Tuesday, December 30, 2014

School wrap-up

I had a great opportunity to take a course called "The Heart's Desire" this semester and a course with an interesting title like that often has an interesting reading list like this. The 13 books we read in the class are below. The ones you should actually care about are highlighted. Notes attached where necessary.
  1. The Discerning Heart: Exploring the Christian Path by Wilkie Au and Noreen Cannon Au.
  2. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (*And yeah, I can pronounce that.)
  3. Words Made Flesh: Scripture, Psychology and Human Communication by Fran Ferder (*Really and truly excellent. The parts I read, that is. I don't have a lot of time for lengthy books at school, okay?)
  4. Your Sexual Self: Pathway to Authentic Intimacy by Fran Ferder and John Heagle
  5. Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
  6. Globalization, Spirituality, and Justice: Navigating the Path to Peace by Fr. Daniel G. Groody, CSC (*Groody is the boss and also this is an excellent book. Read it and weep [and then go do something with your life].)
  7. Addiction and Grace by Gerald May (*Surprisingly wonderful)
  8. Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton (*They say it's so good... and maybe it is... if I ever actually read it I'll let ya know.)
  9. A Sacred Voice is Calling: Personal Vocation and Social Conscience by John Neafsey
  10. Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation by Parker J. Palmer (*Ew.)
  11. The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth by M. Scott Peck (*Ignore his bizarre 1960s sexism and just go with it.)
  12. Letters to a Young Poet by Ranier Maria Rilke
  13. Dreams and Spiritual Growth: A Christian Approach to Dreamwork by Louis Savary, Patricia Berne, and Strephon Williams

Yes Please

My Rating: 

Method of Reading: Hardback book
Dates of Reading: December 27, 2014-December 29, 2014
Author: Amy Poehler
Publication Year: 2014
Recommended to: Basic Poehler fans.
Quotes: Surprisingly and unfortunately, no.
Movie: None.

Wikipedia Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amy_Poehler#Bibliography
Link: http://amysaysyesplease.com/

My View: Unfortunately, I was very disappointed by this book. Poehler is one of the funniest comedians alive today and she dished out a dull, whiney, winey, and pseudo-ethereal brick of a book with a vaguely 3D cover. There are certainly some gems herein: the sections about Ambivalence, Haitian children, Parks and Recreation, and possible titles for her forthcoming divorcée-help manuals were often touching, funny, and felt like they were coming from a place of easy writing (often the most real place to write from). The rest read like a drunken(/stoned?) Oprah wannabe's diary. I've come to expect a lot from Poehler I suppose, but it's probably not a great time in her life to be "reading the tea leaves." In all, she was trying too hard to verbalize a secret recipe for the good life rather than write about what she cares for. Next time, Amy, maybe put in a little less about your drug days in the wild wild UCB and a little more actual... content.

Your Bibliomaniac

Poehler, Amy. Yes Please. New York: HarperCollins, 2014. Print.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Magician's Nephew

My Rating: 

Method of Reading: Target's seven-book paperback.
Dates of Reading: October 20, 2014-October 25, 2014
Author: C.S. Lewis
Publication Year: 1955
Recommended to: I think this category has been pretty well-defined by history.
"I'd ha' been a better man all my life if I'd known there were things like this" (62).
"And as Adam's race has done the harm, Adam's race shall help to heal it" (80).
"All get what they want; they do not always like it" (100).
"...power rolled about them and over them and entered into them that they felt they had never really been happy or wise or good, or even alive and awake, before" (103).
Movie: "In development" per IMDb.

Wikipedia Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Magician%27s_Nephew
Link: https://www.cslewis.com/us/books/paperback/the-magicians-nephew-full-color/9780064409438

My View: Widely viewed among my friends as the least powerful of the series, I actually thought the book was pretty good--although most of the allegory was blunt enough to knock you out in one swift hit.

Your Bibliomaniac

Lewis, C.S. The Magician's Nephew. 2001. The Chronicles of Narnia. New York: HarperCollins, n.d. 7-106. Print.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Paris Wife

My Rating: 

Method of Reading: Personally owned hardcover novel, 314 pages
Dates of Reading: August 7, 2014-August 10, 2014
Author: Paula McLain
Publication Year: 2012
Recommended to: Mainly women, especially those who enjoy Austen, historical fiction, any Jazz Age writer (particularly, of course, Hemingway), and women's history (fans of Gatsby's Girl will love this).
Movie: In development.

Wikipedia Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Paris_Wife
Link: http://www.randomhouse.com/rhpg/features/paula_mclain/book/

My View: Really enjoyed this riveting view of an historic man's leading lady. The narration is very well done: seamlessly voiced, highly researched, and honestly written.

Your Bibliomaniac

McLain, Paula. The Paris Wife: a novel. New York: Ballantine Books, 2011. Print.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

OH NO. #TheGiver

Some disturbing reports have reached me regarding the recent launch of The Giver (movie). I have a special place in my heart for The Giver (book). I also have a special place in my heart for Meryl Streep. I have a special place in my heart for book adaptations made with real fans. I have a super special place for pro-life media. In sum, I should have a special place in my heart for The Giver (movie). However, when news of the movie broke several months ago, I saw some red flags:
Red Flag #1: Thwaites... why is he in his 20s and playing a pre-teen? Oh... 'cause Jonas is 16 now? Uh-uh.
Red Flag #2: Meryl Streep is Meryl Streep. Why would you hire Meryl Streep as a minor character? Oh... 'cause the Chief Elder isn't a minor character anymore? Okay....
Red Flag #4: Fiona is a real person now and takes up half of the poster... Interesting choices.

And then the movie came out and an erudite Buzzfeed gang posted these articles: 1, 2. Then Cinablend put THIS up. And something called Vox.com had THIS. According to these sources, my worries and more have been realized. Despite this film having been made with the full enthusiasm of the author herself and by an über-fan (another shout-out to Jeff Brid
ges here), some Hollywoodizing may have hurt this film. One of the most gut-wrenching to hear about was the colorizing. However the high tech amp-up could be cool, and I kinda see why Jonas's relationships with Fiona and Cameron had to be altered (but when there is Jonas-Fiona "fan fic" out there, I kinda go green in the face), plus I think some of the changes in Jonas's relationship to the Giver (i.e. the altered memories and the stormy fights and the music) could be really good for the film. But the ending was changed? That was sacred ground. Messing with Fiona and Asher's jobs? Just take away half of their book characterization, why dontcha. I'll withhold judgement on this one until I've actually seen it... but I'm a little worried about doing that.

I have now seen the film. There are certain changes I am annoyed by (especially those age changes and that fluffy little romance and that chase scene at the end) but overall they did a pretty nice job respecting the idea of the story. It made Gabe appear to be a Christlike figure, which I'm pretty sure wasn't intended in the book, but Brenton Thwaites and Jeff Bridges killed it in their roles, as did the young woman playing Fiona (the most abused character in this adaptation). Would've liked to have seen an adaptation that was slightly more faithful to the original, but this will do.

Monday, July 14, 2014

This Side of Paradise

My Rating: 

Method of Reading: Personally owned paperback novel, 320 pages
Dates of Reading: June 26, 2014-July 1, 2014
Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald
Publication Year: 1920
Recommended to: Gatsby fans and also Catholic readers, who may find Fitzgerald's covert philosophy interesting.
Movie: Oh sure.

Wikipedia Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/This_Side_of_Paradise
Link: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/this-side-of-paradise-scott-fitzgerald/1116616137?ean=9781593082437

My View: It was the first time in a while I couldn't put a book down. Really interesting, almost more so because it didn't have much of a story arc--that's what made it a real story. (see my love for the ending of Best Foot Forward)

Your Bibliomaniac

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. This Side of Paradise. New York: C. Scribner's Sons, 1920. Print.
"This Side of Paradise (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)." Barnes & Noble. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 July 2014.

The Book Thief

My Rating: 

Method of Reading: Personally owned paperback novel, 576 pages
Dates of Reading: June 1, 2014-June 25, 2014
Author: Markus Zusak
Publication Year: 2005
Recommended to: Readers.
"and they were you" (350).
"You taught me to read" (538).
Movie: Yeah. Have not seen it.

Wikipedia Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Book_Thief
Link: http://www.amazon.com/The-Book-Thief-Markus-Zusak/dp/0375842209

My View: For maybe the third time I ever, a book made me cry (to be fair, I was really sick in bed when Himmel Street was bombed so I was all teary already. But I think I would've cried anyway). I read this while traveling in Europe which made this moving story even more powerful, as that entire continent is still defined by the events of the World Wars. Death makes a surprisingly compassionate narrator, and I fell for Rudy entirely. But maybe what this book really gave me was a heroine I adore: Liesel's book thievery and passion for reading puts her in my list of well-read people despite the scarceness of her reading list. I was really in love with the fact that I planned on leaving my paperback behind when I left Europe (along with the others I'd packed) to make room in my suitcase for my terrible clothes-folding skills. But what was actually more satisfying was that one of my closest friends from the trip saw the book on my nightstand the night before we left and asked to take it with her--there was something great in sharing a book meant to be stolen.

Your Bibliomaniac

Donnelly, Elisabeth. "Could the Movie Version of 'The Book Thief' Be a Sleeper Hit?" Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 6 Aug. 2013. Web. 14 July 2014.
Zusak, Markus. The Book Thief. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006. Print.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Gathering Blue

My Rating: 

Method of Reading: Online ebook, 256 pages in paperback
Dates of Reading: March 19, 2014
Author: Sue Monk Kidd
Publication Year: 2000
Recommended to: People who enjoyed The Giver.
"You and I? We're the ones who will fill in the blank places. Maybe we can make it different."
Movie: Nope.

Wikipedia Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gathering_Blue
Link: http://www.amazon.com/Gathering-Blue-Lois-Lowry/dp/0547904142

My View: Really, really excellent. Just what I would expect from a book in tandem with The Giver. Lowry's world creation is fantastic and compelling--already excited for Messenger.

Your Bibliomaniac

Allie. "Review: The Giver, Gathering Blue and Messenger by Lois Lowry." A Literary Odyssey. 6 Dec. 2010. Web. 19 May 2014.

Saturday, May 17, 2014


My Rating: 

Method of Reading: Hardcover novel, 526 pages

Dates of Reading: May 14, 2014-May 15, 2014
Author: Veronica Roth
Publication Year: 2013
Recommended to: If you made it through Divergent and Insurgent, this is your wonderful reward. Definitely the highlight of the series but only worthwhile if you've already read the other two. I'm kind of feeling like girls who love Hope Was Here with a few years added on might find this character set appealing.
Quotes: "I feel the urge… to wrench myself from my body and speak directly into her mind" (9).
Movie: They're making this final book into two movies and that trend is like a runaway train: expensive, dangerous, and usually avoidable. I might be tempted to ignore both films because of that. It's going to be challenging to portray Tris--rarely does a character, in a book or movie, read people's intentions rather than their actions. I'm still unsure as to how Roth wrote her like this, goodness knows how Woodley & Co. will make this work.

Wikipedia Link:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allegiant_(novel)
Link: http://veronicarothbooks.blogspot.com/p/books.html

My View: This book was a challenge, cover to cover. My first shock was seeing Tris's name under the Chapter One heading. Knowing what that formatting generally foreshadowed, I was pretty ticked off. I could only assume that Roth had gotten bored of writing from one perspective, that she was desperate to add excitement while churning out the last book as quickly as the first two, that she was running out of steam and, like the writers of a dying sitcom, needed to bring new characters to the forefront to "freshen up" the plot. It even made me feel like she was taking some of Tris's power away.
 Having sifted through this most obvious response to the narration change and several others, I had to approach the most painful explanation for why a change I didn't immediately like might have been made: what if this change was really the most reasonable way to finish the series? Choosing to let us inside another person's head, in this book more than many others, sends a lot of messages. Primarily, this makes quite a statement in a book where we see countless characters named and excessively few explored (Tris herself remarks on the difficulties associated with peeling back hundreds of layers of intention, reaction, motivation, and history). Remember that Tris and Tobias's romance began as what many early reviewers called a subplot: so giving Tobias the last word, making him such a huge part of Tris's story that he increasingly narrates it and takes it over, is quite meaningful--it implies that the point of this series is Tris and Tobias's love or, more correctly, Tris's capacity to love. After all, Tobias wouldn't need to narrate if Tris didn't go to the Weapons Lab for her brother. Since there is no possible character who could narrate with her as of Divergent and no strong candidate in Insurgent, this also implies that the importance of Tris's loves to her life, her choices, and her identity grows as she matures. And that, I truly can enjoy. At any rate, reading as Tobias was a challenge: his voice is pretty similar to Tris's and that made it tough to keep track of when I was reading as Tobias and when I was reading as Tris. And that moment about five chapters after Tris dies when Tobias understands that he's alone and we don't get any more names under the chapter headings for the first time…. my feelings were fairly extreme.
   As I continue on this tangent about my feelings for Roth's wonderful characters, let me first remind you that my only love for the earlier books was for the characters. I am jealous for them, angry at them, frustrated by them, in love with some of them, and sometimes I feel myself shockingly mirrored in them. When Tris reacts to her mom's journal, her mannerisms are mine; when Nita calls Tobias "Four" I want to throttle her; and when the book turns into a Red Wedding-esque bloodbath, I shiver. Mostly, I cringe and anger to see characters I trust turn bad and my heart strains watching my favorite characters struggle.
   Roth's ability to create winning characters gives her great weapons to incite strong emotion. Prime example: Chapter Fifty-Six where Tobias crafts the most beautiful good-bye, real or fake, I have ever read. I also love the simple moments in the book--like when Four admits that, somewhere in him, he still thinks of Christina as a loud-mouth from Candor. I even love that vague feeling of delight when I realize that Uriah and I could be friends, or that I'd eventually like Christina (after the brutal truth-telling had bled into her more pleasant mild sarcasm). She also describes her characters so well that I automatically cast them in my mind--even when the people who I want to cast look very little like what Roth describes (Does no one else see Rafi as a balding Godfather in a wife beater and Mary with red-dyed hair and fake nails? No…? Also I don't care what anyone says about Nita, she will forever be Sgt. Donovan from the BBC's Sherlock in my mind.)
   Other kudos for Roth: I love that there is somebody who really exemplifies each faction and ROCKS. It gives every virtue the power and dignity it deserves--it justifies this metaworld's organization system. I also love that Roth sticks in some random conversations, especially between Tobias and Tris, with content that couldn't happen in the real world but that seem so normal. While I love this aspect of that relationship, perhaps what I love most about Tris and Tobias is that they're together, not "dating," because it doesn't matter in this place if you have a significant other, but a significant person clearly is still important.

Your Bibliomaniac

"Allegiant." Confessions of a Book Addict. 2013. Web. 16 May 2014.
"Theo James." Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster Inc. Web. 16 May 2014.

Thursday, May 15, 2014


My Rating: 

Method of Reading: Personally owned hardback, 525 pages.

Dates of Reading: April 20, 2014-May 14, 2014
Author: Veronica Roth
Publication Year: 2012
Recommended to: People who liked Divergent. It's not any better than the first book but I was more involved with the characters. This book is effectively only useful as a stepping stone to Allegiant, but that's okay.
Movie: Coming up soon, release date set for March 20, 2015.

Wikipedia Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Insurgent_(novel)
Link: http://veronicarothbooks.blogspot.com/p/books.html

My View: Love the character development here (when was the last time a character felt so personal?) and the honesty of the writing. Yet the story still doesn't appeal to me in this one. Maybe I'm just so lame that I want my stories (at the least) to be clear and this isn't giving me that but… but it felt like the Battle of Hogwarts for a book and a half with not enough meat to make it worthwhile.

Your Bibliomaniac

"Insurgent." Goodreads. Goodreads Inc., n.d. Web. 16 May 2014.
"Insurgent." Bray and Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 May 2014.
"Theo James and His Sexy Voice Take an Audi Commercial to the Next Level." Divergent Movies. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 May 2014.


My Rating: 

Method of Reading: Personally owned paperback, 487 pages.

Dates of Reading: April 17, 2014-April 19, 2014
Author: Veronica Roth
Publication Year: 2011
Recommended to: I'm not sure I agree with the assessment that anyone who likes Hunger Games will like this. I can't think of the right group to funnel toward this, but I'm tempted to say early high school. It's weirdly suited to more of a Twilight reader in a lot of ways.
Movie: Brand spankin' new. Have not seen it, not really clambering to see it, but some of my friends went and loved it… probably like 90% of that is thanks to Theo James. Maybe 95%… Sadly, there was no Uriah in this movie and I find that unacceptable. I'm told that several high-stakes changes were made when moving this story from literature to film, some of which I'm told weren't pulled off very well. If I ever see it, I'll have a real opinion to share on those edits.

Wikipedia Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Divergent_(novel)
Link: http://veronicarothbooks.blogspot.com/p/books.html

My View: Bravo, Veronica Roth. You've created a heroine I can feel with even when I don't agree with her. Her world kinda drives me up a wall even before it starts showing signs of severe crumbling. Now I'm feeling all dystopian and wanting to read Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Forest of Hands and Teeth, The Giver, and This World We Live In… even "Harrison Bergeron" again. Sadly it reads like thin soup tastes... almost like Twilight or another epic without enough plot.

Your Bibliomaniac

"Books." Veronica Roth. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 May 2014.
"Divergent." Blogspot. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 May 2014.
Don't Try and Define Me. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 May 2014.

The Giver

My Rating: 

Method of Reading: Online ebook, estimated 180 pages

Dates of Reading: May 14, 2014
Author: Lois Lowry
Publication Year: 1993
Recommended to: Readers 7th grade and up.
Movie: Yes'm. That and the tide of dystopian youth novels sweeping the literary world lately are what brought me back to this.

Wikipedia Link: 
Link: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3636.The_Giver

My View: Impactful even the second time around. The first time I read this, I was in the only 7th grade Language Arts class that wasn't reading The Giver. I was unable to accept that. So I waited for a day when I had unusually little homework and snuck the book out of my twin's backpack. I read it quickly that evening. Interestingly, this time I had just finished finals and needed somewhere to send excess academic energy and then I decided to read this in an evening again. Again, very powerful, very thought provoking, beautiful in its simplicity. Sometimes children's books are more meaningful than that we give them credit for. Very glad that, in my research for this article, I uncovered that this is part of a "quartet." So I shall be reading those soon…

Your Bibliomaniac

"The Giver." Goodreads. Goodreads Inc, n.d. Web. 15 May 2014.
"The Giver." NPR. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 May 2014.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

My Rating: 

Method of Reading: Personally owned paperback novel, 213 pages

Dates of Reading: March 11, 2014
Author: Stephen Chbosky
Publication Year: 1999
Recommended to: Thoughtful people in love with stories.
   "[he] seemed like the kind of guy you could just walk up to at a football game even though you were three years younger and not popular" (19). 
   "Do you always think this much, Charlie?" (24). 
   "I swear we were infinite" (39).
   "I don't know the significance of this, but I find it very interesting" (50).
   "I wanted the angel to come down and show us how Uncle Billy's life had meaning" (76). 
   "I just want it all to stop spinning" (94). 
   "I really did love her. Because there was nothing to gain and that didn't matter" (179). 
   "I think he was drunk... but Patrick does that stuff sober, so it's hard to tell" (192). 
   "What if they need the arms or something like that?" (200). 
Movie: That's why I wanted to read it! The differences between the book and movie really stood out to me because Chbosky wrote the screenplay so whatever he changed between publishing the book and writing the movie is kind of interesting, especially in light of the recent JKR "scandal" about whether authors can change their mind.  Most of the changes are minor but impactful (personalities in Charlie's family, details about Patrick and Brad's relationship, one-word differences in descriptions of Sam and Bill). Whether the changes were to streamline the story, appeal to a wider audience, or edit a Chbosky regret, I feel the movie retained the integrity of the book well. 

