Have you ever become so engrossed in a book that when you put it down, it actually takes you seconds, maybe even minutes, hours, or days, to recover f...moreHave you ever become so engrossed in a book that when you put it down, it actually takes you seconds, maybe even minutes, hours, or days, to recover from the emotional trauma incurred by the book?
I had several of those moments reading The Remains of the Day. Leave it to an old English butler to pull on your heart strings. The entire story is told while Mr. Stevens is on a motoring trip.Stevens discusses "dignity" and his definition of a "great butler". He recounts his years of service at Darlington hall, and reflects on the relationships he's had with his past employer Lord Darlington, and a former colleague, Miss Kenton.
As Stevens recalls his relationship with Miss Kenton, and even with his father, we discover that his quest for "dignity" has stood in the way of his happiness.There's a tremendous sense of sadness and loss throughout the book. What's even more amazing is the subtlety in which Ishiguro establishes the mood. He is the master of the unsaid , the read-between the-lines, and the not everything is at it seems. (less)
Whenever Hollywood attempts to do a "modern" adaptation of classic literature by throwing together a caste of up-and-coming teenage hearthrobs, it's u...moreWhenever Hollywood attempts to do a "modern" adaptation of classic literature by throwing together a caste of up-and-coming teenage hearthrobs, it's usually a fail. Great Expectations starring Ethan Hawke and Gwyneth Paltrow: Fail. Romeo and Juliet starring Leonardo Dicaprio and Claire Daines: Fail. O starring Leelee Sobieski and Josh Hartnett: Let's make that a double Shakespeare Fail.
However, reading Les Liaisons Dangereusesmakes me appreciate the artistry, yes the artistry that went into making its 90's teenage counterpart, Cruel Intentions. This book sounded so promising: It's a satire of the moral ambiguity of French aristocracy, a cat and mouse game of seduction, and it contains two of the most scandalous villains in the form of Merteuil and Valmont. My freakin ass.
Merteuil and Valmont were indeed scandalous, but I just got so sick and tired of the repetitive nature of the letters and the naivety of the other characters. By the time that Merteuil and Valmont had ruined everybody, I had stopped caring. This would be a typical letter exchange that would go on in the book:
Danceny: I love you Cecile. Cecile: I love you Danceny. But I'm not allowed to, so stop writing me. Danceny: I couldn't possibly. I will die without your love. Cecile: Okay, keep writing me. I love you so much. Danceny: I love you too. Proclaim your love for me again. Or else I will die. Cecile: Okay, I love you. But my mom says I'm not allowed. Looks like you better stop writing me. Again. Danceny: Never. I love you too much to ever stop writing.
How many times can you say the same thing over and over again? Just read Dangerous Liaisons and you will find out.
A few things that saved the book was the erotic sense of humour in the work (at one point, Valmont uses a naked woman as his writing desk), and de Laclos' ability to write unique characters.
Other than that, watching Sarah Michelle Gellar get her just desserts to The Verve is much more entertaining than reading this book. 2 stars. (less)
No, no. By no means do I worship the devil-- I don't sacrifice chickens on my spare time, nor do I run ar...moreI've always had a fascination with the Devil.
No, no. By no means do I worship the devil-- I don't sacrifice chickens on my spare time, nor do I run around naked in pastures to howl at the moonlight. However, I was raised with a strict Catholic upbringing by a very superstitious Grandmother. So at a young age, I had a very black and white concept of good vs evil, and heaven and hell. Movies like The Omen (Gregory Peck version, if you please), and The Exorcist use to scare the living daylights out of me.
As I grew up, my Grandmother's version of the Devil started to melt away, and I developed a fond appreciation for different interpretations of "Lucifer", "Satan", "Beelzebub", whatever you'd like to call him. I've come across some interesting portrayals of the Devil, but Bulgakov really takes the cake.
In "The Master and Margarita", the black magician Woland is Satan incarnate. He comes to pay a vist in Stalanist Moscow with a very intriguing posse which includes a talking, gun-slinging, vodka-loving cat, Bohemoth. If there ever was the perfect time and place for Satan to vist the world, it would be Stalanist Moscow; citizens are petrified of the Police, the art world is censored and controlled by the government, and, as portrayed in the novel, people are willing to oust each other to the police if it meant some sort of personal gain. The Devil uses this to his advantage and wreaks havoc in Moscow by exposing the follies of mankind.Yet, I can't really see the Devil as "the bad guy" in this book. He's merely just doing his job-- punishing the wicked, and rewarding the good.
