This, right here, demonstrated to me why Agatha Christie is still considered the mistress of the mystery. I spent the entire book on the proverbial ed...moreThis, right here, demonstrated to me why Agatha Christie is still considered the mistress of the mystery. I spent the entire book on the proverbial edge of my seat, and I still never guessed what was coming. Every time I thought I had it figured out, oops! Plot twist! By the end I thought I had finally seen through all the smoke screens and was smugly assured that I had figured out who the secret adversary was. It was all so obvious, the hints dropped so clearly along the way, that I was sure I'd seen through Christie's machinations. She was good, but no match for a modern, sophisticated reader like me.
I was blown away by the final reveal, but not in a "surprise, the butler did it" kind of way. She had masterfully twisted me so around that I fell right into the trap, along with the Young Adventurers (at least for a time--they got out of it before I did). The only nit that I have is that some of the dialog felt rather forced, especially Julius's, as the token American. He was so broadly drawn for awhile, his language so over the top, that it got under my skin after a bit. It felt like an American author putting in a random Australian character who goes around saying "G'day, mate!" and "Shrimp on the barbie!" all the time. Just...no.
But, that being said, I will definitely be hunting up the further adventures of Tommy and Tuppence, and I'm sure that Christie will keep surprising me. (less)
This is a collection of short stories, all loosely connected, that start with hair-raising horror, and end with a couple of dreamy romance. It started...moreThis is a collection of short stories, all loosely connected, that start with hair-raising horror, and end with a couple of dreamy romance. It started with a bang and ended with a whimper--I was much more impressed with the 5 star beginning than what was (for me) the two star end. Definitely read at least the first 4 stories with the lights on, though!(less)
The pulpiest of pulp fiction, the whole thing was gleefully ridiculous. Maybe with another 50 or 100 pages would have made the plot feel less forced a...moreThe pulpiest of pulp fiction, the whole thing was gleefully ridiculous. Maybe with another 50 or 100 pages would have made the plot feel less forced and overly convenient, but as it was, it was just a series of one overly-fortuitous event after another. It may have been originally written as a serial; I'm not sure, but that would explain a lot. It was a fun enough story if you're willing to go along for the ride, but not something I'd seek out more of.(less)
I....I don't get it. I really don't. I wanted to like this, and I have to say that I understand why it's so popular. I can appreciate the merits of it...moreI....I don't get it. I really don't. I wanted to like this, and I have to say that I understand why it's so popular. I can appreciate the merits of it, without actually enjoying it. I just couldn't get past the deliberately obtuse writing style. There was too much "He knew! That I knew! That he knew that I knew that he knew! AND IT WAS TERRIBLE! TOO TERRIBLE TO SPEAK OF. So we're going to talk about something else instead." What? What?
I have never used Cliff Notes, or anything like that, for my reading before, but I feel like it could help here so that I could translate the scenes better in my head. The oblique style of hinting and dancing around things but never actually saying it almost drove me to drink. I'm sure the hints and subtleties were the point, but I was too busy trying to sort out what was going on to actually enjoy what I was reading. Not. Impressed. (less)
I...I made it. It's over. I made it through without hanging myself in despair or clawing my eyeballs out in self-defense.
I opted to read this because...moreI...I made it. It's over. I made it through without hanging myself in despair or clawing my eyeballs out in self-defense.
I opted to read this because I feel like a well-educated adult so read all books that are part of the cultural lexicon, and so I should read at least one thing by the author who inspired the term "Kafkaesque." So I read it. And, God help me, I finished it, but I will never get that month of my life back.
I didn't get it. I mean, I know it was existential, but I still didn't get it. And I don't want to get it. Apparently this was made into a movie, which I would rather shoot myself in the face repeatedly than see, even if it would provide some semblance of plot structure and reason. I feel like I could have invested more into it if I'd liked the main character, but I disliked Josef so much that I only finished it because I was rooting for something bad to happen to him. Even with that, I still finished it with a feeling of "What? Are you shitting me?After all of that, THIS is how you end it? Is this a joke? Am I being punk'd?"
My personal feeling is that this is a classic because generations of readers could make heads or tails of it, but didn't want to admit it in case everyone ELSE understood it, so they nodded wisely, caused it an important work of literature, and passed the buck to the next reader to explain. (less)
In spite of there be no real plot structure to speak of, and in spite of this being a rambling and utterly predictable pr...moreI was with her until the end.
