Sunday, March 9, 2014

Two Owls Review Gone with the Wind
Gone with the Wind is held up as one of the greatest American classics. The story of the rising and falling fortunes of the fiery, independent, selfish Scarlett O'Hara and the rascally Rhett Butler is set against the backdrop of the Civil War and Reconstruction in Georgia. Two of our parliament recently read the book for a book club, and gathered here for a discussion.

Sonya: After loving the film version of this historical novel, I never thought that the book could be as good. Having finished Gone with the Wind, I can honestly say that it has become one of my all-time favorite books. Margaret Mitchell’s narrative is so easy to read and yet so beautiful.

Madeleine: I have never seen the film version! I’m actually glad I hadn’t seen the movie before reading the book. Besides knowing a few things (it’s about the Civil War and it’s aftermath, the main couple is Scarlett/Rhett, and there are a lot of fancy dresses), it was all completely new to me.

I also loved the book, but I don’t know if it would make it into my all-time favorites. I need some more time to think about it. There were some bits that I really struggled with in this book (more on this later). What really made the book for me was the characters.

Sonya: I think that is what she does best! We get to see Scarlett journey from naïve, selfish Southern belle to a destitute woman who is willing to do anything to keep food in her stomach and Tara under her feet, and then finally in the end to a person that finally understands herself and what is really important to her.

Madeleine: Margaret Mitchell took a really big risk making her main character a dislikable character. I loved and hated Scarlett. I was cheering for her throughout the whole book, except for the stage of life that you skipped: her selfish, malicious, ignorant behavior after earning back her fortune. She annoyed me enough that I stopped cheering for her for awhile.

I like Scarlett best when she’s at Tara. She needs Tara to keep her grounded.

My other favorite character is Melanie. She’s an easy character to love, but I love the unexpected strength she shows throughout the novel and her unflinching loyalty to Scarlett, who doesn’t deserve it. She’s wonderful.

Sonya: I also liked Melanie, and thought that Ashley did not deserve her. Rhett is the other character that I find so enthralling and mysterious. (BTW, Clark Gable could not have portrayed him better in the movie.)

Madeleine: Obviously. :)

Sonya: Even after finishing the novel, I still don’t really have a sense of who he really is. Even though he is a scoundrel, I can’t help but cheer for him and hope that Scarlett can realize how wonderful he is.

Madeleine: I was actually more impressed by Rhett’s character development through the novel. He changes and becomes a better person a lot more than Scarlett does. I’m not totally convinced that Scarlett has changed by the end. But I absolutely loved them together. Whenever Rhett walked onto the page, I always got very excited. The dialogue! The wit!

Sonya: Every scene with Scarlett and Rhett was just bursting with well-wrought dialogue, and consequently I could practically feel the sparks between these two coming off the pages. I so hoped that this story would be happy in the end (even though I know from the movie that it’s not), and I always think that somehow Scarlett does get him back. I sure hope that she does.

Madeleine: When I first finished the book, I felt the same. Having had some time to digest the book a bit, I like the open ending. I don’t know if Rhett will ever let Scarlett back into his life. He was burned pretty badly. I hope Scarlett stays at Tara. Tara makes Scarlett a better person; I don’t know if Rhett does.

Sonya: The other aspect of Gone with the Wind is its insight into Southern life before the Civil War, during the war, and the war’s aftermath. Naturally, as a child I learned how the South consisted of inhumane bad guys keeping slaves in bondage, and then the North swept in and saved the slaves from their awful plight.

I absolutely do not condone slavery, but I will say that it was interesting to see this time in American history from the point of view of a Southerner. Even if Mitchell is biased, this fictional account gives us another perspective to ponder, and I found it fascinating. Mitchell really shows that war is war, and there are going to be bad and good people on both sides of the conflict.

Madeleine: Ah, here we are, the parts I really struggled with in the book, and that I have to separate from the book when making my judgements. I agree that the Southern point-of-view is very interesting, and I know that contextually Margaret Mitchell is just reflecting the period she’s writing from, but I really struggled with the racism in the book. In fact, I might’ve given up on it if I weren’t reading for a group.

The book romanticizes slavery, and does so very subtly. If you aren’t paying attention, it is easy to buy into this romanticization. In our book club, we had someone argue that it wasn’t that bad because the slaves were treated well by their masters who saw them as part of the family. This point-of-view takes something horrible and completely unjust, owning people and forcing them to work for you, and turns it into something kind and paternalistic.

Again, I understand that we have to take context into consideration, but I really struggled with how to respond to it. Book Riot ran an interesting series of posts on this exact issue last year. I’ll leave you with those: “I Couldn’t Finish GONE WITH THE WIND Because it Was So Racist” and the response “Let’s Talk About Racism in the Classics.”

Stepping off my soap box, I still enjoyed Gone with the Wind and give it 5 stars. Aside from it’s size, the book is very accessible and wonderfully written. Margaret Mitchell made me love a rather unpleasant character and wrote interesting enough stories that I didn’t complain about the 1000 page love triangle. Read it.

Sonya: Overall, Gone with the Wind fabulous read that I will recommend to pretty much everybody. It’s a commitment to read as it's so long but it is definitely worth it. I was hooked from the beginning and never wanted it to end. A solid 5 stars.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Bored of Opium

I so regret checking out The Lord of Opium at the same time as The House of the Scorpion, the first book in this series. I never really got into the sequel and just slogged through the 400+ pages simply to finish it so I could move on to something else (like Gone with the Wind). The problem is that NOTHING HAPPENS. There is no story arc; no climax; no build. Farmer simply has Matt bringing his friends to visit, fighting with his girlfriend, “cheating” on his girlfriend, and just romping around Opium, the land where he lives. In this second book, Matt is now the Patron in charge of Opium and all the drug lord duties that go with it. Farmer still brings in moral conflict with the cloning and power struggles, but it’s just not enough to save this book. other major issue with this book is the love triangle between Maria, Matt, and Mirasol. Maria has been Matt’s love interest since early into The House of the Scorpion, and it was no surprise that they now call each other novio and novia. Mirasol, Matt’s other love interest is a Waitress eejit. In Opium, eejits are slaves with chips in their brain that program them to do certain tasks without any pain or sentience. One major plot line of The Lord of Opium is Matt’s quest to free the eejits from their bondage. He finds that Mirasol momentarily comes out of her reverie when he plays a certain song where she begins to dance. Once the song stops playing she faints….and then he kisses her. This happens numerous times. How creepy is it that he’s taking advantage of someone who is both brainwashed, unconscious, and in his employ?! Eventually Mirasol is out of the picture (no spoilers), and at the end of the novel, Matt rekindles his relationship with Maria, and then they decide to get married because he’s this rich powerful Patron that can do whatever he wants. This is how the book ends!! These kids are 17 and ridiculously immature. What is Nancy Farmer thinking?!

In The House of the Scorpion, I sympathized with Matt and his plight. He was abused as a child and had to find his identity in the world as a clone. His coming of age story really developed him as a character, and made him more likable. For the majority of The Lord of Opium Matt is rather selfish and mean to those around him. I understand that he’s a moody teenager, but I did not sympathize with his situation. That is some of the reason that the first novel was better. There isn’t good character development with any of the characters in this second book, and I think that was the major reason why it was so boring.

Perhaps if I you loved The House of the Scorpion, this would be more enjoyable for you. I, however, was not a fan of either of these books, especially The Lord of Opium. Take my advice and just read The House of the Scorpion and leave it at that.

Thursday, March 6, 2014


Attachments is Rainbow Rowell's first book and only adult book until Landline is published this summer. She's probably better known for her two YA novels for Eleanor & Park (reviewed by Nox last year) and Fangirl. I've actually read and enjoyed all three, but this is the first one I'm reviewing here.

The year is 1999. Y2K is approaching. Email is just catching on, and it has some employers running scared. Enter Lincoln--late 20s, serial student and degree earner, D&D player, and living with his mother until he can save up for his own place. Lincoln is hired as the Internet security officer for the local newspaper, which means he is responsible for reading employees' emails to make sure no one is using it inappropriately.

Jennifer and Beth are both co-workers and best friends at the newspaper. Despite the fact that they know someone is reading their emails, they are definitely not following company policy. At first, Lincoln is highly entertained by their witty conversations, but eventually he finds himself interested in their lives.

When Lincoln falls for Beth, it gets very tricky, very quickly. He's never met Beth. He doesn't even know what she looks like. Despite this, he knows very personal details about her life, because he's been reading her emails.

Attachments is unique for several reasons. First, it's a romance told from the point-of-view of the guy. Second, guy and girl don't even meet until very late in the book.

I really enjoyed Attachments. Lincoln is a great character. Yes, he's a little nerdy and geeky, but he's much more adorable than my description above makes him sound. He's conscientious, smart, sweet, and funny. He reminds me of Clay from Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. I definitely had a bit of a crush on him.

While the main part of the book is told from Lincoln's point-of-view, the chapters are interspersed with emails between Jennifer and Beth. These emails were wonderful! I wanted to be friends with Jennifer and Beth. Rainbow really captured the camaraderie and spirit of female friendship. She has posted a deleted scene from her book with Star Trek themed emails and another section that made the cut where Beth waxes poetic about the month of October (which also happens to perfectly capture my feelings about the most glorious month of the year).

I only had two minor complaints about the book. There was ongoing tension between Lincoln's sister and mother that was weird. I never quite figured out what was going on. Also, the book wrapped up really quickly, at a pace that didn't quite match the book. It was a bit jarring.

I got to briefly meet Rainbow Rowell when she came to speak about her books and censorship last year, after a school in Minnesota challenged Eleanor & Park. (I have LOTS of passionate, library school student thoughts about that situation, so let's not go into that). You guys, she's such a genuinely wonderful person. My younger sister once woke me up in the middle of the night with ecstatic texts when Rainbow Rowell responded to her tweets. And now I've read her backlist. Do yourself a favor and follow her on Twitter/Tumblr, or even better, read one of her books.

4.5 Stars.

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Cuckoo's Calling
J.K Rowling’s first crime novel, written under pseudonym Robert Galbraith, has its ups and downs, but overall it’s a great read. As Rowling is so adept with details and figuring out how to weave those details into a cohesive conclusion, she is primed to be a master of the crime novel. What seems to bog her down though is the tedium of these details. Often, I just wanted the book to move faster! Towards the end I couldn’t put it down, but the first few hundred pages were a bit slow. Even so, her characters are wonderful. At first I wasn’t sure about Cormoran Strike, private detective, as the main character but he definitely grew on me. However, Robin, Cormoran’s temporary assistant, I have to say is my favorite character. The scenes between her and Cormoran are alternately hilarious and embarrassing. I also like that she’s a strong female protagonist without being uber-feminist. I’m getting rather sick of the unconsciously gorgeous, independent female leads who all end up seeming the same. Robin falls somewhere in the middle, and I think she’s awesome. I just hope she dumps that loser of hers, Matthew.

I don’t really read crime or mystery novels, so I can’t say that I have much to compare The Cuckoo’s Calling to, but it was well-written and I never suspected who the killer actually was. I had my suspicions on one person but was completely wrong. If Rowling writes a second Cormoran Strike novel, which I believe she is, I would definitely read it.