Rogue Recommendations: Top 5 Modern Classics

Hey! My name is Paige, also known as @PreciousRogue or The Rogue Reader . I write about books and other generally geekery over on my blog, and I’m stoked to be writing for Books And Drinks Blog this week! Check out my Instagram and Blog, and leave some love for Books And Drinks in the comments below! 

First thing’s first, I know it’s tough to define a “classic” in the canonical sense, and more difficult to define a “modern classic” – so I’ll let someone else try, which you can read a bit more about here.

As far as my considerations, I’ve taken “modern classic” to mean anything published within the last 75-100 years that has significant impact and potential for lasting impact. Significant impact, such as in assessing or commenting on relevant issues within the community being written or on the global stage as a whole. Potential for lasting impact meaning I really, really hope it lasts because it makes such excellent commentary of its subject matter, and I personally think it will be relevant 100 years from now.

This is all to say that these are my opinions, based on my reading experiences, and have been chosen because I think they are deserving. I am not a world-renowned writer, critic, or cultural maverick. But I know books, and I know good books (at least, I think so). So take this list with a grain of salt. And definitely try a few if you haven’t already.

Skull

5. Moth Smoke by Mohsin Hamid (2000)

“Secrets make life more interesting. You can be in a crowded room with someone and touch them without touching, just with a look,
because they know a part of you no one else knows.
And whenever you’re with them, the two of you are alone,
because the you they see no one else can see.”

In Lahore, Pakistan, a banker loses his job, and it’s a downward spiral from there as he falls in love with his best friend’s wife and into a life of drugs and disillusionment. There is a class struggle in Pakistan, and Daru Shezad seems to mirror the strange self-destructive habits of moths flying toward an open flame as he mingles with the bored elite class, feeling displaced among the wealthy who don’t seem to see the struggle of the poor. While the story isn’t perfect, younger audiences may be drawn to its thematic cynicism as they struggle to deal existentially with the stark differences between an uncaring elite class and the poorer neighborhoods right next door. And the witty, biting sarcasm that composes Daru’s voice and personality give it an extra punch.

Hamid’s observation of the class struggle and general absurdity of the flow of life around him is stark and sharp, and his observation is certainly in good company with his writing. Hamid’s other works have improved since this debut, but his simple comparison of those who have and those who do not by dividing everyone by whether or not they have air conditioning is enough to put Moth Smoke very, very high on my list of all time favorites.

Macha Tea: Health benefits not withstanding, Macha has spiritual Asian roots. A good tea always suggests class, and when combined with the written heat of Pakistan, it creates a sense of imbalance in an attempt to appear austere. While also being really delicious.

4. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (1969)

“All this happened, more or less.”

I know in some circles, this book is just considered a normal “classic,” since it was published in 1969, but it’s within my 100-year timeframe, so I’m including it. Who knows if it will last another 60 years? (It probably will)

In this strange science fiction epic, Billy Pilgrim becomes “unstuck” in time and spends his life jumping back and forth on his own timeline, experiencing moments of his life out of order. One minute, he’s sitting at home with his wife, in another he’s a POW in World War II dressed like a lost clown while Dresden is being bombed, and in another he’s been body-snatched and put in a zoo-like environment on an alien planet for observation and entertainment. Being a POW is terrifying, being a side-show for alien life-forms is terrifying, but Billy Pilgrim knows that at any moment he’ll be ejected into the future where his wife will smile at him like he was never in the war at all.

This book is clever, deprecating of life itself at times, poignant, and ultimately a mastery of turning even the most grueling circumstances into something simultaneously beautiful and completely trivial.

“Like so many Americans, she was trying to construct a life
that made sense from things she found in gift shops.”

Even better, of course, is Vonnegut’s writing, which is beautiful, simplistic, and completely capable of catching you off guard. I find that people are often intimidated by Vonnegut because his works are already considered “classic” in most high schools, but actually cracking open this installment in particular reveals a complex and deeply relevant novel about one man’s attempt to navigate chaos.

North Fork Whiskey: Distilled from Glacier National Park glacier water, this whiskey is nostalgic and smooth. When you live your life in a disjointed, unstuck fashion, you’re going to need something strong but soothing.

