Classic Book Review: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Was I the only human who had not read this book? It seemed like it!

I went into reading Frankenstein with only the image of that scene in the classic movie, and many parodies of the scene, in my head. You know the one. The monster on the table with tubes sticking out of it and then the crazy Doctor running around with all his genius. I didn’t remember anything other than that, so I basically went into this blind.

From Goodreads:

Frankenstein tells the story of committed science student Victor Frankenstein. Obsessed with discovering the cause of generation and life and bestowing animation upon lifeless matter, Frankenstein assembles a human being from stolen body parts but; upon bringing it to life, he recoils in horror at the creature’s hideousness. Tormented by isolation and loneliness, the once-innocent creature turns to evil and unleashes a campaign of murderous revenge against his creator, Frankenstein.

I enjoyed Frankenstein much more than I anticipated. First, the descriptions of Lake Geneva were lovely. I felt like I was there. Second, it was put together cleverly, starting and ending with letters from a sailor to his sister. Frankenstein’s narrative surrounding the Monster’s. Last, it was nothing like the movie. The Monster was not a stupid being. Frankenstein created a being that was more intelligent than he himself was. This doesn’t condone the murders and vengeance that went on, but it was interesting to me.

I could probably go on for ages here, but my broken finger is hurting and I need to stop typing now. I read this book for the Back to the Classics Challenge 2016.

Mini Book Reviews: Romance

It’s time for a few NetGalley reviews. This time around I read a couple of romances.

Once A Soldier by Mary Jo Putney

Mary Jo Putney is a historical romance veteran. I haven’t read one of her books a in a while and was pleased to read this one.

Once A Soldier is the love story of Will Masterson and Athena Markham. Will has been a soldier in the Napoleonic wars and has been asked to go to the small country of San Gabriel to scope it out for political reasons. There he meets Athena, the illegitimate daughter of an English Lord and an infamous San Gabriel woman. She is currently helping her best friend, the princess, run this small country until the King is released by the French – if he’s still alive.

This book is one of those slow-moving romances. There is a ton of political talk and it adds to the book, because it was well thought out and it shows these characters personalities well. I appreciated that Will and Athena started out by being friends and having a healthy respect for one another. I hate in when people jump into bed together immediately, especially in historical novels. Some may find this book a bit slow, but it was relaxing to me.

It is the start of a series. The beginning chapter is showing a group of men who are all captured, all spies and solders, and all lying, and how they escape. I assume the next books will be some of their stories.

Follow Me by Tiffany Snow

This book follows China Mack. She is a genius computer programmer working for the best tech company. She’s living a very ordered life with a bit of the hots for her boss (everyone has the hots for the boss), and she likes it that way. Then Jackson, the boss, chooses China for a top-secret programming job for the government. Then people involved in this contract start getting killed. It’s difficult for China on multiple levels because her orderly life starts going awry – her niece moves in, a sexy (suspicious to me) neighbor moves in and she suddenly has a dating life, plus she’s being followed by unknown persons.

This was a fun romantic suspense book. I’m a sucker for this genre and for nerdy smart, but socially clueless, women in books. China is one of those. I wasn’t a fan of the sudden love triangle in the book. She’s never had a date and then suddenly her next door neighbor AND her boss are  after her? Come on. I also didn’t understand what was going on with all the computer stuff. It was a bit glossed over and I do like a bit more juicy computer geekery in this sort of book.

There is a sort-of cliffhanger. Things get wrapped up, but new things happen. (Sorry so cryptic!)  If you liked it, you will want to continue with this series. I liked it, so now I’m impatiently waiting. Maybe we’ll see more of Jackson’s nerdiness in the next books?

Thank you to the publishers and NetGalley for providing these eARCs in exchange for review.

 

Classic Book Review: Dubliners by James Joyce

When I took on the Back to the Classics Challenge 2016, I was very worried about the Classic Short Story Challenge. I’m not a fan of short stories in general, and, as a new person to classics, didn’t have much knowledge of classic short stories. Dubliners was the only volume that I knew of and that was on my TBR. My grandmother gave me horror stories about James Joyce’s writing. My mother just groaned in pain. People on Goodreads have horror stories about reading James Joyce. I was afraid. Very, very afraid.

It started a bit rough. I immediately didn’t know if I understood the first story. It ended so abruptly. Was I correct in thinking that the priest was a bit shady? The second story didn’t fare much better. I was feeling stupid so I put it aside for about a month.

I have the Penguin English Library softcover edition. One day I picked it up off my nightstand and read the synopsis on the back. There it tell me that each story marks “a moment of epiphany for the characters”. Ah. From that moment on almost all of the stories at least made sense to me.

I actually enjoyed “The Boarding House”. It reminded me of the historical romances that I still love. What a scheming minx! “A Painful Case” made me think of regrets in life. There were a few where men just kept going on about politics or religion and they were a complete bore. “Counterparts” was like looking into the mind of a boorish drunk. That was not fun.

Overall, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this! It wasn’t nearly as awful as everyone predicted it to be. Wait for it… This may be my favorite book of short stories. Shocking.

Classic Book Review: The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

From Goodreads:

One of the most celebrated and popular historical romances ever written. The Three Musketeers tell the story of the early adventures of the young Gascon gentleman d’Artagnan and his three friends from the regiment of the King’s Musketeers: Athos, Porthos, and Aramis.

Under the watchful eye of their patron M. de Treville, the four defend the honour of the regiment against the guards of the Cardinal Richelieu and the honor of the queen against the machinations of the Cardinal himself as the power struggles of 17th-century France are vividly played out in the background.

But their most dangerous encounter is with the Cardinal’s spy: Milady, one of literature’s most memorable female villains.

My thoughts on this book run all over the place. I loved the humor. I didn’t like some of the inevitable slow sections. Every long book has those sections where you want to just put it down.

My main thought was how the title is a bit misleading. This book is about d’Artagnan and the intrigues that come after he arrives to Paris. We do learn about Athos, Porthos, and Aramis. They are a huge chunk of the book, but they defer to d’Artagnan most of the time as the smart one.

My second thought was the complete acceptance of infidelity. It made the time period seem like one long orgy. Goodness. I sound like an old lady, but seriously. It was a bit ridiculous.

One last thought. What do the Musketeers do other than drink, whore, and live off other people? There is evidence of one military battle, but there’s no talk of them ever being around the king, and there was lots of talk about them being short of fund. Slightly perplexing.

Milady is an evil woman and I loved it and hated her. It was wonderful.

I read this book as part of the Back to the Classics Challenge for 2016. It was also a pleasure to read this book.

Classic Book Review: Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

Winner of the 1933 Femina Vie Heureuse Prize, COLD COMFORT FARM is a wickedly funny portrait of British rural life in the 1930s. Flora Poste, a recently orphaned socialite, moves in with her country relatives, the gloomy Starkadders of Cold Comfort Farm, and becomes enmeshed in a web of violent emotions, despair, and scheming, until Flora manages to set things right.

I’ve had a difficult time trying to put my review in words. The movie of this book is one of my favorite movies ever. If you like British humor and complete randomness, I highly recommend you watch it. I also highly recommend that you read this book. The movie and book were closely related (for once). Mr. Mybug was hilariously awful! Everything he says has a link to sex. I completely identified with Flora’s need to put everything to rights. No one meddles quite like Flora Poste.

And what does Aunt Ada see in that woodshed, anyway?

I read this book with pleasure for the Back to the Classics 2016 Challenge.

Classic Book Review: Lord of the Flies

From Goodreads:

William Golding’s compelling story about a group of very ordinary small boys marooned on a coral island has become a modern classic. At first, it seems as though it’s all going to be great fun; but the fun before long becomes furious & life on the island turns into a nightmare of panic & death. As ordinary standards of behavior collapse, the whole world the boys know collapses with them—the world of cricket & homework & adventure stories—& another world is revealed beneath, primitive & terrible. Lord of the Flies remains as provocative today as when it was 1st published in 1954, igniting passionate debate with its startling, brutal portrait of human nature. Though critically acclaimed, it was largely ignored upon its initial publication. Yet soon it became a cult favorite among both students and literary critics who compared it to J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye in its influence on modern thought & literature. Labeled a parable, an allegory, a myth, a morality tale, a parody, a political treatise, even a vision of the apocalypse, Lord of the Flies has established itself as a classic.

I read this book as part of the Back to the Classics Challenge for 2016 as my banned book. This book was frequently banned for its violence, language, sexuality, and racism. I recognized the first two while reading, but not the last two. Maybe I’m a bit dense, or maybe people just have dirty minds. The blurb below contains some spoilers, be warned.

Everyone told me this book was weird. I had no idea that the weirdness would start by page 10 and that it would turn downright disturbing by the end. These boys very quickly turn into murdering beasts. The bullying of Piggy (whose real name we never find out) starts right away even by the boy who is supposed to be his friend. The murder of another child by children was awful. Part of the power of this books was that is was children, not adults, who were committing atrocities. The rescue at the end by the military is ironic because these men are actually committing the same crimes in the war. Overall, I didn’t like this book much. It’s another that I’m glad I read because of its status as a classic, but the story was a bit gory for me (I’m extremely sensitive to violence and bullying). 2/5 stars

Classic Book Review: The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon

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From Goodreads: “The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon” is a fascinating, detailed account of Japanese court life in the eleventh century. Written by a lady of the court at the height of Heian culture, this book enthralls with its lively gossip, witty observations, and subtle impressions. 

Lady Shonagon was an erstwhile rival of Lady Murasaki, whose novel, “The Tale of Genji,” fictionalized the elite world Lady Shonagon so eloquently relates. Featuring reflections on royal and religious ceremonies, nature, conversation, poetry, and many other subjects, “The Pillow Book” is an intimate look at the experiences and outlook of the Heian upper class, further enriched by Ivan Morris’s extensive notes and critical contextualization.

I would have never picked up this book if it weren’t for the classics challenge I’m doing. It’s a non-fiction book full of descriptions and lists (no plot) that are invaluable to those who are studying/interested in Japanese culture. That would not include me. It is also interesting to note that this book is 1/3 footnotes and definitions and there is an additional hardcover book to explain what everything means. I did not read the additional book, but I did read most of the footnotes because I actually found this book incredibly interesting. It shocks me to write that! Overall, The Pillow Book brought home to me how women born long ago are just the same as women born now. I know that sounds a bit ridiculous but I know I can think very abstractly about those who lived so far in the past. Yet, we are the same! Some of the things she was irritated by, I thought, “Yes! Me, too!” The descriptions were lovely and poetic (naturally, since she was a poetess). I was a bit surprised to read about how free they were with taking lovers. There are many mentions of when men are supposed to leave in the morning, and how they are supposed to treat a woman after. Another one of my bubbles burst. I did force myself to read at times because this isn’t a book with a plot; it’s not even a diary because it has no dates and events are mixed around as she felt like writing them. Overall, I really enjoyed this and am glad to have expanded my horizons in a way I never expected. As for recommending this book, I’m sure anyone with a love of Japan has either already read it or has it on their TBR. If it sounds interesting, give it a go.

I read this for the Back to the Classics Challenge 2016 for the category of a book by a non-white author.

Review: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancy

I received a few requests for the reasons why I gave The 5th Wave only 3/5 stars. First, 3/5 stars is a solid, good book. There were only a few things that went wrong for me, but they were biggies.

  1. It was very slow and Cassie kept repeating herself. After the fifth time she said she couldn’t trust anybody I just wanted to scream. Yes, she couldn’t trust for good reasons, but I felt like we needed to move on already!
  2. There were many times that the POV of a new chapter went back too far in the past and didn’t stay up to where the book was. I don’t think I’m explaining this well at all, but I know it kept the book from moving forward for me.
  3. This one is strange, but I felt like I had read this book before. Nothing surprised me. None of the twists were unexpected.

Those are the major problems I had with the book. I kept thinking while I was reading that it would make an excellent movie. I could visualize everything that he was writing and I loved that. So the book was not all bad, it just could have been paced better. I also thought that Cassie had very realistic reactions to the horror around her until she met Evan.

It’s hard to rate books sometimes. I can be a mood reader, so if it wasn’t exactly what I wanted, I won’t enjoy it as much. I’m also an adult reader. I’ve read a LOT of books in my life (only child, no TV), it’s only natural that I’ll start seeing repeated ideas. If it doesn’t give me some sort of emotion and I’m not surprised, but I like the writing style, three stars seems reasonable.

This wasn’t the most well thought out review because I didn’t take notes while I read the book so I had nothing to look back on to spur my memory and the feelings that I had. I will be reading the next book in the series, then finishing the trilogy in May. I do want to see if one of the series gives me what I’m looking for. Plus, I own them!

Book Review: Time’s Divide by Rysa Walker

Attention! Time’s Divide is the third book in a time travel series. Go and pick up Timebound (the first novel) if you like the sound of time travel. I don’t go into details in my review, but the Goodreads blurb is below.

The Cyrists are swiftly moving into position to begin the Culling, and Kate’s options are dwindling. With each jump to the past or the future, Kate may trigger a new timeline shift. Worse, the loyalties of those around her—including the allegiances of Kiernan and the Fifth Column, the shadowy group working with Kate—are increasingly unclear.

Kate will risk everything, including her life, to prevent the future her grandfather and the Cyrists have planned. But, when time runs out, it may take an even bigger sacrifice to protect the people she loves.

This was one of my must reads of 2015 and it didn’t disappoint! These books are so complicated. I’m not sure how the author kept all the timelines and shifts and jumps in clear in her head to write this. I’m completely amazed.

As far as I’m concerned, this is doing time travel right. I love the historical details of the time periods and the different historical people. The ending was as good as it gets when you have a story as complicated as this one. I recommend marathoning all three or you will forget details (as I did). Totally worth a read.

Giant thank you to the publishers and to NetGalley for providing this eBook in exchange for an honest review. You made my year.

Picture Book Mini-Reviews

I’ve read a few picture books this past week from NetGalley that I feel like I should review. I plan to use two in my homeschool this year, so they’re worth checking out. I’m not good with adding links and such, but all of these books are on Goodreads.

Things I’ve Said to My Children by Nathan Ripperger

Parents – Listen to yourselves. You could then add to this book. You say funny things. About the book: I thought is was cute. The pictures were funny and correlated to the crazy things being said. I wouldn’t buy it for myself, but I think it would be a good gift to give to expecting parents. 🙂

Don’t Dangle Your Participle by Vanita Oelschlager

This book does just what it says it will. You will never forget what a participle is again. It starts with a small lesson, then goes on to give a wrong and then a right sentence. Let me tell you, the examples are funny! The pictures make them even funnier. Great book that I will be using in my homeschool very soon.

Ivy In Bloom: The Poetry of Spring from Great Poets and Writers from the Past by Vanita Oelschlager

To be honest, I’m not sure why I loved this book so much. Maybe because children’s poetry is all I can understand. Or perhaps it was the clever way the Bibliography was put together. Maybe it was the inspired pictures. The progression from black and white to full color was amazing, as was the way the paintings looked so textured. All of the above? Five stars from me and guaranteed use during Poetry April with my daughter.

Thank you to NetGalley for providing these eBooks in exchange for an honest review.