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Archive for the ‘Literature’ Category

Many months ago I resolved that I wanted to spend more time reading and writing. I decided to create a blog so that I could chronicle my reads and get a little practice putting my thoughts in to words. Since then I have been reading, but I have not been very consistent with my story summaries and reviews.

Enter my genius friend, Jenny. Jenny is a wonderful book enthusiast who currently works in a very fitting profession; she and my buddy Jeremy are tied for the best librarians in the world. Several months ago, Jenny invited me to join an online Book Club, and I think (I hope!), this will help me catalog a book list a bit better, as well as give me an opportunity to see what my other friends are reading. For those of you interested in sharing some great book titles, please consider this my informal invitation to get in on the fun.

http://www.goodreads.com

Happy reading, everyone!

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My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult

So I have been reading, but with Jordan napping less and going through this slightly unpleasant “clingy stage”, getting to a book is not quite as easy as it once was. I currently have two other books sitting on my nightstand that I intend to get through, but I’ve noticed that lately when I’ve got my nose in a book, my eyelids are also shut.

The reasons I chose this book were a) I haven’t made a trip to the library recently, and b) we had a copy of this novel in our house. This is the second novel I’ve read by Ms. Picoult since beginning my little book project.

This story centers on a very controversial current issue involving genetic engineering; more specifically, designer babies. When a young family sees no other viable treatment plans for their leukemia-plagued daughter, they decide to work with doctors to engineer a new baby with a similar genetic makeup. In other words, they choose to become pregnant with a donor. The controversy really comes to play when this younger daughter decides to seek counsel to have her body legally emancipated from her parents, in order to prevent further donations and transplants without her consent.

For the most part I thought this story was fascinating. Each chapter is told from a different perspective, making it difficult for me to determine what was truly “right” in this situation. There were no easy decisions here, and the complexity of the characters made the story seem real.

However, I did say “for the most part”.

I think Picoult created a painstaking story rimmed with controversy and tough calls, and as a reader I loved having my personal opinions waver with every chapter, anxious to see how such a case could be resolved. In my opinion, Picoult wimped out. Rather than “choosing a side”, resulting in possible judgment from her readers, she took the easy way out and ended the story in such a way so that no one could really find fault with her stand on this controversial topic. Such a shame.

I had trouble finding the motivation to write about this book. Like her first novel that I read, I enjoyed the story’s issues and characters, I just didn’t like how she chose to end it.

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Learning to Read #10

Carrie By Stephen King

As an unofficial member of the LOST Book Club, I decided to read this novel. For fellow LOST fans, this book was Juliet’s chosen story for the “Others” Book Club. One of the reasons I decided on Carrie for my next book is because I think Juliet is such an intriguing character, and I am interested in parallels that can be drawn between her and one of Stephen King’s most famous misfits. Though I am almost resigned to the fact that no amount of leg-work on my part will help me better understand my favorite show, I was dying to see why Juliet would deem a tale of a creepy high schooler with telekinetic powers as her “favorite book”. But if I’m to be completely honest, the main reason I picked Carrie as my next read was because I love a good scare.

Since not everyone chooses to relish in the Halloween season by checking in to every horror flick that graces AMC during the month of October, let me briefly sum up this classic work by scare expert, Stephen King. The story focuses on the title character, an awkward teenager who has found herself to be the butt of most jokes since she first started school in her smallish New England town. Her only family is her mother, a religious fanatic who has done her best to pass on her warped thinking leaving Carrie in a vulnerable and hopeless state. After a cruel joke at Carrie’s expense, the story’s major players begin plotting how they will respond to this public embarrassment: one girl hopes to make amends, one girl plans how she will take the abuse one step further, and Carrie brushes up on her telekinesis…

Being an avid movie watcher (strike that; an avid horror movie watcher), I was most struck by the Carrie I knew via Sissy Spacek versus the actual novel. The book created a completely different picture in my mind, and I found myself trying to erase the movie images I already had in order to better experience the story. Not to diminish Spacek’s performance of Carrie, but after reading the story, that character was all wrong. Spacek’s Carrie was creepy, definitely, and very convincing as an outcast, but in the novel, Carrie is someone different. An outcast, but not because of her freakish qualities. In the book, Carrie is really quite unfortunate and sad. The overweight girl with bad skin, outdated clothing, and an altered state of common sense. In other words, someone we all knew when we were in school, someone we might have teased, or at the very least shunned. The difference between the movie and the book was ultimately what caused the big scare. Not just that a girl flipped out and torched her entire senior class, but that all of this destruction was caused by someone each one us could have known.

Switching gears a bit, what does this book tell us about Juliet? Are we to find parallels between her and Carrie? Or possibly her and Sue, the would-be heroine? Does Juliet possess an untapped energy we are all not aware of? Or is she hopelessly trying to fix a situation that from its onset was doomed? Like I said, I can never understand this show.

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Learning to Read #9

Second Chance by Jane Green

One of my husband’s coworkers heard of my quest for grown-up literature and passed along this novel to me.  Ryan works with some really fantastic people, so I was really eager to jump in.

This story centered on a group of childhood friends that have gathered together after losing one of their number in a terrorist attack.  In addition to their present tragedy, each friend has found themselves personally devastated in recent years and find a misplaced strength through each other to press on in their adulthood (hence the “Second Chance”).

I had a really good time with this book.  The story was appropriately descriptive, so I found  myself easily getting lost in the characters and their situations.  Plus the author is English, and I have always enjoyed British humor and slang.  The book took hold of me from the very beginning, and I tore through it pretty quickly.

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Learning to Read #8

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll

These chosen as my next installments in the LOST Book Club.

This book (both stories were included in one binding) sat on my nightstand for days before I picked it up to really begin.  My first impulses caused me to cringe because Alice in Wonderland brought two unpleasant thoughts to my mind:  1) the trippy Disney movie that was impossible to follow as a little girl, and 2) schoolmates chanting “Allison Wonderland” in elementary school. I knew it’s “Children’s Classic” marking meant that it couldn’t all that difficult to get through, but I figured it would most likely be…well, boring.

I was pleasantly surprised as I read through the first story, though I don’t believe I’ll run to read it again.  To be involved in Alice’s dream world was fun, and I appreciated the ludicrous characters; as a child I remember becoming frustrated and angry with the crazed creatures Alice encounters, but now I just had to smile.  Being a former English teacher, I enjoyed the puns and the word plays as well.  The story was very inventive and nearly believable; though I knew that Alice had to just be dreaming, I felt as though I could see her adventures.  That might have been aided by Disney background, though.

All of that said, I found the pursuit of the second story to be rather daunting.  Once Wonderland was finished, the book took quite a break before I forced myself to accompany Alice through her Looking Glass.  I needed a bit of time to recover from my first acid-induced adventure.  The second story was also fairly clever, though I don’t think it had quite the charm as his first novel.  It wasn’t different enough from Wonderland for me to be really impressed, and the constant meaningless songs and poems became very mundane for me.  I know that each probably possess their own hidden, deeper messages, but I just didn’t care to dissect them.

As far as LOST goes, I saw some early connections with Wonderland (Jack chasing his father like Alice chases the White Rabbit…well, maybe just that one), but did not find a whole lot with the Looking Glass (except for the station called “The Looking Glass”; maybe something about the backwards nature of those on the other side of the glass?…).  I know there has to be a lot of intricate symbolism that I’ve been too lazy to search for.

alice.jpgAs an aside, it was quite fun to be reading Wonderland during our recent primaries.   While I stood in line to cast my ballot, Alice was experiencing her own caucus race in the novel.  Hers went quite a bit faster, though.

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Learning to Read #7

Lord of the Flies By William Golding

This novel is my next installment in the”LOST Book Club”.

Though there were several more books on my LOST list before Golding’s novel, I shamefully skipped ahead eager to dive back in to a novel that I thoroughly enjoyed in high school.

What on Earth was wrong with me back then??

In this tale, a group of British school boys find themselves the only survivors of a terrible plane crash on an exotic, but deserted island. There had apparently been a small number of adults in their original troupe, but none of these individuals has survived, so these young boys gleefully find themselves without authority. A few begin to try to bring order with the hopes of being rescued, but irresponsibility and savagery quickly take over their wills, and soon these well-trained young men turn to beings with little more restraint than beasts.

I think this book is excellent, but (OH MY WORD!) disturbing. I’ve always been a bit morbid, so I’m not surprised that I enjoyed this reading requirement as a teenager, but now that I’m a mother it’s a bit harder to stomach children behaving so terribly. I found myself wishing that I could jump in to the pages to help bring order among the chaos, but unfortunately I was forced to just observe the self-destruction as a reader. It’s probably for the best, though; in this story order-makers always seemed to bite it in the end anyway.

Just for some extra fun, I wanted to add some personal connections that I saw in the story. First, as far as allusions go, this story was once retold on The Simpsons with Bart, Lisa, Milhouse, and Nelson playing the parts of Ralph, Simon, Piggy, and Jack. However this is probably not too exciting; I think the writers for The Simpsons are very clever, and often make literary and media allusions in their brief episodes.

flies.jpg

I also think it would be fun to wrestle with the connections between this story and LOST. The writers of LOST at one point tried to dispute the suggested inspiration for their story, but even they begin to note the striking similarities as they started to break them down. I think I want to sit on this one for a bit, and then I’ll add a footnote to this post regarding LOST vs. Lord of the Flies.

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Learning to Read #6

One for the Money By Janet Evanovich

My dear friend has heard my plight to find a great grownup reading list and recommended this series to me. Actually she graciously handed over her personal collection of the first four novels saying, “They’re quick and easy books, and the characters are really funny.” I’ve also seen several copies of this author’s books in the hands of my mother, so I decided that any stories that two of my favorite people are reading are definitely worth my time.

This novel was the first in the series centered on Evanovich’s created heroine, Stephanie Plum. Plum is an ex-lingerie buyer, now bounty hunter (go figure) who has been hired to recover a guy she knows from her past. Since her former duties with underpants didn’t really equip her with apprehension skills, Plum gets herself in to some pretty comical messes, introducing us to entertaining characters along the way.

After some wordy and heart-wrenching “classics”, this book was a nice change of pace. I liked our bumbling heroine (some may argue that as a definitive characteristic, but come on–she burned off her eyebrows!), and I enjoyed the fact that this story took place in the busy-body neighborhoods of New Jersey. Evanovich so colorfully painted each of her characters, I felt like I was actually sitting at the dinner table with Plum’s pushy mother, crazy grandmother, and uber-uncomfortable blind date.

I believe what might have made me smile the most as I read, however, was the “questionable” material in the story. Not that I haven’t heard my share of expletives (I taught middle school, remember?), but if you knew my sweet friend, you’d understand why I love the fact that she relishes these books. And taking in to account that my own mother has her collection of Stephanie Plum as well…I wish I’d known Mom was diving in to her share guilty pleasures while she was lecturing me on the lyrical debauchery found in Green Day’s Dookie CD I wanted when I was 14. Sigh…

All in all, an interesting read. I think I might space out this series a bit and read something else before moving on to Plum’s next adventures.

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