So basically I’m not reviewing books anymore because turns out I suck at them because I am overly optimistic and literally just rave about them even when they are not my favorite. Also, it’s not that fun. I’m still reading them, [just finished The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky] and I’ll be crossing them out on my list if you want to see where I am. I am going to be writing more about writing and random things, but that is pretty much what I have been doing so far anyway. It’ll be like a time capsule of my thoughts and ideas and experiences that’ll be fun to look back on later.
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Description: Holden Caulfield has been synonymous with “cynical adolescent.” Holden narrates the story of a couple of days in his sixteen-year-old life, just after he’s been expelled from prep school, in a slang that sounds edgy even today and keeps this novel on banned book lists.
I was supposed to be reading my spin list book, Cannery Row by John Steinbeck, but I was so excited about this book that I ended up reading this instead. I read it during final exam weeks so it took a week or two. (I only read in the mornings before the exams or after I finished them but couldn’t leave the room yet.)
Holden’s singular style of narrating his story kept it very interesting. He has some of the most interesting thoughts and ideas.
I admit that I didn’t get the ‘not wanting his childhood to end’ metaphors until after I finished the book (how was I so thick?) but even then, I realized how important that was. Some of my favorite characters was Holden’s little sister, Phoebe, Holden himself, and his dead brother, Allie. It made me want to write poetry with a green pen on my softball glove.
Although I’ll admit I didn’t like book as much as I thought [that’s what happens when I put my standards for a book way too high], I still thoroughly enjoyed it. There’s something very familiar and sentient and humane about Holden and the side characters.
The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johanne Wolfgang von Goethe
Although the title of this book might seem like the story is just Werther complaining on and on about his life, that’s far from it. In fact, Werther seems to see the beauty in everything—even in suicide—without much filter to his thoughts. The book is really short, and mostly comprised of Werther’s letters to his friend, Wilhelm.
It’s basically about Werther moving to a new town to finish his law degree and falling in love with the town’s judge’s daughter—who just so happens to be engaged. One of the reasons I wanted to read this book was because I saw the movie of the author’s, Goethe’s young years, which is what the book is mainly inspired from.
One of the big differences between Goethe’s and Werther’s story is that Werther ended up committing suicide, while Goethe became famous for his sorrowful book instead.
END OF SPOILER!
The book was especially popular and relatable at the time because most young men and women were forced into marriages where they didn’t necessarily, love, like, or even know the significant other. So, naturally, lots of people couldn’t marry the ones they loved and the book hit a really soft spot for many. Instantly, it was a sensation.
Even though it was only 88 pages long, it took me a while to get through it. There were times I couldn’t stop reading and times I had to force myself to open the page, but over all, I found the writing the most precious part of the story.
Some honorary extracts:
“If you inquire what the people are like here, I must answer, ‘the same as everywhere’. The human race is but a monotonous affair. Most people spend the greatest part of their time working in order to live, and what little freedom remains so fills them with fear that they seek out any and every means to be rid of it.”
“No one is willing to believe that adults too, like children, wander about this earth in a daze and, like children, do not know where they come from or where they are going, act as rarely as they do according to genuine motives, and are as thoroughly governed as they are by biscuits and cake and the rod.”
“I am proud of my heart alone, it is the sole source of everything, all our strength, happiness and misery. All the knowledge I possess everyone else can acquire, but my heart is all my own.”
“I examine my own being, and find there a world, but a world rather of imagination and dim desires, than of distinctness and living power. Then everything swims before my senses, and I smile and dream while pursuing my way through the world.”
“How many kings are governed by their ministers, how many ministers by their secretaries? Who, in such cases, is really the chief?”
“Does not man lack the force at the very point where he needs it most? And when he soars upward in joy, or sinks down in suffering, is not checked in both, is he not returned again to the dull, cold sphere of awareness, just when he was longing to lose himself in the fullness of the infinite?”
Last Thursday I finished The Gold Coffin by Ferenc Mora. [when I say last Thursday, I really mean over a month ago, I was just too lazy to finish this review. Exams were just way too overwhelming, and so I turned towards binge-watching Sherlock and I got side-tracked, sorry!]
[this is not the prettiest cover I found, but since it’s a Hungarian novel, it was the only English version.]
I’m not gonna lie, this book took me a while to finish. It was 425 pages long, add to that my final exam stress and the fact that I read it in old Hungarian, I think I deserve an award.
Yes, you heard me right. I read the book in its original Hungarian version.
^^^ that’s how I felt when I realized what I was bound for ^^^
I don’t think I have mentioned it on here before, but I am Hungarian.
I speak Hungarian; I mostly grew up there, my whole family is from there. That wasn’t the problem.
Despite all that though, this book was the first serious book I’ve ever read in Hungarian. I wasn’t sure if I was ready for something like that but I managed to pull through.
Anyway, let’s get into it.
On the story:
Basically, the book is set in the Roman Empire, under the rule of Diocletianus. Since the book is written in third person, there is no official main character, but I think it’s safe to say that the story was mainly surrounding Quintipor, a slave to the emperor.
One of the reasons the book has such an impact towards the reader, I think, is because it’s written in third person. It allows the reader to know everything, while only certain characters know one or two parts of the truth at best. This was dramatic irony at its best.
Now, an important thing you have to know about this story is how the empire was structured at the time.
Because it was way too big for only one person to hold autonomous power over it, Diocletianus the emperor chose another person to half it with. This was Maximianus. Soon, they realized even that wasn’t enough. Diocletianus chose one more person to half his share with, and Maximianus chose one too.
Diocletianus was still the sole emperor, except he was leaving some people in charge of parts of the empire he couldn’t reach.
The story starts when Quintipor gets offered a higher position as a slave, now the official assistant-slave of the emperor.
Long story short, Quintipor falls in love with one of the vice-emperors’ daughter, Titanilla, and she vice versa. Obviously, A girl the equivalent of a princess and a slave can’t really be an “item,” so they need to keep it a secret.
Here’s the catch:
What only the emperor and a close friend knows is that Quintipor is actually the emperor’s son, his heir.
The emperor had given his son secretly away to be a slave when Quintipor was way too small to remember, to save his life.
Now that Quintipor was eighteen, the emperor was slowly trying to free him as a slave, and then eventually make him the next emperor.
With us, the readers, knowing all these added up to a lot of anxious and hilarious scenes in the book.
For example, while the two lovers are trying to hide that they even notice each other, the emperor is also trying to see if Quintipor has a liking for anyone, in case they could be his empress later on.
As great a scenes these situations can make, the story also has a sad and deep lining woven through it.
I think Ferenc Mora’s writing is one of the best I’ve ever seen, although sometimes bound to veer off into another direction, his emotion-evoking description and poignant humor make it a wonder to read.
Another thing I will mention is the Christians. Since this is set in the time of Roman rule, there is a lot of hate, prejudice, and massacres of Christians.
At the same time, though, it is also the period in history when Christianity was just on the brink of tipping over the scale of Roman gods.
It’s the ripening of a new religion, a new age, the tragedy of fate undone, star-crossed lovers, mistakes, mishaps, and miscommunication.
There’s so much humanity in the novel. It shows the imperfections of human individuals, and what happens when they join a group.
All in all, the book is fangirl worthy:
One scene of honorable mention is when Titanilla is sick and she asks her father, one of the vice-emperors, if she has a soul. Her father only laughs and says, “what a foolish thought to have! Of course you don’t have a soul. Souls are only able to be kept in sturdy, brave chests like mine, not women’s.”
Later, still not satisfied, Titanilla asks the empress, (aka Quintipor’s mother, although Titanilla doesn’t know that), if she has a soul.
And the empress, who has gone through sixteen years of pure, unfiltered anguish, says:
“If it hurts, little Tit, then yes.”
And Titanilla smiles and replies, “Good then, I have a soul.”
[since I don’t have the English version, this might not be the word-for-word translation of the scene, but you get the gist.]
Overall, I’m just so happy that the first two books I’ve read in this challenge have been so amazing. [also both based on mythology, lol.]
Another thing I wanna point out is the characters. Mora had such an incredible way of showing what characters had as strengths, and what their weaknesses were. He wasn’t afraid to show in characters who would normally be either the ultimate villain or the hero in the story, all sides of their souls.
I think that’s a leap not a lot of authors are willing to take.
The main character, Quintipor, is also not the typical male main character.
He is incredibly shy, obedient, passionate, sensitive, devoted, and dreamy.
The funny thing about the two, Quintipor and Titanilla, is that most of the time neither of them treated the other as a princess or a slave.
Sometimes, Titanilla would even call Quintipor the emperor, or a god.
When they did treat eachother as their ranks, however, it would only be when they were either angry at eachother or trying to irritate the other.
I feel like I’m gushing a lot about this book, but I can’t help it.
Just wait until you see my review on the next book, which I’ve started already, called The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
I’ve only gotten twenty pages of the book left, and I feel myself already changing. Is that even possible?
Also, the movie of the young writer, Goethe, is just so adorable:
The spin number has been chosen and it’s….
DRUM ROLL PLEASE…..
Oh, wait! What were we talking about?
Oh! Yes! The spin number is……
Initially I was really nervous because I had no idea what my number one was, and then I checked and I was really mad at myself for writing my ‘Five I Dread’ first on my list.
So my number one was Cannery Row by John Steinbeck.
Not a book that I’m just absolutely dying to read, but what’s done is done.
Since before I decided to participate in the spins, I already decided to read The Sorrows of Young Werther by Goethe, I’m going to read that once I finish The Gold Coffin and then read Cannery Row after that.
I’m about halfway through The Gold Coffin and Young Werther is relatively short so hopefully I’ll be able to finish ’em all before June 7, the spin deadline.
Some things might stand in my way though:
1. My laziness.
Sometimes I forget I set myself a goal and end up snoozing my way through things.
and suddenly I realize I had something to do and I jump up like:
But that’s not my biggest concern.
Now this is where things get down and dirty.
Since I’m still in school, there are things called Final Exams that I have to crab-walk myself through and they are coming up hot and heavy.
And surprise suprise, I need to actually study for those things.
I just hope they won’t steal my reading time because I’ll be mad.
Here’s what you have to do: choose twenty titles from your classics book list, ( five dreaded, five you can’t wait for, five neutrals, and five free choice books.)
You post the list on your blog or whatever, and every time there is a spin and a number is chosen, you have to read the book under that number. Here is my spin list:
Five I Dread
i. Cannery Row by John Steinbeck
ii. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
iii. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
iv. Measure for Measure by William Shakespeare
v. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Five I Can’t Wait For
vi. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
vii. The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky
viii. The Complete Novels of Franz Kafka (and all other works)
ix. Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio
x. The Divine Comedy by Dante
Five I Feel Neutral Towards
xi. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
xii. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
xiii. The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank
xiv. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
xv. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
Five Free Choice
xvi. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
xvii. The Crucible by Arthur Millers
xviii. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
xix. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
xx. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
If you want to participate in a spin, the next number is announced Monday, May 12th!
Oh god, I really hope it’s none from the dread pile….although since I compiled my classics list myself, I didn’t choose any books I really didn’t want to read so the ones I put in the dread pile are only the books I don’t feel like reading right now. I left out a lot of books on the list that I already planned a specific time to read during like: I want to read Dracula during Halloween and A Christmas Carol during Christmas.
Alas, the day has come. I have finally finished The Odyssey. I can check one book off my list. I can’t begin to express how excited I am to be reviewing this book, so dear to my heart. This was my first time reading it and I really liked it. I haven’t decided if it’s worthy to go into my Read or Die pile, but we’ll see. I have always loved Greek mythology, and that was one of the reasons why I chose The Odyssey to be in my Classics Club List.
The Odyssey is not really a novel, but an ‘epic poem’, which refers to all long, serious, and hero-focused poems. (And when I say a long poem, I mean a four hundred and eighty-five pages long poem.)
Another thing to point out is that Homer didn’t actually come up with the myths in the story, he just wrote them down from oral to paper.
For those of you who don’t know what it’s about, here is Amazon’s summary: The Odyssey is the original collection of tall traveller’s tales. Odysseus, on his way home from the Trojan War, encounters all kinds of marvels from one-eyed giants to witches and beautiful temptresses. His adventures are many and memorable before he gets back to Ithaca and his faithful wife Penelope.
As I said before, I really enjoyed The Odyssey. It was one of those reads that was long and yet still such an amazing and oh-gosh-I-can’t-stop-reading read.
(that’s me being really hot and not being able to stop reading, except in a guy version.)
My personal favorite characters were Pallas Athena and Lord Telemachus. Athena is a really strong, goddess/woman character who schemes along with everything, trying to help Odysseus. Telemachus, Odysseus’ son, I liked because he was the epitome of the naive, fearful, and honoring young on the brink of manhood.
One of my favorite scenes was when Odysseus finally saw his son after twenty years, all grown up. It was such a gut-wrentching scene because I knew with Athena’s mist around him, no one recognized him and just saw him as a beggar. Then I went into full fangirling when Odysseus revealed himself and they cried together and—oh, I was a goner.
Another one of the scenes I loved was with Polyphemus the cyclops, when he is eating all of Odysseus’s crew and Odysseus stabs his only eye out in revenge. It is one of my favorite scenes because of reasons unknown to me, but I do know that when Odysseus said his name was Nobody so that when the Cyclops cried for help saying, ”Nobody is trying to kill me,” none of the other cyclopses came to help, I found it really clever.
Of course, since I’m a mythology geek, I knew all of these myths, which is why sometimes when the names (Eurycleia, Eurybates, Eurydamas, and Eurydice? Seriously? Which one’s which?) and side-stories started to become confusing, I understood a little bit more because I knew a lot of the stories already.
When Odysseus finally reveals himself to Penelope, his wife, and she doesn’t jump with joy and hugs him because she wants him to prove it is really him first, I loved that scene. She only accepts the fact that it is him after Odysseus explains to her their bed he built back in the day, and that it is unmovable. (A metaphor to their everlasting love, I believe.)
About the translation: I purposefully chose to read Robert Fagles’ English translation because I loved the way he translated The Odyssey. (I tried out a couple other translations too, and ended up liking this one most.) Of course, Homer gets all the credit for writing it so beautifully first in Latin. Fagles just had the ability to rewrite it in English just as majestically.
So yes, I would recommend this to all who can keep up with names and loves Ancient Greece and mythology, or just wants to read the story of a man struggling to get home for ten years in a row, always having something come in his way. I’m just kidding; I recommend this to everyone.
I wanted to include some of my favorite lines but I forgot to mark them and now I don’t know where they are in the big fat book…