Posts Categorized: Classic Curiosity

Short & Sweet – Little Women, Skipping Christmas, Christmas at the Comfort Food Cafe

December 30, 2016 Bonnie Book Reviews, Classic Curiosity, Short & Sweet Reviews 2 Comments

Short & Sweet – Little Women, Skipping Christmas, Christmas at the Comfort Food CafeLittle Women by Louisa May Alcott
Published by Tally Hall Press on 1868
Pages: 635
Genres: Classics, Historical Fiction, Holiday - Christmas
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
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three-stars

Grown-up Meg, tomboyish Jo, timid Beth, and precocious Amy. The four March sisters couldn't be more different. But with their father away at war, and their mother working to support the family, they have to rely on one another. Whether they're putting on a play, forming a secret society, or celebrating Christmas, there's one thing they can't help wondering: Will Father return home safely?

“I want to do something splendid…something heroic or wonderful that won’t be forgotten after I’m dead. I don’t know what, but I’m on the watch for it and mean to astonish you all someday.”

Can you believe it? The last person on Earth has finally read Little Women! Okay, I’m kidding, I’m sure I wasn’t the last one to read it but sure feels like it. But yes, this was my very first time reading it and I’m glad I did even though it was a bit of a struggle because 18th century works of fictions and I don’t often get along real well. But despite my apprehension View Spoiler » this one really won me over in the end. I learned to appreciate it for what it’s meant to be: an old-fashioned yet authentic tale of a close knit family, and in particular four very different young women, struggling to find their place in a difficult time in history. It’s not a glamorous tale of silk gowns and ball rooms, but rather an accurate interpretation of how life really was for Louisa May Alcott and her three sisters, as well as all the other women coming of age in the 1800s. It makes you appreciate family, life itself, and presents under the Christmas tree. And NOW, I can finally watch the movie.

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Short & Sweet – Little Women, Skipping Christmas, Christmas at the Comfort Food CafeSkipping Christmas by John Grisham
Narrator: Dennis Boutsikaris
Published by Random House Audio on November 6th 2001
Length: 3 hrs and 42 mins
Genres: Holiday - Christmas
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
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five-stars

Imagine a year without Christmas. No crowded malls, no corny office parties, no fruitcakes, no unwanted presents. That’s just what Luther and Nora Krank have in mind when they decide that, just this once, they’ll skip the holiday altogether. Theirs will be the only house on Hemlock Street without a rooftop Frosty; they won’t be hosting their annual Christmas Eve bash; they aren’t even going to have a tree. They won’t need one, because come December 25 they’re setting sail on a Caribbean cruise. But, as this weary couple is about to discover, skipping Christmas brings enormous consequences–and isn’t half as easy as they’d imagined.

In my opinion, this is the Christmas book. Forget A Christmas Carol or anything else resembling wholesome Christmas stories, Skipping Christmas is a destined classic. What can I say, the concept of skipping Christmas entirely and going on a cruise instead just speaks to my Grinch-y soul.

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This year I opted to re-read the audiobook version which is narrated by Dennis Boutsikaris who portrays Luther Krank perfectly in all his deadpan humorous glory. When I first discovered this novel, many, many years ago… I almost glanced over it because “John Grisham? Isn’t that the guy that writes legal thrillers?” Yep, he sure is, but apparently he also has a humorous side. Many of you have likely seen the film adaptation Christmas with the Kranks which is all sorts of hilarious (especially with the book lacking that sidesplitting scene after Luther gets botox), but this short novel is an amusing way to spend a few hours surrounded by Christmas cheer as you contemplate an alternative to it all.

Short & Sweet – Little Women, Skipping Christmas, Christmas at the Comfort Food CafeChristmas at the Comfort Food Cafe by Debbie Johnson
Series: Comfort Food Cafe #2
Published by HarperImpulse on September 23rd 2016
Pages: 209
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Holiday - Christmas
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
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three-stars

Becca Fletcher has always hated Christmas but she has her reasons for being Little Miss Grinch. Now, though, she can’t avoid her version of ho-ho-hell – because she’s travelling to the Comfort Food Cafe to spend the festive season with her sister Laura and her family. She’s expecting mulled wine, 24-hour Christmas movie marathons and all kinds of very merry torture.

Little does Becca know that the Comfort Food Cafe is like no other place on earth. Perched on a snow-covered hill, it’s a place full of friendship where broken hearts can heal, new love can blossom and where Becca’s Christmas miracle really could happen – if only she can let it…

‘They are perfect together, and it’s only their pasts holding them back.
Which, I suppose, is a sentence that could be applied to all of us, in some way or another.’

Becca Fletcher has always been known as the wild child of the family: drugs, alcohol, one night stands, you name it. She’s turned over a new leaf after a tragedy strikes her sister’s family and she realizes that it’s time she became someone that can be depended on. And now that same sister is asking her to come visit her for Christmas. She hates Christmas, but she just can’t say no to her sister.

The little town of Budbury is a charming little seaside village where everyone is friendly and looks out for one another. It’s the kind of quaint place that is only found within the pages of a story, but it doesn’t stop you from wishing such a place really existed. This is a fun Christmas time read but admittedly the Christmas theme took a backseat to the romance. Becca’s sister has been trying to set her up with the cute Irish boy named Sam since this past summer and when she visits, they finally meet in person for the first time. I appreciated Becca’s honesty with her past problems and not wanting to jump into anything (like a bed) too quickly and was up front and honest with him about this. She didn’t beat around the bush and gloss over her problems or make any sort of excuses, so for him to continue to doggedly pursue her despite her insistence they take things slow was a bit problematic for me. Granted, this all works out like your typical storybook romance is supposed to and was undeniably cute once I got past my awkward feels about the whole thing.

Christmas + cutesy romance = two peas in a pod.

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Classic Curiosity – The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

June 27, 2015 Bonnie Book Reviews, Classic Curiosity, Read in 2015 4 Comments

Classic Curiosity – The Turn of the Screw by Henry JamesThe Turn of the Screw by Henry James
Published by Penguin Classics on October 13th 1898
Pages: 96
Genres: Classics, Ghosties, Gothic, Horror
Format: eBook
Source: Freebie
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three-stars

A chilling ghost story, wrought with tantalising ambiguity, Henry James's The Turn of the Screw is edited with an introduction and notes by David Bromwich in Penguin Classics. In what Henry James called a 'trap for the unwary', The Turn of the Screw tells of a nameless young governess sent to a country house to take charge of two orphans, Miles and Flora. Unsettled by a dark foreboding of menace within the house, she soon comes to believe that something malevolent is stalking the children in her care. But is the threat to her young charges really a malign and ghostly presence or something else entirely? The Turn of the Screw is James's great masterpiece of haunting atmosphere and unbearable tension and has influenced subsequent ghost stories and films such as The Innocents, starring Deborah Kerr, and The Others, starring Nicole Kidman.

“No, no—there are depths, depths! The more I go over it, the more I see in it, and the more I see in it, the more I fear. I don’t know what I don’t see—what I don’t fear!”

Being a fan of horror novels and especially ghost stories, I’ve been eager to make my way to more of the classics so as to see for myself where horror originated. The Turn of the Screw is one those, featuring two children who appear to be consorting with ghosts and a governess who’s sole purpose in life has become to save the children from these evil spiritual entities. Intriguing, but the incredible dense writing really killed this for me despite its short length.

“Here at present I felt afresh—for I had felt it again and again—how my equilibrium depended on the success of my rigid will, the will to shut my eyes as tight as possible to the truth that what I had to deal with was, revoltingly, against nature. I could only get on at all by taking “nature” into my confidence and my account, by treating my monstrous ordeal as a push in a direction unusual, of course, and unpleasant, but demanding, after all, for a fair front, only another turn of the screw of ordinary human virtue.”

Interestingly enough though, upon reflection, I realized that it’s more impressive novel than I originally thought. The story is less straightforward than it would appear, where the children may or may not be seeing ghosts and the governess may or may not be going mad. Were the children lying all along about not being able to see the ghosts? If they were, did that in effect push the governess over the edge, believing herself to be seeing something and then being told that no one else sees it but her? That would be enough to twist anyone’s mind. But if the children were being honest all along, the governess was, in fact, the only horror the children were witnessing.

“I was a screen– I was their protector. The more I saw, the less they would.”

Considering that our narrator is, in fact, the governess, working with an unreliable narrator leaves the reader in charge of separating fact from fiction. And James’ continued ambiguity to the very end of this short tale subsequently leaves it up to the reader to decide what was truly happening all along. I’m a bit on the fence myself, believing that both circumstances are believably terrifying and equally likely.

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Classic Curiosity – The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

May 22, 2015 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Classic Curiosity, Read in 2015 0 Comments

Classic Curiosity – The Lottery by Shirley JacksonThe Lottery by Shirley Jackson
Published by Penguin Classics on June 26th 1948
Pages: 16
Genres: Classics, Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic, Literary Fiction
Format: eBook
Source: Library
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four-stars

Shirley Jackson's unnerving, macabre tale of random cruelty, The Lottery is one of the most iconic stories ever written, and a touchstone for writers such as Neil Gaiman and Stephen King. "Shirley Jackson's stories are among the most terrifying ever written". (Donna Tartt). Every year the villagers gather. They can't remember when the Lottery started. Much of the original ceremony has been forgotten or discarded; the first black box lost. But the ritual always ends in the same way...Shirley Jackson's chilling tales of creeping unease and casual cruelty have the power to unsettle and terrify unlike any other.

‘The people of the village began to gather in the square, between the post office and the bank, around ten o’clock.’

In a seemingly normal town, everyone gathers together to conduct the annual traditional lottery. What is the lottery exactly? Well, you don’t truly discover the magnitude of its horror until the final passage. A lottery is typically a good thing but in this small town its anything but. Certain things throughout this short story hint at what’s to come: the nervous energy of the people, the implication that the lottery serves a purpose regarding the future of the crops, and the piles of stones that the kids begin to gather.

What made this story the eeriest is the whole mystery behind the lottery. No one truly knows when it actually started, why it ever started, only that it is and must keep going for tradition’s sake. It’s mentioned that other towns have done away with the practice and the idea is immediately dismissed as folly. Just the concept of not doing the lottery, of doing away with tradition, is enough to frighten everyone not knowing the possible implications not doing it would cause.

This patriarchal society in the unnamed village has the men draw the slip of paper that ultimately decides whether their family is the selected recipient of the lottery. The only instance where this differs is when the man is unable to attend the lottery (such as the man named Dunbar that was home with a broken leg) or if an elder son is able to draw for his mother if she doesn’t have a husband. Once selected, each individual (even women) are then given their opportunity to select their own piece of paper. Published in 1948, Shirley Jackson’s short story is a telling criticism of the powerlessness that women faced, and unfortunately still face to this day. While the idea of the lottery is clearly exaggerated, the idea of the strength and fierceness of traditions and patriarchy is extremely realistic.

“It isn’t fair, it isn’t right.”

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Classic Curiosity – To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

March 14, 2015 Bonnie Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Classic Curiosity, Read in 2015 1 Comment

Classic Curiosity – To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper LeeTo Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Narrator: Sissy Spacek
Published by Harper Audio on July 11th, 1960
Length: 12 hours and 17 minutes
Genres: Classics, Historical Fiction
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
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Also by this author: Go Set a Watchman

five-stars

Harper Lee's classic novel of a lawyer in the deep south defending a black man charged with the rape of a white girl

One of the best-loved stories of all time, To Kill a Mockingbird has earned many distinctions since its original publication in 1960. It won the Pulitzer Prize, has been translated into more than forty languages, sold more than thirty million copies worldwide, and been made into an enormously popular movie. Most recently, librarians across the country gave the book the highest of honors by voting it the best novel of the twentieth century.

 ‘You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.’

I recall reading this for the first time early on in school, in junior high possibly, and I can definitely say that the powerful message behind the book was completely lost on me at the time. As wonderful and inspirational as it is, it’s also much more complex and layered than my memory served. This is a book that teaches tolerance, morality and ethics, about the senselessness of violence and the differences between right and wrong. Doing what’s right meant something vastly different down South in the 1930s when Mockingbird was set and also in the 1960s when first published, however, even 50+ years later, it’s sad to see that we still deal with these issues to this day even if it may not necessarily be on the same large scale. This story still manages to retain significant meaning and teach us something about humanity regardless of time or place.

“They’re certainly entitled to think that, and they’re entitled to full respect for their opinions… but before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”

In addition to the various storylines that serve to teach an important lesson is the full cast of amazing characters that act out these life lessons. Atticus Finch, by far my favorite character, is a man that saw everyone as his equal. He believed this wholeheartedly and was willing to put his very livelihood on the line to fight for those rights. He was able to accept the differences in all of us and see the true bottom line: regardless of race, color, gender or any of the multitudes of ways that not only make us who we are but also separates us from the rest, at the end of the day we are all the same; we’re all human beings. This world would be a far better place with a few more Atticus Finch’s in existence.

As simplistic as this story is delivered, it’s actually deceptively significant. It’s not a preachy how to guide on how to be a decent person but instead it’s the didactic story of one man’s fight for what’s right.

Notes on the narration: Sissy Spacek delivered an amazing narration with her authentic Southern accent that had me listening well past my bedtime. I couldn’t imagine Scout sounding any other way. Listen below for a clip to the audiobook.

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Classic Curiosity – Hallowe’en Party (Hercule Poirot Series #36) by Agatha Christie

October 30, 2014 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Classic Curiosity, Ominous October, Read in 2014 0 Comments

Classic Curiosity – Hallowe’en Party (Hercule Poirot Series #36) by Agatha ChristieHallowe'en Party by Agatha Christie
Series: Hercule Poirot Series #36
Published by HarperCollins on November 1969
Pages: 336
Genres: Classics, Mystery
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
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Also by this author: And Then There Were None

two-stars

A teenage murder witness is drowned in a tub of apples...At a Hallowe'en party, Joyce - a hostile thirteen-year-old - boasts that she once witnessed a murder. When no-one believes her, she storms off home. But within hours her body is found, still in the house, drowned in an apple-bobbing tub. That night, Hercule Poirot is called in to find the 'evil presence'. But first he must establish whether he is looking for a murderer or a double-murderer...

While preparing for the upcoming Hallowe’en Party, thirteen-year-old Joyce Reynolds begins boasting about a murder she claims to have been a witness to many years ago. The reason she gives for not coming forward sooner was she didn’t realize it was an actual murder until recently. For the most part, no one took much notice of her ramblings but someone apparently did. At the Hallowe’en Party, Joyce was found drowned in the apple-bobbing tub. The immediate reasoning for her own death seems to be the death that she witnessed.

Tis the season for a good murder mystery and what better than a murder mystery which occurs at a Halloween Party? This was my train of thought going into this one but that thought quickly derailed. This is my second Agatha Christie book (my first being And Then There Were None — it pains me to rate a Christie book so low after that one) and my first foray into the Hercule Poirot series and even though I’ve been told that they all manage well as stand alone’s, that you can jump right in at any point, Hallowe’en Party was clearly a poor starting point. I started reading this in print and was at first enjoying it but once Poirot began his investigation I kept wanting to put the book down in favor of more interesting things like laundry and vacuuming. I tried powering through but I failed when I began to think I was so out of it I was forgetting to turn the pages and was reading the same passages all over again because the many people he interviewed all had the same. exact. things to say about Joyce. Poirot’s investigation seemingly led no-where yet he was able to postulate exactly who the killer was with little to nothing to go on. Good for you, Poirot. I guess that’s why you’re the detective and I am not. It was all very wearisome though. I switched to listening to the audio after a bit so I could multitask and have exciting times in laundry folding as well.

Poirot was quite a character but I haven’t given up completely on him; I do still anticipate reading the earlier installments (Yes, Dani, like Murder on the Orient Express). He was like a quirky, French version of Sherlock. I’m at least thankful that Sherlock isn’t weird about his facial hair as Poirot clearly is.

‘There was only one thing about his own appearance which really pleased Hercule Poirot, and that was the profusion of his moustaches, and the way they responded to grooming and treatment and trimming. They were magnificent. He knew of nobody else who had any moustache half as good.’

I’m not sure I’d call it “magnificent” but it’s certainly something.

For those of you that are looking for a perfect theme read for Halloween night, alas this isn’t one I’d recommend. Not only because it’s one of the least interesting mysteries I’ve read as of late but even though the murder takes place on Halloween and the rest of the book centers around that, the actual “Halloween” aspects of it last only a few short pages.

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Classic Curiosity – Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

October 11, 2014 Bonnie Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Classic Curiosity, Ominous October, Read in 2014 7 Comments

Classic Curiosity – Frankenstein by Mary ShelleyFrankenstein by Mary Shelley
Narrator: Dan Stevens
Published by Audible on 1818
Length: 8 hrs and 35 mins
Genres: Classics, Horror
Format: Audiobook
Source: Purchased
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four-stars

Narrator Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey) presents an uncanny performance of Mary Shelley's timeless gothic novel, an epic battle between man and monster at its greatest literary pitch. In trying to create life, the young student Victor Frankenstein unleashes forces beyond his control, setting into motion a long and tragic chain of events that brings Victor to the very brink of madness. How he tries to destroy his creation, as it destroys everything Victor loves, is a powerful story of love, friendship, scientific hubris, and horror.

The summer of 1816 was named the “Year Without a Summer” after the eruption of Mount Tambora caused a long and dreary Volcanic Winter. With everyone keeping to the indoors, Mary, her future husband Percy Shelley, Lord Byron and John Polidori all entertained themselves by telling ghost stories and then inevitably it was suggested they each come up with their own type of horror story. It was during this very summer that Mary Shelley, at the age of eighteen, came up with the initial concept of Frankenstein.

‘After days and night of incredible labour and fatigue, I succeeded in discovering the cause of generation and life; nay, more, I became myself capable of bestowing animation upon lifeless matter.’

Frankenstein is the story of Victor Frankenstein, a man that through experiementation in both science and alchemy devised a way to combine pieces of human corpses and give them new life. Frankenstein is a legendary story and has become a pivotal part of our cultural understanding of the supernatural world, however, the novel is actually nothing like the classic movies involving lightning, screaming and Frankenstein actually being excited at his accomplishments.

His shock and awe quickly transforms into a horrific realization at what he was capable of and he ran away in terror, leaving the monster alone. We’re told Frankenstein’s story first and the steps that led to the monsters creation and the subsequent events as well. Frankenstein depicts him as a monster, thus the reason he is never given an actual name, but when we are finally given the story via the monsters point of view we realize this ‘monster’ is quite possibly anything but. His is a story of complete despondency that easily garners your compassion regardless of the pain and suffering he has wreaked. He may be a creation but is he still not a person? Is his creators ensuing abandonment to blame for his conduct because Frankenstein had a duty beyond just his creation? I believe it is. Without his creator there to teach him the ways of the world, he was forced to observe, learn and interpret on his own. So then it was his observances of society what transformed him into who he came to be? A matter of circumstance? He became an outcast of society because of his appearance and after a time became lonely and craved a companion. He sought out his creator so as to force him to duplicate his work.

This is my first read of the classic and I must say it’s nothing like I was expecting. It ended up being a strange and eclectic blend of genres. It was science fiction, with the creation of a man from pieces of corpses, and it was gothic and horror, the dead coming back to life and wreaking havoc on the world. Neither of those were the sole purpose or point of this story; it only set the scene. At the heart of this story are the revolutionary and intellectual questions about life, death and existence. About scientific possibilities and how far is too far. And it’s about compassion and lack of it in this world. Was Frankenstein’s monster truly an outcast only because of his appearance, because initially he showed the utmost caring towards individuals and even saved a drowning girl at one point. Society saw the monster and judged him harshly based off that alone, never giving him the benefit of the doubt. It’s a fictional accounting of a harsh world but it’s a rather truthful and distressing accounting. This is Gothic literature at its very finest and I’m so glad I finally conquered this incredible piece of work.

‘Once I falsely hoped to meet with beings who, pardoning my outward form, would love me for the excellent qualities which I was capable of unfolding. I was nourished with high thoughts of honour and devotion. But now crime has degraded me beneath the meanest animal. No guilt, no mischief, no malignity, no misery, can be found comparable to mine. When I run over the frightful catalogue of my sins, I cannot believe that I am the same creature whose thoughts were once filled with sublime transcendent visions of the beauty and the majesty of goodness.’

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Classic Curiosity – Light in August by William Faulkner

August 23, 2014 Bonnie Book Reviews, Classic Curiosity, Read in 2014 4 Comments

Classic Curiosity – Light in August by William FaulknerLight in August by William Faulkner
Published by Vintage on 1931
Pages: 507
Genres: Classics, Southern Gothic/Country Noir
Format: Paperback
Source: Library
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three-half-stars

“Read, read, read. Read everything—trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it is good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out the window.” —William Faulkner
 
Light in August, a novel about hopeful perseverance in the face of mortality, features some of Faulkner’s most memorable characters: guileless, dauntless Lena Grove, in search of the father of her unborn child; Reverend Gail Hightower, who is plagued by visions of Confederate horsemen; and Joe Christmas, a desperate, enigmatic drifter consumed by his mixed ancestry.

“…a fellow is more afraid of the trouble he might have than he ever is of the trouble he’s already got. He’ll cling to trouble he’s used to before he’ll risk a change. Yes. A man will talk about how he’d like to escape from living folks. But it’s the dead folks that do him the damage. It’s the dead ones that lay quiet in one place and don’t try to hold him, that he can’t escape from.”

Light in August, set in Faulkner’s oft used Yoknapatawpha County, follows three separate yet connected storylines that focus on race and violence in the deep South. The novel opens with a pregnant Lena Grove traveling the South on foot to find her baby’s father, a man she knows by the name of Lucas Burch but is actually named Joe Brown. She is led to a man named Byron Bunch who everyone thinks she must mean since no one they know is named Lucas Burch. He becomes quickly obsessed with Lena, wishes to marry her, and subsequently keeps her from the baby’s father. The second storyline focuses on Joe Christmas, a troubled man who is uncertain about his birth and believes himself to be half-black. He works at a local lumber mill but only in an attempt to disguise his illegal liquor business where he makes most of his money. He becomes partners with a man named Joe Brown. The third and final story to tie everything together is Gail Hightower, a local ex-minister after he became involved in a scandal that forever tarnished his name.

‘It is just dawn, daylight: that gray and lonely suspension filled with the peaceful and tentative waking of birds. The air, inbreathed, is like spring water. He breathes deep and slow, feeling with each breath himself diffuse in the neutral grayness, becoming one with loneliness and quiet that has never known fury or despair.’

The novel is richly written, exquisitely descriptive and often times complex as it alternates being multiple individuals and also between their pasts and their present. Each separate story continues on its own path yet they are all skillfully and slowly intertwining leaving the reader oblivious to the obvious connections until the pieces finally come together at the end. The histories of each person may seem of little consequence but it only seeks to show how one’s past is what forms their future, and how it will forever haunt you. Faulkner succeeds in not only bringing to life the small town mentality but of a Southern small town in the 1920s with all its judgmental prejudices. Light in August is a tragic tale but completely unforgettable due to its ending that won’t go easy on your nerves. This is my first Faulkner and while it certainly wasn’t an easy read, it won’t be my last.

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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
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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
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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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Classic Curiosity Project

June 27, 2014 Bonnie Classic Curiosity, Reading Challenges 13 Comments

I may have read thousands of books in my life, yet classics are for the most part absent from that list. No, I haven’t read Pride & Prejudice, Emma, Sense and Sensibility or Mansfield Park. I haven’t read Frankenstein. Or Dracula. I haven’t read (anything) Brontë, Wells, Verne, Dumas, Hardy, Wilde, Tolstoy or Hugo. You name it I’m likely to have not read it. I started picking up a few classics here and there in recent years: Animal Farm, Lolita, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Metamorphosis, Bell Jar and they are all among my most favorite books now.

Classics aren’t always easy reads. They take much more time and energy than the typical books I read that I can breeze through but they have interested me and left me curious about all the ones I’ve been missing out on. So, Classic Literature, at least how I decide to define it, is my new book project. Better late than never, no?

This is a list of some classics that I’ve come up with that are on my sooner rather than later list. They’re a combination of big name titles and various short ones that will hopefully get me started right. Short classics sure are few and far between though! (Don’t even get me started with The Count of Monte Cristo. I’ve been told it’s fabulous but let me get through the Game of Thrones series before endeavoring on another massive book. haha)

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë {Purchase}
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë {Purchase}
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen {Purchase}
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley {Purchase}
Dracula by Bram Stoker {Purchase}
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley {Purchase}
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens {Purchase}
The Time Machine by H.G. Wells {Purchase}
The Pearl by John Steinbeck {Purchase}
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie {Purchase}

On top of the ones I haven’t read at all, there are also those select few that I read ages ago, mostly in school, that I recall enjoying and I’d love to re-read just to see if they’re just as fabulous as I remember.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee {Purchase}
1984 by George Orwell {Purchase}
Beowulf by Unknown {Purchase}
Lord of the Flies by William Golding {Purchase}
The Odyssey by Homer {Purchase}
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott {Purchase}
Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis {Purchase}
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain {Purchase}
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson {Purchase}
Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien {Purchase}

With a massive list to go off of, where do you even start? I suppose just one book at a time. 🙂 What are some of your favorite classics? Do you have any recommendations on good books to start with? Am I missing any books you think belongs on this list? Let me know!

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