With gorgeous graphics, this is a sci fi novella for adults orOriginal version posted at Layers of Thought with a trio of reviews.
3.5 stars actually!
With gorgeous graphics, this is a sci fi novella for adults or mature and older teens. It is a metaphor for an existential trip that most of us unexpectedly take at one time or another - like the main character.
About: It’s a graphic take on Philip K. Dick’s science fiction novella The Electric Ant, which was first published in Fantasy and Science Fiction magazine in October 1969. It’s based around an android questioning his reason for existing after he discovers that he is not actually a human as he has believed. His shocking discovery leads to questions about who he is, his purpose, who created him, and if his behaviors are his own or programed by someone else. By opening himself up and examining his “pre-programed tapes” takes a trip into the past via some type of a time-warp. As he digs around inside his inner workings, it can be seen as a metaphor for an examination of his “psychological self”. Psycho-babble for sure but never the less a key concept.
Thoughts: Definitely an adult novel as there are some very adult themes and images, sexual scenes and nudity (although the rude bits are glossed over). Three artists contributed to the novel but the main images displayed are by Pascal Aline.
The one thing that bothered me about the book was that the main character’s diggings and his apparent time travel felt unclear to me. I found myself wanting more and think I would like to read the actual version of Dick’s novella to compare. Hopefully Dick’s writing of the android’s existential experiences will be clearer in the original story. With that said, the graphics are completely wonderful, most of the story is darn good, the ending was one that I really liked and is completely appropriate as it reflects the time in which is was written - the late sixties. So on balance it’s a 3.5 stars.
Extra Info: Marvel Comics adapted "The Electric Ant" as a limited series, in 2010. Produced by writer David Mack; French artist Pascal Alixe; and with covers provided by artist Paul Pope. Also for an interesting indie short film based around the story which is about 6 minutes long link below. Cool but I was not crazy about the ending. Its called "All Gates Open" - http://vimeo.com/6793981...more
An epic story, with cute and colorful drawings about thOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought in a graphic novel trio review.
3.5 starts actually!
An epic story, with cute and colorful drawings about the famous Tolkien hobbit, who finds one of the fabled rings which become an important part of the continuing saga of The Lord of the Rings.
About: Bilbo Baggins is happy with his quiet life in his little cottage when the wizard Gandalf and a group of dwarves invite themselves for tea and drag him along on an incredible adventure. Unbeknown to him, he is to play an important role in its success and become the story's reluctant hero.
Thoughts: Recommended for all ages, this is a wonderful introduction to Tolkien for anyone who is daunted by his books. I know I had difficulties accessing them as a youngster (and as an adult too) and thought this would be a perfect substitute. I loved the cute and colorful pictures golemand the text was so pleasant and easy to digest. It would be wonderful for children of almost any age. Including kids of the ancient variety!
The particular version, which I read in the UK, was apparently written for the local population; some of the wording and references may be difficult for a US reader. So be aware of your version and don’t let anyone tell you that books don’t need to be translated from UK English to US English. It was a fun and lovely read at 3.5 stars. I can now say I have finally read – The Hobbit.
The version I reviewed is out of print for the US and its cover art is not the same: 144 pages; Harper Collins (1991). For the UK this version is also out of print but is available used. In Canada there are new copies and it looks like one is available in French....more
Original review with additional information and pictures of the Yorkshire Moors at Layers of Thought.
A classic masterpiece that is an4.5 star rating.
Original review with additional information and pictures of the Yorkshire Moors at Layers of Thought.
A classic masterpiece that is an incredible work of horrific and tragic fiction. It is a shocking “page turner” that I could not put down.
About: A tale of a haunting, either imaginary or not. It’s also a story of love and a loss so obsessive that it creates a monster from a man, mangling him into a cruel character that manipulates those around him for revenge, power, and pleasure. His anger seethes into the lives of family and those who he should love and cherish. Sadly, due to the constraints of the time, those around him cannot escape his internal conflict, external tortures, and schemes.
The story unfolds within and around two houses or manors in the late 1700s/early 1800s, in the English countryside. Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange are the names of the houses where the story takes place, among the rock strewn landscape of the bleak, damp and beautiful Yorkshire Moors.
The story is told from the perspective of a new border (Lockwood) who arrives to rent Thrushcross Grange in an effort to escape city life in London. Hoping for idyllic countryside and folk, he finds things are not at all as he had wished or imagined. He is appalled yet intrigued as to the reasons why there is such lack of normal civility at Wuthering Heights, so he consults the household’s servant, Nelly Dean. Through a series of conversations she tells him the horrible and convoluted tale. As they progress, Nelly’s strong character and moral sensibilities come through as she passes along the tragedy of the young Heathcliff and Catherine, spanning their childhood and beyond.
Thoughts: Some of you may know that John (my husband) is from North Yorkshire, growing up only several miles from where the Bronte’s lived, wrote, and died. So naturally I have visited the area frequently over the years. When visiting one can see the landscape is rocky and harsh with its boggy, peaty waters running through its craggy hills. It is generally damp and cold with summers that can be lovely and warm but only for a moment. This description of the moors is also a metaphor used throughout the novel; it mirrors a conflicted passion between the main characters.
It is accepted that life there was harsh 200 years ago, and still is for farmers working there today. They are known to be surly and cranky, so Heathcliff's temperament was no surprise, yet his extreme cruelty was. He is a character who is sadistic and that overshadows most of the other well fleshed out figures – even the wild, strong-willed, yet spoiled Catherine. I was shocked, thinking the book was categorized as a romance and it that would be light. Boy was I wrong.
You may think that through my description above that I did not particularly like Wuthering Heights. I loved it and think it is an incredible surprise of a horror story. It’s a harshly “romantic” tale and an enduring historical classic. It has a wonderful and deeply conflicted character with a chafing angst. It deserves a 4.5 stars and gets a big “Wow” in my humble opinion.
The version I listened to is included below, as is a paperback I used as reference – the Yorkshire accent is difficult even today, let alone 200 years ago when the book was set and written. Even John as a native Yorkshireman had difficulty translating it for me. The best part of the particular version I listened to is that the narrator has a “proper” Yorkshire accent and sounds just like my sister in law (a native). It gives the reading an authentic feel.
Audio: Naxos AudioBooks; Unabridged; 11-CD Set; read by Janet McTeer and David Timson; 13 hours, 9 minutes; May 15, 2007;
Paperback: Signet Classic; introduction by Alice Hoffman; copy shown above also includes an afterword by Juliet Barker; 352 pages; March 1, 2011; ...more
A classic gothic tale which has “Faustian themes”. The story can be seen as questioning character and its reOriginal copy posted on Layers of Thought.
A classic gothic tale which has “Faustian themes”. The story can be seen as questioning character and its relationship to youth and beauty within the setting of upper class Victorian London.
About: Dorian Gray is a wealthy young Englishman who has an angelic handsomeness. His beauty is such that he is believed to possess exceptional character too. When he becomes a subject for a painting by a local artist everything changes. As the gorgeous Dorian’s painting is finished, the artist realizes it has become the best work of his career – so much so that it contains an essence of himself including a piece of the artist’s soul.
When viewing the final version of himself on canvas, Dorian realizes how extraordinary he is physically – but this has sad consequences too, since Dorian’s vanity becomes warped; particularly when he realizes from one heartless act that the painting reflects his rightfully earned ugly expression:
The quivering, ardent sunlight showed him the lines of cruelty round the mouth as clearly as if he had been looking into a mirror after he had done some dreadful thing. ~ Chapter 7
For Dorian the picture becomes an obsession, an intrigue, a game around how the picture will look as he descends into debauchery and cruelty. He watches the changes with a twisted intrigue and curiosity:
For there would be a real pleasure in watching it. He would be able to follow his mind into its secret places. This portrait would be to him the most magical of mirrors. As it had revealed to him his own body, so it would reveal to him his own soul. ~ Chapter 8
Thoughts: Listened to in audio, the proper English accented reader does a nice job of rendering a classic story so that it is easy to listen to. With various accents and changes in gender as well as its old fashioned writing this is a perfect book for an “audio read”.
