Tag: 1001 Books

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

Posted 15 September, 2015 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 9 Comments

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Sense and SensibilityTitle: Sense and Sensibility
Author: Jane Austen
Published: 1811 | Pages: 409
Genre: Fiction (Classic)
Rating: Undecided

On Amazon | On Indiebound | On Goodreads | On Librivox

In Short: Two sisters–one who relies on sense and one on sensibility, though more often than not neither seems to have any sense or sensibility!

Why I Read: It has been entirely too long since I’ve read a classic! I was auditioning classics on twitter and Jane Austen continued to come up as a classic favorite. I figured it was time for me to read a fourth book by her.

Thoughts in General: When I was in college, my roommate made me watch Sense and Sensibility with her. Since I hadn’t read the book and knew that I wanted to one day, I desperately tried not to pay attention. In fact, I probably fell asleep. Whatever happened, I totally forgot about one of the major “hero” castings in the movie and I somehow got my Austen heroes mixed up (thinking that there was a Mr. Knightley in this book) and spent the majority of the book waiting for a hero who would not appear. I tell you all of this just so that you’ll know that I made some assumptions that kind of colored my reading! This book would have been totally different had a Mr. Knightley swooped in at the ending (like I thought he was) rather than how the novel’s heroines’ romantic interests ended. But that kind of ending would have been much less sensible.


What I really think this book should be called is Assumptions and Miscommunication. The two main heroines, Elinor and Marianne, couldn’t be any different from one another, especially when it comes to matters of the heart. Elinor, the eldest, is more reserved and Marianne throws herself and her heart into all of her passions. There is a great amount of drama that occurs in Sense and Sensibility relating to the men that Elinor and Marianne associate with and sensible ole me kept internally screaming “None of this would happen if you guys just communicated with one another!!” But really–I realize that this is one of the most common themes of any type of book…um and even life…but it was almost farcical in Sense and Sensibility.

Despite any faults I found in the characters or the plot, I always love coming back to Austen’s wit and sharp tongue. She write this book when she was in her early twenties and the insight she provides into relationships and human nature are so spot on. Or horrifyingly funny.

“A woman of seven and twenty,” said Marianne, after pausing a moment, “can never hope to feel or inspire affection again, and if her home be uncomfortable, or her fortune small, I can suppose that she might bring herself to submit to the offices of a nurse, for the sake of the provision and security of a wife.”

Oh Marianne! Please don’t let that be true! For I know that seven and twenty is now much younger than it was in the early 1800s, to think that a woman cannot feel affection after that age just makes me want to cry.  On the other hand, the below quote really struck me like a ton of bricks. How’s that for being slapped in the face with a cold dose of reality? I feel you Edward, I really do.

“Shyness is only the effect of a sense of inferiority in some way or other. If I could persuade myself that my manners were perfectly easy and graceful, I should not be shy.” (Edward)

While I find myself relating more to Elinor (I am the eldest and certainly the most sensible of my siblings…muhhahaha), I wish she had a little more Marianne in her–the ability to really love out loud or express all of her joy and sorrow. For a good part of the novel Elinor suffers in silence and it about killed me. Of course, I probably would have had a better time with it had I not been expecting that damn character who would never show up. I mean really…this book would have been a bit more predictable otherwise and I spent most of the book in agony over not knowing who was going to end up with whom!

I did watch the movie when I finished the book (I really have NO recollection of watching it in college) and I enjoyed it. Had I known who played some of the key characters, the book likely would have been a bit more predictable (seriously, I feel like a bit of an idiot over the whole thing). Parts of the movie were boring (GASP!) and I still prefer the Kiera Knightley Pride and Prejudice (though I think I like this book better), but I loved seeing the characters come to life. The sense and sensibilities of the characters was so much more evident on screen and both Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet did an excellent job. Also…Alan Rickman’s voice. Is there anything better??

Bottom Line: I think I would have liked this one more had I not been waiting until nearly the end for a character to swoop in to romance the heroine. But I do love Austen’s sharp wit and I was pleasantly surprised by how easily my brain devoured Sense and Sensibility. While I’m still not sure where I stand in terms of a rating (see above where it says Undecided), it was a fun romp. Also of note, I didn’t listen to a lot of this book, but what I did listen to was narrated by Karen Savage on Librivox and she did an excellent job.

Have you read Sense and Sensibility? What is your favorite Austen?

Was there ever a time when you made an assumption about a book or thought you knew something that was going to happen that ended up being way off?


Happy Reading!



