanity that has always lurked deep beneath Snape's corrosive veneer. The saddest deaths were of Fred, one of the Weasley twins, and Lupin and Tonks, only weeks after the birth of their baby. Is it any wonder that I cried? And even though there was always the hope that Harry would survive, still the section leading up to his sacrifice was written so convincingly, so non-melodrammatically, that I actually had to put the book down for a minute and do a quick turn about the house to calm myself down a bit. The only bit that looked like a glaring plothole at first was when Neville pulls the sword of Gryffindor out of the Sorting Hat to lop Voldemort's snake's head off with. That confused me - last we saw of the sword, the goblin had taken it and disappeared into the depths of Gringotts with it. Then I remembered: Harry had pulled the sword out of the Sorting Hat in the Chamber of Secrets, too. The last lingering doubt is why the hat was on fire and why exactly Voldemort wanted to non-sort them then and there. Ah well, it works for dramatic effect! Another part of the book which has received a lot of flak: the epilogue. Saccharine, it's been described. I have to agree, and it's the only bit of saccharine in the entire series. Apparently it was written way back in the 90s, but I don't think that excuses it. It was like icing on the cake - sickly sweet, not at all filling or satisfying, hiding the cake beneath which is what you really want to eat, as long as you can have the icing too. So we learn how they paired up and what their kids' names are, that Neville is a Herbology professor and, well, very little else. Noticeably, Harry's conversation with Dumbledore in King's Cross Station shows how much Harry has grown and matured. He's moved through his teenage angst and become reliable, responsible, thoughtful, more patient. By not going after the Deathly Hallows, his first impulse is tempered by a new, cooler head. Aside from the humour, reminiscent of Roald Dahl, and the plotting, the character development of Harry is another reason why the books are so enjoyable, and long-lasting.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

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4.09 rating

Comment 1: Tonight I just finished reading Charlie and the Chocolate factory with my son. This is the first chapter book I've read all the way through with him. And it was a ton of fun. First off, I'll admit that I love the movie. I grew up with it. (I'm talking about the Gene Wilder version, of course.)I'll even admit to liking the movie better than the book. Which is something that doesn't happen very often with me. That said, the book is really, really good. It held my four-year old's attention. It's silly, and it's fun. And it's DARK. For those of you who haven't read the book, let me underline this fact for you. Dahl takes pains to really detail the fact that Charlie and his family aren't just hungry and poor. They're destitute. Charlie sleeps on a mattress on the floor. In the winter they are cold, and they're starving to death. And if you think I'm exaggerating on that last point, I'm not. One of the chapters is titled: The Family Begins to Starve. But you know what? I like this book better because of that. It's not sanitized pablum written by committee to be inoffensive. It's the story of a little boy who is in a fucking awful situation, but he is still good and kind and polite and then something really nice happens to him. That's a trope I can get behind. Its it a good book to read with your kids? Absolutely. That said, allow me to tangent off and share my thoughts as a total bastard:If Willie Wonka actually hired workers and paid them a living wage, maybe Charlie Bucket wouldn't be starving to death in the first place. Follow me here. Wonka is effectively running a company where everyone is paid in scrip. The Oompa Loompas are paid, quite literally, in beans. Beans that I'm guessing he has the Oompa Loompas themselves growing in some huge underground cavern. Let's not even get into the ethical tarpit of the fact that Wonka uproots an entire indigenous culture and enslaves them. Let's just look at this from a raw numbers point of view. Pure economics. The Oompa Loompas work in the factory. They are not paid. They never leave the factory. That means they don't pay rent. They don't buy groceries. They don't go to the movies, or take taxis ,or buy clothes. But *everyone* buys Wonka's chocolate. That means that money goes into the factory, but it doesn't come back out into the town. As a result, the local economy is crap. And it's because of this that Charlie's dad can't get a decent job. What's more, it's because of this that his dad *loses* his shitty job, and his family is starving to death. Willie Wonka isn't a childlike magic maker. He's a billionaire corporate fuckwit. He's the candy equivalent of Monsanto. There's no government oversight there. Osha would never have approved that bullshit boiled sweet boat and chocolate river. No. Dude is untouchable. And don't tell me he isn't. That shit that goes on with the other kids? Nobody even *thinks* of suing him. None of the parents even *hint* at it. He probably owns half the judges in the state, and a handful of senators, too. He's a fucking supervillian. And I would paid serious money to see a story where Batman kicks his ass. *End Rant* In closing, let me share something that Oot said while I was reading him this book: "Dad, Willie Wonka is just a regular human, but he *is* a little bit of a wizard like you."

Eragon

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3.81 rating

Comment 1: A short (and somewhat sarcastic) summary: Main character = Eragon, mysteeeeerious boy-child left with his aunt and uncle by wandering mother, father unknown. Boy finds mysteeeeerious stone. Turns out to be dragon egg. Boy raises dragon and bonds with it strongly. Bad guys come and destroy boy's house and kill his uncle. Boy swears revenge. Boy's secret dragon is discovered by mysteeeerious storyteller who turns out to be master swordsman and random magic user. The hunt for the bad guys begins, and boy searches for his destiny as a legendary Dragon Rider (of course, that must be capitalized). Eragon goes through traditional bouts of training and learning about himself under the stern tutelage of old wise traveling companion. Along the way he gains and loses friends, and rescues a mysteeeerious woman from a horrible dungeon while never straying from his quest to put right all that is wrong in a world oppressively ruled by an evil king.This book has gotten lots of attention since it first came out, partly because the author is so young. He was fifteen when he started the book, and was nineteen when it was published. Age isn't always correlated with mastery, of course, but when I read this book, I could TELL that the writer was either young or an immature writer. Though it seems people think it "got published" somehow because of its great merit, this book was actually self-published by the author's parents (company was Paolini International), and then it was paraded around on a self-funded signing tour the way most self-published people do. An established author happened to run into the family doing a signing while he was on vacation, thought a kid writing a book was interesting, bought a copy and made his stepson read it, and decided to try to get the book a deal when the kid liked it. The people at Knopf re-edited and repackaged and re-released it under that label. I believe that if this book had meandered its way to publishing houses the usual way, it would have been rejected as unpublishable, for reasons I will discuss in depth here.Christopher Paolini himself, in his own words, describes his story thus: "Eragon is an archetypal hero story, filled with exciting action, dangerous villains, and fantastic locations. There are dragons and elves, sword fights and unexpected revelations, and of course, a beautiful maiden who's more than capable of taking care of herself."I would argue that this book is not an "archetypal hero story" so much as an overused and overly traditional Tolkienien "epic," with "epic" in quotes because it lacks exactly that epic nature that made the world of Lord of the Rings so rich. There was absolutely nothing new or "unexpected" in this book (though the author claims there are "revelations"), and if a reader is excited by this book, they are probably reacting to the concepts themselves (e.g., fantasy worlds, dragons, fierce battles) rather than the book's own merit, or perhaps they have never been exposed to the dozens of fantasy and science fiction epics from which this author pulled his influences. My feeling was that this book was nothing special because, if I may be so blunt, "it's been done," and it's been done better. Overall, I just think that this book was written as though it had a template or blueprint for "traditional fantasy novel" and the details and names were simply filled in. I couldn't help feeling the entire time I was reading it that I had read this story before, nothing was much of a surprise, and things that didn't make sense or got in the way of a conflicting original vision were smoothed over with excuses or deliberate muddling of motives. I think that in order to write something so traditional, a writer needs something special, a unique twist or slant, and this just hasn't got it. (In other words, I'm not saying that writing an "archetypal fantasy epic" is BAD; I'm saying that it needs to not be a rehashing of overused themes that have been done to death by classic writers.) The boy and his powerful companion having an intimate relationship? Done, in everything from Anne McCaffrey to freaking Digimon. The hero quest to punish the baddies and bring the good guys back into power? Done, in Lord of the Rings and Star Wars. Lush descriptions of landscapes and surroundings? Done by Tolkien of course, but more as a background to action rather than in stagnant heaps of detail. Mysterious companions to whom there is more than meets the eye? I don't even want to think about all the books and movies that have done that. I can't pick out a single thing that this book has that has never been done before, the characters didn't interest or capture me, the storytelling was riddled with too many attempts to be grand that I was just entirely turned off by it.Some specifics about the bad writing style:Every imaginable permutation of the word "said" is used. If the reader cannot tell how someone is saying something by what they are saying, it is likely that the dialogue has been written sloppily. "'You're not thinking,' admonished Brom." Yes, that is an admonishment without you telling us so. Leave it out. "'Get on with the story,' he said impatiently." Well, if one person is urging another to get on with it, it stands to reason that it's being said impatiently. Running into "'Sorry,' apologized Brom" made me cringe. The fact that Brom said "Sorry" means that he apologized, so use "said." You can deviate from "said" if for some reason HOW the sentence is said is not obvious, such as volume ("he whispered") or intent ("he said sarcastically," if it isn't obvious that that's a sarcastic comment anyway). Leave out the decorations because they're tacky. The speech tags are not the part of the writing that is supposed to be interesting, so don't distract us; believe me when I say that if you do it, nearly any editor will consider it an early warning sign that you are an amateur.Unnecessary description is inserted with maddening frequency. I am not usually a reader of traditional fantasy, and traditional fantasy does tend to be more flowery than the hard stuff, but either way random descriptions should not just be thrown into the mix. Eragon is waking up and stretching. Suddenly we get a description of the items on his night table, including the random information that he likes to look at one of the objects on it frequently. In the meantime, while we are getting this rush of information, Eragon is putting on his shoes. He then does not proceed to touch, pick up, or look at anything on the night table, and none of it is ever mentioned again. Also, people and places just get sudden paragraphs of description. We're fighting an Urgal and all of a sudden . . . drop some description on us. While he's rushing at Eragon with drooling fangs, no less. By all means, describe the fangs, slipping the adjectives in gracefully. But don't give us a run-down of a typical Urgal when we're a lot more interested in whether those fangs are going into Eragon's head.And lastly, too many words, phrases, and concepts seem to be entirely lifted from other well-known works. Word choice seemed as though it was the author's attempt to use all his SAT words; it was verbose and flowery as if on purpose, trying to impress with vocabulary that would have been better used sparingly. The similarity of some people's and places' names to those of Tolkien have not gone unnoticed by seasoned fantasy readers; I have heard several people call this book "Aragorn" without even noticing that they weren't saying it right, not to mention things like Ardwen (compared with Arwen), Isenstar (compared with Isengard), and Isidar (compared with Isildur)--and there are a LOT more. A ridiculous number of phrases seem to be something I've heard before, though I'm not sure where; for example, near the beginning someone is touching a wrapped package repeatedly, "as if to reassure herself that it was still there." I mentioned this to a friend and said, "That's FROM something." He replied, "It's FROM everything!" Far too often, ridiculously overused or clichéd similes and metaphors are used, such as tears being described as "liquid diamonds." It is less like this book was written and more like it was sewn together from the torn apart products of others, like some old quilt on which the stitches are showing. (How's that for an original simile?)There's definitely not enough space in this little box (which has a character limit) for me to go into as much detail as I'd like talking about how bad this book is, so if you really want to read my ranting in all its entirety, you might want to check out my essay about it on my website.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

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3.83 rating

Comment 1: OverviewFirst person tale of Christopher, a fifteen-year-old with Asperger's Syndrome or high-functioning autism, and a talent for maths, who writes a book (this one - sort of - very post modern) about his investigations of the murder of a neighbour's dog. He loves Sherlock Holmes and is amazingly observant of tiny details, but his lack of insight into other people's emotional lives hampers his investigation. Nevertheless, he has to overcome some of his deepest habits and fears, and he also uncovers some unexpected secrets. It is primarily a YA book, but there is more than enough to it to make it a worthwhile adult read as well. Prime Chapters and Structural QuirksThe structure of the book (chapter numbers are all primes; inclusion of maths puzzles and diagrams) and narrative style (attention to detail, excessive logic, avoidance of metaphor) reflect Christopher's mindset and way of viewing life. It is peppered with snippets of maths and explanations of his condition: how it affects him, and what coping strategies he adopts. The effect is plausibly stilted and occasionally breathless, which is reminiscent of people I know who are on the autistic spectrum and tallies with my limited reading about the condition. (Note that neither autism nor Asperger's is mentioned by name in the book, although in my first edition, neurologist Oliver Sacks does mention it in a quote on the front cover.)Honest but Unreliable Narrator?Christopher's condition makes him very literal - something he is aware of. He can analyse a joke, but still not "get" it. Truth is paramount, so he hates situations where he can't tell the truth (e.g. for politeness) and indeed the fact that "everything you tell is a white lie" because you can never give a fully comprehensive answer to anything. He also hates metaphors (even "the word metaphor is a metaphor", meaning "carrying something from one place to another"), but he doesn't mind similes because they are not untrue. Christopher's feelings about metaphors are highly pertinent to a very different book, China Mieville's wonderful "Embassytown" (http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...), which is about how minds shape language and how language shapes minds, and focuses on the relationship between similes, truth and lies.Many novels are about uncovering what is true, but Christopher's quest takes the idea to a deeper level, and even though we know this narrator is almost pathologically truthful, his condition means his observations sometimes miss the real truth of a situation.There is plenty of humour, and it usually arises from Christopher's naive misunderstandings of situations and the conflict between his lack of embarrassment and desire to be unnoticed by unfamiliar people.Logic and TruthChristopher loves maths because it is safe, straightforward and has a definite answer, unlike life. He's also good at explaining some aspects, ending an explanation of calculating primes with "Prime numbers are what is left when you have taken all the patterns away". His apparent deviations from logic are justified with ingenious logic. For example, having favourite and hated colours reduces choice and thus stress, counteracting the effect of his inability to filter or prioritise: he notices (and remembers) every detail of everything, and can rewind it at will, whereas other people's brains are filled with imaginary stuff. He is a little like his hero Sherlock Holmes, who is quoted saying "The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance observes". Similarly, defining a good or bad day on the basis of how many red or yellow cars is no more illogical than an office-bound person's mood being dictated by the weather.All of this means animals are a better bet than humans: "I like dogs. You always know what a dog is thinking - it has four moods. Happy, sad, cross and concentrating. Also, dogs are faithful and they do not tell lies because they cannot talk". People are more of a mystery: when having a conversation, people look at him to understand what he's thinking, but Christopher can't do likewise. For him "it's like being in a room with a one-way mirror in a spy film". Love is even more unfathomable: "Loving someone is helping them when they get into trouble, and looking after them, and telling them the truth, and Father [does lots of things for me]... which means that he loves me".ComparisonsI reread this during a rather stressful journey, including the passages when Christopher is making a stressful journey. It helped me empathise with him - to the extent that it exacerbated my own stress!It's worth comparing this with Iris Murdoch's The Word Child (http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...), whose main character has tacit Asperger's tendencies, and The Housekeeper and the Professor (http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...), which is also about finding number patterns in everyday life, and involves a protagonist whose brain does not work like other people's.

Hush, Hush

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4.01 rating

Comment 1: I was surprised by this book. I have to admit i loved the cover and my curiosity bloomed from seeing it pop up over and over at the bookstore, recommendations on Amazon and other people reading it. Some parts of the story are a little predictable but I honestly didn't mind that so much. I enjoy the mesh of suspense, romance and supernatural. Comment 2: I read this book in one sitting, and so it obviously at least kept me entertained. However, I had too many issues with this book to keep me from rating it any higher. The first of which is the writing seemed choppy. I think the author was attempting to keep us in suspense or guessing, but it didn't have the intended effect. Comment 3: WOW. This book is dark. Very dark. And I love it; the plot, the story setting, the characters, everything. It gave me a whole new experience in the Paranormal/Angel genre. Plus, the actual villain was so unexpected, I can't believe I was fooled to exclude him from my list of suspects.. Comment 4: I read this last year after borrowing the book from the library. I borrowed the other two in the series but does it get any better? I don’t know whether I can be bothered continuing it. I only read it in the first place as my friend kept telling me to...

Looking for Alaska

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4.14 rating

Comment 1: Wow. I must've skipped a bunch of pages or read the Hebrew translation or was having root canal or something because that was one terrible book. All those awards-- WHAT??? Such a clumsy story— every move of the author was heavy-handed and so transparent I felt like I was a fly on John Green's ceiling watching him go "Oh that's good-- oh that's just precious" and fall asleep in his soup again. Miles—I mean "Pudge,"as he is deemed within minutes of his arrival at his School of Great Perhaps— may be looking for Alaska throughout this story but I sure knew her right away. She's the pretty girl who's even prettier because she's a bit damaged and makes you feel like you have a chance with her because she's a flirt. Yes, she's a hopelessly thin character, as are they all (with the exception of The Colonel). Takumi, for example, who is supposed to be one of the Big Four around whom this story revolves, is completely characterized by his unrealistic rap improvs ("My rhymin' is old school, sort of like the ancient Romans/ The Colonel's beats is sad like Arthur Miller's Willy Loman") and basically disappears from the story until required by the plot to re-emerge with More Information. Lara, Pudge's first girlfriend, is so bland she is given a Russian accent complete with long e's for short i's ("I put the stuff een the gel... and then I deed the same thing een Jeff's room") to prevent her from evaporating off the page and into THEEN ARE. In fact, each character is carefully provided with a shtick, often a savant-like "talent" that would in reality win game shows but is meant to be That Thing That Makes Him Special: The Colonel can remember capitals of countries to the point of extreme autism! Pudge knows the last words of famous people— only he's so doggone quirky that he reads the biography but not the work of the famous person! And our precious Alaska? She keeps stacks and stacks of books in her room that she intends to read (when she's done selling cigarettes to high school kids, I guess), called her life library (or something), but has wrestled with life's Big Questions alongside some very Heavy Thinking Authors, and can recite poetry, of course. Everybody is way too philosophical and literary for their own good, but god forbid the reader is allowed to think. Lest you miss the point, every moment is interpreted for you: I finally understood that day at the Jury: Alaska wanted to show us we could trust her. Survival at Culver Creek meant loyalty, and she had ignored that. But then she'd shown me the way. She and the Colonel had taken the fall for me to show me how it was done, so I would know what to do when the time came Ok, then—I guess that's what happened, except that's just not the way high school kids work.Even word choice reveals fear we won't get it; if an author has to tell you FIVE TIMES in the book that the character "deadpanned" instead of "said" (the Colonel"deadpanned" three times and Pudge, just a little less dry I guess, "deadpanned" twice) then either the dialogue is not written well or the author believes it is not written well. (The former, at least).So just hanging with these kids leaves one searching for a third dimension, but then the story itself pretty much jumps genres halfway through, from slacker-YA-Holden-mentioned-on-the-back-cover to straight mystery. Why'd she do what she did? Lest I "spoil" this story for you, I won't go into this part, but suffice it to say the above question is left out in the sun to rot while we are forced to look on, sniffing the decay. The story doesn't work in any genre anyway. I know what the story is supposed to do— make me fall in love with Alaska, feel all warm and cozy when the four friends smoke cigarettes, shoot the breeze, and look out for one another, and care when one of them screams with cosmic agony, but alas. Maybe if I wasn't basically tapped on the shoulder and demanded these reactions I would be better at having them, but lines fall flat and soggy like cigarettes tossed casually into some cliche prep-school lake:The Colonel let go of my sweater and I reached down and picked up the cigarettes. Not screaming, not through clenched teeth, not with the veins pulsing in my forehead, but calmly. Calmly. I looked down at the Colonel and said, "F— you."My first Kindle read, too!

Flowers for Algernon

by

4.01 rating

Comment 1: "She said for a person who God gave so little to you did more than a lot of people with brains they never even used. I said that all my friends are smart people and their good. They like me and they never did anything that wasnt nice. Then she got something in her eye and she had to run out to the ladys room."Ah! Right in the feels! (Don't worry about the typos, they are supposed to be there!).I read Flowers for Algernon decades ago in its original short story form, this is one of those stories that will always stay with you. If you are a science fiction fan and this story has somehow been overlooked you don’t even need to read the rest of this review, just grab a copy and read one of the all-time greats.The short story version is so memorable that I never really felt the necessity of reading this longer novel length version. Until now that is, I was looking at NPR’s Top 100 Science-Fiction, Fantasy Books list and it occurred to me that one of the three top 40 books that I have yet to read is the novel length version of Flowers for Algernon. There are numerous other “Best sci-fi books ever” lists online and practically all of them include “Algernon”.Flowers for Algernon is the story of Charlie Gordon a mentally handicapped young man with an IQ of 70. He volunteered for an experiment to boost his intellect with the result that his IQ is more than tripled. The story is narrated in the first person by Charlie in epistolary format, in the form of Progress Reports for the brain boosting project. Prior to the experimental operation Charlie was living almost blissfully as a "retard" (this very blunt word is frequently used throughout the novel, so I won't employ a euphemism here) he had a simple job he could do and friends. However, he is understandably frustrated that he can not understand most of what is going on in the world. What people are talking about, the jokes he laughs along with, the news etc. After his operation his intellect develops fairly rapidly and he begins to understand that people are not as smart or as nice as he had hitherto believed them to be.The first salient theme of this book that I noticed is that possessing an intellect is a mixed blessing. Ignorance is indeed bliss. As Charlie’s IQ begins to jump by leaps and bounds he finds that his EQ is lagging far behind. Being intelligent does not equip him to deal with people. What happen later on in the book is tragic but definitely ventures into spoilers territory so I won’t go into it.The book is beautifully but unpretentiously written, making for a fast, emotional reading experience. The characters are all believable, Charlie himself, Alice, his former teacher at a school for “special children” and the love of his life, and the various professors. Special mention must be made for the eponymous Algernon, the mouse that has his intelligence boosted before Charlie and become a sort of mini-Charlie, or a trail blazer for Charlie to follow. Daniel Keyes has made the mouse a very vivid character even without speaking parts. His eventual fate is one of the saddest parts if the book.I find that the original short story is a more intense reading experience and has a stronger emotional impact. This is due to the conciseness of the story. The novel, however, fleshes out the story with much more background details about Charlie’s family members, his childhood, his changed attitude toward the scientists and even his sex life. The additional details are interesting enough not to be superfluous but they do not make a great story greater.While the science of the intelligence boosting project is not explained in details this is not actually a “soft sci-fi” novel, there is enough discussion of “competitive inhibition of enzymes”, “cortical control”, “blocking the metabolic pathway" etc. to lend the book some verisimilitude (and to keep hard sci-fi fans happy).There are several notable profound passages in this book, I particularly like these two: “But I've learned that intelligence alone doesn't mean a damned thing. Here in your university, intelligence, education, knowledge, have all become great idols. But I know now there's one thing you've all overlooked: intelligence and education that hasn't been tempered by human affection isn't worth a damn.”Also this existential question: “Who's to say that my light is better than your darkness? Who's to say death is better than your darkness? Who am I to say?”Read it and weep my friends.__________________________________________EDIT June 18, 2014: I have just heard that Daniel Keyes died on June 15. It is sad to lose yet another great author, but I also envy him to have achieved immortality of sorts through his works. Flowers for Algernon especially. R.I.P Mr. Keyes, thank you for this beautiful story which I will always cherish.

The Little House Collection

by

4.33 rating

Comment 1: I love each of these books written by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I am continuing to read related books by other authors as I am studying what characteristics made up the American Spirit during the great expansion when Americans were Homesteading and during the years following. I was very impressed with the attitudes and character of each member of the Ingalls family and of Almanzo Wilder. They had a love of family and of God. They believed in being their best no matter what was happening in their lives. They faced challenges with courage. They were very highly skilled in things I come nowhere close to in my life, such as home building, sewing, keeping a clean and comfortable home at all times even in the midst of chaos. They cheerfully disciplined themselves to work together as a family and achieve their goals together, and then if things did not work out as they hoped, they picked up where they left off and cheerfully started all over again. They were thrifty, knowing how to make a small amount of household resources go a long way. The children were in a real sense apprentices of their parents so that when they began their own lives on their own or with their own families they were highly skilled to do so. The Ingalls girls were far better educated with or without a high school diploma than I am with a high school diploma, knowing the history of the US and of the explorations that lead to the founding of the US very well, being able to diagram sentences, having memorized the entire Declaration of Independence, and having memorized the entire book of Psalms among other Bible verses.I identified with Laura in her love of the outdoors, in her playful spirit, in her love of flowers, in her love of faith and family, and in her determined attitude to achieve goals.I find myself different than her in my handling of life's difficulties, not being as courageous and thankful as her and wanting to become courageous and thankful. I am also different in being much more of a romantic than her in courtship and marriage, but I am like her in being a close friend and partner with my husband. She was more willing to tackle tasks considered a man's realm than I am, such as cutting down trees, and making fuel for the fire. She was a harder worker and a faster worker than I am and I would like to become as dedicated and skilled at my work as she was with hers.I have also read A Little House Traveler and enjoyed it very much. I read the biography of her written by William Anderson and was delighted with how she cared so much for children and how well she was loved by children and adults alike.

