callistahogan: (Books)
Book: The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
GenreHorror
Length816 pp.
Progress (pages): 1,139/20,000 pp. (5.7%)
GradeA

Amazon Summary: Considering the recent rush of door-stopping historical novels, first-timer Kostova is getting a big launch—fortunately, a lot here lives up to the hype. In 1972, a 16-year-old American living in Amsterdam finds a mysterious book in her diplomat father's library. The book is ancient, blank except for a sinister woodcut of a dragon and the word "Drakulya," but it's the letters tucked inside, dated 1930 and addressed to "My dear and unfortunate successor," that really pique her curiosity. Her widowed father, Paul, reluctantly provides pieces of a chilling story; it seems this ominous little book has a way of forcing itself on its owners, with terrifying results. Paul's former adviser at Oxford, Professor Rossi, became obsessed with researching Dracula and was convinced that he remained alive. When Rossi disappeared, Paul continued his quest with the help of another scholar, Helen, who had her own reasons for seeking the truth. As Paul relates these stories to his daughter, she secretly begins her own research. Kostova builds suspense by revealing the threads of her story as the narrator discovers them: what she's told, what she reads in old letters and, of course, what she discovers directly when the legendary threat of Dracula looms. Along with all the fascinating historical information, there's also a mounting casualty count, and the big showdown amps up the drama by pulling at the heartstrings at the same time it revels in the gruesome. Exotic locales, tantalizing history, a family legacy and a love of the bloodthirsty: it's hard to imagine that readers won't be bitten, too.

My Thoughts: Although this book could be considered a horror novel, it is much more than that. It combines the Gothic with the modern, the historical with the fantastical, the straightforward narrative with the epistolary. It brings aspects of history, literature, and art together seamlessly, while creating a family epic that sprawls from the early to mid 1900s all the way up to the present day. It could be considered a thriller, an epistolary novel, a historical epic, a fantasy -- you name it, the book has elements of it.

At first, I was rather hesitant to read this book, because I heard it was about Dracula and I had not yet read Bram Stoker's famous novel. However, when my sister gave it to me for Christmas, I just had to crack it open -- and I was sucked in from the very first page. I understand why some people would not like it, because it does have a lot of history, and it does take nearly 750 pages to get to Dracula (hopefully that's not spoiling anything), but I almost found that I liked the journey better than the end result.

From the beginning, I was drawn to the unnamed narrator, because she reminds me of myself in certain ways. She is young, intelligent, with a close relationship with her father. She loves reading and is too curious for her own good -- which leads her to discover the mysterious book with the letters in it that would forever change her life. She hears -- or reads -- about her father's journey so many years ago, and in the process learns about his adviser's life.

The book does not go by quickly. It is one of those mysteries that slowly unfurls, revealing one strand after another, twisting them around and tying them all into knots until you are begging to know what happens but you just know that you have over 500 pages left to read and you can't just peek at the back of the book. In some books, I find that it doesn't spoil too much to skip to the last few pages and read them before I finish, but in this book, I just had to be patient, watching it unfurl, reading with careful eyes, making sure not to miss anything that could explain the mystery of Dracula and those mysterious books.

As said, this book has a story-within-a-story-within-a-story, which is a particular style used in novels that I enjoy especially. I enjoy reading about the way lives entangle together, and how the past can affect the future. I love reading about the lives of one person and how the lives of someone years older than them from decades long past can affect their own futures. It also contains letters, lots and lots of letters, which I found absolutely fascinating. Surely if the book had just been a straightforward narrative I would not have enjoyed the book as much as I did, but the way the book was put together was masterful. Absolutely masterful.

That said, there were a few small gripes about this book, although on a whole I thought it was a marvelous retelling of Dracula's legend that almost felt real. I did feel as though the book went by a little too slowly; Kostova could have cut back on a few more pages. I also wanted to hear more about Dracula himself -- the entire book was about him, sure, and I learned a lot about him in a roundabout way -- but I wished that the book had explored more of his goal. I felt that he was introduced too late in the novel, and that things could have progressed more quickly and the book would have been yet more gripping.

Those are only the few gripes I can think of. On a whole, I found that this book was exactly the sort of book I like: the long, sprawling epic novel spread out across countries and continents, bringing up themes of life, death, love, perseverance, history, and the power of words. I have heard this book compared to The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, but this book is nothing like that. While Dan Brown is fluff reading, with no big overarching theme of humanity as a whole -- just a cheap thriller -- Kostova gives us a ride of our lives, if only we are patient enough to strap ourselves in for the long haul ahead.

In addition, this book made me look at vampires in a whole new light. While previously my only experiences with vampires have been through the world of Twilight, this book showed a new -- traditional -- side of the vampire, and I have to say that I like the idea of a bloodthirsty monster yearning for my blood better than the sparkly, brooding, angsty vampire who just wants to suck on animals and fall in love with normal human girls. I'm not saying I don't like Twilight anymore, because it is my guilty pleasure, but I just like the more traditional vampire better.

You know what that means: pretty soon I will have to be banging on my brother's door, begging for him to let me borrow Dracula. I need to delve more deeply into the vampire, thanks to Elizabeth Kostova.

I think it goes without saying that this book is highly recommended. It is probably my favorite read so far.

Currently ReadingAlmost Like Being in Love by Steve Kluger (I need some light reading after The Historian!)
callistahogan: (Books)
Book: Burn This Book, compiled by Toni Morrison
GenreNonfiction (writing)
Length: 112 pp.
Progress (pages)323/20,000 pp. (2%)
GradeB+

Amazon Summary: In 11 short essays by some of the world's premier novelists, this volume explores a simple question: why write? Contributor Paul Auster may put the query best: "Surely it is an odd way to spend your life -- sitting alone in a room with a pen in your hand, hour after hour, day after day, year after year, struggling to put words on pieces of paper." In response, Pico Iyer delivers a moving account of a Burmese trishaw driver living under political oppression, who for years composed (by candlelight) letters to the author, many of which were censored. Orhan Pamuk also explores this intense human hunger for stories and creative freedom with an anecdote from his March 1985 tour of Turkey, on which he introduced Arthur Miller and Harold Pinter to Turkish writers who had suffered "repression, cruelty and outright evil" in a military coup. Francine Prose, on the other hand, makes a lively attempt to separate literature from politics (in which she cops to her own political biases in her choice of examples). The disparate voices produce a complex of reasons that drive writers, though all agree that, as observed by Morrison (wearing both editor and contributor caps), it's a "bleak, unlivable, insufferable existence... when we are deprived of artwork."

My Thoughts: I was searching for a book like this -- something light, easy, that I could finish in an evening -- and this book delivered. My weakness in nonfiction is books about writing, and this was a perfect treat for me. I especially like to read compilations from authors, so I can see various authors' perspectives on writing, getting an insight into how they got started. It makes me realize that I am at once completely typical in the writing world and yet I feel pride that I can feel a kinship with these amazing authors.

This compilation puts together the writing of the following eleven authors: Toni Morrison, John Updike, David Grossman, Francine Prose, Pico Iyer, Russell Banks, Paul Auster, Orhan Pamuk, Salman Rushdie, Ed Park, and Nadine Gordimer. I had previously heard of most of these authors, but I have not yet read any of their writings. That is a fact that I am going to have to remedy very shortly, because there were some outstanding essays in this compilation.

While there were some that I did not quite like, as per usual in compilations, I found that some particularly touched me. In particular, I enjoyed Paul Auster's essay, "Talking to Strangers," because it expressed in a mere three pages why I write. It expresses that writers often write because they have to, because they have no choice. Nothing else explains it better than that. I don't know who I would be if I couldn't write, if I didn't want to write. I have a feeling I'd be entirely mediocre, going through life, sliding along without any discernible goal. But writing has given me that drive and ambition to strive to be better, which is precisely why I love losing myself in a story.

I appreciated the vast array of essays in this book. There were the typical "Why I Write" essays, but there was a particularly amusing essay by Ed Park that made me smile, because it was just so different. Toni Morrison's essay was the shortest of the bunch, heading up the collection, but it served as a backbone for the book. I enjoyed the stories Orhan Pamuk and Pico Iyer shared; it shows that the urge to read and write without fear of censorship is a universal desire. And last but not least, Nadine Gordimer's essay was a particularly pointed look at the writer's job to serve as a witness to world events, and brought up issues of race and the Western/Eastern division effectively.

This book would probably not interest anyone who is not a writer, though, and that is why I didn't give it a higher grade. I was hoping it would say more about censorship, but only a couple essays explored that issue in any depth. If you're a writer, I'd recommend this book, because as said, there are some amazing essays, but if you're not? This book wouldn't interest you all that much, unless you were interested in the writing process and what makes certain authors "tick."

Currently Reading: The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (and I'm loving it. A vampire novel that goes back to the legends! Who woulda thunk we'd find one of those in the era of Twilight? Not that I hate Twilight, because I actually love it. *hides*)
callistahogan: (Default)
It's kind of amazing. It's making me go squee and "YES, that's it, exactly it" and "Oh my gosh, that's exactly what I think too!"

Just as an illustration of the amazingness that is this book, let me supply you with an awesome quote. The whole book speaks so truthfully about writing, and why we write, and the role writers have in society, and how writing has the power, and how our writing always has to be honest, and oh, gosh, just so great.

Just one of the little gems in this book:

"I don't know why I do what I do. If I did know, I probably wouldn't feel the need to do it. All I can say, and I say it with the utmost certainty, is that I have felt this need since my earliest adolescence. I'm talking about writing, in particular writing as a vehicle to tell stories, imaginary stories that have never taken place in what we call the real world. Surely it is an odd way to spend your life -- sitting alone in a room with a pen in your hand, hour after hour, day after day, year after year, struggling to put words on pieces of paper in order to give birth to what does not exist, except in your head. Why on earth would anyone want to do such a thing? The only answer I have ever been able to come up with is: because you have to, because you have no choice."
- Paul Auster, "Talking to Strangers," Burn This Book.

I saw that quote when I picked up this book an hour or so ago and I immediately knew I had to read it as soon as possible. And so far it has not disappointed. I should be done with it tonight -- probably in an hour or so -- and a book review will be coming shortly, where I will try to hold back my enthusiasm a tad.
callistahogan: (Books)
Book: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Genre: Horror
Length
: 211 pp.
Progress (pages): 211/20,000 pp. (1.1%)
GradeA

Amazon Summary: There is no greater novel in the monster genre than "Frankenstein" and no more well known monster than the one that is at the center of this novel. However, the monster of "Frankenstein" is more than the common lumbering moronic giant that is most often represented. "Frankenstein's" monster is in reality a thinking intelligent being who is tormented by world in which he does not belong. In this depiction Shelley draws upon the universal human themes of creation, the nature of existence, and the need for acceptance. For it is without this acceptance that the true monster, the violent nature of humanity, emerges.

