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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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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 ;)

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

 

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Classics Challenge Review – The Chocolate War – Robert Cormier

The Chocolate War
Author: Robert Cormier

Narrator: Frank Muller
Run Time:5hrs and 34 minutes

Book Description:
Jerry Renault ponders the question on the poster in his locker: Do I dare disturb the universe? Refusing to sell chocolates in the annual Trinity school fund-raiser may not seem like a radical thing to do. But when Jerry challenges a secret school society called The Vigils, his defiant act turns into an all-out war. Now the only question is: Who will survive?

Review
When I originally picked The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier to read for my 50 classics in 5 years challenge, I thought that it was because I had read it as a teen and wanted to re-read it to see how my opinion of it had changed over the years. However, I soon discovered that it wasn’t the book that I thought it was…(and unfortunately, I still haven’t figured out what that damn book it yet!!). But at the same time, I am glad that I chose to read/listen to it, but have decided that I need to pick up the second one (Beyond the Chocolate War), because I wasn’t all that impressed with the ending – it was too vague and unfinished for me.

However, the quote that continually shows up through the book – “dare I disturb the universe” is key to the events that unfolded through-out the course of the book. It is a question that so many people who engage in social protest ask themselves – is that one small action I might engage in, worth it. Will I succeed in what I am about to do? What are the consequences for me engaging in this action? It was interesting to hear, in the authors own words, how he came up with the idea for the book (his son who refused to sell school chocolates) and how his various what-if scenarios played out in the development of the various characters. Not only does the theme of social protest appear through-out but the idea of the role of bullying in society.

It was bullying by the group called the Vigils that started the chain of events that led to the events that occurred in the books; it was the bullying of Brother Leon of many of the students at the school that led to the culture where the Vigils flourished and were allowed to behave as they did. Like i mentioned above however, my main problem with how the book finished was that there was no real ending – the good guy (in this case, Jerry) didn’t prevail, we were kind of left wondering what happened or worse yet, left with the impression that evil will prevail and that it will beat good out every time. So I am curious to see what happens in the second book.

I found the narration by Frank Muller interesting – it seemed much more like a performance than the straight reading of a book. This isn’t something that I often run into when listening, so it was interesting. At first it was weird, but it kind of grew on me as the book progressed. He did have a good ability to have some fear inspiring voices like his rendition of Brother Leon. i have to say though, that since the entire cast of characters are male, there was really no way for me to judge how his female voices would sound – so I would be curious to listen to other narrations by him to find out how he renders those.

If the other books in my classics challenge are as thought provoking as this one, I look forward to reading more.

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2012 in Audiobook Review, Classics Challenge

 

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Mini-Review – Les Miserables – Volume I (Fantine)

Thanks to Tien of Tien’s Blurb for hosting the above read-along.

So originally this post was supposed to go up over a week ago and I could have sworn that I finished it and hit post – but apparently not. I blame it on…umm, my ability to be a complete and utter scatterbrain at times…anyways, here we go. This review is my thoughts on the volume I of Les Miserables (Fantine), along with some discussion questions posed by Tien. This review has the potential to be completely and utterly SPOILERIFIC!! so you have been warned ;)

General Thoughts on Volume I
I have to admit that when I started reading, I was pleasantly surprised with how well the translation (by Denny) flowed. I was very easily sucked in and reaching my page goal each night (about 15-20 pages) was easy to do. I even found myself reading just a little bit more (which is always a bad idea when you had to be up at 4am for work)…I do have to admit that if I hadn’t had no only Tien, but other friends reading this, I might have gotten distracted but having that buddy support system for reading is great.

My other main thought so far is that I was surprised how well the first part of the musical mirrored what had happened in the book up until the end of the volume. And yes, I was singing various songs from the musical as I was reading.

Discussion Questions
1.What do you think of Bishop Myriel? He’s definitely described as being truly saintly; I’m wondering if there’s any pessimistic reader out there?
I have to admit that the beginning I was that pessimistic reader – I couldn’t believe that anyone was as perfect, as truely righteous and saintly as Bishop Myriel. But as his story progressed, he started to grow on me and Hugo’s writing style was persuasive in such a way that by the time Valjean’s path crossed with Myriel’s, I was convinced that he was that true saint. The kind of permission that you would expect have been made a Saint in the Catholic church 100 years or so post book setting.

2. For those of you who are reading this for the first time, was there any assumptions you have made previously from whatever source which was just incorrect? Was there anything which surprises you from the past week’s readings?
As I alluded to above, I’m a huge fan of the musical, although I have never seen it live (and yes, I’m still mad at my mom for not taking me to see it because I was too young…) I was pleasantly surprised with how well the musical mirrors (albeit reduced in time and descriptive). Personally, I can’t wait to see the new movie to see how well it has been adapted from the book.

3. What do you think of the contrast between Javert & Valjean?
The dichotomy between Javert and Valjean is intriguing, although I don’t think we have necessarily seen all there is to see yet since overall there was fairly limited interaction between the two. I have to wonder, whether in part, Javert’s pursuit of Valjean is in part jealously of his success – you have Javert who was born in a jail to a convict and made a life for himself that was moderately successful as a police inspector, but comparatively, then you have ValJean, a convict who served nearly 20 years, who is released, doesn’t finish his parole, and turns into a huge success – a rich business owner in a time, when many were struggling to just survive.

4. What has been the high point for you this week? Any quote/s which bowled you over this week?
As I was reading through this section and found a particularly interesting quote, I was bookmarking the page – unfortunately, I forgot to go back and highlight several of them…whoops.
But looking at the pages that I marked, there were several that I thought were significant:

“I mean that the man is ruled by a tyrant whose name is Ignorance, and that is the tyrant I sought to overthrow. That is the tyrant which gave birth to monarchy, and monarchy is authority based on falsehood, whereas knowledge is based on truth. Man should be ruled by knowledge.” – conversation between the Bishop and the old man (pg 52)

“There are men who dig for gold; he dug for compassion. Poverty was his goldmine; and the universality of suffering a reason for the universality of charity.” (pg 69)

“Do not forget, do not ever forget, that you have promised me to use the money to make yourself an honest man” – this quote epitomizes the book – the choices that we as individuals must make, how many of them are based on promises made to other people. How you choose to live your life is affected by those promises

 
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Posted by on October 9, 2012 in Book Review, Read-Along

 

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