Friday, December 9, 2011

fall semester 2011 reading

i only took one class this semester
masterpieces of english literature
given the entire canon of english literature
i was a little dismayed by the three books we read.
these definitely wouldn't make my short list of english masterpieces.
but i'm not in charge.

we read these three books in class to examine the change in public attitude and widespread secularization around the turn of the century (19th to 20th) in great britain. 


heart of darkness
by joseph conrad

this is my third time reading this book for a class.
this is the first time i can actually remember what happens.
very quotable; has some interesting things to say about human nature.
my professor pointed out a lot of symbolism that i never noticed before
and that none of my other teachers ever pointed out.
i don't really ever want to read it again,
it's not that kind of a book,
but it's one of those books that should be read, at least once,
as far as academia is concerned.

the strange case of dr. jekyll and mr. hyde 
by robert louis stevenson

more enjoyable than heart of darkness.
i've actually read this book before too, but of my own volition.
the only thing i don't like about jekyll & hyde is that
most of the book is pointless.
you really only need to read the last thirty-ish pages to get the main gist of the story.
i'd say 75% of the book is just stylized build-up
typical of the time period.


civilization and its discontents
by sigmund freud

technically i haven't finished this book.
i'm in the last chapter, and i'm probably not going to get any further.
freud is crazy. 
i've thought so since my into to psychology class
taken my freshman year.
i'm not going to sum it up.
just know that i disagree with almost everything he asserts.
but it was interesting to read in conjunction with the other two books.


we also read a bunch of poetry for this class
(most of which i've read before)
as well as a short story by kipling
the man who would be king

the turn of the screw by henry james

i decided to read "the turn of the screw" because i've heard it referenced several times as the best ghost story of all time.

i don't get it.

major let down.

Friday, September 9, 2011

the far pavilions by m m kaye

this book was recommended to me by my visiting teacher in my last ward. her daughter lived in india until just recently and she visited her there several times. we talked about my fascination with india and my desire to travel there sometime. she brought me back some jewelry and showed me her pictures and eventually handed me this book. 

what a book it was! very long, 955 pages. but i really enjoyed it. it is a romance and adventure story. 

the story takes place primarily in northern india. it tells the story of aston (ash) pelham-martyn, born in india to british parents who are researching languages in the far-off reaches of british india. his earliest years are spent among mostly indian natives, speaking the native tounges. his parents die while he is very young and when his nurse goes to take him to his extended family there is an uprising (sepoy uprising of 1857) of the indian natives in which any and all whites are killed. to protect him she leaves for a more remote part of the empire where the uprisings are not being carried out and raises him as her son (his dark complexion, black hair, and ability to speak like a native make this possible). he is young enough that he forgets his british parentage and believes himself to be hindu.

his parentage is eventually revealed to him and he is returned to england to be educated. after the completion of his education, he returns to india as an officer of  the corps of guides. in the course of his service in the guides, he is unexpectedly reunited with people from his past and falls in love.

the tale is epic. i learned a lot about india and its customs, and british history. the book raises questions about imperialism and identity. ashton's childhood living as a hindu and british education leave him in a bit of a no-mans land. he can see and understand both points of view. he often finds himself at odds with superiors and even fellow officers. they often criticize him for being disloyal. yet he is not fully accepted among the indians either, their caste system barring him from acceptance on many levels. he does not feel he belongs completely to either group.

i really enjoyed this book. i kept stopping to reach for maps and look up locations. i wish it came with a visual companion! a good chunk of the end of the book is devoted to a detailed recounting of the fall/massacre of the british mission in kabul (afghanistan) following the second anglo-afghan war. white it was interesting, the main character has almost no part in it, therefore it seems long and unnecessary. the history major in me enjoyed it, but the novel reader in me thought the book ran on for 100-150 pages too long on its account.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

anne of green gables by lucy maude montgomery

amazingly, i have never read any of the anne books. i don't know how this happened. i've seen the movies (in fact, i just added them all to my netflix queue so i can watch them again) and loved them. it's too bad, i would have loved these as a little girl. i loved it now!! 

i love anne's wide-eyed wonder and optimism; her passion; and her inherent goodness. i'll definitely be continuing on with the series and i'm sure it will be revisited several times throughout my life.

the lost symbol by dan brown

i forgot that i read this book, which, i guess, speaks to how much i enjoyed it. i didn't really have a desire to read this book. i left the book i was reading in a hotel room somewhere in the french countryside, so i had to pick a book to read out of the very limited english section in the paris airport. and thus, i came to read the latest dan brown installment. 

it wasn't bad . . . it just wasn't as good as his other two books i've read, or maybe i'm just used to his formula now . . . overall i found it mediocre. 

there's not much to say . . . there's a lot of history and science that may or may not be true; a big conspiracy; a crazy person who gets carried away in an obsession and involves robert langdon because he's the only person who can solve the riddle . . . . same ol', same ol'.

i finished it because i got so far into it on my SUPER long flight home it seemed like a waste not to. but it was too long, and i think it's safe to say i'm done with dan brown novels. 

