Category Archives: Books

Book Review: The Catcher in the Rye (Salinger)

It’s time for some good old Salinger today!

Have I read this before: Yes! I’ve actually read this twice before—once in high school during my “I am 2 cool 4 school” phase where I hid out in the bathroom during lunch and read books like Catcher in the Rye, and again in 2012 when I was in Tucson.

Review: Oh, Holden Caulfield. I really like the style of this book, how “casual” it’s written and how it’s basically almost like Holden’s stream of consciousness as he goes through the week. I guess that casual nature is part of why the book is considered a classic, though, eh? I also like his snarky humor throughout.

Favorite part: “‘How exciting,’ old Lillian said. Then she introduced me to the Navy guy. His name was Commander Blop or something. He was one of those guys that think they’re being a pansy if they don’t break around forty of your fingers when they shake hands with you. God, I hate that stuff.” I just really like that line, haha.

Rating: 7/10

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Book Review: Native Son (Wright)

Book review time! Let’s look at Native Son by Richard Wright.

Have I read this before: I have! I read it in high school sometime. 11th grade? 12th grade? I think it was 12th grade, but I’m not totally sure.

Review: I’m a white chick from Idaho, so I don’t know how valid my opinion is on any of this, but given what’s been going on in the US with the Black Lives Matter movement, I think this is a book that everyone in the country should read right now. Wright puts into words a concept that I think is very central to BLM but is very difficult to understand or even express (especially if you’re white? I don’t know). He’s not using it as an excuse for Bigger’s actions, but he uses it as a way to explain why Bigger did what he did without even knowing why he did what he did. If that makes any sense at all.

Favorite part: There are a few, all related to what I was just talking about.

(This is Jan talking, a white man who actively supports the Civil Rights movement) “I don’t hate you for trying to blame this thing on me…maybe you had good reasons…I don’t know. And maybe in a certain sense, I’m the one who’s really guilty…” (…) “Bigger, I’ve never done anything against you and your people in my life. But I’m a white man and it would be asking too much to ask you not to hate me, when every white man you see hates you.”

(More Jan) “It taught me that it’s your right to hate me, Bigger. I see now that you couldn’t do anything else but that; it was all you had.” (…) “I was in jail grieving for Mary and then I thought of all the black men who’ve been killed, the black men who had to grieve when their people were snatched from them in slavery and since slavery. I thought that if they could stand it, then I ought to.”

This conversation about Bigger:
“A grave wrong has been done to two people who’ve helped Negroes more than anybody I know.”
“I sympathize with you, Mr. Dalton,” Max said. “But killing this boy [Bigger] isn’t going to help you or any of us.”
“I tried to help him,” Mr. Dalton said.
“We wanted to send him to school,” said Mrs. Dalton faintly.
“I know,” Max said. “But those things don’t touch the fundamental problem involved here. This boy comes from an oppressed people. Even if he’s done wrong, we must take that into consideration.”

Rating: 7/10

Book Review: The Chosen (Potok)

Let’s review The Chosen today, shall we?

Have I read this before: I have, but I can’t remember when, exactly. High school, maybe?

Review: This is such a good book. Such an impactful book. I remembered a lot of this book from the first time I’d read it, and that’s saying something, especially considering I read it so long ago that I can’t actually remember when that was. I remember that the ending made me cry last time; it didn’t this time, but it was a very satisfying, complete ending, if that makes any sense. I don’t want to give away too much about this book, but if you’re looking for something thought-provoking that is super well-written and will stick in your brain for a while, read The Chosen.

Favorite part: This quote from Reuven’s father:

“Human beings do not live forever, Reuven. We live less than the time it takes to blink an eye, if we measure our lives against eternity. So it may be asked what value is there to a human life. There is so much pain in the world. What does it mean to have to suffer so much if our lives are nothing more than the blink of an eye? … I learned a long time ago, Reuven, that a blink of an eye in itself is nothing. But the eye that blinks, that is something. A span of life is nothing. But the man who lives that span, he is something. He can fill that tiny span with meaning, so its quality is immeasurable though its quantity may be insignificant.”

