Monday, June 24, 2013

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

And I asked myself about the present: how wide it was, how deep it was, how much was mine to keep.

I picked up this beautiful copy of Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five while in Barnes & Noble with a few friends a couple of months ago. It was on a table set aside for summer reading and I immediately fell in love with the volume. I had been wanting to read it for some time because I have heard so much about it in the past, so I added it to my stack of books and carted it away to the cashier.

Slaughterhouse-Five is primarily the story of Billy Pilgrim. Billy is a World War II veteran who claims to have been kidnapped by aliens called Tralfamadorians that kept him in a zoo and taught him that the way humans see time is wrong; that a person always exists in one place or another; that death isn't really as permanent as we seem to believe.

Prior to this, or because of this (it isn't made clear), Billy has managed to come "unstuck in time." Throughout the narrative, he jumps around from one point in his life to another, painting us a picture of what he experienced and every hard truth he came across.

The back of the book has this to say about the contents of Vonnegut's novel:

Slaughterhouse-Five, an American classic, is one of the world's great antiwar books. Centering on the infamous firebombing of Dresden, Billy Pilgrim's odyssey through time reflects the mythic journey of our own fractured lives as we search for meaning in what we fear most.
"Splendid art . . . a funny book at which you are not permitted or laugh, a sad book without tears." -Life

I believe that synopsis describes it perfectly.

Going into Slaughterhouse-Five, I have to admit, I was worried that I wouldn't like it. I'm not exactly antiwar and Adult Fiction in general isn't really my forte. I hated Catcher in the Rye (though I'm told it's much better on the second read) and Slaughterhouse-Five is often clumped in with Salinger's work by being an American classic/high school required reading/banned book. The first two chapters didn't help either. I didn't know much about the book to start with and I was left utterly confused when it began as a first person narrative and morphed into third.

I ended up loving this book.

Slaughterhouse-Five is an extremely well-written look at the horrors of war as well as the inevitable nature of the insane things that happen to the average person. It is one of those books that draws you in with its oddity and its dark humor and keeps you enthralled by the wisdom it offers up throughout.

He uses Pilgrim's being "unstuck in time" as a way of keeping the reader interested throughout and gave him the ability to tell the story in a non-linear way that gave the reader insight into the things in the past that caused present and future repercussions. This way, he could focus on the main points of the story without disconnecting from the reader while also pointing out the futility of time and how quickly it moves- so that it often seems like everything is running together at once.

While one might expect this to grow confusing as the story goes on, it only becomes clearer and easier to follow after the second chapter. Vonnegut clearly put some great effort into making this technique as easily read as he did and it worked for him. I grew to love that part of the writing style almost as much as the rest of his mastery of the written word.

I could go on about how much I enjoyed this book, but I'd rather leave some of it for you to read. It's only a little over 200 pages and hardly took any time at all. If you're looking for a good read, this is definitely the book you're looking for. (And be sure to pick up the one with this cover. It's too beautiful to pass up!)

Rating: ★★★★★

Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt.

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Burn Journals by Brent Runyon

I know that darkness is the absence of light, but where does the light go when it's not here? And how do you know if it'll ever come back?

Picked up this volume in the Non-Fiction shelf in the YA section at my library. It seemed interesting and I really enjoy interesting memoirs, so I figured I'd give this one a shot.

Let me just go ahead and inform you: as soon as I finished, I found The Burn Journals on the Book Depository and bought it immediately. That's how much I enjoyed this book.

When he was fourteen years-old, Brent Runyon got in trouble at school for accidentally setting something on fire. When he got home from school, he went to his bathroom, doused his bathroom in gasoline, and set himself on fire. Brent survived his suicide attempt, but not without burning 85% of his body and spending over nine months in the hospital.

In The Burn Journals, Brent Runyon gives us a first-hand account of his healing process. The reader receives the chance to take a look inside his head as he comes to terms with what he's done and begins to realize his own warped way of seeing things. Runyon brings the reader in, giving us fascinating insight into the mind of a depressed fourteen year-old boy who only wanted to be happy.

If I could describe this memoir in one word, that word would be "fascinating." I cannot tell you how deeply enthralled I was with this book. I really did enjoy getting to see inside the mind of Brent Runyon at such a vulnerable time and, though I'm sure it was hard for him, I couldn't be more thankful to him for writing it.

The Burn Journals is an important book for many reasons. I'm honestly quite sad that I hadn't heard of it before now. I think it addresses a deeply important issue and a prominent mental illness that too often goes right under the radar. Nearly everyone I know, including myself, has undergone some type of battle with depression and it seems like everyone is scared to address that. However, Runyon handles it with a finesse that I cannot praise enough.

One of my favorite things about the way he handles it is the fact that the reader gets to see exactly what was going on behind the closed doors of his mind through various stages of his struggle. It is absolutely insane how well the reader can see the various little bits that show just how warped his thinking was, and yet it is warped in a way that it's clear he thinks is normal and you can absolutely understand how he would think that.

All in all, it was a fabulous book and one I'll be suggesting frequently to as many people as I can manage from now on!

Rating: ~★★★★★~

I'm standing in the closet with my head in the shirts. I can't stop crying. I can't stop.
"You're asking me all the wrong questions." Why don't they love me? Why don't they take care of me? Why don't they act like I'm their son? The tears are all over my face and I can taste them in my mouth, like salt water, but I can't stop crying. I can't stop crying. I can't believe how little they know me.

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien (The Lord of the Rings, #1)

"The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater."

As a girl who watches the Lord of the Rings trilogy at least four times a year, who will get in arguments with people who claim not to like it, and who even has a tattoo of the doors of Dürin on her right thigh; I figured it was about time that I actually got around to reading the books.

I know, with how much I read it's almost despicable that I have only just now gotten around to reading The Lord of the Rings trilogy, but give me a break. After how much I adore the movies and the entire mythology, I was admittedly a little scared to tackle these. What if I didn't like them? What if they didn't live up to my high expectations of them?

I finally found a copy of the trilogy at Barnes & Noble that I couldn't refrain from purchasing (I had been planning on reading my brother's copies up until then), and almost immediately tore into the first book. The first movie was always my favorite and I was definitely looking forward to seeing how Tolkien actually played it out.

When Frodo Baggins inherits Bilbo's estate after his uncle's departure for one final adventure, he is left with one particularly small, but very important treasure: the One Ring. It is a token Bilbo has kept with him since he won it from Gollum many years ago (as told within the pages of The Hobbit). It isn't until Gandalf, a wizard and old friend of Bilbo's, realizes the identity of the One Ring, that Frodo discovers the great danger he is in by owning it . . . because the One Ring isn't just a ring at all, it's a powerful weapon that, if the enemy gets hold of it, could mean the destruction of Middle Earth as a whole.

However, the One Ring cannot simply be destroyed by fire or force, it must be thrown into the fires from which it was forged: a place which can only be found in the cracks of doom, deep in the heart of Mordor, the lands of the enemy.

My thigh piece right next to the page from which it was
taken. :)
Frodo discovers he must be tasked with taking the Ring to Rivendell, an elven city, and present it to Elrond, who might soon discover a way to get it through the gates of Mordor. But even this task may prove too great for the hobbit. He is already being chased by the Black Riders and they aren't the only evil that the Ring calls unto itself. After all, the Ring wants to be found by it's master, and this wouldn't be the first time it has caused the destruction of the ring-bearer that carries it.

You will be happy to know, I'm sure, that I was pleasantly surprised with how much I loved this book! Like I mentioned before, I was terrified that it wouldn't be as good as the movie, even thought it is a general rule that the books are always better.

Admittedly, the book started out slow. There is a great deal that goes into Frodo and Gandalf discovering the identity of the One Ring and deciding what they should do with that knowledge. However, once things get into motion, it's nearly impossible to put it down. It's a fantasy epic that definitely earned its rank among the classics.

This was definitely one I will be rereading plenty in the years to come and I hope you will be doing the same!

Rating: ~★★★★★~

"The further you go, the less easy it will be to withdraw; yet no oath or bond is laid on you to go further than you will. For you cannot foresee what each may meet upon the road."
"Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens," said Elrond, "but let him not vow to walk in the dark who has not seen nightfall."

Friday, June 14, 2013

Forgive My Fins by Tera Lynn Childs (Fins, #1)

"Let me get this straight," he says, recovering himself. "I'm turning into a mermaid because I kissed you?"
"I don't remember asking you to kiss me," I retort.
He scowls and I regret my snide remark. He didn't ask for any of this to happen, either. There was no way he could have known what he was getting himself into.
"Technically I explain, "you're turning into a merman."

Forgive My Fins was another book I picked up a few weeks ago when I was getting ready for Teen Book Con. Tera Lynn Childs was there and I was hoping to read one of her novels before seeing her there. As you can tell, I didn't manage to read it beforehand, but I did finally finish it.

When Lily discovers that she is half human, she decides to live ashore for a time, living with her late mother's sister and attending high school, maybe even finding that special boy that she is going to spend the rest of her life with. After all, if she wants to inherit the throne from her father, she has to have bonded by her eighteenth birthday and that is quickly approaching.

High school is tough for a girl who's half mermaid, half human, but she loves exploring this part of herself. Likewise, she loves Brody, the boy she's been working up the courage to share her feelings and her secret with. Only, when she finally gets close, he rejects her and breaks her heart.

Quince, the boy next door who has done everything in his power to irritate and humiliate Lily, takes this as his cue to step in. He devises a plan with her so that she can win Brody, though he's outspoken in his belief that Brody is not worth a second of her time. But the plan backfires and Quince steps in to be her "knight in shining armor" and kisses her in Brody's place.

Only, Quince didn't know she was a mermaid. And he certainly didn't know that kissing her meant bonding to her and it jumpstarted the process into his becoming mer too. Now, they have to get back to  Thalassinia and fast, before the change and bond are permanent and the two of them are stuck together forever.

Forgive My Fins was, to me, one of those books in which the ending is predictable, but in a totally unpredictable way that makes it totally worth reading. It was a fun, light tale about mermaids and learning who to trust that I really enjoyed reading. It's definitely what I would call a beach read, quick and playful, with some great scenes and interesting characters that I really enjoyed getting to know.

All in all, it's not the best book I've ever read, but one that I'm glad I did. I'll definitely have to keep an eye out for the second book in the series. I'd love to find out what happens to Lily next.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

As if I'd conjured him with magic, the door above swings open and Quince is filling the doorway with his leather-jacket-clad self. 
I practically sag with relief . . . until I sense the fury pounding through his blood. He felt my fear and now he's here to protect me. By any means.
This can't end well for anyone.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Inkdeath by Cornelia Funke (Inkworld, #3)

But even the unicorns of fantasy had to die. Innocence doesn't live long in any world.

[Click here for my reviews of book 1: Inkheart and book 2: Inkspell]

I'll go ahead and admit it: I was terrified to read this book. I knew it was going to be good. I knew it was going to be the epic conclusion the trilogy needed, but I had just had my heart ripped out by Inkspell and I wasn't too eager to have that happen again. So I waited a few months (about 3, if we're counting) to let my heart heal a bit, then finally found the strength to open up the conclusion.

After the harrowing ordeals of Inkspell, the Inkworld is in chaos. Meggie watches as her father takes on the mantle of the Bluejay as if it had always been a part of him, while Farid drives himself into the ground in his attempts to save Dustfinger. Everything is in turmoil and she is at a loss on how to help. She begins to feel that maybe Mo had been right after all, maybe the Inkworld was more dangerous than she had allowed herself to believe.

But just as she begins to believe it is time for them to go home, Mo realizes that they may not be able to go home after all. Their presence in the Inkworld has cause innumerable ripples that they could never have foreseen. His presence in particular has set the course in a direction he never intended and now he has to rectify the situation or Death will take not only his life, but Meggie's as recompense. The stakes have never been higher, both for himself and the daughter he cherishes. Now it's up to him to stop the motion that he has started.

There's nothing more satisfying than reaching the well-written conclusion of a trilogy that so effectively captures the reader: mind, body, and soul. That was exactly what Cornelia Funke managed with this stunning final installment. I really cannot say enough how perfectly she tied up all the loose ends and drew us to an end that was perfect for the story, even though there were both tears and giggles along the way, and not everything turned out exactly how the reader might have wanted it.

I really admire it when the author manages to give the book (and series) the ending it needs while not making it the "happily ever after" the reader is always begging to get. It's an ending that is realistic in saying that the story has come to an end, but not everyone got exactly what they hoped for and some of the characters will be scarred forever.

If I keep raving about this book, I will end up spoiling more of it for you than I care to do, so I'll leave it at this: READ THIS BOOK! And if you haven't read its predecessors: READ THOSE TOO! They will absolutely be worth your time and effort.

Rating: ~★★★★★~

The Inkworld had taught her to see her own world more clearly and reminded her of something Mo had said long ago: "I think we should sometimes read stories where everything's different from our world, don't you agree? There's nothing like it for teaching us to wonder why trees are green and not red, and why we have five fingers instead of six."