Friday, October 30, 2015

The Bronte Trio

Author Spotlight

I have decided to start back doing this feature by choosing three authors in one: the Bronte sisters.

When we hear the name Bronte, two names come to mind: Charlotte and Emily. There's a tendency to forget or maybe not heard of the third sister, Anne, who was also a writer. The Bronte Sisters were British authors of both poetry and novels. They had a brother Branwell, as well as two older sisters who unfortunately died in childhood.

Facts about Charlotte Bronte:
~ Born on 4/21/1816 and died 3/31/1855
~ Eldest of the Bronte sisters
~ Originally published her works under the pen name, Currer Bell
~ Best known for Jane Eyre
~ Other novels are Shirley, Villette, and The Professor

Facts about Emily Bronte:
~ Born 7/30/1818 and died 12/19/1848
~ Used the pen name Ellis Bell
~ Only novel was Wuthering Heights
~ Wrote mostly poetry

Facts about Anne Bronte:
~ Born 1/17/1820 and died 5/28/1849
~ Youngest of the Bronte sisters and Bronte family
~ Wrote under the pen name Acton Bell
~ Published a volume of poetry with her sisters
~ Wrote two novels: Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

Did You Know?
The Bronte sisters first wrote under male pennames but maintained their initials in them (as you can see above).

The Bronte Sisters: Charlotte, Anne and Emily

I personally have read both Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre. I did like Wuthering Heights, but Jane Eyre not so much. Keep in mind that I had to read Jane Eyre for school as part of summer reading, either for freshman or sophomore year in high school.
Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Writing Tuesday: Too Much Said Going On

Writing Tuesday

Too Much Said:
From a writer's standpoint, I think we tend to use the word "said" too often and that also goes to everyone in general. I've probably been guilty of using said more often than not. For some of us, it might be hard to come up with other words for "said" and when I came across this, I thought it would be a good aide.

The Writer's Circle

I linked this to their Facebook page as that is where I saw this. For more information about The Writer's Circle Magazine, check out their website here.

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!


Monday, October 19, 2015

Thirteen Reasons Why Book Review

2015 Reading Challenge

22. Thirteen Reasons Why (aka Th1rteen R3asons Why) by Jay Asher
      Theme/Topic: book recommended by a friend

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers thirteen cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker, his classmate and crush who committed suicide two weeks earlier. On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he'll find out how he made the list.

My Review:

*Possible spoiler alert*
Since this book was recommended by a friend, I didn't know what to expect. This is what I like about doing this particular reading challenge. As there are fifty different themes/topics to read, not every one is something that I would naturally read. I like that it takes me out of my comfort zone to read books that I necessarily wouldn't or maybe haven't heard of before. I had to come into reading this with an open mind.

Suicide is real. It's something that exists and is one of those things that can really affect each of us in the long run - meaning that each of us may possibly know someone who has taken their life someday. It seems that suicide is becoming more common nowadays, even if it doesn't always make the news. I have heard on more than one occasion where teens have chosen to end their life because they were different (like being gay for instance) or being bullied. Of course there are other reasons why people in general may commit suicide: some due to family problems or even due to mental illness and other reasons. No matter what the reason is, they shouldn't be judged for doing so. It's impossible to know what someone of any age is thinking or even going through right before they decide to end their life.

Despite some of the reasons listed in the above paragraph, sometimes we don't find out why someone did choose to end their life. That's kind of why I thought this book was well executed. It might be scary, or more-than-less freaky, to have been one of those thirteen people to have received the tapes. I can also see it as this: at least some people got to know the answer to their question, why did Hannah end her life? It goes to show how the choices that we make can affect others - even to the point of someone wanting to commit suicide.

Which brings me to this. I like how we got to read it from Clay's perspective, instead of one of the other twelve people. Clay didn't technically do something to make Hannah choose to commit suicide, but rather something he didn't do by just watching from the sidelines. If any of us sees something happen (like someone bullying another person for example) and we don't say anything, it's almost like we're the ones doing it as well. And that can hurt worse, like it did in the case with Clay and Hannah, although different circumstances than my example.

Overall, I enjoyed reading Thirteen Reasons Why. It's a deep read for anyone in general, including teens and young adults. We don't always know what our family and friends are going through. If you or any of your family and friends are considering suicide, find someone to talk to or by calling the suicide help line. If a friend tells you they want to end their life, take it seriously because you just don't know if they're telling the truth.

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!


Sunday, October 11, 2015

Coming Soon

Coming Soon....

A new blog.

I am pleased to announce that I am starting a new and separate blog. It will feature my own stories that I write (short stories that is). I am going to be starting out, though, with a writing series, a writing project that I'm very excited about.

It will be up and running soon.

In the meantime, this blog will still be active with both reading and writing aspects. And speaking of that, I will be resuming my normal posting schedule either this upcoming week or next week at the latest.

For a reminder, the schedule is:

Writing Tuesday
Author Spotlight Thursday
Sunday Funday

I also have three book reviews coming up.


Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Magnificent Ambersons Book Review

2015 Reading Challenge

21. The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington
      Theme/Topic: a Pulitzer Prize winning book (1919)

The Magnificent Ambersons chronicles the changing fortunes of three generations of an American dynasty. The protagonist of Booth Tarkington's great historical drama is George Amberson Minafer, the spoiled and arrogant grandson of the founder of the family's magnificence. Eclipsed by a new breed of developers, financiers, and manufacturers, this pampered scion begins his gradual descent from the midwestern aristocracy to the working class.

My Review:
Even though this is considered to be a classic, I had never heard of it before. I simply googled what book won the Pulitzer Prize and came across The Magnificent Ambersons. When I found it was free in the Kindle store, I decided to choose this one to read.

However, just because I chose it doesn't mean I liked it. I ended up being disappointed in the novel unfortunately. I thought it actually started out with so much promise and potential. As the story went along, it started to slow down dramatically. Not to mention at times that it seemed like some information was unnecessary to the story in my opinion. George is nothing but a spoiled brat in the beginning as a child and he continues to essentially keep getting his way as he grows into adulthood. I didn't like that he sabotaged his mom's relationship with Lucy's dad. Regardless whether George like him or not, his mom does deserve to be happy and move on with her life after her husband dies.

The Magnificent Ambersons is a historical novel of a poignant time in social society of America, particularly in the Midwest. It works to prove how fortune can diminish as society grows, or in this case, how a town slowly turns into a city. And that fortune can't always get what you want (in George's case).

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!


Sunday, October 4, 2015

Sunday Funday: Les Miserables Musical Version

Sunday Funday

Les Miserables Musical versus Book

Since I posted my Les Miserables Book Review yesterday, I wanted to expand on that by joining forces with the stage production/musical/film of the novel and showing you my favorite parts from the book in the musical and/or film form. It's going to be done in no particular order.

1. Michael Ball reprising his original role of Marius Pontmercy (London Original Cast) for the 10th Anniversary Concert

2. Confrontation between Jean Valjean and Javert; Original London Broadway Cast

3. Confrontation again, this time Hugh Jackman as Valjean and Russell Crowe as Javert. This is from the movie version, but this actual video was while they were promoting it.

4. "Red and Black" - one of my favorite songs from the musical

5. "Bring Him Home" - Alfie Boe who's known for his role as Jean Valjean and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir

6. "Finale" featuring the cast of the 2012 movie version

It was good to know where the songs came from after reading the book.

Hope you enjoyed some of my favorite parts of Les Miserables. It's one of my favorite musicals and I hope you check it out if you're interested.

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!


Saturday, October 3, 2015

Les Miserables Book Review

2015 Reading Challenge

20. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
      Theme/Topic: book originally written in another language

Introducing one of the most famous characters in literature, Jean Valjean - the noble peasant imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread. In Les Misérables Victor Hugo takes readers deep into the Parisian underworld, immerses them in a battle between good and evil, and carries them onto the barricades during the uprising of 1832.
Within his dramatic story are themes that capture the intellect and the emotions: crime and punishment, the relentless persecution of Valjean by Inspector Javert, the desperation of the prostitute Fantine, the amorality of the rogue Thénardier and the universal desire to escape the prisons of our own minds. Les Misérables gave Victor Hugo a canvas upon which he portrayed his criticism of the French political and judicial systems, but the portrait which resulted is larger than life, epic in scope - an extravagant spectacle that dazzles the senses even as it touches the heart.

