Anne of Green Gables- L. M. Montgomery

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“It’s not what the world holds for you. It’s what you bring to it.”

I was telling a coworker of mine that I wish I would’ve read A of GB when I was younger. The book is filled with short chapters of Anne Shirley getting into trouble and causing all kinds of shenanigans with her friends. Each chapter is a short moral story that, I’m sure, a young impressionable girl is supposed to learn from. I did enjoy the book but it became a tad trivial for me since I have done the bulk of my growing up and know not to do certain things. I did find her trials amusing none the less.

For me it was about imagination. When Anne grows older she realizes that she must put her imagination to rest, or at least not voice her imaginings as much as she used to. No matter how old we get we should never completely lose our imaginations. I feel it is something that a lot of us take for granted. The imagination is where a mind can play without repercussion. My father had brain surgery about a year ago and I asked him if he was nervous, he said “I just don’t want to lose my imagination.” It is a lesson for all of us. We are all running around and barely look to the clouds anymore. So, take this lesson from Anne and imagine on dear friends, imagine on.

side note: I may be MIA for a time. I have started reading George R R Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series and at about 800 pages each it will take me some time to finish. I’m averaging about 2 1/2 weeks to finish one. I’m trying to decide if I should blog them separately or wait until I finish the fourth. Thoughts?


Winter’s Tale- Mark Helprin

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For what can be imagined more beautiful than the sight of a perfectly just city rejoicing in justice alone.

I have to admit that I was a little intimidated by this book at first. It being a behemoth at 748 pages and also that it is my boyfriend’s father’s favorite book. My boyfriend had also given it to me as a Christmas present, which felt almost like a rite of passage. I was terrified. “What if I end up hating it?” I thought. It’s such a delicate thing to give someone a book that is so dear to your heart and is at the top of all of your “Favorites of All Time” lists. That, along with with the sheer size of the thing scared me half to death.

I will be the first to admit that it did take me a while to finish it, but at 748 pages can you blame me? There were also some extenuating circumstances that also lead to the delay. (We had been packing to move again and I accidentally packed the book.) So, about a week ago I had a little more than 400 pages to go and I decided, since I had two days off, to buckle down and finish them. What a ride.

Mark Helprin has a way with words that is unparalleled. I know that I have said, many times, that an author writes poetically and Helprin is no different. He may even be the grandfather of poetic writing in a novel. Even the chapters are well chosen words that make you swoon. (I audibly said “genius” after reading the chapter “Nothing is Random” and right after it “Peter Lake Returns”.) He truly transports you to New York City and even though it is the NYC that we all know and love, it isn’t. There is a veil of mystery that surrounds the entire place and though you can’t quite put your finger on it, you know that it’s there. The city is just as much a character in this novel as any of the many characters and you grow to love it, if not more than the people living in it.

Of those people living amongst the backdrop of the city, Peter Lake is by far the one that I fell in love with most. I’m sure I’m not the only one either to succumb to his charms. He is a powerful force on the page and yet he is humble. I did start falling for him during the beginning of the book but it is towards the middle where he really starts to steal your heart away and begs you to stay with him. It becomes so, that you don’t want to put the book down because you have to leave him and the journey that you are taking, together.

There are truly no words to describe the feeling of reading this book. It is an adventure. It is epic. It is a mystery. I will not betray it by giving anything away and I am confident that everyone who reads this book will draw their own conclusions upon it’s ending, but I know what I believe. This book begs to be read and, trust me, it will stay with you long after you are done. Especially when the snow starts to fall.

All of my fears about this book were unfounded and I loved every word. I talked about the book so much that my boyfriend is now going to reread it. Even though I said it is a delicate thing to recommend a book that you love so much to someone in fear that they might hate it. I implore you to read this book. Best enjoyed in the winter time with a large cup of tea.


Cloud Atlas- David Mitchell

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Yet what is any ocean but a multitude of drops?

I simply devoured Cloud Atlas. I will not say that this book “changed my life” or anything of that nature, but I was transported to every environment and into the lives of each character.

Mitchell splits the novel into six small novellas through out and each has a very distinct voice, which I feel must be hard for some writers and even more so with this novel. To have everything connected and yet for everyone to have their own voice. I will say that the novella titled Sloosha’s Crossin” An’ Ev’rythin’ After was the hardest for me to read. It is written in very broken English with a bizarre accent attached, there is only one such novella so it pays to muscle through it.

It is very easy for everyone to have different views of this book because I feel like it deals with so many different themes, reincarnation being at the fore front. There are certain characters in the novel who all possess the same birthmark on their shoulder, coincidence? Also, certain feelings they get while being around objects or places that other characters have been, the feeling of having been there already. While I do believe reincarnation plays a big role in this book, I feel that the common thread is simply “everything is connected”. Characters finding the diary of another, passing ships that another has been on, seeing films about another based upon another characters’ life. One can liken it to “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.” Everyone and everything is connected and I ,for one, am a full believer in that mantra.

Like I said before, there are a few places in the book that lag a little bit and they feel like they take forever to read. Then there are those bits that fly by and you just want them to keep going and going and going, but every great book must end. I was a bit unhappy with the way the end was turning out until I got to the last line that sums up everything perfectly. I felt like the end was a bit rushed and he was trying to pack WAY too much into just a few pages. Either way, it is a book I will not soon forget and will recommend to others. I have not seen the movie but I am glad that I read the book before doing so.


A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens

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“Reflect upon your present blessings–of which every man has many–not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”

Even though this book deals with the holiday season it’s message transcends the time of year where everyone is supposed to be kind to one another. It makes you think about what your three ghosts would show you. The point of the three ghosts is not just to be amicable to our fellow humans during just a certain time of year, but the whole year round.

I will say that I was surprised at the way Dickens chose to write the book, it is not through Srooge’s eyes but an unknown ghost who seems to be standing next to you and whispering this story into your ear. This unknown ghost, could he be one of your three? Telling you this story because you have not been kind to your fellow man? I think that is up to the reader to decide. No matter which way you slice it, this story is about kindness and what happens to a human being who locks everyone out of their life.

Side note: After much thought I have decided that I shall incorporate books that I want to read into my daily readings along with “The List”. I did say that I would finish by the end of last year and since that, unfortunately, didn’t happen I am giving myself leave to stray a bit. I will still be continuing on this journey and I will blog about all books. Thanks for all of the support and happy reading, Emily


The Bell Jar- Sylvia Plath

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“Remember, remember, this is now, and now, and now. Live it, feel it, cling to it. I want to become acutely aware of all I’ve taken for granted.”

I finished The Bell Jar a few days ago but I needed to let everything sink in before I wrote about it properly. I have a asked a few people what they thought of this book and they all say “Oh my god, it was so depressing.” Even my boyfriend, who has never actually read the book, had heard that it was a very sad read. The cover of the book even says:

“The heartbreaking story of a talented young woman who descends into madness.”

Yes, it is a bit sad at times, but I would be hard pressed to not find a young woman who hasn’t had at least some of these thoughts. Granted I feel it was more of a taboo to talk of such things in the 60′s and maybe that is why people label this book as “so depressing”. Now, lets get one thing straight, I am not trying to make light of suicide. That bit I agree is rather sad, but the part that gets the tears welling up in my eyes is the fact that she had no one to talk to. Even people she may call “friend” or “doctor”, people she should be able to trust.

In the end I must say that I enjoyed this book. It is one that I had been interested in reading for awhile and was happy that it was on “The List”. Sylvia Plath’s writing is so readable you almost feel like an intruder into her own mind. After finishing the book I read some where that The Bell Jar is semi-autobiographical, which adds a layer of sadness. The book has a far more uplifting end. Sylvia Plath is nothing short of a genius with words and in her passing lies the real tragedy of The Bell Jar.

“To the person in the bell jar, blank and stopped as a dead baby, the world itself is the bad dream.”


Atonement- Ian McEwan

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“From this new and intimate perspective, she learned a simple, obvious ting she had always known, and everyone knew: that a person is, among all else, a material thing, easily torn, not easily mended.”

Well, it has finally happened…I was not a fan of this book. I may have jinxed myself though, because I didn’t like the movie either. I try to separate the books from their movie counterparts, if there is one, but I simply couldn’t with this one. They were exactly the same.

Atonement tells the tale of Briony Tallis who witnesses a few things she is not supposed to, as many young girls do, and comes to a conclusion that ends up ruining the lives of two people close to her. Her sister, Cecilia, and a boy that her father (for all intents and purposes) adopts, Robbie. Not one of the voices in the book really captured my attention, in fact I thought most of them a little annoying. The mother, Emily, has two chapters devoted to her and nothing really comes out of them except you learn more about her headaches and they elude to the fact that her husband may be having an affair. The only bit I did liked was when Robbie was writing the letter to Cecilia, the one that eventually leads to his undoing, in his cottage on the Tallis property.

I kept thinking to myself: “it’ll pick up…it has to.” The only time it really did go anywhere was when Briony is a little older and working as a nurse in a hospital during the war, and even then not a whole lot happens. Everything is very “behind the veil”. Which doesn’t make you really care about these characters, at all. I found both Tallis sisters a tad annoying right off the bat and that didn’t really change. Robbie I liked for a bit, but then you get to the end and I found myself not liking I’m at all either. You find him much changed from the war, but he seems like a completely different person. Talking in very short sentences and letting anger get the best of him.

I read on the back of the book Ian McEwen compared to Jane Austen and I agree to a very small extent. In the way he describes the surroundings,yes I agree, but it is in the way his characters don’t make you feel for their predicaments that I disagree. By the end of a Jane Austen novel you are sad to leave her world and her characters, but I was not upset to close this book and leave Briony and her world behind.


Life After Death- Damien Echols

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“If I start to believe that the things I write cannot stand on their own merit, then I will lay down my pen. I’m often plagued by thoughts that people will think of me only as either someone on Death Row or someone who used to be on Death Row. I grow dissatisfied when I think of people reading my words out of a morbid sense of curiosity. I want people to read what I write because it means something to them—either it makes them laugh, or it makes them remember things they’ve forgotten and that once meant something to them, or touches them in some way. I don’t want to be an oddity, freak, or a curiosity. I don’t want to be the car wreck that people slow down to gawk at.”

I first learned about Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley Jr. back in 2007 through the documentary Paradise Lost. For those who are unaware of the unimaginable and yet remarkable journey these three men have been on I shall shed some light, but only briefly as this is a literary blog. I will post websites at the end where you can obtain more information if you wish. 1993 in West Memphis, Arkansas Damien, Jason, and Jessie were arrested for the brutal murder of three elementary school aged boys. Even though they held fast to their pleads of not guilty, the town banned together behind coerced and false confessions, insufficient evidence, and the words of a few men who had their own agendas. Three teenaged boys were arrested and ultimately convicted for a crime they did not commit. They all three spent eighteen years behind bars, Damien Echols on Death Row, until a very rare plea bargain set them free. Not exonerated, but free.

First, I must say that Life After Death is one of the most beautifully written books I have ever had the pleasure to pick up. You get lost inside your own head seeing the things that he describes, which means that you can sit for hours reading and it only feels as if a few moments have gone by. He describes what life is like on the other side of the bars and yet that is only one very small fraction of the journey that you go on.

This book is ultimately a look into the life of one of the most fascinating and inspirational people that I have ever met. He says early on in the book that he wants people to read what he writes because “it means something…makes them remember things they’ve forgotten and that once meant something to them.” While reading I couldn’t help but remember my childhood, my first heartbreak, or the house that I grew up in. He writes in such a way that awakens the soul and makes you feel. He gets you thinking, not only about his life and what he has been through, but about your own as well. It reminded me of when I first read Anthropology of an American Girl (one of my favorites, please read it if you have not already). That book spoke to me on a level that I can barely express. It changed my life for the better and I am forever grateful to the person who donated it to our local thrift store. This book is also nothing short of an inspiration.

I had the pleasure of “meeting” Mr. Echols a few weeks ago at a book signing. I say “met” because when I finally got to the front of the line I clammed up and barely said two words to him. I think all I actually got out was “how are you liking Chicago?” I tend to get a sort of verbal diarrhea when I finally find myself with the opportunity to meet someone that I admire. I was determined not to “pull an Emily”, as my boyfriend so lovingly calls it, and say something that I would instantly regret. For example; “I’m a HUUGE fan!” or just begin gushing about,well, just about anything. When I met Hilary Thayer Hamman, author of Anthropology of an American Girl, I went on and on about how I loved the feeling of the pages of the first publication and how I felt as if she was speaking directly to me and my life while reading. I never know if this is something that authors are just sick of hearing or not…Either way, I was determined not to get ahead of myself and I did the complete opposite. I wish I would’ve said a little more than just a simple question about the city that I call home, but alas that is all that came out.

I’m glad that I got the opportunity to hear him speak before I began reading the book, it was a nice companion. Also, if you have ever heard him speak you will know that he has a southern accent, a very melodic accent. I couldn’t help but hear his voice while reading and he writes that same way he speaks. The book takes on a very specific rhythm, one that I found hard to break. (Another reason I couldn’t put the book down.) He is also very funny. In his interviews and in his writing, the fact that he came out on the other side of this with his sense of humor still intact is inspiring in and of itself.

Someone asked him if he was angry about what has happened to him. He said that he was, but he isn’t anymore. He then quoted/paraphrased Buddha “Anger is like swallowing poison and hoping that it kills the other guy.” He described being angry like “drinking acid”, it will just tear you up inside. I relayed this to my boyfriend while I was rehashing the nights events and just yesterday he said that he was trying to live life that way. Damien Echols inspired me and I in turn inspired someone else. The domino effect of inspiration. Please pick up this book, it is a wonderful read and will, I can almost guarantee, make you see the world just a little differently.

“Good things are always coming; sometimes we just forget it.”

For more information on the case please go to:www.wm3.org
Or check out the Paradise Lost documentaries:
Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills
Paradise Lost 2: Revelations
Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory
A new documentary West of Memphis comes out in select cities on 12/25/2012

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