Miss DW (goldenmoonrose) wrote in 50bookchallenge,
Miss DW

Books 11-15: Titanic, The Help, Clash of Kings, young adult

"It is better to travel with hope in one's heart than to arrive in safety."
"It's funny that girls have to be pretty. It's the boys that have to be pretty in Nature."

11. The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly (340 pages)
It's 1899 and the South, and Calpurnia Tate is the only girl in her high society family, with seven brothers, and a distinct lack of abilities in the female arts of cooking, cleaning, or crafts. But Calpurnia is a passionate, budding scientist, and begins to form a deep friendship with her grandfather, also a scientist. Evolution is a sweet, episodic story of a clever, charming girl trapped in roles dictated by society. The book is well-written, refreshing and intelligent. Unfortunately, it is long, and, although realistic in its storytelling, lacks cohesion or drama. Grade: B

12. Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea (269 pages)
Told from the perspective of seven very different kids (the troublemaker, the overachiever, the artist, the farm girl, the troubled loner, the queen bee, and the girl from the other side of the tracks) is the story of a young, cool, and inventive fifth grade teacher that gives his students responsibility and freedom, but perhaps a bit too much. The book's characters, particularly the unique, refreshing kids, are its greatest strength. Kids and schools are often shown in far too simplistic a way, and these kids and their lives are far from simplistic or clichéd. The plot tends to be illogical and simplistic, but, still, it's sweet. A good book for a low reading level. Grade: B

"The International Exhibition of Industrial Arts, thereafter called the Great Exhibition [of 1851], had been the dream of Britain's Prince Consort. The colossus that housed it, the Crystal Palace, was a monstrous greenhouse…beyond sheer size, part of its sensation lay in its paradoxical union of steel and glass--England's most durable and most transient products. Even the temple of the exhibition was a testament to the wily ingenuity of this new age of industrialism, an age of paradox materialized."

"The gravity of the damage to the Titanic is apparent, but the important point is that she did not sink. Her watertight bulkheads were really watertight…she kept afloat after an experience which might well appall the stoutest heart…Man is the weakest and most formidable creature on the earth. His physical means of protection and offence are trifling. But his brain has within it the spirit of the divine, and he overcomes natural obstacles by thought, which is incomparably the greatest force in the universe."~Wall Street Journal

"It seems to me that the disaster about to occur was the event, which not only made the world rub its eyes and awake, but woke it with a start, keeping it moving at a rapidly accelerating pace ever since, with less and less peace, satisfaction and happiness… To my mind, the world of today awoke April 15, 1912."~ John B. Thayer, Titanic passenger

"Mysterium tremendum et fascinans--that stomach flipping mix of awestruck fear and entrancing fascination."

"In maritime history, the Titanic's sumptuous accommodations and wealth, her beauty and bounty, had never before been seen. All this, plus her human cargo representing a panorama of civilization in its social extremes, would never be equaled. The image of this superb gigantic vessel racing over the North Atlantic to her chilling rendezvous at midnight would create the first enduring archetype wrought by the twentieth century."

"Harriet Stanton Blatch, president of the American Political Woman's Union [suffragette], had the best rejoinder. Ms. Blatch states that since men had drafted the laws that governed the ship, they should have been the ones to go down with it. Asked what her position would be should women receive the vote, she replied, 'Then we would have laws requiring plenty of lifeboats.'"

"[The investigations were] becoming something of an autopsy on the Gilded Age."

"The Titanic not only embodied a lofty dream; its presumptuous innocence was akin to a fairy tale. And it had taken a 'fool' to look into the floating palace and declare that the emperor had no clothes."

"The pleasures of the Gilded Age existed for the very few. They rested top heavy on a social structure ready to crumble. Luxury and excess were justified on assumptions of limitlessness, both in fuel and in human suffering. This wasn't fulfillment, but the illusion of fulfillment wrought by the oppression of the lower echelons of society who labor materialized it."

"When the Dream ended in a nightmare, the material world lost its credibility and, for a moment in passing time, myth became reality. The Titanic's mystique is therefore a poetic realm, in which her maiden voyage expresses the blind justice of Greek Tragedy and the allegorical warning of the medieval morality play."

13. The Titanic: End of a Dream by Wyn Craig Wade (338 pages)
Although this book is dated (1977, and therefore before the Titanic wreck was even discovered), it's a fascinating, engagingly written account, not of the Titanic itself (which is done very well in Unsinkable by Butler and Titanic: An Illustrated History), but on the "land's" perspective of the ship and her tragic destiny. Wade describes the society, culture, philosophy, and people that bore the great ship and her disaster, and mourned her. He sings the praises of the ship's greatest hero, the man that lead the investigations, William Alden Smith, the man that not only brought everything we know about the disaster to light, but also created the greatest lasting monument to the horrible tragedy: regulation of the sea and forcing corporations to take responsibility for the lives of the society in which they rule. The man that fought for the victims, not only of those icy waters, but of the society that built a caste of wealth and power. This book is a brilliant, fascinating, refreshing perspective on the tragedy, going where other books that treat the disaster fail to go, into the world that created the Titanic, caused its disaster, and then reacted to its loss: the Gilded Age. The Titanic was an embodiment of that age, and her sinking was the death song of that era. And that is why she still affects us so deeply. Grade: A

"Is there any creature on earth as unfortunate as an ugly woman?"
"It is not what we do, so much as why we do it."

14. A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin (1009 pages)
The sequel to Game of Thrones concerns the war between the Starks of the North, the brothers of Baratheon, and the Lannisters, while overseas the only surviving Targaryen mothers her dragons, and the Nightwatch faces problems beyond the wall. The characters are just as brilliant and fascinating in the sequel, though the plot is much more action-heavy, and therefore a lot less engaging and a lot more predictable. Gone, mostly, is the political intrigue, and the characters seem to stagnate rather than change or evolve (except for that nitwit Theon Greyjoy). A necessary sequel, and one that lives up to the first in keeping the pages turning. Still a wonderful, refreshing addition to the genre. Just, far from exceeds the first book in terms of brilliance or ingenuity. But, can't help loving returning to Martin's brilliant saga. Grade: A-

"No, white women like to keep they hands clean. They got a shiny little set a tools they use, sharp as witches' fingernails, tidy and laid out neat, like the picks on a dentist tray. They gone take they time with em."
"And I know there are plenty of other 'colored' things I could do besides telling my stories…I don't care that much about voting. I don't care about eating at a counter with white people. What I care about is, if in ten years, a white lady will call my girls dirty and accuse them of stealing the silver."

15. The Help by Kathryn Stockett (451 pages)
The rare bestseller that everyone has read and is raving over for a good reason. The meta novel of African-American maids in Jackson, Mississippi in 1963, the height of the Civil Rights Movement, is refreshing because it is as though this story takes place at once on another planet, so far removed from my own, and also a world right beside mine, where the most disturbing cruelty is that of women wielding their discreet brutality. This is the story little told of the strength and power of the everyday, "invisible" women that served everyday, invisible women, and the horrific, and sometimes moving, relationship and stories. Though the book has no real plot, though it is predictable, and even lags many times, the characters are so hugely engaging and the situation so fascinating, I couldn't stop reading it. The story and characters transcend their time and place, to both the situations of "queen bees" in high schools and colleges, to the inner world--both heroic and villainous--of women. Powerful, engaging, uplifting, horrifying, original, fascinating book. Grade: A-

2012 Page Total: 6367

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