Saturday, July 21, 2012

Book to Movie: The Secret Life of Bees

This is the first book to movie review here at The Readable Kingdom, and it surely will not be our last! Before I get to the goods, if you haven't read The Secret Life of Bees, be sure to check out my review of it here. Justine, a fellow blogger for The Readable Kingdom, just so happened to point me in the right direction with the movie! She's essentially the pop culture diva in the group and I trusted her solid recommendation of The Secret Life of Bees. I'm going to break the movie down into a few portions. My first portion being the casting.

The casting:
Lily Owens- Dakota Fanning
August Boatwright- Queen Latifah
Rosaleen Daise- Jennifer Hudson
June Boatwright- Alicia Keys
May Boatwright- Sophie Okonedo
T. Ray Owens- Paul Bettany

I'm sure most of you are familiar with Dakota Fanning. I remember her in Uptown Girls when she was super young. I was so so surprised with Fanning's performance in the movie. She truly held her own. The raw emotion she portrayed as Lily was phenomenal. It was believable and compassionate. Moving on to some other big name actresses we have Queen Latifah, which to be completely honest, I did not picture August like that at all. Queen Latifah definitely does have those soft and gentle facial features, but there was just something about her that seemed a little off. Then there's two stars who are more famously known for their musical encounters, Jennifer Hudson and Alicia Keys. I had my doubts about these two, mainly because their main focus is music and it bothers me how a lot of people who have money forge their way into the acting world, however, Alicia Keys played a perfect June with a tough exterior that could somehow be broken down by the marvelous and caring Neil while Jennifer Hudson managed to pull off Rosaleen as a mother figure to Lily. As for the other actors/actresses that were not big names, I have to say they were awesome as well! Sophie Okonedo captures May perfectly with her genuine sense of caring and the darkness behind her past and the wailing wall. The casting overall was great, which can be tricky for book to movie adaptations.

Next I would like to move on to the plot. Being a hardcore follower of the plot I was pretty happy about how the story flowed together. For the most part the movie followed the plot quite well, although I was a little disappointed in a few things, like the ending for example. At the end I definitely was hoping for something a little altered than what the movie had to offer. Don't get me wrong, the ending was good, but I can get pretty picky about these sorts of small changes. I wish I could mention the parts that I wish were different, but I really don't want to spoil it for people who haven't read the book yet!

Other factors that added to the movie was the music, which was a mix of beautiful guitar/piano instrumentation/other great artists featured, and also the lovely setting. I thought it was incredibly awesome getting to actually see August, Lily, and Zach interact with each other out with the honey bees. The whole process of making the honey is so intricate and interesting to me so I definitely liked seeing that come to life.

Overall, The Secret Life of Bees was a fantastic movie, besides a few minor glitches, I found it was a pleasure to watch. Lastly, I would like to mention that while it was a terrific movie, for some reason I found it to be too short. I sort of wished that it lasted longer, maybe to go more into detail about each of the sister's lives or focus on the honey making process even more. As the credits rolled I thought it went by too quick. Again, it's a great movie, but I found it to be a little short. I think if you're a fan of the book you should absolutely check the movie out and I also think that anyone who even hasn't read the book should check the movie out! It's a movie for all ages, so it could make for a great family time watch.

Rating: 3 1/2 stars - I really liked it. Worth renting.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
Random House, 464 pages
ARC courtesy of Random Buzzers

"Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty's anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high. Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen's Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life. In her exquisitely written fantasy debut, Rachel Hartman creates a rich, complex, and utterly original world. Seraphina's tortuous journey to self-acceptance is one readers will remember long after they've turned the final page."

When I first heard about Seraphina, I knew it was book that I had to get my hands on. Some of my favorite authors of all time were recommending the book: Christopher Paolini, Alison Goodman, and, even though I haven't read any of her books (Yet! I just know I'll love them. :D), Tamora Pierce. Needless to say, if you are a fan of any of these authors, you definitely want to read Seraphina. And may I also add in Kristin Cashore? I would say that this book reminded me a lot of her style as well, and every single one of her books have always ended up on my favorites list.

All in all, Seraphina is a fantastic read. I will certainly be keeping my eye out for a sequel (There IS going to be one, right?!). At the beginning of the book, I will admit that I was a bit bowled over with all the new terminology while trying to grasp the setting, character relationships, and the new concept of dragons. It can be a bit overwhelming, but after about fifty pages or so, you begin to understand a bit more of what is going on. With any fantasy novel comes this transition... if it is going to be a really good book, the world building is essential as it needs to convince you of the setting of the story, which Rachel Hartman accomplishes with ease. I believed the setting and thought it beautiful and intricate instead of simple and dull which is what sometimes happens with some lazy authors.

What I thought was so strange about this book was that I don't like love stories to be front and center in my fantasy novels. I like more of the action and political intrigue (Which I assure you there is plenty of!) to be the focus with maybe a small side love interest that is only mildly important to the plot. But Seraphina does both... action, political intrigue, and love all share equally important parts of the plot. Seraphina's personal love story is not the main one, but it is still important to her character development. It is really about dragons trying to cope with the human emotions while they are in human form; they don't understand love, guilt, empathy, or anything of the like, and they tend not to welcome these feelings. This is partly why tensions tend to be high between dragons and humans; they wish to distance themselves from human emotions.

Seraphina is a strong female character that I love to read about. She values her mind and independence, and I simply want to stand up and cheer whenever I find a young female character like that. And I love Kiggs as well as he tends to treat Seraphina and his cousin Princess Glisselda with respect and values their ideas, regardless of them being women. Simply put, the characters were a joy to interact with. They are smart, witty, funny, and lively, and I can't say that any of them in the book are expendable in the least. They are all important to the plot (while some obviously more than others), and the book wouldn't be the same without any of them.

Seraphina is a great start to what seems to be an epic storyline. I can't wait to read more about all of the characters' adventures! (Rachel Hartman, there better be another book!!! :D)

Rating: 5 stars - I loved it! Buy a copy!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare

City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare
Margaret K. McElderry Books, 544 pages

"Can the lost be reclaimed? What price is too high to pay for love? Who can be trusted when sin and salvation collide? Love. Blood. Betrayal. Revenge. Darkness threatens to claim the Shadowhunters in the harrowing fifth book of the Mortal Instruments series."

This is the fifth book in The Mortal Instruments series so I highly advise leaving this review if you haven't read up to City of Fallen Angels. I will admit that after reading the first three books I was so smitten with the series. Cassandra Clare has a way of developing this spectacular world in the middle of New York City with characters full of life. But I will also admit that after I heard Cassandra Clare was creating three more books to make six in total, I was a little disappointed. Mostly, because I loved how everything came together at the end of City of Glass and also because I wanted it to stay that way. Don't get me wrong, I adore Jace, but I was just getting sort of annoyed with how he was dealing with Clary. City of Lost Souls was difficult for me to finish because I just could not get so enveloped in the plot like I usually do with Clare's lovely novels. I didn't find it was terrible, I did enjoy it, but I just expected something better and also, not so long.

The plot starts to get interesting when Jace is missing, and he is missing with none other than Sebastian. We all know how evil Sebastian is, so this stirs quite the passion within Clary because she has to get Jace back. Naturally, of course. The only problem? If you kill Sebastian, you kill Jace. Somehow they are linked together and it's quite the mystery. Everyone is set off to help save Jace: Alec, Magnus, Isabelle, Simon, and Clary, obviously. Clary is just as reckless as she's been before. Her bravery truly does shine throughout the novel and the lengths she is willing to go to so she can save Jace. Alec and Magnus are tied to each other, but Magnus's immortality stirs up a few troubles within their relationship. Simon will basically never get over Clary, which is what I've always found a little irritating, but he's falling a bit for Isabelle too. Isabelle is good for Simon and vice versa. I was also glad to see that Simon had some character development. He seems to discover more courage as the novel reaches its climax. Jace can be hard to read at times, but he's still his same snarky self. The scenes where Jace and Clary are together were probably my favorite scenes and the ones I would look forward to most.

Clare always has one main conflict and drive for her characters, but then she also always has lots of little side plots going on. She does do a fantastic job at switching the scenes, pacing the reader so they'll have to read to the next chapter or snippet to find out how the problems will get resolved. That much I did like. But the part that I didn't like was that I wanted more of the real Jace. I know I'm not the first to say this, so don't get mad at me, but I do not like Simon. I don't want to be rude about it, but I sort of don't care so much about his personal life and the extents of it, however we get to hear from Simon's sister, Becky, and there is definitely more of the focus on Simon throughout the novel. I know Simon has always been there for Clary, but there comes a time when everyone just moves on. I was hoping that would happen a lot sooner.

