Summer Reads and Reviews

Well, it is officially that time of year again. Fall is just around the corner, and while I’m looking forward to the cooler weather, I will miss the freedom of summer and all the incredible memories I got to share with my loved ones. I hope everyone else had a memorable summer too.

Inevitably, the frequency of my blog posts will probably be sporadic over the next few months, and all I can say is bear with me if you can! While my class load isn’t terrifying, it is still all highly intensive, especially with my type-A tendencies. But, just one more year to go! Considering that I’m already exhausted after the third day of class, I would say senior-itis will be a thing.

While the fall brings cooler breezes and some of my favorite things, it does not allow me as much “me” reading time. I thought the summer would be my chance to play catch-up on that ever-growing book pile that I cummilated over the previous semester. I thought wrong. I’m somewhat ashamed to say that I only read four books in total. Honestly, I have no excuses. But, I thought I would share with you the few I did.
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The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory
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I have an insatiable hunger for all things British historical fiction, so I obviously find myself always picking up Gregory’s latest novels when I can. While one could say substance is somewhat lacking in her books compared to other authors of this genre, no one can deny it as a fun history lesson. Gregory has inspired much of my interest in historical fiction in general, and therefore I cannot deny her ability to weave intriguing stories about some of English history’s most noted women. The Red Queen does not disappoint. For those of you who aren’t obsessive about the English royal tree (like me), Margaret Beaufort was the grandmother to King Henry VIII, mother of King Henry VII, making her a large participator in the War of the Roses for much of her life. Gregory’s characterization is incredible, as always. But, despite her ability, I just could not connect with Margaret Beaufort, and therefore, this is one of my least favorite novels by her. I know it’s silly of me to not like the book because of the characteristics Beaufort displays, but it makes me understand why many historians have been harsh on her character. But, I can respect that Gregory represented Beaufort beautifully considering the ruthlessness and entitlement that Beaufort is known for. Despite all this, Gregory shows some more human-like qualities that, while they don’t make Beaufort any more loveable, makes her real, and possibly a good representation of what many women felt at that time, although her situation was quite extraordinary. I also have to admit it was the first time Gregory has tackled a character so disinterested in meaningful relationships (other characters had romantic relationships or even just friends, but Beaufort’s character seems very much alienated) and maybe that, more than anything, was what left me wanting. Beaufort’s idea of love was very skewed, according to Gregory’s representation.

Overall: Definitely a worthy read of any follower of Tudor historical fiction, or any admirer of Gregory’s previous work. She has tackled a wily women in this novel.

“I would not care whether people thought I was special, if my life was truly special. It would not mater to me that people could see me as pious, if I could truly live as a woman scholar of piety. I want to be what I seem to be. I act as if I am specially holy, a special girl; but this is what I really want to be. I really do.”
-Margaret Beaufort, The Red Queen

As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
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This was my first Faulkner read, and I understand why my English professor’s mentioned it. If you are an avid writer, it is easy to appreciate Faulkner’s innate ability to represent the human psyche. You are literally inside all of the characters’ heads at one point or another, and it is a pretty powerful mural. I will be honest, this was a laborous read at times. Initially, keeping up with who is who as you jump from one perspective to another is very trying, but once you find a comfort level and a grasp on what is going on, what Faulkner achieves is incredible. I initially thought it was too dry for my taste and too difficult, but when I finally got to the end, I found my stomach in knots and an insane empathy for all the characters. It was truly a human experience through someone else’s mind. In truth, it is difficult to describe, but if you have the patience and desire to get through it, you will come out on the other side changed (just like the characters).

Overall: Truly a classic, and I’m glad I gave it a chance. Not light reading though (in my personal opinion).

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The Life of Pi by Yann Martel
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If you have watched the movie before reading the book, well, you are missing out. Isn’t that always how it goes? But, I fervently believe this is true with this book, more than others that have been made into movies. It’s a truly moving book, and brings forth many legitimate questions and beliefs about why people choose to believe some things over others. This is a great perspective on spirituality and the overall human struggle to understand why things happen. On the surface, it may just seem like another ship-wreck, survival-type story. But, I can tell you it most certainly isn’t. If you are looking for something really “new” to read, I would recommend this, because it certainly isn’t like anything I’ve read before. It has nuances of other books, but the connotations within it are pretty profound. I will warn you that the one thing that made it difficult to read was the graphicness of it. I love animals, a lot. And I cry over animal cruelty in no time flat, and it made this a very difficult read for me. But, I understand that it was not just sensational, it was very important to the story. I wanted to initially say I didn’t like it because it makes you feel so much, but Martel did not disappoint in the end to make it all a powerful and worthwhile journey. Which, honestly, I thought was impossible during some parts.

Overall: I’m glad I gave into the peer pressure and read this ( I initially was told to see the movie, but being the reader that I am, I refused before I read the book– this annoys friends and family often, but it is soooo worth it). If you are looking for a thoughtful and enjoyable read (despite the gore) then I believe it is worthwhile.

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Exactly how I felt after reading the book.
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
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I won’t go much into this one since I reviewed it right after I read it- that’s how excited to share I was. I realize many people have already read it, so that is another reason I won’t say much here. But, overall, I believe everyone should read it when they feel stuck or need a pep talk. Not to mention it is an easy read. I believe they are even teaching it in high schools now, that’s how accessible it is. All I can say is, sit back and soak it up! It’s a wise little book.

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So, that is what I read over the summer, and hopefully I will get cracking on the rest of my waiting list. Doubtful, but ever hopeful! English majors chose their major because they love literature, and yet have no time to read on their own! Oh, the irony of it all. Anyways, I hope whether you are going back to school or just continuing on as usual, that you’ve had an amazing day!

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