Holes

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3.91 rating

Comment 1: I was picking up some books at the resale shop and for some reason found myself browsing in the children’s books. It seemed like the usual fare at first, some Dr. Seuss, a mangy copy of a Clifford book, a few ratty Choose Your Own Adventure paperbacks, Hugh Hefner’s autobiography, some smut called “The Very Virile Viking”, and “Pimp” by Iceberg Slim. Tucked amongst all this tawdry trash was something called “Holes”, which seemed to make sense sandwiched between “Pimp” and Hef’s life saga.tI soon realized that there was a movie based on this book made a few years back, which I had never bothered with, but, to my shock and awe, “Holes” was the work of Louis “Sideways-Stories” Sachar. As a long-time fan of the preposterous “Wayside School” stories, I immediately picked this up (along with the other aforementioned books) and decided to bump it up on my to-read list. I had no idea Sachar had even done any other work, and I was interested to see what he’d bring to the table.tI have to admit, I wasn’t nearly as impressed with “Holes” as I thought I might be. This might be due to the unrealistically high expectations I had based on my previous Sachar experience, or the fact that since they took the time and bankroll to make a movie based off this work, it obviously had to be incredible. tThe palindromically-named Stanley Yelnats is a good-spirited and festively plump little kid who is shipped off to a boy’s reform program at Camp Green Lake as punishment for stealing a pair of shoes being donated to charity by Clyde “Sweet Feet” Livingston. However, poor Stanley never stole the shoes, he’s been wrongfully accused, which is something he’s accustomed to, since his family is under the influence of a malevolent gypsy curse which began due to an oversight by his no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather. This evil hex has brought misery and financial ruin to the Yelnats clan since it was first laid, and each male heir to the Yelnats throne vainly hopes to be the one to break this vicious cycle. It isn’t looking too promising for Stanley to be the chosen one, as he’s shipped off to Camp Green Lake, which is the dusty basin of a once-flourishing lake which has since dried up under the scorching desert sun. His duty at the Camp is torturous; each day he must wake up at cock-crow and dig a hole five feet deep by five feet wide, while eluding the venomous yellow-spotted lizards which infest the area. Spitting in each completed hole is optional, and Stanley opts for this luxury at the insistence of his peers.tThe narrative of Stanley’s troubles at the camp are intertwined with the background of how this dread gypsy curse came about and also with the story of “Kissing” Katie Barlow, an outlaw that robbed his great-grandfather. While Stanley toils to dig hole after hole under the strict rule of the Warden and her lackeys (Mr. Pendanski and Mr. Sir), the tale of the curse unfolds, in which his great-great-grandfather Elya is vying for the hand of wealthy hottie Myra back in their motherland of Latvia. In order to win her hand, Myra’s father stipulates that the stud who presents the choicest pig as a gift will get the girl (which I hear is still a popular practice back in Riga), which leads Elya into cahoots with the gypsy, Madame Zeroni. Things take a turn for the worse for Elya, and he ends up not only forgetting to perform a favor for the gypsy, but he also gives away the hog as a wedding present to his rival. Even more spectacular is the downfall of the kind-hearted Katie Barlow, a benevolent teacher who begins an interracial relationship with an onionmonger named Sam in the Green Lake area. The ignorant townsfolk don’t cotton to this pairing and end up killing Sam (and his onion-chomping mule, Mary Lou), which leads the once-peaceful teacher to life as an outlaw. Barlow also happened to rob Stanley’s great-grandfather, and before kicking the bucket, she ended up burying all her ill-gotten gains somewhere in the parched and dry bowl of the former lake, a treasure yet to be unearthed that the Warden presumably is trying to locate with all this absurd hole-digging.tThe story is pretty enjoyable, for the most part it follows in the silly tradition of the Sachar work I am familiar with, however, the fact that he had to throw a ‘message’ in there pretty much turned me off. Stanley and his fellow detainees at the Camp are a motley bunch, a mixed-race group of transgressors who are coming to terms with their own cultural identities. When Stanley makes an arrangement with black camper Zero to teach him to read in exchange for his labor, the others drop some ‘slave’ references. The saga of Katie Barlow and Sam, however, far eclipses this childish prattle, and firmly beats the reader of the head with the ‘love-your-brother’-stick. At one point, Sachar even states that god himself punished the intolerant populous of Green Lake using the 100 year drought that turned a thriving lake into a dust bowl. The whole race relations bit was generally annoying, and perhaps what might have bothered me most was that in his preaching, Sachar makes it clear how wrong it is to consider someone of color illiterate, stupid, or treacherous, but it’s fully acceptable to include the stereotype of a curse-casting gypsy thrown into the storyline. tOverall, the story comes together predictably and nicely, but the insistence with which Sachar clubbed me over the head with his ‘message’ bothered me.

Shadow Kiss

by

4.4 rating

Comment 1: How does one function after reading the end of Shadow Kiss?...one cannot function after reading the end of Shadow Kiss. I am devastated and sad and full of grief and I don't know what to do about that...it's gonna be a loooonnngggg morning period. Comment 2: I didn't really enjoy the first two books of the Vampire Academy Series but I adored this one! Shadow Kiss has a ton more action & I actually feel for the characters! Comment 3: So far, Shadow Kiss is my favorite book in the series. Richelle Mead steps up her game on a number of fronts, in my opinion. Comment 4: Fave book in the series. Just because of the dimitri and rose scene and the fight scene with Christian. Loved it!

Peter Pan

by

4.1 rating

Comment 1: This edition of Peter Pan contains the text of J. M. Barrie's 1911 novel, "Peter and Wendy", which he wrote from his earlier play of 1904. The character of Peter Pan, the little boy who wouldn't grow up, had already made an appearance in an earlier work by James Barrie, "The Little White Bird" (1902). There continue to be many retellings of this magical story, and Peter is himself a timeless figure; one of the best-loved characters in children's literature. There is maybe a little of Peter in everybody. We can all empathise with that concept; it speaks to our inner psyche.But what are we to make of the original? For any readers critical of modern children's fiction for being too violent, I would direct them to read this piece (plus some Lewis Carroll, and "Strewelpeter…") to see what was considered appropriate for Victorian children. It is by turns overblown, full of Victorian sentiment and whimsy, but there is also a dark side with very grim overtones. There is betrayal, selfishness, cruelty, torture and bloodthirstiness galore. For, "children are ever ready, when novelty knocks, to desert their dearest ones."William Golding's "Lord of the Flies" owes a lot to this book. And it is not only the children and the "baddies" who are depicted as evil and malicious. Their parents seem full of hypocrisy too. For instance, a few pages into the story, the Darlings are discussing whether or not they can afford to keep their newborn baby, Wendy. Then a little later there is a "competition" between father and son about who will take his medicine more bravely. The father pours his medicine into the dog's bowl and tricks her into drinking it. He treats this as a great joke although the rest of the family do not think so. What is the message here? Parents betray you? Parents do not feel remorse? Or is it simply very black humour? The dog "Nana", incidentally, is just that. She is quite literally, a nursemaid to the children. Whimsy? Humour? A little of both probably, although I do remember finding this confusing myself, as a child.A further observation on how traitorous adults can be comes later in the story, when Hook bites Peter as he is helping him up,"its unfairness was what dazed Peter… He could only stare horrified. Every child is affected thus the first time he is treated unfairly… After you have been unfair to him he will love you again, but he will never afterwards be the same boy."The story of Peter Pan is the stuff of dreams. Or is it? Isn't it more the stuff of nightmares? Look at the pirates. There is the cadaverous Captain Hook with his Charles II costume and of course the murderous hook instead of a hand. He is tormented by the thought of the crocodile which pursues him - and who has opportunely swallowed an alarm clock to increase Hook's dread. And in addition Hook is oddly scared of the sight of his own blood. Hook is a tormented character, "ever a dark and solitary enigma, he stood aloof from his followers in spirit as in substance." It becomes clear that he was an ex-Etonian, with a sorry past. "Hook was not his real name," states Barrie.Then there is his second-in-command Smee, who, "had pleasant names for everything, and his cutlass was Johnny Corkscrew because he wriggled it in the wound. One could mention many lovable traits in Smee." The author lurches between sardonic humour such as this, and being curiously dispassionate about the story, "Let us now kill a pirate to show Hook's method. Skylights will do".The Lost Boys, although given individual names, again seem to be curiously abstract and interchangeable. Depicted as budding pirates themselves, they, "vary in numbers… they get killed and so on; and when they seem to be growing up, which is against the rules, Peter thins them out." Thins them out? He also hunts down Captain Hook, while he, "swore a terrible oath: "Hook or me this time." He crawled forward like a snake with, "one finger on his lip and his dagger at the ready. He was frightfully happy." Yes, Peter could be said to be the most merciless character of them all. But Barrie depicts him as truly amoral, perpetually in that very early stage of childhood where "the self" is the centre of the universe."The difference between him and the other boys at such a time was that they knew it was make-believe, while to him make-believe and true were exactly the same thing." The character of Peter is consistent with this throughout. He frequently forgets things - and people - and views his own actions as responsible for anything which pleases him. Thus his "crowing". Barrie has given us a perfect description of a child's focus prior to learning about others, or such concepts as responsibility, cause and effect. It is merely the reader's interpretation to regard him as a "mischievous boy". The character himself is a long way off such self-knowledge.The idea of "Neverland" is an intriguing one. Again, it speaks to something deep inside us all. The three children found that they recognised the island from their dreams. It had aspects of all they desired, and also much of what they feared. It was different for each, and yet the same. It was make-believe, but also with real threats. This dual perception of reality is a constant theme throughout the novel, and very hard to grasp. "It doesn't matter, it's only make-believe", we think. And then, "Oh no, but it's not!" At one point Peter,"regretted that he had given the birds of the island such strange names and that they are very wild and difficult of approach." The Lost Boys are variously acting as redskins or pirates, switching at will. Barrie's skill at depicting how involved they become in their characters adds to the blurring of unrealities.There is no doubt that Barrie's imaginative and inventive powers are superb. "Tinkerbell", the selfish fairy, is another whose persona has seeped into the public's consciousness. "Tink was not all bad: or, rather, she was all bad just now, but, on the other hand, sometimes she was all good." Interestingly, the use of "fairy dust" to enable the children to fly is a later addition. After the stage play, parents had complained to Barrie that their children were hurting themselves by jumping out of their beds and "trying to fly". This seems an extraordinary detail for Barrie to believe necessitated changing in such a bloodthirsty tale!Actually, Barrie has slotted into a common traditional folk view of the little people as being essentially bad. He refers to the fairies coming home "unsteady… from an orgy" the night before, looking for malevolent tricks to play. But Tinkerbell is loyal to Peter throughout, and of course when all the audience (or readers) are urged to clap their hands, or else she will die, this is pure magic. But Peter stays true to character. By the end of the story he does not even remember her. "There are such a lot of them," he said, "I expect she is no more."Again, what does this teach a young reader about loyalty or friendship? This is a ruthless tale, not a moral one.If we look for a "good" character, we tend to trip over Wendy, who seems to be an archetype for Barrie's idea of females. She delights in being a "mother" to the lost boys, forgets her true home much as her brothers do, spends all her time cooking, cleaning and darning, and professes to feel sorry for spinsters. The reader doesn't get the impression that this is ironic; more likely, wish-fulfilment on behalf of the author. Even during the bloodbath at the end, she,"praised them all equally and shuddered delightfully when Michael [her youngest brother] showed her the place where he had killed one..."A psychologist would have a field day with this book. Indeed, there is a "Peter Pan" syndrome, to describe individuals who are reluctant to take on "adult" cares and responsibilities, preferring to pursue their own, often creative, interests. And there is plenty of substance to support the view that Barrie was a troubled individual, and that this fed into his writing. His elder brother David, died in a tragic skating accident at the age of fourteen. This deeply affected their mother. The dual parallels with the boy who couldn't grow up, and would therefore remain a boy for ever, and the idealised mother, are quite blatant. Then when James Barrie grew up, he apparently had a troubled marriage, with difficulties making love, which alienated his wife. He became close friends with the Llewelyn Davies family, having met two of the boys in Kensington Gardens, and began to tell them stories about his invented character Peter Pan. Barrie coined the name using the first name of one of the five, and "Pan" from the mischievous god of the woodlands. Again, this story is overlaid with sadness. In 1907 the father Arthur died of cancer of the jaw, and three years later the mother Sylvia followed, apparently from lung cancer. Barrie became their guardian in 1910, and from then on even closer to the boys. But the real life tragedies continued. The eldest, George, was killed like much of his generation on Flanders Field in 1915. The character of Peter Pan was apparently primarily based on him. Michael, who was deeply afraid of the water, drowned in 1921 with a classmate at Oxford. And in 1960 Peter, the second son, threw himself in front of a subway train in London.Much has been made of Barrie's interest in these children, just as has been with Lewis Carroll's interest in children, especially in our over-sensitive and suspicious climate. This is a bit of a mystery. Surely an interest in children is natural and common to all humans, to a greater or lesser degree, whether male or female. Would it seem so "shocking" if these two writers had been female? Surely the point is that writers write from their own experience. Even if what they write is ostensibly pure fantasy, there will be facets of their own experience underlying it. Like most writers he took his inspiration from real life and reworked the people he knew and loved to populate his books and plays. Many experiences came together to make James Barrie's creation of an immortal little boy. In some ways he was writing about what he wished might happen. But because of that creation, current history will unfortunately peer into his personal life. He achieved immortality himself, but at a price.So far this has been an analysis of the text of the original novel, which is perhaps rarely read now. Certainly the perception of the story of Peter Pan is a much "softer" version, deduced from a composite number of sources. This edition of the text though, dates from 1987, and was reissued in 2003 as a Centennial Edition (presumably in readiness for 2004, 100 years after the first edition.) It has decorative illustrations by Michael Hague which complement the text perfectly. They are watercolours with a wealth of detail, using subtle colours and complicated patterns which appeal far more to an adult than a child. They are moody and sensitive without being sentimental. And there are a lot of them - between two and four for each of the seventeen chapters. It is a beautiful book.Reading the original "Peter Pan" as an adult has been a startling experience. It is not at all what a reader might expect, and although Barrie wrote it as a children's story, this book as it stands would not appeal to a modern-day child. We have all lost the capacity for appreciating whimsy in the same way. A child might well enjoy the bloodthirsty nature of the book, and the absoluteness of punishment and judgment. There are few shades of grey in this book. Nobody is urged to "get along" with anybody else. And the adults are seriously flawed. But the cosiness of the language makes it an unlikely choice.It does however deserve four stars from an adult's point of view. From its first instantly recognisable line, "All children, except one, grow up"through Peter Pan's claim, "To die will be an awfully big adventure,"it is an incomparable classic. "Off we skip like the most heartless things in the world, which is what children are…and we have an entirely selfish time, and then when we have need of special attention we nobly return for it, confident that we shall be rewarded instead of smacked" observes James Barrie. The characters in this book, especially Peter Pan, act out that theory to perfection. The book ends with the phrase, "and so it will go on, as long as children are gay and innocent and heartless." For all its flaws it is a unique and truly imaginative book, with an unforgettable antihero, and which has spawned many imitations.

Insurgent

by

4.09 rating

Comment 1: خوب نبود واقعاً. نمیدونم این کتاب رو میشه اصلاً تو ژانر علمی-تخیلی حساب کرد یا نه. از نظر علمی بسیار سطحش پایینه، بسیار پایین، به این دلیل که جامعهشون هیچ پیشرفت خاصی نکرده و بعد وقتی تصمیم میگیری که اون رو در زمان حال در نظر بگیری، یک سری المانهایی وجود داره که ناممکنش میکنه. بدیهیات علمی توش توضیح داده شده و سطحش رو برای خوانندهی بزرگسال پایین آورده. داستان فضاسازی چندانی نداره. همه چیز با یک کلیت پیش میره و جزئیاتی به ماجرا اضافه نمیشه. روابط بین آدما گاهی در حدِ رمانهای زرد افول میکنه و سطحش Comment 2: Well, it could have been better, and it could have been worse, but I certainly found myself a bit out of sorts…as I reached the end of this tale, and I exclaimed “Oh my!” with my head pointed up toward the sky. Instead of a pause, INSURGENT jumped right in, and picked up right where DIVERGENT left off at the end. It lacked some of the cohesion and passion that held the first tale together, and still left us wondering what was ever outside of the fence. And that kept the peace at bay, even as the

A Walk to Remember

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4.14 rating

Comment 1: What can I say? I can't even begin to explain how wonderful this book was. Once again, Nicholas Sparks outdone himself. When I first started reading this, I didn't expect much, seeing as how it was a tragedy and I don't really care for tragedies, after the disaster with Romeo and Juliet LOL. However, there was something more to this book than other sad books I've read in my life. For one, this book touched my heart-REALLY touched my heart- and made me ask myself all these questions about love and miracles. This is like, the only book in my life that gave me that heartwarming I-want-to-be-a-better-person feeling. I love how at the beginnning Landon was just an ordinary high school student who took the smallest details of life for granted, but after meeting Jamie, he saw life and love in a new perspective. THIS is the kind of book that could be the new Twilight. I feel like people need more of these heartwarming, inspiring stories and I'm very grateful to Mr. Sparks for teaching me a lesson that I'm sure others need to learn.First off, I would like to praise the book cover. Fits the theme and book title perfectly. It reminds me of autumm, memories,walking, and lives changing. To me, the book cover shows how 57-years-old Landon flashbacks to his senior year when he was a 17-year-old. Even just looking at the cover makes my insides turn all gooey and reminds me of all Jamie and Landon had to gone through. :'(Next, I'd like to say I love the whole romance thing. How a twist of fate could change a boy's life and make him see what life has to offer him. When Landon asked Jamie to go to the school dance, little did he know it would only be the beginning of a long-time memory that would last with him forever. It's so neat how Jamie and Landon would later fall in love with each other, even though they never expected the unexpected to happen. The tiny moments they had with each other (rehersing the play, helping out at orphanages, talking on her front porch, etc.) were beautiful, and makes me fall in love with the book even more. The whole process of falling for each other ,even though they didn't expect to, was heartlifting and makes the book all the better. That is what I expect in YA novels. I love how time after time they realize they're in love, instead of those stupid I-love-you-so-much-even-after-knowing-you-for-a-week romance.I also enjoy getting to know the two main leads. Jamie is probably the most inspiring, most unselfish main character that I've ever known. She makes me want to be a better person, and she makes Landon feel that way, too. Two weeks ago, I didn't give a rat's ass about poor people or orphans. Now, however, after reading this book, I start thinking of miracles and small differences to make the world a better place. And the most inspiring, most saddest thing about Jamie was how she knew she was dying for, like, a year but during that year she still wanted to help others in need. Besides inspiring and unselfish, Jamie is also one of the bravest characters I know. She still stay optimistic, even when nature took its course. If I were in her place, I don't think I could be as brave as her. =')I also love Landon! Like I said earlier, I think it's amazing how he never notice life's smallest details until he met Jamie. Before, he didn't give much thinking into making a difference, but then after getting to know Jamie, he fell in love and wanted to make his girl proud of him by making small but genuine gestures. I believe that that is what made him a strong, amazing man at the end of the book. For example, at the end of the book, when Landon said he finally believed in miracles, I think he means that Jamie was his miracle, and that he was Jamie's miracle. I believe that is what shaped him up. He's one of the best growing characters that I'd read about. And the scene when he married to Jamie was like the most beautiful, lovely, heartbreaking, powerful thing I've ever read in my life!!!!!!!!!! :)))Now that my point is carried across, it's time to wrap things up. This was a very good book, and was the first and only book that made me cry in a long time. I could read this a thousand times, and I would still choke up a bit. It was a beautiful, heartwarming, powerful tearjerker. I had just watch the movie for the first time just today, which caused me to write this review. In my opinion, the movie was better than the novel, because the movie went deeper than what the book did. Plus, it made me cry even more than the book. Now everytime I see the book's cover, or listen to Mandy Moore's songs "Cry" and "Only Hope", or even think about the lovers behind the most amazing love story ever, I would break down in tears. Yes, AWTR was THAT amazing. It's saying something when a book/movie makes me extremely depressed for three days. :,(

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

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4.49 rating

Comment 1: Since pretty much everyone I know has read these books, I figure reviewing them is pretty pointless. But with the new book coming out in a couple of weeks, I have to go through them beginning to end. To make the reviews more entertaining, I will be doing them in a variety of unexpected formats. For this review, I will be writing as Crookshanks fan fiction.Crookshanks swished his tail back and forth as he crept up the stairs to the boys' bedrooms. He knew the rat wasn't what it was pretending to be, but all of his attempts to alert the humans to this fact had failed. "I don't know why I even bother," he muttered to himself. "I could get along fine without any of them. Let the rat do whatever it is it's trying to do. So long as Girl keeps feeding me and scratching my belly, I'll - hello, what's this?"He could smell the rat. Its scent was like nothing Crookshanks had ever smelled, and for all his time living in a magical pet shop, he'd smelled a lot. The rat did smell like a rat, yes, but there was also something else. Something... human. It was just like that big black dog he'd met on the grounds the other day. Every instinct in him had screamed to run away, but there was that smell. And even Crookshanks knew what they said about cats and curiosity. The dog had turned out to be more than just a dog, and it had convinced Crookshanks to help it. First order of business: retrieve a certain rat from the bedroom of the Red-Haired Boy.The Boy wasn't in, but the rat was. Crookshanks circled the bed a few times. This time, maybe, he would be able to get the damn thing. He tensed for a moment and then leapt onto the bed.By luck or skill, he was nearly on top of the thing when he landed. "A-HA!" he yowled. "Gotcha!" He pinned the rat under his sizable paw. "Where you gonna run to now, ratty?" he asked, sneering as best he could.The rat writhed in his grip. "Please," it said. "Just let me go. You don't know what will happen if you eat me, it would be a terrible mistake!""A mistake, eh?" the cat said. "We'll see about that. I have a great big doggie friend who's just aching to get his jaws around you...."He barely had time to finish his sentence when the rat went mad. It squealed and bit and slashed with its paws. And then, against all of Crookshanks' previous experience - it grew! It nearly threw the cat off the bed as it became much more massive - its legs lengthened and its arms stretched until it had reached a human size and shape. Crookshanks goggled. Of all the things he'd expected from this rat, this wasn't it. The human grabbed at him, but Crookshanks was too fast. He jumped off the bed and shimmied under the wardrobe, where he could see but not be seen.The human looked around, breathing heavily. He was pale and thin, and still looked ratty. "Think, Peter, think," he said. "Gotta get out of here, but..." He stopped, glanced at the wardrobe, and grimaced. "You may just have given me my way out, cat," he said. And then he bit the ball of his hand.Blood dripped out, leaving spreading red blotches on the sheets. "They'll think it was you," he said. "They'll leave me for dead and I'll be free to rejoin my Lord." He looked at the recently repaired curtains on Ron's bed. "It's not safe here anymore." He sucked at the wound to stop the bloodflow and then went to the window. Perched on the windowsill, he looked over at Crookshanks' hiding place. "If I were human," he said, "the fall would kill me. But as a rat...." His body rippled and twisted and shrank, and then there was an old grey rat on the sill. Crookshanks was pretty sure it winked at him before leaping off.After a minute or two, Crookshanks wriggled out from under the wardrobe, his thoughts dark. The Red-Haired Boy was going to be angry, and so was the Girl. But more importantly, the Dog was going to be furious. It was barely holding on to its sanity as it was. Crookshanks shook his head. This was going to get worse before it would get better...

The Last Olympian

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4.48 rating

Comment 1: This final instalment of the Percy Jackson books made for highly enjoyable and exciting reading. The final face off with Kronos and his minions is at hand for Percy, Annabeth, and the other demigods while his sixteenth birthday is now days away and it is time for the prophecy to come to pass as well. The demigods and Olympians are both at war with Kronos’ army and monsters, and Kronos is making every attempt to spring surprises and divide the Olympians engaging them in separate challenges, playi Comment 2: Great finish to a great series. The demigods come together with their godly parents to fight a war against the titan Kronos. The gods are totally ready to let their kids handle everything themselves, but those kids aren't having it. This book gives Luke a redeeming story arc while also expanding upon Rachel Elizabeth Dare's. One thing I hadn't noticed until reading this a second time was that it sets things up for the spin-off series, which I actually haven't read it. Comment 3: I finished this book after five days I finished the previous book. Out of these five days, two days I didn't read at all as I spent them with family. One day I was very busy, couldn't get enough time to read. I started this book two days ago and this was soo much full of action! Literally, this book is almost full action! You wouldn't get the chance to put it down once you started it.

Frostbite

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4.3 rating

Comment 1: This series never eases up on the excitement, drama, and action. I am really falling in love with this series and the way it is going. The characters are growing on me more and more, and the friendship between Rose and Lissa has become one that I obsess over. Very rarely do books, tv shows, or movies portray strong female relationships. Usually it consists of only frenemy dynamics, which all in all is very toxic. Not here. Rose and Lissa are there for each other through and through and I friggin Comment 2: The first 45% of this book was pretty whack to me in all honesty. In this sequel, Rose was still disrespectful, childish, and just annoying. I do think maybe her character started to evolve very little bit towards the middle of the book but then she would go onto a jealous rampage and destroy what I thought was her finally growing up. She did have some shining moments though where she really stepped up and Comment 3: A lot of people don't like this Vampire Academy book as much, but it's one of my favorites. There are breath-taking battle sequences at the end, and a devastating aftermath that leaves Rose forever changed. My respect for her grew leaps and bounds in this book, and the series really kicked into high gear both in story and in emotion.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

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4.16 rating

Comment 1: คือไม่รู้จะหักคะแนนตรงไหน เพอร์เฟ็คไปหมดซะทุกอย่าง เนื้อเรื่องยังกับขนมหวาน อ่านไปยิ้มไป ละมุนเป็นที่สุด ไม่รู้สิ ! การเล่าเรื่องลูอิสใช้ภาษาง่ายๆ ไม่มีอะไรมาก แต่อาจจะเป็นเพราะผู้แต่งเค้าใส่ความคิดและคำพูดของเค้าลงไปในหนังสือด้วย เลยทำให้มันออกมาดูจับต้องได้ ดูน่าค้นหา ฉากที่บรรยายทุ่งหญ้าป่าเขาปกติเราจะเบื่อนะ แต่นี่เหมือนนั่งฟัง Audiobook แล้วมีคนมากระซิบข้างหูให้ฟังเลยอ่ะ ละเมียดละไมดีจริงๆคิดว่าถ้าไม่เคยดูหนังมาก่อนคงอินมากแน่ๆ แต่ตอนเด็กๆเราดูหนังเรื่องนี้ตั้งแต่จำความได้ ดูซ้ำไปซ้ำมาจนจำได้ทุกรายละเอียด ทำให้ความสดใหม่ในการรับสารตรงนี้มันหายไปเมื่อมาอ่านหนังสือ (คิดว่าถ้าอ่านหนังสือก่อนดูหนังคงฟินเว่อร์ๆแน่ๆ) แต่เนื่องด้วยตอนนั้นกระแสแฮร์รี่ก็กำลังมาละมั้ง เลยทำให้เราไม่ได้สนใจที่จะอ่านหนังสือเรื่องนี้เท่าไร พอโตแล้วกลับมาอ่าน คิดว่าความประทับใจในวัยเด็กคงต้องหายไป เอาจริงๆมันไม่หายนะ มันยังอยู่ในตัวเรานี่แหละ และหนังสือเล่มนี้ก็ดึงความรู้สึกนั้นของเรากลับมาได้จริงๆเนื้อเรื่องเป็นการผจญภัยที่เรียบง่าย และเต็มไปด้วยไคลแมกซ์เกือบจะในทุกจุด เราชอบฉากที่หนูมาช่วยกัดเชือกเพื่อปลดปล่อยอัสลานมากๆ ตอนดูหนังฉากนี้ก็ประทับใจ มาอ่านหนังสือก็เผลอยิ้มออกมาเลย อิ่มเอมใจมากๆ(view spoiler)[ปีเตอร์ ซูซาน เอ็ดมันด์ ลูซี่ ย้ายไปอยู่บ้านใหม่ พี่น้องทั้งสี่ค้นพบความลับภายในบ้าน ก่อนที่ลูซี่จะเจอกับตู้เสื้อผ้าที่นำพาเธอสู่โลกที่เธอไม่เคยรู้จักมาก่อน เมื่อเด็กๆทั้งสี่ได้ก้าวเข้าสู่โลกของนาร์เนีย พวกเขาก็ต้องพบกับแม่มดที่สาปให้ดินแดนแห่งนี้ตกอยู่ภายใต้ความเยือกเย็น จนกระทั่งคำพยากรณ์ที่บอกว่าบุตรแห่งอดัมกับอีฟจะปัดเป่าความหนาวเย็นทิ้งไป และอัสลานกำลังจะกลับมา นั่นทำให้แม่มดต้องรีบหาพวกโดยหล่อนล่อลวงเอ็ดมันด์ให้ทรยศพี่น้องของเขาเอง และใช้เอ็ดมันด์เป็นกุญแจที่จะทำให้หล่อนสามารถทำล้ายเด็กๆพวกนี้ก่อนที่คำพยากรณ์จะกลายเป็นจริงอัสลานใช้ตัวเขาแลกกับอิสรภาพของเอ็ดมันต์จากแม่มด นั่นทำให้เขาเสียสละตัวเอง แต่เมื่อเวทมนตร์ที่อยู่ลึกกว่านั้นทำให้อัสลานกลับมาชีวิตอีกครั้งและปลุกชีพสิ่งมีชีวิตที่ถูกสาปเป็นหินทั้งหมด นำพวกเขาเข้าสู่ศึกระหว่างความดีและความชั่ว ในที่สุดแม่มดก็เป็นฝ่ายพ่ายแพ้ ปีเตอร์ ซูซาน เอ็ดมันด์ และลูซี่ได้ครองบัลลังก์แห่งแคร์พาราเวล จนกระทั่งถึงวันที่พวกเขาเติบใหญ่และกลับไปยังจุดเริ่มต้นอีกครั้ง เสาไฟที่ส่องแสงทำให้พวกเขานึกอะไรบางอย่างออกและก้าวเดินไปข้างหน้าพร้อมๆกับเพื่อที่จะค้นพบว่าตัวเองได้กลับออกมาจากตู้เสื้อผ้าอีกครั้งในเวลาที่ไล่เลี่ยกับที่พวกเขาได้เข้าตู้เสื้อผ้าสู่การผจญภัยอันยิ่งใหญ่ (hide spoiler)]

Goodnight Moon

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4.26 rating

Comment 1: Set in a dystopian future in which genetically engineered animals have devoured humanity, GOODNIGHT MOON is told from the perspective of a unseen, dying victim of the ravenous hordes. As he reflects on the scene with his last breaths, MOON provides a terrifying eulogy for the human race.Margaret Wise Brown’s approach to the apocalypse is a minimalist one. Leaving only vague hints about the world in the wake of DR. MOREAU-style takeover by anthropomorphic animals, the slowly expiring narrator describes his deathbed — a seemingly normal bedroom and its mundane, but symbolically sinister furnishings.As illustrated by Clement Hurd, the room is green (a metaphor for Earth), while a balloon the color of bright arterial blood hangs over the tableau, suggesting both a fading sun and the blood spilled across the world in humanity’s losing battle against the cunning beasts.These elliptical clues are mere indications of the global slaughter — more-overt signs appear as the narrative unfolds. Pictures of bears sitting in chairs and of cows able to jump to extreme heights show that the animal-creatures’ emergence was not only welcomed by humanity, but, in fact, celebrated. The only explicit sign of humanity’s fate is a freakishly mutated rabbit-woman putting her rabbit child to bed in a room that was obviously once a human home; their very existence exposes the horror of the otherwise-Rockwellian scene.As the other animals in the room run wild — cats and mice roam unchecked — mittens and socks obviously meant for humans hang on a clothes rack, never to be used in a winter the narrator will never see. These rabbit creatures have settled in, and the ravenous rabbit-child’s nightstand holds a brush that reads “Bunny” and a bowl full of “mush” that’s obviously a slurry of the narrator’s entrails.The rabbit woman tries to hush the narrator’s dying gasps, but he manages, before the end, to say goodbye to his former possessions, to the air that once gave him life, to the “nobody” that represents Earth’s absence of humanity, and to the silent, ever-present moon, which serves as a mute witness to the genocide that unfolded under its unblinking gaze.While GOODNIGHT MOON will inspire nightmares, it’s also a parable — a warning to any who might dabble in genetic engineering. If we don’t control the unintended consequences of science, we all might eventually be saying “goodnight moon,” and by then, there will be no escape.More: http://www.bookgasm.com/reviews/horro...

Blood Promise

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4.36 rating

Comment 1: OMG! ABOUT BLOOD PROMISE, MY BEST FRIEND HAD A DREAM THAT ROSE HAD DIMITRIS BABY .I NOE THAT THEY CANT HAVE ANY BUT IT WAZ DIS KIND OF MESSED UP THING THAT HAPPENED, SO THEY HAD A BABY. ROSE WENT TO RUSSIA SO SHE COULD FIND DIMITRI AND SHE FINDS HIM. SHE SHOWS HIM THE BABY THEN SHE LEAVES HIM ALIVE.WHEN SHE MET HIM THERE WAZ SOMETHING DIFFERANT ABOUT HIM AND GUESS WAT? HE KINDA LOOKS LIKE A HUMAN INSTEAD OF A STRIGOI SHE ASKES HIM WHY AND HE HAD A THEORY THAT WHEN HE DOESNT DRINK BLOOD HE THINK Comment 2: This one is...okay. I really love that Sydney is introduced in this one (she is my favorite) but other than that I don't really like Rose's time in Russia, especially when she is with Dimitri's family (Whom I just find annoying) I thought it was really boring. I don't like Lissa and I didn't like the time that Rose spent in Lissa's head, other than that we got more on Adrian and Christian. Comment 3: I’ll be perfectly honest, this book is almost the sole reason why I never before came back to reread Vampire Academy. It’s not that this isn’t a good novel, it is. However, I read the Vampire Academy series in late 2013—the days before goodreads, before I’d really read any particularly painful books, and this was the novel that really stuck with me in terms of sorrow.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

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3.96 rating

Comment 1: I am determined to find the brilliance in Wicked so I've decided that sometimes, going to the root of the problem will bring clarity and perspective. I read this when I was very young and don't remember it. I really think I won't be able to understand Wicked until I re-read the original tale. So here goes...Review 4/3/15Read a book that was made into a movieI think everyone has seen the movie or the musical or both, so unless you've been living under a rock or in an apocalyptic shelter for the past hundred years, there really aren't any spoilers to this story. And if you are my friend there is a good chance that you know already that I read this book because I wanted to get the correct backstory before I went any further with Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. You see, I had read this book long ago as a child, and though a few things stuck out to me, most of the book got lost in the movie translation, which you know, tends to happen with a film and musical that is as popular as this one. Therefore, I wanted to figure out if the book I was reading was based on the original L. Frank Baum tale, or on the movie version, because I couldn't figure it out. And after some research, I found out a lot of interesting factoids about the original tales. They were extremely political in nature, and dealt very much with good ole Teddy Roosevelt. In fact, Dorothy and Theodore are backwards names of each other. (Say both out loud...come on, you know you want to. It will blow your mind once you hear it.) It also should be noted that the Broadway musical was written and produced only a year after the book was published, and the 1939 film was based on the musical, so it can be said that the musical drifted away from the book more so than the film (although the ruby slippers were an invention of Hollywood, not Broadway). Now that I have read the original tale, there are several myths that both the movie/musical and Gregory Maguire novel have circulated, and ones I am going to (graciously) clear up for you. You can thank me later.Here is a cover of the original published book, just because it is so purdy.Ok, here goes:Myth #1 (the most obvious and the one everyone pretty much knows): Dorothy's slippers are ruby redThough Dorothy does get the slippers from the Wicked Witch of the East when her house falls on her, and they do contain magical powers, the slippers in the book are silver, not ruby. This was actually an invention of Hollywood for the film, and adaptations of the musical followed suit afterwards.Myth #2: The Wicked Witch of the West is greenNope, nope, and nope. Absolutely NO MENTION WHATSOEVER to the Wicked Witch of the West having green skin. This was clearly an invention of Hollywood as well, and one that Gregory Maguire used to form much of Elphaba around. Too bad, it has no basis in literature.Myth #3: The Witch of the West and the Witch of the East are sistersAnother big fat nope. No mention at all of this. All that is said is there are four witches. One in the north, south, east, and west. North and South are good. East and West are wicked. Not sisters. It doesn't even seem clear that they know each other either. There goes another big plot point of Maguire's to a Hollywood invention. And we don't even see the Witch of the West until 60% into the book. She's not upset about the house "falling on her sister" or the fact that Dorothy stole the shoes. She only wants the shoes herself because of their power. So the most famous little speech that everyone knows it made up too:Or, you know, something like that. Myth #4: The Flying Monkeys are the Witch's evil henchmenNo, the witch just so happens to be in possession of a magical golden cap that lets the wearer call on the assistance of the flying monkeys three times. (Kind of the like the magic lamp in Aladdin). She uses her third wish to have the monkeys kill Dorothy and her friends. After that, they have no allegiance to her. In fact, the flying monkeys serve both Dorothy and Glinda in the book as well. Myth #5: The Wicked Witch stalks DorothyNah. She's just pissed that they came to her kingdom, invited. Just like any ol' garden variety wicked witch. She doesn't poison the poppies, and she doesn't ride around on a broomstick asking to "Surrender Dorothy" at the Emerald City. In fact, I don't even think she owns a broomstick, or flies around on it.There are more myths, but honestly, these 5 are the bigger ones. Even though this story is very very different from the movie, I actually enjoyed the movie better, maybe because I grew up loving it, or maybe because I found it had more depth and interesting plotline, and the movie elevated the story higher than just a fable or simple folktale, which is what this book seems to be. But I still love the characters, and the element of fantasy than Baum creates effortlessly. It is a quick little read, and fun. And, if I were at all knowledgeable about the political climate of 1900s America, and the political satire that is contained within, I think that would be a pretty awesome added level of fun too. I will eventually read all 15 books in this series because I do wish to learn more, and I also think that more of their stories are brought into Wicked which will further explain Maguire's odd sense of world-building.So, now I'm headed back to the little green girl and her odd little troupe of friends.

The Lorax

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4.35 rating

Comment 1: In 1989 the Lorax was banned and challenged in California for being too "harsh" on the logging industry as it portrays foresting industry in an arguably negative manner. Some people felt that this book was responsible for having children be against the foresting industry. The reason why it was banned in California is because logging in known to be one of the biggest industries in this state. Some Californians worried that soon children would begin to protest against this particular industry due to the influence of this picture book.I find that there are several positive qualities including literary qualities of this particular book. I find that Dr. Seuss is one of the most clever and inventive authors and illustrators as of yet. This story truly comes to life as you progress through with each flip of the page. It is a witty text that is filled with clever rhymes, assonance, consonance, onomatopoeia, and nonsense words, all of which are great literacy qualities to introduce to children to aid in their reading development. Not only this, but I find that this book is appealing to all ages as it provides lively and engaging illustrations of unusual creatures and is inventive in creation and display. The story also possesses very important themes including don’t act before you think, be sympathetic towards others and don’t be selfish, the negative consequences of being greedy, the effect that one individual can have on the natural world, and it definitely appears to relay an important environmental message to respect the environment that you live in and treat it well or soon there will be no more beauty in the world. This book also has a great example of character development with the Onceler who comes to learn an important life lesson at the end of the story that ties in with the many themes mentioned above. These are the reasons why I find that this particular picture book belongs in the curriculum. It teaches a myriad of positive literary qualities and because it is a fun, engaging, creative, musical book that is perfect for a read-aloud. Not only this, but this book has also recently become a film and it would be interesting to connect technology form to the written text. Three good instructional practices that I find can be used when teaching this book is to have a discussion on the effect that man/woman has on the environment. It would be a good lesson to tie in with Science and to discuss the pros and cons of logging so as to not create an entirely negative attitude about the logging industry. Students should be instructed that there are benefits to the logging industry as well as negatives. Another instructional practice, would be to have the students read the text with an open mind and critical lens and to decide for themselves how they interpreted the message sent, if they found one. The class as a whole could then discuss their findings and conclusions and engage in a debate where one side is pro-logging and the other is anti-logging. Another instructional practice would be to have the students compare and contrast the picture book to the film. This would allow students to see the differences in how each message is portrayed. Students could also analyze other existing themes and messages within the book that are also very important life lessons as well as come up with ideas of their own as to why this book is a great choice to read in class—what do they get out of the text, as no where in the text does it explicitly state that logging is bad, it may be implied, but again, some may not make that implication. Overall, there are multiple strategies to address this book and how to teach this story, as you can even teach it for its use of rhyming and poetry as well as for its musical aspects. Students could then make up a rhyme or poem about something that they feel passionate about, just like how Dr. Seuss was very passionate about writing this text, as it was very heart-felt and personal.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

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4.49 rating

Comment 1: I'm a Harry Potter fan. A rather hardcore one, back in the day. The Harry fans at the big meetup of 2007 (last book) ditched me for not being cool enough. Shows what they know.I don't know if anyone on goodreads followed the intense Harry Potter fanbase core in the good old days. I wasn't on goodreads until after the last book came out. Goblet of Fire was the last Harry Potter book before all of the bitching naysayers. It was never as much fun after that, either to discuss theories or pick apart clues. It was also the book that started the "I hate Ron!" club (the Draco Malfoy is a conflicted hero idea started around the Chamber of Secrets film. Hey, I could be a Harry Potter scholar). It was pretty much like looking up any movie on the imdb or a tv show on Television Without Pity. No one hates something more than an obsessive fan, right? Fanfic writers who actually preferred their interpretations more than the original source (crazy!). The fanbase could be deterimental to nuturing ones own "ohmigod I'm going to die without the next book" that I so desperately needed. Harry Potter was my "something to look forward to". I haven't found anything else to take its place. I've not tried to hang around the fringes of a big fan base again, either. (My random goodreads tastes probably don't count. I have no idea what the big thing is. I liked The Hunger Games for the cozy district twelve parts and didn't give a rationed fig for love triangles or political outcome. I'm a loner bookworm freak!) Almost as bad were all of the people who felt some pressing need to inform me that they were too cool to even try to read Harry Potter, as if it made one bit of difference to me. [I suspect that I was expected to backtrack. You know, the way a person will immediately downplay how much they liked or disliked something based on what someone else says about it.] I was going to read it with or without them. They were not beating me by being too cool for school (especially if that school is Hogwarts!). Why were they too cool for Harry after Goblet of Fire? The fans, I mean.I don't remember an awful lot about plot points (I'm older now and my memory wasn't that good to begin with). There is some overlap between books, for sure. I do remember savoring the details and not because it would help me figure out was going to happen. I WANTED surprises. Harry disliking Ron for the bit of skin showing between his ankles and his pajama ends? That would totally have swayed me to be unwilling to hear an apology and nurse the annoyance another few days. I loved it when the whole school hated Harry (which is about all of the time). I loved how he didn't study and had to work up to the last minute nerve for everything. Those kinds of details made it for me. I remember the wait between the books and being excited to find out what Neville was up to over the summer (long live Neville Longbottom!). But no, the base was miffed 'cause they didn't get another Sirius Black who owned the motorbike that Hagrid used to escort Harry to Privet Drive appearing in Prisoner of Azkaban. If that's what you wanted the appeal of Harry Potter would be dead in the water with the giant squid after the last book. That's not me!Oh yeah, so it was a huge turning point in the series. Voldemort rises again, the romance shit (Rowling's one big flaw, in my mind). They got longer and less tightly edited (we fans were greedy for closer release dates. They had no one but themselves to blame!). Maybe some details got piled on (I can't remember which book had the useless James Potter quidditch info. Half-blood?). I think it was the Ron thing, anyway. D'oh. It has to be that. Maybe it was like season three of Buffy when Buffy goes to L.A. in the first episode and they still cut back to Sunnydale to show how the Scooby gang are faring without her. The new factors of the war is out there situation was like cutting into the Scooby dynamic. It's painful to go your own way and be all alone. It was like reaching the end half way through. Harry has to grow up, he has to defeat Lord Voldything and leave Hogwarts. And that's a sad feeling 'cause it means that I also have to leave Hogwarts. The bitching had to be about change. It still worked, it just worked in a different way. Change isn't popular.There are faults in the series but I loved what I loved so much that I didn't care. I just want to be in Hogwarts. I could tease about what I didn't like and still loved what I loved. How to be a Harry Potter fan in the style of Mariel 101. I'm sure I'll be rewarded with my Hogwarts letter any day now.D'oh! Of course! S.P.E.W. I remember now. (Society for Promotion of Elvish Welfare for the non-nerds. Oh wait, those people will not be reading this.) All the dumbfucks argued that the house elves wanted to be enslaved and that the point of the series was that Hermione was representing America rushing in to save oppressed civilizations when they shouldn't have been involved. (Dudes, they were probably the ones they needed saving from.) Uggggggh. So children should have always slaved away in factories because that was their only wages? Because they saw the film Newsies and Christian Bale looked like he was having a lot of fun? Killing Mudbloods is bad ("Sure, I don't want to kill kids but wars in the middle east are still a great idea!") but reading about equality for all is less interesting if it changes the bottom line? I probably started resenting the fanbase a whole lot right around that time. Rowling could have made the point less hammer-head like (via Hermione). The films succeeded in that quite well. But still! It is like being in the wizarding world itself to have read that kind of crap. Bigots everywhere. Poor Dobby! Sobs. (Winky was fucking annoying, though.)I also didn't mention the "Harry is a Death Eater" people. I wonder where they are right now. Probably in a dark corner of the internet somewhere, writing about the "truth" of the Harry Potter series. Grrrrrrrrrrrr. Harry is all that is good and pure in this world!P.s. I always skipped Quidditch scenes. The Triwizard scenes were kinda Quidditch-y to me. For that reason Goblet is my least favorite of the series. And I hated reading about Ron not liking Harry. But still! I remember when I got Goblet of Fire. I had to go to work and stop reading it. I didn't think about anything else but what was going to happen next in this book. Every other day was I numb with wanting to be anywhere else. That day I was happy to be in my own head. Goblet of Fire is a great book by my own definition because of that.

