Wednesday, October 31, 2018

"The Hound of the Baskervilles" by A. Conan Doyle

I've read this book 4 times since I started this blog in 2013.  I read it in 2013, led a read-along of it in 2014, read it again in 2016 but didn't review it, and now I've read it again.  Can you tell I love it?  It is, in fact, my favorite Sherlock Holmes story, and I get in the mood for it every October.  Some years I read it, some years I watch a filmed adaptation of it, kind of depends on what I've got going on.

This year, I'm teaching it to several homeschooled high schoolers, which is so much fun.  I love teaching others about books I love!  

What draws me to this book?  The characters, of course.  Hanging out with Holmes and Watson is one of my dearest fictional joys.  The mystery is solid, though because I know how it goes, it doesn't surprise me anymore.  But it's such a strong story that it still sucks me in, and I get all caught up in running around the moor in pursuit of justice.  

This is one of the most atmospheric books I've ever read.  The whole thing oozes eerieness, all foggy and damp and dark and ghastly.  I love trying to figure out how Doyle captured that feeling and sustained it for so many chapters.  The pacing in general is absolutely perfect, pulling us inexorably forward, but never rushing.  Brilliant.

Because I counted this for my first go-round with the Classics Club, I'm not counting it this time.  Just so you know.  

Particularly Good Bits:

There, outlined as black as an ebony statue on that shining background, I saw the figure of a man upon the tor... He stood with his legs a little separated, his arms folded, his head bowed, as if he were brooding over that enormous wilderness of peat and granite which lay before him.  He might have been the very spirit of that terrible place (p. 98).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG for suspense and scary images.

This is my fourth and final book read for the Reams of Rereads event.  Yay!  I met my goal!

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: 'Tis Now the Very Witching Time of Night

This week, That Artsy Reader Girl gave us a bit of a freebie.  It's supposed to be something Halloween-themed, but the exact prompt is up to us.  I decided to focus on dark, macabre, or eerie books.  Now, the truth is that I don't like scary books.  Or scary movies.  At all.  Unless they involve vampires; then, I'm okay.  So none of these are especially scary or horrifying, except maybe Dracula (cuz vampires).  But they ARE dark.

I'm sharing a dark or eerie passage from each just to give you a taste of what they contain.  As always, if I've reviewed this book here, I'll link the title to my review.  Without further ado, here are my ten favorite dark reads

1.  Hamlet by William Shakespeare.
"'Tis now the very witching time of night,
When churchyards yawn, and hell itself breaths out
Contagion to this world.  Now could I drink hot blood
And do such bitter business as the day
Would quake to look on."

2.  Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
What crime was this, that lived incarnate in this sequestered mansion, and could neither be expelled nor subdued by the owner? What mystery that broke out, now in the fire and now in the blood, at the deadest hours of the night? What creature was it, that, masked in an ordinary woman's face and shape, uttered the voice, now of a mocking demon, and anon of a carrion-seeking bird of prey?

3.  The Hound of the Baskervilles by A. Conan Doyle
A hound it was, an enormous coal-black hound, but not such a hound as mortal eyes have ever seen. Fire burst from its open mouth, its eyes glowed with a smouldering glare, its muzzle and hackles and dewlap were outlined in flickering flame.

4.  Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
The road to Manderley lay ahead. There was no moon. The sky above our heads was inky black. But the sky on the horizon was not dark at all. It was shot with crimson, like a splash of blood. And the ashes blew towards us with the salt wind from the sea.

5.  The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux
Despite the care which she took to look behind her at every moment, she failed to see a shadow which followed her like her own shadow, which stopped when she stopped, which started again when she did and which made no more noise than a well-conducted shadow should.

6.  The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
It was a wild, cold seasonable night of March, with a pale moon, lying on her back as though the wind had tilted her, and a flying wrack of the most diaphanous and lawny texture.

7.  From the Dust Returned by Ray Bradbury
"I have no name," he whispered. "A thousand fogs have visited my family plot. A thousand rains have drenched my tombstone. The chisel marks were erased by mist and water and sun. My name has vanished with the flowers and the grass and the marble dust."

8.  Bloodlines by Jan Burke
If the blonde had not put her hand on Jack Corrigan's thigh, he might have awakened in his own bed, rather than facedown on the side of a farm road in the middle of the night.  Then he would have missed the burial.

9.  Dracula by Bram Stoker
Never did tombs look so ghastly white. Never did cypress, or yew, or juniper so seem the embodiment of funeral gloom. Never did tree or grass wave or rustle so ominously. Never did bough creak so mysteriously, and never did the far-away howling of dogs send such a woeful presage through the night.

