A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

A Tale of Two Cities

Title:  A Tale of Two Cities
Author:  Charles Dickens
Length:  293 pages
Genre:  Classic Literature; Classic Gothic Literature

About This Book

A Tale of Two Cities is one of two historical novels that Charles Dickens wrote. The novel is set in the time of the French Revolution. France was in turmoil and there was danger all around. With this as a backdrop, Dickens crafts a story immersed in themes such as injustice, vengeance, love, sacrifice and redemption. The story centers around Dr. Manette, his daughter Lucie, and Charles Darnay; and in classic Dickens style, there’s a host of other characters that are weaved in and out of the story. This classic gothic novel is full of drama, adventure, plots, and romance.

My Thoughts

As I read A Tale of Two Cities, I found myself asking the same question I asked when I read David Copperfield earlier this year: Do I like Dickens’ style of writing or not? Both novels are undoubtedly good. But I have inevitably found myself at different points of each novel getting bogged down in sections that I feel are a bit wordy. Dickens wrote this novel in serial form, which means it was published in small sections at a time. It was published in weekly installments; whereas David Copperfield was published in monthly installments. If Dickens was paid by the word, that would probably explain some of the wordiness.

Despite the wordiness, though, I’ve concluded that I do think I like Dickens’ style overall. One of the things I think Dickens does so well is craft a really good story. He can take a host of seemingly unconnected characters and weave them in and out of the novel until they finally all begin to connect in some way. In addition, as I mentioned in my post about David Copperfield, Dickens truly does a superb job of developing characters.

I am understanding that I have to come to Dickens’ novels knowing a couple of things from the start. One, there will probably be some points of wordiness that I’ll need to just wade through. Two, it’s probably going to take at least a good third of the novel to get my bearings with the story, which includes being able to know and place characters. Dickens tends to introduce a lot of characters in the beginning and it can sometimes be confusing to keep all those characters straight. But if I keep reading, eventually all those characters become recognized and the confusion begins to fade.

Quotes from the Book

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…” (pg. 1)

“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.” (pg. 293)


The Trial by Franz Kafka

The Trial
Title:  The Trial
Author:  Franz Kafka
Length:  304 pages
Genre:  Classic Literature

About This Book

“Someone must have been telling lies about Josef K., he knew he had done nothing wrong but, one morning, he was arrested.” (The Trial by Franz Kafka)

The very first line of this novel sets the stage for the story that unfolds. It is the story of a man named Josef K. who has been arrested but he does not know why. He then sets out to defend himself and prove his innocence.

My Thoughts

I don’t really know quite what to write about this book. It’s kind of odd. Probably a little bit of background could be helpful.

“During his uneventful lifetime Kafka published a few short stories and novellas, most notably Metamorphosis. At his death he left behind three nearly finished novels, including Amerika, with strict instructions to his friend Max Brod to burn them. After much deliberation, Brod instead edited and published them.” 

~ From Invitation to the Classics Edited by Louise Cowan and Os Guinness, pg. 311

The Trial was one of these unfinished novels; therefore, I think one has to read it with that in mind. Having said that, I didn’t like or not like the book. To me, it was just so-so.

I feel like the novel is hard describe. Typical books progress from the beginning to the end. However, The Trial does not really do this. You have the definite beginning; and the first few pages did grab my attention. Unfortunately, the story really doesn’t progress to any resolution. There are things that just don’t make sense. In addition, there really isn’t much, if any, character development. The reader is left wandering through the pages, only to find that the main character doesn’t really evolve in any way.

So in the end, if I were to rate this book, I think I could only give it 3 stars.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Title Frankenstein
Author:  Mary Shelley
Length:  166 pages
Genre:  Classic Literature; Classic Gothic Literature

About the Book

When you hear the name “Frankenstein”, visions of a tall, green, ugly monster tend to come to mind. Maybe you picture the classic monster portrayed in the 1930’s movie starring Boris Karloft. However, the book is not just about a monster; and the monster’s name isn’t Frankenstein. The main character of this book is a young man called Victor Frankenstein who decides to pursue science and ends up becoming obsessed with creating life. He finds that he’s able to piece together this being and bring it to life, something that he’s spent hours upon hours trying to figure out. When he brings the creation to life, he is abhorred at it and runs from it…leaving the creation left on its own. What transpires is a story filled with chilling events, tough themes, and questions that aren’t easily answered. Themes such as secrecy, abandonment, and hopelessness pervade this novel.

My Thoughts

I can’t say that I *loved* this book because it’s not a feel-good read. It’s filled with hard questions, tough themes, and moments when terrible things happen and you have to read about it. However, it is a *good* book; a worthy one to be read. I am glad I read it and I definitely recommend it. While some aspects of the story seem fantastical (as in not realistic), I find that it doesn’t take away from making the reader think and ask questions.

As I thought about how people treated Victor Frankenstein’s creation in the beginning, I couldn’t help thinking about one of my favorite Disney movies Beauty and the Beast. In the movie, the Beast is seen as just that…a hideous, grotesque beast that is dangerous. When Gastan and the townspeople see him, they want to go after him. In the same way, when people saw the creation Frankenstein made, all they saw was this hideous, grotesque monster and were terrified. Some even harmed him. Where the stories differ and make for a good comparison, is this: In Beauty and the Beast, Belle actually got to know the beast and began to see him for who he was inside, not the hideous beast that he looked like on the outside. And things changed for the better because of Belle and her kindness and love. However, this did not happen for the creation Frankenstein made. He was abandoned, rejected, and mistreated. He longed for community, relationship with others, and for love. But he received none of that. And he ended up spiraling downward and did terrible things. When reading Frankenstein, the reader is left thinking about the potential effects of love and kindness vs. abandonment, rejection, and hopelessness.

If you’re looking for a good book club pick, definitely give this one consideration. This novel is so full of things to discuss that you are going to want to read it with others!

Classic Gothic Books for October

It’s officially the fall season now and that means I’m thinking about sweatshirts and sweatpants, crisp cool weather, Hallmark movies, and of course books. 🙂 Fall is my favorite season and as I’ve been thinking about what I’d like to be sure to read in the last few months of the year, what books would be good reads for October have been on my mind. In my opinion, October lends itself well to gothic classics. So today, I’m sharing 5 classic gothic novels to curl up on the couch with this month, of course with a warm mug of coffee or a steaming cup of tea. 😉

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

This is the one book on this list I have already read. It’s the story of a scientist named Dr. Jekyll who tries an experiment to split his personality. What follows is a suspenseful thriller, making it perfect for an October read. It’s a short book that I found hard to put down.

A Tale of Two Cities

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

I started reading this several months ago with my husband; but we both kind of slacked up on it and haven’t finished it yet. So I picked it back up with the goal to finish it by December.
A Tale of Two Cities starts out with the statement that is so well-known:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”

From the back cover of the Dover Thrift Edition:

It was the time of the French Revolution — a time of great change and great danger. It was a time when injustice was met by a lust for vengeance, and rarely was a distinction made between the innocent and the guilty. Against this tumultuous historical backdrop, Dickens’ great story of unsurpassed adventure and courage unfolds.

Unjustly imprisoned for 18 years in the Bastille, Dr. Alexander Manette is reunited with his daughter Lucie and safely transported from France to England. It would seem that they could now take up the threads of their lives in peace. As fate would have it though, the pair are summoned to the Old Bailey to testify against a young Frenchman — Charles Darnay — falsely accused of treason. Strangely enough, Darnay bears an uncanny resemblance to another man in the courtroom, the dissolute lawyer’s clerk Sydney Carton. It is a coincidence that saves Darnay from certain doom more than once. Brilliantly plotted, the novel is rich in drama, romance, and heroics that culminate in a daring prison escape in the shadow of the guillotine.”


Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

This is my other pick for my Fallish reads this month. From the back cover of the Dover Thrift Edition:

“Few creatures of horror have seized readers’ imaginations and held them for so long as the anguished monster of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The story of Victor Frankenstein’s terrible creation and the havoc it caused has enthralled generations of readers and inspired countless writers of horror and suspense.”


Dracula by Bram Stoker

Written in the epistolary style, this classic horror novel introduced the world to Count Dracula. My husband read this recently and said that he was surprised by it. He described it as frighteningly good. From the back cover of the Dover Thrift Edition:

“During a business visit to Count Dracula’s castle in Transylvania, a young English solicitor finds himself at the center of a series of horrifying incidents. Jonathan Harker is attacked by three phantom women, observes the Count’s transformation from human to bat form, and discovers puncture wounds on his own neck that seem to have been made by teeth. Harker returns home upon his escape from Dracula’s grim fortress, but a friend’s strange malady — involving sleepwalking, inexplicable blood loss, and mysterious throat wounds — initiates a frantic vampire hunt. The popularity of Bram Stoker’s 1897 horror romance is as deathless as any vampire.  Its supernatural appeal has spawned a host of film and stage adaptations, and more than a century after its initial publication, it continues to hold readers spellbound.”


Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

This has been on my to-read list for awhile. I have, however, seen the classic Alfred Hitchcock movie starring Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine. A suspenseful thriller, I’ve heard the book is hard to put down.

From the Goodreads description:

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again . . .

