Back to the Classics 2018

Hello again!  I am back today with another glorious reading challenge.  I came across this challenge while I was getting a Russian book recommendation at I read that in a book’s post.

The Challenge is a Classics challenge created by Karen K at Books and Chocolate that contains 12 categories.  The idea is to read from 6, 9, or all 12 categories. I am not a person who signs up for any and every reading challenge I come across and this one actually coincides nicely with my 5 year Classics Club Challenge.  Since most of the books I read for Back to the Classics 2018 challenge will count towards my 5 year Classics Club challenge as well, I thought it would be fun to participate.  Also, since the Back to the Classics challenge is broken down into categories, it will be a nice way to narrow down which books I will read towards my Classics Club Challenge since that one is extremely flexible.

So without further ado, here are the categories and some of my possible choices for each.

A 19th century Classic: Villette by Charlotte Bronte

A 20th century Classic: The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

A classic by a woman author: The Shuttle by Frances Hodgson Burnett

A Classic in Translation: Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes or The Tale of Genji by Lady Muraski

A Children’s Classic: The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupery or The Lost Prince by Frances Hodgson Burnett

A Classic Crime Story: Appointment With Death by Agatha Christie

A Classic Travel Narrative: The Travels of Marco Polo

A Classic with single word title: Persuasion by Jane Austen or Utopia by Sir Thomas More

A Classic with a color in the title: The Scarlett Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

A classic by an author who is new to you: The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo

A classic that scares you: Moby Dick by Herman Melville

A favorite reread: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen or Dracula by Bram Stoker

While my selections are not set in stone, there’s a strong possibility I will be reading these. All of them with the exception of The Travels of Marco Polo and Appointment With Death (though the Travels of Marco Polo will be one of the nonfiction books I wanted to read and Appointment With Death will count towards Project Poirot) are also on my other list.

I feel fairly confident I will at least go through 9 of the categories and I am very excited to be participating.

Well thanks for joining me here and I apologize for my excessive use of the word “challenge”. Till next time here’s to happy reading!

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Warning labels on books: A controversial discussion

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I’d been intending to discuss this topic in a future post and had been holding off due to the fact that some may consider it a bit controversial, but I came across a great post at Pages Unbound and it addressed a lot of the same topic.  So while it is fresh in my mind, I’d like to throw in my humble two cents.

If you are a reader of middle grade or young adult fiction, it will come as no surprise to you that these books, YA in particular, are featuring more and more mature content. And that’s great. Readers can find all kinds of stories to suit all tastes.

But here is my dilemma.

While I would never want to be Nazi book mom, and call for removing books from libraries or angrily snatch books from my kids’ hands, I struggle with how I should handle these kinds of books in regards to my oldest who is soon to be 11 years old. When I was his age I was reading Judy Blume books and the Boxcar children. He on the other hand has a lot more to choose from. I encourage reading in our household and I know he is capable of reading at a level beyond middle grade books… but I don’t necessarily feel comfortable with him reading about things like rape just yet. After all, though he’s almost 11, he is quite naive in regards to a lot of things. His reading level may be advancing quickly but he is still a little boy who thinks the word “butt” is funny. Not quite ready to fully understand things like sex trafficking and torture. Now I know the simple answer would be to just monitor what he reads, but that becomes a little difficult when I don’t know the content of every single book that’s out there and he is fast approaching the “target age” for most YA.

I recently read an article where college students at several different colleges had called for “trigger warning” labels to be placed on books that dealt with distressing content. And while I admit I was sort of dismissive of the idea, it has gotten me thinking. Would it be feasible for publishers to publish future books with a small label? Something along the lines of “contains graphic violence” or “contains sexual content”. I’m curious to know what other readers think of this.

Now my dilemma may resolve itself. I may just be worried about nothing. He may decide “ewww this book is weird” and decide not to read it of his own accord until he is ready (or ever). In which case I will have another few years before I deal with the same issue again with my daughter. I know that for myself, I was around 12 when I started looking for more mature things to read. And I found them. I turned out okay, but I also think I was a little more mature and more prepared to handle difficult content than my son is now.

So I am curious to know what other readers and other parents think?  How do you handle mature content in books with your kids, siblings, students etc?

