04 July 2010

The Unblogged Chronicles: April to June

I recently realized--much to my everlasting shame--that I have totally forgotten about my "Unblogged Chronicles" series for the past couple of months. Eeep! When I sat down to review the books I read but didn't review, I realized there were waaaaaaaay too many to properly cover without this post being a mile long. Fortunately, most of my reads were in different series, most of which I finished, so I'll just save those for another day, which should save quite a bit of space. I also deleted In Cold Blood from the list, because I have read and reviewed it before. Also, since this covers the months of April, May, and June, I was going to post this one at the end of June, but I got busy and instead decided to post this today. Without further ado, let's cover some books:

Endgame (Samuel Beckett): Okay, this is technically a play that I read for my lit class last semester, but it's an absurdist play by Samuel Beckett. Personally, I adored the sheer insanity of this work, which Beckett intended to be absolutely inscrutable. Try not to think too deeply about what's going on in this apocalyptic tale that features a crotchety old man verbally berating his crippled caretaker and his legless, elderly parents, who are conveniently stuffed in garbage cans. (I swear I am not making this up.) I'll admit this play is weird--and the hilarious screen adaptation of it, which I cannot find anywhere online, is even weirder--but I adored it. Beckett is a master of non-sequitor and absurdist banter. Your tolerance for this play will depend very much on your opinion of postmodernist and absurdist literature. If, like me, you enjoy those two literary traditions, you'll love this play. If not, stay away. Stay far away.

Stressed-Out Girls (Roni Sandler Cohen): This is a non-fiction psychology book geared toward parents and counselors. I am a bit of a psychology geek, so when I saw this book, which delves into the pressures that so many middle school and high school age girls face, at the library, I was intrigued and checked it out. Sandler is a psychologist who specializes in teenage girls and seems to have a good understanding of what makes teens tick. She is neither condescending nor patronizing as she explains the social and academic stressors that young women struggle with. Though this is geared more toward adults who work with or raise teens, I found the book quite helpful in identifying some self-destructive tendencies of my own. I always knew I was a pathetic perfectionist, but I didn't realize how bad I was until I realized that the 2 case studies for perfectionists in this book sounded just like me. The fact that I frequently use all of the catchphrases that are indicative of an obsessive perfectionism also was a bit of a wake up call . . . Well worth reading if you're working with/raising teen girls or are a teen girl who is feeling stressed out.

The Oath (Frank Peretti): When I was a teen, I was a big fan of Peretti's YA series The Veritas Project. (The Hangman's Curse made my arachnophobia so much worse and Nightmare Academy reminded me of Pink Floyd's "The Happiest Days of Our Lives/Another Brick in the Wall part 2" . . . ) Peretti writes Christian horror, which I know sounds like an oxymoron, but he crafts some genuinely scary tales. I had mixed feelings about his adult horror thriller The Oath. On one hand, the tale of a rural town haunted by a murderous . . . something is suspenseful and even though it was a 650 page book, I finished it in two days because I simply could not put it down. On the other hand, sometimes I felt the book's message was a bit too preachy, even when I technically agreed with what was being said. Other moments are a bit cliched in typical horror story fashion, though not too badly. As a lit geek, I did enjoy the elaborate allegory and symbolism that Peretti used to illustrate the effects of sin. If you like scary reads and can overlook the occasional blatant preachiness, this book isn't a bad way to while away a summer weekend.

The Painted Veil (W. Somerset Maugham): My professor was talking about this book the day before school ended, so I decided to check it out and read it for myself. This book, which relates the story of Kitty--a spoiled English socialite--who, as punishment for an extramarital affair, is dragged into a raging cholera epidemic in China by Walter, her infuriated physician husband, was a strange book, though I did enjoy it. I have never watched the film adaptation of this book, but I think the commercials for it did influence my initial perception of this book. Based on the movie previews, I assumed this novel would be a tale of a troubled marriage renewed during crisis. Erm, that's not quite what happened here. Without giving too much away, this book is not a romance by any stretch of the imagination. Instead it is the portrait of an incredibly flawed woman who is really not all that likable--I was on Walter's side the entire time. How dare she!--who gradually matures and realizes how pathetic she's been. If you want a beautifully crafted literary exploration of guilt--and can stomach a somewhat distasteful protagonist and a depressing ending--definitely check this one out. If you're looking for a cheery upper class English romance, look elsewhere.

Fight Club (Chuck Palahniuk): Hehe I will admit, I absolutely adored this novel. In fact, I sat down to read it and had it finished in less than three hours because I absolutely could not put it down. I know this book sounds like an odd choice for me--in fact, my good friend Genius93 said so on Twitter--but I do enjoy darkly funny reads and this quirky, twisted, apocalyptic, anarchist, subversive book is certainly that. Yes, this book is about a brutal weekly club for men to beat the living crap out of each other in some strange form of therapy that also doubles as a way to vent against modern society, but the focus of this book is more the underground movement that springs up from it; the friendship of the nameless insomniac narrator, who attends meetings for terminally ill patients as part of his social life, and Tyler, the charismatic militant who starts Fight Club; and the downward spiral these two face when their organization rapidly spins out of control. Bonus points for having one of the absolute best surprise endings I have ever read. I hesitate to recommend this one, because it is disturbing on many levels, yet that's what makes it so good. If you're reading this and thinking, "Meh, I don't think I like the sounds of that one", steer clear. But if this one has you intrigued, give it a try. It does have quite a bit of adult content and some scenes that will make you squeamish, but it'll also surprise you . . . literally. ^^

I'll try to have the reviews of the different series I read up in a couple of weeks.


Next Week: Maybe Laurie Halsie Anderson's Fever 1793. Maybe an Edith Wharton book. I am not sure. :D


This Week in Literary History: 4 July 1776: The Declaration of Independence is signed in Philadelphia. Okay, okay, I know this is more of a historical event, but the Declaration is a powerful document and is a superb example of rhetoric. I once wrote an essay on Jefferson's masterful use of literary technique in the Declaration, so you could say I am a big fan. It's a relatively short piece and well worth reading. Now if only we used such stirring legal language today . . .


I also have a quick announcement to make to my teen readers. My friend lgkelso wants to start doing a weekly feature called "Teen Talk Tuesday" on her blog. She wants to hear teen opinions on, well, everything from peer issues to college to fashion trends to your opinions on Twilight. (I know you guys will have fun with that.) If you're interested, check her blog out for more information and leave a comment. :)


Happy 4th of July! Adios! :D


  1. Very nice unblogged chronicles Zella, I've missed them! :D

    Ohh, Stressed-Out Girls sounds like one I'd love to read. I have read so many psychology books it's not funny. x)

    Teen Talk Tuesdays sounds like fun! Although, I suppose I'm getting to be sort of an older teen...does 18 still count as a teenager?

  2. Thanks, Feathery! I have missed them too. *chastizes self*

    Are you a fellow psych geek? Our nerd twinnedness is truly astonishing! I have loved psychology since I was a kid. I still keep trying to figure out how to cram that in as a minor. :D

    You're not too old! lgkelso is looking for any and all teens. Definitely check out her blog. :) I told her quite a few of my followers were in the 16-18 range and that was more than fine! I'm the one who is too old at almost 21. :O *bangs cane against floor*

  3. Fight Club!!!!!

    Ooh, I LOVE pyschology books-it's not even funny how often my family gives me wierd looks because I'm sitting there reading one.

  4. I'd definitely like to read Stress-Out Girls. :)
    You're not old at all, Zella! :) You're younger than my mom's cousin, who is really (surprisingly) young! (He's 20-something.)
    A lot of your followers are in the 16-18 range? I feel young. *sucks on pacifier*

  5. I didn't know you liked Peretti! Or maybe I did and I forgot :) I went through a phase where all I read was Peretti and Ted Dekker (but more Dekker... he tends to be less preachy. He veils metaphors/symbols more heavily and then leaves it up to the readers' interpretation). I liked the Oath, but my favorite Peretti books are House (with Dekker) and Monster, which isn't so much horror as mystery.
    P.S. - I am reading I Capture the Castle and I LOVE it! I don't know if I have found a book so thoroughly addicting in a long long time. I have so much trouble putting it down!

  6. Feathery, 18 isn't too old at all.
    Zella, you know, we can always pretend 21 is like the new 18? :)
    I think I'm going to check out stressed out girls- I'm a psychology dork to

  7. You're a psychology nerd too? LOL. That was what I was considering as a major before med school or engineering, once I decided I wanted to do more math. :) And you're not old Zella! I only feel old because I'm around people younger than me right now. Once I'm in college and around undergrad/grad students, I'm going to feel very young again-- you probably will too. :D
    Thanks Igkelso, I'll definitely try and contribute opinions to your blog sometime. :)

  8. @Rebel, I take it you're a fellow Fight Club fan? I love a good psychology book, too! You will love General Psych in college. It was one of my absolute favorite classes. :)

    @Sana: I'd love to hear your opinion of it! It's an eye-opening read. Thanks for making me not feel like an old lady. But don't feel bad about your age, either! You're very mature for your age and you fit right in. :)

    @Serena: Oooh, I have been wanting to read some Dekker, so I am glad you told me about those! I like me a good mystery, especially one with good allegory. So glad you like I Capture the Castle! I couldn't put it down, either. Cassandra is such an enchanting narrator. :)

    @lgkelso: Hmm . . . That's a good point. I don't *need* to feel old at all. :D Yayayay for fellow psych dorks! I would love to hear what you think of it. :)

    @Feathery: I once considered psych for a major, too! I don't look to switch from what I am taking now, but I really would not mind having it as a minor. Thanks for the esteem boost! I told someone today that I was turning 21 in a month and would be old, and she rolled her eyes. :P

    Thanks so much to all of you for commenting! Glad to see so many fellow psych geeks here. That reminds me. *looks around for Eric* Eric is a grad student majoring in psychology who was interested in starting a blog on the subject. I daresay he'd have quite a few readers. :D