Once Upon a Prince (Book Review)

16164030“It’s amazing what we can see when we take the time to look.” (Hauck 87)

Once Upon a Prince is a new romance novel by Rachel Hauck; it puts most other love stories to shame by bearing a wonderful, gripping, and realistic (well, mostly) tale of love without any raunchyness found in many others. To begin, this love story starts with the ending of a relationship. It starts with Susanna Truitt being told by her boyfriend of twelve years–yes, you read right–that he had found someone else and they both were more in love with the idea of them, than the actual relationship. Unlike most other cliche stories where the story starts with a meeting of two people, this one has truth to it: the fact that relationships do end, quite often too. Susanna copes, looking to prayer to help her through this difficult time. Then she meets Nathaniel. No, they don’t fall for each other instantly. Nope. They become good friends, little does Susanna know he is a prince–of a kingdom in Europe–on his last vacation before becoming king. Well, she eventually finds out. Nathanial teaches through his words and actions what a true loving relationship should be about and emanates chivalry by saying heartfelt things like, “A girl in love has a right to believe her man would lay down his life for her.” (Hauck 97)

The story continues, and feelings eventually develop (as they should in a love story), the full truth of Nathaniel comes out, and he brings up an obstacle that would prevent a marriage between them: a marriage act set in place to prevent the prince/king from marrying a foreigner, not to mention the cruel, lying media is pushing the king to marry a specific lady of royal blood. But, I won’t spoil the ending.

But, seriously, this novel is an enjoyable breeze to read through. I read it in a couple days. Do not judge this book by the slightly questionable cover (is she even wearing clothes?) because it’s far better. It proves that love stories do not have to be invested with raunchiness to be good. For ages, I’d say 12 and up, but probably more enjoyable for 15 and up. Really though, pretty much anyone (mostly girls though) would enjoy this charming novel. I know summer’s almost over, but if in need for a summer chick-lit, I suggest this one.

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Don Quixote: Define Insane (Book Review)

quixote-picasso-lg_1Disclaimer: *Spoilers

“for there is no book so bad, as not to have something that’s good in it” (Cervantes)

Yeah, I’ve been putting this review off and I also couldn’t think of any proper way to write this review without mentioning the ending; it could have been done, but it would have been boring because although this exiting classic has many, many, great lessons in it, the ending completely changed the way I though of it.

When reading a book I, along with many other readers, often have trouble not emphasizing with the main character, which is usually the author’s main intent. In this story–one of the world’s first modern novels– written by Miguel de Cervantes (originally in Spanish), the reader follows a “mad” or “crazy” Don Quixote (his made-up knight name) on his knight-errantic adventures: “Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.” (Cervantes) We “know” he lacks sanity by his unexplainable actions: claiming inns are castles, hiring a simple farmer (named Sancho) to be his squire, claiming various things are enchanted, etc. (though there is some debate to whether Quixote was faking his insaneness or truly believed in his endeavors). We feel sympathy for him because we consider him to be naïve: he doesn’t know any better. But at the same time I think to myself, what makes him any less sane than anyone else? If anything he should be more sane for not letting any obstacle get in his way of protecting valiance.

Along Quixote and Sancho’s humorous journeys, Quixote eventually bribes his loyal “squire” with government of an isle–one he doesn’t even own–which I believe Sancho deserves, but is never exactly given to him by Quixote. Instead, later on in the book, Don Quixote literally whips his sleeping, loyal servant for the purpose of freeing his “love”, Dulcinea, from an (imagined) enchantment; Quixote was tricked into thinking Merlin himself prescribed the antidote of lashings. Though, Dulcinea is actually just an average peasant. Personally, through the majority of the story I empathized with Quixote more than I did with Sancho because Quixote’s goal is to live his life with chivalry–a cause rarely seen these days–while Sancho acts as his silly follow along, that is, until the end of the book.
Having just lost a joust against another, Quixote solemnly renounces his knighthood as he had promised he would if he lost–on top of his pride being wounded. Then, going with Sancho back to his town, he falls ill. In his near death illness he claims his insanity has cleared and he now sees he was wrong. He has renounced all that he had been living for, looking down on the values he once held high. Meanwhile, Sancho still holds onto and tries to restore his master’s faith of his earlier beliefs.

Now, after going though 1000 pages of his adventures in pursuit of constant gallantry, I’m thinking WHHHAAAAT? How could you possibly think this? How could you possibly look down upon your ideals? Unless of course, he truly is insane. Maybe the author’s purpose is to indirectly ask us what we think about Quixote’s ideals. Whether or not Cervantes meant for that to be the meaning, I think the meaning is to ask ourselves this: do we want to aimlessly go along and conform to what society tells us is normal or “sane”, or do we want to strongly fight against that, and stand for our values, even if people think we are crazy?

“They (stories of knight-errantry) are already going down, and I do not doubt but they will drop and fall altogether in good earnest, never to rise again.” (Cervantes)

Final Thoughts: All together it was an amazing–but slightly tedious–novel. It’s one you shouldn’t read with a sleepy brain, though it’s definitely a read that will make you laugh loudly at times, and make you reflect upon yourself and your actions.

Like Water for Chocolate–I Think I’ll Stick to Chocolate

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The quite popular Mexican novel, Like Water for Chocolate, by Laura Esquivel, can be viewed as bitter-sweet–much like it’s title. The author wonderfully illustrates the traditions, food, and customs of Mexico, mainly through the main conflict that the main character, Tita, is forbidden marry her lover (Pedro) because it’s tradition for the youngest daughter to stay and care for their mother. This tradition wouldn’t be a big deal to break except for their mother, who strongly enforces it (hmm, I wonder why?). Tita battles through her suffering in the kitchen where she conjures up delicacies which convey her bi-polar emotions. This part right here is sweet.
The bitter part, the part I’m not too found of, comes along when Tita’s older sister, Rosaura, marries Pedro. Keep in mind, Pedro apparently still holds true love for Tita. It doesn’t bother me too much except, if he still loved Tita THAT much than why marry her sister?? The answer: he says he wanted to be close to Tita. Well, okay, that’s fine: marry her sister and remain friends with Tita; but, no, Pedro doesn’t treat Rosaura very well at all, instead he just takes every opportunity he can to ogle and caress Tita while he is married. Yeah, yeah, it happens all the time in real life. People cheat all the time. But guess what ends up happening (which I think is completely unrealistic)? Tita’s mother AND Rosaura both end up dying–quite a lot of people die in this book, actually (some from food poisoning). Isn’t that a coincidence: the two forces keeping Tita away from Pedro die. There is though another obstacle, another man is in her life and he is kind and is, in my mind, a much better catch than Pedro (the one who cheated in his marriage). Needless to say, Tita chooses Pedro and they get married.
Granted, the story contains more elements to this, this is just the basic premise. I think it’s worth reading, but just don’t be too disappointed if it’s not the greatest book ever. Some people may enjoy it, but for me unrealistic novels such as this are just not my type.

The Night Circus: L’Endroit de Rêveurs

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“The circus arrives without warning” is how Erin Morgenstern begins her enchanting tale of magicians, a contortionist, a timeless clock-maker, a man without a shadow, and a very lovely circus, in a book that feels as if magic itself crafted the mysterious words beneath every page. Senses come alive with smells of caramel apples and bonfires which permeate the reader’s endeavors: black and white and red repeated colors illustrate what a circus should be. Not too dark, not too light: with deep passion and excitement. Torn between emotions from smiling to sorrow, I remained charmed by the wondrous imagery that painted out scenes of midnight banquets–where I could taste the exotic food–and ballroom encounters, as well as fierce foreshadowing like feathers of a raven, pulling you into a winding labyrinth of beauty. The characters take you along with them into their circus life; people die sudden deaths and children are born. Never before have I read such a modern and fresh fairytale like this one, filled with such warm description that I wanted to be in every scene of the story; I wanted this dream of an adventure to be physically in front of me when, at the same time, I knew what it was to experience it. Any one who chooses to pick up this beautifully covered fable will be held captive by soft darkness so divine it emanates bright sparks of riveting pleasure so masterfully written, with suspense and compelling marvel, it’s my conclusion that only a brilliant magician and kindred dreamer could have created such a bitter-sweet dream brought to life.

“We are such stuff as dreams are made on; and our little life is rounded with a sleep.”–Prospero, The Tempest

A Thousand Emotions of A Thousand Splendid Suns

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A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, the same author of The Kite Runner, evokes a multitude of feelings through his story set in the rough, late 90s in Afghanistan. The book follows a couple female characters in their struggle to deal with the overbearing control of not only the Taliban, but the brutal control of their husband/husbands who often treats them worse than anyone could ever treat an animal. Raw truth and emotion permeates throughout the story; some parts a little too raw for sensitive hearts, which is why I think this book should not be read by anyone younger than 14 and even so the reader should take caution if they wish to refrain from harsh scenes. But, that’s really what makes this book great, because the cruel, real-life experiences illustrate what actually happens in the world we live in and gives us an awareness of these horrible misfortunes we may not be knowledgeable of. The characters truly make the best of their circumstances and rise above them. This brings me to some of the emotions I felt reading this, to name a few: anger, sorrow, hatred, comfort, admiration, guilt, happiness, fear, hope. To name a few. The flowing crafted language of the book, never cuts or chops from emotion to emotion, but weaves together shocking elements of a female’s perspective on life in the this region and time period, while holding true to the beautiful heart and culture as well. There isn’t much I can tell you, since it may give away parts of the book. I feel to really get the full experience (of not only the book, but of anything) you must go in without knowing a lot about it, without a strong preconceived notion. So, I’m leaving you with that. Whether or not you choose to read this book, I hope you don’t regret it.

The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle (Book Review)

The-Last-Unicorn-40th In a magical, fantastical land of unicorns — caution, this book contains material slightly on the more feminine side, but still perfectly neutral for all genders to enjoy — and (real) magicians and a talking cat, we are introduced to a unicorn. Nope, she doesn’t have a name, she’s just a lone unicorn going about her business until she realizes she’s the last of her kind (kind of a big deal). So, she ventures off to find the rest of her kin when a puzzling (talking) butterfly encounters her, warning her she can find the other unicorns near where the Red Bull and King Haggard reside. On her adventure she is captured by the Night Carnival,then set free by Schmendrick the magician who joins her on the way. After Schmedrick manages to get caught by some bandits and rescued by the unicorn they meet Molly Grue who also joins the fun. Eventually coming to the Red Bull, a terrible killer beast, the unicorn is almost killed, but thankfully saved by the magician who turns her into a human. Once at Haggard’s castle they introduce her as Lady Amalthea; the king’s son, Prince Lir, wonder-struck, begins his long effort to win her heart. Schmendrick is hired by the king as his magician in order to find clues about the missing unicorns. Where the book ends, you will have to find out yourself. Whether or not you read this book, it will forever stay with me because of it’s uniqueness. It’s writing style contrasts with many other books, but, in a positive way. Filled with humor and imagination, this fantasy book earns a solid three and a half stars.

The Life of Pie. I mean, The Life of Pi.

pipieThe Life of Pi, by Yann Martel, has to be one of the best books I have read in a long time. (Yes, even up on the list with Harry Potter.)  Granted, I only wanted to read it at first because of its intriging book-cover.  I know, I know: don’t judge a book by its cover, I get it.  But, who doesn’t want to read a book covered with a picture of a boy and a tiger both riding in a boat together?  Besides, I honestly wanted to know if this book was about a person, or somehow related to math; I prefered the former.  Then I turned over the cover and realized this book was much more than a cover.

Starting off his life living in India, Piscine “Pi” Patel, grows up around animals, which his parents keep in the zoo they own.  Adventurous and inquisitive, young Pi yearns for understanding about animal psychology as well as religion.  Though raised a Hindu, he searches to find answers about religion through learning about Christianity and Islam.  Comparing them to each other he proclaims, “I just want to love God”.  Later on in his life, his family decides to sell their animals and move to Canada.  The ship they are on wrecks.  Pi survives: Pi is the only human who survives.  Lucky for him, he finds a small lifeboat; sadly, he’s not alone.  Some of the animals survive, including: a zebra, a orangataung, a hyena, and a tiger.  They slowly kill themselves off, leaving Pi to deal with the Tiger while at the same time trying to survive, in the middle of the ocean.

Yann Martel wrote no ordinary survival story, but a masterpiece.  His book, stares you in the face, and asks you questions you’d never even thought of before.  I did not want to stop reading and I know that sounds cliché, but it’s true.  Reading this book feels like reading a book about the meaning of life, like all the answers are in your hand.  The ending, though a tad but sad (only because the book has ended), satisfies the reader by wrapping the story up like a perfectly packaged present.  All together, I’d give this book four and a half stars.  A must read for ages 14-114, you won’t regret it.