(From left to right)
Post Grad by Emily Cassel – a novel based on the screenplay and recent movie.
The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht – highly recommended by my co-workers and on the Lucky Day shelf at my library.
Autobiography of Mark Twain – enough said.
The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth by Alexandra Robbins
Plain Speaking: Conversations with Harry S. Truman by Merle Miller – a Dad recommendation
Making the Corps by Thomas E. Ricks – another Dad recommendation. He said he read it cover to cover within a week.
The Search by Nora Roberts – I love Nora Roberts like my grandma loves Danielle Steel.
Abandon by Meg Cabot – Meg Cabot became one of my favorite authors with her amazing series The Princess Diaries. I will read anything by her.
Inferno by Max Hastings – a book I picked up for Dad for last Christmas. He loved it so much, he handed it back to me (this is a good thing in our family =] )
Cold River and Kiss the Moon by Carla Neggers – on my last vacation, the hotel I stayed in had a few New York Times bestsellers lying about the room (which I loved because I had forgotten to bring a book…) and once I picked her novel up, I couldn’t put it down. I haven’t read either of these, so hopefully they are as good as the others I have read so far!
One Day by David Nicholls – Amazing movie and so far, an amazing story. I identify with Em and I can’t help but cheer for Dex.
Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller – a random grab from the Lucky Day shelf. From the plot description, it looks like a version of The Illiad.
Bridget Jones; The Edge of Reason by Helen Fielding – impossible to not love <3
Overbite by Meg Cabot
The Sound and the Fury by William Faulker – I read my first Faulkner story this last semester and fell in love with his style of writing. The Sound and the Fury has it’s reputation for being a bit of a heavy read, but since it’s the only one on my shelf like it, I bet I can manage it 🙂
Just as Sophie Mercer has come to accept her extraordinary magical powers as a demon, the Prodigium Council strips them away. Now Sophie is defenseless, alone, and at the mercy of her sworn enemies—the Brannicks, a family of warrior women who hunt down the Prodigium. Or at least that’s what Sophie thinks, until she makes a surprising discovery. The Brannicks know an epic war is coming, and they believe Sophie is the only one powerful enough to stop the world from ending. But without her magic, Sophie isn’t as confident.
Sophie’s bound for one hell of a ride—can she get her powers back before it’s too late?
Grey is a fascinating color if you think about it. It’s not quite dark but not quite light. It’s smack dab in the middle between black and white, between evil and innocence. It’s a hesitant color, unsure, wavering. The theory behind the color grey is the basis for the protagonist Ottway in the new film The Grey. The film appeared to me from the previews to be a typically Hollywood thriller/horror, but this blew my expectations out of the water. It is much more focused on human relationships and our own personal psychological hangups. Ottway is stuck in the grey, the inbetween. The threat of the wolves is real enough, but the film focuses on our own mortality and how we cope with the cards life deals. (To be fair, I discuss many topics that occur within the film…or more commonly known, SPOILER!)
The Bare Bones:
The film follows an oil drilling team whose home bound plane crashes into the unforgiving Northern wilderness (presumably Alaska). The crash survivors must deal with a territorial pack of wolves as well as their own injuries, both physical and mental.
The Common Threads:
Man vs Man: – the few hand to hand combat events that occur stem from fear (excluding the opening scene at base camp, which is the product, presumably, of alcohol). Diaz challenges Ottway (Omega challenges Alpha) as a result of his unacknowledged fear as they reach the apparent safety of the treeline, occuring moments before the Alpha wolf is heard to stop a rebellion within his own pack.
Man vs Nature – Nature gives the survivors no breaks. From blizzards and storms to freezing temperatures and, the biggest threat, the wolves, she is unmericful to the men. One man, Burke, succumbs to nature’s dangers as the air is too thin for him to breathe, causing not enough oxygen to reach his brain. The wolves as well are a constant terror because, as Ottway theorizes, they are either nearby their den or within their hunting range.
Man vs Himself – the overarching theme of the story. Ottway is constantly at odds with his memories, especially the constricting pain of the loss of his wife. He even contemplates suicide, but stops at the sight of a wolf. All of the survivors of the plane crash and subsequent wolf attacks have skeletons in their closet and as the film progresses, their secrets are revealed.
Spirituality – Faith and religion is a bone of contention among the men. Some firmly believe in God while others, like Ottway, claim they don’t. Ottway appears, as he so often does, to be in the grey zone, the inbetween. He confesses that he doesn’t believe in God but wishes he does. Whatever your beliefs, it cannot be denied that Ottway is in desperate need of a guiding light in his life. This is even more apparent when he screams to the sky, demanding God prove Himself then and there. He turns to faith blindly, as so many of us do, in moments of deep desperation, screaming out in frustration that God fix the problem then and there. Unfortunately, for him and for us, that rarely occurs.
Death – In The Grey, death is everywhere. It is the only constant the survivors learn to count on. It is my belief The Grey is a tale about a journey of learning to accept death. Ottway has a head start on the rest of the group, stemming from his background of his wife’s death. This event enables shim to calm the dying man in the wreckage of the plane, making death sound almost like a long lost friend welcoming the poor soul back home. Ottway’s journey ends when he realizes he has stumbled into the wolf den itself and the black Alpha is glaring down at him. The words of his father’s lyrical death poem repeating in his head as he faces down his own death in the form of the giant Alpha wolf.
- the wallets – the wallets are interesting. Ottway decides to collect the wallets from the deceased to give to the families, vocalizing his belief (hope?) that they are going to somehow get out alive. The wallets seem to contain the men’s entire lives within a few inches of folded leather, especially photos of their loved ones. I was intrigued when Ottway opened each wallet, carefully, reverently, and examind the contents, then placed each one of the ground in the den, forming a sad pile. He then opens up his own, repeats the process, then prepares for his battle with death. I couldn’t quite put my finger on the symbolism of the wallets. I know it means something, but it continues to elude me…
- Ottway’s broken gun – the symbol of the beginning of the journey. All the skills Ottway once utilized in base camp must be refreshed to fit their current situation…without the help of the most useful weapon aboard the plane.
- “Don’t be afraid” – Throughout the film, there are many flashbacks to Ottway’s wife stroking his face and whispering this simple phrase. It is not until later that we discover why. However, she represents his guardian angel, staying with him throughout all the frightening moments, the calming presence in the back of his mind, whispering constantly, “don’t be afraid”. I suppose one could go as far as to compare her to a representation of God – always with him, calming and protecting him. Maybe her memory is when he feels closest to faith.
- The Black Alpha – Death – black. Big mean wolf that wants to kill Ottway = black, therefore = death
“That’s the reality of getting old, and I guess that’s really the crux of the matter. I’m not ready to be old yet” (Gruen 110).
- Man vs Man – Young Jacob is constantly at odds with his boss, the equestrian director August Rosenbluth, whether he has done something wrong or not. August has it out for him, partly because he realizes Jacob is in love with his wife, Marlena, and partly because of August’s suspicious nature. Older Jacob gets in two major confrontations. The first being at the beginning of the novel when Jacob is seated across from McGuinty, a retired lawyer who claims he carried water for the elephants (!). Jacob confronts him and the whole situation escalates until Jacob is wheeled back to his room. The second confrontation comes at the end of Jacob’s journey, which involves a circus boss, a cop, and a glass of whiskey.
- Man vs Nature – This theme is not prominently featured in this novel. Nature presents herself in the form of the weather and in the animals Jacob tends to in the menagerie. One could argue that Rosie the elephant embodies the theme of man vs nature (aka August vs Rosie) but I believe that Rosie’s part goes deeper then just a face off with August.
- Man vs Himself -Jacob is constantly fighting with himself. Don’t stare at Marlena, don’t make August mad, don’t let them mistreat the animals. His memories of his lost parents are a sharp pain for him at the beginning and constantly plague him in dreams and thought throughout the novel. His good Samaritan side and sense of common decency (which seems to be a rare thing in those days) also presents problems for him as he can’t help but integrate himself in conflicts. Older Jacob has conflicts with himself in a different way. He can’t come to terms with aging. His narrative is filled with constant references to his uncertainty with aging. Jacob is still disappointed that none of his five children offered to take him in after his wife passed away, but the gloom lifts when the circus plants its tent a few blocks from his home.
Society is never portrayed well in literature. From Dickens to Oscar Wilde to today’s more recent authors such as Ian McEwan, society is the cause of all sorts of problems. However, Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games series shows a much more intense take on the future society of the decimated leftovers of America, now called the country of Panem. At first, I was reluctant to read Ms. Collins’s novels, unsure if I could face the harsh and grim future of her post-apocalyptic world. The idea of the Hunger Games itself repulsed me, yet I couldn’t put it down. The stories behind the Hunger Games were so enticing, I kept reading to know the stories of the revolution (known in the story as “the Dark Days”). The protagonist, 16 year old Katniss Everdeen, however, was the most intriguing element of the entire series. Her stubborn nature, her dependency only on herself and her best friend Gale, and her love for her little sister endeared her to me.
The Bare Bones:
In a country of constant terror, the ruling Capitol forces each District (12 in all; District 13 is all but nonexistent) to contribute two contestants for the Hunger Games – a girl and a boy, between the ages of 12-18. These contestants, called tributes, are shipped to the Capitol to be trained and released into the arena to fight for their lives. In District 12, Katniss Everdeen volunteers to take her younger sister, Prim’s, place as tribute. Now all she has to do is kill the 23 other tributes to return home alive.
- Man vs Man – On the surface, this novel is full of man vs man. The Capitol ruling over the Districts, the Peacekeepers (Panem’s national police) versus the people, the tributes against each other, especially the Career tributes against those from lesser districts, and Katniss against her mother. Man versus man is one of the most prominent themes in the novel.
- Man vs Nature – Katniss is not unfamiliar with nature – in fact, she spent most of her life running around the wild forest that lies next to the Seam, her home region of District 12. However, the arena in which the Hunger Games take place is not exactly the nature Katniss knows. Poisonous bees, dangerous and quick wildfires are among the dangers Katniss and the other tributes have to face.
- Man vs Himself – Katniss’s biggest enemy is herself. Well, okay, maybe not her biggest, but the war within herself does present a lot of problems. Katniss can’t forgive her mother. When her father died, her mother withdrew into herself and into her grief, letting Katniss and her little sister, Prim, to find their own way through their own sadness. During their goodbye session before Katniss is shipped to the Capitol, she and her mother have an argument that leaves Katniss sad and sets the mood for the trip. Katniss also has to deal with her instinctive distrust of people. It continually hinders her throughout the novel.
- And finally, society! Society is shown in two different ways in the novel – how District 12 and its people are portrayed, and then how the world of the Capitol runs. Thinking on this very topic brought up a few questions:
- Why do the districts allow their children to essentially be hauled off and slaughtered, all in the name of ‘fun’? (hence the use of “Hunger Games“)
- Why does the Capitol see this as entertainment? Surely a society as progressive and advanced as this wouldn’t allow such a tragedy to occur annually? Why do they enjoy such barbaric entertainment?
- Within Katniss’s own district, there is a line between the ruling class and the lower class; yet, when faced with the Capitol or Peacekeepers, the line becomes a little more blurred, and the district ruling class blends in with the lower class. Is this a parody of society today? Or a warning of what we might become?
- Mockingjay: a creation of the Capitol’s comes back to haunt them. Foreshadowing?
- President Snow: snow = white –> white = innocence –> but President Snow does not = innocence.
- Why does Katniss’s mother and father remain nameless?
- Cinna: why does he pick District 12? He obviously has the skills to choose any district he chooses.
- The fashions in the Capitol only serve to set the ruling class farther above those living in the Districts – the ‘lower’ class, if you will.
Every New Year’s Eve at my work, we hold a huge party for all of the members and this year’s theme is “The Phantom of the Opera”. This little paperback book had snuck to the back of my bookshelf, slipping from my mind. I had completely forgotten the masterful work of Gaston Leroux.
Just finished his biography. I am stunned. It took him more then a decade to create that story. There is so much more that went into it then just writing down what came into his head. He created languages. I don’t know about you, but I can barely speak Spanish, a language I studied for the three requisite years in high school, plus one extra (don’t have to do it in college now!), let alone CREATE a language.
Middle English, for those who haven’t seen it, is nothing like the English we speak today. To me, it looks more German in it’s form. Tolkien was an expert in that as well, and had a basic understanding of Icelandic and other such languages as well. I am fascinated by Elvin for some reason, possibly because it was the most mentioned in the biography out of all the works he created.
His life as a professor was interesting as well. How he managed to balance his lectures, etc along with writing one of the world’s more well-known series of books amazes me.
The capacity of his imagination must have been enormous. Just some of the names befuddle my simple mind, like how on earth did he come up with such things? And what about the themes of the story?
Why did he choose to discuss the battle of good and evil as his base storyline (although every possible basic theme, like man vs man and man vs himself can be found in his works)? And why a ring? Is it just because a ring is a general piece of jewelry or does it represent something more? Tolkien is noted in the biography for wanting to avoid all conventions of allegory in his stories (probably to give the critics a harder time, hehe) but with the times in which he wrote (a la World War II), it is hard to not draw a comparison between Mordor and Germany.
A lot of the questions about these works that are floating around in my mind are trying to find the answers within the biography, but since we are in the age of the “death of the author,” I cannot look there for my answers. I have to find them in the works themselves…which are still on hold at the library….
Patience is definitely not my virtue. Hehe.
I have never read a graphic novel before.
I know, I know, in this day and age, that isn’t quite acceptable. I just was never interested. But this masterpiece is blowing me away.
