Eleven Classics in 2011: January Check-in

Eleven Classics in 2011 @ Mommablogsalot.com

One month in 2011 is coming to a close and as promised, I’m checking in with the progress of my little self-imposed reading challenge.

This month I was also participating in the L.M. Montgomery Reading Challenge which Carrie @ Reading To Know hosts annually every January. This was an excellent opportunity for me to read some more of the classic Anne of Green Gables novels, which I only just discovered this past fall. This month I managed to read:

  1. Anne of Avonlea (kindle) by L.M. Montgomery Finished January 17, 2010 – I still can’t believe I waited so long to read this series which is such a well known classic. I really loved this second book in Montgomery’s Anne series. I am by now smitten with her descriptive prose and loved all of the stories of Anne’s two years spent teaching in Avonlea. I liked all of the various love stories that Anne becomes privy to and how they all sort of shape her knowledge of what love really looks like and what it doesn’t look like and the entire theme of preconceptions that runs throughout the book. – full review
  2. Anne of the Island (kindle) by L.M. Montgomery Finished January 23, 2010 – This book was so deliciously addictive, it deals with Anne’s years at Redmond as a college girl and I really loved that timeless look at college life and readjusting to life at home in between – very true to life and told in a very classic Anne kind of way. And of course anybody who loves the Love Story of Anne, will love book 3 I think as it finally really comes to a head in this book – with lots of heart ache and twists and turns of course. – full review

When planning this post, I debated back and forth on whether to count this as one classic book or two (or none, since I technically read the first book last year) and this inevitably also lead to the question, “What exactly defines “classic literature”? I turned to google and then Wikipedia where I found, of course, several takes on the subject. According to wiki, in the 1980’s, Italo Calvino said in his essay “Why Read the Classics?” that:

“A classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say” … “Your classic author is the one you cannot feel indifferent to, who helps you define yourself in relation to him, even in dispute with him.”

Constructing a universal definition of what constitutes a Classic Book seems to him to be an impossibility, since, as Calvino says, “There is nothing for it but for all of us to invent our own ideal libraries of classics.”

What I take from this and the dozens of other definitions and quotations I read is that a classic is a story that you feel compelled to make sure everyone reads and thus after a certain amount of time, society assumes most people have read it or should. It isn’t a guarantee of quality of course, since everyone’s opinions are different but generally speaking, it will be a book that has something for everyone, which stands the test of time to be enjoyed in any era and always seems relevant and contains a story that will stay with you all your life, long after your first reading of it. They are the books you hold onto instead of selling at a yard sale, so your kids and their kids can read and love it someday, too.

That said, I think that both of the Anne novels I read this year deserve to be counted in my challenge. They each tell a different story in Anne’s life and I loved them for different reasons as well as the same reasons. If you only read one, I’d wish you’d read the other as well. Maybe I’d feel differently if I hadn’t enjoyed the books, but as I read on Wikipedia, I think that this definition of classic has to be made by yourself, has to feel authentic to you, because at the end of the day, the only person you are reading for is yourself.

So all in all, I’d say my time spent with classic literature this month has been thoroughly well enjoyed, but I am looking forward to discovering another great author in February and so my classic challenge continues. I’m not sure what I plan to read in February yet, I have a lot of options and a few other review books and book club picks to contend with as well, but I’ll be sure to check in at the end of the month with more reviews and thoughts on the challenge.

If you’ve challenged yourself to read more classics this year, I’d love to hear how it’s going! Feel free to share links to any reviews from this month and tell me about the books you’ve been reading; what you loved, what you hated and maybe how you define classic literature in the comments section below.

Final Thoughts: Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel (1987 miniseries)

Anne of Green Gables: The SequelI just wanted to wrap up my thoughts on Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel, the 1987 mini-series which I began and reviewed yesterday and finished watching today.

I have to say, having finished the movie, I did enjoy it a lot. Though I wasn’t terribly happy with the scenes and characters left out, the important part, you know, the Anne and Gilbert of it all, was kept mostly in tact and was wonderful to watch on the (smallish) screen.

I’ve really enjoyed the old fashioned romance of Anne and Gilbert, the simple moments and so much left to be desired, I think it’s much more romantic than the love stories you’d see today which are so modern and forward.

I think the actors were just so excellently cast for each of the characters in this story and they all did a terrific job. It really wraps you up in the world of Avonlea and makes you feel like you are there and part of the story and it all ends perfectly just like Anne of the Island does, with such warm feelings in your heart.

I can leave the series now with those warm feelings, though I eagerly anticipate the 2012 L.M. Montgomery Challenge next year so I can indulge again in more things Anne and see the rest of her story unfold. I have a feeling that the books I read this year might pale a bit in comparison to Anne’s story as she has officially I think become my favorite novel heroine and kindred spirit.

How have you enjoyed this reading challenge? I’d love to hear your thoughts on Anne of Green Gables, either the books or the films.

First Impressions of Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel (1987 miniseries)

Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel I just finished watching the first half of Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel, a mini-series which is based loosely off of books 2, 3 and 4 in the Anne of Green Gables series. I’m hoping to finish the mini-series tomorrow afternoon and hopefully write up my thoughts on it when I wrap up the L.M. Montgomery challenge hosted by Carrie @ Reading To Know, but just in case I run out of time, I thought I’d write up my opinion on the first half today.

Now, I’ve only read up to book three, Anne of the Island and didn’t initially realize the movie would include book four, Anne of Windy Poplars also. I almost stopped the disc when I realized this, but decided I’d waited long enough and didn’t want to continue waiting until I’d read book four, since I really don’t think I’ll have time to read it soon with so many other books on my plate. Now seeing how very loosely they are following the original plots, I’m not sure it matters. I’ll get around to Windy Poplars soon enough.

So far, I have to say that I’ve got mixed feelings about this film – it’s not that I’m not enjoying the movie, it is fun to watch and contains most of the memorable scenes you will want to see. But so many of my favorite characters and scenes and really the majority of Anne of the Island is ignored completely. Old Mr. Harrison, Paul Irving and Anne’s entire college career including her college friends and even Roy Gardner are left out completely and an affair with one of her student’s parents appears to be thrown in for good measure. Now I haven’t read AOWP yet, so maybe she does have an affair with this guy, too, but given everything I know of Book Three, I seriously hope not (I’m trying not to give away a spoiler here for anyone who hasn’t read book three).

Now I can understand that three books are a lot to mash into a 3 hour film and cuts had to be made, I simply think some of them were the wrong cuts. Maybe I’ll have forgiven and forgotten by the end of the movie, and again, it’s not that I’m not enjoying it and in some ways having not read Windy Poplars at least gives me a few plot points where I don’t know what’s coming (except when they blatantly replace scenes from Anne of Avonlea with her time spent teaching in Windy Poplars – like the fire works scene).

I know there’s always a risk taken when you watch a film based off a book – things are bound to be changed or cut short and characters left out. This certainly won’t be the first or last time I’m left a bit disappointed and it isn’t the worst offender of the lot either. I think I’m just feeling a bit sore over the whole thing because I enjoyed the first movie so much. I think it’s unfortunate that they had to change so much because they decided to combine 3 books in one when the first movie was able to devote itself to one book.

All in all, I think the scenes they chose to include were wonderful and anybody who hasn’t read the books would likely enjoy the movie a lot. But having literally just read books two and three, the changes were obvious for me and did not go by unnoticed, for better or worse.


Nightstand: January '11

What's on your nightstand @ 5 minutes for booksLast month’s nightstand post was a little different than usual. Instead of just telling you what I’d read recently and what I planned to read soon, I gave you a little Top 5 list of the books I read in 2010 and some of the worst, too.

Well, it’s a new year, a new month and time for the next What’s On Your Nightstand carnival hosted by 5 Minutes for Books. I’m going to get back into the normal swing of things and recap some of the books I’ve been reading and fill you in on my reading future a bit.

So far this year I’ve read:

  1. The Virgin of Small Plains by Nancy Pickard (January Book Club Pick)Finished January 5, 2011 – I thought this book had a lot of really high points but a couple of low points. I thought the mystery around this story was very well written, using varying points of view to gradually unlayer the truth of the story. I liked being able to see how differently each of the characters looked at what was going on and I have to admit, I didn’t guess the outcome of the book until the author wanted me to, though I think I came close a few times. On the other hand, I thought some of the descriptions in this book were far too graphic for my liking and it made me uncomfortable enough that a few times I almost wanted to stop reading. It was thanks to the otherwise well written story that I kept coming back for more and I have to admit I’m glad I did. – full review
  2. Anne of Avonlea (kindle) by L.M. Montgomery (Classics Challenge & L.M. Montgomery Challenge) Finished January 17, 2010 – I still can’t believe I waited so long to read this series which is such a well known classic. I really loved this second book in Montgomery’s Anne series. I am by now smitten with her descriptive prose and loved all of the stories of Anne’s two years spent teaching in Avonlea. I liked all of the various love stories that Anne becomes privy to and how they all sort of shape her knowledge of what love really looks like and what it doesn’t look like and the entire theme of preconceptions that runs throughout the book. – full review
  3. Anne of the Island (kindle) by L.M. Montgomery (Classics Challenge & L.M. Montgomery Challenge) Finished January 23, 2010 – After a comment from bloggy pal Jean that the 2nd Anne of Green Gables movie combines books 2 and 3, I had to put off Deep Down True by Juliette Fay just long enough to plow through the third book – and I really did plow through it in less than a week. Rather than reading my normal 5-10% a night, I was reading about 20% a night, could not put it down. It helped that Anne of the Island is a bit shorter than Anne of Avonlea of course, but really this book was so deliciously addictive, that I would have read it at this pace regardless. Now I can watch the 2nd movie with no spoilers. Anne of the Island deals with Anne’s years at Redmond as a college girl and I really loved that timeless look at college life and readjusting to life at home in between – very true to life and told in a very classic Anne kind of way. And of course anybody who loves the Love Story of Anne, will love book 3 I think as it finally really comes to a head in this book – with lots of heart ache and twists and turns of course. – full review

Right now I’m reading Deep Down True by Juliette Fay which I’ll be reviewing here and at my review blog, well, as soon as I finish reading it. Coincidentally, Deep Down True actually comes out in paperback today (January 25th) for anyone who tends to wait for the paperback copy before getting around to checking out a book, now’s the time!

And what’s next after that? Here are some of the other books taking up valuable space on my crowded nightstand:

  • Saltwater Taffy by Eric DelaBarre is another review copy book I’m planning to read soon, it’s a new YA book which “follows the lives of five friends as they uncover a treasure map that once belonged to the ruthless New Orleans pirate, Jean Lafitte.”
  • Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen has been sitting pretty on my nightstand since Christmas and I know I’ll only be able to put it off a little longer. I adored Godbersen’s Luxe series and I am anxious to read this first in a new series.
  • Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire is the next pick for my book club, so of course I’ll need to read this before the end of February (I hope).
  • I’m also hoping to start another classic novel for my challenge in the coming month – something non-Green Gables I suppose, but I’m still not sure what I’ll read next from the large collection of classic novels and e-novels that I own.

Any suggestions? What’s on your nightstand right now?

I Read: Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery

Anne of the Island by L.M. MontgomeryLast week I finished reading Anne of Avonlea and was just about to start watching the corresponding film when Jean, a good bloggy friend of mine, warned me that the film combines books two and three. So even though I had just begun to read another book, I quickly set said book aside and returned to my Kindle and the world of Avonlea in Montgomery’s third Anne novel, Anne of the Island, which chronicles Anne’s formative years in college at Redmond in Kingsport.

I really do feel like this series gets better and better with each installment. I adored this book and how timelessly Montgomery describes the college experience, from those first nervous days in a new place, to gradually forming a new group of friends and way of life, the trials and tribulations and exciting times.

Then comes the experience of returning home after having been away. Sometimes it’s a welcome relief and other times, just strange as you realize the things which have changed and the things which haven’t and you gradually come to realize how you never really can go home again to that idealized version of the home in your mind at least. The whole thing was just perfect, the new characters wonderful (even when they were terrible).

This is also the book where That Love Story finally comes to a head. Declarations are made, love stories unfold and it’s not an easy road for Anne, that’s for sure. It’s not easy growing up and seeing friendships change for better or for worse and it takes Anne awhile to decide what she wants in life truly and what ideals of hers are really just old fancies with no foothold in reality when all is said and done.

So now I have finished the book, loved the book, swooned and sighed and even cried a bit with this book – and now I can watch the film (finally!) in peace with no fear of spoilers. I also feel as though Book Three manages to leave the story at a point of contentment. The story is not finished but the waters are calm and I feel like I can move onto the many other books on my shelves to be read without feeling impatient to rush back to Prince Edward Island. I know I will go on to finish the series, but there is no longer an urgent rush to do so, rather I can save them for a treat later on in between reads.

I read this book in part for my participation in Carrie @ Reading To Know’s L.M. Montgomery Reading Challenge this month and coincidentally it also happens to be regarded as a classic work of literature making it count in my 2011 Classics Challenge as well.

I Read: Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery

Anne of Avonlea by L.M. MontgomeryI just spent a selfish bit of time sitting on the couch reading the last 5% of Anne of Avonlea on my kindle while my children made occasional sad faces and complained of boredom, but mostly entertained themselves with fun toys and sibling antics. I think you all understand and agree that those last few pages of a book are sometimes too much to resist, especially a book as good as this classic by L.M. Montgomery.

This book begins as “a tall, slim girl, “half-past sixteen,” with serious grey eyes and hair which her friends called auburn, had sat down on the broad red sandstone doorstep of a Prince Edward Island farmhouse one ripe afternoon in August, firmly  resolved to construe so many lines of Virgil.

Anyone not familiar with Anne Shirley might read that sentence and say, “so what?” perhaps mingled with thoughts like, “That sentence was awfully nicely written.” But any true Anne fan will immediately feel a little shiver of delight and anticipation and read little bits of detail in that first paragraph with a knowing air of understanding of all things Anne. At least I did.

I think we can all rest assured that I loved this second book in the well known series of Anne books by Montgomery which so perfectly portray the coming of age of any girl. But I think the books do far more than just relate to girls growing up. It tells a story of a town, it relates numerous love stories that will make you think of your own love story whether it has already happily happened or you are just anticipating what your own will be like someday. It touches on religion in way that is not over bearing or too preachy, but rather dreamy and speculative, which is probably my favorite way to think about religion.

A big theme in this book seems to be misconceptions or preconceptions, the idea that you might go into a life milestone or hobby or career with one idea of how things will be, but eventually discover something else altogether, and how often you find that new discovery to be even better than you could have imagined. Anne seems to learn this lesson a lot in several moments of her two years spent teaching at Avonlea and I felt reading the book that ultimately this would lead to her discovering her true feelings for Gilbert, although that might just be the hopeless romantic in me. If Anne of Green Gables, etc. are a love story, they are a very slow moving, prude and patient sort of story where you find yourself squealing with delight when one person puts their arm around another and nothing else happens at all, but you and he and she and anyone else privy to the moment all understand that it was everything.

So now I’ve finished the book and part of me wants to jump right into book three, Anne of the Island, but I have a few review books that I need to attend to first and depending on when I finish those, it may be time to read the next book for my bookclub and who knows what else will be calling to me, but I can assure you I’ll only have the willpower to wait so long, whether or not it manages to fall in line with my L.M. Montgomery reading challenge this month, I can’t say. I am planning to watch the miniseries adaptation of this book in the next week, so at least I’ll be able to linger in Avonlea a bit longer, even as I move onto other books.

What was your favorite of the Anne books?

I read this book for several reasons. The first being a new found adoration for all things Anne Shirley. The second being my participation in Carrie @ Reading To Know’s L.M. Montgomery Reading Challenge this month and coincidentally it also happens to be regarded as a classic work of literature making it my first classic book read this year in my 2011 Classics Challenge.