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?

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