Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Animal Farm is a book that I’ve seen everywhere—libraries, bookstores, book lists—and it is difficult to fathom now why it take me so long to read it. I’ve also come to associate the picture of pig on the cover as Animal Farm and sorry to say, I had never bother to find out the meaning of the pig. Heck, I’d never be bothered to read the summary of the book. Then, my brother bought the book for me and everything changed.

This is hands down one of the best books I have ever read! It is knowingly funny, deceptively simple, and deftly ridiculing the hypocrisies and twisted logics of Communism (or any known society is more like it). For a simple tale, it makes me think a lot! It speaks to me and holds timeless truths. For example, Orwell wrote this to satire the Stalinism / Communism in Russia, but whoever read this book presently still can see clearly the parallel between Animal Farm and the modern society. The leaders said one thing today and contradicted it the next day. Then there are the people who blindly followed the so called leaders, putting their faith on them, only to be betrayed by these people, such as in the case of Boxer. Then there is people as represented by Benjamin, who despite possessing the knowledge and noticing things, refused to actively participate because deep down, he already sensed the unpleasant outcome. 
“Life will go on as it has always gone on—that is, badly”, he said.

After the rebellion, the animals put up seven commandments on the barn wall as the rules of their newly established society. Yet over time, the rules are amended to the advantage of the pigs until one rule emerged, the now famous: 
“All animals are equal; some animals are more equals than others” 
And then there is the slogan that is constantly shouted by the goats “Four legs good, two legs bad” that changed to “four legs good, two legs better” once the pigs have mastered the skill to walk with two legs. I remember I laughed hard when I read that despite not wanting to because I was extremely disgusted by the pigs behaviour. The diversion from one major issue to a minor one by a skilled manipulator as depicted by Squealer hit too close to home I felt uncomfortable. Orwell’s observation on human behaviour and condition is sadly true and it can be observed on every level of human interactions no matter the classes.

When I read the last word from the last page, I was left with sadness and awe. I’d hope for things to turn out differently, that maybe the animals will find their courage and strength to fight for their rights and subsequently establish an ideal society. Instead, all I got is this: 
“Twelve voices were shouting in anger, and they were all alike. No question, now, what had happened to the faces of the pigs. The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”

Friday, 13 March 2015

Reading Update #1

Currently reading Gulliver’s Travels and Selected Stories of Katherine Mansfield

It’s such a relief to be able to pick up Gulliver’s Travels again after putting it down a few weeks ago. I have made a notable progress by reading through book 2 in only one day. 

I started Selected Stories of Katherine Mansfield a few days ago, on account of it being recommended to me by one of my favourite bookish person on the net. So far I have read three of the stories and kinda like them.

Anyhow, I hope I’ll be able to finish these books and others by 31st of March. I’ve been so busy with works; having to mark over a hundred exam papers, with  each paper consisted of 20 pages is no easy task. 

What is your current read?

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Library Haul #1

Few days ago, I took the time to visit the school library. Despite the lack of titles I wanted, I managed to snatch a couple of books that sounded interesting enough from the summaries. Besides, I've told myself to read more of local (Malaysian) literature starting this year, and the school library is just the place to find such books. Without further ado, here's the library haul.

Library haul:

  • Budak Beca by Ishak Haji Muhammad
  • Glimpses: Cameos of Malaysian Life by Adibah Amin
I have started Glimpses but have yet to finish it since I've been reading another book. Besides, it's an anthology so I've decided to take my time with it.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

The Opposite Book Tag: Classics Edition

1.      The first book in your collection

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

2.      The last book you bought

Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë

3.      A cheap book

The Portable Edith Wharton by Edith Wharton

4.      Expensive book

The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe (Barnes & Noble Hardcover Edition)

5.      A book with a male protagonist

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

6.      A book with a female protagonist

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

7.      A book you read quickly

Evelina by Fanny Burney

8.      A book that took you a long time to read

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov 

9.      A pretty cover

Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote

10.   An ugly cover

The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe

11.   A national book

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

12.   An international book

Dracula by Bram Stoker

13.   A thin book

The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole

14.   A thick book

The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe

15.   A fiction book

Lady Audley’s Secret by M.E. Braddon

16.   A non-fiction book

Cosmos by Carl Sagan

17.   A romantic book

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë

18.   An action book

Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne

19.   A book that made you happy

Emma by Jane Austen

20.   A book that made you sad

The Dead Secret by Wilkie Collins

Saturday, 28 February 2015

The Books I Want To Read In March

Books to read in March:

1. Selected Stories by Katherine Mansfield
2. Selected Stories by Virginia Woolf
3. Selected Stories by James Joyce
4. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
5. Preloved by Shirley Marr
6. Ake by Wole Soyinka

Have you read any of these titles? 

Thursday, 19 February 2015

The Haunted Hotel: A Mystery of Modern Venice by Wilkie Collins

First published in 1876, The Haunted Hotel by Wilkie Collins was a supernatural novel. Despite the title, most of the events in the book did not exactly happened at the hotel. Instead, it chronicled the journey of Montbarry's relatives as they finally went to the hotel and uncovered a terrible secret.

I'll start by talking about the less than tasteful aspect of the novel. Agnes Lockwood, the jilted lover, was everything that was expected of a gentlewoman of that time ("...but I am only a woman, and you must not expect too much from me."); she honestly bored me to death and I did not even care for her. I also did not understand her devotion for the scoundrel who jilted her. Agnes was definitely suffering from a case misplaced affection. She was even angry at anyone who dared to badmouth (spoke the truth about) Lord Montbarry. That was laughable after what Montbary had done to her. 

Since the events set in Victorian era, a woman didn't have much future prospect especially one of middle class like Agnes. Her future was mentioned as destroyed after jilted by Montbarry, unless she managed to find a husband, which was considered as almost unlikely because of her age (late twenties). Another example can be taken from the case of Mrs. Ferrari, who was Agnes' former maid. She was abused by her husband, whom, through Agnes' help, managed to land a job with Montbarry. Despite the abuses inflicted to her, she always justified his actions and actually thought him a saint after his death. This made me bristle with indignation.

Anyhow, I still enjoy the mystery even though the author kinda spoiled everything to us readers by his constant foreshadowing and mention of destiny and upcoming. The Countess who was supposed to be the wicked villain with no redeeming quality came off as the most interesting character of the whole. In fact, she was the saving grace of this short novel, in my opinion. Her guilty conscience and the circumstances that led to her ruin were well developed. She probably would have had a different fate if she was not attached to her brother as well as married to someone horrible like Lord Montbarry.

I used to like The Haunted Hotel a lot more when I first read it. I found that the story was fascinating and the unexplained supernatural occurrences to be justified as not everything has answer to it. Upon rereading however, my feeling changed for reasons stated above. The book rating went from 4 stars into mere 2 stars, cause you know, even if it's bad, it's still Collins!

Have you read The Haunted Hotel or any novel by Wilkie Collins?

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

MBTI Personality Tag

I got this tag from my friend, Zell @ zellkrism. For the record, I am an INTP.


1-What makes you angry?
Injustice, double standards, stinky mouth & feet

2-What do you like/dislike most about people?
I like smart, witty, and logical people. Actually, as long as people are kind-hearted, I feel obliged to like them because it is the polite mannered.

I dislike dumb, unthinking, people. I hate it when people answered me with a lazy “No idea.”

3-Do you like animals? why?
Total indifferent. I recently acquired a cat though and I feel really fond and proud of him.

4-What do you like most about the favorite people in your life?
I like that they leave me alone and do not force me to participate in their activities or pressure me into liking what they like. We generally leave each other alone and yet still able to talk about a wide variety of subjects when reunited. 

5-What do you like/dislike most about yourself?
I like my aloofness. It secures me from unwanted attention as people are quick to judge me as reserve, snobbish and shy. I also like that I generally don’t care about people business (unless it interests me—which is rare).

