Sunday, August 12, 2012

From "Catching Fire" to "Shadow of Night"

***Caution: This post about  The Hunger Games: Catching Fire will contain spoilers.***

I finished up Catching Fire this morning, the second book in The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. I could only hope that I would be as thoroughly amused with the second book as I was the first, and Collins did not let me down. But, by the time I got to part III of the novel, I could not believe that I was going to go back into the arena with all my favorite characters as we, basically, watch them fight for their lives once again.

That was the best twist that could've happened in the second book and I had to reread that section again to make sure I understood it right. The main character, Katniss, and her fake lover, Peeta, do indeed have to go back into the arena to fight to the death. This time, not just amongst young children from all 12 districts, but amongst previous victors of the games.

Book II might have kept me turning the pages a bit faster than Book I and that could be because I was immersed in the characters already and I didn't leave too much time in-between the two books to forget my own emotional attachment to each one of them.

I have an idea of what will happen in Book III, Mockingjay, but I can't say for sure. I can't image Collins would throw these characters into the ring for a third time. No. This time, there will probably be an all-out war.

My next books will be Shadow of Night, the second book to the Discovery of Witches trilogy by Deborah Harkness and Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor. Daughter will be the next book I read for my book club.

Stay tuned for notes and comments on both! I might squeeze in a couple of pages of Gone With the Wind  as well. Such a long book that you need to refresh your memory from time to time if you read too many books while you have one on hiatus.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Past, Present & Future Reads

If you read my last post, you can see that I wasn't able to keep up with the blog after I started reading A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. I blame that on the fact that reading the book launched me into a new and exciting hobby -- reading full-time.

I'm reading more than ever now and I'm still in my book club. Here are the books I've read since my last post:

  • A Discovery of Witches - Deborah Harkness
  • Holidays on Ice - David Sadaris
  • Stories I Only Tell My Friends - Rob Lowe
  • The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
  • Revenge of the Radioactive Lady- Catherine Stuckey-French
  • The Language of Flowers - Vanessa Diffenbaugh
  • Room - Emma Donoghue
  • The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins
  • 50 Shades of Grey - E L James
  • Ready Player One  - Ernest Cline
And here are my books in progress:

  • Gone With the Wind - Margaret Mitchell
  • 50 Shades Darker (Part II of the 50 Shades of Grey Trilogy) - E L James
  • Catching Fire (Part II of The Hunger Games Trilogy) - Suzanne Collins
And the books on my list to read:
  • Shadow of Night (Part II of the A Discovery of Witches Trilogy) - Deborah Harkness
  • Fifty Shades Freed (Part III of the 50 Shades of Grey Trilogy) - E L James
  • Mockingjay (Part III of The Hunger Games Trilogy) - Suzanne Collins
  • Daughter of Smoke & Bone - Laini Taylor
  • Music Made By Bears  - Daniel Donatelli
I'm slightly bothered that so many books are coming out as trilogies, but that's great news for writers. All the books I have read so far were pretty amazing. I would have to say my favorite was indeed A Discovery of Witches and Revenge of the Radioactive Lady was on the low end of favorites. Catherine Stuckey-French did a great job telling each characters story, but the ending was a little too much "suspension of disbelief" for my taste.

Ready Player One was the book I chose for my book club to read for August. We are going to meet in two weeks to discuss and I am very excited to see if this group of women found the book interesting and fun or if it was too technical. I honestly didn't get into the book until about page 200, but I loved it from then on out. The worst part was how small the font is...very tiny.

The 50 Shades trilogy has got me hooked. It's a real page turner and I like the STORY that goes along with it as well. Aside from the plot, everything else you'll read is definitely for a mature audience. It's interesting to see how many people squirm at the thought of reading such books--and I mean squirm as in think it's grotesque and has no real structure at all. Several of them can't see past the end of their nose.

The Hunger Games was not what I expected since these books are found in the teen section of libraries. It was a quick read and Catching Fire seems like it will have the same effect. I loved the story and the "fake" romance. I would recommend these books to any adult.

All the other books I read were amazing in their own way, especially Room and The Language of Flowers

Daughter of Smoke & Bone is the next book for my book club. It looks interesting, but I honestly don't know anything about it. 

Until next time. 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Discovery of Witches - Deborah Harkness

It's been nearly two years since my last post. I lost my 50 Greatest Short Stories in the back of my car and just recently located it again. But, I kind of dropped off the reading band wagon all together. Now, it's time to get back on.

I'm still a reporter for Sun, but now I am also married and have a friend in a book club. I decided to give the club a try and we are reading A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. So far, so amazing. It's a real page turner. I'm not quite half way through the 42 chapter book about witches, daemons and vampires, but I'm close.

I would prefer not to write a review until I'm done reading it, but I was thinking of trying out a "review as you go" kind of thing. Not sure yet. I am also reading The Da Vinci Code and am attempting to be a cover-to-cover reader of The Atlantic. So far, so amazing. 

I hate making promises I can't keep, so this may or may not be the last post in this blog for another two years. I am just so easily side tracked. But, it would do me good to keep up with at least one of my blogs. We'll see what happens.

Oh yeah. Here's a favorite quote by Deborah Harkness:

“Yes, I see that you are behaving like a prince but that doesn't mean you won't behave like a devil at the first opportunity.” - Deborah Harkness (straight from A Discovery of Witches)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Standard of Living - Dorothy Parker

The Standard of Living by Dorothy Parker is about these two women who dress nice, work together, have a way about them that lets passerbys know that they aren't looking for cheap thrills, but they would definitely take a diamond ring or two. These two best friends play this game called "what would you do if you have a million dollars". However, there is a trick to the game. The one girl, Midge, comes up with a twist to the game that she and Annabel play. She explains to Annabel that you are getting the money from someone who has recently passed away, never knew you personally but just saw you one day and thought that you should always have nice things. Also, you have to spend all the money on yourself and none of it on someone else; therefore, you can't buy your parents a house or get your friends a trip to Paris or anything.

The story goes on and towards the end it stops being a biography of the two girls and starts to have a small plot. The girls are strolling along Fifth Avenue, like they always do on their lunch break, and see a double strand of pearls in a shop window. They start to guess back and forth how much the pearls might be, saying a thousand dollars to ten thousand dollars. The one girl dares the other to go inside and get a price, so they go together. They find out that the pearls are worth $250,000. They walk out.

Once the girls leave the store, they don't hold their heads up so high anymore. They were in shock about the price and they change the game to "what would you do if you had ten million dollars". I think what the story was getting at is that no matter how much money you have, it's never really enough. $250,000 would've been a quarter of the million they had gotten, which they wouldn't have given away for a string of least not willingly. But money can't buy you everything. Playing the game of being Ms. Rich may be fun, but it's only a game. And buying those pearls will only give you happiness for everytime you wear them. That can't take the place of a friendship or of a daily stroll on Fifth Avenue.

The fact that the girls changed the rules at the end to include $9 million more made me stop and think of why they really did it. Did they change it so that they wouldn't feel bad about buying the pearls if they had the money? Or did they do it so that they could feel good about buying more than one set of those pearls if they really had the money? Material things are not everything as much as some people cherish them. You can't always get what you want and you can't play games forever. The game is selfish. The rules they created were made so that they wouldn't feel bad about playing the game in the first place and so they wouldn't feel bad about being selfish with the money. They were playing a selfish fantasy game that they could only wish was real. It's sort of like that recent story in the news about the man and wife who won the lottery. The man hid all the money from his wife, left her, cut off all the utilities and cable and what not, and went to court saying he didn't owe her a dime. Selfish. But Annabel and Midge's fantasy was real for this guy that won $2.5 million and he decided to go on and be selfish. It was a game to the fictitious girls, but it was a reality for him.

I will conclude with a favorite quote from Dorothy Parker:

“If you want to see what God thinks of money, just look at all the people He gave it to.” - Dorothy Parker

The Saint - V.S. Pritchett

This story caught my eye because of its first sentence:

"When I was seventeen years old I lost my religious faith."

I read on because that was the same age I was when I felt my own religious faith start to slip away. This short story by V.S. Pritchett was quite fascinating and a great read. It takes place in the past as the narrator tells his story. The premise is that there is an unnamed narrator who lived with his family out in the country. His family decided to convert their religious ties to be part of the "Church of the Last Purification" from Toronto, Canada, which basically tells its followers to never think anything negative because there is no such thing as a negative thing; God would not have created something if it was made to hurt us. Obviously, this is completely ludicrous, but the story went on to make a better point.

A man by the name of Mr. Timberlake comes along as a leader of the Church of the Last Purification. When he arrives at the family's home, the entire family is in awe. They think he must be the best thing since sliced bread if he is a leader of this church. The narrator tells Mr. Timberlake that they should go punting, also known as boating in America (punting in England), and go off to a nice meadow. While they are punting Mr. Timberlake shows himself to be the most stubborn, ignorant fool in the world. The man starts hanging on to a tree because he refuses to move away from the tree when he sees it coming because he doesn't believe that anything bad would happen because God wouldn't have put the tree there to harm them. The tree pushes him and he has to hang on to it and eventually the water rises up to his neck and he has to be rescued by the narrator. Even though he already did this one stupid thing, he refuses to let the narrator take him home so he can change out of his wet clothes because he refuses to see the negative side of this venture. The sun starts beaming down on him and his clothes start steaming and things just continue to go wrong until the narrator just says he wants to go home when really he just wants to get away from this fool. Plus, he was no longer going to believe in anything that guy would've said, religious or not. When the story comes to a conclusion, the narrator explains that Mr. Timberlake died the day before (which would be the present time, not the past anymore), and he died of heart failure. He found out that any sort of excitement between the present date and the entire span of time going 20 years back would've killed Timberlake. So, the narrator realizes that Timberlake's phony smile and his way of thinking and all of his many flaws that he had shown on that trip they took punting 15 years ago was because he was protecting himself from dying.

Obviously, the narrator's family didn't know about any heart condition, but they believed in Timberlake's cause with the Canadian church. The story was written in this way to make people take a step back and think about how they construct their understanding of God, religion, and why things happen. They had no mind of their own. They were easily persuaded, manipulated and strung along without much effort. I have written articles and made many exclamations about the manipulation of religion. I see what it has done to people and I see what it can become. It's easy to make someone believe in something when they are already searching for something to believe in. When a person finds out that they are sick, or when they feel depressed, or when they feel like there is nowhere else to turn...I know a good majority of people who would turn to an imaginary being to fulfill that void. A void that they do not realize was put there by themselves and can be removed by themselves, but it would take effort. People are just lazy.

It's scary to think that some people would believe that there is no such thing as a negative occurence. There are a lot of negative things in this world that can't be avoided. If the narrator of the story wouldn't have turned around to help Timberlake, he may have drowned. He may have drowned thinking that he couldn't possibly drown because God did not create water to kill people. But the only reason Timberlake believed in that is because he was sick and couldn't take the risk of having any sort of anxiety attack, or getting angry, or doing anything that would cause him to possibly have a heart attack. He turned to that church and made it his safety blanket. And so did all of their followers. This story was an outsider looking in on the perceptions of theology and picking it apart. It was masterful.

I will end with a favorite quote from V.S. Pritchett:

"In our family, as far as we are concerned, we were born and what happened before that is myth." - V.S. Pritchett

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Haunted House - Virginia Woolf

I decided that I would read the shortest short story in the book this time, just to get the blog going. I found Virginia Woolf's short story A Haunted House in the book I'm reading 50 Great Short Stories. At first, I was a little confused. Even though haunted houses are suppose to be scary, I didn't get that notion when I was reading this piece. The story is about two ghosts who have gone back to a house that they used to live in and they basically just reminisce about the life they had together before they died. The piece is actually quite poetic even though it is written as a narrative.

They loved each other. You can tell when a couple really loves each other when they can find joy in reminiscing about the old days; remembering the beginning and hoping and praying that the present is just as joyous. The ghosts seemed to be nice as well, trying to make sure they didn't spook the current inhabitants of the home. According to some short story review websites, Woolf used a style called "Stream of Consciousness". By using this style, she was able to reveal the thoughts and feelings of the ghosts in the piece. It doesn't seem that the ghosts are sad about being dead or that they even miss being alive; but, it does seem like they can't let the past go. And for people who do believe in ghosts, I suppose that would be the reason why they haven't "moved on". Anyways, I thought the piece was interesting and long enough to get the point across. I will end with a favorite quote from Virginia Woolf:

 "I thought how unpleasant it is to be locked out; and I thought how it is worse, perhaps, to be locked in." - Virginia Woolf