Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Here is the summary from Goodreads.
"Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark won the annual competition described in Hunger Games, but the aftermath leaves these victors with no sense of triumph. Instead, they have become the poster boys for a rebellion that they never planned to lead. That new, unwanted status puts them in the bull's-eye for merciless revenge by The Capitol. Catching Fire maintains the adrenaline rush of Suzanne Collin's series launch."
Can't wait to get my hands on Mockingjay, the final book of the Hunger Games Trilogy.
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Girl, Interrupted is the memoir of Kaysen's time in McLean Hospital, a famous psychiatric hospital. Kaysen's story is interesting. Spoiler alert: I spent a lot of time trying to understand why Kaysen was in the hospital only to figure out at the end that Kaysen herself was never really sure. But Kaysen's writing wasn't as fascinating as her characters. The stories aren't linear and sometimes I had trouble figuring out when something happened as she talks about the time in the hospital, before she was in the hospital and after she was released.
The overall story made me sad. Rather than trying to trying to help these young women, it was acceptable to lock them away. I don't believe anyone was cured according to Kaysen's account, but either learned to suppress those feelings or outgrew them.
Interesting memoir. Despite being a short book (168 pages), it took some time to read and process.
"June Bug" by Chris Fabry
June Bug believed everything her daddy told her. That is, until she walked into Wal-Mart and saw her face on a list of missing children. The discovery begins a quest for the truth about her father, the mother he rarely speaks about, and ultimately herself. A modern interpretation of Les Miserables, the story follows a dilapidated RV rambling cross-country with June Bug and her father, a man running from a haunted past. Forces beyond their control draw them back to Dogwood, West Virginia, down a winding path that will change their lives forever.
# Paperback: 336 pages
# Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (July 9, 2009)
# Language: English
# ISBN-10: 1414319568
# ISBN-13: 978-1414319568
MY THOUGHTS: This was a very good book. I loved all the characters. Following June Bugs story to find herself was very enjoyable. As June Bug hunts for all the info she can find, she is also searching for her roots. Where did she come from? Who is her mother? Does she have brothers and sisters?
Saturday, December 25, 2010
Radner is not the best writer. Most of the time the stories were more like long letters to a far away friend. I enjoyed some of the stories about her childhood and when she first came to New York, but most of them wound up relating to cancer somehow. It was much more the autobiography of Gilda's struggle with cancer than about Gilda's life. It was a bittersweet story. She was such a bright comedic actress and she left a wonderful legacy with her characters and with Gilda's Club. Her story definitely had me crying at times. Her strength and her commitment to beating cancer so others could too was so touching. I'd recommend this to Gilda fans as well as those who's lives cancer has touched.
Friday, December 24, 2010
This book has been on my list of TBR books for ages. I love reading about history, especially the Civil War. I don't really know what the fascination is with the period, but I've always loved reading about it since I was a young girl. Mr. Horwitz did a remarkable job with this book. I found out lots of things I didn't know and lots of things I did know, but needed a refresher on it. Many people think the Civil War was about Slavery. It wasn't. It was about states rights. As Horwitz takes you through the south and you hear what everyone there thinks about the Civil War and some keep it alive and some don't care one way or the other. But some take it to extreme. If you like to read about the Civil War you should really read this book. I highly recommend it. You can see my full review at my book blog, Just Books.
Monday, December 20, 2010
- Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
- Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (2/13/2012)
- Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
- Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
- Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
- North and South by Gaskell
- Dune by Frank Herbert (3/19/2011)
- Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan
- A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle
- Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez
- Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis
- The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins (3/16/2012)
- Law and Gospel by CFW Walther
- Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset (3/17/2013)
- Beach Music by Pat Conroy (3/22/2012)
- The Children of Hurin JRR Tolkien
- The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
- The Frontiersmen by Allen Eckert
- The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks
- The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde (12/5/2011)
- The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (2/21/2012)
- Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
- The Jungle Books by Rudyard Kipling (1/27/2012)
- The Master and Margarita by Bulgakov (2/5/2013)
- We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson (4/29/2011)
- Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
- Churchill by Paul Johnson
- The Conquest of Gaul by Julius Caesar
- Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome
- The Bondage of the Will by Martin Luther
- The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas (11/4/2012)
- Summerland by Michael Chabon (6/25/2012)
- Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
- The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis
- The House on the Strand by Daphne DuMaurier (5/19/2011)
- Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler (6/28/2012)
- I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
- A Canticle for Leibowitz, Miller (2/9/2011)
- In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson
- The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
- The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss (4/12/2011)
- A Life Worth Living by John Holt
- Defenders of the Faith: Charles V, Suleyman the Magnificent, and the Battle for Europe, 1520-1536 by Reston
- Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali
- The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. DuBois (12/13/2012)
- Life at the Bottom by Theodore Dalrymple (3/20/2011)
- The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (1/7/2011)
- Desolation Road by Ian McDonald (7/10/2012)
- Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe (9/25/2012)
- All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren (4/3/2012)
- The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
- Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
- Faust by Goethe
- Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (5/29/2013)
- Up from Slavery by Booker T. Washington (4/7/2013)
- The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster (4/24/2012)
- Redwall by Brian Jacques
- The Guns of August by Barabara Tuchman
- Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde
- Life of Pi by Yann Mertel
- Aeneid by Virgil
- The Complete Poetry of John Donne
- Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, T.S. Eliot (4/23/2012)
- Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
- My Antonia by Willa Cather (1/15/2013)
- Dead Souls by Gogol
- The Road to Serfdom by F.A. Hayek
- One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (9/28/2011)
- East Lynne by Ellen Wood (6/18/2011)
- Story of King Arthur and His Knights by Howard Pyle
- Emily of New Moon by L.M. Montgomery (1/6/2012)
- The Hobbit JRR Tolkien
- The Beautiful and the Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald (12/26/2010)
- Robinson Crusoe (9/9/2013)
- The Once and Future King by T.H. White
- The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro (7/18/2011)
- Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
- Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
- Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett (3/25/2013)
- Tom Jones by Henry Fielding
- The Man Who Was Thursday by GK Chesterton
- Introducing Father Brown by GK Chesterton (10/6/2011)
- Casino Royale by Ian Fleming (5/2/11)
- The Last of the Mohicans by James Fennimore Cooper
- On the Road by Jack Kerouac
- The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle
- Death in Venice by Thomas Mann (5/6/2013)
- Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov (7/2/2012)
- In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (1/20/2013)
- The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
- Foundation by Isaac Asimov (3/6/2011)
- The Forgotten Man by Amity Shlaes (12/30/2012)
- The Warden by Anthony Trollope (1/28/2013)
- Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
- Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
- Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
- Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula LeGuin
- The Stranger by Albert Camus
- Here Be Dragons by Sharon Kay Penman
- The Histories by Herodotus
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Two of my favorite passages are what the narrator would want to write on end-of-term reports to doting parents if he had been a teacher.
"Your son Maximilian", I would write, "is a total wash-out. I hope you have a family business you can push him into when he leaves school because he sure as heck won't get a job anywhere else."
Or if I were feeling lyrical that day, I might write, "It is a curious truth that grasshoppers have their hearing-organs in the sides of the abdomen. Your daughter Vanessa, judging by what she's learnt this term, has no hearing-organs at all."
But, Matilda's parents are not those types of parents. No she has a different type. The type that doesn't think she is anything, when in fact she is brilliant.
Here's an excerpt from the bookcover.
Who put superglue in Dad's hat? Was it really a ghost that made Mom tear out of the house? Matilda is a genius with idiot parents - and she's having a great time driving them crazy. But at school things are different. At school there's Miss Trunchbull, two hundred menacing pounds of kid-hating headmistress. Get rid of the Trunchbull and Matilda would be a hero. But that would take a superhuman genius, wouldn't it?
I liked the book. I found the word choice to be strong, which is always good for vocabulary for upper elementary kids.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
I enjoyed the first half of this book. I don't usually read vampire novels (literary snob that I am), but with Fill-in-the-Gaps Project I've been trying to read outside my comfort zone. So, I was pleasantly surprised when I initially found myself interested in the plot and characters of Vampire Academy (the first book in a series of six). Of course, reading it felt a lot like watching an HBO drama, but there's a time and place for HBO dramas, and I guess I was in the mood to be entertained.
I thought author Richelle Mead's twist on classic vampires was interesting. She has a good group (the Moroi), a bad group (the Strigoi), and then vampire guardians who aren't vampires (the dhampirs). Main character, Rose, is a dhampir. She is best friends with Lissa, a Moroi princess, and works as her protector.
Mead found a pretty sneaky way to show two characters' thoughts and feelings without switching back and forth between points of view. She gave Rose the gift of getting inside Lissa's head and seeing through Lissa's eyes, basically whenever she wanted to. When Rose started doing this all the time, however, the story crumbled for me. I felt like Mead cheated, using Rose's ability to spoon-feed us Lissa's emotions. The end was especially disappointing. There was so much telling about how Lissa was feeling, the conclusion felt scrambled and rushed.
Also, by the end I was totally bored with all the intrigues of the Vampire Academy. There was so much gossip and back-stabbing and not a single character to redeem it.
Needless to say, I've read outside my comfort zone with this one and tried to do so with an open mind, but I won't be continuing with the series. And I haven't checked my FitG list for more vampire novels, but I'm kind of hoping this is the last one I have to read. I've done my due diligence by reading Twilight and this book. Sorry all you vampire fans out there!
Sunday, December 12, 2010
Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
The First Part Last. Angela Johnson.
He Knew He Was Right by Anthony Trollope
Shamela by Henry Fielding
Friday, December 10, 2010
I laughed out loud many times reading this book. My seven-year-old son wanted to know what I was laughing about, so I ended up reading most of the book aloud to him. He wanted to read the cartoons by himself. And then we had to re-read the really funny parts to my husband when he got home.
Wimpy Kid is an easy read and the MC, Greg, is hilarious. He's so incredibly flawed, but you can't help but laugh at him and love him anyway. Oh dear ... just thinking about some of his exploits still makes me giggle.
This is light reading fare at its lightest, but I'd definitely recommend Wimpy Kid to anyone. And it was fun to have a book on my list I could share with my kids.
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Jose Saramago, Death with Interruptions. This one was on my Gaps listbut the writing style was so unwieldy that I couldn't stick with it. One sentence had 78 commas, and a later sentence had 101 commasI only made it about 35 pages. I'm sorry, but that's letting the form get in the way of the function.
Friedrich Durrenmatt, The Assignment. Every chapter is a single sentence, running over multiple pages. Oddly more readable than the Saramago, but still difficult. I got through about four chapters. Not on Gaps list.
Mary Roach, Stiff. I got about halfway through, but it just dragged on way too long. It was less entertaining to me than Bonk, which I finished earlier in the year. I have Spook but won't pull that off the shelf for another year or two. Not on Gaps list.
Howard Dully, My Lobotomy. I would rather have a lobotomy than finish this horribly-written book, no matter how compelling the actual story may be. It reads as if it was dictated and transcribed, and this guy talks about every single memory he has of his entire childhood. He lost me for good when he said that he really liked bananassometimes he would even take a banana up to his room and eat it there. Seriously? This is the irrelevant minutia you're writing about, in a book about icepick lobotomies?!? Editor, you failed. Not on Gaps listmy book group meets tonight about this, and I'm sorry to not finish a book group pick, but I just couldn't do it. (I learned after putting it down that this guy got his book deal after being featured on NPRthis was better left as a short oral history.)
In defense, I'm not a total flake: I am reading books from my list, and am in the middle of Vonnegut's The Sirens of Titan right now.
What books have you abandoned this year, and why?