The novel begins in Monte Carlo, where our heroine is swept off her feet by the dashing widower Maxim de Winter and his sudden proposal of marriage. Orphaned and working as a lady’s maid, she can barely believe her luck. It is only when they arrive at his massive country estate that she realizes how large a shadow his late wife will cast over their lives–presenting her with a lingering evil that threatens to destroy their marriage from beyond the grave.”

What classic books do you think make good October reads?

A Classic for an October Book Club

This is just a really quick post. Silvia recently announced an impromptu book club for October. The book:  The Trial by Franz Kafka. I am wanting to read some more classics before the end of the year and so I decided to join in.

Up until yesterday, all I knew about this book was that it is considered a modern classic. So I decided to read about it a bit. Kafka is said to have earned his place among modern literature. The Trial was published in 1925 (although it was written between 1914 and 1915) and is one of his best known works. I didn’t want to read too much because I didn’t want to know much about the actual story before reading it. Plus, I was afraid that I might run across spoilers and I didn’t want to know how the story ends. 😉 What I do know is that at the beginning of the book, an man is arrested. The first line of the novel says:

Someone must have been telling lies about Josef K., he knew he had done nothing wrong but, one morning, he was arrested.”

From what I understand, the character Josep K. is arrested and is not told why. I normally don’t read suspense or thriller type novels, but I can’t wait to read this. The first sentence definitely has me intrigued! If you’d like to join me in reading The Trial, hop on over to Silvia’s blog HERE to read her post and get the schedule.



This and That Book Chat

It’s officially the fall season and I am so happy! Fall is my favorite season of the year! With the changing of the seasons, I’ve been considering what I want to read for these last few remaining months of the year. It’s so hard to believe that it’s almost October and that we only have a little over three months left in this year. In keeping with the new season, I have this cute little fall leaf divider for this post:Yellow Leaf BorderAs I’ve been looking ahead to what I’d like to be able to personally accomplish in my reading life in these last few months of the year, I have a few thoughts as to what I’d like to read. For now, here’s my thoughts:

  • I am planning on joining Silvia in October for her impromptu book club. We will be reading The Trial by Kafka, a modern classic. I may do another post about this. 🙂
  • I’m considering trying to read The Iliad and finish up The Odyssey by Homer. I began reading The Odyssey awhile back (last year sometime I think) and never finished it. So I am thinking that *maybe* I might try to finish it but to first read The Iliad. We’ll see….This may need to be part of what I read next year. I am currently reading Beowulf and would like to get it finished first.
  • I’m thinking I might want to try to read Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. My oldest daughter has told me more than once that I need to read it. This is the same daughter who chose The Count of Monte Cristo for me to read in last year’s reading challenge. It was a toss up for her between Frankenstein and The Count of Monte Cristo  and I *think* Les Miserables when trying to decide which one to pick for me to read. I might add Les Miserable to my to-read list for next year.

That’s my thoughts so far. I am thinking I may like to add in some sort of science or nature book. I have a few options I can choose from. We’ll see. I tend to be ambitious with my reading goals, can you tell? LOL But my reading goals are just that…they are tentative ideas and are always flexible.

Yellow Leaf BorderAround this time of year, I tend to start thinking ahead to the next year…what goals I might like to have for my reading life and whether or not I want to officially try to tackle a reading challenge again. When the reading challenges roll out (usually in December), it’s hard for me to resist at least trying to tackle one. Ha! But I have some specific reading goals I’m already thinking about for next year. I’ve been considering trying to read from my shelves and my Kindle. I have quite a few books on my shelves and on my Kindle that I haven’t read yet. Many of them are classics. I don’t want to limit myself to only reading from my shelves and Kindle, but to simply try to begin reading them more. 😉

My husband recently read Bram Stoker’s Dracula and said he was really surprised by it. He enjoyed it more than he thought he might. So that one may be on my list as well. Yellow Leaf BorderJust a quick little update on what I’ve been reading the last few weeks.

My Name is Lucy Barton

I finished My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout.

The Snow Child

I also read The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. This one was for my reading challenge for the category “A Book You Chose for the Cover”. I saw this book one day when I was at my local bookstore and loved the cover. I did pick it up and read the description; but it’s the cover that drew me to it and I decided I wanted to choose it for that particular category for my reading challenge.

I’m still reading Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe. I know this is a classic; but for me, it’s just so-so. I don’t think it’s *not* a good book….just not a book for me.

My friend Silvia will be happy to hear this:  I’m reading A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare and actually enjoying it! Yay!

Other books I’m reading right now that I hope to finish by the end of the month:

I only have a few more days to get them read! Yikes!

Yellow Leaf Border

Do you have any specific reading goals for the last few months of this year? Are you already thinking about reading goals for next year?


What I’ve Been Reading – Summer Edition

I have a confession to make….I’ve not done a very good job of logging all the books I’ve read since my last What I’ve Been Reading post (which was too long ago in February…ahem). I like to keep track of all the books I read throughout the year. But the last several months, I was trying to pre-read a number of children’s books and I just plain ‘ole forgot to write them on my reading log. And then, time passed and I forgot to write down other books I was reading. Nice job Karen! LOL Anyway…..here’s a look at some of the books I’ve read since February…although I am likely forgetting a title or two or three…..

Children’s Books

The One and Only Ivan by K. A. Applegate
Heidi by Johanna Spryri
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl (a re-read)
BFG by Roald Dahl
Thimble Summer by Elizabeth Enright
Minn of the Mississippi by Holling C. Holling
Miranda the Great by Eleanor Estes
The Moffats by Eleanor Estes
Ribsy by Beverly Cleary
The Wizard of Oz Series Books 1-5 by L. Frank Baum
Chanticleer and the Fox by Geoffrey Chaucer and Barbara Cooney


Other Books for My Personal Reading

A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline
The Help Kathryn Stockett
Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Here’s which books fit for my reading challenges:

Reading for Growth Challenge

The One and Only Ivan by K. A. Applegate
Thimble Summer by Elizabeth Enright
Category:  A Newbery Award Winner or Honor Book


Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
Category:  An Immigrant Story

The Wizard of Oz series

The Wizard of Oz Series Books 1-5 by L. Frank Baum
Category:  Three Books by the Same Author


Reading for Fun Challenge

Salt to the Sea

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
Category:  A Book Recommended by Someone with Great Taste

And actually, even though I already have a book down for “A Book That’s More than 600 Pages”, The Help fits that category as well.

What I’m Reading Right Now

Here’s a look at some of what I’m reading right now. A mixture of modern, classic and children’s literature.

My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
Along Came a Dog by Meindert DeJong
Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

What have you been reading lately?



The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim

The Enchanted April
Author:  Elizabeth von Arnim
Length:  227 pages
Genre:  20th Century Literature
Content Notes:  Brief Language

Four women agree to share the expenses of renting an Italian villa for the month of April. They don’t know one another in the beginning; but by the end they’ve become good friends. This story takes a look at their lives and how this holiday helps them learn more about themselves, helps them grow personally, and helps them each find needed healing in their lives.  Some of the tough issues dealt with are struggles with love, with marital relationships, and with faith. This novel is about love and relationships; but most of all, it’s about restoration:  restoring themselves, their lives, and their relationships.

Quotes from the Book

“All the radiance of April in Italy lay gathered together at her feet. The sun poured in on her.”

“She had frightened love away, precious love, and that couldn’t be good. Was not Lotty right when she said the other day that nothing at all except love mattered? Nothing certainly seemed much use unless it was built up on love.”


The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood

The One-in-a-Million Boy
Author:  Monica Wood
Length:  336 pages
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Content Notes:  Strong language

When Quinn’s son died, he agreed to finish his son’s boy scout project…helping a 104 year old woman with chores around her house; what he didn’t count on was becoming like family. The several storylines weaved throughout this book make it a deep and layered novel. It is a moving story about unlikely friendships, grief, forgiveness, reconciliation, second chances and the Guinness Book of World Records.

Quotes from the Book

“Because the story of your life never starts at the beginning.”

And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer by Fredrik Backman

And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer
Author:  Fredrik Backman
Length:  96 pages
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction

From the publisher’s description:  “From the New York Times bestselling author of A Man Called Ove, My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, and Britt-Marie Was Here comes an exquisitely moving portrait of an elderly man’s struggle to hold on to his most precious memories, and his family’s efforts to care for him even as they must find a way to let go. With all the same charm of his bestselling full-length novels, here Fredrik Backman once again reveals his unrivaled understanding of human nature and deep compassion for people in difficult circumstances. This is a tiny gem with a message you’ll treasure for a lifetime.”

This story gives a glimpse into what it must be like not just for the elderly man who is losing his memory, but also what it must be like for those that love him. It is heartwarming, sad, real. While it’s a short read, it’s packed with lots of heart.

Quotes from the Book

“Noah holds the old man’s hand, the man who taught him to fish and to never be afraid of big thoughts and to look at the night’s sky and understand that it’s made of numbers. Mathematics has blessed the boy in that sense, because he’s no longer afraid of the thing almost everyone else is terrified of:  infinity. Noah loves space because it never ends. It never dies. It’s the one thing in his life which won’t ever leave him.”