Friday, September 30, 2011

Thoughts: The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells

I’m in a bit of a hurry today. So, off the top of my head, here are my thoughts while reading The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells:
  • Oh, my god, guys! H.G. Wells has a sense of humor! Come and see. Why was this mysterious sense of humor absent in The Time Machine? Why?!?!?!
  • The Invisible Man has a temper. Interesting.
  • The Invisible Man doesn’t just have a temper. He’s kind of a, you know, psychopath.
  • Ooooooh. I like all this science-y stuff about how Griffin became the Invisible Man.
  • Why does The Invisible Man have to be an albino? I DO NOT SEE THE POINT.
  • I thought being invisible would be uh-mazing, but you have to worry about being naked all the time. Which sucks. Especially if it rains/snows. Or if you step on broken glass.
  • Also, the food you eat looks like it’s floating in midair while you’re digesting it.
  • Who am I supposed to root for? The Invisible Man’s a psycho and… and… Sorry, I don’t want to get all spoilerific on you.
  • The Time Machine was beyond boring, but why does The Invisible Man read like a thriller?!?!? I SIMPLY CANNOT PUT IT DOWN. You’ve been holding out on me, Wells.
  • Well played, Wells. Well played.
  • ZOMG. I love the Epilogue. You want to go read The Invisible Man now, don't you? *Wink. Wink. Nudge. Nudge.*
Rating: 4/5

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Thoughts: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

"If he be Mr. Hyde, I shall be Mr. Seek." - Robert Louis Stevenson

While reading, I kept wishing over and over that I read The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde when it first came out in 1886. We all know that Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are the same person, but the mystery was revealed so magnificently in the book that I regretted knowing. I couldn’t help but imagine what my reading experience would've been like IF I DIDN’T KNOW Dr. Jekyll’s secret. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t figure out the puzzle.

Aside from being completely entertaining, this book was also very, very meaty. The book revolves around the idea that we all have two sides. No human being is completely good or completely evil. We all have facets and thoughts we would be ashamed to show to other people, and there are things we only do when we’re out in public. It’s human nature, and Robert Louis Stevenson managed to turn that idea into a riveting story.

I loved, loved, loved this. Go read it right now.

Rating: 5/5

P.S.: Really short review, right?

P.P.S.: This is the second book I completed for RIP Challenge VI.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Thoughts: The Monk by Matthew Lewis

First off, The Monk is one of those books that the more you don’t know about it, the more you’re going to enjoy it. Really. So, if you want to stop reading right now, I won’t hold it against you.

However, since you’ve continued reading, The Monk is about, well, a monk named Ambrosio who is corrupted by another monk (novice?) who turns out to be a woman who later turns out to be… something else entirely. But, wait, there’s more. The-monk-who-turns-out-to-be-a-woman convinces Ambrosio to forget his conscience and freely indulge in pleasure. Haunted castles, Bleeding nuns, catacombs, evil nuns, and a bunch of other Gothic elements are encountered along the way.

I think I sold The Monk short in the summary, but I highly recommend it. GO READ THE MONK. RIGHT NOW. It’s a very thick book, but the pages just flew by. I didn’t even notice I was almost done, because I was enjoying it so much. And the plot? What plot? It was obvious Matthew Lewis didn’t have an outline, because the book just got crazier and crazieeeeeer. Around these parts, crazieeeeeeer = PURE FUN.

Don’t get me wrong, though. This book isn’t perfect. Sometimes, it borders on the level where it’s so bad it’s good, and sometimes it’s just plain bad. There were tons of occurrences where Matthew Lewis didn’t bother to come up with a logical explanation. For example, character A was spirited away for no apparent reason so character B can carry out his nefarious plans. *Insert maniacal laugh here.*

The Monk really surprised me. I was expecting the The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but got Zombieland instead. And I really, really liked Zombieland.

Rating: 4/5

Note: This is the first book I read for the R.I.P. VI challenge.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Lagoon by Joseph Conrad

Arsat, a Malay, tells The White Man (not some symbol but also another character) about his ultimate sacrifice for love. That’s the basic gist of the plot, and saying more would give the ending away.

I’m not sure if this story has a really deep theme or whatever. I didn’t see it. I was too annoyed by this particular excerpt: He liked the man who knew how to keep faith in council and how to fight without fear by the side of his white friend. He liked him - not so much perhaps as a man likes his favorite dog…

Holysweetjesus. The all-important-godlike white man likes his Malay friend but not so much as a man likes his favorite dog? Does that mean that a dog is more important than a Malay?

If The Lagoon was an actual book, I would’ve thrown it against the wall, picked it up again, and ripped it apart page by page. It was even more offensive, because all those racist thoughts were wrapped in beautiful language.

Before reading this short story, I intended to read Heart of Darkness this year, but, now, I’m not sure if I want to. Maybe I should just step away from Joseph Conrad’s work for a while.

You can read The Lagoon here.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Sunday Salon: Tackle the To-Be-Read Pile

The Sunday

Last night, I read my first ever blog post for Your Move, Dickens. In the aforementioned blog post, I stated that I wanted to read classics that had been in my bookshelf for years (The Call of the Wild, McTeague, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, etc).

Well, guess what?

I've read a ton of awesome classics since I started this blog, but I still haven't read the seven books I mentioned in my first post. In fact, my TBR pile has just spiraled out of control. In an effort to take control of my book-buying addiction, I decided to start my Tackle the To-Be-Read Pile project. I've only set one rule for myself: I can't buy another book until I finish all the books in my TBR pile. I'm really cracking the whip this time.

Here are all the classics I intend to read for this project:
  1. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  2. Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne
  3. The Call of the Wild by Jack London
  4. Cheri by Colette
  5. Death in Venice by Thomas Mann
  6. Delta Wedding by Eudora Welty
  7. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
  8. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  9. Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
  10. The Last of Cheri by Colette
  11. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
  12. Macbeth by William Shakespeare
  13. The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington
  14. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
  15. McTeague by Frank Norris
  16. The Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers
  17. Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  18. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
  19. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
  20. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
  21. The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene
  22. Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier
  23. The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane
  24. Some Tame Gazelle by Barbara Pym
  25. Sula by Toni Morrison
  26. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
  27. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  28. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
  29. Written on the Body by Jeanette Winterson
What about you? How's your TBR pile doing?

Friday, September 16, 2011

Thoughts: A Room with a View by E.M. Forster

After witnessing a murder in Italy, Lucy Huneychurch faints, and is rescued by George Emerson. George and his father are considered outcasts at Pension Bertolini, the pension where Lucy is staying, for their radical views and ways. Lucy finds herself drawn to the Emersons, and, in the end, must make a choice to either conform or break away from convention for the sake of passion.

Let me just say that if George Emerson were a living, breathing person, I would probably want to date him. He’s like that loner guy in high school who reads deep books, and sits by himself in the cafeteria—the mysterious type we all wanted to get to know. I loved how he slowly “woke up” and really started to live, and I like to think that I could wake up too. I could be walking down the street, and something magical could happen to me, making me LIVE for the first time.

I also loved E.M. Forster’s subtle writing style. He had a light but firm grip on all the threads of the story, and the whole novel felt like a bundle of nuances tied together. He managed to get his point across through the characters without being heavy-handed. Ms. Bartlett, for instance, wanted a room WITHOUT a view, which was fitting because she was narrow-minded, snobbish, and probably represented everything Forster hated in society. Even the love story between George Emerson and Lucy Honeychurch was romantic without even bordering on cheesy.

I said before that I hate it when authors turn characters into mouthpieces for their opinions, but E.M. Forster has to be the single exception. Yes, the characters became mouthpieces for his opinions, but they had their own distinct voices. Does that make sense? I absolutely loved this novel, and I’m looking forward to reading more of E.M. Forster’s work.

Rating: 5/5

Monday, September 12, 2011

Thoughts: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

When I first heard of Brave New World, I thought of that movie where Colin Farrell plays Capt. John Smith, and, yes, I think he’s hot in a dirty, mangy sort of way. It never occurred to me that the book is one of the first dystopian novels ever, and probably spawned The Hunger Games series.

The novel first focuses on Bernard Marx. He lives in a world where marriage and religion are considered taboo, and wanting to be alone makes you a social outcast. Bernard travels with the beautiful Lenina Crowne to one of the Reservations, the last remaining places on earth where the nuclear family is still intact. There, they discover John Savage, a Citizen of the World State who was born and raised in the Reservation.

First of all, I couldn’t believe that this book was written in 1931. Huxley tackled issues that are still being discussed today. It made me think long and hard about the importance of individuality in today’s society, and whether an individual should be sacrificed for “the greater good.” The book also made me realize how lucky I am to be living in today’s society. Poverty and unhappiness were absent from Civilization, but Truth and Beauty could only be found in the almost-primitive conditions of Reservations. There was no middle ground where people who felt “different” could escape to.

While reading, I didn’t let myself look anything up, so I had to figure out a lot of things on my own. The characters kept saying things like “The year of Our Ford” or “Our Fordship,” and I wondered, “Who is this Ford person?” I discovered, after I finished the book, that His Fordship is actually Henry Ford, an American industrialist and the founder of the Ford Motor Company. That was pretty funny, and the way Huxley seems to make fun of everything reminded me of Kurt Vonnegut.

I was disappointed when I reached the part where John Savage and the World Controller (he’s kind of like the President of the ENTIRE WORLD) debated about the current state of society. I hate it when authors treat characters as mouthpieces for their opinions. Overall, though, I liked Brave New World a lot.

