Magic Study

Magic Study by: Maria V. Snyder

Series: Study Series - Book 2

Published: 2006

# of pages: 392

This is the second book in Synder's Study series. This is also my second time reading this book. I loved the first book, Poison Study, the first time I read it. It was one of my favorite books I read that year! The second time I read that I didn't like it quite as much, but it was still original and enjoyable. The first time I read Magic Study I didn't like it as much. I didn't like the setting as much and I didn't like Yelena's study of magic as much as her poison studies! However, the second time I read this book I enjoyed it more. I suppose that knowing what to expect helped out this time around.

Yelena is still learning in the second book of the series. She goes from studying poisons in Ixia to studying magic in Sitia. Everything is new for her, just like in the first book. However, now things are even more confusing because of the new surroundings and customs of Sitia. Yelena definitely has strong magical abilities and now she just has to learn to control them. And of course there's bad guys! Yelena is caught up in another evil plot and tries to help save the day. Will she?

This book is also quite original as far as fantasy series go. Unexpected plot twists kept me interested and there are new interesting characters to spice things up and keep the series from getting repetitive. Like I already said, I didn't quite enjoy the magic as much, but if you enjoy reading stories with magic I think you will enjoy this. Snyder once again has an entire history of the magic world and all of the "rules" that go along with magic.

I'm already thinking about reading the third book again, even though I just read it a couple of months ago! But now that I can remember everything that happened in the first two, I think I would like to re-read the third to get the appropriate "flow" of the entire story. I recommend this to lovers of fantasy, magic, adults, and teenagers. There are some "intimate" moments and some mild bad language use, but I wouldn't call it inappropriate for adults or mature teens.

The Chocolate War

The Chocolate War by: Robert Cormier

Challenges: My Year of Reading Dangerously

Published: 1974

# of pages: 263

My Children's Lit professor once discussed this book in the course I took a couple of years ago. So I knew the basic outline, but I was still surprised while reading the book. I have wanted to read it all of these years, but I find myself feeling really let down. I think this book is a little bit too realistic. Or is it?

Jerry Renault doesn't want to sell chocolates for the school fund raiser. You wouldn't think that would be such a big deal, but it turns the whole school upside down. I admired Jerry for sticking up for himself and wanting to be different than everyone else. He has a poster in his locker that says "Do I dare disturb the universe?" from T.S. Eliot's poem "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." And Jerry does dare to disturb the universe and I think everyone who reads this has to admire that.

**Possible Spoiler**

I was disappointed because this doesn't have a typical happy ending. Normally I also admire books that don't follow the rules, but after reading through all of the evil people and things going on in Jerry's school, I was tired of it and wanted something good to happen. I almost felt like it was unrealistic how evil the school was. Like Goober says, "There's something rotten in that school. More than rotten . . . Evil (159)."

I still find it hard to believe that there could be a whole school filled with boys who acted like that. Even then ones who weren't mean were still disgusting. I guess teenage boys have sexual thoughts and feelings that they have to express somehow, but seeing it written out made it seem really crude. I read a webpage about school systems who have challenged this book for various reasons. Most of them included sexual content, torture, bad language, and denigration of women.

I found the fact that there are no women in this book except a few seen from the viewpoint of the boys interesting. That viewpoint is demeaning, but I suppose it is also accurate. I think that if there had been some girls in the book they would have helped uplift it. I guess I was just left with the feeling that all boys are pigs. Violent and disgusting and only seeing girls as sexual objects.

And how could that many parents allow their boys to turn out so badly right under their noses? The parents aren't disciplining the children, the teachers aren't disciplining the children. It's like Lord of the Flies in a private school! They run everything themselves and things get out of control. However, it would be interesting if this book was set in an all girls school. Girls can be just as mean as boys, just in a less physical way. I think the book would have been a little less crude and would have had a less violent ending, but it still could have changed into a "Mean Girls" type of situation.

It is a unique view of anarchy and what happens when an attempt to manipulate a volatile situation is made. And it does leave the reader asking, should you dare disturb the universe? Can you form your own belief and stick up for it? Jerry thought he failed when he becomes just like the other boys, "not disturbing the universe, but damaging it (254)." I think he could have continued to stay separate from the other boys and not join in their violent ways, but he would have remained an outcast. Maybe sometimes you have to join in to survive.

Thankfully, I've never been faced with such an extreme situation. I've always been able to walk away and resist joining in things that I knew would hurt me or other people if I wanted to. But this book does make you wonder what you would do in this situation. And if it was even right of Jerry to refuse to sell the chocolates...or if it was admirable. All in all, a depressing but thought provoking book. I recommend this to readers who enjoy realistic stories, stories that involve pyschological dilemmas and touchy situations, and those who want to know what the big deal about this book is. If you are considering letting your child read it, know that it does contain sexual content, violence, and bad language.

Book of a Thousand Days

Book of a Thousand Days by: Shannon Hale

Published: 2007

# of pages: 306

Quote: "A cat can make you feel well rested when you're tired or turn a rage into a calm just by sitting on your lap. His very nearness is a healing song." -Dashti p. 206

I'm sad that I'm already finished with Book of a Thousand Days, but I'm ready to read some more of Hale's novels! I read Goose Girl a long time ago and plan on reading it again as well as the other books in the Bayern series.

Book of a Thousand Days is a novel written from the point of view of Dashti, a girl who grew up as a nomad on the steppes and ended up being a lady's maid for Saren. They are shut up in a tower for seven years. Dashti struggles to discover more about the timid Saren and wonders if seven years will ever be long enough to understand the young lady she serves.

I loved the character of Dashti. She felt very natural. I especially enjoyed her feelings for the animals she comes into contact with. She has such a loving nature, but still gets annoyed and frustrated with people so she doesn't seem too loving. And of course I loved the world that Hale created for the novel. She has such a great imagination to be able to think of an entire world and that world's customs, religion, and history.

The book was loosely based on the fairy tale "Maid Maleen" which was recorded by the Grimm brothers. I've never read that tale, but I also think it's neat that Hale picked a lesser known fairy tale to base her story on. She also included some settings and customs from medieval Mongolia. All in all, I think this is a great book for young adults and adults alike, especially lovers of fantasy and fairy tales.

Classics Challenge

I may be crazy, but I'm signing up for another challenge! However, I'm about to finish 2 of the challenges I'm signed up for, so I think it's ok to replace them with one.

The Rules:

  • OPTION 1: Read FIVE classics.
  • OPTION 2: Read FIVE classics from at least TWO different countries
  • OPTION 3: Read FIVE classics with any combination of at least TWO different countries and TWO different genres (see above for genres).
    Cross-posting with other challenges is allowed (and encouraged!); Audiobooks are fine; books must be finished after July 1st to count for the challenge although re-reads are acceptable.

    Lists don't have to be set in stone; you can change your selections at any time.
    Have Fun. Oh ya...there will be a drawing for a prize or two. To be entered you must complete any one of the above options. You do NOT need a blog to participate.
    Am I going to define what a classic is? Nope! There are lots of definitions offered on the Internet, but essentially we all have different opinions so don't stress too much--and see the bonus below.

    BONUS!! (optional)
    As you can see, I'm requiring FIVE classics for six months. For the sixth book, I would like the participants to offer suggestions for books that may not be considered classics but that you think should be or books that you think will be a classic one day. Leave your suggestions in the comments below. I'll compile a list of the suggestions and you choose a book from the list and make that your sixth read. I realize this means you may have to wait to make your list if you choose to participate in the bonus round, but I'm hoping this is a modern twist on the old classics challenge.

My list:

The Idiot by: Fyodor Dostoyevsky (I own this and am in the process of reading it)
The Grapes of Wrath by: John Steinbeck (It's December's book for My Year of Reading Dangerously)
Madame Bovary by: Gustave Flaubert (I started reading this for a course I took in school and didn't finish it)
The Great Gatsby by: F. Scott Fitzgerald (I know several people who love it and have always been curious)
Emma by: Jane Austen (I read this when I was in high school and want to read it again)


The Poisonwood Bible by: Barbara Kingsolver (I chose this from the list because it's one I've been meaning to read for a long time)

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Anna Karenina

Anna Karenina by: Leo Tolstoy

Challenges: My Year of Reading Dangerously, TBR Challenge, Eponymous Challenge

Published: 1873

# of pages: 853

Quote: "As the reading proceeded, especially at the frequent and rapid repetitions of the same words, 'Lord, have mercy upon us!' which sounded like 'Lordavmercpons!', Levin felt that his mind was closed and sealed . . . 'Well, it will soon be over now,' he thought. 'No, I believe he's going back to the beginning again,' he thought, listening to the prayers." -Levin pp. 464-465

I substituted Anna Karenina for Lolita in the Reading Dangerously's June challenge. I went to the library to get Lolita and couldn't find it so I grabbed this instead since I needed it for other challenges.

