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The Book Blog

05/29/2023
profile-icon Eric Biggs

I was asked to work on a book review for this week’s Vikings Read More Book Club Blog as a guest writer. Help break things up a bit and allow some of our regular contributors some breathing room in their normal, diligent output. Okay, I said. But then I had to decide what to write about, how I wanted to approach writing about whatever I selected, and the best way to present that work. At this point I am still not sure the best way to do all of this, so I am just taking a leap and providing some background on my process (which there is very little of to be honest) that will hopefully lead me forward to leave this first-person voice behind and gain a firm grasp on a second-person voice. You may enjoy this. You may not. You may find it strange to have a written piece directed into your understanding, as if an external presence can really fathom your depths in any meaningful way. Moving from “I” to “you” does not relinquish the realm of the subjective, it just shifts it. Subjectivity remains in the forefront of the writing in such a shift, and the objective remains aside. This understanding may help you prepare for the book review being presented, the review of:

Owner’s Manual: Outback – 2019. By Subaru

Subaru is a nebulous author; one you can connect with in a very direct way. Their writing really speaks to you, and the tone of this book is set in the forward at the beginning. Subaru congratulates you for purchasing one of “Subaru”’s vehicles. The author presents this idea to you in a way that puts you in the center of the plot, making the key character of the book - known only as Outback 2019 - feel directly linked to the reader. Subaru even goes so far as to take on the pseudonym: Subaru Corporation. With lines like: “We urge you to read this manual carefully so that you may understand your vehicle and its operation,” Subaru really draws you to the text.

Part of Subaru’s writing style is to use many illustrations to form ideas of the concepts presented on the book’s pages. Subaru does provide a nice table of contents and does not just simply number the chapters. You feel more connected to the various sections of the book when the chapters are named this way, and Subaru seems to really understand this. Subaru wants you to feel connected to the content, and the chapter titles are very descriptive of the chapter contents. It does include an index as chapter 14, and the chapter description reads:

“This is an alphabetical listing of all that’s in this manual. You can use it to quickly find something you want to read.”

So as not to spoil the overall plot and development of the book, you are not interested in reading those types of particulars at this time. You do feel it is worth noting that the plot is a bit uneven, and Subaru may want to rethink the organization of the chapter layout in future books. What you would normally associate with the concept of the climax of the book comes really early in Chapter 3. This chapter offers many “system warnings” and “notifications” and associated symbols that carry you further into the understanding of the main character. The character’s motives and operative behaviors are laid bare in this chapter.

Overall, though the layout of the plot is a bit uneven, you feel Subaru did a superlative job in crafting the character and motivations of Outback 2019. The book is worth coming back to on various levels, and at various times. Read it straight through, or select sections to enjoy individually, you feel that Subaru really created a superb book that is worthy of occupying space on your shelf. You have enjoyed reading this book review and feel strongly about recommending the title to your friends, family, and acquaintances.

No Subjects
05/15/2023
profile-icon Dr. Brittnee Fisher

This blog post is a collaborative effort by my colleague Brenda Hoffman, writing tutor at the St. Augustine Campus Tutoring Center, and SJR State Student Evan Godfrey. Evan is a part-time employee at the writing center and says this about his time there, "Work in the writing lab is a good sort of challenging. Most of the time, we're reviewing papers, but the most fun I have is when students engage in conversation about their work. It feels more stimulating that way. What interests me is less so the work and more so the reward I get. I write very often for school, work, and my hobbies, so working in the lab rewards me with ever-increasing experience with various writing styles and essay types. This is especially rewarding considering that, on top of computer science, I want to pursue professional writing and create stories."

Evan is working towards an AA degree at SJR State with the intention of pursuing a Bachelor of Computer Science degree later at UCF. Evan says about his reading interests, "I prefer to read fiction. The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Genres are my favorites since I am drawn to creative world-building and character drama. In 2021, I was confined to my living room since I had to dog-sit. I found myself watching the Prime original series based on The Expanse and told my brother, who recommended the books. I picked up the first book, Leviathan Wakes not long after and have found them far more engaging than the show. The characters are great, the story is satisfying, the themes are interesting, and the worldbuilding is fantastic. Overall, it is the best space opera I have ever engaged with."

 

Please enjoy Evan's post: Small Allusions in the Great Expanse

In an age long past, a group of storied travelers journeying home along the expansive planes hear a shrill cry upon the winds amidst the craggy rocks yonder. Upon venturing whence the sound didst come, they spy a maiden stranded atop them. A lone knight steps forth to rescue the imperiled damsel, only to learn she is a foul Siren who set a devious trap. Servants of the underworld emerge and devour the knight’s witless companions, leaving only him to tell the tale. The enraged knight sets off in pursuit of vengeance. Yet, the knight was barely a day into his quest when he stumbles upon a fierce god of thunder. Taking a brief repast, the knight tells of what transpired amidst the rocks. However, the knight’s explanation is interrupted as more foul creatures emerge.  The god of thunder challenges the attackers, holding them back while the knight takes a noble steed and rides off to continue his pursuit. He ventures to and fro until he finds a hidden tomb—the attackers’ den. Yet, what should the knight spy upon venturing inside but a monster most evil from a time before creation. Fearing for his life, the knight and his horse escape the clutches of the devilspawn. Vengeance will ever remain beyond the grasp of men who contend with gods.

Now that you’ve read my little story, what if I were to tell you it is actually science fiction? An absurd notion, surely. Forsooth, it doth bear striking resemblance to a bard’s fantasy tale more than science-witchcraft, but pray allow me to elucidate. The story you just read was derived from literary references in James S.A. Corey’s Leviathan Wakes—first book in the science fiction space opera series, The Expanse. Upon my first reading, I noted several references to other literary works, but brushed them off as a simple naming convention. Various forms of media utilize a similar convention for one-off moments where the audience can say: “I understood that reference!” I thought these were no different until, after taking a closer look, I noticed a pattern: almost every name in this book holds a hidden meaning that ties directly to the story.

Leviathan Wakes begins on the star freighter Canterbury as it returns to Ceres station, its home port in the asteroid belt. En route, it receives a distress signal from another ship, the Scopuli, so the freighter changes course to investigate. When it arrives, the Scopuli is adrift and unresponsive, so four crewmembers led by James Holden (the series protagonist) board the Canterbury’s shuttle, the Knight, and inspect the Scopuli. During the inspection, however, a mysterious warship attacks the Canterbury, and it goes down with almost all hands. Holden and his crew on the Knight are the only surviving witnesses and are picked up days later by the Martian battleship Donnager. As Holden is explaining the situation to the Martian navy officers, more mysterious ships attack. Holden and his crew board a gunship and escape the Donnager. They name the gunship the Rocinante and pursue the mysterious attackers, finding one of the ships, the Anubis, hidden in an asteroid. Upon boarding it, they discover it holds a dark secret: an alien micro-organism that infested and consumed the Anubis’ crew. Holden and the Rocinante’s crew manage to escape before they too are infected.

Observant readers already see several standout names, such as Anubis, Rocinante, and Canterbury. Normally, these would be simple references to other works of literature—a naming convention to be read and then forgotten as fast as it was noticed. However, each allude to portions of the larger story. Anubis is the Egyptian god of tombs and the underworld, alluding to the tomb the warship Anubis becomes. Rocinante is the horse that carries the brave fool, Don Quixote, referring to Holden and his crew’s bravery in the face of impossible odds, but also implying their ignorance of the Anubis’s secret. The Canterbury refers to the Canterbury Tales, a book wherein various travelers share stories while on the road—a clever hint at Holden’s soon-to-be crew: a group of storied misfits traveling the solar system. Some names also serve to foreshadow plot beats. Scopuli is the Latin word for “crags,” sharp rocks upon which Sirens sang, luring sailors to their deaths—precisely what the starship Scopuli does. Leviathan Wakes, the title of the book, refers to a biblical monster that humans cannot comprehend or control, foreshadowing the alien awakening aboard the Anubis. However, not all names are complex allusions. For example, the Donnager is named after a Germanic thunder deity, only indicating its status as a warship. And the Knight simply refers to its status as the Scopuli’s would-be rescuer—savior of the damsel in distress. However, knowing these references, do you see now how closely my story resembles that of Leviathan Wakes? A siren upon the rocks lures travelers to their doom; the Scopuli lures the Canterbury into danger. A knight ventures inside a tomb to fight evil; Holden ventures inside The Anubis to learn its dark secret.

