Ender's Game is about the government 'breeding' genius children to be trained in a military operation to obliterate an alien species which had attacke...moreEnder's Game is about the government 'breeding' genius children to be trained in a military operation to obliterate an alien species which had attacked planet Earth in the past, the Buggars. Ender is one of the children they accept into the training program, which is located in space.
I may be biased, since I basically grew up reading this book, but I seriously love Ender's Game. It is a commentary about government and the way adults treat children. It isn't a super long book, and the reading level isn't difficult. I first read it when I was probably ten. The idea of him training to guide whole armies in a weightless enviroment stuck with me.
I have read many reviews concerning this novel. It seems people either love or hate it. Some of the complaints are how young the children are, the slang terms they use, that the characters were one dimensional, he is obsessed with a game, that Card doesn't give you enough information to understand what is going on. Personally, I think that these people shouldn't be reading science fiction if they don't want to read about cultures different from theirs. This is a unique world Card creates (and continued to write about in a series of novels). And personally, I think he gives just enough information about the world, and he doesn't give it all away at once, which I think is a characteristic of great writing.
If you are looking for a Utopian book, this is not it. It is full of lies and deceit and unfairmess and fear. But you are right there inside Ender's head as he is going through these trials of character. I am confident that if you read it, you will love Ender too, and you will be surprised by the ending, and it will stick with you too.(less)
Disclaimer: This book is heartbreaking. Do not read it on a happy day, but don't read it on too sad a day either.
First of all, a little background on...moreDisclaimer: This book is heartbreaking. Do not read it on a happy day, but don't read it on too sad a day either.
First of all, a little background on my experience with the book: I was never assigned to read this in school, though somehow, I ended up with a school's copy of the book. Probably one of my friends left it at my house, I'm not sure, but I didn't steal it! Anyway, I discovered that I had the book, and this is pretty much exactly what ran through my head. "Oh, I haven't read that book, ugh, it's a classic, but hey, it's really short, and they teach it in a public high school class (I was in AP and knew WE weren't reading it), I'm gonna read it just to say that I have! (Unfortunately that thought crossed my mind A LOT while skimming library shelves, and has led to a lot of recent rereading and rediscovering)" Anyway, I read it, at breakneck pace, and honestly wondered what the big deal was. Oh how naive I was then...
Of Mice and Men, written by John Steinbeck in 1937, portrays the era picture perfectly. Two men, who contrast beautifully juxtaposed, are traveling together to a job, working on a ranch. The entire book takes place over the course of two days, but doesn't feel rushed. The imagery in the beginning and ending sequences are exquisitely described, and provide a sort of circle around the story.
The characters in this book were men living day to day. They work in the fields, but only when they had to: work a month for fifty dollars, skive off to a pub or hot house until the money is gone, and off to work again. They all dream of bigger things, brighter things, having something of their own, but by circumstance and lifestyle choices, they never do. They follow the same cycle, like it's their nature, but they all hold the dream close, so that they have hope.
Lennie has a mental disability. He has a passion for soft things, and will do about anything to touch, to pet, anything soft to the touch. He is a big man, with a simple thinking mind, and the combination of those three things gets him in nearly constant unintentional trouble.
George is a smart guy, who takes care of Lennie. It is a big responsibility, and like all humans, sometimes doesn't always see the good in what he's doing. Often George rambles on to Lennie about how much easier his life may be without him. Lennie takes it in stride, and says that maybe he'll just run off and live alone then, and let George be, but they never do. George cares too much for Lennie, and Lennie wouldn't know what to do without George.
The writing is excellent. The imagry is what first attracted me, and the characters are so real, you can almost smell the dirt under their fingernails, and see the bent, dirty cards they use to play solitaire in the meager light of the bunk house. Steinbeck's descriptions aren't lengthy, but somehow a combination of all of his techniques pull together an unforgettable image of 1930s field labor men.
This book is only 100 pages long, and deserves to be read at least once. I urge you though, not to whip through it like I did the first time, but to slow down and let Steinbeck tell you the story as he intended it.(less)
**spoiler alert** This novel is my second Hemingway in a row. My edition (pictured) is only about 120 pages long. It is told in simple language, a tra...more**spoiler alert** This novel is my second Hemingway in a row. My edition (pictured) is only about 120 pages long. It is told in simple language, a trademark of Hemingway, about a poor elderly fisherman and his fight to catch the biggest marlin he (or anyone else in his coastal town) had ever seen.
