Genre: Classics

Classic Curiosity – And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

August 9, 2014 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Classic Curiosity, Read in 2014 3 Comments

Classic Curiosity – And Then There Were None by Agatha ChristieAnd Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on 1939
Pages: 264
Genres: Classics, Mystery, Thriller
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Goodreads

Also by this author: Hallowe'en Party

five-stars

“Ten . . .” —Ten strangers are lured to an isolated island mansion on an island off the Devon coast by a mysterious host.

“Nine . . .” —At dinner, a recorded message accuses each of them of harboring a guilty secret. By the end of the meal, one is dead.

“Eight . . .” —Stranded by a violent storm, there is no hope of escape. Haunted by a nursery rhyme counting down one by one, the guests begin to die.

“Seven . . .” —As suspicions are raised and accusations fly, secrets begin to surface. But who among them is the killer . . . and will any of them survive?

‘There was something magical about an island – the mere word suggested fantasy. You lost touch with the world-an island was a world of its own. A world, perhaps, from which you might never return.’

Ten people arrive at Soldier Island after receiving invitations from various acquaintances convincing them to make the trip. The island has been much talked about recently after some confusion over who owns it so everyone is intrigued to find out the answer to that question. Everyone seemingly has nothing in common with one another until an announcement booms through the house on the first night from a gramophone bringing each persons secret to light. By the end of that first night, one person has died. After a search has been conducted of the island, the rest of the guests come to the realization that they’re the only ones on that island and that the murderer must be among the nine remaining guests.

Agatha Christie is the prolific author known as the “Queen of Crime” and the “Master of Misdirection”. I have no idea what took me so long to pick up anything of hers, being such a long time fan of mysteries in general, but And Then There Were None was the perfect first choice.

Ten little Soldier boys went out to dine;
One choked his little self and then there were nine.

Nine little Soldier boys sat up very late;
One overslept himself and then there were eight.

Eight little Soldier boys traveling in Devon;
One said he’d stay there and then there were seven.

Seven little Soldier boys chopping up sticks;
One chopped himself in halves and then there were six.

Six little Soldier boys playing with a hive;
A bumblebee stung one and then there were five.

Five little Soldier boys going in for law;
One got in Chancery and then there were four.

Four little Soldier boys going out to sea;
A red herring swallowed one and then there were three.

Three little Soldier boys walking in the zoo;
A big bear hugged one and then there were two.

Two Little Soldier boys sitting in the sun;
One got frizzled up and then there was one.

One little Soldier boy left all alone;
He went out and hanged himself and then there were none.

The guests find the above nursery rhyme that has been framed on the wall curious. As well as the ten little soldier figurines that stand on the dining room table. Each subsequent death results in the realization that the deaths are not only following the nursery rhyme (the first individual died after choking on what appeared to be cyanide) but with each death a soldier figurine is mysteriously removed from the table. While it seems unlikely that the murderer would have been able to plan accordingly in order to remain a mystery and still kill, following the nursery rhyme perfectly, the impossibility was expertly erased by the authors exhilarating storytelling ability. Each person begins to suspect one another until there isn’t anyone left to trust, even the reader is continually left in the dark as to the perpetrator. Just when you think you’ve caught on to what’s going on, Christie is bound to throw a wrench into your theories. I loved this book and loved the constant guessing game and will no doubt be picking up many more Agatha Christie novels in the future.

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Classic Curiosity – Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

July 5, 2014 Bonnie Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Classic Curiosity, Read in 2014 1 Comment

Classic Curiosity – Of Mice and Men by John SteinbeckOf Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Narrator: Gary Sinise
Published by Penguin Audio on 1937
Length: 3 hrs and 11 mins
Genres: Classics
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads


four-stars

Nobel Prize winning author John Steinbeck, one of the greatest American writers of the twentieth century, offers a powerful but tragic tale in "Of Mice and Men". 'Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no family. They don't belong no place'. George and his large, simple-minded friend Lennie are drifters, following wherever work leads them. Arriving in California's Salinas Valley, they get work on a ranch. If they can just stay out of trouble, George promises Lennie, then one day they might be able to get some land of their own and settle down some place. But kind-hearted, childlike Lennie is a victim of his own strength. Seen by others as a threat, he finds it impossible to control his emotions. And one day not even George will be able to save him from trouble. "Of Mice and Men" is a tragic and moving story of friendship, loneliness and the dispossessed. "A thriller, a gripping tale that you will not set down until it is finished. Steinbeck has touched the quick". ("New York Times"). Nobel Prize-winning author John Steinbeck is remembered as one of the greatest and best-loved American writers of the twentieth century. His complete works are published by Penguin and include "Cannery Row", "The Pearl", "The Winter of Our Discontent" and "The Grapes of Wrath".

“We got a future. We got somebody to talk to that gives a damn about us. We don’t have to sit in no bar room blowin’ in our jack jus’ because we got no place else to go. […] But not us.”
Lennie broke in. “But not us! An’ why? Because… because I got you to look after me, and you got me to look after you, and that’s why.”

Of Mice and Men is the prominent classic set during the Great Depression about the friendship between two men, George and Lennie. Lennie has a big heart but doesn’t possess the mind of a mature adult and after an incident in the last town they lived in where he was accused of rape after touching a woman’s dress, the two have to travel to find new work.

George and Lennie share big dreams of one day owning their own land and from the very beginning the reader is painted a despairing picture despite their constant optimism. It’s a simplistic and saddening story of day-to-day survival; of individuals forever hoping to achieve their unattainable dreams. The novel, published in 1937, showcases the mindset and struggles of people during this period in history. It explores in depth yet with few pages how the Great Depression affected society and also the prejudices, sexism and rampant racism. The end of George and Lennie’s story brings a loss of hope, a loss of purpose and an abandoning of dreams that is nothing short of a tragedy.

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Book Review – A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

May 8, 2014 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2014 3 Comments

Book Review – A Clockwork Orange by Anthony BurgessA Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
Published by W. W. Norton & Company on 1962
Pages: 213
Genres: Classics, Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic
Format: Paperback
Source: Library
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
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five-stars

A vicious fifteen-year-old "droog" is the central character of this 1963 classic, whose stark terror was captured in Stanley Kubrick's magnificent film of the same title.

In Anthony Burgess's nightmare vision of the future, where criminals take over after dark, the story is told by the central character, Alex, who talks in a brutal invented slang that brilliantly renders his and his friends' social pathology.A Clockwork Orange is a frightening fable about good and evil, and the meaning of human freedom. When the state undertakes to reform Alex—to "redeem" him—the novel asks, "At what cost?"

This edition includes the controversial last chapter not published in the first edition and Burgess's introduction "A Clockwork Orange Resucked".

*spoilers will follow*

“What’s it going to be then, eh?”

A Clockwork Orange is set in a futuristic London where nadsats (teenagers) roam the streets at night seeking to cause all sorts of horrorshow (good) ultra-violence. Our humble narrator, Alex, and his three droogs (friends) are those exact types of nadsats that people fear, causing them to lock themselves inside their house to avoid danger. Alex and his droogs relax at the Korova Milkbar drinking moloko plus (milk plus… something) before going out to cause ultra-violence and maybe a little of the old in and out. It’s a night like any other night for Alex and his droogs. Burgess created a specific language solely for these characters which he calls Nadsat. It’s is a fictional language but is essentially an eclectic mix of Slavic and Russian words with a bit of gypsy swirled in. It’s incredibly confusing to follow and does take a while to catch on to but it’s one of the most fascinating aspects of this book.

This is my first time reading A Clockwork Orange and I actually went into it knowing practically nothing about the plot/story. The whole brainwashing aspect reminded me a lot of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest which is one of my all-time favorites, but A Clockwork Orange had a whole other level to the story regarding moral choice. In the book, Alex volunteers to undergo an experimental treatment that would condition him out of his violent behavior and get him out of prison early which was most appealing to him. Even though he volunteers for Ludovico’s Technique, he’s not clear on what exactly he’s volunteered for.

“Is it better for a man to have chosen evil than to have good imposed upon him?”

