Tag: Books: Classics

Books: A Batch of Mini-Reviews

Posted 14 September, 2015 by Lianne in Books / 2 Comments

Here we go, another set of mini-reviews that couldn’t possibly fit in review posts of their own xD A bit of a theme, this edition of my mini-reviews, as the books I review are mainly classics that I read in the last few months, and short ones at that πŸ˜‰ Included in this batch of reviews are:

Without further ado…

The Duel
By: Heinrich von Kleist
Format/Source: Paperback; my copy

One of the few novellas written by the master German playwright, The Duel was considered by Thomas Mann and others to be one of the great works of German literature. The story of a virtuous woman slandered by a nobleman, it is a precise study of a subject that fascinated von Kleist: That people are sometimes seemingly punished for their very innocence.

I had been meaning to read more classic German literature so I was delighted to see this listed with Melville House’s The Art of the Novella series. The Duel was an interesting read, very accessible and easy to just slip into the story and the lives of these characters. It’s a fascinating look at honour, chivalry, and women’s role during the medieval period, as well as the role of the duel and the deadly consequences that result from it, both from the act itself and the implications afterwards. It’s also a fascinating study of one’s word, innocence and truthfulness and how these things were weighed during such a period. The writing was quite lovely as well, I highly recommend this title from The Art of the Novella series πŸ™‚

Rating: ★★★★☆

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So You Want to Read… (William Shakespeare)

Posted 7 September, 2015 by Lianne in Lists / 12 Comments

So You Want to Read… is a new monthly feature here on eclectictales.com in which I recommend books by particular authors to readers who have never read a book from certain authors and would like to start. I’m always happy to recommend books and certain authors to my fellow readers and bloggers! πŸ™‚

It’s September! Back to school for everyone who’s still in school…and keeping with the theme, for this month’s So You Want to Read, I will be featuring William Shakespeare (see tag) *cackles gleefully* Regular readers of my blog probably noticed that other than the Shakespeare Reading Challenge I hosted last year, I really got into reading dramatic plays this year, including more Shakespeare. The stories and the characters can be so exciting, the dialogue and soliloques thought-provoking, and I’ve seen some excellent filmed productions to date.

Maybe you want to get back to checking out some of Shakespeare’s works on your own, or maybe you want to read one for the first time. Here are 5 plays I’d recommend checking out (barring Romeo & Juliet because by now everyone must know something of it):

  • Twelfth Night (review) — My favourite comedy from Shakespeare <3 I studied this play in Grade 10 English (which I really enjoyed; plenty of good memories there) and re-reading it earlier this year, it was just hilarious. Cross-dressing, mistaken identities, lovelorn individuals doing crazy things, yellow stockings. Oh, and I also recommend the 2012 Globe production of this play (review) πŸ˜‰
  • Much Ado About Nothing (review) — The first time I read this play last year I liked it enough but I had some issues with the main storyline. So why am I recommending it here? Because it does fare well in memory/gets better the more I remember it (hence the re-read; review), and I love Beatrice and Benedick’s story. I could read a whole play of the two of them bantering back and forth. My personal favourite production of this play has to be the 2011 Globe production (review).
  • Macbeth (review) — For the tragedies, Macbeth certainly comes to mind as one of the most accessible. I studied this play in Grade 12 English and it’s just a fascinating psychological study of how a crime can weigh heavily on the conscience and tear relationships apart. Plus, there are witches and it’s set in Scotland.
  • Othello (review) — Another familiar tragedy that many probably studied in school. I didn’t, so it was interesting to check out this play on my own. Again, it’s a very accessible play, and pretty suspenseful: you know things are going to go down poorly and yet you can’t quite turn away.
  • Richard III (review) — From the histories, I was sort of 50/50 recommending Richard III for first time readers at first as I normally recommend reading everything in order starting from Richard II (review; commentary) right through the Henriad to get a sense of why things were the way they were by events of Richard III. But as a standalone it’s excellent, with lots of well-known dialogue, intriguing characters, and plenty of action. So yes, I highly recommend this play, it’s one of the best that I’ve read this year.

I hope this list of books helps if you’re interested in revisiting or reading Shakespeare for the first time! What are your favourite Shakespeare plays? Which would you recommend for first-time readers? Or which plays have you been meaning to check out?

Also, what’s your favourite edition of Shakespeare’s plays? I enjoy the editions published by Modern Library in conjunction with the RSC. They’re so informative and very pretty πŸ™‚

Review: The Custom of the Country

Posted 22 August, 2015 by Lianne in Books / 2 Comments

The Custom of the Country
By: Edith Wharton
Format/Source: eBook; my copy

Highly acclaimed at its publication in 1913, The Custom of the Country is a cutting commentary on America’s nouveaux riches, their upward-yearning aspirations and their eventual downfalls. Through her heroine, the beautiful and ruthless Undine Spragg, a spoiled heiress who looks to her next materialistic triumph as her latest conquest throws himself at her feet, Edith Wharton presents a startling, satiric vision of social behavior in all its greedy glory. As Undine moves from America’s heartland to Manhattan, and then to Paris, Wharton’s critical eye leaves no social class unscathed.

This book has been on my TBR queue for many years, and it’s the last of Edith Wharton’s New York novels I have yet to read. I’ve been reading her works over the years and have come to love her works, however depressing they can be, because of the characters she draws up and the awesomeness that is her writing. So yeah, after years of sitting on my queue, I pushed to make it a point to read this book this summer, even though I’ve been busy studying for exams (because, you know, I need a break every now and then, right? πŸ˜‰ )

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So You Want to Read… (Jane Austen)

Posted 12 August, 2015 by Lianne in Lists / 13 Comments

So You Want to Read… is a new monthly feature here on eclectictales.com in which I recommend books by particular authors to readers who have never read a book from certain authors and would like to start. I’m always happy to recommend books and certain authors to my fellow readers and bloggers! πŸ™‚

Happy August! I hope your summer (or winter, depending) has been fun and wonderful. For this month’s So You Want to Read… I decided to go with Jane Austen (author tag). Thought it was a good time, especially as there is the event Austen in August happening right now πŸ˜‰ Many of you know that I’m a big fan and reader of Jane Austen’s novels; I first encountered Jane Austen in high school, where we studied Pride & Prejudice for grade 11 English. But it wasn’t until university when I went back to her books and absolutely fell in love with them (and from there braching out to the other classic authors).

So without further ado, here’s my recommendation of what order you should read her books in. There’s no right way to do it, of course, and it really depends on what interests you as a reader, but for new readers, maybe you want to try it this way?

  • Pride & Prejudice (review) — Surprised? There’s a good reason why Jane Austen’s most famous novel gets first billing on my recommended order list. The main protagonist, Elizabeth Bennett, is witty and vivacious and headstrong, and the dialogue is quite electric (as is the narration, now that I think about it). It’s quite the story of mannerisms and characterisations and class and family so yeah, it’s a good place to start.
  • Northanger Abbey (review) — Jane Austen’s earliest novel that was published posthumously. It’s certainly not as complex as her later novels, so why did I rank it so high up my recommended order list lol? Simply put, it’s because of it’s simplistic storyline and just the fun of it all that I ranked it pretty high for new Austen readers to check out. Yes, some of the late 18th century pop culture references might fly over your head, but it’s the characterisations and reactions are relatable and it’s just all around fun. Not to mention the lead character is a reader with quite the active imagination πŸ™‚
  • Persuasion (review) — This was the last novel Jane Austen more or less completed before she passed away and certainly the most mature of her body of work. It’s also my personal favourite from the six because of everything about it–from the characters to the themes to the contemplative nature of the story to the letter at the end (you’ll know what I speak of when you get to it) πŸ˜‰ I’m surprised more people haven’t read this book, it’s absolutely amazing (and the first time around I couldn’t put it down because I just had to know how things would turn out).
  • Emma (review) — Personally not my favourite Austen novel of the six but I can see why people love it (I’ve only come to appreciate the book only more recently). Emma Woodhouse playing matchmaker with the people in her community, resulting in misunderstandings and hijinks all around. I ranked it where it is because it’s still more accessible than the remaining books I will be listing (plus, Mr. Knightley is such a hoot πŸ˜› ).
  • Sense & Sensibility (review) — I love S&S but I learned the hard way that it’s not quite an easy book to recommend to readers, even if they loved P&P. I remember the first time I read it that the language used is and felt a little older than P&P and later novels, and I admit, it can be a little dry. But the story is fantastic, the characters are great, and if you get to this book I encourage you to try to stick through it because it’s such an amazing story with a lot to think about and great character dynamics and the nature of human emotions and passions.
  • Mansfield Park (review) — I love Mansfield Park and like S&S it pains me to rank it rather low on the list of which order to read her books in but this book is pretty different from the others in that it’s much more inclined towards social commentary and character study. It’s also a lot longer (I think–not that this should be a deterrent πŸ˜› ). Many Austen readers do not find Fanny as sparkling or as witty as Elizabeth Bennet or Emma Woodhouse or as passionate as Marianne Dashwood but I urge you to stick through this book. The family dynamics are absolutely intriguing and Fanny is a very strong character in her own way.
  • Her other works (Lady Susan, Sandition, etc.) — And when you’ve run out of her books to read and want to read more of her books, there are her incomplete works (which Penguin Classics does have compiled–at least the larger works). Lady Susan is complete and is a very interesting story as it’s all told in letters. Sandition and The Watsons were pretty promising but alas, she died before she could write any further. They may be incomplete and leave you wanting but they are nonetheless worth checking out because they’re quite different from the above, completed novels.

I hope this recommended order list of books helps if you’re interested in revisiting or reading Jane Austen for the first time! What’s your favourite Jane Austen novels? Which would you recommend for first-time readers (or in which order)? Or which books have you been meaning to check out?

Shakespeare: Listing the Favourites

Posted 30 July, 2015 by Lianne in Lists / 12 Comments

So, as of 10 May 2015, I could proudly say that I read all of William Shakespeare’s plays. It’s pretty intense, the bulk of his works having been read in the last two years starting with the reading challenge I hosted in 2014 and wrapping up this year with the rest of his plays. You can read all of my reviews in the author tag. I just wanted to reflect a little bit on reading all of his plays, note my favourites from the batch (because there were so I loved, some I liked, and some I didn’t like (and some perhaps I need to re-read at some point)) πŸ™‚

The Comedies

  • Twelfth Night (review) — Always and forever, my number one favourite comedy from Shakespeare. Twins lost at sea, mistaken identities, love triangles and squares, yellow stockings…What’s not to love? πŸ˜€
  • Much Ado About Nothing (review) — It took a second read for me to really enjoy the play (in my first read, I found the main storyline with Claudio and Hero extremely problematic and not terribly satisfying), but it’s really all because of Beatrice and Benedick πŸ˜€
  • As You Like It (review) — Such a sweet, lovely play. A little weird at times with things being decided upon out of th blue but whatever, it works. Rosalind and Orlando are so cute too xP
  • The Merchant of Venice (review) — I have a soft spot for this play because it was the first play I studied in school. It’s still an interesting play to read, and Shylock’s storyline continues to compel me more so than the main storyline with Bassiano, Portia, et al.

The Tragedies

  • Hamlet (review) — I always liked this play but it took a re-read earlier this year to truly appreciate the finer aspects of this play and the themes and elements that were running through Hamlet over the course of the play. It’s dark and introspective and just fascinating.
  • Titus Andronicus (review) — Definitely one of those plays that prompted a more physical response as I was reading it (“Should I be weeping or screaming right about now?”), I couldn’t quite tear away from it even when it went bad to worse D= It had some great lines, not to mention an interesting take on, err, revenge
  • Othello (review) — Another one of those plays that left me all flailing and reacting a bt more out loud (“OMG, Othello, don’t trust him!”), it was quite the page turner.
  • Macbeth (review) — In retrospect, I do wish this play was a bit longer, but it’s pretty intriguing and tragic and thought-provoking all the same.

The Histories

  • Richard II (review) — It took a second read for me to love and really appreciate this play, both story-wise, characterisation-wise, and structurally as a play. It’s just so finely written, and there’s so much going thematically and these characters…
  • Richard III (review) — Fell in love with this play the first time I read it. Richard III is such a bastard in this play and yet it’s quite a page-turner, it’s compelling, you’re left wondering how things will ultimately turn out for him (hint: not so well).
  • Julius Caesar (review) — Friends! Romans! Countrymen! Lend me your ear…I enjoyed reading this play, but Mark Antony’s speech at Caesar’s funeral bumped it up to a favourite πŸ˜›

The Honourable Mentions

Because they stayed with me even though I may not have loved them completely (so that means I liked it…right?)…

  • All’s Well That Ends Well (review) — Everything problematic about this play stems from Bertram, but I can’t help but like the play anyhow.
  • Measure For Measure (review) — Again, problematic with the two leads here and Angelo’s actions later in the play are like WTF, NO!, but it’s a very interesting play with some contrasts and mirror issues similar to Richard II (at least in my mind πŸ˜› ).
  • The Tempest (review) — For the sheer amount of quotables in this play, yeah, it gets an honourable mention πŸ˜‰


And those are my favourites! I suppose I’ll be moving along to Shakespeare’s other contemporaries now that I finished his works and Christopher Marlowe’s (see tag) and maybe a few of the more modern playwrights (been meaning to re-visit Arthur Miller). What do you think of the list? Which plays by Shakespeare are your favourites? That you want to read? Favourite playwrights/plays in general?