Friday, September 19, 2014

Hamlette's Piratical Blogathon / Book Bingo: Treasure Island

I meant to mention this before so you could participate if you so desired (sorry!), but I am taking part in Hamlette's Piratical Blogathon for Talk Like a Pirate Day! I don't ever talk like a pirate...pretty sure none of my customers at the store would know what I was saying...but I enjoy a good literary celebration! My role in this party is to review Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, a classic of which I'm sure most of you have heard. Here's a button for the blogathon!:


Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson is about Jim Hawkins, a boy whose family owns an inn on the coast. At the beginning of the book, a pirate captain on-the-run shows up at the inn flashing some gold, and they accept him as a boarder. The situation quickly becomes dangerous and unpredictable, and Jim finds himself with a treasure map, an adventure ahead, and some dangerous pirates at every turn!

First Impression: This isn't really what I expected. When the Captain showed up, I assumed he would lead Jim Hawkins on an adventure of some sort (maybe directly to Treasure Island), but the Captain is hardly part of the story at all now! Also, the rough treatment of Jim by the pirates (even the milder ones) is much more accurate than many books published today. It kind of scares me for him but excites me as a reader wanting a more legitimate experience. I'm curious to see if Jim's mother will last through this adventure or if he'll go it alone. I'm also interested in how much the current characters and plot points so far will come into play later in the story. It's tempting to guess that the whole story will lead to nothing as a bit of a joke, but since this is a traditional adventure story, I doubt it.

(picture taken from Goodreads)

Conclusion: Even though I don't consider adventure fiction to be one of my genres, this one held my attention and was fun to read. The story is actually a series of small adventures that play into one big scenario. I'm a little surprised at Long John Silver's character. Rather than the violent, immediately terrifying creature I've heard described, Silver is a friendly smooth-talker. He may look a little sea-worn, but he puts up a good front and keeps everyone at ease. And his ability to wiggle through every situation amazes me! Jim Hawkins is a typical kid with a taste for adventure, although he seems to handle seeing dead bodies better than most kids. The squire is a bit foolish, but he and the doctor are the ones who keep the crew going until the end. My favorite character is probably Captain Smollett--a dependable, trustworthy sailor who warns the men at the beginning that their plan is crazy. I can't believe it took me so long to read this book! I tend to find a lot of adventurous stories to be over-the-top, but this one wasn't! It was fun and a little bit dangerous--a great read in this early fall weather I've been getting!

Recommendation: Anyone who likes a little excitement and adventure (19th-century style) will like this book!

I got kind of lucky that this book fits so nicely on my Book Bingo board, so there's another box checked off! I'm using Treasure Island as my "Classic" choice for the 2014 Book Bingo Challenge. I'm making surprising progress, I think! Thirteen boxes to go! Don't forget to click through the Piratical Blogathon link for more adventure!


Thursday, September 18, 2014

A-Z Bookish Questions

 I don't do these little questionnaires very often, but I like to write something other than reviews once in a while. Also, I have about three of these just sitting in my "Drafts," so here goes!

A to Z Bookish Questions
Borrowed from Birdie at Lady of the Manor

Author you've read the most books from: If we're talking about adult books, probably Jane Austen (or John Galsworthy, if you divide his books as they were originally published). I've read somewhere between 5-10 books by various children's and YA authors, though.

Best sequel ever: I don't know if it's the best, but A Modern Comedy by John Galsworthy is a fantastic sequel to The Forsyte Saga, although each of them really consists of three books.

Currently reading: About ten books, actually. But the ones I read from almost every day right now are The Spymistress by Jennifer Chiaverini (my current book club read), Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson (for Hamlette's Piratical Blogathon), and A Grimm Warning by Chris Colfer (the third book in The Land of Stories series).

Drink of choice while reading: Usually tea; sometimes Dr. Pepper or milk.

E-reader or physical book: Physical book! I understand why some people like the e-readers, and they are very convenient, but nothing beats the nostalgia factor.

Fictional character you probably would have actually dated in high school? Other than the fact that he's in a band, Dexter (from This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen) is exactly like my husband was in high school! So, he's the most likely. Transport me some years back in time, and I might pick John Thornton from North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell!

Glad you gave this book a chance: Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson--I don't usually read adventure books, but this has been a really fun read!

Hidden gem book: The Dark Flower by John Galsworthy--very heavy and dark, but absolutely fantastic!

Just finished: The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen, the first book of The Ascendance Trilogy

Kind of books you won't read: I don't really refuse to read anything, but I have a tendency to avoid certain westerns...and thrillers...

Longest book you've read: I'm not really sure. I've read a lot of long books, and I'm not going to look up the page numbers, but they're mostly classics.

Major book hangover because of: Sea of Shadows by Kelley Armstrong--the next one doesn't come out until April 2015! I had never read the first book in a series before the second one was out until now; it's been a bit of a shock.

Number of bookcases you own: One, because I don't have space for more at the moment. It only holds books that I have yet to read (or finish). And I have boxes and totes full of books in my bedroom...and my closet...and my basement...

One book you read multiple times: The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen--I've read several books multiple times, but this one always resonates with me, no matter my mood.

Preferred place to read: I love to read in the park, especially in the Spring or Fall, when the weather isn't too extreme. But give me a blanket, and I'll happily curl up to read on my couch.

Quote you like from a book you read: “Till this moment I never knew myself”(Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice). Simple but expressive.

Reading regret: Not finishing The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. This is the only book I didn't finish reading in the first eighteen years of my life, and I've been told it's fantastic. I plan on picking it up again someday, so we'll see.

Series you started and need to finish: The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy. I just need to read the third collection of books, but who has the time? I know it will take me a couple of months to read. Maybe this Fall.

Three of your all time favorite books: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen, and A Room with a View by E.M. Forster

Unapologetic fangirl for: Jane Austen and Virginia Woolf

Very excited for this release more than all the others: Empire of Night by Kelley Armstrong, the second book in the Age of Legends series

Worst bookish habit: Probably forgetting to return my library books on time...also, sometimes I set books aside and don't finish them until five or ten years later.

X marks the spot: I love bookmarks! I have a collection that is rotated as it's used. Also, I love finding old, rare classics at library book sales for half the market price!

Your latest book purchase: A collection of Roald Dahl pieces written for adults--should be interesting.

Zzzz snatcher book: Is this supposed to be a book you read instead of sleeping? If so, than the answer is The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. I'm chipping away at it very slowly, because lately I'm only reading it when I can't sleep.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Book Bingo: Insurgent

Insurgent by Veronica Roth is the second book in the Divergent Trilogy. In this continuation, Tris and Four take their small band of survivors to a peaceful location and begin sifting through the events of the first book. After they leave, things begin to spiral violently toward war, and the main characters must keep track of who is telling the truth and who is lying in order to save their society. If you'd like to read my review of Divergent (the first book in the series), you can find it here.

(picture taken from Goodreads;
faction symbol art by Rhythm & Hues Design;
jacket art and design by Joel Tippie)

First Impression: Tris almost seems like a different person . In the last book, she acted for the support and assistance of others; now she seems to think and act primarily of herself. Little details seem to be changed about her as well. Her fear of intimacy, which was central to her character before, seems non-existent now. She's just bothering me all around, and it's really distracting from everything else.

Conclusion: There's not a lot that I can say about this book, because there are many secrets revealed as you read. I will say that if you make it past the beginning of the book, the second half speeds by like lightning. And my early concerns about Tris's character were somewhat justified due to the trauma she endured in the first book. Apparently her personality changes were a result of that. Tris is not my favorite character, but I like her better when she regains some of her strength and originality. I don't think that Roth has great writing technique, but most of the time she sticks with her strong suit, which is action. She spirals events one into another and out of control until it ends suddenly, and there is one solid act to connect the reader to the next book.

Recommendation: You should read this book if you read Divergent and liked it or if you just want to know what happens to the characters. It won't make any sense at all if you didn't read the first book.

Insurgent is my seventh "Series" choice for the 2014 Book Bingo Challenge. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Book Bingo: Gathering Blue

Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry is the second book in The Giver Quartet. Kira is a young girl with a bad leg living in a futuristic but primitive society. After her mother dies, she catches the eye of the Guardians of her village, and she is chosen to be the new weaver for the Singing Robe. But things are not always what they seem, and Kira's threading abilities are called into question when she starts to discover new and suspicious activities happening around her.

(picture taken from Goodreads)

First Impression: Gathering Blue doesn't seem to have anything to do with The Giver, the first book in Lowry's quartet (the review of which you can find here). In many ways, Kira's village is the opposite of Jonas's community. However, Lowry still works her magic with her characters and their experiences. Kira's life may be completely different from Jonas's, but it is equally compelling. She feels the magic of the threads weaving into her work, and I wonder what story they will tell when she's finished. Is this a prequel to The Giver? Perhaps Kira's futuristic weaving will foretell Jonas's stark community. I understand the relevance of the title now, since Kira's mother could never find the source for blue dye. Perhaps a major plot point will be Kira finding a source of blue for her thread? I'm also curious to see if Kira ends up in some sort of romantic relationship. The most obvious choice for this would be Thomas the Carver, but I almost wonder if Jamison (a Guardian) would be an option? Sidenote: I love how the characters build onto their names with age. For example, Annabella used to be Ann, then Anna, then Annabelle as she aged. Now she is Annabella, and four syllables is as old as the characters can get, I believe. It's such a small detail, but it conveys a lot about each character as well as the village.

Conclusion: Lowry has a fantastic talent for describing civilizations that might exist in the future. Kira had such mental and emotional strength throughout her struggles. She knew she would do her best and make her way as she could. I'm glad that she did not cower to the scarred woman toward the beginning of the story as others did, even though she could not physically defend herself. And Matt was such a sweetheart! He was a little rascal, but he took care of Kira as she took care of him. He saw more than the other children (or tykes, as Kira calls them)--in his care of a wild, wounded dog; when he found out about Annabella; and in his actions toward the end. I loved that Kira took responsibility for her village, even as the people in it disappointed her expectations. The symbolism of blue and the threads not yet sewn was strong and yet subtle, and I liked its continuance in the novel to "tie" everything together--hahaha. Even though Lowry always seems to leave these stories somewhat open-ended, I actually enjoyed it this time. Rather than feeling sad not to know the ending or over-expectant of the next book, I felt an abundance of possibility and could imagine various endings (or continuances) for this great story. Of course, the series continues in two more books. Maybe they'll be more connected to their prequels than this one was to The Giver. As a sidenote, I'm curious to see if any of Lowry's ideas come to pass in the future. I would never live long enough to see them, of course. But now that I think about it, she never gives a specific idea of the time period in which her books take place. I think that's probably wise. It's another detail to expand the imaginative ideas of the reader.

Recommendation: This book is a good read for people who like strong characters and imaginative ideas of alternate societies that might develop in the future (also if you already know and admire Lowry's writing style). You do not have to read The Giver to understand anything in this book.

Gathering Blue is my sixth "Series" choice for the 2014 Book Bingo Challenge.

I'm thinking of adding a "Spoiler" button to my posts, where you could see my comments on the ending or climax of each book if you wanted. It would keep sensitive information hidden until you chose to reveal it after reading the book yourself or if you don't mind knowing. Would any of you be interested in this added feature? I try not to ruin anything for you in my reviews, but there are definitely some things that I have to avoid saying in order to do so! Please comment and let me know! And don't forget to subscribe and check back as I fill-in more of my Book Bingo card!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Book Bingo: A Room with a View

A Room with a View by E.M. Forster is about an English girl, Lucy, in the upper-middle-class in the first decade of the 20th-century. She takes a trip to Italy with her mother's cousin, Charlotte, as her chaperone. But as Lucy discovers love, passion, and beauty on her trip, she finds herself torn between this intense, new-found world and her safe and comfortable social conventions. I've grown up watching the 1985 version of A Room with a View, which I love, but for some reason I never picked up the book and read it. Until now!

(picture taken from Goodreads)

First Impression: I'm captivated by the beauty of Forster's language. Maybe some of it is because I've been having classic literature withdrawal lately, but his prose feels like poetry. It's funny, too, how Forster's version of Italy appears so captivating even when the characters are bored or something gruesome is happening. I find it interesting that no one really likes the other characters in the first half of the book. I can definitely see more evidence of it here than in the movie. One person who appears to advantage in the book is Cecil, if only because the reader can see that he tries to phrase his opinions in a less offensive way and to see other points-of-view. He's making an effort. He is the same snooty character, however, that one can never really like. George is as wonderful as ever, and the main difference in him is that he communicates a little more with Lucy. He also seems to be depressed rather than just thoughtful, which changes his character somewhat for me. Freddy's "bone hobby" is actually studies in anatomy. Who knew? I'm enjoying the extra character information in my reading. My favorite parts so far have been the author's descriptions of music and of Lucy when she plays the piano. She comes alive! I wonder if Forster was a big fan of music or if he just found this to be a perfect way to convey Lucy's full character?

(picture taken from Goodreads)

This is my favorite version of the cover that I've seen so far. It's artistic, beautiful, and it displays a few significant themes from the novel. The cover pictured at the beginning of this post is from the copy that I read.

Conclusion: As you know, the beauty of Forster's writing grabbed me from the beginning of this book, and it held throughout! The passion conveyed in the words of the author and the actions of the characters was amazingly profound. It makes the reader want to live, and to do so with extreme depth and clarity. I found the characters very fascinating and unique. Lucy was not perfect. She was the protagonist, but she was very conflicted and somewhat selfish throughout the book. George was my favorite, of course. He lived freely and threw himself into everything he did in such a compelling way--even the characters who didn't like him were fascinated by him. Mr. Beebe was the most confusing character to me, I guess. It's hard to even explain why, but you'll see if you read it. He was a bit of a riddle. The ending was perfect for every character, but it was not exactly what I expected, because it varied from the movie slightly. This made things interesting! And it proved to some extent that authors usually know what's best for their characters. And why not? They've spent so much more time together than we have!

