Monday, July 12, 2010

What I'm Reading

I've been reading so many books, but I don't feel like reviewing them. So I'm going to just talk about a few of them in one post.

The Bone Doll's Twin by Lynn Flewelling

Summary:
For three centuries a divine prophecy and a line of warrior queens protected Skala. But the people grew complacent and Erius, a usurper king, claimed his young half sister’s throne.

Now plague and drought stalk the land, war with Skala’s ancient rival Plenimar drains the country’s lifeblood, and to be born female into the royal line has become a death sentence as the king fights to ensure the succession of his only heir, a son. For King Erius the greatest threat comes from his own line — and from Illior’s faithful, who spread the Oracle’s words to a doubting populace.

As noblewomen young and old perish mysteriously, the king’s nephew — his sister’s only child — grows toward manhood. But unbeknownst to the king or the boy, strange, haunted Tobin is the princess’s daughter, given male form by a dark magic to protect her until she can claim her rightful destiny.

Only Tobin’s noble father, two wizards of Illior, and an outlawed forest witch know the truth. Only they can protect young Tobin from a king’s wrath, a mother’s madness, and the terrifying rage of her brother’s demon spirit, determined to avenge his brutal murder....
I like to read a lot of dystopia and post-apocalyptic stories, but ever so often I need to read a more classic fantasy book to get the thoughts of starvation and death out of my mind. I had read Flewelling's Nightrunner series (well the first two books anyways) and enjoyed them immensely so I decided to give some of her earlier work a try. Well, I definitely wasn't disappointed and The Bone Doll's Twin is one of the most surprising books I've read this year. Flewelling's writing is very similar to Juliet Marillier in this book which is a plus for me. There is something about their lush writing that makes me feel like I'm getting a more fulfilling reading experience then usual. I know that's kind of a weird thing to say, but I can't think of any other way to explain it.

Rating: 10/10

Animal Farm by George Orwell

Summary:
A farm is taken over by its overworked, mistreated animals. With flaming idealism and stirring slogans, they set out to create a paradise of progress, justice, and equality. Thus the stage is set for one of the most telling satiric fables ever penned--a razor-edged fairy tale for grown-ups that records the evolution from revolution against tyranny to a totalitarianism just as terrible.
Ok, I can't believe it took me this long to actually sit down and read 1984 and Animal Farm (Animal Farm is like 90 pages too). I liked both of the stories, but Animal Farm was my favorite. Maybe it's because it was the first story I read, but I was completely floored at how good Orwell's writing was. When I read the line, "All animals are equal. But some are more equal than others," I was completely awed. Orwell has this way of bringing certain things to light without giving the reader the impression you're being lectured to. In a lot of ways I'm kind of glad I waited to read these books. I just don't know if I would have appreciated his writing as much as I do now if I had read them in high school. I worry that some of the more complicated concepts in these stories, especially in Animal Farm, might be lost on younger readers (like thinking the story is actually about animals). Anyways, the fact I had just gone over the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia last semester made 1984 particularly enjoyable as well.

Rating: 9/10

The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe v. Wade by Ann Fessler

Summary:
In this work, Ann Fessler brings out into the open for the first time the astonishing untold history of the million and a half women who surrendered children for adoption due to enormous family and social pressure in the several decades before Roe v. Wade. This is the true story of "sex and the single girl" in the post-World War II years - a story not of carefree sexual liberation, but rather of a devastating double standard that had punishing long-term effects on millions of American women who were told they had no choice but to give up their children." Ann Fessler brings the women's voices as well as the spirit of those times to life, allowing the women to tell their stories in intimate detail. The stories she uncovered are often shocking in their revelation of the degree of pressure brought to bear on these women, the lack of compassion and guidance shown them, and the failure to appreciate the lifelong consequences of coercing a woman to surrender her child.

This book is by far one of the most eye-opening and sad/infuriating books I've read. I don't have much to say except give this book try.

Rating: 8/10

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

Summary:
Great Britain in 1985 is close to being a police state. The Crimean War has dragged on for more than 130 years and Wales is self-governing. The only recognizable thing about this England is her citizens' enduring love of literature. And the Third Most Wanted criminal, Acheron Hades, is stealing characters from England's cherished literary heritage and holding them for ransom.

Bibliophiles will be enchanted, but not surprised, to learn that stealing a character from a book only changes that one book, but Hades has escalated his thievery. He has begun attacking the original manuscripts, thus changing all copies in print and enraging the reading public. That's why Special Operations Network has a Literary Division, and it is why one of its operatives, Thursday Next, is on the case.

Thursday is utterly delightful. She is vulnerable, smart, and, above all, literate. She has been trying to trace Hades ever since he stole Mr. Quaverley from the original manuscript of Martin Chuzzlewit and killed him. You will only remember Mr. Quaverley if you read Martin Chuzzlewit prior to 1985. But now Hades has set his sights on one of the plums of literature, Jane Eyre, and he must be stopped.
I really wanted to read another Fforde book since I loved Shades of Grey: The Road to High Saffron so very much. After reading both books it's obvious Fforde has the amazing ability to create these wondrous worlds that are also completely unique. While The Eyre Affair was a bit slow going in and I actually had to keep prompting myself to pick the book back up, the idea alone was enough to keep my intrigued (I think any book lover will adore the concept of this book). I have the second book in the series on hold and I have a feeling the series will just get better and better.

Rating: 7/10

In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick

Summary:
In 1820, the 240-ton Essex set sail from Nantucket on a routine voyage for whales. Fifteen months later, in the farthest reaches of the South Pacific, it was repeatedly rammed and sunk by an eighty-ton bull sperm whale. Its twenty-man crew, fearing cannibals on the islands to the west, made for the 3,000-mile-distant coast of South America in three tiny boats. During ninety days at sea under horrendous conditions, the survivors clung to life as one by one, they succumbed to hunger, thirst, disease, and fear.
I feel a bit silly, but I didn't realize this was a non-fiction book when I checked it out (I had put it on hold without too much thought). I found the first half of this book hard to get into. In fact, I skipped most of the book and jumped right into the cannibalism part. At that point the story got so interesting I read the rest of the book properly through. I later went back to fill in the gaps, but I still couldn't read too far before the whale attack. I think if Philbrick had written the story more like a novel this wouldn't have happened. Either way I learned some horrific things about how we used to get oil from sperm whales and was once again shocked by the lengths humans will go to in order to survive. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in maritime history. This book is great if only for the latter half.

Rating: 6/10

2 comments:

  1. I'm proud to say I read Animal Farm in seventh grade and understood every word :) (okay, not every word...).

    But yeah, definetly preferred over 1984. I was almost lost during that fifty page passage from the instruction book...

    Jasper Fforde, I believe, is one of the most creative minds in literature today. If not in concept, then in the scope of his worlds. It's, like, amazballs.

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  2. Good for you! I guess it depends a lot on the teacher as well. I don't know what happened, but most of the books I had to read weren't very good. haha and I totally know what you meant about that part of the book. I kept wondering how long it could possible go on for. I liked how depressing both books were too. Orwell definitely didn't feel the need for tidy endings.

    And I agree with you about Fforde. Even though I wasn't as impressed with The Eyre Affair as I was with Shades of Grey, the premises are brilliant and on a whole other level. Sometimes I feel like the same books are being written and rewritten (I'm sure you know what I mean), but Fforde is like a breath of fresh air.

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