Review: Frankenstein

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The story of Frankenstein that is in the public consciousness is so far removed from the actual novel that Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley wrote, that I can hardly equate the two. I could see glimpses of things that are considered part of the Frankenstein lore, but it seems that the popular idea of it couldn’t be more off the mark of Shelley’s intention if it tried. So, if you haven’t read the novel (or at least a synopsis, although I’m not sure how you could really get an idea of the novel from just that), this is going to sound completely opposite to the idea of Frankenstein that you may have.

It’s popular these days to reiterate over and over that Frankenstein wasn’t the monster, he was the man who created it. But, is that really true? Sure, the creature that Victor Frankenstein assembled and brought to life never had a proper name (the wretch or fiend is the most common way it is addressed), but Victor himself is a very dangerous man. He sort of admits this in the narrative, but in many ways the horrors that he experiences are compounded by how little ownership he takes in the whole thing. Honestly, this male ego that he displays is still kind of around, most recently depicted in that terrible Gamergate nonsense. Instead of going after the monster immediately upon realizing that he should not have imbued a creature with life, he just pretends it didn’t even happen. Victor (I’m going to keep referring to him by his first name so as to not cause confusion) is able to delude himself completely until he receives word that his younger brother has been murdered.

He returns to the scene of the crime in order to grieve and make sense of everything, when he sees the monster in a flash of lightning, at a distance. He suddenly realizes that the monster murdered his brother. Then, when a servant (sort of, hard to explain) of the family is accused of the crime, he doesn’t even speak in her defense, despite knowing that she is innocent. He is too afraid to be seen as a nutjob to talk to the court himself and insist that he saw the murderer. So poor Justine receives the death penalty. Sure, he feels bad about it, but not bad enough to do anything. What a sociopath.

He goes on some sort of spiritual quest or something to be alone in the mountains, and comes across the creature. He insists that Victor listen to his story of what has happened to him since his creation. The story is pretty sad, because essentially he spies on some poor people that live in a French cottage, learn their language and customs, helps them out by supplying firewood every day, and then when he introduces himself those people get out of town as fast as possible. He realizes that he will never be able to have companions, and that he will be forever alone. He asks Victor to create a female mate for him so that he will have companionship. Victor suddenly grows a conscience and refuses (albeit partway through the creation of Mrs. Monster). The monster is enraged, and murders his best friend (although I seriously felt some homo-erotic vibes going on between Victor and Henry Clerval. Just me?), and tries to pin it on Victor. Victor is so distraught that he goes into some kind of catatonic episode for several months, waking to find himself in a jail cell or dungeon.

Through events that I couldn’t entirely follow, Victor is released into the care of his father, who asks him to put all this tragedy behind him and marry his adopted sister. (Ah, the 1800s when this wasn’t weird at all.) He agrees, mostly because the monster had threatened him, saying he would reappear on his wedding night, which, Victor assumes – since the world begins and ends with himself – that the monster is threatening to kill him. I don’t know if the readers of this book in the early 19th century saw this coming, but I know anyone reading this blog right now totally knows that Elizabeth is gonna get it. Afterward, Victor has one plan in mind, and that is revenge. Especially since his father dies days later, in apparent grief over Elizabeth’s murder.

He isn’t successful. He chases the monster pretty far north, and in exhaustion and from exposure, dies after conveniently telling the whole story to a ship’s captain. So not only was he not successful in killing the monster, he waited way too long to do it. He avoids responsibility the entire time. In some of his less lucid catatonia, he apparently wails about how he has murdered his family members and friends, but he doesn’t ever really own up to his part in this entire thing. His end goal after he is alone is to seek revenge. He never reflects on what damage he has inflicted on the creature he created.

Victor and his monster aren’t so different. When Victor has everyone taken away from him, he also turns to violence. The monster has nothing, so Victor’s object is to kill him. The monster wants revenge too, but mostly he wants Victor to really feel how miserable his existence is. I’m sure books could be and have been written about all of the themes in this book. It was seriously amazing.

The only slight detraction was the writing itself. Modern book publishing is an entirely different animal, and editing really helps get ideas across clearly and concisely. This book could have benefited from some editing, although it is way more readable than many other novels written hundreds of year ago. There are a lot of lengthy poetic descriptions of things and feelings that don’t really add much to the story. It’s not a fast-paced thriller like a modern day version would be. But the horror element is definitely not the core to the story. Science run amuck, personal responsibility, and what makes a true monster are much more interesting themes in this story.

