Thursday, December 26, 2013

103. Shirley

Shirley
Charlotte Bronte
1849
Around 600 pages












So I have been watching the poll and it looks like Charlotte may come out ahead.  I, however, have been rooting for Anne, especially after this terrible novel.  Also, I am hoping Emily will at least get one vote, because I feel sorry for her. So, for this holiday season, find it in your hearts to give to a Bronte sister in need.

Charlotte begins her book by saying this to the reader: "Do you anticipate sentiment, and poetry, and reverie?  Do you expect passion, and stimulus, and melodrama?  Calm your expectations; reduce them to a lowly standard."  Basically, she is warning us that the book isn't going to be very exciting.  I, of course, ignored this warning because it was so well written.  Charlotte also begins some of chapters with a short subtitle, one of which was "in which the reader would be well advised to skip."  So she is pretty much constantly telling us that her book is boring.  I guess I only have myself to blame for not liking it.

The writing style is interesting enough.  Charlotte writes in second person, as if she is there the entire time.  For example, she introduces us to characters having dinner then asks us to step out in the hallway for a second while she tells us about them while they are talking.  It was an interesting way of narrating but I think it just showed that Charlotte is better at writing in first person, like in Jane Eyre.

The story follows the love triangle between Robert Moore, who is seeking financial redemption, the rich heiress Shirley, and the meek Caroline.  None of these characters are particularly intriguing in their qualities or actions and it always clear to the reader what every should be doing if they were less stupid.  This can be true with a lot of good novels, but my copy was 700 pages, which is a bit harder to endure.

A disappointing end to the Bronte reign but we still had some good times.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Panned by critics.

Led to the popularity of the name Shirley for a girl which was previously an unpopular boys' name.

Available online here.

UP NEXT: David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. NOOOOO


Saturday, November 30, 2013

102. Mary Barton

Mary Barton
Elizabeth Gaskell
1848
Around 400 pages












Now that the wacky celebration we had for post 100 is over, we can get back to reality here, if everyone's hangovers aren't too bad.  I actually thought we would break the good book streak at first with this one but I ended up really liking it.  I guess I am storing up a mega rant for Dickens.

Jem Wilson is in love with Mary Barton, but she dreams about marrying the rich, dashing Harry Carson.  Of course, women are silly, simple creatures and often can't make up their minds.  Mary really does love Jem, but after rejecting him once she can't say she likes him until he says it again, since men like to do the courting.  I really can't judge though since I haven't had a successfully relationship since.

Let's start with what I hated since one of my favorite things to do is complain.  Mary is an incredibly annoying character who is frequently described as honorable and beautiful.  Translation: she is an obnoxious brat who uses the people around her.  Additionally, Gaskell seemed to be trying so hard to make us feel sorry for the poor that it bordered on sappy.

However, this was an interesting story, even if Gaskell can't hold a candle to the Bronte sisters style wise.  I actually gasped at one development and found the character of Harry very entertaining.  Still, certainly not the best we have seen here.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Gaskell wrote this novel to distract herself from the death of her son.

Published anonymously.

UP NEXT: Shirley by Charlotte Bronte.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

101. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
Anne Bronte
1848
Around 500 pages










Holy shit.  I suppose for a literary blog I should be able to express myself better but I seriously cannot believe that I have reached this milestone.  I hit the 100 mark and then some on my other blogs (I am currently at 406 with movies and 345 on albums) but, of course, it is a lot easier to watch a ninety minute movie or listen to a forty five minute album than to read a five hundred page novel.  So I just wanted to take a second to thank all my followers and the people that regularly come here and leave comments.  I said at the beginning that I was going to finish this journey and blog and 100 books later, I still mean it.  So let's get to the next 901 novels shall we?

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is one of the most shocking novels I have come across in this book and the strong feminist message is so incredibly ballsy for the time period (or I guess in this case it would be ovariesy?) that it definitely skyrocketed Anne to the top of my personal hero list (I am rooting for you, babe, in the poll!).

Helen Graham marries Arthur Huntingdon, a gambling alcoholic loser who, unfortunately, is quite handsome and charming.  She, of course, thinks she can change him and that ends up going as well as it does any time a woman tries to change a man.

Marital problems have been hinted at in earlier novels but it seemed like if that was the case back then, everyone would just kind of ignore it and the couple would simply not speak. But I don't think I have ever read a book from this era that depicts an abusive husband, let alone one that was written by a woman.

So this is a great novel, not just for its historical value but because it is damn entertaining.  Great way to kick off the next 100!

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

Charlotte Bronte wrote to the publisher, criticizing the novel and its subject.  Jealous, much?

Instant success and outsold Wuthering Heights by a huge margin.

After its initial success, the novel fell out of publication.  Charlotte prevented the republication after Anne's death.

UP NEXT: Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell.  We are really on an all female streak and I am loving it!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

100. Wuthering Heights

Wuthering Heights
Emily Bronte
1847
Around 400 pages








The Book describes this as a psychotic love story and I think this statement does more justice to the book than I can do in my wordy five paragraphs, although I will, as always, give it a try.

Mr. Lockwood meets his landlord Heathcliff and it doesn't take long for him to get the creeps and realize that there is something seriously wrong with Heathcliff.  Lockwood spends the night and wakes up thinking that a woman is trying to get into his window.  Lockwood is then told the story of Heathcliff and Catherine's romance by the maid.

Catherine and Heathcliff are in love, but Catherine longs for a more refined, proper match rather than Heathcliff, who is an orphan and uneducated.  Will true love conquer a woman's pettiness?  Probably not.

This love story is certainly no fairytale and I think that is why it is considered such a fascinating romance.  Heathcliff is not a gentleman; in fact, he is the opposite of every romantic hero that we have had so far.  Catherine, however, seems to be cut from the same cloth of heroines that we have been seeing lately so it was interesting to watch her fall in love with a man who is no Mr. Weston.

There are times that you just want to shake the characters in frustration but the novel is definitely worth it.  So another brilliant creation from the Bronte sisters.

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

Referenced in Mad Men, Friends, Sex and the City, and Bones.

Mixed reception upon its release but is generally praised by modern critics.

Trailer for 1939 review which I actually reviewed on my movie site:

UP NEXT: Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte.  And of course, 100...

99. Agnes Grey

Agnes Grey
Anne Bronte
1847
Around 220 pages












Prepare for another rave people because I absolutely loved this book and my only critique is that it was not long enough (there is something you will rarely hear me say).

Agnes Grey is raised in a poor but loving family (she often calls them her friends rather than relatives).  She decides to become a governess, much to the chagrin of her somewhat overbearing mother and older sister, who believe that she couldn't manage herself alone.  She gets a job at Bloomingfield Manor, where the children seem to be serial killers in training.  She also gets a job at Murray Manor
governing two teenage girls.  She meets  and falls for Mr. Weston but must compete with the beautiful Rosalie Murray for his affections.  This is hard for Agnes since she is awkward and shy while Rosalie is beautiful and flirty.  I get you Ags, I get you.

This was one of the most relatable books that I have read from this era.  Now, I have never been a governess but I have certainly felt the frustration when babysitting of not being able to discipline brats since their mother is breathing down your neck but then being accused of not being able to control them.  And I think everyone has felt the embarrassment Agnes did when she was sitting with a married couple that would not stop fighting.  And Agnes awkwardness around Weston is a lot more relatable, at least for me, than say, Elizabeth Bennet's ease when she talks to Darcy.

Although Agnes was very righteous and religious, I never felt as though the novel was preaching, mostly because Agnes kept most of her opinions to herself and merely observed everyone else's behavior.   Additionally, the rector, Mr. Hatfield, is one of the cruelest, most foolish characters in the novel.  I only mention this because a frequent complaint about this novel is that it is annoyingly moral, but I did not see that at all.

Finally, I loved this book because it seemed to mirror Anne's life in a lot of ways which I, of course, find very interesting since I love the Bronte sisters.

Another somewhat rambling post but this is a fantastic novel and one that should be read by everyone.  All the time.  If that is not too unreasonable a request.

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

The scene when Agnes kills the birds to save them from being tortured was taken from Anne's own life.

Popular during Anne's life but dropped in sales after her death.

No trailer for this one though I would love to see a movie adaptation!

UP NEXT: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Saturday, November 16, 2013

98. Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre
Charlotte Bronte
1847
Around 600 pages












This is the last post I have to write before I am completely caught up (I haven't read Agnes Gray but the rest of the novels lately have been favorites).  I am hope I am not too tired to do justice to one of the greatest love stories of all time.

The novel follows Jane Eyre, a plain girl who was abused by her aunt and cousins.  I personally love the fact that she is not that attractive since every heroine seems to be the most beautiful angel in the entire world.  It is not hard to fall in love with beautiful people.  It is a lot more interesting to read about a relationship that is not based on pure physical attraction (watching one on television however…).

Anyway, Jane becomes the governess of Thornfield Hall and falls in love with her boss, Mr. Rochester.  Unfortunately, Rochester has a secret, one that could destroy their relationship.  Dah dah DAH!

I first tried this novel in eighth grade and remember thinking that it was upsetting and dull.  I tried it again in high school and fell in love with it.  So I can understand why it would not appeal to some people.  But like I said, after reading love story after love story where the girl is gorgeous and the guy is a hero and the only conflict comes from outside, it was nice to read something entirely difference.

Great dialogue, great story, and great characters.  How many more raves do we have in store for us?

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

What was the deal with Mr. Rochester dressing up like a woman, though?  Like what?

Many elements of Gothic fiction were used in this novel.

Jane Eyre's life mirrors Charlotte Bronte's in numerous ways.

Trailer:
UP NEXT: Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte

97. Vanity Fair

Vanity Fair
William Makepeace Thackeray
1847
Around 800 pages











Four more to go until we reach the big 100, ladies and gentlemen!  As we get closer to 100, the novels just keep getting better and better (with the occasionally Dickens thrown in to keep us on our toes).

A novel without a hero is how Thackeray described his book.  Indeed, it is hard to find a reason to look up to Becky Sharp but, of course, that is what makes the book so interesting.  Becky is a young, cunning woman who is determined to make her way in society.  In the 1800s, that meant seducing the right men and marrying the rich ones.  Becky's friend Amelia Sedley, on the other hand, is a kind modest woman.  Let's see who wins, shall we?

I loved this novel although I will be the first to admit that after 800 pages, the concept can get a bit old.  Still, this book is worth the length.

Becky is a completely amoral character and that alone is enough to make her fascinating to read about.  However, a part of me was rooting for her.  So many books show women being the victims of the conventions of their society and forced marriages.  It was nice to see a woman fight back a bit and actually use the system to her advantage.

Sorry for the short review but I have written about five of these today and I am getting tired.  One more to go.

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

Thackeray said any reader interested in Vanity Fair is of a sarcastic, benevolent, or lazy mood.  Sorry for reading your book, William.

Often compared to War and Peace.

Trailer (and it is a pretty good movie too):

UP NEXT: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

96. The Count of Monte Cristo

The Count of Monte Cristo
Alexandre Dumas
1844
Around 1200 pages












Three AD books in a row; what did I do to get so lucky?  Oh right, I followed the list and wrote a blog about it.

I first read this book when I was in France with my sister.  It was the worst trip I had ever been on in my life.  I can't even count how many times I humiliated myself, my suitcase never arrived at the airport, and we were with a tour group so the pace was completely off for us (we are talking five museums a day while being forced to pose for pictures eighty percent of the time).  We also got stuck with this rude guy on our tour and were forced to have dinner with him several times.  Anyway, this book was the only thing that allowed me to feel good after jumping off a boat, ripping my bathing suit, and not being able to get back on amid tons of snickering French witnesses.  Wait what was I talking about again?

This is the story of Edmond Dantes' quest for revenge after wrongfully sent to prison.  He loses his father, his best friend, his fiancee, and six years of his life.  We, at least, get a great novel out of it.

I am getting repetitive in my praises of Dumas but allow me one more time to say that this book has everything a great adventure should have.  I do not know that there is a more thrilling scene in the history of literature than when Edmond is escaping Chateau d'If.

This is the story of a world where you can escape your prisons and get revenge on people who have wronged you.  It certainly isn't my world and for that reason, it is my greatest escape (pun intended).

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

Expanded from a plot outline suggested by Auguste Manquet.

Translated in almost every language.

I actually have seen the movie adaptation of this and it is highly recommended:
UP NEXT: Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray

95. La Reine Margot

La Reine Margot
Marguerite de Valois
Alexandre Dumas
1845
Around 500 pages












I have been writing all day and I figured I would just drop by here since I haven't posted in about a month.  I then realized that I am behind about five reviews.  Oy vey.  Guess I better get to work.

This book only took a couple of days to read but it took me about a month to find.  The library I belong to seems to have every Dumas book in every language except this novel.  I usually go to Amazon if my library fails me but the only copy for sale was going for fifty dollars.  Fifty dollars!!  I will go on and on about how much Dumas is worth but I guess in reality I cap it at $2.99.  Anyway, after much searching on various eBooks sites I found it for five dollars.  So this is another book that the normal, non lists obsessed reader will probably never come across.

This is a shame, however, because not only was this a great read but it was also an educating one (albeit Dumas flashed his artistic license more than once).  This is the story of Queen Margot who is married to the King of Navarre by her scheming mother Catherine, who reminded me a lot of Milady.  Margot meets and falls in love with La Mole, which is unfortunate since he is a Huguenot and Catherine is scheming to kill them all.