My Review:
I've been a fan of the musical for several years. In addition, I took French for all four years in high school. It's only fitting that I chose Les Miserables since it was originally written in French.

I've wanted to read Les Miserables for awhile. When a musical and/or movie gets produced based on a book, I have a tendency to want to read that particular book to see what inspired them to transform that book into a stage production or movie. No matter what avenue is produced and developed, there are always parts that have to be taken out for whatever reason. Saying that, it's nice to read the book to get the full story.

Les Miserables is classified as a historicalfiction novel. It was good getting to know what about a period in France's history, which in this case includes the uprising/rebellion of 1832, an attempt of the republicans to overthrow the monarchy. Victor Hugo used the platform of writing Les Miserables to portray his criticism of the French political and judicial systems. He wrote elaborately, a bit too much at times in my opinion, about a time in French history that not everyone in other countries may know.

In every story written, there's a protagonist and an antagonist. In this story, Jean Valjean and Javert are exactly that. In my opinion, their focus and relentless determination in perceiving their respective roles are one of the best in literary history. You may not know this, but Jean Valjean is actually based on a French ex-convict Eugene Francois Vidocq, who went on to become a better person by becoming head of an undercover police unit and founded France's first private detective agency. Jean Valjean is a person who attempts to become a better person when he assumes the name of Monsieur Madeleine. He gets known for charitable and food deeds and then becomes mayor. Despite this, Jean Valjean can't seem to escape his criminal past and gets pursued relentlessly by Javert, who does everything in his power to capture Jean.

Jean Valjean is a perfect example of being someone with a criminal background trying to make a change once he gets out of prison. In reality, sometimes ex-offenders change for the better once they get done serving their sentence and sometimes they just don't or can't seem to escape that lifestyle. I felt that Jean did want to change and there were two specific moments that solidified that for me. Other than when he was monsieur le maire (mayor), the first time would be when he rescued Cosette from the Thenardiers and became her father figure. The second time would be when he rescued Marius and saved his life in a way because he knew Cosette was in love with him (Marius).

I'm going to end this with something that's not always known to the general public so to say. At the end of the novel, there's a paragraph/letter that Victor Hugo sent to his Italian publisher, in which he laid out his ambitions for Les Miserables (1):
I don't know whether it will be read by everyone, but it is meant for everyone. It addresses England as well as Spain, Italy as well as France, Germany as well as Ireland, the republics that harbour slaves as well as empires that have serfs. Social problems go beyond frontiers. Humankind's wounds, those huge sores that little the world, do not stop at the blue and red lines drawn on maps. Wherever men go in ignorance or despair, wherever women sell themselves for bread, wherever children lack a book to learn from or a warm hearth, Les Miserables knocks at the door and says: "open up, I am here for you".
 Victor Hugo also addresses the purpose of the novel in the preface (3):
So long as there shall exist, by reason of law and custom, a social condemnation, which, in the face of civilization, artificially creates hells on earth, and complicates a destiny that is divine with human fatality; so long as the three problems of the age—the degradation of man by poverty, the ruin of women by starvation, and the dwarfing of childhood by physical and spiritual night—are not solved; so long as, in certain regions, social asphyxia shall be possible; in other words, and from a yet more extended point of view, so long as ignorance and misery remain on earth, books like this cannot be useless.
Near the end of the novel, Victor goes on to address the work's overarching structure (2):
 The book which the reader has before him at this moment is, from one end to the other, in its entirety and details ... a progress from evil to good, from injustice to justice, from falsehood to truth, from night to day, from appetite to conscience, from corruption to life; from bestiality to duty, from hell to heaven, from nothingness to God. The starting point: matter, destination: the soul. The hydra at the beginning, the angel at the end.
1. Behr, Complete Book, 39-42
2. Alexander Welsh, "Opening and Closing Les Misérables", in Harold Bloom, ed., Victor Hugo: Modern Critical Views (NY: Chelsea House, 1988), 155; Vol. 5, Book 1, Chapter 20
3. Sinclair, Upton (1915). The Cry for Justice: An Anthology of the Literature of Social Protest. Charles Rivers Editors. ISBN 978-1-247-96345-7.

Happy Reading and Keep on Writing!