Book Review: Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer.jpgTitle: Into Thin Air
Author: Jon Krakauer
Publisher: Anchor Books
Paperback: 333 pages
Summary: (Taken from Goodreads)

A bank of clouds was assembling on the not-so-distant horizon, but journalist-mountaineer Jon Krakauer, standing on the summit of Mt. Everest, saw nothing that “suggested that a murderous storm was bearing down.” He was wrong. The storm, which claimed five lives and left countless more–including Krakauer’s–in guilt-ridden disarray, would also provide the impetus for Into Thin Air, Krakauer’s epic account of the May 1996 disaster.

My Review:

Again, I was surprised by how much I liked this book. Either I need to stop listening what my friends say about required reading, or I should raise my expectations of “classics.” (Or both.)

Into Thin Air is both thrilling and terrifying. Not that I was considering it, but I will now never take mountain climbing as a hobby — especially mountains where high-altitude sickness is a problem. Krakauer includes the history of Mount Everest along with the day-to-day events of his expedition, which added an interesting, enjoyable element to the novel. Not only was I reading a great story, I felt like I was learning a lot too.

Into Thin Air is a tragic story that is wonderfully told. The level of detail included in the descriptions is remarkable. I felt like I was climbing Everest with the author, going through the same psychological and physical torture. I also got to know those who climbed with him, sharing in their successes and failures. I want to note that there is a controversy as to whether the events happened like Krakauer said they happened; I am sure, with all that was going on at the time, that there are discrepancies with events, but I doubt that they are serious since he also interviewed multiple people who were there as well.

I would recommend this book for anyone who is at all interested in adventure or memoirs. If you’re squeamish, you should maybe stay away, since there are descriptions of some pretty awful sights and diseases (I got queasy more than a few times). However, I think that Into Thin Air is a novel most people will find a worthwhile read.

Overall Rating: 4/5

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Book Review: Bloody Valentine by Melissa De La Cruz

Bloody Valentine by Melissa De La Cruz.jpgTitle: Bloody Valentine
Author: Melissa de la Cruz
Series: Blue Bloods, Book 5.5
Publisher: Hyperion
Hardcover: 147 pages
Summary: (Taken from Goodreads)

Vampires have powers beyond human comprehension: strength that defies logic, speed that cannot be captured on film, the ability to shapeshift and more. But in matters of the heart, no one, not even the strikingly beautiful and outrageously wealthy Blue Bloods, has total control. In Bloody Valentine, bestselling author Melissa de la Cruz offers readers a new story about the love lives of their favorite vamps – the passion and heartache, the hope and devastation, the lust and longing. Combined with all the glitz, glamour, and mystery fans have come to expect, this is sure to be another huge hit in the Blue Bloods series

Also, witness the bonding of Jack and Schuyler.

*WARNING* SPOILERS FOR THOSE WHO HAVEN’T READ BOOKS 1-5

My Review:

I thought Bloody Valentine was a lot of fun. It fills in some holes and gives extra information about Allegra and Schuyler’s dad. There are three short stories, one about Oliver after Schuyler leaves him, one about Allegra and Ben, and then another about Schuyler and Jack.

All of the stories were quick reads and I liked getting insight into the characters. I thought that there was a rather large jump in between books 4 and 5 (The Van Alen Legacy and Misguided Angel), like how Oliver got over Schuyler, and how Schuyler and Jack bonded. This cleared that up, which I appreciated. I also really loved getting more insight into Allegra’s and Charles’s characters (and meeting Schuyler’s dad!). Allegra is such an interesting character because we hear a lot about her, but don’t get to see her. Reading about her running around and going to school was a nice change.

One thing I didn’t like was how Schuyler and Jack were able to resolve the conflict in the third story. Honestly, it wasn’t very believable for me, which kept this story from being really great. On the up side, however, there were a few drawings included at the end, which I thought were cool.

I would definitely recommend this book for fans of the series; like I said, it’s a fast read, and it fills in some holes. Bloody Valentine is a great addition to the Blue Bloods series.

Overall Rating: 4/5


Book Review: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

handmaid's tale by margaret atwood.jpgTitle: The Handmaid’s Tale
Author: Margaret Atwood
Publisher: McClelland and Stewart
Paperback: 324 pages
Summary: (Taken from Goodreads)

It is the world of the near future, and Offred is a Handmaid in the home of the Commander and his wife. She is allowed out once a day to the food market, she is not permitted to read, and she is hoping the Commander makes her pregnant, because she is only valued if her ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she was an independent woman, had a job of her own, a husband and child. But all of that is gone now…everything has changed.

 

My Review:

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this. Honestly, from my friends’ descriptions of the book I was expecting something completely different. I was expecting the world Offred lives in to be openly violent and brutal rather than one filled with subtle brutality, psychological warfare, and religious control. In my opinion, the world Margaret Atwood created is frighteningly believable.

There were many subjects dealt with in this relatively small book, and I think they were all handled skillfully. The Handmaid’s Tale deals with the power of religion, woman’s place in society, man’s place in society, and a struggle to reconcile personal freedom with the survival of people as a whole. It offers a lot of food for thought and, like I said, it’s relatively small; a little over 300 pages, which is amazing, considering all the subjects covered.

The best and most chilling part for me is that the narrator still remembers what it was like to live in the “old world,” where women could hold jobs, marry whomever they fell in love with, and be free. The flashbacks to her life as a free woman added a lot to the horror of how the world is now structured in the novel. My favorite part is “Historical Notes” added at the end (these are necessary to the novel — read them, don’t skip!), which gave the novel a hopeful tone. This, I appreciated, because it shows that humans are capable of rising above an overbearing, immoral government, no matter how hard they try to oppress people.

Overall, I would recommend everybody to read The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. I know quite a few people don’t like it, but I really do think that it offers interesting subject matter told in an entertaining way. This is one dystopia I’m definitely glad to have read.

Overall rating: 4/5


Book Review: The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier

The chocolate war by robert cormier.jpgAuthor: Robert Cormier
Publisher: Knopf Books
Paperback: 272 pages
Summary: (Taken from Goodreads)

Jerry Renault ponders the question on the poster in his locker: Do I dare disturb the universe? Refusing to sell chocolates in the annual Trinity school fund-raiser may not seem like a radical thing to do. But when Jerry challenges a secret school society called The Vigils, his defiant act turns into an all-out war. Now the only question is: Who will survive? First published in 1974, Robert Cormier’s groundbreaking novel, an unflinching portrait of corruption and cruelty, has become a modern classic.

 

My Review:

I was not a fan of this book. Many people cite it as being too violent, which wasn’t the problem I had with it. It was definitely violent, but not to the extent that it made me like the book any less.When it comes down to it, I just didn’t like the story.

The message and the theme are worthwhile — individuality, peer pressure, violence. These are all issues that are still relevant today and that kids need to read about so they can learn to deal with them. I like that Cormier made all characters susceptible. It wasn’t only the students that were putting pressure on one another, it was the teachers as well. I appreciated that he didn’t made the teachers above immorality, since I don’t think they are.

However, the way Cormier told The Chocolate War just didn’t interest me. The characters were all over-the-top. They were caricatures rather than representations of real teens. For me, this hurts the book because I wasn’t able to engage in the message and the theme since I couldn’t connect to the characters. I also felt that the ending was forced. It didn’t seem natural, and it just seemed like another cartoonish type thing Cormier added to beat the message in.

With all that said, this is still a classic. It is still banned (I really don’t know why), which is a big reason why I wanted to read it. I do think there are better books worth spending time on, but some readers may get something out of it. It just wasn’t for me.

Overall rating: 2/5

Book Review: The Green Mile by Stephen King

The Green Mile.jpgTitle: The Green Mile
Author: Stephen King
Publisher: Pocket Books
Hardcover: 400 pages
Summary: (From Goodreads)

At Cold Mountain Penitentiary, along the lonely stretch of cells known as the Green Mile, killers are depraved as the psychopathic “Billy the Kid” Wharton and the possessed Eduard Delacroix await death strapped in “Old Sparky.” Here guards as decent as Paul Edgecombe and as sadistic as Percy Wetmore watch over them. But good or evil, innocent or guilty, none have ever seen the brutal likes of the new prisoner, John Coffey, sentenced to death for raping and murdering two young girls. Is Coffey a devil in human form? Or is he a far, far different kind of being?

Overall Rating: 4/5

Stephen King should stick to writing these sorts of books. Don’t get me wrong, I love most of his horror stuff, but it’s this sort of subtle supernatural genre that I think really shows his talents as a writer and story-teller since the horror element isn’t overshadowing everything else within the novel.

The Green Mile is a little long, being comprised of 6 novellas and it is definitely slow-paced. That doesn’t mean it isn’t exciting, though! The slowness of the story really allowed me to delve into the characters and the story King has created. I felt like I got to know all the characters, especially Paul, whose first-person narrative it is. This made the action parts even better, since I had a connection with the characters and cared about them.

I liked how the narrative jumped from Paul as an old man living in a nursing home to Paul as a middle-aged man meeting John Coffey. I think it added a lot to the intrigue, as there were multiple mysteries you were trying to solve at once. The Green Mile has a great message and is a compelling story that will leave you in tears by the end.

I saw the movie before reading the book and honestly, if you’ve seen the movie, the novel won’t add all that much for you. The movie is very true to the book and captures the most important events. Naturally, the book has other elements that added to my appreciation of the story. The parallelism between the prison and Paul’s nursing home, for example, and a deeper understanding of the characters.

There were some things I didn’t like — like I said, the pace was too slow at times. But then again, King’s books always seem to drag just a little bit for me. I also didn’t like how at times the characters all laughed at something as if it were hilarious, and I didn’t think it was funny at all. Besides that, though, it was a good story and I enjoyed the read. I definitely recommend this.


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Book Review: The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde.jpgTitle: The Eyre Affair
Author: Jasper Fforde
Series: Thursday Next, Book 1
Publisher: Viking Adult
Hardcover: 374 pages
Summary: (Taken from Goodreads)

Welcome to a surreal version of Great Britain, circa 1985, where time travel is routine, cloning is a reality, (dodos are the resurrected pet of choice), and literature is taken very,very seriously. England is a virtual police state where an aunt can get lost (literally) in a Wordsworth poem, militant Baconians heckle performances of Hamlet, and forging Byronic verse is a punishable offense. All this is business as usual for Thursday Next, renowned Special Operative in literary detection, until someone begins kidnapping characters from works of literature. When Jane Eyre is plucked from the pages of Brontë’s novel, Thursday must track down the villain and enter the novel herself to avert a heinous act of literary homicide.

Overall Rating: 4/5

What I love about books is the mystery and the suspense. I love meeting characters who are more complicated and have more depth than some people I know in real life. And I LOVE good writing.

The Eyre Affair has it all.

Jasper Fforde is a genius, mixing the elements of a contemporary fiction/mystery story with science fiction to create a world that is at once familiar and strikingly different. It took me a while to get adjusted to this new world, where the Crimean war still rages on, and where forging Byronic verse is a serious offense and literature and art are highly prized by all. However, after 30 pages, I was fully involved in the story, flipping pages almost faster than I could read.

The characters are easy to relate to, and Thursday is everything I look for in a female protagonist. She’s funny, resourceful, and doesn’t let anybody boss her around or intimidate her. The fact that she seems to be way in over her head on this case makes it all the better. I like how she is forced to deal not only with hunting down a seemingly-invincible villain who has kidnapped her relatives and is about to change Martin Chuzzlewit and Jane Eyre forever, but also with her past and the death of her brother in the Crimean War.

The only problem I had with The Eyre Affair is that the ending is wrapped up a little too perfectly a little too quickly. After all that happened before, it just didn’t work for me. I’m a fan of nicely tied-up endings, but I like them to be realistic.

This is a book for book lovers (and who of us doesn’t love books?!). It makes more sense if you have some knowledge of history and classics in general, but it’s really not necessary. I definitely recommend giving The Eyre Affair a try.

Other Reviews:

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Audiobook Review: When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris

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Title: When You Are Engulfed in Flames
Author: David Sedaris
Narrator: David Sedaris
Publisher: Hachette Audio
Length: ~ 9 hours
Summary: (Taken from Goodreads)

Trying to make coffee when the water is shut off, David considers using the water in a vase of flowers and his chain of associations takes him from the French countryside to a hilariously uncomfortable memory of buying drugs in a mobile home in rural North Carolina. In essay after essay, Sedaris proceeds from bizarre conundrums of daily life-having a lozenge fall from your mouth into the lap of a fellow passenger on a plane or armoring the windows with LP covers to protect the house from neurotic songbirds-to the most deeply resonant human truths. Culminating in a brilliant account of his venture to Tokyo in order to quit smoking, David Sedaris’s sixth essay collection is a new masterpiece of comic writing from “a writer worth treasuring” (Seattle Times)

My Review:

I have never laughed so hard in my life than when I listened to this.  Seriously, whenever I’m having a bad day or I know something stressful is coming up, I listen to these essays. Sedaris takes weird stuff that happens in life and turns them into hilarious and insightful pieces that entertain and give a whole new look at the absurd situations life frequently contains.

It’s hard to give a long review of this, because they’re composed of non-fiction essays, so there isn’t really a long plot line to critique or character development to discuss. I will just say that this collection will have you laughing out loud and will make you look differently at weird situations that arise in your own life.

Note: The reason why I put the audiobook information down is because I highly recommend listening to his essays rather than just reading them. Hearing them in Sedaris’s own voice with his intonations really sets the tone and adds to the comedy.

Overall Rating: 4.5/5