Comfort Reading

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As many of us are stuck in the midst of this polar vortex, I got to thinking of all of the lovely things I like to do when I’m stuck inside the house because of the snow. Among listening to tunes, sleeping, and eating lots of soup, nothing compares to grabbing your favorite book and sipping hot cocoa by the fire. All of us have books that are comforting; their familiar pages and lines fill up our hearts. These are the books that we love to read when we are feeling down, or bored, or simply want to revisit its’ magic. Comfort books are the first ones we grab when we don’t feel like venturing into a new world. Comfort books will always be on our bookshelves, and passed among one another. We love being able to become more intimate with the author, and soon they become some of our best friends,- forming stories that imprint our lives. They are at the top of our recommendation list, shining beacons of hope and friendliness. Each of us have our own list of books that are our “go-to” novels we read for comfort. Below I have come up with a comfort reading recommendation list. These are books both short and long I thought were perfect for snowy days, or days when you get to do absolutely nothing! So grab your mug of tea and wooly socks, your favorite book is waiting for you.

Comfort Reading Recommendation List (no particular order)

1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone- J.K. Rowling

2. Anne of Green Gables– L.M. Montgomery

3. Pride and Prejudice– Jane Austen

4. Nancy Drew series-Carolyn Keene*

5. Jane Eyre– Charlotte Brontë 

6. A Midsummer’s Night Dream– William Shakespeare

7. Nine Stories-J.D. Salinger 

8. The Princess Bride-William Goldman

9. The Time Traveler’s Wife-Audrey Niffenegger

10. The Chronicles of Narnia (1-7)- C.S. Lewis

11. The Hobbit-J.R.R Tolkien

12. Bridget Jones’s Diary-Helen Fielding

13. The Importance of Being Earnest-Oscar Wilde

14. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)– Mindy Kaling

15. One Hundred Years of Solitude-Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez 

16. August: Osage County– Tracy Letts

17. Everything is Illuminated-Jonathan Safran Foer

18. Looking for Alaska-John Green

19. Little Women-Louisa May Alcott

20. Murder on the Orient Express-Agatha Christie

What books are on your comfort reading list? Are any on the list some of your favorite reads? Stay warm and happy reading!

 

 

 

*Carolyn Keene is pseudonym used for the Nancy Drew novels. Mildren Wirt Benson and Harriet Adams are credited as being the main writers for the series.

 

 

 

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The Tournament of Books 2014

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It’s that time again! The time where bookish folks alike join together on the inter-web to witness the literary book showdown. Each year The Morning News comes out with a lists of books from the previous year that “enter a March Madness-style battle royale.”  The Morning News post finalists of about 17 novels. The list includes some bestsellers, different genres, and some titles that are not as well known or read-it provides a great reading mix and makes the judging interesting.

In March, the selected novels will be paired off in a March Madness tournament style. The judges will be responsible for reading two titles and then advancing the one they like the best. During the process, the ToB chairmen will provided commentary and we the readers can also add our own annotations. The ToB serves as fun literary event for readers all over in a true “sports” fashion.

In the end only two books remain and will be judged by the entire panel of judges. One will be chosen and crowned the Rooster of 2014. NPR explains it a little more in depth here and  The Morning News also gives us a look into what last year’s tournament looked liked.

Here is the list of the finalists:

  • At Night We Walk in Circles by Daniel Alarcón
  • The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
  • The Tuner of Silences by Mia Couto
  • The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
  • How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid
  • The Dinner by Herman Koch
  • The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri
  • Long Division by Kiese Laymon
  • The Good Lord Bird by James McBride
  • Hill William by Scott McClanahan
  • The Son by Philipp Meyer
  • A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
  • Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
  • The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
  • The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara

Pre-Tournament Playoff Round

  • Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
  • Woke Up Lonely by Fiona Maazel

Here’s the long list too; they didn’t make the final cut but are nevertheless great books to read.

How many have you read? I’ve read some that are on the list, but I want to make an effort to read more. With that being said, I’m excited about the upcoming tournament, and with judges like Sarah Schulman and John Green, it’s sure to be an interesting event!

Book Review: 1984-George Orwell

1984WAR IS PEACE.

FREEDOM IS SLAVERY.

IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.

As one of the most famous and first dystopian novels, it was only a matter of time until I had finally read it. I enjoyed Animal Farm so I was excited to be able to read another work by Orwell. Published in 1949, Orwell gives us a look into the future where people live under a totalitarian society and are dictated by the infamous BIG BROTHER.

The year is 1984 and the world is divided into two parts: Oceania and Eurasia. The novel takes place in Oceania (formally Great Britain) where your every move and thought is being watched. The main character Winston Smith works at the Ministry of Truth in the records department where he is responsible for revising history, and in a sense making the past obsolete. Secretly Winston hates The Party and BIG BROTHER and wishes to rebel against both, however he knows if he is found guilty of thoughtcrime, his impending death is not far from the corner. In order live at peace with BIG BROTHER and society in general, one must fully submit their lives, thoughts, and being to the mercy of the government. The world is diminishing into a simplified form where vocabulary is being shortened, sex is only used for production of more humans, loyalty is found only in the Party, and the family unit is non existent.

“In the end we shall make thoughtcrime nearly impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it. Every concept that can ever be needed will be expressed by exactly one word, with its meaning rigidly defined and all its subsidiary meanings rubbed rigidly defined and all its subsidiary meanings rubbed out and forgotten.”

Winston’s every day plight and hate of the world he lives in separates him from the rest of society, labeling him as an “outsider” or “rebel.” Society’s grasp on the mind dictates your every move, leaving you without an identity. You are an empty shell filled with the reasoning, philosophy, and dictation of The Party. Winston’s lack of loyalty to The Party leads him to another like minded individual Julia. Together they indulge in everything anti-party, including a sexual relationship.

“Until they become conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious.”

The idea that rebellion equates to freedom, is prevalent underlying theme in 1984. Society’s lack of dynamics and diversity leaves the world full of “bareness, its dinginess, its listlessness.” When Winston and Julia pledge their allegiance in taking down BIG BROTHER, they only meet their demise, tortured by The Party Leader, O’Brian.

Orwell’s invention of the future world is genius and brilliant.  The book’s chilling telling of the future resonates deep inside you, leaving you speculating how society and the world is run now. “Everything faded into mist. The past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became truth.” We as humans are placed in a communistic society where conventions such as the Thought Police, BIG BROTHER, Doublethink, and Two-Minute Hate ensure there is no concept of individualism. Every facet of history is controlled by The Party, blurring the lines between truth and fabrication.  Although Winston’s inclination towards “corruption” sounds daunting, it is the only thing that creates freedom. The end of the novel is where most of the ideology of The Party is weaved together, and the eerie message of O’Brian rings loud.

“Everything will be dead inside of you. Never again will you be capable of love, or friendship, or joy of living, or laughter, or curiosity, or courage, or integrity. You will be hollow. We shall squeeze you empty, and then we shall fill you with ourselves.”

1984 is a foundation for most dystopic novels, serving as a timeless literary trope. I did not feel particularly attached to any of the characters in the book, and felt like they only served as vehicles into the ideology of the novel.  I also didn’t really start to enjoy the novel, until the very end when Winston undergoes interrogation and torture. I’m not sure if this was Orwell’s intention or if it was my own passivity. I am glad that I read this novel as it is probably noted as a classic; however it was definitely not a favorite read for me. In the middle of the novel, I felt it was a bit too dense and slow-paced and it was hard to keep me interested. I applaud Orwell’s obvious foresight into the future that is so applicable to today’s modern world. 1984 does provide a scary look at the potential peremptory government. I would classify 1984 as not only a must-read classic but an excellent introductory novel to other dystopic books.

Book Review: Divergent-Veronica Roth

ImageNow while I know there have been plenty of reviews of this YA novel, I wanted to participate with the present buzz that is surrounding Divergent. Also due to the film adaptation coming out in March, I wanted to first read the book (there tends to be gaps when books are adapted into films). This also fulfills one of my reading resolutions which is to read more dystopian novels. I do not read many YA novels simply because the writing can be a bit plebeian at times, however I decided to join in on all the hoop-lah with the book and give it a try.

Divergent starts off in a dystopic Chicago where people are divided into five factions: Abnegation for the selfless, Candor for the honest, Amity for the peaceful, Erudite for the intelligent, and Dauntless for the brave.  Every year those who turn sixteen select the faction they are to belong to for the rest of their lives. The story focuses on Beatrice (who later changes her name to Tris) who is faced with the decision to either stay with her family in Abnegation or choose a different faction. Each person is put through a simulation test to determine which faction they best belong to. When Tris is put under the faction test, her results come back as inconclusive, marking her as Divergent. Being Divergent is extremely dangerous and Tris is sworn to never tell anyone her secret.  Later at the choosing ceremony, Tris decides to join Dauntless, the faction that is deemed for the brave and are the protection for the city. It is here, where Tris’ journey from demure and modest girl to daring and strong woman begins.

The novel is pretty much a giant training module of the Dauntless initiates. Tris and her fellow Dauntless initiates participate in a series of psychological and physical tests and fear simulations to determine if they are cut out to be apart of the Dauntless faction. Tris meets a slew of characters who later become her friends and enemies; she must then determine who she can trust and who she has to cautious of.  When trouble arises among the factions, Tris’ character, relationships, and romance are all tested for strength and endurance.

For a YA novel, Roth did an excellent job in creating a world where we the readers can get swept into quite easily. Beatrice/Tris is the typical girl character who is easy to relate to and I often found myself cheering her on. I particularly enjoyed the developing relationship between Tris and her Dauntless trainer, Four. Their relationship doesn’t feel forced it and I like how Roth gave them a slow progression into a fiery yet blooming romance. The novel is a short read (it took me about four days) and it is easy to follow along.  Besides the characters of Tris and Four, the others are a little one dimensional with little to no back story.  The later part of the story focuses on the troubles brewing between the two factions, Abnegation and Erudite, but I didn’t really feel like there was much context provided for the tension among the factions; maybe I will have to read Insurgent and Allegiant to find out.

Overall Divergent was a satisfying read. The writing isn’t spectacular,but it’s not bad either. The dialogue is simple and I often felt I was sitting amongst high school peers. Roth develops an heroine who  doesn’t attest to being completely diffident and develops a confidence which makes her brave. The novel doesn’t change/alter my literary reading in any way, and I only gave it three stars on Goodreads. With the upcoming film, I’m interested in seeing  their rendition of the book.  To my understanding, the fandom surrounding Divergent is nothing shy of immense, as I would assume the rest of the series. I will probably read the rest of the trilogy, although it won’t be anytime soon.  At the end of Divergent  there are bonus materials including: Q & A with the author, inspirational quotations, writing tips from Roth, a Faction quiz, discussion questions of the book, and more. With all of the “bonus material” and not to mention a sneak peak look into the sequelInsurgent, I felt like my middle school student self, fawning over characters and daydreaming over which Faction I would “belong” to.  I don’t think the extra materials were necessary as it felt the novel was being overly publicized.

YA novels typically aren’t my “thing,” but I was willing to give it a try. I can’t foresee myself reading a lot of YA in the future, but I am always up to reading something different and out of my element.

Here is the trailer for the upcoming film:

Book Review: Night Film-Marisha Pessl

imagesFinishing the final pages of Night Film, I don’t think I’ve ever felt completely stripped apart as a person by a book before. Night Film  left me questioning myself and my footprints in the world. It is rare to come across a book that not only grips you from beginning to end, but guts you like some kind of common sea animal, encapsulating your fears and placing them directly in front of your eyes. Marisha Pessl has proven to be an outstanding author; one who has clearly made her presence known in the literary world.

The novel focuses on Scott McGrath a journalist investigating Ashley Cordova’s alleged suicide. Ashley Cordova is the daughter of Stanislas Cordova, a legendary cult filmmaker of horrors who is shrouded in darkness and mystery. Mostly all of his films are banned and have to be viewed underground because of the brutal and graphic nature of the film. The actors in the film are vowed to keep silent of what takes place on set, which causes the public to question whether the atrocities in Cordova’s film are simulated for the sake of production, or if they are actually real. Cordova’s work is revered among many and those most loyal refer to themselves as Cordovites. These “fans” even go so far as to invent a private site called the Blackboards to discuss all things dark and related to Cordova. Ten years ago, Scott McGrath had previously investigated the infamous director, but it only led to self destruction of his career and placed him at the foot of ridicule within the journalism world. Now with the death of Cordova’s daughter, McGrath seeks the opportunity to reclaim his career and life, and begins to investigate in a case which completely catapults him into a psycho-reality. McGrath follows the darkness of Ashley’s death, along with the help of two twenty-somethings, Hopper and Nora. Throughout the journey of finding answers, characters are challenged with things unknown and in the end, themselves.

There is no doubt, reading Night Film gave me chills that would last for hours. I would often catch myself falling in the darkness of the book, and when I would close the book I would have a lingering feeling of uneasiness. The novel is more of an experience rather than a thriller read. Night Film  is filled with scanned documents, pictures, and articles to make the suicide and Cordova seem so real and alive.

You find yourself falling down into a rabbit hole that is the novel and you uncover the truth about Ashley and her father. Yet, truth is always questioned. What do we find at the end of the tunnel? The truth or just another loophole, never satisfying our desire for an  answer. Pessl does a fantastic job in creating a world that completely liberates, terrifies, challenges, and resonates deep within your core. It truly is hard to explain the novel until you read it yourself.

Mortal fear is as crucial a thing to our lives as love. It cuts to the core of our being and shows us what we are. Will you step back and cover your eyes? Or will you have the strength to walk to the precipice and look out? Do you want to know what is there or live in the dark delusion that this…

[excerpt from the book]

Needless to say, I enjoyed Pessl’s novel and would highly recommended it to those willing to be “dared.” The narration is told in first person which places you right alongside the narrator Scott, inside his head even. I, however, can’t say I was completely satisfied with the ending which left me feeling as if a giant thumbscrew (the book uses this reference quite a bit) had been used on every ligament of my body. The ending of the novel took a creative direction which left me searching for more, swallowing the last bits of ice water in the glass without the promise of more. A novel that is sure to be talked about for a while, Night Film is a book for seekers who aren’t afraid of a bottomless tombs.