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!

Till We Have Faces

18716966.jpgTill We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis

Rating: ★★★★★ // A retelling in a classic fashion 

First Line: “I am old now and have not much to fear from the anger of the gods.”

Review:

Till We Have Faces is C.S. Lewis’ final book, and, allegedly, was his favorite of all his written work.

Summary (via GoodReads)

In this timeless tale of two mortal princesses- one beautiful and one unattractive- C.S. Lewis reworks the classical myth of Cupid and Psyche into an enduring piece of contemporary fiction. This is the story of Orual, Psyche’s embittered and ugly older sister, who posessively and harmfully loves Psyche. Much to Orual’s frustration, Psyche is loved by Cupid, the god of love himself, setting the troubled Orual on a path of moral development.

Set against the backdrop of Glome, a barbaric, pre-Christian world, the struggles between sacred and profane love are illuminated as Orual learns that we cannot understand the intent of the gods “till we have faces” and sincerity in our souls and selves.

If you are unfamiliar with the myth of Cupid and Psyche, I’ll give you the short version. There was a girl, the youngest of three daughters, Psyche, who was so beautiful, that people started to pay homage to her instead of to Venus, the goddess of love. This upset Venus and she asked her son Cupid to take care of the issue. Instead of doing what his mother asked, he fell in love with Psyche and took her to be his wife, however he kept his identity a secret to her and only came to her in the dead of night. The sister’s learn of this mystery husband and convince their sister to bring a light into the bedroom and shine it upon her husband, therefore learning his identity. Cupid flee’s the scene and Psyche is left to wander the wilderness, searching for her long lost love.

Now, that was a very short version of the story, but you can go and read the long version, or you can do what I did and just read Lewis’ retelling of the story…which is what I highly recommend (I then went back and reread the original because I wanted to see what he altered or added).

Lewis’ version comes from the point of view of the Psyche’s oldest sister, who acts like a mother to the beautiful child, as their mother died shortly after Psyche’s birth. This sister is neither beautiful or charismatic like Psyche, but instead clings to her studies to give her comfort in life.

“Child, to say the very thing you really mean, the whole of it, nothing more or less or other than what you really mean; that’s the whole art and joy of words.”

The story continues much like the myth does, but if goes further, and tells of what happens to the older sister after seeing her sister fall into ruin. She becomes the ruler of her land but is continuously reminded by the fate of Psyche and she is always questioning whether or not it actually took place.

Like all of Lewis’ books, the philosophy is rich in this book, but the incorporation of the myth make it read like a classic fantasy book.

I don’t remember why, but I stopped halfway through this book and left the second half unread for about a month before I picked it back up. Once I did, it was finished very quickly. I really don’t know why I did that, because I did really enjoy the first half, I think it was just a natural point to stop and I got sidetracked. I will say, I enjoyed the second half more than the first, which is odd because the first half is they myth half and the second half is the aftermath, and I would think the first would appeal to me more.

Till We Have Faces was written much differently than I expected it to be, and the incorporation of the myth into a normal society was fascinating. There was this constant battle between understanding reality and believing in the gods that kept the myth alive, while at the same time doubting that it could be true. This puts the reader in the position of the eldest child, Orual, but we, the reader, still feel compelled to believe the impossible, which is the story Psyche tells us.

“I saw well why the gods so not speak to us openly, nor let us answer…Why should they hear the babble that we think we mean? How can they meet us face to face till we have faces?”

I was surprised how well Lewis told the story from a woman’s point of view. There are many times that male authors talk of women in an exaggerated way, but there were so many times where Orual or Psyche said things that I felt came from my own mind. He is such a talented author that he can even perfectly describe a mind that he has never has of his own. This is true talent.

As seen with my five star rating, I highly recommend this book. It is a lesser known C.S. Lewis novel that deserves much more attention. I read  Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis as a part of The Classics Club Book Challenge. To see my complete challenge list of classics books, click here.

 

 

Poem of the Week: On His Blindness

On His Blindness
by John Milton

 

When I consider how my light is spent,
Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,
And that one Talent which is death to hide
Lodged with me useless, though my Soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide;
“Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
I fondly ask. But patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, “God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts; who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is Kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed
And post o’er Land and Ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait.”

7 Riddles to Nowhere & Angelhood

These two books are a little out of my regular reading zone, because they are children’s novels, but the I researched the author and her mission of bringing wholesome literature to children really hit a chord with me. She sent me her two novels, and I have to say, even though they are for children/teens, I found them very entertaining!

30148975.jpg7 Riddles to Nowhere by A.J. Cattapan

Rating: ★★★★ // a quick, fun adventure

First Line: “Kameron Boyd hadn’t spoken a word in school for seven years.” 

Review:

After finishing this book, I immediately told my little brothers they should read it; it was so fun!

