Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Top 10 Must Read Classics










There are hundreds of classics, and it can be hard to chose which ones to read.  Some can be a struggle.  Some what you question you life?  Others make you wonder how they possibly became a classic.  Here's my personal list of ten classic you should take the time out to read.  (Disclaimer: I have not read all  of the classics. That would be nearly impossible.  This list is collected from a small sample size.

1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin
A real classic.  But probably not for you if you happen to be male.  From my brief foray into Austin discussions, I've learned that most guys do not like Jane Austin's novels.  However, once you get a real feel for the writing style and voice, it's so easy to read through and get into the novel.  If you like the Victorian era and romance, you will like Jane Austin.

2. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
I've also heard some mixed reviews on this one, by both girls and guys.  I have to say though, it's one of my absolute favorites.  The writing is so rich and linguistic--and you can pull some real heartfelt quotes that talk about undying love and passion.  It's not your typical love story, but it will definitely get you thinking.

3. One Thousand and One Nights (Also known as Arabian Nights)
If you like history, especially Middle Eastern history, this is one that you'll enjoy.  It tell rich tales from the Islamic Golden age.  I haven't been able to read all one thousand and one stories.  I can't even find a book that has all of the stories in it.  But I've gotten through a good chunk, and I've enjoyed every minute of it.

4. 1984 by George Orwell
This is a dystopian novel that marks as a warning to the future if we don't change our course.  It could arguably be one of the great firsts of the dystopian genre.  Many nay-sayers like to quote 1984 when talking about the demise of our present day society.  But don't let that get you down--it's a great read with a lot of knowledge to offer.

5. A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare
Not don't go arguing about you were forced to read Romeo and Juliet in high school, and how that has forever ruined the word of Shakespeare for you.  A Midsummer Night's Dream is light, airy, and full of great jokes.  If you can't get a firm grasp on Shakespeare-era speech and writing, get your hands on a copy that has a side-by-side translation into modern day English.  That way you can pick out all the penis jokes that Shakespeare likes to throw around.

6. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald 
 You may have had to read this one in high school, but you probably still liked it, or at least didn't detest it.  If you have read it before, I would suggest picking it up again and rereading it.  You may see new things that you missed the first time through.  It's definitely a classic for a reason.  Though it may have very obvious symbolism and foreshadowing, it's still a good primer into reading the classics.

7. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
I have heard much love for Fahrenheit 451.  Lot's of people are jumping on the bandwagon and reading the book, myself included.  If you haven't done so yet, I would suggest giving it a try. 
Another dystopian novel, which will again appeal to both girls and guys.  This is an American society where books are banned, and the "firemen" burn any that are found".

8. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Is this considered to recent to be considered a classic?  I don't think so.  It's a historical book that revolves around World War II and the Nazi Regime.  Books are burned in piles, and you have a little girl you steals book.  Hence, the book thief.  It's heartbreaking to read.  I will warn you, it can be a little slow at times.  But it's well worth the read.

9. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
If you want to bawl your eyes out and feel your heart breaking in your chest, then this is the book for you.  Told from the view of a mentally retarded man who gains intelligence, you learn about the friendship between one man and a mouse.  Of course everything goes horribly wrong and nothing in the world will ever be right again.  

10. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Such as absurd book.  It really makes no sense, in the long run.  But that's not the point.  The point is that the world is coming to an end, and the dolphins are the only ones that can save us.  Want to understand all the references that your pretentious friend thinks are funny to spout off.  Then read this book! And then refrain from using references in front of people who don't really care what you're talking about.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Book Review: Nowhere but Here by Katie McGarry

Title: Nowhere but Here

Author: Katie McGarry

Publisher: Harlequin Teen

Publication Date: May, 2015

Hardcover: 496 pages

Stand Alone or Series: Series--this is the first installment in the Thunder Roads series.

How I got this book: Copy from the publisher.


Why I chose this book: Who wouldn't want to read about sexy motorcycle boys and danger?

Synopsis:

Seventeen-year-old Emily likes her life the way it is: doting parents, good friends, good school in a safe neighborhood. Sure, she's curious about her biological father—the one who chose life in a motorcycle club, the Reign of Terror, over being a parent—but that doesn't mean she wants to be a part of his world. But when a reluctant visit turns into an extended summer vacation among relatives she never knew she had, one thing becomes clear: nothing is what it seems. Not the club, not her secret-keeping father and not Oz, a guy with suck-me-in blue eyes who can help her understand them both.

Oz wants one thing: to join the Reign of Terror. They're the good guys. They protect people. They're…family. And while Emily—the gorgeous and sheltered daughter of the club's most respected member—is in town, he's gonna prove it to her. So when her father asks him to keep her safe from a rival club with a score to settle, Oz knows it's his shot at his dream. What he doesn't count on is that Emily just might turn that dream upside down. 


Review:

It's not very often that I completely dislike a book.  But this is one of those times.  I'm not even writing this review under the pretense that I finished the book--because I didn't.  I couldn't even get halfway through the book before I decided to set it down permanently.  So even though I completed hated this book, I will say it could've did a 180 and gotten better in the second half.  I wouldn't know.

Let me outline the things that made me put this book down:

The characters.  They were annoying.  They had motivations that were hard to understand, and no effort was made to help me to understand them.  They were both pretty unlikeable.  And it's okay to have an unlikeable character if I can understand their motivations as a character, but I couldn't.  As for the voices of the characters, I wasn't impressed by those either.  The book switches point of view back and forth between Emily and Oz.  But without reading the heading at the beginning of each chapter, I wouldn't know who's side of the story I was reading, because they sounded exactly the same.

The writing.  It was simplistic.  There was no complexity to the plot, the characters, anything.  I got bored reading through the chapters.  I was tired of trying to remember which character I was supposed to be reading about, Emily or  Oz.  I got tired of not liking my characters, not being given any reason to get behind them as a character or root for them, or at least feel sympathetic for them. 

All in all, I'm sure you can tell I didn't like this book.  But as I stated above, I didn't finish the book.  It could've gotten better.  I just didn't want to stick around to find out.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Book Review: Compulsion by Martina Boone

Title: Compulsion

Author: Martina Boone

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Publication Date: October, 2014

Hardcover: 448 pages

Stand Alone or Series: Series--this is the first installment in the Heirs of Watson Island series.

How I got this book: Bought


Why I chose this book: Have you ever seen a book in the bookstore that you just saw on the shelf every time you've gone.  And you look at it, but end up choosing another book.  This was that book to me.  Eventually I decided to pick it up and give it a try.

Synopsis:

All her life, Barrie Watson has been a virtual prisoner in the house where she lived with her shut-in mother. When her mother dies, Barrie promises to put some mileage on her stiletto heels. But she finds a new kind of prison at her aunt's South Carolina plantation instead--a prison guarded by an ancient spirit who long ago cursed one of the three founding families of Watson Island and gave the others magical gifts that became compulsions.

Stuck with the ghosts of a generations-old feud and hunted by forces she cannot see, Barrie must find a way to break free of the family legacy. With the help of sun-kissed Eight Beaufort, who knows what Barrie wants before she knows herself, the last Watson heir starts to unravel her family's twisted secrets. What she finds is dangerous: a love she never expected, a river that turns to fire at midnight, a gorgeous cousin who isn't what she seems, and very real enemies who want both Eight and Barrie dead. 


Review: 

I'm really glad I decided to give this book a try.  It's been a while since I've found a good book that involved spirits and ghosts that didn't just seem hokey.  In Compulsion, all of the spirits and ghosts are connected to the history of Watson Island, where the three founding families built there homes.  When Barrie's mother died, she moves back to her mother's home town, only to learn about everything her mother never bothered to tell her.

One of the best things about this book (besides the plot) is the relationship dynamic between Barrie, and her handsome neighbor, Eight.  They have a relationship that just clicked together, where they had both a friendship and a romantic relationship.  Them going on adventures and trying to piece together parts of the puzzles was one of the funnest parts of the book.  They worked together as a team.  

I don't want to spoil the book in any way, so I'll just say that both Barrie and Eight have special "gifts" that are passed on in their families, leading back to the three founders.  As you learned about these gifts and the history of the island, the plot rages on with an unsolved mystery from years ago that Barrie's trying to uncover.  What's great about this plot is that it was constantly moving, and I had no idea what was going to happen next.  I was never bored.  Even with the relationship development between Barrie and Eight, there was no fluff--just the right amount.  

While this book could very much stand on its own as a stand-alone novel, it will continue into a series.  I'm very much looking forward to the next installment--and I hope that they will live up to the expectations that this one brought me. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Book Review: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

Title: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

Author: Jesse Andrews

Publisher: Harry N. Abrams

Publication Date: April, 2015

Softcover: 305 pages

Stand Alone or Series: Stand Alone
 
 

How I got this book: Copy from the publisher

Why I chose this book: While it took me a while to get around to reading this book, I decided I wanted to read it before the movie came out.  If there is one thing I always try to do, it's read the book before I see the movie.

