What I’ve Read This Month – Percy, Percy, and Even More Percy

If you want to know what I read this month, I’ve got two words for you. Percy Jackson. I started reading the Percy Jackson series this month, and I have absolutely loved it. In fact, five of the seven books I read were from the first Percy Jackson series. So, be prepared for lots and lots of Percy Jackson! 🙂

Some of the books I've read this month. I had to return two of the books to the library since others wanted to read them. :)

Some of the books I’ve read this month. I had to return two of the books to the library since others wanted to read them. 🙂

 

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

One day Percy is attacked by a creature straight out Greek mythology. The only place Percy is safe is a summer camp called Camp Half-Blood where he finds out who he truly is. There he goes on a quest to recover Zeus’s master bolt. After hearing about these books again and again, I finally decided to give them a try. It’s safe to say I’m a fan now!

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan

Camp Half-Blood is being overrun by monsters because the tree that protects the camp is poisoned. When Percy returns to camp, he has a nightmare about his best friend Grover who is being held by a Cyclops. When Annabeth, Percy’s other good friend, hears about Percy’s nightmares, she realizes the key to saving Camp Half-Blood is to rescue Grover and find the Golden Fleece. Just like the first book, the second Percy Jackson book was terrific!

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Titan’s Curse by Rick Riordan

Grover needs Percy’s help again when he discovers two new half-bloods at a school. It’s there that Percy and his friends learn that Kronos, enemy of the gods, has set up a trap for them. I’ve been enjoying the series a ton, and each book is as good as the last.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan

Camp Half-Blood is in trouble. The Titan army is planning an invasion through Daedalus’s labyrinth. The camp’s only hope is to convince Daedalus not to give the Titan army the string that will lead them through the maze. Another great Percy Jackson book!

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan

Percy Jackson leads Camp Half-Blood in a last ditch effort to save the camp and Olympus itself. This was probably my favorite book in the series. It was absolutely amazing, and I was cheering Percy on at the end. A great conclusion to a great series.

The Runaway King by Jennifer A. Nielsen

After Jaron takes the throne, there is an assassination attempt on his life. He soon realizes that the only way to save his kingdom is to leave it. He tracks down his enemy, the pirates, in order to stop a war from coming to his land. I read the first book in the series, The False Prince, and I liked it. I didn’t like this one as much. It took me a while to get through the book. I didn’t really love Jaron, and I found the book really hard to get into.

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

Robinson Crusoe is the story of a man marooned on a deserted island for many years. The book tells how he survived on the island and learned how to provide for himself. I was surprised about how much I enjoyed the novel. The descriptions and such could get a little long, but mostly it was an entertaining novel to listen to.

Have you read any of these books? If so, did you enjoy them? Do you have any recommendations for me? Comment below and let me know!

Thanks for reading!

~ Kayla

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Five Least Favorite Classic Novels

From Shakespeare to Twain to Defoe, I’ve enjoyed a lot of classic novels from a lot of different authors. I loved reading The Merchant of Venice, The Prince and the Pauper, Robinson Crusoe, and many other great classics. Alas, not every classic novel can be that enjoyable. Today I’m sharing some classics that I downright disliked and never, ever want to read again.

5. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

I didn’t fully dislike this novel. In fact, there were some parts I really did enjoy. However, the novel seemed to drag on and on. Parts like the scenery, the story about the cabin and the people Frankenstein’s monster met, and the letters from the captain to his sister in the beginning bogged down the actual plot of the book, making it hard for me to enjoy the story.

4. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

I’m not sure how this ever became a children’s classic because this is one of the most disturbing books I’ve ever read. I could deal with the talking White Rabbit, the Unbirthday celebration, and even the Cheshire Cat. However, I found the potions and cakes that sometimes shrunk Alice or made her nine feet tall, the baby who turned into a pig, and the playing card soldiers just a little too strange for my taste.

3. Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift

Gulliver’s Travels is a book I read last year for school and, boy, was I glad when it was finished! I really disliked Gulliver. At one point, I was actually hoping he might get squished. Because the book was supposed to be a travelogue, the descriptions of the people Gulliver met and the lands he visited were incredibly detailed and long. Also, there was a ton of bathroom humor/references in the novel, and that just made the book even worse.

2. 1984 by George Orwell

I love the dystopian genre, so I was excited to read the most famous and classic of all dystopian novels. What a disappointment! I found it boring. I couldn’t get interested in the long descriptions of the world in which Winston lived. I also didn’t care about Winston. Not a bit. It went from boring to unreadable when Winston got involved with Julia. I eventually just put the book down. It’s strange because I really enjoyed reading Animal Farm and some of Orwell’s essays, but I couldn’t get through 1984.

1. Moby Dick by Herman Melville

This title strikes fear into my heart. I tried to love the book, and then I tried to like the book, and then I just tried to get through it. I failed. I was bored stiff from the insane amount of detail about the story of Nantucket, whale hunting, and even an entire sermon on Jonah. I later learned that when the novel was first published, no one liked it. I agree with the original readers and place it at the top of my dislike list.

Have you read any of these novels on my list, and if so, what did you think of them? What are your least favorite classic novels?

Thanks for reading!

~ Kayla

Author Profile – Isaac Asimov

Last week, I had the opportunity to visit a different branch of my library system. I explored this library’s much bigger Y book section and came out with a pile of books. I decided to poke around the classic book section as well. There, I found Isaac Asimov’s novel I, Robot, a classic science fiction novel. So, I added it to the pile, and it’s now waiting to be read. Before I started it though, I wanted to know a little bit more about this author. I thought I’d share what I learned about him!

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Isaac Asimov was born somewhere between October 4 and January 2, 1920. His exact birth date is not known. Asimov later chose to celebrate his birthday in January. His parents immigrated to the USA from Russia when he was young, and they lived in New York City. Isaac loved learning and taught himself to read by the age of five. His family owned a candy shop, and Asimov helped out there. On the newsstand in the store, there were some science fiction magazines. Asimov wasn’t allowed to read them, but when a new one appeared on the stand called Science Wonder Stories, Isaac successfully convinced his father to let him read it. From then on, he was a devoted fan of science fiction. At eleven, he decided to try to write his own novel, called The Greenville Chums at College. He never finished it, thinking it wasn’t good enough. At fifteen, he graduated high school and entered Columbia University. He eventually earned his Bachelor of Science degree, and later his M.A., and Ph.D. in chemistry and biochemistry.

Asimov was a very successful writer who wrote over 500 works, but “Cosmic Corkscrew,” the first short story he submitted for publication, was rejected. The editor of the magazine, John W. Campbell, kindly gave him suggestions for his writing and encouraged him to keep at it. Several years later in 1939 his first short story “Marooned off Vesta” was published in Amazing Stories. His most famous short story is “Nightfall,” and in 1941, it was called the best science fiction story ever written! Asimov’s most famous trilogy, The Foundation Trilogy, was published in 1951-53. I, Robot was published in 1950. In the book, he talked about a positronic brain which later inspired the creator of Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry, to create the android named Data. Asimov is considered one of the “Big Three” of science fiction writing.

In researching Isaac Asimov, I learned that he enjoyed small, enclosed spaces. He was also terrified of flying, and managed to avoid travelling by plane for most of his life.

Here is an article I found by him where Asimov gives advice to writers about doubts, rejection, and dealing with success. I read the whole thing, and really enjoyed it.

http://sprott.physics.wisc.edu/pickover/writerasimov.html

Thanks for reading!

~ Kayla

Book to Movie – Cyrano de Bergerac

“One thing is left … my Panache.” With these dramatic words, the famous play Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand ends. After waiting all year, I was finally able to read the last assignment in my literature course. It was just as good as I had anticipated. How could I not love the classic romantic tale of a French swashbuckling hero named Cyrano who is witty, intelligent, and, of course, full of panache. He has only one flaw – his enormous nose. He has fallen in love with his cousin, Roxane, but she loves the handsome Christian de Neuvillette. Christian loves her back, but unfortunately he lacks the wit and charm to woo Roxane. Cyrano comes up with the idea of “combining” Christian’s good looks and Cyrano’s wit to make one perfect hero to charm Roxane so that she and Christian can be happy together.

Now any time I read a book/play that I love, I want to find a movie version of it to enjoy! I already knew which one I wanted to watch because back in September 2013 AnnaEstelle left me a comment recommending the 1990 French version starring Gérard Depardieu. Taking her advice, I watched it, and it was fantastic! The movie is in French, and if you don’t speak French fluently enough, there are English subtitles down at the bottom. This was the first movie I’d ever watched in another language, so it was an interesting experience that took some getting used to. In the end though, I enjoyed the opportunity to hear the play in the original language in which Rostand wrote it. The movie followed very closely to the play, and I recognized a lot of lines which was great. One big change was when Roxane visited Christian on the battlefield. In the play, she managed to ride through the Spanish lines without coming to any harm. The movie showed her being attacked, but I enjoyed the additional action sequence and thought it helped to bring out Christian’s bravery. The casting was quite well done as the characters looked pretty much exactly as I’d imagined them while reading. Gérard Depardieu did an especially terrific job as Cyrano and really brought the character alive for me.

Here’s the trailer for the movie:

I would definitely recommend this film version of Cyrano de Bergerac. Thanks to AnnaEstelle for recommending it! 🙂 Do you have any favorite film versions of this play? Have you seen this version? Comment below and let me know!

~ Kayla

 

Book to Movie – Jane Eyre

Every time we read a classic book for school, we always watch a movie adaptation (providing there is one). I love to see the characters come alive on the screen. The problem is many times the filmmakers seem bent on destroying the original book. Moviemakers add/remove scenes, plots, and even characters (I’m looking at you, Tauriel). It’s always disappointing when a movie you were hoping would bring a beloved book to life falls short of that expectation. Today I’m bringing you one that actually exceeded my expectations, Jane Eyre.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, as I’m sure most of my readers know, is the story of an orphaned girl, Jane Eyre, who ends up working as a governess for a Mr. Rochester of Thornfield Hall. Over the course of the novel they fall in love, are torn apart by deception, and are reunited in the end. And, of course, there’s the mystery of who or what is living on the third floor of the house. (I am being vague so I don’t spoil it for anyone who hasn’t read it!) I don’t want to make it sound simplistic because this novel is very complicated, from all the twists and turns and trials of Jane’s life to the themes found within the book’s pages, such as hypocrisy in religion and the desire to be loved and to belong. When I was assigned this novel for school, I dreaded reading it. Once I started though, I couldn’t put it down. Charlotte Bronte created a brilliant character in Jane. I loved that she wasn’t beautiful and that she was a strong, moral woman, who although in love, still sided with her conscience. I loved the change and growth in both the character of Jane and in Mr. Rochester. How could a movie come close to depicting this great novel?

I really thought finding a good Jane Eyre movie to watch (with “good” being defined as clean, faithful to the book, and entertaining) was going to be an impossible task. Well, at least there were a bunch to choose from! We ended up selecting a 1983 BBC TV version since it was available for streaming on Netflix. And, wow, were we ever shocked about how good it was! The actress who played Jane, Zelah Clarke, was exactly how I pictured “plain Jane” to look. I did think that Timothy Dalton might have a bit too good looking to play the role of Mr. Rochester, but with that little quibble aside, he did a great job portraying him! It was definitely a longer version, having eleven, thirty minute episodes, but I didn’t mind at all because it allowed for smaller, yet still important scenes from the book, such as the one with the fortune teller, to remain in the series. There were even whole passages of dialogue from the book used in the script.

Here’s a clip from the show, the first conversation Jane has with Mr. Rochester:

We loved this version of Jane Eyre so much we didn’t bother watching any other. I definitely recommend this one to anyone who’s looking for a faithful version of Jane Eyre! Have you watched a different Jane Eyre? Can you recommend a different version?  Let me know in the comments below!

~ Kayla

What I’ve Read This Month

One of my resolutions for 2014 is to read more, and I’ve set myself the goal of four books a month. I’m trying to read different genres, fiction and non-fiction, and even from different age groups. Well, I did indeed read four books (actually five!) in January and today, I thought I’d go ahead and share them. Let’s get started!

Books I Read This Month:

The Green Book by Jill Paton Walsh

This is a short book, meant for a younger audience, but I was curious about it because of the sci-fi story line. It’s a story of one of the last families to leave Earth because of the dying sun. Each of the children can only bring one book, and one of them brings a green book, hence the title. They land on this planet, which they call Shine, and learn to survive on it. I found the moth people, the strange wheat, and the shiny grass, a bit odd. Even with some of the strangeness of Shine, the book wasn’t horrible. I just wasn’t thrilled with it.

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell

This is another younger book I chose mainly because it’s a classic, and I’ve never read it. Karana is from an Indian tribe that lives on an island. When the tribe is forced to leave, her little brother jumps off the ship, and she follows after him. Now that they are stranded on the island, Karana is forced to learn how to survive. I enjoyed this one. It was definitely interesting reading how she survived, fought off the wild dogs, and built a home for herself.

Animal Farm by George Orwell

In England, a group of animals, unhappy with their treatment on a farm, rise up against their owner, take over the farm, and start running it themselves. Animal Farm is a classic novel I read for school. I was pleasantly surprised about how much I enjoyed it! Orwell’s satire on Russia is so brilliant.

Indian Captive by Lois Lenski

I wrote a review on this book last week. If you’d like to read it, you can find it here: https://concerningwriting.wordpress.com/2014/01/21/book-review-indian-captive-by-lois-lenski/

War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells

I read this one for school. It’s the story of humanity’s war against the Martians who come falling from the sky in cylinders to take over the Earth. The book was certainly entertaining, but the one thing I disliked was the fact that you learned almost nothing about the narrator. It was hard to grow attached to him, and I found myself not really caring about what happened to him. Still, the story was pretty exciting, and it was interesting to see how Wells created such non-human like aliens.

So, those are the books I’ve read this month! Have you read any of these books? What have you been reading? Do you have any book recommendations? Comment below and let me know!

~ Kayla

Monthly Link Share – Ideas that Inspired

Welcome to January’s Monthly Link Share!

The first link is to a site listing some of the ideas that inspired famous books such as The Hobbit and Animal Farm. It was a short, interesting read and really fascinating to see how these famous authors were inspired.

http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/the-ideas-that-inspired-the-hobbit-animal-farm-8-other-famous-books

The next link is to an article by George Orwell, author of Animal Farm (which I’m reading for school right now!) and 1984. The article is about how and why he wrote. It was interesting to read about the reasons why Orwell wrote and what experiences in his life led him to become an author.

http://orwell.ru/library/essays/wiw/english/e_wiw

This is a list of the some tricky grammar mistakes. I know I’m guilty of more than a few of them! The blog is written by Gloson, “a kid blogger who lives in Malaysia.” He is a published author of two poetry books!

http://www.glosonblog.com/most-common-grammar-mistakes/

While the following video really has nothing to do with writing, it is very entertaining! Ten2ndRule is a Youtube channel dedicated to making, you guessed it, ten second skits illustrating a point. (If you’re a Wretched fan, you’ll know what I’m talking about! 😉 ) There’s a new one every Friday. These are two of my favorite ones:

Thanks for reading!

~ Kayla

Classic Authors – O. Henry

Pop quiz! Which famous short story author embezzled bank funds and was imprisoned? Which author’s pen name could have come from the family cat? If you answered O. Henry to both of these questions, you’d be correct. If you didn’t know who O. Henry was (or even if you did!), read on to find out more about this interesting author!

O. Henry was born William Sidney (he later changed it to ‘Sydney’) Porter on September 11, 1862 in North Carolina. When he was fifteen, he became a clerk in his uncle’s drugstore. It was the local gathering place of the town, and his observations and interactions there later became some of the material for his writing.

A few years later, due to a bad cough, he moved to Texas. There he eloped with a rich girl named Athol, and they had one daughter named Margaret. Henry worked for a bank in Austin, but was forced to quit after being accused of embezzling bank funds. During that same time, he had started a humorous weekly called The Rolling Stone, but that was never successful and failed within a year.

He then worked for the Houston Post before being arrested on the charge of embezzlement. He was taken to jail, but the day before his trial, Henry disappeared, travelling to New Orleans and then Honduras. However, while he was avoiding the law, he heard that his wife was dying. Henry returned to the U.S., where he gave himself up to the courts. After his wife’s death, Henry was found guilty and sentenced to five years in prison, but his jail term was shortened to three years for his good behavior.

To support his daughter while in prison, Henry started writing. Some say he used a pen name so that his readers wouldn’t know he was in prison! There are many possibilities as to where the name O. Henry came from. The name may have originated from his calling for the family cat, “Oh, Henry!” Others say it came from using some of the letters from Ohio Penitentiary, the jail where he was being held, or from one of the prison guards there. Porter himself said that the name came from flipping through the newspaper with his friend and choosing the name from there. Wherever it came from, it became an extremely popular name, one whose stories everyone loved.

After being released from jail, Henry married again, but the marriage was not happy, and his wife left him.

O. Henry died in 1910, leaving behind many wonderful short stories that we still enjoy today. Henry is known for his dry humor and stories that end with a surprise. There’s an award today bearing his name given to authors of short stories that are especially well written. Today, many people are pushing for O. Henry to be pardoned for his crime. He still hasn’t been pardoned yet, but perhaps one day! There was even a US postage stamp issued commemorating his 150th birthday on September 11, 2012.

O. Henry was famous for many of his stories, but two favorites are “The Gift of the Magi” and “The Ransom of Red Chief.”

“The Gift of the Magi” is a Christmas story about a couple who do not have a lot of money but want to get each other a Christmas gift. You can read the story here:

http://www.auburn.edu/~vestmon/Gift_of_the_Magi.html.

“The Ransom of Red Chief” is the story of two men who kidnap a little boy in the hopes of getting reward money for him. Things don’t exactly go according to plan though, and the end result is a very entertaining story! You can read it here:

http://www.online-literature.com/yeats/1041/

~ Kayla

My Top 10 Favorite Classics – Part 2

On Monday, I posted part 1 of this list, my Top 10 Favorite Classics. Today, it’s time to finish up! I realized I made a mistake on Monday and actually posted the first six of my list. 😛 So, here are the last four of my favorite classics:

4. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain
“You can’t throw too much style into a miracle.”
When I listened to this classic for the first time, I had just finished studying King Arthur and his knights so the legends were still fresh in my mind. That fact made this book even funnier. Both Mark Twain’s version of Camelot and the main character, Hank Morgan, the Yankee from the 19th century trying to “modernize” the 6th, kept me laughing from page 1 to page 575.

3.A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
“And it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.”
This was the first Dickens novel that I’d read, and I’m very glad I read it! As Ebenezer Scrooge traveled back and forth through time with the three ghosts, I felt as if I was experiencing the same trip that he was. After reading the book, I watched several movie versions, and my personal favorite was the one where “Captain Picard” (Patrick Stewart) played Ebenezer Scrooge.

2. The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
“Maybe there is a beast… maybe it’s only us.”
At first, the book sounded like any other survival tale, but as the book progressed I started to see that The Lord of the Flies was much more than that. I enjoyed this book so much. It was delightfully creepy and held me on the edge of my seat with a kind of sickening fascination, as Golding began to reveal just what and who the beast really was.

1. The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare
“All that glisters is not gold; Often have you heard that told.”
After first listening to Macbeth, I was hooked on Shakespeare’s work. Last year for school we studied two more plays by the Bard, Romeo and Juliet and The Merchant of Venice, which became my favorite play by Shakespeare (so far) and my favorite work of literature. I loved so much about this play. Shylock made such a good, complex villain, not just a one sided “baddy” like so many others. Portia and Nerissa made incredible heroines who were smart, witty, and very funny. In fact, I loved the play so much, I named my The Hobbit OC (fan created, other character)and her sister after the two main heroines. Someone even created a manga for the play, which I read and reread and reread again. 🙂

At this moment in time, these are my favorites, though with all the books my mom has planned for this school year, I’m sure that I’ll be rewriting this list with new favorites soon enough!

~ Kayla

My Top 10 Favorite Classics – Part 1

I’ve been reading/listening to classic literature, including Mark Twain, Ray Bradbury, Louisa May Alcott, H.G. Wells, and many others, for a long time now! And although this is a writing blog, I decided to post this list of my favorite classics. These books have stood the test of time and are great pieces of work that writers can not only enjoy reading, but also can learn from. I will spoil the surprise now. My very favorite classics are The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and Sherlock Holmes. The only problem was I couldn’t pick between the three to choose an official number one! I left them out of the running so I wouldn’t have to pick. 🙂 Here are the first five of my list:

10. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
“The more I know of the world, the more I am convinced that I shall never see a man whom I can really love. I require so much!”
This was Austen’s first published novel and the first novel by her I read. I’m not much for romance, but this was really very good. Though the book didn’t have epic battles, swords, or actually much action at all (what I usually like), the story kept me interested as I was caught up in the social lives of the young Miss Dashwoods.

9. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
“I’ve got the key to my castle in the air, but whether I can unlock the door remains to be seen”
One of the things I remember most about this book was how many CDs the audio version had. It was either 18 or 19, and every one of those disks was worth it. Throughout the book, I felt as if I, too, were part of the March household, watching the four girls grow up into women. Out of all the girls, my favorite was definitely Jo. Being a beginning author myself, it was neat to watch her work on her novel and to struggle to be published.

8. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
“Because when you are imagining, you might as well imagine something worth while.”
This was one that I’ve enjoyed since I was younger. Anne, the orphan adopted by Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert, was so imaginative and had some of the best lines ever written. One of the great things was watching how both Anne and Marilla changed. Anne brought Marilla up into the clouds a bit, and Marilla brought Anne down to the ground. I loved the adventures she had as she grew up on Prince Edward Island.

7. The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain
“Thou hast the same hair, the same eyes, the same voice and manner, the same form and stature, the same face and countenance that I bear.”
This was one of my favorite stories by Mark Twain. He was so skillful in working in the real historical facts of Edward VI’s life with the fictional situation he created of the boy prince and the poor boy switching places. Mark Twain was a master of irony and observation, and this book was no exception.

6. 20,000 Leagues under the Sea by Jules Verne
“The sea is everything. It covers seven tenths of the terrestrial globe. Its breath is pure and healthy.”
Jules Verne is one of my favorite “classic” authors. The two books I’ve read of his I’ve adored. Captain Nemo was my favorite character in the novel. I loved how he was shrouded in mystery and that even at the end of the novel you still weren’t sure who Nemo was.

5. Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne
“I see that it is by no means useless to travel, if a man wants to see something new.”
The book that no one could make into a good movie! I have seen several versions, and none of them (though the Jackie Chan version was entertaining), was even close to the book. While the movies were terrible, the book was fantastic. From saving an Indian Princess to losing his manservant to a company of jugglers to being attacked by Native Americans in the Midwest, the book is chock-full of the adventures of Englishman Phileas Fogg as he travels around the world in 80 days.

On Thursday, I’ll post part 2! What are your favorite classics and why? Thanks for reading!

~ Kayla