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