3. The Crossing by Cormac McCarthy (1994)

Why only The Crossing and not the entire Border Trilogy, you ask? Because they are companion novels, and though the trilogy is divine, as a standalone, this is still one of the best books I’ve ever read.

“Faces fade, voices dim. Seize them back, whispered the sepulturero. Speak with them. Call their names. Do this and do not let sorrow die for it is the sweetening of every gift.”

In 1940s Arizona, Billy and his father are determined to trap a wolf that’s been picking off their cows one by one. But this wolf is clever, and when Billy finally finds her caught in a trap after a battle of wits, he is conflicted. In a rather youthful display of decision-making naivety, Billy decides to return her to her homeland, across the Mexican border. As his kinship with the wild animal grows, their travels become complicated and interrupted by those who would harm or exploit the wolf for various purposes. Billy has to decide how far this journey will take him.

“Deep in each man is the knowledge that something knows of his existence. Something knows, and cannot be fled nor hid from.”

This is a bare bones novel, stunningly written with a chopped simplicity that I imagine is incredibly difficult to master. And yet McCarthy does just that. The range of description for complex emotion that lies in simplistic lines of prose is astounding. McCarthy’s ability to mesmerize in prose is equalled by his ability to craft a story around loss and growth with such strangely pleasant effects, even in the face of despair. It is a trait of his writing that has always moved me, and when I say I am moved by a book, please know that it takes a swift roundhouse kick to get me to budge in any direction. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

Bad Wolf Brewing Company’s Aces High: An American Pale Ale brew with a dose of Sorachi Ace, this drink would be refreshing in the desert heat, and has just the thematic punch that any good western deserves. When the arid landscape is all you encounter, a good cold beer is always the way to go.

2. The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway (2008)

“A weapon does not decide whether or not to kill. A weapon is a manifestation of a decision that has already been made.”

Kenan
He lives in fear and seclusion with his family during the Siege of Sarajevo. Every day, to step out the front door is to invite death to greet you, delivered by the swift judgement of “the men in the hills” – snipers positioned to rain fire down on anyone they choose. Kenan will only leave the house when his family runs out of water every four days.

This is how….life happens. One small thing at a time. A series of inconsequential junctions, any or none of which can lead to salvation or disaster. There are no grand moments where a person does or does not perform the act that defines their humanity. There are only moments that appear, briefly, to be this way.

Arrow
The nickname of a young woman recruited by the Sarajevo Army, and she is a sniper to be reckoned with. Though she was revered in college for her ability to shoot as a sports marksman, she had never thought she would be able to take a life. The pressures of war mounted, and the thematic implications of this transformation are what you would expect. When she is confronted by a conflict of whether or not to pull the trigger, not giving in to the transformation may just save her life. While she watches over the cellist, an eye on the hills, an ear on the music, she feels the strain of change.

Dragan
Like so many others, Dragan makes a tense trek to the bakery each day to receive a free loaf of bread, dodging bullets from the men in the hills just to feed themselves for another day. When disaster strikes the bakery and dozens are killed in a mortar attack, it becomes a paralyzing task to return each day.

The opportunity to die was everywhere, and it just wasn’t surprising when that opportunity became an event.

The Cellist
At one time the chief cellist of the Sarajevo Symphony, the Cellist witnesses the mortar attack and subsequent death of his friends and neighbors who were waiting for their daily loaf of bread. In the crater left by the mortar, the Cellist sits and plays. For 22 days, one day for each of the 22 dead, he plays – mourning their loss, grieving the senselessness of taking life from those already desperately clutching it as best as they could.

There’s no such thing as bravery. There are no heroes, no villains, no cowards. There’s what he can do, and what he can’t. 

As each perspective shifts, a new sense of war is revealed, a new struggle is discovered. Sometimes, a new courage is found. This book surprised me in so many ways, leaping between perspectives effortlessly and with complete grace. Moving and shockingly funny at times, Galloway is so capable of writing beautifully that crafting music and putting the sensation of sound into words seems effortless. Gorgeous.

Pinot Noir: A glass of red is the only thing suitable to companion such a soulful novel about music moving you in a time of fear. When you spend your days waiting for the next mortar strike, the Noir will be a comforting reminder of life as it used to be.

