The Seasonal Reading Challenge discussion

GROUP READS > The Historian Discussion

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message 1: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia (pandoraphoebesmom) | 1333 comments If you choose to read The Historian for the Group Reads task (or another task for that matter) please feel free to discuss it here.

message 2: by Bonnie (last edited Feb 28, 2010 06:32PM) (new)

Bonnie | 110 comments I read The Historian for the Fall Challenge and it was not an enjoyable experience. It started out very promising (mysterious, spooky, bloody) and then completely unravelled until I got to the end and I wondered what the point was. I read the original Dracula at the same time and it was truly far superior. Kostova managed to turn one of the great villains (Dracula) into perhaps one of the lamest villains ever with probably the dumbest Evil Plan in the world.

On a positive note, according to some of the reviews on GR, people who listened to the audio book version tended to enjoy the book more. Probably because they could tune out the pointless parts.

message 3: by Jayme (new)

Jayme (jaymetheghostreader) | 2832 comments maybe I should do this one on audiobook because the book is looonng especially if it isn't that enjoyable.

message 4: by Kim D (new)

Kim D (kdimattia) | 195 comments I actually enjoyed reading it! At times it was a bit dull, but I liked most of the history part of it. Although I like history in general so I can see how it would be boring for some.

message 5: by Jayme (new)

Jayme (jaymetheghostreader) | 2832 comments I like history but I am not that thrilled about reading a 700+ page book.

message 6: by Donna Jo (new)

Donna Jo Atwood | 2227 comments I wasn't wild about this book when I read it the first time, so I think I'll pass this time around.

message 7: by Bonnie (new)

Bonnie | 110 comments I love history. And I did feel more informed about an area/time I'm not overly familiar with after reading the book. I think maybe Kostova should start writing NF books, because I think she'd be good at that. For me, the problem was less that it could be dull in parts than that her villain was made of fail.

message 8: by Beth F (new)

Beth F | 676 comments I just finished this one... I thought the first half was great. The second half became tedious and the ending was PUH-thetic.

Bonnie is so right, the villain was utterly made of fail!

I'm curious to see if anybody else chooses to tackle this behemoth for the group read. The other two choices seem to be a lot more popular.

message 9: by scherzo♫ (new)

scherzo♫ (pjreads) I've read both the others, so I got this one from the library. The little interest I had is disappearing fast.

message 10: by El (new)

El I think this one is just as popular, but I'm not exactly sure why. I'm in the second half somewhere and I just keep wondering why it's necessary for Kostova to have used all of these words! I'm for big books just as much as the next guy or gal, but it certainly feels unnecessarily wordy which unfortunately here seems to detract from the story. But like pjreads, I had read the other two and felt it was time to read this one anyhow, so onward I go. At least by the end of it I will feel accomplished.

Unlike other incidences where I'm disappointed in a popular book, I actually think I might consider reading something else by Kostova - maybe even her new book. I would think I would be turned off by this one to even pick up another by her, but strangely that's not the case here. Weird.

message 11: by Fiona (Titch) (new)

Fiona (Titch) Hunt (titch) I have just finished listening to this. Even tho it was long, I enjoyed the start of it. BUT it was another book like Labyrinth (in the case of confusing of who was who and what was what).

I only gave it a 4* as it was an interesting read at the start.

message 12: by Morgan (last edited Mar 05, 2010 02:05PM) (new)

Morgan I got this book before it was on the spring reading challenge, however, I never picked it up because of its size. When it was listed in the months reading challenge I went straight to it.

I couldn’t put it down it was great…the story, the detail, everything…and then it ended. I honestly said wtf out loud in front of my son! What happened to this book? It was great and kept you hanging on and then it ended. I know I keep saying that but without ruining the end I can’t really put it any other way. The writing is worth the time and when Kostova comes out with another book I will give them a try in the hopes that the climax is better.


message 13: by El (new)

El Morgan, Kostova actually has a new book out now: The Swan Thieves. I have to muddle through The Historian before I'll pick the new one up, but I might get around to it eventually. The Historian just still isn't gripping me the way I wish it would.

message 14: by Josalyn (new)

Josalyn | 80 comments I didn't realize it was so long. I listened to it on my commute and it took me a couple weeks I guess. I didn't find it boring that way either. I rather liked it. I'd recommend that if you're feeling trepidation.

message 15: by Ashley FL (new)

Ashley FL | 721 comments I've heard from people who listened to it that they liked it a lot. Maybe it seems longer when you read it?

It's just so WORDY. Like it needs a good editor or something. I like the story but it is a chore for me to sit down and read it. I'm having much the same reaction to it that I had to "Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell".

I'm more than halfway through now, so I'll finish. and probably even say I liked it, on balance. But it isn't "fun" to read.

message 16: by Kate (new)

Kate Cooley I really enjoyed this book, I loved the descriptions of the places so much i've planned two holidays next year to go and see them for myself!!!

It was a bit too long for me though.


message 17: by scherzo♫ (new)

scherzo♫ (pjreads) GOOD: Evocative, lovely descriptions of Euopean cities and locales

Useful As Bad Example: Characters, Plot, Dialogue, Use of Coincidence, Motivation, Climax, etc.

New World Record: Number of times reader's intelligence is insulted

message 18: by Donna Jo (new)

Donna Jo Atwood | 2227 comments But pj, how do you really feel about the book?

message 19: by scherzo♫ (last edited Mar 12, 2010 06:03AM) (new)

scherzo♫ (pjreads) I was going to try to be tactful (for once) but my good intentions were blown away by the combination of the last chapter plus epilogue.

message 20: by Ashley FL (new)

Ashley FL | 721 comments **spoiler alert**

Well, I've finished. It was a painful slog, I have to admit. Parts were beautifully written and the story had such promise. But in the end, I just couldn't bring myself to care much.

And the narrator was such a waste: after setting her up to be able to go and have a normal life, she apparently is secreted away in some lonely, academic existence. Only to find out at the end that, in fact, Dracula is still "alive" and she must defeat him AGAIN!?!? And just how is she supposed to do that, given that he was "killed" appropriately the first time?

So in the end, unless I am missing something, the whole book was for naught.

message 21: by scherzo♫ (new)

scherzo♫ (pjreads) I agree Ashley. I stuck it out to the end for two reasons:

- to find out if one of the super-intelligent, super-curious, professional researchers was ever going to ask the obvious question, "Who's giving us these books?"

- to see which of the two possible endings she would choose

That epilogue is the height of unmitigated gall.

message 22: by Ashley FL (new)

Ashley FL | 721 comments I thought about who -- and finally decided that there were many like the librarian who followed them around: minions seeking their master. And somehow they were getting instructions to deliver the books?

message 23: by El (new)

El I just finished this tonight and felt like doing a victory lap around the block. Alas, I have a sinus infection so running anywhere is highly unlikely. Inside my head, though, this is me.

I wrote a full review of this one which anyone is free to check out, but I'll sum up here: I gave it 2/5 stars. I think for a debut novel it was pretty phenomenal, just in the amount of brain-power Kostova clearly has. I haven't read a first novel that packed this much punch in a long time, though I remember being especially impressed by Zadie Smith's White Teeth too. But Smith wrote a cohesive story.

This is a travelogue, history book, and novel all in one, as if Kostova couldn't decide what she wanted to write, and just in case she never wrote another book she wanted to do it all. Noble concept; unfortunately it doesn't translate well in a full novel. Biggest complaint: Overwritten. Highly overwritten. Beautiful descriptions, but so overwritten it diminished a lot of her imagery.

According to GR, 2-stars means "It's okay". That's exactly how I felt about it. What she did was impressive. How she did it left me feeling cold.

message 24: by Eilymay (new)

Eilymay (eilisislocajustlikecocoa) I didn't have much choice as far as the group reads were as I had read the other two books and wasn't too keen on rereading them.

So I duly set off to purchase a copy of this book with some trepidation as I normally don't buy books that haven't been personally recommended to me.

As far as the plot goes I wish I hadn't bought it as I felt it was quite boring and unoriginal with such frustrating characters. The only likeable characters in the whole book were the minor ones, Professor Rossi, Professor Bora and Barley. I quite liked Helen until the very end - a perfectly good character ruined by the whole "I left you for your own good thing".

Having already read Bram Stokers Dracula this book didn't really capture my attention for its vampire lore and I have to agree that Kostova's Dracula is pathetic in comparison to Stoker's. Like what kind of an evil plan was that?????

However, I really enjoyed this book for its history. Medieval Balkan history was not something I was very familiar with and I found Kostova's research excellent.

Finally the tragic epilogue. What can I say? It honestly ruined the ending of the book. I would have been happy if it had ended at the final chapter, but no, it had to have that horrendous final pages. I honestly sat there, stunned, when I finished reading it. I suppose she wanted to leave us in suspense, with a cliff hanger to end. I'm afraid the result was much more along the lines of "What the hell was that about".

message 25: by Jayme (new)

Jayme (jaymetheghostreader) | 2832 comments I am listening to this book on audio book and it isn't too bad. I am on disc 2, chapter 4. I think it helps that the audio book is read well.

message 26: by Jayme (new)

Jayme (jaymetheghostreader) | 2832 comments I have been listening to "The Historian" all day. I am on chapter 17. I am really liking it. It is different than what I expected.

message 27: by Wallace (new)

Wallace Ashley wrote: "I've heard from people who listened to it that they liked it a lot. Maybe it seems longer when you read it?

It's just so WORDY. Like it needs a good editor or something. I like the story but it..."

I'm listening to the audio book. While the readers are good, the story is tedious still. I imagine I do get to zone out more than I would if I were reading it, but I am not liking this book. I am determined to finish because I have been reading it for so long. Unfortunately I still have a ways to go -- I do not like this book.

message 28: by Jayme (last edited Mar 21, 2010 12:31PM) (new)

Jayme (jaymetheghostreader) | 2832 comments I think it is pretty good. The readers have soothing voices. I am on chapter 23 or around there.

message 29: by Jayme (new)

Jayme (jaymetheghostreader) | 2832 comments The book is actually funny in parts. I chuckled.

message 30: by Jayme (new)

Jayme (jaymetheghostreader) | 2832 comments This book is soooo long. I am on disc 15/22.

message 31: by Agnes (new)

Agnes I'm liking it so far, but the bad reviews make me wonder if I should bother with it. But I like the history and the travel, so on I go. Glad I got it from the library, so if I'm disappointed, at least I didn't spend money on it.

message 32: by El (new)

El Agnes, I didn't think that much of the book, but I say if you're enjoying it, you should go with that and keep reading.

message 33: by Agnes (new)

Agnes El wrote: "Agnes, I didn't think that much of the book, but I say if you're enjoying it, you should go with that and keep reading."

Well, I'm now on page 167, and it's not getting much better. If I didn't need it for the challenge, I'd probably give up on it.

message 34: by Jayme (new)

Jayme (jaymetheghostreader) | 2832 comments I am on page 544. I also need it for the challenge and after i am done reading it. I am never reading it again.

message 35: by Jayme (new)

Jayme (jaymetheghostreader) | 2832 comments I am almost done with this audiobook. I am on disc 20. I would not read this again. The pace for me continued to be slow even though the history was interesting.

message 36: by Donna Jo (new)

Donna Jo Atwood | 2227 comments I read this book back when it first came out and was very disappointed, especially after the hype it had gotten.
I'm not sure what I'm going to read for this task, as I've read all three before and am not wanting to reread any of them at this point.

message 37: by Jayme (new)

Jayme (jaymetheghostreader) | 2832 comments even the alternates?

message 38: by Jayme (new)

Jayme (jaymetheghostreader) | 2832 comments I am finally done with this book. Have fun reading y'all

message 39: by Louvaine (new)

Louvaine | 98 comments I checked out the audiobook from the library. But I quickly decided this book is too dark for me. I've already read The Handmaid's Tale so that was out, and the other group read choice didn't appeal. So I guess I'll sit out this group read. After reading the reviews of this book by y'all, I'm sure I made the right choice not to waste my time with it.

message 40: by Jayme (new)

Jayme (jaymetheghostreader) | 2832 comments The audiobook is long too Louvaine

message 41: by Agnes (new)

Agnes Finished! I have rarely been so glad to see the end of a book. The story itself could have been good, had it been about half as long. By the time I got to the end, I was just reading it to finish the challenge. I'm not sure I'll do that again. When I finished graduate school, I swore to myself I'd never read another book I didn't want to read. Well, I wanted to start this one, but I sure didn't care about finishing it.

message 42: by Jayme (new)

Jayme (jaymetheghostreader) | 2832 comments Agreed Agnes.

message 43: by Rachel (new)

Rachel (randhrshipper1) | 66 comments I chose this one for my group read because I was already re-reading shortly before beginning the tasks.

The second time around, the book's successes and flaws stand out much more. The history Kostova obviously knows so well is ALWAYS interesting (it is titled The Historian after all) but the story (yes, particularly the ending) could use some improving. So, overall, I'm glad I re-read it and glad I am done with it!

message 44: by Sheila (new)

Sheila (sheilaj) | 2240 comments I read this book in the Large Print edition from the library. At almost 1200 pages it was the longest book that I have EVER read that seemed like I would NEVER finish it. I would read Gone with the Wind or War and Peace gladly over this one. I give it 2 stars. I just don't get what so many others liked about it. zzzz

message 45: by Nancy (new)

Nancy | 138 comments Wow - I guess I'm in the minority. I didn't love the book, but I definitely liked it, wanted to finish it, and was glad I read it. I was not a quick read, so I suppose frustrating to those who are frantic to complete the challenge. (I don't set my sights so high.) The telling line from my review: The history and travelogs are superb, the early mystery and suspense pleasantly creepy, the construction of the novel is awkward (told mostly thru "letters") and the words are just too many. I give it 3 stars.

message 46: by Eilymay (new)

Eilymay (eilisislocajustlikecocoa) Nancy wrote: "Wow - I guess I'm in the minority. I didn't love the book, but I definitely liked it, wanted to finish it, and was glad I read it. I was not a quick read, so I suppose frustrating to those who are ..."

I want to tell you that you are not alone - I liked this book and for the most part enjoyed reading it. Not one of my all time favourites though!

message 47: by scherzo♫ (new)

scherzo♫ (pjreads) I don't mind most big books, but I hated this one.

message 48: by Leyna (new)

Leyna Ramirez (leyna_ramirez) I read this book when it was first published. I agree with just nearly everyone else that has posted a thread on the book... it left me feeling flat about the villain.

message 49: by Coralie (new)

Coralie | 2270 comments I finally finished. I found it too long. I'm not sure what the author was aiming at. I didn't find it at all creepy, although I don't read horror so I'm no expert. It lacked too much credibility to be taken as a serious novel, but it took itself too seriously for a fun look at vampires.

message 50: by Nicole (new)

Nicole  | 116 comments I also did this one on audio, and though it started out well, by about disc 17, I didn't really care what happened, I just wanted it to end. What killed it for me on the audio part is the reading of every single historical document they found. If they could have just found the documents and given a quick summary of what it added to their knowledge that would have made things much better.

I'm actually using this book for the author's first/second novel and I'm really hoping she learns to be a bit more concise in The Swan Thieves because I don't think she's a bad story teller.

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