Wednesday, July 19, 2017


Title: 1984
Author: George Orwell
Genre: dystopian fiction

I have a confession to make. I have never read the dystopian classic, 1984. Given the peculiar political climate in the US lately, I decided that now might be a good time to read the novel. It’s (obviously) set in 1984 London and the protagonist is Winston Smith. Winston decides out of the blue one day to keep a diary. Keeping a diary in this version of dystopian London is dangerous and illegal and Winston finds that he must enter his thoughts and musings in the blind spot of his home’s telescreen. The illegal diary begins a domino effect in Winston’s thoughts and behaviors that allow him to question everything in this society.

In this world, there are no one-dimensional televisions; the telescreens are a surveillance tool of the Party (Big Brother). The Party controls the population through the destruction and revision of the past; the past is rewritten so that the Party can take credit for accomplishments, victories, and inventions: “If all records told the same tale then the lie passed into history and became truth. Who controls the past controls the future?” Of course, if a citizen remembered an event that differed from the party line (pun intended), “how could establish even the most obvious fact when there existed no record outside your own memory?”

The erasure of the past is assisted by the removal of all physical and written references to statues, memorials, and historical markers and all original records are modified and destroyed to reflect the new truth of the Party. Scraps of paper are discarded and incinerated immediately- can’t have any contradictory evidence hanging about, you know. The Party even changes the structure of the English language, truncating it as much as possible to that multiple definitions and nuances cease to exist. Speaking of ceasing to exist…in this world rebels and thought criminals are vaporized. Once a person disappears all records of their existence are erased and they briefly become an unperson before memories fade. 

Marriage is no longer a religious ceremony or an act of love but a duty to the Party since any children born of this union are the future of the Party. Solitude and individualism are looked down upon- all extracurricular activities and free time are expected to be used in service of the Party.
As if all this wasn’t depressing enough but Oceania (yep, countries and alliances have changed too), is constantly at war with her (supposed) enemies; in a war in which no progress is ever made. Winston finds out that this continuous state of war is a conspiracy to decrease wealth and upward social mobility among the common people.

So, all these plot points sound exciting for a dystopian novel but I found George Orwell’s writing style boring and I felt the book ended too abruptly and with no change in atmosphere or events than from the beginning of the novel (no hero’s journey). As a result, it has taken me most of the summer to read this book since there were more interesting books to read. 

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Reading Hangover

Image result for sheldon i need answers

Title: Written in My Own Heart's Blood
Author: Diana Gabaldon
Genre: time travel, historical fiction, romance, adventure, books on TV

You see the above meme? (Sheldon from Big Bang Theory). This was me this past week. When I need answers while I'm doing my fun reading, I end up with a reading hangover the next day. What’s a reading hangover, you ask? It’s the sluggish feeling you have the next day after staying up too late instead of getting much needed sleep for work. Disclaimer: reading hangovers only happen when a person stays up too late because of “fun reading” (homework doesn’t count).
 I am reading the Outlander series and I finished reading Book 8 (Written in My Own Heart’s Blood) today. This series deals with time travel (but not in a nerdy, technical, sci-fi way) and this is what I've had to deal with and why I also need answers at 1am....

**Some spoilers ahead**

 Seriously, if you have not read the first seven books, turn back now!

Don’t say I didn’t warn you…

*Claire Randall accidentally time travels from 1948 to 1743
*Claire travels back to 1948 to escape the Jacobite rebellion
*In 1968 Claire travels back to the 1760s to reunite with Jamie Fraser
*Her daughter Brianna travels back to the 1700s to be with Claire.
*Brianna's boyfriend, Roger, also travels back in time to the 1700s
*Now everyone is together in the mountains of NC
*Brianna and Roger have two kids but little Mandy is born with a heart defect so they must travel (backwards/forwards?) into the late 1970s so that Mandy can have surgery

So, in Book 8 Brianna and Roger’s son, Jem, gets kidnapped and Roger and Brianna think his kidnapper has taken back to the 1700s so off Roger goes to the 1700s
*At this point the reader knows that Jem is still in 1980 but Brianna and the kids are separated from Roger by two centuries and this is WHERE I DON"T NEED SLEEP FOR WORK, I NEED ANSWERS!!!
*Roger ends up going back too early and ends up in Scotland in 1739. He meets Jamie’s father, uncle and sister before tragic things befell the Fraser clan. He knows what’s going to happen to them but he can’t do anything about it or warn them because it will change the future and how Jamie and Claire meet….

This series had been on my to-read list for years- multiple people had recommended it to me but I never found the time to tackle the series until the books were turned into a TV show for the Starz network two years ago. I watched the first episode and was hooked; I checked out the first book in the series (Outlander) was hooked on that as well. Along with all the time traveling that keeps me up at night, is some buried treasure (seriously), the American Revolution (the battle scenes can get tedious if you’re not a fan of military science and strategy), some Scottish/American culture and a bit of romance. The books are HUGE (they are each approximately 800 pages)- they will make you laugh and cry. Keep the tissues handy as well as Google Translate for the French, Gaelic, and Latin phrases that are sprinkled throughout.