Saturday, March 9, 2013

A BookLover's Diary: New Cover for 'Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's Stone...

A BookLover's Diary: New Cover for 'Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's Stone...: Take a look at the first of seven new covers for the Harry Potter series from Scholastic. Amulet graphic novel artist Kazu Kibuishi c...

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

“Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.” 
-----If the cover didn't sell you, this quote probably did. ----------------
I'd never really read any of John Green's books prior to this one; Marvel is a fan of his and actually got his autograph and met him at a book signing some months ago. Lucky duck. Anyway, Marvel purchased this amazing book for me several months ago~and~since she obviously appreciated the quality of the book very much~and since Marvel was the one sending this book to me~I cracked it open. 

Witty and cynical and encompassing all the raw, essential parts of our humanity, Hazel is hands-down the best female protagonist and heroine I've encountered in my stroll through the Realistic Fiction department in the Novel arena. She's so very real, and Green's writing style just brings out her character so that it seems that you could turn around and see her going through the motions of her cancer-ridden life, embracing misery and love alike. Hazel is just so frank and complacent in a refreshing way; rather than live her life encumbered by the judgement of others, she tends to be herself. Augustus, the other central character in this extraordinary novel, is not as realistic because he's just too...sparkly. Just kidding. But he's a very scintillating fellow, to be sure. Honestly, when I started writing this post, I wanted to begin with a single quote from the book. But every other sentence in the book is so memorable and significant that, if I were to pick my favorite line from the novel, I'd have a terribly difficult time of it all. The characters are singular; perhaps the near-magical aura of Hazel and Augustus and their distinctive outlooks on life is all that reminds you that this is a fictional novel. 

---The Fault in Our Stars is a 5-Star Winner~Realistic Fiction with all the magic of Fantasy-------------

(yes, this post was made brief and obfuscatingly vague with the sole purpose of compelling you to go and encounter the story for yourself ;)

By the way, if any of you know where I can find rating images not necessarily restricted to yellow stars, links would be greatly appreciated!




Friday, February 22, 2013

Exciting Announcement!

Hi everyone! :) Sorry for the lack of posting in recent weeks; it's been extremely hectic.
Just wanted to cover two things.
FIRST:
Today, I officially published my website, BooksAlive: http://booksalive.webs.com/
It's late so I won't elaborate--but you can check out the website for details.
SECOND:
Look out for a review of The Fault in Our Stars by John Greene--by Sunday night at the latest. Hint: 5-STAR RATING!!!

Friday, February 1, 2013

East of Eden Log 1 [Ch 1-21]

Can I say WOW. This novel is truly exceptional; and that may be stating the obvious[I mean, HELLO, it's an American CLASSIC, it has to be of great quality], but this is the FIRST older American classic I've fallen in love with. It's the kind of book I could rave about for posts and posts(which is the plan), the kind of book that keeps me guessing and keeps me perpetually intrigued. And, it's a CLASSIC, a book that all too often falls into the unfortunately disregarded pile of "stuffy" books such as The Scarlet Letter by Hawthorne and Oliver Twist by Dickens. I really should make a post about the differentiation of classics in general, but for now, I'm content with simply stating that this is a book that cannot, will not, fall arbitrarily into that pile.
Rather than post an automatic synopsis, I'm going to provide my own run-down of the novel up until Chapter 21.

Now, at the beginning, the story starts out a bit too slowly for my liking---I really couldn't care less about the mountains and hills and dryness of the Salinas Valley---but YOU MUST CONTINUE GOING, screams Chapter 2. Enter the cast. I love how the book introduces the characters; there's no exaggerated opening of a girl's clumsy collision into the perhaps glittering pale hero of the novel. Instead, the characters are laid out in all their realism and tangibility. However, since the former characteristic is heavily disputed, I'll elaborate on that later[Cathy!]. Samuel Hamilton's a pretty chill guy--imaginative, selfless, innovative--but the thing that really annoys  me regarding EVERY single male in the novel thus far[including Adam T. and Charles T. and even Lee, a little] is that they all have WASTED POTENTIAL. Samuel and Adam both suffer naivete, although Adam's was borne of love and Samuel's was...just Samuel. Charles needs to stop getting so hung up on the past, and move forward instead of clinging to his farm so complacently, and Lee---Lee is capable of doing anything he sets his mind to---definitely a favorite character of mine.
The next few chapters regard another family, the Trasks---and in retrospect, Charles Trask's occasional rabidness, spurred by jealousy of his younger brother Adam---directly mirrors Cathy's wildness provoked by alcohol.

