Write Me Up

Official writing with some random thoughts

Book review on The Eyre Affair December 8, 2014

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

Super smart, witty and full of what ifs, this book was so much more complex and full than I expected. Revamping the classics is kind of a trend right now, what with the YouTube vlogs like The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and Emma Approved, to the monster retellings likeSense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, to the tv shows like Sherlock. I love these retellings that are giving new life to great works of literature and introducing them to new audiences. Sometimes they can be a bit forced though, and since they are adaptations, the story is predictable. This book, on the other hand, is far from predictable.
The Eyre Affair is set in an alternate earth, one where bananas don’t exist, where genetically recreated did birds are the most popular pet, and where literature is the driving force of all society. Now that may sound a bit preposterous, dull even, but Jasper Fforde creates this world so thoroughly that it is almost easy to see it being possible. The story revolves around Thursday Next, a woman who works as a Literatec— a kind of literary police that protect works from being altered. Thursday Next is good at her job, and she likes it, but she quickly gets involved in a case that stumps everyone, where an original manuscript is stolen and the culprit is the most dangerous man in the world. Her life instantly turns upside down and she is forced to change jobs, move towns, and even time travel to investigate this case.
I don’t want to say much more because the glory of the story is in the unfolding of the world that Fforde creates, complete with its culture. I love how his characters are so real, yet they live in a world that seems ridiculous to us, where the most famous celebrities are authors who have been dead for decades in a society that is obsessed with literature. It does make a good commentary on the ridiculous nature of our pop culture, and the fads that we love and participate in. This book is not exactly a light read though. While the mystery aspect is appealing to most readers, it includes a lot of grammatical and literary terminology and jokes that only hose who have studied language and literature will catch. It also mentions a lot of authors and history, so it is necessary to be familiar with that too. However , Fforde is excellent at summarizing the main works of literature, such as Jane Eyre, from where the title is taken, and Martin Chuzzlewit, which makes a hefty appearance as well. I loved reading this excellent novel, and I cannot wait to get the next ones in the series. Many thanks to my fellow literature nerd, Hannah, for introducing this title to me, and for sending me her extra copy all the way to Alaska! She truly understands the importance of a good story 😉

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Book review! The First Two Lives of Lukas-Kasha December 6, 2014

The First Two Lives of Lukas-Kasha by Lloyd Alexander
Lloyd Alexander was one of my favorite young adult authors growing up. I still enjoy reading his works, although now I do find them a little formulaic. Lukas-Kasha is no exception to this. That being said, I would still recommend it to any young adult reader or enthusiast of Alexander’s work.
This book starts with a lazy, complacent main character who is content with staying lazy and complacent as the town bum. He is always hungry and gets into lots of scrapes, but he is too lazy to do anything with his life, until he runs into a mysterious magician who transports him to another world. In is land. Lukas is an emperor, pampered, well fed, and constantly in danger of assassination. He likes his new life at first, but quickly discovers that ruling a nation isn’t all feasts and fancy clothes. He escapes the palace with a very interesting slave girl, and his adventures really begin.
Like all Alexander novels, a wonderful band of misfits forms, and they journey together to discover their purpose and destiny. It is lively and fun, but a little predictable, although the ending was a surprise. It reminds me a lot of his Prydain books, especially in the parts where Lukas has to make big decisions about his life and the lives that are suddenly in his care. The biggest thing I like about Alexander is that he always makes his characters grow and learn. If you like young adult books, and especially if you like Alexander, I would recommend this book. However, it is not his best book, and if you want to read the real Alexander classics, you should start with The Book of Three and The black Cauldron.

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Book review on Hatchet by Gary Paulsen April 19, 2014

Hatchet is a book about a Brian Robeson, a thirteen year old boy who crashes in the middle of the Canadian wilderness and must learn to survive for almost two months by himself. He has only a hatchet and a windbreaker and some vague knowledge of survival stories.

I read this book because my fifth grade students are reading it in their English class. Honestly, I think the reading level is above fifth grade. The vocabulary is sometimes very specific, and while I like books that challenge students, there is almost no explanation of the vocabulary and fifth graders don’t quite have the skills to look up the words for the amount of new vocabulary there is in this book.

It is an okay read, fairly fast paced, but typical as far as survival stories go. It seemed pretty realistic, even at times to the point that I was slightly amazed that this kid didn’t know how to do certain things, like how to make sparks to start a fire. I didn’t really like Paulsen’s style of writing though. It could be because he was trying to make things abrupt, like the situation in the book, but it felt choppy and amateur. There were also many punctuation mistakes and misspellings (although that could have just been this printing of the book).

I like the ideas that this book introduces, and I like the informational quality to it, but overall I thought the story was incredibly underdeveloped. In the beginning of the book, Brian is completely preoccupied with his parent’s divorce and the “Secret” that he knows about his mother and the other man, but there is no follow through with this storyline, and absolutely no character development for Brian. I wouldn’t recommend this book, even though it won a Newberry Honor. There are so many things that could have been done better in the plot development to make it a story, not just an informative anecdote.

