Sunday, August 31, 2014

It's Monday (And September)... What are you reading?

This week was my last week of the Beat the Heat readathon so I tried to keep up with my reading with that as well as prepare for my first test of the semester. I'm not sure that was the best idea but...

Finished

  • Bridge on the River Kwai by Pierre Boulle
I enjoyed this book a lot. Before I started it I thought it would be pretty boring but oh my it wasn't! It kept me entertained the whole way through and I almost read it in one day. There is a movie of it too that I know I watched a long time ago but I don't recall that I hear is quite good also. I look forward to watching it sometime soon. 

Currently Reading

  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling
  • Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
  • The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
Peter Pan and Harry Poter and the Order of the Phoenix are re-reads, though Peter Pan I haven't read in many years and I scarcely recalled. I am really liking this re-read though. It is a very British book. :) 

Coming Soon 

  • The Book of Lost Tales Part II by J.R.R. Tolkien
I read the first part back at the beginning of July and enjoyed it but then didn't get around to reading the second part and I'd like to get it done so I can return them to their rightful owner (i.e. not me). 

Checked out from the library 

  • Christianity and Liberalism by J. Gresham Machen
  • Christian Love by Hugh Binning
  • The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes
  • The Rare Christian Jewel of Christian Contentment
I asked my brother to pick me out some books from the church library by dead authors as one of my reading challenges is to read books by dead Christian authors. So he ended up loading me up with these four books, which all but the first one are by Puritans so they're quite dead. ;)

Book Reviews Posted this Week

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Book (Play) Review- As You Like It

This was one of the hardest Shakespeares I've listened to to follow along to as I wasn't as familiar with the story line. However I enjoyed it and I'm hoping to watch a film version soon to fill in all of my holes. :)
Here's the synopsis from Goodreads: As You Like It is a pastoral comedy by William Shakespeare believed to have been written in 1599 or early 1600 and first published in the First Folio, 1623. The play's first performance is uncertain, though a performance at Wilton House in 1603 has been suggested as a possibility. As You Like It follows its heroine Rosalind as she flees persecution in her uncle's court, accompanied by her cousin Celia and Touchstone the court jester, to find safety and, eventually, love, in the Forest of Arden. Historically, critical response has varied, with some critics finding the work of lesser quality than other Shakespearean works and some finding the play a work of great merit.
The play features one of Shakespeare's most famous and oft-quoted speeches, "All the world's a stage", and is the origin of the phrase "too much of a good thing". The play remains a favourite among audiences and has been adapted for radio, film, and musical theatre.
As You Like It is a fun romantic comedy with not lots of depth but plenty of laughs. Mistaken identities and love sick hearts are the theme in this play with a touch of power struggle to round it out. There's really not much more to it. I'd recommend read or listen to it and hopefully you'll enjoy it as much as I did. :)

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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Book Review: The Rape of Nanking

For my nonfiction reading challenge I read The Rape of Nanking. It's a book I've seen on the bookshelf for many years alongside many other thick historical books and I really never knew what it was about. I had decided though to take on some thick history books and I asked my dad for suggestions and that was one of the ones he recommended.
Side note... there are a ton of really thick history books on that bookshelf and I have the feeling my Dad's read them all. I doubt I will ever be able to surpass him in reading. Maybe... someday.
Actually though, The Rape of Nanking isn't too thick and was probably the skinniest on the shelf. There are plenty of thicker ones. It did live up to my dad's recommendation though and I found it to be an exceptional piece of historical literature.
Here's the synopsis from Goodreads: In December 1937, the Japanese army invaded the ancient city of Nanking, systematically raping, torturing, and murdering more than 300,000 Chinese civilians. This book tells the story from three perspectives: of the Japanese soldiers who performed it, of the Chinese civilians who endured it, and of a group of Europeans and Americans who refused to abandon the city and were able to create a safety zone that saved many.
Reading it reminded me of when I read Foxe's Book of Martyrs back in the eighth grade. The horrors that happened in Nanking were quite akin to those in the aforementioned book. It was well written and kept me engaged. I went through the book quickly, maybe helped along by the fact that I was sick, so there wasn't really anything else to do (I guess except cough and blow my nose). ;) The history was fascinating and heartbreaking. It was sad to see that so many of the perpetrators of the horrors were never punished for their crimes. When I read this book I was reminded once again of the depravity of man.
A great book for the history lover and the non-history lover. Highly recommend! 

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Friday, August 29, 2014

Book Review: World War 1

I love history but when it comes down to it my weakest area is anything past the American War for Independece though I do like the War between the States as well. The point is, World War 1, World War 2, and the surrounding wars just aren't something I ever knew much about. So reading Richard J. Maybury's book about it really opened up my eyes to what really was going on with World War 1. To be clear, what is depicted in this book is not the traditional outlook on the war. 
This books is written in a form of letters from "Uncle Eric" to his nephew explaining to him the origins of World War 1 and how it affects us today. So yes, it is meant for someone younger than me to be reading, but I still found it interesting and not too young. 

"Uncle Eric" begins by talking about the ten deadly idea that lead to war. 
1. The Pax Romana (The belief that we can create the Roman Peace, which never really existed.) 
2. Fascism (Unification of everyone under a single government that does whatever is necessary, no limits.)
3. Love of Political Power (War is the most exciting tool of power seekers.)
4. Global Protection (The belief that a government has the duty or right to protect its citizens no matter where they choose to go or what risk they choose to take.)
5. Interests (Do not even try to figure this one out, leaders have gone to war for centuries in the "interest" of their holdings or people, but nobody has ever legally defined interests...) 
6. Cost Externalization (Big business using the global protection stance of a government to cover protection costs.)
7. Manifest Destiny (Because we think that God has given us that charge.)
8. The White Man's Burden or Anglo-Saxonism (America knows what is best, we can decide, even for others.) 
9. Alliances (Safety in numbers can mean that we have to fight somebody else's war.) 
10. The Glory of War (We need heroes, it is a very real reason...)
He also delved back to our founding fathers and George Washington's statement that we should never get into other countries' wars and how getting into the Spanish American War led up to getting into the World Wars. It is a little difficult to explain as it is very complex but I would highly recommend that you read this book to help you understand more of our history as it is making a very real impact on America's current situation in the middle east. It definitely challenged my beliefs and made me rethink a lot of things I had previously supposed about the wars. I'm hoping to read his book about World War II sometime soon to see his opinion on it. 

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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Book Review: Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

I went into reading Diary of a Young Girl knowing virtually nothing about the storyline except that it followed a Jewish girl while she was in hiding during World War II. Also I knew that it was incredibly famous and highly popular. So I guess I might say I was let down a little. Not to say I didn't enjoy it and think it was a good book, but in my opinion it is way over hyped. 
Here's the synopsis from Goodreads: Discovered in the attic in which she spent the last years of her life, Anne Frank's remarkable diary has since become a world classic—a powerful reminder of the horrors of war and an eloquent testament to the human spirit.In 1942, with Nazis occupying Holland, a thirteen-year-old Jewish girl and her family fled their home in Amsterdam and went into hiding. For the next two years, until their whereabouts were betrayed to the Gestapo, they and another family lived cloistered in the "Secret Annexe" of an old office building. Cut off from the outside world, they faced hunger, boredom, the constant cruelties of living in confined quarters, and the ever-present threat of discovery and death.In her diary Anne Frank recorded vivid impressions of her experiences during this period. By turns thoughtful, moving, and amusing, her account offers a fascinating commentary on human courage and frailty and a compelling self-portrait of a sensitive and spirited young woman whose promise was tragically cut short.
It's kind of hard to explain my contentions with this book but I'll try my best. First off, the whole time I was reading it I felt just a little awkward. It is a diary, I understand, but I guess it is almost just too personal for me. In all actuality, I'm a little surprised her father had it published. The parts I found especially awkward and even unnecessary were her thoughts on sexuality and especially her conversations with Peter, the young man she liked, about sexuality. I'm still just really shocked she talked about stuff like that to him.
Another aspect I disliked about the book was how cruel she was to her mother, and at times other members of her family. We have a very one sided view of what happened but Anne justifies her dislike, pretty much hatred, of her mother over and over again, which I find sad and disturbing. While, no, I don't always agree with what her mother say or does, I cannot imagine justifying Anne's feelings. It seems that we are suppose to make an allowance for Anne many times because she is in a stressful situation but I believe only so much allowance can be made.
What I did like about the book was the perspective of what families who were in hiding had to go through. I found that so fascinating to see them living day to day, making things work that seemed impossible.
Would I call this book inspiring? Maybe. Would I call it historically interesting? Yes. Would I recommend it? Sure. But read it discerningly, not giving into the hype surrounding it but looking at it with a more perceptive eye.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Book Review- The Wind in the Willows

For my re-reading challenge I completed Kenneth Graham's The Wind in the Willows. I don't remember anything about reading it when I was younger, I just know that I did. Growing up I watched a film version of it that my grandparents had a lot, and now that I've re-read the book I'd like to watch it again. As far as I recall, it followed along with the book really quite well.
Re-reading through it though, I was captivated by how well written it was, drawing you into the world of these fantastical woodland creatures and their lives. It strongly reminded me of Thornton Burgess's books that I read a lot growing up.
The Wind in the Willows follows the story of Mole, a simple hole dweller who one day gets fed up with his spring cleaning and takes off through the woods to look for something different. He then means Ratty, a water rat, who shows him the joys of the river. They have many adventures together, including several run ins with Toad, a egotistical, petulant and wealthy woodland creature. This story tells a lot about friendship, selfishness and money.
Even though this time I was reading it later in life at an age that the book was not geared toward, I still found it fun and quite insightful. I would recommend it to all ages as a refreshing and relaxing read. :)
P.S. There are a lot of film versions of The Wind in the Willows. The one I watched growing up was the 1995 version.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Top Ten Books I Really Want to Read but Don't Own yet

