Vonnegut is one of those genius writers that you can't help but love. "Slaughterhouse 5" was my first venture into the realm of Vonnegut, but I have t...moreVonnegut is one of those genius writers that you can't help but love. "Slaughterhouse 5" was my first venture into the realm of Vonnegut, but I have to say that I think I enjoyed this tale much more. Perhaps because the topic is closer to my heart, or perhaps I was able to identify more closely with the characters, I found this novel to be both thought provoking and utterly hysterical.
The short synopsis - The heir to a ridiculously large family fortune would rather spend his days helping the poor and destitute than attending the large social gatherings which his family feels he should prefer. Naturally this means that he is insane right? His family and one rather unscrupulous attorney seem to think so. They begin their plans on having him declared mentally incompetent, but he may have a trick or two up his sleeve.
I often find that I have to be in the right mood to read through a Vonnegut book, for some reason this one gripped me and I was done with it in less than 2 hours. The characters were hysterical, slightly caricaturistic and over the top, but entirely identifiable and comparable to someone we all know. This entire tale is a treatise on capitalism, money, redistribution of wealth, and the question of selflessness vs insanity. If you like Vonnegut, then this is already on your list. If you haven't encountered Vonnegut, give this book a try for an amusing look at true satire. (less)
I am sure that you have seen the movies that have been made from this book, there are quite a few and most of them are very entertaining. Unfortunatel...moreI am sure that you have seen the movies that have been made from this book, there are quite a few and most of them are very entertaining. Unfortunately none of the movies that I have seen have captured the social meaning behind this book. Certainly they have the adventure part down pat, but the rest of it is changed, for the times I’m sure. I would advise those of you who love Sci-fi to read this book, and to those of you, like myself who have a hard time getting into that genera, look at this as a classic and read it anyway.
The unnamed inventor of a time machine, known only as the traveler, leaves his home to travel forward through time. Seeing drastic changes in the world he finally settles on a distant future to get out and explore. He quickly meets tiny humans which he refers to as the Eloi. They are fair to look at, complete ADD cases with little to no true knowledge or skills. The Traveler attempts to communicate with them and has some difficulty. He spends a great deal of time in this futuristic world and discovers that the Eloi are not alone in this new world, and that their counterparts are far more sinister.
One of the biggest changes made in the movies is the cause of the split between the Eloi and the Morlocks. It is very interesting to read Well’s actual reasoning, which is the separation and elitism between the social classes. This becomes more defined and is the actual basis of the entire novel. Rather than being a true Sci-Fi book, this really is about Victorian Society and what it would look like if left unchanged for 800,000 years. Because this book only vaguely touches on the science involved, it is likely to never be outdated. Though this is not a fast read by any means, it is a fun and meaningful one. I don’t know that I would hand it to a 10 year old because odds are they would be bored before he even leaves for the trip. However if you can take a deep breath and leave our societies mindset behind (the theory that everything needs to be exploding and that we all need instantaneous gratification at all times) this is a brilliant piece of fiction that spans several genres and is in fact as timeless as the Traveler. (less)
Back in high school I read this book and absolutely hated every page of it. The other day I decided that it was time for a re-read so I pulled it back...moreBack in high school I read this book and absolutely hated every page of it. The other day I decided that it was time for a re-read so I pulled it back out and started reading.
Short Summary: Jurgis and his extended family migrate to America from Lithuania in search of the American Dream. When they arrive they discover that the American dream may not be available to them, what is available to them is scam after scam, starvation, freezing winters, and slave labor for pitiful wages.
The first chapter of the book is generally enough to make all but the most dedicated readers consider turning back. It is an extended wedding scene with little to know explanation as to who these people are that we are reading about. Though we do meet up with many of the characters later in the book, it's really not the most desirable place for us to leap into the story. The wedding between Jurgis and Ona is a happy affair that nearly breaks their pitiful bank. After this chapter we leap back to the family coming over to America, fumbling about to find a place to stay, trying to learn enough English to get by, and attempting to find jobs.
The family does not have an easy time of it... there are thousands of people in the Chicago area starving for lack of work, the slaughterhouses have their pick of employees, can pay them almost nothing, and can turn them out to the streets with no notice. Women and children are forced to work as well, trying desperately to make ends meet, keep food on the table, and keep coal in the stove for heat.
The bulk of this novel focuses on the horrors of life in that time, particularly the atrocities committed by the slaughterhouses and the meat packing industry. I assure you that after reading this book you will think before you take your next bit of beef or pork (especially sausage). The horrors that this novel brings to light are almost unbelievable in this day and age, but they were true. One cannot even imagine going through the days and nights as this family does. Every time they begin to believe that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, it is extinguished again. This book follows the tragic breaking down of the human spirit, the death of the soul, and the degradation of humanity on such a scale as to be almost unbelievable. Sinclair takes us to the brink of despair, we want this family to make it, we want their spirits to soar! We want to see hope glimmering in their eyes and food in their bellies. Such vivid characters and such terrible scenes will stick with the reader long after the book has been closed.
But that is just the first 3/4 of the book... of all of the classics that I have read, both modern and ancient... so far this one has the least satisfying ending. In the last 5 or so chapters of the book, Jurgis is swept up by the socialist movement, and from that point on the reader simply reads speech after speech of socialist propaganda so thick that Sinclair almost leaps out of the book and bashes you over the skull with it. Page after page of brand new, came out of nowhere characters - people we know nothing about theorizing and pontificating over the joys and hopes that the socialist movement is bringing to the people. Page after page of how material wealth should be government run and intellectual wealth should be free, and how the whole concept of Socialism will solve everyone's problems and we can all live happily ever after should we vote socialist.
Now I have nothing against socialism, heck the good old US of A is a socialist country, even though they'll fight you rather than admit it. But I don't like anyone's theories jammed down my throat... especially after they have just drug me through the gutter and have me all emotional about the horrible lives the poor characters are living. I almost took offense to the ending - Jurgis and his family deserved a better ending to their story than than!
I am giving this book 3 stars, the first 3/4 of it is 5 star material, the last couple of chapters was 1-2 star material the appeared out of nowhere, so I'm splitting the difference. I remember now that my hatred of this book back in high school was for the same reason, and I recall arguing with my teacher that this book could have been great if he had let me rip the last 3 chapters off of it... or if Sinclair had woven his socialist theory throughout the book rather than slapping it on at the end. Still I highly recommend reading this book, even if you don't bother reading all of the speeches at the end.(less)
Unfortunately I made it through both high school and college without ever having been assigned this book. Over the years I have read plenty of Wilde'...more Unfortunately I made it through both high school and college without ever having been assigned this book. Over the years I have read plenty of Wilde's works, but for some reason or another, missed this one over and over. I recently sat down, and decided that it was time to give this a read. To be honest, I knew very little about this actual book prior to reading it, other than it involved a picture that aged rather than he in the painting.
I expected to have difficulty reading this book, since it had been such a long time since I had read anything from the Victorian era, however the language was surprisingly simple, and Wilde's wit is as sharp as ever. Almost sharp enough to harm the reader should they not be forewarned or guided through the readings. Should someone of a weaker mind read this book, it would be easy to fall into the trap of Dorian, who himself was poisoned by a book and the words of his friend.
Summary without giving too much away: Dorian Gray is an Adonis-like beauty, young and full of life and innocence at the beginning of our story. His beauty has attracted the obsession of a painter who paints picture after picture of him. Basil (the painter) tries to keep young Dorian pure and in love with life. Henry, a friend of Basil's comes to the studio as Basil paints his master work - a portrait of Doran. Henry fascinates young Dorian in his vile manner of speaking and sarcastic wit. His talk instills in Dorian both a fear of losing his beauty and a lust for all that is selfish and vile in life. Dorian's notable debauchery follows in exquisite detail with Henry always along for the ride to prod young Dorian down the wrong road. Several suicides and a murder or two later, complete madness begins to make its appearance.
Wilde was brilliant in his writing of this book, he captures the time perfectly... the lust of it, the sexuality of it, the debauchery of it... all in the name of truth. In their words they say things that their hearts dare not to believe and their smiles are masks hiding the truth. And what if someone believed in these lies? What if they lived their life according to what they had been told? Then they would be Dorian Gray... and we will see what happens to him. This is a brilliant read, and for those of you who will have to write papers on it... the story is not long, but it is thick with meaning. There are very few stories that I would give 5 stars to, this is one of them. (less)
I read the children’s classic version of this book back when I was about 8 years old. Since then I had always assumed that somewhere out there lurked...moreI read the children’s classic version of this book back when I was about 8 years old. Since then I had always assumed that somewhere out there lurked the “real” version, which in my mind was pictured to both look and read similar to “The Three Musketeers” or “Moby Dick.” When I finally got around to reading the “adult version,” I laughed when I realized that this is still a children’s novel. It’s an old fashioned action adventure clearly written with little boys about the age of 12 in mind.
The short summary: Jim, is a preteen who lives with his parents at the little inn and tavern that they own. A rough and unruly customer comes to stay with them, a salty old pirate with inappropriate stories and foul drinking songs. Jim is enthralled with the man and befriends him; the old crusty pirate even pays Jim to “Keep an eye out for a man with one leg.” When the rest of the pirates locate the inn where Jim and his family live, they make an appearance, demanding something that the old pirate had taken from them. Through an act of both luck and bravery, Jim and his mother escape the pirates and take with them the hidden object – a map showing the location of an enormous buried treasure. Jim, the good Doctor, and a few other individuals from town decide to rent a boat to go after the treasure… but when they start their voyage, a man with one leg joins the boat as the cook and the rest of the crew isn’t behaving quite properly. The rest of the tale involves mutiny, back stabbing, treachery, treasure, gunfights, castaways and adventure of the highest caliber.
