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Category Archives: Classics Challenge

Classics Retold Review – Emma – Jane Austen

classics retold

EmmaEmma
Author: Jane Austen

Description:
‘I never have been in love; it is not my way, or my nature; and I do not think I ever shall.’

Beautiful, clever, rich – and single – Emma Woodhouse is perfectly content with her life and sees no need for either love or marriage. Nothing, however, delights her more than interfering in the romantic lives of others. But when she ignores the warnings of her good friend Mr Knightley and attempts to arrange a suitable match for her protegee Harriet Smith, her carefully laid plans soon unravel and have consequences that she never expected. With its imperfect but charming heroine and its witty and subtle exploration of relationships, Emma is often seen as Jane Austen’s most flawless work.

Review:
I have to say that this is probably one of my favorite Jane Austen (only slightly behind Pride and Prejudice). Of all the characters in the various Jane Austen books, I found the ones in Emma to be the most relatable. While all of them were bound by the various society dictates, there was a quirky-ness that shone through with Ms Austen’s descriptions and the development of the story.

It’s hard to say exactly what I really enjoyed about the book, there wasn’t one specific thing that I can say, yes, it was this scene, this person…but rather it was the amalgamation of everyone together. It was like seeing a stained glass mirror…while each part is individually created when its built and is pretty on its own, it is the final product that make people ohhhh and ahhh.

But I always find it hard to write reviews of these classics, because they are classics for a reason…so I’ll leave my review of Emma at that, but since I did listen to the audiobook, I need to address the narration a little bit. I have to admit when I saw that the only version of the audiobook that my library had had a male narrator (Michael Page), I was a tad skeptical, since Emma is told from a female POV and I can’t remember a classic that i’ve listened to, off the top of my head, that has had a male narrator. So it was a completely new experience for me. But I was pleasantly surprised. There was something smooth and flowing about his narration. I know that i’ll be checking out more books narrated by him in the future (and taking a peek, it looks like he had a pretty decent backlist).

 

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Classics Review – Dracula – Bram Stoker

draculaDracula
Author:
Bram Stoker

Narrators: Alan Cumming, Tim Curry, Simon Vance, Katherine Kellgren, Susan Duerden, John Lee, Graeme Malcolm, Steven Crossley
Run Time: 15 hrs and 28 minutes
Producer: Audible, Inc

Description:
The first and most terrifying of all vampire stories.

Jonathan Harker has a job to do. The young lawyer must go to the mysterious country of Transylvania to work for a man he knows as “the Count.” At first, Jonathan is excited by the chance to travel and meet new people. But after his arrival in Transylvania, he begins to wonder what’s going on. People act strangely upon hearing he is going to visit the Count. When Jonathan arrives at the Count’s dark, deserted castle, he too begins to feel afraid. Soon after meeting his host, Jonathan begins to feel trapped in a horrifying nightmare. Only this nightmare is real and he can’t wake up.

Why Dracula?
Nowadays you can’t enter a bookstore without running into a vampire novel of some shape/size/description. From books like The Historian (literary fiction), to the Paranormal Romances of Christine Feehan, Kresley Cole and Kerrelyn Sparks. Each author brings their unique perspective to answer the question what is a vampire. So it seemed like a good idea to go back to the beginning (or at least almost the beginning). And so, here I am…lol!

Review:
So I went into Dracula pretty much blind – I knew the basic premise (I mean who doesn’t) and the fact that it was told in an epistolary type format (which, BTW, i love that word!) Other than a vague recollection of character names, I didn’t know anything else. I will admit that I was expecting more of a horror novel than what I got. It turned out to be rather…academic (for lack of a better word) in the telling of the story. There was some emotion at times, but ultimately, it was very stark. But that isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy it…in fact there was something almost addicting about the story – whether it was the writing or the narration of the audiobook, i’m not quite sure. I do know that friends of mine have had issues getting going with it – but I was pretty much sucked in from the beginning.

I can also see why Dracula won the best audiobook category for Multi-Voiced Performance this year. While it wasn’t the one in the category that I picked, it was in my top 3. i really like the cast of narrations – with some of my favorites like Simon Vance who was the voice of Jonathan Harker and Katherine Kellgren, to more well-known movie stars, like Tim Curry. Each voice was unique (because they were pretty much done all by different people). the quality of the audiobook was great – I know that I will be checking out more books produced by Audible in the future. Overall, 3.5 stars, but rounding up to 4.

