I want to go…

copacabana-from-sugar 

here here here. rio de janeiro, brazil. 

scotland has been my #1 destination for so long, but I think all these travel blogs are playing with my head. ahhhh! 

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Looking Backwards by Edward Bellamy

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So I attacked this novel solely because it’s the next book to read for my 19th Century American Lit. class. So… to cut the suspense, I think I’ve just been having bad luck with books lately. 

Quick Synopsis: Julian West falls asleep in 1887, due to hypnosis, and wakes up 113 years later in the year 2000. Everything’s changed. The “evil” and “self-serving” capitalist society has been abolished, replaced by a utopia of sorts. In short, the novel glorifies communism and the main character has a mental breakdown near the end when he pities himself for having lived in 19th Century America, where he believes society was inherently corrupt. 

My thoughts: When I first picked it up and read the first two chapters or so, I was actually intrigued. I like books with a sci-fi element, and ones that ask you to stretch your imagination a little. My interest, er… ended there. Before I explain what I think is the downfall of this book, I’ll give it to Bellamy – he’s a passionate author. You can tell he’s probably made sweet passionate LOVE to the ideas that he presents within the novel. All the ideas in his novel are extreeeemely fleshed out, and of course – they make you think.

Ultimately, however, Bellamy can’t write and that’s what made this novel almost unbearable to me. His book was what in theater, we call “talking heads.” There was monologue after monologue after monologue. Dr. Leete just doesn’t shut up; 75% of the novel is him talking.  It became so blatantly obvious that the character of Dr. Leete was just a channel for Bellamy to vent and spew his own frustrations and ideas about the society he lived in that the entire “story” of the novel just takes a backseat. When you look at the story at a whole, Julian West falls asleep, wakes up, falls asleep and wakes up again. That’s it. The rest is Dr. Leete (who has absolutely no personality whatsoever) talking… and talking… and talking… 

That was just the downfall for me. However, it can’t be ignored that the book seems to be a hit on amazon and it has survived a century in circulation…so, it’s clearly not trash. Read it for yourself, and let me know what you think! =) 

 

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Beauty Queens by Libba Bray – numbing my brain

Image This review is a little premature – I’m only two thirds of the way finished, but I’m at the point where I’ve said “the fuck?” about five thousand times and my head’s about to explode so I think I have just reason to be writing this.

I should have seen it coming. I mean, one glance at the cover and I feel as if I should have known I wasn’t going to be reading something deep and profound. I think on a psychological level, I was drawn to it because I needed a break from my university readings. I was also a little biased because I was a huge fan of Libba Bray years ago in high school (Great and Terrible Beauty Series *sigh, why is there still no movie for that!?!) and I was hoping to be swept away on a same sort of adventure.

The summary seemed pretty neat, too. A plane crash, an island, no help on the way for a group of strong, spirited women? Sounds like it should be good, right?

Yeah…. no.

Let me get something straight here. It’s clear that the novel is for a young, early teen, female audience but I don’t see how that’s an excuse for lackluster character growth, stock characters and an overly (and I’m not exaggerating here) didactic plot.

I’ll start with the plot first. It had soooo much potential but the story fell flat within one chapter. He’s an excerpt from page 8. The survivors of the plane crash are realizing that they are the few that didn’t die and are standing amongst the wreckage…

“I’m Brittani with an I,” said Miss Alabama. “I got my scouting badge in First Aid.”

“Ohmigosh, me too!” Tiara threw her arms around Brittani. “You’re so nice. If it’s not me, I hope you win.”

“No, I hope YOU win.”

…. The dialogue stays consistent throughout the novel. At least, it hasn’t changed much and I’m on page 208. You meet about fifteen different characters, all of whom have one chapter to develop at a time. By the time you’re introduced to a new character and another and another, you forget the name/ personality of the first character you read about and have no idea who she is when she shows up fifteen pages later.

There’s no cohesivenes either. The story is jumping all over the place. It’s as if Libba Bray wanted to combine five different story ideas into one and BAM: the novel was born. One part of the book is trying to show how females should be empowered whereas another section of the book has the girl drooling over a shirtless, random pirate man (it takes about a few hours for the girl to meet him and then open her legs for him). Then you have a coming out story, a snake battle, a secret organization working on the island and then all the backgrounds for all the characters. Don’t get me wrong… I love a book that’s complex, but this was all over the place

In addition, the blatant, overly didactic messages have been written into the plot so poorly that I found myself wanting to *facepalm by the end of almost every chapter. We get it, consumerism is bad and making the female body a commodity is even worse. The way Bray tries to show it, however, almost makes fun of feminism. You have characters finding their “inner strength” by saying lines that are emotionless and random like “I came out here to have an adventure and find myself” (page 188).  Also, the corporation’s head honcho is portrayed as this evil, self-absorbed monstrosity. But if the book is encouraging women to be independent and powerful then why is Bray scorning a character who is trying to encourage female empowerment, albeit in an unorthodox way? Is it because this woman doesn’t fit the “strong female’ mold? Doesn’t her own disapproval for “The Corporations” head honcho make her entire feminist message hypocritical?

The book did make me think, though. I think the “commercials” or “advertisements” throughout the chapters were a neat idea, but I didn’t understand the purpose. Was she trying to show how the world of commercialism affects us when we don’t even know it; on a subliminal level? Or was she trying to show how heavily brainwashed the girls were? I don’t know. My guess is as good as shit, at the moment.

I’ll finish the book, just because I hate leaving books unfinished but I needed to get all this word venom off my chest.

So that’s it for my review for Beauty Queens, and that’s also it for my first blog entry 😉 Cheers!

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