Adventures in Reading


Fiction: Branchwater by Steven Maus, 2008
November 16, 2008, 11:13 am
Filed under: book reviews, fiction | Tags: , , ,

“There were people cheering, coming out of their seats in excitement. This kind of thing happened only once a year and nobody was inclined to miss it.”

Steven Maus’ Branchwater is the fantastical story of humans and mantliks, human created guardians. After a great period of peace, the mantlik and human races have nicely started on their separate ways until the human town is threatened by outside forces. The mantliks are called upon to return to their guardian position to help save the humans as well as themselves.

Branchwater is a self-published book from iUniverse and Maus is a promising author. It’s an interesting plot that allows for diverse interpretation regarding the relationships between these three groups. The story development is somewhat peculiar as the world of Branchwater and particularly the mantlik creatures are never at once fully divulged; rather, Maus leaves a trail of breadcrumbs for the reader to put together, but I confess it was somewhat demanding for the reader to follow.

My fantasy experience is a bit limited to my enthusiasm for Terry Pratchett, but I found elements of Branchwater bothersome as a fiction reader. Maus has a somewhat unagreeable writing style as he consistently uses adverbial clauses and often with misplaced commas. While I normally don’t find grammar mistakes too distracting, the clauses along with some basic language errors made the book cumbersome. Though the plot seems sound with some catchy themes in development, I did not finish Maus’ Branchwater.

I can only imagine the difficulties of self-publishing an entire novel (nearly 200 pages) but the writing tutor in me acknowledges that more preparation could have been used. If you need professional help when it comes to editing Words by Rachel is a reader I’d recommend.

Conclusion: Tossed.
(Available on Bookmooch.)

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Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

“When we forget how close the wilderness is in the night, my grandpa said, someday it will come in and get us , for we will have forgotten how real and terrible it will be.”

Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 is one of many high school reading selections that I missed out on and combined with my clearing shelf challenge it was a perfect selection. Fahrenheit 451 is a dystopian novel that provides an interesting twist away from books like A Brave New World, 1984, and We in that the main focus is the censorship of books. Guy Montag is a fireman and in this futuristic world firemen start fires and particularly fires pertaining to book burnings. Thanks to a girl living next door named Clarisse, Montag finds his beliefs challenged and his viewpoint altered.

The premise of the book is pretty interesting and it’s certainly worth a read. I can definitely see why it’s a popular high school read. It’s not quite as challenging as the previous dystopian novels I listed but it’s an engaging read with a direct correlation to the power that can be found in books. And of course the idea that you are reading a book about a world where all books are banished – it’s definitely intriguing.

I admit though I found myself with growing problems while reading the book and some of Bradbury’s comments in the afterward. This dystopian world of book bashing was supposedly started as the result of minority groups expressing frustration with literature. In the back of the book Bradbury goes into his own experience with criticisms that he should alter his books and plays to provide more roles for women or less racist representations of blacks. Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 is a world that is launched as a result of these expressed demands.

I found this somewhat problematic or at least naive. While indeed this is a form of censorship – though Katherine Mayo’s Mother India is indeed racist it does not mean we should burn it – it is very much a backlash from centuries of oppressing minority voices. Don’t believe me? Pick up a copy of Norton’s World Literature from the 1970s versus a more recent edition. It doesn’t mean the texts found in the earlier edition were bad, not at all, but throughout literary history there certainly has not been an equal representation of all voices.

So, I get what Bradbury is saying and I can appreciate it, but I do find it somewhat limited. It was an okay book, I can see why they assign it to high schoolers, but I’m not sure if I was really missing all that much.

And an additional review of Fahrenheit 451 from Cynical Optimism.

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Bookends
June 1, 2008, 10:01 am
Filed under: thoughtful | Tags: , , , , ,

A few weeks ago I started the second great attempt at cataloging my personal library. For those of you unfamiliar with my book recording attempts, last fall I was roughly half way through my collection when there was a fire in my apartment building. My apartment had severe water damage and by some crazy fluke of luck we only lost about a dozen books. Now using BookDB, as GoodReads or LibraryThing are somewhat useless without home Internet, I am a quarter of the way through the nonfiction books. Ideally I am doing this in part in case there would ever be other future book endangerment and though I have sworn it would never happen my mind is finally having troubles when it comes to recalling what books I own.

From BookPage America’s Book Review there was an interesting though brief “interview” with Stephanie Meyer. I have never read any of Meyer’s books but most recently have felt the deluge of complaints that resulted from The Host. Probably not what you think, but many Meyer fans became very accustomed to the young adult price tag on Meyer’s books and were in for a rude awakening with her latest adult science-fiction novel. I must confess when Meyer’s says “It’s a science fiction novel that doesn’t feel like science fiction…” I inwardly cringed and stepped even farther away from wanting to read her. Something about comments such as these always gets under my skin.

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