Rating: 7.5/10

Book Review: A Handmaid’s Tale (Atwood)

Are you ready for some MARGARET ATWOOD!?!?!?

(You should be.)

Specifically, let’s review A Handmaid’s Tale.

Have I read this before: Indeed. I think I read this in the summer between high school and college. I’m too lazy to check my blog archive. HOW’S THAT FOR OVERACHIEVING?

Review: This book? It’s great…until the ending. I don’t know if it’s just me or if this is something that other people have thought about this book, but I was totally gung-ho and loving everything up until—quite literally—the last two pages. And that was the case both the first time I read it and this last time. I was thinking, during this last read, that my dislike for the ending might just have been because I was 18 and stupid and didn’t appreciate the way the story was finished. BUT NOPE! I got to those last two pages, everything ended, and I was like, “oh. Right. This.” Seriously. The whole book, save those last two pages, is fantastic. But maybe that’s just how I see it. Maybe you’d like the whole thing. Give it a read and see.

Favorite part: Anything but the ending.

Rating: 5/10 (because of the ending)

Book Review: Animal Farm (Orwell)

It’s Orwell time!

Have I read this before: Yes, but a loooong time ago. Like 8th grade or something. I didn’t really remember it very well.

Review: Really, now that I think about it, re-reading this was basically like reading it for the first time, ‘cause I didn’t remember a damn thing from the first time I read it, apart from the characters all being animals and one of them being named Napoleon. But yeah, it’s a good book. Everything escelated very quickly once the animals got control of the farm, but I guess I’d rather have that in a rather short book than have it drawn out too long in a longer book.

Favorite part: I like the repetition throughout the story. By that, I mean not only the repetition of some of the animals’ phrases/songs, but also the repetition of how the pigs justified their actions, how the “all animals are equal” and the Seven Commandments are slowly altered. Very cool.

Rating: 6/10

Book Review: Watership Down (Adams)

It’s time for some Watership Down!

Have I read this before: Yes, the summer after high school. However, I read it while I was recovering from having my wisdom teeth yanked out, so I was kind of loopy and don’t remember much.

Review: This is a fantastic book, yo. In case you’ve never read it (or know nothing about it), it’s about rabbits. I love the way Adams writes the rabbits. It’s very natural—you get their behaviors and attitudes and fear. And it’s basically impossible to not sympathize with them as they go through their troubles. If you’ve never read this, read it. If you’ve read it, read it again.

Favorite part: This is going to sound weird, but my favorite part is the epilogue. I love the way it’s written and I love how it gives us closure with Hazel. I think it’s very beautiful and I remember it making me cry when I first read this. But I was on drugs then.

Rating: 8/10

Book Review: Lord of the Flies (Golding)

I done read another one of them books! Here’s Lord of the Flies by William Golding.

Have I read this before: Yup. Way back in 8th grade, though, so it hardly even counts.

Review: I can’t tell if I remembered most of this book or if I just have been able to recognize all the references to it in TV/movies/etc. But I remembered most of this. I think Golding does a really good job of pacing the descent of the boys from “civilized”—having leaders, having tasks, having order—to just completely falling apart and turning against one another. I didn’t remember the ending, though. The ending’s…weird to me.

Favorite part: I enjoyed the escalating loss of control when the hunters would do their “pig killing” reenactments with one another. It seems like a very realistic thing that would happen.

Rating: 6.5/10

Book Review: The Scarlet Pimpernel (Orczy)

Hey, so I haven’t read a (fiction) book in awhile. But I finally did! Here’s The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy.

Have I read this before: Yes, but a looooooong time ago. Early high school or even late junior high.

Review: I’m surprised I didn’t remember more of this book from the first time I read it, ‘cause I quite enjoyed it. It’s set in France/England at the beginning of the French Revolution, and focuses on a British dude who disguises himself and, along with several accomplices, makes it his duty to go and rescue French aristocrats so that they aren’t killed in their country. I like the style and the characters in this one.

