Classic Book Review: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

When I was first looking at the challenges for the Back to the Classics Challenge 2016, the re-read a classic you read for school was the most difficult challenge to find a book for. Honestly, I hated all but two books that I read in high school. I’m lucky school reading didn’t put me off books. The two that I did love, Farenheit 451 and To Kill a Mockingbird, I didn’t want to risk ruining my love for them with a re-read. Let me keep my pleasant memories. In college, we didn’t read novels. I went to a two-year school and received a nursing degree. I took English 101 and 102. Not a lot of options. So I had to look deep into the depths of my mind and find something. That something was Great Expectations.

I suppose I read it. It was an assigned book. The only things I remembered was a weird lady named Miss Havisham and her white dress and rotting wedding cake. That’s about it. I’ve never even watched an adaptation of it. Sad.

I hate summarizing books, now I know where my daughter gets it from. Great Expectations is the story of a boy named Pip. He’s “brought up by hand” by his much older sister who is married to the blacksmith. Events happen and he ends up coming into “great expectations” and the book shows what happens to those expectations.

I had many thoughts during my reading. 1. Pip is absolutely adorable as a child. Love him. I don’t love his complete adoration for Estella throughout his life. She’s a complete jerk. I understand she was brought up that was by Miss Havisham, but I don’t know how anyone could like her. 2. Joe is the best person in the book. I want a friend like Joe. More people need to be like Joe. Joe is the best. 3. Pip’s great expectations turn him into a nothing. He could have had a better life without them. I was almost relieved when he had regrets.

Overall, I loved this book. I loved the writing and the story. I came out very glad I decided to re-read this because it was worth remembering. I hope to read another Dickens next year. Any suggestions as to what would be best?

Classic Book Review: The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

My mother grabbed The Martian Chronicles out of a Little Free Library a year ago and I was a fan of Ray Bradbury’s Farenheit 451, so I decided to pick up this little book for my Back to the Classics 2016 Challenge. I didn’t read the Goodreads blurb before reading, but it would have explained a lot. Nearly everything, in fact.

The strange and wonderful tale of man’s experiences on Mars, filled with intense images and astonishing visions. Now part of the Voyager Classics collection.

The Martian Chronicles tells the story of humanity’s repeated attempts to colonize the red planet. The first men were few. Most succumbed to a disease they called the Great Loneliness when they saw their home planet dwindle to the size of a fist. They felt they had never been born. Those few that survived found no welcome on Mars. The shape-changing Martians thought they were native lunatics and duly locked them up.

But more rockets arrived from Earth, and more, piercing the hallucinations projected by the Martians. People brought their old prejudices with them – and their desires and fantasies, tainted dreams. These were soon inhabited by the strange native beings, with their caged flowers and birds of flame.

The Martian Chronicles is a book of short stories about humans colonizing Mars. It takes quite a few stories to really understand that they are cohesive overall – there is a story here, just not 100% following characters, it’s following Mars.

The book was published in 1949, so I did some research about “space stuff”. As I was reading I couldn’t help thinking about how much more we know about space than Ray Bradbury knew when he was writing. Despite it being set in the future (which happens to be now, yes, now!) the marriages are very 1950’s-esque, even among the Martians. The first pictures of earth from space were in 1946 and 1947; the first picture of the surface of Mars was in 1976. Knowing this helped me get a bit more into Ray Bradbury’s mindset while he was writing this. As far as humanity was concerned, this could have been the truth when it was written.

The Martian Chronicles is a sad book with colonization themes. The portrayal of humans was so sad and yet so true. It does end hopeful. Overall, it was a weird read on par with reading 1984 in 1984. The only words I can use to describe the experience are, unfortunatly, weird and interesting.

Until next time!

The Current Standings

Sorry I left you all hanging like that. Typing was too much of an inconvenience for me and homeschool paperwork takes precedence over blogging. Now my hand is almost normal, so I’ll try to get the emotions under control and spill the story.

I didn’t end up having to call Teach myself; he called me the day after my last post, on Saturday. The end result of that conversation: he received a promotion to Manager of the Glen Rock studio. He’s leaving. I managed to keep my cool and he fit me in for a final lesson that following week to discuss his plan for me. I managed to keep my cool and tell him how much he deserves it (he does), even though it’s devastating to me.

