Friday, December 31, 2010

Compare/Contrast Review: Hamlet by William Shakespeare and Ophelia by Lisa Klein

Hamlet (The New Folger Library Shakespeare)



Title: Hamlet

Author: William Shakespeare


Pages: 400 (Depending on edition and annotations)

Source: Personal library

Rating: 10/10

Challenges: Take Another Chance Challenge #8 - Real and Inspired

Ophelia
Title: Ophelia

Author: Lisa Klein

Pages: 328

Source: Personal library

Rating: 7/10

Challenges: Read 'n' Review Challenge; Take Another Chance Challenge #8 - Real and Inspired

I'm taking a different approach to my usual reviews with these two. We all know Hamlet is a fabulous read, there's no denying that (Unless you're a hater), and I have some very definite opinions of the version that Klein presents in Ophelia. So, non-traditional, compare-and-contrast-type review it is!

Oh, and if you really want to read this book, I'd suggest not reading this review. It's kind of spoiler-y.

Ophelia: I've never been an Ophelia fan in the original. She was just kind of lame to me (I much prefer Desdemona). Klein's whole purpose for writing this book was to give Ophelia a voice and a better character. I think she did a great job doing this. I actually really liked the Ophelia she painted in this novel.

However, I don't think her version of Ophelia lines up well enough with the original. There's no real precedent or hint of the Ophelia we get in Klein's version.

Horatio: I like Horatio in the original, and I like him in this version. Klein gives him much more space to stretch out and develop, and his development is really in line with what we see in the original. He's probably the best-preserved character from the original to this spin-off. I'm not so sure about his feelings for/relationship with Ophelia, though. I just don't get the sense, from the original, that Horatio had too many dealings with Ophelia other than possibly delivering some messages to and from Hamlet.

Gertrude: While I'm not a fan of Klein's expansion of Ophelia, I think she takes the strangest turn with Gertrude. The Gertrude in the original is very much a background character, and one we're left wondering about. We don't know how she really felt about old Hamlet's death, or why she married Claudius so soon after the death. We don't know, really, how she treats and views Hamlet as a son. She just seems to hang out in the background of most of the scenes, not really saying much.

Klein's Gertrude is a little too knowing for my interpretation, though. If she was so knowing, she wouldn't have done a lot of the things she did and she wouldn't have let a lot of the things happen that happened. Klein's Gertrude is too complicit but still too "innocent" in the whole situation. It just didn't sit well with me.

Events: I'm not going to go into details here, but Klein builds nearly an entire book out of things that happen outside the realm of Shakespeare's play. And, looking at Shakespeare's other plays and many of the conventions of the time period in which it's vaguely set, Klein's events are incredibly plausible. It's a whole book of the what-might-have-beens, and (almost) all of them make sense.

Overall, this is a really interesting read for any fans of Shakespeare, the original version of Hamlet and spin-offs in general.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Short Reviews: End-of-the-Year-Catch-up

In an attempt to fit in all the books I've read this year, seeing as I've spent the last three months as a horrible blogging slacker, I'm mashing in three shorter reviews today. I won't include synopses of the books, so click on the book cover if you want to read more about the story! Makes my life a little easier!

The Distant Hours: A Novel Title: The Distant Hours

Author: Kate Morton

Pages: 672 (I have an ARC, so page numbers in finished copies might be different)

Source: Publisher for review

Rating: 10/10

Challenges: Read 'n' Review Challenge

My Two Cents:

I just love Kate Morton's work, and I'm sad I was so horrible at reviewing that I can't give this book it's own post.

Although I love all of Morton's characters for one reason or another, this whole cast of characters is by far my favorite as a whole. Edie is great as a narrator: She's likable and curious enough to pursue the family mystery, but loves her mother and her privacy enough that she doesn't openly pry too often. The three Blythe sisters are the perfect picture of old spinsters harboring dark secrets. Edie's mother, Meredith, is probably my favorite, though. She changes, at least in Edie's perception, from a slightly standoffish, rather typical British woman of her era to someone with a layered, emotional past.

Morton's writing is, as always, beautiful, but there's more here than in her other two novels. There's a much deeper mystery to unravel, and Morton's writing takes on a darker, more Gothic character. Sure, the book's kind of a slog at times (At over 600 pages, what book isn't?), but it's well worth it in the end.

Torment (Fallen)
Title: Torment (Fallen #2)

Author: Lauren Kate

Pages: 452

Source: Friend

Rating: 7/10

Challenges: Read 'n' Review Challenge

My Two Cents:

While not quite as enthralling as the first book (But really, what sequel is?), this is by far one of the better follow-ups in young adult literature this year. I was worried after a spate of really disappointing sequels (I'm looking at you, Burned, Spirit Bound, Linger and Crescendo) that this would be much the same. However, I was really pleasantly surprised in many ways.

The novel does lose some of its charm when Daniel is off doing his own thing and Luce turns into a whiny teenager. But, Luce's new friends and her attempts to figure out what the shadows are saying to her propel the novel through the slower times. And, it picks right back up once Daniel comes back into the picture.

The ending definitely leaves this series open for the next book, Passion, not due out until next summer. I really want to find out what happens!

Last Sacrifice (Vampire Academy, Book 6)
Title: Last Sacrifice (Vampire Academy #6)

Author: Richelle Mead

Pages: 594

Source: Borrowed

Rating: 8/10

Challenges: Read 'n' Review Challenge

My Two Cents:

I'm a little mixed in my reaction to this one. For the most part, I loved it and thought it was a great way to wrap up the series. On the other hand, though, some things (Including the ending) seemed a little too neat and tidy for me.

The best part about this book, I think, is that we see very little of Rose and Lissa actually together. We see what Lissa's doing through Rose's eyes, but we don't actually see them together, and I think that really helps Lissa evolve a lot as a character. I only wish it had happened a little sooner in the series.

One of my big disappointments in this book, though, was Dimitri. We got a lot more face time with him than we did in Spirit Bound, which was nice, but he just wasn't as intriguing and engaging as he was in the previous books in the series. Of course, a lot of that has to do with his battling with the things he did as a Strigoi, but I just really, really missed the Dimitri of the first few books of the series.

All in all, though, this was a solid and satisfying ending to this series.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Show Me 5 Saturday: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451From That's A Novel Idea and Find Your Next Book Here

1 book I read: Fahrenheit 451

2 words that describe the book: Dystopian literature

3 settings where it took place or characters you met:

Guy Montag - The main character, a firefighter in the future whose job it is to set fires, not put them out. He spends most of his life going along with the sentiment that books are evil and should be burnt, but meeting a young girl who moves in next door begins to change his perspective.

Captain Beatty - The ultimate government patsy, he enforces the rules to a T. He suspects Montag's leanings almost before Montag knows them himself, and he executes his orders.

Clarisse McClellan - A 17-year-old free-thinker who moves in next door to Montag. Her conversations with Montag, centering around thinking and talking instead of passively having things fed to you, are what gets Montag to rethink his way of life.

4 Things you liked and/or disliked about it:

I liked how I could actually (frighteningly) picture this world coming into existence. We're really not that far off from this possibility, which is scary.

I didn't like how it seemed to take a long time for Montag to make his mental "switch," but once he did, it all went lightning-fast. It just seemed like a big build-up for a super-quick payoff.

I liked Captain Beatty, as reprehensible a character as he is. He's the personification of censorship, and he does a good job putting the fear of God into those around him.

I liked (No, LOVED) the ending. Such an amazing concept. I think more people need to put this into practice right now, because it almost seems like we're losing a lot of crucial books to a lack of readership.

5 Stars or less for your rating?

I'm giving the book 5 stars. An absolute must-read.

The Whys and Wheres: Personal library

Challenges: Read 'n' Review Challenge; 451 Challenge

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Short Reviews: Radiance and Infinite Days

In an attempt to fit in all the books I've read this year, seeing as I've spent the last three months as a horrible blogging slacker, I'm mashing in two shorter reviews today. I won't include synopses of the books, so click on the book cover if you want to read more about the story! Makes my life a little easier!

Radiance Title: Radiance

Author: Alyson Noel

Pages: 183 (I have an ARC, so page counts in final copies may be different)

Source: Publisher for review

Rating: 6/10

Challenges: Read 'n' Review Challenge

My Two Cents:

The concept to this book is great: Riley (Little sister to Ever from Noel's young adult Immortals series) is in the other life, but finds it really pretty boring. Until she starts at an afterlife school, where she learns that she's been chosen for an interesting mission. And the concept holds up, but Riley is just one of those kids you want to hit upside the head. She's bratty and bossy and doesn't listen to anyone. She only wants to do what she wants to do, regardless of consequences. Yes, I know this is how a lot of preteens act, but it really took away from my enjoyment of the book.

This book will be enjoyed by fans of the Immortals series and readers in the middle grade levels.

Infinite Days (Vampire Queen)
Title: Infinite Days (Vampire Queen #1)

Author: Rebecca Maizel

Pages: 308 (I have an ARC, so page counts in final copies may be different)

Source: Publisher for review

Rating: 6/10

Challenges: Read 'n' Review Challenge

My Two Cents:

This was a tough one to get through. It started out really interesting, especially seeing how Lenah adjusts to her new human life, but then kind of fell off the wagon. The entire middle was just random days in Lenah's life and her relationship with Justin, which would have been fine in a non-paranormal young adult book, but it didn't work well here. There was just a lot that didn't get explained, and maybe that will be touched more in later books in the series, but I was just left with a kind of lukewarm feeling altogether about this one.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

2011 Debut Authors Challenge

In reading Kristi's blog all year, I've seen a lot about the Debut Author Challenge. I thought it looked cool, but didn't have the time to commit to another challenge for 2010. Heck, I barely finished some of the challenges I signed up for!

Anyway, I'm jumping in this year. It looks like an AWESOME list of books, and I can't wait to pick some out!

I ended up reading a lot more MG/YA this year than I thought I did, and I've discovered that YA has really stepped it up a notch from when I was younger. It's not all Lurlene McDaniel and Fear Street. There's some seriously awesome stuff being written for teens now, and I'd be remiss to not give as much of it a go as possible.

I haven't picked out my books yet, but I plan to spend a LOT of time looking through the list and cross-referencing synopses with Amazon and Goodreads.

Show Me 5 Saturday: Push by Sapphire

Push (HARDCOVER)From That's A Novel Idea and Find Your Next Book Here

1 book I read: Push

2 words that describe the book: Overcoming boundaries

3 settings where it took place or characters you met:

Claireece "Precious" Jones - A 16-year-old severely overweight black girl living in Harlem, Precious is pregnant with her second child by her father. When she gets kicked out of her public school, Precious enrolls in an alternative program that teaches her how to read and write, and gives her a way out of the abusive, poverty-stricken life she has always known.

Blue Rain - Precious' teacher at Each One Teach One, she pushes the young women in the program to write something every day, no matter what it is or how incoherent it may seem. She becomes Precious' champion and her daily conversations with Precious, through a journal, help get the young girl moving in the right direction.

Abdul Jones - Precious' infant son and her motivation for learning to read and write, moving out of her mother's apartment, and working toward a better life for both of them.

4 Things you liked and/or disliked about it:

I liked that, although Precious' life up to the beginning of the novel is absolutely horrible and she seems to be caught in a cycle that will never end, Precious still maintains some hope that she'll be able to find a better life for herself. She just needs someone who cares about her (Which she finds) and who knows how to move Precious in the right direction.

I disliked how the entire novel was written in dialect. I know it's Precious' story, and that's how she speaks and thinks, but it just made parts of the book really difficult to read through because I had to figure out what was being said.

I liked the Each One Teach One class's stories written out at the end of the book. We got allusions to where the other girls in the class came from background-wise through Precious' story, but hearing their lives in their own words was interesting.

I liked that the book ends with a lot of hope. It's often easy to write about people in dire situations and leave the book with there being very little hope that the characters will crawl out of it, but not here. Precious has a better life on the horizon, and you know it.

5 Stars or less for your rating?

I'm giving the book 4 stars.

The Whys and Wheres: Personal library

Challenges: Read 'n' Review Challenge; Take Another Chance Challenge (Challenge 2 - Blogroll Roulette)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Short Reviews: The King's Mistress and The Vanishing of Katharina Linden

In an attempt to fit in all the books I've read this year, seeing as I've spent the last three months as a horrible blogging slacker, I'm mashing in two shorter reviews today. I won't include synopses of the books, so click on the book cover if you want to read more about the story! Makes my life a little easier!

