Summer Reading List!

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I love making goals, and get especially excited about them during season changes or other big life events.  So with the commencement of my High School career last Friday, my 19th birthday tomorrow, and summer vacation starting, you’d better believe that I’ve been making some serious goal lists as of late.  One of these (of course) is a summer reading list.  I’m undertaking some of these books because I want to enrich my mind, some of them because I’ve heard they’re good, and one because I’ve heard it’s bad and I want to laugh at it (The Selection).  So without further ado:

1) The Woman in White– I’ve read 400 of the 600 pages since I determined to read it last week, so if I don’t finish this by the end of the summer (or the end of this weekend) somebody come slap me.

2) Anna Karenina– Okay, so this is a really dorky reason, but I’ll tell you anyway.  I’m reading this over the summer specifically because in the 10th Series of Unfortunate Events book Klaus recalls reading it one summer with his mother.  “Every summer, the Baudelaires’ mother would read a very long book, joking that lifting a large novel was the only exercise she liked to get during the hot months.  During the time Violet was thinking of,  Mrs. Baudelaire chose Anna Karenina for her summer reading…” (The Slippery Slope page 145).  Yes I get my book suggestions from other books.  Don’t judge me.

3) Crossed– I’m not actually sure why I’m reading this.  The first book made me mad, so I don’t see how reading another book in the series will contribute to my overall happiness.

4) Paper Towns– Because it’s John Green of course!

5) Middlemarch– Mainly because it’s a classic, and I’m influenced by what society thinks is good.

6) Legend– I heard this was really good.

7) Prodigy– Sequel to Legend.

8) Twelfth Night– My knowledge of Shakespeare is shockingly limited, and a friend read and loved this book.  Also, I heard She’s the Man was based on this play, and Channing Tatem and classic literature seem like a wonderful combo to me.

9) North and South– I loved Wives and Daughters, which is by the same author.

10) The Selection– Yeah I just want to laugh at it and see what all the hype is about.  Also the cover is really pretty.

12) Bleak House– Not really sure why this is on the list either.  It seems rather bleak.

13) The Last Cavalier– It’s by the guy who wrote the Count of Monte Cristo!

13) Kisses from Katie– My friend gave it to me as a goodbye present, and as we all know, books are just about the best thing to win me over with.  If a burglar walked into my house and handed me a John Green book I hadn’t yet read I’m not sure I wouldn’t just let him go about his business stealing our stuff as I read on the couch.

So you can expect reviews on at least a few of these books, although I’m not sure I’ll get through all of them (especially the classics).  Any suggestions on what I should read first, or on other books that I need to add to the list?  Have a great week, and happy (unofficial) summer!

The Language of Flowers

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Hey guys!  I read this book this week and had mixed feelings about it.  I started out really loving it–I started it fairly late and wanted to stay up all night reading it instead of going to sleep.  The next day at school I was pretty annoyed that my teachers had the audacity to assign me work (Leave me alone!  Can’t you see I’m busy reading?!  How dare they.)  So yeah, I was pretty into it, to the point that I was just sitting around thinking about how much I liked it instead of actually reading it (please say I’m not the only one who does this).  It’s engrossing and has a sort of everyday magic and realistic whimsy about it.  It’s about a girl who grows up in and out of foster homes and orphanages, and at 18, is about to be pushed out of the system to live on her own.  Hurt and mistrustful of anyone who tries to reach out to her, she retreats inside of herself to live in a sanctuary centered around her love of flowers.  She avoids living on the streets by taking a job in a flower shop, where she discovers she has a special gift for healing the broken parts of customers through the flowers she arranges for them, and the meanings behind these flowers, according to the Victorian flower language.  Now this is all well and good, but here the problem comes in (Spoiler Alert!): She goes and gets herself pregnant.  Now, I’ll be 19 next week.  I’m an adult, I know these things go on.  But it just gets on my nerves that every time I read a young adult book or a book with a teenager in it, the main character turns out to be someone I can’t respect; someone who doesn’t think about their future and makes loads of careless and stupid decisions.  I know that writers do this because they’re trying to be relate-able and talk about Real Issues, but I think that it’s getting a little overdone.  Character development is probably what interests me most in a story.  I’ve never been a person who’s super into plot based books–I just can’t get into about a book about a war between goblins and elves or whatever.  So I really like characters, and it’s nice to be able to respect them and sympathize with them.  But when I’m invested in a character and they start making stupid decisions I have a really hard time caring about what happens to them, and it makes it difficult for me to finish the book.  But although I wish the character had made different decisions, I found it really easy to read (I started it at 9:00 one night and finished it at 9 the next), I loved the romantic concept of the Victorian flower language, and I thought it handled the subject of foster care in an interesting way.