 
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Posted by on June 6, 2013 in Book Review, Classics Challenge

 

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The Classics Club – May Meme

classicsclub1I haven’t really participated in the monthly meme’s being held by the Classics Club before, but I happened to be sitting at my computer pondering a blog post for today (to review or not to review is the question?) – when the email popped up with this months topic/discussion point. So what the heck – here it goes:

Tell us about the classic book(s) you’re reading this month. You can post about what you’re looking forward to reading in May, or post thoughts-in-progress on your current read(s).

For the most part since I have been doing this challenge, I have been picking books at random to read, depending on what kind of mood I am in. However, the stars seem to be aligning and I have 2 books on the pile that I plan to read/listen to this month – Dracula and Middlemarch.

Middlemarch is one of those books that even though it is on my list, I am scared to read since it is a chunker. However, it was voted on as a monthly group read in one of my Goodreads groups – and we have a whole reading plan laid out for it – so hopefully, I will finish. I plan to read it, however, I also have the audiobook cued up on my ipod should the need arise to listen (I tend to enjoy classics more that way).

The second book I have lined up for May is Dracula. I was originally going to hold off and do this one around Halloween and line it up with horror as a theme for the month. However, the audiobook of this popped as a nomination for the annual audiobook awards in the category that I am reviewing (multi-voiced narration) – so I plan to start listening to it as soon as I finish my current listen. I have to admit that I am excited but skeptical at the same time – I’ve never listened to a classic that has had more than one narrator before. So it will be something completely new for me.

Hopefully, May will be a successful month in working towards my classics challenge goal.

 
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Posted by on May 2, 2013 in Classics Challenge

 

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Classics Challenge – The Fellowship of the Ring – J.R.R. Tolkein

the fellowship of the ringThe Fellowship of the Ring
Author: JRR Tolkein
Series: #1 in the Lord of the Rings trilogy

Description:
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them

In ancient times the Rings of Power were crafted by the Elven-smiths, and Sauron, the Dark Lord, forged the One Ring, filling it with his own power so that he could rule all others. But the One Ring was taken from him, and though he sought it throughout Middle-earth, it remained lost to him. After many ages it fell into the hands of Bilbo Baggins, as told in The Hobbit.

In a sleepy village in the Shire, young Frodo Baggins finds himself faced with an immense task, as his elderly cousin Bilbo entrusts the Ring to his care. Frodo must leave his home and make a perilous journey across Middle-earth to the Cracks of Doom, there to destroy the Ring and foil the Dark Lord in his evil purpose.

Why I chose this book:
I knew going into doing the classics challenge that I wanted to do some classics that were in a specific genre, rather than true classics (as many people would define them). So I chose to pick books that were seen as classics in the sci-fi/fantasy genres (I combined the 2, because there is often some overlap). However, I did use the Lord of the Rings as the listing, so I am planning on doing the entire trilogy – this is just the first installment.

Review:
Having never read these books, I remember standing in line at the movie theater while in college waiting to see the first of the books – and I was with a bunch of Tolkein fanatics (which made for some interesting viewing – I mean, they even spoke elvish…) But for some reason I never actually read the books. So similar to The Hobbit, when I saw that the audiobooks had been re-mastered and released, I jumped on the opportunity to get them – having loved Rob Inglis’ narration of the Hobbit. And he didn’t disappoint in The Fellowship of the Ring.

For me, the one thing that took me by surprise was the length of time that was actually encompassed in the book. From the movies you would have thought that Frodo ended up with the ring and almost immediately left on his journey – but in truth, there was actually a period of about 12 years between when he got it and he left on journey. There were also many things that didn’t quite make it into the movies (Tom Bombadil for one) – which added to the listening experience; and yet at the same time, proved that at its core, there was probably a lot of extraneous stuff in the book that wasn’t needed (and maybe if that was the case and it was reduced a bit more people may read/enjoy it – because it seemed a common complaint that I have seen is the length/meandering style of his writing).