Where the Red Fern Grows

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4.01 rating

Comment 1: This young adult novel is a fine nature book along the line of Old Yeller, and The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. It is a thin book but very well written and I had no problem sinking into the tale of a boy and two beloved coon hunter hounds. The raccoons are full of tricks and the smarter of the two dogs knew them all and the bigger dog was like the tough dog. Both have their own personalities that they were almost complicated as people. It pulled at the heartstrings of hunters everywhere when they ha Comment 2: Omg this book was such an amazing one! Chapter 19 was so heartbreaking because of how the dogs die.... I never expecting Old Dan to die like that. I felt so sad when Little Ann just had all the life sucked it of her because of her brother that died. They were partners in crime and never did anything without the other! They had such a good relationship and when one died the other would die with it. I love this book so much and I definitely recommend this if you like books and dogs and relationshi Comment 3: Where the Red Fern Grows was my favorite book growing up as a kid. It's a classic story, a young boy saves up a substantial sum of money and buys two coon hunting dogs, Little Ann and Old Dan, and trains them to be the best damn coon hunting dogs in the Ozarks. He trains them thoroughly and ends up winning a coon hunting tournament, beating all odds due to his young age and inexperience, but he's got something that the other hunters are lacking, a beautiful connection with their dogs and the hea

Heart of Darkness

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3.39 rating

Comment 1:     First of all, get this straight: Heart of Darkness is one of those classics that you have to have read if you want to consider yourself a well-educated adult. That’s the bad news; the good news is that this is a very easy book to read — tremendously shorter than Moby-Dick, for instance. And the prose is easy to swallow, so you don’t really have an excuse.     Having watched Apocalypse Now doesn’t count — if anything, it ups the ante, since that means you have to think about the similarities and differences (for example, contrast and compare the U.S. involvement in Vietnam with the Belgian rule over the Congo. Actually quite an intriguing and provocative question).     Even though it is so much easier to read, this short novel shares with Moby-Dick the distressing fact that it is heavily symbolic. Frankly, I was trained as an engineer, and have to struggle even to attempt to peer through the veils of meaning, instead of just kicking back and enjoying the story.     My solution: when I checked this outta the library, I also grabbed the Cliff’s Notes. I read the story, then thought about it, then finally read the Study Guide to see what I’d missed.     And it was quite a bit. Like, the nature of a framed narrative: the actual narrator in Heart of Darkness isn’t Marlow, but some unnamed guy listening to Marlow talk. And he stands in for us, the readers, such as when he has a pleasant perspective on the beautiful sunset of the Thames at the beginning of the story, then at the end he has been spooked and sees it as leading “into the heart of an immense darkness”, much as the Congo does in the story (hint: the darkness is simultaneously the real unknown of the jungle, as well as the symbolic “darkness” that hides within the human heart, and thus also pervades society — so London, just upstream, really should be understood to be as frightening as the Congo).     My initial take on the story was that it seemed anachronistic and naive. Actually, it felt a lot like Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. In both books, the main character has inadvertently received license to fully explore their evil inclinations without the normal societal consequences, and yet they both pay the ultimate penalty for their lack of restraint. But my perspective on evil was long ago captured by Hannah Arendt’s conclusion after analyzing Eichmann: evil is a “banal” absence of empathy; it isn’t some malevolent force striving to seduce and corrupt us. Certainly, there are evil acts and evil people, but nothing mystical or spiritual that captures and enslaves, much less transforms us from Dr. Jekyll into Mr. Hyde.     Golding’s Lord of the Flies examined similar questions, but did it a way that feels much more modern. If people aren’t reminded by the constraints of civilization to treat others with respect, then sometimes they’ll become brutal and barbaric. But is their soul somehow becoming sick and corrupted? The question no longer resonates.     Even Conrad actually didn’t seem too clear on that question. These two quotes are both from Heart of Darkness — don’t they seem implicitly contradictory?:     The belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary; men alone are quite capable of every wickedness.   and     Anything approaching the change that came over his features I have never seen before, and hope never to see again. Oh, I wasn’t touched. I was fascinated. It was as though a veil had been rent. I saw on that ivory face the expression of sombre pride, of ruthless power, of craven terror—of an intense and hopeless despair. Did he live his life again in every detail of desire, temptation, and surrender during that supreme moment of complete knowledge? He cried in a whisper at some image, at some vision—he cried out twice, a cry that was no more than a breath:     ‘The horror! The horror!’     The former denies any supernatural origin for evil, but the latter alludes to the tragic results of a Faustian bargain — Marlowe sold his soul to see what mortals should never witness.     After pondering the study guide, I could see the allegorical content better. The mystical side of Heart of Darkness isn’t the only thing going on. Like the kids rescued from the island after Lord of the Flies, Marlow will forever be cognizant of how fragile civilized behavior can be, and how easily some slip into brutality — even those that have excellent motives and apparently unblemished characters. This is why he tells this as a cautionary tale to his shipmates on the Thames.     Marlow also received a clear lesson on hypocrisy. I hadn’t seen how deeply “The Company” represented European hypocrisy. Obviously “The Company” was purely exploitative and thus typical of imperialism, but in subtle ways Conrad made it not just typical but allegorically representative. One example Cliff mentions scares me just a bit: in the offices of “The Company” in Brussels, Marlow notices the strange sight of two women knitting black wool. Conrad provides no explanation. But recall your mythology: the Fates spun out the thread that measured the lives of mere mortals. In the story, these are represented as women who work for “The Company”, which has ultimate power over the mere mortals in Africa. That’s pretty impressive: Conrad tosses in a tiny aside that references Greek (or Roman or Germanic) mythology and ties it both to imperialism, as well as to the power that modern society has handed to corporations, and quietly walks away from it. How many other little tidbits are buried in this short book? Frankly, it seems kind of spooky.     The study guide also helped me understand what had been a major frustration of the book. I thought that Conrad had skipped over too much, leaving crucial information unstated. Between Marlow’s “rescue” of Kurtz and Kurtz’s death there are only a few pages in the story, but they imply that the two had significant conversations that greatly impressed Marlow, that left Marlow awestruck at what Kurtz had intended, had survived, and had understood. These impressions are what “broke” Marlow, but we are never informed of even the gist of those conversations.     But Marlow isn’t our narrator: he is on the deck of a ship, struggling to put into words a story that still torments him years after the events had passed. Sometimes he can’t convey what we want to know; he stumbles, he expresses himself poorly. The narrator is like us, just listening and trying to make sense out of it, and gradually being persuaded of the horrors that must have transpired.     •     •     •     •     •     •     •     •Addendum:     Conrad’s Heart of Darkness was written in 1899. A critical event which allowed the tragedy portrayed here was the Berlin Conference of 1884 (wikipedia), where the lines that divided up Africa were tidied up and shuffled a bit by the white men of Europe (no Africans were invited). The BBC4 radio programme In Our Time covered the conference on 31 October 2013. Listen to it streaming here, or download it as an MP3 here. Forty-three minutes of erudition will invigorate your synapses.     Oh, if you liked that In Our Time episode, here is the one they did on the book itself (mp3).­

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

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4.5 rating

Comment 1: Here's the thing about the Harry Potter books...They're awesome.Deep, huh? Well, deep or shallow, it's the truth. I waited a long time to read the Harry Potter books because I wanted to experience them with my own children. My son (8) and I just finished the sixth book, my first daughter (6) and I are working on the first, and my youngest child (3) is content to commandeer her siblings' wands and run around shrieking, "I have a Harry Potter stick!"In other words, we all enjoy it.I could write a great deal about Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, but it's a tough book to write about without giving things away. And though I loved this novel for many reasons, I find it quite difficult to separate it from the other tales. This, I think, speaks to J.K. Rowling's ability to connect the stories in a such a way that they each have their own identity while still continuing to trace a gigantic glowing arc through the sky along which the reader is able to ride from the first book to the seventh.So before I tell you a few things I loved about the novel, please know that there might be spoilers below. Not huge spoilers, mind you, but I'm always afraid of letting something slip. So...be forewarned. Don't read on if you haven't read this book yet. And if you haven't read the book, why are you reading a review of it by a writer whose skills don't yet approach J.K. Rowling's? Seriously. Get off the danged Internet and read this amazing series!Some delights and terrors and sorrows...1. Fenrir Greyback: Bet that surprised you a little. I know that this character played a relatively minor role, but on the page he was a scene-stealer, a flesh-chewer, and a perfect foil for one of my favorite character, Remus Lupin.An aside: About a year before I began reading the series, my Creative Writing class was discussing characterization. The kids began talking about the Harry Potter books. One remarked that the supporting characters were as interesting as the leads, which led another student to bring up Remus Lupin. She was halfway through her cataloging of his merits as a character when she stopped and looked up at me, as if seeing me anew. She then said, "Mr. (Insert real name here). You sort of remind me of Lupin." When I later found out he was a werewolf, I was a little bit shocked (and secretly pleased). But when I really got to know the character, I found the remark incredibly gratifying.Back to Fenrir Greyback (with whom I hope I have nothing in common)...What made Greyback so incredibly interesting to me was not only the sheer ferocity of his behavior, but the diabolical simplicity of his motives. If the Harry Potter books were likened to Lord of the Flies and Voldemort's ambition were compared with Jack's (the leader of the hunters), then Greyback would be Roger, the sadist. This powderkeg of a character lives only to rend flesh and to guzzle the steaming lifeblood of his victims. Greyback doesn't want to rule the world; he simply wants to terrorize it. I don't know what kind of a role he plays in the seventh book (if any), but his unreasoning brutality added just the right note of menace to a book that largely---and sensitively---focused on the romantic relationships of its teenagers.2. Fleur's Surprising Reaction: I admit to falling prey to a stupid prejudice here, and I feel awful about it. But I wrongly assumed Fleur Delacour was a pretty face without a soul. In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire she was the object of many male desires (Ron's particularly), and though she was skilled at wizardry, she wasn't an especially affecting character. She did seem affected, however, and when she showed up again in Book Six, I, like Mrs. Weasley, rolled my eyes and dismissed her as a fluttery, vapid future supermodel.How wrong I was.One mark of a great writer, I think, is the ability to surprise the reader without cheating. That's J.K. Rowling. When something terrible befell Fleur's fiance, I was all set to mentally berate her for her superficiality. But rather than making a caricature out of Fleur---as I fear I unknowingly did---Rowling transformed her and made her deeply endearing with a couple elegant lines of dialogue.And I loved that. So here's to continual reminders to not judge people by appearances or even their seeming personalities. People can still surprise us, and we need to give them the opportunity to do so.*takes a deep breath*And lastly...3. Dumbledore: If you've read this far, you've only been assailed by minor spoilers. I don't want to spoil this plot twist, but I don't know how to talk about it without spoiling it. And the fact is, I don't want to talk about it.Rarely has a fictional character so resonated with me the way Albus Dumbledore has. In the first book he was wise, eccentric, and a constant source of comfort. As the series has developed, he has persisted in exhibiting those traits, but he has also grown more than most might think. He has revealed a penchant for trusting others too much. He has admitted how fallible he is, how prone to mistakes. He has been injured, accused of wrongdoing, and generally fed through a physical and emotional woodchipper.And he has come through it all with an open, caring heart and an enormous capacity for love. One passage in particular, I think, summarizes this amazing character for me. In a scene that chronicles how Tom Riddle became Lord Voldemort, Dumbledore attempts to gird Harry's resolve and confidence in the inevitable battle with his nemesis:"Yes, you have," said Dumbledore firmly. "You have a power that Voldemort has never had. You can---""I know!" said Harry impatiently. "I can love!" It was only with difficult that he stopped himself adding, "Big deal!""Yes, Harry, you can love," said Dumbledore, who looked as though he knew perfectly well what Harry had just refrained from saying. "Which, given everything that has happened to you, is a great and remarkable thing. You are still too young to understand how unusual you are, Harry.""So, when the prophecy says that I'll have 'power the Dark Lord knows not,' it just means---love?" asked Harry, feeling a little let down."Yes---just love," said Dumbledore.The above passage will strike some as too direct, too naive, or worst of all, too emotional.It struck me as incredibly beautiful. There are all sorts of belief systems in the world, and no two people are exactly alike in their beliefs. But what Dumbledore says here is something that, were it adopted by more people, would alter our world for the better. Harry, for all his flaws, usually acts with good intentions. He befriends Luna Lovegood (another one of my favorite characters in all of fiction), gives of himself to others, and is willing to suffer so that others won't have to experience the same pain. In other words, Harry loves.And so can Dumbledore. Which is why this book was so memorable, wonderful, and painful to me.I'm going to go now. My wife is making a delicious supper. My son and first daughter are ready to wrestle. And my three-year-old is racing around the house casting spells on the furniture with her Harry Potter stick.And for that, J.K. Rowling, I thank you.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull

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3.77 rating

Comment 1: The dismissive review of this text: What an absolute waist* of time! I mean OMG how bad is this!The intellectual review of this text: Well, um, I do believe that, um, this is positively remarkable. With only 87 pages Mr Bach produces a fable of such monumental importance to all humanity. He discusses the idea of alienation, provides a subtle sense of xenophobia and highlights the hamartia of humanity.The unsure student's review of this text: I think it was, like, sort of good. I mean I like the whole story of the seagull's learning to fly and all. I was sort of lost in seagull heaven that was not heaven and had no idea what was going on ya know?The working man's appealing to intellectual tendencies review: Well I think that the novella is top class. It has a fascinating story about birds, some great pictures (of birds) and well it really tells us something about how incredible we as people can be. We can make our own heaven as he says and we all don't have to be alienated.My review:Jonathan Livingstone Seagull and I may share a first name but that's about as far as we can be friends. He's an outsider in his flock and so I don't think that we can relate on a personal level. Although to be fair it's not his outsider tendencies and his rebellion against what seagulls should be doing that drives me away. No I'm perfectly fine with the fact that he wants to fly free and fast, fishing out at sea rather than scrabbling for chips and fish on quays and attending sporting matches at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. I don't think that I can approve of his extracurricular activities, however, which involve being transported to another plane of existence (because he can fly so well, no less) with strange spirit gulls. I mean my parents told me never to go off with total strangers and here Jonathan Livingstone Seagull does just that and ends up in another weird dimension which is heaven, but not heaven. After all, Jonathan, is told, heaven must be found inside us and we find it through perfection which is in in being. A little pretentious perhaps?What I dislike most about this fable is what I perceive as the intended message. I am completely opposed to the mystic new age idea of finding contentment and peace within oneself to find heaven. That is because I instead believe in there being a life after death which is not a movement up to new planes of existence as seen in this work but rather one final resting place which is eternal. Of course I must admit that the positive of this work was that it was short. Which made it easy to race through in half an hour.Read if you wish but I will not be classing this a must read classic. Nor will I ever attempt to read this again. Unless of course the fictional reviewers above chase me down and force me at gunpoint. Or if a dozen clowns tie me up with nylon cords and force me to choose between reading it or hearing Vogon poetry...*the author of this review would like to inform that this is a poirposeful missspelling.

The Phantom Tollbooth

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4.21 rating

Comment 1: My feelings about this book were all over the map as I read; sometimes, I found myself annoyed, sometimes I was giggling and completely delighted, sometimes I was bored, sometimes I marveled at Juster's genius. So, it's a very difficult book for me to assign a rating to as some parts I loved and some parts I didn't. Overall, though, I understand why this is such an enduring classic and I'm very glad I read it.Even so, I'm not exactly sure who the audience for this book is meant to be; or maybe just that there are many different levels to appreciate it, enjoying different elements at different ages? We have a child protagonist, but for most of the book I didn't find him particularly interesting or easy to relate to; he seemed almost a blank slate, and perhaps this was the point, so that we could all be Milos, wandering through the marvelous lands on the other side of the Phantom Tollbooth. But, I think that children (at least, today's children) are more used to books with a strong character that we root for and that has a very clear personality. (Maybe I shouldn't generalize about all kids, though, and just talk about those like me; I think my mom, so good about exposing us to great literature, tried reading this to me as a kid and I didn't get into it.) Also, I am not sure that most children today will grasp all of the wordplay going on in this book (the Senses Taker, for example) nor all the various deeper meanings and how and why they are so relevant to our real world (such as all the demons like Gross Exaggeration and Hopping Hindsight). Not that any of this is the fault of the book, but I did wonder a bit at it being known as a children's classic when, I think, adults will get more out of it. I am interested to hear from those who read it as a child what they related to; maybe the quest for the princesses or the fun side characters like Tock and the Humbug? Or maybe some lucky children were able to appreciate all the wordplay, too. I agree with the New York Times review that stated, "Juster's amazing fantasy has something wonderful for anybody old enough to relish the allegorical wisdom of 'Alice in Wonderland' and the pointed whimsy of 'The Wizard of Oz'."I really loved some of the chapters and characters; they were so funny and amusing and I found myself nodding in agreement at all the little life lessons they so skillfully and subtly conveyed. Some characters were just plan delightful, such as all the members of the cabinet. And Tock was so endearing! Some, however, were more frustrating or annoying for me, such as the Confusion in the Marketplace, and the Silent Valley (I wonder what deaf people think when they read that chapter?). A few of the little side scenarios were very fun, like the Jumping to Conclusions (hilarious!) but the little bit with the man who was a Giant/Midget/Fat/Thin etc. just bored me. As I read, I wished I had bought the book rather than got it from the library so I could highlight the many parts I loved and the fabulous quotes; so wise and witty! I think, though, that was part of my occasional frustration with the story in that sometimes I felt too much like I was being taught and not enough that I was fully involved in a story that really captivated me and wound me up in its magic. I think, though, this is party due to my taste in books as I'm not usually one to enjoy the little segments like this (admittedly, I was not a huge fan of Alice in Wonderland and the book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, either (though I loved the movie!)) and usually prefer a stronger plot. Minor frustrations aside, I still really enjoyed the book overall, even if I wasn't super compelled to pick it up each day. And I loved the ending; the chapters beginning with Castle in the Air were just lovely and brought together all the plot and character dynamics I had been hoping for throughout the book. And the last two pages; wow! I think I should copy those out to look back at them often, any time I am feeling less than inspired with life, and remember how glorious it all is!

The Battle of the Labyrinth

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4.37 rating

Comment 1: The fourth novel in the Percy Jackson series was rather polarizing for me. On the one hand, it represented an aggressive move from the usually harmless adventures of the young teens, to a darker and bloodier novel. I welcome the change, especially since I have complained in some of the novels that there was a definite lack of permanence and actual stakes.The book is packed with nicely written and powerful scenes and, as a coherent whole, I felt very in tune with Battle of the Labyrinth. The titular setting – the ever-shifting Labyrinth that magically connects various places through a complex series of underground tunnels – was suitably oppressive. Strange as it may seem, I loved feeling compressed under all those tons of earth, trying to find the way out. I guess I just love night time, so imagine how I felt imagining myself in a place where it's always night. Ok, it was also filled with monsters and other dangers, but still...Anyway, on the most part, the heroes are set on defending their camp from the Titan Lord: Kronos and his growing army as he gathers his strength and plans on wiping out Camp Half-Blood and Olympus itself, before enslaving/destroying humanity along the way. Suitably high stakes, and with an actual battle in the last few chapters of the novel, it does live up to its name, and finally shows us why these Half-Bloods have been training half their lives.As the story goes on, Percy and Annabeth’s relationship crawls along awkwardly, with some kind of tension between them, along with adolescent "confused feelings" and jealousy. It’s all a bit painful to read, honestly. Some of the minor characters introduced to the plot are only there for a few specific scenes, and vanish without a second thought just chapters later. Grover’s finally gets some closure on his quest to find the great god Pan. With all this loose ends being connected, I felt like Battle of the Labyrinth was a "filler" novel. It had its moments, but it was largely just wrapping up some plot threads from the previous novel, as though Rick Riordan really wanted to start the final book with a clean slate.Overall, this novel isn't particularly bad, but it isn’t particularly good. Compared to Titan’s Curse, it feels like it’s lacking a coherent plot thread; the ending felt a little rushed. Also, the characters are starting to feel flat and worn-out, recycling the same emotions and desires. Still, I liked it well enough, even though I wish some nuances of the story had been better developed. Interesting quotes that I didn't include in the review: People are more difficult to work with than machines. And when you break a person, he can't be fixed. The Last Passage(view spoiler)[ Nico tapped at his silver ring. ‘But that’s not the real reason I’ve come. I’ve found out some things. I want to make you an offer.’‘What?’‘The way to beat Luke,’ he said. ‘If I’m right, it’s the only way you’ll stand a chance.’I took a deep breath. ‘Okay. I’m listening.’Nico glanced inside my room. His eyebrows furrowed. ‘Is that… is that blue birthday cake?’He sounded hungry, maybe a little wistful. I wondered if the poor kid had ever had a birthday party, or if he’d ever even been invited to one.‘Come inside for cake and ice cream,’ I said. ‘It sounds like we’ve got a lot to talk about.’ (hide spoiler)]

The Call of the Wild

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3.79 rating

Comment 1: A poignant and triumphant tale of a great creature in the wild. He feels the bitterness and savagery of men and his pack, there has been a dividing line in his relations with humans by no fault but their own due to their constant usage of this canine Buck in work, in pulling in the snow, they have not shown any kindness, but there is hope he will soon be blessed with some.One man shows a kindness that helps Buck, who has had a life of toil and enduring of hardships, its a warming to the heart to see man and animal bonded in humility and kindness.Humans can be cruel and unkind to each other, and many guilty of worser crimes to animals in the wild and those under their control as a pet, they are more vulnerable and have no voice.Jack London here has given them a voice in this story and White Fang.He has successfully placed us in their point of view, in the shoes of the main protagonist Buck. An inspiring story that will continue to last through time.Jack London is another author that I recently hold high up there in the sphere of great writers, he writes with great insight into the world, the behaviours, the human condition and here the animal dilemma.I read this story way too late in my life, I only wished that I learned of these great stories of his when i was in my youth. This story has revived for me the importance of justice and kindness to the animal kingdom and the freedom to an animal of the wild.Joe Lansdale an author, I have praised many times due to his similar storytelling of great human stories and wonderful character creations, recommends this author and has said in an interview that Jack London had inspired him in his youth as a writer and I can now see why.If all this is not enough reason to read this or to remind one of its greatness, then read what the author E. L. Doctorow said in his preface of this story..."Man and dog are here together put back into prehistory, one of the moments of metaphorical abutment in which the book abounds. The law of the club and the law of the fang are one and the same, which is to say that in this primeval life of nature man and dog are morally indistinguishable-the call of the wild calls us all. We are dealing in this instance with not a literal dog but a mythopoetic thesis.It is perhaps his fatherless life of bitter self-reliance in late-nineteenth-century America that he transmutes here-though this is not the way it does us any good to read it. It seems more relevantly his mordant parable of the thinness of civilisation, the brutality ready to spring up through our institutions, the failure of the human race to evolve truly from its primeval beginnings. It derives from Jack London's Marxism the idea of the material control of our natures, and from his Darwinism the convictions that life triumphant belongs to the most fit. This is not a sweet idea for a book, it is rather the kind of concept to justify tyrannies and the need of repressive social institutions to keep people from tearing themselves to bits. But London's Nietzchean superdog has our admiration, if the truth be told. For as grim as its implications are, the tale never forgets its sources as a magazine frontier romance. It leaves us with satisfaction as its outcome, a story well and truly told. It is Jack London's hack genius that makes us cheer for his Buck and want to lope with him in happy, savage honor back to the wild, running and howling with the pack."Now for some great paragraphs from this story. “Bucks first day on the Dyea beach was like a nightmare. Every hour was filled with shock and surprise. He had been suddenly jerked from the heart of civilisation and flung into the heart of things primordial. No lazy, sun-kissed life was this, with nothing to do but loaf and be bored. Here was neither peace, nor rest, nor a moment’s safety. All was confusion and action, and every moment life and limb was in peril. There was imperative need to be constantly alert; for these dogs and men were not town dogs and men. They were savages, all of them, who knew no law but the law of club and fang.”“And not only did he learn by experience, but instincts long dead became alive again. The domesticated generations feel from him. In vague ways he remembered back to the youth of the breed, to the time the wild dogs ranged in packs through the primeval forest and killed their meat as they ran it down. It was no task for him to learn to fight with cut and slash and the quick wolf snap. In this manner had fought forgotten ancestors. They quickened the old life within him, and the old tricks which they had stamped into the heredity of the breed were his tricks. They came to him without effort or discovery, as though they had been his always. And when, on the still, cold nights, he pointed his nose at the star and howled long and wolf like, it was his ancestors, dead and dust, pointing nose at star and howling down through the centuries and through him. And his cadences were their cadences, the cadences which voiced their woe and what to them was the meaning of the stillness, and the cold, and dark. Thus, as token of what a puppet thing life is, the ancient song surged through him and he came into his own again; and he came because men had found a yellow metal in the North…”“The dominant primordial beast was strong in Buck, and under the fierce conditions of the trial life it grew and grew. Yet it was a secret growth. His newborn cunning gave him poise and control. He was too busy adjusting himself to the new life to feel at ease, and not only did he not pick fights, but he avoided them whenever possible. A certain deliberateness characterized his attitude. He was not prone to rashness and precipitate action; and in the bitter hatred between him and Spitz he betrayed no impatience, shunned all offensive acts.”“All that stirring of old instincts which at stated periods drives men out from the surrounding cities to forest and plain to kill things by chemically propelled leaden pellets, the blood lust, the joy to kill-all this was Buck’s, only it was infinitely more intimate. He was ranging at the head of the pack, running the wild thing down, the living meat, to kill with his own teeth and wash his muzzle to the eyes in warm blood. There is an ecstasy that marks the summit of life, and beyond life cannot rise. And such is the paradox of living, this ecstasy comes when one is most alive, and it comes as a complete forgetfulness that one is alive. This ecstasy, this forgetfulness of living, comes to the artist, caught up and out of himself in a sheet of flame; it comes to the solider, war-mad on a stricken field and refusing quarter; and it came to Buck, leading the pack, sounding the old wolf cry, straining after the food that was alive and that fled swiftly before him through the moonlight. He was sounding the deeps of his nature, and of the parts of his nature that were deeper than he, going back into the womb of Time. He was mastered by the sheer surging of life, the tidal wave of being, the perfect joy of each separate muscle, joint, and sinew in that it was everything that was not death, that it was aglow and rampant, expressing itself in movement, flying exultantly under the stars and over the face of dead matter that did not move.”“It was beautiful spring weather, but neither dogs nor humans were aware of it. Each day rose earlier and set later. It was dawn by three in the morning, and twilight lingered till nine at night. The whole long day was a blaze of sunshine. The ghostly winter silence had given way to the great spring murmur of awakening life. This murmur arose from al the land, fraught with the joy of living. It came from the things that lived and moved again, things which had been as dead and which had not moved during the long months of frost. The sap was rising in the pines. The willows and aspens were bursting out in young buds. Shrubs and vines were putting on fresh garbs of green. Crickets sang in the nights, and in the days all manner of creeping, crawling things rusted forth into the sun. Partridges and woodpeckers were booming and knocking in the forest. Squirrels were chattering, birds singing, and overhead honked the wild fowl driving up from the south in cunning wedges that split the air.”“This man had saved his life, which was something; but, further, he was the ideal master. Other men saw to the welfare of their dogs from a sense of duty and business expediency; he was to the welfare of his as if they were his own children, because he could not help it. And he saw further. He never forgot kindly greeting or a cheering word, and to sit down for a long talk with them (gas he called it) was as much his delight as theirs. He had a way of taking Buck’s head roughly between his hands, and resting his own head upon Buck’s, of shaking him back and forth, the while calling him ill names that to Buck were love names. Buck knew no greater joy than that rough embrace and the sound of murmured oaths, and at each jerk back and forth it seemed that his heart would be shaken out of his body so great was its ecstasy. And when, released, he sprang to his feet, his mouth laughing, his eyes eloquent, his throat vibrant with unuttered sound, and in that fashion remained without movement, John Thornton would reverently exclaim, “God! You can all but speak!”“The blood longing became stronger than ever before. He was a killer, a thing that preyed, living on the things that lived, unaided, alone, by virtue of his own strength and prowess, surviving triumphantly in a hostile environment where only the strong survived. Because all of this he became possessed of a great pride in himself, which communicated itself like a contagion to his physical being. It advertised itself in all his movements, was apparent in the play of very muscle, spoke plainly as speak in the way he carried himself, and made his glorious furry coat if anything more glorious. But for the stray brown on his muzzle and above his eyes, and for the splash of white hair that ran midmost down his chest, he might well have been mistaken for a gigantic wolf, larger than the largest of the breed. From his St. Bernard father he had inherited size and weight, but it was his shepherd mother who had given shape to that size and weight. His muzzle was the long wolf muzzle, save that it was larger than the muzzle of any wolf; and his head, somewhat broader, was the wolf head on a massive scale.”“There is a patience of the wild-dogged, tireless, persistent as life itself-that holds motionless for endless hours the spider in its web, the snake in its coils, the panther in its ambuscade; this patience belong peculiarly to life when it hunts its living food; and it belonged to Buck as he clung to the flank of the herd….”It has brought about three adaptations to film http://more2read.com/review/the-call-of-the-wild-by-jack-london/

Fifty Shades of Grey

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3.69 rating

Comment 1: While my sister and I were at the 2012 Book Expo America in NYC, she jokingly suggested we read this book aloud to each other in the hotel room at night. Unfortunately, every night when we dragged ourselves back to our hotel in Chinatown, we fell asleep almost immediately. Thankfully, we had a three-hour car trip back to Baltimore, and decided to start then. We alternated chapters--conveniently, each one ended right before a rest stop or some other exit, and we made it to chapter 8 before reachi Comment 2: Really.. blah, blah. On & on. No purpose, no plot, meandering for meandering's sake. I didn't finish it because, quite frankly, the 'heroine' got on my last fucking nerve. The writing style is atrocious and I can't fathom how or why so many people love this tiny slice of interweb fan fiction garbage. Comment 3: I feel like there is a deeper meaning behind Fifty Shades of Grey then just BDSM and sex but the huge downfall of this book was the writing. I can see both sides of the fifty shades argument. There are points in the book where I can see abuse but there are also points where there is none. Comment 4: I didn’t want to start this book. Many people are praising it but I’m simply not into erotica, it’s too cheap for me. But here I am in the mind of the innocent waiting to be devoured by the big bad wolf. Sounds pornographic, doesn’t it? That’s because it is…

Alice in Wonderland

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4 rating

Comment 1: “Così rimase seduta con gli occhi chiusi, quasi credendosi nel Paese delle Meraviglie, pur sapendo che sarebbe bastato riaprirli per ritornare alla grigia realtà.”Quand’ero bambina, c’era un unico cartone della Disney che non guardavo mai con piacere. E questo era, non a caso, Alice nel Paese delle Meraviglie. Mia sorella ed io ne eravamo terrorizzate. I fiori pettegoli, la Regina di Cuori, la storia delle Ostrichette. La storia delle Ostrichette! Ma dico, ve la ricordate?Avevo già letto questo libro alle scuole elementari, ma non ne avevo un chiaro ricordo. Ho visto il film di Tim Burton, che ha inspiegabilmente tratto da una storia eversiva e pirotecnica una sciapa minestrina fantasy. E così, dopo tanti anni lontana da Alice, qual è il mio finale bilancio su di lei? Alice nel paese delle meraviglie è un romanzo che si presta a molteplici livelli di lettura. Lo si può leggere come una pietra miliare del fantastico e della letteratura per l’infanzia, come un codice matematico cifrato, come un banchetto per gli appassionati di psichiatria, come un trattato di semiotica. Oppure potete leggerlo alla luce della biografia di Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, meglio noto come Lewis Carroll, reverendo e matematico e precettore. E pedofilo, aggiungeranno i bene informati. Pedofilo, certo. E tanto vale spezzare una lancia in merito o meglio tagliare la testa (come direbbe la Regina di Cuori) al toro. Non sono qui per fare l’apologia di Lewis Carroll: non ho gli strumenti né la conoscenza necessaria. Eppure questa figurina così patetica, questo matematico timido e balbuziente che andava in giro per le spiagge inglesi portandosi dietro una borsa di caramelle sembra messo lì apposta per suscitarmi tenerezza. Occorre precisare che le caramelle non erano per lui. Andava in giro con le caramelle per attirare le bambine, per farsele amiche e poi immortalarle nude in pose lascive nell’obiettivo di una macchina fotografica. Non propriamente un uomo che vorreste come baby-sitter. Il problema di noi moderni è che abbiamo sempre la pretesa di essere nel giusto e che, quando guardiamo al passato, vogliamo farlo con gli occhi dei moderni. Ci sono alcuni casi in cui questo metodo risulta applicabile, altri in cui riesce fuorviante. Non so dire se questo sia il caso nel nostro Carroll e non posso esprimere alcun giudizio in merito. Mi limiterò a trascrivere un passaggio tratto dall’introduzione al mio volume, che considero tutto sommato illuminante: “Uno sguardo troppo ancorato alla contemporaneità e alla cronaca nera rischia di sviarci da una piena comprensione di questa eccentricità. È infatti l’Età Vittoriana nel suo complesso che intrattiene con il bambino, e con la bambina in particolar modo, rapporti ambigui e sostanzialmente insani. Nell’anno di pubblicazione di Alice migliaia di fanciulli inglesi sono costretti a lavorare in fabbrica per quindici ore al giorno […]. Nell’austera Londra Vittoriana si contano circa 120.000 prostitute, di cui una buona percentuale fra i dodici e i quattordici anni. Le bambine delle classi più abbienti si sposano spesso in età giovanissima (dai dodici in su) con uomini più vecchi di almeno dieci anni.”Tanto per intenderci, siamo nell’Inghilterra in cui gli orfanelli di Dickens convivono con i giovinastri irretiti da Oscar Wilde. In un contesto simile una figura come Lewis Carroll non appare poi così perversa e trasgressiva. Per approfondimenti, rimando ad Antonia Byatt e al suo “Il libro dei bambini”, che ben inquadra il rapporto tra adulti, bambini e letteratura per l’infanzia nell’età vittoriana. A prescindere da questo, che Carroll fosse un pedofilo (letteralmente, “amante dei bambini”) a noi moderni non dovrebbe importare granché. Da quando valutiamo il valore letterario di un’opera in base alla moralità del suo artista? Se Hitler avesse scritto un grande romanzo, una cosa del tipo La montagna incantata, forse che non lo leggeremmo perché scritto da Hitler? E se Padre Pio fosse stato un romanziere mediocre, dovremmo valutarlo in base alle sue competenze di scrittore o alle sue doti umane? Questo per dire che all’affermazione “Carroll è un gran romanziere” è superfluo e irrilevante far notare “Sì, ma era un pedofilo”. Dire “era un pedofilo” è come dire “era basso”, “era avaro”, “andava a letto con tutte”. Insomma, in quale mondo io lettore sono chiamato a valutare un’opera in base alla vita privata del suo autore? Ora che abbiamo spezzato le lance e tagliato le teste, possiamo andare avanti più distesamente. Siccome sono piuttosto ignorante di letteratura fantastica e ho un’intelligenza tutta linguistica e per niente logico/matematica, l’aspetto su cui cercherò di concentrarmi è appunto quello linguistico/semiologico. Si usa dire che Alice nel paese delle meraviglie sia un capolavoro del nonsense. “Benché il nonsense venga spesso inteso come mancanza di senso, in realtà esso è solo negazione di senso, e presuppone dunque la sua presenza” (cit. da blog). Il nonsense non è dunque sinonimo di demenziale né di insensato. Il nonsense è il rovesciamento del senso corrente. Lewis Carroll fa questo a tutti i livelli, sovverte tutte le regole del mondo conosciuto: si mettono in discussione le leggi della fisica, si discutono quelle dell’educazione e del buonsenso, si ribaltano le pratiche linguistiche e le pratiche giudiziarie. Il mondo in cui Alice si muove è una dimensione anarchica e sovversiva, priva di una geografia ben definita: andando a destra si arriva dalla stessa parte che andando a sinistra, prima si era in una stanza circolare e d’un tratto si galleggia sul pelo di un oceano, nei tronchi degli alberi si aprono porte verso l’interno. Non si tratta neanche di uno spazio labirintico. Si tratta decisamente di un non-spazio, uno spazio onirico in cui si muovono personaggi onirici, o meglio apparizioni. “Alice non va dove la porta il cuore: va dove la porta il caos” è il felice commento della mia introduzione. I personaggi di questo romanzo sono così arcifamosi che non ci spenderò neanche mezza parola. Il Coniglio Bianco, il Bruco, il Gatto del Chesire, il Cappellaio Matto, la Lepre Marzolina, la Regina di Cuori sono ormai entrati nel nostro immaginario collettivo. Scene come Alice che si dilata e si restringe, la partita di cricket con i fenicotteri per mazze e i porcospini per palle, i giardinieri che dipingono di rosso un rosaio bianco, il tè senza fine, il sorriso del Gatto che compare a mezz’aria, tutte queste immagini sono così vivide e parlano alla nostra memoria di lettori e di bambini. Vederle scritte sulla pagina non è una sorpresa. Eppure dovrebbe esserlo. Eppure dovrebbe esserlo. Lewis Carroll è l’uomo, è l’inventore di questo caleidoscopio della fantasia. Nella nostra testa abbiamo tutti un cassettino con scritto “Lewis Carroll”, eppure lo apriamo senza pensarci mai. Perché, se ci pensassimo, non potremmo fare a meno di chiederci: da quale abisso ha attinto tutto questo, questa galleria di figure e di situazioni ormai divenute luoghi comuni, ormai divenuti storia? Ho detto che avrei speso qualche parola a proposito della rivoluzione linguistica in Alice. L’incomunicabilità tra i personaggi è uno dei punti chiavi di questo romanzo. Alice fa una domanda e ottiene una risposta assolutamente inappropriata. Alice fa una domanda e non ottiene risposta. Alice dice una cosa e questa viene mal interpretata. Alice dice una cosa e questa viene interpretata alla lettera. Il presupposto di questa insormontabile barriera linguistica è ciò che fornisce a Carroll il trampolino di lancio verso mirabolanti giochi di parole. Così, se siete tutti bagnati, potete provare a farvi raccontare una storia molto “seccante”, ma non è detto che vi asciughiate. Se volete dire “sii quel che vuoi sembrare” potete anche usare una perifrasi del tipo “non credere mai di non essere diversa da quello che potrebbe sembrare agli altri che tu fossi o potessi essere se fossi diversa da quello che saresti stata se fosse loro sembrato che eri diversa”. Se avete ammazzato il tempo, è probabile che il vostro orologio smetta di funzionare. Un esempio per tutti:A queste parole il Cappellaio spalancò gli occhi, ma tutto quello che disse fu: « Che differenza c’è fra un corvo e uno scrittoio? »« Oh, finalmente ci si diverte » pensò Alice. « Sono contenta che facciano il gioco degli indovinelli… Forse lo so » aggiunse ad alta voce. « Vuoi dire che pensi di sapere qual è la risposta? » disse la Lepre Marzolina. « Proprio così » disse Alice. « Allora dovresti dire quello che pensi » continuò la Lepre Marzolina. « Lo faccio » rispose subito Alice « o almeno… penso quello che dico… che poi è la stessa cosa, no? »« Proprio per niente! » disse il Cappellaio. « Sarebbe come dire che ‘Vedo quello che mangio’ è la stessa cosa di ‘Mangio quello che vedo’! »Volevo lasciarvi con questo passaggio, che poi è il mio preferito: « Puoi dirmi da che parte devo andare? »« Tutto dipende da dove vuoi arrivare » disse il Gatto. « Non importa molto dove... » disse Alice. « Allora non importa neanche che direzione prendi » disse il Gatto. « ...mi basta arrivare da qualche parte » soggiunse Alice a mo' di spiegazione. « Beh, se cammini abbastanza » disse il Gatto « da qualche parte arrivi di sicuro. »Questo non si poteva negare; così Alice provò con un'altra domanda. « Chi abita qui attorno? »« Da quella parte » disse il Gatto agitando la zampa destra « abita un Cappellaio, e da quella » disse agitando la sinistra « una Lepre Marzolina. Vai pure da chi vuoi: sono tutti e due matti. »« Ma io non voglio andare fra i matti » osservò Alice. « Non hai molta scelta » disse il Gatto « qui siamo tutti matti. Sono matto io. Sei matta tu. »« Come fai a dire che sono matta? » disse Alice. « Devi esserlo » disse il Gatto « altrimenti non saresti venuta qui. »A distanza di 15 (?) anni da quando ho conosciuto per la prima volta Alice nel paese delle meraviglie, ne ho ora un’idea abbastanza precisa. Alice è come una grande caramella rosa shocking messa nella mano della piccola Alice Liddell, che è poi il motivo per cui la storia esiste. Alice è la caramella più grossa e succosa del nostro inquietante amico Do-Do-Dodgson. Alice è una caramella che ancora ci viene tesa attraverso lo spazio e il tempo per immortalare le nostre facce sorprese in una smorfia divertita.

Bridge to Terabithia

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3.95 rating

Comment 1: No, I'm not crying. There's just a log in my eye. Okay, so I read this YEARS ago. Maybe when I was 14? I saw the movie first and that absolutely ruined me. I think this is about my 3rd reread, which proves this book is timeless. As well as, you know, heart ripping. I thought I'd be okay reading this. BUT I WASN'T. I JUST WAS NOT. I JUST ABOUT CHOKED UP WHEN THE DAD SAID:"Lord, boy, don't be a fool. God ain't gonna send any little girls to hell.I don't know why. But I really just started crying there. This book is amazing for it's little lines that just hit home so powerfully. It's a few sentences and -- BOOM -- it's gotten under your skin and into your soul.Also, I never really cared about "good writing" before now, but...THIS IS SERIOUSLY GOOD WRITING. Sure there are chapters were it's mostly "told" what's happened without actual scenes. But the dialogue?! It's perfection and natural, but not weighted down with unnecessaries or dialogue tags. Omg, it's just beautiful. And the story flows so perfectly. There are TWO foreshadows to the ending, which I only noticed now of course. And, towards the end, I just started feeling outright SICK because I knew what was coming. I noticed other things, being an adult reading this, that I wouldn't have picked up on originally. Like: + There's quite a bit of "fat shaming" here. Both Janice Avery (the school bully) and one of Jess' sisters get teased about being fat. It was sad and I felt uncomfortable, particularly when no one felt bad for doing this. + When the teacher reads out Leslie's essay she says "this is an unusual hobby for a girl"...which sort of tainted the chapter for me. + The whole Ms. Edmunds taking Jess to the city for the day was...weird. I mean, logically? She was just being nice. But you'd never get away iwth that in a million years these days. Especially since Ms. Edmunds didn't even talk to his parents (I know, I know, she told him to get permission and it was fine...but you know what I MEAN).I'm not saying these are heinous faults. I think they more just colour the book from the era it was written in. And if a book can still be timeless through all this? Then just GIVE IT A MILLION STICKERS AND HUG IT. Or slap it. Because it made me cry, dangit.I love the themes of uncanny friendship, of Jess feeling under-appreciated and overlooked and like a fish out of water in his family, and of being bullied and turning into the bullies. There is literally so much packed into this book. And of course, the gut-wrenching happenings of Leslie Burke.Also the ending made me freaking sob again. Darn this book. When Jess took May Belle into Terabithia? ERMAGERD. I CANNOT RIGHT NOW. (Aren't I supposed to be the mature reasonable adult here? Hand me the tissue box.)This book is a warm, soulful classic that broke me and I hate it but I love it. And that's all I'm gonna say.

Oh, The Places You'll Go!

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4.33 rating

Comment 1: Dr. Seuss is clearly the true essence of children’s books as he writes about life in a playful and lyrical way that children can easily understand. Well, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” is definitely no exception as it is about believing in yourself as you go out into the world. “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” is easily a book that every child should read whenever he or she are in a slump!Basically, this book is about taking charge of your own life facing difficulties in your life such as loneliness, fear, and confusion, with a straight face and taking on life ahead of you in a lyrical prose that children will easily appreciate!Oh my goodness! There are so many things that I loved about this book that it would take me all day to list them! For one thing, Dr. Seuss’ writing is clearly more memorable in this book as he tells children who are on their way to facing life ahead of them on their own to have positive attitudes and face their fears head on! I just loved the way that Dr. Seuss showed the upside and downside attributes of life all in a lyrical prose as the writing was truly creative and inspirational. I never would have thought that I would find a book about the tough trials of life that is so well-written and whenever I read this book, I think about the hardships I had to endure during my life, but then I realize that life always has its ups and downs and only you can decide what to make of your life, which is what Dr. Seuss has shown in this book. Probably my favorite verse in this book was this line:“I’m afraid that some times,You’ll play lonely games too.Games you can’t win,‘cause you’ll play against you.”This was a truly powerful verse for me because it is saying that there will be times where you can succeed, but sometimes when you do not believe in yourself, you end up losing the game or not succeeding at all. Dr. Seuss’ illustrations are just as creative and surreal in this book as the main character is a young boy who wears a yellow jumpsuit and a yellow hat. The world that surrounds the boy is extremely surreal as the hills and the grounds are in multicolored stripes and the creatures that the boy meets along the way are also bizarre, especially of the image of the boy meeting a huge green monster that has black stripes on its body and short yellow bushy tail.All in all, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” is easily one of Dr. Seuss’ best works ever created and it should be read to any child who graduates from school! I would recommend this book to children ages three and up since there is nothing inappropriate in this book.Review is also on: Rabbit Ears Book Blog

The Sea of Monsters

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4.21 rating

Comment 1: This book was a bit of a letdown for me after The Lightning Thief. It was slow to start, especially considering this is the second book in a series and much of the foundation is already laid for us. There were monster battles early on, but it took a long time to focus in on the major issue in the story, and then another long spell before our heroes set out on their quest. I wouldn't have minded as much if there had been more to hold my attention in that first part of the book. There were neat ideas to be sure, but they weren't as robust as I think they could have been. A couple parts similarly dragged once they set out on their quest, but overall it did pick up, after all.For me, Riordan is at his best when he's incorporating Greek mythology on the modern world. A mythical sea full of monsters through which all heroes venture during their quests, where impossible things happen, and from which there's a good chance people won't return? Where else in our world but the Bermuda Triangle? The Grey Sisters's taxi service is brilliant. And I like when these motifs are illustrated down to the details, like the incongruous sight of modern party-animal-type centaurs teaching an adolescent cyclops how to use a giant paint gun. It's the outlandish made seemingly commonplace, and it's something I adore. However, I didn't feel there was quite as much of this in The Sea of Monsteres as in The Lightning Thief, sadly.I admire the way Percy grows during the book, especially in learning to accept and appreciate Tyson. Also, his dry humor and commentary continued to make me laugh in this second installment. I wish I had seen some of the other characters, like Annabeth and Clarisse, also grow during the course of the story. Mostly, they serve as foils and support for Percy's growth, and I think they deserve more. Yes, we get a glimpse of Annabeth's greatest desire, and she does get over her "all Cyclopes are bad" kick, but that transformation is stated rather than shown and developed; most attention spent on Annabeth is spent on her back story or her part in Percy's story. Annabeth is an intelligent and active female character, someone girls look to as a role model, and I wish the author had explored her more as a character.At least the end of the book was completely epic; a classic cliff-hanger that made me jump right next to the third book. Regardless, my opinion is that The Sea of Monsters is an enjoyable read, but it didn't really resonate for me, and I think it could have been more. Interesting quotes that I didn't include in the review: “Does truth have a moral?” The Last Passage(view spoiler)[ The girl’s blue eyes stared into mine, and I understood what the Golden Fleece quest had been about. The poisoning of the tree. Everything. Kronos had done it to bring another chess piece into play—another chance to control the prophecy.Even Chiron, Annabeth, and Grover, who should’ve been celebrating this moment, were too shocked, thinking about what it might mean for the future. And I was holding someone who was destined to be my best friend, or possibly my worst enemy.“I am Thalia,” the girl said. “Daughter of Zeus.” (hide spoiler)]

The Clan of the Cave Bear

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3.99 rating

Comment 1: My #7 Favorite read of 2013 A Unique and Entrancing 5 Stars When I am rating a book, I am internally comparing that book to other similar books in the genre and asking myself if it is on par with the best I have read. For me, when it comes to rating what I deem to be Historical Fiction, 5 stars are a rarity. It is my favorite genre and there is always a masterpiece to which it can be compared. That said, The Clan of the Cave Bear has no peers. For me, this story explores a time that I have never explored or read and I have basis for comparison. In general, as historical fiction, it meets all my requirements. There is a sense of realism, the sense the author has researched the time period, a sense that the characters belong in the time period and ability of the author to help of live history instead of reciting it.As far as historical fiction in concerned, The Clan of the Cave Bear is likely far more Fiction than historical. The setting is prehistoric times and what we know or claim to know of these early days is no more than our best guesses. Regardless, Jean Auel clearly researched the available material and provide and interesting look into prehistoric life. Plot summary After an earthquake kills the family of Ayla, a "Cro-Magnon" girl, she is adopted into the clan of Neanderthals. The child is different from her adoptive clan. She does not have the shared memories and the instinctual ways of the life as the Neanderthals. She is an inquisitive, logical tall and blond while her new family is survival oriented, ingrained, short and squat. She struggles to be considered part of a clan in which she should not be accepted. The story watches this outsider come of age and explores how her logical and creative mind allows her to integrate herself with a different people The Good The book contains a minimal amount of dialogue. The Clan vocalized little more than names and communication is a series of the complicated hand signals. While this may seems like a recipe for disaster, the author integrates it seamlessly. The minimal dialogue feels natural and comfortable. The story does an amazing job of integrating theories of early man. The ideas of the shared and instinctual memory was fascinating as it gave the Neanderthals both a human and animalistic feel. While both race of people considered themselves human it was interesting to see people separated by something other than race, color or language but separated by fundamental difference in biological construction. The Bad I have very little to say that is negative. From time to time the conversation felt too modern. Given that the author was using words to express non verbal communication, I can't hold it against her. Generally, I am not at a loss when it comes to finding fault. The majority of the issues that I may have had with the book were petty and not worth mentioning. Content Advisories It is difficult to find commentary on the sex/violence/language content of book if you are interested. I make an effort to give you the information so you can make an informed decision before reading. *Disclaimer* I do not take note or count the occurrences of adult language as I read. I am simply giving approximations.Scale 1 - Lowest 5 - Highest Sex - 2.5 There is discussion of the sexual intercourse. Family lived in caves without wall or rooms and sex was not hidden and was a daily and open reality. This is discussed on several occasions. Over the course of one chapter there is discussion of a series of rapes. The descriptions are not graphic but some readers will be disturbed by the portrayal. Language - 1 There was not use of adult language. Violence - 3 There is violence as noted under "sex". Some readers may find the depictions of woman to be disturbing and several character engaging in physical assaults on women. There is one serious assault and several instance of single punches or hits. Again, the depictions are not graphic. There is some minor gore in hunting scene and one results in the death or a clan member. There is an instance of cannibalism that some readers will find disturbing.

Oliver Twist

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3.82 rating

Comment 1: Oliver Twist is one of Charles Dickens's best known stories. Characters such as the evil Fagin, with his band of thieves and villains, the Artful Dodger with "all the airs and manners of a man," the house-breaker Sikes and his dog, the conscience-stricken but flawed Nancy, the frail but determined Oliver, and the arrogant and hypocritical beadle Mr Bumble have taken on a life of their own and passed into our culture. Who does not recognise the sentence,"Please sir, I want some more!" or"If the law says that, then the law is a ass - a idiot. If that's the eye of the law, the law is a bachelor; and the worst I wish the law is, that his eye may be opened by experience - by experience!"Dramatisations of this story abound, and there have been 25 films made of it...so far! Oliver Twist was appearing in 10 theatres in London before serialisation of the novel was even completed, so how does the original novel hold up for a modern reader? It seems pointless in this review to retell this famous story. The excellent film by David Lean from 1948 is one of the most faithful to the book. It stars Alec Guinness as Fagin, Robert Newton as Bill Sikes and a young John Howard Davies as Oliver Twist. (Davis went on to work for the BBC as a producer all his life.) The subplot with Edward Leeman is largely missed out, but that is inevitable in a short dramatisation. The essence of the story is there, and is true to Dickens, as is much of his dialogue. It's important to look not only at the writing style and construction, but at the social conditions of the time and Dickens's own personal situation. Oliver Twist; or the Parish Boy's Progress was written when he was only 25, and first published serially in "Bentley's Miscellany" where Dickens was editor, from February 1837 to April 1839. Interestingly though, it was not originally intended as a novel but as part of a series of sketches called the "Mudfog Papers". These were intended to be similar to the very popular "Pickwick Papers", Mudfog being heavily based on Chatham, in Kent."The Pickwick Papers" had been phenomenally successful, making Dickens famous. He therefore decided to give up his job as a parliamentary reporter and journalist in November 1836, and to become a freelance writer. But while "The Pickwick Papers" was still only halfway through being serialised, his readers clamoured for a second novel.There must have been a lot of pressure on the young author to maintain such a high standard. In addition to his writing and editing, Dickens's personal life at the time was typically hectic. In March 1837 he moved house. Two months later, his beloved sister-in-law Mary Hogarth died tragically young. The grief he felt caused him to miss the deadlines for both "The Pickwick Papers" and "Oliver Twist" - the only deadlines he ever missed in his entire writing career. Four months later in October, the final issue of Pickwick was published, but the pressure did not let up. In January of 1838, Dickens and his friend Hablot Knight Browne (Phiz) left for Yorkshire to do research for his next novel, "Nicholas Nickleby" which itself started to be serialised two months later. Interestingly it was not Browne who illustrated "Oliver Twist", although he had stepped into the breach before (see my review of "The Pickwick Papers" ) and also went on to illustrate most of Dickens's further novels. It was George Cruikshank, and this is the only novel of Dickens he illustrated... but that is another dramatic story. Also in March, Dickens's daughter Mary (Mamie) was born. In November Dickens revised the monthly parts of Oliver Twist for the 3-volume book version, the first instance where he was published under "Charles Dickens" instead of "Boz". The serial continued until April 1839, alongside serialisation of Nicholas Nickleby. If we think that the novel's structure may not be as we would wish, it is as well to bear in mind the constraints both of the time and of Dickens's own incredibly complicated personal circumstances!Oliver Twist is very much the novel an angry young man would write, seething with fury at the social injustices he observed. It follows hot on the heels of the "Poor Law Amendment Act" of 1834, and the whole novel is a bitter indictment of that Act, even to its satirical subtitle, A Parish Boy's Progress. This Act was a draconian tightening up of the Poor Law, ensuring that poor people were no longer able to live at home and work at outside jobs. The only help from the parish available to them now was to become inmates in the workhouse, which operated on the principle that poverty was the consequence of laziness; the dreadful conditions in the workhouse were intended to inspire the poor to better their own circumstances.Dickens himself in these chapters constantly makes negative remarks about "philosophers" in this context. It is possible he was thinking about the principles of Utilitarianism; a fashionable philosophy of the time, responsible for such things as the high positioning of windows in many Victorian buildings, placed so that children and workers would not be distracted by looking out of them. According to Jeremy Bentham, man's actions were governed by the will to avoid pain and strive for pleasure, so the government's task was to increase the benefits of society by punishing and rewarding people according to their actions.But as Dickens tells us with bitter sarcasm in chapter 2, the workhouse was little more than a prison for the poor. Civil liberties were denied, families were separated, and human dignity was destroyed. The inadequate diet instituted in the workhouse prompted his ironic comment that, "all poor people should have the alternative... of being starved by a gradual process in the house, or by a quick one out of it."The workhouse functions here as a sign of the moral hypocrisy of the working class. The authorities in charge of the workhouse joke among themselves about feeding minute portions so that the inmates would stay small and thin, thereby needing smaller coffins. They complain about having to pay for burials, again hoping for smaller corpses to bury. Dickens writes a passionate diatribe against both the social conditions and the institutions. His humour is there, but it is a very black biting humour. Sarcasm and irony are on every page; it's a far cry from "The Pickwick Papers". In these scenes set in the workhouse, Dickens makes use of deep satire and hyperbolic statements. Absurd characters and situations are presented as normal; he uses heavy sarcasm, often saying the opposite of what he really means. For example, in describing the men of the parish board, Dickens writes that,"they were very sage, deep, philosophical men" who discover about the workhouse that "the poor people liked it! It was a regular place of public entertainment for the poorer classes; a tavern where there was nothing to pay...""The other recent legislation which is clearly in Dickens's mind in writing this novel, is the Anatomy Act of 1832. Before 1832, only the bodies of murderers could be legally be used for dissection by medical students. This had been partly responsible for the brisk trade in bodysnatching. But after the Anatomy Act, unclaimed bodies from prisons and workhouses were used. The terrifying thought of having their bodies dissected after death became yet another powerful deterrent to entering the workhouse system. Dickens is clearly thinking of this recent Act in the first few pages, when Oliver's mother's body disappears. The fact that the poor young woman who dies in its opening pages was being dissected while her son was being starved has a grotesque significance.There is quite a marked difference in style when the character of Oliver moves away from the workhouse. The author's voice becomes less acrimonious and bitter. There is more concentration on the story and also more gross exaggeration of the characters for comic effect rather than proselytising. Apparently when Dickens was writing instalments of both "The Pickwick Papers" and "Oliver Twist", he would sit down to write the sardonic early episodes of "Oliver Twist" first, and then "reward" himself with a little light relief of "Pickwick". The change in style probably coincides with the conclusion of "Pickwick".Surprisingly many of the grotesque characters were based on people in real life, who performed similar unbelievably atrocious acts. The character of Fagin, for instance, was modelled on a notorious Jewish fence by the name of Ikey Solomon. Dickens also sited him in a real location, where the notorious eighteenth-century thief Jonathan Wild had his hideout. Its shops were well known for selling silk handkerchiefs bought from pickpockets. Dickens' letters allude to this,"when my handkerchief is gone, that I may see it flaunting with renovated beauty in Field-lane." There's also the ruthless magistrate Mr Fang, who is entirely based on an actual person who could well have been even more severe in reality! In a letter dated June 3, 1837, Dickens wrote to his friend Thomas Haines,"In my next number of Oliver Twist, I must have a magistrate...whose harshness and insolence would render him a fit subject to be "shewn up"...I have...stumbled upon Mr. Laing of Hatton Garden celebrity." Laing was a police magistrate, but was dismissed by the Home Secretary for abuse of his power. Dickens even went so far as to ask Haines, who was an influential police reporter, to smuggle him into the office so he could get an accurate physical description of Laing. It makes the reader wonder whether Mrs Corney, Mrs Sowerberry, and others also have their counterparts in reality. Dickens had previously studied and sketched the office of beadle in "Sketches by Boz", so the harsh hypocritical behaviour of Mr Bumble could well have started with that.Some of the action too is based on real events. For example, when Nancy went to the gaol to enquire after Oliver, she had a conversation with a prisoner who was in there for playing the flute. This sounds very far-fetched. But in November 1835, Dickens had reported on Mr. Laing throwing a muffin-boy in jail "for ringing a muffin-bell in Hatton Garden while Laing's court was sitting." Again the reader wonders if other parts of Dickens's story had some basis in fact. It says a lot for Dickens's prodigious talent that he could take such examples and weave them into such a captivating whole. Sometimes he employs deux et machina. Where the plot seems to be impossible to resolve without a contrived and unexpected intervention, he will create some new event, character or object to surprise his audience, or as a comedic device. For all the readers' willing suspension of disbelief, it sometimes seems clear that Dickens has "painted himself into a corner" and sees no other way out. Dickens is often criticised for his use of coincidence, and he uses deux et machina here to bring the tale of Oliver Twist to a happy ending. We are told that characters whom we have been following know each other, or happen to be related. It does not really seem necessary to "excuse" the use of this device, as it has so many precedents in literature of the Ancient Greeks, and also gives us the happy ending we so much desire. The "goodies" live happily ever after, the "baddies" get an entertaining variety of just desserts. As well as the criticism of "coincidences" that is often levelled at Dickens, one of the main criticisms of Oliver Twist has always been the apparent antisemitism shown in the author's portrayal of Fagin as a "dirty Jew". Fagin is introduced in the first chapters; Dickens often using symbols and descriptions which are normally reserved for the Devil. When we first meet Fagin, we find him roasting some sausages on an open fire, "with a toasting fork in his hand", which is then mentioned twice more. In the next chapter we find Fagin holding a fire-shovel. Also, the term "the merry old gentleman" seems to be a euphemistic term for the Devil.In the original text it is clear that Fagin is a personification of evil, both by his intentions and by his behaviour, "In short, the wily old Jew had the boy in his toils. Having prepared his mind, by solitude and gloom, to prefer any society to the companionship of his own sad thoughts in such a dreary place, he was now slowly instilling into his soul the poison which he hoped would blacken it, and change its hue forever." And in this description he seems barely human,"It seemed just the night when it befitted such a being as the Jew to be abroad. As he glided stealthily along, creeping beneath the shelter of the walls and doorways, the hideous old man seemed like some loathsome reptile, engendered in the slime and darkness through which he moved: crawling forth, by night, in search of some rich offal for a meal."There is a further interpretation of Fagin. Victorian society placed a lot of value and emphasis on industry, capitalism and individualism. And who embodies this most successfully? Fagin - who operates in the illicit businesses of theft and prostitution! His "philosophy" is that the group's interests are best maintained if every individual looks out for himself, saying,"a regard for number one holds us all together, and must do so, unless we would all go to pieces in company." This is indeed heavy irony on Dickens's part, and adds to Fagin's multi-layered personality.Apparently Dickens expressed surprise, when the Jewish community immediately complained about the depiction of Fagin. Sadly, in 1837, antisemitism was still rife and ingrained into English society. With all great authors we hope that they will somehow manage to step outside the mores of their time, but maybe we expect too much. Up to a point, Dickens did manage to do that later. When he eventually came to sell his London residence, he sold the lease of Tavistock House to a Jewish family he had befriended, as an attempt to make restitution. "Letters of Charles Dickens 1833-1870" include this sentence in the narrative to 1860,"This winter was the last spent at Tavistock House...He made arrangements for the sale of Tavistock House to Mr Davis, a Jewish gentleman, and he gave up possession of it in September."There is other additional evidence of a rethink. When editing Oliver Twist for the "Charles Dickens edition" of his works in 1846, he substantially revised the work for this single volume, eliminating most references to Fagin as "the Jew." And in his last completed novel, "Our Mutual Friend", (1864) Dickens created Riah, a positive Jewish character. There are not many shades of grey in this highly-coloured melodrama. Of the goodies and baddies it is the "baddies" whom we mostly remember. Even Sikes's dog Bullseye falls into the baddies' camp, "Mr Sikes's dog, having faults of temper in common with his owner, and labouring, perhaps at this moment, under a powerful sense of injury...fixed his teeth in one of the halfboots." By this amusing quip Dickens makes the dog a symbolic emblem of his owner's character. He is vicious, just as Sikes has an animal-like brutality. In fact many of the characters are named according to their vices. There is the vicious magistrate "Mr Fang"."Mrs Mann" who farms the infants sent to her, is named to show that she has none of the maternal instincts Dickens considers necessary for this task. "Mr Bumble" is a greedy, arrogant, bumbling, hypocritical, procrastinator, proposing marriage by these words,"Coals, candles and house-rent free...Oh! Mrs Corney what a angel you are!...Such porochial perfection!""Blathers and Duff" are two fairly incompetent coppers (and incidentally, possibly the earliest example in fiction of police detectives.) "Rose Maylie" echoes the character's association with flowers and springtime, youth and beauty. "Toby Crackit" refers humorously to his chosen profession of breaking into houses. The curmudgeonly "Mr Grimwig" has only a superficial grimness, which can be removed as easily as a wig.But the main character's name of "Oliver Twist" is the most obvious example. Although it was given him by accident, it alludes to the outrageous twists of fortune that he will experience. Yet another connotation comes from an English card game called "pontoon", where a player asks the dealer for cards to try to total exactly 21 points. Originally it was a French gambling game called "vingt-et-un", and favoured by Napoleon, who died in 1821, well before this novel was written. In the English version, the player "asks for more" ie another card, by saying the word, "Twist". Dickens is clearly having a little joke with his readers! Oliver Twist himself isn't a fully rounded character. He is more of a mouthpiece, or a character created to arouse public emotion and anger against the treatment of poor children. The whole novel is a a vehicle of criticism, a social commentary - entertaining but overcoloured and melodramatic. It is very much the sort of thing Dickens would imagine performed on stage.The hyperbole gets a bit much sometimes, and there are sentimental speeches such as this one from Little Dick, written entirely for effect, to pull at our heart-strings,"I heard them tell the doctor I was dying," replied the child with a faint smile. "I am very glad to see you, dear; but don't stop!...I know the doctor must be right, Oliver, because I dream so much of Heaven, and Angels and kind faces that I never see when I am awake. "Kiss me!...Goodb'ye dear! God bless you.""Oliver Twist" is a perfect example of persuasive fiction. It is like a morality play in narrative form, with the author continually instructing his readers about the iniquities of social conditions. But it has the faults of a young man's novel. He has not yet learnt how to tailor his passions to the purpose, creating either characters as a sort of Everyman, or grotesques - the comic characters we love so much.Some of the writing is mawkishly oversentimental. But some episodes are gripping. (view spoiler)[Fagin's desperate and terrified descent into madness when he is about to be hanged, and Sikes's murder of Nancy (hide spoiler)]

The Titan's Curse

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4.31 rating

Comment 1: Let me open by saying...Rick Riordan, I'm sorry for what I'm about to say. I'm an unpublished writer and I know the best I can hope for is that at some point some will like what I write, and some will well, rip it.I've not been "real complimentary' of these books up to this point, I gave each 3 stars...said they were what I'd call, "not bad". I dropped this one to 2 stars...it's getting to "bad".First, I must say apologetically that the writing isn't all that great. I know these have sold millions and we have the first movie in what I know a lot of people hope will be a series. I can't account for people's taste, I mean look at Gilligan's Island. Reading these books I must say that somewhere there's probably a toddler with a parent reading them to him/her who is thinking something like, "Percy is just now getting that? I figured it out 5 chapters ago". Percy Jackson is without a doubt as dense as a locust fence post. The kid is written so thick I'm surprised he can get his shoes on. I'd never have trusted this kid with a butter knife, much less a magic sword (of course luckily it won't hurt "mortals" only "immortals' as it's made of celestial bronze. This must be an odd kind of bronze as I know all bronze I've come in contact with is pretty much as solid as any other metal.). Aside from the usual problem of Percy being so frustratingly (your going to see that word or it's root "frustrate" a few times in this review) thick this book manages to go to new heights in it's efforts to drive readers into banging their heads into walls. Without giving a spoiler, there is another regular character in the books who has been sort of the "counter-point" to Percy's inability to understand the most elementary event. Her character has been fairly well established. SO, to set up the action in this book the author has her do something so frustratingly (yes, there's the word) stupid and against character that I knew things weren't going to go well. Yes, I got what was supposed to be the reason in/for the act...but she'd never have acted so stupidly, not the girl we met in the first 2 books.There are other problems here that were smaller in the first two books but apparently like wounds left untended have festered and are now overpowering the rest of the story. His playing fast and loose with history and myth are getting beyond my tolerance. He managed to turn Artemis the hunter into a sort of female Peter Pan and her huntresses into a girls club of "lost girls" instead of "lost boys" stuck at that age where little boys go "yuck girls" and little girls go "yuck boys". I could almost hear them singing...." I won't grow up, I won't grow up...I don't want to go to school, I don't want to go to school...." Need I say any more, maybe the story's take on Hercules? Maybe more of the incorrect slant given to the Greek Pantheon? If ignorance was contagious or misinformation was infectious this book would be banned by the CDC. I've been treating these books as YA books. They are so frustratingly simplistic I think I need to think of them more as juvenile level reads and go from there. I got them from the library and the next 2 are laying here (the second through the 5th came in together). Were I buying these I'd probably have stopped earlier, this one would bring me even closer to it. Were my kids still small and had they gotten into these I'd definitely go over anything they were picking up from them book by book. On the positive side (I need to say something positive) the books do manage to show the pettiness and selfishness that was so prevalent in the character of the deities and heroes of Greek myth. It fails in filling that out, but it is there. I live in hope that the next book won't frustrate me as badly as this one has. "Where there's life there's hope" as the old saying goes...and I keep hoping. I'll drop this volume to 2 stars and hope the next is better.

The Hunger Games Trilogy Boxset

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4.51 rating

Comment 1: Something I need to get out of my head, so here goes: in hindsight, when all is said and done and thought about, when Collins can only up the violence in her grand finale by burning to death a mass of children, I've become simply sad at what passes as "books we actually read and recommend to friends and then make into films." Book One, on its own, was a decent spin on the classic Japanese film "Battle Royale". (There is nothing new under the sun, we can forgive Collins for a remake, certainly, a Comment 2: one of the most breath taking and catching novels ever .. although it takes place in the future yet it resembles our present so much ... i could really relate to it since my country is going through the same thing ... the way the writer made the main character so rational and simply human gave the novel yet another touch ... the love story that managed to take place through all the events it gives you hope that no matter how life treats you ,if you had someone by your side it will make things mu Comment 3: This is by far one of the best book series I have ever read. The story was so creative and complex and the best thing is it seems so possible with the things we've seen throughout history. Obviously, the technology is a bit more advance but that's what makes it so awesome, I still think a lot of these things may be seen in the future, and the absurd way everyone dresses, well let's just say we have already seen some of that in the present.I saw the first movie before reading all the books but it

The Maze Runner

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4.03 rating

Comment 1: Es hat zwar ein bisschen gedauert bis ich reingekommen bin aber dann konnte ich gar nicht mehr aufhören! Thomas, Newt, Chuck, Minho, Teresa - alles unglaublich tolle Charaktere :) Am Anfang ist alles ein bisschen verwirrend, aber dadurch kann man sich auch besser in Thomas hineinversetzen, da er anfangs ja auch nicht mehr weiß als der Leser. Ich persönlich fand die Entwicklung der Geschichte fantastisch und es wurde wirklich immer besser! :D Bin aber noch unschlüssig, ob ich den zweiten Teil les Comment 2: Plot: The maze runner is a really interesting dystopian novel which looks at a group of boys who are trapped in the centre of a maze. The story follows the character Thomas who is determined to find a way out of this maze. However, after his arrival the life of the boys who have adapted to the life of the maze – starts to change. I think the plot is incredibly interesting and most importantly with a dystopian novel it has been really well thought out. All the possible loop holes of the maze whic Comment 3: Ahhh this is a tricky one, because there were some things I really liked about it and some things I really hated. I'm not sure where to begin. Well, let's begin with the plot. The plot was good, for the most part. I thought it was very creative – and it was mysterious too, the kind of plot that keeps you reading and wondering what explanation there is. That said, I have to say I wasn't thrilled with the ending. It was one of those books where I'm reading it and saying to myself, "Oh, my freaking

Treasure Island

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3.8 rating

Comment 1: (Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com:]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted here illegally.)The CCLaP 100: In which I read for the first time a hundred so-called "classics," then write essays on whether or not they deserve the labelEssay #32: Treasure Island (1883), by Robert Louis StevensonThe story in a nutshell:Inspired by a doodle from his step-son and originally written as a rainy-day family diversion, the slim 1883 children's book Treasure Island (originally published serially in 1881 and '82) was not only the first novel of sickly genre author Robert Louis Stevenson's short career, but eventually one of his most famous. Essentially the tale of young adventurer Jim Hawkins, the story opens with him as a dutiful mama's boy off the southwest coast of England, helping to run a family inn that sees little action because of being located much more inland than most of the other local sailor-oriented hotels. Ah, but this is exactly what brings the drunken, scary Billy Bones there, where it becomes quickly apparent that he is on the run and in semi-hiding from a whole crew of mysterious, nefarious characters; and when they finally show up after Bones' alcoholism-related death, the family realizes that they are in fact pirates, on the hunt for a treasure map that Bones stole from a recent mutinous voyage that went horribly, horribly wrong. This then convinces a group of local Victorian gentlemen and family friends to go after the treasure themselves, eventually buying a boat and hiring a local crew to take them to this far-off tropical island; but little do they realize that the sailors they've hired are none other than the surviving pirates of the former mutiny, led by the charismatic yet psychopathic one-legged "ship's cook" Long John Silver, who plan on turning on the ship's owners once actually reaching the island and retrieving the treasure they were forced to leave behind during their last voyage. The rest of the book, then, is essentially an adventure tale, full of all kinds of legitimate surprises that I won't spoil here; let's just say that a lot of swashbuckling takes place, that many details regarding ship-sailing are faithfully recorded, and that the day is eventually saved by our fast-thinking teenage hero Jim, no surprise at all for a book designed specifically to amuse fellow teenage boys.The argument for it being a classic:Well, to begin with, it's arguably the most famous pirate tale ever written, and in fact established for the first time many of the stereotypes now known within the genre, including one-legged buccaneers, treasure maps with a big 'X' on them, shoulder-sitting parrots squawking "Pieces of eight! Pieces of eight!," and even the very idea of British pirates being associated with exotic tropical islands in the Caribbean, an association now so strong that it's almost impossible to separate the two; and of course it's also the novel that created the unforgettable Long John Silver, now a thoroughly ingrained part of our Western culture at large. Add to this that it's simply an incredibly thrilling tale (rumor has it that England's Prime Minister at the time stayed up until two in the morning to finish his first reading of it), that it still holds up surprisingly well even 126 years later, and that it's also of immense importance to fans of Stevenson, a prolific author whose genius is just now starting to be widely recognized, after being dismissed by the literary community for almost a century as a frivolous "kiddie writer;" and now add to all this that Treasure Island is a surprisingly sophisticated examination of the era's ethics and moral code as well, taking an unblinking look at the "Victorian Ideal" as manifested in different ways among the stuffy gentlemen "heroes" (unable to improvise in changing circumstances, much to their detriment), the anarchic pirate villains (who almost kill themselves off just on their own, through drunkenness, ignorance and jealousy), and the ruthless yet principled Silver who straddles both these extremes.The argument against:A weak one at best; like many of the genre prototypes of the late Victorian Age, one could argue that this is simply too flippant a tale to be considered a classic. But we already established a long time ago here at the CCLaP 100 that genre stories are indeed eligible for "classic" status in this series, making this argument inapplicable in our case.My verdict:Holy crap! What an incredible book! And what a refreshing change in this case to not have to add my usual caveat to statements like these regarding late Victorian genre experiments: "...you know, for a century-old children's story that's kind of outdated and that you need to take with a grain of salt." Because the fact is that Treasure Island to this day still reads as fresh and exciting as the day it came out, which is a real testament to the writing skills of Robert Louis Stevenson (who I was already a big fan of before this essay series even started, because of his superbly creepy and also surprisingly relevant Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde); what a shame that this illness-plagued author ended up dying at the age of 44 in the prime of his career, instead of surviving to pen the truly mindblowing mature works I'm convinced that he had been capable of. And it's exactly for the reasons that his fans bring up that this book remains such an amazing one, and how it is that it can still easily be read for pleasure instead of having to force one's way through for historical purposes; because it is indeed not only a thrilling adventure tale, not only written in a style that largely rejects the purplish finery of the Victorian Age in which it was created, but is also a deceptively complex look at the entire nature of "gentlemanness" that was so prevalent at the time, gently poking holes in the entire notion of what it means to be a Refined Citizen of the Empire, even while acknowledging that a complete disavowal of these gentlemanly standards is even worse. There's a very good reason that Long John Silver has endured so strongly in our collective imagination over the last century, when so many other fictional pirates have fallen by the wayside, because he turns out to be a surprisingly complicated character worth coming back to again and again, a vicious killer but with a consistent internal moral code worth perversely admiring; it's but one of many reasons that I confidently label this book a undeniable classic today, and highly recommend it to anyone on the search for the best of 19th-century literature.Is it a classic? Absolutely

Fallen

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3.75 rating

Comment 1: Personally, I felt like this was a "the-cover-of-this-book-looks-awesome-but-the-characters-were-pretty-sucky" book. I understand how Lucinda (girl protagonist) and Daniel (guy protagonist) are supposed to feel conflicted yet nostalgic towards each other, but it's hard for me to feel the spark between them. The book started off immediately by informing the readers about how it's going to end. I know this might sound rather harsh, but it's the truth. The characters just aren't as interesting as I Comment 2: Reading this book was like walking through fog, or to pull description from the book, with black shadows blocking my view of everything, only it's not the black shadows that got in my way but the MC, Luce, and the author, Kate. I have no idea what the school looked like (no more that a glimpse of this and that) or what the characters were like (same thing, just glimpses that don't add up to anything) or even what was going on in any of the action scenes because a) Luce doesn't notice anything ex Comment 3: Dropping less than 200 pages in because it's not believable enough for me. I'm not getting engaged or attaching to the plot or characters. The love triangle is so ridiculous that I can't even process it. It's definitely not as poorly written as I'd anticipated, but it's the 1-star folks warned me about.

