Tuesday, February 17, 2015

136. Journey to the Centre of the Earth

Journey to the Centre of the Earth
Jules Verne
1864
Around 230 pages

Well, this book was a huge disappointment.  I was imagining some great adventure and all I really got was about two hundred pages of walking in caves.  It was like the part of Lord of the Rings that everybody hates when Frodo and Sam are walking, and then they keep walking, and then they walk some more.  Please have some mercy on us.

Let's start with the characters.  The Professor insists on taking his nephew, Axel, on this journey, even though the journey will be extremely dangerous and Axel doesn't want to go.  In fact, the persistence of the Professor is quite disturbing at times, especially when Axel is on the brink of death during multiple moments during the novel.  Not to mention the fact that the Professor is extremely cranky all the time.  It is hard to feel too sorry for Axel, though, since he is one of the whiniest characters you will ever meet.  Every once in awhile he would declare that he was dying, seemingly just for attention.  Finally, there is their Icelandic guide, Hans, who they pretty much treat as a dog throughout the entire novel.  In fact, when you are reading this, pretend that Hans is a dog.  I promise the story still makes sense.

I was expecting a kind of Alice in Wonderland sort of adventure but nothing at all happens in this novel.  At one point, it looks like they are being attacked by animals but it turns out that it was just a dream.  A total bore.

Interesting Facts:

In some of the English language versions, Axel's name was changed to Henry, Lidenbrock's name was changed to Hardwigg, and Grauben's name was changed to Gretchen.

Trailer for the latest adaptation:
UP NEXT: The Last Chronicle of Barset by Anthony Trollope

Monday, February 2, 2015

135. Crime and Punishment

Crime and Punishment
Fyodor Dostoevsky
1866
Around 570 pages












This is the first book that I have actually listened to on audio CDs.  It took me a few months, but I managed to listen to the entire thing during my commute.  It was a bit of a chore to sit through, so I imagine that it would have taken me that long even if I had read it.

Raskolnikov or, as I call him, The Whiniest Literary Character of All Time, kills a cruel pawnbroker and her sister.  The character that is subjected to his whining and guilt the most, besides the reader, is Sonya, a prostitute with a heart of gold.

Man, this book was a snore.  I have thoroughly enjoyed other Dostoevsky novels, so I don't know why this one was so hard for me to swallow.  Maybe it is because not enough happened in this novel.   Most of the plot was focused on one of the first scenes and that can get tiring really quickly.  It was much more interesting to read about the crime and ultimate punishment in The Brothers Karamazov.  At least that novel kept moving forward.

I don't know what my crime was, but I was certainly punished with this novel.  I'll be here all week, folks.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Woody Allen's 2005 Matchpoint is roughly based on this novel.

There are over 25 film adaptations of this novel.

UP NEXT: Journey to the Centre of the Earth by Jules Verne.  This is a short novel, so I hopefully I will back by sometime next week.

134. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Lewis Carroll
1865
Around 120 pages










Finally, there isn't a two month break between posts since I have already read this and the next novel, Crime and Punishment.  I am hoping to get both these posts out by tonight to make up for my absence lately.  Now onto a story we are all familiar with.

Alice falls down a rabbit hole into a strange world with many memorable characters, like the Mad Hatter, Queen of Hearts, and the Cheshire Cat.  Math puns ensue.

I have never been a huge fan of any form of art that is considered "trippy" whether it be a book, a Pink Floyd album, or a Dali film.  However, even I have to admit that this is a great children's novel. Just like with Water-Babies, it was interesting exploring children's literature as an adult.  It almost made me want to follow the 1001 Children's Books You Must Read Before You Die, but I think if I did that my family would have to host an intervention.

I would recommend reading this novel, even if you read it when you were a kid, since there will certainly be things you catch that you didn't appreciate the first time around.  If you are like me, there will still be things you don't get and then you will have to get your older brother to explain bases.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Part of the literary nonsense genre.

Trailer for Disney version:
Trailer for the newest Tim Burton version.  I have a suspicion that I would absolutely hate this.  Thoughts?
UP NEXT: Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky.  Brace yourselves.

133. Our Mutual Friend

Our Mutual Friend
Charles Dickens
1865
Around 900 pages














There were days where I simply couldn't will myself to pick up this book and days where I couldn't put it down.  Perhaps it was because of the sheer size, but this is one of the hardest books I have ever had to get through that I actually enjoyed.

A body is found in the Thames River and is identified as John Harmon.  Harmon was to inherit the estate of a rich old miser on the condition that he marry Bella Wilfer.  However, because of his death, the miser's estate goes to the Boffins, a quintessential example of a good, poor couple.  The Boffins decide to take in Bella, since she no longer has a fiancé.  I actually Bella to be one of the most insufferable Dickens characters ever.  The way she talked to her father was just plain nauseating.

Several parts of this novel had me laughing out loud.  I loved the Lammles, a manipulative young couple who were reminiscent of the Thenardiers in Les Miserables.  Silas Wegg, an old man who attempts to blackmail the Boffins, also repeatedly made me chuckle.  However, I can't completely make this post a rave.  For one thing, I found some of the plot twists to be absolutely absurd and kind of hindered my enjoyment of the novel, since they caused quite a few continuity issues.  This book is also insanely long.  After all this time, Dickens still doesn't know when to shut up.

Our Mutual Friend is our last Dickens novel!  Although I wished for this moment to come many times (mostly while I was reading A Tale of Two Cities) I am really going to miss reading his novels. Oh well.  I still have a few tucked away that I can experience for the first time.  I mean, how can a book titled Barnaby Rudge be bad?

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Referenced many times in the tv show Lost.

The characters were heavily criticized by Henry James.

Trailer for the BBC version:

UP NEXT: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll