Thursday, March 31, 2011

Review for You - All the King's Men

All the King's Men by Robert Warren Penn
3 stars
All the King’s Men is the story of Jack Burden, the political right-hand man of the governor of Louisiana (though I actually don’t think the name of the state is ever mentioned), Willie Stark. When you pick up the book and look at the dust jacket it will describe the novel as being the story of Willie Stark, a character based on the actual real-life governor of Louisiana, Huey P. Long. However this is misleading for two reasons: first because, as I said, this book is really more about Jack Burden and only peripherally about the governor; and second because while Warren did not deny that Long was an inspiration for Willie Stark, he was quoted as saying “For better or worse, Willie Stark was not Huey Long. Willie was only himself…”

Jack Burden starts off his “career” (I put career in quotes because he is the kind of person that seems to just never know what he wanted to do and just aimlessly drifted, until he found Willie) as a journalist who has a chance meeting with Stark as Stark was on his way up the political food chain. It is obvious he has some great ideas to shake up the state, and at that point in time he seems to have a good head on his shoulders. Jump ahead a bit later and Stark is running for governor only to find that he has been placed on the ticket by other greedy politicians only to split the vote. He’s been had. He’s a sap. Thus begins his meltdown…yet also his rise. Before he had been talking about all of his fantastic ideas to help the little people, the hicks, the rednecks, but for some reason he had not been able to speak to the common man in a way that they could understand. But now all bets were off. He would put all his cards on the table. Burden witnesses all this and the “Boss,” as they soon begin to call him, is born.

Throughout all of Willie’s rise, in which the timeline jumps around quite a bit, we hear the story of Jack’s life. His problems with his father that he does not like. His distant but loving mother. The girl that got away. His dissertation he never completed. This is what I mean when I say it’s really a story about Jack Burden. These tales make up about 90% of the book. And it’s a very long book (over 650 pages). For instance, the dissertation that he ended up just walking away from when it was nearly complete…Warren dedicated a whole chapter to this subject, (which I personally found irrelevant to the entire story) and, I want to say, it took up nearly 70 pages (maybe more).

The most interesting parts of the novel, by far, were those that included Stark. Especially when he was speaking. Warren had a brilliant gift for capturing dialogue. And he gave Stark a remarkable talent for being able to relate to the common folk. I could see how this corrupt politician won over the masses. But, as I said, this was unfortunately not the majority of the story, not even close. I started out the read entirely captivated, as the opening is a scene wherein the “Boss” pulls into a small town and gives an impromptu speech to a crowd of onlookers. But after the first 200 pages it lulled very quickly as it was clear this was the Jack Burden Story and not what I was hoping for. Thankfully the last 100 pages or so sped up again and were very entertaining, but it’s certainly a shame when you start a book thinking it could become a possible favorite and then it disappoints like this.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

100 Follower Giveaway?

Well so I was tweeting around on Twitter today (yeah, that’s right, that’s what I do now because I’m super cool) and I saw a tweet by someone, don’t remember who, talking about once they hit 200 followers they were going to host a giveaway. Well, I’m nowhere near 200 followers and I don’t do giveaways but that got me to thinking…I could, for the very special occasion that should soon be approaching, host a giveaway once I hit 100 followers. I mean, how hard can it be? Well, it could actually be difficult. I have no clue about this giveaway stuff. But let’s pretend my tiny brain could somehow figure it all out.

What do y’all think? I mean, I only really read classics and literary fiction so it probably wouldn’t be some brand new exciting book that’s just hit the shelves. But it would still be a free book. Who doesn’t like free books?! Rich snobs. That’s who. Pffft!

So I just thought I’d shoot this idea around and see what everyone thinks. Now watch me get no more followers EVER so the idea never comes to fruition. Ha! But if it were to happen, what book do you think I should giveaway? I’m open to ideas. You all know the type of books I read so you have an idea of what would be a good one for me to giveaway. I need all the help I can get because I’ve never done this before. I just want the book to be a good representation of me and the blog, you know?

Also, try saying “tweeting around on Twitter today” five times fast. It’s hard!


So apparently there's some spotlight on me that I didn't even know very good blogging buddy and co-administrative Shelfari friend Jenny over at Lit Endeavors informed me this morning on the Twitter (every time I say Twitter I feel the need to shout it with some weirdo voice, you too? just me?) that this very blog (yes, this one you're reading RIGHT NOW) had been highlighted as an awesome book blog to check out via The Best Damn Creative Writing Blog. I was BLOWN AWAY. I don't know who told them to pick me as one of the blogs, I'm assuming that you all, my super fantastic followers, are also their super fantastic followers so I just want to say I'm literally blushing and thank you so much.

Most of the time when this stuff happens it's with a blog I follow frequently and so it's not too much of a surprise (us blogger friends like to support one another). But this was a shock. Needless to say that I'll now be paying much more attention to BDCWB (also I have started writing again so I should be doing that anyway).

But seriously go check out that post I linked to above because a lot of my fellow blogger buddies are mentioned as well. And you could shout out in the comments how awesome I am...I'm just saying ;)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Bechdel Test Tuesday!

It's time for another Bechdel Test Tuedsday! Woohoo! Did everyone catch my special All-Bronte Edition last week? No? Well then you should click on that link I just graciously left you and check it out! Also if you're unfamiliar with what the Bechdel Test is...go here.

Now I know you've all been waiting eagerly all day for my awesome meme so I'll just get right to it:

The Road by Cormac McCarthy
1. Does it have at least 2 women in it?
Well, this is tricky. Technically I guess I have to say yes but really I'm leaning more towards a no. The first woman is the mother and the second woman only shows up at the very very end and I forget if she even utters a single word...

2. Do they talk to each other?
Obviously based on what I just answered for Question #1, no.

Too bad. This is one of my favorite books. Better luck mext week!

And please, if you have any suggestions for books you would like me to feature or read, let me know! And I'm always looking for good ideas via Twitter (see my follow me button located to the right).

Monday, March 28, 2011

Back After a Long Weekend...

Sorry for my very extended blogging absence of two days (gasp!) but it could not be helped I assure you. I had a very long weekend of birthday celebrations and I simply had no time (or the proper brain capacity) to compose a thoughtful post.

But I’m back now!

I did finally get a chance to finish the book that has been taunting me for over a week however: All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren.

I’ve written a bit about this one already and I plan on writing a full review later this week but I just have to get a bit off my chest now. I’m irritated. It had a lot of potential and in the first 200 pages I really thought it could be a 5 star book. I was excited. But then in the middle it really started to drag and as a result I started reading slower and slower and the book ended up taking much longer than usual to finish. It wasn’t a bad book at all, I just think it could’ve been much better than it was.

It reminded me of Oscar Wilde’s novel The Picture of Dorian Gray. I don’t know if you all remember my review or not but it was going along great when Wilde decided to insert a chapter that, in my opinion, was completely irrelevant to the story and slowed the reading pace to almost a complete halt.
Why do author’s do this? Someone told me that in Wilde’s case his publishers requested that he lengthen the book, but I don’t actually know if that was the case. But really to me it seems like the author is writing about one subject but wanted to get in something of a totally different subject in the SAME book. But it is as if they didn’t want to take the time to write a whole other book on that other subject so they just wanted to find somewhere in the book they were already writing and kind of insert it. The end result is annoyance (or at least it is for me!) and a much lower star rating come review time.

Has this happened to any of you? What book(s)?

Oh, and the most important question of all, did you miss me?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Greatest Novels of 20th Century

So there's this list that's been going around the blogosphere lately...I caught it at Your Move, Dickens and What Red Read and felt compelled to post it here as well. Apparently it's from the publishing students at Radcliffe College. I guess they got together and compiled what they felt was the best 100 novels of this last century. So let's take a look...

Key: Bold means I've read it; Italics means I've read it but didn't finish; ** means it's on my massive TBR pile.

1. "The Great Gatsby," F. Scott Fitzgerald
2. "The Catcher in the Rye," J.D. Salinger
3. "The Grapes of Wrath," John Steinbeck
4. "To Kill a Mockingbird," Harper Lee

5. "The Color Purple," Alice Walker **
6. "Ulysses," James Joyce
7. "Beloved," Toni Morrison
8. "The Lord of the Flies," William Golding
9. "1984," George Orwell

10. "The Sound and the Fury," William Faulkner **

11. "Lolita," Vladmir Nabokov
12. "Of Mice and Men," John Steinbeck

13. "Charlotte's Web," E.B. White
14. "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man," James Joyce
15. "Catch-22," Joseph Heller

16. "Brave New World," Aldous Huxley
17. "Animal Farm," George Orwell

18. "The Sun Also Rises," Ernest Hemingway
19. "As I Lay Dying," William Faulkner **
20. "A Farewell to Arms," Ernest Hemingway
21. "Heart of Darkness," Joseph Conrad
22. "Winnie-the-Pooh," A.A. Milne
23. "Their Eyes Were Watching God," Zora Neale Hurston
24. "Invisible Man," Ralph Ellison **
25. "Song of Solomon," Toni Morrison
26. "Gone with the Wind," Margaret Mitchell
27. "Native Son," Richard Wright
28. "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," Ken Kesey

29. "Slaughterhouse Five," Kurt Vonnegut **
30. "For Whom the Bell Tolls," Ernest Hemingway
31. "On the Road," Jack Kerouac
32. "The Old Man and the Sea," Ernest Hemingway
33. "The Call of the Wild," Jack London
34. "To the Lighthouse," Virginia Woolf
35. "Portrait of a Lady," Henry James
36. "Go Tell it on the Mountain," James Baldwin
37. "The World According to Garp," John Irving
38. "All the King's Men," Robert Penn Warren
39. "A Room with a View," E.M. Forster
40. "The Lord of the Rings," J.R.R. Tolkien
41. "Schindler's List," Thomas Keneally
42. "The Age of Innocence," Edith Wharton
43. "The Fountainhead," Ayn Rand **
44. "Finnegans Wake," James Joyce
45. "The Jungle," Upton Sinclair **
46. "Mrs. Dalloway," Virginia Woolf **
47. "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz," Frank L. Baum
48. "Lady Chatterley's Lover," D.H. Lawrence

49. "A Clockwork Orange," Anthony Burgess
50. "The Awakening," Kate Chopin **

51. "My Antonia," Willa Cather
52. "Howard's End," E.M. Forster
53. "In Cold Blood," Truman Capote
54. "Franny and Zooey," J.D. Salinger
55. "Satanic Verses," Salman Rushdie
56. "Jazz," Toni Morrison
57. "Sophie's Choice," William Styron
58. "Absalom, Absalom!" William Faulkner
59. "Passage to India," E.M. Forster
60. "Ethan Frome," Edith Wharton **
61. "A Good Man is Hard to Find," Flannery O'Connor
62. "Tender is the Night," F. Scott Fitzgerald **
63. "Orlando," Virginia Woolf
64. "Sons and Lovers," D.H. Lawrence
65. "Bonfire of the Vanities," Thomas Wolfe