I did really enjoy reading about the wildlife in the book though, especially since it takes place in the same type of wilderness where I just spent the last week. There is even a section where Brian hunts some birds, which I instantly recognized as grouse, and I just went grouse hunting for the first time last week. So, if you enjoy reading survival stories and learning a little bit about plants and animals in the Canadian wilderness, by all means read this book. But if you want something that involves survival and better storytelling, I would advise against it.

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Book review on A Light in the Attic April 4, 2014

Filed under: Book Reviews — Dorothy Lynn @ 7:58 pm
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She Silverstein was a poetic genius. The poems that he wrote for kids are silly and fun and serious and deep. He has poems about dragons and flying carpets and about misunderstood clowns and men with too many hats. A Light in the Attic is like a storybook, and very simple to read for adults, yet here are so many poems where I find myself thinking more about life and humanity than when I read poems written for adults. What I love most is that he doesn’t shy away from writing about difficult emotions and events in life that are hard to process. Just because his poetry is for children doesn’t mean that it has to be superfluous piddlefluff. (Yes, I made up that word, but it’s okay, Shel Silverstein said it was okay.)

Here are a couple of my favorites.

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The Boy In the Striped Pajamas March 23, 2014

Now for the review I promised!

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne is a wonderful book. This was my first time reading it, mostly because historical fiction is not my favorite genre, and after visiting the Holocaust Museum when I was in sixth grade, I really have no desire to see more of the horrors that took place in those awful places. I do believe that everyone needs to learn about the Holocaust, but I am not at all fascinated by the subject, and sometimes people’s obsession with it seems to me to be a bit too macabre. However, John Boyne’s story is honestly one of the best portrayals of the time period I have ever read, with the exception of actual historical accounts from people like Anne Frank and Corrie Ten Boom. Boyne’s choice to tell the story from the vantage point of a young German boy is genius.

The book begins with a boy named Bruno who comes home from school one day to find out that his family has to move because of his father’s job. He doesn’t understand why, and although it is clear in what time period the story takes place, Bruno seems completely oblivious to how the world is changing around him. He relocates and discovers many new things about his family, his country, and what it means to be a true friend. His innocence and naïveté colors the entire novel from beginning to end, and his friendship with the boy in striped pajamas, Shmuel, is strange and wonderful and sad.

This book is listed as a higher reading level than what it actually is. I believe that the subject matter is what makes it a little more difficult, but honestly, any middle schooler could read it and easily understand the tone and vocabulary. I read it in a few hours over a couple of days. At first, it seems a little ridiculous that this nine year old boy has no idea what the purpose of this camp is that his father runs, but after a while, because his character is so solidly himself, it makes perfect sense. His point of view is a combination of childhood innocence, unscathed because he is privileged and sheltered, combined with a certain stubbornness and denial to see and grasp the terrible things surrounding him. I would recommend this book to anyone in a heartbeat, either to introduce the topic of the Holocaust, or to reinforce the lesson. It is beautifully written.

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Coming soon….. March 20, 2014

Filed under: Book Reviews — Dorothy Lynn @ 10:16 pm
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Book reviews on The Boy in Striped Pajamas and Crispin At the Edge of the World

The first is a book my eighth grade student is reading for class. I have never read it before, so I gobbled it up. The second is a sequel to the other Crispin novel by Avi. I love young adult literature so I was happy to find he wrote more in that setting. My brain is too tired to write a decent review right now, especially for a book as intense as The Boy in Striped Pajamas, ergo, I will post it tomorrow.

Also, writing/artist retreat with some awesome college friends this weekend! Can’t wait!!!

 

Review on Crispin: The Cross of Lead by Avi February 10, 2014

Filed under: Book Reviews — Dorothy Lynn @ 10:20 pm
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I read this book mostly because I love young adult literature, but also because on of my students is going to start reading it for class (which gave me a perfect excuse to gobble up this great piece of fiction).

I like Avi as a young adult author, although I cannot offhand remember any specific works of his that I have read before. I do have vague recollections of browsing the YA section of my library as a kid and picking up a few of his books.
Crispin is a great story, in the historical fiction genre. It is about a boy in the Middle Ages, after the time of the Black Death, in England. He lives in the small village of Stromford, as a poor widow’s son. He is shunned by his village, but does not know why, and when his mother dies, he is chased from the village after an unjust accusation. After this, he embarks on a journey to find safety, and in the process finds out who he truly is. It is fast paced, and extremely informative, with excellent information about the life and times of people in who lived then. Really my only complaint is that the ending was a bit anticlimactic.
I am excited to have my student read this, and also glad that I get to have an excuse to read good books for my job. I read this book in about 4 hours or so (stretched out over a couple of days). If you like the YA genre, you should definitely partake in this story.

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