Rating: 4/5

Saturday, September 10, 2011

On Getting Personal

When I first stared blogging, I told myself that I wouldn’t get too personal. My blog will only be about books and other book-related things. Looking back on my previous posts, though, I realize that I’ve gotten more personal than I intended, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Sure, my readers don't know where I live or where I went to high school, but I’ve shared a lot of things that are more personal with them. I can completely relate to Emma Bovary’s longing for a more magical life, and the people who read my posts know that. They know that I love Pride and Prejudice, and would probably maul Mr. Darcy given the chance. My readers know my innermost thoughts, and how I tick. For me, those things are more personal than knowing mere facts.

Maybe getting personal is just unavoidable. Yes, we’re blogging about books and not our personal lives, but, somewhere along the way, our posts about books and our personalities become inseparable. Since I raved about particular scenes in The Age of Innocence, you might be able to tell that I’m a romantic/complete sap. That’s me, though, and, no matter how much I hold back on “personal facts,” the real me is going to come out sooner or later.

So, do you think I’m insane, or is it okay to get personal? Also, how personal is too personal? And, yes, I find that sentence confusing too.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Byzantine Omelette by Saki

The only thing I’ve read by Saki is his most popular short story, The Open Window. I decided to fill this reading gap by reading more Saki short stories, and The Byzantine Omelette was the first one that caught my attention. I mean, seriously, how can a Byzantine omelette not catch your attention?

The story is about Sophie Chattel-Monkheim, a socialist from the upper-class. When a Duke visits her, she hires an omelette specialist. The said omelette specialist happens to be a strike-breaker, and, when her household servants find about this, they go on strike, as well.

I know the term “upper-class socialist” sounds like an oxymoron, but that’s what makes this story so fun. Sophie has a lot of ideas about equality between the classes and hating royalty, but, when a Duke stays at her house, she bends over backward just to please him.

Sophie, I think, is an excellent symbol for Saki’s views on human nature. We’re all a jumble of contradictions. A person can be innocent and malicious at the same time. We can be na├»ve with a hard edge.

The Byzantine Omelette was a fun read, and I can’t wait to read more Saki short stories. I still can’t decide, though, who’s the better writer between him and O. Henry.

You can read it here.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Thoughts: The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

Just basing on the cover and the back blurb, I thought The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark would be a quick read, the kind of book I could finish in one sitting. After reading about five pages, though, I realized how completely mistaken I was. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie might be a novella, but it certainly isn’t a lightweight.

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie revolves around the eponymous Miss Jean Brodie and the Brodie set—five girls chosen and trained by Miss Brodie to be her friends a.k.a. minions. The book shows how Miss Brodie manipulated them, and, in the end, how she was betrayed by one of the members of her trusted Brodie set.

Before reading this book, I only had a vague idea of what book bloggers mean when they say a book is “cerebral.” The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie completely redefined the term “cerebral” for me, and my brain did mental gymnastics while I was reading this book. There were simple sentences infused with really, really deep meaning—seriously, Grand Canyon deep—and I had to reread a ton of sentences, sometimes even entire pages. There are really subtle clues that you have to notice, so the rest of the story makes sense.

If I had to pick a word to describe Muriel Spark’s writing style, I’d pick subtle. She’s a genius when it comes to foreshadowing, and it’s like she’s dangling the key to the mystery in your face. Miss Brodie’s betrayer is pretty easy to spot (SPOILER: Only one girl in the Brodie set is intelligent enough to pull off the “betrayal.”), but it was hard to figure out how she was going to do it.

Overall, I want to reread The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, because a couple of vital points might have flown right past my head. I just didn’t get what the hype was all about, but I have a feeling a second reading might clear that up for me.

Rating: 3/5

Thursday, September 1, 2011

R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril VI

A lot of bloggers posted about the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril VI challenge hosted by Carl this week, and I didn't even know what it was. (I'm always so behind on these blogging events) After a little investigating, I've decided to, excuse the cliche, jump on the bandwagon.

There are so many Perils to choose from, and I chose Peril the First. I get to read four books that fall under the following genres: mystery, suspense, thriller, dark fantasy, Gothic, horror, and supernatural. Here are the books I've chosen:
  1. The Monk by Matthew Lewis - I started reading this last night, before I even found out about the challenge. Something tells me R.I.P. VI, and I are meant to be.
  2. The Turn of the Screw by Henry James - I never knew Henry James wrote horror, and I've never ready anything by him. The Turn of the Screw sounds like a good place to start.
  3. The Strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson - I started reading this when I was twelve, but I soon gave up on it, thinking it was beyond boring. Me thinks it's time to give it another chance.
  4. Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier - We meet again, DuMaurier. A friend of mine swears by this book. I, on the other hand, fell asleep while reading the first chapter. I'm not kidding. However, I'm not one to judge a book by its first chapter, so I decided to give Rebecca another chance.
What about you? Are you joining R.I.P. VI? If you are, what are you reading. :)


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