Monday, January 28, 2013

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Publication Date: August 1, 2003 (originally published in 1813)
Publisher: Barnes & Nobles Classics
Format: Paperback
Page Count: 376
Synopsis: "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife."

So begins Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen's witty comedy of manners--one of the most popular novels of all time--that features splendidly civilized sparring between the proud Mr. Darcy and the prejudiced Elizabeth Bennet as they play out their spirited courtship in a series of eighteenth-century drawing-room intrigues.

Renowned literary critic and historian George Saintsbury in 1894 declared it the "most perfect, the most characteristic, the most eminently quintessential of its author's works," and Eudora Welty in the twntieth century described it as "irresistible and as nearly flawless as any fiction could be."
Review: I've never had a particular partiality for classics, but lately, I've been wanting to read as many as possible. I believe that the catalyst for the desire was watching the recent Les Miserables film. I loved it so much, and I wanted to read the actual book (which I hope to read soon), which led to me wanting to read other classics as well. Pride and Prejudice is my first classic that I've read outside of school assignments, excluding childhood classics, such as Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and The Wonderful of Wizard of Oz.

   I am pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed Pride and Prejudice. It wasn't as dense as I expected it to be. Of course, with my limited exposure to different types of writing, there were some passages that I had to reread to fully understand them. But overall, Jane Austen's writing is extremely manageable and not at all the incomprehensible prose I'd been expecting.

   The characters were lovely. At first, I was unsure of my feelings for the protagonist, Elizabeth Bennet. She seemed far too judgmental and prejudiced (the prejudice in the title) for my taste. She was described as witty and intelligent, but I couldn't see past her outspoken personality. But throughout the course of the novel, I gradually admired her. She went through a transformation that turned her into a better character.

   The Bennet family is an interesting one. Mr. Bennet is very sarcastic and intelligent, whereas Mrs. Bennet made me grit my teeth with her frivolous and exaggerated behavior. The eldest daughter, Jane, is gorgeous and kind, though sometimes her kindness made her judgment very poor. Elizabeth is the second eldest. The third daughter is Mary, who would rather read than converse with others. Then, there's Catherine, who likes to flirt and focuses on boys and beauty. But even Catherine is nothing compared to the youngest daughter, Lydia, who's so obnoxious and annoying, that I found myself glaring whenever she came in a scene. There are many lovely characters in this book, but there are also some that are terribly despicable.

   Mr. Darcy was another character that I didn't love from the get-go. He was very arrogant and proud (the pride in the title), and I couldn't help but be a bit turned off. However, he was extremely intriguing. He spoke minimally, and I wanted to know more about the famous Mr. Darcy. Later in the book, as I got to see more of his character, I couldn't help but fall in love with his generous acts.

   The plot moved slowly, in my opinion. There were scenes that were extremely dramatic, of course, but there were also chapters where I thought not much was going on. Overall, the plot was very captivating, despite some slow moving places.

   Pride and Prejudice is a delightful and absorbing novel, filled with surprising sarcasm and great characters. Also, I'm very pleased to say that by reading this book, I've picked up on quite a few vocabulary words. I hope to read another Austen book soon.

   4 keys.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Pivot Point by Kasie West

Publication Date: February 12, 2013
Publisher: HarperTeen
Format: eGalley
Page Count: 320
Synopsis: Knowing the outcome doesn’t always make a choice easier . . .

Addison Coleman’s life is one big “What if?” As a Searcher, whenever Addie is faced with a choice, she can look into the future and see both outcomes. It’s the ultimate insurance plan against disaster. Or so she thought. When Addie’s parents ambush her with the news of their divorce, she has to pick who she wants to live with—her father, who is leaving the paranormal compound to live among the “Norms,” or her mother, who is staying in the life Addie has always known. Addie loves her life just as it is, so her answer should be easy. One Search six weeks into the future proves it’s not.

In one potential future, Addie is adjusting to life outside the Compound as the new girl in a Norm high school where she meets Trevor, a cute, sensitive artist who understands her. In the other path, Addie is being pursued by the hottest guy in school—but she never wanted to be a quarterback’s girlfriend. When Addie’s father is asked to consult on a murder in the Compound, she’s unwittingly drawn into a dangerous game that threatens everything she holds dear. With love and loss in both lives, it all comes down to which reality she’s willing to live through . . . and who she can’t live without.
Review: The concept of Pivot Point is just fantastic. The premise of the book sounded amazing when I read it. But I think that the execution of such a fascinating idea fell flat for me.

