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September, 2008

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To Kill a Mockingbird

Thursday, September 25th, 2008

Title: To Kill a Mockingbird
Author: Harper Lee
Year: 1960

Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit’em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.

What a great book. It is a tale of small town USA, prejudice, discrimination, and one mans fight against it in the 1930’s. It is told through a child’s eyes, which gives the book a sort of innocence even when it’s awash in racism.

The images and characters, from Atticus Finch to Scout, that Lee creates will never fade from your mind.

Everyone should read this book. It is a great book for school, both for its entertainment values and the issues that it deals with. I wish that I had read it in English class.

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The Sword of Honour Trilogy

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

Title: The Sword of Honour Trilogy
Author: Evelyn Waugh
Year: 1886

The hallucination was dissolved, like the whales and the turtles on the voyage from Crete, and he was back after less than two years’ pilgrimage in a Holy Land of illusion in the old ambiguous world, where priests were spies and gallant friends proved traitors and his country was led blundering into dishonour.

This series is not quite what you would expect for material relating to WWII. It is humorous in many parts, but it does have sober moments of tragedy and suffering.

The three books in the Trilogy are Men at Arms, Officers and Gentlemen, and Unconditional Surrender. It tells of a gentleman whose family is extremely old and respected, and now broke. He joins the army for his own glory and experiences many events over the war.

What I really liked about the novel was how it presented the British army. Many times the solders were moved around in chaos, and most of the operations were cancelled in the eleventh hour. The bureaucracy of the military, in all of its strange glory, is brilliantly presented throughout the series. A good read; funny, well written and engaging.

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Rob Roy

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008

Title: Rob Roy
Author: Sir Walter Scott
Year: 1817

For Why? Because the good old rule
Sufficeth them; the simple plan,
That they should take who have the power,
And they should keep who can.
Rob Roy’s Grave. – Wordsworth

If you have seen the move, forget it. The book has very little to do with the movie. In fact, Rob Roy is only in about 1/3 of the book.

The novel is about a young man who defies his father and refuses to take on the family business. His father is a successful merchant and the son wants to be a poet. The father sends his son to his brother and the book tells of this journey and the consequences of it.

I enjoyed the book but some sections were hard to read. When the Scotts are speaking in their native dialect, the novel is hard to understand. In my copy, there was a glossary in the back, but flipping back and forth seemed to break the flow of the story so I soon stopped. I think this is one of the first historic Fictions, as Rob Roy really existed, which is kind of cool. Other than the dialogue problems, it is a good book to read and I recommend it.

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The Scarlet Letter

Monday, September 22nd, 2008

Title: The Scarlet Letter
Author: Nathaniel Hawthorne
Year: 1850

On a field, sable,
The letter A, gules.

This was probably America’s first classic. If you have watched the movie with Demi Moore, forget it! The book is worlds better, and except for the characters names and the basic story, it is completely different. How could Hollywood produce such filth, and then tarnish the book by sharing its name?

My biggest beef with the book is the horrendously long, boring and meaningless preface. Take my advice, don’t read it! Skip right to the story. The preface is nearly ¼ of the length of the story, and it is some of the worst drabble I have ever read.

The story proper, is a gripping tale of adultery in a puritan colony. In it you will find a soul tormented by long-kept secrets, and another whose strength bears the weight of the world.

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Robinson Crusoe

Sunday, September 21st, 2008

Title: Robinson Crusoe
Author: Daniel Defoe
Year: 1719

All these things, with some very surprising incidents in some new adventures of my own, for ten years more, I mat perhaps give a farther account of hereafter.

This book has no chapters! It is one continuous tale from start to finish. I found this very strange, but it adds to the overall tone of the book.

Almost everyone knows something about Robinson Crusoe. There have been movies and it is one of the most popular books in English literature, with good reason.

The book is short, but it seems longer because there are no breaks in it. I enjoyed this book and even if you know the story before you start, it is enjoyable.

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Moby Dick

Saturday, September 20th, 2008

Title: Moby Dick
Author: Herman Melville
Year: 1851

Call Me Ishmael!

I found this book OK. The emotional struggle between Ahab and the White Whale was written very well. When the book was telling the tale it was riveting. The only problem is that the author frequently sidetracks to inform the audience about various whaling practices. These tend to be overly-descriptive, long-winded and boring. In one section, when he is talking about the measurements of the whale I actually fell asleep reading it!

One interesting thing about the book is it sometimes takes a Shakespearean twist with play-like soliloquies. Often times these are used to reveal information about the characters that needs to be told.

The chapters in the book are very short. There are 135 chapters for a 590 page book! It is great for reading on the train, as it allows you to have convenient breaks in regular intervals.

Overall, I recommend this book. The story is very good, only a little wordy in sections.

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Metamorphoses

Friday, September 19th, 2008

Title: Metamorphoses
Author: Ovid
Year: circa 8 A.D.

Of bodies chang’d to various forms, I sing:
Ye Gods, from whom these miracles did spring…

The message that Ovid is trying explain in his Metamorphoses can be summarized in two words: omnia mutantur, ‘everything changes.’ It is one of Ovid most famous works, and is a true classic that has stood the test of time.

Many of the tales told in the book are very well known. There in the story of Daedalus and Icarus, Narcissus and Phaethon to name a few. Ovid takes these myths and uses them to tell his tale. Having a basic understanding of Greek and Roman myth will definitely help a lot in understanding Ovid’s points.

This book is not a light read! I found some of the tales hard to understand, since I did not have a basic idea of how they were supposed to go. For these sections, I often had to read the verse multiple times. The version might have contributed to the problem since it is written in rhyme. If you want to see if you will enjoy reading and epic, read Dante’s Inferno first. If you can’t handle that one you won’t even finish Metamorphoses.

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The Mayor of Casterbridge

Thursday, September 18th, 2008

Title: The Mayor of Casterbridge
Author: Thomas Hardy
Year: 1886

‘For my part, I don’t see why men who have got wives and don’t want’em shouldn’t get rid of’em as these gipsy fellows do their old horses.’

What a unique beginning! The first chapter of the book takes place around 18 years before the rest of the book. It tells a very important story that affects the rest of the novel, in fact without this event there would be no novel.

Essentially this is a book of a man falling in and out of love. It also tells how easy it is to fall into and out of a fortune and favour in society. The novel can also be looked at as a cautionary tale about temperance and alcohol consumption.

I found it very hard to sympathize with the main character. All of his misfortune is largely self-inflicted, with quite a bit of bad luck. Hardy spends most of the novel attacking Henchard’s character, and then expects the reader to feel sorry for him in the last few chapters of the book. Other than my complete ambivalence to the fate of the main character, I found this book an easy read that is neither too long nor too short.

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Ulysses

Wednesday, September 17th, 2008

Title: Ulysses
Author: James Joyce
Year: 1922

Davy Byrne smileyawnednodded all in one: – liiiiichaaaaaach!

That’s right, no stars! Boy did this book take me a long time to read. To be fair, I was really busy at work and my leisure reading time dropped significantly. I can safely say however, that this novel almost stopped me from reading.

I would describe the plot, but there really isn’t one. The description and the detail of the novel are amazing. Joyce is able to create visual imagery that is outstanding. I did find the novel difficult to read. Sometimes the story was some complex and the passages so heavy that I had to read them twice. I often found myself drifting to sleep after a few pages of reading, which almost never happens.

As you can probably tell from the tone above, I did not really enjoy this novel. I think that it is a novel written for critics, not readers. If you like to critique books, or you are an English Major, you will enjoy this book. If not, you probably won’t.

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The Lost World

Tuesday, September 16th, 2008

Title: The Lost World
Author: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Year: 1912

I have wrought my simple plan
If I give one hour of joy
To the boy who’s half a man,
Or the man who’s half a boy.

This a quaint little book. It is short (it took me a day to read), but it is pleasurable none the less.

The narrator is a journalist, E.D. Malone, who takes part in a fantastical journey to the depth of South America. He partakes in this expedition to impress a girl, but in it he grows as a man. His little troop comes upon a plateau that has been left in time, so much so that dinosaurs still roam around freely.

While the book is too short to develop the characters to any depth, the author is intelligent enough to only introduce four main characters. It is a delightful romp through a fantastical world that is described wonderfully. I recommend this read to anyone with a little time not wanting to tax themselves with a heavy plot.

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