Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne

Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne fits into the juvenile adventure fiction genre and was published in 1873. It is recommended for readers ages 14 and up.

Around the World in Eighty Days was a pleasant surprise to me. I loved every page mostly because of the interesting problems and adventures that they contained. Phileas Fogg on a whim and bet decides to prove a newspaper's claim that one could traverse the globe in eighty days. He bet half his fortune to the amount of twenty thousand pounds that he could complete this journey which, in his opinion, included time for unforeseen delays. These unforeseen delays cover the book and the interesting and original nature of them make it such a fun read. The solutions to the problems Mr. Fogg faced were also interesting. When the train track suddenly ended he rode an elephant instead which he purchased for that purpose. The book is also full of little tidbits about geography and history so the book educates as well as entertains. Overall it was a fascinating and intellectual read that someone of any age could enjoy. I recommended ages fourteen and up for those reading to themselves but I think even a younger person would enjoy this book if it was read to them.

Other reviews available:

Five Weeks in a Balloon by Jules Verne

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Nicole by Jack Weyland

Nicole by Jack Weyland fits into the juvenile fiction genre and was published in 1993. It is recommended for readers ages 14 and up.

Jack Weyland writes for a LDS/Mormon audience and thus his books contain phrases and situations that may be unfamiliar to those outside the membership of this church. However, his books are clean in that they don't contain foul language, immorality, or violence and thus they are quite refreshing to read in a world that seems full of such things. This specific book is about Nicole, a Senior in High School who happens upon a relationship with Josh Dutton, the star basketball player of not only her school but also of the state. She was surprised and hesitant at his interest in her at first but in the end they become good friends. Along the way she teaches him how to be a better person through reminders about how he should treat others. Josh also learns on his own through association with Nicole's younger brother Richard who is mentally handicapped. He learns what is important in life and how not to judge others before you know them. This heartwarming story contains many good messages about relationships, service, and families. It is a quick and uplifting read for anyone desiring a change of pace.

Other reviews available:

Megan by Jack Weyland

Brittany by Jack Weyland

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen fits into the juvenile fiction genre and was published in 1814. It is recommended for readers ages 16 and up.

Mansfield Park was an interesting novel and not at all what I expected. It was Austen's third of six novels but the last one I happened upon. Thus with all my previous Austen experience I expected a nice love story with complicated twists and turns and while it did contain a love story it was also filled with heartache, confusion, and neglect. The story follows the life of Fanny Price who, at the age of nine, and at the suggestion of her Aunt Norris was taken in to live with her Uncle Bertram's family in an effort to relieve her mother of the expense and hardship of one of her many children. Her Uncle Bertram's family consists of himself, his wife and four children: two sons and two daughters. Her Aunt Norris also lives close by. While her Aunt and Uncle Bertram are not openly cruel or hurtful to Fanny they do not show her the love and care that a young girl needs and Fanny, as a result, feels alone and miserable in her new home. This lasts until the kindness of her cousin Edmund shows her that she has value to someone and Fanny sees her worth. However, her Aunt Norris (who is the sister of her mother and of her Aunt Bertram) takes it upon herself to continually remind Fanny of her place in life. Mrs. Norris constantly tells Fanny that she is beneath her cousins and that she should be grateful for their kindness. Mrs. Norris also ensures that Fanny is given the worst room in the house, not allowed a fire, and not invited to social events. All these are to serve as a constant reminder that she is not a daughter but a niece of her Uncle Bertram. It is through this ill treatment over a series of years that Fanny becomes a quiet and humble young woman who hides her wishes for herself and her opinion of others in an effort to appear grateful for what she has received. Later in the novel she is pursued by a handsome young man whom her Uncle wishes her to marry. However, through her quiet observance of this young man she is able to discern his true character long before anyone else has any suspicions of his coarse nature. Luckily she is able to avoid attachment with him in spite of constant pleas from him and her family members and she reserves her heart for her real love whom she is able to acquire in the end.

Other reviews available:

Persuasion by Jane Austen

Gap Creek by Robert Morgan

Gap Creek by Robert Morgan fits into the historical fiction genre and was published in 2000. It is recommended for adult readers.

Gap Creek is set in South Carolina and tells the story of a couple newly married at the turn of the century. Julie, the wife, was a hardworking woman who grew up in a house of mainly girls and was often called upon to do the more difficult chores during her father's long illness and then after his death. This hard work prepared her to be a better wife and to work hard at her marriage. Hank, on the other hand, was born prematurely and was often spoiled and given extra portions at meals and less work at chore time. This resulted in his being quick to anger, unable to admit faults, and demanding. Through the novel we learn of the couple's hardships as they try to work through their difficulties that they brought to the marriage and that were inflicted though the deeds of others. They experience poverty, robbery, floods, and death. These experiences lead Hank to become abusive but they lead Julie to become more humble and willing to make allowances for the problems of others. It is only through a tragic experience that Hank is able to join her in this humility and is able to step up as a husband.

I thought that there were many interesting lessons to be learned from this novel. Julie's patience and understanding are foremost in my mind. Her husband Hank is abusive and she works to help him overcome his problems instead of fighting back. Several times through the book she had cause and opportunity to bring up his faults but instead chose a kind answer. I think this shows amazing strength and character and can teach us all a thing or two in our relationships. There are times when it is best to just keep quiet and let life run its course. Julie is humble by choice while Hank is compelled to be so through tragedy but the amazing thing is that he does change. In the end of the book Hank is a different man than from the beginning and he makes the effort to become a better person thus leading to one of the great lessons of this novel; change is possible.