Thursday, January 28, 2010

WICKED is good. ~ Week 17

This month, my book club decided to delve into a little Young Adult fiction. As you can imagine, I was thrilled! The Maze Runner centers around Thomas, a teenager who awakens to find himself inside a grassy expanse known as the Glade. He seems to have no memories of who he is and why he's there. The Glade is filled with teenage boys, all of whom have been mysteriously transported there as well. As if things weren't sounding bad enough, Thomas discovers that the Glade is surrounded by a maze filled with treacherous obstacles and seemingly without a solution.

A cross between Lord of the Flies and a Stephen King novel, you will find yourself intrigued by The Maze Runner by the time you finish the first page.

The good: This book keeps you guessing. I found myself just itching to know what was going on. I love a book with a good conspiracy theory too. This one made me think of LOST - mystery upon mystery - layered with a thick plot. The author was very imaginative with his characters and "creatures."

The bad: I had a hard time getting into the Gladers slang. One word they used was "shuck." Basically it was a replacement word for any profanity that the boys felt like spewing. For example, "Shut up shuckface!" I thought it was kind of ridiculous because while it was better than saying the real thing... it was pretty obvious what the author was trying to get across.

Another slight problem I had was that I felt like the story was crawling along. There was mystery build upon mystery and I was aching for some resolution. Finally, in the last couple of chapters an enormous lot of information was thrown at me. I was able to answer some of those questions I had rolling around in my head, but I felt like it was all piled into too

Also, why do YA authors feel like they need to make EVERY book they write into a trilogy? What ever happened to wrapping it up in one novel? I guess I can answer this myself because I am that weirdo that counts the days until the next book in a series comes out (Read: HUNGER GAMES #3!)

The verdict: Why is YA fiction so damn addicting? Maybe we all wish that our high school/adolescent years had been that interesting? Also, ladies, it doesn't matter how old we get - we still want to remember what it feels like to fall in love for the first time. That's why these coming-of-age stories are so attractive to us. They appeal to the girl in us.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

There is no life without death. This is the true meaning of yin and yang. ~ Week 16

One of the main reasons that I love books is their ability to transport me to another time and place. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is one of those books. This is the second book I've read by Lisa See and the second time I've been impressed by her ability to take her reader into the world of 19th century China; a difficult era for women that many of us know nothing about. Lily and Snow Flower become laotongs, or sworn sisters, when they are just seven years old. They grow up together, communicating using a secret women's language called nu shu. They stay connected throughout all the joys and pains of life; footbinding, childbirth, and loneliness.

The good: Beautiful writing and emotionally-stirring story. If you a a woman, you need to read this. It was an eye-opening glimpse into the challenges and often agonies that women experienced in that time period. Want to read something that'll make you appreciate your freedom as a woman in the 21st century Western world? Pick this book up. A few pages into reading about the horrors of footbinding, you'll be thanking your lucky starts that you weren't born in 19th century China.

I also love books that make me yearn to find out more about a certain subject. Both of Lisa See's books compelled me to do some investigating on the internet. I learned about footbinding, marriage rituals, and nu shu writing. I found myself watching videos on Youtube and just completely engrossed in learning more.

The bad: I have nothing bad to say about this book! If I had to pick one thing it would be that it took me a little to "get into it." But after about 30 pages, I was pretty much hooked.

The verdict: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is a great book. It shows how female friendships and companionship transcend time and place. It made me think of another book that I've reviewed recently, Firefly Lane. While set in completely different times and places, both centered around the strength and beauty of female relationships.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

For now these memories are all I have left. ~ Week 15

For Week 15, I read Dear John - the latest Nicholas Sparks novel to be turned into a movie. I picked this one up after seeing a preview for the upcoming flick starring Amanda Seyfried and Channing Tatum. It looked horribly romantic and I like both of them, so I'd follow my usual routine of reading the book before watching the movie. Let me start out by saying that I am not (and have never been) much of a Nicholas Sparks fan. Back in college, I read The Wedding and I couldn't get through the saccharine-sweet sappiness of it. I must say that I really like some of the movies though. I mean, let's face it... the man comes up with novels that translate into the perfect "chick-flick." Admit it, you cried like a baby when you realized that the elderly couple were Noah and Allie at the end of The Notebook.

In Dear John, Savannah Lynn Curtis and John Tyree fall in love. One summer they come into each other's lives like a hurricane blowing off the coast of South Carolina. They fall in love. You know that crazy, young love. The kind that makes your stomach do flip-flops and makes you completely irrational. We've all been there and we can all remember how it encompases everything in your being. Unfortunately, young love is never simple and Savannah and John have the weather a slew of challenges that are thrown their way. Will they make it? Does true love overcome lifes ups and downs?

The good: This book made me remember what it was like to be 21 and in love. It made me think of a relationship that I had when I was younger. I enjoyed thinking back on those days and it made me a little nostalgic. I also think that he portrayed the difficulties of a long distance relationship realistically. I've been there and trust me it's a true challenge.
The bad: Sparks' writing. At times it becomes downright monotonous and silly. There was one chapter in the book where he describes John having a meal with his father. Sparks thought that it was necessary to describe the minutae of this meal. Right down to the way John's father cuts his potato and steak. It bordered on the ridiculous.

Another problem I have with Sparks' books is that his writing is very cliche and cheesy. He takes all those romantic stereotype situations and totally plays them up. It's nothing new and nothing original.

The verdict: This book is meant to be a summer "beach read." If you're looking for something special and unique... you won't find it here. If you're looking for a book to read while you're sun bathing on the beach, this might be a good pick. All in all, I hope I enjoy the movie more than the book!