Sunday, December 21, 2008

Sunday Salon: A Week with the Cullens

My town was blessed at the beginning of last week with two days of nearly nonstop rain. The area desperately needs hydration and fall never seems quite complete without a few storms coming this way. Days like that only increase my desire for curling up with a book on the couch or cozying up under the covers in bed and reading for as long as I want. Unfortunately, duty called and I did have to brave the roads and go to work.

Still, I was able to spend some time lost in the written world, making my escape to another place if only for a short time. It wasn't my intention to spend so much time with the Cullens and Bella Swan, but that is where my reading took me. I managed to finish Stephanie Meyer's New Moon, Eclipse and Breaking Dawn this past week, even fitting in the portion of Midnight Sun that the author has posted on her website. Cold, rainy and overcast weather seemed a fitting backdrop for reading the rest of the popular series.

I am not going to write my usual reviews for any of these books nor will I be providing summaries of the books (you can read my review of the first book in the series, Twilight, here). I have been working them through my mind, trying to think of what I might say, but each time I come up empty. These books have garnered so much attention, bad and good and everything in between in recent weeks, months, and even years. Readers have analyzed, criticized and raved about these books beyond what I would have imagined possible--or even found necessary. I have followed discussions that end in bitterness as those who love the books defend them at every turn and those who do not care for the books berate them and rip the series apart, finding fault in every corner. The passion, whether out of love or disgust, the series brings out in people is, well, amusing to me.

I am not trying to minimize the impact the books have on anyone nor am I saying that people should not have strong opinions. I do like it when books get attention and encourage discourse. I just find it to be a fascinating process: which books are put on that pedestal, how the public reacts to those books, and how the craze and trends evolve. There are those people who shake their head in wonder at such hoopla and others who jump right on the wagon to see what it is all about. It is an interesting phenomena all the way around.

Reading a book is an intimate and personal process. We each are drawn to different aspects of a book, repelled or pulled in for different reasons. A character that I may find appealing may not be appealing to someone else. How I perceive a character could be quite different from how someone else perceives that same character. There is nothing wrong with that, of course. It is just one of the many facets that makes reading and the discussion of books all that more intriguing. I have enjoyed reading the various reviews of the Twilight Series immensely. If I have one regret, it is that I paid too much attention to them before reading the series for myself.

I put off reading the Twilight Series until after the fourth and final book of the series came out. I went back and forth about reading the series at all for quite a while, weighing the positive with the negative. I like vampire fiction. I don't especially care for young adult fiction, however, and too much romance bores me. I was not sure what I would think of this young adult vampire romance series. I took a chance and dived in, deciding to ride the wave like so many others.

I finished the series feeling satisfied. The Twilight Series was a good escape for me. It was just what I needed at the time in my life when I read it. Sure, Bella is annoying as all get out (I was about ready to pull my hair out a few times, especially in New Moon), and I wasn't quite put under the same spell by Edward or Jacob that so many fans seem to have been. Of all the books, I liked Eclipse the best. It flowed the smoothest and was the most suspenseful and action-oriented. I have no major issues with Breaking Dawn, which has garnered a lot of criticism among readers everywhere. I did not feel the same sense of betrayal by the author that so many others have expressed. It seemed a fitting finale, in my mind, although there were a few minor things I might prefer had been done differently. I especially enjoyed the last 300 or so pages of that final book--even holding my breath on a few occasions as events played out.

I liked Stephanie Meyer's take on the vampire world. It is always interesting to see what direction an author will go when creating his or her own stories around the fictional creatures. Will the author stick with tradition and borrow from myths already written or go down a completely new path, recreating the history and image of the vampire, different from we all have come to expect? In Stephanie Meyer's case, she borrowed from the old as well as created anew, and, for her series, it worked well.

I nearly did not read the partial draft of Midnight Sun after reading the author's note Stephanie Meyer included before she offered the link on her website. I feel a little guilty that I went forward anyway, despite the author's preference that I not. Midnight Sun is basically Twilight from Edward Cullen's perspective. I have mixed feelings about whether the book is necessary at all, mostly in the direction of hoping the author will leave things the way they are, but that really is not for me to say. The author has to do what she feels and thinks is right--it is, after all, her story to tell. The author has put the completion of Midnight Sun off indefinitely after a good portion of it landed on the internet against her wishes.

Overall, I found the Twilight Series entertaining and fun. For those who like comparisons: no, I did not enjoy it as much as J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter Series and it will never live up to Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire Series. Twilight will not be counted among my favorites, although I imagine it will linger for quite a while in my memory, and I may even find myself rereading the series someday. I enjoyed the time I spent in Stephanie Meyer's world and am glad I decided to take the trip.

Week in Review:
Chunkster Challenge Wrap Up
Review of Baby Shark by Robert Fate
Bookish Chatter

Happy Reading!

