January 30, 2015

1/30/15 - Back in action

After a rather dismal couple of weeks of being way off-schedule, I am back to almost-punctual reading plans!

I've got a couple challenges to complete this week. One is The Sweetheart, which is the January checkmark for the "Read One Debut Book Every Month of 2015" challenge. (I'm not sure how to shorten that.) It's the story of a female wrestler in the 1950s, all of which sounds pretty fascinating to me. Not to mention the cover is gorgeous. Excited for this one.

The next is a book for my Nonfiction slot, Unapologetic by Francis Spufford. As far as I can tell, Spufford is a British religious writer; Tullian Tchividjian has quoted him a few times in his sermons, and the quotes are nothing short of awesome. So I'm also looking forward to this one, even though my success with religious nonfic has been almost purely negative outside of C.S. Lewis's nonfic.

Hopes for this week: that Prophecy of the Sisters will be not-sucky as I fear it will be, that Unapologetic will be as inspiring in whole as the snippets were in part; that The Sweetheart won't be your typical navel-gazing uber-feminist debut attempt; that Cinderella: From Fabletown With Love will be as spectacular as it sounds; and that I will be able to get the taste of Paper Towns (not shown) out of my mouth really, really soon because I don't like it.

Joyous Reading!

January 26, 2015

1/26/15 - A Book With Magic / A Book That Scared Me

I've been slacking pretty horribly, haven't I? Last week, I did not actually meet my goal; I had other reading assignments that crowded A World Without Princes from my schedule.

Fortunately, I have rectified that mistake, and I also just crossed off another challenge from my list!

Title: A World Without Princes
Author: Soman Chainani
Challenge: A Book With Magic
Date: January 25, 2015

I read The School for Good and Evil back at the tail end of 2014 and I absolutely adored it. The friendship between the two main characters are truly at the center of the story, which is something I have a huge soft spot for; the world, while not wholly original, was neither wholly derivative, and the blend of originality and familiarity made it a lot of fun.

AWWP shakes things up a little bit more. It's not as good as the first book - when are second books? - but it's still pure fun... with added emotional trauma! Yay! Suffice it to say that the book doesn't end on a happy note, and that I anxiously await the third book. Hopefully that'll set everything straight.

Sophie and Agatha are some of the strongest female characters I've encountered in middle-grade fiction, and I don't say that lightly. They're complex and multifaceted, and they screw up. A lot. And they pay for it. Poor things. I anxiously await the third book.

If you love fractured fairytales, friendship, and fun(ereal levels of pain), I highly recommend the School for Good and Evil books.

Title: The Island of Dr. Moreau
Author: H.G. Wells
Challenge: A Book That Scares Me
Date: January 26, 2015

I read this book for my 400-level Secondary Worlds course, as an example of early science fiction. H.G. Wells was familiar to me, of course (we also read The Time Machine), but I'd never heard of Dr. Moreau. I wasn't expecting much, to be honest.

And instead I got the absolute crap scared out of me. It's always the ones that I don't expect.

I can't really reveal anything about what's so scary about it - I have a strict ethical law that prevents me from spoiling key story elements - but... wow. It's not a horror story or even a thriller, really, but it examines the absolute darkest side of human nature. And what happens when that human nature is distorted... through various means.


It's dated writing, but there's something about Wells's way with words that makes the story feel immediate and very personal. That's what makes some of it so horrible, to me - it's so real and clearly-described that you can't help but feel an overwhelming nausea of wrongness. It's terrifying, really. Or maybe it's just me.

Anyway, I also recommend this book if you need to be kept awake at night by nightmarish images and unanswerable moral questions.

That's it for me, for both this week and last week. I'll chime in on Thursday for next week's reading lineup. Joyous Reading!

January 15, 2015

1/15/15 - A Book My Mom Loves

Guess who got lazy about writing reviews during the first week of the semester?

I finished Goodbye, Mr. Chips on the 9th. It was a pleasant, very short read - it took me about forty minutes - and I get the appeal. It's very third-person omniscient, going over the anecdotal incidents of a very popular English professor that, in a longer book, would have been tedious in the extreme. But since this is a novella, with a distant, thoughtful air, it's much more entertaining. Mr. Chips sounds like the kind of professor I'd like to have. He also reminded me of such professors as Professor Keating - kind of like their more conservative prototype. I'd like to know Mr. Chips's influence on other "life-changing teacher" stories.

I finished three of my five books last week. A little sad, a little good. Improvements can always be made (unless I won like last week) and hopefully this coming week will be better!

The War That Killed Achilles and Hannibal are crossing over - I just didn't get to them soon enough. (I did, however, finish The War today and it seemed like a well-researched analysis of a few of the broader aspects of the Iliad. A good beginner-level book, which I am. A beginner, not a beginner-level book. That's also why it's not in the picture - I had to return it today.)

