Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Well, honesty time. I am addicted to YouTube. And I don’t mean I just get on and watch funny videos of dogs skateboarding, I mean that I subscribe to people who make videos and get upset if I miss a video from my favorite subscription. I wouldn’t worry about it; it’s a pretty healthy addiction. I mean, it’s not crack right?

Anyway, one of the people I subscribe to talked about how he was cleaning out his house one day and found a box of books, one of the books being The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. He said it was his all time favorite book, the type of book he reads at least once a year. I’m a big fan of books like that so I had to check this book out.

This book is about a boy named Charlie who is just starting high school. In the book, he is writing letters to an anonymous person about his life. He tells you up front that he won’t be using people’s real names or anything, so we won’t know who he is. But by the end of the book, even if you don’t know his real name or the people he knows, you end up knowing Charlie very well.

First Line:

“Dear friend, I am writing to you because she said you listen and understand and didn’t try to sleep with that person at that party even though you could have.”

Chbosky is a masterful writer. Charlie is a wonderful character. He is just a shy kid who can’t find his foothold in the world after his friend Michael committed suicide at the end of his junior high career. Charlie is one of the most innocent boys you will ever meet, a quality that is both refreshing and frustrating. He’s such the adorable little optimist.

“But I guess I did worry about it. I’ve been worrying about it ever since he told me. I look at people holding hands in the hallways, and I try to think about how it all works. At the school dances, I sit in the background, and I tap my toe, and I wonder how many couples will dance to “their song.” In the hallways, I see the girls wearing the guys’ jackets, and I think about the idea of property. And I wonder if anyone is really happy. I hope they are. I really hope they are.”

On one of the other blogs I follow, Michelle Barney (who is amazing, by the way… just throwing that out there and plugging her blog… link over there ------>), she was talking about how every story that could be told has been told. Now, it is the writer’s job to reinvent the story and tell it differently themselves, to offer a new perspective on a problem we all have. Chbosky does this wonderfully in this book. We have all been through or are going to go through high school and be faced with the problems of growing up. It’s scary for everyone. We have all been through first loves, first losses, first days of school, and the dreaded puberty. Charlie offers a lot of beautiful thoughts about all of these, caked in his young sweetness.

“And when she started becoming a “young lady,” and no one was allowed to look at her because she thought she was fat. And how she really wasn’t fat. And how she was actually very pretty. And how differently her face looked when she realized boys thought she was pretty. And how different her face looked the first time she really liked a boy who was not on a poster on her wall. And how her face looked when she realized she was in love with that boy. And then I wondered how her face would look when she came out from behind those doors.”

I really liked Charlie’s character even though I was worried about him the whole time. It’s like the fact that my mom is obsessed with the Duggar family on TLC (you know, the family with 1907 kids). She says that she just loves their innocence and it’s so refreshing for her to see innocence after seeing the real world every day. Although I think the Duggar family is a bit extreme, Charlie gives me the same feeling. He’s so considerate and caring and you cannot help but fall in love and root for him.

This book is full of moments of small brilliance, the type of little moments that make you stop, make a thoughtful noise of approval and nod your head. Maybe that’s just me but I spent a good portion of this book doing that. The book is written with good enough descriptions to make it modern but enough is left out so that it fits any year at all and that is wonderful. Without a doubt, my favorite part of this book is this small section:

“…Sam told Patrick to find a station on the radio. And he kept getting commercials. And commercials. And a really bad song about love that had the word “baby” in it. And then more commercials. And finally he found this really amazing song about this boy, and we all got quiet.

Sam tapped her hand on the steering wheel. Patrick held his hand outside the car and made air waves. And I just sat between them. After the song finished, I said something.

“I feel infinite”

And Sam and Patrick looked at me like I said the greatest thing they ever heard. Because the song was that great and because we all really paid attention to it. Five minutes of a lifetime were truly spent, and we felt young in a good way.”

Beautiful. Simply beautiful. Everyone read this book so I don’t have to keep talking about it or keep the awesomeness of it to myself.

Until next time, happy reading! Send me your book recommendations if you have them, I’d be happy to check them out and review them all! Leave any comments below! I’d love to hear them!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

First Lines of this book:

“My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973.”