66. "Cat's Cradle," Kurt Vonnegut
67. "A Separate Peace," John Knowles

68. "Light in August," William Faulkner **
69. "The Wings of the Dove," Henry James
70. "Things Fall Apart," Chinua Achebe **
71. "Rebecca," Daphne du Maurier
72. "A Hithchiker's Guide to the Galaxy," Douglas Adams
73. "Naked Lunch," William S. Burroughs
74. "Brideshead Revisited," Evelyn Waugh
75. "Women in Love," D.H. Lawrence
76. "Look Homeward, Angel," Thomas Wolfe
77. "In Our Time," Ernest Hemingway
78. "The Autobiography of Alice B. Tokias," Gertrude Stein
79. "The Maltese Falcon," Dashiell Hammett
80. "The Naked and the Dead," Norman Mailer
81. "The Wide Sargasso Sea," Jean Rhys
82. "White Noise," Don DeLillo
83. "O Pioneers!" Willa Cather
84. "Tropic of Cancer," Henry Miller
85. "The War of the Worlds," HG Wells
86. "Lord Jim," Joseph Conrad
87. "The Bostonians," James Henry
88. "An American Tragedy," Theodore Dreiser **
89. "Death Comes for the Archbishop," Willa Cather
90. "The Wind in the Willows," Kenneth Grahame
91. "This Side of Paradise," F. Scott Fitzgerald
92. "Atlas Shrugged," Ayn Rand **
93. "The French Lieutenant's Woman," John Fowles
94. "Babbitt," Sinclair Lewis **
95. "Kim," Rudyard Kipling
96. "The Beautiful and the Damned," F. Scott Fitzgerald
97. "Rabbit, Run," John Updike
98. "Where Angels Fear to Tread," EM Forster
99. "
Main Street," Sinclair Lewis
100. "Midnight's Children," Salman Rushdie

Oh my god! I've done a HORRIBLE job so far! I mean, I guess I could almost count All the King's Men because I'm going to finish that by the weekend but still, then I've only finished 20?!?! Ridiculous! I was doing pretty well there in the beginning of the list but geeze louise! I need to hit the books...

How many have you read? What are your favorites on the list? And I'm sorry, I've tried and tried to finish Catch 22 but it ain't happening!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Happy Birthday to Me!

If you somehow failed to grasp this from the title of my's my birthday! Yup, it's finally here! I'm the ripe old age of...well, I'll just keep that one to myself because a lady never tells ;)

I'm going to do a real post later about books and stuff but I thought I'd just leave this quick post right now so everyone could flood the comments with posts saying how much they love me.

And here are some other awesome people that share my birthday (just being born on this day obviously makes one awesome):
-Harry Houdini
-Steve McQueen
-Bob Mackie
-Peyton Manning

And since this is a literary blog first and foremost I feel I must mention these two writers that had the bad fortune to die on my birthday:
-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1882)
-Jules Verne (1905)

Adios for now!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Review for You - Agnes Grey

Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte
3 stars

This was the story of a young woman named Agnes Grey who, in order to help her family when they come under some hard financial trouble, decides to become a governess. She’s the youngest of two daughters in her family and has always somewhat been babied. They never let her help out much in any way so when she tells them that it is in her mind to become a governess they believe she will be in over her head. But Agnes believes she will be a great success and goes to work for her first family.

She quickly learns that this family, with all their wealth, is basically horrid. The boy likes to torture animals and won’t listen to anything Agnes says and the other children follow suit. They have not one redeemable characteristic. Try as she might she cannot get the children to learn almost anything and the family decides to go another way with their education after not too long. But Agnes is determined not to fail so she advertises for another situation and lands at another house. This family believes in instilling the idea that nothing should be too hard for anyone and the children (who are older than her first charges) should never struggle to find any answers. This results in them not really learning anything…again.

But Agnes sticks with this family for a few years and manages to find some nice aspects residing in the eldest daughter, Miss Murray, but very few indeed. And during that time she tries to correct the children’s horrible ideas when it comes to morality and basic goodness. However it does not really work because Miss Murray spends most of her time trying to trick men into loving her and then basically laughing in their faces, including the object of Agnes’ affection.

Agnes Grey was Anne Bronte’s first novel and also the first one of hers that I read. And I must say that makes me quite happy because I’ve now read something by every Bronte sister! While I did like this book for the most part I could certainly tell that this was her first novel. It had the feeling in many parts like that of a rough draft. It just wasn’t as well crafted as I would expect a full drawn out novel to be. I did notice that in comparing her to her other more famous sisters, Emily and Charlotte, she is much less dark and moody. This had a much lighter heart. It was also much more direct and to the point. Probably why the book was so much shorter than Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. Anne Bronte did not seem to go on and on in the details of little things as they did. The one part she did get a bit carried away was talking about religion, but that was it.

However, I didn’t like the main character very much. I didn’t dislike her either but it seemed that she had a negative opinion of everyone aside from the members of her own family. It seemed as if she felt she was entirely too great and the rest were entirely too awful. The moralizing got a tad ridiculous and too much for me at times. It kind of seemed like a rich versus poor set up where all the people with money turned out to be wicked and that’s just not the reality and I don’t like it when authors portray things as such. I need shades of gray.

