The Razor’s Edge by W. Somerset Maugham

Title:  The Razor’s Edge
Publisher:  Penguin Group
Format:  Trade Paperback
ISBN:  0-14-001860-3
Pages:  314
Source:  Library

I’m on a roll with great books lately!  The Razor’s Edge is another fantastic classic that I plan on adding to my personal library very soon!

The book follows a group of acquaintances throughout Europe and America right after the end of WW1.  It is told in the first person by Maugham himself and after a bit of googling, I’m still not sure if this is a novelization of real people or not.
Elliott is the richer, older, more distinguished gentleman who’s sole focus in life revolves around the social scene and his place in it.  His niece, Isabel, is a pretty girl just coming into marriageable age and is in love with Larry.  Larry has recently returned from the war and seems to have no interest in going to school or going to work, which nobody can seem to understand.  There is also super-rich Gray, who is in love with Isabel and best friends with Larry.  Of course, drama ensues.
The story follows this group of friends over the course of 20 years or so and I became incredibly invested in each of these characters.  I was laughing with them, disappointed by them, and ultimately in love with each of them even if I saddened by their choices.

I’m equal parts in love with and jealous of Larry.  He traveled the world on a whim while searching for the meaning of life and I just wanted to be with him.  I mean, seriously … “loafing” in Paris??  I’m in!

Reading this alongside East of Eden was kind of mind blowing.  East of Eden is essentially one man’s journey to his belief in timshel, or the ability of free will.  All of mankind is born with good and evil inside them, but it is ultimately a choice made by every person for themselves which path they will take.  The Razor’s Edge, however, discusses the idea that we are all a product of our genes and environment.  A person is not to blame for being evil because it is either hereditary, which is not their fault, or due to their environment, which they cannot help. 

This is definitely now one of my favorite books and I expect I will re-read it many times over.  🙂


East of Eden by John Steinbeck

Goodreads blurb:  Set in the rich farmland of California’s Salinas Valley, this sprawling and often brutal novel follows the intertwined destinies of two families—the Trasks and the Hamiltons—whose generations helplessly reenact the fall of Adam and Eve and the poisonous rivalry of Cain and Abel. Here Steinbeck created some of his most memorable characters and explored his most enduring themes: the mystery of identity; the inexplicability of love; and the murderous consequences of love’s absence.

This book took me a little while to read, but I’m am glad that I took my time with it. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I’m already thinking about the next time I read it!

Most of the novel is set in the Salinas Valley, which is a metaphor for the line between good and evil.  It’s described as having dark and brooding mountains on one side and light and happy clouds on the other.  It is essentially a retelling of the story of Cain and Abel from the Old Testament, and while the metaphors aren’t very subtle, the story is beautiful and I didn’t feel like I was being hit over the head with a bible.

I’m having a hard time figuring out how to explain how much I enjoyed Steinbeck’s writing.  The only other book I’ve read by Steinbeck was The Grapes of Wrath, which was assigned reading in high school and I HATED it.  That was a million years ago, so I don’t even remember if I hated it because I was “forced” to read it or if it was truly due to the story.  The writing in East of Eden was so incredible and the dialog was fantastic.  I’ve griped before how much it bugs me when an author repeatedly uses phrases like “she said excitedly” or my favorite “she breathed”.  Steinbeck uses other clues to convey the mood and it just feels really natural.

Anyhow, everyone should check out this book because it’s amazing.  Like, I could marry this book kind of amazing.

If anybody knows of a an upcoming group read for this book, please let me know!  I’m not a literary aficionado and I know there is probably so much more to this book than what I got out of it on my first solo read.

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? (11/11/13)

It’s Monday, What Are You Reading is a fun weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey where we share what we’ve read and reviewed over the past week and what we plan to read next.

Most of the last week was spent on East of Eden by John Steinbeck.  I have been enjoying it immensely and while I normally read fairly quickly, I’ve found myself really slowing down for this one.  There is so many touching situations and metaphorical passages that I feel like I need to slow down in order to absorb them.  Not sure if that makes sense, but there you have it.

I should be finishing this up in a day or two since I’m only about 100 pages shy of the end.  Even though I haven’t quite finished, I’m already thinking about the next time I read it!  I would like to participate in a group read in the future because I think I would get even more out of it that way.

I’ve also been dabbling a bit in Volume 2 (the library did not have the 1st volume available) of The Complete Short Stories of W. Somerset Maugham.  I’ve enjoyed the first several stories so far and I’m so glad that I’m discovering the world of short stories.  I will discuss this more when I get further into these.  I’m still trying to figure out how I am feeling so invested in these characters in just a few pages.  Crazy.

I received Stella Bain by Anita Shreve from the publisher after winning a Goodreads giveaway.  I’ve started it, but I’m only about 25 pages in.  So far, it’s pretty interesting.  It’s a historical fiction set in WWI London about a woman who wakes up in the hospital and doesn’t remember who she is.  I plan to finish this one up this week since it’s a fairly short read.

