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The Bloody Chamber & Other Stories by Angela Carter

22 Feb

The Bloody Chamber & Other Stories

author : angela carter

pages : 126

memorable quote:

She herself is a haunted house. She does not possess herself; her ancestors sometimes come and peer out of the windows of her eyes and that is very frightening

summary :

From familiar fairy tales and legends – Red Riding Hood, Bluebeard, Puss-in-Boots, Beauty and the Beast, vampires, werewolves – Angela Carter has created an absorbing collection of dark, sensual, fantastic stories.

review :

I had to read this collection of fairy tales for an independent study I’m doing. While they weren’t my favorite retellings, I think that these stories are not only well-written but also thought provoking. They’re tales that will leave you to think. You won’t just ponder the connection to and differences from the original story and Carter’s version. You’ll also think through your own interpretation of the endings, as well as the symbolism that crops up in each story.

Though this collection was short, it’s sure to stand out. The stories are bloody. Many of them aren’t happy. But that seems to be a trend, not only in modern retellings but in the original stories themselves! All of us like to hear a good story with a happily ever after but things don’t always work out that way. Carter doesn’t seem foreign to that concept, though she does put her own spin on the idea of a ‘realistic’, unhappy ending. There’s no tragedy simply for the sake of it. It’s impressive, the way she weaves her words together and makes even the smallest of instances in her stories seem to have the biggest share of the impact.

I’d recommend this collection to anyone with an avid interest in fairy tales. While there are other retellings that I’ll pick up to read over and over again, I’m not sure that this collection will be among them even though it is very well-done. I think that it’s worth at least one read and many will like it even more than I did.

3/5 stars

Things We Know by Heart by Jessi Kirby

16 Feb

Things We Know by Heart

author : jessi kirby

pages : [hardcover] 304

publication date : april 21, 2015

summary :

When Quinn Sullivan meets the recipient of her boyfriend’s donated heart, the two form an unexpected connection.

After Quinn loses her boyfriend, Trent, in an accident their junior year, she reaches out to the recipients of his donated organs in hopes of picking up the pieces of her now-unrecognizable life. She hears back from some of them, but the person who received Trent’s heart has remained silent. The essence of a person, she has always believed, is in the heart. If she finds Trent’s, then maybe she can have peace once and for all.

Risking everything in order to finally lay her memories to rest, Quinn goes outside the system to track down nineteen-year-old Colton Thomas—a guy whose life has been forever changed by this priceless gift. But what starts as an accidental run-in quickly develops into more, sparking an undeniable attraction. She doesn’t want to give in to it—especially since he has no idea how they’re connected—but their time together has made Quinn feel alive again. No matter how hard she’s falling for Colton, each beat of his heart reminds her of all she’s lost…and all that remains at stake.

review :

I’m not sure of how I feel about this book, to be honest. There were some parts of it that I truly loved and wanted more of. I wanted to learn more about Quinn’s relationship with her family, particularly her father and her sister because they seemed like interesting characters who could have been used much more than they were. I wanted more than the focus on her and Colton, mostly because I knew that relationship would eventually blow up because of all of the secrets that Quinn was keeping from Colton.

Of course, some portions of the story were predictable, and I really didn’t mind that. I just wish that some of it could have been handled differently. Not necessarily by changing the plot points or anything serious like that. Really, I just feel like most of it was too rushed, and even though I did get emotional at a few points, if it’d been slowed down I feel like I would have been much more of a mess. Not that I want to be emotionally damaged by a book, you know, but sometimes you can really appreciate something that tangles up your emotions and spits you back out again in the end.

I think that’s another thing that was off for me, too–the ending. I wanted to know what was going to happen next because I feel like some of that could have been more interesting than some of the buildup to that conclusion. I can’t say much without spoiling anything, but I know that there were still problems and issues that could have been explained or fleshed out that weren’t given the chance to come to the heart of the novel . . . see what I did there?

I feel like this book is interesting and it certainly kept me reading, even though it isn’t a favorite. I don’t know if I’ll recommend it to my friends, but I know there are people out there who’ll love it more than I did. Maybe with all of their heart. Last heart joke, I swear.

