Book Review: The Voyage Out

The Voyage Outby Virginia Woolf

I love Woolf. To the Lighthouse is probably one of my favorite books ever. The Voyage out is not quite what I was expecting. It’s written in a narrative-style reminiscent of the typical novel of the period, and not quite what I had grown to expect from Woolf. The prose was fantastic, and she manages to capture little ideas and emotions that are generally not dealt with in books. For instance, at one point the main character feels irritated with the actions of all of those around her, merely because she is lost in thought and does not want to be interrupted. Who hasn’t felt that?

I think my problem with the book may be the fact that the back cover synopsis of the Barnes and Noble Classics edition did not feel at all like the book. In a nutshell it said “Helen notices Rachel is growing up when her engagement to Terrence Hewet starts to go badly”. Well, when you take into account Hewet doesn’t even show up ’til midway through the book and they’re not engaged until mid-way through and Helen is less mature than her niece and…well, not so much Barnes and Noble synopsis-folks.

The nature of the feminine struggle, more explicitly dealt with in A Room of One’s own, is prominent in this book. Woolf deftly portrays views on either side of the debate, and whilst to the modern reader the fact that the lives of men and women are disparate is slightly absurd, this novel makes one realize how real the struggle really was.

Plus, there’s a passage with one woman bragging about her knitting.

Did I mention I love Woolf?

Book Review: Villette

by Charlotte Brontë

I technically started this book in September, but I set it aside for a while and didn’t finish it until last week. Towards the end I had to force myself to read fifty pages a day just to finish it. That said, it’s not a completely horrible book, but I was not a fan.

Too many of the occurrences were amazingly contrived. For instance, the main character, Lucy Snowe moves to an entirely different country and yet still manages to run into her godmother and, in a completely different fashion, a little girl for whom her godmother cared for ten years apart? No, don’t think so.

Also, Brontë’s prose, while brilliant, is very often preach-y. A big thing she seemed passionate about in this book was the differences between Catholicism and Protestantism. But this was not too well-woven into the story. Long passages devoted to it exist instead, just barely tied onto the characters.

I liked the main character, but thought her final relationship was a bit disappointing. She ends up with a man who has tormented her for most of the book, in a very condescending way. She seems to end up with him because she is sympathetic to his past and he buys her a school.

Still, it’s got some interesting characters, but not one I’d read again.

Book Review: Mockingbird



by Charles J. Shields

Called “A portrait of Harper Lee” by the author, I would call this: “A portrait of Harper Lee, but not the details people really care about”, but that’s me. Honestly, it seems to be a little bit more about Truman Capote than his friend Nelle Harper Lee. Personally, I would have liked to spend a little less time in the novel talking about her time helping Capote with “In Cold Blood” I also thought that there was too much talk about the people that surrounded Lee.

I was interested in the little details about the similarities between Lee’s childhood and the world of Maycomb she portrays in the novel; and the looks into the reasons that she did not write a second novel, but I also somewhat disapprove of the fact that the book was written directly against Harper Lee’s wishes.

Book Review: Enchantment


Enchantment by Orson Scott Card

I first read this book in my sophomore year of high school, after my Chemistry teacher lent it to me and bought it for myself this week after being reminded of it by the new movie Enchanted. Very far removed from Card’s Ender series this book still shows his calling cards especially in the beginning when the reader is introduced to Ivan, a precocious ten-year-old. The rest of the story, though, bears little resemblance to the space-based world of the other tales. Card explores a different world in this tale, the fantasy what-if of: “What if Sleeping Beauty was awakened in Russia in 1992?”

What I find amazing in this book is the incredible mix of Russian folklore, Jewish and Christian history, contemporary politics and just good story telling. The classic Russian arch-nemesis, Baba Yaga is after the kingdom of the gorgeous princess Katerina. Ivan, who just happens to be a scholar of ancient tongues, understands her proto-slavic, and is taken back to her time, 900 AD, to become her husband.

A modern athlete, but not suited for medieval living, he works hard to fit in with her time while also wishing to go home. He is not immediately attached to his fiancée either, and they do not really fall in love until he brings her back to the US in 1992 where his family emigrated. They make the plans needed to attempt to defeat Baba Yaga’s army with the help of his mother (a witch, which he only finds out when Katerina recognizes it)

Although some of this feels a bit contrived, within the novel it works well, is woven together with just a hint of mystery at the end to imply that there is more under the surface that the reader is not allowed to know. It may be the case that Card himself didn’t know, but let’s give him the benefit of the doubt. I love this book for it’s wonderful mix of fairy tale and modernity and highly recommend it.

Book Review: Pledged (The Secret Life of Sororities)


Pledged: The Secret Life of Sororities by Alexandra Robbins

I picked this book up the other day, buying a copy for a friend for Christmas and then buying one for myself, just to read it.

It focuses mainly on West Coast sororities, at big schools which I don’t doubt are party schools in the first place. The book follows four girls, three in the same sorority and one in another, through a year of school. Throughout the narrative, the author cites different accounts and studies also having to do with sorority life. It seems to be a well-researched and in-depth description of sorority life.

Except… not much of it rang a bell with me. I’m a sorority girl, yes. I party more than some college students, maybe. I have chapter once a week, ritual, recruitment. There’s girl drama, of course, but… we don’t haze. We have eight girls tops in the house, not a hundred. We dn’t turn people down because they’re not tall and blue-eyed, or if they’re disabled. We have girls of many nationalities, we have girls that don’t drink.

Even the one sorority on campus that probably most closely resembles the ones in the book has girls that I adore; that work hard in school and aren’t necessarily just party girls. And, really, the service, co-ed, fraternity that I pledged this year had more work for only pledges to do, and more that could be seen as “hazing” than my sorority did.

So while I am sure that the book is a good investigation into many sororities, I did not find that it is a good generalization of all Greek life. So, don’t judge us all by Legally Blone, or this book either.

Book Review: Starbucked

Starbucked: A Double Tall Tale of Caffeine, Commerce, and Culture

I’m not too into non-fiction, not gonna lie, but I decided to read this as soon as I saw it, because as many know, I am addicted to Starbucks. This book was very interesting, and I learned a lot about the history of coffee and about the company which was mainly why I bought it. It was clear in reading it that the author, a journalist, set out rather biasedly to speak against Starbucks, but was not really able to succeed.

Yes, there were a few things to speak negatively about, free trade, expensive coffee, paying mostly for milk and so on. However, he had to admit the differences between Starbucks and other chains such as McDonald’s and other things that were mostly ambiguous. It definitely would not stop me from getting Starbucks and it was educational as well.

Book Review: Memoirs of a Geisha

Memoirs of a Geisha
I know, who hasn’t read this, what with the movie and everything, but I admit that I hadn’t. I borrowed it from a friend in September and have been reading it off and on since. It’s a good book, and a really good introduction to a culture i didn’t know much about. The characters are well developed and interesting, and it’s not too confusing. It had been a while since I saw the movie, but having seen it helped me picture things well too.

However, I lost interest a little bit in the book at the same point as I had in the movie, around the part when they are worried about Chiyo’s virginity. the action dies down a bit, but I really liked the ending. It definitely fit better than the movie.

Overall, I liked the book, but it’s probably not one I’ll reread too many times, but it was a good read.

Book Review: The Pinhoe Egg



The Pinhoe Egg

I first discovered Diana Wynne Jones when I was twelve and shelving books in our middle school library. There I found Witch Week which I love. Since then I’ve read and reread all of the Chrestomanci books, and several of her other books, and always loved them. She’s a fantastic author.

The Pinhoe egg is very good. It explores more of Chrestomanci and Cat’s worlds, it has griffins and magical creatures… but honestly? After the others, it is a bit of a let down. The action takes a long while to build up, and then climaxes quickly with no real “the characters figure things out for themselves” per say. No real danger in a typical way for her books. So, whilst I liked it, I don’t find it comparable to her other books.

Book Review: Elsewhere

Elsewhere (Ala Notable Children’s Books. Older Readers) by Gabrielle Zevin

Okay, so, I write Young Adult fiction, and so I am always on the lookout for good examples of it. They’re not always easy to find. This is a genre that needs some serious attention, because among all of the ridiculously pointless and out there fantasy (and I do like good fantasy) and then the chick-lit, popular girl titles there is precious little of weight. Greats like Tamora Pierce, Madeline L’Engle, Dodie Smith and others are, in my opinion, under appreciated.

I even think that most middle reader books are better than YA. But this review isn’t about my views on writing. It’s about Elsewhere.

I picked it up because the author wrote another book (Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac) that I want to read, but then I couldn’t put this one down. It’s incredibly creative. Even though the “dead teenage girl coping with death” thing has been done and even the alternative to heaven is reminiscent of The Lovely Bones: A NovelI still found this book very original because of the little details.

In it, Liz is a fifteen-year-old girl who is killed when she is hit by a cab driver. When she wakes up, she’s in Elsewhere, a kind of otherworld where humans spend time growing backwards, until as babies again they go back to Earth. I doubt it’s never been done, but I like the way Zevin deals with it. She also manages to put a sweet love story in it, and says a lot about the nature of life and time.

There, are, though, some elements that I could do without. The dead communicate with the living through…. water. Original, but a little odd for me. Also, the insistence that Liz was, in life, “a normal fifteen year old”, just because I don’t think such a thing exists.

But other than that, I really enjoyed this book. The aging backwards when you came to care about the character was painful, and I admit to crying at the end. I wish there had been a little bit more of her family’s dealing with her death, and, well, I won’t ruin it, but a little more detail on her choice to make a certain decision.

But, as much as I liked it, I can’t let go of the similarity to The Lovely Bones.

Book Review: The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren


The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren

If you read my book reviews you’re probably going to get some odd ones in here. I’m interesting like that.

This book caught my eye…. No, actually it found me, walking past the shelves that are never looked at in the library, the ones I past while walking from the computers in the back, the ones that people only use when the main ones are full. Don’t ask me why I pulled it off the shelves, but upon flipping through it I knew that if I didn’t check it out I’d end up being late for class, and I am the type who goes to class.

Not many college students would be interested in a married couples 1959 study of schoolchildren’s habits, but I have odd fascinations from time to time. At nine it was Titanic. Twelve, the Romanovs. Fourteen, Harry Potter.

So I checked it out. And in it found variants, I kid you not, of every rhyme and superstition I knew as a kid. Some were noted as coming from the US, but others were widely known all over the English speaking world.

And tonight? There it was, the rhyme my grandma had told me, to my delight, over and over as a child: “What’s your name?” I’d ask, persistantly? “Pudding-and-tame, ask me again and I’ll tell you the same.”

It’s weird, but fascinating, to know what you share with other children from centuries past. And I, who am in a weird phase between child and adult, found this book a fascinating rumination on the nature of the child.

It’s out of print, but if it ever calls to you from a shelf, give it a whirl!