Books, Books and More Books!

In the words of the magnificent wordsmith, Dr. Nick Riviera: “Hi, everybody!” The week has just begun (er, well it began yesterday if you want to be pedantic), but lookie what I have scored!

  • The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
  • Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
  • Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence
  • War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
  • A Room with a View by  E.M. Forster
  • The Withered Arm and Other Wessex Tales by Thomas Hardy

Six books courtesy of my English teachers, all because they were clearing out their cupboard and apparently these books are too old. My immediate reaction was pfft, too old? That’s the best thing about books! Only, the little monkeys in my head were just the ones who heard that — like I’m actually gonna talk back to my teachers… ;n;

Anyway, they’re not the kind of books I would pick out first in a pile but you know what? I’m taking this as divine intervention and just read them all when I can. You know what they say: YOLO, carpe diem and all that jazz. Personally, I can’t wait until I can get my claws into War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells. Apparently he’s the father of steampunk?

Mood music: my OLDIES playlist over at Spotify.

Over and out.


On Prose and Female Characters

I have planned to spend this afternoon working on Maths equations, but screw it — I want to talk literature.

In preparation for the A2 English Literature that I shall be taking next school year if I get the grades (*fingers crossed*), all potential students have been advised to choose whatever books they want to study (at least two, but preferred three) from the Canon and otherwise finish reading them over the summer holidays. And, being the person that I am, I absolutely had no idea what to choose — I desperately wanted to work with one of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books, but a little part of me wanted to be “taken seriously” as a literature student and so I ended up with:

  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (chosen by my English teacher)
  • Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
  • Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

I’ve finished reading The Handmaid’s Tale quite a while ago, and I found it enjoyable once I managed to get into the story. I had spent the first half of the book annotating like mad, I barely enjoyed the novel for its narrative until near the end. I’m reading Tess of the D’Urbervilles and as I’m well into Phase Five, I can safely say that I’ve found some similarities between the two books.

One, there’s the format — both books are split into separate sections. Two, there’s utterly depressing aura radiating from the text itself. Three, there’s the clear helplessness within the female characters.

And it infuriates the living daylights out of me.

Yes, I know I ought to search for something positive and focus on that instead… but I simply can’t bring myself to — at least, not unless I forget about Gilead’s treatment towards women, its double standards and complete backwardness when it comes to rebuilding the population. Moira was one of my favorite characters throughout, yet once I found out that she betrayed her beliefs by working at Jezebel’s, I was ready to take out a tub of ice cream and just wallow.

In Tess of the D’Urbervilles, how on earth can I ignore Tess and her complete reliance on Angel Clare? He is a hypocrite who refused to forgive Tess for her past indiscretions, despite having the same situation as her! Admittedly,  I still have the rest of the novel to read through but, if I’m honest, I’m finding it very difficult to see the two lovers in good lights at the moment. They somehow remind me of Catherine and Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights, but at least those two had the decency to admit to their selfishness and just be plain mean to other people.

Tess absolutely adores Angel; she bloody well idolizes him and I can’t help but think that Hey, this can’t be healthy. Has she never seen Twilight?? (That’s a joke, if you can’t tell.) While I can’t blame her for having to go through what he did, I do blame her for putting Angel on such a high pedestal. Do you know that bit where he was sleep-walking and he carried her into a coffin? Tess admitted to not being afraid at all! If anything else, she liked being to close to Angel.

IS THERE SOMETHING WRONG WITH THE WIRES IN YOUR BRAIN? HE’S PLACED YOU IN A COFFIN! If that’s not going to convince you, Tess, understand that he’s doing it in his sleep! His subconscious wanted you dead! Once you had revealed your past, the Tess he once knew was dead to him — and you still enjoyed his sleep-kisses. I’m sticking by my opinion of Angel being a hypocrite, by the way.

I sincerely hope this novel can redeem itself to me… there’s still the odd two hundred pages to comb through. In the end, Wuthering Heights “redeemed itself” when the second generation found happiness despite the faults of the first generation. I suppose what I’m looking for in Tess is some form of a happy ending… and that’s really a wrong mindset to be in, now that I think about it. Not all stories have happy endings.

But still. Is it too much to ask for Tess to grow a pair and stop being the victim in everything? (Or am I essentially asking a penguin to fly?) I have no idea.

Moving on, I’d like to end this post on a lighter note. After all, what spurred me to type this post up was the sight of this beautiful, beautiful quote:

To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman. I have seldom heard him mention her under any other name.

John Watson on Irene Adler

It’s a very striking first sentence. I must admit that two whole novels (A Study in Scarlet, The Sign of Four) and two short stories (A Scandal in Bohemia, The Red-Headed League) into Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s work, I seem to find his prose enjoyable. Before, I struggled with his choice of words and seemingly random succession of scenes; now, I whiz through it like a pro. I could take this as a sign that perhaps my quarrel with Tess will be resolved in time, but then again…

…I have no problems with Sherlock’s and John’s characters, nor do I dislike Hardy’s prose style. It’s Tess herself that I have a problem with. Oh dear.

Over and out.

A Reading Assignment: The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

The God of Small Things by Arundhati RoyToday was the first official day of school. It’s “official” because we actually did lessons today, which was both a relieving and worrying… *bites nails* But I want to focus of my AS Literature class where we, the class, were assigned to read The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy.

I don’t really know what to think of this, since I’ve never been assigned a novel to read for school before. A short story, maybe — an excerpt from a novel, even… but never an entire novel. I like reading books well enough, but I only do if I chose which books to read.

No one, not even a teacher, has chosen a book for me before. It’s a strange feeling. I suppose I could trust her — she is the teacher, after all. I’m just worried, I think, that I might not like the book and therefore put off reading it, and that would lead to a series of events in which I fail the class.

*continues to bite nails*

To be fair, though, I’ve sneaked a peek into the first chapter while everyone was busy taking notes (I’m a fast scribbler), and I must admit I like Roy’s writing style. I don’t want to pass judgement yet this early in the book, but it’s nice so far. Anyway, I think someone mentioned that there was a movie… ;D

Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë

To be completely honest, I never really planned to read any of the Brontë sisters’ work after Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. Yeah, I know, shame on me.

A friend of mine introduced me to the movie of the former (we just talked about it, and I haven’t really seen the movie yet), and as for the latter, it was because of Twilight that I began reading it. When I showed up in school with that book in hand, I had to explain countless of times that “I really wanted to figure what the fuss was all about.” I mean, why does Bella like the book so much and Edward doesn’t? But I digress…

Agnes Grey is a, first and foremost, a retelling of Agnes’ days as a governess. Now that might sound just like Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, but let me tell you it’s not. Both wonderful in their own right, the two books cannot be more different with their portrayal of the daily life of a governess.

To be honest, I found Agnes Grey a little boring — I’ve got nothing against it, except that Agnes dragged on and on about her religious views. I suppose that’s indirect characterization; Agnes is a fervent Christian. That’s all well and good, but there were too many times (for me, anyway) that Agnes went off in a tangent about religious ethics while all I want was for her to fall in love already!

I’m sorry. I’m a teenage girl. I’m not the sappy, lovey-dovey kind of girl, but I WANT to get to the part of the story where the boy likes girl, and the girl likes boy in return. That happens eventually in Agnes Grey, though not until past halfway through the book. Still, Agnes’ Mr. Weston is a very admirable man, and by the tone of the book, it’s understandable why the two lovers didn’t get together until they did. It’s just not in their personality to come running into each other’s arms in slow motion at the beach… though there was a beach scene near the end, and that slightly gruff but still romantic proposal at sunset.

*Sigh* What can I say? I love me some romance.

Agnes Grey is a worthwhile read. It might not sound like it with the way I’ve talked about it above, but it is. Believe me, it’s worth it.

