Never Let Me Go – Reaction

I’ve now read 6 1/2 books by Kazuo Ishiguro. At his best, he’s my favorite writer in the world: subtle, poignant, and deft at infusing hard questions into personal stories. Some of his novels just don’t resonate with me, though, and Never Let Me Go is unfortunately one of them. The premise – of clone children being raised for their organs – sounded horrifyingly fascinating and not as futuristic as it might have been when this was published (2005). The theme of how society can treat people as commodities is very relevant. Still, the book was highly tedious till the last part, and even then it barely picked up. The characters mostly felt more like placeholders than people. This was my second attempt, and while I did finish it this time, I don’t feel like I missed anything by the first DNF. However, I know others have got more of out it than I did, so do give it a try if you’re interested in the topic. I will give a more detailed video review soon.

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January Catch-Up – Five Reviews

I feel like this is going to be another whirlwind year in slow motion (yes, that’s a thing). Goodreads says I’m already behind on my reading challenge. Oh well—I’ve been reading, anyway!

Here are some books I’ve needed to review but didn’t feel like doing an entire post or video about. Naturally, it’s turned out to be a long post, so brace yourselves…

Continue reading “January Catch-Up – Five Reviews”

Sunshine Blogger Award / Tag

Thanks to Hamlette for nominating me for the Sunshine Blogging Award! Be sure to check out her blog for fun movie reviews with lots of great pictures! 🙂

Sunshine Blogger Award Rules

  1. Thank the blogger who nominated you in the blog post and link back to their blog. 
  2. Answer the 11 questions the blogger asked you. 
  3. Nominate 11 new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions. 
  4. List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post and/or on your blog. 

The Questions

  1. Fantasy or sci-fi? – Sci-fi because I enjoy the direct intersection with real-world stuff.
  2. Tragedy or comedy? – Comedy! I say that after having read The Metamorphosis for the 5th time and trying to suppress tears for poor old Gregor, even though I knew exactly what was going to happen. I guess I tend to watch comedy and read tragedy. In general I have a lower tolerance for drama these days (got enough of my own haha).
  3. Fiction or nonfiction? – Fiction
  4. Snow or rain? – I’m one of those weirdos who absolutely adores rain.
  5. Orange juice or apple juice? – OJ
  6. Christmas or Easter? – Easter—or as Tolkien put it, “the eucatastrophe of the story of the Incarnation.” On a selfish/personal note…I prefer Easter because it has all of the joy, none of the holiday blues I can’t seem to avoid at Christmas.
  7. Middle-earth or Narnia? – Hm… I love ME, but I think Narnia is more of a fun and charming place. Given the choice, I’d rather live there.
  8. Marvel or DC? – I’ve yet to get into superhero comics or movies…
  9. Star Wars or Star Trek? – So…I’ve only watched A New Hope (twice) and The Empire Strikes Back (once). I literally fell asleep during the second one. So I don’t know if I’m a good judge of Star Wars yet. However, I could watch Star Trek TNG any day, or TOS for that matter. Even Into Darkness and Beyond, though in many ways atrocious, were pretty fun to watch. I love the characters, types of plotlines, and psychological themes. The Cold War influence also checks off the history box for me.
  10. Old movies or new movies? – Quality being equal—intelligent script, not too much CGI, good acting, good score, etc—I prefer new movies. Modern filmmakers can do so much more, technically speaking, and there’s more mediums to influence or challenge them to higher quality (I’m thinking YouTube here). My top 3 films from last year were all pretty recent. However, what I most miss about old movies are those crazy long epics with Intermission in the middle, with basically a whole symphony for a movie score. I think we need to bring those back.
  11. Old books or new books? – I’ve been reading more new books lately, but I still prefer old. ^_^

Nominations

I nominate anyone who had the patience to read through my answers! Honestly, I’d enjoy getting to know everybody better, so feel free to do the tag on your blog or in the comments. 🙂

My Questions

  1. If you go back and read one book for the first time again, which would it be?
  2. Do you eat ice cream, and if so, what is your favorite flavor?
  3. What was the most memorable event or concert you ever attended?
  4. What do you like best about yourself?
  5. Is there a book you would never, ever read?
  6. Second-best way to spend a rainy day? (Reading is the best, right?)
  7. Cats or dogs?
  8. Best pizza topping combo?
  9. If you could recommend one fictional book, what would it be?
  10. Earliest reading memory?
  11. What’s something you’re looking forward to this year?
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An Old-Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott

An Old-Fashioned Girl (1869) was the January pick for the Early New England Literature book club on Goodreads. I’ve been curious about Alcott’s other fiction for a while now, so thought I would join in for this. I started the book a bit early and finished in short order (1 week, which is fast for me).

It’s the classic “town mouse and country mouse” story, with Polly Milton as the “old-fashioned” heroine and Fanny Shaw as her more sophisticated and worldly friend. Polly goes to visit Fanny when they are both small girls, so a good portion of the story follows their everyday adventures and Polly’s crush on Fanny’s brother Tom. The book then takes a leap in time to when they are all grown up, and the old childish games are now replaced by romantic drama and intrigue. Polly must find her place in a harsh world as a poor girl with rich friends, while her own envy and desires become her pitfalls.

While I only gave this 3 stars, it was an enjoyable read in its own way. Alcott manages to pull you along in almost (though not quite) the pacing of Little Women (1868-69). I was surprised the two stories were written so closely together. I feel the better content made its way into LW.

The strengths of An Old-Fashioned Girl are to some extent incidental, stemming from it being a product of its time. What I got most from it was that little has changed from the 1860s. For example, Fanny Shaw and her little sister are allowed/encouraged to be romantic at a young age (even six years old) and dress to impress boys. There are implications that the urban, upper classes have looser morals, or at least more license, than the rural, lower classes. (This is a stereotype but I think there’s a grain of truth there.) The allusions to American slang vs. more “cultured” language was fleeting but interesting. Polly represents the lower working class and the women’s rights movement, similarly to Jo March. Unlike Jo, however, Polly is also very feminine, more religious, and a bit of a homebody. I found this combination of traits pretty interesting.

What I found irritating about the book was that Polly is also a “Mary Sue.” The way I personally define “Mary Sue” is a female character with negligible negative traits, an abundance of good traits, and almost universally liked by everyone. The trouble with Polly is that her negative traits are never so very negative that they make a big impact on her or others. There were one or two incidents where they gave her a little trouble, but it blew over very quickly and easily. I felt the characters of LW were far better developed in this regard. (Polly is essentially a more poorly written version of Meg, in my opinion.)

Final thought—and this goes for most classic literature—is that anyone looking for modern themes is going to be disappointed, in spite of the first-wave feminism. The gender roles and characterizations here are very strongly traditional, even exaggerated. I lean more traditional but even I found some of it a bit heavy-handed. It is what is; certainly of historical and cultural value.

All in all—this could be worth reading if you’re interested in Alcott’s other writing. If you aren’t familiar with her work, definitely start with Little Women.

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The Screwtape Letters & “Screwtape Proposes a Toast”

Letters written by a devil for a devil? Odd reading for Christmas, wouldn’t ya say?

I had something of this thought when I settled down to read The Screwtape Letters over Christmas Eve & Day. Knowing, however, C. S. Lewis’s approach to writing—plus the praise I’ve heard about this book from different friends (most recently Stephen’s review)—I was inspired to go for it, at long last.

Our narrator is Uncle Screwtape, an old and “wise” devil who is writing to his nephew Wormwood, who is a devil in training. Wormwood’s assignment is to try to malignly influence a certain young Christian man, who remains unnamed, as the Christian journeys through young love and the horrors of the Second World War. Think of it as a Pilgrim’s Progress, except from the antagonist’s perspective.

I was amazed how Lewis managed to write a dark humorous satire without making me feel icky about it. Truly, some humans I’ve interacted with speak more detestably than Screwtape. However, the point of this book is not to shock the reader (not even to the extent of my favorite of Lewis’s novels, Till We Have Faces). What Lewis is doing here is opening the reader’s eyes to threats and diversions encountered in a Christian’s life, some of them so subtle because they are masked under a more “administrative” or contemporary terror. Apart from illuminating issues in the wider world, I also felt he brought up one or two “logs in my own eye” which was unexpected and effective. Finally, the character of the off-screen Christian was beautifully painted, even though we could only get to know him through the unsavory narrator.

The Screwtape Letters is a new favorite of mine. I felt it covered some of the same ground as The Abolition of Man and That Hideous Strength but in a stronger way.

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