Tag Archives: Literature

A Handful of Quick Book Reviews

Hi everyone! Nice to see you all again, sorry it’s been a little bit since my last post, I’m getting settled into a new job and things are kinda crazy. Here’s a bunch of quick reviews of books I’ve been into lately. Have a look if it suits your fancy.

Beware! There are some spoilers hidden in here as well…just so you know.

Rush Home Road, Lori Lansens

This is exactly the sort of book I would never have picked up and read on my own accord. This is a good example of how enjoyable it can be to step out of your comfort zone, particularly with reading. It was selected for my book club, which explains how it ended up in my life, and I finished the five hundred and something pages in less than three days. I don’t know what it is about books that jump back and forth between two time periods that make it impossible to put down, but closing this book for the night took serious will power. Sarah’s Key was much the same. It wasn’t a pretty story and at times it made me very sad. Based in the lower class area of rural Southern Ontario, close to the city where I currently live, it painted a very different picture of the area than I have become familiar with. Even though it was fiction,  it was quite spooky reading about places I know well, visit and pass through frequently. I also love how it wraps itself up into a beautiful bow at the end. I felt satisfied with the way it ended, yet still wished for more, which I think is the mark of a good story. And yes…I cried, which made my face hurt while I was trying to read the last few pages. Kudos to ‘the Mumsie’ for her great book choice!  Four Stars

 

 

Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck

After realizing I had never been force fed any Steinbeck in High School, I picked this one up to get a bit of a taste. It was a very quick and easy read, yet it certainly had feeling.  The emotional conflict within the characters in the story was so powerful it nearly seeps out of the pages. Few feelings are spoken in the dialogue, but you by all means know that they are there in the actions taken by several individuals. No tears materialized in myself while reading this book, but I think because if it’s length I was unable to really connect or relate to either of the main characters. But that’s my bad. It’s been said that this was a story about special needs, before special needs was a pressing social issue, and I agree wholeheartedly with that.  Lennie and George are quite the pair, and their strong and solid relationship is a kind I don’t often come across outside of family in life or in fiction. It paints a vivid picture of life in America during the depression, and illustrates the hopes and dreams of the people living and fighting their way through it. Sacrifices for the good of the many is a strong theme it presents, as well as hard work, compliance and conformity in lesser notes.  A classic, and rightfully so. Three Stars

 

 

The Giver, Lois Lowry

Another book that I regret not picking up when I was young. It was suggested to me for an assignment by my teacher when I was in seventh grade and I turned it down to read what everyone else was reading, and I can’t help but feel the irony in that. After reading it now, I described it to someone as 1984, but for children. It’s about a seemingly utopian (or rather dystopian) isolated culture, with no fear, choices, pain, happiness or sunshine. My mind was absolutely blown when I learned it was colour Jonas was beginning to see when he started to ‘see-beyond’. The setting, and structure of the society was brilliantly laid out in the first half of the book, and I feel it could have been greatly expanded on, and that it ended far too soon. There are other books in the series, and with any luck they will expand on the already established foundation that The Giver had created. I just wished I knew more about what happened to all of the other characters after Jonas left. It left me thinking it was unfinished. I agree with the messages it presents to children, and an opportunity to begin to question their own world. What is right? People can lie? What choices will I have to make? And It very delicately addresses puberty or ‘The Stirrings’, but then abandons it without further reference, which I thought was odd. Overall, a book I could have used at 11. Three and a half Stars

 

I Heart London, Lindsey Kelk

This book was not exactly what I expected. I picked it up because of my obvious love of London, and not knowing it was the fifth book in the series (or something ridiculous like that) I was a little lost in the beginning. But it turns out it was readable as a stand alone book, I just didn’t get the references to all of the events that happened previously. It’s a girly book, about a wedding, and boyfriends, and ex boyfriends, and completely unrealistic in every way. Oh look, she’s a writer from London living in New York with a great job and too much money, dating..no…engaged to a musician from a relatively famous musical group, with more rich friends than she knows what to do with. Her problems in general are petty, they include rivalries at work with evil co-workers cousins, while trying to start a shallow magazine that might not fly (because it’s about beauty and fashion and does the world really need another overpriced photoshopped wonder to make women feel worse about themselves?), an ex-boyfriend that cheated on her once so she up and LEFT THE COUNTRY without even an explanation, and now a wedding that her unrealistic perfectly British parents and psycho best friend are planning in less than a week. I was sad there wasn’t more about actual London in this book, but what could I expect. There’s pink on the cover.  From Notting Hill With Love was much better and I would recommend that if you’re looking for something fluffy and London-ie and actually enjoyable. Two Stars

Miss Hailey Jane

And really…”Kissing Ron Howard” will be coming along soon, I swear!

 


The Great Gatsby: Round Two

Going back, after however many years, and reading a book over again can yield a tremendously different overall experience.

What I am getting at here, is that I recently found myself going back (in time?) and re-reading ‘The Great Gatsby’ by F. Scott Fitzgerald. When I read it for the first time I was oh…fourteen years old, maybe fifteen, and I very much didn’t get the gist of the thing at all. I was a good student in general and got mostly A’s for my work, but this one book didn’t do anything at all for me at the time. Maybe high school English classes have  bad habit of killing great books anyway, but I think this may have been a special case.

I was recently moved to go back to this classic, rather shamefully, because a new film by one of my favourite directors is being released this Christmas, bearing the same title. Baz Luhrmann is magically putting together another adaptation of the story, and I wanted to be a bit more up on it beforehand.

When I pressed my brain to try to remember the story line, recalling that I had read it in my ‘youth’, I was more or less at a loss. I distinctly remember sitting down in my basement with the Penguin edition of the book and reading it, but I couldn’t remember any of the plot.  None of it at all. I knew there was a yellow car, a girl called Daisy and a fancy house. That was it. I could almost feel the shame and disappointment careening towards me from my old English teacher.  I was one of those students.  The one’s they talk about in the staff room, as being hopeless and generally uninterested. The, “They’re just not going to get it no matter how you teach it” sort of conversations. But deep down I knew I wasn’t really like this, and I felt sad. So as to make some sort of otherworldly amends towards said teacher, I got myself another copy of the book, and sat down and had at it again.

The result of this thought experiment turns out to have been a general success. The book itself did not seem as long and daunting as  remember it being, and it’s setting seemed much more attractive now having known a bit more about that era in general (Thanks to a hearty helping of Jeeves and Wooster as of late).  The character of Nick Carraway though, I was still not comfortable with. I think we know too little about his personality and mannerisms to get a good grip of him, particularly as he is the one delivering the story. But that might just be my humble opinion.

The idea of Gatsby enchanted me this second time around, being a complex character with many levels of mystery and attractiveness that change as time passes,  but initially I was just confused and left to wonder how it all made sense.

In hindsight I could have used the lesson in this story at the time, being everyone and no one, all at once. It would have done a great deal to help me through high school, but alas, that concept was never touched on. It all makes me wonder how many other great books I have shunned because of my fabricated hatred for them due to the tradition of force feeding literature.

Maybe that little purple book about racism and Boo Radley wasn’t so terrible after all,  maybe Macbeth wasn’t just about someone’s crazy mother who could have used a Valium,  and just maybe Frankenstein was in fact as exciting as the movie. If only I would let my imagination go back to these times and see with a more refined and educated perception, what all of those teachers are endlessly trying to teach.

And maybe after all that, I will no longer be one of those students.

-Miss Hailey Jane


Nobody Likes ‘Richard Curtis Fan Fiction’

“What a world we live in, the sad state of modern society makes me want to crawl under an overpass and die! When perfectly decent people won’t get up and read 2000 words of terribly written chicky fan fiction, it’s really just not worth living any more.”

To be entirely honest, it did break my heart a little that the Internet didn’t jump all over my last attempt at clever blogging, but I’m sure I’ll get over it. As of right now, no one has even looked at my blog in the last 12 hours, and I assume this is punishment for littering the walls of the vast and terrifying internet with more useless stories about girly things people have already written about.

Well played internet…well played.

I’ll give you all a bit of justification for the never ending fluff that was the content of my last post, entitled “Richard Curtis Fan Fiction: Notting Hill and Back Again“, but I can’t promise it’s going to be a good excuse.

I’m female…as I’m sure a few of you have deduced with your clever, clever minds, so this means I occasionally think about girly things.  Girly things include (for those of you who are out of the girly things loop): Flowers, kittens, rainbows, sweets and occasional intense bouts of sexual desire for certain male specimens. If the latest literary craze isn’t proof then I don’t know what is [RE: Fifty Shades of whatever seems to get women off these days].  These bouts tend to manifest themselves in the subconscious mind of the women in question, and eventually materialize as dreams.

More to the point of my story… I am traditionally an avid and intense dreamer. One night, one of these manifestations came to me in the depths of regular REM sleep, as one of my favourite…no….my single most favourite deliciously British public figure. The scene also, coincidentally, appeared to be set in the best place pretty much ever. I do love my brain sometimes. So the following morning, I had to do everything I could to write down the experience, and capture the intense feelings with words, so I wouldn’t lose it all forever.

And then no one read the results. Serves me right for sharing.

So a lesson to you all, no matter how many buzz words you put in your blog, which happens to be never ending tome of mundane conversation, people aren’t going to bother reading it.

End of story

Thank you and goodnight!

xx

-Miss Hailey Jane


Book Review: The Time Traveler’s Wife

For my Book Club this month, we decided to tackle “The Time Traveler’s Wife” by Audrey Niffenegger. (I hope none of you book club people read this, because our meeting is Sunday night). First off, I just want to say, this novel was leaps and bounds better than I had originally thought it was going to be.

I completed its’ 500 or so pages in less than 10 days, which is higher than average for me, and I found it’s structure very accommodating and pleasing.  The three parts, several chapters, different perspectives, years and ages I thought were going to lead to a convoluted novel that was hard to follow, but I find it flowed very nicely, and was not in any way difficult to keep track of.  Mind you, that being said I didn’t do the math in my head of how old Henry should be in that particular year, but as long as you had a general idea based on other surrounding events it made complete sense, and I’ll just take Audrey’s word for how old he was supposed to be and when.

I would also like to point out, that unlike with Atonement, I had not seen the film prior to reading the book. In fact, I have not even seen the film at all yet. I even made a point of not looking at which actors were playing the characters, so as to not colour my mental image of them in the book as described by Audrey.  Which is ideal I think.

The main characters were very well developed, and had to be, because this story incorporates the majority of their entire lives. The secondary characters were more or less just touched on, other than Henry’s family including Kimy. I felt Clare’s mother wasn’t used enough as influence, and her condition wasn’t explained as clearly as it could have been. She is, after all, Clare’s mother and whether or not her and Clare had an excellent or terrible relationship, she would have had more of a significant influence on her life and choices. At least, that’s what I think.

The story itself was very unique, and I can honestly say it was not predictable at all. I had a few guesses as to how it was going to end, but I was very wrong. The way the author explains the nature of Henry’s time travel makes it come across as completely normal and by the fifth or so page, you really are OK with it, and wish everyone else would just understand as well as you so Henry wouldn’t have to fight his whole life.  The nakedness is an irritating touch as well; Poor guy.   But as I said, this book is fantastic and I would hightly recommend it to anyone who wants a new kind of love story.  It’s great too because it’s not all mushy, and typical upper-middle-class suburban living like I had anticipated.  It’s very real, in a city-living way, with a unique artistic cultured background, with throwbacks to retro music and style.

What I would like to know, is how Henry managed to get a Masters in Library Science with his condition. Popping in and out of exams wouldn’t go over well I’d imagine. And I’m not exactly impressed with the author leaving out his entire Post-Secondary educational experience. I guess we just have to understand that he did manage to do it, and get a great job in an awesome city library that I would kill for (no personal bias there whatsoever ;)… I promise)

I felt a lot of different emotions while reading this book, as I’m sure I was supposed to. I felt anger at Clare’s mother as well as Henry’s father. I was suspicious of  Gomez from the second we met him, and felt sorry for Ingrid. I was also very involved with their attempt to have a child, and when Clare went into labour with the fear of Henry not being there, I will admit I was slightly in tears, and all snivley.

I have read that some reviewers find the book melodramatic and trite, but I personally think that was because of the nature of their relationship. It was a dramatic relationship, and had been rather punctuated throughout their entire lives. There was never an extended period of perfect calm, and change could happen at any moment. Drama defined them.  I would not call this novel trite either, but have not personally read a lot of time travel novels, so I cannot say I expected any of the events to unfurl as they did. It also may not be relevant to today’s society or make a big political statement or anything, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good novel.

Reading about the entirety of two characters lives in under ten days can leave you feeling different, fuller perhaps. Henry’s youth seems so long ago to me, but I was only experiencing it a few days ago. And what a strange youth it was. I was a little taken aback by Henry’s experiences with himself as a teenager, I found that a little strange but then I asked myself what I would have done in that same situation, and really could come up with an appropriate answer. I also asked my boyfriend, if he were in that scenario, what would he do?….but all I received was a REALLY funny look of concern and judgement, so I moved on… I was also a little shaken about what happened to Clare in High School with that guy from the football team she dated.  The idea of an older Henry coming back and helping her like that seemed sensible, but I think they took it a little bit too far. I dunno, I would appreciate other people’s thoughts on this one I think..

On the whole, The Time Traveler’s Wife was a superb read, a welcomed break from reality into a slightly different world. I can certainly understand why it’s so popular in today’s fiction, because it really is more than just another romance novel. It has a life of it’s own, and a real story to tell.

Good job Audrey, and thanks for writing this great novel.From: http://www.thekitchn.com

-Miss Hailey Jane


What’s Worth Reading Now-a-days?

One thing I get asked a lot, is ‘What are you reading?’  Maybe this is just because most people can’t be bothered  think of anything else interesting to ask me in an awkward social situation, but it’s a question that has it’s merits if the asker is willing to actually consider the reply.

So here’s my list of books that have the ability to, and just might change your life…if you let them…according to me. (In no particular order)

1. The Reader, by Bernhard Schlink, 1995. (There is a movie, yes…but I read it first and the books is excellent. I’m all for questioning social convention and bending the laws of attraction and love)

2. 1984, by George Orwell, 1949. (Clever guy…that George)

3. MANIC, a Memoir by Terri Cheney, 2009. (If you’re a person who lives in your head, the idea of it being compromised is scary. This is what happens, and is explained in the kind of detail only someone who has gone through years of mental illness can depict)

4. The Celestine Prophecy, by James Redfield, 1993. (But you can’t take it too seriously…cuz that’s just weird)

5. The Greatest Show On Earth, by Richard Dawkins, 2009. (Anything by him is worth a read and have a mind that likes science)

6. The Vampire Chronicles, by Anne Rice, 1976-1988. (Ideally the first three, they will turn you into a romantic, at least they did for me)

7. Running With Scissors, by Augusten Burroughs, 2002. (So funny, and not exactly your typical childhood but it makes the drudgery of life a little more fun)

8.  Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, by Hunter S. Thompson, 1972. (The American Dream in action…not for everyone)

9. Life on the Air, by Sir David Attenborough, 2009. (It’s a trip around the world from the comfort of your living room)

10. The Story of O, by Pauline Reage (Real name, Anne Desclos)1954. OR Justine, by the Marquis de Sade, 1791. (Both are classic French erotic novels that bend the limits of good society. I can’t stress this one enough, NOT FOR EVERYONE, or at least anyone younger than 18.)

I guess by ‘now-a-days’ I clearly didn’t mean recently published. But these are a few good ones to get started with. But reading, as with anything, enjoyment relies on personal taste. If public school English has taught me anything, it’s that being forced to read something you are not interested in, is nearly equivalent to Chinese water torture. So find yourself a trend, and just go with it. If society doesn’t agree, hide it behind something considerably less interesting like “Smart Couples Finish Rich” or “The Bible” if you’re going for quiet irony. Also, nothing says “Don’t talk to me” like a big hard cover Bible in your hand!  Oh, and ebooks are also excellent concealers of inappropriate literature.

So that’s my entire compilation… my mixed tape of literature just for you. Happy Valentines Day, sorry there aren’t any flowers.

-Miss Hailey Jane

13.02.2012

Books are Beautiful