Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Pearl by John Steinbeck

The Pearl by John Steinbeck

                Kino is a diver looking for pearls. Pearl diving is how he provides for his family, just like his father before him and his father’s father. He lives in a brush house away from the town with his wife Juana and their son Coyotito. When Coyotito is bitten by a scorpion Juana prays for a way for them to pay the doctor to heal their only child.  When Kino dives that day he finds a pearl the size of a sea gull’s egg. The people in the brush houses refer to it as the “Pearl of the World” and can only imagine the fortune that will come to Kino and his family. But the pearl doesn’t bring the fortune Kino had hoped. It brings greed, suspicion and betrayal.
                Based on a Mexican folk tale The Pearl is simple and precise in its delivery. In less than one hundred pages Steinbeck produces a novel that highlights many different aspects of human nature, examining each briefly and thoroughly. He questioned the faith of Kino and his wife while faced with the unimaginable fear of losing their child. Steinbeck exposed the motivations of those in the town who tried desperately to hide their greed. He highlighted how comradery can change based on circumstances when detailing the relationship between those that lived in the brush houses. Steinbeck dissected a small society to see how change ripples through a community and how each ripple affects everyone.

                John Steinbeck’s The Pearl was amazing. All that glitters isn’t gold and sometimes the life you imagine because of miraculous luck can destroy you. So that’s slightly dramatic but it’s also partly true. Kino was such a genuine character whose struggles were real and from the beginning I felt his pain and was rooting for him to make it through while many of the characters worked tirelessly to retrieve the pearl for their own gain. I cannot stress how simple this story is, how much emotion it entails and how much I thoroughly enjoyed it. I give it 5 out of 5 stars. It is short, to the point, and will have you questioning your moral compass and hopefully correcting it. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Banned Book: The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

                Esther Greenwood thought she was on the right path in life. She was given a scholarship to attend a university and was enrolled in their honors program. She won a fashion magazine contest and was given a job in New York as a prize with all expenses paid. During her time in New York she was given the opportunity to meet famous people from many different walks of life and attend shows while in the city. Yet she was extremely unhappy. She returned home and attempted to kill herself. From there she received a ticket to a mental institution, undergoing shock treatments and therapy. She was stuck under the bell jar and saw no way out of the enclosure she was trapped in.
                The Bell Jar is an examination of the life of a woman being crushed by her own indecisions and the expectations she felt were pressed upon her. Would Esther ever marry? She didn’t know for sure but she doubted it. She wanted too much for herself but what she could no longer say. At one point she had known. At one point she wanted to be successful at school, at being an author, at life. But now she wasn’t sure what that meant or what to do. Her experience in New York changed many things, especially her perspective on life. The idea of what her life would be seemingly collapsed and when she returned home she failed to collect the pieces of her old self.
                This novel as a whole is enjoyable and relays quite well how intense pressure can fracture a person’s state of mind. The problem lies in Esther as the narrator because she is unreliable and vague. I completely understand the idea of our protagonist undergoing a mental psychotic breakdown and the intense narration that took place but I still want to understand what was going on. There were moments throughout where more detail was necessary. Was this novel interesting? Yes, extremely so. It honestly felt like the encapsulation of a quarter life crisis. Now we would recognize it for that, an expression of doubt in oneself at the moment before our assumed goals were reached. Here, for our nineteen year old Esther, it was that and much more. She was expected to want a family and sacrifice her career for that. That wasn’t in her plans. But when the idea she had was crushing her she didn’t know what to do.
                Now this book covered a wide variety of topics including sex, suicide and drinking. It has been challenged multiple times because of those topics since its release in 1963. It was prohibited in 1978 in Warsaw schools in Indiana. It was challenged in Edwardsville, Illinois in 1981 because of the sex mentioned and because it advocated an “objectionable” way of life, which I’m assuming was Esther’s feelings toward never getting married and having children. In 1988 it was challenged again in Richland High in Washington for including suicide and a hopeless sense of life. Everyone is not going to have Esther’s experience but I’m sure others will look at this book and feel a certain kinship with her because they too feel trapped under a bell jar. While a fiction novel, it touches on very realistic issues and should be available for everyone.
Banned Books Resource Guide (2014 ed.) by Robert P. Doyle, published by ALA.


Saturday, December 6, 2014

Maleficent adapted by Elizabeth Rudnick

Maleficent adapted by Elizabeth Rudnick

                Maleficent was born in a time of great trouble in the Moors. The faeries were once again at war with King Henry, a human intent on stealing away the precious land from the faeries. Hermia and Lysander, Maleficent’s parents believed that there were good humans that could be trusted and who loved the land as much as the faeries. They lost their lives in the fight to protect the Moors, leaving their only child to be raised by those who lived in the Moors. Grow she would into a beautiful faerie with strong wings like her mother and piercing green eyes like her father. Maleficent also held the same faith as her parents that there had to be good humans in the world. Stefan would be the embodiment of that hope. Stefan and Maleficent became friends as children and their friendship grew and blossomed. Then Stefan betrayed Maleficent taking from her not only her wings but the faith she had in humans. One act of betrayal changed the heart of Maleficent and the fate of a kingdom.
                Oh, Maleficent. How much do I love thee? Let me the count the ways! I have been obsessed with Maleficent ever since I was a little girl. I don’t know why. I can’t explain it but there you go. I was at the movie theatre, filled with anticipation to see Angelina Jolie (who I also adore) playing out this evil faerie on the big screen. “I want to know more” I almost screamed and I was not disappointed. It was a completely different outlook on the classic Sleeping Beauty with the focus being on the destructive relationship between Maleficent and Stefan, explaining why she bestowed such a “gift” on the child Aurora. I left the theatre elated. It wasn’t until later that I knew a novelization of the movie was made and in my greed I purchased Maleficent, Rudnick’s adaptation of the movie.
                Let me start by explaining that the book itself is beautiful. The hardcover (pictured above) is black with black lining on the pages. The cover shows Maleficent turned towards the reader, green eyes glaring with horns blaringly obvious. It is full of the stereotype that is the dark and mysterious persona of Maleficent. The novel itself was well written and best of all full of emotion. The emotion behind some of the more moving parts of the movie were vividly expressed with the pages. I will say the novel was a lot darker than I expected after seeing the movie, which at times was full of grandiose effects that screamed “I am a Disney movie!” Rudnick allowed the emotion of the characters and their predicaments drive the plot instead of adding details that would reflect the movies special effects. I only wish the novel had ended better. It felt rushed. More could have been said about the lives of the characters. But it is me and I may always want more from the story of Maleficent.

                So where does Maleficent rate? I give it 4 out of 5 stars. If you love retellings of fairy tales then this is the novel for you. Well written, well developed and easy to read I expect many to want to fall into Maleficent’s story of loss, revenge and ultimately understanding and (dare I say it) love. 

