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.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Hunted by P.C. and Kristin Cast

"Hunted" is book 5 in the House of Night series.  A collection of books that has become my rainy day guilty pleasure.  Each installment only takes a few hours to read.  Plus, since each book only advances the plot a few days or so, I can read one long after I've read the one before without becoming lost.  In any case, the main character's constant internal battles and remeniscing fill in any potential blanks that might have formed. 

Similar to Twilight, the protagonist's main weakness is the men in her life.  But what I like about this series is that it explores deeper topics even while it embraces the vampire angst.  The focus of "Hunted" is faith and free will.  And I have to admit, it's one of my favorite of the series so far. 

I especially love that Zoey has faith in herself, in her Goddess, and in her support system, even while she is obviously struggling with doubts as well.  Is she ever 100% sure?  Not really.  But does she step out and make the decisions she believes she must to do what is good and what will save those she loves?  Always.  I can't help but admire that.

The series is planned to include 13 novels.  I'm looking forward to following the story arc through to the end.  (Even if it does move slower than the Wheel of Time series.  And *that's* saying something!)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

"The Color Purple" a classic, a prizewinner, a film, and now a musical.  For any and all of these reasons, it's been on my TBR list for quite some time.  A snowy weekend provided just the excuse to cuddle up in a blanket and enjoy Alice Walker's work!  In fact, with the wonder of Netflix instant-play, I watched the movie after I finished the book and had quite a lovely evening.

This book continues a theme of sorts (actually a few themes): epistolary novels, and novels about racism, relationships and female empowerment.  (Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Blood Done Sign My Name, To Kill a Mockingbird, Secret Life of Bees....).

Bottom line:  I enjoyed this book, but it wasn't my favorite. 

The first half of the book is letters from Celie to God.  It took me a while to get into.  (I think part of it was getting used to the language.)  Once I did, I found it brutal, honest, and engaging.  Celie's voice is matter of fact, and straight from the heart.  To be honest, I think that's the way we're supposed to talk to God.  Talking about any and everyting.  Pouring out our hearts and hurts.

But I was very glad when Walker introduced a second voice:  the letters from Nettie to Celie.  The sisters were separated from each other at the beginning of the story, and since Celie never heard from her sister she presumed Nettie was dead.  I really enjoyed how Walker structured the second half of the book.  The sister's never talk to each other.  Their letters never actually change hands.  Yet they catch up and dialogue with each other.  It's brilliant.

I read somewhere that the color purple is a major theme and symbol in the book.  However, I disagree.  It's briefly mentioned once (granted, in a pivotal conversation between two of the main characters), but that's it. Surprisingly, pants are a major theme.  When Celie comes into her own, pants are a major symbol of that independence.  She shows her insight, creativity, and self-sufficiency through something as simple as making pants.  I really enjoyed that.

Favorite line of the book:  "Whether God will read letters or no, I know you will go on writing them; which is enough for me."  It was in a letter from Nettie to Celie.  She almost decides to stop writing her letters, since she knows there was almost no chance her sister would get to read them.  But then she remembered Celie's habit of writing letters to God, because she couldn't bring herself to talk about them out loud.  And whether or not God would answer, Celie was determined to write.  I feel that way about praying sometimes.  The most important part may not be the answer, it's the simple fact that I keep talking.

Favorite moment of the movie:  There's a scene where Shug is entertaining a crowd on a dock, and they are within earshot of a church service.  At first there's a bit of duel between the choir's song and Shug's performance.  Then she starts singing the choir's song, and leads a procession from their hang to the church.  The choir's soloist give's way to Shug's voice, and Shug pours her heart out in song at the base of the alter as the Pastor just stands there teary-eyed.  They finally embrace...and it's a beautiful picture of a prodigal coming home.  This exchange was a departure from the book, but it was my very favorite scene.  There are so many little moments in it for each of the main characters, and it's just...moving. 

Long story short:  I would recommend this book (the movie too).  It might be interesting to discuss it along with Blood Done Sign My Name, and The Secret Life of Bees... in case you need ideas for a book club or something *wink*

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

I read this book after it was recommended to me by my cousin.  She was in DC for a work conference, and we met and had a wonderful evening of catching up and getting to know each other.  Turns out, we both share a passion for a reading.  So it didn't take long for recommendations to fly back and forth.

Outliers:  The Story of Success explores the factors that set people up for greatness.  He explores this phenomenon in several settings, with very enlightening conclusions.  Long story short - success is part talent, part timing, part practice, and part history.

I really enjoyed the chapter entitled "The 10,000-Hour Rule."  Do you know what the Beatles, Bill Gates, and Mozart have in common?  They all put a lot of time into learning their craft.  Much more time than any of their peers.  No one would ever claim that they didn't have an enormous amount of natural talent.  But that talent alone wasn't the secret to their success.  It was the time they put into honing and developing that talent.  Note to self:  This is one area in which I've never excelled.  I'm a hard worker and enjoy learning new things.  But I've never focused that time in one area.  I'm more of a Renaissance woman - fairly good at lots of things.  Which I suppose is a type of success.  But there's really no way around it.  To have the kind of success these men did, you need to decide where to focus...and then put in the time. 

I also liked the chapter "Rice Patties and Math Tests."  I liked it for two reasons.  First, Gladwell has a fascinating (and believable) theory that explains why Asians excel at math.  (It's based on the way their language handles mathematics.  Pretty cool actually.)  Second, he explores the different approaches Eastern and Western cultures have for education and the impact that approach has on the children of each culture.  They're both rooted in agriculture.  But the appraoches are as different as rice patties and corn fields.  In Eastern cultures, students are expected to put in long hours year round.  Gladwell quotes a farmer who states: "No one who can rise before dawn three hundred sixty days a year fails to make his family rich."  Before dawn.  360 days a year.  That's the kind of focus these cultures place on education as well as tending rice patties.  And it shows in the academic achievements of their students.

I also enjoyed Gladwell's conclusion at the end of the book.  I don't want to steal his thunder, so I'll leave it there in hopes that you pick it up and read it for yourself.  It's worth it.  (And it's an easy read, so it won't take you that long to conquer.)