"The Good" in this book are of course the title characters-- The Master (a nameless writer in an asylum, whose book about Pontious Pilate is interwoven with the plot) and Margarita, his beautiful, devoted lover. Over the course of the book, I've really come to love both of these characters. Bulgakov is great at manipulating feelings. Even though there aren't any erotic scenes in the book, you feel the sexual passion between the couple. You feel the despair they when they're separated from each other. You feel pathos for the Master when he suffers a mental breakdown, and you squeal in delight as Margarita races naked through the sky. I couldn't help but feel a sense of elation when the two are rewarded in the end.
The Master and Margarita is one of the most profound, and entertaining books I have ever read. It celebrates sensuality, yet it's critical against instant gratification. It deals with good vs. evil, and the gray area in between. there's so much allusion to so many great works of art, that I can only look forward to rereading this book only after I can fully understand all of these allusions. And in the midst of this depth, Bulgakov still manages to throw in the most imaginative twists to his story: Satan's ball for sinners, a talking cat, a flying pig, and naked women flying through the air.
It's a lengthy, but quick read, and I recommend it to everybody!(less)
Whenever I read Jane Austen, I have to overcome the sudden urge to start speaking in an upper-class English accent. And why not? Even with the hardshi...moreWhenever I read Jane Austen, I have to overcome the sudden urge to start speaking in an upper-class English accent. And why not? Even with the hardships portrayed in Austen's novels, she has the ability to keep the mood humorous and light. Wouldn't life be better if it were narrated in an Austentanian English accent? I think so.
I've debated much with myself about the rating I would give this book. Make no mistake, I absolutely, positively, with all my being, loved this book. I would have given it a 5 had I not remembered how much I loved Pride and Prejudice. Austen just has the talent of making guys-that-seem-like-jerks so damn endearing. Even though I thought Edward Ferrars was a lying, cheating prat, I was in love with him by the end of the novel.
Austen creates a great contrast between the two Dashwood sisters; Elinor, the practical, logical sister; and Marianne, the impulsive romantic. I think that the contrast between the two women is what has given this story its universal appeal. We can all relate to the duality of Emma and Marianne's characters. Like Elinor, we try to keep our poker faces on, especially when dealing with douchebags like Edward Ferrars. Even in this modern age, society looks down, (or at least makes fun of) people that follow impulsive, passsionate urges. Yet like Marianne, we have to fight hard to supress these instincts. What I love about Austen is how she shows the flaws of being too logical or too romantic. The sisters were only able to find peace within themselves when they learn how to balance sense and sensibility. Interesting tidbit: Austen had once said that the character she most identifies with, out of her whole body of work, was.... drumroll please... Marianne Dashwood. After reading a biography about Austen,it was apparent why. She had been offered a marriage of convenience, accepted it, and later declined the offer. She would rather marry for love than financial convenience.
The rest of the story line is pretty typical for a rom-com :girl falls in love with guy, guy ends up being jerk and makes girl cry, jerk ends up not being jerk after all. The good girls go home with their men, while the bad girls go home punished. But not harshly, this is Austen land after all. However typical the story line, the characters and the dialogue keep the read light, easy, and fresh.
There have been countless of adaptations of this Robert Stevenson classic; The Nutty Professor, Van Helsing, The Hulk, Two-Face, Mary Reilly, The Page...moreThere have been countless of adaptations of this Robert Stevenson classic; The Nutty Professor, Van Helsing, The Hulk, Two-Face, Mary Reilly, The Pagemaster... I think that because I've seen so many of the adaptations, my preconceptions of the book have completely ruined it for me.
I'm sure that even if you haven't read the book, you've probably seen one (or more) of the Jekyll/Hyde adaptations, and you're most likely familiar with the plot: a good man creates a potion that transforms him into a dark creature, free of conscience or remorse. Because I'm use to such dark interpretations of this story, I was expecting something more spine-tingling, and sinister. Mr. Hyde does commit some pretty atrocious crimes, but I guess I'm really hungry for the bloody, gorey, details. Stevenson fails to deliver on the scare factor.