10.  The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis
Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one -- the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.

Have you read any of these?  Did you like them too?  Did you post your own TTT list this week?  Please share!

Monday, October 29, 2018

"Fahrenheit 451" by Ray Bradbury

Every time I read something by Ray Bradbury, I think, "Why don't I read more Ray Bradbury?"  I really need to remedy that and just... read more of his stuff.  I mean, I've read 3 of his novels and 2 collections of short stories, but I know he wrote a lot more than that.  Vanessa Rasanen has me convinced I need to try Something Wicked This Way Comes, so that's going on my TBR list.

I love this book.  I loved it the first time I read it, between freshman and sophomore years of college.  I've loved it every time I've reread it, and this is probably the fifth time I've read it.  It's fantastic.  The storytelling, the writing, the plot, the imagery, the characters, just everything.  I don't generally enjoy dystopian fiction, but this book hits so many of my buttons that I can't help but love it.  Loner protagonist?  Deep discussions about the value of books?  Characters who stand up against oppression?  Burning buildings?  People living on the fringes of society?  Check and check and check again. 

(From my Instagram)

If you don't know about this book, it's about a future society where everyone is obsessed with interactive television shows and spends their days and nights listening to music piped into their heads through little earbuds called seashells, and if that sounds eerily like today's society... yeah.  Bradbury wrote this in the 1950s, and wow, our world right now resembles his a lot.  Except that in this book, firemen set fires.  Specifically, they burn books.  All books, all the time.  Doesn't matter what they are, they must be burned. 

One fireman, Guy Montag, meets up with a quirky and unusual girl one evening, and her perspective on life changes his worldview forever.  Instead of burning books, he tries reading one, and... I don't want to spoil the book, so let's just say nothing is ever the same for him again.  It's fabulous, and everyone should read it, okay?  It has so much to say about the power of words.

I had the great pleasure of attending a reading given by the late, great Ray Bradbury when I was in college.  I brought along my copy of Fahrenheit, 451, which he signed for me.  I treasure it.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  a hard PG-13 for bad language, scary moments, violence, and discussion of things like suicide.

This is my 23rd book read and reviewed for my second go-round with the Classics Club and my 3rd for the Reams of Rereads event.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

"The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" by C. S. Lewis

Is it weird that I liked this book WAY BETTER when I read it now, as an adult, than I did as a kid?  I'm thinking that maybe I'm old enough to read fairy tales again, like the dedication to this book says.  I read the series when I was in my early teens and just didn't care for them.  I've never been a huge fan of allegory, so that was part of it.  But I think I was just in the wrong time of life for them, like I was for The Hobbit.  

Anyway, I totally dug this book this time through!  I think I spent less time trying to "solve" the allegory and figure out who represented what, and so on, which I remember getting hung up on as a teen.  Instead, I enjoyed the characters and their arcs, and appreciated the artistry of Lewis' storytelling.  I didn't expect to say this, but I intend to reread the rest of the series over the next few months.  

I did read this one and The Horse and His Boy at least twice when I was younger, and when I was in my twenties, I went to see the movies.  So it's not like I was anti-Narnia so much as just not into Narnia.  But maybe I'm finally ready to be into it.

I was interested to discover that, as an adult, I still like Edmund best of the Pevensies.  I like Lucy too, but she's almost too good to be realistic, you know?  And so is Peter.  Susan is okay, but not someone I want to be friends with, really.  But Edmund... I understand Edmund.  I love his character arc, how he stumbles and falls and repents and finds forgiveness -- which is also a big part of why I love Boromir in The Lord of the Rings, actually.  I love how both of them are so relatable -- we all are tempted, we all sin, we all need forgiveness.  (I also love Boromir because he's wonderful, but that's another post from another time.)

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG for some violence and scary moments.  Squeaky clean in all other respects.

This is my 22nd book read and reviewed for my second go-round with the Classics Club, and my 8th book for the OldSchool Kidlit Reading Challenge.

And this is my second book read for the Reams of Rereads event!

Friday, October 12, 2018

"The Bronte Sisters: The Brief Lives of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne" by Catherine Reef

I've wanted to know more about the real lives of the Brontës ever since I read Becoming Jane Eyre a few years ago.  I wanted something less sensationalized, more truthful, and that's exactly what The Brontë Sisters gave me.  I found this in the junior non-fiction section at my library, and I think it would be suitable for kids 12 and up, but not for younger readers.  It does discuss things like alcohol abuse and opium addiction, and it touches (non-graphically) on some more mature subjects that the sisters discussed in their books which shocked some readers of their day.

If you want to know more about these three remarkable authors, this is definitely a good place to start.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: a high PG.  No bad language, but the subject matter is not always appropriate for (or interesting to) children.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

"Wonder" by R. J. Palacio

There's a reason this book is super famous and got a movie made of it.  That reason is that it tells a very compelling story about characters you begin to care about quickly.

I am sometimes resistant about very popular, famous books that "everybody is reading now."  I get skeptical and suspicious.  Not sure why -- part of my stubbornly individualistic personality or something.  So it took me a few years to finally read this.  But I'm glad I overcame my inner resistance and read it because it's a very sweet, funny, heart-warming story.  I got tears in my eyes several times, and a few of those spilled down my cheeks at the very end.

Auggie has a rare genetic disorder that caused him to be born with severe facial abnormalities.  Other than that, he's "normal" -- not "developmentally disabled" or physically incapacitated in any way.  He just doesn't look like other people.  His mother has homeschooled him all his life, but when he's ready to enter 5th grade, his parents decide to try enrolling him in a local private school.  Joy and struggles and triumphs and setbacks result.

I loved that this was told from multiple points of view.  Auggie himself was almost a little too perfect to work as a constant narrator, so I was glad that chunks of the story were told by other characters.  It really helped the whole story be more well-rounded and believable.

My son is 11 and in 5th grade, and we homeschool.  So part of the reason this book hit home for me was just imagining if he was Auggie and he faced those same obstacles.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG for some instances of taking God's name in vain, a scary/tense scene, and discussions of physical problems that might be hard for little kids to handle or understand.

Friday, October 5, 2018

The Bibliophile Sweater Tag

I wasn't tagged with this specifically -- I found it at The Book Hound, and RM Lutz tagged anyone who wanted to steal it, so... here I am, stealing the tag.  Like a year after it was posted.  Because that is exactly what my life is like right now.

I'm not just busy these days, I am STUPID BUSY.  Like, so busy it makes me stupid sometimes.  I hate it.  I need to unload something from my pile of life, but every time I try, something else jumps on the haywagon and I'm overloaded again.  GRR.  ARGH.

Anyway, here are the rules of the tag, which I am merrily disregarding because... I can.  (Just like I'm ignoring my laundry today...)

1. Give the person who tagged you an endless supply of cookies. (If I knew where she lived, I would.)
2. Answer the questions and use the blog graphic. (Check.)
3. Pass along the tag. (If you want to steal this from me, go ahead.)
4. Wear a sweater. (I only own one sweater, and while it's been cold-ish here again lately, I really don't want to wear it.  I don't like sweaters.)

Fuzzy Sweater -- The Epitome of Comfort

I turn to Rex Stout's mysteries starring Archie Goodwin and Nero Wolfe whenever I need cheering up.  They always do the trick.  I've collected all of them over the years, but only read about a third so far.  They get their own shelf in my library -- all the ones to the right of the Nero Wolfe Cookbook are the ones I've read and the ones to the left of it are the ones I haven't gotten to yet.

Striped Sweater -- A Book You Devoured Every Line Of

I can't help inhaling The Blue Castle by L. M. Montgomery when I read it.  I simply can't read it slowly!  I chomp my way through it as quickly as possible because it's soooooooooo delicious.

Ugly Christmas Sweater -- Book with a Weird Cover

I took a pretty picture of it for #AustenInAugust on Instagram, but this copy of Persuasion by Jane Austen has a very weird cover.  Look at the person on the cover!  I assume it's supposed to be Anne Elliot, but WHAT is going on with her clothes?  Her butt seriously cannot be that huge, and bustles weren't a thing during the Regency, so why is this even on this cover?  The more I look at it, the more it bothers me.

Cashmere Sweater -- Most-Expensive Book

I just ordered a used copy of My Lost City: Personal Essays 1920-1940 by F. Scott Fitzgerald on Amazon for $29.95.  I am CRAZY excited about this!  This is probably not the most money I've ever spent on one book, but it's close, cuz I buy a lot of my books used.  But the reason I'm putting it here (and the reason I'm excited) is that used copies of this book usually go for between $70 and $200.  I've been wanting to read this book for ages and ages, but cost prohibited me.  Well, thanks to meandering around my Amazon wish list yesterday, I saw that there was an affordable copy on offer and snatched it up.  I should get it this weekend.  SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

Hoodie -- Favorite Classic

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte... but you probably knew that already.  If you've been reading my blogs for more than like a month, anyway.  I even led a read-along of it a couple years ago.

Cardigan -- Book Purchased on Impulse

I'm not a big impulse buyer for books UNLESS I'm at a library book sale or yard sale where books are only a dollar.  This is why I have such high ratings for books on Goodreads -- I don't read books I don't already know something about and think I'll like.  I don't have time to read all the books I WILL like, so why waste my very limited time on books I know I won't?  

But anyway.  I bought Holiday Grind by Cleo Coyle at the library's semi-annual book sale last year, not knowing anything about it except what the cover told me, namely that it's a mystery that involves coffee and takes place around Christmas.  It's been languishing on my TBR bookcase in the basement ever since.  I'm hoping to read it this winter.

Turtleneck Sweater -- Book from Your Childhood

The Black Stallion by Walter Farley was my favorite book from age 7 until I was in my early 30s and finally admitted to myself that I like Jane Eyre and The Count of Monte Cristo better.  It's still my 3rd-favorite book, though.  HUGE part of my childhood.  I used to spend so much time imagining I was Alec Ramsay, marooned on an island, with a horse for my best friend.  Days and days and days living in that world in my head, while my parents just saw me doing my schoolwork and chores.

I re-read The Black Stallion as an adult a few years ago, and while I now can see that much of it is wildly implausable and hinges on massive coincidences... I don't care.  At all.  I still adore it.  And to be honest, my other two favorite books have lots of coincidences in them too.  I don't mind coincidences!

(I read 3 or 4 of the other books in the series and they were meh, in my humble childhood opinion.)

Homemade Knitted Sweater -- Indie Book

Getting so excited for the release of Soldier On by Vanessa Rasanen at the end of October!  I got to read an ARC of it to review for Sister, Daughter, Mother, Wife, and my review will be out in a few weeks!  I'll post about it here too, don't worry.  This book is fantastic -- meaty and deep and about so many of the hard things in life... but the good things, too.

V-neck Sweater -- A Book that Didn't Meet Your Expectations

Longbourn by Jo Baker.  Do yourself a favor and don't read it if you're a fan of Pride and Prejudice and want to keep liking Austen's characters.  Calling it a disappointment is a dire understatement.

Argyle Sweater -- Book with a Weird Format

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, which is told in overlapping circles, like the stories are ripples in a pond, intersecting and widening and changing all the time.  It took me a while to get the hang of it, but once I wrapped my head around the non-linear storytelling, I really dug it.

Polka Dot Sweater -- A Book with Well-Rounded Characters

Middlemarch by George Eliot is breathtaking when it comes to fantastically deep characterizations.

That's all, folks!  Happy autumn to all of you :-)  I'm not tagging anyone with this, so if you want to play, then play!

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

"The Westing Game" by Ellen Raskin

This is one of my favorite books.  I have a strict rule of not allowing myself to read it more than once every 5+ years because that way, I won't fully remember it, and every re-read will still have a bit of surprise to it.

I'm having my 3rd-6th graders read this for our homeschool co-op, which gave me a great reason to re-read it myself.  Neither of my kids in that group had read it before, and it's been so much fun watching them experience this mystery.  My almost-11-yr-old read the whole thing in one day, then re-read his favorite parts endlessly for the next week.  My 8-yr-old finished it this afternoon, and I think she's found a new heroine in Turtle Wexler.

The Westing Game is called a "puzzle mystery" because all the major characters have to work together to solve a strange puzzle set forth by a man named Sam Westing.  They all live in an apartment building Westing owned, and when he dies, they're all named in his will.  But they have to play this game to inherit their share of his millions.  

Initially, they all think they're strangers, but it turns out many of them are connected in ways they're not aware of, which is another part of what makes this book fun.  But what really makes me love it is Turtle Wexler, the main character.  She's a wildly intelligent girl with a passion for the stock market and for kicking anyone who annoys her in any way.  She's very good at both.  In fact, she's very good at everything except understanding adults, and since she's just a middle-schooler, who can blame her there.  (To be honest, I don't understand adults much myself.)

I really don't want to say much more about this book because it's full of so many delicious surprises, I don't want to spoil any of them!  

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG for some danger and spookiness and mild violence (mostly kicking people in the shin).  No bad words or dodgy content.

This is my 7th book read and reviewed for the Old School Kidlit Reading Challenge and my first for the Reams of Rereads event.