The writing is detailed, as always, with Clare's books. I could picture every scene in my head with ease. At times she does get a little carried away, but it didn't bother me really. It's nice to see her writing improve throughout each book.

Overall, I did not love City of Lost Souls like I had hoped I would. I adore the characters wholeheartedly, but the plot twist sort of got annoying. I think this is due to the fact that this is the fifth book and after book three I started to lose interest. If you're a die-hard fan of The Mortal Instruments series or Cassandra Clare, I say read it, but if you weren't that intrigued by City of Fallen Angels, I say pass.

Rating: 3 stars - I liked it. Worth borrowing.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Happy Book Birthday, Seraphina!

It's finally here! Today is the release date for Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, as well as Rachel Hartman's birthday! We can't think of a better birthday present for an author. As I am currently reading reading Seraphina, I can vouch for the awesomeness of the story. If you need to something to push you over the edge and convince you to pick up this book, look no further! Check out the book trailer below:

If that makes you super excited to read the book, check out our book giveaway here!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
Penguin Books, 336 pages

"Set in South Carolina in 1964, The Secret Life of Bees tells the story of Lily Owens, whose life has been shaped around the blurred memory of the afternoon her mother was killed. When Lily's fierce hearted black "stand-in mother," Rosaleen, insults three of the deepest racists in town, Lily decides to spring them both free."

I picked up The Secret Life of Bees on a complete whim. I was doing my usual browsing at Barnes and Noble and came across a copy, recognizing the title's name. I didn't know what it was about, so I went into reading with an open mind. This novel was an absolute pleasure. It's one of those books that has this marvelous story worth telling and as soon as you consume that last page you want to share it with everyone you know. I highly recommend it (in case you didn't already catch onto that).

The setting is in South Carolina in 1964 and the main character is Lily Owens. Lily Owens is a fourteen-year-old girl living with her abusive father, T. Ray. Her mother died when she was only four and she's still trying to unravel how her death even came about. All she remembers are bits and pieces and most of the novel revolves around Lily recollecting these memories to make one panned out puzzle in full view. Lily and T.Ray have a housemaid, Rosaleen, who more or less is Lily's mother figure. One day Rosaleen goes into town to vote, but being an African American woman in that time period she is denied her right, wherein she is ridiculed and then spits on some men's shoes which lands her in jail. Somehow Lily comes to the rescue and sneaks Rosaleen out of jail, but they don't know where to escape to. Lily's plan is to find a place called Tiburon, which was written on the back of a picture Lily found from her mother's old things. This is when the story truly begins and we're introduced to the three Boatwright sisters who are beekeepers for a living. Rosaleen and Lily are then taken under their wing.

Each of the characters are unique and have a past of their own. I feel as if Sue Monk Kidd did a terrific job embossing each character with their set of specific traits and there was no lack in depth. One of my favorite characters was definitely August. August is patient, compassionate, and inviting in every way. She always knows the right thing to say and how to say it. She is the main beekeeper and definitely wise. Naturally, I loved Lily as well. Although for a majority of the novel she is lying to the Boatwright sisters, Lily is searching for the closure she so desperately craves about her mother.

Kidd has a way with words that makes writing look like you could do it in your sleep. It was more than beautiful writing with effortless prose and descriptions. The imagery was absolutely delightful and she managed to capture the essence of the story perfectly with her writing. It was simple, yet extravagent at the same time, which probably seems like an oxymoron, but trust me, it's a paradox.

The plot flowed as smooth as the honey August and her sisters make! It's not an incredibly long novel to begin with, but it was simply a joy to read. Especially towards the end when the mysteries behind Lily's mother are finally being uncovered. But I also loved the pacing because we learned more and more about each of the sister's history. Like with May and her wailing wall and June with her bitter exterior.

If you've ever once thought about reading The Secret Life of Bees I highly highly recommend you go for it! Also, if you haven't heard about The Secret Life of Bees then I suggest you get your butt to the library or nearest book store and get yourself a copy. I found it was a beautiful novel that was also perfect for the summer since it was set in the summer with an uplifting ending.

Rating: 4 stars - I really liked it. Worth buying.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare

Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare
Simon & Schuster, 528 pages

"In the magical underworld of Victorian London, Tessa Gray has at last found safety with the Shadowhunters. But that safety proves fleeting when rogue forces in the Clave plot to see her protector, Charlotte, replaced as head of the Institute. If Charlotte loses her position, Tessa will be out on the street—and easy prey for the mysterious Magister, who wants to use Tessa’s powers for his own dark ends. With the help of the handsome, self-destructive Will and the fiercely devoted Jem, Tessa discovers that the Magister’s war on the Shadowhunters is deeply personal. He blames them for a long-ago tragedy that shattered his life. To unravel the secrets of the past, the trio journeys from mist-shrouded Yorkshire to a manor house that holds untold horrors, from the slums of London to an enchanted ballroom where Tessa discovers that the truth of her parentage is more sinister than she had imagined. When they encounter a clockwork demon bearing a warning for Will, they realize that the Magister himself knows their every move—and that one of their own has betrayed them. Tessa finds her heart drawn more and more to Jem, though her longing for Will, despite his dark moods, continues to unsettle her. But something is changing in Will—the wall he has built around himself is crumbling. Could finding the Magister free Will from his secrets and give Tessa the answers about who she is and what she was born to do?"

I read the first book of the Infernal Devices back in the summer of 2011 and I absolutely loved it! My friend and fellow blog correspondent, Emily, and I constantly read historical fiction and adore the genre. So, the fact that Cassandra Clare had published a book based in the Shadowhunter's world in London, England during the 19th century was so exciting! We were more than thrilled to get our hands on the second book of this series because we loved Clockwork Angel so much. I will tell you straight up: this book was even better than the first, which was a lot to measure up to, considering I adore Clockwork Angel!

Let me first address the issue at hand that every girl should have when reading this series: Who do you love more, Will or Jem????!!!!! After reading Clockwork Angel, I couldn't choose which male character I loved more. I mean, there's Edward or Jacob, Gale or Peeta, and Jace or Simon (even though there's not much of a competition in the last example!) And, again, after reading Clockwork Prince, I still can't make up my mind if I am on Team Will or Team Jem!!! It is actually harder to choose now that I have read this book!!!! FWI women, you will be even more confused than before. Both Will and Jem are at their best in this book. Will makes plot-altering discoveries about himself and Jem continues to struggle and embrace his disease. I LOVE THESE MEN! (Can't you tell???!!)

The storyline in this book is another reason why I continue to love Cassandra Clare's books (even though I wish the Mortal Instruments would have ended by now). She has such an effortless and beautiful way in which she weaves the plots and characters' circumstances together. What's usually most important to me in a book is the way the characters who are romantically entangled act together. When I read a book, I often see the events playing out like a movie in my head and Ms. Clare's crafting of images helps me to do this even more. Tessa, Will, and Jem all have relationships that are crafted to dramatic perfection. I found at times saddened and even tearful for these characters in love. That is what makes a great book for me: the author's ability to affect the reader's emotions.

The action in this book is breathtaking and up to par with any other Cassandra Clare book. The sub characters also develop more throughout the book, particularly Henry and Charlotte. The twists and turns of the book will shock audiences and keep a reader on his or her toes! I can hardly wait for Clockwork Princess to make its entrance into the literary world!

Rating: 5 stars - I loved it! Buy a copy!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Book Giveaway! Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

It's about time that us at The Readable Kingdom host another book giveaway. And for you fantasy lovers out there, you should be extremely excited! This time around we are giving away an Advanced Reader's Copy of Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, courtesy of Random Buzzers. Below is a synopsis:

"Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty's anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high. Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen's Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life. In her exquisitely written fantasy debut, Rachel Hartman creates a rich, complex, and utterly original world. Seraphina's tortuous journey to self-acceptance is one readers will remember long after they've turned the final page."

How many of you are almost bursting at the seams with excitement like me?! It sounds like to me if you are a fan of Kristin Cashore, Tamora Pierce, or Christopher Paolini, this book is a must-read! Now, I must get back to my reading....

Entering to win is easy! All you need to do is comment on this post and become a follower of our blog (NOT by e-mail! You need to become an actual follower where you will show up on the right side of the page. If you don't do that, we can't tell if you actually are a follower, and it is how we will contact you if you win. By all means though, also follow us by e-mail if you so desire!).

This contest will end on Friday, July 20, 2012. The winner be announced the following day, and their book will shipped out within the week. Good luck! Note: Winner must live in the U.S. or Canada.