Wikipedia Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bossypants

Link: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/bossypants-tina-fey/1100058573?ean=9780316056892

My View: Catcher-style opening but with less flair, leading into the story of a boy learning to write while he learns to tell, hear, and have stories to write about. Structured around an interesting plan to address the audience by treating them exactly as they are--as compassionate listeners, strangers willing to follow Charlie wherever he goes. That may be what compels me in this story: it is being told as if to a personally present, sympathetic ear--expecting me to listen, expecting me to hear hard things, expecting me to wince/laugh/curse/smile alternately. And ultimately, trusting me to sympathize, to listen, to withhold judgement, to love.

Your Bibliomaniac

  • Chbosky, Stephen. The Perks of Being a Wallflower. New York: Pocket, 1999. Print.
  • "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" cover. Digital image. Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., n.d. Web. 14 Mar. 2014.

The Count of Monte Cristo

My Rating: 

Method of Reading: Personally owned paperback novel, 441 pages
Dates of Reading: January 9, 2014-March 11, 2014
Author: Alexandre Dumas
Publication Year: 1844-1845 serialized
Recommended to: Adventure movie fans.
   "Happiness is like those palaces in fairy tales whose gates are guarded by dragons: we must fight in order to conquer it" (15).
   "That ultimate word of human wisdom: 'Perhaps!'" (76).
    "…you are unable to see those men whom God has placed able kings and ministers by giving them a mission to fulfill, rather than a position to occupy" (176).
   "I'm ready to pick a quarrel with anyone today. But don't worry; I'll give you priority over everyone else" (302).
   "…the Count of Monte Cristo is commanded only by the Count of Monte Cristo. I do as I please, and, believe me, it's always very well done" (309).
   "suffering is like life… there is always something unknown beyond it" (373).
   "…all human wisdom was contained in these two words: Wait and hope" (441).
Movie: Of course.

Wikipedia Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Count_of_Monte_Cristo
Link: http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/montecristo/

My View: An adventure book for the ages! Filled with what I suspect was some intentional Christian allegory, many Frenchie parallels to Les Mis (Otherworldly priestly mentor turns an unfair/wretched life around, escaping as a "corpse," lovers at garden gates, aliases galore), and themes echoing The Odyssey, Romeo and Juliet, and The Great Gatsby. The writing is quick, choppy, and cartoonish, allowing for very little scenic description, leaving historical and psychological constraints entirely out of the picture, and focussing mostly on heart-pounding action. This necessitated a different reading style than my usual and I kept no notes or annotations, reading quickly. 

As I read, I wanted to scream at Dantés something similar to what Watson once did at Sherlock (in the BBC TV series), "People don't have arch nemeses in real life, you know?" I have a feeling he would have responded much like Sherlock did: "They must get so bored." In "the Count's" crazed drive for revenge (rather than redemption), I felt hubris piling up to my ears and was shocked by his final admission that he had, indeed, gone too far. 

Your Bibliomaniac

  • "Count of Monte Cristo" cover. Digital image. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Mar. 2014. .
  • Dumas, Alexandre. The Count of Monte Cristo. Trans. Lowell Bair. N.p.: Bantam Book, 1956. Print.


My Rating: 

Method of Reading: Personally owned paperback book, 250 pages

Dates of Reading: March 12, 2014
Author: Tina Fey
Publication Year: 2011
Recommended to: My SNL/Mean Girls peeps.
Movie: Not yet. Probably never.

Wikipedia Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bossypants
Link: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/bossypants-tina-fey/1100058573?ean=9780316056892

My View: Very very excellent. I was laughing out loud and could not put it down.

Your Bibliomaniac

  • "Bossypants" cover. Digital image. Amazon. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Mar. 2014. . 
  • Fey, Tina. Bossypants. New York: Reagan Arthur, 2011. Print.

Hyperbole and a Half

My Rating: 

Method of Reading: Personally owned paperback book, 369 pages

Dates of Reading: March 12, 2014-March 14, 2014
Author: Allie Brosh
Publication Year: 2013
Recommended to: Humor fans.
Movie: Nope.

Wikipedia Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyperbole_and_a_Half
Link: http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com

My View: So. So. So, ridiculously hilarious. Absolute absurdity meets memoir comics (on MS Paint, no less!). Kept me laughing out loud nearly the while time. Perfect for the All Grown Up Calvin and Hobbes fan.

Your Bibliomaniac

  • Brosh, Allie. Hyperbole and a Half. New York: Touchstone, 2013. Print.
  • "Hyperbole and a Half" cover. Digital image. Amazon. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Mar. 2014.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

JKR gossip

A lot has been said and passed around and gossiped over this weekend amidst rumors that JK Rowling (primarily known as the author of Harry Potter) regrets pairing Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger in her famous fantasy series. The full article has yet to be released, and MuggleNet intelligently (and with characteristic loyalty to JKR) reminds its readers to wait to read the real interview, conducted by Emma Watson, before passing judgment on Rowling.

The fandom buzz around this issue comes in two waves: first, it seems that JKR has decided that Hermione and Ron shouldn't have ended up together; second, she appears to think Hermione and Harry should have. To the first accusation, I can't help but agree at least a little. There's a lot of dysfunction waiting to happen in that relationship. To the second, I can't agree at all--Hermione and Harry would drive each other batty at least as quickly as Hermione and Ron would.

The bigger question though is not about the Harry Potter-verse, but about the larger phenomenon being exhibited here. Do authors have regrets about where their stories ended up? I had never actually thought about this possibility before, especially not for an author like JKR who always seemed to have her books figured out. Particularly in light of how stories are twisted and manipulated for adaptations in plays, movies, and fanfic, I wonder how frequently authors think they made a mistake in their writing. Whether it's something relatively large--at least to a fandom--about pairing off your main characters, or something smaller (like whether Austen's Mr. Collins is tall and gawky or short and awkward), do you think authors often think their stories should be changed after it's already too late for the fans to get the memo?

Suggested reading:
The article that introduced me to this literary nightmare--http://ohnotheydidnt.livejournal.com/85367803.html
The Hypable article I'm only including because Andrew Sims used to be THE MuggleCaster and must feel similarly to me about this issue--http://www.hypable.com/2014/02/01/jk-rowling-ron-hermione-relationship-regret-interview/
The MuggleNet article that's a lot less reactionary than other sources--http://www.mugglenet.com/app/news/show/7697

Your Bibliomaniac

"The Trio Harry Potter WD." The Quad. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 Feb. 2014. .

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Karamazov Brothers

My Rating: 

Method of Reading: Personally owned paperback novel, 870 pages
Dates of Reading: October 27, 2013-January 2, 2014
Author: Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Publication Year: 1880
Recommended to: Crime and Punishment or Les Misérables fans.
   "As a general rule, people, even the wicked, are much more naive and simple-hearted than we suppose. And we ourselves are, too" (6).
   "Love is such a priceless treasure that you can redeem the whole world by it, and expiate not only your own sins but the sins of others" (53).
   "Dear little brother, I don't want to corrupt you or to turn you away from your stronghold, perhaps I want to be healed by you" (258).
   "Why are you always in such a funk for your life?" (296).
   "Life will bring you many misfortunes, but you will find your happiness in them, and will bless life and will make others bless it -- which is what matters most" (313).
   "The thing is so simple that sometimes one is even afraid to put it into words, for fear of being laughed at, and yet how true it is!" (323).
   "...act so that your servant may be freer in spirit than if he were not your servant" (351).
   "...prayer is an education" (352).
   "Always decide to use humble love (353).
   "It was not men's grief, but their joy Christ visited" (401).
   "One lajdak doesn't make a Poland" (494).
   "I'm not very beautiful, so I had no right to consider him repulsive" (519).
   "Ivan has no God. He has an idea" (665).
   "I am as much" (696).
   "I, too, shall walk my quadrillion" (728).
   "He talks about some hymn.... But that man in prison is incapable of suffering" (851).
Movie: Several, but I'd only want a very high-quality, lengthy, well-produced new one.

Wikipedia Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Brothers_Karamazov
Link: http://www.amazon.com/The-Brothers-Karamazov-Fyodor-Dostoevsky/dp/0374528373

My View: From the introduction: "[Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and Turgenev's] deep love of humanity and compassion for fellow-sufferers in the human condition led Oscar Wilde to exclaim, 'What makes their books so great is the pity they put into them'" (vii).
   Wilde surely had difficulty distilling Dostoevsky & Co. into such a concise review, so I can't expect to do this brilliant work by Fyodor Dostoevsky justice in a short blog review. I could talk about the book for ages. I could mention Dostoevsky's views on modernization and the possibility of an übermensch, the easy flow of his writing even after translation. I could discuss the emptiness of each character filled only by Alyosha and the interesting interaction of God and man through prayer/action/calculation/rebellion discussed in this book. I would love to go on about Fyodor Pavlovitch's buffoonish behavior and the interplay of "modern" psychology and optimism about the human spirit, both seen by Zossima and explained partially in his piercing, entrancing, moving speeches contained here. I could go on about rehabilitations attempted, failed, fledging, and successful, of boundless forgiveness by man, God, and a society unsure of how to handle reprieve. I could quote Dostoevsky on beauty turned to ash by sin, hatred, and immoderation, or his views on accomplishment, inadequacy, and prideful desire. I could chip at the faith, the doubt, and the reasons supporting both and neither that provide the frame of this book. I could look at Dostoevsky's ideas of invention and tradition and comfort, all sensuously described in a recalling of what is good in the world (similar to passages in The Secret Life of Bees). I could joke of an incompetent but endearing German physician, or remember the young and old men he pronounces ill or worse. I could discuss contempt and compassion, suffering for oneself and others and the whole world and nothing at all; cruelty and care, interdependence, reliance, trust, and betrayal. I could talk for hours about the mysteries of this world and of God above that Dostoevsky harps on, or explain his ideas on service to one another, truth in reason and reality, aberration, disorder and a Higher Order, trust, and predictable stupidity. I'd like to comment on the anecdotes Dostoevsky stole from his own Crime and Punishment about lame horses being flogged. If I tried describing any of this though, I'd get bogged down trying to unravel the spiritual arguments that this book is woven of, all of which are way over my head but pull at my mind and heart and spur my body to action. The raptures of freedom, free will, dictation, rebellion, and choice at the heart of this book could (and probably have) fill(ed) volumes of philosophy books that I cannot distill with any skill here, especially since I don't know anyone else who has read this and therefore I don't have anyone to discuss it with.
   I needed both SparkNotes and the introduction of this book (by ADP Briggs) to read it at all well. If you're not working with a think-tank book group or at least a class, I recommend using these types of resources extensively so you don't miss out on important thematic details. It is a true masterpiece and ought to be considered central to the Western canon: a book to really love amidst a lot of mediocrity. A book to move me and make me fall in love. Reading it is truly a religious experience and I think it would be so even for those who are not among the faithful. I find it very interesting that this work was completed near the very end of FD's life and was intended to be the start of a very long epic of novels, and can only imagine what else was in store for poor Alyosha, whose life was predicted time and again to bring joy through pain. I wish I could have read whatever it was he intended to write. I also wish I could have read it all in the original Russian, which must be really beautiful considering how pretty (although amazingly, astonishingly, painfully poorly edited) the mere translation is. A book for the ages.

Your Bibliomaniac

Bibliographic citation:
  • Doestoevsky, Fyodor. The Karamazov Brothers. Ware: Wordsworth, 2010. Print.

Friday, January 10, 2014


My Rating: 

Method of Reading: Personally owned hardback novel, 352 pages
Dates of Reading: January 3, 2014-January 9, 2014
Author: Jo Baker
Publication Year: 2013
Recommended to: Austenites
   "It was a thought, that... Not just to hitch a lift with the first fellow who looked as though he knew where he was going, but just to go" (145).
Movie: Nope, but I could see it becoming one.

Wikipedia Link: N/A
Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/13/books/review/longbourn-by-jo-baker.html?_r=0

My View: The servantry in this book live in a manor called Longbourn in early 19th century England. The five daughters of the household flounce to parties, play piano, pine over suitors, giggle about militiamen, take visitors and tea, soothe their "nervous" mother, and fall in and out of love in the gardens and parlors and streets of Meryton. The oldest, Jane, is a sweet and lovely girl who ends in a sweet and lovely life with her sweet and lovely suitor, Mr. Bingley. Her next sister, Lizzy, struggles through multiple courtships before ending happily with the brooding Mr. Darcy, who owns half of Derbyshire. The overlooked intellectual, Mary, comes next, spending her days pounding away on her pianoforte and casting longing glances at the gawky Mr. Collins. The youngsters, Kitty and Lydia, are nearly indistinguishable in their joint laughter and pride until Lydia marries herself off to the slimy military man, Mr. Wickham, at age 15. And all the while, two maids, a butler, a cook, and a footman must be opening the girls' doors and washing their dresses and stitching their bonnets and lighting their fires and heating their hair irons. While Jo Baker's book tells of the men and women who could have been these servants, her story is decidedly outside of the Meryton metaverse.
   It's not just that several of the events Baker reports of "below-stairs" aren't really plausible in the course of Austen's story--like James hitting Wickham without anyone later noticing, or Mr. Bennet successfully hiding a secret son for 25 years and not claiming him just for the security of the entail, or that Mrs. Bennet fusses over the girls' inheritance constantly without going to bits over the son she lost each time she discusses it. The story seems a bit gratuitous, and though it may be more "realistic" than its source novel, the added grit takes it out of the Austen world.
   The ending is a great last triumph, although Sarah striking out in Elizabeth's darkest hour doesn't quite ring true, even if Sarah is in a depression. At no other point in the novel do I sense the compelling, unbearable, action-worthy wanderlust Baker introduces right here at the end, so this dramatic exit seems forced.
   At any rate, I really enjoyed it. I might have enjoyed it more if didn't try to connect to one of my very favorites (you shot yourself in the foot dragging P&P into my head while I read your book, Baker). The writing and research were very strong though, and I appreciated the hard work that went into this book.

Your Bibliomaniac

Bibliographic Citation:
  • Baker, Jo. Longbourn. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2013. Print.
  • Mayer, Petra. "Austen Unvarnished: Q&A With Jo Baker, Author Of 'Longbourn.'" NPR. N.p., 10 Oct. 2013. Web. 11 Jan. 2014. .

Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Casual Vacancy

My Rating: 

Method of Reading: Hardcover library book and personally owned paperback novel, 503 pages in paperback
Dates of Reading: August 17, 2013-October 22, 2013
Author: JK Rowling
Publication Year: 2012
Recommended to: Older HP fans (those who outgrew the series and are still readers today), anyone who likes family dramas, and probably those who enjoy political dramas like Scandal.
   "You must accept the reality of other people. You think that reality is up for negotiation, that we think it's whatever you say it is. You must accept that we are as real as you are; you must accept that you are not God" (88).
   "Colin... never seemed to... appreciate that behind every nondescript face lay a wild and unique hinterland like his own" (99).
   "Nobody close to Krystal had ever died of old age" (199).
   "What's needed is a bit of common sense" (226).
   "I'll tell Mist' Fairbrother" (325).
   "What the f***?" (431). (My apologies to those offended by language requiring *s. It's just so necessary.)
   "...vaguely interested at last" (494).
Movie: It's going to be a BBC television miniseries beginning in 2014, which I think sounds like an excellent way to adapt this story.

Wikipedia Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Casual_Vacancy
Link: http://www.jkrowling.com/en_US/#/works/new-book

My View: I'm sure some people think that HP had too happy an ending. If you were among those disappointed by the "rosiness" of the Potter universe, read The Casual Vacancy. You will find that JKR's mind isn't really the most lovely place. While I might see a little Harry in Andrew and some Dudley in Fats, I see them equally reflective of Sal and Dean (respectively). Big lesson: this is not the JKR you were expecting. But if her classic characters seem to be absent, JKR's signature style is still there. Her attention to detail, overwhelming character choices, delicately interlocking plot pieces, and powerful understanding of nuance are extraordinary. I missed her genius presence for much of the book, feeling her style but not her brilliance. And even 100 pages in felt the story wasn't quite "there" yet. Though the writing and characters are patently compelling, there is no plot put forth until very late, and it feels like page after page of stalling, like a fractured TV show pilot headed for a nasty cancellation. But when the second SQL hack hits on page 319, the book finally feels like a novel instead of a birds-eye narration of a randomly corrupted small town.
   A word about the characters: they are marvelous. Some of their quirks are so peculiar (i.e. Shirley's omnipresent "favorite medical website") and specific and harped upon that they could not have been pulled from thin air, but must have been the result of JKR's interpersonal studies (like Gilderoy Lockhart). Many of the characters are dreadfully repellant (and the story has no designated hero). Every person has an attitude problem or abuse issues. They *all* love drama (which is almost never the answer to anything). But every single one is so true, honest-feeling. It's one of those marvelous stories where you look up from your reading and are shocked to realize no one you just read about exists. I begged to know what Krystal had of Barry's. I am contemptuous of the town's universal cowardice.  I am compelled by each person's individual strength and complexity, especially Parminder and Andrew (I was inwardly shouting to save them both). I tear up for Colin, who always "suffered twice" (230). I thank Goodness for Sukhvinder, an intelligent character I can respect. I feel like marching straight up to Gavin and demanding an account of his true feelings. I hate Shirley's petty, cruel, needless worries as they destruct the town around her, shallowly corrupting a 3D world with 2D wrinkles. I feel for Kay, hoping that her genuine intellect won't be overwhelmed by her devastatingly low EQ and fly-away temper (both fueled by her dependency issues). Each of the many characters here is exactly 1/2 sympathetic, unavoidably touching. The many beautiful characters' interconnecting storylines force readers to examine the question of who has responsibility for whom in a community and the immense power of each individual. They affect true emotion in me, the strongest empathy (fortunately not sympathy) being when Andrew's father beats his family. It prompted me to write rather a lot of swear words in the margins of the book. Terri's "pathetic dignity" (321) was also moving, constantly redoubling my desire for her daughter's redemption, Barry's proclamation that "You [Krystal] don't have to go the same way" (327) always ringing in my ears.
   For a while, I found this book terribly confusing. This is possibly because it had a rather incoherent plot for a few hundred pages. British literary style standards and slang also put me out, causing me to search for a British Urban Dictionary. Beyond just the language and styling, British culture is clearly beyond me... I was especially unsure of British attitudes toward marriage and family life, and determined that some of their views must be a little more lax than ours or else the questions some of the women ask at tipsier moments are not just rude, but absolutely unallowable. Of course, the amazing awkwardness of some moments are the product of perfectly blended character, scene, and plot descriptions (a JKR specialty). In awkward, triumphant, depressing, or exciting moments, the scene becomes overwhelmingly real, visible, and tangible by her prowess.
   One note... this book was much easier to review than most books of about the same size. I don't know anyone else that has read this and it's not very widely written-on yet... so I haven't been able to tell if I missed something or if it was as easy to distill down as I thought. Anyway...
   On page 288, the author professes that her town is filled with "Things denied, things untold, things hidden and disguised." This is the perfect tagline for her story. When this tragedy of selfishness, isolation, unconcern, and near-sociopathic behavior all pulls together into a plot about responsibility, public involvement, and interpersonal concern... you might lose it (not as much as when Dumbley-dore died, but...). Look out, because this is not the JKR you know.

Your Bibliomaniac

Bibliographic Citation:
  • Han, Angie. "J.K. Rowling's 'The Casual Vacancy' Being Adapted for the BBC." Slash Film. N.p., 3 Dec. 2012. Web. 2 Jan. 2014. .
  • "The Casual Vacancy." J.K. Rowling. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 Jan. 2014. .
  • "The Casual Vacancy." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., n.d. Web. 2 Jan. 2014. .
  • Rowling, J.K. The Casual Vacancy. New York: Little, Brown, 2012. Print.