Sunday, October 27, 2013

94. The Three Musketeers

The Three Musketeers
Alexandre Dumas
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
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
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
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
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!