Top Ten Tuesday August 28: Back to School

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.

Updates are now at That Artsy Reader Girl.

August 28: Back to School/Learning Freebie (in honor of school starting back up soon, come up with your own topic that fits the theme of school or learning! Books that take place at school/boarding school/during study abroad, books you read in school, textbooks you liked/didn’t like, non-fiction books you loved or want to read, etc

Top 10 Books I Read in High School that Left a Lasting Impression.

1. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. Freshmen year – Term 1.
I don’t really remember the plot so well. My friend who loved it in high school says it does not hold up when she read it as an adult. But the reason why I find it so memorable is because of what happened when I was taking an exam for the book. I was writing the essay portion when my teacher came in to announce that O.J. Simpson was acquitted for the murder of Nicole and Ron. I was furious. The rest of my class was ecstatic.

2. The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allan Poe. Freshmen year – Term 2.
This is my favorite Poe story. I love the revenge trick. My teacher was such a cool lady too. She was a fan of the 1960’s soap opera Dark Shadows, which I watched reruns with my mom as a very young girl and then watched again when I was in HS on the Sci-Fi network. She told the class that many of Poe’s story elements influenced other Gothic stories, such as Dark Shadows. (Barnabas chained Rev. Trask in a cellar and walled him up behind bricks).

3. Lord of the Flies by William Golding. Sophomore year – Term 2.
I read this as an adult too, around the time LOST first aired, since they have similar themes, and the story does hold up. It’s very much about instinct and human nature in a very primal form.

4. The Crucible by Arthur Miller. Junior Year – Term 1.
This is my absolute favorite play. It’s a look at what happens in society when you let your jealousies and prejudices take over actual facts. I saw the movie in HS for comparison and it is terrible. It would be years later when I got to see it performed live. Once in London with Richard Armitage as John Proctor. Then in NYC with Saoirse Ronan as Abigail.

5. The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane. Junior Year – Term 1
I hated this book. It is written in the vernacular of a Southern American accent. It’s impossible to understand. This was the first time I gave up reading a book for school and only used the Cliff’s Notes to do my homework and pass the exam.

6. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Junior Year – Term 2.
I had a cool teacher for this term, though I didn’t appreciate her at the time. I was a bit afraid of her. Thought she was a real life witch because she was so quirky and peculiar. It was her M.O. to assign group projects to learn about American culture of different decades.
While reading TGG we learned about American life in the 1920s. Each group focused on a different research topic: fashion, current events, food, radio and/or tv programs, and I think the last one was books. Interior decorating? Or many the work force? I forgot.
And we presented our findings to the class in form of a skit.

As for the book itself, it still holds up when I read it as an adult, and the Baz Luhrmann film is a great adaptation.

7. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway. Senior Year – Term 1.
Hemingway is way too depressing and boring. After reading this and hearing my sister complain about Old Man and the Sea I know Hemingway is not for me. Never again.

8. MacBeth by William Shakespeare. Senior Year – Term 1.
I loved the witches! “Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and caldron bubble.”
And Lady MacBeth: “Out, damned spot! out, I say!”

9. Othello by William Shakespeare. Senior Year – Term 2.
Don’t believe a word Iago says!

The only other Shakespeare I read in HS was Julius Caesar, which I also loved. I think I was one of the few to never be assigned Romeo and Juliet.

10. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Senior Year – Term 2.
I don’t think I really appreciated this at the time. I loved the premises but felt the writing was slow and a bit boring. But I want to give it a second try. I plan to listen to an audiobook of it soon.

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Within These Walls by Ania Ahlborn

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From indie horror author and bestselling sensation Ania Ahlborn, this brand-new supernatural thriller questions: how far would you go for success, and what would you be capable of if the promise of forever was real?