Recommendation: This book is fantastic for those who like classics that challenge social ideals. If you are a fan of John Galsworthy or Elizabeth Gaskell, you will like this novel by E.M. Forster.

A Room with a View is one of my "TBR Pile" choices for the 2014 Book Bingo Challenge! It also would have worked in the "Classic" box, but I'm saving that for a book I'm currently reading! I loved this book, and I hope you enjoyed the review! Please subscribe to the blog or keep checking back for more reviews and maybe some other fun things!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Book Bingo: A World Without Princes

A World Without Princes is the second book in The School for Good and Evil series by Soman Chainani. Some of you may remember the first book from my review here. In this sequel, Agatha finds herself unhappy with what is supposed to be her perfect life. Through a series of uncontrollable events, the girls find themselves thrust back into the fairytale world. But everything has changed, and the darkest threats to happiness might be those people and things they trusted the most.

(picture taken from Goodreads)

First Impression: I'm surprised by how Chainani starts this one, but that is partially because I forgot how he detailed the ending of the first book. He also likes to take risks and do unusual things with his characters, which he continues here. Agatha is still my favorite character, although she seems less sure of what she wants this time around. Her inner self is at war. Unlike last time, I have no idea what the future has in store for Sophie or Tedros, and I'm eager to see what will happen. I don't like the new evolution of the storybook world, so I hope the girls (or others) bring it crumbling down or re-instate the old ways.

Conclusion: Agatha's whining and indecisiveness bothered me in this book. She was so sure and pure-of-heart in the first one--her inability to take action in this one was a bit frustrating. Tedros was, as always, bothersome in his lack of self-assurance, but he continued to be loyal to his friends and ideals. Sophie was the most confusing one this time. Is she good; is she evil? Who knows? And Evelyn Sader was Chainani's most brilliant creation yet, although I still can't help but hate her. I think it was the fact that she tampered with the books in the school library! Speaking of which, there's a giant turtle librarian! I loved it. I probably would have ended the storyline of the series with this book (or maybe even the first one). I love Chainani's originality, but I'm curious why you never see books with just one sequel. And it's frustrating being left hanging! I had finality with the first book since I thought it was a stand-alone...albeit a tentative, barely constructed finality. The author's specialties seem to lie with the cliffhangers and the edgy, unique characters. I'm extremely fascinated to see how it will finally end.

Recommendation: This book will only make sense within its series, so I recommend reading it if you liked the first one.

The School for Good and Evil: A World Without Princes is my fourth "New Release" choice for the 2014 Book Bingo Challenge. How are everyone else's challenges going? Don't forget to comment and subscribe for further updates on the challenge! Who knows, maybe I'll get that blackout after all!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Paper Towns

Paper Towns by John Green is about a girl named Margo who is unhappy with her life, her town, her friends, etc. She disappears one day, and her neighbor (Quentin), who has had a crush on her since childhood, starts a search to find out where she is and what happened to her. Quentin is actually the main character, but he is so focused on getting "inside Margo's mind" during his search that the reader learns just as much about her as one does about him.

(picture taken from Goodreads)

First Impression: This is a little strange so far. Basically, there's this little girl who sees a dead body and gets really weird about it. Rather than running away, her initial reaction is to close the dead man's eyes (she doesn't, but she wanted to). Then she starts this whole investigation to find out what happened and gets spooked when talking to her friend about it. The funny thing is, the main character is just as strange in the opposite way, because he just sees the dead body, talks to his parents (who are therapists) about it, and then moves on as if nothing significant had happened. And yet, his reaction feels more normal than hers. Maybe it's just the general attitude in which this book starts that is throwing me off, because Green has already switched gears and left the beginning years behind, and I'm only twenty-three pages in. Quentin is now in high school, and he seems to live a fairly normal life outside of the major social circles. I really have no idea where this book will take me, so I'm just along for the ride at the moment.

(picture taken from Goodreads)

This is the cover on the paperback edition, which I actually think is a bit more fun. Lots of books have pictures of girls on the front, right? This one makes it special.

Conclusion: John Green has a talent for taking something basic and making it special. This book becomes something you don't expect. It starts out a little quirky, and you assume it's going to be about Q's (Quentin's) strengthened friendships or the point where he decides to let Margo go, but it's not. So, the ending wasn't what I expected or even really what I wanted, but I like how it ended overall. I don't really want to read more about Quentin and Margo, but I wouldn't mind a spin-off, maybe about Radar or Margo's little sister.