Belated Book-Related News

Another week has gone by, and now it’s finally starting to feel like fall here in California. I know that I’m spoiled living in the Golden State, so I won’t complain too much, but I always get so upset when I have to put away the shorts and bring out the sweaters.

Autumn and I don’t get along very well. Even though it doesn’t snow where I live, I absolutely loathe being cold. Especially when I have to get out of my cozy, warm bed! I hate layering clothes, dealing with dry skin, and smelling or tasting anything pumpkin-flavored.

You can keep your stupid lattes, Starbucks!

Thus, I’m trying to remind myself of what I do enjoy about this time of year: drinking hot cocoa, dressing up for Halloween parties, eating so much delicious food at Thanksgiving and Christmas, and having extra time to spend with family and friends during the holidays.

That, and awesome movies based on books! We’ve got tons to choose from, so here’s a list to remind you:

  • Romeo and Juliet, Oct. 11 – Ed Westwick as Tybalt? I am so there!
  • Kill Your Darlings, Oct. 18 – Daniel Radcliffe plays Beat poet Allen Ginsberg–yet another British actor who pulls off an American accent!
  • Ender’s Game, Nov. 1 – Despite all the controversy surrounding author Orson Scott Card’s homophobia, I hope this movie is just as great as the book.
  • The Book Thief, Nov. 8 – Didn’t read this bestseller, but so many readers are looking forward to seeing this WWII tale on screen.
  • Great Expectations, Nov. 8 – If anyone could get me to enjoy this story, it’s Helena Bonham Carter as Miss Havisham.
  • The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Nov. 22 –  You already know about how I feel about the end of this trilogy, and now we’re just one movie closer to it. Sigh.
  • The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,  Dec.13 – People may wonder why another trilogy was warranted for this book, but I’m just ecstatic for even more time in Middle Earth!

What else is going on this fall? Well, by now you’ve probably heard that Canadian short story writer Alice Munro won the Nobel Prize in Literature! As an 82-year-old who was first published at 37, she’s an inspiration to writers everywhere!

And I’d say she’s lived a pretty full life so far! Congrats!

I would love to read more of her work in the future (Alison over at Hardcovers and Heroines found a great list of short stories of Munro’s which you can read for free!), and I highly recommend “How I Met My Husband,” which is part of her collection Something I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You.

And speaking of reading (which is pretty much all I speak of on this blog!), The Huffington Post conducted a survey of 1,000 American adults and found that 41% had not read a single book of fiction this past year! How utterly sad!

To combat this, HuffPo released a list yesterday of some of the benefits of reading: it decreases stress, keeps your brain sharp, helps you sleep, and eases depression! Good, because it looks like I need to read to overcome my depression after reading those poll results!

I’m currently 100 pages into my 14th book of the year, Awaken by Meg Cabot, so be on the lookout for my review in the near future. In the meantime, enjoy the rest of your weekend!

My 200th Post!!!

Just after I completely re-designed my blog, I’ve hit another major milestone: my 200th post! Granted, it’s almost been two years since launching Book Club Babe, and I could have achieved this months ago, but meet my excuses: Moving Out, Full-Time Job, and Who-Am-I-Kidding-I’ve-Been-On-A-Game-Of-Thrones-Bender-Because-Brace-Yourselves-Winter-Is-Coming-In-Only-6-More-Days!!!

Damn right LotR cross-over meme! Tyrion Lannister FTW!

Can you tell I’m excited for Sunday?! (Seriously, though, I haven’t read the books–yet, but the HBO series is freaking fantastic! Jump onto the bandwagon!)

Anywho, I’d like to celebrate my 200th post with a haphazard list of links to literary stuff I’ve been interested in. Don’t think I haven’t been keeping up with the news–it’s just that “keeping up” and “blogging about” are more like long-lost cousins than identical twins.

First off, here’s a reminder of the book adaptation blockbusters, coming to a theater near you this year:

  1. May 10 – The Great Gatsby
  2. June 21 – World War Z
  3. Aug 10 – Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters
  4. Oct 18 – Carrie
  5. Nov 1 – Ender’s Game
  6. Nov 22 – The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
  7. Dec 13 – The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Also, in non-Game-of-Thrones related TV news, I’ve given up on “The Carrie Diaries.” I was really excited before it premiered, because I’m obsessed with watching re-runs of “Sex and the City,” but now? Meh. Stopped watching after five or six episodes. Wide-eyed, innocent teenage Carrie is not nearly as much fun as sexy, confident 30-something Carrie, especially when her equally awesome friends aren’t in the picture yet.

Raise your hand if you’d rather be watching “Game of Thrones!”

Not to mention, the dialogue is stale, the plots are cliche, and the ‘bad boy’ is not hot enough to keep me interested, a la Chuck Bass in “Gossip Girl.” Granted, two of the executive producers of “The Carrie Diaries,” Stephanie Savage and Josh Schwartz, were also behind the making of “Gossip Girl,” but in that show of NYC’s elite, they didn’t even attempt to follow the books, which sucked. “The Carrie Diaries” also kinda sucked, so tell me again why these two are attempting to adhere to it this time?

You know what would make this teeny-bopper show better? DRAGONS.

Now that’s what I’m talking about!

Ok, ok, I’ll stop. Last two links:

Here’s a lovely post from Qwiklit on “50 Reasons You Should be a Bookworm.”

And here’s “A Brief History of Book Vending Machines” over at HuffPo. Seriously?! Book vending machines? Awesome!

Any other literary news you’d like to add? Just stopped by to reveal your GoT addiction? Anything goes today!

Book Review: Ender’s Game

Ender's Game

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

I finally reached my goal of reading 20 books this year! And what a novel to end on! Like most bookworms, I had heard of Orson Scott Card’s novel Ender’s Game. I’m more of a fantasy fan than a sci-fi one, but I was intrigued by a book many called the best sci-fi fiction ever. And although I haven’t read enough sci-fi to make that claim, it was a pretty outstanding read.

Originally written as a short story but published as a novel in 1985, Ender’s Game is the first installment in the prolific “Enderverse.” The novel follows the journey of Andrew “Ender” Wiggin, a six-year-old genius who’s recruited by the government to join the Battle School, which is a space station used to train gifted children as galactic soldiers.

In this distant future, Earth has been in two wars with the insect-like alien race known as the Buggers. Now the planet is preparing their third invasion to defeat the Buggers once and for all. Ender leaves his beloved sister Valentine and cruel brother Peter to spend years excelling up the military totem pole.

Of course, none of this training is without consequences. His commanders isolate Ender from making close friends and submit him to grueling practices with absolutely no care for his psyche. Every time Ender believes he’s one step closer to freedom, they beat him down again. He soon suffers from bloodthirst and the incessant need to win at all costs; this in turn brings about many PTSD symptoms, such as rage, depression, illness, and nightmares.

What I loved most about Ender’s Game was that it did not rely heavily on sci-fi jargon and overly complicated world creation. You don’t need to be an expert on space travel to understand this story, which is more about Ender’s struggle to maintain his humanity while being molded into an emotionless robot whose sole purpose is to destroy (hence his nickname: Ender, one who ends).

Despite your personal views on war and the military, you can learn from this novel. You pity Ender, hate the adults pulling his strings, but most importantly you come to realize the other’s perspective in battle. For once, you see the aliens not as ruthless monsters (a la “War of the Worlds”), but as sentient beings simply lost in miscommunication.

I also loved all the symbolism, from the computer game taking Ender from the Giant to the playground to the “End of the World,” as well as Ender’s siblings working together as online demagogues under the aliases “Locke” and “Demosthenes.” I was surprised to hear earlier this year that many of my students were reading this book in high school, but now I agree that teenagers could learn a lot from this rich piece of literature.

Thanks to everybody who recommended this novel, and I’ll be sure to check out its sequels in the new year!

And if you’ve been following my blog in the last week, you know that I’m not a religious person, but I want to wish all of you a Merry Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, Saturnalia, and just a happy weekend with your loved ones. And, of course, a happy new year filled with many, many books!

Do Novelists’ Personal Beliefs Affect Your Opinion of Their Work?

Orson Scott Card at Life, the Universe, & Ever...

Orson Scott Card (Image via Wikipedia)

So I’m about 50 pages into my 20th book of the year, Ender’s Game, and coincidentally I ran across this column on the Huffington Post about the author Orson Scott Card. Since I’ve never read Card’s books, I had no idea that he was a Mormon who was staunchly against same-sex marriage. Given what I knew about Ender’s Game, that it was a sci-fi story about a boy genius soldier, I didn’t think Card’s religious views would play much of a role.

And yet, in Chapter Three, Graff tells Ender that his mother was a Mormon and his father was a Catholic. Because of their upbringing, they love their third son even though most families are permitted to only have two children. But they also hate Ender, because he is an everyday reminder that their family does not fit into this society.

I admit that after reading the HuffPo column, I am more aware of traces of religious bias than I would be if I hadn’t read it at all. For example, when bully Bernard is ridiculed for supposedly watching the other boys’ butts, I wondered if this scene promoted homophobia by declaring that being attracted to the backsides of the same sex is somehow wrong and worthy of mockery.

Am I reading too much into this? I just started the novel, so those who have finished it probably have a better idea of its themes. But at least this article got me thinking: Do I like or dislike certain books, just because I like or dislike the author’s personal beliefs?

The answer for me is sometimes. I love pre-modern literature, which is mostly written by racist, sexist, homophobic men. But I just chock it up to the time period and take their words with a grain of salt. And because I can’t go back in time and get to know them personally, how am I to be sure that people like Joseph Conrad or Mark Twain were racists? Anyone who has taken any literature courses knows that autobiography definitely plays a role in a person’s writing, but that you cannot assume that every word of theirs is autobiographical.

On the other hand, I can either love or hate a story whether or not I like that writer’s opinions. My favorite novel is The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman, who is a devout atheist. You cannot ignore his anti-religious messages in the story, which is exactly why I adore it. His modern adaptation of Milton’s Paradise Lost demonstrates that churches are corrupt and that there is absolutely nothing sinful about experiencing puberty and sexual awakening, despite what the clergy brainwashes children into thinking.

And because I’m secular myself, I am extremely wary of books with religious messages. I enjoyed The Chronicles of Narnia as a child, but I agree with Pullman that the books send the wrong messages to kids. I refuse to read explicitly Christian literature now, even if it’s disguised as fantasy.

This is why I have a hard time swallowing The Twilight Saga. As a hopeless romantic, I gobbled up this forbidden vampire/werewolf love triangle. But anyone who claims that Stephenie Meyer’s Mormonism doesn’t affect the story is sorely mistaken. If I had a young daughter, I don’t think I would want her reading a story in which the female protagonist marries at 18 to have sex with her overly controlling, jealous boyfriend. Not to mention, Bella gets pregnant after said sex and refuses to terminate the pregnancy even though the vampire-hybrid fetus is killing her from the inside out.

Feel free to agree to disagree, but Meyer’s anti-choice, anti-premarital sex viewpoints, as well as Twilight’s inherent misogyny, do not an excellent novel make in my humble opinion. And I realize that Pullman’s atheistic epic turns a lot of people off as well. I guess the point of this post is that we should be grateful that we possess the freedoms of speech and press, because even if we disagree with an author’s values, that author has every right to include those values in their novels. And nobody’s forcing you to read books you don’t agree with.

So what about you? Do novelists’ personal beliefs matter to you? Are there certain books you can’t stand or just can’t get enough of on the basis of values alone? Let’s get a debate going, guys!

Vote for my 20th (and possibly last) book of the year!

Ok readers, I have a favor to ask of you! I’ve set a goal for myself that I will read 20 books this year. Actually, this goal wasn’t intended, but looking at my reading pace a few months ago, I figured 20 would be a nice, achievable number (I’m not including any non-fiction I’ve read this year). Many of you probably read 20 books in a month, but alas I have sacrificed most of my potential reading time to grad school.

Anyways, I’m currently reading my 19th novel, A Desirable Residence by Madeleine Wickham (aka Sophie Kinsella), which is a pleasant piece of chick-lit after my run of dsytopian classics. And now I’d like YOU to vote for my 20th book of the year! (Considering how busy I am writing my final paper and preparing for the holidays, it’s quite possible that it might even be my last book of 2011! *cue ominous music* DUN DUN DUN!!!

Here’s your choices:

  1. The Trial by Franz Kafka
  2. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
  3. The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
  4. Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  5. Summer and the City by Candace Bushnell

So let me know which one I should read and why…My fate is now in your hands!

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving break, and–of course–thanks for reading!

Love, Book Club Babe

So I went on a book bender this week…

Not pictured: Madame Bovary. I'm reading it, duh!

Hello, my name is Book Club Babe, and I’m a book addict. In a last ditch attempt to covet as many books as possible, I bought ten books this week–a personal record, I think. But I always fall back on the same justifications: There was an insane sale, and I need them!

So here’s the breakdown:

Amazon.com (TOTAL = $31.35):

  1. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
  2. Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  3. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
  4. 1984 by George Orwell
Borders (TOTAL = $15.07):
  1. The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
  2. Selected Tales by Edgar Allan Poe
  3. A Desirable Residence by Madeleine Wickham
Fresno Country Library Book Sale (TOTAL = $1!!!):
  1. The Awakening and Selected Short Fiction by Kate Chopin
  2. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
  3. Art of Love by Ovid (with original Latin!)
GRAND TOTAL: 10 books for $47.42!!!
          I’m currently reading Madame Bovary, but I’ve already read the books I got at the library book sale–they’re just for my personal collection. I’d also like to note that all but one are literary classics, so it’s, you know, intellectual splurging. I know it will probably take me all year and then some to finish my new books, but what can I say? There was an insane sale, and I need them!
          PS: Happy 13th Birthday to my black Labrador Bubba! I love you more than books!!!