October 30, 2015

Just one more page

There are some books that even after you have read the last page you hope in vain for 'just one more page'. Sometimes this is because it's an amazing series and all you have to do is go pick up the next installment. At other times, it's a standalone novel but there are many other books which make up that author's body of work to satisfy you indefinitely. However, this is not always the case.

I just finished The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories by Marina Keegan and it blew me away. For those unfamiliar with the story behind this book, Marina Keegan was a promising young writer who tragically lost her life shortly after graduating from Yale. This book was compiled by her family and a few of her professors and classmates in her honor. The book includes poignant pieces about what it means to be a part of something bigger, what it means to let yourself feel, and above all what it means to be a part of humanity itself. There are essays, short stories, and nonfiction pieces which showcase what a gifted writer Keegan was. Her writing practically exudes her lust for life and it is impossible to read this and not feel like the world could be a better place if only we looked for the beauty that is already there. When you read this you are struck by the realization that no matter how much you wish for 'just one more page' you'll have to content yourself with these meager few. This is a book you don't want to miss out on, guys. 10/10

October 23, 2015

I read a graphic novel...and I liked it

I've been binge-watching BookTube (YouTube videos for book lovers full of reviews, book hauls, etc) which of course means I've added a ton of books to my TRL (To-Read-List for any newbies to the blog. Hey there!). As I've mentioned before, I'm not a big fan of graphic novels. However, I saw a review of one which peaked my interest and...I actually liked it! It's Emily Carroll's Through the Woods which contains 5 short horror stories which range from a tale of 3 sisters left in their cabin in the woods to a pair of best friends mixed up in the occult. The illustrations are really beautiful and I especially liked the color scheme which relied heavily on blacks and reds. The stories
fall into the category of 'gothic horror' and I don't recommend reading them by flashlight under your bedcovers at night (unless you're feeling especially brave).
Excerpt from the book's Amazon page

I also read a really fun book by British YouTubers Dan Howell (danisnotonfire) and Phil Lester (AmazingPhil) called The Amazing Book is Not on Fire. The talk of the town on this book is how lovely it smells. I'm going to have to call 'bull' on that one as I found the smell to be off-putting. I wasn't at all impressed with the smell but I was impressed with the use of mixed media which ran the gamut from collages to excerpts of their text messages with one another. If you're a fan of their YouTube channels, it's a really fun ride but I think that even for those uninitiated into the fold it's a silly, smile-inducing book. Edit: I also listened to the audiobook and it was FANTASTIC. Unlike any audiobook I've ever listened to because there were two authors and they often went 'off script' and just chatted with one another. A really unique experience that I encourage you all to give a whirl.

Finally, I read The 40s: The Story of a Decade which has made me want to subscribe to The New Yorker so it definitely did its job. It's a collection of pieces from that illustrious publication during the 1940s when it underwent the change from witty, humorist magazine to political, correspondence magazine. From profiles to poetry to politics, The New Yorker broke down barriers and contributed some truly revolutionary writings that left an indelible mark on the history of journalism. I was especially moved by the essay on Hiroshima which focused on a handful of survivors of the atomic bomb. The entire collection was fascinating for its time capsule like quality but it was also a fine sampling of excellent writing. I'd also like to point out that I heard about this book on the New York Public Library's homepage on a blog post entitled "The Blacklist: What is Red Reading?". Turns out James Spader is currently reading this book and it sounded so intriguing that I decided to give it a shot. I'm so glad that I did!

October 16, 2015

Be glad and help others

You might recall an earlier post I made about children's classics and their film adaptations. This is the next part in that series. :-)

One of my favorite films growing up (and still to this day much to my mother's chagrin) was Pollyanna starring the magnificent Hayley Mills (remember the original Parent Trap?). The story of a young girl orphaned and sent to live with an aunt she had never met (and who was less than thrilled to be taking her in) who brought happiness to an entire town captivated my imagination and never failed to make me cry both tears of anguish and happiness. Yes, I realize that I sound like a TV special but I am being completely sincere. The book that the film was based on was written in 1913 by Eleanor H. Porter and was an instant bestseller that generated so much success that several sequels were penned (the majority by different authors). One of the major plot points in the story was completely changed for the film version but I don't think that it took too much away from the overall storyline (you'll have to read the book to know what I mean mwahaha). The book's positive message to "be glad" is one that I think anyone regardless of their age can appreciate and embrace.

I next turned to The Rescuers by Margery Sharp which I think most people won't realize was a book before it was adapted by Disney into a film. Firstly, the illustrations which were done by Garth Williams (he also did Stuart Little and Charlotte's Web) are fantastic. They portray Bernard and Miss Bianca very differently from the movie version because their characters are almost entirely different. In fact, everything apart from there being talking mice who form a secret society that help humans was changed. Bianca is portrayed as a rather vacuous female content with her lot in life but Bernard makes her see herself in a slightly different light. The movie is the exact opposite where Bernard is full of timidity and it is Bianca that draws him out of his shell and shows him what he is truly made of. The film is about the rescue mission of an orphan girl named Penny from a truly horrific woman (who reminds me of Miss Hannigan from the musical Annie) while the book is about the rescue of a Norwegian poet from an impenetrable castle. The essential feeling of the two storylines is the same but if I had to choose between the two I'd probably go for the movie on this one (but you should still check out the beautiful illustrations).

How are you guys liking this series? Do you have any children's classics and their movies that you think I should read, watch, and review? I was thinking about doing the same for adult classics but I want to get your opinion. Comments are always appreciated! XD

October 9, 2015

My love affair with Dickens

I thought it was time that I come clean about my adoration of Charles Dickens. It all started with Nicholas Nickleby and it definitely snowballed from there. However, that wasn't my first foray into all things Dickensian. Like many people, it was compulsory to read Great Expectations while in school but I don't think that's the way to lead someone down the path of Dickens admirer. At least it wasn't for me. I know that Dickens is an acquired taste and for many of you reading this your interest in any of his novels is minimal at best. But I hope you'll hear me out as I gush about my favorite Dickens novel, A Tale of Two Cities. Yes, it's his most famous work. That is for a very good reason. It's absolutely phenomenal. The story is told before and during the French Revolution and focuses on a key group of characters who one instantly feels are real. Your heart aches for Dr. Manette, you stand a little straighter with Darnay, and you are filled with hope for the future by Carton. A story of loss, love, and liberty; A Tale of Two Cities can't be beat.

I call this my 'Classic English Shelf'. Obviously I'm very imaginative.
**If you're interested in a book by the man himself, you can click here. This will re-direct you to AbeBooks. This is one of my favorite websites for purchasing used books. Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following this link. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

October 2, 2015

Gotta love a good thought experiment!

Some books that you read make you question everything. Alan Weisman's The World Without Us is definitely one of those books. The book seeks to answer the question 'What would happen to the world if humans were to disappear?' I've read books that look at it from the flip side of the coin where humans have destroyed the planet to such a degree that humanity can no longer be sustained. It was interesting to look at the reverse. Weisman looked at the issue from a variety of viewpoints. He looked at the evolution of humans and their impact on the megafauna and megaflora of the planet. His point there was that although much of the animals and plants were eradicated by us, variations of these have survived into present day. Therefore, if humanity were to disappear nature would find a way to carry on and maybe another kind of humanity would take our place. He also looked at the damage we have done through chemical processes (I'm talking nuclear) and whether or not the planet's remaining inhabitants could survive. He went to a variety of places where it was as close to being primeval as possible (Kingman Reef) and also those places which were irrevocably changed by us (Chernobyl). He spoke to scientists of all disciplines (many of which sound like amazing careers that I need to look into immediately). It was a thoroughly researched and thought provoking read and I encourage anyone interested in conservancy and ecology to go and give this book a shot.

Because I just couldn't help myself I grabbed another Phryne Fisher mystery, Raisins and Almonds. (I realized after starting it that I definitely went out of order as I missed a lot of backstory so I do encourage you if you're reading the series to continue with Flying Too High after Cocaine Blues.) This time Phryne has taken a new lover by the name of Simon Abrahams and his father hires her to absolve a woman of murder. The entire affair is mixed up with the Jewish culture of Australia (and the rest of the world actually). Greenwood even included a Yiddish dictionary at the back of the book as it was used liberally throughout the story. I have to be honest here...I didn't find this one as entertaining as the first of the series. The characters weren't nearly as vivid and the mystery itself was pretty dull. However, learning about the Jewish culture was very interesting so I'm going to let it pass with a solid C.

**If you're interested in a book like the ones I've reviewed here, you can click here. This will re-direct you to AbeBooks. This is one of my favorite websites for purchasing used books. Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following this link. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **