Tag Archives: classics

Charlotte’s Web

e7f08c3b6d95d859394848c6172d6e54

E.B White’s Charlotte’s Web is a classic story and even if you haven’t read it, I’m sure you know of the story: a runt pig called Wilbur is saved by human Fern and then spider Charlotte and befriends them while getting along with other farmyard animals. It is a beautiful story about the need to appreciate life and nature. It is a great read for developing children or adults who just need to be reminded of the beauty of the world.

The three distinct characters: Wilbur, Fern, and Charlotte are great as it means you can read the book multiple times throughout your life and identify with a different character. If you’re a child, Wilbur is great. He is unsure of the world and is a baby most of the way through the book. It’s kind of endearing as a child, but the more you grow, it can be a little frustrating. Fern is sure of her beliefs even if no one else understands her, and you get to watch her play her role before going back to her real world away from then there’s Charlotte. She’s an amazing character when you’re a child, but as an adult, it’s easy to feel sorry for her. Even the minor characters were interesting, but the main three had a charming feel that stole the show.

The writing reminds me of an idle afternoon as a child. It has a calming effect most of the time, with little spurts of danger that encourages you to keep reading to find out what will happen. What I am most impressed with, however, is the educational aspect. There’s a lot of information about spiders and quite a few more complex words. They are explained in a pleasant way that doesn’t appear too condescending. It would encourage a lot of children and even adults to learn more about the world as well as the complex language.

Surprisingly, the theme and messages are woven throughout the book delicately and don’t feel too forced. Instead, it just brings a lightness to the situation and encourages us to appreciate every aspect of life, even if it’s cow manure. Friendships are an important aspect of life, and even though it can be difficult, it brings a great joy to life.

I can’t believe I’m writing this, but there’s one aspect of the book that annoys me: the flies. I want you to hear me out. The whole plot of the book is to save Wilbur’s live so he isn’t eaten, right? The whole theme of the friendship between Charlotte and Wilbur (and even Templeton) is that you shouldn’t be prejudice to someone because they live a different way, right? Well, what about the flies? I understand that it is a part of Charlotte’s nature, but it goes against the rest of the book which is saying how life is important. I just don’t get that bit.

Even though I did not read this as a child, I recommend every child and child at heart to take this book and give it a read. It will help with a sense of wonder about the world with delightful characters and a decent story. 8.2/10.

Question: What was your favourite book as a child?

For the Love of Books

thehauntedbookshop

Do you know someone who thinks they are better than others because of the sophisticated books they read? Do you know people who shame you for your favourite book? If you roll your eyes at these people, Christopher Morley’s The Haunted Bookshop is not for you. Read Roger Mifflin boast about his beloved profession as a second-hand bookstore and how books are the meaning of life. Oh yeah, and there’s a mystery behind a copy of Thomas Carlyle’s Oliver Cromwell.

I want to start with the most infuriating part of the book. It was an homage to books for a majority of the story and while I understand the sentiment, I hate it when authors do this. If we are reading books, we like books. That or we are forced to read the book and your snobbish attitude isn’t helping anyone. Yes, the book was published in 1919 and things would have been different to what they are now, but that doesn’t make it any less annoying. The only way to make the story a little bit more tolerable is if I view it in a way that probably wasn’t intentioned. Roger Mifflin, as pleasant as he is, has become so besotted by books that it has blinded him from the main plot of the story. Even though he values reading and is a nice enough character, he shows that the obsession with books can impact negatively on real life. Honestly, this is much more interesting than, ‘books are amazing and if you don’t read books, you’re not smart’.

Even though the main characters were nice, they were just that… nice. Roger Mifflin became a one-dimensional character and Mrs Mifflin as well as Titania – a young student who had to be saved through the power of Dickens – were placid extras. Even though it did give a scene later on more power, it wasn’t worth it. Only Aubrey Gilbert had a life outside of books, which led to the actual plot. On an unrelated note, what is it with classic writers having male characters want to beat the girls they find attractive? It is a really strange trend that people have, and it makes the relationship more uncomfortable than it already was.

The actual plot is rather interesting. It would have been so much better if this was the focus and the love of books was just a background theme. A particular book goes missing, only for the name to be brought up by multiple people. Roger Mifflin is too busy obsessing over other books to put much thought into it (at least they stole a book worth stealing after all), but Aubrey is determined to figure out what is going on. I have to respect the plan of the antagonists, which kind of saves the book a little.

I might be a little bit bias, but basing a book on how amazing books are doesn’t work for me anymore. It feels like it’s pandering to the audience and removes the likability of the characters. It distracts me from the plot, which was actually pretty good, and made the story feel a lot slower simply because I didn’t like what they were saying. I will give this 5.5/10. If you really love books, I think you will appreciate it more than I.

 

 

Questions: What is your opinion on books constantly declaring how great books are?

Eight. Eight Vampire Stories. Haha.

Vampires are no longer terrifying creatures of the night. We dress up as them, fantasise about them and use their clichés to learn to count. While there’s nothing wrong with this, it’s quite exhilarating when I get to read about murderous, disturbing vampires. Watkins Publishing allowed me to do this with the anthology Back in Time to the First Darkness: Vampires- The Original Stories. They present the classic vampire stories:

Wake Not the Dead by Johann Ludwig Tieck
The Vampyre by John William Polidori
The Mysterious Stranger by Anonymous
Dracula’s Guest by Bram Stroker
Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu
The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire by Arthur Conan Doyle
The Horla by Guy De Maupassant
And
The Room in the Tower by E.F. Benson.

Most of the stories belonged in the anthology, except for The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire. While it was entertaining, it didn’t actually contain a vampire. I know it shows how vampires in literature inspired non-horror writers, but it was still disappointing. Maybe if it was one of the earliest stories, it would have made sense but this was 1924. Vampirism in literature was nothing new at this point. I just think they sacrificed a really interesting story for this. The same thing can be said about Dracula’s Guest (but it’s Dracula so it had to be included) and The Room in the Tower (which was just ok).

Most of the stories are pretty good. They vary in writing style so you’ll find at least one that you like and they all have a classic ghoulish feel to them, which you’d expect from vampire stories. I liked most characters, but would have loved a bigger variety in the plots. Then again, maybe there just weren’t any vampire stories from the vampire’s perspective.

The flow of the book was great. It starts with an introduction, which gives us basic information, and proceeds with the stories chronologically with a few exceptions. For example, Carmilla was written before Dracula’s Guest but was placed after it. It works because Carmilla was the longest story in the book and if it was chronologically, it would have been after The Mysterious Stranger, another long story. By having Dracula’s Guest between these two stories, we were given a chance to breathe and have a break from heavy reading.

There was one instance where it didn’t work. As I said earlier, I would have left out The Room in the Tower or at least moved it. The Horla would have been a better ending. It can be linked to Wake Not the Dead a lot more than The Room in the Tower is.

Many countries have their own version of vampires so they should have their own stories. Right? Unfortunately, they only stories included were written by English, German or French writers. Even if there was just one story featuring a Vetala or a Manananggal, it would help present the vampire culture as universal and not just a western idea. This would have made the collection even stronger.

This anthology was a great read. The stories were fascinating and it gave me a lot of knowledge of the vampire genre in a way that wasn’t boring. However, due to a few stories that didn’t appeal to me and the fact that it was primarily western-male centric writers, I’ll give it 8.4/10. Discussion Point: Who is your favourite vampire and if you had the option of becoming one, would you?

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Disappointment

I know it may be irrelevant…but he’s just so pretty.

As I didn’t read JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit until after I saw the second movies, I don’t have a nostalgic enchantment with it. I already knew the basics of what was going to happen for a majority of the story. There were actually several instances when I preferred the movie. It just had better conflicts and characters.

The plot itself is a rather basic one. A hobbit named Bilbo Baggins travels with thirteen dwarves to reclaim the dwarves homeland and treasure. On the way they encounter many creatures such as goblins, orcs and humans. There was nothing that blew me away but in my experience, that doesn’t really matter. Let’s be honest—the main appeal of this is Middle Earth and the creatures that inhabit it.

Every time a new element was brought in, I was intrigued. There was clearly a distinction between the races and the scenery was often described in a pleasant way. He didn’t go overboard with it so I’ll assume he discusses them in later stories, as I have only read half of the Lord of The Rings. This is a good tactic, as it grabs the attention of the reader without offering an overload of information, and ensures that they will buy future books.

Honestly, I quite enjoyed Bilbo’s character. He’s smart, resourceful, and rather entertaining. There were one or two actions that I disagreed with, but I could see why he did it. Sure, he isn’t the greatest character and could have more depth, but it’s a children’s book. I would be shocked if Tolkien incorporated Bilbo’s opinions on the discrimination in Middle Earth.

An issue, however, is that Bilbo is one of the few characters with a distinct personality. Most of the dwarves could have combined into one person. I think the dwarves from Snow White were more memorable. Here, I’ll list the ones I remember: Thorin, Fili, Kili, Bomfur and Balin. That’s it. A lot of the other characters weren’t there for very long, so you don’t get to know a lot about them. I’m sort of blaming the adaptation for this one.

As the film was three instead of one, you get to know more about the characters. An example of this is Bard. In the movie he helps the dwarves get into Esgaroth and helps them out for a bit. You can see how he loves his family and has a bitter relationship with the Master. Is any of this in the book? Nope. I could go into more detail, but I don’t want to ruin spoilers and if you read it, you know what he did. If Tolkien cut the amount of characters in half, they would be more memorable.

Another issue I had was that most of the mini-adventures were rushed or pointless. For example, if the company didn’t meet the trolls, would it have made much of a difference? I don’t think so, The chapter with Gollum was a good scene as it did have something which would be used later on. There should have been more scenes like this. The scenes with Boern and the elves of Mirkwood felt like they were only there so they could be brought up later on and the reader would recognise them. Here’s the thing – I like these people. As I said earlier, it’s basically my favourite part of the book. I just wish they had more to them than just ‘the world is filled with people like us’.

My dislike of the Mirkword scene would be because of the movie. The movie version included more scenes with Thranduil, an actual female, and had the epic barrel fight scene. In the book they basically did nothing for a week and then escaped. It just had a completely different and duller feel to it.

The fight scenes in the book were unbalanced. While they started out well, and even rose to the occasional flashes of excitement, the endings were awful. Being saved by the eagles felt like a cop-out, and Bilbo missing the final fight’s climax was awful. A writer such as Tolkien could have easily come up with something much better. You could argue that it was because of the audience, but Rowling was able to pull it off better. However, lots of other people seem to like this scene, so maybe I’m being too critical.

Overall, I would give this a 6.5 out of 10. All you Tolkien lovers may grab your axes and bows to attack me if you want. Your love is probably influenced by nostalgia, blinding you from the multiple faults I see with the books. To those that haven’t read it, I hope you know what you’re in for now.

Also, I still haven’t seen the third installment, but I have a feeling my reaction will be the same. Despite how much this pains me – watch the movie. It’s better.

Discussion Point: Which race do you identify with the most?

Pan

I’m sorry. I just couldn’t resist. Not only does Austin demonstrate one of my favourite scenes of the book, his facial expression is similar to what mine was for half of Kunt Hamsun’s 1894 novel Pan. The story of ex-lieutenant Thomas Glahn adjusting to a life in the Norwegian woods delves into the hardship of being human. Hamsun explores the peril of love and the human psyche as Thomas ends up in a love web. Of course, the romance isn’t anywhere as interesting as the internal conflict that is present throughout the book.

Thomas’s encounter with romance was actually better than I expected. His first relationship with the stubborn Edvarda seemed plausible most of the time, if you exclude the fact that it occurred almost instantly. They had the mushy honeymoon phase, but it quickly became more complex. Thomas becomes jealous of Edvarda’s friendships and Edvarda doesn’t always tolerate his mistakes, such as throwing her shoe into the water. I just loved their relationship.

When Thomas develops a romance with another woman, Eva, Edvarda ends the relationship. Thomas discovers that Eva had been lying to her as well. She is in fact married. This was one point that bothered me. You would expect there to be conflict between Thomas and Eva’s husband, but he is hardly mentioned. Instead, Eva and Thomas have to deal with Edvarda’s father. Maybe Eva was in an open marriage, and I have no issue with that. I just have an issue with the fact that it was completely glanced over.

More drama occurs, and it ends on a note that leaves me pleased and curious. There are several questions that are unanswered, but I have read that several of Hamsun’s stories are set in the same universe and are connected. This book does make me want to read the other ones. If they’re not fully explained, I suppose I’d be a little disappointed.

Throughout the storyline I just introduced, Thomas’s mental health problems make the story more interesting. He doesn’t like people, yet he’s described as charismatic throughout it. At least three people fall in love with him because of this. He over thinks a lot of things, yet he also does things without thinking. As soon as he threw Edvarda’s shoe into the water, he regrets it. The same thing happens as he complains about Edvarda to Eva. His emotions change quickly without an explanation. The years as a lieutenant might have made him this way, and leads to him hating the uniform. Thomas can also be seen as bipolar. This would also explain a few of his actions throughout the book, especially within the last chapter.

I’m sorry, but the last chapter has to be the best chapter of the whole book. Even though the title gives away the ending, I was just in love with everything about it. Don’t worry, I won’t give away too much… except for the fact that I loved it. Yes, there are unanswered questions, but that makes me want to read his other stories.

I also have to quickly praise Hamsun on his poetic language. The dialogue has the 19th century slightly pretentious tone to it, but his description of scenery was lovely. It wasn’t done as a travel guide, but he incorporated the scenery in a way that made me feel like I was there. I actually really want to go to Norway because of this book. It sounds beautiful.

However, there was an issue with this book being written by someone from Norway… and the fact that I’m unilingual. I had to read a translated version, so I’m not sure whom my criticisms for mistakes should be aimed at. There was once instance where a ‘to’ had been forgotten. I might do this from time to time, but I’m an amateur blogger with no other editor. My mistakes are more forgivable.

Not only that, but there were some instances where the tenses shifted from present to past. While it makes sense with some scenes, there are others where the same event uses different tenses. Thomas ‘says’ something and the person he was conversing with ‘replied’. It was just a little off-putting at times.

Despite the minor faults, I would give Pan 7.8/10. There was beautiful description and interesting characters. It definitely didn’t go the way I expected to, which gives it an extra point. As it is a short book, I would recommend it.