Challenges · YA Literature

Re-Readathon: Goals & Beginnings

When I heard about thebookishdragon’s Re-Readathon, I thought it sounded like a really great idea. I’m joining in late (because I changed my tumblr url and didn’t get a notification when the re-readathon started), but I thought I’d still give it a shot. With the amount of school I’ve got, there isn’t much time to read at all, but I thought it would be fun to at least read a few old favourites.

My goal is to read 5 books from this list of old favourites:

  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (which I just started rereading this morning)19063
  • Alice in Wonderland (not so much of an old favourite, but I had a slight obsession with the idea of Wonderland a few months ago, started reading it for a school project, and never got around to reading much)
  • To Kill A Mockingbird (and that way, I can read Go Set A Watchman which my boyfriend bought me!!)
  • The Silver Chair AND/OR The Horse and His Boy (my two favourite Narnia books)
  • My Anastasia (one of my very favourite books when I was a little girl, which I haven’t read since probably near a decade ago)
  • Matilda (because it’s Matilda)
  • The Long Winter (my favourite Little House on the Prairie book when I was young)
  • The Postman
  • any book by Kit Pearson or Madeline L’Engle

I’d love to start reading The Lord of the Rings again because it’s been a couple of years (where has the time gone when I used to read it every year?!), but I know that would be a little too much to ask with my schedule.

So far, I’m rereading The Book Thief, and I got through 29% on my hour ride to school this morning, so I think it’s going well so far!
11250317As a side note, I finished three books that I had been reading at the same time (all from the library, just in time for another ebook to come in) – The Song of AchillesMockingjay, and JackabyTSOA is basically a retelling and expansion of the story of Achilles and Patroclus from Homer’s Ilyiad. I thought it had a really good plot and some great one-liners, especially towards the end – but the writing style drove me nuts. It was very rushed and I think the writing was less than stellar. I almost didn’t finish it, but I didn’t want to let the book defeat me. Jackaby was better. I picked it up at the library after seeing the Doctor Who meets Sherlock advertisement. However, I believe it was more Sherlock meets Supernatural, since the adventure included creatures of lo7260188re (like banshees), not aliens. It was a delightful read, but I’m not sure if I’m interested in reading any of the other books in the series. Mockingjay was the best of the lot. I enjoyed it more than the first two books in the series since it didn’t focus on the Games, but rather, the unfair treatment of the people by the Capitol and the people’s response to it. The book reminded me a little bit of a dystopian uprising, like The Postman, but the kindness shown within times of suffering really reminded me of my favourite Les Misérables. I thought Collins did a very good job writing mental illness and PTSD, as well. The ending was a little rushed, but as a whole, I felt like this one deserved a 5 star rating on my Goodreads.

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Anna's Life · Challenges · Uncategorized

Part 2 of the Book Photo Challenge

Here is my little gallery of Days 6-11 of the Book Photo challenge. Click on each picture to enlarge and read the caption!

And just for a little explanation of some of these pictures. For my borrowed books – I just started A Series of Unfortunate Events and I’m really enjoying it, so I thought I would get the next few. The other book was a recommendation by someone whom I follow on Goodreads. The books I’m reading now are The Idylls for Medieval Literature (I’m reading it all instead of just certain sections because I want to) and The Help (I bought this book a long time and forgot about it, but one of the groups in my Literary Theory class did their presentation on this book and reminded me!) – however, knowing me, I’m reading lots of books. I’ve got Mockingjay for pleasure and a book of letters by Dorothy Day for a project both in e-version… as well as Alice in Wonderland for a project, a book of poetry by Ann Scowcroft, and a book of Catholic devotions. Last, the signed book is my only signed book. It’s a book called I Thirst which was written by a close friend – I highly recommend it, of course. She is actually going to be releasing the sequel very soon!

Hope in Darkness · Themes in Literature · YA Literature

The Hope & Humanity in Stories

I’ve been reading Suzanne Collin’s Hunger Games trilogy slowly, on and off, for a little while. I remember how the decadence of the Capitol in the first movie struck me. But now, reading Mockingjay, it has been instead the little glimmers of humanity even during times of great hardship.

