Saturday, March 28, 2009

Apart from the Crowd

I've begun something new with this blog. I start writing out my opinion of the book as I read it because otherwise... I forget stuff. Pretty smart, eh?

Anyway. This is the first time I read any of Anna McPartlin's books. I kept stalking out her novel Pack Up the Moon prior to my bookstore closing but I never bought it because it simply looked too depressing. Go read the description of the novel here to understand what I mean. At the time, with facing unemployment in an economy where finding a new job was very unlikely, I couldn't handle the general vibe. I needed something that seemed a bit more up beat.

Luckily Apart from the Crowd was parked right next to Pack Up the Moon and I picked it up off the shelf. The premise is of a small cast, all of whom have different situations in their lives and the Irish town they reside in which thrives on gossip. (like any small town, mind you, this isn't a new idea) But it did generally seem more cheerful and I've always enjoyed novels that involve Ireland in some way.

When I picked up the book I was rather excited to read it. But as soon as I read the first page I noticed a trend. Every time I read the book I was easily distracted. I judge how good a book is by how much attention I pay it. If I read the entire thing in a night without putting it down once, I obviously adored it. If it takes me a week or two because I'm busy or whatever and yet I sit down and read it without any distraction each night- if only for an hour- still good. If I find that I can't concentrate on the book however, that raises a red flag.

Of course I immediately take into consideration what's going on at the moment. I had a hell of a time getting through some books when I lost my job. And I was, at the moment, having a mental shut down because I was about to visit an ex-boyfriend because he was going to war. Stressful events tend to make my mind run a mile a minute and that doesn't help much when trying to concentrate on a book.

So I put down the book, waited until I saw the ex, and once I returned to a normal sense of life I picked it back up and tried it again. I still couldn't pay attention to the book. I would be proud of myself if I made it through five-ten pages before setting it down and it lasted that way up until this very day where I had nothing to do, was terribly bored, and the only way to pass the time was to read. By this point the fact that I had been reading this book for such an obscenely long time was bothering me so I was determined to finish reading it.

This book was not meant for me. I'm sure others would enjoy it but I can't really think of a type of person who would enjoy it from cover to cover. For me, it was just too depressing. Yes, a great way to display that other peoples lives can suck more then yours but when you're reading it's not necessarily for a lesson. At least this book does not strike me as much. It's something you pick up to be entertained and sucked into these characters worlds. I was sucked in- to a point- and was miserable the whole way through. There were small accomplishments through the story, little things that were uplifting, and as soon as they became uplifting they would be taken away. In all actuality only the Epilogue was cheerful for the entirety of it. Every chapter leading up to it had some dull upsetting moment.

I'm not one for upsetting books usually. If there is a significantly upsetting point in a book it's usually balanced out by just as much goodness. There was no balance in this book. It was one upset after another and in the end the 'happily ever afters' were listed in a small paragraph and not really elaborated on. I think that's what bothered me the most. The entire book has great detail of the woes that each character faces but when it comes to their happiness it's only mentioned briefly and brushed aside.

Out of five stars I only gave it a two.

20 Book Challenge Today-2/1/2010

Tonight during Earth Hour (if you don’t know what it is FIND OUT AND JOIN IN) I entertained myself by taking a walk through my neighborhood then going through the two bookshelves in my bedroom and comprising a list of books I haven’t read as of yet.
With this list I’ve decided to do a twenty book challenge.

Here’s the goal: read twenty books from this list of twenty-two by midnight of 2/1/2010. Ultimately I’d be happy if I read all twenty-two books by the end of December because then I would have achieved my goal of reading 50 books in a year (thus far I’ve read 28!) but I feel that reading shouldn’t be a challenge so much as enjoyable. And some of the books on this list I have tried to read in the past and lost interest with very quickly so I know they will certainly be a challenge.

So here is the list!
The Hobbit
The Silmarillion
Out Stealing Horses
Secrets of a Gay Marine Porn Star
Cold Mountain
Memoirs of a Geisha
Mermaids in the Basement
Son of a Witch
Life of Pi
Dragonfly in Amber
Great Expectations
The Chimes
The Cricket on the Hearth
Women in Love
The Red Badge of Courage
Mansfield Park
Jane Eyre

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Where the Wild Things Are

Maurice Sendak, in my opinion, struck oil when he created this children's story. Childhood memories can be shady or impossible to remember until you discover something that came directly from your childhood. Where the Wild Things Are has that magical power over me. Every time I hear of the book or see the familiar images I return to the age of six when I received my first (and only) copy of the book from my teacher as a Christmas present.

It was my favorite book as a child and one of the first books I ever read on my own. The story struck a cord in me and even now when I read it I remember what excited me so much.

While some children would be scared of the story I found it to be fantastic. The premises is that a little boy (Max) is sent to bed without any dinner because of his poor behavior. This immediately was seen as fantasy to my child eyes because I had never before been sent to bed without a meal. The idea was blasphemous and to me was impossible to occur! But I knew there were other kids who were bad and would get punished. I had just never thought that such a punishment could be no food. He stomps off into his room and it magically becomes a forest. I think this was my most favorite part of the book. I would look at the illustrations over and over again because I understood, in my child's mind, exactly how a bedroom could become a forest. I mean, my bedroom turned into a ship, Santa's sleigh, and forests all the time; why couldn't Max's room do the same?

He adventures off to the land where the wild things are. Monsters of sorts who are made up of different body parts from different animals. This scared me slightly as a child. While Max joyfully joined the wild things I would have paired them as the scary monsters in any of my playtimes. But seeing that Max didn't find them all that scary and they in turn seemed to worship Max I realized... maybe monsters aren't all that scary.

I'd love to say that this book enlightened me to believe that wild things who look scary might not actually be. It's not the outside that counts, blah blah. But they still kind of creeped me out and I still had plenty of monsters in my playtime moments.

But the book remained a classic in my mind. I would read it over and over. When I got older and was doing art project for school I recall making the wild things out of clay and even today I feel a soft happiness inside of me when I look over the colorful drawings and read the brief story. As a child it's a great story to loose yourself in and a wonderful start for a child to learn to read. As an adult it holds the warmth of nostalgia.

I'm happy to say that Where the Wild Things Are is being made into a movie! Whenever I discover a book I enjoy is being made into a movie I'm initially excited but grow apprehensive once clips start being shown. We haven't gotten to that point yet. Only photos have been produced and the movie poster... all of which reach my high level of expectation. I'm pretty excited for this to come out. It's release date is slated to be October 16th of this year. I'll surely be going to see it that very weekend. It will surely be something decent to bring children to and quite possibly a good time for the adults who recall reading this book as a child. I can't wait!

Edit: the trailer for the movie went public this afternoon! Follow the link to see it here.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Queen of the Damned

Book Three of The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice

There should be a warning label, I feel, on the very cover of the book. The first two books are written from the point of view of one character. Other characters might come in and 'tell their story' but all in all it's still from the point of view from either Louis or Lestat.

This book however goes from one character to another within each chapter. It introduces multiple characters who we have never heard of before. It takes some getting used to, especially when you end up with a character who bores you. And I sadly find many characters to be quite boring who seem to keep resurfacing. But the characters I do enjoy I cannot get enough of and we get to read their perspective of life and received a taste of who they are without having to read a whole other book.

What's fascinating about this novel is that Anne Rice dives into the way history is recorded within the world and constructs a history of her vampires. Where and how they were created with scientific and historical details. I always wish I could interview Anne Rice and ask her how exactly she comes up with the ideas she has. They are so precise and articulate. They hold a lot of weight and very little room to question things.

