Thursday, February 5, 2015

Wildalone by Krassi Zourkova

When I first read the description of this book I was a little skeptical. It touted the book as "a bewitching blend of Twilight, The Secret History, Jane Eyre, and A Discovery of Witches." Now I've read most of those books and really enjoyed them, so my interest is piqued. Anything compared to Jane Eyre must be good. And you know what, it really was!

The book is a masterpiece of intrigue, innocence, the paranormal, historical, and mythological all in one. It centers on Thea Slavin, a piano prodigy from Bulgaria starting her first year at Princeton. But she is also there to uncover the secret of what happened to her sister, whom she didn't even know existed until shortly before leaving, while she was at Princeton several years before. That curiosity pulls her into a world unlike any she has ever seen before that presents a combination of Greek and Bulgarian mythology.

Another thing I really enjoyed about the book was its sensuality. It was rich, dark and mysterious that wraps around the reader, adding a little spice yet still being below the line of full on erotica. It is difficult to achieve that kind of balance, and I think the author did it splendidly.

I also loved the descriptions of Princeton. I've never been there, but through this book I felt like I was really seeing it. She placed me at the scene and with Thea I went to the landmark buildings that make up this stunning campus. I think a little visit may be in the cards soon. Who knows, maybe I'll find my tall, dark and handsome stranger too!

History lesson!
the story of Orpheus in Greek mythology. The tale of Orpheus features prominently in this book. It is the tale of a musician so gifted that the Gods would sit up and pay attention. He could charm all animals, trees, and even stones with his lyre. He shows up in Greece around the 6th century BCE, although noted writers of this period such as Homer don't mention him.

One of his most famous stories stems from devotion to his wife, Eurydice. When she dies Orpheus travels to the underworld to bring her back. He charms Hades who tells him that he can have Eurydice back, but must lead her out of the underworld without once looking back at her. Unfortunately, the temptation proves too much- he looks back, and Eurydice dies all over again. Orpheus is devastated and never gets over it. He meets his end at the hand of Maenads (servants of Dionysis) because he has betrayed his god. Or is that really the reason? Read Wildalone for another perspective.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Have you ever just wanted to escape the constraints of your own life? Have you ever wished that instead you could live in a world where your fantasies can become a reality of sorts? Well that is the world in which Ready Player One is set. It's really only a few years away from the present given our trajectory. This virtual world, the Oasis, is a 24 hour dive into those fantasies. Here you can be anything and everything you ever wanted to be. Just plug yourself in and you're ready to go! Sounds amazing, doesn't it? I know you are nodding.

But let's take a moment and think about what a fully immersive dream world might do to the real world. I'm not the only person who would prefer my dreams to what is currently my life. So let's say that an entire society makes this call. Then the country. Then the world. Who is left to encounter reality?

So the real world deteriorates as people only really care about how much electricity and bandwidth they have. And that enables some to rise up and take control of that reality now that no one is looking. So then everything, real and virtual, slowly gets enveloped as you lose more and more control over everything that was once important- the internet, human interaction, the economy, leadership. While no one was paying attention the world got taken over by tyrants who believe they can do whatever they want, because hey, that's the whole point of the OASIS, right?

They slowly make the virtual populace dependent upon them in order to achieve those dreams and fantasies. And before you know it your life is no longer your own. And you don't notice because you're still dreaming.

I'd be lying to myself if I said I didn't want to experience the OASIS. But having your economic future dependent upon how much the tyrants want you to pay for those now necessary items to your new life is very shaky ground. They could pull the rug out from under you at any time, for any reason that they want.

So when a teenager becomes enemy number one due to a contest that would hand off total control of the OASIS to the winner, things get ugly. Your dream world turned into a nightmare. You have to hide your real self so you aren't found and exterminated before you can finish the quest. Nothing is certain anymore and the game keeps changing.

But this story is not all dark. It is also a story of hope, that in every point of darkness a light will emerge to bring things back to center. In Ready Player One, it was one boy in whose hands the future, both virtual and real, lies. He is the one to stand up to the tyrant and tell them that there is someone who will fight to save control of our dreams and realities. And that beacon of hope inspires countless numbers to wake up, look around, and realize that what is being taken away is precious. So they join the fight.

This book is amazing because of the many layers it has. On the surface it is just a video game. Then you dig deeper and find the criticism for where our own society is headed. To that all I can say is not to give up your dreams to someone else, even if it seems easier. Take control of your life. That is the only way you can really live.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Singular Adventures of Baron Munchausen by Rudolph Raspe
3 stars

The Beloved Baron Himself

The Baron Munchausen is quite a character. He can singlehandedly defeat great beasts, make ships fly, discover new lands (even those on the moon) and in general, always save the day. He reminds me a great deal of Don Quixote, actually. Although instead of Rocinante, he has a bevy of fine beasts: one horse whom only he could tame (and then of course ride inside for tea, because, why not?), some fabulously brilliant dogs who smell game even in the middle of the ocean (and I can't even get my dog to sit more than 2 seconds), a gigantic seahorse whose eyes he gouged out and then took to riding, and a pair of great eagles whom he rode all around with, and also enabled them to get very drunk on native fruit (such a good influence). Each story is more ridiculous than the next, but he does succeed in creating a welcome distraction from the real world. I recommend reading some of his exploits to escape with a light read.

Origins of the Baron
Unlike Quixote, Baron Munchausen is a real person. He was a German aristocrat who lived from 1720-1797. His main contribution to posterity was his love of telling tall tales, especially at dinner parties with his friends. The legend he built himself up to be was snatched by the literary presses in the 1780s. The first English version was published by Rudolph Raspe  in 1785. Not to be outdone, the tales were translated back into German the following year. 

The Baron has appeared in more than 100 different volumes to date. His exploits have been heard on the radio and seen on the stage. He has been a cartoon and part of a feature film. So it seems that he did achieve great things, just perhaps not what he intended to be known for, but has been an enchanting diversion to audiences for more than two centuries.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

I've always been a fan of Top Ten Tuesday, which comes to us from The Broke and The Bookish.

This week's topic is which books I'd like to re-read if we were in an ideal world where I actually had time for such things. Here are mine, but let me know yours as well!

1. The Entire Harry Potter Series. These books truly enchanted me and I love the immersive feeling of being a part of the wizarding world. Since I don't re-read because there are far too many books in the world, I have to content myself with re-watching the movies now and again. At least I have that.

2. Snow White and Rose Red by Patricia Wrede. This is an adult retelling of the classic fairytale and one of my absolute favorite books. It has been so long since I've read it and I long to return to the coziness of its beautifully woven story.

3. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. Another one of my favs. I've watched movies but none can get it just right for me. The only thing I can do is return.

4. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. There are some pretty good movie versions of this one (ahem Colin Firth, soaking wet) but the book will always hold a special place in my heart.

5. The Witching Hour by Anne Rice. This one puts together an intricate and dark genealogy of the Mayfair witches, stretching back generations. I love how much love was put into each and every story.

6. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. Fabulous and dark, with so many twists I'm pretty sure I missed something in my first reading.

7. If on a Winter's Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino. I'd love to forget I've read this one and read it again from scratch. I had such a great time with this book! Note: If you haven't read it yet, go do it. Now.

8. Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami. Murakami is so beautifully layered that I am sure that if I reread this book it would be like reading it for the first time all over again. There are so many details that may only surface the second time around.

9. Jewels of the Sun by Nora Roberts. My first Roberts read and one that I truly loved. I would hope to recapture the magic it gave me the first time. I've read other Roberts books since this one, but none have quite reached this level for me.

10. The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde. These books are true pleasures. They are so smart and witty and just fun. I'd love to go back to the beginning.

Well there's mine. What made your list?

Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween Everyone!

Let's kick off this All Hallow's Eve by talking about our favorite books and movies with a spooky twist! Now I'll be the first person to admit that I have a fear tolerance of an eleven year old, so my favorites are not going to be nearly as dark as yours might be. But please share your Halloween must-haves here!

Favorite Halloween Movie: Hocus Pocus
This movie has everything I need in a Halloween flick: witches, magic, and Bette Midler. Seriously, I can never get tired of her fantastic rendition of "I put a spell on you." Pure genius. For those who haven't heard of this movie, Bette Midler. Kathy Najimy and Sarah Jessica Parker play 3 bad witches who are raised from the dead on Halloween night by a virgin who lit a special candle. Now they are out to suck the life out of the children of Salem, and only 3 kids can stop them! A fun, family-friendly, wild ride.

