Archive for ‘Fiction’

May 7th, 2010

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury; Review

by Madeleine Rex

Title: Fahrenheit 451

Author: Ray Bradbury

Published: 1953

Number of Pages: 179

Rating: 4/5

Quote:

There must be something in books, something we can’t imagine, to make a woman stay in a burning house; there must be something there. You don’t stay for nothing.”

Review:

I was astounded by this book. It gave my so much to ponder and wonder at. The very idea of a world where books are disgraceful is mind-boggling in and of itself. Could it be that these things that writers toil over and readers love and hate ardently, both emotions being enjoyable in this case, could be so feared, so despised that we would feel the need to eliminate them? To chase down every last page and burn it to a crisp. I found the philosophy behind such a decision quite fascinating.

Guy Montag is a fireman. He and his co-workers work diligently to set fire to entire homes that hold books, any type of book. Non-fiction and fiction alike. He finds pleasure in watching the snowflakes of pages fly into the air on a rampage and flutter slowly and languidly to the ground as the words die.

He’s also satisfied with the half-life he lives in a city and world where happiness is forced upon people. Everything is normal until he runs into Clarisse, a 17-year-old girl who is crazy. She has ideas and thoughts that others wouldn’t consider dreaming or thinking of. She sparks Montag’s rebellious fire. Guy soon lusts after the truth, after a world that can think on its own.

The world Montag has inhabited all his life, is, in my opinion, one of the most screwed up and loopy worlds imaginable. The very concept of everyone “being happy” when so few can think seems illogical. I don’t know about you, but I enjoy thinking. I enjoy the occasional argument. I enjoy knowing the full story, learning, and siphoning more and more knowledge. Really, the dystopian world’s main problem is that it has virtually eliminated real growth. In addition, it has killed off all opposition. Anything that could cause unhappiness is rejected. Books, movies, and other material that could possibly cause someone to think and worry, or simply feel the need to fight back, is taken care of.

Ray Bradbury’s style kept me reading,vehemently stuffing the words into my eyeballs. I loved his clear, strong, and ever-present voice. I’m eager to read Something Wicked this Way Comes, another one of his novels. The clarity of his writing spoke of truth in a remarkable way. I can easily imagine being convinced by anything he said.

I loved the idea of fighting for the books, the knowledge, and preserving them. You cannot help but admire people who are willing to give up much and enjoy so little in order to ensure that the people of the next generations would not go without the necessities of history and the pleasure of reading.

I read Fahrenheit 451 for book club this month. The girls are meeting today to discuss it, and although I know that some of them found the book “boring” (really?!), I’m certain that a very gripping discussion will be held. The topic of the book was so controversial and extremely odd that differing opinions will abound.

This book is one that a majority of the world has read. Many high schools consider it required reading. If, however, you have not read it, I recommend picking it up. You can find it anywhere. A book about the preservation of books should never go out of print.

Hallelujah for books!

April 30th, 2010

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith; Review

by Madeleine Rex

Title: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Author: Seth Grahame-Smith

Published: March 2, 2010 by Grand Central Pub.

Number of Pages: 352

Rating: 4/5

Quote:

I have come to believe that the only peace in this life is the end of it. Let me wake from this nightmare…this brief, meaningless nightmare of loss and struggle.”

Review:

First of all, I apologize for being such a lame blogger this week. I did so well last week and hoped that my driven-ness would slide over to this week as well, but it didn’t. Anyway, here’s a post, and I hope next week will be better. Also: Holy crow! You’re running out of time to enter to win one of five copies of Matthew Quick’s [Interview] fabulous Sorta Like a Rock Star [Review]! The giveaway ends May eleventh. If you’d like to enter, click. (Rereading this paragraph gives me whiplash. I went from apologetic to hopeful to freakishly excited. Whew!)

I was absolutely fascinated by this book, and quite honestly, even more surprised. I did not intend to finish this book with any sort of admiration for Seth Grahame-Smith, no offense to him personally, but, really, he wrote a book called Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I still haven’t mustered up the courage to read that book.

But I would be lying if I didn’t say that this book will challenge everything you think you know. Grahame-Smith has you nearly convinced that the government is conspiring to ensure that the American public does not realize that vampires do, indeed, exist. The factual approach to the fiction is remarkable. I was totally in awe when I finished.

Although the book felt like non-fiction, it definitely read like fiction – as in you were incredibly engrossed in every word and were turning the pages so quickly that you were lucky you avoided a paper cut. My dad read about two chapters when he was sitting with me in my room one day (I believe I was writing), and he’s planning on reading the book as well (as soon as he finishes The Bourne Identity…).

I was caught up in the very idea from the start, and the style in which Grahame-Smith wrote captivated me. I enjoyed alternating cleanly between the first-person journal entries and narrative. You get an insider’s view and the advantage of knowing more than the protagonist.

Speaking of a protagonist…

Abraham Lincoln’s mother died of milk sickness when he was young. Or so he was told. In reality, she was killed by vampires. Lincoln first learns of vampires’ existence from his father. As a very young man, he resolves to rid the world of as many vampires as possible.

Along the way, he learns of the vampire’s key role in the Civil War and slave trade, of their influence on the powerful men of America, and he learns that not every vampire is a blood-sucking bundle of Hell. But most of them are. Henry, a vampire that Lincoln gets to know very well, said something wonderfully interesting, which I’ll quote, because I know you want to read it:

Judge us not equally, Abraham. We all may deserve hell, but some of us sooner than others”

Lincoln was a strong character, one who you learn to admire and sympathize with. He’s extremely motivated, clearly, and he’s just as human as the rest of us, not idolized. Of course, part of his character was fictionalized, because I don’t believe the author was close friends with the man in question, but all the same, he was a character you could happily cheer on, which is what I believe every reader is looking for.

Grahame-Smith did a fabulous job of blending fiction with the non. The historical fact was expertly woven into the story, again creating the sense of reality to the entire book. I loved the fact that I couldn’t differentiate between fact and fiction at times. I sat with the book in my lap, staring at my bedroom wall, and simply mulled over the idea, the impossibilities that, for a moment, seemed possible.

Quite honestly, I don’t have anything even semibad to say about this novel. It’s enjoyable, informative, well-written, fascinating, and beautifully controversial. Grahame-Smith took a leap of faith, just as he did with his previous and even more controversial book, and he landed firmly on both feet. I’d most definitely recommend this book and believe it would make for a fabulous book club discussion.

Alright, that was a short review for me at not quite 600 words. How was it? I’m beginning to realize that I really cannot take an hour and half to write 800-word long reviews any longer. Was there something missing? I’m just trying to figure out how much time I can spend writing a blog post while still satisfying anybody who reads my review. I’d appreciate input!

Have a wonderful weekend! I’m going to work a bit on my idea for The Lemonites (working title), which is the novel with the pestering main character, Pepto. Also, my LA (Language Arts) teacher gave me the assignment of compiling as much research as possible on the Nook, Kindle, and iPad (e-reader wise) by Monday. If you have anything to say in regards to any of those, please say it!

March 27th, 2010

The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli; Review

by Madeleine Rex

Title: The Lotus Eaters

Author: Tatjana Soli

Published: March 30, 2010 by St. Martin’s Press

Number of Pages: 400

Rating: 3/5

Review Sent to St. Martin’s Press*:

The Lotus Eaters is an astounding accomplishment. In her bare, unmerciful prose, Tatjana Soli reincarnates the Vietnam War before us, warm, sticky, and smelling of both the stench of dead soldiers and the street vendors’ soup. Readers will find themselves equally enthralled in wartime as the characters, obsessed with it, unable to wrench themselves from the pages, no matter how gruesome the truth of the words is. The Lotus Eaters is a novel that candidly tells us that it must be read. It will not be set down. Within it is a story that must be told.

Review:

My feelings for this book shall forever remain hazy, I’m afraid. I have relatively no idea where this book stands in my mind. I wavered between a 3/5 and a 4/5 rating for a long time, and even once considered 2/5, I think. It was all so very contradictory and altogether confusing.

In the long run, however, I think 3/5 was an accurate rating. I’m sure many would rate it higher simply because my main reason for knocking the rating down one was that the book was more sexually and verbally immoral than I prefer. It made me feel uncomfortable at times, which automatically lowered my esteem for it and my regard. I want to feel cozy with a book and snuggle up close to it. I want it to make me feel warm. At times, this book made me shiver with apprehension and, occasionally, disgust.

On a happier note: the book was pretty dang brilliant. Tatjana Soli’s style was a bit shaky and confusing at first, but it began to feel so natural. This was one of the most sensational books I have read: literally. I could see and smell and feel everything. This book is top notch at making the words and page disappear and leaving you alone with the story. I absolutely loved the blunt descriptions of both the beautiful and the totally revolting. This book’s descriptions are delicious.

The story itself was fascinating. The way the war affects the main characters is something I won’t even attempt to describe. I can’t fathom how Soli did it so well. Needless to say, my synopsis of this book will have to be brief.

Helen goes to Vietnam, nearly on a whim, and becomes one of the first woman photojournalists of the war. There she meets various people, falls in love with various men, and witnesses various atrocities. It’s all quite fascinating and intriguing. You’ll be caught up in it from the get-go…

And yet I stopped reading halfway through and took a 20+ day break. I have a reason for this: I couldn’t focus on the book. I’ve been going on and on about how riveting it all was, yet there were fifty-some pages in the middle that ensnared me. In the end, I do believe that the second half was more tantalizing than the first. The break did me good, though, and I couldn’t put the book down once I’d picked it back up.

I had never known much about the Vietnam War. My mom wasn’t even born when it began. It’s not as infamous as the World Wars, and consequently, not as often spoken of. However, as usually is the case with me, I find that I am now far more interested in it, having lived bits of it through a character. Tatjana Soli does a magnificent job of showing us the war as it was, not romanticizing it or fluffing facts.

Unarguably, the strong points are the descriptions of the obsession in regard to the picture-taking. The entire mind-set of the photojournalists was alien to me and mighty interesting. Many things were stated that I had never even considered. Thoughts that had never entered my head now wriggled their way into it. This book gives you a mound of things to think about, some minor and some deep.

Overall, I did not enjoy the vulgarities of certain parts and those fogged up my view. Others might be able to see right past them, but I am not one of those people. On the other hand, I loved the descriptions. In this area, I believe Tatjana Soli has a fabulous and evident gift. It’s undeniable that she is a master of words. She twists them and creates art.

Just imagine.

Or don’t, and simply read the book.

I will warn all those that are “clean-freaks” like me: You’ll be disturbed by parts. Skip ’em. That’s what I do, and I survive. However, this book was on the verge of being set down and left for, say, ten years.

All the same, I can honestly say that many, many people will find this book to be phenomenal.

*Thanks for the ARC!