Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Literary Movement Reading Challenge 2015: July Realism Check-In



We are now half way through the #LitMoveRC, yay! It’s been the toughest challenge I have been hosting so far, really! However, it’s really exciting to read from different era each month; it encourages me to enlarge my reading horizon. This month we are tackling Realism. One question for all of you:

Which one do you prefer, the complexity and epic turn in Romanticisms/Victorians, or the flat quiet plot in Realisms?

I like them both, but Victorian and Romanticism are always my favorites (Dickens, Dumas). They provide me the fullest satisfaction in reading. Realism, and later on Naturalism, often gives me a “pang” in the ending, but they teach me much about real life and real people. What about you?

Don’t forget… The linky for July Realism is now opened; you can submit your reviews/posts until August 15th.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Far from a Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

These two months have been hectic months for me, and I know I’m much behind my schedule in this (and other) challenge(s). Although I kept reading, I could not find time, focus, and energy to write any reviews. Today, as I find myself more relaxed, I force myself to write this. Hopefully I can catch up again for the rest of this semester. Now, Far from a Madding Crowd turned out to be my new favorite. I think I have picked the right book to begin with Hardy. I really enjoyed it, and now am ready to read his other books.

I loved Gabriel Oak (he is now one of my most favorite characters), and loved the rural country life presented by Hardy. Bathseba Everdeen is a combination of proud, vigor, and beauty. She is loved by three men—passionately by Sergeant Troy, possessively by Farmer Boldwood, and quietly by Shepherd Oak. When she inherited a farm from her uncle, Batsheba felt independent. She thought she could just rely on her passion, and the world would be as she wanted to be. Folly after folly, and only after reaping what she had sown, did she realize that there is no independence without responsibility.

While Batsheba represents female emancipation, Gabriel Oak represents hard work and perseverance; two perfect themes for a Victorian novel, combined with a slight touch of realism in Hardy’s writing. That makes Far from a Madding Crowd a wonderful reading!

Four and a half stars for Oak and Hardy!

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I read Penguin English Library paperback

This book is counted for:




Monday, June 15, 2015

Literary Movement Reading Challenge 2015: June Victorian Check-In



It’s a bright June afternoon…. I can hear Roxette’s voice in my head this afternoon, when I am writing this post. June has always been a promising month for me, but not this year…. I am so hectic on a project I am preparing, and tt has been taking a lot of my time and energy, that my reading target must be reduced this year.  However, the Literary Movement Reading Challenge must go on! I will still read for each movement, but only one book each.

How about you? Hope you are still having fun with this challenge… Meanwhile, June Victorian for #LitMoveRC begins today! The linky for June Victorian is now opened; you can submit your reviews/posts until July 15th. ==UPDATE== For some reasons I could not create the linky today; I don’t know why/what happened, but I’ll try again tomorrow.

Now, our monthly question:

Who is your most favorite Victorian author?

Mine is, of course, Charles Dickens. But sadly, I won’t be able to read any of his books this year. I’ve been meaning to pick Bleak House for Lit Move Challenge, but… besides its thickness, I don’t think I have the mood to read it right now.


Friday, June 5, 2015

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

The only reason I read Little Women was because high praises have been attributed to it by most of my fellow book-bloggers. My first encounter with Alcott was in Eight Cousins, which left me no impression at all. With Little Women, I had a slight expectation that it might have something more meaningful than Eight Cousins. Plus, I picked it because Alcott had influence in Transcendentalism, which I am tackling this month for Literary Movement Challenge. But after finishing it, well, I still can’t see why people praise it so much. It was really an enjoyable reading, and I think Alcott is a good writer, but that’s all to me. It left my mind as soon as I opened another book, and I even have to google it right now to write this review (I finished reading about a few weeks ago).

Maybe my favorite part of Little Women is the family bonding of the Marches. It is always great to be accepted and loved as we are, and to have a home where we are belonged to. The characters are memorable, but sometimes seem unreal. But unrealistic—angelic in this case—characters, like those of Dickens, are indeed memorable.

From the four sisters, I think Amy is the most natural one, for her age. Beth is too good to be true; she is more like an angel than a little child! Megan and Jo are typical contradiction in books’ characters; they even reminded me of Anne and George in Enid Blyton’s The Famous Five. It seems that girls are mostly divided into two categories. The feminine ones love pretty dresses, play with dolls, like to cook, and always think about getting a husband. While the tomboy ones like to be called with boy’s names, dislike dresses, and do boyish games. Amazingly their names are always similar to boy’s names… Georgina to George, Josephine to Jo. Plus these tomboy girls are usually hot-headed and stubborn. These childish stereotyping is sometimes annoying!

Apart from that, Little Women taught us to place virtues over vanity, which was the theme of Enlightenment literature. In every event of their lives, Mrs. March always reminded her family to keep praying and practicing Christian values. It’s good, but sometimes I think it’s a bit patronizing. I prefer books that don’t tell us to do something straight to the point, but hide ii between the lines. The finding of the hidden moral is often the most valuable point of the reading.

Three and a half stars for Little Women.

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I read Puffin Classics paperback

This book is counted for:



Friday, May 15, 2015

Literary Movement Reading Challenge 2015: May Transcendentalism Check-In



I have a slight regret to leave the Romanticism behind. It has been very entertaining, really! For a month we were brought to escape the harsh reality of life and enter the romantic, though fictitious, world. But, alas! Everything has an end, and now we must return to the reality. May Transcendentalism for #LitMoveRC begin today! The linky for May Transcendentalism is now opened; you can submit your reviews/posts until June 15th.

If last month we are discussing most excited movement(s) to come, our question of the month is the opposite:

After May Transcendentalism, which movement that you are least anticipated? Why?

Mine is the November Beat Generation/Bloomsbury, simply because I am not convenient with the freedom theme. I am wondering whether I’m going to like it, and whether I have chosen the most suitable book (to my taste). We’ll see then…

Meanwhile, I have finished Alcott’s Little Women for Transcendentalism, and will soon move on to Thoreau’s Walden. Hopefully I can still make it on time!

How are you progressing so far?

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Black Tulip by Alexandre Dumas

After my little disappointment with Ivanhoe, I must thank Alexandre Dumas, père, for once again brought me into the excitement of elaborate plot and romances, through The Black Tulip. Dumas’ novels always make me wonder whether this and that are historical events/characters, or just fiction; as he mixed both in such a genius way you won’t find the boundary.

At first I thought it would be the story of de Witts: Johan the Great Pensionary of Dutch (Prime Minister) and his brother Cornelis, who were lynched by the citizen because they opposed William of Orange. The attack was quite terrible; and it was more so because then I was not yet familiar with the dark history. But after that painful part, came the story of the tulip fancier and his envious neighbor. It was really entertaining, but at that time I didn’t get the connection with the political side, except that Cornelius van Baerle, the tulip fancier, was the godson of Cornelis de Witt. But, as usual with Dumas, the plot slowly intertwined beautifully and closed satisfyingly at the ending.

The Black Tulip combined the history of Dutch political environment and Tulip Mania during the Golden Age. The hero was a bourgeois Doctor with a passion on agricultural, but particularly in growing Tulip. As he was rich, Cornelius equipped his mansion with all possible resources to grow the finest tulips in town. His neighbor, Isaac Boxtel, was also a Tulip fancier but much poorer, who grew envious to Cornelius’ unlimited resources. Then came a grand competition held by the Tulip Society of Harleem, who offered a hundred thousand guilders prize for anyone who succeed in growing a black tulip without a spot of color, which has then never yet been found. But as Cornelius was in the final step of growing his black tulip—spied maliciously by Isaac Boxtel—came instruction from William of Orange to capture and put Cornelius in jail for helping the ‘traitors’ de Witt.

Did Cornelius put his ambition down, then, to grow the black tulip, as he was a convict? How could he manage to continue the labor? And don’t forget the envious Isaac Boxtel who planned to steal the black tulip and claim it as his own, to snatch the prize! Well, just trust Père Dumas; he would spice up the politics and flower fancying with high adventures and romances, that it would be difficult for you to not believing it as a true history. And as usual, everything would be put in its place satisfyingly for all, and mostly for us, readers.

Again, Monsieur Dumas has satisfied me beyond my expectation in this novel. Romanticism—with its unreasonable heroism—usually does not impress me much, but with Dumas, well… it’s just different. Four and a half stars for The Black Tulip!

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I read e-book from Project Gutenberg

This book is counted for:




Thursday, May 7, 2015

Ivanhoe

Although the book was titled Ivanhoe, I didn’t think Wilfrid of Ivanhoe is the most distinguished hero in this historical fiction. He was wounded and inaction throughout most of the story, and we only saw his chivalrous battle in the tournament, and then rescuing Rebecca the Jewess. And I disliked his attitude towards Isaac of York and Rebecca, though he was kindhearted enough to help them. Maybe it’s an ordinary sentiment against Jewish people at that time, but if so, what made him deserve the title hero?

I would choose Rebecca instead, she was an extraordinary woman. What she did was beyond any men in this story could do. She was a woman; with every limited source women might have at that time. She was also a Jewish, the cursed and marginalized race. Nonetheless, she was full of love and forgiveness to all who hated her race. What she had to endure was so great; but she was so calm and resilient. I think Rebecca was more Christian than those Christians. She was broad-minded; and always acted for the whole humanity, beyond community, race, or nation.

I read Ivanhoe a month ago—and had just enough time to do a proper review today—so I don’t quite remember the whole plot. It was set in England after King Richard I returned from the Third Crusades, around 12th century. England was dominated by Norman nobility, and Cedric of Rotherwood was the remaining notable Saxon family; he was ambitious to conquer the Normans, his mortal enemy. So, when he knew that his ward, Wilfrid of Ivanhoe, served King Richard who was Norman, he banished his only son.  The story began when some travelers stayed the night under Cedric’s hospitality. There they were joined by a palmer and a Jewish (Isaac of York). And then on Scott wove their adventures and intrigues; adding some other characters into it, so that their faith intertwined with each other, resulting an enjoyable story with intricate plot—as is usual with Romantic novels.

The appearance of Robin Hood and his “merry men” spiced up a bit the story; while the Templar with their strict rules added interesting side to it. But still, I sensed something is missing; I don’t know what… It felt like connecting several facts and figures into a story than creating one from the scratch.

Anyway, Ivanhoe is still quite an enjoyable piece of Romantic lit, for it is full with combination of chivalric adventures and romances. Though in the end you would ask, like I did, what’s special about Wilfrid Ivanhoe? Can you tell me?

Three and a half stars for Ivanhoe.

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I read Wordsworth Classics paperback

This book is counted for: