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The Professor - Charlotte Bronte's First Novel

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First novels can be hit-and-miss, even those of "great authors."  Nathaniel Hawthorne was so ashamed of Fanshawe he wanted all copies burnt.  Jane Austen's Love and Friendship, written in her teens, did not (unsurprisingly) carry the depth and drama of her later, famous novels.  Doyle's first Sherlock Holmes novel, A Study in Scarlet, is arguably one of the weaker of the four.  While some talented authors debut a masterpiece, it's as equally likely that their first book is not their best. All of this goes to show that 1) no one is born a great novelist, and 2) it is worthwhile to keep trying, even if your first writing is highly flawed.

The Professor was Charlotte Bronte's first novel but not published until after her death.  It has a very similar plot to Villette (1853), and it's best read as a first draft of that superior novel.  Unfortunately, this is still insufficient for enjoying the book, because it's just not a great story.  It took me several…

July Miscellany - Books + Life

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It seems the theme of my life in 2019 is "life gets tougher, books get better."  Well, some books anyway.  I have to say, I haven't been reading as much as I would like, but in spite of that, am pretty pleased overall with the books I have read so far.

I've also highly enjoyed reading other's blogs this year and found many new ones to follow.  I've been thinking about doing a post series sharing links to blogs I follow, if that would interest anyone (?).

Ok, let's talk about some books.

Another one bites the dust... Here's one of those "not so great" reads of the year.  I had every intention of posting a review on The Scapegoat, by Daphne du Maurier.  But after reaching a glorious 44%, I came to a screeching stop.  The plodding repetition of the plot was one thing... the narrator's nauseating "aha!" moment was the cherry on top.  I thought I'd take one for the team, finish the book, and present you with a scathing review, b…

The Last Tycoon ... Questioning Why I Read Fitzgerald

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Fitzgerald is one of those authors who provokes in me a love/loathe reaction.  There was something unforgettable and moving in The Great Gatsby and This Side of Paradise; the surreal, Wuthering-Heights level of drama and the tragic stories lingered in my mind a long time afterward.  Tender is the Night haunted me in a different way: an instant trainwreck with little rhyme or reason, it left me so disgusted I had to quit reading early on.  So when I saw the library had just added The Last Tycoon to their ebook collection...and it was available, and it was under 200 pages...I invariably got pulled into checking it out and reading it over the 4th of July.

There aren't many authors I would recommend reading solely for their writing style, but I think every aspiring American writer should read something by Fitzgerald, even if it's just a chapter.  There's something distinctly American about his style.  It's a strange, signature combination - breathless, matter-of-fact, poe…

Top Ten Books of My Childhood

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Ok... what follows is rather an eclectic list, and many of them are not classics!  But I so enjoyed reading some of you guys' lists for this week's Top Ten Tuesday topic, it made me reflect on the books I read long ago and which influenced my childhood.

1. The Children's Book of Virtues
An interesting collection of fairy tales and poems, some well known ("St George and the Dragon") and others more obscure. To this day, I can still hear my dad's voice reading some of these stories.  I'm also pretty sure I'd start bawling if I re-read "Why Frog and Snake Never Play Together."

2. Dragons, Ogres, and Wicked Witches
I really hesitate to put this one on the list, because these European fairy tales were pretty heavy reading and perhaps not very good for small kids.  (I'm not quite sure how we acquired the book...Costco?  Either way, my mom later got rid of it.)  I've always had an inordinate fascination with fantasy monsters, sea monsters, …

The Four Loves - Weeks 3 & 4

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Well, I missed last week, so once again playing catch up with the readalong.  :)  Here are the last two parts - and thanks again to Cleo for hosting this!
Week 3: Friendship In this chapter, Lewis talks about what he considers to be the "least natural" of the loves: Friendship.  It is less "organic" than the other loves, because, unlike Affection which nurtures or Eros which propagates, Friendship is, in a sense, superfluous in that it is not necessary to our survival. In fact, it can be viewed with distrust by authorities or groups of humans, because it means at least two people have withdrawn from the group and are connected by something which distinguishes them from the rest.

This was the most interesting chapter of the book.  I don't have a wide circle of friends, but I appreciate each one I have (online and offline), and I think Lewis pinpoints why it is so hard to find good friends.  The problem frequently lies with us.  So often we are looking for someo…

The Four Loves - Weeks 1 & 2

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Cleo has been hosting a read-along of The Four Loves by C. S. Lewis, and happily I've been keeping up with it well, in spite of some reader's block.  These are the parts I've read so far:
Week 1: "Introduction" and "Likings and Loves for the Sub-Human"Week 2: "Affection" First off, this book is not quite what I was expecting, and I say that not as a criticism but as an observation.  Lewis's style is a little rambling, in some places like a sermon that switches from topic to topic fluidly but lacks the structure you'd expect from a book with such a structural title.  He focuses on certain aspects of each topic, rather than giving a detailed overview of the whole.  For example, my biggest takeaway from "Likings and Loves..." was his view on healthy vs. unhealthy patriotism; in "Affection," it was more on "what to avoid" rather than "what to do."  It doesn't make the book any less readable, but …

Battling Reader's Block

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Hope everyone is doing well this fine June... It feels like the month is FLYING by.  Tomorrow is going to be about 90 degrees where I live, so I'd say summer is here.


Since I finished 12 Rules for Life, I've been having pretty bad reader's block.  You wouldn't necessarily be able to tell... Current status seems productive:
Still slowly plugging away at the Tesla biography (it's interesting but very brainy)On track for Cleo's read-along of The Four Loves (Lewis), though I failed to post for part 1 (will roll it up into the next part)Also reading Master and Commander (O'Brian) and The Scapegoat (du Maurier), both of which are pretty good books so far I think recent "real-life" stress has zapped my attention span.  I hate it when that happens.

There are certain types of books that can get me out of that.  I will probably keep sampling books till I find one.  Till then, it might be kinda quiet around here...