The Little Prince: my thoughts

If you have a Netflix account, you’ve probably seen the trailer for The Little Prince recently. It looked so adorable that I wanted to watch it and since one does not simply watch the movie first… I had to read it of course.

A brief synopsis:

A pilot who unfortunately has grown up crash lands in the middle of the desert. There he meets a little boy from another planet. The boy tells the story of how he fled his planet because of his love for a rose. In telling his story, the little boy reminds the pilot of the magic of seeing the world through a child’s eyes and the dangers of losing that magic when you grow up.

My thoughts:

So I really loved this book.  The entire book was just whimsical and magical.  I love how even though the pilot is a grown up, he remembers the feeling of drawing a picture that the adults just didn’t understand and the feeling has stayed with him.  When he meets the little prince, he meets a child who understands perfectly.  The pilot is an adult who hasn’t fallen into one of the typical categories that other adults in the story have.  The little prince is just charming and I fell in love with him as a character.  He lives alone on his planet and his only friend on his planet is a single rose.  After having a disagreement with his rose, he leaves his planet and passes through many other planets.

On each planet is a single adult and I loved how each of them embodied a different adult characteristic that children just don’t understand.  For instance, he meets one man on a planet who spends all day and all night counting the stars because he “owns them”. When the little prince asks why he needs to count them, the man informs him that it is very important to calculate numbers so he can own more.  Another man on another planet spends all his time preening and looking for someone to admire his clothes.

It is a little difficult to put into words all the things I loved about this book, but I loved both the pilot and the little prince.  The love the prince had for his rose was very sweet.  I would definitely recommend this book to children and adults.  This was one of the few books in recent months that I’ve given 5 stars.

Thank you for joining me once again and if you have read this or plan to read this, please let me know what you thought or think…

Until next time, happy reading!

The Luminaries: my thoughts

Having heard so many things about this novel, I have been wanting to read it for over a year. So I borrowed it from the library and attempted to dive in. I quickly realized that this was a book I wanted to take my sweet time with and so I returned it and bought my own copy.

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

A brief synopsis:

Walter Moody, a young Scottish lawyer, arrives in a gold mining town in 1866 New Zealand on a stormy night. He walks into a lounge at his hotel and disturbs… something. Inside the room are 12 men of different races and different walks of life discussing a series of mysterious events that occurred on the same day two weeks prior. A man is found dead, a prostitute is found collapsed in the street and a rich man goes missing.  When it is discovered that Moody has a slight connection to the events in question, they take him into their confidence and attempt to figure out what happened.

My thoughts:

Where to even begin?  The book was written in the style of a Victorian novel which I really really enjoyed.  It was done so well that I could really have believed it was a Victorian novel.  The structure of the novel was great.  Basically the first 300 something pages were dedicated to that night in the hotel lounge learning of the mysterious events that had taken place two weeks prior.  The whole rest of the novel takes place afterwards.  The book is divided into 12 parts and sections with a different character the focus of each.  At the beginning of each “part” there is a kind of zodiac chart that I’m afraid was lost on me but I did not find it necessary to the story. Though I did notice that the parts of the story “waned” like the moon. (Though I mean to look into it in further depth and maybe come back and amend this review) As we see a little bit more into each character’s life, a little bit of the truth is revealed, piece by piece.  It was wonderfully done in my opinion.  For a book this large – all 832 pages of it- it never dragged.  Every page was necessary to the story.

Catton’s choice of setting was spot on and she managed to bring an 1860’s goldmining town to life. She also focuses attention on the opium trade and the life of Chinese workers in a mining encampment.

I should also point out that I have never read a book with such a well crafted cast of characters.  Before this, I had considered Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express unique for its large cast of interesting characters.  Until now. There were TWENTY main characters in this book. TWENTY. I have read books with only a handful of characters that the author still manages to make flat.  I guess with an 800 page book, it’s kind of hard not to get to know the characters but Eleanor Catton managed to create 20 well rounded characters and every single one of them was integral to the story.

I guess to sum it up I’d say that there is a reason why this book won the Man Booker Prize.  I thought it was a really remarkable book.  I loved the writing, the structure, the characters, and the plot.  I highly recommend this book and I hope people are not turned off by the size.  I don’t often give 5 stars but this book I gave 5 stars, hearts, or whatever unit of measurement we are using these days.

If you have read this book, please tell me your thoughts.  I’m dying to discuss this one with someone!

My Cousin Rachel: my thoughts

I bought this book a few months ago while  I was in a gothic fiction phase. This is not unusual for me because gothic fiction and romance is one of my favorite types of books to read (there’s something about sinister characters and spooky manor houses that I can’t get enough of) but sometimes I go through these little phases where I’ll read several in succession. Well I happened to be at Target and saw the movie cover version on sale and I bought it. (Though I typically hate movie covers this one wasn’t terrible and it was on sale… OK OK I JUST WANTED TO READ IT GEEZ)

Brief synopsis:

Philip Ashley, the cousin and adopted son and heir of Ambrose Ashley is devastated by the marriage and shortly after, death of Ambrose while on a long trip to Italy for his health. Ambrose, a confirmed lifelong bachelor travels to the continent each year for his health, leaving Philip to run the estate in his absence. On his final trip, he meets and falls in love with a distant family connection and then marries her. He writes home to Philip delighted with his new wife but after several weeks he sends Philip paranoid letters home asking for help claiming his wife is spying on him and keeping him under lock and key. His health declines further and he dies before Philip can make it to him. Grief stricken, Philip suspects the wife of foul play and makes up his mind to hate her while everyone else puts Ambrose’s death and strange behavior down to a brain tumor which is how his own father had died (also having behaved strangely before his death). When Rachel comes to visit the estate, Philip is convinced of her guilt… until he meets her. She is graceful and attractive and devastated over the loss of her husband. Surely she can’t be guilty? Or is she?

My thoughts:

The tension in this book is wonderful. I think this is something that Daphne Du Maurier excels at in all the books I’ve read of hers.  The whole first section of the book we can understand Philip’s thoughts and we are dying to meet Rachel.  When Rachel finally appears, we are constantly left wondering if she did it.  We become convinced of her innocence and her guilt in turns. Certain incidents appear to repeat themselves and we are unsure whether it is coincidence or whether Rachel has a hand in it. The atmosphere alone makes this book what it is.

There are several key characters in this book and often it is difficult to see what their motivations are. Rachel is both fascinating and complex. Philip is naive and probably the most annoying character I have ever encountered in fiction. There were many times that I wanted to reach through the pages and smack some common sense into him or just smack him in general. If you prefer character based stories, Philip may turn you off the entire book but I am a plot reader so I kept it up.  Meanwhile, characters like Rachel’s lawyer (whose name escapes me at the moment) seem very sinister while Philip’s friend Louise seems like the only normal character in the book.

The book was a page turner for me but it is seldom that a character annoys me the way Philip did.  I enjoyed the read, but I thought the ending just a little flat. Though some might argue that the ending is what makes this book so great. To sum it up, I guess I’d say that the story was great, there were some good characters (and one really annoying one), but that personally I found the ending just a bit unsatisfying.  I gave it 4 out of 5 stars on goodreads.

Thanks for joining me and happy reading 🙂

A bookhaul of… uhh… large proportions

The irony hasn’t escaped me that in February, the shortest month of the year, I have accumulated the largest amount of books that I have in years. Oops.

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Now I typically buy a few books and ebooks every month but I normally tend to read about the same amount of books that are coming in so it’s no big deal. This month however, I have accumulated 23ish books and one ebook. There’s no way on earth I’m reading even close to that amount this month but at least I have the comfort of knowing that I only paid full price for two or three books and one was a Valentine’s gift from my husband.

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Here is a list of the books I got this month:

  • Utopia -Sir Thomas More (can’t wait to get to this one)
  • Dracula -Bram Stoker (a pretty copy to replace my very battered copy)
  • The Mysteries of Udolpho -Ann Radcliffe (to replace the ebook version I have…I’ve always wanted to read since the first time I read Northanger Abbey)
  • Moby Dick -Herman Melville (a nice copy to motivate me to finally get through it)
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray -Oscar Wilde
  • Don Quixote -Miguel De Cervantes (a book I plan on reading in the near future)
  • North and South -Elizabeth Gaskell (I enjoyed Cranford and this is supposed to be better)
  • Wives and Daughters -Elizabeth Gaskell
  • War and Peace -Leo Tolstoy (my copy is missing and I’d like to reread)
  • Maryanne – Daphne Du Maurier (I’ve enjoyed all her other books so this should be good)
  • Dumb Witness -Agatha Christie (the next on my Project Poirot list)
  • Cat Among the Pidgeons -Agatha Christie (This one and the next two were a let down because I ordered them online and didn’t realize they were abridged versions)
  • Hickory Dickory Dock -Agatha Christie
  • Apointment With Death -Agatha Christie
  • The Children of Henry VIII -Alison Weir (Alison Weir writes very readable history and I enjoyed her books when I was a prospective history major)
  • The Lady in the Tower -Alison Weir
  • The Six Wives of Henry VIII -Alison Weir
  • Bride of Pendorric -Victoria Holt (Gothic romance by one of my favorite authors)
  • Lord of the Far Island – Victoria Holt (Gothic Romance)
  • Memoirs of a Geisha -Arthur Golden 
  • Shopaholic Ties the Knot -Sophie Kinsella
  • The Autobiography of Henry VIII -Margaret George (I love Margaret George historical fiction because you can tell the amount of research she did, tends to be more historical than a Philippa Gregory novel)
  • The Little Prince -Antoine de Saint-Exupery (the movie kept popping up as a suggestion on netflix so I decided to read it first)
  • How to Read a Book -Mortimer Adler (I’ve heard a lot about this book and I got a lot of tips for reading some more difficult books out of it)

So as you can see, my entire haul was backlist items with not a single new release.  The majority of these books I have already read at one time or another so atleast I know that I’ll be glad to have them on my shelves.

I wish I could say that I’m done for the month but I actually plan on buying The Girl in the Tower as I have a 30% off coupon to use this weekend at the bookstore.

But that’s it.  I am looking forward to getting through the ones I haven’t read yet.  If you see anything you have questions about feel free to ask me or just let me know if there are any you love or hate in my list.

Til next time… Happy reading!

You force your toddler to read?? In which Nicky rants… just a bit.

Not very long ago, someone said to me “Wow, she really DOES love books” (referring to my daughter Isabella) and I thought to myself “WTF did you think I was lying?”

For Christmas several of our relatives and friends asked what shows and tv characters she’s into so they could buy gifts and I was honestly stumped. She has never been interested in tv and to date has never sat through any toddler tv show (sometimes I envy those parents who can put The Wiggles on tv and sneak away to take a shower or make dinner). I suggested dogs (because she fangirls at any dogs she sees) and books. The response was a little depressing. I heard everything from “I don’t want to get her books…. I want to get something she’ll play with” to “You can’t give her books for Christmas!” And this really upset me because I know my children (nobody commented that I didn’t suggest books for Junior… it was only Bella) and I know that books are the one thing you can’t go wrong with her.

I know that while Junior is a casual reader, Bella is likely going to be a reader like me.

Not that I or any parent should have to explain ourselves but this is not me forcing books down the child’s throat. She is literally fascinated by stories and the pictures in her books. So I thought I would finish out with several reasons why I think she is going to be a reader so I can direct any more well meaning people to this post instead of wasting my breath.

  1. She loves the quality time during story time
  2. She sees that it is my main form of entertainment and she tries to emulate me
  3. Even when someone is not reading to her, she will often be sitting in her room flipping pages
  4. She sits through a whole story…and wants more
  5. She’s fascinated by bookshelves and is always pulling my books off my shelves and hers off hers
  6. She is not exposed to much television because only my son is really into tv
  7. While I am cooking she will usually bring me a book and command me to sit down and read it to her

Now by no means am I saying books are better or that my kid is some genius because she likes books. And I’m not saying that she doesn’t also play. I’m just trying to point out that it IS possible for kids to prefer books.

Oh and we received a ridiculous amount of toys from both sides of the family. I am so thankful we have family who are able to send anything at all but I can’t help thinking how much unnecessary money was spent. Only my dad and my husband’s stepmom followed my advice and sent only books while a couple of others sent books in lieu of cards which I suggested later. And while she occasionally will rock on her rocking horse or pretend to make food in her kitchen, a lot of the other toys sit largely neglected (and taking up space) and the ones she plays with religiously are the books she got. This just goes to show that parents always know their kids best.

If you have read to the end of my rant, I thank you. This was a lot rantier than I wanted it to be. Til next time.