4 stars.

This book completes the book more than 100 years old, and a book you were supposed to read in school but didn’t requirement for the challenge.

100 Picture Books: 85-81

This batch was slightly off for a few reasons. It seemed like the books I liked best were not Peanut-friendly. The ones I disliked, she gravitated toward. Goes to show, you can’t predict kids.

The first iteration of this post, on Zwolanerd.com, was missing The Giving Tree because I somehow skipped it.

Imagen escaneada85. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

This is the first book on the list that we already had an have read a bunch of times. If you haven’t read this one (and I only read it for the first time after we bought it for Peanut), a boy spends a lot of time sitting under, playing around, and eating the apples of a tree, presumably in his backyard but we aren’t ever told. Over time, the boy grows up and has less need of the tree, except for the primary resources that he can extract from it (apples to sell, wood to build with, etc), and the tree freely gives everything she has but misses the company of the boy. In the end, the boy is an old man, and too old to do much of anything but sit. So the tree offers her stump – all that’s left – and the boy stays with the tree, presumably dying right there. And since the boy is with the tree, the tree is happy.

If you think about this too much, it is really messed up, but I get that it’s a somewhat sweet story of love and friendship, and even forgiveness. Critics/readers are pretty divided on the whole thing, and there’s a collection of essays on the book that go between positive and negative interpretations. Personally, I take the book as a parent-child relationship, and see it as how children take and take and parents give and give, and there are no hard feelings from the parents, despite how they could be seen as being “used”. I feel like as a parent, you give of yourself, and your children take those “pieces” of you, like apples or branches, and create something with them. I hope that in the end, they reflect on those sacrifices and appreciate it.

Oh, and I should mention that Peanut really likes this book a lot, in case the fact that we’ve read it a bunch of times didn’t make that clear.

not-a-box85. Not a Box by Antoinette Portis

This is a short one, where a Rabbit has a cardboard box and imagines all the different pretend things the box can be. The box and Rabbit are in black and the imaginary things are in red. This is another one where the reader needs to make inferences, and I felt like I had to explain it. She didn’t really ask for it to be read too many times.

The book was inspired by the author’s own childhood play and use of cardboard boxes, with one specific memory of sitting in a box with her sister being the catalyst. She also chose a bunny because it would be easy to keep the character gender neutral.

bear_snores_on84. Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson

This book was cute and easy to read because it is written in rhyming stanzas. A bear is sleeping in a cave and all the neighboring animals come and have a party in his cave while he sleeps. Peanut didn’t really seem to enjoy this one although it seemed to be one she should like. We have a different book about the same bear that she enjoyed.

This author is pretty prolific and we have read many of her books before, so I was surprised to read that Bear Snores On was her very first! Maybe that’s the problem, it suffers from New Writer Syndrome.

VisitorForBear83. A Visitor For Bear by Bonny Becker

This one was definitely a favorite. A bear (a different bear) is making his breakfast and a mouse keeps somehow sneaking in. The bear insists on no visitors but eventually the mouse wears him down. He realizes that he does like visitors after all. It was pretty cute and Peanut requested it several times.

I was delighted to discover this book is the first in a series. This was the author’s first book (a lot of first books on this list so far!), and came up because the mouse just “popped into” her head, much like the mouse does in the story.

fortunately82. Fortunately by Remy Charlip

Not sure what I was expecting from this book, but this wasn’t it. It’s a pretty short story, with alternating phrases. Fortunately, such and such happened, but unfortunately, this happened. Then fortunately… And repeat until the end. It got a little annoying to read. But Peanut asked for it a couple of times and seemed to enjoy it, although her favorite page was the tunnel with tigers stuck in it, mostly because she liked tracing the shape of the tunnel with her fingers.

This book was acquired and republished by Simon and Schuster in 1969 replacing the “fortunately” with “what good luck,” and “unfortunately” with “what bad luck.” It reverted back not long after, but acquiring the modified book can be a rare find and worth some cash.

———

Books 80-76 are on their way, including the first purchase I’ve had to make to complete this project!

