Frederick Ahl’s translation of Virgil’s Aeneid is impeccable, very poetic, very accessible, and completely engaging. I will admit, the Aeneid didn’t i...moreFrederick Ahl’s translation of Virgil’s Aeneid is impeccable, very poetic, very accessible, and completely engaging. I will admit, the Aeneid didn’t immediately grow on me. At times the story was hard for me to follow, and I couldn’t help but feel distracted at how remarkably similar the plot was to The Illiad and the Odyssey. Admittedly, there were times where I was just going with the motions as I was reading, some parts were very long winded and tedious, and other parts were just too boring to keep my interest. However, there were many incredible scenes that made the Aeneid worth reading such as the love interest between Dido and Aeneas, and Aeneas journey into the underworld. The bickering between the gods was pretty amusing. Virgil’s take on the founding of Rome is also pretty fascinating from a historical standpoint. It is because of this context and these famous scenes that I may re-read the Aeneid again in the future. It is not my favorite epic, nor is it really the best thing I’ve read all year, but I can’t help but feel that the Aeneid should be revisited at least twice to truly appreciate its importance and influence in classical literature. (less)
I don't know what to think of American Pastoral. The story/plot/theme was very promising and interesting, but the execution of it was tedious, repetit...moreI don't know what to think of American Pastoral. The story/plot/theme was very promising and interesting, but the execution of it was tedious, repetitive, and LONG. This novel could have easily been edited down to 150 pages or so and still retained its effectiveness. There was just too many things weighing the narrative and story down, such as the ridiculous amount of detail spent on the glove making industry and of the narrator derailing from the topic and going on unnecessary tangents that aren't relevant to the plot/story (and even if it was, is it necessary to spend an entire chapter on it?). The narrative went from being very easy to follow to then becoming so boring and confusing that I lost focus. The start of the novel was a page turner but quickly turned into a chore to get through. The characters at times were intriguing but for the most part, too one-dimensional. The praise and adoration of the "Swede" got old real quick. We get it, he was a God to the narrator and to everyone around him. It got to the point though where it was just too much adoration for it to be believable. And even the premise of his daughter being a terrorist and all the political undertones surrounding it and the downfall of the perfect American family was very excessive. We as readers are supposed to look at this novel as being a "realistic" portrayal of America and with "real" characters, but ironically, the harder Philip Roth was trying to make this story so "realistic" the more unbelievable and unrealistic it became.
However, despite all these flaws that really hindered me from really enjoying this novel for all its hype, I will commend the writing, which was very beautifully done without it being pretentious or obnoxious in its style (though the stream of consciousness style was pretty annoying). And I give the author credit for trying to build a poignant story about the glory days of America and the characters that lived through it, but it didn't hit the mark for me in terms of creating characters that I liked or a story that captured my attention and focus. Overall it left me underwhelmed and overwhelmed at the same time, and ultimately, very disappointed. (less)
This has to be by far the most overwritten, pretentious book I've ever read. The prose was just so wordy, obnoxiously flowery and ridiculously descrip...moreThis has to be by far the most overwritten, pretentious book I've ever read. The prose was just so wordy, obnoxiously flowery and ridiculously descriptive that it really distracted me from really following the story or caring about the characters. There's nothing that irritates me more than an author that tries way too hard to show off how well they write and how advanced their vocabulary is. In moderation it is fine but in excess, it just comes off as if the author is being a show off. It's beyond me why this is considered a classic. (less)
I wasn’t too aware that The Sheltering Sky was considered a classic and praised by scholars and critics until I read many of the reviews on here, so t...moreI wasn’t too aware that The Sheltering Sky was considered a classic and praised by scholars and critics until I read many of the reviews on here, so therefore, I read this novel with no expectations, I just read it for what it was. It’s not a great novel, but it’s not bad either. The prose is stunning, very reminiscent of Camus in its very dark and straightforward examination of the human psyche while also providing a rich and exotic portrait of the surroundings and the landscape in which this novel takes place. However, I would say if it weren’t for the prose, I wouldn’t have even bothered finishing the entire novel. Wonderful prose can only contain a reader’s interest for so long. There’s virtually no plot, nor is there any character development. The tone of the novel is set perfectly, almost a little too perfectly; it was almost as if the author had sacrificed tone and pretty descriptions over actually establishing a plot and characters for the reader to relate to or to at least have some sympathy for. Nothing much even happens in this novel until 200+ pages in, and by that point, when the action does happen, we’re left baffled and confused as to the turn of events that occur. These events are not only unconvincing and ludicrous, but even insulting and downright ridiculous.
The Sheltering Sky is one of those books where the prose is more engaging than the actual story itself. It’s because of this prose that this novel is readable, but as a whole it’s not particularly enjoyable. It may leave you something to think about, and may also perhaps provide a great book discussion in regards to relationships, philosophy, marriage, the symbolism of the American landscape versus the dessert, etc. For me though, I thought it was an engaging read but it didn’t leave me feeling affected by it or to want to read more from this author. I didn’t love it but I didn’t hate it either. I guess if there was more of an actual plot and likeable characters, I would have really loved this novel, but instead, it left me feeling kind of hot and cold for it. I don’t see myself reading it again, and I wouldn’t even want to recommend it to anyone either. It was overall just OKAY. (less)
I was compelled to read this novel after seeing that it was on Modern Library's "100 Best Novels" list and noticing much hype surrounding its story an...moreI was compelled to read this novel after seeing that it was on Modern Library's "100 Best Novels" list and noticing much hype surrounding its story and the "noir genre" writing style. The only thing I liked about this novel was that it was short, running at about 120 pages. The story did nothing for me; I was never engaged in the plot, I never cared for any of the characters, and was not the least bit moved by anything that was occurring in the novel. It was just flat, dull, and boring with such a disjointed narration, and frankly the story as a whole just wasn't believable to me. I have read better crime of passion stories that had more depth, character, and emotion than this, and those were longer and yet were still enjoyable from beginning to end. This ended up being one of those novels in which I felt forced to tread through it in hopes that I can finish it as fast as possible so I can start reading a better novel. If this book were 100 pages longer, there's no way I would have bothered finishing it. (less)
As many reviewers have already mentioned, this novel, although beginning with a promising start, lags rather quickly midway through. The main problem...moreAs many reviewers have already mentioned, this novel, although beginning with a promising start, lags rather quickly midway through. The main problem I have is mostly in the construction of the story and the characters. The plot in and of itself is interesting enough, but there is virtually NO suspense to keep you interested or to want you to keep reading. There's no sense of danger, no excitement, just a boring slog through Icelandic witchcraft history and unnecessary attempts at trying to focus on the home life and opinions of the main character, none which were interesting nor necessary to the focus of a MURDER mystery. I don't blame any of this on the translater; I just don't think the author knows how to effectively tell a good murder mystery or to construct effective character development. I couldn't stand the main character Thora, who came off as rather prudish, juvenile, annoying, and immature for her age. The tension between her and a client seemed so forced and at times really came off as cheesy and phony. It got old real quick after awhile, as well as her attempt at trying to show off how "tough" she was. I didn't believe for one second that she was an attorney--the attitude, her incompetency, and just her general pre-teen style way of thinking just didn't really say to me that this is the lady that REALLY knows her shit. I thought the narrative was also lacking in details, like instead of actually using descriptions to detail the type of body modifications that the murdered victim had on his body, the author just decides to use the words "disgusting" with nothing else to evoke any kind of image in our minds of what the characters are seeing. I suppose maybe this was so we could use our imagination, but I call that lazy writing and bland storytelling. The author seemed more focus on trying to make us "relate" to the annoying and unlikeable protagonist instead of actually focusing on the murder case. Who cares about her opinions on body modification, what she thinks of her secretary, how unattractive she looks wearing a scarf on her head, etc.? It got to the point where there was no sense in caring about the murder mystery, since too much attention was put on other areas completely derailing from the topic. I think if the narrative had more focus and was treated as an actual crime/mystery novel instead of some slow, meandering, dull history lesson and amateur melodrama, this novel would have fared much better. It just didn't cut it as a mystery novel or a crime novel. (less)
Like the previous novel, Jar City, I found Silence of the Grave as rather interesting in the beginning, the author has a way of sucking you right into...moreLike the previous novel, Jar City, I found Silence of the Grave as rather interesting in the beginning, the author has a way of sucking you right into the story, but then midway through, it gets rather repetitious and boring up to the end. I think my main issue with Arnaldur's novels is that the plot wears too thin. The drama into the main character's personal life and issues with his daughter is rather intriguing, but I think it takes away from the story being a mystery/thriller and instead has it fall into the realm of a soap opera. The crimes appear sort of interesting and mysterious, but it doesn't take too long to figure out "who did it." If it weren't for the novel taking place in Iceland, I probably wouldn't have bothered reading Arnaldur's novels. I think if anything, that's the only redeeming quality that makes his novels stand out from other thriller/mystery novels, but unfortunately it doesn't offer anything new, the storylines aren't really particularly exciting, and the character development is lacking. There's so much promise, but just not enough to really qualify his novels as truly thrilling. (less)
I don't know what it is about this novel and the movie based off it, but I like it. The protagonist is by no means likeable, and all the characters ar...moreI don't know what it is about this novel and the movie based off it, but I like it. The protagonist is by no means likeable, and all the characters aren't particularly likeable or interesting either. I guess it's the oddity of the plot that intrigues me, as well as the clever, witty, sometimes philosophical stream-of-conscious commentary about Icelandic/pop culture, and all sorts of other references from the political, musical, and scientific which makes this a compelling, humorous, and entertaining read. I'm not one that normally gets into the whole stream-of-conscious narrative or enjoys stories that revolve around a loser, but in this odd and rare case, 101 Reykjavik kept my interest from start to finish. (less)
Yourcenar’s prose is indeed stunning, and it is very apparent that there was much meticulous research done to capture the character of Hadrian and the...moreYourcenar’s prose is indeed stunning, and it is very apparent that there was much meticulous research done to capture the character of Hadrian and the historical backdrop of his time. However, I couldn’t help but feel that this book was so dense, rambling, and esoteric that it made it next to impossible for me to actually follow the story, making it all the more difficult for me to enjoy it. With all the excellent reviews on GoodReads and all the hype surrounding this novel, I was awfully disappointed. I can see why it has gotten praise, but have yet to see really what makes this a great novel besides the prose and the research that was involved. (less)
The Little Prince is one of those books that I read at least once a year. It holds a special place in my library because 1) it was the first book that...moreThe Little Prince is one of those books that I read at least once a year. It holds a special place in my library because 1) it was the first book that I read in French (and I still only read the French version) 2) with frequent readings I get more out of its theme and message and 3) it's simply a stellar read that captures the imagination, the heart, and the soul. It's one of my favorites, one of the most classic gems in French literature. (less)
The Adventures of Augie March is one of those novels that has SO much potential to be a GREAT read, but because of the author's pretentious, over the...moreThe Adventures of Augie March is one of those novels that has SO much potential to be a GREAT read, but because of the author's pretentious, over the top, long winded, overwrought, and verbose writing style, not only are you bored out of your mind when reading it, but after only a chapter or two in, you don't want to continue reading it. This is the thing: I don't mind authors being creative and "different" in their writing style, but there needs to be an actual PLOT or STORY, otherwise the "novel" comes off as nothing more than just a self-serving display of the author trying to show off how clever and artsy they are. I'm usually a huge fan of bildungsroman or coming of age novels (like Of Human Bondage, David Copperfield, Tom Jones, etc.); Augie March was by far the least engaging and uninteresting novel of its ilk that I've ever read. Augie is just not interesting. The author focuses so much on the writing and not enough on the protagonist, and of the story in general. It has the momentum to be something great, but then drags as the author constantly tries to show off the unnecessary literary/historical references, over the top adjectives, etc. It's just too much. I really tried to take this book seriously, but just couldn't. Nothing happens, there's no plot, no characterization, and the writing is just downright pretentious and dull. (less)
One of the things I always found so appealing about D.H. Lawrence is his writing style- it's simple, and yet powerful. He doesn't bog the novel down w...moreOne of the things I always found so appealing about D.H. Lawrence is his writing style- it's simple, and yet powerful. He doesn't bog the novel down with too much description or too much drama. Lawrence seems to always find that perfect balance where the narrative keeps our interest while not being too overwhelming or cumbersome despite how long the book actually is. Sons and Lovers is not my favorite novel of his, but I did thoroughly enjoy it.
The Highlights: Basically Part 1 to me is really where the novel is at its best. The descriptions of the Morel family, the exploration of Mr. and Mrs.'s Morels relationship and the relationship between all the children and their father was really interesting, heartfelt, and real.
