Category Archives: Historical/Realistic Fiction

Beauty

Robin McKinley 1978

(This is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast.) Kind of nice.  This book reminded me a lot of Spindle’s End.  Please pardon me, but for whatever reason, some of McKinley’s books do not agree with me.  Mainly I feel that the core story of Beauty and the Beast was neglected and most of the emphasis is on the back story, which I suppose is understandable and likely what she was going for.  But personally I get more enjoyment out of my shady perception of the tale and the Disney depiction.

First off there was a severe separation between the life with the sisters at home and the (short) life with the Beast in the castle.  The transition’s drama and emotional upheavals didn’t seem real.  The magic, integral to the story, was left murky where it could’ve been explained, and there were weird bits like one finds at the end of Spindle’s End.  Because after all magic has to make sense a little bit.

Secondly, none of the details of the fantasy world really struck me.  I felt like McKinley much more focused on the blacksmith shop and the garden by the little country house than the lawns and gardens of the castle.  But that’s not altogether true; Beauty’s room was a nice enough place that saw some setting development.  Importantly, though, I was severely unaware of what the Beast was supposed to look like and struggled to visualize him the whole time, even after he transformed.  His past self, the character in the painting, was well-played though.  And I think the character with the best development is the horse.

Overall, there are points where this book shines and others where I was left grasping.  But in the end it did not leave me with a strikingly different interpretation or probing look at the tale that I always knew.  So, sorry Ms. McKinley, but I’d say stick with the real greats, The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown.

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At Home in Mitford

Jan Karon 1994

Definitely enjoyable, a quaint view of a preacher’s flock in small-town Mitford, North Carolina.  Unlike some religious books, this story does not drown the reader with passages from the bible, barely masked sermons and declarations of divine faith.  It is an honest and heart-warming easy look at their daily lives.

Father Tim has led his flock in Mitford for over thirty years with nary a vacation– no time for one!  Besides conducting services, visiting parishioners and other regular duties, he suddenly becomes the owner and friend of a large scripture-loving dog, takes in a 11-year old who has had too much to bear, contracts diabetes, and finds stolen jewels in a church closet.

(It has also been made into a musical.)

The Time Machine

1957 cover art, courtesy of monikalel42 on flickr

H.G. Wells 1895

Thanks Wishbone for exposing a young mind to another great story, this, The Time Machine by H.G. Wells.

This book harbors more than just the era-typical beginnings of sci-fi and drawing-room stories, topics of communism, social stratification and Darwin-ism murmur in its pages.  Furthermore, the cover portrays the most striking part of the book, the end where The Time Traveller witnesses the eclipsing of a very red, cold sun.  The rest of the tale revolves around H.G. Wells’ speculations on the direction humanity was headed, namely towards a complete stratification into two separate species in 800,000 years.  The “Haves” or Eloi live  in beautiful comfort but also ignorance, the “Have-nots” or Morlocks live below ground in darkness and savagery.  The future the inventor emerged into is humanity in decay.

His book is interesting and imaginative, although at times he speaks like the fluttering of a moth, the character tiring and resolving and worrying constantly.  I liked very much his imagined mechanics of time travel, with days blurring in and out to grey.  The Epilogue holds a gem not really explored in the book but great at an ending thought as a friend of the traveler reflects on what he has witnessed and his lost friend: “And I have by me, for my comfort, two strange white flowers–shrivelled now, and brown and flat and brittle–to witness that even when mind and strength had gone, gratitude and a mutual tenderness still lived on in the heart of man.”

And being a Doctor Who fan, I found this intriguing: “The Time Machine book appears in Doctor Who when the Doctor is reading the novel in the 1996 TV Movie. H.G. Wells’ story is the inspiration for many modern time travel science fiction, including Doctor Who.” ~ Monikalel42‘s flickr page

