Hilarie
Rating:
Genre: Paranormal, Thriller
Reading Challenges: 40 for 100+ in 2009

It has been a difficult past few months, and my reading time has certainly suffered. It's difficult for me to decide how to review my last few reads. I was literally plodding through the same three books for most of the last three months, which I found to be very frustrating. This frustration may have carried over to the books in question (North and South, Bleak History, and Mort), so feel free to take my reviews with a grain of salt.

All that being said, Bleak History is a pretty good read. It isn't, however, a book that had me procrastinating packing my boxes because of a desperate need to get to the ending. That might have been the result, however, of my obsession with decluttering, and not a statement on the quality of the novel itself.

Bleak History is the story of Gabriel Bleak, a former army ranger with supernatural powers. These powers allow Gabriel to do some pretty cool stuff, including conversing with and visualizing ghosts (inevitable "I see dead people" comparison), creating spontaneous fireballs to be hurled at those who threaten him, and creating an invisible bridge which allows him to walk on thin air. Gabriel, whose powers manifested themselves in his early teens, is one of a select group of individuals who have access to "the hidden," or the spiritual world that exists parallel to our world. It turns out that the government wants to tap into some of this power. There is a mysterious government agency, led by the unscrupulous General Forsythe, which will stop at nothing to harness this power. Gabriel isn't really interested in helping the government, especially under duress, and so finds himself trying to stay one step ahead of Forsythe and his stooges. Meanwhile, some of the more malevolent powers that lie within the hidden are working to gain access to our world, and if Gabriel and those like him can't figure out how to stop them things are going to be very bad for the rest of us.

I haven't read many books in the paranormal genre, but I did enjoy this one, even if there were a few small things that hindered my enjoyment. I found Bleak History a fast moving read, with pretty good characters. I especially liked Gabriel, but he is the hero, so I guess that was almost inevitable. There was even a hint of romance, although that aspect of the story wasn't really developed enough for me. I found myself wishing that the author would have spent more time on Gabriel's back story. I also felt that the conclusion was fairly abrupt. As I finished the last few pages, I almost expected the book to end with a "to be continued," but instead it was just sort of a tacked on ending. Hopefully this means that another book is in the work.

In short, if you enjoy paranormal fiction, this just might be the book for you. Give Twilight a break (you can always read it again later), and Bleak History a try.
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Hilarie
Rating:
Genre: Classics, Victorian England
Reading Challenges: 30 for 100+ in 2009, 4/5 for Classics Challenge 2009

After a long struggle, I finally finished reading my first of Gaskell's novels. After finishing, I'm still not sure why I had such a difficult time reading this novel, but it was only my inherent stubbornness that kept me from tossing this book back on the shelf months ago. I think what bothers me the most is that I can't really put my finger on what caused me such fits!

North and South is the story of Margaret Hale, the daughter of a clergyman with a living in the rural south of England during the Victorian age. Margaret's father suffers a loss of faith, and feels honor bound to leave the Church of England and resign his post. Margaret's father relocates the family to Milton, an industrial town in northern England, where he becomes a tutor of sorts. There Margaret learns firsthand of the suffering of those living and working in the factories of industrial England. She also becomes acquainted with John Thornton, the owner of a local fabric mill. Her initial distaste with Thornton turns gradually to respect as she comes to learn the true strength of his character, but misunderstandings seem to continually mount between them.

North and South is more than just a love story. It is also deals with some weighty themes, especially that of an individual's submission to authority, whatever it's form. When is it right to surrender your own will to that of another, or to the modes of the society you live in? I also found it fascinating that Gaskell was able to demonstrate that those in the rural south of England were not necessarily better off than those caught up in the industrial revolution of the north.

I really expected to love this book. It is in some ways, a more meaty version of Pride and Prejudice, which has long been a favorite of mine. The characters are well written, and I enjoyed the interaction between Margaret and John. I think that this book is a difficult read partially because of Gaskell's writing style. This is the kind of book that must be read carefully as if you miss a single word you might misunderstand an entire passage. I might try to read more Gaskell in the future, but for now, I'm taking a break. It just feels good to have this one off my shelf. What books have you stumped lately?

As an aside, if you are interested in the story of North and South, and don't want to read the book, there is a fabulous film adaption by A&E. I actually watched the film version before reading the book, and can say that it is pretty faithful to the novel. I actually preferred the setting for the conclusion of the story that is shown in the film as compared to that in the novel. Have you read the book, or watched the film?


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Hilarie
After an unexpected absence of great length, I'm back to blogging. We are in our new home, the furniture has arrived (mostly intact), the network is up and running, and I'm ready to get reading again! To celebrate, I'm kicking things off with my own unique giveaway. I'm offering the winner their choice of a new copy of one the following: The Help by Kathryn Stockett, Nation by Terry Pratchett, or The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson.

To enter: Please leave a comment below, and for the sake of my sanity, please include your email address in your comment. For those 52 loyal followers who have stuck with me during the months of silence (yup, it really has been that long), you will automatically get an additional entry when you post. Please remind me that you are already a follower. You can also earn additional entries by posting this contest on your sidebar or a blog post. The contest will start today and end on October 31, 2009 (why this arbitrary date? I just like Halloween). It's great to be back!
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