I have to admit that I’m a bit in 2 minds over whether I enjoyed it or not – for the most part I did, and the parts that were reflected in the movie, I was glad to see how they were described in writing; but at the same time – if I hadn’t been listening to the audiobook, I probably would have given up at some point because there were parts where it felt like I wasn’t going anywhere…

Rob Inglis once again nailed the narration from the voice distinction of the different Hobbits; to the continuous voicing of Gandalf (from The Hobbit), I was impressed. I think that my one comment would be, that at times, Gandalf and Aragon started to sound a bit similar to each other – but it wasn’t too overwhelming. I’m curious to start the next book and see how it turns out as compared to the movie and overall because I remember it not being my favorite…Overall, I would give FotR 3.5 stars, but rounding up to 4.

 
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Posted by on January 27, 2013 in Audiobook Review, Classics Challenge

 

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Classics Challenge Review – Mansfield Park – Jane Austen (@ourclassicsclub)

mansfield parkMansfield Park
Author: Jane Austen

Description:
‘We have all been more or less to blame …
every one of us, excepting Fanny’

Taken from the poverty of her parents’ home, Fanny Price is brought up with her rich cousins at Mansfield Park, acutely aware of her humble rank and with only her cousin Edmund as an ally. When Fanny’s uncle is absent in Antigua, Mary Crawford and her brother Henry arrive in the neighbourhood, bringing with them London glamour and a reckless taste for flirtation. As her female cousins vie for Henry’s attention, and even Edmund falls for Mary’s dazzling charms, only Fanny remains doubtful about the Crawfords’ influence and finds herself more isolated than ever. A subtle examination of social position and moral integrity, Mansfield Park is one of Jane Austen’s most profound works.

Why I Chose Mansfield Park?
My previous experiences with Jane Austen consisted of Pride and Prejudice (loved it) and Sense and Sensibility (ehhh, not so much). So I was curious to see how other books written by Ms Austen would play out in the scheme of things, so I added both Mansfield Park and Emma to my list of books for the challenge. It’ll be interesting to see how Emma plays out on my list of enjoyment.

Review:
I have to say that all of three Jane Austen’s that I have read so far (yes, I know that my education is sorely lacking) that this is my least favorite. In fact, I struggle to find anything even remotely good to say about it. Well, hang on, the narrator of the audiobook was good (that counts right?) There was something dislikeable about every single character – even Fanny Price, the supposed ‘heroine’ of the story.

While the story had a similar feel to Jane Eyre – well-off family takes in poor relative and raises her (forgetting the whole school for Jane, but just the dynamics in general) – at least in JE, it was obvious and to Jane’s face, how much she was disliked and looked-down upon. Whereas, even though it was obvious, the behavior of Mrs Norris (OMG, I wanted to beat her around the head – and you can see this in my twitter feeds) with how put upon they were because the family offered to take care of Fanny and how much she owes them. I just wanted to shove a sock in her mouth to shut her up – I mean, seriously woman, guilt trip much. Edmund was maybe the one character who had some slight redeeming qualities but even then, I wanted to tell him to grow a set and stand up to the family. And WTF – it was like I blinked and missed the whole “courtship” – I mean, i saw it coming – it was obvious – but a summation of 9 years in like a page…this is a pet peeve of mine in current romance, so I find it intriguing that it appears even in fiction from the 1800′s.

Thankfully, Joanna Ward’s narration turned a pretty crappy book into a slightly less than crappy listen. I found her narration soothing, even when I had my hands clutched around the steering wheel pretending like I was strangling one of the characters. Her female voices were all easily distinguishable and her male ones while not great, were passable – they didn’t make me want to turn off the audiobook at least (unlike some other narrators). I’ll be interested to see what other stuff she has narrated for future listens.

 
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Posted by on January 9, 2013 in Classics Challenge

 

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Moby Dick Big Read

Moby Dick Moby Dick is one of those books that I have been scared to read. I don’t know why, but I think mainly the size of it and what I have heard about it, have made me not want to read it. But then I read The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach which used Melville’s works as a basis for the symbology in the book. It made me intrigued…

Then in late 2012, I saw the Moby Dick Big Read advertised – this was a program that saw each chapter of Moby Dick recorded by a different narrator and made available online for free (yes, free…). While the initial big read started in October 2012, I didn’t find out about it until after then, so decided to start my own read/listen of it on January 1, 2013.

If anyone is interested in reading/listening along, feel free to join in. We are going to use the study guide found HERE for discussion points, so the break down will be as follows:

Part 1 – Chapters 1-21 – Discussion questions to be posted around 20/21 January
Part 2 – Chapters 22-42 – Discussion questions to be posted around 10/11 February
Part 3 – Chapters 43-65 – Discussion questions to be posted around 5/6 March
Part 4 – Chapters 66-86 – Discussion questions to be posted around 26/27 March
Part 5 – Chapters 87-135 (end) – Discussion questions to be posted around 14/15 April

Hope to see you here – you are in for a whale of a tale (yes, a very bad pun, I know!) – sign-up below if you want to join in – I’m not savvy enough to figure out how to do a linky widget ;)

 
6 Comments

Posted by on January 1, 2013 in Classics Challenge, Read-Along

 

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Classics Challenge – Anthem – Ayn Rand

anthemAnthem
Author: Ayn Rand

Description:
In Anthem, Rand examines a frightening future in which individuals have no name, no independence, and no values. Equality 7-2521 lives in the dark ages of the future where all decisions are made by committee, all people live in collectives, and all traces of individualism have been wiped out. Despite such a restrictive environment, the spark of individual thought and freedom still burns in him–a passion which he has been taught to call sinful. In a purely egalitarian world, Equality 7-2521 dares to stand apart from the herd–to think and choose for himself, to discover electricity, and to love the woman of his choice. Now he has been marked for death for committing the ultimate sin. In a world where the great “we” reign supreme, he has rediscovered the lost and holy word–”I.”

Why I choose this “classic”:
When I was putting together my list of books for this challenge, I knew that I wanted to include some Ayn Rand because her name had been mentioned so often in the 2012 election season. However, the sheer size of Atlas Shrugged and the Fountainhead scared me. But Anthem coming in at only a couple of hundred pages seemed do-able (and to test my mettle, I added fountainhead in one of my other categories). Anthem fit well into my dystopia theme – although the year is unmentioned.

Review:
This was a hard review to write – I actually finished the book back in the first week of December, but I knew that I wanted to mull over it a bit before posting my review – like I tend to do with many classics. The first thing that caught my eye/ear when I was listening (yes, this is an audiobook review) was the introduction that was written for the 50th anniversary edition by Leonard Peikoff. Peikoff is a philosopher and founder of the Ayn Rand Institute – he had some interesting things to say, not only about Rand’s philosophical leanings, but her experiences in general in the writing of the book – the fact that she completely re-wrote it prior to its release in the US in the 1940′s as she improved on her writing style. This introduction for me helped set the book and gave some foundation to it, which I think added to my thoughts on it. The most intriguing part of the intro was where Peikoff highlighted the fact that Anthem wasn’t the original name of the book, its working title (and the title I think more appropriate) was EGO…

When I heard that, my ears pricked up, because I realized while there was the ego that we refer to as he’s so egotistical, I thought about the ego theory developed by Freud. I’m not sure which one specifically she had in mind as she was writing the book because I think both could work – so that was an intriguing thought. For a book that was written back in the 1930′s/40′s – I appreciate that she didn’t write a specific year for the setting, just used an undisclosed future – because I’ve found if they set a year, and then you read that book after the setting and stuff hasn’t occurred it takes away from the intended affect.

Some of the themes in this reminded me of ones that have appeared in more recent dystopian fiction – for example, the assigning of jobs has shown up in The Giver (Lois Lowry) and the Matched Trilogy (Ally Condie) – and yet, it had its own uniqueness still. I had to chuckle at the part where he (Equality 7-2521) discovered electricity and when presented with the information, the world council was afraid that with that, the candle-makers would be put out of work…kind of reminded me of working in the federal government where at times there are remarkable amounts of redundancies and you question the need for them, but people continue to argue that they are needed…

I have a hard time figuring out who exactly I would recommend this to, because it wouldn’t be to most of my reading buddies. Maybe anyone interested in philosophy; people who are looking for thought-provoking reads…I shall have to ponder that some more. Would I read this again – I don’t think so, but it was intriguing and now I am kind of curious to see what Rand wrote in the Fountainhead…but i’m not quite ready to read it yet – maybe in the next year or so. Even with my abundance of reading, I need to review my critical thinking skills before tackling it.

 
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Posted by on December 29, 2012 in Classics Challenge

 

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