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Banned Book: The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

                Ponyboy is a greaser. He lives with his brothers Darry and Soda on the East Side of town. He is the only one of his brothers still in school. Darry is twenty and has taken care of Soda and Ponyboy ever since their parents died. Soda dropped out of school to help Darry with the bills so they could all stay together. Dally, Johnny, Steve and Two-bit were greasers too. They were a group of friends that banded together and looked out for each other. They hated the Socs. Those guys were a bunch of do-gooder, rich kids from the West Side of town that ride around in Mustangs with girlfriends that drive Corvettes. It was easy to tell who was a Greaser and who was a Soc. One group was automatically given respect while the other had to fight for every bit of respect they got and for the right to simply live in peace.
                The Outsiders is an extremely simple, emotionally honest novel about circumstances and how those circumstances can define your life. Ponyboy was an fascinating, detailed narrator that was young enough to give an honest, detailed account of his life, passing judgment on not only those around him but himself. The life of a greaser is the life that Ponyboy knows and understands. This is the life he has lived with his brothers and with the people in his neighborhood that have become like family. He admits to not being able to relate to the life of a Soc and it isn’t until he begins to speak to those outside of his comfort zone that he realizes that there is more to a Soc and to people in general that he never realized. He has been judging the Socs just like they have been judging him and the other Greasers.
                I enjoyed The Outsiders. It is simple, hypnotic, gritty and haunting. I invested my time in the pages trying to understand Ponyboy, the life he has experienced and the struggle to be respected and understood. It was very well done. The characters were very well developed and painfully molded. Hinton did a great job at bringing to life some of the very real problems within society and how many are unrightfully marginalized. I can hardly believe that this novel was started when Hinton was fifteen years old. The Outsiders was published when Hinton was eighteen years old and this novel definitely shows a remarkable talent at such a young age. In 1965 when this novel was released it was controversial. It has been challenged because of the use of drugs and alcohol. It was also said to promote gangs, excessive violence and unchristian values. It has been banned and challenged so often that it was #43 on the American Library Association’s Top 100 Most Challenged Books of 1990-2000. It makes people uncomfortable to read about a part of society they wouldn’t want to have exposed. The fact that a teenager wrote this novel and was able to capture so beautifully the injustice that many were exposed to is amazing but fear can hinder many from recognizing where the problem really lies. Society has a way of creating dividing lines where none should exist. We are all people and it doesn’t matter what side of town you were born, you have feelings, emotions and the chance to be amazing. How other people pass judgment should not hinder or effect what you can become.

“Banned Book Awereness: The Outsiders”    Baldassarro, R. Wolf

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Monster by Walter Dean Myers

Monster by Walter Dean Meyers

                Steve Harmon has been called a monster and is currently on trial for the murder of Mr. Alguinaldo Nesbitt. Two men robbed a store and during the robbery shot and killed the store owner. They then emptied the cash register, stole cigarette cartons and went to get food from a fast food restaurant. Steve isn’t being accused of being either of those men. He is being accused of being the lookout. He is on trial with, Mr. James King, one of the accused murderers. As a lookout if convicted he could face twenty five years to life. Steve is only sixteen years old. The idea of spending the rest of his life in jail is something he’s understandably having a very hard time coping with. To escape the trial and the finality of the situation he begins keeping a journal. In this journal he writes down everything that happens inside the court room as if it were a movie he was writing, producing and directing. It was Steve’s way of telling his own story since everyone around him was telling versions of their own.
                Monster is a simple, easy to read depiction of a young misunderstood black youth who is on trial for a crime he didn’t commit. The robbery and murder happened days before Christmas but Steve wasn’t questioned until weeks later. He was taken from his home, in handcuffs to be questioned, while his mom was given no information for where he was going and what he was being questioned about. Steve is obviously scared throughout the entire novel and for many reasons. This is not the life he expected. As a budding film student he was interested in telling stories and was at odds with the fact that he had become one. I felt like he was an honest narrator even through his fear. He wanted to relay everything as he experienced it knowing that would be vital in proving his innocence.

                I remember a lot of students that I knew reading Monster while I was in high school. I never thought much of it. So when it came across my path all these years later I decided to give it a try. It is a gripping story that is told in a very cinematic way (obviously, Steve was supposed to be writing a movie) and I think that version of storytelling is part of why the novel was so interesting. It was a different approach to telling a story. It was effective in portraying characters bluntly. Was this an enjoyable novel that I can recommend? Yes. BUT it has its flaws. Being built around a singular mindset, the other characters came off as shells. The only well-developed character was Steve, everyone else was a caricature of their roles. The prosecution seemed really stern. The defense attorney might not have necessarily believed he was innocent but had to defend him anyway. King was a thug. I give this novel 3 out of 5 stars. If it wasn’t for the method of storytelling and the portrayal of what can be a corrupt legal system this wouldn’t have been very successful to me. 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Banned Books: The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie

The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie

Two men fell thirty thousand feet in the air, landed in the English Channel and were found washed up on the beach. Their plane, the Bostan, had exploded in flight, the act of a terrorist group that had taken the plane hostage. Gibreel Farishta was the famous Indian actor that had vanished and begin living his life in the silent shadow. He was on the way to the woman he loved when his flight was hijacked. Saladin Chamcha was the lesser known voice over actor that was desperately trying to leave his family and past behind. They fell together, one singing songs while the other was desperately flapping his arms trying to save his life. Their falls would end with transformations for both, one into an angel of God, the other a representation of evil.
Where to begin? This book was all over the place. In the first hundred pages of this novel, I was just trying to wrap my head around what was going on. Here we have an actor singing as he falls to his death, even though he believes (correctly) that it’s really his rebirth? And what’s with the other guy, the other Indian actor, who seemingly tries to adopt a new life and identity away from his Indian home? All of these questions are answered throughout the pages of the novel but I’m not sure how satisfying I found it. I can hardly adequately explain what happened because everything feels like it would either be a spoiler or just cause confusion. There was a lot going on in this novel. Too much going on in this novel. I found myself distracted by half of this novel and incredibly moved by other parts. It was trying and difficult to invest myself in this novel. Did I do it? Yes but I’m not sure how to summarize it so I won’t. The aforementioned will be as good as it gets. (In my opinion this novel simply took the longest, winding road imaginable to express itself.)
Now one thing that must be said because it weighs very heavily on the reasons why this novel has been banned is the religious context of this book. I am not well versed on the Quran but the religious tones of this novel are obvious throughout the pages. Even though this wasn’t an all-out battle between good and evil, it definitely presented different aspects of faith, representations of that faith, expressions of that faith and completely turning away from said faith. The Satanic Verses has been banned in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Somalia, Sudan, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Qatar, Indonesia, South Africa and India because of its criticism of Islam. Riots have happened because of this book where people have lost their lives. It was even considered a crime to own or read this book in Venezuela, with a penalty of 15 months imprisonment. Translations of this book has caused serious injury and death to those who have translated it. Now, The Satanic Verses definitely discussed Islam and I’m sure it challenged many people’s views but this is as extreme as it gets. Nothing else I’ve read as part of this years banned book theme has come close to the repercussions I am seeing here. I don’t think Rushdie wrote this novel intending to piss people off but it seems as if he did it masterfully. Most people don’t like to have their faith tested and would see this novel as blasphemous but I can’t imagine entire countries being so outraged that they have banned this novel and made it a crime. I find that to be extremely absurd.

Banned and/or Challenged Books from the Radcliffe Publishing Course top 100 Novels of the 20th Century

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

                Jenna Metcalf is looking for her mother. It has been ten years since her mother Alice checked herself out of the hospital and disappeared forever. It was the same night one of the caretakers at the New Hampshire Elephant Sanctuary, the elephant sanctuary her parents ran, was trampled by an elephant and Alice had been found unconscious hours later.  Jenna’s father, Thomas, has been institutionalized since then suffering from manic depression, leaving Jenna to be raised by her grandmother. Now thirteen years old Jenna remembers her mother but only bits and pieces of their lives together. She spends her time either checking the missing person’s database for any information about the mother that left or reading through Alice’s journals trying to imagine the woman her mother was. But Jenna needs her mother and enlist the help of the psychic Serenity and Virgil, one of the cops who handled the death at the sanctuary. Together they begin to uncover the truth around what happened ten years ago and the many reasons Alice may have fled.
                After ten years wouldn’t anyone want answers? Especially when you have these questions that your grandmother seems unwilling to answer and your committed father cant? It was only a matter of time and Jenna took this opportunity to find out as much as she could about what happened to her family. Serenity is a psychic who was once very popular and renowned but after and embarrassing and career crippling failed reading is now struggling to make ends meet. Virgil is no longer with the police force and works under the name Vic as a private eye. The Alice Metcalf disappearance has haunted him for the last ten years as well and though unwilling to admit his own shortcomings, he wants the answer to her disappearance almost as much as Jenna. These three unlikely accomplices have a cold case on their hands and they must depend on each other’s strengths if they ever want to answer any of their questions.
                I am a huge Jodi Picoult fan. HUGE! To the point where I buy everything that she releases because I have so much faith in her writing ability and her storytelling. This novel was a huge disappointment. It felt forced from the very beginning. This story is told from four different perspectives: Jenna, Virgil, Serenity and Alice. I struggled the most with Jenna. Picoult is usually great with taking on the voice of youth and making it realistic and relatable but Jenna felt flat. She was uninteresting and whiny. Virgil and Serenity were a little better but not by much. I could understand and relate to them more than I could Jenna, that’s for sure, but they were still flawed. They seemed like caricatures: the cop that had that one case he couldn’t live down and the psychic who now referred to herself as a “swamp witch” because she gave fake readings to survive. Alice on the other hand was extremely interesting but her story was impeded by the need to relay as much information as possible about elephants and grief and how that relates to the story and human interactions. The entire thing started to feel repetitive after a while. And completely unrealistic. There were inconsistencies riddled throughout and plenty of moments where I just shook my head because the circumstances just seemed ridiculous.

                Leaving Time, in my opinion, honestly felt like Jodi’s attempt to reach outside of her comfort zone and do something completely different. I applaud her for trying something new but this was unsuccessful. I give this book 2 out of 5 stars and I can’t even believe I am writing that. I want to give it higher but I just can’t. It is only because I am such a huge fan of Picoult that I held out faith the entire time that it would get better but it didn’t. I can’t recommend this novel but I could recommend My Sister’s Keeper, The Storyteller, and The Tenth Circle in a heartbeat. This one was a simply a swing and a miss. 

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Banned Books: Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

                Mr. Shelby has arranged for his slave Tom to be sold in order to pay off debts that he has incurred. Tom will leave behind his wife and children to pay off his owner’s debts. Mrs. Shelby is furious. Not only with the sell of Tom but that of her own slave, Eliza’s, son Harry. She has promised Eliza that her son would never be taken from her and yet Mr. Shelby has made arrangements to do just that. Eliza after learning of the purchase of her son takes him in the dead of night and runs for her and her son’s freedom. Tom stayed, wished his family goodbye and trusted in the Lord that even though he was heading to the South no harm should come to him. Years would pass and Tom’s faith would never waiver through all the trials and tribulations he endured.
                Now that I have written this brief synopsis of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, I almost don’t know what else to say. This is a novel that I am glad I read now, when I was old enough and mature enough to not be filled with hate over this disgusting past that existed in the country I reside in, The United States of America. This novel is about slavery and how it tore families apart. It isn’t gory or over the top and filled with torture. It’s a heartbreaking account of the family aspect of slavery. It details how man at one point could be viewed as property and treated as such with no regard to the emotions, and capacity of a human being. It is extremely believable and yet horrific in its honest delivery. I waited a long time before I ever attempted to read this book. I was well aware of the reference to someone being an “Uncle Tom” but it was always used in such a negative light that I always imagine this book to be something that I would ultimately tire of. I am shocked that I was so invested in this novel. Tom was not anyone to be ashamed of. I see the same thing in this story that I did in Gone with the Wind where some of the slaves were extremely loyal to their owners. In this novel Uncle Tom was extremely loyal to his faith and felt it his duty to be an honest man and a hard worker. I could never fault the character for that.
                This novel was about so much more than Tom though. This novel was about all the men, women and children he encountered throughout this story. This was about everyone’s loss and everyone’s pain. It was about the kind slave owner and well as the ruthless one. It was about the Christians who turned a blind eye on the atrocity that was slavery and those who genuinely tried to help those in chains. This novel took in the different aspects of slavery and placed them collectively in a novel to show the many aspects of the story. The bravery this must have taken Stowe to produce this in 1852 before the Civil War had even begun is amazing. I can only imagine the reaction that this had across the country. It must have been extremely eye opening to the masses to have the story conveyed in such a way. I am not surprised at all that this novel was banned, immediately upon its release, in the South. Of course they wouldn’t want such Abolitionist propaganda spread. It was also banned in Russia for its religious outlook and idea of equality. More recently in 1984 the novel was forbidden in Waukegan, Illinois for its language. It seems to me most, especially in the South, wouldn’t want to read this book and see the reflection of themselves. This was an incredible novel. One that exposed slavery to its very core, to the bones and heart of the matter. Cruelty existed and there is no way to hide from it, especially when a novel such as Uncle Tom’s Cabin exposed it so poignantly.

