Thursday, June 23, 2016

classics catch-up: sense & sensibility.

As I mentioned in my last post, I am starting to catch up on some classics that I haven't gotten around to reading yet. And, let me tell you, there are a lot of them I've missed. It's the curse of the incurable re-reader with a short attention span...

Anywho. I figure I'll start alternating my new/newer reads with these classics. So, first up on the Classics Catch-Up list: Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen.

I guess I kind of figured I'd start off small. I'm a huge Pride & Prejudice fan (and re-reader), so it's not such a huge leap for me to tackle other Austen. I had heard that none of her other works compare to P&P, though, so I have always been a bit hesitant to give them a shot. But I went ahead and gave Sense and Sensibility a try.

The rundown: basically, it's a story about two sisters, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, and the ups and downs they experience through disappointed love and some pretty dramatic shakeups. The themes seem to be that love never goes as smoothly as you expect and pretty often veers off the course it seems to be taking you along; and, also, this book makes the case for dealing with the dramas of life and love with reserve, calm, and a level head. Elinor is the level-headed, outwardly poised sister ("sense") and Marianne is the romantic one, an open book who feels everything large and loud ("sensibility").

Being a big Pride & Prejudice fan, I just can't help but frame my impressions of any other Austen book by comparison to P&P. I mean, you could compare just about any romantic comedy to Pride & Prejudice. It's kind of the basis on which they're all built, right?

As far as the side by side goes with S&S and P&P...there are a lot, lot, lot of familiar themes, situations, tropes, and characters. But yet the characters are different, and I think a bit more three dimensional, in Sense and Sensibility. I also think the arcs the characters follow as they grow and evolve throughout the story are more nuanced and realistic. That said, I think the overall story of Pride & Prejudice is better-written and a tighter narrative with a tidier flow.

My favorite thing about Sense and Sensibility was the characters. I know that you are pretty much intended to admire Elinor and see her as the no-nonsense, feet on the ground sort of girl who demands respect and preference, but I can't help but see her as stodgy and too worried with appearances. That said, she's still someone I can relate to. I can also relate quite a lot to Marianne, whose romantic, frank, intensely feeling personality is probably more similar to my own and also perhaps a more modern silhouette than Elinor's. Elinor and Marianne still don't hold a candle to Elizabeth Bennet, mind you, but I think Austen threw some of their better qualities into the mix when she was creating the definitely more captivating heroine of Pride & Prejudice.

So the Dashwood sisters were pretty good, but the side characters were a hoot. I loved Colonel Brandon, Mrs. Jennings, and Mr. and Mrs. Palmer, as well as Edward, to perhaps a lesser extent. Even the intentionally dislikable and antagonizing characters were good ones, most especially the more-than-meets-the-eye heartbreaker who shall remained unnamed for those who haven't read it. ;)

My main complaints are that the story has a lot of hurry-up-and-wait which feels a little clunky, and that the end (I won't spoil it) gets tied up a little sloppily. I would have gotten a lot more satisfaction from having the end less rushed and more elaborated on, rather than getting some quick explanations to sum up a couple of events that could have been a lot more emotionally rewarding had they been shown instead of just quickly told. It almost took some of the believability out of some of the ways things were tied up, to be honest. I think Austen worked that kink out to a T with Pride & Prejudice, because you get to that moment you'd been waiting for, and your heart can't help but pound in anticipation right along with Elizabeth's. The end of Sense and Sensibility is, much like Elinor, a little too tidy and businesslike.

I could go on and on, I really could, but to come down to it, I really do heart Jane Austen's writing voice, style, and characterizations, and I can be convinced to hang on to her plots and see them through to the end. Where the stories lack in modern relatability--no one has jobs, they all base their lives solely around who they're going to marry and how much money potential spouses possess, and they all just sit around or take walks and talk and do very little--they make up in Austen's snappy, witty, often tongue-in-cheek prose. If you're going to tackle classic lit, you can do much worse and much more boring than Jane Austen.

a little Jane Austen sketch I did awhile back

Yay, Sense and Sensibility! I'm definitely inspired to include much, much more Jane Austen on my to-read list after this gem. I truly enjoyed it, in spite of my criticisms, and couldn't put it down.

What is your favorite Jane Austen book? Which one should I tackle next?

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

classics catch-up!

I am on a mission, folks...a mission I'm calling the Classics Catch-Up!

I can't be the only one this happens to: I have hit a few of the classics here and there, especially when I was younger and forced to read them in school, but I've missed the boat on a LOT of them. And, being the bookish bookworm and library faerie that I am, I feel a deep sense of needing to make amends for that. So, here I am, embarking on a mission to stretch myself a little and choose classics to catch up on in between my usual fare of mostly kid lit, sci-fi, fantasy, or combinations of those three.

