Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Book Review of The Barrelmaker Brimful of Love by Saikaku Ihara

Name of Book: The Barrelmaker Brimful of Love

Author: Saikaku Ihara

ISBN: 0-393-97758-7

Publisher: Norton Company

Type of book: 1600s, Japan, love, floating world, realism, marriage

Year it was published: 1686?

Summary:
(from Norton World Anthology Vol.D 590)

The Barrelmaker Brimful of Love is a worthy introduction. The novella is part of a collection of stories, Five Women Who loved Love, written in 1686 when Saikaku had reached his full stride. It should be remembered, though, that this is a writer for whom language is always a bravura performance. Translation, inevitably obscuring linguistic aspects of a text, cannot display the stylist's forte to best advantage. Saikaku's many other strengths, however, do emerge.

Characters:

Although the story itself is interesting, there isn't much depth with the characters; Osen is a sweet and naive girl, the man who likes her is persistent, the grandmother who sets them up is manipulative and so forth. There is also generosity involved, and its interesting to notice that unlike Genji, there seems to be a somewhat monogamy for the characters.

Theme:

Happiness doesn't last long.

Plot:

I think this is primarily written from the girl's, Osen's, point of view. From what I could understand, Osen and the man meet, she rebuffs him a number of times, the man turns to "nanny" for help and she scares Osen into being with him. They, along with other couples? travel somewhere and so forth. The story itself is short, perhaps ten or eleven pages long.

Author Information:
(from wikipedia.org)

Ihara Saikaku (井原 西鶴?, 1642 – September 9, 1693) was a Japanese poet and creator of the "floating world" genre of Japanese prose (ukiyo-zōshi)

Opinion:

Just like The Tale of Genji, this also had a strange timelessness to it, but I found the parts where two men are with Osen confusing and couldn't help but wonder if there was some kind of umm threesome involved or something of the kind. Overall an interesting story although due to culture or whatnot, I'm afraid that it didn't have much of an impact on me. Most interesting line is beginning: "Life short, love is long" (Vol. D 591)

4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

Book Review of Love in a Fallen City by Ailing Zhang

Name of Book: Love in a Fallen City

Author: Ailing Zhang

ISBN:  (from Norton Anthology Vol F.) 0-393-97760-9

Publisher: Norton Company

Type of book: China, 1940-1942? divorce, family, Hong Kong, love, overseas Chinese

Year it was published: 1940s

Summary:
(from Norton Anthology Vol. F 2736)

Love in a Fallen City begins with the heroine Liusu trapped in the relationships of the Chinese family. In her late twenties, Liusu has been divorced for seven or eight years; her ex-husband has just died, and his family wants her back for ritual purposes, to play the role of the grieving widow in the funeral ceremony and perhaps to adopt a son to carry on her ex-husband's family line...Liusu wants the security of a marriage, but on her own terms, and she invites teh attentions of a rich playbo, Liuyuan, who a matchmaker had arranged to meet her sister. Liusu dances with Liuyuan, who a matchmaker had arranged to meet her sister. Liusu dances with Liuyan at their first meeting, and the couple continues to dance in a literal and figurative snese for much of the rest of the story.

Characters:

Basically there are a few characters; that of Liusu, her "lover" Liuyuan as well as Liusu's family that seems to treat her as if she's nothing. I think its because I was born in the West rather than the East, thus I had difficult time understanding the latter half of the novel, of when somehow Liuyuan made Liusu his lover. Liusu was married previously but wasn't happy and thus she got a divorce. She is without children. There is Liuyuan who grew up in England, a son of a concubine or a lover rather than a wife. He pursues Liusu but only through drastic measures does he manage capture her. Both of the characters are an enigma and I couldn't understand them or their thought processes.

Theme:

Through one event or one moment in time we will realize if we are in love.

Plot:

This is in third person narrative from Liusu's point of view. It details of how she lived with her family, the hopeful marriage of her younger sister, although oddly enough it skipped over the part where Liusu and Liuyuan locked eyes for the first time. After the meeting, Liuyuan pursues her and somehow creates circumstances where she doesn't have a choice but to be with him. I'm afraid that if I should talk further on about the story, I'll mention spoilers.

Author Information:
(from wikipedia.org)

Eileen Chang (simplified Chinese: 张爱玲; traditional Chinese: 張愛玲; pinyin: Zhāng Ailíng; Cantonese Yale: Zoeng Oiling) (September 30, 1920 – September 8, 1995) was a Chinese writer. Her most famous works include Lust, Caution and Love in a Fallen City.

She is noted for her fiction writings that deal with the tensions between men and women in love, and are considered by some scholars to be among the best Chinese literature of the period. Chang's portrayal of life in 1940s Shanghai and Japanese-occupied Hong Kong is remarkable in its focus on everyday life and the absence of the political subtext which characterised many other writers of the period. Taiwanese author Yuan Qiongqiong drew inspiration from Eileen Chang. Poet and University of Southern California professor Dominic Cheung commented "had it not been for the political division between the Nationalist and Communist Chinese, she would have almost certainly won a Nobel Prize".[1]

Chang's enormous popularity and famed image were in distinct contrast to her personal life, which was marred by disappointment, tragedy, increasing reclusiveness, and ultimately her sudden death from cardiovascular disease at age 74.

Opinion:

I got this short story in Norton Anthology Vol.F, and I'm not mentioning it to promote it, but because I read that this story came with other short stories in another anthology. I felt it was educational when it came to China, but at the same time there was bitterness in the story and I had a difficult time understanding how the two characters realized they were in love. There was a lot that should have been talked about and instead this becomes almost a prologue or a surface story of what should have been longer. The story is pleasing to my senses but I feel that it didn't leave me any long lasting message that I could ponder about over and over.

4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

Book Review of White Fang by Jack London

Name of Book: White Fang

Author: Jack London

ISBN:1-57335-405-8

Publisher: Wordsworth Classics

Type of book: 1890s-1900s, civilization vs. wild, nature vs. nurture, wolf, dog hero, young adult, isolation, bullying, lack of kindness, Alaska, California, laws

Year it was published: 1905

Summary:

White Fang is Jack London's celebrated companion story to The Call of the Wild. Once again, the author chooses a dog as his hero and the story chronicles the triumph of goodness and love over a loyal spirit once brutalised by violent circumstances and a harsh environment.

Characters:

The main character is White Fang, although there are other characters such as Scott and his family, as well as other dogs and wolves. The only character that goes through change is White Fang, other characters are static characters and don't go through any change. Despite only one character going through the change, it is an interesting story and is well deserved of being read by everyone.

Theme:

Change is possible.

Plot:

The book is told in third person narrative, primarily from White Fang's point of view. The story starts perhaps a year or so before White Fang's birth with the she-wolf named Kiche and another wolf. It chronicles their lives together then it moves on to birth of the puppies then to White Fang's education of the wild, as well as his capture by Native Americans, his education there and towards the end we see the kindnesses and how they began to change him, which makes this a very remarkable novel.

Author Information:
(from goodreads.com)

born
January 12, 1876 in San Francisco, California, The United States

died
November 22, 1916

gender
male

website
http://www.jacklondons.net/index.html

genre
Literature & Fiction, Science Fiction & Fantasy

influences
Charles Darwin, Herbert Spencer, Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, Rudya...more


About this author

Jack London was an American novelist and short-story writer whose works deal romantically with elemental struggles for survival. At his peak, he was the highest paid and the most popular of all living writers. Because of early financial difficulties, he was largely self educated past grammar school.

London draws heavily on his life experiences in his writing. He spent time in the Klondike during the Gold Rush and at various times was an oyster pirate, a seaman, a sealer, and a hobo. His first work was published in 1898. From there he went on to write such American classics as Call of the Wild, Sea Wolf, and White Fang.

Opinion:

Although I found it boring in some parts, I really liked the storytelling and lessons it imparts on people, as well as giving hopes to those who are hoping for a change, it will be possible. I would have liked if more time could have been devoted to White Fang changing, but instead more is devoted to explaining how he got the way he did. This is also a reverse situation than that of Call of the Wild. In Call of the Wild, you have a dog, Buck, torn from civilization and learning the harshness of life in Alaska, while in White Fang, you have a dog torn from harshness of Alaska and thrust into civilization. The fact that White Fang ended up living with a judge, would mean a full circle of sorts.

4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

Book Review of #2 Lifted Up By Angels by Lurlene McDaniel

Name of Book: Lifted up by angels

Author: Lurlene McDaniel

ISBN: 0-553-57098-6

Publisher: Laurel Leaf fiction

Part of a Series: Angels Trilogy

Type of book: 1990s, Amish, community, relationship, death, angels, summer, maturity

Year it was published: 1997

Summary:

The companion to the Publishers Weekly bestseller Angels Watching Over Me.

This inspirational novel follows the story of Leah and her friendship with the Amish family she met while hospitalized for cancer treatment. When Leah takes a summer job near their Amish community, she is happy to be near Ethan again. He is now at the age at which an Amish young man is allowed a taste of non-Amish life before committing to the adults' rules. Will Leah and Ethan's feelings for each other overcome family obligations?