1. City of Thieves by David Benioff (2008)

Two siege stories in one list? It will be worth it, I promise. Only published in 2008, this dark comedy follows the desperate travels of two young men during the Siege of Leningrad in World War II. Their goal? To find a dozen eggs. It is the only thing that will save their lives.

One night during the long and seemingly endless siege, Lev Beniov, a bit of a wet noodle in the courage department, loots the corpse of a fallen enemy paratrooper who haplessly floated right onto his street. Lev is instantly captured – looting is a crime in a time of siege – and his only chance of survival is to find eggs for the Colonel’s daughter’s wedding in a time of starvation. Teamed up with the persistently chatty and charming Kolya who was arrested for desertion, the two set off in search of the impossible in the middle of a raging war.

“The fire was silent, the little houses collapsing into the flames without complaint, flocks of sparks rising to the sky. At a distance it seemed beautiful, and I thought it was strange that powerful violence is often so pleasing to the eye.”

It is quite nearly inimitable the way this book gathers emotion to a crescendo and swiftly cuts it down with a cynical joke. Benioff, a writer for the TV show Game of Thrones, is no stranger to the dramatic flare. But in his own work, not bound by mystical beasts and magic, the dramatic becomes palpably visceral, mounting tension only for the other shoe to never drop, or to drop in such a way that you laugh at misfortune. He crafts a supply of bitter jokes and seemingly hopeless endeavors right alongside a wonderfully strange budding romance without any sense of disjoint. The sense of reality is weighted in the short time frame the book is set in, propped as a small period of significance in the arena of a much larger war, simultaneously self-aware and still completely willing to revel in the absurdity. City of Thieves is equally funny, frightening, and lovely in ways that few books manage to balance.

White Lightning: You’ll take what you can to get you through, laughing at your own misery and maybe even laughing for the sheer joy of it. It won’t taste good, but you’ll be running wild for as long as you need to be.

Classics

If you haven’t read any of these, I highly recommend each of them! I never realized what a daunting task it would be to only choose five. Pictured above are some of my runner-up recommendations: Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, East of Eden by John Steinbeck, The Road by Cormac McCarthy, and White Teeth by Zadie Smith. All top choices in my modern classics picks!

If you have read any, let us know what you thought of them in the comments below! I always enjoy a good gush over mutually loved books. A big thank you to Pauline over here at Books and Drinks blog for letting me ramble all over her lovely page! It was an honor.

Until next time,

Paige

Book Review: The Golden Compass

“You cannot change who you are. Only what you do.” – The Golden Compass

In a world similar to ours, there lives a young girl Lyra, with her daemon Pantalaimon (Pan for short), unaware of her true destiny. Her life seems normal as she lives with the scholars at Jordan College, her Uncle Lord Asriel comes to visit sometimes, and her friends are always close by. It all changes the day she’s given the Golden Compass (aka the alethiometer). This Golden Compass shows the truth of the past, present and future. Lyra must embark on a journey to fulfill her destiny and potentially save more than just her world.

This classic is considered to be children’s literature, and as a 22-year old adult, this book was very entertaining and pretty grown up. I honestly was super surprised it was considered children’s when I finished reading. It’s such an in depth story, with concepts that are so mind blowing, it will impact you after reading this book.

GC #2

The Golden Compass was the first of the His Dark Materials trilogy and it was freaken awesome.  My love for this book has given it an 8.5 out of 10 stars. I highly recommend this book for all book lovers. This is one of those books that should be required to read for all.

There are so many characters within this novel and Phillip Pullman does an amazing job of giving purpose to every single one of them. To me, that speaks so much talent as a writer. Pullman had to carefully plan his writing in order to ensure the success of the book. That reason makes me appreciate this book so much, because I know there’s a passion and there’s a reason.

Another quality that I love about this book is the in depth problem-solution. Plus the connections and the illusions to our own world. Now this is hard to explain without spoiling the book for you, so you gotta trust me on this one.

Oh, and there is a movie for this book too. It’s not that good to be honest. But it has a good cast. Here’s the trailer:

Bahama Bucks

The drink I’ve chosen is a little different this time. It’s actually a snow cone from Bahama Bucks. The reason I chose this drink is because I read this book in the Texas Summer Heat (which is BRUTALLLL) and because Lyra has a goal to get North, where it’s very cold. This specific snow cone is like a coke float and because of Coca-Cola polar bears, I would thought it would match with the Ice bears within the novel.

GC #5.png

On to the next…

Up next of course is the second book in the trilogy, The Subtle Knife. Pullman left the Golden Compass with so much potential to carry on the rest of his series.

June Recap

Hey guys! So June went by so fast and I’m glad summer is finally here! So, here’s a little recap of the books I read in June. I didn’t have any additions to the book shelf, but I’m actually proud of myself for that because I need to start cutting down my list. Make sure you keep up with my reads in May. Oh and I’ll be doing some special blog post you’ll definitely want to check out!

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Stardust 4

Tristran Thorn has found the love of his life, the beautiful Victoria Forester. And like most people in love , Tristran does something crazy. See, Victoria isn’t sure if she loves him or not, so he must prove it to her. (Which doesn’t make any sense, but of course Tristran doesn’t realize it.) As he professes his love for her, a star falls in the distance, and his crazy act begins.

He will bring the star to Victoria, all for a wish, and potentially her hand in marriage. He begins his journey of the unknown with love in his heart, eagerness in his eyes, and adventure in his steps.

In A Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

iaddw 1

Lenora wakes up in a hospital, scratched, bruised and confused. She can’t recall what happened in the past 24 hours. The last thing she remembers is attending a hen party (aka bachelorette party), but why would a police officer be outside her hospital door? She has to remember what happens…even if it kills her. (Bah, Bah, BUM!)

In A Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware was a quick 308 page read. I was ready to kick off the summer with a little bit of thrill and this book provided. I started this read on June 2, 2017 and finished on June 9, 2017. It was a decent book, not good enough in my opinion to make a lasting impression. So, overall I rated it a 6 out of 10 rating.

A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab

Snapseed ACOL 1

A Conjuring of Light was a true finale to The Shades of Magic trilogy. V.E. Schwab did not disappoint her readers with this one. Every moment was a plot twist and it made me go through an emotional rollercoaster (and I mean the good-crazy-fun-rollercoaster). I remember thinking to myself through out her book, “I never saw that coming”, in almost every section.

I started this book on May 17th, and finished on May 30th. Overall, I give this book a 9 out of 10 rating and highly recommend it for all fiction lovers.

 

Book Review: Stardust

“He imagined he could see the very faces of the stars; pale they were and smiling gently, as if they had spent so much time above the world, watching the scrambling and the joy and the pain of the people below them, that they could not help being amused every time another little human believed itself the center of its world as each of us does.” – Stardust

Tristran Thorn has found the love of his life, the beautiful Victoria Forester. And like most people in love , Tristran does something crazy. See, Victoria isn’t sure if she loves him or not, so he must prove it to her. (Which doesn’t make any sense, but of course Tristran doesn’t realize it.) As he professes his love for her, a star falls in the distance, and his crazy act begins.

He will bring the star to Victoria, all for a wish, and potentially her hand in marriage. He begins his journey of the unknown with love in his heart, eagerness in his eyes, and adventure in his steps.

Stardust by Neil Gaiman was such a fun read. It left me smiling with happiness in my heart. I started this fantasy novel on June 9, 2017, and finished it on June 14th, 2017. This book is full of adventure, romance, and magic (basically, my type of book).

Stardust 3

I picked up this book to give the famous Gaiman a try. I wanted something familiar and I loved the movie Stardust. I had no idea that the movie had originated from a book so this was actually  good surprise for me. But, before we talk about the movie, lets talk about the book!

I kinda knew the backbone of the story due to the movie, but it was still filled with little surprises. It starts with the origin story of Tristran and the love between his parents. Then, we’re introduced to Tristran’s current life and his dilemma in the love department.

As I mentioned before, he decides to embark on this crazy adventure to retrieve a fallen star. He crosses into an unknown land of magic, not knowing what to expect. His journey takes him to some exciting, and dangerous places, but he must get back to his true love.

Stardust 2

Overall I rated this book a strong 7 out of 10. I fully enjoyed the tales within this book and I loved how there was reason to every little detail.

One of the qualities I didn’t like was the writing style. It was so undescriptive. I mean, Gaiman was supposed to create this whole world full of magic and sometimes the big descriptions/ events were two sentences. I would have to go back and make sure I got every detail from that short description. It was kind of annoying.

But unlike the novel, the movie was so descriptive. And yes, some of the movie plot points differed from the novel but I think this is the only book to movie combo that I liked the movie a lot better. Honestly, this movie is a perfect mix of everything and kind of like Ella Enchanted. Here’s the trailer:

Gourmet Milkshake

My awesome drink pairing for this book is a Gourmet Milkshake by the Bubble Waffle Bar. It’s like a Unicorn Milkshake but ten times better and awesomer. Which isn’t a word but it describes it perfectly. I recommend this fun drink for anyone that stops in San Antonio.

Stardust 1

On to the next…

Up next is The Golden Compass. This is such a big classic and there was a lot of controversy around the movie so it will be an interesting read!

Book Review: In A Dark, Dark Wood

“The night was drawing in, and the house felt more and more like a glass cage, blasting light blindly out into the dusk, like a lantern in the dark.”- In A Dark, Dark Wood

Lenora wakes up in a hospital, scratched, bruised and confused. She can’t recall what happened in the past 24 hours. The last thing she remembers is attending a hen party (aka bachelorette party), but why would a police officer be outside her hospital door? She has to remember what happens…even if it kills her. (Bah, Bah, BUM!)

In A Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware was a quick 308 page read. I was ready to kick off the summer with a little bit of thrill and this book provided. I started this read on June 2, 2017 and finished on June 9, 2017. It was a decent book, not good enough in my opinion to make a lasting impression. So, overall I rated it a 6 out of 10 rating.

iaddw 1

Lenora gets invited to this hen party for a friend she hasn’t spoken to in years, like 10 years, and the bride to be is named Clare. So why Lenora? Why would Clare invite her to a party after not communicating for 10 years? This book starts with plenty of questions for the reader and it grabbed my attention immediately. I wanted to see how this novel played out.

Ruth Ware does a fantastic job of building a story. I think she did well with flash back and returning to the main story plot. It kept me entertained and wanting to read more. Her characters were all well written as well. I felt like I was playing in the game of clue. (The Butler did it with the Candle Stick in the Master Bedroom!!) Each character has different qualities but they were all so relatable.

The thing that prevented me from liking this book was the predictability. Soooo predictable. I don’t want to give too much away but, I felt every plot twist coming. Personally I want a thriller to have thrill, and there wasn’t enough In A Dark, Dark Wood.

But I would recommend this book for those who are looking for a good, quick, summer read.

iaddw 2

Tea

For this book combo, I paired it with tea. Lenora is a big fan of coffee but Clare is a big fan of tea. At her hen party all they had was tea, and it was kinda big deal.

On to the next…

The next book for me is one of my favorite movies, Stardust. This book is full of magic and it’s by Neil Gaiman. I haven’t explored his writing style, but everyone gives him good reviews. So this book will be the start to see if I should read the rest of his books.

 

Book Review: I, Lucifer

“There’s no such thing as evil for its own sake. All evil is motivated- even mine”- Lucifer

Lucifer is given the chance of redemption, and all he has to do is live a life of a human. The King of Hell, the Father of Chaos, the Stealer of Souls is walking among us, what could go wrong?

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I, Lucifer

I started I, Lucifer on May 3rd and finished the 262 pages on May 16th. I have a lot of mixed feelings about this book so I ended up rating this book a 5 out of 10. I picked up this book because I recognized the author Glen Duncan. He also wrote, The Last Werewolf, and I absolutely loved that book. I, Lucifer was written in 2003, before The Last Werewolf which was written in 2011. Duncan’s writing majorly improved in 2011 as this novel was a struggle to get through.

Lucifer is doing his business in Hell; torturing people, looking for souls, and tempting mortals until God send a message. Lucifer can come home on one condition, he has to live life as a human in the body of Declan Gunn (an anagram for Glen Duncan, very clever). Seems pretty easy for the Prince of Darkness right? Turns out, its not.

