War of the Worlds: My thoughts

I have been wanting to read this book for so long, but after I read The Time Machine, I found that I wasn’t really eager to pick it up anymore.  I put this book on both my Classics Club Challenge list and my Back to the Classics list and finally picked it up last month when I was trying to recover from a book hangover. I wasn’t sure if I’d finish it as I was a bit bored by The Time Machine, but I needn’t have worried because this book sucked me right in.

war of the worlds

 

A brief synopsis:

It is the end of the 19th century and a series of explosions on Mars is seen from an observatory in England.  Scientists are intrigued, but shortly after this, what appears to be a meteor lands in England.  The meteor turns out to be a landing pod which contains Martians.  Several men approach, waving white flags to signify peace, but are quickly incinerated by a strange Martian weapon.  What follows is utter chaos as the Martians begin their invasion of earth.

It wasn’t until the end of the book that I realized that the narrator was unnamed, but I found him to be a very likeable character. He never claims to be a hero and I was rooting for him the entire time. The narrator has a series of narrow escapes and I found it utterly freaking fascinating as he describes the breakdown of society and the mass panic that follows the invasion.

I tend to like books and the writing style from this era, but I think even those who aren’t very accustomed to this particular writing style will find it enjoyable in this book.  The story moves along pretty quickly and the writing is never an obstacle toward enjoying the book.  A Sci-fi book written in the 19th century might be expected to be a little “cheezy” (for lack of a better word) but I honestly found the book to be very suspenseful and no more “cheezy” or hard to swallow than any of the modern movie adaptations (In fact, I don’t think a single movie adaptation has done this book justice). This was definitely a page turner for me, but it also gave me a lot to think about when the narrator described society’s breakdown so clearly.

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Working in an industrial environment as I do, a cheap paperback edition was perfect for reading on breaks.

I highly recommend this book to anyone and I think this book would be a perfect choice for someone who wants to read more classic literature but is intimidated by massive tomes of literature written in archaic language.  5/5 stars for me.

Thanks for joining me today! Happy reading!

 

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Utopia: My thoughts

Hello again 🙂 Being a fan of cartography and travel memoirs, an amateur history buff, and an almost graduated history major who has a special fondness for Tudor history, I have long been fascinated by Sir Thomas More. So naturally Utopia is a work I have wanted to read for ages. I had been intimidated in the past and until recently only had an ebook version. When I finally discovered the benefits and pleasure of annotating books (my own copies of course) I finally realized I was capable of tackling books that had intimidated me in the past. Fortunately I found this very inexpensive copy on book depository for around 5$ last month and was very excited to dive in- which I did over the last four days. For such a famous work, I am surprised that I had no idea how short it was (my copy was only 85 pages long) but nevertheless I took my time with it and took about 4 days reading, annotating, reflecting, and taking notes.

A brief synopsis:

This book, written by Sir Thomas More in the early 16th century, describes a fictional Kingdom. A perfect society where everyone works and has useful occupation, and in which nobody goes without the basic necessities.

My thoughts:

This book was pretty darn fascinating.  One of the things that drew me in from the first was the fact that most of the main characters were real historical figures.  Thomas More himself is in the book and narrates the entire thing. And from the very first sentence, in which More mentions Henry VIII in very flowery and flattering terms I was fascinated.  It could also be owing to the fact that I know that More would be executed by Henry VIII years later, while he doesn’t.  And while I do not know if it was his intention, I think that by using real people as characters, he turned it from something that was purely fictional into something that could be related to. The book is essentially just a long discussion between these men.  Given the topic and the book’s criticism of contemporary societies, I think this was an incredibly daring thing to do.  But by his choice of companions (all reputed to be good, learned men) and by setting himself up to criticize and be skeptical of all that is told to him by his friend Ralph, he manages to bring these ideas to his intended audience without seeming like the bad guy who’s got a grudge against society.  It also did not escape me that Ralph, who is the one describing all of these radical ideas, is a fictional character while More and the others are not.

Another thing that struck me early in the book was something that is actually very trivial, though to me as lover of history and cartography it was very interesting. This was a mention of visiting countries below the equator. Now I know that many of the ancients were aware that the earth was round and that in the Tudor period they were aware of this as well, but the idea of the equator just seemed like such a new concept to me that I got on a tangent looking into some medieval maps and reading up on the equator itself. I found some very interesting things. For one, I had no idea that in the early medieval period, the belief that people could live beyond the equator was considered a heretical belief by the Catholic Church. In fact many maps of the time depict the equator as a ring of fire. This idea was still prevalent when Columbus set sail. And that was not so long before this book was published. And while this may not have any bearing on the book itself, I found it fascinating and decided to share it here because nobody in my house was excited to hear my ramblings 🙂

To say that this book is important would be a gross understatement. It has influenced many writers and thinkers for the past 500 years. The ideas presented in this book were radical to say the least and this book had my rapt attention throughout (if you don’t count the times I got sidetracked looking things up)

I’d gladly give it 5/5 stars and I highly recommend picking up this interesting piece of history.

Thanks for joining me while I rambled on about this.

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!

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!

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 🙂

Classics reading challenge

Back in August (when I still had my old blog) I joined The Classics Club with a goal to read at least 50 classics in 5 years.

I had already decided I wanted to include more of the classics in my reading and was thrilled when I came across their blog.

The rules are simple:

  • – choose 50+ classics
  • – list them at your blog
  • – choose a reading completion goal date up to five years in the future and note that date on your classics list of 50+ titles
  • – e-mail the moderators of this blog (theclassicsclubblog@gmail.com) with your list link and information and it will be posted on the Members Page!
  • – write about each title on your list as you finish reading it, and link it to your main list
  • – when you’ve written about every single title, let us know!

This seemed simple enough and indeed it has been so far. I’ve been enjoying it so much that since I joined on August 23rd 2017, I have read 9 of the books on my list. I am committed to the 50 on my original list but being so far ahead of schedule got me thinking that even if I were to read only one per month over the next 5 years I could read 60. So that is what I am doing. I am updating my list so that it now includes 60 books.

Start date: August 23, 2017

End date: August 23, 2022

My list:

  1. Don Quixote -Miguel de Cervantes
  2. The Pilgrim’s Progress -John Bunyan
  3. Lady Susan -Jane Austen*
  4. Persuasion -Jane Austen*
  5. Northanger Abbey -Jane Austen*
  6. Oliver Twist -Charles Dickens
  7. Jane Eyre -Charlotte Bronte*
  8. Villette -Charlotte Bronte
  9. Wuthering Heights -Emily Bronte
  10. Agnes Grey -Anne Bronte
  11. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall -Anne Bronte
  12. The Scarlett Letter -Nathaniel Hawthorne
  13. Moby Dick -Herman Melville (I have tried and failed with this one before)
  14. One Thousand and One Nights
  15. The Canterbury Tales -Geoffrey Chaucer
  16. Madame Bovary -Gustave Flaubert
  17. Crime and Punishment -Fyodor Dostoevesky*
  18. A Christmas Carol -Charles Dickens
  19. War and Peace -Leo Tolstoy*
  20. The Brothers Karamazov -Fyodor Dostoevesky
  21. The Portait of a Lady -Henry James
  22. MaryAnne -Daphne Du Maurier
  23. Passage to India -EM Forster
  24. A Study in Scarlet -Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  25. Mythology -Edith Hamilton
  26. Alice in Wonderland- Lewis Carrol
  27. The Odyssey -Homer
  28. The Hunchback of Notre Dame -Victor Hugo
  29. The Tale of Genji -Lady Muraski
  30. Paradise Lost -John Milton
  31. The Epic of Gilgamesh
  32. The Little Prince -Antoine Saint Exupery
  33. Gone With the Wind -Margaret Mitchell*
  34. Frankenstein -Mary Shelley
  35. Oedipus Rex -Sophocles
  36. Vanity Fair -William Makepeace Thackeray*
  37. Kokoro -Natsume Soseki
  38. Utopia -Sir Thomas More
  39. The Mysteries of Udolpho -Ann Radcliffe
  40. The Picture of Dorian Gray -Oscar Wilde
  41. My Cousin Rachel -Daphne Du Maurier
  42. The Jungle Book -Rudyard Kipling
  43. Macbeth -William Shakespeare
  44. Hamlet -William Shakespeare
  45. The Age of Innocence -Edith Wharton
  46. The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
  47. Cranford- Elizabeth Gaskell
  48. Mrs Dalloway -Virginia Wolfe
  49. Wives and Daughters -Elizabeth Gaskell
  50. My Bondage and My Freedom -Frederick Douglass
  51. North and South -Elizabeth Gaskell
  52. Dracula -Bram Stoker*
  53. The Shuttle -Frances Hodgson Burnett
  54. A Little Princess -Francess Hodgson Burnett* (reading with my daughter Bella)
  55. Far From the Madding Crowd -Thomas Hardy
  56. The Divine Comedy -Dante Alighieri (plan on reading the three books separately)
  57. The Three Musketeers -Alexandre Dumas
  58. War of the Worlds -HG Wells
  59. The Diary of Anne Frank
  60. The Dumbhouse -John Burnside

An * denotes a reread

This list seems daunting when you look at it, but honestly, I am getting so much pleasure out of all the books I’ve been reading  (or at the very least, they have been thought provoking) and it is a 5 year goal so hopefully I can get to all of them.  And while I am committing to this list, I reserve the right to add to it as I find other titles that interest me.

So that’s it.  How does this challenge sound to you?