Monday, August 18, 2008

Breaking Dawn by Stephanie Meyer

Recommendation: If you read the others, you probably will read this one.
I would not recommend reading it if you haven't read the others, or if you didn't like her first books.

What I think is cool about Stephanie Meyer: I think it is really impressive to come up with this kind of complicated story. To create characters, organizations, supernatural beings. I couldn't do it.

I think she writes true to herself and her beliefs. She keeps her books PG, which I think is cool especially given her topic and the desire to sell books to more than just young adults. I think she has proven a point. And that is great!

I also give her a lot of credit for knowing her audience. Introducing a child in this book was genius considering how many mothers are reading her books. I think she said some sweet things about the way we feel about our children instantly.

What bugged me about this book: I really stuggled with the dialouge between characters. Things like, "S'Okay," and "Er, thanks," drive me crazy. There is also a lot of painfully lame phrases and exchanges between her main characters. Trite, over used expressions, and just stupid words. If you've ever watched a movie or TV show with me, you know this kind of stuff drives me CRAZY. Zero tolerance.

One thing I liked about Twilight were the magical scenes. The scene with Edward and Bella in the meadow and the scene where Bella is so happy to see the sun and she falls asleep in the warmth were pretty, and I remembered them. I didn't remember anything in the same way in this book.

Also the way that Bella just believed that they were all going to die, when obviously they stood a chance. Her continual comments about it being about to be over weren't believable to me.

What I liked about this book:

It was a good story. It picked up well where the other one left off. It isn't predictable, and I did really want to see what was going to happen. Lots of interesting twists and turns.

It made me think about how my life would be easier if I was a vampire. Never needing sleep! Especially if your child did sleep. Fascinating possibility. Never having to cook food!

I did think about what the vampires would do when the socialized. Food is such a big part of our social gatherings.

I liked that Bella was happy. I liked that their "coven" was able to be a good example and be closely bonded and everything.

I always love a happy ending!
One last thing:

She called Lake Union, "Union Lake."
I'm also critical of overlooked research or poor editing whichever it was.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

So Brave, Young, and Handsome by Leif Enger

I have been waiting and hoping for Mr. Enger to produce another novel after LOVING Peace Like a River so much. Here it is.

Recommendation: Yes, I liked this book. I think if you liked his first, you will like his second. I did not enjoy it as much, but I think its a good story. I like the feel of the book.

What I liked: As in his first novel, I really liked the characters. They are well-formed and illustrated without too much distracting description.

This is an interesting story. It involves another cross country trip, another saintly outlaw, and bad law man. It is not a copy-cat of his first, but has a similar feeling. It is written to be romantic, but I don't think it is a romance. The draw of the West, making resolutions, changing your life, are all themes that flow through it.

There is a cool metaphor when Monte see's his reflection in the barbershop window, and Siringo talks about his wife not being able to see him, and Monte talks about his "hazy outline." I liked it.

Also there's a cool metaphor about Siringo's grasp.

I also liked this part. " 'She's so pretty, I just forgot how to talk,' Hood told me. I loved him for that. What man has not stood in lumpen torment before the face of beauty?"

Also, "violent and doomed as this world might be, a romance it certainly is." In response to, "this world ain't no romance, in case you didn't notice."

I didn't find this book predictable, and I was happy with the ending.

What I didn't like: I liked a lot of this book, but there wasn't a lot that I loved. I'm glad I read it, I hope it is successful, and I hope Leif Enger keeps writing. I think two of the things I liked the most in Peace Like a River were the family, and the power of healing. There is a family in this book, but its more of a supporting cast. Religion is mentioned in a positive light, but it isn't as magical. Also there are murders, and some bad beating-ups.

Over all I didn't like it as much as his first novel, but I think it is a worthy read.

I can't wait to hear what everyone else thinks about it.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Founding Brothers by, Joseph J. Ellis

Recommendation: YES! This is another great US history book.

This book won the Pulitzer Prize, and is only 248 pages long. Don't be fooled! It is well-written, but really made me concentrate to understand what was being said. Here's an example I've been showing people of how wordy Ellis can be, "...the very presumptiveness of the revolutionary rhetoric served to obfuscate the quite palpable reality that slavery, no mantter how anomalous in purely ideological terms, was still deeply imbedded in the very structure of American society at multiple levels or layers that remained impervious to wishful thinking and revolutionary expectations." WHEW! I ended up holding a bookmark underlining the words as I read to help me focus. But it is completly readable. I didn't even pull out my dictionary, although I probably should have. I don't want to turn you away from the book, just warn you.

What I loved:
Joseph Ellis took a specific event or theme for each chapter. Because of the way it is organized, I think it flows really well. Each chapter could stand alone, but they do overlap and intertwine with each other. One cool theme that he referred back to several times is how hindsight affects history and how we read and write it. How events or famous quotes are only poignant because of what we know happened next. It was a very interesting concept, and one that made alot of sense in the context of these stories.

Another thing that the characters mention more than once that is so fascinating to me, is that it was really a miracle that our nation stayed together in the early years. There were so many times that even the men fighting (figuratively and literally) to keep the United States together, really didn't think it would make it.

"If hindsight enhances our appreciation for the solidity and stability of the republican legacy, it also blinds us to the truly stunning improbability of the achievement itself."

"Though there have been many successful colonial rebellions against imperial domination since the American Revolution, none had occured before."

Reading this again puts me in awe of these men (and their wives) that made it happen.

My favorite sections:

I got a little bogged down in the chapters The Dinner and The Silence. But even those were interesting! I ended up writing down some reminders to myself of who was with the Federalists and who was with the Republicans. That helped some.

The Collaborators and The Friendship were my favorites. It's so sad to me that John Adams was right that he would not be credited nearly as much as Thomas Jefferson and George Washington for his role in founding the nation. I really am drawn to him and will HAVE to read to read his bio now. One thing that Ellis mentioned was that he told Abagail to save all his letters. He knew that they would provide history. In fact it seems obvious that his last few years of letters to Jefferson were part of his attempt to write history as he had experienced it.

The Silence deals with how slavery was treated politically in the 1790's. I had no idea how long the debates were going. At first I thought it was very irresponsible for congress to have a "no talking" policy about it. But I guess that we often avoid things that we know are wrong, but are too embarrassed or dependant upon to change. Reading the different arguments that were circulating was very interesting.

When John Adams was vice-president, he describes the job as "the most insignificant office that ever the Invention of Man contrived or his Imagination conceived." To make matters worse, after his first debate, the Senate decided that the vice president was not permitted to speak. Can you imagine the torture of listening to these political debates and being able to participate? Sounds like torture to me!

Things I didn't know about before reading this:

Jay's Treaty, Consumption, Capitol on the Potomac, the duel between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton. A lot more. But to my history teachers' credit, I have forgotten most of what I once learned.

Some great quotes/concepts from the book:

"...slavery was a cancer on the body politic of America that could not at present be removed without killing the patient."

"The Adams style was to confront, shout, rant and then to embrace. The Jefferson style was to evade, maintain pretenses, then convince himself that all was well."

"No one present at the start knew how it would turn out in the end."

"The basic framework for all these institutions and traditions was built in a sudden spasm of enforced inspiration and makeshift construction during the final decades of the eighteenth century."

"...the office would routinely outlive the occupant, that the American presidency was fundamentally different from a European monarchy, that presidents, no matter how indispensable, were inherently disposable."

On page 209, a letter from Jefferson to Abagail Adams is quoted, and Ellis inserts parenthetical comments that are very funny to me.

And lastly, in a letter to Benjamin Rush, John Adams says he knew a French barber in Boston who used the phrase "a little crack," meaning slightly crazy. He uses it to describe some philosophers, then says, "I must tell you that my wife, who took a fancy to read this letter upon my table, bids me tell you that she 'thinks my head, too, a little crack,' and I am half of that mind myself." HILARIOUS!!! I think that might be my new catchphrase. And again, how can you not love John and Abagail Adams.

Now, please read this book and comment in the space provided.

Friday, August 1, 2008

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte

Recommendation: YES! I enjoyed this book. I recommend it.

What I liked: I couldn't put this down! Really, it isn't a fast read, so I had to stop reading two nights, acknowledging that I couldn't finish it even if I stayed up later.

I was totally drawn into this story. I think something that I liked was that even the characters you are rooting for have faults. I think they are realistic heroes. I liked that maybe Helen's aunt was right. So often in books and movies the adults, well-meaning or not, are wrong. I liked when Helen was giving advice to Esther, she is talking about not marrying for money, a title, etc, but then she says something like love isn't enough either. I don't think the mistakes made in the book were entirely the fault of the characters. It's probably pretty realistic.

I don't think the book is too predictable. Some little parts you can figure out but in a nice way. Like--oh of course they will get married. I always like those tidy endings anyway. Even more I like when they actually happen in real life! SO rare.

What I didn't like: Well, it was hard for me to get into this bookat the start. I think the descriptions are a little much, but very typical of the time period. I felt like skimming parts, but tried hard to actually read it all. Once I was into the story, probably 6 or 7 chapters, then I was totally hooked.

A funny quote:

Talking about who to marry, Gilbert is saying "I shall expect to find more pleasure in making my wife happy and comfortable, than in being made so by her." His mom, (whose advice to Helen is horrible!) responds with this:

"You'll do your business, and she, if she's worthy of you, will do her's but it's your business to please yourself, and her's to please you." Then talking about her own husband, "he was steady and punctual, seldom found fault without a reason, always did justice to my good dinners, and hardly ever spoiled my cookery by delay--and that's as much as any woman can expect of any man."


In Gilbert's defence, his reaction to his friend is, "Is it so, Halford? Is that the extent of your domestic virtues; and does your happy wife exact nor more?"
I think an obvious theme in the book is how boys were raised at the time. Gilbert's mom says really stupid things to Helen about raising her son. It is so obvious to the reader even before her journal, as to why she would raise him that way. But Gilbert himself is so spoiled by his mom. As is Mr. Hargrave.

I probably should try to read Wuthering Heights--I haven't ever, and Jane Eyre--its been years, but I'll probably take a break first! It would be good to compare the sister's writings.

I do recommend this book, especially if you like this time period and style. And if not, give it a try anyway! If you do, PLEASE LET ME KNOW WHAT YOU THINK OF IT!!!