Written over 100 years ago this is Oscar Wilde’s only published novel. It was first printed in a magazine and then published in various other versions over the years with parts removed and replaced, since the book was not without controversy. As a know gay author, his homosexuality is reflected lightly in this novel, as well as his subversive opinions around upper class Victorian life-style. Perhaps he was imparting an important message around beauty, character, and more? I am certain he was. One which is also appropriate for today.
In addition to the historical details and interesting cultural information from Dorian’s world travels, I found that there is a syndrome named after the main character. Although not recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), it is called Dorian Gray Syndrome:
A cultural and societal phenomenon characterized by an excessive preoccupation with the individual's own appearance accompanied by difficulties coping with the aging process and with the requirements of maturation. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorian_G... ~ Wikipedia
I liked that little piece of pseudo-medical geeky-ness quite a lot actually, as it says something about human nature along with this horror story and Wilde’s point.
The Picture of Dorian Gray is one of those novels that can be discussed at length, analyzed and rehashed and then some. I am happy to say it was not a forced read as a young adult in college or high school, otherwise it would have ended up in the pile of books I disliked. The language is of course antiquated and perhaps a bit drawn out by today’s standards. However as an adult I enjoyed it in this specific audio reading. It has an amazing premise and a strong message. I give this classic piece of literature a 3 stars. I liked it.
The edition I listened to: Unabridged; Blackstone Audio, Inc. 7 hours, 44 minutes; Feb 13, 2008; Awards: Audio Award Nominee - Audio Publishers Association
A classic feminist translation from French that’s a “romantic” story told by a heartbroken performer named Renee, who must choose between freedom andA classic feminist translation from French that’s a “romantic” story told by a heartbroken performer named Renee, who must choose between freedom and love during Victorian times.
About: Published in 1910 this is a short book that is supposedly a semi-autobiography from the interesting bohemian author – Colette. The story is told in first person by Renee Nere, the main character who has divorced her wealthy, philandering, artist husband after eight years of emotional torture. Damaged, much wiser, yet lonely, she has managed to support herself as a dancer and actor in Paris. Although not considered an acceptable profession for her social standing, it never-the-less gives Renee a sense of independence which is hard earned during a time when a woman’s independence was not common and, indeed, shunned.
When a wealthy gentleman falls in love with Renee and promises her the moon, and the dancer attempts to decide between marriage and independence - that is when the reader gets a glimpse into why this book is considered a feminist classic.
Thoughts: I truly enjoyed this book in audio, with its UK-English accented reader and its esoteric French phrase usage. (I speak 4 words of French and received horrible grades for it in high school, so did not understand most of it). Yet the English part of the book is descriptive and pleasant, if slightly long winded at times. At one point Renee travels the French countryside, and the letters Renee writes her would be lover are sweet indeed.
When doing research about the author, I found Colette to be an intriguing subject. Living a life that was not standard, she broke many social rules including affairs with a tabooed family member and women. Although this book does not have LGBT elements, it’s still feminist in nature and is not your happily-ever-after romance. But I think that is where its value lies, in a “realistic” example of a woman who goes against the social norms of the times and lives her life to the fullest.
I give this wonderful short novel (especially in its audio version) a 4-star rating and recommend it highly for those interested in anything French, Victorian classics, and feminist fiction....more
A classic science fiction and horror mix that includes monsters created by the amoral Dr. Moreau.
About: Set in the late 1800’s, an educated and professional man named Edward Prendick inadvertently becomes stranded on a South Pacific island. This tropical island houses the laboratories of Dr. Moreau - a mad scientist of sorts who is doing some unusual and cruel experiments on animals on the remote island. Although Moreau attempts to hide his studies from the stranded newcomer, Prendick eventually finds out what is becoming of the animals when he hears screaming from the laboratories. Prendick is naturally terrified that he too may become one of the doctor’s subjects.
Thoughts: Originally published in 1896, the novel is an adventure, with some thrilling twists in a spectacular setting. It’s definitely horrific and scientific, although the science is unrealistic based upon today’s standards. It has also been adapted into a variety of movies over the past 100 years. Some look interesting, so I plan to watch a select few since a movie version could be fun and I think would translate well.
