Sunday, 20 June 2010

"Alice Through the Looking Glass"



Having really enjoyed Alice in Wonderland a number of times, I decided that I should also read the sequel, immediately afterwards and I'm glad I did! I found the writing to be just as brilliant, and the story to be very interesting. Although I had never read the book before, there were a number of parts where I had seen parodies or excerpts in other places, so I was pleasantly surprised to see them all in one place.

I particularly enjoyed Tweedledum and Tweedledee, and the Jabberwocky - both of which I had heard about elsewhere. In fact, I chose the Walrus and the Carpenter as reading material for the kids at camp one evening, and it went down very well.

In all the book was almost as good as the first in nearly every way, but because I enjoyed "Alice in Wonderland" just a little more, I have to give "Alice Through The Looking Glass" a four star rating. That is to say that it's highly recommended - but only after reading "Alice in Wonderland" first.

Alice laughed. 'There's no use trying,' she said. 'One can't believe impossible things.'
'I daresay you haven't had much practice,' said the Queen. 'When I was your age, I always did it half an hour a day. Why, sometimes, I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.

[Page 54]

My rating: (4.0/5.0)

Monday, 14 June 2010

"Alice in Wonderland"

Being one of my favourite childhood reads, "Alice in Wonderland" was a decent choice for my first ever e-book, when I downloaded a Kindle-esque application for my iPhone. As the plane taking me to summer camp lifted off the Vancouver runway, I whisked my finger across the screen and began to read.

Although I was eventually disappointed to discover that my phone was getting low on battery (running multiple applications for a while will do that apparently), it was due to the fact that I simply couldn't put Lewis Carroll's classic down. The more I read, the more I wanted to read. As the battery went flat, I turned off the phone and decided to watch an in-flight movie.

By some sort of eerie coincidence, it turned out that Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland" would be the next movie shown on the flight, so I got comfortable and watched to see what I enjoyed, and what I hated. In the end I was pretty impressed with the movie, but that I couldn't wait to dive back into the book put it (as is usually the case with books and movies) higher in the rankings for me. As such, I would call it one of my personal favourites, and give it a 5 star rating.

"'Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?'
`That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,' said the Cat.
`I don't much care where--' said Alice.
`Then it doesn't matter which way you go,' said the Cat.
`--so long as I get SOMEWHERE,' Alice added as an explanation.
`Oh, you're sure to do that,' said the Cat, `if you only walk long enough.'"
[Page 50]

My rating: (5.0/5.0)

Monday, 24 May 2010

Summer Camp

For the past 8 years I have worked in a variety of jobs around the world. Among these have been opportunities in childcare of all types, and in one case (in 2007) summer camp in the USA.

For those unfamiliar with the tradition, parents like to send their kids to forested camps by lakes during the summer to get them out of the city and to have them interact with peers away from home. Though it is a nationwide thing, the majority of camps are found in the north east.

In 2007 I worked in Pennsylvania for three months and loved it. As such, when I decided to return to the USA for the summer, camp was a clear choice. After a lot of paperwork and stress, it has been arranged that I will be in Maine between early June and late August, working on a climbing wall. I hope to read in my free time and will update this as often as I can get internet, which may be rare.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Exams

As the end of my second semester in Canadian university comes to an end, I can look forward to a summer of adventure and freedom, and reflect on the craziness of the Winter Olympic Games coming to my home town! So far I have started slowly on the reading challenge, but I have a large collection of books at the ready, and will be determined during the summer to share every free moment with a book.

In September I will start my second year courses for my degree, and though this will likely take a chunk of my time, I hope the momentum I gather over the summer (despite distractions) will help me as I work toward 52 books in a year.

Thanks for stopping by my blog, and I look forward to your input.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

"The Jungle Book"

My favourite book so far this year, Rudyard Kipling's "The Jungle Book" was an absolute treat. Unexpectedly dissimilar to the Disney classic (my only real exposure to the story), the book was filled with interesting stories that have stood the test of time well.

As well as the well-known chapters about Mowgli and his life as a human raised by wolves in India, there were also some lesser-known stories about seals and mongooses (mongeese?) among others. These stories (though catching me off guard when the "Jungle Book" I'd known ended halfway through the book) were wonderful and I look forward to sharing them with the kids I work with. In all, I would give the book 4.5/5.0, and recommend it to everyone!

