Sunday, December 25, 2011

"My Gift, From a Christmas Carol" by Christina Rossetti

What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb,
If I were a Wise Man
I would do my part, –
Yet what I can I give Him,
Give my heart.

Monday, October 3, 2011

"The Dawn of a Tomorrow" by Frances Hodgson Burnett

This book caught my eye because of the sober-sounding title. To be honest, I started reading it because "Dawn" by Eleanor H. Porter was not working one day on Librivox. One thing to note is that it is not very long, more like a novella.

The very first few pages captivated me from the start. I was surprised to find that Burnett had written more than children's stories. Reading the synopsis made me wonder if the story would be too diadactic, but it was be amazing. The first chapter was pretty abstract, but once we got out into the fog and Anthony became an observer, it cleared up a bunch.

I've been looking for a solid five-star read for a while, and this one hit the spot perfectly. I am hooked on this book!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Recent Read: "Just David" by Eleanor H. Porter

This book is pretty much Pollyanna all over again but about a boy. Still, it has some very charming elements, and I really enjoyed reading it, even if it felt like a duplicate. The beginning was pretty tragic. Most of the rest of the story was pretty predictable, but I liked it.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Recent Read; "Sense and Sensibility" by Jane Austen

Sense and Sensibility has to be one of the best examples of a wonderful book that has a wonderful movie to go along with it. The movie is really, really close to being just as good or better than the book. As I read Austen's novel this time, I am astounded at Emma Thompson's skill in creating her Oscar-winning screenplay that augments the story while retaining as much Austen as possible. Really, besides dropping a few minor characters, the only big difference between the book and the movie is the movie doesn't have Willoughby show up when Marianne is ill. Both the book and the movie are so beautiful!

A couple meaningful themes jumped out at me this time as I read Sense and Sensibility this time. First, Edward and Willoughby really are true foils. For a long time I just thought of them as opposites, but while their personalities are very different (Edward is mild and quiet, Willoughby is gregarious but selfish), their situations in the story are almost the same. Both are breaking Dashwood girls' hearts because of a stupid previous relationship. Just Edward's past is justifiable and Willoughby's is very blameable. Then when their past blows up in their face, they both have the freedom to choose their own actions. Edward chooses to remain honorable (by keeping his engagement with Lucy as long as she wants it) and Willoughby is a jerk to everyone (he refuses to marry Eliza and ditches Marianne so he can marry someone else for money).

Another theme that Austen really highlights in the book is the idea of second love. Marianne at the beginning doesn't believe love can happen to you twice. By the end, she obviously changes her mind. The interesting thing is that all of the heroes and heroines in the story--Edward, Colonel Brandon, and Marianne--become happy on a second love, while Elinor marries and is happy with her first. And we're okay with it because, as the sensible one, we feel like she deserves it.

Finally, I love how Austen explores the relationship between the two sisters. At first they are so different, but their struggles help them understand one another better and make them more and more alike.

This was one of the most satisfying re-reads that I've had in a long time! And I can't believe it was Austen's first novel--it's so good!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

A True Gaskell Fan!

A few days ago I was indexing 1871 British census records and my sheet was from Milton, Northamptonshire! I couldn't believe it! I fully expected to see the Higgins and the Thorntons on the page! It was very exciting, and just proof of how much I really loved reading North and South. I might have to do that again sometime . . .

Friday, August 12, 2011

Recent Read: "The Complete Sherlock Holmes," Volume 1, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

My brother bought both volumes for me for Christmas last year and I think it was one of my favorite book gifts ever. Reading the "Complete" has been so much fun. Doyle was not perfect; Holmes takes cocaine and heroin and has some serious misconceptions about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but I still love these stories. I thought that reading the complete would make them feel repetitive--that they would all feel like the same story. On the contrary, I am facinated and spellbounded by Doyle's ingenuity in coming up with different thoughts and especially different story moods in the backdrop. When he does repeat a similar plot--such as stories about sketchy new jobs and selfish stepfathers--it feels like he's really making a statement about something he sees wrong in the world because he addresses that problem more than once, which is really interesting. One volume down, one to go, and I still can't get enough!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Recent Read: "Fablehaven" by Brandon Mull

I avoided reading this book for a long time. First of all, the title, cover art, and the fact that it's a long series just screamed "Super Nerdy Fantasy Book" at me. Second, I wasn't crazy about The Candy Shop Wars. I had to read it and like it because it is about my home town, but the dialogue drove me crazy and the whole story seemed annoyingly far-fetched. But my youngest brother gave me Fablehaven for Christmas, and I just couldn't let him down.

I cracked it open on a lonely night when I couldn't sleep, and the very first page roped me right in. I didn't know that it was set in the present, and the whole idea of the Fablehaven preserve was so unique and creative to me. I was all set to launch into the entire series until the grandma entered the story and the dialogue got unbearable. Grandparents don't talk in informative paragraphs like that--am I right? The ending was fine, but kind of flash/bang/boom really fast.

Overall, I loved the beginning. I loved the mysterious/kids-figuring-out-clues feel. I'm not ready to continue in the series quite yet, but I could see myself getting there eventually. Just how and why the grandma turned into a chicken in the first place had better come up and be important in later books or I'm going to be mad that he just brushed that off.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Books I've Quit

In my youth, I tried to make it a goal to finish reading every book that I started (excepting anything that was dirty or inappropriate). I think that was a good goal at the time, but I've decided that now I'm grown up enough to throw it out the window. There are too many books in the world and too little time in my life for reading to waste much on a book that I don't like or that is a drag to read. Here are a few books that I quit recently, may they rest in peace:

The Once and Future King by T.H. White
I really liked The Sword in the Stone. The Queen of Air and Darkness was weird, uncomfortable, funny in parts, and absolutely creepy at the end, but I toughed it out. The Ill-Made Knight was so depressing that I quit a little over half way. It was making me cranky and unhappy, so I said no. It's not White's fault that the legend is a catastrophe, after all, but I just couldn't handle it.

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
I tried to read this to participate in a woman's book club, but I just couldn't go through with it. I dragged myself through the beginning and all the divorce rants, but in Italy I just couldn't stand the woman's worldly mind anymore and had to get her out of my head, as much as I love Julia Roberts movies and all. I just felt like Gilbert's values and driving force in life was too different from mine for me to enjoy the book.

The Constellation of Sylvie, by Roderick Townley
Okay, maybe I should have quit a bit sooner. Into the Labyrinth was pretty ridiculous and repetitive. I loved having more of Sylvie's beautiful world, but the story didn't really hook me. So when The Great Good Thing was carried onto a space ship by a the President's daughter, things got a little out of hand. I shelved it for a while, and then it was due at the library, so I just took it back. Maybe I'll finish The Constellation of Sylvie someday, when I'm really bored. We'll see. Overall though, I would just recommend The Great Good Thing. But that's a high recommendation! It is one of my favorites, and I really liked The Blue Shoe too.
Of Human Bondage, by W. Somerset Maugham
I know this is a classic, but I just can't go through with it right now. First Philip's life is tragic and depressing, and then he turns into a punk. I didn't like anyone in the book, so I decided to give it up for now. Maybe I'll persevere someday.  

Candy Freak, by Steve Almond
The title and cover art got me to open this book, which I wish I had never done. Almond has a dirty mouth and is very vulgar. I guess I was only interested in it because I have a very strong sweet tooth myself, but I quit in the first chapter. I'm pretty sure it's just a crowd pleaser book anyway.

The Book Thief, by Marcus Zuzak
I know everyone says this book is amazing, but the beginning was so creepy that I shut it up right away. Seriously, death talking to you? Maybe I need a little more backbone, but it really creeped me out!  

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Recent Read: "The Sword in the Stone" by T.H. White

T.H. is not to be confused with E.B., which is a mistake I think I made for a long time. The beginning of this book was a little hard to get through, before I realized that it was all a joke. But once Merlyn shows up, it is a blast. It makes me sing the Disney "Sword in the Stone" songs, but the characters are even more fun on paper. I was very impressed by White's imaginary, descriptive, masterful, and fun writing style. This would be a good stepping stone to Tolkien for children who like mythology, fantasy, and long books

Monday, August 8, 2011

Recent Read: "Kidnapped" by Robert Lewis Stevenson

This might be the first complete Stevenson novel that I've ever read (dare I confess this much?). It's was interesting because for Stevenson this was a historical novel already, so for us it's really old. His language is kind of slow and wordy, but I really liked all the Scottish accent stuff. I loved the kidnapping, the shipwreck, and the lone man on an island parts at the beginning, but then we spent the middle hundred pages running through the Highland hills. That was pretty laborious, and the ending was just a neat tie-up (could Alan have at least run off with the barmaid or something???).

Overall, I enjoyed it, but it might be a while before I read it again, and I don't plan on attempting to read it aloud ever again! I have a lot of respect for Stevenson, though. I heard one of my favorite professors give a speech about him several months ago, and I know there is plenty more to appreciate!