Tag Archive: Literary Classics Reading Challenge

Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier

rebeccaTitle: Rebecca

Author: Daphne Du Maurier

Date Finished: 27/06/13

Re-Read? : First time read

Challenges? : Yes – The Classics Club & The Literary Classics

Overall: 4/5 – rather good

I don’t understand where June has gone!  This month has really flown by!  Even though I have been reading pretty much every day (I promise), somehow I have only just finished Rebecca. I have been reading a science book alongside but still, how has it taken me 4 weeks when I have really enjoyed the book?

Anyway, I didn’t know anything about Rebecca before I picked it up, which is always nice but also a bit daunting as you try and understand the story from the start and sort out the characters in your head.  The plot in Rebecca is where is stood out for me, but also where it fell down.  Firstly, the twists (especially the rather major one about 100 pages before the end) where completely unexpected and practically made me gasp out loud!  However, the aspect of the plot that I didn’t like was the moaning!  300 pages of not much action and the heroine whining was probably the reason it took me so long to finish it!

The characters are not too numerous and they are all quite distinct too.  This helps as I didn’t get confused between people, which can often happen in this kind of novel.  Mrs Danvers, Favel and of course Rebecca herself each stood out as totally unique characters who I had never come across before in all the books I’ve read.

Rebecca is a really well written book that made it a really accessible classic.  I would seriously recommend it to all types of readers and I think  it is a book I will re-read in the not too distant future.  The setting of Manderley is so well-known to a Brit like me: only the other weekend I stayed in a former manner home in Devon with its own massive estate and even a private cove for my church weekend away!  Creepy!

This book was also my Classics Club Spin book and I am now really pleased that it came up, even though I was originally a bit disappointed.  This is because I don’t think I would have got round to reading Rebecca for a long time and that would’ve been a shame as I really did enjoy it.  If you fancy a classic read with a great storyline, then Rebecca is the book for you!

1984 – George Orwell

1984Title: 1984

Author: George Orwell

Date Finished: 28/05/13

Re-Read? : First time read

Challenges? : Yes – The Classics Club & The Literary Classics

Overall: 4/5 – rather good

It seems like so long since I last posted about a book (I read The Code Book recently, but I don’t usually post about science reading) but now that it’s half term I have had a few more hours in the day to play with.  Although using reading as a was of procrastinating probably isn’t particularly conducive to good exam results, it is better than just watching the French Open all day, right?!

I have three exams left out of six – chemistry physics and my final maths exam and I am just trying my best to keep up the revision motivation until the end!  I will really be tested when I go on my annual church weekend away for the weekend before my maths exam!!

Anyway, back to the reading!  1984 is a re-read for me but I first read this rather powerful novel back in 2010 when I was only 14 so I expected to have a different experience this time around.  I think last time, I probably only focused on the plot and trying to keep afloat in the world of Ingsoc, Newspeak etc.  Now I am much older (maybe more mature?) and definitely more educated – I have, since then, studied the rise of extremism in Europe and how the fear of communism drove westerners crazy.  Hopefully, I have appreciated some of the more subtle points that Orwell made this time.

In terms of the plot, 1984 is totally unique and despite the 3 year gap, the main story had stuck with me.  This is quite an endearment because usually I can only remember the very basics about a book.  This also meant my attention could focus deeper into the story.  I don’t want to spoil the plotline for people who haven’t read this yet (you should!) but the inevitable discovery by the Thought Police came to me this time as quite a strong point – it is the point where the book deviates from the ‘norm’ in my opinion – there are so many books about individuals trying to fight oppression and they are almost always successful!  Not in 1984.  Throughout the book, even as a reread, you can’t help but have hope that Winston will find a way of successfully hiding his rebellious thoughts whilst surviving and it takes until the very end for you to realise Orwell’s point – there is no hope and no possibility of maintaining ‘bad thoughts’.  Never have I experienced such a perfect embodiment of a state of mind into a book!

The characters are quite sparse in 1984 but the ones we do get to know are very well detailed.  Julia is a breath of fresh rebellious air, and O’Brien is never really understood.  The book is definitely about one man’s (Winston’s) struggle against the state and it is him whom we really know even though the book is in the third person.  I would’ve preferred slightly more storylines and definitely more characters to read about – really for how much detail the book crams in, it is quite short and I would be quite happy to read another 100 pages!

The prose is very eloquent and the sophisticated and extensive range of language often contrasts nicely with the use and description of ‘Newspeak’ in a kind of juxtaposition which I liked a lot.  Despite the sometimes verbose language, I did not find it a struggle to keep up with the book and I think this shows how much I have improved as a reader over the last couple of years.  The setting is very haunting to us in Britain and I wonder if this book can ever really have the same impact in other countries.  To see London becoming faceless and dull is awful and makes Orwell’s point hit home – this is what left wing totalitarianism means.  On the other hand, the ‘red scare’ was obviously a lot more prominent in the USA so maybe at the time, this book spoke more to people on that side of the Atlantic.  Obviously, I don’t know the answer, but I do know that 1984 is a brilliant, thought-provoking read and essential for a well-rounded reader!  Put it on your reading list if you haven’t already!

the-hound-of-the-baskervillesTitle: The Hound of the Baskervilles

Author: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Date Finished: 27/03/13

Re-Read? : First time read

Challenges? : Yes – The Classics Club & The Literary Classics

Overall: 4/5 – rather good

Sorry for the silence on the blog recently, I have been reading but I have been (as usual) very busy and although I finished Big Bang by Simon Singh, I didn’t post because I don’t normally write about science books on here.  Anyway, here I am finally on holiday (although revising of course) and I am ready to read!

As normal with Holmes stories, it took me a few days to get into this book, as the scene was set and the plot started to form but once I did I really enjoyed it.  It was interesting to compare this original Holmes writing with that of Horowitz in The House of Silk, which I read back in January.  I also loved reading the Vintage Classics edition (on the right).

The plot is so unique in this story – it really is unlike anything I have ever read before, even though it follows the usual Holmes structure.  I enjoyed the extended feel of the novel compared to the usual short stories that are over so quickly.  I thought the plot twists were quite ingenious whereas sometimes they have seemed a bit silly and contrived for me in the past.  When Holmes revealed himself I was totally surprised!

The characters are vivid as ever in this story – Holmes and Watson are up to their usual antics trying to sniff out a sinister plot but other characters leap out of the pages too, most notably the entomologist Stapleton and noble Sir Henry Baskerville.  I was pleased that there weren’t too many characters flying around to confuse me as sometimes happens.  It always seems slightly more insidious when there are only a few characters and we know one of them must be behind the whole thing.

The setting on the moors is ridiculously spooky so no wonder they are all terrified of this hound!  Dark, lonely, cold,  foggy…there is a lot of pathetic fallacy that helps darken the mood of the story.  I liked the style of writing a lot and I think that writing from the point of view of Dr Watson is one of the reasons why the Holmes stories have been so successful over time – we always feel very involved.

Overall, this was a great read that I would highly recommend, however, I think it is best to experience some of the Holmes short stories first, as there is very little explanation of his queer methods and characteristics.  Another title crossed off my Classics Club list too! 🙂

Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen

pride-and-prejudiceTitle: Pride and Prejudice

Author: Jane Austen

Date Finished: 21/02/13

Re-Read? : First time read

Challenges? : Yes – The Literary Classics & The Classics Club

Overall: 4/5 – rather good

Surprisingly, I didn’t actually love this book, even though I kind of assumed that I would with it being so many people’s number 1 classic.  I have a feeling that this may have been down to the fact that I took way to long reading it, as my life got very busy before my trip to Uganda (which was absolutely incredible by the way).

The plot was a strong point for me, but only really towards the end of the book – I didn’t feel particularly gripped early on and everything seemed a bit silly.  Again, I think this is due to me only being able to read a few pages every night and just not getting into the story.  The last third of the book was much better and I did actually want to read on, even if I couldn’t.  Up until then, I would have probably only given it 3/5!

The characters are (obviously) very ‘Austen’, and for me, that means a bit over-exaggerated.  I do prefer characters to at least have some realistic attributes but it seems with Austen that they are all almost one-traited.  For example, Jane is known as being very kind and always looking for the best in people, so she has to be almost naïve and gullible throughout the story, which is just totally unrealistic.  Almost all the characters got on my nerves at least once during the book and I didn’t really sympathise or empathise with any of them, but I think this would change with a re-read.

The setting and language are very nice if you have time for appreciating them, but a few pages a day meant that I wasn’t getting very far because of the complex language and sometimes extensive description.  However, this is just a fault of my reading style and not of the writing itself.  Again, with a re-read I would expect to appreciate the language and setting a lot more.

Overall, I didn’t dislike the book at all, but compared to the expectations that come with being top of so many lists and the favourite of so many bloggers, I think it’s fair to say I was slightly disappointed.  However, it is going on the re-read list now and I am still looking forward to my next Austen for The Classics Club.  I am not sure what this will be yet, as I don’t actually have one on my TBR shelf but I am inclined to save Sense and Sensibility and go for Mansfield Park next.

January Wrap-Up & February Plans

I say this every month without fail, but January 2013 has flown by!  It was Christmas and suddenly it’s now February!  Well anyway, January was quite a busy month for me, as I had 5 exams which (mostly) went well thank goodness…I get the results in March!  Also, there was all sorts of crazy weather including a large dumping of snow which shut school…except I had to go in anyway for an exam! :O  I’m sure February will prove to be just as crazy and busy, as I am off to Uganda for 8 days next Sunday!  It is going to be an amazing and eye-opening experience for definite but also a 9 hour plane journey seems like prime reading time!

Here’s what I read in January 2013:

Villette – Charlotte Brontë

The House of Silk – Anthony Horowitz

The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien

This is good as I aim to read at least three books every month.  This is more than I read in December, which is good.  My aim of 1200 pages a month was fulfilled as I read 1340 pages.
For the first 3 weeks of January I had no problems keeping up my 30 minutes reading a day, despite my exams, but as soon as I started Pride and Prejudice, I couldn’t maintain this – I just can’t really get into it!
I need to read a science book next month to keep up with my target of at least one science book every two months.
I definitely fulfilled my at least one classic a month target as I read two – The Hobbit and Villette.
Lastly, I try to stay an active blogger and I have worked on this – commenting more and when not commenting still reading posts.  I also came across quite a few new blogs due to The Classics Club Readathon.

So as you can see, I have met pretty much all of my targets for January 2013, so hopefully I can keep it up in February.

Challenge Progress in January 2013:

The Classics Club :  10/60 books read  (2 this month: Villette & The Hobbit )

The Literary Classics Reading Challenge: 6/15 (Villette) (This challenge has been discontinued but it does no harm to keep track anyway!)

I have some more classics to add to my Classics Club list and I really need to do this before Uganda – I hope I have time!

Currently In Progress:

At the moment, I am reading Pride and Prejudice but it is taking me FOR EVER!  I think this is because I haven’t really had the time to dedicate to it that it deserves and the days have just slipped by.  I am really hoping to finish it before Uganda.

February Plans:

Books: The next three books on my TBR shelf are Middlemarch still, Richard III and Le Petit Nicholas.  I am leaving Middlemarch, but I am taking Richard III, The Host and Big Bang (Simon Singh) to Uganda with me so I have some varied reading.

Challenges:  When I do my Classics Club review, Richard III will count towards that and the next classic I plan for after that will probably be 1984 (a re-read).

