What I’ve Been Reading Lately ~ February, 2018

I’ve been thinking about my reading habits and one thing I’ve noticed is that I tend to read a lot in January; and this January was no exception.When the weather gets really cold outside, I tend to want to stay at home more and not get out into the cold. And what better way to escape the cold weather than with a good book! 🙂 I will only highlight a few titles here (with a note for ones that were for the MMD reading challenge).

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
By Mark Haddon

Category:  A Banned Book

When looking for books for this category, I came across this title and was intrigued. It’s a story about a 15 year old boy with autism (who is also the narrator of the book) who finds his neighbor’s dog dead and is determined to find out who killed it. One of his teachers tells him he ought to write a story and so he begins to write about solving this mystery. In the process, the reader gets a lot of insight into his life. I read that this book was banned because of profanity. So heads up, there is a good bit of language, including strong language. His story drew me in and I felt that the author created a character that could help readers understand a little bit more about the world of autism.

The Duel

The Duel
By Anton Chekhov

This was a book chosen by one of the members of my classics book club for our February read. The Duel is a novella which probes the depths of human weakness and the ability for people to change. This short novella is a quick read, but packed with depth.

The Tale of Despereaux

The Tale of Despereaux
By Kate DiCamillo

This was a re-read for me and I was reminded of how much I really like this children’s book. Despereaux is not your ordinary mouse. He has big ears, is born with his eyes open, and loves to read. He ends up committing the ultimate no-no in mouse life….he talks to a human. And what ensues is a story of adventure for the little mouse that didn’t quite fit in to his mouse community.

Great Expectations

Great Expectations
By Charles Dickens

I have a great appreciation for the works of Charles Dickens. But I admit I wasn’t necessarily looking forward to working my way through this book even though it has been on my list of classics to read. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I really liked this novel! I think Dicken’s writing ability shines in this novel and it is by far my favorite. Great Expectations is a coming-of-age story of the main character, Pip. We follow his life from youth to adulthood, as the adult Pip narrates the story of his life. There’s convicts, a bitter lady bent on revenge, love and love lost, and of course an intricate weaving of various threads in the novel.


By Daphne Du Maurier

Category:  A Classic You’ve Been Meaning to Read

I had been wanting to read this classic for months and promptly chose it for the reading challenge category “A Classic You’ve Been Meaning to Read”. I had seen the Alfred Hitchcock movie production of this novel before and really liked it so I couldn’t wait to read the novel. The author succeeded in crafting a good suspense story. It also makes a great book club selection because there are many topics that could be discussed. Unfortunately, I was disappointed with the novel and definitely like the movie much better.

Other Books I Read in January

Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild
A Series of Unfortunate Events #1:  The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket
Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry
The House of Sixty Fathers by Meidert Dejong
The Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Everyone Brave Is Forgiven by Chris Cleave

What have you been reading lately?


Looking for a Change of Pace in Your Reading Life Right Now?

I don’t know about you, but I am in the mood for a change of pace in my reading life right now. I’ve been reading a number of books lately that have been heavier. While I’ve enjoyed a number of them, I am ready for something different. Something lighter or funnier…..or something more spring-y….or something shorter. And I got to thinking, maybe others would be in the mood for something different in their reading lives too.

Being February, a month that for many can feel a bit more depressing with its gray, gloomy skies and colder weather, I thought it might just be the perfect time to do a blog book club together! A chance to have a change of pace with our reading, maybe re-reading a favorite classic, and best of all….discussing it together! What do you think? Would you like to join in?

To add even more fun to it, YOU get to decide the book! Below I am listing the options with a brief reason for why they each might be a good pick for right now. Then let me know your choice in the comments section. At the beginning of next week (by Wednesday), I will post which one wins out and give details about the book club.


Pride and Prejudice
By Jane Austen

What could be more fun than visiting the Bennett’s and traveling to Pemberley? Austen hasn’t yet made the rank of favorite author for me, but I love this book! Fun and engaging, this is a great go-to pick when wanting a funnier, lighter classic novel.



The Enchanted April
By Elizabeth von Arnim

This is not quite on the lighter, funnier side; but it is set in Italy in the spring. And what better way to lift up one’s spirit than Italy in the springtime? But Italy in the springtime isn’t the only thing that makes this a good pick-me-up, it’s also all about healing and restoration.



The Phantom Tollbooth
By Norton Juster

C. S. Lewis once said:  “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.” In my opinion, The Phantom Tollbooth is one of those children’s books that can be enjoyed at any age. This book is clever, witty, and at times laugh out loud funny. The story is well-written and very engaging. Looking for a lighter, fun read? This one won’t disappoint. First published in 1961, this one could now be considered a classic.


The Reading Promise

The Reading Promise
By Alice Ozma

Are you more in the mood for something in the non-fiction genre? This is a more recently published book but one that is perfect for illustrating the power of reading aloud and the power of books in general. What better way to add a change of pace in your reading life than reading about the power of books and reading? I think you’ll find this book engaging and inspiring.

Okay readers, it’s your time to pick. Which one of these books do YOU choose?

Some Things I Learned in 2017

I’m taking the lead from Anne here and sharing some things I learned in 2017. These are just a few little tidbits from the mundane to the possibly revelatory. 🙂


Upcoming Book Club Selections

Upcoming Book Club Selections

I need to talk about books.

I love to talk about books. And when I’m reading a book, for the most part, I find I need to talk about it; even if it’s just a little mention to my husband about what the book is about. But I really like having discussions about the books. Thankfully, I do have a couple of friends who we inevitably talk about the books we are reading whenever we see each other. However, towards the end of 2017, I decided to step out and start a Classics Book Club with a couple of friends and found that it was just what I needed. And just a couple of weeks ago, I signed up for another book club! 🙂

Categorizing books I read is really helpful.

At the end of 2017, I took my list of books I read for the year and put them in categories. This was the first time I did this. I found this super helpful in being able to take a quick glance and have a visual to see what types of books I read throughout the year. This year, I’ve put together my own reading journal (bullet journal style) and I’ve included a genre tracker.

Charles Dickens and Jane Austen would probably not be favorite authors.

I shared this in a previous post. But last year, as I read more Dickens and Austen, I realized that I just probably wouldn’t rank them up there with favorite authors. I definitely appreciate their writing, that’s for sure; and I still have some of their works I want to read. I really enjoyed reading Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. It was such a fun read! And her novel Persuasion grew on me. For Dickens, I feel that he really knew how to craft a story. It’s just that I have come to realize that maybe their books are not ones I would just pick up like I would a favorite author. You never know though, this could possibly change….. 😉


Lemon Zinger TeaBraggs Apple Cider Vinegar

I like Lemon Zinger Herbal Tea with Apple Cider Vinegar.

Towards the end of 2017, I decided to try incorporating apple cider vinegar (also referred to as ACV) into my diet. I first did this by warming up water, then adding lemon juice, honey, and apple cider vinegar. I liked it okay. I also tried adding a bit of apple cider vinegar to a cup of chamomile tea with honey. I liked this as well. But what I noticed is that the apple cider vinegar seemed to give the tea a sort of citrus-y taste. So I thought, why not try Lemon Zinger Herbal Tea??? And it was brilliant! What surprised me, though, is that I actually like the Lemon Zinger Herbal Tea with the apple cider vinegar BETTER than having it without the apple cider vinegar.

When it comes to wine, I prefer sweet/dessert or some specialty wines.

I haven’t been much of a wine fan…even though I really want to like wine. So last year, I decided to try more various wines to see if it was just a matter of finding the right ones. And it was. I found that both myself and my husband prefer sweet/dessert wines as well as some specialty wines (like a Bellini specialty wine for example). We typically don’t drink wine with a meal. If we have a glass of wine, it is usually at night when watching a favorite show on TV. However, I’m still up for trying to learn how to pair wines with food to see if that also might make a difference. But for now, we have found a few wines that we really like and I’m good with that. 🙂

What are some things YOU learned in 2017? I’d love to hear about it!

2017 Reading Year Wrap-Up

It’s hard to believe that in less than 24 hours it will be 2018! And I’m just getting this post up in the nick of time! (I’ve been sick all week with a yucky cold and thus it took me a little longer to get this post written.) It’s been a great reading year for me and I’ve enjoyed participating in the 2017 Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge.

For this wrap-up post, I’m going to share the books I’ve read in a couple of different ways. First, I’ll list the books I read this year in total (organized by categories). Then after that, I’ll show what books qualified for the reading challenge. I did not complete every single category. But I did complete many and feel it was a very successful reading challenge for me this year. Finally, at the end I’ll share a few of my favorites for the year.

So first, here’s the list in total, including reading challenge books, and it’s organized by category. If I’ve written a book summary for any particular book, then I’ve linked the title to its book summary post.

Children’s Literature
The One and Only Ivan By Katherine Applegate
The Wizard of Oz Series Books 1-5 By L. Frank Baum:

*The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
*The Marvelous Land of Oz
*Ozma of Oz
*Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz
*The Road to Oz

Nate the Great by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat
Welcome to Silver Street Farm by Nicola Davies
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (started in 2016; picked back up and finished in February 2017)
Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll
Thimble Summer By Elizabeth Enright
Heidi by Johanna Spryri
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl (a re-read)
BFG by Roald Dahl
Minn of the Mississippi by Holling C. Holling
Miranda the Great by Eleanor Estes
The Moffats by Eleanor Estes
Ribsy by Beverly Cleary
Chanticleer and the Fox by Geoffrey Chaucer and Barbara Cooney
Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi
Poor Richard by James Daugherty
Mary Poppins by P. L. Travers
The Borrowers by Mary Norton
Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
The Family Under the Bridge by Natalie Savage Carlson
Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie
Letters to Father Christmas by J. R. R. Tolkien

Classic Fiction
David Copperfield By Charles Dickens
Persuasion By Jane Austen
The Enchanted April By Elizabeth von Arnim
Beowulf translated by John McNamara
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
The Trial by Franz Kafka
Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Goodbye, Mr. Chips by James Hilton

Modern Fiction
And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer By Fredrik Backman
The One-in-a-Million Boy By Monica Wood
After The Fall By Noah Hawley
The Snow Child By Eowyn Ivey
The Language of Flowers By Vanessa Diffenbaugh
The Bookshop on the Corner By Jenny Colgan
The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry By Gabrielle Zevin
Big Little Lies By Liane Moriarty
A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner
My Name Is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
The Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan (I just got this one squeezed in at the last!)

Poetry and Plays
Robert Frost’s Poems With an Introduction and Commentary by Louis Untermeyer
A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare

Historical Fiction
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet By Jamie Ford
All the Light We Cannot See By Anthony Doerr
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society By Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Salt to the Sea By Ruta Sepetys (YA Genre)

This is the first year I categorized the books I read and I’ve found it really helpful in getting a visual of what types of books I read throughout the year. My youngest daughter LOVES to read. So I read a good bit of children’s literature in a year’s time. I also saw that I read a bit more modern fiction than classics. In what I read for modern and classic fiction, though, I do feel there was a decent variety. However, when looking back over my list, I would like to add in other types of writing such as a memoir, biography, maybe some essays or short stories. And I’ve done that with some of my selections for this coming year’s reading challenge.

As for how I did with the 2017 Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge, here’s how the books plugged in to the categories.


A Newbery Award Winner or Honor Book
The One and Only Ivan
By Katherine Applegate

A Book in Translation
And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer
By Fredrik Backman

A Book That’s More Than 600 Pages
David Copperfield
By Charles Dickens

A Book of Poetry, a Play, or an Essay Collection
Robert Frost’s Poems
With an Introduction and Commentary by Louis Untermeyer

An Immigrant Story
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet 
By Jamie Ford

A Book Published Before You Were Born
By Jane Austen

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

*The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
*The Marvelous Land of Oz
*Ozma of Oz
*Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz
*The Road to Oz

A Book By an #ownvoices or #diversebooks Author
The One-in-a-Million Boy
By Monica Wood

A Book Nominated for an Award in 2017
After The Fall
By Noah Hawley

A Pulitzer Prize or National Book Award Winner
All the Light We Cannot See
By Anthony Doerr


A Book You Chose for the Cover
The Snow Child
By Eowyn Ivey

A Book with a Reputation for Being Un-put-down-able
The Language of Flowers
By Vanessa Diffenbaugh

A Book Set Somewhere You’ve Never Been But Would Like to Visit
The Bookshop on the Corner
By Jenny Colgan

A Book You’ve Already Read
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
By Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

A Book About Books or Reading
The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
By Gabrielle Zevin

A Book in a Genre You Usually Avoid
Big Little Lies
By Liane Moriarty

A Book Recommended By Someone with Great Taste
Salt to the Sea
By Ruta Sepetys

A Book You Were Excited to Buy or Borrow but Haven’t Read Yet
The Enchanted April
By Elizabeth von Arnim



I’ve enjoyed a lot of what I read this year with there really only being a couple that I didn’t care for or wouldn’t recommend. As for my favorites, it’s always hard to pick favorites because I enjoy so many.  So I think the best thing to do is to try to just highlight a few that I really enjoyed reading. These are all books I give 5 stars and I’ve chosen one from each of the categories in my list at the beginning of this post.


Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll

Okay, so this is two. But they go together. 😉 These two are among my favorite read-alouds. And this year, I read them a second time on my own and loved them just as much. I feel they are somewhat lyrical and of course funny and quite clever.


The Enchanted April By Elizabeth von Arnim

I love the movie production starring Joan Plowright, Miranda Richardson, Josie Lawrence, and Michael Kitchen (among other notable names in the cast) and had seen it numerous times before reading the book. One of the things I love about this book is how it takes an in-depth look at relationships. The reader gets to plunge into the theme of restoration as the characters take a look at their lives and find restoration for themselves, for their lives, and for their relationships. I feel like the movie and book compliment each other well. While there are definitely differences between the two, I found that I enjoyed them both equally as much. I wrote up a brief description of the book HERE.


The Language of Flowers By Vanessa Diffenbaugh

What can I say….this book was simply unputdownable. The writing was superb, the characters were developed well, and the story draws the reader in. This book had me in tears more than once. By far, this was one of my top favorites of the year. You can read my description of it HERE.

Salt to the Sea

Salt to the Sea By Ruta Sepetys

It’s no secret that I love historical fiction. And if you’ve been reading my blog for awhile then you probably know that one of my all-time favorites is The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. In fact, I read it again this year for the second time; but I wanted to pick another book to list for a favorite I read in this genre this year.

Salt to the Sea is an historical fiction book in the YA genre. It’s another one that was unputdownable. This book is set in World War II time in East Prussia. It is the story of four very different people who are fleeing and trying to make it to the ship Wilhelm Gustloff. It is also the story of the sinking of this ship which is known as the greatest maritime disaster in history. This novel will pull you right in and keep you up all night reading. I can’t wait to read another novel by Ruta Sepetys. In fact, I have another novel of Sepetys listed in the new reading challenge.

And that wraps it up for this year! What were some of your favorite books you read this year?

What I’m Thinking About Reading for the 2018 Reading Challenge

I have been anxiously waiting for Modern Mrs. Darcy’s 2018 Reading Challenge to come out. And it has! It’s taken me a little over a week to think about what I’d like to read for the challenge; but finally, I have some initial thoughts to share today.

I have participated in this particular reading challenge for the last two years and I feel like I’ve found my reading challenge home. 🙂 Anne’s 2016 Reading Challenge really fit the bill for me when I came across it. (I talk about that HERE.) I had tried to do a classics challenge the previous year and failed miserably. I read plenty that year…just not much that fit the classics challenge. Anne’s reading challenge made me feel like a reading challenge could actually be doable for me. And I’ve participated ever since. Thank you Anne!

I had contemplated also trying a classics challenge again (in addition to the Modern Mrs. Darcy challenge) by trying the 2018 Back to the Classics Challenge, but have decided not to. I do have a running list of classics I want to read though. And I plan to read at least one classic each month (maybe more…..) because I now have a small group of ladies that we are reading one classic each month and meeting once a month for book discussion…our own little Classics Book Club. 🙂 Plus, as you will see, I have some classics listed as options in some of the categories for this year’s Modern Mrs. Darcy’s challenge.

So, without further ado,  this is my initial thoughts for what I might read for some of the categories of the 2018 Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge. These are just initial ideas and I may end up reading different titles along the way. 😉

You will notice that I am listing more than one title in many of the categories; these are options I’m looking at right now. Some categories I am actually planning to read all the options listed. I’ll explain those. 🙂

MMD 2018 Reading Challenge

A Classic You’ve Been Meaning To Read
*Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

I’ve been wanting to read this book for months now and just haven’t gotten around to it. January is the time to read this one!

A Book Recommended By Someone With Great Taste
To Be Determined
I will likely go with a recommendation from my best friend.

A Book In Translation
*Britt Marie Was Here OR My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman
*The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

I am planning to read both. I may also read both of the Backman books instead of just one. I really liked the two Backman books I’ve read so far which were  And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer and A Man Called Ove.

A Book Nominated for An Award In 2018
To Be Determined

A Book Of Poetry, A Play, Or An Essay Collection
I love having this category because it encourages me to stick with reading at least one selection of poetry a year. I’m not a huge poetry person to be honest; so this is an area I’ve been trying to incorporate into my reading life more. Two years ago, I decided that I wanted to try to include at least one book of poetry in my reading for the year. This year, I want to expand my selections and read something for all three of these options.

*Poetry – Dream Work by Mary Oliver
OR an anthology of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poems that I have on my shelf
*Play – Our Town by Thornton Wilder
*Essay Collection – Essays of E. B. White by E. B. White

A Book You Can Read In A Day
*Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick
The Marvels by Brian Selznick

I love The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. It was what I picked the last time there was this category. This time around I want to read one of these other Selznick books. Who knows…maybe I’ll read both!

A Book That’s More Than 500 Pages
*The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett (~973 pgs.)
*I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb (~897 pgs.)
*Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (~976 pgs.)
*Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset (~1168 pgs.)

In this category, my goal is to read a modern and a classic work. The first two are the modern options and the last two are the classic options that I’m looking at. I’ve heard great things about all of these books; and honestly, I’d really like to read them all. But for now, I’ll stick with picking one from each genre. 🙂

A Book By A Favorite Author
*Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
*Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

There’s only a few authors I can think of off the top of my head that I’ve read more than one of their works:  Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Shakespeare, and Lois Lowry. As much as I might appreciate the works of Austen and Dickens, I wouldn’t rank them up there among my favorite authors. Please, no one throw tomatoes at me! And I’ve never been a big fan of Shakespeare, though I found that I really enjoyed reading A Midsummer Night’s Dream this year. So maybe his works are growing on me. 😉 However, I absolutely LOVED every book I’ve read by Lois Lowry which would be all the books in The Giver series.

I have a number of books I’ve read in these last two years that I’d like to read more by those particular authors. So, for this category I’ve chosen two options for now. The first is another Lois Lowry book. The second option is by Ruta Sepetys. I read her book  Salt to the Sea this year and it was unputdownable. When I finished reading it, I knew I wanted to read another one of her books. So I’ve chosen Between Shades of Gray.

A Book Recommended By A Librarian Or An Indie Bookseller
To Be Determined

A Banned Book
*The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
*Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

I wanted to choose one modern and one classic for this category. I hope to read both of these titles.

A Memoir, Biography, Or Book Of Creative Nonfiction
*As You WishInconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes and Joe Layden (Memoir)
*Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain (autobiography)
*Touchstone Anthology of Contemporary Creative Nonfiction:  Work from 1970 to the Present by Lex Williford and Michael Martone (creative nonfiction)

This is a category where I really do want to read a selection for each option. So I’ve listed what I’ve chosen at this point for each one.

A Book By An Author Of  A Different Race, Ethnicity, Or Religion Than Your Own
*Beloved by Toni Morrison

I have been told by more than one person that this is a really good book.


Are you participating in any reading challenges in 2018? I’d love to hear about it!

What I’ve Been Reading Lately ~ Dec. 2017

In the next week or so I will be sharing a wrap-up post of my reading for this year. But for now, I really need to do a What I’ve Been Reading Lately post since it’s been several months since I’ve posted one. But first, I have to share that I’m so excited to have found a couple of friends who wanted to join me in reading classics. So we’ve formed our own little Classics Club and began in November with reading Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I intentionally took longer to read this book than I normally would, spreading it out over about three weeks. It was the perfect read for me for November. It was a nice change of style and content after having just read The Trial by Kafka, A Tale of Two Cities by Dickens, and finishing Robinson Crusoe by Defoe.

Little Women

As I got ready to read Little Women, I didn’t know if we’d have lots of things to discuss at our book club night. But as I read, I found myself putting sticky notes throughout the chapters. It ended up being a highly discuss-able book and we actually ran out of time at our meeting and didn’t get through all the notes I’d written for discussion!

A Christmas Carol

For December, we chose to read the Christmas classic A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens but with no planned formal book club meeting since December can be quite a busy month for many.  This was a re-read for me but it has been years since I read it. I read it as a read-aloud with my daughter this time around and we just finished it a few days ago. My daughter loved it and I really enjoyed reading it a second time!

Now on to more of what I’ve been reading lately….

Here’s a look at the books I’ve read since my last What I’ve Been Reading Lately post. (Some of these I mentioned in a September post I wrote.)

Beowulf translated by John McNamara
Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare
Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie
My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
The Trial by Franz Kafka
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
The Family Under the Bridge by Natalie Savage Carlson

I’ve managed to write up reviews of a couple of these books and they are linked in the list above. I do hope to at least get a couple more reviews written for some of the books listed above by the end of the year. We’ll see….

What have you been reading lately?

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?