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Review: New Moon (Twilight Saga, Book Two) by Stephenie Meyer

(note - since this is the 2nd book in the twilight saga, there are spoilers for the first book in the series, twilight)

in a sentence: Edward's attempt to force upon Bella a 'normal life' goes horribly wrong...but the good news is that Jacob Black is there to try and keep her whole.

i had heard from some of my students that this book was not the best of the saga, and now i know why they might think that.. for a good 85% of the book, there is no Edward. without spoiling why there is no Edward, it was something that i was very skeptical of. i was so smitten by the Bella + Edward dynamic that i thought i wouldn't enjoy it nearly as much as "twilight". turns out, i did! this gave a totally different feel for Bella and the overall tone of the book. the way that Meyer goes about describing her lonliness without Edward is so powerful, painful, heavy, and overwhelming. her high school experience and her relationship with her dad and mom were written with such intensity and realistic appreciation of the hurt she is going through. my heart hurt with Bella as she struggled to live with the immense heartache. i am so impressed at the ability to present her hurt so palpably to the reader.

the novel isn't all fog and heartache, though it is an overarching theme. Bella's relationship with Jacob Black grows and changes in ways that she certainly wasn't ready for. i liked that Jacob served as more than a "friend", and how Bella dealt with that uncertainty. i guess mostly i am impressed with how meyer is able to write about teenage relationships with the backdrop of vampires, missing hikers, and really BIG wolves roaming around Forks.  Bella is a bit two-dimensional and most of the insight we get into who she is, is through relationships.

the characters are just as emotionally charged and easy to connect with as in "twilight", though i am apprehensive to make too many comparisons to the first novel. this one is very different in the tone and character focus, but still very much part of the overall series and extending plot with elements from the first book coming back into play and the setting up of what is sure to be some epic action.

i appreciated the suspense, mystery, heavy-toned nature of this book within the series. i also liked the fantastic new twists in the storyline, and found the lack of Edward surprisingly refreshing.  these are the first books in a long time that i am so deeply invested in, and as an avid bookworm, it's a really great feeling! ps - i read this book in a day. yep, one single day.

fave quote: "I was like a lost moon - my planet destroyed in some cataclysmic, disaster-movie scenario of desolation - that continued, nevertheless, to circle in a tight little orbit around the empty space left behind, ignoring the laws of gravity" (Bella, 201)

title: New Moon (Twilight Saga, Book 2)
author: Stephanie Meyer

genre: romance, mystery, vampire

Review: Twilight (Twilight Saga, Book One) by Stephenie Meyer

in a sentence or two: Bella (adorably accident prone) meets Edward (amazingly hot vampire) and they fall in love. turns out, human/vampire relationships are mighty complicated.

i should start by saying that i tried to read this book about 6 months ago and could not get past the first chapter. i have no idea why, because this time around i PLOWED THROUGH this 500 page beast in about 5 days. not just any 5 days, but 5 weekdays where i worked / had studying to do on top of it. as you may have gathered from that obsessive and slightly embarrassing confession that this is one absorbing book.

Bella decides to leave phoenix where her mom and new boyfriend live for Forks, WA her junior year of high school. also known as waving farewell to the permanent sun for the permanent rain and gray weather. it's not all that bad in Forks though. she moves in with her dad, Charlie, and begins to adjust pretty easily to the local high school. she's the new token hottie around town and has no idea. this of course makes her even more adorably irresistible to the boys. it's that first day of high school during lunch when she first sees the amazing majesty that is Edward Cullen. Edward is essentially perfection wrapped up in a very mysterious package.

The development of Bella and Edward's relationship is what drove this book for me. somehow, Stephanie Meyer is able to take the idea of "vampire teenage romance" and make you forget how corny it is. my heart was skipping beats as they have their first kiss, their first expression of their emotions, etc etc etc gush gush gush. there is more to this than just a teeny romance, thanks to the vampirical element. the mystery and intrigue is enough to balance the gushing with some suspense. her exploring and explaining of vampires, how they manage to survive in society, how they feel about themselves, and how they deal with life in genral is very interesting...if different than a bulk of vampiric lore out there.

i liked how the author portrayed both Bella's family and her experience at Forks high school. despite the fact that Bella's parents are not together, she's still an emotionally stable and all around good kid. Meyer respects the idea that not all families are perfect, but that non-traditional family situations can be workable too.  the awkwardness of the entire new school, but ultimately the acceptance she found was very refreshing too. again, the author's idea that just because you're the new kid doesn't mean you're going to be the loser for the rest of your high school career is a respectful challenge to what i was expecting to happen to Bella.

one of my favorite elements of the relationship between Edward and Bella is that Edward can read minds, but not hers. so he discovers what he knows about her by listening to other people at first, and then 'casually eavesdrops' her conversations with her friends to gauge her responses. the best part is that he tells her, so she's able to give what responses she wants so he can guess what she is thinking...oh the head games of teenage love!

this book is really, really, really absorbing (not necessarily quality, mind you). i think that the audience is intended to be a teenage female, though certain boys i know have read this and enjoyed it. i would worry that all the romance would turn them off to it, but perhaps the suspense and mystery of the story is enough to hold their interest past the gushfests. the writing style is casual enough to engage the reader with the characters very easily and you bond with them right away. any book that can push people to finish it the way twilight does has got to be something amazing.

fave quote: (the first time that Edward and Bella are really alone) "I don't know how long we sat without moving. It could have been hours. Eventually the throb of my pulse quickened, but he didn't move or speak again as he held me. I knew at any moment that it could be too much, and my life could end - so quickly that I might not even notice. And I couldn't make myself be afraid. I couldn't think of anything, except that he was touching me." (Bella - 276)

title: Twilight (book 1 in the Twilight Saga)
author: Stephanie Meyer

genre: Vampire, Mystery, Romance

Review: The Road by Cormac McCarthy

in a sentence: a boy and his father in a post-apocalyptic world travel the road in hopes of warmer climate and survival.

let me start by saying that this book was totally and completely emotionally exhausting. the interactions between the man and boy were bare bones in words, but rich in thought. this was exactly like the world they tried to survive in...so bare bones but once so rich and full of life. at the point we encounter them, they have been on the road for what i assumed to be about 8 years or so. everything they see is covered in gray ash - the road, the trees, themselves, the sky, absolutely everything is saturated with a light gray film. McCarthy periodically reminds the reader of that imagery to really drive home the physical reminder of their desperation.

similar to journey to the center of the earth, this book is a slow and intentionally paced journey. there are some tough characters they meet along the way and periodic flashbacks of their prior life (not very many). mainly this book is all about the man and the boy (as they are referred to) traveling along the road trying to survive by scavenging.

as far as a young adult read, i think this is a go. it's very heavy at times, but with one of the characters as a young boy, it is very doable. there's nothing too extreme or disturbing that pops up as a red flag for me against a young adult read, with the exception maybe of an encounter with someone on the road that ends in murder. but i think that young adults would be intrigued by the concept of post-apocalyptic survival and with what surviving would be like.

judging from the little looking around i've done at the upcoming movie, i think that i will be interested in checking it out. and then not talking to anyone for 2 days afterward as i recover from the emotional trauma seeing it in action will do to me!

despite my emotional exhaustion, i really did like this book. i can't say that i'm chomping at the bit to read it again anytime soon...but it was very well written, thought out, and intentional. i respect the struggle of the characters even though i couldn't directly relate to their situation. i strongly feel that their story is one worth reading.

fave part: in place of a quote, which i feel i would have a hard time choosing out of context, i think that one of my favorite elements of this book is that the father is reasonably well educated. this is seen in his interactions with the boy, his survival skills, but also with the language he uses. he holds on to that dignity even in a world that could care less.

fix er up: there was no punctuation or chapter breaks in this book. while i respect that it was probably done because in a post-apocalyptic world, who cares about quotation marks or chapter breaks? and the lack of these breaks also accentuated their never-ending traveling and survival mode. but for me, i just like organization.

title: The Road
author: Cormac McCarthy
genre: fiction, dystopian, edgy

Review: Journey to the Centre of the Earth by Jules Verne

in a sentence: a professor and his nephew chance upon the directions leading to the center of the earth...so of course they have to check it out!

i was not sure what to expect at all with this book. and for the record, the cover image i have used for this post is not the version that i read (i wish), but i thought it looked pretty cool and spelled centre the way it did on my puffin paperback copy.

the writing style, though obviously dated to the time it was written (1860s), was easy to read and follow. having never read another jules verne book, i was a bit apprehensive of reading something that was a classic such as this one. would i appreciate it enough? would i even enjoy it? if i didn't enjoy it, would i have the guts to admit it? bizarre, i know, but true. in any case, i did enjoy it, which was an especially pleasant surprise after my previously stated anxieties.

especially with the new movie coming out so recently, i expected a heart racing adventure from start to finish...not the case. however, it was the fact that it was a paced and intentional journey that i really liked. the title is not misleading - it is not "the outrageously explosive and ridiculous journey", but rather "the journey". from the konigstrasse back in Hamburg to the inner depths of the earth, Verne does an amazing job of keeping the novel paced and interesting. he also has a desire to make sure that what the professor, Axel (the nephew) and Hans (the guide) encounter are scientifically possible...i'm not entirely convinced it was necessary for the story but it was interesting none the less.

the simplistic yet vivid descriptions from Axel, the narrator, added to the paced and intentional telling of this story. i appreciated Verne's balance of detail and plot - never too heavy on either side.

without throwing in any spoilers, let me say that the book is well worth the read - just don't expect something like you've seen from the recent previews (and be glad for it). the title is totally self explanatory, so much more summary from my part would be spoiler heaven. i should also note that i have not seen any movie version of this book, and would be super apprehensive to do so in a comparative sense. it would seem to me that there is too much temptation to turn the journey into something Verne did not intend it to be.

fave quotes: (not related to the actual journey at all...)"Oh how hard it is to understand the hearts of girls and women. When they are not the most timid of creatures, they are the bravest. Reason has no part in their lives" (44)
(resonated most with me as a reader) "Since the beginning of our journey I had had so many surprises that I might be forgiven for thinking myself immune to astonishment and incapable of amazement" (255)

fix er up: Hans seemed to me at times like a deus ex machina, which i am not the hugest fan of.

title: Journey to the Centre of the Earth
author: Jules Verne
genre: Classic, Adventure