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Review: The Time Machine by H. G. Wells

in a sentence or so: a time traveller shares his experience, 8 days in the year 802,701, with a intimate group of friends.

the time traveller (hereby t-t) invites a group over to unveil his time-travel theories and his model time machine. they are of course quite skeptical...but intrigued. the t-t invites them back for a second time to a dinner where he is nowhere to be found. he eventually shows up to the dinner looking ragged, limping, starving, and smelling something awful. after he cleans himself up and has a bite to eat, he shares with them his story of eight long, frightening, complicated, and unbelievable days in the year 802,701.

the way this story is told is through an unknown narrator, referring to himself only as "i", retelling the story of the t-t. so we get a couple chapters in the beginning with learning others reactions to the t-t ideas, and then the actual time travel experience is shared in story form by the t-t himself. the story-telling model was interesting, and i liked it effect it had on me as the reader as a more intimate sharing of the tale.

the t-t discovers that there are two vestiges of the human race left. there are the above-dwellers - little delicate, child-like people who eat fruit and pick flowers while wearing beautiful robes. and there are the bottom-dwellers - white, ape-like, creepy-nocturnal-eyed creatures that cannot be in the light and that cause some crazy fear in the above-dwellers. within mere moments of going to the future, the t-t's machine is stolen by the bottom-dwellers. he spends a good deal of his time in the future figuring out how to get back his machine. he keeps his story interesting and fresh by interspersing some foreshadowing of events, by explaining his conclusions and making sure that the listener (or in our case, the reader) connects with the emotions and his thought process. the t-t is trying to help us associate with his emotions and frequently provides a real life scenario to compare his experience to, so we might relate. i think it's pretty clear that the t-t gets the time machine back, although i wont spoil how that happens.

overall, i found the experience of the t-t to be interesting, different, and something i (a very inexperienced time traveller) was able to connect with. the foreignness of his situation was countered by his very relatable feelings of frustration, loss, fear, and will to survive and make it home. and i love, love, loved the ending. the unexpected air of mystery to finish the book, total opposite from the rest of the book which tried so hard to help us imagine what it would be like to be in the t-t's shoes, left the reader battling with ambiguity.

fave quotes: "The fact is, the Time Traveller was one of those men who are too clever to be believed: you never felt that you saw all round him; you always suspected some subtle reserve, some ingenuity in ambush, behind his lucid frankness." (13)
"But the problems of the world had to be mastered. I had not, I said to myself, come to the future to carry on a miniature flirtation." (the t-t, 53)

fix er up: it was really weird not knowing the characters names, only their description as the time traveller or the editor or whatever. but, i might deduce that this was so we, the reader, could insert characters from our own experience into those roles.

title: The Time Machine
author: H.G. Wells

genre: sci-fi, classic

Review: Shiver (Wolves of Mercy Falls, Book One) by Maggie Stiefvater

in a sentence or so: when Grace was 8 years old, she was pulled from her backyard tire swing and attacked by wolves. Grace survived the attack thanks to a mysterious wolf with stunning yellow eyes, who continues to watch her every winter from the woods bordering her house. Grace knows there is something unique about her wolf, and is becoming increasingly aware that there is something unique about her too...

Grace is 17, lives in Minnesota, daughter to absent-minded parents and best friend to two girls with whom she begins to feel a growing distance. Grace has had a thing with wolves, particularly her wolf with the yellow eyes, ever since her attack. her parents dismiss it, as they do just about everything with Grace. when one of the popular boys from Grace's high school is killed, and then his body goes missing from the morgue, the townsfolk begin to blame the wolves and Grace knows she has to do something to protect her wolf from the desperate men looking for answers with their guns. little does Grace know that the answers the men are looking for with their guns will deliver the biggest answer Grace can possibly hope for - her yellow eyed wolf, Sam, at her doorstep. too bad he's bleeding like crazy because he was shot in his shoulder...

Grace and Sam, who have been in love with each other for years...just in an inter-species kind of way...have finally connected. the chapters alternate narrators between Grace and Sam, which gives us a sweet insight into their personality and into their view of one another. but, just because Grace and Sam are finally together, doesn't mean that everything is hunky dory with these new loves. there is a dark element, an impending doom and a sad past that permeates their relationship - not the least of which is the fact that this is Sam's last year to alternate between human and wolf. as the weather continues to drop, Sam get's closer to changing into a wolf and separating from Grace forever.

this truly is a love story. however, this is also a story about brokenness and finding a place where you belong, which Stiefvater weaves into her story naturally and shows the reader that finding our place is different for each of us. this book packs an intensity, particularly near the end, rich with taught emotions and the unsteady dare to hope. without spoilers, i want to say that the conclusion was extremely well done - in plot and in style.

fave quote: "Some days seem to fit together like a stained glass window. A hundred little pieces of different color and mood that, when combined, create a complete picture." (89)

fix er up: i had a tough time getting to form a connection with the characters. i liked their story, but i wasn't emotionally invested until about halfway through. i wasn't sure what made them tick as individuals, only together...but maybe that was the point?

title: Shiver (Wolves of Mercy Falls, Book One)
author: Maggie Stiefvater
genre: Romance, Fantasy

Review: The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton

in a sentence or so: in a timeless "us vs. them" set in the 1960s, the rival groups of the greasers and the socs experience ever-increasing tensions that eventually bubble over and result in death.

the book is narrated in a journalistic first-person style by Ponyboy Curtis. Ponyboy is a 14 year old greaser (lives on the east side, lower income) who lives with his two brothers, Darry and Sodapop. the Curtis boy's parents are dead, which means that they are all they've got left. well, each other and the rest of their gang. life is anything by easy for Ponyboy and the other greasers. especially for Ponyboy, who is a natural athlete and smart, he realizes he is against all odds to make something of himself. he sees the challenges his older brothers face in using their gifts - Darry has to stay home and make ends meet instead of going to college, and Soda, while genuinely loving his job as a mechanic, realizes that he wants more for his brother Ponyboy.

tensions between the greasers and the socs (short for socialite, the upper-class west side kids) have always been high strung, but after Ponyboy and another greaser are spotted with two of the Soc's girlfriends at the movies, it unleashes a rage and sets into motion a series of events that are tragic, intense, and challenging.

what struck me about this book was how much it felt like a character study. each time Ponyboy would discuss someone or introduce a new character, i not only got a description of their hair, eyes, dress, and any distinguishing features, but i also got an insight into the core of their being. each character, especially the greasers, were dissected and evaluated.

something that i really appreciated about this book was how Ponyboy dealt with the stress and trauma of the events. without giving spoilers, i will simply say that how he reacted to the tension and the fallout of the various confrontations fits into the character-study feel to the book overall. we see who Ponyboy really is in how he reacts to the intense drama, and we learn what sets him apart from the other greasers.

fave quote: "'You can't win, you know that, don't you?' And when I remained silent, he went on: 'You can't win, even if you whip us. You'll still be where you were before - at the bottom. And we'll still be the lucky ones with all the breaks. So it doesn't do any good, the fighting and the killing. It doesn't prove a thing. We'll forget it if you win, or if you don't. Greasers will still be greasers and Socs will still be Socs. Sometimes I think it's the ones in the middle that are really the lucky stiffs...' " (117)

fix er up: okay - i realize i am totally in the minority here, but i thought this was slow, cheesy, and predictable (except for the realistic reaction to trauma near the end by Ponyboy). now, i realize that the value of this story is in what it represents (the struggle of us vs. them, overcoming obstacles, finding your true self, etc.) and that it is one of the most challenged books ever because of the repeated drug/alcohol/violence by young people, and i even know that it was written by the author when she was 15-16. that doesn't change the fact that i literally almost gagged when someone told Ponyboy to "stay golden" with his final breaths. yes - i know it was in reference to a poem and it was special...but that seemed cheesy beyond all belief to me. it's not that i don't think that thugs/greasers can't appreciate Robert Frost or even be a fan of sunsets, it just didn't come off as believable to me in this book - despite the fact that they are based on real characters (says S.E. Hinton).

title: The Outsiders
author: S. E. Hinton
genre: Coming of Age, Challenged Title, Drama

Review: Envy (The Luxe Series #3) by Anna Godbersen

be warned: since this is the third in a series (The Luxe and Rumors precede this one), there are spoilers for the first two books. i will ardently avoid any spoilers for Envy.

in a sentence or so: all the drama, lies, bitchiness and (true to title) envy are back in true socialite style in this third installment of The Luxe series.

Envy picks up right where Rumors left off. and i mean that in the most literal way. it had been awhile since i read Rumors, and so it took awhile for me to feel back in the groove as a reader. but it all came back relatively quickly and before i knew it, i was immersed once again in the plush 1900-manhattan socialite life and drama.

Envy's predominant theme is widespread disappointment among all characters. there are ulterior motives for just about everyone in Manhattan, and almost no one is what they seem. the bulk of the plot centers around a Floridian retreat, and around the four main ladies: Elizabeth Holland (whose secret husband is gone), Diana Holland (hopelessly in love with Henry Schoonmaker), Penelope (hbic and wife to Henry) and Carolina (former maid of Elizabeth and Diana and rags-to-riches story). each chapter continues the style of rotating through these women and their individual story lines, which of course, overlap one another quite frequently. the effect, while fun and kept things interesting, came off a bit more like a soap opera than the previous books.

per usual, Godbersen lavishly accounts the dress, style, decor, hair, and all the other details of the guys and gals. not only does it help provide a solid mental image of the time and people, but it also showcases Godbersen's writing and ability to create detail in the readers mind.

all characters are guilty of repeated foils, misguided intentions, selfishness, and of course, envy. i feel like i know what the end result will be (the next book, Splendor, is the final chapter in the series) for most of the characters, but i am still having a blast finding out how we're gonna get there.

fave quote: "She tried to make her eyes widen in a cordial manner, though she still had trouble appearing to like people she did not, which Barnard had admonished as an unfortunate characteristic in both a lady of society and a peddler of secrets" (9 - referring to Diana H)

fix er up: this was an okay book as a stand alone read. it was clearly bridging the gap to the final book, so i have higher expectations for that one. Envy was still worth it for the drama and the absorbing historical-posh-writing style that Godbersen employs.

title: Envy (Luxe Series # 3)
author: Anna
genre: Chick Lit, Historical Fiction

Review: The First Horror by R. L Stine

in a sentence or so: the frasier family moves into what may be the creepiest and dingiest house ever. much scariness ensues.

i checked this out on an impulse during my last trip to the library. i thought, R.L. Stine? Fear Street? yes please! i anticipated a cheesy joke of a horror book that resolved itself and everyone was happy in the end. that's how i thought i remembered them being from when i read them 15 years ago. apparently, i need to get my memory checked.

Cally and Kody (twins), their brother James, and their parents move to 99 Fear Street, Shadyside. not only is the real estate agent a super-creep, the house is a total wreck and it appears to be haunted right off the bat after nearly decapitating Cally the first time she steps on the porch. but, Mr. and Mrs. Frasier (that's right, we never learn their actual names) insist that this will be a fresh start and lots of space for the former New York residents. but as things get weirder, and they discover attacking rats, ceilings dripping with blood, and green vomit coming from the sink...the Frasiers decide to do a little research about what they've gotten themselves into.

what they discover about their house on 99 fear street is unnerving, surreal, and downright creepy. let me tell you, R.L. Stine packed more horror into this book than i thought possible. granted, my bar was set pretty low to begin with, but i was pleasantly surprised by the creepy scenes he was able to create and the fear i felt.

this felt a lot like a script for a horror movie. while there are no token sex scenes (this is the mid-90s and a book for teens after all), there is a long drawn out kiss with the neighbor boy, working in a boutique in town, and hitting up a coffeehouse amongst the stabbings and disappearances. while the distractions may be fun in cinematic form, i found them to be dated and obnoxious in written form. i wanted more action! or suspense. or at least mystery...not wondering what high school was going to be like for them or if Anthony really liked Cally.

this book, while at times horribly dated and a bit hokey, was genuinely frightening. particularly near the end. i went through the first half with few surprises, but by the time i finished, i had to stay awake an extra hour doing other things to distract myself from the creepiness! as if the mere 150 pages wasn't enough to make this a quick read, the fact that every chapter ends in cliffhanger makes it almost unputdownable.

fave quote: "she had no way of knowing she would never see her brother again" (115)

fix er up: okay, i am a total sucker for being scared. so while this isn't the highest quality of literature, it gets the job done. the job being scaring the reader and making me want more!

title: The First Horror (99 Fear Street, No. 1)
author: R.L. Stine
genre: horror