The Great Gatsby

This week, I finally did something I probably should have done years ago. I read The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I know many people may be shocked that I never got around to reading this American classic in high school, but I guess I just missed out on it. (When I was in high school, I didn’t read “classics” unless they were required in my literature classes. I gravitated toward cheesy teen romances, fantasy, and some science fiction. Not much has changed.) Anyway, I wanted to see the movie adaptation this weekend, so, of course, I had to read the book so that I could compare the two.

(For the record, I probably would have seen the movie even if I hadn’t read the book. I’ve been a Leonardo DiCaprio fan since he played Luke Brower on Growing Pains in the early 90s. That is one man who just gets better with age…and he’s a fantastic actor.)

So, I’m not going to tell too much about the book because I figure all of my readers either have read it or will read it the future. I will say, though, that I think The Great Gatsby paints a vivid picture of what life was like in New York in the Roaring Twenties. There were some lavish parties and, at least among the upper echelons of society, a rather casual disregard for propriety and self-control–when it came to wealth, sex, marriage, sobriety, etc. (Goes a long way in explaining how the whole concept of Prohibition came about.)

The Great Gatsby is both a tragic love story and a tale of people who bring out the worst in each other. Told from the perspective of Nick Carraway, who is at once above the drama and a part of it, we delve into the mystery of Jay Gatsby and his love for Daisy Buchanan. It’s often difficult to sort out the truth from all the lies, but the lives of the people in this book intertwine in a beautiful mess, and, in the end, their lives unravel in the blink of an eye.

I enjoyed reading The Great Gatsby, and a big part of me is happy that I waited until I was an adult to experience this book. I honestly don’t think that I could have appreciated it as a teenager. Now, with some knowledge of the time period–I studied the 1920s extensively as an undergrad student–and more life experience myself, I can grasp just why this book is widely considered a must-read American classic.

I can’t wait to see what Baz Luhrmann does with Jay Gatsby’s story. I hope I enjoy it as much as I did Moulin Rouge, especially since The Great Gatsby has the same kind of decadence that was present in that wonderful musical. I have high hopes for this movie, and I am praying that my hopes are not dashed by Hollywood (as they have been so often in the past). So far, reviews are mixed, but I don’t really put too much stock in reviews. (The original Star Wars trilogy was widely panned by reviewers. Those people were made of stupid.) Either way, I’ll get to look at Leo DiCaprio on the big screen, and that’s always fun!

Speaking of fun, here’s a trailer for the movie adaptation of The Great Gatsby to whet our appetites for the movie…which is in theaters today!

Perfect Scoundrels

Warning:  Read Ally Carter’s Heist Society and Uncommon Criminals before proceeding. The third book in this series, Perfect Scoundrels, is not a stand-alone novel! You need prior knowledge of the characters to really grasp what’s going on!

It’s my last day of spring break, and, to be totally honest, I am not ready to go back to school. Don’t get me wrong. I love my job, most of the people I work with, and my students…but this week has been kind of awesome. I’ve shopped, taken lots of naps, watched what some would say is way too much Doctor Who, and I’ve read several fantastic books. One of those books, Perfect Scoundrels, the third book in Ally Carter’s Heist Society series, has me wondering how I would fare as part of a crew of top-notch thieves. For a rather large woman, I’m often overlooked in a crowd, so I think I would be great at gathering intel. I’m also fairly decent with computers and research, so that’s another strength. I’m horrible, though, when I have no plan, and you can forget anything that requires even the smallest amount of athletic prowess. So, I guess, at least for the time being, I’ll stick with being an elementary school librarian and part-time book blogger. Oh well…I have my Knight Reader persona for now.

If you’ve read Heist Society and Uncommon Criminals (and I assume you have if you’re still reading this), you probably have something of a crush on the character of Hale. Who wouldn’t? He’s cute, rich, funny, talented, and totally loyal to Kat and her merry band of thieves. So what could possibly happen to cause this seemingly perfect guy to go completely off the rails?

In Perfect Scoundrels, Hale is forced to finally deal with his family after the death of his beloved grandmother, Hazel. Kat doesn’t know how to help him through this, especially when it becomes crystal clear that she does not fit into his high society lifestyle. When Hale is named Hazel’s heir, though, Kat finds herself drawn into a bigger mystery than any she’s ever faced before. Why would Hazel leave her company to a teenager? And why would she leave her oldest, dearest friend out of her will? Something is up, and Kat is left to figure things out. But can she do this without Hale knowing? And if he finds out, what could it mean for their somewhat tenuous relationship?

As Kat and her crew begin to put the pieces together of the events surrounding Hazel’s death, a tale of corporate espionage comes into focus. She discovers that Hazel’s will might have been an elaborate forgery. What will this mean for Hale? And how can Kat prove that the will is a fake when the person who is sabotaging the Hale family seems to always be one step ahead of her?

Kat and crew will have to pull the biggest con of their lives if they have any hope of restoring order to Hale Industries and reclaiming the boy who has come to mean so much to all of them…but most especially to Kat. She feels Hale drifting away from her and toward the life and family he was born into. Can she expose the truth of what’s going on while keeping the boy she’s come to love? Can she convince him that his real family is the one he’s chosen? No matter what, Kat will have to pool every resource, every family member, every friend she’s ever known to reveal the truth of Hazel’s will. The real question is…will it be worth it if she ends up losing Hale? Find out when you read Perfect Scoundrels, the thrilling third book in Ally Carter’s Heist Society series!

Perfect Scoundrels is an excellent book, and it provides a lot of insight into the enigmatic character of W.W. Hale the Fifth. (We still don’t know what his initials stand for, though. Dare I hope we’ll find out in future books?) We learn that his nickname in the moneyed world of Manhattan is Scooter…which totally doesn’t fit the Hale I’ve come to know in previous books. We also learn a lot about how he and Kat met and how he interacts with his family (the majority of whom are cold, greedy snobs.) In my opinion, readers also discover a bit about just how much Hale really means to Kat. (Even Kat didn’t realize just how much she cared for him until she was in danger of losing him.) Kat also realizes how much it means to have friends and family who are always there for her. Even though she’s part of a family of thieves, they’re an honorable group, and family means everything to them. It’s touching.

I really hope that we haven’t heard the last of Kat, Hale, Gabrielle, Simon, Angus, Hamish, Uncle Eddie, and assorted other colorful characters. There’s already a novella that combines the world of Heist Society with Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girls series. It’s called Double Crossed, and I read it yesterday before I began Perfect Scoundrels. It’s a pretty cool story, and it leads me to hope that these two worlds will intertwine once more.

If you like mysteries or tales of teenagers with very little adult supervision and seemingly unlimited resources, you definitely want to check out the entire Heist Society series. You may have to suspend reality a bit while reading these books, but the stories will definitely keep you guessing, and you’ll find yourself eager to see what happens next. It’s kind of like Ocean’s Eleven for the YA crowd.

For more information on Ally Carter, the Heist Society series, and several other books, visit her website at http://allycarter.com/. There’s also tour information and how to interact with the author through Twitter and Facebook. All you visual people may also like the book trailer from Hyperion Teens below. Have fun!

Masque of the Red Death

A couple of days ago, I finished reading Bethany Griffin’s Masque of the Red Death. This novel is loosely based on Edgar Allan Poe’s work of the same name. When I started reading this book, I was really excited about it and anticipated it only taking me a short while to read. That was almost a month ago.

Those who know me can probably guess why it took me a little longer to read this book, but, for you casual followers of Knight Reader, I’ll clue you in. As the title suggests, this book is very dark and deals with a lot of death. I just couldn’t handle that due to recent events. Nothing about this book is light or even remotely hopeful, and I needed something that could lift my spirits more than Masque of the Red Death could ever pretend to. During the past couple of days, though, I decided that I needed to go ahead and finish this book so that I could move on to something else. I will tell you that I probably would have loved this book had I read it at any other time in my life. Unfortunately, I didn’t, and I just couldn’t find it in me to enjoy a book that featured such a seemingly hopeless situation. I may revisit the book later, but, at least for right now, Masque of the Red Death just didn’t do it for me.

20130317-153710.jpg

In this very loose post-Apocalyptic adaptation of the Poe work, Araby Worth is the privileged daughter of the world’s most valued scientist. The world has been ravaged by a horrible plague, and only the wealthy can afford the life-saving masks that are the only defense. Araby lost her brother to the plague years ago, and she spends her days and nights numbing herself to the pain of existence without her beloved twin.

Things are changing in the city, though. Forces are at work that will challenge the dictatorial Prince Prospero’s rule. Some of those forces are aiming for a society where every citizen, regardless of wealth, has access to the much-needed (and way-too-expensive) life-saving masks. One faction, though, seems to be convinced that only war–and more death–can put an end to the plague that is decimating the population.

But what will happen when another plague, a more deadly disease known as the Red Death, begins sweeping across the city? Is there any way to save the people of the city? And how does Araby fit into all of this? What more will she have to sacrifice for the good of those around her? Find out what happens when the masks are stripped away when you read Bethany Griffin’s Masque of the Red Death.

While this book wasn’t really my cup of tea, it will definitely appeal to fans of gothic fiction. Definitely market this one to fans of Edgar Allan Poe. It’s not a happy book, but it does provide an escape from everyday life. It also raises some interesting questions about access to resources, bioethics, and what society would/could look like if a biological weapon or pandemic disease were to be released. Something to think about.

If you want to keep reading Araby’s story, Masque of the Red Death is only the first book in this series. The second book, Dance of the Red Death, is due to be released this July, and there’s also an eBook novella, Glitter & Doom, which I think is already out. As for me, I’m going to give myself some time to digest this book a bit more. Maybe I’ll feel differently about it by July, and I’ll be able to give the sequel a try. Only time will tell.

For those who do want to learn more about this series, consider visiting the author’s website.

Timeless

This post is going to be a short one.  Why, you ask?  Well, because it’s my birthday, and I want to spend the rest of it having a Big Bang Theory marathon.  Anyway…I finished reading Timeless by Alexandra Monir earlier today.  If you follow this blog at all, you probably know that I’m not a huge fan of time travel fiction.  That hasn’t changed, but I will say that I enjoyed this story.  I also enjoyed the glimpses I received of New York City life throughout the past century.  So much has changed while so much has remained the same…

After a horrible tragedy turns Michele Windsor’s whole world upside down, she is sent to live with her wealthy, estranged grandparents in their Fifth Avenue mansion in New York City. Michele is not sure why her mother chose these people–who’ve never shown an interest in Michele or her mother–as her guardians. Michele just knows she’s not ready for this huge change in her life. Well, an even bigger change is on the horizon…

After Michele receives an mysterious key and finds an old diary, she is somehow transported from 2010 to 1910. Michele can only be seen by certain people in her travels through time…and one of them will totally capture her heart.

Philip Walker is just as enraptured by Michele as she is by him. But how can their love exist when neither belongs in the other’s time? Is there a way? And what force is allowing Michele to travel through time anyway? What family secrets will Michele uncover on her journeys, and can she find a way to stay with the love of her life? Read Timeless by Alexandra Monir to discover that real love can cross all boundaries…even time itself.

I truly enjoyed this book (and I honestly didn’t think I would). I was pleasantly surprised by how the timelines in the story connected, and I appreciated the discussion of Albert Einstein’s theories of time travel contained within the book. As I said previously, I loved the glimpses of old New York, and I also liked how history and music played into how events unfolded for Michele and Philip. (I was a music major for a while in college, and I started my career in education as a history teacher, so this was even more awesome for me.)

If you think you’d enjoy Timeless as much as I did, I invite you to check it out. You can also look forward to more of Michele’s story in the sequel, Timekeeper, due out in December 2012. To learn more about Timeless and author Alexandra Monir, visit http://www.alexandramonir.com/. You can even download some of the music featured in Timeless! Pretty cool!

Heist Society

Before I begin writing about my latest read, I’d like to wish everyone who takes the time to read this blog a happy Thanksgiving.  I am thankful for all of you, and I appreciate each and every comment posted (and even those of you who’ve never made a comment but still, for some reason, care what I think about books).  Knight Reader started as a way for me to keep track of what I’ve read, but it’s quickly grown into a passion, and my readers definitely help to make this more than a hobby.

Now, on with the show…

I just finished reading Heist Society by Ally Carter.  I’ve been meaning to read this one for a while, and I finally picked it up this weekend when I was in the mood for something kind of light. While this was a light, fast read, Heist Society was also engaging, fun, and suspenseful.  The story is kind of a blend of Gossip Girl and Ocean’s Eleven, and, even though I’m adamantly against crime of any kind (except the occasional breaking of the speed limit), Heist Society makes art thief seem glamorous and terrifying at the same time.  I would be a horrible thief—I get very nervous when things don’t go according to plan—but the teens in this book make it seem so effortless, much the way Danny Ocean and his crew did in Ocean’s Eleven (and Twelve and Thirteen).  But things weren’t so smooth at the beginning…

 

All Katarina Bishop wanted to do was leave her old life as a thief behind.  To do that, however, she had to pull off one more con—scam her way into the best boarding school in the country.  Well, she did, and Kat’s life was boring normal for a while…until circumstances pulled her back into the life and family she left behind.

Kat’s father, a master thief himself, has been accused of stealing a very valuable private art collection.  But the cops aren’t the ones after him.  No, a more sinister character is after Kat’s father.  This bad guy wants his paintings back, and he wants Kat to bring them to him.  There’s just one problem…Kat’s dad didn’t steal the paintings.  But who did?  And can Kat find out and clear her father’s not-so-good name?

As Kat and her motley crew, including the handsome, rich, and enigmatic Hale, travel the world, it becomes clear that to prove her father didn’t steal the paintings, they will have to find out who did…and steal the paintings back.  Can Kat pull off the biggest theft in her family’s history with a teenage crew?  Does she even want to?  Will she be able to leave everything behind again when/if she completes this job?  And is there more to these paintings than meets the eye?  Dive into the mystery when you read Heist Society by Ally Carter.

I really enjoyed this book, and I look forward to further adventures of Kat and crew in the sequel, Uncommon Criminals, which is already out.  Even though I did wonder where most of the parents were throughout this entire book, the story was still thought-provoking and entertaining.  Male and female readers from middle school on up will enjoy this one.

For more information on Heist Society and other books by Ally Carter, visit http://allycarter.com/.