Category: Book Reviews


I_Am_Number_Four_CoverThis book series was recommended to me by my chiropractor, believe it or not. Every healthcare professional I talk to connects with me through reading for some reason…

Anyway, I just finished the fourth book of the series, The Fall of Five, and I’m REALLY ANGRY, that I have to wait to get more of the story. I seriously haven’t had to wait for the next book in a series to come out since Harry Potter… and Eragon, but I kind of gave up waiting with Eragon. It’s an old feeling, but I love feeling it again. I’ve been a little dry with reading lately, but this series threw me headlong into the frenzy again.

It’s thrilling and fast-paced, though it doesn’t seem like it for the first book and a half or so. There’s mystery and intrigue and STUFF. I nearly (well I say nearly…) flipped out in my chemistry class today when I reached the end of it. I was seriously put out. I’ll be going back to the Redwall series now, but I won’t soon forget this series. It’s great and I highly recommend it to PEOPLE.

Cheerio!

A Countess Below Stairs

 

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Eva Ibbotson is actually an author from my childhood. I read a lot as a child, which is probably not very surprising to most people, but really, I don’t remember a lot of the books I read then. Except for The Last Treasure, which I read when I was in the third or fourth grade and couldn’t get out of my head after that, even though I had forgotten the title and the author’s name (which I didn’t mention here because I CAN’T REMEMBER IT…).

The book I most likely read the most as a kid, excepting the Harry Potter series, was a book called Which Witch. I didn’t even realize that A Countess Below Stairs (which I got for Christmas this last time round) was written by the same author as Which Witch until I went to put it away on my bookshelf and found that I already owned a book by Ibbotson. Which Witch is a truly magnificent book, despite the fact that it was written for children, and I really must do a book review for it, but on to this review.

This book was actually weird for me in that the main character didn’t seem to have any arc. She starts out obedient, nice, whatnot and she ends that way. It was a really good read and it was pretty hilarious, but I attribute it to my interest in aristocratic society more than anything. The other characters seemed a bit shallow to me in the beginning, but they filled out very nicely as the book progressed.

Despite the unfortunately static main character, the book was really easy for me to read. Of course, now that I’ve taken a class entirely based around the Lord of the Rings trilogy, every read seems easy to me. That is the best part of reading, in my opinion. When the book flows well and the characters are engaging and Sam and Frodo aren’t wandering around the marshes for five hundred pages or whatever it is.

Some people are amazed at a bookworm’s ability to sit and read for hours at a time. From the outside, it certainly does seem boring, but in fact, it isn’t at all like sitting around doing nothing. In fact, it’s the most compelling thing I can think of. There are plenty of things that teenagers do that are more boring than reading. Most television shows are repetitive and obnoxious, text messaging people requires a lot of waiting and a lot of emoticons.

Lightning

362px-LightningK This book is my favorite book. I always forget that whenever I’m not reading it, but when I am, I know that it’s my favorite. The first time I read it, my brother lent it to me and I spent years afterward looking for it. When I finally did find it, there were two copies at the local DI, which seemed unfair to me since I had been looking there for so long.

You will like this book if you like time travel. The time travel in this novel represents what I believe time travel would be if it were possible, no matter how much I love Doctor Who.

It’s hard to explain just why this book is so fantastic to me, but I think it’s mostly due to the connection to the past. I think a lot about the past and a lot about the effects of changing things in the past. There’s this fantastic motif of how knowledge and hindsight can affect how decisions are made.

One thing that kind of bugged me was this idea of destiny that kept coming up throughout the book. It did make for a more robust plot, but otherwise, I disagree with the idea of destiny for the most part.

There isn’t a lot I can say about why the book appeals to me without spoiling it. Anyway, this book should be read by you. All of you. Now.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog

ImageI haven’t done a book review in a long time. I remember swearing that I was going to do more of them, but then I didn’t. In any case, I want to do one now for no particular reason.

