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Tag Archives: classic-literature

Mid Year Reading Goals

Although it may seem like I’ve been getting into a blogging rut of recent months, I’m actually pretty proud of myself for keeping on and not quitting.  I don’t want to quit even if things have been busy and hectic sometimes.

And I still have new blogging goals.  Some I will not be making public yet for a while with them, and others I will start during now during the mid year.  This revamping is not so much a revamp of the blog, as it is of my reading routines, but the routines will be showing a little difference here on the blog.

So, without further ado, I unmask my newest reading goal, and that is to join The Classics Club.  This is where I make a list of 50+ classics I plan on reading at least within the next five years and blog about them, then link them to The Classics Club blog.  I have decided to do this because 1) the goal was doable; 2) I read classics anyway; 3) I’ve discovered some really lovely book blogs out there that I didn’t know existed through TCC; 4) I would love to meet and interact with some other like-minded book lovers out there!

Below I will be sharing my curated list of classics I plan on reading.  Let it be known that I am using the word ‘classic’ loosely to suit my own tastes, which tend to be a lot of vintage dime thrillers.  I still have no desire to jump into War and Peace.   But I believe that if a book is an oldie and has at least stood the test of time well enough for me to have an interest in reading it, it must be a classic, right?  I also have many children’s classics, but that was in no way meant to cheat.  I appreciate any good story!  And lest anyone shouts my list is ‘No fair!”, I will refer you to the several below that are more ‘serious’ works of literature.  I avoided repeating authors or books from the same series in order to keep the variety.

The list may be subject to change:

Main 50 Classics Club List:

The Blue Castle, by L. M. Montgomery

The Borrowers Afield, by Mary Norton

Miss Billy, by Eleanor H. Porter

The Seven Conundrums, by E. Phillips Oppenheim

Return to Gone-Away, by Elizabeth Enright

The Cloister and the Hearth, by Charles Reade

The Brass Bottle, by F. Anstey

The Shaving of Shagpat, by George Meredith

The Film Mystery, by Arthur B. Reeve

The Phoenix and the Carpet, by Edith Nesbit

The Flaming Forest, by James Oliver Curwood

Captain Blood Returns, by Rafael Sabatini

King Solomon’s Mines, by H. Rider Haggard

Dead Men’s Money, by J. S. Fletcher

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Doctor Thorne, by Anthony Trollope

John Jago’s Ghost, by Wilkie Collins

The Passenger from Calais, by Arthur Griffiths

The Rosary, by Florence L. Barclay

Arsene Lupin, Gentleman-Thief, by Maurice LeBlanc

The Amazing Interlude, by Mary Roberts Rinehart

Alice in Blunderland, by John Kendrick Bangs

At the Appointed Time, by Anna Maynard Barbour

Wired Love, by Ella Cheever Thayer

The Heart’s Kingdom, by Maria Thompson Davies

Basil Howe, by G. K. Chesterton

Gormenghast, by Mervyn Peake

The Fisherman’s Lady, by George MacDonald

The Maid of Sker, by R. D. Blackmore

Miss Cayley’s Adventures, by Grant Allen

Down the Garden Path, by Beverley Nichols

The Willows, by Algernon Blackwood

The Mystery of the Blue Train, by Agatha Christie

Mr. Harrison’s Confessions, by Elizabeth Gaskell

The Man Who Lost Himself, by H. de Vere Stacpoole

The Laughing Cavalier, by Baroness Emmuska Orczy

The Green Rust, by Edgar Wallace

A Fair Barbarian, by Frances Hodgson Burnett

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, by Anne Bronte

Villette, by Charlotte Bronte

The New Chronicles of Rebecca, by Kate Douglas Wiggin

The Blessing of Pan, by Lord Dunsany

The Palace in the Garden, by Mary Louisa Molesworth

A Spinner in the Sun, by Myrtle Reed

Trent’s Last Case, by E. C. Bentley

The Forsaken Inn, by Anna Katharine Green

Paradise Lost, by James Milton

Nothing So Strange, by James Hilton

Love Insurance, by Earl derr Biggers

The Book of the Dun Cow, by Walter Wangerin, Jr.