My ThoughtsThis was the book my English teacher assigned over Christmas break. At first, I did not expect that I would enjoy it, because horror is not my genre. I had heard of Frankenstein, of course -- who hasn't? -- but all I knew about the story was the common scene we all remember: Frankenstein standing over his creation, yelling "It's aliiiiiive" when the creature's eyes open for the first time. All I expected was the common monster story, but as it is a classic, I should have expected more than that. I didn't expect much from this book other than some sort of sick enjoyment, but I found entrenched in this novel statements about acceptance, creation, existence, and how people often judge purely on appearances without bothering to see the person beneath. I found myself pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book.

Frankenstein was slightly hard to get into at first, because I had to get used to the writing style and to be frank, the beginning was rather dry. Not much happened, and the letters at the beginning merely served as development of a character we don't see again until the very end of the novel. As the novel progressed, things got more interesting. I found the story of Frankenstein's past rather boring, especially his education, but as soon as we got to the parts about Frankenstein learning how to create life, I found that the book captured my interest. The unveiling of the "monster" was also very well-done.

The story really took off -- for me, at least -- when we saw Frankenstein and his monster confront each other for the first time. Although the death of two major characters, William and Justine, was a climactic moment in  the novel, the story of Frankenstein's monster intrigued me like nothing else. I felt for the monster. He wasn't created evil, but it was merely the neglect and hatred of him, based purely on his appearance, that drove him to become the bloodthirsty, murderous creature he was in the middle of the novel. His story made me wonder what could have happened, if Frankenstein had instead reached out to his creation, instead of pushing him away with cries of "Wretched creature!" because of his outwardly grotesque appearance.

The creature was not wretched -- not in the least. In the early years of his creation, he was gentle and kind. He took an interest in his "protectors," as he called them, cutting firewood for the poor family and clearing snow away from the door so that they did not have to do it themselves. He was interested in learning how to comprehend speech, and even learned how to read and write better than most of the humans of that time. He thirsted for knowledge, and he did not understand how people could be so harsh and cold toward each other. Just like every human being on the face of the planet, he yearned for acceptance from just one person, but no human could look beyond his appearance long enough to see the soft creature beneath.

The idea of judging people by their appearance is written deep into this novel. We see, time and time again, people harming and decrying the monster, simply because of his grotesque appearance. He is gentle, kind, and intelligent, but people do not see that. Instead all they see is a wretch, and in turning him away, the monster sees no reason to turn to those who do not accept him. All he wishes is to be accepted by one person -- just one, and maybe he'd be different, but even his creator turns him away. This creates the real monster, the one who wishes vengeance on the entire human race.

As said, I sympathized with the monster, who only wanted acceptance, just like everyone else, but was turned away by everyone. This book surprised me with the deep messages written into his pages, how it explored life, death, acceptance, deceitful appearances, and how very judgmental the human race is. The book certainly struck a chord with me, and by the end of the novel, I almost cried because of the way the creature had so much potential -- if only he had not been turned away by all humankind.

This book was a perfect way to start my year. It was not a simple horror story, which I appreciated. If it had just been a case of Frankenstein creating a monster that was evil from the start, I would have probably enjoyed the novel, but not as much as I enjoyed the exploration of the monster's deepest thoughts and yearnings for acceptance and joy. I certainly see why my English teacher assigned it; it has some deep messages that I know I enjoyed exploring. Highly recommended.
callistahogan: (Default)
Finally, another book post. Nine books here, and hopefully once I finish either Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey or The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, I can go back to my full-length reviews. I miss those things, but I am not about to try and do nine full-length ones in a day, so these'll be short.

32. Without Blood by Alessandro Barrico (Grade: B-)
I read this book at the end of my freshman year, so I don't quite remember the book entirely. What I do remember is that it was written very well and expressed the horrors and challenges war brings to people. It also shows the power of redemption and forgiveness, and how there can be peace found among opposing members in a war. Although it is not one of my favorite books, I enjoyed it. (112 pp.)

33. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (Grade: A)
I had been wanting to read this book for quite a while, ever since I was in seventh grade. I tried reading it back then, but found it was too complicated and dark for my romance-addled brain to handle, unfortunately. I had tried reading it since then, but again, it was just too complicated. It had to have taken me two or three or four times reading the first chapter for me to really get into it, but once I did, I enjoyed it. Catherine and Heathcliff are very unsavory characters and, as Bella Swan said in Eclipse, their only redeeming factor is their love for each other, and even that takes a dark turn. I'm not one of those girls who is obsessed with Heathcliff (give me Mr. Rochester any day of the week), but he was an intriguing character. It makes me wonder how exactly he turned out the way he did and how he actually perceives himself, because we only see things from the point of view of two outsiders, which is admittedly biased, though it makes for a wonderful classic. This is not my favorite classic, but I will probably reread it one day. (400 pp.)

34. A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce (Grade: A+)
I loved this book. I loved it because it had fantasy elements, but it was not just a fantasy novel. I loved it because it had romance, but not the sickly sweet romance that never has problems, but a romance where they had to work at what they had and work through their issues. It was realistic, showing the life of a miller and how Charlotte had to work very hard in order to keep the mill running. The book was complex, sifting through many different issues in a realistic way. I absolutely adored it. (400 pp.)

35. Love's Pursuit by Siri Mitchell (Grade: B)
I had high hopes coming into this book, because it intrigued me, the way it expressed both sides of Christianity: the more religious- and church-based part, a la Catholicism, and the grace-centric side. It provided a balanced view of Christianity, and expressed some of my core beliefs in a quick, eloquent way. The relationship between Susannah Phillips and Daniel Halcombe was written well and realistically, even though (and this is the last I'm going to say, because I don't want to spoil anything) it made me cry. The only reason this book did not get a higher grade is because the ending thoroughly depressed and slightly disappointed me. (336 pp.)

36. The Naming by Alison Croggon (Grade: A-)
There was a month and a half gap between finishing Love's Pursuit and finishing this one. Thankfully, this book got me back into reading on a regular basis. I bought it at the end of July/the beginning of August, started reading it while my cousins were here, and finished it a few days after. It struck me as a bit like the traditional fantasy novels: you know, the whole "orphan girl is in a terrible situation, someone gets her out, she goes to the epicenter of magic, learns that she's the Chosen One, goes on a quest to save the world from Teh Ebul Darkness" plot, but Alison Croggon puts her own spin on it. Yes, it is rather cliched in some spots, but in others, it was very original. Maerad is a strong-willed, passionate woman who really starts to grow into her own, and Cadvan is just intriguing. It is obvious that something is going to happen between them in the next book, and I can't wait to see what that something is. The action was just picking up when the book halted, and after reading the little snippet of a chapter of the next book in my copy, I can't wait to read the next one. (466 pp.)

37. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling (Grade: A)
Reread. I can't believe this is my first reread of this book. Although this is not my favorite in the series (that would have to go to PoA or OotP), it was still very good. It is interesting to read through this book, knowing what's going to happen in the end. It puts a new twist on Snape, and makes him not seem altogether bad. I found myself noticing things I hadn't noticed in the first read-through -- which is why I love these books. You always find something new in the pages. Parts of the book I didn't like, though. I did find the whole Harry's monster thing rather contrived and unrealistic, but the Harry/Ginny relationship on a whole pleased me. Ron and Hermione are rather immature, yes, but it is understandable, as they are only sixteen or seventeen. The ending of the book made me sad, as usual, and I got rather choked-up, even though I knew it was going to happen. (652 pp.)

38. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd (Grade: A)
I finished this book in a day. At first, I wasn't sure if I was going to like it, but I ended up enjoying it. The religious overtones did bother me slightly, but it didn't prohibit me from liking the book. As you can see, I couldn't put it down. Lily was a very likeable main character. And although I hate bees, this book almost made me like them. :D (336 pp.)

39. A Walk to Remember by Nicholas Sparks (Grade: C+)
This is the first time I have ever said this, but I have to admit that... I liked the movie better than the book. The movie was sweet, sensitive, and touching, and while the book was these things as well, it just didn't move me as much as the movie did. This was partly because of the writing and partly because the book was so darn short and disjointed. The ending did move me a little, but there were no huge, moving paragraphs, no big touching moments, and that disappointed me. Maybe the book version of The Notebook will be better. (224 pp.)

40. My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult (Grade: A)
Now here was a moving book. I found myself at eleven last night, bawling my eyes out at the ending of this complex, multi-faceted novel. It was everything people ever said it was and more. I couldn't help loving both Anna and Kate, and this made me very conflicted. This book brings up many different questions -- about life, ethics, medical emancipation, donors, morals, and just what is right. Even I am not sure what I would do in Anna's position or Kate's or Sara's or Campbell's. All I am sure of is that I loved this book, and will probably pick up another Picoult novel soon. (500 pp.)

Progress (pages): 16,088/15,000 (+100%)

Well, look here. I finished my progress in pages already. How about I kick it up a notch and have my goal be 22,000 pages by the end of the year? That seems doable, if I have 10 more books left before I reach 50.
callistahogan: (Default)
I can't believe that summer is almost over. There is really less than a month until school starts up again, and it seems like just yesterday I was getting out of school. I'm not ready for summer to be over, though, because I have loved this summer, and I don't want it to end.

It all started with the Friday after I got out of school. You see, I was invited to paint a Lord of the Rings mural for the teen room in my library. It took only about three weeks to finish. That was definitely a surprise, because we thought it would take much longer than that. We did all four walls, starting from Bag End (with Bilbo and Gandalf smoking) and going all the way around the room, ending with the Scourging of the Shire and Valinor. It was so much fun too, and though most of us kind of just hung around the room watching my best friend do everything, it took us less time than we thought.

After we finished the mural, I thought I would go back to being bored out of my mind, doing nothing, but I was very wrong. One of the guys from the mural seemed to like me, and so after the mural work ended, we started hanging out with each other. The Friday after we finished, he asked me to go out with him, and so we've been dating for about three weeks. It will be a month this coming Friday.

