A Star Wars Book Tag

Today is the 40th anniversary of Star Wars, so I’m reposting the tag I made for May the 4th Be With You day.

There aren’t really any rules of you want to do this tag, just tag me so I can read your answers!
So, without further ado:

Long ago in a galaxy far, far away….


I. The Phantom Menance: A book (or series) you pretend not to like but secretly do (guilty pleasure). 

Percy Jackson and The Olympians by Rick Riodan. I’m an adult, these book are for children, I’m an adult, these books are for children…maybe if I keep telling myself that, I’ll one day believe it 😉

II. The Clone Wars: An emotionally powered YA novel.

Kissed by an Angel by Elizabeth Chandler. I read this series in high school, and I finished it in 3 days, which is shocking for me because it’s close to 700 pages–I was totally captivated! I reread some of it a few years ago and I was cracking up because it was so emotional and drama filled, not at all like something I would like now.

III. The Revenge of the Sith: A Trilogy with a tragic end.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I really had a hard time with Mockingjay and the ending just devastated me.

IV. A New Hope: Your favorite classic.

I have so many favorite classics it’s really hard to choose, but for this one I’m going to say A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.

V. The Empire Stikes Back: An action packed adventure.

The Shades of Magic Series by V.E. Schwab. I haven’t yet read the third one, so this might be premature, but the first two are non-stop action!

VI. The Return of the Jedi: A trilogy with a wonderfully satisfying ending. 
I’m gunna have to go with my favorite trilogy, The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. This ending just feels right. You’ve gone on a long, hard journey full of suffering and doubt, but at the end there is peace.

VII. The Force Awakins: A new book that feels like an old friend. 

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. Oh this book warmed my soul. It really felt like I was sitting down with a friend and having a nice long chat.

VIII. The Last Jedi: A sequel you can’t wait to read.

I don’t think she has a title for it yet, but I can’t wait to read the next book in the Ember in the Ashes series. I was delightfully surprised by how much I enjoyed this series.

Bonus: Rogue One: your favorite spinoff

I don’t read a lot of spinoffs, but I did read Finn by Jon Clinch, and I really enjoyed it. It is about Huckleberry Finn’s father and it is very interesting.
There you have it, kids, my first ever book tag!  If you love Star Wars and love books, I would love for you to do this tag! Just remember to pingback to me or this post so I can see your answers!!
I tag all you Star Wars fans out there! 


Reading Inspiration

Hey fellow readers!

I’ve been in a horrible reading slump as of late, and it’s really wearing me out. As someone who decompresses by reading, I really feel the strain not wanting to read has on me.

This slump has drastically affected my reviewing pace as well, I feel like either the books I’ve finished haven’t been reviewable or I just haven’t finished many books since I’ve been working on some longer ones recently. Having a book blog really adds the pressure to review what you read, and I’m sorry for not having many quality reviews lately 😦 I’ll get out of the slump soon, I’m sure!

Anyway, sometimes when I’m in a reading/writing  slump, I look to my favorite authors, and I’ll share some of my favorite quotes from them (about reading, writing, life, or all three).

 

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Well, let’s hope I get out of my slump, but in the meantime, if any of you wonderful bibliophiles have any suggestions, such as tips or quick reads you think will help get me back on track, please let me know!

 

 

The Boys in the Boat

16158542.jpgThe Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1939 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown

Rating: ★★★★★ // History lesson that reads like fiction

Favorite Line: “All were merged into one smoothly working machine; they were, in fact, a poem of motion, a symphony of swinging blades.”

Review:

During the years which stood on the eve of WWII, a group of young men thought not of going off to war, or even of making their everlasting mark on history, instead their thoughts were on a narrow long boat in the cold waters at Washington University. This boat became an extension of their bodies,  their most treasured possession, and before they knew it, their ticket to the 1939 Olympic Games to represent their country in Berlin.