The Bell Jar v. Belzhar

Posted 7 May, 2015 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 21 Comments

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Bell Jar vs Belzhar

Title: The Bell Jar | Author: Sylvia Plath
Published: 1963; Pages: 288
Genre: Fiction (semi-autobiographical)

Title: Belzhar | Author: Meg Wolitzer | Narrator: Jorjeana Marie
Published: 2014; Pages: 272 | Audio Duration: 8 hours
Genre: Fiction (YA)

I first discovered Sylvia Plath as a college freshman when I was required to read her poem “Daddy.” Since then she popped up here and there in various college courses and I was so enamored by her poetry that I bought a volume of her collected poems.

Sadly reading poetry on my own isn’t quite as fun as digging in with a class, so this book has gone mostly unread except for a few indulgent moments here and there. Her only published novel, The Bell Jar, escaped my reading attention, though.

I don’t remember when I first added The Bell Jar to my shelf, but it was within the last couple of years and was promptly forgotten. I saw the Sylvia Plath biopic with Gwyneth Paltrow, but it wasn’t until I listened to Pain, Parties, Work two years ago that I knew I needed to bump The Bell Jar up on my list.

So in typical Trish fashion, two years went by before I finally picked it up. And now I’m wondering why I waited so long! Because as people will tell you, The Bell Jar might be best read while you are in your twenties. Or possibly even before then.

The Bell Jar is a story of Esther Greenwood who spends a summer in New York on scholarship working for a woman’s magazine. Near the end of the summer, her world cracks open and after an attempt on her life she is institutionalized. I knew going into this book that the story was autobiographical, but after Pain, Parties, Work (which focuses on that summer in New York), I realized just how parallel Esther and Plath’s stories are.

While I wasn’t blown away by The Bell Jar (again, I think it would have been more impacting if I had read it a decade ago), I appreciated the candid look into the mind of a young woman who struggles with reality. I’ve had many of the thoughts that she has and have had periods of my own depression. It also struck me that Plath was 30 when she took her life…three years younger than I am now.

How impossibly young she was. How devastating. I cannot imagine the pain and torment she must have been experiencing. Depression is a deep dark hole and it’s hard to dig out of once you are within its hold. On the other hand, it is impossible to understand the depths of depression when not in the midst of it.

After I finished The Bell Jar, I decided to listen to Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer as a companion. I didn’t realize the two were connected until someone mentioned it (get it? Bell JarBelzhar) and I was curious how the two fit together. When compared the two together, I can’t help but be incredibly let down by Belzhar.

Belzhar is also the story of a young woman, Jam, who is institutionalized in a sense—during a period of deep depression after the death of her boyfriend, she is enrolled at The Wooden Barn, a boarding school where she can hopefully heal. During her time here she is selected for a class based on the works of Sylvia Plath.

I’m going to break my own rules and get a little spoilery from here on out. As I was just beginning Belzhar, another reader noted that this book might have some paranormal aspects. Seemed unfitting at the time of my reading, but sure enough the members of this special topics class were all about to visit their past through the process of journaling. Like actually physically be in the past.

Magical Realism isn’t a deal breaker for me and I didn’t think this was so incredibly far-fetched for me to write it off. In fact, I liked the idea of these young adults being able to glimpse back at the event that had so shaped their future to hopefully gain closure. I was totally onboard.

And here I get really spoilery, so really, if you don’t want to know…jump ship now! Totally onboard, that is, until we found out that the reason why Jam is so emotionally tortured is that she deluded herself into thinking she was in a relationship with this boy who did not like her in return and so she mentally concocted his death. What?

For some reason this revelation made me feel cheated, though even as I type this I feel as though I’m being unfair and that Jam’s misery was her own…and maybe that’s the point. That it is tough for others to understand the depth of the way that we process emotional circumstances. That when we are in a bell jar, our world is so incredibly distorted. As Esther says, “To the person in the bell jar, blank and stopped as a dead baby, the world itself is the bad dream” (237).

What causes us to crack up, for our world to come tumbling down? How can we make sense of our world when we are living inside of a bell jar?

While I’m not sure The Bell Jar and Belzhar make perfect companion pieces, it was an interesting experience reading them in such close proximity. And maybe Plath’s deep introspection (through Esther’s eyes) is what made Jam’s situation pale in comparison–Belzhar doesn’t quite dig as deep under the surface.

A small note on the Belzhar audio: Jorjeana Marie does a great job reading the first person narrative and it definitely enhanced my reading experience. As I often do, I listened on 1.25x speed.

The Bell Jar, Belhzar. Have you read either of these books? What’s a book you’ve read that effectively portrays mental health issues?



Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser

Posted 3 February, 2015 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 27 Comments

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Sister Carrie Book CoverTitle: Sister Carrie
Author: Theodore Dreiser
Published: 1900; Pages: 400-557?
Genre: Fiction (Classic)
Rating: Oh the drama!

On Amazon | On Indiebound | On Goodreads | On Audible

In Short: Country girl goes to the city and gets wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of money, men, and society.

Why I Read: Because Care was reading it and it had been a while since I’ve read something this “old” (for shame!). Honestly, I’d never heard of Sister Carrie OR Theodore Dreiser before the readalong (though I since realized he wrote An American Tragedy).

Thoughts in General: O from Behold the Stars says it much better than I could… But I’ll be talking a lot more details than I normally  do in a book post, so if you don’t want to see spoilers, skip on down to the Bottom Line section. The basic plot of Sister Carrie is that young and impressionable Carrie moves to Chicago to live with her sister. On the train to Chicago she meets a gentleman, Mr. Drouet, who later entices her with comforts such as clothing and a place to live. During this time Carrie kind of sort of looks for work and ends up trying her hand at acting in a small theater production. She “befriends” a Mr. Hurstwood, whom she doesn’t know is married, and they later end up down a deep and dark path to wretched despair.

Or something–this is me being vague. The book apparently takes place over several years and dear Sister Carrie ends up in a very different place than she started. Though she is clearly none the happier in the end. More on this in a bit.

I was pleasantly surprised at how readable Sister Carrie is–especially given that I haven’t read a book that is more than a century old in quite some time. I was immediately swept up into the story and found myself easily reading a chapter or two in a setting. Sister Carrie is often credited as a more journalistic view of the turn of the century and this is indeed something that I really appreciated about the book. We see Carrie as she searches for a job to support herself and pay for her board at her sister’s. So often books of this time period focus on a woman’s role as wife and mother that it was nice to see a turn of the century look at a woman’s work outside of the home. Even if her continual search did bring back nasty personal feelings from my own job searches. Ha!

There’s also a lot to be said about the relationship between Carrie and Mr. Drouet and especially Carrie and Mr. Hurstwood later in the book as she assumes the role of his wife. Spoilers here–the book ends in much unhappiness after Carrie has separated from Hurstwood after he has failed to secure a job after years (though her reason for leaving him was not solely related to this). Her unhappiness comes when she seems to have finally made a name for herself in society and has satisfied every want she could, but none of this has brought her happiness.

I found myself really irritated at Dreiser and his message–is Carrie unhappy because she got too wrapped up in the American Dream and got lost in the material? That as long as she is continually striving for more that she will never really attain happiness or her dream?  Should we not want for better or for more? I realize that this can be a trap, but goodness should she have stayed in her small hometown or even worse as a lowly shoe repairwoman living for $4 a week and living under her sister’s roof?

There’s certainly more than I can grasp onto here and oh how I wish I could grab some coffee with the #CarrieAlong folks and chat!

Bottom Line: Glad I read it, and it’s worth your exploring as well. Not the best classic I’ve read but not the worst, either. This one also makes for a great discussion piece. I have so many questions and comments after finishing.

Have you read any Dreiser? What’s the last classic book that you read?



Possession – A. S. Byatt

Posted 6 March, 2014 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 22 Comments

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Title: Possession
Author: A. S. Byatt
Published: 1990; Pages: 555
Genre: Fiction
Rating: Wow that made my head hurt!

In Short: Two literary scholars (Maud and Roland) of 19th century poets (LaMotte and Ash) make a major breakthrough that will change the shape of their scholarship. Possession is told through intertwining present with diary entries, letters, poetry, and scholarly articles.

Why I Read It: I bought Possession in my earlier days of blogging because I kept hearing a lot about it–presumably because it’s also an award winner. I recommended it as our January read for my face to face book club.

Thoughts in General: People loooooove this book. I wanted to loooooove this book, too. And there were aspects of Possession that I really did love. Or at least the idea of things that I loved. I loved the idea of uncovering so exciting and novel. I did not like the scholarly articles that went along with these discoveries. I loved the idea of two bookworm nerds stumbling together to make connections in their field of study that would also lead to potential romance. I did not like Maud’s severe personality and Roland’s lack of confidence and pride. I loved the taboo relationship between LaMotte and Ash but I wish that I could have had more of their story.

The writing, however, is pretty amazing–especially when you consider that Byatt basically wrote modern day Victorian poetry and made up an entire elaborate plot of discovery involving a million little tiny pieces. It was fun to see the pieces coming together but it took a long time to get there and a less patient reader is likely to give up even knowing that the last 100 pages are the best. Byatt won the Booker Prize for Possession and it’s easy to see why–though it is not an easy read. I really went back and forth with this book–I loved it and then I didn’t, I loved it and then I didn’t. I really wanted to just be sucked in and stay sucked in. Though, even though it was tough at times I never had a difficult time picking it back up after putting it down.

Bottom Line: I liked Possession more than I didn’t like it. And I’m keeping it on the shelf for a potential re-read one day. If you’re not afraid to work a little bit to find the gem in a book, go for it! If work while reading makes you insane, skip this one. And for the record I did skip the all poetry and half the letters and scholarship. I do not feel that I lost anything in my reading from this particular laziness. So, in the end I found Possession worthwhile but Byatt really could have made it a bit easier for us!

Have you read Possession or seen the movie? What did you think?

Do you mind working to find the gem within a book? 


A Prayer for Owen Meany – John Irving

A Prayer for Owen Meany – John Irving

Title: A Prayer for Owen Meany Author: John Irving Narrator: Joe Barrett Published: 1989; Pages: 627 Audio Duration: 27 hrs; 20 min Genre: Fiction Rating: 4.5/5 In Short: Owen Meany is unusually small and has an unusual voice, but he will prove to his best friend, and narrator, Johnny Wheelwright that Owen is the INSTRUMENT OF GOD (caps are Owen’s, not mine). Why I Read It: This book has been on my shelf for years. […]

Posted 18 July, 2013 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 27 Comments

The Wind-up Bird Chronicle – Haruki Murakami

The Wind-up Bird Chronicle – Haruki Murakami

Title: The Wind-up Bird Chronicle Author: Haruki Murakami Published: 1994 Pages: 607 Genre: Fiction (translated) Rating: 4/5 In Short: Toru Okada, a thirty-something unemployed guy, leads a fairly mundane life until his and his wife’s cat goes missing and his whole world is turned upside down. Why I Read It: After I read and loved Kafka on the Shore a few years ago I started seeking out other works by Murakami. This one sat unread on my shelf […]

Posted 13 May, 2013 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 17 Comments

Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray

Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray

Title: Vanity FairAuthor: William Makepeace ThackerayNarrator: Wanda McCaddonPublished: 1847-8; Pages: 809Audio Duration: 28 hours; 46 minGenre: Fiction/ClassicRating: 3/5 In Short: A satirical account of the vanities that consume one’s life–or as Thackeray says: “A Novel without a Hero.” Why I Read it: Vanity Fair has been on my shelf for years. Don’t judge, but I probably bought it after the Reese Witherspoon movie came out and once upon a time I did read 75 pages or so. […]

Posted 25 March, 2013 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 16 Comments

Bleak House – Charles Dickens

Bleak House – Charles Dickens

Title: Bleak HouseAuthor: Charles DickensNarrator: Simon VancePublished: 1852-53 Pages: 914Audio Duration: 33 hours; 2 minGenre: Fiction (Classic)Rating: 4/5 In Short: Does anyone really understand Jarndyce and Jarndyce? Well anyway, there is a lawsuit that doesn’t seem to have any imminent resolution but it still greatly affects Esther (the sometime narrator) and Ada and Richard. Thrown into the mix is Lady Dedlock who has a secret she’s trying to protect and Mr. Smallweed who thinks you […]

Posted 9 January, 2013 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 17 Comments

North and South – Elizabeth Gaskell

North and South – Elizabeth Gaskell

Title: North and SouthAuthor: Elizabeth GaskellPublished: 1855; Pages: 480Narrator: Juliet StevensonAudio Duration: 18 hr, 18 minGenre: Fiction, ClassicRating: 4/5 I apologize up front about the rambling nature of this post. In Short: Margaret, a young woman used to her comfortable life in the south, moves to the industrial northern town of Milton when her father suddenly leaves his post as parson. Margaret finds many surprises in Milton as the way of life is much different […]

Posted 27 August, 2012 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 14 Comments

Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell

Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell

Title: Cloud AtlasAuthor: David MitchellPublished: 2004  Pages: 508Genre: Literary FictionRating: 3.5/5 In Short: Maybe I should tell you guys what I knew about the book going into it: Nothing. :) You love me. Why I Read Cloud Atlas: I picked this book up a few years ago at Half Price Books. I don’t remember why but I was looking for it specifically. Maybe it’s on the 1001 Books You Must Read list (yup, it is)? […]

Posted 11 April, 2012 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 21 Comments