Friday, July 1, 2011

the swan thieves by elizabeth kostova

i'm so frustrated that i wasted so much time on this book. it's long. i read about 400 pages before i finally threw in the towel. i skimmed over the rest of it to see what happened in the end . . . definitely not worth it.

it's very disappointing because i loved kostova's the historian so much.

this novel is all about paintings and artists and obsession stemming from mental illness. i didn't like the narrator (boring, didn't care about him in the least); i disliked the pivotal character (oblivious, selfish, self-destrictive); didn't care about the women involved with the pivotal character (insignificant in any way). 

boring, tedious, wordy, a lot of pointless back-story . . . and all for an ending you could pull out of a write-your-own-novel workbook.

don't waste your time.

love walked in by marisa de los santos

i didn't enjoy this book as much as i expected to. it had such great reviews. i didn't find the main character as charming and lovable as i think i was supposed to . . . i mean, she was fine, i guess, and the whole book was nice enough . . . it will make an excellent chick-flick. but, as i discovered earlier this year, i don't like to read my chick-flicks.

i particularly didn't like how much time she spent describing about how great martin was, just for him to turn out to be not great. and the way they hit it off was awkward for me, it rang untrue for some reason.

the book ended well. i think my main problem was that she spent more time constructing then deconstructing martin when there were so many other more interesting and purposeful things in the book to explore. 

there is a sequel book, but i don't think i'll bother with it. but it was a nice enough fluffy book to read on the beach at the lake.

summer at tiffany by marjorie hart

i don't have much to say about this book. it was a fun little read, no big plots or morals or agendas. it tells the story of the summer the author spent living in new york city and working as a page at tiffany in the 1940's. it was fun to hear about her experiences, the glamour of the 1940's and the excitement of new york city. 

things fall apart by chinua achebe

i read this in my african history class. i didn't like it. at all. i disliked the main character. i had no connection to or sympathy for him. the voice of the book was really broken, the narrative didn't flow, which was very distracting and off-putting.

mockingjay by suzanne collins

i found myself really disappointed with this last book in the hunger games series. the first half of the book was good, on par with the rest of the series. katniss had purpose, drive, something she was working toward, but the end almost negated the entire series for me (much like my reaction to 1984). i didn't like her absence in the aftermath of the fall of the capitol. it's almost like the author didn't know how to make it all come together, so she avoided writing it by removing katniss from the situation. i felt like the final resolutions were untrue to the characters, particularly gale and katniss. i would recommend the series to most anyone, but i'm disappointed with the ending.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

the help by kathryn sockett

oh, the help. this is one of those books that i resisted reading because everyone was reading it and i wanted to be snobby . . . kind of like i was with atonement. you would think i would have learned my lesson by now . . .

i read this on my paris/france trip and it was delightful. i felt angry and desperate and incredulous and joyful and disgusted and sad and i laugh out loud constantly. but more than anything i wanted to give minny a high-five and punch hilly holbrook in the face. 

city of bones by cassandra clare

i picked up this book out of mild curiosity after reading that they were going to be making it into a movie. 

it was alright. a little too much going on in the way of the supernatural for me. it got a little too chaotic in my mind trying to keep track of all the weird stuff. i doubt i'll continue on with the series. but i might check out the movie when it comes out.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

catching fire by suzanne collins

the second installation of the hunger games series. i liked it, and i'm excited to read the final book.

a theme that really resonated with me in this book was leadership/responsibility. katniss finds her actions in the first book have inadvertently set her up as the poster child for an underground revolutionary movement. when her family is threatened her first instinct is to run. her only thought is for the safety of herself and those she loves. she does not want to use the influence she finds herself in possession of to lead those who would follow her.

i struggled with this when i was younger. i've always had a strong personality. people often describe me as confident, independent, a leader. i often found myself in leadership positions; in possession of unsought-after influence over my peers. i can't count the times my mother warned me to be careful of my behavior as others would follow suit. i resented it for a long time. teenage years are hard, and awkward, and living them under a microscope of responsibility makes it even more trying. every mistake is amplified and thrown in your face. every experiment is dissected. while you're bumbling around just trying to figure out who you are others are expecting composure, clarity, solidarity. it's terrifying. and lonely.

it took me some time, but i finally realized that wanted or not, leadership and responsibility were mine. i could either resent it and be mad, or accept it and make a difference. i like to think i've chosen the latter. it still get frustrated at times, but when those moments come i try to remember that people often seek in others what they lack in themselves. i'm blessed with confidence, intellect, creativity, courage, the ability to think for myself. i wouldn't trade those for any amount of peaceful anonymity.

Monday, February 14, 2011

something borrowed by emily giffin

stopped reading because i got bored.

basically a chick-flick in book form.

don't get me wrong. i love myself a chick-flick, but apparently i don't like to read them.

so now i know.

the house at riverton by kate morton

i got bored, so i stopped reading. too many other books on my list to waste time on books that bore me . . .

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

wuthering heights by emily bronte

it's been several years since i read wuthering heights. honestly, i don't know why i like this book, but i do.

the level of dysfunction and ruthlessness are startling. it seems as if no one in the story is capable of making a wise or correct decision. and i always wonder why someone doesn't just shoot heathcliff and save everyone in the story?

also, cathy is maddening. so narcissistic. you wonder how anyone could love her, or heathcliff, for that matter? but i guess that's why they love each other so much.

like i said, i don't know why i like this book, but i do. it's very easy to get swept up in.

(man, i would have liked to have spent some time at the bronte house!)

the forgotten garden by kate morton

the forgotten garden follows three story lines, all which eventually reveal the story of a young girl found on a dock in australia in 1913. she does not know her name and no one is there to claim her. the dock master takes her home, names her nell, and raises her as his own. he eventually reveals to her the truth about how she came into their family.

the three story lines follow nell as she sets out to discover who and where she came from; her granddaughter, cassandra, who takes up the search upon nells death; and eliza makepeace, an english authoress whose book is one of the only possession found on nell when she arrives in australia.

the book was alright. it had the capacity to wrap you up in it, which is nice while you're reading, but in the end it doesn't really deliver. it's good enough, and if i wasn't such a prolific reader i probably would have found it more fulfilling. the overall tone of the novel is very gothic and haunting; and there is an underlying suggestion of malice and danger throughout that is really anti-climactic when the reason for it is revealed.

but it did make me wish i owned a cottage in cornwall.