Monday, February 27, 2012

Room by Emma Donoghue

What encouraged me to pick up this book was the cover art which people find surprising since it is so simple.  To me there is so much that can be said from simple covers like the cover art of Emma Donoghue's Room.  The letters written in a child's handwriting in crayon on a plain white canvas.  I could conclude that this story was about a child and I knew this book would be about a room, but what about the room makes it the title of this story?  I was unaware how captivating Room would become and how much it would pull me inside so that I too was a prisoner along with the narrator, five year old Jack, and his mother.
            I'm going to split this review into chunks of five, just like the book is split into five parts.  I'm not doing this to give away information but to tell you my feelings as the book progressed because my emotions were shooting left and right!  The first part is titled Presents.  This section of the book introduces the reader to Jack, his mother, and Room.  Room is where Jack and his mother live – an 11x11 space with a toilet, bed, sink, table, shelves, and closet.  Oh and another thing, Jack has never left Room!  He has spent all of his life in Room with just his mother while catching brief glances at a man who comes at night named Old Nick.  To Jack, everything on TV is make believe.  He knows nothing but Room.  One thing I found unique about Room was how the narrator was a five year old.  His narration was just as deep as any adult narrator and truly showed how a child's mind works.  As an aspiring author, this book is very good at teaching about how the human mind works and how our lives are truly shaped from our experiences.
            As I read the first section of this book, I found it sort of boring and expected.  Events that occurred were fitting with the book's summary and also heart-warming to read.  I had yet to figure out where the story was leading.
            Part two rolled around titled Unlying and this was where things became much more interesting.  I became engrossed in the book and couldn't stop thinking about it.  I wanted to share the events with everyone but I couldn't for the reason that my roommate is planning on reading the book someday!  Either way, this was when the ball began rolling and glued me to the pages.
            Part three, titled Dying, was again a very engrossing section.  While some of it seemed forced for the purpose of plot, it was a very relieving section and I found myself almost in tears because I was so moved.  Then Part four came titled After.  While the plot was still fantastically raw and human, I just felt so terrible while reading it.  Seriously, if you plan on reading this book be prepared for the most annoying narration from Jack and the most heart wrenching truth's that just make you feel really unpleasant.  Thank God part five came so fast because I wasn't sure how much more I could take.  Part five, titled Living, was much more readable for me and gives the book a sense of closure.  It ends without much certainty but at the same time, all the certainty in the world.  It leaves the reader to imagine what could happen but you know things are happy. 
            I give Room 4 out of 5 stars.  It was truly an amazing book but I can't call it a favorite.  I recommend every avid reader should give it a try and every aspiring author should give it a read as well.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Harry Potter gets the shove at this years Oscars

    You can probably guess that I am a huge Potter fan if I am writing about their snub at the Oscar's this year.  It's true, Harry Potter doesn't always get the credit it deserves.  The books are a real piece of art and while the films do an okay job living up to the book's reputation, none could do it better than the eighth and final film.  The film stood apart from the other seven and was a real epic.  It contained everything needed to make a great film - adventure, death, romance, and redemption.  Not only did the film contain fantastic story telling elements that all film goers enjoy but it also contained a great score by Alexandre Desplat and each actor proved they weren't just there for the money - they were all at their best!  Seriously, if anyone deserved an Oscar for best male character in a film it would have to be Alan Rickman as Snape.
    So why the Oscar snub?  If Potter eight really was that great, which it was according to fans and critics, why was it pushed aside and why was Hugo given a nomination instead?  The answer seems obvious.  While both are considered kids films (something that can be debated), Hugo is a single film while Harry Potter is a series of films and also known in Hollywood as a franchise.  Let's be honest here - the Oscar's don't like movie franchise's.  Sometimes it is for good reason but it's rare a franchise like Harry Potter comes around today with not only themes of love and redemption but of loss, love, death, growing up, and then darker themes such as loneliness (Harry loosing his parents), family (The Weasley's, Sirius, etc.), and the power of choice (Hogwart's houses, Voldemort's upbringing, etc.). 
    Apart from the Academy's dislike for big named franchise's, why else was Potter snubbed?  Was it not different enough for the Academy?  Sure you have The Help which is about rebellion in a time of racism and The Tree of Life that I've heard is just plain strange.  But isn't that what they want?  Something different?  Something that pushes film to the limit - and is immoral a lot of times?  Oh and they can't be family films except if they are Disney and even Disney gets snubbed at times.  Harry Potter is a story about adversity just like The Help and Harry Potter has a lot of strange parts for example, horcruxes!  It's intense but heart warming at the same time - the perfect balance.  I guess Harry is just too moral for the Academy.
    Daniel Radcliffe, who was constantly asked about the Oscar snub in interviews and said he didn't find it to be that big of a deal, finally became frustrated and says, "I don't think the Oscars like commercial films, or kids' films, unless they're directed by Martin Scorsese...There's a certain amount of snobbery. It's kind of disheartening. I never thought I'd care. But it would've been nice to have some recognition, just for the hours put in."
   Potter is nominated for small Oscar's including Art Direction, Visual Effects, and Makeup.  In my opinion, it is not getting the recognition it deserves.  I have no doubt Hollywood will continue to snub great films in the future as they have also done in the past.  Another great film that was snubbed at this year's Oscars is Martha, Marcy, May, Marlene staring Elizabeth Olsen, younger sister to the famous Olsen twins.
   So what do you think?  Was Harry Potter not given the credit it deserved?  Or are the Oscars right to ignore a franchise film?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close was one of those books that I heard of because it was being made into a movie.  I know, I shouldn’t be reading books because they are being made into movies but hey, I can’t help that ABC Family has so many commercials!  Anyway, I read lots of great reviews and such about this book and so I thought “hey I will give it a shot” because almost every book is worth reading…besides Twilight of course.  Those books fit the exception and are okay to burn. 
            But enough of my dislike for Twilight rant…lets get onto the review.  When I started reading ELaIC, I found it to be very intriguing and personal but also very confusing.  The book is split into 3 point of views.  The main point of view and focus of the book is on Oskar, a boy who lives in New York City with his mother when the planes crash into the twin towers on 9/11.  Oskar is an atheist and an inventor.  He is always honest and can’t understand why his mother doesn’t seem to be grieving over the loss of his father as much as he is.  The thing Oskar seems to miss the most about his father is their bonding time.  Oskar’s dad was very inventive and came up with incredible stories and games that gave strength to the father son bond.  Early on in the book, after his father’s death, Oskar finds a key inside an envelope with the name “Black” written on it.  Convinced that his dad gave him one final mystery mission, he sets out to find where the key fits.
            The two other narrators of the story is Oskar’s grandmother and absent grandfather.  Each of these points of views are written in the form of letters.  The letters mostly talk about the past and are either written out to Oskar or Oskar’s dad.  Oskar’s grandfather talks about why he was absent and why he comes to be a mute.  Oskar’s grandmother talks about her marriage to a man who was never really in love with her to begin with but sought her as a comfort and it became something more. 
            One strength I found in the novel was that it challenged all the rules of fiction writing.  Nothing was in order or quite explained.  The fault I found however was that this strength also proved to be a weakness.  By the end of the novel, I couldn’t figure out what it was trying to say nor did I understand how the letters from Oskar’s grandparents had anything to do with the plot of Oskar and this random key.  At times I was moved but the little moments didn’t add up like they do in other novels.  I would have liked to have seen some more explanation as to how Oskar grew as a person and a clearer explanation of what the hell went on with his grandparents because I have never been more confused in my life.  It seems like a book I will have to read a second time to understand.  Overall I will give the book 3 out of 5 stars.  It was creative but as I said, very confusing and all over the place.

