Books

UNCLE TOM’S CABIN by Harriet Beecher Stowe | Review

“The narrative drive of Stowe’s classic novel is often overlooked in the heat of the controversies surrounding its anti-slavery sentiments. In fact, it is a compelling adventure story with richly drawn characters and has earned a place in both literary and American history. Stowe’s puritanical religious beliefs show up in the novel’s final, overarching theme—the exploration of the nature of Christianity and how Christian theology is fundamentally incompatible with slavery.” {Goodreads}

First published in 1852, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s famous novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin has often been described as the book that launched the Civil War. Despite not having read it until recently, this book had been mentioned often enough in past history classes that I figured I had a pretty good idea of what reading it would be like.

Well, I stand corrected.

There’s no denying that the historical significance of Uncle Tom’s Cabin is remarkable. The story goes that upon meeting Harriet Beecher Stowe, President Abraham Lincoln exclaimed, “So you’re the little woman who wrote the book that made this great war!” This novel was a powerful tool for those fighting to end slavery before and during the Civil War; however, it’s easy to forget the story’s antislavery intentions when a modern reading of it reinforces disturbing racial stereotypes. Slaves are often portrayed as ignorant, unconditionally loyal to their masters, and eager to please as many people as possible. I was also taken aback by the glaring religious overtones in this novel; as someone who isn’t religious, it felt as thought I was being pelted with Christian beliefs over and over and over again. Then there’s the fact that this novel was written by a white woman who wrote a novel based on secondhand accounts of slavery from fugitive slaves. Where is the accuracy there? The authenticity? (Hint: there is none.)

This tension between the novel’s historical importance and the actual content and story within the book itself makes writing a review of it much more challenging than I initially expected. The story itself was captivating and entertaining, and I genuinely wanted to keep reading to find out what would happen to the characters. I quickly became invested in Uncle Tom and his family while simultaneously feeling uncomfortable with how they are portrayed as one dimensional caricatures of human beings. Andrew Delbanco  has more clearly and eloquently put my conflicted feelings into words in his New York Times review of David S. Reynold’s “Mightier Than the Sword.” Delbanco writes:

In my experience, students can be embarrassed by it. They recognize it as a valuable document for understanding the history of what we now call the “conversation” about race in America. In response to the prevailing view of black people as inferior beings (a view long held in the North as well as the South), it lifted its black characters to the status of impossibly virtuous victims — just the elevation that James Baldwin felt was a kind of contempt. When Baldwin called Stowe less a novelist than an “impassioned pamphleteer,” he meant, in part, that her characters don’t seem capable of selfishness as well as self-sacrifice, or of pettiness and jealousy along with piety and wisdom. In short, they don’t seem human. Reynolds calls Baldwin’s a “blinkered critique,” though he concedes that Stowe trafficked in the clichés of “romantic racialism” while reminding us, fairly enough, that what now seems “like racial stereotyping” was “progressive” in her day.

So where does this leave me? I’m still conflicted. Let’s just say that while I appreciate the immensely important historical significance of this novel, I’m so glad that our society has come a long way from the language and portrayals of characters in Uncle Tom’s Cabin. 

What are your thoughts on Uncle Tom’s Cabin? How do you deal with books that give you mixed feelings like this? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

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Books

THE WOMAN IN WHITE by Wilkie Collins | Review

Wilkie Collins is commonly known as a master of Victorian sensationalist fiction whose work has greatly influenced what we now know as detective and mystery genres of literature. The Woman in White was published as a full novel in 1860 after having been an extremely popular serialized publication from November 1859 to August 1860. Collins’ clever blend of supernatural elements, domestic scandal, and intriguing mystery make this novel a page-turner that isn’t easily put down.

First and foremost, I have to mention this novel’s wild entertainment factor. I can see why this novel was successful when serialized because each section leaves you wanting more and more. Not only is the plot suspenseful, but there is also a level of uncertainty surrounding the large cast of characters that makes you keep turning pages. A haze of ambiguity surrounds many characters, leaving the reader to question whether or not they can actually be trusted. The suspense of waiting to uncover the true colors of these characters is equally as exciting as the actual events of the story. And that ending… you’ll just have to read it for yourself!

Speaking of the characters, I love how each and every character has a unique, well-developed, multifaceted personality. For instance, Mr. Fairlie is unbelievably selfish and petty but also hilarious; Sir Percival Glyde is greedy, conniving, and infuriating; Count Fosco is charming yet manipulative; and Walter Hartright is so sweet that I couldn’t help but root for him the entire time I was reading. The narrative structure of this novel is really remarkable in that the reader gets to hear different parts of the story told by so many characters. It’s so fun to watch the entire story unfold as each character tells his or her version of what occurred.

The narrative style brings up many interesting questions: Can we trust these accounts? What is “true” and who can actually be considered a “reliable” narrator? Many of the narrators attempt to establish their credibility at the beginning of their testimonies, with the exception of Laura’s father. But do these assertions of credibility indicate trustworthiness or overcompensation for something that is lacking? It’s impossible not to have these questions lurking in the back of one’s mind while reading this novel; however, they add intrigue rather than confusion to the story.

Overall, I enjoyed The Woman in White far more than I had initially expected to when I turned to the very first page. Collins’ meticulous attention to details and carefully developed characters make for an impressive, memorable, suspenseful, and thrilling story. I’m so thankful that this novel was on my required reading list for this term– sometimes they contain unexpected gems!

Would I recommend it to a friend?: Absolutely!

What are your thoughts on The Woman in White? Do you like thrillers and mysteries? Have any recommendations? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Books

TUCK EVERLASTING by Natalie Babbitt | Review

I never realized how many popular children’s books I neglected to read when I was younger until I started talking about them with my friends one day. This led me to read books like Matilda by Roald Dahl and Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen in the midst of all my required summer reading to take a quick break from Victorian novels. Among those books was a gem that I still cannot believe I waited twenty years to read: Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt.

I can’t even tell you how much I loved this book. I read it in one sitting and immediately wanted to go right back to the beginning and read it all over again. In an effort to convince you to read this amazing children’s book if you haven’t (and to reread it if you already have!), here are five reasons why you should read Tuck Everlasting:

1 || The characters. Despite this book’s short length, I somehow managed to become incredibly invested in Babbitt’s masterfully developed characters. From lovely Winnie and courageous Mae to wise Angus and adorable Jesse, I couldn’t help but root for these charming characters.

2 || The suspense. The pacing of this book is so well done. There is never a moment that drags or feels out-of-place (if anything, I wish it were longer because I loved it so much!). The climax comes at the perfect moment: when you’re lulled into a state of bliss and start to forget about the worrisome foreshadowing that happened earlier on. Even though you know in the back of your mind that everything will eventually take a turn for the worse, you can’t help but hope for Winnie’s sake that life will be okay for a little longer!

3 || The writing. Not only is Natalie Babbitt an amazing storyteller, but she’s also a brilliant writer. There are countless lines in Tuck Everlasting that just seem to leap off the page and beg to be read again and again.

“Don’t be afraid of death; be afraid of an unlived life. You don’t have to live forever, you just have to live.”

4 || The themes. Be curious. Seek adventure. Live in the moment. Be present. Care genuinely and wholeheartedly about others. I could go on and on listing all of the important messages this book delivers. These themes are what makes Tuck Everlasting a sort of universal novel– Who can’t benefit from being reminded of these life lessons every one and a while?

5 || The ending. I was completely surprised by the ending of this book. The typical fairy tale conclusion, all rosy and ideal and romantic, is not what Natalie Babbitt delivers. Instead, she leaves the reader with an ending that is bittersweet but still memorable, heartwarming, and that makes sense within the context of the rest of the story.

Have I convinced you yet? What are your thoughts on this book? Have any recommendations of other children’s books I might have missed out on when I was younger? What was your favorite book when you were a kid? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Books

MIDDLEMARCH by George Eliot | Review

George Eliot’s classic novel Middlemarch has been on my bibliophilic radar for years, though I never found time to read it until it appeared on one of my required reading lists for Oxford. I once had a professor who described Middlemarch as being a “smarter Pride and Prejudice. This comment immediately intrigued me. What did he mean by smarter? His remark came back to me as soon as I started reading Middlemarch and now that I’ve finished I think I may understand what he was trying to say.

Middlemarch is about so much more than courtship, engagements, and marriages; of course, the same rings true for Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, but in a more subtle way. Eliot uses Victorian romance and courtly love as a vehicle for telling the story she actually wants to convey. The hierarchy of socioeconomic class is at the heart of nearly every decision each character makes, whether that be in the form of their access to money, their thriving or dwindling social network, and even judgment from others. Dorothea Brooke, the protagonist, is an embodiment of this message. Though she quickly marries, she does so out of an intense desire to serve the greater good, gain valuable knowledge with which to help others, and help her new husband in his theological studies. Her decision later on in the novel regarding another love interest may appear to be solely a display of affection; however, it is actually a statement about defying the expectations that correspond with the socioeconomic hierarchy. Rather than comply with the wishes of her family and friends, she chooses to follow her gut instinct and disregard societal judgement.

We see the influence of social expectations reflected in nearly all the characters in Eliot’s fictional town. Though Dorothea may be considered the protagonist, Eliot brings us into the lives of several other notable figures as well. The focus often shifts from Dorothea’s predicaments to those of her sister and other local families, giving the reader a close look at several different relationships and scenarios. I was impressed by how seamlessly Eliot connects them all via engagements, business negotiations, family ties, and unexpected events. However, even with a rotating cast of characters, the pace of Middlemarch felt slow in the middle five hundred pages or so. It’s natural to have ups and downs in pacing as the plot thickens and then problems resolve, but at times the pace of the novel felt almost glacial.

The basic story of the novel wasn’t what I was initially expecting, though I enjoyed it nevertheless. I was surprised to realize how interesting doctors and medical treatment was during this time period. Because doctors were often expected to treat patients in their homes, there’s an important level of trust and intimacy between the patient, family, and medical provider. The socioeconomic hierarchy also plays an interesting role in this dynamic because the doctor wishes to be perceived as professional and competent enough to be called upon by wealthy, respected households. I appreciate Eliot’s focus on a rather mundane aspect of daily life because it reveals a surprising amount about social circles in a town such as Middlemarch.

Overall, Middlemarch was well worth the long wait it took to finally be read. Was my professor correct when he deemed Middlemarch to be a “smarter” Pride and Prejudice? I guess that depends how you define “smarter” as well as how determined you are to categorize or rank novels by certain (and rather arbitrary) criteria. Though Eliot may be blunter than Austen when it comes to portraying the influence of societal expectations, but I believe that both novels contain valuable insights about Victorian society.

Would I recommend it to a friend?: Yes! Especially to those who enjoy the work of Jane Austen, the Brontë sisters, and Elizabeth Gaskell.

What are your thoughts on Middlemarch? Have you read any of George Eliot’s other novels? Have any recommendations? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Books

BLUE LILY, LILY BLUE by Maggie Stiefvater

blue lily lily blue cover“Blue was perfectly aware that it was possible to have a friendship that wasn’t all-encompassing, that wasn’t blinding, deafening, maddening, quickening. It was just that now that she’d had this kind, she didn’t want the other.”

How Blue feels about her friendships with the Raven Boys is similar to the way I feel about reading other books after reading Blue Lily, Lily Blue: it’s difficult to read something that isn’t as enchanting, well-written, or captivating as Stiefvater’s story. The Raven Cycle has an intriguing fantastical element that is often difficult to find, especially in the formulaic world of algorithms and sales statistics that dictate how and which YA novels should be written. Once again, Stiefvater has crafted another memorable installment in this engrossing series.

The character development in these novels is remarkable. I love the way you can clearly see changes in not only their perspectives and opinions, but their actions as well. For instance, Ronan is not the brutish, nasty, one-sided teen that we were first introduced to in The Raven Boys. He still exudes that tough “bad boy” persona, of course– he wouldn’t be Ronan if he didn’t– but it’s clear that recent events have caused him to mature in a way that only life experiences can. He takes more responsibility for his actions and is only rash, wild, and impulsive some of the time.

In my opinion, Adam is one of the most interesting and complex characters in this series. In this novel in particular he seems to inhabit three distinct spaces: the sparkling, gilded world of Aglionby Academy, his own troubled home life, and the fantastical realm of Cabeswater. Not only must he face obstacles involving the primary plot of the story– that of their quest to find Glendower– but he also has to deal with family problems, financial instability, and the looming question of what life after high school will hold. Stiefvater maintains a careful balance between ordinary dilemmas (college searching, family dynamics, etc.) and magical challenges (creepy caves filled with mysterious singing?). Such a balance adds depth to the story while simultaneously helping the reader to suspend their disbelief and more fully accept the odd occurrences that riddle the world of Blue and the Raven Boys.

Although the Raven Cycle can be considered a fantasy series, I certainly wouldn’t define it as anything “traditional.” Rather than focus on the usual fairies, trolls, and other mystical creatures of fantasy, Stiefvater bursts those boundaries and instead highlights the fascinating legends surrounding ley lines. Before reading this series I knew next to nothing about ley lines, but now I feel as though I could hold a pretty decent conversation about them. It’s refreshing to read about a topic that hasn’t been recycled again and again before, at least in the eyes of recent YA trends.

On top of all of these impressive aspects, Stiefvater also manages to incorporate several important topics into this story, including feminism and privilege. There’s an excellent scene in which Blue chastises a man for “complimenting” her legs, emphasizing that she’s much more than any physical part of her body could ever demonstrate. At first Gansey doesn’t understand why the comment infuriates Blue, a flaw which I actually love. The fact that Blue has to teach Gansey how problematic such comments about women’s bodies are shows that the characters are human. They are not perfect, just as we, the readers, also make mistakes. Speaking of Gansey, I think it’s interesting to think about his representation of privilege on numerous levels. Gansey is rich, white, attractive, intelligent, comes from a reputable family– the list goes on and on. Yet to some extent he recognizes his privilege and attempts to help those less privileged than he is, mainly Adam. But is he really doing all that he can to help those less fortunate than he? Should he be doing more? Is this a valid critique of his character? I applaud this novel for sparking these sorts of questions, for I think they are ones we should be asking more often while reading.

For all of its positive aspects, Blue Lily, Lily Blue did feel like a bit of a transitional installment in this series. While I don’t think it’s my favorite book in the Raven Cycle, it’s certainly an enthralling and gripping read. I can’t wait to read the fourth and final book in this unforgettable series!

My Rating: :0) :0) :0) :0) 4 out of 5 smileys

Would I recommend it to a friend?: Definitely!

What are your thoughts on Blue Lily, Lily Blue or any of the books in the Raven Cycle? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,
HOLLY

P.S. Interested in reading more of my thoughts on this series? Check out my reviews of The Raven Boys and The Dream Thieves.

Books

THE STARBOARD SEA by Amber Dermont

The Starboard Sea by Amber Dermont

“Bellingham Academy: everything you always wanted in a prep school and less.” 

Boarding schools have always been a setting that immediately intrigues and captivates me. Generally, young adult literature is criticized for its lack of adult or parental figures, primarily because it doesn’t accurately reflect life as an adolescent. Sure, teenagers may feel as though they have an immense amount of freedom and independence, but adults often play a more significant role in their lives than they like to let on. However, boarding schools are one of the few places where teens are actually free from a constant presence and pressure of adults. There are certainly adults and authority figures around– administration, teachers, and even their parents back home– but there is a sort of barrier between the two parties that diminishes their controlling effect.

When I recieved Amber Dermont’s novel The Starboard Sea as a Christmas gift I was delighted because there it was, written in the blurb on the back cover: Bellingham Academy, a prep school. The gift giver was undoubtedly unaware of my love for boarding school books, yet he had given me a great pleasant surprise all the same. I knew instantly knew that I would at least enjoy the book a little, if for nothing else but its ideal setting.

For me, The Starboard Sea is one of those novels that is simply a good, solid read. Was it a chore to read? Absolutely not! Was it amazing enough to make me want to tell everyone about it and start planning to reread it already? Unfortunately, no. It is definitely enjoyable to read, very well written and even quite poignant at times; however, it’s not a title that will find its way to the top of my favorites list in the near future.

My favorite aspect of this novel is by far the stereotypical idyllic New England boarding school setting. Bellingham Academy lends an air of intrigue to the story, not only due to the school’s rather unsupervised nature but also because of the expectation of wealth and luxury that it imposes on its students. The majority of Bellingham students come from very well-off families, and their surplus of money coupled with their increased independence make for a dangerous yet entertaining combination. You know going into the novel that they are going to get up to some impressive shenanigans, especially since Bellingham is a school with a reputation for giving people second chances. But despite the trouble the students undoubtedly cause, they must nevertheless maintain the appearance of being the well-to-do sons and daughters of Very Important People. Boarding schools are as fun to read about for me as they are fascinating, particularly because of this unexpectedly complex dynamic they create.

Moreover, Dermont does a fantastic job slowly leaking information bit by bit, right up until the very end when the final missing piece is revealed. An extremely surprising twist happens in the middle of the novel, and I was puzzled as to what the rest of the book could possibly be about. There are a plethora of layers to this story that the reader is completely unaware of in the beginning; to be honest, I was blindsided by the vast majority of them. In this regard, I feel as though I may have underestimated The Starboard Sea.

However, I just couldn’t get past the love-hate relationship I had with the main character, Jason. One moment I would bask in his thoughtful philosophizing and moments of admirable courage, and the next I would be frustratedly shaking my head at his return to the cruel, spoiled, idiotic guys with which he spent most of his time. I understand that he was conflicted and wasn’t sure where he belonged from a social perspective, but the constant flip-flopping was a bit much. Realistically, I think someone in his position would eventually have just chosen a side, but Jason battled with this moral dilemma nearly until the very end of the novel.

I also think that some of the darker, more controversial themes discussed in this book appeared to abruptly and weren’t thoroughly explored. I won’t go into too much detail about it because I don’t want to spoil anything, but there is an unsettling scene towards the end of the novel that explains why Jason has such conflicting feelings towards Cal, his best friend who had passed away. It completely took me by surprise, and there wasn’t enough of the story left for me to be fully over the shock before finishing the book. Had Dermont revealed that particular memory sooner and given the readers more time to digest and understand what really happened, perhaps it would be better received.

Overall, The Starboard Sea both impressed and frustrated me. I found its strengths and weaknesses to be fairly balanced, making it rather difficult for me to wholeheartedly love or completely dislike this book. At the very least, it has certainly given me many things to think about, and I’m very grateful that I was given it as a gift!

My Rating: :0) :0) :0) 3 out of 5 smileys.

Would I recommend it to a friend?: Yes!

What are your thoughts about this book? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Books

Book Review: THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT

The Butterfly Effect by Andy AndrewsAuthor: Andy Andrews

Number of Pages: 112

Publisher: Thomas Nelson Publishers

Release Date: August 31, 2010

“The decisions you make and the way you treat others have more impact than you may ever realize. This title presents a story about a decision one man-made over a hundred years ago, and the ripple effect it has had on us individually, and nationwide.”

Goodreads.com

I’ve often heard of the Butterfly Effect, and while I knew what it meant I didn’t know exactly know from where the name came. I was given this book as a gift for my high school graduation, so I was excited to finally learn more about this concept.

I really like the historical references in this book, especially the one about the Civil War. Apparently there was one soldier who largely influenced the outcome of the Battle of Gettysburg, thus causing a turning point for the United States in this extremely important conflict. I had never heard about him before reading this book, even though I took a course in United States history two years ago. I love fun facts like that!

This little book contains many examples of how people’s small and seemingly insignificant actions have changed the world in very big ways. With each example it goes back in history several generations to fully show how past actions really do impact how we live today. These are all extreme scenarios, of course, but the basic idea is what’s important. The Butterfly Effect emphasizes that every life, every action, every word matters. Who knows what kind of impact you could be making on the world around you each and every day?

My only problem with this book is that it’s so short! It feels like there’s hardly anything to it, because as soon as I started to get used to the format of it the book ended. I would have liked it more if the author had elaborated on certain examples or provided more personal anecdotes to support the message he was trying to deliver.

Overall, The Butterfly Effect presents an incredibly important, inspiring message that I think everyone could benefit from understanding. Although I did enjoy reading this book, it just wasn’t substantial enough for me to actually love. Perhaps I would have liked it more if it was the size of a normal book rather than its smaller size. I received this as a gift, which I think is a lovely idea! I wouldn’t have bought if for myself, but it was still nice to read.

