Review: Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler

parableofthesowerBlurb: “When unattended environmental and economic crises lead to social chaos, not even gated communities are safe. In a night of fire and death Lauren Olamina, a minister’s young daughter, loses her family and home and ventures out into the unprotected American landscape. But what begins as a flight for survival soon leads to something much more: a startling vision of human destiny… and the birth of a new faith.

This is a good book. I was little wary going in because I tend to not enjoy anything that ha a strong religious theme, but fortunately this was not overly preachy or in my opinion, trying to make a religious statement. In Parable of the Sower, Lauren essentially creates a religion that she hopes to spread across her dying world and calls it Earthseed. However, most of the book is actually a fight for survival.

After the fire that destroys her gated community and kills the rest of her family (which I might mention, occurs almost a quarter of the way through the book, so you really do get a feeling for not only the kind of world that is behind the gate community but what Lauren lost the night of the fire) she and two survivors of her town make their way across the highways. Densely populated, yet a wasteland, they encounter and adopt various people into their group to defend themselves against a world that has gone insane.

The only real criticism I have of the book is the fact that I never connected or cared about any of the characters. When they died I didn’t feel all that shocked, even if they were unexpected, and I don’t feel as Lauren got into any particular situation which I even remotely thought she might not get out.

★★★★☆

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10 Books I am DYING to Re-Read

theluminariesThe Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
Winner of the 2013 Man-Booker Prize, this book is amazingly complex and I can’t help but feel that it would only be enhanced by a second read through. I think it is my favorite book that has been written recently and I wouldn’t be surprised if it becomes a modern classic.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgensternthenightircus
I love this book because not only is it a National Novel Writing Month novel and I’m always eager to support the program that has allowed me to finish two novels of my own. Also, The Night Circus is really a book where the scenery is the impressive part, just stunning and fantastical imagery. It may be telling of a common complaint of this book, but I want to re-read it as well because I can’t for the life of me remember what the plot was supposed to be. Not to mention there is a rumor going around that there will be a movie and I definitely want to re-read it before then.

oryxandcrakeOryx & Crake by Margaret Atwood
Besides The Handmaid’s Tale I think the MaddAddam trilogy must be her most well known work. I feel as though Oryx & Crake may be improved after reading second and third book.

The City of Dreaming Books by Walter Moersthecityofdreamingbooks
This might be the most fun book I’ve ever read and I desperately want to dip into its pages again. This is really so fun and so bookish, I’ve never come across another book which I would even label as similar! I also want to get my hands on the two sequels, The Labyrinth of Dreaming Books and The Castle of Dreaming Books the latter of which has not yet been released.

thecoldestgirlincoldtownThe Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black
Possibly my favorite young adult to date, I look back on it and I definitely want to know if it stands up to my memory. I’ve always wanted a sequel, but Holly Black has been pretty firm on the fact that its going to remain a stand alone. Normally I prefer stand alones, but in this case I’m dying for a sequel! You aren’t quite satisfied at the end.

The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut thesirensoftitan
This and Galapagos are my two top Kurt Vonnegut books, but The Sirens of Titan is definitely something else. I would love to re-read it and catch the nuances.

thegargoyleThe Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson
It has been many years since I read this book, but it always sticks out in my mind as a beautiful and tragic book. The imagery is still really strong in my mind and its something that I wish I could re-experience for the first time.

The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevskytheidiot
I read The Idiot a few years back (after The Brothers Karamazov and before Crime & Punishment) and its the book the solidified my love for Dostoevsky.

gameofthronesGame of Thrones by George R. R. Martin
This one is kind of a cheat since I recently started re-reading it, but I think the ASOIF books are far too long and far too complex to absorb everything if you only read it once. I was not prepared though, for how much knowing the future books would make Game of Thrones rather heartbreaking. I knew about Ned Stark before reading it the first time, but I didn’t know about anything like the Red Wedding, Purple Wedding, Renly, Theon/Reek etc etc. Reading the interactions between Jon Snow and Robb Stark was especially heartbreaking–by the time you get around to the Red Wedding you have forgotten really that Jon and Rob were close. And Sansa– it is so strange to see Sansa so light-hearted and worry-free and it kind of breaks your heart to think of the hell she’s going to go through in the next few books.

Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvistlettherightonein
To date the original Swedish film is my favorite movie, and this is definitely in my top 10 favorite books. This book is just so cold and creepy in so many facets, I think its worth the re-read to see what I might have missed the first time around and see if its still the great book I remember it as.

Bloggiesta!

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“In short, Bloggiesta is a blogging marathon revolving around ticking off those items on your to-do list and improving your blog while in the good company of other awesome bloggers doing the same thing.” (click here to join the linky list)

Things I hope to accomplish during this Bloggiesta:

Rewrite my About Me Page
Update my Pinterest
Schedule a month of blog posts I can stick to
Comment on other Bloggiesta participants’ blogs
Write & schedule at least 3 posts or reviews
Brainstorm at least 20 new post ideas

Are you participating in Bloggiesta? Even if you’re not, is there anything you’re hoping to accomplish on your blog this September?

My Top 10 Heyer Novels

These are the 10 Heyer novels I love the most, however, just in alphabetical order since it was hard enough to pick only ten and there’s no way I’d be able to narrow it down any further.

arabellaArabella
This was the first Heyer hero that I truly fell for. Arabella is determined to take Mr. Beaumaris down a peg–by pretending to be a great heiress under the assumption that she will never meet him again. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) Arabella meets Mr. Beaumaris once again in London, and the dance between them begins. Mr. Beaumaris knows very well that she’s not a heiress at all…

Cotillioncotillion
Since I was not a big fan of The Grand Sophy the first time I read it, this was the second book I read by her and the one that solidified my love for Heyer. I was definitely invested in Kitty Charing’s choice between her two cousins, Jack and Freddy since I hated Jack with a passion and I determined that if Kitty chose Jack I would swear off Georgette Heyer forever. But really, it was a start of an odyssey.

cousinkateCousin Kate
I hear that a lot of Heyer’s fans don’t like this one and I’m not sure why since I find the characters in this book to be the most complex. Its probably the one with the plot line that makes the most sense while being the most creepy of her work. The character of Kate’s cousin, Torquil, is a mentally ill man whom his mother (Kate’s half-aunt, in fact) hopes to marry him off to Kate in the hopes Kate can control him (and stop the estate from falling in the hands of their other cousin, Mr. Phillip Broome, should Torquil die). Unfortunately for her half-aunt, Kate and Mr. Broome discover the plot.

Devil’s Cubdevilscub
Since Vidal is definitely… not a chivalrous suitor to say the least, I definitely think this is the most controversial of Heyer’s work and probably where abusive romance became mainstream, which makes it a difficult book to recommend no matter how much I personally love it. So I do admit that the book is problematic, but there is just something about the book overall that I find so swoon worthy. I guess this is my weakness when it comes to Heyer.

fredericaFrederica
For a long time I think this was my favorite novel by Heyer (now I’d be hard pressed to choose…) since Frederica was an older girl compared to a lot of Heyer’s other works (since then though, I’ve learned she does more work with some older ladies, but this remains my favorite of that group) since I’m older as well and without a romance myself and therefore identify with Frederica more than the other heroines. Not to mention, Alverstoke is a fantastic hero and rates pretty high in my list of swoon worthy heroes.

The Grand Sophythegrandsophy
This was actually the first book I read by her and I don’t remember being very impressed with it at the time. On a re-read this year however, I decided that I was insane and this book was absolutely amazing! Sophy is adorable and infuriating all the same and Charles is not quite the immense bore that I remember. Plus the final scene is all that one would wish it to be no matter how tangled the plot lines get, Heyer always wraps them up in a neat little bow.

thenonesuchThe Nonesuch
Waldo is another one of Heyer’s heroes that are positively swoon worthy. I often wonder if this is the book where the philanthropic hero trope in regency romances comes from. You have to admit that its hard to find a modern regency romance writer that has not featured a philanthropic hero in one of their books. If Waldo is where that started, then everyone else pales in comparison. Waldo’s charity runs in the line of orphans, which is how he meets our heroine, Miss Trent, who is acting as a companion and governess to the children of one of the matrons in the neighborhood of the estate that he inherits and intends to use to house his orphans. Waldo then has to set about the task of convincing Miss Trent that its perfectly okay for him to marry a mere governess.

