WWW Wednesdays

shouldbereading.wordpress.com asks three questions every week for WWW Wednesdays.  Check out the blog for MizB’s responses.  I think it’s a good, quick way to keep readers updated on what’s going on in my reading world.  Here are my answers:

What are you currently reading? Allegiant by Veronica Roth

What did you recently finish?  The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert – read review here. And, flipped through The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding.  I will be writing about that soon!

What do you think you’ll read next? I didn’t finish my fall tbr…I still hope to read The Rosie Project but there’s another book by Sally Armstrong entitled Ascent of Women that I really want to read.  

Wanna play along?  Send me your answers to these questions or answer them at shouldbereading.wordpress.com

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The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

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I loved Eat, Pray, Love

Summary from Goodreads:  In The Signature of All Things, Elizabeth Gilbert returns to fiction, inserting her inimitable voice into an enthralling story of love, adventure and discovery. Spanning much of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the novel follows the fortunes of the extraordinary Whittaker family as led by the enterprising Henry Whittaker—a poor-born Englishman who makes a great fortune in the South American quinine trade, eventually becoming the richest man in Philadelphia. Born in 1800, Henry’s brilliant daughter, Alma (who inherits both her father’s money and his mind), ultimately becomes a botanist of considerable gifts herself. As Alma’s research takes her deeper into the mysteries of evolution, she falls in love with a man named Ambrose Pike who makes incomparable paintings of orchids and who draws her in the exact opposite direction—into the realm of the spiritual, the divine, and the magical. Alma is a clear-minded scientist; Ambrose a utopian artist—but what unites this unlikely couple is a desperate need to understand the workings of this world and the mechanisms behind all life. Exquisitely researched and told at a galloping pace, The Signature of All Things soars across the globe—from London to Peru to Philadelphia to Tahiti to Amsterdam, and beyond. Along the way, the story is peopled with unforgettable characters: missionaries, abolitionists, adventurers, astronomers, sea captains, geniuses, and the quite mad. But most memorable of all, it is the story of Alma Whittaker, who—born in the Age of Enlightenment, but living well into the Industrial Revolution—bears witness to that extraordinary moment in human history when all the old assumptions about science, religion, commerce, and class were exploding into dangerous new ideas. Written in the bold, questing spirit of that singular time, Gilbert’s wise, deep, and spellbinding tale is certain to capture the hearts and minds of readers.

I read The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert in a week.  That’s right, in 7 days.  For old, pre-motherhood me – this would be no surprise.  For me now? An absolute and utter reading feat!  I borrowed it from my public library for that length of time because it is a new release – and, so I took the plunge and read.

This is my first Gilbert fiction read.  I devoured Eat, Pray, Love (even sat through the movie…meh) and that is why I decided to try Gilbert’s return to fiction.

Immediate reaction?  It’s o-kay.  Not bad.  Interesting.

More thoughtful response? (Alert! There are a few, small spoilers…)

Gilbert is fantastic at creating characters.  From the stoic, determined Henry Whittaker to his equally stoic, bordering on robotic wife.  These two show disdain for any kind of emotional response, ever, to any situation.  Emotions make one weak.  Intelligence, rational thinking and reason are prized above all else – and they pass this along to their daughters, Alma and Prudence.

One of my favourite pieces of advice that Alma receives from both of her parents is never to explain herself for it makes her appear weak.  Strength is valued, controlling emotions is valued – these are the traits that will ensure success and self-preservation.  As in the natural world as well – this fact was not lost on this reader.

All of the characters in this novel are finely developed.  Their love of science, people, understanding, exploration is refreshing.  Always underlying every interaction, issue and development is the need to understand why and how.

When I read the summary I assumed that the love between Ambrose Pike and Alma Whittaker would be far more earth-shattering, if you will.  The romantic in me was disappointed. I wished for Alma to be more affected, perhaps more radically changed – more spiritually challenged.  I wished for Alma to have the most incredible sex of her life! There were so many things I wished for her and perhaps when they weren’t happening that’s when I felt let down and like I couldn’t keep reading.

This book was about 500 pages long and I was right there with the characters and plot until about page 390.  Alma goes to Tahiti in search of Ambrose and what it was he wanted, what it was he believed in.  I just couldn’t understand why.  I stopped caring.  I could not care less about any character or event than I did the 100 pages or so that Alma was in Tahiti.  I didn’t care about the Reverend, or Tomorrow Morning, or the village, or the kids, or the women, or Alma’s experiences.  I couldn’t get away from Tahiti fast enough.

And, then it just became a race to the end so I could return the book in the time frame allowed for new releases. I must admit that I skimmed the last 100 pages.  

Overall, this is an incredible story of how one very poor boy became a prince through science and pharmacology.  It’s crazy to see the sinister beginnings of how pharmaceutical companies profit from illness.  It is also a fascinating story about science and women’s contribution to the natural sciences.  It is so thoroughly researched that the reader feels like she is truly experiencing moments in history when scientific discovery was changing the way people lived.  It is also the story of a brilliant woman who reasons, who believes in fact and investigation and ends up sacrificing so much of her womanhood because of it.

Is it a sacrifice?  Is sexual, sensual, emotional, passionate expression/understanding a necessary part of being a woman?  I always thought so and have related to characters who think so/do so too.  Perhaps this is why I found Alma so challenging.  Alma is all mind and tries to reason her heart…when she gives into her heart she ends up being burned. Badly.  And, then becomes obsessed with discovering why and how she was burned.  I admired Alma, but found it very difficult to relate to her.

Would I recommend this book?  Yes.  Why?  Because Elizabeth Gilbert writes beautifully.  Her characters are flawless and her plot (regardless of how I reacted to it) is pretty tight.  And, it’s a pretty fascinating subject too.

I just wish Alma had had great sex…I’m sure it would’ve changed everything 🙂

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Top Ten Character Names

I know it’s NOT Tuesday! It’s Saturday!  A busy day has left me too exhausted to think or research/prepare a post for NaBloPoMo.

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  I hadn’t participated in a long time and wanted to again.  So, I wrote this post 2 weeks in advance – and then forgot to post it!  Since today was super busy, and I had little time to really blog I dug into my drafts and found this one.  I like it, so I’ll post it.

The Broke and the Bookish requested a list about character names I love or unusual character names for Tuesday Oct 15 I believe it was…in any case, here is my list:

  1. Hermione Granger from Harry Potter – for the longest time I mispronounced her name…unique and unforgettable
  2. Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games – great way to get a short form of Kat without the traditional Catherine…quick, clever, fiercely independent
  3. Scarlett O’Hara from Gone with the Wind – a name as sweeping and romantic as the book
  4. Lavender Brown from Harry Potter– a minor character but the name is just too cute and an interesting take on names taken from nature
  5. Blanche Dubois from A Streetcar Named Desire – is there a better example of symbolism through character name?
  6. Atticus Finch from To Kill A Mockingbird – self explanatory.
  7. Lisbeth Salander from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – an unassuming name for a very dangerous girl.
  8. Portia from The Merchant of Venice – although I’m not a huge fan of this Shakespearean play, she is a great character and her name is just as strong
  9. Elizabeth Bennett from Pride and Prejudice – classic.
  10. Katsa & Po from Graceling– too cute and love how deadly they are.

What’s your favourite character name?  Answer below or on your own blog and add it to the meme at The Broke and The Bookish.

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Reading The Lightbearers by Nora M. Garcia

I finally started my autumn reading list!  I started with The Lightbearers by Nora M. Garcia.  I haven’t downloaded any audio books yet, but have started to read in spurts as per my commitment to get more reading time in.  Read about that here.

I will be interviewing Nora M. Garcia at Book Marks and that interview will be appearing in the near future.  In the meantime, I am about a fifth of the way through the book.

To be honest, this is the second self-published novel I have read.  The first was In Full Uniform by Anthony Carnovale, a friend of mine.  The novel is based on the true story of a 15 year old boy who was bullied, had many painful issues and committed suicide.  While the story was one that I basically lived, since the boy was a student  where I teach, I had a good reading experience because it was well written, plotted and paced.

I am easily seeing the differences between a self-published and traditionally published book as I read The Lightbearers. However, I am keeping an open mind and reading The Lightbearers anxiously waiting for that crescendo where I can say that’s why I stuck with this book!  It will happen. 

Have you read a self-published book that you ended up loving?

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Voyager by Diana Gabaldon

Almost done...

From Goodreads

Summary from Goodreads:  From the author of the breathtaking bestsellers Outlander and Dragonfly in Amber, the extraordinary saga continues.  Their passionate encounter happened long ago by whatever measurement Claire Randall took. Two decades before, she had traveled back in time and into the arms of a gallant eighteenth-century Scot named Jamie Fraser. Then she returned to her own century to bear his child, believing him dead in the tragic battle of Culloden. Yet his memory has never lessened its hold on her… and her body still cries out for him in her dreams.  Then Claire discovers that Jamie survived. Torn between returning to him and staying with their daughter in her own era, Claire must choose her destiny. And as time and space come full circle, she must find the courage to face the passion and pain awaiting her…the deadly intrigues raging in a divided Scotland… and the daring voyage into the dark unknown that can reunite or forever doom her timeless love.

I like Gabaldon’s books.  I don’t love them.  When I am in the mood for adventure, outrageous coincidences and a male protagonist who is, well, perfect, Gabaldon’s books work. When not, I have to admit, they feel a little like torture.  At least Voyager did.

In Voyager, Claire returns to the past to find Jamie.  Over twenty years have passed – Claire and Jamie are middle-aged and still madly in love with each other.  It’s sweet.  They have a romantic reunion, followed closely by dangerous and crazy circumstances that only Claire and Jamie can manage to create.

I find it very difficult to relate to Claire.  I almost see her as an ignorant tourist.  You know the ones who go to other countries and expect to find all the luxuries and conveniences they left at home; those who become irate when they can’t find said conveniences and get angry when others do not speak their language?

This description is a bit unfair to Claire because she has a good understanding of the century to which she travels and knows what to expect.  However, she also brings with her many of her beliefs from the 20th century about women, education, and people of different races – and though I can’t blame her anger in the face of sexism, classism and racism, what does she expect? To change the people around her because she knows more?

I need a good long break from Claire and Jamie – I’ve read the first three books of the series consecutively, so perhaps I judge harshly due to fatigue from the same scenarios over and over.  Claire and Jamie cannot live without each other.  Claire discovers secrets about Jamie’s past.  Jamie deals with said secrets like a knowledgeable self-help guru of the 21st century.  They encounter danger – Claire is headstrong and dives into impossible situations from which Jamie must always save her (on a few instances, she does save herself).  Blah blah blah…Yes, I definitely need a break. 

I also find the books needlessly long.  There are SO MANY scenes and entire chapters in Voyager that could’ve been dropped from the novel and the plot would’ve remained intact.  I flipped through 10-12 pages at a time out of boredom without compromising my knowledge of the plot and characters.

I know it sounds like I dislike Gabaldon’s series; but I honestly don’t!  I was very happy with the resolution to Voyager and am actually looking forward to reading book 4, Drums of Autumn which has Claire and Jamie’s daughter, Brianna, making the trip back in time.  She will (hopefully) be a refreshing change and I am sure her reunion with her father will be a touching one.

Anyway, I won’t read about that for a while because there are other books on my list to tackle.

Have you read Voyager? What did you think?  

Have you come across books in your reading life that you liked, but skipped scenes and chapters along the way?

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