 

 
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Posted by on July 2, 2017 in Reading Habits

 

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Movie Review: Les Miserables

928283ab6e774bf98c29d851f4efc1ddBased on the book by Victor Hugo.

Version: 2012; starring Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe, Eddie Redmayne

Genre:  drama, musical

Plot Summary: In the times between post-Revolutionary France and the Paris Rebellion of 1832, an inconsequential criminal -Prisoner 24601- is set free from penal servitude.  Can a thief receive grace and have another chance in life?  Some would think not, particularly a strict, tow-the-line, “black & white” law enforcement officer like Inspector Javert.  But others, –like the trusting little girl Cosette and the idealistic activist Marius,– choose to open their hearts to the man remade into the new Jean Valjean.

My Review: Disclaimer*: I have not read the original book, so this review will not by comparing it to that novel.  Only as a story in and of itself, totally unrelated to the book.  

Yeah, I’m a little late to the party on this one, but a good story is a good story in a book or on film no matter when one happens to experience it. I’ve never read the book (somehow never could convince myself to begin a 2,783 page opus [see recent post]), but I have seen the earlier 1998 version with Liam Neeson as Jean Valjean.  I’m not sure I enjoyed that one.  But I’ve also listened to the Focus on the Family Radio Theatre’s excellent audio production of the story and highly recommend that.

Les Miserables is a classic tale that contains so many human elements that speak deeply to us—love, hatred, forgiveness, compassion, revenge. That’s why it’s a classic.  The drama, the pathos, emotion pull us in and won’t let us go.  I found myself being deeply engrossed in this newest film version of Victor Hugo’s epic story.  Believe it or not, I’d never seen or listened to the musical, although a few songs sounded familiar because of how they’ve infiltrated our pop culture (I Dreamed a Dream, Bring Him Home).  At first I wasn’t so sure this story could be presented seriously as a musical, but I was proved wrong in one of the earliest scenes (when Jean receives the gift of forgiveness from the priest).  And by the end of the movie, I was blubbering away into a soggy Kleenex.

I had avoided watching it when it first came out because of watching the trailer and hearing others’ reviews. I’d heard that so and so shouldn’t have been cast in this role because somebody else would have done so much better…  Another person was snubbed for not being cast…  This actress completely ‘ruined’ the movie… That person couldn’t sing… etc. etc. etc.  I’d heard the film was too ‘gritty’, too ‘gorey’, too ‘indecent’.  I watched the trailer and saw too much skin.

untitledI’m not a musical aficionado. Maybe so and so could have sang the part better.  All I know is Fantine sang as though her life was at the bottom of a sludge pit and Valjean sang through weary tears.  Cosette sang like a bird in love, and Marius like he’d found the treasure of his life.  If I could be so thoroughly convinced this story was real, I think somebody was doing their job supremely well.   Probably the only one who didn’t have me convinced of his role was Russell Crowe as Javert.  He felt uncomfortable and limited in the part.

Gritty? Yes.  Gorey?  It was a reflection of the time and era in which real people lived.  Not all of humanity has lived in pristine Downton Abbey.  Indecent?  Yes. Humanity is messed up.  But we live in a  place where true love shines like a jewel amidst the dirt and grime of a perverted world.

Yet, there are some indecencies I would prefer not to expose myself to, and there were some content issues I’d warn about. I have better things to do than count swear words and describe raunchy scenes, so you can read a more detailed review here if you are in need of one.  But I will say that there were at least two places I wanted to be careful about: 1)  Fantine gradually falls deeper and deeper into the backalley ways of the underworld, not out of any desire on her part but out of pure desperation.  As she sings her song, she is led into a dark room where one gets the idea of what will happen next without having to see it.  I didn’t watch, but continued to listen to her heart-rending song.  I wouldn’t fast forward through it if it can be helped because the music is some of the best of the musical and it’s well acted.  2)  The Thenardiers are the picture of the world taking delight in degradation.  The rowdy song that takes place in their inn, where they celebrate the pleasures of sin is one that can be skipped (IMO).  It is definitely NOT a family scene!  I got half way through and decided I was too sick to watch the rest and clicked through to the next scene.

Only one thing I wish could have been improved upon and that is I would have liked to have seen more of the beginning developing relationship between Jean Valjean and the little girl Cosette.  This is a weakness in the original story itself I think, and that is that Cosette’s character is too trusting.  This could have been strengthened in the movie, and their getting to know one another was rather missing.  It would have helped to cement my emotional attachment further.

But for all of that, I wish I had not waited so long to watch this wonderful story illustrated with so much emotion, music, color and drama. The sets and the details blew my mind.  I don’t often like to rewatch movies, but this is one I will want to have in my collection to go back to every so often.  I truly thought it was a good piece of art, though I know there are enough who debate me there.

What are your thoughts on this film version of Les Miserables?  I’d like to know what you think!

 
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Posted by on June 20, 2017 in Movie Reviews

 

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Do you read long books?

Do you read long books? I confess that I tend to shy away from them.  I think it just seems like too big a commitment for me.  I prefer variety or else I get bored, and tackling a 400+ page novel leaves me exhausting just thinking about it.

It’s ironic but I think I had more patience when I was younger (teenage years). I had more time and I attempted just about any classic in the quest to say I’d read them all.  My tastes and goals have changed over the years.  But some of the longer fictional books I have accomplished in the past include “Little Women (age 12); “Ivanhoe” (which I converted into a 75 page play for my sister and myself); and more recently, “Titus Groan,” by Mervyn Peake.  There are a few others on my TBR that I don’t know when I’ll get to.  “The Maid of Sker,” by Richard D. Blackmore, “The Cloister and the Hearth,” by Charles Reade, and “Glastonbury,” by Donna Fletcher Crowe.

I think some of the reasons why I often shy away from the longer tomes these days is because I don’t feel I have the emotional or mental energy to undertake it. A couple of years ago I ordered a book on interlibrary loan, and then promptly sent it back upon seeing how thick the book and how tiny the print was.  I was going through a rough time and needed something lighter and faster paced.  Recently I also passed on an Edward Rutherfurd novel, when 15 years ago I probably would have checked it out.  Another plausible theory could be due to the fact that I have more eyestrain than I used to and it taints my desire for long, involved reads.

When searching out new additions for my TBR on goodreads, I try to thoughtfully evaluate whether I will realistically want to read a particular title or if I would just feel burdened and dread opening the cover. That sounds sort of funny now that I have that typed down.  Why would I want to read anything I’d dread?  Am I such a glutton for self-torture?  I want to read good, meaty, beneficial books.  But the word and page count of a book does not necessarily make it beneficial.  A proverb can be more wisely read than a full assortment of “Grey” romance.

Yet some of the world’s best epics have been told through long-drawn out prose. (Those French and Russian novels for instance…)  But usually their stories are too familiar told through other mediums for me to care to devote so much time to reading.  Maybe one day my interests will change again and I’ll be a reader of “Moby Dick” but I’m not so much a fan of whale blubber right now.

What does constitute me attempting a big fiction book? Just like any other book, it is usually a creative plotline and the adventure that draws me in.  If it has my attention in these areas, I can perhaps forget I’ve spent the last 3 months in this world.  It’s what kept me going through “Titus Groan”, and is what has me interested in someday trying “Shogun,” by James Clavell.

I came to ponder all of this after reading this article entitled “Never Ending Stories.”

What about you? If you’re a reader of long tales, what attracts you to them?

 
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Posted by on June 13, 2017 in Reading Habits, Uncategorized

 

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Recent Librivox addition: Fables

Greetings!  This recent collection of short audio stories were catalogued into the Librivox system and I thought I’d share since I read one short section (72).  My particular two fables were poems called ‘The Maiden’ and ‘The Wishes.’  I felt pretty good about them, but there are many other fine readers on the collection.  Poems are always interesting and sometimes more fun to listen to than read in silence.

 
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Posted by on May 26, 2017 in LibriVox

 

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Book Review: “The Club of Queer Trades,” by G. K. Chesterton

18834844Genre: mystery; classic

Plot Summary: [from Wikipedia:] “The Club of Queer Trades is a collection of stories by G. K. Chesterton first published in 1905.  Each story in the collection is centered on a person who is making his living by some novel and extraordinary means…  To gain admittance one must have invented a unique means of earning a living and the subsequent trade being the main source of income.”

My Book Review: If you’ve come to this blog post thinking you were going to read something on sexual identities, sorry to disappoint.  Once upon a time the word ‘queer’ was used to mean ‘peculiar’.  (I suppose ‘peculiar’ means something else now, too.  We’re so creative as to assign a double meaning to every word that already exists.)

There are ordinary men who lead ordinary lives with their chosen ordinary careers. And then there are others who take a different route in life.  They are the eccentrics, the colorful, and the crazy.  …Or are we, as ordinary citizens, the crazies?

If someone asked you to invent a whole new career that had never been thought of before, do you think you could do it and make money from it? Not merely recycling an existing career, substituting one thing for another, but actually coming up with a line of trade that’s never been done before.  It’s harder than it at first seems.  Of course, there would have to be a market for it.  And in the case of many of the extraordinary tradesmen in this collection of short stories, their careers are kept secret either because of the nature of their work, or because they would be thought insane.

As one would guess, this leads to many bizarre circumstances of ordinaries encountering these oddbodies (or geniuses) in society. The facts are there in front of their noses, but they can’t make sense of them.  It takes a remarkable fellow straddling the best of both worlds to make sense of the mysterious cases brought before him.  It makes for a curious read.

4b4f62db81ff23d0d0a99f7b0870ecddAlthough I usually dislike short story collections, I was glad this was written as it was. I didn’t particularly feel in the mood for a novel-length Chesterton at the time.  Sometimes he’s best taken in ‘doses’ because he can be so thick in his nonsense.  🙂  Really, G.K. was such a Mad Hatter!  Chesterton is never for those wanting a nice little story.  And it definitely isn’t my favorite book of all time.  But I enjoyed reading it anyway, because he picks you out of the mundane and makes you view the world at a different angle.  It gives the brain a good exercise!

I would say my favorite chapter story was “The Adventures of Major Brown”, in which a man is caught in an awfully good escapade, but doesn’t realize how much fun it was until it was over! How often are we the same in life?  We read novels for “escape” or to pseudo-live other “experiences”, but when some adventure happens in real life we are too overwhelmed to enjoy it in the moment.  Then of course, there’s the debate over modern-day video games.  Guys are so eager to play at fantasy games because it feeds something deep in their souls- the need for adventure.  But what happened to living real life?  Life is full of exciting experiences if only we accept its opportunities.

You can listen to the audiobook on Librivox by clicking here.

If you liked this book, I also recommend…:

 
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Posted by on April 22, 2017 in Book Reviews

 

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On Librivox: The Story of King Arthur and His Knights

I hope everyone had a great Easter!

Is anyone in the mood for great adventures full of mystical maidens and chivalrous knights?  Librivox just recently catalogued a new narrated project by the author Howard Pyle: The Story of King Arthur and His Knights. This is a story that never ceases to interest people because of it’s classic characters.  Along with some other great readers, I got to take part in reading these tales (Sections 22-24).  My sections particularly documented the downfall of Merlin.  I had originally hoped to narrate the whole story of Merlin but the commitment became a little daunting and I passed it on to reader dominictreas.  However, it was fun to have flexibility in reading different character voices which is something I feel I’m good at.

I am currently in the process of narrating and editing my first solo!  Title to be revealed in due time…

 
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Posted by on April 19, 2017 in LibriVox

 

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Librivox: “Imaginotions” short stories

“Imaginotions: Truthless Tales,” by Tudor Jenks has lately released on Librivox!  This collection of interesting short stories are not necessarily children’s stories, and not all have an obvious moral.  But I enjoyed reading two of them, in partnership with other volunteer readers.  The two I narrated were (14) Professor Chipmunk’s Surprising Adventure, and (19) The Statue.  I loved coming up with different voices for man and furry animals!  🙂

 
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Posted by on March 11, 2017 in LibriVox

 

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