“The Queen of the Night” –Alexander Chee
Favorite Line: “When the earth opens up under your feet, be like a seed. Fall down; wait for the rain.”
I have waited a long time to read this book. When I first saw it as a pre-order it grasped my attention—it looked so Phantom of the Opera, I couldn’t resist. When I finally got around to it, I was not disappointed.
This book has magic on every page, disguised as the drama of being the star of Paris’ most beloved stage—the Opera.
The story follows the life of Lillet Berne, the girl who cannot die, cannot speak, but sings as if she were music herself incarnate.
Her voice, the voice she has cherished since her childhood in Minnesota, the voice she showed off upon horseback in the traveling European circus, the voice she hid away while being a maid to the Empresses during France’s most trying times, and the voice that captured more than one suitor and held them under it’s spell, it was not only her greatest joy, but it also may be her greatest curse.
The voice saved her life many times, but it also changed her, forced her to become a new person in an instant. This occurs not only on stage, but also in her life—forced to drop her identity in an instant and hide away, always afraid that her strongest asset will be her betrayer.
“A singer learned her roles for life – your repertoire was a library of fates held close, like the gowns in this closet, yours until your voice failed.”
The story begins well into her celebrity career when she is well known and loved in Paris. While at a party when a man approaches her with a business proposition—he has written a novel and he wants her to play the lead role in its Opera rendition. She is honored, of course, but soon turns to fear as she hears the book is about an orphaned girl who makes her debut in the circus and steals hearts by singing only single song, but then, without warning, disappears and is never heard of again. His novel, he claims, tells the rest of her story. Lilliet is stunned for this was her own story. What follows is the retelling of what happened to the orphan girl told alongside the tale of Lilliet trying to uncover the mystery of how this author found her and who betrayed her confidence.
The character of Lilliet Berne fascinated me and there wasn’t a moment I didn’t want to know the end, or even just the next part of her story. This novel was sewed together so perfectly that each individual chapter was as fascinating as the next, and each point of her life was as grand a story as the over all book.
She struggles through love—many false loves, but one, perhaps two, true ones. She made herself go from a penniless orphan to a spectacular woman who has the same dressmaker as royalty. Her transformation is unbelievable, and yet Alexander Chee writes in in such a way that while reader you have no doubt the story actually exists, buried in the French history books, waiting to be discovered.
Even with the fascination that lives on every page, this story is tragic—the pain and heartbreak Lilliet goes through makes you happy this story is actually fictional—but, of course, the book is about the drama of an actress, so really it couldn’t be anything less than completely dramatic.
So there you have it—love, hate, drama, and the Opera—the only thing better than reading the book would be watching it all play out before you on stage!
“And then she leaned back her head with the faintest smile and, tapping her chin, asked, Are you in love with him, this mystery composer? How can I be? I asked in return. I don’t even know him. Almost every opera is about this, she said, her smile growing. Love before first sight.”
This is Alexander Chee’s second novel. His first novel, “Edinburgh” won multiple awards and was listed as a Publisher’s Weekly Best Book of the Year.
Ok, so October is almost to it’s end, which is not only terrifying, but it has also caused me to look over my book challenge for the year and see if it’s actually going to be possible to finish or if I should just give up and cry.
Well, good news, I think I’m going to make it! Yay!
I’m doing the Popsugar 2016 book challenge, and it has been incredibly fun! It hasn’t only expanded my reading genre’s but it’s also gotten me through book slumps because I know if I want to win I have to keep going.
So far this year I’ve read 33 books, and the challenge has 41 books on it (I know this is nothing compared to some of you great readers out there!) however, not all the books I’ve read apply to the challenge, so I think I still have 12 categories left.
Anywhere, here are my reads so far and the categories I still have to finish (Bold= not read yet, Highlighted= Click to read review):
- A book based on a fairy tale
- A National Book Award Winner
- “Lord of Misrule”— Jaimey Gordon
- A YA Bestseller
- “Red Queen” — Victoria Aveyard
- A Book You Haven’t Read Since High School
- “Frankenstein” — Mary Shelley
- A Book Set in Your Home State
- A Book Translated to English
- “Giants in the Earth” — O.E. Rolvaag
- A Romance Set in the Future
- “Earth Girl” — Janet Edwards
- A Book Set in Europe
- “All the Light We Cannot See” — Anthony Doerr
- A Book that’s Under 150 Pages
- A New York Times Bestseller
- “Outlander” — Diana Gabaldon
- A Book that’s Becoming a Movie this Year
- “The Light Between Oceans” — M.L. Stedman
- A Book Recommended by Someone You Just Met
- A Self-Improvement Book
- “The Whole 30” –Melissa Hartwig & Dallas Hartwig
- A Book You Can Finish in a Day
- “A Grief Observed” — C.S. Lewis
- A Book Written by a Celebrity
- “Troublemaker” — Leah Remini
- A Political Memoir
- “Reagan Diaries” –Ronald Reagan
- A Book at Least 100 Years Older than You
- “The Iliad” — Homer
- A Book That’s More Than 600 pages
- “The Brother’s Karamazov” — Fydor Dostoevsky
- A Book From Oprah’s Book Club
- A Science Fiction Novel
- “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” — Jules Verne
- A Book Recommended by a Family Member
- A Graphic Novel
- A Book That Was Published in 2016
- “The Confessions of X” — Suzanne M. Wolfe
- A Book With A Protagonist Who Has Your Occupation
- “Jane Eyre”– Charlotte Bronte
- A Book That Takes Place During Summer
- “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” — Shakespeare
- A Book and Its Prequel
- “Finn” — Jon Clinch
- “Huckleberry Finn” — Mark Twain
- A Murder Mystery
- “The Secret of Chimney’s” — Agatha Christie
- A Book Written by a Comedian
- “One More Thing” — B.J. Novak
- A Dystopian Novel
- “Brave New World” –Aldous Huxley
- A Book With a Blue Cover
- “Helena” — Evelyn Waugh
- A Book of Poetry
- The First Book You See in a Bookstore
- A Classic From the 20th Century
- “The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare” — G.K. Chesterton
- A Book From the Library
- “Go Set a Watchman” — Harper Lee
- An Autobiography
- “Story of a Soul” — St. Therese of Lisieux
- A Book About a Road Trip
- A Book About a Culture You’re Unfamiliar With
- “The Poisonwood Bible” — Barbera Kingsolver
- A Satirical Book
- “Catch-22” — Joseph Heller
- A Book that Takes Place on an Island
- A Book That’s Guaranteed to Bring You Joy
- “The Little Paris Bookshop” — Nina George
There is it! Like I said, I’m almost done and I can’t wait to have completed it.
If you have any suggestions for my categories I haven’t finished, please let me know! I’d also love to hear what book challenges you guys are doing and what you have read already!
Reading my way through Popsugar’s 2016 Book Challenge.
Category: A National Book Award Winner
Lord of Misrule –Jaimy Gordon (294)
Favorite Line: “A horseman of the old school, a gentleman who never forgot to dip down and stake you when he win. He was more ashamed to be stingy than to be broke, so as long as he had two dollars you had one . . .”
I’m sad to say I was extremely disappointed with this book. I didn’t have huge expectations because I knew nothing of the premise, but since it was the winner of the National Book Award, I was expecting a well-written and captivating story, in the least. What I found, however, was neither of these things.
I found the book confusing and scattered. It jumped between characters so frequently that I found it hard to keep track of which events corresponded with which character, especially when names or indication of character was left out. I would read paragraphs at a time without knowing whom the story was following at that moment. The heavy use of multiple nicknames did not help either.
The story (mainly) follows Maggie, a mostly clueless girl, as she tags along with her boyfriend Tommy into the harsh world of horse racing at Indian Mound Downs in Wheeling, West Virginia. Maggie comes in headstrong, making her presence known, and soon seals a spot for Tommy, her, and their horses at the racetrack. There the two live side-by-side with crooks and thieves who are all just trying to make a couple extra bucks on half-beaten down horses.
The events that follow are the flustered and frustrating on goings of a shady horse track. Gambling, harassment, cheating, backstabbing, molestation, witchcraft (or, at least, some form of it)—really anything unpleasant you could think of. There are races, of course, and horse trading and buying, but even with those exciting plot points, I could not get back the creepy aspect of the book.
