This is a hard book to rate. Honestly, most of it is quite silly. I have seen movie versions and adaptations and I knew that it was pretty bizarre. BuThis is a hard book to rate. Honestly, most of it is quite silly. I have seen movie versions and adaptations and I knew that it was pretty bizarre. But in the reading, it's a bit...well, absurd. If that is one what is expecting, it's a pretty good book. I think that one has to have a high tolerance for silly puns. Some of which are a bit obscure for a modern audience, but I think that kids that read it during that era would have appreciated it.
What I liked the most about it, is, well, Alice. She's adorable. She has the clear and genuine logic and outlook of a child, and I like that about her. She's a bit precocious, but not in an obnoxious way. If she not had been, well, I'm sure she would have found Wonderland quite scary and maybe had a nervous breakdown. She approaches this bizarre place of Wonderland from her vantage point and takes everything pretty well (and with a fair amount of acceptance), considering...
I laughed pretty loud at the absurdity and I loved the narrator, Marianne Margulies's impersonations of the characters. The croquet game was fantastically written and the court scene was pretty funny as well. I kept yelling "Off With His Head," along with the Red Queen. I thought the end was a bit abrupt, but I guess it makes sense in context. There are some sad, poignant aspects that hit the right note as well (the way that the story hits on the mourning one feels for the innocence and joy of childhood as an adult).
It's nice to have read this book and to see that many versions of the book in tv/movies do a good job of capturing the essence of the novel. Generally, movies don't do so well, but I think Alice has been treated fairly faithfully throughout the years.
I will probably read some critical essays on the work and see what I pick up about some of the hidden meanings and themes and cultural relevance, since I'm not really sure about that. On surface value, it was fun and silly, and pretty enjoyable. I recommend getting this on audio. The puns and songs were a lot more funny this way.
The fact that British actor Toby Stephens narrates this was definitely a nudge to check out this audiobook from my trusty library. Of course, I apprecThe fact that British actor Toby Stephens narrates this was definitely a nudge to check out this audiobook from my trusty library. Of course, I appreciate the Arabian Nights, so that's another plus.
Overall, I was a tad disappointed with this audiobook. I enjoyed Ali Baba, Aladdin and the frame story about Scheherazade, but I was bored with the seven tales of Sinbad, and the tale about the greedy man who ended up becoming blind. They were too monotonous. I felt my mind wandering as I listened and did my Wii Fit exercises. I wish they had picked different stories besides these two for the collection, honestly. And I could have done with more narration about Scheherazade herself as well. At least I had Toby's lovely voice to narrate for me. Maybe a pet peeve for some, but all the voices sounded British, so it didn't feel as 'atmospheric' to me.
This will be a short review because it's kind of a ho-hum read for me. Nothing spectacular or really awful about it. Although I did like that they included Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade within the production. I love that music! I think my standard was higher since I read the Andrew Lang adaptation, and I absolutely adore the TV miniseries that came on ABC with Dougray Scott, Mili Avital, Rufus Sewell, Jason Scott Lee, and other great actors. I plan to read the huge, unexpurgated version of 1001 Arabian Nights someday before I die....more
I will freely admit that part of why I read this book was that I enjoyed what I have seen of the movie so much. I actually didn't get to watch all ofI will freely admit that part of why I read this book was that I enjoyed what I have seen of the movie so much. I actually didn't get to watch all of it, as I caught it on Turner Classic Movies after it started and wasn't able to watch the whole movie. I made a note that I wanted to read the book and get the whole movie set on DVD at some point. Additionally, I am interested in the roots of the detective novel. You can't explore detective fiction without reading Dashiell Hammett. So here we go....
I liked this book. It starts out very well. I was instantly drawn into the story from the first sentence. The writing is crisp and ripe with that heady atmosphere of the early 20th Century (1930s). There is a cynicism apparent in the characterization and the dialogue that speaks of its noir tone. That makes sense in light of the fact that it takes place during The Great Depression and right at the end of the Prohibition years. I was quite surprised at the frank elements of sex, drug/alcohol abuse, and crime, and a hint of police corruption (clearly I haven't read much pulp/noir classic fiction). Sadly, the 'n' word was used, which I could have done without. I have to say I appreciated the unsympathetic portrayal of human nature more than the actual mystery. Hammett's lens of humanity (via Nick) is not at all rose colored, but it's very astute and the characters were well-drawn. Overall, this was very good. While it did have some good twists and turns, it was rather anticlimactic in the end.
Nick Charles is a suitably amiable narrator. He seems experienced and wise to the ways of the world, nobody's fool. Yet he isn't completely jaded or lacking in integrity and honor. People seems to like him and open up to him, but he's not a man to take advantage of. While Nick is now retired from private investigation, his acquaintances draw him into a case unwillingly. I think Nick's nose for a mystery leads him the rest of the way. Nick proves that his investigative skills have not weakened in his retirement. I must say that I enjoyed the fact that Nora's a very perceptive woman with a good brain for investigation as well, even though she serves in the capacity of a part-time sidekick to Nick. Available to give a helping hand and a word to point him in the right direction. Hammett teaches me how to write a novel in which the mystery is tag-teamed by two instead of where the main character works alone and always knows more than anyone else.
This novel had me laughing a lot initially. Hammett's writing was quite witty, albeit cynical. Nick and Nora definitely like their booze, and have strong opinions on good quality alcohol. Their constant drinking was a source of humor to me, although I did wonder what effects it had on their liver.
Not one of the characters in this book is what I would consider well-adjusted, outside of Nora, and possibly Nick. Nora as seen through Nick's eyes doesn't reveal a whole lot about her except that she is very observant and has a nurturing nature (shown in the way she cared for and fussed over Dorothy). She also seems to lack patience for gossipy types, considering her dislike of Tip, a hostess in their social circle. She clearly loves Nick and feels comfortable with him to say what she thinks. She doesn't coddle him, although she does see to his comfort and is affectionate. She keeps things real with him and tells him the truth when he needs to hear it. I enjoyed their banter. Nora seems like a woman of her times, but is neither overly submissive or dominant in a way that would be unlikely for her times. In comparison to other women in the book, she comes off as the ideal mate to a seasoned man of the world--attractive, accepting, intelligent, socially graced, and fun-loving. I found it amusing how captivated the police detective, Guild was with Nora.
Mimi, the ex-wife of the missing man that starts the case that this novel revolves around, is a negative contrast. She is calculating and emotionally unstable. Her cruelty towards her daughter and her tendency to manipulate others cancels out her clearly considerable beauty and physical charms. Nick's narrative suggests that she is envious of her daughter (who is described as gorgeous and beautiful for her young years by few of the male characters). Despite these negative traits, she's not quite the quintessential femme fatale one expects to encounter in noir fiction. Dorothy herself was hard to read. She seems to lack emotional stability, but that makes sense in light of the abuse she suffers with her mother, and the fact that she probably gets far too much and unwanted attention from men for her young age. She latches onto Nick and Nora as a substitute parental unit, as they represent stability that she has lacked in her family life. Other characters also have a rather vivid life, despite the shorter length of this novel. As any good mystery writer, Hammett gives the reader a healthy list of suspects from which to choose the culprit, and I didn't guess who it was until Nick reveals the murderer.
As I said earlier, I found the denouement rather lacking in tension, which did dim my enjoyment a bit. Additionally, this book falls into periods of expansive dialogue towards the end that felt a bit tedious. Despite those shortcomings, this was still an enjoyable book. I would have to agree that this book is quite different in feel from the movie. I wonder if that is because of the Movie Codes. I don't think they could have gotten away with putting some of the more frank elements in this novel in the movie version, so they played up the witty banter and humorous elements from the novel.
All in all, I enjoyed my first exposure to Dashiell Hammett. I felt truly immersed in this time period and I liked Nick and Nora as main detectives. I like reading about main characters who are married, and this is definitely one to recommend to readers who enjoy this theme. I will be reading The Maltese Falcon in the near future....more
I finished listening to this book early this morning, a little before seven. I could not sleep, and as I lay in the darkness in need of some comfort aI finished listening to this book early this morning, a little before seven. I could not sleep, and as I lay in the darkness in need of some comfort and company, I thought that I should go ahead and finish it. I am glad I did.
I am perhaps a bit biased. I have always liked Lewis, ever since I read The Chronicles of Narnia in high school. My liking deepened for him when I saw the movie Shadowlands. Something about his life called to me. I have since done research on him and his journey from atheism to fervent Christian belief. I cannot deny how inspiring I find his life.
I started this book years ago, and put it down, not out of disinterest, but because of other priorities at the time. As far as I got, which was not far, I appreciated his methodical, clear approach. I always intended to finish it. I actually own two copies, one on my Kindle, and one paperback copy. When I saw this at the library on audiobook, I decided to listen to it. That was a good decision.
Mere Christianity is a book on the fundamentals of Christian belief. Its audience is not just Christians, but also non-believers, folks who would like to investigate the faith of Christianity, what it entails, and what it doesn’t. Although the Bible is the foundation of our beliefs, I think this book does an exceptional job of condensing, or explaining, if you will what Christians espouse.
I respect Mr. Lewis that he does not pretend to have all the answers. That he does not deny that there are some things he had not figured out. Nor does he deny that he struggled with some aspects of being a Christian at times. That is a strong testament to the life of a Christian. We admit that we are flawed folks in need of saving. We admit that we strive to know God and to have God work in us to make us more like him. That takes a fundamental humility, one that is rewarded time and time again. By breaking down and admitting our brokenness, we become whole by our acceptance of him who made all things.
There were parts of this book that spoke so intimately to my spirit, that I lifted my hand to praise God. For Mr. Lewis had indeed through the power of the Holy Spirit, put on paper that feeling that I believe all people who are born again in Christ feel and experience. For that alone, I could easily give this book five stars. However, it has yet more to offer.
I appreciate just as much, how logical Mr. Lewis is in his discussion of Christianity. While many feel that Christians are fools who believe in fairy tales, he shows just how much sense Christianity makes to those who choose to follow it. While atheism might have appeal for some, there is more appeal to those who choose to follow Christ than deciding to reject God in any form. He takes it a bit further to explain why some point in between atheism and Christianity (including other belief systems) won’t work for those who choose to follow Christ. We freely admit we have nothing to lose, looking at the facts, and yes, there are inescapable facts about Jesus Christ, not just found in the Bible, in human history recorded by those who have absolutely no stake in affirming or confirming that miracle of God begotten man who came and died and rose again for the sins of humanity. He also speaks into the facts about the nature of humanity and what makes us uniquely created to love and to interact with a Creator who became man so that we could have an intimate and real relationship with him. If we are fools to seek Christ, then why do the laws of human morality and that essential need inside ourselves point to the need for a savior, for fellowship with God?
I won’t say I didn’t struggle with some aspects. And Lewis does not in any way excuse the fact that he is saying things that are hard to face. I like that brutal honesty. Brutal honesty is as much a part of the Christian faith as the comfort is in knowing that while the walk in following Christ is a tough road, we do it not alone, but through the power of the Lord Jesus Christ, who lives in us and empowers us to follow him.
This book comes highly recommended by this reader. It’s not overly long, certainly not bogged down in theological doctrines that won’t make any sense to a person who does not belong to a specific Christian denomination or who isn’t even a Christian. In fact, Mr. Lewis works very hard to use concrete examples that illustrate his points. His analytical approach makes this profound spiritual message that much more powerful, because he does not seek to play on the reader’s emotional heartstrings or sentimentalities. As a lover of Christ, he does not seek to turn his message into another one of manipulation (as many view Christianity and the followers of this faith), for it’s far too important for that. I know that I will read this book again, probably more than once. I would like to come back to it and explore some of the thoughts here. They speak to me, and perhaps will speak to others, regardless of how they currently feel about Christianity.
In order to have written the most successful review for this book, I should have started with Day 1 and wrote something about each entry every day. SaIn order to have written the most successful review for this book, I should have started with Day 1 and wrote something about each entry every day. Sadly, I didn't do that. So I'll just do my best to write a summary of my thoughts of this devotional over the year-long experience of reading it. I hope that any reader of this review finds that helpful.
Oswald Chambers is a man who definitely had an ongoing encounter with God. His thoughts tap into every aspect of the experience of following Christ and having communion with the Spirit of God. His words are at times an incredibly profound comfort to a broken heart. At other times, they are a prod to one's flagging determination to fight the good fight and continue that daily walk with God in a meaningful way. Other times, they convict the reader in the best way. The way that the Holy Spirit convicts a believer of complacency or willingness to settle for a life that merely pretends belief in God as opposed to a life-changing, ever-evolving relationship with God that affects every aspect of that person's life in the more meaningful ways. I do believe that God used Mr. Chambers powerfully in writing this devotional. I cannot count how many times I read an entry and I felt that God was talking directly to me. A person once said that we don't read the Bible, but the Bible reads us. I believe that Mr. Chambers was prompted by the Holy Spirit to write something that does exactly that. I found that questions I was struggling with that week were addressed so many times in the entries I read, and I saw the lightbulb go on inside my mind.
I would recommend this devotional to every believer in Jesus, and even to people who seek to know God in a deep way. I believe that the reader will feel touched deep inside and it will make them desire for more of God in their life. The good news is that God wants to walk with each and every one of us in that way and relate to us in a truly real way. God always rewards those who seek him. And "My Utmost for His Highest" is a good tool in that journey of discovering who God is and how intimately we can relate to him everyday. Definitely worth getting a copy of this and spending a year with Oswald Chambers....more
This is definitely a book to read if a reader likes pirate/swashbuckling novels. The setting, characters, scenes, and dialogue took me back to the 17tThis is definitely a book to read if a reader likes pirate/swashbuckling novels. The setting, characters, scenes, and dialogue took me back to the 17th century in a time of political turmoil and wild seas and locales where the wars between countries play out in a very personal matter. And Peter Blood, the main character is one that claims your affection and doesn't let go. I sometimes find reading on the Kindle a chore, but with this story, I got so sucked in, that before I knew it, it was ending. And I had a smile on my face as I read the last sentence.
Captain Blood is not a predictable read, at least for me. I literally didn't know what was going to happen from one scene to the next. I loved reading about Peter rely on his wits and face each obstacle with courage and determination, always working towards the end goal, even when it didn't seem in sight. He is a charismatic character who kept me captivated, through his quick thinking, and his powerful manner of expressing himself. Although Captain Blood is a pirate, he is very much a man of honor, for his profession. He is, in my opinion, the preferred antihero. One who doesn't let go of his sense of honor, even if it doesn't necessarily follow the established rules. And because of that, I rooted for him.
The one part that didn't sit right with me as I read, was how a distinction was made between Peter Blood and the English captives sold into slavery and the negro slaves. As though they were too good to be slaves when the negroes weren't. I realize that it was the ideas of race at the time, but that doesn't make it right. Slavery to me is wrong, period. It doesn't make it more wrong when the enslaved is a white man versus a black man. I wouldn't presume to call the author a racist. I think he was painting a realistic picture for the times, and I can't fault him for it. I personally find the idea of racial superiority offensive, and it can slap me in the face even in the context of a historical work. Overall it was a pebble in my shoe as I read, but not so much I couldn't read the book.
Otherwise, I enjoyed this novel. I've always had a yen for pirate stories, and it's great to go back and read a classic in the genre. Rafael Sabatini is an author who writes this type of story well, so I'll be back to read more of his books....more
Mary W. Shelley explored themes that still resonate today in her proto-science fiction work, Frankenstein. Themes of the relentless drive and search fMary W. Shelley explored themes that still resonate today in her proto-science fiction work, Frankenstein. Themes of the relentless drive and search for ultimate (even forbidden) knowledge; intellectual arrogance; the desire to create something enduring; the need for love and recognition; and a study in how bitterness, hatred and rage can destroy a person. What separates men from God? What separates man from monster? Can a so-called monster have the heart (the humanity) and the accompanying needs and desires of a man? Does beauty or ugliness penetrate deeper than the skin? Can one expect good to come from an act of utter selfishness?
Frankenstein is very much a philosophical work. Although there are some primordial science fiction elements, they are merely the impetus--the laying of the groundwork for this story. For it is not about how Frankenstein makes his creation. It’s about the aftermath of that act. This is a moving work of fiction that skirts the edges of horror, but the horror is more of a psychological sort. The horror is that a man would take knowledge to create a man from unliving flesh. A man so hideous in visage that people turn away in horror. This man chases after his creator, demands his love and tender regard, to merely be noticed and acknowledged by his creator; and if not that, at least the right to have a companion in his lonely life. Many times, I was deeply affected emotionally by this story. I felt so much sympathy for the creature. To be brought to life and abandoned by his creator seemed so cruel. He couldn’t help that his external appearance was ugly and a constant reminder of the unspeakable act his maker had perpetrated. He had not been given the opportunity to prove that he was something more, something worthwhile; that he was capable of deep emotions, an ability to appreciate beauty in life, to love and to give to others. This made me so very sad. There were times when I truly felt disdain towards Frankenstein. For his arrogance, for his selfishness. Although Shelley couldn’t have known about the capabilities of science now, the caution about science and its ethical considerations couldn’t be more timely. Should we create something just because we have the knowledge and skill to do so? And how often do we truly count the cost of such an action before it’s too late? Although I felt great enmity towards Frankenstein at times, I certainly didn’t condone the creature’s actions. I felt a profound sense of horror when the created man committed acts of violence to innocents around him in vengeance against his creator. I was still angry at Frankenstein for bringing it on himself, but I also felt sad for him to lose everyone he valued in his life. Surely, he couldn’t have known how horrible the results his creation act would result in. When he is given the ultimatum to create a mate for the creature, I could understand his terrible dilemma, and I still question whether his final actions were the right ones. Finally, I was back to feeling pity for the creature, deeply empathizing with him in his loneliness, how his desire for love and understanding turned into selfish rage that he truly regretted and repented for in the end.
Mary Shelley doesn’t give the answers to these moral dilemmas. She merely presents these profound queries in this narrative. Where does it place the reader in the end? Deeply entrenched within this tumultuous, roiling cauldron of emotions—fear, love, rage, regret, hope, and despair. One simply cannot be detached when reading this book.
I found this to be very readable despite the fact that it was written about two hundred years ago. I only found my interest wavering in the moments of the somewhat excessive travelogues of the natural surroundings. In my opinion, this took up too prominent a role in the narrative, and it was distracting. Despite that small shortcoming, this was powerful reading, not comfortable, but deeply involving. No easy answers, but lots of questions for each reader to process and come up with their own conclusions. I won’t forget this book.
The Lost World is a classic work of action/adventure that has a lively feel that made for a very fun read. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, best known for hisThe Lost World is a classic work of action/adventure that has a lively feel that made for a very fun read. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, best known for his Sherlock Holmes stories, has a way of writing an engaging tale. For readers who fear reading books published prior to the later 20th century out of the desire to avoid dry, stale language, I would offer up this book. Although it shows the sentiments, good and bad, for the period in which it was written, the writing tone could easily be as modern as a work published in the recent years. It doesn't have much of a dated feel to this reader, except in one way that I will address later. Mr. Doyle takes the scientific debates of the later Victorian, early Edwardian period, and gives us vivid characters to speak for the different viewpoints, making what could be a dry discussion of evolutionary biology and the various proponents or antagonists therein, and instead crafting a diverting read.
Challenger is by far the most hilarious character in this story. He is completely pompous and arrogant, assured that he knows everything, and of his utter superiority in every way. He is oblivious to the idea that anything should shake his massive self-confidence. Although he is right a lot of the time, sometimes he's very, very wrong (or his way of analyzing and approaching things is just skewed), not that he lets that bother him much. Mr. Doyle created an iconic figure here, so it doesn't surprise me that he wrote other stories about Challenger. He's too good a character to let go of.
Summerlee is mostly a foil for the more vibrant, and sometimes often obnoxious Challenger. He doesn't come off quite as vivid as either Challenger or Roxton, but he adds to the scope and detail of this story with his acerbic, strong, but not bull-like in the way of Challenger, personality. He turns out to be a very valuable member of the exhibition, both for his counterpart role as the voice of reason to the more bombastic Challenger, but also for his scientific knowledge and rationality in the face of very eye-raising events in the Lost World.
Goodness, I did love this character. I have seen and encountered those in popular media who exhibit the Great White Hunter stereotype, but Roxton didn't strike me that way at all. He's an alpha male in all the good ways. He wasn't one-dimensional, only driven by the hunt and sport (as I feared), although those were important things to him. He's a man's man, but he's also a thinker and a doer. He is a man who lives life to the fullest, and doesn't let fear or 'can't dos' stand in the way. He is a lot more compassionate and crusading that I expected. I thought he would be self-serving and superior. That's not him at all. Roxton is another iconic, larger-than-life character, that no doubt fueled many of the adventurer types that have populated later literature and cinema/television stories in this genre. In his own way, Roxton is also a foil for Challenger. Challenger is convinced of his self-importance, and ever ready to take credit for what he does. Roxton likes the thrill and the challenge. He claims his trophies, but it's not about the right to brag. It's about the doing for him. His very apt, if "school of hard knocks" wisdom saves the day many a time on this journey.
Malone is the point of view of this novel. We see everything through his eyes, and his wry observations make for some very humorous moments. Doyle also uses Malone to convey the wonder of the Lost World. He describes both the dangerous and fearsome aspects of the lost world, and the rare and eye-opening beauty in a way that pulls me into the narrative head first. Malone and Roxton seem to be contrasted in ways in that Malone is a bit more of the thinker, who wishes he was the doer. He has quite a case of hero worship for Roxton, but Malone proves to be very valuable on this expedition, both as a source of information, and by his own feats that save and protect the various members on the expedition. He turns out to be a character that one should not underestimate or dismiss.
You take the good with the bad:
When it comes to older books and stories, one prepares to see some rather disappointing exhibitions of racism come into play. As a reader of classic and pulp literature, I have had it hit me very badly with some authors, and others where I was surprised at how enlightened their attitudes seemed. For the most part, this wasn't as bad as it could have been in that sense. However, it did bother me and made me wince how the one Negro character was referred to as 'our faithful' and as though he was an unintelligent object or possession pretty much every time. I found it very patronizing and offensive. His speech was very stereotyped (poor English and using the word 'Massa'), and showing slavish devotion to his white 'betters'. He was even referred to as being as intelligent as a horse. You could take that in the manner in which it was intended (which I did), as the man being less intelligent than white men, or you could take that as Doyle believing horses are smart cookies. Out of this whole book (which I had mainly favorable reactions to), this aspect left a bad taste in my mouth. It seemed as though the views of the South American natives were more enlightented than the black man. Yeah, that smarts. Also there is a tone that speaks of the inherent superiority of the white man and Europeans. I'm not beating up Doyle. I'm telling it like it is and how it affected me as a reader of color. I realize that these were the prevalent thoughts of the time. But this is not something that makes me a happy camper. Thus, it dulls the shining light of this story somewhat for this reader.
On the good side....:
The science, botany and zoology, exhibited in this story seemed quite knowledgeable, showing that Doyle did attempt to do his homework. I am no dinosaur expert, but I did recognize many of the older names for dinosaurs which probably came into common knowledge around the period in which this was written. This story also conveys a detail about the South American rainforests and tropical environs that made for a seemingly credible read. I felt like I was along for the journey, but immensely glad that I was just reading this book on my Kindle when it came to encountering vicious carnivorous species and the rather vile apemen.
The Lost World is a piece of classic literature that no respectable adventure fan should go without reading. If you enjoy movies like Indiana Jones or Tomb Raider, or any other of the many treasure hunting/lost world expedition movies and tv shows, then take a little time to explore one of the forefronts in this genre of literature. I give it a thumbs up.
Bilbo Baggins is a Hobbit who doesn't take much after his Took side of the family. Adventure might be in his blood, but it's not really his thing. He'Bilbo Baggins is a Hobbit who doesn't take much after his Took side of the family. Adventure might be in his blood, but it's not really his thing. He'd rather stay in his nice home under the Hill and have tea. But adventure comes knocking in the form of one wizard, Gandalf, and thirteen dwarves. Gandalf has volunteered Mr. Baggins to be the burglar for these dwarves. To steal into their former home and get back their treasure from a nasty dragon by the name of Smaug. Bilbo would rather say no, but he doesn't get the choice.
So off he goes on an amazing adventure that takes him across Middle Earth and to very dangerous places. Bilbo discovers just how much he is capable of (more than he imagines), and proves his worth again and again to the dwarves. Of course, Gandalf knew he was capable of that all the time.
This was a lovely story. I had never read any Tolkien prior to this, so it was fascinating getting to experience his work firsthand. He clearly has a love of song and poetry, and the epic works of bravery and adventure. It took some getting used to, but I decided I liked how he used lots of songs in this work. I would even read them aloud to myself.
I appreciated the time spent in crafting this world, replete with various types of folk, from Hobbits to Elves, Trolls, Goblins, Dwarves, a bear Shape-changer, Wargs (werewolves), talking ravens, great War Eagles, nasty giant Spiders, and even a grumpy Dragon. I liked that Mr. Tolkien told us a little of each, but primarily integrated this knowledge into the story so we could see for ourselves what they were made of.
This book was a great mix of humor and adventure. Tolkien doesn't seem to take himself too seriously, and his narrative shows a lively sense of humor and a good-spirited view of the world. It's clear that he has some things to say about what was going on in the world of his times, but he doesn't use his story to beat the reader over the head with his beliefs. Instead, one gets the clear impression that Tolkien questions the advance of industrialization and how it might cause the loss of things much more valuable in the world. And to think he uses a mythical world and mythical creatures, and tells a great story along the way, making that the clear focus. Personally, I think a writer can reveal a lot about himself without taking a reader out of the story and into editorial land, and that is clearly the case with Mr. Tolkien in this novel.
Bilbo is definitely an unlikely hero, which is one of my favorite kinds. He shows that being a hero is both a lot of work and sacrifice, yet comes naturally when one does what one feels is right, albeit not easy. I liked that as we got to know what he was capable of, so did he. His strengths felt realistic to who he was, and I liked that although people expected little of a Hobbit, Bilbo shows them just what he's made of. Bilbo gets frightened, and who can blame him? But he shows a cool head, and puts his thinking cap on, and always works through his fear. He's the kind of character that challenges the stereotype of what a hero is made of, and in a very good way. I found myself feeling very affectionate towards the guy and hoping that things worked out for him. I especially liked that although Gandalf is their companion part of the way, and a powerful wizard, he's not a deus ex machina figure in this book. His powers and sage knowledge do help, but his companions, particularly little Bilbo, mainly have to use their own strengths to extricate themselves from some nasty situations.
Although this tends to be a light-hearted book, there are some scary moments, and foes that I certainly wouldn't want to face. Poor Bilbo and his companions continually get out of one bad scrape, only to end up in a worse one. Lives are at risk, and heroes have to make their stands. But good wins out in the end, and that's what I want to see in a Goodread.
I can certainly see why The Hobbit is considered a classic. This is a rich story that can be taken on several levels. It's not only fun to read, but it has some good messages. I also found the writing to be high quality and showcasing that its author had the benefits of a classical education in folklore, myth, and legend. He combined all that to make a very delightful story that I had the pleasure to read for the first time (although not the last, I'm sure). If you have enjoyed the Lord of the Rings movies but haven't read the books, I highly recommend reading Tolkien. And The Hobbit is the best place to start. ...more
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Other Stories turned out to be a relatively quick read. Here are my thoughts on these stories:
The StraThe Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Other Stories turned out to be a relatively quick read. Here are my thoughts on these stories:
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
This was a little different than I expected. It's rather introspective, if that's an appropriate word. The emphasis is not on the action or the dirty deeds that Mr. Hyde perpetrates. Instead, the focus is on the duality of the natures of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In truth, they are not separate men. They are two different aspects of one man's nature. Dr. Jekyll somehow discovers how to separate out the primal aspect of himself, the one who follows his most deepest, uncivilized urges. As time passes, he comes to realize that Mr. Hyde is winning control over him.
I would think that this is really an allegory here. As human beings, we all have a dark side. Some of us try to control it more than others. Some throw a hypocritical facade over that dark person inside of them, pretending to be upright and moral. I don't believe that Dr. Jekyll really needed a serum to undergo this change. To see this story played out in the fantastic/science fiction manner makes it more interesting, surely. But, humanity often needs no potion to be at its darkest and most monstrous.
In learning something about Mr. Stevenson's background, I can see why he chose to write about the hypocrisy of society. He came from a Presbyterian tradition, which follows the religious theory of predestination, in which some are called to salvation, and they have a better, more prosperous life, as a result. Those who are doomed to damnation, will lead low, desperate lives. Mr. Stevenson came to question this and reject these doctrines in his life. I could see some of his philosphical musings about his religious background playing out in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
Dr. Jekyll was born to privilege. He worked to keep up a facade of morality, when he really wanted to indulge his darkest desires the whole time. When he invented the serum, this allowed him to do so without so-called feelings of guilt. However, this became his fatal flaw. His true self could no longer be hidden.
To my surprise, this was not an action-oriented or lurid story. The narrative shows the observations of the friends of Dr. Jekyll, and towards the end, an epistolary narrative is used, in which we see the workings of Dr. Jekyll as his life undergoes this transformation.
