Monday, July 30, 2012

A Review of 'Alive and Well in Prague, New York' by Daphne Grab

"Matisse Osgood is a New York City girl through and through.  She buys her clothes at Andy's Cheapies, watches indie films at the Angelika, and wouldn't be caught dead on a hayride.  But when he father gets sick and Matisse's parents decide to leave Manhattan for a small town in upstate New York, her perfect world crumbles.  As Matisse trudges through life in Prague, she dreams of waking up in her apartment on West 78th Street with a father who's well enough to walk with her in Central Park and a mother who doesn't pretend that everything is okay.  When rumors surround Matisse at school and her father's symptoms worsen, Matisse realizes that the friends she making in Prague are the kind you can count on.  They help Matisse find the strength to reach out to her father, who may not be as far from her as she thought.  And one particular farm boy shows Matisse that country living is a lot more magical than she ever imagined."

The things that I liked about this book can essentially be boiled down to these things:  The name 'Matisse,' Hal, and the cover.  Being a French enthusiast, it was really need to read about Matisse's parent's first meeting and how they came to name their child after a French artist.  That, to me, was really meaningful and adorable.

Hal was one of the only very like-able characters.  He had issues that he needed to work through with his parents, who were not very accepting of his passion for organic farming.  To balance this out, he knew how to handle himself-- he enjoyed meditation and had a very amiable nature to him. He listened to Matisse even when she was being horrible.  In short, while he wasn't a perfect character, he was more well-developed than the other characters in this book.

The cover is beautiful.  Along with the title of the book, I was very drawn in by the simplicity of the photography.  I love simple covers.  I do have to say though, that the model on the cover looks a bit older than sixteen, but looking at the cover from an artistic stand-point, I really do love it.

As I've briefly touched on before, I'm not a fan of the characters.  Most of the students (in this book) who lived in Prague was very stereotypical.  The head cheerleaders was beautiful and an absolute "insert-alternative-word-for-female-dog-here," nothing seemed to make Matisse or Violet happy, Marco was just... he was nice and at times a little goofy, but other than that, there really wasn't a lot to him.  The characters really fell flat for me and that made a lot of the rest of the book fall flat as well.

I didn't really like Matisse's reaction to her father having Parkinson's Disease.  I get that she was having a hard time accepting that this was happening to her father and her family, but between the students at Milo High School, Friends, and everyone else Matisse knew, they acted like he was already dead.  That's the biggest thing that bugged me.  Matisse's father's depression over this diagnosis and dealing with the symptoms was understanding.  Everyone else offered sympathy and acted like he was dead.  It's a debilitating disease, but he's still there, fully capable of functioning in certain ways.  Certainly not the way he used to before, but he can still participate.

Matisse's hate for Prague was really exhausting to read about.  She's was just very ticked off to be there.  Her mind was completely closed to what Prague, New York might offer her that New York, New York couldn't.  Even when some people tried to be nice, she claimed to hate them.  It was horrible.

The ending just got to me.  Matisse said 'sorry' and suddenly everything was better.  She found a neat boyfriend.  Violet was asked out by the guy who had been picking on her since she was four.  Suddenly Hal's problems with his parents were resolved.  The results were kind of explained, but not in a very satisfying way.

As much as I really wanted to like this book, this book was not a favorite at all.  This was a very uplifting read in that everything ends up okay and things end up kind of resolving themselves.  On another note, the was a very exhausting book.  The characters stayed within their own stereotypes (usually the average teenager who isn't really interested in anything), things that should have been big events really fell short of their potential... it just didn't work.

I give 'Alive and Well in Prague, New York':
Thanks for Reading!


Thursday, July 26, 2012

A Review of 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy' by Douglas Adams

 "Seconds before the Earth is demolished to make way for a galactic freeway, Arthur Dent is plucked off the planet by his friend ford Prefect, a researcher for the revised edition of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy who, for the last fifteen years, has been posing as an out-of-work actor.

Together, this dynamic pair begin a journey through space aided by quotes from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy ("A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have") and a galaxy-full of fellow travelers: Zaphod Beeblebrox-- the two-headed, three-armed ex-hippie and totally out-to-lunch president of the galaxy; Trillian, Zaphod's girlfriend (formally Tricia McMillan), whom Arthur tried to pick up at a cocktail party once upon a time zone; Marvin, a paranoid, brilliant, and chronically depressed robot; Veet Voojagig, a former graduate student who is obsessed with the disappearance of all the ballpoint pens he bought over the years.

Where are these pens?  Why are we born?  Why do we die?  Why do we spend so much time in between wearing digital watches?  For all the answers stick your thumb to the stars.  And don't forget to bring your towel!"

My only real experience I've had with this book is when I saw the movie and when friends of mine who have read it wanted to tell me all about how awesome it was.  Now I'm only left with only One Question: Why didn't I pick this up sooner?

No, the answer isn't forty-two.

This was a very lucky rummage sale find.  They were selling larger books for $1 and smaller ones, such as this one, for $0.50, so I'm very happy to have found this one and 'The Salmon of Doubt,' as well as an illustrated version of 'The DaVinci Code' for about $3.00 or something like that.

Any way, this is a review!  There were several neat things about this book.  I loved the names; they were quite fitting for each of the characters.  I don't know about the meaning of each name, specifically, but there was something about them that added a certain quirkiness to each character.

What makes up pretty much all of this book is humor.  And what's really neat is that it's in the face of things that should be terribly devastating: almost getting blown up by an automatic deferral system on a dormant planet, the earth exploding, the death of a whale flying through the atmosphere... it was hilarious!  No matter what time of day I decided to read this, I always ended up bursting out laughing about something.  I think part of it was that the book is written in almost a serious voice but everything that's happening is so ridiculous that you can't help but laugh!  This is definitely my kind of humor.

If you're in the market for a really funny yet simultaneously serious (kind of) book, 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy' may be the book for you!

I give 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy':
Thanks for reading!


P.S. This is apparently the 500th post I've made.  It's been a wonderful ride :)  Cheers to five hundred more!

Monday, July 23, 2012

A Review of 'Wither' by Lauren DeStefano

"What if you knew exactly when you would die?

Thanks to modern science, every newborn has become a ticking genetic time bomb-- males only live to age twenty-five, and females only live to age twenty.  In this bleak landscape, young girls are kidnapped and forced into polygamous marriages to keep the population from dying out.

When sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery is taken by the Gatherers to become a bride, she enters a world of wealth and privilege.  despite her husband Linden's genuine love for her, and a tenuous trust among her sister wives, Rhine has one purpose: to escape-- to find her twin brother and go home.

But Rhine has more to contend with than losing her freedom.  Linden's eccentric father is bent on finding an antidote to the genetic virus that is getting closer to taking his son, even if it means collecting the corpses in order to test his experiments.  With the help of Gabriel, a servant she is growing dangerously attracted to, Rhine attempts to break free, in the limited time she has left."

Now that I've finished this book, I don't really know what to say.  I'm speechless.  There were many, many things that I loved about this book and a few things that I have a bone to pick with.  to start, with the good things!

The world was terrifying and, taking everything about this book into account, it was believable.  I was easily drawn in and it was a struggle to put the book down.

The characters had diverse personalities and they interacted with each other in different ways.  Because of this, some of the characters were quite like-able.  Jenna was resilient and her only objective was survival until the inevitable, Cecily was the bouncing and excited bride, Rhine was the nice one who intended to escape.

I thought that it was really neat that Rhine thought of the other two wives as her sisters.  That was just something that was kind of important for me.  I thought that a lot of the book was going to be about the three wives competing for the affections of Linden, but that wasn't the case at all.  It was quite the opposite, actually.

The things that I didn't like were pretty basic parts of the plot.  I spent a lot of the book wondering, "Why would DeStefano choose North America as the only surviving continent?"  I'm probably not as up to date on global affairs as I should be, so the answer could be very obvious, but I'm completely missing it.  I did appreciate that DeStefano seemed to take Global Warming into account.  The weather was very strange in several of the settings and of course, every other country is underwater in this book.

Another thing that bothered me was how little credit Rhine gave Cecily.  She often refers to Cecily as something along the lines of a young, happy, and excitable bride, because she's thirteen/fourteen in this book.  She calls Cecily naive and at times, yes, she is, but Rhine seems to forget that Cecily is growing up in the same world that she is.  She's certainly not stupid and she knows what's going on.  Cecily's character is so complicated because, despite being a brat and not the most liked person in the sprawling mansion, she is forced into so many roles that she gets confused.  She is an orphan, then transformed into a bride, suddenly she's pregnant and she's left out because she's the youngest, then she's a mother who isn't allowed to take care of her own child.  Cecily is contemptible, but I can't bring myself to altogether hate her because she's going through all of this stuff that no girl her age should ever have to go through.  I have to say that I like Cecily more than Rhine because she's such a round and well-developed character whereas Rhine is older and essentially a one-track mind that's set on escape.

Speaking of Rhine wanting to escape, I couldn't help but side with Jenna on this.  Rhine is so set on escaping that it essentially consumes her.  My question is, why would she want to leave when she has so much going for her here in Florida?  I understand that she is worried about her twin, but Rowan seems to be the kind of character that's interested in survival.  Wouldn't you think that he'd leave if he didn't think that Rhine was ever going to come back?  So that leaves me with the same question.  If Rhine went back to Manhattan, she would have to deal with the Gatherers again, she would have to worry about being snatched, she would have to worry about all of the things that go into basic survival.  It seems that, despite being away from her family, the mansion is really better for her.  Housemaster Vaughn (I have more to say about him next) really seems to be the worst thing about the mansion, so why not try and pluck him off rather than getting out and feeling his apparent wrath later?

One thing that I don't really understand is the character of Housemaster Vaughn.  I agree, he's a frightening doctor that is a little out of his mind, but there's something about him that makes him seem like he's just words and no action.  There's no proof that he killed Jenna, though her death at the earlier than early age of nineteen by the virus is suspicious, I'll admit.  There are things that he apparently says and does, but how many times has he actually done anything that we, the readers, know about before the characters do?  We haven't seen anything Rhine hasn't seen and she hasn't directly seen Vaughn do anything.  She saw him feeding his grandchild a bottle, but that's the worst thing he's done.  He's said things that are much worse and he's more like this ever-watching doctor of the house.  He's a character that I will be interested in seeing more development in the coming books.

Rhine's relationship with Gabriel seems rushed and I think DeStefano kind of acknowledges this when Rhine admits that she hasn't had time to know how she feels towards anyone.  I like the idea of Rhine and Gabriel, but despite that, their relationship seems like some conversations and several kisses.  I'll be interested in seeing how this develops as well in the coming books.

Overall, this was a very thought-provoking read with an interesting setting and back story.  I can't wait to see how things turn out in the next two books, which I will for sure be reading.

I give 'Wither':
Thanks for Reading!


Friday, July 20, 2012

Thanks To You Wonderful People, There Are Now...

200+ Followers!!!

This happened a few weeks ago, but I've at last reached 200+ followers!  Thank you so much for supporting me and ultimately encouraging me to read and review a variety of books.  Thank you so much!

I guess this would be the time to announce a 200+ follower giveaway, but I have nothing but my gratitude to offer you fine people.  I'm not yet equipped to do giveaways, but once I am, I assure you, there will be a little extravaganza of giveaways.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, and keep your eyes peeled for the future!


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Review of 'Maus II: And Here My Troubles Began' by Art Spiegelman

"Acclaimed as a quiet triumph and a brutally moving work of art, the first volume of Art Spiegelman's Maus introduced readers to Vladek Spiegelman, a Jewish survivor of Hitler's Europe, and his son, a cartoonist trying to come to terms with his father, his father's terrifying story, and History itself.  Its form, the cartoon (the Nazis are cats, the Jews mice), succeeds perfectly in shocking us out of any lingering sense of familiarity with the events described, approaching, as it does, the unspeakable through the diminutive.

The second volume, subtitled And Here My Troubles Began, moves us from the barracks of Auschwitz to the bungalows of the Catskills.  Genuinely tragic and comic by turns, it attains a complexity of theme and precision of thought new to comics and rare in any medium.  Maus ties together two powerful stories: Vladek's harrowing tale of survival against all odds, delineating the paradox of daily life in the death camps, and the author's account of his tortured relationship with his aging father.  At every level this is the ultimate survivor's tale-- and that too of the children who somehow survive even the survivors."

In this next installment, things become much darker for Vladek.  The story picks up where it left off in 'My Father Bleeds History' and Vladek and his family are being shipped off to concentration camps.  Vladek is moved to one of the most well-known concentration camps, Auschwitz.

It is not hard to feel the desperation-- a different kind of desperation than before Vladek and his family were captured-- of living in this type of environment (though, as I'm fairly certain I said before, those of us who were not in the concentration camp system will never truly know what it's like).  Nearly everyone is hungry, no one is clean, and gradually, everyone becomes sick, which means many will die because of the lack of resources.

It's scary to have pictures, cartoons or otherwise, of everything that happens in Auschwitz.  There are a number of pictures of the large chimneys that are connected to the ovens where no one hopes to go.  They are ominous and send shivers up my spine.

While Auschwitz is a major part of this installment, it's not what makes up this entire part.  We are also exposed to the familial strains between Art and his father and Vladek gets older and more curmudgeonly.  It's uncomfortable to read, because it's like picking sides between two people you like.  Sometimes Art is being unruly and you feel that Vladek it being wronged, but other times Vladek is just being irritating and you're leaning towards Art in the situation.  The reader is pulled in so many different directions that it's very confusing.

The second installment of 'Maus' is just as good, if not better than, the first installment.  I would recommend this book for sure if you've read Part I, but otherwise if you are interested in learning more about the Holocaust in what feels like a situation you are actually witnessing.  Art Spiegelman is a talented cartoonist that knows how to tell a real-life story in an effective way.

I give 'Maus: And Here My Troubles Begin':
Thanks for Reading!


Monday, July 16, 2012

A Review of 'Friends, Lovers, Chocolate' by Alexander McCall Smith

"In this delightful new addition to Alexander McCall Smith's bestselling detective series, the irrepressible Isabel Dalhousie gets caught up in a highly unusual affair of the heart.

When Isabel is asked to cover for vacationing Cat at her delicatessen, she meets a man with a most interesting problem.  He recently had a heart transplant and is haunted by memories of events that never happened to him.  The situation piques her insatiable curiosity: Could the memories be connected with the donor's demise?

That makes for some particularly tricky problems-- both practical and philosophical-- for Isabel to unravel in this enormously engaging and highly unusual mystery."

'Highly unusual' would be a nearly perfect description for this book.  I wasn't anticipating anything that came my way, mostly because I've read very basic detective novels where the main character had their hearts set on being a detective or an investigator of some sort instead of merely interested in why something was happening as Isabel Dalhousie is.

This book is for my Irish and Scottish Literature class, which, incidentally, I have yet to start.  I don't move into the dorms for another month and a half and classes start on September 5.  I'm happy to say that this book makes me very excited for this class!

Things started out pretty slowly in this book, but gradually picked up the pace after getting to know the characters (or perhaps getting reacquainted with them since this is the second book in a series of two).

I loved how so much of this book was bound in philosophy.  Not necessarily classical philosophy (as far as I remember, no character quoted Socrates or any of those other well-known names), but just asking a lot of questions and thinking about the situation at hand in philosophical terms.

A nice change in this book is that it was humorous compared to the previous books that I've been reading which have tended to be more dark and serious.  So while 'Friends, Lovers, Chocolate' has its own dark and serious moments, there were more times where I couldn't hold back a laugh because of something Isabel said or because of a most unexpected conversation between a couple of characters.  Mr. McCall Smith has discovered a beautiful balance of thoughtfulness and humor!

The characters are quite nice too.  McCall Smith did a nice job of making sure every character had their own voice.  In other words, no two characters acted or sounded alike.  Each had different thoughts, were quirky in some ways, and their professions were diverse, which was very neat for me.  While it happens, I don't think all of one's friends need to have the same profession as you.  The conversations are a lot more interesting if one branches out more, I've discovered.

'Friends, Lovers, Chocolate' is a very interesting philosophical mystery that will appeal to book clubs, Irish and Scottish Literature classes, and those who just love to think and laugh.  One day, I will read 'The Sunday Philosophy Club' so that I might have read all of the Isabel Dalhousie books.  She's very charming!

I give 'Friends, Lovers, Chocolate':
Thanks for Reading!


Friday, July 13, 2012

Memes! On Friday!

Welcome to a late-night Friday!  Tonight, I plan on answering the questions posed by Jennifer @ Crazy-for-Books, Parajunkee, and Ginger @ GReads.  Feel free to answer these questions yourself!  Here we go!

How long does it take you to read a book?

I try to finish a single book in a week or less, but it really depends on the book I'm currently reading and what else is going on in my life.  If I'm really motivated and free, I could finish a book in a couple of days.  If I'm not so motivated and really busy, it could take me months (and in one particular case, years) to finish a book.  So it really varies.  But I also read more than one book at a time.

Quotes That Make You Swoon: What are some of the most swoon-worthy quotes you've experienced in a book?
“I'm in love with you," he said quietly.
"Augustus," I said.
"I am," he said. He was staring at me, and I could see the corners of his eyes crinkling. "I'm in love with you, and I'm not in the business of denying myself the simple pleasure of saying true things. I'm in love with you, and I know that love is just a shout into the void, and that oblivion is inevitable, and that we're all doomed and that there will come a day when all our labor has been returned to dust, and I know the sun will swallow the only earth we'll ever have, and I am in love with you.”
That's from 'The Fault in Our Stars' by John Green.  It's amazing.  The title is also a link, if you haven't noticed. 

What drove you to start book blogging in the first place?

I was perusing the blogosphere and I noticed that a number of people were writing about the books they were reading.  I decided that I liked blogging about what I was reading, so I continued it and I just haven't truly gotten tired of it.

Those are my answers to these questions.  What are yours?  Feel free to leave a link to your answers below and I will try my best to stop by and visit you this weekend!

Thanks for Reading!


Monday, July 2, 2012

A Review of 'Le Petit Prince/The Little Prince' by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

"The Little Prince, published in 1943, is French aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's most famous novella. Saint-Exupéry wrote it while living in the United States. It has been translated into more than 180 languages and sold more than 80 million copies making it one of the best selling books ever. An earlier memoir by the author recounts his aviation experiences in the Saharan desert. He is thought to have drawn on these same experiences for use as plot elements in The Little Prince."

I read this for my college French class (except, since it was the end of school, I looked up the ENGLISH VERSION and read it that way because I was way too lazy to go through and translate everything... Senioritis, word).

Normally, I don't review children's books, but this one is kind of a book for children and "pour les grandes personnes."  The pictures are simplistic (you'll find out why right away) and the concepts are easy enough for a child to understand, but there are also concepts for adults to understand that are, at times, challenging to face.  

What's really neat about this book is that the Little Prince (le Petit Prince) goes on all sorts of intergalactic adventures.  His home planet is not earth.  It is an asteroid!  And so are many of the other places that he visits whilst planet hopping.  He visits a king that rules over space, but makes perfectly reasonable orders for his subjects.  He meets a business man, a geographer, and a drunkard, among other things.  

With each person he visits, he learns something else about life and the psyche of an adult.  In a way, as the Little Prince is going through his adventures, children will learn a little bit about the world and adults readers will learn a thing or two about themselves.  The Little Prince is very much a child in the beginning of the story as he tells of his routine every day, sweeping out his volcanoes and taking care of the rose who was his friend.  By the end of the story, he is still a child, but a more enlightened one, in a way.

Overall, this is an adorable and very insightful book.  I give "Le Petit Prince/The Little Prince":
Thanks for reading!


P.S. There is another review about intergalactic adventures coming soon.  Keep your eyes peeled!