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Books Revisited
07 January 2015 @ 11:51 am
First published in 1985, The Cider House Rules is set in rural Maine in the first half of the twentieth century. The novel tells the story of Dr. Wilbur Larch–saint and obstetrician, found and director of the orphanage in the town of St. Cloud’s, ether addict and abortionist. This is also the story of Dr. Larch’s favorite orphan, Homer Wells, who is never adopted.

Let me just say this first: I absolutely love John Irving and count him among my list of favorite authors. That being said, whenever I begin one of John Irving’s novels, I feel I must prepare myself for it. John Irving’s writing is sometimes odd and eccentric, always wonderful, and at times, uncomfortable. At least, it makes me feel uncomfortable.

But isn’t that the mark of a great writer? I like it when an author makes me ask questions–make me think. And this novel does a good job of that. Of course, being a story about an abortionist, the question comes up: Is it right? Well, this is neither the place or time to answer that question. It’s enough that the question is there, and the reader can make up their own mind about it. Though I will say one thing: this novel does a good job of putting things in perspective and humanizing the issue.

I will admit, parts of this book were hard for me to read. But the love I had for the characters and their plight; and the love I have for John Irving’s writing kept me going until the end. And I’m glad I did. I feel anything I have to say about how deeply the book affected me will be insufficient. I guess I’ll just say this: This is a novel that will linger.
Books Revisited
07 January 2015 @ 07:00 am
I'm back! It's been a while, I know. Truthfully, I didn't read a lot in 2014. Hopefully 2015 is better!

01. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (528 pages)
02. A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin (807 pages)
03. A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin (969 pages)
04. A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin (1,128 pages)
05. A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin (976 pages)
06. A Dance With Dragons by George R. R. Martin (1,051 pages)
07. The Giver by Lois Lowry (179 pages)
08. Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry (215 pages)
09. The Messenger by Lois Lowry (169 pages)
10. Son by Lois Lowry (393 pages)

Total = 6,415 pages
Books Revisited
08 December 2013 @ 09:05 pm
Hello everybody! I thought, before I get back into blogging about reading, I would quickly update everybody on how life has been these past few months.

My son, Xavier Virgil Armstrong, was born on September 25th, 2013, at 10:58pm. At birth, he weighed seven pounds and one ounce, and was 20 inches long. He was three weeks and two days early. Life since his birth has been chaotic and stressful, but also wonderful and joyous.

This Wednesday, Xavier will be 11 weeks old. He is already such a big boy! He weighs over 13 pounds now and is 22 inches long. Currently his favorite things are sitting in his bouncy chair so he can look at the Christmas tree; sitting in my lap; and having his cheeks played with. He smiles so big when he's happy, and makes the funniest little pout-y face when he's upset.
He's a mama's boy. XD

For the first couple months of his life, Xavier was pretty clingy--he never wanted to be put down--so I never had a lot of time on my hands to do much of anything. He's gained some independence these last couple of weeks (thank god!), so I have a little more time on my hands now. Hopefully I'll be able to get back into the swing of things.
Books Revisited
19 September 2013 @ 09:16 am
I've finally finished another book, which makes for a total of 12 books read this year.


01. Children of God by Mary Doria Russell (436 pages)
02. The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey (386 pages)
03. The Last Brother by Nathacha Appanah (164 pages)
04. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (313 pages)
05. The Game by A.S. Byatt (286 pages)
06. The Gunslinger by Stephen King (300 pages)
07. The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman (352 pages)
08. The Help by Kathryn Stockett (522 pages)
09. The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown (368 pages)
10. The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving (401 pages)
11. The Night Birds by Thomas Maltman (366 pages)
12. The Pendragon by Catherine Christian (506 pages)

Total: 4,400 pages

At least I can be assured my reading list will be longer this year than it was last year. Last year I ONLY managed 12 books. I've still got a few months left in 2013 to read a couple more.

I wonder how having a baby to care for will affect my reading... Probably not much. I've really let my passion fall by the wayside these last couple of years. At least after the baby is born I'll have an excuse for my laziness.

I'll be reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel next. I've been in a Tudor mood lately. My plan is to finish the book by September 21st. I've got a small list of books I'd like to get through this fall/winter: The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova; House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski; and Violin by Anne Rice.