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

So it only took me approximately two and a half months to finish reading the book. I began reading on the 9th of April, immediately after I finished reading Emma while on a flight to Manila. That book I began reading near the beginning of this year, and between school and my ‘busy’ virtual life, it took me four months to read.

Anyway, Northanger Abbey is just a nice read. It’s quite funny, quite like Emma was, though I doubt Northanger Abbey was meant to be humorous. It was funny for me, anyhow. It was easy for me to laugh at Catherine’s antics, especially during her first night at the Abbey. She craves so much for drama in her life, and I can kind of relate to her in that sense. With my overactive imagination, I sometimes imagine what my life would be like if it were just like a novel. Of course, unlike Catherine, I know the difference between fact and fiction…

…I think. ;D

Near the beginning of this story, before Catherine stays at the Abbey with her friends the Tilneys, she mostly hung around with this girl she met in Bath named Isabella. My first reaction to reading that name was: “Wow, that’s the same as Emma Woodhouse‘s sister in Emma.” My second was: “Huh, I wonder if there’s an Edward character around.”

I do apologize for the Twilight reference. It’s the Twi-hard in me.

Isabella Thorpe is a very loquacious girl and she’s my least favorite characters. She has lots of lines in the books, and I found that trying to read them just made my head ache. She’s a piece of work — you can easily tell her fake attitude when she speaks, which I suppose was kind of indirect characterization. When the engagement broke up between her and Catherine’s brother, James, I sided with James. Just like Mrs. Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, I don’t like Isabella Thorpe.

Well, actually… Here’s another Twilight reference. Isabella Thorpe reminds me of Jessica Stanley. She’s like a Jessica and a Lauren Mallory combined.

As for Catherine, her naïvety just irked me a little bit. I get that she’s the main character and everything, but still. (It’s been mentioned more than once in the story that she’s the “heroine”, though frankly I don’t understand this.) I just had to roll my eyes at some passages of the book when describing her theories and wishes to compare the Abbey and the people residing there to her mystery novels.

The romance in the story comes in the form of Mr. Tilney, and I find it very refreshing that he only liked Catherine because she liked him first. At least, that is how I understood it in this passage:

…his affection originated in nothing better than gratitude, or, in other words, that a persuasion of her partiality for him had been the only cause of giving her [Catherine] a serious thought.

Northanger Abbey is a worthwhile read. Or if you’re too lazy to read its intricate English, just watch the 1986 film. There’s the more recent 2007 TV drama. Fair warning though: I haven’t seen either of those adaptations, so I can’t guarantee that they’d be loyal to the book.

Have fun reading!

#23 – A picture of your favorite book

I can’t say I have a favorite book, seeing as I’ve read so much I can’t even remember the last name of the authors, let alone any major plot lines other than she was the bad guy and he was the father of the good guy who was the secret weapon — or whatever.

What is a favorite book, anyway? Am I just supposed to look at the fiction books, or are non-fiction books allowed to? How about ebooks, because I have plenty of them.

In my opinion, a favorite book is book, fiction-wise, that is so well written the reader just can’t put it down. The reader would have to forced to read it first thing in the morning and wouldn’t be able to let go until it’s late at night. The reader would have to be forced to read-walk and to read while eating. The reader would have to be moved so that after reading the last word and seeing the great expanse of blank page after that last paragraph, he or she would just sit back and look blankly ahead and just sigh for a story well written.

I’m picky about books, and I don’t like mistakes. When I see a typographical error or an excess in punctuation — hello Stephenie Meyer and your addiction to commas — then I’d feel that slight tingle of annoyance. And that’d just ruin the story for me.

Though I like guessing at what would happen, if I am proven correct and that spooky neighbor really did turn out to be the bad guy, then I’d lose a little respect for the author. I want something that would make me gasp out loud and shriek to the world (i.e. my friends and family) that I did not see that coming. I want to think back on that moment, think back on my reaction, hours later and just smile because a good story made me react like that.