But for a first novel I would say it was pretty good. I didn’t hate it but I definitely didn’t love it. It was a very quick read though, so I definitely didn't feel like it was a waste of my time in any way. I’ve heard much better things about her second (and last) novel, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, so I’m excited to read that sometime in the future.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Bechdel Test Tuesday!

It's a kind of special week for the Bechdel Test here at the Sarcastic Female Literary Circle. How? I'm highlighting more than one book! For a quick overview of how the test works, check here. Oh, and for those of you that didn't catch my meme last week, it was on Kazuo Ishiguro's haunting tale: Never Let Me Go.

Alright, well I was considering making today's test an All Bronte Test (since I have now read something by all three Bronte sisters) but I have been struggling all day to remember exactly how Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte would apply to these questions and I'm at a loss. I know it had more than one woman but I cannot honestly remember what they talked about. So if you all have better memories than I do and can help me with the grade on that one, let me know in the comments!

But on to the other two sisters...

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
1. Does it have at least 2 women in it?
It most certainly does. May I also just say this is my favorite book of all time so I'm REALLY pulling for this to pass...
2. Do they talk to each other?
Yes they do! Okay, two questions down. Just one to go. Can it make it?
3. About something besides a man?
YES! While Mr. Rochester and St. John are frenquent topics of conversation among the women in the book that is definitely not ALL they discuss. Morals, education, and their own thoughts and dreams are some of the other things the women talk about amongst themselves. So...
I'm so happy! :)

Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte
1. Does it have at least 2 women in it?
This also has many women in it.
2. Do they talk to each other?
The book is actually mostly women talking to each other. Very few men.
3. About something besides a man?
Another yes! Again while men are certainly discussed it is just one of the topics. You'll hear about some of the others when I post my review later this week...
Well books are just passing left and right today!

So, this was a good day then huh? Let me know about Wuthering Heights in the comments if you can. What do you think of the Bronte sisters?

Monday, March 21, 2011

World Poetry Day!

Did you know (before you read the title of my post) that it's World Poetry Day? I didn't either until I signed onto Twitter this morning. But it is! It is! So I figured I'd take this time to talk about the lovely Edna St. Vincent Millay. Who's heard of her?
My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends ­
It gives a lovely light! 
                                  -Edna St. Vincent Millay "First Fig"
Well, she as a pretty amazing poet, the third woman to ever receive the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and also...a feminist. That's right, so of course that makes her even cooler.
Edna St. Vincent Millay was born on February 22, 1892. She first came into the spotlight when she entered a poetry contest called The Lyric Year. She came in forth but apparently the poets that placed ahead of her were so blown away by her talent that they disagreed with the decision! The first place winner called his award "as much an embarrassment to me as a triumph" and thought Millay's poem was the best submitted. The second place winner even gave Millay his $250 prize money. Soon afterwards Millay was heard reciting her poetry in Maine and was offered a scholarship to Vassar. She took it.

Millay wrote many poems over her lifetime and was also an advocate for women's rights and other causes, such as passivism (which can clearly be seen in her works). With Millay came controversy as many of her poems dealt with female sexuality and she was bisexual herself as well which caused quite the stir. The volume which received much of this criticism was A Few Figs from Thistles. She also wrote poems crying out against the execution of Sacco and Vanzetti, the most famous being "Justice Denied in Massachusetts."

I could literally keep talking about her for paragraphs and paragraphs...but I won't. I'll just leave you with this poem:
Oh, come, my lad, or go, my lad,
And love me if you like.
I shall not hear the door shut
Nor the knocker strike.

Oh, bring me gifts or beg me gifts,
And wed me if you will.
I'd make a man a good wife,
Sensible and still.

And why should I be cold, my lad,
And why should you repine,
Because I love a dark head
That never will be mine?

I might as well be easing you
As lie alone in bed
And waste the night in wanting
A cruel dark head.

You might as well be calling yours
What never will be his,
And one of us be happy.
There's few enough as is.
                          -Edna St. Vincent Millay "The Betrothal"
For more World Poetry Day posting visit Books, Personally. Have a very poetic day :)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

To Read Before Death...dun dun dun!

Okay, I've decided to start to try and participate in some of the weekend blog hops that are always floating around. It just makes things easier on the weekends when I don't have to use my brain as much, you know?
So today, I jumped on over to The Blue Bookcase and I've decided to hop into their Literary Blog Hop. The question for the weekend?
What one literary work must you read before you die?
Now this is a daunting question (and morbid!). It can be answered in two ways: 1) what I would recommend to you all to read before you die; and 2) what I want to make sure I read before I pass. I've decided to answer both.

1) Well let's take a gander at the old shelf. Oh, I guess I should be hurrying since you're near death's door, huh? This is a tough one. On the one hand I want to say a book that had a really great impact on me and really made me think about the world. That would be 1984 by George Orwell. It was just fantastic. It was also terrifying. On the other hand I want to say a book that brought out nearly every emotion in me from happiness and laughter to sadness and shock and horror. That would be Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, my all-time favorite book. And for some reason I know a lot of people don't appreciate Jane the way I do. I get her. We're like this *fingers crossed* But since many are not...I'd say go with 1984. Seriously one of the best books ever.

