Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

littlewomenLittle Women has been on my shelves back home for like forever. I guess, it’s one of those classics that has always been there in the shelves even before I was born. It’s a shame that I only finally got to read it this year but hey, it’s better late than never!

This book has a very simple but realistic plot. There were four sisters who all have different views of life, different dreams and ambitions. Jo the feisty and most carefree and with whom I can relate very much, Beth who happens to be the saint of the family, Meg who wants to become rich and Amy, the youngest and a brat. So the story focuses on these four sisters and how they try to achieve their dreams by facing different challenges and learning the different virtues to live a good life.

I am very pleased to have finally read Little Women, though this made me long for a sister. It’s a very touching and heart-warming story packed with life’s lessons and how I wish I’ve read this when I was a kid. I enjoyed the book so much and I can fully understand now why it is considered a classic.

Quotable Quotes:

“I’ve got the key to my castle in the air, but whether I can unlock the door remains to be seen.”

“I like good strong words that mean something…”

“Don’t laugh at the spinsters, dear girls, for often very tender, tragic romances are hidden away in the hearts that beat so quietly under the sober gowns, and many silent sacrifices of youth, health, ambition, love itself, make the faded faces beautiful in God’s sight. Even the sad, sour sisters should be kindly dealt with, because they have missed the sweetest part of life, if for no other reason.”

“Watch and pray, dear, never get tired of trying, and never think it is impossible to conquer your fault.”

“Because they are mean is no reason why I should be. I hate such things, and though I think I’ve a right to be hurt, I don’t intend to show it.”

Rating: 4/5 stars

White Fang by Jack London

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My first Jack London read was The Call of the Wild and I absolutely enjoyed it so I didn’t have second thoughts reading another of his works and this time, White Fang.

White Fang is a story of an extra ordinary wolf, a well-developed character for a wolf. We follow his adventures as he makes friends and enemies along the way. It’s intriguing how a wolf deals with such horrible conditions in the wild like brutality, abuse and famine to name a few.

The story started somewhat slow, it took some time before getting into the exciting parts of the story but the author is definitely skilled to keep you reading and convincingly get you into a wolf’s point of view. The story eventually became thrilling, suspenseful and enjoyable. I’m glad it had a happy ending.

Quotable Quotes:

“He was a silent fury who no torment could tame.”

“Fear urged him to go back, but growth drove him on.”

“The Wild still lingered in him and the wolf in him merely slept.”

“He had no conscious knowledge of death, but like every animal of the Wild, he possessed the instinct of death. To him it stood as the greatest of hurts. It was the very essence of the unknown; it was the sum of the terrors of the unknown, the one culminating and unthinkable catastrophe that could happen to him, about which he knew nothing and about which he feared everything.”

“But the Wild is the Wild, and motherhood is motherhood, at all times fiercely protective whether in the Wild or out of it.

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang van Goethe

wertherThe Sorrows of Young Werther is an epistolary novel said to be semi-autobiographical that earned Johann Wolfgang van Goethe great success.

The main theme is love. Young Werther can’t help falling in love with Lotte. The story itself was simple but the pangs of unrequited love came in varying degrees and was expressed well. Loving someone but knowing that you have to keep it to yourself and pull away from that person was just unbearable for Werther. Many people say that a person’s heart has more control over someone than their mind and this book is just the perfect example for that. And that is what probably made this book popular, important and admired by many.

Apart from love, mental health or depression is also a theme to consider from this novel. There was probably a deeper issue with Werther aside from the pain his suffering from unrequited love. Bipolar depression maybe wasn’t known then but Werther spends his days feeling everything in extremes. Charlotte was the core of his happiness and sorrows. Every encounter with her is damaging his fragile mind until he finally reached his limits.

To be quite honest, I personally find this overly dramatic but then, I guess we can’t help it sometimes specially when it comes to our heart’s strongest desires.

Book Quotes:

“I have so much in me, and the feeling for her absorbs it all; I have so much, and without her it all comes to nothing.”

“It’s true that nothing in this world makes us so necessary to others as the affection we have for them.”

“I treat my heart like a sick child and gratify its every fancy.”

“He values my understanding and talents more highly than my heart, but I am proud of the latter only. It is the sole source of everything of our strength, happiness, and misery. All the knowledge I possess every one else can acquire, but my heart is exclusively my own.”

“I examine my own being, and find there a world, but a world rather of imagination and dim desires, than of distinctness and living power. Then everything swims before my senses, and I smile and dream while pursuing my way through the world.”