To quote a wise sage whose name I can’t recall right now:

A truly great book should be read in youth, again in maturity and once more in old age…

So if I had to choose a favorite book — and skipping the Harry Potter series because that would be an unfair advantage ;D — I would have to choose the following two books (because I can’t choose between them):

  1. Emma by Jane Austen, a book I’ve been reading since the beginning of the year and had finished just as summer started 
  2. and Ella Enchanted by Gail Carlson Levine, a sweet story I’ve read in one day
Emma I’ve chosen because I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve laughed out loud while reading it. And Mr. Knightley is ever so lovable. ^_^
As for Ella Enchanted, I just really like those kind of stories that are so sweet and innocent. And the love story between Ella and Char, in my opinion, was not mentioned enough, it made me crave for more.

So there you have it, folks. My two favorite books. Care to tell me yours?

Little Lord Fauntleroy by Frances Hodgson Burnett

The only reason I picked up Little Lord Fauntleroy was because of Burnett. I had no interest in reading it whatsoever before, but as I Stood in the classics aisle of the bookstore, I thought why not? Burnett’s the author of two other stories that I love, them being A Little Princess and The Secret Garden.

It took me a while to get into the book. I read on and off for a few weeks, reading only when I was utterly bored, like when I was at the mall or eating dinner. But one night, I was found myself staring at the book blankly — it was really late at night, I didn’t want to sleep but I didn’t know what to do. I finished the latter half of the book that night, something I’m proud of.

Even though I’m sixteen years old and the book clearly was written for younger readers, I found myself enjoying the story. Fauntleroy reminded me somewhat of Maria Merryweather from The Little White Horse. Like Maria, Fauntleroy changes the status quo; he softens his grandfather’s heart and, in my opinion, makes him a better person. I love Fauntleroy, he’s just so adorable and so good and kind… I wish he was real. Though, if I knew someone who was nice all the time, I’d get annoyed. ^_^

I recommend this book for those people who, like me, loves to read stories set in the past. I’m not quite sure, but I think this book was set in the Victorian era. Fauntleroy is lovable and his mother, affectionately named “Dearest”, is an angel. You would admire the journey his grandfather, the Earl of Dorincourt, goes through, because even though he hasn’t changed drastically, having little Lord Fauntleroy in his life made him see things in a new light.

He had not indeed suddenly become as good as Fauntleroy thought him; but at least he had begun to love something… — and that was a beginning.

Pride and Prejudice

Elizabeth Bennet, Fitzwilliam Darcy, Charles Bingley, Caroline Bingley, Jane Bennet… oh, those characters we all know and love. (Yes, even Caroline.)

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”

It’s been ages since I’ve read the book — in 2007, to be precise, and even then I was so young I barely understood what was happening because of  the hard words and the relatively new (in an old way) sentence structure. I only read it because a classmate of mine recommended the story to me. She was talking about the movie, of course, but since I didn’t have a copy then, I went straight to the library to get the copy of the book.

I’ve seen the movie, of course. And by movie I mean the one with Keira Knightley as the witty Miss Eliza Bennet. It was only recently that I’ve come across a DVD copy of the television series… you know, the one with Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy?

(Oh, Mr. Darcy!)


Anyhow, having seen the two different interpretations of Jane Austen‘s wonderful work, I’ve come to the conclusion that one: Matthew Macfadyen’s version of the proposal was much better, what with his deep, swoon-able voice working for him; and two: Colin Firth’s lake scene was certainly blush worthy. Now I know what the fuss was all about! =P

Certainly both interpretations were wonderful in their own right. The television series had more time, so it was the most accurate with the book. Yet, the movie was comical and Mrs. Bennet was less annoying. Yes, yes, I know. Mrs. Bennet is supposed to be annoying. But she irks me, all right? I just couldn’t stand it.

Now, I’m off to watch Macfadyen read Pride and Prejudice. Wanna watch it with me? Just go here.