Review: You’ve Been Warned

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When I set out to find a badly reviewed book for this challenge, I was anticipating a doozy. I have to admit, it could have been worse. Probably an unpopular opinion, but this isn’t any worse than Twilight. In fact, in this book’s defense, I actually finished it in about 3 days. So, it at least intrigued me enough to keep going at a fairly rapid pace.

But make no mistake, this is not a good book. Apparently Mr. Patterson churned out 6 other books the same year this one came out (2007), so his mind wasn’t exactly on crafting a work of art. And it’s not clear who actually wrote it, or how the work was otherwise divided by two authors.

The basic plot is that Kristin Burns is a photographer who has apparently made some bad choices and had a lot of trauma in her life. She takes some photos of a police scene outside of a hotel and notices that her photos are developing weirdly. Specifically, certain portions have a translucent quality. After awhile, strange people start interacting with her, including people she knows are dead. They keep trying to warn her to stay away from the married man she is sleeping with. But it turns out she’s been dead too this whole time … I think. Maybe. She might be dead. Or maybe not. It’s hard to tell.

There are a lot of problems with this book. Let’s start with superficial nitpicks. The author is constantly name-dropping brands in a way that make it sound like product placement. The phrasing is rough. Sometimes I needed to re-read sentences a few times to understand the meaning. Kristin’s decent into madness seems bizarre and hard to follow. If she was dead the whole time, the book didn’t do a good job of explaining that. Kristin’s interior monologue is ridiculous. When the other woman is introduced, she is given a mafia nickname – Penley “the Pencil”. All the chapters (which are all about 3-4 pages) end on a cliffhanger.

But my biggest problem is how the book seems to blame Kristin for being a scared teenager, giving birth in a hotel, and losing her baby. The book could have gone into some interesting territory. She was molested as a child by her pediatrician. Her father committed suicide after her mother told him he was worthless. Then she gets pregnant and gives birth without assistance in a hotel, after which the baby dies? (I kinda want to know what happened to the boyfriend there, it’s never clear if they break up or he just disappears.) By this point, Kristin is probably all kinds of messed up. Maybe she thinks she is a garbage person and only deserves a married man. But the book never addresses those interesting threads it could have taken. The character of Kristin instead seems like a master of completely distancing herself from her past, and acting like since Michael and Penley don’t have a perfect marriage, then the affair is completely justified. She even admonishes herself for “cheating” by going on a blind date. How’s that for cognitive dissonance? You are already cheating lady, by sleeping with a married man.

This book would have been way better if it was completely dismantled and rewritten. I felt like I was reading it that I couldn’t really get at the character of Kristin, and my initial thought is that two men just don’t know how to write the experience of a woman convincingly. Maybe that’s not totally fair, but it does seem to not really encapsulate the female experience. Poor writing is poor writing, however, so maybe it would have been less noticeable in a better crafted book.

1 star

This book fulfills the book with bad reviews requirement for the challenge.

 

Review: Beloved

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This review was kind of a hard one to write, because my feelings on the book are a little mixed. There’s part of me that can recognize the genius in this book and see why it has become part of the American literature elite, why it appears on so many syllabi, and how it has received all the accolades that it has. But the other part of me just didn’t enjoy it at all. And not for the obvious reason – that the subject matter is about as enjoyable as a funeral – but because it just wasn’t a novel that really got to me the way I like a serious novel to get to me. It was so confusing and vague that I had a hard time knowing exactly what was happening, and that seriously impacted how I experienced it.

The book is a strange mixture of slavery narrative, a story about motherhood and risking everything to protect your children, and a ghost story about mistakes coming back to hurt you. The part about the slavery is less a history lesson and more of a backdrop, which is a common criticism of the book but not one that bothered me. What bothered me was that I couldn’t follow the through-line at all. I ended up having to read a summary in order to figure out exactly what happened, because it wasn’t clear at all. There were some parts that were repeated over and over so there was no mistaking what had happened, but I felt like those were ancillary to the story. The actual story of what happened to these people was vague and fuzzy. This was, perhaps, by design, because the book is just as much about memory as it is about anything else, and how trauma shapes those memories. It was, however, a fatal flaw for me, because without understanding the true horror of what happened, the act that Sethe takes to protect her children (namely, murder of one and attempted murder of the rest of her children when the slave owner finds her) seemed too rash and almost inexplicable. Almost as though the event was just tossed in for sport or sensationalism, when the entire book actually hangs on this one incident.