When I hung up the phone I immediately talked to my family and their first reaction was, ” He knows you’re going with him right? How long does it take to drive there?” Google Maps tells me that it’s only 1 1/2 hours. It takes me 3 to commute now. One way. Honestly, I stayed at that studio because it’s rare to find a person you click with. If I’m anything, I’m loyal. I have noticed that a few students have stayed with their teacher as they rise in the corporation. I also know that I don’t spend nearly the same amount of money these ladies spend. Is he supposed to ask me to stay with him, or do I ask him, or is that just wrong? Because I’m ready for less of a commute. I know I have to drive this way, but I’m still ready.

At my lesson, we danced a lot of (social-like) Foxtrot because I asked for it. It’s one of the few I can converse through. (Muscle memory win.) After verifying that he would be still teaching lessons, I asked him right out if it would be a bit like a crazy ex-girlfriend if I went to the other studio with him. End of story: I can choose to do that. Teach has to behave ethically now – he can’t steal his students to the other studio (even though they’re under the same corp), that’s not right. My perception was that he wouldn’t mind at all continuing to teach me. He did make me promise to try it out with Clyde (Teach’s friend who was hanging around our lesson last time and helped make me cry) and Lady J (I do need more consistent lady lessons). It’s the only thing I can do because there’s a slight problem – I have a contract that is only half over. I also need to find out if my free coaching and a few other goodies can transfer to the other studio. So I won’t be seeing Teach for a while. I have 2 months of payments still to make before I can go and sign another contract.

Since I’m on leave from work for my finger, and I want to get back to Teach ASAP, I’m taking extra lesson. How did lessons with Clyde and Lady J go, you ask? Lady J is wonderful. I have no problem taking lessons with lady teachers ever. We worked on arm styling and fully transferring weight in the Rumba. Lesson with Clyde was ok. It started as a “get to know you” and quickly went to overwhelming me with all kind of information and fixing me to the point that I felt like I couldn’t dance at all. Oh! and he taught me several new figures, too. Or he tried to. People look at me and think I’m extroverted and fun and gregarious. I’m faking it. It takes a long time for me to get used to men and I have Victorian sensibilities. Clyde did something on a first lesson that Teach hasn’t tried at all yet. He wanted me to Foxtrot sexy. Big no-no. It’s not going to happen. I got used to Teach over 3 years and I still couldn’t dance a serious rumba with him. Just no. Did I mention Clyde is 22? Hello, cougar. Did I mention he tried to sweet talk me into believing he thought I was 24? I’m too old for that crap. Did I mention there’s a bit of a language barrier? We’re not getting each other yet. I’m giving him more chances because I’ve had lessons with all the other guys in the studio and, guess what, none of them were Teach. I have a problem.

I have another lesson tomorrow so I hope to have more news for you. Manager Lady is keeping a close eye on Clyde and checked up with me after my lessons. I just didn’t think it was the time to tell her that I’m leaving. I did mention that I don’t have an opinion on Clyde yet. It’s too soon. May your dance life me less crazy than mine.

Classic Book Review: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Was I the only human who had not read this book? It seemed like it!

I went into reading Frankenstein with only the image of that scene in the classic movie, and many parodies of the scene, in my head. You know the one. The monster on the table with tubes sticking out of it and then the crazy Doctor running around with all his genius. I didn’t remember anything other than that, so I basically went into this blind.

From Goodreads:

Frankenstein tells the story of committed science student Victor Frankenstein. Obsessed with discovering the cause of generation and life and bestowing animation upon lifeless matter, Frankenstein assembles a human being from stolen body parts but; upon bringing it to life, he recoils in horror at the creature’s hideousness. Tormented by isolation and loneliness, the once-innocent creature turns to evil and unleashes a campaign of murderous revenge against his creator, Frankenstein.

I enjoyed Frankenstein much more than I anticipated. First, the descriptions of Lake Geneva were lovely. I felt like I was there. Second, it was put together cleverly, starting and ending with letters from a sailor to his sister. Frankenstein’s narrative surrounding the Monster’s. Last, it was nothing like the movie. The Monster was not a stupid being. Frankenstein created a being that was more intelligent than he himself was. This doesn’t condone the murders and vengeance that went on, but it was interesting to me.

I could probably go on for ages here, but my broken finger is hurting and I need to stop typing now. I read this book for the Back to the Classics Challenge 2016.

Future Looking Uncertain

This is what happens when you don’t go to your scheduled lesson. I was on Facebook and I saw that Teach was promoted to management. Some of his students were writing those heartfelt messages and showing pics. Now who’s my teacher? Sometimes managers continue to teach their long time students (I’m his longest). Do I want to continue at this studio? I’ve stayed for Teach, because no one has fit so well with my personality, you know I’ve tried. I also like the way they teach there compared to the local franchise. You know what? I just gave my mom advice today to stop worrying until you know for sure what’s going on. Seems like I should take that advice for myself. Guess I’m making a call Monday.

Be Careful What You Ask For

I wish I had written this post in a more timely manner because I broke my finger yesterday and typing is difficult. This is the post taking a week to type.

I have managed to have several productive lessons this month. Productive as in I’m learning a TON, but the growing pains did come out a bit.

We took my new, beautiful Smooth frame and applied to my dances while in hold. It is terribly difficult to find and then maintain this position. It also required a bit more consistent body contact than I have been used to in the past. On the other hand, our heads are farther apart, which is very nice. Somehow I’m used to body touching, but I don’t like our heads to be close together. I know I’m weird. Sadly, the only dance we didn’t do was Viennese Waltz. I did ask for it after D_Wall wrote such a lovely post on how it feels to dance, but Teach was so caught up in excitement over Tango that we didn’t get to it. I was worth it to hear Teach screaming, “More head, more head! I need more head!!!” down the long wall.

Last week I started our double with a question that precipitated a whole lotta’ lesson. “I’m starting to understand how my posture and frame are supposed to be in hold, but what about out of hold, specifically in shadow position?” I need to learn to keep my mouth shut. I was taught all right, and I’m still reeling.

First, Teach brought in another lady teacher to adjust me as we went – so a coaching ended up happening. I need to come up with a name for her, maybe Lady J to keep it all simple. Imagine 15 minutes of shadow position adjustment, followed by 30 minutes of how to roll out into fan position.  Then imagine it with 4 hands readjusting you every time. It was feeling a bit hopeless, but, trying to think positively, Lady J had to readjust less and less each time. All this adjusting also meant that we had to talk about counter balance and that just makes me think about how I don’t want him to bear any of my weight. I’m heavy and it makes me nervous. He had me lean into fan until I was going to fall over to prove that he would never let me fall. Cue my near tears. I understand logically, but the emotion of all this doesn’t understand the logic.

Next, we were supposed to have an alone lesson, but Teach’s friend was transferred from another studio and he decided to hand around and help (for free) half THAT lesson. Until I cried. Then he left. Friend (I can’t think of a name right now) had MORE things to fix. I had MORE hands on me and it just proved to be too much for the sensitive side of me. I don’t even remember anything that happened on the rest of the lesson. I just know that Teach fixed things up and made pretty so that I left feeling OK and not a piece of crap. I know that this is what I pay for. This is how you get better. Yet, how do I change my brain waves to “they’re picking on me and nothing is right” to “I’m getting so much better over this lesson”?  No one would be blogging if we knew the answer.

This is all I’ve got in me to type. Hubby was appalled that I was going to go to my lesson with a purple, sausage-shaped broken finger – so I cancelled. I have to keep that man happy, too.

 

September Reading Wrap-Up

September started well and ended poor. I am currently reading 4 books, none of which is keeping my attention. Hence, I didn’t read the volume of books that I usually do.

I participated in #RYBSAT and #DiverseAThon. During those I read a total of 8 books. They will be the first on the list.

  1. The Time-Traveling Fashionista on Board the Titanic by Bianca Turetsky 2/5
  2. Out of Sight, Out of Time by Ally Carter 5/5
  3. United We Spy by Ally Carter 5/5 (it’s over and I’m sad)
  4. Tempestuous: A Modern-Day Spin on Shakespeare’s The Tempest 4/5
  5. srsly Hamlet by Courtney Carbone 4/5
  6. YOLO Juliet by Brett Wright 3/5
  7. My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows 4.5/5
  8. What Milo Saw by Virginia MacGregor 4.5/5
  9. Dubliners by James Joyce 3/5
  10. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch 4/5
  11. The Reader by Traci Chee 4/5
  12. Follow Me by Tiffany Snow 3/5

I’m currently over half way through On Beauty by Zadie Smith. It’s going at a snail’s pace. I started Frankenstein a few days ago, and it, too, is not that exciting. Add to that Great Expectations and a few chunky books that I need to read by the end of the year and I’m feeling a bit bogged down. Hopefully I’ll find some lighter reads that will keep me feeling productive next month. Until next time, everyone!

Mini Book Reviews: Romance

It’s time for a few NetGalley reviews. This time around I read a couple of romances.

Once A Soldier by Mary Jo Putney

Mary Jo Putney is a historical romance veteran. I haven’t read one of her books a in a while and was pleased to read this one.

Once A Soldier is the love story of Will Masterson and Athena Markham. Will has been a soldier in the Napoleonic wars and has been asked to go to the small country of San Gabriel to scope it out for political reasons. There he meets Athena, the illegitimate daughter of an English Lord and an infamous San Gabriel woman. She is currently helping her best friend, the princess, run this small country until the King is released by the French – if he’s still alive.

This book is one of those slow-moving romances. There is a ton of political talk and it adds to the book, because it was well thought out and it shows these characters personalities well. I appreciated that Will and Athena started out by being friends and having a healthy respect for one another. I hate in when people jump into bed together immediately, especially in historical novels. Some may find this book a bit slow, but it was relaxing to me.

It is the start of a series. The beginning chapter is showing a group of men who are all captured, all spies and solders, and all lying, and how they escape. I assume the next books will be some of their stories.

Follow Me by Tiffany Snow

This book follows China Mack. She is a genius computer programmer working for the best tech company. She’s living a very ordered life with a bit of the hots for her boss (everyone has the hots for the boss), and she likes it that way. Then Jackson, the boss, chooses China for a top-secret programming job for the government. Then people involved in this contract start getting killed. It’s difficult for China on multiple levels because her orderly life starts going awry – her niece moves in, a sexy (suspicious to me) neighbor moves in and she suddenly has a dating life, plus she’s being followed by unknown persons.

This was a fun romantic suspense book. I’m a sucker for this genre and for nerdy smart, but socially clueless, women in books. China is one of those. I wasn’t a fan of the sudden love triangle in the book. She’s never had a date and then suddenly her next door neighbor AND her boss are  after her? Come on. I also didn’t understand what was going on with all the computer stuff. It was a bit glossed over and I do like a bit more juicy computer geekery in this sort of book.

There is a sort-of cliffhanger. Things get wrapped up, but new things happen. (Sorry so cryptic!)  If you liked it, you will want to continue with this series. I liked it, so now I’m impatiently waiting. Maybe we’ll see more of Jackson’s nerdiness in the next books?

Thank you to the publishers and NetGalley for providing these eARCs in exchange for review.

 

Classic Book Review: Dubliners by James Joyce

When I took on the Back to the Classics Challenge 2016, I was very worried about the Classic Short Story Challenge. I’m not a fan of short stories in general, and, as a new person to classics, didn’t have much knowledge of classic short stories. Dubliners was the only volume that I knew of and that was on my TBR. My grandmother gave me horror stories about James Joyce’s writing. My mother just groaned in pain. People on Goodreads have horror stories about reading James Joyce. I was afraid. Very, very afraid.

It started a bit rough. I immediately didn’t know if I understood the first story. It ended so abruptly. Was I correct in thinking that the priest was a bit shady? The second story didn’t fare much better. I was feeling stupid so I put it aside for about a month.

I have the Penguin English Library softcover edition. One day I picked it up off my nightstand and read the synopsis on the back. There it tell me that each story marks “a moment of epiphany for the characters”. Ah. From that moment on almost all of the stories at least made sense to me.

I actually enjoyed “The Boarding House”. It reminded me of the historical romances that I still love. What a scheming minx! “A Painful Case” made me think of regrets in life. There were a few where men just kept going on about politics or religion and they were a complete bore. “Counterparts” was like looking into the mind of a boorish drunk. That was not fun.

Overall, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this! It wasn’t nearly as awful as everyone predicted it to be. Wait for it… This may be my favorite book of short stories. Shocking.

Regroup and Chill

Because sometimes I feel like I can write and sometimes I feel like I just can’t, I have a bunch of lessons to recap and thoughts to throw out there.

My first post comp lessons were as expected. We reviewed some video and the judges comments and talked briefly about them. I told Teach about how I just felt awful and he pointed out all the things I did correct. You know, the things I was actually working on as opposed to the things I was working on without Teach being aware (you know, like being perfect). The judges had some great comments, too. Yes, most of them were “great lead/follow” and the like, but there were some good things to work on, like my turnout in rhythm. It felt good in my brain that the “things to work on” were all things that I had felt I was doing wrong during the day. There was nothing there that I didn’t expect. I know that I’m my own worst critic and that I can go overboard on my faults, but it calms my brain to know that some of my criticisms are based on the truth, that I can read my dancing correct in some way. I’m not sure that made much sense, but maybe you can make something out of it.

We also regrouped in what the future holds. Hubby and I needed new car, as the previous one had reached its limit, so now I have a car payment in addition to my already tight funds. Getting to work trumps dance. Sucks, but what can you do. The end result is that Fall Classic is out. (more on that later) Teach wondered if I was still wanting to focus on 9-dance or if I just wanted to do Smooth. The Team Match was a trial to see how things went. I was honest with him. When I left after the Team Match, I was done with Rhythm dancing. I had a lot of fun dancing it, but I just felt that all the lessons that we had on cuban motion and arms didn’t make it into my body. I asked Teach if he thought I had the ability to improve. I would miss Rhythm if I never danced it again, but there’s not point working on those dances in a competitive way if I’m not going to “get it.” Of course, Teach looked at me like I had ten heads and told me that I could definitely get better. I knew he was going to say that (he’s my biggest cheerleader), but his words solidified my decision to continue to try to learn those pesky Rhythm dances. So 9-dance is still in my future!

As an aside, we worked on a few things, but most importantly – Smooth arms. Did you know there are only 8 arm styles for Smooth? 1st, 2nd, 5th, X, Y, S, W, and one that I can’t read my writing for. We had some fun spelling things down the long wall using arms. It’s the little things, right?

Now to yesterday’s double. I was remarkably calm yesterday. It’s quite unusual for me to be so zen. Maybe fall was in the air? (I love fall.) I ended up spilling my current list of favorite and least favorite dances. My least practiced are a list, too. But I’m not allowed to put a least practiced on my least favorite list without serious reason. It’s just not fair. (I know I’m weird, no need to tell me) This is always interesting information to give your teacher because they can then use it to torture you with. Thankfully, Teach wanted me to maintain my zen, so he upgraded my Smooth frame using Foxtrot. He calls it a more 3D frame. When I look in the mirror I think we look like that two-headed guy in Men in Black. My head is the stupid extra head. Apparently, I’m supposed to be seen and present on the dance floor, so this is now how it is. Of course it’s not at all comfortable or easy to get into this odd position, but we do fit together nicely now. (I know this sounds dirty. The whole lesson was just one dirty-sounding comment after another. It’s how dance is.) So I basically have to dance like I’m going over the high jump while playing a violin. Sounds easy, right?

Ok. He did feel like destroying the zen a bit. We worked on Tango. That evil sharpness that I just don’t get. I didn’t realize that it would be an easyish fix. My bottom half is good. “Your hips are communicating properly with mine and have excellent movement.” (Reeeeeally.) My top half just doesn’t match my bottom half. My head doesn’t snap like it should. So we took my new frame, let my hair down (I have a secret wish to be Edita Daniute), and worked that right out. I need to let my hair down more often. It was fun flipping it around and it really helped me feel when my frame was off. I think Teach was having a bit of fun with it, too. It was one of our odder lessons because we were both pretty zen and happy, which can be dangerous because we are very alike and keep getting each other going. Things can get loud and weird – like him making me dance holding a box of tissues between my shoulder and chin/neck area. definitely one of our funnier lessons.

After the lesson Manager Lady rushed up and told me that she can’t imagine Fall Classic without me. She wants to do everything in her power to get me there. Well except give me a discount, of course. (sarcasm, I didn’t ask her to) So the attention keeps coming. I have to say, I’m getting used to seeing the thousands on her calculator. She wants me to hit up my family. Little does she know that my family is small and poor. It’s looking like I’ll be sitting this one out. It stinks, but I’m not willing to sacrifice my sanity by working more to attend the comp. As always, happy dancing everyone.