The Blogging of a Book Addict

“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library." - Jorge Luis Borges

Four Plays By The Charabanc Theatre Company: Inventing Women's Work

Four Plays By The Charabanc Theatre Company: Inventing Women's Work - Claudia  Harris This review is only for "Somewhere Over the Balcony" which I read as part of a literature course.

An excellent political play...dark and twisted humor with just the right amount of absurdity. I truly wish I had the opportunity to see this live, because done right, it would be absolutely outstanding.

The Prince (Xist Classics)

The Prince (Xist Classics) - Niccolo Machiavelli I have fulfilled my duty as a political science major and read this. Excellent, fantastic, intriguing, and a superbly entertaining read for a nerd like me.

Initium

Initium - Courtney Cole I don't know what to think. For the first half of this, it made perfect sense, and I felt like I was beginning to get answers, and then everything went crazy once more. Honestly, at this point I'm not entirely sure if I like this series or hate it, but I really need to know where it's all going in the end.

The Fiery Trial

The Fiery Trial - Maureen Johnson, Cassandra Clare Sometimes things hit you with all of the feels. This is one of those times.

Medea

Medea - Euripides, Gilbert Murray "More like Meh-dea, amiright?"

I am not typically a fan of ancient writings, and Medea was no exception. That said, I didn't dislike the play so much as I was rather bored by it. I was also rather annoyed at the depiction of Medea as an insane monster (even though I knew it was coming): but hell hath no fury, as they say.

In short, if you're a fan of ancient literature, you might like this a bit more than me...but suffice to say it's also a reasonably interesting short read.

Theories of International Politics and Zombies: Revived Edition

Theories of International Politics and Zombies: Revived Edition - Daniel W. Drezner I don't normally read and review academic texts on Goodreads, but when the academic text is about zombies, how can I resist?

All kidding aside, this is a brilliant work on internationals relations theory. It takes a subject which can easily be boring, dry, and borderline incomprehensible to anyone outside the field and makes it fascinating, hilarious, and incredibly accessible to the layman. I would advise anyone with interest in international politics (or in zombies!) to give it a read.

By the Bog of Cats - Acting Edition

By the Bog of Cats - Acting Edition - Marina Carr Updated review: I had to reread this play for another literature class, and I can confidently say that I loved it just as much the second time around. If you are a fan of dark literature, you absolutely must read this, and read it immediately.

If all of my english class readings were like this, I would be a very happy person. Riveting, demented, dark, and just a little bit disturbing: all in all a fantastically entertaining read. I got through it all in one sitting, partly because I had nothing else to do and it was short, and partly because I couldn't put it down. The dialogue was surprisingly hilarious in parts, and heart breaking and dark when it needed to be. If you're a fan of Irish literature, plays in general, or dark and disturbing things, I HIGHLY recommend this...and if you have to read it for an english class, like me, don't despair!

Cathleen Ni Houlihan

Cathleen Ni Houlihan - William Butler Yeats An outstanding play with some particularly poignant messages about patriotism, war, and national identity. All fans of literature should read this at least once.

The King of Spain's Daughter

The King of Spain's Daughter - Teresa Deevy A short, sad, but incredibly interesting play that offers a unique perspective on issues of marriage, love, and the rights of women. Absolutely worth a read...and something that would be fantastic to see staged live!

Rating: 3 Stars

We Were Liars

We Were Liars - E. Lockhart Disclaimer: This review will contain some minor spoilers. Read on at your own risk

This book was not at all what the description promises it to be. First and foremost: there are no lies. That is not to say everyone tells the truth, but none of the lies are central to the plot. It is also not to say that there are no secrets told, but secrets and lies are very different things. Although I could care less whether lies were a central part of this novel or not, I object strongly to any book which advertises itself in a way that is almost entirely inconsistent with what it actually is.

As for the plot of this book as it was, I would be lying if I said I was even remotely surprised by anything that happened. In fact, I figured out the "twist" early on, and the only reason I didn't manage to work out some of the smaller details was because there was absolutely no foreshadowing whatsoever. While I don't mind a book that tries to hide details for enhanced shock value, I am far from impressed when a writer throws in a plot twist with no warning, especially when that twist is then heavy-handedly presented as an underlying theme of the novel.

All in all, I didn't hate this book. It was entertaining and a rather quick, breezy read. The characters were not adequately fleshed out but were not entirely without merit, and the plot itself was logical, if frighteningly predictable and subject to a host of clichés, tropes, and stereotypes. In short, I wouldn't go out of your way to read this, but if you have the chance and you're in the mood for something simple and fun, it might be worth a few hours of your time.

Rating: 3 stars

Bitter of Tongue

Bitter of Tongue - Sarah Rees Brennan, Cassandra Clare So good, so heartbreaking, so poignant, so perfect. The Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy are fabulous and I love them dearly.