This book came into my possession by interesting means. I first heard of this book from a psychoanalyst (psychiatrist to you primitives). This particular guy was a very interesting guy and he made a distinct impression on me. Though he didn’t cure me of my anxiety, he did have a lot to say about literature. His favorite book to talk about was Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky, which I actually got to read a few months later in my AP Literature class. It is also now one of my favorite books. Ever. It really is fantastic, though my classmates will tell you otherwise.

This book, however, was another book he spoke about once. I’m pretty sure that, at the time, he couldn’t remember the title of the book, but he described the plot of the book to me, which I thought sounded pretty interesting, for the purposes of the conversation we were having at that point.

Around four months later, I stopped going to therapy and continued on with my happy little life. This was around the time when my friend Leslie and I started hanging out a lot after school. Up to this point in our friendship, we were simply far too lazy to “hang out”, but now we had devised a master plan for Halloween costumes and did a lot of running about in order to make it happen. One of the things we started doing frequently, was shopping at the local DI (Deseret Industries), where the used books were only fifty cents to a few dollars and usually had plenty of the books that we were looking for. Within the next year, my personal library increased in size by a factor of around four or five. In short, I obtained two new bookshelves for my bedroom and finally had enough books to organize them into some sort of order.

One day, Leslie and I were preparing for college. We cleaned the room that her grandparents are going to let us live in, we built our fantastically stylish bunk beds, and we mapped out where we were going to cram all our stuff (books). By way of reward, we treated ourselves with a trip to DI. As always, we made our way to the back corner that housed the books and began methodically sorting through the books to see if they had any that we wanted. I was going along a shelf when I reached a book entitled, “The Portable Therapist.” Because of the general attitude that my social circle has toward therapy, I picked it up to look at it, bemused. Putting it back, I saw the book pictured above.

Not knowing the title of this book in relation to the story line, I picked it up, mostly because I like hedgehogs. They’re adorable. Reading the description of the book’s plot, I quickly realized that this was the book that my therapist had been speaking of all that time ago. I looked back down at The Portable Therapist and laughed at the coincidence. Then I bought both books, of course, to commemorate the occasion.

Having just read it, I understand perfectly why my therapist would like this book. I’m something of an intellectual, yet half of the words in the book were words that I wasn’t familiar with. Not to mention the syntax was so complicated that I even had to re-read sentences. It was also incredible in that the main characters were constantly obsessing about grammar. Anyone who feels so strongly about grammar has a place in my heart.

Another thing about this book made an impression on me. That thing was the fact that, throughout the whole book, the main character (a little girl) was planning her own death. She gave very well-thought-out reasons for her suicide and was very convinced that her course was the right one. However, throughout every one of her arguments, I was constantly disagreeing. This isn’t a specifically individual reaction, but it was important to me. My state of mental health has never been…. ideal. I was in therapy, you can make your own inferences. It was just important to me because it assured me of my own will to live. I’m not suicidal. I never thought I was, but something about knowing for sure is strangely comforting.

Anyway, this book is a spectacular read, if you can keep up with the advanced writing. It’s a very nice “meaning of life” book, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Last night I read the first one fourth or so of this book and I have some opinions that might be too long for Twitter. Here we go.

Does anyone else think of it as a little ironic how Harry acts at the beginning whilst he is still at the Dursley’s? He spends a fair amount of time complaining about how awful they are to him, yet whenever he is around any of them, he’s always discribed as “cold”. I understand why, I mean, I’ve read the books, but Harry, being the apparently compassionate person that he is (since he’s always trying to prevent everyone from sacrificing things for him and he tried to save everyone during the second task in The Goblet of Fire), is kind of a little jerk to the Dursley’s.

He doesn’t even TRY to be nice to them. I’m sure he sees this as pay-back for all those years that he was the underdog of the situation, but since when is revenge the right way to go? He DOES save Duddley and he DOES restrain himself for the most part, but these are his character peeking through. I understand about, when writing, you aren’t supposed to make your main character perfect at the beginning so that they have room to grow by the end of the story, but this bugs me a bit.

Then, when he is reunited with Ron and Hermione, he acts like a jerk to them, which is COMPLETELY understandable, seeing as we’re all human. And again, it might just be the stress that Harry is under, but I just wanted to point out this. Sometimes people make themselves miserable and blame it on other things. Feel free to defend Harry in the comments if you wish.

Ender’s Game: Review

I read this book because of the recommendation of my Seminary teacher. He actually recommended it to me several months ago, but seeing as I don’t have access to the public library, I couldn’t  get it to read it until last week (Plus I was reading Freakonomics, Outliers, and the Screwtape Letters by recommendation of a few different Seminary teachers, and I had to finish the books I got from the school library because the school year was ending. I was a little swamped with books.)

What impressed me about this book is specified in the Introduction (Hardcover second edition or something like that). The author was talking about how some people complained because they didn’t think that real children talked the way that the children in the book did. Having been an EXTREMELY gifted child (I’m kidding), I remember thinking in some of the same ways as these children in the book did, except for that I wasn’t smart enough or able to think about one thing long enough to reach any sort of conclusion. I think that real children have the inclination to think like the kids in this book, but there is too much pressure on them to think the way that adults think they should think. Children are sheltered from thinking about things that adults don’t think that children should have to think about, so they don’t think about them.

The reason I liked this book for the most part is the way that Ender became so tired all the time. Not physically, but mentally. He got tired of “the game” and he realized that he didn’t really have to play it or even play by the rules of it. Fortunately, for him, he was in a situation where the adults who were trying to control him almost wanted him to realize this stuff because they needed him to think a certain way (which was incredibly rude of them, but there you are). This way of thinking does not, however, work in the real world very well.

In the eighth and ninth grade when it was still required that I take Physical Education, I remember trying everything I could possibly do to get out of doing anything via reasoning and logic. Anything short of open rebellion. I hated the pointless laps and the meaningless sports. I was no good at any of them and wearing shorts outside of my home is beyond embarrassing. I was constantly telling my teacher about how pointless it was and about how I really didn’t need to do it. Of course I wasn’t really very clever at it, just complainy, but I know I made a bunch of good points that were ignored. So, as a result of my unwillingness to “play the game” I received a B- and an S in P.E. No matter how brilliant I was in any other area (okay, so I’m not. Whatever. I was pretty good at English and analyzing crap, so we know how I got to this point) I couldn’t get out of doing it. I could have refused, but then I would have gotten stuck in some room with a bunch of druggies and treated like a criminal, whereas Ender was practically praised. (Psh)

I call myself a realist, but I’m probably being a little too optimistic with that view (haha) because I’m definitely a pessimist. There are some things that I just get so sick of doing (like P.E.). Even if I know that I won’t be tired at first, but I will later. I don’t even want to start in the first place. That reminds me of the song 2 Atoms in a Molecule by Noah and The Whale. One of the verses says:

But now I look at love
Like being stabbed in the heart
You torture each other from day to day
And then one day you part
Most of the time it’s misery
But there’s some joy at the start
And for that, I’d say it’s worth it
Just use a blade that’s short and sharp on me

Or the Anglerfish song by Hank Green:

Yes it’s true that I once went through life
As a guy who always had to rhyme life with strife
Yes, I’ve been burned and I’ve been spurned
And through it all, yes, I have learned
That love is not about whether you get stabbed
But how slow the knife gets turned

(I realize that this has NOTHING to do with the book, but I like books that make me think and what I think about as a result of reading the book might not have anything to do with the book at all. Just bear (bare beer bair?) with me.) The point of this is that I’d much rather not do something that might be good at the beginning but then turn horribly wrong (I will most likely end up an old maid). In my opinion, unlike Charlie Fink (or whichever band member wrote the song), the beginning isn’t worth it if you’re just going to end up miserable. I’m not the person who is able to be glad that something happened. I’m the one who is sad that it’s over. (Yeah, I’m lame).

ANYWAY.

I really enjoy reading books that change the way I look at people. The way this book was written made me forget how young Ender was. I lost all track of his age there in the middle, and then there at the end, my mind was completely blown (which sometimes isn’t hard). The way he and Valentine were constantly analyzing the world was something that I related to (even though I just notice what other people do and not always why they do it). This doesn’t mean that I look at all kids as if they are geniuses, but I know that they’re quite capable of thinking like adults if adults weren’t so lame at making kids think like kids (there is a line that you shouldn’t cross with children, but I’m not even going to go into that to find out where exactly it is, so…. whatever)

So, yeah, I liked the book. Now I get to read Harry Potter 4-7, The Shannara trilogy (with four books), and possibly the rest of the Wheel of Time series… and The Seeker books…. and I have to finish The Lord of the Rings… (I will never be able to read all the books that I want to…)

Screwtape Letters was a really good book, but it’s hard to explain why because I’m not feeling very wordy today. It was pretty enlightening, and mind blowing. The only problem being that it never tells you what happens to the human guy at the end. Does he die? Brother Mickelson says that he thinks he did. It’s another one of those books that just ends so abruptly. This was also added to by the fact that the book was written from a weird perspective. There wasn’t a story-line to follow, but there was at the same time. Super-confusing, but it also made sense… Despite being written weirdly, it was easy to read because it was so short. The book I’m reading now is something like 800 pages long, so it’s really hard to get into because it’s just so daunting. I’m going to need some more book recommendations soon…. I’ll have to talk to Brother Black sometime…


This was another book recommended to me by my Seminary teacher. It’s hard to describe what the book is about because (as the book is constantly proclaiming) it has no unifying theme. It’s really just a bunch of economical questions that are analyzed (not necessarily answered) using data and logic. It was a very interesting book, overall, and I learned a lot about… well, stuff, anyway.
I’ve always been semi-fascinated by the way that people have been programmed to look at things and the way things seem after looking at them logically. Also, analyzing things without moral biases and without trying to come up with a right or wrong answer.
Though, I think the best part of the whole book is probably the cover.

Blogging/doing email quizzes really doesn’t work well when you’re watching Newsies. Probably because the music is so catchy and they’re accents are hilariously awesome. Also, the choreography is just too awesome to not watch, so every time they start singing I either have to type without looking (at my fingers AND at what I’m writing. It’s amazing that something intelligible even comes out) or I have to pause and watch. Then I lose my train of thought and my writings don’t make sense (not that they did in the first place).
Does anybody else think I should come up with a theme for this stupid blog? Alright, here we go:
I recently (actually, like ten minutes ago, before I started watching Newsies) finished the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. We talked about this book in Seminary. It’s the book where the Seminary teachers got the 10,000 hour rule. I decided to read it because several of them said they recommended it (and teachers usually know what they’re talking about when it comes to books). At first, I downloaded a PDF file of it and it took me a month to get half way through. Then, yesterday, my mother got the book for me from the Bookmobile, and I finished the second half in less than 24 hours (Yay for real, physical, paper books!).
Basically, the book is about achieving success and successful people. According to the book, success is very little about actual talent. People who are successful aren’t so because they are special or because they possess more talent than anyone else. In large, it talks about specific people or studies (or certain series of events) that prove this. It talks about a ton of stuff that plays into how people do things, what they’re attitudes are towards various things (like insults and/or math class), how successful they are. They’re things like, when they were born, who their ancestors were, what ethnicity they are, what country they live in, what opportunities they had, how much they worked to succeed. All in all, extremely fascinating book. Next, I’m reading another book recommended to me by the Seminary teachers. So far, they haven’t let me down in terms of book recommendations, so…