Wordless Wednesday: Terra Cotta Warriors

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Terra Cotta Warriors exhibit at the Indianapolis Children's Museum
Incredible to see the real warriors, which are 2,200 years old!
More Wordless Wednesday here.
Photo by moi.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

by Rainbow Rowell

Rowell has made a name for herself with her sweet stories and realistic characters. So far I’ve read and loved Attachments and Eleanor and Park, so I had high expectations going into this one.

The plot centers on twin sisters, Cath and Wren, who are heading off to college for their freshman year. Wren can’t wait for the parties and new experiences, while Cath is having a hard time leaving her dorm room. She’s a devoted writer of fan fiction for the Simon Snow series (Harry Potteresque books.) Her new roommate Reagan is intimidating, her Dad's home alone and struggling with mental illness and Cath is having a hard time finding her way.

The beginning of the book is slow moving as Cath meanders through her classes and we depend more heavily on bits from the Simon Snow books and from her fan fiction chapters. As the novel progresses we get to know Cath a bit more and can understand why she’s hesitant to leave home and welcome change.
The second half of the book really clicked for me. I remember feeling nervous and self-conscious my freshman year in college. It can be such a tough time, especially if you aren’t a party girl, which I was not. You’re away from your high school friends and your home and I think it takes everyone a bit of time to find their equilibrium.

I read a few reviews that bashed Cath, calling her whiny or annoying. For me the crucial thing to remember is that she’s an 18-year-old girl who is struggling to adjust. I think just about all 18-year-old girls would fall into the whiny category at times, so her voice rang true for me. Cath’s struggle becomes clearer as we learn her character’s history and her apprehension begins to make more sense. The book also relies less on the Simon Snow gimmick as we become attached to Cath.

One of the most interesting aspects of the story, in my opinion, was the twin’s relationship. I have a sister who is a very different personality from me and I can’t imagine if we’d gone to college at the same time. Having a twin means you have a built in best friend who looks out for you, but it also means it can be hard to make your own friends or start a new phase in life.

Much of the second half of the book focuses on Cath's relationship with her new boyfriend, Levi. Some of their scenes made me grin like a kid. I kept thinking of my boyfriend during my freshman year in college; the infatuation, the thrill of just being near that person. That stage in a relationship is so sweet and innocent. I loved that the book didn’t end as soon as they got together. Instead it explored some of the other complicated waters of an early relationship. The ending was a bit abrupt, but overall it worked.

BOTTOM LINE: I’m continually surprised by Rowell’s ability to make me connect with characters. Eleanor and Park is still my favorite, but this was a sweet walk down memory lane. We were all vulnerable, insecure college freshman once!

The Small House at Allington

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Small House at Allington
by Anthony Trollope
The summary of this novel, which I read first, gave away a surprising amount of the story. In all honesty I think Trollope’s novels are less about the plot than they are about the social interaction and moral development of the characters, so it didn’t really bother me.

*Slightly Spoilery Summary*
"Engaged to the ambitious and self-serving Adolphus Crosbie, Lily Dale is devastated when he jilts her for the aristocratic Lady Alexandrina. Although crushed by his faithlessness, Lily still believes she is bound to her unworthy former fiancĂ© for life and therefore condemned to remain single after his betrayal. And when a more deserving suitor pays his addresses, she is unable to see past her feelings for Crosbie.”
The Dale women, Lily and her sister Bell and their mother, were wonderful. At their core all they want is for the others to find true happiness. They are fiercely protective of each other and their wishes. Some of my favorite scenes in the book are when they stand up for the decisions someone in their family has made, without asking any questions of each other. Lily talks to the local doctor, James Crofts, in an effort to secure happiness for her sister. Their mother talks to the girls’ uncle about a potential match but refuses to force or encourage her daughter to make the match against her will. They are strong women who refuse to betray each other for a shot at money or luxury.
I keep finding shades of Austen in all of the Trollope I read. Both authors share similar themes and styles, though Austen's work has a bit more bite. This one reminded me so much of Sense and Sensibility. Bell is like Eleanor, steady and logical. Lily is brasher and reminded me so much of Marianne. She falls in love with an unworthy man, turning down someone who would truly be a great match. Unfortunately for Lily, unlike Marianne she never quite recovers from that love.
The girls’ mother is an interesting character as well. She struggles with whether she's done right by her children, even though they love her dearly. She worries that they are possibly giving up opportunities out of a loyalty to her. It's the endless struggle of any parents, constantly asking yourself if you’re making the best choices for your kids.
The male characters in this novel are a mixed bag. Eames is a worthy man, I found myself rooting for him. The girls’ uncle is harsh and struggles to connect with them. He does love them, but that feeling is wrapped deep within his other layers of formality and stiffness. He has such a hard time conveying his feelings and his actions often come across as obligation instead of love. Crosbie is just a jerk, to put it nicely. I wanted to smack him and he deserved his fate.
Side note: We also get to see Griselda again and it’s a bit tragic to see what her life has become.
One of the books best lines comes from Lily’s mother’s reaction when her daughter is jilted by Crosbie:
“Mrs. Dale had felt in her heart that it would be well if Crosbie could be beaten until all his bones were sore.”
My only real complaint about this one was that I wanted something better for Lily. I wanted her to find love. I wanted her to realize that she deserved someone better than Crosbie. I wanted a happy ending for her because it seemed like the novel was begging for one! It’s definitely not that I think everyone needs to be married to be happy, but it felt like she gave up on pursuing any happiness in some misplaced sense of loyalty for a man that didn’t deserve her.
BOTTOM LINE: Another delightful read. It’s not my favorite of the series, but I once again enjoyed being lost in Trollope’s world of Barsetshire.
Up next on the schedule:
I’m skipping September because I will be out of the country for half of it. In October I’ll be reading the sixth and final book in the series. I hope you’ll join me!
October: The Last Chronicle of Barset
Share your wrap up post with all of us at the end of the month and tweet your thoughts at #Trollope2014.