Soon I will be posting my first Classics Catch-Up review, which I guess is a little redundant or unnecessary, to share reviews of books that so, so many other people have read and discussed before. But, they're new to me, and maybe someone else out there will stumble on a review of mine that will convince them one way or the other that a particular classic is, or isn't, worth going back and snagging? At the very least, whether anyone sees my reviews or not, I am enjoying getting them out there into the world for posterity's sake.

So! Check back soon for my very first Classics Catch-Up review. Want a hint at which one of the above stack of beauties it will be? Here's a clue...

Happy reading! And let me know if you have any suggestions for classics I should add to my to-read list!!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

book review: star wars: jedi academy by jeffrey brown.

Graphic novel time! I just finished reading Star Wars: Jedi Academy, which is book one in a graphic novel series by Jeffrey Brown. You may know his other books, like Goodnight, Darth Vader, Darth Vader and Son, or Vader's Little Princess. We own all of the above at my house!

Not only did I have a reader's advisory goal for work to read some children's graphic novels, but I also wanted to read this one in particular because it seemed like a great option for lovers of the Origami Yoda series (myself included) and I wanted to check it out to see if it's suggest-worthy to my library kiddos who love those books. Newsflash: it is! And to boot, I'd recommend it to any adults who are into Star Wars and love reading children's books for the humor and light touch.

A brief rundown: this quick read is part one of the story of Roan Novachez, a young boy from Tatooine who wants to go to Pilot Academy Middle School (ha) but ends up at the Jedi Academy instead. Adventures, mishaps, laughs, and triumphs ensue.

I would totally recommend this one to kids of any age--this would be the perfect read for a young reader who is advanced in reading ability but needs the content to be younger-kid appropriate. I'd also recommend it, as I said, to big "kids" like me who love Star Wars and enjoy reading humorous kid lit.

On that same note, I'd also recommend the Origami Yoda series by Tom Angleberger to both of those crowds, too! Hilarious, adorable, nerdy, fun, light, quick reads.

I'll definitely read the follow-ups in the Jedi Academy series at some point. And now I'm excited to try another children's graphic novel. Any suggestions? (No Pokemon, please! Ack!)

Sunday, June 12, 2016

book review: armada by ernest cline.

I know I'm a little late to the game, but I've finally gotten around to reading Armada by Ernest Cline!

I loved-loved-LOVED his first book, Ready, Player One, which grabbed me with the tone, sense of humor, and plot, and intrigued me with its pop culture references. I mean, big nerd here, lover of video games, watcher of '80s movies, and sometimes-player of DnD, all of which were vital parts to the plot of RPO. Some of the references in RPO were probably 5-10 years before my time, but though the book was heavy with them, it still worked for me. So, maybe it's not fair to judge Cline's second book on the merits of his first one, but...I did anyway. I went into Armada expecting something at least somewhat in the same vein--great plot and dense with nerd culture references but not enough to bog it down too much. For the most part, I was not disappointed.

To give you a brief run-down without spoiling it for you...basically, this is the story of Zack Lightman, a high school senior whose love of sci-fi alien butt-kicking video games turns out to be useful in a real-deal alien invasion that is suspiciously just like those in his favorite movies and video games. It turns out there is way more going on than meets the eye, and different things at stake than anyone realizes.


--Cline's narrative was more focused and tighter in Armada than in Ready, Player One. I guess that's a positive and a negative for me, though; I felt like the story flowed better, but I actually missed some of the layers and texture RPO seemed to possess through the heavy plot.

--The nerd references were present, as in RPO, but they were better-executed. Less unnecessary description and more in line with the narrative instead of extraneous to it. And, bonus for me, the video games and sci-fi movies referenced were ones I was much more familiar with.

--Decent characters, fun plot, overall a pretty great and enjoyable story. It was an approachable sci-fi story that fans of the genre and those not as hardcore about it could appreciate and enjoy.

Less awesome:

--I felt like most of the supporting characters were underdeveloped. They were great, but I was left wanting more of them! The focused narrative meant that the details kind of suffered. I felt like Cline sort of overcorrected a little bit after many complained he overdid the descriptive tangents in RPO.

--I guess the same could be said for some of the plot and action throughout the book, as well--I was left wishing it had dug deeper into everything. It just felt a little rushed.

--Things tied up a little too quickly and too neatly in the end. There was a crucial, emotional scene that hit me in the appropriate feels, but it almost took me by surprise and then ended almost too abruptly. Again, a little rushed.

All that said, I really enjoyed this second outing from Ernest Cline! I can't wait to read whatever he writes next. Tone and sense of humor are probably the biggest things I read for and judge on, and he hits those RIGHT on the head for me.

For more on Armada and Ernest Cline, check out these links:

**Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review. However, all opinions are my own!