My Beloved World

My Beloved World - Sonia Sotomayor A truly outstanding and surprisingly personal look at the life of one of our nation's most inspiring and brilliant legal figures. If you are interested in law and politics and haven't read this book, I don't know what you're waiting for. And even if your interest lies outside of law, if you're looking for a fascinating, relatable, and inspiring nonfiction read, I suggest you pick up My Beloved World as soon as possible and get to reading.

Reconstructing Amelia

Reconstructing Amelia - Kimberly McCreight On the whole, if I had to sum up Reconstructing Amelia in one word, the word I would use is "average." The plot, characters, and writing style were all simply alright: not outstanding enough to really impress me, but not bad enough to make the read unenjoyable on the whole. Indeed, the characterization was strong enough that I did feel genuine emotions in a few parts. All of the "twists" were highly predictable, save for one or two that did catch me off-guard, but they still managed to be interesting, and, presented in a better way, they might have actually been surprising.

My biggest problem with this book is that it is, as I described it to a friend of mine: "a bundle of clichés wrapped in a blanket of stereotypes and covered in a layer of worn-out tropes." I understand that there are really only so many ways to present a story, and I cannot fault a writer for using a cliché or a trope if it is one that feels genuine for the character or the story. The problem is, the clichés presented here didn't feel genuine. Rather, I repeatedly felt like McCreight had planned out the most predictable and stereotypical mystery novel of all time, and then found some spots to punch in something intended to make the storyline unique, which only served to underline the stereotypes and predictability it was meant to avoid. (For example, this is the thought process I imagine happening: "Oh, hey, I have an awkward and nerdy but brilliant and beautiful teenage girl here who's never dated anyone, and she's gonna fall in love. That's a really overdone trope, though. I know how to make it different! I'll make her a lesbian!) It made the entire novel, and all of the characters, feel very disingenuous, and ultimately is what kept this book from receiving a higher rating from me.

The above said, I do think that Kimberly McCreight is a writer who may well have a great deal of potential. As a debut novel, Reconstructing Amelia was very solid, albeit imperfect, and I will certainly consider taking a look at her future work. And if McCreight learns to avoid the clichés and tropes that tend to surround her genre, she may even get a 5-star review from me one day.

The Girl on the Train: A Novel

The Girl on the Train: A Novel - Paula Hawkins As is always the case for me, when I saw all the hype surrounding this book, I knew immediately that I wanted to read it. The description sounded entertaining, and I had high hopes: and The Girl on the Train still managed to exceed my expectations in every way.

The unreliable narration that lies at the heart of this book is enthralling, and it pulled me in and kept me on my toes for the entire novel. Usually, I get frustrated if I don't know what's going on when I'm reading, but Hawkins manages to perfectly balance on the line between reader understanding and curiosity: I never knew the whole story, but I knew enough to keep me interested.

In the end, what I like most about this book is that the ending provides enough of a "twist" to be entertaining, while still providing enough hints for an astute reader to see what's coming, or at least the direction it will be coming from. It is not often that I say a book ends perfectly, but for me, The Girl on the Train did exactly that.

I could go on, but in the end the important takeaway from this review is simple. As far as mystery/thrillers go, this book is, without a doubt, one of the best I've found.

Rating: 5 Stars

Go Set a Watchman: A Novel

Go Set a Watchman: A Novel - Lee Harper Sometimes, I read books I don't expect to like, because they have been debated and discussed and hyped and ridiculed and I want to see what all the fuss is about. Sometimes, I find that a book I didn't expect to like is absolutely incredible. I may be in the minority here, but for me, Go Set a Watchman is one of those times.

Go Set a Watchman describes nearly perfectly the experience of growing up and losing your childlike perspective on the world and the people in it, the necessity of finding your own voice and expressing your own opinions, and the idea that you can love someone even when you don't like their beliefs. I have read reviews calling this book a "retelling" of To Kill a Mockingbird, or else a "first draft" of the same. In all honesty, I have no idea how anyone could reach that conclusion from reading this book. The stories are not remotely similar, save for the race-relations theme and the characters, and to call a book as superbly written as Watchman a first draft of anything is, frankly, insulting. Indeed, if this book is, as I have seen repeatedly alleged, an "unedited early manuscript," then I dearly wish that I had the capability of creating something this excellent without any editing.