Synopsis:

It is a universally acknowledged truth that high school sucks. But on the first day of his senior year, Greg Gaines thinks he’s figured it out. The answer to the basic existential question: How is it possible to exist in a place that sucks so bad? His strategy: remain at the periphery at all times. Keep an insanely low profile. Make mediocre films with the one person who is even sort of his friend, Earl.
        

This plan works for exactly eight hours. Then Greg’s mom forces him to become friends with a girl who has cancer. This brings about the destruction of Greg’s entire life.

Review:

Some might begrudge me saying this, but Andrews style is very John Green-esque.  While it's quirky and humorous, it's also touching and hits us in all the right ways.  We get to know Greg Gaines, truly get to know him, as a character.  Not only do we get to see him through his actions, but we get to see how he sees himself--which is, not very well.  And it's refreshing to see a character to very much embodies the teenage experience--completely doubting yourself at every turn, taking every crack at his appearance he can muster, and admitting that he can be pretty selfish.  But what teenager isn't selfish at times?

There's a pretty large introduction that rambles on for a while.  While this doesn't add much to the plot, except for very briefly introduction to the "dying girl", mostly just builds a broader spectrum of who Greg Gaines is and how he views life.  While I did find it a little long and unnecessary at times, it was pretty humorous and fun to read.

I have to say that my very favorite character in the entire book is Earl.  Earl is biased, loud, and doesn't hiding his opinion.  He can be mean, he likes to make fun of Earl and call him names.  But you can see through all of that to the pain he is going through--mostly with his family, but also with watching a girl he is starting to get close to go through the turmoil of cancer and eventually death.  I didn't expect his character to be as deep as he was.  I would have loved to read even more scenes with Earl in them.

Overall, it was a solid book.  Probably not something I'd re-read, but I enjoyed it.  I'll definitely be looking out for more books by Jesse Andrews, as I have a feeling he's going to become more prominent in the YA genre.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Book Review: Soundless by Richelle Mead

Title: Soundless

Author: Richelle Mead

Publisher: Razorbill

Publication Date: November 10, 2015

Hardcover: 272 pages

Stand Alone or Series: I believe this will be a series, but I haven't quite found out yet.

How I got this book: ARC from the publisher


Why I chose this book: I will read anything Richelle Mead writes, including her grocery list.

Synopsis:

For as long as Fei can remember, there has been no sound in her village, where rocky terrain and frequent avalanches prevent residents from self-sustaining. Fei and her people are at the mercy of a zipline that carries food up the treacherous cliffs from Beiguo, a mysterious faraway kingdom. 
 
When villagers begin to lose their sight, deliveries from the zipline shrink and many go hungry. Fei’s home, the people she loves, and her entire existence is plunged into crisis, under threat of darkness and starvation.
 
But soon Fei is awoken in the night by a searing noise, and sound becomes her weapon.


Review:

Soundless is the story of a village on the top of a high-reaching mountain, full of a group of villagers who are all deaf.  They've shaped their way of life around being deaf, to the point where they no longer speak any languages (or even understand them) because they communicate solely in sign language.  However, some of the villagers are starting to lose their sight as well, which ultimately leads to their deaths.  When Fei's younger sister starts to lose her sight as well, Fei decides she'll do whatever it takes to save not just her sister, but their entire village.

So, I have so much love for Richelle Mead, it's ridiculous.  Every time she writes a new book she creates this whole new vivid world where I feel like I can dwell, if only for a little while.  In this world, everyone is deaf.  They also live at the top of the mountain, where the villagers have been stuck for generations.  They're isolated.  Their way of life is completely alien.  It was neat to read about how people might function is none of them had the sense of sound.

Fei is strong-willed when it comes to family.  However, she is a little more subdued with the rest of her life.  She tries to blend in and keep to the status quo.  The only reason this changes is because her sister's life becomes endangered.

Overall, the story moved pretty quickly.  The plot was fast-paced, though pretty simplistic.  It wasn't hard for me to figure out where the story was going and what was going to happen next.  There weren't many surprises.  That may not necessarily be a bad thing for some readers, but it can be boring at times.

I will say that for a story with very minimal talking, with most of the communication done through signing, the conversations were handled very well.  I never felt like I was reading an un-ending internal dialogue.

Overall, I would definitely recommend this book--it was a solid read.  I'm not sure if Mead is going to continue the book into a series.  My guess would be yes.  If she does, I will definitely read the next installments.