But then again, I think I'm being unfair because:
a) This was written during the Victorian era, so what Stevenson wrote might have been scary for his time b) I've become so desensitized to the gruesome versions of the tale out there.
I certainly don't want to take away from the good parts of the book. Stevenson is a great writer. Make that a great writer. There's something really captivating about his prose, and I devoured the book from start to finish. I simply couldn't put it down. I'm also very sure that if Freud had ever read this book, he'd be nodding his head in agreement with Stevenson's take about duality, and good vs. evil. Jekyll, a good-natured man, obviously in-touch with his conscience, becomes engrossed in releasing this primitive, pleasure-seeking creature. It's the classic case of id vs. ego. It's really fascinating how Stevenson tackles the concept of self, and there are a lot of questions that arise from reading this book: Are good and evil separate entities? Can good exist without evil? Is it healthy to spuress the id, or pleasure-seeking urges? etc.
Overall, I think it was a good book. If you are a horror fan, and you want something with blood splattered on the walls, and people being disemboweled left front and centre, then this is not for you. If you want to be treated to Stevenson's wonderful writing, then pick this up.
Imagine living in a hierarchal society. Now imagine that in this society, you are completely immobile; no matter what you do, no matter what your pers...moreImagine living in a hierarchal society. Now imagine that in this society, you are completely immobile; no matter what you do, no matter what your personal or profession merits are, you are stuck in your place. In this society, the top dogs, the head honchos are free to do whatever the hell they want, while the little guys on the bottom have to sweep away their own footsteps so as not to pollute the presence of the higher-ups. This is the caste-based society that Rohinton Mistry so successfully portrays in "A Fine Balance".
Mistry brings us into the lives of four dazzling characters. There's Dina Dalal who struggles to make ends meet. Renting a room in her flat is the young, sheltered, Manek Kohla who is forced out into the city by his parents. Lastly, there are the two tragic tailors; Ishvar, and his nephew Omprakash. Although each character comes from a different walk of life, their paths unexpectedly intwertwine. Mistry writes about the sense of friendship and family that they find in each other.
If the words "friendship" and "family" have induced some kind of gag reflex in you, I assure you this is not one of those books. A Fine Balance may very well be one of the most depressing books you'll ever read in your life. Mistry writes about disturbing themes like caste violence, political corruption, and death. If there's ever a time you feel down because something going on in your life, read a little bit about Om and Ishvar. I promise you, your life in comparison will seem like an episode of Carebears, or Strawberry Shortcake.
However, with all the tragedy and sadness that occurs throughout this novel, there is always a little glimmer of hope. Each character shows resilience in the face of adversity. Although Mistry gives us a bleak portrayal of the human condition, I can't help but feel awe towards the strength of his characters.
Okay, so I've read about a billion other reviews about Jane Eyre. I think of these billion, about half of them turn into comparive essays about Charlo...moreOkay, so I've read about a billion other reviews about Jane Eyre. I think of these billion, about half of them turn into comparive essays about Charlotte Bronte and Jane Austen: who the better author is,what type of tea they drink, and why Lizzie Bennet can totally kick Jane Eyre's ass (or vise versa). Why can't Team Austen and Team Bronte get along? In my mind, both of these ladies are great authors. Both of them write great characters, great plots, and really mean social commentaries. Of course, both of them offer something a little different. Reading Jane Austen is like sipping a fruity martini cocktail--sweet, refreshing, and no matter how bitter things get, you always hit a nice juicy cherry at the bottom. Bronte, on the contrary, takes a darker, heavier approach-- like a shot of espresso on a rainy day. I also have to add that Mr. Rochester and Mr. Darcy are literary hunks. I'd let the two of them tag-team me any day. Jus' sayin.
For the people who haven't read Jane Eyre, without giving away too much of the plot, here is the low down. The heroine is Jane, a woman who survives a very rough childhood. She spent her childhood living with her miserable Aunt Reed and three very spoiled cousins. She is eventually sent away to boarding school where she is forced to overcome more obstacles. She eventually accepts a post as governess and captures the heart of Mr. Rochester-- an eccentric rich guy with a dark secret locked up in his attic.
I remember taking women's studies classes in college. When we did the unit on feminist writing, I remember reading that Jane Eyre was one of the earliest examples of a feminist hero (Lizzie Bennet was also one of them by the way.) When I had taken this course, I had memorized Pride and Prejudice front to cover, but I had never read Jane Eyre. I completely know what the buzz is all about.
Jane Eyre is plain. She is poor. But she is also intelligent. She has a strong sense of self. People that have criticized Jane's character have called her a "doormat" or a "prude". I don't think she's a doormat at all. I think that she is so tied down by her sense of duty as teacher, and then later as a governess, that she restrains a lot of what she has to say. And yet, since the book is written through her perspective, we know how intricate and deep Jane's thoughts are. There's always an inward battle between what she wants, and what she has to do. This plays such a significant role later on in the novel when she has to choose between the man she loves and her own personal convictions. If sticking to her guns is what defines Jane as a prude, then I applaud her for being one.
Mr. Rochester is also very plain. He's even been described as ugly. Bronte does such a great job with establishing Mr. Rochester's character-- through his speech, through his little mannerisms-- that soon after he's introduced, there's already a sense of intimacy with his character. If passionate declarations of love and wild kisses are your thing, then Mr. Rochester is the bachelor for you. There are several parts in the book that just gave me chills because of the chemistry between Edward Rochester and Jane. The intense passion between Edward and Jane puts shame to any of our modern romance novels-- and not a corset was ripped, or a skirt hem raised.
5 stars. This is one I wil reread over and over again. Just like Pride and Prejudice.
To be honest, there's nothing extraordinary about this book. The story has been done before. It's a coming-of-age story written by an angsty teenage b...moreTo be honest, there's nothing extraordinary about this book. The story has been done before. It's a coming-of-age story written by an angsty teenage boy to a nameless "friend". Already, names like Holden Caulfield and Amory Blaine should popping into your head. Yup, it has been done before.
However, this book just felt so personal to me. Charlie was thrusted into every awkward situation that a teenager from the suburbs could possibly get into. Suddenly, my career in high school as the weird, sexed up, politically active, literature geek didn't seem so far away.
If you are, or ever have been a misunderstood teenager in suburbia, you'll find these aspects of the book oh-so-relateable:
-not really being "in" with the "in" crowd, and having to look a little bit harder to find friendship and belonging -compiling mixtapes for every.single.event. in your life. (okay, so my generation did playlists, but I find mixtapes so much cooler) -first kiss, first encounter with drugs and alcohol, first sexual experience -sticking by your gay best friend, despite the taunts and the threats -the "heavier" things like the loss of a friend, sexual assault, and unwanted pregnancy
The list goes on.
I found Charlie's naivety frustrating at times, but also really endearing. Chbosky has said that Catcher In The Rye was a big inspiration in writing this book. However, unlike Holden, Charlie actually had something to complain about. (less)
I really enjoyed Madame Bovary. What's interesting is that I read it with a group of other women, and we all had such different opinions about the boo...more
I really enjoyed Madame Bovary. What's interesting is that I read it with a group of other women, and we all had such different opinions about the book.
Madame Bovary was written by Flaubert in the mid 19th century. Flaubert was well known for being a perfectionist with his writing. Apparently, when he wrote Madame Bovary, he would always be looking for "le mot juste" or "the right word". It really does show in his writing. He uses words effectively and concisely. From a single sentence you can get the feel for the banality of peasant life. From a single line of dialogue, you can already gauge the characters in the book.
Madame Bovary, in short, is about a beautiful woman trying to escape her mundane life by indulging in materialistic things, and having adulterous affairs. It is a social commentary on the bourgeois, and a satire on romantic literature.
Emma Bovary is presented as a beautiful and intelligent woman whose mind has been corrupted by reading too many romance novels. She is characterized as someone that constantly indulges her every whim. and to absolve her sins, she turns to religion, or full out devotion to her foolish husband. She lives life expecting high society and romantic escapades, it's almost hilarious how deluded she is. And yet, I find Flaubert's commentary on indulgence and romanticism as relevant today as it was in his time. Instead of Emma's romantic literature, we have "MTV cribs", reality TV, and dozens of magazines on how to attain the perfect life, perfect car, perfect body.
Flaubert also gives us a colourful set of characters. We have Charles, the foolish husband. We also have the scheming pharmacist, Homais, and his productive, intelligent wife.
I'd recommend this to everyone.Very well-written and fast paced(less)