He begins by explaining about the boy who used to come and fish with him, to whom he taught everything he knows. The boy's parents made him fish with someone else though, since the old man had not been catching anything, for quite some time. The old man never gave up though, and was always hopeful that the next day would bring his luck. The boy loved the old man, Santiago, and made sure he always had something to eat, and a blanket to sleep with. The boy felt apprehensive about the old man going out alone the next day, but he went ahead with the boat he'd been going with. Santiago decided that after eighty some odd days he would go out further than he had before, further than anyone else, to see if his luck improved. He was very meticulous about keeping his lines straight and paying strict attention to everything, just in case. Before he knew it, he had a bite, and the fish tugged Santiago and his boat along with him. The old man was happy, but still acted as if he had known what was going to happen. The fish continued to pull along the old man for I believe two days. The old man noted his drop or increase in speed, and other things, such as when he was going to jump, or start circling, or was ascending, all by the pressure and angle of the line. Obviously, the old man was an expert, the reader is left with no doubt. Throughout, the old man is confident in his abilities to capture this fish, and keeps up his nourishment with a tuna, a dolphin, and two flying fish. He is careful to chew completely, so as to gain as many nutrients as he could. He was vigilant about keeping up his strength. Several times, especially near the end, he wishes the boy were there; to help him work, to keep him company, to share in his glory. He is in constant awe of his adversary, and calls him his brother, and is a little sad to have to defeat him, though he shows him great respect, in his thoughts and words. I liked that a lot. During the final battle, he isn't very sure whether he will kill the fish, or the fish will kill him. Knowing Hemingway, I wasn't sure either. I had half a mind that it would all be the dream of the old man as he died. Eventually though, he does kill the fish, and he guides it alongside his boat on his way back home. The fish is obviously pierced though, and sharks come, one after the other, to desecrate the Marlin's body as it sails beside the boat. The old man fights the sharks off as best he can, but each shark gets at least one chunk off of the fish. By the time he is home, he is exhausted and completely depressed. The backbone and tail of the fish are all that is left, and it remains tied to the boat as the old man goes home to sleep. The boy runs to check on him and take care of him. The townsfolk measure the backbone and can't believe how big the fish was that he killed. Eighteen feet long.
As I read I realized that the old man never realized how bad off he was, he was eternally optimistic. He talked to himself all day, but only for company, which was an endearing quality. Santiago and the boy were completely alive for me, as the characters in A Farewell to Arms were. Hemingway had a gift for language, and a way of sneaking up on you. Although the words and sentences were simple, and the story so short, the book still took two days for me to read. I greatly enjoyed the story; there will always be a spot for it in my bookshelves :-)(less)
I found Bossypants much more well-rounded than I expected. I’m not sure why I’m always surprised by the validity of books with cheesy/humorous titles, besides the same reasons other people have for the same thought. I was aware of how popular the book was, which is usually a turn off for me, but by now the hype has died down about it, and it was sitting there so politely on the library shelf on display. The rest, my bookish followers, is history.
The Bossypants audiobook is, as the best ones are, narrated by the author. The book is about 5 ½ hours on 5 discs and includes a PDF file for embarrassing/milestone photographs. One of the best things about this audiobook, that differs from other audiobooks that I’ve read so far, is that Fey recognized her readers as ‘listeners’ and changed some things to be more suited to her audience. Brilliant. She often related that there was a corresponding picture to the anecdote currently being discussed to be found in the PDF, and the original SNL skits are actually played for us to hear in the chapter about Tina’s ‘Sarah Palin days’.
I was surprised at how much I liked Tina Fey. I’d heard of her before, I knew enough about her to know she was on Saturday Night Live (which I’ve only seen skits of on youtube), and to recognize her by sight (she was in Mean Girls, for instance, but did you know she wrote the screenplay too?), but beyond that...clueless. When writing about her life, she made the awkward and light-hearted things laugh out loud funny, but kept the serious things serious, which brought the well-rounded feeling overall. She wrote a lot about growing up and becoming a woman, into her improve days, and how all that has helped her in her life today. The part I enjoyed the most were the bits about her daughter and parenthood (both the funny and serious parts), and I loved how honest she was throughout (no problem spelling that one, by the way!). The book was closed (I don’t consider this a spoiler because it is a memoir after all, and she is a celebrity) by her internal debate on whether or not to have another baby, and how at the end of the day, it was her decision, no matter how many things hung in the balance (possibly the difference between sanity and the alternative).
The only thing I wasn’t so sure about is the title. The book led up to her show, 30 Rock, of which I guess she is ‘The Boss’, but she didn’t necessarily write about being the boss. She did talk about the inner-workings of the TV show a bit, and how she is involved in the many aspects of it….I guess when I think of ‘Boss’, it’s the managing people part of it that I think of. I didn’t really get much of that from the book here, which is not necessarily a bad thing, just something I noticed. And 30 Rock is after all, only a small piece in the book that is Tina Fey’s life.
I would highly recommend this book to everyone, in every walk of life – after all, who doesn’t need a good laugh? This book was energetic and refreshing and a joy to read.
Lysistrata is an example of a timeless piece of work, been written and performed before the time of Christ, it still resonates with us today. It is a...moreLysistrata is an example of a timeless piece of work, been written and performed before the time of Christ, it still resonates with us today. It is a Classical Greek Comedy, set during the Peloponnesian War (civil war between Athens and Sparta which lasted from 431 BC to 404 - 27 years). At the start of the play, the women had been suffering the absence of their husbands for years. One woman, Lysistrata, thinks she knows a way to end the war, and calls a meeting at the Acropolis to discuss her tactics.
Lysistrata is hesitant at first to reveal her strategy to end the war, as it would prove a difficult trial for both the women and their husbands. Her plan is to lock themselves into the Acropolis to ensure the celibacy of the women, wives of soldiers and powerful men. Hilarity ensues as the play unfolds - some women try to sneak out of the meeting, making up ridiculous excuses, to which Lysistrata is not fooled. As time passes in the play the men becoming increasingly sex starved (not to mention the women), are all walking around with massive erections by the end of the play, begging for a resolution.
Many critics have dismissed this play because of it's phallic nature, but you can't deny the themes we can still sympathize with today. I don't know of how many jokes I've heard on movies and television of women trying to manipulate men in the same ways described in this play. Thought the concept of this play is humorous on the surface, Lysistrata's motivations were pure. She and her comrades were quickly aging while their husbands were away, dwindling down their child bearing years, for what? In one line, Lysistrata is arguing with the magistrate about the issue. She offers that while the men also age, coming back with heads of grey hair, they are still able to take a young ripe wife if he so chooses, while women only have so many fertile years to bear before 'shriveling' up.
It is for these timeless themes that I believe Lysistrata has endured the centuries, and will continute to resonate with readers for many to come. Before Dean's review video popped up on my youtube feed, I had never heard of this play, so thanks Dean! I look forward to reading and reviewing many more plays, and also some more ancient greek stuff, which I always enjoy :-)
If you'd like an extremely quick and hilarious summary of this story, click here!
Haven't read this book, but I saw the T.V. special in my cultural anthropology class, and it blew me away. Loved it. Wrote several essays on it afterw...moreHaven't read this book, but I saw the T.V. special in my cultural anthropology class, and it blew me away. Loved it. Wrote several essays on it afterward :)(less)
Middlesex: A word children might snicker in whispers to their friends before (and during) puberty; a word that may make adults feel uncomfortable, che...moreMiddlesex: A word children might snicker in whispers to their friends before (and during) puberty; a word that may make adults feel uncomfortable, checking the reaction of their company as they laugh awkwardly; and sometimes, a name. In the case of this book, by Jeffrey Eugenides, the name of the street in a suburb of Detroit the narrator grew up in. I had no idea what to expect picking up this book, except so many people insisted on its greatness, while mumbling something general about hermaphrodite-ism; and you know what folks? It is that good. That is my testament.
This book is so much more than a coming of age story. It traces a mutated gene back through a family, and explains in beautiful detail how it is that our narrator came into being. I’ve never read something quite like it. This book offers a way of thinking, looking beyond face value. History unfolds itself on the pages, and we catch a glimpse into the changing world around the characters as we read. We see a glance of an ancient and changing city of Bursa, and Smyrna near the Aegean Sea. Then we are taken across the sea and introduced to the havoc of Ellis Island as an immigrant, and to old town Detroit (just as the automobile is becoming assembly line assembled), where we experience the race riots and speakeasys and the smuggling of alcohol across the Canadian border during the prohibition. None of those things would have seemed mildly interesting to me two weeks ago (actually they still don't seem all that interesting), but as I read about them through the pages of Eugenides' story-telling, I was entranced. The man has a way with words.