3/5 stars

The Jewel by Amy Ewing

24 Nov

 

The Jewel

author : amy ewing

pages : [hardcover] 358

favorite character : raven

memorable quote : “Hope is a precious thing, isn’t it,” she says. “And yet, we don’t really appreciate it until it’s gone.”

summary :

he Jewel means wealth. The Jewel means beauty. The Jewel means royalty. But for girls like Violet, the Jewel means servitude. Not just any kind of servitude. Violet, born and raised in the Marsh, has been trained as a surrogate for the royalty—because in the Jewel the only thing more important than opulence is offspring.

Purchased at the surrogacy auction by the Duchess of the Lake and greeted with a slap to the face, Violet (now known only as #197) quickly learns of the brutal truths that lie beneath the Jewel’s glittering facade: the cruelty, backstabbing, and hidden violence that have become the royal way of life.

Violet must accept the ugly realities of her existence… and try to stay alive. But then a forbidden romance erupts between Violet and a handsome gentleman hired as a companion to the Duchess’s petulant niece. Though his presence makes life in the Jewel a bit brighter, the consequences of their illicit relationship will cost them both more than they bargained for.

review :

I really enjoyed the first half of this novel and was entertained but disappointed with the second half. Amy Ewing creates an interesting environment in The Jewel, where it appears that the entire world is a city  surrounded by the sea and separated into different layers that denote a person’s class. At the heart of the city is the Jewel, where all of the rich people live and where Violet is trapped as a surrogate years after they discover she has the magical abilities that are necessary for surrogates to have. She was put up for auction, stripped of her name, and told to forget about her past.

I did enjoy reading about Violet, for the most part. She struggled to remember her family and wants nothing more than to return to them. She hates the system, obviously, but isn’t trying to take it down so much as she’s hoping she can slip through it and return to the life which was stolen from her. I liked her little rebellions, even when they weren’t the smartest choices. It showed that Violet was still in there, even though potential escape seemed hopeless.

As soon as the love interest was introduced (surprisingly late into the book), she turned into someone I didn’t like. While I understand that both she and the interest have had limited, restrictive lives, so perhaps that’s why there was so much immediate attraction . . . He becomes all that Violet can think about. She’s no longer worrying about her family or herself; she’s only dreaming about his eyes and risking everything in silly ways. She could have still had the romance without being so ridiculous about it, which was frustrating to me and ended up making me severely dislike the latter half of the book.

Some of the twists were very predictable but I’m still interested in seeing what happens with this series next. While I won’t be purchasing the next book, I will be reading it and hoping that these books will redeem themselves. Even though plots of this type have become overdone, I can see the areas where Ewing has the chance to prove herself as an author and really hope that she’ll be able to pull it off.

3.5/5 stars

 

Pity the Bathtub its Forced Embrace of the Human Form by Matthea Harvey

3 Nov

 

Pity the Bathtub its Forced Embrace of the Human Form

author : matthea harvey

pages : [paperback] 80

summary :

Comic, elegaic, and always formally intricate, using political allegory and painterly landscape, philosophic story and dramatic monologue, these poems describe a moment when something marvelous and unforeseen alters the course of a single day, a year, or an entire life.

review :

This is a somewhat difficult book of poetry to go though simply because of the stylistic approach Harvey takes. Most of her poems have sentences that blend into each other, as the word that completes a previous sentence is used to begin a new sentence. Reading the poems can leave the meaning a little disjointed if you lose your place; reading them aloud sometimes doesn’t help because you don’t know where to stop to catch a breath. But Harvey’s fantastical ideas still shine through in this collection, so I ended up enjoying it.

I like how Harvey can take one completely unrealistic idea and roll with it, turning it into an entire poem. She never states her idea for the reader outright, skirting around the unconventional thought like it’s a normal aspect of our lives and waiting for us to figure out what’s different in the world of these characters. She creates different figures and stories within her poetry, which I really enjoyed.

