Hi. I thought I'd start posting my thoughts on books as/after I'd read them, in a similar vein to sites like Mark Reads, which I'm a fan of. I doubt I'll post as I go through a book, but expect me to try and write up something every time I finish a book (which should be semi-regularly). I'd love if you guys gave comments on the books I read, and what your own thoughts on them were; some discussion would be great. If you have any of your own reviews, you can post those here, too! No need to keep this exclusive, though I would like to set the tone for this thread and all of that jazz.
Book:French Milk by Lucy Knisley Genre: Graphic novel, Journal
I’d known about French Milk for over a year, as I’d seen a friend of mine reading it at some point, and vowed to read it, as my quick scan through the pages was enough to get me interested. I like journal comics. One of my favorite webcomics, Allan, is a journal comic, so I was already a fan of the genre. I like the art in the book; it was clean, simple, and expressive. But what may have struck me the most though was the blending of photographs into the book. The photographs that Lucy Knisley took while on her trip are windows to a foreign world. Some of them are blurry, whether in general, or do to some kind of motion; some of them rest their focus on an object in the foreground, the background left to be crowded by Parisian crowds. I love that kind of blending of medium, personally. I put a hold on the book at the library something like a month ago, but never stopped to pick it up. Within the last few days, I’d put another hold on it, gone to pick it up, and finished it within two days.
I don’t know what I expected from the book when I picked it up. The last time I’d actually seen a copy had been over a year ago, in the middle of my chemistry class. I finished the book rather quickly; I tend to do so with graphics novels and comics. I started the book in the library, put it down while I was out of the house to see The Adventures of Tintin (gorgeous, fun movie; would recommend), and I only finished it this morning, holed up in my room. I liked the book. But being a journal (and I often have this same problem with memoirs), it seemed to lack… narrative. The book is, and I didn’t know what I expected, simply the story of Lucy Knisley’s stay in a Parisan apartment for her and her mother’s birthdays for a month and a half.
Despite that, I did actually find a lot to enjoy about the book. I like France, especially Paris. One friend of mine teases me for being in love with the culture, which is entirely untrue; he reaches this assumption because I’m in French class, ha ha. I do love the history of the nation. Napoleon is a figure that I admire, etc etc. Good writers and artists, too. French Milk, named for the delicious whole milk that Knisley enjoyed so much during her stay, is really just an observation of Parisan life, from the food, to the museums. But there’s actually so much more to it than that. Lucy leaves her life in Chicago behind; all of her friends, her boyfriend, and her school life for the brunt of December and January. She’s to graduate from university in five months. She turns 22 while in Paris. As I read the book, I couldn’t help but relate to her doubts and uncertainty about her future, and push into young adulthood. The book is very much a reflection on herself, and where she’d like to be, and her own insecurities as an artist, about love, and herself. At the end of the book, despite my hope that John, her boyfriend, would become something more to me, the reader, than just someone that Lucy loved and missed, and the fact that the book was just a journal… I found myself really having enjoyed the experience, when it was over.
Because, I found, the book’s real main character is Paris. The food, the sights, the sensibilities. The strong themes about adulthood and coming to terms with one’s idea of “home” were also very good about tying the book together thematically and making the experience of reading stronger.
French Milk is a book that I’d read again, though I’m not sure if I’d actually actively seek out a copy to own as my own, unless I found it discounted. The book’s art is simple and expressive, the narration relatable and funny, and the sights covered are a breath of fresh air. I don’t do ratings, not really, but I did like this book and I would recommend picking it up at your local library if you think it seems interesting.
The Heroes of Olympus #2:
The Son of Neptune
by Rick Riordan
Book:The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan Genre: Children’s fantasy
Alright, so The Son of Neptune is the second book in the Heroes of Olympus series, which in itself a sequel to the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. The series deals with a prophecy called the Prophecy of Seven which talks about seven demigods that have to battle Gaea or something yada yada whatever. Upon finishing the first series and realizing that Riordan was totally just going to do a second one, I was a little bit annoyed. You’ve got this perfectly fine children’s series that morphs all of these fun elements into a modern day story about Greek mythology, and then you’ve got to expand on something that’s already been concluded. Okay, fine.
