30 April 2011

progress report one: axe the zombies

I knew I didn't like zombies.  A truth universally acknowledged when I got through a whopping two chapters of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies before throwing it down and shouting, "I hate zombies!"  I can't really trace my zombie hate back to any particular incidence (the way I can trace my werewolf hate back to having to read New Moon), but it's safe to say the side-by-side reading of classic and quirk is not going to happen.

I did, however, finish my five chapters of the original Pride and Prejudice.  It's really too soon for me to make any sort of judgement or even witty commentary, but what I can say is that my favorite character, by far, is Mrs. Bennet.  She's so haughty, I love it.  And her relationship with her husband brings a lot of humor to the story.  I truly look forward to continuing on with the book and can't wait for the romance to really start.

Completely aside, I have added two more books to the "Required Reading" list.  One was summer reading that I never did, The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel.  The second was the mysteriously forgotten senior year book that I could not for the life of me remember not reading: Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf.  Why the school decided to replace it with Beowulf is absolutely beyond me.

27 April 2011

waiting on wednesday: two

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.
Title: Epic Fail
Author: Claire LaZebnik
Release Date: 2 August 2011
Summary (courtesy of goodreads.com):
At Coral Tree Prep in Los Angeles, who your parents are can make or break you. Case in point:

• As the son of Hollywood royalty, Derek Edwards is pretty much prince of the school—not that he deigns to acknowledge many of his loyal subjects.

• As the daughter of the new principal, new-girl-on-campus Elise Benton isn’t exactly on everyone’s must-sit-next-to-at-lunch list.

When Elise’s beautiful sister catches the eye of the prince’s best friend, Elise gets to spend a lot of time with Derek, making her the envy of every girl. Except she refuses to fall for any of his rare smiles and instead warms up to his enemy, the surprisingly charming social outcast Webster Grant. But in this hilarious tale of fitting in and flirting, not all snubs are undeserved, not all celebrity brats are bratty, and pride and prejudice can get in the way of true love for only so long. Fans of Susane Colasanti (When It Happens), Polly Shulman (Enthusiasm), and, of course, Jane Austen will love finding out if Elise’s love life will be an epic win or an epic fail.
I'll admit that after I read the summary I thought what on earth does this have to do with Jane Austen?  I guess I can see maybe, sort of, kind of the similarity to Pride and Prejudice, but I'm not sure it's substantial enough that it deserves the comparison.  I'll just have to wait until I can read it (and finish P&P) to see.

What really got me excited about this book was the cover.  And then the title.  And then the setting.  I don't know why I like books about private school so much.  I went to private school.  It was nothing like half the books I read that feature it.  Then again, maybe that's why I like them so much.

25 April 2011

Review: Jane by April Lindner

Cover of Jane by April Lindner Title: Jane
Author: April Lindner
Publication Date: 11 October 2010
Publisher: Little, Brown BYR
Source: Library
Summary (courtesy of goodreads.com):
Forced to drop out of an esteemed East Coast college after the sudden death of her parents, Jane Moore takes a nanny job at Thornfield Park, the estate of Nico Rathburn, a world-famous rock star on the brink of a huge comeback. Practical and independent, Jane reluctantly becomes entranced by her magnetic and brooding employer and finds herself in the midst of a forbidden romance.  But there's a mystery at Thornfield, and Jane's much-envied relationship with Nico is soon tested by an agonizing secret from his past. Torn between her feelings for Nico and his fateful secret, Jane must decide: Does being true to herself mean giving up on true love?  An irresistible romance interwoven with a darkly engrossing mystery, this contemporary retelling of the beloved classic Jane Eyre promises to enchant a new generation of readers.
I wrote on Goodreads that I wasn't going to review this book, because the things I wanted to say about it were just too unkind.  But now that it's been two weeks and I still can't get thoughts about this book to quit circling through my head, I figure I may as well put them out there and hopefully put the book to rest.

The only redeemable quality this book boasts is that it's based on a copy of Jane Eyre.  Meaning it has a built-in plot that the author was smart enough not to ravage too horribly.  And the modern twist - nannies and rock stars instead of governesses and - wait, what exactly did Mr. Rochester do? - actually had some merit.  Unfortunately, every other aspect of this book is complete and utter garbage.

Everything in this book is forced.  The characters are forced.  The relationships are forced.  The writing is forced.  And the dialogue?  Unbearably unbelievable and unrealistic.  Case in point, who on earth would ever be wooed by the following profession of love:
'I'll let you go if that's what you really want,' he said.  He looked up at me from the bench, his gray eyes bottomless and warm.  'But I wish you would come back and rest your head right here.'  He patted his chest. 'And let me love you the way you deserve.'
Umm, barf.  That is what I would do if a man said that to me.  Forget putting my head on his chest.  I would cover it in vomit.  It honestly seems like Lindner didn't even try to come up with convincing dialogue.  Unless she and the people she associates with actually talk like this.  In which case, keep them far, far away from me.

Now, we all know I didn't actually read Jane Eyre, and you may think that means I'm judging this book too harshly.  But I read did the SparkNotes.  And even those were more heartfelt than this book.


23 April 2011

reading schedule: pride and prejudice

This week was such a fail in terms of reading for the specific purposes of this project.  Pride and Prejudice seems so daunting.  I've read (actually read) Jane Austen before (Emma, btw) and remember it being very difficult to get through, so I think a part of me is just too intimidated to get started.  Granted I was a lot younger then, and didn't really have the patience that reading this kind of old, "proper" English requires.  Anyway, to help the process along, I've decided to set a schedule for reading Pride and Prejudice.  At this point I'm aiming for one chapter a day, five days a week.  I may adjust according to how into the book I get once I've started it, but for now my plan looks like this:

Pride and Prejudice Reading Schedule
Dates Chapters
April 24 - April 30 1 - 5
May 1 - May 7 6 - 10
May 8 - May 14 11 - 15
May 15 - May 21 16 - 20
May 22 - May 28 21 - 25
May 29 - June 4 26 - 30
June 5 - June 11 31 - 35
June 12 - June 18 36 - 40
June 19 - June 25 41 - 45
June 26 - July 2 46 - 50
July 3 - July 9 51 - 55
July 10 - July 16 56 - 61

Three months seems like an awfully long time to be reading a book, but I feel like if I take the pressure to read it and finish it and finish it NOW! off, I might actually get some reading done.

20 April 2011

waiting on wednesday: one

Waiting on Wednesday is a meme hosted by Breaking the Spine.  It's all about lusting over books that have yet to be released.  Something I do.  Often.  So it was hard to choose just one book to post about.  Actually, that's a lie.  Sarah Dessen wins.  Always.

Title: What Happened to Goodbye
Author: Sarah Dessen
Release Date: 10 May 2011
Summary (courtesy of goodreads.com):
Another town. Another school. Another Mclean. Ever since her parents' bitter divorce, Mclean and her father have been fleeing their unhappy past. And Mclean's become a pro at reinventing herself with each move. But in Lakeview, Mclean finds herself putting down roots and making friends—in part, thanks to Dave, the most real person Mclean's ever met. Dave just may be falling in love with her, but can he see the person she really is? Does Mclean herself know?
Sarah Dessen kills me.  In the best possible way.  She puts out a novel and I run to buy it and gush over how perfectly spectacular it makes me feel inside.  I'm anxious to read this one, especially, because the idea of moving around constantly and never putting down roots is a familiar one for me.  I'd love to re-live my high school days vicariously through Mclean, but hopefully (let's be honest, it's Sarah Dessen - definitely) with a happier ending.

18 April 2011

Review: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

I feel the need to preface this review by saying two things.

First, I know this blog is supposed to be about all those classics and stuff that I didn't read back in high school, but the project itself does not mean I'm going to stop reading other books.  Because frankly, if I were to only read the books on my Required Reading list, I would never read anything.  Ever.  So, for everyone's sakes, I don't want this blog to just be about Jane Eyre and Beowulf whatever other books I didn't read back then.  I want it to be about those books, and other books I'm reading.  Because everyone can benefit from my witty commentary, whether it's about a classic or a young adult romance.

Second, you will probably never find a long, in-depth review complete with plot summary and character analysis and all that jazz on this blog.  I read books for fun.  Analyzing them is not fun for me.  I am happy to share my general feelings and favorite (and least favorite) things about a book, but I am done with high school and thus done with analytical essays.  My reviews are short and to the point.  That's the way I like them, and that will never change.

So, now that I've whined for two paragraphs, on to the the review!

Cover of Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie PerkinsTitle: Anna and the French Kiss
Author: Stephanie Perkins
Publication Date: 2 December 2010
Publisher: Dutton
Source: Library
Summary (courtesy of goodreads.com):

Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris—until she meets √Čtienne St. Claire: perfect, Parisian (and English and American, which makes for a swoon-worthy accent), and utterly irresistible. The only problem is that he's taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her almost-relationship back home.

As winter melts into spring, will a year of romantic near-misses end with the French kiss Anna—and readers—have long awaited?

I ended up with this book a bit by accident.  I never once read a preview or summary or review, and thus had no idea what it was about beyond it being a young adult romance.  What I did know about it was that a lot of people had given it a lot of good ratings.  So when I saw it on the New Releases shelf at the library, I figured I would pick it up.

The first couple chapters made me want to punch someone in the face.  Not because the writing was bad or the characters were obnoxious or the dialogue was unimaginable (none of these things are true about this book), but because the whole idea was so familiar to me that it seemed ridiculous.  I went to middle school at an American school overseas, and while I don't know everything about all of them (there are plenty all over the world), I feel like the School of America in Paris was an inaccurate portrayal.  My biggest problem was the idea that only Americans can go to American schools, which is so outrageous that it felt like a cop out to not have to write any unfamiliar, non-American characters into the story (other than, obviously, half-American √Čtienne).

That said, once I got over how entirely different Anna's overseas schooling experience was from mine, I was sucked into this book like a tin roof into a tornado.  The plot is all too predictable (literally, nothing that you couldn't see coming from twelve miles away ever happened), but the writing is wonderful, the characters are enjoyable, and the setting is swoon-worthy.  It's heartfelt and hilarious, and I could not put it down.

My overall feelings towards this book are love, love, and more love.  The predictability and (at least in my opinion) inaccuracy are easy overlooked.  It's delicious.

14 April 2011

plot recall: pride and prejudice

As much as I like to pretend that, having read the SparkNotes for all these books, I'm just as cultured and knowledgeable as the people who've actually read them, I'm not.  I realized that today when, after reading the first chapter of Pride and Prejudice, I tried to recall what exactly I remembered about the book.  It's not impressive.  I couldn't carry on a conversation with someone about this book if a person was standing behind them with cue cards telling me the major plot points.  Because I wouldn't understand the context of them, the meaning of them, the people in them.  Here, let me prove it to you with my vast recollection of this novel's plot:
  • Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy fall in love, right?
  • And she has some sisters?
  • And one of them marries Mr. Bingley, who turns out to be an asshole?
That just about sums it up, no?

Let's hope my Nook charges quickly so I can get back to becoming cultured and intelligent and well-rounded.  That's right, all those things will result from my reading of this book.

13 April 2011

a start inspired by zombies

I recently checked out a copy of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies from the library.  Not because of the hype.  Not because of the trillion sequels and copies it has spawned.  Not even because of the rather disturbing cover.  No, I picked it up because of it's first line.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.
It is the truth.  So much the truth that I felt compelled to learn more zombie truths.  Which is odd, because in general I am not that big a fan of zombies.

Anyway.  I thought, perhaps, a simultaneous reading of this "quirk classic" and its namesake just might be in order.  And so it is decided that my first read, for the purposes of this project, will be Pride and Prejudice.

Pride and Prejudice was supposed to be read my junior year of high school, in a class appropriately named British Novel.  The teacher of this class was a stuck-up cow (I'm sorry, but it's the truth).  She is probably the reason I stopped reading books for classes.  She sucked the life out of them and is the only teacher who has ever made me cry.  And I'll admit that just to show how evil she was.  It's no wonder I didn't want to invest my time in her class.

Let's see if reading the book without a force of malevolent hatred looming over my shoulder goes any better than my first non-attempt.

12 April 2011

the suspects

Before I set off reading these books, it would probably be good to make a list. Not so that I can see it and say, "Wow! How on earth did I graduate from high school?!" or "Ha! I graduated without reading all of those books!" Actually, yes, that's exactly the effect I'm going for. That and something like, "Look at all the choices!" Because, as mentioned, I don't particularly like being told "Read this book and read it now!"

So prepare to be amazed. No really.

Freshman Year
  • Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Sophomore Year
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Okay, so those first two years, I did pretty well. Things start to go downhill from there though. Which is ironic considering these last two years I was allowed to choose my English classes, effectively choosing what books I was going to read "read" each semester.

Junior Year
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
  • One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (note: I actually read this book "for kicks" my sophomore year of college and loved it. My cat's even named after it.)
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
  • Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll (another note: I did read Alice's Adventures, but didn't touch Through the Looking Glass.)
  • The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde
  • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Told you.

Senior Year
  • The Odyssey by Homer (note excuse: in my defense, I did read a watered down version of this in both eighth and ninth grades. I was kind of over it.)
  • The Inferno by Dante
  • The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
  • Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
  • I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
  • Growing Up by Russell Baker
  • When Heaven and Earth Changed Places by Le Ly Hayslip
And I'm fairly certain something here is missing, because they apparently now read Beowulf in AP English, which we most definitely did not. What we did read escapes me. Obviously it wasn't that great if they felt the need to replace it.

So this is what I'm up against. Eighteen (possibly nineteen, if I can find the place in my brain the name of that last book is stored) books causing misery to students everywhere. Let's get started...tomorrow!

i said i read it, but i didn't

I have a confession. A secret that would baffle the minds of most of my high school English teachers. Those books you thought I read? The ones I aced those tests on and wrote those amazing papers about? Yeah, those. Well. I never read them. Not most of them anyway. There's something about being told that you have to read something, on schedule set by someone else, just so you can pass a test, that just kind of turned me off to reading books that were assigned. And what do those tests indicate anyway? Your basic levels of reading comprehension? Your ability to remember that gasp! Mr. Darcy's cravat was blue? Honestly, not worth my time. I had better things to do than memorize Dante's circles of hell (actually I didn't). So the majority of my high school literary experience boiled down to one thing: SparkNotes. Okay, two things. SparkNotes and movies. OKAY! Three things. SparkNotes and movies and asking people who had English before me what was on the test.

So now, some larger-than-I-would-like-to-admit number of years after graduation, I'm kind of starting to wonder why all those books were so great. Why do we make generation after generation of high school student read and analyze these books until their brains are numb? Because seriously, if the SparkNotes version of Great Expectations made me want to hold a book burning, I can only imagine the feelings harbored by those who actually wasted time reading it (hey, did I mention I got an A on my paper too?). There must be something special about these books if they're worth making students cry over them.

My mission? Read all those books I "read" but didn't actually read in high school. Maybe learn something about them that wasn't on the test. Figure out why they're so awesome and wonderful, or if English teachers everywhere are just bullies out to make us all insomniacs.

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