Once upon a time, I was rereading Harry Potter during the lunch period of my internship. I decided that it was time to stop putting off that stupid bulletin board I was supposed to be making and I turned to the computer only to notice a pile of books stacked haphazardly on my desk. On top, The Lovely Bones. Of course I’d heard of the book and I know the movie had just come out. I opened it to the first page, and ended up reading 80 pages without stopping. (And no, I didn’t do the bulletin board…don’t judge me). This book was one word: captivating.

This book follows the story of Susie Salmon, beginning with her murder. She has to adjust to her new home in heaven as she watches her family adjust to their new life of coping with a missing and dead daughter. Over the course of the novel, she watches her sister grow into a hardened woman, her mother lose herself in despair, and her father vowing revenge on the neighbor he knows killed his little girl.

The first chapter of this book is horrific. Truly horrific. We have all been dulled down by the murders that are constantly swimming across our television screens on CSI and all of those other shows, but there is something special about this death, something more brutal. Maybe it’s the fact that the only body part they could find of Susie’s was her elbow… yeah, freaking ridiculous. Don’t be alarmed by that though, the graphic part doesn’t last long and it’s worth bearing through to the end.

We all think of life after death and we have all seen different views of it. The view of the afterlife in this book is one of the most beautiful that I have ever encountered. This is the heaven I want. In this heaven, if you want something and will it there, it will appear. You live the life you wanted to live and live among people whose heavens collide with yours. It’s beautiful and simple.

“Hours before I died, my mother hung on the refrigerator a picture that Buckley had drawn. In the drawing a thick blue line separated the air and ground. In the days that followed I watched my family walk back and forth past that drawing and I became convinced that that thick blue line was a real place- an Inbetween, where heaven’s horizon met Earth’s. I wanted to go there into the cornflower blue of Crayola, the royal, the turquoise, the sky.”

I’ve read a lot of books about how people who are left alive cope with the death of a loved one. Sebold changes it up a bit and allows us to see how the dead cope with their death and the feeling of leaving their world behind. It was truly a remarkable point of view and one that I have never experienced. It made me feel even more connected and sympathetic towards the family that was left behind, even when they did things that made me mad.

As the book progressed, the family Susie has left behind continues to disintegrate. Not to give too much away but, I hate what the mom does to her family. In my opinion, it was an easy way out for both the character and the author. This isn’t the first book I read where the wife has reacted like this and I’m sick of the woman running away. It didn’t seem to fit the character of Abigail Salmon to leave her family.

Other than that, there was only one other thing that I disliked. Spoilers here! Do not read ahead if you don’t want a small part of this book ruined.

Ok, so the whole, Susie takes over Ruth’s body thing? What. The. Hell? I was super confused at first. As I kept reading, it bothered me a little less…. But then they had sex. Well, Ray had sex with Ruth’s body but Susie’s soul…. No bueno. It seemed a bit too far fetched. The ghost part of the book was so beautiful until the whole body takeover thing.

Spoilers over

And also, the rapist/murderer in this book is probably the most terrifying human being ever invented. He’s the classic creepy gross neighbor guy from the seventies with gross comb over hair and huge glasses. And his name is George Harvey, that’s just creepy.

But, I can promise you this, if you can stick out the first few chapters of this book, you will love the end. It ends beautifully and gives you hope for the life after death and it gives hope to people who have been left behind. For most people, they have all lost someone close enough to them to feel left behind. This book makes that loss a bit more bearable I feel, and it puts a new spin on things.

“These were the lovely bones that had grown around my absence: the connections – sometimes tenuous, sometimes made at great cost, but often magnificent – that happened after I was gone. And I began to see things in a way that let me hold the world without me in it. The events that my death wrought were merely the bones of a body that would become whole at some unpredictable time in the future. The price of what I came to see as this miraculous body had been my life.”

This is an excellent read. Please read it, especially if you have seen the movie. From what I hear, the movie is quite different. Read the book!

Until next time, happy reading! Send me your book recommendations if you have them, I’d be happy to check them out and review them all! Leave any comments below! I’d love to hear them!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli

Like I said, I’ve been in a very Holocaust mood lately. Bear with me, the stage is over.

Jerry Spinelli has long been one of my favorite authors. He has a way of relating to and capturing his readers’ attention while very softly showing them the often hidden meaning of his books. This book is no exception.

Milkweed is about a very young boy in Warsaw around the beginnings of World War II who has no identity and no past. When an older boy catches up to him after he has stolen some bread, he gives his name as Stopthief. Uri, the older boy takes him back to a sort of base camp where other young boys steal food to support each other. Naming the boy Misha, he gives him a fake past to cover his Gypsy identity. Misha is surrounded my conflicting paths, though, because he longs to be a Jew like his friends, but would die for a pair of his own shiny Jackboots, in other words, become a Nazi.

This book is pretty short and very easy to read and even though it’s a novel for pretty young kids, it was captivating and no less brutal of a Holocaust book. Spinelli truly has a gift with words and he paints beautiful pictures, even of war-torn Warsaw. During the book, you feel as if you are growing up and learning with Misha. You see everything through his eyes and begin to see things in new ways.

The most beautiful part of the novel takes place pretty early on in the work. It’s a discussion between the boys and Misha about the existence of angels.

Some of us played hide-and-seek among the tombstones. I was It, and when I went seeking I came upon a tombstone such as I had never seen before. Rising up from a great block of stone was a man with wings. He was looking at the sky, as if he might fly off at any moment. I couldn’t take my eyes away.

“Who is he?” I said.

“It’s an angel,” said Ferdi.

“What’s an angel?” I said.

Grim-faced Enos said, “There are no angels.”

“I believe,” said Olek. He scratched the stump of his missing arm. “There are angels. You just can’t see them.”

Enos snorted. He ground out his cigarette on the foot of the stone angel. “Where were they when you got pushed to the tracks and the train ran over your arm?” He grabbed the empty sleeve of Olek’s missing arm and flapped it in his face. “Where were your angels then? Why didn’t they roll you off the tracks? Why didn’t they stop the train?” He pointed at a boy called Big Henryk. His shoes were bank coin bags. “Look at him. Why don’t the angels give him shoes? Or brains to want them? And him”-jabbing his finger at Jon, who was thin and gray and never spoke- “look at him. He’s dying and he doesn’t even know it!” Enos was shouting now. “What are your angels doing for him? He spit on the stone angel.

This book makes you think and rethink. Misha is coning from a place of complete innocence to a world that has been destroyed by people daily. He has to learn the difference between bad and good people which is a painful lesson for everyone. Spinelli is able to make a book that is fully gray have a halo of hope around it. It’s the innocence shown by Misha that makes the book so enthralling and touching.

The book didn’t have any real giant climax or epic point but instead has moments of beautiful thoughtfulness that make you stop and think about what you have just read. The discussion of the angels, the milkweed plant, all things of vital importance and beauty. Because Spinelli chooses to make the book so subtle with its meaning, it’s a Holocaust book that is easier to read, there isn’t anything really horrific. This shows the beauty in the world even during the ugliness of the Holocaust. A beautiful slice of life story and definitely a book that is worth checking out!

Until next time, happy reading! Send me your book recommendations if you have them, I’d be happy to check them out and review them all! Leave any comments below! I’d love to hear them!

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

First, I have to warn you, this is going to be a very gushy blog. This book recently (okay, about half an hour ago) just surpassed my favorite book to become my new favorite book of all time. Reasons for which will be explained.

Second, if you haven’t read this book, stop reading this blog immediately and go get a copy of this book and READ IT NOW! I’ll wait…



Got your copy? Read it? Good.

It’s been a very long time since I’ve posted and I’m sorry for that. I allowed myself a little time off and I’m sorry that I milked it a little bit. It’s easy to fall into a pattern of not writing, but it’s no bueno! It’s easier to fall back into the pattern. While I took the time off from writing, I also stopped reading; bad choice.

When the time came for me to read again, I chose an old favorite, The Book Thief. I’ve read the book twice before and loved it. Now, as weird as this sounds, I was in the mood for a Holocaust book. Maybe it was because in the class I intern with at Fairfield Junior High, the 8th graders were learning about the Holocaust. But I think (and this will sound weird) it was destiny that I chose to read this book now.

This book is about a girl named Liesel Meminger. In 1939, her mother and brother are traveling with her to her new foster parent’s home. But her brother dies on the train ride there and in Nazi Germany, there is no time for stopping for long. They bury him and during the burial, Liesel picks up a book out of the snow, The Grave Digger’s Handbook. Thus begins a “love affair with books and words.” Through the book, Liesel clings to her books as she enters her new family, deals with her neighbor Rudy who is always looking for a kiss, and when her family chooses to hide a Jew in their basement. Oh, and did I mention that the narrator of this book is Death? Yeah, amazing. Kudos to Mr. Zusak, most brilliant idea ever.

This book if 550 pages and on each page is a line that burns into your memory. While I was reading this book, I had a conversation with my mom about the importance of the first lines of books. Those first few words have so much power of your perception of the rest of the book. Here are the first few lines of this book:

“First the colors. Then the humans. That’s usually how I see things. Or at least, how I try.”

In an interview about this book, Zusak says that he struggled with letting Death narrate the book because for a while, Death was too evil. But in this final edition, Death is tired. The Second World War is bearing down on him just as it is on the rest of the world.

In this book, Death explains how he sees the colors of the human soul. This is one of those books that cannot just be read once to fully appreciate it. Each time I read it, something new stuck out to me and this time it was the colors. Recently at my school, my theater class did a play called The Yellow Boat and color played a giant role in the show. So obviously, I was paying close attention to color in this story. It’s importance cannot be missed.

Zusak is a masterful writer. The description he uses in this book is haunting and illuminating, captivating and enthralling. It’s pretty much every word you can think of and then some; it’s perfect. He bathes you in metaphor and color and this isn’t an overbearing bath, this is a perfect temperature bath with the right amount of bubbles and the perfect amount of water. He sees things down to the best and last detail. If something is yellow, it isn’t plain yellow or even sunny yellow, it’s the color of lemons. It’s details like that that make this book stick in your mind.

“As the crowd arrived in full, things, of course, had changed. The horizon was beginning to charcoal. What was left of the blackness above was nothing now but a scribble, and disappearing fast.

The man, in comparison, was the color of bone. Skeleton-colored skin. A ruffled uniform. His eyes were cold and brown- like coffee stains- and the last scrawl from above formed what, to me, appeared an odd, yet familiar, shape. A signature.”


Take a second. Let that seep into your skin. His description is what makes this book so real, the characters so tangible. I know each and every character. I can see them perfectly and I love them dearly as if they were my own family.

Literally, I cannot even type about this book enough or fast enough or anything of the sort. I have too many thoughts about this book. And for now, I’m starting to cry again which is making typing unnecessarily hard. Just please trust me on this, DO NOT MISS THIS BOOK. I recommend this book above any other book I have ever read or will read. No book has ever touched me more or stayed with me longer.

Just reread this blog. It's super sporadic but that's about all I can calmly say about this book. Just read it.

Until next time, happy reading! Send me your book recommendations if you have them, I’d be happy to check them out and review them all! Leave any comments below! I’d love to hear them!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Memoirs of My Melancholy Whores by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

As I’m sure you can tell by the title of this book, this is one blog/book that may not be for everyone. Marquez’s writing has always intrigued me and when I saw the spine of this book among his others at the Barnes and Noble, I had to pick it up. I mean, who wouldn’t pick up a book with that title? Even more, who wouldn’t pick up the first new novel by Marquez in ten years?

This book follows a bachelor who, for his ninetieth birthday, decides to have a wild night of love with a virgin. He calls up the Madame of his local brothel and she gives him a fourteen year old girl. Because this young girl has to work so hard during her days sewing buttons onto shirts and caring for her family, she sleeps the entire night and he cannot bring himself to wake her up. This pattern continues as he watches her sleep for months on end without waking her or sleeping with her.

One of the things I loved most about this book was the fact that you got to know the main character so well, as if you have known him for his entire ninety years on earth. There is no detail that Marquez leaves out whether it’s how much he hates his job at the newspaper or how many women he has slept with over the years (believe me, it’s a lot).

This book seemed more like a character study than anything else. This is a lesson on the affects of age and the affect love has on the people it touches. This is a man who has never felt love. He grew up as a spoiled child and used sex as a means of instant satisfaction and instant love. One of the first quotes of the book is:

“Morality, too, is a question of time, she would say with a malevolent smile, you’ll see.”

As people age it becomes easier to give up morals and just do things for the sake of doing them, because you have an impulse. What this book shows is what happens when a man who has lived his whole life among whores who are paid to love actually falls in love. The main character says:

“I always had understood that dying of love was mere poetic license…But I also realized that the contrary was true as well: I would not have traded the delights of my suffering for anything in the world… Ah me, if this is love, then how it torments.”

One of the most beautiful scenes in this book is when he runs in to one of his former whores, one who he was involved with for quite a long time. She had gotten married since and he tells her the entire story of his ordeal with meeting the 14 year old girl and falling in love with her and her purity. After hearing the entire story, his old lover tells him to call the girl immediately because dying alone is the greatest tragedy of all. She says:

“Don’t let yourself die without knowing the wonder of ***having sex* with love.”

This book uses very um… colorful language and imagery… which I myself have no problem with; they are just words after all. But, this could put a lot of people off so read this book knowing that. It is worth a read, though. This book makes you think about age, love, and above all, life.

* I changed the words there....

Until next time, happy reading! Send me your book recommendations if you have them, I’d be happy to check them out and review them all! Leave any comments below! I’d love to hear them!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

I’m an odd girl. Two of my favorite movies are Titanic and Fight Club. I love romance just as much as I love watching guys beating each other up. So, I was super excited when one of my favorite books of all time, Pride and Prejudice, had zombie violence added to it. It was like a marriage of a favorite sister with an undead monster; a match made in comedy heaven!

This book is literally the exact same text as the original Pride and Prejudice except that now there is a strange plague facing England that is bringing the undead back to life. Good thing the Bennet sisters are some of the best fighters out there, having been educated in China by the best dojo’s of the day. Seriously though, what could be better than a regency romance, zombies, and ninjas? Nothing.

This book was really so much fun to read. The one thing you have to remember is that at the end of the day, it’s the same text as the original Pride and Prejudice. A few times during my reading, I was confused about why the book was taking so long to read and I even thought to myself, “this is like reading a classic!” Oh wait, it IS reading a classic, just with some flying limbs every now and then. So when you approach this book, remember that it is classically written and take it slow, it’s worth it.

But besides the fact of this book being a good way to introduce yourself to Jane Austen in a very entertaining way, it’s just hilarious what Seth Grahame-Smith wrote into this book. Two of my favorite scenes in Pride and Prejudice are the first ball at Netherfield and when the dreadful Mr. Collins comes to dinner. During the first scene at the ball, zombies attack!

“Unmentionables poured in, their movements clumsy yet swift; their burial clothing in a range of untidiness. Some wore gowns so tattered as to render them scandalous; others wore suits so filthy that one would assume they were assembled from litter more than dirt and dried blood. Their flesh was in varying degrees of putrefaction; the freshly stricken were slightly green and pliant, whereas the longer dead were grey and brittle- their eyes and tongues long since turned to dust, and their lips pulled back into everlasting skeletal smiles.”

Don’t worry, everything works out because the five Bennet sisters form the awesome Pentagram of Death and slay Satan’s army (Yeah, that was how it was in the book, it’s fabulous.)

But without a doubt my favorite part of the book happens to be the about the author section on the back of the book. It reads:

Jane Austen in the author of Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion, Mansfield Park, and other masterpieces of English Literature. Seth Grahame-Smith once took a class in English Literature. He lives in Los Angeles.

I laughed for a full five minutes after I read that and it was what ultimately made me want to read this book. Grahame-Smith has a great sense of humor and when you think about it, he has to know this book inside and out in order to so skillfully inject zombies into it and make it seem like they were meant to be there, which he manages to do. My one negative comment about this book is actually that there weren’t enough zombies. Sometimes it seems like they come out of nowhere and there is literally no point to their scene in the book. Or you will be reading along for pages of the original text and the only mention of a zombie or anything is one random sentence about the girls training in China. It made it hard to follow a few times because it got to be distracting when it should have been the center of attention. But all in all, this book was so much fun to read and I recommend it to any lover of Austen and zombies alike!

Until next time, happy reading! Send me your book recommendations if you have them, I’d be happy to check them out and review them all! Leave any comments below! I’d love to hear them!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams

What a wonderful week for reading plays! It’s been a long time since I read a play of my own accord and it was great to get back to doing that. I haven’t read "The Glass Menagerie" in quite a while and it was great to revisit it now when I am older and wiser and I know how to read plays as an actor and a director instead of just a reader.

If you don’t know what this play is about, it follows the Wingfield family and their life in St. Louis. The play is narrated by Tom, the son of Amanda and brother to Laura. Tom is constantly seeking escape from his overbearing mother who’s one goal in life is to find a gentleman caller and then a husband for Laura, who’s leg is crippled. At the end of the play, one gentleman caller shows up, but expectations are not met as they are supposed to be.

I loved the version of the play that I had because it contained a forward by Williams that explained how he wanted the set and the lighting and everything along with that. One of the important discoveries I made while reading the play was how central Laura truly is, even though she doesn’t speak much in the play. She is supposed to be lit in a light of “pristine clarity such as light used in early religious portraits of female saints or Madonna’s.” The play is constantly described as a memory play so the stage is said to be kept dim with shafts of light on focused areas or actors. This, I think, provides the audience and reader direction as to where to focus the attention.

When I first read this play I didn’t notice all of this, but now see how important it actually all is. The picture of the father who abandoned his family is said to be larger than life, which shows that his small act of leaving them has altered this family and has an ever present impact on their daily life. There is always a cloud of trouble and stress hanging over this family whether it’s about money, husbands, or finding a life of your own and all if that is expressed through the father’s picture.

This play is very delicately written; delicate is really the only word I can find for it, as if it were made of glass. Even the characters, especially Laura are delicate. Laura seems to be made of glass; beautifully crafted and taken great care of but if a person takes one misstep, the entire thing shatters. The most beautiful part of this play, in my opinion, is when Laura is dancing with Jim and her favorite glass unicorn breaks. When he asks her if it is broken she replies:

“Now it is like all the other horses… Maybe it’s a blessing in disguise.”

Laura is changed by her one night with Jim forever; she will now be able to move through the world independently and conduct herself with confidence and not have to live in her own glass bottle anymore.

A menagerie is defined as a place where animals are kept to be trained for exhibition which is what the mother, Amanda, is doing through this entire play. Amanda has been so hurt by her husband’s leaving her lost youth that she is living almost vicariously through her children, who will have none of it. At one point while explaining to Tom why she must plan for everything so far in advanced, she says:

“You are the only young man that I know who ignores the fact that the future becomes the present, the present the past, and the past turns into everlasting regret if you don’t plan for it!”

She is a character incapable of letting her own past failures go so that she struggles with accepting her children’s differences and failures. Although you can see her throughout the play as a sort of unsympathetic and pushy character because of how she treats her children, you have to realize how much she has been hurt by her past and how scared she is for the future.

Tom is a very interesting character to look at. He is so desperate for a life of his own that is jeopardizing his entire family to satisfy himself, like using his money for registering for the marine’s instead of paying the electricity bills. I can’t say that I don’t see where he is coming from. It hurts to have so much pressure like that thrust upon you and having no escape and when you do find that escape, you are reprimanded for it. My favorite quote from Tom is in scene four when he says:

“You know it don’t take much intelligence to get yourself into a nailed-up coffin, Laura. But who in hell ever got himself out of one without removing one nail?”

Tom is desperate for his own life so he knows that he will eventually have to make a false move in order to escape the life he despises so much, living in a home that is like a coffin and working in a warehouse that is like a prison.

This play is full of beautiful characters and is a wonderfully crafted and moving story. Anyone involved in theater should be required to read it but even more, anyone interested in reading about human actions and life should read this. This is a wonderful look at the show we are all putting on every day when we push our past and our pain back inside of our minds and live as we are “supposed” to live, as if being viewed as glass pieces.

Until next time, happy reading! Send me your book recommendations if you have them, I’d be happy to check them out and review them all! Leave any comments below! I’d love to hear them!