The Book Thief

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I’d been meaning to read this for a year at least, but had never really gotten around to it.  Mainly because it’s about the Holocaust, which isn’t a subject I particularly enjoy, as I really don’t like sadness.  However, as the book was only a quarter at a yard sale, I decided to give it a go.

I’m actually really glad that I did give this book a chance, because it has a unique narrative style that I’d never seen before; the whole book is narrated by Death.  It’s not actually as bleak as it sounds though.  Death isn’t malicious or cruel, and provides an interesting perspective on human behavior.  Come to think of it, the whole book isn’t as unbearably sad as I thought it would be.  I mean, yes, it is sad.  I cried.  But it wasn’t as horrible as it could have been, and it wasn’t really gory or violent at all, which I appreciated.  I also thought it was interesting to see the Holocaust from the viewpoint of German citizens, as they are often portrayed as murderers or mindless zombies, and it’s easy to forget that not all of them condoned the cruelty their dictator encouraged.

The book is about a young girl in Nazi Germany who is sent to a foster family because her mother needed to go with the Nazis.  On the train ride to her new home two things of importance happen to our heroine: her brother dies, and she steals her first book.  Although she can’t yet read, Liesel develops an attachment to the written word, and as she learns to make sense of the words printed on the page, her hunger for books grows.  Soon she is stealing banned books from Nazi-enforced patriotic burnings, and sneaking into people’s houses in search of books to feed her growing need for knowledge.  A need that, combined with her compassionate heart and capacity for rebellion, may put her and her family in danger.

My favorite aspect of this book was the characters.  There was of course, a plot, but it wasn’t really like the buildup-climax-resolution arc that I was taught about in elementary school.  It was more like just the events of ordinary days in Nazi Germany, and the focus was on how the characters reacted to said events, and how those events shaped them.  This book is all about  characters.  Which actually makes sense, as a person’s true character is revealed through hardship.  The tempests raging around them serve first and foremost to shed light on the strength of character of some people, and to reveal who our heroes and heroines really are.

I’d recommend this book, because it deals with some weighty topics in a bearable way, and because it manages to be a fairly quick read and have well crafted language and thought provoking ideas all at once.  But don’t expect to come out of the book completely unchanged.

Gatsby

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First off, I really need this shirt!  I saw The Great Gatsby this weekend, and I know this is a book blog (Charlotte, that’s a movie!) but I figured it’s relevant enough since A) it is indeed a book, and B) I’ve read it.  

What I thought of it:  I thought parts of it were really epic, but there were parts of it that I didn’t like.  I thought that although the acting was great, there were a couple of weird decisions that were made in terms of music and editing.  The music was too modern for my taste, because it pulled me out of the time period, and consequently, out of the story.  I’m pretty sure they mentioned President Kennedy in one of the songs.  This just seems badly researched to me.  In addition to this, there seemed to be a  reoccurring theme of  awkward layers and backgrounds that made parts of the movie seem like they were made by a high school freshman who was having fun with Photoshop.  Nick Carraway would be writing a letter and there would be words running across the screen and a nebula spinning in the background!  Seriously?!  A nebula?  Okay.

But I’m not trying to be negative.  I thought all the actors were chosen well, and the scenery and costumes were beautiful.  I guess some parts just weren’t how I’d pictured them.  But I would still go watch it and see for yourself.  Anyone else have any opinions on the movie?

 

 

Why my edition of Pride and Prejudice is better than yours!

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Okay, first of all, no one get offended.  I’m sure you all have lovely versions of P&P.  Just mine is better.  Which is good, because I love the book more than normal people.  You see, right now my life is stressful and/or busy (what with picking a college, being sad about leaving my family, doing heaps of school projects, senior prom, Canada last weekend.  yeah, probably should have told you about that.  I was in Canada.  I didn’t have wifi, which is why I didn’t do a blog post).  So when life gets hard, what do I do?  Why, read Pride and Prejudice of course!  Which brought me to contemplate how superior my edition is to all others I’ve seen.  First off, the cover is just beautiful.  Some of you may have seen it if you’ve typed Pride and Prejudice into a search engine (wait, normal people don’t do that in their free time? oh…) and wondered where such a beautiful edition could be had!  Yeah..probably nobody wondered that, but that doesn’t lessen my pride in my copy (pride? get it? because…never mind).  In addition to this, my copy is liberally sprinkled with helpful side notes, which means I can bore people even more with my thorough knowledge of Jane Austen and the regency period.  Well, sorry for the short and rather pointless blog post today; I haven’t had an overabundance of time as of late, so I haven’t been stumbling across heaps of good books.  Oh well, summer’s coming soon!  For now, I think I’ll just go watch Pride and Prejudice again 🙂

*much of this post was meant in jest–please don’t unfollow me

Northanger Abbey!

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I finished the last of Jane Austen’s major works, Northanger Abbey, a few days ago and  I loved it (obviously- it’s by Jane Austen)!  I don’t know if I’m just majorly nerdy, or if I have a heightened appreciation for Jane after reading the rest of her novels but I thought it was probably the funniest of her books I’ve read.  Plus it was really short and easy to read.  I don’t really know what everybody is complaining about.  I thought it was great.  Maybe part of my appreciation comes from the fact that it made fun of The Mysteries of Udolpho,which was a thoroughly stupid book that I wasted three months forcing myself to read (come on!  everyone appreciates sarcasm and mockery!)  The Mysteries of Udolpho is an extremely idiotic tale of a unfortunate girl who loses both of her parents, and is whisked away to live in a scary dilapidated castle with a dastardly uncle who she suspects may have committed murder.  She goes on many tedious and repetitive adventures, and spends most of her time fainting, crying, or taking long descriptive walks around the Italian and French countrysides.  The first line of Northanger emphasizes the ridiculousness of these exaggerated plot points when she declares that no one would have expected her main character, Catherine Morland, to be a heroine.  She says of Catherine’s father:

“He had a considerable independence, besides two good livings–and he was not in the least addicted to locking up his daughters”

She goes on to express her incredulity at her mother’s good sense and healthy constitution, saying,

“She had three sons before Catherine was born; and instead of dying in bringing the latter into the world, as anybody might expect, she still lived on”

Can I just say that I loved how Jane makes fun of the fact that the mother always has to die in stories.  It still happens today in most Disney movies!

In addition to the funny elements, I think I loved the main guy character, Henry Tilney, more than any of the other Austen men (*gasp* even Mr. Darcy?! How could you call yourself a Janeite?!).  He was just really funny. Take his first exchange with Catherine for example: 

“Then forming his features into a set smile, and affectedly softening his voice, he added, with a simpering air, ‘Have you been long in Bath, madam?’  ‘About a week sir’, replied Catherine, trying not to laugh.  ‘Really!’ with affected astonishment.  ‘Why should you be surprized sir?’  ‘Why, indeed!’ said he, in his natural tone —  ‘but some emotion must appear to be raised by your reply, and surprize is more easily assumed, and not less reasonable than any  other’”

He proceeds to ask her a series of very mundane socially acceptable questions, and then concludes the exchange with “Now I must give one smirk, and then we may be rational again”.  His wit even rivals Elizabeth and Mr. Bennet in my opinion. 

So it was basically really funny and quick and I don’t know why more people don’t love it. I really liked it and I think everyone should give it a go!

Insurgent

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I just finished reading Insurgent, the sequel to Divergent (review: https://camgirl26.wordpress.com/2013/01/06/divergent/) and I loved it!  I didn’t think I would like it as much as I did, because I’d heard that it wasn’t as good as the first one.  I disagree; I liked it at least as much as Divergent, and I would definitely tell people who are hesitant to read it because they’re worried it won’t be any good to give it a try.  I didn’t have any trouble getting through it 🙂

I don’t want to give away any spoilers because that’s not cool and I don’t want to ruin Divergent for any of you who haven’t read it because you should.  Insurgent picks up right where Divergent left off, which is great because we don’t miss any of the action (and there’s a lot of action).  The book focuses on the growing cracks in the dysfunctional faction system, which is more unstable than ever, threatening to shatter at any moment and leave millions of casualties in its wake.  In additions to this, we discover new facets and secrets of the society as Tris becomes less satisfied with blindly following the government, and more determined to find out the truth.   But everyone has a different version of the truth, and Tris doesn’t know who she can trust.

Insurgent is just as full of action as Divergent was (maybe even more so), but doesn’t let character development fall by the wayside either.  I love how Veronica Roth manages to write really engrossing fast paced stories that have both moments of action and deep thought provoking ideas.  And I love how Tris is a main character who’s trying to be brave and strong while trying to come to terms with herself and figure out what she believes.  Usually a character who doesn’t know what she wants would bother me, but Tris doesn’t– probably because she refuses to sit around and cry about it.  And her heedlessness and insistence on action don’t bother me like they do with some other characters ( I know, a lot bothers me).  I think she’s a really good mix of uncertainty, vulnerability, and strength.

So enough rambling.  I think you should go read Insurgent ( or Divergent) if you’ve been hesitant.  I highly doubt you will regret it 🙂 Happy reading!