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

 

Thérèse Raquin by Émile Zola

thereseTherese Raquin is a dark tale of an illegitimate-born woman and was left by her father in the care of his sister. She lived in her aunt’s home with his son, Camille. They grew up together and was later married to each other.

This is my first taste of Emile Zola’s works and the first few pages captivated me right away though it was short-lived. It started quite great but then it just dragged on and on. The author was saying the same thing over and over in different ways and the constant narration got a bit boring.

I didn’t like any of the characters in particular except for the cat which got jacked up to hell somewhere through the story.

I liked how the darkness was exhibited in depth, though, as well as how guilt tormented the two murderers. And though the author got very repetitive, I liked that I’ve guessed the ending correctly. I guess, I was just too in a hurry for them to kill each other and die of guilt.

Book Quotes:

“When there is no hope in the future, the present appears atrociously bitter.”

“Nature and circumstances seemed to have made this man for this woman, and to have driven them towards one another. Together, the woman, nervous and dissembling, and the man, lustful, living like an animal, they made a strongly united couple. They completed one another, they protected one another.”

“The thought of suicide began to weigh on her when she suddenly considered the unknowns that she would take into the tomb: there, amid the cold and silence of the earth she would sleep, eternally racked by doubts about the punishment of her tormentors. To sleep properly the sleep of death, she had to lapse into insensibility feeling the sharp joy of revenge; she had to take with her a dream of hatred satisfied, one that she would dream throughout eternity.”

Rating: 3/5 stars

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

thingsThings Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe is my first classic of African literature. Set on the eve of the colonial encounter between British missionaries and the people from Igbo villages called Umuofia. It tells the story of one of the village leaders, Okonkwo, born to a lazy father but told himself early on that he will not be like his father and thus became hardworking and soon became famous for his strength and ferocity in war.

The book is divided into three parts. First, the Igbo society, a typical African society with all its beliefs and customs. Second, Okonkwo’s expulsion from his village as a punishment for a crime. And third, his arrival and time in Mbanta, his mother’s village. As is with the history of colonial conquest, though there were moments of hope, the ending was tragic and inevitable.

Definitely an interesting read but there’s just too much characters and lots of foreign languages I just couldn’t get used to so it was a bit on the hard side for me reading this but I think a reread will make me like this more.

Quotable Quotes:

“A proud heart can survive general failure because such a failure does not prick its pride. It is more difficult and more bitter when a man fails alone.”

“No matter how prosperous a man was, if he was unable to rule his women and his children (and especially his women) he was not really a man.”

“Age was respected among his people, but achievement was revered. As the elders said, if a child washed his hands he could eat with kings.”

“If you had been poor in your last life I would have asked you to be rich when you come again. But you were rich. If you had been a coward, I would have asked you to bring courage. But you were a fearless warrior. If you had died young, I would have asked you to get life. But you lived long. So I shall ask you to come again the way you came before.”

“He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart.”

Rating: 3/5 stars

The Call of the Wild by Jack London

81+9w5nFMDLWe follow the life and adventure of Buck, our protagonist, from when he was dognapped from his comfy home and brought to the Yukon during the gold rush to become a sled dog.

I very much enjoyed reading about Buck, a dog you can’t help but love. Though he endured too much, he never lost the wonderful spirit he has been born with.

One of the things that made this read very interesting for me is that it was told through the point of view of a dog. From living an easy life with the judge and his family to becoming a beast in the wild and learning the ins and outs of a whole new world he got into. It was amazing to read about the character development of Buck in so few pages. Moreover, the author didn’t use unnecessary words throughout the book so that’s another plus for me.

Definitely an enjoyable read from start to finish.

Quotable Quotes:

“There is an ecstasy that marks the summit of life, and beyond which life cannot rise. And such is the paradox of living, this ecstasy comes when one is most alive, and it comes as a complete forgetfulness that one is alive.”

“He was a killer, a thing that preyed, living on the things that lived, unaided, alone, by virtue of his own strength and prowess, surviving triumphantly in a hostile environment where only the strong survive.”

“He was beaten (he knew that), but he was not broken. He saw, once for all, that he stood no chance against a man with a club. He had learned the lesson, and in all his afterlife he never forgot it. That club was a revelation. It was his introduction to the reign of primitive law… The facts of life took on a fiercer aspect, and while he faced that aspect uncowed, he faced it with all the latent cunning of his nature aroused.”

“When he moaned and sobbed, it was with the pain of living that was of old the pain of his wild fathers, and the fear and mystery of the cold and dark that was to them fear and mystery.”

“Love, genuine passionate love, was his for the first time.”

