Monday, August 19, 2013

Classics Review- Antigone

(Cover from GoodReads)
"Ismene, dear sister
You would think we had already suffered enough
For the curse on Oedipus:
I cannot imagine any grief
That you and I have not gone through. And now-
Have they told you of the new decree of our King Creon?"
-Opening Line

Book: Antigone
Author: Sophocles
Translator: Dudley Fitts and Robert Fitzgerald
Genre: Tragedy
Published: 1966
Medium Read In: Paperback
Pages: 53

Rating (Scaled 1-10): 8

Why I'm Reading It: I had to read "Oedipus Rex" and "Antigone" as two of my summer reads. Surprisingly, I didn't have to read "Oedipus at Colonus." However, I will eventually be reading that play to provide a full review of all three of Sophocles' plays in the Oedipus Cycle.

Summary: The sons of Oedipus have been warring over the city of Thebes, their father's kingdom. Upon their deaths, their uncle and new king Creon announces that one shall receive a full military burial with honors while the other brother shall lay in ruin and rot in the field of battle. Antigone, their sister, decides to bury her brother and give him honor and respect out of her love for him.

Review: Again, I will point out it is slightly hard to present a review of a classic Greek play such as "Antigone," specifically because most people read them for analysis and not so much for enjoyment. This play presented a decent storyline and some lovely monologues, much like its predecessor. It was a good read, and I would recommend reading it.

I really liked Antigone's character. While she is foolish, headstrong, and brash, she also is very honorable and loyal to those she loves. Antigone, throughout the entirety of the play, sticks to the things she believes in, and in my opinion that is one of the best character traits out there. She knows that helping her brother have a proper burial could lead to her own death, but she doesn't care. She loves her brothers equally and thinks both of them should get what they deserve.

Overall, "Antigone" was an enjoyable read. However, I will say that I preferred "Oedipus Rex" to "Antigone." "Oedipus Rex" played out almost like a mystery. Despite the fact that I knew what was going on in the play, I still felt as if I were learning something new. The plot there flowed in a really good way, like it actually would have happened there.

With "Antigone," I didn't feel as if the plot flowed quite as well. I mostly say this because her betrothal to Haemon isn't even mentioned until a few scenes into the play. With something so short, I would have preferred to know about the marriage-plans from the beginning. I did enjoy "Antigone" and it was a nice finish to the story begun in its predecessors in the Cycle.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Stacking the Shelves [2]

(Cover from Goodreads)
The haul this week is pretty small, but I'm still really excited to share the new additions to my shelves! 

I've briefly mentioned being a huge fan of Stewart Lewis' You Have Seven Messages. I was amazingly excited when he came out with another teen contemporary, The Secret Ingredient. I was even more excited when I won an ARC in a Random Buzzers giveaway. I have a super long reading list right now, so I'm going to have to wait a bit before I get to read and review this book. I'm so happy to get to, though. 

The cover is very summery and wonderful, and I love the model's outfit. Plus, the summary of the novel makes it sound so interesting. It's pretty much about a girl who grew up in Los Angeles with two gay dads. She really likes to cook, and she goes on this soul-searching type of journey to find out about her birth mother and more about herself. I can't wait to start reading!!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Classics Review- Oedipus Rex

(Cover from GoodReads)
"My children, generations of the living
In the lines of Kadmos, nursed at his ancient hearth:
Why have you strewn yourselves before these altars
In supplication, with your boughs and garlands?"
-Opening Line

Book: Oedipus Rex
Author: Sophocles
Translation: Dudley Fitts and Robert Fitzgerald
Genre: Tragedy
Published: 1966
Medium Read In: Paperback
Pages: 78

Rating (Scaled 1-10): 9

Why I'm Reading It: Two words: Summer. Reading. If you can't tell, I really like to read. Yet, like any high school student, I do tend to dread summer homework, mostly because it signals the end of the time period in which I normally get the chance to read endless amounts of books, and I will have to face school once more. I like to read my summer reading towards the end of the season, just so I can get the chance to remember what I read slightly better. I figured I may as well review those books, so here is the first one!

Summary: There is a plague in the city of Thebes, and the king of the city, Oedipus, tries to reason why the city has been struck. During the play, Oedipus finds out about his past and the horrific truth of it.

Review:  This was my first time ever reading any of the Greek tragedies, and I will say I was pleasantly surprised. I was expecting something quite boring and hard to read. I really liked "The Illiad" when I read it as few years ago. Some may argue that was a tragedy, but minus a few deaths I didn't really think it was tragic per se… Anyway, I was glad that Sophocles ended up not been a boring playwright, and I enjoyed the experience.

The language flows really well, and the story presented emotion in a few words. The soliloquies fit well, and gave a good insight into the various different characters that gave the monologues. I really liked some of the various monologues, my favorite being the Second Messenger's part. The speech managed to take the reader to the part of the story where they were meant to, despite not being present and only have Iocaste's actions recounted to them.

I will admit that it is sort of hard to rate the classics. I don't want to bore anyone with any essay-type analysis of the plot, as I certainly wouldn't want to read any of that in a book/play review. I am a firm believer in reading a book before seeing the movie version, and I think that this sort of echoes that. While I knew the plot before hand because of studies in Greek mythology, the play definitely expanded my appreciation for the play.

I have plans to see it if it comes to any of my local high school theaters soon, and at the very least I will be viewing the play from one of the accounts it is posted to on YouTube. It opened up the ideas I have had on the story of Oedipus for quite some time, and helped me to understand the characters better. Anyone who is seeking a better understanding of the Greeks, their myths, or who just is looking to read a good play will enjoy "Oedipus Rex," and hopefully it will open your mind as well as it did mine.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

YA Review and Giveaway- The Lost Sun

(Cover from Goodreads)
"My mom used to say that in the United States of Asgard, you can feel the moments when the threads of destiny knot together, to push you or pull you or crush you. But only if you're paying attention."
-Opening Line

Book: The Lost Sun
Author: Tessa Gratton
Genre: Alternate Universe/Fantasy/Adventure/Romance
Published: Random House 2013
Medium Read In: ARC from Random Buzzers Ambuzzador Program
Pages: 350

Rating (Scaled 1-10): 10

Why I'm Reading It: As previously mentioned, I am currently an Ambuzzador for Random Buzzers. I got an ARC for The Lost Sun after I was accepted into the program, and got the chance to read the book. I requested to represent this book because the title was intriguing, the cover was pretty, and I've always wanted to learn more about the Norse gods.

Summary: In a world populated by the Norse gods of old, a teenage boy, Soren, sets out on a journey with one of his classmates, a seeress named Astrid, to rescue a missing god. Their cross-country search for Baldur takes them across the country as they face gods, warriors, trolls and more to find their destiny and return the sun god home.

Review: So I can't get enough of this book. I've actually re-read it so I could write a proper review. The plot, characters, and world of this story really pulled me in, and its a great book to share with everyone. I really can't say how much I loved it, honestly.

I loved Astrid. She was probably my favorite character of all of them. She had a certain quirkiness about her that reminded me a bit of me, and I absolutely loved it. Besides that, she's a seer, which is pretty awesome. In their world, this pretty much means she can sort of see the future and use the powers of the goddess she has sworn to, Freya, to do all sorts of mystic things. Considering some more recent female leads in YA, she had a lot of character and I really felt she was a strong character. Astrid wasn't just there for Soren to look at.

In the same vein, I also really liked Soren. He had a lot of complex emotions, and he spent a good part of the book grappling with those emotions. They weren't just "Oh, Edward doesn't love me" emotions, either. Because of the actions of his father (he was a Berserker who went on a killing rampage in a mall when Soren was a child), Soren doesn't want to accept his destiny as a Berserker, one of Odin's warriors who can "berserk" and become super-fighters. Despite being in a fantasy world, Soren's emotions came across with an amazing realness on the page and made him a very endearing narrator.

I know from experience with my own writing that it can be pretty hard to properly capture the mind and voice of a teenage male narrator, but Gratton managed to very well. His emotions lent a realness to the story, while also grounding him as his own character. And on the same topic of his voice, the way the Norse mythology was tucked into the story didn't seem forced or condescending. The gods were decently explained, and I didn't feel the need to Google anything to understand the story better.

When you have a male narrator, and a world imbibed mythology of some kinds, I feel like it's sort of inevitable to hear Percy Jackson comparisons. I am a huge fan of Percy Jackson, so I was filled with a little anxiety that this would be a really bad rip off of the series. However, there are some major differences that separate the two, and make the newer one an entirely different story with only the same background as the other novel.

First off, in comparison to Percy, Soren is sort of ignoring his past, almost as if he is running away from it. The two characters are both different from one another, and so having two very dissimilar narrators really sets the two stories apart. The main difference is probably that in Soren's world, the gods are acknowledged by (nearly) all to be real. If you've read Percy Jackson, you'll know that the gods are not at all public figures in our society. The world of the United States of Asgard is really and truly a Norse world, and so it separates the two.

I really loved this book, and am proud to say it is the first novel to be officially inducted onto the Shelf. I was really glad to read it, and very happy at how it turned out. If there was any fault I could find in it, it would merely be the fact that I would have liked a little bit more action. However, the action that was in the novel was well written and fit the plot very well. I much prefer that over random action sequences with no real relevance, so in all this book was amazing and did not fail to please.

A Final Note
And now, for the Giveaway!!!

I have a very pretty ARC of The Lost Sun, available for one of you lucky people. Now, there are a few criteria:

  1. US only please!
  2. You must follow Cloud 9 Shelf.
  3. You must actually want to read the book!

For following the blog, you get one entry. If you comment below about why you want to read The Lost Sun, you can get a second one. If you follow @tessagratton on twitter and leave your username, you can get another one. And finally, if you tweet about the giveaway with a link to Cloud 9 Shelf, you can get an extra entry! (For these, please comment the link to your tweet). 

Well, I hope you get excited about entering!! The giveaway will be open for two weeks, and then I will be contacting the winner via their email about getting their awesome new book!! If you can't wait to start reading it, you can always get it here. Good luck, and as always, happy reading!

(This Giveaway is now closed. Thanks to everyone who entered!!)

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

YA Review- Ditched: A Love Story

(Picture from GoodReads)

"I don't know how I ended up on the side of Hollister Road, lying in this ditch."
-Opening Line

Book: Ditched: A Love Story
Author: Robin Mellom
Published: Hyperion 2012
Medium Read In: Hardcover
Pages: 275

Rating (Scaled 1-10): 4

Why I'm Reading It: I found it in my local library, and was mildly intrigued by the cover. Then, I read the blurb on the cover and was further drawn into the novel because of the whole "Bad Prom" theme, which I can relate to. It seemed like a fun read, so I read on.

Summary: Justina Griffith is ditched after Prom by her date and longtime friend, Ian Clark. She goes into a Seven Eleven and talks to the lady behind the counter about her horrible night. As she recounts the night, she slowly begins to figure out the reason things went wrong.

Review: I really wanted to like this book. I really, really, really wanted to like Justina. And believe me, I really tried to like her and sympathize with her and all those things I am meant to. But there was just something totally and completely off about this book. It may have been that I wasn't in too much of a prom-book reading mood, or that I had a stack of other books I was even more excited to read (see: The Pirate Captain's Daughter), but this just didn't work for me.

I felt no sympathy towards the main character, Justina. First off, I don't particularly like the name. Sorry to any Justinas out there, but it isn't one of my favorite names anyway. Besides that, the sort of punk-ish but-not-really POV character doesn't fit my idea of the name. Besides that, she just sort of managed to get on my nerves. I don't even know why. Its sort of like those kinds of people who you don't know why, but you just can't stand them.

And the rest of the characters didn't really fit what they should have been like, either. The most obvious example is the two girls who were best friends and got matching Jimmy Choos for prom. There is nothing wrong with matching shoes for a school dance. One of my best friends and I did it sophomore year (give it, they were both in different colors, mine a sparkly blue and hers purple, but its the same concept). However, the two girls with the matching shoes were hard core judgy, and Justina was just as judgy back.

The language used in those scenarios didn't particularly fit the bill for high schoolers and how they behave. The author obviously hasn't been to high school in a very long time. I'm in the place now, and I don't think anyone at my school would ever act in such a manner. With such out-of-character high schoolers, I just barely managed to trudge through this read.

When I picked up this book, I was promised a "best friends finally get together" romance. Justina and Ian have been friends for several months. And all of that happens before the novel starts. So it isn't really the kind of frame I was looking for. I was heavily disappointed with the set-up of their romance, and so this book sort of fell flat. The friendship didn't have much substance to it, either, so I couldn't even properly respect their friend zone status.

Furthermore, the ending came together a little too quickly- I didn't feel a buildup, no rise in action to make me sort of know where it could be going. It came out of left field. It was almost as if the author suddenly realized she should probably end the book, and decided to throw it all together randomly. The slightly random ending threw me off, and that was the end of that.

Don't get me wrong- I don't want to diss on the writer. It almost hurts to dislike a book this much. But I just didn't like the narrator, and when that kind of opinion happens, it all goes down from there. I really and truly wish I could have liked this book, but since I didn't, I do feel the need to let people know what they are getting into with Ditched. Hopefully someone else can enjoy it more than I.

Stacking the Shelves [1]

I recently found out about the world of blog memes. This is an entirely new concept to me, but then again so is blogging, so I figured that I'd give it a try! For my first blog meme post ever, I did some poking around the internet and decided to choose the one from over at Tynga's Reviews. The meme, called Stacking the Shelves, is pretty much dedicated to showing the world what books you are adding to your shelf this week.
(You already know I like pretty things. And this is gorgeous.)
Of course, I'm not going to be able to do this every week, because I don't always get books every week (the horror!). But I got a major haul this week, and just couldn't help but share all my pretty new books. So, here goes!

First up is Tessa Gratton's The Lost Sun. I've sort of already posted about this (and I swear my review is coming up soon!!!), but I still can't get over this cover. I finished the book a bit ago, and my review will be up shortly. Until then, I'm leaving you with another picture of the gorgeous cover. I'm definitely going to be getting my own hardcover of this so it doesn't fall apart constantly!

Next up we have an old classic, Pride and Prejudice. This is not my first time getting this book, but I picked up another copy of it because I have to read it for school. I can't take myself to write in my first copy of one of my favorite books ever, but I also can't really take notes in a book that is falling apart since I've read the book so much. So, my second copy.
The next book I have to share is K.C. Rivers' The Prince of Light. This one is actually an autographed copy that I was fortunate enough to win in a giveaway on Goodreads. I'm a sucker for getting free stuff, and who couldn't love this cover? Plus its about elves and that kind of fun thing, and I haven't picked up a read with good, hardcore fantasy in a while.

This here is my favorite thing ever. I'm going to be re-reading You Have Seven Messages (Stewart Lewis) soon, and I've now pre-ordered Divergent #3, a title I'm not even going to try to spell. Real books can't be substituted by electronic ones- the feel of the paper, the weight of the cover as you flip quickly through to get to the next part- but when my backpack or purse needs to weigh a little less, I'm always grateful to be able to read e-books.
 And finally, what is a bookshelf without sharing the bane of my existence??? I only have to take this test once more, but my prep book and I do not get along. At all.

Well, there you have it. All the books I've had the chance to stack my shelves with recently. Thanks to Tynga's Reviews once more for coming up with this blog meme, and if I'm really lucky I'll be able to get to reading, reviewing, and even continuing to stack my shelves pretty soon!! 

Friday, July 26, 2013

YA Review- The Pirate Captain's Daughter

(Cover found at GoodReads)

"I always knew my father was a pirate, and I always knew I wanted to be one, too."
-Opening Line

Book: The Pirate Captain's Daughter (Pirate Captain's Daughter #1)
Author: Eve Bunting
Genre: Historical Fiction/Romance
Published: Sleeping Bear Press 2011
Medium Read In: Hardback
Pages: 201

Rating (Scaled 1-10): 5

Why I'm Reading It: I've spent forever looking for good books about pirates. Every time I see one, it's very likely to be a bodice ripper, when I'm more interested in finding fun, light reads along the lines of Treasure Island, or whatnot. I was ecstatic when I found The Pirate Captain's Daughter at my library. I liked the blurb for the book, and promptly brought it home with me for a read.

Summary: After the death of her mother, Catherine is determined to go to sea with her pirate captain father. Despite his reserve, he allows her to come aboard his ship, the Reprisal, disguised as his son 'Charlie.' Catherine has always believed in the romanticized version of pirates, and is disturbed by how dirty and vile their lifestyle is. As she struggles to find her place on the Reprisal, Catherine grows close with the cabin boy and makes enemies aboard the ship.

Review: This book had a lot of potential. I was super excited to read it, and despite the simplicity and slowness of the beginning, I continued to hope in vain for the book to gain more momentum. I liked William, the cabin boy, and I found the pirates we were introduced to to be fairly interesting. Ms. Bunting's writing was crisp and filled in just enough detail to not leave the reader wanting. She kept me engaged in the story, especially with her portrayal of Catherine's emotions. 

The emotional aspect was probably the best part of the novel. Catherine's sorrow at her mother's death, her relationship with her father, her original eagerness for sea, and then her disgust for the situation were all covered with fantastic language and accuracy. However, the relationship with William was under developed, in my opinion. The book was obviously geared toward the younger set of the YA readership, but that doesn't mean that the author needs to make it a magical-love-at-nearly-first-sight kind of romance.

There came a point about halfway through my read where I was about ready to put the novel down. Catherine makes quick enemies with two of the pirates, brothers Herc and Hopper. However, they sort of seem to ignore her. Sure, they bully her around a little, but her response to the two much senior pirates is a terribly stupid one. It almost seemed as if Catherine were the one going after the pirates, instead of them disliking her. Despite my reaction to this, I chose to continue on because of the short size of the novel and how quickly it took me to read the beginning.

Some reviews I have read have mentioned her father's willingness to take her aboard the ship as a dilemma. I feel the need to address this. I can see how that would be a problem in the actual setting of the novel,  but I also realize that without that small action on the father's part there would be no story. I personally allow my suspension of disbelief to accept that little falter for the author, especially with how realistically everything else is portrayed. These are not your gung-ho Disney-esque pirates: there are rats and rum and little-to-no water. The Pirate Captain's Daughter captures the essence of piracy, and so I will give it that.

Overall, The Pirate Captain's Daughter wasn't a horrible book, but it wasn't really a good one, either. I've heard there is a sequel(Voyage of the Sea Wolf), which I plan to read and review shortly because of the potential there was to the book. It captured my attention enough that I am willing to give the next one a chance, in hopes that the author decides to expand her characters a little bit and hopefully engage the bit of plot she had going. I will recommend this book for the younger set of YA, mostly because it is a well written story. Here's to hoping the next one is slightly better!

Happy Reading!
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