Yes my reading has been a bit sparse over the last week or so, but the rest of January was really good for me, especially as I loved The Hobbit so much.  I hope you all discover some new favourites in February like I did in January. 🙂

Villette – Charlotte Brontë

villetteTitle: Villette

Author: Charlotte Brontë

Date Finished: 06/01/13

Re-Read? : First time read

Challenges? : Yes – The Literary Classics & The Classics Club

Overall: 4/5 – rather good

Wow.  A very very powerful book, I think.
I started reading Villette just before Christmas, about the 20th December, I seem to remember, so it feels like it took me forever.  In reality it only took just over 2 weeks but that time between Christmas NYE etc seems much longer than it really is.  Anyway, I am very proud of myself because yesterday this was the book I read for The Classics Club readathon – since then I went from page 472 to 657 so I was very pleased.  It really helps to start the new term without a massive classic hanging over me – I have lots of January exams and probably won’t have that much reading time any more.

The plot in Villette is pretty unique; at least, I haven’t read anything like it before.  Jane Eyre, of course, is the only book that seems to come close, but even that is significantly different – only the style of Charlotte’s writing and some of the typical situations are similar.  I can’t say I loved this book (I only gave 4/5) but I did really enjoy it.  I wasn’t particularly happy with the ending (don’t worry I won’t do spoilers) and now and again the long-depressive-thoughts bits seemed to drag.  Overall, I enjoyed the plot but it definitely didn’t hook me the way Jane Eyre did…although was it actually meant to…?

The characters (in my opinion) are the strongest asset of Villette.  Ok, many are a little unrealistic and annoying, but I feel like I won’t forget them in a long while.  Particularly Lucy (of course), Madame Beck and Graham Bretton.  I have to say I love the (almost Dickensian) way that characters from earlier in the book manage to pop back up coincidentally.  Unfortunately, there were several times when reading Villette where I got the wrong end of the stick; at one point I genuinely though M. Paul and M. Emanuel were two different people!  This is the main reason it is going straight onto my re-read list – now that I understand what’s actually going on, I think I can enjoy it even more next time.

I LOVED the setting in France and adored the French used throughout (warning: don’t read this if French annoys you!) as it really transports you to the setting.  The prose is, naturally, amazing and surprisingly not too difficult to read, especially when something exciting is happening.  This was the kind of book that you need to sit yourself down with and have a big long read – dipping in and out sparsely doesn’t really work…which is why it was so perfect for the readathon!

Like I have said, I didn’t give Villette 5/5 as I can’t say I loved it, but I do think it could easily become a 5 when I re-read it.  I would definitely recommend it as a classic to read for us all, but not more than Jane Eyre – it is less accessible, I find.  However, a really great adaptation (film or TV) would be great, I reckon.  It’s a shame that it lies in J.E’s shadow – most people who I told I was reading this hadn’t even heard of it.  I now understand what people mean when they say Lucy Snowe is such a “question mark“.  She certainly is!
I hope you all enjoyed the readathon and will participate in the next one too!  They really are a great way of reading with people all around the world and making a good dent in big books, even if you can’t commit to all 24 hours (I managed about 15 awake but most of them weren’t actually spend reading!)

Let me know your thoughts on Villette too – I haven’t come across many posts on it so far.

Yes, I realise that it is already the 9th of December (how did this happen?!) but I have only just now had time to wrap up for November!  Of course, I am very busy at the moment and will only get busier, but nevertheless, I read 3 books in November.

Here’s what I read in November 2012:

E = mc² – David Bodanis

Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell

The Visible World – Mark Slouka

This is good as I aim to read at least three books every month.  This is the same name number as I read in October.  It is a bit of a mix with a science book, an absolute favourite and a let down!  However, my target of at least one classic every month was not fulfilled in November.

Challenge Progress in November 2012:

The Classics Club :  8/60 books read  (None this month)

The Victorian Challenge 2012:  4/6 books read  (None this month)

The Literary Classics Reading Challenge: 6/15 (None this month)

Still need to read Middlemarch and Villette for The Victorian Challenge but I think Villette alone will be enough of a challenge!

Currently In Progress:

Currently in progress is The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams, which technically I haven’t read before, but I have listened to all of the radio series countless times so it is kind of a re-read I guess. I also have lots of science magazines on the go.

December Plans:

Books: The next three books on my TBR shelf are Middlemarch still, Villette by Charlotte Brontë and The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz.  I have already mentioned I am leaving Middlemarch until I can focus on it, but I do hope to get to Villette.  I did want to read Pride and Prejudice this Christmas as well…this may become an early January read.

Challenges:  If I do get round to Villette, it would both count towards all 3 challenges.  Pride and Prejudice would count towards two (not Victorian) and I hope to read at least one of these two books.

I am actually reading every day, but when you are busy it is hard to read more than a few pages – you don’t have time for more!  I am really hoping that I can do my usual balancing of revision and reading in the Christmas holidays this year, as I have exams (again) in January.

October Wrap-Up and November Plans

Wow it is actually ridiculous how quickly these months are going by; how is it November already?  Anyway October was good fun for me – we had our school charity RAG week and a sixth form social (I think I am still recovering even now!) and this week’s holiday was definitely needed.

October was a pretty good reading month for me considering how poor September was!

Here’s what I read in October 2012:

Fermat’s Last Theorem – Simon Singh

The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest – Stieg Larsson

Macbeth – William Shakespeare

This is good as I aim to read at least three books every month.  This is 2 more than I read in September!  It’s also a good variety as it’s one non fiction, one fiction and one classic.  Also, my target of at least one classic every month was fulfilled in October by Macbeth.

Challenge Progress in October 2012:

The Classics Club :  8/60 books read  (Macbeth)

The Victorian Challenge 2012:  4/6 books read  (None this month)

The Literary Classics Reading Challenge: 6/15 (Macbeth)

Need to read Middlemarch and Villette for The Victorian Challenge but I doubt I will manage both – Middlemarch beat me when I tried at the beginning of September.

Currently In Progress:

Currently in progress is Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, which I thought would be a bit of a struggle but so far I am really enjoying it and keeping on top if it.  Also I am reading E=mc² by David Bodanis as my current science book; his prose is not quite as good as Simon Singh’s so far.

November Plans:

Books: The next three books on my TBR shelf are The Visible World by Mark Slouka, Middlemarch still and Villette by Charlotte Brontë!  Cloud Atlas is pretty big and I am reading two books at the moment so I can’t see myself getting much past The Visible World after them.

Challenges:  If I do get round to Middlemarch or Villette, they would both count towards all 3 challenges.

September was such a dismal reading month for me that I didn’t even bother with a monthly wrap-up so I am glad that I am out of my reading rut.  I am just cautious of pushing myself back into it by forcing Middlemarch upon myself again.  It just seems too big and obscure (I don’t know anything about it and people don’t seem to talk about Eliot as much as say Dickens or Austen) for my life at the moment – maybe it will be something I adore but only if I get time to appreciate it properly; a holiday read next year?  Who knows but I don’t want to completely discard it yet as so many people love it.  Don’t judge a book by its cover size?

Macbeth – William Shakespeare

Title: Macbeth

Author: William Shakespeare

Date Finished: 30/10/12

Re-Read? : Second time read

Challenges? : Yes – The Classics Club & The Literary Classics

Overall: 4/5 – rather good

Ah it feels so nice to be reading Shakespeare again.  Before this I had only read one play – Much Ado About Nothing (which I love) – last January and before that, I had only studied Macbeth at school in 2010.  I enjoyed Macbeth even more than when we read it in school and I can’t wait to get onto my next Shakespeare.