HOW DARE YOUR PUPPY WIN YOU BROWNIE POINTS -Charles
HOW DARE YOU MAKE ME DRINK ALCOHOL YOU FOOL[referring to either Mr. Edwards or Faye]-Cathy

For that reason, even many years later, after Charles has stopped resorting to bats and fists, Cathy perceives a commonality between herself and Charles. The "sixth-sense" concept is heavily dispersed in this novel--and adds to its compelling nature.

Brothels are a major feature of this novel as well---interestingly, they are depicted as home-like and even church-like. Without going into too much academic analysis, I would comment that this novel is positively bursting with religious allusions and satire; for some of you, that alone may be incentive to take the reading journey.

Now, brothels and Cathy seem to go hand-in-hand, especially towards Chapters 18-20. But firstly let's go back and introduce Cathy, for in my opinion, she is the most magnetic and indecipherable character in this book. I haven't finished the book yet, but I KNOW.

Cathy Ames was delineated comprehensively---her nature was illustrated from childhood, and it is clear that Steinbeck's pronouncement of "monstrous" is felicitous, seeing as how she exploited sexual fascination from the very beginning. The concept of "monstrous" stresses, rather than gruesomeness,  a perverseness identified by society, an aberration, something inexplicable and innate. Thus, this marks Cathy quite well. Her impenetrable eyes, her heartless heart, her incomprehensibly evil actions, are done in a manner of utter complacency so that it is clear that she doesn't find a single thing amiss. As Steinbeck argues, to monsters, we seem the monsters. Conversely, is it possible that we are the monsters?

Even after Cathy burns her home down with her parents inside, even after she detrimentally seduces a priestly teacher, even after she psychologically tortures Mr. Edwards whilst leaching wealth from his stores, all with a beautiful face that only occasionally is torn apart by a frenzy of feral emotion(and alcohol), NO ONE can challenge her. Or any that attempt to do so languish. Take Adam. Cathy didn't want to go to California, she didn't want to have a child, yet Adam, blinded by love and hope in a "glory", Adam, living literally for the future, couldn't anticipate the annihilation of his present: Cathy ironically gave birth to twins(double joy or double sorrow), told Adam that he had made a mistake crossing her and that she would tolerate no setbacks to her "ultimate objectives"---what those are, I don't know as of yet. After inviting her frightened husband to throw their newborn infants down a well, she apologizes to the dim-witted Adam before shooting him and vanishing.

At this point...does it make you immoral if you actually feel that Cathy was somewhat justified? Adam, a total fool, didn't heed a word Cathy said. He essentially violated her ambitions, and he'd had clear warning. And this is Cathy. But... this is the same Cathy who deceived and harmed so many who did little or nothing to her. Then you think...but they did pose some kind of a threat to her...

Perhaps we all have a monster within us.

Let me know what you think.







Sunday, January 27, 2013

Review: Carnival of Souls by Melissa Marr

You know the feeling when the ingredients all went into the cookie dough properly [cold unsalted butter, right consistency] but the pastries ultimately just didn't work for you? I spent the better part of the last minute trying to come up with a good analogy--and likely failed dismally ;( In any case, what I am attempting to convey is that the book I just finished this morning had the right components, but holistically, it didn't work for me. And I also feel that there was a goldmine of good ideas[ingredients] that just needed to be expressed[baked] differently.

Here's a quick synopsis of the book---be forewarned, as I wasn't---that this is a mature book. That brings me to another point; this book, I feel, isn't quite as mature in its writing as it is in its content. The plot relies on some...innuendo and such, and there's also a bit of profanity. Yet the actual writing doesn't reflect a control of techniques that otherwise might have worked more seamlessly when wielded by other authors. 

