Thursday, January 10, 2013

A Non Review- "The Casual Vacancy" by JK Rowling

I mentioned earlier that I would be reviewing JK Rowling's first novel for adults, "The Casual Vacancy". However, less than 30 pages into it I cannot keep going. I have seen the "f" word more in those pages than I heard in my high school hallway on any given day. And not to mention the profanity of "God" and "Jesus Christ." And there is a theme of sexuality among several different characters. I'm not sure how is pertinent to the story. And perhaps I'll never know since I just don't feel like I should continue.

This in no wise makes me feel less of Rowling and her Harry Potter series that I LOVE. But maybe if this is what it means to be an "adult" novel, I need to stick with young adult novels. I realize that the language and actions of her characters are that-things of the CHARACTERS and not necessarily a reflection of how SHE is. But with that said, I am really disappointed that the characters of "The Casual Vacancy" are so crude that I have no desire to find out more about them.

I wouldn't say I'm offended by it, just disappointed. And if that kind of stuff doesn't bother you, or if you are able to ignore it more easily that I am, I'm sure it would be a fabulous read.

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Secret Keeper-Kate Morton

Oh my gosh! If there is one good thing about this cold/sore throat I currently have, it's the excuse to just sit and read when I have no energy for anything else. That enabled me to finish this book today. I have been waiting for it to be my turn on the hold list at my library for a couple months. And it was well worth the wait! I absolutely LOVED this one! Right up there with The Forgotten Garden.

The thing I loved about this one was that it had 3 dimensions and you got to know all 3 characters very well throughout their lives. It's split narrative between locations, times, and people, but it was much easier to follow than my first Kate Morton novel-probably the placement of time and place and person in a more obvious position under the chapter number in a different font than some of her previous works. And this is only her 4th book. But the tragedy is less tragic than in some of the others. And you feel so satisfied! Some things were a tiny bit more predictable for me because I've read her books before; one theory I had I quickly dismissed and then was slammed with the fact that I'd been right after all several chapters down the journey.

The three characters are:
Laurel-teen-aged when you first meet her-who later becomes one of the greatest theater actresses of England. She is the oldest of 4 girls and 1 boy.
Dorothy-Laurel's Mother is how you're introduced to her first. You get to know her as a teenager as well, which is really cool, feels disconnected with her family-especially her parents-and thus moves out as soon as possible. Loses her family in the Blitz while she is in London.
Vivienne-Friends and Neighbors with Dorothy during the 2nd World War, they volunteer at the WVS together. Born in Australia, orphaned as a young girl and sent to be raised by an uncle in London later to married a famous author, Henry Jenkins in her late teens; this is the time of her life you are introduce to her.

Kate Morton always deals in multi-generational relationships, especially that of the mother-daughter relationship, which I find really interesting. This book, especially, illustrates how as a teenager, you see your mother as that: Mother. You rarely think of her as being anything else, almost as if she failed to exist before she became your Mother. But then, in this book you get to look at this "Mother" from the standpoint of HER teenage years. Realizing the very things her teenage daughter accuses her of never having experienced-she HAS experienced makes you think about your own mother and who she was before YOU came along into her life :-)

A lot of times I feel like Downton Abbey is like stepping into one of Kate Morton's books, but since this one takes place during the second World War, the whole idea of Wealthy Class vs Working/Servant Class is starting to dissolve and therefore takes a lesser, but still significant role in this story than say "The House at Riverton" or "The Distant Hours". All in all, I'd have to put this up as one of my favorites!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban-JK Rowling

#3. This is as far as my daughter and I are reading for now, as #4 gets significantly darker and we both feel she should be a little older.

My daughter fell in love with Professor Lupin-as most readers do. You get so much from this book-you get a deeper look into complex characters, such as Professor Snape, and of course, more wisdom from Dumbledore. And of course, my favorite part is Hermione and her studies. Her need to take as many classes as possible since this is the first year they can CHOOSE certain subjects. The hilarity of her NOT being good at something (divination) and the further development of Ron, Hermione and Harry as a group of friends.

The Composer is Dead-Lemony Snicket

This HILARIOUS little gem I also found like dusting. It has all the candor of the "Series of Unfortunate Events" books packed into this cute tongue-in-cheek children's  book about a composer who was dead and the inspector's attempts to find the murderer, or murderers wherever they may be lurking in the orchestra! The CD has the author narrating the story with the symphony underscoring the narration. Especially if you are a musician (I happen to hold a Music Education degree myself, with band emphasis, though I've played in my fair share of orchestras), you MUST find this book.

Escape-Carolyn Jessop

Long story short.....I needed to get some community service hours completed to have a traffic violation deferred and removed from my record in 1 after a HUGE debacle (not for this blog) I found myself helping out at the local library branch dusting. I think I dusted every section at least once. BUT with it came an unexpected surprise. Well, I guess it shouldn't be so surprising....but I kept finding all these BOOKS that looked so INTERESTING that I HAD to read! Fancy that....anyhow, while I was in the biography section I found this.

The little part on the cover says this:
I was born  into a radical polygamist cult. At eighteen, I became the fourth wife of a fifty-year old man. I had eight children in fifteen years. When our leader began to preach the apocalypse, I knew I had to get them out. 

I remembered the hype about Warren Jeffs and the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saint's (FLDS). I knew OF the FLDS church before that because I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints-which is in no way affiliated with the FLDS, but the FLDS split off of the religious organization I choose to associate myself with. So I was curious. What I read was atrocious. Absolute perversion of what my church teaches-especially when it comes to the worth of a Woman. In my church, we believe that every female is a literal spirit daughter of God and that every male is a literal spirit son of God. That while our physical bodies are genetically linked to our physical parents, our spirit; our soul is divinely linked to deity. That being said, there are numerous teachings that are taught about the equality of man and woman and that either sex should NEVER exercise dominion over the other. That to reach divine potential, it was designed for men and women to help each other get there. That is NOT what is taught in the FLDS church-or cult-rather. However, I did get the idea that many things have been distorted along the way, to suit the leader of the time and that Warren Jeffs has been the most corrupt of them all and has controlled the information given to his followers (like the dystopian society traits I've mentioned before) to distort the truth to his favor. He has denied the right to education to everyone (another dystopian trait).

Anyhow, Carolyn Jessop is a very courageous woman and I am so glad that she was able to get out and live a life where she can feel safe.

I couldn't find the place to embed the youtube clip, but here is a 9 min interview with Carolyn Jessop that I found from another blog:

Insurgent-Veronica Roth

Book #2 in the "Divergent" Triology. More twists and turns, more alliances and betrayals, more information about this crazy Factioned society. More deeply into finding out who Tris really is.

Wow. My mind was reeling-REELING at the end of this book. Oddly enough, even though it ended int a rather unsettling place, as most 2nd books do, I felt like it sat MUCH better than the 2nd books in the Hunger Games and Matched left me. I can't exactly explain why either. But I am going to have a hard time waiting to read #3, which doesn't even officially have a title yet. That I am aware of.

But still, NO LOVE TRIANGLE! Can I say enough how refreshing that is? Thank you, Ms. Roth, THANK YOU! (On a personal note, I think it's more relateable, I mean a an everyday average girl has a hard enough time getting ONE love interest, let alone TWO at any given time, right?-but you know from my last post that that isn't the REAL reason I am not all in love with the triangle effect).

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Divergent-Veronica Roth

Anyone who has read this blog knows I'm on a Dystopian Society kick. This is another one. BUT! Yes, there is a big BUT in there! It is SO different from all the others. It had my mind reeling. Some of my assumptions were correct, more were not. I thought I could trust someone-turns out I was....wrong? Right? Ack!

Here's one of the most refreshing point of difference between THIS Triology (yes, it's a triology and the 3rd one won't be out until next year. Fall I think. So if you want to wait, you can. And Divergent is also being turned into a film and the main character has been cast! I think it's a good choice-the more I think about it, the more confident I am in that casting) is the fact that there is no-brace yourself for it-no love triangle! Yay!!!!!! YES there is romantic interest between protagonist and another character. But there is no one else to fog up the MAIN POINT about the book and that is whether or not humanity is being treated correctly and freedoms preserved. As you know, I LOVED The Hunger Games and Matched. But I was always concerned that the biggest thing a lot of people were/are worried about is Peeta vs. Gale, Ky vs. Xander. That's nice. But that's NOT THE POINT people! The point is: DOES THE HORRIBLE GOVERNMENT GET OVERTHROWN?? What happens to humanity?

So anyway, I enjoy and like the fact that there is romance without a triangle. The main character is Tris, near her 16th birthday. This Society is weird. It took me till the end of book 2 (Insurgent) to even feel like I had a grasp on it.

People are divided into 5 factions based on subconscious aptitude and personal choice. However, once you choose-and you really have only around 24 hours to formally decide-you cannot go back. The slogan is "Faction before Blood" meaning that if you choose a different faction from the one you were born into, your loyalty forever changes to be to your faction instead of your family. The 5 factions are appropriate named based on what that group of people value the most:

Candor-Honesty (to the point of lacking tact)
Amity-Friendship and Peace
Erudite-Absolute Knowledge
Abnegation-Putting all others above oneself

Oh...and then there are the factionless. Those who did not choose a faction or who failed-or decided not-to complete initiation into their chosen faction.

It is a futuristic society in which the Erudite have developed very sophisticated technologies and medication. At 16 you have an aptitude test-it's not one you can prepare for, since it's all based on your subconscious decisions. The facilitator of the test then tells you which of the 5 factions you are most suited for-you are not allowed to discuss the results with anyone, even family-and then you have overnight to think about it and decide whether you will go with the faction you were born into, the faction your aptitude test said you fit in best with, or one of your choosing. Which could all be one and the same depending.

Beatrice, or Tris as you get to know her is born into Abnegation but has a lot of inner struggle. She is very complex and doesn't let anyone-even the reader-fully into her head. But I also feel like part of the reason is because she doesn't really know herself. Growing up in Abnegation means that she is always supposed to put others before herself and I think that upbringing suppressed the ability for her to truly know who she is. But I also think she is private because that's really who she is, and she likes to keep new discoveries about herself to herself until she's absolutely sure of them. I think she wants to be genuine and wants to make sure that what she does is true to her self. She has an older brother-less than a year older-Caleb whom she is pretty close with.

The "perfect" peaceful society is in unrest, because all of the government is run by people from Abnegation (in order to make sure you don't get a tyrant as a leader is to give power to the people who don't want it) many decisions are made that the Erudite don't agree with. This is the rift that is paramount to the series. The Erudite have published some pretty salacious reports on Abnegation leaders. Based on these, several Erudite believe that the Abnegation leaders are becoming corrupt. Of course, the Abnegation deny these allegations-and as the reader, you have to wait for the facts to unfold and be sifted from fiction via what Tris learns.

Violence wise, it's on the very low end of PG-13, so more so than Matched, but much less than Hunger Games. I liked how much it makes you THINK. And then QUESTION what you think. And then make you wonder WHY you think the way you do.

Seriously Behind

So I am seriously behind in blogging books that I've read. I'm not even sure that I can remember all that I've read. I went to my library's website in hopes that MAYBE they kept a record of what I check out. But alas, they don't automatically do that due to privacy policies (which is not bad) HOWEVER, they have an option you can opt into where they WILL record your history! Woohoo! So I signed up. Since I know this pattern of blogging feast or famine will most likely continue throughout my life....

In the mean time, look forward to posts about:

Escape: Carolyn Jessop's biography
Divergent-Veronica Roth
Insurgent-Veronica Roth
*The Secret Keeper-Kate Morton
The Holocaust in Historical Perspective
*The Casual Vacancy-JK Rowling
The Composer is Dead-Lemony Snicket
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban-JK Rowling

*Still reading or will be reading soon

You're Grounded Forever...But First Let's Go Shopping, Susan Shapiro Barash

Ok. I have a confession. I read this book several...SEVERAL months ago. So I don't remember the details. BUT I DO remember feeling like a LOT of my life both as daughter and mother was finally explained to me. Sometimes I still am not sure how to break out of the mold (WHY does SHOPPING have to be bonding practice we fall back on the most?), but it was a really great read. One I should probably read again-at each different stage of my daughter's lives :-) Of course, I didn't agree with everything-based on my own moral and religious views, but no one is going to agree 100% of the time with everything, right? Thought provoking and powerful-even if you don't have a daughter-it can help you better understand your mother and maybe nieces or cousins-or half the human population and what makes us XX chromosome carrying humans tick :-)

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

What can I say? Harry Potter does NOT disappoint-ever, really. It was really fun reading this aloud to my 7yr old and she really love the wizarding world. She's also developing some nice inference and predictive skills by trying to guess the end result. Who knew literacy skills were so fun to acquire?

Since these are so popular, I'm not going to write much about the plot, but just keep track that we read it!