REVIEW: Romeo and Juliet written by William Shakespeare

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Filled with plots, murder and intrigue, this quintessential tale of forbidden romance has withstood the test of time. The son of a wealthy family, Romeo, finds himself falling deeply in-love with Juliet, the daughter of their sworn enemy. Cruelly torn apart by the family feud, Romeo and Juliet swear their love to one another and vow to one day be together. Tragic, filled with costly mistakes and seemingly inescapable commitments, the play sees the two lovers lives and deaths finally entwine, reaching a dramatic and heartbreaking conclusion.

This was a very odd pick for me. As with any student who has passed through the Australian education system, I have a deep-rooted love/hate relationship with William Shakespeare. Admittedly, I do not read enough of this type of literature, so one rainy day, on a whim, I plucked this piece from my bookshelf and read the story in short increments across three nights.

Now, over the course of this new reading experience, a number of things proceeded to happen. 1. My internal monologue, for up to an hour afterward, took on a melodic flow and occasional rhyme, as if a continuation of the story, which was disorientating. 2. My dreams got really weird, like, really weird – reading this book before bed was perhaps not the greatest decision I have ever made, as my dreams consistently began taking on an unearthly ebb throughout the night. 3. I found myself…well, enjoying Shakespeare! Something I frankly considered to be an impossibility. Gone was the tear inducing boredom of forced readings and essays from my high school days, replaced by an appreciation for Shakespeare’s penmanship and storytelling.

I quite enjoyed the characterization in this story. Although Romeo and Juliet are extremely unrelatable and at times the drama is over the top, I couldn’t help but fall for the story. I think we all have a relatively clear grasp of this classic plot, absorbed through years of pop-culture references, but the elements brought to the piece through the classic reading really does add to the tale. Additionally, Shakespeare’s undeniable way with words makes the reading experience ultimately worth while.

So, if you, like me, have a tarnished view of Shakespeare, and ever feel the compulsion to begin reading one of his stories, Romeo and Juliet is a great place to start. You never know, you may end up enjoying it (I know, I can’t believe it either)!

Give it a read: 3 stars

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REVIEW: If I Stay written by Gayle Forman

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A young family is struck by tragedy as a snow day turns into a life-altering catastrophe. Mia, a young and talented cellist, wakes to a living nightmare as she finds herself separated from her horrifically injured body, barely clinging to life. Following herself through hospital halls and operations, the reality of her situation hits as bad news leaves her realizing that she needs to make one pivotal decision, should she stay on in this life, or move onto the next?

Keeping in trend with 90% of the young adult novels to hit our shelves over the past decade, If I Stay combines tragedy and a sweep-you-off-your-feet romance with an almost-famous love interest. The context in which the story is told proves interesting, as flashback sequences tell various stories about our young heroine’s past as they become relevant. The main storyline, sans flashback, is not a happy one. Brutally graphic in parts, the core of this novel centers around a teenager’s love of music, particularly her passion for classical and her life obsession with cello playing.

I have to admit, I have very mixed feelings about this book. I could see where the author was going, and how clever her method of story telling was, and I could certainly see how she was trying to separate her novel from all the other young adult books out there, by making music the overarching theme, bringing together the love interest and serving as the main characters motivation…but did it work? Sadly, in my opinion, no. Towards the end I found this book to be overly preachy, with the idea that music is life, music can solve all, all we need is music, to be, quite frankly, at times ridiculous! For example, I cannot remember one instance where the main character and her love interest’s conversations are not about music, or leading to a conversation about music. The forced resolution at the end, also derives from, you guessed it, music. At times during my reading, I genuinely cringed. As I said, I can really appreciate what the author was trying to do, and I wish more than anything that she had succeeded, but in my opinion this one misses the mark.

I read this book because I knew it had been turned into a cinematic piece, and had high hopes, especially after some recommendations from friends, that this would be a good one. Having first read the novel, and then viewed the movie (because you should always read the book first if you can), I can’t help but feel as though the movie may have done a better job on this one. Cutting a lot of the story line, and bringing the music to the forefront without slapping you in the face really suited the story. So sadly, if you haven’t read it yet, and are avoiding the movie because of it…maybe just head straight to the DVD.

Watch the movie instead: 2 stars

REVIEW: Of Mice and Men written by John Steinbeck

OfMiceAndMenOf Mice and Men is a charming tale of comradery and the human condition, told through the characters of George, an ambitious yet well-meaning man charged with the care of Lennie, the mentally handicapped ‘gentle giant’ who seems to attract trouble wherever he goes. Through a cast of interesting characters, this story explores ambition, worldly distractions, and ultimately the meaning and price of friendship as George and Lennie attempt to navigate everyday life. This tragic and powerful story leaves behind an important message.

 This particular book jumped out at me from across Dymocks as I visited their store last week. I was searching for a new book to read, and this little paperback, with a title that seemed so familiar to me (yet I couldn’t quite place where I had heard it) was the one I knew I had to read next. I eagerly threw myself into this 187 page novella as soon as I got home, and found myself finishing it that very same evening.

This beloved story is deeply ingrained in classic American literature, and – as much as I hate to use this phrase – is indeed a ‘must read’! I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of this book, from its perfectly simple method of story telling to the downtrodden, sympathetic characters around which the story revolves. I found myself hanging off of every word as Steinbeck weaves the tale of the two unlikely friends, eventually building the story to a sincere, climactic end.

Written in 1937, it was hard not to draw parallels between this and so many great stories that have come since, presumably taking inspiration from this charming, yet tragic tale. The true sign of this greatness was, for me, the moment in which I closed the final page, and found the lessons learnt from the narrative staying with me long after I had found a home for it in my already crowded bookshelf. I found myself reflecting on the story long into the night, a by-product which I didn’t anticipate when I first began reading.

Set on a working ranch, you gain a small insight into the lives and isolation faced by the working men of America at this point in time. The desolate vacuum of working life is an interesting dynamic played on in this story, with the ease of trading in your dreams for nights of vice and pleasure apparent. I really sympathized with George as he desperately tried to cling to his and Lennie’s dream of one day owning their own ranch, in spite of the temptation and hardships standing in the way. Ultimately, this story is about George and Lennie trying to survive and better their lives, while George must also protect Lennie from a world that seems so overwhelming.

This is a magical book, one I would happily recommend to any person searching for their next great read.

A must read: 4.5/5 stars

Chapter One

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The beginning – the apprehension of fingertips hovering over the keyboard, not knowing where or how to start. Every story has a beginning, but at which point should you choose to start? Even the first word isn’t truly the very start. Is the beginning just the first letter typed or is it the forethought that went into the action? Better still is the beginning synonymous with my own start in life, and all the experiences that have shaped me, bringing me to this point?

Perhaps these questions are bigger than myself and this simple blog. Then again, perhaps they are the very questions we should be considering, particularly when discussing literature.

For now, let me start with a simple introduction. My name is Kate, and I am an Australian student. I have been a book enthusiast since before I could form words, and an avid reader ever since. My interests and passions are not tied to one place, but span across a wide variety of genres and the joy, knowledge and life that can be drawn from nothing but paper, text and our minds. This blog is about the delights of literature, my opinions on the books I have recently read and all things bookish.

The ability to read is a gift that we are often guilty of taking for granted. It can take us down many paths, open our minds and shape us in ways we don’t even consider. So, let’s share some of this journey together as I officially begin ‘Bookish with Me’.