The Downside: Honestly, I think the novel loses momentum in Part 2. Though the relationship between Paul and his mother was intriguing, albeit creepy, after awhile it became quite pathetic and made Paul more and more unlikeable as Part 2 went on. I hated how he treated his love interests (Miriam and Clara). We are CONSTANTLY told "he loves Miriam today, he doesn't love her tomorrow, he really LOVES his mother, it's because of her he's too afraid to be intimate with Miriam, now he loves Clara, but hates her, then moves on to Miriam, loves her but hates her, etc." It just got old and repetitive. I also found Paul's relationship to his mother, and vice versa, to be somewhat contrived and over-dramatic. It just wasn't believable after awhile, but thank goodness Paul eventually grew some balls and gained his independence.
Nonetheless, I can see why Sons and Lovers is a classic. It's just not my favorite of Lawrence nor a classic that I can see myself re-reading again for years to come as I did with Lady Chatterly's Lover. I was more invested in the novel itself (in that I wanted to read the entire thing) than in the actual story and characters in it. The problem is that the characters didn't really seem all that developed and didn't progress as the novel went on, which made reading at times very tedious, long, boring, and repetitive. Still, a good effort and a good read, just not as good as I thought and expected it to be. (less)
I’m a huge fan of James Baldwin; by far the novels I have read of his (Giovanni’s Room, Go Tell it On the Mountain, and Just Above My Head), gave a gl...moreI’m a huge fan of James Baldwin; by far the novels I have read of his (Giovanni’s Room, Go Tell it On the Mountain, and Just Above My Head), gave a glorious reading experience that had left a profound effect on me. If Beale Street Could Talk, to my surprise, didn’t have that emotional pull, that instant connection and relationship with the characters, and the superior writing that I would expect from a Baldwin novel. Without a doubt Baldwin’s writing is still great here, but it is not his best. It somewhat has a tone and feel of a cheesy melodrama or sitcom from the 70’s, the characters are real and relatable enough, but the story itself was lackluster. I wanted to feel for the characters and care about their plight, but I couldn’t. I thought Baldwin was perhaps trying too hard to make this story emotional and profound, but instead gave us a somewhat self-serving, undercooked, predictable tale of two teenage lovers where all the odds are against them and we are somewhat forced to feel sorry for them, especially since a unborn child is involved and the daddy is in jail. The entire plot just screams “I want to be a sitcom/tv melodrama/soap opera.” What this novel does deliver is the emotional honesty in what it has to say about American society in the 1970’s, but unfortunately the not-so-great writing style, the lack of real depth in its characters, and the overall cheesy 1970’s soap opera feel left me not enjoying this novel as well as I thought I should have or could have. (less)
This is what literature is all about. Just Above My Head is powerful and instantly emotional and moving from the moment I started reading. From the mo...moreThis is what literature is all about. Just Above My Head is powerful and instantly emotional and moving from the moment I started reading. From the moment I started reading, it was difficult for me to put the book down. Once I had to put the book down, I was yearning, craving for the moment when I can dive back into the story again. The story had hardly begun and I was moved to tears. I just barely started getting to know the characters, and I could hear them, see them, feel them, hell, even taste them, as if they were real and present. Very few pieces of literature are able to create this kind of feeling and reaction, and Baldwin, with his breathtaking storytelling and magical way of making his characters and their experiences come to life, manages to spark that feeling in only a sentence into reading this amazing novel. Baldwin has such a deep understanding of how people think and feel in ways that very few authors can capture. Even with an unusual writing style, he still captures the emotion, the pain, the desperation, and the various impulses and actions that not just his characters, but people in general, carry throughout their lives. Much is explored in this novel from homosexuality, to incest, religion, and race, but most of all, love, faith, courage, and perseverance. Reading this novel is truly an experience. It is a true masterpiece. It’s surprising to me that this novel isn’t considered a classic along the ranks of Go Tell It On the Mountain and Giovanni’s Room. In a sense, though, maybe it’s better that way, because then only a true Baldwin fan can be able to appreciate it in all its glory. This book, just like many of his other works, is my favorite, and further establishes my love and respect for James Baldwin, a man who was daring and far ahead of his time.
And for the record, this was the first 500+ page novel I’ve completed reading in only a week. Very few books, especially those of that length, can pull me in that instantly and deeply. Only James Baldwin can have that effect on me. (less)