GoodReads Summary 

Daniel James Brown’s robust book tells the story of the University of Washington’s 1936 eight-oar crew and their epic quest for an Olympic gold medal, a team that transformed the sport and grabbed the attention of millions of Americans. The sons of loggers, shipyard workers, and farmers, the boys defeated elite rivals first from eastern and British universities and finally the German crew rowing for Adolf Hitler in the Olympic games in Berlin, 1936.

The emotional heart of the story lies with one rower, Joe Rantz, a teenager without family or prospects, who rows not for glory, but to regain his shattered self-regard and to find a place he can call home. The crew is assembled  by an enigmatic coach and mentored by a visionary, eccentric British boat builder, but it is their trust in each other that makes them a victorious team. They remind the country of what can be done when everyone quite literally pulls together—a perfect melding of commitment, determination, and optimism.

Drawing on the boys’ own diaries and journals, their photos and memories of a once-in-a-lifetime shared dream, The Boys in the Boat is an irresistible story about beating the odds and finding hope in the most desperate of times—the improbable, intimate story of nine working-class boys from the American west who, in the depths of the Great Depression, showed the world what true grit really meant. It will appeal to readers of Erik Larson, Timothy Egan, James Bradley, and David Halberstam’s The Amateurs.

I would have never thought a book about a rowing team could be so amazing. While the story is very different, this book feels like Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken. This story is non-fiction, yet it reads like a historical fiction novel…a very detailed and well written historical fiction. By the middle I was soaking up all the information about the rowing team, and by the end I felt like the biggest rowing team in the world, and felt very invested in the collegiate rowing rivalries.

The best parts of the story follow Joe Rantz, a hard-working boy who had fallen on the wrong side of luck many times. He was an unlikely hero of the rowing team, but the amazing thing is that his crew mates were all untraditional rowers. They were all blue collar kids, barely making it into college, barely staying in college, but yet somehow made it on the country’s best rowing team.

“Harmony, balance, and rhythm. They’re the three things that stay with you your whole life. Without them civilization is out of whack. And that’s why an oarsman, when he goes out in life, he can fight it, he can handle life. That’s what he gets from rowing.”

This story is very detailed and precise, which makes it seem like you are watching it as a movie and not reading it. The narrative is beautiful and it fills you with pride for these boys. The characters are so real and alive, you feel as if you were one of the fans watching their races in live time, or the ones all over the country listening to their races on the radio. You feel pain with them, you struggle with their doubts and their anxieties, and you feel elevated with their triumphs and joys.

It’s hard to pinpoint who is really the most important character of the story, because, like rowing, the book relies on so many different characters to make the story work. Any one character could not impact the end as they did without any of the others. They boys work off each other, and they thrive from their mentors, coaches, loved ones, and countrymen.

“Rowing is perhaps the toughest of sports. Once the race starts, there are no time-outs, no substitutions. It calls upon the limits of human endurance. The coach must therefore impart the secrets of the special kind of endurance that comes from mind, heart, and body.

—George Yeoman Pocock”

This is not like many WWII books, because it really does not speak much of the upcoming war. It addresses it, and of course the Olympic games take place at the beginning of the Nazi era, but the lack of the war was so important to the message of the book. These boys were normal, everyday kids. They had pains and troubles, joys and amazements. They had dreams like any other, and like many boys of that age, they had the small bit of dread in their stomach that all their hopes and dreams could be crushed with the impending war.

“The wood…taught us about survival, about overcoming difficulty, about prevailing over adversity, but it also taught us something about the underlying reason for surviving in the first place. Something about infinite beauty, about undying grace, about things larger and greater than ourselves. About the reasons we were all here.”

This reality was worldwide. Millions of people were impacted by the war, but first, before it all began, 9 boys in a boat, backed by their entire country, were able to grasp their dreams and ensure their spot in history.

“Standing there, watching them, it occurred to me that when Hitler watched Joe and the boys fight their way back from the rear of the field to sweep ahead of Italy and Germany seventy-five years ago, he saw, but did not recognize, heralds of his doom. He could not have known that one day hundreds of thousands of boys just like them, boys who shared their essential natures—decent and unassuming, not privileged or favored by anything in particular, just loyal, committed, and perseverant—would return to Germany dressed in olive drab, hunting him down.”

