Monday, March 13, 2017

Recently Read: The Alchemist

Author: Paulo Coelho
Genre: Fiction/ Modern Classic
Publication Date: 1999
Page Count: 177
Rating: 3/5

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This novel is a modern classic, originally written in Portuguese. I decided to pick it up as part of my Short Reads February TBR, as I have been meaning to read it forever. It follows Santiago, a young Shepard, who has a reoccurring dream about a treasure at the base of the Egyptian Pyramids and sets out to find it and his destiny.

This novel reads like a combination of a fable and a religious tale. It's simple in its language and plot, but rich in theme and wonder. This novel deals with the ideas of fate and destiny and how these concepts work in tandem with the universe. It's heavy in life advice and wisdom, but it doesn't feel preachy. I can see why this novel has earned the title of modern classic, and I think it will continue to be read in the years to come by many readers. 

This is a novel I can see myself rereading in the future and is worth checking out if you haven't read it yet. I am always interested by works that deal with the ideas of fate and destiny and this is a great examination of those topics.

I rated this novel three stars because although it was pleasant and enjoyable, I find myself without a lot to say about it. I expected a tiny bit more from it because of its reputation, but overall, I did enjoy this work and its message. 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

International Women's Day Reading Recommendations

Happy International Women's Day! I'm here today with some recommendations of books by women from around the world. I'll be posting again this month highlighting some of the books by women that are on my TBR, because most of my TBR fits that category. Please leave me your favorite books by women below! For some classics by women that I have loved, check out my Women Writers page and my Women's Lit Classic Club Page. 

Passing By Nella Larson- America
This book is not read enough! It was written during the Harlem Renaissance and deals with the choices of two black women who were childhood friends; one chooses to pass as a white woman and one decides to continue to live in the black community. 

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou- America
Maya Angelou is my hero. Her autobiographies are second to none. This novel made me so emotional and proud. A must read. 

Gigi and The Cat by Colette- France
Review
I enjoyed both of these novellas as they were my first Colette works. I'm eager to read more of her works. I thought Gigi was a thought provoking read, and is something I wouldn't mind revisiting. 

I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb- Pakistan 
This is another must read. Malala is so young but so wise and full of compassion. Her narrative voice is so honest and smart. 

Half the Sky by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl Dunn- Worldwide
This is a nonfiction work about women's tribulations around the world and how they overcome them. This work changed my feminism for the better. 

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley- Britain
Shelley's most famous novel is a masterpiece. She pioneered the genre of science-fiction and wrote a novel that is endlessly thought provoking. This novel is what great literature is meant to be. 

Bridget Jones' Diary by Helen Fielding- Britain 
I love this book! Bridget is the hero of all single women! If you need a laugh, pick this up. It's even funnier than the movie. 
    

Monday, March 6, 2017

Recently Read: The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

Author: Muriel Sparks
Genre: Classic/ Fiction
Publication Date: 1961
Page Count: 128
Rating: 4/5

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Miss Jean Brodie is a woman in her prime. She is a teacher at a girl's school and doesn't quite fit in with the rest of the teaching staff. She is eclectic and unpredictable; she teaches her girls about life, love, and art and butts heads with the headmistress over educational philosophy. Miss Brodie has her set of favorite girls, and the novel follows them and Miss Brodie through the years. 

I really didn't know what to expect from this short novel. It was my first Spark, and I knew almost nothing about the plot. I had heard good things about Spark, and I loved this beautiful Penguin version, so I decided to add it to my February Short Reads TBR and I'm glad I did. I was surprised by how captivated I was by this novel and really enjoyed it. 

Although this novel is very short, it is packed with complexity. Sandy and Miss Brodie become the most developed characters and are very real. Both characters are so flawed and complicated on their own, that they combine to make a point about the complexities of human emotion and motivation. This novel is an interesting comment on how children view adults, and how they can admire them, hate them, love them, and be intimidated by them, all at the same time. It's also an interesting comment on loyalty and trust, as well as the enigma that is romantic entanglement. 

This is a novel I would have had a lot of fun writing a paper about, as it is short but packed full of complex and very-human themes and ideas. I may lose myself in the rabbit hole of academic writings on this novel the next time I find I can't sleep (totally normal to read academic journals when you can't sleep, right?) I'm interested to see if people are writing about this novel still, and if so, what they are saying. 

I'm really interested to pick up more of Spark's work now, and equally interested in the movie adaptation where Maggie Smith plays Miss Jean Brodie! 

Monday, February 27, 2017

Recently Read: Men Explain Things to Me

Author: Rebecca Solnit
Genre: Nonfiction/ Essay Collection
Publication Date: 2014
Page Count: 130
Rating: 3/5

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This is a collection of essays that center around feminism written by Solnit. This collection has been buzzed about quite a bit, and you know I love gender and feminism, so I was super interested in this one. It came in to my library at exactly the right time, as this collection fit in perfectly with Short Reads February. I don't usually read essays, so I thought it would be best to start with a short collection on a topic that I am really interested in.

Overall, I liked this collection. As usual with collections, some essays were more interesting to me than others, but I didn't dislike any of them. Some of the essays began to feel a little repetitive as each essay seemed to have the same statistics or case studies, which wasn't too bad because they were important stats.

I liked the title essay. The idea of men explaining things to women that already understand is not new to any woman. I'm sure this has happened to the majority of women out there, as I know it has happened to me, even though I work in a field that is majority female. I thought the essay was the perfect balance of fact, personal antidote, and expression. Unfortunately, when women write/speak about sexist traditions or experiences, they are often dismissed as whiny or preachy when they make an emotional appeal, but Solnit is careful to avoid that and stick to the facts.