On my Classics Club list, there are (currently) 11 Shakespeare plays.  This is probably going to change soon as I am reshuffle my list after I have read 12 books (20% of the list) to reflect new books I have acquired/heard about since I came up with the original list.  But anyway, I am still looking forward to my next Shakespeare, which will probably be Romeo and Juliet.

The plot in Macbeth is definitely interesting.  The way events happen that you really don’t expect is sometimes spooky and often shocking.  Despite the fact that I studied it a couple of years ago, I still couldn’t remember more than the basic storyline, so it was good to see what was happening alongside the main events.  I think the trickery of the witches is very clever, especially the way their prophecies seem so ridiculous that Macbeth will always be safe but they come true in a very unexpected and sneaky way.

The characters were what I focussed on when I studied Macbeth, especially Lady Macbeth herself.  I wrote an essay titled ‘Lady Macbeth – “Fiend-like Queen”, how far do you agree?‘.  All my little highlightings and annotations are still in my copy which was nice and reminded me of some of the quotes I used.  Aside from Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, Duncan and Macduff, the characters in Macbeth aren’t particularly memorable and I sometimes got confused between all the lords/generals/noblemen etc.  However, Shakespeare’s plays were meant to be performed so maybe I wouldn’t have got confused if I were watching it.

The setting in old Scotland is miserable and dreary, as intended and all the castles and battles just add to the quite ferocious nature of the story – there is so much murder involved.  Shakespeare’s language was not actually too difficult for me, which I found quite surprising, as many people struggle with it and I know when I have been to see Shakespeare I sometimes lose the meaning whilst trying to understand the words, if you know what I mean.  This was no problem so that’s encouraging and means I will read more Shakespeare in the future.  I have just ordered a copy of Richard III because I am going to see it next year.  I am also going to see Two Gentlemen of Verona which should be great.

Overall I would recommend Macbeth as a good Shakespeare to start out with as it’s not too complex or long but is a great story nevertheless.  I would definitely go and see it in the theatre if it was on near me.  A secure 4/5 but I can’t I see myself reading it for a third time for quite a while.

August Wrap-Up and September Plans

Hello everyone…I can’t believe it’s September! 2012 seems to be flying by.  I like September because starting back at school is quite exciting and it’s my birthday!  Also, the Autumnal weather is a  favourite of mine.  Anyway, in August I really enjoyed the Olympics, a holiday to Majorca and brilliant results.  It has been great but I am ready to go back to school and have some structure returned to my life!

August was a great reading month for me, but not quite as good as last year…there was just too much going on!

Here’s what I read in August 2012:

The Crow Road – Iain Banks

The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown

Harry Potter à L’École des Sorciers – J.K. Rowling

Dracula – Bram Stoker

This is great as I aim to read at least three books every month.  This was the same number as I read in July.  Also, my target of at least one classic every month was fulfilled in August by Dracula.

Challenge Progress in August 2012:

The Classics Club :  7/60 books read  (Dracula)

The Victorian Challenge 2012:  4/6 books read  (Dracula)

The Literary Classics Reading Challenge: 4/15 (Dracula)

Really good progress in all the challenges this year.

Currently In Progress:

Currently in progress (as of yesterday) is Middlemarch by George Eliot.  I read one page late last night and then put it down as I was exhausted…I just hope this isn’t an indication of how I will respond to all 800+ pages of it!

September Plans:

Books: The next three books on my TBR shelf are The Girl who Kicked the Hornets’ NestMacbeth, and Cloud Atlas.  Middlemarch is so vast that I very much doubt I read anything else this month…and maybe next too!

Challenges:  Middlemarch will count for all 3 and Macbeth will count for 2 challenges.

Just though I would mention that it has been 6 months since I started blogging!  That is shocking – I still feel very much like a newbie and I would just like to say thank you to all subscribers/readers/commenters for your insight, support and welcome; you have all made book-blogging a very enjoyable experience for me, which is what I hoped for when I started out back at the start of March.  Thank you all 🙂