"The others they hate thee because their eyes cannot meet thine; because thou art wise; because thou hast pulled out thorns from their feet--because thou art a man." [Page 26]

My rating: (4.5/5.0)

Sunday, 28 March 2010

SpeedyReedyTV

Something I've been having some fun with lately is video making, so I started a YouTube channel which I plan to post weekly content on, in the form of skits, vlogs, and montages. Eventually I plan to add video content to this blog - and try to expand my audience. If this sort of thing appeals to you, head over to SpeedyReedyTV and subscribe!

Saturday, 27 March 2010

"Moby Dick"

Herman Melville's classic adventure novel "Moby Dick" tells of a young man who goes to sea on a whaling ship - leaving from America and sailing around Africa. Once aboard the Pequod with a companion he meets in an inn, he meets Captain Ahab - a man hellbent on taking revenge on the whale who took his leg. The story follows this journey across the seven seas, broken up between chapters devoted to facts and stories about whales.

I had been looking forward to reading this book since I bought it, and was really into it for the first half. The story progresses slowly but there is plenty of description and though the language is very intellectual, I felt like I could keep up. Unfortunately, I grew weary of the whale facts and (in much the same way that I have to skip the elven poetry in Lord of the Rings) found myself having to jump ahead when the story was interrupted by statistics on whale bone measurements.

As much as I liked the story, and can see why it continues to stand the test of time, I would only recommend the book to an avid reader with a strong interest in reading the book. This is an epic, and not to be started lightly. As such, I would give the book three out of five.

"Call me Ishmael." [Page 1]

My rating: (3.0/5.0)

Friday, 12 March 2010

"The Perks Of Being A Wallflower"

Stephen Chbosky's story follows an angsty teen through high school in the early 1990's, in a series of anonymous letters (signed "Charlie") to someone who seemed nice because they didn't take advantage of drunk girls, according to a classmate's anecdote. The letters tell of relationships, parties, school and family life for Charlie, and he admits his innermost feelings about events, starting with the suicide of his friend, "Michael".

I loved the honesty of the book, and the way that it was presented through the letters, and avoiding information which could reveal Charlie's true identity. The story was very interesting and I felt like I could understand Charlie, which was nice. I was highly recommended the book, and will pass on the same praise to anyone looking for a short, amazing novel about teenage life. In fact, to anyone, even if they aren't looking for that sort of book!

"I walked over to the hill where we used to go and sled. There were a lot of little kids there. I watched them flying. Doing jumps and having races. And I thought that all those little kids are going to grow up someday. And all of those little kids are going to do the things that we do. And they will all kiss someone someday. But for now, sledding is enough. I think it would be great if sledding were always enough, but it isn't." [Page 73]

My rating: (3.5/5.0)

Thursday, 18 February 2010

"The Tales Of Beedle The Bard"

As a collection of short stories for children, I found The Tales Of Beedle The Bard to be interesting but with vocabulary that would be quite above the reading level of the children. Though this is not always a bad thing, I found my self having to stop and explain words a few times when I read the stories to kids at my work. Aside from this, the morals and values were interesting, and the book was quite fun.

J K Rowling has created an interesting work, using Dumbledore to analyse each story, which is an interesting idea. Again, this would be above the heads of children reading the stories, but worked for me. Though these are no Harry Potter beaters, they are amusing for a few hours when a longer book doesn't appeal. I would recommend the book to Harry Potter fans who want a quick read from time to time. Otherwise, they would be best passed over for the far superior Harry Potter books themselves.

My rating: (1.5/5.0)

Friday, 12 February 2010

Vancouver Winter Olympics 2010

Since I am a student in the Vancouver area, working at the Olympics is a very big deal to me. Firstly it means two weeks off school, to meet people from around the world who are united to see their country compete in my city. Secondly, I will be earning quite a bit of money from my temporary job at the Richmond Olympic Oval (home of long track speed skating!). Thirdly, there will be tonnes of free things to see and do, including concerts from bands that I really like.

As such, my reading challenge will be on hold for a few weeks. Just expect more books during the summer months as I catch up! Happy Olympic period world. See you in March (or April, if I do paralympic work too!)

