November 22nd, 2011

  • julnar

(no subject)

I absolutely loved Ellen Baker’s Keeping the House. I am currently reading her second book (I Gave my Heart to Know This), and I’m on the hunt for something equally engrossing to read when I finish that.

What I like about the book is the setting (small town in the Midwest, during WWII) and the story of all these families as they struggle along and wait for the end of the war.

Any recommendations for similar books? Either similar type of family stories, or similar time period? Something with a little romance. Thanks!

Book Review: The Cloven Viscount by Italo Calvino

The Cloven Viscount is a novella by the famed Italian writer Italo Calvino.  Together withThe Baron in the Trees, and the Nonexistent Knight, it forms Calvino’s popular Our Ancestors Trilogy.

The Cloven Viscount

The Cloven Viscount is a fantastic novella about a Viscount who is exactly as the name implies – cloven.  At the start of the novel, an unfortunate accident befalls Viscount Medardo on the battlefield in a war between Christians and Turks.

Miserable upon finding himself split in half,  Medardo travels back home to claim his birthright as Viscount of Terralba.  Shortly after his arrival, it becomes evident to all who live in the village that the half of Medardo which has returned to the village is his evil half.

Evil Medardo does not waste any time, and busies himself with coming up with ingenious ways of committing malicious acts toward the townspeople.  Medardo’s evil half tortures small animals, destroys everything around him, and doesn’t give a second thought to killing or injuring both guilty and innocent people alike.

Like his bad half, Medardo’s good half decided one day,  to come back to his hometown.  The villagers, who at first could not tell the difference between the two halves, were confused at the Viscount’s sudden change of demeanor and random acts of kindness.  They soon realize, to their amazement, that it is Viscount Medardo’s other half – his good half, which was responsible for all the good deeds  in the village.

Naturally, his good half is the exact opposite of his evil half.  Good Medardo devotes his life to performing selfless acts for the betterment of the community, or so he thinks.  He tends to the poor, the weak, and the lame, he counsels and preaches against immoral and impious acts.

As much as the villagers hated living with the evil Medardo in their midst, they also hated having the good Medardo around.  Good Medardo’s acts of kindess, to them, was just as bad as evil Medardo’s acts of maliciousness and evil.

Through Medardo’s opposite halves, Italo Calvino illustrates two opposite sides of a person that must co-exist in order for him to be complete. A completely evil person, set on destroying everything around him, will eventually destroy himself, just as a selfless person, who dedicates himself to the woes of other people, with no regard for his own well-being, will eventually hurt himself.  A person who is  completely good and pious, or is completely evil, cannot and does not exist.

However, in his idea that man has two opposing sides inside him, I feel that Calvino is saying that just as every good person has a cruel, unjust side, a person generally classified as evil must have a good, compassionate side.  In this way, I feel that Calvino sees humanity in an optimistic light.

The villagers hatred for evil Medardo, and later, for good Medardo illustrates that an excess of kidness and morality is just as bad as an excess of cruelty.  Random acts of kindness, though well meant can lead to harmful conclusions, just as a seemingly cruel act, can sometimes produce good results.

Another aspect of the story, I feel, is the concept of incompleteness brought about by youth and inexperience.  In the beginning, it is the Viscount’s youth and inexperience that lead him to the battlefield to his unfortunate accident.

This aspect can also be seen in Medardo’s young nephew, who is also the narrator the story.  The young boy fills his days wandering the village and forest, looking for adventures and interesting activities.  He is equally fascinated and repelled by both halves of his uncle, and by the other people in the village.

The young  narrator admits to youth being a form on incompleteness.  He daydreams all day about fantastic stories, and yearns for adventure.  In the end, both he and Viscount Medardo are wiser than they were at the beginning of the novel.  Unfortunately, unlike his uncle, who is older, and is therefore, more complete, he is disappointed with the eventual onset of adulthood – of having responsibilities and forever chasing after things that can not be attained or understood.


#94 Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

Will Grayson has two rules in life, don’t care and shut up. And when he breaks those rules, things usually go badly. So when his best friend, Tiny Cooper, decides that he wants to set him up with fellow gay/straight alliance member Jane, Will puts his foot down and refuses. The only problem is he soon finds himself falling for her. Meanwhile, another teenager named Will Grayson lives a life of extreme emotions. He hates his life at school, and at home. But at night he finds himself falling in love with a boy named Issac, who he has only met online. When Will and Issac decide to meet up for a date, things don’t go as planned, leading the two Will Graysons to meet each other for the first time.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson is a very entertaining book written by both John Green and David Levithan, with one author taking each perspective. Fans of John Green (such as myself) will easily pick on up which Will Grayson is his due to the notable mix of humor and seriousness that Green manages to pull off so successfully, as well as his unfortunate habit of using the same character types in every work. If it wasn't due to the fact that Green was such a talented writer, this would bother me. Fortunately, he pulls it off so well that I keep on coming back for more. David Levithan writes from the perspective of the second Will Grayson. This is my first time reading works by Levithan, and it won’t be the last. Although his Will Grayson’s extreme emotions may be surprising at first, I am impressed at how rich his characters ended up being.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson does three things very well. First off, the humor is fantastic. This is a book that you shouldn’t read in public because you will constantly find yourself laughing out loud. Secondly, how it chooses to portray GBLT youth. Under a lesser writer, Tiny Cooper would have been a stereotypical “fabulous!” gay guy, but Green and Levithan flesh him out expertly to create a character that’s more three dimensional. Several other gay characters populate the story (including Levithan’s Will Grayson), and I was pleased to see they posses a wide variety of personalities. The third aspect I really enjoyed about this novel is that is how it choses to portray different types of love. We get romantic love (both gay and straight), love between a child and a parent, and love between friends. It’s satisfying in a genre that tends to put romance on a pedestal to see platonic love explored.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson is a satisfying young adult title by two talented authors. I would highly recommend checking out the audio version, which features superb narration by Nick Poedhl and MacLeod Andrews.

Rating: four and a half stars
Length: 310 pages. The audio version is 7hrs and 52 minutes.
Source: audible
Other books I've read by this author: By Green, I’ve read Looking for Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines, and Paper Towns. This is my first book by David Levithan

xposted to temporaryworlds, bookish, and goodreads

Book recommendation, please. :D Topic? Travel to Dubai!

I'm Xmas shopping for a friend. Let's call her Xtina. (I know it's technically Xina, but Xtina is just a fun nickname. :D ) Xtina is what we like to call a traveler not a tourist. She likes to experience the culture of the new land & wants to find the rare gems in hidden away spots. Some tourist spots, possibly, but she likes to revel in the richness of an area.

She's planning to go to Dubai next year!! I can't tell you how stinkin' jealous I am!! Do you know a good book to read up on Dubai? I mean kinda of like a touristy-type book with places to see, etc. but meaty & includes some rare spots often missed. Or do you know of an author or publisher that does a travel series that does a really good job of giving you a feel for the specific culture? Heck, I want this book!!

I'm so excited! Please oh please, I hope someone can help me! :D

Thank you in advance!