Favorite part: I don’t know if this counts as a “part,” but I really liked the pacing in this book. As I got further into it I remembered the little twist that makes the story what it is, so I was anticipating it, but the pacing made it so that if this was your first time reading it and you didn’t know what that twist was, you probably wouldn’t guess it but also wouldn’t be too shocked by it when it happened.

Rating: 6.5/10

Sinuous Ocelot

So back when we were in Moscow, Nate and I visited Hastings and came across a book entitled Becoming a Supple Leopard. We weren’t quite sure what a Supple Leopard was (though I’m assuming it deserves to be capitalized), but it kind of became a little joke with us. I’d call Nate a Supple Leopard, one of us would do something and the other would say, “that’s something a Supple Leopard would do”…that kind of thing.

Anyway, tonight we decided to finally look up the book on Amazon to see if any of the reviews actually explained the “Supple Leopard” thing. But we found something better. We found this review:

Have you ever wondered what it would feel like to be as agile as the ninjas you see so often on TV? Oh, you’ve never seen a ninja?! There’s a good reason for that – they are NINJAS.
Ninjas are fast and graceful, and you always see them doing crazy things with their body that involves wicked flexibility. Where does all that flexibility come from? How do you think they recover after being beaten down by Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, Jet Li or Jackie Chan? By reading this book, targeting their goats, smashing their psoas, freeing their matted down tissues and working out other downstream issues they become more agile and deadly than ever and recover far faster from deadly one-inch punches to the face.
Last thing to mention, is that ninjas are never in anything like a pain cave. They brave out their training and all their fights to the death. The pain cave or a pain “face” means nothing to them. Except for above mentioned deadly one-inch punch to the face. But then they’re dead.
Basically, become a leopard, become a ninja, become anything extreme and more awesome (I scribbled “Snow” above Leopard, because my spirit animal is a Snow Leopard).
Enjoy this book. But don’t. Because if you do the exercises, it will hurt. In a good way. Like if your favourite movie star crush strapped you down and ripped your pants off. But then again, you’re now a ninja – so that will never happen.

The reviewer’s username is, appropriately, “Deadly Ninja” and this is the only thing they’ve reviewed.

I love the immediate contradiction of “Oh, you’ve never seen a ninja?! There’s a good reason for that – they are NINJAS” and “Ninjas are fast and graceful, and you always see them doing crazy things with their body that involves wicked flexibility.”

How can I see them if they’re ninjas, Deadly Ninja?
HOW CAN I SEE THEM?!?!

 

Book Review: The Ox-Bow Incident (Clark)

WELL TODAY SUCKED.

But let’s not talk about that. Let’s do a book review instead.
Let’s review The Ox-Bow Incident by Walter Clark! Spoilers as usual.

Have I read this before: Yes! Summer of 2007.

Review: I like this book, man. It’s technically a western, which is about on par with fantasy in terms of being a genre that I’m not particularly fond of, but it’s a good book. It’s a story about a mob that goes out searching for a group of supposed cattle rustlers and murderers. There is a wide variety of opinions within the mob regarding the legality and moral implications of their plans (lynching the suspected rustlers/murderers once they’re found). Even though the book is written from the perspective of one of the drifters who kind of gets drawn into the mob, you really get a good sense of these different perspectives, especially the perspective of Davies, the man who is most strongly opposed to the lynchings. Despite a decent amount of opposition once they find the three rustling/murdering suspects, the mob ends up lynching them. Once they return to town, they find out that the suspects were telling the truth—they neither rustled any cattle nor murdered anyone.

Favorite part: It’s pretty bad to say this is my favorite part, but I really enjoyed the struggle of Davies as he discusses his guilt with Art (one of the drifters) after they return to town from the lynching.

“There wasn’t proof,” I [Art] said angrily. “You don’t get all set for a hanging and stop for some little feeling you have.”
“You might,” he [Davies] said, “when you’re hanging on a feeling too.”

Rating: 6.5/10

Book Review: Their Eyes Were Watching God (Hurston)

It’s another book review! Let’s look at Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston.

