Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: Books that Surprised Me

Happy Tuesday!! This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic (hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl) focuses on books that surprised us– for better or worse. Although I think it’s intended to be interpreted as “books that surprised us with how much we ended up liking or disliking them,” I’ve decided to take the topic rather literally. Instead, I’ll be sharing ten books that literally surprised me with their twists, turns, and unexpected plots.

What are some books that have surprised you? What do you think of the books I’ve mentioned? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

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Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Book Quotes

Happy Tuesday!! I am so excited for today’s Top Ten Tuesday topic because it focuses on one of my favorite things: QUOTES. So many of my books are covered in highlighter and pen lines because I’m an avid annotator and marker of writing that really resonates with me. Here are just a few of the many quotes I’ve fallen in love with over the years:

“I go to seek a Great Perhaps.”

{Originally from poet Francois Rabelais, read in Looking for Alaska by John Green}

“But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.”

{Brave New World by Aldous Huxley}

“Don’t be afraid of death; be afraid of an unlived life. You don’t have to live forever, you just have to live.”

{Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt}

“Never do anything by halves if you want to get away with it. Be outrageous. Go the whole hog. Make sure everything you do is so completely crazy it’s unbelievable…”

{Matilda by Roald Dahl}

“In the information society, nobody thinks. We expected to banish paper, but we actually banished thought.”

{Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton}

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” 

{Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass}

“My mother is a fish.”

{As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner}

“May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out.”

{The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien}

“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”

{Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling}

“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.”

{Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë}

What are your favorite book quotes? What do you think of the ones I’ve mentioned? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Discussion

Why I Love Character Maps | Discussion

Today I’m here to discuss one of my recent favorite things: character maps. I discovered the greatness of character maps while trudging through all of my required reading for my year at Oxford this past summer. Although there may be many differences between Victorian literature and the works of William Faulkner, there is one important feature that they have in common: SO. MANY. CHARACTERS. Fortunately, character maps are incredibly helpful in these bookish situations. Here’s why:

They help you keep everything straight while you read.

Map for THE SOUND AND THE FURY by William Faulkner

If I know or even suspect that a novel will be confusing due to the sheer number of characters or complicated relationships between them, then I always look up a character map before diving into the actual book. Chances are that for most well-known classics there are character maps already available online, which is where I usually find mine. It’s so helpful being able to quickly refer back to the map whenever you’re unsure about who is related to who or where their marital status stands.

They give you valuable context before you start reading the novel.

WUTHERING HEIGHTS by Emily Bronte

Context is always key before starting a new text, especially if it’s something you’re reading for a course. Not only is context important for better understanding the novel itself, but it also helps get you in the right mindset to read the book. This latter aspect is also a valuable effect of writing down a character map before opening the first page.

They keep you accountable for actually understanding what is going on.

Map for AS I LAY DYING by William Faulkner

Usually I write down character maps before I start reading a novel, but it can also be useful to create them as you read. Although you won’t be able to use it as a reference point in the beginning, creating a character map as you go along is a great way to make sure you’re following what’s happening in the story. You can always look up an actual map later on to ensure that you’re on the right track.

Do you ever create or use character maps? Am I the only one who always struggles to keep all of the characters straight in Wuthering Heights?  Do you have any helpful tips and tricks that you use while reading challenging books? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Books

7 Reasons to Read AS I LAY DYING by William Faulkner

William Faulkner is one of my favorite authors. Today, I’m here to persuade you to pick up one of my favorite Faulkner novels: As I Lay Dying. First published in 1930, As I Lay Dying tells the story of the Bundren family as they attempt to move a coffin to Jefferson, Mississippi.

I’ve read this intense novel twice: once last summer just for fun and once this past summer for the Faulkner tutorial I’m currently taking at Oxford. Each time I’ve been taken aback by the depth and complexity of this story. What first appears to be a simple task– transporting a coffin to a burial ground– quickly transforms into a journey that will change the family forever.

If you’ve never read this book, here are seven reasons why you should:

1. Relatively short length || At around 250 pages, As I Lay Dying is more manageable than some of Faulkner’s other texts. The pace moves quickly due to the short chapters and numerous narrators, meaning that it feels even shorter. If book length intimidates you, then this might be a good place to start with Faulkner.

2. Narration || With 15 narrators and 59 chapters, this novel is certainly a whirlwind. This jigsaw puzzle of perspectives forces the reader to piece together the story bit by bit. Each chapter is labelled with the narrator’s name, though Faulkner writes his characters so distinctly that the reader would likely be able to identify the narrator even without the helpful note at the top of the page.

3. Family dynamics || The abundance of narrators also offers the reader a close look at the inner workings of the Bundren family. Over the course of the novel we learn the many secrets this family has been hiding, including knowledge that only certain family members know.

4. Plot twists || There are so many details and layers to this story that I was still surprised when I read it a second time. From uncovered secrets and personality traits to unexpected events in the middle of the night, As I Lay Dying is sure to make you gasp at least once.

5. Dewey Dell || Dewey Dell is my favorite character because she’s arguably the most interesting character. Now that Addie Bundren is no longer living, Dewey Dell is the only female in the family. Though we do hear from Cora– a woman living near the Bundrens– Dewey Dell’s narrations allow us to peek into the life of a teenage girl during this time period. Though her narration was written by an older man and therefore must be taken with a grain of salt, it’s nevertheless telling that Faulkner decided to focus on pregnancy as a major theme. The idea of virginity is a common thread throughout Faulkner’s works, suggesting that humans have been preoccupied with the concept of purity in womanhood for far longer than we’d like to admit.

6. The challenge || I’m not going to lie: this book is quite challenging at times. What is the reader to do when characters start arguing over whether their mother is a fish or a horse? However, reading this novel twice has taught me that all the details unfold eventually– you just need a little patience.

7. The ending || The last line of this novel has made me gasp out loud each time that I’ve read it (even though I knew it was coming the second time around). It’s amazing that a simple sentence can change how you think about everything you’ve just read.

I hope I’ve convinced you to pick up this brilliant novel!

What are your thoughts on As I Lay Dying? What’s your favorite Faulkner text? Have any recommendations? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Tags

This or That Tag

Book Courtship-11

It’s time for another tag! Today I’ll be doing the This or That Tag. Knowing how indecisive I can be, making all of these choices should be interesting! Thanks so much to Ugnė @ My Passions is Happiness for tagging me!

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  • Mention the creator of the tag (Ayunda @ Tea and Paperbacks).
  • Thank the blogger who tagged you!
  • Choose one out of the two options. (You don’t have to explain why you chose what you did… only if you wanted to!)
  • Tag 10 other people to do this tag to spread the love!

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Reading on the couch or on the bed?

Usually on the bed, since I often read before I go to sleep. I also don’t have a couch in my dorm room, so the bed is pretty much my only option besides my desk.

Male main character or female main character?

If I had to choose I would probably pick a female main character, since I would be able to relate to her more easily than a male protagonist. However, it really depends on the author, the writing, and the story itself.

IMG_0676Sweet snacks or salty snacks when reading?

Oooh, definitely sweet! I’ve developed a major sweet tooth over the years, so I’ll always gravitate towards dessert of any kind. Besides, cookies are the best reading food– they’re portable, not very messy to eat, and taste DELICIOUS.

 

the raven boysTrilogies or quartets?

I haven’t read many quartets, but I actually think that I prefer them. Whenever I read trilogies I always feel as though the middle book is just there for transitioning the story from the beginning to the ending. Quartets, on the other hand, allow for gradual progression of the plot. (The specific quartet I have in mind is the Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater.)

First person point of view or third person point of view?

Third person point of view! Although first person POV has the added benefit of being inside the main character’s head, I’ve found that an omniscient narrator usually lends itself to a more beautiful, captivating writing style. Interestingly enough, I also prefer using a third person POV whenever I write stories. It just feels more natural to me for some reason.

Reading at night or in the morning?

Usually what ends up happening is that I read my assigned reading for class in the morning and read for fun at night if I have time. I prefer reading at night, though, because it helps me fall asleep.

Libraries or bookstores?

Libraries! I love my local library– I went there all the time as a kid, I worked there for two years in high school, and now I go back about once a week to check out books and chat with my old coworkers. My college library is amazing as well– it has six floors!– and I treasure the cozy, tranquil atmosphere it exudes. Libraries for life! ❤

438353-2Books that make you laugh or make you cry?

Confession: I’ve never actually cried while reading a book. Tears have certainly welled up in my eyes and I’ve felt very emotional, but I’ve never actually sobbed. However, I do love a hilarious story! If you’re looking for an excellent book to make you laugh, I highly recommend The Princess Bride by William Goldman.

Black book covers or white book covers?

White book covers. My eyes always tend to gravitate towards clean, simple book cover designs.

FullSizeRender-1Character driven or plot driven stories?

I by far prefer character driven stories to plot driven ones. There’s just so much more depth to the narrative when character have more influence over the story. You can predict plot twists pretty easily, but it’s much more difficult to fully understand what a character will do next. Recommendation: As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner.

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YOU!

That’s right: If you’d like to do this tag, go for it! Be sure to let me know if you do because I’d love to read your answers!

What are your answers to these questions? What do you think of mine? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Tags

STRANGER THINGS Book Tag

created by- arunning-commentary.blogspot.com

First, let me get this out of the way: I LOVE Stranger Things. I love its creepy vibe, the multiple story lines, the characters that you can’t help but support even when though they might make mistakes (I’m looking at you, Steve). As soon as I finished watching the first season I immediately felt the desire to go right back to the beginning and watch it all over again. (I didn’t, but if I had had a smidgen less will power I definitely would have.)

With that being said, I was ecstatic when I discovered that a book tag had been created by Nisha @ A Running Commentary based on this brilliant show. I haven’t been officially tagged by anyone, but I couldn’t resist joining in! Besides, it’s the perfect book tag for this Halloween season!!

Without further ado, let’s get started!

thevanishingof-willbyers

THE FIRST BOOK IN A SERIES THAT LEFT YOU INTRIGUED AND SLIGHTLY CONFUSED

IlluminaeIlluminae by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner

I feel as though I’m destined to mention this book in nearly every book tag that I do. It just applies to so many different scenarios! This first installment definitely left me intrigued and excited for the next book, though I was a bit confused by the sudden burst of information released at the very end. I can’t wait to read the sequel!

theupside-downA BOOK WITH A SETTING YOU WOULD NEVER WANT TO LIVE IN

The Hunger Games by Suzanne CollinsThe Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I feel like this is a pretty obvious choice, especially since both Panem and the Arena have been made even more gruesome by their time up on the big screen. Living in the Arena would be absolutely terrifying, though I imagine that living in Panem in general wouldn’t be much better. These settings are horrific enough to be the fuel for nightmares!

eleven-011

A BOOK YOU OWN THAT IS SOMEWHAT DAMAGED, BUT LOVED TO PIECES

the outcasts of 19 schuyler placeThe Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place by E.L. Konigsburg

I bought a copy of this book at a Scholastic book fair when I was in third grade (remember those golden days?) and I have read it countless times since then. My copy is pretty beat up and torn in some places at this point, but it holds too many memories for me to part with it just yet!

mikelukas-anddustin

A TRILOGY YOU ALWAYS GO TO WHENEVER YOU NEED A PICK-ME-UP

lord of the rings coverLord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

I have read this trilogy so many times that I feel like I could recite it by heart at this point. I first read them as I was entering middle school, a time when I definitely needed the comfort of a captivating story. These will forever be three of my all-time favorite books, and I cannot wait until the next time I sit down to reread them again.

the-demogorgon

A BOOK WITH A TERRIFYING BEAST YOU WOULDN’T WANT TO FACE IN A DARK ALLEY

438353-2The Princess Bride by William Goldman

Is it just me, or are the R.O.U.S. (Rodents of Unusual Size) that Westley and Buttercup encounter in the Fire Swamp super terrifying?! (No? Just me?) They’re huge, they’re hairy, and they’re not afraid to pounce unexpectedly whenever the opportunity to attack arrives. Despite their numerous frightening qualities, I can’t help but adore their acronym. It’s so clever!

dr-brenner

A BOOK WITH A VILLAIN WHO IS BOTH MANIPULATIVE AND DEDICATED

Vicious by V.E. SchwabVicious by V.E. Schwab

There are so many great villains out there, but I think I’m going to have to agree with Nisha and go with Eli Ever. Not only is he incredibly intelligent, but he’s also extremely talented at getting what he wants from people. He sort of reminds me of Moriarty in the BBC Sherlock series (at least, that’s how I picture him in my mind).

nancy-wheeler

A BOOK YOU DIDN’T EXPECT TO LOVE

10974As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

Although I enjoyed reading Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, it didn’t quite resonate with me as did As I Lay Dying. I love how this seemingly simple story unfolds with countless wrinkles and surprises as the tale is told. Faulkner is a master of authentically capturing dialect on a page. Long story short, this novel has officially converted me into a Faulkner fan.

hawkins-indiana

A BOOK WITH A SETTING THAT’S JUST A LITTLE BIT STRANGE

497118The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

Somehow this is yet another fantastic children’s novel that evaded the reach of my reading radar when I was younger. The Phantom Tollbooth is honestly one of the most clever, creative, witty, and hilarious books I have ever had the pleasure of reading. I’m so glad I finally read it… it only took me nineteen years!

Since I don’t know who has seen this show and who hasn’t, I’m going to tag ANYONE AND EVERYONE. Feel free to do this tag if you’d like to!

Do you like Stranger Things? (Who am I kidding– what’s not like?) What do you think of the books I’ve mentioned? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Books

AS I LAY DYING by William Faulkner | Review

Weeks have passed since I finished reading William’s Faulkner’s classic novel As I Lay Dying, yet I’m still taken aback by its brilliance.

My first experience reading Faulkner was with The Sound and the Fury, which was required reading for a literature class I took two semesters ago. Although I did enjoy it, the stream of consciousness writing style and the multiple perspectives proved difficult to fully understand. However, these same characteristic aspects of Faulkner’s work form a much more accessible story in As I Lay Dying. It still challenges the reader to put the pieces of his plot puzzle together, but the rewarding ending makes all of the effort worthwhile.

FullSizeRender-1Faulkner’s more experimental writing style is a key part of the effectiveness of this novel. He focuses primarily on inner thoughts and monologues, which is why streams of consciousness appear frequently in this work. Nearly every character acts as a narrator at one point or another, meaning that a chorus of personal thoughts, stories, and perspectives are gradually revealed to the reader. Though the members of the Bundren family can be considered the “main characters,” each voice telling the story has an opportunity to stand under the spotlight. Moreover, each character has a distinct voice unlike any other, so much so that I could probably identify the narrators without their names at the beginning of each chapter. Darl’s voice is more intellectual and educated, Vardaman’s is that of a young boy, Cora’s is intensely religious, Anse’s exudes a desperate tone, etc. Not only do these distinct voices help the reader distinguish between the characters, but they also make the narration feel more authentic and they provide a plethora of different perspectives of this single stay.

What at first seems like a simple tale of burying the deceased Addie Burden soon turns into an account of Bundren family dynamics and life in the South in the early twentieth century. Set in fictional Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi, As I Lay Dying addresses a multitude of topics ranging from poverty and religion to family and gender. Each character struggles with his or her own issues, which then intertwine with and contribute to the overarching plot at hand. There are so many topics to discuss alongside this novel that I would be rambling for days if I tried to include them all!

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One of the most interesting and rather jarring issue face by an individual character is that of Dewey Dell, the only daughter in the Bundren family. When they stop in different towns she always sneaks into the local drugstore to inquire about how to get an abortion. These scenes are both sad and infuriating: sad because Dewey Dell is at a loss for words when it comes to describing her “condition,” and infuriating because the men she speaks with treat her like a foolish imbecile. Abortions and childbirth out of wedlock were clearly frowned upon back then, but it’s startling to recognize the resemblance this bares to our modern-day society. As much as we would like to think otherwise, these topics are still often considered “taboo” today. This similarity is one of the many reasons why As I Lay Dying remains a relevant, valuable piece of literature.

Out of the many remarkable elements this novel possesses, the one that has stayed with me the most is the very last line. As son as I read it I was struck by how deceiving human nature can be, even when you are supposedly reading people’s innermost thoughts. It made me realize that each of the characters has had their own motivations for embarking on a journey to bury Addie from the beginning. Believe it or not, my immediate reaction was a desire to turn back to the very first page and read the entire novel again. This is the sort of work that take on additional meaning at a second glance. Though I haven’t reread it yet, I am looking forward to doing so soon.

Overall, As I Lay Dying has officially converted me into a devoted Faulkner fan. His writing style is challenging but rewarding, and I’m fascinated by the southern setting of his work. This novel in particular has often been described as a “tour de force,” a title with which I wholeheartedly agree. I was not expecting to become so invested in this story, yet here I am still thinking about it months later.

Well played, Faulkner. Well played indeed.

My Rating: :0) :0) :0) :0) :0) 5 out of 5

Would I recommend it to a friend?: Yes! Although it can be confusing at times, so they would have to be in the mood for a more challenging read.

I could honestly talk about this novel at great length, so you’ll likely be seeing many more posts about it in the near future!

What are your thoughts on As I Lay Dying or on William Faulkner in general? Have any other Faulkner recommendations? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY