Breaking News! My Litographs Poster has Arrived!

Hands down, the best gift I've given myself!

Hands down, the best gift I’ve given myself!

Hey everyone, I was going to publish my audiobook review of David Sedaris’ Me Talk Pretty One Day, but that can wait until next time, because I’ve got something more important to talk about today: my Litographs poster has finally arrived!

I’m pretty sure that most of you self-respecting bookworms have already heard of Litographs, but in case you haven’t, it’s this awesome company formed in 2012 which sells literary-themed t-shirts, posters, and tote bags.

But the cool part is that each item is designed with the actual text of the book! I’m so giddy with excitement, you can’t even imagine!

Close-up shot of the text!

Close-up shot of the text!

My Litographs poster is 18×24 inches and is inspired by one of my all-time favorite novels, Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte.

The color scheme in my apartment is grey and pink, so this poster is an excellent addition to my dining area.

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This poster only cost me $24, and shirts and totes range from $30-35. Litographs also provides free shipping to anywhere in the U.S., so you have no excuse not to buy one of your own! This isn’t a sponsored post, but trust me, you will LOVE it!

Book News!

It’s been an eventful week, not only for me, since I was a bridesmaid in one of my closest friends’ wedding last weekend, but also for book news! Here’s the recap:

Today would’ve been T.S. Eliot’s 124th birthday! My favorite Eliot moment was when we were reading “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” at UC Santa Cruz, and some hippie chick thought the protagonist was strong and brave, despite the entire class politely explaining that he was a weak, pathetic character. She couldn’t deal with the fact that there are wrong answers in poetry, and stormed out of class crying. Interpretation is key to literary scholars, but I think we know that T.S. Eliot was not a rainbows-and-puppies kind of writer.

Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of The Great Gatsby gets a North American release date of May 10, 2013. Coming Soon commented that this may not be a good choice, since the second week of May has opened quite a few duds. You mean, you couldn’t tell by the modern soundtrack?

Similar to Miley Cyrus flipping Disney the bird with her scandalous antics, J.K. Rowling is proving she can’t be tamed with her first post-Potter novel, Casual Vacancy. The New Yorker published an extensive profile on the author, who discusses the book’s adult themes and her unwillingness to write for critics. Reviews might be negative, but with the money she’s made with Potter, I say that she can write whatever she damn well pleases.

Speaking of flipping the bird, in a complete act of disrespect, Billy Connolly, who’s playing dwarf Dain Ironfoot in “The Hobbit,” called Tolkien “unreadable” and insulted devoted fans of the author. It’s a shame Peter Jackson can’t donate your salary to charity, because with that kind of attitude, you don’t deserve such an amazing career opportunity anyway.

The world of TV is working on its latest facepalm, this time a modern drama based on Wuthering Heights. Tentatively titled “Napa,” the story has swapped Victorian England for California wine country. I love a good soap opera, but leave Bronte out of it, will you, screenwriters? That’s a tale that needs no improving!

Lastly, my blog has been gaining traffic due to the release of “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.” Unfortunately, it’s only in limited theaters (none of which are close to me), so it looks like I’ll be catching it when it comes out on DVD. But feel free to re-read my book review here!

So there you have it! What other book news has sparked your interest?

The Booker Award and My Top 5 Books of All Time

The real world is overrated, anyway!

One of my favorite blogger friends over at http://wantoncreation.wordpress.com nominated me for yet another award, this time “The Booker Award,” which can be given to any blogger who devotes at least half of their posts to reading.

While I’m never good at fulfilling the chain-letter-esque nominations and keeping the ball rolling, I will finally reveal my top five books of all time! I know a lot of you have been waiting with anticipation!

In order from greatest to oh-my-god-why-are-you-still-on-my-blog-and-not-reading-these-books-right-this-second! A few I reviewed for Masterpiece Monday, so click the links to learn even more!

5. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (1847). This novel combines two of my favorite things: Victorian literature and star-crossed romance. Many people despise the lovers Catherine and Heathcliff for their often selfish, cruel behavior towards each other, but I can’t get enough of this tragic tale of true–albeit, angsty–love. Heathcliff is the perfect brooding lead, and Bronte does a fantastic job on character development for the two generations of these families. Not to mention, she includes critical discussion of social and racial issues of the time period. Can you believe Wuthering Heights was the only novel she ever published? Talk about the literary jackpot!

4. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (2005). I first read this novel my freshman year of college, and I’m still a die-hard fan. When the movie adaptation came out a couple years ago, it gained a boost of popularity, and I would literally stop people in the bookstore if they were looking at it and say, “Don’t even think about it. Just buy it.” And if you don’t take my word for it, TIME named it the best book of 2005, and among the top 100 English-language books since 1923. I can’t really tell you anything about it without spoiling the story, but trust me, it’s breathtakingly haunting. Movie also highly recommended!

3. The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien (1954-55). I hesitated in determining where to place this series on my list, because I have a multifaceted opinion of LOTR. I truly believe that it is the greatest story ever created; however, I do not believe that it is the greatest written story ever created. I admit that Tolkien was more of a historian than an author, and I understand that many cannot swallow his dry, textbook-like style. I should also be honest with my fellow book bloggers: I watched “The Fellowship of the Ring” and then read the whole series before the sequels were released. I know, blasphemy! But I think that no matter how you come to this story, it’s worth it, because once a Ringer, always a Ringer!

2. Demian by Hermann Hesse (1919). This is probably the least known novel on my list, and I owe it to my English teacher senior year of high school for introducing me to it. Translated from its original German, it’s a coming-of-age story of Emil Sinclair, who befriends a enigmatic young man named Demian. Demian teaches Emil about philosophy, religion, and finding your true self. It’s a short read, but my absolute favorite to re-read, because I learn something new each time. If you’re looking for something mentally stimulating and completely engrossing, this is it. Total life-changer.

1. His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman (1995-2000). Hands down, favorite series of all time. Many critics label Pullman’s trilogy for children, but this modern adaptation of Milton’s Paradise Lost is anything but childish. I walked into a bookstore one day in middle school, suffering from Harry Potter withdrawals, when the cashier recommended the novels. I bought the Del Rey mass market paperbacks (which were located in the adult fantasy section, by the way), and since then, nothing has influenced my life so profoundly. These novels motivated me to question the status quo and think for myself, so on the off chance that Pullman stumbles upon this post, I want to say thank you. If my writing can affect someone a fraction of what His Dark Materials has done for me, then I can die happy.

I know that I can sound a bit dramatic, but who can’t when discussing their all-time favorite books? Of course, I’ve got decades of reading left to do, so this list may be subject to change. You never know!

I would LOVE to hear your top five books–we have to help each other in making our to-read lists even longer, right? So many books, never enough time!

Masterpiece Monday: Poems About Winter

English: William Shakespeare statue in Lincoln...

Image via Wikipedia

It’s the middle of December, which means the days are cold and dreary. As a fan of sun and surf, I absolutely loathe winter. It’s a season where plants die and animals hibernate, but I recognize it as necessary to appreciate all the rebirth that comes with spring.

So if the grey and gloomy skies are depressing you, here’s some exquisite poems about winter to cheer you up:

“Sonnet 97” by William Shakespeare

How like a winter hath my absence been
From thee, the pleasure of the fleeting year!
What freezings have I felt, what dark days seen!
What old December’s bareness every where!
And yet this time removed was summer’s time,
The teeming autumn, big with rich increase,
Bearing the wanton burden of the prime, 
Like widow’d wombs after their lords’ decease:
Yet this abundant issue seem’d to me 
But hope of orphans and unfather’d fruit;
For summer and his pleasures wait on thee, 
And, thou away, the very birds are mute; 
   Or, if they sing, ’tis with so dull a cheer
   That leaves look pale, dreading the winter’s near.

This Shakespearean sonnet is one relatively easy to understand. The speaker misses his beloved and compares his absence away to winter. I love all the imagery of “freezings,” “dark days,” and “bareness,” because they’re simple yet beautiful metaphors for loneliness–something everyone can relate to this time of year.

“Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

This poem is deceptively simple. I absolutely love its rhyme scheme, because the third line of each stanza is a prelude to the rhymes of the next stanza (here: queer, near, year; lake: shake, mistake, flake). The allusion to death is subtle, because the reader stops in the woods on “the darkest evening of the year.” He wants to rest in the “lovely, dark and deep” forest, but he “has promises to keep/And miles to go before I sleep.” Of course, this poem has a literal level too, and it resonates with readers because we all have so much going on, so many things to achieve. We refuse to stop for long, because our obligations call us back to civilization.

“Spellbound” by Emily Bronte

The night is darkening round me,
The wild winds coldly blow;
But a tyrant spell has bound me
And I cannot, cannot go.

The giant trees are bending
Their bare boughs weighed with snow.
And the storm is fast descending,
And yet I cannot go.

Clouds beyond clouds above me,
Wastes beyond wastes below;
But nothing drear can move me;
I will not, cannot go.

This poem compares winter to death in a much more obvious way than Frost’s. The speaker can feel “the wild winds coldly blow,” but she refuses to let go of life. We’re not sure if this “tyrant spell” acts against her will, whether she actually wants to fall into the storm, but we admire her resilience nonetheless. When it seems like you’re fighting a losing battle, just remember: “nothing drear can move me;/I will not, cannot go.”

Let me know what you think of these snowy poems, and feel free to share your own favorites!

Masterpiece Monday: Jane Eyre

Portrait of Charlotte Brontë

Portrait of Charlotte Brontë (Image via Wikipedia)

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Since last week, I blogged about Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, I thought I’d discuss Emily’s equally famous sister Charlotte’s masterpiece Jane Eyre, which was published in 1847 under her pen name Currer Bell. In addition, I plan on watching its most recent movie adaptation sometime this week.

This novel follows Bronte fashion by incorporating Gothic Romanticism, unconventional characters, and a feminist perspective. The story begins with Jane Eyre’s childhood. As an orphan, she grew up with a cruel aunt and attended a miserable boarding school. Eventually, she meets Edward Rochester and falls in love with him.

The rest of the novel narrates their romance and the various obstacles in their way, including financial issues and strange happenings inside Rochester’s home. I won’t give anything away, because the novel’s mystery makes it even more enjoyable.

What I love about Jane Eyre is that even though she’s not the prettiest woman, she stands up for herself and refuses to be defined or dependent on men. In comparison to Catherine in Wuthering Heights, Jane does not allow her social standing to determine how she lives her life and whom she marries.

However, I gave Wuthering Heights a higher rating, because I was more enamored with Heathcliff than Mr. Rochester. Rochester was very stern and harsh at times, and it was hard to trust him, given his certain decisions in the past which I will not divulge. I felt that Heathcliff, although also cruel to others, used his anger to mask his true passion and deep down, only had eyes for Cathy–even during her marriage to another man and after her death. He’s the ultimate bad boy with a good heart.

But you really can’t go wrong either way, since both Bronte sisters produced exquisite work. Lovers of Victorian romances will have probably already read Jane Eyre, but if you haven’t yet, hurry up and do it already! Then tell me what you thought!

Favorite Quote: “It is in vain to say human beings ought to be satisfied with tranquility: they must have action–they will make it if they cannot find it.”

2011 “Wuthering Heights” Trailer!

For “Masterpiece Monday” I reviewed Emily Bronte’s novel Wuthering Heights, and now the trailer has been released for a UK adaptation coming this November.

The movie, directed by Andrea Arnold, will star Kaya Scodelario as Catherine (whom I loved as Effy in the original British version of “Skins”) and James Howson as the first African-American Heathcliff.

It’s already getting a bunch of award-winning buzz. It was nominated for a Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. But Howson’s race is also drawing much attention and criticism.

I was looking forward to a “Wuthering Heights” film in the works starring the oh-so-sexy Ed Westwick (aka Chuck Bass in “Gossip Girl”), but since that project has been dropped, I’m anxious to see Arnold’s version. I also don’t mind a black Heathcliff, because his character’s race was described ambiguously by Bronte herself.

She writes that Heathcliff “is a dark-skinned gipsy in aspect,” and Nelly tells him as a child, “if you were a regular black; and a bad one will turn the bonniest into something worse than ugly…Who knows but your father was Emperor of China, and your mother an Indian queen.” Thus, Heathcliff is not supposed to be traditionally English, but rather an ethnically-mixed outsider.

The trailer portrays the setting of Wuthering Heights perfectly: dark, gloomy, and very windy. The nature dominates the scene, with shots of insects and plants throughout. The only line of dialogue in this minute-long video is Catherine saying, “You broke my heart. You killed me.” Interesting that they chose to lead with that, since I always felt Heathcliff was more the victim, heartbroken and abandoned by Catherine.

Overall, I really hope they release this film in the US, because it looks very intriguing and unique! What do you think?

 

Masterpiece Monday: Wuthering Heights

Cover of "Wuthering Heights (Signet Class...

Cover of Wuthering Heights (Signet Classics)

Rating: 5 out of 5

I’m going to update the 30-day book challenge tomorrow, but today was supposed to be “Book that turned you on.” Bodice-ripping Harlequins don’t qualify as “masterpieces,” so I just decided to make this week’s meme about my favorite literary romance novel: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte.

Emily Bronte came from a brilliant English family. She had five siblings: two sisters who died young of tuberculosis, her brother Patrick, and her equally famous sisters Charlotte (Jane Eyre) and Anne (Agnes Grey). All the Bronte children were artistic and excelled in writing and painting. The girls, however, went by pseudonyms for publication–Ellis, Currer, and Acton Bell–of which the initials matched their real names. Wuthering Heights is Emily’s only novel, which was published in 1847. She died from tuberculosis a year later at the age of 30. In fact, their father sadly outlived all his children.

The novel, narrated by Nelly, the housekeeper of Wuthering Heights, follows the tragic relationship between Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff. It starts off when a new resident meets an older Heathcliff and his son, but Nelly takes the reader back 30 years prior, when Heathcliff (a homeless gypsy) is adopted by the Earnshaws.

Catherine soon grows close to Heathcliff, but her fixation on social status keeps them apart. The two must face the age-old decision between love and money, but if you know anything about Victorian literature, you probably already know what’s chosen.

Other than the difficulty in comprehending this convoluted family tree, full of multiple generations and repeating names, I have no complaints about Wuthering Heights. It’s the epitome of all star-crossed lover stories, surpassing even Romeo and Juliet, in my opinion.

The romance is heart-wrenching, dramatized but not glorified. Many despise Catherine for her selfishness and superficiality and Heathcliff for his cruelty and angst, but they are not supposed to be the perfect couple. Bronte focuses on the dark side of love and makes the reader wonder what is love’s purpose: to create or destroy? burn with passion or engulf in flames? make lovers better or worse human beings?

Wuthering Heights is easily one of my top five books of all time, but if you like traditional romance novels with cheery prince-like male love interests, then you won’t like this book. But if you appreciate raw, often ugly, all-consuming love, then don’t hesitate and pick up this book now.

And if I only write one novel, like Emily, then I just hope it’s a fraction as good as hers, because it truly is a masterpiece.

Favorite Quote: “‘And I pray one prayer–I repeat it till my tongue stiffens–Catherine Earnshaw, may you not rest as long as I am living! You said I killed you–haunt me, then! The murdered DO haunt their murderers, I believe. I know that ghosts HAVE wandered on earth. Be with me always–take any form–drive me mad! only DO not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you! Oh, God! it is unutterable! I CANNOT live without my life! I CANNOT live without my soul!'” (Ch. 16)