Monday, May 23, 2011

Book Review: Mere Anarchy by Woody Allen

Description (from Goodreads): Who cannot love a humorist who invokes William Butler Yeats and the Three Stooges in the same sentence? Woody Allen's first humor collection in a quarter century contains all the ingredients that madeGetting Even, Without Feathers, and Side Effects genre classics. The 18 pieces include favorites from The New Yorker, including "Above the Law, Below the Boxsprings" and "Sing, You Sacher Tortes" ("I could feel the wallet in my pocket instinctively clenching like an endangered abalone") and eight never-before-published stories.

My thoughts: For a long time, Woody Allen has been one of my favorite movie directors. His movies, which many times show the absurdism of the life of normal people, have fascinated me and they are one reason why I have decided to seek an education in film. 

Browsing the database of the local library I found this collection stories by Woody Allen and decided to give it a try. And I am so happy I did so, because these stories fascinated me so much with their absurdism. Allen truly is a creative genius who can make you laugh and continue to read/watch in awe.

Mere Anarchy introduces the reader to wide span of different characters from different ages and phases of life. Characters such as E.Coli Bigg, Pontius Perry and Flanders Mealworm enchant the reader and bring out the creativity of Allen. Mere Anarchy includes the following stories: 

-To Err is Human- To Float, Divine
-Tandoori Ransom
-Sam, you made the pants too fragrant
-This nib for hire
-Calisthenics, poison ivy, final cut
-Dearest Nanny
-How deadly your taste buds, my sweet
-Glory hallelujah, sold!
-Caution, falling moguls
-The Rejection
-Sing, you sacher tortes
-On a bad day you can see forever
-Attention geniuses: cash only
-Strung out
-Above the law, below the box springs
-Thus ate Zarathustra
-Suprise rocks Disney trial
-Pinchuck's Law

As you can see already from the names of the stories, the stories you find from this book are very unique. They are absurd, hilarious and so unreal that they eventually become real to the reader. They are so out of this world, but at the same time they discuss things that we all have thought about at some point. The way Allen has constructed these stories make you grave for more (I read this book in just a couple of hours and now I want more!). 

Already the first sentence of the story collection vacuums the reader into the stories; "Gasping for air, my life passing before my eyes in a series of wistful vignettes, I found myself suffocating some months ago under the tsunami on junk mail that cascades through the slot in my door each morning after kippers". Allen's language is so vivid and descriptive that at the beginning it might seem hard to read, but you soon get used to it and you start to want more of those complex sentence structures and wordplays. Sentences such as "All I knew was that I wanted to wrap my weak-gauge bosons around her gluons, slip through a wormhole, and do some quantum tunneling" (Strung Out) made me gasp in awe; Allen is not only a movie genius but with these stories he proves that he is a literary genius as well.

It is hard to recommend this book only to a certain group of people since I want to recommend it to everyone! Of course, if you like Allen's movies, you will probably want to check this out, because you can see some elements from Allen's movies from this collection of stories. This story collection put a smile to my face and made me want to read other stuff by Allen. 

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Book Review: Captain Wentworth's Diary by Amanda Grange

Description (from Goodreads): Amanda Grange continues her series of much-loved Jane Austen retellings with "Captain Wentworth's Diary". It is 1806, and the Napoleonic wars are ravaging Europe. Frederick Wentworth, a brilliant young man with a flourishing career in the navy, is spending his shore leave in Somerset, where he meets and falls in love with Anne Elliot. The two become engaged, but Anne's godmother persuades Anne to change her mind, leaving Wentworth to go back to sea a bitter and disappointed man. Eight years pass, and peace is declared. Wentworth is no longer a young man with his way to make in the world, but a seasoned captain with a fortune at his disposal. He is ready to marry anyone with a little beauty who pays a few compliments to the navy - or so he says - until he sees Anne. Anne's bloom has faded, yet she has the same sensibilities and superior mind she had eight years earlier, and before he knows it, he is falling in love with her all over again. Can there be a happy outcome for them this time around, or have they lost their chance of love forever?

My thoughts: Captain Wentworth’s diary is one of the diaries of Jane Austen heroes written by Amanda Grange. This is the fourth Amanda Grange novel for me, and I truly enjoyed it like I did with the previous novels as well. The reviews to the previous Amanda Grange titles I’ve read can be found from these links:

Captain Wentworth’s diary first gives us a glimpse to things that happened when Captain Wentworth and Anne first met and fell in love. The events of that summer are described with much of passion and the love Captain Wentworth feels for Anne is very visible. They get engaged, and Wentworth has many plans for their future. Suddenly Anne says that they cannot remain together. Wentworth’s word is crushed and he goes to the sea to get his mind away from Anne. He wants the sea to be his only mistress.

Eight years later, Wentworth is a wealthy man back in England. His sister and her husband have rented a house from the English country house. Subsequently the house is Kellynch Hall, the home of Anne, Wentworth’s previous love interest. When Wentworth and Anne meet again, Wentworth tries to hide his feelings and rather tries to show Anne that he is over her. But as we all know, in the end, Wentworth and Anne get each other. But by reading Captain Wentworth’s diary we get to see how things proceeded according to the hero of Jane Austen’s Persuasion.

This novel was an interesting read because I have always liked Captain Wentworth but I feel that I have never learned that much about his character. Through this novel I was able to see a side of him which supports perfectly the description of him by Austen. As the other Austen hero diaries by Grange, also this one is very emotional and passionate; it is interesting to see how these men who are not able to manifest their passion because of the societal standards put their passion into the pages of their diaries. I think Grange succeeds well this aspect.

Captain Wentworth’s Diary by Amanda Grange is a must read for all fans of Austen and everything related to her.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Book Review: Lament by Maggie Stiefvater

Meaning for the word Lament - 1. A feeling or an expression of grief; a lamentation.
2. A song or poem expressing deep grief or mourning.

Description (from Goodreads):
Sixteen-year-old Deirdre Monaghan is a painfully shy but prodigiously gifted musician. She's about to find out she's also a cloverhand—one who can see faeries. Deirdre finds herself infatuated with a mysterious boy who enters her ordinary suburban life, seemingly out of thin air. Trouble is, the enigmatic and gorgeous Luke turns out to be a gallowglass—a soulless faerie assassin. An equally hunky—and equally dangerous—dark faerie soldier named Aodhan is also stalking Deirdre. Sworn enemies, Luke and Aodhan each have a deadly assignment from the Faerie Queen. Namely, kill Deirdre before her music captures the attention of the Fae and threatens the Queen's sovereignty. Caught in the crossfire with Deirdre is James, her wisecracking but loyal best friend. Deirdre had been wishing her life weren't so dull, but getting trapped in the middle of a centuries-old faerie war isn't exactly what she had in mind . . .

Lament is a dark faerie fantasy that features authentic Celtic faerie lore, plus cover art and interior illustrations by acclaimed faerie artist Julia Jeffrey.

My thoughts:

Lament is the debut novel of acclaimed young adult author Maggie Stiefvater, the woman behind novels such as Shiver and Linger. Lament is the first book of the 'Books of Fairie' and it was published in 2008. When I noticed that this novel had been taken to the collection of novels in English language in my local library, I knew that I have to have a chance to read it since I loved both Shiver and Linger.

Deidre is a high school student who feels that she does not really fit it. She is not one of the girls who love gossiping and fashion. She has only one friend, James, with who she shares everything. She is highly talented with music, and she loves playing her instrument, but she feels that she is always categorized with her music, she thinks that people only see her music, not her. When she meets mysterious Luke Dillon, everything changes. Dee starts to feel things she never expected to feel and she cannot believe that a guy like Luke would be into her. But their relationship isn't as perfect as it sounds; Dee can see faeries and it seems that the faeries want something from her. And James is a killer who has been appointed to kill Dee. And in the madness that Dee is in, the fact that it seems that James wants to be more than friends, becomes one extra problem.

After reading Shiver and Linger, I had pretty high expectations towards this novel. Some of them were filled, some not. Even though I really liked this novel, I did not get the feeling I got while reading/finishing with either Shiver/Linger; the feeling that I want to read the novel again right away. I really liked Dee as a character and in a way I was able to identify with her since I have always felt that people only see a one side of me as well. Luke is a interesting character as well, but I did not feel like I fell in love with him which is pretty unusual because I always fall in love with the leading men of novels like this. I really would have liked to know more about James since he feels like such a hilarious guy. 

I felt that the beginning of the novel was more interesting than the ending. I kept waiting for something to happen, and then the novel just ended. Well, of course something happened, but not something "big" I kept expecting to happen. But I know that there is a second novel to this series, and since the ending of this novel was kept so open, maybe the second book gives some explanations to the things that were kept open in this one. 

Lament by Maggie Stiefvater is a faerie fantasy with a darker side. It is a must read for fans of Shiver and Linger; the reader is able to see from where Stiefvater started from. 

Is the second novel in this series any good?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Book Review: The Hours by Michael Cummingham

Description (from Goodreads): 
The Hours is both an homage to Virginia Woolf and very much its own creature. Even as Michael Cunningham brings his literary idol back to life, he intertwines her story with those of two more contemporary women. One gray suburban London morning in 1923, Woolf awakens from a dream that will soon lead to Mrs. Dalloway. In the present, on a beautiful June day in Greenwich Village, 52-year-old Clarissa Vaughan is planning a party for her oldest love, a poet dying of AIDS. And in Los Angeles in 1949, Laura Brown, pregnant and unsettled, does her best to prepare for her husband's birthday, but can't seem to stop reading Woolf. These women's lives are linked both by the 1925 novel and by the few precious moments of possibility each keeps returning to. Clarissa is to eventually realize:
There's just this for consolation: an hour here or there when our lives seem, against all odds and expectations, to burst open and give us everything we've ever imagined.... Still, we cherish the city, the morning; we hope, more than anything, for more.
As Cunningham moves between the three women, his transitions are seamless. One early chapter ends with Woolf picking up her pen and composing her first sentence, "Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself." The next begins with Laura rejoicing over that line and the fictional universe she is about to enter. Clarissa's day, on the other hand, is a mirror of Mrs. Dalloway's--with, however, an appropriate degree of modern beveling as Cunningham updates and elaborates his source of inspiration. Clarissa knows that her desire to give her friend the perfect party may seem trivial to many. Yet it seems better to her than shutting down in the face of disaster and despair. Like its literary inspiration, The Hours is a hymn to consciousness and the beauties and losses it perceives. It is also a reminder that, as Cunningham again and again makes us realize, art belongs to far more than just "the world of objects." --Kerry Fried

My thoughts:

I bought this book a couple of years ago when I found it from this sale basket from the local bookstore. I had heard about the movie made from this novel, but I had not seen it. When I had some time to read something other than school books (NOW I ONLY HAVE TIME FOR OTHER BOOKS, FINALLY) I picked this from the bookshelf and after the first pages I was totally hooked. The novel is so interestingly constructed and the way the stories of these three women intertwine is just excellent. 

The novel introduces the reader to three women; Virginia Woolf in 1923 in London, Laura Brown in 1949 in Los Angeles and Clarissa Vaughan in present time in New York City. In London, Virginia Woolf wakes up from a dream and gets an inspiration to Mrs Dalloway. In Los Angeles Laura Brown is reading Mrs Dalloway. She is pregnant and she tries to be the "domestic goddess" that can prepare a beautiful cake for her husband's birthday. Laura cannot stop reading Woolf, and that eventually has dramatic results. Clarissa lives in Greenwich Village with her female lover. She is planning a party for her old love, a poet called Richard who is sick with AIDS. I don't want to explain the plot with more detail because I think that would ruin the reading experience. At least I was surprised about the deep linkage between these women when I finally figured it out at the end of the novel.

What I really liked about 'The Hours' was how Cunningham has been able to intertwine the stories together. Even though there is gap of many years between these women, the way the stories are put together is so masterful that it makes a lover of good literature grin with pleasure. Now when I look back, I regret not taking this book before from my bookshelf, but on the other hand, it provided A GREAT passage way for me away from school work for a short while.

I watched the movie afterwards and I feel that it really was able to catch the feelings and emotions from the novel. I recommend this book to everyone who loves literature, this one is really worth reading!

I even ordered Mrs Dalloway so I can read it at some point... :D