Having so many different characters with their own chapters Rice made this book much longer then it could have originally been. The basic story that develops is the following of 'red hair twins' and their life story= how the first vampire was created= leaping forward in time to The Vampire Lestat's concert in California which is where we left off at the end of Book 2. With the different characters chapters it lengthens the story through adding those characters own life stories and how in the end all the vampires and those mortals who are tied to them are all related in one way or another.

This might possibly be one of my least favorite of the books. And yet, I enjoy it for the characters whom I find interesting. I feel that out of all the books this is the one who will most likely have mixed reviews. People who do or don't like stories broken up, the people who do or don't enjoy the story line, those who do or don't enjoy the characters provided. It's a 'you have to read it to see it' type of novel.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Vampire Lestat

Yet again, I read The Vampire Lestat when I was very young (hello TEN YEARS ago) and at the time I assumed I fully understood the book but really, I was probably completely at a loss. As I've said before, I've reread The Vampire Chronicles quite often during the past ten years and each time it's been a new experience to read them as I've grown, my tastes have changed, and I've learned more.

The main issue I have with The Vampire Lestat is that Lestat is likable in this book (and all other books where he narrates for that matter). It's a dodgy move on Anne Rice's part. Lestat is an utter ass in Interview with the Vampire. He's the villain. He's the character you learn to hate. And he just won't go away. But then you take The Vampire Lestat and he's this wonderful character. He's young at heart, full of life, full of dreams, full of power, and he loves more then he probably should. You don't see this side through Louis point of view which is understandable, no person can be seen clearly from anothers point of view because really, how would you know, you're not in their minds so you can't possibly totally understand them. After making him look like such a horrible person in Interview there was a chance that people wouldn't have wanted to read a book strictly about Lestat himself. Who would want to read a 500 page book about a character they hate? But Rice took this chance and her powerful writing prevailed, bringing in a wonderful character that has been loved for years.

The Vampire Lestat is much like Lestat himself. It's the bright light after the grim darkness of Interview with the Vampire. He has a certain attitude that reminds me much of myself and friends as we embarked on college. That youth that has never before experienced true life and is excited, maybe a tiny bit scared, to get the adventure going and learn new things.

One could almost assume a life lesson woven through this story. The classic 'be careful what you wish for'. Lestat has his dreams set on leaving his father's land and seeing the world, no longer being poor, being loved by all, acting and he gets that and more some.

Louis returns in this book, even though it's briefly and only at the very end, and he seems to be a much more interesting and happy character when seen through the light of Lestat's eyes. The whiny man that infiltrated the pages of IWTV is gone and replaced with a quiet, beautiful, and relatively content man.

Of course Rice has her characters continuing with an interior battle against what is deemed good and evil and whether or not there is a God. But she handles all of the discussions with such grace and beautiful language that it's an addictive read.

"I realized aloud in the midst of saying it that even when we die we probably don't find out the answer as to why we were ever alive. Even the avowed atheist probably thinks that in death he'll get some answer. I mean God will be there, or there won't be anything at all."

Anne Rice also offers a host of characters that come and go rather quickly with no future mention. In Interview she introduces characters and you always find out what happens to them in the end. But with this novel there are a list of fabulous characters that are introduced and taken away too quickly or never heard of again.

Nicolas and Magnus are two characters I wish I could have learned more of but they both die quickly. Gabrielle is aloof but a powerful woman and someone who would have surely had an interesting storyline. The vampires from the original Theatre des Vampires (Eleni, Laurent, Felix) are mentioned only at the development but when Lestat returns to Paris over a hundred years later they are no where to be found and there is only a brief wondering on Lestat's part as to where they went. All of these characters are all so intriguing but disappear quickly from the Lestat's light. At the very least, Gabrielle comes and goes through the rest of The Vampire Chronicles but she still doesn't get the proper attention for her powerful character.

My memory of the book did not prove me wrong and I'm sure I'll always return to read this book, much like Lestat and Louis return to one another. My fascination never ceases to exist.
"And let me tell you a little secret. It never did pass, really."