I enjoyed the few essays in this collection on rape and rape culture, and found they were treated with the same care as the title essay; rape statistics and figures are really stunning on their own, but Solnit's writing works to place them into context and offer reasons behind those numbers. I found her ideas about masculinity and violence interesting and agreed with them wholly. I think the way we view and define masculinity is harmful to everyone, both male and female.

I'll be picking up more essay collections in the future, particularly ones on feminism. Leave me your favorites!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Recently Purchased: Two Classic Memoirs by Women

You might remember this post  from earlier in the month where I showed my latest book purchases by women authors. Well, I am continuing that pattern, and here I have my latest book purchases, and one from the library, all of which are by women! I'm hoping to get to these soon because I have very high hopes for them.

From the Library

Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit

This is a short collection of essays based around feminism that has been quite popular since its release. Essays are not my usual genre of reading, but because these are so short, it's been rather enjoyable reading. I'll be reviewing this one soon. 

Purchased

Dust Tracks on a Road by Zora Neal Hurston 

I haven't read any of Hurston's full length fiction yet, but I am really interested in reading her memoir. I have of course heard never-ending praise for Their Eyes were Watching God and have enjoyed the few short stories of hers I have read. I really don't know anything about Hurston's biography so I was happy to discover this existed and even happier to find it used at my local bookstore. 

West with the Night by Beryl Markham

This one has been high on my need-to-buy list since I read and loved Circling the Sun by Paula McLain, which is a fictional account of Markham's life in Africa and as a female pilot. This memoir written by Markham connects with the novel Out of Africa by Karen Blixen, as Markham is one of the characters in that group of people and is featured in the movie version and possibly the book (I'll let you know when I read it.) 

I may have to make March a month of reading memoirs because I have so many that I am dying to get to.  

Monday, February 20, 2017

Recently Read: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

Author: Frederick Douglass
Genre: Classic/Memoir
Publication Date: 1845
Page Count: 100
Rating: 4/5

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Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass is a piece of writing that I hoped, and expected, to read while getting my degree in English. Unfortunately, my American Lit. part one professor preferred the awful works of white men to any quality works by women or African Americans, so I took it upon myself to read this piece, as it is a staple of American literature. 

Douglass was born a slave and remained a slave for the early part of his adulthood. He moved from master-to-master until he escaped to freedom. What makes Douglass' story unique from other slave narratives is that Douglass was taught to read and write by an early master's wife. From there he secretly continued learning to read and write by any possible means and wrote Narrative unaided and published it in 1845. Douglass went on to be a very important figure in the Abolitionist movement and spoke against racism publicly for the rest of his life. 

I really enjoyed this short narrative. Douglass is endlessly smart and compassionate and communicates his experiences to the reader in a matter-of-fact manner that make his narrative impossible to deny or ignore. This is not an easy read, but it would be a disservice to history and the experiences of many if it was. It's not overly graphic, Douglass does not rely on shock-value or emotionally preach to his reader, he just relays his experiences and that is enough. I found Douglass' thoughts on religion and religion's role in slavery quite interesting, and I really enjoyed his writing voice. Douglass is a person I would love to learn more about as a human and in regards to his role in anti-slavery activism. 

I highly recommend checking this one out if you are interested in American history, slavery, or African American activists. I'll leave you with some of Douglass' wise words, "I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and incur my own abhorrence."  

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Unconventional Romances

I am not  fan of romance novels and never have been. I don't know why, they just aren't my thing. But I do love Valentine's Day and showing a little extra love to your loved ones. Here I've put together a list of unconventionally romantic books and poetry collections. They either have a unique romance or don't have a romance per say, but discuss the topic of romance and love in general. I would love for you to leave your recommendations below for unconventional romances or books that discuss romance and love more-so than contain romances. 

 

This is one of those novels that discusses romance and love without actually having a romance in the story. In fact, as the title suggests, this novel is about the end of a romance. I really loved this novel and the juxtaposition of religious faith and romantic love. 

This is a magical realism romance that has to do with dreams. I really enjoyed this one; magical realism is beginning to make its way to the top of my favorite genres lists. The magical elements kept this from being stereotypical, but the romance and high school setting, made it a quick read. 

Nothing about this novel is conventional. It's an Odyssey retelling that takes place at the end of the world. The characters are so unique they become mythical and the setting is just as unique.  



This is one of my all-time favorite novels. It deals with self-discovery and love that is on the wrong side of fate. This book is beautifully written and set in 1930s New York. I need to reread this one this year! 

Once again, this is another completely unconventional novel. In this one our main character is one the LGBTQ spectrum and battles giant man-eating grasshoppers who cause the end of civilization as we know it. The romance is not the main focus of the novel, but it was one of the most interesting aspects of the novel for me. 
  
6. Breakfast at Tiffanys by Truman Capote 
Another classic that deals with romance and love without the typical romantic plot line. The novel is very different than the movie (but I love both) and it doesn't have that same romantic, happy ending, which to me, is much more interesting. 

 

7. How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
This book takes place during WWIII (yes you read that right) and features an unconventional romance between two cousins. Very unconventional. 

This collection deals with heartbreak, self-love, and the rediscovery of love. I love the illustrations in this collection, and the poems aren't mind-blowing, but I did enjoy this collection. 

9. Birthday Letters by Ted Hughes
This collection was written by Hughes and published after his death. Almost every poem in this collection is about Sylvia Plath. If you know anything about their biography, you know they had an unconventional (i.e. unhealthy) relationship. I am still working through this collection, but these poems are raw and provide an interesting contrast to Plath's poems (although I will always prefer Plath's poetry over Hughes'.)


10. Selected Poems of Edna St. Vincent Millay 
Millay is one of my favorite poets. She writes about love, sex, and romance in a completely liberated and witty way. Her poetry is smart, sassy, and addicting.