Last Sacrifice

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4.45 rating

Comment 1: I don't know what happened between the first time I read this book and this time but the first time I rated it 5 stars and now I can't get over the fact that Rose played Adrian and acted like a immature selfish girl. It really bugged me this time that one minute she would go on about loving Adrian and the next she would be like Dimitri is the love of my life. One minute she was kissing Adrian and the next she was having sex with Dimitri. It pissed me off. The plot was good but the Adrian, Dimitr Comment 2: Wow! What a fantastic conclusion to a brilliant series!! I absolutely loved every minute of these books. Last Sacrifice did not disappoint. There was a clear conclusion to many of the ongoing issues between Rose and the gang (I won't be too specific, I don't want to give anything a way here!), while still giving a sense of change and creating new and interesting plot points that will allow the overarching story of some key characters and the Morio/Dhampire people to continue in the spin-off seri Comment 3: OMG!! This book was soooooooooooooooo i cant think of a good enough word!!!! RICHELLE MEAD DID NOT DISAPPOINT AT ALL!!! im complete happy with the way she finish the series. It had me holding my breathe at some points or laughing hysterically or tearing up in others. i didnt want the series to end thats for sure but im glad that most of the characters got their happy endings....sorry Adrian..In the book wen it said they thought it was Daniella i was bit surprised but when was actually Tasha i wa

The Neverending Story

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4.16 rating

Comment 1: The Neverending StoryBy Michael EndeA Review by Eric Allen."ONLY TWO STARS," you cry, "Eric, have you no soul!?!?!" You're obviously going by the movie, which is AWESOME, and have never actually read the book it was based on, which is not so much. When I was six or seven, the Neverending Story came out, and it was one of the most awesome movies I had ever seen in my life. It was a movie that wasn't afraid to scare the everliving shit out of children, and I loved it for that. Even today, many, many years later, it is still an old favorite that I remember fondly and hope, one day, to scare the everliving shit out of my own children with. The book, on the other hand, is something of a mess. First of all, many people were not aware that it even existed. Fewer people still realize that the extremely terrible Neverending Story II movie was actually part of the book. That's right, the same author that gave you The Neverending Story, ALSO gave you The Neverending Story II. Think on that for a minute and tell me your childhood isn't curled up in a little ball in the closet crying.The book was originally written in German, brought to you on the screen by a German director and crew, and only after the movie was so popular did the book get translated into a few more languages.The plot of The Neverending Story needs no summarizing for most people. It's a very basic telling of the hero's journey story archetype. What makes it so awesome and memorable, of course, is the world in which it takes place, and the fact that the villain was something more abstract than an actual, tangible foe that can be fought and defeated. The second half of the book focuses on the child Bastion, who is pulled into the book after giving the Childlike Empress her new name, which, by the way, people have been asking for years, because that kid is completely unintelligible in the movie. Her name is Moon Child. However, I believe that, for whatever reason, the name was translated literally, rather than left in the original German. Bastion must make his way back to the real world by making wishes, but for each wish he makes, he loses precious memories from his life. And it is only through the help of his friends Atreiyu and Falkor that he is able to return at all.The Good? The first half of the book is excellent. I absolutely love it. The movie stays extremely faithful to the source material. The world is imaginative, the hero is a bit of a blank slate, but likeable all the same, and a lot of the things that he goes through on his quest serve a dual purpose, to both be entertaining, and thought provoking. The use of an abstract concept, the Nothing, as the villain is where I think this part of the book really shines. It's very hard to give a concept weight as a character, but the author did an extraordinary job of bringing it, and all of the horror surrounding it, to life.The Bad? Where this book really falls apart is in the second half. You remember how excited you were to see Neverending Story II when it came out? I know I was. And boy was I disappointed. Well, the second half of the book is pretty much the same. They changed the story drastically to make it easier to make a movie out of it, because there really isn't much in the way of purpose or direction in it. There isn't a real goal, or reason for anything to be happening. Bastion just wanders around, makes wishes, and pretty much accidentally finds his way home again.This boring stretch of nothing happening is compounded by two things. The first is that the first half of the book is so clever, and awesome, and enjoyable, and when you get to the second half it's like running headlong into a brick wall. All of the awesome world, the awesome supporting characters, and even the hero of the story are simply gone, and you're left with only Bastion. And that leads in to the second thing. Bastion is an extraordinarily unlikeable character. It's hard to describe all of the things that make him unlikeable, because pretty much EVERYTHING about his character is annoying or offensive in some way. And after Atreiyu, who is not exactly the most interesting character, true, but a hell of a lot more likeable than Bastion, you feel the contrast all the more. When you actively dislike the person that a story is all about, the story itself is not enjoyable. What creates such things as tension, and drama, are emotional attachments to the characters. If you don't like the character, and don't care whether he succeeds or not, any story woven around him is, inevitably going to be terrible as well. And that is exactly what is wrong with the second half of the book. Bastion is so unlikeable as a character, that I just couldn't have cared less what he was doing, or why, and I certainly didn't care if he was going to succeed or not. You go from a relatively enjoyable protagonist in the first half, to someone who literally has not one single redeeming quality in him as the protagonist in the second half. The fact that there is no readily defined plot for him to participate in makes it even worse, because when there is no real storyline, all of the entertainment value in a story rests wholly upon the characters. The second half of this book is about a terrible, unlikeable character, doing basically nothing but wandering around the world and showing how terrible and unlikeable a character he is.Additionally, this book is not very well written. I'm going to give the author the benefit of the doubt and say that it's probably the translator being unable to convey the original German wording properly into English, and all of the little nuances of prose that make a well written book were lost in translation. But there is probably one thing that was definitely in the original German. The author keeps bringing up what sounds like a really awesome tangent to the story, and then saying, "But that's a different story and will not be spoken of here." Ok... WHY EVEN BRING IT UP IN THE FIRST PLACE!!! Oh my GOD is this annoying. He literally does it like forty times over the course of the book. It was cute once or twice, but it just gets more and more annoying with every time it happens.In conclusion, though The Neverending Story movie will always have a special place in my heart, the book it was based on is better left forgotten. I believe that a lot was lost in translation, when this book was adapted to English, but that can only account for so much. The first half of the book is very enjoyable, with a few odd quirks of writing that I found to be annoying, most of which probably resulted from English not being the original language that the book was written in. The second half of the book is terrible, following a thoroughly unlikeable character as he does absolutely nothing but display what an arrogant douchebag that he is for all the world to see. I do not recommend picking this book up, unfortunately. And if you do, I highly recommend that you only read the first half. The bad more than outweighs the good. Stick to the movie, and remember all the great times you had with it as a child. It's one of the few rare cases of the movie actually being better than the book. The movie, at least, knew exactly when to shut up, come to a conclusion, and wrap things up with a tidy little bow. I wish I could say the same for the book, but I can't. It gets two stars, which is probably one more than it deserves, but hey, nostalgia is a powerful thing. Check out my other reviews.

Clockwork Princess

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4.58 rating

Comment 1: The Infernal Devices trilogy is my first foray into Cassandra Clare's writing. I was loaned these books by a good friend and colleague who, after our random conversation about the Percy Jackson books and our mutual liking for them, told me that I should try this series out as well and that I would not be disappointed. She is an avid reader herself and like myself loves reading books of different genres so when she suggested this series I was all game for it and can I just say...she was so right! Comment 2: Where do I start? Every single time I picked up this book, I cried. I am actually crying right now. The epilogue was just . . . angering. When I turned the page, my first thought was "What the f**k?! Is there a page missing?!". Then when Tessa started to explain Will in his last years, and describe (briefly -.-) her life with him, I couldn't breathe. I was mad and sad at once, we never got to see them married and young! Though I suppose that's what 'The Last Hours' are for, but it isn't the same Comment 3: Μολις τελείωσα το τελευταίο βιβλίο αυτής της υπεροχής τριλογίας είναι 6:56 π.μ. και μου φαίνεται αδιανόητο το γεγονός ότι δε μπορούσα να σταματήσω να διαβάζω, τα μάτια μου έκλειναν αλλά έλεγα μια σελιδα ακόμη η σελίδα γινόταν κεφάλαιο...

Thirteen Reasons Why

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4.06 rating

Comment 1: Thirteen Reasons Why This Book Sucks:13. Poorly Sketched Supporting Characters: Hannah, the girl who killed herself, and Clay, the boy she sent her "suicide note" tapes to, were fairly believable and well-drawn individuals. But everyone else in the story seems interchangeable, with motivations that are never made clear or seem to constantly switch to serve the purposes of the plot. I couldn't tell the difference between Courtney Crimson and Jessica and Mr. Porter, if there was one, and I couldn't keep track of what they did to Hannah. They seemed like a stock supporting cast of high school kids and teachers that Asher picked out of a hat.12. An Unlikable "Heroine": Hannah blames everyone else for her problems, then kills herself and drags everyone else into her misery too. Sure, she went through some rough stuff, but was it really that much worse than what most high schoolers deal with, and get over? She's like a vengeful harpy, tormenting those she blames for pushing her over the edge and haunting them from beyond the grave. She's like a combination of the Ghost of Christmas Past and Holden Caulfield, for the Disney Channel generation. What a great role model for kids.11. Bad Dialogue & Monologues: Like I said, Hannah and Clay are somewhat believable characters, but they often speak - and think - in ways that no teenager does. There's way too much of Clay "talking" to Hannah in his head (along the lines of, "Hannah, why did you do that?" repeated ad nauseum). And Hannah's always saying stuff like "I bet you wonder how you fit into all of this… well, you'll soon find out!" BOOGA BOOGA BOOGA!10. Soap Opera Melodrama: The dialogue and action in this book are ridiculously exaggerated and overwrought, even by the histrionic standards of young adult fiction. There's almost no subtlety. I mean, I know teenagers love drama, but does Asher have to telegraph every emotion, every twist in the plot, with a metaphorical exclamation point? It's like a Lifetime movie about suicide. The literary equivalent of a shitty, screamy emo song.9. Amateurish Writing: This kind of dovetails with the points above, but… I really don't understand how this got a good review from anyone over the age of 16. There's way too much telling and not enough showing in this book. It almost reads like it was written by a high schooler, minus the authenticity.8. It Had A Blurb From Sherman Alexie, One Of My Favorite Authors, Which Made Me Like Him A Little Less By Association: I read this book the day after I read Alexie's infinitely superior The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. The contrast between the two young adult novels couldn't be more clear. Alexie's is a realistic, clever, and often heartbreaking story of what it means to grow up as an outcast that ultimately transcends its setting and resonates across generations and backgrounds. Asher's is an overcooked, amateurishly written, poorly realized picture of overdramatic suburban kids chasing their own tails into oblivion.7. It's A Page-Turner With A Weak Ending: I'll admit, this one had me going, even after I realized I was being taken for a ride and didn't much like it, I kept reading. Partly because I was reading it while substitute teaching an English class where all the kids were reading too, so I had nothing better to do. But I was also really hoping the ending would redeem some of the shortcomings and make it worthwhile. Nope. It just fizzles out. Big waste of time.6. Ruins A Clever Idea That Someone Else Could Have Done Better: When I first read about this book and its basic narrative conceit, I was intrigued. Sure, the plot structure is very high-concept, but so was Slaughterhouse-Five. And the basic message of the story, that one small action or remark can have huge and possibly terrible repercussions in another person's life, is certainly true and a lesson than every teenager should learn. It makes for a great cover and book jacket. Too bad everything in between sucks. Asher should have written a synopsis and then handed it off to somebody with some talent.5. It's Being Made Into A Movie Starring Selena Gomez: No further explanation needed.4. It's A Blatant Attempt To Make An "Important" Book: Pretty much dripping from every page of this thing is the smug sense of self-satisfaction Asher must have felt while writing it. In the age of cyber-bullying and sexting, teen suicide is becoming an even more complicated and difficult issue. But this book doesn't really have anything new, insightful, or helpful to say about it.3. An Unrealistic Portrait Of Depression And Suicidal Ideation: Hannah kills herself for reasons that, to put it bluntly, are bullshit. A few rumors? A car accident she was only tangentially connected to? Witnessing a date rape? All of these are traumatic to varying degrees, but none of them are likely reasons someone would off themselves. As somebody who's worked with kids with mental illness, who've suffered physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, this whole thing just strained credibility. Hannah's way too self-assured and in touch with her emotions to be suicidal. Kids who try to kill themselves do so either in a period of extreme emotional upheaval or because there is a terrible, relentless drumbeat within their beings that sucks the joy out of existence. Never did I get the sense that Hannah felt this way. She seemed to want to kill herself as a kind of performance art, or to get back at the people who wronged her, which is definitely not why most kids do it.2. It's An Exploitation Of A Serious Issue: To continue with the point above, this book really does a disservice to the perception of kids who are seriously ill and need help. It presents suicide as a choice made by whiny kids who bring most of their problems on themselves and do it as a kind of revenge on the world. Like I said, this is not why most kids do it. They are seriously fucked up, either by brain chemistry, drugs, or terrible experiences in their past, the kind of stuff that Hannah never even comes close to. Sure, there are kids who kill themselves because of being bullied, or called sluts, or whatever, but even in those cases the trauma is much more severe than it was here. Asher either doesn't have the guts to portray depression, abuse, and suicide the way they really are, or (more likely) he doesn't know much about them, but wanted to get famous writing a book about it anyways.1. It Might Just Make Some Troubled Teen More Likely To Kill Themselves: I know this is a serious charge to make, but hear me out for a second. Throughout the book, Asher makes all the rather trivial stuff that happens to Hannah seem like a huge deal. Now, to be fair, the kind of moderate bullying Hannah endures would seem terrible to a suburban high schooler who hasn't dealt with much worse. But nowhere in the book does Asher try to show his teenage readers that such stuff is, in fact, extremely trivial and not worth getting your panties in a bunch over, that there is a big, beautiful world just past the edge of the strip malls and subdivisions of suburban rot if only they'd quit navel gazing for a minute, and none of that high school shit is worth killing oneself over. I'm not saying young adult books have to be all sunshine and rainbows, far from it, but if you're gonna read a book for kids about suicide, at least give some compelling reasons not to do it. Instead, he almost validates Hannah's actions. The whole book is about thirteen reasons why she killed herself, for chrissakes. Sure, Clay does a lot of hand-wringing and, "why, Hannah, why?" type of stuff, but never is there a moment of true catharsis or even a genuine feeling that thing could get better. Instead, Asher wallows in emo-ness from start to finish because he knows that's what his readers want. Problem is, a particularly depressed reader could easily get the impression that if Hannah killed herself for some pretty petty reasons, than they (who are probably suffering through actual, legitimate shit) should do it to. And that's why I REALLY hated this book, and wouldn't recommend it to anyone, especially teenagers.

Spirit Bound

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4.38 rating

Comment 1: Καλή χρονιά σε όλους τους βιβλιοφάγους. Δεν ήθελα να ρισκάρω την πρώτη αναγνωστική εμπειρία γι’ αυτό επέλεξα -σοφά!- τους Δεσμώτες ψυχών της Richelle Mead. Είναι δίκαια παινεμένη η δημιουργία της. Δεν επαναπαύεται όπως άλλοι συγγραφείς που ξεχειλώνουν την ιστορία, τουναντίον ανανεώνει το ενδιαφέρον του αναγνώστη αφού επεξεργάζεται τις ενδιαφέρουσες παραμέτρους του βαμπιρικού κόσμου. Η πένα της επιφυλάσσει πάλι συμπάθεια και κατανόηση για την θερμοκέφαλη και αξιαγάπητη Ρόουζ. Από το πρώτο βιβλίο Comment 2: I just wrote a big long review and deleted the whole thing accidently! Ahh, oh well. This book was one of the best books I've read all year. I tried to drag the book out as long as I could because I simply do not think I can wait until December for the sixth instalment. I was a little scared that Richelle Mead might try to drag the story line along in this book, but she didn't. From first to last page I was hooked. She illustrates the story beautifully and doesn't leave doubts in my mind. I also

His Dark Materials

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4.23 rating

Comment 1: I didn't know about Philip Pullman and 'His Dark Materials' before the trailers for 'The Golden Compass' aired - and I'm a bit sad about that. I would have loved to have read this when I was a teenager!Anyways, on to the review:The Golden CompasThe storyline in The Golden Compas is so well-crafted, compelling and interdependent that it's hard to tell much of it without revealing too much but I'll try.Lyra, the main protagonist, is a little girl, living at Jordan College, Oxford. She's a tomboy who scramples around on roofs, gets into fights with other groups of children and that sort of things. One day she sneaks into a meeting she shouldn't have been in and saves her uncle from being poisoned. This sets off a chain of events involving gyptians, panserbjørne (big fighter bears), a beautiful lady with a golden monkey and a lot of kidnapped children.I really liked the way Pullman crafted a world like ours, slightly different but very believable. Every person has a dæmon, an animal that is their soul - or at least part of it. For children, the dæmons change all the time and can be all sorts of animals but when you become an adult, your dæmon becomes one animal and your animal is a reflection of who you are. I loved this - I want a dæmon now! (Although my dog is probably as close to a dæmon as any animal could be!)One of the thing that Pullman has had to take a lot of heat over is his critique of the Church. In the book, the Bible is quoted, but it's not our Bible, it's a slightly different version of it and he does critizise the Church for allowing everything if they think it can further their interests, even if it hurts people - which is also true of the real Church ... (maybe not so much in our time, but definitely in earlier times)The ending of the book really blew me away - it really showed that you didn't know who was who and it showed a big gray area between good and evil. Who are in the right here and who are doing wrong? It's impossible to know... A very good read: 5 stars.The Subtle KnifeThis is a typical "volume two of a trilogy" book - it's very much a in-between book. We follow Will, a young boy who protects his mother from dangers only she can see and whose father is missing. Will goes into hiding to keep his mother safe and accidentally stumbles upon another world, a world of mostly children. In this world, he meets Lyra.Will's world is our world - a world that exists parallel with Lyra's world and an unknown number of other worlds. Will and Lyra find out that they must help each other to find Will's father - and to keep Lyra's compass safe. Lyra learns that the Dust she is trying to understand and learn about, is what we in our world call dark matter - and it is conscious...Will and Lyra hide out in the world of mostly children and they learn that something called Specters are eating the souls of the grown-ups. But when Will gets a special knife, things change...The discussion of body and soul gets even stronger in this second book. In the first, because it took place in Lyra's world, the focus was on the dæmon being the soul but in this book, because we are in different worlds, there are different ways for body and soul to interact - dæmon to human, dæmon being inside the human (our world) and then the world with the children, where the Specters suck the souls out of grownups. In all cases, something happens when children reach puberty - probably something having to do with original sin and therefore with the critique of religion.This book dives even deeper into a religious discussion - it becomes something of a faith v. knowledge, religion v. science debate. I'm very interested to see this play out in the final book and to see if Pullman can pull off the epic battle, he must end this series with.Just like the first book, this got better towards the end. It wasn't as good as the first one, partly because it was an in-betweener and partly because it didn't take place in Lyra's world which gave the first book a lot of it's charm. So this one 'only' gets 4 stars from me.The Amber Spyglass.Having just finished this third part of His Dark Materials, I must say it's one of my favourite book series. I loved all three books and I find them amazingly well crafted - and I do indeed feel a bit sad to have to leave Lyra, Will, Pan and all the people (and dæmons) they know and love behind.This is the novel to end it and where we find out how the amber spyglass, the golden compass, the subtle knife are connected to each other - and to Dust. But to understand it all, we once more must survive a lot of hardship and in this book more than in any other book when Lyra and Will have to travel into the realm of the dead. But to do so, they must leave behind their souls, their dæmons...And this make them even more open for harm and danger.Lyra's father, determined to face off against the Authority - or at least the angel who have taken his place - find the way to his goal a bit different than he had expected and both he and Lyra's mother must come to terms with what Lyra means - both to them and to the world.In the end, it all comes down to what Lyra and Will decides - and if they will survive reaching puberty...As well as being a critique of religion, I also see this series as a critique of the way we treat the environment and each other. The bears leave the North because the ice is melting because of something humans have done - they have to swim a long way to find food and their homes are melting away. Sounds familiar?And we find out that Dust are linked to the way we act - conscious beings create dust "by thinking and feeling and reflecting, by gaining wisdom and passing it on."(900) So the wisdom we achieved as a race when Eve took a bite from the apple is what created original sin - and Dust because humans then came of age and started noticing each other - but the lesson is that Dust is not sinful or wrong, it's beautiful and a symbol of striving to be the best that we can.But besides being about religion, the environment, parent-child relationships, how humans are both body soul and ghosts and other rather deep themes, it's a beautiful and engaging fantasy series with well-crafted characters and a very exciting story that will keep you reading on and on to get to the end and find out how it all works out. I only have one tiny problem with a situation where Lyra is saved and I at least didn't get how the people who saved her, knew that she was in danger ... but besides that, I found the plot so well executed that it was a true pleasure to read - and I will be looking forward to reading it again.I loved this series - and I think there's enough depth in it for it to be read over and over. This most certainly is and will remain a classic.