When the references tie into the story directly, they become a powerful narrative tool. Not only can well-read audiences connect with these allusions, allowing them to feel in-the-know, but they also gain a sense of the full picture before it is revealed, encouraging their detective’s intuition to take over. The real strength of good science fiction is its ability to captivate audiences and ask them to think, and Leviathan Wakes takes this a step further by complimenting and rewarding the reader’s knowledge. Yet, for those like me who did not possess this knowledge, it presents a worthy challenge: to engage with unfamiliar literature and uncover the full meaning behind the allusions. The rewards are as numerous as the stars.

 

No Subjects
05/08/2023
profile-icon Kendall McCurley

I really want to watch the new(ish) Amazon Prime show, Daisy Jones & The Six. However, like all TV shows and movies that are adapted from books, I wanted to read the book first. I finally got around to it, and I have to say I was NOT disappointed.

Daisy Jones & The Six is a novel by Taylor Jenkins Reid that follows the rise and fall of a fictional rock band in the 1970s. It follows the band's journey to fame, which is intertwined with the love story between the band's lead singer, Daisy Jones, and its leader, Billy Dunne. It explores the creative process of songwriting, the ups and downs of the music industry, and the struggles that come with fame.

Reid skillfully portrays the dark side of the music industry, with its temptations, rivalries, and addictions. Despite the fame and fortune that come with success, the characters are left with emotional scars and regrets.

If you're looking for a novel that's both captivating and entertaining, then Daisy Jones & The Six is definitely worth considering. Here are a few reasons why you might want to give it a read:

  • It's a unique storytelling experience: The novel is written in an oral history format and is told through a series of interviews with various characters. This makes for a dynamic and engaging read, as you get to see the story unfold from multiple perspectives.
  • It's a page-turner: The novel is full of drama, tension, and unexpected twists, which will keep you hooked from start to finish.
  • It's a story about music and creativity: Music plays a central role in the novel, and the author does an excellent job of capturing the passion and energy of the music industry in the 1970s. Whether you're a fan of classic rock or not, you'll find yourself drawn into the world of The Six and Daisy Jones.
  • It's a character-driven story: Each member of The Six and Daisy Jones feels like a fully realized person, with their own dreams, fears, and motivations. You'll find yourself rooting for some characters, and despising others, but you'll never be bored by them.

Overall, Daisy Jones & The Six is a must-read for anyone who loves a good story, great characters, and immersive world-building. So, give it a chance, and you might just find yourself lost in the world of rock and roll.

Check out Daisy Jones & The Six or other books by Taylor Jenkins Reid at the SJR State libraries! Happy reading!

 