I also had my first kiss with this guy, which was... amazing, as I said in a post a few weeks ago. We both seem to really like each other. I just miss him a lot, because he's at his lakehouse with his cross country team and I can't see him until August 10. :( He is calling me tonight, though, luckily.

If that isn't enough, a couple weeks ago, I also participated in VBS at my church, taking pictures. Add onto that watching the extended versions of the Lord of the Rings with my friends, my cousins coming up, and getting into photography like my dad, brother and sister, and you can see why I have not updated much lately. I have just been swamped, doing things constantly.

So I thnk it's understandable that I haven't updated much lately because, while I have had a bit of time to do so, I've just been so exhausted that I didn't feel like updating. However, things are slowing down, so this next month should bring more updates -- and more book reviews!

I haven't finished a book for six weeks or so (ouch), but I do have four books finished that I haven't written reviews on yet and one book I am about halfway through at the moment. I'm thinking I'll finish The Naming by Alison Croggon, write short reviews on those five books, and then start up with my long reviews after I finish the next.

I will try to update more often!
callistahogan: (Books)
I am such a terrible procrastinator. I would do long reviews but, since that would take more time than I have, I'll just do a paragraph or two expressing my thoughts. The next book will see me back into the swing of things, so to speak.

22. Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon (Grade: A-)
Once again, Gabaldon delivered. Although it wasn't quite as good as the previous three, I finished it the quickest (I read it for that readathon way back when), and it was still very good. Jamie and Brianna... well, let me just say that they are acting true to themselves. Some parts of the book were cliched, but all in all, it was a gripping book. I've taken a break on the series for now, but I will probably start reading The Fiery Cross sometime this summer. If I get around to it, that is. (880 pp.)

23. Unwind by Neal Shusterman (Grade: B+)
I remember being very disturbed, yet very thoughtful, while reading this book. It makes you think: What's worse, killing a child before it gets a chance to live, or allowing it to live (perhaps in very terrible situations) for thirteen years and then "harvesting" the human being for organs, regardless of its wishes? Thinking about the book again, I go back and forth. Right at this moment, I would say abortion is worse.

However, the thoughts that run through my mind while I read this book is probably why I liked it. The characters were also well-portrayed; one in particular went through a rather grueling journey, maybe more so than the others did. And, though the book wasn't quite as good as I expected it to be, I wholeheartedly enjoyed it and would strongly recommend reading it. (333 pp.)

24. The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J. K. Rowling (Grade: A)
Cute, quirky.  Read like real fairytales and I bet  you could read these stories to your children and they'd adore them. I loved the way that there were strong female characters in the tales. My favorite was probably the one with the warlock and the hairy heart. (107 pp.)

25. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K.  Rowling (Grade: A)
Reread. Wonderful, as always. I always love all the little clues and foreshadowing in the earlier parts of this book, and I always think that it fits together so well. One of my favorite books in the series. (435 pp.)

26. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer (Grade: A+)
Reread. I almost can't believe how anyone can hate this book. Sure, it's not the best writing in the world, nor the most traditional vampire story, but it is completely gripping and enthralling. I didn't want to put it down, and after reading it, my Twilight obsession came back with a vengeance. Edward and Bella have the sort of passionate love every teenage girl dreams of. (498 pp.)

27. New Moon by Stephenie Meyer (Grade: A)
Reread. I read this one in a day. As expected, the first part thoroughly depressed me, and I'm not ashamed to say I cried. Jacob, however, grew on me, and I didn't hate him as much as I did on my first read-through. The part in Volterra made me sit on the edge of my seat in anticipation. I loved it, though not quite as much as Twilight. It was still so marvelous, though. (563 pp.)

28. Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer (Grade: A+)
Reread. After Twilight, this is probably my favorite book in the series. I spared pages whenever I could, even if it meant reading through an incredibly boring movie on Gandhi during World Studies. ;) Jacob got on my nerves in this book, but I understood him more. Bella, though... WHAT was she thinking? (People who've read this one  know what I'm talking about.) That was the one part in the book that I really did not like. Other than that, I loved it, especially Chapter 20. Edward and Bella are just as wonderful, although Edward could be a smidge less protective of Bella. I understand his thought processes, though, so it makes sense why he acts the way he does in certain scenes. (629 pp.)

29. Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer (Grade: A-)
Reread. This is probably my least favorite book in the series, even though I still adored it. It just didn't have as much action as the others did, and Bella still seems a slight Mary Sue. I'm in the minority here, but I still l say it's worth reading. (754 pp., previous review here.)

30. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (Grade: B)
This was, hands down, the most disturbing book I have ever read. Regardless, I really enjoyed it. The writing style was rich and lyrical, flowing smoothly and effortlessly. I didn't relate to any of the characters, but I sympathized with some of them (maybe against my better judgment). There are just so many layers to this book, it would take thousands and thousands of words to express them all. Suffice it to say I liked it, although I'm not so sure I could say I love it. (291 pp.)

31. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon (Grade: B+)
I'm not sure what I expected coming into this, but what I got was very different. Not in a bad way, though; the story was just so much bigger than what I expected. It's not just about the main character finding out who killed his neighbor's dog. It's so much more than that. Although the writing was very simple, very easy to understand, it sucked me in. There are quite a few profound things in this book. Would recommend it very highly for a nice, relaxing afternoon (although it might make you think a bit!). (221 pp.)