   Addie is "Divergent" (which drove me crazy, because all I could think about was the book Divergent) and she can see alternate futures when presented with a choice. So, when her parents are getting divorced, she chooses to Search which parent she'd be better off living with. And thus begins the story.

   There were so many different ways Kasie West could have approached such a concept, and I'm afraid that I was a little disappointed by the path she chose. The book was interesting and it kept me reading, but I wasn't extremely invested into the story. The characters weren't particularly captivating--I didn't care much for our protagonist nor the requisite best friend. I didn't even care much for the love interests (though I did very much dislike one of them as the book went on). Everything was just okay.

   Suddenly, in the last third or so of the novel, things started changing. The plot picked up. Twists were thrown in. I was absorbed. I was itching to know what would happen. My like for the book grew immensely during the last portion of the book.

   A constant problem for me, for some reason, was the writing. I usually never have a problem with the writing in a book, but in Pivot Point, I did. The writing was extremely plain and I was somehow reminded of middle school writing. Also, in the beginning of each chapter, there's a term and a corresponding definition. But sometimes, verbs are described as nouns, and vice versa.

   Pivot Point is an entertaining debut that improved as the page number increased. However, the disappointing execution of a great story idea left me slightly dissatisfied.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta

Publication Date: March 31, 2003
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Format: Paperback
Page Count: 243
Synopsis: Francesca is stuck at St. Sebastians, a boys' school that's pretends it's coed by giving the girls their own bathroom. Her only female companions are an ultra-feminist, a rumored slut, and an an impossibly dorky accordion player. The boys are no better, from Thomas who specializes in musical burping to Will, the perpetually frowning, smug moron that Francesca can't seem to stop thinking about. 

Then there's Francesca's mother, who always thinks she knows what's best for Francesca—until she is suddenly stricken with acute depression, leaving Francesca lost, alone, and without an inkling who she really is. Simultaneously humorous, poignant, and impossible to put down, this is the story of a girl who must summon the strength to save her family, her social life and—hardest of all—herself.
Review: Although I'm not exactly sure why, I had the preconception that this book was going to be a light and fluffy romance--something very easy to fly through that would give my mushy feelings. This expectation definitely made my reading experience incredibly surprising! This book was so far from light and fluffy.

   I wasn't expecting the dark tone of the novel and was immediately assaulted with it. Francesca wasn't exactly lovable to me. It took me a long time to warm up to her--more than half the novel, actually. She started off cold and distant to everyone, with a "woe is me" attitude, and honestly, I wasn't sure if I was going to like the book. My first impression of Francesca was very disappointing because I had heard so many amazing things about this novel!

   But as the book progressed, I began to like Francesca, and by the end, I really liked her transformation. She opened up, she came to realizations, she made so many fabulous friends, and she actually became herself, rather than just a dull copy of what she once was. I started seeing good things about her: the way she became stronger, her sharp humor, the love with which she treated her brother. And maybe most of all, I loved the way I actually found that I could relate to her. As a teenager, I sometimes think that my opinion is right. I think I know the full story. But then, as time goes on and I learn more, I realize that I was wrong, and my parents that I used to view as condescending were really just correct the whole time. And I think Francesca goes through the exact same thing.

   There wasn't a Sebastian friend of Francesca's that I didn't like in this book. Every single one of them I wanted in my life. From Justine with her kind ways, Tara's passionate views, Siobhan's wit and hope, Thomas's hilarity and realness, Jimmy's carefree attitude... They were all so fantastic! They carried the book so far. At first, none of them seem worth getting to know, but in the end, they were just about the most incredible friends ever.

   And then there's Francesca's family. Her mother's depressed and it's seeping into the whole family. Everyone's so emotional and the atmosphere is so heavy. And yet there's a delicateness, a fragility in the whole household, where a single finger could make the entire family collapse. Everything's held onto by a thinning thread, and the sadness of it all sank my heart.

   There's so many things I want to say about this book, but it's more difficult than I thought it was going to be to form my thoughts into sentences. It's stunningly thought-provoking. I shed tears reading this book. Of course there were some problems I had. It took me quite some pages to actually invest myself into the story. The short number of pages made some scenes probably less impacting than what they should have been. I felt frustrated with the protagonist for more than half of the book. However, even though I didn't fall in love with Saving Francesca, the depth and resonance of the novel have left an impact on me, giving this book a permanent residence in my thoughts.

   4 keys.

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