The technique removed his ability to choose to do right as Alex became violently sick whenever he attempted violence of any sort, including when it involved the need to defend himself against others. I believe that Burgess’ intentions were to show that behavior that is forced, rather than chosen of your own free will, is wholly wrong and that it was much more preferred that Alex make his own decisions even if he was making all the wrong choices. Because in the end, did he not eventually go on to make the right choice himself without the help of the brainwashing? This may have been Burgess’ intentions but it took a lot of contemplating to truly decipher it. Moral choice is such a vast topic that attempting to pack it into this slim novella really left a lot unsaid and I felt he didn’t explore it in as much detail as he could have.

The version of Clockwork Orange that I read contains the mysterious 21st chapter that was left out from the original American publication. It’s the version of the story that most people are familiar with as Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation of the novella was also created without the final 21st chapter. I finished the book and then watched the movie shortly after and the ending of the movie was incredibly dreary and lacked any sort of hope for anything good. The book wasn’t chock full of hope but it gave the novel a point. The movie ended with Alex no longer brainwashed and quickly going back to his evil ways but the intended ending that was contained in the 21st chapter showed Alex realizing the wrongness of his actions and even going so far as to contemplate a possible future with a wife and kids of his own. While I personally preferred the books ending, I still didn’t think it was fitting. Some unknown amount of time has passed between the 20th chapter and the 21st, yet it still feels as if his realization of his wrongdoings came completely out of nowhere. After the horrid things he did I didn’t expect such a giant leap into being a good and moral individual.

A Clockwork Orange is a book truly meant to be discussed and analyzed. I was fortunate enough to have buddy-read this with Christina and we traded e-mails back and forth for over a week after finishing. I’m not sure I would have been able to properly wrap my head around the story without her. 🙂

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Book Review – Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

April 25, 2014 Bonnie Book Reviews, Read in 2014, YA 6 Comments

Book Review – Anne of Green Gables by L.M. MontgomeryAnne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
Series: Anne of Green Gables #1
Published by Timeless Reads on June 1908
Pages: 352
Genres: Classics, Historical Fiction
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Amazon
Goodreads


four-stars

An unforgettable character beloved by generations of readers

Redheaded orphan Anne Shirley longs for a real home, somewhere she can truly belong. When she first arrives at the Green Gables house on Prince Edward Island, it's everything she ever imagined. But to stay, she'll first have to convince Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert to adopt her. And that means controlling her temper (even when Gilbert Blythe calls her "Carrots"), staying out of trouble (and away from hair dye), and not getting too carried away with her daydreams (though she would make the perfect Lady of Shallot floating down the river). Anne might not always get it quite right, but she does keep things interesting...

Through Anne's eyes, the ordinary world becomes magical and every day is an adventure. She inspires the dreamer in all of us, never hesitates to say the things we wish we could get away with, and makes us cherish every kindred spirit we meet. It's no surprise Anne is loved around the world by generations of readers.

anne readalongIsn’t it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel glad to be alive—it’s such an interesting world. It wouldn’t be half so interesting if we knew all about everything, would it? There’d be no scope for imagination then, would there?”

Anne of Green Gables was written in 1908 yet the magic of this childhood classic continues to charm readers over 100 years later. Even at 28 years old, Anne managed to charm me. Yes, this is actually my first real read of Anne of Green Gables. I read The Secret Garden and Little House on the Prairie but somehow managed to miss out on the story of Anne, a spunky, chatterbox of a redhead with a knack for getting into trouble. I have no doubt I would have adored her then as I still managed to do so now.

Anne’s story is a simple one but full of heart. She was living in an orphanage for many years before she was finally put on a train and sent to Prince Edward Island where she was requested to assist Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert, a brother and sister that lived on a farm in Avonlea. Immediately upon her arrival, she finds out that the duo had actually required a boy and that she wasn’t needed and would be sent back to the orphanage. She becomes determined to win them over so as to not be sent back, and succeed she did. Matthew was instantly enamored by this interesting child but Marilla was much more stubborn.

“It’s been my experience that you can nearly always enjoy things if you make up your mind firmly that you will.”

Anne is clearly the protagonist of the novel, however, I found myself paying a lot of attention to Marilla and the transformation that she undergoes throughout the novel because of Anne’s presence. Anne grows up and matures as any child is expected to do but Marilla is truly the one that changes, and definitely for the best. Marilla is a stern woman who sets out to teach Anne how to be a proper young lady and not to be so fanciful all the time yet it’s that fanciful nature of hers that slowly breaks down Marilla’s harsh demeanor. It’s a gradual breakdown but by the end of the novel she is able to admit to her love of Anne, how proud she is of her and how happy she is that she came into their lives. It was truly touching to not only see the benefit to Anne because Marilla and Matthew chose to take her in but how she in turn equally changed their lives.

Details of Montgomery’s early life reveal that she was the inspiration for her character Anne. Montgomery’s mother died when she was just 21 months old from tuberculosis and her father sent her away to live with her elderly grandparents who resided in Cavendish, Prince Edward Island. Their manner of raising her was strict, such as Marilla’s manner was at first, yet their demeanor never lightened in the time she lived with them. The story of Anne is clearly how Montgomery wished things could have been for her yet despite her difficult childhood, one good thing clearly came out of it for Anne would have never existed without her experiences.

Big thanks to the girls over at The Midnight Garden for hosting this read-along as it was well past time I got to know Anne Shirley.

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Banned Books Week – The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

September 28, 2013 Bonnie Adult, Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Read in 2013 2 Comments

Banned Books Week – The Bell Jar by Sylvia PlathThe Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Narrator: Maggie Gyllenhaal
Published by HarperCollins on 1963
Length: 7 hours and 30 minutes
Genres: Classics, Contemporary
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
Amazon
Goodreads


four-half-stars

Esther Greenwood: brilliant, beautiful, enormously talented, and successful, but slowly going under -- maybe for the last time. Sylvia Plath masterfully draws the reader into Esther's breakdown with such intensity that Esther's insanity becomes completely real and even rational, as probable and accessible an experience as going to the movies. Such deep penetration into the dark and harrowing corners of the psyche is an extraordinary accomplishment and has made The Bell Jar a haunting American classic.

‘Sylvia Plath’s only novel, The Bell Jar, has, on several occasions, been on banned book lists. […] Well, the first reason is due to the suicidal tendencies and attempted suicide scene. It has been said that some find it inappropriate to read about for it may entice readers to do the same. A few other reasons that Plath’s book has been subjected to being banned is, according to the University of Virginia’s Censored Exhibit online, is that “in the late 1970s, The Bell Jar was suppressed for not only its profanity and sexuality but for its overt rejection of the woman’s role as wife and mother.'”‘

‘The silence drew off, baring the pebbles and shells and all the tatty wreckage of my life. Then, at the rim of vision, it gathered itself, and in one sweeping tide, rushed me to sleep.’

Esther Greenwood is a promising young editorial intern at a popular women’s magazine in New York City. Despite the potential of a bright life ahead of her, Esther remains discouraged and almost intimidated by the future. She’s a very independent and strong-minded woman in a time where social expectations for a woman of her age are vastly different than her mindset. This expectancy that is placed on her only increases her discouragement in life and a deep depression begins to shape.

‘I felt myself melting into the shadows like the negative of a person I’d never seen before in my life.’

The bell jar is an object used in physics experiments in order to preserve something as it creates a vacuum effect and things inside become hermetically sealed. The metaphor here is that everything placed inside becomes unaffected by anything that occurs on the outside, much as Esther’s feelings form a sort of trap that contain her. Her feelings of doubt and discouragement overtake her and she’s unable to see reason and no amount of outside influence can change that. This would typically make for an extremely depressing tone however Esther is a surprisingly humorous, albeit dark, character. The Bell Jar is actually a retelling of events after they have already occurred so in essence Esther is looking back over her life and is realizing the naivety of her actions.

Sylvia Plath skillfully incorporates her gorgeous prose into her first and only novel. The writing style itself is extremely clever and seamless with a somewhat unreliable narrator. The story is not told in chronological order so the story is often hard to extrapolate but must be reminisced on after it’s all said and done. Esther Greenwood is meant to be the semi-autobiographical of Sylvia Plath herself and if you know anything about her actual biography that may explain the cryptic ending we’re given.

The narration by Maggie Gyllenhaal is superb and emulates the words of Esther Greenwood flawlessly. I had actually attempted reading this one in a physical copy and couldn’t get hooked on it but the audio was such a treat.

The reasons why this eye-opening novel has been banned span from ‘it encourages suicide’ and ‘it encourages a non-traditional way of life (mainly for women)’. As far as this novel ‘encouraging’ suicide that’s positively absurd. The Bell Jar does not encourage suicide it simply showcases how deep depression can be, how strong a hold it can have on you and gives you a firsthand view of what it means to unravel. I see nothing wrong with the subject matter and I personally find it to be more educational than anything.

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Banned Books Week – A Wrinkle in Time (The Time Quintet #1) by Madeleine L’Engle

September 27, 2013 Bonnie Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Book-To-Film, Read in 2013, YA 0 Comments

Banned Books Week – A Wrinkle in Time (The Time Quintet #1) by Madeleine L’EngleA Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
Narrator: Hope Davis
Series: The Time Quintet #1
Published by Listening Library on January 1st 1962
Length: 6 hours and 8 minutes
Genres: Classics, Fantasy, Middle Grade, Sci-fi, Time Travel
Format: Audiobook
Amazon
Goodreads


four-stars

It was a dark and stormy night; Meg Murry, her small brother Charles Wallace, and her mother had come down to the kitchen for a midnight snack when they were upset by the arrival of a most disturbing stranger.

"Wild nights are my glory," the unearthly stranger told them. "I just got caught in a downdraft and blown off course. Let me sit down for a moment, and then I'll be on my way. Speaking of ways, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract."

A tesseract (in case the reader doesn't know) is a wrinkle in time. To tell more would rob the reader of the enjoyment of Miss L'Engle's unusual book. A Wrinkle in Time, winner of the Newbery Medal in 1963, is the story of the adventures in space and time of Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin O'Keefe (athlete, student, and one of the most popular boys in high school). They are in search of Meg's father, a scientist who disappeared while engaged in secret work for the government on the tesseract problem.

A Wrinkle in Time is the winner of the 1963 Newbery Medal.

‘Challenged at the Polk City, Fla. Elementary School (1985) by a parent who believed that the story promotes witchcraft, crystal balls, and demons. Challenged in the Anniston Ala. schools (1990). The complainant objected to the book’s listing the name of Jesus Christ together with the names of great artists, philosophers, scientists, and religious leaders when referring to those who defend earth against evil.’ -Source

‘We look not at the things which are what you would call seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporal. But the things which are not seen are eternal.’

A Wrinkle in Time is a story of three children and their travels through the universe to find a young girl’s lost father. Meg Murry is a self-conscious child who is constantly critical of herself. Charles Wallace is Meg’s younger brother and is a genius but does whatever he can to keep a low profile. Calvin O’Keefe is the complete opposite of the siblings but crosses paths and quickly becomes a vital link to their exploits.

The setting of A Wrinkle in Time is a strange mixture of genres and isn’t easily categorized. It’s about fantasy and adventure but religion and the battle between good and evil play a major part which is what has led to this book being challenged throughout the years. In A Wrinkle in Time Charles Wallace requests that Calvin read him a bedtime story from The Book of Genesis, Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which are all three described as being guardian angels and messengers of God, and several bible quotes are strewn throughout. Yet fundamentalist Christians have an issue with the New Age elements, the blending of religion and science and how the book never comes out truly as a religious text but is left open to interpretation as to how literal the Biblical aspects truly are.

While a Wrinkle in Time is listed as a children’s book, it’s heavy with literary allusions that children won’t likely understand completely. Heck, I’m still contemplating it. Not only are there philosophical references and historical figures mentioned aplenty but the interpretation of how time works, the explanation of a tesseract, The Black Thing and IT and Camazotz is not simple to understand. But that lack of understanding and a slight obliviousness may be what makes this ultimately enjoyable for children. This is the first time I have read this having missed out on this as a child, and while I did enjoy this and will likely pick up the remaining installments this definitely left me contemplating how there are some things that simply can’t be rationalized or made complete sense of.

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Banned Books Week – Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

September 26, 2013 Bonnie Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Book-To-Film, Middle Grade, Read in 2013 4 Comments

Banned Books Week – Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine PatersonBridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Narrator: Robert Sean Leonard
on 1977
Length: 3 hours and 30 minutes
Genres: Classics, Contemporary, Middle Grade
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
Amazon
Goodreads


three-stars

Jess Aarons' greatest ambition is to be the fastest runner in his grade. He's been practicing all summer and can't wait to see his classmates' faces when he beats them all. But on the first day of school, a new girl boldly crosses over to the boys' side and outruns everyone.

That's not a very promising beginning for a friendship, but Jess and Leslie Burke become inseparable. Together, they create Terabithia, a magical kingdom in the woods where the two of them reign as king and queen, and their imaginations set the only limits. Then one morning a terrible tragedy occurs. Only when Jess is able to come to grips with this tragedy does he finally understand the strength and courage Leslie has given him.

Performed by Robert Sean Leonard

“At issue with censors are death being part of the plot, Jess’ use of the word ‘lord’ outside of prayer, offensive language, and claims that the book promotes secular humanism, new age religions, the occult, and Satanism. Some critics also proclaim that Leslie is not a good role model simply because she doesn’t attend church.”
-Source

[Warning: This review contains spoilers. Sorry! It’s incredibly difficult to discuss this story without including them.]

‘He thought later how peculiar it was that here was probably the biggest thing in his life, and he had shrugged it off as nothing.’

Jess Aarons lives in the small town of Lark Creek. He’s spent his summer leading up to the fifth grade practicing on being the fastest runner in the school. With shock and amazement he’s beaten in the first race by the new girl, Leslie Burke. Their friendship happens suddenly and becomes as comforting to each other as if they had been friends for years. In order to escape the normality of the world, they create an imaginary place in the woods called Terabithia.

‘For the first time in his life he got up every morning with something to look forward to. Leslie was more than his friend. She was his other, more exciting self – his way to Terabithia and all the worlds beyond.’

Jess was a quiet introspective child and Leslie’s introduction into his life not only gave him the courage to do what he loves (drawing, despite his fathers disapproval) but she opened his eyes to the world and changed his outlook on life completely. His world is turned upside down when he comes home after an outing only to be told that Leslie is gone. Jess refused to believe this and he simply couldn’t comprehend with what he was being told. He withdrew from reality and remained convinced that all he had to do was go to Leslie’s house and knock on her door and she would be there, as she always is. This was a moment of pure heartbreak. His bravery in the subsequent days and how he chooses to honor Leslie’s memory was truly admirable.

As you can see, this is another read specifically done for Banned Books Week and yet another one that I fail to agree with. Bridge to Terabithia touches on grief and death and the loss of vital people in your life. Unfortunately it is to be expected that we will all have to deal with this at one point in time, some earlier than others. Considering this is a middle grade novel and is a beautifully written depiction of grief, I see no reason why a child could not read this for better understanding on eventual sadness. Katherine Paterson actually wrote this story after her son lost a childhood friend and she struggled to come up with the proper way of explaining it to him. It teaches them that it’s normal to be sad when you lose someone, that it’s okay to wallow in grief and mostly of the importance of honoring that persons memory.

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Audiobook Review – The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

September 7, 2013 Bonnie Adult, Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Read in 2013 8 Comments

Audiobook Review – The Metamorphosis by Franz KafkaThe Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
Narrator: Benedict Cumberbatch
on 1915
Length: 2 hours and 15 minutes
Genres: Classics, Literary Fiction, Philosophy
Format: Audiobook
Source: BBC Radio 4 Extra
Amazon
Goodreads


four-half-stars

"One morning, as Gregor Samsa was waking up from anxious dreams, he discovered that in bed he had been changed into a monstrous verminous bug."

With this startling, bizarre, yet surprisingly funny first sentence, Kafka begins his masterpiece, The Metamorphosis. It is the story of a young traveling salesman who, transformed overnight into a giant, beetle-like insect, becomes an object of disgrace to his family, an outsider in his own home, a quintessentially alienated man. Rather than being surprised at the transformation, the members of his family despise it as an impending burden upon themselves.

A harrowing–though absurdly comic–meditation on human feelings of inadequacy, guilt, and isolation, The Metamorphosis has taken its place as one of the most widely read and influential works of twentieth-century fiction. As W. H. Auden wrote, ”Kafka is important to us because his predicament is the predicament of modern man.”

 

‘I cannot make you understand. I cannot make anyone understand what is happening inside me. I cannot even explain it to myself.’

Imagine you go to bed one night with nothing out of the ordinary occurring only to wake up to find you have transformed into a monstrous insect overnight. Your family can no longer communicate with you, they no longer can even stand to look at you. You’ve become repulsive and abhorrent for seemingly no apparent reason. What do you do?

Everyone has heard of The Metamorphosis, Kafka’s literary masterpiece, a book that is obviously more than meets the eye. The story possessed a dream-like quality where nothing is ever considered appropriately, as Gregor accepted his transformation into insect form a lot more readily than one might normally. Many have attempted to form their own interpretations of the story but I personally can’t see it being anything other than a metaphor. While there are bound to be several different opinions on this, this is what I came up with:

Up until that life altering morning Gregor led an uneventful life where he worked constantly to support his family and in turn they steadily grew unproductive the more they began to depend on him. Gregor travels so often for work that communication between him and his family begins to cease and most importantly his family stops being appreciative of all he does for them and instead begins to simply expect it. That fateful morning he woke and began to contemplate his job and how terrible he finds it and if he didn’t have his parents to worry about he would have “given in my notice a long time ago, I’d have gone up to the boss and told him just what I think, tell him everything I would, let him know just what I feel.” The more and more he dwells on this the more he realizes what he does for them, what they don’t do and how his work ethic in order to support his family has in turn alienated them from him. By becoming the sole breadwinner of the family he transformed himself into an outsider, the transformation only becoming a physical interpretation when he realizes that himself.

I’ve never read Kafka before having always found myself intimidated by his works. When I discovered that the BBC Radio had produced a recording of this being read by Benedict Cumberbatch I jumped on the opportunity and I am so glad I did. I had listened to a clip of the audiobook that was released by Blackstone Audio and narrated by Ralph Cosham… that audiobook sat on my phone for so long I forgot about it because it sounded dreadfully dull. Benedict Cumberbatch truly brought this story to life and made this a real treat for me.

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Book Review – Love Story (Love Story #1) by Erich Segal

August 29, 2013 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2013 2 Comments

Book Review – Love Story (Love Story #1) by Erich SegalLove Story by Erich Segal
Series: Love Story #1
Pages: 144
Genres: Classics, Contemporary Romance
Format: Paperback
Source: Library
Amazon
Goodreads


two-stars

He is Oliver Barett IV, a rich jock from a stuffy WASP family on his way to a Harvard degree and a career in law.

She is Jenny Cavilleri, a wisecracking working-class beauty studying music at Radcliffe.

Opposites in nearly every way, Oliver and Jenny immediately attract, sharing a love that defies everything... yet will end too soon. Here is a love that will linger in your heart now and forever.

*I plan to discuss parts of this book in detail so spoilers!*

Oliver Barett IV is a rich jock from a well-to-do family. Jenny Cavilleri is a poor, wise ass sorta chick. This is definitely a case of opposites attract with a touch of Romeo and Juliet syndrome; they were destined to fail from the beginning. But they meet; they fall in love, etc. etc. And as the summary so eloquently puts it: “…sharing a love that defies everything yet will end too soon.”

“What can you say about a twenty-five-year-old girl who died?”

That is the very first line of the book so right off the bat you know you’re in for an emotional tale. But that’s the funny thing… it all seemed very impassive to me. Vapid. Insipid. And that’s the furthest from what I was expecting to feel from such a renowned and supposed emotional tale. The thing that really bothered me the most about this story was I never fully believed those two actually loved each other; it felt far too contrived. Oliver’s father’s declaration that he is NOT to marry Jenny otherwise he would basically disown him seemed like the catalyst for Oliver’s proposal and nothing more. To me, it wasn’t a proposal that was emotionally charged but rather a petty attempt to do the opposite of what daddy tells him just because he can.

“Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”

Of course I had to include/discuss the most famous line of the book since I don’t quite agree with it. I think love means you’re more likely to be forgiven but I don’t think that should excuse you completely from an apology. But if love means never having to say you’re sorry, then that would mean that any future actions are automatically forgiven and following that same vein means you could do whatever you want because it’s okay, he/she loves me. Honestly, we all fuck up at one point or another in relationships because this shit is no cake walk but love doesn’t automatically excuse you from wrong. Love means you can fuck up, you can apologize, you can talk about it if need be and you can behave like mature adults and grow and learn from the experience. Love means never having to say you’re sorry? No. That’s a total cop out.

There was also a ton of cussing, which I don’t have issue with considering I cuss like a sailor, but the dialogue sounded like a 6th grader trying to include cuss words in their everyday speech and ends up overdoing it. It was very forced and awkward feeling. Oliver and Jenny even replaced cute nicknames for cuss words as well. At one point he casually referred to Jenny as “my wife, the bitch” and  I think he frequently called him a bastard. Or an asshole. Possibly both? I can accept that they obviously had a ‘different’ sorta love for each other and that’s just how they expressed themselves but it was very off-putting. The other issue I had was with the doctor and Oliver’s decision not to tell Jenny of her own illness, but I realize since this book is 43 years old there are customs that occurred then that I’d never be able to fully grasp and understand.

Erich Segal was the Nicholas Sparks of his era with his tales of epic love. He’s not known for his literary masterpieces but he was a prominent name a few decades back and it was just one of those that I had to try out for myself. Plus, I was told that this book would absolutely make me cry (which books don’t make me do often) so I had to accept that challenge. I won by the way. Will I try more of his works? Maybe. Sappy tales aren’t normally my thing but every once in a while when I’m dealing with a chemical imbalance in my brain it makes me want to pick up this kind of stuff, so maybe someday.

Have you read Love Story or any other novels by Segal? If so, are there any you would recommend?

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Audiobook Review – Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

February 2, 2013 Bonnie Adult, Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Read in 2013 6 Comments

Audiobook Review – Lolita by Vladimir NabokovLolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Narrator: Jeremy Irons
Published by Random House Audio on June 27th 2006 (first published 1955)
Length: 11 hours and 32 minutes
Genres: Classics, Cultural, Literary Fiction, Romance, Russian
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
Amazon
Goodreads


five-stars

When it was published in 1955, Lolita immediately became a cause célèbre because of the freedom and sophistication with which it handled the unusual erotic predilections of its protagonist. But Vladimir Nabokov's wise, ironic, elegant masterpiece owes its stature as one of the twentieth century's novels of record not to the controversy its material aroused but to its author's use of that material to tell a love story almost shocking in its beauty and tenderness.

Awe and exhilaration--along with heartbreak and mordant wit--abound in this account of the aging Humbert Humbert's obsessive, devouring, and doomed passion for the nymphet Dolores Haze. Lolita is also the story of a hypercivilized European colliding with the cheerful barbarism of postwar America, but most of all, it is a meditation on love--love as outrage and hallucination, madness and transformation."

‘It was love at first sight, at last sight, at ever and ever sight.’

Lolita is likely one of the most controversial stories in 20th century literature to date. Lolita has been coined as a ‘love story’ and even ‘erotic’. In all honesty, this was simply Humbert attempting to convince himself (and others) that his actions were normal and completely justified. By the end pages, I could honestly say that Humbert believed wholeheartedly he truly loved Lolita, that he always had the best of intentions for her and that he was a good father to her. His version of love was of course far from normal and was quite sick and twisted indeed but because we’re only seeing this story from his point of view it’s obviously a biased and glamorized interpretation.

‘We live not only in a world of thoughts, but also in a world of things. Words without experience are meaningless.’

But to me that was the most amazing part of this story. When you really think about this story as a whole, you know what he did was wrong, you know that he changed that 12 year-old girl irrevocably and you can almost despise him for the fact that he blamed her for seducing him initially. However, despite all that, I know I’m not the only reader that struggled to not feel at least a slight bit of sympathy for him. And that’s the true brilliance of it.

‘And the rest is rust and stardust.’

Lolita is a truly remarkably written story that was undoubtedly shocking after its initial publication in 1955. I can’t help but find it severely unlikely though that it would have ever been published during this day and age.

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