A Little Princess

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4.19 rating

Comment 1: Though I wallowed in Burnett’s A Little Princess as a girl, in re-reading it as an adult and considering the movie adaptations, it is hard not to view it through a postcolonial lens. The 1995 movie adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A Little Princess begins with the voice-over of Sara Crewe, the main character, stating, “A very long time ago there lived a beautiful princess in a mystical land known as India . . ..” Against the otherwise blank screen, a small circular image of the imaginary princess appears, then dilates to reveal the fantastic space of Sara’s story, admitting the audience into its secret spectacle.The “mystical land known as India”--this exotic spectacle--functions as a key element in both of the original Burnett works, the 1995 movie, and two earlier movies (the 1986 Wonderworks film and the 1939 Hollywood film). Indeed, though the 1995 film’s first scene does not derive directly from any part of Burnett’s story, it reinscribes a number of ideas that do appear in Burnett’s novels and the other two films. Access to the vision of India is, in all of them, a connection to the power of empire. Sara is a “little princess” because she imagines India.In the 1995 film, Sara tells a story about Princess Sita and her husband, Prince Rama. Rama attempts to protect Sita by drawing a magic circle around her, explaining, “So long as you stay inside it, no harm can come to you.” But when Sita hears what seems to be Rama’s voice calling for help, she leaves her circle and is soon threatened by a ten-headed demon. Although Sara appears to be controlling events in this “mystical land” by narrating them, and while the plot of her story suggests her own ability to transgress boundaries, Sara’s symbolic authority remains circumscribed and entirely derived from her father. It is Ralph Crewe’s position as a wealthy Englishman and an officer of the Raj that enables the representation of India as a commodity and spectacle--as Crewe calls it, “the only place that stirs the imagination.” He passes on to Sara his view of imagination as a resource, a “magic [which:] has to be believed, that’s the only way it’s real.” Or, as Sara refers to it in Burnett’s book, “the Magic that will never let the worst things quite happen.”Sara, a dutiful daughter in all three film adaptations and Burnett’s two versions of the story, faithfully produces “magic” whenever she becomes particularly needy, and--like her father--uses the spectacle of India as her impetus. It is this dependence on colonialism that marks the story as essentially Victorian, even more than the references to period objects, class relations, and so forth [Burnett’s first version of the story, Sara Crewe, was published in 1888; the longer novel, A Little Princess, was published in the 1905.:] Sara may lose her father (permanently in the Burnett novels, temporarily in the films), she may seem to lose her social position and become a servant, she may seem to be rebellious or transgressive, but she is still a “princess,” a true daughter of the Empire.Imperial India is hyperreal, in Jean Baudrillard’s term: an object fetishized by its loss, a reality rendered unreal by its “hallucinatory resemblance to itself” (“Symbolic Exchange and Death”). Producing language, narrating India, Sara is also reproducing the same ideological structures that generate the plot-problems she is trying to overcome. Her every effort to retain self-respect in her poverty reinforces her difference from the story’s other poor characters; her friendly gestures toward the Indian servant Ram Dass reiterate her standing as a member of the Raj’s officer class; her ability to survive without her father demonstrates her dependence on the symbolic economy she inherited from him. A Little Princess, in text and film versions, sets forth the hyperreal spectacle of empire in a particularly clear way.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

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4.32 rating

Comment 1: Some people tend to think this book is the worst in the whole series, but I disagree: I find this one of the best. Why? Well, of course it was incredible to be introduced to Hogwarts in the first book, with all its houses and classes and festive traditions, but a story needs more than that. To be good, a story needs depth and in order to gain depth the writer must come up with enough background either to the characters individually and to the story itself. I am sure this series could have gone down hill with no more than three books had the author not perceived it needed to be matured; young kids who had read and been enchanted by Sorcerer's Stone would get older, so the story had to get a few darker shades in order to keep up with their aging, otherwise audience would decline.This book provides enough background for a second book, making you feel like reading more. Of course we get to see Harry, Ron and Hermione back together at Hogwarts, but it's not all happiness and welcoming friends anymore. The Chamber of Secrets already at its beginning sends us a clear message: everything is different and there is real danger around. Most of the danger is caused by intangible old magic. After a very clever fashion, Rowling gives hints to what the story would become years later, as we see Harry and his friends discovering some of the dark past of some characters and of Hogwarts itself. Some of the messages seen in the first book are reinforced, like the value of friendship and power of loyalty, but other than that this book is much more complex, dark and mature.I won't spend much effort trying to explain anything down to details, since pretty much everyone that hasn't been living under a rock knows most of the story. Instead, I will just cover a few points which I really enjoyed and which I didn't like that much while reading The Chamber of Secrets. First of all, despite the new shadowy atmosphere provided by the whole reopening of the Chamber of Secrets situation, Hogwarts felt a lot more real and familiar here than in Sorcerer's Stone. Part of it is due to the fact that, at some point, the fear of being attacked by the mysterious monster that was roaming around was so strong that everyone got closer to each other. There were lots of scenes describing people chatting on the common rooms, having snacks together; it felt cozy and warm, despite the palpable danger. The other aspect that I liked was how difficult the author made every part of the investigation Harry, Ron and Hermione were running in order to find out the truth about the heir of Slytherin. The fact that they had to work for months on the Polyjuice potion only enriched the story; made it more real - in most books about witches they just flick their wands and everything happens.I've been trying to think about the negative aspects, anything that I don't like about The Chamber of Secrets. The only thing that comes to my mind, though, is the same complaint that would come from Ronald Weasley: spiders. I also suffer from arachnophobia, so those chapters full of spiders were a real pain for me to read without having to check every corner of my room every five seconds. Overall, though, this book is flawless. Interesting quotes that I didn't include in the review: It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities. The Last Passage(view spoiler)[ The Hogwarts Express slowed and finally stopped.Harry pulled out his quill and a bit of parchment and turned to Ron and Hermione.“This is called a telephone number,” he told Ron, scribbling it twice, tearing the parchment in two, and handing it to them. “I told your dad how to use a telephone last summer — he’ll know. Call me at the Dursleys’, okay? I can’t stand another two months with only Dudley to talk to. …”“Your aunt and uncle will be proud, though, won’t they?” said Hermione as they got off the train and joined the crowd thronging toward the enchanted barrier. “When they hear what you did this year?“Proud?” said Harry. “Are you crazy? All those times I could’ve died, and I didn’t manage it? They’ll be furious. …”And together they walked back through the gateway to the Muggle world. (hide spoiler)]

The Velveteen Rabbit

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4.28 rating

Comment 1: The Velveteen Rabbit or How Toys Become Real by Margery Williams Bianco (1881-1944) was originally published in 1922 when she was 41 years old. Tonight is my first time to read this book. Shame on me. It only took 15 mins to read it and at first I was totally not impressed. I thought I already saw the theme of previously-cherished toys being discarded either in favor of a newer or more hi-tech toy or when the child becomes an adult used in Disney/Pixar's movie Toy Story. I also thought I already read about the realization of growing old or passing of time used poignantly in E. B. White's Charlotte's Web. However, check the years. Toy Story 1 was shown in 1995 and Charlotte's Web was first published in 1952. Hence, unless there were other children's books with the same themes earlier than 1922, The Velveteen Rabbit was the original.The story is very simple yet it strikes a chord in one's heart. It is about a stuff rabbit toy given to a boy on Christmas Day. Along with other hi-tech and shiny gifts, the little rabbit toy is not a big hit so he is kept in the boy's cabinet. One of them is an old wooden horse who tells the little rabbit that the latter can become real only when he is loved. One night, the boy's nanny cannot find her ward's bed companion toy so she gets the little rabbit. They seem to click so from then on, the boy sleeps with the little rabbit and brings him anywhere he goes. Being a stuff toy, the little rabbit has wear and tear: his color is fading, his hay-filled body is becoming out of shape, he is starting to lose his whiskers, etc. Despite those, the boy still loves him and this makes the little rabbit very happy. However, the boy gets sick with scarlet fever and the doctor orders the boy's parents to burn all his toys. If you check Wikipedia, the vaccine for scarlet fever was only discovered in 1924 (two years after the first publication of Velveteen. Then in 1940, the vaccine was eclipsed by the discovery of penicillin. So, the burning of the toys in 1922 was a sensible order from the doctor.I am not saying though that this book is better than J. M. Barrie's Peter Pan (1902) or Antoine de Saint-Exupery's Le Petite Prince (1945) or even A. A. Milne's Winnie The Pooh (1926). These three novels are far more comprehensive, multi-layered, imaginative and their characters are more memorable. However, the simplicity of The Velveteen Rabbit is its most endearing asset. The vulnerable and trusting little rabbit is much more endearing than the cockiness of Peter, the wisdom of the Little Prince and the cluelessness of Winnie. Don't read the part below if you are not my brother:To my brother who always likes to check if a novel has an allusion to sex, check this book out. The little rabbit is told that being worn out is the consequence of being loved. It does not matter if the little rabbit, because the boy loves him, later becomes out of shape, with faded color, loses its luster, with missing whiskers, etc because he is loved by the boy. Maybe Williams anticipated readers like my brother so she made both characters, the boy and the rabbit, as male ha ha.

Shiver

by

3.78 rating

Comment 1: Hmm, what do I think of Shiver? I tried reading some other reviews to try and clarify my thoughts, especially since I know reviewers I often agree with (like Cait @ Paper Fury) love, love, love everything Maggie Stiefvater produces. And I see the comparisons to Twilight, and bear with me here — I think it’s actually kind of true. At least as far as the relationship between the protagonists goes. Because “I saw you naked when I was a wolf” is kind of not cool, and animal instincts only partly exc Comment 2: Kitabın dilinden pek hoşlanmadım. Grace’in gözünü döndüren aşkı ve bunun etkisindeki davranışları beni çıldırtmaya yetti zaten. Tamam bazı anlar vardı gerçekten hoşuma gitti, duygu kontrolu altında yazılmış olanlar, ama çoğunda oldukça çocukça ve akıl almaz derecede saçma durumlar vardı. Ayrıca şarkı sözlerini aralara sokuşturulması… Gereksiz. Bu kitap The Raven Boys için olan beklentilerimi yine de düşürmedi. Maggie sanırım o seri ile kendini gösterdi. Comment 3: So as a big fan of Stiefvater's 'Raven Cycle' series, I was really expecting to love this book,I liked it, but it wasn't amazing. I am just so torn on rating this book. Maggie Steifvater's writing is so vivid and poetic. It's why I love her writing style.I really liked the werewolf concept in this book. Werewolves are no supernatural creatures with inhuman strength; they are simply normal wolves. Similar to a sort of illness that comes with the lowering of temperatures and being unable to rememb

Uglies

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3.86 rating

Comment 1: I need to never run into Scott Westerfeld down a dark alley, or during a Civil War reenactment, or at Charlton Heston's house, or wherever. My deep desire not to be arrested for murder would have an epic battle with my need to reach for a weapon when I see his stupid face. In all fairness, as you see, I coughed up three stars for this book, so I will clarify that my empty threatening is really directed toward Pretties and Specials (books two and three in this series). I'm posting this review on the link for the first book in the hopes that it will inspire people to put this book on their list of books never to read. If you read this book there is the danger that you may want to continue with the series, but trust me, you really don't.In listing what I don't like about this series, I'll start with EVERYTHING from the characters to the plot to the worldview that I imagine would inspire a story of this kind of depth and breadth of ambivalence. The premise of Uglies is that in the future when kids reach puberty, they all have mandatory plastic surgery to turn their bodies into a perfect standard of beauty based on human brain reactions to visual stimulus. Unfortunately (and this is a slight spoiler, so my apologies, but it really is an element that is pretty obvious from page one, though not clearly stated until later), when the kids are having the surgeries to make them pretty, the surgeons change their brains, too, to determine their decision-making abilities, capacity for independent thought, and even sense response. Basically, the pretty surgery makes most people stupid, unless the occupation that the government determines for them requires intelligence. So far so good - it's your basic government-takeover dystopia. Yes, kids, if you let the government give you free health care checkups, it's only a small step to the day they start chopping up your brain.Luckily, said ugly teens (particularly our protagonist, Tally, through her bff, Shay) discover that if they flee to the wilderness, they will be able to live a life of freedom and romance. Oh, what's that? Did I say "romance"? Thanks again Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Ralph Waldo Emerson, et al. Sometimes when characters go out into the wilderness . . . I don't even know. Does the phrase "it's been done" even begin to cover my feelings on that topic? Thus begins the cat-fight between Tally and Shay that is the uniting thread of this entire series. You see, there is a wilderness boy (imagine my surprise), who is quite a catch even though he's "ugly", and there's some jealousy and betrayal and kick-ass hoverboarding. You get the idea.Let me clarify the problems I have listed so far:1. Suspicion of the city, using a retreat to the wild as the solution to social ills. It's a tired premise.2. Cattiness of the female protagonist and portraying the central female character as mostly driven by her current crush and competition with other women. That is a huge pet peeve of mine.Those, however, are small, forgivable wrongs compared to the basic disingenuousness of the moral arguments Westerfeld makes. While he on one level criticizes the idea of basing society on a hierarchy of physical looks, the characters repeatedly interact within that hierarchy, calling each other "pretty" and "ugly" at every turn and defining "pretty" people very specifically. Even the repetition of the words "ugly" and "pretty" undercuts any message Westerfeld might have against pigeonholing people. I found myself seeing people in the grocery store and evaluating whether they met the "evolutionary definition" of pretty as according to this series. It's creepy and annoying. Westerfeld can be as showy as he wants about how it is limiting to judge people based on their appearance, but I argue that he is actually encouraging that same shallow judgment if only by instruction and repetition. For example, it's like saying, "kids, don't shoplift, but here's how to shoplift if you ever want to do it. And here's a catchy shoplifting song to sing with your group of friends, who really should have a name. Hey, we could call you guys the 'shoplifting gang'! Don't shoplift, though." What's the real message there? Ultimately, the arguments of the government that requires the pretty surgeries, also, make a lot of sense in the stories. The surgeries solve anorexia, bring world peace, and save the environment. Plastic surgery sounds fun, too, and Westerfeld literally makes no compelling arguments against body alteration. At the same time, I'm left feeling that Westerfeld thinks it is a bad idea, though he is not convincing.If Westerfeld's discussion of body image wasn't enough of a travesty, the point in this series where this backwards arguing makes me want to wipe him off the face of the planet is when he introduces cutting. By "cutting" I'm not talking about skipping school. If you are not familiar with cutting, it is a form of self-mutilation that has been growing in popularity with teenagers over the past few years (I'm going to go ahead and say it's been growing in popularity since 2006, when the book Specials was published). In Specials, our catty female protagonist and her buddies discover that by slicing up their arms, they experience a particularly satisfying high, and all of their senses are strengthened. Ultimately, they randomly decide that this is a bad idea, but Westerfeld only implies their reasoning for that decision, and again I'm left with the feeling that probably everyone should be a cutter because in the context of the story it's pretty badass. I think that was the point where I started yelling and throwing things around my house.Unfortunately, some parts of these stories are actually engaging (not seriously engaging, but passably), and for a while I wanted to find out what happened to everyone, even while I wanted to burn the author's house down. The truly unforgivable wrongs are his wolf-in-sheep's-clothing discussions of teen body image and self-mutilation issues. His characters never develop deep self-respect or intelligent motivation for their actions, and even when their decisions seem healthy, Westerfeld makes a better argument for the unhealthy decisions. Now I realize that I didn't even talk about the uber-annoying slang language he develops for the Pretties and Specials. I'll just say that these books are not "bubbly" and leave it at that.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

by

4.06 rating

Comment 1: I've had this book on my To-Read list for a long time, since I really enjoy reading books of this kind. I haven't seen the movie, and I really had no idea what to expect from this one. That being said, I wish I could have liked it more than I did. This story is told in 3rd person limited, from the perspective of a 9 year old boy. Bruno, our main character, is moved unexpectedly from his large home with 5 floors (if you count the basement and the little room with the high window at the top) in Berlin to Out-With, where the house is only 3 floors (if you count the basement) where he's bored, has no friends, nowhere to explore, and nothing to do except look at the people behind the fence wearing the striped pajamas. Bruno doesn't know who the people behind the fence are, or why they are there, or... well, anything. And it just wasn't believable to me that he should be so obliviously naive, which is one of the major issues that I had with this book, and a big part of why I found it so disappointing in the end. I have a few reasons for not believing in Bruno's "innocence". First, Bruno was born in Berlin in 1934, well into the Nazi party's regime. I cannot find it in myself to believe that Bruno could have lived 9 years in this environment of anti-Semitism and have never even heard of a Jew before. This kid went to public school, and hung around other boys both his age and older. Bruno's own father is in the Nazi military, had "The Fury" to his house for dinner, and was personally given orders by "The Fury". I don't believe that the term "Jew" was never, not once, used in Bruno's presence, by someone at school, or on the street (which is so busy that you could be pushed from pillar to post, specifically), or in his own household. People who hate, especially in an environment where that hatred is not only tolerated but encouraged and treated as "right", generally hate vociferously. It's not something we're born with, it's something we must be taught. That's how racism works. So it doesn't make sense to me that someone who obviously believes that Jews are inferior, who feels that Germans have been wronged by the Jews, who feels that Jews should be punished, and that those who disagree are cowards at best and traitors at worst, as Bruno's father clearly seems to believe, would fail to delineate the "us" from the "them" to his son. And Bruno is not stupid, though he is rather self-centered, and sees everything around him in terms of his own life experiences. But he notices things, even if he doesn't understand them or their significance. And we see in the course of the story that when he's curious enough about something, he'll ask for information about it, even if he doesn't really learn the right info, since usually his equally self-centered and ignorant sister is providing the answers. But still, it just doesn't work for me that he should be portrayed as such an innocent blank slate. I grew up in an area where racism was very common, but thankfully my mom taught me differently - and started doing so early, by which I mean around the time I could talk. Very young children mimic, and at some point every child will have heard something they shouldn't have and then repeated it. It's inevitable. Young children also ask a bajillion embarrassing questions. "Mommy, why is that lady's skin so dark?" "Mommy, why is that man so fat?" "Mommy, why does that man get a yellow star? I want a star!" Just ask Louis CK about the Why Game. I don't have kids, but even I know that it's never ending. Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Over and over and over...Any of these kinds of things would have been perfect times for Nazi Dad to say, "Well, little Bruno, that man gets a star because he's a Jew, and we're rounding him, his family, and everyone like him up so that we can cleanse the earth of their filth." But he didn't, apparently, which begs the question: Why not? Nazis were in power, and they even had programs specifically designed for indoctrinating kids. But little Bruno was kept ignorant of the attitudes of the period. Because if he hadn't been, then this story wouldn't be possible: Bruno wouldn't have been that innocent, naive, oblivious blank slate he had to be. And that's a huge plot hole for me, and a big disappointment. Moving along to the writing itself, I have to say that, again, it was something of a disappointment. Well, the writing wasn't terrible, but some of the techniques used within it were irritating as hell. Like this line: "The rope was easy enough to find as there were bales of it in the basement of the house and it didn't take long to do something extremely dangerous and find a sharp knife and cut as many lengths of it as he thought he might need." First, why does the narrator feel the need to specify that knives are dangerous? Because Bruno is 9? Secondly, not only is it a run-on sentence, but what exactly is "extremely dangerous"? Finding the sharp knife, or using it? Third, why even mention the tool used at all? Why not just say "The rope was easy enough to find as there were bales of it in the basement of the house and it didn't take long to cut as many lengths of it as he thought he might need." It feels very much as if the narrator was talking down to the reader, and trying to protect them perhaps? I'm not a huge fan of that. Let readers think for themselves.Another two examples of this protection thing: 1) The narrator has a bad habit of editing out the terms the Nazis used to describe Jews. "'Hey, you!' he shouted, then adding a word that Bruno did not understand. 'Come over here, you--' He said the word again, and something about the harsh sound of it made Bruno look away and feel ashamed to be part of this at all." Bruno may not know the term, but why edit it? Let's look at Harry Potter for a second. When Hermione is first called a Mudblood by Draco Malfoy, it's not edited out, despite Harry not knowing the term. Instead, he picks up from context that it's derogatory and ugly, and we, as the reader, do the same. That's the proper way to communicate to readers, and to trust them to understand and be shocked by the term and its intent. 2) The narrator cuts away from anything resembling violent action. In a scene where a Jewish waiter spills wine on a Nazi soldier, we're treated to this: "What happened then was both unexpected and extremely unpleasant. [Nazi] grew very angry with [Jew] and no one [...] stepped in to stop him doing what he did next, even though none of them could watch." I edited out names, but regarding the action in that scene, that's it. Of course, we can imagine what happened. Of course, we know how brutal Nazis, and people in general, can be. But then at the end of the story, we're left with these lines: "Of course all this happened a long time ago and nothing like that could ever happen again. Not in this day and age."Nice. Some reverse psychology there. Tell us nothing like that could happen now, because we're all so tolerant and peaceful. The object is that we start questioning whether it could happen, or even whether it could be happening now. Subtle. Except again it's a fail, because we learn nothing at all from this book. What's the point? "Pay attention"? To what? If Boyne is not even willing to call out the behavior we're supposed to think is so bad, not willing to show people how needlessly cruel and brutal and inhumanly awful people have been to others, what the hell is stopping us from being way that now? We wouldn't recognize it if we saw it. We don't learn anything by promoting ignorance and whitewashing the past. Bruno may not have understood what was happening around him, but a skilled writer takes that character's lack of understanding and shows the reader the truth. Boyne tried his hand at this, and succeeded in a small way, in that the reader understood more of what the Jews were going through than Bruno did, but too much was avoided in the guise of protecting the reader, and overall, it failed. Bruno never learned anything. He never grew as a character. He was as self-centered at the end as he was in the beginning. Disappointing. This book could have been so amazingly powerful by showing the true horror of Auschwitz through the eyes of a child. But it didn't. It shied away from everything that would have meant something. And that's the biggest disappointment of all.

The Wind in the Willows

by

3.96 rating

Comment 1: Following the resounding success of my Locus Quest, I faced a dilemma: which reading list to follow it up with? Variety is the spice of life, so I’ve decided to diversify and pursue six different lists simultaneously. This book falls into my BEDTIME STORIES list.I have a little boy and love reading to him, so this reading list will cover the classic (and new) children’s stories we’re enjoying together. The Wind in the Willows is a funny old book, isn’t it?The adventures of Ratty, Mole and the Toad; they didn’t make much of an impact on me during my childhood. I read the book, I liked it well enough, I remembered the characters, but that was about it – it was never a favourite. I think I got a lot more out of it as an adult, reading it aloud in bitesize chunks to a drowsy baby, every night for a couple of months. It gave me time to ponder the book between readings. But I still think it’s a funny old book. I mean, we start off focused on Mole as he ventures out from his underground home, befriends the Water Rat and discovers the gently joy of the riverside life in springtime. Ratty and Moley then potter about the countryside together, meeting the different folk who live thereabouts. The focus drifts over to Toad, who – I have to agree with my wife – is a bit of a tool. Toady has a big adventure on his own, and then teams up with Ratty and Mole (and the Badger, of course) for the final big showdown.It’s all terribly episodic; it’s great for a bedtime story as most chapters reach their own conclusion, but the plot (such as it is) is all over the place and never really builds up much momentum until Toad goes off on his grand adventure. But somehow that doesn’t matter – the plot is not the important thing here. What shines through on almost every page, in some beautifully evocative, vivid and sometimes poetic description, is a passionate and articulate adoration for the British countryside, nature and the changes of the seasons. I grew up in a green and leafy suburb and my favourite place to escape away to was a quiet little lake in the woods – so I can certainly appreciate the sentiment. But Grahame goes far above and beyond that; there’s no talk of religion in this book, but there is a god (small G) – Pan – and nature is the religion here. Looking at The Wind in the Willows as a fantasy novel is somewhat confusing – the internal logic is more dreamy than scientific. These characters are animals... who walk upright, talk, dress and act like people. But they also keep animals who act like animals – Toad has a working carthorse and a pet canary, neither of which talk or wear clothes, etc. But they do live in a world dominated by humans, Toad steals a man’s car and gets sent to a human prison in a human city, guarded by humans. And humans keep animals as pets – the jailor’s daughter would like to keep Toad as a pet, but doesn’t tell him so because he’s too proud. And these talking animals of ours, eat the same food as humans – often processed food, made from animals – which is a confusing ethical dilemma. Then there’s the issue of scale and size. To some degree, the characters reflect the sizes of the animals which are their namesakes –eg, Badger and Otter are larger than Mole and Ratty. But at other times, the scale is confusing – Toad rides a stolen horse comfortably, and escapes the city dressed as a washer woman – so he seems to be in-scale with humans, and he’s of a similar size to his friends, ergo they’re all human sized. But a human sized Rat living in a hole in the riverbank seems... grubby. Whereas a rat sized rat, wearing little human clothes, living in a hole in the riverbank is... romantic?Sexism. Where are the women? Only two female characters appear in the whole book – and they’re both humans! Where are all the animal-women? We meet a wide array of talking creatures – mole, rat, toad, badger, otter, weasel, stoat, rabbit, hedgehog, mouse and bird – but all male. There’s mention of female family members, but they’re never seen. And there’s one particular scene (I didn’t note down when, I’m afraid) when the boys are sitting discussing the day’s events and dinner is bought to them. By whom, may I enquire? I get the feeling the women are all there, doing the women’s work, but invisible. It’s like a world of Oxford dons, wrapped up in their own little tweed worlds, boating on the river, while the common life drifts beneath their attention.If you get the feeling I’m overly critical of this classic story – I’m not really (hence the four-star rating) – but as I said at the beginning, it’s just a funny old book!If you find yourself reading it in the near future – try rolling some of the sentences around your mouth, rather than reading it all inside your head – there’s a real music and magic to the words. The Wind in the Willows made bedtime stories feel like a performance – one I greatly looked forward to!After this I read: Komarr