Monthly Archives: January 2015

The Last Unicorn

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The Last Unicorn

I cannot even express how exited I am to start reading this book, especially since I didn’t even know it was a book. I grew up watching the movie The Last Unicorn and was absolutely enraptured by it. The Last Unicorn and The Little Mermaid define my childhood movie watching experience. I must have watched this movie at least 100 times as a kid both terrified and mesmerized by it. The image that still sticks in my mind to this day is of The Red Bull chasing down the unicorn. It was terrifying and exhilarating all at the same time. The red flames from the bull that filled the screen always kept me on the edge of my seat wondering if maybe this time the unicorn wouldn’t escape.

Now I won’t lie, my memory fails me on the major plots of the story only focusing on the parts that used to scare the bejesus out of me which is in part why I’m so excited to read the book. I want to remember the story. I want to be transported back into a storyline I loved so much. Plus the old VHS tape is so worn out it doesn’t play as well anymore.

Since I did love this movie so much as a kid I do have high expectations for this book. Fingers crossed it’s as good as I remember the movie being.

Here’s to some high fantasy and, for those of you who want to know the category for this book battle, a book centering around a non-human protagonist. Happy reading!

One Wild Ride

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One Wild Ride

Before I watched the movie and read this book I, like many people I’m sure, never even heard of the Pacific Crest Trail, or PCT. The full trail spans from Mexico to Canada and took many decades to enact and build. Just imagining how large the trail spans is more than my mind can encompass. The thousands of miles is an incredible feat to hike let alone the differences in terrain and climate. Yet, that’s exactly what author Cheryl Strayed did. She didn’t hike the entirety of the PCT but instead chose to hike from the Mojave Desert to the Bridge of the Gods on the Oregon/Washington border. Strayed hiked a whopping 1100 miles in total!

Wild chronicles Strayed’s hike of the PCT and the reasons she decided to hike the trail in the first place. Following her mother’s death and her divorce from her husband Paul, Strayed portrays the desperate downward spiral she found herself caught up in. In order to pull herself out of this downward spiral, she made the decision to hike the PCT to heal herself. To me, this novel read almost as a confessional. The last phase in her journey to heal the wounds of the past and move on. At times hilarious and heart wrenching, I found myself unable to put the book down. I loved the imagery of the PCT that Strayed evokes in her writing. I could imagine the desert and it’s vastness as well as the Oregon forest and it’s cocoon of trees. The animals and the people Strayed meets on her journey, both friend and foe.

The biggest thing though was how complete the book felt as compared to the movie. The movie, as I mentioned in my previous post, was filled with so many holes I was left a bit confused as to the timeline of things. The book filled in those holes and presented an almost completely new timeline of events. The movie combined different events from different parts of the book to make a scene and I think this was the reason I was so confused. Some of the mash-ups just didn’t quite go, especially now that I know their rightful place in the timeline of events. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the movie but the old adage remains, read the book first. It will make a whole lot more sense.

Final rating: 4/5

Stay tuned for the next book in the battle. It’s a classic!

Wild

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Wild

The next book up in the battle is Cheryl Strayed’s memoir Wild. Now I admit I’ve already seen the movie which is unusual for me because I usually like to read the book before the movie, but alas that’s not the case this time. It will be interesting, though, to do the reverse of what I usually do and compare the movie to the book instead of the other way around. One thing I do hope is that the book fills in some holes left ambiguous by the movie. There were particular scenes in the movie where I guess it was presumed you’d just know who people were and in which state things were happening. The flashbacks and flash forwards in particular weren’t all explained they just kind of happened so I’m hoping the book will make sense of those scenes.

Now, some of my friends have already read the memoir and loved it so I have pretty high expectations for this book. The last memoir I read was The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls and I absolutely fell in love with that book. I even considered breaking the rules of the Book Battle to re-read it because it was that good. But I stuck to the guns of the Book Battle and chose something new. And I must say I’m pretty happy with my choice even having just read the back cover of the book. It sparked my wanderlust. I’ve always wanted to go on a backpacking trip but have yet to do it. Perhaps this book will inspire me to take action and just go for it.

What’s next on your reading list?

Upstairs, Downstairs

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Upstairs, Downstairs

From the first, I couldn’t get images of Downton Abbey out of my head while reading this book. In parts, it’s a mash-up of Downton Abbey and Upstairs, Downstairs about the lives of staff and their wealthy patrons and how they intersect and influence the other. The House at Riverton has all the scandal and drama of Downton Abbey and quite a bit of heart. Told from the perspective of house maid Grace, the story covers about a decade in the lives of the Hartford family. From the fancies and dreams of youth to the traumatizing events of WWI, the characters grow and change with the changing times. However, the passage of time in the book was a bit jumbled for my taste. I never was sure exactly when it was or how old the main characters were supposed to be at that point which caused some head scratching on my part.