I rarely buy books unless they're old favorites and I'm buying it at a library book sale or something along those lines for a great price. Normally I just get books from the library. A lot of the books I want to read though my family normally has. We have over a thousand books at my house (no kidding!) that my Dad has collected from various library book sales and our annual family Christmas gift of a box of books. Normally, therefore, I'm not at a loss for books but there are the handful that we don't own that I have to scrounge up at the library. I've found interlibrary loan very helpful. :)
So this list actually is the top ten books I really want to read but I haven't gotten ahold of a copy yet from the library.
  1. Armadale by Wilkie Collins
  2. No Name by Wilkie Collins
  3. Arsenic and Old Lace by Joseph Kesselring
  4. The Mark of Zorro by Johnston McCulley
  5. The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope
  6. Can You Forgive Her by Anthony Trollope
  7. Mary Poppins in Cherry Tree Lane by P.L. Travers
  8. Mary Poppins and the House Next Door by P.L. Travers
  9. The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions
  10. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
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Monday, August 25, 2014

Bout of Books: Wrap Up

Bout of BooksLast week was Bout of Books and I got a nice hunk of reading done during it! It was my goal to complete five books that week but I completed only four but I think that was still pretty good considering it was my first week of school. I read for a total of 7 ½ hours last week.
I read Val Mcdermid's modern version of Northanger Abbey, which was okay but not at all great. You can read my thoughts about it on Goodreads here.
I also completed re-reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
After long last I finished reading Dickens' Our Mutual Friend (read my review here) and listening to Shakespeare's Hamlet. 
I think I did a decent job overall for my first Bout of Books and I'm looking forward to my next one!
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Book (Play) Review: Henry V

One of my favorite Shakespeares but probably mostly because I really like the Kenneth Branaugh movie. The opening chorus though is one of my favorites and I also really Henry V's St. Crispin's Day speech. Those have been my favorites for a long time, even before I watched or read it. I'm just going to share these here now so you can impart in my love for them. :)

St. Crispin's Day Speech

Westmorland- O that we now had here     But one ten thousand of those men in England     That do no work to-day!  
Henry V- What's he that wishes so?     My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin;     If we are mark'd to die, we are enow     To do our country loss; and if to live,     The fewer men, the greater share of honour.     God's will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.     By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,     Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;     It yearns me not if men my garments wear;     Such outward things dwell not in my desires.     But if it be a sin to covet honour,     I am the most offending soul alive.     No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England.     God's peace! I would not lose so great an honour     As one man more methinks would share from me     For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!     Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,     That he which hath no stomach to this fight,     Let him depart; his passport shall be made,     And crowns for convoy put into his purse;     We would not die in that man's company     That fears his fellowship to die with us.     This day is call'd the feast of Crispian.     He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,     Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam'd,     And rouse him at the name of Crispian.     He that shall live this day, and see old age,     Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,     And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian.'     Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,     And say 'These wounds I had on Crispian's day.'     Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,     But he'll remember, with advantages,     What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,     Familiar in his mouth as household words-     Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,     Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-     Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb'red.     This story shall the good man teach his son;     And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,     From this day to the ending of the world,     But we in it shall be remembered-     We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;     For he to-day that sheds his blood with me     Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,     This day shall gentle his condition;     And gentlemen in England now-a-bed     Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,     And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks     That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

Henry V Chorus 

O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend 
The brightest heaven of invention, 
A kingdom for a stage, princes to act 
And monarchs to behold the swelling scene! 
Then should the warlike Harry, like himself, 
Assume the port of Mars; and at his heels, 
Leash'd in like hounds, should famine, sword and fire 
Crouch for employment. But pardon, and gentles all, 
The flat unraised spirits that have dared 
On this unworthy scaffold to bring forth 
So great an object: can this cockpit hold 
The vasty fields of France? or may we cram 
Within this wooden O the very casques 
That did affright the air at Agincourt? 
O, pardon! since a crooked figure may 
Attest in little place a million; 
And let us, ciphers to this great accompt, 
On your imaginary forces work. 
Suppose within the girdle of these walls 
Are now confined two mighty monarchies, 
Whose high upreared and abutting fronts 
The perilous narrow ocean parts asunder: 
Piece out our imperfections with your thoughts; 
Into a thousand parts divide on man, 
And make imaginary puissance; 
Think when we talk of horses, that you see them 
Printing their proud hoofs i' the receiving earth; 
For 'tis your thoughts that now must deck our kings, 
Carry them here and there; jumping o'er times, 
Turning the accomplishment of many years 
Into an hour-glass: for the which supply, 
Admit me Chorus to this history; 
Who prologue-like your humble patience pray, 
Gently to hear, kindly to judge, our play.

See how amazing those are! Obviously these should be enough for you to want to go read Henry V right now. Or you could do an audiobook like I did. I always like listening to Shakespeare on audiobook. I know I've mentioned that here before but I really think that is a preferable way to "read" Shakespeare. There's not really anymore raptures I have available for Henry V!  Just read/listen to it! 

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