Rating: 4/5 🌟🌟🌟🌟

 

 

 

 

 

Animal Farm by George Orwell

animal farm cover

Animal Farm is a striking but easy to follow little novel about a farm taken over by animals after overthrowing Mr. Jones, the cruel and often drunk owner of Manor Farm.

This political satire has a simple but effective plot. George Orwell clearly understands power and its temptation and how people give in to it. Though people begin to pursue power with good intentions at first, most of the time, those who think they know what’s best for the people force it to the powerless.

The book also showed tools of propaganda works as well as brainwashing people in totalitarian regimes. The pigs were able to make the rest of the animals believe everything they say. They were quite convincing that the other animals were led to believe that their leader is always right. The pigs who were once just simple comrades to the other animals turned out to become dictators.

How the book ended was dramatic and at the same time tragic. The pigs turned out to be as corrupt as the humans they once disdained and replaced. The other animals in the farm can no longer tell the difference between pigs and men.

Quotable Quotes:

“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

“Man serves the interests of no creature except himself.”

“The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”

“Man is the only creature that consumes without producing.”

“The distinguishing mark of man is the hand, the instrument with which he does all his mischief.”

Rating: 5/5 stars

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

Castle book coverThis is a first-person tale told in Mary Katherine’s (Merricat) perspective as she lives with her sister, Constance Blackwood and their Uncle Julian in their huge, old family house in a nameless village. Everyone else in their family died of arsenic poisoning some years earlier. The three of them live a normal life although hated and feared by their neighbors until their cousin Charles came.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle is Shirley Jackson’s final work. She has alluring writing style that you wouldn’t want to put down the book until you finish it.

Isolation and death are recurring themes in the story. Add to that paranoid thinking as shown by Merricat several times which makes it more intriguing for me while reading. Such a thrill what she is going to do next.

This is an easy read and you can finish it in a day. It leaves you with several interpretations while trying to make sense of it all.

Quotable Quotes:

“A pretty sight, a lady with a book.”

“I have often thought that with any luck at all I could have been born a werewolf, because the two middle fingers on both my hands are the same length, but I have had to be content with what I had.”

“I always thought about rot when I came toward the row of stores; I thought about burning black painful rot that ate away from inside, hurting dreadfully. I wished it on the village.”

“Fate intervened. Some of us, that day, she led inexorably through the gates of death. Some of us, innocent and unsuspecting, took, unwillingly, that one last step to oblivion. Some of us took very little sugar.”

“All our land was enriched with my treasures buried in it, thickly inhabited just below the surface with my marbles and my teeth and my colored stones, all perhaps turned to jewels by now, held together under the ground in a powerful taut web which never loosened, but held fast to guard us.”

Rating: 4/5 stars

 

 

 

A Reread: Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

imagesCrushing. Yes, crushing. It’s the only word I can think of after I first read this while on vacation in 2015. And unable to decide what book to read next, I decided to reread this since it’s a very short book and you can read it in one sitting.

Of Mice and Men is the story of two migrant workers in California in the 1930s, George and Lennie, who work in different ranches in order to save money and buy themselves land. George is street smart while Lennie is a big, strong guy with a child’s mind. They both dream of owning a land since George is also tired of always being on the run (because of stupid things Lennie get into) while looking for work at the same time. Things seem to be going their way until Lennie pets the hair of the landlord’s daughter-in-law and eventually, accidentally killed her.

In a little over a hundred pages, Steinbeck was able to tackle on themes like friendship, loneliness, power, hopes, and dreams. The prose is very straight-forward and easy to read. Good enough to make you smile and cry. All the characters felt so real.

The end? Still crushing. Absolutely heartbreaking but what was offered is totally solid. I loved this the way I loved it the first time I’ve read it. A powerful short story.

Quotable Quotes:

As happens sometimes, a moment settled and hovered and remained for much more than a moment. And sound stopped and movement stopped for much, much more than a moment.”

“Guy don’t need no sense to be a nice fella. Seems to me sometimes it jus’ works the other way around. Take a real smart guy and he ain’t hardly ever a nice fella.”

“Just like heaven. Ever’body wants a little piece of lan’. I read plenty of books out here. Nobody never gets to heaven, and nobody gets no land. It’s just in their head. They’re all the time talkin’ about it, but it’s jus’ in their head.”

“Maybe ever’body in the whole damn world is scared of each other.”

Rating : 5/5 stars

The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham

img_5689Book #17.

Ending my reading hiatus is my first W. Somerset Maugham read. Narrated in the third person POV but mostly of Kitty’s, is pretty  much a morality tale but is actually more complex.

The husband and wife in this book are Walter and Kitty Fane. Walter is a bacteriologist, charmless and cold. Kitty is an upper middle class shallow girl, views the world like a child which I think is her tragedy. Time is creeping up on her as her younger sister is almost getting married, so she married Walter and head off with him to Hong Kong where she started to despise him and then fell in love with Charlie Townsend, a charming womanizer. Walter eventually discovers the affair and didn’t pretend to know nothing so he decided to work in Mei-tan-fu, a remote area where there’s cholera outbreak and Kitty was left with no choice but to go with him (though she knows that Walter wants her to die there) since Charlie refused to leave his wife for her.

Maugham’s writing is simple and elegant. This is a very introspective work and this book seemed to be his voice to tell his opinion about adultery and so much more. It speaks of love, betrayal, forgiveness, reconciliation, understanding other people, understanding one’s self, one’s place in this world, the very universal truths about relationships, and the true meaning of life.

It’s a wonderful read, I’d probably watch the movie and compare.

Quotable Quotes :

“How can I be reasonable? To me our love was everything and you were my whole life. It is not very pleasant to realize that to you it was only an episode.”

“If a man hasn’t what’s necessary to make a woman love him, it’s his fault, not hers.”

“I always find it more difficult to say the things I mean than the things I don’t.”

“One can be very much in love with a woman without wishing to spend the rest of one’s life with her.”

“One cannot find peace in work or in pleasure, in the world or in a convent, but only in one’s soul.”

Rating : 4/5 stars

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

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Book #18.

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.

This famous opening line begins the story of our unnamed heroine, the second Mrs. de Winter. Young and shy, she met the much older, wealthy widow, Maxim de Winter (I so love the name!). An unlikely friendship started and eventually, courtship followed.

They soon got married and went to Manderley where Mrs. de Winter found it difficult to fit in. Throughout the story, she’s in constant battle of Rebecca’s (Maxim’s first wife) legacy.

There’s much to enjoy in this book, however, I just wish there’s more about Rebecca. Ms. du Maurier made her sound so intriguing. Her presence is strongly felt in the novel but I think I didn’t get enough of her. Was she really a strong-willed woman or was she a psychopath or something? She somehow reminded me of Amy in Gone Girl. 🙂

I also think I have to mention Mrs. Danvers. I personally think she stood out the most among the characters. She’s creepy.

All in all, this book is beautifully written, great characters, terrific plot and pacing. And the ending? Awesome! Yes, I love the ending!

Anyway, I don’t read classics very often but I always find myself pleasantly surprised when I do. And maybe tonight, I’ll dream of Manderley again…

Quotable Quotes:

“If only there could be an invention that bottled up a memory, like scent. And it never faded, and it never got stale. And then, when one wanted it, the bottle could be uncorked, and it would be like living the moment all over again.”

“I suppose sooner or later in the life of everyone comes a moment of trial. We all of us have our particular devil who rides us and torments us, and we must give battle in the end.”

“We’re not meant for happiness, you and I.”

“The moment of crisis had come, and I must face it. My old fears, my diffidence, my shyness, my hopeless sense of inferiority, must be conquered now and thrust aside. If I failed now I should fail forever.”

“I am glad it cannot happen twice, the fever of first love. For it is a fever, and a burden, too, whatever the poets may say.”

Rating : 5/5

Book # 48 – 2015 Reading Challenge – Stoner by John Williams

Another book that will stay with me for a long time… Book #48 for my 2015 Reading Challenge…

Stoner is a book that has nothing to do with marijuana or a drug addict. 🙂 It is actually the name of the book’s protagonist. 🙂

On the surface, it looks like a very simple tale. However, the simplicity of it masks the depth and brilliance that runs throughout the story. I personally enjoy books with real, believable characters and situations and this is certainly one of them. I can’t express well why I found this to be such a page-turner because it lacks that “excitement” most people look for in a book nowadays, but it is so deep, significant and captivating.

Being one of the finest books I’ve ever read, I hope you readers can get a chance to read it as well. It’s not that big, life-changing kind of book but it might be a good reminder to everyone that people are important and that your contribution to the world doesn’t have to be something huge, it just have to be relevant and meaningful.

Favorite quotes :

“Sometimes, immersed in his books, there would come to him the awareness of all that he did not know, of all that he had not read; and the serenity for which he labored was shattered as he realized the little time he had in life to read so much, to learn what he had to know.”

“…the person one loves at first is not the person one loves at last, and that love is not an end but a process through which one person attempts to know another.”

“You must remember what you are and what you have chosen to become, and the significance of what you are doing. There are wars and defeats and victories of the human race that are not military and that are not recorded in the annals of history. Remember that while you’re trying to decide what to do.”

Rating : 5/5 stars