Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket

I turned twenty this last week. This age seemed to sneak up on me and I feel in NO way prepared to be twenty years old. I still do a lot of the same things I did when I was younger. I still like a lot of the same books and a lot of the same TV shows that aren't exactly "age appropriate."

The other day as I was surfing Netflix, I discovered that one of my favorite TV shows from my childhood was available to watch instantly. I thought to myself, sure I want to watch Arthur all day long! I have now begun to watch Arthur almost every day, and I am only about 10% ashamed of watching it.

One of my favorite episodes is about the character Fern and her favorite author Persimmony Glitchet and his book series about Horrible Happenings. I loved this episode because when I was younger, I was obsessed with the Series of Unfortunate Events books. This episode of Arthur inspired me to start rereading this series of books. So I began in the only possible place, The Bad Beginning.

"If you are interested in stories with happy endings, you would be better off reading some other book. In this book, not only is there no happy ending, there is no happy beginning and very few happy things in the middle. This is because not very many happy things happened in the lives of the three Baudelaire youngsters."

As you will have noticed by now, I am in love with the first lines of books and this in no exception. I remember picking this book up when I was younger and being completely enthralled by the book after only the first few sentences simply because of how unconventional this book began. Snicket tells you up front that this is a book that you should simply put down the second you pick it up.

My favorite part of these books is the author's voice. The dark humor that Snicket uses is something that as an adult, I am now enjoying so much more than when I was a little girl. Although the book is slightly repetitive, it never gets boring because of how the author talks to you as a reader. The sense of mystery that begins with the dedication to Beatrice (darling, dearest, dead), continues to the last page, when the dastardly Count Olaf escapes from the first of his plans to acquire the Baudelaire fortune.

The best author's voice moment in this book, in my humble opinion, happens as Klaus stays up one night reading an incredibly boring law book. Snicket writes:

"The book was long, and difficult to read, and Klaus became more and more tired as the night wore on. Occasionally his eyes would close. He found himself reading the same sentence over and over. He found himself reading the same sentence over an over. He found himself reading the same sentence over and over."

Ok. So I was reading this at my local Barnes and Noble and I literally laughed out loud to the point of disturbing those around me. I read the second sentence and got so confused, starting back at the top of the paragraph. It took me about three tries until I figured out what was going on, and then my mocha shot out of my nose. Good day for me.

Also, Lemony Snicket always seems to have a gem of philosophy at least once in his books. They always stick out in my brain and even years later I can remember the phrases I like from almost all of his books.

"Unless you have been very, very lucky, you have undoubtedly experienced events in your life that have made you cry. So unless you have been very, very lucky, you know that a good, long session of weeping can often make you feel better, even if your circumstances have not changed one bit."

I'm a fan of tears. I weep at everything ever. And I always feel that at least once every three months, I need a big old fashioned weep party where I don't move from my bed and cry for two hours. Even if nothing is wrong, I always feel more centered after a good cry, usually induced by reading The Book Thief. Now, I know that the above quote may seem a bit redundant as most people I know also enjoy a good cry but sometimes hearing obvious things like this is a good thing. They remind you that you aren't alone in feeling better after a fit of tears. And learning a universal truth brings you back together with the rest of humanity.

I love this book and I believe that no matter what your age is, everyone should be required to read this book because of how clever the writing is and how connected the story stays, even across 13 books. I'll be reading the rest of the series at some point, so look forward to more reviews!

Until next time, happy reading! Send me your book recommendations if you have them, I’d be happy to check them out and review them all! Leave any comments below! I’d love to hear them! 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Flawless: Pretty Little Liars Book #2 by Sara Shepard

So, I typically tend to avoid dramatic situations as much as I can. Mostly I like life that involves me sitting on my bed, reading books or sleeping or watching The Tudors on Netflix. I don't even usually like dramatic TV shows. But then one day during Spring Break of last year, one of my best friends, Mary, introduced me to the intoxicating hot mess that is Pretty Little Liars the TV show. This was one dramatic show that I love sinking my teeth into!

After watching all of the first season in one day, I was addicted and ran out and bought the first book. It was great but very different. Excited by that first taste of the book, I recently bought the second book and finished it. In lieu of the reveal of "A" on last night's episode of PLL on ABC Family (OH MY LORD BLEW MY MIND), I feel like now is a great time to review the second book in the book series.

"You know that boy who lives a few doors down from you who's just the creepiest person alive? When you're on your front porch, about to kiss your boyfriend good night, you might glimpse him across the street, just standing there. He'll randomly appear when you're gossiping with your best friends- except maybe it's not so random at all. He's the black cat who seems to know your route. If he rides by your house, you think, I'm going to fail my bio exam. If he looks at you funny, watch your back.

Every town has a black-cat boy. In Rosewood, his name was Toby Cavanaugh."

This book begins with a small flashback from before Allison was murdered, which if you are familiar with the books or the TV show, is a big event simply known as The Jenna Thing. After that flash back, the book begins right where the first book in the series began, immediately after Allison's funeral. The little liars are all receiving menacing messages from "A," who is seemingly all knowing, omnipresent and out to get these four girls. So what this translates to is DRAMA x 4!!!

In this book, Emily grapples with whether she wants to give up swimming and trying to decide what her true sexual orientation is as her feelings grow for Maya. Spencer has a continuing attraction for Wren and continual disapproval from her parents as well as her over achieving sister, Melissa. Hanna has broken up with the love of her junior high life, Sean, after wrecking his car and trying to have sex with him. And Aria still has a crush on her sexy English teacher while trying to keep her father's former affair with a student under wraps. So, you got all that? I told you, DRAMA x 4!!!!

This is a fun book to read, especially after reading heavy books about the holocaust or dystopian futures full of death; everyone needs some smut fiction now and then. The drama is very intoxicating and it's easy to just slip into reading this book without giving it too much thought. The need to know who "A" is will keep you coming back for more, even if the book itself gets a bit boring after a while.

For the rest of the review, I'm gonna try as hard as I possibly can to not spoil anything for fans of the books and the TV shows alike.

Now, I may be a bit biased because I saw the television show first but I enjoy the television show A LOT more than the book. Granted, the books are very different, with certain people dying who are central to the plot on the current TV show. Because I'm so partial... ok... obsessed... with the TV show, I found the changes in the book to be a bit hard to swallow. Mostly... I'm in love with Ezra Fitz and with him not being involved in Aria's life... I will always be unhappy.

Another reason I like the TV show better and why I am not a fan of the books as a whole is because of how the friendship between the girls is set up and how they act in general. I feel like in the book, there is less camaraderie between the girls, even this early on. On the show, it always felt that they had a bit of a connection and in the book they feel completely distant. I wouldn't even know they were once friends from the writing. You know how it is when you were SO close to someone as friends and now you never talk. When you see them around, there is always that awkward "I know so many secrets and feelings you have... but we're not friends anymore, what do I say... OH MY GOSH HEEEEEY you look soooo good.... *awkward stare*" moment between you two. These girls seem like they were never friends to begin with. I miss that because on the show there is always an energy of friendship between them. The book feels like four completely separate stories connected by a tiny thread of "A" texts. That makes me sad.

I find the girls in the books completely unrelatable as well. Whenever it talks about what they are wearing, it is always a designer brand. I find that to be a bit of a given because of where the story is set and how wonderfully the setting and school is described by the author. We know we are in a posh society, we really don't need to know that Hanna is only wearing Gucci or that Spencer hates her Aldo shoes. If it was said maybe once or twice, or only on a special occasion, like a dress for a dance, it wouldn't bug me as much. It's the fact that EVERY time an article of clothing is discussed, there is a name brand attached to it. What's great about the TV show is that you know they are all wearing designer brands but I know that I could go to H & M and look basically the same as Aria does. It's harder to care about their problems if their richness is beaten into your skull. Oooh rich people problems, you're life is so hard, go buy more shoes. The girls on the show are much more relatable.

The book is a lot of fun but because of how partial I am to the TV show, I doubt I'll read any more of the books. I want to be surprised by everything on the show and even if they are changing a lot of it from the books, I don't want to have any idea at all about what could be a possible happening. So, yes I recommend the books if you need a fun read to get sucked into but as for me, I'll stick to my TV obsession!

Until next time, happy reading! Send me your book recommendations if you have them, I’d be happy to check them out and review them all! Leave any comments below! I’d love to hear them! 

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

"When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold. My fingers stretch out, seeking Prim's warmth but finding only the rough canvas cover of the mattress. She must have had bad dreams and climbed in with our mother. Of course, she did. This is the day of the reaping."

From the first sentence of this book, there is not one feeling of safety or calm for the entirety of its 374 pages. Unless you've been living under a rock for the past year or so, you'll be familiar with those first few lines of the book that has swept across the world like an epidemic. Everyone has Hunger Games fever, including me.

This is my second time reading this book and to be honest, I loved it even more the second time around. Part of that definitely had to do with the fact that I wasn't steamrolling through it so I could finish the series in two days. Part of it is also that this time around, I really wanted to pay attention to how these characters were reacting to their surroundings and to what is happening to them.

Now would be the time for the SPOILER ALERT.

I've read all three books and like a lot of people I've talked to, I did NOT enjoy the third book in the least. The climax was built to so perfectly, only to let us be left with a husk of the former glorious Katniss, no final words from Gale, and an unsettling feeling about the future of Panem. I'll save my opinions for the third book for a later post. For now, let's focus on the beginning of the games.

This book really was, and still is a huge game changer in fiction, young adult fiction in particular. Dystopian books have always been around (1984, anyone?) but this book really brought that genre into popular culture, I feel. This book kind of did what Twilight did for the paranormal romance genre by making it mainstream. After The Hunger Games came out, it seemed like a gazillion dystopian books came out. As of now we have the Matched series, the Divergent series, The Maze Runner series, and all are strikingly similar to The Hunger Games. I'm in no way saying this is wrong, I'm a huge fan of Dystopian lit, but the Games started it all. And what a perfect way to begin the craze than with such an amazing, well written book.

Ooooooh Katniss Everdeen. I don't know about you all but I would love to be Katniss. Sort of. Partly. Maybe. Ok. Well, maybe I just want to be the best at archery like she is. (Side note, for all of you who have read A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray.. is Katniss not a less bitchy and cooler version of Felicity? I digress.) And I wouldn't mind having the boys she's surrounded by. Peeta, sweet Peeta and sex panther Gale. I'll take both, please!

Katniss is such a great character and her character takes such an interesting journey. This time reading through, now with the knowledge of who Katniss becomes in the second and third books, I was dreading getting to know her character again, the image of the apathetic spazz from the later books fresh in my mind. But, I discovered that maybe her apathy from the later books isn't truly apathetic. Katniss has seen a lot of (for lack of a better word) shit in her lifetime, from her father being blown up, to her mother completely losing it, to watching the Games every year. She has no time for feelings and in her head, she can't allow herself to grow attached to anything or feel anything. The weight of the world was sort of thrust onto her shoulders and she has to take care of everyone in that world. She's not apathetic or unfeeling, she's determined and guarded. I related to her a lot more now that I'm rereading her character.

Suzanne Collins is really such a brilliant author and, I think, a master of foreshadowing. Notice how the first lines of the book are Katniss reaching for someone's hand, only to feel emptiness. Now let's take a gander at the last lines:

"Out of the corner of my eye, I see Peeta extend his hand. I look at him, unsure. "One more time? For the audience?" he says. His voice isn't angry. It's hollow, which is worse. Already the boy with the bread is slipping away from me. I take his hand, holding on tightly, preparing for the cameras, dreading the moment when I finally have to let go."

You begin with Katniss searching for a hand to hold, and end with her holding a hand but knowing she will soon have to let go and be lost and alone again. It's puzzling because I can't decide whether Katniss was more alone before the games began when she was with her family and Gale but choosing to stick to herself or NOW that the games are over and she's losing Peeta while she is also unsure about whether she has lost Gale and whether the Capitol will kill her or her family because of her actions in the games. Poor Katniss, the world was on her side and now it's crumbling around her.

As for the Peeta/ Katniss/ Gale triangle, here's the situation as I'm seeing it now. I... still don't freaking know. The first time I read the book, I thought Peeta made up his crush for the games but now... I feel like he's loved her the whole time, which is very precious. Gale as a character is robbed air time in all three of the books, which is sad because of his sex pantherness. Katniss, I still feel, is unsure of who she truly likes. I see a more raw animal magnetism between her and Gale, but I mean, look at that last paragraph. I think she falls for Peeta as the games press on. Caring for someone like that in a cave has to mean something to her, as unfeeling and determined as she is.

As far as who's team I'm on in the boy category... I was a die hard team Gale my first time through but now... Gah, Peeta is just so cute, right? I imagine him as a cute, kinda sexy Pillsbury Dough Boy. Play with that thought for a minute and tell me that's not the most delightful thing you've ever envisioned. But Gale is just so.... grrrr. Right?

Back to serious book talk. *adjusts glasses*

This book came out at the perfect time. A dystopian future isn't too unusual of a thought, is it? Especially not in the world of Panem. I feel like we are about 2 steps away from having our own Hunger Games. It's like Survivor meets Saw meets The Bachelor, something that I think would be pretty awesome, but also terrible. We have a weird obsession with gore as a society nowadays, don't we? And an even greater obsession with technology. I find it interesting that in Panem, a television is in every single home and everyone watches this reality TV program while they are also starving and scrounging for food. Seems pretty similar to a lot of people I know. I know a few people personally who are on welfare and when they got their huge refund check back from taxes, they bought four iPads and a new TV. (How perfect, Happy new iPad day today!) That really would be a perfect way to control the masses, give everyone at least fifteen minutes of fame, even if it means certain death!

I find it amazing also that Collins was able to really give personalities to the other tributes for the most part. Even though you only see them all briefly, you feel connected to them. Personally, I'm a big Thresh fan. Good for him for caring so much for Rue and letting Katniss go. (I'm not even going to get into Rue... too sad and beautiful) Also, how cool to just kill Glimmer with a rock. Can't wait to see that int he movie. Foxface also holds a special place in my heart. She's a pretty tragic death I think and I love how easily I can see her in my mind. She's a character I remember the most.

All in all, this is without a doubt my favorite book in the series and it gets even better the second time through. If you have read it, read it again. If you haven't, buckle up for a crazy ride in this book.

Until next time, happy reading! Send me your book recommendations if you have them, I’d be happy to check them out and review them all! Leave any comments below! I’d love to hear them!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

First, I have to warn you, this is going to be a very gushy blog. I hope this isn't typical of my blogs but I mean... this book. THIS BOOK.

Second, if you haven’t read this book, stop reading this blog immediately and go get a copy of this book and READ IT NOW! I’ll wait…



Got your copy? Read it? Good.

When the time came for me to read again, I chose an old favorite,The Book Thief. I’ve read the book twice before and loved it. Now, as weird as this sounds, I was in the mood for a Holocaust book. Actually, to be more specific, I was in the mood for this book. I've read it about 7 or 8 times now and it never ceases to amaze me. There is always more to love and I cry like a baby every time. 

This book is about a girl named Liesel Meminger. In 1939, her mother and brother are traveling with her to her new foster parent’s home. But her brother dies on the train ride there and in Nazi Germany, there is no time for stopping for long. They bury him and during the burial, Liesel picks up a book out of the snow, The Grave Digger’s Handbook. Thus begins a “love affair with books and words.” Through the book, Liesel clings to her books as she enters her new family, deals with her neighbor Rudy who is always looking for a kiss, and when her family chooses to hide a Jew in their basement. Oh, and did I mention that the narrator of this book is Death? Yeah, amazing. Kudos to Mr. Zusak, most brilliant idea ever. 

This book if 550 pages and on each page is a line that burns into your memory. While I was reading this book, I had a conversation with my mom about the importance of the first lines of books. Those first few words have so much power of your perception of the rest of the book. Here are the first few lines of this book:

“First the colors. Then the humans. That’s usually how I see things. Or at least, how I try.”

In an interview about this book, Zusak says that he struggled with letting Death narrate the book because for a while, Death was too evil. But in this final edition, Death is tired. The Second World War is bearing down on him just as it is on the rest of the world. 

In this book, Death explains how he sees the colors of the human soul. This is one of those books that cannot just be read once to fully appreciate it. Each time I read it, something new stuck out to me and this time it was the colors. Recently at my school, my theater class did a play called The Yellow Boat and color played a giant role in the show. So obviously, I was paying close attention to color in this story. It’s importance cannot be missed. 

Zusak is a masterful writer. The description he uses in this book is haunting and illuminating, captivating and enthralling. It’s pretty much every word you can think of and then some; it’s perfect. He bathes you in metaphor and color and this isn’t an overbearing bath, this is a perfect temperature bath with the right amount of bubbles and the perfect amount of water. He sees things down to the best and last detail. If something is yellow, it isn’t plain yellow or even sunny yellow, it’s the color of lemons. It’s details like that that make this book stick in your mind.

“As the crowd arrived in full, things, of course, had changed. The horizon was beginning to charcoal. What was left of the blackness above was nothing now but a scribble, and disappearing fast.

The man, in comparison, was the color of bone. Skeleton-colored skin. A ruffled uniform. His eyes were cold and brown- like coffee stains- and the last scrawl from above formed what, to me, appeared an odd, yet familiar, shape. A signature.”


Take a second. Let that seep into your skin. His description is what makes this book so real, the characters so tangible. I know each and every character. I can see them perfectly and I love them dearly as if they were my own family.

Literally, I cannot even type about this book enough or fast enough or anything of the sort. I have too many thoughts about this book. And for now, I’m starting to cry again which is making typing unnecessarily hard. Just please trust me on this, DO NOT MISS THIS BOOK. I recommend this book above any other book I have ever read or will read. No book has ever touched me more or stayed with me longer. 

Just reread this blog. It's super sporadic but that's about all I can calmly say about this book. Just read it.

Until next time, happy reading! Send me your book recommendations if you have them, I’d be happy to check them out and review them all! Leave any comments below! I’d love to hear them!

Come Read With Me!

Hello! My name is Emma Phelps. I'm 20 years old (in 14 days) and I currently live in Cedar City, Utah. I'm an English/ Theatre major at Southern Utah University and the thing I love more than mostly anything is reading books. I try to read at least a book a week, but college has disrupted that quite a bit, but I'm trying my hardest to get back into reading.

I had a blog where I reviewed the books I read but after I got to college, I seemed to forget about it, which I am quite sad about. Needless to say, I miss reviewing books and I want to start doing it again.

I invite all of your comments and book recommendations! I love hearing the thoughts of other readers!

I hope you visit my blog often! Thanks for reading with me!