Thursday, December 29, 2011

In Which I Say Goodbye (Temporarily)

Hi, guys.

I have some unfortunate news.

The charger for my computer broke, so, at the moment, I'm unable to write new posts. I'm actually writing this post on our computer at work, and it is sloooooow. I hope to get a new charger by the first week of January, so you'll probably hear from me then.

Just in case I won't be able to access to another computer, I'm going to greet you all in advance: Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

This is me wishing you and your families a Merry Christmas.

I hope you get the books in your wishlist. If you didn't ask for books (thought I can't imagine why you wouldn't), I still hope you get something you want this Christmas--a promotion, a bonus, boyfriend, a shirt, whichever floats your imaginary boat.

Most of all, I hope you stay safe and happy and beautiful. Cheers!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

2011 End of Year Book Survey

The 2011 End of Year Book Survey is hosted by The Perpetual Page-Turner. I actually participated last year, and I can’t believe I’m writing down my answers for all these bookish questions for the second time.

For starters, I never thought I would be able to maintain this blog for more than a month. I have had an eclectic book blog, a YA book blog, a writing blog, and around three or so personal blogs. None of them survived for more than six months. Who knew I just needed to talk about classics to fully commit to blogging?

1. Best Book You Read In 2011?

This is so difficult, because I read a ton of great books this year. I’m cheating here but:
For YA, it’s a tie between Saving Francesca by Melinna Marchetta and I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak. I saw myself in Francesca from Saving Francesca and Ed from I Am the Messenger. Both characters aren’t really sure of themselves yet, and are still trying to find their way.

For classics, it’s a tie between The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath and The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton. For more in depth reasons why I loved both books, you can check out my reviews here and here.

2. Most Disappointing Book/Book You Wish You Loved More Than You Did?

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark wasn’t really disappointing. I just wished I loved it more. It has all the elements I love in a book—intelligent female characters, wit, and mystery. For some reason, the book had no effect on me whatsoever, and I promptly forgot about it after I finished it. I hope things will change after I reread it.

3. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2011?

Definitely Rebecca, hands down. I’ve had the book for over two years, and I tried to read it five times or so. I always fell asleep without finishing the second chapter. This year, I really decided to give the book a shot, because of the R.I.P VI Challenge, and—surprise!—I absolutely loved it.

4. Book you recommended to people most in 2011?

I think I pushed a lot of books on people this year, namely Rebecca, The Bell Jar, and The Monk. I was never really interested in the aforementioned books, but, after I finished them, I would gladly shove them into other people’s faces.

5. Best series you discovered in 2011?

Best series? Does the Miss Marple series by Agatha Christie count? I read my first Miss Marple this year, and I’m definitely looking forward to the other books.

6. Favorite new authors you discovered in 2011?

A lot. Namely: Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, Edith Wharton, and Melina Marchetta. These authors have been around for years, but I just delved into their work this year. I hope to read more by all four this 2012.

7. Best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for you?

There is only one proper book for this question, and that would be All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque. I stay away from books that have anything to do with war like the plague. They’re mostly depressing and practically everyone dies. All Quiet on the Western Front completely changed my mind about ‘war’ books. I never thought a book about war would teach me to appreciate human life.

8. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2011?

That would probably be The Monk by Matthew Lewis. It’s very thick, but I finished this book in two days simply because I couldn’t put it down. The plot is crazy with implausible twists and turns, but YOU JUST HAVE TO FIND OUT what’s going to happen next.

9. Book you most anticipated in 2011?

I know all about the “hyped” books like The Night Circus and The Marriage Plot, but I don’t think I anticipated one book in particular.

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2011?

11. Most memorable character in 2011?

The nameless priest from The Power and the Glory. In my review, I said that I held my breath, willing him to survive. No other fictional character has ever felt as real to me as The Priest. I didn’t care that he didn’t exist, and that, if he did exist, we probably wouldn’t know or like each other. I just wanted him to live.

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2011?

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. His prose just feels like poetry, and I don’t think anyone can ever write as beautifully as he does.

13. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2011?

I read a ton of great books this year, but there can only be one real, sincere answer for this question. That would be Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar. There’s just something about Esther Greenwood, the protagonist, that really touched me. Maybe because we’re almost the same age? Maybe because we’re both wondering what to do with our lives? There were just so many instances while reading the book that I thought, “Yes, Esther. Yes to everything.”

14. Book you can't believe you waited UNTIL 2011 to finally read?

This is going to sound tiresome, but my answer, once again, is The Bell Jar. I only found a copy this year, and I only have one thing to say. You suck, National Bookstore. Y u no stock The Bell Jar?!?!

15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2011?

From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet. – The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

That quote defines me. Right now. At this point in my life.

16. Book That You Read In 2011 That Would Be Most Likely To Reread In 2012?

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. I sound like a cliché, don’t I?

17. Book That Had A Scene In It That Had You Reeling And Dying To Talk To Somebody About It? (a WTF moment, an epic revelation, a steamy kiss, etc. etc.) Be careful of spoilers!

The ending of Edith Wharton’s Ethan Frome. When I finished it, the look on my face said: What WTFery is this?!?! I didn’t know what to think, and, cliché as it may sound, I felt like the rug had been pulled from under my feet.

Book Blogging/Reading Life in 201

1. New favorite book blog you discovered in 2011?

Just one? Seriously? Once again, I’m cheating here, but I discovered a lot of great blogs this year. My new favorite books blogs are:

Reading Rambo – This blog is funny and witty with a ton of GIFs, and reviews of CLASSICS. Reading Rambo is also hosting a Norwegian Wood read-a-long this January which you should probably sign up for.
Every Book and Cranny – This blog is also about classics. It’s full of warmth and personality, and the passionate post on Thomas Hardy inspired me to shake the dust off my copy of Jude the Obscure.

2. Favorite review that you wrote in 2011?

Probably the one about Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. I sound mostly coherent in that review, which is cool.

3. Best discussion you had on your blog?

The best discussion on my blog this year would probably be On Getting Personal. In that post, we discussed why getting personal is necessary and almost unavoidable—even if/especially if you’re blogging about books. How you interpret and see things reveals so much about you as a person, without sharing information like where you live or your Social Security Number.

4. Most thought-provoking review or discussion you read on somebody else's blog?

But MMMOOOMMM, it's a GIIRRRLL book is a post by Amanda over at Dead White Guys. In the post, she discusses the bookish equivalent of dressing your child in blue if it’s a boy and pink if it’s a girl. Smart discussion with lots of great comments.

5. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?

Practically every Literary Blog Hop hosted by The Blue Bookcase is a great event to participate in. I also really enjoyed joining the Gothic Lit Tour hosted by the Classics Circuit, where I reviewed Frankenstein.

6. Best moment of book blogging in 2011?

Winning one of the books from Allie’s bloggiversary giveaway is probably the best blogging moment of 2011.

7. Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)?

Judging by the comments, the most popular post on my blog this year would probably be One Year Bloggiversary // In Which I Act Like a Total Sap. The comments really touched me, and showed me how generous the book blogging community can be.

8. Post You Wished Got A Little More Love?

None, really.

9. Best bookish discovery (book related sites, book stores, etc.)?

I want to say Goodreads, but I’ve had an account on Goodreads since 2010. I just didn’t use it that much.

10. Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?

I only joined one challenge this year, the R.I.P VI challenge. I read all four books required for the challenge in October, but didn’t review that last one until November. I’m not sure if it counts as completing the challenge or not.

Looking Ahead...

1. One Book You Didn't Get To In 2011 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2012?

Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy. This book feels so beautiful and tragic at the same time. I stepped away from it, because I have a feeling it’s going to break my heart.

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2012?

This isn’t a classic, but I cannot wait for The Fault in Our Stars by John Green to come out. He is one of my favorite writers ever, and I have a feeling TFOS will be EPIC. Epic, I tell you!

3. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging In 2012?

The one thing I hope to accomplish in 2012 in terms of reading is to make a huge dent in my TBR pile. It doesn’t look like a pile anymore. It looks more like a hill. In terms of blogging, I hope to keep blogging about more classics, and to, hopefully, post more. That’s basically it.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Thoughts: The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene

When I first saw a copy of The Power and Glory by Graham Greene at the bookstore, I only knew that it was considered Greene's magnum opus. I had no idea that the book contained strong religious themes, particularly about Roman Catholicism. I tend to stay away from books about Christianity, being a Roman Catholic myself, because I don't think I would be able to examine them objectively.

With that disclaimer out of the way, The Power and the Glory is about a "whisky priest" in Mexico during the anti-clerical purge in the 1920s. The nameless priest is in a particularly brutal state where all priests are being hunted down and executed. Not knowing why he stayed while most of his brothers fled, The Priest flees from village to village, performing baptisms, saying masses, and succumbing to alcoholism along the way.

The Priest is one of the most real characters I have ever encountered. In John Updike's introduction to the novel, he shares an anecdote about a Mexican woman who found herself praying for the priest, despite knowing that he was a fictional character. I couldn't agree more, because, like the Mexican woman, I was holding my breath, willing him to survive.

I think we have something of the whisky priest in all of us--with varying moments of weakness and glory. The Priest is too brave to escape, but too cowardly to surrender. He listens to confessions, but judges the sins of other people, turning them over in his hands like a Rubik's cube that he needs to figure out. The tug-of-war inside the priest is clearly depicted in this excerpt:
One mustn't have human affections—or rather one must love every soul as if it were one's own child. The passion to protect must extend itself over a world—but he felt it tethered and aching like a hobbling animal to the tree trunk. He turned his mule south.
This book definitely reaffirmed my belief that there is always a gray area. In my opinion, Roman Catholicism tends to be very black and white about the sins of its people, but we all have human failings. There will always be situations where you can't just stand back and say that a person is a sinner or a saint. The Priest is definitely both.

After I finished the book, I took a deep breath, and started reexamining my religious beliefs. I am what most people would call a lapsed Catholic. I believe in God, but I don't attend mass and I don't agree with some of the tenets of the Catholic church. All my life, I've gone to Catholic schools, and certain teachings have been ingrained so deep into my being that I don't even know if I believe them personally or if I believe them because I'm supposed to. My point is this: I'm still trying to figure things out for myself, sorting out the things I trust in and the things I don't. Maybe that's why this book had such a huge impact on me.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Shakespeare Reading Month

Allie from A Literary Odyssey is hosting the super-fabulous Shakespeare Reading Month this January, where bloggers from all over the world will read/read about Shakespeare. Basically, you can expect a ton of posts on Shakespeare and his works next month, so you can gird your loins. You can sign up until Dec. 31, 2011 right here.

I originally intended to read at least four Shakespeare plays this year, but I only managed to finish two--namely Hamlet and Much Ado About Nothing. I have no idea why I didn't read more, because I enjoyed the plays immensely. 2012 sounds like a great year to add more Shakespeare to my reading diet.

This January, I intend to read the following plays:
  • Macbeth - This play has been in my TBR pile for nearly a year now, and I haven't touched it all. It looks depressing beyond belief, but I am going to be an adult about this.
  • A Midsummer Night's Dream - I'm probably the only person in the world who doesn't know who Oberon is.
  • The Taming of the Shrew - One of my favorite movies of all time (Ten Things I Hate About You starring the late Heath ledger and Julia Stiles) was based on this play, and that's reason enough for me to want to read it.
P.S: If you don't like Ten Things I Hate About You, we can't be friends. Just kidding. Well, not really. A young pre-Inception Joseph Gordon-Levitt? Heath Ledger singing Can't Takes My Eyes Off You? How can you not like this movie? LOL.

Are you reading any Shakespeare this 2012? Also, all Shakespeare recommendations are welcome.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

One Year Bloggiversary! // In Which I Act Like a Total Sap

When I started this blog almost a year ago, I didn’t have a noble purpose in mind. Mainly, I just wanted to read classics, and the Internet seemed like a good place to get book suggestions. I didn’t want to open my eyes to the wonders of literature or to take another look at human nature. I wanted to blog about books, because I had too much free time on my hands.* That was it.

After I graduated from college, this blog became more and more important to me. I like to think that most people consider twenty-year-olds who read classics a novelty, but the truth is most of them think I’m weird.

Donna, the only friend I could enthusiastically converse with about Madame Bovary, went away to law school. I was left in my little town with no one to talk to about the magnificence of The Great Gatsby or the swoonworthiness (yeah, that's a word) of Mr. Rochester (particularly the Michael Fassbender edition). The blog became my only outlet for all my bookish thoughts. (Don’t get me wrong. I have great co-workers, but their idea of a great book is one that contains sparkly vampires. Death to Twilight!!!)

Looking back on all the books I read this year, I’m really thankful I started this blog. My first purpose was to be entertained, but I don’t think I’m exaggerating if I say that I’ve grown as a person. All because of Your Move, Dickens.

I’ve definitely become more open-minded. I never thought I would read anything by Tolstoy (ever), but I’m currently plodding through Anna Karenina.

Because of The Bell Jar, I realized that I’m not the only person in the world who feels aimless. A lot of people want to be so many things, and finally deciding on something feels too much like you’re giving up on all the other things.

The Sun Also Rises taught me that you have to face your problems head-on. Running away to a scenic Spanish village or getting drunk everyday won’t solve anything. After the beautiful scenery disappears from the view or once your hangover wears off, your problems will still be there.

By saying that it’s vile to use horses in the war, Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front made me realize how important every single human life is. If it’s vile to use horses in the war, then isn’t it viler to sacrifice human lives? I think that passage from the book will always stay with me.

All the people I’ve met so far in the blogging community have all been wonderful. You’re all so welcoming and warm, always ready to share your ideas about books and to suggest authors I might like. A ton of you made me see things about the books I read I wouldn’t have noticed otherwise. When I posted about Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings, the comments just blew me away. You people are all so smart that I have to think really hard while writing posts, just to come up with something semi-substantial to add to the table.

Also, your pictures of your TBR piles and book hauls make me feel better about my book-buying habits. I. AM. NOT. ALONE. LOL.

So, basically, I just want to say thank you to everybody who ever visited, commented on, or followed this blog. It’s been a great year.

*I started this blog because I had too much free time, but now I have to sacrifice at least two hours of sleep to maintain this blog. Funny how life works sometimes.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Latest Acquisitions: The Christmas Edition

Every time I walk into a bookstore, I just go crazy. I can almost hear this voice-over in my head saying, "We are now observing the species of Dorkuslosaurus in her natural habitat..." Yes, I am weird that way. (If you're wondering about my book-buying ban, phsaw! What book-buying ban are you talking about?!?! I am not guilty!)

Anyway, here are the books from my last haul (hopefully) for the year:

  • Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald - So excited for this one. Some bloggers have said that this book is better than The Great Gatsby, and I cannot even imagine how that is possible.
  • 1984 by George Orwell - This book has a very interesting first sentence. Check it out.
  • Silas Marner by George Eliot - I started reading this a couple of days ago, and I'm saving all my thoughts for a future post.
  • Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand - Cyrano was an actual person. Huh. I never knew that.
  • Naked Lunch by William Burroughs - Lots of sex and syringes and drugs and hallucinations and other things.
  • Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf - Judging by the summary alone, this book sounds incredibly boring. I'm hoping Virginia Woolf will change my mind.
  • One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn - Does anybody know how to pronounce Solzhenitsyn?!?!?!
The following books aren't classics (yet, I think), but they coincide with my 2012 goal to read more books by authors who are still walking the face of the earth:

  • The Club Dumas by Arturo Perez-Reverte - This book is like a mystery novel specially made for classic lovers. Dig this: The protagonist is a "detective" who hunts down rare editions for wealthy clients, and, somehow, he comes across the ORIGINAL MANUSCRIPT of The Three Musketeers.
  • The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster - Can you spell intimidating?
  • Life of Pi by Yann Martel - A tiger. A boy. An ocean. I'm not sure what to think or expect about this one.
And those are my latest acquisitions. What books have you bought lately?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Thoughts: To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

I finished reading To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf while sitting cross-legged on the floor of our locker room at work. I could have read it at the pantry like any other normal person, but the pantry is like the watering hole for all the people in our office. Friends come and go, conversations abound, and reading even a single page becomes virtually impossible.

We first meet the Ramsays and their guests while they’re all staying at a seaside vacation house. The first part of the book covers several days from their lives while they’re planning to visit a lighthouse. The second part, on the other hand, tracks down the characters ten years later, right after the end of World War I, and shows us how things have turned out for them.

I stated in a previous blog post that I absolutely hate stream of consciousness, but it seems that I have to eat my words. Again. That seems to be happening a lot these days. The book uses stream of consciousness, but, for some reason, I actually like it. Maybe because I can understand it? The writing style was a bit confusing at first, because I couldn't tell whose thoughts I was reading once in a while. After the first couple of chapters, though, I became familiar enough with the individual thought processes of the characters to know whose thoughts I was reading.

Virginia Woolf is one of those writers whose writing leaps of the pages. You can touch the book and almost feel the words throbbing. In the second page of my edition, you can find this sentence:
Such were the extremes of emotion that Mr. Ramsay excited in his children’s breasts by his mere presence; standing, as now, lean as a knife, narrow as the blade of one, grinning sarcastically, not only with the pleasure of disillusioning his son and casting ridicule upon his wife, who was ten thousand times better in every way than he was…
There’s something so visceral about the comparison between Mr. Ramsay and a knife. I can almost feel a shiny, steel blade in my hand, and I can see Mr. Ramsay in my mind’s eye—sharp and steely.

I also liked the portrayal of the marriage of the Ramsays. Mr. Ramsay is known as one of the great philosophers of his age, and is idolized by the young men from the universities. Mrs. Ramsay’s life, on the other hand, revolves around her eight children, and what their lives will be like in the future.

Just because Mr. Ramsay is a brilliant philosopher, however, doesn’t mean that he is more relevant than his wife. In fact, after his work is forgotten by the public, Mrs. Ramsay will still be remembered by their children and their guests, because she had such a huge impact on the lives of the people around her.

Lily Briscoe, one of the guests of the Ramsays at the seaside vacation house, is my favorite character from the book. She is a painter and doesn’t wish to marry, but, when she looks at the Ramsays, she wonders if she might be missing something vital.
Oh but, Lily would say, there was her father; her home; even, had she dared to say it, her painting. But all this seemed so little, so virginal, against the other.
Yes to everything, Lily. To The Lighthouse was released in 1927, but many women can still relate to what Lily’s going through. Yes, they might have careers and friends and lots of fun, but one question will always rise up. Is it enough?

Lastly, I’m still wondering about the almost mythical Lighthouse and what it could possibly stand for. The Lighthouse could stand for so many things for all the different characters in the book, but I believe it stands for all the things we’re aiming for—the things that always seem just a little bit out of reach. Like Lily and her art. Like Mr. Ramsay and his desire to be a genius, to reach Z instead of just Q.

Monday, December 12, 2011

2012 Reading Plans

2011 has been a great year in terms of reading and blogging. I made a lot of new friends in the blogging community, and read a ton of books that blew me away. Hopefully, 2012 will be a better reading/blogging year, and I hope to get a little headstart by listing down my reading plans.

First of all, I want to reread a ton of old favorites. There are so many books I claim as favorites, but I can hardly remember what they're about or why I liked them so much in the first place. Here are some old favorites I'd like to reread in 2012:
  • The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien - I actually want to reread the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy, but it took me four years to finish all three books. I'm starting small by rereading The Hobbit.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee - Every time a forum or a social networking site asks me about books, I always end up talking about this book. The truth is, I haven't reread it in years. Kind of makes me feel like a phony.
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald - I raved about this book in the first quarter of 2011, and promptly forgot about it. I just want to remind myself why I loved it so much, and, also, the 3D movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio is coming out next year. Soooooo excited.
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak - This book made me sob like Simba after Mufasa died. Must revisit.
  • All seven Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling - Do I even need to explain this one? My blog will not be complete without reviews of all seven Harry Potter books.
  • Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and Persuasion by Jane Austen - I first read these books before I discovered secondhand bookstores and Project Gutenberg, and I reread them about five times each. It's sad to think that I don't remember them much anymore.
This year, I mentioned in a blog post that I wanted to read at least 25 books from the Modern Library's Top 100 Novels of all time. If I include To the Lighthouse which I haven't finished yet, I've only read fourteen. Tsk. Tsk. I hope to read more books from the list next year. Yes, I think the list is a bit elitist, but I want to figure out why those books made it into the top 100 while so many others didn't. Here are some Modern Library books I intend to read next year:
  • Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  • The Postman Always Rings Twice by James Cain
  • Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
  • The Day of the Locust by Nathanael West
  • Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
And, of course, the books from my seemingly neverending TBR pile need to be tackled. I also intend to read more books by authors who are still, you know, alive.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Smooth Criminals Challenge

Ben over at Dead End Follies is hosting the Smooth Criminals challenge for the first time. I was actually a bit hesitant to join, because I've never read a "hardboiled" or "noir" classic before. It occurred to me, however, that I started this blog to acquaint myself with books I found intimidating, and that's what this challenge is about too.

Before I knew it, I was actually having fun finding books for all the different genres in this challenge. The difference between noir and hardboiled actually had me stumped for a while, but I found this essay which explained everything to me. (If I make a mistake while taking about hardboiled and noir classics, please blame me, and not the essay.)
  • The High Window by Raymond Chandler (Hardboiled Classic) - I have never read anything by Raymond Chandler, so I'm hoping this book will be a pleasant surprise.
  • The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain (Noir Classic) - Ditto.
  • The Green Mile by Stephen King (Prison Book) - When I was in high school, I went through a phase where all I read were Stephen King books, and The Green Mile was my favorite. I'm going to reread this to see if it's as good as I thought it was.
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray or The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde (Book written by a writer who did time) - Yes, Oscar Wilde did indeed go to jail for "gross indecency" with other men.
  • Lord of the Flies by William Golding (Book with psychopath protagonist) - To be honest, I have no idea if this book has a psychopath protagonist or not. While looking up books, I came across a Goodreads list called "books with psychopathic characters," and this book was #2. Good enough for me.
  • Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole (Gothic novel) - I have no idea what this book is about, but it's the shortest Gothic novel I've ever encountered. Cool.
  • The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins (Classic where the plot revolves around the crime) - I know only one thing about this book: It's about a moonstone which may or may not have been stolen.
  • The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington (The why the hell am I doing this to myself book) - It's not about a crime or anything like that but THIS BOOK WILL MAKE MY HEAD HURT.
I'm actually pretty excited about the books I picked for this challenge. There are a lot of authors in there that I've never encountered, and I'm itching to reread The Green Mile. To everyone else joining this challenge, good luck to us, and I'm looking forward to your thoughts.

What are you waiting for? Go sign up for this challenge at Dead End Follies right now.

    Wednesday, December 7, 2011

    Thoughts: Sleeping Murder by Agatha Christie

    I am an idiot.

    Sleeping Murder is the first Miss Marple mystery I ever read, and it turns out that this is actually the last Miss Marple mystery Agatha Christie ever wrote. So, if I accidentally encountered some spoilers about the previous books, I have no one to blame but myself.

    With that said, we shall bravely move on.

    The book is about Gwenda Reed, the wife of Miss Marple’s nephew. When she sees a house in the quaint, seaside town of Dillmouth, it immediately feels like home.

    After settling into the house, the young bride is surprised by the knowledge she has about a house—like the wallpaper within a cupboard that has been locked for almost twenty years. Soon, the creepy feeling of déjà vu becomes more sinister, and Miss Marple must step in to lead “the young people” away from danger.

    Practically every chapter is told from the point-of-view of a different character—Miss Marple’s, Gwenda’s, or some character whose significance we don’t understand yet. The funny thing is, we know what all the other characters are thinking, except for Miss Marple.

    Yes, I said that some chapters are told from her point-of-view, but we can only hear her talking and see what she’s doing. We can never really know what’s going in that head of hers, and I’m not sure whether Agatha Christie was cheating or not by doing this.

    And, boy, do these characters love discussing suspects and possible ways to catch them. There are pages and pages where the characters just sit around discussing this or that person, listing down the reasons why he or she would be a great murderer. I hated that, and I think would’ve preferred it if the characters stopped talking and got off their butts to do more snooping.

    By the middle of the book, I already had a suspect in mind, but I was glad to say I never saw the real murderer coming (with his figurative knife). The plot started out at a sluggish pace, but, by the last twenty pages or so, I couldn’t put the book down. I HAD TO KNOW WHO KILLED— Oops, not spoiling this book for you. Not even a little. I can see Agatha Christie books becoming an addiction, something you devour like Chiclets.

    Reading this book was like a breath of fresh air. Don’t get me wrong. I love the classics, but, after Dubliners and Heart of Darkness, this book was exactly what I needed. There’s probably a pearl of wisdom hidden in the pages of Sleeping Murder, but I didn’t think too hard about that. Trying to figure out who DID IT was enough for me.

    Rating: 3/5 I’m not starting a Miss Marple Fan Club or anything like that, but, hey, who doesn’t like a good mystery?

    Sunday, December 4, 2011

    Thoughts: Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

    Heart of Darkness is probably the most misleading book in existence. It's thin, barely 70 pages, and makes you think you can finish it in an hour or so. The book lulls you into a false sense of security regarding how well-read and intelligent you are.

    As soon as you get comfortable with the first few pages, it pulls the covering off your eyes, and you realize that this book will not be easy. In fact, this book will be pretty goddamn difficult.

    I know practically nothing about Belgium, King Leopold (King Leopold II?!?), and the Congo, and this book is about an Englishman on a steamboat in the Congo. It doesn’t ease you into the action or the context of the story. It drops you right into the middle of it—right into the controversy between the ivory agents and everyone wondering what happened to the oh-so-mysterious Kurtz.

    Yes, my friends, Kurtz might show up near the end of the book, but he’s a palpable presence right from the beginning.

    This book shows the effects of imperialism on Africa, and how being part of a screwed up system can screw you up as well. All the other white men are arguing over who gets more money (ivory) and more credit, while Kurtz, in his far corner of Africa, is going batshit crazy. Tah-dah. I get how Conrad deplored imperialism, but I didn’t find that impressive. Not at all.

    Sure, Conrad depicts how cruel the imperialists were to the Africans, but he portrays the latter with a sense of detachment. In some passages, he even refers to them as black things or black shadows in the wilderness. He doesn’t show them as individuals with feelings and thoughts.

    In one scene, Marlow grieves over the death of his black helmsman, but also refers to him as “machinery.” The fact that the Africans are humans is acknowledged, but they aren’t considered equals. (And don’t even get me started on how women are portrayed in this book. That’s for an entirely different blog post.)

    I still need more time to figure out what the heart of darkness really stands for. You know that feeling when a word is on the tip of your tongue, but you can’t quite figure out what it is yet? That’s exactly how I feel about this book, like I’ve figured it out but don’t know how to tell you.

    Does the heart of darkness refer to the evil acts of men in Africa? Or to the depravity of humans in general? A second read might clear things up, but I don’t think I’m rereading this book any time soon.

    Rating: 2/5

    Friday, December 2, 2011

    Literary Blog Hop: Recommended Reading for Non-Literature Lovers

    Literary Blog Hop

    For those of you who are new to my blog, welcome! Stay, have a virtual cup of tea or coffee, and please leave a comment if you're so inclined. Around these parts, we usually talk about classics.

    The Literary Blog Hop is a monthly blog hop open to blogs that primarily feature book reviews of literary fiction, classic literature, and general literary discussion. This week's question is:

    What work of literature would you recommend to someone who doesn't like literature?

    Every time a friend asks me to lend them a book, I always want to take them by the shoulders and say, “Yes! Once you get hooked on a book, you’ll just want more.” Then, I begin staring at my bookshelves, wondering what I’m going to recommend. For some reason, I end up thinking that this person’s reading life might depend on me. I might suggest a book he or she will hate, and, therefore, turn him or her off books for life. Yes, I know. I’m weird that way.

    Recommending a book to someone interested in literature is already difficult enough, but recommending a book to someone who—oh, god, I can barely type this—DOESN’T LIKE LITERATURE? Difficult doesn’t even begin to cover it.

    The first book I would probably suggest is The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano. I first heard about this book when Sasha reviewed it on her blog. The book’s basic premise is that people can sometimes be like twin prime numbers. Twin primes are “pairs of prime numbers that are close to each other, almost neighbors, but between them there is always an even number that prevents them from truly touching.” In real life, that even number can be our issues or hang ups, stopping us from truly connecting with each other.

    The Solitude of Prime Number is beautiful and sad, easy and difficult to read at the same time—easy because it’s told in pure, simple language and difficult because it’s surely going to break your heart. It’s the type of book you’re going to think about long after you’ve read it. Every time I see someone reading a Twilight book, I just want to grab it out of their hands and shove this book in their faces, saying, “You want a heartbreaking novel? A love story for the ages that’s more than just a love story? Read this!!!!”

    In a nutshell, books like The Solitude of Prime Numbers give me hope—that good books will still be created long after I’m gone, that people will always keep reading because books as amazing as The Solitude of Prime Numbers will always be around.

    What about you? What book will you suggest to non-literature lovers?

    Wednesday, November 30, 2011

    Thoughts: Dubliners by James Joyce

    I bought a copy of Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man when I was fifteen, read the first couple of chapters, put the book down, and never looked back. Rinse and repeat the last three steps, and that, my friends, is my history with the elusive James Joyce. When I found a copy of Dubliners and realized that I could actually UNDERSTAND the first couple of pages, I immediately bought it. The main thought running through my head: WE MEET AGAIN, JOYCE. We meet again. *Insert maniacal laughter here.*

    Before I go any further with this review, let me get this off my chest. Dubliners was depressing as hell. Almost all of the characters aim for something that will lift them up from the monotony of their daily lives or set them free from commitments they surprisingly found themselves buried in, and guess what? Almost all of them fail. In Araby, a boy tries his best to make it to a night market to buy something special for a girl he likes. The ending kind of broke my heart.

    I kowtow to Joyce, because he never condescended toward his readers. Dubliners might be the easiest thing-to-read a.k.a book by Joyce I’ve ever encountered, but the fact that it was written by James Joyce means that it’s still pretty freakin’ hard to get through. There was a certain short story in there about politicians (In hospitals? I have no idea what I’m talking about), and I didn’t understand a single thing. What I did understand, though, made me feel proud. I’ve gotten so used to modern authors who dumb down their books that this reading experience was pretty exciting—like the FIFA World Cup for literary nerds. Minus the hot guys.

    In the entire collection, aside from Araby and The Dead, the story that really made a mark on me was Eveline. The main character, Eveline, defines a woman who is stuck in the confines of her roles as a sister and a daughter. Life is hard, but Frank, Eveline’s boyfriend, serves as the light at the end of the tunnel. Frank wants Eveline to run away with him, and she must make a crucial decision. Escape to the unknown or face the known miseries of poverty and an alcoholic father? The resolution of this short story made me put the book down, and stare up at the ceiling for a while, asking myself what I would I have done if I were in her shoes.

    I actually thought I would hate this book, but I kind of liked it. Yes, the hopelessness of the characters’ lives was depressing, but it made me think. The short stories in Dubliners made me put the book down, so I could take a deep breath and think about the characters and what James Joyce is trying to tell me. Me, the reader. Me, the person. I have to say that was quite an experience.

    Rating: 3/5

    Monday, November 28, 2011

    An Ode to Secondhand Books

    I've always wondered how books reach my favorite secondhand bookstore. Don't get me wrong. I'm glad that someone out there decided to give up their copy of Anna Karenina which I now own, but these books always lead me back to the same question. Why?

    There are certain books, like my copies of The Awakening by Kate Chopin and The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway, that were obviously used for school. Scribbles, asterisks, and underlines abound in the pages of these books. I know marginalia drives some people crazy, but I love them. I feel like I'm in a classroom discussing classics I might not love but find fascinating nonetheless.

    Others contain more personal messages within their pages. 'Daisy, I hope you enjoy this. It's one of my favorite classics. Love, Carl' is written on the first page of my copy of Willa Cather's My Antonia. I wondered about Daisy and Carl. Were they just friends or was there something more? Why did Daisy give away something that seemed to mean a lot to Carl? What happened to these people?

    I will probably never know what happened to Daisy and Carl, or how The Awakening's previous owner fared in his or her class. The people who owned my books will always be faceless phantoms to me, and, because of that, they will never fail to fascinate me. That, for me, is the magic of secondhand books.

    Saturday, November 26, 2011

    Latest Acquisitions: Part Eight/In Which I Break My Book Buying Ban Again

    See, when I said that I wouldn't buy any more books until I finished all the books in my TBR pile, I was just pretending to be a fully-functional adult with a modicum of self-control.

    I cracked.


    It was payday and I was just browsing around my favorite secondhand bookstore, and... and... You know how these things go.

    Here are my latest acquisitions:
    • My Antonia by Willa Cather - Sounds very boring, but I have a feeling I'm going to eat my words once again.
    • Lord of the Flies by William Golding - Have been hankering after a copy of this book for ages, but refused to buy a new copy because it was too expensive for such a thin book.
    • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou - Have no idea what this one is about.
    • Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt - Children's classic I've heard so many great things about. Just kidding. I saw the movie trailer starring Rory Gilmore a couple of years ago. I know the actress has a real name and Rory Gilmore is just a fictional character, but Alexis Bledel will ALWAYS BE RORY GILMORE. 'Nough said.
    • The Day of the Locust by Nathanael West - About Hollywood in the 30s? 40s? I have no idea what I'm talking about anymore.
    • Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe - Said to be a very influential book during the American Civil War. Must read up on American History before diving into this one.
    • Billy Budd and Other Stories by Herman Melville - Gah. I haven't even started Moby Dick yet.
    • Sleeping Murder by Agatha Christie - My second Agatha Christie. Hope to start this after I finish Dubliners by James Joyce to cleanse my palate.
    • The Children of Hurin by J.R.R. Tolkien - How can I not buy this?!? It was a brand-new copy for only two bucks.
    I'm currently plodding through Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy and Dubliners a.k.a Will I ever finish this short story collection? by James Joyce. In a previous post, I said that Dubliners is the most readable thing by Joyce I've ever encountered. That's still true, but readable thing by Joyce still = NOT EASY TO FINISH. Blast it all.

    Thursday, November 24, 2011

    Thoughts: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (Part One)

    Anna Karenina is a married woman who travels to Moscow to help her brother and sister-in-law reconcile. After (or during?) a brutal train accident, she meets and semi-sort-of falls in love at first sight with the handsome but a tad shallow Vronsky. The charming Vronsky is currently courting-but-not-really Kitty. Levin, a strange but intelligent man, is truly in love with Kitty. She, on the other hand, rejects him for Vronsky, who soon ditches her for Anna. Still with me? Yeah, that’s how Tolstoy rolls.

    Tolstoy isn’t actually that hard to read, which surprised me. There were some pretty heavy passages about philosophy that had me scratching my head, but, with the help of footnotes, I think I understood everything. His eye for little society details reminded me of Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence, but his characters are so much more direct. They declare their love and get on trains to chase after their lovers. They don’t depend on fate or pack meaning into a single glance. Maybe this directness is a Russian trait or maybe it’s just Tolstoy.

    There are also passages where Tolstoy’s acerbic sense of humor reminds me of Jane Austen. In one scene, a character is appalled to hear that Vronsky is going directly to French theatre after listening to Christina Nilsson, one of the most celebrated opera singers of the time, but this same character wouldn’t be able to distinguish Nilsson’s voice from that of a chorus girl’s.

    The train accident when and Anna and Vronsky first meet? It’s like a gigantic neon sign saying ‘THIS ISN’T GOING TO END WELL.’ Then again, it’s part of human nature to stick around after horrible accidents, taking in the carnage and thanking our lucky stars it’s not us. I do fear for my heart when it comes to this book, because I do like the characters. Previous experience, though, is warning me not to get too attached. (Does Madame Bovary ring a bell? Or The Awakening? Or Ethan Frome?)

    Can’t wait to get started on Part Two.

    Tuesday, November 22, 2011

    Thoughts: Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier

    Working as a lady's companion, the heroine of Rebecca learns her place. Life begins to look very bleak until, on a trip to the South of France, she meets Maxim de Winter, a handsome widower whose sudden proposal of marriage takes her by surprise. She accepts, but whisked from glamorous Monte Carlo to the ominous and brooding Manderley, the new Mrs de Winter finds Max a changed man. And the memory of his dead wife Rebecca is forever kept alive by the forbidding Mrs Danvers. - via Goodreads

    In a previous post, I said I fell asleep while reading the first quarter of Daphne DuMaurier’s Rebecca two years ago. In the same post, I also admitted that I’m an uncultured Philistine (an uncultured Philistine? Talk about redundant) who feasts on babies for breakfast. Just kidding (about the Philistine part). I finished reading the book, and guess what? Rebecca didn’t make me want to stab my eye out with a plastic fork or do violent things to an already-dead author.

    In fact, I kind of loved it.

    Originally, I thought Rebecca was one of those books whose brilliance solely depends on its ‘shock’ factor, and, once again, the book proved me wrong. I looked up the ending halfway through the book, because I couldn’t stand the suspense anymore. (Damn you, Wikipedia, for encouraging my spoilertastic tendencies.) Even if I already knew the ending, I still stayed up until the wee hours of the morning and raced through the final half of the book. Yes, I knew what was going to happen, but I still had to know HOW IT WAS GOING TO HAPPEN. So, no, Rebecca’s brilliance doesn’t just depend on its completely heartrending ending. It can hold itself up with or without the shocktastic ending.

    The unnamed narrator tells the story a couple of years after the events in the book transpire. After I finished reading the book, I immediately reread the first chapter to gain a little more insight on the characters. This particular method of storytelling made me think of all the things that we look back on with regret, the things we can never change. Words we could have said but clutched closer to our hearts instead, a street we could have crossed at a particular moment, or a door we shouldn’t have slammed shut.

    This book actually made me cry. *HIGHLIGHT TO READ SPOILER.* That scene where Maxim actually tells the protagonist he loves her, and that he never loved Rebecca. Why did you tell her when you were about to get arrested, Maxim, why?!?!?!?! Sniff. Sniff. *END OF SPOILER.*

    The writing was UH-MAZING—the perfect mix of beautiful and creepy. I don’t regret reading Jane Eyre before diving into this scrumptious masterpiece, but it wasn’t actually necessary. Maxim de Winter and Mr. Rochester are two different characters who are *ahem* hot in their own unique ways. Both are tortured and oh-so brooding, but the similarity ends there.


    Sunday, November 20, 2011

    Will I ever be able to post regularly? No, don’t answer that question.

    According to a blog post I read last October, the best way to get more followers is to post DAILY. I thought, “Hey, I could do that. Tons of bloggers work, take care of their kids, and post daily.” So, I decided to post daily, and realized that, no, posting daily isn’t as easy as it looks. It’s actually pretty hard.

    I kind of burned out. In this case, burn out = staying away from classics like the plague and completely running out of ideas for posts. I forgot that I started this blog because I wanted a place where I could babble about classics as much as I want to and to have FABULOUS conversations with people who love books as much as I do.

    After taking a little *ahem* rest from blogging and classics, I think I’m finally ready to get back into the swing of things. I’ve thought about this blog, and what I really want to do with it. The main thing is this: I want to record my thoughts on classics and to talk to people about them, exchange ideas in case I ever have any.

    I’ve also decided to stop being so uptight/OC about this blog. There are so many things I’ve wanted to talk about, but I forced myself to put a cork in it because a post would already be too long. There have also been times when I didn’t have much to say about a particular book, but I forced myself to write a full review on it that ended up boring as hell. So, I’ve decided to be a little more relaxed.

    And to stop buying so many books.

    Here I am, apologizing once again for my sudden absence. I’ve got a couple of posts lined up, and I still hope to post a vlog in the future. Just not today.

    P.S: Have I mentioned that you all look great?

    Thursday, October 27, 2011

    Thoughts: Call of the Wild by Jack London

    Since a Frankie Muniz movie about a boy and his dog turned me into a shuddering mass of tears in the 4th grade, I've shied away from books/movies about animals. A) Someone always dies. (Remember Bambi's mother? Holysweetjesus, that truly scarred my childhood) and B) SOMEONE ALWAYS DIES. That's the main reason why The Call of the Wild has been in my TBR pile for eight years.

    A couple of days ago, I finally manned up and started reading it. I know Jack London will be proud, because guess what? I couldn't put the book down. From the very beginning, when Buck was kidnapped and sold to help men searching for gold, I felt compelled to find out what would happen to him.

    To say that The Call of the Wild is atmospheric would be like saying Mother Theresa was nice. Not saintly or good beyond comprehension. Just nice. I read the book during a sultry afternoon in the tropics, but I was really somewhere near the Yukon, knee-deep in snow. Some books make you believe that a fictional place is real, but other books like The Call of the Wild transport you to those places.

    And the whole thesis of the novel? (I always get nervous about posting my thoughts on the themes of classics, because I’m scared of sounding like a blithering idiot) Buck, cliché as it may sound, really did hear the call of the wild. He didn’t turn into a strong Alpha (male?) dog, because he was kidnapped and forced to run miles and miles everyday without rest. He became a semi-wolf/total badass, because it was in his blood. Even if Buck's a dog, I think the same urges to give in to who we truly are inside can be found in humans. Sure, Buck tried to stay civilized, but he didn’t succeed for long. He soon succumbed to his instincts, and morphed into the kind of dog he should really be.

    Overall, I’m glad this book didn’t make me cry, but it was pretty UH-MAZING anyway.

    Rating: 5/5

    Note: Sorry, guys, if I disappeared and haven’t replied to your comments yet. I promise I’ll get to them in the coming days.

    Friday, October 21, 2011

    Book Vlogging 101

    Lately, I've been thinking about making a vlog for Your Move, Dickens. I'm not hoping for charlieissocoollike or vlogbrothers fame, but I just want to try something new.

    I've looked up a ton book vlogs on youtube, and most of them fall under four categories. First of all, the vlogger reads from a well-loved book to share it with viewers, and, other times, the vlogger creates a Mailbox Monday or Library Loot video where they talk about the books they recently got. There are also others vlogs where vlogers review a book or discuss a particular bookish topic. All four sound like great, solid ideas to me.

    Personally, I like vlogs that are slightly sarcastic a.k.a funny, and I don't want them to take more than five minutes (a. I have the attention span of a five-year-old and b. our internet connection is beyond slow). So, I was just wondering what you wonderful people like to see in vlogs, and what you like about them. Do you have one particular pet peeve about book vlogs? Is there a particular type of bookish video you would like to see?

    I would appreciate all comments about this topic. All comments, suggestions and even violent reactions are welcome.

    Thursday, October 20, 2011

    Thoughts: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

    First of all, I just have to wonder how pop culture completely got this book wrong. Not what I expected at all.

    A) Frankenstein isn’t the monster. He’s actually the human protagonist of this novel who CREATED the monster, and is described as a very handsome and intelligent young man. Not once in the novel does he cackle and say, “It’s alive!” Nope, didn’t happen. He doesn’t have wild mad scientist hair either.

    B) The monster who Mary Shelley called Adam wasn’t stupid or clumsy. He was graceful, able to jump from rock to rock without stumbling, and he learned how to speak French in a couple of months. I now feel like a dunce and a total klutz next to this so-called monster.

    Here’s the long and short of it: Frankenstein becomes obsessed with creating a living, breathing creature. When he finally succeeds, however, he is disgusted by his own creation, and lets it loose on the world. The monster, shunned and attacked everywhere he goes, blames his creator for his miserable existence and VOWS REVENGE. *Insert evil cackle here.*

    First of all, Victor Frankenstein is one of the whiniest fictional characters I’ve ever encountered. He’s whinier than most of the teen protagonists of YA novels about *ahem* vampires, and that’s saying a lot. He whines and whines and whines, and never does anything to resolve his problems. Dude, I know not all people create evil monsters who VOW TO *INSERT CREEPIEST THREAT EVER UTTERED IN THE HISTORY OF LITERATURE HERE*, but, seriously, we all have problems ya know.

    I haz a heart!

    On a more serious note, this novel is told from the three points-of-view. Let’s forget the first narrator, because I’m really more interested in the voices of Frankenstein and the monster himself. Since Frankenstein has no backbone, the monster’s point-of-view is actually more interesting. He convinces you that he’s not inherently evil. He was just made that way by the people who mistreated him, and that, I believe, is the whole point of the novel. Are people born with evil inclinations or are they shaped by their environment?

    I started to sympathize with the monster, but, then, Frankenstein points out in a later chapter that the monster is cunning and knows how to manipulate people with his words. Of course, I’m like, “WHAT?! I’ve been had by a bunch of body parts sewn together?!?!” If I allowed myself to be manipulated by the words of a monster, what kind of person does that make me? The book plays with your mind like that, and, in the end, I decided I did believe the monster wasn’t completely evil. No one is.

    This book was beyond atmospheric, and took me to beautiful locations all over Europe—Switzerland, Ireland, Scotland, England, and even Germany. Each place has a different flavor, and Mary Shelley captured those flavors perfectly. While reading about Switzerland, I felt like I was really reading about Switzerland, not just some other version of England. Does that make sense?

    Rating: 4/5

    Note: There are a lot of things I want to discuss like Galvanism, and how this book probably represented Mary Shelley’s personal opinions on the effect of science on mankind. All thoughts about this book are welcome in the comments.

    This post is part of The Classic Circuit's Gothic Lit Tour. For more exciting stops about Gothic literature, click here.

    Wednesday, October 19, 2011

    Prepping for Anna Karenina

    Throughout my travels on the intrawebz, I’ve come across lots of posts and comments about reading War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. These comments and posts usually advise a person to familiarize himself with the period in Russian history in which the novel is set, and to find a family tree to keep track of who’s related to whom. Some even advised readers to use charts to keep the names of the characters straight, because every character has at least five names.

    I mentioned in an earlier post that I just started reading Tolstoy’s other novel Anna Karenina, and I looked up “guides” on reading the novel. What surprised me was the utter lack of Preparing to Read Anna Karenina posts or websites on the internet, and the closest “about to read Anna Karenina guide” I found was on Oprah’s website.

    So, here’s the thing, guys: If you’ve read Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, I need your help. Do I need to study a particular period of Russian history to understand the context of the novel? Do I need to create some sort of chart to keep the names straight? Are there historical figures that I need to be familiar with?

    All comments and suggestions are welcome, and please avoid spoilers. Thanks, guys.

    Monday, October 17, 2011

    Thoughts: The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

    After two months of slogging through its pages, I’ve finished The Sun Also Rises! Finally! I’ve broken away from its evil, drunken clutches! Bwahahahahahaha. Just kidding.

    If I say that the book is about a bunch of American expatriates who get drunk a lot and fight over one woman, will I be doing the book a disservice? Probably. On the surface, that’s what this book is about, but there a lot of things going on underneath. These expatriates are all part of the Lost Generation, the people whose lives were forever changed by World War I. The war changed their values, and ruined their innocence. They’re aimless, they know it, and they’re unable to do anything about it.

    Like in The Old Man and the Sea, I was once again impressed by Hemingway’s ability to pack so much meaning into a couple of simple words. In one scene, Jake, the protagonist, tells one of the other characters that, “You can't get away from yourself by moving from one place to another.” The quote is perfect for the so-called Lost Generation. It doesn’t matter if you decide to go on an adventure-filled trip to South America and get drunk five times a day. Your emotional baggage will always stick with you. You can’t just shake it off.

    I still haven’t made up my mind whether Hemingway is a misogynist or if he’s just scared of strong, independent women. Lady Brett Ashley, the woman they’re all fighting about, is fiercely independent (wow, what a Mills & Boon cliché). She changes men as often as she changes clothes, and is merciless about it. It’s pretty obvious she has no emotional attachment to any of them, but the fact remains that she ALWAYS has to be with a man. It’s like she took one step forward in the name of female independence, and took two steps back. I. Cannot. Make. Up. My. Mind.

    Anyway, Hemingway’s writing is as crisp as usual, and, while reading, I felt like I was stepping on dried leaves on the street. Cruncheee. This book made me realize how great being an “armchair traveler” is with its beautiful descriptions of Pamplona, San Sebastian, and other Spanish locales. I really thought I was on a bus drinking some form of hard liquor out of a leather sack.

    Rating: 4/5

    Note: And, no, I didn't forget to talk about the bullfighting. Before reading this book, I never saw the point in bullfighting. I just thought it was a stupid sport where a matador had to wave a red cloth in a bull's face. This book made me understand how graceful and subtle bullfighting can be. Loved the descriptions of the sport. I'm pretty sure I missed some fancy symbolism there.

    Sunday, October 16, 2011

    So Many Books, So Little Time

    Picture this: A girl is reading on a couch. The book could be a classic, a young adult novel, or even a thriller, whichever floats your imaginary boat. Rinse and repeat for the next two to five days depending on the length of the book. Well, guess what? That girl used to be me.

    People who read more than one book at a time used to drive me crazy. I kept wondering how they could possibly keep all those characters, plots, and little details straight. I thought "cheating" on a book took away something from the reading experience, cheapening it somehow.

    Since I started blogging, I've come to realize how I underestimated the creative powers of the human mind. Sure, you might not like reading more than one book at a time (like I said: whichever floats your imaginary boat), but it is possible to keep those plots and characters straight. For example, you're reading Treasure Island and Pride and Prejudice at the same time. You're not going to expect Mr. Darcy when you pick up a book set on the high seas, are you? Or Mr. Rochester in Harper Lee's Alabama?

    Blogging never fails to introduce me to new things, and, now, I can't believe I'm reading four books at the same time--a Frankenstein e-book, Anna Karenina, Rebecca, and Dubliners. All I can say is I'm having a fabulous time reading all four books. When the short stories in Dubliners become too much for me, I can always switch to the intrigue provided by Rebecca. There's no pressure to finish a book on a specific date, because I'm having so much fun.

    It just goes to show that, over time, the preferences that we thought were set in stone change. I always thought I would never cheat on the books I love so much, but it turns that more is indeed merrier.

    How about you? What's your reading method of choice? Do you read more than one book at a time or do you stay faithful?

    Friday, October 14, 2011

    Thoughts: The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

    While reading The Bell Jar, a strong urge to attack the pages with a highlighter seized me. The beautiful prose made me want to crawl into the pages, and there were so many portions I wanted to memorize. In the end, though, one quote stood out among the rest. Here it is:

    From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet. – The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

    I don’t want to sound like every other teenage girl who has read The Bell Jar, but the above quote perfectly sums up the things I’ve been asking myself since I turned 19. There are so many things I want to be—a novelist, a lawyer, a literature professor, and so much more. Sometimes, I worry that I might take too long trying to decide on the right path that it might be too late, and, other times, I worry that I might fall flat on my face once I actually give something a shot. Maybe wondering about my life choices is just part of being 20, part of not knowing who I am or who I’m going to be.

    The Bell Jar is set in the 50s, but it tackles a lot of issues about women that are still relevant today. The novel points out that the fears of having a baby and being “impure” are always held over a woman’s head, limiting her choices in life. I don’t know about people from other countries, but, in the culture I grew up in, society places a very high importance on a woman’s virginity. Our elders sometimes say that a man might not marry you if he finds out you’re not a virgin.

    In The Bell Jar, Esther Greenwood, the protagonist, rebels against such social constraints, and forges her own unique path. Within herself, Esther managed to demolish the “why buy the cow if the milk is free?” mentality, and I kowtow to her for that (even if she was a little crazy). A woman’s value shouldn’t depend on her virginity. In fact, a woman’s value shouldn’t be counted at all, because she is priceless.

    Totally fabulous read.

    And while we're on the subject of gender...

    Rating: 5/5

    Note: Sorry for this ridiculously lengthy post.

    Thursday, October 13, 2011

    One Less Lonely Reader

    First of all, I apologize for punning (is that even a word?) the title of a Justin Bieber song. It is immature, I know, and you probably cringed.

    But I digress. While jumping from one blog to another earlier today, I found a couple of events that I thought the brilliant, amazing, awesome, uber-cool people who visit this blog might be interested in.

    Usually, reading is a solitary experience, but we bloggers have found ways to make it less so. I think the following events and one soon-to-be regular feature will show you exactly what I mean when book blogging makes reading a less lonely experience.

    Allie from A Literary Odyssey will be hosting a Heart of Darkness readalong this November. I previously participated in her readalong for Oliver Twist, and it was a lot of fun. We all interpreted the book differently, so I always looked forward to what the other bloggers had to say. You can sign up here.

    Rebecca will also be hosting the Gothic Literature Tour this October. I can tell the entire book blogging community is quite excited for this. From October 17-31, we’re going to talk about books filled with haunted castles, Bleeding Nuns, monsters, vampires (non-sparkly ones, I promise!), and so much more. Unfortunately, it’s too late to sign up, but you can check out the complete list of participants here.

    The last thing I’m going to highlight isn’t exactly an event, but I believe it’s going to be a regular feature on Ben’s blog, Dead End Follies. It’s called The Dead End Follies Book Club, and, every month, Ben is going to recommend six books for all kinds of readers. This month’s recommendations include In Cold Blood (I now want to buy this because of Ben’s recommendation). If you want to see his other recommendations, you can click here.

    So, did I miss an event for October or November? What are your favorite blog features?

    Note: I don't know if you've noticed, but I've updated my blog's theme. I love The Great Gatsby, so I thought I should go with a 20s inspired banner. If you're having difficulty reading anything because of a too dark or too bright font, please let me know.

    Tuesday, October 11, 2011

    Latest Acquisitions: Part Seven

    Remember my post about my Tackle the To-Be-Read Pile Project? In the aforementioned post, I boldly stated that I wouldn't buy any books until I finished the ones in my TBR pile.