Morton’s forumla is definitely starting her and, perhaps because she’s still finding her rhythm, not nearly as strong as in her later books. The big reveals in the book aren’t all that shocking because of Morton’s constant foreshadowing the reader pretty much knows what to expect. Perhaps most jarring is that effort it takes Morton to arrange her main character, Grace, into the other characters secret lives, even listening in at keyholes, to keep the story moving forward. In fact, Grace is probably the best part of the book. She’s the best fleshed out character of the bunch. I found myself far more interested in the little snippets we gleamed about her life than the lives of the Hartfords. Grace was the quietly subversive one and definitely the one who lived what the other characters only dreamed about.

Despite the little hiccups in the book, I enjoyed it immensely. I like Morton’s formula and she does it well. I especially loved the small scene in the book featuring Agatha Christie.

Rating: 4/5.

For those of you wondering what’s next in the battle here’s a hint. It’s going to be a memoir! Happy reading!!

The House at Riverton

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The House at Riverton

The next book on the agenda is Kate Morton’s The House at Riverton. For any of you curious about the category, this is the popular author’s first book. I’ve read a few other books by Kate Morton, perhaps my favorite being The Distant Hours. I loved the I Capture the Castle feel about that book and the gothic darkness surrounding it.

In the books I have read by Kate Morton, she definitely has a formula she follows for her books and it works splendidly for her. I’m excited to read this first book and see how she has crafted and adapted her formula from here. Each book I’ve read her formula gets a bit sleeker and I can’t wait to see where she started to compare her later novels. In addition, I love the oscillating back and forth between time periods. Morton does a great job of recreating the past, a tad bit melodramatic, but intriguing nonetheless. She is a great one for foreshadowing as well.

This particular book is set during the first world war and then oscillates with the present from the perspective of a main working at Riverton. And naturally mystery and intrigue shortly follow.

Stay tuned for more book battle fun! Happy reading!

Harry Down the Rabbit Hole

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Harry Down the Rabbit Hole

I had such a visceral reaction to the first few pages of this book that I had to step away for a couple days before I could pick it up again. Nesbo is decidedly unrelenting in his depiction of violence and depravity but it does work in the contexts of this book. The scene in question involves a kind of torture device used in Africa called the Leopold’s Apple. Definitely not for the faint of heart. However, looking deeper into the story it’s much less about the violence and much more about the deconstruction and reconstruction of a man. Part police procedural, psychological thriller, and man’s search for answers within himself, The Leopard is one roller coaster ride of a book.

The novel, after I was able to pick it up again, started rather slowly but sure picked up towards the end to the point that I couldn’t put it down. Taking place in Oslo, rural Norway, and even the Congo the novel has many twists and turns I never expected. Nesbo guides you through his red herrings and makes you believe everyone. Just when you think you know who the killer is guess again. Even prized detective Harry Hole is surprised with this one.

My favorite quote from the book occurs when Harry first goes to the Congo. For me this quote solidified much of the book and the way many of the characters interact with each other. Harry and his Congolese taxi driver are talking about a snow leopard and the driver states: “That one is almost impossible to hunt. It is rare, has large territory, only hunts at night. Hides and blends into environs during the day. I think it is very lonely animal, Harry.” This quote applies both to Harry and the people he hunts, two sides of the same coin.

As Harry’s father says, love and hate are the same just the flip side of the coin. Nesbo does an amazing job of showing this disparity, especially in the characters’ relationships with each other. How easy it is to flip the coin on the person next to you and how perhaps the hate you thought was destroying you could be your saving grace.

Now, this is the 8th book in the series and I definitely felt at a slight disadvantage not knowing what had happened in the previous books, since the events were heavily mentioned as influencing personality and behavior. It also makes me want to know more about Norway and the culture there since there are many different dialects brought up and placed on certain people in judgement of reverence.

Overall, I really enjoyed the ride this book took me on. While terrifying, it made me think and read between the lines, exactly what a book is supposed to do.

Rating: 4/5

Stay tuned for the next book in the battle!!

The Leopard Has Arrived

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The Leopard Has Arrived

For the next battle, a book recommended by a friend. For this challenge I’ve chosen Jo Nesbo’s novel The Leopard. One of my good friends from college recommended this book to me because she knows that I like mysteries and scary books. And this one looks like a doozy. I’ve never read a book by this author before but am excited to check it out. I’ve read a few Scandinavian mysteries before, most notably The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and have loved the grit and suspense in them. The pacing is so different from a lot of American mysteries and thrillers, slower and centered around psychological suspense.

I’m a big fan of reading novels that take place outside of my home state and country. It’s so interesting to read about how other cultures and people relate to each other and how their environment affects mood and pace. I can’t wait to dive right into the Norwegian winter and see what happens.

Stay tuned for the review of The Leopard! What book are you reading next?