Brief Update: Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters

If you follow me on Goodreads, you know that I’ve been doing a lot of casual research on J.D. Salinger recently, as well as working my way through his short stories. Yesterday I finished the novella “Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters”, the first of two stories collected into a single volume. Although I will do a full review of the book after I finish the second novella (“Seymour: An Introduction”), I wanted to say something about this story alone. As with all good stories, I’m left mulling over what has happened and uncertain about how to feel. The story revolves around Seymour’s wedding day, but interestingly, Seymour is never present in the action of the story. Salinger accomplishes a great feat in this story; he manages to teach the reader a lot about a character who is never actually there. Moreover, he delves subtly into deep questions like what it means to be happy and how to prioritize your own and others’ happiness. It is definitely an interesting addition to my understanding of Seymour and Buddy Glass. Now, after taking a little time to think through this first story, I am eager to see how “Seymour: An Introduction” adds to my mental image of Seymour and whether Salinger will continue to develop the questions raised in “Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters”.

Happy Blogiversary!!

Today is my 2 year anniversary with WordPress! In honor of this, today I will be reviewing 2 books (I know, not much of a celebration, if you feel the need to find some confetti or something go for it). Maybe this makes up a little for how long it’s been since I posted anything? Anyways, here’s the double feature:

Intrepid by J. D. Brewer cover Intrepid by J. D. Brewer (Disclaimer: I received a free digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review)

I’m a big fan of J. D. Brewer’s writing style, but this story just fell flat and cliche to me. It wasn’t bad, but it was not as exciting as I had hoped. Intrepid follows Texi, a teen living in middle-of-nowhere Texas, who suddenly finds out that she is not as normal as she thought. I can’t say much on this without giving away most of the book, but I’m sure that within a few guesses anyone familiar with the YA dystopia genre could figure out the general plot of the book. The setting, however, is incredibly creative. The world Brewer forms and places Texi in belongs almost as much in a philosophy discussion as it does a novel. Texi lives in the Multiverse, a physical example of the theory of parallel universes which I have not encountered in casual reading before. This unique concept is infused into every detail of the story, and worked out incredibly well. This world is so complex, yet everything fits together coherently; Brewer has definitely spent a ton of time into developing this world. The setting and background of the story vastly outshines the actual plot, which is a significant disappointment. I just couldn’t get into the story; the relationships between father and daughter, friends, and mentor and student didn’t gel, and the plot lagged. Also, the ending was so abrupt that I still (a day after finishing the book) feel no closure at it. The ending made no sense. Unless there is a sequel in the works, which I haven’t heard of, I just don’t see how anyone could be comfortable with the amount of loose ends left and the suddenness of the ending. There is a good amount of personal development for Texi, and her characterization is solid, but at the expense of some of the secondary characters. There is another main character, a boy names Liam who is “similar but not the same as” Texi, but I we don’t get to know him as thoroughly as we do Texi. His chapters interrupt hers; I feel like he would have worked better as a minor character whose mind we do not know, rather than trying to tell his story at the same time as Texi’s. Texi just takes over the story, and still manages to fall into cliche and eye-rolling tropes which detract from the excitement her story ought to generate.

I hesitantly give this book 2.5 out of 5 stars, because there are some really cool parts of Intrepid which make me want to rank it higher, but overall I just did not enjoy it. I would recommend it to anyone interested in sci-fi/alternate realities, or anyone who would like to see a possible interpretation of the multiverse theory, but would caution not to expect a terribly exciting story.

The Coquette cover  The next book I am going to review is not a contemporary book. The Coquette by Hannah Foster was written in 1797, and I recently read it for my Early American Literature class. Because we spent a week discussing it in class, there is so much that I could say about this book, but I will try to be concise. Also, despite the fact that this has been around for a few hundred years, I will still attempt to refrain from including any major spoilers.

The Coquette is a cautionary tale from the early United States. It is set in various high society cities such as New York and Boston, and told through the unique method of letters between friends. In this we get to see into what each of the important characters is thinking, or at least what they would say they are thinking. Through these letters we learn of Eliza Wharton, a young but not juvenile woman who was in an arranged engagement to a man she barely knew who was much older than her, and has recently died. She is then sent to stay with some friends in another town, where she meets two men: Mr. Boyer, a small county preacher, and Mr. Sanford, whose profession is never revealed. I read the implications are that he is an early form of investor. Both men pursue a relationship with Eliza, although we see from their respective letters that one of them is truly in love with Eliza while the other does not really care about her. Eliza spends most of the novel asking people for advice, and then ignoring what they say. She wants to do what is right, but she is insistent throughout that she does not want to give up her “freedom”, which is what she sees marriage as. As a woman in the 18th century however, she does not have any other real choices. Unfortunately, she does not choose the man who the audience sees as the obviously better option, and after many attempts at redemption the novel ends with Eliza in a situation from which the reader can see the moral Foster wanted to get across. In the 18th century novels were written for upper class women, who had time to sit around and read while their husbands worked and their brothers studied. There are definite feminist aspects to Eliza’s character, and even a good deal of humor from some of the side characters. I mostly enjoyed this book, and agree entirely with the moral it is stating. It reminded me a lot of Daisy Miller, except that more people sympathise with Eliza than with Daisy. If you enjoy historical fiction of the late 1700s/early 1800s, or if you have read and enjoyed Daisy Miller, then I would recommend The Coquette.