In a city of daimons, rigid class lines separate the powerful from the power-hungry. And at the heart of The City is the Carnival of Souls, where both murder and pleasure are offered up for sale. Once in a generation, the carnival hosts a deadly competition that allows every daimon a chance to join the ruling elite. Without the competition, Aya and Kaleb would both face bleak futures—if for different reasons. For each of them, fighting to the death is the only way to try to live.
All Mallory knows of The City is that her father—and every other witch there—fled it for a life in exile in the human world. Instead of a typical teenage life full of friends and maybe even a little romance, Mallory scans quiet streets for threats, hides herself away, and trains to be lethal. She knows it's only a matter of time until a daimon finds her and her father, so she readies herself for the inevitable. While Mallory possesses little knowledge of The City, every inhabitant of The City knows of her. There are plans for Mallory, and soon she, too, will be drawn into the decadence and danger that is the Carnival of Souls.
This synopsis summarizes the book quite well; and I take this as a negative indication of the book. I feel that a synopsis should scrape the surface, if at all, giving us a tiny taste of the frosting which is covering the delectable cake[metaphor working for you yet?]. Additionally, the sense that I received initially after reading the synopsis was that this novel would be magical and dark, intense and suspenseful. 
Where's the Magic without the SPELLS?
There are mentions of "spells" and "wards" but I do not recall a single instance where an actual word was spelled out for the reader. This vagueness contributed to the overall lack of connection to the City, and, also, somehow the human world too. The shape-shifting of the daimons was fascinating, but it wasn't elaborated upon at all. Questions seem to permeate the book. Which is why I have to read the sequel when it comes out ;)
Darkness
Marr fantastically drew the gladiator-like competition with a breathtaking perspective into raw emotion, building upon the theme of pleasure in the novel which I wasn't so impressed with generally. Yet here, particularly in the climactic scuffle with Sol, Kaleb's character truly shines through. The universal struggle against the inexorable drive for pleasure and beauty is depicted so vividly in this scene that I truly could not stop flipping the pages at that point. 
Intensity
Aya and Kaleb were the best characters by far in my opinion--they were the most adeptly cast and woven in the story. I especially fell for Aya's audacious stance in the novel-her Katniss-ness. 
Suspenseful
It wasn't incredibly suspenseful-particularly where Mallory was concerned. I let out a sigh of disappointment whenever the story shifted to the human world...to the "daimon-hunter" Mallory.
CHARACTERS+RELATIONSHIPS
Ladies First...
Mallory-Clueless. Not realistic alone nor in comparison with the brief sketch given in the synopsis. An egg that wasn't cracked. Her relationship with Kaleb felt forced and unnatural--despite the justification of "pack instinct", Kaleb's instant devotion didn't fit. Furthermore, her supposed "training" hadn't given her the steel I had expected to see in her character; rather, she seemed feeble. The only steel I saw was in her ill-placed guns. 
Aya-Her courage and tenacity was boldly proclaimed from the start, when she contradicted her ruling-caste status by paying "scabs" for secret information and by soaking her knives in poison to avoid killing Belias, her former lover. While reading from Aya's perspective, there's a prompt link established through which you resonate with her movements and actions and thoughts, and thus are affected more. Whereas with the other perspectives, particularly Mallory's and Belias', there's somewhat of a lack of precise pivot and balance ensuring that each perspective is powerful and contributes to the effectiveness of the novel. If Marr had perhaps invested more in one or even two perspectives rather than several, the individual scenes that felt superficial might have carried more meaning for me. 

Amazing Work of Art Marvel Found Online: Fusion of Sweets+Books

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Long Hiatus

I took a Hiatus. Much longer than I thought it'd be. I'm back now! With the intention to post at least once every two weeks on something awesome and book-related.
Coming soon---Review of Carnival of Souls by Melissa Marr and Reflections on East of Eden Thus Far