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
The Nonexistent Knight (1959)
The Cloven Viscount (1952)
By Italo Calvino (1923-1985)
Finally, I finished a book that’s on my list. Now I know why this list built up on my shelf in the first place. Writers keep writing and publishers keep publishing and some books on my shelf just don’t hold my interest. (Sorry, Don Quixote, but once your story deviates from you as the central figure, it tires me.) After many sidetracks, I managed to pick a book of the shelf that’s on the list, and I stuck with it.
I’ve read Calvino before, first If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler (which a friend recommended and I liked so-so, but enough to try another), then Invisible Cities (which I loved far more).
These are two novellas (I’d call them) collected in one volume. The Nonexistent Knight features a crusading armor powered solely by the will that lives within it and the people affected by this will. Fun story.
Favorite quote (because I an relate to it and because it’s good):
One starts off writing with a certain zest, but a time comes when the pen merely grates in dusty ink, and not a drop of life flows, and all life is outside, outside the window, outside oneself, and it seems that never more can one escape into a page one is writing, open out another world, leap the gap. Maybe it’s better so. Maybe the time when one wrote with delight was neither a miracle nor grace but a sin, of idolatry, of pride.
The Cloven Viscount (does not rhyme with “discount” but you knew that) treats a character split in half by cannon fire, one half turning excessively bad, the other (initially thought lost, sorry to spoil a bit of it as much as the back cover spoils it) excessively good.
Neither story was as light as I had hoped, but both are inventive and playfully thought-provoking, so I consider them both winners.
Still, if you’ve never read Calvino, I’d recommend you start with Invisible Cities.
Monday, December 6, 2010
MY THOUGHTS: I went into this book knowing full well what was going to happen. But I really enjoyed reading about the Grogan family and all their misadventures with Marley. How could you not love him. He enjoyed life to the fullest, a bit energetic, true, but happy most of the time. I think my favorite "Marley" story is him getting kicked out of Obedience school. And then going back and trying it again and getting is degree and eating it! Whatever you say about Marley he truly loved his family and they loved him very deeply even with all his so called "problems". Now on to the movie. Which I'm sure I'll need some tissues to see this one. You can see my full review at my place, Just Books.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
My nine year old son loved it, so I'd recommend it if you have a young reader at home. But, note that there is a palm reading in the first chapter. It's not huge, but some people are very cautious about these things.
Wiglaf is an odd child in his family. He is little and doesn't like to hurt living things. But, when he is told that he will one day be a hero he leaves home to attend DSA, Dragon Slayers' Academy. He decides that he will slay a dragon and bring back the gold to his family. His first day of school turns out very different than planned. He doesn't just learn about slaying dragons, but he gets the opportunity to fight a real fire breathing dragon.
But, I loved how we step back and look at her life before she enters the home of her step-family. And the twist of the enchanted spell given to her at birth.
That obedience spell made me think deeper about the act of obedience verses the attitude of obedience. You can see it played out in Ella so well. She has to obey, but she finds ways to make the act a little bit mischievous or she resents the person making the request.
With raising my own kids, I am aware of the times they are obedient in attitude or not. I want them to obey, not just in their action, but also in their attitude. I don't want them to be resentful because they "have to do" something. Not every child is the same, so this makes parenting even more of a challenge at times, ya think?
Anyway, back to the review. I've not watched the movie, but now want to. I'm sure it's not as good as the book....they never are, are they? But, just the same I think it would be fun to see all the dresses and to watch the story all fold out once again. To see the girl live "happily ever after" with her prince. I'm still a young romantic at heart.
Monday, November 29, 2010
I like the way this book is written. Each person, Jack and Ruby, are telling the story. You get different views of each of their lives. How they meet, their life together, and Ruby's illness. You see Ruby has Cancer. So they are telling the story of her life. I would really recommend this book, it's really easy to read. I got hooked as soon as I started reading it. Couldn't put it down. My full review is posted at my place, Just Books.
Sunday, November 28, 2010
MY THOUGHTS: This is a new author for me. I read about this book at someone's blog and it sounded really good, so I put it on my TBR list. It is really a good book. It's also a series of books. The Awakening, The Reckoning, The Gathering(2011) are the ones in the series. The Gathering is due out in 2011. Chloe starts seeing strange things and freaks out in school. They sent her to a house for disturbed teens. But something isn't right. Chloe finds out about all the different kids there and their "special" powers. Then all hell breaks loose. Chloe, Rae, Derek, and Simmon are on the run. And do they get caught? Does Chloe find her "special" power and how to use it? You'll have to read the book to find out the answers to these questions. You can view my full review at my place, Just Books.
Oh ya, and I blog over at Books from Bleh to Basically Amazing if you'd like to drop by and say hi! I'll be posting mini-reviews on this site, but it's more than likely that my full reviews will be posted over here!
We have just reached 100 followers. And I've just sent an invite to our 78th member :)
So I thought a little champagne and nibbles were in order :)
The success of this blog is down to YOU whether you're a member, reader or commenter!
So have a glass of bubbly as our way of saying
Friday, November 19, 2010
"The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" by Stieg Larsson
An international publishing sensation, Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo combines murder mystery, family saga, love story, and financial intrigue into one satisfyingly complex and entertainingly atmospheric novel.
Harriet Vanger, a scion of one of Sweden's wealthiest families disappeared over forty years ago. All these years later, her aged uncle continues to seek the truth. He hires Mikael Blomkvist, a crusading journalist recently trapped by a libel conviction, to investigate. He is aided by the pierced and tattooed punk prodigy Lisbeth Salander. Together they tap into a vein of unfathomable iniquity and astonishing corruption.
# Paperback: 600 pages
# Publisher: Vintage Crime / Black Lizard (June 23, 2009)
# Language: English
# ISBN-10: 0307454541
# ISBN-13: 978-0307454546
MY THOUGHTS: This is my book clubs pick for November. It has also been on my TBR list for ages. So when the chit chat at book club came around to this book, I jumped on it. I must say I was a little disappointed when I started reading the book. It's really slow and filled with so much info I got lost at first. Then finally it got going. What was confusing was all the info about Wennerstrom. But I really enjoyed the book. It is written with every detail that could possibly have to do with the story line plus more. Now I've got to read the other 2 books in this series. They will go on my TBR list. The Girl Who Played With Fire - Stieg Larsson and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest - Stieg Larsson
MY RATING: 5
"The Five People You Meet in Heaven" by Mitch Albom
Plot Eddie is a wounded war veteran, an old man who has lived, in his mind, an uninspired life. His job is fixing rides at a seaside amusement park. On his 83rd birthday, a tragic accident kills him, as he tries to save a little girl from a falling cart. He awakes in the afterlife, where he learns that heaven is not a destination. It's a place where your life is explained to you by five people, some of whom you knew, others who may have been strangers. One by one, from childhood to soldier to old age, Eddie's five people revisit their connections to him on earth, illuminating the mysteries of his "meaningless" life, and revealing the haunting secret behind the eternal question: "Why was I here?"
# Hardcover: 198 pages
# Publisher: Hyperion; 1 edition (September 23, 2003)
# Language: English
# ISBN-10: 1920798218
# ISBN-13: 978-1920798215
MY THOUGHTS: I have had this book on my TBR list for ages. I went to the library to return some books and forgot to take my list with me. I was trying to think of some of the books I wanted to read. And I could only think of one, this one. I'm so glad I got it. Wonderful book! Beautifully written by Mr. Albom. If you believe in heaven or if you don't, this book will make you believe. I didn't want it to end. If you haven't read this book, please do, it's wonderful.
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
This book made me laugh out loud, seriously. I enjoyed the voice of the MC. You could really hear him talking and thinking to himself, which ten year old boys can be quite creative in their thinking...which leads to why I laughed out loud in a hospital lobby while reading this book.
I also loved that Mr. Curtis used his two grandfathers as characters in this book. One was a musician and the other was named "Lefty Lewis". How fun is that? Also, the author is from Flint..just another cool fact that was at the end of the book.
