July 1, 2012

Sunday Afternoon Classics: The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk

I will admit, this is a bit of a hard read unless you are familiar with Navy life. Luckily, my dad is a font of historical military info, so he helped a lot with deciphering some of the harder terms in the story. The novel tells the tale of a Navy warship at sea during World War II, led by an interesting collection of officers and their even more psychologically fascinating captain, Queeg.

I love this story for two very different reasons. Its simplicity – it is nothing more than a story about Navy life – it takes no stance about the importance of militarism in daily society or speak of issues intrinsic to the military itself. My other favorite aspect of this novel is it’s psychological focus.

Although every character has a story to tell, Queeg’s is the most fascinating. His decisions and actions aboard the Caine are so interesting. I can’t help but wonder what his reasoning is behind his actions and how he came to such conclusions. His paranoid tendencies are especially fascinating! I loved reading all of his little quirks and slight insights into his mind.

If you don’t have the time or the inclination to read this book, I highly suggest the movie. Humphrey Bogart does an amazing job as Queeg & it’s one of my family’s favorites! 

Been a long week at work, so I’m sorry this is a less intensive post. My brain feels like pudding. Happy sunday! 

Posted July 1, 2012 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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June 29, 2012

Review: Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Oh my goodness, oh my goodness…I couldn’t put this book down. I even tried to read it at work (unsuccessful). I wish I could read it again, but the library is kinda mad I kept it for so long…

Synopsis (from goodreads.com)

One choice can transform you–or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves–and herself–while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

Tris’s initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable–and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.

“New York Times” bestselling author Veronica Roth’s much-anticipated second book of the dystopian “Divergent” series is another intoxicating thrill ride of a story, rich with hallmark twists, heartbreaks, romance, and powerful insights about human nature.

I can’t believe this novel. This entire series. 
They are astoundingly amazing.

In Insurgent Tris develops even further, becoming one heck of a heroine. Her self-doubt and inner insecurities are so endearing that I can’t help but love her. She persists through all the absolutely insane events in her life, showing courage and strength when I’m not sure I would have made it through. Her inner guilt makes her character even stronger.

Her relationship with Four/Tobias is…ahh. Like my-eyes-glaze-over-thinking-about-it. He is that perfect combination between wanting to completely protect Tris from everything but realizes that she needs to not be coddled. Their relationship has moved on from the puppy dog first love stage to where the couple begins to disagree with each other – like they are comfortable enough with each other to voice their real opinions. Tris and Tobias/Four’s relationship has the same elements of the fairy tales we all know and love, but there is a deeper element to it; they are truly meant to be together.

The villains of Insurgent are so devious and sneaky that it takes a while to realize how utterly evil they are. Jeanine is so determined in her pursuit of knowledge that she lets literally nothing stand in her way. Her choice of motivating the other factions to her cause interested me the most. I understand that Erudite didn’t stand a chance trying to battle on their own, but to attempt to control others’ minds? Wow. And the traitor Divergent? I wasn’t sure if they were still under control or if they were working for Erudite for their own free will, but still…It felt like in order to be a Dauntless, disloyalty wasn’t an option. 

The battle was astounding. Luckily I was at home so I could burn through the last few chapters. Tris’s choices during these last few moments absolutely define her character. I did not expect anything that happened at the end of the novel…people showed their true colors, both good and bad. I’m trying really hard to not talk about the ending, which I REALLY want to! GAH. So difficult.

I loved Insurgent. It is at least one of my top ten for the year. This is definitely recommended for everyone! 

Posted June 29, 2012 by Ellen in the canon talks, Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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June 28, 2012

Review: Archon: The Books of Raziel by Sabrina Benulis

Synopsis (from goodreads.com)

Angela Mathers is plagued by visions of angels, supernatural creatures who haunt her thoughts by day and seduce her dreams by night. Newly released from a mental institution where she was locked away for two years, she hopes that her time at the Vatican’s university, the West Wood Academy, will give her a chance at a normal life. Unlike ordinary humans, Angela is a blood head — a freak, a monster, the possible fulfillment of a terrifying prophecy of overwhelming death and destruction. Only in Luz, the Vatican’s wondrous enclave, are blood heads accepted and encouraged to discover what kind of powers or special abilities they might possess.

But within West Wood, a secret coven plots, and demons and angels roam the streets searching for the key to open Raziel’s book — a secret tome from a lost archangel. Some are determined to destroy Raziel, while others, like the beautiful Supernal Israfel, one of the highest of the high, wish to free him. And when the Archon — the human chosen to possess the spirit of a dead angel — rises as foretold, they will control the supernatural universe.

Torn between mortal love and angelic obsession, Angela holds the key to Heaven and Hell — and both will stop at nothing to possess her.

I picked this novel up because of it’s amazing cover. As I read the book, I was amazed to see the continuance of these same colors throughout the story; red, white, black and, the most prominent, grey. The clever artwork was done by someone who had obviously read the book and picked up on the constant references to the good, bad, and the in-between.

The heroine, Angela Mathers, has a horrid life. She is haunted by these dreams/visions of otherworldly creatures like angels. Because of these dreams, she is set apart from the rest of the society and the world – consequently, she tries to commit suicide many times, consistently failing, sometimes at the harm of others. The only time she is comfortable within herself is in her dreams with “her” angels.

Personally, I loved Angela. She had enough flaws to be human, and it helped drastically to learn about all the different angelic races and ideas from a narrator who knew about as much as I did about them (which is nothing). 

The Catholic Church looks a little shoddy in the book – the archbishop is having frequent affairs with girls from the freshman class at the Acadmeny, the novices are running in and out of girls’ bedrooms, smoking, drinking, and all sorts of activities I’m pretty sure the Church disapproves of. However, considering the focus of the novel is on the battle between Heaven and Hell, the Church acts more like a setting instead of an influence.

Speaking of the battle, I was very interested to read this part. Angela is no longer the narrator, more of a pawn. Benulis features her gory battles in quick cut scenes that allow small glimpses, piece by piece, making the reader want more. To me, it was very hard to discern whose motives were true. In Benulis’s world, even angels aren’t perfect.

All in all, a fascinating, if sometimes confusing story (with all the different angelic/demonic races), but Benulis kept me guessing throughout the story – certainly did not expect that ending! Definitely recommended.

Posted June 28, 2012 by Ellen in the canon talks, Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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June 27, 2012

WWW Wednesday {June 27, 2012}

To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…

• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently Reading: Yet another week I want to stay home and read! Unfortunately, this is the busiest week out of the year at my job (starting today! Whee!) so that’s not really an option. I always hide my Kindle in my purse though. 😉 

This is becoming a must-read. I haven’t been able to put it down yet! Benulis weaves such an incredible story that I can’t always put my finger on the difference between reality and fantasy. 

I am also reading The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien (might take me a while…) and The Queen’s Vow by C.W. Gortner. Both of these are somewhat heavy works, so I’m reading lighter stuff as well. 

Recently Finished: I finished two very different books. First was Making the Corps by Thomas E. Rickman (review here), a book of the military lifestyle and history of Marines upon Parris Island. In the opposite hand (with a completely different genre), I read Meg Cabot’s Underworld, a take on the Greek mythology tale of Persephone and Hades.

Next: I wish my TBR shelf was neat enough that I could just attach a photo of all the books instead of trying to choose! 
Insurgence by Veronica Roth is a must. I’m thinking about trying Kim Harrison’s Death Witch Walking.  I accidentally picked up the 10th book in the series, Pale Demon, at the library, and even though I had no idea what was going on, I really enjoyed it! So maybe starting at the beginning would be a good idea. : )

What’re you reading?
Happy Wednesday!

Posted June 27, 2012 by Ellen in the canon talks, Uncategorized, WWW Wednesday / 6 Comments
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June 26, 2012

Teaser Tuesday! {June 26, 2012}

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers! 

I am reading so many books right now that my currently reading shelf is overcrowded! (Just can’t decide which ones to focus on – they’re all so good!) My favorite right now is Sabrina Benulis’s Archon: The Books of Raziel. I love all the different types of angels and demons involved. The suspense is really building up in the novel so far! I can’t wait to keep reading it!

“The only place Angela had ever been popular was in the psych ward at the institution. There, her long hair and scars had made her more intriguing than a supermodel. But anywhere else, she was a freak, a monster, a danger, the possible fulfillment of a prophecy that meant death and destruction on a staggering scale.” (page 15

And the cover itself is amazing. : )

Happy Tuesday!

Posted June 26, 2012 by Ellen in teaser tuesday, the canon talks, Uncategorized / 9 Comments
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June 24, 2012

Sunday Afternoon Classics: The Great Gatsby

Love it or hate it, The Great Gatsby has become integrated into American culture almost as thoroughly as baseball. My first experience with the novel began in eighth grade and I’ve read it all the way up into college (last year was actually the first year I didn’t have to study this novel). I have loved this novel, hated it, and sometimes both at the same time. We’re trying out being friends right now.

