Tuesday, July 21, 2015

A Study in Classics: 3 Book Reviews

I’ve read a lot of books in school. A lot more than I thought I did. I have a total of 10 books that I read for school that I still need to review. One from sophomore year, seven from my junior year, and two from what is about to be my senior year. That’s a lot of books to be assigned. So, let’s dive into a few a time because just thinking about all these classics and literary novels is a little overwhelming- especially since I’ve started to dive into those genres on my own. 

10257528To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Originally a standalone, but has a sequel that is newly released

2 stars
To Kill a Mockingbird is the story of Jean Louise Finch, a tomboy who goes by Scout. She knows that life in Maycomb, Alabama. She has a father who is a lawyer, a brother who she loves, and a best friend. Then one summer her father, Atticus, takes on a case that shows Scout the monsters hidden within the people of Maycomb. This small little town isn’t all what it seems. To Kill a Mockingbird is receiving a lot of hype again in the book community. TKAM has always had many readers throughout the years, but with the recent release of Go Set a Watchman it has blown up. I read this novel over a year and a half ago, personally I didn’t feel the impact that TKAM has left on a lot of readers. This novel addresses a lot of important topics: racism, the close-minded nature of a small town, injustice in the legal system, morality, and so many smaller topics that just barely skim the surface of this novel.

I’ll admit I hated reading this novel. I found the writing to be dull and near sleep-inducing at times. I think the reason why I don’t hate TKAM completely is because I enjoyed discussing the merit of this novel. It is something that is great to discuss because there is so many small things that can be picked apart. My problem with TKAM is that I shouldn’t feel a greater connection to the characters when I’m not reading it. I want to love these characters as I read them on the page and discuss them off of it.

Whimsical Writing Scale: 1.5

The main female character of this story is Scout. We follow her for a long period of her childhood throughout TKAM. As the novel progresses, we see Scout start to become a new person with a new identity. She’s blossoming from a child to a little person with thoughts and opinions. I do like Scout as a character. I like her quite a lot, but I also didn’t feel like I could always connect to her. I personally think that it’s because of the writing style that I wasn’t able to always make that connection.

Kick-Butt Heroine Scale: 2

There are a lot of characters in TKAM and all of them matter. This can be a little overwhelming to keep up with, but one thing Lee does well as that it never feels hard to distinguish all the different characters that we interact with. The biggest characters in TKAM are Atticus Finch, Jem, Tom Robinson, and Calpurnia to name a few. I honestly can’t tell you who my favorite characters are within TKAM because I’ve read this so long ago. One character I’m still confused about and will always have an uncertainty to until I reread this is Boo Radley. I do understand what he is to this story, but I wasn’t so sure about the execution. I think that’s my biggest problem with this character.

Character Scale: 2

The Villain- It would be easy to say that this novel has a villain, but I think the biggest problem with this novel isn’t just racism. The biggest problem is the people in Maycomb who harbor their racist views like long-lost treasure that can be snatched away at any moment. While racism is the obvious problem presented, I think that the bigger one is the small Southern town that is stuck in its old ways and old views.

Villain Scale: 3.5

While I don’t love TKAM, I do see this is a novel I will be rereading whether it’s by choice or force. TKAM isn’t my favorite classic and I don’t think it ever will be, but it’s a classic that I understand the importance of and its merit. For that reason alone, I think TKAM has done its job for this reader.

Plotastic Scale: 2

Cover Thoughts: I actually have a huge love for this cover. I love the font, the spine, and the back. Opening this book and looking at it as a whole is beautiful and the fact that I understand what it represents makes it slightly more special.

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
5 stars
In the small town of Holcomb, Kansas in the fall of 1959 the small town finds itself the site of a bloodshed. The Clutter family was a simple American family that had its secrets, but was a good wholesome family. That is until that family is left viciously murdered. Capote embarks on an intense unearthing of the truth behind this brutal blood-shedding. This novel exposes everyone. We see the family and who they were as well as the murderers. I loved every minute of it.

Capote paints a truly masterful piece that doesn’t read like a nonfiction novel. To me it felt like something that Stephen King could’ve written and Lifetime would’ve produced. It’s a weird mash-up, but Capote is able to sell this classic novel in a way that is hard to come by.

What is so chilling about this novel is that it ripped apart a very trusting small town until it created a very frightened and unsure community. The 1950-60s are known as the time when you could live your windows open and nobody would sneak in. The most chilling aspect of this novel is that you are told about the Clutters last day on earth, but as it unfolds as a normal day for the family it becomes chilling how you never truly know when your time is up. Capote is able to set the tone for everyday life coming to an untimely end.

