Extra Books – February 21 to 27

  • The Art of War by Sun Tzu
    • Why I picked it up: Another book for school reading
    • Rating: 3
    • Challenges: 100+
    • My Thoughts:
      • Well, this isn’t really a novel or nonfiction book that I can review properly. It really depends on what translation you have, but I didn’t really pay attention to the translator’s notes/interpretations. On the whole, a very handy little book. I love stuff like this that’s still relevant and meaningful thousands of years later.
  • Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
    • Published: September 1961
    • Genre: Historical fiction/satire
    • Why I picked it up: On my TBR list
    • Rating: 4.5 stars
    • Challenges: 2011 TBR Pile | 100+
    • My Thoughts: 
      • I FINALLY FINISHED IT OMG. I buckled down on Tuesday and read 300 pages or so. 
      • I really did enjoy this book, promise. I’ve never really read any war novels or books so satirical as this one, so this was a first for me. I can see why everyone makes such a big deal about it, though! I love the balance of humourous and serious moments. When you finally read about the event that transformed Yossarian, it’s pretty heartbreaking. 
      • Hrrm…it’s too big for me to reflect upon -.- (yeah, I’m being lazy XP I have a lot on my mind right now, gah).
      • I particularly liked Yossarian, Major Major and the chapters about Milo (although I didn’t like Milo himself, of course).
      • I particularly liked The Soldier Who Saw Everything Twice. There were lots of other parts I remember. But that one sticks in my mind :/ And the chapter Colonel Catchart. Silly Colonel.
  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy
    • Published: September 2006
    • Genre: Post-apocalyptic fiction
    • Why I picked it up: Needed to read it for school
    • Rating: 4 stars
    • Challenges: 100+
    • My Thoughts:
      • I am in love with the writing style used in this book. There isn’t much more to say there XD Everything about it, I love. This book will probably serve well as future inspiration.
      • In class we discussed how it isn’t really about two characters, it’s about the relationship. I completely agree. The portrayal of the father/son relationship is part of what makes this book so strong.
      • Sometimes with the pronouns it would get confusing. Because it’s just ‘the man’ and ‘the boy’ so all pronouns are he and I got a little lost in some sentences. But that’s an exceptionally minor complaint.
      • I was highly disappointed in the last five pages or so, however. SPOILERS AHEAD.
      • I was quite prepared for the father to die of his illness, but I thought there would be more tragedy. I was sure the boy was going to die also and I thought it would be at the hands of the bad guys or the man being forced to shoot him. Alas, it was not so. The ending of the book was the least emotional part for me :/ Oh well, at least I was more invested in the style of the book than the story!

Ray Bradbury – Something Wicked This Way Comes

Author: Ray Bradbury
Title:  Something Wicked This Way Comes
Published: 1962
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Length: 289 pages
Genre: Light fantasy/horror
Target age: 12+
Why I picked it up: Inspired Neil Gaiman
Rating: 3.5 stars
Challenges: 100+
Buy: Chapters | Barnes and Noble | Check your local bookstore!

What a fun read! A bit scary, of course. But enjoyable. I rarely rarely read ‘horror’ (I can’t even think of a solid example of something ‘horrorish’ that I have read), but this is probably the closest I’ve come to horror in a fictional novel format. I honestly didn’t find it very frightening or terrifying or anything. My favourite aspects of the book were the characterization of the boys and Bradbury’s writing style.

I’m not sure what I was expecting when I started this book. I think I was anticipating more story/plot than character, but I ended up really liking Jim and Will more than I liked the plot. An excerpt of how Bradbury describes the boys:

The trouble with Jim was he looked at the world and could not look away. And when you never look away all your life, by the time you are thirteen you have done twenty years taking in the laundry of the world.

Will Halloway, it was in him young to always look just beyond, over or to one side. So at thirteen he had only saved up six years of staring.

Will and Jim may be well-established archetypes of young boys(Jim, the darker, mysterious, more mature; Will, the more innocent, cautious, tag along) but placed in Bradbury’s hands and executed with his style they come alive in a refreshing way. I also liked how the relationship between Will and his older-than-average Dad played out; I liked how the Dad was eventually a major character.

Bradbury is also evidently a master of the short sentence, long sentence style. I hope this isn’t just something I’m making up; hopefully you understand what I mean. He’s very very good at the short sentences and he’s also very very good at the rambling ones. He knows how to place every word he chooses to use. A rambling sentence:

A carnival should be all growls, roars like timberlands stacked, bundled, rolled and crashed, great explosions of lion dust, men ablaze with working anger, pop bottles jangling, horse buckles shivering, engines and elephants in full stampeded through rains of sweat while zebras neighed and trembled like cage trapped in cage.

And some of the shorter ones:

The sun rose yellow as a lemon.
The sky was round and blue.
The birds looped clear water songs in the air.
Will and Jim leaned from their windows.
Nothing had changed. Except the look in Jim’s eyes.

These examples also shows you what I like about his descriptive prose. I find passages like the one above, combined with shorter, handful of word paragraphs, are a pleasure to read. I get this feeling of very clean, sharp, vibrant prose from Bradbury. Everything he writes is used just right. I think I could learn a lot from this book. Bradbury’s style is very good. I am not very eloquent, forgive me, all I can think of is ‘very good’. But I think he writes with a good style, one that holds up against the test of time. If I could write half as good as Bradbury does, that would be a nice start. I look forward to exploring his other works.

The merry go round was running, yes, but…
It was running backwards!
The small calliope inside the carousel machinery rattled-snapped its nervous-stallion shivering drums, clashed its harvest-moon cymbals, toothed its castanents, and throatily choked and sobbed its reeds, whistles, and baroque flutes.
The music, Will thought, it’s backwards, too!

 Afterthought: Yes, I did immediately notice some parallels between this and Cornelia Funke’s The Thief Lord. I liked Cornelia’s story a lot more, but it does make me wonder if she was inspired by this one. Which wouldn’t at all be a bad thing! I’m just curious about things like that. 


Extra Books – February 14 to 20

  •  The Liar’s Club by Mary Karr
    • Published: 1995
    • Genre: Memoir
    • Why I picked it up: Had to read it for school, didn’t, am now
    • Rating: 2.5 stars
    • Challenges: Memorable Memoirs | 100+
    • My Thoughts: 
      • Meh. This book was unsatisfying for me, somehow. I didn’t feel like a lot happened and the ending especially was dull. That being said, it is a memoir and therefore based on a person’ life. But still. The story being told wasn’t one I was really interesting.
      • I did like bits and pieces of the prose. Karr can write, that’s for certain. I liked how she would make note of where her memories turned fuzzy and of things that just completely blacked out of her mind.
      • I feel like too much was left out about the mother. It seemed to me that the reader wasn’t being given chunks of information and I felt confused about all that. If you know what I mean. ^^;
      • My favourite part was when they crossed the Orange Bridge during a hurricane. I think it was really well-written and it reminded me of the nightmares I used to have about crossing exceptionally high and long narrow bridges that twisted back and forth like they were trying to throw you off.
      • Maybe it’s just that I wasn’t in the mood to read this type of story and was forcing myself through it, but I definitely enjoyed The Glass Castle a lot more than this book. I guess it just wasn’t for me :/

Barbara Kingsolver – Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

Author: Barbara Kingsolver with Steven L. Hopp and Camille Kingsolver
Title: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle
Published: April 2007
Publisher: HarperCollins
Length: 352 pages
Genre: Food memoir
Why I picked it up: Browsing Amazon for ‘food’ books, this one looked good
Rating: 3.5 stars
Challenges: 100+ | Foodie’s 
Buy: Barnes and Noble | Chapters | Check your local bookstore!

This is the first book I’ve read this year that I picked out specifically for a challenge and wasn’t planning on reading before I discovered said challenge. I suppose the whole point of a challenge is to discover new books you wouldn’t have otherwise and I’m glad that I came across this book.  Sidenote: I’m a tad exhausted right now and feeling a little scatterbrained, so this review might show that ^^;

Animal, Miracle, Vegetable is the story of one family’s year-long foray into eating locally, mainly off of food grown by themselves on their Appalachian farm. Barbara, the mother of the family, writes most of the book. Her husband and eldest daughter provide sidebars, with Steven writing about ways the ‘average person’ can become more involved, including with links to learn more, and Camille writing short essays about a teenager’s perspective (the next generation, that’s going to have deal with the brunt on the mess of climate change [my generation, eep!]) and recipes to conclude each chapter. I enjoyed this set up, it was heartwarming in a way to see a whole family work together on a book like this and Steven and Camille’s pieces really filled out the knowledge contained in this book. The younger daughter, Lily, was too young to write anything for the book but she was an important character in this story. The acknowledgements at the end conclude with ‘And we thank Lily for absolutely everything – plus eggs. If you think she’s a charming character in this book, you should see her walk out the front door.’ I enjoyed the balance of the saga of living on the farm and the snapshots into different areas of the food industry (such as GMOs, meat production, education, etc.). There’s something for everyone in this book.

My favourite aspect of this book is probably the tone that Barbara told her story in. Read: I liked how she didn’t come off preachy. It is so easy for someone in her situation, who has the vantage point to preach to the masses that how she does things (i.e., buy local, organic, etc.) is the right and best and only way. I didn’t get that at all from this book. The author(s) explained their decisions and backed up those decisions, but there wasn’t any ‘If everyone does not starting living like we do, the world will end.’ I felt more like she and her family wanted to tell their story so that other people, people like me who are stuck in the city and not really paying attention to how they eat, could see that there are other options.

For me, this book is the straw that broke the camel’s back. For the past year or two, I’ve been making little lists, notes to self, etc. about how I want to live my life when I’m out and on my own, however many years off that time may be (I’m one of those people who yearn for and thrive on independence XP). In a few weeks, I’ll be turning 19. Year one of being an official adult complete. When I put it that way, I got kind of fed up with myself. I shouldn’t have to wait until I move out to change my lifestyle. I can start now and it’s really more important than ever on a global scale that I do start now. I’m starting by trying to replace store-bought foods with homemade ones (ex. this week I made granola bars and chocolate pudding. When my sister approves these recipes, there’ll be no reason to by individual packaged puddings and granola bars for school lunches. I can make them, they’ll be cheaper, cut down on waste and tastier.). Then when summer comes around, I’m going to start looking for more environmentally or people friendly (ie. fair trade) ingredients to make these foods with. Anyhow. Enough about that. That’s a post for my other blog 😛 The point is, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle inspired me to make these changes and I think that’s a very good thing.

Extra Books – January 30 to February 6

  •  Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
    • Published: July 1998
    • Genre: Magical fantasy
    • Why I picked it up: Rereading the series
    • Rating: 3.5 stars
    • Challenges: Harry Potter 2011 | 100+
    • My Thoughts: 
      • What I find most interesting about the first couple of Harry Potter books (and I suspect this will continue until the fourth or fifth book) is how little happens in them! Haha. I know there’s a mammoth plot and back story galore to come, but there’s very little of that in the first two books at least. I liked how this one gave you a few more tidbits about Voldemort and how powerful he used to be (through giving more information about Lucius Malfoy, who I am discovering this time around is kind of deliciously malevolent). But still. Whatever happened in this book won’t be recognized as important til later on. This one had a little more substance than the introductory book, but it still felt mostly like a fun kids series. Oh, how I look forward to what lies ahead…

I’ve fallen behind quite a bit on my reading schedule. I’ve signed out of the library a lot of books I thought I should read but end up having not interest in (Faulkner = definitely not for me) so I end up dropping them, at a loss with what to read next. but, I’ve been reading at least two books a week which is where my reading habits of a few years used to be (well, a few years ago I would read three or four books a week but the books I would read then were much easier reads and a lot shorter). An improvement over last year, at least, which is satisfying in its own way.