Lucifer realizes that he has to play by the rules. He can’t be evil while he lives on earth. It’s an adjustment, but you know, gotta do what you gotta do. All this time though, is it worth it? Will God really accept Lucifer after all this time?

So this book brought very mixed emotions for me. I started this book and I couldn’t stop laughing. I mean, think about it, Lucifer’s gotta be a sarcastic smart ass. Which is hilarious, but Lucifer is technically still an Angel. So, he has angelic thinking and this thinking is explained in the novel as so fast that humans can’t keep up.

Duncan tried to express this thinking by the writing style, but honestly, it was so confusing to the reader. He used so many parenthesis, I would say there was at least one pair per page. It was way too much and the story was lost, I became totally uninterested.

Overall it was a decent book and I wouldn’t recommend this book.

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Lucifer Rising

For this drink combo, Lucifer actually made this specific drink in the novel called Lucifer Rising. It’s a mix of vodka, tequila, orange juice, tomato juice, tabasco, tio pepe, marnier, cinnamon and pepperoncino chili. It was a very interesting drink.

On to the next…

The next book is the finale, The Conjuring of Light. I’m actually sad and excited to start this book. Sad because I don’t want the story to end, and excited because I can’t wait to see how it ends.

A Gathering of Shadows and Black Coffee

A Gathering of Shadows was a great book to help me get back into the groove of things. Lately I’ve been so busy with graduation from college, I haven’t had time to read or blog. It’s such an exciting time for me but a busy time as well. Anyways, enough about me, lets get back to the good stuff!

I started A Gathering of Shadows on April 10, 2017 and finished it on April 30, 2017. Normally it does not take me twenty days to read a book, so yeah, I was kinda busy. Overall I gave this book a 9 out of 10.

In order for me to give an accurate review, there may be some spoilers for A Darker Shade of Magic. So please, if you don’t to spoil anything, read up on my past review of ADSOM and catch up with us when you can!

AGOS- 3-01

A Gathering of Shadows

We pick up in A Gathering of Shadows where we left off in A Darker Shade of Magic, Lila is leaving to follow her adventure and Kell is to return to the palace, connected to Rhy.

Lila is exploring her new home of Red London the only way she knows how to, as a thief. Her inner desire to steal puts her in a predicament and we meet the savvy Captain of the Night Spire. We follow their waves on the sea and experience the struggle Lila feels as she starts to get close to someone / something. Personally I love being able to explore this character. I felt like I really got to know Lila in AGOS.

In the first book we only received a glimpse of the inner Lila and how she makes her decisions. In AGOS we really start to understand her fears and wants, but Lila still remain mysterious. But one thing is for certain, Lila makes her own path and no one can change that.

AGOS- 12-01

While Lila is on an adventure, Kell is struggling to keep his cool. Rhy and Kell’s brotherly bond is stronger than ever. Their lives have been interweaved and Kell can feel every emotion of Rhy’s including pain. So now it’s not only Kell’s own life that he has to protect, it’s Rhy’s too. This puts some major stress on Kell and his body is craving power since he touched the black stone. There’s so much tension and he just needs to let go, luckily there’s the Essen Tach.

The Essen Tach is a elemental tournament where magicians from all around the world for the title of champion. This tournament was definitely a highlight within this book and it bought back so many Harry Potter feels. The dueling, fighting, dodging and quick thinking all reminded me of The Goblet of Fire. Which is my favorite movie but not favorite book of Harry Potter.

This book was a big step up from ADSOM and I really liked the first book. My friend who originally loaned me the books (you can follow her on Instagram here) told me that each book V.E. Schwab gets even better with each book. I’m super eager to read the last book. This series has really caught my full attention. The first book was great as an establishment but the second, wooo! It was exciting and I enjoyed every page!

Oh and a Darker Shade of Magic is officially going to be a movie!!

Black Coffee

The drink I chose for this pairing is Black Coffee. The reason I chose this drink is because Black London starts to become a bigger topic in A Gathering of Shadows and I wanted to highlight this issue that arises in the novel.

On to the next…

I just ordered A Conjuring of Light and that’ll be about a week I have to wait. In between I’ve chosen to read I, Lucifer by Glen Duncan. I’ve read Glen Duncan’s The Last Werewolf and loved it. I definitely recommend that one as well!