Friday, February 17, 2012

War Horse by Michael Morpurgo

I have this uncontrollable habit when I see a movie trailer to go online and see if it's a book.  If the film is adapted from a book, I then proceed to add it to my list of books to read and only when I read the book in full can I see the movie.  It's like a little rule I have with myself.  I've broken it a once or twice but after doing so with Atonement by Ian McEwan, I've learned my lesson. 
            If you read my review about The Book Thief, you know I love to learn and read about war and so this book was right up my alley.  After seeing the War Horse movie trailer, between the epic music and looks of beautiful storytelling, I knew I had to read this book.  It took a while to get a hold of…5 weeks on hold at the library!  Finally I got my hands on it and was surprised to find out it was a very thin book.  I finished reading it in 2 days!
            The story centers around a horse named Joey who is taken away from his best friend and owner, Albert, to join the war.  The story then goes to follow Joey through the war, watching people and horses die around him and hoping to someday find Albert.  The story is not written in 3rd person but in 1st so the reader sees right into Joey’s mind.  The reader is able see his attachment to not just people but other horses around him.  The reader is also able to grow attached to Joey and realize that the war wasn’t just hard on humans but on the animals involved as well.  This is another tear jerk-er.  The ending was beautiful.
            This time I am finding it hard to find a fault in this novel.  I’m going to go with my gut and just stick with no obvious faults.  This was a great read and I can’t wait to see the movie!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Going into The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, I kind of knew what to expect having read a review of the book only just a few weeks before.  I knew that the book was going to be narrated by Death which excited me but also made me a bit nervous because I wondered if that would turn me off while reading.  To my good fortune, I found Death's perspective to be uniquely imaginative and oddly comforting. 
            The book begins with Death describing the main character to us, Liesel or soon to be known as the book thief.  Liesel is going with her brother to stay with a foster family but on the train over her brother dies.  After his funeral, Liesel steals her first book.  She brings the book to her new home with Hans and Rosa Hubermann in Germany.  The haunting memory of her brother being taken by Death returns to her most often in her dreams and Hans comes every night to comfort her.  They soon start up a routine in which Hans teaches Liesel to read.  This routine stays consistent for most of the book.
            The plot of the story is woven around the Holocaust in Nazi Germany and Liesel's struggle to function around so much hatred.  Books, to her, are a source of comfort, as is stealing.  Characters around her are inspired by her love for reading, including a Jewish fist fighter Liesel comes to befriend named Max. 
            I feel like I've given as much info away as possible without ruining the story so lets get to the actual review.  Not only do I have a strange obsession with "keep calm and carry on" posters but also war.  I don't agree with war yet I love reading about war.  I still have yet to figure out why I feel this way.  Needless to say, this turned me on to the book straight away.  I loved hearing how the war progressed and how it affected Liesel's small street.  Another thing I thoroughly enjoyed throughout reading this book was the use of figurative language, especially when talking about the sky.  Death constantly talks about the color of the sky and uses almost every adjective you wouldn't expect to describe it.  Zusak seemed to really challenge the typical metaphors writers use and shaped them into something with a different but new and wonderful beauty.  Death's descriptions of his job taking souls away was also very intriguing.  It makes the reader wonder if Death really is this sort of creature who has a job just like everyone else and wonder about the afterlife.
            The characters were very likeable.  Liesel is the child with no one but her books, Hans is the quiet yet loving foster father, Rosa the strict foster mother, Max the inspiring outcast, Rudy the book's humor, and Death the haunting narrator. 
            The only complaint I have about this book is the ending.  While it was very powerful and moving with a great last line, it all happened so fast.  The fast ending still speaks to me about how fast something can happen that changes our lives forever but I still think there needed to be a bit more explanation about Liesel's life after the events that occurred.  Another thing I didn't like about the ending was how Death kept hinting about it towards the end of the novel.  I figured out what was going to happen and I know that was probably what Zusak was going for but I'd prefer to be surprised at the end.
            Overall, I give the Book Thief a 3.5/5.   Spoiler- be prepared to cry at the end.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

What a good read to start off the new year.  I'd never known Peter Pan to be a chapter book.  I guess I always assumed it was a children's picture book or something.  The Disney version never played a huge part in my childhood.  I only just began to understand the story a few months ago after I watched the Disney movie and read Stephen Chbosky's Perks of Being a Wallflower.  In Chbosky's novel about a passive high school student named Charlie, one of the professors assigns Charlie to read Peter Pan.  That was the first time the novel came to my attention.  I'd never known Peter Pan to be such a deep story.  It was around that time that I decided I wanted to read the book myself. 
            The book was full of everything a fantasy needs to be great – child innocence, love, adventure, intriguing villains, and mysterious settings.  The book also focused on two very intriguing characters – Wendy Darling and Peter Pan himself.  I found it very interesting to watch a boy go on living as a boy because he doesn't want to grow up.  Don't we all have the fear of growing up?  The adult world is scary.  Signing contracts, finding a job, finding a place to live, spending too much money on things you need and not enough on things you want, and living on your own.  It's all a bit overwhelming to think about.  This goes to show what a deep character Peter Pan is despite his overconfidence and self love.  Wendy, on the other hand, I imagined to be a young Belle from Beauty and the Beast – telling stories constantly and having a wide imagination.  Wendy's character pushed the story forward in my opinion, showing her transformation from the beginning when she only imagined such places as Neverland to the end when she knew she couldn't stay young forever. 
            Despite the two main characters and the fantasy elements to the book, there was a big downside for me while reading.  I once read a book called King Solomon's Mines in which there was a section (maybe 30 pages long) of battle scenes that I just couldn't sit through because they were so unbelievably boring.  This same thing occurred as I read Peter Pan.  Many of the battle scenes proved very dull and I sort of skipped sentences just to get through certain chapters.
            Overall, Peter Pan is a classic and I'm very glad I took the time to read it.  It was a great novel to start off 2012.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The 50 Book Challenge

When 2012 rolled around the corner I told myself I wanted to give myself a challenge this year.  Ironically enough, I came upon a Tumblr blog that was all about books and the moderator was doing this 50 Book challenge where she reads 50 books in a year.  Immediately I knew that this would be my challenge - and so the month of January started and I began to read.
Then life came knocking on the door and decided to limit my reading time and now with the end of January in our midst, I have read only 3 little books...young adult novels at that!  The prospect of only 3 books read in a month and 47 left in 11 months is a bit daunting I must admit.  However, the first steps are always slow.
This blog is going to focus on the books I read in the time of the Spring 2012 semester.  I will post reviews on the books I read - though they will be far from professional I will give them my best effort.
January books - Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, and War Horse by Michael Morpurgo.