I adore the times spent with my fellow members of the Paige Turner Book Club...but I have a literary appetite that simply cannot be sated with just one book a month. This blog is a place for me to talk about more of my reading adventures. Reviews, summaries, highlights, warnings, praises and quotes. Because after all, it can be a jungle...er...savannah...out there.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Audio Adventures

I recently listened to two familiar stories: Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers, and Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden.

I first read Redeeming Love a year or two ago, and loved it. I enjoy when authors can take a short passage of scripture and weave it into a larger tale. I think it gives us a chance to really dive in and understand the characters, their situations, and their choices. Looking at them sideways as Kate would say. Redeeming Love takes the story of Hosea and sets it in the Old West during the gold rush. Rivers brought the familiar Biblical story to life in a whole new way. The audio book was able to do the same thing: it allowed me to experience this story “new” again. It’s interesting to listen to another person giving a voice to characters. Sometimes the narrator emphasizes a sentence or thought differently than I would have read it…be it by the timing or the emotion they use etc. And that difference helped me to pay attention and enjoy the story anew, for a second time.

I had watched the movie, Memoirs of a Geisha, but had not read the book. But I saw it as an audio book on the library shelf and decided to give it a shot. When I got to the checkout counter, my favorite librarian told me that he loved the book. “It’s so much better than the movie. And the movie was good,” he told me. After that praise, I’m happy to say that I concur. I really enjoyed how the book was recorded. The narrator talks slowly and deliberately, the way you might imagine an older, dignified, oriental woman telling a story. The book is full of similies and flowery descriptions. And since it *is* the book, it’s different than the movie. Parts of the plot are different, some of the characters have different facets, etc. Up until the last few chapters, I didn’t know if I was going to like how it all turned out. Nobu is a much greater part of Sayuri’s life in the book than in the move, and I found myself really liking him. The Chairman in Memoirs of a Geisha is kind of like Arwen in LoTR. They are portrayed a bit differently in the movies because the director wants you to connect more strongly with their characters. But having said all that, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and would happily recommend it to anyone who enjoyed the movie.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Where's My Happily Ever After?

So I just finished all three books that are currently in the Vampire Academy Series by Richelle Mead (the fourth book is scheduled to come out on 8/25/09), and here is my complaint. There is no happy ending. And no conceivable happy ending in sight. Do I expect every book to have a happy ending? Of course not. Some of my favorite books have bittersweet or downright depressing endings. But this time, I was looking for fluff. Not serious reading or great literature, just a quick read with an entertaining plot. Fluff, to me, includes a satisfyingly happy or, at the very least, ambiguous resolution (side note: is ambiguous resolution an oxymoron?). The end of the third book? NOT HAPPY*. Where's my warm fuzzy feeling that usually comes with fluff? Fuzz and fluff are relatives after all...

*Now, this is not to say that I am unhappy with the series as a whole...I liked it...I would consider reading it again...dependent on the outcome of the 4th book, which I am planning on reading. I hope my warm fuzzy feeling is not lacking this time, but I'll be sure to let you know...

Friday, April 24, 2009

House of Night Series

House of Night Series
I read Marked, Betrayed, and Untamed. I skipped Chosen, but was able to infer the major plot events at the beginning of Untamed, so wasn’t lost at all in continuing the series.

The House of Night is a series of young adult Fantasy/Horror novels co-authored by P.C. Cast and her daughter Kristin Cast. The series revolves around the development and adventures of Zoey Redbird, a 16-year-old gifted fledgling vampyre who attends the House of Night school. Students move to this unique boarding school after they are “marked.” They then have four years of training (think, Hogwarts for vampyres) and during this time they will either make the full transition into a Vampyre or their body rejects the change and they die. Zoey has strong and unique abilities, and this sets her apart from her fellow students.

Things I like about this series:
It’s co-authored by P.C. Cast and her daughter. I also like how P.C. Cast acknowledges her students in the beginning of the book (she’s a teacher).

I like how the main characters are flawed and growing. There’s an emphasis on individual talent, but also the necessity of leaning on other and working together. I think the messages of trust, friendship, and doing the right thing get more poignant as the series progresses, and they would make good discussion points in a group setting. I especially like the character Sylvia Redbird. She is Zoey’s Cherokee grandmother and is often the voice of wisdom in the series. I also have a soft spot for Sister Mary Angela, who makes an appearance in book 4.

I like how the books are “easy reads.” They are engaging and you can finish one in a day or two (or if you’re me, in a couple hours). Also, each book covers a relatively short period of time, so if you happen to skip an episode, you can pick up what happened without too much trouble.

Things I didn’t particularly like:
Exploring sexuality is certainly a recurring topic in young adult fiction, coming-of-age stories, and the vampire genre as a whole, but many of the main crises in the series focus on the sexual misadventures of the characters. Even when other conflicts enter the storyline, it seems like the sexual dilemmas are always present.

The series is getting progressively darker as it moves forward. It reminds of the Harry Potter series: book one starts out with an introduction to the wizarding world, by book 4 the intangible villain has returned to power, and book 7 culminates with an “ultimate showdown” situation. But unlike Harry Potter which has one main villain who grows in power and influence, the House of Night seems to be introducing new evil personalities and phenomenon. It’s hard to tell how the escalation will continue to grow. Since it appears to be an open-ended series, maybe P.C. and Kristin Cast haven’t quite figured it out yet. I hope they have an arc in mind, otherwise I fear this series might go the way of the “Wheel of Time” – lots of books but no real end in sight.

Somewhat related, each book ends with a semi-resolution. The crisis of the particular book is resolved, but there’s already the sense of the next battle brewing. I know it’s meant to keep you hooked and coming back for more…but these books are literary candy to me and I want more of a warm fuzzy at the end. It’s there, but co-existing the gathering tension.

Overall recommendation:
Good for pleasure reading, especially if you like vampire stories.

Fashioned for Intimacy

When I read Fashioned for Intimacy by Jane Hansen for the first time, I scarfed it up. I labeled it as one of the best relationship books I’ve ever read, and I meant it. So when I decided to re-read it earlier this year, I was surprised at how differently I feel about it now. Maybe it’s because it doesn’t have the freshness and wonder of a brand new read. Maybe it’s because I’m a different person now. But for whatever reason, I didn’t experience the same joy on my second foray through the book.

I still agree with many of her insights. And I think she has some valid ideas of how the roles of men and women could be reconciled to the design that God initiated in the beginning. I particularly liked how Hansen affirms that men and women have different strengths, and those strengths are not meant to be in competition (who's stronger and in charge here?) but in cooperation (how can we be stronger together?). I think women who deal with dependency or identity issues would benefit from the wisdom offered in it's pages, so Fashioned for Intimacy is still worthy of a read-through. But I wouldn’t call it the “best relationship book ever.”

Heart of Jane's message:
"The woman is uniquely and specifically designed to stand before the man in an intimate, face-to-face relationship. However, although women were meant to look to God to find their life, identity, value and significance, since the fall of Eve in the dawn of creation, they have looked instead to men to fulfill these needs. Only when a woman's heart is turned back to God to meet her needs, she is…free to be the help God intended her to be: to draw the man out of his aloneness by relating on a level that moves past the surface and touches the deep places of his heart. She is then able to stand in a healthy, face-to-face relationship with him."
"Jane Hansen on Male Female Reconciliation." Jane Hansen, October 24, 2004

Thursday, April 23, 2009

And I quote...

Of all the diversions of life, there is none so proper to fill up its empty spaces as the reading of useful and entertaining authors.~ Joseph Addison ~

She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain. (1873) ~ Louisa May Alcott ~

Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to bechewed and digested: that is, some books are to be read only in parts,others to be read, but not curiously, and some few to be read wholly,and with diligence and attention.~ Francis Bacon ~