Friday, July 31, 2015

On the Bookshelf: Where I discuss a Southerner, an Englishwoman, and a French Convict

Hello, everyone! I think it's time for the occasional discussion of literature around here. This series, "On the Bookshelf," is a place where we can share the books that we've been reading lately! My goal is to give you my brief take on each book that I've read from the library (even the ones I don't like), so if you need any reading ideas, I might have something for you to try! This week's discussion ranges from some Jane Austen adventures to the heartfelt prayers of a beloved author. Sit back with some coffee or tea and join me!

First Impressions: A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen, by Charlie Lovett. I love Jane Austen, so how could I not pick up this book? It follows the dual narratives of Sophie, a woman in modern-day England, and Jane Austen herself. In the Jane Austen thread of the story, you see the (fictional) events unwind that lead to the writing of Pride and Prejudice. In the modern-day part of the story, you see Sophie embark on a rollicking, National Treasure flavored adventure when, on the same day, two different men request that she find a relatively unknown rare book for them. I really enjoyed seeing Jane and Sophie act confidently in their respective scenarios, and I was extremely intrigued to see how their plot lines intertwined. I sped through this book in one evening+one afternoon, and found it quite entertaining. Content concerns (for those of you interested): Sophie thinks casual sex is no big deal, and there are about 3-4 sex scenes, if I remember correctly. They aren't explicit, but they are still there. Also, Sophie lives in a bit of an "ends justify the means" mentality. Like I said, this felt a little bit like National Treasure. Lying and stealing don't seem to be a problem for Sophie, if they help her reach certain goals. As a whole, I recommend this book for older teenagers on up! 

A Prayer Journal, by Flannery O'Connor. Reading this book is discovering a treasure. The reader is gifted with the author's intimate prayers to God, and it reveals a lot about her spirituality.  I have to confess that I have not read a tremendous amount of O'Connor's works; I've only read scattered short stories and letters (but never fear, I intend to read more). The prayers in this book are Flannery's blunt conversation with God, and if you've read any of her stories, you can probably imagine how they go sometimes. Despite how great this book is, it did disappoint me a little bit in one aspect: its brevity. This book includes 40 pages of unique material. That's it. The reason why the volume is a little larger is because there are photocopies of the actual journal pages in the back of the book, in case you want to read the volume in Flannery's own handwriting. I enjoyed reading Flannery's prayers (and I can recommend this to anyone of any age), but there wasn't a whole lot to read (and it is hard to justify spending around $10 on a book which only has 40 short pages to read). Having this set of prayers is nice, and it is a treasure, since it conveys her intimate relationship with God--but still, I think this would have been a nice addendum to Mystery and Manners or another one of Flannery's books. 

Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo. THIS BOOK. If you love any of the movie adaptations, you must read this book. If you hate the movie adaptations, you also must read this book. 1200+ pages that will rock your world. I don't even know where to begin. I assure you that more posts about Les Miserables are in the near future for this blog. Let me share with you my most recent Facebook statuses, and maybe that will help you understand:

And, just 300ish pages later...

Redemption. Conscientious living. Sacrifice. Love. Honor. Loyalty. Bravery. So much goodness!! One of the aspects of this book which I really loved was how thorough Hugo discusses the characters. I'm all about character development! Granted, at times, the development made it hard to stick with the story. Often, Hugo would introduce a random person and spend anywhere from 2-50 pages on them before you found out how they related to Jean Valjean & Co. But it was so cool seeing how everyone fit together. Delayed gratification is good for the soul, my friend. Anyway, I highly, tremendously, and thoroughly recommend this book for older teenagers on up! 

I have not read the abridged, so I don't know if it can come anywhere close, but I really recommend the unabridged. It just fills out everything (and everyone) so nicely! (and skimming may be necessary.  Admittedly, I skimmed the 30-page description of the Battle of Waterloo, and occasional skimming in other places is a survival technique, in my opinion) If you just commit from 100-200 pages a day, you'll be able to read the whole thing in a few weeks! Or, go a bit slower and take it in a month! Completely worth it!!

Those were my library finds of the week! I hope you enjoyed reading about them; I certainly enjoyed reading them and writing about them for you! Remember, I love adding to my reading list, so you are welcome to recommend books to me!

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