This is one of the most well written adventure novels I have ever read, and I have encouraged my 10 year old son to try to give it a read. Back when this was written, I would assume that every 9-12 year old little boy (and many little girls as well) probably lay in their beds at night reading and dreaming of being whisked away by pirates to find buried treasure. Since then our language has changed so dramatically that I believe that the under 12 crew may have difficulty with some of the phrasing and word choices in this novel. If giving this to a younger child, I would plan to work with them through some of the tougher portions, specifically the technical bits about the ship (explaining what a mizzenmast is) and some of the pirate’s dialogue which is often written phonetically. You can solve the pirate problem by telling them to read it aloud and try to sound like Captain Jack Sparrow from “Pirates of the Caribbean.” My son had a much easier time when I would read those passages to him doing a pirate accent.
Even if your much older than 12, I still highly recommend reading this, it is a quick read with a truly fairytale ending. The good guys win and the bad guys lose and the moral of the story is honor, duty, keeping your word, and being a good person will bring you good fortune, whereas acting like a despicable pirate will only bring you down in the end. There also seems to be a fairly strong anti-alcohol message in the book, as the good guys capitalize on the intoxication of the pirates over and over and rarely drink the stuff themselves. It’s not beaten over your head… but it might just be strong enough to make the little ones think “Well I’m not going to do that!”
I couldn’t recommend this story enough, for individuals of all ages; we are planning on reading it out loud at bedtime so that our 7 year old can enjoy the dreams of buried treasure and pirates. There is a reason this tale has stood the test of time, and I suggest reading it yourself, and with your little ones if you have any.
Parent note- in my summary I stated that the Pirate sings foul songs and tells inappropriate stories, these are not related in the book and are only reference in the fact that Jim’s mother is horrified that the pirate tells him such things. So you don’t have to worry about profanity or any other lewd discussions. (less)
After having read "The Hound of the Baskervilles" children's version at the age of 10, for some reason I believed that I knew all there was to know ab...moreAfter having read "The Hound of the Baskervilles" children's version at the age of 10, for some reason I believed that I knew all there was to know about Mr. Holmes. When the whim struck me I started reading "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" and discovered that there is far more to these stories than I had originally given credit for. This is a series of short stories, told from the voice of Holmes' famous confidant Dr. Watson.
This is a series of mysteries that Sherlock Holmes encounters that are told at a swift pace with very little spare verbiage to wade through. Doyle has an excellent mind for the mysteries, keeping them fresh, new, and interesting. Though often I was able to figure out from the very beginning what was going one, I assume it is due to these tales having been used as the basis for so many other mysteries that they may have become familiar. None the less it is always entertaining to follow Sherlock's mind through the twists and turns of the clues to piece together the truth of what is laid out before you.
I have to admit as a parent, that I am glad I elected to read this before handing it over to my son, a 10 year old who read the children's version of the "Hound of the Baskervilles" and has since become a Sherlock Holmes fanatic in the way that only a 10 year old can achieve. Anyway, I purchased this book for him to read and ended up sitting down and skimming it when leaping out of the page at me was the word "cocaine." It immediately dawned on me that this book was written in the times of the opium dens when cocaine was the height of fashion. I decided I'd best read the book and sure enough much to my dismay, Sherlock Holmes mentioned vices include smoking tobacco (no biggie) and shooting cocaine (a REAL biggie for a 10 year old).
Now I personally enjoyed reading this book, never growing weary of the style or the topics. But I have to admit that I elected not to share it with my son for a few more years. My only complaint with this book is that even though it is technically a short story book, it does not read like one. So when you get to the end of the final story, you are left feeling as though someone ripped the last few pages out of your book. There is little to no closure to the series of tales. For some reason I had been expecting there to have been some sort of closure, or a summation from Dr. Watson as to why he chose to include the cases he did, or something about his dear friend Holmes, but as with all short story books, when the final mystery is solved, there is no point turning the page because you are done.(less)
I have put off reading this book for years... mainly because of its size, and the fact that it was written in French, and I just didn't want to put th...moreI have put off reading this book for years... mainly because of its size, and the fact that it was written in French, and I just didn't want to put that much work into anything. I finally convinced myself that I really needed to read this because I enjoy the movies so much.
In the beginning... I was worried. The language was easy enough to follow (concern number 1 gone) but the writing style seemed a bit loose and haphazard. Rather than my mind being boggled, I found myself getting irritated by the wandering I felt that the book was doing. For the first quarter of the book I had started to question my choice of reading this. At first D'Artagnan irritated me because he seemed so stupid, and ready to fight anyone and everyone over anything, then our introduction to the three musketeers Athos, Aramis and Porthos were also ready to "cross swords" with anyone at even the most minor offence. The first several sword fights were rather sparse as far as description and excitement so it didn't "thrill" me the way I had hoped.
Enter the Cardinal, he was interesting... devious and maniacal... I thought to myself that the book could be picking up. But sadly the first half of the book really was nothing but D'Artagnan pining over women, and the Musketeers drinking, eating or spending money on more equipment. I was a bit weirded out by their lackeys... each of them had a servant who was all but a slave. These servants were only mentioned when they were being scolded, or offered up to do their master's bidding.
The story began to get interesting with the introduction of Milady, one of the most intelligent and evil villainesses I have encountered in a book. Vile of nature and black of heart she is a truly evil being that really spices up the book. Once she was brought into the picture, the tedious story opened up into an interesting tale of intrigue, a battle of wits between her, the cardinal and the musketeers.
There is a fair amount of history in this book, however much of it has been altered with creative license so I wouldn't take the events as gospel. I guess I can see why this is a classic, however I would have to say I preferred "The Count of Monte Cristo" to this. Had the first half been more entertaining I would have really loved this book. I'm just glad I kept reading so that I could get to the interesting part.(less)
How does one review a classic? Especially one so noteworthy as to have demanded the creation of 11 or more film variations, numerous adaptations, and...moreHow does one review a classic? Especially one so noteworthy as to have demanded the creation of 11 or more film variations, numerous adaptations, and even television series? I long avoided reading this novel due mainly to it’s daunting size, and the fear that it’s translation would cause the reader more work than I was willing to put into it. However my burning desire to know the true tale of Edmond Dantes overruled my hesitation.
The story, for those of you who are unfamiliar, follows Edmond Dantes in his wrongful imprisonment at the hands of his friends, his 14 years in the Chateau D’If, his escape and rebirth as a self proclaimed hand of vengeance against those who had wronged him. If you have only seen the movies, the book, particularly the ending, is far different than what Hollywood has created. There are no dramatic duels, no massive swordfights with brigands, and not everyone who we believe should, lives happily ever after. This is instead a slow but genius work of Dantes methodically stripping away all that his enemies held dear to them, at whatever cost. None die by his hand, but are rather destroyed by his influence, and their own evil choices come back to haunt them.
The story itself is genius, interesting and very fun. The writing, particularly the translation that I read, is an often difficult and sometimes tedious work that one may need a notebook to keep straight. The cast of characters is very large and they are often referred to by different names, making it a bit more difficult to keep track of who is who without some sort of note taking. I was not smart enough to take notes, and thus had to spend quite a bit of time searching my brain to make sure I was thinking of the correct person as I read, particularly with some of the more minor story lines and the characters that weaved in and out of the story with multiple chapters between their appearances. Also, this book will probably be disappointing to those who are interested in the action that the movies provided. The Count of Monte Cristo, does not come in with guns blazing, but rather plays a very well thought out and disturbing game of mental chess against his opponents. As readers we hope for their downfall, but also wonder how far the Count will go… his years of imprisonment have left him hardened and disturbingly without remorse at the use of innocents to gain his vengeance. As he plays his pieces we wonder just who will be sacrificed, and who will have the chance to live happily ever after in this dark world of Dumas.
Readers of more modern novels may have trouble with this book because of the sheer volume of concurrent story lines, all of which are necessary for understanding the strings being pulled by the Count. But to remember the tale of the lovers, the orphan, the bandit, the banker, the ship builder, the assassin, the count, the princess, the steward, the military man, the lawyer, the cheating husband and wife, the lost love, the musician, the buried baby, the dying father, the paralyzed grandfather, the murderess, the thief, the countess, the emperor and all of their relations, can be quite a daunting task for any reader. Still each of these stories could be a book of their own, keeping the reader quite entertained, but Dumas has managed to weave them all together into one, brilliant and shining tale… if you can keep them straight through the end.
What surprised me most was the ending of this story. It was not what I wanted, or hoped for. True I loved Haidee, and wanted nothing but her happiness… but many seemed to be left in suffering that did not deserve the fate that they were bound to. I will not elaborate for fear of spoiling the ending… but this does not end on a Hollywood, “they all ride off into the sunset” ending. Perhaps the meaning of the story is not all about revenge, but rather what damage the hunt for vengeance can bring to not just those who have wronged you, but to all those that surround you. The downfall of selfishness; be it falsely imprisoning someone to gain what you may, to the selfishness of vengeance… there is so much meaning in this book, I can see why it is so often “required reading.” Though I highly recommend this book, I would advise you attempt to read it with others either in a class or a reading group so that you can discuss all of the rich meaning behind Dumas’s words. (less)