A group of friends travel to Pamplona, Spain for the annual running of the bulls and subsequent bullfights and fiesta.
I didn't like it. Not one bit.
We...moreA group of friends travel to Pamplona, Spain for the annual running of the bulls and subsequent bullfights and fiesta.
I didn't like it. Not one bit.
We read this for my book club because one of our members remembered loving it when she read it in an English class and had been wanting to re-read it. Even she said it was not at all what she remembered and it must have been made better by an awesome English teacher. Let's hear it for awesome English teachers!
Left to struggle through on my own devices, however, I found nothing redeeming in any of these characters. Which was probably the point, but still. I like to read about characters that I actually like. The best one was the narrator, so that was a plus, but he couldn't keep his friends in line and I don't think he wanted to. They were all so very cynical and had seen everything and done everything that they got a little boring.
I told one of my friends who hadn't quite finished by the time our meeting rolled around, "Let me save you some time. They go out, get drunk, Brett sleeps with someone who is not her fiance, the Jew (as he was mostly known) got mad that she wasn't sleeping with him and hit somebody, they all drank some more, and started over the next day."
And that's what I took away from this book. Life is short and boring, you drink and argue, then you die.
I did like Hemingway's style. He's very short and to the point and without seeming to waste a lot of time on description, he manages to put you firmly in a scene. I would occasionally get confused as to who was speaking because he didn't like to use too many "I said"s or "Brett said"s. Otherwise, stylistically, we got along just fine.
I knew this was a classic, so I started trying to find some sort of symbolism. I decided that the poor impotent narrator should be the steer in his herd and then I tried to relate what was happening with the bulls to what was going on with the people, but nothing ever clicked. I must not be in a place in my life for Hemingway to speak to me.
I got confused about time a little too. It would sound like weeks had passed when really it had been days. People would be intensely in love and talking marriage and decide it would never work and sound like they'd had a whole long time together when they'd just met for the first time five or six days before, as far as I could tell.
This book was not for me, but obviously it appeals to someone. It might appeal more to men (Hemingway being one of those very masculine writers) or to urbane people with a cynical mindset, I don't know.(less)
Nick Carraway moves from the Midwest to Long Island to try to make a living after World War I. He is curious about his neighbor and the extravagant pa...moreNick Carraway moves from the Midwest to Long Island to try to make a living after World War I. He is curious about his neighbor and the extravagant parties he throws every weekend. Eventually the two meet and become something like friends. The neighbor, Jay Gatsby, is shrouded in myth and legend and no one seems to know where he came from, how he made his money, or anything at all about him for that matter. Gatsby has a very specific reason for living where and how he does and his personal struggle pulls several others into his wake.
Like many others, I decided to re-read this before the movie comes out. I disliked it in school but I've changed my mind about almost all the other classics I've bothered to re-read, so I thought I might change my mind about this one too.
If you follow my reviews at all, you know that I am a very character-driven reader. Give me an awesome character and I'm happy. But there is not one likeable character in this novel. I think I kind of liked Nick in high school but now I don't even like him. He's by far the best of the bunch but that's not saying much.
Gatsby himself is kind of pitiable. He's worked hard, being pushed constantly by an overweening ambition. He seems to have been born with a desire for more than he has but circumstances cause him to push himself even harder. He surrounds himself with people who don't bother to know him and seems to think that this is what gives a man a full life. Or rather, he thinks its a step on the way to fulfilling his deepest desire. He just made me feel tired and sad. He could have had so much but in reality, he had nothing. The one sentence that sticks out for me is this: "They were careless people, Tom and Daisy--they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made...." Gatsby, being self-made, doesn't realize this about people with old money and that is his undoing.
We must have watched the old Robert Redford movie in school because I kept picturing him as Gatsby. That's just fine by me; I'd rather imagine a young Robert Redford than Leonardo DiCaprio any day!
This is a short read and I think I'm going to find it a little haunting this time around. It's beautifully written, so if you're interested, go ahead and give it a go.(less)
Tom Joad, just released from prison, heads back to his parents' farm only to find that they have been evicted from their land and are on their way to...moreTom Joad, just released from prison, heads back to his parents' farm only to find that they have been evicted from their land and are on their way to California in search of a fresh start. Thousands of families are in a similar situation and there are many ruthless people along the way who take advantage of them, mistreat them, and make their lives harder than they have to be.
Is there another version of this book floating around out there somewhere? Because this is not the book I remember reading in high school. Yes, I'm joking. Sort of. I deeply disliked this when I had to read it for class. All I could remember was how depressing it was and the very, very last scene. It made an impression on my 16-year-old self.
Now firmly in my 30s, I don't know if 16-year-old me was an idiot or if current me is just old and jaded, because I just about loved this. I'd give it 4.5 stars if I could.
It's still dark and depressing, there's just no way around that. Everything that can go wrong for the Joads, does. From before they even hit the road, and I'm sure continuing on well after the last page is turned, they just can't catch a break. It was infuriating, even more so because I knew that this was firmly based on the reality of the Dust Bowl and the Depression.
But this time around, I saw some hope.
The Joads are not beaten. They have taken a beating and they are down, but I don't think they're out. They're still out there struggling along, doing the best they can, for themselves and others. Do you see that? And others. They have practically nothing, but they still give what they have to people who are worse off than they are. They go to some extreme lengths to do it too. As long as the Joads and people like them are still around, I have to have hope for their migrant community. I have an essay about this churning around in my head with quotes to support my point of view and everything, but I'll try to stay out of that. But that's where I stand.
The characters definitely had their own distinct personalities, but they weren't so distinct that I couldn't relate them to people I know. Ma is fierce in protecting her family and gentle in her kindness. Pa just wants to do some honest work for an honest day's pay. Tom has grown up fast and is slowly becoming the leader of the family in their changing environment. Al feels overshadowed by his older brother. Rose of Sharon goes through an emotional journey that is impossible to get into, but I think most women would understand where she's coming from. I think these characters are what made the book a classic. I have never known what it is to be hungry or homeless, but because I know people like the Joads, I can put myself in their place. I don't know if I would have their grace, but I admire it in them.
Steinbeck chose to write in a dialect that might make it hard for some people to understand the conversations. I took right to it and found myself thinking the way that the Joads talked. Even just looking back through the book right now to decide what I wanted to write, I found myself slipping into it.
I read East of Eden about a year and a half ago and was surprised by how much I liked it. I had a feeling that maybe I had misjudged Steinbeck a little all those years ago. I read the first chapter of The Grapes of Wrath and I was pretty much blown away. This man could write! He opens with a description of the land drying up and dying and the people's hope drying up with it and that chapter is practically perfect. I felt parched and dry and uneasy. He set the stage for this book that well in just about four pages. He chose to write the story in alternating chapters. One chapter about the Joads and one chapter about life in this era. I liked that he wrote it this way. He didn't have to make an unrealistic amount of stuff happen to the family to show how bad life was for everyone. He was free to range around different topics. And the beauty of his language showed in the general chapters.
I re-read this for my book club, and I believe we all agreed that reading it in early spring was not a good idea. I for one like fluff when the sun starts shining because that's about all my brain has the capacity for. If you can relate, pick this one up in the wintertime.
But pick it up, even if, like me, you hated it when you were forced to read it in school. You might be surprised by how your perspective has changed.(less)
John Singer is a deaf-mute living a solitary life in a Southern city. His best friend, Spiros Antonapoulos, has been taken away to the state asylum. B...moreJohn Singer is a deaf-mute living a solitary life in a Southern city. His best friend, Spiros Antonapoulos, has been taken away to the state asylum. But as Singer makes his solitary way through life, he draws a group of four lonely individuals to him: Mick Kelly, a poor young girl with dreams of being a famous composer; Jake Blount, an alcoholic trying to spread the word about the evils of capitalism and the glory of Communism; Dr. Copeland, an African-American doctor trying to lead his people to a better life; and Biff Brannon, a cafe owner who is trying to figure out what the others see in Mr. Singer.
I read this back in college but couldn't remember a thing about it when we decided to read it for book club. Time for a re-read! Now I know why I wiped it from my memory.
This is one of those novels that is probably classified as "Realism" and that I choose to call "Pessimism." No one is happy. No one will ever be happy. They are all going to die alone and misunderstood. And McCullers seems to be saying that's the way life is for everyone. I refuse to buy it. That's my biggest problem.