In spite of there be no real plot structure to speak of, and in spite of this being a rambling and utterly predictable product of its age, I admit to getting hooked, and I read this much more eagerly than I'd really expected to. I know some people find Agnes to be an off-putting main character, but I liked her and her insider/outsider perspective on the happenings around her. I liked her a lot better than Lucy Snowe, THAT is for darn sure.
However, the ending was like running head-first into a brick wall. I was reading an ebook and so had no idea how close I was to the end; if I'd been reading a real book, I would have noticed the ever-increasing thinness of the pages and been very concerned. As it was, however, I was reading merrily along until the culmination! The engagement! The happy ending! The children! And then the last line, the slap in the face, "I have nothing more to say." (Not an exact quote--I don't have the file in front of me) Wait, what? At least the Austen books, or to stay with the Brontes, Jane Eyre, did the reader the courtesy of continuing the book at least a few pages after the happy reunion, to provide some kind of payoff to the chapters and chapters of agony. It's like the authors were so unhappy themselves that they could go on for pages when their characters were miserable, but once they were happy, there was nothing more to say, and so they ended with all the grace of a falling axe. I have to say that I felt cheated, and a lot of the book's good qualities were overshadowed by that guillotine of an ending.(less)
**spoiler alert** I wish that there were two sets of ratings for these: one for the actual quality of the book, and one for how much I liked it. This...more**spoiler alert** I wish that there were two sets of ratings for these: one for the actual quality of the book, and one for how much I liked it. This is one of those times where I recognize the virtues of the book, but I didn't enjoy it. I mean, it was well written, and well plotted (although the "twist" about killing Basil wasn't really a twist, I saw that coming from the beginning, it was the only thing that made sense), and there was a very compelling moral to it that I don't feel was too heavy handed. There was a reasonable amount of showing, not telling.
All of that said, I really, really didn't like it. Even recognizing all of its artistic merit, I really did not enjoy it, because Harry and or course Dorian are so incredibly unsympathetic. It's very difficult to read a book where the main protagonists are anti-heroes. I have to admire Wilde's skill in writing a book that managed to be compelling even while revolving around such utterly unlikeable characters, but that still couldn't make me enjoy it. I think there's a great discussion to be had over who is the worst villain of the piece, Dorian or Harry--obviously Dorian was the active evil in all of this, but he was molded by Harry. Harry was the Mephistopheles to Dorian's Faust, or perhaps the Iago to his Othello. You have the bad actor and the puppetmaster, and I think there'd be a some interesting debate about the relative moral culpability of each character--even Basil, who pushed the first domino over--but all of the intellectual exercises in the world couldn't make this something I would want to do again.(less)
**spoiler alert** I am not sure that I can talk about this book without going on and on about the end, since I just finished it and so the horror that...more**spoiler alert** I am not sure that I can talk about this book without going on and on about the end, since I just finished it and so the horror that almost made me fall off of my treadmill is still with me. But I'm going to give it a try.
Also, when I say spoilers, I'm serious, epic, epic spoilers of major plot points ahead. Not a little. A lot. And the end. The very end. Are you sure? Okay then.
I spent most of the book in a state of horrified suspended animation. I could not believe what I was reading, but it was so beautifully written, I had to keep going--and I had to know how it ended, although I was terrified as to what other messed up nonsense (word I wanted to use instead censored) the author was going to come up with to put Tess through. I will say that I spent most of it halfway hoping that Tess would go all Kill Bill one everyone and cut up Alec, her mother and Clare like a Tarantino movie. It would have been less than they all, collectively, deserved. I found the fact that she did finally snap and kill Alec at the end less satisfying that I would have hoped, because I know that it would mean there would be some kind of (continued) Victorian comeuppance for her. I knew that there would not be a happy ending for her, with or without Clare, although I admit that I didn't expect them to hang her high--I thought it was more likely that she'd have to go to a cloister or something, so she could spend the rest of her days in repentance for everyone else's sin.