Sometimes I take things too seriously and I dislike that. It makes me feel vulnerable.

6-Do you care about being fashionable? why/why not?
No. I just don’t care. 

7-Do you prefer to fit in or stand out?
Depends on wherever I’m most comfortable.

8-What activities do you enjoy?
Reading, thinking, analysing, dreaming. For rigorous activities, I like walking and hiking because they provide me alone time to do more thinking; alone because none of my family and friends like long distant walking and hiking.

9-What makes you feel secure?
Having my family, money and alone time.

10-Do you like being in a relationship? Why/why not?
I do. He filled in the right space in my life and completed the circle of my family and friends. He provides me with the type of support that is different from those given by my family and friends. More importantly he is smart and successful thus inspiring me to be a better person as a whole. I know myself enough to know I won’t respect a partner who is less knowledgeable than I am.

11-What do you love and why? Could be people, things, places, etc...
I love myself, my family (my cat included) and knowledge.

12-What do you spend the most time thinking about?
Myself and ways to improve my mind.

13-How much have you changed over the years? Who were you as a child?
My outlook and the way I perceive the world change as I read and experience more. Fundamentally though, I’m still the same person; always strive to better myself and feel like an outsider wherever I am. 

So, that's it. Feel free to do the tag.

Monday, 16 February 2015

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

A timeless classic. I went into this thinking that The Wonderful Wizard of Oz would be something that is deranged and unintelligible. Thankfully, I was proven wrong. It turned out to be an excellent children book, simply written, with a lot mishap and excitement to keep the story going. I think I would've enjoyed this book more if I had read it when I was a child.

Throughout the reading, I was struck by how the characters—Tin Woodman, Lion, and Scarecrow—had low self-esteem. Each wanted something that, in my opinion, they already had. Tin Woodman wanted a heart, and yet he appeared to be the most kind-hearted and sensitive of the four. For someone who was heartless, the Tin Woodman constantly burst into tears if sorrow and regret. Scarecrow wanted a brain when he was the brainiest of the gang and always came up with plans that helped them to overcome their obstacles. On the other hand, the Lion who called himself a coward kept putting his life in the front line to protect his friends from the coming perils.  This was extremely contradictory. I kept hoping they would realize this and accept themselves for who they are but the illusion of having courage/heart/brain were too instill in them that they didn’t believe they would be happy without it.

I also liked the incorporation of puns in the text. They got me chuckled a few times. For example, when Oz removed the Scarecrow’s head and filled it with a measure of bran, he then announced that the Scarecrow will be a great man, for he (Oz) had given the Scarecrow a lot of bran-new brains. The Lion’s “That proof that he is sharp.” further alluded to the pins and needles needed to support the Scarecrow new bran-filled head.

One thing I didn't like, or uncomfortable with The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was that it was littered with violence and horrific deaths. The Tin Woodman cut down the wolves’ heads (forty wolves, if I’m not mistaken) in one night, and not feeling a bit of remorse. While the wolves did come to cause them harm, for someone who was as sensitive as the Woodman, I’d expected a less display of savagery. He also cut down trees with no regards whatsoever to them. I was frankly shocked by this. The Tin Woodman’s origin was also grotesque. Cutting down each part of his body one after another and replaced them with tin, that must be extremely painful.

I don’t have much to say about Dorothy. She seemed rather flat character, with a singular goal on her mind. However, she was also the only one who was happy with her lot and recognized her friends’ worth despite their low self-value. Oz definitely was the most interesting character in the story even though he only appeared sporadically in the book. He seemed like an ingenious man who made the best of his situation. He tried his best to help people too regardless of his limitation. So, I, like Dorothy, had learned quite a few lessons from this tale. 

*All original illustrations by William Wallace Denslow.

What is your favourite children classics?