I think that a lot of people will like these poems, if they take the time to sit with them for a while. This is poetry that you can’t read quickly; it demands to be held at arm’s length and read a few times until you understand the general meaning. Then it needs to be analyzed even further. While this isn’t a bad thing, it means that Harvey’s collection may be overlooked as people search for poetry that is an easier (and faster) read.

3/5 stars

 

Anatomy of a Misfit by Andrea Portes

30 Oct

 

Anatomy of a Misfit

author : andrea portes

pages : [hardcover] 336

memorable quote It’s one of those dumb days where nothing’s really wrong but nothing’s really right either and the sky can’t even choose to be white or gray.

summary :

This emotional, hilarious, devastating, and ultimately triumphant YA debut, based on actual events, recounts one girl’s rejection of her high school’s hierarchy—and her discovery of her true self in the face of tragedy.

Fall’s buzzed-about, in-house favorite.

Outside, Anika Dragomir is all lip gloss and blond hair—the third most popular girl in school. Inside, she’s a freak: a mix of dark thoughts, diabolical plots, and, if local chatter is to be believed, vampire DNA (after all, her father is Romanian). But she keeps it under wraps to maintain her social position. One step out of line and Becky Vilhauer, first most popular girl in school, will make her life hell. So when former loner Logan McDonough shows up one September hotter, smarter, and more mysterious than ever, Anika knows she can’t get involved. It would be insane to throw away her social safety for a nerd. So what if that nerd is now a black-leather-jacket-wearing dreamboat, and his loner status is clearly the result of his troubled home life? Who cares if the right girl could help him with all that, maybe even save him from it? Who needs him when Jared Kline, the bad boy every girl dreams of, is asking her on dates? Who?

Anatomy of a Misfit is Mean Girls meets The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and Anika’s hilariously deadpan delivery will appeal to readers for its honesty and depth. The so-sad-it’s-funny high school setting will pull readers in, but when the story’s dark foreboding gradually takes over, the devastating penultimate tragedy hits like a punch to the gut. Readers will ride the highs and lows alongside funny, flawed Anika — from laughter to tears, and everything in between.

review :

I’d heard mixed reviews about this novel when I started it. While I was reading, it seemed like people either absolutely loved or hated this book. Maybe I’m one of the rare few who fall in between the options. I really liked some aspects of the book: Even though Anika is a little harsh at times, I did come to appreciate and like her outgoing personality. Yet the novel feels a little disjointed, as if the events don’t necessarily lend themselves to the outcome of this book.

I did think that parts of it were funny. Others, not so much. Maybe it’s because I (as well as most people) have had it shoved into our minds from both real-life experiences and the media that popular people are terrible, can’t be trusted, and possibly deserve to have terrible things happen to them because, essentially, they’re terrible people. Obviously this isn’t always the case–people can be popular just because they’re good people. A wild idea. But Anika admits herself that she can’t be a good person if she wants to maintain her popularity and keep herself from being bullied. Which frustrated me. How can an entire student body revolve around the whims of one person? In reality, there is a social hierarchy in school, but there’s no one particular figure to bash. Not that I’ve ever seen. So these hundreds of students can’t see for themselves that they’d be better off without listening to an individual?

Another thing that frustrated me was how indifferent Anika seemed to everything, up until the last minute. It wasn’t an example of a gradual character change. I feel like if a little more development went into this, if I could have really seen how this was affecting and altering Anika, it would have been a more powerful story. As it is, it simply seemed so abrupt that looks like a convenient way to wrap up the book so it can end.

There were some scenes in this book that I found funny and think that others would enjoy. If the characters were a little more fleshed out so the plot didn’t seem to abruptly change them, I would have found this book a lot better.