With his marriage on the rocks and his life in shambles, washed up crime writer Lucas Graham is desperate for a comeback. So when he’s promised exclusive access to notorious cult leader and death row inmate Jeffrey Halcomb, the opportunity is too good to pass up. Lucas leaves New York for the scene of the crime—a split-level farmhouse on the gray-sanded beach of Washington State—a house whose foundation is steeped in the blood of Halcomb’s diviners; runaways who, thirty years prior, were drawn to his message of family, unity, and unconditional love. Lucas wants to tell the real story of Halcomb’s faithful departed, but when Halcomb goes back on his promise of granting Lucas exclusive information on the case, he’s left to put the story together on his own. Except he is not alone. For Jeffrey Halcomb promised his devout eternal life…and within these walls, they’re far from dead.

 

I picked this up last year at NYCC.

I enjoyed Within These Walls immensely. At 447 pages and taking me only 5 days to read, it’s a true page turner.

It stirs up all kinds of emotions. I was nervous, spooked, annoyed, angry, and saddened.

The f—ed up mentality, abuse, and manipulative behavior of the cult is really well developed; as was the loneliness, desperation, and vulnerabilty of the victims.

The story goes back to 1982/83 and forward to present day with some inclusions of articles, incident reports, and paranormal reports – which I really enjoyed. It connected everything really well.

This is one of those books that will keep me thinking for a few days. I have a book hangover. I even thought of a playlist that would go well with it:

-“Father Figure” by George Michael. The whole song is Jeff Halcomb.
-“Big God” by Florence + the Machine. “You need a big God. Big enough to hold your love.”  and “You always were my favorite ghost.”
-“”Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” by Eurythmics. The whole verse about wanting to use and abuse and be used and abused.

There are some issues though which made me decide to downgrade it by 1 point. While I really liked the way it ended because it remained true to the powerful and ominous direction it was headed all along (and I think leaves it open for a sequel) not everything is answered and they are pretty important plot holes.

4 out of 5 Ornate Crosses.

These are major spoilers so enter at your own risk!

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DNF: A Crucible of Souls and The Abyss Beyond Dreams

These are both books that I picked up at NYCC 2016 and the last two from that pile. I am sad to say I couldn’t get through either one.

A Crucible of Souls (Sorcery Ascendant Sequence) by Mitchell Hogan

When Caldan’s parents are brutally slain, he is raised by monks and taught the arcane mysteries of sorcery.

Vowing to discover for himself who his parents really were, and what led to their violent end, he is thrust into the unfamiliar chaos of city life. With nothing to his name but a pair of mysterious heirlooms and a handful of coins, he must prove his talent to earn an apprenticeship with a guild of sorcerers.

But he soon learns the world outside the monastery is a darker place than he ever imagined, and his treasured sorcery has disturbing depths.

As a shadowed evil manipulates the unwary and forbidden powers are unleashed, Caldan is plunged into an age-old conflict that brings the world to the edge of destruction.

I feel horrible saying this because I wanted to like this story. It is in a genre I love and the synopsis sounds really intriguing. But there was something about it that was not clicking with me and I can’t even identify what it is.

When I was nearly 100 pages in I had to give in and give up. I am not even sure if I will pick it up again one day and try again. There are just too many books on my TBR.

The Abyss Beyond Dreams (Commonwealth: Chronicle of the Fallers 1) by Peter F. Hamilton

The year is 3326. Nigel Sheldon, one of the founders of the Commonwealth, receives a visit from the Raiel—self-appointed guardians of the Void, the enigmatic construct at the core of the galaxy that threatens the existence of all that lives. The Raiel convince Nigel to participate in a desperate scheme to infiltrate the Void.

Once inside, Nigel discovers that humans are not the only life-forms to have been sucked into the Void, where the laws of physics are subtly different and mental powers indistinguishable from magic are commonplace. The humans trapped there are afflicted by an alien species of biological mimics—the Fallers—that are intelligent but merciless killers.

Yet these same aliens may hold the key to destroying the threat of the Void forever—if Nigel can uncover their secrets. As the Fallers’ relentless attacks continue, and the fragile human society splinters into civil war, Nigel must uncover the secrets of the Fallers—before he is killed by the very people he has come to save.

I could not even get through the first chapter. I thought it was just me so I went to read some of the 1 star and 2 star reviews on Goodreads. I found that a big reason I couldn’t get into it was that this is sort of a side story to another series. So the world building it already there and I was feeling a bit lost, no matter how much the author briefed the reader.

I kept reading reviews to see if maybe it got better and was worth going further, but many reviewers didn’t like how it switched stories and felt like a book within a book. Others said it started out exciting and then became boring. There was also a few complaints how it became too political in the middle. So I would have to be dealing with politics in a universe I am not familiar with.

Some fans of Hamilton’s even said that this was not the best of the series set in this universe.

Also, seeing a timeline of the history of the Commonwealth in the beginning was a bit intimidating.

In the end I decided have way too many other books to read. I can’t get involved in another series. Especially when they are long books. I saw one reviewer mention that at 640 pages this was one of his shorter books.

So I am moving on. Into the donation bag these go!

 

Star Wars: Thrawn: Alliances by Timothy Zahn, narrated by Marc Thompson.

Star Wars: Thrawn: Alliances by Timothy Zahn, narrated by Marc Thompson. 13 hours 21 minutes.

Grand Admiral Thrawn and Darth Vader ally against a threat to the Empire in this new novel from bestselling author Timothy Zahn.

“I have sensed a disturbance in the Force.”

Ominous words under any circumstances, but all the more so when uttered by Emperor Palpatine. On Batuu, at the edges of the Unknown Regions, a threat to the Empire is taking root—its existence little more than a glimmer, its consequences as yet unknowable. But it is troubling enough to the Imperial leader to warrant investigation by his most powerful agents: ruthless enforcer Lord Darth Vader and brilliant strategist Grand Admiral Thrawn. Fierce rivals for the emperor’s favor, and outspoken adversaries on Imperial affairs—including the Death Star project—the formidable pair seem unlikely partners for such a crucial mission. But the Emperor knows it’s not the first time Vader and Thrawn have joined forces. And there’s more behind his royal command than either man suspects.

In what seems like a lifetime ago, General Anakin Skywalker of the Galactic Republic, and Commander Mitth’raw’nuruodo, officer of the Chiss Ascendancy, crossed paths for the first time. One on a desperate personal quest, the other with motives unknown…and undisclosed. But facing a gauntlet of dangers on a far-flung world, they forged an uneasy alliance—neither remotely aware of what their futures held in store.

Now, thrust together once more, they find themselves bound again for the planet where they once fought side by side. There they will be doubly challenged—by a test of their allegiance to the Empire…and an enemy that threatens even their combined might.

 

My wish came true! I had mentioned in my review of the prequel that I wanted the story of when Thrawn met Anakin Skywalker and would he figure out that he became Darth Vader?

I don’t think one has to read Thrawn before reading this sequel, but it sure would help to know his background. That said I was reading some reviews on Goodreads and some people mentioned that they missed Eli Vanto. I honestly did not. Though knowing the outcome of Thrawn: Alliances I wouldn’t mind seeing what he is up to with the Chiss Ascendancy.

I listened to this story on audible and once again Marc Thompson is a fantastic narrator. I did laugh at his voice for Padmé, but what can you do? He’s not Natalie Portman, or Catherine Taber.

I also bought the Barnes and Noble exclusive edition, only because I wanted the poster of Padmé. (Side rant: why must they put that ugly sticker on the cover? It’s hiding Vader’s buttons. And it is already printed inside that it’s a B&N exclusive. I pealed it off but there will always be a sticky residue.)

Ok, so back to the review.

I like that we have a time frame. The past is set after Ahsoka has already left the Jedi Order. The present is set after the Battle of Atollon on Star Wars: Rebels. So between seasons 3 and 4.

I’ll start with some critiques and then end on the positive. This is going to get spoiler-y.

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