Friday, 22 January 2010

"The Rum Diary"

Considered a pioneer of American journalism, Hunter S Thompson has a style quite unlike anyone I had read before. Hoping to open my mind and learn from other writers, I decided to give him a second chance (after disliking "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" for coming across as boastful) and picked up "The Rum Diary" as my third book of the year.

Mostly, I enjoyed the story (which follows American journalist Paul Kemp to San Juan where he works for a newspaper) and thought that the descriptions were very good. Unfortunately I found the book sinking down my priorities list during a busy few weeks as the story seemed to drag in parts - taking longer than I'd hoped to read the 200 pages. Despite this, I did find some quotes that I liked a lot, my favourite of which I have included below.

"Most people who deal in words don’t have much faith in them and I am no exception — especially the big ones like Happy and Love and Honest and Strong. They are too elusive and far too relative when you compare them to sharp, mean little words like Punk and Cheap and Phony. I feel at home with these, because they’re scrawny and easy to pin, but the big ones are tough and it takes either a priest or a fool to use them with any confidence." [Page 55]

My rating: (2.0/5.0)

Monday, 18 January 2010

Short Story

  Today I handed in a 12-page story about a young adult called Jack. Once it has been graded I plan to post it online but it is currently in the peer-review stage of the Creative Writing process and is not technically finished. Having never written a story before, I was amazed at how much fun it can be and really enjoyed picturing each scene as I wrote them.

This set me back a bit in my reading, but I'll finish and review soon.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Amazon Associates

This blog was recently approved to be an Amazon Associate, which means I can link to their website in my review posts and earn revenue from sales conducted via my blog. I will use this service to link to the relevant product and from this you can read other people's reviews as well as see the cover art and the year each book was published.

If you choose to buy any books via my blog, I would also receive a small percentage for linking to Amazon from my site. I don't expect this to come to much, but every little helps and it will be nice to discover that people are buying the books I've read.

This is the only "advertising" I will add to the site. Thanks for reading.

Monday, 11 January 2010

"Slaughterhouse Five"

A book I'd been meaning to read for a while, "Slaughterhouse Five" by Kurt Vonnegut was every bit as good as I'd been told to expect by the numerous people who had recommended it to me. Set towards the end of WWII, the book follows Billy Pilgrim, an American stationed in Germany, after he is captured and held as a prisoner of war. The story centres around the fire-bombing of Dresden in 1945.

I really enjoyed the book and enjoyed the intelligent writing, with it's scattered humour throughout - providing good comic relief from the horrors of war. I have included a quote below to illustrate the sort of dark humour that is used within the story.

"Billy coughed when the door was opened, and when he coughed he shit thin gruel. This was in accordance with the Third Law of Motion according to Sir Isaac Newton. This law tells us that for every action there is a reaction which is equal and opposite in direction.
    This can be useful in rocketry."
[Page 80]

My rating: (3.5/5.0)

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Used Book Store

Today I spent more than an hour looking through hundreds of books in a small shop in Steveston (south Richmond). As well as finding many of the books I'd been looking to own for a while, I also picked up some classics for this challenge and three beautiful leather-bound books (Shakespeare's comedies, Shakespeare's tragedies, Dickens' great works) in great condition.

In all I bought over $750 worth of books for $250, bringing my total book purchases for the year so far to over 60, which should help me complete this challenge...

Monday, 4 January 2010

"Oryx and Crake"

My first book of the year, which I finished reading on the 10-hour plane journey back to Vancouver, was the 1984-esque novel, "Oryx and Crake" by Margaret Atwood. Set in a post-apocalyptic future, the book follows the efforts of one man (Snowman) to survive, as he reminisces about his life and the people he knew in his past.

The book was very good and posed some interesting ideas about the future of the planet. I liked the dialogue and was generally interested throughout. The only real let down was the ending, but overall it was a solid read and I would recommend it.

My rating: (3.0/5.0)

Friday, 1 January 2010

Happy New Year

Excited by the prospect of starting a Creative Writing course when I return to Canada in a few days, I have decided to increase the amount of time I spend each week reading - so that I may better my writing by learning from what I read. Therefore, my New Year's resolution this year will be to read at least one book a week for the duration of 2010.

Happy New Year Decade!