As I love my books to be dark and my characters to be greatly flawed and/or tortured before the hope appears, I thought I might write a post examining some of my favourite works and what is in them that makes them appeal so much to me.

I only just started Mockingjay, but I already love the book.  It starts on a very grim note. The Capitol has destroyed Katniss’ home district and her love interest, Peeta Mellark, has been captured. I found this quote quite chilling:

“My name is Katniss Everdeen. I am seventeen years old. My home is District 12. I was in the Hunger Games. I escaped. The Capitol hates me. Peeta was taken prisoner. He is thought to be dead. Most likely he is dead. It is probably best if he is dead…”

jennifer-lawrence-mockingjay
Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) learns that Peeta is still alive.

Katniss agrees to be the symbol of the rebellion against the Capitol (the Mockingjay) in order to save Peeta from the evil President Snow. I haven’t gotten much further in the book than that, but I wanted to mention the scenes in which Katniss finds her old stylists imprisoned in the rebel base. Katniss is shocked by the treatment of the three and immediately orders their release. Even though Katniss does not like associating with other people, she shows them how to get to the dining hall and sits down to eat with them. One of the stylists, Octavia, has green skin (a fashion statement from the Capitol). Posy, a five-year-old girl, sister to Katniss’ best friend Gale, comes over to the table and is curious about Octavia’s green skin. Octavia becomes upset – she has just been rescued from prison, is finally allowed to eat again, and now this little girl questions her looks. But the little girl becomes a source of comfort for the poor woman:

Continue reading “The Hope & Humanity in Stories”

Children's Literature · Medievalism

The Fine Line Between Nostalgia and Reality: A Look At Kit Pearson’s A Perfect Gentle Knight

Canadian author Kit Pearson was one of my favourites as a child. While the Guests of War trilogy was my favourite because of my intense love for anything World War II related, her Arthurian spin A Perfect Gentle Knight was probably my second favourite. When I heard that I had to write a short paper on medievalism for my Arthurian class, this book at once came to mind. I just finished reading it and am in more love with it than ever. It’s funny how a book that you once read as a child is so much richer when you read it as an adult.

The story, in summary – eleven-year-old Corrie Bell is the narrator. As the Bell mother is dead and the scholarly father is working on his next book, Corrie and her five siblings are left to themselves. Sebastian, the oldest at fourteen, is the only one who keeps the younger children – Harry and the twins Juliet and Orly – in check. He has all of the Bell children involved in an intricate game of knights (the Round Table) that Sebastian himself started after their mother died as a coping mechanism. However, as older sister Roz is getting bored of the game and Sebastian is retreating more and more into the game, Corrie finds her family starting to drift apart.

It’s a great children’s book, but what I love the most of all is how mature the themes are. Corrie struggles with the attempt to keep her family together at the same time as figuring out her identity when all the other girls at school are mooning over boys. Sebastian, grieved by the loss of his mother and bullied by the boys at his school because of his long hair (grown that way because he is Lancelot in the game), ignores reality with the game of knights. At home, he is surrounded by his family members who love them and he is their leader, Sir Lancelot. But the game becomes dangerous and Sebastian loses his touch with reality when he meets a girl named Jennifer. He starts to believe that he is Lancelot and Jennifer is Guinevere. I think this passage shows just how far Sebastian has gone:

Sebastian nodded solemnly. “I know you probably think I’m crazy, but why else have I felt so drawn to him [Lancelot] all these years? And why else would I keep on with the Round Table? I hate to admit it, but Roz is right. It’s fine to play at knights when you’re your age, but fifteen is too old for it. Except I’m not playing! The rest of you are – it’s just a game for you. But for me, it’s real. I have no choice.” (174-5; bold added for emphasis)

Obviously, I’m not going to go too much into depth here about my paper since it’s an assignment (and I never post assignments on the web so they aren’t stolen), but I wanted to make a couple notes. I will be using “The Romance of Medievalism” by Laurie Finke and Martin B. Schichtman – I chose this article over the other one because this one looks at nostalgia as being perhaps not quite such an innocent thing (as in “Medievalism and its discontents” by Renée R. Trilling). Trilling believes that nostalgia is only maintained by the fact that the object of one’s desire can never be reached. This is obviously not the case with Sebastian. While nostalgia is most likely where Sebastian started when his mother died, it becomes dangerous and much more than nostalgia.

Finke & Shichtman’s article focuses mostly on the nostalgia which is the focus of medieval studies  and what creates dollars for the heritage tourism; however, what struck me was the fact that “cultural nostalgia produced by medieval tourism becomes a form of telepathy, a means of touching the dead” (295). While the reader never sees Sebastian’s perspective, the whole story being through Corrie’s eyes (most appropriate for the audience), his depression is directly linked with his mother’s death.

“It’s all right, my boy. We’ve come to take you home.” Fa’s voice was gentle and calm. He squatted in front of Sebastian, who kept staring at his father. Then his eyes focuses and he gave a short, anguished cry.

Fa held out his arms. Sebastian unfolded into them. His thin bare shoulder shuddered with sobs. “I want Mum …” he croaked. “I want her so much!”

Sebastian does not know how to get along with other people in the real world, retreating to his family and his position as Sir Lancelot. Nostalgia becomes “the repetition that mourns the inauthenticity of all repetition and denies the repetition’s capacity to form identity” (Finke & Shichtman 296; bold added for emphasis). While Corrie realizes “the impossibility of a return to the past,” Sebastian is more concerned with “the affective power of that return” (296) – the return to a past that is based upon simple values of honour and bravery becomes much more desirable, much more real. The “semantic gap between past and present, here and somewhere else” (297) is blurred.

Another thing that interested me about Finke & Shichtman’s article is the difference between medieval studies and heritage tourism. While the two share similarities in that they are both works of medievalism, there is a distinct difference between the two which reminds me of the difference between Sebastian and his father. While both males enjoy the medieval, Mr. Bell is able to keep a scholarly distance from his work. Mr. Bell is engrossed in his studies, but is immediately ready to help and there for his children when they make him aware of the situation. He is the scholar of medieval studies. Sebastian, on the other hand, while he does not look for the crass and cheap side of tourism, his focus on the experience of the medieval being as real as possible, even to the point where it’s fiction becomes blatantly obvious, reminds me of the heritage tourism’s attempt to make the experience as real as possible. People are hired to dress up and speak as if they were from that time period. Games, events, music – all is constructed to make the experience seem real, but it becomes so over the top that its counterfeit nature is what ends up being highlighted.

Anna's Life · Challenges

Book Photo Challenge & Book Haul

Not that my pictures are any good, but I decided to work my way through Books & Cupcakes photo challenge. I started off with a day or two from the February challenge, but now I’m sticking with the March one.

Day 1 – reading this month

books_day1
I’ve read this book, years before, as a child. I read it again for my medievalisms paper and I fell in love with it again. (I’ll be posting about this book very soon.)

Day 2 – a book I couldn’t put down

books_day2
I can never put a Rick Riordan book down. Ever.

Day 3 – last reads / recommendations

books_day3
I’m not a sport person but I loved this series. I started it for the relationship I heard about on Tumblr, but I stayed for the main character (Neil Josten), in who I saw a lot of myself in. Love this YA series so much. And the first book is free!

Day 4 – reading place

books_day4
I usually read on the train, but at home, it’s either at my computer desk or on my bed.

Day 5 – someone reading (my sister)

books_day5
The Land of Far Beyond by Enid Blyton. We’ve started reading this book together (for the third time or something).

 

I snagged some choice quotes from the books I’ve been reading this month.

the_help_quote
from The Help
a_perfect_gentle_quote
from A Perfect Gentle Knight

“This king’s ruled long enough—it’s time to tear his castle down (The Raven Court by Nora Sakavic)

“How else could I orient myself in this sea of gray?” (The Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins)

 

One last thing – I went to Value Village with my mom and managed to whittle down all the books I was holding to just two: a better copy of The Lord of the Rings and Mansfield Park, which I have been looking for a good copy of for a long time because it’s my favourite Austen book.

book_haul

I just wish I was a millionaire so I could buy more books.

when_you_cant_buy_all_the_books
When going to Value Village makes you cry because you can’t buy all the books.