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
HarperCollins, 480 pages

"Samantha Kingston experiences her last day on Earth 7 times. She gets to relive the day of her death multiple times trying to discover what happened and trying to make things right before she dies."

Prior to reading Before I Fall, I had read Delirium by Lauren Oliver which is a wonderful dystopian novel that I recommend to those interested in a romance/dystopian book. So, I was expecting to be blown away with this book, but unfortunately this was not the case. I'm not going to say I hated it, but I cannot say I loved it all that much either. It was a book that irritated me, but I also am finding this was probably the author's intentions.

Right off the bat we meet Sam Kingston and her group of superficial, popular, party-going friends. The main reason I found this book irritating was that the characters were annoying in the fact that they were so superficial and "popular." Lindsey is sort of the ring leader of the group and the most obnoxious out of their friendship circle, which is quite exclusive, mind you. The plot of the book centers around Sam's death which she's trying to unravel herself. At the beginning she is just like her friends, Lindsay, Elodie, and Ally. They are mean girls, which inherently reminds me of the movie "Mean Girls" starring Lindsay Lohan. These are girls I would not like to be friends with, girls who are cruel and cruel simply because they can be, because of their status. Sam seems to have anything she could ever want, including a so-called "amazing" boyfriend, Rob. Rob is a complete loser to be honest who seems to only be sticking around because he want's to "get some" to put it bluntly. Again, a majority of these characters are very unlikeable as they start out. Although, the one character I did genuinely like from the beginning was Kent. Kent seemingly has this adorable crush on Sam, mainly because of their friendship that traces way back to the third grade. He's funny, caring, and overall a super sweet kind of guy. As Sam continues to relive the day leading up to her death, she starts to become more conscious of her lifestyle and the main theme in Before I Fall is definitely redemption. Redemption is usually the main theme of many novels and movies as well, but even more so because Sam is not only affecting herself, but she is also affecting those around her. This theme is more than relatable because who doesn't want to be redeemed?

As I was reading through the first day that Sam was reliving, I was thinking to myself, "Wonderful, I get to relive this stupid Valentine Day card handout and a party seven times, hoo-ray!" But thankfully as each day progressed Sam learned mistake by mistake and how to fix things. The first few days I wasn't too into, mainly because the plot wasn't changing as much and fast as I wanted it to. The pacing was a little off in that respect. After those few days and a sort of epiphany hit Sam that her friends were the main problem and that she herself, only added to it, the book started to improve for me. I understand that books aren't created with likable characters, I completely get that, it was the ending that sort of annoyed me in a way too though.

Lauren Oliver, however, is a marvelous writer! She certainly does a terrific job getting into the mind of a "popular" superficial girl and her daily life. The descriptions were detailed and I could basically picture everything happening quite clearly. So, if anything, her writing was great. And I'm not saying it was a terrible book, I just couldn't get as into it as much I had anticipated.

The plot seems repetitive as it starts out, obviously due to the fact that Sam is reliving the same day seven times in a row. But it does take an interesting turn when we find out more about the side characters like Kent and also Juliet Sykes - this apparent "psycho" (who actually is anything but) girl who used to be best friends with Lindsay. I did like watching the side stories unravel and learning more and more about the characters who were a lot more complex than I initially found them to be.

Overall, my opinion of Before I Fall is a bit hard to decipher. I mainly had issues with the book because the characters annoyed me so much that I didn't care what happened to them, and the plot is a bit repetitive in the beginning. But once you read through the entire book, I can see why the characters started out where they did, and same goes for the plot. If you're an absolute fan of Lauren Oliver or an even bigger fan of contemporary fiction, I say read Before I Fall. But if you're like me and get irritated by characters easily, you may want to pass it up. I've heard rave reviews about this novel, so it may just be a personal preference on my part, so don't let my views keep you from reading it.

Rating: 2 stars - I didn't like it. Barely worth borrowing. 

The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
Speak, 288 pages

"Lennie plays second clarinet in the school orchestra and has always happily been second fiddle to her charismatic older sister, Bailey. Then Bailey dies suddenly, and Lennie is left at sea without her anchor. Overcome by emotion, Lennie soon finds herself torn between two boys: Bailey's boyfriend, Toby, and Joe, the charming and musically gifted new boy in town.  While Toby can't see her without seeing Bailey and Joe sees her only for herself, each offers Lennie something she desperately needs. But ultimately, it's up to Lennie to find her own way toward what she really needs-without Bailey."