The biggest controversy I have seen regarding Watchman, of course, is the fact that Atticus Finch is, in this book, clearly and remorselessly a segregationist and racist. But here's the thing: I saw no evidence in To Kill a Mockingbird to suggest that he wasn't a racist then too. In fact, even though Atticus defends Tom Robinson and seems genuinely upset by his death, even though he gives that glorious courtroom speech about equality and the inherent fairness of the courts, and even though he comes across as something generally akin to a saint, he never once says that he believes the races are equal. In fact, his actions and attitude make clear, to me at least, that he very much believes African-Americans are not educated enough or cultured enough to be equal to white people in society, an attitude that remains exactly the same in Go Set a Watchman. The problem is, the initial reaction of most people, especially most people in 2015, is that racists are evil people. And while I agree wholeheartedly that racism is a character flaw which cannot and should not be condoned, we as a society too often conflate ideas of racism and hatred, or racism and evil. There is a big difference between someone who privately believes that one race is fundamentally unequal to another and someone who wants to physically hurt or kill someone because of that perceived inequality, or who carries out or supports acts of violence and hatred against members of any given race. Atticus is a racist, but he still defended Tom Robinson. He is a racist, but he was still a good father, friend, and lawyer. He is a racist, but he is not evil. It is a difficult truth to swallow, and a painful one, but that does not make it any less true.

As for those who seem upset that Atticus underwent what feels like such a radical change in his character, consider this: In To Kill a Mockingbird, a little girl who loves and idolizes her father portrays Atticus as something akin to a saint. In Go Set a Watchman, an adult and college graduate with her own ideas and opinions of the world realizes that her beloved father is a human being with flaws. This does not seem unreasonable to me, nor do I view Atticus as a different person in Watchman than he is in Mockingbird: we are simply given a clearer view of the person he has been all along.


The controversy of one character aside, the highlight of this book, for me, was the character of Jean Louise Finch, so different from the beloved tomboy Scout that readers of Mockingbird know and love, but still the same in all the ways that matter. She was strong and smart and witty and brave, and I could feel her pain and heartbreak as if it were my own. Her growth was, of course, the center of the story, and it was also clear, realistic, and relatable. Characters, for me, typically make the difference between a book being entertaining but average and a book being great: the character of Jean Louise made Go Set a Watchman leap into a place among my favorite books of all time.

Rating: 5 Stars

Infinite Jest

Infinite Jest - David Foster Wallace I am not being dramatic or exaggerating in any way when I tell you that reading Infinite Jest changed me as a person. When I first started this book, which I immediately began to refer to (semi)lovingly as The Thing, I wondered what the hell I had gotten myself into. It was 981 pages (plus 98 pages of footnotes) of what felt initially like pure insanity: ramblings with no rhyme or reason to them, characters who all seemed either absolutely horrible, absolutely crazy, or both, and no discernible plot. If I wasn't reading this because I was urged (read as: forced) to by someone whose opinion I trust and value highly (hey you, I know you're reading this), I would very likely have given up after the first 50 pages or so. As it was, the combination of a persistent friend and my own intellectual and literary pride kept me going, slogging through what seemed like endless pages, hating myself for being a naïve fool and thinking I could manage to read, much less enjoy, The Thing, and hating The Thing for being so damn frustrating.

The change was not all at once, nor was it immediately noticeable. It was not overt or tangible, and it is not something I can really put my finger on or wrap my mind around in order to adequately explain it. What I can say, unequivocally, is that it happened. The point when I first became conscious of it was somewhere just before I hit the mid-way point (page 490 if you don't count the footnotes). Two important things happened in the change: 1) I could literally feel a shift in my mind whenever I picked up The Thing, as if my brain had finally adapted to its unfamiliar environment and learned how to process the information it was receiving, and 2) I started to genuinely enjoy reading Infinite Jest. I have no idea if 1) caused 2) or if 2) caused 1) or if there was a causal effect between the two at all, but I do know that by the time I reached the second half of this book, I was no longer slogging through a jungle of hellish madness, I was enjoying a roller coaster ride through the human condition, surrounded by characters I had come to see as human beings, and swallowed by a world that I hope never to visit even while I feel I already have. I started to connect with what I was reading, and suddenly 981 pages didn't seem extreme: it seemed absolutely necessary. I was captivated, if not in a state of pure enjoyment, certainly in genuine respect: for David Foster Wallace as a writer, but mostly and more importantly for the masterpiece he created.

Of course, I could start writing here about all the themes and messages inherent in IJ, extrapolating about the themes and messages I perceived, or ranting about that damn ending, which is not located in a place where endings usually are. But the problem is, it would all be pointless, because, in the end, far beyond the depths of what art says, tries to say, or is interpreted as saying, I believe the larger purpose of art in all its forms is to change people: to cause that nearly unexplainable psychic shift that makes a mind expand and begin thinking just a little differently. Infinite Jest does this, if you let it. And while it's not always an enjoyable process, perhaps it's worth remembering that nothing in life really is, and the change is absolutely worth all the pain of getting there.

All in all, the above review is a reflection of my own personal reading experience, and, as such, you are welcome to disregard it if you wish. But, if you take only one thing away from this review, let it be this:

If you like books, read this one.