Lion

33022291.jpgLion by Saroo Brierley

Rating: ★★★★ // Riveting and heartwarming story. 

First Line: “They’ve gone.”

Review:

I liked this book much more than I was expecting to. As I’ve said before I usually don’t prefer memoir like books, but Lion, originally titled “A Long Way Home: A Memoir” was very good.

Following the story of Saroo, a young Indian man living in Australia who finally decides to dedicate all his extra time and energy into finding his family, whom he was separated from at the age of 5.

After getting lost, Saroo jumped around until he ended up in a home and was quickly (compared to other children) adopted by an Australian couple. It wasn’t until he was in college that he started thinking about finding his family back in India, and it wasn’t until after had graduated and working full time that he really put all his effort into finding his home.

Aside from being well-written, which it is, this story really tugs at the heartstrings and emphasizes the importance of families and relationships are in life.

“We all reach a point as young adults when we wonder what we should be doing with our lives—or, at the very least, which direction to point ourselves in. Beyond the means to get by, we need to think about what’s most important to us. Not surprisingly, I discovered that for me the answer was family.”

I found one of my favorite aspects of the book was the relationship between Saroo and his adoptive parents. Not once were they upset or jealous when Saroo focused on finding his family, which had to be difficult for them. Instead they were supportive, encouraging, and helpful when they needed to be. Saroo, for his part, was also very in-tune to how they must feel and he treated the situation well. This aspect was unexpected in the book, because I expected there to be some sort of drama, but it really didn’t show up, which was a nice surprise.

“Adoptees, whether or not they ever knew their birth parents, often describe the constant, gnawing feeling of there being something missing: without a connection, or at least the knowledge of where they are from, they feel incomplete.”

I recommend this book, not if your looking for excitement, but if your looking for strength in the human condition. I can’t yet vouch for the movie adaptation, but it has gotten pretty decent reviews and I look forward to watching it.

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The Lord of the Rings

33.jpgThe Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

Rating: ★★★★★ // nothing compares. 

Opening Line: “When Mr. Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that he would shortly be celebrating his eleventy-first birthday with a party of special magnificence, there was much talk and excitement in Hobbiton.”

Review:

This summer my book club took on The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien, which gave me a wonderful opportunity to re-read my favorite book series of all time. I think this was my second time reading the whole thing, I have read the first book maybe four times, and the second a few times, but for the whole series one after the other, this was the second time, and I have to say it was amazing.

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

There are so many reasons why I love this series: the characters, the plot, the setting, the mythology, the chivalry, the good vs. evil battles…seriously I could go on for so long, but I’m not going to spend time talking about the character or plot because everyone knows those things, and it would be way too long of a blog post. What I want to talk about first is the historical world of Middle Earth, and second I want to quickly talk about a neat writing trick Tolkien used.

The world of Middle Earth has such an extensive history and documentation that when you are reading it and when you read other books by Tolkien, it is really easy to forget that this is not true story. I know this is extremely nerdy to say, but I’m a nerd so here it goes, when I read The Lord of the Rings, I have such a hard time believing this world didn’t actually exist somewhere, somehow, and this is solely because of the genius that is J.R.R. Tolkien.

“Fantasy is escapist, and that is its glory. If a soldier is imprisioned by the enemy, don’t we consider it his duty to escape?. . .If we value the freedom of mind and soul, if we’re partisans of liberty, then it’s our plain duty to escape, and to take as many people with us as we can!”

– J.R.R. Tolkien

One thing that stuck out to me when I was rereading this trilogy was all of the implied history and tales that were told throughout the book–they almost take up as many pages as the plot does. I can’t think of many books where the backstory takes up so much space and is treated as important as it is in this book. So why did Tolkien do this? My theory is that he wanted to show us that this story, the story of the Fellowship and the destruction of the Ring of Power, is only just one story in the world of Middle Earth. I mean, think about it, why would he go through all this trouble to write stories, some of which have no direct impact on the plot? I think it was to show that this one of many stories worth being told.

Now, of course, this was a pretty important story, they saved the world from being controlled by a evil master, and after it took place, it was probably seen as the greatest story, but to the characters at the time of the story, they doubted they would even be remembered in future tales. It was kind of their fantasy to be in a tale as wonderful as the ones they were told as kids. Tolkien reminds us over and over again that this story is not alone, which, in its own way, shows us how important the story is. Hear me out, when reading this, or any, book, and we keep hearing about “the stories of old” within the plot, we start to connect the old great stories to the one we are reading about, making us realize that this story is equal to those, even if the characters do not recognize it to be so.
While many books have fantastic back stories and make you really fall into the world created  with those backstories, there are few that actually have all those physical stories written down like a history book. Tolkien wrote close to 20 separate works on Middle Earth and only 4 of those have anything to do with the Ring of Power. He created a universe, not just a story.

“It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end… because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing… this shadow. Even darkness must pass.”

The second, and last, thing I wanted to mention about why I love this trilogy so much is that, while it is long and very detailed, it really isn’t confusing and the reader is not constantly questioning what is going on, which is very helpful in a book like this. Sometimes cliff hangers are very important, but in this book they do not play a large role, and this is mainly thanks to Tolkien’s style of almost always telling the story from the point of view of the character who knows the least. For example, when the hobbits are with Aragorn, the view point it from the hobbits perspective because they are the reader in the situation, they are the ones trying to figure out what is happening and so when they learn something, we learn something. This even happens when Gandalf and Aragorn are speaking (arguably the two smartest characters in the fellowship), Aragorn is constantly asking Gandalf to further explain what he is talking about, giving the reader all the information they need to know.

These are just two of the many things I noticed when I re-read this trilogy, but I thought they were very interesting points about how Tolkien wrote and grew the world of Middle-Earth. Tolkien created something that has yet to be matched when it comes to the extensive amount of information and the details of the world. He was truly a genius and I have no doubt that he will never go out of style.

“All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.”

Friday Five: William Blake

Happy Friday! I have been M.I.A. for a week because I went on vacation, and when I got back I was not really in the mindset for blogging, but I’m back now and ready to share some quotes for my friday five!

When I was on vacation, I stopped by this awesome used bookstore, where the books were literally flowing off the shelves–it was magical. Well, I couldn’t leave there without buying something, but I also didn’t want to buy a big book, because this was day 1 of my trip and I didn’t really have room for a big book, so I bough a little pocketbook size book of Selected Poetry of William Blake. Therefore, my friday five will feature five quotes from the wonderful poet, William Blake.

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2.

“The road to excess leads to the palace of wisdom…for we never know what is enough until we know what is more than enough.”

3.

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“Great things are done when men and mountains meet.”

5.

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Something is rotten in the state of Denmark

tragedy-of-hamlet.jpgHamlet by William Shakespeare

Rating: ★★★★★ // so. much. goodness. (and killing). 

Favorite Line: “My words fly up, my thoughts remain below: Words without thoughts never to heaven go.”

Review:

Am I allowed to review Shakespeare? I don’t think I am…I’m just a mere peasant, after all. Well, this will be a mini-review then, with limited critiques, mainly because I couldn’t find many things to actually criticize.

Why have I never read Hamlet before? Well, probably because I’m a punk and I assumed it was overrated. Also, I already knew the story, so I figured there wasn’t really a reason for me to read it. As it turns out, there is a reason to read it and the reason is because it’s awesome.

“To be honest, as this world goes, is to be one man picked out of ten thousand.”

Hamlet, for all you other non Hamlet readers, is the Prince of Denmark. The play picks up right after the marriage of his mother to his uncle, which takes place only one month after Hamlet’s father, the King of Denmark, is killed. Hamlet is in a foul mood, for obvious reasons, when he meets the ghost of his father, who tells him he was murdered and must be avenged. This sends Hamlet deeper into madness, and he devises a plan to trap his father’s murderer and take his revenge. He’s also in love with Ophelia.

“Madness in great ones must not unwatched go.”

The plot of Hamlet is terrific. While I had known the general plot before reading, it really takes a shape of it’s own, and is much more intricate in the play. Obviously in a play the narrative is the main way of moving the plot along, and the way it is done in this play is brilliant (this is Shakespeare, after all).

I always forget how funny some of Shakespeare’s characters are. Even in a somber mood, he frequently seems to bring in the sarcastic, or at least the witty, friend to lighten the mood, or to bring the character back to his senses. Another thing I really liked about this play is that the wisdom, much of the time, comes from insignificant characters. There is a conversation between two gravediggers, I think in Act III, and they are just laying down solid philosophy the whole time, all while telling riddles and jokes to each other. So here we have a play full of royals and scholars, but some of the most intelligent conversation comes in jest between two gravediggers. It’s a great way for Shakespeare to make his point without making it too obvious.

“There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

The quotes alone are worth the read in this one. This is where the “method in the madness” saying comes from, the “be true to yourself” quote pops in there (of course, it’s in rhyme in the play), this is where the famous “to be or not to be” speech is found, and there is also the amazing line, “get thee to a nunnery!” which is, of course, fantastic.

“Give every man thine ear, but few thy voice; Take each man’s censure, but reserve thy judgment.”

Ok, so spoiler alert up ahead for any of you yet to pick up this play, but it’s my only criticism and I want to talk about it. Why did Hamlet have to die? I mean, I assumed it would happen from the beginning because in these plays everyone dies, but it was really unnecessary. The only reason I can think of is that he had no one else to live for, but c’mon man, you’re like 25, you will find another Ophelia and you’ll probably be King of Denmark, so just stay alive. That’s my only real criticism. I really hated that Ophelia died too…she was so sweet, but that one I understand because her life really fell apart fast. 

 

“Doubt thou the stars are fire;
Doubt that the sun doth move;
Doubt truth to be a liar;
But never doubt I love.”

I definitely want to read this one again, because it really is so rich and full of wisdom. So, is Hamlet overrated? Well, to quote Hamlet, Act III, Scene III, line 87, “No!”.

 

Friday Five: Alfred Lord Tennyson 

It was Alfred Lord Tennyson’s birthday this week, so I thought I would share some quotes and part of a poem from one of my favorite poets. Enjoy!

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“I hold it true, whatever befall; I feel it, when I sorrow most; ‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”

3.

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“Dreams are true while they last, and do we not live in dreams?”

5.
Bonus: Part 1 of “The Lady of Shallot”

Three Blind Mice and Other Stories (mini-review)

13622161.jpgThree Blind Mice and Other Stories by Agatha Christie

Rating: ★★★★// same Christie, just in bite-sized stories

Favorite Line: “She had often been alone in the house before—but she had never before been so conscious of being alone in it.”

Review: 

Agatha Christie not only gave us mystery novels, but also mystery short stories! That’s what we got here in Three Blind Mice and Other Stories. While much shorter than her usual tales, these stories still keep up all the excitement and charm of a classic Christie mystery.

Three Blind Mice is the primary and longest story in this collection, and it is quite wonderful. The best part of Christie novels is knowing that the guilty party is one you would usually least expect, so you begin to accuse pretty much everyone, and yet, you still find yourself surprised at the end. This story finds us in a classic scenario: stranded in a Bed & Breakfast with many strangers, in the middle of a snowstorm…and then, of course, murder.

The other stories all involve murder in some way, but we get to revisit the classic sleuths, Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot.

One of them, The Third Floor Flat, involves and unintentional break in which leads to the discovery of a body. Another, Strange Jest is a fun inheritance treasure hunt. Tape-Measure Murder sends the whole town into frenzy when the seamstress is found dead. Four and Twenty Blackbirds has us wondering what on earth made the old man order blackberry tart, plus more stories to keep you reading though the night.

They are really fun and allow you to have some Christie magic, just in smaller portions.

Top Ten Tuesday: Think about it

Happy tuesday! This is the last week of the Broke and Bookish summer hiatus, so this is that last week of me just making up things to write about 😉 This week I finished a book that contained a lot of philosophical discussion, so I decided to write my top ten about classics that really made me think. Enjoy!

1. Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis

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“I saw well why the gods do not speak to us openly, nor let us answer. Till that word can be dug out of us, why should they hear the babble that we think we mean? How can they meet us face to face till we have faces?”

2. The Brother’s Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky 

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“Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.”

3. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

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“Humanity takes itself too seriously. It is the world’s original sin. If the cave-man had known how to laugh, History would have been different.”

4. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

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“I do know that for the sympathy of one living being, I would make peace with all. I have love in me the likes of which you can scarcely imagine and rage the likes of which you would not believe. If I cannot satisfy the one, I will indulge the other.”

5. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho 

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“When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.”

6. 1984 by George Orwell

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“Until they became conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious.”

7. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley 

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“But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.”

8. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

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“It doesn’t make a damned bit of difference who wins the war to someone who’s dead.”

9. Animal Farm by George Orwell

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“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.”

10. The Giver by Lois Lowry

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“I feel sorry for anyone who is in a place where he feels strange and stupid.”

 

That’s it for this week! What book are on your list that make you think? I’d love to add some more to my list. Next week The Broke and the Bookish are back, so I’ll actually have a real topic up here! Have a great week!

Friday Five: G.K. Chesterton

I love G.K. Chesterton. I love everything about him. He writes philosophy, theology, mystery, and fiction…basically everything I love. He was an insane genius; he could write one essay and dictate another to his wife simultaneously, which is seriously impressive. He had such a way with words that his quotes are used over and over again, and will live on forever.

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“The first use of good literature is that it prevents a man from being merely modern. To be merely modern is to condemn oneself to an ultimate narrowness.”

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“Merely having an open mind is nothing; the object of opening a mind, as of opening a mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.”

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“Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions”

 

Love this man, he never stops spittin’ truth.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite BFF’s

Happy Tuesday and first day of August! Woah, summer is flying by! I don’t know if the Top Ten Tuesday group is up and running with a new topic this week, so I just went with my own.

I’ve been listening to a lot of The Great Comet of 1812 (the musical) and it got me thinking about literary friendships. If you don’t know, TGC is about a sub-plot in War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, and it deals a lot with friendships. I haven’t actually read War and Peace yet, but I have been so impacted by the friendship of Natasha and Sonya, it made me think of other strong friendships that have impacted me. Enjoy!

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1. Marie-Laure and Werner

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

This friendship is sweet and pure. Through the darkness of war this unlikely friendship emerges that brings two children together and shines a light in both of their lives.

2. Anne Shirley and Diana Barry

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery 

Is there a more iconic friendship? I think not. Ok, well maybe there is, but not for me. I love these two with all my heart. They taught us the meaning of having a true bosom friend.

3. Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

This classic friendship is one we all grew up on, and it shows the purity of childhood friends. It didn’t matter the class of the kids, or what their background was–if they could have fun together and look out for each other, they could be the best of friends.

4. Frodo and Sam/Merry and Pippin/Legolas and Gimli

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien 

I can never decide which friendship I like the best in this book, so I just put down my three favorite. These pairs prove time and time again the lengths they will go for their friends, and they are examples of the power good friends can give each other.

5. Jo March and Theodore Lawrence

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Clearly the main friendship in this book is that between the sisters, but I have always cherished the friendship between Jo and Teddy. Although, when Jo denied his marriage proposal…yeah, that was tough.

6. Bailey, Poppet, and Widget

The Night Circus by Erin Morganstern

This friendship was, for the most part, a sub-plot in the book, but it became a treasure in itself. Poppet and Widget bring Bailey into their lives without question, and show him a sense of belonging he had never felt before.

7. Theo and Boris

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

I did not like this friendship at first because I blamed Boris for most of Theo’s problems, but as I moved further into the story it dawned on me that Boris was of Theo’s most constant friend, and he was always there for him, no matter what.

8. Sherlock Holmes and John Watson

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 

Ok, maybe this is the more iconic duo…how can you not love these two? Whether it’s in the books, movies, or tv show, Holmes and Watson never disappoint, and they never fail to show how much their friendship means to each other (even if they show it in odd ways).

9. Liesel and Rudy

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak 

This friendship broke my heart because it was so precious. I mean, c’mon, everyone needs a friend who is willing to steal books with you!

 

10. Athos, Porthos, Aramis, & D’Artagnan 

The Three Muskateers by Alexander Dumas

“All for one and one for all!” This friendship is more than a friendship because it is a brotherhood. These men know that friendship means to die for the other, and they are more than willing to do so. It means you can quarrel and you can disagree, but in the end you come together again as one.

 

What are some of your favorite literary bff’s?

 

Around the World in 80 Posts: New York

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! 

New York

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1.A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

I have said a few times that this is one of my all-time favorites (top 5 actually), but I really can’t praise it enough. This book shows the beautiful mess that is life. New York is a vital character, as well as setting, in this book, and the protagonist’s relationship with the city is wonderful.

“Look at everything always as though you were seeing it either for the first or last time: Thus is your time on earth filled with glory.”

2. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

That this classic takes place in NYC is no secret. The city is alive in this book and it shows us a glimpse of what it was like in the 1920’s. This is one of my favorite summer reads, and it is best served with gin.

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

3. The Horses of Central Park by Michael Slade

This one brings me back to my childhood. After reading this book (and then reading it again, and again), I wanted nothing more than to move to NYC and explore central park. This book isn’t well known, but as a kid, I thought it was the best book I had ever read.

 

4. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

While this book takes place in both Las Vegas and New York City, NYC plays a bigger role than Vegas does. NYC is where the protagonist feels safe and content. It’s where he thrives and it brings him the most joy: in a word, NYC is Home.

“You can look at a picture for a week and never think of it again. You can also look at a picture for a second and think of it all your life”

 

There are so many more books I want to read that take place in this glorious city, I just don’t know where to start! What are your favorite NYC books?