If there is one word that I always associate with Dumas it is adventure and this novel is no exception.  It has everything: love, poison, affairs, and plotting.  It is, however, a lot gloomier than his other novels and while I love me some darkness, it was extremely unexpected here.  Of course, that just makes me an idiot for not expecting it since this is a book about the St. Bartholomew Day massacre.  Still, I thought Dumas would put a happier spin on it.

So a great novel but certainly not my favorite Dumas and I find it a bit puzzling that this was chosen out of the hundreds of novels he has written.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Could not find a single fact about this one but here is a trailer:

UP NEXT: Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas.  Man, I love this guy.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

94. The Three Musketeers

The Three Musketeers
Alexandre Dumas
1844
Around 600 pages













I think I have mentioned this before but I always sort of dread writing about my all time favorite books. I guess I am afraid I will not do them justice or leave out key points (certainly I did not do justice when I recommended it to my best friend Mara since it laid abandoned in her room for several months before I got it back).  This is one of those books that I have to a copy of wherever I stay and might just be my favorite novel of all time.

This is one of the most famous stories of all time.  In fact, there were so many possible pictures I could have put on this post that I simply had to judge which one had the hottest guys.  A tough choice, but I did what I could.

This is the story of d'Artagnan who leaves his home to go join the Musketeers of the Guard.  D'Artagnan meets and befriends Porthos, Athos, and Aramis and they engage in many adventures, my favorite being attempting to defeat Milady, who might possibly be one of the greatest villains of all time.

So many scenes in this novel are perfect.  I remember being in study hall (I first read this in high school) and laughing out loud as d'Artagnan met each of the musketeers.  People thought I was extremely weird for laughing by myself, but hey, everyone thought I was weird in high school.  The dialogue is amazing, often being both profound and hilarious.

This book has everything a great adventure should have: love, duels, friendships, danger, and, of course, really attractive people.  Absolutely perfect.

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

Can we all agree that you cannot say a group is like The Three Musketeers unless you can name all three musketeers?  And anyway, the friendship was between the four of them so really that is a stupid thing to say if you are trying to describe a group of friends.

Trailer for one the many adaptations of this story:

UP NEXT: La Reine Margot by Alexandre Dumas.  So excited!

93. The Purloined Letter

The Purloined Letter
Edgar Allan Poe
1844
Around 30 pages












When I first read this story (which would have been two or three years ago), I was shocked.  I couldn't believe that Poe had copied Sherlock Holmes do obviously in his main character, Dupin.  However, after a quick date check, I realized it was the other way around.  Oh well.  Both characters make for great stories and Poe is always fun, especially with Halloween coming up.

A letter with "comprising" information is stolen from a woman by an evil minister.  It is up to Sher-Auguste Dupin to solve the case!

I have read quite a few Dupin stories and this is probably my favorite so hurray for the List Makers (although I am still am a bit sore about the last entry).

It is inevitable, though, to compare Holmes and Dupin and I definitely think that Holmes comes out on top.  His observations are a bit more interesting and the dialogue is better.  Still, this story can hold its own and it is a fast read.  Sorry for the short review but lots of posts to do today!

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

Extremely similar to Doyle's story The Second Stain.

Poe's favorite Dupin detective story.

UP NEXT: The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas.

92. Martin Chuzzlewit

Martin Chuzzlewit
Charles Dickens
1843
Around 800 pages












YES!  I am finally free! I have had this 800 page yawn on my desk for about two and a half weeks now and I dreaded every time I had to open it.  I am so relieved to have this one pound weight of my chest.  On a side note, for Halloween I ended up reading The Collector and Perfume but I am afraid that you won't get those reviews for three thousand years since they were 20th century works (by the way, thanks for all the suggestions last post no one!).

I do not have a whole lot to say about this novel, mostly because all my complaints are pretty much reruns.  We all know I feel about Dickens' incredibly dull writing style.  We also have the token miserly old man which is an archetype that I am getting quite sick of; but again, I think I mentioned that before.

All right, this a picaresque novel (throwback!) about Martin Chuzzlewit who falls in love with Mary, his father's nursemaid.  His father is quite upset about this because then Mary might try to kill him so that they can get their inheritance from him, I guess?  This is when I started paying less attention to the story and more attention to the different ways I could destroy the novel (my favorite being dissolving it in acid).

I was starting to change my opinion of Dickens.  I mean, I knew I would never love the guy but after Nicholas Nickelby, I thought we at least had some kind of grudging respect thing going on.  No such luck and now I hate him more than ever.

RATING: *----

Interesting Facts:

Dickens attacked America (well, we hate you too) and slavery in his novel.

Referenced in The Simpsons.

Short clip of the BBC miniseries:

UP NEXT: The Purloined Letter by Edgar Allan Poe

Thursday, October 3, 2013

91. The Pit and The Pendulum

The Pit and The Pendulum
Edgar Allan Poe
1842
Around 40 pages












Happy October, everyone!  Usually during this time of the year I like to read a few good horror novels. This year I am going to read Perfume: Story of a Murderer (another list book).  I will probably read Martin Chuzzlewit (another Charles Dickens; if that is not horror I don't know what is) after so I will back shortly!

This is a story I had read before and I am sure a lot of my readers are at least familiar with the concept.  An unnamed narrator is arrested by the Inquisition and is put in cell.  Gradually, he realizes that a bladed pendulum is swinging down and will eventually kill him.  There also walls that will burn your skin off and seemingly bottomless pits.  I think I would prefer the pendulum.

I thought this story was a huge improvement from Fall of The House of Usher.  Poe presents us with a claustrophobic nightmare that I think might be his scariest story.  It is a bit frustrating that we get absolutely no background on the character.  However, I think we immediately begin to picture ourselves in the protagonist's situation and knowing too much about the character might prevent us from doing that.

So for anyone looking for a good horror story to read to get in the Halloween mood, this is a good start.  I would also recommend Dracula and The Tell Tale Heart.  Other suggestions?  Leave them in the comments section!

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

May have been influenced by the Quran.

Frequent use of literary consonance.

Trailer for 1991 version:
UP NEXT: Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens.  GROAN!

90. Illusions Perdues

Illusions Perdues
Lost Illusions
Honore de Balzac
1843
Around 700 pages












After abandoning this book for a couple weeks, I picked it up and couldn't put it down again.  This is definitely one of the more inspirational books on The List.  Now, some of you who have read this novel might be a bit confused by that last sentence, but I will get to that later.

This is the story of Lucien Chardon, a poor poet who goes to Paris with his lover to become a successful writer.  However, he is corrupted by journalists and critics, who, according to Balzac, are all terrible people (ouch; does this blog count?).

Anyway, Lucien does have one group of friends that are actually good people.  People who believe that you should live in poverty instead of writing for newspapers, in order to be true to your heart.  People who are very self righteous.  People who believe that women shouldn't be actresses since they would get jealous if the woman was pretending to be in love with someone else.  People who…wait, we are supposed to like these people?

This was a very entertaining read; watching Lucien descent into corruption which seems to culminate in human slavery (?) was fascinating; it is slow at first, but gradually gains momentum until he completely loses himself in a particularly memorable scene when he is joyous at the attention his book receives whilst his sister cries next to him about the ruin he has brought upon his family.

Like I said, I found this book to be inspirational.  I am not a published writer, but I have always been interested in that field (hence the four blogs).  Reading about Lucien's journey was especially interesting to me.  For instance, when Lucien reads his poems to a publisher, nervously watching every slight movement of the publisher, trying to gauge whether he likes it or not is relatable to anyone who has written something before and read it before an audience.  So this is definitely a book for writers and I was inspired to give both poetry and novel writing another chance.

We also, as always with Balzac, get some great social commentary on the politics and social norms of the time.  My only complaint is that the ending is a bit long; I found the downfall of the characters Eve and David to not be nearly as interesting as the parts concerning Lucien.  Other than that a great book and Balzac is quickly becoming a favorite of mine.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

I can't really find any interesting facts on this novel so I will use this space to recommend this novel to anyone that likes a good makeover story; Balzac spends a good deal of time talking about the Parisian transformation of Lucien and Louise.

UP NEXT: The Pit and The Pendulum by Edgar Allen Poe.  Happy October!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

89. A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol
Charles Dickens
1843
Around 125 pages








And here we are, back with Dickens again for one of the most iconic stories of all time.   This was actually required reading in eighth grade and there was even a field trip to see the play, which I didn't attend since I had just had surgery. I was never a huge fan of the story (probably because it is so cliche at this point) but I have seen a few adaptations, including Ghosts of Girlfriends Past (hey don't judge me; I watch plenty of good movies too).

So Ebenezer Scrooge is a huge asshole, but somehow does not realize it until three different ghosts show him his past, present, and his future.  In typical sappy Christmas story style, he learns the true meaning of love and goodness.

So in case you didn't pick up on the sarcasm there, I really hate Christmas stories.  The Christmas episodes of television shows are always the worst of the series.  The sentimentality makes me ill so I guess I am due for a visit by some creepy ghosts tonight.  Add that to the fact that I hate Dickens' writing style (do I sound like a broken record yet) and you can come to the conclusion that I am not a fan of the novella.

However, I agree with The Book 100% that you should read this before you die.  A true classic.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

The phrase "Merry Christmas" was popularized by this book.

Fans of the story include Robert Louis Stevenson and William Makepiece Thackeray.

Trailer for one of many adaptations:


UP NEXT: Lost Illusions by Honore de Balzac.  I am going to take a break for a little while to read Sue Grafton's new book but I should be back shortly.

88. Dead Souls

Dead Souls
Nikolai Gogol
1842
Around 400 pages










Honestly, this book had me so frustrated that I feel I cannot even give a good review about the first half, which I actually enjoyed.  Toward the end of novel, since Gogol was completely losing his marbles (more on that later) parts of the manuscript are completely missing.  I could forgive missing chapters, but when multiple sentences are cut off, it grates on my nerves.  How annoying would it be if

So like I said, Gogol went a little cray cray toward the end of his life.  He burned parts of the manuscript of Dead Souls and then claimed the devil made him do it.  He then refused food until he finally died a very painful death.  Hence the somewhat incomplete story.

This is the story of Chichikov, a man who decides that he wants to be better respected and have a higher rank so he decides to buy the "dead souls" off richer people.  Because Russia didn't exactly have a frequent consensus, Russians were forced to pay taxes on serfs, even after they passed away.  Chichikov buys these names off rich people so that it seems like his estate is bigger than it is.  Most of the book focuses on his interactions with the somewhat eccentric sellers.  Apparently, Gogol was aiming for an Odyssey/Divine Comedy vibe.

I have been trying hard to decide whether or not I liked this book.  On the one hand, I was never that bored (except for the end which felt like I was talking on the phone to someone who had really bad cell phone reception).  On the other hand, I just could not connect to this book.  For instance, Chichikov is said to blow his nose in such a loud and "impressive" manner that his servants are instantly impressed with him.  Um, wtf?  Additionally, he is a fake person who is brutal to his servants so I didn't exactly enjoy following him around on all his adventures.

This book was supposed to criticize the faults in the Russian character.  I suppose that was achieved, mostly because everyone in this novel was kind of an ass.

Overall, I suppose it was worth a read but it is certainly not a favorite.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Ends mid sentence just like Laurence Sterne's A Sentimental Journey which was also reviewed on this blog.

Gogol described this book as "an epic poem in prose".  That makes zero sense.

Referenced in Gilmore Girls.

UP NEXT: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

87. The Charterhouse of Parma

The Charterhouse of Parma
Stendhal
1839
Around 510 pages












This is the fifth review I have written in the span of three hours and I am definitely due for a lunch break.  However, I will crank this one out first and then reward myself with something with lots of cheese.

This is the story of Fabrice, a young nobleman who is the object of his aunt's affections.  I know, EWWWWW, right? I couldn't tell if it was considered acceptable back then since liaisons between cousins were encouraged.  However, they mention in the book that it would be incest even by 1839's standards.  Fabrice is also loved by Clelia, who is possibly even weirder than his aunt.  Fabrice is held prisoner several times throughout the novel and it is pretty much up to his lady loves to get him out of his various messes.

I loved Stendhal's The Red and The Black so I knew I was in for a treat.  Although I did not enjoy this one quite as much, I am definitely glad I read it.

Not only do we get some great characters, we also get an interesting perspective about the Napoleonic Wars.  Having just read War and Peace, I am especially intrigued by the battles.  In high school we maybe spent a week on Napoleon, mostly because he had nothing to do with America and so, according to the public school system, it doesn't matter. But the chaotic way that the battles are portrayed in this novel was enlightening to say the least.

I will say that some parts seemed to go on a bit longer than they needed to and the ending was less than satisfying.  Still, an entertaining novel and Stendhal continues to impress.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Influenced Balzac and Tolstoy.

The novel was written in 52 days.

UP NEXT: Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

86. The Fall of the House of Usher

The Fall of the House of Usher
Edgar Allen Poe
1839
Around 50 pages












I was planning on taking a nap now because of my illness but I then realized that I had read this story and should probably try to get completely up to date on this blog before I go to sleep.  So if this review seems like the ravings of a mad woman…well, I suppose that would go with the theme, wouldn't it?

Roderick Usher invites his friend to come to his house after both he and his sister have fallen ill.  His friend attempts to make him feel better but um, some crazy shit goes down.  This is such a short story that I feel like I would give away the whole thing by saying anything else so that summary will just have to do.  I should really write for book jackets.

I personally love Poe.  I think he is really good at writing horror stories without seeming cheesy.  I also love that his characters always seem somewhat realistic to me, even if they are completely insane or in implausible situations.  Poe is actually one of the few poets I can read without eliciting a single eye roll from me.  Quite an impressive feat.

That being said, this certainly isn't my favorite story.  The whole haunted house concept has never really frightened me(I actually found the novel The Shining to be absurd).  Still, I would recommend this "novel" because of Poe's exceptional writing style and pacing.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Influenced by Castle of Otranto (as seen in this very blog!).

Criticized for being formulaic.

UP NEXT: The Charterhouse of Parma by Stendhal.

85. The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby

The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby
Charles Dickens
1839
Around 800 pages









I am currently in bed and I fully expect this review to take a couple hours since I can't stop using tissues or coughing.  I believe that Charles Dickens inflicted this disease on me because I kept putting off reading this novel.  Yesterday all I really had the energy to do was lay in bed and finish the book once and for all.  Interestingly enough, today I feel worse than I did before.  Is there a connection?  I wouldn't bet against it.

I feel like I zoned in and out a lot with this novel.  There were some chapters that I was fully invested in and others that I read and have no memory of.  A character died once and I didn't even realize it until three chapters later.  Oops.

This is the story of Nicholas, a stand up guy who tries to protect his mother and sister from his evil uncle.  In typical Dickens fashion, there are actually lots of evil guys.  Mr. Squeers, for instance, beats children for no apparent reason.  Am I the only one who hates all of the characters' names.  There are just so cheesy.

So obviously, I did not enjoy the book.  800 pages of an extremely dull writing style was just excruciating.  All of Dickens' characters are either dirty, weeping, or both.  It is very exhausting and not at all enjoyable to read.

However, I did enjoy the character of Miss Squeers and her friend Fanny.  Miss Squeers convinces herself that Nicholas is in love with her (we have all been there girlfriend) which leads to some comical scenes and perhaps one of the harshest rejections in literature (some rejections I have received in real life could probably trump them all).

Two Dickens down, eight to go.  Oh boy.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Criticized for lack of character development.

Paul McCartney's favorite novel.

Trailer for 2002 version:
UP NEXT: The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allen Poe.  I love me some Poe.


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

84. Oliver Twist

Oliver Twist
Charles Dickens
1838
Around 450 pages











Well, I can't say I didn't see this day coming.  I just thought I had more time.

Dickens has arrived, ladies and gentlemen.

Dickens is one of my least favorite authors and the problem that I am now facing is that all his books are lumped together (although we do get a few breaks).  I just find him to be incredibly dull and I have have tried all of his notable works at least once.  Well, perhaps it will be like in a movie, where we don't understand each other at first but gradually we come to realize we are not so different after all.  Or maybe I will go on hating him until my dying day.  Either way, the time has come to face one another.

I had already read this book a couple of years ago and as I am certainly not going to reread any CD novel, I will have to recall it from memory.  This shouldn't be too difficult, since this is probably one of the most well known stories of all time.

This is the story of Oliver Twist, an orphan who lives a miserable life in a workhouse.  He manages to escape but falls into the hands of a gang of pickpockets, led by the evil Fagin.

This is the only Dickens novel I have ever enjoyed.  I still think his style is dull, but there is actually an interesting story here, if you can get past the dry writing.  Oliver is probably the weakest, and therefore the most boring character, but characters like Fagin and Artful Dodger make the book worth reading.  Nancy is another strong character, which pleases the feminist in me, since most heroines in the 1800s can't do anything without fainting.

Like I said, though, I hate his style and he is simply not as entertaining as say, Fielding or Austen.  Still, this book kept me hooked and maybe eventually I will convert into a devout Dickens reader.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Called Europe's attention to the child labor problem in London.

Like Henry Fielding, Dickens names his characters after their personalities or origins.

A highly anti-Semitic novel, but I suppose I am use to it from reading such early works all the time.  Still absolutely horrifying, though.

Yes, I used an Oliver and Company picture for this post.  It is the only adaptation of this novel that didn't suck.  I mean, Oliver! was just awful.  In fact, let's all enjoy a tune from Oliver and Company:

UP NEXT: The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens.  Expect some delay here since this is a pretty long novel that I am not too enthusiastic about starting.

83. The Nose

The Nose
Nikolai Gogol
1836
Around 40 pages












All right, so that was sort of weird.  Don't get me wrong, the premise was relatable: a man's nose falls off, develops of life its own, and then safely returns to his face.  I mean, we have all been there.  I just frankly do not understand what the point of that story was and I really don't understand why Gogol wrote it.

I have read some theories that Gogol is comparing the removal of the nose to castration and that without a man's, um, nose he will always be unsuccessful and insecure in his life.  Well, perhaps, but didn't we already know that?

My opinion is that it is just an absurd fairy tale for kids and an early example of magic realism.  Sorry, Gogol, if you had another point, I completely missed it.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Second shortest book on The List.

UP NEXT: Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens.  Dear lord, it is happening.  We have reached the Dickens streak in The Book. NOOOOOOO!!!!!

82. Le Pere Goriot

Le Pere Goriot
Honore de Balzac
1835
Around 380 pages












After conquering the literary Mount Everest, War and Peace, I picked up this book for a quick read. By the way, I loved War and Peace, though that is a subject for a different post.  Anyway, I had high hopes for this novel, having loved Eugenie Grandet.  Unfortunately, with this novel I perhaps discovered one of the most annoying literary characters of all time.  Needless to say, I was very disappointed.

This is the story of Goriot and his daughters, Delphine and Anastasie.  Goriot is pretty much obsessed with his daughters.  Now, lots of loving fathers, mine including, take a huge interest in their daughters lives.  What I mean by the word "obsessed" is that he also, in a way, considers them to be his worst enemies.  If they are not constantly by his side, if he makes a joke and they don't laugh, if they don't take all his money and let him dictate their lives, he hates them.  No wonder none of their marriages work out.

Anyway, it might have been an interesting novel if Goriot was portrayed for what he was: an annoying antagonist.  However, I am pretty sure he was supposed to be the hero and I am sorry, I cannot get behind that.

Balzac, you disappointed me.  Well, it wouldn't be the first time a man let me down.  Get out the ice cream, ladies!

RATING: *----

Interesting Facts:

Includes characters that are present in Balzac's other fiction.

Influenced by James Fenimore Cooper and Sir Walter Scott.

Vautrin tells Eugene that he is "making him an offer he can't refuse."  Sound familiar?

UP NEXT: The Nose by Nikolay Gogol.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

81. Eugenie Grandet

Eugenie Grandet
Honore de Balzac
1833
Around 200 pages












Surprise!  I am back earlier than I expected.  As I said before, I am currently tackling the challenge that every reader must face at some point in their lives: War and Peace.  To make it easier, I am reading it with my sister.  However, she wanted to finish another novel before we started, so I found time to squeeze this book in.  Isn't that just a fascinating story?  Read on for more details!

Just kidding, I would not do that to any of my readers.  Okay, this is the story of Eugenie Grandet, who falls in love with her cousin Charles after his father commits suicide.  Charles is forced to move in with his uncle, who is so rich and miserly that he seems like a Dickens character.  Eugenie puts it all on the line again and again for him, in order to ensure that he is able to continue to live the life that he was accustomed to. And what does she get it return?  Two portraits of his parents.  God, men are the worst all the time most of the time.

This is an interesting story for many reasons.  For one thing, slave trade is basically how Charles makes his fortune.  Now, we have read Oroonko, which was about a slave, and slavery is briefly mentioned in Mansfield Park.  Mostly, however, human trafficking hasn't burst our romantic European fiction bubble.  To have it be discussed in this book, let alone condemned, is refreshing and fairly shocking.

Now, the character of Eugenie is quite typical for a romantic novel: she is beautiful, virginal, pious, and a doormat.  However, I have been noticing a trend lately where the male heroes are actually awful bastards.  Perhaps this means we are moving away from pure romance to more realistic fiction.

Overall, this is a pretty good story and only 200 pages.  Check it out.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Dostoyevsky began his career by translating this novel into Russian.

UP NEXT: La Pere Goriot by Honore de Balzac.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

80. The Hunchback of Notre Dame

The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Victor Hugo
1831
Around 450 pages










Wow, two reviews in a day.  That sure beats my usual rate: one review every month and a half.  I just finished this one when I was on vacation and have been eager to write about it ever since.

This is one of those stories that everyone knows and if you are a nineties child like me, probably grew up watching (although I didn't watch this one until I was older because my mom deemed it as inappropriate).  This is the story of La Esmeralda, a woman so beautiful that every guy that looks at her falls in love (why do so many heroines in our books have this problem?  I have never met a woman who had that complaint).  She herself falls in love with Phoebus, a douchebag soldier who gets her in all kinds of trouble.  Additionally, Frollo and his adopted, deformed son Quasimodo, fall for her charms which ultimately leads to her destruction.  Oh yeah, and there is another random guy that she marries who also loves her (or possibly just her goat; I got the creeps from this one).  Sorry, it is hard to keep track of her large male harem.  Whereas I haven't been asked out for like a year.  Life isn't fair.

Wow, Disney did not prepare me for that.  For one thing, Quasimodo is not a lovable, but hideous  guy.  He is actually deaf from all the bell ringing and is extremely violent.  La Esmeralda is incredibly selfish and Phoebus is cowardly and cruel.  And where the hell was Jason Alexander??

Seriously, though, I loved this book. The entire story is fascinating and, even at times, hilarious.  Frollo's brother in particular provided much needed comic relief.  Hugo's descriptions were excellent; I felt as though I was present for a lot of scenes.  Of course, I am cheating a bit since I have been to Notre Dame but Hugo still provided a stunning image that I am sure would make an impression on anyone.

Wow, I have been rambling for quite awhile now. I guess I will wrap it up with a well deserved five star rating.

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

Influenced Balzac, Flaubert, and Dickens.

Introduced the concept of Epic Theatre.

The unself-centered version of Esmeralda, singing a beautiful ballad:
UP NEXT: Eugenie Grandet by Honore de Balzac.  I may be delayed again in writing this review since I agreed to read War and Peace with my sister. DAH DAH DAH!

79. Le Rouge et le Noir

Le Rouge et le Noir
The Red and The Black
Stendhal
1830
Around 500 pages










Hello all!  Hope you didn't think I forgot about you guys.  As frequent readers know, I reread my favorite series every summer, which delayed this post for awhile.   However, we are back on track now and hopefully, I still have some readers.

This is the story of Julien Sorel, a young carpenter's son with Napoleonic ideals.  Unfortunately for Julien, the throne has been restored and the aristocratic are in power once more.  Julien must content himself with elevating himself in a society he despises.  He gets a job as a tutor for Monsieur de Renal and quickly falls in love with his wife.  Oops!  Everything pretty much goes downhill from there.

I have to admit, I had a good time with this one, even though it bordered on absurd.  I would read out loud certain ridiculous passages to my sister, for her entertainment, like when Madame de Renal's friend fainted when Julien said she was respectable or when everyone in the church began weeping because of a beautiful painting.  What a bunch of ninnies.  I have no idea how anything got done.

It was a fun read, even though it is a bit hard for a modern woman to relate to.  For instance, one of Julien's love interests, Mathilde, felt a great rush of love for him when he took a sword off of the wall and threatened to kill her.  She also cut off half of her fair to demonstrate her devotion to him.  Ah, romance.

Putting aside the more, um, melodramatic moments, it is actually an interesting take on French society during that time.  After the revolution, all the rich people seemed to want to pretend it never happened and in order to survive, the lower class had to as well.  Stendhal never lectured, but every once in awhile a subtle hint would be thrown in, like when Julien was forced to destroy his portrait of Napoleon, for fear of it being found by the wrong people.

So a good story but wildly over the top.  Read at your own risk.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Considered a subversive book and subsequently burned in Brazil.

The novel's title refers to the uniforms of the Army and the Church.

UP NEXT: The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo.  Bring on the dancing gargoyles.

Monday, May 27, 2013

78. The Betrothed

The Betrothed
Alessandro Manzoni
1827
Around 500 pages












I just got back from a vacation to Maui.  It was absolutely beautiful and I got to do one of my favorite things in the world there: read in a gorgeous setting.  In the course of my week long vacation, I got to read Fahrenheit 451, Cat's Cradle, The Blind Assassin, Inferno, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and this novel.  Yeah, it was a great trip.

Anyway, let's talk about this book, which I never would have heard of had it not been for The List.  This is surprising, because apparently this is the most widely read Italian novel of all time.  I just don't understand how this book could still be considered relevant today.  Let me explain…

This is the story of Lucia and Renzo, who want desperately to get married.  However, various people and events get in the way of their nuptials.  For instance, Don Roderigo is in love with Lucia so he forbids the wedding.  He also kidnaps Lucia, because hey, that is what was done back then.  In her darkest hour, Lucia vows to God that she will become a nun if she lives through this.  Through a few extraordinary circumstances, she does happen to live through it and then is forced to give up Renzo.  Remember, this is just one example of the many obstacles that the lovers face.

Like I said, I could not relate to the novel at all.  I don't want to push any religious buttons here, but I am an atheist, so many of the "problems" that Lucia faced seemed to me easily solvable.  Additionally, the melodramatic crises that Renzo faced were unusual, bordering on absurd.

So this is a hard novel to connect to and I wasn't that taken away by the style to be impressed.  Renzo and Lucia are pretty much the same old kinds of characters (a sweet, beautiful virgin and a hotheaded lovesick hero). I probably should mention that the author describes the plague that hit Milan in the early 1600s in heavy detail, which was the most interesting part for me.  Other than that, nothing to write home about.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

First Italian historical novel.

UP NEXT: Red and Black by Stendhal

Thursday, May 2, 2013

77. The Last of the Mohicans

The Last of the Mohicans
James Fenimore Cooper
1826
Around 500 pages









After a string of forgettable novels that no one has ever heard of, we reach this classic.  I had heard from both my mother and sister, who were forced to read this book in school, that the novel was dreadfully dull.  However, I adored this book and obsessively finished it within a few days.

Uncas, the title character of the book, is actually only a minor character in this story.  Cora and Alice Munro are actually featured much more prominently.  The Munro sisters are escorted through the wilderness by Duncan Heyward, who is in love with Alice (she is kind of a blubbering idiot, but hey, she's pretty).  They are ambushed by the Huron tribe, led by Magua.  Hawk-eye and Uncas are able to save them but not for long, since they both get captured more than Daphne from Scooby Doo.  I think if you are kidnapped that many times, you are pretty much on your own.

First of all, I absolutely can see why people would be turned off by this book.  His style is formal and verbose.  Having followed this list chronologically, I am quite used to the romantic style that he uses.  However, it seems to be going out of style by this time, at least in America.  This demonstrates another advantage of going through the list in order: you see trends a lot more easily.

I hesitate to say this book is progressive.  The Native Americans are often referred to as savages and they are easily fooled by someone wearing a bear costume.  However, the "good" Native Americans (the ones that help white people) are portrayed in a positive and noble light.  Additionally, Cora is a very intelligent and independent character. Not only is this a step in the right direction for feminism, but because she is of mixed race, race relations as well.  So good on him, though there are some cringe worthy moments.

Overall, a great adventure story.  Certainly not everyone's cup of tea, but it was what I needed to get out of this slump.

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

Mark Twain wrote an essay in which he criticized Cooper's style in "Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses."

Parodied in South Park.

Trailer for movie:
UP NEXT: The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni.

Friday, April 26, 2013

76. The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner

The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner
James Hogg
1824
Around 250 pages













This has been an exciting week for me, literature wise.  I finally finished Anna Karenina (we still have awhile to go before we reach that review) and in the meantime, finished this little book in less than two days.  This is another entirely forgettable novel and I hope to get out of this slump of obscure bores soon.

When I give a summary of this book, it will sound really interesting and you might even want to check it out.  However, I assure you, it is not as exciting as it appears.  The story starts with the marriage of Rabina Orde to George Colwan.  They have one son named George and another son (though it is implied that the second son was not fathered by George) named Robert.  Robert and George grow up in very different environments.  They meet again as adults and Robert torments George, though he later claims he was possessed by the devil.  Or the devil pretended to be him.  Or something else, I really have no idea.

Come to think of it, that summary does not sound exciting at all.  I should tell you that the events of the novel are narrated twice, once by the editor and once by Robert.

Man, we have really been hit with religious fanaticism in these last few novels.  I guess I can blame some of my dislike on that: I really have no understanding of the religious sects in the UK at this time period and have no desire to learn.  Sorry.

However, I think the biggest reason I did not like this book is that I felt like it had sooooo much potential and just completely blew it.  This novel could have been a great horror story about a man without split personalities desperately trying to do the right thing.  Instead, Hogg had to insert all kinds religious mania coupled with an unbelievable character.

Skip it and like I have said before, this novel deserves its obscurity.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Panned by critics upon its initial release.

Said to be the inspiration behind Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

NEXT UP: Last of the Mohicans.  I think this was required reading in my high school, but being the bamf that I am, I didn't read it. Actually, I didn't read it because I didn't go to high school my senior year but went straight to college.  Which is also kind of bamf.

Friday, April 19, 2013

75. The Albigenses

The Albigenses
Charles Maturin
1824
Around 300 pages












All right, that 300 pages thing is a total lie; the only reason I put that up because my version was in extremely large print for some reason so I don't have an accurate idea of a page count.  All I know is that my book was divided into four volumes and it took me four weeks to finish.

This post won't be very long.  For one thing, no one has heard about this book and it is unlikely you will ever come across it.  For another thing, it is not at all a hidden gem that doesn't deserve to be removed from the dredges of obscurity.

This book is a romance about the religious wars during the Middle Ages.  Now before you think you can gain some knowledge from reading this book, the novel is filled with flaws and historical inconsistencies.

Yikes.  There is not much I liked about this novel.  It reads like a very poor imitation of Sir Walter Scott and is both sexist and boring.  Just overall a fail and I cannot believe that it would be mentioned in The Book.

RATING: *----

Interesting Facts:

No facts for this one, sorry.  Well deserved obscurity.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

74. Melmoth The Wanderer

Melmoth The Wanderer
Charles Maturin
1820
Around 400 pages












Happy Easter everyone!  I spent the day gorging myself on candy, reading this novel, and listening to Steely Dan.  What good times.

Usually I have either heard of the book or heard of the author, but this entry in the list was completely unknown to me.  For the hundredth time, I am grateful to the list for introducing me to another gem that I never would have heard of otherwise.

This is an extremely hard plot to describe.  Maturin takes the "story within a story" concept to a whole new level.  At one point, I think I was in a story within a story within a story within a story.  The author even acknowledges how confusing it is at end by saying that the reader has probably forgot the main character's name.  Indeed, I had.

The main plot follows John Melmoth, who inherits his uncle estate.  His uncle's dying wish is that he destroys a manuscript and a painting of one of his relatives.  The relative is pictured in the year 1646 but Melmoth's late uncle swears that he just saw the man.  John Melmoth is determined to get to the bottom of the mystery and in his quest, comes across a man named Alonzo, who has his own story to tell.  Some character's in Alonzo's story have stories to tell as well, which resulted in a real clusterfuck of a novel.

Despite what a mess the structural plot of this novel is, I really loved this book.  Alonzo's story is by far the best.  Alonzo is forced to become a monk and we follow him for a good 100 pages as he tries to escape the monastery, only to fall into the hands of the Inquisition.  Previously on the list, we have had Diderot's The Nun, where a woman is imprisoned in a convent.  This is a very interesting concept and I am glad I have gotten to read a few stories about it.

The book condemns the Catholic Church which, no offense to Catholics, is not that hard to do considering what a bloody history the Church has had.  It makes for an interesting read; not only is it entertaining but also has great historical value.  Highly recommended and I am surprised that this book is so obscure.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Influenced Poe and Wilde.

Referenced in Lolita.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

73. The Monastery

The Monastery
Sir Walter Scott
1820
Around 350 pages












First of all, thank you so much everyone for voting in the poll.  Your input really means a lot to me.  Jackasses.

Moving on, we have our third Scott novel on the list, The Monastery.  I loved Ivanhoe, I liked Rob Roy, and I hated this novel.  Scott really should have quit when he was ahead.

Half textbook, half melodrama, I can't really tell what kind of person would enjoy this novel.  I suppose historians would find the setting intriguing but the lame love story would no doubt get on their nerves.  It certainly got on mine.

This the story of two brothers who end up falling for the same girl during the Scottish Reformation.  Amazingly enough, it was actually more dull than it sounds.  Scott has a very distinct writing style that makes it easy to zone out.

Overall, just a huge snore; Scott is getting worse and worse in my book.  Hopefully, this is the last we see of him.

RATING: *----

Interesting Facts:

One of Scott's Tales of Bendictine sources.  I know that is not even slightly interesting but I did not have a lot to go with on this one.

Monday, March 4, 2013

72. Ivanhoe

Ivanhoe
Sir Walter Scott
1820
Around 530 pages












All right, now I am really running out of time for these posts.  Damn Jane Austen personality quiz that got me off track (by the way I am an Elizabeth).

Ivanhoe is a romanticized version of Robin Hood.  Evidently, Sir Walter Scott was really obsessed with this guy, since this is what Rob Roy was about as well.  Anyway, be prepared for massive anti Semitism.  At least, on the part of the characters.  There is one "Jewess" named Rebecca who is actually portrayed in a positive light.

Sorry to make this so short as I really did enjoy this book.  It is very romantic and adventurous.  The bow and arrow scene is one of the most exciting scenes in literature.  Check it out!

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

Our idea of Robin Hood nowadays (dashing, heroic, etc.) is mostly due to Ivanhoe.

Historically accurate, for the most part.

71. Frankenstein

Frankenstein
Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
1818
Around 260 pages












As you already know, I do these posts chronologically and we have recently come across a streak of books that I have read already, which is why you are being hit with around six posts at once.  Normality will be restored soon.

I only read horror books in October, so I maybe read this book around two years ago.  It is still fresh in my mind, however, mostly because it was so different than what I expected.  I was, of course, expected some monster horror novel.  I was very wrong indeed.

This is the story of Dr. Frankenstein, who figures out how to create life without his johnson.  So the doctor is actually Frankenstein and the monster is the monster of Frankenstein, not Frankenstein.  Common misconception.  Anyway, the monster is not a grunting zombie like he is portrayed in the movies, but actually quite intelligent.  This actually makes the story quite sad, because he knows he is very self aware.

This is a short one; you can probably read it in one sitting.  I was a little disappointed in it because I was expecting a horror story and it was really more of a novel on the nature of men and the danger of playing god.  Still, it is a very thoughtful book, one that has been trivialized by Universal studios.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Shelley wrote it for a competition between her friends and family.

Admired by Sir Walter Scott.

MONSTER ATTACK:


70. Northanger Abbey

Northanger Abbey
Jane Austen
1817
Around 270 pages











Sadly, this is the last of the Jane Austen novels.  It is also probably the least accessible to readers.

This novel is a satire of the gothic novels that were popular at the time.  Now, having followed this list, I have read many over the top gothic novels so I really get the humor of this book.  If you haven't, you can still enjoy it, but it is almost like there is an inside joke you are not a part of.  In addition, there are many references to random novels from the time, like The Monk or Camilla.  Again, the list helps me out there.

This is the story of Catherine Morland, who fancies herself as a heroine of a gothic novel.  Like I have said in previous posts, making fun of other novels is always a fun approach.  Anyway, the story follows Catherine as she visits Northanger Abbey, which she expects to be like the castle in Mysteries of Udolpho, and falls in love with Mr. Tilney.

So this is a great novel, one that can be enjoyed by anyone.  However, if you want that extra pleasure, I would recommend reading Mysteries of Udolpho first.

Funny, witty, and romantic.  A great way to say goodbye to Jane.

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

Originally titled Susan.

Exposes the danger of believing that fiction is like real life.  This is something that I am guilty of 24/7.

Is going to be adapted into a teen thriller.  Groan.

69. Persuasion

Persuasion
Jane Austen
1816
Around 270 pages













And we continue with Jane Austen with this little gem, which is probably the least popular of her novels.  Now, I think all Jane Austen novels are worth many reads so I will try to persuade (haha get it?) you to give this one a try as well.

This is the story of Anne Elliot.  Many years ago, she rejected a proposal of marriage of Frederick Wentworth because her parents were against, due to his lack of connections and wealth.  Now, many years later, Wentworth is rich and powerful but unable to forgive Anne.  Will these two ever get it right???

So I will admit, Anne is not the most exciting Austen heroine.  She is pretty much Fanny Price, but older.  That in itself is actually interesting, because most Austen heroines are young while Fanny is "past her prime" (aka around 27).  The plot is rather simple though, probably because Jane Austen died before she could polish up the novel.

I still love this book, though.  We have the funny scenarios, the great romance, and, though Anne may seem to be a bit of pushover at the beginning, a plucky heroine who rises above her surroundings.  It is also one of the shorter Austen books so you don't risk much by trying it.

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

Jane Austen's brother named this book.

The second Bridget Jones' Diary movie is loosely based on this plot.

Set in Bath, where Jane Austen spent several years.

68. Ormond

Ormond
Maria Edgeworth
1817
Around 400 pages












So for reason my computer is being ridiculously slow and when I started this post I had about twenty five minutes to write it, now because of picture problems I have around eleven minutes to write.  It shall be done!

I was really excited to read this book because it has often been described as the Irish Tom Jones and I love me some Tom.  This novel follows Ormond, not surprisingly, as he travels, falls in love, and gets into mischief.  At the beginning of the book, he decides that he wants to be more like Tom Jones.  To do this, he has to find a heroine, be a bit of a "blackguard", and then reform.  While making fun of novels' heroes isn't exactly new (Don Quixote, Female Quixote, etc.) it is always funny.

So that part of the novel was certainly interesting. However, this book did have a tendency to drag and the heroine, Dora, is rather dull.  Still, a good read and I would recommend it.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

It is Maria Edgeworth so more Irish nationalism themes.