Genre: Classics

Book Review – 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

February 2, 2012 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2012 0 Comments

Book Review – 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff
Published by Penguin Books on September 1970
Pages: 97
Genres: Classics, Memoir, Non-Fiction
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Amazon
Goodreads


four-half-stars

 

It all began with a letter inquiring about second-hand books, written by Helene Hanff in New York, and posted to a bookshop at 84, Charing Cross Road in London. As Helene's sarcastic and witty letters are responded to by the stodgy and proper Frank Doel of 84, Charing Cross Road, a relationship blossoms into a warm and charming long-distance friendship lasting many years.

 

84, Charing Cross Road is a truly delightful true story of friendship retold through a series of letters that were written between 1949 and 1968. The friendship between Helene Hanff and Frank Doel developed after Helene had sent a request for a specific list of books to Marks & Co. in London. From there, the correspondence continued over the years between the two but also between the other employees of Mark & Co. and even with Frank’s family who were grateful to Helene for her kindness as she would send them food packs when they were dealing with rations in London. Their friendship was quite touching and I enjoyed watching as their letters developed more personal touches over the years.

“You see how it is, Frankie, you’re the only soul alive who understands me.”

Helene was always planning a trip to England to visit the people she had written to for a great many years; however, life forever got in the way and the trip simply never occurred. I loved Helene’s sense of humor; she was quite amusing and incredibly charming. Reading the last page of the book made me sigh with longing… contemplating a different ending; one where Helene would actually make it over to England.

“If you happen to pass by 84 Charing Cross Road, kiss it for me? I owe it so much.”

Divider

Book Review – The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe

December 30, 2011 Bonnie Book Reviews, Read in 2011 0 Comments

Book Review – The Raven by Edgar Allan PoeThe Raven by Edgar Allan Poe
Illustrator: Ryan Price
Published by Kids Can Press on August 1st 2006 (first published 1844)
Pages: 48
Genres: Classics
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Goodreads

Also by this author: The Fall of the House of Usher, Tales of the Macabre

five-stars

Visions in Poetry is an exciting and unique series of classic poems illustrated by outstanding contemporary artists in stunning hardcover editions. The fifth book in the series, Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven," delves into the hidden horrors of the human psyche. Originally published in 1845, the poem is narrated by a melancholy scholar brooding over Lenore, a woman he loved who is now lost to him. One bleak December at midnight, a raven with fiery eyes visits the scholar and perches above his chamber door. Struggling to understand the meaning of the word his winged visitant repeats -- "Nevermore!" -- the narrator descends by stages into madness. Illustrator Ryan Price's exquisitely grim illustrations suggest a background story shaped by the narrator's guilt, embodied in the terrifying figure of the raven. Price's drypoint technique, with its rich blacks and feathery lines, perfectly captures the nightmarish atmosphere of this unforgettable poem.

‘Once upon a midnight dreary,
while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume
of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping,
suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping,
rapping at my chamber door.
“‘Tis some visiter,” I muttered,
“tapping at my chamber door —
Only this, and nothing more.’

I had started reading the Raven before but was never able to quite get through it. When I came across this illustrated version at my library I decided to give it another shot. The illustrated version made it so much better. The illustrations by Ryan Price are dark and gritty… much like the story of the Raven. I’ve read several illustrated books this year that have added a certain something to the already great story (A Monster Calls comes immediately to mind) and the Raven is no exception.

You can find a few more illustrations by Ryan Price from the book here but I would also recommend checking out the rest of his work here as well, although I must say I think his work in the Raven is my favorite.

Divider

Short Story Review – Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote

December 28, 2011 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2011, Short Stories 1 Comment

Short Story Review – Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman CapoteBreakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote
Published by Vintage on May 15th 2012 (first published 1958)
Pages: 160
Genres: Classics, Literary Fiction
Format: eBook
Source: Library
Amazon
Goodreads


three-stars

In this seductive, wistful masterpiece, Truman Capote created a woman whose name has entered the American idiom and whose style is a part of the literary landscape. Holly Golightly knows that nothing bad can ever happen to you at Tiffany's; her poignancy, wit, and naïveté continue to charm.

This volume also includes three of Capote's best-known stories, “House of Flowers,” “A Diamond Guitar,” and “A Christmas Memory,” which Saturday Review called “one of the most moving stories in our language.” It is a tale of two innocents—a small boy and the old woman who is his best friend—whose sweetness contains a hard, sharp kernel of truth.

Having watched the movie, ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ I never really had any desire to read the book. Finally deciding to do so, I was quite surprised that the movie created a superb rendition of the book and that the role of Holly Golightly, played by Audrey Hepburn, was an absolutely perfect portrayal.

Holly Golightly has to be one of the strangest fictional characters I have read to date. She’s eccentric and odd in a completely entrancing way and yet shows no attempts at actually trying to be this way; she just simply is.

“So,” he said, “what do you think: is she or ain’t she?”
“Ain’t she what?”
“A phony.”
“I wouldn’t have thought so.”
“You’re wrong. She is a phony. But on the other hand you’re right. She isn’t a phony because she’s a real phony. She believes all this crap she believes. You can’t talk her out of it.”

I quite enjoyed Truman Capote’s writing and look forward to his next book on my list: In Cold Blood.

Divider

Short Story Review – The Driver’s Seat by Muriel Spark

December 24, 2011 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2011, Short Stories 0 Comments

Short Story Review – The Driver’s Seat by Muriel SparkThe Driver's Seat by Muriel Spark
Published by Penguin Classics on 1970
Pages: 128
Genres: Classics
Format: Paperback
Source: Library
Amazon
Goodreads


three-stars

Lise leaves her home in northern Europe for a holiday, but it is not rest and relaxation that she is looking for...

Driven to distraction by an office job, she leaves everything and flies south on holiday—in search of passionate adventure, the obsessional experience and sex. Infinity and eternity attend Lise's last terrible day in the unnamed southern city that is her final destination.

I had a really hard time at first getting a grasp of what this story was really about. Essentially, it’s about a peculiar woman named Lise who travels to a Southern European city, presumably Naples, to meet a supposed boyfriend. Once she arrives, all the men she meets she’s mentally judging them based upon whether they are ‘her type’ or not. It’s not till later in the story you realize she’s looking for a specific ‘type’ for a completely different reason than you may originally think. By the beginning of the third chapter, you’re already made aware of a shocking fact:

’She will be found tomorrow morning dead from multiple stab-wounds, her wrists bound with a silk scarf and her ankles bound with a man’s necktie, in the ground of an empty villa, in a park of the foreign city to which she is travelling on the flight now boarding at Gate 14.’

It’s tough not to become immediately enthralled in watching the rest of the story progress to find out how this could possibly have occurred.

There’s something incredibly strange about this woman but it’s never revealed what exactly is wrong with her or why she is the way she is. (But then again, many of the characters in this story are odd. Like Bill? And his ‘I haven’t had my daily orgasm. It’s an essential part of this particular variation of the diet, didn’t I tell you?’ Excuse me?!?) You catch a glimpse early on in the story of her mental instability when she proceeds to flip out on a sales woman who attempted to sell her a dress made of stain resistant material. She took this as a personal insult as if the sales woman was attempting to say that she was a messy eater.

“Do you think I spill things on my clothes?” the customer shrieks. “Do I look as if I don’t eat properly?”

Suffice it to say that was her first but not final moment of unpredictability. She’s a habitual liar and it’s quite shocking how easily the lies flow from her mouth. And she definitely found her type in the end.

“Will you feel a presence? Is that how you’ll know?”
“Not really a presence,” Lise says. The lack of an absence, that’s what it is. I know I’ll find it. I keep on making mistakes, though.”

