Back to the Classics 2014 Wrap-Up Post!

classics2014I did it!! I read 10 classics from various authors, countries, and time periods in 12 months! (To be honest, a big chunk of those books were read this month *procrastinator*).

This was such a fun challenge, and I’m earnestly considering doing the Back to the Classics 2015 challenge next year, although I still have a little time to decide :)

Here is my wrap-up post listing all of my reviews for this challenge:

Required Categories:

Optional Categories:

I thoroughly enjoyed every one of these books (except for maybe Wuthering Heights), but if I had to rank my Top 3 it would be: North and South, Little Women, and To Kill a Mockingbird.

Thank you to Books and Chocolate for hosting this challenge!

Have you read any of these books? What did you think? Are you up for next year’s Back to the Classics Challenge?

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Voyage au Centre de la Terre by Jules Verne (and Crossing Something Off My Bucket List)

julesverne

“As long as the heart beats, as long as body and soul keep together, I cannot admit that any creature endowed with a will has need to despair of life.”

Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne
Published 1864 by Pierre Jules Hetzel
Classics/French/Adventure
Format: paperback; 338 pages
Also By This Author: Around the World in Eighty Days, From the Earth to the Moon, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
Goodreads | Amazon
My Rating: 4/5

Synopsis:

The intrepid Professor Liedenbrock embarks upon the strangest expedition of the nineteenth century: a journey down an extinct Icelandic volcano to the Earth’s very core. In his quest to penetrate the planet’s primordial secrets, the geologist–together with his quaking nephew Axel and their devoted guide, Hans–discovers an astonishing subterranean menagerie of prehistoric proportions. Verne’s imaginative tale is at once the ultimate science fiction adventure and a reflection on the perfectibility of human understanding and the psychology of the questor.

Thoughts:

You may be wondering why I used the original French title of Journey to the Center of the Earth in the blog title…that’s because I read this book in French! If you’ve been to my blog before, you may be familiar with my list of 25 things to do for my 25th year. #3 on that list was to “read an entire book in French.” So I can now cross that off!

It wasn’t easy–the French language has a special past tense that is only used in books or in storytelling, which makes it really hard to learn because you’ll hardly ever have the need to use it in a conversation. To be honest, I did not understand everything that goes on in this book, but I picked Jules Verne to read because 1) French Classics are easier to understand than English classics because the French language has barely changed over the centuries, 2) Classic novels have more grammatically correct dialogue between characters as opposed to modern novels, and 3) Jules Verne writes suspenseful and captivating adventure novels that are easy to follow and visualize.

On to the book! The only other Verne novel I’ve read before Journey to the Center of the Earth was Around the World in Eighty Days, which I really enjoyed. Verne’s characters are so particular and unique and the adventures they go on are always full of suspense and those “this is our last hope” type of scenes so that you’ll never be bored while reading one of his novels. Professor Lidenbrock is ever persistent and hopeful during this life-threatening journey while his nephew, Axel, often exclaims that all hope is lost and the group is sure to perish.

As always, true to Verne’s captivating writing style, there is a twist at the end of Journey to the Center of the Earth that anyone who has previously read Verne will be expecting to discover :)

Read This Book If…:

…you love an adventure!
…you’re into science fiction books, especially those written by the fathers of sci-fi.
…you crave a book that will make you both laugh out loud and turn the pages in suspense.
…you’re looking for a new unforgettable adventure to experience.

“Was I to believe him in earnest in his intention to penetrate to the center of this massive globe? Had I been listening to the mad speculations of a lunatic, or to the scientific conclusions of a lofty genius? Where did truth stop? Where did error begin?”

Final Musings:

If you’ve never read a novel by Jules Verne, I would suggest Journey to the Center of the Earth as a good starting point, although I preferred Around the World in Eighty Days (really though, any Verne book is a good book to read). Full of quirky characters, daring adventures, and spectacular imagery, Journey to the Center of the Earth is definitely a classic that deserves its masterpiece label.

November Highlights

Oh my gosh, it is December already!? Whaaaat!

October was a big month for me, but November was just as busy and eventful. This month brought some great, new changes to my life, and it was also a bit of an awakening for me as well. My blogging and reading time entered a bit of a lull, but if you keep reading on you’ll see that it’s been worth it :)

November Highlights!

This month I read 7  books! (Which might not seem like a lot, but it surprised me because I felt like I hadn’t read anything this month)

thebeautifulamerican thetroublewithflirting waroftheworlds thewonderofallthings
            robinhood weddingnight somethingstrange

I still need to get my review up for The War of the Worlds, and later this week I will be hosting a blog tour for The Beautiful American, which I am so excited to talk about!

What I Watched In November

Like I talked about last month, Matt and I have been binge watching Supernatural. We watch a couple of episodes most nights, and right now we are halfway through Season 5. The first two seasons were amazing! I am totally in love with Sam and Dean and I LOVE their relationship. I think the fact that they are brothers as opposed to best friends makes the show so much better. But seasons 3 and 4 were kinda disappointing. Season 5 is better, but honestly, every time Castiel pops up, I know the rest of the episode is going to go downhill (except for the Trickster one! Oh my gosh, that’s one of my favorite episodes so far).

I also started The Blacklist, and I think I’ll be binge watching the rest of Season 1 next month (I have SO MANY QUESTIONS!).

I saw The Maze Runner finally (and broke my cardinal rule by seeing the movie first), and loved it, but I also saw Nightcrawler with Jake Gyllenhaal and was creeped out. Good movie, but not the kind of thing I want to see twice.

Most Popular Blog Post

My most viewed post from November was my update on my 25 Things list! I’m slowly crossing off things from my list of 25 Things For My 25th Year, and I’ve done some pretty big and exciting things throughout the past couple of months!

Favorite Memories From November:

  • I GOT A JOB! Woooooo! I talked about this in my 25 Things Update post, but I’ve been employed for nearly 3 weeks now and I love it so far. My husband and I are very thankful for God’s provision.
  • YALL Fest!!! I could go on and on about this amazing experience, but I sort of already did that ;)
  • Thanksgiving! This was my first Thanksgiving in 3 years that I got to spend in the States, and since it is my favorite holiday, I was very excited about it! My grandfather came to visit us for the long weekend and it was really nice getting to spend some time with him. I spent Thursday morning watching the parade and cooking up all my favorite dishes from last year.
    thanksgiving

Biggest Challenge From November

NOT ENOUGH READING TIME! This is the one downside to working full-time: I don’t have as much time to read and blog. My commute to work is about 1 hour and 15 minutes, so I’ve been listening to audio books to make up for it, but not all of the books I want to read for reviews, for example, are available on audio book. Hopefully this month I can catch up on my TBR pile :)

December To Be Read:

I listed most of my TBR for next month on last week’s Top Ten Tuesday post, but I also plan on finishing the books on my Back to the Classics list, which includes North & South, The Journey to the Center of the Earth, and For Whom the Bell Tolls.

Things I’m Looking Forward To In December:

  • Matt and I celebrate our 3rd Anniversary later this month! Hopefully we can spend a 3 day weekend somewhere nice.
  • CHRISTMAS! But mostly Christmas decorating! I love Christmas, but I really love getting ready for Christmas. Usually we would have gotten our Christmas tree the weekend after Thanksgiving, but we were busy visiting family, so we’re doing that one night this week instead and I AM EXCITED! Matt and I have a tradition of decorating the tree, making Christmas cookies, and watching It’s A Wonderful Life :)

What were some of your favorite moments/books from November??

The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle

RobinHood

You who so plod amid serious things that you feel it shame to give yourself up even for a few short moments to mirth and joyousness in the land of Fancy; you who think that life hath not to do with innocent laughter that can harm no one; these pages are not for you.

The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle
Published 1883 by Scribner’s
Classic/Adventure
Format: print; 376 pages
Also From This Author: The Story of King Arthur and His Knights, Men of Iron, Otto of the Silver Hand
Goodreads | Amazon
My Rating: 5/5

Synopsis

He stole from the rich and gave to the poor, and in so doing became an undying symbol of virtue. But most important, Robin Hood and his band of Merry Men offer young readers more than enough adventure and thrills to keep them turning the pages. Who could resist the arrows flying, danger lurking, and medieval intrigue?

Thoughts

Quoth Robin Hood, snuffing the air, “Here is a fair day, Little John, and one that we can ill waste in idleness.”

If you know me well you know that I am in love with Robin Hood (like, if he showed up on my doorstep I would run away to Sherwood Forest with him in a heartbeat). I’ve been intrigued by the legend of Robin Hood since I first saw Disney’s animated Robin Hood (1973), which is also why the fox is my favorite animal (though I have a fondness for roosters, too).

So why is it that I have waited so long to read Howard Pyle’s The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood?! It’s probably for the best though, since I don’t think I would have understood much of the Old English language if I read this as a kid.

My favorite part of Pyle’s classic is of course the characters. Besides Robin, I also really loved the stories of Will Scarlet and Sir Richard of the Lea. Little John is as lovable as ever. Pyle perfectly describes him as a “great, faithful dog,” when it comes to his relationship with Robin. I found myself smiling at how effortless it was for other characters to pledge their honor to Robin. Each adventure followed a similar pattern: Robin would encounter someone who was on a quest or who needed help, he’d lend them a hand (or money, or his men), and at the end of the day all would be set right and Robin would have a new friend.

Robin Hood himself is so charming and hopeful that even the most destitute characters he comes in contact with can’t help but be infected by his infectious personality:

The Knight shook his head with a faint smile, but for all that Robin’s words made him more blithe of heart, for in truth hope, be it ever so faint, bringeth a gleam into darkness, like a little rushlight that costeth but a groat.

Read This Book If…:

…there is at least one adventurous bone in your body
…you love reading about legendary characters
…you enjoy a book that can make you laugh, gasp, and cry
…you’re into historical fiction

Final Musings

This book is not a fast read, but it is an exciting one! Each of Robin Hood’s adventures left me surprised, and even though I knew he would find a way to escape unscathed, I still found myself caught up in the suspense and action. For someone who was already enamored by Robin Hood, finally getting to read about his adventures only made me love him more!

“So my aching heart seeks thine, love
There to find its rest and peace,
For, though loving, bliss is mine, love,
And my many troubles cease.”

BONUS! Check back tomorrow for my (very late) post about a Robin Hood musical I saw earlier this year!

Northanger Abbey & Being Catherine Morland

Northanger Abbey

Yes, Catherine. The middle of the night is definitely the perfect time to inspect some creepy old cabinet.

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
Published Dec 1817 by John Murray
Classic/Romance/Suspense
Format: e-book; 170 pages
Also From This Author: Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Emma, Mansfield Park, Persuasion
Goodreads | Amazon
My Rating: 4/5

I was filled with a bitter-sweet feeling after finishing Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey last month; bitter because it was the last Austen novel I had yet to read and sweet because I finally found the Austen heroine I most resemble. Yes, I am Catherine Morland: young, adventurous, naive at times, and above all, impressively talented at scaring myself.

Earlier this year I read Shannon Hale’s novels Austenland and Midnight in Austenland. The first novel borrows extensively from Pride and Prejudice, but Midnight in Austenland is a partial re-imagining of Northanger Abbey, so of course that means I wanted to stay up until 2 A.M. reading it. This is the perfect hour to read gothic novels: the moon is high and bright in the sky, everyone else in my apartment complex is fast asleep, and it’s either eerily quiet outside or there’s that one pair of stray cats defending their territories somewhere far off.

For those of you unfamiliar with Northanger or Midnight in Austenland, without spoiling too much, both Catherine Morland and Charlotte Kinder convince themselves that a gruesome murder has been committed and then become obsessed with finding (mainly fabricating) evidence and motives. So, while reading Midnight in Austenland, I heard (or imagined) a noise somewhere in my apartment and immediately my heart started pounding. Of course this noise can’t be nothing, and although, unlike our gothic heroines, I didn’t immediately imagine a murder scene, I did use the flashlight on my phone to quickly scan my bedroom to make sure nothing was lurking about. And that is the moment I knew I was Catherine Morland (despite the fact that at that point I hadn’t even read Northanger Abbey yet).

Northanger Abbey was published posthumously, roughly four months after Austen’s death, but interestingly enough it was actually the first novel Austen completed. It has many similarities to Austen’s other novels, for example it is a coming-of-age tale that includes deceptive “gold-digger” type characters, exaggerates inappropriate behaviors, and discusses the relationship between love, marriage, and fortune. However, this novel reads a lot differently than Sense and Sensibility or Pride and Prejudice, which were Austen’s first two published novels. I felt that the characters were somewhat flat and didn’t possess complex personalities, but this was probably Austen’s design in wanting her novel to be more plot-driven. She’s very much criticizing gothic literature in her unique comical way, and if she knew how badly I spooked myself while reading Northanger Abbey, she’d probably smirk and shake her head at me.

Besides Catherine Morland, we also have the witty and always-amiable Mr. Henry Tilney who unintentionally provokes Catherine’s overactive imagination, as well as the persistently arrogant John Thorpe, who literally had me muttering my annoyances out loud. Well done Austen for making a character seem both flat and unbearably annoying at the same time.

Like I usually do after reading most classic novels, I watched the film adaptation to Northanger Abbey as well. Fun fact: Mr. Henry Tilney is played by JJ Field, who also plays the male lead in the film adaptation of Austenland. I think I preferred his light-hearted and teasing nature as Mr. Tilney, but maybe that’s just the Catherine in me speaking ;) Either way, I enjoyed both films, although Austenland is typically cheesy.

jjfield

Top: Northanger Abbey (2007) // Bottom: Austenland (2013)