I got the first book of the Heroes of Olympus series around release, as it was; I was in the store and picked it up and it actually wasn’t too bad. I actually enjoyed it for a lot of reasons: it was much more YA, it was longer than the other books, and it had a complex set of characters, who, while flawed (more on this later, in regards to this second book), were actually really enjoyable. I mean, sure, the book wasn’t really “necessary”, and sure, Riordan went back on some of what he’d established in the first series, and seemed to pull some characters and their relations to more established characters out of his rear, but once you got past being annoyed by it, it was all pretty cool.
Now, this book—The Son of Neptune. I’m not going to get into it too much because it’s part of a series, and it’s not entirely thematic; it’s very much a character-driven novel. In short: The first half dragged on, but enter the last two or three hundred pages, and the book was really cool. The characters… are annoying, in some regards. The thing I hate about this new series by Riordan is that he feels the need to make everything tragic. It’s like, Jesus, make these normal kids, man. All of the melodrama around each of the characters’ pasts reeks. But, like I said, once the second half kicks in, and all of these “tragic pasts” are aired out among the characters and they decide to get ♥♥♥♥ done, finally, the book is really fun.
Riordan’s humor could use some work, if he is in fact targeting this at a more mature audience. Despite kind of being YA fiction, the book still feels like a children’s book at times. Even though the characters are all like 15 or 16.
Would I recommend this book? If you were into the first series, sure, why not. If you like some pretty solid children’s fantasy, and Greek/Roman mythology, then yeah. Read the first book first, duh, or the first series, really, since Heroes of Olympus relies a lot of the fact that you’d read the Percy Jackson books, though it isn’t really necessary to do so if you want to enjoy the books, since the first hundred pages is decorated with back story and summary of the last few books.
Book:Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck Genre: Novella
Steinbeck is quickly growing to be one of my favorite authors. In school, we’ve been given a project that has us settling on an American author so that we may read and analyze their work and lives. I’ve read East of Eden, Cannery Row, and am working on reading The Grapes of Wrath. That’s all on my own time. In class this week, we’re reading Of Mice and Men, which I have dutifully finished ahead of the rest.
Of Mice and Men is the story of the gruff, but protecting, George Milton and his friend Lennie Small, a large, mentally challenged “child” of a man. The two are field workers in the Salinas Valley, looking for work during the Great Depression. Together, they share a dream: to raise enough money to buy and operate their own plot of land. All they want to do is live off the fat of the land, tend to their crops, and care for some animals.
But mostly, Lennie wants to have some rabbits. He likes them, thinks they’re soft, and wants to pet them. He has simple wishes. However, George chides him and tells him he’ll take his dream away from him if he doesn’t listen to his friend. George tells him this, and takes the mouse that Lennie has unintentionally killed with his rough petting, and throws it out into the forest.
Of Mice and Men is a story about dreams, and the hard road that one has to travel as they try to achieve them. It’s a book about friendship, and all of the sides of it. Steinbeck structured it in three acts, as he wanted it to be a play of a novel. As each chapter finishes, Steinbeck has lays more character upon each of his characters, and raises the suspense as the novel falls into its hard ending.
Steinbeck was a talented writer, and I love the way he establishes his craft in his books. Of Mice and Men is almost a parable. It’s brief, yet powerful. Upon finishing it, in the middle of French class, ignoring the lecture, I closed the book and let go of the breath I’d been holding in. The amount of emotion that’s managed into such few pages is completely stunning, and I was in a daze for almost the rest of the day as I recovered from the last few sentences of the novel.
If you haven’t read this book, please do yourself a favor and get yourself a copy sometime soon.
I only read East of Eden this past summer, and was just blown away. I tries reading it years ago, but the whole first chapter is basically scenery setting and description, and I didn't have the patience to get through it. When I actually read the whole thing over the summer I found the length and detail entirely necessary, and probably could have read two hundred more pages of that story.
I think part of what I didn't like about Of Mice is that it didn't have the length for me to invested fully in the story. It was over before it really began for me, so to speak.
I had similar complaints about Cannery Row, which is about as long as Of Mice and Men, but not quite as exciting. It's a cute little story, but again, isn't long enough to layer on all of the complexities that were in East of Eden, or build that relation between the reader and the characters that East of Eden so masterfully did. I know, at least with me, once I got past the first twenty or thirty pages, I couldn't put the book down, and really only did so when something happened that upset me enough to prompt me to close it for a moment to look about and huff.
I'm just getting into The Grapes of Wrath, and want to have it done in the next month or two (it's not my main concern at the moment, as it is), and it's only just a hundred pages or so shorter than East of Eden (in my anthology), so I'm hoping that its length is going to lend to the experience. I'll let you know how that goes, when I get to it.
I've read maybe three books or so in the last two weeks (I'm discluding the two Walking Dead books I've been lent, because if I do make a post about them, I feel like it'd be better to do them all together than separately). SO EXPECT MY TO SHARE MY FEELINGS when I have time, of course.
The Book Thief
by Markus Zusak
Book:The Book Thief by Markus Zusak Genre: Historical fiction
I ♥♥♥♥ing love Markus Zusak. The Book Thief has been constantly recommended to me since its release, though, as it was, it wasnít my first experience with the author. No, actually, because my interest had been piqued from all of the talk about him, I ended up picking I am the Messenger up from my local bookstore. They didnít have The Book Thief at that time; so I started with the novel preceding it.
And it didnít disappoint. Not at all. I might even say that I am the Messenger, and perhaps The Book Thief, after Iíve processed it (itís been two weeks and the whole thing is still reeling in my mind), are some of my favorite books. Zusak is all at once original, poetic, to the point (and then around), humorous, and, nearly at all times, simply startling. Both books of his that Iíve read have both been host to complex stories and characters that I was quite taken aback to find that Iíd grown very attached to in just a few hundred pages.
It wasnít until a month or so ago that I finally snagged a copy of The Book Thief, at the recommendation of my best friend, which, you know, really does push one to see what the fuss is about. The Print-honor receiving novel sat on my shelf for a week or two, and when I had cleared some room for it, I began.
The Book Thief is narrated by death. This in itself leads to some interesting perspective and narration on the events of the novel, and on the characters. My favorite part about it, as it was, is actually the pseudo-first/third-person narration that the book ends up being told in. Iím going to take a step back here, for just a moment, and talk about how much I love how Zusak writes. His structure, Iíve noticed, in both books Iíve read harks a lot to fragmented sections; a page that might flow normally in any other book is separated into two or three parts by empty lines between paragraphs. I love this. It lends each section a striking amount of weight and gives the book a very nice pace. Zusakís sentences are precise, simple, yet descriptive. I love it.
The novel itselfóand yes, Iím only getting towards a synop of sorts nowóis the story of The Book Thief, Liesel Meminger, an adoptee raised by the loving Hubermannís in Nazi Germany, and her love of reading and her discovery of the power of words. The first two hundred pages or so is all introduction, detailing Lieselís rearing and settling into her new home; despite the length of the book, none of this ever feels slow. The Hubermannís eventually take in an escaping Jewish man, Max, who Liesel befriends. The book isnít necessarily about that though; itís much more about Liesel growing from a child into adolescence with the kind of background that she has.
Iím still not sure how much I want to get into the books I read when I write these, lest I spoil a tiny bit too much, or give away any of those little details that really add to the experience of reading. Suffice it to say: I really liked this book. The narrations is excellent. Zusak is excellent. Hans, Lieselís adoptive father, is excellent. The mayorís wife is excellent. All of the characters are excellent. The bookís message and themes are excellent.
I really couldnít recommend this book anymore than I already have.