My Rating: :0) :0) :0) 3 out of 5 smileys

Would I recommend it to a friend?: It depends. If I had a friend who was experiencing a big transition in his or her life (a graduation, going to college, moving, an important birthday, etc.) then I might buy it as a present. But I’m not really sure I would recommend it to them as something to simply buy from a bookstore and read.

Have you read this book before? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Books

Book Review: THE SUN ALSO RISES

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest HemingwayAuthor: Ernest Hemingway

Number of Pages: 251

Publisher: Scribner

Release Date: 1926

“A poignant look at the disillusionment and angst of the post-World War I generation, the novel introduces two of Hemingway’s most unforgettable characters: Jake Barnes and Lady Brett Ashley. The story follows the flamboyant Brett and the hapless Jake as they journey from the wild nightlife of 1920s Paris to the brutal bullfighting rings of Spain with a motley group of expatriates. It is an age of moral bankruptcy, spiritual dissolution, unrealized love, and vanishing illusions.”

– Goodreads.com

Hemingway and I have always had a bit of an unstable relationship, mostly because I just can never seem to click with his stories or the way he writes them. My first Hemingway novel was A Farewell to Arms, which I read last year with my American Literature class. Not only did I not enjoy the subject matter itself (WWI in Italy and various other European countries) but the writing style was so dry, bland, and emotionally unattached. Even though I knew that his writing style was one of Hemingway’s claim to fame, I thought that perhaps it would be a bit different in another novel of his. With this more open mindset I embarked on reading The Sun Also Rises, but I quickly realized that this reading experience would be incredibly similar to the last one.

One element Hemingway’s novels seems to always be a constant: his writing style. His sentences are very short and choppy, lacking the flowery descriptions that I often appreciate from other authors. It includes a lot of random and mundane dialogue, much of which I could completely do without and I don’t think it would detract much from the story overall. While reading this novel I felt as though I was reading a word-for-word description of someone’s daily life, and it became really dull, really quickly. For example, dialogue would often consist of a two people going back and forth, saying only a few simple words at a time. I do admit that this is more realistic than most fictional conversations, however it was very boring to read about. Perhaps I’m going into this novel expecting to be entertained when in actuality the goal of it is very different.

Just as the subject of A Farewell to Arms did not spark my interest, the story itself of The Sun Also Rises was not intriguing enough to keep me eagerly turning the pages. Not much seemed to happen in regard to the actual plot, and in general I found it to be boring and tedious to read. Most of the action that takes place is drinking, arguing, and watching bullfights, all of which are not terribly interesting. I understand that he’s writing about the Lost Generation, and therefore it makes sense that the characters are sort of aimless and feeling like they have no concrete purpose to their lives. However, I wish there had been some clear motivator that directed the action and resulted in an obvious cause and effect motion. Maybe that beginning push does exist in this novel and I simply didn’t understand it, and if that’s the case then I would gladly reread it again with a new perspective.

The real reason I kept reading this book was to see what happened to the characters, many of whom I disliked. For me the most interesting aspect of this book were the character dynamics. They all had complicated relationships with each other, and it reminded me of how complex friendships can be in real life. Take Jake and Brett, for instance: Jake is in love with Brett, but Brett only cares about chasing other men. Brett seems to have a tumultuous past- all the characters do, really- and I’m assuming that it has something to do with the way she constantly needs to be involved with a man. At the same time, she exudes an aura of independence, suggesting that although she prefers to be in romantic relationships she could surely take care of herself if the need arose. I think it was wrong of her to lead Jake on, but at the same time I believe that Jake should have just moved on to another woman. Due to the balance of their good and bad qualities I was rather indifferent toward Jake and Brett, but I hated Robert Cohn. He made me so angry that I just wanted to punch him (and I cheered when one of the characters finally did!). I have no respect for self-centered, arrogant, and cruel people in real life, and therefore I had no tolerance for Cohn.

Overall, my experience reading The Sun Also Rises mirrored my experience of reading A Farewell to Arms last year. Both books were not very entertaining or interesting to me, which may be because this particular time period is not one of my favorites. I really wanted to give Hemingway another chance, but I think that without further education on his life or his novels my opinions will remain the same. I do think that if I read any of his books in a classroom setting with a lot of historical background discussed then I may actually enjoy his books. When I finish reading them I always feel as though I’ve missed something important, like a significant symbol or metaphor that would change my perception of the story. Hopefully I’ll be able to have a more positive experience with a Hemingway novel in the future, as I would love to enjoy the writing of such an influential writer.

My Rating: :0) :0) 2 out of 5 smileys

Would I recommend it to a friend?: Only if I knew they enjoyed Hemingway’s other novels or were particularly interested in post-WWI or the Lost Generation. Otherwise, I would probably suggest something like F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, since that focuses on a similar time in a different part of the world.

Have you read this novel? What did you think of it? Are there any works by Hemingway that you would recommend? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Books, Giveaway, Received for Review

Fat Girl Walking: Book Review & GIVEAWAY!!

Fat Girl Walking cover

I’ve been asked to take part in this exciting campaign for Brittany Gibbons’ new memoir, Fat Girl Walking. I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, as well as the opportunity to offer a giveaway of one copy of the book. Read on for more information!

“Fat Girl Walking isn’t a diet book. It isn’t one of those former fat people memoirs about how someone battled, and won, in the fight against fat. Brittany doesn’t lose all the weight and reveal the happy, skinny girl that’s been hiding inside her. Instead, she reminds us that being chubby doesn’t mean you’ll end up alone, unhappy, or the subject of a cable medical show. What’s important is learning to love your shape. With her infectious humor and soul-baring honesty, Fat Girl Walking reveals a life full of the same heartbreak, joy, oddity, awkwardness, and wonder as anyone else’s. Just with better snacks.”

      – Goodreads.com

I am so impressed with this memoir! At first I didn’t think I would be able to connect with Brittany (the author) that much, but her incredible message is so universally important that I couldn’t help but relate to it. This book is about accepting, embracing, and loving your body the way it is as much as it’s about her own life. It hits a perfect balance between telling a life story and giving valuable advice without soundly like a preachy lecture. This memoir isn’t only for people struggling with weight or body issues- personally, I think that everyone woman could benefit from reading this book!

I absolutely adore the way this book is written. Brittany’s writing style is bursting with personality, and it feels as though she is having a conversation with you. It’s hilarious, honest, and authentic while still being professional, a balance which is often challenging to achieve. She seems to leave very few personal details out, building a high level of trust with the reader from the very beginning. I admire and respect her for sharing as much as she does, especially in today’s world where more and more people strive to display a false appearance of perfection. She could have easily just glossed over the more unpleasant parts of her life and gone straight to giving advice, but instead she took the difficult and uncertain route. I think it’s safe to say that the risk definitely paid off!

Brittany Gibbons pic
Brittany Gibbons: author, blogger, body image advocate, wife, mother, and so much more!

My favorite parts of this memoir are when she discusses her childhood and growing up. Since I’m a teenager, these were the parts that I could connect with the most because I have lived through my own version of them. I had no idea how unpleasant and traumatic her childhood was, and it was so eye-opening and inspiring to read about her journey from a troubled teen to successful wife, mother, and businesswoman. As well as facing the everyday struggle of being a plus-size woman in a world geared towards the thin, Brittany had to deal with periods of depression and the difficulties of growing up with limited familial support. I’m amazed at the progress Brittany has made throughout her life, and I think it’s an important lesson to us all that it doesn’t matter where we come from- it’s where we are determined to go that counts. 

Overall, I had a fantastic time reading Fat Girl Walking. It’s incredibly inspiring and it delivers really important messages about body image, mental health, relationships, and life in general. I truly think that nearly every woman could relate to this memoir in some way, making this a definite must-read!

My Rating: :0) :0) :0) :0) 4 out of 5 smileys

Would I recommend it to a friend?: Yes!

And guess what??? It’s giveaway time! 5 copies of this book are being given away, so be sure to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway by clicking the link below!

Click here to enter the giveaway!

Interested in purchasing a copy? Here are the links: Amazon // Barnes & Noble // HarperCollins

Click here to visit the blog of Brittany Gibbons! 

I hope you’ve enjoyed this book review and giveaway combo! It’s different from what I’ve done in the past, but I had a ton of fun putting it together. Let me know what you think in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Books

Book Review: THE SILENT HISTORY

The Silent History coverAuthors: Eli Horowitz, Matthew Derby, and Kevin Moffett

Number of Pages: 528

Publisher: FSG Originals

Release Date: October 1, 2012

“Sometime right around now, doctors, nurses, and—most of all—parents begin to notice an epidemic spreading among children. Children who are physically normal in every way except that they do not speak and do not respond to speech; they don’t learn to read, don’t learn to write. Theories spread—maybe it’s related to a popular antidepressant. Maybe these children, without the ability to use or comprehend language, have special skills of their own. Unfolding in a series of brief testimonials from parents, teachers, friends, doctors, cult leaders, profiteers, impostors—everyone touched by the silent phenomenon except, of course, the children themselves—The Silent History is both a bold storytelling experiment and an unexpectedly propulsive reading experience.”

– Goodreads.com

I’ll admit it: I first picked this book up in a bookstore because I loved the cover and spine design. I didn’t know anything about it beforehand, but as soon as I read the blurb on the back I knew that I had to read it. Not only was I intrigued by the idea of the story itself, but I also really liked the way it was written in testimonials instead of normal first or third person.

These two aspects of the novel are my favorite things about it. The idea of living in a world where some people lack any knowledge of language whatsoever is incredibly fascinating and, if you think about it long and hard enough, quite scary. How would these people fit in with society, find jobs, communicate with others? How would the government handle such an occurrence? What changes would be made in the world to accommodate these people? And most importantly, what would it be like to have no concept of language at all? I can’t even imagine it, because the only way I can think to describe it is through words. This book does answer some of these questions, but not as many as I would have liked. It lacks a broader view of society and the nation (the United States) as a whole and instead mostly focuses on the lives of several individuals.

This leads me to the second great thing about this book: the varying perspectives. At first it is a bit confusing with all of the different people, but once you get more familiar with their lives it’s easy to keep track of everyone. I really liked the way the authors incorporated characters from numerous different corners of society. They differ in their jobs, beliefs, lifestyles, nationalities, and ultimately their opinions on the silents. They tell their stories with the advantage of hindsight, but their voices nevertheless sound authentic and honest. Their personalities are distinct, so much so that you would easily be able to identify the speaker even if their name wasn’t at the start of each chapter. The only thing I did not like about the way this book as written is that I think it prevented the story from expanding to include a more national and even global view of the situation. At times the reader is given a glimpse of how local governments and organizations are handling the silents, but I would have liked to learn the opinion of the US national government as well as that of other countries. This story is set in the United States, but why aren’t there are silents anywhere else? Or are there? If so, why aren’t they discussed? There were so many perspectives from individuals that a more general view of life during this epidemic of sorts was never really given.

Unfortunately, I really disliked the ending of this book. Throughout the entire novel there are underlying questions just waiting to be answered, but few of them are actually explained. I wanted to know why the kids were being born as silents in the first place and if the problem would ever be solved, but instead the story just abruptly ended and I was left hanging. It does offer some closure concerning certain characters, but then there are a few major ones that seem to be forgotten. What happened to them, and why aren’t they ever addressed again? Also, there’s an excellent plot twist about forty pages from the end of the book that had the potential to make it an amazing story, but the authors never really do anything with it. They introduce it and discuss it for a little while, but they don’t provide any form of real explanation about why it happens or what is going to be done about it. After reading over five hundred pages and waiting with anticipation and excitement for a great ending, it was really disappointing to find that the story just sort of stops. 

Overall, despite the unsatisfying ending I did really enjoy reading this novel. This story had great potential to be fantastic, but it ended up being just sort of average in my eyes. I really wanted to love it like I initially thought I would, but the connection just wasn’t there. However, I’m still really glad that I randomly picked this book up the in the bookstore one day, because despite my complaints it is nevertheless a book well worth reading!

My Rating: :0) :0) :0) 3 out of 5 smileys

Would I recommend it to a friend?: Yes, especially if they like science fiction or dystopian stories.

Have you ever read this book before? What are your thoughts on it? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY