Review: Little Women & Good Wives by Louisa May Alcott

Overall Impression: A heartwarming tale about childhood and sisterhood, and the perils of growing up.

Little Women

It was a cold and hopeless winter morning, with frost thick on the ground that I decided to pick up Little Women. I was in the most unpleasant depths of a cold, and my brain felt as though it was stuffed with cotton wool. I will confess that I was feeling pretty low and fed up as I sat moaning under a blanket on my sofa. Bored with back to back TV, I picked up Little Women (which I had recently gotten free from the radio times due to a new adaptation) and began reading with much trepidation, feeling that if it was anything like Jane Austen’s work (which I don’t have the greatest affection for) it would be a bit of a slog. So, it was much to my surprise that a few chapters in, I found myself rather enchanted, and subsequently made my way through the second book Good Wives as well within a space of a week. Continue reading

Dual Review: Why Jane Eyre and David Copperfield Kick Literary Ass

Good evening ladies and gents!

Guess what, today we’re going highbrow. While I was away doing ALL THE THINGS, I made good progress with The Rory Gilmore Book Challenge (seems fitting considering the Gilmore Girls Revival). I’m really enjoying chronicling my progress with this because these books push me as a reader. Recently I picked up Jane Eyre and David Copperfield, and they both shot straight into my favourites list. While theyre very different stories, they both feel timeless and relevant to modern life. To put it in a non, 19th century way, they kick literary ass!

~ * ~

Overall Impression: A Gothic, haunting tale of one girl’s fight for independence, dignity and respect in a world that isn’t quite ready for her yet.Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Jane Eyre, oh where do I start with you? What a wonderful book. I make no secret of the fact that I love Gothic 19th century writing. It tickles all the right spots for me. It’s overdramatic and sweeps you down into it’s depths, it’s passionate and strong and willful. It’s emotive and tantalizing to the senses, full of descriptions of grand buildings, dark landscapes and mysterious characters with confusing motives.

So, in case you don’t know that much about Jane Eyre, the book centers around a young lady looking for employment. Continue reading

Dual Reviews: Discovering J.D. Salinger and Revisiting Charles Dickens

Hey guys, gals and enthusiastic bookworms. I’ve decided to go all highbrow today and review some classics, The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger and A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. I’m pleased to say that I’ve come to really enjoy reading classics, they make for such an interesting reading experience because even if you don’t end up loving them, you always learn something! I went through a patch last year of not reading many, but my enthusiasm for them has recently been renewed so I picked these two off the Rory Gilmore Challenge to give a go. As always, I am not an English major, but here’s what I thought:

Overall Impression: A fascinating character study of a young teen full of contradictions.The Catcher in the Rye

I don’t know why this book works, but it does. On paper, it sounds oh so boring and like a school child’s required reading worst nightmare. It’s a book where nothing happens, where the main character after getting expelled from his private school, wanders around New York City meeting up with random people because he doesn’t want to go home and confront his parents. It’s a story about a whiny privileged white kid who throws opportunities to have a good life away, and yet somehow, despite sounding like a recipe for disaster and epic hate, it’s absolutely wonderful. But I can definitely see why this book has split so many opinions! Continue reading

Eclectic Mini Reviews: Atonement, It and I Heart Vegas.

Eclectic Mini Reviews
Hello, bookworms of the blogosphere! Today I bring you three for the price of one, aka, mini book reviews. Woohoo! These novels all told very different stories in contrasting genres, but all of them have one thing in common, I had somewhat conflicted opinions about them. Do you ever have that problem when there are some aspects you LOVE intensely about a book, but there are so many other things that get in the way of you being able to rate it as high as you want? These are all books that meet this criteria. So without further ado…

Continue reading

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury 5/5

Overall Impression: A mesmerizing book of ideas and what-ifs, set in a dreary, heartless future.

Whoa, this was one amazing book.Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
I had no idea what to expect from Fahrenheit 451 when I picked it up, other than that it was a novel about burning books and was generally held in lower esteem than its dystopian rival, 1984. When I spotted the novel last summer looking battered and lonely in the sci-fi section of a second hand bookshop I couldn’t help but adopt it. It had clearly been mistreated and needed a new home. The spine was torn, the pages orange with age and reeking of must, yet oddly it added to its charm. It almost seemed as if the novel had been through the same hardships that had occurred in the story, that it had come a little too close to being incinerated in its lifetime and was now a scarred casualty of war.
Yeah, I know, I have an overactive imagination right?!
This book was also read as part of The Rory Gilmore Challenge.

Guy Montag is a fireman. His job is to burn books, which are forbidden, being the source of all discord and unhappiness. Even so, Montag is unhappy; there is discord in his marriage. Are books hidden in his house?
The Mechanical Hound of the Fire Department, armed with a lethal hypodermic, escorted by helicopters, is ready to track down those dissidents who defy society to preserve and read books.

While I can easily say that Fahrenheit 451 is one of the best novels I’ve ever read, it’s also one of the weirdest and to begin with I had no idea what to make of the whole thing! From the first page you are thrust into the deep end, Continue reading

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee Review 5/5

Overall Impression: A beautiful, deeply moving book about the best and worst humanity has to offer.To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

How strange is it that I decided To Kill a Mockingbird was going to be my next read only a few days before everybody was in uproar about Michael Gove axing it from the UK English curriculum? Could there have been a more perfect time for me to start reading this, when everyone is feeling so passionate about it?
To Kill a Mockingbird has always been one of those novels I felt everyone except me had read. I wasn’t given the option to study it at school and for years and years people’s pop culture references about Atticus, Scout and Boo Radley were utterly lost on me. Before diving in all I knew about Lee’s famous tale was that it was set in the south and tackled the topic of racism, but this novel has so much more to offer than that.
This book was also read as part of The Rory Gilmore Challenge.

‘Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ‘em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.’
Atticus Finch gives this advice to his children as he defends the real mockingbird of this classic novel – a black man charged with attacking a white girl. Through the eyes of Scout and Jem Finch, Lee explores the issues of race and class in the Deep South of the 1930s with compassion and humour. She also creates one of the great heroes of literature in their father, whose lone struggle for justice pricks the conscience of a town steeped in prejudice and hypocrisy.
Continue reading

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens Review 4/5

Overall Impression: Toasty fires, moral messages and spooky ghosts. This is the crème de la crème of Christmas books.A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

I was desperate to get in the Christmas spirit this year. With agonising deadlines in full force I was in dire need of some festive cheer. A Christmas Carol seemed like the perfect choice to fill that void and tide me over until the holidays. 🙂 My vintage classic edition contained three of the five Christmas stories in the collection Dickens created, A Christmas Carol, The Chimes and The Haunted Man which I didn’t realise until I began reading. I will have to make an effort to search out the others next year! Oddly enough I also discovered that Washington Irving’s writings on Christmas I waded though last April were a big inspiration for Dickens when writing these stories, who knew? 🙂
This book was also read as part of The Rory Gilmore Challenge.

Ebenezer Scrooge is unimpressed by Christmas. He has no time for festivities or goodwill toward his fellow men and is only interested in money. Then, on the night of Christmas Eve, his life is changed by a series of ghostly visitations that show him some bitter truths about his choices. A Christmas Carol is Dickens’ most influential book and a funny, clever and hugely enjoyable story.

If you like Dickens writing style this may be your perfect Christmas book. His wonderful descriptions transport you to 19th century England walking along the cobbled streets catching whiffs of roasted chestnuts as everyone greets you with a heartwarming Merry Christmas, the cold making their rosy cheeks appear full of life and happiness. It is hard, no, impossible not to get sucked in to Dickens quaint and quintessential descriptions of imaginary people indulging in the holiday cheer.  Continue reading

DAY 21: Book You Tell People You’ve Read, but Haven’t (Or Haven’t Actually Finished).

30 Day Book Challenge Banner

Well this is probably going to be another short but sweet post I imagine because seriously, who tells people they’ve read something when they haven’t?! (Apologies if you actually HAVE done that) I could understand someone doing it at a young age I guess if they wanted to look cool or intellectual, but I don’t see why anyone would feel the need to do that. There is nothing wrong with saying you haven’t read a book, no matter how popular or critically acclaimed it is. There are so many wonderful novels in the world and it is impossible to read all of them! So instead I am going for ‘a book you tell people you’ve read but haven’t actually finished’ because I do have two books that fit this criteria.

As I have mentioned before I don’t often abandon books, so these were the exceptions to the rule rather than the norm. The two that I am going to be talking about were books I was made to read at school, figures! Continue reading

DAY 11: Your Favorite Classic Book.

30 Day Book Challenge Banner

From the moment I laid eyes on this question I knew exactly which novel I was going to be talking about, but now I’m sitting here writing the post I feel all nervous and clammy. You see, I want this post to be epic because that’s how I feel about the book. Yet that’s probably impossible because I read this classic such a long time ago that many of the details have faded. Have you ever just loved a novel so much that you found it impossible to arrange your thoughts into a coherent sentence to convey the sincere connection you have to it?

Revolution for Breakfast did a great job of magically describing how she found one of her favourite books, and while I don’t think I can live up to that, I hope after I finish you might consider reading or rereading this book. 🙂 Continue reading

DAY 3: The Longest Book You’ve Read.

30 Day Book Challenge Banner

You can never get a cup of tea large enough, or a book long enough to suit me – C.S. Lewis

Hear hear C.S. Lewis! I am the kind of person who isn’t afraid of long books, as far as I am concerned, the longer the book means the longer the fun! That is, as long as there is a legitimate reason for it being long rather than using filler to bulk it out. Long classics I will admit, are more intimidating. Something about the idea of committing to such a long novel that will take hard work and concentration to get through can be a little scary. However, for the most part I am one of those people that revels in the challenge. I want to read that long classic on the shelf to prove that I can, that I have the willpower and maturity to tackle it! And hopefully, along the way I will really enjoy reading it….if I don’t, well, it’s a long painful slog to the end. 😛 Continue reading

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde Review 2/5

Overall Impression: This is a clever little book full of philosophy and morals, but it just wasn’t for me.

When I said in my Dorian read-along post that it would beThe Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde interesting if one of us hated the book so that we could get some debates going, it hadn’t even occurred to me that the person might be me! I was so sure I was going to love this book, I had been looking forward to reading it for ages. Gothic novels are my favourite type of literature but I just couldn’t get into this one for some reason. I know a lot of you love this novel, so maybe you can share your wisdom with me so I can appreciate it more and be less of a party pooper?
I can tell that in its time this little book would have turned a lot of heads, it’s daring, uncompromising and has a great premise. So why god dammit why do I feel so indifferent to it all?!
This book is also on the The Rory Gilmore Challenge.

Dorian is a good-natured young man until he discovers the power of his own exceptional beauty. As he gradually sinks deeper into a frivolous, glamorous world of selfish luxury, he apparently remains physically unchanged by the stresses of his corrupt lifestyle and untouched by age. But up in his attic, hidden behind a curtain, his portrait tells a different story.

Basil Hallward is an artist obsessed. Obsessed with the naïve and youthful vision that is Dorian Gray. When Dorian sits for another of Basil’s portraits they are interrupted by the obnoxious and obtuse Lord Henry. He is desperate to meet the muse for himself, seeing in the portrait something special of his own, the potential to guide, observe and influence.  Continue reading

Falling Back Into Old Patterns

There are a lot of great things about the summer holidays for a university student. We get to eat food that’s actually edible, we are temporarily free from deadlines and we get our warm cozy bed along with the small comfort that nobody gross has slept in it before us! Still, the best part for me has to be the precious time we’re given to catch up with old friends that we have been separated from for the majority of the year.

This week I met up with some of my best budds for coffee (none of us actually drink coffee but you know, meeting for coffee sounds cooler). We brought our drinks and snacks before finding a table, and once again I was surprised to find that on chatting to them, it literally felt like no time had passed. We fell back into the same rhythms we’d always had. Although I had heard of the quote ‘True friendship isn’t about being inseparable, it’s being separated and nothing changes’ I guess I never fully understood it until this year.

So of course falling into our normal rhythm also meant falling back to a certain habit with a certain friend – book swapping. 😀 As I still have ten of my best budd’s books from our swap last year and she still owns several of mine it was a smaller loot than usual, but boy was it an awesome one!

SDC14639

Yes, my cat will also be starring in these pictures, because cuteness!

Continue reading

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens Review 5/5

Overall Impression: One boy’s journey of self discovery packed to the brim with some of the most memorable characters I have ever come across.

I was scared to open this book, and I mean scared. That never happens to me, but a had this huge trepidation about Dickens. I remember loathinGreat Expectationsg Oliver Twist when I was younger, I encountered the film many times and the book itself during year nine English and have steered away from all Dickens since. God help anyone who starts singing about ‘gruel’. Seriously, there is a special place in hell dedicated to people who sing those songs. 😛
However, in the name of literature (and because the book is on The Rory Gilmore Challenge) I decided to attempt Great Expectations, all the while thinking I should rename it ‘Low Expectations’. Even having seen TV adaptions and enjoying them, I couldn’t put away that pain from year nine English.
Ohh how I have been missing out! I took the book on holiday with me because I thought it would help me fall asleep earlier, but instead it kept me up later!

Pip’s life as an ordinary country boy is destined to be unexceptional until a chain of mysterious events leads him away from his humble origins and up the social ladder. His efforts to become a London gentleman bring him into contact not just with the upper classes but also with dangerous criminals. Pip’s desire to improve himself is matched only by his longing for the icy-hearted Estella, but secrets from the past impede his progress and he has many hard lessons to learn.

Philip Pirrip know simply as Pip by most, is an unassuming young orphan in the care of his older sister and her husband, Joe. They live poorly, scraping by on dinners of bread and butter in a village near the misty marshes where criminals have been known to wander.  Continue reading

The Help by Kathryn Stockett Review 4/5

Overall Impression: A leisurely walk through history with some strikingly memorable characters.
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
This is another book I never really planned to read because it seemed impossible that it could live up to the insane hype around it. Its chick-lit-esk cover also confused me somewhat, why was a book dealing with important issues masquerading around in such a way? It seemed like an odd mix. Although I felt this way, I thought it would appeal to a member of my family so I suggested it as a Christmas gift for her. She read it, enjoyed it and then passed it on to me due to my reputation as a woman who adopts all unwanted books to look after, lol!
With the positive comments from all of you echoing in my ear I with much trepidation opened the first page to discover a tale of courage and hardship in the deep south.
I also just realised that I can use this as my last book for the 2012 Eclectic Reader Challenge. Huzzar, it is complete – some 5 months late but COMPLETE. WOO!

Enter a vanished world: Jackson, Mississippi, 1962. Where black maids raise white children, but aren’t trusted not to steal the silver…
There’s Aibileen, raising her seventeenth white child and nursing the hurt caused by her own son’s tragic death; Minny, whose cooking is nearly as sassy as her tongue; and white Miss Skeeter, home from college, who wants to know why her beloved maid has disappeared.
Skeeter, Aibileen and Minny. No one would believe they’d be friends; fewer still would tolerate it. But as each woman finds the courage to cross boundaries, they come to depend and rely upon one another. Each is in search of a truth. And together they have an extraordinary story to tell…

The Help switches between three main perspectives for its duration Aibileen, Minny and Miss Skeeter. Aibileen is a black maid who specializes in taking care of children, her current commitment is Mae Mobley, a child desperate for her mothers approval receiving only agitated looks and scolding in return.  Continue reading

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Other Stories by Washington Irving Review 2/5

Overall Impression: Some great atmospheric short stories hidden within a cascade of irrelevant non-fiction.
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Other Stories
Phew, I am so glad to have finished this book! What a slow journey, at times I didn’t think I was ever going to finish it. I should mention however, that the reason for my negative rating is to do with this specific edition of the book by Collins Classic. The short stories – my original reason for purchasing, were entertaining and historically interesting. I set out only to buy the famous short story Sleepy Hollow but discovered this edition was cheaper. Getting more pages for a better price seemed like a win win at the time. Hm, turns out not so much… the title is clever, it tends to suggest the book will be full of chilling stories when in fact, there are only three (73 pages worth). The rest of the 332 pages are non-fiction, not quite what I had in mind!

Featuring ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’ and ‘Rip Van Winkle’, this collection of inspired essays, stories and sketches established Washington Irving’s reputation as one of America’s foremost authors. Irving’s timeless characters, including Ichabod Crane, Rip Van Winkle and the headless Hessian trooper, jostle for space 31 equally atmospheric and lyrical works in this haunting anthology from one of America’s most distinctive literary voices.

Learning about the author himself was actually one of the most interesting parts of this book! Before I began I had no idea how crucial Washington Irving’s work was to literature, he apparently was one of the first to successfully bridge the gap between America and Europe. He is named as one of the first authors to bring up the idea of copyright to protect author’s work from being plagiarised and was great at using marketing to his advantage. He created the pseudonym Knickerbocker and put up missing person posters suggesting the author had mysteriously disappeared to help gain a buzz of interest around his work. He also created the Christopher Columbus myth Continue reading