"Imagination, of course, can open any door- turn the key and let terror walk right in.”

As if that couldn’t get any worse, the way the murders were committed are horrifying. Upon the big reveal at the end of this novel about how it really unfolded it becomes worse. These people were cold-blooded and the murders they committed were just as. It’s horrifying to see the worst of humanity put on display. That doesn’t just go for the murderers of the Clutter family, but for the people we meet who are in death row along with them.

"Envy was constantly with him; the Enemy was anyone who had anything he wanted to have.”

Whimsical Writing Scale: 5
It would be easy to classify our two murderers as villains, but it doesn’t seem all that simple, especially since I didn’t know who I was really reading about until the end. This is a very weird dynamic. These two partners are disturbing and both have very questionable traits. It’s just one is easier to sympathize with.

Villain Scale: 5
Also this novel has a lot of great metaphors that I don’t want to get into until I reread this novel. I feel like the meanings will be clearer and I can fully expand upon them when I do that. To say I love this novel is an understatement. I think it is truly something to be read by everyone. In Cold Blood was one of those classics I had never heard of until I was assigned to read it. I’m so happy I was assigned this novel because I was introduced to a brilliant writer and a classic that I can see myself coming back to over the years. Just writing my review for this book, which is much overdue, makes me want to pick it up right now and gobble it up.

Plotastic Scale: 5

Cover Thoughts: My cover for In Cold Blood is very simple, but it is such a beautifully simplistic cover. I love it.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

4.75 stars

"And I like large parties. They’re so intimate. At small parties there isn’t any privacy.”

"Whenever you feel like criticizing any one, just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”
It wasn’t until my freshman year of high school that I knew the name Gatsby. The new movie starring Leonardo DiCapprio was something I was intrigued by. Instantly after watching the film I added the novel to my TBR. I know it’s a big no-no to see the film before the movie, but I honestly hadn’t realized that Gatsby was a literary masterpiece. I didn’t realize it was something I would need to read in my life. I honestly think that The Great Gatsby is a book that everyone needs to read in their life. It seems that everyone knows of this novel now because of the movie. Put the movie with Leonardo out of your head because it’s better than the reading experience, but the reading experience is so amazing. I truly love Gatsby. It isn’t until a whole year after reading it that I realize it’s a classic I highly adore. Fitzgerald is a remarkable writer.

"I’m glad it’s a girl. And I hope she’ll be a fool- that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.”

There are a lot of things to love about Gatsby. Everything from the writing, to the brilliant quotes, the characters, the themes, and the irony is remarkable. My favorite thing about Gatsby is the irony because everything in this upscale New York posh glamour is easily tipped over with little thing. It’s horrible to see how the divide in America is prevalent.

Whimsical Writing Scale: 5

The main male character is Nick. Nick doesn’t get all the recognition in this story because Gatsby is really the story here, but Nick is in my opinion Fitzgerald. Nick has a lot of the same issues that Fitzgerald did and he is basically the same person. Therefore, Nick is a lot cooler when you actually start to think about who he is. The man of the hour is Gatsby. Jay Gatsby. He’s a fascinating character. He wants to be rich, but is trapped in the essence of a man destined to be poor. He’s ambitious, but also has very many faults. I can go into a whole discussion about Gatsby, but I doubt anyone wants to read my thoughts and literary opinions.

Swoon Worthy Scale: 4

On the surface, this story is probably the epitome of a love story gone wrong. It’s not Gatsby fault, but let’s face it Daisy is an absolutely horrible human being. She only cares about money, but it doesn’t seem like that. As the novel goes on, it becomes obvious that Daisy a material person who isn’t looking for love like she may seem to be.

Tom is an even more despicable character, but he is a man who has everything. Gatsby is the thing that can take it all away. Tom is on the outside a rich racist, but his racism isn’t towards the black people as it may seem. He truly hates the poor people who are ambitiously hoping to become rich and Gatsby is the representation of the thing he wants to stomp out the most.

"They were careless people, Tom and Daisy- they smashed up things and creatures and the retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they made…"

Also Jordan slays and she is hands down my favorite character in Gatsby. Also she has great hair in the film.

Character Scale: 5

I’m just going to assume that this book is already on your TBR list and if it isn’t you should probably think about adding it because this novel is a literary masterpiece and it deserves to be.

Plotastic Scale: 5

Cover Thoughts: My cover is the movie adaptation and it’s ugly, but the original cover is iconic and that is something I love.

Have you read any of these classics? Or seen the films? What are your thoughts? Let me know down below in the comments!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Aesthetically Reading #2

What is Aesthetically Reading? It’s a new feature on my blog where I showcase photographs of books I own. Books are supposed to be aesthetically pleasing. You want a book you enjoy looking at when you aren’t immersed into the story. There are little things that make books special that aren’t inside the story, but that make up the physical copy. It could be the spine, dust jacket, art work, or anything that I think is worth sharing. I hope that this can help you decide whether you want to buy a copy of this book or not because it is definitely worth it. Note: I will be showcasing my ARC copies, which aren’t finished, but are still fun to show. I hope you enjoy this feature!

Previously featured: 17 & Gone

Today I'll be showing my copy of:
Across the Universe by Beth Revis 
Published: January 2011
Publisher: Razorbill
Page Count: 398
Summary (taken from GR): A love out of time. A spaceship built of secrets and murder.

Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.

Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone - one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship - tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn't do something soon, her parents will be next.

Now Amy must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there's only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.

I love the cover, but I think that the more I look at it the more I'm not a fan of it. I don't like the girls face/ body placement. I like the concept of the spaceship on the cover, but I would've preferred it to show something inside like more the what the Godspeed looks like. My edition is the paperback edition that was released in 2011 later on the year. I think this was supposed to be the idea of a cover change. 

I love the spine for this. It's nothing amazing, but when I look at it I immediately have this scifi vibe. Also it looks great on my shelf.

I like the layout for the back of this copy. It's separated in a very clean way with the ship lining to block out different features (the summary, quotes, and image of book two). Upon looking closer I fall even more in love with the back. You can see the outline of the Godspeed floating through space and it's pretty striking.

This is the inside jacket. It's a map of the Godspeed and I really love it. I think it's my favorite thing about this whole novel. I wasn't a huge fan of the story, but I love looking at the map and the divisions of the ship.

There was this one time I met Beth Revis at a convention. It was pretty cool. The inscription says, "To Sarah- Reach for the stars! Beth Revis". It's pretty cool that I have this signed because it makes this page a whole lot cooler since it's your standard title page.

The story is told from alternating POVs- Amy and Elder. Each chapter header starts with a simple number and the name. It's nothing fancy.

Are these called brackets? (I honestly don't know what these are called. If someone could tell me that would be great!) Whatever they are called I love how striking it is on the top of the page. It's a very beautiful way to showcase the title. It reminds of a spaceship launching off and leaving a smoke trail.

Here's the other side to it's counterpart.

The end pages of Across the Universe are very beautiful. The thing I like about this paperback is that it has some hardback like features.

Should you buy a copy of Across the Universe?
I recommend it for sci-fi fans. I wasn't a huge fan of AtU, but I do think it's a book worth looking into. I honestly wouldn't recommend buying a copy if you are a series completer because the third book in the trilogy had a cover change and it doesn't match this edition or the original. If that doesn't bother you, I say go for it!

Other editions include:
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Original Hardcover, Original Paperback, Cover Redesign, Special Hardcover

Do you plan to buy a copy of Across the Universe? Do you already own it? If you own it which edition? Let me know down below in the comments!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

A Book Unhaul

I don't know if this is a popular thing on blogging, but I've recently watched a few videos on BookTube on this. It's called unhauling. Basically it's a book haul of books you are ready to part with. Here's a video of the books I'm donating to a used bookstore!

I know a lot of people aren't interested in videos, so here are the books I'm unhauling (links to GR):

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Kiss of the Vampire by Cynthia Garner
The Book of Luke by Jenny O'Connell
Tantalize by Cynthia Leitich Smith
The Carrie Diaries by Candace Bushnell
Nights in Rodanthe by Nicholas Sparks
Vampire Beach Volume 1 by Alex Duval
Vampire Beach Volume 2 by Alex Duval
After by Amy Efaw
Willow by Julia Hoban
Allegiant by Veronica Roth
Undaunted Courage by Stephen E. Ambrose

Would you give any of these books away? Or keep them? Do you part with your books or part with the ones you are no longer interested in or really like? Let me know down below in the comments!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Breathe by Elena Dillon

Breathe by Elena Dillon

First in the Breathe series

2 stars

Jasmine used to live a normal life. Two years ago everything changed when her sister, Daisy, was kidnapped and brutally murdered. To find normalcy her mom has decided that uprooting from California to another place would be best for both Jasmine and the twins. Jasmine couldn’t agree more and picks out the town of Lafayette, Louisiana to be their new home. Everything seems to be working out for Jasmine in Lafayette. People don’t know she’s the sister of the murdered girl on TV, she’s making friends, and there’s even a charming Southern boy interested in her. Until the man who killed Daisy starts leaving behind evidence that he’s found them and Jasmine is next. The first thing Breathe made me do was pause upon reading the first sentence.
"Most days I can almost forget someone murdered my sister.”
This sentence is simple, but it completely grabbed my attention. It lead me to keep reading and I read 14% of the novel in one day, which is rare for me when reading on my Kindle (because I’m easily distracted).

The best thing about Breathe should be the fact that this is set in my home town.

This is incredibly rare. Louisiana is semi-popular in books, but to find one set in my town (even if it is one of the heavier populated cities) is a rarity. Naturally, that means that I’m going to be expecting this to be done right. There was an unrealistic representation of the setting, the accents, and the high school life. Yes I do have an accent, but I don’t talk like I’m completely uneducated with a thick accent. All people in Louisiana have an accent and some just have thicker dialects depending on the region. The misrepresentation of high school seems silly, but the thing that sets apart public schools in Louisiana to most states is mandatory school uniforms. I’m sorry, Jasmine but that outfit from Urban Outfitters is going to be worn on the weekend not for your first day of school. I think that a basic Google search was needed. Besides my problem with the accent misrepresentation, the dialect between characters was way too proper for teenagers. Just because I’m Southern doesn’t mean I don’t use the same slang terms and horribly stilted sentences that is common at the time. Southern people are not all swoon. Yes, the boys are gentlemen and girls are polite, but only because of upbringing. (This is a completely true fact, I went to Chicago and someone rolled their eyes at me for being polite.) Southern hospitality is true, but to an extent. Also you can be a sophomore on varsity in sports; it’s not a rare thing at all. This book also being set at the rival school also does not do it any favors. The writing is too formal. Everything reads like a formal conversation. The writing also had the tendency to peter off and become bland and not very entertaining.

Whimsical Writing Scale: 2.5

The main female character is Jasmine. I don’t hate Jasmine, but I definitely don’t like her. Her actions are stupid and she didn’t win me over while trying to keep she was a secret. Her being secretive wasn’t smart, it was stupid and annoying. So annoying.

Kick-Butt Heroine Scale: 2

The main male character is Easton. I never thought a Southern boy’s politeness could make me want to gag, but this guy’s did. He didn’t make swoon at all. I was constantly rolling my eyes at Easton’s attempts to win Jasmine over. He brought recommendation letters of his good character over to Jasmine’s mom.

NO ONE would do that, especially not in the South. That is something that would have people laughing at and would become the joke of the school for a little while. He also uses pet names (i.e. sugar). It’s like I’m supposed to hate him.

Swoon Worthy Scale: 1

The Villain- Lackluster. This villain should make me cringe because of his brutality. I should feel as uncomfortable as I do watching Criminal Minds, but instead I just kind of rolled my eyes at his shenanigans, which isn’t what you’re supposed to do when it comes to a stalking killer.

Villain Scale: 1

The characters are all annoying. Everyone from Jasmine’s friends made me cringe. I did like Easton’s family and Jasmine’s brother and sister, but they weren’t all that memorable. Although, I did enjoy Jasmine and her brother’s prank wars, that was fun to read about.

Character Scale: 3

I do like the plot of this book, though. It’s just hard to please me because it’s set in my home town. The plot is entertaining and I kept reading, but the story isn’t suspenseful enough for the genre. This is supposed to be a suspense novel, but halfway through it became a cliché teen romance with a looming secret. This book wasn’t bad, it was just unfulfilling. It had a lot of potential and as the story went it on it kind of lost its momentum.

Plotastic Scale: 2.25

Cover Thoughts: I don’t really like the cover. I mean it’s not horrible, but I don’t love it.

Thank you, Netgalley and Mark My Words Book Publicity, for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Have you read this book? Do you plan to? What are books that you have read set in your hometown? Did you judge those a little bit harder because of that? Let me know down below in the comments!

Short Stories That I Enjoyed in the Last Two Weeks

Hey, everyone! I've been away for a while. I moved into my apartment, started my intern teaching tenth graders at a local high school, d...