As I mentioned before, I had a hard time following the flow of the book, but one of my main criticisms was the voice of the narrator. I understand ignoring grammar rules when writing the voice of a character, because that’s the best way to show accent, upbringing, and lifestyle, however in this book the voice of the shady southern horseman was prominent throughout, not just in the voices of the characters. I know this was very intentional and a form of literary expression, and I am sure many people praise the book for this very trait, but for me, it did not sit well.
I Wish I could say something positive about this book, mainly because it did win the National Book Award which means it impressed many people much wiser than I, but I just did not enjoy this read—I could not wait until it ended and when it did, I had a bad taste in my mouth.
With that being said, I am just one person with just one opinion, this book has been highly praised and I don’t want to turn anyone interested in a literary work away from this novel. Check it out for yourself and see if it fits your fancy.
Jaimy Gordon teaches in Western Michigan University. Her most famous work Bogeywoman was on the LA Times bestseller list in 2000.
Reading my way through Popsugar’s 2016 Book Challenge.
Category: A book you can finish in a day
A Grief Observed—C.S. Lewis
Favorite Line: “Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything.”
“We were promised sufferings. They were part of the program. We were even told, ‘Blessed are they that mourn,’ and I accept it. I’ve got nothing that I hadn’t bargained for. Of course it is different when the thing happens to oneself, not to others, and in reality, not imagination.”
C.S. Lewis is arguably the most quotable author ever. His books are full of one-liners that pierce your heart and make you feel like he wrote it just for you. This is the same for his book A Grief Observed.
Lewis wrote A Grief Observed after the death of his wife Joy Davidman. It contains reflections of his grief and mourning in a time when he was most vulnerable. He shares his innermost thoughts and feelings in a deeply emotional internal dialogue as he tries to work his way through this tragedy.
If you are familiar with Lewis’ work you know that most of it, if not all, is deeply spiritual and theological. He is one of the most famous theologians in modern time and continues to be a staple teacher on spirituality. He was also, however, human, and while he had faith stronger than most, he reflected on how shaken his faith was when his wife passed—showing that even the strongest can, and most likely will, lose their steadfast beliefs at times. And yet, his logic proves greater than his fear and his always comes back with a faith stronger than the paragraph before.
“If my house has collapsed at one blow, that is because it was a house of cards. The faith which ‘took these things into account’ was not faith but imagination.”
Lewis brings a beautiful human aspect into the character of grief. He describes it so accurately for those of us who can’t put it into words, so that when we read it we are able to cry aloud, “yes, yes, that is it! That is what my heart has been screaming all this time.”
Typically if someone were to ask me if they should read a C.S. Lewis book, I would always say yes, anytime and at any stage of life. With this one, however, I hesitate to say yes to everyone. This is not meant to be a reflection on the author or the quality of the work, because I give both the highest ranking I can, but I fear if you read this at the wrong time of life you will not get as much as you can out of it.
I read this book 5 years (almost to the day) after my father passed away from cancer. And yes, after 5 years I am still grieving. This book spoke to my soul. Everything I read I felt like I had written it and not Lewis. It spoke to me emotionally, physically, mentally, and, most importantly, spiritually. He describes perfectly what it’s like in the lonely days following a death, to the days when you need to get back to your ordinary life, even though that ordinary life is changed forever. He spoke of the difficulty of doing normal things, like eating at a restaurant you both went to, seeing friends, and having to make dreaded small talk.
“I see people, as they approach me, trying to make up their minds whether they’ll ‘say something about it’ or not. I hate if they do, and if they don’t.”
If you have lost someone close to you, even if it’s not losing him or her to death but in another form, you should read this book. This book was written by the grieving for the grieving, and the grieving will benefit the most from it. If you are not, you will still benefit from it, I’m sure, it’s beautiful and deep and it will leave you with something, but I fear you will leave a lot in the book that should be taken with you.
It is really beautiful and reassuring to see Lewis work through this grief and work through his times of anger toward God. He doesn’t end with a solution to how to deal with grief, for a solution does not exist, nor does he resolve that one must embrace the grief and accept it as a reality.
“I thought I could describe a state; make a map of sorrow. Sorrow, however, turns out to be not a state but a process.”
Grief is a process, and that process can only become complete when one finds peace. Peace with the tragedy, peace with humanity, peace with the process, and peace with God. Peace does not come when you find all the answers, or go through all the steps, or because memory fades with the years. No, peace comes when you accept that there are things in the world that we can never comprehend, when we accept that we are but a small piece of a glorious puzzle and we cannot yet see the final result of our labor.
“When I lay these questions before God I get no answer. But a rather special sort of ‘No answer.’ It is not the locked door. It is more like a silent, certainly not uncompassionate, gaze. As though He shook His head not in refusal but waiving the question. Like, ‘Peace, child; you don’t understand.’”
If you have lost someone in your life, I highly encourage you to read this book. It helped bring me peace with the passing of my father, and I am assured it will help anyone else who is suffering. In less than 100 pages, Lewis reminds us that grieving is ok. He reassures us that all the guilt, anger, sadness, and fear we are feeling are all apart of the process and they are O.K. We do not need to fell ashamed of this process because it is natural and necessary, but we do need to allow the process to continue and not permit the grief to become a state of our lives.
C.S. Lewis was born in Northern Ireland in 1898. He studied at Oxford University and later became the Chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge University. He wrote dozens of books and essays which have all withstood the test of time. He is known best for his 7 book series, The Chronicles of Narnia.
Reading my way through Popsugar’s 2016 Book Challenge.
Category: A Book You Haven’t Read Since High School
Frankenstein: or The Modern Prometheus – Mary Shelley (273)
Favorite Line: “Life, although it may only be an accumulation of anguish, is dear to me, and I will defend it.”
Frankenstein: or The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley is a perfect example of why everyone should re-read the books they were forced to read in high school.
I first read this book as a junior in high school and I absolutely hated it. I thought it was completely boring and I struggled to finish it, let alone find any redeeming qualities about it, and that really bothered me. I usually don’t mind finding a book I dislike—there are millions of books out there, and there are thousands of very bad books out there, but I really wanted to like this one.
For starters, Frankenstein was a classic and I love classics more than any other genre and so it didn’t sit well with me that I had to force myself to read another page. Also, this book is the king of Gothic novels, and it set the premise for new movies, books, and play adaptations for over a century.
Ever since reading it in high school I was determined to re-read it and hopefully like it this time like it. Well, it took me years to do it but I finally got the motivation to do so (thanks to a book club) and I am so incredibly happy I did.
I think the biggest difference between me reading this book in high school and reading it now is my interest in philosophical and moral issues has increased. Before, I assume, I wanted an interesting plot and nothing more, but now I look for books that go deeper than the surface plot and lead to discussions of morality and truth—and this book definitely supplies the content for those discussions.
The book circles mostly around the issue of the humanness of the monster and whether or not Dr. Frankenstein should make another monster as a companion for the first one.
To summarize these main plots, Dr. Frankenstein, horrified by what he has created, starts his mission to destroy the creature when he finds out the creature is destroying everything that is precious to the doctor. The two met in the mountains after months of not seeing each other and the monster tells his story of what happened after his was created.
The monster tells of his loneliness, his agony, and his despair, but also of his longing for love, his gentle spirit, his desire for good, and his studies. During the monster’s speech Dr. Frankenstein becomes sympathetic toward the monster and almost willingly agrees to create a companion for him, but then his heart is hardened to the idea and the monster vows to destroy Dr. Frankenstein’s happiness until he agrees to make the creature.
“Hateful day when I received life!’ I exclaimed in agony. ‘Accursed creator! Why did you form a monster so hideous that even you turned from me in disgust? God, in pity, made man beautiful and alluring, after his own image; but my form is a filthy type of yours, more horrid even from the very resemblance. Satan had his companions, fellow-devils, to admire and encourage him; but I am solitary and abhorred.”
The story continues on in this measure—a moral game of Ping-Pong in the doctor’s mind, debating if he should give in to the monster’s request in order to stop bloodshed, or if he should try to kill his creation, even if that means giving his own life in the act.