Favorite Halloween TV Show: It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
What's not to love? Linus' obsession with the Great Pumpkin, a Santa-like character who brings presents to good little girls and boys? The song he sings about waiting? All your favorite Peanuts characters in full animation? Yeah, this is a must for every Halloween.

Favorite Halloween Book
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
 This book is creepy, spooky, and awesomely written. I came across this book sitting on a display at Barnes and Noble, and it was like the book called to me and demanded that I take it home. So I did. I wasn't disappointed. This book centers on a dying, reclusive author who has finally decided to have her life story recorded. So she brings a young journalist to her home and unveils the story of the March family, and in particular the March twins, who have a bond that none can understand in its strange intensity. With myriad twists and turns, this book will consume your attention with every page.

Favorite Halloween Poem: The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe
I don't know what it is about The Raven, but it never ceases to send shivers up my spine every time I hear or read it. It is so deliciously gothic, so dark, yet so far above the typically fright fests you typically see around Halloween. I love that the whole thing is one big, creepy, mind game, told in a spectacularly haunted way that no one but Poe can emulate.

Favorite Halloween Song: Thriller by Michael Jackson
It just isn't Halloween until I hear Thriller. It has defined the holiday for more than one generation, and the zombie-filled video, catchy music, and most awesome Vincent Price poetry reading ever makes a song for the ages. Come on, you know you have the dance learned by heart!

So there you go, some of my spooky favorites for Halloween. Have a very happy holiday everyone, and keep your little goblins safe from things that go bump in the night! I'll be the one cowering under the covers with a pumpkin latte in my hand!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

I know, I know, it's been forever since I've last posted here. Sorry. Life happens. But I will attempt to take another stab at this blogging and reviewing thing and hopefully someone will read it!

The book that brings me back is a wonderful read courtesy of Book Club Girls, a program for book clubs from Harper Collins. You had to sign up forever ago, but if you have a book club and they allow more people to sign up I definitely recommend it!

Anyway, here is the book:
GI Brides: The Wartime Girls Who Crossed the Atlantic for Love by

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

It's Thanksgiving-what are you thankful for?

The upcoming holiday has made me think about what I am really thankful for in my life. Although my turkey day festivities will be somewhat stunted by the lack of available family/friends in which to partake a feast, I can still say that there are a great many things I am thankful for (don't worry-I get family time the day after Thanksgiving. No food, but still good family time). So here are my top ten things. What are yours? Please post and let me know!

1. Family and friends. I am thankful for my family, small as it is, and for my friends, both old and new.
2. My health. Without which I would be able to live my life in the manner to which I've become accustomed.
3. My job. It does more than just pay the bills-it gives me a sense of purpose. And I love the organization that I work for. Being in a nonprofit and working toward something you believe in is endlessly rewarding.
4. Books! My thirst for the written word will never be quenched, and I am thankful that there are so many wonderful books out there for me to explore.
5. The ability to be myself. This is a newly acquired thing for me to be thankful for. I have recently re-discovered myself and feel that I am at last coming into my own independence. I am truly thankful.
6. Humor. Laughter is the best medicine and there is nothing like having a good laugh to cheer you on a dull, dreary day.
7. Love. While I'm not married and not in a relationship at the moment, I am thankful for love all around me. It doesn't have to be romantic love, but also love of beauty, love of art, love of music, and many more loves that I haven't mentioned here.
8. Dreams. We all aspire to something in our lives, and I am thankful for the ability to dream about the future. Dreaming helps us to know what is truly important to us and what we want to achieve in our life.
9. My dog. He is a little fuzzy ball of happiness! Everytime I see his smiling face I am thankful that he is mine.
10. The world around me. There is so much to learn-so much to explore. I am thankful for living in a country that offers up opportunities to become who you want to be-even though there are flaws in the system. I am thankful for the means to travel and learn about other cultures, even though I can't afford to do it as often as I would want. I am thankful to my ancestors for coming to America way back when in order to start a new life, one which would ultimately shape my destiny as well. Many thanks!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!