There is some interesting commentary hidden in the story, bringing up questions around human and animal social structure, issues of vivisection, definitions of pain, and some unusual monsters; which in some ways reminded me of Frankenstein. So it could be an excellent book for discussion - take a look at its Wikipedia page where there is loads of fodder for thought: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Isla...
Highly recommended for anyone interested in stories with darker themes. Only 200 pages or so, or just several hours of listening time, I finished it quickly. It was a great read since I love science fiction, horror, and classics and this is all three. I give it a 4 star rating....more
As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect. – Franz Kafka, The
As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect. – Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis
A novella published in 1915, it is set in Europe in the early 1900’s. The main character, Gregor Samsa wakes one morning to find that he has transformed into a bug. Being the sole support of his aging parents and teenage sister he becomes increasingly worried about their future. They are appalled at his appearance and leave him in his bedroom alone while hoping he disappears.
Thoughts: John (husband) and I listened to this audio book while driving. It was unabridged.
We both agreed that, while the narration was done with an English accent and was pleasant it was surprisingly upbeat in tone, it felt like a slightly bizarre period piece, telling of woes in that particular time. Where instead of the main character having a terminal disease he turned into a beetle.
This horrific event espouses the horrors of loss, abandonment, loosing one’s ability to communicate, and station in life, as well as our ability to truly recognize who we are or what we have become.
I felt that although the writing/reading was intriguing, I wanted more. Perhaps it is being so accustomed to drama and hype within modern day reading The Metamorphosis went comparatively limp. We agreed and gave this book 3 Stars. We liked it but it was not what we expected.
An Austrian/Czech author born – July 3, 1883 died – June 3, 1924. He is purported to be one of the most influential writers of the 20th century. Sadly, he was not well known until after his death....more
I tried this in audio with two formats, and read a bit. In the first the reader did not have a pleasant voice - stuffy and with a nasal sounAbandoned!
I tried this in audio with two formats, and read a bit. In the first the reader did not have a pleasant voice - stuffy and with a nasal sound. Very annoying. The second reader's narration was much more pleasant but after listening for a few hours I know now that I will become very annoyed and frustrated with the conversations and what appears to be petty manipulations and suppositions by the characters.
I am not a big romance fan, had enough Victoriana as a kid and am fairly certain that reading it will also produce the same feeling, since I did read several chapters as well. Perhaps I will try again in a few years? Probably not.
I do think Nancy Pearl has a great philosophy - the older you get the less time you should spend on books you don't enjoy. She even has a mathematical formula for it. Here is her quote -
"If you're 50 years old or younger, give every book about 50 pages before you decide to commit yourself to reading it, or give it up.
If you're over 50, which is when time gets shorter, subtract your age from 100 - the result is the number of pages you should read before deciding whether or not to quit. If you're 100 or over you get to judge the book by its cover, despite the dangers in doing so." — Nancy Pearl
I have read more than 50 pages of this book, parts twice. I quit!...more
2nd Witch: By the pricking of my thumbs, Something wicked this way comes. [Knocking:] Open locks, Whoever knocks! [Enter Macbeth:] Macbeth: How now, yo
2nd Witch: By the pricking of my thumbs, Something wicked this way comes. [Knocking:] Open locks, Whoever knocks! [Enter Macbeth:] Macbeth: How now, you secret, black, and midnight hags! What is't you do? (Macbeth Act 4, scene 1, 44–49)
Summary: This classic fantasy/horror tale was originally published in 1963. It revolves around Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade whom are the best of friends and live next door to one another. They are inseparable with Will being the down to earth easy going boy and Jim as the wilder and “darker” of the two. The setting is a small town in middle America and its October. A scary storm front moves into town along with a mysterious and creepy traveling circus/carnival. As things get a bit wild and go awry the two boys become inextricably involved in the traveling carnival's evil doings. As the story progresses the nature of good and evil and how evil itself may be combated are addressed. My Thoughts: I listened to this story in audio format, which was pleasant. I liked its lyrical, slightly poetic style which is characteristic of Bradbury’s signature style. Read by Stanley Kubrik with his deep and resonant voice, where he changes his tone with each character and their moods. It is close to perfect for this story. Recommended for Halloween/Fall reading for young adults, mature older children, and adults to read to children. Most significant it has the perfect solution for being scared - laughter/humor. There is little or no violence, mild language, yet it is very suspenseful. I give this audio version of the book 3.5 stars. (I liked it a lot.) Links to GLBT: This particular book was read for a GLBT challenge and taken from a site which lists it as having these elements. The relationship is however not clear unless one is aware of such nuances – such as the community itself. Once aware it does become subtly apparent as the relationship between Will and Jim is revealed. The boys are obviously very close, and are fairly affectionate which could allude to the possibility of a budding romantic relationship. ...more
This review has been originally published on Layers of Thought. If you link to the post you can see some recent pictures we have taken of Whitby and iThis review has been originally published on Layers of Thought. If you link to the post you can see some recent pictures we have taken of Whitby and included in the post to help you visualize a few of the settings within the book, as well as a few links related to the area.