2) Okay hmm. There are so many! And lately I serioulsy have been reading the ones I've really wanted to get off of my plate. I think the only ones I really have to set a goal to finish before I die are the really incredibly long ones. Those intimidate me (yikes!). But at the same time I actually don't really have a desire to read things like Moby Dick or Ulysses. Just never appealed to me. One of the books I REALLY want to get around to soon but I keep pushing it off is The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. I've heard great things and it's in my Kindle but it's long. One day!
Have any suggestions for me? What must I read? Do you agree with my assessment of 1984? Shout it out in the comments :)

Friday, March 18, 2011

Fantastic Five Friday!

Welcome back for another exciting addition of Fantastic Five Friday! I say exciting because this week I'm dealing with the always intriguing topic of literary villains. Oooo! Ahhh! Villains can be horrible indeed and love 'em or hate 'em they certainly do make for a more exciting read.

So let's talk about my Fantastic Five Literary Villains!

Humbert Humbert
in Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

I've seen this book listed in other lists of famously intriguing and awesome villains in literature, but to my surprise they have the character of Quilty listed as the awful villain. Now, I'm not going to say that Quilty was a good guy, he wasn't. He was just as despicable as Humbert. But one of the whole points of the novel is that Humbert is trying to convince the reader and himself that he's a good guy, that he always loved Lolita. Well, he's the one that took her from her home. He's the one that prayed upon her when she was just a child. He's a pedophile. Quilty was horrible as well but it's as though he felt that by the end if he got rid of Quilty he had somehow absolved himself of all the horrible things HE had done. Sorry, no dice. You sir, Humbert, are the villain of this tale because you don't even realize that you're the scum.

Mrs. Danvers
in Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
If you haven't read this book then I have one thing to say to you: read it. Now. It's just fantastic. And Mrs. Danvers is one of the main reasons. She is a remarkable villain indeed. The new Mrs. de Winter comes to live with her husband at Manderlay and the head of the staff, Mrs. Danvers, cannot let go of her old employer, Rebecca. She constantly haunts Mrs. de Winter with images of Rebecca and her perfection, how nobody could ever replace her, how nobody wants a new Mrs. de Winter, etc. At one point she basically almost goads her into jumping out of a window and KILLING HERSELF! Now that's a villain!

Alec d'Urberville
in Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
I just finished this book the other week and posted my review yesterday, so if you haven't read that you can check it out HERE. But this character is a real S.O.B. I explained the horrible stuff he does in my review so I don't want to rehash it here, but what makes him a great villain in my opinion is that he is so charming. Smarmy is another word for it. He seems to charm almost every woman he comes across in the novel. And after he happens across Tess again much later in her life, after the dreadful incident in The Chase, one can't help but feel drawn to him. Therein lies his power. The jerk!

General Woundwort
in Watership Down by Richard Adams
I don't know how many of you have read this book but it is a lovely tale of survival told by...rabbits. It's a classic and one that I just read a little less than a year ago. And I was so glad I did. They're journeying to find a new warren and on their way the find the warren known as Efrafa led by the horrible General Woundwort. He's a tyrannical beast of a rabbit and they basically battle like...well the animals that they are. I've never been so afraid of a rabbit in all my life.

in Othello by William Shakespeare
This play is all about the evilness that is Iago in my opinion. I mean, the character of Iago whispering and spreading hateful lies in another person's ear has been copied over so many times it's ridiculous. That's because the character is just so wonderful. Nobody writes them like Shakespeare. Iago plays ALL sides and does it to such a masterous level it's astounding. And he thinks nothing of the consequences of his actions as long as the end result is that he gets more power. He gets people KILLED in the process and doesn't bat an eye. Best villain ever.

So what about the rest of you? Who are your favorite villains in literature?

Thursday, March 17, 2011


Yes my friends. It is done. I am on the Twitter. Please notice the handy "Follow me on Twitter" gadget located directly to your right. Click on it. Yes yes. There it is. Let it wash over you. Ahhhh. How lovely.

I know, I'm not all fun and exciting on Twitter yet, what with my 1 tweet (it tweet supposed to be capitalized?), but I will be soon I swear! I'll post updates of what's to come on the blog, cool articles I've seen around the web and all other sorts of neato stuff. Being my follower will sure be a treat, I promise :)

Review for You - Tess of the d'Urbervilles

Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
3.5 stars

I’ve been meaning to write this review for several days but I’ve found it has been hard to even get started. The story of Tess leaves me very…emotional, shall we say and it’s kind of hard to even summarize. Hardy writes the book in Phases (7 in all) and it’s hard to give a good analysis without totally spoiling the whole book as there is a lot of critical stuff that goes on in this one. I will, however, try my best.

The novel revolves around Tess Durbeyfield and basically her journey through womanhood. She is a very beautiful young lady, as Hardy makes mention of several times, and seems to catch several fellows’ eyes. Her family is not wealthy by any means. In fact, they are poor and her father is somewhat of a drunk. But one day, in the very beginning of the book, Mr. Durbeyfield learns that he is actually the descendant of one of the noblest families in all of England: the d’Urbervilles. It also seems that they are basically the only ones left in all of England. This inflates Mr. Durbeyfield’s ego to the size of all get out.

They do manage to hear of one other family of d’Urbervilles that is quite well off and it is decided that since they are in dire straights, noble clan name not withstanding, that Tess should be sent to try to make acquaintance and see what might be done to help them out. Little do they know that these people have just usurped the name having moved into the area and are not d’Urbervilles at all. They’re Stokes, whoever those people are! However Tess is just a young lady at this time and is ill prepared for the difficulties that lie at hand when she meets her “cousin” Alec d’Urberville.

He is older and charming but Tess right away is wary of him. He is too keen on her and constantly tries to woo her in one way or another. Her mother thinks this is a grand idea and hopes marriage is in the works. Unfortunately, Alec’s plans are much more sinister. One dark night, on a walk home together alone in The Chase, the two of them get lost and Tess falls asleep. Alec rapes her. She is seen as damaged forever.

I don’t consider any of what I have just told you as a spoiler because it all happens in the very beginning (or Phase the First as Hardy sections the book). The real guts of the novel is what happens in her life afterwards. She sees herself as a woman that can never get married or have true happiness, because that is the way it was in those days for women. The only problem is that she does meet someone that she truly loves (Angel Clare) and then it becomes an intense inner struggle with herself in deciding what to do.

Hardy is a fantastic writer and was incredibly ahead of his time for penning a novel such as this way back in 1891. I would call it feminist because it definitely calls into question the ridiculous double standard of society when it comes to female sexuality. But at the same time the character of Tess was kind of a call back to the ideals of the past. In some ways she was a strong female character (and unfortunately I can’t give example without TRULY spoiling the book) but most of the time she was supporting those awful old ways which said that she was indeed lesser because she was a woman and “unpure.” Yet the book was pushing and pushing against those thoughts the whole time. That’s what I mean when I talk about Tess having this inner struggle with herself. Hardy was truly a master to be able to pull that off. Did it make for an infuriating read though? Oh you betcha! I cannot count the number of times I wanted to throw my Kindle against a wall. For that reason, and the fact that it did start off rather slow, is the reason I give it a lower star rating than I feel it otherwise might deserve.

I do recommend it though. Just try to keep a cool head while reading.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Goodreads and Good Books

For some reason my interweb access lately once I get home to my abode has been nothing short of I've had to choose my posts wisely. Write what I can at work and then post whenever the internet cooperates at home. It's been a fun, lemme tell ya!

So I've been trying to become the best possible blogger I can be (you can do it!) by utilizing myself of all the various social networking tools available, but it's been a slow process. I am now on Goodreads but my shelf is not complete and I have yet to upload my reviews there. But I swear I'm doing it! You can find and friend me: HERE. But since I'm new to this whole blogging game I don't really know what other things I should avail myself of...I'm thinking of starting a Twitter account, although I kind of loathe the thought, haha. Maybe a Facebook page that corresponds solely to this blog...what else am I missing ya'll? Tell me in the comments!

And so this post isn't all me me me me (but who am I kidding, aren't they all?) I'd like to leave you with a highlight from the book I just started. It's All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren which won the Pulitzer Prize way back in 1947. I'm just over 50 pages in and while I have no idea where it's going exactly I must say the writing is FANTASTIC. I was captivated right away. You can just feel it if you get what I'm saying.
"You saw the eyes bulge suddenly like that, as though something had happened inside him, and there was that glitter. You knew something had happened inside him, and thought: It's coming. It was always that way. There was the bulge and the glitter, and there was the cold grip way down in the stomach as though somebody had laid hold of something in there, in the dark which is you, with a cold hand in a cold rubber glove."
Tomorrow I plan on posting my review of Tess of the d'Urbervilles. So be ready for that! See you soon :)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Bechdel Test Tuesday!

Alright loyal you know what day it is? Oh course you do! It's Bechdel Test Tuesday (I mean, you can read the title of the post right?)! First time stopping by my awesome meme? Take a gander at this link to learn all about it.

Now, last week was a sad day when the one of the ultimate sci-fi novels of our time, 2001: A Space Odyssey, crashed and burned. And it had to happen on one of the happiest days of the year: International Women's Day and Mardi Gras. Whomp whomp. Hopefully things will turn out better this time around. Let's gather round and see!

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
1. Does it have at least 2 women in it?
Yes it does. Several women in fact. We're off to a better start then last week...
2. Do they talk to each other?
Again yes. Many many times throughout the book.
3. About something besides a man?
YES! While some of the conversations definitely revolve around men, many DO NOT. The book is very complex and deals with a lot of raw human emotions and...well you just have to read it to find out but HOORAY!
A book has once again passed with flying colors. I feel like it's been a while. And seriously, if you haven't read this piece of literary fiction, pick it up. It's very creepy and eerie but also has a lot of beauty to it. Made me want to read more of Ishiguro's stuff.

Until next time :)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Book-Shaking Anger

Have you ever been so immersed in a story that you find yourself becoming completely irritated with the main character? I mean really truly pissed off? Like you’re sitting there reading, and it’s all quiet and you find yourself shaking the book back and forth yelling: “Shut up! Shut up! Oh for crying out loud would you just shut up already!” I find that this happens in two kinds of books: really horribly bad ones, or very well written ones.

Well I recently experienced it with the latter (thank goodness!). I finished Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy the other day and could not believe at how utterly annoyed and aggravated I became throughout the novel with the main character. And it was especially surprising seeing as how I think one of the main themes of the whole book was feminism and Hardy was reeeeally ahead of his time in regards to how women should have been viewed in that era. Yet, while you could tell that Hardy himself was very forward thinking in this regard, his main character and protagonist, Tess, was really not. Not that she was totally the opposite either. I’ll explain more in my review that will come later this week but it was BEYOND frustrating sometimes to read her thoughts and diatribes.

So the question is, has this ever happened to you? Have you ever been this put off by a character that you’ve shouted at the paper in front of you? Maybe you’ve even thrown the book across the room (yes I admit to doing that a few times). What was the book? Was it because the book was just horribly and totally bad in itself, or what?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

My $80 Shopping Spree

My internet has been really hit and miss lately (boo) so posting has been a bit difficult. But I'll try and persevere!

So, have you ever found yourself with nothing much to do and started daydreaming? Daydreaming about books? Well, as part of this weekend's blogger hop hosted by Crazy for Books we were asked:
"If I gave you $80 and sent you into a bookshop right now, what would be in your basket when you finally staggered to the till?"
Excellent question! And one I think about all too often (which is not good since I do not have $80 just lying around to go spend on books).

Well, the way I usually like to operate when I'm in a bookstore and on a binge is to spread the wealth. What I mean is that I like to get different books from different genres in my TBR. And then I always end by picking out one book that wasn't on my TBR at all but that just caught my attention that day, like a surprise pick. So with that in mind, here's my list:

50 Great Short Stories edited by Milton Crane (I'm in desperate need of a compellation of classic short stories and this one has a ton of good ones!)
Blindness by Jose Saramago (good fiction but not a classic to put in there)
Life and Death in the Third Reich by Peter Fritzsche (for my history selection)
Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela (memoir I've wanted to read for a long time)
Shake the Devil Off: A True Story of the Murder that Rocked New Orleans by Ethan Brown (for my true crime pick)

And then I'd pick the one new book that randomly caught my attention in the store and possibly a cheap vegetarian cookbook (love those!) depending on how much money I had left over. $80 might sound like a lot of money but boy oh boy can it go quickly when you're in a bookstore. The other weekend when I went to the Borders that's closing by me and bought a bunch of books, I spent around $60, and those were with reduced prices.

What would you all buy with $80 in a bookstore?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Fantastic Five Friday!

Last Friday I did a post about five great feminist books in the non-fiction realm. Then in my comments I was asked about some FICTION titles so I figured that would make a good post today. Now, in all honesty, I just started to get into my fiction literature craze about a year ago, so I don't have too many titles to even look at and pull from here. But I still think the selection I've chosen is a good one to start. I can't revisit after I've read more and make a new list of course, nothing is set in stone...yet. Please, if you have any good ones I need to get to reading, TELL ME! I love reading a good feminist fiction book. But there is something to be said for having no idea that said book you're reading is going to have a feminist theme and then being utterly surprised. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside :) So here you are: five fantastic feminist fiction novels!

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Who hasn't read this one? My mother read it to me when I was a little girl. Ah memories! And of course I identified with writer and tomboy Jo.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

My favorite novel of all time. There have been debates on the feminist aspects of this book but I believe it is definitely in the feminist camp. Jane is a woman that follows her own voice and makes her own way, even when it goes against her heart. Read it for yourself and decide.

Persuasion by Jane Austen
The only Austen novel I have read thus far but it won't be the last. I was very pleasantly surprised at the feminist themes throughout the book and I have discussed in particular a very interesting quote about men being in control of the written word that I found enlightening!

Washington Square by Henry James
I did not know what to expect when I opened this, being my first James novel. And what a treat! The protagonist evolves throughout the novel into a shining feminist role model in my opinion.

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
This is probably THE feminist dystopian novel. Not a full-on classic yet, but it surely will be in time. I've discussed this book before so I'll refrain from getting carried away again, but should read it! 

What are yours? Please share!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Review for You - The Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England

The Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England: A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century by Ian Mortimer
3 stars
Well, this review is probably not going to be as in-depth and long as my other reviews. There are two reasons for that: the first being that I didn't feel too strongly one way or the other about this book, and the second is that it's kind of hard to write a basic review on it seeing as how it covered such a broad aspect of history.

The whole concept and idea of this book is that you have somehow gotten your hands on a time machine and decided to travel back to the fourteenth century. Each chapter is therefore set up to tell you certain things you can expect to find when you arrive, like what type of people you may run into, what they may wear, different accommodations, the food, the law, etc... It's a very intriguing set up for a book about the past. It goes into the differences you will find if you step into, say, a regular townsperson's home as opposed to a nobleman or manorial lord. It also talks a bit about the dreaded Black Death and how basically almost everything was punishable by death (I said almost).

I'm usually a big history buff and so many of my like-minded friends have been blown away by this book and said such wonderful things about it that I was really looking forward to it. I mean, they really raved about it. And I didn't really know anything about Medieval England so I figured this kind of book would be the perfect place to start. I'm not going to say I was disappointed by it though, however it did not live up to the expectations I had considered how highly recommended it came to me.

The problem for me was that it moved very slowly and many of the details were so very minor Mortimer went into them in such detail for such extended periods of time that I would lose interest. The more interesting parts were the ones that were not examined enough in my opinion, such as the various diseases that wiped out half of the population and the ridiculous system of law and order. So I ended up basically using this book as a jumping off point for what I wanted to study more of in the future. Like now I know I want to learn more about the Plague. So yes, it was helpful in opening me up to that time period in England, but the book as a whole was just alright.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Happy Book Day to Me

So, I'm still sick. Impossible right? Wrong. I went to the doctor yesterday where I was diagnosed with...they have no clue. A bad cold most likely. But I got some extra strength cough medicine because what I have most resembles Pertussis (otherwise known as whooping cough). It's seriously not fun. But while the meds work great on my cough, they make me really sleepy and a bit dizzy and I've still been battling a fever all day. Woo...hoo...

So instead of the greatness I usually bring you all (see, I can still be full of myself while sick) I'm just going to list off all the cool new books I've gotten lately.

My birthday is this month (March 24, mark your calendars so you don't forget to all buy me awesome gifts!) and my parents already gave me some books on my Kindle. Hooray! Although, my mom said I got them now as opposed to on my actual birthday because she could not figure out how to do it any other way. I don't know how it works either. But thanks Mom! I got something in every genre really. And they are...

Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton

This will be my first Wharton so I'm excited. And it's not too long so I figure it's a good book to start on with her.

American on Purpose: The Improbable Adventures of an Unlikely Patriot by Craig Ferguson

I LOVE this guy. I think he's hilarious but he's also extremely intelligent. Have you seen his late show? Awesome! And I needed to read a good memoir. It's been a little too long (as in a couple months). Also I've heard a bit about this one and it's supposed to be good.

Weeds Like Us by Gunter Nitsch

This is non-fiction history in the mix. It's about the author's young childhood in East Prussia following WWII as his family was uprooted. It's something I've actually never read about before. And I "know" the author through Shelfari so I'm excited to read it sometime soon. Maybe when I'm done I can post some sort of interview with him on here for everyone.

The Husband by Dean Koontz
When it comes to mass-market paperback books, this is the author that I like. He's easy and you don't have to think too much. So when I just want to get away and have a good suspense book, this will be it for me.

So thanks again for the early birthday gifts! Who knows when I'll get around to reading/reviewing them for everybody as I have so many books on my plate as it is, but I love them regardless. Oh, and I'm about halfway done with Tess of the d'Urbervilles. So far I like it but it's hard to concentrate on such beautiful language with this sickness :(

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Bechdel Test Tuesday!

Here we go! Hip hip hooray! I guess I’m in a cheery mood today. Maybe because it’s International Women’s Day? And Mardi Gras? Yes, those must be the reasons :) Also it’s…Bechdel Test Tuesday! For the newcomers, here’s a link to understand the concept of the my weekly meme.

I tried my very best last week to give Philip Roth a pardon with his book The Human Stain…but sorry! No cigar! This week, possibly the most famous science fiction novel of all-time is on trial. Will it survive the test? Let’s find out…
2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke
1. Does it have at least 2 women in it?
NO. Oh my goodness, it’s already over? One of the most remarkable books of the 20th Century doesn’t make it passed the first question?

Unfortunately the sci-fi genre has always been heavily dominated by and marketed towards men so I shouldn’t be too surprised. But it’s still sad. And on International Women’s Day of all days!
But I can’t let it get me down. I haven’t read any Octavia Butler yet, so there’s hope. Who knows what is in store next week.

Oh and...laissez les bon temps rouler!

Monday, March 7, 2011

International Women's Day

Tomorrow is International Women's Day...I can't believe I almost forgot! Especially seeing that this is the Centenary (that means the first time it was honored was way back in 1911). And even back then over one million men and women attended the rallies campaigning for women's rights. So yeah, it's kind of a big deal.

This year the film star Daniel Craig (helped by his 007 co-star Dame Judy Dench) did a promotional spot for the event that I think you should all take a look at. It's really informative and makes me love those two actors even more:

As part of International Women's Day there is a Global IWD Arts Initiative. Since it's the Centenary the goal is to collect '100 Women, 100 Artworks' and '100 Women, 100 Stories.' Such a beautiful idea I thought. And since this is a literary blog I thought I'd point you in the direction to go check out some of the works compiled thus far: here are the different stories you can read. As you can see there is still a long way to go but their website has ways of promoting the project and contacting them and whatnot, if this is something you're interested in.

I also wanted to point everyone's attention to an article that was recently in the New York Times op-ed section. Books, Personally pointed it out to me and I thought I needed to pass it along to you all (at least I'm pretty sure this is the article she was talking about, if not let me know Books! but this is the one I found that caught my attention anyway). It's about the part of this whole Charlie Sheen saga that hasn't been talked about. Yes yes, he's gone off his rocker. Yes, he needs to go to rehab. Yes, he's very quotable right now. But no one is discussing his violence towards women Or if they are, they turn it into a humorous joke. Hahaha, he tried to kill his ex-wife. BUT she's kind of a whore so, who cares right? WRONG. So please, read this enlightening article by Anna Holmes (she writes for the feminist website Jezebel) called The Disposable Woman.

And enjoy International Women's Day!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

I'm Lovely!

UGH! I'm still sick! Is this even possible? I thought I was getting better on Friday but then yesterday I felt worse! Now today I'm completely out of cold medicine and I just don't understand how this sickness can be lasting this long. Blah!

Anyway, the one thing that does make it a little more bearable is that I received this beautiful award:

It's from my friend Kathmeista over at her great blog: [Insert Suitably Snappy Title...]. So I would say this makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside...but I still feel kind of yucky and feverish so...but if I wasn't sick then I'd totally say warm and fuzzy ;)

Now is the time to pass on this loveliness to eight other blogs. Who to choose?
1) What Red Read
2) The Conscientious Reader
3) What She Read...
4) Wall-to-Wall Books
5) Deborah Lawrenson
6) Books, Personally
7) Thoughts of a Book-Mad Girl
8) Lit in the Last Frontier

So visit those sites. It's an order (I get bossy when I'm sick). Let them know you came over from my awesome blog though so they know to thank yours truly for the 100s of new followers ;)