Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Way We Live Now, Anthony Trollope was an interesting, if a immense (more than 800 pages) work in two volumes. Published in 1875, The Way We Live Now is a work of satire that covers everything: politics, finance, aristocracy, the literary world, gambling, etc. Trollope's many characters embody all the vices: Lady Carbury, who is "false from head to foot", her ne'er do well son Felix, and Melmotte a scoundrel and a swindler. All of the characters are trying to do well for themselves, and become wealthy, even if they don't really have the means to do it. Marie Melmotte, Melmotte's daughter is thought to be wealthy because of her father, and thus, all the young men without much money go after her. It's a good book, and for a 19th century book, is not too overwritten. If you're looking for something challenging and engaging, The Way We Live Now is a good book to read. 4 1/2 stars.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, John Berendt was an interesting book about the town of Savannah, Georgia and the people who live there. It describes the beauty and the history of Savannah as well as the people-white and black, rich and poor. Though it reads like a novel, it is actually a nonfiction book. There is a wide assortment of characters- society ladies of the Married Woman's Card Club; a recluse who has a bottle of poison so powerful it could kill everyone in Savannah; an aging and profane Southern belle; the extremely funny black drag queen; an arrogant antiques dealer; a sweet-talking, piano-playing con man; young blacks dancing at the black debutante ball; and a voodoo priestess who works magic in the graveyard at midnight (which the book gets its title from.) It describes these many people in great detail, leading right up to a murder, supposedly committed by one of the most respected men in Savannah. There is a movie of it as well. It also made me want to visit Savannah, even though I'm not generally interested in the south. I think that it's in the NOVA library. 4 1/2 stars.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Let the Great World Spin, Colum McCann

This was one of the new books in the library. I really enjoyed it. It tells of something that really happened in New York in the 70s, when a man strung a wire between the Twin Towers and walked across. Each chapter is narrated by a different person in the city-poor and rich, white and black alike. I really liked that the author did that. The book tells how everyday lives of people in the city were affected by this event. At the beginning of each chapter, it was a bit slow, but they all picked up. Also, the book was kind of confusing, as you didn't know who was narrating the chapter at first, but you quickly figured it out. 4 1/2 stars.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, Ransom Riggs

This is a really great and suspenseful book, if a bit creepy. Jacob, a Polish boy (ha ha) is saddened by the death of his beloved grandfather, who used to tell him strange stories. He travels to a strange island to try and discover his grandfather's secrets. He meets "peculiar" children who are living in a time loop on the island, and Ms. Peregrin their protector. You'll see if you read it. I would definitely recommend this book to someone who's been searching for a good fantasy and adventure. It's the best fantasy/supernatural that I've read in quite a while. And now it's in the NOVA library! 5 stars.
Also, thanks to Sami for recommending it in her book talk.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Magic of Reality, Richard Dawkins

This was a pretty interesting science book. It explores many science concepts and realities. It was a pretty good book, and the author started off each chapter with a question, and myths that attempt to answer that question. One thing that I didn't like, though, was that Dawkins dismissed myths as being nonsensical. They may not be true, yes, but you should respect people's beliefs about such things. Also, this book sort of explained a lot of stuff (like evolution) that I already knew about. But for a complete layman, it's a good first science book to read. It has many illustrations, and did explore some things that I didn't know about it. Dawkins is also a really good writer, and writes about science in interesting ways.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Smile, Donna Jo Napoli

Well, I did finish a book today, as it turns out. This book is a historical fiction book. It is a fictional account of the model for Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa, and has much romance in it. This sounds like an extremely interesting plot, and I love historical fiction, but I didn't like this author's writing style that much. For example, on pg. 28, "The messenger pulls up alongside us. 'Il Magninfico is dead.' Papa shakes his head. 'What? What are you saying?''Lorenzo de' Medici. Il Magnifico- he died.'"
This is so blunt, just horrible writing. There are other patchy instances as well. Also, the main character falls in love with one of the Medicis, but instead she is forced to marry another man! I so wanted her to protest, to rebel against this society which forces her to marry. But no, she submits, and cannot marry the man she truly loves.
It was an interesting book in that I learned some of Florence's history. But not the greatest writing style. Although I looked up some reviews of it, and lots of people seemed to like it. So maybe it's just me. 2 1/2 stars.

No Books, but...

So, as mentioned on my other blog, I will be going to Miami Beach. I'll bring much reading material with me, but, obviously, not enough for one a day like I've been doing lately. So I may not get to posting until the new year. Or I might, but not every day, that's for sure. Keep reading while I'm gone!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Code of the Woosters, P.G Wodehouse

This was an extremely funny book by a British author. It uses many British terms such as what ho, and other things. It was rather silly, as the whole plot revolves around an antique cow creamer, but it was a clever book, full of wit, and funny, though it was rather sexist. There are only a few female characters in it, and they are portrayed as silly and petty. Still, I enjoyed reading it. It tells of the likable bumbling gentleman Bertie Wooster and his manservant and protector, Jeeves. In this book, they go to stay at a place called Totleigh Towers, and what ensues makes up much of the book. Though it was a bit slow at first, this book quickly picked up, and it became difficult to put it down. I really liked it, and I hope to read more of P.G. Wodehouse in the future. I would definitely recommend it. 4 1/2 stars.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini

This is a novel about modern Afghanistan. It tells of Amir, who is born in Afghanistan to a wealthy father. He plays with a Hazara boy, Hassan, whose father is their servant, but is haunted by things that he's done to Hassan. Eventually he and his father emigrate to the US when the Russians invade Afghanistan. Many years later, after Amir's father is dead, and Amir has married, he returns to Afghanistan at the request of his father's old business partner. And there's more, but I'll won't say. Despite what my mom may say, I think it's a really good book. I like the narrative tone, and its a powerful book. I loved it. 5 stars.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Dive from Clausen's Pier, Ann Packers

This is a novel set primarily in Madison, Wisconsin. 23 year old Carrie Bell is engaged to marry her high school sweetheart Mike. She is, to her horror, beginning to find this life suffocating and is considering leaving it, when Mike gets into a diving accident and is paralyzed. What follows is a compelling and moving novel. She tries desperately to be there for Mike, but she then goes to New York to stay with some friends. She eventually returns to Madison and... Well, I won't say how it ends. It was a good book, though not exactly my favorite genre. 3 1/2 stars.

Monday, December 12, 2011

'Tis, Frank McCourt

'Tis is the second of Frank McCourt's two memoirs. The first is Angela's Ashes, a very famous book, which tells of his childhood in Ireland. In 'Tis he returns to New York, where he was originally born, and struggles to survive. At first he works in hotel lobbies and on the docks, but after a short spell in the military in Germany, on returning to New York, he enrolls in college, even though he doesn't have a high school diploma. There, he meets the love of his life (or so he thinks.) (McCourt has been married 4 times, according to my mom.) After graduating, he teaches at various vocational high schools and finally at colleges and better high schools. I liked the book, though it wasn't quite as good as Angela's Ashes. 4 stars.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Cutting for Stone, Abraham Verghese

This is a famous bestselling novel, about two twins, Marion and Shiva Stone, born in Ethiopia to an Indian nun and a British surgeon. Their mother dies and their father disappears and they are adopted by two people at Missing, the clinic, Ghosh and Hema. What follows is their amazing story. Shiva and Marion are born connected at the head. Though separated, they share a special bond. Both of them become doctors. This is an amazing story. If you don't like blood, however, you should not read it, because many operations and surgeries are witnessed in this book, including one on Shiva and Marion. It seems like Genet, the daughter of Marion and Shiva's nanny, is the cause of all the troubles of the book. She's always seeking something that she doesn't have. You'll see what I mean if you read the book. 4 stars.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Orange Trees of Versailles, Annie Pietri

I read this book on a recommendation from Juyoun, who did her first trimester book talk on it. Though it was a very easy book that I finished in about 1 hour, I still enjoyed it. It's set in 17th century France, in the court of Versailles. Marion, the gardener's daughter, is hired to work for the Marquise, the king's "favorite", who he prefers over the queen. Marion has a talent with perfumes, and makes some for the Marquise, who gives credit to somebody else. Marion soon discovers the Marquise's poisonous attitude, and a plan to poison the queen as well as the Marquise's husband. She uses her gift with scents to try and save the day. Some of the writing in this book seemed kind of odd and strange. I think that's because it was translated from the French, and perhaps the translator didn't do such a good job. However, it was still an interesting book. 3 3/4 stars.

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Art of Racing in the Rain, Garth Stein

This was a really wonderful and moving novel. It's about one family's troubles, and is narrated by the family dog, Enzo. It's at once tragic but also funny. Eve, the mother dies of brain cancer, and her parents sue Denny, the father for custody of his daughter Zoe. What follows is the bulk of the novel, in which Denny battles false accusations against him and fights to keep his daughter. All this, narrated by a dog. Enzo makes many interesting observations about humans, and hopes to become a human himself in his next life so that he can express his ideas. It's a great book. 5 stars.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Two Old Women, Velma Wallis

This is the book we've been reading in class. It's about two old women in an Alaskan Indian tribe who are abandoned in the middle of winter by the tribe. They must try to survive on their own. It's a moving book, the writing simple, lean, and muscular. It was very interesting to read about such a vastly different culture existing in such harsh weather and seasonal conditions. I've really loved doing the Socratic Seminars on this book. They're really nice. Does anyone know if we have to write an essay on it?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Fearless Girls, Wise Women, and Beloved Sisters, edited by Kathleen Ragan

This book has tales from all over the world about women heroines in all sorts of different settings. Sometimes its just quiet heroism in the house, or sometimes its the more typical quest kind of deal, but all the women in this book do something to save themselves, their family, or their town. Most of the stories were pretty interesting, coming from a wide range of places. There were Native American myths, European folktales, and African and Asian folktales. 3 1/2 stars.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Girl with the Pearl Earring, Tracy Chevalier

This was an exciting, thrilling book that I read in one day. It's a fictitious account of the girl behind Vermeer's famous painting, The Girl with the Pearl Earring. In this novel, the girl is named Griet, and has come to work at the Vermeer household as a maid. She immediately makes an enemy of one of the daughters, Cornelia, who is forever trying to undermine her and get her kicked out. Vermeer's wife also doesn't like her, but Vermeer's mother and Vermeer himself seem interested in her, as well as a certain lecherous baron. Much happens in the book, but Griet is courted by the butcher's son and eventually gets painted. It's a pretty good book. 4 stars.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

New Books!

Well, I didn't finish a book today (sorry), but I'm so excited! We have new books at the library, and Monday I'll probably be able to check them out! I've been waiting for about three weeks!
(Yes, I am nerdy, and I am a bookworm. It's a known fact. And I don't care.) :)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

State of Fear, Michael Crichton

This was an interesting book, full of suspense and lots of interesting facts about the environment (though I don't know whether they're true or not.) For those of you who were in 1st period LA last trimester (me, Juyoun, McKenzie, and Angela), you'll remember that Quinn did his book talk on it. As I said, this was a very suspenseful book, but I disagree with many of the views expressed in it. The author seems to believe that global warming doesn't exist, or that its impact on the earth is minimal, which is just WRONG. I mean seriously, global warming does exist, and you're on idiot if you think it doesn't! But I'll admit, some of the info in the book was pretty convincing. But don't get me wrong. I still believe in global warming.
I seem to be straying from the topic. This was a good book, a good adventure story, and it certainly changed how I view things. Now at least I know the arguments that people who don't believe in global warming make. 4 stars.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Tiger's Wife, Tea Obreht

Today I finished a book called The Tiger's Wife, by Tea Obreht. It was a really beautiful and moving novel, full of interwoven stories. It's about a young doctor, Natalia, in a country mending from war, whose grandfather dies mysteriously. As she searches for clues, she turns to stories he told her over the years of his encounters with "the deathless man." She also uncovers a story about her grandfather's childhood that he never told- the legend of the tiger's wife. I won't reveal what it is, but this is a really great book. It's serious and interesting, and I would recommend it to anyone who's looking for a challenging read. 5 stars.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Matched, Ally Condie

Today I finished Matched, by Allie Condie. Most of you have probably heard of it. It's a sci-fi book about this Society where all your choices are made for you: who you love, where you work, when you die. So basically, a typical dystopia.This one girl, Cassia Reyes, falls in love with a boy other than the one she's Matched with, and she has many difficult choices to make. It's a pretty good book, I guess, but there's something about the writing that repels me. I guess I would just say that it's not that suspenseful, for some reason. But it's interesting.
Another criticism I have of the book is that its sort of a typical sci-fi plot. Dystopia society, dissatisfied or rebellious main character, romance with someone forbidden, etc. It's basically very similar to many other sci-fi books. But still, it's a pretty good book, though not my favorite sci-fi. Well, I guess if this was my first sci-fi book, I'd like it, but since I've read other sci-fi books, it seems familiar. 3 stars.