Day 21 – First Novel You Remember Reading

This book is so obscure that I can’t even find a cover photo for it.  Flip: the Story of An Otter.

It wasn’t a classic, and obviously it is not now well-known, but from it I developed a complete love of otters.  The story was so cute in some places, yet starkly realistic in others, that it drew me right into their world.  I still have the book on my shelf and from the library due date card in it, I took it out of library at least once every two weeks. It is still one of my most treasured books!


Day 20 – Favourite Romance Novel

Okay, I admit that I don’t read romance novels very much anymore.  So I’m going to change the challenge to “favourite romances in books”.  Now for an eclectic mix ….

The romance of Dante and Beatrice!  He first saw her when she was eight years old and loved her until her death at 24, even though their lives did not intersect.  She was his muse and guides souls to heaven in The Divine Comedy.

Another Beatrice and her love Benedick feature in the Shakespearian drama, Much Ado About Nothing.  It is said that the course of true love never did run smooth and that is a perfect description of the relationship between these two characters.  A fun romance to read about!

A beautiful story of a boy and his dog.  It made my cry!


Day 19 – Favourite Book Turned Into A Movie

Without a doubt, the movie version of Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle is my favourite book turned movie.  The producers stuck so closely to the plot and all the lines so closely mirror the dialogue in the book that it is a true production of the original. 

Other versions try to alter the story or the actors aren’t able to portray the characters of Elizabeth and Darcy accurately, making them poor comparisons.  

And, just to be obscure, another adaptation that I have actual enjoyed more than the book is Doctor Finlay by A.J. Cronin, a story of a doctor in a small town in post-WWII Scotland.

David Rintoul’s performance is excellent and I find the medical procedures of the time fascinating.

An interesting tidbit:  Rintoul played Mr. Darcy in a 1980 version of Pride and Prejudice.  


Day 18 – A Book That Was a Disappointment

I love Tove Jansson’s Moomin series!!  So what better book to grab for a summer read on an island, than her The Summer Book.  I was so looking forward to it but, overall the book was a sad disappointment.  I thought it would be a nostalgic, earthy, summer-y story about a grandmother and her granddaughter on an island in the Gulf of Finland.  However I found it started rather abruptly and the relationship between the two of them was almost antagonistic.  At times the granddaughter was outright rude, seemingly for very little reason, and the father was often “absent”, even though he was there.  It did pick up, with more description and a few funny stories but that wonderful enjoyment of a summer read was woefully lacking.  

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

“The seller of lightning rods arrived just ahead of the storm.”

What better time to read this book than during the days leading up to Halloween.  I expected a terrifying, nail-biting, ride of horror but to my surprise, the story left me completely flat.

A carnival comes to a small town and two boys, Will & Jim, are anticipating its amusements; what they experience instead is an evil that almost defies their abilities to comprehend and their efforts to contain.  Finally, Will’s father, stumbles on a way to defeat the devious ghouls and all is saved ………. for now ……..

After reading up on Bradbury’s making of the novel, it was initially conceived as a screenplay.  Perhaps this is part of the reason why the book felt so awkward to me.  A visual conception full of lyrical language, darkness and evil, in a setting with conventional characters in a commonplace town ………. hmmmm ……..  Bradbury does not really explore any of the characters other than Jim, Will and his father.  Even the Illustrated Man, the leader of this nefarious group, is not developed past a description of him and a few instances where he is able to evoke fear.  And as for the language, the florid, and at times, awkward description was distracting from the plot.  Not that it couldn’t be used to an advantage, perhaps like a symphony or as even a Greek chorus, but Bradbury wielded it in a stumbling manner, interspersing it through both the characters and narrative alike.  An example:

“It was indeed a time between, one second their thoughts all brambled airedale, the next all silken slumbering cat.”

Well, okay, that’s a nice image but the reader has to pause and think how to apply it to the narrative.  It appears he is setting up the following sentences in the paragraph, which are a list of contrasts, but how does it really fit into the story?

And this one:

“Since now learn otherwise.  Sometimes the man who looks happiest in town, with the biggest smile, is the one carrying the biggest load of sin.  There are smiles and smiles; learn to tell the dark variety from the light.  The seal-barker, the laugh-shouter, half the time he’s covering up.  He’s had his fun and he’s guilty.  And men do love sin, Will, oh how they love it, never doubt, in all shapes, sizes, colors, and smells.  Times come when troughs, not tables, suit our appetites.  Hear a man too loudly praising others, and look to wonder if he didn’t just get up from the sty.  On the other hand, that unhappy, pale, put-upon man walking by, who looks all guilt and sin, why, often that’s your good man with a capital G, Will.  For being good is a fearful occupation; men strain at it and sometimes break in two.  I’ve know a few.  You work twice as hard to be a farmer as to be his hog.  I suppose it’s thinking about trying to be good makes the crack run up the wall one night.  A man with high standards, too, the least hair falls on him sometimes wilts his spine.  He can’t let himself alone, won’t lift himself off the hook, if he falls just a breath from grace …………. Oh, it would be lovely if you could just be fine, act fine, not think of it all the time.  But it’s hard, right?  with the last piece of lemon cake waiting in the icebox, middle of the night, not yours, but you lie awake in a hot sweat for it, eh?  do I need tell you?  Or, a hot spring day, noon, and there you are chained to your school desk and away off there goes the river, cool and fresh over the rock-fall.  Boys can hear clear water like that miles away.  So, minute by minute, hour by hour, a lifetime, it never ends, never stops, you got the choice this second, now this next, and the next after that, be good, be bad, that’s what the clock ticks, that’s what it says in the ticks…….”

A great piece of philosophy but it kind of dribbles off and falls into nothing.  Did Will learn anything from it?  The reader will never know because it is not addressed again.  Did Will’s behaviour change between before his father imparted this wisdom to him and after?  Not really.  Will was basically good throughout the book, Jim was a boy who liked to live on the edge and the father was a scholar cum philosopher who liked to contemplate the world around him.  No — character — development.

All in all, I didn’t hate the book but I found it distracting, disjointed, and poorly developed.  If I hadn’t read it, I wouldn’t have missed it.

Rating:  C



Day 17 – Favourite Quote From Your Favourite Book

Whew!  This was a tough one!  Surprisingly so, because I love quotes.  Yet nothing is coming directly to mind so I’m going to randomly go with:

“Thou speak’st aright.
I am that merry wanderer of the night.
I jest to Oberon and make him smile
When I a fat and bean-fed horse beguile,
Neighing in likeness of a filly foal.
And sometimes lurk I in a gossip’s bowl
In very likeness of a roasted crab,
And when she drinks, against her lips I bob
And on her withered dewlap pour the ale.
The wisest aunt telling the saddest tale
Sometime for three-foot stool mistaketh me.
Then slip I from her bum, down topples she.
And “Tailor!” cries, and falls into a cough,
And the the whole quire hold their hips and laugh,
And waxen in their mirth, and neeze, and swear
A merrier hour was never wasted there.”
                          Act II, Scene I


“Captain of our fairy band,
Helena is here at hand,
And the youth, mistook by me,
Pleading for a lover’s fee.
Shall we their fond pageant see?
Lord, what fools these mortals be!
                         Act III, Scene II

Planning Ahead – 2014

I thought I would get a jump start on the year by listing some of my planned reads for 2014.  Since I’m so easily influenced when it comes to books, it will be interesting to compare my planned reads to my actual reads at the end of 2014.  My suspicion is that they won’t look particularly similar.

Here is the pick and choose list:

2014 Around the World Challenge (dead authors)

  1.  The Saga of the Volsungs
  2.  Fear and Trembling – Soren Kierkegaard
  3.  Les Lettres Du Mon Moulin – Alphonse Daudet
  4.  The Maias – Eça de Queirós
  5.  (book undecided) – Isaac Bashevis Singer
  6.  The Arabian Nights: Tales from One Thousand and One Nights
  7.  The Epic of Gilgamesh
  8.  The Cairo Trilogy – Naguib Mahfouz
  9.  Cry the Beloved Country – Alan Paton
10.  The Brothers Karamazov – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
11.  The Story of Stone – Cao Xueqin
12.  The Far Pavillons – M.M. Kaye
13.  Invisible Cities – Italo Calvino
14.  The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas – Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis

2014 Biography Challenge

  1.  The Lives of the Artists – Giorgio Vasari
  2.  Team of Rivals – Doris Kearns Goodwin
  3.  Jack: A Biography – George Sayer
  4.  Unbroken – Lauren Hillenbrand
  5.  Bonhoeffer – Eric Metaxas


  1.  A Distant Mirror – Barbara Tuchman
  2.  The History of the Ancient World – Susan Wise Bauer (ongoing)
  3.  The History of the Middle Ages – Susan Wise Bauer (begin)
  4.  Temples, Tombs and Hieroglyphs – Barbara Mertz
  5.  Red Land, Black Land – Barbara Mertz

2014 C.S. Lewis Challenge

  1.  The Chronicles of Narnia
  2.  Mere Christianity
  3.  The Screwtape Letters
  4.  The Great Divorce
  5.  Surprised by Joy
  6.  A Grief Observed
  7.  Out of the Silent Planet
  8.  Perelandra
  9.  That Hideous Strength
10.  God In The Dock

2014 TBR List Challenge

  1.  The Epic of Gilgamesh
  2.  The Rule of St. Benedict – Saint Benedict
  3.  The Cloud of Unknowing
  4.  Address to Young Men on the Right Use of Greek Literature – Saint Basil
  5.  (the next Rougon book) – Émile Zola
  6.  The Cloister and the Hearth – Charles Reade
  7.  Bleak House – Charles Dickens
  8.  Hard Times – Charles Dickens
  9.  The Man Who Was Thursday – G.K. Chesterton
10.  Defense Speeches – Cicero (finish)

That’s it for now.  There are a few more children’s books I’d like to add, I was thinking of throwing in a few Shakespearian plays and possibly a Trollope series, but we’ll see ……….

No, I do not think I will finish all of these books but if they are in a post, staring me in the face, at least it will help me from getting distracted …………..  I think …………


Day 16 – Favourite Female Character

Jane Eyre is a wonderful female character.  She somehow remains childlike in her spirit; curious, intelligent, sympathetic and honest, yet she is also a strong woman who will not compromise her principles.  Her loyalty is unwavering and I was happy that she was rewarded for her perseverance at the end of the novel.  Even so, Charlotte Bronte did not wrap everything up in a perfect bundle.  Edward Rochester would not have been the easier man to live with but Jane knew his faults and how to moderate them.  It was a good match.

Able Seaman, Titty, from Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons series, is my next choice.  Oh, to have her imagination!  She is full of spunk and adventurous ideas; Captain Flint (Uncle Jim) would still be missing his “treasure” if it hadn’t been for her ingenuity.  A first class female heroine!

She is one of the main character’s in Dante’s The Divine Comedy.  Beatrice ……… what better reputation than being famous for guiding souls to Heaven!  Even though Dante only saw her twice in his lifetime, she became his muse and he called her, “la gloriosa donna della mia mente” which translates to “the glorious lady of my mind”.

A slightly less than enthusiastic vote goes to Penelope, wife of Odyseuss in The Odyssey.

There could be no better tribute to love than to wait for your husband for 20 years, ten while he was fighting in the Trojan War and ten while he was attempting to make his way home again.  However, I still think there must have been some way to get rid of all those pesky suitors!


Day 15 – Favourite Male Character


Hector, a prince of Troy and brother to Paris, (who stole Helen) in The Iliad.  Courageous and brave, a man who comes “like some fierce tempest that swoops down upon the sea”, he is also a man loyal to his wife and small son.  Duty is all to Hector and in it he never wavers, even when he knows that death is a certainty.  A true hero.

I also like Sarpedon, in The Iliad. King of Lycia, he was an important ally of the Trojans.  His forces were the first to enter the Greek encampment which allowed Hector to break through the Greek wall.  He fell in battle, killed by Patroclus, friend of Achilles.

Also high on my list is Aristides, an Athenian statesman, who was called “The Just”.  It is rumoured that he acquired that appellation in this manner:  Themistocles and he had quarrelled once too often and the people were voting on which one to exile.  An illiterate farmer, who did not recognize Aristides, asked him to write “Aristides” on the ballot.  Aristides inquired if this “man” had wronged him and the farmer replied, no, he didn’t even know him, but he was annoyed at always hearing him called “The Just”.  Aristides was so honest that he did as the man requested.  Now that is my idea of a hero.  He was exiled, but was recalled to defend Athens and gave his loyal support to Themistocles who was eventually exiled himself.

And to complete the hero roster, Leonidas I, King of Sparta.

During the Battle of Thermopylaea, he marched with 6,300 soldiers to defend the pass against a Persian force that Herodotus numbered in the millions.  Leonidas held the pass against the army of Xerxes I but when a Greek shepherd betrayed his kinsman by showing the Persians a secret way around from behind, Leonidas and all his army were slain.  

None of these men were “characters” so to speak, but how much more interesting to draw heroes from real life!


Day 14 – Book Turned Into A Movie and Completely Desecrated 

Beowulf, the epic poem, a story of a courageous hero who battles two evil, ferocious demons who are wreaking havoc on the Danes, and shows his power by the consideration with which he treats others.

Beowulf and Grendel, the movie, where Grendel is not an evil monster, but a poor, misunderstood one, who hates the Danes for killing his father.  Throw in a witch (huh?), a story of a rape, and Beowulf and the witch getting it on, and you just have to smack your head and say, WHAT?!!!

This movie is a disgrace to the poem, a cheap attempt twist the original plot and themes to make a social statement and to add themes for gratuitous, infantile pleasure.

I can’t make enough bad remarks about this one.