Synopsis (from goodreads.com):
In 1922, F. Scott Fitzgerald announced his decision to write “somethingnew–something extraordinary and beautiful and simple and intricately patterned.” That extraordinary, beautiful, intricately patterned, and above all, simple novel became The Great Gatsby, arguably Fitzgerald’s finest work and certainly the book for which he is best known. A portrait of the Jazz Age in all of its decadence and excess, Gatsby captured the spirit of the author’s generation and earned itself a permanent place in American mythology. Self-made, self-invented millionaire Jay Gatsby embodies some of Fitzgerald’s–and his country’s–most abiding obsessions: money, ambition, greed, and the promise of new beginnings. “Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter–tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…. And one fine morning–” Gatsby’s rise to glory and eventual fall from grace becomes a kind of cautionary tale about the American Dream.

It’s also a love story, of sorts, the narrative of Gatsby’s quixotic passion for Daisy Buchanan. The pair meet five years before the novel begins, when Daisy is a legendary young Louisville beauty and Gatsby an impoverished officer. They fall in love, but while Gatsby serves overseas, Daisy marries the brutal, bullying, but extremely rich Tom Buchanan. After the war, Gatsby devotes himself blindly to the pursuit of wealth by whatever means–and to the pursuit of Daisy, which amounts to the same thing. “Her voice is full of money,” Gatsby says admiringly, in one of the novel’s more famous descriptions. His millions made, Gatsby buys a mansion across Long Island Sound from Daisy’s patrician East Egg address, throws lavish parties, and waits for her to appear. When she does, events unfold with all the tragic inevitability of a Greek drama, with detached, cynical neighbor Nick Carraway acting as chorus throughout. Spare, elegantly plotted, and written in crystalline prose, The Great Gatsby is as perfectly satisfying as the best kind of poem.
Since pretty much everyone from high school on is familiar with the story, I’ll skip over the analysis of characters, theme, etc, that every teacher in America is prepping for the fall English classes. It is my opinion that Gatsby is taught so frequently because the main character embodies the American dream, at least at the beginning. Gatsby is a self-made man, a millionaire that made himself out of nothing. 
I personally love all the different character personalities within the novel. You remember their distinct characteristics, even now. Daisy is the airhead, Gatsby is the insecure millionaire, and Nick acts as our (possibly undependable) narrator. Fitzgerald created characters with such backgrounds and psychological problems that I can’t help but wonder what the hell is wrong with them. 
Love it or not, it must be acknowledged that this is one hell of a novel.

Posted June 24, 2012 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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June 24, 2012

Review: Underworld by Meg Cabot

In Short: Quick, easy read along the same lines as Abandon.

Synopsis (from goodreads.com):

Seventeen-year-old Pierce Oliviera isn’t dead.
Not this time.
But she is being held against her will in the dim, twilit world between heaven and hell, where the spirits of the deceased wait before embarking upon their final journey.
Her captor, John Hayden, claims it’s for her own safety. Because not all the departed are dear. Some are so unhappy with where they ended up after leaving the Underworld, they’ve come back as Furies, intent on vengeance… on the one who sent them there and on the one whom he loves.
But while Pierce might be safe from the Furies in the Underworld, far worse dangers could be lurking for her there… and they might have more to do with its ruler than with his enemies.
And unless Pierce is careful, this time there’ll be no escape.

I must admit it. I’m in love with Meg Cabot.
After The Princess Diaries, I will read anything she publishes. Including the Abandon series.
Honestly, I’m not in love with Abandon. I feel like she could have created so much more with the material (the Persephone and Hades myth? Amazing!), but it is almost a lackluster attempt. All of the big revelations in the novel are somewhat predictable and familiar, but a lot of novels tend to follow the same predictable patterns. I expected more of Cabot.

The characters are okay – Pierce’s motives are a little uncertain sometimes. I’m not sure if she knows exactly what she wants yet, or how to vocalize it. John is a tad bit too overprotective.  Everyone else is a bit too one-dimensional for my personal taste. There were no fireworks, no moments that were so exciting I couldn’t put the book down.

However, the novel is an easy read, and more interesting than the first in the series, Abandon, because it is more in-depth about John’s character. (Not sure why the blurb advertises him as “her captor”…the novel portrays their relationship as somewhat positive…) I do like the parallels to the original myth, but I still believe the story could have been taken a few steps farther.

Posted June 24, 2012 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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June 23, 2012

Review: Making the Corps by Thomas E. Ricks

This is quite a diversion from my usual reading, but it came so highly recommended from my   dad that I had to try it. Ricks’ nonfiction novel following the lives of Marine Recruit Platoon 3086 was inspiring and entertaining, including tidbits from the guys’ day-to-day lives within the boot camp as well as bits of information regarding Marine culture and life.

Synopsis (from goodreads.com)
“Making the Corps” visits the front lines of boot camp, Parris Island, South Carolina. Here, old values are stripped away and new, Marine Corps values are forged. Acclaimed military journalist Thomas E. Ricks follows these men from their hometowns, through boot camp, and into their first year as Marines. As three fierce drill instructors fight a battle for the hearts and minds of this unforgettable group of young men, a larger picture emerges, brilliantly painted, of the growing gulf that divides the military from the rest of America.

The author, the senior Penatgon correspondent from The Washington Post, is a huge fan of the Marine culture and way of life. He states that “in a society that seems to have trouble transmitting values, the Marines stand out as successful and healthy institution that unabashedly teaches values to the Beavises and Buttheads of America” (pg 20). I admire the brashness and brute honesty in how the author delivers his opinions of…well, everything. Everything regarding the Marines, their culture, and the relationship between civilians and our military. 

To be honest, this book must be read with a grain of salt. It was a bit degrading to read the author’s [constant] tangents about how American civilian life is “undisciplined and lazy”, but in comparison to the soldiers of the military…yup. However, I do wish the author organized his rants and comparisons of the Army and Marines a little more thoroughly so I knew when to expect them. He almost interrupts himself in a few instances in his rush to instill us civilians with his vast military knowledge.

Regardless of the author’s opinions, the chapters detailing the life of the platoon were extremely fascinating. I loved watching them grow and develop into full-fledged Marine privates before my eyes. The different personalities of the men were what made the book for me; I wanted them to make it, to cheer them on when everything hit the fan. I enjoyed learning about their backgrounds and families, and the logic behind their decision to join the Marines. Ricks includes a very interesting section near the end of the book where he details the different journeys of the recruits we came to know and love. I felt like I knew them.

Posted June 23, 2012 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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June 21, 2012

Review: A Duty to the Dead by Charles Todd

Synopsis (from goodreads.com)

The daughter of a distinguished soldier, Bess Crawford, follows in his footsteps and signs up to go overseas as a nurse during the Great War, helping to deal with the many wounded. There serving on a hospital ship, she makes a promise to a dying young lieutenant to take a message to his brother’ Jonathan Graham: “Tell Jonathan that I lied. I did it for Mother′s sake. But it has to be set right.” Later, when her ship is sunk by a mine and she′s sidelined by a broken arm, Bess returns home to England determined to fulfill her promise.
It′s not so easy, however. She travels to the village in Kent where the Grahams live and passes on to Jonathan his brother′s plea. Oddly, neither Jonathan, his mother, nor his younger brother admit to knowing what the message means. Then Bess learns that there′s another brother, incarcerated in a lunatic asylum since the age of 14 when he was accused of brutally murdering a housemaid.
Bess rightly guesses that the dying soldier′s last words had something to do with the fourth brother. Because the family seems unwilling to do anything, she decides that she will investigate. It′s her own duty to the dead.
I was really excited to get this book. New author (to me), new series, and an interesting premise! What could go wrong?
Unfortunately, this novel couldn’t deliver for me. I am actually stopping halfway through. The beginning with Bess on the Britannic was fascinating, and I expected the novel to keep the same pace throughout the story. The moment she enters the Graham house, however, it was all downhill.
Character interaction was nonexistent. Bess goes from a fascinating, vibrant character to simply words on a page. I had no interest in the brothers whatsoever. They didn’t appear as real people to me; they were one-dimensional snobby brats who apparently didn’t give a damn about anyone but themselves.
The message Bess promises to deliver from her dying lieutenant to his family was so interesting! Who was the girl? Is she his long lost love? But after that chapter, there were too many characters running in and out of scenes that apparently had nothing to do with the plot. Why introduce Bess on the Britannic is there is no followup?
A Duty to the Dead promises a lot, but for me, it didn’t deliver.

Posted June 21, 2012 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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June 20, 2012

WWW Wednesday!

To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…

• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?

I really want to just sit at home and read this week, but we’re moving soon, so that’s really not an option. 🙂 Luckily, my library allows up to two renewals! 

I’m so excited about this week’s WWW Wednesday! So many amazing books and I love seeing what everyone else is reading.

Currently Reading: A Duty to the Dead by Charles Todd. I loved the beginning of this novel, but it’s kind of slowed down in the middle here. I’m really hoping it picks back up.

Recently Read: Divergent by Veronica Roth (check out my review here) and The Fellowship of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (and this review here =] )

Reading Next: And this is why I want to stay home and read. 

Most of these books I got from recommendations from other bloggers, so please tell me what you’re reading! 🙂

Happy Wednesday everyone!

Posted June 20, 2012 by Ellen in the canon talks, Uncategorized, WWW Wednesday / 6 Comments
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