“Banned Book Awareness: Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe” Baldassorro, R Wolf

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice

Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice

                A man turned vampire at the age of twenty five, in the year of 1791, Louis wanted this opportunity to tell his story. Over a century old, having traveled the world, he sat with the boy in the room. Louis made sure the tape recorder was ready and that the boy was ready to understand the story that was to be told. The story of Lestat, the vampire who made Louis, and his unpredictable, selfish and cruel manner. The story of Claudia, the young child turned vampire, who became a woman trapped in the shell of a child. The story of the love and pain Louis experienced throughout his relationship with both. And the quest to find others of his kind and the travels that would take place over the years as Louis searched for the answers to his most troubling questions.
                Louis is our narrator throughout Interview with the Vampire. It is through his eyes that we learn of his history and the relationships that were formed and loss throughout his life. We begin at the beginning with the loss that triggered his initial despair and his longing for death. One of the most haunting lines in the novel was “I lived like a man who wanted to die but who had no courage to do it himself…And then one day I was attacked. It might have been anyone- and my invitation was open to sailors, thieves, maniacs, anyone. But it was a vampire.” This line was spoken pages into the novel and it set a finality and a tone that would resonate throughout. What would it have meant to him to die? Not just his human body, as it did when he became a vampire, but to actually die soul alike? It would have meant that he would not have been responsible for death of so many thousands of human beings throughout his immortal life. Louis struggled with his conscience and his need to feed. It was the struggle to understand himself and the pain he experienced throughout his life that was reflected throughout all of his relationships and the pages of the novel.
                Hauntingly beautiful. Romantically disturbing. Honestly scary. Maybe it’s because I was unnaturally obsessed with the movie version of this novel and could completely appreciate it for the remarkable movie that it was, that finally having read this book I can say I am in love with it. I was in love with Louis’ character, infatuated with Claudia and disgusted yet somewhat amused by Lestat when I was child. I don’t remember when I watched this movie for the first time but I believe I was really young, maybe 5 or 6 and I still love it. But now after reading this novel I am somewhat more obsessed with the characters and it is almost painful how much these characters lost throughout their haunted existence. Anne Rice was brilliant in her storytelling. The idea of having the entire novel literally explained by Louis was genius, especially because he is such a poetic and decisive and impassioned storyteller. His desire to tell his story was overwhelming. His honesty and pain was so obvious throughout that I was heartbroken throughout many of the pages. Claudia by far was the most heart wrenching character to me because she was so cruel and so desperate for something she utterly could not have.

                I highly recommend this novel. I give it 5 out of 5 stars. I don’t know if I will ever continue with the other novels in The Vampire Chronicles series but I had to read this one because of how much the movie resonated with me. Interview with the Vampire is a beautiful dark tale that spans time and for me it will always be special. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Banned Books: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

                Jo is the wild child of the March family. She spends most of her time gallivanting around, totally unconcerned of others opinions of her, writing stories and being content with her family life. Meg, as the oldest, is more concerned with her future than childish fancy, even though she always makes time for play with her sisters. Beth is happy with her life at home. Known as a very gentle and shy creature, she finds solace is simply helping others and being around her family. Amy, the youngest in the family, has dreams of an artistic, elegant and rich future. She wants nothing more than to become a woman and marry well to escape the poverty the March family has been familiar. It is the time of the Civil War and Mr. March is away with the other men. The time passes and the little women experience the many trials and tribulations that life has to offer.
                I remember picking this book up as a teenager and putting it right back down, bored out of my mind. I couldn’t finish. I could barely start it, which really shocked me because I loved the movie. Fast forward a decade to me picking up this book again and giving it a second shot and being so enthralled in these young girls story that I laughed at the ignorance of my youth. This book was great. Here is a story of four sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy. These four girls couldn’t be more different from each other but the one thing that joins them together, besides blood, is their love for one another. They genuinely love and care for one another and want each other to be happy. They each go through trials and tribulations and come out better for it. Mrs. March, their mother, allowed them to experience life through hard lessons, realizing that the only way her children would grow is if they experienced life and made mistakes. Everything was a learning experience and an opportunity to be better. I found myself laughing at the decisiveness of Mrs. March who knew what the outcome would undoubtedly be and sat content watching and waiting for the wounded to come home with learned lesson in hand.
                Little Women had everything necessary to make a successful and moving coming of age story, which is precisely what this novel is. It has everything from faith, love, loss, trust, war and romance. Speaking of romance, I can’t write this view without gushing about Laurie, who I found to be an extremely amazing and honest male character. He probably had some of the most heartbreaking moments in the novel and though all the characters were thoroughly developed there was something about Laurie that spoke to me. I won’t lie, part of me wishes this story had went a slightly different route but that’s just the romantic in me. How this novel ended has no bearing on my appreciation and dare I say admiration for this novel.
                With all of that being said let’s get to the matter at hand: this book, though never banned has been frequently challenged. When this novel was first published in 1868, there was controversy because the women depicted were free to make their own choices and do as they pleased. Now it is challenged because some people believe that the roles of the females didn’t push hard enough and plays into gender traditional roles. My, how times have changed! Well, yes and no. People have still found a reason to challenge the right of others to read a great book that discusses the changes women encounter in life. What boggles my mind is the fact that these four sisters, were completely different from each other and exhibited the different things that life can have in store. What is there to ban when there is such an array of personalities to choose from? This might be one of the most ridiculous cases of challenging I have come across and shows itself to the be the epitome of “damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”

“Banned Book Awareness: Little Women” Baldassarro, R. Wolf

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

The Alchemist is a novel about discovering yourself while taking part in a huge adventure. Santiago has chosen to be a shepherd believing that this would be the life that would allow him to see the world. After experience recurring dreams of discovering a treasure near the pyramids he seeks a gypsy that will help him decipher his dream. After their consultation he meets another man who claims to be a king and who knows Santiago’s past. He is inspired to follow his path and to pursue his Personal Legend. Along the way he begins to decipher omens and trust in the hand that created everything in order to find the true meaning of love, life and the Soul of the World.
I was anxious to read this book. I have heard so many great things about this novel and how it has transformed so many people’s lives that I was sure that this would book would affect me in many different and amazing ways. By the end of this novel, I felt like I read a mixture of The Holy Bible and The Secret all rolled up in one with a touch of an adventure set in Middle East and parts of Africa. I hope no one is offended by that. There were many profound messages broadcast throughout these pages. Many of which had to do with self-reflection, manifesting your own destiny and fate, which is why it reminded me so strongly of The Secret. There was also quite a few Bible verses, though none quoted, plenty of Biblical stories, and many references to God. I’m not sure what I was expecting but this wasn’t it.