    Well, less than a month later, I've cracked, but this is my final relapse. I promise. Anyway, here are my latest acquisitions in no particular order:

    • Dubliners by James Joyce - A collection of short stories by the man who never fails to make my head hurt. I'm reading one to two stories everyday, and, so far, this book is the most readable thing by Joyce I've ever encountered.
    • The Jungle by Upton Sinclair - I have no idea what this one is about, aside from the fact that there's meat. Lots of meat.
    • The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath - Recently finished this one. You can expect a review soon.
    • Beloved by Toni Morrison - I still haven't decided if I'm going to read Beloved or Sula first. I don't want to dive right into Morrison's most popular work without a bit of preparation.
    • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy - I read ten chapters from this book everyday, and I hope to finish it before the end of the year. This is the only book I have an excuse for. I've been looking for a copy for over a year, and, when I finally found one at my favorite secondhand bookstore, I simply couldn't let it go.
    What about you? What are your latest acquisitions?

    Sunday, October 9, 2011

    Thoughts: The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

    This book made me want to stab my eyes out with a plastic fork.

    Just kidding.

    Well, not really.

    Le protagonist is a young woman who has just been hired as a governess for two exquisitely good-looking/good-natured children at a remote estate. Their uncle, the legal guardian, lets her do anything she wants with (to?) the children under one condition. Even if one of them gets maimed or ravaged by a pack of lions, she can never contact him. To add to the mystery, the ghosts of the children’s former governess and her boyfriend keep popping up all over the estate.

    The governess is annoying as hell. The whole time I was reading the story, I just wanted to shoot her in the kneecaps. (Sorry, I just finished watching Kill Bill Vol. 2) She thought and thought and thought some more about the mysterious apparitions, until she was almost drowning in her thoughts. And, ohmygod, I got so sick of hearing how perfect the children are, how sweet and beautiful.

    I guess this book was supposed to be some sort of psychological thriller, and was probably meant to be subtle. Well, believe me, this book wasn’t subtle. It was repetitive. The sentences are so long, and THERE ARE COMMAS EVERYWHERE. I know that the overflow of commas is part of Henry James’ writing style, but it’s annoying. I forgot what every sentence meant by the time I finished reading it.

    If Danielle Steele’s writing style minus the romance and Stephen King had a bastard child, the result would be this book.

    Rating: 2/5

    P.S.: This book raised a lot of questions but barely a single one is answered by the time you turn the last page. Made me want to scream.

    This is the third book I read and reviewed for the RIP Challenge VI.

    Friday, October 7, 2011

    Literary Blog Hop: Dinner with the Greats

    Literary Blog Hop

    The Literary Blog Hop is hosted by the ladies of The Blue Bookcase, and is open to blogs that primarily feature book reviews of literary fiction, classic literature, and general literary discussion.

    This week's question comes from Mel u over at The Reading Life:

    When I was in my early teens I read a book called Van Loon's Lives by Hendrick Willlem Van Loon. It was written in 1942 (Van Loon was a Newberry Winner for another work). I was maybe ten or so when I first read it and I was totally fascinated. The story line is that Von Loon and his good friend found a magic way to invite three famous literary figures from different eras for a Sunday Dinner. The book gives mini bios of the guests, explains the food the would have wanted and shows their dinner conversations. If you could invite any three literary figures from different eras to a Sunday Dinner who would they be? Magic takes care of the language issues.

    First off, I just want to thank Mel for coming up with this question.

    The first person who popped into my head was Jane Austen. I'm sure her sarcastic wit will liven up even the dreariest of dinners. There also other reasons why I want to invite her... For starters, I want to find out how she could have possibly come up with a fictional character like Mr. Darcy. She probably won't tell me, but I want to ask her why she never got married. Was it a personal choice or was it a case of unrequited love?

    F. Scott Fitzgerald is the next person in my list. I love, love, love, love, love The Great Gatsby. That's already reason enough, but Fitzgerald actually seems fascinating, not to mention charming.

    J.K. Rowling finishes this list. How can I not include the woman who brightened up my childhood? For more information on my obsession with Harry Potter, you can read this post. Aside from that, I can't wait to find out what she's working on at the moment. I don't care if it's a treatise on the diet of elephants. I would still be interested.

    And that, my friends, are the three literary figures I would love to invite to Sunday Dinner. What about you? Who are the three literary figures you'd love to have dinner with?

    Tuesday, October 4, 2011

    Thoughts: Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

    Warning: Not a review.

    Toru, a quiet and preternaturally serious young college student in Tokyo, is devoted to Naoko, a beautiful and introspective young woman, but their mutual passion is marked by the tragic death of their best friend years before. Toru begins to adapt to campus life and the loneliness and isolation he faces there, but Naoko finds the pressures and responsibilities of life unbearable. As she retreats further into her own world, Toru finds himself reaching out to others and drawn to a fiercely independent and sexually liberated young woman. - via Goodreads

    For the past couple of days, I've been thinking about Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami. A part of me just wants to shove the memory that I ever read the book aside, but another part keeps nagging me to write something down. To remember.

    There's a portion in the novel where Toru, the narrator, describes his best friend Kazuki as someone who always makes you feel like you're part of the group. Since Kizuki committed suicide, more often than not, Toru doesn't fit in. His peers are reading contemporary Japanese authors, while he's immersed in The Great Gatsby.

    Toru's feelings of not really being understood touched me the most. Lately, I've been feeling very awkward in social situations. I tend to say the wrong thing, and I always seem to end up asking myself why my social skills have deserted me.

    There's also another portion in the novel where Toru feels like he's stuck in a routine. The aforementioned routine is only shaken up by the appearance of either Midori or Naoko. I feel like that. Everyday feels the same. I'm not saying I want a Midori or Naoko of my own, but I wish I could shake myself out of it.

    I think I might be having a quarter life crisis. Whatever it is, there's a lot of stuff going on in my head, so I couldn't step away from Norwegian Wood and examine it objectively.

    Friday, September 30, 2011

    Thoughts: The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells

    I’m in a bit of a hurry today. So, off the top of my head, here are my thoughts while reading The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells:
    • Oh, my god, guys! H.G. Wells has a sense of humor! Come and see. Why was this mysterious sense of humor absent in The Time Machine? Why?!?!?!
    • The Invisible Man has a temper. Interesting.
    • The Invisible Man doesn’t just have a temper. He’s kind of a, you know, psychopath.
    • Ooooooh. I like all this science-y stuff about how Griffin became the Invisible Man.
    • Why does The Invisible Man have to be an albino? I DO NOT SEE THE POINT.
    • I thought being invisible would be uh-mazing, but you have to worry about being naked all the time. Which sucks. Especially if it rains/snows. Or if you step on broken glass.
    • Also, the food you eat looks like it’s floating in midair while you’re digesting it.
    • Who am I supposed to root for? The Invisible Man’s a psycho and… and… Sorry, I don’t want to get all spoilerific on you.
    • The Time Machine was beyond boring, but why does The Invisible Man read like a thriller?!?!? I SIMPLY CANNOT PUT IT DOWN. You’ve been holding out on me, Wells.
    • Well played, Wells. Well played.
    • ZOMG. I love the Epilogue. You want to go read The Invisible Man now, don't you? *Wink. Wink. Nudge. Nudge.*
    Rating: 4/5

    Wednesday, September 28, 2011

    Thoughts: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

    "If he be Mr. Hyde, I shall be Mr. Seek." - Robert Louis Stevenson

    While reading, I kept wishing over and over that I read The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde when it first came out in 1886. We all know that Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are the same person, but the mystery was revealed so magnificently in the book that I regretted knowing. I couldn’t help but imagine what my reading experience would've been like IF I DIDN’T KNOW Dr. Jekyll’s secret. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t figure out the puzzle.

    Aside from being completely entertaining, this book was also very, very meaty. The book revolves around the idea that we all have two sides. No human being is completely good or completely evil. We all have facets and thoughts we would be ashamed to show to other people, and there are things we only do when we’re out in public. It’s human nature, and Robert Louis Stevenson managed to turn that idea into a riveting story.

    I loved, loved, loved this. Go read it right now.

    Rating: 5/5

    P.S.: Really short review, right?

    P.P.S.: This is the second book I completed for RIP Challenge VI.


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