Friday, April 23, 2010

1984 by George Orwell


The story of Winston Smith presents the world in the year 1984, after a global atomic war, via his perception of life in Airstrip One, a province of Oceania, one of the world's three superstates; his intellectual rebellion against the Party and illicit romance with Julia; and his consequent imprisonment, interrogation, torture, and re-education by the Thinkpol in the Miniluv.


Let me just get this fact out of the way, right up front.  Read this book.  Not just because it's a good book.  Not just because it's one of those books you're expected to have read.  Not just because it's gives a look at what our lives could be like, if we stop thinking for ourselves.  It's because of all of those.  You're supposed to have read this book at some point (usually in high school) and, having now read it, I can tell you that it's worth the read.  Alright.  Now that I have that out of the way, I can get to my actual review.

This book was depressing and scary, at the same time. Imagine a world where it's illegal to think something other than what the government tells you.  If they tell you that two plus two equals five, it equals five.  If you think otherwise, you die.  Not even a second chance.  One time and you're doomed to die.  I cannot wrap my mind around the idea of living in a world where you no longer have freedom of thought.  It's such a small act, thinking, but to have that ability taken away would be unbearable.

What's scarier is that, while 1984 (the year) may have been 26 years ago, I saw a lot of similarities between Orwell's 1984 and our 2010.  Granted...not as extreme as in the book, but I could spot places where we, as a society, are beginning to go down that road.  Let's just say I kind of feel for the people we pass on street screaming about Big Brother watching...cause I kind of think he might be.

Bottom line, like I said, read this book.  Orwell is an amazing writer.  I usually don't enjoy the books that you're supposed to have read in high school, but I couldn't put this one down.  And, not just the writing.  This book opened my eyes to a lot of things that even I do.  It made me want to pay even more attention to things that go on in our world, cause I never want to see a poster on every corner telling me that "Big Brother is watching you".


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold


"My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973."

So begins the story of Susie Salmon, who is adjusting to her new home in heaven, a place that is not at all what she expected, even as she is watching life on earth continue without her — her friends trading rumors about her disappearance, her killer trying to cover his tracks, her grief-stricken family unraveling.


First and foremost, I loved this book. I completely understand both its popularity among readers and the decision to make it into a full-length film (although I realize that doesn't say much considering Hollywood's never ending desire to turn everything into a movie). It makes you think. Granted...I'm not talking about some deep soul searching, where you come out changed for the better, when it's all over, but it's not mindless drivel either.

To avoid going into too much detail and potentially ruining the book for you, I'll just touch on a few of the things I liked about the book. First of all, I enjoyed the idea of missed opportunities and "what ifs". Susie narrates the entire book, while she watches from heaven as her family continues on without her. She has to watch her younger siblings go through things that she will never have the chance to experience. It makes you realize that tomorrow is not a guarantee. You can't always count on being able to "do it tomorrow", because you don't know what's just around the corner for you. You could drop dead right now and be stuck in eternity thinking "I should have done it."

I really enjoyed Sebold's writing. There was just something about the way she wrote the book that made me truly feel for the characters. I felt sorry for Jack Salmon, Susie's father. I wanted so badly for him to get his wish and catch Susie's killer. I loathed George Harvey and, at every turn, wanted him to be caught and punished for what he did to Susie. I hated, hated, hated Abigail Salmon, Susie's mother, for seemingly turning her back on the pain and suffering of her own children and husband for her own needs. It's rare that I find a book where I honestly empathize with characters. Normally, I just know what they're going through, but don't feel any real emotion about their ultimate fates. With The Lovely Bones, I wanted to climb into the book and just make everything better.

Finally, there was heaven. I liked that it wasn't overtly religious. In fact, it was, to me at least, completely void of religion. No obligatory angels. No floating on clouds. I appreciated (and actually agreed with) the idea that heaven is whatever you want it to be. It all comes down to what makes you happy.

Now, on to what I didn't like so much. To begin with, Abigail Salmon. More specifically, her portrayal. Now, I realize I was just commending Sebold on her ability to make you feel what she wants you to feel, but I didn't like how she made me feel about Abigail. I just didn't get why Susie's mother had to be so selfish. What was gained by Abigail's complete lack of caring about how her actions affected not only her husband, but her own children? She just seemed to be all about herself and I couldn't understand why. I'm sure someone can explain, but I'm at a loss.

Next, there's the characters. More specifically, some of the secondary characters. I realize not everything has to mean something, but there were a couple cases where it seemed like there was a big deal being made about a character that didn't seem to really bring anything significant to the story. One example would be Ruth Cooper. To me, it felt like the only reason she was in the story at all was for the one scene toward the end with Ray Singh (again...trying not to ruin things, so sorry for the vague reference). Hal Heckler kinda seemed pointless too. I kept expecting this big revelation about him that would explain his importance to the overall story, but it never came and it left me wondering why he needed to be there.

So...bottom line is that I would definitely recommend this book. Personally, I'd read it before seeing the movie, but that's just how I am, so don't feel obligated to follow my word on that part :), but do read the book. You won't regret it.



Do you think Susie had a hand in knocking down the icicle that led to Mr. Harvey's demise?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Under the Dome by Stephen King


On an entirely normal, beautiful fall day in Chester’s Mill, Maine, the town is inexplicably and suddenly sealed off from the rest of the world by an invisible force field. No one can fathom what this barrier is, where it came from, and when — or if — it will go away.


I loved this book. Or, I should say, I loved reading it. The story itself was a little odd, but I say that for one reason and one reason only. It remind so very much of The Simpsons Movie. I tried so hard to keep that out of my head, while I was reading, but I could not keep it out entirely. More on that.

For anyone that has seen The Simpsons Movie, I think you can see where my mind was getting stuck on the movie, just by looking at the book's title...Under the Dome. I remember reading, before the book came out, that King had heard about the comparisons to the Simpsons movie. He commented that the comparisons ended at the town being placed under a mysterious dome. Nope. The comparisons go beyond that. Don't get me wrong, though. It didn't take away from the book. The similar plot points, while being very obvious, were much darker in the book. As they should be, given that this is Stephen King. And, it's not as if The Simpsons were constantly at the back of my mind, while I read. It was just occasionally that the little voice in my head would scream out "SIMPSONS!!"

The book's full of characters you love to love and characters you love to hate. On second thought, to be totally honest, I don't think it's a love to hate. It's just straight up hate. There are characters throughout the book that I found myself wishing would just die, because there was just absolutely nothing redeeming about them. I found this to be both a strong point and a weakness to the book. You hate them so much that you keep reading, just so you can get to the part where they die a horrible death. At the same time, you hate them so much that their inevitable death just does not come fast enough and, in one case, was not horrible enough.

Bottom line, this is a book to read. Maybe not if you're a Bible-Thumping Republican. Let's be honest, if you're a Bible lovin' conservative and read this book, you're probably going to want to burn it, when you're done. And, I don't mean the "Oh this book was horrible" sort of book burning. I mean in the "Fahrenheit 451/Books lead to knowledge/Harry Potter promotes the occult" sort of book burning...if you catch my drift.


Thursday, April 15, 2010


I know. This blog is currently dead. As soon as I decided to start this blog, I suddenly had a million things to do, so I haven't had much time to read. I am back to reading though, so hopefully I'll be able to get my first actual review up within the next week.