Characters:

The characters do go through changes, at least Ethan does. Leah does too, but her change isn't as visible as Ethan's is. In this book I got to see Ethan trying to be less Amish and more English, as well as learning a secret to why he didn't take a fling earlier in life. Leah, meanwhile, struggles to find acceptance with Ethan's friends and some family members. She likes the lifestyle but doesn't see it for her. There is tragedy towards the end as well, and one sees the lifestyle as well as the rules of the Amish.

Theme:

Sometimes there are too many differences to be bridged.

Plot:

This is in third person narrative from Leah's point of view. There is barely any mention of Leah's family and we don't get to know the mother or the stepfather. It shows the activities and traditions of the Amish. Leah decides to stay the summer to be closer to Ethan and we get to see their dates and activities they do together such as fair or camping or other things. In all honesty, I couldn't see this novel where Leah might be dealing with survival, and the ending as well as resolution happened way too quickly to my tastes.

Author Information:

Lurlene McDaniel began writing inspirational novels about teenagers facing life-altering situations when her son was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes. "I saw firsthand how chronic illness affects every aspect of a person's life," she has said. "I want kids to know that while people don't get to choose what life gives to them, they do get to choose how they respond." Lurlene McDaniel's novels are hard hitting and realistic, but also leave readers with inspiration and hope. Her books have received acclaim from readers, teachers, parents, and reviewers. Her novels Don't Die, My Love; I'll be Seeing You; and 'Till Death Do us Part have all been national bestsellers. Lurlene McDaniel lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee. (From inside flap)

Opinion:

Although this is a good novel, I felt that it didn't measure up to the original novel. Ethan and Leah really have too many differences between to belong together, although seeing the Amish life and traditions is fascinating. The reader also gets to know the characters of Charity, Ethan, Leah as well as the Amish family. I felt that the author tried to push the two characters into being together, but she didn't succeed. The focus on this book is on the Amish side of life, as well as Ethan attempting to trying out "English" things like clothing, video games and so forth.

3 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

Friday, July 27, 2012

Book Review of Picture Me Sexy By Rhonda Nelson

Name of Book: Picture Me Sexy

Author: Rhonda Nelson

ISBN: 9780373791194

Publisher: Harlequin Blaze

Type of book: Photography, soul-mates, shyness, romance, adult

Year it was published: 2003

Summary:

You can't take the bed out of the boudoir...

Delaney Walker has a secret. The celebrated designer of erotic lingerie is actually too "nice" to wear it. But when her fiance says "I do" to someone else, Delaney decides to change her image. And she's going to start by going through with the boudoir photos she'd arranged for her groom-to-be. Only, little does she guess that once photographer Sam Martelli sets eyes on her, he'll insist on putting himself in the picture....

Sam has photographed hundreds of beautiful women, but none have affected him like Delaney. Even before she strips down to just a whisper of silk, casting off her inhibitions as well as her clothes, he has to have her. And thanks to a power failure, he does...again and again. But once the lights come back on, can Sam convince her that their one night was more than just a case of indecent exposure...

Characters:

Although the female heroine is well drawn with insecurities, the male hero doesn't seem to have neither insecurities or fears that could cause the readers to relate to him. Delaney is a creative soul that loves designing lingerie, although she fears wearing it. The author barely mentions the problems that Delaney faced while growing up, or why in particular she was jilted twice. (There is mention but no emotional exploration.) The hero, Sam, loves photography as well as antiques and is described as controlled. Other than a brief fear of becoming like his male family members, he seems to have no imperfections and the only fear he possessed was dealt with a little too quickly.

Theme:

You don't have to be a size zero model to find someone to love you. You don't have to change yourself either.

Plot:

This is in third person narrative from Delaney's and Sam's points of views. The story flowed naturally and for me was a joy to read. I liked seeing that the main character has problems with modesty and is shy. I think there's a lot more focus on female heroine rather than the hero.

Author Information:

A Waldenbooks bestselling author, two‐time RITA®Award nominee andRT
Book Reviews Reviewers’ Choice nominee, Rhonda Nelson writes hot romantic
comedy for the Harlequin Blaze line and other Harlequin imprints. With more
than twenty‐five published books to her credit and many more coming down the
pike, she’s thrilled with her career and enjoys dreaming up her characters and
manipulating the worlds they live in. In addition to a writing career she has a
husband, two adorable kids, a black Lab and a beautiful bichon frise. She and her
family make their chaotic but happy home in a small town in northern Alabama.
She loves to hear from her readers, so be sure and check her out at
www.readRhondaNelson.com.

Opinion:

I actually won this book few years back, and when it didn't arrive, I let the author know but she didn't have any extra copies, thus I had to find on my own. In all honesty, writing wise, this is a good novel and I could feel the chemistry between the female and male. I enjoyed reading it, although I felt that the male characters is a little too perfect.

4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

E-Reading: Book Review of The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

Name of Book: The Lovely Bones

Author: Alice Sebold

ISBN: 978-0-7595-2773-7

Publisher: Hachete Book Group

Type of book: murder, 1973-1980s, murder, family, brief white female/South Asian male relationship, friendship, sisterhood, father/ daughter relationship, afterlife, heaven, moving on.

Year it was published: 2002

Summary:

Shockingly original and completely unforgettable, The Lovely Bones is the story of a family devastated by a gruesome murder -- a murder recounted by the teenage victim. Upsetting, you say? Remarkably, first-time novelist Alice Sebold takes this difficult material and delivers a compelling and accomplished exploration of a fractured family's need for peace and closure.

The details of the crime are laid out in the first few pages: from her vantage point in heaven, Susie Salmon describes how she was confronted by the murderer one December afternoon on her way home from school. Lured into an underground hiding place, she was raped and killed. But what the reader knows, her family does not. Anxiously, we keep vigil with Susie, aching for her grieving family, desperate for the killer to be found and punished.

Sebold creates a heaven that's calm and comforting, a place whose residents can have whatever they enjoyed when they were alive -- and then some. But Susie isn't ready to release her hold on life just yet, and she intensely watches her family and friends as they struggle to cope with a reality in which she is no longer a part. To her great credit, Sebold has shaped one of the most loving and sympathetic fathers in contemporary literature.

In the tradition of Alice McDermott, who wrote so elegantly about death in Charming Billy, Sebold unveils a book whose presence will linger with readers for a long, long time and signals the arrival of a novelist to be reckoned with.

Characters:

I did get to see how single tragedy affected the characters for decades and years to come. That's the only good thing I could think of when it comes to the book: the father that dedicates himself to bringing the killer to justice, the mother that decides to leave the family, the other siblings as well as their struggles to get through the tragedy, along with friends. None of the characters remain the same.

Theme:

I'm not sure what I should have learned from this book: dead don't leave us?

Plot:

This is in first person narrative, with third person narrative when it comes to characters. The narrator is omniscient and she gives details and thoughts as to who was thinking in particular. Still there is lack of transition words that would make it easier for me to understand, and not enough about heaven or her life in heaven is explained. For instance, how does she move on from one character to another? Does she wish it and then she's watching or is living inside the character? I felt that the author didn't make it clear enough.

Author Information:
(from goodreads.com)

born
September 06, 1963 in Madison, Wisconsin, The United States

gender
female

website
http://www.alicesebold.com

genre
Literature & Fiction, Biographies & Memoirs


About this author

Alice Sebold is an American writer. She has published three books: Lucky (1999), The Lovely Bones (2002), and The Almost Moon (2007).

Opinion:

I liked the idea of the story: a teenage murder victim watches her family from heaven and details to the readers what happens and what they are thinking as the days and so forth pass. But while idea is fascinating, the writing really killed all the love I had for the novel. The points of views constantly overlapped, thus I had difficult time differentiating who's thinking and who's not, and the author clearly didn't explain the reasons that the neighbors began to find the murder very suspicious, or who he was in the past and why he turned to the path he became. There was too much description and barely any plot. Heaven itself is barely explored, and it would be great help if transitions are better used; instead in few paragraphs Susie recalls a memory she had of her sister or life, and then in the next she would move on to a point of view without any warning! The memories themselves didn't even fit in with the story, and I have trouble understanding why the story is titled The Lovely Bones.

1 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Book Challenge A-Z #23 Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice

Fulfilling the requirement:

The I letter for the book title, alphabetically

Summary:

Here are the confessions of a vampire. Hypnotic, shocking, and chillingly erotic, this is a novel of mesmerizing beauty and astonishing force- a story of danger and flight, of love and loss, of suspense and resolution, and of the extraordinary power of the senses. It is a novel only Anne Rice could write

Lesson learned:

Being a vampire sucks (no pun intended.)

Link to review: click here

E-Reading: Book Review of Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H Lawrence

Name of Book: Lady Chatterley's Lover

Author: DH Lawrence

ISBN: 978-1-411-43250-5

Publisher: Barnes and Noble Classics

Type of book: World War I, 1900s-1920s, paralyzed, women's desires, adultery, wealth, high class vs working class, sensuality, love, gender differences

Year it was published: 1928

Summary:

Lady Chatterley's Lover, by D. H. Lawrence, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras.

The last, and most famous, of D. H. Lawrence’s novels, Lady Chatterley’s Lover was published in 1928 and banned in England and the United States as pornographic. While sexually tame by today’s standards, the book is memorable for better reasons—Lawrence’s masterful and lyrical prose, and a vibrant story that takes us bodily into the world of its characters.

As the novel opens, Constance Chatterley finds herself trapped in an unfulfilling marriage to a rich aristocrat whose war wounds have left him paralyzed and impotent. After a brief but unsatisfying affair with a playwright, Lady Chatterley enjoys an extremely passionate relationship with the gamekeeper on the family estate, Oliver Mellors. As Lady Chatterley falls in love and conceives a child with Mellors, she moves from the heartless, bloodless world of the intelligentsia and aristocracy into a vital and profound connection rooted in sexual fulfillment.

Through this novel, Lawrence attempted to revive in the human consciousness an awareness of savage sensuality, a sensuality with the power to free men and women from the enslaving sterility of modern technology and intellectualism. Perhaps even more relevant today than when it first appeared, Lady Chatterley’s Lover is a triumph of passion and an erotic celebration of life.

Characters:

While I could sympathize with Lady Chatterley and her position, I had a difficult time feeling sorry for Clifford. (One should feel sorry for him; losing potency at a young age, having a wife that cheated on him and so forth...) The lover, Mellors, although an interesting character, I found him a bit boring and his accent was very frustrating! I also couldn't understand why he became lovers with Lady Chatterley. I am not sure if I missed the scene or if the author neglected to write it in, but what is it he liked about her? Why did he become her lover in the first place? Did he feel sorry for her? The other characters, that of the nurse and Connie's sister Hilda, aren't explored or are attempted to be explored.

Theme:

Basically, happiness is more important than duty or obligation.

Plot:

This is written primarily from Connie's point of view, although without a warning there are a few switches to Mellors' point of view as well as Clifford's and Mrs. Bolton's. It's in third person narrative. While it was interesting and fascinating, I wasn't happy with the neglect that Mellors received because I have no idea what or who caused him to fall in love with Connie, and the ending can be determined as an open ending. I also am interested in why DH Lawrence resented Clifford and barely gave the poor guy a voice. All that a reader feels are Connie's miseries caused by Clifford, and not once have I thought or considered how Clifford might have felt.

Author Information:
(from goodreads.com)

born
September 11, 1885 in Eastwood, Nottinghamshire, England, The United Kingdom

died
March 02, 1930

gender
male

genre
Literature & Fiction, Poetry, Travel

influences
Otto Gross, Aldous Huxley, Joseph Conrad, Herman Melville, Lev Shestov...more


About this author
edit data

David Herbert Richards Lawrence was an English writer of the 20th century, whose prolific and diverse output included novels, short stories, poems, plays, essays, travel books, paintings, translations, literary criticism and personal letters. His collected works represent an extended reflection upon the dehumanizing effects of modernity and industrialisation. In them, Lawrence confronts issues relating to emotional health and vitality, spontaneity, human sexuality and instinct.

Lawrence's opinions earned him many enemies and he endured official persecution, censorship, and misrepresentation of his creative work throughout the second half of his life, much of which he spent in a voluntary exile he called his "savage pilgrimage." At the time of his death, his public reputation was that of a pornographer who had wasted his considerable talents. E. M. Forster, in an obituary notice, challenged this widely held view, describing him as "the greatest imaginative novelist of our generation." Later, the influential Cambridge critic F. R. Leavis championed both his artistic integrity and his moral seriousness, placing much of Lawrence's fiction within the canonical "great tradition" of the English novel. He is now generally valued as a visionary thinker and a significant representative of modernism in English literature, although some feminists object to the attitudes toward women and sexuality found in his works.

Opinion:

I was looking forward to reading the "scandalous" novel of the times, and the only things I knew about it were the scandals that was caused because of it and that it contained sexual scenes. I felt that the beginning, the first few chapters had big potential for becoming a five star novel, but then it quickly drifted downhill. I do appreciate the fact that DH Lawrence has attempted to write from a woman's point of view, as well as tried to get into the female psyche of what it was like for a woman to make love and whatnot. I do applaud him for doing this, considering that its the time women gained or were gaining their voices. I also applaud him for trying to encourage women to be more, ahem, vocal, rather than lying and taking it. Something that is known for us that wasn't known back then is that women tend to come to a crisis through a different stimulation rather than what was believed back then. However, I did have problems with the novel, one being that he's over verbose and tries too hard to create the atmosphere of either tenderness or love, which he doesn't succeed at doing.

3 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Book Challenge A-Z #22 Candide by Francois-Marie Arouet de Voltaire

Fulfilling the requirement:

The V letter for the author's last name, alphabetically.

Summary:

Candide, ou l'Optimisme ( /ˌkænˈdiːd/; French: [kɑ̃did]) is a French satire first published in 1759 by Voltaire, a philosopher of the Age of Enlightenment. The novella has been widely translated, with English versions titled Candide: or, All for the Best (1759); Candide: or, The Optimist (1762); and Candide: or, Optimism (1947).[5] It begins with a young man, Candide, who is living a sheltered life in an Edenic paradise and being indoctrinated with Leibnizian optimism (or simply Optimism) by his mentor, Pangloss. The work describes the abrupt cessation of this lifestyle, followed by Candide's slow, painful disillusionment as he witnesses and experiences great hardships in the world. Voltaire concludes with Candide, if not rejecting optimism outright, advocating an enigmatic precept, "we must cultivate our garden", in lieu of the Leibnizian mantra of Pangloss, "all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds".

Candide is characterised by its sarcastic tone, as well as by its erratic, fantastical and fast-moving plot. A picaresque novel with a story similar to that of a more serious bildungsroman, it parodies many adventure and romance clichés, the struggles of which are caricatured in a tone that is mordantly matter-of-fact. Still, the events discussed are often based on historical happenings, such as the Seven Years' War and the 1755 Lisbon earthquake.[6] As philosophers of Voltaire's day contended with the problem of evil, so too does Candide in this short novel, albeit more directly and humorously. Voltaire ridicules religion, theologians, governments, armies, philosophies, and philosophers through allegory; most conspicuously, he assaults Leibniz and his optimism.[7][8]

As expected by Voltaire, Candide has enjoyed both great success and great scandal. Immediately after its secretive publication, the book was widely banned because it contained religious blasphemy, political sedition and intellectual hostility hidden under a thin veil of naïveté.[7] However, with its sharp wit and insightful portrayal of the human condition, the novel has since inspired many later authors and artists to mimic and adapt it. Today, Candide is recognised as Voltaire's magnum opus[7] and is often listed as part of the Western canon; it is arguably taught more than any other work of French literature.[9]

Lesson learned:

The only perfection that exists is imaginary. Human nature never changed.

Link to review: click here

Book Challenge A-Z #21 Death in Venice by Thomas Mann

Fulfilling the requirement:

The D letter in the title alphabetically.

Summary:
(from wikipedia)

The novella Death in Venice was written by the German author Thomas Mann, and was first published in 1912 as Der Tod in Venedig.[1] The plot of the work presents a great writer suffering writer's block who visits Venice and is liberated and uplifted, then increasingly obsessed, by the sight of a stunningly beautiful youth.

Lesson learned:

Environment changes a human being.

Link to review: click here

Book Review of Call of the WIld by Jack London

Name of Book: The Call of the Wild

Author: Jack London

ISBN: 1-57335-405-8

Publisher: Wordsworth Classics

Type of book: Alaska, civilization, savageness, wilderness, domination, 1890s?, kidnapping, dog hero, young adult

Year it was published: 1903

Summary:

Uprooted from the good life of a dog on an estate in California, Buck- the canine hero of The Call of the Wild- is thrust into the turmoil of the Klondike gold rush in America's savage and unrelenting northland. As one critic put it, it is "fierce, brutal, splashed with blood, and live with the crack of the whip and the club." Its place is assured as one of the world's greatest "Ripping Yarns."

Characters:

The main character in this novel is Buck, a dog that survived through better and worse, who was forcibly sold for gambling debts and ended up in Alaska where he learned valuable lessons about survival. I saw visible change in Buck, from someone who's a domesticated dog to someone who became a lethal fighting machine that showed off prowess in everything. The secondary characters, besides the incompetent men and a woman, aren't given a lot of spotlight thus we barely get to know them.

Theme:

If you strip away civilization from the most domesticated animal, you'll find savagery underneath.

Plot:

I would guess the story is believable, and its told completely from Buck's point of view, although the author does show what he means by certain things or why Buck is that way. I did enjoy watching Buck being stripped of civilization and seeing the ultimate result. Its also fascinating to see how difficult it is to live in Alaska and how important it is to listen to elders and not disregard their advice, especially in Alaska.

Author Information:
(from goodreads.com)

born
January 12, 1876 in San Francisco, California, The United States

died
November 22, 1916

gender
male

website
http://www.jacklondons.net/index.html

genre
Literature & Fiction, Science Fiction & Fantasy

influences
Charles Darwin, Herbert Spencer, Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, Rudya...more


About this author

Jack London was an American novelist and short-story writer whose works deal romantically with elemental struggles for survival. At his peak, he was the highest paid and the most popular of all living writers. Because of early financial difficulties, he was largely self educated past grammar school.

London draws heavily on his life experiences in his writing. He spent time in the Klondike during the Gold Rush and at various times was an oyster pirate, a seaman, a sealer, and a hobo. His first work was published in 1898. From there he went on to write such American classics as Call of the Wild, Sea Wolf, and White Fang.

Opinion:

I can understand why more than one hundred years later the story is very popular. For some odd reason I was hesitant on reading it, but then decided to take the plunge. For one thing the main character is unusual; a dog by the name of Buck. As far as I know, I barely know of any other stories (perhaps Rudyard Kipling is an exception,) where the story is seen from an animal's eyes. There is also this appeal of civilization vs wilderness and which one will Buck ultimately choose. The reader is with Buck through hard times, watching the civilization being stripped from the dog, witnessing the savagery and brutality of the character that he's encouraged to show. The version I have is also very short (my version is about 60 pages) and this novella will encourage long discussions of what creates civilization as well as what can take away that route. It also asks an interesting question; if humanity is stripped away from civilization, will it also go back to the time of cavemen and dominance?

4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Planned Books

Books I'm reading:
Pride and Prejudice- Jane Austen 14/326
The Song of the lark- Willa Cather 19/417
The Foreign Student- Susan Choi 63/325
Tess of the D'Urbervilles- Thomas Hardy 105/390
The Call of the Wild- Jack London 17/225
Picture Me Sexy- Rhonda Nelson 21/94
The Italian- Ann Radcliffe 33/289
Heavy Sand- Anatoli Rybakov 91/381
Ivanhoe- Sir Walter Scott 67/405
Maniac Magee- Jerry Spinelli 10/184
The red and the black- Stendhal 117/598

Series:
The Story of the Stone- Xueqin Cao
5. The Dreamer Wakes65/376
People Series- W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O'Neal Gear
3. People of the Earth 132/587

The Storyteller Trilogy- Sue Harrison
2. Cry of the Wind 32/474
The Angels Trilogy- Lurlene McDaniel
2. Lifted up by Angels 186/552
The Vampire Chronicles- Anne Rice
2. The Vampire Lestat 41/550
Milly Trilly- Lisa Yee
1. Millicent Min, Girl Genius 66/248

E-Book:
Lady Chatterly's Lover - DH Lawrence 263/688

Future Books:
The Northanger Abbey- Jane Austen
My Antonia- Willa Cather
The Hundred Dresses- Eleanor Estes
The Great Gatsby- F. Scott Fitzgerald
Great Illustrated Classics: The Jungle Book- Rudyard Kipling
White Fang- Jack London
Bridge of Scarlet Leaves- Kristina Yoshida McMorris
Island of the Blue Dolphins- Scott O'Dell
Jacob Have I loved- Katherine Patterson
Chenxi and the Foreigner- Sally Rippin
Traitors- Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Anna Karenina- Leo Tolstoy

Series:
People Series- W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O'Neal Gear
4. People of the River
The Storyteller Trilogy- Sue Harrison
3. Call Down the Stars
The Angels Trilogy- Lurlene McDaniel
3. Until Angels Close My Eyes
The Vampire Chronicles- Anne Rice
3. The Queen of the Damned
Lord of the Rings (Will not be reading sequels to The Hobbit, not just yet...)
0. The Hobbit
1. The Fellowship of the Ring
2. The Two Towers
3. The Return of a King
Dragonlance Chronicles- Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
1. Dragons of Autumn Twilight
2. Dragons of Winter Night
3. Dragons of Spring Dawning
Milly Trilly- Lisa Yee
2. Stanford Wong Flunks Big Time
3. So Totally Emily Ebers

E-Books:

The Lovely Bones- Alice Sebold
Forever Amber-Kathleen Winsor

Series:
The Nancy Drew Series-Carolyn Keene
2. The Hidden Staircase
3. The Bungalow Mystery
4. The Mystery at Lilac Inn
5. The Secret of Shadow Ranch
6. The Secret of the Red Gate Farm
7. The Clue in the Diary
8. Nancy's Mysterious Letter
9. The Sign of the Twisted Candles
10. Password to Larkspur Lane
11. The clue of the broken locket
12. the message in the hollow oak
13. the mystery of the ivory charm
14. the whispering statue
15. the haunted bridge
16. the clue of the tapping heels
17. Mystery of the Brass Bound Trunk
18. Mystery of hte Moss covered Mansion
19. the quest of the missing map
20. the clue in the jewel box
21. the secret in the old attic
22. the clue in the crumbling wall
23. mystery of the tolling bell tower
24. the clue in the old album
25. the ghost of blackwood hall
26. the clue if the leaning chimney
27. the secret of the wooden lady
28. the clue of the black keys
29. mystery at the ski jump
30. the clue of the velvet mask
31. the ringmaster's secret
32. the scarlet slipper mystery
33. the witch tree symbol
34. the hidden window mystery
35. the haunted showboat
36. the secret of the golden pavilion
37. the clue in the old stagecoach
38. the mystery of the fire dragon
39. the clue of the dancing puppet
40. the moonstone castle mystery
41. the clue of the whistling bagpipes
42. the phantom of pine hill
43. the mystery of the 99 steps
44. the clue in the crossword cipher
45. the spider sapphire mystery
46. the invisible intruder
47. the mysterious mannequin
48. the crooked banister
49. the secret of mirror bay
50. the double jinx mystery
51. mystery of the glowing eye
52. the secret of the forgotten city
53. the sky pavilion
54. the strange message in the parchment
55. mystery of the crocodile island
56. the thirteenth pearl

Friday, July 13, 2012

Book Challenge A-Z #20 Are You There God? Its Me Margaret by Judy Blume

Fulfilling the requirement:

The A letter for the title alphabetically.

Summary:

 Margaret Simon, almost twelve, likes long hair, tuna fish, the smell of rain, and things that are pink. She's just moved from New York City to Farbrook, New Jersey, and is anxious to fit in with her new friends- Nancy, Gretchen, and Janie. When they form a secret club to talk about private subjects like boys, bras, and getting their firs periods, Margaret is happy to belong. But none of them can believe that Margaret doesn't have a religion, and tha she isn't joining the Y or the Jewish Community Center. What they don't know is that Margaret has her own special relationship with God. She can talk to God about everything-family, friends, even Philip Leroy, the best-looking boy in sxith grade. Margaret is funny and real. As you read her story, you'll know why this book has been the favorite of millions of readers. It's as if Margaret is talking right to you, sharing her secrets with a friend.

Lesson learned:

If one doesn't instill religious values in a child at a young age, they'll be forever lost.

Link to review: click here

E-Reading: Book Review of #1 The Secret of the Old Clock by Carolyn Keene

Name of Book: The Secret of the Old Clock

Author: "Carolyn Keene"

ISBN: 1557091552

Publisher: Grosset and Dunlap

Part of a Series: Nancy Drew Mysteries

Type of book: Mysteries, lost will, young adult, strong feminism

Year it was published: 1930

Summary:

In this first of the Nancy Drew Mystery Stories, Nancy, unaided, seeks to find a missing will. Her search not only tests her keen mind but also leads her into a thrilling adventure. This volume presents the original, 1930 version of the story. In 1959 the story was rewritten and condensed and this original version went out of print.

Characters:

The characters all remain the same pretty much. Nancy remains her resourceful forceful self where mysteries are always at a forefront, the villains got punished and the nice people won the day. In other words, no change passes through her personality. Other characters like the villains and heroes and Nancy's father strike me as stock characters than as real people.

Theme:

I personally think its a good novel to give to a pre-teen, to instill in them a sense of confidence and whatever else because Nancy does get results. In a way its a feminist novel where a woman cares more for men and love, but instead is excited about the mystery and the prospect of solving it. Slight wonder that these novels have existed since 1930 and hadn't gone out of print.

Plot:

While the plot was slightly intriguing, it was overly simplistic as well and neither the villains nor heroes were double faced. Probably from the first page you could already predict who will be the villains and whatnot. From the title too you could probably predict a major plot, although its interesting to see Nancy trying to get out of situations as well as her successes. This is written in third person narrative completely from Nancy's point of view.

Author Information:
(from goodreads.com)

genre
Children's Books, Mystery & Thrillers

About this author

Carolyn Keene is a writer pen name that was used by many different people- both men and women- over the years. The company that was the creator of the Nancy Drew series, the Stratemeyer Syndicate, hired a variety of writers. For Nancy Drew, the writers used the pseudonym Carolyn Keene to assure anonymity of the creator.

Edna and Harriet Stratemeyer inherited the company from their father Edward Stratemeyer. Edna contributed 10 plot outlines before passing the reins to her sister Harriet. It was Mildred A. Wirt Benson, who breathed such a feisty spirit into Nancy's character. Mildred wrote 23 of the original 30 Nancy Drew Mystery Stories®, including the first three. It was her characterization that helped make Nancy an instant hit. The Stratemeyer Syndicate's devotion to the series over the years under the reins of Harriet Stratemeyer Adams helped to keep the series alive and on store shelves for each succeeding generation of girls and boys. In 1959, Harriet, along with several writers, began a 25-year project to revise the earlier Carolyn Keene novels. The Nancy Drew books were condensed, racial stereotypes were removed, and the language was updated. In a few cases, outdated plots were completely rewritten.

Other writers of Nancy Drew volumes include Harriet herself, she wrote most of the series after Mildred quit writing for the Syndicate and in 1959 began a revision of the first 34 texts. The role of the writer of "Carolyn Keene" passed temporarily to Walter Karig who wrote three novels during the Great Depression. Also contributing to Nancy Drew's prolific existence were Leslie McFarlane, James Duncan Lawrence, Nancy Axelrod, Priscilla Doll, Charles Strong, Alma Sasse, Wilhelmina Rankin, George Waller Jr., and Margaret Scherf.

Opinion:

When I was a pre-teen I was kind of sort of interested in reading Nancy Drew mysteries, but I guess as an adult I was curious about them and have decided to start reading them again. For the adult in me, while the book was enjoyable, and there were some things that I did like, such as a strong female character and how helpful people were in River Heights, a lot of stuff struck me as hard to believe. Everything and everyone seemed to be too convenient in my opinion. Also, from the future novels, don't expect neither for George or Bess or the boyfriends to show up yet! (Nancy is also not yet a redhead but is blond.)

3 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

Book Review of #1 Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice

Name of Book: Interview with the vampire

Author: Anne Rice

ISBN: 0-345-33766-2

Publisher: Ballantine Books

Part of a Series: Vampire chronicles

Type of book: vampires, supernatural, philosophy, 1791-1970s? interview, child vampire, brooding, death, "horror", Louisiana, France, homosexuality, France, Europe

Year it was published: 1976

Summary:

Here are the confessions of a vampire. Hypnotic, shocking, and chillingly erotic, this is a novel of mesmerizing beauty and astonishing force- a story of danger and flight, of love and loss, of suspense and resolution, and of the extraordinary power of the senses. It is a novel only Anne Rice could write.

Characters:

Besides Armand and Lestat, who are fascinating men due to their possible histories as well as actions, the rest of the characters had no personality or life in them. Louis is the horror and somewhat better version of Edward Cullen from Twilight; Claudia, despite the fascinating aspect of her as a child vampire, was also as boring as Louis and wasn't interesting. The secondary characters such as Babette or her elder brother and whatnot, I couldn't care about them.

Theme:

I have no idea what I should have learned from this novel; being a vampire sucks?

Plot:

This takes place in first person narrative, with occasional interruptions by the boy who asks Louis to either expand on the point or perhaps to get him to discuss things in more detail. A lot of it flew right over my head. There's way too many unnecessary details that detract from enjoyment and although I've read this book for the second time, it's still confusing and unclear, as well as boring. I also do wonder how they kept everybody else from discovering their secret. If you're living next to somebody who never ages, wouldn't you notice as years pass?

Author Information:
(From goodreads.com)

born
October 04, 1941 in New Orleans, Louisiana, The United States

gender
female

website
http://www.annerice.com/

twitter username
AnneRiceAuthor

genre
Horror, Historical Fiction


About this author

Anne Rice is a best-selling American author of gothic, supernatural, historical, erotica, and later religious themed books. Best known for her Vampire Chronicles, her prevailing thematical focus is on love, death, immortality, existentialism, and the human condition. She was married to poet Stan Rice for 41 years until his death in 2002. Her books have sold nearly 100 million copies, making her one of the most widely read authors in modern history.

She uses the pseudonym Anne Rampling for adult-themed fiction (i.e., erotica) and A.N. Roquelaure for fiction featuring sexually explicit sado-masochism.

Opinion:

Too much detail, too much discussion and boredom. As someone so beautifully said on goodreads.com review of Interview with the Vampire, Louis has got to be the most boring vampire. Louis is not the exciting and heart palpitating as Lestat, but still, he has no charm and I have a hard time understanding why so many vampires fall in love with him. I first read this book in middle school, and even back then I didn't like it, although that rating would probably have been a 2 or 3 stars. But years and books later, my rating has changed to borderline between 0 and 1. Anne Rice never allows for the reader to use the imagination but instead builds an exact structure of how the reader should see and feel of what is going on with Lois. With too much pointless details, its easy to skip sections and still understand what's going on.

1 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Book Review of Once a Hero...by Jillian Burns

Name of Book: Once a hero...

Author: Jillian Burns

ISBN: 978-0-373-79674-8

Publisher: Harlequin Blaze

Type of book: PTSD, doctor, medicine, Hawaii, interracial relationship Hawaiian male/American female, breast cancer survivor, coping, photography

Year it was published: 2012

Summary:

Once a hero… always a hero.

Subject: Captain Luke Andrews, M.D.

Current Status: On stress leave in beautiful Hawaii

Mission: Rest and recovery

Obstacle: There's no rest from the wicked chemistry he's found with her.

After a too-close-for-comfort brush with cancer, ocean photographer Kristen Turner heads to Hawaii for three months, where fate hands her a smokin'-hot opportunity she can't resist…...

Captain Luke Andrews has to get some serious R & R, but he can't keep his hands off Kristen. She's wild and irresistible, and spending his nights with her seems more dangerous than his last mission.

But is their hot little vacation romp an escape from real life…or will the survivor and the hero battle it out and learn to live each day as a gift?

Characters:

Kristen is a beautiful blond haired photographer who is still struggling with effects that cancer left her, while Luke returned from Hawaii and there's a tug and pull inside of him due to nightmares and his love for Kristen (He was a doctor in the army...) Amy herself has serious trust issues when it comes to men, while Kekoa struggles against personal happiness and the duty he has to do. I honestly feel that the book needed to be longer because the ending felt very rushed and wasn't satisfactory as her previous novels.

Theme:

Love heals all wounds.

Plot:

This is written in third person narrative from four characters: Kristen and Luke, our main characters, then Amy and Kekoa, the secondary characters, although Kekoa's point of view is barely seen.At times the plot is a little too heavy to be considered "romance" because in the book we are dealing with someone suffering from PTSD as well as a breast cancer survivor, and the female heroine's scars really cut into the soul as well. I felt that Luke didn't get the attention he needed to be healed from the trauma. Most of the book focused a lot on Kristen.

Author Information:

Jillian Burns has always read romance, and spent her teens immersed in the worlds of Jane Eyre and Elizabeth Bennett. She lives in Texas with her husband of twenty years and their three active kids. Jillian likes to think her emotional nature-sometimes referred to as moodiness- has found the perfect outlet in writing stories filled with passion and romance. She believes romance novels have the power to change lives with their message of eternal love and hope.

Opinion:

Although I found the book enjoyable as well as interesting for its unique characters and their problems, I have to say that the ending part of it killed the enjoyment of the book. It's not that I'm against the characters having a happily ever after, it's just that she wraps the novel a little too suddenly and with barely any warning, or rather she resolves problems that remained too speedily. Although I liked that she included the romance between Amy and Kekoa, I felt that these two deserved their own novel.

4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Book Review of Candide by Francois-Marie Arouet de Voltaire

Name of Book: Candide

Author: Francois-Marie Arouet de Voltaire

ISBN: 0-393-97758-7

Publisher: Norton Company

Type of book: Around the world, satire, 1600s-1700s, love, religion, philosophy

Year it was published: 1759

Summary:
(from wikipedia.org)

Candide, ou l'Optimisme ( /ˌkænˈdiːd/; French: [kɑ̃did]) is a French satire first published in 1759 by Voltaire, a philosopher of the Age of Enlightenment. The novella has been widely translated, with English versions titled Candide: or, All for the Best (1759); Candide: or, The Optimist (1762); and Candide: or, Optimism (1947).[5] It begins with a young man, Candide, who is living a sheltered life in an Edenic paradise and being indoctrinated with Leibnizian optimism (or simply Optimism) by his mentor, Pangloss. The work describes the abrupt cessation of this lifestyle, followed by Candide's slow, painful disillusionment as he witnesses and experiences great hardships in the world. Voltaire concludes with Candide, if not rejecting optimism outright, advocating an enigmatic precept, "we must cultivate our garden", in lieu of the Leibnizian mantra of Pangloss, "all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds".

Candide is characterised by its sarcastic tone, as well as by its erratic, fantastical and fast-moving plot. A picaresque novel with a story similar to that of a more serious bildungsroman, it parodies many adventure and romance clichés, the struggles of which are caricatured in a tone that is mordantly matter-of-fact. Still, the events discussed are often based on historical happenings, such as the Seven Years' War and the 1755 Lisbon earthquake.[6] As philosophers of Voltaire's day contended with the problem of evil, so too does Candide in this short novel, albeit more directly and humorously. Voltaire ridicules religion, theologians, governments, armies, philosophies, and philosophers through allegory; most conspicuously, he assaults Leibniz and his optimism.[7][8]

As expected by Voltaire, Candide has enjoyed both great success and great scandal. Immediately after its secretive publication, the book was widely banned because it contained religious blasphemy, political sedition and intellectual hostility hidden under a thin veil of naïveté.[7] However, with its sharp wit and insightful portrayal of the human condition, the novel has since inspired many later authors and artists to mimic and adapt it. Today, Candide is recognised as Voltaire's magnum opus[7] and is often listed as part of the Western canon; it is arguably taught more than any other work of French literature.[9]

Characters:

The novel isn't very character oriented, although the characters tend to be stock characters and the latter half of the novel with Martin and Candide are arguing of positive vs. negative of the world. There isn't any depth to the characters; everything is simplistic and straightforward.