The Quiet Gentlemanthequietgentleman
I think this is an underrated Heyer work, I don’t see it mentioned much on lists like these, possibly because Gervase is kind of a boring hero compared to some others. But I rather like him for being so kind and gentle as opposed to the steel that you find in the rest of her heroes, pretty much across the board. Plus this is one of the books where the heroine truly gets to save the hero and there’s no more capable heroine than the practical Miss Morville.

regencybuckRegency Buck
This is another one of Heyer’s work that fans seem to not like as much as I think they should. I think this is just a difference of opinion, however, I think people don’t like Judith’s immaturity or they don’t like that Worth tries to boss her around because the infuriating girl keeps acting without propriety. Mostly this book is a mystery with Worth knowing all the answers–but unable to convince Judith of the truth and taking drastic but exciting measures.

Venetiavenetia
If you want a tortured rake, this is the book for you. Venetia has been warned off from Damerel, an infamous rake said to hold orgies and other terrible, terrible things. He falls in with Venetia after mistaking her for a maid and kissing her in his orchard, and then they become best of friends. Venetia and Damerel are definitely my favorite Heyer couple.

Honorable Mentions: The Talisman Ring, April Lady, Charity Girl, Black Sheep, The Convenient Marriage and The Unknown Ajax.

August Roundup

August has been a fairly good month for me in terms of reading, but I can’t wait to wrap up this month and get started on the exciting stuff I have coming up in September!

Posts:
Library Checkouts
Review: The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy
Review: Cannery Row by John Steinbeck
Review: The Passage by Justin Cronin

Currently Reading:
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clark
Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
The Last Man by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
The Circle by David Eggers
Rape: A Love Story by Joyce Carol Oates

Topics Coming up in September:
Re-Reading Books
Diversity in Adult Books
Overweight Characters in Adult Books
Books by Women
Why I Participate in Reading Challenges

Library Checkouts

parableofthesower Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler: When unattended environmental and economic crises lead to social chaos, not even gated communities are safe. In a night of fire and death Lauren Olamina, a minister’s young daughter, loses her family and home and ventures out into the unprotected American landscape. But what begins as a flight for survival soon leads to something much more: a startling vision of human destiny… and the birth of a new faith.”

I’ve already started reading this one and I have to say it is always interesting to read something that is inherently religious. However, this book comes highly recommended by many people so I’m pushing through it. I’m very excited to give it a shot, actually. I have been meaning to get to Octavia Butler for ages and I have heard many, many great things, so I definitely won’t stop with Parable of the Sower.thecircle

The Circle by Dave Eggers:When Mae Holland is hired to work for the Circle, the world’s most powerful internet company, she feels she’s been given the opportunity of a lifetime. What begins as the captivating story of one woman’s ambition and idealism soon becomes a heart-racing novel of suspense, raising questions about memory, history, privacy, democracy, and the limits of human knowledge.”

I’m excited to get started on this one because while I have heard about Dave Eggers, I have not yet had a chance to read him yet. I haven’t done much research into the book so other than the summary I’m going in blind. I hope its as good as I’ve been led to expect. I do know however that it seems to be very focused on technology, and that’s not usually the kind of fiction book I like to read, but we will see!

villetteVillette by Charlotte Bronte: Arguably Brontë’s most refined and deeply felt work, Villette draws on her profound loneliness following the deaths of her three siblings. Lucy Snowe, the narrator of Villette,flees from an unhappy past in England to begin a new life as a teacher at a French boarding school in the great cosmopolitan capital of Villette. Soon Lucy’s struggle for independence is overshadowed by both her friendship with a worldly English doctor and her feelings for an autocratic schoolmaster. Brontë’s strikingly modern heroine must decide if there is any man in her society with whom she can live and still be free.”

I picked up this book because I was actually looking for her sister’s book, Agnes Grey. I lost my copy of Agnes Grey mysteriously at my mother’s house and it has yet to resurface and in my opinion, it was just starting to get good when I lost it! Unfortunately, the library doesn’t have a copy, but I’ve been meaning to get to Villette, and now seems like a good time since I’ve gotten over my intense dislike for Jane Eyre. I hope this will be much better though.frenchmancreek

Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne du Maurier: Jaded by the numbing politeness of Restoration London, Lady Dona St. Columb revolts against high society. She rides into the countryside, guided only by her restlessness and her longing to escape. But when chance leads her to meet a French pirate, hidden within Cornwall’s shadowy forests, Dona discovers that her passions and thirst for adventure have never been more aroused. Together, they embark upon a quest rife with danger and glory, one which bestows upon Dona the ultimate choice: sacrifice her lover to certain death or risk her own life to save him.”

I’ve been meaning to make my way to some more of Daphne du Maurier’s book since I read and liked Rebecca, My Cousin Rachel and Mary Anne. Next on the list would be Jamaica Inn, The House on the Strand, or Hungry Hill.

rapealovestoryRape: A Love Story by Joyce Carol Oates: Haunting and moving, this short but powerful novel explores sexual violence and its aftermath. On her way home from a party, Teena Maguire is beaten, gang raped, and left for dead in the park, all of which is witnessed by her 12-year-old daughter Bethie. Now Teena can only regret that she survived, and Bethie is left to take care of her mother in her fragile state as the investigation and trial unfold. Alternating viewpoints are employed to narrate this horrific story, and redemption is finally offered thanks to a young police officer who knows the meaning of justice and love.”

This is one of the books that has been on my to read list for years, and I can’t say that I’m excited to read it, but it seems like an important piece of work.

All very, very different books! I’m hoping to enjoy them all.

Review: The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy

scarletI first heard of The Scarlet Pimpernel when I was in 7th grade. My homeroom teacher read a passage of it aloud and I remember being completely enamored by the book, but for some reason, despite the fact that I thought about it now and again, I never read the book.

Reading it ten years or so later, I don’t remember what passage my teacher had read aloud, but I still like the book. Not as much as I had hoped, I did feel myself getting tired of it in the beginning for a little bit but eventually the story got going along. While I knew it was a swashbuckling tale of adventure, I was not aware of what an awesome love story there was included! Enough to make you swoon.

In the end however, it may have been years of holding it on a pedestal, but it did not fulfill my expectations and I’m left a little disappointed. Despite the grisly backdrop of the French Revolution, perhaps it was just a little too lighthearted for my taste.

4/5 stars.

Review: Cannery Row by John Steinbeck

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“Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream. Cannery Row is the gathered and scattered, tin and iron and rust and splintered wood, chipped pavement and weedy lots and junk heaps, sardine canneries of corrugated iron, honky tonks, restaurants and whore houses, and little crowded groceries, and laboratories and flophouses. Its inhabitants are, as the man once said, ‘whores, pimps, gamblers, and sons of bitches,’ by which he meant Everybody. Had the man looked through another peephole he might have said, ‘Saints and angels and martyrs and holy men,’ and he would have meant the same thing.”

I love Steinbeck, I really do, despite the fact that every time I pick up one of his books I drag my feet to start because in reality they seem like books I wouldn’t like. I’m not really that into American history, and its hard to get much more American than Steinbeck. But even if you aren’t interested in Depression era fiction, Steinbeck has the most beautiful prose that will keep you coming back again and again.

My absolute favorite part of the book is the chapter about the gopher because not only does it sum up the book neatly, it broke my heart over a gopher of all things. If you’re curious, here’s the Sparknotes break down of the chapter, but I really recommend you just read the book because Sparknotes in no way captures the beauty and heartbreak of the chapter.

