Monday, January 13, 2014

LeTriece Calhoun - Dualed by Elsie Chapman

I’ve had assassins on the brain, considering I devoured Dualed and Throne of Glass by Sarah Maas within the space of two days. These books have their differences but they both have something to do with awesome ladies who are prepared to do anything to win their freedom.

Dualed is set in the city of Kersh, where everyone has a genetic alternate twin, or Alt. Tailored to look exactly like them, each person has to kill their Alt in order to remain within the society. The whole idea is to build a city of soldiers to protect the city from the Surround, which is the rest of the war-torn world former United States. From age ten to twenty, each young adult in Kersh has the chance of being activated, in which they are given the origin point of their Alt and 30 days to kill them, or a code within their genetic makeup will kill them both. The main character is West, the last child still alive in her family.

The entire premise of this book sounds amazing, and it was a fun literary adventure! The execution was a little shaky with the shoddy world-building and somewhat wooden side characters, but there was plenty of action and intrigue.

One of the things that bothered me though was West’s narration. Is there such a thing as being too much in the head of the narrator? If so, that’s how I felt Dualed was. I enjoy knowing the thoughts and the motivations of a character, but it felt like too much. And that may be great for some people, but not for me. A character’s motivations should be present through their actions rather than in-head expository monologuing. I know the phrase “show, don’t tell” is too overused, but it is perfect in this case.

Other than my overwhelming desire to get completely out of West’s head because she sounded like a pull-string doll of a Female Dystopian Protagonist, Dualed was good for what it was. There were some plot inconsistencies that made me shake my head and go “but why would they do that?” but for the most part this book was a fun adventure. If you’re in the mood for even more gritty post(ish)-apocalyptic dystopian literature with female protagonists, then Dualed is another one for the lists.

Rating: 5/10

Elizabeth Fenlason - A Short Review for The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

As an English Major, I seldom read as much as I want. Especially outside of assigned readings for class. So, when I bought The Glass Castle in the middle of last semester, I knew I wouldn’t have time to read it until Winter Break. Since reading memoirs is somewhat of a passion of mine, I waited for the last day of class, anxious to begin a book that a former professor had suggested for me. When, by midterms, I had finished half the book in a state of procrastination, I realized it was time to put it down and get back to my class work. The next weeks I spent waiting for finals to be over so I could finish it.

One of the most interesting facets of memoirs is their attention to a specific theme throughout the subject’s life. In Jeannette Walls’ book, The Glass Castle, poverty and ignorance seem to be at the forefront of what she is commenting on. But in the beginning she seems to be not so much commenting, but describing her life. Only later, in the last half of the book, does her voice become stronger with indignation. Walls’ memoir surprised me with its simple honesty and relatable home-life depictions of family. In a small way, I could relate to the poverty surrounding her family, but I could not imagine living in a room with a hole in the roof above my head and no running water inside the house. What I’ve just described is only one of the many surface problems she faced during her childhood. Other, deeper issues existed in her family. Her mother, an artist, could barely be bothered to get out of bed most days. Her father, very much an alcoholic, spent all of the income that the children were able to gather on drinking and “business ventures”, better known as poker games. When, in her late teens, she was able to escape the small town in West Virginia to New York City, she found life in the big city liberating. Several years later, the rest of her siblings joined her there. A few years later still, her parents decided to move there, but lacking the gumption to work for their keep, they were evicted and became homeless. The children took the parents in, one at a time, but eventually the parents took over their homes. The children were forced to offer an ultimatum: clean the place up, or move out. The parents moved out. Still later, the parents found an abandoned building to “squat” in, and lived there for the remainder of the book. In the last few chapters, Walls discovers that her mother owns incredibly valuable land in Texas, but will not sell it. The land was worth approximately one million dollars. Her parents chose to be homeless.

Walls shows how complicated family life can be. She shows how alcoholism can wreck an entire family, but she also shows how sympathetic degenerative relationships can be. Her book spurred on my passion for reading and writing memoirs, and gave me some valuable information on how a good memoir progresses.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Alexandra Doria - The Paris Wife by Paula McLain, A Review

As a recipient of the Wentworth Scholarship this year, I have dedicated much of my recreational reading to biographies and interviews of Ernest Hemingway. To give myself a reprieve from my studies of a young Hemingway in Paris, as my own adventure in Paris approaches, I picked up The Paris Wife by Paula McLain. The novel is a historical fiction of Hemingway’s life in Paris and first marriage to Hadley Richardson.  While the book was not exactly the escape from my studies I had envisioned, I decided this would be a fun way to stay on task.

The novel chronicles the journey of Hadley and Ernest when they first meet in Chicago.  The story winds through the ups and downs of their marriage as the couple find there way through the streets of Paris and Europe, all the while with Ernest working toward his first novel, The Sun Also Rises.  The Paris Wife is a clear homage to Hemingway’s journey of becoming one of America’s greatest writers.  The novel is written from the first person perspective of Hadley, and the reader is sure to fall in love with McLain’s characterization of Hemingway along with her.  Although the reader must keep in mind that the book is complete fiction and does not in any way represent the true nature of Hadley and Ernest’s characters and relationship with one another, the book makes an important and interesting point; Ernest became the writer he wanted to be when he went on this journey to Paris with Hadley.  While my work for the Wentworth is to prove that the place, Paris, is what pushed and inspired Hemingway to finally publish his first novel, I realized while reading The Paris Wife that it was not just Paris that encouraged him to complete his novel, but the people in his life too, particularly his wife.  It’s the complete experience as a whole that is inspiring; the people, the places, the events, the feelings, and the actions; the very elements that Ernest himself wanted to capture in his own writing. 

McLain’s novel is a well-crafted fiction with all the accuracies of a true timeline to almost make the reader believe it is true.  As Hemingway himself said: “All good books have one thing in common – they are truer than if they had really happened.” I believe The Paris Wife falls under this category.  Whether you are a devout Hemingway fan or looking for a book to escape into, McLain’s novel is a woven tale of one of the world’s greatest literary giants, and paints a provocative interpretation of the beginnings of Ernest Hemingway.