Merry Christmas 2011!

Hi everybody! Here’s wishing you guys a Merry Christmas! :) I know I’ve not updated this blog for several months now. I hope to try writing more here, and reading books too of course, soon.
Happy Holidays!

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

Ponyboy Curtis, 14, has always been a ‘greaser’, a label given to the boys from the East Side who put grease in their hair. He has two older brothers, Darry and Soda who are always on the lookout for him. Darry is only 20 but is already working hard to provide for his younger siblings after their parents died in an accident. Ponyboy is much closer to Soda, a 16-year-old school dropout who works at the gas station.

The greasers usually get bullied and sometimes attacked by another group called the Socs (Socials) – ‘the West-side rich kids’ as what Ponyboy calls them. One day, Ponyboy finds himself surrounded by the Socs but was rescued by his gang. He was lucky this time because his friend, Johnny, had been jumped by the Socs who beat the life out of him. Johnny has become a much more nervous person since the incident.

That’s the life that Ponyboy knows. He is a good student at school and is on his way to become a track star. But he is a ‘greaser’ who cannot get along with the Socs. There is the difference between the two groups in terms of class, society and lifestyle. Ponyboy usually hangs out with his brothers or close friends such as Johnny, Two-Bit Matthews, Steve and Dally.

However, something unexpected happens when Ponyboy and Johnny come face to face with a group of Socs in which one of them had beaten up Johnny before. The group was not happy that their girlfriends had preferred the company of the greasers during an outing to the movies. They then confronted the two young boys not knowing what happens next – an occurance which will spark many changes after that.

I have always wanted to read The Outsiders because I know it won awards and was listed as one of the highly recommended books for young adults. Moreover, I was impressed that the author, S.E. Hinton, began writing the book when she was only 15 years old.

The important themes in the story are on the different social classes and stereotyping. We also read about friendship and family values as well as the sacrifices that the characters are willing to make for one another. For example Darry skipping college to instead work at two jobs to make sure his younger brothers, especially Ponyboy, are well taken care of.

This is an honest book that will give readers an unforgettable insight into the trials and tribulations of the characters. I also liked the way the book ended.

Oh, I will be sure to watch the 1983 movie version which starred C. Thomas Howell, Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez, Matt Dillon, Tom Cruise, Patrick Swayze, Ralph Macchio and Diane Lane.

Day 4 – 30-Day Book Meme

This is the fourth post for the 30-Day Book Meme.

Day 04 – Favourite book of your favourite series

In Day 3’s post, I picked the Harry Potter books as my favourite series. So I’ll now pick Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban as my favourite book of my favourite series.

Why this book? I guess it’s because of the affectionate bond and relationship between Harry and his godfather, Sirius. In the beginning, Harry thought Sirius murdered his parents but realised after that that his allegations were wrong. It turned out that Sirius was Harry’s godfather, making him the only other friendly ‘relative’ that Harry ever had. I guess that’s about it about why I liked the book. I haven’t read it in years so I can’t elaborate more on it. :/

Previous questions and answers:

Day 01 – The best book you read last year
Day 02 – A book that you’ve read more than 3 times
Day 03 – Your favourite series

The Cardturner by Louis Sachar

I really enjoyed The Cardturner even though almost the entire story revolved around the card game of bridge, a game that I know nothing about.

Alton Richards, 17, has a very rich Uncle Lester who is also very old. Alton’s parents always prompted him to tell his uncle over the telephone that he (Uncle Lester) was his favourite uncle and that he (Alton) loved him. The only time Alton met his uncle was when he was six years old during the uncle’s 65th birthday party.

Uncle Lester’s health deteriorates, leaving him blind but still having a sharp mind nevertheless. He hires Alton to be his cardturner at bridge games four times a week. All Alton has to do is sit at the bridge table with his uncle beside him and turn the cards on his uncle’s behalf.

Alton was initially not jumping for joy at spending so much time with his elderly uncle at bridge games but finds himself being drawn to the game. He would watch how his uncle plays at the bridge club and then go home to share with his younger sister, Leslie, of the new things he has learnt.

He then meets Toni Castaneda who is closer to Uncle Lester than Alton or his family is with the uncle. Alton feels jealous with their closeness at first but soon discovers that he enjoys playing bridge and spending time with Toni.

The Cardturner is definitely an enjoyable read. It’s written from Alton’s point of view and I liked the short chapters as well as his easygoing personality which is reflected in the storytelling. There are also simple explanations on the basics of bridge in random parts of the book. You can skip them if you don’t want to know how bridge is played but only want to know what is going on in the story.

I really disliked Alton’s parents. They were obviously only eyeing Uncle Lester’s money and probably couldn’t care less for him. I didn’t like the way they kept telling Alton that he had to say something to Uncle Lester in order for the family to be included in his will. I’m not sure if I liked Alton but I found the characters of cranky Uncle Lester and Leslie endearing.

To me, bridge was a game played by a group of people. That’s all I know about it. And guess what? I still have no idea how to play the game BUT now I do know the basics of the game as well as the terms and phrases associated with it, thanks to the simple lessons given in the book. I didn’t realise that I would like the book so much. I don’t think that just because the book is about bridge that it should intimidate readers who have no interest in the game, like me. I also liked the book because there are funny bits in it.

I realised that bridge was about partnerships and that it’s important for bridge partners to cooperate well during games. Alton learns a thing or two about it which spurs him to want to find out more about Uncle Lester’s ‘perfect bridge partner’. Yes, there are mysteries to be unraveled in this story!

This is the second book that I’ve read by Louis Sachar. The other book was Holes, which I read and enjoyed around four years ago. He has another book, Small Steps, which is the sequel to Holes.