This was a thoughtful, somewhat philosophical story (at least in my inexpert opinion). It gave me something to think about. Hypocrisy is something I truly dislike. It is one thing to be a person who tries to life a good life; it is another to pretend to be moral, but hide your dark proclivities behind a polite mask. I have a feeling that Mr. Stevenson had similiar feelings on that subject. At 81 pages, this is a short read, and it's written in a very readable style. My edition has footnotes for some of the more obscure terms that Mr. Stevenson used. I'd recommend it to the readers with an inclination towards the classics, and for those who would like to see the origins of the figure (or should I say figures) who have become a part of pop culture through film versions, pastiches, and modern literary works, such as The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Vol. 1. I would give this story a four star rating.
A Lodging for the Night
This was another thought-provoking story. The beginning shows a rather heinous murder. The rest of the book shows one of the persons who was there during the murder. I started out thinking the worst of this man, but Mr. Stevenson gave me some insight, and helped me to see him through a different pair of glasses. Mr. Villon seeks shelter on a cold night, ending up in the home of a much adored military hero. He has to sit and listen to a self-righteous lecture for the price of a meal and a warm place to pass the night. Again, Mr. Stevenson's background in the privileged middle class of Presbyterian Scotland comes to play. Mr. Villon makes a good case for himself. He wants to be a moral man, but he has no other options besides thievery to keep food in his belly and a roof over his head. He asserts that he follows his own moral code, even if others think him behind the pale. On the other hand, the soldier can feel self-righteous that he is not a thief, and that God has blessed him with plenty for his moral actions. His success in life is due to his good character, or so he attests to. However, Mr. Villon points out that as a soldier, he committed or has been party to similar actions, but they are deemed respectable because of his high position in life. Mr. Villon had something of value to say here. It's too bad that the soldier couldn't look past his own sense of entitlement to see the wisdom in what this 'low' man had to say. It would have been a good lesson for him. I actually got quite involved in this story. I would give it four stars.
The Suicide Club
This turned out to be three related stories. They are very much in the mystery/adventure/suspense genre. And they were quite thrilling, especially the first. Imagine that there is a club where men can go to have themselves done away with when they are tired of living. They pay a fee, and each night, they show up. Fate will determine when they die and how. But, the person pulling the strings is doing so out of his own greed. Will justice be done here? This story had me on the edge of my seat. I literally didn't know how it was going to end. The end turns out to be open-ended, and it leads into two more stories. I liked how the next two stories start with different narrators, and I had to figure out how they tied into the first story. The way in which they relate was very imaginative. There is more mystery and suspense as each subsequent story unfolds, and I learned what they had to do with our protagonists from the initial story. I think Mr. Stevenson had a good hand with suspense, as shown through these stories. Four star rating.
I had some trouble with Scottish brogue in which most of this story was written. I had to concentrate really hard to decipher what was being said. Despite that, this was a very chilling story indeed. The minister in this story was a brave man. I could see how he was much changed by his blood-curdling experience with the titular character in this story. To say more would spoil it. If you can handle the brogue, give this a try. Four stars.
This is actually a reread for me. Another story in which the worst monster in the closet is human, and a nice facade hides a putrid center. This story is based on the real life incidents of the Resurrection Men of Edinburgh, Scotland (1827-1828), who started out grave-robbing to provide corpses for dissection for an anatomist. Eventually, they started murdering people so they would have a steady supply of these corpses. I liked that there were some pretty scary consequences for the actions of the two grave-robbers in this story; although it's questionable if the person who really needed the lesson learned anything.
At first, I didn't really like this story. However, I got thrown for a loop at the supernatural twist it took. Markheim is forced to face his life, and the acts he committed through the years. His false sense of righteousness, and the slippery slope that took him down the path to becoming a murder. It was a real wake-up call for him. And it gave me food for thought. Four stars.
Overall thoughts: I read The Picture of Dorian Gray earlier this month, and I can't help but contrast it with this collection. Mr. Oscar Wilde seemed to be a proponent of not injecting his own sense of meaning into his story. In contrast, there seems to be a lot of Mr. Stevenson's thought processes in his stories. I don't think either is better or worse. I feel that writers have different motivations, and I can learn from any number of them, finding something of personal meaning in their stories. In the case of this volume, I can certainly see why Mr. Stevenson continually revisits the same concepts (although in different ways in each story). It is clear that they played heavily on his mind. Perhaps these stories served as a catharsis for him. Even more than a hundred years later, our society has similar divisions and issues, which might contribute to social ills in no small way (in my opinion). As such, these stories still have a relevance to this reader.
Sadly, Mr. Stevenson has been dismissed by literary critics as a second-rate writer. My personal opinion is that he wrote very well. His stories were entertaining, but they had a strong message to the reader. That's not what I'd consider hack writing. But, each reader has to make their own decision about that. ...more
What a delightful book! Who could not love this story about a woman who gains the courage to break free from the smothering yoke of her family and toWhat a delightful book! Who could not love this story about a woman who gains the courage to break free from the smothering yoke of her family and to make the most of the life she has left?
This book was hilariously funny in some parts, always inspirational, and sometimes pretty sad. It was intensely readable, and I loved Valancy and Barney. I could empathize very deeply with Valancy's situation, and I cheered her on when she stopped being afraid, and decided to be true to herself. Life is too short to be hemmed and caged by others' expectations. If you can't be happy with who you are, then what is the point of living? It took a life-changing event to get Valancy to see this, and I was glad she did.
The romance was lovely in this book. I liked how Valancy and Barney's relationship started and would always be built on their friendship. There was a deep, romantic love there, no doubt. But, the person that one chooses as their life partner needs to be one that they can be happy to be around, and comfortable enough to not feel the need to fill the silences, but to cherish them. They found a connection as soulmates through the doorway of respect for each other and friendship. A great way to start a great lifetime love, in my opinion.
The metaphor of the blue castle spoke to me. We all need a blue castle in our lives, a place where we can go to feel true happiness, a retreat away from the disappointments and expectations of the world, and others' judgments and requirements for us. As I read this book, I wondered where my blue castle was. I got the answer to that question, and it made me smile.
This book gave me some wonderful hours of entertainment, but also encouraged me to life my life to its fullest. In the end, the quiet, shy, plain Valancy is a huge role model to readers who find themselves in a similar situation to hers. This is my first book by L.M. Montgomery, and I'm eager to read more of her....more
**spoiler alert** Incredible and moving, this book made me cry practically the whole way through Celie's story will break your heart. And the reunion**spoiler alert** Incredible and moving, this book made me cry practically the whole way through Celie's story will break your heart. And the reunion with her sister will heal it. I could not put this book down and read it in a day. I can't recommend it highly enough....more
This book is definitely a good example of magical realism. I remember reading it and wondering, how are these things possible. I love how the entire bThis book is definitely a good example of magical realism. I remember reading it and wondering, how are these things possible. I love how the entire book draws from allusions to the Bible. I have never encountered a character named Corinthians before, but it was a very fitting name. To this day, I still ponder this book and wonder what was real and what wasn't....more
It seems silly to say that a book can affect you on a profound level. well I definitely believe in this power that a good book has. Jane Eyre is one oIt seems silly to say that a book can affect you on a profound level. well I definitely believe in this power that a good book has. Jane Eyre is one of them. I cannot say that this was an easy book to read. But it was a book that I was very enriched by reading. Romance is a genre that is looked down on by many "sophisticated readers." Perhaps they would look down on Jane Eyre, but would probably get some eyebrows raised at them. Well Jane Eyre is the archetype for the romance novel. After having read thousands of them, I know a romance novel when I see it, and Jane Eyre does qualify. But it is much more than this. It's a story for the person who wonders why they keep trying to do the right thing, and persevering in life, instead of just taking what they want when they want it. If Jane Eyre had been that sort of person, she would not have gotten her happy ending. Instead, Jane walked away from the thing she wanted most in the world. She almost died doing what she felt in her heart was right. Had the story ended there, I probably would have detested this book. But it doesn't. We see Jane continue to grow and act as the phenomenal person that she was. Although often downtrodden, she is no meek mouse. She has a fighting spirit that keeps her going when others would have laid down and died. But despite being a fighter, she is not a user and abuser. It's hard at times for the difference to be clearly delineated. Well there is no question about Jane's level of strength and intregrity. Although it is made clear several times in this novel, that Jane is no beauty, her soul makes her a beautiful character. Beautiful in a more profound way.
There are moments when you feel, how can one person suffer so? But taking the journey, you realize that all Jane's suffering had a purpose. It refined her into a woman who could look beneath and love what others could never love or understand. It made her the woman who could love and heal Rochester.
At the same time, Rochester was made for Jane Eyre. He had searched his life for a woman like her, and made quite a few mistakes along the way. And out of love, he was able to let her go when he wanted to keep her. But she came back to him, when he needed her most.
Rochester is the hero that formed the archetype for many of my favorites: tortured, scarred, dark, enigmatic, all of those things. Best of all, loving little, plain, ordinary Jane with a fundamental intensity that pours out of the pages of this book into my heart as a reader. Despite his lack of perfection, I could not love him more.
Ah, how maudlin I sound. I can't help it. This book moved me to tears. Yet I smiled at the same time. I enjoyed the conversations between Rochester and Jane. There was a heat there, a passion. Yet this book is clean enough to read in Sunday school. That is grand romance. The journey so well expressed, that no sex scenes are needed. It's all there.
This novel is also inspirational. Not preachy, in my opinion, but for a believer, one can definitely find spiritual messages in this book. About perseverance, about not wearying about doing good. About the profoundness of God's love. It's all there, but in a narrative that expertly showcases it, not preaching it.
I feel I am failing to write the review I want to write for this book. The words do fail me. All I can say is that this book will always be a favorite of mine because of the way it touched my heart and challenged me.
With such beginning marred by a horrifying act of violence, this book could have easily been a depressing tragedy. But it is a book about redemption,With such beginning marred by a horrifying act of violence, this book could have easily been a depressing tragedy. But it is a book about redemption, forgiveness, and hope. I feel that this book gives the message that a person can always choose to turn their life around. They hold their fate in their hands by the choice to do the right thing. I started reading this book, not very happy that it was required reading. Before I knew it, I was eager to turn each page to see this man's journey from the pit of despair to a place where he could hope and could believe. This book had a very deep, profound effect on me when I read it....more