Theme:

Despite all unhappiness, its best to settle for second best.

Plot:

In an odd way its a straightforward plot and motivation, that of Candide trying to be and live with his beloved woman, yet the emotions are incredibly exagerrated with him; he worships the philosopher and sees no wrong with him; no matter what he stays with the lady and always sees the best in any situation no matter what, creating naive situation. There are twists and turns to the tale, always absurdness and surprises. The tale teases the senses and is strangely high class and enjoyable.

Author Information:
(from wikipedia.org)

François-Marie Arouet (French pronunciation: [fʁɑ̃.swa ma.ʁi aʁ.wɛ]; 21 November 1694 – 30 May 1778), better known by his nom de plume Voltaire (pronounced: [vɔl.tɛːʁ]), was a French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher famous for his wit and for his advocacy of civil liberties, including freedom of religion, freedom of expression, free trade and separation of church and state. Voltaire was a prolific writer, producing works in almost every literary form, including plays, poetry, novels, essays, and historical and scientific works. He wrote more than 20,000 letters and more than 2,000 books and pamphlets. He was an outspoken supporter of social reform, despite strict censorship laws with harsh penalties for those who broke them. As a satirical polemicist, he frequently made use of his works to criticize intolerance, religious dogma and the French institutions of his day.

Voltaire was one of several Enlightenment figures (along with Montesquieu, John Locke, Richard Price, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Émilie du Châtelet) whose works and ideas influenced important thinkers of both the American and French Revolutions.

Opinion:

I never understood the love that many people hold towards Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Perhaps younger audience are delighted by it, but the message is never clear for me. I hadn't read the famous Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels, but I would guess that I wouldn't like it. I don't have tradition of enjoying British literature. But still, despite a few anti-Jewish remarks, the beginning of it was funny and hilarious, also unexpected. I enjoyed reading it a great deal, although I didn't understand it.

4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

Book Review of Death in Venice by Thomas Mann

Name of Book: Death in Venice

Author: Thomas Mann

ISBN: (from Norton Anthology Vol F.) 0-393-97760-9

Publisher: Norton Company

Type of book: Venice, plague, homosexual love, philosophy, Germany, 1900s, travel, vacation

Year it was published: 1912

Summary:
(from wikipedia)

The novella Death in Venice was written by the German author Thomas Mann, and was first published in 1912 as Der Tod in Venedig.[1] The plot of the work presents a great writer suffering writer's block who visits Venice and is liberated and uplifted, then increasingly obsessed, by the sight of a stunningly beautiful youth.

Characters:

The author focuses a lot on the male character and  his obsession with the Polish youth named Tadzio. I sense a bit of erotica in the story, and strangely enough there's a Lolita aspect in the fact that the male character is obsessed and in love with a youth who's barely a teenager! While the story is shocking, thankfully there aren't sexual scenes or anything of the kind. The male character, Gustav, is rigid and lives by a code of honor. He lives alone and decides to travel to Venice where he sees this handsome youth and secretly stalks and obsesses with him. Tadzio is portrayed as a wholesome playful boy, an ideal of Greek statues and whatever else.

Theme:

The existing environment can prevent acceptance of self. In order to gain acceptance of self, whatever it may be, the environment needs to change.

Plot:

The plot is minimal; an author decides to travel to Venice, meets a boy and falls in love with him. There are a great many details, however; for the author uses a lot of references to ancient Greek culture such as myths and even Phaedrus written by Plato (I haven't read Phaedrus.) This novella invites the reader to ponder and think. It is written as a third person narrative from Gustav's point of view. I wonder if in someway Gustav opens himself up or is on the verge of accepting himself. Ancient Greek culture is humanist based and there is a certain somnolence within the story, a relaxation of rigidity. It is a pity that as soon as Gustav began to accept himself, negative things started to happen.

Author Information:
(from wikipedia)

Thomas Mann (6 June 1875 – 12 August 1955) was a German novelist, short story writer, social critic, philanthropist, essayist, and 1929 Nobel Prize laureate, known for his series of highly symbolic and ironic epic novels and novellas, noted for their insight into the psychology of the artist and the intellectual. His analysis and critique of the European and German soul used modernized German and Biblical stories, as well as the ideas of Goethe, Nietzsche, and Schopenhauer. His older brother was the radical writer Heinrich Mann, and three of his six children, Erika Mann, Klaus Mann and Golo Mann, also became important German writers. When Hitler came to power in 1933, Mann fled to Switzerland. When World War II broke out in 1939, he emigrated to the United States, from where he returned to Switzerland in 1952. Thomas Mann is one of the best-known exponents of the so-called Exilliteratur.

Opinion:

While this story has a straight-forward plot, the author heavily focuses on the philosophy and, in particular, Greek influences in Venice such as stories of mythology, as well as Phaedrus by Socrates and so forth. In an odd way this can be thought of as delight for those who are interested in ancient Greek culture, but I think those who aren't familiar with Greek culture will either find it long and tedious as well as boring. The story also makes one ponder and think about why the author wrote it in the first place; it can be thought of as an abstract art in a story form.

3 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Book Challenge A-Z #19 Hakon of Rogen's Saga by Erik christian Havgaard

Fulfilling the requirement: 

The H letter of the author's last name alphabetically

Summary:

For nine generations the island of Rogen passed from father to son, a bleak island whose craggy peaks embraced a world of its own. But now sullen forces of evil close in on Rogen. Kidnapping, vengeance, treachery, and bloodshed swirl within a suspenseful tale that perfectly captures the mood of a harsh but heroic people who lived at the end of the Viking period.

Lesson learned:

If you break a norm you will not get away with it.

Link to review: click here

Book Review of The Starlight Crystal by Christopher Pike

Name of Book: The Starlight Crystal

Author: Christopher Pike

ISBN: 0-671-55028-4

Publisher: Archway paperback

Type of book: 2100s, infinity, repetition, eternal love, science fiction, aliens, war, young adult, genetics

Year it was published: February 1996

Summary:

 It is two hundred years in the future. Eighteen-year-old Paige Christian has been given a chance to join the crew of the Traveler- a special spaceship designed to circle the solar system at near light speed. One day aboard the Traveler is equal to ten years on earth. The Traveler is a time capsule as well as a spaceship. Its purpose is to study the changes on earth throughout two centuries, and then return home.

But something happens to the Traveler. Something also happens to the earth, an awful thing. And the years pass, billions of them, and still Paige Christian lives, and remembers all those she left behind. Until the day she finally does come home, to a world and a future no human being could have imagined.

Characters:

The characters lack depth and often strike me as creator's puppets which he could manipulate and control at will. Instead of spending moments on science fiction which I cared little about, he could have used more pages to show or build up relationships between Paige and Tem or between Paige and her father and so forth. I couldn't identify with  or enjoy any particular characters that Pike created.

Theme:

Everything will reincarnate over and over.

Plot:

This is written in first person narrative from Paige's point of view, and then from her "daughter's" point of view. While the idea and story had a lot of potential to be great and memorable, it wasn't meant to be. I'm not a science fiction fan and if there is science fiction, small doses please. This book had a great deal amount of science fiction as well as Pike's typical philosophy on life and so forth, yet there was no lasting impact in my life and it didn't leave me with fond memories.

Author Information:

Christopher Pike wrote 30+ novels mainly for young adults, the most famous or well known one is The Last Vampire Saga, Final Friends and Remember Me, and his real name is Kevin McFadden. One of his books, Fall Into Darkness was created into a movie. Unfortunately he doesn’t have a website, but there is a fan club that is devoted to him. (http://www.christopherpikefanclub.com/ )

Opinion:

When I read the idea of the world coming back to life over and over, I was reminded of the time I was in seventh grade and mentioned a similar idea to my science teacher, and she replied back that it sounds like a wonderful science fiction story. On the first read I enjoyed the story a lot; but on the second read, I had a different idea about it. The best thing I loved was the book cover. This novel lacked the timelessness of Whisper of Death as well as the love that I sensed between Pepper and Rox. This book is completely science fiction and also seemed incredibly rushed, especially the ending part where Paige's "daughter" Alpha narrates the story of what happened after her "mother" passed away. The whole novel lacked substance and depth in my opinion. This is really not Pike's best work. (I had a difficult time buying the fact that Paige missed Tem, and everything is best described as unsatisfactory appetizers.) The resolution is too quick and lacked coherency.

2 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

Friday, July 6, 2012

Book Review of The Living Reed by Pearl Buck

Name of Book: The Living Reed

Author: Pearl Buck

ISBN: 1-55921-022-2

Publisher: Moyer Bell Limited

Type of book: Korea, 1881-1945?, communism, christianity, Russia, America, multi-generational, love, duties, sacrifice, royalty, Japanese treatment, democracy, misleading

Year it was published: 1963

Summary:

THE LIVING REED tells the story of a close-knit family who dedicate themselves to the salvation of their homeland, that tiny peninsula hanging like a golden fruit before the longing eyes of surrounding nations. The reader lives with them from the splendid era of Queen Min to the climactic days of the Second World War, and emerges not only with admiration for the Korean people and their rich culture but with the excitement of discovering a little known and fascinating history closely entangled with the history of America itself.

Kim Il-han, an adviser to the throne when we first meet him in 1881, is to become the family patriarch, and the steadfast and passionate love between him and his wife Sunia spins a shining thread that ties the story together. Il-han's father, he himself, his two sons, and the sons of the latter all are engrossed from birth to death in the struggle for Korean independence.

The elder of Il-han's sons, after Japan's seizure of Korea, joins the exiled revolutionaries and becomes the legendary figure known as "The Living Reed." Through his experiences we see a panorama of China and Manchuria in the violent 1920s and 1930s. The younger son marries a Korean Christian and becomes a martyr of Japanese persecution. From the tempestuous liaison of the elder brother with a Russian woman [The woman is Korean, not Russian], and from the bittersweet marriage of the younger, issue the two grandsons of Il-han, who mark the fourth generation. It is upon them that the story turns at its close.

Every major public event, from the assassination plots of the early pages to the landing of American troops at the end, and every public personage from Queen Min to Woodrow Wilson, is authentic. But the sweep of history and the excitement of great events provide only part of the book's power: the reader is drawn equally by the vivid detail of a remarkable people and culture, the course of three love relationships, and the color, warmth, power, conviction, and affinity for her subject that light up the printed page when PEARL BUCK writes about Asia.

Characters:

I barely get to know the characters, in particular Yul-Chun and it seems a cop out as to why he is the way he is. Even during the third part when we are with him through his journeys, he very rarely reflects back on why he became this way, or the turning points that must have happened during his life. I enjoyed the first part immensely; seeing the love between Il-Han and Sunia and watching with interest how Il-han became very similar to his own father. The second and third parts didn't measure up to the first parts and were on a weaker scale. Also, I did quick calculations, but around the time that World War 2 began, Yul-Chun should have been in 50s or 60s! If he was born somewhere in 1870s, then he already should have been someone over the hill rather than being treated as a middle aged man. It's also interesting to note that in Pearl Buck's novels, women rarely tell about their histories and this was no exception. I am frustrated that Hanya was not who I thought she was. Some things she mentioned in the novel, such as the first printing press being created by Koreans is accurate, at least to what I was told.Yul-Chun's son was also frustrating and I wished I could have gotten to know him better. Some parts about Yul-Chun sounded false to me, like him being in love or appreciating Hanya or even trying to get closer to his own son.

Theme:

The main theme of the novel is the balance between old and new traditions as well as trying to show to the public about a nation that they don't understand or know too much about it.

Plot:

There were a number of time jumps and this is from multiple points of view, but the primary characters are Il-Han, Yul-han, and Yul-Chun. Sasha and Liang as well as their great-grandfather aren't given much voice. While it was an interesting novel and one does learn a lot about it, I didn't appreciate the novel pardoning or excusing America's deeds. America never imperial? Umm what about Hawaii or Philippines or perhaps Latin America? What of America settling Texas? That's not imperial? This is also interesting, but if someone works closely for the royal family, shouldn't they have a specific dress or uniform to go with it? Why does Il-Han wear white all the time? Also, I read somewhere that after birth of a child, a Korean woman isn't allowed to take a shower. Is bathing different than taking a shower? And as far as I know, its believed that seaweed soup helps heal if a woman gives birth to a child, not chicken soup.

Author Information:

born
June 26, 1892 in Hillsboro, West Virginia, The United States

died
March 06, 1973

gender
female

genre
Literature ; Fiction, Biographies ; Memoirs, Children's Books


About this author

Pearl Comfort Sydenstricker Buck was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1938 "for her rich and truly epic descriptions of peasant life in China and for her biographical masterpieces" and the Pulitzer Prize for Literature in 1932 for The Good Earth.

Opinion:

Don't believe in the summary about the older brother being with a Russian woman; false. While the woman does have a Ukrainian name, she is of Korean origin. Trust me when I say that I was fooled by this summary, and thus I feel angry at this deception. The story is entertaining but very long and  over-drawn. The ending is not the ending and it doesn't satisfy but instead asks for a sequel. This also was published in 1963, thus there is no mention of comfort women. (During world war 2, Japan forced a lot of Chinese and Korean women to become comfort, in crass terms, forced sexual workers for the Japanese army.) It is also strange that some parts of it really reminded me of a Korean drama I watched titled Eyes of Dawn (여명의 눈동자). I wasn't satisfied with the ending and felt that a sequel was needed because it was too rushed and there wasn't a good resolution. Also, why does Ms. Buck skip Korean War which should have been an interesting dynamic between Sasha and Liang? (the 4th generation). In an odd way its also kind of like a Korean drama I believe.

2 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Book Review of Jacob the Liar by Jurek Becker

Name of Book: Jacob the Liar

Author: Jurek Becker

ISBN: 0-15-145975-4

Publisher: Helen and Kurt Wolff Book Harcourt Brace Jovanovich

Type of book: Holocaust, 1944, ghetto, humor, radio, anti-Jewish rules, Poland, hope

Year it was published: 1969 (version I have 1975)

Summary:

In a feat of sheer storytelling reminiscent of Sholem Aleichem and Isaac Bashevis Singer, Jurek Becker writes of a Jewish community's tragic fate gently and humorously. Set in a Polish ghetto near the close of World War II, the novel centers on the artless and unheroic figure of Jacob Heym, former proprietor of a modest cafe, who accidentally overhears a German news report of Soviet army advances. When Jacob relays the news,word spread throughout the ghetto with the added rumor that Jacob possesses a contraband radio. To his dismay, he finds himself a hero. Challenged to authenticate the real news, Jacob extemporizes: son, he who heretofore has invented ntohing more daring than a potato pancake is driven to produce battle plans and bulletins, all encouraging. Despite his own temptation to despair, Jacob continues to provide his fellow Jews with cause for hope- and the will to survive- almost to the final moment.

Through irony and understatement, Becker succeeds splendidly in giving to a bitter theme an aura of cheerfulness and wit. The novel is neither aggressive nor angry; in showing Jacob's "lie" as the courage of a mensch whose sole weapon against the powers of anti-life is ingenuity, Becker hints at a quiet human victory even over the holocaust.


Characters:

The author writes characters with humor and it seems that they are infused with light rather than darkness. The story itself can best be described as the reader being an outsider rather than insider. The ending is already known and it's not a mystery as to what has happened. There are a lot of characters in the novel, the important ones being Jacob and his adopted daughter. Jacob simply tries to get through day by day and somehow he ends up being a hero in trying to give Jews he lives with hope. There are also characters that tend to be misfits, such as one that never knew he was Jewish and the others that are religious and so forth. Mostly the Jews are portrayed as people who live everyday life just like anybody else.

Theme:

There is a struggle against the inevitability of death as well as despair vs hope and which is better or rather the hope that change will occur.

Plot:

This is a mixture of first person narration and third person narration and the narrator seems to be omniscient, as in he could tell the thoughts of everyone. This also strikes me as a novel that tries to fight against the time yet at the same time seems to be rushing forward to the inevitable conclusion. There aren't any chapters in the novel and at times I felt confused by it or by the characters themselves I suppose. It is a worthwhile read, and for a Holocaust novel it's not completely full of endless darkness.

Author Information:

Born in Poland in 1937, Jurek Becker spent most of his young years in the Lodz ghetto and in concentration camps. He is now a resident of East Berlin where he writes for film, television, and cabaret. Jacob the Liar, his first novel, was originally written as a screenplay. When the film did not materialize, Becker rewrote the story as a novel, in which form it achieved international success. Subsequently the film was produced and was sent in 1974 as the East German entry to the 25th Berlinale Film Festival in West Berlin, where it won the coveted Silbar Bar award. Written in German by a Pole, the novel has been translated into French, Italian, and now English.


Opinion:

I had to read this novel for a Holocaust class and found it to be an unusual read; for one thing there aren't any chapters, and its written with humor rather than grimness. Something else that's unusual about it is that little by little the reader gets the sense of darkness that the characters have to live through rather than have darkness thrown in from the first sentence. Although I'm not one hundred percent of the symbolism, it started with trees and ended with trees and tends to move from 1944 to the present time and so forth. Whatever humor the novel possessed, I couldn't understand it nor capture it. I think its mainly me though, and not the book itself.

4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

Monday, July 2, 2012

Book Challenge A-Z #18 One Friend to Another by Elizabeth Feuer

Fulfilling the requirement:

Author's last name begins with an F alphabetically

Summary:

I wasn't going to be the "Amazing Brain" anymore

Not this year. Not when I had the chance to make a fresh start at a brand new school. I'd had enough of being the smartest kid in the class. This year was going to be different. I was going to be popular!

Now, some things are easier said than done. But when I got to be friends with Rhonda Winkler- the prettiest, most popular girl in school-I thought I had it made. I even met this guy, Andrew, and fell madly in love. There was just one problem: Rhonda's sidekick, Randy. She didn't like me much, and she sure didn't want me getting too close to Rhonda. I didn't realize just how hard she'd try to destroy our friendship, however, until it was too late. And that's when I learned what true friendship is all about.

Lesson learned:

You'll be surprised by how many people might be jealous of you.

Link to review: click here

Book Challenge A-Z #17 Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Fulfilling the requirement:

The G letter for the author's last name alphabetically

Summary:

William Golding's classic tale about a group of English schoolboys who are plane-wrecked on a deserted island is just as chilling and relevant today as when it was first published in 1954. At first, the stranded boys cooperate, attempting to gather food, make shelters, and maintain signal fires. Overseeing their efforts are Ralph, "the boy with fair hair," and Piggy, Ralph's chubby, wisdom-dispensing sidekick whose thick spectacles come in handy for lighting fires. Although Ralph tries to impose order and delegate responsibility, there are many in their number who would rather swim, play, or hunt the island's wild pig population. Soon Ralph's rules are being ignored or challenged outright. His fiercest antagonist is Jack, the redheaded leader of the pig hunters, who manages to lure away many of the boys to join his band of painted savages. The situation deteriorates as the trappings of civilization continue to fall away, until Ralph discovers that instead of being hunters, he and Piggy have become the hunted: "He forgot his words, his hunger and thirst, and became fear; hopeless fear on flying feet." Golding's gripping novel explores the boundary between human reason and animal instinct, all on the brutal playing field of adolescent competition.

Lesson learned:

Amid beauty there is unspeakable horror

Link to review: click here

E-Reading: Book Review of Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

Name of Book: The Poisonwood Bible

Author: Barbara Kingsolver

ISBN: 0060786507

Publisher: Harper Perennial

Type of book: Africa, 1959-1990s, Congo, Zaire, American female/African male, interracial relationship, bible, poisonwood, paralyze, reverend, nature,  conversion, faith

Year it was published: 1998

Summary:

As any reader of The Mosquito Coast knows, men who drag their families to far-off climes in pursuit of an Idea seldom come to any good, while those familiar with At Play in the Fields of the Lord or Kalimantaan understand that the minute a missionary sets foot on the fictional stage, all hell is about to break loose. So when Barbara Kingsolver sends missionary Nathan Price along with his wife and four daughters off to Africa in The Poisonwood Bible, you can be sure that salvation is the one thing they're not likely to find. The year is 1959 and the place is the Belgian Congo. Nathan, a Baptist preacher, has come to spread the Word in a remote village reachable only by airplane. To say that he and his family are woefully unprepared would be an understatement: "We came from Bethlehem, Georgia, bearing Betty Crocker cake mixes into the jungle," says Leah, one of Nathan's daughters. But of course it isn't long before they discover that the tremendous humidity has rendered the mixes unusable, their clothes are unsuitable, and they've arrived in the middle of political upheaval as the Congolese seek to wrest independence from Belgium. In addition to poisonous snakes, dangerous animals, and the hostility of the villagers to Nathan's fiery take-no-prisoners brand of Christianity, there are also rebels in the jungle and the threat of war in the air. Could things get any worse?

In fact they can and they do. The first part of The Poisonwood Bible revolves around Nathan's intransigent, bullying personality and his effect on both his family and the village they have come to. As political instability grows in the Congo, so does the local witch doctor's animus toward the Prices, and both seem to converge with tragic consequences about halfway through the novel. From that point on, the family is dispersed and the novel follows each member's fortune across a span of more than 30 years.

Characters:

There are many characters, but there are six primary ones; Nathan Price who is incredibly religious and dragged his family into Africa. He is very strict on his four daughters and is often physically abusive towards them. There is Orleanna Price, Nathan's wife who stayed with her husband and tried her best to live in a culture she knows nothing about; Rachel Price is the oldest daughter who is blond, selfish and very narrow-minded; Leah Price is open minded, early in novel worshiped her father as well as religion and is a bit of a genius; Adah, Leah's twin sister suffers from paralyzed right side and doesn't talk much and is opposite of Leah. She also blames Leah for everything. The last daughter is Ruth May who is curious and seems to be childishly racist. The characters are well written and fascinating, the minor ones as well as major ones.

Theme:

I don't know about the latter half, but for the first half this novel shows why the European/American christianity will not work in Africa. I don't think the novel is anti-christian or anything of the kind, its just that christianity has to be tweaked and be somehow different to fit into the land of origin. It's also odd how far christianity or religion has spread far from the original roots, how it no longer fits the land where it came from so to speak.

Plot:

The first four parts are well written as we literally live with the Price family from 1959 up until 1961. We watch the struggles the family endures, as well as hard lessons they learn such as when it was Rachel's birthday and the mother struggled to make Angel cake for her, or when father refuses to leave Africa and forces the family to stay against their wills and they have to struggle with necessities such as food and survival. I didn't understand the ending or why the author stretched the lives of the sisters up until 1990s. There are so many wonderful details as well as similes and lessons in the novel, but after the family separates it quickly loses steam and becomes a chore to plod through.

Author Information:
(from goodreads.com)

born
April 08, 1955 in Annapolis, Maryland, The United States

gender
female

website
http://www.kingsolver.com/

genre
Literature & Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry


About this author

Barbara Kingsolver is an American novelist, essayist, and poet. She was raised in rural Kentucky and lived briefly in Africa in her early childhood. Kingsolver earned degrees in Biology at DePauw University and the University of Arizona and worked as a freelance writer before she began writing novels. Her most famous works include The Poisonwood Bible, the tale of a missionary family in the Congo, and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, a non-fiction account of her family's attempts to eat locally.

Her work often focuses on topics such as social justice, biodiversity, and the interaction between humans and their communities and environments. Each of her books published since 1993 have been on The New York Times Best Seller list. Kingsolver has received numerous awards, including the UK's Orange Prize for Fiction 2010, for The Lacuna and the National Humanities Medal. She has been nominated for the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Pulitzer Prize.

In 2000, Kingsolver established the Bellwether Prize to support "literature of social change."

Kingsolver was born in Annapolis, Maryland in 1955 and grew up in Carlisle in rural Kentucky. When Kingsolver was seven years old, her father, a physician, took the family to the former Republic of Congo in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Her parents worked in a public health capacity, and the family lived without electricity or running water.

After graduating from high school, Kingsolver attended DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana on a music scholarship, studying classical piano. Eventually, however, she changed her major to biology when she realized that "classical pianists compete for six job openings a year, and the rest of [them:] get to play 'Blue Moon' in a hotel lobby." She was involved in activism on her campus, and took part in protests against the Vietnam war. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in 1977, and moved to France for a year before settling in Tucson, Arizona, where she would live for much of the next two decades. In 1980 she enrolled in graduate school at the University of Arizona, where she earned a Master's degree in ecology and evolutionary biology.

Kingsolver began her full-time writing career in the mid 1980s as a science writer for the university, which eventually lead to some freelance feature writing. She began her career in fiction writing after winning a short story contest in a local Phoenix newspaper. In 1985 she married Joseph Hoffmann; their daughter Camille was born in 1987. She moved with her daughter to Tenerife in the Canary Islands for a year during the first Gulf war, mostly due to frustration over America's military involvement. After returning to the US in 1992, she separated from her husband.

In 1994, Kingsolver was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from her alma mater, DePauw University. She was also married to Steven Hopp, that year, and their daughter, Lily, was born in 1996. In 2004, Kingsolver moved with her family to a farm in Washington County, Virginia, where they currently reside. In 2008, she received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Duke University, where she delivered a commencement address entitled "How to be Hopeful".

In a 2010 interview with The Guardian, Kingsolver says, "I never wanted to be famous, and still don't, [...:] the universe rewarded me with what I dreaded most." She says created her own website just to compete with a plethora of fake ones, "as a defence to protect my family from misinformation. Wikipedia abhors a vacuum. If you don't define yourself, it will get done for you in colourful ways."

Opinion:

I have to admit that if I were to rate it from beginning to end, it would go from five stars to two stars and then near the ending it would be zero stars. I wonder what should I have learned from their later lives, and why the parts from Exodus to Song of Three Children and then The Eyes in the Trees. I did admit that I loved the first few parts, from Genesis to beginning of Exodus. If it weren't for ending, I would easily admit that this is a five star novel because of the characters, the plot, language, explanations, and so forth. While the lives that the sisters led after the ant tragedy are fascinating, they barely provide psychology or understanding for the characters, such as Adah in particular. I enjoyed Leah's and Rachel's sections and kind of wish that the years didn't skip around so much so I could understand the characters more. All in all a worthwhile read coming from a very fascinating piece of the earth during 1959 up until late 1990s.  For one reason or another, I can't help but remember the movie Virgin Suicides when I read this novel. 

4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)
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