27 comments:

  1. I enjoyed your musings on the Twilight Series. You have definitely taken the high road here, and I appreciate that. I am not overly emotional about the series, one way or the other, although I have enjoyed the journey. My biggest hot button on the series, I guess, is that many fourth and fifth graders in my kids' school are reading it, my daughter feels peer pressure to read it, and I don't think it is appropriate for this age group. For me it was a nice escape from the more serious things I read!

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  2. I still need to pull the first three books of the series off the TBR shelves, but I've enjoyed your take on the whole thing.

    I sort-of lucked out and didn't have to drive in the stormy weather last week - I had planned a few days off anyway. However, my car ended up going into the shop until Tuesday afternoon, so I was forced to stay at home! No question that we need the rain here, though.

    Have a good week, Wendy - hope you're finally getting some time off :-)!

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  3. I read the first book before all the hullabaloo and, frankly, didn't care for it. Didn't read any of the sequels.

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  4. I read the first one and enjoyed it okay but haven't read the others yet. I'm waiting to find them at the library since I don't want to pay for them.

    The kids at school said the second one was not very good so that's turning me off.

    Hope you have a nice holiday!

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  5. Wendy, I completely get where you are coming from on the Meyers books. I've read the first one and found it okay enough to read the others. I wasn't passionate about it and I know a few who are. I am so glad you like the Harris books. I bought the first one a few weeks ago and can't wait to dive in.

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  6. Wendy, I completely get where you are coming from on the Meyers books. I've read the first one and found it okay enough to read the others. I wasn't passionate about it and I know a few who are. I am so glad you like the Harris books. I bought the first one a few weeks ago and can't wait to dive in.

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  7. Wendy,
    Your post was quite good. I like how you put it out there that each person responds to characters, story lines etc. differently. That is why there are so many books are there for all the different tastes in the world. Excellent review.

    Just for the record: I really did enjoy my trip into Bella and Edward's world.

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  8. I still have no desire to read it but that's more due to my personal boycott of vampire books than anything else. We should all read what we feel like, no apologies or explanations required. Reviews & musings are fun though. ;)

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  9. I think if I read for a living or was independently wealthy and had all the free time in the world to read, I would read the series. As it is, my reading time is too precious to read something that I know is less than completely enjoyable. I read TWILIGHT and that was enough for my information. I don't mind YA, I've read and enjoyed Rachel Caine's Morganville Vampires and that's listed as YA. It has action and that is what I require.

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  10. The twilight fervor has taken over in many ways. I think it's a great escape series, but not as well-written as other books I've read. I enjoyed them nonetheless....they certainly kept me reading and buying hardcover books which is something I rarely do.

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  11. I'm glad you enjoyed the series, and I would have to agree that Eclipse is probably my favorite. This series is such good escapism that it seems to have become one of those re-reads that can comfort me and get me out of a slump. And speaking of slumps I probably need to go re-read Eclipse right now if I hope to get anything else read in December!!! lol

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  12. Thanks for posting something a little different about these books. It was great to read about your experience and thoughts instead of yet another summary.

    I haven't read the excerpt of Midnight Sun yet. I'm not sure if I will or not because I feel hesitant for the same reason you did. I'm also not all geared up for it, I feel like the series is finished and I'm happy with that.

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  13. Hi Wendy, I'm glad you enjoyed the series even though it's not your favourite.

    I hope to finish the HP series one of these days and perhaps try the Charlaine Harris ones.

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  14. I'm glad you find this series entertaining and fun, Wendy! I enjoyed reading them all, although I think they pale in comparison with JK Rowling's Harry Potter series. There're so much more intrigue, tension and emotional issues with the latter.

    I haven't read Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire series but I'm hoping to catch up on them in the near future!

    Hope you've a wonderful weekend, Wendy! :)

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  15. I read Twilight long ago when the third book wasn't relased and besides there is not much hype of the series in India anyway. I loved Twilight and Eclipse, New moon not so much. I am waiting to read Breaking Dawn though.

    Glad you enjoyed the series. I will have to look into the southern series you have mentioned. Never heard of those before.

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  16. Sandy - Thank you so much, Sandy. It really is a fun series and I am glad I read it. I am sorry your daughter is feeling peer pressure to read the series. My mother was telling me that several of her 1st grade girls are already catching onto the trend, even though they cannot yet read or fully understand the books. I'm sure the movie played some part in that though.

    Florinda - I'll be curious to read what you think of the series when you do get to it. It seems they bring out a lot of different emotions in people. :-)

    I am glad you avoided driving in the poor weather. It was pretty bad out there--you know how So Cal drivers are. I am glad your car is fixed, even though it cost a pretty penny.

    I only have to work the next three days and then I have some time off to recover. I'm hoping things will be really quiet at work this week since we're even more short staffed than before. It's going to be really tight until after the new year, at least.

    Booklogged - It's definitely not a series that appeals to everyone. Good thing there are plenty of other books out there. :-)

    Linda - I understand that. And the libraries really could use the business right now. :-)

    Kristy - I do hope you enjoy the Sookie books. They're one of my favorite series.

    Staci - Thank you so much! I really found it hard to think of what to say about these books. I am glad you enjoyed the books too. They really were compelling, weren't they? I had a hard time putting the books down. Probably why I flew threw them so quickly. LOL

    Carrie K - Exactly! Thank goodness there are so many choices of books out there for all kinds of tastes. And I agree; no one should have to apologize for reading what they do.

    Vickie - The series has struck a chord with quite a number of people, but a few have been turned off as well. I don't blame you for not wanting to waste your time on something you don't think you will like. I wouldn't want to do that either. Our time is precious.

    Serena - It's everywhere! LOL I walk into just about any bookstore and Twilight is staring me in the face. It's a bit overwhelming. I agree with you that the series isn't all that well written, but it sure was a fun ride, wasn't it? And like for you, I had a hard time putting them down. That says something right there.

    Andi - And here I was afraid Eclipse would be everyone's least favorite. :-) I've been having so many people buzzing in my ear that the books would only get worse as I went. LOL Ugh. I admit that I'm glad to have read the series and have it behind me if only because I can now think for myself. Haha!

    I was thinking the same thing about this series being great as a comfort read. And I admit that I'll probably be using the movie for the same purpose. :-)

    Andrea - I figure too that everyone's already got a good idea of what the series is about. And I'm not sure I could have talked in detail about the books without giving away spoilers.

    I hate that the author's trust was betrayed like that in regards to Midnight Sun. I agree with you though, the series seems complete without it.

    Alice - Everything can't make my favorite's list, right? :-) I hope you enjoy the rest of the Harry Potter series. Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire series is definitely more adult oriented, but it is fun. I hope you enjoy it if you do try it.

    Melody - Nothing can compare to Harry Potter. :-)

    I hope you have a great weekend too!

    Eliza - I wish there wasn't so much hype here about the series either, but then again, it has been interesting to follow. :-)

    I'll be curious to know what you think of the Southern Vampire series if you do give it a try.

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  17. I read the first book, Twilight, earlier this year for a book club. It was an enjoyable, escapist read but I didn't want to rush right out and read the rest of the series. If the folow up books happen to find their way to my TBR shelf, I would eventually read them. :)

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  18. What a great post about the individual perceptions we readers bring to the books we read. I was surprised at the belated attention the series received; it was like a surge as the third book came out. I read the first one when it was published and didn't read the 2nd one until this year. I think that was enough for me...enjoyable, but not demanding further attention.

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  19. This is exactly like the DaVinci Code phenomenon. Only with a YA book. Some books resonate, for who know what reason, with readers and they skyrocket to the bestseller list and become a "must read." There's no rhyme or reason why some books do this or not, it's probably more where people are in their lives, in the world.

    I didn't know there was a book from Edward's point of view, and honestly I think it's good she's not going to finish it. It struck me the moment you mentioned it that it was just another easy buck for her to make, that people would buy it because of what it is, not necessarily because it's any good. Why do we need a book from his point of view anyway? I think it was pretty clear through Twilight how he felt about things.

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  20. Nicely said. I recently read Twilight and enjoyed it but it wasn't amazing for me. I am excited to continue on with the series though.

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  21. Hi Wendy, just thought I'd let you know that I couldn't contain my curiosity any more, so I placed an order at Amazon for a boxed set (books 1 to 7) of the Southern Vampire series. It's only US$42, including shipping! I think it's a great bargain and I can't wait to get my hands on them. LOL.

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  22. I have the Twilight series in my TBR. Eventually I will get to it. Right now, I'm trying too work my way through the Sookie Sookhouse series.

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  23. Mango Missives - I hadn't really expected to be bitten by the Twilight bug right when I did, but it must have been the right time for me.

    Jenclair - Thank you! It's definitely gotten more attention since the movie came out last month. I was surprised by the number of people who saw the movie first and have decided to read the books as a result. I shouldn't be since movies do tend to draw a bigger crowd then books.

    Karen - Harry Potter comes to mind too.

    Samantha - I'll be curious to know what you think as you continue through the series.

    Alice - Haha! I hope you enjoy them, Alice. I just loaned a copy of the first Sookie book to a friend of mine who another friend of ours has talked into trying. Hopefully she won't regret it. And I hope you don't either! Enjoy!

    Yvonne - Enjoy your time with Sookie!

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  24. How fun that you went ahead and read the rest of the books in the series. I enjoyed your musings on the series as a whole and how we all react differently to certain stories and characters- which is so true!
    It sounds like I may have to try Charlaine Harris' series at some point. :P

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  25. Nat - It seemed like the thing to do at the time. :-)

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  26. I'm a little angry about how Midnight Sun was treated so I probably won't get around to reading it.

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  27. Jen - I don't blame you. It's really a shame that someone posted the draft without her permission initially. Had she herself not posted it on her own website, I probably would have not read it either.

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