The King's Mistress: A NovelTitle: The King's Mistress

Author: Emma Campion

Pages: 442 (I have an ARC, so page counts in final copies may be different)

Source: Publisher for review

Rating: 7/10

Challenges: Read 'n' Review Challenge

My Two Cents:

This book has an interesting, enigmatic main character, the mistress of an English king about whom we don't really hear much. Alice Perrers, the mistress of King Edward III, begins the book young and unsure, married to a wealthy merchant. She changes considerably over the course of the book's 20-plus years of events, but still remains an interesting and relevant narrator.


My main criticism of this book is that it just seemed to try and cram too much into one novel. There's enough material here for a short series, one I would've read happily. We get more than 20 years of happenings in one book, from Alice as a young teenager all the way past Edward's death, and it just seems rushed, especially at the end. I really would have liked to see a lot more about what happened at court and to Alice and her family following Edward's death, but the last couple years of time are crammed into so short a page span it's nearly impossible.

This book is great for any fans of historical fiction, especially English royalty historical fiction.

The Vanishing of Katharina Linden: A Novel
Title: The Vanishing of Katharina Linden

Author: Helen Grant

Pages: 281 (I have an ARC, so page counts in final copies may be different)

Source: Publisher for review

Rating: 9/10

Challenges: Read 'n' Review Challenge

My Two Cents:

This novel's plucky, curious young narrator is what pilots this intriguing story over the top into a great novel. Pia, whose grandmother burst into flames at Christmas dinner at the beginning of the novel, uses her recent status as a schoolyard outsider to try and solve the mystery of why young girls suddenly disappear in her small German town. With the help of StinkStefan, a fellow outcast and another great character, she befriends a gregarious old storyteller and delves into the disappearances. When the reader thinks the mystery will be solved one way, the story takes surprising turns, leading the the final conclusion.

Grant's writing is another thing that makes this book so solid. She seamlessly weaves in words and traditions from Pia's German town, making the somewhat exotic setting seem familiar. And her choice of subject matter, child disappearance, is a timely one that is sure to capture the interest of any reader.

For fans of The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie and other Flavia de Luce mysteries, this is a must-read book.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Show Me 5 Saturday: To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

To the Lighthouse,A landmark of modern fiction, Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse explores thesubjective reality of everyday life in the Hebrides for the Ramsay family.Paperback on December 27, 1989From That's A Novel Idea and Find Your Next Book Here

1 book I read: To the Lighthouse
 
2 words that describe the book: Modern fiction

3 settings where it took place or characters you met:

The Hebrides, on the Isle of Skye - This is the location of the Ramsay family's summer home and the place where the entire novel unfolds over the course of several years. There's really not much else to say about the Hebrides besides showing you a picture:

Source

Gorgeous, isn't it? Sigh...




Lily Briscoe - Not a member of the Ramsay family, Lily really is the main character in this novel. She begins a shy young painter who takes too much to heart the ramblings of Charles Tansley that women shouldn't be painters. She spends most of the novel doubting various things, most often her abilities. There's an idea for a painting bouncing around in her head for a decade, and the painting finally is finished at the end of the novel.


Mr. Ramsay - A rude, self-centered man, he worries too much of his legacy and his impact in the world. He takes out his insecurities on his wife and children, bullying them into submission. He also is very much a modern character who questions Victorian practices and ideals, but only when they serve him.

4 Things you liked and/or disliked about it:

I liked, as always, Woolf's writing. She's one of those writers who could compose a sketch on grass growing and make it beautiful. There's no one that compares to her in my book.

I liked Mrs. Ramsay's character. She's kind and hopeful, buoying up her husband and children when necessary, and protective of the children's innocence. She has a very Romantic view of the world, appreciating beauty and believing it should be preserved.

I liked Woolf's experiment with the second section, showing the passing of a decade. It's a tough section to slog through if you're not paying attention, but the payoff is great.

I greatly disliked Mr. Ramsay's character. He reminds me of all those overbearing, chauvinistic patriarchs that are represented in history and literature. He really had no redeeming qualities to him, in my opinion.

5 Stars or less for your rating?

I'm giving the book 5 stars. This is a classic everyone should read.

The Whys and Wheres: Personal library

Challenges: Read 'n' Review Challenge; Take Another Chance Challenge #3 - 100 Best Books

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Review: Mockingjay (The Hunger Games #3) by Suzanne Collins

Mockingjay (The Final Book of The Hunger Games)Title: Mockingjay (The Hunger Games #3)

Author: Suzanne Collins

Pages: 390

Source: Personal library

Rating: 8/10

Challenges: Read 'n' Review Challenge

Summary (From book flap):

Katniss Everdeen, girl on fire, has survived, even though her home has been destroyed. Gale has escaped. Katniss's family is safe. Peeta has been captured by the Capitol. District 13 really does exist. There are rebels. There are new leaders. A revolution is unfolding.

It is by design that Katniss was rescued from the arena in the cruel and haunting Quarter Quell, and it is by design that she has long been part of the revolution without knowing it. District 13 has come out of the shadows and is plotting to overthrow the Capitol. Everyone, it seems, has had a hand in the carefully laid plans -- except Katniss.

The success of the rebellion hinges on Katniss's willingness to be a pawn, to accept responsibility for countless lives, and to change the course of the future of Panem. To do this, she must put aside her feelings of anger and distrust. She must become the rebels' Mockingjay -- no matter what the personal cost.

My Two Cents:

I know a lot of people were disappointed in this book as an ending to the trilogy, and I can see where they're coming from, but I quite liked it. Sure, it wasn't perfect and there were things that had me scratching my head, but for the most part, I thought it was a good ending.

I'm not going to give this a traditional review (In my normal style) simply because my thoughts on it are a little scattered still. So, I'll start with the things I liked, then end with the things I disliked.

First, the good

I'm glad there wasn't a third set of Games in this book. First, it wouldn't have fit what with portions of Panem totally falling apart and all, but a third Games would have been repetitive. We just would have seen Katniss fight for her life, again, and maintain her humanity and compassion in the face of evil, again. It was refreshing to have a change from that.

I also liked how you're never quite sure how to feel about Haymitch. He's kind of the Snape character of this series - Is he good and helping Katniss out, or is he bad and serving the Capitol's interests? He's a great character that has a lot of shading to him, and I enjoyed that.

I was glad that Katniss and Peeta spent most of the book apart from one another. Katniss needed Peeta to be elsewhere and in trouble of his own in order to grow up and realize that the world does not revolve around her. I think the loss of Peeta is really what catalyzed Katniss into becoming the leader she needed to be to help out the revolution.

I also was glad the revolution wasn't all sunshine and rainbows (What revolution is?). If there had been no snags within the group, it would have been an unrealistic portrayal. But, Collins has been faithful thus far in making even the most desolate situations realistic, so I don't know why I would have thought maybe she would have slipped up on this one. Either way, it was good to see that even people fighting for a good cause can have their own personal desires and can put those desires before the good of everyone.

The not-so-good

First, what the heck was up with Gale in this book?!?! He suddenly became super angry and violent and just really, really savage, and I didn't like it. He wasn't exactly my favorite character in the first place, but the turn he took in the third book was kind of out of left field. I didn't like it one bit, and I was always glad when the scene would shift and Gale was gone.

To me, Katniss still seemed a little self-absorbed, especially in the beginning of the book. "I don't want to be the face of all this, find someone else" doesn't really work when the people will rally around YOU. Even though you're a teenager and, well, teenagers tend to be a little self-involved, if there's a revolution going on and the lives of everyone you know are at stake, you suck it up and do what has to be done.

The revolution seemed to move a little more quickly than I would have expected, and I think that kind of diluted the effect. There were some big scenes, and some major uprisings in the Districts, but it just seemed as if the whole thing just got started and then it was over. Revolutions are usually protracted and much, much messier than this one appeared to be (Minus the loss of pretty much all of District 12). I think the story would have been a bit stronger if we could have seen some more of the struggling and fighting of the other areas of Panem before the revolution just suddenly ended.

The epilogue just seemed kind of tacked on there. Katniss spends the entire series thinking one thing and saying one thing and, all of a sudden (To us), she totally does a 180 and has this completely different life? I know the epilogue takes place many years after the rest of the series, but it just seemed a little too neat and tidy a way to end the whole thing to me.


If you're thinking at all about reading this series, I would absolutely recommend doing so. It is well worth the investment and will have you thinking and talking about it long after you close the final book.
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