The infanticide is based on the true story of Margaret Garner, a slave who escaped and killed her two-year-old daughter rather than let her experience the horror of slavery. Toni Morrison based her entire story on this, and of a vision or idea she had of a ghost coming out of the water – the ghost of the child that had been killed, all grown up and back for … revenge? Reunion? It’s hard to say. This is not the part that turned me off. It’s admittedly the minutiae – what happened to Halle? Was Sethe raped? Why does it mean that they “took her milk”? Was Beloved real? Did she become pregnant? How exactly did the escape from Sweet Home go? Did I even read this book, or did I just imagine that I did? The mysticism and vagueness of some of the plot doesn’t bother me as much, but I have to say that I was so confused that I didn’t really grasp what I was reading.

I don’t like to waste time re-reading books, because there are so many books to read and one’s life is only so long. But I feel like in order to understand the basic plot of this book, several readings are in order. And if you have to really dig into a summary or re-readings in order to understand the general thread of what happened, I feel like that is a major failure.

I find it difficult to really pinpoint or make clear what I disliked about this book so much, because as I describe it, it seems powerful and amazing. But that just did not carry over in the actual reading of it. Important Novels (with an uppercase I) should have a power to sweep you away and give you something to turn over in your mind, but all the thoughts I had over this book were less of thinking about issues that it could have raised and more about what exactly did I just read?

3 stars

This book fulfills the based on a true story requirement for the challenge.

Reading Challenge July Wrap Up

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I got back into the swing of things this month, even though it didn’t really feel like I got much reading done. I kind of did it all in spurts. I was hoping for some more relaxation time where I can sit with a glass of iced tea and read, but that just hasn’t happened. And maybe at this stage of life, with two small children, it’s just not realistic. Either way, I did manage to get some reading done.

First, I finished up the Divergent trilogy at the very beginning of the month. Allegiant was a little disappointing, but that seems to be de riguer for YA trilogies. While trying to find something that qualified as a story with a love triangle, I was disappointed to realize that I may need to read another YA trilogy, since that seems to be where a lot of them are. I’m hoping to find something else, but it sure seems to be that love triangles are a big YA thing. And it’s always two boys fighting over a girl.

Our book club pick for July was To Kill A Mockingbird, sort of in anticipation of the release of Go Set A Watchman, the follow up that Harper Lee may or may not have wanted published. I didn’t manage to finish it all beforehand, but I still really enjoyed it. I was also pleased that it fulfilled a box on my list since I hadn’t even thought much about my Pulitzer book.

Next was Eleanor & Park, which I had high expectations for and was disappointed. This is the problem with expectations. Not only was I told that it was a great book (it wasn’t) but I was also prepared for something really sad (it wasn’t). I think I might have really enjoyed this book as a teen, but it just wasn’t enough. Some books stay with you long after you finish them, but this one really didn’t.

My last book of the month, and another let down, was Irish Girls About Town. I had planned this one as my short story collection from pretty much the beginning of the year, because I’ve had it for ages and I wanted to read it. And the only reason that I kept with it is because time on my challenge is running short. (And since I’ve had it for ages, it fulfilled two boxes!) I’ve read some of these authors before and liked their work, so I was really disappointed at how awful most of the stories were. Part of it was the weird Irish slang that I didn’t understand, but a lot of the stories were just bad and desperately needed some editing. This is a case where Goodreads ratings really don’t match up to expectations. Even the negative reviews don’t really get at what my issues were. There’s a lot of “eh, all the stories end up with someone needing a man to be happy” and that wasn’t really my takeaway. I just felt like the stories were either uninteresting or poorly written. It was for charity, so maybe that should have been a clue?

I’m currently reading Lady Chatterley’s Lover and Beloved (for book club). I have been reading the former in fits and spurts since I’m reading it through Oyster on my phone, so whenever I have a few minutes down time, maybe waiting for something, I’ll read a few pages. I have a week to finish Beloved, so I need to get cracking on that before I run out of time! I haven’t quite figured out what is next after those. I should probably choose my book published this year. I haven’t decided if I’m going to do Go Set A Watchman or not. As I am now past halfway through the year, I’m trying to double up on my boxes so that I can have a fighting chance of completing it, but I also want to read good books and not garbage ones. It’s tough!

I read 4 books this month and checked off 4 more boxes, which leaves me at 23 books read and 33 boxes checked! I’m almost at my books read goal for the year, so that’s exciting. Just 28 more boxes to check. Yikes!

 

 

100 Picture Books: 90-86

A version of this article originally appeared on Zwolanerd.com.

This batch was a minor mom fail. I requested them from the mobile version of my library’s website, and somehow got odd versions of them. Two of them were Spanish, and 1 was a “book club” edition, that included 9 identical paperbacks. Whoops! I have started reading the metadata more carefully.

arnie90. Arnie the Doughnut by Laurie Keller

This book was a definite favorite. It tells the story of a doughnut named Arnie (duh), from when he is first made at 5:15am to when he is attempted to be eaten by a Mr. Bing. Arnie and Mr. Bing have to decide what to do since Arnie does NOT want to be eaten, and Mr. Bing isn’t so sure he can eat a talking doughnut. It’s pretty humorous and the book is dotted with little asides and commentary from minor characters, such as a bird or another doughnut or a customer in the bakery. Kids that are reading could probably spend a lot of time poring over all the little “Easter eggs” everywhere. Peanut did request that I change Mr. Bing to a girl, which was a pretty easy pronoun swap, and it did highlight the fact that there are no women in this book referred to by name or pronoun. Even the baker is a man. Some of the doughnuts are drawn as women, and there are a few in background scenes, but the main action is between Mr. Bing and Arnie.

I learned that the author used to design cards for Hallmark, which is pretty interesting. There may also be a stage production of this book, but I only see a mention of it with nothing to verify it.

tikki-tikki-tembo89. Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel

I remembered really liking this book as a kid, but Peanut wasn’t super into it. I think it was partly because the book was sort of confusing to her and partly because I accidentally got it in Spanish the first time, so Mike had to read and then translate immediately. By the time I got the English version, she was no longer interested. The story is about two brothers, the oldest having a long and important name, and the second only having one syllable. When the oldest brother falls into a well, the youngest tries to help but gets tongue tied trying to say his brother’s full name. They eventually get him out but he takes a long time to recover.

This book has an interesting back story. Apparently, the authors didn’t do much fact-checking, because the original folk tale may be Japanese rather than Chinese, and also the “names” are nonsense syllables and don’t mean what the book says that they mean. Knowing this now makes me think of the book a lot less fondly.

No-David-404x50088. No David! by David Shannon

The same language mix-up happened with this book as Tikki Tikki Tembo. The book is very short and is basically illustrations of a toddler behaving badly and his mother saying No! a lot. Peanut definitely understood it from the pictures even in the Spanish version, and thought it was pretty funny. I thought it was kind of short and lame, and feel bad for anyone who spent the full cost of the hardcover for it.

The inner flap recounts that the book was the first the author “wrote,” as a child, about his experiences being a mischievous kid. It was apparently recovered from his childhood scribbling by his mother. This is the same author that wrote Duck on a Bike (#98). It also spawned half a dozen other David books.

My-Lucky-Day-978014240456087. My Lucky Day by Keiko Kasza

This book centers on a misdirection, which is easily missed by a young listener. A pig knocks at Fox’s door looking for Rabbit. Suddenly, Pig finds himself being dinner. He is resigned to this, but insists that Fox clean him, fatten him up, and massage him (to tenderize the meat, natch). During the massage, Fox passes out from exhaustion and Pig escapes. However, we discover that Pig has been hitting up all the pork-loving big bads in the forest, to get himself some quality pampering. The book doesn’t spell this out but rather shows it through the illustration. So I had to explain it, but I’m not sure that Peanut quite grasped the trick. She liked it okay, but it wasn’t as popular.

The author hails from Japan and had written several Japanese picture books before turning to English. This book is by far her most successful, although she did have some other awards for her other titles.

PBPsoftcover.qxd86. The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch

This was the biggest hit from this batch, for sure. I assume because there was a princess. It begins by setting the scene of Elizabeth’s princess life, which is interrupted by having her castle eaten by a dragon. The dragon drags off her betrothed, Prince Ronald, and she decides to don a paper bag (since all her clothes are fried), and rescue him. By the time she had tricked the dragon into passing out from exhaustion (a common storybook tactic, apparently), Ronald tells her she is a mess and he doesn’t want to be saved by a smelly princess. She declares Ronald to be a bum, and skips away into the sunset.

The subtle gender issues here are completely lost on a 3 year old. To her, the dragon is still the “bad guy.” It’s definitely a welcome deviation but unfortunately not appreciated at her age range.

This book is by far the most popular of all we have read so far, spawning a sea of books, media, toys, and other ephemera. It has apparently sold more than 3 million copies. You can even find a “story behind the story” book, including bios, letters, and new drawings. My favorite tidbit about this book is that apparently Munsch came across a little girl named Elizabeth who acted like a prima donna, and she became the princess in the story. Also, some versions have Elizabeth calling Ronald a toad rather than a bum.


Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! Well, we’ll at least see bears in the next batch. Stay tuned for 85-81!

Review: Irish Girls About Town

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I wasn’t expecting the book to be fantastic, but I read the American Girls About Town collection several years ago and some of the stories have still stuck with me as being really profound and interesting. So I was hoping there would be at least a couple of the stories in here that would be awesome. But not only were most of them clunkers, I honestly had a hard time following some of them. I would get to the end of the story and think, “wait, what?” Part of it is because of the usage of Irish slang that I just didn’t understand. Usually, I would be able to pick up some clues in the context of the story as to what the strange word meant, but a lot of the time, I still had no idea. And sometimes the stories just didn’t make any sense.

The Your Place or Mine? story was a slog and practically incomprehensible. The Cup Runneth Over was interesting until the ending where I seriously have no idea what happened at the end. I liked some of them okay, but most of them were just terrible. I’ve read some of the authors’ other works and didn’t hate them as much as I hated the stories in here.

It was pretty disappointing, and I only finished it because I assumed there would be at least of a couple of good ones (eh), and I didn’t want to have to start another short story collection. Also, this was on the bottom of my reading pile since I’ve had it for ages, so yay two boxes for one awful book. I really did like the American version, so if you like rom-com type love stories, check that one out.

2 stars.

This book fulfills the book of short stories and the book at the bottom of to-read list requirements for the challenge.

Review: Eleanor & Park

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I was expecting to really like this book, and it is a fairly decent one. But it didn’t live up to the hype that proceeded it. It was definitely ruined for me by a random comment by someone who said they cried – no sobbed – at the end. I kept waiting for something big and crazy and heartbreaking to happen. I kind of felt like this book had Chekhov’s gun in it. A gun literally did go off midway through the book, but it had no consequence. But nothing really happens. Two kids meet, somehow become obsessed with each other by the process of just being repeatedly exposed to each other, and then her home life is abusive and crazy and dangerous so she runs. And … then they sort of move on but not really.

The focus here is on the love story between Eleanor and Park (I kept wondering if Park was his full name or if it was implied that it was a shortened version of something, since his brother is only referred to as Josh the entire time). All the other stories happening around them (which were, frankly, more interesting), are never explored. There was stuff with Park’s Korean mom, what happened between Eleanor’s mom and just about everyone, how Park’s parents met, who was behind all the sabotage in Eleanor’s gym class… And in the final few chapters, we don’t even get to know what happens to all of Eleanor’s brothers and sister. Why did her mom even end up with Richie? So many unanswered questions.

The book was fairly well-written. It was pretty repetitive, but that seemed to be a deliberate narrative choice. It was sort of like journal entries, mostly in a recent present, linear fashion, but sometimes going backwards to fill in holes in the plot. I normally don’t like blatant exposition, but I just felt like a lot of the interesting parts of the story were just left out to focus on the romance.

I think the most disappointing part for me was that things were really ramping up in the last third of the book and then it all just fizzled pretty pathetically. I was so on the edge of my seat (mostly because I was expecting someone to get killed), and then it turned out to be no big deal. Expectations definitely played a role here, so I can’t blame it all on the book. I was definitely intrigued by it, and the ending is also not super disappointing compared to other books I’ve read. There’s a flicker of hope at the end, which I think would play really well on a movie screen. Apparently, one is in the works, so I would be interested to see that. I hope they address what happens to those kids.

4 stars.

This book fulfills no requirements for the challenge.

Review: To Kill A Mockingbird

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I vividly remember sitting at the kitchen table in 9th or 10th grade, reading this book. I was eating cereal or something. But despite that, I remembered very little of what happened in the book. The details that I thought I did remember were completely off. For example, I swear that I thought it was a mockingbird that was putting the gifts inside the tree because those birds collected shiny things. (A quick internet search tells me that might be magpies.) I had also remembered something going down near a jail or a street, which could be two different events that I smooshed together as one in my memory.

Despite how much I was apparently not paying attention the first time I read this book, I felt like it was really beautifully written and had a lot of interesting characterization. The viewpoint of Scout is well-articulated as coming from the memory of a child. The book also brings up a lot of topics, which made book club very interesting. Besides the obvious topic of racism in America, this also brought up classism, gender stereotyping, and empathy towards people that are different from you. I think what makes this book so great is that it is a fully contained story, but you can pick off little bits of it to chew on, or use it as a springboard for a discussion on a variety of themes. No wonder it keeps being used as required reading in schools. There is a lot here!

There are two downsides to this book, and it may be coming from my viewpoint in 2015. First, I felt like while it did sort of touch on how you can be “a girl” and prefer overalls to dresses, some of the points about women (particularly the “place” of women in the private sphere) seemed to be in agreement with the division. Also, while the book takes a very liberal view of black people in America compared to the time, they are still treated as “other”. It’s not even really specific or pointed out, but it’s simply a given that white and black people don’t mix socially and that is never condemned. Maybe that is how Harper Lee thought, maybe she agreed with “separate but equal”. It’s hard to say.

Often most people point to Boo Radley as the most prominent figure in this book, but really it fairly ancillary to the plot. The curiousity of the children towards him is a running theme throughout the beginning mostly, but he is introduced mainly to be their savior toward the end when Mr. Ewell comes after the siblings. I would like to read more about him, actually. He sounds like a pretty interesting guy.

I’m torn on whether or not I will read Go Set A Watchman. There’s some controversy as to whether Harper Lee actually wanted the book to be published or if she was manipulated in her feebler state of mind. I definitely think it is okay to change your mind after many years, but it does seem a little sketchy. Either way, her first (and for 50+ years, only!) novel still holds up as a fantastic piece of literature.

5 stars.

This book fulfills the Pulitzer Prize-winning book requirement for the challenge.

Reading Challenge June Wrap Up

File Jul 03, 10 10 16 AM

This month really zoomed by. I didn’t get much reading done at all, and it’s mostly because Ruby’s nap times have been on the go a lot, and her bedtime has been pushed way back by circumstance. Both of these things have left me with much less time to read.

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up may be the most influential book that I will read all year. I’m still working (so, so slowly) on implementing the ideas from the book into our living space, and really into my life in general. For example, I enjoy a lot of podcasts, but not all the episodes of a particular podcast are really worth my time. So, the ones that I’m meh on, I skip them. This, then, frees up more of my time for things I genuinely am interested in. I hope that by the end of the year, my house will be in much better shape, but I’m trying to not be too hard on myself for being unrealistic in what I can accomplish.

Then, both at the same time, Insurgent and Allegiant from the Divergent series came available from the library, and so I downloaded both of them. In order to keep them from disappearing from my Kindle after my 2 week lending period ended, I’ve turned the wifi off on it. They won’t disappear until I’ve synced it, but that means nothing new can be added until I’ve finished them. I finally got through Insurgent midway through the month, and I’m getting close to finished with Allegiant. Of course, the conundrum that I’m having is that – does it really count as a trilogy because the author keeps adding stories from the same universe and using the same characters and publishing them. GAH. I’ve decided since the series is technically stand alone, and the rest are “short stories” or addendums, that it counts. But come on, stop adding onto trilogies, people.

As far as upcoming books go, I’ve got To Kill A Mockingbird coming up next for my book club read, and then I checked out Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell from the library.

I read two books this month, and only checked off one measly box. So, 19 books read and 29 boxes checked. I’m still on track if I keep up with my average pace. The image is technically wrong because I finished Allegiant on July 1st, so it doesn’t count for my June totals.