The book follows Kameron Boyd, a seventh-grader at St. Jude’s Catholic School. Kameron, known as Kam, is a shy, quiet boy, who actually suffers from an inability to speak to adults. He has a small group of friends and lives with his mom and grandmother. One day Kam receives a letter in the mail which tells him he has been selected to compete in a game of riddles for a “treasure”. Kam accepts the challenge and, along with his friends, he travels around Chicago as a mysterious “riddle-master” sends him clues to the treasure.

Kam is a sweet kid. I don’t exactly get why he can’t speak to adults, it seems to be the result of a childhood trauma, but it still seems like a bit of a stretch that he cannot utter a word to an adult outside of his home. With that being said, his inability to speak adds an interesting challenge to the book, and it allows the character to grow in courage and step outside his comfort zone every once in a while.

Cattapan does a great job keeping the pace light and fast, all while giving us a in-depth adventure. The kids have to use their intellect and savvy to figure out the riddles, and they have to work together to keep ahead of the competition.

What I really loved about this book is that Cattapan was able to tell a fun, compelling story without adding in a stupid childhood romance. I really get tired of the corny childhood flirting that happens in children literature because it always looks forced and I just find it weird, so I am very thankful Cattapan was able to tell a story without forcing a relationship (or heaven forbid a love triangle) on these kids.

Really fun book for kids, makes them think and shows good values and virtues kids should strive to obtain.

 

24553425.jpgAngelhood by A.J. Cattapan

Rating: ★★★★ // Hard book, yet inspiring 

First Line: “Getting the gun is easy.” 

Review:

Any book that starts off with suicide is going to be difficult; not under any circumstances is it a fun topic to discuss, yet, there are times when it needs to be discussed and there are stories that need to be told.

Angelhood follows Nanette Dunston, who in the first chapter, takes her life. This was hard for me to read, so I immediately thought it wasn’t appropriate for kids to read, but then I remembered that 13 Reason’s Why was immensely popular in middle school and high school, and as I continued to read Angelhood, I realized how important books like this actually are.

After she ends her life, Nanette finds herself as an angel with the sole purpose of protecting a high school girl Vera. Nanette is unsure why she is tied to this girl, until she realizes Vera is contemplating suicide herself. Nanette now has the mission to convince this young girl to refrain from making the same mistake she did.

Like I said before, this book is thick. Right away my main theological issue was that people don’t become Angels…Angels are completely different beings, however, that was my only issue and it’s more or less explained in the end, therefore I was able to get over my little issue with the theological issue. OTHER THAN THAT, I really thought the book we well written and well told. Again, this is an issue that kids should address because its real and it’s important because YOU MATTER and YOU ARE LOVED. That is why these books matter.

I would not recommend this book to anyone younger than a high schooler and I think parents should read it with their children because this subject needs to be discussed, but it needs to be discussed with care. But I do recommend this book, it is well written and it speaks to the heart.

 

Thank you to A.J. Cattapan for giving me a these books for review. To learn more about A.J. Cattapan visit her site http://www.ajcattapan.com/

 

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?

 

 

 

Poem of the Week: Where the Sidewalk Ends

Where the Sidewalk Ends
by Shel Silverstein

There is a place where the sidewalk ends
And before the street begins,
And there the grass grows soft and white,
And there the sun burns crimson bright,
And there the moon-bird rests from his flight
To cool in the peppermint wind.

Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black
And the dark street winds and bends.
Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow
We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And watch where the chalk-white arrows go
To the place where the sidewalk ends.

Yes we’ll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And we’ll go where the chalk-white arrows go,
For the children, they mark, and the children, they know
The place where the sidewalk ends.

Friday Five: Beatrix Potter

Happy Birthday Beatrix Potter!

The lovely woman brought us the unforgettable Peter Rabbit, and continues to be a cornerstone in children’s literature.

Here are five of my favorite Potter quotes in honor of her birthday!

  1. “There is something delicious about writing the first words of a story. You never quite know where they’ll take you.”

  2. “Thank goodness I was never sent to school; it would have rubbed off some of the originality.”

  3. “If I have done anything, even a little, to help small children enjoy honest, simple pleasures, I have done a bit of good.”

  4. “The place is changed now, and many familiar faces are gone, but the greatest change is myself. I was a child then, I had no idea what the world would be like. I wished to trust myself on the waters and the sea. Everything was romantic in my imagination. The woods were peopled by the mysterious good folk. The Lords and Ladies of the last century walked with me along the overgrown paths, and picked the old fashioned flowers among the box and rose hedges of the garden.”

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The Goldfinch 

41S2y8O6oXL.jpgThe Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Rating: ★★★★ // Beauty immersed in hardship. 

Opening Line: “While I was still in Amsterdam, I dreamed about my mother for the first time in years.”

Review:

Many books gives you snapshots of a character’s life, allowing you to fill in the gaps as you wish or as you assume they would happen. This is not the case with Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch. Prepare to be immersed fully into Theo Decker’s conscience, as you watch and experience the up-and-down roller-coaster of his life.

Summary (via GoodReads) 

It begins with a boy. Theo Decker, a thirteen-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don’t know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by his unbearable longing for his mother, he clings to one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the underworld of art.

As an adult, Theo moves silkily between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty labyrinth of an antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love-and at the center of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle.

The Goldfinch combines vivid characters, mesmerizing language, and suspense, while plumbing with a philosopher’s calm the deepest mysteries of love, identity, and art. It is an old-fashioned story of loss and obsession, survival and self-invention, and the ruthless machinations of fate.

There were times I went from loving the story to not liking it as much, but my overall 4 star rating comes from this being a very well written book, with a complex plot, characters, and the silent suspense that lurks throughout the story. I say silent because the main conflict on the story stays buried under the bed (quite literally) until the final quarter of the book, in which all hell breaks loose. At times I actually forgot what the main conflict was, aside from the protagonist having a hard life, but then it would pop out at the right moment (mainly right as I was getting bored), and the suspense would be back. This is a unique, yet brilliant, way of telling a story.

The characters were fantastic. They weren’t all exactly “normal,” meaning some weren’t people I see myself knowing or getting involved with, but they were normal enough to convince me they existed. I really grew connected to them, and even the some I thought I disliked in the beginning, grew to show their good sides, or at least their strengths and not just their weaknesses.

“Every new event—everything I did for the rest of my life—would only separate us more and more: days she was no longer a part of, an ever-growing distance between us. Every single day for the rest of my life, she would only be further away.”

One aspect of the book that worked really well for me was the structure. The plot was written mostly linear, but there were frequent times the protagonist brought us back to stories and events that were seemingly cut out of the linear story because of irrelevance, but became relevant later in life. For example, a walk with a girlfriend was not told when it actually happened, but later when an argument took place, we were brought back to the walk because it suddenly became important. This narration technique makes the story feel real, because we see this non-linear reflection happen in our own lives.

“I had the epiphany that laughter was light, and light was laughter, and that this was the secret of the universe.”

The Goldfinch is not a short book. It spans many years and through many lifestyles. At times the pace slows down, but I found it sped up at exactly the right moments. There are moments when the story is very harsh and difficult to get through, but there are other moments that are so wonderfully joyful and beautiful, it just fills your heart. And, there are also times you want to smack Theo (the protagonist) upside the head for being a complete and utter baffoon!!

“We can’t choose what we want and don’t want and that’s the hard lonely truth. Sometimes we want what we want even if we know it’s going to kill us. We can’t escape who we are.”

I think this book could have been edited down a bit, there were quite a bit of information that was repeated, which did serve as a reminder, but was ultimately unnecessary, and made the book longer than it needed to be. There were also certain sections in the book that seemed long and mundane, and those were the parts I got bored in—take those out and this would be a five-star book for me.

I haven’t read many fictional books revolved around art, and while I love classic art I know very little about the painters and time periods in the art world, yet this book was still easy to follow. It really made me want to become an antique dealer or a painter (or a forger, but I won’t get that carried away…). I really enjoyed the art aspect, and I’m glad she didn’t just skim the surface of it, but dove deep into the topic.

“—if a painting really works down in your heart and changes the way you see, and think, and feel, you don’t think, ‘oh, I love this picture because it’s universal.’ ‘I love this painting because it speaks to all mankind.’ That’s not the reason anyone loves a piece of art. It’s a secret whisper from an alleyway. Psst, you. Hey kid. Yes you.”

When I think back on this book, I feel like I’ve read two separate books. One, I absolutely loved and I think about the plot often, the second one made me pretty uncomfortable because the content was so harsh. There are parts that deal with hard drugs and gangs, and normally this is a tough topic to read about, but Tartt does such a good job making it seem real, that it makes it much harder to read than usual.

Some reviews I have read compare this book to a Dickens novel, and I think that’s fair because it reflects on the hard life, but while reading it I read it more like a Russian novel because it has that hardship, but it also has the philosophy and light that isn’t always clearly found in a Dickens’ novel.

My advice on this book is, first of all, go for it. It’s rich and hard at parts, but I think the ending and the main plot are worth the read. The most difficult part is when he is living in Vegas, but this part passes and the book improves again after he leave. Hang in there, it’s worth it.

the_goldfinch_by_carel_fabritius_poster-rfcf3dd39ee404428ad75f3b36c27f9ea_wve_8byvr_540.jpgThe Goldfinch, Carel Fabritius