Category Archives: Book Reviews

Finalized summer reading list!

I just noticed that the largest of my tags in my tag cloud was READING. It should be writing… ah well.

Here is my “finalized” reading list, and thanks for all the great suggestions! Titles in italics I have already finished.

  1. Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe
  2. Monster Hunter Vendetta, Larry Correia
  3. The Forgotten Locket, Lisa Mangum
  4. White Cat, Holly Black
  5. Homeless Bird, Gloria Whelan
  6. Keturah and Lord Death, Martine Leavitt
  7. Lemon Tart, Josi Kilpack
  8. Mystery of Edwin Drood, Charles Dickens
  9. Dandelion Wine, Ray Bradbury
  10. Possession, Elana Johnson
  11. Blood Oath, Christopher Farnsworth
  12. The Sisters Brothers, Patrick Dewitt
  13. Eight Days of Luke, Diana Wynne Jones
  14. Armageddon’s Children, Terry Brooks
  15. Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc, Mark Twain
  16. The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax, Dorothy Gilman
  17. Our Town, Thornton Wilder
  18. City Boy, Herman Wouk
  19. Incarceron, Catherine Fisher
  20. Airborn, Kenneth Oppel

I’m posting reviews as I go on goodreads, so feel free to follow me there if you are interested. It’s too bad about my writing lag, but perhaps since Edwin Drood keeps putting me to sleep at night I’ll be able to write a bit more this week…until I move on to Dandelion Wine.

 

 

The draw of dystopias

I’ve been mulling the material for this post around for a while in my brain. What is it about dystopias that make them compelling? Why did I hate them in high school (no, they were not all required reading) but love them now?

Off the top of my head, the dystopian novels I read in my younger years were Huxley’s Brave New World, Orwell’s 1984, and Bradbury’s Farenheit 451. I also read other works–lots of short stories by Bradbury, and several novels by Louise Lawrence, including Children of the Dust, which I remember enjoying very much. While reading many of these works, I focused all my energies encouraging the protagonist to GET OUT! It was easy to become caught up in ¬†all the evils or problems of the societies portrayed, and to feel as trapped as the character.

When I returned to these same books later on, I found that, instead of just the painful experience I remembered, reading dystopians had become a powerful experience instead.

I’m more aware of the imperfections of the world we live in now, and it is easy to see how someone’s well-intentioned changes or laws could end up being a living nightmare, a dystopia. Human nature is human nature. We all have tendencies towards light and dark that manifest themselves in our actions, whether we like it or not. Despite our best intentions, we make mistakes, are selfish, narrow-minded… So when a perfect society is created by humans, sooner or later it will become a dystopia.

What I like in dystopian fiction today is the ability to see the good side of human nature portrayed against the startling backdrop of the mess that comes from us trying to make everything perfect. No matter what decisions we make as a society or as individuals, people will always have the ability to make choices for good or evil.

What are your favorite dystopian novels?

 

Reading for Survival

While attempting to process needed and necessary revisions on my latest WIP, I have found it necessary to read in vast quantities. I have to admit, reading is usually my way of procrastinating what I should be doing. The up side to this type of procrastination, however, is how it ultimately motivates me to write and helps me write in a particular style.

My latest reads were an assortment of whatever I found at the small local library that appealed to me. Some titles were ones recommended to me recently, others were ones I had recently discovered at a writing conference. I went in for one specific title (North and South, by Elizabeth Gaskell), and came away with six books, none of which were what I had been looking for. I then proceeded to read three of them in less than 24 hours!

The books I couldn’t put down are by Utah author Lisa Mangum, entitled The Hourglass Door and The Golden Spiral; part of a trilogy, the third title, The Forgotten Locket, is due to come out this summer. Congratulations to you, Lisa, for keeping me up all night! The Hourglass Door was one of the best YA reads I have had in a long while.

The Hourglass Door intrigued me in several ways. First, I love suspense. Not knowing or understanding the secret behind Dante’s strange existence and rules for living paired with his obvious connection to Abby made for a compelling read.

The romantic element was also well crafted, leaving me on tenterhooks waiting for the main characters to finally get together and kiss, already. And, frankly, while an Italian accent wouldn’t do much for me, discussing classics with someone who understood them as deeply as Dante… I loved how the author brought so many great ideas into the book and wove them together into a compelling story. Leonardo da Vinci, time travel, betrayal, secrets, and love. Oh. And one of my favorite Shakespearean plays.

For me, the second book, The Golden Spiral, didn’t keep the same sense of discovery and suspense. While the strength of Abby’s character develops to a great degree, and she does some amazing things, I felt I was not exploring any new territory. It was still worth the read, however, and I’m looking forward to the completion of the trilogy in a few months. I’m sure it will round out the story perfectly.

And it took me two days to publish this entry, because I had to take a break to read Monster Hunters International by Larry Correia.