Now with all of that being said, I really do have an appreciation for this novel and the simple way it was written and the way the story was delivered. Nothing speaks to people more than watching someone experience hardships, continuing to fight and persevering. I found all the characters fascinating and in their own way amusing. I was never bored with the story and found it easy to read and easy to be enchanted by. I can easily see how people have been inspired by this book. I think this may simply be a book that I will have to pick up again later on in life to divine inspiration. Different books speak to different people at different times. Right now this novel didn’t speak to me in an all-encompassing way. I give this novel 3 out of 5 stars. Would I recommend this novel if anyone asked me about it? Yes, I would because you never know when someone is waiting for inspiration and this could be that book for them. 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Banned Books: The Jungle by Upton Sinclair

The Jungle by Upton Sinclair

                When Jurgis Rudkus first laid eyes on Ona he fell in love and knew immediately that she was the woman he wanted to spend the rest of his life with. It was because of her young age and Lithuanian tradition that he sought permission from her father for marriage. Her father was a rich man and Jurgis was a country boy. Ona’s father was not impressed by the two horses he was presented by Jurgis and refused the arrangement. But when her father died leaving most of his estate tied up with creditors, Jurgis, Ona and her remaining family decided to move to America to start anew. In America a man could be free, become rich and not be forced to join the army. So the Lithuanian family moved to America with all they had. They went to the Stockyards of Chicago where a friend of theirs had made it rich. They came seeking a fortune but they soon realized that they weren’t the only ones seeking change and that the land of plenty they had dreamed of could very quickly become a living nightmare where they would struggle to put food on their table.
                I hadn’t been looking forward to reading this novel. I didn’t realize at the time how emotional and eye opening it would be. I was going through my list of banned books, saw it and was intrigued but I wasn’t in a rush to read it. The Jungle was simply biding its time as a book on my shelf. Then I picked it up, read the first chapter and couldn’t put it down. The novel begins at a wedding. There are no clues provided regarding what kind of life these characters live. This is simply a joyous occasion. Yet there wasn’t much joy. I kept reading to discover the circumstances and with each turning page my heart dropped. I couldn’t understand the cruelty, the maltreatment, the trickery and the pain the Rudkus family endured. I didn’t want to believe the struggles they experienced could be based on anything real. I was horrified by the conditions they endured and it brought to light, at least for me, the very real history of greed in the county and the plight of the immigrant that lived on little in a country that had so much to give. The idea of the working man literally working himself to death was obvious on every page. Jurgis came to Chicago a man determined to provide for his family. He was genuine, loyal and willing to do everything necessary to provide for his family. Slowly and surely his spirit was completely broken. It was disturbing to watch the family suffer because of the political system in the early 1900’s. I’m not even going to begin with the amount of detail provided regarding the meat packing industry as a whole during that time either because it is too disgusting.
                This is one of the few novels that I have read this year as part of my banned book theme that I am not completely shocked by the fact that it was ever banned. The political views expressed, especially some of the socialist views being broadcast when this book was published in 1906 would definitely alarm and upset some. This book has been banned in Yugoslavia, East Germany and South Korea. Though reasons weren’t provided for each country, I am going to assume the reasons had more to do with the political views then it did the plight of the working man. It was actually burned by the Nazi’s in 1933 because of its views. Like I said, I’m not shocked. I wouldn’t be shocked if most people found this book utterly appalling simply because it reeks of an honesty and brutality that many, in my opinion, choose to ignore. The root of all evil is money and at the very least greed. If you don’t believe me, read Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle and look at the lengths that people have been willing to go because of greed. The entire meat packing industry was affected in part because of the public reaction to this novel. That alone should make you want to read this novel, if it could help incite such change.

“Banned and/or Challenged Books from the Radcliffe Publishing Course Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century”    

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson

The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson

Jun Do was not an orphan but he lived at the orphanage, Longs Tomorrow, with his father the orphan master. He was the oldest boy at the orphanage since his father refused to let anyone take him away. He knew nothing of his mother except that she was a beautiful singer taken to Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea. His name is one that he chose from the 114 Grand Martyrs of the Revolution whose stories and names he had all memorized. It was when the famine came, when Jun Do was 14, that the boys were sent to the Army and his fate was sealed. It was because his home was Longs Tomorrow that he was assigned the detail of tunnel soldier. That’s how he learned to fight in the dark. That’s how his reputation spread to attract the attention of those in higher positions. When the officer came looking for him he wasn’t given a choice. Everything in North Korea is done for the good of the country and for the love everyone has for their Dear Leader.
I was mesmerized by this fictional account of life in North Korea. The character of Jun Do is so well developed and so intriguing that I was immediately invested. But it was more than that. The cloud of mystery that hovers over this entire story simply adds to the suspense and the thrill of this novel. Could this really be what’s happening in North Korea? Could a boy perceived to be an orphan, be taught to sweep tunnels and to fight in the dark, in order to defeat any sneak attack by America and South Korea? I have no idea but all I kept telling myself was this can’t be real. Jun Do’s character is so genuine and so full of depth that I couldn’t help but be entranced by his story. It was his strength and his resolve that had me turning the pages.

Johnson took full advantage of the limited information available to the public about North Korea and created a world that is completely believable and ultimately terrifying. Johnson wrote the story in two parts which worked brilliantly. The first explains the life of Jun Do and what trials and tribulations he had experienced until the man we know as Jun Do no longer exists. The second part of this novel takes place in the thick of the North Korean government and forces the reader to decipher the truth within the pages. Both parts were equally intriguing. Both parts offered insight into everyday life in North Korea. The second part was an intimate as the first, but offered various angles to the story. I didn’t want to put this book down. I needed to know what would become of this unknown world and I was thoroughly satisfied. I give this novel 5 out 5 stars. This wasn’t a light read but it was extremely insightful and enjoyable. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Banned Books: Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H. Lawrence

Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence

                Lady Constance Chatterley is in a loveless marriage. Her husband, Clifford, was injured in the war and paralyzed from the waist down and for that reason they are not intimate. He is the sole heir to Wragby and a Baron to boot. Unable to father a child, he has given Constance the option of having a child by another man that he will raise as his own so the Chatterley name will live on and the Wragby estate will continue to flourish. Constance was unsure how to respond to such an offer. Would Clifford really want to raise another man’s child? She began having lovers unsure of who she would want to have a child by. She wasn’t expecting to fall in love with anyone. She wasn’t expecting to discover herself in the arms of a man that wasn’t her husband. But when it happens she begins to experience a moral dilemma of the heart where there is no easy answer or way out.
                There was a complicated question asked in this novel: What do you do when your husband encourages you to have an affair in order to have a child? It’s selfish on both ends but surprising to hear out of the mouth of a man. Constance, or Connie as she was called in the novel, is content. She isn’t in love with her husband but knows she is in a mutually beneficial marriage. Now that she has been granted the freedom to explore herself out of the marriage sexually she is beginning to identify with what it is she desires and wants. Clifford is an aristocrat making the issue of classes and wealth a theme prevalent throughout the novel. When choosing a “father” for her child, Connie ponders who would be a desirable match. Who would be a man that Clifford would find respectable if he ever found out the father. It was interesting to watch the sexual relationship develop for Connie, especially when the level of intimacy increased and the emotional connection between her and her lover became evident.
                This was not an easy novel to get into. There was so much backstory that needed to be explained that I found myself dragging through the first fifty pages. Then things got interesting. Once Connie started showing her own motivations and her own desires she became more human and the story became more interesting. Lawrence took his time with developing the characters and though he thoroughly described the sexual rendezvous it was almost poetic and yet erotic at the same time. I really enjoyed this novel. Mostly because of Connie discovering herself and understanding what it means to live for herself and not for the whims of others. There is a huge level secrecy regarding the affair but there is also a large amount of romance and intimacy. Released in 1928 Lady Chatterley’s Lover was immediately banned in the United Kingdom because of its sexual language. There were even trials in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s in England and the United States regarding the publication of the novel. Alas it is now available uncensored for anyone’s reading pleasure.