This book, similar to Jellicoe Road, is very, and I repeat, very underrrated. I don't even know how I came upon it, but I have a soft spot for contemporary novels and The Sky Is Everywhere exceeds all the expectations I had for it. It was a beautifully crafted story with lovely writing, lovely characters, and a lovely plot. I really feel as if I cannot say enough nice things about this book and people need to hear more about it because it's far too under the radar!

The plot takes off at a very dark place. Lennie (short for her real name, Lennon- and yes, she was named after the famous John Lennon) is grieving over the loss of her older sister Bailey. Bailey died from a fatal arrhythmia (basically an irregular heartbeat) practicing for her role in Romeo and Juliet. Her death was sudden and completely out of nowhere and Lennie struggles with coping. Bailey has always been the "brighter" sister in Lennie's eyes: very outgoing, animated, and full of life. While Lennie remains the geeky, but talented clarinetist. Not to mention, when you add to the mix that her mother is missing from the family and Lennie is living with her Gram- gardener extraordinaire, and her Uncle Big- the pot smoking, caring arborist. Things start to get complicated when one night Toby, Bailey's boyfriend, shows up at Lennie's window and they share a very intimate moment together resulting in a kiss or two. Not only is Lennie confused, but she is also morbidly ashamed that she is getting involved with her dead sister's boyfriend. The main reason Toby and Lennie have this connection is because of Bailey; they are both in this messy state of sadness and understand exactly what each other are feeling. But this doesn't make for a healthy recovery dealing with the grief over Bailey's death. It only adds to another complication as Lennie finally goes back to school after four weeks and meets the new absolutely gorgeous trumpet player, Joe Fontaine. Joe Fontaine was born in California, but raised in Paris, France, and is a fabulous not only trumpet, but guitar player as well. He's basically the entire package, as far as guys go. When Lennie suddenly finds herself involved with both Toby and Joe is when things start to get super complicated and a bit reckless.

I absolutely loved all of the characters in the novel. The fact that the story centers around Lennie's grief over her sister and the mystery behind her mother was something I can relate to myself. Everyone has gone through grief at one point or another in their life; grief can result from many things. Each of the characters had their own quirks and that was why I greatly enjoyed reading this book. I got to connect on a more intimate level with more than just Lennie. I learned about Toby and the extent of his sadness, Gram's protectiveness over her roses, Big's fifth divorce, Sarah (Lennie's friend), and Joe Fontaine and his other brothers. All of which I had come to adore and admire as if they were my own friends and family.

I took note of the beautiful and effortless writing within the first chapter of the novel. I also found out after reading the book, that Nelson herself is a published poet. I can definitely see this in her gorgeous writing. I also liked that Lennie was a poet herself. Everywhere she went she wrote these poems about Bailey and her family and her life on the backs of candy wrappers, the trunk of a tree, and all over the room Bailey and Lennie used to share. It was very refreshing the way Lennie's poems were incorporated into the story. It made it feel more personal in a way.

The plot was smooth and intricate. I loved how everything weaved together in the end. I've never been a big fan of love triangles, but for some reason this love triangle made sense. It wasn't like in paranormal books where two gorgeous guys are head over heels for this ordinary girl, it was a lot different, and I mean A LOT. It isn't completely irrational for Toby to want to be close to Lennie, I mean, she is Bailey's sister, she's the closest thing he's got to Bailey. Also, both Lennie and Toby are dealing with the same sense of utter out of control sadness and are simply trying to cope and understand each other in a way others didn't. The plot had me laughing, but also crying. It truly is a remarkable story.

If you happen to come upon a copy of The Sky is Everywhere keep it close to you and please, PLEASE read it! It's a wonderful, heart-breaking, gorgeous story that will make you feel things you never imagined words could make you feel.

Rating: 5 stars - I loved it! Buy a copy!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Scribner, 180 pages

"In 1922, F. Scott Fitzgerald announced his decision to write "something new--something extraordinary and beautiful and simple + intricately patterned." That extraordinary, beautiful, intricately patterned, and above all, simple novel became The Great Gatsby, arguably Fitzgerald's finest work and certainly the book for which he is best known. A portrait of the Jazz Age in all of its decadence and excess, Gatsby captured the spirit of the author's generation and earned itself a permanent place in American mythology. Self-made, self-invented millionaire Jay Gatsby embodies some of Fitzgerald's--and his country's--most abiding obsessions: money, ambition, greed, and the promise of new beginnings. "Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter--tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther.... And one fine morning--" Gatsby's rise to glory and eventual fall from grace becomes a kind of cautionary tale about the American Dream."