This dilemma not only consumes the mind of the doctor but also the mind of the reader as it is probable that the reader will change their opinion several times throughout the novel, causing this discussion to become more intense with each chapter. This is what makes Shelley’s novel one of the greats—it not only shares the story with the audience, but it invites the audience to be apart of the jury set to condemn either the monster or the creator.
This book is known throughout the world as Frankenstein but not as commonly as it’s full title: Frankenstein: or The Modern Prometheus. In my book club we briefly discussed the meaning behind this second title, and who in the story is the modern Prometheus—the doctor or the monster. While we didn’t exactly come to a conclusion, I believe Shelley intended the answer to be twofold and to represent both the protagonist and the antagonist.
The story of Prometheus is that he rebelled against the wishes of Zeus and created mankind. Furthermore he disobeyed him again by giving the gift of fire to man. Zeus punished Prometheus by chaining him to a rock where his liver was eaten by an eagle, then every night his liver would grow back and he would endure the punishment day after day without ceasing.
Dr. Frankenstein is similar to a Prometheus because he defied the rules of society and created life. He took it upon himself to become creator of a man using stolen parts and therefore rebelled against the natural order of things. His creation haunted him the rest of his life without ceasing, and like Prometheus, he had the burden of never being without the reminder of what he did.
The monster, however, is also similar to Prometheus. He was created not by love but by curiosity, and the result of this was his hideous appearance and grotesque form. Like Prometheus, he lived daily with the reminder that he was cursed and wherever he went he would be met with hateful eyes.
“I have love in me the likes of which you can scarcely imagine and rage the likes of which you would not believe. If I cannot satisfy the one, I will indulge the other.”
This book is fantastic. It went from being my least favorite classic novel to one of my most beloved. Although written about 200 years ago, it still manages to discuss issues that remain relevant today—the test of a true classic.
Before ending I would like to help clarify things that happen in the movie adaptations that do not happen in the book. I really hope someone makes a true Frankenstein movie that follows the book, however, since there are so many knockoffs that have drastically changed the story, I don’t know if it will ever happen.
- Frankenstein is not the monster. Frankenstein is the scientist who creates the monster. The monster is aptly named “the monster.”
- Frankenstein did not scream, “it’s alive” during a lightning storm. The moment the monster comes alive is much more anti-climatic than expected. Upon receiving life, the monster opens his eyes and Dr. Frankenstein becomes so alarmed over the creature that he runs out of the room and hides for hours afterward.
- Igor, Dr. Frankenstein’s clumsy, hunchbacked assistant, does not exist in the book. The only person who would come close to being Dr. Frankenstein’s assistant would be his best friend Henry Clerval, but even that would be a stretch as Henry never participated in the creation of the monster, nor did he ever know the monster was created.
- The monster is not the blubbering idiot most of the movies portray him to be. Yes, he is giant and insanely strong, but he actually became quite literate and logical at an abnormally fast rate, as seen in this example of a speech by the monster appealing to Frankenstein to show him mercy.
“Be calm! I entreat you to hear me before you give vent to your hatred on my devoted head. Have I not suffered enough, that you seek to increase my misery? Life, although it may only be an accumulation of anguish, is dear to me, and I will defend it. Remember, thou hast made me more powerful than thyself; my height is superior to thine, my joints more supple. But I will not be tempted to set myself in opposition to thee. I am thy creature, and I will be even mild and docile to my natural lord and king if thou wilt also perform thy part, the which thou owest me. Oh, Frankenstein, be not equitable to every other and trample upon me alone, to whom thy justice, and even thy clemency and affection, is most due. Remember that I am thy creature; I ought to be thy Adam, but I am rather the fallen angel, whom thou drivest from joy for no misdeed. Everywhere I see bliss, from which I alone am irrevocably excluded. I was benevolent and good; misery made me a fiend. Make me happy, and I shall again be virtuous.”
- The monster is not evil because it has the mind of a murderer, or because it was tortured by Dr. Frankenstein, but he became “evil” out of revenge for being created and then abandoned by the doctor and, furthermore, as a consequence for the doctor for not making him a companion.
Those are five major differences, but I’m sure there are plenty more as there are numerous movie adaptations that fail to do the book justice.
I put my favorite quote at the beginning of this post and I will leave you with my second favorite quote, which reminds us all to have courage.
“Oh! Be men, or be more than men. Be steady to your purposes and firm as a rock. This ice is not made of such stuff as your hearts may be; it is mutable and cannot withstand you if you say that it shall not. Do not return to your families with the stigma of disgrace marked on your brows. Return as heroes who have fought and conquered, and who know not what it is to turn their backs on the foe.”
Mary Shelley was an England native who lived from the late 1700’s to the mid 1800’s. She was married to poet and philosopher Percy Shelley. Over her life she wrote novels, short stories, travel articles, dramas, and essays.
Reading my way through Popsugar’s 2016 Book Challenge.
Category: A book written by a celebrity
Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood & Scientology – Leah Remini (256)
Favorite Line: In a time of universal deceit—telling the truth is a revolutionary act.
I gave this book four stars not because of how well written it was, but because of how interesting it was.
Leah Remini, who is known mostly for her lead role in The King of Queens, has a very commanding control from the start, and she definitely does not hold back anything at all. If you are familiar with her acting, you will probably be able to hear her voice through the entire book.
The book goes through Remeni’s life, from growing up in New York to her family moving to Florida in order to work for the Church of Scientology.
I did not know much about the Church of Scientology before reading it, and while it’s not the best idea to get all your information from somebody who has essentially declared World War III on the organization, but if it is even half of what Remini described it as then it is absolutely insane.
Remini describes her leaving Florida, moving to California, starting her acting career, getting married, and going deeper into the world of Scientology. She discusses the amount of hours, money and “counseling” spent with the church and how much the church controls the life of its parishioners.
“You were either all in or all out. It is an extremist religion. There is no middle ground. And there within its structure lies the danger.”
Remini then takes the reader through the difficult process of her leaving the Church and being exiled from the community she has known her whole life.
I was not expecting much from this book, but I was pleasantly surprised. It’s a quick read and it keeps you reading. It’s full of straightforward language and Remini’s fun New York attitude all while giving some inside to a ridiculous new age religion. It’s no wonder this book was a New York Time’s Bestseller.
Leah Remini is an actress and producer originally from Brooklyn, NY. She has also been featured discussing Scientology on many documentary series, including an episode of ABC’s documentary series “20/20” called “Troublemaker.”
The Carnelian Legacy by Cheryl Koevoet
Rating:★ ★ ★
Favorite Line: “Never forget that it is by choice that the ordinary person decides to live a life that is extraordinary.”
The Carnelian Legacy by Cheryl Koevoet follows the adventures of a Marisa MacCullum as she is thrown into a world unknown after her own has fallen apart.
On the evening of her father’s funeral, Marisa takes her horse for a ride in the Oregon countryside to clear her head and settle her nerves. While riding, a strange occurrence sends her horse into panic and her to the ground, where she hits her head and is knocked unconscious.
Marisa wakes to two strange men staring down at her and speaking a language totally unknown. She soon finds out that not only did she get knocked out, but she also got knocked into an entirely different realm and is no longer on Earth.
Unsure of what to do, Marisa takes advantage of the men’s hospitality and she tags along on their journey, which she soon discovers is one of utmost importance regarding the politics of this new country.
Marisa soon becomes more involved with this adventure and gets caught up in tense situations, all while trying to adjust to living in a new world, and also trying to find a way to return home.
This book was better than I expected. I didn’t have the highest expectations because I’m not the biggest fan of the Young Adult genre, and this one was clearly that, but I have to say I was pleasantly surprised with what I got from The Carnelian Legacy. While the story didn’t take total control over me, I did find myself not wanting to put it down at times, especially toward the end. It is exciting and adventurous, and has quite a few plot twists to keep you engaged.
This book follows the classic guidelines for a good YA novel: unexpected heroine, fun sidekick, charming, yet secretive hero, monsters, royalty, romance, betrayal, etc. It really hits them all—which is ultimately good, because that is exactly what many YA readers are looking for and expecting.
I enjoyed the characters, especially the main three, Darian, Marisa, and Arrie, however I did find them very predictable at times. I was hoping for a little more character development, but the author did give us enough to build upon and create a solid image of these three in our minds. I’ll be honest, at times I found myself completely annoyed with Marisa—she was whiney, she overreacted to little things, and she read way to far into things that were not that big of a deal. However, when I reflected on this, I realized that I was probably all of those things when I was 17/18 and it made me less annoyed with her behavior—but I did have to remind myself of that several times in the book.
The plot was fantastic. It was set up nicely and flows easily throughout the book—not once did I find myself confused about what was going on. I don’t want to go into what worked and what didn’t for me, because that would probably ruin the book for everyone, but I did think the plot was very exciting.
My biggest critique of this book is actually the use of the God figure in it. I don’t mind that a God figure was used, but what I minded was how quickly she took on the God of the new country. Now, to be clear, it wasn’t a different God as our own, but it did have a different name, and Marisa uses it almost immediately upon learning it in this new land. I had a hard time with this because if I went to a new world and they told me God was called Garon (which it is in the book), I would still pray to God, not Garon, so I was a little perturbed that she took on this new name right away—it just didn’t seem natural to me.
I give this book 3 ½ stars because I did think it was good, and I do want to read the other books in this series, but I didn’t think it was fantastic.
I would recommend this book to people who are looking for a fun YA novel, because it really is that and I don’t think you will be disappointed.
*I recieved this book free from BookLook Bloggers in exchange to a fair and unbiased review.
Reading my way through Popsugar’s 2016 Book Challenge.
Category: A Book Translated to English
Giants in the Earth –O.E. Rolvaag (531)
Favorite Line: “Many and incredible are the tales the grandfathers tell from those days when the wilderness was yet untamed, and when they, unwittingly, founded the Kingdom.”
“There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.” Genesis v:4
Think Little House on the Prairie double the drama, heartache, prairie storms, and snow.
This novel, written originally in Norwegian, follows the story of an immigrant family looking to start a Norwegian settlement west of the Mississippi River.
Reading this book continually made me wonder why anyone in their right mind would ever endure the hardships of the Midwest weather when they could have stayed in the city and been perfectly happy. Now, I’m from the Midwest, I’ve lived here since I was eight and I love it. However, I have a house, a car, winter clothes, a grocery store 5 minutes away, and access to modern medicine. These things make living in the Midwest not only possible, but also enjoyable. Yet, even with these things I still complain about the long, windy, snowdrift covered winters or the ridiculous heat and humidity in the summer. I could never imagine going through these conditions in a drafty house with no hot water, or no air conditioning during the 100 degree summer days.
Per Hansa, our protagonist is a strong man who has his sights set on the west. He, along with the other Norwegian settlers traveling with him, seek out a plot of land in the Dakota territories in hopes of starting their own community. They begin there is no clear end in sight, only hope for a better future.
“But it had been as if a resistless flood had torn them loose from their foundations and was carrying them helplessly along on it’s current—flinging them here and there, hurling them madly onward, with no known destination ahead.”
As in most stories of the early settlers, there are many challenges and troubles that arise for the family of Per Hansa as they travel and settle, but the harshest conflicts are not from the plagues of locusts, the blizzards, or the prairie fires but from the conflicting attitudes of husband and wife.
Per Hansa is self-motivated man, who will stop at nothing to achieve the goals he has set for himself. These qualities are not intrinsically bad, in fact they are usually very good qualities to have, however the problem for Per Hansa is that he is a dreamer without a ceiling. Everything and anything is possible for him, and he refuses to stop until he has gained everything and anything.
“The caravan headed for the sky; it steered straight onward. Now, at last, Per Hansa had time to look about him and rejoice in what he saw… All he saw was beautiful”
Beret, Per Hansa’s wife, goes along with her husband, rarely coming between him and his dream, and hating every moment of it. Multiple times she questions why they continue westward when civilization lays to the east. She despairs time and time again in the lonely prairie, each time sinking lower into misery.
“It seemed plain to her now that human life could not endure in this country.”
This struggle between husband and wife can be found as the source of the majority of the problems, aside from natural disasters, that arise for this family, and ultimately for their community. This marriage, through their faults and triumphs, acts as living proof how influential a strong marriage can be, and how shattering a malfunctioning one can be to everyone around them.
“When the quarrel had finally worn itself out they had found themselves at opposite ends of the earth, though lying side by side in the same bed.”
Giants in the Earth was not exactly an easy book to get through, but not because of the way it is written, for it is truly a beautifully written novel, but because it is full of tragedy. It is one of those “so sad but I can’t stop reading” books. Amidst all the sorrow, however, there is beautiful joy: the joy of finding their plot of land, the joy of the harvest, the joy of friendship, the joy of freedom, the joy of children, both old and new, and the joy of love.
Rolvaag writes in such a poetic way that the words flow from the page and before you know it you have read several chapters without stopping. While this book was translated from its original Norwegian, Rolvaag translated it himself, along with Lincoln Colcord, so the purity of the words remains intact.
I went through every emotion possible while reading this book. The characters not only came alive for me, but they also became friends of mine, making their success my success and their burdens my burdens. My favorite character changed with each chapter, which is a sign to me of perfect story telling, as that is closer to reality than having one character bear all the good qualities, while the others are merely supporting roles.
First published in 1925 this classic novel brings forth universal issues and timeless themes. The period of the settlers was a harsh time in America’s history, but a vital one. Giants in the Earth helps bring our history to life, and shows how far people will go and how hard they will work to fulfill the American dream
“Tish-ah!” said the grass. “Tish-ah, tish-ah!” Never had it said anything else–never would it say anything else. It bent resiliently under the trampling feet; it did not break, but it complained aloud every time–for nothing like this had ever happened to it before.”
O.E. Rolvaag immigrated to America from Norway in 1896. He worked as a farmhand in South Dakota until he was able to afford school. He graduated from St. Olaf College in Minnesota in 1905 and earned is Masters degree in 1910. He became head of the Norwegian department at St. Olaf College and became secretary and archivist of the Norwegian-American Historical Association. He died in 1931.
Reading my way through Popsugar’s 2016 Book Challenge.
Category: A Book Written by a Comedian
One More Thing – B.J. Novak (222)
Favorite Line: “If you love something, let it go. If you don’t love something, definitely let it go. Basically, just drop everything, who cares.”
For all you lovers of NBC’s hit show “The Office” this books is for you…well, this book if for you if you want to hear Ryan’s voice in your head while reading some seriously messed up short stories that could only come from our favorite character we loved to hate.
If I didn’t know that The Office was fictional (as much as I hate to admit it) I would be convinced that Ryan Howard, after leaving Dunder Mifflin, took the pen name BJ Novak and decided to pursue his life long dream of being a short story author, with Kelly Kapoor cheering him on (and paying the bills).
I read many mixed reviews for this book so I really didn’t know what to expect, but I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. I found the stories to be fun and weird, however I don’t think it is for everyone. Novak writes with such a dry sense of humor and if you are not familiar with it or if it’s just not your comedic style you will walk away unimpressed.
If you are planning on reading One More Thing, be prepared to be completely taken off guard. I’m serious. Right when you think you know where the story is going it takes an unexpected, and at many times a dark and slightly disturbing, turn.
“I was sad that summer was over.
But I was happy that it was over for m enemies, too.”
Some of the stories are a few pages long, while others are only a few sentences long. Even the short ones packed a punch, however. Those two lines above are a complete story in this book and yet they are just as relatable to human nature as a 250-page novel is.
I’ll admit, some of the stories were too off the wall for me and I left them feeling rather bewildered, however, some of them were deep and beautiful, while being witty at the same time.
“Being young was her thing, and she was the best at it. But every year, more and more girls came out of nowhere and tried to steal her thing.
One of these days I’m gong to have to get a new thing, she thought to herself–but as quietly as she could, because she knew that if anyone caught her thinking this thought, her thing would be right over right then.”
I don’t usually expect much out of short story books. Typically there are one or two good stories and the rest are not so great, but this one kept me pretty amused throughout its entirety. Yes, there were a few that were too strange for my liking, but I kept reading because even if they were weird in a Ryan Howard way, they were still very entertaining.
BJ Novak is an actor, writer, and director. He is also the author of popular children’s book, The Book with No Pictures.