Here is something I don’t normally do, but I’d like to discuss the cover. As pictured above, working your way down, you see a steamer ship sailing across the blackness of the cover, and as a transition, smoke. Smoke swirls surround the edges of the book, across the spine, and spills onto the back. The smoke comes from the stacks on the steamer. Below the title and author credit are two figures, lazing and smoking a cigarette. The smoke comes from the end of the cigarette. Further down still, is a cityscape. The smoke comes from the tops of the buildings. On the back is a spoon , hanging down from the top edge. All of these things seemed absolutely random to me before I read the story, but they miraculously weaved themselves together with meaning. It even makes sense the smoke swirling between them all. Let me explain:
The steamer brings across Cal's grandparents, when they fled from Greece/Turkey to America (the beginning of our story)...Detroit, specifically, the industrial city in the bottom corner. This is where Calliope meets Obscure Object (freckled female), her/his first love (OO is the smoker!). The spoon on the back is not a symbol, but is what Calliope's grandmother, Desdemona had used for years to predict the sex of babies before they were born (she called Callie a boy, and thought she was wrong for the first time ever...turns out, not so much). The wisps surrounding everything represent a fog that Calliope is enveloped in for much of her young life. This is not dissimilar to what everyone feels as they grow up. Why am I getting taller than everyone around me? Why have my feet stopped growing? Why doesn't he/she like me? And the thought I guarantee every human alive has thought: Am I/is this normal? In most cases, the answer is yes, yes you are normal, but for Calliope, a young girl who still hadn't gotten her period or developed breasts whatsoever at fourteen, turned out to be quite extraordinary. But that fog-the fog of uncertainty-the fog of self-discovery-the fog that moves in over the past-the fog envelopes the story. What a perfect symbol for this story.
Obviously, I was impressed. Jeffrey Eugenides also wrote The Virgin Suicides in 1993 (which I haven't read, but believe a motion picture was created about it), which was his first novel. Middlesex was published in 2002 as his second. This alone increases my respect for the man as a writer. Sometimes that is how long it takes to create a work of art. (Please don't get me started on serial novelists who publish a book a year). Anyway, in my opinion, Jeffrey Eugenides is the real deal guys. Read it. Love it. See you next time.
Note to anyone else who has read this: What is the deal with Cal's brother being named Chapter Eleven? I kept thinking it was going to be explained somewhere in the story, but it never was. Must have been his real name. What did you guys think of that?
Also, without me knowing beforehand, this book ties in about perfectly with my Greek obsession right now. Fate.(less)
I've been putting this review off, because I'm not sure I can do the book justice. Nothing will compare to reading it and discovering the magic of it...moreI've been putting this review off, because I'm not sure I can do the book justice. Nothing will compare to reading it and discovering the magic of it yourself. I'll try anyway...
As Americans, lessons of slavery, segregation, the Great Depression, and the justice system have been in the curriculum every year (in some form or another) of our education. We learned about slave ships, separate white & black drinking fountains, and Rosa Parks, soup kitchens, southern cotton pickin’, and the civil war; but after all, they were only school lessons. We had drooping eyelids, cramps, and boy problems, we were passing notes, doodling, and making jokes. We knew it had happened, but the people, they weren’t real to us, the places far away (in time and geographically). This is one of the reasons I love literature; transports us into other times, into lives and civilities of the past. To Kill A Mockingbird is a great example of this credo.
To Kill A Mockingbird is told through the eyes of a child, Scout Finch. She looks up to her brother, Jem, more than anyone in the world, while her father the lawyer, Atticus Finch, comes in a close second. They live in a close-knit southern community where everyone knows everyone's business. It is a slow, rather passionate time. The novel is a memory of Scout's, revealed to us through a series of summers, until finally wrapping up in a most unexpected way.
Harper Lee created a beautifully layered book. On the one hand, it is a story of the innocence and whimsey of being a child in the summertime: spending every day with the same few pals, believing legends and expanding them into your own run-wild imaginations, ice cold lemonade, and books of adventure. This aspect of the story reminds me so much of my own childhood, growing up with two brothers and a neigborhood full of children our age; very much like Lord of the Flies, we create a mini-society on our own. Nothing can compare to those experiences anywhere for rest of your life, but reading this book awakens those memories so deeply and happily engrained into your being, and lets you accept, and even adore, a juvinille narrator.
As the book progresses, the innocence fades, if only a bit by little bit, and we are introduced to the 'adult' concernes that surround the children. Scout and Jem's father, Atticus (how many people or pets in the world do you think have been named after Atticus Finch? I know two.), is asked to take a legal case that is causing an uproar within the community. He knows, and even explains to his children, that he would simply not be able to live with himself if he did not accept the case. It's a morally and emotionally trying situation for the whole town; everyone feels the overtone of darkness hovering them, surrounding and suffocating, and it brings out the worst in some. Throughout the duration of the case and trial, the Finch children are awakened to the world of adults, lies, senseless hatred, and justice - and through their eyes, we are able look upon these social and political situations with new eyes, the eyes of the child that still lives within each and every one of us. Every American must read this book. It is drenched in our history as a nation, and as a people. It's books like these, that have the power to change the world.(less)