Cannery Row happens to be my favorite Steinbeck to date (I’ve also read Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men) and the pure beauty of it makes me pretty anxious to get through my nightstand pile to East of Eden which I have been putting off for an eternity now.

5/5 stars.

Review: The Passage by Justin Cronin

thepassage“He’s you. He’s me. He’s everyone, at least in these parts. I like to think he’s kind of like our local god. Not like the old gods. A new god. A dream of god that we all dream together. Say it with me, Theo. I. Am. Babcock.”

In the beginning, there were twelve. The Twelve, the Zero, and Amy. (I am Babcock. I am Morrison. I am Chavez. I am Baffes-Turrell-Winston-Sosa-Echols-Lambright-Martinez-Reinhardt-Carter.)

Cronin’s The Passage is an epic, stretched across at least one hundred years, spreading across the United States. The world as it had once been is no more. The Virals, the ones who forget, have spread everywhere, the virus taking up every one in ten. Peter Jaxon only hears whispers of the past, long forgotten. Living in The Colony is a daily struggle, some awaiting the arrival of the Army that was supposed to return to them, the rest living in hopelessness–believing they are the last living human beings on Earth. Amy NLN, physically no older than sixteen, seems to have lived a hundred years. Lear, the good Doctor, patiently waiting for her to come home to do what she was meant to do from the beginning.

“If you found her, bring her here. If you found her, bring her here.”

There was not a single moment in this book that I was bored. Cronin’s writing is astounding, the world he created is so real and terrifying all at once. So much is mysterious in this world, but the characters he creates ring true, all of them fleshed out and brought to life. His characters seamlessly weave together and carve out their destinies. Ultimately it’s a story of survival, death, life, and everything that lies between. Cronin really outdid himself, and you’d be a fool to pass it up.

5/5 stars.

this was originally posted on my Booklikes, which you can view here as well.

Tired of the Heat? These 10 Reads Will Chill Your Summer

cousinkate10. Cousin Kate by Georgette Heyer
A light, but gothic regency romance that follows orphan Kate Malvern as she goes to stay with her theauctioneerhalf-aunt in her ancestral home where a sinister plot unfolds.

09. The Auctioneer by Joan Samson
Tension is high in this story of greed in small town America. Slowly, John Moore, his family and his neighbors are stripped of all their belongings by the auctioneer Perly Dunsmore, and they begin to turn on each other.

08. Out by Natsuo Kirino
There’s nothing like a story of middle-aged women coutonspiring together to commit murder and dispose of the bodies for profit to give you the shivers.thereoncewasawoman

07. There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor’s Baby: Scary Fairy Tales by Ludmilla Petrushevkaya
If you’ve never read any Russian fairy tales, you are missing out on some of the creepiest tales. Not only do these stories always seem to take place in winter but they have the effect of chilling you right to the bone.

neverletmego06. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
It may be impossible to find a book more haunting and more likely to leave you revengein despair. A young woman recounts her life leading up to that point and the revelation of what her future holds for her will leave you gasping.

05. Revenge by Yoko Ogawa
In this sinister, beautiful collection, Yoko Ogawa tells the haunting and strange stories of one-of-a-kind characters.

undertheskin04. Under the Skin by Michel Faber
In rural Scotland, a mysterious woman who picks up unsuspecting hitchhikers, drugs them and delivers them to her partners who mutilate and fatten her victims so they can be turned into meat.ice

03. Ice by Anna Kavan
Ice is a brutal, haunting narrative that takes place in a frozen post-apocalyptic future.

lettherightonein02. Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist
This chilling tale takes place almost in its entirety in Stockholm, Sweden and a good part of it takes place in winter. We are introduced to a morbid young boy weneedtotalkaboutkevinnamed Oskar who befriends his new neighbor. Meanwhile, around Stockholm murders are taking place, leaving their victims drained of blood.

01. We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
The number one book sure to chill you is a tragic, disturbing tale about a mother’s path to redemption after all the guilt caused by the crimes committed by her son.