Friday, November 27, 2015

The Fountainhead

Posted by A Drop of Romeo at 2:00 PM 0 comments
The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

Age: Adult
Category: Classic
Rating: 3 stars

“My dear fellow, who will let you?”

“That’s not the point. The point is, who will stop me?”

Marta Thinks: Howard Roark is a young architect who believes modern architecture is the intellectual culmination of architecture and vastly superior over classical and traditional architecture. This viewpoint goes against the opinion of the both the public and professionals and The Fountainhead therefore follows Roark’s struggle in exposing his artwork to a world where it is largely scorned. Alongside Roark, there are four other essential characters: Peter Keating, a vapid architect who moves up the social ladder due to his sycophantic nature; the mercurial and passionate journalist Dominique Francon; Gail Wynan, owner of a famous newspaper who yearns to be more, and Ellsworth Tooheny, who seeks to undermine Roark at every step. Each character meets Roark and each one is deeply and profoundly disturbed by him because, according to Ayn Rand, he is the ideal man. Indeed, Roark fully embodies her philosophy of promoting individualism and selfishness (which Rand believes is a virtue, while selflessness is a vice).

The Fountainhead itself seems to mirror Roark’s architecture: neat and straight-forward but almost coldly impersonal, detached from the reader, almost as if going, “This is how I am and I don’t care what you think.” It leaves you a bit reeling, a little overwhelmed, though not emotionally moved. But this is exactly why I think it is worth recommending — because it makes you think. You might not end up agreeing with Ayn Rand’s views or find Roark admirable (I, personally, did not) but that hardly matters. What matters is that a book has violently challenged you and you’re going to have to defend yourself. So while The Fountainhead might not the best book I’ve ever read, it has certainly been the most interesting.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Everything, Everything

Posted by A Drop of Romeo at 2:00 PM 0 comments

Age: Young Adult
Category: Contemporary; romance
Rating: 4 stars

Melissa Thinks: I don't know how to feel about this book. Before I get into the meat of it, I'd like to address a few things. Nicola Yoon has a way with words, for sure. There was a poetic simplicity to her prose that I especially enjoyed. Her dialogue and the voice of her characters was a particular favorite of mine. Maddy and Olly had an charming and clever air about them. They were intelligent without seeming pretentious. There was one particular scene with a bundt cake that really put a smile on my face--cutest and funniest thing that happened in the entire book.

Now for the hardest part of this review: the plot. I found the "Bubble Boy" (2001 movie. Jake Gyllenhaal. Weird but cute boy with no immune system escapes his overprotective parents to find a girl. You should check it out.) concept to be unique in that I've never read a Young Adult book that tackled this issue. There were times, however, when Madeline's dangerous behavior was hard to grasp. It was difficult to believe that she wouldn't get sick what with some of the reckless things she ended up doing. And on top of all that, her mother came off as aggressively clingy and her need to isolate her daughter was pretty problematic in the beginning of Olly and Maddy’s relationship, though it’s never really addressed until the end. Even then, it’s glossed over. But, I really liked the progression of the story. The plot was only predictable in a few places.

There was a touch of insta love in Everything, Everything. Personally, that is a huge turn off for me in books, but I enjoyed the characters so much that I could forgive it for the most part. The two main characters were just heartbreaking. Their interactions had a realness to them that made them likeable and easy to connect with. One of the best aspects of the book by far, though, is its message. There was a large emphasis on living your life to the fullest and taking risks even if they might result in something bad, because life is too short to be cautious.

You guys should definitely read this book! Do it for the beautiful cover, do it for the lovely romance, do it for the bundt cake!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Jane Eyre

Posted by A Drop of Romeo at 2:00 PM 0 comments
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Age: Young Adult/Adult
Category: Classic; romance
Rating: 4.5 stars

Juliet Thinks: When Jane Eyre was first published in 1847, Charlotte Bronte did not use her real name. Instead, she published it under a male pseudonym, Currer Bell.

Narrated in first person, the novel begins in Jane's childhood as an orphan living with her cruel aunt and cousins. Later on, Jane attends an institution for orphaned girls, in which she is educated in several subjects. Then, she chooses to work as a governess for Thornfield Hall, Edward Rochester's great estate. One of the greatest elements of this novel is that of the uncanny and supernatural. Jane hears strange screams in the night and notices other Thornfield staff acting suspiciously, but she has no idea what is actually going on, all whilst falling for Mr. Rochester.

Jane Eyre was absolutely revolutionary in its feminist themes at the time it was published. One of its most spectacular quotes delineates the oppression of women and their desire to break out of prescribed gender roles:
"Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts, as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags. It is thoughtless to condemn them, or laugh at them, if they seek to do more or learn more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex."

I found Jane Eyre to be a likable character because of her feminist tendencies. As shown in the passage above, Jane often thought deeply about how she wants to be more than an object of male affection. She chose the paths that would lead to her autonomy; she refused to be dependent on the financial support of anyone. In the 19th century, this was a very radical notion for women to have. It's for this reason that many critics were taken aback by Bronte's novel. One critic said, "We do not hesitate to say that the tone of mind and thought which has overthrown authority and violated every code human and divine abroad," regarding Jane's departure from Victorian femininity.

Friday, November 6, 2015

The Surgeon (Rizzoli and Isles #1)

Posted by A Drop of Romeo at 2:00 PM 0 comments

Age: Adult
Category: Crime; mystery
Rating: 5 stars

Helen Thinks: There’s a killer stalking the lone women of Boston and the ‘skills’ that the medical examiner identifies at the autopsies leads the detective’s to one fact - the killer is a doctor but instead of saving lives, he’s taking them. Detective Thomas Moore and Detective Jane Rizzoli are working the case where they find a link to Dr.Catherine Cordell, who shot and killed her rapist two years previous. Cordell is now being targeted by this new killer which causes Rizzoli to ask questions. Is Cordell lying? What is she missing out when she tells them what happened on that fateful night two years ago? However, as Rizzoli pushes at Cordell to find out more, Moore becomes attracted to the damaged doctor causing a rift between the two partners. Can they find this new killer before any more girls are killed or before he finally claims his greatest prize, Dr.Cordell?

This is the first novel in the Rizzoli and Isles series which inspires the TNT crime drama starring Angie Harmon and Sasha Alexander. Despite being a Rizzoli and Isles book, Doctor Maura Isles is not present in this first novel and makes her debut appearance in book two; The Apprentice. However, this doesn’t take away from the writing. In my opinion, it makes it greater as the first novel focuses on Rizzoli. It shows her trials as the only female in the department, how she acts around her fellow detective’s as well as how she copes with her family life - a family where she’ll never be as good as her two brother’s.

The highlight of this novel is that we get an insight into the killer’s thoughts such as the opening chapter being from his point of view. From the very first sentence; when the killer tells you that he knows the detective’s will find his victim’s body; Gerritsen has her audience hooked until the very last page.

As previously mentioned, it is the inspiration behind the Rizzoli and Isles television programme on TNT but the books are darker, grittier and on a whole different level. So if you’re a fan of the show then check out the first book behind it but even if you’ve never seen it then this is a crime novel for you! As soon as you open it, I hope you have nothing planned as you won’t be able to put this one down...

Friday, October 30, 2015

Rites of Passage

Posted by A Drop of Romeo at 2:00 PM 0 comments

Age: Young Adult
Category: Contemporary
Rating: 3 stars

Rosie Thinks: Sam's never been able to turn down a dare. But this dare was the last one given to her before her brother passed away: be one of the first girls to go through Denmark Military Academy. She's from a military family herself, so knows exactly what to expect. What she isn't expecting is the brutal hazing she's put through, and the outright violence towards her for not giving up.

There are quite a few books like these out there - girl joining military school, book then letting down all your expectations and hopes. But, surprisingly, this one didn't! Sam herself truly made this book stand out to me. She's strong, stubborn to a fault, but with an underlying vulnerability that she is determined not to show. At times, she came close to falling into the stereotypical Strong Female Character, but that vulnerable streak I mentioned before prevented that, thankfully! She became an inspiring character - despite all the oftentimes violent opposition to her being at DMA from almost everyone around her, she stood for what she believed in, and I loved that. Sometimes, because of all this opposition, it became a bit of a hard read, but it is definitely worth it to keep going.

I'm gonna be honest here: I know nothing about military schools. Are they even in Australia? Maybe? Maybe not? Regardless, the amount of detail in this was on point and gave me a much more in-depth image than any other TV show or book before it. And it turns out, Hensley herself attended a military school, so she knows what she's talking about! I love how she didn't hold back on any of the brutality, sexism or homophobia that was present in the novel. She gave a no-holds-barred view of military schools that felt incredibly accurate to me (not that that means too much, since I know nothing about them anyway!).

The romance in this book takes a while to come to fruition, but it is lovely and satisfying when it does. It served to further the story, rather than the amazing plot line becoming secondary to it like I see so often. The misogyny in this story made me want to throw my Kindle against the wall, but the ending definitely made my crankiness throughout it worth it!

Friday, October 23, 2015

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Posted by A Drop of Romeo at 2:00 PM 0 comments

Age: Adult
Category: Classic; fantasy
Rating: 5 stars

Marta Thinks: When Oscar Wilde was asked to name his hundred favourite books, he said he could not. When asked why, he replied, “Because I have only written five.” Witty and outrageous, Oscar Wilde was one of the best writers of the 19th century, if not of all times. Hyperbole? No, not a hyperbole, every word is deserved. A factual description then, of an irresistibly mesmerising and intelligent individual whose artistic ability is disputed by none. His most notable novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, does not propose a new plot (reminiscent, perhaps, of Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, where there is a duality associated with a single human being), but Wilde is indisputably original, unrestrained as he explodes with outrageously clever ideas.

This is largely due to the fact that Wilde was part of the aesthetic movement, which encouraged writers to break free from the restraints and limitations society imposed, even in terms of moral etiquette. Wilde went even further and introduced the idea that an artist’s life holds more importance than any work he produces, i.e. his life is to become his most important masterpiece. This idea can be seen in The Picture of Dorian Gray, where Dorian’s life and portrait are inextricably linked, and their individual significance is questioned. Dorian trades his soul for the immortality of his beauty and his portrait is a mirror of how his own life degrades into nothing.

A relatively good amount of the novel is summarised in the preface, in which Oscar Wilde poses statements related to art, such as “The artist is the creator of beautiful things” or “There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.” Of course, these statements can be challenged and debated ad infinitum, which reflects rather neatly the novel itself. The first quote brings up the most implications: does art have to be beautiful? What can we define as beauty? Is Basil no longer an artist once his painting is ruined by Dorian’s crimes? Oscar Wilde’s response to this is also in the preface: “Diversity of opinion about a work of art shows that the work is new, complex, and vital.”

Critic Roland Barthes wrote in 1967 an essay, The Death of the Author, in which he argued against including the artist’s biographical and social context into interpretation and that the creation must be separate from the creator, e.g. It does not matter whether the author intended for the red colour of the curtains to symbolise death; what matters is that they represent death. Ultimately, it does not matter what Oscar Wilde believed or did not believe; what matters is how The Picture of Dorian Gray becomes a mirror for own lives, allowing us to answer the ubiquitous questions concerning human existence.

Friday, October 16, 2015

The Raven Boys

Posted by A Drop of Romeo at 2:09 PM 0 comments

Age: Young Adult
Category: Fantasy; romance
Rating: 4 stars

Rosie Thinks: I don't quite know what I expected out of this book, but that certainly wasn't it - in the best possible way, of course. We start off with Blue, sitting in an abandoned churchyard with her psychic aunt. Blue has no psychic ability at all, but she acts as an amplifier for others. Her aunt is normally the only one who sees the spirits of those who will die pass, but this year is different - Blue sees Gansey. And the only reason a non-psychic would see someone is if he's her true love, or she killed him. Which is a bit of a dilemma, since Blue has been told since she was little: "If you kiss your true love, he will die." That has to be one of the strongest premises I've ever seen in a book!

For starters, this wasn't as romance-centric as I thought this would be, but I also wasn't anywhere near as disappointed by that as I thought I'd be. Instead, it focuses around Blue, Gansey and his group of friends as they search for a long-dead Welsh king. There are quite a few plots going on, with several POVs, and it takes a while to get the plot moving swiftly. It is definitely worth the wait! I had no clue what was going to happen next, and the ending half is just incredible. There was one plot twist that is so incredibly obvious now, but I had no suspicions of at the time. I am truly in awe that Stiefvater pulled this off.

The supernatural in this book is portrayed like nothing you've ever seen before. That magical aspect in the story is written perfectly to convey the beauty, suspense, and spine-tingling fear of it. Stiefvater's writing is pure genius. She has a knack of perfectly describing something in a way that is concise and not a cliche. The dialogue between all the characters was fantastic, and it also served to characterise each of them uniquely. I absolutely adore Gansey and his three friends: Ronan, Noah and Adam. Each of them are so different with their own set of problems, yet somehow they mesh together. Each of them now has a place in my heart! Gansey would have to be my favourite, although not by much. He has two sides to him: the posh rich boy with the world at his feet, and the boy who is passionate to the point of obsessed with finding Glendower. Poor Gansey doesn't always come across perfectly, as we see when we're first introduced to him and when he says: "My words are unerring tools of destruction, and I've come unequipped with the ability to disarm them."

Out of all the characters, however, I found Blue to be the most boring, which isn't so great since she's one of the most prominent characters. She's quirky and eccentric, and I think that could have stopped me sympathising with her as much as I ought to have: I am quite sick of reading stories about an eccentric loner and a group of wealthy boys. Thankfully, this story evolved way past that cliche within the first few chapters, but I still wish Blue had a few more defining characteristics.


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