I was afraid of reading this book and was amazed that it was easier to read and I enjoyed it more than I had imagined. My only complaint is that the eighth and last section could have been reduced to a couple of pages! At that point I just wanted to know what happened to the remaining characters and while Tolstoy does give us that information, I felt like he was really cramming in a lot of other stuff that should have been dispersed throughout the book (of course, he is the worldwide famous author who has gone down in history and I couldn't write a book if I tried!).

Anna Karenina is, of course, about a woman named Anna. However, I was interested to discover that it also closely follows the Alexandrovna sisters and their familys. There's 3 sisters: Natalie, Dolly, and Kitty. Dolly and Kitty are main characters as well as Dolly's husband and Kitty's love interests. Anna gets mixed in as a result of falling in love with one of Kitty's favorite young men, Vronsky, and Levin is pulled in to the story because he falls in love with Kitty. Karenin is Anna's husband and so is featured in many chapters. Confused yet? The only other main characters are Koznyshev and Nikolai, Levin's brothers.

The novel has a timeline that spans over a couple of years. A lot of things happen in these years, people fall in love, marry, die, have babies, learn important life lessons. I was mainly interested in the stories, especially Kitty's. I liked her character. I didn't always like Levin, although I have heard that Tolstoy based this character off of himself. Levin is full of thoughts and loves to ponder these thoughts. He's always changing his views and learning new things. Some of it is interesting, but I couldn't force myself to care too much about the peasants and how they affected agriculture. I'm sure that at the time this novel was published that must have been an issue, but it tainted my pleasure of reading the parts that followed Levin. Also, he kind of annoyed me because of how moody he was. Everytime he was around people he was angry and frustrated. However, his love for Kitty was really sweet and I liked how he (mostly) was happy with her.

I also had to dislike Anna's character at most times. At first I wanted to judge her and say that she shouldn't have been so selfish as to leave her husband (especially after he forgave her after she gave birth). But after that the reader learns a little about her background with her husband. We already know that she no longer loves Karenin, but it turns out he is 20 years older than she is and that her aunt tricked them into getting married. It must have been terrible to be forced into marriage with someone you don't love. However, I could never really get past the fact that she abandoned her son for a lover. I think she couldn't really get past that either though. She tried to forget it and it haunted her throughout the years she was separated from the boy.

I felt bad for Karenin at times, especially when he is looked down upon for forgiving his wife instead of dueling Vronsky. Society didn't respect forgiveness. They assumed he was a coward and didn't realize that sometimes it takes more strength to forgive and show love. However, after he becomes self righteous and meets Countess Lydia I thought he was less sincere than he was before he started outwardly proclaiming his Christian faith.

Dolly was an interesting character and I enjoyed her thoughts. At one point she is traveling to visit Anna and contemplates her life as a mother and a wife to a man who pays no attention to his family. She wants to be like Anna, but quickly realizes that she would be unhappy with that lifestyle and from then on appreciates her life and children more. I liked her honesty because I think that's how I would feel in her position, and I think I would arrive at the same conclusion she did. Dolly is the opposite of Anna. Sure, she doesn't love her husband and is even mistreated by him just like Anna was by Karenin, but instead of abandoning them she sees the good in her life and sticks with her children and her friends.

The end of the novel reminded me of Voltaire's Candide. At the end of Candide, Candide comes to the conclusion that the meaning of life and the way to be satisfied is to tend to his garden. A peasant farmer tells him that and he embraces that lifestyle. At the end of Anna Karenina, Levin is wondering the same thing, what is the meaning of life and how can he know that he is living the way he should? A peasant farmer tells him to live rightly in God's way. And Levin is struck by that and realizes that is the key to being fulfilled.

I recommend this book to lovers of Russian literature and lovers of classics. After reading it, I don't think I've ever read any references to it, but it was interesting to compare it to other novels such as Madame Bovary and Candide. It will be interesting to see if I start to discover more references now that I'm familiar with the storyline and characters. This was a good (but long) read that took me a week and a half to finish. I think others will also be pleasantly surprised that this is easier to read than it looks!

Book Giveaway

Trish at Hey Lady! Whatcha Reading? is giving away 14 books from Hachette Books. Check it out HERE.

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