Another problem is that nothing really happens. Nothing. The book just drifts from character to character, each of whom just will not move on to another topic to think about. There's only so much I can read about Mick's "inner room" and how much she loves music. I can list about three or four events that are actual events. The rest of it is just repetitive introspection.
I will say that Carson McCullers' writing voice is perfect for the story. It just feels stark and lonely from the beginning. Perfect for this bleak novel.
I didn't like any of the characters. Mick could have been a great character for me. A dreamy Southern girl who loves music? I should have loved her. But she's too antsy and aggressive. She just won't let well enough alone. She's always picking at everyone in the family. Her tendency to yell at people to leave her secret treasure box alone had my elder sibling tendencies kicking; I was itching to open it up and taunt her with it. I never understood why no one else did. Blount is just an alcoholic. Dr. Copeland won't come down from his ideals to work with the real, living people around him. He sees "his people" the way he wants to see him rather than how they are and so he never reaches them. I still don't know where Biff Brannon was coming from. He's an observer, so maybe he was supposed to give me an outsider's perspective, but he just puzzled me with his motherly tendencies. I didn't even understand Mr. Singer. He was objective enough to realize that the others saw in him what they wanted to see but he couldn't see what a drag Antonapoulos was and move on.
If you like your books stark and bleak, you'll probably like this one. If you see any hope in the world, you should probably give it a pass.(less)
In this classic tale of growing up in the Jim Crow South, Scout Finch captures readers' hearts as she plays her games and begins to lose her innocence...moreIn this classic tale of growing up in the Jim Crow South, Scout Finch captures readers' hearts as she plays her games and begins to lose her innocence as she watches the adults in her town. A trial that has been defined by race is making everyone show his or her true colors and it's an eye-opening experience for Scout.
I've read this probably 4 or 5 times by now, but I've never actually reviewed it. I really want to say, "I love this book. Not a passing love, but a deep and abiding, down to the soul love. Read it." And leave it at that.
But I won't let myself do that.
I love everything about this book. The biggest thing for me are the characters, especially Atticus and Scout. I love Atticus. No, really. I do. He's such a good man. As several other characters point out, he's the same on the street as he is in his house. He tries to live a life that permits him to look his children in the eyes. As someone else points out, he's the town's conscience. They trust him to do the right thing, often in spite of them. He never lets them down. I noticed this time how much it costs him. Scout is such a little motherless tomboy, I just have to love her too. She's pretty passionate about everything and she's still so innocent. This time around, I actually noticed Jem. I've overlooked him in the past, but I can see that he's going to follow in his father's footsteps.
The story is such a well-done contrast. There are the carefree, almost idyllic days of Scout and Jem's childhoods painted against a background of racism and pettiness and revenge. Harper Lee makes her point about race issues without beating her readers over the head with it. It sneaks up on me every time the same way that it sneaks up on Jem and Scout.
I'm more curious than I've ever been about Boo Radley after this reading. Why does he stay inside? Is he happy, or at least happy enough? What really happened to him in his past?
I'm also curious about Calpurnia. She seems happy enough, but is she really? I started conflating her with Aibileen from The Help. I think Calpurnia is probably as happy as anyone in her position can be, working for the Finches, but she still lives in a racist society.
And I think that's about as articulate as I can be. Why is it always so hard to write reviews of books you love? If you've never read this, pick it up. If you have, isn't it about time for a re-read?(less)
I read a lot of Sherlock Holmes way back in high school one summer. When I ran out of library books, I occasionally delved into my parents' shelves an...moreI read a lot of Sherlock Holmes way back in high school one summer. When I ran out of library books, I occasionally delved into my parents' shelves and that's how I was first introduced to Mr. Holmes. I have a collection on my nook now and I decided to re-read this first--novella, I'll call it--for old times' sake.
I really didn't like it. I enjoyed the setup with Sherlock Holmes and Mr. Watson and their meeting and all that. But the actual mystery? Improbable is not even the word for it. It just defied belief. Why wouldn't a British detective know all about the American West? Please. The whole murder and everything is just overly melodramatic.
And then there was the way that the Mormons were portrayed. Unflattering to say the least. I am not Mormon and know shamefully little about the faith, but, my goodness--I was offended on their behalf!
I'm sure I'll get around to reading some more of the stories, but this re-read left a bad taste in my mouth.(less)
Everyone who knows pleasant Dr. Jekyll is surprised that he has taken the brutish Mr. Hyde under his wing. Hyde is a horrible person, and everyone who...moreEveryone who knows pleasant Dr. Jekyll is surprised that he has taken the brutish Mr. Hyde under his wing. Hyde is a horrible person, and everyone who meets him claims to be immediately repulsed by him. It's obvious that there's more to the relationship than meets the eye, but no one guesses exactly how twisted this relationship is.
Okay, you probably know the basic story. I think that takes a lot away from the book. I can imagine that this novella was shocking and horrifying when it was first published, but I just felt a little "meh" about it. I understand that there's a message about pride and ambition and man's dual nature and all that, but I'm usually looking for a good story. I'm not saying that this is a bad story, or that it shouldn't be a classic or anything like that, I just found it a little disappointing.
If you're interested, pick it up. If you somehow don't know what's going on with these two men, go ahead and give it a try too. It's a pretty easy read for a classic, it's short, and it would be creepy if you didn't know what was going on.(less)
I'm wimping out on this synopsis. It's on the book page.
I am surprised by how much I liked this book. I had to read Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of...moreI'm wimping out on this synopsis. It's on the book page.
I am surprised by how much I liked this book. I had to read Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath for school, and I pretty much hated them both. Of course, I hated almost everything I had to read for school, so I don't know if that says more about Steinbeck or about me. Either way, I was left with bad memories of Steinbeck.
I have several friends on GoodReads comment on how much they love this book, so when I found this edition with this cool retro cover at a library book sale, I went ahead and picked it up. It would probably have languished for a few more years in my stacks if I hadn't decided to read it for Banned Books Week. (See, book challengers? You are only hurting your case and giving authors publicity. Leave it alone, and a lot of books will fade into obscurity).
Anyway, I started to love this from the first page. Who could resist this prose?
"I remember that the Gabilan Mountains to the east of the valley were light gay mountains full of sun and loveliness and a kind of invitation, so that you wanted to climb into their warm foothills almost as you want to climb into the lap of a beloved mother. They were beckoning mountains with a brown grass love. The Santa Lucias stood up against the sky to the west and kept the valley from the open sea, and they were dark and brooding--unfriendly and dangerous. I always found in myself a dread of west and a love of east. Where I ever got such an idea I cannot say, unless it could be that the morning came over the peaks of the Gabilans and the night drifted back from the ridges of the Santa Lucias. It may be that the birth and death of the day had some part in my feeling about the two ranges of mountains."
I was blown away. Where was the grim author who had written such depressing books that I had been forced to read against my will? This wasn't the same guy, surely!
And that was kind of how I continued on through the book. Oh, it got dark and grim (more on that momentarily), but Steinbeck can write! Who knew?
Let me just jump right in with Cathy. What a psycho bitch. Seriously. I don't know if they used words like psychopath back in the day, but she really is. My status update after she is introduced: "Wow. *blinkblink* Cathy." That said with wide, surprised eyes. She certainly made her mark on me in a hurry. She is just pure evil.
My edition was deceptively thin, so I didn't realize it was over 500 pages of tiny font until I'd gotten a good start. Still, I made my way through this quicker than I expected to. Cathy was the character that I felt the strongest about, but I'm also intrigued by Caleb. He's the one who is truly struggling to be a better person. He thinks that he was born evil, yet he still tries to fight it and be good. I have much more respect for him than for Aron, who just pretended that evil didn't exist and so of course it couldn't describe him. Cal has a bit of "Jacob wrestling the angel" in him.
I find myself almost wishing that I had read this in school. There's so much to mull over and discuss here. I think my younger self would have hated the ending, and even now I wasn't immediately taken with it. But as time goes on, I keep chewing on it, thinking it over, and liking it more and more. Really, it's sneaking it's way onto a special new list I'll have in my head called "Strongest Ending to a Novel." Right now it's all alone on the list, but I'm sure I could come up with some others if I had to.
There are so many things I loved about this book. I loved the philosophical conversations between Lee and Samuel. I loved that I could follow along with them! They had a way of suddenly getting me to see something in a new light. I loved that Samuel Hamilton loved his land even though it wasn't very good, and the way he loved to invent things. I loved watching his son Tom struggle to become himself. I loved that Lee made me think about my expectations and how they affect my perceptions. I loved how Adam made me think about how we choose to either move on or not, because it is always a choice.
I highly recommend this when you're in the mood for a book that will actually make you think rather than just help you escape. We all know I love escapism, but sometimes even I need something meatier, and this certainly fit the bill.(less)
Set in the early days of the USSR, Doctor Zhivago is the story of the doctor and the sweeping changes he bears witness to.
Oh, I had a hard time with t...moreSet in the early days of the USSR, Doctor Zhivago is the story of the doctor and the sweeping changes he bears witness to.
Oh, I had a hard time with this one. It was sheer stubbornness that got me through. I didn't particularly like Doctor Zhivago, I thought Lara was crazy, and I couldn't keep up with the politics. I kept thinking that I should look up the Russian Revolution (or whatever it's called) and try to make some sense out of what was going on, but I didn't care enough to even do that.
There were philosophical discussions planted smack in the middle of conversations. Of course I didn't believe anyone has ever actually talked that way. I couldn't follow the philosophy and then I lost the thread of the conversation by the time the characters got back to talking about something I was interested in.
The doctor was the epitome of "not to decide is a decision." He just went with whatever situation he found himself in. He had some ideals when he was young that he fought for, but then he became jaded and seemed not to really believe in anything. But I could be wrong about that. As his family life changed, he never fought for anyone. He just took the easiest path before him.
Lara was at least passionate but I felt she was inconsistent. Who did she really want to be with? I'm not entirely sure. She said one thing but did another.
What I did take away from the book is how confusing it must have been to live through a time like this. I have a feeling the confusion about who was fighting whom and why was done deliberately. I can't imagine living through a war and never being sure who was on what side and which side I should be on to get through safely. You can see how tightly I would hold to my ideals--I just want to make it through!
And Russian novelists and their character names! Holy cow! I can't keep up with everyone and their nicknames. I just can't. That adds to my confusion as well.
Because I never fully caught the thread of the book, this is really all I can say. It was not the book for me, but if you're curious, don't let me discourage you.(less)
Forget the big, green, shuffling, moaning monster with bolts in his neck that we've all come to associate with Frankenstein. He does not appear in the...moreForget the big, green, shuffling, moaning monster with bolts in his neck that we've all come to associate with Frankenstein. He does not appear in these pages. I wonder what book those old horror movie writers read? It wasn't this one.
Frankenstein's monster is big, but the only other physical descriptions I really remember are flowing black hair, watery yellow eyes, and uncanny speed, agility, and tolerance for cold. Oh, and he's more eloquent than I could ever hope to be. Seriously.
As for Frankenstein himself--a more self-absorbed, self-indulgent, self-explicatory character I hope to never meet. He was terrible! This was his story:
"Oh no! Something bad happened!"
He falls over in nervous delirium and is bed-ridden for months.
He moans and groans and just generally doesn't deal.
Then one day:
"Oh no! Something bad happened! But it wasn't my fault!"
He falls over in nervous delirium, bed-ridden for months, blah, blah, blah, blah.
That really is Frankenstein's story in a nutshell.
I do realize that this story was supposed to be more of a warning about our science getting ahead of our morals, pride coming before a fall and all that. On that level, it completely worked. As I read this, the word hubris kept coming to mind, and I haven't thought that word since studying the Greek myths for months on end my sophomore year of high school. That was more years ago than I honestly want to think about. Anyway, Shelley absolutely did what she meant to do and her work is always going to be relevant. But as a reader, I need a character that I can like. I don't think it necessarily has to be the main character, just give me someone, somewhere, to root for. There wasn't one here. Clerval or Elizabeth could have filled the role, but they were little cardboard cutouts to show that Frankenstein had something to lose. The monster himself was briefly likable in his wide-eyed innocence, but then he started to learn all of humanity's nasty habits. He had his reasons, but still. Ultimately I felt kind of bad for him, but I didn't like him.
It's a classic for a reason, and it really should be read, but don't expect to be too happy with anyone.(less)