Book Club Review: Adam Bede

adam bedeTitle: Adam Bede
Author: George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans)
Genre: Classics
Publisher: William Blackwood & Sons
Publication Date: 1859
Pages: 624
Format Read: Audiobook
Standalone or series: Standalone
Where I got the book: Library Hoopla app
Date finished reading: October 2, 2019

Goodreads Description: Adam Bede, the first novel written by George Eliot (the pen name of Mary Ann Evans), was published in 1859. It was published pseudonymously, even though Evans was a well-published and highly respected scholar of her time.
The story’s plot follows four characters’ rural lives in the fictional community of Hayslope—a rural, pastoral and close-knit community in 1799. The novel revolves around a love triangle between beautiful but self-absorbed Hetty Sorrel, Captain Arthur Donnithorne, the young squire who seduces her, Adam Bede, her unacknowledged suitor, and Dinah Morris, Hetty’s cousin, a fervent, virtuous and beautiful Methodist lay preacher.

My Review: Adam Bede was elected as our October read for the Classics book club that I participate in. This was my first time reading anything by George Eliot (aka Mary Ann Evans). I did like her writing. However, this story did not grip me at all. While the descriptions were beautiful at the beginning, and I could truly picture what this rural area and life there was like, it was slow moving for the first half of the book. There were some interesting characters, but in my opinion Adam Bede was a supporting character and should not have the honor of the title of this book. I also had a few other issues with this story, which too would be covered in the book club discussion.

Discussion kicked off by talking about the possibilities for why Adam Bede was chosen as the title of this story. There was a belief among some individuals that some of the female characters were stronger characters, like Hetty and Dinah. It was mentioned that maybe the Adam Bede was chosen as the title as it would be more appealing to both male and female readers of that time period. A more popular feeling that there was more depth to Adam Bede than the other characters – that the reader can see a very obvious transformation and growth in this character that you don’t see in the other characters. Adam began as a proud man, suffered from a tragic heartbreak and transitioned into a humble character. While I personally understand this explanation, in my opinion this does not make this character more interesting.

Dinah, however, was a strong character as someone who was radically progressive in her vocation as a Methodist preacher, especially for that time period. She might have represented what the author may have wanted from religion – no judgments just kindness to everyone equally. Hetty may be the most shallow of the characters, but she also created the disruption of this less than exciting story. Those two characters were my favorite.

I cannot help but defend Hetty a little bit, as I am sure that most people (including some members of my book club) think she is a complete drama queen of a character. I feel that while her mother was a very strong and intelligent woman, she and her husband did not necessarily instill those qualities on Hetty but brought her up to always look nice and be in search of a good husband. She was young, naive and seemed to care solely about wealth and nice things, which I think was necessary to show the contrast between Hetty and Dinah. Plus, Hetty’s character sure livened up the story, and I wish the reader could have had more of a glimpse into her thoughts after her life was spared.

There were a couple of unique things to note. The first was that much of Hetty and Arthur’s romance is left up to the imagination of the reader. If you didn’t guess, then you were very surprised by the pregnancy revelation. The second was how Hetty managed to hide her pregnancy from her family and Adam into the eighth month. That part was a bit unbelievable to me, though I have heard stories about that actually happening.

In book club, we only briefly discussed the character of Seth, Adam’s brother. I found this character very disappointing. I disliked how the author made this character so compliant to the wishes of his brother. Yes, I believed Seth loved his brother, but Seth showed no emotion when Adam confessed his love for Dinah, who was the woman that Seth had been in love with. He just accepted that match. The author would have the reader believe he was content being Dinah’s brother-in-law. Adam went crazy with jealously when he found out that Hetty, whom Adam loved, was romantically involved with Arthur. Shouldn’t Seth have had a bit of those same feelings? I guess I find the Biblical Cain and Abel representation much more realistic. Those Biblical characters were referenced in John Steinbeck’s epic East of Eden, which I just recently enjoyed reading. I admit after that Adam Bede was a bit of a drag to me.