I’ve also picked up a copy of Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward.  It is set here in Mississippi so the local library is very proud to carry multiple copies and keep them on a special “Mississippi table”.  It also won a National Book Award, so I figured I might see what it was about.  It looks like it’s about poverty and alcohol addiction which pretty much sums up any book I’ve already read that was set in Mississippi.  I’m not giving up on my mission to find a positive, uplifting book set in this state.

Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety by Daniel Smith is a book I’ve been working on for awhile now.  I’ve been reading it in very small pieces and I’m just before giving up on it completely.  I have struggled with anxiety myself and I’m drawn to books about it, but this one just isn’t doing anything for me.  I’m not identifying with most of his specific issues and I don’t find the comedic bits to be that funny.  I’m either finishing it this week or it’s a DNF.

That wraps up my plans for this week!  What are you planning on reading?

Stacking the Shelves

Stacking the Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in a physical store or online, books you borrow from a friend or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!

If you want to find out more about Stacking the Shelves, please visit the official launch page!

I currently have two physical arc’s sitting on my shelf waiting to be read.  Stella Bain by Anita Shreve (coming out on November 12th) and Perfect by Rachel Joyce (released on July 4th)

I’ve also received the first 100 pages of The Unbound by Victoria Schwab for my ereader.  I am super excited and a little worried about reading this.  The expected publication date is January 14th, 2014 and that is a long time to wait after reading the first 100 pages of goodness.  I’ll probably read it anyways because I’m bad at waiting.  It is available for anyone to download here.

I didn’t buy any books this week (yay me!).  I went to the library for more W. Somerset Maugham and ended up grabbing some other stuff as well.  I picked up Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward since the blurb sounded interesting and I’ve been trying to pick up more books with the little Mississippi sticker on it.  My original thought was to learn more about my new home that I’m trying hard to love.  I suspect that my subconscious doesn’t want this to happen since I keep choosing books about racism, poverty, and drug/alcohol addictions.  LOL

Let me know if you have read any of these and what you thought.  And definitely let me know if you know of a more cheerful or uplifting novel set in Mississippi.  Go ahead … I dare you to think of one.

Have Book Blogs and Booktube Changed Your Reading?

I have finally begun the painful job of reorganizing and purging my bookshelves.  I suspect that my husband is no longer amused by my piles of books in the office that won’t fit on any bookcase in the house.  As I was trying to select books to gift or donate, I started to realize how much my reading tastes have evolved during the last year.  I have always gone through “phases”, but this is more than that.  Suddenly my shelves (and piles) were filled with books that I didn’t just happen upon in the book store, but books that I would actively seek out and special order based on a recommendation.
This is probably the part where I should explain that I do have friends IRL (swears!).  I do not, however, have any that read very much.  When they do read, it tends to be the kind of books that you find on the big table up front at Barnes and Noble or on the front page of (yay marketing).  In the past I would usually wander around at my local used book store and find books based on covers, titles, blurbs, etc.  I was satisfied with this method for many many years.
When my husband started a new job that required us to move, I didn’t think much of it.  There are bookstores everywhere, right?  WRONG.  We currently live in a very rural area and the nearest bookstore is a TWO HOUR DRIVE ONE WAY.  Obviously, that trip doesn’t happen very often.  My books are primarily purchased online and my recommendations come from the awesome people I have found by their book blogs and booktube videos.  I am grateful to all of them for sharing their insights and opening my eyes to incredible books I might not have ever discovered on my own.

Mercedes @ MercysBookishMusings and Rincey @ RinceyReads – Both of these ladies have inspired me to read more diversely.  Mercedes has reviewed quite a bit of Japanese literature that I had never even heard of before.  Rincey has talked about reading more books by people of color and made me take a look at my own library (quite a lot of white men on my shelves …).  Incidentally, both of these ladies are part of a new International Reads bookclub on goodreads that is focused on reading more books from all around the world.

Lesley @ WordsofaReader – Lesley has reviewed several books that I have since picked up to read.  I will always and forever love her for introducing me to W. Somerset Maugham.  I have not read all of his works (yet) but I love him already.  And The Painted Veil is now one of my favorite books.

Andi @ EstellasRevenge – I originally found her on youtube, but she can also be found here.  She is a pretty big fan of the short story.  I was pretty certain that they sucked and I had REASONS.  Then she “called bullshit on all that“.  So I proceeded to prove her wrong and picked up The Secret Lives of People in Love by Simon Van Booy.  Aaaaaand I loved it.  Then I loved The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson.  Yesterday I picked up The Complete Short Stories of W. Somerset Maugham from the library and I love the intro because he just called bullshit on me and my reasons, too.

Mabel @ Journal of a Lit Student – Not only do I enjoy her blogs about classic literature, but she inspired me to write about what I read on my own blog.  She convinced me that the blogging police wouldn’t come after me for not knowing what the hell I’m talking about.  I have a BS in Biochem and I was fairly certain that somebody was going to realize that I was not qualified to talk about books.  Ridiculous, I know.  I love this quote from her blog.

My posts are journal entries – footprints as I progress through literature — often captured at the end of a long day when I only have a few moments to capture a response. I am not attempting to speak with authority. As my literary friend Montaigne would say, there is far more wisdom in asking questions than in always speaking decisively. And as Ralph Waldo Emerson would say, changing one’s opinion is a virtue. So nothing I say here is permanent. I have every intention of thinking my prior posts ridiculous.”

Has a booktuber or book blogger influenced your reading?  Who and how?

November Classics Club Meme #16

“Pick a classic someone else in the club has read from our big review list. Link to their review and offer a quote from their post describing their reaction to the book.  What about their post makes you excited to read that classic in particular?”

 I very recently joined the Classics Club challenge and used the “big review list” to help me choose a few books on my list.  I chose Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston based on the review on Brona’s Books.  While I had heard of this book, I didn’t know much about it nor did I have any real interest in reading it.  Now it is on my Classics Club list and I have a copy on my bookshelf ready to go!  I love when people get really excited about a book because the feeling is just contagious!

“From the start, Janie’s voice is inside you. It has character, depth and personality. It’s like peeling an onion in reverse; Janie’s flesh and blood life is built up layer by layer through her voice. She grows on you from the inside out. Hurston is the master of turning a phrase that stops you in your tracks. And I suspect each time you read this story, the various phrases will work their magic differently.”

… Right??!  How could you not get excited by this?  I’m just sorry that I don’t have the same copy of the book.  I would love to have the intro by Zadie Smith.

Interesting side note:  Brona lives in Australia and is currently hosting AusReading Month.  So far, I’ve really enjoyed the Aussie-themed posts!  Now I just need to figure out how to get some Tim Tams’s delivered to my house.  lol

Top Ten Sequels I Can’t Wait To Get My Hands On

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme started by The Broke and the Bookish.

What books are my hands itching to get a hold of?  Well, a lot … but I’ll just name ten that are part of a series!

1.  The Doors of Stone by Patrick Rothfuss – Release Date – ???

The first two books in the Kingkiller Chronicles are part of an amazing epic fantasy and I can’t wait to find out how it ends!  It’s hard to wish that Rothfuss would write faster because you know the end product is so great, but OMG I WISH HE WOULD WRITE FASTER!

2.  The Edge of Eternity by Ken Follett – Release Date – September 16th, 2014

This one might seem a little silly since I haven’t actually read the first two books in The Century Trilogy yet.  lol  They are sitting on my bookshelf right now waiting for my copy of the final book.  I LOVE Ken Follett and I love the subject matter, so I know I’ll love this series.  With the historical background and large cast of characters, I think this trilogy is begging to be marathon’d.

3.  The Unbound by Victoria Schwab – Release Date – January 28th, 2014

I’ve already pre-ordered this sucker and expect to read it as soon as it comes in.  The first book, The Archived, was such an original premise and I read it in one sitting!

4.  Cress by Marissa Meyer – Release Date – February 4th, 2014

Another pre-ordered book because I have a problem.  Also because the first two books in the Lunar Chronicles were so good.  Think modern fairy-tale retelling meets futuristic sci-fi thriller.  I mean, duh.  Who wouldn’t want to get on that?

5.  Dreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini Taylor – Release Date – April 8th, 2014

Pre-ordered?  Of course.  Another original fantasy series for YA that is greatness.

6.  Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo – Release Date – June 3rd, 2014

This is book 3 in The Grisha trilogy, which is another incredibly unique YA fantasy series.  So unique and magical and fun!

7.  Any and all of the Locke & Key series by Joe Hill and illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez

The entire series has been published, but I don’t OWN them so … I read the first 4 after checking them out of the library and absolutely loved them.  I’m planning on getting the series for one of my teenagers this Christmas so I can re-read them from start to finish.  The kids love when I do that.  🙂

8.  The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson – Released August 31st, 2010

This is the first book in a series that isn’t new, but the second one is scheduled to release in 2014 sometime and a friend of mine told me that it was a “must read”.  If she said I’ll love it than I will.

9.  Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson – Released September 24th, 2013

Ok, so I’ve never actually read anything by Brandon Sanderson.  He’s just one of those authors that I always read about and think “yeah, I’d probably really dig that” but then I never get around to actually reading any of their books.  I’ve read his blog, but have never read his books.  How dumb is that?  I must fix this and soon!

10.  Doctor Sleep by Stephen King – Released September 24th, 2013

I re-read The Shining so I’d be ready for this book.  Somewhere between finishing that one and picking up this one I got distracted.  Eventually I’ll get back to this one because I really want to read it.

This list makes it look like I primarily read YA, doesn’t it?  Funny how my most anticipated series’ are generally YA and my most anticipated stand-alones are all adult.  I wonder why so many YA titles are split up like that.  Is it for the money or do they think that teens and young adults won’t read a longer book?