"I am Dracula, and I bid you welcome . . . "
An enduring classic with an extremely charming, truly evil, yet almost human monster. I suggest leaving the lights on.
Synopsis: With a Victorian setting in the late 19th century, a newly practicing attorney/solicitor from England is commissioned to visit a new client for his firm. He is to meet with this wealthy gentleman and stay at his castle in the mountains of Transylvania, while giving him advice on property acquisitions within the UK. The journey starts out decently for Jonathan Harker, but “red flags” pop up as he is warned by the locals and experiences eerie events during his journey to the Count’s country estate.
When he reaches his destination things are not as he was lead to believe. He finds that the Count himself is misleading and extremely intelligent, with a business savvy to match. Most disturbing is when Harker realizes the castle has no servants, parts are in complete ruin, he sees the count doing not very human things, and it appears that he is in fact a prisoner with in the castle. When he finally returns home, the young lawyer is beside himself, and worse yet it appears that he may have been followed. This scary story has only just begun.
Thoughts: This is a wonderful tale which deserves to be read by anyone interested in classics, horror, and evil vampires. That it was written over 100 years ago and the emotions it incurs are still heart quickening, attest to the universal nature of this horror story and make it an enduring classic.
Set partially in Whitby, an amazing town on the East coast of England with iconic structures which still exist today, the story includes a variety of interesting and well developed characters, with our main character the Count, who is the evil embodiment of a sociopathic killer.
It is all told in letter format - epistolary or diary entries with each character well developed and interesting. Listening to the book in audio format, the telling is done via various voices and is close to perfect - old English accents, changing for each of the characters. I enjoyed it immensely.
As for rating this classic I would say 4.5 stars. I recommend this version if you decide audio is the way to go for you....more
Synopsis: (may contain spoilers for some) This story is a well know horror classic and is an epistolary novel. It is written as a series of letter from
Synopsis: (may contain spoilers for some) This story is a well know horror classic and is an epistolary novel. It is written as a series of letter from an educated English explorer to his sister as he embarks on a journey through the inhospitable icy Northern regions of the world. As he is traveling with his ship and crew, he finds a man half frozen to death traveling on the ice. The captain brings the frozen Doctor Frankenstein onto his ship and nurses him back to consciousness. It is here that Victor Frankenstein's tale unfolds as he tells his tale to the captain where it is relayed to the reader through the captain’s letters. *A bit beyond the basics Victor begins by telling his story from his childhood on. He states he is from a wealthy family whom is loving and close. He is educated and is expected to marry his cousin of sorts and is happy to oblige. Being intellectually inclined he studies all the great philosophers of the age, eventually becoming obsessed with creating life from death. When he eventually does this, the man/monster he creates is appalling to him and is relieved when the monster finally disappears. The monster, spurned wanders in the wilderness contemplating life where he eventually stumbles upon a family that he grows to adore and wishes for his own. They do not know he exists, as he watches them from afar. In this way the monster learns the ways of the world. When he finally tries to befriend them they are of course horrified and violently reject him. The monster is heartbroken and horrendously distraught. He blames Victor, his creator, and vows to destroy his life completely. The quote below exemplifies his complete distress:
Cursed, cursed creator! Why did I live? Why, in that ... instant, did I not extinguish the spark of existence which you had so wantonly bestowed? I know not; despair had not yet taken possession of me; my feelings were those of rage and revenge. I could with pleasure have destroyed the cottage and its inhabitants and have glutted myself with their shrieks and misery.
My Thoughts: I listened to this novel, unabridged, on audio. It was very pleasant because on this version the reader has an English accent which was wonderful and appropriate for the story. I am not sure if I would have been able to actually read it in written form, since old English can be very difficult. So I recommend audio for experiencing this wonderful classic. The story is emotional and it pushes the reader’s feelings toward those of complete and utter despair, both from the Doctor’s perspective and that of the monster’s. The monster himself is not terrifying. He is a lost soul in part a product of his environment. I think that the story is more heartbreaking than it is scary. Its link to GLBT: One of the reasons I listened to this audio book was because it was designated GLBT in nature. Thinking about it from this perspective I think it is due to the intimate relationships between the main characters, being mostly males, which are very convoluted and intense inferring an intimacy of sorts. I can also see that since GLBT individuals may un-rightly be considered an abomination by some, this may also be a source of connection for the community. The horrible feelings of being an outcast, being shunned by society, family, or father all link to the experiences of the monster. ...more
About the book: Set near London around the mid-1800’s, an artist is traveling to his latest work assignment. On his way he sees a di3.5 stars actually
About the book: Set near London around the mid-1800’s, an artist is traveling to his latest work assignment. On his way he sees a disturbing woman in white on the highway. He attempts to help her but is mystified when she disappears. Her connection with his life becomes apparent over time after he arrives at his destination. There he falls in love with one of the nieces of the household owner. She however is to be married shortly to a man who appear less than genial, creating conflict and angst. Things become convoluted as the plot is conveyed by different individuals that are involved in the happenings in this tale of deceit, murder, and apparent madness.
My Thoughts: I did not realize that this edition was abridged until after finishing it, and perhaps would not have chosen this version if I had realized. I really enjoy listening to classics when exercising since they are often difficult for me to focus on when actually reading.
The audio version was lovely nonetheless. The narration was excellent - done by various speakers that had the gender, age, and class accents appropriate to the teller of each section; and they were of course done with wonderful English accents.
I was out of breath and shocked at some of the scenes, thought about the book between listens, and I did not guess what was going to happen next which is always a good sign. I also did not feel that the book was edited. I give this audio book 3.5 stars. I recommend it as a great way to get into classics which may otherwise be difficult to read.
This audio book was rented from the local digital library and listened to on an iPod. ...more
A wonderful reading of this dramatic classic romance. Set during VictOriginal review with pictures of the Yorkshire Dales posted at Layers of Thought.
A wonderful reading of this dramatic classic romance. Set during Victorian times, upon the bleak and lovely moors of North Yorkshire, England. It has a strong, intelligent, and likeable heroine who has unusual moral character and perseverance, making the story even more compelling.
About: A plain young girl, Jane Eyre is a left a penniless orphan in the care of her wealthy aunt, who has promised Jane’s dying uncle that she will care for the child. Sadly this non-blood relative despises Jane, and at the age of ten Jane is shipped off to a boarding school where conditions are difficult in a different way. Yet Jane perseveres, receives an education and begins teaching at the school she once attended.
Her life and the real story begin when Jane places an ad in a newspaper and soon is accepted as a governess for the French ward of a local wealthy landowner Mr. Rochester. Mr. Rochester is a rouge of a man and is twenty years her senior. That he is charming, wealthy, direct, and not very handsome does not stop Jane from falling in love with him. Yet this is only the beginning of this convoluted story, as Mr. Rochester has more entanglements than he wishes to reveal.
Thoughts: I absolutely loved every moment of this wonderful classic in audio, with its unexpected drama that kept me guessing. That the reader has a lovely voice with its North Yorkshire accent made the story even more likeable and realistic(she sounded similar to my in-laws who live in the area - my husband being a Yorkshireman) .
The book is also an enduring and relevant classic. Although the language is old fashioned there are the author’s timeless insights into human nature that give us a glimpse into our modern lives too. And even though social structures have changed (like women being able to own property today), our entanglements and dramas can be surprisingly similar.
It has wonderful descriptions of the green dales that are part of the landscape even today in North Yorkshire. With its weather swept beautiful moors and their natural bleakness, Charlotte Bronte describes them skillfully. So if you would enjoy a vicarious trip to the English countryside, albeit 150 years ago, then this is a perfect choice for a read or listen.
I do not give many five stars, but this book is one that is very deserving. It captured me with every word and drew me in until the very last sentence. I recommend it particularly in the audio version read by Susan Ericksen which was just lovely!
Audio Edition: unabridged version read by Susan Ericksen; Brilliance Audio; 17 hours, 21 minutes; May 25, 2005.
There is a reason why some novels win multiple awards; this historical fantasy is one example of a book thOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
There is a reason why some novels win multiple awards; this historical fantasy is one example of a book that deserves all the accolades it has received. An incredible tome which is a grand meandering adventure into the historical, magical, and darkly hilarious. It is a perfect read for fall.
About: Set in the early 1800’s during the end of the Napoleonic wars in an England where magic and fairies exist; the story begins with Mr. Norrell as the self proclaimed “magician” of the age. He has delegated himself the task of re-establishing an order to English magic so that it can become as highly valued and respected as it once was. So in a twisted effort he eradicates every other magician/practitioner in the land.
Enter Jonathan Strange, a younger and more socially adept individual, who becomes Norrell’s student, learning what the older magician deems important to his acolyte. Sadly Norrell also hordes and hides all the most important information. Still his student develops, as Jonathan Strange is everything Norrell is not - possessing a natural ability for creating spells and magic.
This natural conflict is mixed together with an “evil fairy” and well developed characters. Woven into the mix are interesting historical facts, fantastic fairy history and a make-believe history of English magic. The result is a multi-layered, complex, dryly funny and wonderfully meandering story.
Thoughts: As mentioned there are many well developed and intriguing characters in this huge book (900 or so pages or 32 hours of listening time). It has human sized fairies (not the fluffy kind) and a mix of curious and down to earth servants -including appropriate roles for men and women during this historical period. It has a writing style which has an old fashioned English feel; quite proper and appropriate for a pre-Victorian historical era.
This book was so much fun and I learned some actual history (which I am completely inept at), as a lot of the detail is actually grounded in fact. But the best part is the intriguing amount of imaginary fairy and magic history included, which is entertaining and wonderful. A perfect historical book for those who don’t like history.
Listened to in audio, the male narrator did an excellent job of moderating his voice for each of the characters, classes, and genders. I was even surprised that the footnotes worked well in the audio version - as there are many. Here are two short and fun examples of magical spells which the author included in one of the many footnotes, which I could imagine using at one time or another:
Chauntlucet: a mysterious and ancient spell which encourages the moon to sing. The song the moon knows is apparently very beautiful and can cure leprosy or sadness in anyone who hears it.
Stokesey’s Vitrification turns objects – and people – to glass.
I loved this wonderful book and give it 5 stars. Highly recommended if you enjoy historical fiction and/or fantasy; also for non fantasy readers who may be interested in reading something with magical elements. This was a fabulous and complex tale!...more
A multilayered award winning tale of interwoven romances. Set in two different centuries and connected ingOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
A multilayered award winning tale of interwoven romances. Set in two different centuries and connected ingeniously through letters and journals. It has elements which include faeries, myth, poetry, science, feminism, lgbt, and Victoriana.
Setting: Primarily set in the late 1980s in London we have a variety of academics whose interests lie in a celebrated poet’s life and work - Randolph Henry Ash. He is a source of intense exploration and historical interest for these scholars, as they research his body of work in their highly competitive environment. From their findings on his life during the mid to late 1800’s it appears Ash led a very quiet and uneventful life. But as one researcher finds out via misplaced letters, they are very wrong.
Thus begins the recovery of the missing pieces that will fill in the blanks for this group of academics, who become ever more obsessed as they struggle to be the first to piece together the juicy details that are alluded to in the new findings. As two of the scholars try and answer their questions they find themselves traipsing to various areas in England and France to find the answers.
Sound simple? Not a chance - there is so much more. This convoluted story will take you back to a very different time, but there is also a wealth of incredible subplots and threads.
Thoughts: I started and abandoned Possession several times. Giving up on try number two, I thought the writing to be inaccessible, overly intellectual and boringly academic. Now I am thinking one develops “reading muscles”, and considering my years of hiatus from reading fiction I was out of shape. Having read bits about the book’s elements since, I realized the book fits inside a favorite circle of my interests. I gave it another try in audio.
This unabridged audio version was read by Virginia Leishman, and she moderates her voice for each of the character’s while changing accents - ranging from English to Scottish to American and with a believable voice for changes in gender. Excellently done, my only “complaint” is that the narrator’s voice is so pleasant she lulled me to sleep on various occasions. So listening while tired or sleepy is not recommended.
The novel has some interesting elements and literary techniques interwoven inside it. These include threads about fairies, what appears to be paranormal events, and scientific research – including the collection of insect, plant and sea life (all popular with the gentry during Victorian times). The author also expertly uses several literary devices; for example, the usage of poetry as a preclusion to the chapters called epigraphs. Through this method the author has written and included some complex poetry. Lastly the story is told via letters and journal entries making it epistolary.
Not a fluffy romance, it is a complex, realistic yet sad romance – where real life choices and their consequences are exemplified and I liked that it does not end with everyone living happily ever after. In summary, Possession is out of the ordinary, intellectual and academic – making it a book that not everyone will enjoy. It is also descriptive, metaphorical, dense and an amazing work of fiction. It deserves a rare 5 stars in my opinion. ...more
Mini Synopsis: This is a classic dystopian science fiction novel written by a “Grand Master” of the genre. It tells of a future world where books areMini Synopsis: This is a classic dystopian science fiction novel written by a “Grand Master” of the genre. It tells of a future world where books are illegal. They are burned by firemen whose sole purpose in life is to rid society of their supposed evils. Where the members of this society are indoctrinated with an audio/video infused system that produces a collective numbness. The main character Montag is one of these firemen, whom after some internal conflict comes to a transitional point in his life where he questions the loss of books and their importance to humanity. My thoughts: I listened to this book on an audio version on my iPod which was read by the author. It was my first book downloaded this way and I had some problems listening to it in order. In addition, when I first read Fahrenheit 451 when I was in high school the only thing I remember is my own teenage boredom. So naturally my thoughts are still a bit “choppy” around the book. However, I do know that revisiting it again in middle age, I can now relate to its significance as to why it was required reading for high school in the late 70’s. I believe it was to show us, as young adults, a significant precept in the US constitution - the right of our freedom of speech – specifically the press. So it was an indirect lesson in civics. The story reminds me that it is important to remember, and I truly believe, that information - specifically in this example books, should not be censored. Instead, labeled as we do with the movie industry’s rating system so that the individual has a choice, but never banned. It is a slippery slope if even one of our basic rights be dismissed or controlled as exemplified in this society. If I had not been so possessed with teenage apathy in my first so called reading of this book then perhaps I would have gotten half of the author's point. Here I finish with a quote which is significant on the issue of one of the gifts books bring us:
… books are to remind us what asses and fools we are. They're Caesar's praetorian guard, whispering as the parade roars down the avenue, 'Remember, Caesar, thou art mortal.' Most of us can't rush around, talk to everyone, know all the cities of the world, we haven't time, money or that many friends. The things you're looking for, Montag, are in the world, but the only way the average chap will ever see ninety-nine per cent of them is in a book. Don't ask for guarantees. And don't look to be saved in any one thing, person, machine, or library. Do your own bit of saving, and if you drown, at least die knowing you were headed for shore.
My rating for the book is 3 out of 5 stars. Translation - I Iiked it and recommend it for anyone interested in classic Science Fiction. ...more