Honestly, I am having trouble getting used to reading in this different format, but for this story, I will work through it. The story is much more complex then I was lead to realize. At the moment, I am in the middle of Dr. Manhattan’s flashback about his relationship with Janey (no, not very far), but again, I couldn’t help but be fascinated by this idea of God.
Dr. Manhattan is God, or something along the lines of that equivalent. I find it fascinating. Dr. Manhattan just lets these things happen. He KNOWS that the women will leave him for whatever reasons, he knows exactly why. But yet he allows it.
Recently, I was introduced to the Lord of the Rings series after a failed attempt in eighth grade to read The Hobbit (what can I say, I hold a grudge!). To my eighth grade mind, The Hobbit was a horribly thick novel with so many plot lines and conflicts twisting in upon each other that I could not discern what on earth was going on. To be fair to the novel, however, I barely read it; I scanned it, like most of the other simple novels that were on the English curriculum and expected that my skim would be enough to pass the reading quiz. The Hobbit stands as the only work that wrecked my 4.0 score on those reading quizzes (which were pointless anyway, but I digress…)
The Lord of the Rings series has made such an impact upon the world, and I want to know why. Why have these novels stood the test of time and be relatable to me, in 2011, and something my mom remembers reading in high school and my dad identifies with the “seventies hippy crap” (like he wasn’t a part of it. I’ve seen the photos, Dad). What is so enchanting about novels about an evil ring and the journey of a poor young hobbit named Frodo?
Completely ignoring the set rules of literary theory, I watched the movies first, then read some of the criticisms. It seems everyone and their brother has an opinion about how it should be interpreted. I was more interested in the religious aspects of it all, as that seems to be an important part of myself I am sorting out at the moment. I noticed that in the movies (which I am told are nearly mirror images of the books) that Gandolf was often portrayed as God, the Savior, and the All-Knowing. Huh. My Christian background kicked in, and all those years of religious studies flashed up in my mind. God, as the Christains/Catholics recognize him, is divided in three parts (forgive my rough explanation: my degree is in literature, not religion or philosophy): the Father (Creator), Son (Savior) and Holy Spirit. So if we apply those definitions to Gandolf, he fits into every role but the Holy Spirit. I suppose we could say the job of the Spirit is to spread faith, and I do believe there are a few times were Gandolf attempts to give the soldiers faith while fighting the orcs. The Christian religion also believes that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one entity. Gandolf is one entity. Is Gandolf supposed to be God?
I realize that is a really rough argument for someone who hasn’t read the books yet (they are in transit to my local library) but I am intrigued. It seems that Tolkien is making an extremely strong point about religion in his novels; in fact, I think he is screaming it at the top of his lungs.
But maybe he is trying to speak about the other religions? There are seven races in the books and seven is a number found quite often in mythology and numerology (gotta dig up my myth lecture notes to double check which ones though).
However, there is definitely a battle between black and white. Tolkien makes a major effort to make sure his audience notices that evil = dark and good = light. I found that fascinating.
Please don’t take this post as an attack on religion. It isn’t. I have a faint background in the Christian religion from my past and I couldn’t help but notice the symbols screaming out at me from the films. I just cracked open Tolkien’s biography (the one by Mr. Humphrey Carpenter) and hopefully I can get a foundation for the venture I am about to embark on. I can’t wait 🙂
In my English Literature class, the two people who presented on A.S. Byatt’s Possession did a fantastic job! I was especially intrigued by the many different layers that Byatt had created in her novel, the tragic love story between the two great poets and the more complex love story of Maud Bailey and Roland Michell.
I will admit, I watched the movie first, something I normally don’t do. But it was Netflix Instant and I was home sick…anyway. I loved the movie. I loved the fast-paced mystery and the flashbacks between the two worlds of modern times and those of Randolph Henry Ash and Christabel LaMotte.
As to what Byatt could possibly mean by such a novel is impossible to pin down. And, as we are in the times of the “death of the author” type of research, I have to look inside myself to determine what the hell this massive novel could mean. I cannot even begin to fathom. I noticed that literary theory isn’t looked too fondly on, and a lot of attention is focused on what the poets (LaMotte and Ash) meant, instead of what it could mean. And how do Maud and Roland relate to these two? Maud, at the end of the novel, discovers a secret about her heritage which makes it a little more clear, but it has been bugging me lately. Are they the new line of Ash and LaMotte? Or is the only intention of the historical romance to enhance the modern day love affair?
Byatt creates such an believable world, especially with her inclusion of the works of her created authors. I sunk so deeply into the world that she created that I forgot Ash and Christabel’s story was false.
I intend to reread this book again and again. Absolutely a masterpiece!