Progress (pages): 12,662/15,000 pp. (84%)

Next Up:
Without Blood by Alessandro Barrico
callistahogan: (Default)
So I finished Drums of Autumn for the Read-a-thon, and I think it had some of  the most intense, heartwrenching scenes in the entire series so far. I loved it and will probably get the next one as soon as possible.

But now, onto Unwind by Neal Shusterman. Four more hours and ten minutes until sleeeeep.

I've only finished one book, but considering there were a few hours I didn't read and Drums of Autumn is a behemoth, I think I did well. But now, onward!

Vacation!

Apr. 17th, 2009 09:28 pm
callistahogan: (Default)
So I'm now on vacation, and not a day too soon either, because if I needed to go to school one more week, I probably would have cracked.

As it was, I was so unbelievably stressed over the past few days, what with an abundance of homework, two presentations, and my exhaustion. I've been so tired and stressed, I thought that I was going to snap before the week was finally over. I got through it, though, with no lasting damage, and now I can just relax, sleep and read for a week.

I don't have much planned for tomorrow, so I'm thinking about doing the 24 Hour Readathon, starting at 8 AM Saturday and going until 8 AM Sunday. I doubt I'll be able to do the entire 24 hours, just because I'm exhausted, but I'm going to shoot for reading all day, with only necessary breaks. (Meals, youth group, etc.) Considering I just started Drums of Autumn, I don't think it'll be that difficult.

--

Speaking of  reading, I started reading the Bible straight through. I started with the New Testament, and I'm currently in John 6. I would be further ahead, but there were a couple days where I didn't read. (Those were the days I was so unbelievably stressed.)

Hopefully, I'll be able to pick up over vacation, and read more. I already find that it's helping with my confidence and such, and I feel closer to Him. I never realized how much I missed God, until I read the Bible and realized that He didn't possess a spot in my heart as big as He used to, or I just couldn't feel His presence. I'm feeling Him now, though. :)

Anyway, I'm tired, and should probably do more reading before I head to bed. I'll definitely be posting tomorrow, just to update on where I am in my reading and such.

callistahogan: (Books)
Wow, I'm on a roll! Now I just have to pick up a book to read quickly before I lose my momentum. Am thinking I'll read Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban just to keep up the momentum until my books through interlibrary loan are in. And then I'll get Drums of Autumn!

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier )

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan )
callistahogan: (Default)
I have spent the whole day reading, and over the course of the past two days, I've gotten five hundred and eighty pages of Dragonfly in Amber under my belt. I won't spoil, but "get prepared to be taken through the wringer" is definitely a very accurate representation of what the book has been like so far. Just like the first one, I can't put it down, and expect to have it done by tomorrow.

As always, reviews will be forthcoming, just as soon as I can get myself off my butt and write them. I am so happy my reading has picked up and, along with that, the length of the books. It's so nice, to have a big healthy tome in your hands and just know that you have a whole day's worth of reading and sitting on the edge of your seat and laughing and just pure joy in the written word ahead of you.

--

Also, youth group is getting better.

The music has grown drastically since the last week we had it, and I found myself enjoying it. Our youth group is small, but friendly, and I like the crazy atmosphere around it, almost like you can do anything and people will laugh with you about it. Unlike the year or so where we were lumped in with the younger kids, I feel that we are with more mature people, and that we are actually learning something, instead of watching people lick tape off the floor and a youth leader wrestle another kid to the ground. (Yes, that actually happened.)

I am also glad that we are starting work in a little book of sorts that goes along with our lessons, which is about spiritual emptiness and "refueling" when we feel spiritually dry. Considering I feel as though I have been going through a dry spell recently as well, with everything and not just God, I think that this is going to be good for me. It might help me get better with my self-consciousness, which is definitely something I need help with.

As I've said before, I'm sick and tired of it, but it will take a while to fix. But it's possible, so I'm going to try my hardest to do so. :)
callistahogan: (Default)
Haven't actually done one of these in a while.

I saw that National Library Week is coming up in April, and that led to some questions. How often do you use your public library and how do you use it? Has the coffeehouse/bookstore replaced the library? Did you go to the library as a child? Do you have any particular memories of the library? Do you like sleek, modern, active libraries or the older, darker, quiet, cozy libraries?

I use the library quite often, because I don't have the money or any good bookstores around my town. The amount of visits I have per month varies, depending on how fast I read the books I check out or how much I want to just go and pick out more books. Typically, I take out four books at a time, sometimes five, even though I don't often read them all before I go back. (I know, I'm trying to break that habit.)

Coffeehouse/bookstores aren't replacing the library in my eyes, even though I do have a great coffeehouse/bookstore right on Main Street. I go there every Saturday, but I don't buy much. Hopefully I'll start, though, because there are so many great books there, just browsing the sections Sunday with my sister (who works there).

For as long as I can remember, I've gone to the library. I remember taking a big stack of eight books home then forgetting to send them back, which resulted in a huge fine. I also remember my sister's dog chewing on one of the corners of a Lemony Snicket book, taking out the weird-smelling Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and browsing the shelves with my dad.

As for which type of libraries I like... I'd have to say I love my library. It's fairly open and bright as you walk in, but as you wander through the shelves, it's just a homely feeling, and I just want to stay there forever. It's very accessible, with quite a few computers and a little room with couches and such for reading. So, it's in the middle of the two options; it's not too dark or too light, nor too crowded or too open. It's just right for me.
callistahogan: (This is an icon.)
Ugh, I am sick. My nose is running so badly I want to cut it off, and all I want to do is sleep. I even stayed home from school today, which is a good thing, because my nose is dripping more than a very old, very rusty, very drippy faucet.

However, I roused myself out of my "feeling sorry for myself" phase and finished the last three hundred pages or so of Outlander.

I was going to write a review on it, but I don't think I'll be able to rouse up the energy. Once I finish To Kill a Mockingbird, I'll probably write a review on those two books and put them in the same post. Suffice it to say that Jamie and Claire are probably my new favorite couple, I am itching to go out and read the next one right now, and that the book is officially one of my favorites.

If you haven't read it, do so. It's everything I want in a novel and more!

callistahogan: (Books)
Which is very different from being addicted to books.

Right now, I am reading Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, and I cannot put it down. It is just so engrossing, I steal minutes whenever I can, and not reading it is torture. I have to find out what's going to happen next, I have to read it. Jamie and Claire are just so in love with each other, but they're denying it to themselves. And the layers, with Frank and Captain Randall and SCOTLAND, where my father's family came from! I just love it to little tiny miniscule pieces, and just want to read it all day long.

If it wasn't for school, I probably would; I read it for hours last night, nonstop, and snuck moments during school to read it.

I am so glad it's so long, and that there are six (seven? [livejournal.com profile] kiwiria, help me out here?) books left in the series as long as the first one. I have a feeling I'll be reading these books for quite a long time, but I don't care. Love, love, love.

Anyway, why I am writing this when I could be reading?
callistahogan: (Books)
Book: Amsterdam by Ian McEwan
Genre: Fiction
Length: 193 pp.
Progress (pages): 4,828/15,000 (32%)
GradeB

Amazon Summary: When good-time, fortysomething Molly Lane dies of an unspecified degenerative illness, her many friends and numerous lovers are led to think about their own mortality. Vernon Halliday, editor of the upmarket newspaper the Judge, persuades his old friend Clive Linley, a self-indulgent composer of some reputation, to enter into a euthanasia pact with him. Should either of them be stricken with such an illness, the other will bring about his death. From this point onward we are in little doubt as to Amsterdam's outcome—it's only a matter of who will kill whom. In the meantime, compromising photographs of Molly's most distinguished lover, foreign secretary Julian Garmony, have found their way into the hands of the press, and as rumors circulate he teeters on the edge of disgrace. However, this is McEwan, so it is no surprise to find that the rather unsavory Garmony comes out on top. Ian McEwan is master of the writer's craft, and while this is the sort of novel that wins prizes, his characters remain curiously soulless amidst the twists and turns of plot.

My Thoughts: In a way, I expected more from this book, after loving Atonement and Saturday, and hearing that it won the 1998 Booker Prize for fiction. That's not to say I didn't enjoy it, because it was a fascinating, thought-provoking novel that brought up a lot of interesting questions, but it just didn't live up to my expectations.

The plot was fascinating; going into it, I didn't expect what was going to happen at the end, which is something I appreciate in a novel. Because of the length, there weren't parts that seemed to drag on too long. The ending was confusing, but after a while, I got it, and I was shocked. That's all I'm going to say, though, because that ending is something you have to read for yourself.

The writing was gorgeous as always, flowing and vivid. McEwan is rather long-winded at times, but it adds to the novel and the tale he was trying to tell. In a way, his writing is very stream-of-consciousness, where I knew exactly what the characters are thinking. I experienced their blind anger, their frustration. I felt what the characters were feeling.

However, in this case, I wasn't sure if I wanted to know what the characters felt, because all of them were very unsavory. Clive, Vernon, Julian and George had dark sides to their personalities that came through. At the beginning, I liked Clive more than Vernon, but by the end, I disliked both of them. Admittedly, this side of their personality just showed the fact that they were human, but frankly, I just wish I had seen some of their "good" side.

In the end, I enjoyed this book, even though it wasn't as good as his other two novels. I think I'm going to pick up On Chesil Beach next; I was going to pick that one when I went to the library yesterday, but I was too tempted to pick up Amsterdam instead.

Currently Reading:
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Obscene in the Extreme: The Burning and Banning of John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath by Rick Wartzman

A lot of books to be reading at the same time, I know, but I can't control myself, I really can't.
callistahogan: (Books)
Book: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J. K. Rowling
Genre: YA fantasy
Length: 341 pp.
Progress (pages): 4,635/15,000 (31%)
Grade: A-

Amazon Summary: Fans of the phenomenally popular Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Scholastic, 1998) won't be disappointed when they rejoin Harry, now on break after finishing his first year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Reluctantly spending the summer with the Dursleys, his mean relatives who fear and detest magic, Harry is soon whisked away by his friends Ron, Fred, and George Weasley, who appear at his window in a flying Ford Anglia to take him away to enjoy the rest of the holidays with their very wizardly family. Things don't go as well, though, when the school term begins. Someone, or something, is (literally) petrifying Hogwarts' residents one by one and leaving threatening messages referring to a Chamber of Secrets and an heir of Slytherin. Somehow, Harry is often around when the attacks happen and he is soon suspected of being the perpetrator. The climax has Harry looking very much like Indiana Jones, battling a giant serpent in the depths of the awesome and terrible Chamber of Secrets. Along with most of the teachers and students introduced in the previous book, Draco Malfoy has returned for his second year and is more despicable than ever. The novel is marked throughout by the same sly and sophisticated humor found in the first book, along with inventive, new, matter-of-fact uses of magic that will once again have readers longing to emulate Harry and his wizard friends.

My Thoughts: Even though this is probably my least favorite book in the series, this is still a wonderful book. J. K. Rowling has a way of making me feel like I am part of  the story, that this world actually does exist. She weaves depth and layers into every novel she writes, and I love them.

The plot moves along at a nice, even pace. The characterizations, as always, are wonderful, even though my view on some characters (Lucius Malfoy comes to mind immediately) has changed due to some recent fanfiction I have read. The whole thing feels realistic, somehow, even though it's obvious magic and such like this doesn't exist.

Reading it again makes me wonder about the What ifs, what would have happened if Harry had perhaps spoken to Dumbledore sooner, or if Hermione hadn't rushed off to the library. There are so many possibilities in this series, which is another thing I love.

I am going to start Prisoner of Azkaban soon, which I'm excited about, as I adored that book!

Currently Reading:
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Laarson
callistahogan: (Books)
I'm on a roll!

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J. K. Rowling )

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck )

Atonement by Ian McEwan )

Currently Reading:
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J. K. Rowling
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Laarson
callistahogan: (Books)
Book: Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
Genre: Fiction
Length: 331 pp.
Progress (pages): 3,161/15,000 (21%)
Grade: A

Amazon Summary: Life is good for Jacob Jankowski. He's about to graduate from veterinary school and about to bed the girl of his dreams. Then his parents are killed in a car crash, leaving him in the middle of the Great Depression with no home, no family, and no career. Almost by accident, Jacob joins the circus. There he falls in love with the beautiful performer Marlena, who is married to the circus' psychotic animal trainer. He also meets the other love of his life, Rosie the elephant. This lushly romantic novel travels back in forth in time between Jacob's present day in a nursing home and his adventures in the surprisingly harsh world of 1930s circuses. The ending of both stories is a little too cheerful to be believed, but just like a circus, the magic of the story and the writing convince you to suspend your disbelief. The book is partially based on real circus stories and illustrated with historical circus photographs.

My Thoughts: I have been in a reading slump for the past twenty days (I've only finished one book in that time, believe it or not), but not because I was reading a terrible book. In fact, I was reading two books, but it just seems like I haven't  been in the mood for reading lately.

Now, I think I am.

Having heard so many glowing things about this book, I had high hopes. I don't remember hearing anything even remotely bad about this book, so I came into it expecting to love it... and wasn't disappointed at all. I definitely did love it, and finished the lastt two hundred pages or so in two sittings.

This book was a powerful representation of circus life; it is obvious that Sara Gruen did her research on Depression-era America and circus life during that time, and it just makes the book all the more authentic to read the note in the back about the real-life events that inspired some of the antics in the story. It seemed real from start to finish.

Of course, it was more than just a "circus book." If it was, I probably wouldn't have enjoyed it as much as I did. I loved the romance in the book, the angsty bits, the... ahem, inappropriate bits, the funny bits, and the dark bits as well. I do have to admit my squick button was hit several times during the course of the story (I'm sure those who read the book can figure out which bits), but it didn't detract from my enjoyment of the story.

My favorite aspect of the book was, by far, the growth of Marlena and Jacob's relationship throughout the book. August made me nervous, because I wasn't sure how they were ever going to be together, but I was glad they found a way. The progression of the relationship was believable as well, going neither too fast nor too slow. It struck a nice, even pace; it seemed right.

One of my favorite characters was Walter. At first, he strikes you as this mean, dirty guy, but throughout the story, he shows his depth, through his love for his dog, Queenie, and his devotion and loyalty to Jacob whenever he manages to get himself into a spat. He made me laugh, in some spots.

All in all, it was a great book. Sometimes, I felt the nursing home bits dragged on a little too much for my tastes, but that was only because I was eager to get back to Marlena and Jacob. The ending, as others have said, was absolutely perfect, and made me smile, particularly in regards to the actions of Marlena and Jacob toward the end. The ending just showed how suited Marlena and Jacob were to each other, and how suited Jacob was toward the circus.

I wouldn't go so far as to call it a favorite, but if you haven't read it already, do so.

Currently Reading:
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

And I am also in the mood to relax with some good ol' comfort reading:
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J. K. Rowling

I very much want to get through the whole series back-to-back; I haven't actually done that before. And I claim to be Harry-obsessed...

Ugh.

Mar. 10th, 2009 06:55 pm
callistahogan: (Books)
I am reading The Grapes of Wrath for a book club I'm doing through school and I like it and all, but honestly.

You do not, I repeat, do not, have to write out dialect every time someone says something. I think that we'd understand that they would all be talking with a Southern accent, so you really don't need to spell it out. It makes it very hard to read and understand, and makes the book seem like it goes on and on forever. Which is not a feeling I want when I read a book.

I feel as though I would be enjoying the book more if Steinbeck had just cut the dialects out. Readers aren't stupid; most of us know what a Southern accent sounds like.

I just hope it picks up and gets easier to read.

For anyone who has read it: Does it? I'm only on page 46, and it's kind of bothering me a little.

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