Tag Archive: 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

 

12485933

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.

There are few things that I truly take seriously. Grammar, Virtual Villagers, Guitar Hero, among other things. I probably wouldn’t murder anyone over any of these things, but they often command my focus and effort completely.

Dating is not one of these things.

Obviously, I’ve dated so much that I can barely stand up straight without buckling underneath the weight of my immense knowledge. In other words, I’ve been on a total of five dates since I turned sixteen, a little more than two years ago, which sounds sad until you compare with my 22 year old “twin” brother, who hasn’t ever been on a date, or so he claims.

Because of my rather casual outlook on dating in my current situation, I thought it would be a brilliant idea to join a dating website (or two). At the time, I had recently(ish) turned eighteen, which is a requirement for most dating websites. I started this endeavor purely as a joke and wasn’t really expecting anything. After a few weeks, it turned into an experiment which has yielded some interesting results.

Being the highly scientific person that I am, we’ll do this properly.

Step one of the scientific method: Ask a question.

I guess the question sort of was, “Hey, why don’t I go on a dating site? It’ll be funny!” But the question really is, 1) Do guys on dating websites act differently than guys irl (if you’ll pardon my chatspeak) or on other social websites (in regard to myself)? and 2) Can I manage some sort of connection with people who are seemingly desperate for… something… I’m not sure what… without being sarcastic or offensive? I suppose the second question is just a sort of personal goal. If these people are truly desperate, then their hopes and dreams will be easily crushed. I don’t want  to be a dream crusher.

Step Two: Do background research.

This is where all those hours spent on the internet come in handy. I know how people interact on the internet outside of a dating website. I also know how they act irl… sort of.

Step Three: Construct a hypothesis.

My hypothesis is (or rather, was) that guys on dating websites would fall into two categories: extremely nice/polite, or extremely cocky. They are likely to be more open about their intentions and feelings and they will say many a cheesy cliche in order to impress me. My other hypothesis was that I, personally, would receive a lot of communications from these people because they are desperate and because they don’t know me, therefore they will prey upon me like something with teeth devours a tiny bunny… (Can you tell that I gave up on finding a clever metaphor)(If I were a bunny, I would be freaking awesome)

Step Four: Test your hypothesis by doing an experiment.

Basically, the experiment was to make myself a profile on a few websites and then see what happened. For each site, my success is measured by amount of messages received. One of the sites had a way to track who viewed your profile, but there’s this system that randomly chooses people who may or may not have anything in common with you and show your their profile. There was also this questionnaire thing you can do that will let you know, via percentage, how much of a “match” you are with someone else. I figured that this was all way too complicated to factor in (being as lazy as I am).

Each user I received a message from is ranked according to length of message conversation and quality of that conversation. They are ranked on a scale from one to five, one being boring or creepy and five being compelling.

Step Five: Analyze your data.

Obviously I’m not going to share names or anything because this is the internet and there’s a very slim chance that someone who I’ve talked to on one of those websites could be reading this and that would just be awkward.

Anyway. Data.

Plenty of Fish:

8 message conversations total

2, 3, 1, 1, 2, 5 3, 5

The problem with the people that I talked to on this website, was that most of them either immediately wanted to go on a date with me, which I can’t because my mom said no and because I don’t really want to go on dates with guys seven billion years older than me, or they outright tried to pay me for sex which was more comical than anything else, though it took me some awkward explaining to get out of.

The exceptions (those two little fives) were actually very compelling, however. One shared some of my same philosophies and love of big words, while the other shared my passion for exchanging large amounts of random information in a rambly sort of way. Not to mention they had actual interests besides desperately wanting to take me on a date.

Ok Cupid (I just feel it really weird to admit that I didn’t run screaming from these websites and their horrible names):

14 message conversations total

4, 2, 2, 5, 5, 1, 1, 1, 4, 5, 0, 4, 3, 5

I realize that a 0 is kind of against the parameters set, but SERIOUSLY. This goes beyond creepy. There are people who want to pay me for sex (though they were incredibly understanding about my refusal), and there are intensely desperate people…. and then there’s this guy. I literally feel unsafe, though he lives, like, 7000 miles away from me.

Anyway. I was much more pleased with this website than the other. The profiles were much more informative, the interface was easier to navigate, and the people were more awesome. It seems like there were more people with legitimately interesting personalities, though none of them really have exemplary grammar skills.  I’m not rushing off to marry any of them and I don’t think I’d be comfortable actually meeting them, but they are very nice people to talk to, though sometimes I find myself actually having to carry some weight in the conversation. I am not really very good at instigating conversation, but I’m okay at feeding the fire. The problem is that some of those people are brilliant conversation killers.

Step Six: Make a conclusion.

I was pretty much wrong, which isn’t a surprise. There were polite people and there were cocky people, but there were also interesting people and I can never have imagined them as individuals until I could see that they were.

I wasn’t really surprised about how many messages I got, though. The thing about the internet is that you can be pretty picky about what you show people and, though you may think you’re accurately portraying yourself, you can present yourself as a completely different person. I really hope that I portray myself accurately on the internet. As you can see, I always provide as much information as possible for the sake of clarity, but I still lack an appropriate mirror that I can use to describe myself accurately.

I don’t really know how other people see me, but I do know enough, by the way people treat me, to be able to tell the difference between the perceptions. In real life, because of my social status, because of my physical appearance and presence, because of my continuance, I know that I would never have come into contact with most of these people I have communicated with over the last month. The difference between judging a person based on a profile and judging a person based on what I listed above is that a profile contains information that is tailored toward making a person appealing, while the things apparent in real life are often subconscious and not totally controlled.

For different reasons, I have decided that making a deep connection with someone (not necessarily romantic) cannot be done easily on the internet. I won’t say it’s impossible because I’m sure someone out there has done it. A relationship can’t be built only on shared interests and ideas. There are many people I share such things with on those dating websites, but none of them really appeal to me in any way other than conversation buddies. A relationship is strengthened by communication and trust, but it’s built on sharing more than ideas.

It’s the sharing of activity and memories that makes a relationship. I’m not saying that if you spend all your time with your boyfriend or girlfriend you’ll suddenly have a fantastic relationship, but I know that I feel more strongly for people that I’ve shared experiences with than people that I’ve shared mere conversations with. Not only do I participate in planned activities with them, but I just spend time with them. We talk about things, yes, but it isn’t what we’re talking about that matters. It’s that we’re sharing something of ourselves. We’re giving more than just a few words on a screen.

We give something important to each other when we give our time and attention. It just seems more special to laugh about something with someone than it is to laugh at something someone wrote an hour ago.

What I’ve learned from this is that, while dating websites can be a useful way for people to start relationships, it’s in no one a place where one can build a relationship. It can be done, but only in ideal circumstances.

If you’ve read this far, then I congratulate you. This may be the longest blog post I’ve ever written, which is saying something. Basically, the advice I would give you if you want to use online dating is that if you want people to take a genuine interest in you, you need to have a good profile picture (because I judged the crap out of people just by their profile pictures) and you need to not sound like you’re trying to woo someone. Treat them like a person. Talk to them about things that you can both converse about or it’s going to be awkward, don’t be delusional about the nature of online relationships, and please don’t ask people questions about things that can be found on their profiles. Read the entire thing so that you don’t sound like a dork.

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…)