Divider

Book Review – The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

December 21, 2011 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2011 0 Comments

Book Review – The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey EugenidesThe Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides
Published by Farrar Straus and Giroux (BYR) on April 1, 1993
Pages: 260
Genres: Classics, Contemporary
Format: eBook
Source: Library
Amazon
Goodreads


four-stars

 

This beautiful and sad first novel, recently adapted for a major motion picture, tells of a band of teenage sleuths who piece together the story of a twenty-year old family tragedy begun by the youngest daughter’s spectacular demise by self-defenestration, which inaugurates “the year of the suicides.”

 

“With most people,” he said, “suicide is like Russian roulette. Only one chamber has a bullet. With the Lisbon girls, the gun was loaded. A bullet for family abuse. A bullet for genetic predisposition. A bullet for historical malaise. A bullet for inevitable momentum. The other two bullets are impossible to name, but that doesn’t mean the chambers were empty.”

This was a strange read for me, yet still managed to be… I wouldn’t say enjoyable. Maybe intriguing is more like it. This book filled me with major confusion as I had constant questions arise since you don’t get the full picture as this story is told from a third-party, an outside party, rather than being told from the POV of one of the sisters. On top of that, it’s actually told as almost a recollection of people who were affected by these girls and their actions.

I had of course heard of this story over the years but had never managed to pick it up. Never actually watched the film either so I wasn’t completely aware of what to expect. Even know, writing this review several weeks after finishing the book, I’m not sure how to describe how I felt about it. What I remember most is the author’s vivid writing; I will definitely be interested in reading more from him. This was an interesting and thought provoking book but at the same time is a horrible and shocking book that I’m not sure whether or not to recommend. Very sad, very heartbreaking, and one that I certainly won’t be forgetting.

Divider

Book Review – The Collector by John Fowles

November 23, 2011 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2011 9 Comments

Book Review – The Collector by John FowlesThe Collector by John Fowles
Published by Vintage on October 21st 1998 (first published 1963)
Pages: 305
Genres: Classics, Contemporary, Literary Fiction, Mystery
Format: eBook
Source: Library
Amazon
Goodreads


five-stars

Withdrawn, uneducated and unloved, Frederick collects butterflies and takes photographs. He is obsessed with a beautiful stranger, the art student Miranda. When he wins the pools he buys a remote Sussex house and calmly abducts Miranda, believing she will grow to love him in time. Alone and desperate, Miranda must struggle to overcome her own prejudices and contempt if she is understand her captor, and so gain her freedom.

’I am one in a row of specimens. It’s when I try to flutter out of line that he hates me. I’m meant to be dead, pinned, always the same, always beautiful. He knows that part of my beauty is being alive, but it’s the dead me he wants. He wants me living-but-dead.’

The Collector is the story of Frederick Clegg, an extremely odd and lonely man who also collects butterflies. He’s obsessed with a middle-class art student named Miranda Grey and as he continues admiring her from a distance a plan slowly starts developing in his mind that he would like to have her; like one of his butterflies. He makes preparations by buying a house out in the country, purchasing assorted objects and things he knows she will need, convinced that if he can only capture her and keep her that she will slowly grow to love him.

The first part of the novel was told from Frederick’s point of view and it was rather alarming at his thought process. In his mind, there is nothing morally wrong with what he intends to do (and what he actually ends up doing). He recognizes that Miranda is a human being as he takes care of her and provides her everything a human would possibly need, but she’s inevitably nothing more than an object or a collectible item to him. He doesn’t mean to harm her at first; however, it’s evident that as time progresses, he enjoys having power over her and almost finds humor in her attempts to escape.

The second part of the novel was told from Miranda’s point of view through diary entries that she hides underneath her mattress. She writes about G.P. often, a man she met and who ended up having a huge impact on her thoughts and ideals. To Miranda, G.P. was everything she wanted to be and his opinions and thoughts became a set of ‘rules’ for her. At first I had a hard time determining the relevancy of these recollections, but it essentially just became another disturbing piece of the story to see how influential G.P. and his ‘rules’ really were to Miranda.

’He’s made me believe them; it’s the thought of him that makes me feel guilty when I break the rules.’

It was almost expected, however still just as shocking when it becomes glaringly obvious that Miranda slowly begins to take pity on her captor. She starts feeling bad for the harsh things she says to him and she also unconsciously prevents herself from doing him excessive harm during an escape attempt as she feels that if she does she’s descending to his level…It was as if she had simply accepted her situation, and that was the most heartbreaking part.

’And yes, he had more dignity than I did then and I felt small, mean. Always sneering at him, jabbing him, hating him and showing it. It was funny, we sat in silence facing each other and I had a feeling I’ve had once or twice before, of the most peculiar closeness to him—not love or attraction or sympathy in any way. But linked destiny. Like being shipwrecked on an island—a raft—together. In every way not wanting to be together. But together.’

The third and fourth parts of the novel were the most disturbing parts of the entire book. Suffice it to say, it gave me goosebumps. It was not the ending I had anticipated, but I still felt that the author was successful in creating the everlasting effect I believe he intended. Obviously, you understand the severity of Ferdinand’s actions; however, not until the end do you fully understand just how abnormal he really is. This was certainly not a happy book, but one that I’m glad to have read and one that I will likely not forget.

Divider

Short Story Review – The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe

November 11, 2011 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2011, Short Stories 0 Comments

Short Story Review – The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan PoeThe Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe
Published by Public Domain on September 1839
Pages: 28
Genres: Classics, Poetry
Format: eBook
Source: Freebie
Amazon
Goodreads

Also by this author: The Raven, Tales of the Macabre

three-stars

Roderick Usher is ill, but not due to any normal causes. When the narrator of the story arrives at the House of Usher, he finds that all is not well in the old ancestral home. The house itself appears to be almost alive, and the illness of Madeline, Roderick's sister, is not all it seems.

The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe is a classic short story first in 1839, and was memorably adapted for film by Roger Corman in 1960.

This unique edition includes an original essay on the ‘Curious Quirks in the Early Life of Edgar Allan Poe’ by J. S. Williams.

The Fall of the House of Usher is in the opinion of many scholars Poe's most famous work of prose.This unsettling macabre work is viewed as a masterpiece of American Gothic literature. Indeed, as in many of his tales, Poe borrows much from the Gothic tradition. Still, as G. R. Thomson writes in his Introduction to Great Short Works of Edgar Allan Poe: "the tale has long been hailed as a masterpiece of Gothic horror; it is also a masterpiece of dramatic irony and structural symbolism."

The Fall of the House of Usher has also been criticized for being too formulaic. Poe was criticized for following his own patterns established in works like Morella and Ligeia using stock characters in stock scenes and situations. Repetitive themes like an unidentifiable disease, madness, and resurrection are also criticized. However, there is speculation that Poe used a real-life incident as the basis for his story: the entombment of two lovers at Usher House in Boston, whose bodies were discovered when the house was demolished in 1800.

Scholars speculate that Poe, who was an influence on Herman Melville, inspired the character of Ahab in Melville's novel Moby-Dick. John McAleer maintained that the idea for "objectifying Ahab's flawed character" came from the "evocative force" of Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher. In both Ahab and the house of Usher, the appearance of fundamental soundness is visibly flawed — by Ahab's livid scar, and by the fissure in the masonry of Usher.

And the award for the longest run-on sentence that still manages to somewhat make sense goes to… yes, you, Edgar. You, my friend, know how to use those punctuation’s to their fullest potential and then some. You even manage to use dashes like it’s nobody’s business.

And now for the winning sentence…
*deep breathe*

“It was possible, I reflected, that a mere different arrangement of the particulars of the scene, of the details of the picture, would be sufficient to modify, or perhaps to annihilate its capacity for sorrowful impression; and, acting upon this idea, I reined my horse to the precipitous brink of blank and lurid tarn that lay in unruffled luster by the dwelling, and gazed down — but with a shudder even more thrilling than before — upon the remodeled and inverted images of the gray sedge, and the ghastly tree-stems, and the vacant and eye-like windows.”

*gasp*

Holy criminy.

Overall an odd story that requires much interpretation because at face value it doesn’t make a damn bit of sense. Yet… I’m oddly intrigued at his writing style and will definitely be seeking out more of his work in the future.

Divider

Book Review – A Study in Scarlet (Sherlock Holmes #1) by Arthur Conan Doyle

October 28, 2011 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2011 0 Comments

Book Review – A Study in Scarlet (Sherlock Holmes #1) by Arthur Conan DoyleA Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle
Series: Sherlock Holmes #1
Published by Penguin Classics on October 1st 2001 (first published 1887)
Pages: 192
Genres: Classics, Mystery
Format: eBook
Source: Library
Amazon
Goodreads


three-stars

In the debut of literature's most famous sleuth, a dead man is discovered in a bloodstained room in Brixton. The only clues are a wedding ring, a gold watch, a pocket edition of Boccaccio's Decameron, and a word scrawled in blood on the wall. With this investigation begins the partnership of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. Their search for the murderer uncovers a story of love and revenge-and heralds a franchise of detective mysteries starring the formidable Holmes.

Part I: This being the first story in the Sherlock Holmes series, this is also the introduction of the two main characters: Holmes and Watson. After meeting one another they agree to move in together as they were both in need of a roommate. Shortly after, a man is discovered as being murdered and Sherlock Holmes is asked to evaluate the scene to determine if there is any evidence of who may have done it. The only clue is a woman’s wedding ring and the words “RACHE” written in blood on the wall.

Okay so… I think I have a bit of a crush. I loved Sherlock eccentricity and how unconventional he was. I will admit, the mystery wasn’t really much of a mystery but it was still entertaining nonetheless. It did get a big “oooohhhhhhhhh….” from me once the mystery was finally solved though. Silly me, probably should have seen that one coming.

‘There is no mystery about it at all. I am simply applying to ordinary life a few of those precepts of observation and deduction which I advocated in that article. Is there anything else that puzzles you?’

Part II: So, umm… I thought I missed something. The second half of this book was almost like a different book entirely and all of a sudden I’m right smack dab in the middle of Utah and everyone has buckets o’ wives?

Anyways. Essentially, the second half of this book was a major bash-fest on the Mormons. I figure that’s why it ended up on the banned book list.

“We have come,” continued Stangerson, “at the advice of our fathers to solicit the hand of your daughter for whichever of us may seem good to you and to her. As I have but four wives and Brother Drebber here has seven, it appears to me that my claim is the stronger one.”

Uh-huh. Five is definitely better than eight.

Overall, pretty enjoyable, would definitely be interested in reading more about Sherlock most definitely.

Divider

Book Review – The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

October 26, 2011 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2011 0 Comments

Book Review – The Great Gatsby by F. Scott FitzgeraldThe Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Published by Scribner on April 10th 1925
Pages: 218
Genres: Classics, Contemporary, Romance
Format: eBook
Source: Library
Amazon
Goodreads


two-stars

The exemplary novel of the Jazz Age, F. Scott Fitzgeralds' third book, The Great Gatsby (1925), stands as the supreme achievement of his career. T. S. Eliot read it three times and saw it as the "first step" American fiction had taken since Henry James; H. L. Mencken praised "the charm and beauty of the writing," as well as Fitzgerald's sharp social sense; and Thomas Wolfe hailed it as Fitzgerald's "best work" thus far. The story of the fabulously wealthy Jay Gatsby and his love for the beautiful Daisy Buchanan, of lavish parties on Long Island at a time when, The New York Times remarked, "gin was the national drink and sex the national obsession," it is an exquisitely crafted tale of America in the 1920s that resonates with the power of myth. A novel of lyrical beauty yet brutal realism, of magic, romance, and mysticism, The Great Gatsby is one of the great classics of twentieth-century literature.

This is the definitive, textually accurate edition of The Great Gatsby, edited by Matthew J. Bruccoli and authorized by the estate of F. Scott Fitzgerald. The first edition of The Great Gatsby contained many errors resulting from Fitzgerald's extensive revisions and a rushed production schedule, and subsequent editions introduced further departures from the author's intentions. This critical edition draws on the manuscript and surviving proofs of the novel, along with Fitzgerald's later revisions and corrections, to restore the text to its original form. It is The Great Gatsby as Fitzgerald intended it.

One of the great classics of the 20th century… well, a statement like that will definitely get anyone interested in reading it. Many of you read this in school, but naturally I missed out on this one as well. This one is not only on the BBC Book List but the 1001 books to read before you die.

’For a moment the last sunshine fell with romantic affection upon her glowing face; her voice compelled me forward breathlessly as I listened – then the glow faded, each light deserting her with lingering regret like children leaving a pleasant street at dusk.’

I thoroughly enjoyed the writing of F. Scott Fitzgerald; it was by far the best part of the book. I had a major disconnect with the characters as I found them to be quite shallow and pretentious. The whole story seemed off for me, but I think that was just the overall oddness of the characters themselves. My impression going into this book was that it was to be a great love story… how Gatsby loved Daisy but the war came between them. Daisy, becoming tired of waiting for Gatsby to return, marries Tom who’s a loaf of a man that cheats on her quite openly.

Now I understand this is a book not set in the 20th century and women were supposed to all be stay out home mothers who took care of the house and the children and kept their mouths shut so I naturally didn’t expect her to get fed up with his cheating and hit him over the head with a dinner plate, but I really did expect more. By the end, it all felt a tad anticlimactic and there was a resounding ‘So… what was the point?’ floating through my head.

All in all, I’m glad to have read it so I can now say that I’ve read it, but that it’s definitely not going down as one of my faves.

Divider

Book Review – The Witches by Roald Dahl

October 24, 2011 Bonnie Book Reviews, Middle Grade, Read in 2011 1 Comment

Book Review – The Witches by Roald DahlThe Witches by Roald Dahl
Published by Scholastic Press on August 16, 2007 (first published 1983)
Pages: 208
Genres: Classics, Fantasy, Horror
Format: eBook
Source: Library
Amazon
Goodreads

Also by this author: The Gremlins

three-stars

This Roald Dahl classic tells the scary, funny and imaginative tale of a seven-year-old boy who has a run-in with some real-life witches! "In fairy tales witches always wear silly black hats and black cloaks and they ride on broomsticks. But this is not a fairy tale. This is about REAL WITCHES. REAL WITCHES dress in ordinary clothes and look very much like ordinary women. They live in ordinary houses and they work in ordinary jobs. That is why they are so hard to catch." Witches, as our hero learns, hate children. With the help of a friend and his somewhat-magical grandmother, our hero tries to expose the witches before they dispose of him.

“In fairy tales, witches always wear silly black hats and black cloaks, and they ride on broomsticks. But this is not a fairy-tale. This is about REAL WITCHES.”

I decided to read this in support of Banned Book Week. So obviously I’m a bit behind schedule as this is my first time reading this and I know many of you had read this early on in your childhood. I’m 25 years old and am just now getting around to experiencing it. I positively adored Roald Dahl’s writing and am quite surprised that I never actually read a single one of his books.

“The curtains were never drawn in that house, and through the windows I could see huge snowflakes falling slowly on to an outside world that was as black as tar.”

Does it make me a total wuss to admit that this book really freaked me out a few times? And what about those pictures?! Holy crap.

That? Is some seriously scary shit right there.

Bottom Line… it was quite a charming little book and the relationship between the little boy and his grandmother was damn adorable.

“It doesn’t matter who you are or what you look like so long as somebody loves you.”

bonnie blog signature

Divider