Opinions were pretty split in my book club regarding George Eliot’s first novel. While I was one that did not enjoy it very much, I enjoyed the writing enough to still want to try reading something else by her – maybe Middlemarch or Silas Marner.

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ½

 

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Reading Agatha Christie – June 2019

One of my reading goals for 2019 is to become more familiar with works by different authors by featuring a different author every month (see A Focus on Authors Reading Challenge). June was spent reading some of Agatha Christie‘s many books along with a recent biography of her.

abcTitle: The A.B.C. Murders
Author: Agatha Christie
Genre: Mystery
Publisher: Collins Crime Club
Publication Date: January 6, 1936
Pages: 236
Format Read: Book
Standalone or series: Book 13 of the Hercule Poirot series
Where I got the book: Library book sale
Date finished reading: June 17, 2019

Goodreads Description: When Alice Ascher is murdered in Andover, Hercule Poirot is already on to the clues. Alphabetically speaking, it’s one down, twenty-five to go.

There’s a serial killer on the loose. His macabre calling card is to leave the ABC Railway guide beside each victim’s body. But if A is for Alice Asher, bludgeoned to death in Andover; and B is for Betty Bernard, strangled with her belt on the beach at Bexhill; then who will Victim C be?

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Murder_is_Easy_First_Edition_Cover_1939Title: Murder is Easy
Author: Agatha Christie
Genre: Mystery
Publisher: Collins Crime Club
Publication Date: June 5, 1939
Pages: 320
Format Read: Book
Standalone or series: Book 4 of the Superintendent Battle series
Where I got the book: Bookstore
Date finished reading: June 27, 2019

Goodreads Description: A new ‘signature edition’ of Agatha Christie’s thriller, featuring the return of Superintendent Battle. Luke Fitzwilliam could not believe Miss Pinkerton’s wild allegation that a multiple murderer was at work in the quiet English village of Wychwood — or her speculation that the local doctor was next in line. But within hours, Miss Pinkerton had been killed in a hit-and-run car accident. Mere coincidence? Luke was inclined to think so — until he read in The Times of the unexpected demise of Dr Humbleby…

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦

mysterious affairTitle: The Mysterious Affair at Styles
Author: Agatha Christie
Genre: Mystery
Publisher: John Lane
Publication Date: October 1920
Pages: 304
Format Read: Audiobook
Standalone or series: Book 1 of the Hercule Poirot series
Where I got the book: Library Libby app
Date finished reading: July 1, 2019

Goodreads Description: The famous case that launched the career of Hercule Poirot. When a wealthy heiress is murdered, Poirot steps out of retirement to find the killer. As the master detective makes his way through the list of suspects, he finds the solution in an elaborately planned scheme almost impossible to believe.

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

My Review: I’ve enjoyed reading Agatha Christie, since a teacher had my class read And Then There Were None and Murder on the Orient Express when I was 12 years old. Every now and then, I like to revisit her works. Since she is so prolific, there are plenty of her novels I have not read.

When I was younger I did not know how I quite felt about the Poirot character. He bothered me a little bit. However, as I get older, I see just how brilliant that character and series are (and quite humorous at times). I finally read the first book in the Hercule Poirot series, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, and was blown away by Christie’s descriptions of poison. I’ve always been impressed with Agatha Christie’s ability to set a scene and provide multiple suspects, but now I found that I am also impressed with her descriptions regarding the mode of murder.

I can’t help but compare modern mysteries and thrillers to the stories that Agatha Christie created. She truly set the baseline for what makes a great mystery. If you have never read an Agatha Christie book, I highly recommend doing so immediately!

My Overall Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ¼

 

Reading Kurt Vonnegut – May 2019

One of my reading goals for 2019 is to become more familiar with works by different authors by featuring a different author every month (see A Focus on Authors Reading Challenge). May was spent reading as many works by Kurt Vonnegut. My first experience with Vonnegut was reading Mother Night a few years back after my husband recommended it. I absolutely loved it! A little while later, I read Cat’s Cradle for an IRL book club, which I didn’t enjoy as much as Mother Night. 