“The Trial of Lady Chatterley’s Lover” Robertson, Geoffrey

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Banned Book: Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There by Lewis Carroll

Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There by Lewis Carroll

                Alice has found herself on the other side of the looking glass. One moment she is peering through, trying to see if there was an actual fire in the fireplace, similar to the one on her side of the glass, and the next moment the glass has melted away. Alice expects she is quite alone in this looking glass house and her curiosity has caused her to wander around and see if there are differences between this world and her own. After conversations with chess pieces within the house she sets off for the garden where the extraordinary and unbelievable continues to happen. Then she begins her quest, to become a queen herself, by traversing through the woods to the other side. Along the way Alice meets many animals that can speak and many flowers that can too, some of which are helpful while others don’t have a clue.
                Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There is another fantasy novel by Carroll that explores the imagination of young Alice. Alice has once again drifted off into a land of her own vivid creation. She navigates through this world with the same trepidation and fascination that was evident in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. This world beyond the looking glass has the same unbelievable feel and movement as Wonderland but it’s much more confusing and not as enchanting. Alice is on a journey but the points between are so muddled that many times throughout the story it seems as if she has forgotten or lost her way. Carroll’s sequel is very much the same story simply set in a new atmosphere. Alice is in a land of her own creation and it is filled with unbelievable antics and questionable motives and characters. There was the addition of poetry through the story but most of that was nonsensical and simply added to young Alice’s confusion and frustration. The whimsy and flights of fancy weren’t as apparent in this second novel as it was in the first. I enjoyed it but nowhere near as immensely as I did the first novel.

                When I originally began this novel I hadn’t planned on including it under my “banned books” theme, because there is no evidence that I have been able to locate that would suggest that Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There was ever banned or challenged. This is surprising since the books are so similar and have so many of the same controversial aspects, most notably the presence of talking animals. I find it curious in the case the same way I found it curious with The Giver and Gathering Blue. In this case the first book was much more successful than the second book but similar themes were explored and yet only one was ever banned. I’m not sure what to make of either situation but I do find it extremely interesting and worth noting. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow

The Girl Who Fell from the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow

                Rachel was the only one to survive the fall. Her mother, younger brother and baby sister lost their lives that day. A few months earlier Rachel’s Danish mother, Nella, left Roger, Rachel’s African American father and took all the kids to live in Chicago with a new man in her life. Their untimely death has left Rachel in the care of her paternal grandmother in Portland. It’s the 1980’s and Rachel stands out like a sore thumb as the only biracial child in class. She doesn’t fit in with the black girls who tease her about being so fair skinned and she doesn’t fit in with the white girls either because of the neighborhood she comes from. As Rachel ages and matures she struggles to identify with those around her. She fights to remember the father that never bothered to return for his daughter and the mother whose love she lost in the fall and whose secret she’s kept.
                The Girl Who Fell from the Sky follows the life of Rachel and a few other characters affected by the death of her mother and siblings. Rachel is being confronted with the truth of her identity in a very harsh and abrupt fashion. Rachel, as a biracial child, dealt with both interracial and intraracial racism. She was an outcast throughout most of her life because of that. As the narrator throughout most of the novel, Rachel’s inner thoughts and coping mechanisms were obvious and easy to understand. She was a put in a very precarious position at a very young age. When you add in the tragedy that she had been through, it’s hard to believe she was able to be so level headed throughout the novel. She made mistakes, like other kids her age, but she never let other people’s opinion of her bring her to shame. She was able to tap into her own strength and make her way through.

                Durrow did a great job with this debut novel. She was able to create an interesting, intriguing, delicate story and turn it into a complex, moving novel that touches on a subjects that many people don’t like to discuss: alcoholism and racism. There are characters throughout the novel that struggle with alcohol addiction and abuse. That topic, paired with the obvious issue of racism, made for a very serious tone throughout the novel yet both issues were handled delicately and with care. Something that I really enjoyed about the story was the way in which Durrow shared the history of the parents, using journal entries and reflecting on moments in the past. Delving into the past added depth to the story and increased my understanding of how events unfolded. My only complaint stems from how some of the outlining characters were used, which in my opinion, at times felt contrived. This novel regardless of my complaint was easy to become invested in. The underlining mystery of the tragic deaths kept me turning pages. I give this novel 4 out of 5 stars and would definitely recommend it. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Banned Book: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

                Alice is bored waiting for her sister and the book that is near holds no interest. The white rabbit is running past and talking about the time, discussing to himself about being late. But what could a rabbit possibly be late for and since when did white rabbits keep the time? Young and curious Alice follows the white rabbit and falls slowly through the rabbit hole into a land of wonder. A land where consuming different foods or drinks can make you grow or cause you to shrink. A land where riddles are made with no answer in sight and everyone can be considered mad. A land where gardeners paint flowers and babies can turn into pigs and the Cheshire cat disappears. It’s a land of fantasy, a land of dreams, a land of wonders.
                Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is a fantasy novel full of clever quips, beautiful imagery and whimsy. This is the well-known story of a little girl’s dream and her trip into a wonderland. Alice’s young mind originally tries to process all of the ridiculous things she sees and experiences but realizes eventually that there is no way to make sense of anything. She must simply exist in this world and make her way through to whatever end she may find. Her young mind is open to this new and very strange land that she has come to.
                Carroll captured the beauty of a child’s imagination with this novel. I found it extremely enjoyable and funny. It felt like a dream. It was completely unrealistic and yet fantastically vivid. What is the world? What are these creatures? It was a complete sensory experience and I found it to be lovely and refreshing. This novel was released in 1865 and has been considered controversial for quite some time. It has been banned in the United States in the 1960’s for its supposed promotion of drug use. Objectors pointed out a passage where a hookah smoking caterpillar offers Alice a shape altering mushroom after giving her helpful advice about her journey. It was also challenged because of the animals throughout the book could talk, which many religious cultures believe to be an abomination. This was actually the reason why the government in the Hunan province of China banned the book in the 1931. I honestly don’t know what to say except that Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is a fantasy fiction book. It’s supposed to outside of the normal realm of society, isn’t it? I thought that’s why people read fantasy novels! To ban a novel that simply fills the requirements of its genre is ridiculous and foolish.

