August Book Photography

posted in: Bookshelf, Friday Photos, Photography | 4

I can’t believe it’s already August – my summer has flown by, and honestly I don’t want it to end! My TBR pile is still impossibly long, so a few weeks ago I finally ordered some novels I’ve been wanting to read for awhile. Naturally, when they came, I had to take out my camera and try my hand at book photography!

I think I might take my own photos of book covers from now on, instead of using them from Amazon or Goodreads. Let me know what you think of the shots below, and if you’ve read any of these books I’d love to know how you liked them!

BookPileOne BookPileTwo

ONE // Scarlet, Marissa Meyer

Scarlet

TWO // The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, John Boyne

I’ve already read this one on my Kindle but still really wanted the hard copy.

TheBoyintheStripedPajamas

THREE // The Fever, Megan Abbott

TheFever

FOUR // OCD Love Story, Corey Ann Haydu

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FIVE // The Wrath and the Dawn, Renee Ahdieh

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Review // The Illustrated Man

posted in: Bookshelf, Reviews | 2
TheIllustratedManTHE ILLUSTRATED MAN BY RAY BRADBURY

Ray Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man is a kaleidoscopic blending of magic, imagination, and truth, widely believed to be one of the grand master’s premier accomplishments. Collected here are eighteen tales, startling visions of humankind’s destiny, unfolding across a canvas of decorated skin, visions as keen as the tattooist’s needle and as colorful as the inks that indelibly stain the body.

 

MY REVIEW

The Illustrated Man is a collection of short stories surrounding the future of humanity. With each chapter Bradbury delves into our civilization centuries in the future, and how we’ll deal with space exploration, war, making other planets our home, and the role of technology. Bradbury presents these stories as intricate tattoos on a man he encounters in his narration –  the “Illustrated Man”.

The Illustrated Man is the first collection of short stories I have ever read, and I have mixed feelings about the setup. On the one hand, it allows the author to explore different topics without the pressure to directly connect them, and still express a common theme. However, I found it hard to switch to a whole new plot with each chapter – it was a bit disorienting and took me time to really understand what was going on and what the author was trying to express.

As for the stories themselves, I generally enjoyed them, although had to face some flaws, which I’ll discuss in a bit. I really enjoy sci-fi and especially dystopias, so some of the chapters had really interesting predictions and plots. I especially liked one about time travel as a method of vacation from the present, and another about technology-infused homes that almost became parent figures in families.

Mother wasn’t afraid of the sky in the day so much, but it was the night stars that she wanted to turn off, and sometimes I could almost see her reaching for a switch in her mind, but never finding it.

I did find some of the stories to be a outlandish, which I know is to be expected in the sci-fi genre, and I generally didn’t have a problem with the abstract plots. However, some did become complicated and so otherworldly that they were hard for me to follow.

I will say that what I took away from this book was how beautifully Bradbury is able to write and tell stories. He truly has a way of explaining things that seem to only exist in the imagination, however dark and complex. I know he’s famous for his novel Fahrenheit 451, and if The Illustrated Man is any indication of how he writes there, I know I’ll enjoy it.

3/5 stars for a different yet interesting read. I really enjoyed some aspects of the story collection but had problems with others. The general plot and futuristic themes, though, I enjoyed.

Three Stars

Review // The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

posted in: Bookshelf, Reviews | 6
TheBoyInTheStripedPajamasTHE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS BY JOHN BOYNE

Berlin, 1942: When Bruno returns home from school one day, he discovers that his belongings are being packed in crates. His father has received a promotion and the family must move to a new house far, far away, where there is no one to play with and nothing to do. A tall fence stretches as far as the eye can see and cuts him off from the strange people in the distance.

But Bruno longs to be an explorer and decides that there must be more to this desolate new place than meets the eye. While exploring his new environment, he meets another boy whose life and circumstances are very different from his own, and their meeting results in a friendship that has devastating consequences.

 

MY REVIEW

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas centers around a nine year-old boy named Bruno who comes into adolescence at the time of the Holocaust. He is an extremely curious young man who only wants to understand the world around him, so his family’s move from Berlin raises many questions as he struggles to understand his father’s job and his country’s situation.

In his new home, Bruno is at first unhappy and lonely, but when he meets Shmuel, a boy of the same age, his perspective begins to change. The boys become friends, despite large limitations, and Bruno begins to understand the true realities and consequences of the Holocaust, different from what his schoolbooks and perhaps his father have taught him.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas was truly a touching read for me. I have long studied the Holocaust in school, and have read numerous books on the topic, but this novel was different, most likely because of Bruno’s unique voice. Bruno, as a character, is very innocent, and does not understand the horrible truth of what is occurring around him. For example, he calls the Führer “the Fury” and Auschwitz “Out With” simply because he does not know any better.

What exactly was the difference? he wondered to himself. And who decided which people wore the striped pajamas and which people wore the uniforms?

I think this naivety is what made the book so special – a tragic situation is narrated by a young boy who puts everything in simple terms and questions the root of our society’s problems. It made the novel incredibly poignant and touching, and gave the whole story an elegant, dark undertone.

After finishing the book, I hopped onto Goodreads and was surprised to find that people had rated the book poorly; one star, even. After reading their reviews, though, I could understand their reasoning – that the novel oversimplified such a horrible event, and that there were some incorrect and unrealistic situations. For me, though, this read was not about trying to diminish the Holocaust, but rather about being aware of the events that so devastated millions of people, and better understanding the divide.

I finished The Boy in the Striped Pajamas in only a day and found it incredibly moving. 5/5 stars.

Five Stars

Review // In a Dark, Dark Wood

posted in: Bookshelf, Reviews | 2
InADarkDarkWoodIN A DARK, DARK WOOD BY RUTH WARE

In a dark, dark wood
Nora hasn’t seen Clare for ten years. Not since Nora walked out of school one day and never went back.
There was a dark, dark house
Until, out of the blue, an invitation to Clare’s hen do arrives. Is this a chance for Nora to finally put her past behind her?
And in the dark, dark house there was a dark, dark room
But something goes wrong. Very wrong.
And in the dark, dark room….
Some things can’t stay secret for ever.

 

MY REVIEW

In a Dark, Dark Wood follows the story of a young woman named Leonora, a crime writer who one day is invited to her childhood friend Clare’s “hen” (a British term for a bachelorette party in the United States). Leonora is suspicious, as she hasn’t spoken to this friend in years, despite a long and complicated history.

Nonetheless, she decides to attend the party, hosted in a morose, reclusive country house. In a series of events that she struggles to remember, Leonora winds up in a hospital, left with a confused memory and the fact that someone has been killed. The reader is taken on her consequent search for the truth, and journey of introspection.

I have just recently begun to read lots of thrillers and mystery novels, and from what I’ve seen already from the genre there is a lot to appreciate in In a Dark, Dark Wood. The author successfully builds suspense by inserting portions of Leonora’s real-time situation at the hospital into snippets of the actual weekend party, giving the reader lots to consider and allowing them to figure out the truth little by little, just as Leonora does.

The night was drawing in, and the house felt more and more like a glass cage, blasting its light blindly out into the dusk, like a lantern in the dark.

I also really liked the characters in this novel, specifically the group that attended the weekend party. I thought each one added largely to the plot in their own way (except for Melanie, who I felt was a bit unnecessary). Each character also played a role in creating confusion about the night of the death; I myself began to question each one, and even questioned Leonora herself, which I always love in mystery stories.

I thought the beginning of the novel was a bit slow, and found several parts of the story to be unrealistic, like Clare’s overly obssessive friend Flo. Thriller novels aren’t necessarily supposed to be applicable to real life, though, so I can definitely overlook that.

Overall, I really enjoyed this novel! It isn’t necessarily a favorite for me, but it was an enjoyable read, and kept me interested and on the edge of my seat. It’s also getting turned into a movie soon, which I’m super excited about! I’m glad I’ve read the book so that when it comes out I can see it right away! 4/5 stars.

Four Stars

Ciao, Italy!

posted in: Photography, Travel | 8

Hi everyone! It’s been awhile since I last posted; almost seven months to be exact! My winter and spring terms at school picked up a ton in work, and when I turned my focus to studying, blogging fell by the wayside. These past few months of summer have been packed too – full of camp and traveling – so this is one of the first moments I’ve had to sit down and write. I’ve missed blogging, and I’m definitely going to try and post more often around here from now on!

I wanted to dedicate this post to my travels to Italy over my spring break off from school. It was my very first time taking a trip with classmates, and I had an amazing time experiencing a foreign country with some of my closest school friends! I’d definitely be down for traveling with friends in the future.

The trip began with two days in Pompeii; we climbed Mount Vesuvius, and got to see some ruins and artifacts from the famous volcano eruption and communities it devastated. We had a tour guide with our group explaining the entire history, which I found fascinating; I was walking on the very paths paved by those of ancient times! Not to mention the view from the mountaintop was just breathtaking. I’ve added some photos from Pompeii below.

VeuviusOne VeuviusTwo VesuviusThree VesuviusFourNaplesMuseum

 The next city we travelled to was Rome, which was absolutely one of my favorite places out of any trip I’ve ever taken. I just loved the language, the history, the architecture – and the food! I’ve never had better pasta or pizza in my entire life. I also ate abnormal amounts of gelato #sorrynotsorry.

In Rome, we visited classic landmarks like the Forum & Palatine Hill, the Coliseum, Capitoline Hill, and the Vatican / St. Peter’s Basilica, all of which were gorgeous but packed with tourists. We also took a day trip to Hadrian’s Villa and Tivoli, and visited Villa Borghese. Needless to say, we packed a LOT of stops into a little over a week, but I had a blast everywhere we went, although I was super tired at the end of each day!

One of my favorite memories was visiting Circus Maximus, the site of ancient chariot racing and entertainment. We all got gelato and sat on the grass hill overlooking the track, and talked and laughed for what seemed like hours. Some of my friends even got up and ran around the track in honor of its history – it was definitely one of my happiest memories out of the trip!

ForumOne GardenLandscape FountainGardenMountainFlowers ParkView Vatican ForumThree MuseumHall Sculpture StreetViewViewFromMountains

Italy is truly a beautiful city, which I hope you can view through my photos; I had been wanting to visit ever since I was a little girl, and my trip this year did not fall short of my expectations. At times it was packed with tourists and a little hard to navigate, but I fell in love with the culture, and I hope I have a chance to revisit in the future!

Review // It’s Kind of a Funny Story

posted in: Bookshelf, Reviews | 1

It'sKindofaFunnyStory

IT’S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY BY NED VIZZINI

Ambitious New York City teenager Craig Gilner is determined to succeed at life – which means getting into the right high school to get into the right job. But once Craig aces his way into Manhattan’s Executive Pre-Professional High School, the pressure becomes unbearable. He stops eating and sleeping until, one night, he nearly kills himself.

Craig’s suicidal episode gets him checked into a mental hospital, where his new neighbors include a transsexual sex addict, a girl who has scarred her own face with scissors, and the self-elected President Armelio. There, Craig is finally able to confront the sources of his anxiety.

MY REVIEW

It’s Kind of a Funny Story follows the story of fifteen year-old Craig Gilner, a student at a competitive and stress-inducing high school in Manhattan, who becomes depressed from the intensity of work and relationships with his peers during his first year at the academy.

One night, Craig contemplates taking his own life, but eventually decides against it, instead opting to admit himself to a nearby hospital for more help with his depression. He is admitted into the pyschiatric ward, where he is finally able to isolate himself from his stress and learn about his relationships, his art, and most of all, himself.

We look into each other’s eyes as we shake. His are still full of death and horror, but in them I see my face reflected, and inside my tiny eyes inside his, I think I see some hope.

It’s Kind of a Funny Story was an awesome novel – refreshing and unique, with a dark plot yet sarcastic humor embedded into each page, which somehow made the whole thing completely enjoyable to read.

Craig was a complex character who struggled with a mentality that is difficult for many people to understand, yet he was able to explain himself in terms that made each one of his thoughts absolutely coherent and understandable. I loved how he developed throughout the novel, and that he didn’t describe himself as ‘cured’ in the final pages – just able to cope, and wanting to live.

The supporting characters were just as intricate, and added to the story perfectly – I especially loved how diverse and interesting Craig’s friends at the hospital were. He was able to learn something from each one of them, whether a positive or negative lesson, and the interactions were both hilarious and raw.

I loved the premise of the story. I loved the characters and the message and the plot and the writing. It was so intense and unedited, and I found myself looking forward to each chapter. Although downcast at points, I really have no complaints – I loved It’s Kind of a Funny Story, and it’s definitely going on my favorites shelf!

Five Stars

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