I splurged and bought the book I've chosen for the category of A Book With Magic, to wit, A World Without Princes, because it'll probably take my library system a year and a day to get it. I don't want to wait a year and a day for it because I am very excited for this book. So expect either a deliriously pleased review or a deliriously disappointed review sometime between tomorrow and next Wednesday.

Hopes for this week: that Paper Towns isn't as eye-stabbingly painful to slog through as Looking For Alaska, that Hannibal is even better than Red Dragon, that The One isn't as upsettingly drab as The Elite was, and that A World Without Princes is as beautifully characterized and drawn as The School for Good and Evil was. Lots of sequels and lots of expectations for this week!

Joyous Reading!

January 8, 2015

The Second Week

The first week of January was massively successful, not only in my 2015 Reading Challenge. Aside from that, I also have a generic reading journal. It's a goal-keeping mechanism: for every week in which I read five books, I get to buy one full-price book. In no other case do I get to buy a full-price book (bookstore sales and used bookstores are highly discouraged; library sales are less discouraged but still frowned up). Since I started this system back in September '14, I have not been able to allow myself a full-price book.

Until the first week of January. Which I think is a pretty good omen!

(The line-up for last week, if you're interested, was Burial at Thebes by Seamus Heaney, Storm Thief by Chris Wooding, The Gates by John Connolly, Showdown by Ted Dekker, and The Bane Chronicles by Cassandra Clare et al.)

So I was able to satisfy a long-lasting lust for this book, Antigoddess by Kendare Blake. I've heard nothing but good things, Blake's writing was quite nice in Anna Dressed In Blood, and this synopsis so up my alley it might as well be the alley. So I'm excited to read this.

I have a couple items I could check off this week - nonfic, graphic novel, thriller, female author - but the one I'm going with is A Book My Mom Loves, which in this case is Goodbye, Mr. Chips by James Hilton. I have absolutely no idea what it's about, but the cover looks cute and it's pretty brief so it should be enjoyable! (My mom also says I remind her of Mr. Chips. We shall see.)

So that's the upcoming week in literature. I doubt I'll make my quota this week - first week of the spring semester and all that - but here's hoping!

Joyous Reading!

January 1, 2015

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! We made it to 2015. Huzzah. Cheers. I spent the Eve in front of the fire with sparkling white grape juice and a short marathon of The Twilight Zone. Not bad, all things considered.

Today, however, on this most auspicious beginning to the Best Year Ever (crossed fingers), I have met the first of my Reading Challenge Goals, and I am here to tell you about it.

Title: Burial at Thebes
Author: Seamus Heaney
Challenge: A Book I Can Finish In A Day
Date: January 1, 2015

I have a very soft, squishy spot for Antigone. Two months of memorization in order to act in it should, by all accounts, have made it revolting to me. Instead, I'm a little obsessed. 

The basic story is that Antigone's two brothers have killed each other in a battle for the control over Thebes. One brother, Eteocles, was defending Thebes; Polyneices was attacking it. At their deaths, Antigone's uncle, Creon, took over; he gave Eteocles a hero's burial, but left Polyneices' carcass to the dogs. This, in Antigone's mind, goes against the laws of the gods, and she defies Creon's edict and buries her brother after all. 

It's a wonderful, terrible story, and still very relevant. Antigone is my favorite literary Greek female - she's desperate and headstrong, wild and defiant, stringently moral and deeply romantic. I don't know how you couldn't love her, and it's not too hard to understand why Haemon follows her into death. 

And it's not that Creon is a villain - it's just that he and Antigone are complete opposites in belief, while being completely alike in determination and pride. It's the most volatile of personality clashes that culminates in the most violent of body counts, on par with Hamlet and King Lear. 

Heaney's translation isn't my favorite. It's a "modern" take on Antigone, but the modernization of the text only goes so far. The sentence structure is simplified, and the word choice is simplified, and some monologues are simplified... Like I said in my Goodreads review, it feels like a simplification, rather than a modernization. There's no modern slang or diction - it doesn't read like the dialogue of today - which was what I was hoping for. Instead, the simplicity just feels stiff and uninspired.

I will say that he made an interesting choice in meter. Rather than sticking to one type of verse, Heaney adapts the verse for whoever is speaking. Antigone and Ismene begin speaking in short, three-beat lines that flow smoothly and quickly. The Chorus tends to speak in a kind of Old English verse, generally with line alliteration and a matching number of beats on each side of the caesura. Creon and Haemon speak in iambic pentameter. It's often inexact, and Antigone slips into iambic a few times, herself, but overall the effect is a good one. The Chorus never fails to sound ominous, even when their word choice is questionable. 

It got four stars from me on Goodreads, even though I wasn't a huge fan of some of his artistic choices. It's Antigone; the story is always good. It's a good choice for my first read on this first day of 2015.

Joyous Reading!