IMMACULATE: A Book Review & Literary Analysis

Mina is seventeen. A virgin. And pregnant.
Mina is top of her class, girlfriend to the most ambitious guy in school, able to reason and study her way through anything. But when she suddenly finds herself pregnant—despite having never had sex—her orderly world collapses. Almost nobody believes Mina’s claims of virginity. Her father assumes that her boyfriend is responsible; her boyfriend believes she must have cheated on him. As news of Mina’s story spreads, there are those who brand her a liar. There are those who brand her a heretic. And there are those who believe that miracles are possible—and that Mina’s unborn child could be the greatest miracle of all.

 

IMMACULATE by Katelyn Detweiler will grab your curiosity and refuse to let go; it’s a compelling story about a young woman who receives a modern-day miracle and has to live with the consequences. Detweiler wrote a fantastic novel that explores the strength of family, friendship, and faith. Mina finds herself  asking her family and closest friends to stretch their understanding and beliefs to the max.

Mina has to overcome an incredible amount of adversity, just like Mary had to centuries before with the immaculate conception of Jesus. The allegory of Detweiler’s modern, miraculous, conception story is a reflection of how corrupt and violent our society can become when a person or event challenges beliefs, ideals, and faith.

Literary Devices explains allegory:

Allegory is a figure of speech in which abstract ideas and principles are described in terms of characters, figures and events.

It can be employed in prose and poetry to tell a story with a purpose of teaching an idea and a principle or explaining an idea or a principle. The objective of its use is to preach some kind of a moral lesson.

During a visit with Mina’s doctor (Dr.Keller) Mina and Dr. Keller have a discussion about the cruelty that the public has shown to Mina on a website that was created to mock and condemn her. Mina says,

I just don’t understand the kind of angerthe kind of passionthat drives complete stranger to feel this involved in my life. Who are these people, really? Do they seem normal in every day life? Are they school teachers , nurses, lawyerspeople who seem completely rational and stable? And then they come home at night, or take their lunch break, and they go online and they write that I’ll burn in hell? That my baby will burn in hell with me? I just don’t understand where it comes from. The fervor. The idea that it’s their duty, almost to condemn me. Or maybe it’s just sick entertainment for them.

We see this cruelty every day in the mass media, against other HUMANS that challenge the norm. Detweiler’s novel encouraged me to be open-minded when a loved one may need my support and blind faith. IMMACULATE served as a reminder to never cast stones at people who challenge my own beliefs.

IMMACULATE made me pause and reflect on my actions and reactions both in my personal life and on social media. I hope you gain as much from IMMACULATE as I did.

Happy reading.

♥R♥

Note: The split image I added to this post is not my original artwork. The image on the left was found here. The image on the right is the book cover for Katelyn Detweiler’s novel IMMACULATE.

 

Infandous: A Book Review & An Examination of a Foil in Literature

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Infandous- Describing something too horrible to mention.

Infandous by Elana Arnold is one of the best literary pieces of the YA genre that I have ever read. There are numerous examples of literary devices throughout Infandous, today I am going to focus on onea foil.

Arnold plays with the literary concept of “a foil” between Sephora who is the main characterwho argues that she is actually only a supporting character in her life, second to her mother.

A foil, in literature is defined as:

“A character that shows qualities that are in contrast with the qualities of another character with the objective to highlight the traits of the other character. The term foil, though generally being applied for a contrasting character, may also be used for any comparison that is drawn to portray a difference between two things. What we observe in literature very often is that a foil is a secondary character who contrasts with the major character to enhance the importance of the major character. The etymology of the term foil testifies the aforementioned assertion as the word “foil” is taken from the practice of backing gems with foil (tool) so that they shine more brightly.”

Literary Devices.Net

Some of my favorite lines from Infandous are when Sephora explains her mother as a mermaid:

My Mom, Rebecca Golding, was born in the sea. She was the most beautiful of all the mermaids, her hair shinier, her tail shimmerier, her voice more captivating that any other fish girl’s…..And then a wave cameboiling, insistent, it bore her to the ocean’s surface and threw her far and fast, and she tumbled, head over tail, again and again, until she landed coughing and sputtering and drowning in air on the sandy beach…And she grew up like that, a fish out of water, too beautiful to really pass for one of us. Her hair, even on land, seemed to float as if in water. She moved like liquid gold, crossing her legs, gesturing with long, beautiful fingers, and her mermaid heartbeat in her chest all the while.

She sets up this glorious, otherworldly description of her mother, but describes herself like this:

I didn’t have her beautymy hair was frizzy with static, tangled and quarrelsome, not ethereal and floaty like hers. My movements weren’t liquid beauty. People didn’t turn to follow me with their eyes, not like they did with her.

Clearly we see how Sephora views herself when compared to her mother. There are pages that describe the beauty of Rebecca, but Sephora only allows a few general, unpleasant descriptions of herself. Arnold, in my opinion, used a foil very wisely to help the reader understand the way Sephora views her herself in comparison to her mother.

Infandous is bursting with literary themes. I highly recommend reading this book. The imagery, characters, and twists will haunt you.

Happy reading,

♥R♥

99 Days: A Book Review

Wow drama drama DRAMA! 99 Days is packed full of romance, interesting characters, and bad choices.

Molly Barlow is facing one long, hot summer—99 days—with the boy whose heart she broke and the boy she broke it for . . . his brother.

Day 1: Julia Donnelly eggs my house my first night back in Star Lake, and that’s how I know everyone still remembers everything. She has every right to hate me, of course: I broke Patrick Donnelly’s heart the night everything happened with his brother, Gabe. Now I’m serving out my summer like a jail sentence: Just ninety-nine days till I can leave for college and be done.

Day 4: A nasty note on my windshield makes it clear Julia isn’t finished. I’m expecting a fight when someone taps me on the shoulder, but it’s just Gabe, home from college and actually happy to see me. “For what it’s worth, Molly Barlow,” he says, “I’m really glad you’re back.”

Day 12: Gabe wouldn’t quit till he got me to come to this party, and I’m surprised to find I’m actually having fun. I think he’s about to kiss me—and that’s when I see Patrick. My Patrick, who’s supposed to be clear across the country. My Patrick, who’s never going to forgive me.

The whole time I was reading 99 Days I kept thinking that Molly is a freaking train wreck. She seems to self-sabotage her chance at happiness every time it was within reach. But as the story progresses the reader has to wonder if happiness is even possible with the Donnelly brothers. The brothers are competitive and Molly seems to be the prize. By objectifying Molly I found some of their behavior less-than appealing.

I like how the author (Cotugno) writes Molly as a sympathetic character, even though she makes some less than sympathetic choices. Cotugno tackles the double standard of labels such as “slut” or “whore” and how these offensive labels are only given to women in sexual scenarios. This book is a great example of conflict in small towns and how quickly one young woman becomes the town pariah.

I highly recommend this page-turner. As always, if you read 99 Days please join the discussion in the comment thread. I would love to hear your opinions!

Happy reading,

♥R♥

Cover image found @:paperiot.com

Writing a Negative Book Review

All of the book reviews I have written thus far have been very positive. I think I’m a pretty optimistic reader; I try to find the good in every book. Who am I to bash a book when:

A) I haven’t finished my own YA book.

B) I have never been published (except for that one time in college by SLAM magazine.. does that even count?).*Update I was published on xoNecole, but still it’s not on the level of a novel getting published.

C) I don’t like being a jerk.

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Authors bust their ass to get their work out there, even the “trashiest, cheesiest, male machismo” romance novels have a lot of time invested i.e.: Fifty Shades of Grey-read it, Twilight-read it, Christine Feehan’s Dark Series-read it, Sookie Stackhouse Novels-read it. Is it romance? I’ve probably read it.

In my humble opinion, there are certain factors that books must have to be worth a reader’s time. A book can be trashy BUT then it also has to be entertaining. Or a book can have a slow story, but it better be full of beautiful prose and STRONG interesting characters. The last book that I read did not have much going for it, and in my frustration I decided to write my first negative review and explain my letdown:

Like it Never Happened

When Rebecca Rivers lands the lead in her school’s production of The Crucible, she gets to change roles in real life, too. She casts off her old reputation, grows close with her four rowdy cast-mates, and kisses the extremely handsome Charlie Lamb onstage. Even Mr. McFadden, the play’s critical director, can find no fault with Rebecca.

Though “The Essential Five” vow never to date each other, Rebecca can’t help her feelings for Charlie, leaving her both conflicted and lovestruck. But the on and off-stage drama of the cast is eclipsed by a life-altering accusation that threatens to destroy everything…even if some of it is just make believe.

It’s almost laughable how apropos the title is. I turned the final page of this novel last night and I sat their wondering, why did I even bother? What was I suppose to get from the story? It was incredibly slow, the characters were as shallow as a thimble of water, and the language was mediocre.

Slow Story + Vapid Characters = Boring Read.

I do not recommend this novel. It’s just a bunch of high school drama with no lesson learned, no depth gained, and zero substance.

♥R♥

Cover Image Found @:realbusinessphotographer.com

Me Being IS EXACTLY AS INSANE AS You Being You: A Book Review

Darren hasn’t had an easy year.

There was his parents’ divorce, which just so happened to come at the same time his older brother Nate left for college and his longtime best friend moved away. And of course there’s the whole not having a girlfriend thing.

Then one Thursday morning Darren’s dad shows up at his house at 6 a.m. with a glazed chocolate doughnut and a revelation that turns Darren’s world inside out. In full freakout mode, Darren, in a totally un-Darren move, ditches school to go visit Nate. Barely twenty-four hours at Nate’s school makes everything much better or much worse—Darren has no idea. It might somehow be both. All he knows for sure is that in addition to trying to figure out why none of his family members are who they used to be, he’s now obsessed with a strangely amazing girl who showed up out of nowhere but then totally disappeared.

Told entirely in lists, Todd Hasak-Lowy’s debut YA novel perfectly captures why having anything to do with anyone, including yourself, is:

1. painful
2. unavoidable
3. ridiculously complicated
4. possibly, hopefully the right thing after all.

The theme of this novel that really stuck with me was the family unit breaking apart. A pivotal point in your life is when you realize that your family unit consisting of you, your siblings (if you have any), and your parents will lead separate lives. If you are the one who had a harder time grasping that concept, then I think you can relate to Darren.  I had a hard time with my parents divorcing and my older brother leaving for the military, I felt abandoned and alone. I don’t blame anyone for moving on with their lives and finding their own way, but it was fucking tough for me.

At one point in the novel Darren is talking to his older brother Nate and Nate tells him a story about being lost as a young boy when Darren was still a baby. Nate explains when his parents found him,

“Eventually, of course, they found me. And they were freaking out, crying, and pretty much hyperventilating, especially Mom, who was wearing you in that baby carrier they used to have. She hugged me, just smothered me, with your legs dangling in my face. And I was glad to see Mom and Dad, relieved I guess, because I knew living by myself was going to be hard. But, I don’t know, I as mostly thinking , Okay , that was some kind of test and I passed it, because I had to, I could be okay on my own. You were literally tied to Mom, but I was surviving on my own; that’s how I felt then.” Nate continues to explain to Darren that he figured out at a much earlier age than Darren that eventually your parents leave and you must learn to adjust and make it on your own.

As a teen you really start to see your parents as the individuals they were before they became your parents. They don’t work as hard to keep the image of innocence alive for their children. How would they ever help us grow and prepare for the “real” world if we didn’t get to see them as flawed humans? Their defects allow us to forgive ourselves when we make similar mistakes as adults.

I had a wonderful time reading this novel. With each scenario Darren comes closer to finding himself, and ultimately walks away from the family chaos and begins life as an adult.

I highly recommend this book.

Happy reading,

♥R♥

Even When You Lie to Me: A Book Review

We did a lot of reading this weekend. Our Pacific Northwest weather  was very persistent with rain, wind, and just damp. Luckily there is an endless supply of great books at out local library and it’s only a 5 min drive away!

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Even my son Leif spent his time with a book. Eh hem, upside down Baby Bear.

 

I decided to read Even When You Lie to Me by Jessica Alcott. Even When You Lie to Me is Alcott’s break through YA novel and I was very impressed with her prose and description about an improper love story between a student and her high school English teacher. Here is the synopsis:

Charlie, a senior, isn’t looking forward to her last year of high school. Another year of living in the shadow of her best friend, Lila. Another year of hiding behind the covers of her favorite novels. Another year of navigating her tense relationship with her perfectionist mom.
 
But everything changes when she meets her new English teacher. Mr. Drummond is smart. Irreverent. Funny. Hot. Everyone loves him. And Charlie thinks he’s the only one who gets her.
 
She also thinks she might not be the only one with a crush.
 
In this stunning debut, Jessica Alcott explores relationships—and their boundaries—in a way that is both searingly honest and sympathetic.

Charlie is a sympathetic character, if you have ever felt like an outsider (and who hasn’t?) you will relate to her socially awkward struggles. Alcott has fun incorporating classic love stories into Mr. Drummond’s lesson plans: Pride & Prejudice, Jane Eyre, and Wuthering Heights. Using these tragic love stories for Mr. Drummond’s lesson plans, Alcott sets the stage and tone of her novel. Charlie’s English teacher Mr. Drummond has all of the makings of a modern Heathcliff, he has a tragic past, he is mysterious, and he seems so close and yet out of reach for 17 year old Charlie. Alcott does a wonderful job of vilifying him to the point of being disgusted with him and then pulls him back into a some-what sympathetic character through Charlie’s eyes. Alcott played with the idea of age through Charlie and Mr. Drummond by making Charlie seem much older than 17 and making Mr. Drummond  as emotionally immature as a teenager.

 

I have heard of too many women who had teachers that were vulgar in their actions or speech. So as an adult reading this story, I wanted to protect Charlie from beginning to end. While reading Alcott’s novel I saw some of my high school teachers in Mr.Drummond. I had the cool young teacher that everyone loved and adored. There were also times when he crossed the line and became too involved with student’s personal lives (never romantically though). I also had a teacher that was a flat out perv. There were rumors that every year this corrupt teacher would pick out senior girls who he planned to sleep with after graduation. I saw first-hand accounts of him touching students inappropriately and saying obscene insults to his female students. So, which teacher was Mr.Drummond? The caring teacher who got too personal or the total perv? I think he was a little bit of both.

  As an adult reader I applaud Charlie’s feminist friend Asha who is wise beyond her years. She disapproves of the inappropriate behavior of Mr. Drummond, but still doesn’t totally hate the guy. She can’t help but smile at his jokes and succumb to his charm like the rest of her peers, but she is also wary of him. I think Alcott wants her readers to see Mr. Drummond through Asha’s eyes. She wants the reader to know that romancing his student is completely wrong, but she doesn’t let you forget that charm and charisma can easily sway high school students (and adults).

At one point Charlie asks “What is the sublime?” and Mr. Drummond responds, “The idea of something being simultaneously beautiful and terrifying.” Alcott took an ugly subject and with her thorough and thought provoking prose she turns it into a work of art. Alcott examined the subjects of body image, feminism, power, and sexuality through the intricate charters she created.

This novel was a quick read, but try to savor the text. Examine the way the book makes you feel and give it the thought it deserves.

I would love to hear your thoughts on Even When You Lie to Me.

♥R♥

Black Ice: A Review

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Britt Pheiffer has trained to backpack the Teton Range, but she isn’t prepared when her ex-boyfriend, who still haunts her every thought, wants to join her. Before Britt can explore her feelings for Calvin, an unexpected blizzard forces her to seek shelter in a remote cabin, accepting the hospitality of its two very handsome occupants—but these men are fugitives, and they take her hostage.

Britt is forced to guide the men off the mountain, and knows she must stay alive long enough for Calvin to find her. The task is made even more complicated when Britt finds chilling evidence of a series of murders that have taken place there…and in uncovering this, she may become the killer’s next target.

But nothing is as it seems, and everyone is keeping secrets, including Mason, one of her kidnappers. His kindness is confusing Britt. Is he an enemy? Or an ally?

I have to confess, I love young adult (YA) fiction. I don’t know if that means that I have not grown out of my 16 year old expectations of entertainment or if YA as a genre is just the best… I will let you decide.

I just finished reading Becca Fitzpatrick’s Black Ice and it was everything you could want for a Friday night, Dove chocolate kind of book-fest. There was suspense, romance, danger and for the night I was able to lose myself in a story that was fast-paced and marathon read-worthy. My husband laughed when he saw me half way through the book 4 hours after I bought it. I recommend picking up this book for a vacation, weekend, or a distraction read.

Warning: I stayed up until 1am reading this book, make sure you have adequate sleep-in time the next morning.

Happy reading,

♥R♥

black ice

 

 

 

The Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm: The Frog Prince

For my 27th birthday my husband Miles bought me “The Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm” edited by Noel Daniel and translated by Matthew Price. Published by Taschen.

The collection begins with a wonderful introduction by the editor Noel Daniel about the history of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. I didn’t know that the German fairy tales were not actually written by the Grimm brothers (although there was an extensive amount of rewriting), but they were collected, edited, and translated by the brothers. The Grimm brothers originally targeted the tales for scholars, but noticed over time that they had a split audience and children were enjoying the stories just as much as the adults.The collection was then tailored towards a younger audience. The edition I was gifted was derived from 1857 when they released their “child-friendly” version.

Aside from the 27 charming stories the book contains, the illustrations that accompany each story are enchanting. Through various mediums, the stories are brought to life in a Büffet of illustrations ranging in dates from the mid 1800’s to mid 1900’s.

I am going to pick and choose a few of the tales to review in forthcoming posts. The first story I would like to start with is “The Frog Prince”.

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The “Frog Prince” according to Daniels dates back to a medieval Latin manuscript. The colored engraving featured above was done by Walter Crane in 1874. The illustration seen above captures the young princess and the frog as they bargain for a golden ball and friendship. The frog agrees to retrieve the golden ball that was accidentally dropped in a well. As for payment he requests not money, “But if you would be fond of me, and cherish me, and if I were your friend and play mate, sitting next to you at your table, eating from your golden plate, drinking from your cup, and sleeping in your bed-if you will promise me these things then certainly I will slip down below and bring you back your golden ball.” The princess flippantly agrees thinking she would never see the frog again. She gets her ball back and walks home.

When the frog comes knocking on her palace door the princess turns away coldly and demands that he goes on his way, but her father the king forces her to keep her promise, “Whatever promise you have made, you must also keep.” (Go Dad!). Eventually the princess and the frog go to bed and in a fit of frustration the princess hurls the frog against the wall and the frog turns into a prince and explains that the princess broke a spell that was placed on him that only she could undo. He then stays the night with the princess (very racy for medieval literature). The next morning he rides off with his princess and his faithful servant Heinrich who “..had been so downcast ever since his master was transformed into a frog that he had bent three iron bands around his chest, lest his sullen heart burst with grief.”

This story holds the obvious morals of keeping your promises and don’t judge too harshly before you know someone. But there is also a lesson about true love that is explained not between the princess and the frog prince, but from loyal Heinrich whose heart had to be bonded to keep from breaking apart when his prince turned into a frog. There is also a lesson directed to parents, perhaps the most important: Hold your children accountable to their promises and commitments.

DSC_2471Note: If you would like to read the same edition I have, you can purchase it here.