Category Archives: Books

Peter Pan

Recently, I took a few days to read the story of Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie. Of course, this is a story that I have been familiar with since I was a child. I loved this movie as a kid because I loved the idea of make-believe and Neverland. Therefore, I decided to check out the original source. I am glad I did. Though this story was very similar to the versions I saw as a kid, this story was a bit darker, a bit more gruesome, and a bit lonelier than other versions I had come into contact with.

Personally, I enjoyed this grittier version of the story. Like Grimm’s versions of fairy tales, the darker twist on the stories makes them more exciting. Peter Pan is a boy who refuses to grow up. He takes children from their homes to come play with him for a while in Neverland, an imaginary island populated by children’s imaginations.

I think there is a part of Peter Pan in most of us, the part of us that never wants to grow up. The part of us that wants to continue to play games and pretend. I think that is what makes this story so compelling. At the same time, though, we see how never growing up has affected Peter, and we realize that growing up is a necessary part of life.

Overall, I would say this is a good story. While reading it, I kept thinking, is this something I will read to my children one day? It’s a difficult call. Though the story is something that children would enjoy, some of the content seems more like it was written for an older audience and children would have a difficult time following it. However, this could just be due to the age of the book. Perhaps a hundred years ago when the story was published children had better attention spans than they do today.

Then again, perhaps this story, which is always portrayed as a children’s story, was always intended to be more for adults than children.

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The Odyssey

This year, I have been using a reading list to guide my reading. The list gives topics to follow, and in the end, you will have read twelve books throughout the year. One of the items on the list is “A book you should have read in school.” For this category, I chose to read Homer’s The Odyssey.

The Odyssey is a story I should have first read in high school. However, I went to one of those schools where we watched the movie for everything and never actually read anything. Then in college, all the freshmen at my college read The Odyssey in a mandatory first semester course. Except for my class. My instructor decided we should read The Iliad instead.

So now, ten years after I should have, I read The Odyssey.

To be honest, I think I was able to enjoy it now better than I would have as a student. Currently, I teach a literature class that does a section on Ancient Greek Literature. I think teaching this section of my course helped me a lot while reading this story.

It is a good story. However, the style of writing is very different than what most of us are used to today (another reason why I feel I was able to enjoy this story better now than I would have ten years ago). As I have gotten older, I have started to enjoy different story-telling techniques. It’s interesting to me the amount of variation that exists in the way different cultures tell stories.

My only negative about this story: Odysseus tends to be a bit long winded at times. He likes to tell stories to the people he meets along his journey, which is fine, but sometimes those stories start to feel like they should be a book themselves. At times, these stories of Odysseus’ draw the reader’s attention away from the main story line.

Overall, I’m glad I finally got around to reading this one. It’s not necessarily in my top picks, but worth a read. Just make sure you get a good translation. It turns out, the way the story is translated can make a big difference regarding how enjoyable it is.

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The Historian

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova is told from multiple perspectives moving back and forth between a period of fifty or so years. There are three point of view characters. The first character is a sixteen-year-old girl who discovers her father’s dirty little secret in his research as a historian. Her father, Paul, has a fascination with Dracula that he has kept hidden from much of the rest of the world. This fascination was passed down to him from his mentor in college, Prof. Rossi. The story moves between the views of Rossi, Paul, and Paul’s daughter as each decides to continue the previous’ research on the historical figure of Vlad the Impaler and the legend of Dracula to see just how connected the two figures really are, and to discover if there is any truth to the legends.

This is a book a got years ago (when it first came out) but never got around to reading until just recently. When the book first came out, my aunt asked me if I had read it. When I said, no, but it was on my list, she wrinkled her nose and informed me it wasn’t very good. When I finally got around to reading this book, the whole time all I could think was, what was my aunt talking about? I went through 875 pages thinking, this is a pretty good story! And then I got to the final 35 pages.

In all honesty, it doesn’t matter how good the first thousand pages of a story are. If the ending is unsatisfying, the book is unsatisfying because the ending is what people are going to remember. By the I had finished reading those last 35 pages, I was so mad that I had to fight back the urge to throw the book across the room. Do you know how long it takes (me, at least) to read 900 pages? The answer is too long to be met with such a dissatisfying resolution by the end of it.

The climactic moment, completely anti-climactic.

Character growth, completely flat.

Sense of job well done, completely lacking.

When I got to the big moment of confrontation at the end of the story, I was left with the immediate reaction of, that was it!?! Taking the time to read such a book to be left with so little at the end was a complete waste of time.

I hate writing negative reviews because I feel like most stories always have something positive to offer, but sometimes, there’s just no getting around it. 😦

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The Picture of Dorian Gray

Oscar Wilde has always been one of my favorite writers. I think he is extremely clever in his writing. When I was in high school, I tried reading his novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, but about halfway through, it became very difficult and I never finished it. A while back, I decided to give it another try.

For those who don’t know the basic story line of this book, it is a story about a young man who has a portrait made of him. The portrait is very beautiful, and Dorian in his vanity, wishes that the portrait could age instead of him. And so it does. Not only does it age while Dorian stays young, but it also carries the weight of the sins he commits in his life while his own face stays young and innocent.

As I was rereading The Picture of Dorian Gray, I was so caught up in the story that I thought to myself, “What was wrong with me when I was younger that I couldn’t get through this?” The story was compelling, witty, and easy to read.

And then I got to the halfway point. This was the spot where I had given up on my last read through, and now I understood why. In the middle of this book is a chapter that works as a transition from the first half of the story to the second half. There is a bunch of summary about what Dorian has been doing during the years in between the two sections of the story, and there is a lot of self-reflection on Dorian’s part. And, well, it’s boring. And long.

However, it is only one chapter. If the reader can make it through that bit, then the story picks back up and the second half of the novel is just as compelling as the first.

I am glad I made it through to this end when I read The Picture of Dorian Gray this time. The final scene in the book really is a great one.

Overall, this book is worth the read, especially if you are a fan of Wilde’s style. When you reach the boring bit, just push through. Once the story picks back up, you will find it worthwhile.

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Pride & Prejudice, & Zombies

I must have been the only girl in my entire Brit Lit class in college who did not enjoy reading Pride & Prejudice. I must have been the only girl in my entire friend group who did not adore Mr. Darcy. So when my fiance suggested I read Pride & Prejudice & Zombies by Jane Austin and Seth Grahame-Smith, I must admit that I wasn’t thrilled about the idea.

“Don’t worry,” my fiance assured me. “The book is much better with zombies.”

If nothing else, I have to admit, he was right on that front.

I’m not a big fan of zombie stories. I don’t like scary stories in general. But zombies definitely brought some life to the relationship that develops between Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy in Jane Austin’s classic. I mean, how could you go wrong incorporating Asian style martial arts into Victorian England?

Elizabeth Bennett as a zombie hunter, devoted to the cause of stopping Satan’s army, is a much more intriguing character than the original Elizabeth who sits around with her sisters and discusses boys (mostly her sisters’ obsessions with them). Elizabeth as a warrior became much more fascinating as her moral line shifted drastically within 19th century England.

And the idea of Elizabeth and Darcy fighting zombies side-by-side? Yes, please!

Though I began this journey full of skepticism, it is a journey that I am ultimately glad I took. The thing I’m most excited about? I read the book just as the movie was coming out! I think I know what I’m going to be seeing next time I get to the theater.

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Heart Shaped Box

I just finished reading my first book of 2016. The book was Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill. Now, I’m not one for scary stories (though I handle scary books much better than I do scary films); however, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, even with its ghost story elements. The book is an easy read and entertaining story.

The book follows the story of a man named Jude who was once a great rock star but has been sitting on the back burner for a few years now.  Jude, who has a fascination with the occult, finds a ghost for sale online and jumps at the opportunity to buy it. What he doesn’t realize is that the ghost he purchased is the dead step-father of his ex-girlfriend–a girl who killed herself after he broke up with her. Now, this ghost is determine to make Jude pay for the pain he caused.

The story is fast-paced and offers one event right after the other without much downtime. As far as style is concerned, while reading this book it is not hard to believe that Joe Hill is the son of author Stephen King. The two writing styles are very similar. Also like King, Hill’s characters find themselves in situations that seem unbeatable, mostly because they are faced with villains they don’t quite know how to fight against.

Even though this was a book that I had to read during daylight hours (because, again, I have a heard time with scary things at night), it was a book I really liked. It was a quick, easy read and very entertaining. It might not be a good novel if you are looking for deep meaning, but it’s a great story for passing the time.

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Lord of Light

Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny is not necessarily a book that would have caught my curiosity on its own. This book was actually given to me as a gift by my mother after she learned that it was a book that inspired Neil Gaiman to want to be a writer. I didn’t know what to expect going into this book, but I didn’t expect something entertaining, something inspiring. What I got was a story that, at first, I had a hard time wrapping my head around, but as I moved through it, I slowly came to an understanding.

This book follows the story of Sam, on who is called the Buddha in a world not quite like our own, but one ruled by gods who are determined to make the people of the world depend on them for eternity. Sam, however, has a different plan for the progression of mankind, which leads him into a battle against the gods.

This is one of those stories that I am certain I did not fully grasp on this first read through, one of those stories that will reveal so much more on a second or third read. Going into it without any idea regarding what it contained, I found myself confused halfway through. (I later discovered that this was due in part to the fact that the story is not told chronologically.) Trying to piece together the sections of the story, doing my best to comprehend where I was in time at any given point, detracted from my being able to devote my attention to the message of the story itself. By the time I reached the end, I wish I had paid more attention to Sam’s message, and the message of the gods presented in the story. This is my goal for my next read, to understand the text on a deeper level and not to get distracted by what is superficial.

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