“Banned books: Alice in Wonderland” Rosenthal, Kristen

Friday, August 29, 2014

Look Again by Lisa Scottoline

Look Again by Lisa Scottoline

Ellen Gleeson adopted her son, Will, almost two years ago. He was a patient in the cardiac intensive care unit at DuPont Hospital undergoing surgeries for a hole in his septum. Will's mother rarely visited and Ellen learned from Will's caseworker that adoption was a possibility. Ellen legally adopted Will with signatures from both his mother and father and with Will's heart repaired, they were living a happy life as mother and son. Then one day Ellen recognized a face on the white card she received in her mail entitled "HAVE YOU SEEN THIS CHILD?" A photo of young boy named Timothy Braverman had an uncanny resemblance to Will. The young boy in the photo had been abducted when he was only a year old. The photo provided was age processed to show what Timothy would look like at his current age. Disturbed by the similarities between the two boys, Ellen begins to investigate into the devastating possibility that the son she believed she legally adopted could be the missing son of two parents who are still desperately looking for him.
Look Again was a suspenseful drama about a mother’s search for the truth about her son’s past. Ellen adopted Will after all of his medical procedures were completed. She was with him through his recovery process and the two have become a family. Will is aware that Ellen is not his birthmother but is the only mother he has ever known. The possibility that Will may be the missing child Timothy Braverman is something that Ellen hides as she begins her investigations. Ellen’s career as a reporter has given her the tools she needs to investigate thoroughly but she battles with herself and what legally this could mean to her and Will if he was in fact kidnapped. The questions raised throughout the story test not only Ellen’s strength and love but her morals. If Will was in fact kidnapped then the adoption she thought was legal would have no bearing in court and Will would have to be returned.

Scottoline created an interesting story with complicated moral implications. Ellen was a well flushed out character whose motives were easily understandable. A mother is searching for the truth even if the results could negatively affect the rest of her life. This book started off slowly. The idea of the Will being kidnapped as an infant is brought up early and the research is painstaking. It took a lot for me to stay invested in the story initially. I was only fleetingly interested. It wasn’t until midway through the novel that the story really started to take shape and the implications clear. There was a lot more to the story than a simple kidnapping. As each layer was peeled back and the truth exposed I began to really enjoy the novel. I recommend it to anyone who likes thrilling drama. I give it 3.5 out of 5 stars. The rating would have been higher if the novel started off with the bang it ended with. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Banned Books: The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

                The scarlet letter ‘A’ must forever adorn the chest of Hester Prynne.  She has committed adultery against her husband who she has not seen in over two years, the proof of which is the young child she now holds in her arms. The father of the baby she refuses to disclose adding more ridicule to the situation. But she has chosen to bear the guilt on her own, fully aware of the damage the truth would do to the reputation of the father. Her husband has arrived to the town to find his wife the victim of scrutiny and scorn. Embarrassed and ashamed he chooses to go by a different name, Roger Chillingworth, swears Hester to secrecy and vows to find the man that put him in this position to exact his own revenge. Time in New England passes and the young child, Pearl, begins to grow and experience her life as an outcast next to her mother who wears the highly adorned scarlet letter.
                Hester, though stronger in spirit than many realized, knew of her crime and stood tall under the weight of it. She was also a single mother doing everything to supply a stable home and upbringing for her fatherless child. She lived under scrutiny in New England under the still watchful and hateful eye of her husband and still harboring a secret. The reader becomes aware fairly early on the identity of the child’s father which only adds to the scandal of the novel. As much as this story is about Hester, it is about the town and how they treat Hester and her child. It says a lot about the community and how gossip ensues and how, with the passage of time, some burdens can ease or become greater. The Scarlet Letter is an interesting view of the world that used to exists and how guilt was assigned and weighed.
                Published in 1850 the story of Hester Prynne was one meant to place fear in the hearts of young women everywhere. Who wants to be an adulteress outsider forced to wear her shame on her chest and care for the product of that shame? Hawthorne wrote a novel full of the rich details of the time but lacking in much dialogue. He chose to be more observant of the characters and of their situations than to have them engage each other often in conversation. At least, that’s what it felt like to me. I’m not a fan of the language used during this time period so it took away some of the interest I had in his writing style but the story itself I found very intriguing. I liked Hester and wanted to see her rise above the dehumanization she was suffering through. She made a mistake and took her daily penance while others who hid their sins judged. But it’s been well over a century since the novel was first published and a lot of the things have changed. Now a woman wouldn’t be tried and punished so severely for adultery in America. This novel received a huge backlash in the 1850’s. Many were upset because they felt that Hawthorne was too kind to his leading lady, Hester. It was considered sinful and lacking in morals. This isn’t to say with the passing of time that it hasn’t still been controversial. In the 1970’s it was called pornographic and obscene which I find absolutely ridiculous. There actually isn’t a sex scene in the pages of the novel. We only know that sex took place because the proof of intercourse is in the existence of the child. If you want to stand on a moral high horse and object to it then so be it but there is so much to learn throughout these pages about human nature. Hester’s journey is one that begs understanding regardless of whether or not you agree with the crime or punishment.

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Child Thief by Brom

The Child Thief by Brom

              Nick didn’t have any hope of getting away this time. The guys sent by Marko were all too willing to bring him back to the house and be praised for not only bringing the boy alive, but for also bringing the thousands of dollars’ worth of drugs back to the house too. Luckily for Nick, Peter was on the lookout for runaways and had been watching everything unfold. He wanted Nick and he knew saving his life would help Nick trust him. So he killed the guys, setting Nick free. With nowhere else to go, Nick followed Peter to a place where there were no grownups and he would be with other boys just like him. He would have to follow Peter into the mist willingly if he wanted to begin anew. Nick had nothing and no one to go home to so he followed Peter into the Mist and into a world unlike anything he had ever experience before.
                The Child Thief was not at all what I was expecting. When I first heard about this book I knew I would have to read it eventually. A dark and twisted tale about Peter Pan, of course I’m in. I knew I would first have to read the original Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie. If I was going to do this, then it would be done right. So I did. I read Peter Pan and loved it but I kept my eyes out for all of the references to a more sinister side of Peter and there were quite a few that gave me pause. With this in depth look of one of my favorite characters I began The Child Thief. This was an amazing fantasy novel that takes a character that everyone is familiar with and exploits its dark and horrifying core. There is no Neverland. Instead there is Avalon and one can only get there through navigating through the Mist. If you can survive that then you’ve entered the mystical world of Avalon. Here’s the catch though: Avalon is dying and Peter is basically taking hopeless youths and bringing them to help him fight in this war that Avalon is losing against the Flesh Eaters. Peter is a master manipulator and Nick is just one of the many kids over hundreds of years who have crossed into the Mist. Unlike Nick they all worship Peter, while Nick can’t believe what he has gotten himself into. Peter kidnapped him and led him to Avalon under false pretenses. Now what is Nick supposed to do? He needs to find his way back to the Mist and back to New York but he needs Peter’s help to do that. Peter isn’t willing to see any of the kids go.          

                This novel was extremely hypnotic. From the moment I started reading I knew that I would fall into this book and not be able to find my way out. Brom created an extremely complex and developed world with an entire history of shattered peace and fighting. There are Gods, men, monsters, spirits, discoveries, Christianity and bloodshed. There is also a history lesson that I wasn’t expecting about Peter and how he came to be the boy that he remains. This novel was intense, unpredictable, gripping and beautifully written. The characters were so well developed and fully imagined. Brom, who is an illustrator as well, created the artwork throughout the novel that is extremely beautiful and added to the overall presence of the world. I was captivated by this story the entire time. I give this novel 5 out of 5 stars and would definitely recommend this to any fantasy novel fans or anyone slightly interested in reading a twisted version of Peter Pan. This book was over 400 pages of amazing storytelling.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Banned Book: Paper Towns by John Green

Paper Towns by John Green

Quentin Jacobsen has lived next to Margo Roth Spiegelman since they were two years old. When they were nine they discovered a dead body together in Jefferson Park. By the time they reached their senior year of high school they barely knew each other. The social circles of life having led them in different directions. Then one day she randomly knocks on his window asking for a favor, which was really an adventure around town. But the next day she has disappeared. She has ran away again to the dismay and anger of her parents. The Spiegelmans have given up on her. Quentin though hasn’t lost faith and is determined to find her. Margo has left clues before when she has disappeared and this time is no different, except they are left for Quentin. He has no idea why she has disappeared or why she has left bread crumbs for him to find but he is hoping he can be brave enough to follow to the end. No matter what he may find.
So Quentin Jacobsen is that not popular guy that used to be picked on until someone in the social circles made it clear that he shouldn’t be messed with. He isn’t in the band but his best friends are and he admits that he is kind of geek who likes to play video games and has no social life. Then there’s Margo, this beautiful social butterfly with the attractive popular boyfriend and attractive best friends whom everyone loves. But Quentin is perfectly fine being him and Margo hates her life and all the two dimensional people she has around her. Paper Towns is a novel of discovery. Not only is Quentin discovering that this idea he has of Margo is just that, a made up idea, but he is becoming aware of all the superficial qualities he is seeing around himself. He isn’t sure what the plan was when Margo left him these clues and what kind of self-discovery he is supposed to be on but he is willing and in many ways eager and anxious to take on this journey. Quentin is terrified of what he might or might not find but he can’t stop looking and trying to decipher these clues. It all has to mean something. He just has to figure out what.
I could not put this book down. Green created such a well-developed, well delivered, brilliantly thought out and funny novel that had so much depth and was constantly propelling itself forward. Quentin was a brilliant narrator and his friends, Radar and Ben, were great companions for this journey. Margo was a great vehicle for discovery. She was a mystery and Quentin became a detective trying to solve her story, who ended up answering a lot of questions not only about Margo but himself. Paper Towns was easy to read and extremely entertaining. I enjoyed it immensely and I would recommend it to those who enjoy young adult. A mother in Pasco County, Fl doesn’t at all agree with me. Pasco County had Paper Towns on their summer reading until a mother of a 13 year old girl found it inappropriate for their age range and wrote an email to the school about her dissatisfaction. Its references to teenage sex, cursing and what she labeled as misogynistic references disturbed her. Days later the school removed it from the reading list. It has since been placed back on the list but with a description stating that it may contain “sensitive issues and language.” Everyone isn’t going to relate to a novel the same way. As a mom of course you have a say over what your child reads but the school board took it a step too far when they removed it from their reading list. I’m glad they changed their position and placed it back on the list. This was a dynamic story, filled with references to what goes on during high school. But this story was more than the curse words and mentioning of teenage sex. It was more than one characters obsession with “honeybunnies.” It is a coming of age story that takes into account all the different aspects of coming of age.

“Pasco school drops ‘Fault in Our Stars’ authors book after parents email”  Solocheck, Jeffrey S.

“‘Paper Towns’ once banned at Pasco School is back on the summer reading list” Solocheck, Jeffrey S.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

It was a Friday evening when Peter Pan flew through the window of the Darling family residence, looking for his shadow. He had lost it before when visiting the children and now was searching desperately for it. Once found he tried to stick it back to his foot with a bar of soap. It was in a moment of despair, as he sat there crying, that Wendy Moira Angela Darling woke up from her sleep. And so the adventure began. Peter wanted a mother that could tell him and the Lost Boys stories like that of Cinderella. Wendy wanted to learn to fly. John and Michael wanted adventure. Neverland is where Wendy, John and Michael went with Peter Pan, the boy who never wanted to grow up.
What an amazing story of adventure and fancy. This book felt like a taste of whimsy and fantasy. Here is a world where mothers can look into the mind of their children and see their innermost thoughts. A world where dogs can act as children’s nurses with all of the caring and competence of a person. A world where you can learn to fly to a place called Neverland where mermaids exist and fairies are real. Barrie wrote such an amazing all-encompassing story that centered on this boy who ran away as a baby because he didn’t want to grow up. Peter wanted to live in this fantasy where he was the leader and he could kill Pirates with confidence and still listen to children’s stories at night.

Everyone I know has heard the story of Peter Pan. I know I’ve been watching the Disney version of this story all of my life and I’ve always loved it. Who doesn’t want to fly and go on these great adventures? Who wants to grow up and deal with responsibilities? I honestly can’t believe it has taken me this long to read Barrie’s novel about Peter. Now that I have though, my opinion of Peter has changed. Peter was a very arrogant child who believed that everyone should answer to or at the very least defer to him. He doesn’t want to grow up and doesn’t remember anything of his family and would very much prefer if no one else did the same. He disliked anything he didn’t understand and was extremely careless with other people’s emotions. Peter’s motives were easy to question because you were never sure when he was being genuine. Wendy was the exact opposite of Peter. She was genuine. She was loving. She remembered her parents who loved her and knew that eventually she would want to return to them. But it was Peter’s attitude that made the tone of the novel much darker than I expected. It was playful but there was always a level of unexpected trickery or suspicion. Was Peter kidnapping children so he wouldn’t be alone? What happened to the children that stayed but began to age? There was just so much depth and so many layers to this story that I found myself fully immersed in everything it contained, reliving and redefining what I thought I understood. I give it 5 out 5 stars. I’m glad I finally delved into this world to see the true Neverland. There was more to it than I could have ever imagined.