4 out of 5 stars.

There you go, two reviews in one day, a contemporary and a classic! I hope everyone is having a good fall and looking forward to winter as much as I am. In a few weeks I will take my finals for this semester, and then I will get back to reading and posting more regularly.

A Natural Recommendation

Last night the world watched as the sky put on a dramatic yet understated show. In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, on the evening of September 27th a lunar eclipse occurred in conjunction with a supermoon, which means the moon appeared to be larger than normal due to being closer than usual, and was red because of the way sunlight refracts around the Earth during a lunar eclipse. I’m not a science person, but I can definitely appreciate when natural phenomenon like this happens.

Somehow I managed to convince a few of my friends who tend to spend their evenings glued to a TV that this was something we needed to see, and it turned into a very enjoyable evening of deep thinking and just hanging out. We loaded up blankets, candy, and homework and found a relatively open space to camp out for a few hours. To our surprise, a significant amount of people from our university had the same idea. I ended up learning more about some of my classmates on this random night than I had in over two years of classes together. This is just another reassurance of how good it is to unplug every once in a while, and pay as much attention to the physical world around you as to the virtual one of social media and electronic entertainment. But I digress.

As the moon shifted through the multiple colors associated with an eclipse, my mind turned to my latest philosophy class. We are discussing various arguments regarding the existence of God, currently tackling the argument from design, or Fine Tuning. Staring up at the red moon with no clouds in sight, a soft breeze making the temperature perfect for lounging outside, and not even being bothered by bugs, I couldn’t help but consider exactly that topic. I know that not everyone had as convenient or enjoyable a viewing experience as I did, but, for God to make such a perfect environment for my friends and I…how could I not acknowledge and praise Him? I can only see such an experience as a blessing; the fact that lunar events like this one happen often enough that we are able to mostly understand them and to a degree predict them, but not so often that they are commonplace, is so in tune with humanity’s reality it has to be seen as intentional. If the moon changed size or color every week, we wouldn’t go out of our way to watch it, and by consequence would not experience the atmosphere of last night. The world stood together to look up in awe at God’s handiwork.

If you’re like me, and enjoy reading about things like this when they happen in the real world, you should check out Every Soul A Star by Wendy Mass. I’m still in the process of reading this book, but it’s so good so far. The story follows three middle school-aged students over the course of a summer in which a significant solar eclipses is supposed to happen. They each have various levels of interest in the actual eclipse, and vastly different lifestyles are represented. It is aimed at a lower reading level than I typically read, so there have been points where it has briefly lost my interest, however the story as a whole and the characters especially are very well developed and sustain the story through the sometimes-predictable plot. That said, I have no idea how this one is going to end. I am a little over halfway through, and I cannot pick a theory on how everything is going to be resolved. I’m expecting something big.

I wasn’t able to get any good pictures of the Super Blood Moon, but I made a memory worth more than any pictures. Whether you were able to experience this or not, I hope you can get something out of my experience. And, if you have any interest, check out Every Soul A Star!

As The Seasons Fall

As the calendar moves through September, temperatures don’t climb quite as high as they used to, the local coffee shop hauls out Old Faithful flavors for their monthly special, and school bells are heard daily. Leaves change colors and drop, then skitter along the sidewalk in the cool breeze, and squirrels are in full gather-mode as they prepare for the ultimate test of winter.

I know a lot of people who absolutely love this time of year. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy it too, but I think it’s getting blown out of proportion this year. I like being able to dress for the day without having to consider both frigid air conditioning and sweat-inducing sun, and soft sweaters are a comfortable shift from shorts and sandals; but, along with gentle weather and fashion changes, comes the return of a Thing both inspiring and challenging for many young adults: school. As a university student, I must now balance papers for class with any writing I want to do for myself, or for this blog. Before I can read the books I choose, I have to read the ones assigned by professors. As a member of a rigorous English program, and also working on two separate minor areas of study, I have a lot of obligations to fulfill before heading to class every day. Needless to say, autumn is a very busy time of year for me (and I haven’t even mentioned music or my actual job yet!). As such, it is unfortunate that this blog is often one of the first things to get cut from my schedule. It’s impossible for me to keep up with as many reviews as I would like to get out, but I hope that my dedicated (though admittedly few) followers will be patient throughout this season. I am still reading and working on things for this blog, but they won’t be put up as quickly as during other months. When I have time, I will update and review and talk about books as much as possible. This may not be every week, or even every other week at times during the school year.

During this more hurried time of life, sometimes it can be difficult to notice the nice things around, like the increasingly mild weather and opportunities to make good memories with friends. The pressure of essays, tests, and homework can get in the way of finding ways to enjoy every day, no matter what happens. But, failing to do this is failing to recognize the Creator and all the blessings He has surrounded us with. So as you curl up with a warm drink and comfy sweater, or play in the leaves and decorate pumpkins, or cram for tomorrow’s big test, remember that there is a world out there beyond the school yard or office, full of lessons and inspiration and peace. And when you come looking for my latest book review but instead find the same page you saw last week, grant me some grace. Sometimes there are more important things than what fits on my computer screen.