9780385333849_p0_v1_s550x406Title: Slaughterhouse-Five
Author: Kurt Vonnegut
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: March 31, 1969
Pages: 205 pages
Format Read: Book
Standalone or series: Standalone
Where I got the book: Husband’s book collection
Date finished reading: May 22, 2019

Goodreads Description: Selected by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best novels of all time, Slaughterhouse-Five, an American classic, is one of the world’s great antiwar books. Centering on the infamous firebombing of Dresden, Billy Pilgrim’s odyssey through time reflects the mythic journey of our own fractured lives as we search for meaning in what we fear most.

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ½

4980Title: Breakfast of Champions
Author: Kurt Vonnegut
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: 1973
Pages: 303
Format Read: Audiobook/Book
Standalone or series: Standalone
Where I got the book: Library Libby app & husband’s book collection
Date finished reading: May 28, 2019

Goodreads Description: In Breakfast of Champions, one of Kurt Vonnegut’s  most beloved characters, the aging writer Kilgore Trout, finds to his horror that a Midwest car dealer is taking his fiction as truth. What follows is murderously funny satire, as Vonnegut looks at war, sex, racism, success, politics, and pollution in America and reminds us how to see the truth.

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦

Galapagos by  Kurt VonnegutTitle: Galapagos
Author: Kurt Vonnegut
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: 1985
Pages: 195
Format Read: Book
Standalone or series: Standalone
Where I got the book: Library book sale in Maryland
Date finished reading: June 5, 2019

Goodreads Description: Galápagos takes the reader back one million years, to A.D. 1986. A simple vacation cruise suddenly becomes an evolutionary journey. Thanks to an apocalypse, a small group of survivors stranded on the Galápagos Islands are about to become the progenitors of a brave, new, and totally different human race. In this inimitable novel, America’s master satirist looks at our world and shows us all that is sadly, madly awry–and all that is worth saving.

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

My Review: When my husband convinced me 10 years ago to finally read Kurt Vonnegut. I did not know at all what to expect. Vonnegut was like nothing I had ever read before. I think you could make the argument that if you mixed Joseph Heller and Margaret Atwood together, you may get something that comes at least a little close to what reading a Vonnegut book is like. There is satire and there is darkness. If those elements were not enough, Vonnegut also throws in some science fiction. He created lines that would forever be used as catch phrases in regular conversation. An example of this is that my husband always says the phrase: “so it goes”. I have started to use that phrase as well and realized where that phrase came from when I picked up Slaughterhouse-Five a few weeks ago. Vonnegut covers dark topics (like war) with a bit of humor that makes the story engaging and entertaining. I also enjoy how Vonnegut recycles characters but without forcing the reader to read his stories in a particular order. For instance, Kilgore Trout is fleetingly mentioned in many of Vonnegut’s books, but in Breakfast of Champions, the reader finally gets to learn more about Kilgore Trout.

Vonnegut stories are almost in a genre by themselves. While I really enjoyed Mother Night (my first Vonnegut read many years ago) and Galapagos (my most recent Vonnegut read), I didn’t quite love his more popular books like Slaughterhouse-Five, Cat’s Cradle and Breakfast of Champions. While they are still amazing, I just never can quite get into the science fiction parts that are a little out there. I fully admit that this issue is probably because I don’t tend to enjoy science fiction.

My Overall Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ½

Book Club Review: The Moon and Sixpence

9781604595659Title: The Moon and Sixpence
Author: William Somerset Maugham
Genre: Classic Literature, Historical Fiction
Publisher: Aegypan
Publication Date: 1919
Pages: 192
Format Read: ebook
Standalone or series: standalone
Where I got the book: Amazon kindle
Date finished reading: April 30, 2019

Goodreads Description: Based on the life of Paul Gauguin, The Moon and Sixpence is W. Somerset Maugham’s ode to the powerful forces behind creative genius.

Charles Strickland is a staid banker, a man of wealth and privilege. He is also a man possessed of an unquenchable desire to create art. As Strickland pursues his artistic vision, he leaves London for Paris and Tahiti, and in his quest makes sacrifices that leaves the lives of those closest to him in tatters. Through Maugham’s sympathetic eye Strickland’s tortured and cruel soul becomes a symbol of the blessing and the curse of transcendent artistic genius, and the cost in humans lives it sometimes demands.

My Review: This book was picked for my IRL Great Books book club. Even though the Goodreads description says that this book is based on the life of Paul Gauguin, it is loosely based on his life – more like Paul Gauguin inspired the idea of The Moon and Sixpence.

This meetup was another good example of why I feel book clubs are valuable. I did not enjoy this book at all, but the book club still had an amazing discussion regarding it. The discussion often centered around the main themes we believed the book possessed:

  • What is art & what makes a work successful? What makes art art? It is discussed in the book that sometimes it just takes one critic to praise the work for it to be successful.
  • What drives an artist?
  • A great artist does not necessarily mean that he/she is a great person. There was a lot of discussion about beauty vs. goodness, as many of us did not find Strickland (the main character) or even the narrator redeemable characters.

I could not really see passed the fact that I disliked the main character, Strickland. At one point Strickland is talking to the narrator and says this about his wife: “My dear fellow, I only hope you’ll be able to make her see it. But women are very unintelligent.” Other times, there would be lines that were less insulting that made me laugh a bit, so I think there are many lines and interactions throughout the book that are supposed to be humorous.

The most interesting conversation during book club was how much the author may have put of himself in this story. In The Moon and Sixpence, the main character, Strickland, leaves his family, his source of income and his position in English society to move to Paris to pursue art. He didn’t care about anyone but himself and his art. We wondered if the narrator, who is fascinated by Strickland, was experiencing some self-hate and jealous of Strickland. That he may have been struggling with societal restraints just as the author was.

After this book club meeting, I do believe there is more depth to this book than I originally gave it credit for. However, I just could not see passed the horrible characters. I did not feel like there were any characters in the story to really like. I will admit that I am a bit more fascinated by William Somerset Maugham’s life than his literary works.

My Rating: ♦ ♦

Spring Reading – 2019

Spring is almost here! I will be continuing to read for my Reading the Classics Challenge and my 2019 Focus on Authors Challenge. Titles may be added based on giveaways, book club picks, etc.

Book Club Reads

  • The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
  • A Cold Day for Murder by Dana Stabenow
  • In the Woods by Tana French
  • The Moon and Sixpence by W. Somerset Maugham
  • Good Omens by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett 

NetGalley Reads

  • The Last Stone by Mark Bowden
  • The Castle on Sunset by Shawn Levy
  • The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson
  • Maybe This Time by Jill Mansell
  • Smitten by the Brit by Melonie Johnson
  • The Dark Bones by Loreth Anne White
  • Summer Hours by Amy Mason Doan

Readalongs

  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K. Rowling
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling
  • East of Eden by John Steinbeck

2019 Focus on Authors

  • Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
  • Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood
  • Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  • Galapagos by Kurt Vonnegut
  • The A.B.C. Murders by Agatha Christie
  • Murder is Easy by Agatha Christie
  • The Greater Journey by David McCullough

Reading the Classics

  • The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
  • The Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Other

  • Off the Clock by Laura Vanderkam – audiobook 
  • The Children by David Halberstam – audiobook
  • The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg – audiobook
  • Becoming by Michelle Obama – audiobook/book
  • Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain – audiobook
  • Made to Stick by Chip Heath – audiobook
  • Outer Order, Inner Calm by Gretchen Rubin – book 
  • The Nannie Diaries by Emma McLaughlin & Nicola Kraus – book
  • The Library at the Edge of the World by Felicity Hayes-McCoy – ebook

What is on your Spring TBR? Any recommendations?

Winter Reading – 2018

20181213_090042The Winter season is almost upon us. I will be continuing to read for my Reading the Classics Challenge and my 2019 Focus on Authors Challenge. This is an ambitious list as my Fall Reading list was (too ambitious), but I am looking forward to all of these. Titles may be added based on book club picks, etc.

 

NetGalley Reads

  • An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks; Sarah Pekkanen
  • She Lies in Wait by Gytha Lodge
  • Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal 
  • The Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict
  • One Day in December by Josie Silver
  • A Christmas Date by Camilla Isley
  • Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe
  • The Trial of Lizzie Borden by Cara Robertson
  • The Library Book by Susan Orlean

Giveaways

  • The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

Book Club Reads

  • The Odyssey by Homer (translated by Emily Wilson)
  • The Coroner’s Lunch by Colin Cotterill
  • The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware
  • All Systems Red by Martha Wells

2019 Focus on Authors:

  • White Teeth by Zadie Smith
  • Swing Time by Zadie Smith
  • On Beauty by Zadie Smith
  • Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • The Johnstown Flood by David McCullough
  • The Wright Brothers by David McCullough

Readalong

  • East of Eden by John Steinbeck

Other

  • As Bright As Heaven by Susan Meissner – book
  • Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan – book
  • Murder Never Takes a Holiday by Jessica Fletcher & Donald Bain – book
  • Skipping Christmas by John Grisham – book
  • Mansfield Park by Jane Austen – ebook
  • A Caribbean Mystery by Agatha Christie – ebook
  • Green River, Running Red by Ann Rule – audiobook
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling – audiobook
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling – audiobook
  • The Good Neighbor by Fred Rogers – audiobook
  • The Greatest Love Story Ever Told by Megan Mullally & Nick Offerman – audiobook
  • My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh – audiobook
  • The Coldest Winter by David Halberstam – audiobook
  • The Radium Girls by Kate Moore – audiobook
  • Hillbily Elegy by J.D. Vance – audiobook
  • Notorious RBG by Irin Carmon & Shana Knizhnik – audiobook
  • Missoula by Jon Krakauer – audiobook
  • Hunger by Roxane Gay – audiobook
  • The Daily Show by Chris Smith & Jon Stewart – audiobook
  • Lab Girl by Hope Jahren – audiobook

 

What’s on your TBR for the winter season? Any recommendations?

Reading the Classics 2018-2022

I have been seeing that a few other book bloggers are challenging themselves to reading more of the classics. I attempted to do the same this year with my 2018 A-Z Classics Reading Challenge and failed. It was just too much, when I’m reading so many other books as well. I am going to try something a bit different. I am creating a list of 50 classics that will consist of the ones from my A-Z challenge and additions. However, I will be giving myself 5 years to complete this challenge. I think that will be much more manageable.

Here is the list (the books in red are the ones that I have completed):

  1. Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte
  2. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  3. Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell
  4. Dubliners by James Joyce
  5. East of Eden by John Steinbeck
  6. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  7. The Giver by Lois Lowry
  8. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  9.  I, Robot by Isaac Asimov
  10. Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier
  11. Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson
  12. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  13. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
  14. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
  15. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
  16. Peyton Place by Grace Metalious
  17. The Quiet American by Graham Greene
  18. The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe
  19. The Snows of Kilimanjaro by Ernest Hemingway
  20. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
  21. Utopia by Thomas More
  22. Veronika Decides to Die by Paulo Coelho
  23. The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
  24. Xingu by Edith Wharton
  25. The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
  26. Zeno’s Conscience by Italo Svevo
  27. A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  28. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
  29. Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck
  30. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
  31. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
  32. Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin
  33. Midaq Alley by Naguib Mahfouz
  34. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
  35. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
  36. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  37. The Odyssey by Homer
  38. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  39. The Lottery by Shirley Jackson
  40. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  41. Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
  42. The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
  43. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
  44. The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton
  45. Dune by Frank Herbert
  46. Death Come for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
  47. Women in Love by D. H. Lawrence
  48. A Room with a View by E. M. Forster
  49. The Stranger by Albert Camus
  50. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Classics not on the list but also read during this time:

  1. Beloved by Toni Morrison
  2. The Moon and Sixpence by W. Somerset Maugham
  3. Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut
  4. Galapagos by Kurt Vonnegut
  5. Adam Bede by George Eliot

I am very much looking forward to reading more classics, especially the ones that have been on my bookshelves for years and years. Have any of you read these? Any favorites on this list?