Have I read this before: Yes, but I can’t remember when. Which means it was a long time ago.

Review: The further I read into this, the more I remembered it from the first time I read it. I always like the idea of a book in the form of one of the characters just sitting down and relating the entire story; I think you get really immersed in their point of view and how they think. That works really well in this book. Janie sits down with a neighbor and basically relays the rest of the book as a story from her perspective, from her childhood all the way up to what led her to sitting with her neighbor. Since you get everything in her voice (literally), you can really see how she reacts in each relationship she discusses and how she matures through each one.

Favorite part: I like the tone of this book overall, but the small little part that really stuck out to me was the beautiful metaphor Janie describes near the beginning of the book. As a teen, she sees a bee gathering pollen from a cherry blossom, which becomes to her a representation of an ideal relationship. She sees it as a flawless, effortless coming together of two individuals rather than something that requires a lot of work. I just like how this metaphor stuck with her and kept coming up throughout the rest of the book.

Rating: 5.5/10

Book Review: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Kesey)

BOOK REVIEWWWWWWW~!@!#!@$!#$!\!!!!
(I’m hyper.)

Have I read this before: Yes! High school, I think. 10th grade?

Review: I think I was a little too young to really appreciate this the first time I read it. I like the characters and I like the progression of McMurphy’s antagonism toward Nurse Ratched. I also like how once Chief finally started talking, all the patients basically just took it in stride. It’s a really good book—one of those “classics” that I actually think everyone should.

Favorite part: The fishing trip is pretty great. And it sounds bad to say this, but I also really liked the electroshock therapy part. Not because it was happening, of course, but because I really like the way Kesey shows what the therapy does to Chief’s thought processes while it’s underway. It’s pretty scary.

Rating: 7.5/10

Book Review: The Caine Mutiny (Wouk)

Alright readers, sit your butts down because today we’re reviewing Herman Wouk’s The Caine Mutiny. Spoilers (maybe?) ahead!

Have I read this before: Many times! This is my favorite book, y’all.

Review: Dude. Dude. I love this book. I love Captain Queeg. I’m pretty sure he’s my favorite literary character, apart from maaaaaaaaybe Jay Gatsby. I like the other characters in this book too, especially Maryk. While the plot may take a bit to start up (i.e., the first several chapters are a bit slow), I think the rather gradual introduction of the characters and the situation and Willie himself really help to amplify Queeg’s apparent craziness up to during the eventual mutiny. It also helped to show, once the trial for Maryk was underway, how the men who were against Queeg very quickly felt the ridiculousness of their claims of Queeg’s insanity were once they were all out of danger. The timing and tenseness of the book were really well done, in other words.

AND QUEEG. QUEEG IS GREAT.

Favorite part: The whole thing. But specifically:

  • Willie not knowing any of the terminology/slang when he first got on the Caine.
    “‘Sir, it was my fault,’ spoke up the boatswain’s mate. He began an alibi which sounded to Willie like this: ‘The port bandersnatch got fouled in the starboard rath when we tried to galumph the cutting cable so as not to trip the snozzle again. I had to unshackle the doppleganger and bend on two snarks instead so we could launch in a hurry.’”
  • Queeg obsessing about all the wrong things at all the wrong times.
  • The way the crew, once they were sick of Queeg, decided to basically make it look like they were responding to his requests/demands when in reality they were being ignored everywhere the captain wasn’t.
    “The crew with its vast cunning had already charted most of the habits and pathways of the captain. He was moving now in a curious little circle of compliance that followed him like a spotlight, extending to the range of his eyes and ears; beyond that, the Caine remained the old Caine.”
  • THE STRAWBERRIES
  • The speech/rant Greenwald gives Keefer and Maryk near the end. It gives the lawyer (Greenwald) a lot of depth in very few pages. I like it.

Rating: 10/10

 

Book Review: Madame Bovary (Flaubert)

Hey, it’s Flaubert time! LET’S DO THIS, Y’ALL. Spoilers as usual.

Have I read this before: Long, long ago, yes. This was probably the second or third book I read off of my original list, so that was likely in 7th or (at latest) 8th grade.

Review: This book is a lot sadder than I remember it being. Maybe because back in 7th grade I had basically zero concept of what a relationship really was (apart from wanting one with a certain someone, but WE WON’T GET INTO THAT) and what it meant to be in one. But this book is basically all about how miserable it can be to be in a relationship that you don’t want but can’t seem to find a way out of. Flaubert does a really excellent job of portraying the misery of Emma Bovary and how desperate she is to really try and find happiness in a relationship—whether that relationship is with her husband or not. I certainly didn’t remember the poison-induced suicide, though.

Also, I know this was written during a totally different time than today and social standards are a bit different, especially for women, but my mind was basically screaming “YOU PEOPLE NEED COMMUNICATION SKILLS” the entire time.

Favorite part: Lots of good quotes in this book, mostly about how much it sucks being unable to find happiness in a relationship.

  • Before the wedding, she had believed herself in love. But not having obtained the happiness that should have resulted from that love, she now fancied that she must have been mistaken.
  • As their [Emma and Charles, her husband] outward familiarities grew, she began to be inwardly detached, to hold herself more aloof from him.
  • And all the time, deep within her, she was waiting for something to happen. … She had no idea what that chance would be, what wind would waft it to her, where it would set her ashore…But every morning when she woke she hoped to find it there. She listened to every sound, started out of bed, and was surprised when nothing came. Then at sunset, sadder every day, she longed for the morrow.
  • (During her affair with Leon) They began to talk more of things indifferent to their love. … She would look forward to a profound happiness at next meeting, then have to admit that she felt nothing remarkable.

Rating: 7/10

Trip Prep

It’s almost time for our road trip…which means it’s almost time for THIS:

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I’ve been waiting since February to read this! Though I’ll have to either finish it all before the middle of June or so (my annual reading of Antognazza’s Leibniz: An Intellectual Biography must occur on or around Leibniz’ birthday, after all) or take a break and interrupt Newton with Leibniz.

I might have to go with the latter, just because of being able to interrupt Newton with Leibniz.

Edit: online Principia!

Book Review: The Stranger (Camus)

Hey, look who finally finished another book. It’s Camus party time!

Have I read this before: Um, I want to say yes, but it wasn’t familiar at all.

Review (spoilers): It’s an okay book. It’s not my favorite of Camus’ (that would be The Plague), but it’s not bad. You can really get a sense of the absurdity through the main character and the way he’s so emotionally detached from everything. Hell, he randomly murders two dudes. The pace is a bit slow, but hey, that’s Camus for ya. It is an interesting read, especially if you’re into the philosophy of the absurd and/or existentialism, but there’s a lot more of the former than the latter in here.

Rating: 5/10

Books!

So I got two super cool books for my birthday from some guy named Nate. :)

Observe!

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This is like the definitive Newton bio. I’ve wanted to read this since I first heard of it, and now I can! I might have to put it on the bookshelf opposite of the bookshelf with my Leibniz shrine, though, haha.

 

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Giant Antarctica book (this picture makes it look deceptively average-sized). It’s been a looong time since I got a new book on Antarctica, so yay!

Now the question is, do I delve right into Newton’s bio or should I re-read Leibniz’ for the nth time first? I’ll read them both back-to-back, it’s just a question of which one to start with.

Thank you, Nate! :D

Antiques

Fun fact: when I was a young kid, I thought “antiques” was pronounced AN-tee-kwez.

Anyway. Despite the mini little snow storm Moscow is getting, my mom and I went to that big antiques store on Main Street, kind of by Rosauers. I got a caliper ‘cause I’m weird and an old phonology book ‘cause phonology is cool.

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A guy named Albert Salisbury does indeed sound like a guy who would be a stickler for orthoepy. The child version of me would have angered him with my pronunciation of “antiques.”

It’s actually a pretty interesting little book. The first several pages even talk about the anatomy behind breathing, vocalization, and hearing.

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Says Mr. Salisbury about silent letters: “Many of these are as useless as they are annoying.” Hahaha.

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Can you answer his review questions? The Salisbury stakes are high!

(I’m sorry, I had to. I don’t even care about the heterograph.)

Book Review: Cyrano de Bergerac (Rostand)

Have I read this before: A looooooong time ago, yes. I can’t even remember when.

Review: Ah, Cyrano. Gotta love him. This play has always seemed like Voltaire meets Beckett as far as its style and wit go.

Also, did you know there was a real Cyrano? He was a French playwright and duelist (apparently those things went hand in hand quite frequently in 1600s France) who did in fact have a big nose, but not nearly as big as fictional Cyrano’s. Real Cyrano did in fact fight in the Thirty Years’ War and there was a Christian fighting alongside him (who did marry Cyrano’s cousin), though the details of that relationship don’t resemble those in Rostand’s play.

Edit: hahaha, oh my god, I really want to read Real Cyrano’s play, L’Autre Monde: ou les États et Empires de la Lune (Comical History of the States and Empires of the Moon). According to Wiki, “Cyrano travels to the moon using rockets powered by firecrackers and meets the inhabitants. The moon-men have four legs, musical voices, and firearms that shoot game and cook it.” That sounds FANTASTIC.

(Edit 2: Okay, yeah, this was more of a review of Real Cyrano than the play. But the play is good. Read it.)

Favorite part: Christian’s complete lack of wit is pretty great.

(This is after Cyrano had been feeding eloquent lines to Christian, who spoke them up to Roxane from down below her window. Eventually, Christian thinks he can speak for himself and tells Cyrano to beat it.)

Roxane:
Is that you, Christian? Let us stay
Here, in the twilight.
They are gone.
The air
Is fragrant.
We shall be alone. Sit down

There—so…
Now tell me things.

Christian:
I love you.

Roxane:
Speak to me about love…

Christian:
I love you.

Roxane:
Now
Be eloquent! …

Christian:
I love—

Roxane:
You have your theme—
Improvise!
Rhapsodize!

Christian:
I love you so!

Roxane:
Of course.
And then? …

Christian:
And then…oh, I should be
So happy if you loved me too! Roxane,
Say that you love me too!

Roxane:
I ask for cream
You give me milk and water. Tell me first
A little, how you love me.

Christian:
Very much.

(This goes on for like another two pages, it’s great.)

Rating: 7/10

Book Review: The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Hugo)

Victor Hugo party central! Let’s do it.

Have I read this before: Way back in junior high. I actually think this might have been one of the first books on my list I read. Not the first first, but one of them.

Review: This story is intense, yo. Some of these reviews are hard ‘cause I was a Disney kid and thus always have the Disney versions in the back of my head somewhere. I don’t remember a freaking word of this from when I read it before, but I was actually surprised at some of the things that Disney kept almost directly from the story. Like Quasi holding Esmeralda up and yelling “sanctuary!” once he swung her into Notre Dame. And Quasi throwing rocks at and dumping molten metal on the dudes trying to break into the cathedral (granted, in Disney Movie Land they weren’t the tramps but the Frollo Army, but still). AND Frollo’s death.

I still feel bad for Frollo, man. I know he’s the “bad guy” and he’s creepy as hell at some parts of the novel, but Hugo does portray his torment as real and believable. The fact that he’s also shown as displaying quite a bit of compassion at parts makes him even more believable.

Favorite part: I feel weird saying this, especially since there are some super disturbing and sobering moments in this book, but parts of Hunchback are pretty hilarious. Oh my god.

  • The deaf judge trying to interrogate the deaf Quasimodo. “Now, here was a case that the law had not provided for—the deaf interrogating the deaf.” The consequences of this scene were pretty bad, but the scene itself is freaking great.
  • “Having reached the pillar gallery, he [Jehan] stood puffing for a moment then swore at the endless stairs by I don’t know how many million cartloads of devils.”
  • Captain Phoebus can’t get Esmeralda’s name right. He calls her “Similar” for like three pages.
  • “The thunderbolts of god are not hurled against a lettuce!”

Rating: 7.5/10