Daisy Jones and the Six : a novelDaisy Jones and the Six : a novel by Taylor Jenkins Reid
ISBN: 9781524798642
Publication Date: 2020-02-04
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER * A gripping novel about the whirlwind rise of an iconic 1970s rock group and their beautiful lead singer, revealing the mystery behind their infamous breakup--from the author of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and Malibu Rising REESE'S BOOK CLUB PICK * IN DEVELOPMENT AS AN ORIGINAL STREAMING SERIES EXECUTIVE PRODUCED BY REESE WITHERSPOON   "An explosive, dynamite, down-and-dirty look at a fictional rock band told in an interview style that gives it irresistible surface energy."--Elin Hilderbrand NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY NPR * The Washington Post * Esquire * Glamour * Real Simple * Good Housekeeping * Marie Claire * Parade * Paste * Shelf Awareness * BookRiot Everyone knows DAISY JONES & THE SIX, but nobody knows the reason behind their split at the absolute height of their popularity . . . until now. Daisy is a girl coming of age in L.A. in the late sixties, sneaking into clubs on the Sunset Strip, sleeping with rock stars, and dreaming of singing at the Whisky a Go Go. The sex and drugs are thrilling, but it's the rock 'n' roll she loves most. By the time she's twenty, her voice is getting noticed, and she has the kind of heedless beauty that makes people do crazy things. Also getting noticed is The Six, a band led by the brooding Billy Dunne. On the eve of their first tour, his girlfriend Camila finds out she's pregnant, and with the pressure of impending fatherhood and fame, Billy goes a little wild on the road. Daisy and Billy cross paths when a producer realizes that the key to supercharged success is to put the two together. What happens next will become the stuff of legend. The making of that legend is chronicled in this riveting and unforgettable novel, written as an oral history of one of the biggest bands of the seventies. Taylor Jenkins Reid is a talented writer who takes her work to a new level with Daisy Jones & The Six, brilliantly capturing a place and time in an utterly distinctive voice.
 
Carrie Soto Is BackCarrie Soto Is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid
ISBN: 9780593158685
Publication Date: 2022-08-30
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER * "An epic adventure about a female athlete perhaps past her prime, brought back to the tennis court for one last grand slam" (Elle), from the author of Malibu Rising, Daisy Jones & The Six, and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo "A heart-filled novel about an iconic and persevering father and daughter."--Time "Gorgeous. The kind of sharp, smart, potent book you have to set aside every few pages just to catch your breath. I'll take a piece of Carrie Soto forward with me in life and be a little better for it."--Emily Henry, author of Book Lovers and Beach Read ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: Time, NPR, PopSugar, Glamour, Reader's Digest Carrie Soto is fierce, and her determination to win at any cost has not made her popular. But by the time she retires from tennis, she is the best player the world has ever seen. She has shattered every record and claimed twenty Grand Slam titles. And if you ask Carrie, she is entitled to every one. She sacrificed nearly everything to become the best, with her father, Javier, as her coach. A former champion himself, Javier has trained her since the age of two. But six years after her retirement, Carrie finds herself sitting in the stands of the 1994 US Open, watching her record be taken from her by a brutal, stunning player named Nicki Chan. At thirty-seven years old, Carrie makes the monumental decision to come out of retirement and be coached by her father for one last year in an attempt to reclaim her record. Even if the sports media says that they never liked "the Battle-Axe" anyway. Even if her body doesn't move as fast as it did. And even if it means swallowing her pride to train with a man she once almost opened her heart to: Bowe Huntley. Like her, he has something to prove before he gives up the game forever. In spite of it all, Carrie Soto is back, for one epic final season. In this riveting and unforgettable novel, Taylor Jenkins Reid tells her most vulnerable, emotional story yet.
 
Malibu Rising : a novelMalibu Rising : a novel by Taylor Jenkins Reid
ISBN: 9781524798659
Publication Date: 2021-06-01
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER * Read with Jenna Book Club Pick as Featured on Today * From the author of Daisy Jones & The Six and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo . . . ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: The Washington Post, Time, Marie Claire, PopSugar, Parade, Teen Vogue, Self, She Reads * "Irresistible . . . High drama at the beach, starring four sexy, surfing siblings and their deadbeat, famous-crooner dad."--People Four famous siblings throw an epic party to celebrate the end of the summer. But over the course of twenty-four hours, the family drama that ensues will change their lives will change forever. Malibu: August 1983. It's the day of Nina Riva's annual end-of-summer party, and anticipation is at a fever pitch. Everyone wants to be around the famous Rivas: Nina, the talented surfer and supermodel; brothers Jay and Hud, one a championship surfer, the other a renowned photographer; and their adored baby sister, Kit. Together the siblings are a source of fascination in Malibu and the world over--especially as the offspring of the legendary singer Mick Riva. The only person not looking forward to the party of the year is Nina herself, who never wanted to be the center of attention, and who has also just been very publicly abandoned by her pro tennis player husband. Oh, and maybe Hud--because it is long past time for him to confess something to the brother from whom he's been inseparable since birth. Jay, on the other hand, is counting the minutes until nightfall, when the girl he can't stop thinking about promised she'll be there. And Kit has a couple secrets of her own--including a guest she invited without consulting anyone. By midnight the party will be completely out of control. By morning, the Riva mansion will have gone up in flames. But before that first spark in the early hours before dawn, the alcohol will flow, the music will play, and the loves and secrets that shaped this family's generations will all come rising to the surface. Malibu Rising is a story about one unforgettable night in the life of a family: the night they each have to choose what they will keep from the people who made them . . . and what they will leave behind.
 
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo: A NovelThe Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo: A Novel by Taylor Jenkins Reid
ISBN: 9781501161933
Publication Date: 2018-05-29
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER "If you're looking for a book to take on holiday this summer, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo has got all the glitz and glamour to make it a perfect beach read." --Bustle From the New York Times bestselling author of Daisy Jones & the Six--an entrancing and "wildly addictive journey of a reclusive Hollywood starlet" (PopSugar) as she reflects on her relentless rise to the top and the risks she took, the loves she lost, and the long-held secrets the public could never imagine. Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now? Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband has left her, and her professional life is going nowhere. Regardless of why Evelyn has selected her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career. Summoned to Evelyn's luxurious apartment, Monique listens in fascination as the actress tells her story. From making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the '80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way, Evelyn unspools a tale of ruthless ambition, unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love. Monique begins to feel a very real connection to the legendary star, but as Evelyn's story near its conclusion, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique's own in tragic and irreversible ways. "Heartbreaking, yet beautiful" (Jamie Blynn, Us Weekly), The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is "Tinseltown drama at its finest" (Redbook): a mesmerizing journey through the splendor of old Hollywood into the harsh realities of the present day as two women struggle with what it means--and what it costs--to face the truth.
No Subjects
05/01/2023
profile-icon Brenda Hoffman

Alyson's Art Appreciation instructor assigned a writing piece that inspired her to think, if you'll excuse the cliche, outside the box. Students were encouraged to choose three different, yet similar, pieces of artwork  and discuss their similarites and differences. Alyson, whose ambition is to become a museum curator, chose three pieces of artwork and compared them to a Hemingway short story. When we discussed her idea, she asked if it was too far-fetched. "No way," I said. "Your instructor is going to appreciate the creative thought here!" The following is Alyson's response to the assignment. Please enjoy! Then pick up a Hemingway short story or two! And seek out some artwork by the talented artists Alyson documents in her blog.

To curate is to sort through and organize items, namely art, to compose a coherent and consequential collection. However, art extends beyond renaissance paintings, life-sized topiaries, and marble statues. We curate our own lives every day by coordinating our closets, fine tuning our social media feeds, and categorizing our bookshelves to perfection. Often, we curate our shelves to make our favorite stories, the ones that stick with us, the most prominent and accessible. A short story that has stuck with me is “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” by Ernest Hemmingway. The tale follows an older waiter as he journeys from his clean, well-lit café to a less pleasant bodega, back to his empty home where he will not be able to sleep. The theme of this story is the nada, or nothingness, which gets into our heads and makes us feel isolated even in the presence of hope. Hemmingway’s “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” is a timeless piece whose universal themes are reflected in the selected art pieces. 

“Well-Lighted Place” begins in a Spanish café, while two waiters, one older and lonely, one younger and impatient, stand behind the bar to speculate on the life of a lonely deaf man who cannot hear the younger waiter’s mocking. The older waiter empathizes with the man— neither wants to go home and implores his colleague “you do not understand. This is a clean and pleasant café. It is well lit. The light is very good.” Nighthawks, an oil painting by American artist Edward Hopper, portrays urban America in the 1940s (fig 1). Although painted in 1942, Nighthawks transcends era and depicts an unanimously American image. Three figures sit, and one employee works the counter in an otherwise empty diner at a terrible hour in the morning, or night. None of them speak to one another; they exist in the same space together, but they are alone. This is the clean, well-lighted place that Hemmingway’s waiter reveres. The bright, unnatural fluorescent lights tint the diner a shade of yellow and infuse a clinical atmosphere, rather than a warm and welcoming one, but it contrasts the foreboding greens and blues that wait outside for the patrons. The only visible door leads deep into the bowels of the diner, so no one can leave, even if they wanted to. If the party is aware of entrapment in their own solitude, it does not show. In the same way, Hemmingway’s waiter wants a clean, well-lighted place in which to be lonely. 

The stubborn younger waiter kicks the deaf man out, closes the café down early, and goes home to his wife. The older waiter, not ready to go home, reaches a bodega, a Spanish winery. The barman does not humor his observation that “the light is very bright and pleasant, but the bar is un-polished.” The Night Café by Vincent van Gogh is far from clean and pleasant (fig 2). The bar scene depicts shuffled tables, disheveled people, and empty glasses and bottles strewn around the room. Van Gogh’s impasto style makes the intrepid brushstrokes of oil paint rise from the canvas. The hanging light fixtures, which emit a dim orange light mingled with a sickly shade of green, radiate turbulence in an unsettling way. The grimy unfriendly environment of an unkempt bar is one that Van Gogh was familiar with in 1888. His command of color is stimulating in that he chose the complimentary colors red and green to paint the walls of his café. The way they clash incurs an unsettled feeling in the viewer. While most of the patrons are slumped over their own tables, a man in a white suit shoots an ominous glare in the viewer’s direction. The ambiance of the piece is hostile, just as Hemmingway’s waiter feels he does not belong in the bodega. 

Once he reflects that it is no use staying at the bodega, the older waiter decides he will go home. However, he knows he will not be able to fall asleep until morning breaks. He convinces himself “it’s probably only insomnia,” but it is more than a medical condition that keeps him from sleeping at night. The older waiter cannot sleep because he is clouded with restlessness and fear of the dark— the unknown— the nothingness. On his way to the bodega, the waiter prays to nothing: “Our nada who art in nada, nada be thy name.” Plegarias Bajo el Discurso, translated as Prayers Under the Discourse, was painted by José Vivenes, a contemporary Venezuelan artist. Produced in 2014, the painting depicts a figure with hands clasped tightly together in a sign of prayer. We are not able to identify the person, or whether they are male or female, because the heavy, scrabbled brushstrokes that make up the background have marred the subject’s face in inky black marks. The only discerning features are folded hands, a chin, and an ear. The background splits horizontally, with the lower portion composed of enthusiastic shades of red, orange, and yellow, while the upper portion, the part that meets the figure’s head, is white as if prayer is a supplier of peace amid fire. While this may be for the subject of Vivenes’ painting, Hemmingway’s waiter does not receive such serenity when he prays to nada. 

The thread among these three paintings and “Clean, Well-Lighted Place” is the pervasive nothingness that harbors hopelessness. Nighthawks depicts the nada that awaits the customers if they were to leave the diner. The Night Café depicts the meaninglessness of the drunk patrons. Prayer Under the Discourse depicts an attempt to run from the emptiness by finding solace in God. These works do more than mirror Hemmingway’s short story. They affirm that the narrative is more than just a story— it is life. 

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Fig. 1. Hopper, Edward. Nighthawks. 1942. Google Arts and Culture, www.artsandculture.google.com/asset/nighthawks/6AEKkO_F-9wicw.