More on Richard Powers’ sci-fi cover art, or this fun selection of his images

Den of the White Fox

Lensey Namioka

From School Library Journal– An intriguing blend of historical fiction and mystery that will be appreciated by fans of either genre. Freelance samurai Matsuzo and Zenta are warned that the valley they are about to enter is an “unwholesome place after dark.” Rumors about a powerful spirit that haunts the area and the more tangible threat of an occupying army fail to dissuade the two, however, and they descend into the valley’s depths. The place is rife with intrigue and the samurai establish an uneasy existence among the locals, ever unsure of who is friend and who is foe. As the plot unfolds, the two warriors attempt to solve the mystery of the White Fox, a shadowy figure who might be the leader of a political rebellion or a supernatural spirit. This extremely well-researched work gives readers a real sense of what life was like in 16th-century Japan. As a mystery, it is methodically planned and resolved with no loose ends. The characters are all well developed and interestingly drawn and YAs will be as unsure as the samurai about whom to trust. The language is challenging and includes some Japanese words. This novel will expose teens to a fascinating period in world history. -Robyn Ryan Vandenbroek, formerly at Otterville Public School, Ontario. Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.

This might make more sense if I had started with the first Zenta & Matsuzo book.  I did like the historical aspects and some of the characters, but I don’t know how subtly the “plot unfolding” happened.  Intriguing thoughts presented, switching between characters could be a tad more perceptible?

Gentlehands

Pic courtesy of fantasticfiction.co.uk

M.E. Kerr -1978

What happens to all of those moderately successful short fiction books from decades past? I can tell that some of the titles one sees at Borders or on the library shelf will not live on past their first printing, but where do these stories go? Are they stored away in giant publishers’ archives or are they gathering dust on shelves of no-longer children or filling up boxes at thrift stores and rummage sales? Surprising that fiction could follow the way of fashion, trends ruling the tides of the market. A story seems less ephemeral than a cut of fabric to me.

Pretty good, I liked this book. One strength is how the author approaches her “imparted morals” on what makes a good or bad person and how to grow up and get your act together. I especially like the parallel drawn between the assumption that a German in Germany was responsible at least passively for the conflict and the feeling in the US during Vietnam that we should “support our own” and that any fight that our country enters must be a good one. Her novel implicitly raises the debate over the prosecution of someone for a past crime even though they may have changed into a different person.  Otherwise it is fairly short and simple; I wanted more in the way of development and complexity. Continue reading

Le premier jardin

Anne Hébert

Entrez dans le monde de l’actrice Flora Fontagne quand elle retourne à son pays natal, la place à laquelle elle a juré de jamais retourné.  Elle explore la ville de Québec où elle lutte avec son passé caché et essaie de trouver sa fille.  Pour remplir le vide de son propre histoire et identité, elle crée et joue des rôles du passé du Québec.  Grace à ces imaginations, on apprend beaucoup concernant l’histoire de la ville mais surtout concernant Flora Fontagnes elle-même.

En tout c’est un roman interéssant, avec beaucoup de symbolisme.  Hébert examine l’epreuve de s’occuper d’un passé tragique/difficile et le travail dur qu’on fait pour être “actrice.”  Je pense aussi qu’elle aime beaucoup la France.

Rose in Bloom

Louisa May Alcott, 1876

In this sequel to Eight Cousins, Rose has just come back from a two-year tour through Europe with Uncle Alec and Phebe. Eight Cousins left off when she was 14, she left for Europe when she was 18, and now she is 20. She has grown wiser and even more beautiful, and will inherit her parent’s fortune in a year.  The chemistry between the young people has changed too, which becomes evident to them, “No sooner were they shut up in a carriage, however, than a new and curious constraint seemed to fall upon the young people, for they realized, all at once, that their former playmates were men and women now.” (pg. 3)  There are many who seek her hand, especially when she tries “coming out in society” for a few months, some who are desperate, some who are foolish, and some who genuinely feel affection for her.  But it becomes evident (without even looking at the cover) that the two greatest contenders are Mac, the bookworm, and Charlie, the Prince.

It feels like the writing style changed a bit from the first book.  As if we, the reader, are growing with Rose, the writing changes focus and contains more human emotion and intrigue.

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Rapture of the Deep

Cover image courtesy of Goshen Public Library

Being an Account of the Further Adventures of Jacky Faber, Soldier, Sailor, Mermaid, Spy

L.A. Meyer

{Just minutes away from walking down the aisle to finally be united with her Jaimy, Jacky is snatched up again by that despicable British Intelligence.  In her wedding dress she hears the terms of her new mission: diving for the treasure of a Spanish ship that sunk in the Caribbean (because King George’s coffers are getting empty from fighting Napoleon).  The tricky part is that she must do it without the Spanish finding out, and she must dive farther than anyone has before by using a new apparatus from Boston.  In return she will receive a full pardon.

So the Nancy B. Alsop (with two new young crew members) and the HMS Dolphin (with Jaimy on-board) sail down to the West Indies to find the Santa Magdalena, where they will have happy reunions with old faces and make new friends and new enemies.}

Very good, very fun.  The seventh book in the Bloody Jack Adventures, L.A. Meyer is still delivering the same quality, novelty, and excitement.  The book before this– My Bonny Light Horseman– was very heart wrenching whereas this book sees more going right for Jacky Faber.  But the book does seem to be a little more racy, with dirtier jokes, and I would like to see more character development concerning Jaimy.  Rollicking around Havana, Cuba, the reader picks up some interesting info about her history and culture in 1807.  Upon finishing I cannot wait for the next book to come out!

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Le Silence de la Mer

par Vercors (Jean Bruller), 1942

Published covertly in Nazi-occupied France, this was a publication for the French people, a sort of “guide for la Resistance” to this country still dazed and reeling from the invasion.  There were underground publications of newspapers going on, but Vercors approached a publisher to do this larger project.  It is a short story, only 50 pages, but still very good and with psychological depth in its intricacies of symbolism and character interactions, as well as an inspiring greater message.

The story enfolds as two lower soldiers examine the narrator’s house.  Several comings and goings later a soldier tells the man and his niece that there will be an officer staying in their house.  When they meet him he is actually fluent in French and very polite.  Still, neither the niece nor the narrator utter a word or even acknowledge him.  This was the start of an unspoken agreement that they would continue their lives as usual as if he had never came. Continue reading

Troy

Adele Geras

{Summary found on Wikipedia.com} :  The plot focuses on several women of Troy, ranging from powerful rich maidens to the servant girls who live in the town. The women all suffer in emotional ways with the decade long war at the center of their pain. Orphan sisters Xanthe and Marpessa live in Priam’s palace as maids and surrogate daughters to Andromache and Helen, respectively.  Andromache is Hector’s wife and mother to Astynax, whom Xanthe cares for like her own child. Marpessa sees the gods but keeps to herself because she knows that people will label her “disturbed” like Hector’s sister Cassandra.

The story picks up steam when Eros hits Xanthe with a silver-blue arrow, while she is working in the Blood room (where the fallen soldiers are taken to be nursed back to health). Xanthe falls in love with Alastor, who then impregnates Marpessa, a triangle brought about because Aphrodite longs for any entertainment other than the war. Polyxena, a friend of the two sisters, is hopelessly in love with Iason, who loves Xanthe.

Geras fills in the holes between each of the subplots with gossip from the servants of Priam’s palace. They serve as the Greek chorus and converse among themselves with how lazy Helen is or how estranged from her family Andromache is. Eventually the story winds down with the inevitable wooden horse and the sacking of Troy.

Geras shines as a storyteller and multi-subplot manager. She carefully scripts each plot to tell the inner feelings of the Trojan woman. The reader knows how the story ends (the rape and pillage of Troy) but what keeps them reading is the interest in the characters’ dreams and ultimate futures.

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Gathering of Pearls

by Sook Nyul Choi

I could personally relate to this short novelette about a girl entering a new world and adapting to college.  A good view of one Korean immigrant’s perspective.  Otherwise very short and moderate.  I think it is best to read the whole series:

{From an anonymous reviewer on Amazon: This book is a sequel to Year of impossible Goodbyes and Echoes of the White Giraffe. Year of Impossible Goodbyes won a Judy Lopez Award and was chosen as an American Library Association Notable Book and Best Book for Young Adults. The author of these books, Sook Nyul Choi, also made a picture book titled Halmoni and the Picnic.

This book is mainly about a girl named Sookan who is a foreign exchange student from Korea. She goes to a college in New York City, and finds out how different life in the United States is from Korean life. Sookan struggles with an internal and external conflict. She doesn’t know if she should act Korean and keep Korea’s ways or give up all of that and act like Americans. She is afraid that of she becomes to American-like her family will be dissatisfied with how she has become. Sookan finds that she is becoming more American-like and scolds herself for not following the Korean ways enough. Her external conflict is that she overworks herself with all of her subjects and gets a serious lack of sleep since she studies so much. She would stay up many hours into the night and study, sleep a few hours, and wake up early to study more. It’s very interesting how she fights through all of her difficulties, so I would definitely recommend this book to teenagers interested in college and/or becoming a foreign exchange student in the future.}

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle

by Avi

A good book.  “While written for a young audience, the book is well liked by many adults as well.”

“In this fast-paced and suspense-filled novel, 13-year-old Charlotte Doyle describes a remarkable sea voyage that changes her life forever. In 1832, Charlotte crosses the Atlantic aboard the Seahawk, departing from England to join her family in Rhode Island.  Raised to be a proper young lady, she is surprised to learn that she is the only passenger and only female aboard the ship. Frightened by a mysterious crew, at first she trusts only Jaggery, the captain, but soon discovers that he is cruel and slightly mad. She then joins ranks with the mutinous crew but must convince them of her loyalty by tackling death-defying feats unfamiliar to most females of her era. Charlotte is befriended along the way by the old black cook, Zachariah, who eventually helps save her life. When the vengeful captain accuses her of murder, Charlotte is tried and found guilty. She escapes punishment in a life-and-death struggle with Jaggery and is finally reunited with her family. Charlotte misses the Seahawk, however, and, in an unusual twist of the plot, casts aside the comforts of home for the life of a seafarer.” (Summary from McDougal Littell Classzone)

Avi has written a lot of books.  According to his website, Avi got the idea for this one from writing The Man Who Was Poe.  It’s working title was The Seahawk, “but as I [Avi] worked on the story I came to care more and more about Charlotte–and who she was–so that it became her book.”

The Great Gatsby

by F. Scott Fitzgerald

It was lovely; I really enjoyed it.  One thing though, reading this book was like living in a haze.  Maybe Fitzgerald was trying to capture the ambience of the flapper 20’s, or maybe that was how these silly characters’ minds worked.

“They were careless people, Tom and Daisy- they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness…” (pg. 114) These people live the decadent life of the roaring twenties. The mindless, indulgent, irresponsible life style where consequence is just an afterthought.” homework-online.com.

I encountered this story when I saw the movie last year.  Looking back I would say that the film, I saw the version starring Robert Redford, was a wonderful rendition of this book.  And I think seeing the movie first made the book better; it was easier to visualize the period clothing, parties, and attitudes, and to understand the plot to be able to look for important clues and symbolism.

> You can read the whole book online thanks to eBooks@Adelaide.

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Freaks: Alive on the Inside

Annette Curtis Klause

An intriguing tale of circus life with some ancient Egyptian mystique as a sub plot, I very much enjoyed this narrative.  The protagonist, Abel Dandy, starts out at an idyllic resort type circus where he lives with his parents.  There he wonders if he has anything to contribute to the show, because he isn’t “different” like everybody else.  Then he heads out on his own and meets the shocking realization that not only are “freaks” ostracized, but that he is also shunned for being in contact with them!

Though he tried to evade it, responsibility finds him as he trips along a path to a mysterious secret and helps right wrongs along the way.  Full of vibrant characters, this book not only makes you smile but makes you think.

Watch out for the word “caution.”  It is used about 4 times in a different (more dated) way than usual, instead meaning “an amusing or surprising person” (Oxford American Dictionary).  Good to know.

The Tragedy of Macbeth

 

Art by princendymion on deviantArt

Art by princendymion on deviantArt

by William Shakespeare

 

A short synopsis found on eNotes.com:

 “On the level of human evil, Shakespeare’s Scottish tragedy is about Macbeth’s bloody rise to power, including the murder of the Scottish king, Duncan, and the guilt-ridden pathology of evil deeds generating still more evil deeds. As an integral part of this thematic web is the play’s most memorable character, Lady Macbeth. Like her husband, Lady Macbeth’s ambition for power leads her into an unnatural, phantasmagoric realm of witchcraft, insomnia and madness. But while Macbeth responds to the prophecies of the play’s famous trio of witches, Lady Macbeth goes even further by figuratively transforming herself into an unnatural, desexualized evil spirit. The current trend of critical opinion is toward an upward reevaluation of Lady Macbeth, who is said to be rehumanized by her insanity and her suicide. Much of this reappraisal of Lady Macbeth has taken place in discussions of her ironically strong marriage to Macbeth, a union that rests on loving bonds but undergoes disintegration as the tragedy unfolds.”

This is Shakespeare’s shortest play, written for the attention span of King James.  It is loosely based on historical events.
      Watch out for Act 3 Scene 5, it is believed that that scene was added at a later date and not written by Shakespeare.  You can see that the lines are shorter, the very small part is almost superfluous to the surrounding plot, and it just doesn’t have the feel of the illustrious playwright.

Snow Falling on Cedars

by David Guterson

Very good read.  This is maybe only the second novel I’ve read revolving around a trial (To Kill A Mockingbird being the other).  I’ve read that this book was influenced by Harper Lee’s.

It is easy to see that the author knows his subject matter from the vibrant descriptions of the island where the story takes place.  I was in Washington in the summer of 2007 and got to see San Juan island, which allowed me to visualize and enjoy this book so much better.

The main theme is the necessity of individual moral action despite the indifference of nature and circumstance.  The characters deal with loss and racism, they have to find ways to move on.

Guterson leaves us with a powerful message:  “he understood this, too: accident ruled every corner of the universe except the chambers of the human heart.”

There is a movie version, I wonder if it is worth watching?  www.snowfallingoncedars.com

Click here for a summary via SparkNotes: http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/cedars/summary.html

Girl with a Pearl Earring

by Tracy Chevalier

One of the recommended summer reads, this book was very interesting.  Set in 1664 in the Netherlands, it is a valuable look at life during that period.  Tracy Chevalier hypothesized the circumstances under which the painting, sometimes called the Dutch Mona Lisa, was created.  While the domestic obsession annoyed me, the setting was fascinating.

This according to ReadingGroupGuides.com: “The novel centers on Griet, the daughter of a Delft tile painter who lost his sight in a kiln accident. In order to bring income to her struggling family, Griet must work as a maid for a more financially sound family. When Jan Vermeer and his wife approve of Griet as a maid for their growing Catholic household, she leaves home and quickly enters adult life. The Vermeer household, with its five children, grandmother and long-time servant, is ready to make Griet’s working life difficult. Though her help is sorely needed, her beauty and innocence are both coveted and resented. Vermeer’s wife Catharina, long banished from her husband’s studio for her clumsiness and lack of genuine interest in art, is immediately wary of Griet, a visually talented girl who exhibits signs of artistic promise. Taneke, the faithful servant to the grandmother, proves her protective loyalty by keeping a close eye on Griet’s every move.

The artist himself, however, holds another view entirely of the young maid. Recognizing Griet’s talents, Vermeer takes her on as his studio assistant and surreptitiously teaches her to grind paints and develop color palettes in the remote attic. Though reluctant to overstep her boundaries in the cagey Vermeer household, Griet is overjoyed both to work with her intriguing master and to lend some breath to her natural inclinations—colors and composition—neither of which she had ever been able to develop. Together, Vermeer and Griet conceal the apprenticeship from the family until Vermeer’s unscrupulous patron demands that the lovely maid be the subject of his next commissioned work. Vermeer must paint Griet—an awkward, charged situation for them both.


Chevalier’s account of the artistic process—from the grinding of paints to the inclusion and removal of background objects—lay at the core of the novel. Her inventive portrayal of this tumultuous time, when Protestantism began to dominate Catholicism and the growing bourgeoisie took the place of the Church as patrons of the arts, draws the reader into a lively, if little known, time and place in history.

Amazing site detailing the painting and historical context:
http://girl-with-a-pearl-earring.20m.com/

The Truth About Forever

by Sarah Dessen

{Summary from SarahDessen.com: Macy’s summer stretches before her, carefully planned and outlined. She will spend her days sitting at the library information desk. She will spend her evenings studying for the SATs. Spare time will be used to help her obsessive mother prepare for the big opening of the townhouse section of her luxury development. But Macy’s plans don’t anticipate a surprising and chaotic job with Wish Catering, a motley crew of new friends, or … Wes. Tattooed, artistic, anything-but-expected Wes. He doesn’t fit Macy’s life at all–so why does she feel so comfortable with him? So … happy? What is it about him that makes her let down her guard and finally talk about how much she misses her father, who died before her eyes the year before? Sarah Dessen delivers a page-turning novel that carries readers on a roller coaster of denial, grief, comfort, and love as we watch a broken but resilient girl pick up the pieces of her life and fit them back together. }

I love this book just as much as Dessen’s “This Lullaby,” and I really appreciate how she keeps everything fresh and lively. The message delivered throughout the narrative is one not understood by many but so important: order and perfection are not ways to live. We must embrace disorder and other human beings, we must learn to live our passions without fear.

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Mississippi Jack

Mississippi Jack
by L. A. Meyer

This is one of my most favorite series.  Such an upbeat and adventurous story, every page flies by and the action jumps out at you.  I secretly hope that this will turn into a 15+ book series. :P 

Review courtesy of Harcourtbooks.com:

    “The intrepid Jacky Faber, having once again eluded British authorities, heads west, hoping that no one will recognize her in the wilds of America. There she tricks the tall-tale hero Mike Fink out of his flatboat, equips it as a floating casino-showboat, and heads south to New Orleans, battling murderous bandits, British soldiers, and other scoundrels along the way. Will Jacky’s carelessness and impulsive actions ultimately cause her beloved Jaimy to be left in her wake?
Bold, daring, and downright fun, Jacky Faber proves once again that with resilience and can-do spirit, she can wiggle out of any scrape . . . well, almost.”

This Lullaby

Sarah Dessen

Great! I heard that Dessen is a really good author, and I’ll have to agree.  I’ll definitely be reading the rest of her books.  The ending isn’t quite my style but it works.

“Raised by a mother who’s had five husbands, eighteen-year-old Remy believes in short-term, no-commitment relationships until she meets Dexter, a rock band musician.” Dessen’s publisher

I love the main character’s name, Remy. So cool. Maybe not cool to be named after an alcoholic beverage (namely rum), but cool-sounding and distinctive as a name.

from Dessen’s site: “you always have these dynamic friends in your books. Maybe you should write from that point of view, just for a change.” She [Remy] was kind of bitchy, kind of cold, and was sure she had everything figured out. I couldn’t wait to see her proved wrong.

Plus it’s a summer book: set in that wonderful stretch from June to August when it just seems like everything is possible. Dreamland, my last book, had been so heavy, so emotional. I was ready for something a little lighter, but that still had something to say.

Basically, this is a story about faith. Faith in love (bear with me here) and just faith in general. Remy’s tragic flaw, of sorts, is that she’s afraid to take a chance on something she can’t guarantee. She wants hard proof, facts, a mathematical equation where X equals Y, before she’ll even begin to think about taking any kind of risk. But what she learns—what we all learn, eventually—is that the living is in the leaping. Sometimes, you just have to close your eyes, and jump.”

My all time favorite part: when Dexter finds the silverware in Remy’s car. That is the best.

The lullaby:

This lullaby is only a few words,
A simple run of chords
Quiet here in this spare room
But you can hear it, hear it
Wherever you may go
Even if I let you down
This lullaby plays on . . .

Son of the Mob


Son of the Mob
+ Hollywood Hustle

by Gordon Korman

Loved it. I accidentally read the second one before the first, but it turned out okay, maybe even better for this series.

I was so proud of myself when I guessed almost immediately that Ray was the ‘inside man’. And it was nice how for a change the main character got it, not so much beating around the bush. The resolution was cool, I was freaking out when he pulled the gun on Vince, but then his good character pulled through.

That really stinks how Vince’s problem was so bad that he had to quit the football team.

My favorite parts of this book: when Vince tells his dad at the end that he’s going out with Agent Bite-Me’s daughter, how Kendra and Vince are so perfect for each other, and at the end of the year when Vince knows he’ll get an A in the class, he tells Mr. Mullinicks, “That’s your problem.”

Catcher in the Rye

J.D. Salinger, 1951

Banned by multiple groups, controversial, and different, this is a book that has emerged into our pool of literary classics and is increasingly taught in high schools around the US.  I read it in 11th grade with mixed emotions, first apprehension from how other high-schoolers described it, next confusion but at the same time an empathetic understanding, and finally sadness that came from the truths that were revealed at the end.

{This novel follows the protagonist Holden Caulfield through his oppulent yet empty and confused life in New York City for the period of one week after he is expelled from prep school.  The reader shares his fancies, his fears, his memories and his struggle with the death of his brother Allie, and in that way also learns about his mental illness and alienation.  It is not stated openly, but in this book Holden sees the world through something akin to OCD or depression.  His anchor in life is his little sister Phoebe, a wise and intuitive force.

His most trusted mentor, a past teacher, urges Holden to change his mind and not run away, that it is the stronger man who lives humbly, rather than dies nobly, for a cause.  Holden had the idea of becoming a “catcher in the rye,” a godlike figure who symbolically saves children from “falling off a crazy cliff” and being exposed to all things “phony,” the evils of adulthood, and losing their kindness, spontaneity, innocence, and generosity.}

The hardest part of reading this story is deciding whose side you are on, the side of reason or the side of the antihero, Holden?  Will he be happier in reality after he goes to a mental hospital?

Knowing the historical and literary context of this novel would add to understanding and appreciation.  I would caution anyone who starts to read this book to keep their head about them, and I would specifically caution adults to not base any perceptions of teenagers on the teenager portrayed in this novel.  In June 2009, Finlo Rohrer from the BBC wrote that, 58 years since publication, the book is still regarded “as the defining work on what it is like to be a teenager. Holden is at various times disaffected, disgruntled, alienated, isolated, directionless, and sarcastic.”   But I would disagree.  Yes most humans probably go through a period of feeling isolated and directionless, not necessarily as teenagers, but what Holden is feeling and how he is acting is not the norm for all adolescents.  One must also remember that his mental state is shaky, which indubitably colors his experiences.

Peaches

Jodi Lynn Anderson

I almost didn’t finish this one. I started reading it then actually got so sick of it I had to forget it for a week or two before I could stomach picking it up again. But then it got really good. Maybe it was me, maybe the beginning just has to be gotten through. A little part of the problem was that I was very confused, with the rapid flashbacks and no prior knowledge to support it, and then the descriptions of people without a background or a setting, my mind just didn’t know where to place the people and events, it really doesn’t like things floating around in ether. (And maybe it was just my speed reading getting away from me. Oftentimes it takes the reins and I fly through about 3 chapters in a beautiful whirlwind that leaves gaping holes in detail.)

After that though things were awesome. I loved the scenery, the camaraderie, the melody. The peach orchard was beautiful, the hot days relished by me reading this in a foot of snow, the coming together (however slowly) of the friends fulfilling.

But one other thing, the whole Rex issue, I never got it. How he meets Murphy and looks at her funny, his face moving weirdly like he can’t put his finger on it, what is that about? Murphy might’ve felt something stirring too, but it wasn’t mentioned in the text, so it was very confusing. Or maybe she was suppressing her feelings for her friend. And then at the end of the book he comes and talks to her, it is all ‘let me be your worshiper I’m blinded by love’ kind of. Eck. I don’t know.

I don’t know if I want to read the sequel or not. Who knows, maybe it will be even better.

I Was a Non-blonde Cheerleader


Kieran Scott

Loved it! So light and warm-hearted, I like how the characters sortof/mostly come together in the end. I also love Daniel, he’s so cool.

summary, Ilene Cooper: “Sophomore Annisa has moved from New Jersey to Florida, where she gets off on the wrong foot almost immediately, especially with the cheerleading squad. She attracts one girl’s boyfriend, moves into another’s recently vacated home, and hits a third with a door in the nose. So when she makes the squad, the welcome mat is not exactly out.  Her most visible difference is her dark, short hair; even the team’s African American coach is a blonde.  In generalities, the story is predictable.  By the end of the book, Annisa, the narrator, is spouting lines such as, “It didn’t even matter how we did at regionals on Saturday because at that moment we weren’t just a squad. We were friends.” Still, the specifics are fun and definitely au courant, as Annisa discovers love, friendship, and backflips as she deals with prank wars, unsupervised parties, and cheerleading crises. Since there’s a lot about competitive cheerleading, the pom-pom inclined will especially like this.”

Milkweed

Jerry Spinelli

Pretty good, liked it a lot better than Eggs. The whole time I wanted to slap Misha and say, “Rewire your brain, you idiot! You don’t think like a normal human being! Snap out of it!” but I guess that isn’t really possible. >_<

And also, I love milkweed plants. I have this obsession, everyone thinks of them as weeds (for some odd reason, even though they are sold in fancy garden stores) but I got wild seeds and plant them all over (i.e. my mom’s flower beds). It made me a little upset that this book wasn’t actually about milkweeds at all, but about some little alien’s experience in the ghetto. Whatever.