What I would be very interested to know, and would welcome the explanation from any Hardy scholars, as to whether Hardy was parroting the views of the day uncritically, or whether he was using this as a sort of satire mixed with a morality play, in order to show how ridiculous the whole thing was. Sometimes I thought he was making an example of Clare and Joan, mocking them through their own insane double standards and blame-shifting. Other times I thought he was speaking through them to chastise Tess and any other victims like her. I felt that if he were truly sympathetic to Tess, he would have found some way for it to end other than with her death. On the other hand, maybe that was the happiest end he could think of her for, to allow her rest and peace the only way left for her. In the mean time, I'm pissed off, depressed, and for sure not reading any more Thomas Hardy. (less)
I both loved and hated this book; thoroughly enjoyed it and found it very difficult to read. The plot was thrilling and there was some great humor in...moreI both loved and hated this book; thoroughly enjoyed it and found it very difficult to read. The plot was thrilling and there was some great humor in the narrative. The different characters were very well-developed and complex; some of the heroes weren't as heroic as you expected them to be, but some of the villains weren't all bad. Of course there were plenty of purely evil characters to hate on as much as you liked, without any more layered emotions intruding. And there were added bonus Easter egg characters that made an appearance, although I guessed who they were before they were identified. I also enjoyed that there were multiple main characters and the story shifted back and forth between them--Ivanhoe, in spite of being the titular character, is not the only main character and his is not the only story. In fact, through much of the book he is unseen, or is a supporting character to the other plots. Even in his big scene in the end he is not alone, and he shares his moment of glory with the others.
Also worth noting are the truly outstanding female characters in the book. Rebecca is wonderful, and although Rowena is not as strong a character, she still has a presence in the story that is remarkable.
All of that said, there were parts I had immense trouble getting through. As uncomfortable as it is to think about now, the social hierarchy, the violent prejudice against the Jews, the torture of enemies, and (my personal favorite) the habitual use of rape of the women belonging to the enemy race to representation subjugation after battle were just facts of existence of the time. To read about them so brutally and unflinchingly is really uncomfortable, because it's not explained away like it would be in a history book. The characters deal with it in such a matter-of-fact way that you realize that it was part of their world, something they were used to, and that kind of makes it nauseating. Some of the descriptions kind of made me sick to my stomach, not because they were incredibly graphic, but because of what they implied--and that it was treated as normal, acceptable, and even right and godly to do. It was horrifying, and that made it hard to read. Reading about facts in history books isn't quite as "real" as seeing characters that you like move around in that setting, and that made it more upsetting to me than any other description of the time period I've read in a nonfiction book. So, worth the read, but you have to be willing to get through some truly ugly parts. (less)
So I went into this thinking that I knew the plot, or at least a most of the elements of the plot. I mean, it's famous, right? It has a musical (which...moreSo I went into this thinking that I knew the plot, or at least a most of the elements of the plot. I mean, it's famous, right? It has a musical (which I have seen). Even Veggietales spoofed it! But then I actually got around to reading it, and discovered that 1) other than the Jekyll/Hyde connection, the other versions have nothing to do with the story, and 2) the real thing is SO MUCH BETTER than any of the adaptations ever thought of being.
I do not know why that surprises me, other than I've never been a huge Stevenson fan, but it does. Word to teachers: giving a 3rd grader the unabridged Kidnapped will cause them to avoid all other books by the author for almost two decades. Restrain yourself for a couple of years to avoid Stevenson burnout. Now I have to go back and read everything that I avoided before, since I have a better shot at appreciating it.
The way the story was told was almost more interesting than the plot itself. Never moving to Jekyll's point of view until the very end makes the whole thing much creepier, because half of the suspense comes from the not knowing for sure what's going on, and trying to figure it out along with the protagonist, who really isn't Jekyll at all. Really, although the whole thing is about him, he's almost a secondary character. I'm going to have to read this at least a couple more times to really appreciate the complexities of the plot and the moral issues that underlie it. Much like Frankenstein, this is written off simply as a horror story, but it's a lot more complicated than that. and calling it otherwise does a real disservice. (less)
First of all, I have to make a true confession: my first brush with this character was as a child, watching Daffy Duck as The Scarlet Pumpernickel. I...moreFirst of all, I have to make a true confession: my first brush with this character was as a child, watching Daffy Duck as The Scarlet Pumpernickel. I really didn't know there was anything more too it besides a funny name until I was in college, watching the movie version with Jane Seymour and Anthony Andrews. That version is pretty accurate until the end, I must add; it follows the book almost all the way until the final couple of chapters, and I think those chapters had to be changed, not only to be rendered more understandable on film, but also for modern audiences who wouldn't understand some of the racial attitudes that were common and accepted at the time, but would be not be palatable to modern audiences now. You have to go into the book knowing that Baroness d'Orczy that very much a product of her time, and that she was also writing about a time that's just not accessible to most modern readers. It's hard to swallow Marguerite's "perils of Pauline"-esque role, but in reality she is an incredibly active female character for the time. At the very end d'Orczy makes kind of an about-face to render Marguerite a more passive character again, to allow Percy to "save the day," but through most of the book we see her as a strong, active character, moving within the accepted social mores of the time to still be in control of her own life.
Reading this volume, the first of the author's many adventures for the characters, is a little like watching a shell game. I knew the "big twists" in advance, having seen the movie, but even with that knowledge it was hard to keep up unless I was paying attention. In other words, I probably shouldn't have read those last 3 chapters while running on a treadmill.
The book ends kind of abruptly, but this is probably because the author continued the story in other works, but it's worth the read. It's a funny story, and it provides a good sense of the "feel" of the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror, even if the historical accuracy is, obviously...problematic. (less)
First, in the interest of full disclosure: I have hated Charles Dickens since the 6th grade, when I was made to read David Copperfield unabridged. The...moreFirst, in the interest of full disclosure: I have hated Charles Dickens since the 6th grade, when I was made to read David Copperfield unabridged. There are very few books and even few authors that I wholesale hate, but Dickens became one of them after that experience. I then refused to read anything else by him, ever, with the exception of A Christmas Carol, which was part of the assigned reading in high school. How I managed to get all this way without ever being assigned Two Cities I have no idea, but now I actually regret that.
This book was on my list of "You'll never be a well-read person until you read this, so suck it up" works. I prepared myself to make my first foray into Dickens in 15 years with wailing and moaning and gnashing of teeth, but I was totally swept away almost from the first chapter, as soon as I got past the overfamiliarity of the famous first lines. I have no idea if this was a fluke, or if I'll find other Dickens I enjoy as much to wash the harsh taste of David Copperfield out of my mouth, but either way, this was one of those classics that actually deserves the hype, and isn't something that has become famous by virtue of being terribly boring and around for a very long time. (less)
I read this because it's referenced so many times in Northanger Abbey, and I wanted to be able to get the references a...moreWell, that was....a lot of book.
I read this because it's referenced so many times in Northanger Abbey, and I wanted to be able to get the references and understand them a little better. I think I would have enjoyed it more with some guidance, because there was a lot of history and culture that I just couldn't understand, or didn't get the full impact of, without more information.
A lot of the problems I had with the book were not really the book's fault, they were conventions of the time that are hard to transport to modern readers. The first volume the heroine spends in true Gothic fashion--namely, toppling over in a dead faint every time someone breathes loudly in her vicinity. As the book progresses she grows a background and develops into a surprisingly strong female character that saves herself a lot more than one would typically expect from a female lead in the period. On the other hand, she puts up with a lot that made me want to scream, "Oh my GOD, just stand UP for yourself"...but of course in that time, an unmarried female really couldn't.
The biggest issue I had was not as much with the characters as with a convention that I know was prominent at the time, but that drives me nuts. There were about a thousand questions and next to no answers through most of the (incredibly long) book, until the last couple of chapters when suddenly the author goes back and goes over the entire book and answers all of the questions all at once. By that point I was so tired of the whole thing that I was skimming page-long paragraphs, just wanting to be done. She might not have even answered all the questions in the end; at that point there had been so many "mysteries" over such a long span of time, supposedly covered by two pages of exposition, that if there were gaping plot holes I honestly couldn't remember anymore. I enjoyed it, but it was...a bit much. If it had been broken down into a trilogy, I think it would have been easier to get through. But at least I can say I read it, if it's ever a question on Jeopardy.(less)
I was assigned a (vastly abridged) version of this when I was in grade school, which kept 90% of the plot but cut out a lot of the description and the...moreI was assigned a (vastly abridged) version of this when I was in grade school, which kept 90% of the plot but cut out a lot of the description and the on and on. This was in 4th or 5th grade, but it has stayed with me ever since. I read the abridged version so many times it literally fell to pieces, and this was my first time reading the unabridged version.
Blackmore wrote in the dialogue of the time, writing "in accent" so to speak, which was difficult to get through at times. For some of his characters, I literally had to read the dialogue out loud to try to sound out what he was writing. Thankfully, this was only one or two of the characters, the rest were much easier to read through. He does kind of go on at points, and the plot has so many twists and turns that you practically need a diagram to keep up with it--but that was very much the style of the time. It's well worth the effort you put in to get through it; obviously, if 15 years after the first time I read it it's still haunting me. (less)
H.G. Wells has given us some of our most famous and frequently-used plot devices...so why are his books themselves so boring? He devotes huge portions...moreH.G. Wells has given us some of our most famous and frequently-used plot devices...so why are his books themselves so boring? He devotes huge portions of the book to explaining in detail the whys and wherefores, which suspends the plot and the action. Much like The Island of Dr. Moreau, Wells seems obsessed with the "mad scientist" idea, and also has a strange fixation on vivisection - The Island of Dr. Moreau revolved entirely around it, and this book references it as well. I don't know if that was his way of showing that someone was a "bad guy," or if he was just fascinated by the idea and so kept working it in.
What I learned from this book: if I'm ever going to turn myself invisible, especially in winter in London, I'm going to invisible some clothes too.(less)
**spoiler alert** I have to say...I am underwhelmed. It is a classic in the sense that it's old and it's still read, and in that it was an idea unique...more**spoiler alert** I have to say...I am underwhelmed. It is a classic in the sense that it's old and it's still read, and in that it was an idea unique in its time and even...kind of unusual now. I have to say I've never read anything quite like it, in both good and bad ways, although it did have kind of a Robert Louis Stevenson feel to it, now that I think about it. But don't ask me to explain or substantiate that claim, because it just popped into my head and I can't defend it.
The problem I had was the cardinal sin of a book for me: I didn't like the narrator. When I don't like a narrator, 9 times out of 10 I can't get over that and like the book, especially when it's told in 1st person limited POV. I can't get out of Prendick's head, and because I don't like him and don't agree with his interpretation of events, I can't get past him to enjoy the story. I'm trapped with someone I don't like, it's like being locked in an elevator with some jerk who won't shut up, so even if what he's telling you is interesting, all you can think is "Oh my God, are you done yet?"
I feel like I could have enjoyed it even Prendick such a...well, dick. (Ha! I see what you did there, H.G. Wells, even if you had no idea you were doing it.) He gets to the island and is locked into a room because Moreau and Montgomery don't feel ready to tell him what's going on, and he can hear a puma being cut open in the next room, while it's still conscious. His reaction is...I can't find the exact quote, but this is pretty close, "There's nothing about vivisection that a modern man of science would find repulsive."
Are you serious? ARE YOU SERIOUS? And from that moment on, I hated him, because he was completely indifferent to having animals sliced open while they were alive and screaming in agony. He repeats that sentiment several times throughout his narrative, that if it were "only" vivisection, it wouldn't be that big of a deal. It bothers him that animals are being sliced into each other to create abominations, in the sense that they creep him out, but not in the sense that they've been tortured by a madman. This guy is a Nazi forerunner, and Prendick just reguards him as a scientist who went a little overboard in his research. R u srs? In fact, Prendick dislikes the only other human on the island, besides him and Moreau, because Montgomery is "too sympathic" to the Beast-men, and tries to befriend them and make them more human. Apparently, according to Prendick, being too friendly with animals can make a person cruel to humans. Huh. I guess he missed the memo that the people who become serial killers are usually the ones who torture animals, not the ones who feel bad for the animals that have been tortured and mutilated. I know, I'm shocked too.
I think it is entirely possible that I am trying to put modern attitudes over the ideas of the time, but either way, it's jarring to me, and we don't likes it, precious! Next, I think I'll read The Invisible Man, to see if it's just this Wells that I don't care for. The man is one of the founders of sci-fi/horror/fantasy, the least I can do is give him a fair shake.(less)