Saturday, November 6, 2010
Basically Bleak House is the story of a lawsuit and its effect on those who live in its periphery, but really it's a lesson in characterisation. There are 1088 pages in my copy of the book, and I swear a new character was introduced on each page. As a random selection, there's Tulkinghorn, the creepy menacing lawyer, there's the man-child Richard Skimpole who starts off as a delighful character, but whose childishness just makes him quite awful in the end and there's Richard Carstone who begins as a sunny care-free character but who pays the price for becoming with consumed with the law suit, or the 'family curse' as it's known. My favourites though are the Bagnets - Mrs Bagnet is an awesome mother-hen of a woman who bosses everyone around, and Mr Bagnet expresses his views solely through his wife -
Mr. George produces his present, which is greeted with admiring leapings and clappings by the young family, and with a species of reverential admiration by Mr. Bagnet. "Old girl," says Mr. Bagnet. "Tell him my opinion of it."
"Why, it's a wonder, George!" Mrs. Bagnet exclaims. "It's the beautifullest thing that ever was seen!"
"Good!" says Mr. Bagnet. "My opinion."
But as he also says -
"George," says Mr. Bagnet. "You know me. It's my old girl that advises. She has the head. But I never own to it before her. Discipline must be maintained."
I could go on about this book, but I won't. It was epic, and challenging, and hilarious, and hearbreaking and I'm glad I read it.
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
It starts with Widge, an orphan taken in as an apprentice. He learns a secret written code from a doctor, who then sells him to a man who wants Widge to use this skill to copy one of Shakespeare's plays, Hamlet. Widge is successful after his second trip to the theatre, but it gets stolen from his wallet. He then pretends to want to be a player so he can steal the play and save his life from his new master. But, it is tough to steal. One, they keep it locked up in a chest in a locked room. And two, the players become family, something he has never had. And he makes friends, something he has never done. Can he betray them? It's a tough decision that keeps you reading to see how he will make the right decision and still live.
Saturday, October 30, 2010
I bought God's War back in 2005 off of a starred Publishers Weekly review. Back then, $35 was a huge amount of money for me to spend on a book (heck, it still is, but I was a bona fide starving assistant back then), but I love to read about the Crusades and have always sought stuff out. The PW review assured me that God's War would replacing the current standard Crusades text (by one Runciman, which yes, I had read in college already).
I was disappointed from the beginning with Tyerman's tone, which was the traditional dry academic, bent on including as many details as possible but without including anything hard, like numbers (let's face it, what we really want to know is always how many people died horribly). I mean, this was hardly Tyler's fault; he is an academic, and wrote an academic text. I guess I was just hoping that someone would finally write a treatment of the Crusades that made the data and the themes easy to digest. Because I know there's a way. And it bothers me that no one ever wants to cover this large topic in a plainspoken and accessible way. I believe a lot of us modern souls could learn a lot from history--this history in particular--if only historians were more willing to distill their jargon and say something.
I'll stop with that line of thought now. I don't mean to open up a basket of snakes about academic integrity, the moral imperative of keeping a neutral tone to data, the sanctity of the white tower, the fact that any written history is already an interpretation, blah blah blah. I was just hoping, when I bought this book, that it would be what I hadn't found elsewhere before--a book about the Crusades that I could recommend to casual readers. It wasn't.
It had already sat on my shelf for almost four years when we embarked upon the Gaps project (now more than a year and a half ago). I put it on the list, because I thought maybe this would finally get me through it. In order to get through it, I marked it into sections. I would try to read about 75 pages a week, and it would take me only three months of Sundays to finish it and have done. I lasted for two weeks on that plan. Well, one and a half weeks. I was thrown off by the fact that nothing felt new or fresh--I was just rereading difficult-to-pick-through historianism with the same content I already knew backward and forward. Six months later, I plowed through another 50 pages, then six months after that, while I was briefly unemployed, I forced myself through another 400. Today, I made myself finish it, and forgave myself much skimming. I hope no one will fault me for crossing it off the list, despite rather light engagement over the last three hundred pages.
Anyway, now I'm done. The Gap is filled. Any writers out there in need of projects? I still vote for a short, accessible, general, thematic, and fun to read history of the Crusades.
Friday, October 29, 2010
"I am Dracula, and I bid you welcome . . . "
An enduring classic with an extremely charming, truly evil, yet almost human monster. I suggest leaving the lights on.
Synopsis: With a Victorian setting in the late 19th century, a newly practicing attorney/solicitor from England is commissioned to visit a new client for his firm. He is to meet with this wealthy gentleman and stay at his castle in the mountains of Transylvania, while giving him advice on property acquisitions within the UK. The journey starts out decently for Jonathan Harker, but “red flags” pop up as he is warned by the locals and experiences eerie events during his journey to the Count’s country estate.
When he reaches his destination things are not as he was lead to believe. He finds that the Count himself is misleading and extremely intelligent, with a business savvy to match. Most disturbing is when Harker realizes the castle has no servants, parts are in complete ruin, he sees the count doing not very human things, and it appears that he is in fact a prisoner with in the castle. When he finally returns home, the young lawyer is beside himself, and worse yet it appears that he may have been followed. This scary story has only just begun.
Thoughts: This is a wonderful tale which deserves to be read by anyone interested in classics, horror, and evil vampires. That it was written over 100 years ago and the emotions it incurs are still heart quickening, attest to the universal nature of this horror story and make it an enduring classic.
Set partially in Whitby, an amazing town on the East coast of England with iconic structures which still exist today, the story includes a variety of interesting and well developed characters, with our main character the Count, who is the evil embodiment of a sociopathic killer.
It is all told in letter format - epistolary or diary entries with each character well developed and interesting. Listening to the book in audio format, the telling is done via various voices and is close to perfect - old English accents, changing for each of the characters. I enjoyed it immensely.
As for rating this classic I would say 4.5 stars. I recommend this version if you decide audio is the way to go for you.
Some Information about Whitby via travel pictures.
Below are pictures which John and I took in 2009 on one of our many visits to England where he is from. When experiencing this book in its audio format these images helped it come alive for me. I could not help visualize this setting as it was described by the author. Also included below are several links to festivals based in the area, and a picture of our brother in law in full Dracula regalia at one such event which occurred last year in the town.
Whitby is on the Eastern side of Northern England. Set on the North Sea. The water is wild and choppy and very cold even in summer. This picture was taken from the pier which is located at the bay/river mouth and is a Southern outcrop of highland. Making this a perfect spot to watch incoming ships or marauders in this ancient port city. It is also the spot where the gorgeous abbey is located,
This was taken during the summer June 2009. It was truly cold and windy, the norm for the area. Further to right on the mesa you can actual see the little bits of the abbey’s spires. It is a key feature in several of the settings described in Dracula.
Above are two pictures of the ancient abbey. They are described in the book exactly as they are pictured here. It was lovely walking through and inside the abbey, looking up at the architecture. Here is the historical setting for the spot:
The first monastery here was founded in AD 657 by King Oswy of Northumbria. An Anglo-Saxon style 'double monastery' for men and women, its first ruler was the formidable royal princess Abbess Hild. Here, Caedmon the cowherd was miraculously transformed into an inspired poet; here, the future of the English church was decided by the Synod of Whitby in 664; and here the relics of Northumbrian kings and saints were enshrined.
from the non profit site – English Heritage.org.
These are pictures of the hillside town walking down from on top of the plateau where the abbey is situated. We walked down on the cobbled streets from a very very old cemetery that is West from the abbey. On the left you can see across the channel and to the left the man made water breaker, which prevent the wild waters from coming into the river/bay. This water way is an important setting within the book as well.
To the right is my English brother in law, dressed as Dracula at a local festival held in Whitby, which the entire family attended.
If you are interested further, there is a gothic blog called Dracula in Whitby which gives you up to date information on a variety of festivals happening in the area.
Normally I would not include links to purchase, however since there are so many version and so you can link to the correct version I have done so on this post.