Thursday, 12 February 2015

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

Written in 1859, A Tale of Two Cities was published in weekly installments in Dickens’s own journal, All The Year Round. It left its mark on my reading history as the first Dickens that I’d read. They did say this was the less “Dickesian” of all Dickens’ books though. I had tried Great Expectation last year but gave up after 10 pages. So, let’s get on with the review, shall we?

The first 70% of A Tale of Two Cities was a build-up to the climax. While written as a story of the French Revolution, Dickens also explored the human emotions, reactions and interactions with each other. These very humane traits are what have been defining us for ages past and still is. Human suffering doesn’t merely happen during the French Revolution, it has happened long before, is still happening amd potentially will persist for as long as violence and inequity continue to flourish.. Just look at the daily news. Dickens delivered all these by writing alternately from the sides of the Manette, the Evremonde, the Defarges, the Crunchers, Mr. Stryver, Sydney Carton and Mr. Jarvis Lorry. The most interesting story among these was definitely the Defarges whom we can see from miles away would definitely play pivotal role in the revolution. There were lots of foreshadowing in the novel and it was chilling because you know things are going wrong and it is only getting worst. 

Once the revolution started, I confessed I can’t put the book down! I actually cheered out loud once the people finally fought for their rights. However, their leaders—The Defarges, the Jacques, The Vengeance—soon abused their power. They became exactly like the people they’d overthrown; not caring on who they punished and murdered. The customary machinery of oppression—prisons, detention without trial, inequality, the abuse of power, complacency, and arrogance—which originally gave rise to the political revolution were again used to suppress the people. Once La Guillotine was erected, they easily sent away aristocrats and poor innocent peasants alike to the national razor. And far from being merciful to their fellow creatures, the people even invented the mad dance of “Carmagnole” to celebrate the death or the release of the prisoner. This further symbolized the chaos and violence of the crowd. Even Dr. Manette’s position as a former prisoner of Bastilles and respected physician in the middle of the revolution was not enough to overturn the cruel, vile Revolutionary Tribunal.

Despite the dark hours, Dickens inserted moral theme to remind us that only kindliness and virtues brought peace in life. This was evident in his writing of Lucie as an angel—nurturing people with true love and inspiring them to do good in return; in Dr. Manette’s ability to heal and look beyond the past affliction; in Miss Pross’ determination to not back down and fought her way through hardship; in Mr. Lorry’s loyalty to the people he loved; in Darnay’s perseverance through bleak time; and in Sydney Carton who gave his all for the best thing in his life, thus leading him to show the best of him—his comforting of the poor seamstress. I admit I sobbed at this.

Note I: All featured illustrations are by Frederick Barnard from the 1872 edition. 
Note II: On the preface, Dickens wrote that he first conceived the main idea of this story was when he was acting with his children and frieds, in Wilkie Collins’s The Frozen Deep. You bet that’s going to be on my to-be-acquired-pronto shelf.

Have you read A Tale of Two Cities or any book by Charles Dickens? 

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Victorian Bingo Challenge 2015


Goal: a Bingo (horizontal, vertical, diagonal, four corners and center square). 
Rule: Must use different book for each square. 

My List

1. Book published in the 1840s.
     The Count of Monte Cristo (1845) Alexandre Dumas    
2. Male author.
     The Aspern Papers (1888) Henry James
3. Female author.
     Black Beauty (1877) Anna Sewell
4. Book with a name as the title.
       Miss Marjoribanks (1866) by Mrs. Oliphant
5. Book published in serial (monthly) format.
      Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life (1871-72) by George Eliot
6. Book published in 1837 - 1840.
     A Hero of Our Time by Mikhail Lermontov
7. Book published in the 1850s.
     The Heir of Redclyffe (1853) by Charlotte M. Yonge
8. Children's book.
     Tom Brown’s Schooldays (1857) by Thomas Hughes
9. Book of your choice.
     A Strange Disappearance (1880) by Anna Katharine Green
10. Charles Dickens.
     A Tale of Two Cities (1859) Charles Dickens
11. Book set in England.
     New Grub Street (1891) by George Gissing
12. Book that you wish had been adapted into a movie.
     The Haunted Hotel (1878) by Wilkie Collins
13. Book published in the 1860s.
     East Lynne (1861) by Ellen Wood
14. Reread of your choice.
     Jane Eyre (1847) by Charlotte Bronte
15. Anthony Trollope
     Doctor Thorne (1858) by Anthony Trollope
16. For better or worse (marriage)
     Aurora Floyd (1863) by Mary Elizabeth Braddon
17. Mystery-suspense-sensation.
     No Name (1862) by Wilkie Collins
18. Book over 400 pages.
     Les Miserables (1862) by Victor Hugo
19. Book published in the 1870s.
     The Leavenworth Case (1878) by Anna Katharine Green
20. Wilkie Collins 
     The Woman in White (1859) by Wilkie Collins
21. Book published in the 1890s. 
     The Awakening (1899) Kate Chopin
22. Book that has been adapted into a movie.
     A Christmas Carol (1843) by Charles Dickens
23. Book published 1900-1901.
     Claudine at School (1900) by Colette
24. Collection (poetry, stories, fairy tales).
     The Oxford Book of Victorian Ghost Stories edited by Michael Cox
25. Book published in the 1880s

       Treasure Island (1883) Robert Louis Stevenson     

This is the final challenge I signed up for in 2015. I look forward to reading every single book on this list. Have you read any of the title? If yes, what do you think of it?

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Back to the Classics Challenge 2015

1. A 19th Century Classic -- any book published between 1800 and 1899.

     A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

2. A 20th Century Classic -- any book published between 1900 and 1965. 

     Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald

3. A Classic by a Woman Author.

     The Portable Edith Wharton by Edith Wharton

4. A Classic in Translation. 

     The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

5. A Very Long Classic Novel -- a single work of 500 pages or longer. This does not include omnibus editions combined into one book, or short story collections.

     The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

6. A Classic Novella -- any work shorter than 250 pages. 

     Gulliver’s Travel by Jonathan Swift

7. A Classic with a Person's Name in the Title. 

     Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë

8. A Humorous or Satirical Classic. 

     Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

9. A Forgotten Classic.

     The Monk by Matthew Lewis

10. A Nonfiction Classic. A memoir, biography, essays, travel, this can be any nonfiction work that's considered a classic, or a nonfiction work by a classic author.

     The Life of Charlotte Brontë by Elizabeth Gaskell

11. A Classic Children's Book. A book for your inner child! Pick a children's classic that you never got around to reading. 

     The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

12. A Classic Play. Your choice, any classic play, as long as it was published or performed before 1965. Plays are only eligible for this specific category.

     The Crucible by Arthur Miller

Do you join any reading challenge this year? What are they?

Friday, 16 January 2015

Welcome to Lily in the Library

Hi, everyone!

I am pleased to welcome you to Lily in the Library. I am planning for this blog to be a record of my classics literature reading journey. I have even joined book club focus on classics literature and classics reading challenge to ensure I meet this goal. Occasionally, I might veer off from this goal and blog about other genres such as young adult and mysteries. But not too much, I hope.

Now, a little about me. Lily Manette is an alter ego  created from a character I love and a book I like. Please note that it is not my real name, though you may call me Lily. I mostly read young adult, mysteries, and classics. This year, I have decided to focus more on reading the classics to make up for the lack of it in 2014. I've even followed book blogs on classics literature to strengthen my resolution. Some of my favourite authors are Stephen King, Agatha Christie, Tolkien, Ann Radcliffe, Daphne du Maurier, The Brontë Sisters, Jane Austen, Anna Katherine Green, Wilkie Collins, and Fanny Burney. Hopefully. this list will grow longer by the end of the year. I already have some Trollope, Emile Zola, and Victor Hugo waiting to be read on my shelf.

Please make yourself comfortable and talk to me about your favourite books and authors. I'd love for book recommendations from you. Happy reading!

Contact Me: lilymanette@gmail.com