The Tempest

5e9f81972e2873f12c2288ff880a5c13.jpgThe Tempest by William Shakespeare

Rating: ★★★★★ // The Bard at his finest 

Favorite Line: “Your tale, sir, would cure deafness.”

Review: 

Reviewing Shakespeare feels a little absurd. I sadly have not studied his plays enough to really grasp all that he is saying, but I hope one day to say that I have. All I can really say is if I liked they play or if I didn’t like the play. When it comes to The Tempest, one of Shakespeare’s last plays (many believe to be his absolute last), I really enjoyed it.

Summary (via GoodReads)

In The Tempest, long considered one of Shakespeare’s most lyrical plays, Prospero—a magician on an enchanted island—punishes his enemies, brings happiness to his daughter, and comes to terms with human use of supernatural power. The Tempest embodies both seemingly timeless romance and the historically specific moment in which Europe begins to explore and conquer the New World.

Its complexity of thought, its range of characters—from the spirit Ariel and the monster Caliban to the beautiful Miranda and her prince Ferdinand -its poetic beauty, and its exploration of difficult questions that still haunt us today make this play wonderfully compelling.

The Tempest is a play by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in 1610–11. It is set on a remote island, where Prospero, the exiled Duke of Milan, plots to restore his daughter Miranda to her rightful place, using illusion and skilful manipulation. The eponymous tempest brings to the island Prospero’s usurping brother Antonio and the complicit Alonso, King of Naples. There, his machinations bring about the revelation of Antonio’s low nature, the redemption of Alonso, and the marriage of Miranda to Alonso’s son, Ferdinand.

I sometimes struggle when reading plays, so I almost always read and listen at the same time. This helps bring the verse to life, while putting the words more firmly into my mind. This version had a little more of a positive impact on me because the lead role of Prospero was performed by Ian McKellen, who is a tremendous actor and he really only needs to voice to perfectly portray the emotion of the character.

The play brings a serious situation into play, but has fun characters to offset the seriousness. It has a bright romance, which blooms a little too quickly for my liking, but after all, it is Shakespeare. Despite the quickness of the romance, I thought the romance was sweet, and it added a nice aspect to the story.

Overall the story is of revenge which ultimately turns into forgiveness after redemption, but like many of Shakespeare’s plays, it explores the supernatural and the physiological aspects of humanity.

What is really unique and beautiful about this play is the epilogue. There, breaking character, Shakespeare has Prospero address the audience. Through Prospero’s voice, Shakespeares talks of his own retirement and of setting his gift of verse free.

I’m going to have to read this play a few more times before I really understand all the different dynamics it has, and maybe then I can write a more intelligent review about it, but as for now, I will just leave you with Shakespeare’s fantastic end:

Now my charms are all o’erthrown,
And what strength I have’s mine own,
Which is most faint. Now, ’tis true,
I must be here confined by you,
Or sent to Naples. Let me not,
Since I have my dukedom got
And pardoned the deceiver, dwell
In this bare island by your spell,
But release me from my bands
With the help of your good hands.
Gentle breath of yours my sails
Must fill, or else my project fails,
Which was to please. Now I want
Spirits to enforce, art to enchant,
And my ending is despair,
Unless I be relieved by prayer,
Which pierces so that it assaults
Mercy itself and frees all faults.
As you from crimes would pardoned be,
Let your indulgence set me free.

*I read this book for my Classics Club challenge. To see my entire list of my challenge Click Here, to learn more about the Classics Club challenge, Click Here

Around the World in 80 posts: Paris

I’ve started this series to highlight my favorite real world settings for books and what makes them so good! Feel free to join in on the fun and explore the world through your books! 

Paris

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*note: I’m only including books where the primarily location is Paris; many books travel to Paris but will be included in a different country/city post.

Ahh Paris, you wonderful city. I’ve been to Paris several times and my heart yearns for it when I’m not there. It’s has a stereotype of being unwelcoming or rude to travelers, but honestly, I’ve never felt that to be the case. I’m terribly in love with this city and I could spend forever walking down the Siene and gazing at the Eiffel Tower. Since I cannot, however, I have to settle for reading books about Paris…it’s not the same, but it’s dang near to the real thing.

1. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain: Everyone knows Ernest Hemingway for his literary genus, but not many remember his first wife Hadley–this book remembers her. Hadley meets Ernest in Chicago and they fall in love. She follows him to Paris and lives the 1920’s, penniless lifestyle we always hear about.

“Though I often looked for one, I finally had to admit that there could be no cure for Paris.”

2. The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas: I went a very long time thinking I had read this book because I knew the story so well, only to discover that I had only read abridged versions of the story. When I finally read this massive book, I fell pretty hard for it. Athos, Pothos, Aramis, and d’Artagnan are fantastic characters, and their adventurous spirit brings Paris to life.

“Never fear quarrels, but seek hazardous adventures.”

3. The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George: Paris + Books = Perfection. This charming novel is about a man who owns a book barge and calls himself a book apothecary–when someone comes into his store he does not sell them book, he prescribes them books. This book is darling and I had to resist buying a plane ticket while reading it.

“Books keep stupidity at bay. And vain hopes. And vain men. They undress you with love, strength and knowledge. It’s love from within.”

4.  A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens: This one could also go on my future London list but for some reason Paris sticks out to me as the primary city in this book. Set during the French Revolution, this book highlights the strength of the city and of it’s people in the best of times and the worst of time (see what I did there…) ;).

“What an immense impression Paris made upon me. It is the most extraordinary place in the world!

-Charles Dickens

5. Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee: Lilliet Berne has made herself the talk of the city, but there is much more to her than people see as she performs in the Opera House. This exciting novel has a “Phantom of the Opera” feel and it hold the magic of Paris in it’s pages. Read my review here!

“When the earth opens up under your feet, be like a seed. Fall down; wait for the rain.”

6. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo: This is maybe the most famous “Paris” story, and even the most famous French novel, thanks to the musical and the multiple movies, and because of the popularity of Hugo himself. This book follows many different plots, but the most prominant plot is that of Jean Valjean, an ex-convict, who escapes parole to turn his life around and make up for his sins. Yes, that was the most abridged summary of Les Mis ever, but it’ll do for now :).

“He who contemplates the depth of Paris is seized with vertigo. Nothing is more fantastic. Nothing is more tragic. Nothing is more sublime.”

-Victor Hugo

 

What is your favorite Paris book? I love adding to this list, so please let me know what Paris book I absolutely have to read!

 

Friday Five: Lit. Moms

Mothers in literature are more rare than one would expect, yet, when a good one comes along, man is she good. Here are a few quotes in literature about the mother’s who are out of this world. Happy Mother’s day to all those stellar moms out there!

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“The clocks were striking midnight and the rooms were very still as a figure glided quietly from bed to bed, smoothing a coverlid here, settling a pillow there, and pausing to look long and tenderly at each unconscious face, to kiss each with lips that mutely blessed, and to pray the fervent prayers which only mothers utter.”

Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

 “She was of the stuff of which great men’s mothers are made. She was indispensable to high generation, hated at tea parties, feared in shops, and loved at crises.”

Thomas Hardy, Far From the Madding Crowd

“To describe my mother would be to write about a hurricane in its perfect power. Or the climbing, falling colors of a rainbow.”

 —Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

“What must I do, Mother, what must I do to make a different world for her? How do I start?”

“The secret lies in the reading and the writing. You are able to read. Every day you must read one page from some good book to your child. Every day this must be until the child learns to read. Then she must read every day, I know this is the secret.”

“I will read,” promised Katie. “What is a good book?”

 — Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

“A mother’s love for her child is like nothing else in the world. It knows no law, no pity. It dares all things and crushes down remorselessly all that stands in its path.”

 — Agatha Christie, The Hound of Death

Life Lessons from the Musketeers

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I wrote this review a few years ago on my old blog, but I thought I’d repost it because I really loved this book. 

After years and years of trying to convince myself I didn’t need to read this book because I already knew the storyline, I finally buckled and picked up this timeless classic….I was blown away.

I do admit, it took me a long time to finish this The Three Musketeers. It’s a story I knew so well before I picked it up, so I thought it would be a piece of cake, but this book is so long and is has so much more depth than the “main” story.

I went in waves while reading, I had periods of being completely hooked for days, using every spare moment to read another paragraph, page, or chapter, only to then slump into a dry spell of not wanting to pick up the book and having no interest at all of what happens to our four bold protagonists. When this happens to me, it’s usually because the author goes off the plot and gives long explanations of history and background of the area and I loose my motivation to continue, but here it was different because Dumas does not do that often, and when he doesn’t it’s not for an extended amount of time–for the most part, he stays on plot. The only logical reason I can think of for my on-again, off-again, relationship with this book, is that since it is such a long book, and it has a very complex plot with many different crucial players, it takes a long time to read it right, and after going a couple of weeks with the same story, and then realizing I had only made a small dent in the book, I needed to give my brain different type of entertainment for a couple days before getting sucked into the book again.

Now I can proudly say I have conquered this book, and I am so happy that I can honestly say that I love the story of The Three Musketeers. 

I will not go through and bore you with a critic over the whole book, and frankly, I don’t think I could give it a proper critic after only reading it once, especially since I read it leisurely and not educationally. There is so much going on that it would take a couple reads to analyze all the different moving parts and how Dumas weaves them perfectly together. However, what I will do it take a few of my favorites quotes from the book and tell you briefly why they stood out to me.

1.

“Oh, I see you prefer peregrination. That’s well madame; and there is an old proverb that says, ‘Traveling trains youth.’ My faith! you are not wrong after all, and life is sweet. That’s the reason why I take such care you shall not deprive me of mine.”

This quote is said by Lord de Winters to the infamous lady known throughout the story simply as Milady. She is truly evil. Lord de Winters says this as he is holding Milady captive in England and giving her the choice of exile or a trial. Now, she has quite a past, so a trial would mean the worst for her, so if she has the choice, she would choose exile, even if the thought of that is as bad as death to her.

I like this quote because it could have been said by a number of characters in the book and still be relevant. All the characters either grow tremendously in the storyline or we learn of their past growth that led them to where they are when we meet them, and they all hold true to the proverb Lord de Winters speaks of, “traveling trains youth.” Furthermore, this book is all about self-preservation in the most direr of situations, so the second part of the quote rings true to most of the characters, “That’s the reason why I take such care you should not deprive me of mine.”

Putting the plot of the book aside, I felt personally attached to this quote the moment I read it, because I saw it as a justification of the life I’m living now. “‘Traveling trains youth.” I’m constantly asked why I took a year in Europe, why I travel so much, what I’m planning on doing with my life, and why I made the “unorthodox” decision not to get a career right out of college, and more often than not my answer is rewarded with a sigh or an eye role. Even when in Europe or on my travels, I find many people who think my year as an Au Pair or my job as a nanny, as a waste of time. What I wish people would understand is that I’m still young–I look young, I think young, I act young…I’m young. I didn’t take a year in Europe to run away from a career, I went there to take advantage of my youth, to do things that I can’t do when my youth leaves me, and as Dumas puts it, I went there to train, and I continue to train in my travels. Train for the rest of my life, give me experiences that I could never have unless I put myself out there, on a limb, in a place I had only dreamed of going before.

2.

“Within six months, if I am not dead, I shall have seen you again, madam–even if I have to overturn the world.”

This is said by the Duke of Buckingham to Anne of Austria, the Queen of France. This love affair was one of the saddest because it was doomed from the start, yet the Duke, truly infatuated with the Queen, never abandoned his love for her, nor did he ever do anything intentional to harm her, politically or emotionally. Yet, this quote,  like my first one, could be said by many different characters in the book and no one would doubt it’s sincerity. This book continues to go back to the theme of doing anything and everything for the one you love. If nothing else remains true in this novel, the truth of undying love remains solid through the entire thing.

When I started reading this, I didn’t think it would be as focused on love as it was. I mean, I knew it had romantic sub-plots, but I did not think the plot would focus primarily on the love affairs of the Musketeers and their close companions. I think it can be argued that love is as great of a theme as friendship, even though I believe most would categorize this book in the “power of friends” category quicker than the “power of love” category, especially with the whole “all for one and one for all” thing the Musketeers have going on.

While many of the relationships in this novel revolved around an affair of some sort, the love remained beautiful to the reader because of the way the characters truly still believed in love, and the purity of love. It was clearly a different time and culture when this story was placed, and in the novel marriage was definitely more of a political and social relationship then a romantic one, but the the idea of love was still strong and Dumas did a beautiful job of portraying the power that stands behind it.

3.

“You are young,” replied Athos; “and your bitter recollections have time to change themselves into sweet remembrances.”

This is the last line in the book, before the epilogue, and I found it to be a beautiful ending to this tragic story. I don’t want to ruin any of the details, but this book doesn’t have the happiest of endings–it’s not completely sad, but it’s also not a Disney ending. But this quote, spoken by the always wise Athos, pushes away the sadness and allows room for the reader to see the potential of a happy future–what a beautiful thing to do for your readers.

I guess I can add this to my reasons for holding onto my youth: giving myself time to change bitter moments into happy memories. As Athos says this, the reader understands how much he desires to have this time back–time to change all the hurt he suffered into, at least, a memory less painful. But we, as readers, also understand that Athos is unable to do this, and even though the cause of his unhappiness is gone, he will never fully recover from the hurt and pain put upon him. He is unmendable. His friend, however, one he views as a brother and life-long companion, still has time to put all that has happened behind him and forgive, and Athos, being the eldest of the group, wants to make sure his brother does not fall onto the same bitter path that he chose many years prior to the story.

The theme of forgiveness is not as visible as the theme of vengeance in the book, but the final advice from Athos seems to lean more towards it than towards anything else. He is a man who held onto his hatred and his pain as tightly as he held onto his bottles of Spanish wine. He was unable to let go of the events in his past and they tore him apart emotionally, spiritually, and physically. He understands this pain eats him alive, but unwilling to forgive, he allows it to consume him. While, on the outside, he is the strongest (mentally) of the musketeers and their unofficial leader, he knows he is too weak to fight his own pain.  Nevertheless, his final advice, his final warning, gives the reader a shed of hope that his younger, fresher companion will not follow in his footsteps of living in the past, but step forward, forgiving and refreshing his past, so it becomes a power to push him forward, instead of a weight keeping him in behind.

All of us, young and old, can benefit from this final quote from Athos, remembering that life keeps moving and we can either stay bitter and angry or we can move forward with “sweet remembrances.”

The Three Musketeers is timeless. While not as fast paced as most modern day novels, it packs a punch that is full of every theme a reader could ask for. Dumas adds humor to a drama, and romance to a sword fight, and while there are many new adventurers to admire in literature, there aren’t many who compare to the classic characters of Athos, Porthos, Aramis, and D’Artagnan.

 

*This is not technically apart of my Classics Club challenge, but it definitely works with the theme. If you want to see the other books on my challenge list, click here. If you want to learn more about the classics club, click here

A Gentleman in Moscow

29430012.jpgA Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

Rating: ★★★★★ // Instant Classic

Favorite Line: “If a man does not master his circumstances then he is bound to be mastered by them.”

Reveiw:

Oh boy this book is amazing. I could read this book all day, and I did not want it to end.

“A king fortifies himself with a castle,” observed the Count, “a gentleman with a desk.”

Summary (From GoodReads)

A Gentleman in Moscow immerses us in another elegantly drawn era with the story of Count Alexander Rostov. When, in 1922, he is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, the count is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life, and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel’s doors. Unexpectedly, his reduced circumstances provide him a doorway into a much larger world of emotional discovery.

Brimming with humor, a glittering cast of characters, and one beautifully rendered scene after another, this singular novel casts a spell as it relates the count’s endeavor to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be a man of purpose.

This book has depth, like bottom of the ocean depth. It spans about 30 years, never leaves the Metropol hotel, except in stories told by outside characters, and yet makes you feel like you were brought all over Russia, and even all over the world. Having such a secluded setting sets up for a boring book–I mean who wants to read a book where the character literally never goes anywhere? But instead Towles is able to amplify the setting and use it to expand the ideas and the characters in the book. By the end the Metropol seems like a home and a safeguard, and not a luxury hotel.

Count Rostov is an amazing character. As said in the description above, he is isolated for being an aristocrat, in particular an aristocrat who does not want to conform to the Bolshevik ideals, and even in isolation, he attempts to maintain the way of life he has always known. Rostov is extremely intelligent, witty and well-educated. His education shines in his discussions with the guests of the Metropol, and his intelligence shines while dealing with the staff of the Metropol, which changes dramatically throughout his time there.

We also see a soft side of Rostov in his friendship with Nina, a young Russian girl who also lived in the Metropol with her family, and later with Sofia, Nina’s daughter. He turns into a father/grandfather figure to these girls and we see a proud man buckle and soften at the hands of two young girls. Towles makes the change gradual, and therefore believable, but he also rightly keeps some sense of pride in the count, which allows him to maintain his world view and his way-of-life. The count never ceases to be a gentlemen, even under house arrest.

“Manners are not like bonbons, Nina. You may not choose the ones that suit you best; and you certainly cannot put the half-bitten ones back in the box. . . .”

Through his hotel window the count sees his beloved Russia change into something unrecognizable to his eyes. He discusses philosophy and politics with the guests and staff of the Metropol and we, the readers, get a rare glance into how the aristocrats (at least those that survived) saw the Russian revolution. Despite what one might thing, Rostov did not seem entirely against the revolution, although he was not a firm supporter, but he did have philosophical arguments about many of the changes it brought in.

One particularly humorous disagreement he had about “new Russia” was brought on by the belief in Soviet Russia that all must be equal. One night while dining he ordered a bottle of wine that he thought would be especially good with his meal. The Maitre d’ then informed him that he could not choose different types of wine based off name, but he could only choose white or red. Outraged that he wasn’t getting the wine he asked for (his aristocracy never really wore off) he demanded to see the cellar. There he found, to his disgust, that all the labels had been taken off of the wine, making all the wine equal, and therefore could only be served as white or red. The count was not amused.

“A bottle of wine was the ultimate distillation of time and place; a poetic expression of individuality itself.”

I cannot praise Towles enough for his writing in this book. His characters and setting are phenomenal; everything he describes is precise, accurate, and said with importance. There never seems to be a bit of information out of place and every scene is built to play a larger role.

This book has humor, philosophy, politics, love, romance, adventure, suspense, and lots of informations about good food and wine.  Out of all the books I have read this year, this one ranks the highest. Not only does it fully capture the culture and ideals of a time period, but it brings in everlasting themes that all humanity can relate to.

“After all, what can a first impression tell us about someone we’ve just met for a minute in the lobby of a hotel? For that matter, what can a first impression tell us about anyone? Why, no more than a chord can tell us about Beethoven, or a brushstroke about Botticelli. By their very nature, human beings are so capricious, so complex, so delightfully contradictory, that they deserve not only our consideration, but our reconsideration—and our unwavering determination to withhold our opinion until we have engaged with them in every possible setting at every possible hour.”

*buy it here on Book Depository on my affiliate page for a discounted price!

Friday Five: Travel Quotes

I’m driving out to Colorado today! My best friend is getting married in June, so a girls weekend in the mountains is a must before she says “I Do” 🙂

I have a severe travel bug right now, so this trip comes at a perfect time, but usually when the travel bug hits I have to settle it down with travel quotes and pictures of beautiful places. Here are some of my favorites:

“I’m not sure what I’ll do, but–well, I want to go places and see people. I want my mind to grow. I want to live where things happen on a big scale.”

– F. Scott Fitzgerald

“The world is a book and those who do not travel only read one page.” 

-St. Augustine of Hippo

“I’m in love with cities I’ve never been to and people I’ve never met.” 

– John Green

Rome, Italy. Taken in February, 2015.

“There are no safe paths in this part of the world. Remember you are over the edge of the wild now, and in for all sorts of fun wherever you go.” 

 -J.R.R. Tolkien

“Actually, the best gift you could have given her was a lifetime of adventure…” 

-Lewis Carroll 

Happy Friday, everyone!

The Circle

18302455.jpgThe Circle by Dave Eggers

Rating:★★★.5 // can’t stop reading, but kind of want to…

Favorite Line: “What had been intriguing on Monday and Tuesday was approaching annoying by Wednesday and exasperating by Thursday.”

Review:

Oh hey, 1984, you look a little different…did you get an upgrade?

Description from GoodReads:

When Mae Holland is hired to work for the Circle, the world’s most powerful internet company, she feels she’s been given the opportunity of a lifetime. The Circle, run out of a sprawling California campus, links users’ personal emails, social media, banking, and purchasing with their universal operating system, resulting in one online identity and a new age of civility and transparency.

Mae can’t believe her luck, her great fortune to work for the most influential company in America – even as life beyond the campus grows distant, even as a strange encounter with a colleague leaves her shaken, even as her role at the Circle becomes increasingly public. What begins as the captivating story of one woman’s ambition and idealism soon becomes a heart-racing novel of suspense, raising questions about memory, history, privacy, democracy, and the limits of human knowledge.

I went back and forth on whether I liked this book. It was very captivating, and the subject matter is disturbing realistic…I really see aspects of this book coming true in the all to near future. The power of The Circle is seriously disturbing, but the way they come into power makes you realize how quickly it could be a reality. There is logic behind their success and under the guise of public safety they force people to give up their freedoms…it’s really not that big of a stretch.

“Outside the walls of the Circle, all was noise and struggle, failure and filth. But here, all had been perfected. The best people had made the best systems and the best systems had reaped funds, unlimited funds,”

The whole time reading it I got flashes of 1984, especially when they started incorporating the mottos:  All that Happens Must Be Known, Secrets are Lies, Sharing is Caring, Privacy is Theft.

Sound familiar?

“War is peace.
Freedom is slavery.
Ignorance is strength.”

-George Orwell, 1984

There were also other similarities, like the all controlling government, in this case it was The Circle that were all controlling, but same concept. They also have the invasion of privacy theme, and the inside person who is really an outside person thing is also in both books.

I have to admit, all the similarities were a little distracting to me because I kept comparing the two without even thinking of comparing them, and I think it took a little bit away from the book for me.

Ultimately, the plot kept this book going for me. It was very well written in the sense that it kept me hooked and wanting more. I really wanted to see where Mae went with the company and how far down the rabbit’s hole she fell. I also wanted to see how far The Circle would take their company. It was so intriguing.

“Under the guise of having every voice heard, you create mob rule, a filterless society where secrets are crimes.”

 

My main problem with this book was the characters. I don’t think there was one character who I really liked. I actually thought about putting the book down when I was about 30 percent in because the characters annoyed me so much. I’m glad I stuck with it, and the book as a whole improves as it goes on, but the characters were a big miss for me.

I’m really interested to see how closely the movie follows the book. The preview already looks like they changed a few things, perhaps merging a few characters together, and I’m curious to see if they change anything major.

Overall, I would recommend this book if you want a captivating weekend read. Not the best book of the year, by any means, but an interesting topic for discussion for sure.