3.5/5 stars

 

Wandering Son Volume 1 by Shimura Takako

12 Oct

Wandering Son

Volume One

author : shimura takako

pages : [hardcover] 208

summary :

The fifth grade. The threshold to puberty, and the beginning of the end of childhood innocence. Shuichi Nitori and his new friend Yoshino Takatsuki have happy homes, loving families, and are well-liked by their classmates. But they share a secret that further complicates a time of life that is awkward for anyone: Shuichi is a boy who wants to be a girl, and Yoshino is a girl who wants to be a boy.
Written and drawn by one of today’s most critically acclaimed creators of manga, Shimura portrays Shuishi and Yoshino’s very private journey with affection, sensitivity, gentle humor, and unmistakable flair and grace. Book One introduces our two protagonists and the friends and family whose lives intersect with their own. Yoshino is rudely reminded of her sex by immature boys whose budding interest in girls takes clumsily cruel forms. Shuichi’s secret is discovered by Saori, a perceptive and eccentric classmate. And it is Saori who suggests that the fifth graders put on a production of The Rose of Versailles for the farewell ceremony for the sixth graders, with boys playing the roles of women, and girls playing the roles of men. Wandering Son is a sophisticated work of literary manga translated with rare skill and sensitivity by veteran translator and comics scholar Matt Thorn.

review :

I recently read a whole stack of graphic novels to try to get me into the genre. While I feel like Wandering Son had some interesting concepts, it certainly wasn’t the best book for me.

I liked the characters but felt like they were a little unrealistic. I feel like they were always pushing for these situations that kids would typically treat in a cruel way, not how they’re dealt with in this manga. While I know that there’s still a lot more of this story to go, I’m not sure that much actually progressed in this book, even with those situations present. I do think that I’ll pick up the next installment because I’ve seen that it’s considered one of the best of the series.

I’m not sure if it’s just because I’m new to this genre that the characters felt flat to me. No one was fully fleshed out and I couldn’t predict how anyone would react to anything because they had dull personalities. I was interested to see where the plot was going to go with this, though, so that kept me pushing through. Perhaps future volumes take the bare bones laid out here and capitalize on them in a way that’s even better than I could imagine.

I’d recommend this book as an unconventional read. The style was interesting and while the art wasn’t something that I’d rave about, it was cute and fit with the narrative. I think there are others out there who’ll enjoy this more than I did!

3/5 stars

A Game for Swallows by Zeina Abirached

11 Oct

 

A Game for Swallows: To Die, to Leave, to Return

author : zeina abirached

pages : [hardcover] 188

summary :

When Zeina was born, the civil war in Lebanon had been going on for six years, so it’s just a normal part of life for her and her parents and her little brother. The city of Beirut is cut in two, separated by bricks and sandbags and threatened by snipers and shelling. East Beirut is for Christians, and West Beirut is for Muslims. When Zeina’s parents don’t return one afternoon from a visit to the other half of the city, and the bombing grows ever closer, the neighbors in her apartment house create a world indoors for Zeina and her brother where it’s comfy and safe, where they can share cooking lessons and games and gossip. Together they try to make it through a dramatic day in the one place they hoped they would always be safehome. Zeina Abirached, born into a Lebanese Christian family in 1981, has collected her childhood recollections of Beirut in a warm story about the strength of family and community.

review :

This graphic novel was very interesting! It taught me about a point of history that I’ve honestly never heard of before and need to learn more about. It isn’t like history classes are fixating on places like Lebanon, even if those conflicts could certainly be learned from. I’m glad that there are writers out there telling these stories so that people  like me can learn a little and then be intrigued enough to research it further.

I think what’s most interesting and confusing about the novel is that Zeina and her brother are presented as the main characters but they’re hardly in the book. They’re simply observers as the adults talk politics, worry about the coming bombs, and wonder why Zeina’s parents haven’t arrived home yet. While I really liked how most of the book was situated in the space of one day, giving a snapshot of life underneath this oppressive war, I think knowing more about the family dynamics would have been an improvement. It would have also been nice to see, perhaps in flashback, more about Zeina and her past as it relates to her perception of the terrible present.

The art was a little unconventional but I think that it worked for the book. It wasn’t my favorite style but I could certainly appreciate its presence in the narrative as it added a lot to the story.

I’d recommend this book to people who enjoy graphic memoir or are interested in historical accounts. It’s a quick read so even if you’re wanting to read something out of your typical genre, you could pick it up and sample it quickly.

3/5 stars

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