The last two novels are re-reads. I've been trying to avoid rereading books the last couple of years but these two have been haunting my mind for a while now.
Current Mood: sleepy
Books Revisited
10 July 2013 @ 10:08 pm
Um, hi? It’s been a long time.

I’m just going to begin with the excuses, okay? There are a lot of reasons why I quit updating. The short version is, life got in the way and I lost interest in reading and blogging. The long version is more complicated, obviously.

Back in late February, I found out I was pregnant. It was a complete surprise, of course, and for a short while, I was in a state of shock. Everything felt very surreal; however, I quickly adjusted to the news. I’ve always wanted to be a mother, I just never expected to become one so soon!

I spent a majority of the first trimester sleeping. I’m not kidding. I think I took three-hour long naps every day. I was exhausted, and so, I didn’t get much of anything done, let alone any reading.

Once my energy levels balanced out, I thought my interest in reading would reemerge. It did not. I think I averaged one book every four to five weeks. I spent a lot of time thinking about why I’d lost interest in reading, and I arrived at an answer I think is the correct one.

I got into blogging about books about two years ago. Since then, I feel like my reading has become more about reaching a goal, and instead of reading just for the fun of it, I was reading to race against myself and other bloggers. I stopped absorbing what I was reading and worried only about the numbers. If I didn’t reach my personal goal for that year, I felt like I had failed. And so, reading became less and less enjoyable, and picking up a book began to feel more and more like a chore.

However, since I quit reviewing books and participating in challenges, my zest for reading has slowly begun to return. I’m very thankful for this, for two reasons. One being that I’ve missed reading. The second reason is because, as I am now 26 weeks pregnant, soon I’ll be out of work and I’ll need something to do to keep my sanity. I can only handle so much television and Internet these days.

This doesn’t mean I’m leaving the blogosphere forever. I really do enjoy reviewing books and talking about literature with other readers, but I’m not going to push myself anymore. I’m going to quit all the reading challenges I’ve entered, and I’m going to read what I want to when I want to. The same goes for writing reviews. Instead of reviewing every book I read, I’m only going to write reviews when I feel like it.

And hopefully, my love for reading will return full force.
Current Mood: thirsty
Books Revisited
09 March 2013 @ 07:32 pm
In The Gunslinger, King introduces his most enigmatic hero, Roland Deschain of Gilead, the Last Gunslinger. He is a haunting, solitary figure at first, on a mysterious quest through a desolate world that eerily mirrors our own. Pursuing the man in black, an evil being who can bring the dead back to life, Roland is a good man who seems to leave nothing but death in his wake.

Stephen King has always been one of those authors whose books I either love or dislike; for example, I absolutely loved the books The Talisman and Black House, which he co-authored with Peter Straub. On the other hand, I really didn’t care for Salem’s Lot. I have always been interested in The Dark Tower series, because I read somewhere that some things in The Talisman and Black House coincide with this series; however, I have never been a huge fan of series because I tend to get bored halfway through, so I never did get around to it. Until a couple of weeks ago.

As the first novel in the series, The Gunslinger sets things up very nicely. We meet Roland, a strangely complex and compelling character. His obsession to stop the Man in Black and get to The Tower by any means necessary is paramount. This is a good man who has does some horrible things in his life.

The scenery, which is part western, part fantastical, and part post-apocalyptic, is wonderful. If there’s one thing King can do, it’s write descriptions. I could clearly picture everything, even the more gory parts that help remind us readers that, at heart, King is a writer of horror stories.

I’m curious to figure out what happens next. I’ve already purchased the second book in the series, The Drawing of the Three, and I’m excited to begin reading.
Books Revisited
08 February 2013 @ 06:47 pm

Something is stirring in London’s dark, stamping out its territory in brickdust and blood. Something has murdered Saul Garamond’s father, and left Saul to pay for the crime. But a shadow from the urban waste breaks into Saul’s prison cell and leads him to freedom. A shadow called King Rat, who reveals Saul’s royal heritage, a heritage that opens a new world to Saul, the world below London’s streets–a heritage that also drags Saul into King Rat’s plan for revenge against his ancient enemy.

Before I begin, I must say this: if you are in any way afraid of rats, this book is most decidedly not for you; however, if you are like myself and can look beyond a rat’s ugliness (I think they’re kind of cute, actually), then I highly recommend this book.

King Rat is Miéville’s debut novel, though for a debut novel, it’s a damn good one. At least, I thought it was. The reviews on Goodreads are rather mixed.

In King Rat, Miéville brings the story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin to modern London in this rather fun mix-up of a horror story slash urban fantasy. It’s gritty and unsettling, and oftentimes disgusting–c’mon, they’re rats. But Miéville has a way with words, and the story is written well and with a graceful, eloquent flair.
Books Revisited
07 February 2013 @ 12:57 am
When they were little girls, Cassandra and Julia played a game in which they entered an alternate world modeled on the landscapes of Arthurian romance. Now the sisters are grown, and hostile strangers--until a figure from their past, a man they once both loved and suffered over, re-enters their lives. It is the skittish, snake-obsessed Simon who draws these two --sisters into his orbit--and into a menacing proximity to each other, their discarded selves, and the game neither of them has completely forgotten.

This is one of Byatt's early novels, and it shows. The prose is often clumsy or too dense, with many long-winded passages I ended up just skimming through. It made it difficult to care about the story and the characters. As for the characters themselves, most of them are rather unappealing or just uninteresting; meanwhile, the plotline, although interesting, wasn't fleshed out well enough, and I never completely understood why Cassandra and Julia had grown so far apart. Overall, I wasn't impressed.
Books Revisited
18 January 2013 @ 03:27 am
Welcome to Five-Star Friday, where every week I will post about a book I felt deserved a five-star rating. Admittedly, my standards are not very high. I’m ashamed to say I am easily impressed! Also, I rate books based not only on things like plot structure, characterization, and the quality of the writing, but on my own emotional reaction to books. Needless to say, some of these books got such a high rating because they made me feel something. The first book, The Mermaid Chair, is a good example of this.

The Mermaid Chair is the story of Jessie Sullivan–a love story, to be exact, between a woman and a monk, a woman and her husband, and ultimately a woman and her own soul.

Admittedly, I’m a little surprised I loved this book so much. I bought it on a whim, because I was interested by the title and the cover art. Objectively, I know some things about this book aren’t deserving of such a high rating. There are aspects of it that are just a little hard to buy into; however, it is a superbly written book, with prose that flows like water.

But that isn’t why I fell in love with it. In a way, I felt like it was written just for me, as while I was reading it I was experiencing tumult in my own love life. I had fallen in love with a man I shouldn’t have, and my relationship had crumbled apart because of it. Reading The Mermaid Chair was therapeutic because I related to it so well. It helped to heal me and move me past my guilt so I could forgive myself.

There is one quote in particular that really resounded within me:

My feelings about [him] had been such a muddle. I’d let them slosh around in me like dirty water in the bottom of a boat, but now, sitting in the mermaid chair, I felt the sediment settle to the bottom, and everything was very clear to me. I wanted him with an almost ferocious desire.

Of course, the second I allowed myself the thought, I felt a reverberating shock, complete disgust, and yet my shame was inconsequential next to the force of my heart.

And another:

I promise you, no one judges me more harshly than I do myself; I caused a brilliant wreckage. Some say I fell from grace; they’re being kind. I didn’t fall – I dove.

And a third:

I can’t explain that, except to say there’s release in knowing the truth no matter how anguishing it is. You come finally to the irreducible thing, and there’s nothing left to do but pick it up and hold it. Then, at least, you can enter the severe mercy of acceptance.

I could go on, but I think I’ll stop there before I give the whole book away!
Books Revisited
16 January 2013 @ 06:56 pm
Hazel was diagnosed with thyroid cancer at age 13. She was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumors in her lungs. Two years after the miracle, Hazel meets Augustus Waters at a cancer support group. He is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly, interested in her. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy everyone leaves behind.

My mom was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago. It started in her throat and eventually wound up in her liver. She had to undergo extensive surgery and many radiation therapy sessions. The cancer (and the radiation) ate her body alive. It was a tough time for the whole family, and we were all so relieved when she went into remission. But I live in constant fear it will return. With this in consideration, The Fault in Our Stars touches me on a deeply personal level.

But when I take a step back and look at the novel objectively, I am unfortunately rather underwhelmed. Don't get me wrong, it was good and I liked it, but I don't believe it lives up to its hype. The characters and their mannerisms felt contrived and pretentious, and they all sound like fictionalized John Greens.