Friday, October 16, 2009

Books and Such

I love books. I love being able to escape into a different world and forget about what's going on in mine if I need to. Of course, I read quite a bit and I have quite a few books than I have read more than once. As a Lit major in college I got credit for reading and talking about some of the greatest books in literature. It was a pretty sweet deal. As I have continued to read and expand my own library since college I have missed talking about what I've read. I recently met a friend of a friend that has a blog called Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Woolf? (It's Woolf not in Virginia Woolf. Get it? It's the simple things in life really). Anyway, it's basically a blog for people to post book reviews. After briefly perusing the blog, I've already found several books that I have added to my "to-read" list. I also have a profile on It's a cool website where you can build your own bookshelf and post reviews and can read others reviews. I've found several books that I know love from that website. Since I love books and reading so much, I've decided to share that with you all. It won't be every post but when I finish a book or come across a book that I particularly enjoyed I will give you all a heads up about it. It probably won't be a review a la Who's Afraid but it'll be my thoughts on the book.

So to start it off here are a couple of books that I have read lately that I thoroughly enjoyed.

1. The Nazi Officer's Wife
If you enjoy memoirs and are interested in WWII/Holocaust, this is a must read. It's the story of Edith Hahn Beer, a Jewish woman that grew up in Vienna. She was a young adult at the start of the war. She survives by marrying a member of the Nazi party who later becomes an officer. It's very well written and the story of her life moves at the perfect pace. I stayed up late to read the next chapter and then the next chapter. It was a very touching look at humanity and what we will do in order to survive. She is first forced to live in a ghetto and then into a labor camp. When she gets back her mother has been forced to the "east"...Poland and eventually death in a concentration camp. She goes underground for a brief period of time but then, with the help of a Christian friend she becomes a Christian woman and moves away from Vienna. She then meets and marries Werner Vetter, a Nazi Party Member. It's not graphic or violent as many WWII memoirs can be given the subject matter. It's a close look at it was like for countless Jews that were hidden in plain sight and the everyday terror that she and many others must have felt at a knock at the door, getting her weekly rations, clothing, etc. it.

2.The Hunger Games- Suzanne Collins
This is actually the first in a trilogy. The second book was recently published and I'm not entirely sure when the third will be completed. My coworker first got me interested in this book but when she told me what it was about I was seriously disturbed and I wasn't sure I was going to read it. Having read it, I really enjoyed it. It's a young adult novel. Following a rebellion, all of North America has been destroyed and it is now the nation of Panem. 12 Districts that are all controlled by the Capitol. The 13th district was utterly destroyed in the rebellion. In remembrance of the Uprising and to remind each district the control the Capitol holds over them the Capital hosts the Hunger Games. Each district sends two tributes, one girl and one boy ages 12-18, to participate in the Games. They are sent to the Capital and then they are all put in a huge arena that changes landscapes, traps, animals, conditions etc. every year. Once in the arena, they have to kill everyone off and the last person standing is the winner. So now you see why I was extremely unsure about this book but really it's very good. It's disturbing but I think it's supposed to be disturbing. You have to continually remind yourself that the characters you are reading about are just children. It reminded me a bit of William Golding's Lord of the Flies. This story centers on the two tributes from the poor, coal producing District Twelve. I can't say too much without giving away the ending but it's an interesting story and really pulls you in. If you look deeper you could find the social commentary but you don't need to in order to enjoy the book.

3. Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
I am actually currently reading this one. I started it quite a while ago but at the time, I had recently been on a "classics" reading spree and I just couldn't get through it. But now, I've been reading pretty "easy" books and decided it was time to have another go at Hardy. So far I've been enjoying it. It's not a book that you read just to get to the end of the story. You have to enjoy the language and the descriptions of what is going on. Hardy has a way of layering meaning on top of meaning. It can be difficult to get through but it's worth it, in my opinion, to persevere to the end. In Tess the title character gets into bad situations, gets herself out just to get into more trouble down the road. It's not her fault necessarily but it's not a real pick me up sort of story. In describing Tess's budding relationship with another character throughout the day, Hardy describes the rising and setting of the sun. He says

The gray half-tones of daybreak are not the gray half-tones of the day's close,
though the degree of their shade may be the same. In the twilight of the morning
light seems active, darkness passive; in the twilight of evening it is the darkness
which is active and crescent, and the light which is the drowsy reverse.

Hardy has a way of describing the world around the characters as a way of giving further illumination into the mind, life and emotions of the characters. I don't think Hardy is for everyone but I'm enjoying it. I don't think he'll make it to my top 5 favorite "classic" authors but I can at least understand while he's considered a classic.

So that was more than just one novel but don't get used to it.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Makes me want to do a little two steppin'

My coworker found this today. It's kind of catchy.