I planned on reading this book ages ago, but held off on it because one of my elective classes I was taking in school ensured me that we would get to it. Unfortunately, there just wasn't enough time and room in the curriculum so I never got the chance to read it. Thank goodness my copy was just lingering, sitting on my night stand urging me to open the novel and read on! I was pleasantly surprised with The Great Gatsby. I found it to be an amazing novel, especially for a classic. I wouldn't recommend this book to just anyone though, mostly to those fellow book enthusiasts who treasure the words and the pages. Overall, The Great Gatsby was terrific!

At the very beginning of the novel we are introduced to the main character, Nick Carraway. Nick Carraway is currently living on Long Island in West Egg, NY. On the other side of Long Island is East Egg, NY where more of the richer subside. Nick is looking for work in the bonds business and lives opposite to his cousin Daisy of whom lives in East Egg. Nick is probably one of the most honest characters in the book because the majority of the others such as Tom Buchanan and Mr. Jay Gatsby himself are very hollow people. And by hollow, I mean mostly superficial chasing after money and status. These hollow personas are usually what turn a lot of people off to The Great Gatsby. I've heard quite a few complaints about well, who would want to read about lavish lifestyles, constant parties, and those pursuing people of whom they don't genuinely love? The point of The Great Gatsby isn't simply about those things; it runs a lot deeper and is why it is such a classic in time. Gatsby as a character remains quite a mystery for most of the novel. We actually aren't even introduced to him until Nick meets him at one of his extravagant parties. Most of the people who attend Gatsby's parties don't even know who Gatsby is himself or how he acquired his fortunes or even what his history is. I thought this aspect added to the plot of the novel because throughout reading I kept questioning to myself who the real "Gatsby" was. Again, with the hollow characters, we have Daisy and Tom Buchanan. Tom is having an affair with a woman named Myrtle, while Daisy finds her connection to Gatsby and that's where things start to get interesting. Gatsby has this idea of Daisy because of their relationship they've had in the past and it brings up a bigger concept behind loving someone versus loving the idea of someone. I'm not going to say I loved all the characters because most of their ideals were very immoral counter to what I believe in, but I thought Gatsby was a cool character and Nick also, although he manages to get involved with some people he probably shouldn't.

The symbolism in this novel, where to even start! First off, we have the green light which is on Daisy's dock across the bay where she lives in East Egg. This is what Gatsby is forever peering out at, representing his longing for her. There is also the Valley of Ashes where Myrtle Wilson lives. It definitely isn't a pretty sight there and shows how all Americans are searching for that "Great American Dream." The symbolism goes on and on really so I'm not going cover all of it. I'm sure you could spend days and days breaking apart the chapters because there's lots of it in there!

When talking about classics, the writing is a huge factor into what makes it so timeless. F. Scott Fitzgerald has some very beautiful writing that you could probably recognize anywhere. One quote that really made me think was when Daisy was talking about hoping for a little girl.

"I hope she'll be a fool - that's the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool."

This truly demonstrates the kind of hollow characters that were in The Great Gatsby. Fitzgerald's writing never waivers and is strong throughout with a broad vocabulary and lots of imagery and metaphors.

The plot in the novel actually surprised me more than I thought. I guess I really hadn't a clue what I was in for considering prior to reading the book all I knew was the time period it was set in, during the roaring twenties. But it's a lot more complex than one would think and after reading the book I kept on analyzing how the ending came about and how character's continued to lead their lives. The ending was spectacular and that's all I can say because I don't want to give anything away, of course!

If you're looking for a short classic, I say go for The Great Gatsby. It really is a marvelous novel that analyzes the way hollow people live their hollow lives. I also like how you can read it and take what you will from it. Sure, there are plenty of messages, but they aren't forced upon you, only encouraged. This is definitely a great classic to start with if you're trying to branch out and read some more classic novels. Just make sure that before reading you're aware that the characters are not necessarily there to be adored and simply eat the novel with an open mind!

Rating: 4 stars - I really liked it. Worth buying.