Life's hard.

It's even harder when you're stupid.

John Wayne

Friday, August 23, 2013

Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne ★★★☆☆

Around the World in Eighty Days Classic adventure story. (not exactly original I know but that is what it is)
Fiction – Classic – Adventure
240 pages
Age range: Grade 6 and up

Mr. Fogg makes a bet that he can circle the globe in eighty days, taking him and his new French servant, Jean Passepartout, on the adventure of a life time.

My first introduction to Jules Verne stands out quite vividly in my memory, but not in a good way.  When I was a preschooler I saw part of the movie, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, from the 1950s.  I had nightmares of being attacked by a giant squid for years.  So needless to say, it has taken me a while to warm up to the idea of reading his books (I’ve actually had this book for a couple of years, but only recently got the nerve to read it).  But with a little courage, I managed to do the hard part and start it.

Always when I begin to read an older book I am rather concerned how it will translate to my modern understanding (Charles Dickens was a complete disaster, and I never could tell whether I was coming or going with him, and don’t even get me started on Shakespeare).  Fortunately for me I bought a copy full of footnotes to help me put things into their historical context: the Penguin Classic series tend to be my favorite.  In addition I was very comfortable with writing style from the start, for the most part all of the antiquated language and references were easily explained.  I especially found it an interesting window into a different time period and thought process.  This is by no means a politically correct book and I don’t believe we should try to impose our modern opinions on it.  If you can’t handle this policy and understand the mindset and era of the author, then I really recommend not putting yourself through the ordeal of reading it.

Jean Passepartout, was the real human connect in the story, while Mr. Fogg, had a rather off-putting personality.  The only humanizing characteristic of this incredibly methodical man was his tendency to be generous.  Mr.  Fix could never seem to get the right end of the stick and by the end I felt rather badly for him.  And Auoda, a companion they pick up along the way, was a very special woman who cared more for character than money.  Like with most adventure stories the goal wasn’t to really show the inner life of the characters, so much as the action.  So the characters were only fleshed out so far.

This is a historically significant book: a notable change in the way people viewed the world.  Could you just imagine what it was like when it first came out?  It must have just entranced the imagination of its readers, and fueled dreams for new possibilities. It would be like us being told we could travel to the moon easily for the first time.  I recommend reading it not only because it is important classic (trust me some “classics” aren’t all they are cracked up to be), but, also, because it is a fun, quick adventure story that is completely non-taxing.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Dear Fellow Readers

Dear Fellow Readers,

After a month off -which included reviewing my time management skills- I have come to some decisions.  We are going to have to make some changes to survive and adapt.  The new reality of my kids in school and an increase in their activities coupled with my other article obligation and the book I am writing - that I really need to finish - makes time to read even scarcer (not gone altogether though, because let’s face it life really would hardly be worth living without books).  I have been led here by all of these very practical reasons along with the desire to read the occasional longer book - which is hard to fit in on a weekly post.  So here it is; I am going to try an every-other-week approach and see how it goes. 

To my loyal followers who I know will take the required 30 seconds to mourn not hearing from my delightful self every week, we will get through this together.  I promise!

So I will be back August 23 to start the new schedule

Friday, August 9, 2013

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare ★★★☆☆

City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments, #1)I have already purchased the next books in the series.
Fiction – YA - Urban Fantasy
Reading Level: Ages 14-up   Grade 8 Up
485 pages
Publication Date:  2007
The Mortal Instruments #1
Literary Awards: South Carolina Book Award Nominee for Young Adult Book Award (2010), ALA Teens' Top Ten (2008), Georgia Peach Honor Book Award (2009), Abraham Lincoln Award (2010)

Clary Fray and her friend Simon are out on a typical night in New York City when Clary observers a bizarre trio of tattooed teenagers carrying unusual weapons.  Following them while Simon gets some help Clary witnesses a murder, but when the body disappears and no one else, including Simon, can even see the tattooed teenagers right in front of them who would ever believe her. 

Soon Clary wishes that her biggest problem was being crazy.  The tattooed teenagers are warriors known as Shadowhunters and she soon learns way more about their world than she ever wanted.  With the disappearance of her mother and an attack against her by a real live demon, Clary has no choice but to delve into the mysteries that are supposed to be held secret from “mundanes” like her in order to locate her mother and find out why she can see what is supposed to be hidden.

I read and finished this book on a rare day of complete freedom with no kids, no responsibilities, no need to do anything or be anywhere – it’s been a long time since I could indulge in that sort of luxury so trust when I say it was blissful.  Beyond the day off I treated myself to a brand new virgin addition of this book.  Gently opening the book so as to not put undue stress on the spine I breathed in the smell of new book and turned the fresh, crisp unsoiled pages of clear not yet blurred text.  With the lovely anticipation of a new world to discover, I felt excited and yet at peace as I made myself comfortable and dove in.  Like I said bliss!  So, as you can see, my state of mind was very bent toward savoring and appreciating this book even before I started.

The title has always been very intriguing to me and with all of the hype of the movie coming out I decided it was time try it out- though I have to say the title only applied to a small portion of the book.  The premise of a race of superhumans protecting the rest of us from a demon incursion was very interesting with a lot of potential for the future.  The mythology was creative, though, doled out to the reader in long bits of explanation, but if you are used to the genre you won’t think twice about it.  The execution, however, did leave a bit to be desire.  I found the beginning really awkward and a bit off putting.  Some of the writing really could have been smoothed out a little more with some help from the editors.  The action did make up for shortcomings some.  But again, like with her Infernal Devices Series, I felt the character development and action weren’t very well balanced. Eventually, I got past the rough beginning and then the story trotted along at a very nice pace with only few other places of awkwardness to slow it down.

The characters were a rather mixed bag.  I liked Simon and found him very lovely; his feelings for Clary seemed very natural and I also got why she had never really considered him before.  At the beginning I wasn’t particularly thrilled with Clary; it took a while for her to grow on me and to be honest I can’t quite pinpoint when I started to like her.  Jace was arrogant and not very likable and I really couldn’t connect to his feelings when he encountered Valentine which really injured the climax.  I did like the interplay between Jace and Clary and found their chemistry compelling and was dismayed at the obstacles thrown in their way even at the cost of Simon’s happiness.  Luke was the character I found the most comfortable, in the sense he seemed very fleshed out and well-constructed, his back story was provocative and his actions reasonable.

Like I said before the climax was a little disappointing and there was a very little resolution to the story.  I am okay with how little resolution there was only because the next four are already out and in my possession as a result of book-buying-fever.

Not a master piece, but overall I did like reading it enough to purchase the rest.  Hopefully the flaws will be ironed out some in the next one.

ISBN-10: 9781416955078